Posted April 1, 2021
Dreams. They can be portals to the past or pathways to our future. They can make us happy or sad. Or they can provide us with inspiration just when we need it most.
Zackery McConnon followed the inspiration he received in a dream about what he wanted the cover of his first Sci-Fi medieval action-thriller book to look like.
“Some ideas about a fantastic nightmare came to me in my dreams about the book cover,” McConnon said. “It included a castle, knight’s helmet and an ethereal kind of mist.”
So, he sketched out what he saw in his dreams and gave to them to the publisher’s graphic designers. Thus, was born the cover to “Nogard and the Kingdom of the Crimson Stone.”
McConnon, 22, of Sheffield Lake, is a graduate of Lorain County Community College where he earned an associate degree after being home-schooled through high school. He continued on at LCCC’s University Partnership and earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Ashland University in May of 2020.
“Right about the time I started at LCCC is when I started having dreams about writing,” he said.
Those dreams combined with the encouragement he received from LCCC English instructors Jewon Woo and Jennifer Willoh solidified in his mind that he could actually take on the challenge of writing a book.
Once he accepted that challenge in his mind, McConnon knew what he would write about – Sci-Fi, medieval culture with knights and broadswords and a good dose of technology all wrapped together for a fantastical tale.
“I accumulated all that I incorporated into ‘Nogard and the Kingdom of the Crimson Stone’ from years of telling stories to my younger siblings,” McConnon said. “As I started telling more stories they got more and more interested and I would leave them with cliffhangers each night.”
As he learned about the process of writing at LCCC that’s when he realized that all of the stories he had been telling his siblings should be written down.
“I was thinking that they were pretty complex, so I wanted to get them on paper. The stories were all in pieces across a span of many years and it took me time to organize them into a story that I actually wanted to share with the world,” McConnon said.
And he was again aided by his dreams.
“Some of the characters in the book are different compared to the early stories I would tell,” he said. “I would dream about different characters and then integrate them into the plot of the book.”
A little help from his family
While dreams guided the development of his book, McConnon – the second-oldest of the 14 children of Sonya and Daniel – also had some very earthly-bound help from family members including his parents and younger brother Joe.
“First of all, without my mother I wouldn’t be where I am today. She home-schooled all of us and she had a big influence on my writing skills,” McConnon said. “She’s really good at English.”
And then there’s his father, who McConnon said is a really good artist even though that’s not his profession. “I drew up the map of Quantrandan – the land in story – and my dad refined it for me to make it what you see in the book,” he said.
Last but not least is his younger brother Joe. “I was really nervous about sending my manuscript in,” McConnon said. “So, I had my brother Joe read it in advance. He’s a big reader and a Sci-Fi action thriller fan. As a high school student he’s also in the right age group.”
Once he submitted the manuscript, McConnon said that’s when his family realized he really was serious about writing a book. “It was like, ‘Oh, he’s really written a book and hasn’t just been playing video games or messing with his phone in the basement,’” he said with a laugh.
A little help from LCCC
Initially McConnon wasn’t sure he wanted to go to college, but he and his sister Kylee both started on their journey to an associate degree together at LCCC and that helped ease the transition from being home-schooled to attending college.
“I had to learn how to socialize beyond my family group so LCCC was a good experience for me. It got me out of my comfort zone,” McConnon said.
He also got an extra boost when he was accepted into the Students Accelerating In Learning (SAIL) program in 2015.
LCCC’s SAIL program was launched to remove barriers to student success and help students earn their associate degree within three years. It offers personalized academic advising and career planning, along with gap tuition scholarships, textbook vouchers, and gas/grocery gift cards supported by donations to the LCCC Foundation.
“I was kind of lost when I first started here. We didn’t have the internet at home so simple things like double clicking on a link to get it to open sometimes caused me a lot of stress,” he said.
With the help and guidance of his SAIL advisor Whitney Hougland and SAIL coordinator Matt Mercardo, McConnon said he was able to persevere and be successful in college.
“Whitney helped me whenever I had questions. She showed me how to do so many things and helped me grasp the many technological aspects of being a student that seemed to throw me off,” he remembered.
Having the support of the SAIL group including regular meetings and professional development helped McConnon “soar after my first semester.”
And he has paid that help he received forward as two of his younger brothers – Joshua and Nicklaus – are now LCCC students. “I gave them tips and helped them with some skills so they weren’t so oblivious as I was when I first started at LCCC,” McConnon said.
A trilogy in the making
McConnon is a substitute teacher with the Elyria schools because it gives him the flexibility to not work during the pandemic. “With such a large family I want to be sure that I’m being safe and not bringing anything home,” he said. “But at some point I will have to find something full-time.”
Unless his writing career takes off that is. Currently “Nogard and the Kingdom of the Crimson Stone” is available digitally on Google Play and in hard cover on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and eBay. It’s available digitally only on Google Play. And there is more to come.
“I have so many ideas that I couldn’t fit into this book and that’s when I realized that I have a trilogy here. It’s going to be a good part of my life for at least 20 years,” he said.
For more about the SAIL program, visit http://www.lorainccc.edu/sail.
For more about LCCC’s University Partnership, visit http://www.lorainccc.edu/UP.