February 15, 2017

True Love

Reread a while back Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (such a great writer, by the way), and in it I found this passage which I found touching. So I know it’s not Valentine’s day anymore or whatever, but there’s no time like the present for a little romance…

Shall I tell you the secret of true love? [Inej’s] father once asked her. A friend of mine liked to tell me that women love flowers. He had many flirtations, but he never found a wife. Do you know why? Because women may love flowers, but only one woman loves the scent of gardenias in late summer that remind her of her grandmother’s porch. Only one woman loves apple blossoms in a blue cap. Only one woman loves wild geraniums.
That’s Mama! Inej had cried.
Yes, Mama loves wild geraniums because she claims that when she snaps the stem and puts a sprig behind her ear, the whole world smells like summer. Many boys will bring you flowers. But someday you’ll meet a boy who will learn your favorite flower, your favorite song, your favorite sweet. And even if he is too poor to give you any of them, it won’t matter because he will have taken the time to know you as no one else does. Only that boy earns your heart.

Pretty, isn’t it?  Anyway, I definitely recommend this book (actually, the whole duology!) to anyone who likes great, visual fiction, with a dash of romance, wit, adventure, and magic.

The Princess Bride
Great movie. Check it out if you haven't already!

February 14, 2017

Young Love

At the age of four I fell in love. It was a shattering and wonderful experience. The object of my passion was one of the Dartmouth cadets, a friend of my brother's. Golden-haired and blue-eyed, he appealed to all my romantic instincts. He himself could have had no idea of the emotions he aroused! Gloriously uninterested in the "kid sister" of his friend Monty, he would probably have said, if asked, that I disliked him. An excess of emotion caused me to go in the opposite direction if I saw him coming, and when seated at the dining table, to keep my head resolutely turned away. My mother took me gently to task.
"I know you're shy, dear, but you must be polite. It's so rude to turn your head away from Philip all the time, and if he speaks to you, you only mutter. Even if you dislike him, you must be polite."
Dislike him! How little anyone knew! When I think of it now, how supremely satisfying early love can be. It demands nothing--not a look or a word. It is pure adoration. Sustained by it, one walks on air, creating in one's own mind heroic occasions on which one will be of service to the beloved one. Going into a plague camp to nurse him! Saving him from fire! Shielding him from a fatal bullet! Anything, indeed, that had caught the imagination in a story. In these imaginings there is never a happy ending. You yourself are burned to death, shot, or succumb to the plague. The hero does not even know of the supreme sacrifice you have made. I sat on the nursery floor and played with Tony [the dog], looking solemn and priggish, while inside my head a glorious exultation swirled in extravagant fancies. The months passed. Philip became a midshipman and left the Britannia. For a short while his image persisted and then dwindled. Love vanished, to return three years later, when I adored hopelessly a tall dark young army captain who was courting my sister.
~Agatha Christie, An autobiography

January 22, 2017

Intellectual Snobbery

On the whole I think the snobbery of my childhood, the snobbery of birth, that is, is more palatable than the other snobberies: the snobbery of wealth, and today's intellectual snobbery.
Intellectual snobbery seems today to breed a particular form of envy and venom. Parents are determined that their offspring shall shine. "We've made great sacrifices for you to have a good education," they say. The child is burdened with guilt if he does not fulfill their hopes. Everyone is so sure that it is all a matter of opportunity--not of natural aptitude.
I think late Victorian parents were more realistic and had really more consideration for their children and for what would make a happy and successful life for them. There was much less keeping up with the Joneses. Nowadays I often feel that it is for one's own prestige that one wants one's children to succeed. The Victorians looked dispassionately at their offspring and made up their minds about their capacities. A. was obviously going to be "the pretty one." B. was "the clever one." C. was going to be plain and was definitely not intellectual. Good works would be C.'s best chance. And so on. Sometimes, of course, they were wrong, but on the whole it worked. There is an enormous relief in not being expected to produce something that you haven't got.
The general standpoint in my young days had a certain humility. You accepted what you were. You had assets and you had liabilities. Like a hand at cards, having been dealt it, you sorted your cards and decided how best to play them. There was, I am almost sure, less envy and resentment of those more gifted or better off. If some young friends had expensive or exciting toys one did not expect or demand to have them oneself. I might say to my mother, "Freda has a wonderful doll's house. I wish I had one like that," and my mother would reply placidly, "Yes, it's nice for Freda. Of course her parents are much richer than we are." Nowadays it seems to be "Marylyn has got a bicycle, why can't I have one?" as though it were one's right.
~Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Sadly enough, it doesn't seem like things have reversed since then...

January 15, 2017

The Mystery Of Storytelling - Or Notes On How To Control Your Audience

Just watched this really interesting Ted Talk by Julian Friedmann about the art of storytelling, in particular with regards to movies (and, even more so, how Hollywood's managed to apply it so successfully over the years). So here are a couple of my notes for you (see below for the full video):

  1. Storytelling is about the audience more so than the story or the storyteller, for great stories define us, reflect who we are or wish to become.
  2. To be able to control your audience (this can only be done through emotions), you need to have them feel for the following:
    1. Pity - through an undeserved misfortune, for instance, so that we, the audience, can emotionally connect with the character, identify with it.
    2. Fear - by putting that character (in essence us) through worse and worse situations
    3. Catharsis - by releasing the hero from all these fears; this release then results in the PEA chemical (the chemical also present when consuming any of the following: speed, ecstasy, chocolate or sex, for example) being released into our bloodstream, making us feel happy.
  3. Main reasons why so many American movies are so popular around the world:
    1. Accessible characters the audience will get emotionally involved with.
    2. Upbeat endings if possible (happy endings statistically perform better--again, thanks to the PEA chemical).
    3. Less dialogue as the movie will the appeal to wider audiences (don't have to have a PhD to get the story and be involved in it), which is directly tied to the next two points.
    4. Tell stories more visually. We believe what we see, not so much what we hear. So if you manage to show something that differs from what's being said, you'll immediately get the audience awake and involved in the story, because they'll see right away something off.
    5. More music. Again, this will strengthen the audience's emotional bond to the story.
The key, really, is to entertain the audience, because, when we're looking at the screen, we're actually looking at ourselves. We are the heroes of your stories.

January 7, 2017

From Minstrels To Jugglers, The Fall Of A Line Of Poets

"Once attached to great houses, as trumpeters of family pride, [minstrels] had taken to wandering about to inns, fairs, and popular gatherings, as well as to castles; so their strains, at first addressed to "seigneurs" and "barons", became tuned to catch the ears of the vulgar."

Their once epic and sought-after poetic tales became stale, offering nothing new to the now jaded ears of their patrons. And so these jongleurs found themselves almost having to beg for food, money and clothes from those willing to listen to them.

"This title, from the Latin joculator, reflects he history of a brotherhood that in its wandering life had a ready chance to fall into bad ways. The jongleurs or gleemen became jugglers, mixed up with conjurors, tumblers, bear leaders, and other more or less disreputable vagrants, among whom they lost their character while increasing in numbers."

And thus, "[a]s minstrels went out of fashion, romance took a new lease of life in the form of prose."

Excerpts from Romance & Legend of Chivalry, by A.R. Hope Moncrieff.

December 29, 2016

Questions On True Love By Surrealists

Les amants - René Magritte
I am currently getting acquainted with the roaring twenties for a future story, and fell on this little extract from a surrealist magazine, La Révolution surréaliste, which asked its readers the following questions on love in 1929:

  1. What kind of hope do you place in love?
  2. How do you envision the passage of the THOUGHT OF LOVE to the FACT OF LOVING? Would you, voluntarily or not, sacrifice your freedom for love? Have you done it? Would you be willing, if necessary, to sacrifice a cause you until then thought you should always defend so as not to prove yourself unworthy of love? Would you accept to not become the person you could have become if instead you could fully taste the certainty of loving? How would you judge someone who would betray his/her convictions to please the one s/he loves? Can such a token be asked of someone, could it be received?
These questions, among many, are quite thought-provoking. How would you honestly respond to such questions?

December 22, 2016

The Seeker's Key CINEFANTASY Prize Winner (A Traveling Tale)

Hello everyone!

Winter is here (can't wait till they finally get to say that in Game of Thrones, seriously!) and in a few days, it's Christmas time, my favorite holiday of the season!  Simply because of how enchanting all the decorations are, not mentioning the beautiful songs and hymns.

With the end of the year, and soon the beginning of a new one, comes a renewed sense of purpose and energy. As you will read on my newsletter to come out soon, 2016 has been a very difficult year.  However, things started to turn around for me in October while on my vacation to Japan--my first real vacation in five years!

I'd just found out about an international screenwriting contest organized by the ICFT for a short, fantasy movie script.

A month later, I found out I was one of six finalists (technically seven, as one of the scripts was co-written by two sisters from India) to be sent out to Macau for the 1st International Film Festival & Awards event to present my project, The Seeker's Key.  That was this month.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous over in Macau--sunny and warm, so very unlike the weather we've been having here in Belgium (although the temperatures here are still rather warm for the season).

I got to meet some truly wonderful people, visit the land, and taste delicious egg tarts. Seriously, if you ever go there, you just have to try some (unless you hate eggs, or tarts, or both, in which case you should probably avoid them).

On our last evening in Macau, after the festival's closing ceremony and during the press conference, the winners of the contest were announced and I am pleased to say that I received the second prize for my story!

My trip back was, however, a total disaster. (If you don't wish to know the details, you can skip down to the section next to the Xmas tree!)

After spending a whole day at the Hong Kong airport, I found out that the plane had some unexpected delays, which meant that my connecting flight to Brussels was most definitely compromised (the people who had booked the plane for me had only left me 1.5 hours to unboard the plane, go through customs in Beijing, then go through security again to finally find my new gate, and board the next plane). Despite my asking for help and information from the airline company staff, all I got were smiles and words of appeasement ("don't worry," "everything will be fine," "our staff over there will help you go through everything faster," "you won't miss your plane," or even, "don't worry, there's a plane that goes to your location every day!").

Only once in Beijing did I find out that they were all saying that to pawn us hapless travelers off to their colleagues so we'd become someone else's problem...  And lo and behod, after having a stewardess laugh at me for worrying (I do wish I were exaggerating) I found out upon landing that it was too late, and that I (along with a few other travelers) would be stuck there for 3 days. Lovely, isn't it?
CINEFANTASY finalist presentation - 2016

To make matters worse, though we were told we would be reimbursed for our lost work days lost (at least 2 days' worth), get food (or money for food, since none of us had Chinese yuans), not only did they not have tickets ready for our next flights out (it was up to us to go back to the airport and take care of all of that), but they just dumped us all inside a rickety shuttle that was falling apart. We all were justly grossed out by the hotel it took us to, The Golden Phoenix (more like ashy phoenix, if you ask me).

Have you ever wondered what if feels like to be inside a horror story (minus the actual murderer(s))?  Well, look no further than that hotel. It was in the middle of nowhere--light wooded area on one side, empty land on the other--the inside was nearly as cold as the inside (and trust me, it's cold at that time in Beijing!), nothing was lit up except for the front desk, and next to the entrance was a huge pile of luggage. We found out upon arrival, that the airline company had booked fewer rooms than there were passengers, and so the hotel ladies (not a half-smile to be shared between them) wanted us to room together. Strangers, sharing a room? Don't think so. But they kept refusing to rent us another room (and the airline company hung up on us when we called them to sort things out, never to pick the phone up again afterwards), even when we offered to pay for it ourselves.

Finally, after spending 45 minutes there, we all got our own room key (but were denied food--kitchens were closed, and obviously, being in the middle of nowhere, we couldn't just walk over to a restaurant or foodmart). Another disaster was awaiting me when I opened the door to my room: it was freezing, there were massive, dirty spots everywhere, including on the ceiling where it was clear that there had been a leak, it stank of smoke and mildew, the bedsheets didn't appear to have been changed as there were still evident traces of people sitting and shifting around on the beds, the heater barely worked (it clicked alarmingly when trying to turn up the temperature, and I was afraid it might even explode!), and there was no hot water (unless one calls lukewarm in a cold room "hot").

The giant Christmas tree on the Grand'Place in Brussels
Needless to say, I wanted to get out of there, and fast.  So I booked another flight with another airline, and boy was I glad to land in Europe again!!

Wah, can't believe I spent half of this post talking about the horrid conditions (and I've skipped over many details) which we had to face thanks to that horrid airline company, but it was all just so...surreal. I wish I'd taken some pictures, but the lateness of the hour (past 3 am) and being treated like animals being taken to the slaughterhouse kinda made me forget...

But now that I'm back, I can finally focus again on the publication of Curse of the Fey, which is now set to come out in Spring 2017!  For those of you who have signed up for my newsletter, you are set to receive a surprise with regards to it soon :)

If you would like to do some other reading while you wait, I suggest checking out Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duology--it rocks! If you're looking for something for young'uns (and adults alike), The Velveteen Rabbit is also a great tale.

And now, I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas, and may 2017 be good and bright to each and every one of you!