fiction

How Magic Shapes My Characters

What is fantasy without magic? My “Magical Missions” does not differ from that.

However, the magic laws and culture do stand out from other fantasy books. One is that they are set in modern-day America, and the other is that wizards have their own enchanted technology far more advanced than the regular kind. 

How does this shape my characters? The protagonist, Alyssa, has grown up not believing in magic… until the start of book 1, “The Frights of Fiji.” Of course, she reacts with surprise as do the other characters. Or they don’t believe her. Those that do witness wizardry are either amazed or scared.

In the sequel, “A Curse of Mayhem,” Alyssa has already gotten used to magic, even though it hasn’t interfered with her life for the past 6 months. Unlike then, though, she is performing it against her will and longs to remove it. Of course, it involves lots of complications.

While Alyssa’s friends stand by her as does her guardian, most of the characters fear and misunderstand her, especially her school principal. He sees her sorcery as threatening and dangerous. Therefore, he gives her detention several times. Alyssa also ends up at risk for expulsion. Of course, I won’t spoil anything.

Wizards and non-magical people (there is no specific term for them) share the same world, although magicians hide their supernatural culture and skills differently. They will either blend their buildings in with security charms, put invisibility shields around them, or disguise things around ordinary people.

I do explain on my website how wizards hide their secret world. But this is how magic shapes my characters.

You can also buy Book 2 here and Book 1 here.

Writing

Stories Within Stories: When They Work, and When They Don’t

Image from Pixabay

Have you ever read a book with a story within it? I have. 

A notable example includes “The Tale of Three Brothers” in “Harry Potter.” In cartoons, there is “The Crimson Chin” in “The Fairly OddParents,” and “The Justice Friends” in “Dexter’s Laboratory.”

In a book I read, it started out with a background description as well as a bunch of characters. One was an old lady reading to a group of children. I would have continued that story, but it bored me since after several pages, I couldn’t get to the action. The woman just kept reading.

I agree with many experts that stories should start as close to the inciting incidents as possible. Prologues are also not recommended these days unless done exceptionally well.

Anyway, back to the topic. I don’t think the story in a story idea should be reserved for top authors. However, it should be relevant to the main plot, engaging, and not too long. Otherwise, the reader might give up.

You could do a spinoff as long as it will work and keeps your audience engaged. I have a spinoff of my current book series in mind. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it’s not a story within my books. It might be years until I write it, though.

Do you like stories in stories?

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: Are Godparent Roles Different for Wizards?

We’ve heard of godparents in the “Harry Potter” series. One obvious example is Sirius Black being Harry’s godfather, who spent much of his time in Azkaban. Harry is also named Remus’s son, Teddy’s, godfather. Ron and Hermione are godparents to Harry’s oldest son, James, in the seventh book’s epilogue, as well as his aunt and uncle, of course.

But they seem to serve more as mentors or other helpful adult figures rather than religious sponsors, which is what godparents really are in real life. It’s actually a common misconception for godparents to be guardians in the events something happens to their godchildren’s parents, although parents can still grant them legal withstanding. It’s rare, though, and rarer for kids to live with their godparents. Maybe that common misconception can be true if something happens to the parents, yet the kids are over 18, but don’t have enough money or jobs to support themselves financially. They could probably stay with their godparents, and the godparents can likely even take them in if they apply for their overage godchildren to be tenants (or whatever it is) and that gets approved. I’m not sure how that whole process works.

Anyway, religion does not play a huge role in “Harry Potter.” Yes, wizards and witches celebrate Christmas and Easter. J.K. Rowling has also revealed that there are Jewish magicians, such as Anthony Goldstein. I also read that Harry was baptized, so his parents must have been religious to some extent. However, not once has Sirius guided Harry through his faith. Maybe Azkaban and Sirius having to hide and even losing his life contributed. We also don’t hear a lot about Harry’s relation to Teddy Lupin and so forth. Lily and James did designate Sirius as Harry’s guardian, which could be why he was able to sign Harry’s Hogsmeade permission slip in the third installment. But I think Teddy’s grandparents were the designated guardians for him.

Someone on Quora asked why religion doesn’t receive much attention in “Harry Potter,” and somebody from the UK answered by stating that people there don’t usually discuss religion. Many places actually forbid talking about religion here in the US.  But my guess is that J.K. Rowling may have changed the godparent roles for wizards and made them more of other reliable adult figures for children instead of religious sponsors. Either for plot convenience or to avoid sounding too insensitive. What do you think?

fiction

Holy Cricket! These Details in “Harry Potter” Surprised Me!

I’ve enjoyed the “Harry Potter” series for many years. Although I’ve read all the books and seen the movies, I still like learning more about the franchise. In fact, that is pretty much routine for me.

Anyway, along with gaining more knowledge on J.K. Rowling’s fictional world, there comes some shocking facts either revealed at some point or that I didn’t notice until later. So, without further ado, let me begin.

1: The “Missing Day” in “The Sorcerer’s Stone”

I don’t mean the movie scene, where Hagrid drops off Harry at King’s Cross, apparently the day after his birthday (or more than a month may have passed and Harry just wore the same clothes again). In the book (I’m not sure about the film adaptation), it is revealed that Lily and James Potter died on Halloween night, but Hagrid does not deliver Baby Harry to the Dursleys until the evening of November 1st. This is known as the “missing day” or “missing 24 hours”. I did not notice this until a few years ago, when someone stated it in a YouTube comment. Before that, I had thought Hagrid had taken Harry straight to the Dursleys within hours of leaving his parents’ home within the same night (and encountering Sirius Black, whom he had to deny legal custody to for Harry, under Dumbledore’s orders). But when I first read that statement, I was surprised. Hagrid had to watch Baby Harry for a whole day? Darsh! Hopefully, someone else took care of certain things for the infant.

Anyway, many fans have come up with their own theories on what could have happened during that missing day. I’ve read so many different ideas. One person guessed that J.K. Rowling might have made a little typo. She could have, but then wouldn’t she have admitted it?

2: The revelation on how wizards used to “go to the bathroom”

After the “Harry Potter” series concluded, J.K. Rowling revealed more tidbits about her books, including ones that were better left unsaid. I believe that in 2019, she revealed that before muggles invented plumbing, wizards and witches would relieve themselves where they stood and then magically vanish their waste. Ewww! Gross! Why did we need to know that?

3: When Professor McGonagall made an appearance in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” years before she should have been born

What’s even more bizarre was that she was already teaching at Hogwarts in the 1910’s and 20’s and looked to be in her late 20’s or early 30’s. But she was not supposed to be born until 1935. She even stated how many years she taught in “The Order of the Phoenix”, which takes place in the mid-1990’s. I forget what that number was, but she most definitely should not have existed in the events of “Fantastic Beasts”, which is the 1920’s.

Some people have assumed that that could have been a different Professor McGonagall. But the script reveals that it’s the same person Harry meets many decades later. Unless McGonagall has lied about her age this whole time, or somehow went back in time and used the time-turner (which has lots of rules), this should not have occurred. And no, J.K. Rowling’s excuse for not being strong at math isn’t valid. This isn’t calculous here—it’s grade-school level math. But “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” did have a lot of plot holes, even with J.K. Rowling involved.

So, there you have it.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: How Could Almost Every Sixth-Year in “The Half-Blood Prince” Turn 17 by April, When the Cutoff Wasn’t for Several Months?

Everyone who is familiar with “Harry Potter” knows that a young wizard or witch can start Hogwarts when he or she is 11 and is expected to attend 7 years there. That means that by the time a student reaches his or her 6th year, he or she will turn 17 either during the school year or summer.

However, when Harry is a 6th year in “The Half-Blood Prince”, many of his classmates turn 17 by April, and only a few remain 16 by then. Sounds crazy, huh? Only Harry, Ernie, and Draco (as well as Neville, who wasn’t in that scene for some reason), remain under 17 by April, and therefore, have to stay behind while the others in their year can take their apparition tests.

I remember how shocked I’d felt when I’d read that scene, at age 13. Even then, that felt very odd and unbelievable to me. I recall thinking, That’s supposed to mean every other student’s birthdays are close together? No other 6th-years who aren’t 17? That can’t be. I’d also come up with my own theory where maybe there were students with birthdays between April and August in Harry’s year, but were all expelled during the previous years.

But it was not until recent times when I discovered that Harry’s year is quite small. A lot of fans guess that fewer babies were born in the magical world during the late 70’s and early 80’s, when Harry’s peers entered the world, because of the dark times and first wizarding war. Maybe it became worse by the spring. I don’t know.

Another thing that I learned recently is that the cutoff for Hogwarts is August 31st, not September 1st. People on Quora said that if a child turns 11 on September 1st, he or she has to wait another year before he or she can start Hogwarts. Crazy, right? It would make more sense if a child who turns 11 on September 1st could start Hogwarts that day. I mean, that does technically count as being 11. If it’s your birthday, you are your next age. For example, if you turn 18 on Election Day in the US, you can vote. It’s if you turn 18 after when you have to wait.

However, in the UK, cutoffs in August are typical and standard. If there are schools in Britain that start in August, then a cutoff of August 31st makes sense. But for those that start after that, a cutoff no later than the first day of school, would be more rational. In New York, it’s usually the opposite. The cutoffs are often in December. I was born November 22nd, 1993, but graduated high school in 2011. So that meant I turned 5 a couple of months after starting kindergarten. I used to hate being the youngest in my grade and would say, “I’m too young for this grade. I belong in the grade below me.” That would have been true for me if I lived in many other states where the cutoffs are before my birthday, like in September. It’s rare for American school’s cutoffs to be earlier than September, though.

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten to learn these things, maybe it makes sense for almost every 6th-year in HBP to turn 17 prior to mid-April.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: What Happened to Lily and James’ Bodies Between Their Deaths and Burials?

Every “Harry Potter” fan or even pretty much anyone in the general public should know that Harry lost his parents as a baby thanks to Voldemort, and had to grow up with his abusive aunt and uncle. For those who really enjoy the series, Harry discovered his parents’ graves in the 7th installment. But who buried them? When? And why was there no funeral for them?

Shortly after his parents were killed, Harry is rescued from the house by Hagrid as quickly as possible. But the two don’t arrive at the Dursleys for another day, for some reason. This is commonly known as the “missing day”, which I didn’t know about until maybe a few years ago. But I will discuss the missing 24 hours in another post.

Here, I am just going to talk about what could have happened to James and Lily’s corpses after they perished. This will exclude events like Pettigrew’s betrayal and turning into a rat as well as Sirius getting locked up in Azkaban.

I learned that James’s parents had him quite old. They lived to see him marry, but not meet their grandson. Lily’s mom and dad also passed on, I think, and her sister, Petunia, was her only living family member. That is why Harry has to live with her until he comes of age. If he lives with a blood relative of his mom, Voldemort can’t go near him.

Anyway, it could not have been Petunia who buried Lily and James. She despised both of them.

Could ministry officials have buried the couple? Possibly, and maybe as soon as Harry was out of that area. Also, did Lily and James not have a funeral because there was no family member to arrange it, despite their wealth? Couldn’t Remus Lupin have planned it, even though he was just James’s friend?

I don’t know if people can plan and pay for events for those not related to them, whether they can get paid back or not. I am not sure how it works for wizards in the ” Harry Potter” series, either. I guess that will remain a mystery, as will who buried James and Lily and how soon.

travel

Is DisneyWorld Worth it for Every Disney Fan?

Like many, I absolutely love the Disney franchise, from the classics, such as “The Little Mermaid” to the kinds like “Hocus Pocus” and just about every Pixar film. I’ve even been to Walt DisneyWorld twice in my life. Once when I was 5 (almost 6) and once when I was 13.

Unfortunately, when I went to DisneyWorld the second time, I didn’t really have fun. My family went to the Magic Kingdom and my dad, then 11-year-old brother (he’s now 24), and I just walked around. We had gone to other parks, such as Hershey Park, where there were lots of roller coasters and rides friendly toward adults and older kids. At the Magic Kingdom, there were mostly smaller rides. There was an indoor roller coaster, I believe called “Space Mountain” (I don’t remember 100%). However, you had to get a special pass and come back later. So, basically, the experience wasn’t the best for me.

But that was back in 2007. DisneyWorld has changed drastically since then, excluding the restrictions put in place due to the covid-19 pandemic. At that time, checking in was simple. You just paid your ticket, went through those wheel turners (I’m not sure what they’re really called), and you were all set. It’s not like that anymore, though.

Despite not going to DisneyWorld since 2007, I know how their check in-process has changed, based on research and what others have told me. It is now like going through security at the airport in a post 9/11 time. Bags go through scanners, people go through metal detectors, and get patted for anything unsafe.

Another aspect to be aware of is that the prices are drastically expensive. I think each ticket is now at least $100 per adult, and maybe a little cheaper per child. During this pandemic, the park has removed a lot of special amenities, features, and more, including what people usually go for. Those are the parades, character-meet-and-greets, dining, and possibly others. Not suprisingly, many folks are not visiting. But it could be more than just the removed specialties. DisneyWorld has to limit the capacity, reduce hours, and enforce things like social distancing and mask-wearing. Some people might not go because they’re concerned for their health and safety. It also may not be worthy, especially for families with young children. They can’t meet Mickey, their favorite princesses, or any other characters. I have to agree with one of my Facebook friends when he said that going to DisneyWorld now is worthless.

Don’t let this discourage you, though. At some point, those limits mentioned will go away, and DisneyWorld will return to normal. While I personally wouldn’t want to pay $100 for a day to one of their parks, others will. There are also items the parks do not allow, such as selfie-sticks (I don’t own or know how to use them, anyway), lounge chairs, and wrapped gifts. So, if you’re attending an occasion, such as a birthday, put the presents in a gift bag instead. These guidelines don’t bug me, though. I don’t carry those things regularly, anyway.

So, as long you’re okay with the airport-like check-in process, price, and rules, you could go at some point. But I would not recommend visiting DisneyWorld until the pandemic is fully over in the US, or in your country if you’re don’t live in America. I’m hoping that’s by summer of 2021 for the USA. Hang tight.

movie

I’m Going to Review “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian” from 2009 Right… Now!

Warning: contains spoilers***

The items at the Museum of Natural History in NYC are being packed away to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, night guard, Larry Daley, is promoting something to a live audience.

Not long after, though, Larry is whisked away to Washington D.C. for the museum figures. The enchanted tablet brings the things in the Smithsonian to life, including a villainous Egyptian Pharoah named Ahkmenrah. Danger begins from there.

Like the first and third films, this movie had great humor. One of the funniest moments was when the other bad guys on Ahkmenrah’s side asked about his “dress,” which it wasn’t. It was a tunic. I laugh at when another person asked if he and everyone had to wear that, too. Lol. 

Another amazing aspect was when Oscar the grouch and Darth Vader tried to convince Ahkmenrah that they could be bad, but Ahkmenrah calmly turned them away. There was also a clever twist where Sacagawea made a point about how alerting the dark side about their attack could endanger them. So, when the time came, the good guys yelled, We are not going to attack right… now!”

Let’s not forget about the thinker and when he went “Fire power,” while developing strong feelings for a nearby female statue. Which brings me to the romance between Larry and Amelia Earhart. It wasn’t conventional at all. Amelia wanted leadership and helped Larry a lot. I found that to be fantastic since it was quite unique.

That being said, when Larry told his son, Nick, about her, his reaction was a little too casual. He asked in a neutral way, “You found Amelia Earhart?” 

Aside from that, though, everything else ruled. The Einstein figurines and their little song as well as their advanced knowledge cracked me up. I also appreciate the twist where Octavius encounters a squirrel on the white house property and then rides it.

The review ends here. I would rate this film 5 out of 5 stars.

fiction

Review of “A Horse to Love” by Marsha Hubler

I haven’t read this book in years. However, I do remember enough to review it. I must also admit that I loved horses as a child and still do. In fact, I used to ride regularly from ages 8 to about 14.

Anyway, let me get to the review.

Thirteen-year-old Skye Nicholson is in court for something. She is assigned to a foster mother named Mrs. Chambers, who makes Skye do farm work, go to church, and has many rules about her home facilities. On the bright side, Skye develops a passion for this horse called Champ.

This book has a lot of memorable moments. Aside from the strong and engaging writing, many scenes stand out to me, such as when Mrs. Chambers comforts Skye and when Skye and Morgan, a physically disabled girl, ride horses together. Another moment that I have strong feelings about is when Skye hurt another girl at school, ran away, and got punished by her foster parents, where she couldn’t use any of the facilities or see Champ the horse. This was obviously wrong for Skye to do.

There are also some parts that I felt were flawed. One is how Mrs. Chambers only allows Christian music and makes Skye go to church. What if Skye were another religion? I considered that insensitive of Mrs. Chambers. It would have been better if the music allowed was something else, such as clean music with no explicit lyrics. 

Another moment that stood out to me was when when Mrs. Chambers first met Skye and said, “You can call me Mrs. Chambers or Mrs. C, but never Eileen.” The third part felt unnecessary to me, especially when an adult talks to a thirteen-year-old. 

Speaking of which, Skye won’t join a teen club Morgan offers her since she still thinks she’s only a kid. But thirteen is a teenager. Plus, most thirteen-year-olds are excited to finally be teens and not younger children anymore.

Other than those issues, I really enjoyed the story and would rate it 4 out of 5 stars. 

fiction

Interview with Author, Tara Gilboy

As someone who enjoyed her book, “Unwritten,” I am interviewing the author, Tara Gilboy. See the questions and answers below and enjoy!

What do you find the most enjoyable about writing?

I think for me, brainstorming and coming up with new story ideas is always the best part of writing. I love looking at the world as a potential source of story ideas, and I love doing research on them. Of course, after that, the hard work sets in, as I then have to develop the plot and characters in those ideas. But I am always happiest when I am imagining new worlds and possibilities.

What genres do you like to read in now?

I am a very wide reader: I read in pretty much every genre! Right now, since it’s fall and getting to be Halloween time, I have been reading a lot of scary stories, but I also am a huge fan of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, nonfiction, you name it. I do tend to read a lot of middle grade and young adult books more so than adult novels, partly because that is what I like to write, and partly because I love the way they focus on good, old-fashioned storytelling.

Who is your favorite character in your book?

It is so hard to pick just one! Gracie, my protagonist, is of course my special favorite, but I loved writing Cassandra because she is just so complicated and evil! And Gertrude Winters and I have a lot in common, so I have a special place for her too. And then Walter, of course…. I love them all!

Who is your favorite fictional character in general?

I think if I had to pick just one, I would say Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. When I was a kid, I was always happiest reading, so I think I am drawn to her because she reminds me of myself when I was younger.

Where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew the answer to this! Ideas come to me all the time. Sometimes I’ll get an idea from something I read or from people I know. If I am searching for ideas, I will often visit a place like a museum or art gallery, because I always leave feeling inspired. The trouble for me is not finding ideas; it is selecting the right idea, the one I am excited enough about that I am willing to commit to it long-term. I often start stories and then put them aside halfway through because I lose interest in them. But I would say that my number one source for ideas is reading. Reading other books by writers I love always inspires me and makes me want to write. 

What other genres would you ever want to write in?

I have always wanted to write historical fiction, and in fact, I have probably started and stopped nearly a dozen historical fiction projects in the last few years alone. I love to read historical fiction and so have always wanted to write it, but somehow I always find myself either stalling or getting bogged down in the research. I feel confident, though, that I will finish one of these historical projects eventually! I also have an idea for a true crime story that I would like to work on, so I have been doing research on writing true crime narratives lately as well.

What was your favorite book as a child?

It is tough to pick just one! I was obsessed with both Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess

What types of scenes do you enjoy writing most?

My favorite kinds of scenes are ones that make me laugh. Sometimes the scene itself isn’t even funny, but I find myself laughing because I am so taken aback by what a character just said or did. I like writing scenes where the characters surprise me and go in a direction I hadn’t expected when I first sat down to write. Those are usually scenes with a lot of emotional intensity.

What did you struggle most with when writing your book?

I think in my first book, Unwritten, I struggled most with making the “rules” of my magical world clear. The concept I had undertaken, writing of a girl who is a character in a story, ended up being a lot more complex (and potentially confusing to readers) than I had anticipated when I started. I was really lucky to have a great workshop group and critique partners who helped me along the way. I also always really struggle with plot and structure. I find that plotting gets easier, though, once I have my character’s main goal or drive figured out. Until I know what my main character wants, I don’t really have a story.

What character can you relate to most?

I think I relate to Gertrude Winters the most, perhaps because we both share a love of writing. And in Rewritten, Gertrude is struggling with a nasty case of writer’s block, something I can definitely relate to!

Are there unique details you pick up on in fiction, either visual or written?

It depends on what and why I am reading. Reading is my absolute favorite thing in the world, and so I try to just let myself sink into the story. I don’t want to always be looking “behind the scenes” at the way a story is constructed. That said, after I’ve read a book I love once or twice, I will often go back to it and look at what specifically makes it work so well. And when I am struggling with something in my own writing, I often look at books or scenes that are similar to mine to see what strategies the author used to handle various issues that came up. For example, when I needed to write a scene about a fire, I read a lot of different books with fire scenes (for example, the fire scene in Jane Eyre, where Jane puts out a fire in Mr. Rochester’s bedroom) to see how other authors had handled it.

Do you ever notice elements in fiction that others don’t?

I think so, but then again, many of my students and friends notice things in fiction that I don’t too. I tend to look a lot at plot and structure when I am reading, and I have some wonderful friends who are always reminding me of the beauty of language and lyrical prose. I think we all look at slightly different things as readers and writers, and so we always learn from each other.

What is your writing pet peeve?

My biggest writing pet peeve is writers who show off at the expense of the story. It is something I used to struggle with when I first started writing, and I had to train myself not to do it. The plot and characters come first and foremost: writers can’t be afraid to cut paragraphs and scenes, even if they love the language, if they don’t contribute to the overall story. Also for some odd reason I dislike the word “myriad.” I’m not sure why, but it’s always been a pet peeve of mine.

Thank you so much for having me!