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!

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