The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow and Death – My Ruminations on Christmas Week

A couple of weeks ago I started writing a frivolous blog about how much I was enjoying this winter and the snow – oh, so much snow!! I spent a few days in my own little snow bubble (globe even) happily wrapping Christmas presents and baking Christmas cookies; watching my favorite Christmas movies and listening to my favorite Christmas songs. Before I could post said snow day nostalgic meditations I received some bad news. My friend Jill lost her cancer battle – my second friend in a few short months to do so. Cancer is some kind of sick, twisted bastard. Not that this is news to anyone at all, but I feel it’s worth saying at this juncture: Cancer, you really do suck.

I’m crap at sympathy. I never know what to say. “I’m sorry” – although it’s true – seems insipid at best. What I’d really like to say is, “Wow, that blows!” Because it so does. Although this is also inappropriate; so mostly I remain awkwardly silent at funerals trying not to smile too much, but not staying completely somber at the same time. Jill, one of the most vivacious women it’s ever been my pleasure to acquaint, would probably laugh at my “that blows!” comment and agree whole heartedly. Jill, I will miss your smile and laugh most of all; but I am so much the better for having heard them. In an ironic twist of fate (and nothing at all like rain on your wedding day) I will be unable to attend Jill’s funeral tomorrow as I will be a pallbearer in my grandfather’s funeral; who, at 88, won his two battles with cancer but finally succumbed to time and age on Boxing Day this year. Yep, it’s been a rough week – but then again I feel like an idiot saying that, because it’s been a much rougher week for many other people in general and quite a few people that I specifically care about.

And where I think I’m actually a horrible human being is the pure joy I find in being alive and healthy this week: The air smells crisper, food tastes better and love is stronger. I’m not sure where this life euphoria comes from, but it mostly makes me feel hideous in between its bright bursts of sunshine. Maybe it’s because old age and cancer are both usually preceded by lots of pain and I am happy my loved ones are no longer suffering. Maybe it’s because death is inevitable, but it only conquers when we fear it. Hmm, that was a little too Hallmark for my usual blog musings…sorry. Maybe it’s because what I remember from Grandpa’s death bed is the beer he was drinking, his Navy tattoo, and his comment when we got up to leave for the day, “Shit! You just got here.” That’s my grandpa – all German, career Navy man – straight through to the end. My mother told him I was going to get his tattoo on my own arm before we left – which is odd, because I was thinking the very same thing. My mom has always been a little fey this way, so expect pictures of a tattoo before I turn 35 in a few short months. It won’t be his naval tattoo – I think that belongs to the men on his super carrier during WWII – but a Celtic something or other from the Book of Kells is high up there on my list of things I wouldn’t mind being inked with for the rest of my life.

I realize I learned to love the poems of Tennyson, Frost, Blake and Burns at my great grandfather’s knee, but I learned to love children’s poems at my grandfather’s. He loved limericks and easy rhymes most; often reading to me from an old book of read-out-loud children’s poems. My cousin and I have spent the last two days posting some of these poems back and forth on her facebook page, but the one I remember most is “The Duel” by Eugene Field. Yet one more a-ha moment for my need to write children’s literature – maybe we really are the sum of our parts after all.

Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I was n't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!
The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I 'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!
The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw---
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate---
I got my news from the Chinese plate!
Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.

Yes, I will post those Christmas nostalgic blog posts over the next week – because I really did enjoy December this year, and because both Jill and my grandpa would enjoy said posts. I also desperately want to hug everyone who reads my blog, all of my friends and family, and every single facebook friend I have…and I’m not a big hugger. I think I might be loosing it, because there is yet more snow on the way for my small corner of the world on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and I CAN’T WAIT for it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It’s The Fire Inside Your Heart That’s Going to Lead You to The Light

Today I read a blog post that literally made me cry. I’m a fixer. I want to fix things. My husband is sometimes exasperated by this fact and tells me to stop trying to find the solution in unsolvable issues. I can’t help it – I want to fix your problems. If you’re reading the blog and thinking I don’t want to fix your problem – you’d be wrong. I want everyone who’s ever read this blog to simply not have problems. I’m like a beauty pageant contestant that way: I want world peace for all. Unlike the beauty contestant I enjoy a fair amount of chaos and upheaval because that makes for the best solutions – why can’t everything be like the Chilean mine rescue? I don’t want to be the hero and I’m not searching for recognition – but damn it; bring on the conflict and resolution already.

How you ever gonna know if you never chase the dreams…

And that’s why today found me reading a blog post and crying. I can’t fix it. I totally get it, but responding to the post seems pointless and self-serving. Does it help to know that writing makes me feel that way too? I find myself constantly on the verge of greatness and then shying away from the edge to wallow in a comfortable, meaningless, part-time job-hobby. I’m not sure I would actually know how to react if I did get a book deal. I too build my castles and dreams in the sky and am afraid to build them here on earth; they might crumble and fall. Do I tell you that I know I’m “home” in every sense of the word - by your blog post standards - and yet still sometimes find myself pining for a time and a place that can’t ever exist for me again…a flat on the corner of Earl’s Court and Cromwell Rd and a stroll through the constantly damp streets and mews of Kensington? Do you want to know that my favorite writing place in the world is on a cold stone wall surrounding a sunken garden on the grounds of what is now known as the Enchanted Palace (seriously – that’s what their calling it now)? It doesn’t help you, find you a job or patch that hole in your soul.

How you ever gonna know what it's like when dreams become reality…

I’m left with one memory of two fourteen-year-old children walking home from school after just learning they made their high school marching band; gleefully chanting about going to Spain and Africa. I had help remembering – I recently read it in that blasted journal. But the euphoria of realized dreams is a sweet memory that leaves the tang of wanting more fulfilled dreams. It also makes me want to go to Spain and Africa since I’ve yet to see either. I’m not sure if that euphoric feeling is forever concealed in the wisps of childhood recollection – or if it’s possible to feel that happy and excited about any recognition of brilliance? I’m also not sure where this is going exactly. I said I didn’t post a comment because I knew it wouldn’t help – yet here I sit writing my own blog post with the small hope that it somehow will and knowing it can’t. Maybe what I need to say is simply this: I cried today and looked inside myself today and I wrote today; and I did all of those things because I read one blog post. Apparently words are power.

How you ever gonna know your potential if you never take a chance?

And on that note, it’s the last day of November and my NaNo novel is done – well not done, but at 50,000 words. 51,012 to be exact! As I don’t write sequentially – especially in November: where I tend to jump to the next big scene when I’m stuck so as to not slow down the pace – I will now begin the grueling editing, rearranging and expunging process. Alas, I love every minute of it. The computer and I are on speaking terms once more. For those of you participating, I hope you are able to cross the finish line by midnight and win a feeling of accomplishment, because that’s what you’ll win. Maybe this one will get published. Oh, I’m lying. And I promised to be completely honest in this particular blog post. It’s a load of twaddle – this year’s NaNo. It was excruciating and I’m fairly certain two-thirds of it will be deleted tomorrow and in the upcoming week. I have no hopes it will ever be published. On the optimistic side: I’m writing, the computer and I ARE friends again, and I will honestly try harder for publication. When you write, you tell everyone you know so they can constantly ask you about it; thus keeping you on track and embarrassing the crap out of you if you give up or stop looking for an agent/editor. Posting the information on your blog is ten times worse somehow. Knowing people will randomly check your blog for updates and progress reports. Well, I’d hate to disappoint you all but mostly I’m sick of disappointing myself and I’m really fed up with the fear. Fear should be no one’s constant companion, especially not mine. So I will try harder for me. I will try to recapture the joyful exhilaration of accomplishment and dream fulfillment I once had at the age of fourteen while chanting about Spain and Africa.

Listen not to the critics who put their own dreams on the shelf. If you want to get the truth to admit it, you gotta find out for yourself.

Oh, and in case you do not know – all bold words, and also the title of this post, come from a Garth Brooks song – “How You Ever Gonna Know”. Check it out – says the non-country music girl constantly toting Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss and now Garth Brooks. Something else I need to admit to myself apparently.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

HP Thursday – Harry Potter and the Teenage Angst on Grimmauld Place

Oh, I really hope this is not how the first part of HP 7 goes…
I’ve tried writing this post a few times this week but it just wasn’t going anywhere. Since the movie is coming out in tomorrow, I thought I’d take time out of my novel writing schedule – currently 30, 012 words for those of you playing along – and actually do an HP post. Really I’m just concerned my 13 followers will go away if I don’t get back on track here. And who doesn’t want to chat briefly about movie 7.1? Yes, I am geeking out and going to a midnight showing shortly. I’m way too old for this, so I’ll have to see it when I’m awake at some point before you get a cohesive blog about it. And we do still have the rest of the book to get through too. Apparently the whole book club thing really doesn’t work for me – or anything else with a timeline come to think of it (says the girl who works by deadlines and is trying to write a 50,000 word rough draft by the end of this month).

Anyway, like I said: I’ve been trying to write this post all week. If I don’t publish it soon it will be too late. I started by telling you what I thought was going to be in this movie, what I hoped wasn’t going to be in this movie and where I thought it was going to end. This was all conjecture and bored me to tears – hence I couldn’t imagine any of you reading it. Also, if you go to IMDb or 500 other movie websites I’m sure you will find out all of these answers and much, much more.

So what am I blogging about the night before HP 7.1?

Today I watched movie 6 – which is always much smarter than reading a book a movie is based on before seeing the movie. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment then. Movie 6 helped clear my mind of conjecture. Instead I became nostalgic. Yes, nostalgic for a series of books and movies. But here’s the thing: It’s Harry Potter!

Fun fact: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours of publication.

This is what every writer dreams about. Not just making it big, but creating their own world and then sharing it with A LOT of people. The created world doesn’t have to be a wizarding, made up world; just a world completely created by the writer. Yep, nostalgia. Where were you the first time you picked up a Harry Potter book?

Movie 7.1 – which I sincerely hope is not just teenage angst in a house where three friends are trapped – is part of that entire world. How cool is that. Can you imagine not just writing really good books, but also having movies made about said books. Sorry, I went to a happy writer place where fame and fortune follow me around in a bubbly sort of frenetic way. I’d like to think that if my books became movies I wouldn’t dwell on the differences as much as marvel at characters and places I created being thrown up on a big screen for all the world to see. I might decide the actress playing Teagan isn’t quite what I had in mind, but damn, SMug looks amazing! If you’re a fan of the books, the HP movies will add depth and embellish your experience.

Obviously as a creator of my own worlds, I’ve got a pretty good handle on my imagination; I don’t need a movie screen to thoroughly enjoy the book I’m reading. However, I’m always up for imagination enhancement. At this point the familiar strains of HP movie music themes are playing in my head. Yes, that IS just like visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. I’m joyfully grateful the HP movies have been made – almost as pleased as I am about the books (Not quite. I’m still a writer at heart and anything – with the exception of sparkly vampires – that can get that many people to read ranks really high on my joyfully grateful list). I’m excited to see this first of the last movies. I can’t wait to see the halls of Hogwarts, that big, beautiful clock and the reconstructed (why did that burn down again) Burrow. It’s a transition movie and I’m all about transitions – bring it on already!

My Own Nostalgic HP Moments Timeline
Just how big of a geek am I? Oh, this much and more…

1998 – Pick up book 1 & 2 on a whim in London.2001 – The first movie comes out and my husband dresses like Harry Potter for Halloween. His handmade firebolt is better than any other I’ve seen and is still hanging above our cupboard under the stairs.

2004 – We have a Harry Potter film night when the third movie is released on DVD and I discover I have more friends who like HP than I thought.

2005 – On a trip to London we visit Platform 9 ¾. I’m chaperoning a school trip and the kids with me at the platform are so excited I try to picture what it must be like to be JK Rowling coming into London for the day and passing this sign and trolley! For those of you going on the Corey Best of the British Isles trip in 2011; I’ll be one of your chaperones and we can totally do this again.

2007 – I spend an hour in Rome perusing bookstores in search of HP 5 in Italian – the missing book in a friends’ collection. I distinctly remember sitting on the steps across from the Pantheon flipping through the pages. Thanks for sending me on this mission Tim.

2007 – I go to the midnight book party for the HP 7 release at my local Barnes & Nobles even though I’ve preordered my copy on I spend at least an hour watching people of all ages buy books and just sit down and read them all over the store. One of my all time favorite book experiences and a memory I often conjure up when I get frustrated with my own writing.

2009 – I get laid off from my copywriting gig and decide I have too many pent up feelings about my crashing life so I must start a blog. Movie 6 comes out to mixed, yet passionate, reviews from friends and colleagues. My bright idea: Include HP Mondays in my blog to methodically discuss a great series and the art of writing for young adults. Great discussions and lots of inspiration ensue.

And although I’ve used far too many exclamation points in this blog…Enjoy the movie everyone!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Lesson from My Eighth Grade Self

I did that thing today where I stopped writing in frustration and decided I’d chosen the wrong profession. I’m fairly certain every writer goes through it, but I had extra qualms today when I thought about how much writing I actually did in my formative years. Yes, I was on the yearbook staff in high school, but that’s about it. No literary magazine, no newspaper, no file full of short stories and poems; in fact not much creative writing to speak of. I tried to have a Journalism minor in college, but hated the three courses I took in that department and quickly dropped the minor; ironically opting for pre-law only to later give up my free-ride to law school in order to write.

So here I sit during week two of November and I’m contemplating my choice of profession as well as why I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. In a moment of pure brilliance I went downstairs to stare at my bookshelves for inspiration. I’m not sure why – reading isn’t the same as writing. I can’t imagine being a writer without being a lover of books, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. What I found while staring at the bookshelves was a journal. In fact, not just one – I counted 30 journals. I do vaguely remember journaling as a child – keeping a diary under lock and key to keep it away from my imaginary little brother I guess. Since I keep them all on a shelf now, I must trust my real husband more than my imaginary little brother. I pulled a few journals down in an attempt to discover the writer-in-my-early-years. I assumed most of those journals would be empty because I remember leaving a lot of journaling undone. I expected gaps of months (much like this blog) or even years.

What I found was quite the opposite. Here’s my proof; here is my mind as a small child and adolescent always writing down observations, feelings and ideas. I have journals from elementary school, junior high and even high school. I have travel journals and S.A.M notebooks. Sure, not all of them were complete; sure, they weren’t full of made up tales, stories and teen-angst poetry – but they are still MY words.

The S.A.M. Notebook
What’s a S.A.M. you ask? S.A.M. is an acronym for Stacy, Amy and Mariah – we invented the acronym in the second or third grade and used it throughout school and beyond. How far beyond? Well Stacy’s eldest daughter is Samara or SAM for short (her youngest daughter’s name, Emily incorporates the first letter of all of our middle names as well).

Amy missed a lot of seventh grade – she was struck down with a severe case of mono and missed the last five months of the school year. She’s brilliant, so this didn’t really affect her learning curve or anything; we just missed having her around and in classes with us. Stacy and I started writing down our school experiences in a notebook and then we’d send it home with Amy’s homework assignments; she’d write down her illness experiences and send it back to us. The notebook stuck – even after Amy joined us again in the eighth grade. I think by this time we realized all three of us were heading down very different paths and may not have time to be friends in high school. I had band and synchro; Stacy had running and skiing; and Amy had theatre and all of those languages.
The three of us kept the notebook going throughout most of high school. Oh, the days before email, text messaging and facebook. So yes, I didn’t just want to write early on, I made my friends do it with me. I guess you can look at the notebook as practice for the type of fiction I find myself writing about now.

1990: One Year of Journaling
When I sat down with my stack of journals today, I pulled out the most complete one. The year was 1990 and I received the journal as a Christmas present from my mom (so says the title page – complete with full name, address and phone number). Most of the other journals and diaries I leafed through were only half full at best – but apparently in 1990 I had a lot to say. Now you may call this procrastination, but I still read through the entire journal. I found out the end of my eighth grade year and the beginning of my high school career was a transitional time indeed. By December of 1990 my writing voice had changed dramatically, I’d even started to use the right form of it’s and its – as well as there/their/they’re (thank goodness!).

My eighth grade self taught me some valuable lessons today. It appears I spent most every waking moment I could find writing down observations and character sketches. Like most early teen girls I obsessed about boys – gushed when the boy I had a crush on told me I was beautiful in front of his girlfriend. I spent pages describing band concerts and all of the subtle nuances involved in close circuit interaction without words that can only happen when you share a stage with someone; how you become a part of the whole – a well-oiled machine working on some higher, almost telepathic level. I jotted down notes about swimming – my jubilation at making varsity in eighth grade and my foul response to finding myself in the group routine with my nemesis. Did you know eighth graders had arch-enemies? I felt a little like Sherlock Holmes while reading that segment. There was some lovely (read: sappy) lyrical stuff in there about how music filled every aspect of my life (I’ve always been quite the Romantic) and lovelier (read: sappier) material about taking the stage during my last junior high band concert, including shared moments with a truly kindred spirit (don’t worry, we’re facebook friends now) and my first summer 6 – 10 marching band practice. So many transitions!

Lesson Learned
I get it already: I’ve always been a writer. I spent years writing about awkward social interactions – no wonder I write YA in my adult life. My main characters tend to be eighteen & nineteen year-old girls transitioning between childhood and adulthood; apparently the transitional years affected me the most. I used to write about music and now I can’t write unless there is music. As an adult I’m so very different than my eighth grade self. I have different concerns – I hadn’t gone through those really life changing stages of my life yet – but I’m still so similar.

This is why I NaNo every year. It really is more than just 50,000 words; it’s a soul-searching, truth confronting sort of month – a transition all its own. Don’t worry about my novel word count: I’m currently at 12,245. What I’ve gained is a little more self-confidence and a long overdue chat with my eighth grade self. We had some things to sort out and some dreams to recreate. I’ve also gained a decent lesson plan for a journaling class at the Loft. I’ll have to type up a proposal and send it in. Hopefully some of you teenage students living in MN will be interested.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It’s November. What Else Would I Be Blogging About?

Yes, it could also be about the new Harry Potter movie coming out, but it's not. Maybe next time.

I’ve been in a writing slump for a few months – as you can probably tell from the lack of blog posts. It’s November, and I usually participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); this year I decided not to. I was even OK with this decision through all of August, September and most of the month of October. I’ve been finishing up a second draft of my current novel and writing blog posts (not publishing mind you, just writing them) sporadically when a decent topic reveals itself. As the second week of October hit, I stopped writing altogether. No words, nothing, nada. If you are my facebook friend, you may have noticed those short little status updates appearing more and more on my page. It’s like that’s all of the energy I was willing to divest in writing. I think this goes beyond my lazy self into new and unchartered territory. I’m not sure what’s up with me. Writing is still what I want to do and when I sit down at a computer I loose myself in words completely. But my voice has been missing for quite some time and everything turns out lackluster and boring.

A couple of weeks ago I did some freelance work. I’ve decided that being a freelance writer means you are perfectly willing to freelance anything-with-words-as-long-as-it-pays. This means I will proof your novel, mark your paper, SEO-itize your website, train your trainer, or write an article. So while I did this freelance work, I found a word that wasn’t an actual word. It may be a word one day like frenemy or unfriend, but for right now it’s simply not. I loved this non-word and kept thinking about it. I went for a walk a week later, and the non-word popped into my head again. Only this time I was listening to my iPod and Lady Gaga (Alas, I’m becoming quite obsessed recently) was playing. Walking, thinking, listening to music – this is where the best book ideas come from; isn’t it? Two miles later I had my main character and a general outline worked out in my head. I spent three hours on the computer working out the basics and getting some rough ideas down.

And that’s it really. That’s what NaNoWriMo IS. It’s a ridiculous goal – 50,000 words in 30 days. When I’m done it won’t be good. I’ll dump at least half of those words and a handful of characters, but I’ll have words on paper again. Some of those words are bound to stick; at this point I’m just looking for my voice. I do realize it’s not a panacea – writing a novel in one month won’t cure all of my writing issues. Hopefully it is a step in the right direction though. Heck, I may even start blogging again…

Wish me luck and if you too are participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you words – lots and lots of words.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Denseness Strikes Again

No really, when did I become so dim-witted? On the heels of my Owl City man vs. group snafu I have yet more brainless news to report. I just figured out – seriously, there was a cartoon light bulb flashing on above my head and everything – that vlog brother John is in actuality John Green the YA author I’m much enamored with. How did I not figure this out before now?!

But you already knew that didn’t you, smart blog followers [insert deep sigh here].
Fine, I guess I’ll go lament my oldness and lameness by myself.


If you haven’t read John Green then I recommend Looking for Alaska or Will Grayson, Will Grayson because they are my favorites. If you haven’t seen the Vlog Bros. then you’re missing out.

Here is John’s most recent grammar rant:

HP Tuesday will follow here shortly.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What Do You Think of Fireflies?

I’m curious. What do other people think of the group Owl City and their song “Fireflies”? You can tell me what you think about any of their songs, but I’m particularly intrigued with this one. It keeps popping up everywhere. Usually when this happens, I hate the song with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.

For instance…Madonna’s “Frozen” still makes me shutter. It followed me around for about two years in the late 90s, culminating in Mariah actually screaming at some poor guy on the city bus because he started singing it while sitting next to me without prompt of a Discman, (late 90s was very pre-mp3 player in my universe) radio, or any other music-aide I could see. Moral of the story: If you’re going to go all crazy and yell at someone for no good reason you should do so on a city bus – the rest of the trip was quite peaceful; no one else bothered me at all that day.

But “Fireflies” is different and I’m not quite sure why...
- The words make no sense. It’s like a hodge-podge of random stream of consciousness.

- I’m not sure why I’d like to make myself believe that planet earth turns slowly, or why fireflies would leave teardrops, or why lightning bugs are hugging me or teaching me how to dance (dancing + Mariah = dying duck in a thunderstorm after all).

- Anyone can sing anything to this tune and sound like they are professional musicians. I mean that’s like magic more than a song, isn’t it?

- The song has gone viral in a major way. On YouTube alone, there’s a fan version of “Fireflies” for pretty much any TV show ever invented.

- Not ONLY can anyone sing the song and sound good but your creativity will be tested in new and intriguing ways. You can RANT about anything with “Fireflies”.

And here’s where I stop because I want to share some of these viral versions below. I was going to do a poll on which you think is the best, but since my followers are mostly here for HP Mondays. (Or HP-day-of-the-week-that-ends-in-Y-and-I-feel-like-posting…See. HP Monday is so much easier to say.) I have a feeling the poll would be biased. So here are a few of my favorites and yes I should have been writing instead of playing around on YouTube – but that’s what writing distractions are for.

The first one is the actual song – but the cartoon amuses me. And, if my British Husband reads this post, he will cringe and make me a prettier new version because he is such a wonderful artist and computer animator. (Alas, he tends not to read my blog posts and therefore misses out on some of my accolades.)

Next follows the Hermione/Ron HP version (Thank you Mara Corey for sending me this one) and is performed by that girl in the Parselmouths who also did that great NaNoWriMo song.

Then a geek fan version of Doctor Who but seriously the nanogenes totally look like fireflies

Finally, I couldn’t resist this brilliant IKEA one…I shop there and so I understand. Plus, arrows are just plain wrong.

Thanks for reading another faulty logic rant.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HP Wednesday – The Beginning of the End

Yeah, that wasn’t the most original post title. Here we are at book 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For those of you wondering (like with the Philosopher’s Stone) what exactly a hallow is, then let me begin by enlightening you with Webster’s definition – usually a verb (Do you think they actually added the “usually” when Rowling used it as a noun in the title of a book? Just think of the power?!) 1. to make holy or set apart for holy use, or 2. to respect greatly.

Book 7 is quite large, large enough to be a purse even. Like the last season or episode of a television series, I think the reader looks for certain things to happen when they know it is the last one. And I think a lot of those things do happen – including an epilogue wrap up to answer any questions – or as I like to believe, to make sure no one takes off where Rowling didn’t want her characters to go. But I digress and we will get to the end – or after the end – later on.

Back to the beginning – the wizarding world changes slowly and yet all at once in book 7. I’ve seen this happen in the real world too suddenly to think it isn’t realistic – and I’m not just talking about the metaphorical child/teen turning into an adult, although that happens too. It is however absolutely terrifying – again, both versions. I think we expect smooth transitions, which is ridiculous because it hardly ever happens that way. Time has always been a solid contributor to the series (maybe not as much as FIRE, but close) and I really like the way it works in book 7. There are hours that seem like days, days that seem like weeks and months that flash past in the blink of an eye. It spirals around itself and flashes backwards and forwards in amazing ways that I just can’t stop thinking about.

That being said, like book 3, book 7 has a lot of telling especially in the flashbacks. This isn’t something that should work – and even if it does I shouldn’t like it – but book 3 is still my favorite and book 7 is mesmerizing; so I guess I’m going to have to say: "I wish I could show in my writing like JK Rowling tells in hers". Because it all works for me and is integrated enough with showing to just add enticing seasoning to the story.

Chapter 1 – Yeah, the very beginning of the end…
From a writer's standpoint...and an editors...and probably even an agent's, chapter one is the be all, end all of a book. It's what grabs the reader (and editor and agent) and in reality sells your book. Obviously by the seventh HP book, JK Rowling could have written blah, blah, blippity blah Harry's our man. Look at him, he's great. and still sold out on the first run printing; but this chapter one still reads like a first time writer trying her hardest. As a reader and writer I appreciate that more than I thought I would.

At the beginning of the book I think we are in the darkest of dark places. Not even the cave with the Inferi is as cold and stark as this opening scene in the Malfoy household. Everyone is uncomfortable, jumpy and extremely apprehensive. Their time has arrived and yet none of the Death Eaters seem very enthusiastic about it. This may have something to do with the torture victim hanging upside down over the family eating area, but only partly. While reading chapter one, I felt like there were Dementors in the room around me – how appropriate the chapter ends with a mealtime for the snake in said family eating area – solidifying the transformation of family manor to evil dungeon and the transformation of children’s book to something that goes even beyond YA in its adult-themed complexity.

On a whole, the book is filled with strange juxtapositions, time shifts, and a myriad of symbols that all mean about three to five different things at the same time – why would I expect anything different?

What are your thoughts on the beginning of the end? When we first see Harry he’s already bleeding – is that foreshadowing or just a cheap trick by the author? He’s bleeding from the mirror shard which is yet another magical object with a purpose – like the cloak and Marauder’s Map. Are these objects twisted into the story line extremely useful or just more name dropping to make the reader nostalgic for the series? Yes, they all serve a purpose, but would other plot elements/objects have worked just as well?

Next week – four funerals and a wedding, death and dismemberment and Merlin’s pants!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Geek Chic Power

I was told today that I am geek chic. If I didn’t call myself a geek 10 times a post on my blog here, I might have been offended. As it were – I’ve decided to embrace my geeky chic and feminist kick-fanny approach to life from here on out. Which is why I’m leaving you with this ultimate in geek chic videos (Thank you T – geek chic soul sister):

Monday, July 12, 2010

HP Monday – I know, really!

I was reminded yesterday that I haven’t been on here again in a while. Also, I put that tracking widget (map thing at the bottom of the blog page) on here (Thank you Joe Conrad) and discovered that although I only have 12 wonderful and glorious followers, my blog had 99 hits last week. I’m thinking maybe more people would follow if I were to actually post stuff. Wild guess, I know. But still there it is.

Also those 12 aforementioned wonderful and glorious followers are patiently waiting for a discussion on HP movie 6 and book 7; and as it is Monday I should most likely oblige.

Movie 6:
Before we get started, I DID like it. That being said (And I’m pretty sure I say it every time we discuss an HP movie.) wow, it is not the same as the book.

What Works:
•The teenage angst-ridden love-capades. This movie is brilliant with complicated mismatched love themes. It’s like watching a Hogwarts school play rendition of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream.

•I don’t want to slap Harry as much as I do in the book. He’s not quite so all-obsessed (see point #1 & love-capades?!) with Malfoy in the movie. I know you’re telling me he’s correct in his Malfory-is-a-death-eater-theory in the end; but he spent so much time on it in the book he missed the much bigger picture.

•The Inferi creep me out. Which they should; but usually when you translate something that freaky onto the screen my imagination laughs at the feeble attempt. Not this time…CREEPY!

•Daniel Radcliffe in the luck potion scenes. Especially when he’s being the pincers of Aragog. The scene is quite surreal and many actors would have overplayed it. High marks to Mr. Radcliffe who usually is not quite as brilliant as I want him to be.

What Doesn’t Work:
•Burning down the Burrow. I know, that particular scene actually sponsors HP Mondays on my blog – really, it started the whole thing. But I still think it’s a load of…twollop. Whatever that is. Boo burning down the Burrow, boo!

•The entire ending. Really?! Death Eaters running willy-nilly through Hogwarts without anyone else raising a wand. I know Dumbledore’s dead but he is not the be all and end all of the wizarding world and I think it’s just plain rude to audiences and wizards/witches alike for the movie to pretend no one else would fight back in the slightest (breathe Mariah, breathe). Also the funeral – or severe lack thereof…And Harry not doing anything to stop Dumbledore’s death; so unlike him but easily explained in book format.

•Ginny/Dean and Ginny/Harry. You’ve done a wonderful job at love-capades movie version; but just one snog in the Three Broomsticks for Ginny/Dean and one snog (Can you even call it that?) in the room of requirement for Ginny/Harry…what now?

•Hermione’s wrath. I know I harp on this a lot and I guess they are following her movie character, but I love the birds attacking Ron in the book – it has such impact and…girl power; yes, I mostly miss Hermione’s gray-line walking.

What are your thoughts, ruminations and ponderings? This particular movie seems to have caused mass rioting on the streets; people either really liked it or really hated it. Why?

I will leave you with a newer trailer for the two HP 7 movies! Next week we will start book #7.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Have a Secret to Tell

This one is a self discovery post. I will lay it all out on the line and you the reader can either agree or disagree like always. Yes, it is self indulgent; but then again it is my blog. I’m wandering around Barnes & Noble (because where else would I be today) and for fifteen minutes all I did was read book cover titles. I originally thought this was an attempt to come up with a good title (Who am I kidding; at this point I’d settle for a decent title.) for the very first novel I tried to write. Well if you don’t count Koala Wood written in a notebook with pen and pencil at the age of 12 and never completed (because it is horrendous, but I still have that notebook – you know, for posterity or some such grand idea). In actuality, walking around a bookstore and looking at titles is just a way for my mind to wander to and fro and think what it will.

What it thought was how much this last year has affected me as a person. I know loosing my copywriter job was not personal – heck, I still have lunch on a regular basis with a lot of people from my old job. Just like I still see and talk to the 415 crew 10 years after the Disney Store closed (seriously!). I’ve always been fairly apt at separating my work life with my me life (more than my personal life, my me life is who I am and who I strive to be). But what I did not realize last April when I shed a stress-free sigh of relief and a what-am-I-going-to-do-now tear was how much leaving the corporate world would change my me life. I can honestly say I’m a very different person now with different priorities.

If you go back and read my very first blog post, you will realize that my subconscious was aware of this much more quickly then the rest of me, but today while reading book titles off a shelf I actually lost my breath when the force of that realization hit home. Alas, it was followed quickly by a self-flagellating notion of what am I waiting for?

See here’s the thing. I know who I am, I know what I want to accomplish and yet I still keep dragging my feet. I’m standing on the brink staring over the cliff and I absolutely refuse to jump. Over the past year I’ve often times described myself as lazy. I’ve looked for work and applied for jobs, but I’m mostly just happy working my measly part-time job 20 or so hours a week and spending the most of the time reading, writing and watching TV shows on Netflix and my wii (this is a brilliant concept by the by). See, lazy. My friends and family think I’m searching for something good or better – and most of the time I talk myself into believing that too. But if I break it down – I know I’ve found an agent I’d love to work with, a story that will sell and a career I can be proud of. And yet, I’m not taking the next step. I’ve talked other people into taking the next step, but have yet to take the plunge myself.

Although I’ve worked hard for some things, many other things have been thrown right into my lap and I’ve refused to go for them. Maybe I’m afraid of rejection as so many writers (and everyone else) are? No, I’ve come to accept rejection and not take it personally (thank you foray into corporate America during major recession). I know my self worth and I’m really not into letting other people tell me differently. So what’s left? A lot of ennui and sloth – but this is also not true. Yes, I figured this all out while looking at book covers in Barnes & Noble – I have no idea what my facial expressions must have looked like while I perused the shelves, but the B&N staff are looking at me warily as we speak, so probably not so good.

What exactly have I figured out? Something I’ve always known and yet constantly push away and down. I may have even admitted it before on this very blog; the difference is that this time I’m going to try very hard not to quell my fears again…I am absolutely terrified of success. Wow, that’s incredibly lame when I write it down. But there it is – I’m mind-numbingly, nerves akimbo, hand-shaking and stutteringly afraid to succeed. I’m awash in hideous images of being too happy with my me life. Apparently I should have been born in Ancient Greece when most people were afraid to be too happy because the gods would be jealous and take it all away.

So hear I sit letting you all know how silly and self-involved I am. Trying to come to terms with the fact that I can have a career I enjoy, write a blog without feeling guilty and pretty much just be me. Turning the page here, I’m going to start reaching for those things thrown my way and act on them. I promise to keep you all posted, if you promise to hound me when I don’t act. I could use the support. (And for those reading this that already give the support – THANK YOU! I probably don’t say that enough.)

Enough of the self indulgent blog posts. Next time will be something decidedly more literary and interesting!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HP 7 Part 1 Movie Trailer

Because sometimes a link/clip is so much easier than writing a blog post...

Harry Potter 7 MTV Trailer

Monday, May 24, 2010

HP Monday: Walking the Line – Gray vs. Black and White

Let’s just pretend it hasn’t been almost two months since I posted a blog, admit that I suck beyond the telling, and move past it into an HP Monday post…

I keep harping on the shades of gray in HP – and usually those shades manifest in Hermione Granger. As I’ve said in the past, I like Hermione in book form (not so much in movie form where they only tend to show her girly, goody-goody side) when she realizes it isn’t all good and bad – there are definitely shades of gray in the wizarding world.

Book 6 is no exception: Hermione performs a Confundus charm on McLaggen so Ron ends up with more saves during Quidditch try outs and keeps his Keeper spot; she creates birds when she’s distraught about Wan-Wan and Lav and their budding relationship only to sic them on Ron in a fit of anger – um, I might point out that a) she created these weapons without a spell book and with a wand (Ms. Corey) and she attacks her best friend/love interest with them (kicking a little ass along the way and again by herself).

…but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.

In general Hermione often speaks outloud about the books she’s been reading from the restricted area section or different ways to get around the rules and regulations when others may be listening. She continues to walk a fine line in book 6. She’s not alone on the gray line path, others walk the walk as well; but Hermione’s appearance of goodness and her willingness to defy that goodness when justice is at stake makes her more of a vigilante than a do-gooder.

Yin and Yang of the Gray Line
I know I’m going to start babbling at any moment and words will flow onto this blog like three rivers meeting and swelling over the bank of one of the tributaries – I’m testing a hypothesis here so feel free to comment on my failed attempts and flawed logic at any point. I’ll take comments on my pure brilliancy as well; I’m not really that picky.

Hermione does her gray line walking for a decent or good purpose; conversely, Malfoy does many of the same things for a somewhat more dastardly purpose. Does this show off Hermione’s goodness, Malfoy’s badness or just that they are both the same?

I’m not sure we ever get a clear-cut¸ spelled out answer from Rowling – she (slightly) leaves it up to the ethics and moral code of her readers. Now you can argue her intended readers (mid-grade to begin with) are only just learning about moral code and ethics. As a young adult we start to realize adults aren’t the be all and end all in right and wrong – we’ve got a lot of gray in us as well. But what I do love about Rowling is her circumspect way of dealing with the issue. We know Hermione is a good character and Malfoy is a bad character (OK, actually I don’t know either of those things at all – but that’s the surface perception) and in book 6 there’s an “evil outcome” performed by Malfoy or another Death Eater for every gray line thing Hermione’s done in this book or other books. Rowling draws up a mirror parallel, a good idea/bad idea list as it were.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Confunding McClaggen during Quiddutch try outs so her friend Ron is made a member of the Gryfindor team.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Using the imperius curse on Rosmerta so he can know where Dumbledore is going when he’s not at Hogwarts – and so he can deliver things to people inconspicuously in an attempt to kill Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Putting a charm on the DA coins as a way of communication so the DA can continue to fight the man (in this case not just the governing Ministry of Magic but also Delores Umbridge, whose made gray¬-line walking an extreme sport, ultimately loosing all scruples and jumping off the dark, deep end.) and study/practice actual Defense against the Dark Arts in year 5.

Bad Idea
(Malfoy) – Putting a charm on coins to keep in contact with the cursed Rosmerta as a way of communication whilst he is inside Hogwarts and she is inside Hogsmeade.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Uses a necklace (Time-Turner) so she can skirt the rules and still study all the subjects she’s registered for in year 3. Also uses it to go back and save Sirius from the Dementor’s Kiss – a fate worse than death in many ways.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Uses an opal necklace by cursing it and handing it off to Katie Bell in an attempt to skirt the rules and yet again smuggle something into Hogwarts to kill Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Harry) – Using Expelliarmus as a go-to incantation to in the end save the world.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Using Expelliarmus as a go-to incantation to in the end get rid of Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Harry & pretty much every DA member) – Using secret tunnels to get in and out of Hogwarts for early on hijinx and fun and later to again save the world.

Bad Idea
(Malfoy) – Using the vanishing cabinets to get Death Eaters in and out of Hogwarts to pretty much end the world.

Good Idea (Harry & DA) – Using the Room of Requirement to secretly practice in and also hide things in.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Using the Room of Requirement to secretly fix things (and hide things) in and again get the Death Eaters in and out of Hogwarts in an attempt to end the world.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Recognizing and discussing Filch’s lack of potion recognition as a useful thing.

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Slipping poison past Filch after overhearing Hermione’s discussion in (what else?) another attempt to kill Dumbledore.

Good Idea (Hermione) – Creating and using polyjuice potion in year 2 with Ron and Harry to discover the real Heir of Slytherin.

Bad Idea (Malfoy & Barty Crouch jr.) ¬– Creating and using polyjuice potion to sneak in and out of the Room of Requirement without anyone suspecting – or in Barty’s case to impersonate a Hogwart’s teacher to gain Harry’s trust, make him Tri-Wizard champion and get him to help bring back Voldemort to full power.

Good Idea (Weasley Twins) – Sticking a Slytherin in an old broken vanishing cabinet as a joke on their way out of Hogwarts. (Yes, you can tell me this isn’t actually a good idea – especially if you are a high school teacher and really don’t like kids like those pesky Weasley Twins – but it was still a laugh riot.)

Bad Idea (Malfoy) – Listening to the plight of said Slytherin and realizing the other cabinet was in Borgin & Burkes and could be repaired as a way to let Death Eaters into Hogwarts (and you guessed it – END THE WORLD. Also, no “I told you so” from the aforementioned high school teachers).

The Choice
And with all of that going on, in book 6 Malfoy still has options. He’s done all of these bad idea things and yet he’s still walking the line. When we finally learn about Horcruxes, we learn that KILLING is what rips apart a soul – and I’d say ripping apart a soul is like the spring-board into the dark side (no more gray line for you). So Malfoy has a choice – his ethics and morals have been tested but he hasn’t jumped off the deep end yet. Dumbledore – as the beacon of light (oh, but he’s towing the gray line too!) is encouraging Malfoy toward the white-side of the line, “Come over to the right side Draco…you are not a killer…” and again he tells Malfoy it is Dumbledore’s strength and power that matters most in this scene – Dumbledore choosing when and how to die over Malfoy’s choosing to utter the killing curse, “No Draco,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It is my power, and not yours, that matters now.”

Thoughts, ruminations, word-babble? Have I jumped off the deep end in my nerdy HP obsessions? On that note – and because I would like to discuss the movie vs book next time – here’s something from the VlogBrothers (Yes, Ms. Corey strikes again. Except I think I clued her in to these guys in the first place – through Tera of course. I always try to cite my brilliant friends when they send me things I can use in a blog post!)

Stay tuned for more HP. Hey, maybe we’ll even get through book 7 before the first-part movie comes out.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Keep Getting Side Tracked

I think an HP blog is just not in the cards for me this week. So in the meantime, I'd like to leave Mara's facebook note as my guest HP blogger for the week. Because she's brilliant and most of you were copied into that note in the first place and most importantly the wonderful comments filling the page are what I hope for this blog. Apparently she was right and I should have dedicated a blog post to a Feminist Critique of Harry Potter long before now. Feel free to comment more.

If you don't have facebook and really want to read this then comment below and I will copy and paste.

I'll return on Monday with my original post for this week all fleshed out and almost as brilliant.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More TV - Sorry, but I had to!

I promise HP is coming; most likely today even. But in other news AGAIN - the dancing gods did not listen to me or Tony and he and Kate made it through another week. I hope everyone watching noticed Tony's pained expression. Poor man.

I promise not to add my own running commentary about DWTS each week - a long ago friend from high school has a rather brilliant (and addicting) blog in which he writes full length critiques on the British version Strictly (as he is currently residing in Wales). He's funnier and wittier than I am, so go there if you need to read about dancing. That being said, I'm just leaving you with Tony and Kate's paso doble and Jimmy Fallon's reenactment. Thank you Jimmy - I almost didn't miss Conan "Coco" O'Brien on late night television for thirty whole seconds.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

3 Things I Hate About TV this Week in 1 Lengthy Blog Rant

…and now in other news, here’s a lengthy and extremely random rant about TV (I’ll go as far as saying American TV because then my tirade will make a wee bit more sense).

Please remember that I don’t have cable or a satellite or TiVo or anything like that. I just have straight up TV (and Netflix). I’m sure if I had all of these other accoutrements I could find more to rage about:

1) Tony and Kate on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). I’m not as big on reality TV as most, but my weakness is dancing shows (and The Amazing Race – which has its own top-of-the-pedestal place in my heart). I’m a dancing addict. I can’t dance at all – I look like (everybody say it with me) a dying duck in a thunderstorm when I dance, but that makes the watching of it all that more exhilarating. I blame my mother both for the two left feet and for the obsession with all things ballroom. We’ve been watching PBS (the first reality TV station) dance competitions ever since I can remember. It means I grew up with a healthy respect for the tango and took ballroom dancing as my college gym requirement (that class rocked even with my duckish tendencies). It also means I care more about the professional dancers and their choreography than I do for the B list celebrities appearing on DWTS. So imagine my chagrin this season when one of my all time favorite Latin pro dancers – Tony Dovolani – was partnered with Kate Gosselin (who is only famous for birthing six kids at once and putting them in their own reality TV show). I thought I’d be mostly OK with this – but then week 2 came around and Tony and Kate danced to the world’s slowest,gimpiest jive. I might have still gritted my teeth and tried to live with it if Kate hadn’t criticized Tony’s teaching abilities. What the !@#$^ Kate! He’s Tony Dovolani. Do you even understand what that means? I’m pretty sure – even though I don’t read a lot of Stephen King – I still wouldn’t walk up to him and tell him I didn’t like the way he turned a phrase or created a hell demon. I thought maybe they were going to go home after said dance. Tony stood through the elimination round with a pained expression on his face; quietly pleading to the dancing gods to go home first, have Kate suffer an injury, or maybe develop a crippling bout of the stomach flu (last season’s bane on the pro dancers). None of this happened. Tony and Kate were saved – and although usually a pro and his celeb embrace and cry and jump up and down – Tony’s reaction was lackluster at best. I’m sad. I want more for Tony and his teaching/choreography skills. We can only hope the voting audience puts him out of his misery soon.

2) DWTS on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This week was a themed week on Millionaire. I’m actually fine with this – I enjoy their theme weeks, well most of them. No one but a syndicated game show would think to have a week where each contestant has the same name as a famous person. Then during said week they repeatedly tell the studio and at home audience the contestant is indeed NOT the famous person, all while showing pictures of the celeb next to the contestant to drive home their point. I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly certain Abraham Lincoln the contestant is not Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the United States (The jury is still out on if both – or either one – of them was/is a Vampire Hunter though.) and I’m pretty sure as a game show, you are just condoning mothers who choose hideous names for their poor, defenseless children. But my biggest complaint about THIS week’s theme show is that I am not a contestant! In fact, no one even mentioned this week or gave me a DWTS test when I went to NYC and auditioned last fall. This is inexcusable; I could be a millionaire by now if only I’d known.

3) John Barrowman on Desperate Housewives. JOHN, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING! NOooooooooo! Why would you be on this worthless hour of weekly television? Why would you fall in the trap of nighttime soap opera and telenovela-esque drivel? You’re a good actor, singer and extremely hot dude; you have a niche on the BBC and on the London stage and yet here you are! [Insert extreme fists of fury here]. I actually don’t care how juicy the bad boy part seems – you are ruining your career! And to make matters worse, I just read that you are thinking about reprising your Dr Who/Torchwood role by brining Captain Jack and Torchwood across the pond. Really? I’m picturing a watered down Torchwood for American audiences – or more precisely for FCCified American broadcasting. I beg you not to do this – it will turn out to be just like Coupling, all of the British wit and cleverness will be rung out of it, leaving a limp, squiggy fish of a show that no one finds funny, thrilling or watchable. Beware the British-show-turned-into-American-show-syndrome. It’s only ever worked if the BBC is still involved (see #1 DWTS compared to the British version Strictly Come Dancing– both broadcast at the same time with two of the same judges flying back and forth each week and both BBC One productions).

See people, this is why books are always better. (Yes, this statement – like this entire blog post – is all failed logic, smoke and mirrors; but hey, that’s what makes it a rant. And I mean every word of it.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Really Cool...albeit too late for my readers

I'm catching up on my blogs today while I wait for responses from magazine editors. Maureen Johnson, author of some really fun novels like Devilish and 13 Little Blue Envelops (my two favorites - and pictured on my blog book shelf) wrote this blog post a couple weeks ago titled Accio Books.

Wow, see what wonderful things are being done in the name of all things Harry Potter! The HPA and their efforts sounds like something to look into. Imagine all the things we can do if we just put our minds to it. Words and books for everyone.

Sorry I didn't share this link earlier - I will try not to procrastinate in blog writing OR READING in the future. Hopefully it inspires some of you nonetheless!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

HP Monday – Book 6 That Flighty Temptress, Adventure

So, what did you think of book 6? We have an entire month to discuss it. In the last post, I told everyone I had 16 ideas to discuss. I guess I should be picking one of those to talk about…Sorry if I ramble around and flit from topic to topic.

I remember liking book 6 more than book 5 on the first read – probably because there is less angst – more angst in the girls this year/book, but less angst all together. This week I’d like to discuss the balancing act Rowling accomplishes in the entire series, but especially in this book. The balancing act in which each book gets darker yet still manages to be light-hearted and fun at times. The highs and lows balance out, taking turns throughout the novel. Book 6 is where Felix Felicis meets Sectumsempra; where in turn many major characters discover they are made up of shades of grey – neither completely bad nor good. We are SO coming back to this topic in another post this month.

Question to discuss: Is this series mid-grade, YA or does it transcend and change? Do we all put too much emphasis on classifying our literature, should we just enjoy it and forget about who it was originally intended for? And this is why I feel classifications are important, because I never used to think they were; but doesn’t a writer have to be writing to someone (or a group of people) to really get their message out there? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve spent too much time in the adult world again thinking about publishing as a business and all. At the heart of a good book is a story and a storyteller – the rest is just semantics.

Sorry, I took a turn somewhere and got way off topic. If you have a strong opinion I’d like to hear it, so feel free to follow this tangent. For everyone else…

Returning to the Adventure of Book 6
The beginning of this book feels like a big call to adventure in the hero quest sort of way – or possibly the prophecy at the end of the last book is the call to adventure and book 6 is Harry accepting that call? Either way, things get darker. But can a call to adventure/action happen this far along in a quest? Yes, each HP book has its own beginning and end and I believe each has its own quest within – that’s the nice thing about Harry and his wizarding crew! But at times I feel like the overall arch doesn’t really get started until this novel.
- Dumbledore collects Harry from the Dursleys’; making him promise to go back there again next summer.
- Dumbledore than tells Harry it is time to chase “that flighty temptress, adventure”.
- Dumbledore sets a series of tasks for Harry (wow, Dumbledore is quite the puppet master in this book) including getting Slughorn to Hogwarts, befriending him and ultimately taking a true memory from him.
- Dumbledore tells Harry he must choose his own fate – Yes, Voldemort marked Harry as his equal, but it is up to Harry to decide if he will seek Voldemort out (of course, the alternative is the greatest Dark Wizard of all time will hunt Harry down if he doesn’t seek him out first, but it is still a choice).
- There’s a whole underworld type scene with fire and the walking dead once the call to adventure is accepted.
- And to boot, Harry’s captain of his house Quidditch team?!

See what I mean?! So much going on in and a Half Blood Prince thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure if the appearance of the potions book tells us more about the prince (I won’t spill yet if you haven’t finished 6 yet), aligns Harry and Ginny, Harry and the Prince, Harry and Voldemort, The Prince and the Weasley twins, or The Price and Voldemort – maybe all of these!

What do you think? Jabber away! I know I haven’t been on top of things lately, but please don’t punish me by remaining silent. We are nearing the end and I have all sorts of crazy notions. I want to know what you all think too.

And although there is no mention of fire in this title please notice the UK version in the picture!

Oh, and before I forget. The results of my Weasley Poll: Your favorite Weasley is [insert drum roll here]

A three way tie between Fred, Arthur and Ron! Also, none of you likes Bill or Percy at all. I know he’s engaged to Phlegm in this book, but I’m not sure Bill deserves the same derision as Percy people.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pure Dead Brilliant

Yes, some of you have sent this video to me and yes, I've sent it to some of you; but since it is PURE DEAD BRILLIANT I just couldn't help myself.

For everyone else please watch and enjoy (and cry if you must). PS - you should watch it all the way through too - apparently some people don't take kindly to just half a video.

The Future of Publishing is now.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

HP Monday (In Theory) – Book 5: A Hogwarts Education

To learn or not to learn
We’ve talked some about the importance of an education coming across in book 5 – although I think you can argue that the book is also telling us completing said education isn’t that important at Hogwarts. I agree with both statements and thus think the dichotomy in book 5 is really quite brilliant. We spend the book consumed with O.W.L preparation and test taking (so much so that I had to look ahead in book 6 just to see how Harry, Ron and Hermione faired) but we also see some of these tests getting messed up with no real consequences (Harry even passes his Astronomy test amidst severe distractions). George and Fred should be even more nervous for their N.E.W.Ts, yet they leave school, never taking their tests nor completing their Hogwarts education.

I’m not sure what the wizarding equivalent of a GED is, but maybe the Weasley twins (and for that matter Harry, Ron and Hermione who don’t return for their last year at Hogwarts) take it. I’m not telling all of you that school isn’t important (nor is Rowling) because it really, really is. I think what she’s saying – and me too – is that the real reason for school is more than just an education. It’s a social experiment guided by a bunch of adults who mold and shape young minds (Did every teacher reading my blog just want to hit me for a second there?). The reoccurring lessons in friendship, trust, and defiance may outweigh Astronomy, Divination and History of Magic for Harry.

Teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts
I DO think of Harry as a teacher in this book as well (as Mara pointed out in her comments a few posts ago). His lessons in the DA Club are inspiring. I can see why so many missed these get togethers in the next book – even with the Slug Club. Alas, even Harry as DA teacher can’t last more than a year. I love that we find out in the next book Dumbledore’s reasoning behind the Dark Arts teacher curse. Voldemort wanted the job and since he didn’t get it so long ago – no one has held it for more than a year. Voldemort's curse effecting Harry too creates yet another link between them. Book 5 gives us a good cross-section of DA classes – pitting Harry and Umbridge against each other. Her read-the-book-and-don’t-ask-questions approach vs. his practice-makes-perfect lessons give us both ends of the spectrum – placing Harry above Lupin in the amount learned (in my opinion). I’m not sure if I think Crouch as Moody was a better teacher (and what does that mean?!), but Harry’s insightfulness is inspiring (Yep, I’m harping on Expelliarmus again…just you wait till book 7).

End of the book thoughts
Well Harry and Voldemort meet again and another one of Harry’s parental figures pays the ultimate price. Dumbledore is there to save the day - again with fire; but really it’s that whole love thing that wins in the end. Yes, I still want to hit Harry at the end when he’s railing against Dumbledore – even though I get it and may have acted much the same way. I do appreciate the scene in Dumbledore’s office almost more than any of the Ministry stuff. Although really professor, don’t you think you could have explained just some of this stuff before? Not the prophecy stuff per say, but some of the cloak and dagger was a little much for you. You are better than that. At least, unlike Lost, the questions that do get answered in this book don’t bring up 50 more questions. I appreciate that – and the protective bonds of friendship that exist at the end of the book. Way to follow through on a theme.

What do you all think? Did I miss a theme from book 5 you thought should be mentioned and discussed? Do you agree or disagree with my musings this week? Comment, post, write about it.

Sorry for the lack of blog posts recently. We really will start book 6 next week. I promise I’ve been keeping up with the reading at least. I’ve finished book 6 and now have about 16 ideas down for upcoming blog posts.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Deafening Silence

I know, I know. It’s been a few weeks and I haven’t posted a blog. I promised everyone we would be starting HP 6 last week, but I still have more to say about HP 5. And yet, I haven’t spent any time this week (or last) thinking about Harry Potter – I’ve spent all my time this week (and last) delving back into the freelance world.

I’m glad to do it – I like the research and the confusion that inevitably comes from trying to decide which magazine to pitch to. In this case, I’m researching a hot button issue with lots of government overtones (and no, it’s not healthcare) – talk about your shades of gray! You wouldn’t think adoption would be that much of a conservative/liberal debate. Jump on the bi-partisan bandwagon everyone. I mean who doesn’t want children to be safe and secure in loving arms? Apparently a lot of people!

In the long run this one small article could turn into many, larger articles because there is just so much to say on the subject. Of course every day the legislation changes or fluctuates and at this point I’ve read three or four pieces of info stating it’s our government’s fault and three or four pieces of info saying another country’s deportation issues are the problem. One magazine praises the way both countries smoothly co-exist and the easy chain of events that will get kids to their parents in lickity-split fashion, while another magazine is afraid prospective parents will be in limbo for years.

Yes, I’m being vague for a reason. Needless to say after two short weeks of fact checking and trying to get a straight answer about what is going on, I’m so frustrated I could spit. And then I realize there are a number or parents (I can’t FIND out how many exactly, so a number will have to suffice. Interviewing two such parents gave me the closest estimate I currently have for kids waiting to get into our country at “2,000”; so if you must have a quantifiable number there it is.) out there without their children and with no clear concept of when their children will be home with them; and I can’t even imagine how frustrated they are. So, I’ll spend some more time doing this and trying to be a voice for those who can’t speak – or write – in the medium I’ve chosen. Do you hear me world? I’m going to write this article and get it published [shake fists above head and look towards the sky here]!

Wish me luck blog followers. Write to your Senators, representatives and government officials. Tell them to make HOPE Act a bill (like School House Rock told us to do in Cartoonville). Just say “yes” to H.R. 4603 and unite children and parents. As one parent told me it’s the not hearing anything that’s the hardest. “The silence is deafening.”

And yes, one day soon I’ll get off my soap box and you’ll see a Harry Potter or Mariah-trying-to-get-her-book-published blog again. I promise that too.

Monday, March 1, 2010

HP Monday – Late Movie Notes

I don’t know why I though I’d write a blog post last week or the week before. I mean it was my birthday, my husband’s birthday, and the Olympics were on. Really, I should know better by now. I promise I finished the book and watched the movie; I just didn’t get around to writing my thoughts down. Mostly I’m just really lazy.

At this moment I’m listening to the soundtrack of the fifth movie to get myself back into the swing here. A quick overview – I really like the 5th movie. As far as the second read of book 5 went – well, it kicked me hard – the length and the deep reading. I’ll hearken back to my reading of the Twilight series, because it will prove my point and because any mention of the books just bug those silly Coreys so (go ahead, start talking about them during English class and see what happens). Anyway, the before mentioned books are really long and yet I’m pretty certain I read them all in a week. This is good and bad I guess. I mean I read them all and they kept me entertained long enough to finish them (I can’t say the same thing for authors like Dan Brown for instance – EDIT!) but my second read of HP book 5 took me almost an entire month. Why? Well because I had to read it so closely. I promise JK holds my interest just as much, and much more, than Stephanie. But Stephanie throws many words away – right out the window. JK makes every word count – and not just in this book but back and forth from book 1 all the way through book 7. I’m a great multi-tasker (If you don’t believe me, check my resume. It’s my number one “hire me” quality. I’ve sent so many resumes out this year, I’m sure a copy will be easy to find on-line if you are a savvy cyber stalker.) I can usually read and watch TV and carry on at least one conversation at the same time. Not so with JK and book 5, it took all of my concentration and analytical skills (also a “hire me” quality I excel at) to get through. I’m not complaining; I feel like my brain got a decent workout this last month. I thought about plot development, braiding plot and foreshadowing so much, I think reading book 5 a second, close read time through may have actually made me a better writer. So yes, book 5 kicked me but in a good, please kick me again, sort of way.

I sidetracked myself from the movie though. Yes, I do like it. No, they are not as close with their writing, but how could they be. I mentioned before that I might like movie 5 more than I like book 5. Well, now that I’ve finished the book, I guess that’s not true, but the movie holds up well in its own right. The words in the book really got to me on this read. So precisely placed and thought out. Each sentence of dialogue fitting in place like a piece of a giant puzzle – this is self-editing (I’m sure Bloomsbury and some others had a hand in editing the final copy, but still) at its finest. This is painstakingly close, at least 10 drafts worth of self-editing. And before I go off on a book tangent again, I have to hand it to Steve Kloves (the screenwriter) for taking all of Rowling’s words and then managing to cut them down further. Yes, the end result is something more superficial than book 5, but the overall flavor is remarkably the same.

There are a few standouts in the movie. Please feel free to discuss these or others you may have. And as always, if someone disagrees with me, please comment and tell us why. My movie standouts include – Luna and Umbridge (and those damn kitten plates!)¸both characters are brilliantly portrayed and where Umbridge is concerned I think possibly even better than in the novel (or maybe I should say, better than my imagination did her justice). The overall look of the movie – and by this I mean all of the blues and grays and especially the lighting – wow…mostly though, my very favorite part of book 5 the movie would have to be the musical score!

Did I mention I’m listening to it right now? Each movie has a different musical score which are all variations on a Harry Potter theme really. Music says so much in a movie; character themes, time and setting to name just a few. I think each aspect blends so smoothly into one complete score for movie 5, I’m blown away by it. I’m actually having trouble finding words here. I’m an aural learner, so music is a big part of my writing life and I pretty much listen to anything and everything, so for music to rock me this much means a lot. When characters don’t have the words, this music takes over and fills out the scene. You don’t just know when something suspenseful is about to happen, you know what it’s like to fly on the back of a thestral, or cringe at the footsteps of Umbridge (I really love her reoccurring theme music. You know she’s coming before she appears on screen each time.), or loose all happiness when the dementors arrive. You get the fun of the Weasley twins setting off magical fireworks and chasing Umbridge with a giant dragon firework because there’s an electric guitar riff placed giftedly into the orchestra pieces – and don’t even get me started on the drums and chants in the Department of Mysteries falling away into a few soft yet eerie strings as Sirius falls. Pure dead brilliant.

Thoughts, comments, favorite movie moments or not-so-great movie moments – write them here. Next week we will wrap up book 5 and move onto book 6. And yes, I had to go and flip through the first part of book 6 already to find out what everyone got on their O.W.L.s, because I’m just that much of a test-worrier!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ideas Are Like Stars

Now that Amazon has replaced the Macmillan buttons and life in the publishing world has almost returned to normal – or as normal as it can be in 2010 with the electronic book wars far from over – I thought I’d throw in my two cents. Well, my two cents on books vs. e-books. If you want to know more about the whole thing above and which pricing model should/could/would be used I highly suggest the following blog post by YA author Scott Westerfeld, which is the most comprehensive/insightful take I’ve read so far.

The more general question out there is: Are e-books a good idea or a bad idea for the book industry? Are paper books, and thus, libraries and bookstores (including school media centers) going to become extinct? It boils down to the age old question about technology and industry (man vs. the machine) – are we getting ahead of ourselves? I don’t think e-books are going to bring about Terminator like apocalypse or anything, but the question is a serious one. Are books disappearing? Maybe. Is that scary? Yes.

I realize that the argument I’m about to lie down is really not logical, it’s just how I feel. As you will discover (or perhaps you already know) I’m messed up and all over the place, so be patient. I promise I have a point. I haven’t weighed in before now because I’m a writer and not a publisher; as long as I can produce words, I hope somehow people will read/pay for them.

My DO list:
I DO have an iPod with the Barnes & Noble book reader app and books downloaded on it.
I DO author a blog (this one).
I DO freelance for websites.
I DO have a mother who is SO excited about the different book readers out there that I’m sure she will own one shortly.

My DON’T list:

I DON’T want to see independent bookstores go away.
I DON’T want to see mass market bookstores go away.
I DON’T want to see libraries go away.
I DON’T want to see school media centers filled with only one medium (just the computer…or just the book for that matter. It’s called a media center for a reason people – as in plural)

My WISH list:
I WISH everyone in the book industry would get paid for whatever it is they do (i.e. editing, publishing, marketing, agent-ing, or writing). I’m pretty sure our system (capitalism) fails if we don’t buy and sell things. Just saying.
I WISH every child in America got to experience the Scholastic book magazine – ordering and receiving real life books! (I actually wish this for the children of the world, but that would make Scholastic a monopoly. Please see my note above about capitalism…psst – monopolies don’t work in that sort of economic structure)
I WISH everyone reading this blog goes into a library or bookstore this week and just smells some books. Or browses (not on your web browser) through some paperbacks, you know flipping pages, running your hand down the spines of titles, watching other people experience the written word in a tangible format).

What I KNOW: Words are power and ideas are like stars!

The sepia tones of a lost afternoon cradled a curio storefront
And inside the air was thick with the past, as the dust settled onto his heart
And here for a moment is every place in the world and ideas are like stars

They fall from the sky, they run round your head
They litter your sleep as they beckon
They'd teach you to fly without wires or thread
They promise if only you'd let them

Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Ideas Are Like Stars”

I just simply can’t imagine a world without tangible words on a page. No matter how many things I see in the world, how many countries and cultures I witness, I can count on one hand the moments in my life that have completely awed me into speechlessness. Those moments include the ancient library at Ephesus in Turkey and the Trinity College Library where the Book of Kells is housed. I can’t imagine not every smelling the musty paper smell in a used bookstore, not feeling the ink words under my fingers as I run m finger over a favorite verse or passage. I can’t imagine never feeling the silent awe that hits you when you walk through an old library or the feeling of adventure and excitement I felt when I checked out my first book from the school library. I know this is where my logic fails. I am saying I want people to pay for books and yet use the free ones in the library. eBooks, paperbacks, books on tape, blogs and all (YES, even newspapers and magazines) – I want people to have the options, all of them.

I’ve worked myself up into written word frenzy! I may be old fashioned – I don’t have a microwave or cable/TiVo, but the written word is sacred and not just because it’s my chosen profession. I actually can’t find words to describe how I feel on this subject. I want everyone to experience heavy book bags and breaking the binding on a new book. I want everyone to love (or hate) dog-eared pages and notes written in the margin. If life really is measured by the moments that take our breath away then I want everyone to experience Trinity College Library and the Celsus Library at Ephesus. I can’t imagine an iPad manuscript will take your breath away like an illuminated manuscript.

And that’s my two cents plus about a buck and half more. Thanks for letting me work through that rant.

If you’re still with me, I’m leaving you with a section of my first novel (the one that I still go back to time and again but have yet to finish). The protagonist, Aria is on a research mission in Ireland and has made her way to Trinity College. Yes. If something affects you that strongly, write about it!

She was still thinking about the rude woman when she turned the corner and entered the library. Instantly tears welled up in her eyes as she stopped short with her mouth open in awe. Aria had no idea, no conscious thought, she was utterly overwhelmed. It was the most magnificent emotion she’d ever felt. All of the books, rows and rows of really old books; it was absolutely unbelievable. Time stopped for a full minute as Aria looked around the room, taking in more than most when they first walk through those same doors.
Slowly Aria became conscious of the voices around her, the people streaming by her, the smell of the old books mingled with the perfume of the woman standing next to her. She heard foot steps as people walked down the long room; she saw the dust drift through the air as the sunlight from the windows highlighted each speck. Aria was completely intoxicated by her surroundings. She walked down one side of glass cases all the way to the end and then walked up the other side. She took time to read at least 400 book spines along the walls on both sides of the room. Some books from as far up as she could clearly see and some books she had to bend down to catch the writing on.
Almost an hour later, Aria left the room behind and walked back into the glaring reality of a tourist gift shop. She was still a little dazzled from her almost religious experience in the library, so she didn’t even hear the man walk up behind her.