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A LION, A TIGER, AND A BEAR. NOT FROM THE WIZARD OF OZ…

I recently saw some pictures (and a video) taken at a wildlife refuge of a full-grown lion, tiger and bear who were raised together. They have completely bonded with one another and eat, sleep and play together. As you can tell by the picture below, it’s pretty amazing. These are animals that would never, ever, interact with each other in the wild, who wouldn’t even know of the others’ existence.

They had been the “property” as cubs of a drug gang and, when the police busted the gang, they called the refuge to see if they would take the cubs, which had been abused. The refuge workers initially thought about separating the threesome since they’re different species, etc. but when they saw how the animals had taken to each other, left them together. It was the right move.

It’s been said animals love humans unconditionally, and even though they may be completely different, they react that way to other animals as well, depending on the conditions. If only people could be as accepting and tolerant.

In my novel, Blood of the Daxas, being released in print format this weekend, some of my characters are animals. The late, great Andre Norton wrote many stories concerning animals bonding with humans (Beast Master, Moon of Three Rings, Catseye) in either emotional or psychic terms. That’s always been an interest of mine and, as a result, I’ve created the dragon, Wyverna, Queen of the Daxas, who can thought-commune with the human Gifted One, Toria.

Toria doesn’t realize she possesses such a mental power until the dragon makes contact. As a result, Toria’s life will change forever. For she finds the dragon isn’t some rampaging monster but an advanced, intelligent, and caring being.

There’s also Timen-Lu, a Beast-Witch, who can control animals and birds of all kinds including her “brother,” the mountain cat, Kanta the kazak (a definite nod or homage to Andre Norton, I admit) and her three starhawk companions, Pala, Sedon, and Yarin. Being a practitioner of the “Inner Eye,” Timen-Lu can, once she has psychically connected to her animal charges, “see” through their eyes.

My wife and I have cats and our lives wouldn’t be complete without them. They bring a lot of joy to our lives. We’re all creatures of the same world and need to coexist peacefully. Both animals and humans.

In Blood of the Daxas, it’s the decisions of both the human and animal characters that move the action forward and reach a common resolution.

The book launch event for Blood of the Daxas is tomorrow, December 6, 2pm, at Rickert and Beagle Books in Dormont, PA. Thank you all for your interest and support!

http://rickertandbeaglebooks.com/2014/11/183/

Lion, Tiger and Bear

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THE PAPSTESEL ~ ANOTHER WEIRD BEASTIE

In a previous post, I talked about some of the very frightening and very odd (a cursed wash rag?) creatures of Japanese mythology. Well, Japan hasn’t cornered the market on strange beasties, let me tell you.

One of the strangest I’ve come across is the papstesel, from Italian legend. This creature is as chimerical as they come, having the body of a human woman and the head of a donkey. One arm is an elephant’s trunk and one leg ends hoofed like a cow while the other is taloned like a bird. It has a snake for a tail and the face of an old man in the middle of its back.

Pretty gruesome-sounding, isn’t it? What were these guys smoking when they dreamed this thing up? Interestingly, according to the website, http://www.mythicalcreatureslist.com/mythical-creature/Papstesel, the papstesel figures in German literature as well, being referenced at one point by Martin Luther during one of his speeches against the church.

I found the papstesel when I was researching Italian mythology for my novel, Warriors of the Light. Setting part of the story in Venice, Italy, I wanted something other than the usual Greco-Roman pantheon of gods, goddesses, and monsters. When the papstesel popped up in my search, I had to make use of it mainly because it’s so bizarre.

I couldn’t find a whole lot of information on it except it is a water denizen so, as most creative people are wont to do, I used some artistic license. My papstesel is a representative of the creatures of the Mystic Realm. He/She can speak both through the donkey mouth and through the old man on its back. It appears from the sea to strike a bargain with one of my magical human characters back in 15th century Venice.

Originally I had planned on only using the papstesel in one scene but have beefed up its role somewhat in an additional scene. It was fun to include such a wild-looking creature in the story and, who knows, it could appear again. Characters, after all, have a way of taking on lives of their own.

Check out a picture of the papstesel on the following website: http://illischainsecho.tumblr.com/post/25697197241/fyeahmythologicalcreatures-the-papstesel

http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichauthor

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BLOOD OF THE DAXAS!

I’m not a very brave person although I have whitewater rafted 3 times and taken a hot air balloon ride. And enjoyed all of them immensely. However, when I want to participate in an adventure outside the realm of reality, I write about it. I live it vicariously. Taking a ride on a dragon. Check. Fighting mythological creatures. Check. Confronting extraterrestrials. Check. I can do that, as long as it’s accomplished through the characters of my stories.

One such adventure is available now. My new fantasy/steampunk novel, Blood of the Daxas, is now available in Kindle format. If you decide to participate in this great, magical adventure yourselves, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

Many thanks in advance!

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Daxas-Larry-Ivkovich-ebook/dp/B00OBWUIWI

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MONSTERS, MONSTERS, MONSTERS…

This close to Halloween, I thought I’d dwell on monsters for this post. I’ve always been drawn to bizarre and dangerous creatures of the imagination–vampires, werewolves, extraterrestrials. You name it and if they are part of the science fiction, fantasy, horror and supernatural canons, so much the better.

However, I once read an article which stated the most frightening monsters are those that are the most human-like. Giant insects, rampaging dinosaurs, deadly viruses, killer tomatoes–yeah, those are all scary but, the point of the article was, basically, the more the menace looks like us, the more frightening it is. Because those kinds of monsters remind us of ourselves. Or a darker version of ourselves.

I tend to agree with that. The Blob was horrifying. The cursed, mobile tree of “From Hell It Came” was scary (albeit goofy). Godzilla and King Kong made you scream in terror. But those monsters which have more human qualities or appearances that exist in the dark tend to be the most interesting to me, as well as the most frightening.

Take zombies, for example. I may have ranted here before how I’m not a big fan of zombies, although I’m writing what I call an “alternative zombie” novel. Go figure. But most, if not all, zombies can’t talk, they can’t reason, they just shamble or (these days) run around eating people. Yawn. Imagine, though, if a zombie could talk, make plans, try to outwit you by its intelligence. The idea of a monster being on our intellectual and creative levels (or beyond) is far more interesting than just a slobbering beast. Although slobbering beasts are fun once in a while too.

An example is from the recent remake of The Time Machine starring Guy Pierce. In H.G. Wells’ book and the in 1960 movie version, the morlocks were just primitive, ape-like creatures although driven by a hive-like mind. Sort of like ants. In the 2002 version of The Time Machine, there are “uber-morlocks,” who are intelligent, can speak, and direct their bestial minions. Jeremy Irons played such a morlock in the movie and it really added a whole other level of complexity and interest to it. Of course, it’s Jeremy Irons, so any role he plays is bound to be good. He looked great too, with long white hair, pale skin, and piercing blue eyes. Yikes.

What’s more scary–the creatures in the Alien movies or the Predators? That’s a toss-up, I admit, but I vote for the Predators, again because they look more human-like, at least their bodies. Their faces–ugh. Remember when Charlton Heston’s character, Taylor, said his first words to his ape captors? Their reaction? See what I mean?

Of course, there are human monsters as well. Serial killers, child molesters, terrorists, etc. They’re compelling when used as fictional characters in novels and short stories, I admit, but to me, they’re way too real, brutal and disgusting. They’re in the news all the time, unfortunately. Give me a fantasy or supernatural monster (human or otherwise) any time. They’re not real. Or are they?

In both my novels, I’ve created monsters of all types. The Sixth Precept, being an urban-fantasy, has many Japanese mythological creatures running amok. Using artistic license, I’ve changed some of the attributes described to them to create more human-like characters. And, I’ve created a human-canine hybrid called a shadow-tracker, which, although it’s like a werewolf, can talk and think for itself. And, in the end, it can change and evolve.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, Blood of the Daxas, a dragon is one of my main characters. But, again, this is a dragon that is intelligent and can communicate. That’s been done before, I realize, but I’ve added a couple of different abilities to this dragon, one of which I hope comes as a surprise to the readers.

The ebook release of Blood of the Daxas is scheduled for next Thursday, November 6. I’ll post more info next week.

http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichbooks

http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichbooks2

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THE MAGIC OF PLACE…

A couple of recent experiences has moved me to return to discussing “real” magic. One was a trip to southern Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The other took place much closer to home.

Earlier today, I was sitting in the dogwood meadow of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden (www.pittsburghbotanicgarden.org/). No one else was around, the sky was a light gray overcast. A slight breeze blew through the surrounding trees, some of whose leaves had turned their fall colors. Beautiful, peaceful spot.

I’m not a very religious person but I knew there was a presence there, a power, an unseen, mystical resonance that was all-encompassing. Even though the sun was mostly obscured and there was a slight chill in the air, I felt as if I was in another world.

It was real magic.

It was like the powerful sense I got when visiting Stonehenge and Avebury Circle in England and sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon at twilight. More recently, I felt the same sort of supernatural force, if you will, at the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in Colorado and the Native American ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The landscape of that part of the country is so defining, so monumental, so elemental, that it takes the breath away. And, despite civilization’s encroachment, its brutal and ruthless intrusion, the magic still exists there. I could feel it all around me.

Oh, I know the idea of magic being displaced by non-belief and modern culture has been batted around countless times before. And I certainly can’t write as eloquently as John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, or Tony Hillerman when they describe their natural worlds. Yet, here’s how I felt

Simplistic as it sounds, what I’m saying is one’s mind has to be kept open, the smart-phones put away, the preconceptions buried. You have to turn yourself into a “receiver” in order to detect and pick up on the forces of nature, the cosmos, the supernatural, of magic, whatever you want to call it.

It’s all there. I’m not saying we should all abandon our lives and “go back to nature” but there’s absolutely a place for every one of us to think and feel like we’re really a part of the energy that holds everything together. We all just have to find it and those places are closer than you think. Humankind hasn’t destroyed everything yet.

In my novel, The Sixth Precept (www.amazon.com/The-Sixth-Precept-Larry-Ivkovich/dp/0615554245), medieval Japan evokes spiritual and supernatural elements with its religions, myth, and culture. I tried to get that as correct as I could, to bring out those mystical forces, to make them characters in the book themselves.

In my upcoming new novel, Blood of the Daxas (inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichbooks), the secondary world of the Imperium is attuned to magic, its lands soaked in it. There exists different kinds of magic in this world and different kinds of magic-wielders–magic of the mind, of nature, of religion, of blood.

But a new “magic” has arisen to challenge those–technology. In an ultimate battle, which of those types of magic will survive?

http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichauthor

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Space Angel: An E-“Motionless” Outer Space Adventure

Those of us of a certain age remember the primitively-done but beloved animated series,Clutch Cargo (1959). But even some of that boomer demographic don’t recall the show, Space Angel (1962-1964), created by Dik Darley. Produced by the same production company as Clutch, Space Angel employed similar art techniques and film “technology” as well.

In this age of ubiquitous CGI and four-star animation, both Clutch Cargo and Space Angel stand out for their utterly low-budget simplicity. But we older sci-fi geeks who do remember hold the latter show close to our hearts.

Because of budget constraints, Cambria Productions created Clutch Cargo utilizing a process they referred to as “Synchro-Vox.” This allowed actual human mouths to be superimposed on still drawings of the show’s characters. The only “animation” was the moving lips! Cardboard cutouts were shuffled around sometimes to give the effect of movement but Clutch was just a still image in search of motion.

So too Space Angel but with some differences: this show was made with an improved coloring process which blended the real speaker’s lips into the cartoon face more seamlessly. There was animated eye movement and the space ships appeared to be cruising through the solar system. The drawings themselves, done by comic-book artist Alex Toth in one of his earliest high-profile animation gigs, were much more realistic than those in Clutch Cargo, not cartoonish at all. And the spaceship, Starduster, was absolutely terrific-looking!

Space Angel, aka Scott McCloud, was an agent for the EBI (Earth Bureau of Investigation). He and his teammates, Professor Mace, Crystal (Mace’s daughter and potential love interest for Scott) and Taurus, a Scottish mechanic, based their operations out of the space station Evening Star. In very short, five to six-minute episodes (a whole show being 4 or 5 of these), Scott would fight evil and corruption of the interstellar kind.

Space Angel

These short segments actually contained a lot of story elements with each episode ending in a cliff-hanger. The characters were stereotyped but appealing–a lot of friendly bantering was carried on between Scott and Taurus (“You old space goat!”) and Crystal was depicted as an intelligent and daring crew member. Although her flirting skills were strictly out of the forties (“Scott McCloud!”, “Hmmphh!”, “Now, you apologize.”). Hey, even the original Star Trek didn’t always get that right.

The villains were bad, bad, bad and always sinister-looking. One female baddie was obviously modeled after the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, complete with skyscraper-tall hat! Apparently “Space Angel” was Scott’s code name for the EBI but it was never explained why he wore an eyepatch. He looked very cool though and always saved the day.

Episodes of Space Angel can be viewed on You Tube and are also available on DVD. Do yourself a favor and watch some of these to see just how much fun low-tech can be.

 

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THE OAK ISLAND MONEY PIT – Site of a Knights Templar Treasure?

Sources: The Templar Code for Dummies by Christopher Hodapp and Alice Von Kannon
and The Oak Island Money Pit web site – http://www.oakislandmoneypit.com/

One of the more interesting (and bizarre) supposed sites of the fabled Knights Templar treasure (Gold and precious stones? The Holy Grail? The Ark of the Covenant? Oh my!) is the Oak Island Money Pit.

Oak Island is located off the coast of Nova Scotia and contains a very real and strange mystery with supposed connections to not only the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail but Shakespeare and the pirates Blackbeard and Captain Kidd.

A mysterious excavation was unearthed in 1795 by three teenage boys who suspected something, like pirate treasure, was buried on the island. What was discovered by them and subsequent deeper digs over the centuries is a series of maze-like wooden platforms and side tunnels with no bottom to the pit in sight!

Several years later, another group of diggers found a stone with, initially, undecipherable symbols on it, which were later translated into “Forty Feet Below, Two Million Pounds Are Buried.” What a great incentive! Of course, nothing of the sort was found upon further digging

Later, more organized and better funded excavations dug much deeper to find horizontal shafts which became flooded with seawater. These prevented further exploration (some refer to these as clever “booby traps) until more modern and more technological means were developed. The Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute even studied the site with no luck solving the mystery.

Although some artifacts such as gold chains and pieces of parchment have been unearthed, the bottom has never been reached. And no treasure has ever been found. But what the heck is the pit? Why was it dug? What are those crazy platforms?
Oh, yeah – it’s where the Templars (who, by some accounts, were the real discoverers of America) buried their treasure. Or where the pirates Blackbeard and Captain Kidd hid their loot. One hypothesis claims the pit contains proof that Francis Bacon really wrote the works of William Shakespeare.

The History Channel has a web site and videos on the subject which would be fun to watch. Will it shed any light on this? My money’s on the Templars. They’re much cooler than pirates!

In my crazy future history, the Knights Templar have been reborn into the 23rd Century to become the Templar Accord. Their long war with the alien Kazoran Union is at a stalemate. Both sides are equal in numbers, strength and technology. But what if the Accord could discover and resurrect certain “artifacts”, which are not myths and legends but real? Including the Baphomet? The Union would have no defense against these ancient “weapons.”

My new serial novel, The Endgame Chronicles, posted by chapter for free on the JukePop Serial website, posits that theory also. The Templar Accord, now serving a church of their own making, struggle to survive against their enemies. You can read about what happens after they discover an artifact long buried on a remote, backwater planet in an ancient tomb. They find out their “Endgame Initiative” may sound good on paper but even the best-laid plans can go horribly wrong. Yikes.

I’ve tried to capture the essence of the Knights Templar and their Code in my stories but have updated it to include female Knights and administrators (this is the 23rd century after all). No vows of poverty exist and, especially, no vows of chastity. How boring would that be?

The first chapter is available to read free without a JukePop account, but you’ll have to create an account (also free with no obligations) to read any further. Let me know what you think!

http://www.jukepop.com/home/read/3471
http://inkfish1.wix.com/larryivkovichauthor

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