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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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Cyborgs R Us: Jackson and the Professor

the-borgSome scientists are claiming that by 2050 people will be able to download their minds into a computer, just like Professor X129 in my novel Dryad. Personally, I think it’s a ridiculous idea, which is why I satirize it in the novel. But even if we look at today’s use of technology, we are already all too close to becoming cyborgs… or maybe we already are.

I’m not even talking about those few select individuals who have microchips implanted in their bodies. I’m talking about people like you and I. Our culture is becoming known as “cyborg culture” because of our intimate attachment to our devices such as computers, phones, and Google glasses. There are many people out there who admit that they literally could not function without their phones.

It sounds like an unhealthy relationship… And yet, optimistic bloggers proudly declare that we control technology and it does not control us? This is a huge generalization, but it is easy to see that the vast majority of people are controlled by technology on a daily basis. Those who refuse to use commonly accepted technology (the latest smartphone, the newest version of Microsoft Office) find themselves at a disadvantage, therefore everyone must jump on the technology bandwagon or be left behind.

Maybe this is why the predictions I make in my novel are in line with a pretty bleak view of the future…

Future Management

Roger_Taylor_Fun_In_SpaceRoger Taylor is well known as the drummer of legendary rock band Queen, but back in the 80’s he also released a solo album which reflected his own preoccupations with science fiction and the state of modern society. Even as early as the 1980s he was clued in to the dangers of technological “progress”:

Future Management

You won’t need nobody else but me…
You’ll find
I’m gonna invite you to try my machines
Program an offer you just can’t refuse
I’m gonna invite you to share all my dreams
You’ve got nothing to lose.

Recycle your thoughts

I’ll rewire your mind
I’ll punch in some new points of view
To make sure you find
You’ve got nothing to lose

You don’t need nobody else but me…

Someone from the 21st century might listen to this song and think, yes, this is a pretty accurate picture of today’s “management”. It could be the relentless technological upgrades you experience in the workplace or even as you go about your daily life, surrounded by machines, having to conform to the machines’ points of view, their “logic”. It sounds to me as if the speaker in this song are the machines themselves, trying to convince us that we don’t need other humans when machines are so much better and more perfect than people could ever be.

against the machine hidden luddite traditionJust think of the last time you tried to call your mobile phone provider and were led down telephone labyrinths in a vain attempt to talk to a human being.

It’s enough to infuriate the calmest person, yet most people don’t rebel against the machines. We have become used to them, and we accept things the way they are.

Nicols Fox, the author of Against the Machine puts it very well: “We are everything the machine is not: creatures of emotion and sensation with minds that are creative and imaginative… Generally people try bravely, even enthusiastically, to accommodate themselves [to machines]. They are not sure why they are consequently unhappy. They do not blame the machines, for we have convinced ourselves – or been convinced by advertising and promotion – of their marvelous natures and of our great need for them.”

However, in every society, there are those who rebel…

Jackson and the Professor

A 17th century pirate would not be very accepting of a machine-centered society. This is exactly what happens in my novel Dryad, when Jackson, a former slave and a French privateer suddenly finds himself in the distant future, where people no longer have physical bodies. There are only minds, housed in the hard drives of computers.

Suffice it to say, Jackson does not like this at all. He sees it for what it is, a form of slavery. Despite their differences, Jackson and the professor eventually do become friends… Maybe there’s hope that humans and machines can coexist in a healthy relationship?

Here is an excerpt from their conversation:

“Slavery has been abolished all over the world,” the professor replied, “But in a way, you could say every sentient living being, every computerized being, all are servants of the Great Sissy.”

“The Great Sissy? I like not the sound of that.”

“She is a benevolent ruler.”

“How did it come to pass that all the known world is subjugated by a woman?”

“It happened a long time ago. In the twenty-first century, Teddy Goldman was one of the most prominent leaders of the world. His values were physical fitness, improvement of the spirit, individual endeavour. But later in that century his cult began to lose followers, for war and pollution became too much a part of everyday life and people could barely sustain their physical bodies, much less keep physically fit and healthy. The Great Sissy offered them eternal life and freedom from their bodies.”

“And that is how you gained your present form?” Jackson asked.

“Yes.”

“How is this possible? How are you released from your body, yet alive?”

“My mind and everything it contained has been transferred to this machine. Of course, parts may malfunction and wear out, but theoretically, I could live forever.”

Jackson shook his head as if he had too many questions at once.

“Whither did your soul go?” he finally asked.

“Soul?”

“This is only your mind in the machine, so where is your soul?”

“I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a soul. It did not separate from my body and fly up to heaven when the download occurred, if that’s what you mean.”

“Maybe not,” Jackson insisted, “Maybe it is still inside this machine. Otherwise, how is it you are able to speak, think, and feel?”

“I do not feel,” the professor objected, “That is, I have sensors that detect light and sound and so on, but I do not feel emotions as humans do.”

Jackson accepted a tray with Jell-O and milk from a mechanical attendant who had just rolled into the room. Then he focused a penetrating gaze on the professor and said, “I don’t believe you.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from Dryad. I leave you with this low budget video of Roger Taylor’s Future Management, complete with dummy imagery (I already talked about dummies in a previous post so I don’t know why they’re coming up again.) Do you suppose these mannequins represent those who blindly follow the lure of technology?

6

Christian Grey vs. Rodney Love

For the last little while I’ve been hearing a lot about how bad Fifty Shades of Grey was, and it made me curious enough to read the trilogy. It wasn’t really that bad, and I enjoyed the chemistry between the two main characters. I did, however, take issue with Christian Grey.

His faults were many, but it would be boring to list them all. So…

I thought it would be fun to compare the character of the billionaire Christian Grey to Rodney Love, also a billionaire and one of the leading characters in my novel, Dryad. They were compared in the following categories:

1. Personal Charm

"No, I'm not creepy at all..."

“No, I’m not creepy at all…”

In this category, Rodney Love wins hands down. He is a down-to-earth friendly guy. He makes people feel comfortable, and he has a great sense of humour. Christian Grey, on the other hand, has all sorts of issues (which we will get to in a moment), and he tries to intimidate people. The narrator, Anastasia, keeps describing the way other women blush in his presence supposedly because of his attractiveness, but I think she’s biased. These women are probably just scared of Grey as he tends to make strange faces: his eyes are often “burning,” and sometimes, his eyes “blaze with anger, need and pure unadulterated lust.” Rodney: 1 Christian: 0

2. Business Success

Christian Grey is a self-made billionaire at 26. He is also a virtuoso piano player and an expert helicopter pilot… oh, and a glider pilot and a sailor. Rodney Love’s wealth is all inherited, but he works very hard in his father’s company because he wants to prove himself. Now, you would think that Christian would win in this category, but personally, I think Rodney is more likely to be successful in the long run since he is very driven while Christian spends most of his time doing S&M stuff and emailing his girlfriend instead of working. Rodney: 2 Christian: 0

3. Issues

Christian Grey was abused as a child and therefore has ridiculously low self-esteem. Also, he is so controlling, though sometimes he makes it look pretty sexy. Outside of the bedroom, however, this is not sexy at all. He wants to control everything down to making his girlfriend use the method of contraception he’s chosen for her — no, I’m not joking, he really did! All of this makes Rodney Love look well-adjusted. All Rodney has to deal with is his overbearing father who has no respect for him (waah-waah). Rodney: 2 Christian: 1

4. Being Good at Cooking

crepesIs there anything more romantic than a man who cooks a meal for his date? In this category, Grey fails miserably. He has never in his life so much as sliced an onion. Anastasia tries to teach him, but I think his heart is not really in it. Rodney Love, however, is a great cook, and thanks to his French heritage, he knows how to serve up some gourmet delicacies. Rodney: 3 Christian: 1

The Outcome

Rodney wins in most categories, and Christian has the dubious honour of having more issues of the two. I hope this post has been helpful, especially if you haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey before. Please let me know if you have any questions about Christian Grey or Rodney Love!

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The “Manly” Voices of Dryad

When the time travel novel Dryad came out, my friend Professor VJ Duke made a fabulous audio recording of an action scene using characters from his blog, The Punchy Lands.

So, what happens when the weirdness of my writing combines with the weirdness of The Punchy Lands? Punchy characters play characters from Dryad and let’s just say things get weirder at an exponential rate!

In this Punchy Aurtoon, the role of time travelling billionaire Rodney Love is played by Manly Man, and the evil pirate St Amour is played by the equally evil Daddy Salami. Enjoy!

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Healing Spells of the Rainforest Shamans

rainforest-shamansWriting my time travel novel Dryad required a all sorts of research from watching YouTube videos to reading scholarly books. The story spans from modern day Los Angeles to 17th century Colombia. I researched such diverse topics as Greek mythology, Amazon trees and wildlife, Jesuit missions and French corsairs.

But the subject I found most interesting was the shaman practices of the Tukano tribes. Rainforest Shamans by renowned anthropologist Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff  describes in detail the practices of tribes such as the Tukano who live in the rainforests of Colombia and Venezuela.

I don’t like to include too much “did you know” material in my novels because it feels forced and takes away from the plot. So there were many facts about these rainforest tribes that didn’t make it into Dryad. Luckily, I have this blog so you can find out about some stuff that I included and didn’t include in the novel.

Hunting and Health

Hunting is a big part of the Tukano lifestyle, but it is also connected with shamanic theories of illness and health. The Tukano believe that some illnesses are a result of animals taking revenge on the hunters.

A shaman will ask a patient about his hunting experience in trying to figure out the cause of an illness. I portray this process in an excerpt from Dryad:

The wizened old face crinkled in puzzlement as he looked at his patient. He asked a question in his language, which Father Montoya translated as, “Tell him about your hunting experience.”

“Umm… we didn’t hunt on our journey,” Rodney said, “We already had food supplies with us.”

“He means in general,” Father Montoya said, “He needs to know this in order to find out whether an animal spirit is trying to take revenge on you. How has your hunting been?”

“Is this how he usually interviews patients?” Rodney asked.

“Yes.”

“I don’t know,” Rodney shrugged, “I’ve never done any hunting in my life. Only surfing.”

As it often happens when researching a novel, the research material blends serendipitously with the plot and even the theme of my novel. Dryad has an obvious environmental theme, and I was amazed to find out the extent to which awareness of environmental interconnection is woven into Tukano mythology.

Hunting is seen as taking away the sun’s energy, which is present in all beings. In order to keep this energy in balance, certain rules have to be followed.

One interesting set of rules I read about though I didn’t include in the novel is that hunting is also connected with sexuality and dreams. There are certain rules that require the hunter to abstain from sexual contact for several days before a hunt. Even if the hunter happens to have a dream of a sexual nature, then he cannot hunt for a certain period of time.

On one hand, there is a mythological explanation for this, as sex and food are considered closely linked. On the other hand, there are also practical and environmental considerations. By introducing all of these stringent rules, the shamans ensure that the hunters don’t kill a great number of animals, thereby preserving the limited number of creatures available on the territory of their tribe.

mountain-tapirAnother fascinating chapter is devoted to an interview with a hunter regarding tapir avoidance.  Tapir meat is eaten more rarely than other meat due to the spiritual qualities associated with these creatures.

“The [tapirs] are people, like us. They have their houses, their tapir houses.” The hunter said that by this he meant the supernatural abodes in hills and rock formations in the deep forest, where all game animals in spirit form are said to dwell under the care of the Master of Animals.

Needless to say, I had to use this mystical quality of tapirs in the novel. I won’t give away the story, but let’s just say that I made the tapirs seem very creepy!

After watching this video, you may agree that there’s something creepy about tapirs….