Articles, Blog

Of Love Stories And Corrupted Fairy Tales

Guest Post by Cael Kalbrandt

Today, all across the globe we herald Valentine’s Day in a splash of crass commercialism. A perfect opportunity to share some little-known details about the origin of romantic love stories.

Prepare to have your pink bubble burst.

love stories cael kalbrandt valentine's day

The Roots of Love

Our trip into history takes us back to Europe in the 12th and 13th century AD. This is the time in which the stories of King Arthur appeared: the heydays of noble knights, fair ladies, minstrels, and the celebration of platonic devotion to one’s One True Love. The time of courtly love at its purest.

Or so we like to believe. A closer study of aforementioned minstrels crashes that party but good.

Articles, Blog

Taming Dragons: Resistance

Our dragons lurk in the darkest parts of our mind, heart and soul. They go by many names, take on many different forms. But while they may be fearsome and dangerous, they needn’t be our enemies. Today’s dragon is called: Resistance.

dragon of resistance
Photo: Comodo Dragon by Joel Sartore (via National Geographic)

Small But Annoying

Recently I have been working on taming one of my smaller but incredibly annoying dragons. Every time I want to – or need to – do something, it will nag at me not to. With Resistance on my shoulder, getting through the day is like running a marathon with a ball and chain. I might have a chance of reaching my goal, but I will be exhausted well before the halfway marker.

I have no love for athletics – more on that later – but nevertheless, for years this was what every one of my days looked like. Not only did I get nothing done anymore, but every time I did accomplish something, it had cost so much energy that the gain was barely worth the effort.

Eight therapists had failed to help me tame my flock of dragons, and even this one kept slipping through the maze. Until one day, not too long ago, I noticed my son copying his mum’s behaviour…

Clearly, a change was in order. Conventional therapy was out the window, but the ideas posed by coaches James Clear and Benjamin Hardy resonated. Working from their principles, my son and I wrestled our Dragons of Resistance into submission.

We ended up needing only these two simple techniques.

Articles, Blog

Plot Pruning

pruning firethorn pyracantha

Last week’s winter storm dealt a lethal blow to our 25-year-old pyracantha. The gale caught and broke off its stems a few inches above the ground. Thus a wall of spikey scrubs landed on the street, narrowly missing several parked cars and ditto insurance claims.

You can’t leave that lying around, so my husband dragged two cubic metre of aggressive plant out of the way. He cursed the air blue, but prevailed. Now this wooden carcass sits in our backyard, entertaining the local birds while awaiting dismantling. And I do mean dismantling: with its two-inch thorns as thick as nails, handling a pyracantha (or ‘firethorn’) feels like a scene straight from Saw II.

The comparison with editing a first draft is so striking, it’s not even funny.

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Reading: Experience By Proxy

reading experience by proxy

From the instant a toddler recognizes its first letter, we bombard the poor child – and its parents – with the importance of reading. Yet for every child that takes to reading readily and early, there is one that can’t sit still during a bedtime story and rather plays with toys instead of staring at squiggly symbols in a row.

Once these kids grow an appetite to venture into the world of comics, they are told to put down that ‘trash’ and read ‘proper books’. To drive that point home, their school system will force them for years to read classic literature far beyond their interest and comprehension.

Which is a terrible shame. Not on those youngsters, but for them. Because if their repulsion of reading persists, they miss out on far more than a handful of books.

Articles, Blog

Stories With Spine

Photo (c) Richard Büttner:

Everyone who loves scary stories has favourite elements they can’t get enough of. Some want to drench themselves in blood and gore, others get their kick out of creepy, enclosed spaces. And if you are like me, it is skulls and bones that send a thrill of delight down your spine.

So when I was researching monsters for the next Kalbrandt Institute Archives book, naturally there would be skeletons involved.

Expanding The Horizon

While dead bodies are the classic stuff of horror, our beloved genre of fear and death tends to limit the role of skeletons to atmospheric purposes. An old battlefield littered with bones for effect, that sort of thing. At best, a few grinning skulls in a corner get to warn the Hero (m/f) that the current locale is a Dangerous Place™, but otherwise a dead body is only interesting when it’s fresh. Or still moving.

But bones have so much more potential than that. A dead bag of flesh must have died recently, whereas bones, under the right circumstances, can be millennia old. That time span alone opens a world of possibilities. But it also changes the questions that the audience wants to know the answer to.