Tag Archives: nature

Changing the world, one word at a time.

I have been thinking about evolution and change a lot lately. That may have to do slightly with the shapeshifting lizard people I have created for the Comyenti Series. They are on my mind as I’m about to embark writing the sci-fi prequel to the series. It crossed my mind how some creatures here on Earth have, more or less, stayed the same over a hundred million years (as they had no cause to change) and others had to adapt quicker and change drastically to fit in with their new environment.

We are unmistakably still subject to evolution ourselves in appearance and intellect.

Scientists have confirmed humans have not escaped nature’s clutches and put a halt on natural selection. Of course. A halt in evolution simply wouldn’t be possible. As long as people have offspring natural selection continues to happen. For example, over time, Dutch people have grown taller because of a natural preference for tall partners who then have taller children and so on. Our intestines can digest baby food (milk) better than we could four thousand years ago when people first started to make cow’s cheese, although it is still unnatural and hostile to our adult bodies and most people are therefore lactose intolerant (not to mention the fact it’s cruel to those mammals such as cows and goats as the dairy industry is a nightmare on earth). Our teeth and jaws have stopped growing to become more powerful because we started to cook our food so it’s softer and easier to chew. And my personal favourite: our eyes apparently are still changing slowly since we emerged out of the water millions of years ago! Our vision is not as clear as it should be! That explains a lot!

Evolution can in some cases take a long time, in other cases more rapidly.

We, as a species I believe, still have a long way to go. In body and spirit. Imagine if we could do what some other mammals or birds can such as dolphins, elephants, geese or bats for example. Communicate over great distances with no device other than their own bodies, have an inbuilt magnet to always find your way home, have x-ray eyes to spot diseases etc. Instead, we rely heavily on machines for these things. It is clever we have invented devices to do so, but it is only through mimicking what other animals already naturally did. The sad part is that we people tend to rely on these devices ever since. So much so, I believe, it stands true evolution in the way. Computers, GPS, mobile phones have a dark side with the radiation they emit. Oh, but I digress.

Evolution. Change. I sometimes get confronted, as we all do, how some people seem so stuck in their ways and thinking they have stopped using their brain and their own judgement. Evolution does not only happen to bodies over thousands of years, it also happens within. Other than non-human animals who had to change due to their ever evolving environment and have certainly bypassed us in many ways, most humans seem simply unwilling to if given a chance. If given the choice, and they are every day, people rather stick to what they know, what they have been taught, despite the consequences and thus continue to act like it. Even if it means the destruction of our planet for example to name just one light subject . . . Or is it something more than that? Perhaps it’s more due to old habits, pride and tradition than reluctance. Remember, humans only need a push sometimes, especially if others are “doing it” and if something is popular (even if it’s wrong, tests have shown people are followers and feel safer in groups rather than think for themselves). Trends are an example of this and how most people feel they need to have whatever other people have.

By reading fiction one gets exposed to other ways of thinking, of change in a different way, especially speculative fiction. It can be educational and refreshing to read what comes from other minds in the form of fantastic stories. Stories we can relate to, open our eyes, and which protagonist say what we think or want to say, or sometimes we are surprised how a story can change our way of thinking. It can even contribute to our growth. One of my readers even admitted how after reading ‘Quarterling’ had made him think more about his food choices from now on. That is good enough for me. Authors can certainly change people’s way of thinking, how hard it initially may seem. But not unless the reader is already willing and on a certain path.

One other way is through movies or series. Since Netflix came into my life a whole new world has opened up to me. I am pleasantly surprised of what it has to offer. Apart from some great movies there are some brilliant series on there that are worth watching. My tendency goes towards the speculative so series and documentaries such as Black Mirror, 12 Monkeys, Touch, Sense8, Star Trek Discovery, Travelers, Dark, Erased, Innsaei, Cosmos, Saimdang, Secret Healer and Anne with an E just to name a few are among my top 20. I would definitely recommended those series.

To stay with the theme of change especially two series come to mind straight away and what they had to say about change.

One of my favourite series is Anne with an E by Emmy-winning writer-producer Moira Walley-Becket. With themes such as search for identity, bullying, prejudice, diversity, being an outsider, to belong and to be accepted, every episode has much to offer a wide audience. The Canadian drama is loosely based on the 1908 novel “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M Montgomery, featuring a young, complex orphan with deep passions for life and people. With her fresh view of the world and eagerness to share it in fanciful language at every opportunity, she affects the hearts and minds of everyone she meets. In the small village of Avonlea, unmarried, aging siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, expected a boy who could help them on their farm, but what they got instead was Anne Shirley. Their lonely lives from then on are forever changed. A world where anything is possible, calamities are most likely, and the biggest adventure is being yourself.

Some quotes from the last episode:

“Change is uncomfortable because the future is unknown. Yet, the future is riding in fast, like a train.”

“Dreamers change the world. Curious minds propel us forward.”

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

“Different isn’t bad. It’s just not the same.”

“There is always another way to look at things.”

“Change is the only way to grow and learn.”

Another great series is Sense8 which is full of diversity and food for thought. It’s an American sci-fi/lgbt drama created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski. Though I skip through the violent parts, I love the dialogues and how these eight people in different parts of the world are mentally and emotionally linked which can lead to intense situations.

Some quotes on change and diversity from the last episode:

“No one thing is one thing only. How people endow what is familiar with new, ever evolving meaning and by doing so, release us from the unexpected, the familiar, into something unforeseeable. It is in this unfamiliar realm, we find new possibilities. It is in the unknown we find hope.”

“For all the differences between us and all the forces that try to divide us they will never exceed the power of love to unite us.”

“I’m afraid of things permanent because nothing is permanent. Things change, people change.”

“We live in a world that distrusts feelings. Over and over we are reminded that feelings are not as important as reason. That feelings are childish, irresponsible, dangerous. We are taught to ignore them, control them, or deny them. We barely understand what they are, where they come from or how they seem to understand us better than we understand ourselves. But I know that feelings matter. Sometimes they’re little and sometimes they’re huge. However, if you’re lucky a feeling comes along that will change everything.”

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See you next time!

Natasja Hellenthal, author of  Lesfic Fantasy novels

 

 

 

 

           

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Vegan Fiction Book List

When you are vegan for compassionate reasons like I am and enjoy reading it’s often a question when buying a book whether it is going to be animal friendly, or not.

I more than often start a book, only to be disappointed how non-human animals are being portrayed and treated.

A book description doesn’t always prepare or warn us and I have come across too many, especially fantasy books, whereby violence against other creatures is accepted and tolerated. Even riding on horses, or how they are used for war, can bug me. And don’t get me started on the subject of dragons! When is someone ever going to save a dragon instead of treating them like monsters and slaying the poor mythical creatures in the fantasy genre? I think I might devote an entire article on that, or better yet, write my own dragon story!

Also, the story line may be good enough in many a book, but what if our characters gorge on the flesh of other animals or have hunting and fishing as their hobbies? Can, or should we, see past this? After all, we pick up a book to be entertained, to escape, or to even fight the good cause with the main character, not to be exposed like we already are in real life to the cruelties of human kind.

How then and where can we find vegan friendly fiction books?

When doing a search on Amazon for ‘Vegan Fiction’ you’ll get over a 10.000 results. That’s great you think, right? Wrong. Most of these are vegan cook books. . . That’s not fiction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s positive there are so many vegan cook books at the moment, but those books should really fall under non-fiction to make it easier for the reader to find. Sadly it’s all been thrown in one pile. You can, of course, also find vegan fiction books there. I know, as I have gone through most of the list.

I have also typed in Vegan Fiction in Google and found a vegan publisher: Ashland Creek Press. Their Website has tons of eco-friendly and vegan fiction books (VegLit).

And if you’re patient enough I’ll give you even more books! The list is at the bottom of the article.

First, let’s try to break vegan fiction down into two types: the entertainment side and the educational side. Vegan fiction can cover both types of fiction, but that is easily enough to determine from the book blurb.

  1. Entertainment and escapism. To not be confronted with the habits of the meat-eating and animal abusing world. To simply relax and enjoy a good story. To be entertained, and to forget. These books in any genre have a normal plotline with main characters that just happen to be vegan.
  2. Education and activism. The author has a clear vegan or eco-message wrapped up in the story with vegan or non-human characters. The author’s intention is to speak up for the animals, for the planet, and ultimately, for us all. For the reader to find a connection with the characters whom we as a vegan can easier relate to. To be faced with the current problems, future ones, or possible struggles. To help us think about our own situation, and what we could, or would do, to solve them. These novels can be dark, but they can also give us hope. They are often speculative and written to challenge us, vegan or not, to make us think hard about our values and questions our unquestioned morals. These books can even be life-changers for those who are not vegan yet.veganfantasy1

 

So, I have created a list of vegan fiction books that are currently available for all ages and covers most genres (although I do favour fantasy and lesfic for obvious reasons). It is not a complete list of course and I haven’t read all of them, but it gives a good idea of what is out there. I have also created a Top10 list of my favourite vegan books with short reviews which will be published on The Vegan Society’s website soon. I’ll post the link once it’s life.

On Amazon you can also read the blurbs of every book and samples by clicking on the “Look Inside” feature.

Also, if you have read a vegan fiction book that is not yet included in the list below, let me know: CONTACT ME as my aim is to compile a complete list to share with the vegan and literary communities world-wide!

Vegan Fiction (A-Z) with vegan characters or an animal rights’ plot:

 

A Report to the Academy – Franz Kafka (literary)

Amanda the Teen Activist – Feathers & Freedom (children’s fiction)

Among Animals 1 & 2 (a collection of stories) – several authors

Among Animals (Tiergeschichten) –  Manfred Kyber

Animals: A Novel – Don LePan (sci-fi)

Animal Lex talionis – Sunny Augustine

Balance of Fragile Things – Olivia Chadha

Beasts – Ana Levley (dystopian, lesfic)

Beef – Mat Blackwell (dystopian, humor)

Best Vegan Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016

Best Vegan Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017

Bestiary: Three Weird Tales – Nicholas P. Oakley

Chained Freedom – Natasja Hellenthal (fantasy, lesfic)

Diary of a Dieting Madhouse – Paige Singleton

Don’t Bang the Barista! – Leigh Matthews

Escape (Diamond Song Book 1) – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

Elizabeth Costello – J.M. Coetzee

Falling into Green: An Eco-Mystery – Cher Fisher

Fire Bringer – David Clement Davies (fantasy)

Float – JoeAnn Hart eco/romance

Forgetting English – Midge Raymond

Hackenfeller’s Ape – Brigid Brophy

Holy Cow – Ruth Hawe

Kings of the Jungle – Daniel S. Fletcher

Love & Ordinary Creatures – Gwyn Hyman Rubio

Lithia Trilogy: Out of Breath (1), The Ghost Runner (2), The Last Mile (3) – Blair Richmond (YA)

Memoirs of a Fighting Dog – Kaida Ashia

Mort (e) (War with No Name #1) – Robert Repino

Mother Nature’s Secret – Marian Hailey-Moss (children’s fiction)

My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki

My Last Continent – Midge Raymond

Minny’s Dream – Clare Druce

Outside Inside – Anne Grange

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (sci-fi)

Off the Reservation – Glen Merzer

Persimmon Takes on Humanity (The Enlightment Adventures: Book 1) – Christopher Locke (YA)

Popco – Scarlett Thomas (contemporary, adventure, science)

Quarterling – Natasja Hellenthal (YA lesfic fantasy)

Salazar – Seth Lynch (noir mystery)

Something in the Water – Ben Starling

Spireseeker – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

Survival Skills – Jean Ryan

Strays – Jennifer Caloyeras (contemporary, YA)

Skinny Bitch in Love – Kim Barnouin

SkyWhisperers – Natasja Hellenthal (YA lesfic fantasy)

The Soul Thief – Beth Lyons (lesfic fantasy)

The Adventures of Vivian Sharpe, Vegan Superhero – Marla Rose (children’s fiction)

The Awareness – Gene Stone

The Banished Craft – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

The Bees – Laline Paull

The BFG – Roald Dahl (children’s fiction)

The Boy from Tomorrow – Camille DeAngelis historical/timetravel/paranormal/children’s fiction

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way – Frances Metzman

The Trap and the Chain (The Kinship Series) – Robin Lamont

The Comyenti Series (Call Off The Search (1), Children of The Sun (2) – Natasja Hellenthal (Supernatural Fantasy)

The Crows of Beara – Julie Christine Johnson

The Dragon Keeper – Mindy Mejia (thriller)

The Earthling Rebellions – Andi Hayes

The Echo of Others – S.D. Rowell

The Exile of Elindel – Carol Browne (fantasy)

The Fettered Flame – E.D.E Bell (fantasy)

The Green and the Red – Armand Chauvel (romance, eco)

The Gift that Time forgot – T.M. Dewfall (children’s fiction)

The Humans – Matt Haig (sci-fi, eco)

The Plague Dogs – Richard Adams (YA)

The Promised Land – Manfred Kyber

The Stone Gods – Jeanette Winterson – (sci-fi lesfic)

The Three Candles of Little Veronika – Manfred Kyber

The Tourist Trail – John Yunker

The Names of Things – John Colman Wood

The Lives of Animals – J.M. Coetzee

The Longing – Bridget Essex (lesfic)

The Ugly Princess: The Legend of the Winnowwood – Henderson Smith

The World of Wickham Mossrite – J.L. Morse

The Year of the Flood, (MaddAddam #2), MaddAddam (#3) – Margaret Atwood

Thornfruit – Felicia Davin (lesfic fantasy)

Vincent and the Dissidents (The Enlightment Adventures Book 2) – Christopher Locke (YA)

Watership Down – Richard Adams (YA)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves -Karen Joy Fowler (contemporary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cover reveal and book launch ‘Quarterling’ count down!

Hey all!

I have been super busy writing my latest novel ‘Quarterling’ which is now in the final stages of editing!

The cover reveal is attached and I am thinking to release it within 2 weeks’ time, so stay tuned for the exact date!

Ready? Drumroll!!! Here comes:

QUARTERLINGCOVERfinal

So, what do you think of the cover and oh, the blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Fay Comyenti has it all: lots of freedom, great parents, a budding romance, and super animal abilities most teenagers can only dream of. Only, those powers have to be kept a secret in order for her kind to stay safe. After being rejected by her love interest, Elodyn, Fay leaves her village to do some good with her skills in the world despite the concerns of her comyenti mother and human father. Even so, she is determined to use her powers to help animals in need, but that’s not always easy without anyone seeing you . . .

Zemandu, the last of the tracar people has been following Fay from a distance for a good reason. The demoness is dying. Attracted by the girl’s altruistic mission, her abilities and her benevolent energy she sees Fay as her last hope.

When Fay and Zemandu — two powerful women of a very different nature, yet both the last of their kind — cross paths, they’ll forever change the course of humanity, but at what cost?

Will Fay risk losing her heart and her innate empathy to the demoness — the very characteristics what makes her a comyenti in the first place —without jeopardising her vital mission?

Follow Fay and Zemandu in this animal-loving, suspenseful dramatic YA novel which is a full stand alone spin-off novel from the popular Comyenti Series.

 

 

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Books that inspired me as a person and writer, part 1 Manfred Kyber

Inspirational Books Part 1: Manfred Kyber

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Manfred Kyber

Manfred Kyber, born on March 1, 1880 in Riga, Latvia (then under Russian rule), grew up on his father’s estate. He studied philosophy in Leipzig and later moved to Berlin, where he lived for ten years and published his first works. He lived in Löwenstein, Württemberg (southern Germany) since 1923. In addition to poems, a novel, plays, theater criticism and an introduction to occultism, he primarily wrote fairy tales and animal stories – partially humorous, partially serious – which, reminiscent of La Fontaine, humanize animals to a certain degree to convey their feelings and elaborate on philosophical questions. He became famous for his stories “Unter Tieren” (“Among Animals”). He was a pacifist and advocate of animals’ rights. He died on March 10, 1933 in Löwenstein.

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As a child I was lucky to have discovered this wonderful writer who in more than one ways has helped me sooth, uplift and strengthen me at the start of my life and inspired me as a person and as a writer.

There are two books that stand out for me: ‘Die drei Lichter der kleinen Veronika’ (Engl. translation: The Three Candles of Little Veronica: The Story of a Child’s Soul in This World and the Other), novel, 1920 and ‘Tiergeschichten’.

‘Veronika’s Drievoudig Licht’ as it’s called in my native Dutch, is a beautiful profound and insightful story about the spiritual connection we are all having with one another and the burdens we are carrying in this life. It’s about a sensitive little girl with an old soul who can still see and hear the things around us, that most of us can’t any longer. She can talk to animals and sees elves, gnomes(who can be black or white) and spirits and angels in her favourite garden. She is protected on her life’s journey by her uncle, Johannes, who is connected to her through out many lives as a sort of guardian angel.

“-Worst of all is that you people understand less and less of it all when your body ages and it entangles itself with you.- ‘Have we come to this earth to become stupid?’, Veronika asked, ‘that would be strange?’‘No,’ said the elf, ‘you only become stupid because it grows darker around you and then you’ll have to find the light to understand everything again. And if you have found the light in the darkness then your understanding of life has improved. God has given this task to humanity to find the light. They shouldn’t just look for it and find it for themselves, but also for the animals, the plants and the rocks, and for the elves and the gnomes and for all that lives with them.”

“We have to do this voluntarily, Veronica. We have to try to help each other with carrying the burdens, for people, animals and all that lives. That is the way to the light.”

This emotional story will touch almost everyone that reads it, as the mysticism that is embedded in it is understood and sensed. It is a story of the heart; that cannot be reached by the thought process.

I have until now only read it two or three times in my life, but I often thought back about it and it made me want to re-read it. It has certainly helped and changed me.

“There is a distance that once was, that’s where we come from. There is distance, that once will be, that’s where we’re going to. Yet every distance is close by if we think about it. Build your temples and light works, light your candles, you who live in the now and remember: midnight is over and morning has arrived.”

‘Tiergeschiften’ (collected animal stories) is an anthology of fables with depth and insight where animals are the main characters. It’s written at the beginning of the last century but can still be read as freshly as then. Subjects such as anti-vivisection, anti-hunting, vegetarianism and animal love are as modern as ever.

Manfred Kyber is a master storyteller and animal activist who uses a combination of the show and tell technique without ever being long winded or preachy. His characters touches your heart and are as real as people with the same emotions and pain.

“Animals, just like us, have their own sense of humour and tragedy. Between us and them are similarities and mutual affairs. People often believe that between them and other animals there is a deep abyss. It’s only a minor rotation of the wheel of life. Because all of us are children of a unity. To understand nature, we have to understand her creatures. To understand a creature, we have to look upon it as our sibling.”

“The world is full of unheard cries for help. There are people that don’t hear them. It seems impossible to count all those in vain unheard calls. There are that many. But they are all counted. They are written down in the book of life.”

Bibliography

Der Schmied vom Eiland, poems, 1908
Unter Tieren, animal stories, 1912
Genius astri [Engl. translation: Genius astri: thirty-three poems], poems, 1918
Märchen, fairy tales, 1920 
Im Gang der Uhr, novellas, 1922
Einführung in das Gesamtgebiet des Okkultismus, 1923
Neue Tiergeschichten, animal stories, 1926
Puppenspiel, fairy tale, 1928
Die drei Lichter der kleinen Veronika [Engl. translation: The Three Candles of Little Veronica: The Story of a Child’s Soul in This World and the Other], novel, 1920
Gesammelte Tiergeschichten, collected animal stories (combines Unter Tieren and Neue Tiergeschichten; the collection won the Literature Award of the Bureau International Humanitaire Zoophile in Geneva in 1930), 1934
Gesammelte Märchen, collected fairy tales, 1935

Other English translations (all out of print)
The Mouseball
The Little Slipper Man

 

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