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Dina von LowenkraftPlease welcome my special guest Dina Von Lowenkraft, author of the tantalizing new YA romantic fantasy, DRAGON FIRE, jut released by Twilight Times Books!

Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children and three horses. 

Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth… after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.

Connect with Dina on the web:

Site: www.dinavonlowenkraft.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dina-von-Lowenkraft/551209381555837

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vonlowenkraft

ABOUT THE BOOK

Some choices are hard to live with.

But some choices will kill you.

When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to his pulsing energy. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.

Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, punishable by death, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.

PURCHASE ON AMAZON.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Dragon Fire. What was your inspiration for it?

A: That’s a bit complicated since Dragon Fire is the second book in that particular world since the first never got published. Originally, I wanted to write a book about two lovers who couldn’t be together because of their families, which then turned into two separate communities. From the desire to push the two groups far enough apart, and raise the stakes for the characters, I began developing two species, one became the Draak, a group of shapeshifting dragons who can manipulate matter and are very emotional, the other became the Elythia, angle-like beings who have gone the other way and can turn into light and are highly intellectual. Being a lover of series, I had imagined this story over the course of 4 books. When my first manuscript garnered no interest, even after several re-writes, I knew there was no point in writing the second book. Yet I wanted to stay in the world that I had come to love. So I pulled out a subplot from my vision of the second book and wrote that – and that subplot, the story of the shapeshifting dragon Rakan and the human Anna, became Dragon Fire.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Rakan was forced to grow up on his own, which is a highly unusual situation for a Draak, a shapeshifting dragon. Because of this, Rakan’s first morph was particularly difficult – he had no way of knowing which of the three dragon forms (air, water or fire) he was going to turn into and he didn’t have the benefit of being mind-linked to a more experienced dragon who could help him. Although Rakan managed to morph without killing himself, it could have ended otherwise. Unable to control his rök, his dragon heart, completely, Rakan had to learn to keep it under tight control by repressing his emotions. This led to the explosive situation he finds himself in when he meets Anna who unleashes his emotions in a way he can’t control. And doesn’t really want to, even though it could kill them both.

Dragon Fire coverQ: What was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: Since this wasn’t my first manuscript, I wanted to make sure to avoid some of the problems  that had made the previous one unsellable – such as keeping the length within market norms and making sure there was enough tension to keep readers going. In order to do that, I decided to plot my manuscript first. I spent the summer of 2010 plotting and getting each character’s motivation and inner landscape mapped out. Once I had a clear idea of where I was going, I wrote from the beginning up through the middle in a couple of months. At that point I realized I was missing a secondary antagonist. After quite a bit of hesitation, I went back and added T’eng Sten. The funny thing is that I can’t imagine Dragon Fire without him now – but he wasn’t in it at first! This was actually a rather challenging experience and it was hard to get the right balance for T’eng Sten’s overwhelming alpha male personality. Not wanting to re-write another character either in or out again, I took my time writing and re-writing Dragon Fire chapter by chapter. So it wasn’t until January 2012 that I felt like my manuscript was ready to be submitted, approximately 18 months after I had first started plotting it. Of course, once I signed with Twilight Times Books I also had several rounds of revisions and edits. So Dragon Fire wasn’t in its final form until 2013.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: You mean for me? I actually don’t think about that – my world is very much alive for me and I feel everything that happens. All the ups, all the downs. When I write I am on a permanent roller-coaster with my characters. The real challenge is trying to write what I see and feel in a way that brings it alive for the reader too.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I have to admit my writing style is a bit different from most. I write too much and all my problems are in cutting back and keeping things tight, making sure I don’t put in too many characters or subplots etc. All my characters have complete backgrounds and could get their own books, it’s just how my mind works. So I don’t get anxious, just excited. I do, however, get anxiety about marketing my book – so I certainly know how uncomfortable that is! And yet you have to push through it and do it. So I imagine it’s the same feeling, just in a different spot.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: My best writing days are during the school year when I can do e-mail and social networking early in the morning, then write from say 8:30 – 12:30, have a quick lunch, ride my horse, pick up the kids, make dinner and have family time before doing some social networking and writing from 9:00 – midnight. In reality, I rarely get to have so much time writing since I am the Regional Advisor for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Belgium and that takes a fair amount of time. Juggling writing my next manuscript, marketing Dragon Fire, setting up events for SCBWI, taking care of family and social networking isn’t easy and I often have to block set amounts of time for each – which means I always feel like I don’t have enough time. Summers are also harder since schedules are so varied and I want to spend time with family and friends – so I write when I can, often early mornings. But no matter what else is going on, I read for at least half an hour before going to bed.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Success can’t be defined without first defining success in terms of what. As a person, success for me means being happy, sharing things with friends and family, having – and enjoying – the freedom to do what I want. As a writer, success for me means feeling that creative surge and completing a project – whether published or not. As a business person looking at the profit a book will bring, then it will be financial. I personally am happy with the first two – being able to do what I want, enjoying my life with my family and friends, and having the freedom to write about the worlds that I create.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Persevere. If writing is important to you, don’t let it go. If you try to cut out a part of who you are to please someone else, it will never work. Sooner or later, you will be unhappy. Try to explain to your partner why writing is important to you, and try to understand why he/she has a hard time understanding it. All long term relationships are based on mutual support and understanding – but that doesn’t mean that just because it doesn’t come automatically, it won’t come. If you are partnered with someone there is a reason why you chose to be together, and it may just take some time to work through it. So keep writing. And keep communication with your partner open.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: No. I am very happy with my life. I grew up with supportive parents, have a loving husband and kids, great friends and a roof over my head. I am free to do what I want to do. I don’t write because of a demon inside or to escape reality, I write because I love the creative process and am unhappy when I can’t. So, unless that creative urge (which I in no way see as a demon) is what Orwell meant, then I don’t agree. Writing is hard, I won’t deny that, but it isn’t a horrible, exhausting struggle either!

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for this interview, Dina! 

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Norwegian waters turn to blood with the start of the annual whaling season. This year alone, Norway, Iceland and Japan plan to kill over 2,500 whales with cruel, primitive methods that go back to over a century.

Why is this ugly tradition still alive when 1 in 4 Norwegians under 30 are against it, and when so many people are aware of the high intelligence of these mammals and their ability to experience pain and suffering?

In this e-mail interview, Sharanya Prasad, marine mammal program officer, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) USA, talks about the origins of whaling, the methods the whalers use to kill the whales, what people can do to stop it, and the importance of educating the public, among other things.

First of all, for those readers who aren’t familiar with Norway’s whaling season, could you give us a bit of background on how this practice began?

I would like to begin by thanking you for giving me this opportunity to discuss whaling and the associated welfare issues with you.

Whaling refers to the hunting of whales for their meat and other products. Whaling dates back to the 9th century when the first large-scale whaling took place. By the end of the 19th century many countries had invested in this industry and developed major whaling industries. Today Japan, Iceland and Norway collectively kill over 2,500 whales annually, using methods that have not changed in over a century.

Why kill whales? What are they used for?

The development of modern whaling techniques was spurred in the 19th century by the increase in demand for whale oil, whale bone and baleen. Over time some species were hunted to the brink of extinction and it became apparent that sustainable whaling could not continue on such a large scale. Thus in 1986 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) adopted a worldwide ban on commercial whaling.

Whale oil has long been replaced by fossil fuels, and whalebone corsets are not considered fashionable anymore, thus modern whaling primarily has commercial value as a food source (whale meat). Countries that continue to whale have repeatedly announced their long-term intention of continuing whaling and resuming commercial trade in whale meat and products.

Despite the 1986 worldwide ban on commercial whaling, loopholes in the treaty still allow Japan, Iceland, and Norway to hunt whales. The three types of whaling conducted today are commercial whaling, aboriginal subsistence whaling, and so-called research whaling. Iceland and Norway both hunt commercially under an objection to the ban, allowing them to award themselves quotas outside the of the IWC’s recommendations. Japan hunts under the guise of conducting scientific research. The US, Greenland, Russia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines conduct aboriginal subsistence whaling. Whaling also occurs outside the IWC’s control by countries not party to the treaty such as Canada and Indonesia.

How are whales hunted down and killed?

The methods employed to kill whales have not changed in over a century and were originally developed by Norwegian whalers in the late 1800s. The weapon used is the penthrite grenade harpoon which is fired from a canon mounted on the bow of a ship. The harpoon is intended to penetrate into the whale before detonation and kill the animal through injury to the brain and spinal cord. The grenade creates a large, painful wound, which triples in size when the harpoon’s barbs hook into the whale’s body.

Despite the power of the explosive harpoon, a second penthrite harpoon or a rifle is often required as a secondary killing method used on whales who do not die instantaneously. The common use of secondary killing methods reflects the inefficiency of the primary killing methods.

Given the constantly moving environment in which whales live and are hunted and the sheer size and body mass of whales, it is impossible to guarantee instantaneous death for a whale being hunted at sea. If the weather, sea conditions or the motion of the vessel do not allow for a properly aimed shot, then there is a significant risk of a poorly placed harpoon or bullet causing an extended time to death and associated suffering.

How long does a whale take to die?

It has long been established that whales are intelligent, sentient individuals who are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. Data from the Norwegian Government itself reveals that 1 in 5 whales suffer long and painful deaths, some taking an hour or more to die after being hit with explosive harpoons. During this time, whales can suffer terribly. Whales’ bodies’ are adapted for diving and going without oxygen intake for long periods in water. This may mean that whales are able to experience pain over a period significantly longer than suggested by the current IWC criteria for determining death in whales.

What is WSPA’s position on whaling?

WSPA believes that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea. This is due to the high number of uncontrollable factors (such as visibility, sea conditions, movement of the boat, distance, speed and gunner accuracy) which make a single guaranteed lethal shot almost impossible. A whale can almost never be killed in this way without it first enduring prolonged suffering. On these grounds alone, WSPA believes all whaling should be stopped.

WSPA also believes that responsible and sustainable whale watching which is now a multi-billion dollar segment of the eco-travel industry should be pursued as an economically viable and animal-friendly alternative to killing whales.

Are dolphins killed as well?

In addition to the large whales, tens of thousands of small whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as small cetaceans, are killed annually in hunting activities not regulated by the IWC. Some of the species hunted include pilot whales, pygmy killer whales and bottlenose, stripped and spinner dolphins. Some examples of these annual hunts include the dolphin drive hunts in Japan and the pilot whale hunts in the Faroe Islands. Furthermore, some whaling is conducted in Grenada, Dominica and St. Lucia.

I understand the plan is to kill 1,052 whales in 2008. That’s a pretty specific number. What is the reason and who comes up with this number?

Since Norway is not bound by the whaling ban, their government’s fisheries department has come up with a quota of 1052 whales in 2008. I cannot speak to how they came up with this particular number.

We all know that dolphins and whales are mammals just like us, and that this quality sets them apart from their other sea companions. In terms of their intelligence and family life, would it be fair to say that harpooning a whale with explosives is like harpooning a domestic dog in the same way ?

Cetaceans are extremely intelligent, social and sentient wild animals who are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. One of the analogies used to describe the harpooning of a whale is attributed to Dr. Harry D. Lillie (1947) who spent a season as ship’s physician aboard an Antarctic whaling ship. Dr Lillie said “If we can imagine a horse having two or three explosive spears stuck into its stomach and being made to pull a butcher’s truck through the streets of London while it pours blood in the gutter, we shall have an idea of the present method of killing. The gunners themselves admit that if whales could scream the industry would stop, for nobody would be able to stand it.”

Why does Norway’s hunt continue despite the fact that Norway is a member of the International Whaling Commission and that 1 out of 4 Norwegians under 30 do not support the whaling in their country?

As I mentioned earlier, despite the 1986 worldwide ban on commercial whaling, loopholes in the treaty still allow Japan, Iceland, and Norway to hunt whales. Norway hunts commercially under an objection to the ban, which allows them to award themselves quotas outside the of the IWC’s recommendations. As for why they continue to hunt despite the lack of support among young Norwegians, this would be a wonderful question for a representative of the Norwegian government and if you or any of your readers gets an answer from them please let WSPA know.

What can Norwegians who are against this practice do to help stop it?

Norwegians can participate in petitions and events organized by WSPA’s member society the Norwegian Society for the Protection of Animals (Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge). To find out how you can support WSPA’s work around the world please visit http://www.wspa-usa.org/pages/8_ways_to_help.cfm.
What can non-Norwegian people do to help?

WSPA urges all readers to tell their government that it is time to refocus on whales. You can help WSPA remind the world that the argument should not be about kill quotas, but protecting whales from suffering by signing the petition at www.endwhaling.org.

Why do you think there still is so much indifference in the world when it comes to animal suffering?

In my opinion, awareness of animal welfare issues, sensitivity to the needs of animals, and the understanding that they are capable of and do experience pain and suffering determine the sensitivity of people to animal suffering. Educating people about animal welfare is crucial to animals, people and the environment. WSPA understands that real change in animal welfare does not come unless you can change hearts and minds of people, and therefore education is a central part of all our programs.

What can parents and schools do in order to instill human compassion toward animals to our children?

WSPA promotes humane education programs in schools to encourage respect for animals and responsible stewardship. We provide training on the humane treatment and care of animals and strive to put in place the laws and enforcement structures to provide legal protection for animals. WSPA’s aim is to develop compassion, a sense of justice and to teach others to respect animals and we have plenty of resources for educators to help them achieve this goal. If any of your readers are interested in learning how they can help instill these values in their communities they should contact us at wspa@wspausa.org. You can also learn more about our programs by visiting our website at www.wspa-usa.org.

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