November 30, 2015

Plants And The Fey Folk

As is taught in Miss Linette Pelletier's Botanics class (1), there is a very tight-knit relationship between the flora and the Fey. Transcribing the teacher's notes would take too long here, but I can give you a brief look at a couple of Morgan's notes (in no specific order besides alphabetical):

  • Four-Leafed Clover: To use to see the Fey folk when they are trying to make themselves invisible to you (by manipulating the electromagnetic field and light around them--it's not like they do become invisible).
  • Lily of the Valley: To be avoided at all costs for the Fey use this flower to entice the unwary. But its sweet scent is but a disguise for the poison that lies beneath it and is sure to kill you within three days.
  • Saint John's Wort: Excellent Fey-repellent, though doesn't work against the higher-order Sidhe (but it may give the a rash or make them prone to intense sneezing bouts).
  • Water Lily: may help reduce or even heal a particular sickness given to you by the Fey folk that turns one to stone (aka paralyzes them completely). To be used with moderation, or you may find your body melting off your bones instead.
As you, I'm sure, in no way doubt, there are many other plants which can be just as dangerous, while others prove to be very useful or even beneficial. It is why Miss Pelletier works so closely with Dr. Cockleburr, the later being always in search of the latest anti-poisons and other remedies against the Fey and their enchantments.

The best would be, of course, to avoid the Fey altogether (they are fickle by nature and quite resentful of our having taken the Earth back from their control, so are prone to helping us find our long as there is no knight around, of course). So should you see any flowers that presage their presence (1), simply turn around and walk back the way you came from. Better be safe than sorry, right?

(1) See Rise of the Fey

September 11, 2015

Just Three Little Letters: Y.E.S.

Today, I'm still going to rave to you about how great Creative Thinkering is by talking about an important concept mentioned in the book:

The power of thinking "YES!"

I don't know how many of you remember much of your time as a wee child, but if you can get your mind to go back that far, you may remember that, in those days, nothing seemed impossible!
Needed to fit those blocks into the appropriate holes? We wouldn't stop working on that till they were finally all in!
Needed to get on top of our parents' bed? We kept climbing up those covers until we finally found ourselves nestled between them!
Wanted to get those cookies? We kept finding ways to climb the furniture to get to them (or figure the easiest way to get someone else to bring them to crying your lungs out)!

And that optimism lasted until adults started beating it into our heads that we couldn't do it, that we'd never would make it (whatever it might have been). As Michalko put it: Children, before they become educated, speak a different language, a language of inclusion, a language of "what is" and "what can be." That's very different from what many of us adults automatically say, such as  "I never would have thought of that," or "Not a bad insight."

However, should we choose to relinquish our defeatist or unenthusiastic attitude and revert to that happy outlook you had when a child, all you have to do is change your vocabulary into a positive one! Because "all language, feelings, and thoughts interact with each other, and the entire accumulation of those influences creates your output and behavior," so by changing the way you speak, "your thoughts and feelings will be changed as well" and you'll generally feel better and more upbeat :)

September 8, 2015

All Talk And No Action

Artist: Ann Blockley
Ever since I wrote that post on Creative Geniuses, I itched to get my hands on the actual book that inspired the interview and, a few days later, I was avidly reading through Creative Thinkering. It's an absolutely fabulous book, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested at all in the creative process and wanting to improve upon his/her imagination and creative problem-solving capacities.

Anyway, here's a small passage which talks about those who love to talk and think and devise plans for something they'd like to do/create/discover, but when it comes down to it, never actually do the doing/creating/discovering. To illustrate the point, Michael Michalko transcribes a parable by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855):

September 1, 2015

Personal Calling

Art by Cornejo-Sanchez

"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint--and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you."

Oprah Winfrey

August 30, 2015

Going Down Well-Worn Grooves...

How do you spell "silk"?

Now say it five times.


What do cows drink?

How many of you answered milk?

August 27, 2015

From Tragedies To Feel-Good Movies -- The "Little" Movie That Changed Hollywood In The 1970s

I found this interesting quote from a Vanity Fair article which talks about how movie (and, really, storytelling trends) can suddenly change. I mean, can you believe that the original Star Wars movie had at its beginnings been considered a "crappy little adventure film"? Neither can I. Anyway, it's still fun to note how it changed the industry back in the 1970s:

What people sometimes forget about the first Star Wars was that when it hit theaters, in 1977, it was startling not just for its revolutionary special effects but also for its unabashed sense of fun. After 10 years of haunted, pessimistic, even nihilistic hits such as Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, The French Connection, The Godfather, Chinatown, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Network, and Taxi Driver--films in which more often than not the heroes, such as they were, ended up compromised, defeated, or dead--there was something radical about a movie where the good guys win an unambiguous, bell-ringing victory, and receive medals in the final scene to boot. As Time put it in a big 1977 feature about Lucas and Star Wars, "It was a weird idea to make a movie whose only purpose was to give pleasure."

The rest of the article where I got this quote from talks about how trends change, with notably interesting takes on scifi back in the 1970s, as well as the whole uproar that's been surrounding Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman and her somewhat more controversial (yet realistic--yes, the truth does hurt sometimes) portrayal of white America in the 1950s aound the time of the Civil Rights Movement. And, frankly, now that I've found out more about its background, I really want to read the book!
Anyway, you can check out the full article on Changing Tastes here.

August 26, 2015

Where Is Everybody? -- The Fermi Paradox

From the Hubble telescope
The current calculation out there right now regarding how many stars are in our universe come to a gross count of 10 trillion * 100 billion stars (or 1 with 29 zeros after), living in over 200 billion galaxies (and the number keeps getting larger as our technology improves). So we could be talking about 10^24 planets here, and that's just within our own, known universe.

Of course, the question begs to be asked: Are we alone out here? And if not, where are our cousins?

Nearly 50,000 galaxies in the nearby universe detected by the Two Micron All Sky. Source.
I mean, doing the math, if only 0.1% of the currently estimated billion of habitable planets in our galaxy has intelligent life, and of those only 0.1% have beings with an intelligence like ours or higher, that still leaves 1000 possible planets. Just in the Milky Way alone.

August 25, 2015

Commercialization Of Literature

Photo by Richard Avedon
"It's possible that the fact that literature has been commercialized now in a way it never was before has had an influence. That is, the fact that people now talk about "bestsellers," that fashion has an influence (something that didn't used to happen). I remember that when I began to write, we never thought about the success or failure of a book.
What's called "success" now didn't exist at that time. And what's called "failure" was taken for granted. One wrote for oneself and, maybe, as Stevenson used to say, for a small group of friends. On the other hand, one now thinks of sales. I know there are writers who publicly announce they've had their fifth, sixth, or seventh edition released and that they've earned such and such an amount of money.
All that would have appeared totally ridiculous when I was a young man; it would have appeared incredible. People would have thought that a writer who talks about what he earns on his books is implying: "I know what I write is bad but I do it for financial reasons or because I have to support my family." So I view that attitude almost as a form of modesty. Or of plain foolishness."
~Jorge Luis Borges 

A Stance On What A Political Party Should Be Like (1930)

I was reading this article on 100 years of politics in Belgium since its independence in 1830, and found the following quote to be quite interesting, especially in today's complicated environments:

"A [political] party does not have a reason for being unless it possesses its own ideal which it pursues with  the conscious and tenacious effort to progressively achieve it, an ideal which is susceptible to arouse within its adherents enthusiastic impulses and fervors of faith.
Does that mean the party must adhere to an immutable dogmatism, whose rigid rule will be the norm of its activity? Definitely not. It must, on the contrary, understand that when it comes to translating its idealism into positive laws, that these can only be the legislative raiment adapted to the measure of the social being who wears it; that this collective being, through internal and external transformations, suffers all the phenomena of growth and development, health and sickness, and that yesterday's impossibilities must consequently become today's possibilities and tomorrow's inevitable. If such is not that party's concept of politics, it would soon become a power of blind conservatism first, of reaction next. From then on, its decline would sanction its divorce from the people's material and moral necessities whose destinies it would have the pretension to hamper."
~Albert Devèze, Un siècle de libéralisme (1930)

To read the rest of the article on belgian politics between 1830-1930, click here.

Creative Geniuses

Art by AnnSoDesign
"Ideas can't be created out of nothing. Ideas are created by you when you take something and combine it with something else." [Dean Keith Simonton] Logical thinkers will exclude the things that can't be combined and creative thinkers don't exclude anything.

Thus starts an interesting interview of Creative Thinkering's author Michael Michalko (which you can read fully here).

Michalko goes on to say that "genius is tantamount to th[e] theory of evolution, because genius requires the production of many ideas"--many through the forced and challenging combination of two dissimilar things--of which only a select few will survive (just like a select few genetic mutations that create new species will survive, while the majority perish). Or, as Da Vinci called it, "connecting the unconnected."

August 21, 2015

The Precious Language

17-18th century French salon
Once upon a time (during the 17th century, to be more precise), in France, lived a group of women who, tired of the crude jokes played at the royal court(1), took it upon themselves to prove they had just as much, if not more, wit than their so-called "stronger sex" counterparts.

That's when the salon was created, where the ladies playfully dueled with their quick and often satirical words, where they discussed such topics as trial marriages, and even divorce (would anyone be shocked they were for it?), and of courtly love(2), but also developed a particular kind of language, Le Langage Précieux, that had to follow certain rules such as, for instance, the fact that one couldn't call body parts by their actual names. And that tendency spread to other, if not all expressions, to the point that a dictionary would have to be used to understand them all.

Madeleine de Scudéry
famous Pr
Here are a few examples:

August 20, 2015

On Utilizing A Foreign Workforce

Jean Jaurès, French Socialist leader (1859-1914)
Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy reading and learning about economics and finance (among a plethora of other things, as I'm sure you've noticed).

Anyway, I fell upon this little quote (that I've translated from French for you), which I thought made for excellent food for thought. I think it's particularly interesting to note that this was said during a speech at the end of the 20th century...

What we do not want is for international capital to find its workforce in markets where it is the most degraded, humiliated, disparaged, to then throw it onto the French market, and to bring salaries around the world down to the level of those in countries where they are at their lowest. It is in that sense, and only in that sense, that we wish to protect the French workforce against the foreign labor, not, I repeat, out of a chauvinistic exclusivity, but to substitute international well-being to international misery.

~Jean Jaurès, speech "For a socialistic customs system" (Fr: "Pour un socialisme douanier"), February 17, 1894.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject?

August 19, 2015

What Would Have Happened If... Napoleon Had Won?

"Napoleon has humbugged me, by God." ~Duke of Wellington.

What if those words had held true the whole way through, even at Waterloo?

I found this interesting article while doing some research on a completely different topic (don't you find that happens to you a lot too? It's why I have this blog after all, to write down all these disparate and seemingly unconnected pieces of information I come across--you never know what might inspire another art piece!) which, after a lengthy talk on Napoleon's life and the reasons for the battle of Waterloo (a battle which shouldn't have taken place), gives the reader an alternative history theory on what could have happened if Napoleon had committed fewer mistakes during his last battle and managed to defeat Duke Wellington's armies and allies...

August 11, 2015

More On Vanquishing Writer's Block

I know I've written a number of posts already on writer's block (1), but I just wrote an answer about how to get over that wall on Quora and, really, how can one not write more about one of writers' most dreaded enemies?

So here's the basic gist of what I had to say...

Here are the two chief causes for my getting writer's block, and a few methods for how I deal with it.

August 6, 2015

King Arthur Is (Almost) Back!

Charlie Hunnam as the latest King Arthur
Photo by MARC HOM for EW
I've been a big, big fan of Arthurian legends ever since I inadvertently got my hands on Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, which also happened to be the book that propelled me into the world(s) of fantasy fiction.
In any case, I'm always really excited whenever I get to see more fiction or other works of art related to the noble king and his dashing knights, such as Barjavel's L'Enchanteur (another amazing take on the legends, for anyone who can read in French).

There was, for instance, this great French/Canadian musical called Graal with great songs (I particularly appreciate their Celtic flair) and vocal artists. It's really too bad I never got to see the full-on spectacle...

Is it therefore any surprise that, after a long while, I just couldn't resist and had to add my own take to a never-ending list of Arthurian tales? But unlike the upcoming movie, the Morgana Trilogy's Blood of the Fey and Rise of the Fey (the third and final volume isn't quite out the gate yet) are set in modern times (although there is this whole parallel universe going on with Avalon and the world beneath the lake). It's also thanks to a fan that I got to be introduced to the BBC's Merlin TV series as well, which ended a few years back (aaack, I can't believe it's already been 2.5 years!!).

Anyway, all that to say that legends of the Knights of the Round Table, and of King Arthur in particular, never cease to be a fount for inspiration. And that brings me to the whole point of this article: Guy Ritchie's own take of a 5th century Arthur is coming to a cinema near you in 2016 with none other than The Sons of Anarchy's engaging Charlie Hunnam (pics courtesy of EW).

August 5, 2015

How To Pick Your Book's Title

From Becoming Jane
I usually like to have an inspiring title already set when I'm working on a story. After all, I love to pick names whose meanings are relevant to the characters I'm giving them to (exceptions made for the Morgana Trilogy as I mainly used those already available in Arthurian legends).

Because titles are really important. The have to intrigue your targeted readers as much as possible, oeuvre d'art one thing during your whole writing period that you cannot change it later.
enough to make them pick your book up and read the blurb (which should then inspire them to read the first few pages of the book, which should in turn get them hooked into reading the rest of your work--a perfect snowball effect!). So it doesn't hurt to think hard about what title would best fit your story and your genre. But worry not, it's not because you've called your

Here are, for instance, a few famous book titles' before and after:

July 31, 2015

Happy Birthday Ms. Rowling!

I just wanted to dedicate this short post to Jo Rowling, the fabulous creator of the Harry Potter Empire (AKA Pottermore), a woman who started with nothing but a lot of gumption and imagination, and enthralled the world over with her whimsical, fun, and well-plotted stories!

So here's to the first writer to ever become a billionaire (in US dollars), and the first to lose that rank by giving away so much to charities (well, that and hefty taxes)! What an amazing life. What an amazing heart.

Art by albus119

Have a very Happy Birthday and many more to come!

Business Insider

July 19, 2015

Attention Artists Of The US, Your Copyrights Are At Risk!

This really interesting (and terrifying) video about what's going on in the Copyrights Law market in the US has been brought to my attention, and I figured it was too important not to share it with you.

Right now, Copyrights Law in the US (and most of Europe) states that artists (of any kind or genre) have copyright over their own work for the entirety of their lifetime + 70 years after their death, and that without having to register your work anywhere. You created, it's yours. Period.

Note: These are taken from the video interview of Brad Holland, a lifelong professional artist and expert in the matter (see bottom of the post).

But there's a law that some have been trying to push past Congress (previously known as the Orphan Works Act) based on their claim that because there's no registration of said art, then people can't find the copyright owners so libraries and museums that want to digitize their collections (for preservation and research purposes) can't do so. Basically, the law would allow these institutions "good faith infringement" of copyrights. Sounds somewhat OK, right? Except that these same people are now trying to do the same, but for commercial infringement of any work of any artist, living or dead, regardless of circumstances. And the entire thing would devolve from the Copyrights Office into the private sector so that those individuals only (and not the artists) could profit from it.

So what exactly does this proposed law entail?

July 8, 2015

Merlyn And Time

Now that I only have one book left in my Morgana Trilogy, I find myself reading more and more about Arthurian legends and mythology. That is how, while getting Blood of the Fey and Rise of the Fey to be "hosted" at Brussels' Waterstones (for those of you interested, I also did a quick interview with them), I fell quite providentially upon T. H. White's The Once And Future King.

Of course, I'm only just starting it, but its whimsy style (reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland) is definitely to my liking! So I figured I'd transcribe here a quote by Merlyn in which he explains his ability to see (and interact with) the future...

June 3, 2015

10 Questions With Bestseller Roy Huff

Roy Huff is a kind of modern-day Renaissance man. Not content to study one topic at school, or even two, he got five degrees in four different fields, while working several full-time jobs, AND is the award winning author of the international bestselling epic fantasy series Everville. The first tome in the series, The First Pillar, has the hero of the saga, college student Owen Sage, find himself thrust into another dimension, Everville, a world far different from our own yet somehow intricately linked to it. Now, after having penned four successful books in the series, Huff's carved out some time in his busy schedule to answer a few question.

June 2, 2015


War, a massacre of people who do not know each other, for the profit of those who do know each other but do not massacre one another.
Paul Valéry
French author, philosopher, and poet.

"The German Tango" by Louis Raemaekers.
Raemaekers (1869-1956) was a Dutch painter and cartoonist who was fiercely opposed to Germany. His cartoons (such as the one seen here) led him to be tried for endangering Holland's neutrality. And though he was acquitted, he nevertheless had to flee to Britain when the Germans placed a 12,000 guilder bounty on his head.

May 26, 2015

The End Justifies The Means

Calvin & Hobbes
Read this small passage from Donald E. Westlake's The Ax and let me know if you agree with Burke Devore, the speaker (note that the man's been out of work for two years and desperate to find a job):

"Every era, and every nation, has its own characteristic morality, its own code of ethics, depending on what the people think is important. There have been times and places when honor was considered the most sacred of qualities, and times and places that gave every concern to grace. The Age of Reason promoted reason to be the highest of values, and some peoples--the Italians, the Irish--have always felt that feeling, emotion, sentiment was the most important. In the early days of America, the work ethic was our greatest expression of morality, and then for a while property values were valued above everything else, but there's been another more recent change. Today, our moral code is based on the idea that the end justifies the means.
   There was a time when that was considered improper, the end justifying the means, but that time is over. We not only believe it, we say it. Our government leaders always defend their actions on the basis of their goals. And every single CEO who has commented in public on the blizzard of downsizings sweeping America has explained himself with some variant of the same idea: The end justifies the means.
   The end of what I'm doing, the purpose, the goal, is good, clearly good. I want to take care of my family; I want to be a productive part of society; I want to put my skills to use; I want to work and pay my own way and not be a burden to the taxpayers. The means to that end has been difficult, but I've kept my eye on the goal, the purpose. The end justifies the means. Like the CEOs, I have nothing to feel sorry for."

So tell me, do you agree with Devore? Do you approve of him, his reasoning?

Now would you tell me the same if you knew he'd killed off his competition to raise his chances of getting a new job?

Ah, that is a whole 'nother deal, isn't it?

May 19, 2015

Larger-Than-Life Characters

The Justice League
I always like to re-read famous literary agent Maass's The Breakout Novelist after I've already brainstormed a few times through a new novel (even if it's a novel in a series). The reason being that it forces me to think about my story under different angles, thereby spurring my imagination even further. Which I think is always a plus.

In any case, Maass has a whole chapter describing different types of characters (you can go here if you want a more extensive list) and I decided to focus on larger-than-life characters and what characteristics make them so. So here's the quick list:

May 12, 2015

Rise Of The Fey Errata

For those of you who have the first edition of Rise of the Fey (aka purchased prior to May 15, 2015), then chances are you've noticed a few *ahem* missing words or some such silly typos. A thousand apologies.

Therefore, I've created the following errata for you, along with a picture of Puck. Those of you who write me prior to June 15, 2015 with a proof of purchase (including the date thereof), will get a free card with both of these on it! And that counts for both the Kindle and the hard copy versions :)

Creativity Leads To Humor

Being rather humor-deprived meself, I feel obliged to learn more about the art of making jokes in the hopes that some of it will trickle down into my otherwise arid personality... To that end, I'm currently reading Comedy Writing Secrets (CWS).

According to CWS, the first step to writing humor is to be creative.

What if? Your first exercise is to use your imagination to look at any common object and train your mind to see it as something else, no matter how outrageous. This exercise is to force your brain to come up with "unexpected relationships that surprise the audience--and surprise makes people laugh."

Therefore, CWS continues, if you're going to write humor, you should be uninhibited! And as any writer knows, editing will come later, so don't worry about censoring yourself at first.

The whole object of comedy is to be yourself, and the closer you get to that, the funnier you will be. ~Jerry Seinfeld

May 10, 2015

A Mother...

I saw this quote by French author Guy de Maupassant which I thought was perfect for today...

One loves one's mother almost without knowing it, and one doesn't realize how deep that love goes until the moment of the last separation.

Here's the quote in French, as I feel my meager translation didn't do it justice:

On aime sa mère presque sans le savoir, et on ne prend conscience de toute la profondeur des racines de cet amour qu'au moment de la séparation dernière.

May 6, 2015

When The Froggies And Limeys Buried The Hatchet

When both sides of the Channel Tunnel met (1990)
I just wanted to take a minute of your day to remember how, 21 years ago, the French and British officially opened the Eurotunnel (aka the Channel Tunnel) after spending years working together.
Hear, hear to international cooperation and all the great feats we can achieve together! Next project: the conquest of the universe? ;)

PS: OK, OK, they'd buried it a while back (though perhaps not verbally?), but it makes for a snappier article title, eh?

May 5, 2015

How To Communicate With Your Fan (The Object, Not The Person)

Girl with a fan, Pietro Rotari
Since moving back to Europe, I've found myself falling deeply for the history channel. I find the programs on it to be very interesting, well-researched, and cover a wide variety of topics. One of the the programs on random historical news brought up a very interesting fact regarding the use of...
The Fan.

So here's a little dictionary of uses regarding the fan from the Maison Duvelleroy, a house founded in 1827 by a man who wished to see the delicate object back in use...
Lady with a fan, Alexandre Roslin

Holding it in your right hand before your face: Follow me.
Holding it in your left hand before your face: I wish for an interview (private).
Placing it against your left ear: I wish for you to leave me alone.
Brushing it against your forehead: You have changed.
Twirling it in your left hand: We are being watched.
Holding it in your right hand: You are being enterprising.
Sliding it in your hand: I loathe you.
Twirling it in your right hand: I love someone else.
Brushing it down your cheek then placing it against your chin: I love you.
Showing it closed to someone: Do you love me?
Sliding it before your eyes: I am sorry.
Touching the edge of it with your finger: I wish to speak to you.
Placing it against your right cheek without moving it: Yes.
Placing it against your left cheek without moving it: No.
Opening and closing it: You are cruel.
Letting it hang: We shall remain friends.
Slowly fanning yourself: I am married.
Quickly fanning yourself: I am engaged.
Placing it against your lips: Kiss me.
Open and still: Wait for me.
Holding it open in your left hand: Come speak to me.
Placing it behind your head: Do not forget me.

~Transl. from "L’éventail à tous vents" (Louvre des Antiquaires, Paris 1989).
Of course, you could also try to cheat with your fan...
Now what should an unmarried woman use the fan to keep cool without giving any false messages? ;)