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Count Morelli and the 777 Challenge

I have been challenged! A huge thank you to Michael Fedison, author of The Eye Dancers, for nominating me for the 777 Challenge.

Check out Michael’s Eye Dancers blog here.

Palashov alighted from his carriage, followed by Lorenzo. The officer knocked decisively on the front door.

After several minutes, an impassive butler with heavy-lidded dark eyes set in a bald head appeared in the doorway and made it clear that Count Morelli was not home. His tone was so forbidding that Palashov understood him without Lorenzo having to translate.

What the Russian officer and his translator did not understand was how the maestro could be absent from his home and yet screaming out an exasperated tirade — throughout which they could distinguish quite a few obscenities — from somewhere on the top floor of the left wing.

The ferocious staccato of his high-pitched voice was blasting from all the windows, which were opened to admit a nonexistent breeze.

“Truly, only a genius, a virtuoso of the violin can get away with throwing such tantrums,” Palashov remarked.

Weirdly enough, this is almost exactly where I began writing my very first draft of the novel, but later it was overrun with other scenes that preceded it. I am still revising this novel, so you never know, this may turn out to be the first page rather than the seventh if one day it’s finally sent out into the world.

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Classic Westerns Part Two: My Name is Nobody

For about the first few minutes of “My Name is Nobody”, the viewer doesn’t really understand what is going on.

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Geoffrey Lewis as bad guy.

A bunch of scary-looking riders ambush a barber and his son in a small town. Then they set up business with one of them pretending to be the barber. A middle-aged man walks into the barber shop and sits down for a shave (he is famous gunfighter Jack Beauregard, but we don’t know this yet). The villain is about to slit his throat…

But then we see that the middle-aged man already has a pistol pointed at the fake barber’s crotch. A lightning-quick gunfight ensues. Jack Beauregard triumphs over the three bad guys, looking satisfied with his shave, and the barber and his son are liberated.

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Henry Fonda as Jack Beauregard

 

“How’d he do it, Pa? I only heard one shot!” the child asks in amazement.

“It’s a question of speed, son,” the barber replies.

This is only the beginning of the mockery this movie doles out to the western convention of gunslingers who are miraculously fast on the draw. There are slapstick duels, shooting-the-hat-off-opponent’s-head scenes, and incredibly fast draws made possible by fast-motion editing. Paradoxically, despite the ridiculousness of some of the scenes, the idea of gunfighting heroes is embraced in this film as something essential to a person’s spiritual survival.

“A man who’s a man needs something to believe in,” says the main character, a scruffy young man who calls himself Nobody. (Hopefully, if this movie had been made twenty years later it would have made some mention of women too!)

The man known as “Nobody” looks up to aging gunfighter Jack Beauregard, though Jack himself doesn’t seem to understand or want this adulation and the danger that comes with it.

Directed by the master of spaghetti westerns, Sergio Leone, this epic film moves at a slow pace, but keeps you riveted to the screen, trying to figure out what the nameless, scruffy young man is looking for.

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Terence Hill as “Nobody”

The 70s were a time for experimenting with the Western genre, and this movie is perhaps the most interesting experiment of them all. It is funny, self-reflective, but at the same time very much a real, plot-driven western.

You could say it is a western within a western. The character “Nobody” acts as the audience to Jack Beauregard’s “heroic” story, but at the same time he constructs the plot of the adventure that he wants his hero to live. “Nobody” manipulates the other characters to achieve his cherished fantasy: he wants to see Jack Beauregard to face off against The Wild Bunch, 150 well-armed desperados.

Unlike The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which questions the whole “good guy” concept, My Name is Nobody seems to reaffirm the need for a hero, even if the hero is not the person you’d expect. It’s a remarkable film that always keeps you guessing until the very end whether Nobody is trying to help Jack or get him killed.

Have you seen “My Name is Nobody?” Would you like to see it?

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Female Fighters as Characters

In last week’s post, I talked about female action heroes…

In my novel, Dryad, the main character, Solena, is a female who learns to fight and stand up for herself when she had been unable to in the past. Sometimes the fights are physical martial arts fights, but sometimes they take place within herself. These internal fights are what gives the character depth, and they lend an extra layer of drama to the physical action.

This is a tapir.

This is a tapir.

Perhaps most importantly, the depiction of women fighting should not merely be used as a token, but rather a reflection of character. In this scene, the billionaire Rodney Love has been transformed into an anthropomorphic tapir. Rodney is Solena’s sort-of-ex-boyfriend, and although she is still angry with him and not sure about what exactly her feelings are, she does not hesitate to come to his aid:

Solena was about to make a run for it and pursue the escaping lumberjack tapirs, but something stopped her. She realized there was one human-tapir missing. She wasn’t sure how Anastacio seemed to know them from the real ones, and there wasn’t much time for a magic spell.

“Anastacio, where’s Rodney?” she cried.

The dryad was engaged in wrestling a spear away from a hunter-tapir. At length, he pushed his foe aside and pointed to a raging tapir, careening about the hall, completely mad with bloodlust.

Solena was stunned for a moment. But she quickly gathered herself. It was no time to be indecisive. She leapt on top of the table and ran towards Rodney, who was lambasting two hunter-tapirs.

“Rodney! Rodney, snap out of it. We’ve got to go!” she yelled.

He seemed not to hear and paid absolutely no attention.

She dove from the table and tackled tapir-Rodney, knocking him to the ground. She hadn’t been sure it would work, as the tapir was in a whole other weight category, but her flying tackle was enough to knock him off his feet. She rolled away, and saw that he regained his footing and still paid no attention to her: the real tapirs were closing in on him.

She could see out of the corner of her eye Anastacio and Sir Lancelot trying to break through the mass of tapirs to reach her. The tapirs were like a living sea of grey, bulging animal flesh. Anastacio’s dryad strength made his attempts more successful, while Sir Lancelot, whose strength was incredible for a human, was failing to contend with such massive beasts. She saw a glimpse of him being knocked down by two of the charging animals, then she became too preoccupied as another spear-wielding tapir advanced on her.

She backed away slowly, trying to think of a strategy but not finding any weapon close at hand to counter the spear.

Rodney broke through the ring of his attackers at that very moment and his momentum was so great that he slammed into the spear-wielding tapir, jarring him for a split second. Solena lunged forward and seized the spear, twisting it out of the creature’s hand.

Now Solena advanced more confidently, trying to reach Rodney once again, poking at tapirs that got too close with the dull end of the spear. She approached him just as he leapt onto the table, threatening the tapir king himself. Solena sprinted over and jabbed Rodney in the ribs with the blunt end of the spear. Tapir Rodney spun around to face her, and she held her breath.

He was either going to attack her in a fit of rage or…

He froze for a moment, and she thought she saw the light of recognition in his eyes.

“Time to blow this joint,” she yelled, pointing to the exit.

Tapir Rodney nodded. With one of his hind legs, he flicked a dish at the king’s head, then leapt off the table and charged towards the exit, Solena close behind him.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt! If you like humorous satire and adventure, you can purchase a copy of Dryad on Amazon, Smashwords, or

A tale of adventure, time travel and romance, my novel Dryad is available as an e-book. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Click here to purchase Dryad on Amazon.

Click here to purchase Dryad on Smashwords.

Click here to purchase Dryad on Barnes & Noble.

Click here to purchase Dryad on KOBO.

Click here to purchase Dryad on iTunes.

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Girl Fight! The New Portrayal of Action Heroines

lara_croft_06I spent a very large part of my childhood lamenting the absence of reasonable female action heroines. Things began to change in the 90s, but not very quickly. It was only with the appearance of Lara Croft that I was finally content with the portrayal of a true action woman. I’m happy with the current state of things, but there are still those who complain that the female heroines are not “equal” in that they are expected to be sexy or “booby,” (yes, that’s a word someone used) or that they do not get to do enough action or that they only get to fight with other women (even though fighting with other women is no small feat, I assure you!)

As recently as the early 2000’s, Stephanie Mencimer wrote:

Women are still only allowed to be violent within certain parameters largely proscribed by what men are willing to tolerate. To be sure, what men will tolerate has certainly changed a good deal. But in the old action films, at the end, the male hero always walks away from a burning building looking dirty, bleeding sweaty yet vindicated…

None of today’s action chicks come near that level of messiness.

Finally, with the arrival of the sci-fi show “The 100”, I beg to differ. In case you haven’t seen the show, it’s about a post-apocalyptic world in which humans have been living on a space station waiting for the earth to become habitable again. What they don’t realize is there are survivors still living on Earth who are led by female warriors all of whom look like teenage fashion models. These “grounders” view the returning people from the space station, the “sky people” as invaders.

In the episode “Many Happy Returns” (season 2 episode 4) the main character, Clarke has an all-out brawl with Anya, the tribal leader of the grounders, an encounter that Johnny Cash might have described as “a-kicking and a -gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.” It was as dirty and disgusting as a fight can ever get, and both women ended up with faces that resembled the palette of an abstract expressionist. Did I mention that before they commenced fighting they slathered their faces with mud?

I guess this proves that men can “tolerate” women being messy and violent. In fact, I have learned from a credible source that some men find this sexy. But, to play the devil’s advocate, does this really mean anything? Is this truly a measure of how far the women’s movement can come? Maybe instead of female characters trying to “catch up” to the men’s level of messiness, it should be the other way around, ie. the male characters should fight more neatly, politely, and gracefully?

The action genres (and to some degree fantasy and sci-fi) demand more and more gory violence, so of course the tendency is to make our female characters more violent as well.

I believe that all of these changes and more are coming. There will be “non-booby” heroines, there will be super-violent heroines, and there will be many more female heroines in general. For me, the most important change is already happening.

What do you think? Would you like to see female characters less violent, more violent, or just less “booby”?