Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Category: My Thoughts (Page 1 of 17)

AndyPeloquin

What Happens At InD’Scribe 2017 Doesn’t Stay There!

The 2017 InD’Scribe Convention was SO MUCH FUN! Not only was it four amazing days of workshops and panels, but it was an absolute pleasure to see old friends and make new ones. I can’t wait until this time next year when I get to do it all over again.

A Few of the Highlights

  • Seeing some of the wonderful people I met at last year’s convention:

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  • Meeting amazing new people

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  • Leading a discussion panel on The Psychology of Evil—breaking down villains and antagonists and delving into what makes them tick/ (No pictures, sadly!)
  • Playing (and sadly losing) a Family Feud-style “Battle of the Genres”. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time!

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  • Talking to readers about my books

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  • Winning the 2017 RONE Award for Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Novel (of course!)

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Human Trafficking: Who Suffers Most?

For my upcoming novel “The Death of Lord Damuria” (Feb 2018), I spent a good deal of time researching human trafficking (one of the themes in the novel). My research led me to this fascinating article on Psychology Today:

The Underrecognized Victims of Trafficking: Deaf Women

The article stated, “People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking: Perpetrators like to prey on those who may be less inclined to report abuse. Deaf and hard-of-hearing populations experience abuse about one and a half times more frequently than those without hearing difficulties. Women with disabilities suffer significantly higher rates of domestic violence and sexual assault compared to women without disabilities. They also report abuse that is “more intense” and lasts longer.”

It included some pretty scary statistics:

  • Of 1,300 people rescued from a forced labor camp in China in 2007, roughly 1/3rd were disabled.
  • A report from the UK found that deaf women were TWICE AS LIKELY as non-deaf women to experience domestic abuse

The real problem, according to the article, is that most of the perpetrators of human trafficking of the disabled are caregivers: a family member, neighbors, or residents in their home. The fact that the disabled rely on caregivers and partners for support means they are more vulnerable or susceptible to this type of abuse or trafficking. And, the vulnerability of the disabled people mean they are easier to exploit, thus making them more attractive to the perpetrators of these types of crimes.

Why am I talking about this? Because the discovery of this article sparked a fascinating story idea for me…

One of the novels I planned to work on in 2018 was a follow-up to The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer, showing what happened to the city after the Hunter destroys the Bloody Hand. Basically the city is plunged into chaos because the Bloody Hand was controlling crime in the city, so the absence of their control leaves a power vacuum, riots, and upheaval—similar to what happens when the powerful head of a drug cartel is removed.

The story was going to be from the perspective of one of the women he frees from the Bloody Hand’s control. This woman was trafficked into the city from elsewhere on the continent, and she finds herself struggling to survive on the streets.

I always knew one of the supporting characters would be her younger sister (10-15 years old). When I ran across the article above, it gave me the perfect idea: the younger sister will be deaf. Not only will this add the element of disability that I like to include in my writing (showcasing how strong people with disabilities can be), but it creates some fascinating situations for the two sisters.  It will also shed light on a problem that exists in the modern world.

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Anxiety: It’s Why We NEED Habits and Rituals

According to one article on Psychology Today, “The brain’s chief job is the following: to draw predictions about the future and to orient behavior in line with those predictions. The brain does so by gathering as much information as possible and then using the data as inputs into the predictor system.”

However, our brains aren’t clairvoyant, and there’s no way to predict EVERYTHING that could possibly happen. This means that there will always be a certain amount of uncertainty, which triggers the feelings of anxiety in our brains. The things we can predict make us feel happy, safe; the things we CAN’T predict make us nervous, anxious, and threatened.

Rituals are our brain’s way of combatting these negative feelings. Rituals are the behavior our brains can predict, which make us feel safe and happy. If our brain knows we ALWAYS turn right at the next stoplight, it can focus on trying to predict what happens later in our day. As the article says, “Rituals are an effective shield that protect us from the onslaught of uncertain events.”

Rituals are all about repetition of behavior. We make the same turn, eat the same foods, follow the same schedule, and rely on the same conversation openers because that repetition evokes the sense that we are in control of our unpredictable environments. That “scripted sequence” is a way of tricking our brains into believing there is a certain amount of stability, orderliness, and personal control in a world of uncertainty.

Ritualized behavior also helps us to feel comfortable in times of uncertainty. We may not have control over one aspect of our lives, so we cling to rituals and habits in order to counteract that lack of control.  Even little rituals—like brushing your teeth before washing your face or adjusting your mirrors before pulling out of your driveway—are a “compensatory mechanism” that help to restore a sense of control.

Basically, habits and rituals are good. They give you something to hang onto when the natural chaos of life threatens to overwhelm you. The familiar, comfortable, and routine can help to reduce the anxiety in your life.

However, be wary of anything that becomes too important, rituals or habits that become all-consuming. When you can’t function outside of your rituals, that’s when they become unhealthy and stifling. Rituals can be a safe haven in times of turmoil, but you can’t live your life afraid of the uncertainty outside your little bubble.

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Why We Art

Art is an integral part of human culture and society. For millennia, people have been using art to communicate thoughts, ideas, emotions, and important information. Some art is beautiful, some is functional, but all is important!

But why do humans feel a need to create art? Why is it impossible to resist the siren’s call of creation? An article on Psychology Today had a fascinating take on it:

Art is beauty. It is beautiful to behold, breathtaking even. We all love beauty, and the idea that we could somehow play a part in bringing this beauty to life is irresistible.

Your art can inspire, dazzle, create an impact, strike an emotional chord, and forge a connection with total strangers. That is magic, of a sort, and something we all want to experience.

Art is evocation. When you see a beautiful pastoral image, you don’t enjoy it because of its greens, blues, and reds. You love it because it brings back those memories of picnics with your sweetheart, laughing and playing with your parents, or enjoying life.

Art evokes memories, bringing back those emotions and sensations you felt. It taps into the stored memories and their associations in your brain, triggering a recall of those events.

Art is communication. Even before we can talk, we’re able to understand simple shapes, colors, and images. Drawings have been around as long as spoken language, and it is one of the oldest forms of communication.

Colors, lines, shapes, and words can all be used to communicate non-verbally. Anyone who encounters that art will receive at least a glimpse of the message you’re trying to share. Your words can only carry as far as the sound of your voice—the message in art can travel around the world.

Art is human. Animals can be TAUGHT to create art—as so many elephants, apes, and gorillas have been—but it is only humans that are innately artistic. Perhaps it has something to do with our higher consciousness, or something else, but suffice it to say that only humans are born with the need to color, draw, trace, paint, or even carve lines into the sand as a means of communication or creation.

 

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Is Conflict Good or Bad?

We all know that every good book revolves around conflict—it’s only when your characters are thrown up against an obstacle, challenge, or threat that they truly shine.

However, outside the pages of fiction, most of us tend to avoid conflict as much as possible. After all, life is so much easier without that sort of struggle. Better to avoid “rocking the boat” or pissing off the wrong people, right?

Well, according to one article on Psychology Today, your perspective determines whether conflict is a good or bad thing. With the right outlook, conflict can make your situation A LOT better!

A study conducted at MIT involved students divided into two groups: the first group were graded against each other (on the curve), while the other group was given an average grade for the entire group.

When the inevitable inter-personal conflicts came, the two groups responded differently:

  • The first group saw the conflicts as “win-lose” situations. This led them to become defensive or attack their “competitors”.
  • The second group treated their conflicts like shared problems that needed to be resolved together in cooperation with each other in order to make progress on their ultimate goal: getting good grades as a group.

The article didn’t say which group got better grades, but that’s not the takeaway from this piece. Instead, the really important thing is to realize that our attitudes toward conflict will determine the outcome.

If we see it as an “either I win or he/she does”, the ultimate outcome will be a hostile environment filled with people going on the offensive or getting defensive. On the other hand, if we treat conflicts as a problem shared by two people—neither of whom stands to lose or gain more than the other—it’s easier to find common ground and take steps to solve the problem.

This image sums it up better than anything I could say:

 

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Why We Remember Faces But RARELY Names

Whenever I meet new people, I try my best to remember their names but just have SUCH a hard time of it. I’ll remember their faces for years after we’ve met, but I’m lucky to remember their name for more than a few minutes.

I always considered myself a bit of an odd case, but it turns out that particular trait isn’t as unique to me as I’d thought. Two psychologists gave an interesting insight into as to why faces are so much easier to remember than names:

Names referring to people are arbitrary and totally unrelated to anything we’re familiar with. We can recognize apples, cars, and knives by their shape, but there’s no way to remember why some person is named James, Bob, or Matilda. They just are, with no connection in our minds.

Names are long, sometimes with 3 or more strung together. To remember someone accurately, you need to remember ALL the names, not just the easy first name. Even worse, some people (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Saoirse Ronan, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) have names that are hard to pronounce, much less remember.

There are no synonyms to names. While “shoes” is a synonym for clogs, pumps, and rocket boots, “Bill” isn’t a synonym for Harold, Wilhelm, or Ulrich.

On the other hand:

Faces can resemble other faces we’ve seen. You have no idea how many people have told me, “You remind me of X family member”, usually due to my height, but sometimes my blue eyes, brown hair, or some other facial feature. Our mind can make connections and find the “synonyms” with other faces.

Shapes are easier to remember than sounds. Children can learn the SHAPE of letters faster than they learn the sounds. Babies know what circles look like before they recognize the word “circle”. Studies have proven that we remember what we see more than what we hear.

Your brain places more emphasis on visual stimuli than auditory. One study found that visual stimuli (emotion-eliciting pictures) could modulate the response to loud, sharp, unexpected, and abrupt sounds, but sounds didn’t alter the reaction to visual stimuli. Another study found that we react to the SIGHT of threats more than the SOUND of them.

The information here won’t help you be any better at remembering the names of the people you meet—you’ll have to find other tips and tricks for that—but at least it gives you an understanding of WHY you remember faces so much more easily.

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A Scientific Explanation for “Magical” Visions?

The concept of “visions” or “magical dreams” has been around since the beginning of time. People have been reporting these experiences for centuries:

  • 6th century BC: The visions of Daniel the Prophet
  • 1st Century AD: St. Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus
  • 312 AD: Emperor Constantine’s  vision of the cross (Christ’s sign)
  • 1619 AD: Rene Descartes’ series of dreams
  • 1820: Joseph Smith’s visions that lead to the formation of the Mormons
  • 19th Century: Ramakrishna’s visions of Jesus, Sita, Muhammed, and Kali

These visions have been perceived as life-changing, a religious or spiritual experience that shaped the lives of those who experienced them.

I’m not going to disparage those visions—there’s a very good chance they are real. However, here’s something that I found interesting:

Formed and unformed visual hallucinations occur as a result of cortical lesions involving the occipital and temporoparietal areas.

Simply put: hallucinations (the scientific term to describe “visions”) could be the result of brain damage.

I came upon this idea while doing research for the Dark Fantasy Romance novel I’ll soon be writing. I like to use a scientific approach to writing fantasy “magic”, so I need a real-world explanation to make these things understandable (to myself as the author, and to the reader). This seemed the perfect way to go.

To explain the “visions” my character is having, all I have to do is add a head injury in the right place (according to one study, “the modal lesion area was the right temporal area, followed closely by the left temporal and frontal areas”) and voila! Science explaining “magic”.

I won’t bore you with all the research into this sort of brain-injury-induced hallucinations, but here are a few things I think you’ll find fascinating:

Risk Factors: Several risk factors for PSTBI have been reported. They include male gender, premorbid neurological abnormalities such as early head injury or neurological disorder (Fujii and Ahmed, 2001), previous psychological disturbance (Violon, 1988), family history of psychotic illness, or mental retardation (Achte et al., 1969). A family history of schizophrenia was reported in 2.9% to 18% of patients with PSTBI, thus appearring to be higher than in normal patients, but less than in patients with schizophrenia (Davison and Bagley, 1969).

Hallucinations have been reported in sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE), which involves the central nervous system, may present as hallucinations.

Types of Hallucinations:

  • Olfactory hallucinations and gustatory hallucinations are usually associated with temporal lobe lesions and lesions in the uncinate gyrus.
  • “Crude” auditory hallucinations are more common in these conditions than formed ones.
  • Peduncular hallucinations produce vivid, non-stereotyped, continuous, gloomy or colorful visual images that are more pronounced in murky environments.
  • “Complex visual hallucinations arise due to lesions that straddle the cerebral peduncles or involve the medial substantia nigra pars reticulata, bilaterally.
  • Auditory hallucinations are most common in all groups except organic brain syndromes, where visual hallucinations predominate.

 

This data leads to an interesting question: are these famous visions from history real, or are they nothing more than the result of the risk factors mentioned above? I’m not going to shut the door to the possibility that these visions are real—it’s very possible God, Muhammed, Kali, or any other celestial being could take advantage of hallucinations to share important messages. However, for those of us (like me) who like a more concrete explanation for this sort of phenomena, it gives a potentially rational explanation for “magical visions”.

Join the Celebration + Giveaway!

It’s time to celebrate!

My super secret, super awesome reader group on Facebook (Andy Peloquin’s Fantasy Fiends) has reached 200 members—a  HUGE milestone for me. So, as I promised the members of the group, we’re going to celebrate with a Facebook Party.

Click here to join the party…

The celebration will take place this coming Friday, all day long. Prepare for crazy amounts of fun. Or fun amounts of crazy—I’m not sure which.

What can you expect at the party?

  • Giveaways
  • Competitions
  • Prizes
  • Games
  • Laughter
  • LIVE readings from my books (I’ll be breaking out my best voices for this one!)
  • and so much more…

Best of all, I’ve got a big giveaway going on all week long. You can enter to win an Alexa Echo, signed paperbacks of the Queen of Thieves series, e-books, and more.

See the giveaway here…

I hope to see you there this Friday!

 

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If You Read This, Let Me Know

As I take on more and more writing projects (new novels, short stories, collections/anthologies, etc.), I have to find ways to “trim the fat” from my life. With only so many hours in a day, it’s tough to know where I should be focusing my time and efforts.

For close to three years now, I’ve been trying to keep up with this blog as faithfully as possible. The two to four blog posts I write a week are time-consuming, but I always thought of them as an important part of being an author.

But in analyzing the web traffic I’ve been receiving over the last few months, I’m not certain I should keep up with the regular blogging efforts. So I’m asking you to let me know what you think:

Should I keep posting regularly?

If you read my blog posts, drop a comment below or on whatever social media page you found this on. Let me know that you read even SOME of the posts I share on this blog.

This isn’t a cry for attention (heh) or a way to pat myself on the back. I want to be certain that everything I share is quality, and if the blog posts aren’t where it’s at, I will focus my efforts on other content to share.

So, if you read this blog post, let me know. Even a one word comment will do. If my blog posts make a difference to even just a few people, I’m happy to continue posting.

Alternative:

If you haven’t been reading any/many of my blog posts, I’d like to know why and what I can do to make them more appealing and engaging.

  • What sort of content would you like to read? What topics?
  • Longer or shorter posts?
  • More/less frequent?

Thank you!

 

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My Religious Beliefs Summed Up

I know religion is one of those “taboo” topics you’re not supposed to talk about. However, the rebel side of me is going to do it anyway!

I was raised in a Christian household, with all the prayers, devotions, congregations, and other religious activities common among Christians of all denominations. However, as I hit my 20s, religion became less important for my daily life. I no longer consider myself a religious person; of anything, I’d say I’m “irreligious”, meaning indifferent to religion.

But I will say that I hold one simple belief to be true: “Good is good, no matter whose name it’s in.”

I, like every young fantasy reader, LOVED the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read them more times than I can count. Amazing stories filled with magic, mystery, action, adventure, and excitement. What’s not to love?

But now that I’m a bit older and (I hope) wiser, I realize there are a lot of deeper truths hidden in the stories. One is a truth that I’ve based my religious beliefs around.

In The Last Battle, after everything is said and done and the characters are in “Heaven”, there is a character from the “enemy kingdom”, who served a god named Tash instead of Aslan. He’s sorrowful because he believes he won’t be allowed to enter Heaven because of this.

Here’s how the scene goes:

Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.

But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome.

But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.

He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.

Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?

The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.”

Truth bomb, right there! Such a beautifully simple summation.

People can argue over God, Allah, Buddha, the Universe, Gaia, Odin, and everyone else until they’re blue in the face, but does the name really matter? As this scene illustrates, it’s not about the name of the God/god you serve. What matters are the actions!

I no longer worry about the name of the god/God, or if I’m praying to the right one. Instead, I focus on trying to put good out into the world. I believe that that’s what really matters in the end, not the name I said as I did them.

 

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