The Eye-Dancers by Michael S. Fedison: Exclusive Interview with the Main Characters

eye_dancers_lowres3Ah, to be back in junior high school! The loneliness, the angst, the debilitating shyness, the budding teenage romance… Reading the Eye-Dancers was like a trip back in time for me as the four main characters struggled with growing up, each in their own way, in a strange and exciting setting.

I knew from the book’s description that the four boys are going to be whisked away to a fantasy world, and I was expecting something like Narnia, but actually it’s more like a subtly different parallel universe in which they must rescue a mysterious psychic girl. I’m always intrigued by weird psychic powers, parallel universes and alternative history, so I really enjoyed the ride!

I’ve had the chance to chat with all four of the main characters, Mitchell, Joe, Marc, and Ryan (author Michael S. Fedison chimes in too) and here is what they told me…

1. What are some of the things you like/dislike about this parallel universe you’re in?

Marc Kuslanski)  It’s fascinating, intellectually, seeing the differences in this world.  At first, it seemed like maybe we had traveled back in time.  But then–
Joe Marma)  Can it, Einstein!  Just can it, and seal the lid!  I had to listen to your stupid theories and crap for hundreds of pages in the book, I don’t need to hear any more now, got it?   As for me, I like the dog I met.  Duss.  Cool dog.
Mitchell Brant) [blushing] Well, if I’m being honest–not something I always am–I guess I would have to say meeting Heather’s the best thing, and it’s not even a close second.
Ryan Swinton)  Hmm.  I’m not sure!  I–
Joe) Oh, c’mon, Ryan.  Don’t always be so wishy-washy!
Ryan)  Well, then . . .  probably the best thing for me was, um, well, standing up to you, Joe.  You remember?  When we were in Tilly?  That really small town?  I hadn’t ever really done anything like that.  I needed to do that.
Joe)  Sorry I made you give an answer just now, bud.  But, yeah.  I never knew you had it in you.  I was impressed.
Ryan)  Oh, yeah, and the cars in the parallel universe are cool, too.classic-car2. If you ever escape from this weird parallel universe, would you ever want to come back here or to visit any other strange worlds?

Mitchell)  Honestly, I’m not sure it matters.  ‘Cause if we do get back home, I know the guy who writes for us has plans for a sequel, so . . .
Me)  Careful, Mitchell!  I might just write you clean out of the sequel!
Mitchell)  Sorry, Mike.  I meant to say–Write on!  And yes!  I’d love to come back!
Me)  That’s better.

3. What is the scariest thing you’ve had to do in this adventure?

Joe)  Listen to Kuslanski talk, talk, talk!  Geez!  He’s wrong every freakin’ time!  And he just never quits.  He’s like a bad smell.
Marc)  [adjusting his glasses] Joe, I’m not always wrong.  In fact, I think I’m right approximately 99.97 percent of the time.
Ryan)  For me the scariest thing was cleanin’ Stu’s cabin.  That guy gave me the creeps.
Mitchell) Are you all forgetting the void?  What about going through the void?
Marc)  Exactly!  I aim to think about that more, figure out exactly what happened  . . .
Joe) [holding his head]  Here we go again . . .

 Questions for each individual:

1. Joe, you kind of had me worried about your aggressive tendencies. Have you ever practiced martial arts? Where did you learn to fight? 

Joe)  You know, I never did practice martial arts.  Never needed to, I guess.  I don’t know.  I’ve always just known what to do when the fists start flying.  It’s kind of like breathing for me.  It all just comes naturally.  Maybe it’s ’cause I’m so freakin’ short.  I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder.

2. Ryan, you’re the joker of the group. Do you have any other interests aside from making jokes?

Ryan)  Funny you should ask that, Sonya!  I was talking to Mike about that, telling him I wanted him to put my other big interest in the next book.  And he is!  I love magic, card tricks, performing . . .  Give me a deck of cards, and I’ll mesmerize you.  Not to brag or anything.  Just sayin’ . . .

3. To travel between worlds, you had to enter a weird tentacle-like thing. Marc, have you come up with any theories on what those “tentacles” were?

Marc) [his glasses falling down the bridge of his nose]  This has kept me up nights!  It really has.  I can’t say for sure–yet.  But to the best of my knowledge, they represent some sort of interdimensional space-time warp.  They are wormholes, bridging dimensions–in this case, bridging universes.  They may be related to black holes.  I will get back to you on this!  Believe me, I’m gonna spend a lot of my spare time thinking this over.

wormhole

4. Mitchell, you’re quite the comic book reader. What is it about the Fantastic Four that appeals to you?

Mitchell)  Well, I’ve personally met the actors who played the FF in the movies, and . . . [tilting his head, listening to something]  What’s that?  Oh.  Okay.  I was just told I should be 100% truthful with this answer.
Um . . . I just like their adventures.  Their stories take you to, well, kind of funny, since I did the same thing–but they sometimes take you to parallel worlds, and different dimensions.  They’re really imaginative.  And I like the characters, too.  They bicker a lot, but they’re like family,  When the chips are down, they’re all in.
Now, about the actors I met . . .

Hope you enjoyed the interview!

To purchase The Eye-Dancers…

on Amazon, please click here.

at Barnes and Noble, please click here.

at Smashwords, please click here.

at Kobo, please click here.

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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 usually happens when researching a novel, my intuition leads me to the research material that blends seamlessly 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.

Another 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….

The Cove: Song of the Jolly Dolphin Hunters

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It’s off to work we go…”

Sing the jolly dolphin-hunters as they prepare their nets and put on their wet-suits, filing onto their boats in their white butcher boots.

Okay, so they probably are not exactly as jolly as I imagine them, but I find myself trying very hard not to de-humanize people who actually kill and catch dolphins for a living.

They claim that the hunt is part of their cultural tradition — a tradition that dates back to 1969?! This is officially the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. But then, it is human nature to try to justify our actions no matter how inane or immoral they are.

Yep, it seems the dolphin hunters are all too human after all.

What’s really at stake here is arrogance and pride. The Japanese government doesn’t like Westerners telling them what to do. So they build up barricades to hide their work from prying eyes, and refuse to back down in the face of activists. The Japanese government spends millions of dollars on increased security for the fishermen of the cove.

dolphin-demonstrationThe majority of Japanese people are not at all party to dolphin killings. In fact, Taiji is an anomaly being currently the only dolphin-hunting village in Japan. Also, it seems most Japanese citizens are unaware of what is happening in Taiji, but thanks to the efforts of conservationists, word is now leaking out.

It takes a lot of guts for a Japanese citizen to stand up for dolphins. Anytime that an anti-dolphin-hunting demonstration occurs in Japan, nationalists go to that location and stage another demonstration, protesting their protest. They call the activists “hypocrites” and “unpatriotic.”

Meanwhile, in my swashbuckling headquarters, I am looking at daily reports from Ric O’Barry and his team who are monitoring the cove.

“The boats have returned with no dolphins,” reads the report from Taiji. I breathe a sigh of relief.

On other days, the report states, “Dolphins were slaughtered in the cove today.”

The dolphin hunting season usually begins in September or October and goes on until April. (“It’s dolphin hunting season… again!” sing the jolly dolphin-hunters in a show-tune-esque way as they twirl their top hats.)

Seriously, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through so many months. It’s the first time I’ve been following these reports on the hunt.  There is some hope in the fact that more and more people are finding out about the hunt and about the dangers of eating dolphin meat, which is contaminated with mercury.

“It’s the capture of the dolphins that’s the economic underpinning of the dolphin slaughter,” dolphin activist Ric O’Barry said in a recent interview, “The dolphin slaughter is not economically viable any longer. They’re only getting about $400 to $500 for a dead dolphin’s meat. I know they’re getting at least $154,000 for a live dolphin.”

O’Barry, who began his career working as a dolphin trainer, says that the best way to prevent the slaughter and capture of dolphins is to boycott dolphin shows and dolphinariums.

Cute Animal Encounters in the Wild

Last summer, I went on a swimming with dolphins experience in Cuba. From what I’ve seen there, the dolphins did not seem abused. The dolphin enclosures were spacious and located out in the middle of the ocean. There was no blaring music, no noisy crowds, and our experience with the dolphins was quite sedate. However, these dolphins were still confined and depended on the trainers for their meals.

It’s hard to tell what really goes on behind closed doors. In many dolphinariums the dolphins are starved to keep them tractable and willing to perform for their daily allowance of fish. Also, unlike the dolphins I saw in Cuba, many dolphins are kept in small, dirty, chlorinated tanks.

For those who are really into dolphins and would like to see these creatures in real life, I recommend swimming with wild dolphins adventures such as Wild Quest. Even these encounters in the wild could be problematic as sometimes dolphins are harassed too much by noisy boats, and I would recommend tours that use sail boats rather than motor boats.

So, as hard as it is for me to say this, knowing that cute animals are kind of like cocaine for me — not that I snort them, but well, you know what I mean… I pledge to only see whales and dolphins in the wild. I hope you will join me!

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Meghan Burnside and the Art of Dryad

dryad-cover-art-meghan-burnsideToday’s post features a bio of Meghan Burnside, the talented artist who depicted the dryad and her world of time travel on the novel’s cover. Meghan came up with a unique and meaningful design: the dryad in the middle, and her two love interests on opposite corners of the page, representing the human world and the dryad world. As the wheels of time are turning, the dryad is faced with choosing her destiny and the man she loves.  

Bio: Meghan Burnside

My name is Meghan Burnside, I was born with Autism. Art, I found, was a way to communicate my feelings and ideas to others. It has been my way of touching the world outside of Autism.

The challenge of discovering new techniques that will further my abilities as an artist is what I enjoy most along my creative path. I particularly enjoy painting images that have a quality of light and colour, the kind you would see in a stain glass window. The depth, luminosity, and richness that can be created with acrylic paint triggers my creativity unlike any other medium. It truly speaks to my soul.

 I started painting in 2003. My work has been exhibited in a variety of different venues in Edmonton, Alberta including the Jubilee Auditorium, the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton City Hall, Snap Gallery, the APEGA Art Show at their annual summit, and various churches throughout the city. My first solo exhibition was held at The Flat Gallery in Stony Plain, Alberta in support of the Society of Autism. I won first place in the Freezing Point 2012 Art Competition. My artwork has been discussed in Profile Magazine, the Western Catholic Reporter, and various news publications online. I have sold several of my pieces privately, completed illustrations for the covers of two novels, and am currently working on illustrating a children’s book named The Adventures of Sarah The Mouse. Most recently a Giclee of my painting The Sacred Heart (winner of the Freezing Point 2012 Art Competition) has been seen in person by Pope Francis, in Rome and I have received his personal correspondence in response to the image.

 To contact me for further information: MegBurnsideArt@outlook.com

Book Review: Ranger Martin and The Zombie Apocalypse

jacketHis focus fell on the trailer’s opening, on three of the undead rocking from side-to-side. Only their heads and shoulders were visible. Grabbing the golf club he found earlier along the side of the trailer, he rose with one intention: play golf.

– Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse by Jack Flacco

Ranger Martin doesn’t just kill zombies. He kills them with a flair for comedy, and he thoroughly enjoys his adventures. With amazing good humour for someone living in the midst of an apocalypse, Ranger Martin somewhat resembles Indiana Jones in his inventive ways of getting out of tight spots. His only companion is a teenager whom he nicknames Wildside. But as the story opens, Ranger stumbles upon two more youngsters, a ten-year-old kid named Jon and his teenage sister Matty.

When Jon marvels at his “Batcave” dwelling, this slayer of the undead says that he prefers Spiderman to Batman, and it’s easy to see why. Unlike the grim caped crusader, Ranger Martin is a warm, humorous person who doesn’t suffer from troubling psychological issues. Altogether, he’s a pretty cool dude.

Ranger is up against some big challenges, the biggest of which is getting the teenagers in his charge to get along. Indeed, the most interesting thing for me was seeing how the characters’ personal issues from before the apocalypse haunted them, and how they worked on resolving their differences between bouts of fighting undead creatures. As the characters’ back story is revealed, the zombie attacks pale in comparison to the suffering caused by “normal” society.

jack flaccoAs they try to solve the riddle of the zombies’ origin and go on a quest to destroy the zombies for good, Ranger and his crew face quite a few undead opponents. Jack Flacco excels at bringing the zombie-fighting action to life with his own brand of dynamic comic-book flavored violence. Speaking of flavor, he also injects much humour by describing gooey zombie brains as food items, everything from avocado to mint jelly, as in “Ranger then crashed his boot into its skull, spraying mint jelly everywhere.”

It’s a harsh and dangerous world, but Jack Flacco illuminates it with his heroes’ quirky personalities and camaraderie. The perfect mix of human drama and zombie thrills, Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse is a very lively (haha) tale of the undead.

Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse is due to be released on October 22, 2013.

To find out more about Jack Flacco, check out his highly entertaining site http://jackflacco.com/.

Dryad Prologue

 This is how the Dryad novel originally began, but my writerly instincts told me to cut this part. I removed it from the novel, but I still think it’s a good intro. So I’ll add it here as a sort of optional prologue….

tipuana tipu

Reading on the balcony was one of Natalie’s favourite things to do despite some mysterious pranksters — she supposed it was the neighbourhood kids — stealing her books and magazines if she left them out for any amount of time. Little did she know that a dryad had been stalking her house.

Rosewood trees sprawled in a long canopy all down the quiet street. From where Natalie sat, she could see their greenish tops, slightly grey with city dust, rippling in the breeze. Being the wife of an English diplomat in Colombia, she spent many hours alone on her wide balcony, lounging in a deck chair and reading Narcissism Carnival, to which she subscribed every year religiously.

Then something disquieting happened: she realized that her tall cocktail glass was nearly empty, so she got up with a sigh and went into the apartment to make a new mojito, leaving the magazine to be leafed through by the wind.

The dryad saw her opportunity. It was only about a ten foot drop, and she leaped straight down from the roof, landing almost soundlessly on the rug-covered balcony. She snatched up the magazine, stuck it into a messenger back that was slung across her shoulder and took a few ripe mango fruits out of the bag. The skin of the fruit was dark yellow tinged with red on one side. She put them down on the table where the magazine had been — for dryads never steal. If they take something, they must replace it with something of equal value.

The dryad did not know how much the mango was worth in human currency, but she thought the woman would find it very appropriate. She had been watching that woman for the last year, and thought that she could use much more fresh fruit and exercise. Also, the dryad thought, realizing that she was being a touch hypocritical, what’s the use of sitting around reading junk magazines all day?

With a quick look around, she began climbing down via the mock columns of the facade. Fortunately, the columns were filigreed with images of plants and leaves, which provided plenty of hand and foot holds. The street was deserted at this siesta hour, and nobody saw her descend. She leaped the last few feet and walked down the shady street with complete nonchalance, just a young, fit Argentinian woman wearing shorts and a tank top, taking a leisurely walk. The streets were lined with tipuana tipu, a rosewood tree whose winged seeds spun like helicopter blades in the breeze, and she walked through a rain of twirling wings.

She soon picked up the pace to a run, and when she reached the outskirts of the city, which blended into dense jungle, she changed into her dryad form: the green eyes expanded until they were round  and luminous like a cat’s. But that was not the only point in which they differed from human eyes: her eyes seemed to have a life of their own, as if one could see green leaves stirring gently in the breeze within them. Her skin took on a pale green hue, and her hair changed from dark brown to bright orange. She ran on through the thick jungle.

Three more days, and she would be back in her forest.