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

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!