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In The Dark, There Be Dragons

In The Dark, There Be Dragons

Lately, I’ve been fully immerse in the Starz show Black Sails, the 4-season prequel to R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island which tells the story of Captain Flint, Billy Bones and Long John Silver in a terrifyingly realistic historical setting. There be dragons? Oh yes!

Beyond the swashbuckling, so much of this show resonates with what I care about as a storyteller that I even re-watch it in binge sessions. Don’t worry. I will spare you harping on about my admiration for the storytelling, the characters, the actors, the set and essentially everything else that is brilliant about this production.

Except this bit where Captain Flint (Toby Stephens), dead-tired of fighting against “civilised society”, proceeds to take the words right out of my mouth [no spoilers]:


They paint the world full of shadows, and then tell their children to stay close to the light. Their light. Their reasons, their judgements. Because in the darkness, there be dragons.

But it isn’t true. We can prove that it isn’t true.

In the dark, there is discovery. There is possibility. There is freedom…in the dark. Once someone has illuminated it.

~ Captain Flint (Black Sails S4E10)

So embrace your nightmares. You won’t regret it.


there be dragons

Art prints of the Soulless Cries

Art prints of the Soulless Cries

This idea crossed my mind a while ago. Why not make full-fledged, high-resolution prints for the Soulless Cries?

So now #70 looks like this:

Art prints Soulless Cry #70

What do you think? Should I make more of these? I can’t read mind, to please leave a comment below ;).

Humans Are Animals. No Exceptions.

Humans Are Animals. No Exceptions.

humans are animals - evolution skulls
Photo: Steve Johnson @ Flickr

We humans love to beat our own drum. We just love to proclaim how smart and resourceful we are. How we’re a unique creation, made in God’s own image. According to Judaism and its derivatives, anyway. Different religions, different opinions, of course.

Philosophies are beautiful, but so are the laws of nature. And those laws state, with irrefutable consistency, that humans are animals. Of the species homo sapiens sapiens, to be precise.

Evolutionary Basics

Homo sapiens sapiens, or “the thinking man”, is the last survivor of the otherwise dead human family tree. The first members of the homo family appeared approx. 1 million years ago, but during the last Ice Age, only we and our cousins homo neanderthalensis still existed. All other humanoids had long gone extinct, and at the end of said Ice Age, so had the Neaderthals.

Compare that to sharks, which have been around in abundant varieties for 420 million years.

So not only are humans animals, from a genealogical point of view we’re not even particularly successful.

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6 Lies About Ghosts

6 Lies About Ghosts

6 lies about ghosts
Photo by Damian Siwiaszczyk

Like gods and nature’s spirits, the belief in ghosts has been around ever since the first human tribes sat around the fire and told stories about their ancestors. How the spirits of those who lived before looked out for them, while warning of those who harboured a grudge. Add 20.000 years and modern entertainment industries, and we have this: six lies about ghosts you still believe.

#1 – You always notice when ghosts are around

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is very much an “alternative fact” spawned by movies and the human tendency to lie to ourselves to preserve our sanity.

Because ghosts are like spiders:

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How To Catch A Slippery Audience

How To Catch A Slippery Audience

disconnected audience
Photo by Esther Vargas

Artists must connect with their audience. That is the first rule of being an artist, or at least an artist who wants to share their work with the world. To do so, you must first identify your audience, find them and communicate the value of what you have to offer them.

This is what marketing teaches us. It’s also a one-way street with a dead end.

Connecting with a person – any person – requires dialogue. You don’t connect with your friends and family by just spewing monologues at them, right? You share interests and show your interest in them. And, if it is a healthy relationship, they do the same: you connect.

You share interests and show your interest in them. And, if it is a healthy relationship, they do the same: you connect.  

But what if that connection fails despite your best efforts to engage them?

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Populist Witch Hunts

Populist Witch Hunts

From time to time, the Café’s namesake, Cael Kalbrandt, takes the blog stage to share his thoughts and views with a liberal dose of sarcasm, profanity and gritty realism.

Want to know more about this colourful character? Click here. 

lucifer cael kalbrandt luc viator
Photo by Luc Viator 

Modern Witch Hunts With A Modern Hammer

“Witch.” The sound alone conjures up image of ugly crones with warts, black cats, and a supersonic broomstick. The very word is obscene: an unholy insult to scare children and offend adults.

Of course, society is so much wiser and more civilised now. We may detest those who are not exact copies of our ideal self, but we don’t immolate, drown or hang by the neck until dead. “Immolate” means to burn someone, by the way. But hey, stakes are a thing of the past, right?

Screw that! The witch hunts aren’t over. Not by a long shot.

First, let’s correct a few erroneous but annoyingly common misconceptions:

  1. Witches are not a folk tale only invented at the end of the Middle Ages.
  2. The Catholic Inquisition did not conduct witch hunts.
  3. Modern wiccans are not witches in the original sense of the word, so that is not where this post is going.

Then why are you – yes, you – at a realistic risk of becoming a victim of modern witch hunts?

populist witch hunts
Witch No. 3 by J.E. Baker


The Pain Game

The Pain Game

Not quite the blogpost I had planned for today, but clear thinking is impossible when you’re repeatedly curled up in foetal position for days on end. However, that little setback did put me in the perfect position to study the mind’s response to pain. Especially excruciating pain…

pain game - excruciating pain and how it affects the mind
Photo: Vincent Bozzo

A bout of enteritis brougth on some terrible and very painful cramps. They were only cramps, I kept telling myself. But even “only cramps” proved sufficient to hotwire my brain.

In short, my body threw a Happy Potter-style Cruciatus Curse on itself. This is what it did.

Waves of Agony

Pain caused by cramps hits in waves. The muscles contract, causing pain. Then they relax a fraction and the pain diminishes. The variations on this theme are endless:

  • A single wave may come on, peak and fade away in any period of time. Minutes are usual, but sometimes it does a hit and run in a matter of seconds.
  • A new wave may start before the previous one has ebbed away entirely. Depending on how much they overlap, the pain can seem practically continuous.
  • The intensity of waves can vary, too, depending on when they “crest”.

Pain can literally short-circuit your brain.


Hacking Your Fear of Failure

Hacking Your Fear of Failure

fear of failure - hands - AK Rockefeller

Fear is the essence of horror. So as a writer of horror fiction, naturally I’m an expert fear manager, right?

On paper, yes. In reality, I’m always more or less terrified of one thing in particular. And so are you, whether you realise it or not.

The Commonest Fear

Extreme fear is high profile. The list of phobias is endless. But the most common everyday fear is as insidious as is it crippling. Everyone suffers from it. “Not me!” you say? Think again. Think of…

…failure. Nobody wants to be a failure. No one wants people laughing at them. You may not call it fear, but your shoulders tense. You feel queasy and your palms become sweaty. All at the mere thought of failing to…

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Bare Bones: “The Screaming Staircase” (novel)

Bare Bones: “The Screaming Staircase” (novel)

bare bones jonathan stroud lockwood & co character ageWhat: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (novel).

Why: Ghost story as ghost stories should be. You know, with actual ghosts.

Spoiler Alert: Low | Medium | HIGH!


London in an alternative universe. Over the past decades, ghosts have become a very real and increasingly worrisome Problem with a well-deserved capital P. They don’t just go bump in the night, either: direct contact will kill a living person. The catch? Only children can see the ghosts and fight them.

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