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Inspirational Quote of the Day

"All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer." —Niccolò Machiavelli (The Prince)

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Friday, April 17, 2015


Please join me in welcoming author Sally Ann Melia to Hello, My Name Is Alice! 


What inspires you to write?
I breathe – I write.

Even before I open my eyes I can see my characters and the see what they are doing, I can hear them talking and know what they are worried about. I have carried the story inside me for such a long time. I have to write it down.

There is no other passion for except this one.

Tell us about your writing process.
I like to write longhand, I get too distracted from using computers and do not touch type well.

I use dictation to transfer my books into computers. I am currently on my first draft of my second novel. I think there are at least two stages:
  1. writing the story down
  2. figuring about the best way to tell the story to your audience.
I have a background in performance storytelling and sometimes I like to visualise a fidgety audience in order to figure how to tell my story.

Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born in the UK but age 12 emigrated to France, and found myself in the peculiar position of learning English as a second language. I was to sit at the back and be quiet. My mother suggested I practice writing in French.

I found myself with the perfect excuse to spend 3 hours each week writing fiction. I have never looked back.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Guy Erma and the Son of Empire is a YA Science Fiction Thriller adventure. It was not inspired by any one incident, except there was the fascinating story of Mark Thatcher who while Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister went missing while racing the Paris Dakkar car rally. There were rumours that MI5 was despatched to find him in the Sahara desert and at the same time terrorists from Algeria and other places were also looking for him. When he was found three days later any real danger was played down, and the actual facts never revealed. What is true is that during this brief period news journalists and politicians again and again whether Mrs Thatcher step down, that she could not rule while her only son was in so much danger.

The kidnapping of Prince Teodor leaving his mother with a tenuous grip on power is a retelling of sorts of that story.

What's next up on your writing sleeves? Please tell us briefly about it.
I have currently published:
Aliens in Paris which is a short novella cum travel guide featuring two Aliens in Paris. I wrote this when I was practising working with CreateSpace and Amazon. It’s only a ditty really.
Guy Erma and the Son of Empire is a 440pp ebook, paperback and hardback, and can be ordered for independent bookstores through Ingram.
Readers now prefer to read shorter books, so I am re-releasing Guy Erma and the Son of Empire as a serialisation in May 2015. The new three part series has the following titles:
  • Kidnap. Part 1 of Guy Erma and the Son of Empire (186pp)
  • Hunted. Part 2 of Guy Erma and the Son of Empire (162pp)
  • Exile. Part 3 of Guy Erma and the Son of Empire (150pp)
I am working with another writer to create a small art book: The artwork of Guy Erma and the Son of Empire, which is due for release in June 2015.
I am currently writing and editing the second part of the trilogy: Guy Erma and the Araneidae Dome which is due in November 2015.
I have an outline of the third part of the trilogy, and I am hoping for an early date in 2016, but we will wait and see.


I am pleasantly surprised with Guy Erma and the Son of Empire because it is such a good story that gets you on-board the moment you set eyes on the first page. The cover is attractive too (a great bonus and push to begin reading!). I was sucked into the story right from the start.

My favorite character in the story is, of course, Guy Erma, the thirteen-year-old orphan boy. He has such a strong drive for success and works hard at perfecting his skills to realize his ambition to join the Dome Elite for space warriors. This part reminded me of Jon Snow from the Game of Thrones who aspires to join the Night's Watch, a military order dedicated to holding the Wall... Guy Erma has a challenge, though, and that is he is an unregistered child and therefore, (almost) impossible for him to get in. Unless he does what Chart Segat says.

I also like Teodor, Prince of Freyne. Guy and Teodor are like opposites but they both have similar drives. Teodor's passion is at taking care of feline creatures called gorans, but he also wants to master the art of blades, which is something that Guy excels in. However, at this point their paths have not crossed.

On one fateful day at the Dome, Teodor is kidnapped and many innocent children are killed or injured. Guy who is Teodor's understudy could have been the victim but he is spared by double math! Readers can now expect lots of action from this moment on. I particularly like the half human half cyborg creatures, shape shifters and cy-wolves. 

This YA novel, although a lengthy one at 440 pages, has a host of well-developed, interesting characters. Despite its thickness, please do not be intimidated by it because you will be flipping pages and not realize how fast time flies when you embark on this adventure.

The story starts with a boy:
"I don't want to go, mum."
"You must..."
How long can a mother regret the last words to her son?

This story is a space opera adventure and a kidnap thriller… A young prince is kidnapped, a galactic Empire in peril for the Prince has fallen into the hands of the ruthless yet charismatic Chart Segat, a populist politician, he is also head of the crack space warriors: the Dome Elite.

Teodor’s mother, Regent Sayginn of Freyne 2 will use every resource at her disposal: military might, security surveillance, battle cyborgs and insider intelligence to find her son. She will call on the Valvanchi, the telepathic shape shifting aliens to free him … The only question is can they get to the Prince in time?

Meanwhile in the shadow of the Dome, living a life of desperate poverty is another boy: 13-year-old Guy Erma. His only dream is to join the Dome Elite, and the only way he can do that is by ‘doing whatever Chart Segat says.' 'Whatever he says!'

A tightly plotted thriller,
Guy Erma and the Son of Empire is a complex space opera with a cracking science fiction storyline, told with verve and pace.

The book will delight those who love • Science Fiction • Space Operas • Star Wars style Adventures • Galactic Empire stories • Young Adult Science Fiction • Young Adult Space Opera • Young Adult Thrillers • Young Adult Action Adventure.


The author was born in Wallasey, England, in 1964, and moved to the South of France when she was eleven. She spent her teenage years living in the cosmopolitan city state of Monaco and became immersed in its many languages and cultures. An English girl in a French school, for three hours each week she would sit at the back of the class as her colleagues learnt English. To pass the time, she wrote stories. This led to a lifetime of writing novels, scripts, stories and articles.

In her working life, Sally writes marketing communications and manages large international websites.

In 2010, Sally joined the Hogs Back Writers, a club located on the outskirts of Guildford, and she set about turning an old manuscript into this novel: Guy Erma and the Son of Empire. Sally currently lives in Farnham, and she is married with two children.

Connect with Steve: Website  ~ TwitterFacebook  ~  Pinterest

Where to Buy the Book: Amazon 

Many thanks to Laura Fabiani from iRead Book Tours for sending me a complimentary copy of this e-book. I'm proud to be a part of this book tour!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

LingQ: Another Great Foreign Language Tool!

I joined as a subscribing member of LingQ three days ago on 13 April. I was introduced to it by my Italian friend from Gallarate. I'm loving it and making good progress with Spanish too.

Hello, my name is Martina.

When I started learning Spanish on LingQ, I have an avatar and it appears as an egg. I have named my egg Martina, which is after a lovely Italian girl I met while staying with an Italian family in the south of Italy last year. Martina always say to me, possiamo giocare? (English: Shall we play?) I miss Martina... Martina will grow as I learn more new words. As of today, I have known 273 words. Not too bad, in my humble opinion, as I've started only three days ago. Go, Martina!

A screenshot of my lesson page
What I like most about its features are:
  • Track progress (through the growth of my egg Martina) and see the number of words learned
  • New words are in blue and you can mark those blue words for further study (they will become yellow). The creation of these yellow words are called LingQs
  • LingQs are then made available for further study through Flashcards, Dictation, Multi-choice, and Cloze 
  • I can ask the tutor questions
  • I can give a rose to show appreciation of the lesson (it's like a "Like")
  • Download lesson audio
In summary, I get to revisit the study text again and again. The features are really useful in hearing the language and for practicing comprehension and committing the new words into memory.

I Am Learning Spanish online with LingQ.
I know 273 words

While LingQ is great for strengthening one's vocabulary, I do recommend supplementing it with grammar books for deeper understanding of whatever language one's learning. This is what I'm currently doing for all my language projects.

Are you studying a foreign language? Do share your experience!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Hi everyone! If you like to travel, especially to Italy...and especially to Florence, then you have to take a look at Laura Morelli's new Authentic Arts series. Today, I am spotlighting the second set of books in this series.

"Laura Morelli has set out to make you an expert in handmade crafts." —American Style Magazine

About the Book
Going to Florence, Italy?
Don't buy anything in Florence until you read this book!

If you're traveling to Florence, Italy, you want to go home with a special souvenir: a leather handbag, a piece of gold jewelry, hand-printed stationery, or one of the city's famous luxury fabrics. But selecting which jacket or which wallet to buy can be an intimidating experience. How do you know if you're buying something authentic, something made in Florence, something made in a traditional way? How do you determine if you've fallen prey to one of the city's many tourist traps?

Florence boasts some of the most famous artistic traditions in the world. Here's what you need to know about them.

Laura Morelli leads you beyond the souvenir shops for an immersive cultural experience that you won't find in any other guidebook. This indispensable guide includes practical tips for locating the most authentic goods in one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world. Packed with useful information on quality and value, and with a comprehensive resource guide, Laura Morelli s
Authentic Arts: Florence is the perfect guide for anyone wanting to bring home the unique traditions of the capital of the Renaissance. 

Artisans of Florence is the companion to Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts: Florence: A Travel Guide to Fabrics, Frames, Jewelry, Leather Goods, Maiolica, Paper, Woodcrafts & More. Put both books together and you'll be the most knowledgeable traveler in Florence!

About the book
Artisans of Florence is the companion to Florence: A Travel Guide, bringing you inside the workshops of several dozen of the most accomplished makers of Florentine fabrics, hand-carved frames, and other treasures. Put both books together and you'll be the most knowledgeable traveler in Florence!
"Laura Morelli has set out to make you an expert in handmade crafts." —American Style Magazine

Laura Morelli, an art historian and trusted guide in the world of cultural travel and authentic shopping, leads you to the best of Florence's most traditional arts. Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts series is the only travel guide series on the market that takes you beyond the museums and tourist traps to make you an educated buyer--maybe even a connoisseur--of Florentine leather, ceramics of the Amalfi Coast, Parisian hats, Venetian glass, the handmade quilts of Provence, and more treasures. 

Bring Laura Morelli's guides to Florence with you, and you'll be sure to come home with the best of Florence in your suitcase. 

Where to buy the books

Meet the Author

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, “What’s the difference between art and craft?” was produced and distributed by TED-Ed.

Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy and four years in France.

Laura Morelli is the author of the guidebook series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker, a historical coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her first work of fiction.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Thoughts About Foreign Languages

I started reading Collins Easy Learning Italian Conversation a moment ago and loved the Introduction; sharing my thoughts here!

Becoming proficient in a foreign language means being able to use and understand a number of different aspects—vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and so on. However, it takes a while to be able to  put all these elements together and be sure that what you are saying sounds like natural Italian.

Or any language for that matter. It's also true that it takes a while because I took a nice whole year to indulge myself in the Italian language. It is a wonderful love affair. I did these for my Italian journey.

Language allows us to express ourselves and interact with others. In any given situation, we perform different language tasks, such as asking for information, agreeing and disagreeing, complaining, making suggestions and so forth. To do this, we use linguistic structures (How...?, When...?, Could I...?, I'd like... and so on) which can be used in a variety of contexts. 

Although I was not completely proficient with Italian, I was able to communicate with the locals during my two trips to Italy in 2013 (for one month) and 2014 (for three months). The experience was priceless. I was able to ask for information, express my opinion, and engage in general conversation including buying stuff. Almost all the Italians I came across in Italy didn't speak English, so I was fortunate that I do.

A conversation, by definition, is a two-way process. It is as important to understand what is being said to you as it is to be able to respond.

Absolutely. Which is why just parroting a phrase book will not do (but getting acquainted with one certainly helps). Which brings me back to the first excerpt above that vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation are important. I don't need to be a perfect-sounding Italian speaker (some accent is a sign of bravery!) but speaking it correctly will avoid as much confusion as possible. For example, leggere (to read) and leggere (light) are two words spelled exactly the same but when pronounced differently means another thing. One final note, it would be awesome if someday I do speak like a native Italian!

P/S: Today I signed up on and their 90-day Challenge. I'm using it to experiment on Spanish!


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Part 2 of 2: Better World Books

Yesterday I posted about online book shopping with Book Depository (part one of two), so today here's part two of two. I'm still in Hong Kong... The theme of the shopping is LANGUAGES for my personal library collection. Here in part two, I feature the stuff I bought from Better World Books (total: USD20.39 or RM75.44 or €19). Here goes!

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler.  he story of the world in the last five thousand years is above all the story of its languages. Some shared language is what binds any community together and makes possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it. Yet the history of the world's great languages has been very little told. Empires of the Word, by the wide-ranging linguist Nicholas Ostler, is the first to bring together the tales in all their glorious variety: the amazing innovations in education, culture, and diplomacy devised by speakers of Sumerian and its successors in the Middle East, right up to the Arabic of the present day; the uncanny resilience of Chinese through twenty centuries of invasions; the charmed progress of Sanskrit from north India to Java and Japan; the engaging self-regard of Greek; the struggles that gave birth to the languages of modern Europe; and the global spread of English. Besides these epic achievements, language failures are equally fascinating: Why did German get left behind? Why did Egyptian, which had survived foreign takeovers for three millennia, succumb to Mohammed's Arabic? Why is Dutch unknown in modern Indonesia, though the Netherlands had ruled the East Indies for as long as the British ruled India? As this book splendidly and authoritatively reveals, the language history of the world shows eloquently the real character of peoples; and, for all the recent technical mastery of English, nothing guarantees our language's long-term preeminence. The language future, like the language past, will be full of surprises.

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker. In this classic, the world's expert on language and mind lucidly explains everything you always wanted to know about language: how it works, how children learn it, how it changes, how the brain computes it, and how it evolved. With deft use of examples of humor and wordplay, Steven Pinker weaves our vast knowledge of language into a compelling story: language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution. The Language Instinct received the William James Book Prize from the American Psychological Association and the Public Interest Award from the Linguistics Society of America. This edition includes an update on advances in the science of language since The Language Instinct was first published.

A Little Book of Language by David Crystal. With a language disappearing every two weeks and neologisms springing up almost daily, an understanding of the origins and currency of language has never seemed more relevant. In this charming volume, a narrative history written explicitly for a young audience, expert linguist David Crystal proves why the story of language deserves retelling. From the first words of an infant to the peculiar modern dialect of text messaging, A Little Book of Language ranges widely, revealing language's myriad intricacies and quirks. In animated fashion, Crystal sheds light on the development of unique linguistic styles, the origins of obscure accents, and the search for the first written word. He discusses the plight of endangered languages, as well as successful cases of linguistic revitalization. Much more than a history, Crystal's work looks forward to the future of language, exploring the effect of technology on our day-to-day reading, writing, and speech. Through enlightening tables, diagrams, and quizzes, as well as Crystal's avuncular and entertaining style, A Little Book of Language will reveal the story of language to be a captivating tale for all ages.

Talk Dirty Italian by Alexis Munier and Emmanuel Tichelli. This sort of Italian isn't Church sanctioned. Whether ordering a slice in Little Italy or riding along the Grand Canal, Talk Dirty: Italian is your guide to truly spitting the sauce. Loaded with plenty of words and expressions that could make Tony Soprano blush, you'll sound like you just got off the boat with entries like the one below. And with the curses, slang, and idiomatic expressions split into different situation-based sections, you're guaranteed to always know what to say--no matter where you are. Italian word: scopabile Definition: f**kable, lit. sweepable Phrase: Niente male la tua suocera; anzi direi che e propio scopabile. Literal Translation: Your mother-in-law is not so bad looking; in fact she's quite f**kable.


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Part 1 of 2: Book Depository

I decided to do some online book shopping while working/vacationing in Hong Kong, so this is what I ended up with the last two nights. The theme of this purchase is LANGUAGES, so in this part one of the two-part blog post, I feature the stuff I bought from Book Depository (total: USD57.55 or RM212.94 or €53). Tomorrow, I'll show off what I bought from Better World Books! All these wonderful books will become a part of my personal library collection.

Language Death by David Crystal. The rapid endangerment and death of many minority languages across the world is a matter of widespread concern, not only among linguists and anthropologists but among all concerned with issues of cultural identity in an increasingly globalized culture. By some counts, only 600 of the 6,000 or so languages in the world are 'safe' from the threat of extinction. A leading commentator and popular writer on language issues, David Crystal asks the fundamental question, 'why is language death so important?', reviews the reasons for the current crisis, and investigates what is being done to reduce its impact. This book contains not only intelligent argument, but moving descriptions of the decline and demise of particular languages, and practical advice for anyone interested in pursuing the subject further.


The Last Lingua Franca: The Rise and Fall of World Languages by Nicholas Ostler. A revelatory and exhilarating tour de force, Nicholas Ostler's "The Last Lingua Franca: The Rise and Fall of World Languages" explores the rise of a linguistic diversity we could never before have imagined. In the twenty-first century, can we really take the dominance of English for granted? In their time, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit and Persian have each been world languages, sweeping the globe for centuries at a time. And yet they have all been displaced, just as Nicholas Ostler predicts English will be. What forces drive these linguistic currents? What characteristics do lingua francas share? And most importantly, how do they lose their power? "Frequently jaw-dropping and never less than convincing". (Henry Hitchings, "Financial Times"). "Sweepingly learned and engagingly garrulous". ("Sunday Times"). "A much-needed challenge to conventional wisdom". ("Guardian"). "A linguist of astonishing voracity ...the predictions are striking". ("Economist"). Nicholas Ostler is the author of "Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World" and "Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin". He studied Greek, Latin and Philosophy at the University of Oxford and holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from MIT. With a working knowledge of twenty-six languages, Nicholas now runs an institute for the protection of endangered languages.

Linguistics For Dummies by Rose-Marie Dechaine, Strang Burton, Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson. The fascinating, fun, and friendly way to understand the science behind human language Linguistics is the scientific study of human language.Linguistics students study how languages are constructed, how they function, how they affect society, and how humans learn language.From understanding other languages to teaching computers to communicate, linguistics plays a vital role in society.Linguistics For Dummies tracks to a typical college-level introductory linguistics course and arms you with the confidence,knowledge, and know-how to score your highest. * Understand the science behind human language * Grasp how language is constructed * Score your highest in college-level linguistics If you're enrolled in an introductory linguistics course or simply have a love of human language, Linguistics For Dummies is your one-stop resource for unlocking the science of the spoken word.

Phonetics For Dummies by William F. Katz. The clear and easy way to understand the science behind speech Phonetics is the scientific study of speech sounds, and deals with how people produce speech and hear specific speech features. Phonetics is a required course for all speech language pathologists and linguists, and is also taken by students of English, Language teaching, Theatre, Voice Acting, Telecommunication, and Forensics. Phonetics For Dummies covers everything students need to succeed in this challenging course. From the real-world applications of phonetics to how speech is produced, Phonetics For Dummies quickly brings you up to speed on all aspects of the subject, ensuring a high level of mastery on exam day. Tracks to a typical introductory phonetics class at the university/college level. Bonus content on provides instructional videos and quizzes. Helps you score your highest in your phonetics class. If you're a language, linguistics, or speech pathology student undertaking an introductory phonetics course at the university level, Phonetics For Dummies has everything you need to score high.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Alice Studies: My THIRD Coursera Certificate

I received my third certificate from Coursera for the course Introduction to European Business Law by the Lund University! My first one dated  way back in 2013 (check it out) and the second one in March 2015.

I encourage you to also sign up for the courses because Coursera has really interesting offerings from many renowned universities. And the best of all is... they are FREE. Go for it!

ABOUT THE COURSE: This introductory course deals with both the practical and theoretical aspects of European business law and how the EU's Internal Market operates in a global context.

Please also check out my other post on Introduction to European Business Law. Buono studio e buon lavoro!

My current courses-in-progress are:
  1. Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics
  2. Chinese for Beginners
  3. Roman Architecture
  4. Introduction to Philosophy


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