Saturday, December 22, 2012

Who's yo Daddy?...the older gentleman hero.

The subject of todays post is the 'older hero'. In jest, I mentioned a novella of mine on Twitter that I should sex-up and submit to a publisher (not sure if I ever will though). 
I wrote it a few years ago as an experiment, but the interesting thing about this story is that a) it's a non-paranormal *gasp* regency romance and b) the hero is an older man.

Yes, you heard it here, the hero is in his mid-forties to early-fifties.

What do you think of the older hero? Does it make you think I'm so not going there! Or does it make you curious? Do you wonder about his sexpertise? Could  the old hero be as delectable as a throbbing muscular young man in his prime?

Food for the muse isn't it?

It has made me wonder about the demographic of my own readers, lets face it we're all getting older, should my heroes be getting older too? Hmmm?

Additionally, I have recently finished watching Terra Nova, and I was surprised to find that the character of Commander Nathaniel Taylor was a bit of hot tottie despite his somewhat advanced age.

Below is a gallery of older gentlemen actors/models. What do you think? Romantic Hero material or not? I'm thinking a resounding "Yes"!

["Nathaniel Taylor", Stephen Lang, age 60]

["Barca", Spartacus, Antonio Te Maioha Age 43]

["Crixus", Spartacus, Manu Bennett, Age 43]

[Johnny Depp, Age 49]

 [David duchovney Age 52]
 [Richard Gere, age: 63]

 So...what do you think?
Enjoy your Sunday!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Making Myths Real III - creating the Thriae.

Today I'm showing you how I'd make a mythological creature 'real' in my writing.
I've chosen a rather random mythological insect, who hails from Greek Mythology, namely the Thriae.

[image; B. Rosen]

Beastly Facts
Name: Thriae (also known as Thriai)
Origin: Greek Mythology
Creep Factor: 1/10
Religious affiliation: Ancient Greek Pantheon
Deadly rating: Low
Cryptid: No
Shares similarity with: Melissae, Melissai

Brief and Basic History: The Thriae are closely linked to the Melissae (bee demigods/nymphs). Originally the Thriae were three nymphs (Melaina, Kelodora and Daphnis), who were oracles/soothsayers who used pebbles as a means of divination. The myths say that the nymphs were part woman and part bee, and lived somewhere around Mt Parnassos. They would tell fortunes and fed exclusively on honey, often they were described as being sprinkled with white/yellow meal, which was allegedly the pollen from the flowers.

Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 550 ff (trans. Evelyn-White)
(Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
[Apollon says to Hermes:] ‘There are certain holy ones, sisters born--three virgins gifted with wings: their heads are besprinkled with white meal, and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassos. These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to it. From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass. And when they are inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak the truth; but if they be deprived of the gods' sweet food, then they speak falsely, as they swarm in and out together. These, then, I give you; enquire of them strictly and delight you heart: and if you should teach any mortal so to do often will he hear your response--if he have good fortune. Take these, Son of Maia . . .’

Without giving too much away, I intend on using a version of the thriae in my next book. To use such an unusual creature, I am going to have to work hard to make it realistic and believable. Below is a step by step guide of how I will do it.

 Biological Realism is important.

Let face it, a human torso in insect body... How is that going to work...ever?!

Well, lets look at biology, and see how we can manipulate it.

a) Choose a type and a stick with it.
I am going to make my thriae almost entirely insectivorous, because mammalian vascular systems could never work in harmony with an insects  - there are simply too many differences. Unless I'm going to use the blanket "it's just magic" comment over it, we're going to have to do some research.

b) Know your basic biology.
Google is great! I also have countless biology books in my home library (yes, I did Biology 101 at University). Look at the diagrams!
If I want my thriae to be more bee-like than human internally, this is going to mean some serious physiological reasoning.
For example; Within the thorax/torso of my thriae, there will be no lungs. Being small and insectivorous they'd breath through spiracles and trachea. Therefore making them speak in a way that is intelligible to the average human is going to be problematic.

So how could I make the Thriae talk?
The biological realities are; that to speak they'd need vocal cords. Vocal cords are not muscles, but pieces of soft tissue with muscles surrounding them. These muscles around chords that cause them to loosen or tighten and it is the air passing through the vocal cords that make sound.
Here lies a big problem; the spiracles through which an insect breaths are located on the exoskeleton (thorax and abdomen, not the head). They allow allow air to enter the trachea. The tracheal tubes deliver oxygen directly to the small creatures tissues (this is one of the reasons that in our atmosphere insects can only grow upto a particular size as the respiratory system isn't complex enough to support a large body).
So assuming the thriae are insectivorous internally, and do not have lungs - they couldn't make vocal cords vibrate and therefore they couldn't speak through their mouths.
Hmmm. I have two options here, I can think of a way to make them speak biologically, or I can use literary license and say they speak through 'magic'. As I'm always up for a challenge, I like to investigate the posibility of speech through spiracles.

c) Do MORE research...
Ask yourself the questions!
Could spiracles move enough air to make sound? I don't know!!.. so I  did some more research. discovered that there is a very special catepillar named the walnut sphinx catepillar that can actually whistle. It does this through contorting its body and pushing air through the spiracle. This only occurs at the eighth spiracle (article; Woo hoo!

So, if I want my thriae to talk (which I do), they're going to have make speech-like sounds through their spiracles and some type of muscle and chord system arrangement there, not through their mouths.
Therefore with a few minor manipulations of biology, my thriae will be able to speak a pseudo human language, albeit not through their mouths, but rather though a hole somewhere near their arse.
Sorry, that was low brow.
There are of course other complications that will need to be addressed. For example the endo- verses exo-skeleton problem with the existance human torso/bee abdomen.
Well, I've already stated that they have bee-internals so I'm going to have to continue the insect-theme and give them an entire exoskeleton. To do this I'll look at some other  insects that have interesting faces.
[stick insect]
 Strangely cute aren't they?
So now, I can imagine a humanish head, but add insect features to it.
They additionally would have no neck, merely a flexible joint between the the head and thorax. Additionally, the six legs of an insect generally all stem from the thorax (torso in the thriae). So we'd have to add segmented legs, that could be made to move the creature in a realistic fashion and a modified first pair of legs that the thriae would use as 'arms'.
d) Sketch it.
You don't have to be an artist, but give it a go, it will help you understand the dimensions of your creature better, and envisage its movements with greater ease. I love to draw and paint so I find this particularly enjoyable, and my pin-board is covered in random sketches :)Below is my sketch of 'my' thriae (complete with my cat's paw - he's everywhere you want to be).

Suffice to say, my thriae doesn't look as cute as the other images, but you get the idea. :)
d) Remember this IS fantasy.
Yes, I like to go over the top with research to make things realistic, but it is also important to realise that the creatures of myth and magic do not have to be completely realistic to be readable. After all, they're not real. A biologist I'm certain would be able rip apart my biological reasonings and explain millions of reasons why things would probably not work. However, it's just that little germ of possibility,  that adds something special to a novel. 
It is also important to understand that despite all the research and cool facts you discover, the information must not dumped into the story like a text-book. Indeed, some of it may not be even mentioned at all. It's a shame, but when you come across a reader or fellow mythology/biology nut you'll always have something to talk about.
And on that note, enjoy your Wednesday!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing

So.... I've been tagged in The Next Big Thing by Shona Husk  who writes paranormal romance about goblins and fairies and anything else she fancies for Sourcebooks, Carina Press, Samhain and Ellora’s Cave.
I'm instructed to tell you all about my next book by answering these questions and then to tag other authors about their Next Big Thing.
What is the working title of your next book?
Able as Cain
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It's a convoluted story, but here goes;
The original germ of an idea came from watching an episode of the Australian version of "Biggest Loser". The Commando is a muscular military man on the show, who makes people do really hard excercise. I'm not ashamed to admit it, I found him absurdly sexy.
The Commando
It made me think how would a romance play out between The Commando and one of the weight-loss contestants. Who would hold the power? How equitable would the relationship be, would it be a dominant/submission thing, or really, inside that hard, muscular heavily tattooed body, is there a man desperately in love?
*light bulb*
It really made me want to write about military men and unconventional heroines. 
Then I started thinking where I would place my story and Laos in South East Asia popped into mind. My military man could be a powerful Magical Warlord, and my heroine a kidnapped Australian Tourist!
What genre does your book fall under?
Paranormal romance
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I really don't know. I think maybe Ben Mansfield (who plays Becker in Primeval) he's pretty hot.
Ben Mansfield.
Hanna Mangan Sand
For the heroine, gosh, maybe Hanna Mangan Sand (she is an Aussie actress who was in Spartacus)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Fate thrust them together, but reality has torn them apart.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be represented by an agency.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm still writing it, it should be done in a month or so, so maybe six months?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don't know really, I haven't read anything quite like what write, but maybe if you blend Karen Marie Moning with Laurell K Hamilton's early work, then mix with a bit of Kresley Cole, you might get something a bit similar.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It's got to be Stockholm Syndrome... Sabra Westwood thought to herself.
Eighteen fateful months ago, she'd been kidnapped by the infamous Magician Warlord Cain Dath, and her memories and body just wouldn't let her forget it.
She'd been his more than any woman should be, hidden in the humid depths of the Laos jungle she'd shared everything with him, but he'd never shared his heart.

Cain has an appetite as a big as his charisma. A hoard of women lay at his disposal, all eager to please and sate him – but only one truly satisfies him.
So why can't he tell her?

In his position of power, Cain cannot show weakness, he must lead his people to freedom and nothing, and no one can stand in his way.
Yet when Sabra escapes she finds herself cornered by the media she seems defeated, but still defiant. Sabra sells her story of love slavery in a tell all expose' and gains millions. Fame however is dangerous and not only allows Cain’s men to hunt her down, but the others who seek to destroy him.

Now, Sabra is open to attack on all fronts, and the one man who enslaved her becomes the only man able to save her...
Here are some lovely authors I've tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Making myths real II -Going dental

Teeth are so important. Our heroes need good teeth, but what about our creatures?

I'm currently writing about a potential fight between an Aufhocker (see my earlier post) and a Werewolf. To get it right I went researching (I'm a nerd, I'm allowed). Who would win, what bite patterns would happen? Are their teeth tearing teeth or chewing teeth?

General concensus seems to indicate that aufhockers, (like werewolves) have canid (dog-like) teeth.
Canid teeth meet together in a scissors like action - a sure indication of a raw food diet. They have fangs for grabbing and puncturing, incisors for nibbling, premolars for tearing, and molars for crushing bone. Unlike herbivores which only have molars that are used for grinding food and mashing grasses, leaves and other vegetable matter, canine teeth are more for slashing, cutting and tearing.

This gives me a better indication of how and what a fight between a werewolf and aufhocker might play out - it also got me looking once again about making mythological creatures real in your writing.

Macabre as it may seem I went searching for teeth and skulls on the internet. I remember when writing about Devika the naga (from Magical Creations and Redemption) that I went looking at the teeth and fangs of a black-mamba. Devika, being a naga, has flick down fangs that drip venom and a black mouth - just like the black mamba snake. I remember considering how I would make her fangs real. This is one of the images I used as a reference for her. Her fangs could retract in sheaths then flick down when she wanted to envenomate a victim...

This then got me thinking about the skull formation of the aufhocker. I imaging it being something similar to that of a werewolf as an aufhocker often described as a canid shifter. To the left is a mock-up skull of a shifted werewolf (complete with bullet hole in the centre of the forehead!) that I sourced from google images. You can see that the artist has used dog/wolf teeth, placed in a humanoid/canine blended skull.

Below is a diagram of a normal human skull for a comparison. You can see in the werewolf-mockup that the  lower mandible (jaw) is significantly narrower than that of the human. This would indicate  that the mouth could open wider than a human. The average human can apparently open their mouth 3 - 4 cm from tip to tip of the inscissors. A wolf can get up to 12 cm or more. Thats a 3 or 4 times larger bite area than a human jaw could make. Additionally the nasal cavity of the werewolf is much larger, and also has the two maxilliary recesses on either side of the larger cavity indicating a heightened ability to smell. Unlike the a dog however, the werewolf skull has a human formed super-orbital torus (brow ridge), indicating that the face of the werewolf is not completely canine in appearance but the upper portion of the face remains human-like.
Facinating stuff!

I now have a pretty good idea of how hideous a fight between  an aufhocker and werewolf would be. Combine the mutated canid head with claws and a hell of a lot of upper body strength and you've got a battle of epic proportions!

Here's an interesting diagram of how a 'shift' might take place. You'll notice however, in this artist's rendition that the superorbital torus virtually disappears, resulting in much more canid features...

Below is a gallery of interesting mythological and real skulls that might be useful as a reference later on.

Cat Skull - note the huge orbital cavities (eyes!)

Black Spider Monkey Skull - blunt inscissors,

Owl Monkey - check out the teeth and eyes!

"Dragon Skull" - small nasal and eye cavities with tearing teeth.

Viper skull - rear facing teeth to hold onto prey
whilst injecting venom.

Have a lovely Sunday and happy writing / reading!