Writing

Why I Don’t Base My Characters Off of People I Know

You’ve probably heard this from many authors: base your characters off people you know. A lot of writers do that, including big ones like J.K. Rowling. However, unlike them, I never base characters off people I know.

That being said, I do often develop them like people I know. Many characters in my books were developed like family members and people I went to school with, including teachers.

However, the ideas of those characters were often for plot convenience or inspired by other fictional sources, such as movies, books, or even legends. In fact, the antagonist in my second book of the “Magical Missions” series was inspired by the Grim Reaper. Believe it or not, in early drafts, he was more like the death figure: pure evil and carrying a scythe. But now he is not like that. I developed him to make the readers sympathize with him more. I won’t spoil anything else from the story, though.

Why don’t I base characters off people I know, you might ask? Because I just feel uninterested and find basing my characters off of other fictional sources better. My life has been pretty straightforward and ordinary. While I’m more social than I used to be, real people inspiring me for characters just doesn’t happen.

fiction

Excerpt: The Unruly Curse (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 2)

Lilac-colored smoke poured in through the slight opening under Alyssa’s bedroom window. Alyssa leaped back. She swore the window had been closed when she’d come in here a few minutes ago.

            The gas clouded into her room, blocking her sight. It washed onto her, causing her to squint and lean back. She coughed, rubbed her eyes, and opened them. The smoke faded. Someone must’ve pulled a prank, and not just any kind—one that involved…wizardry.

            Alyssa’s breathing sped up. She shut the window and gazed at the huge yard and long driveway. No one was outside—not even Alex, her godfather and legal guardian.

            Perhaps the trespasser had escaped or had hidden somewhere—maybe behind the tree on the lawn or somewhere else on the property.

            Alyssa hurried out, brushing ash from her muted purple shirt. She entered the ground floor and opened the front door. “Hello?!”

            There was no answer.

            “Whoever set that smoke off, it wasn’t funny!”

            The silence continued.

            Despite the freezing air this autumn evening, Alyssa stepped onto the front porch. A piece of paper appeared out of nowhere, making her jump. She picked it up, anyway.

            Welcome back to magic.

            Her chest tightened. She hadn’t encountered a single instance of wizardry in six months! Plus, she had two objects that were supposed to protect her from such encounters.

            She dashed back up to her room and opened the closet door. Tape hung from a shoebox, and the items that she had left in there…were missing.

            Heart jackhammering, Alyssa moved shoes and other boxes around. The two things might’ve fallen when she and Alex had moved here from Ohio in the spring after Alex had lost his job there. No one could have stolen them while Alex had taken her to Chicago this afternoon, right?

            As Alyssa picked up the same shoebox, her palms warmed up, and light beams shot out of both hands. She screamed as the rays smashed into each other, and then faded, revealing a tiny, rainbow-colored, bouncy ball.

            Alyssa’s body stiffened, as if paralyzed. Her jaw hung as she gaped at the bouncing ball.

            How could I have done magic? Alyssa asked herself. I’m not a wizard.

            As the object jumped onto her knee, she yelped and fell back. It had left a multi-colored stain on her leggings.

            She sat up. The toy sprung onto her narrow shoulders and then to the top of her head, where it cracked like an egg.

            “Ow!” Alyssa covered that area and then ran her fingers down her straight, pale-blonde hair, checking for any unusual, hard textures. She lifted the ends up from the area a few inches past her hips, where the length fell to. There were tiny plastic ball-bits stuck in her tresses, so she pulled them out.

            Alex knocked on the door. “Alyssa, are you ready for the party?”

            “Not yet.”

            “It’s almost six o’clock, sweetie. The tent in the backyard is already set up.”

            “Something’s wrong with me!”

            Alex opened the door, already wearing his suit. “What’s the matter?”

            “I…I…”

            Alex had tied his shoulder-length light-brown hair into a ponytail. “What’s going on?”

            Alyssa whimpered. “Ma…ma…”

            “Are you all right?”

            She shook her head.

            Alex looked away and covered his goatee. “Your closet’s a mess.”
            “I did magic!” Alyssa’s breathing quickened.

            Alex opened his mouth. “No way. That doesn’t make sense.”

            “I did!” Alyssa sucked in inhalations. “I’m not making this up!”

            Alex tilted his head.

            “I told you about magic back in March! I was kidnapped and taken to Fiji by an evil wizard! And then one of the mentors gave me a couple of little things to keep me safe!”

            “Wait, what?”

            “The objects are gone! Somebody must’ve stolen them!”

            Alex clapped both hands over his mouth.

            “I looked everywhere in my closet! I can’t find them!”

            Alex removed his hands from his mouth.

            “How could you forget these things?!”

            He remained mute.

            “What the heck?!” She sat on her bed, and her breathing still hurried.

            “I’m sorry.” Alex closed the door and left.

            He’d wanted to hold this party over the summer. But his agricultural-engineering and country-singing jobs had kept him from setting a date.

            Alyssa considered the ways in which she might remove these powers. Maybe one of her previous mentors would know a way. Like technology, magic became more advanced over time.

            Alyssa picked up her phone, went onto her email, and searched for Mathias, the wizard who’d provided her with the magical objects. Nothing. The same happened when she searched for Isabelle and Simon.

            Her device rang and she answered.

“Hey, Alyssa, I hope you’re all right,” Simon said in his English accent.

            “Something’s wrong with me. I…I did magic, even though—”

            “I was calling about that.”

            Alyssa raised her eyebrows. Then, she recalled how marble figures, which resembled statues, could gather information from others at the speed of sound, even if they were unconscious.

            “Why didn’t you call earlier?”

            “I wanted to get more information about your new powers.”

            “How can I get rid of them?”

            “I’m not sure.”

            Alyssa exhaled. “There’s got to be something.”

            “I’ll look into it. In the meantime, try some gloves.”

            “You sure that’ll work?”

            “I believe so. That’s one of the things I found out.”

            “On the wizarding internet?”

            “No. From someone who’s friends with the guy who jinxed you.”

            Alyssa gritted her teeth. “Someone jinxed me? Who is he and why did he give me magic powers?”

            “I’m going to have to find out more about that.”

            Alex knocked again.

            “Alyssa, you better get going,” said Simon.

            “Wait.”

            But he’d hung up.

            “Ugh!”

            “Alyssa, who are you talking to?”

            “One of my wizard mentors.”

            Alex opened the door and stepped in. “I can’t cancel the party tonight. The staff won’t let me.”

            “Well, my mentor, Simon, told me to wear gloves.”

            “You think that’s going to work?”

            “He said it should and to give it a try.”

            Alex pressed his lips together.

            “He helped me defeat that sorcerer in Fiji.”

            “When’s the last time you talked to him?”

            Alyssa hesitated. “Not since April. But he was the one who told me about the wizard hunting me down when I was living with Uncle Bruce.”

            “Can I talk to him?”

            “Sure.” Alyssa gave him the phone. “He was the last one who called.”

            Alex pressed on the screen and held the phone to his ear.

            When Alyssa had lived with her uncle, Bruce, in March, she’d informed Alex about wizardry. She’d even told him around the time he’d been granted legal custody over her.

            I guess I forgot to tell him about who my mentors were, she thought.

            Alex hung up. “He’s not answering.”
            “He must be finding out more information about these new…powers.”

            “I’ll let you wear the gloves, but I really don’t feel ready to trust Simon.”

            “Well, I trust him. If it weren’t for him, I might not have made it.”

            Alex sharpened his eyes.

            “Everyone back in New Jersey trusted him, too.” That was where Alyssa had lived until the day after her thirteenth birthday in April.

            “Even Uncle Bruce?”

            “At first, no. Then Simon sent him a note and he trusted him… until that warlock wiped his memories with a storm.” Alyssa looked down, thinking about Uncle Bruce, who resided in an assisted living home. The memory-wiping spell had been blocked years ago, but some powerful magicians could use other ways to get past it. Alyssa still didn’t understand how the storm’s power had erased Uncle Bruce’s memories.

            “After you’re done getting ready, I’ll call Simon from your phone again,” said Alex.

            “How about I just write down his number?”

            “Do what you need to do.” Alex walked out.

            Alyssa sighed as she peeled her clothes off. While Uncle Bruce had treated her and her cousin, Hailey, with little respect and had placed unfair rules on them, Alex cared for her like his own daughter.

            Alyssa’s parents had named him not only her godfather, but also guardian in the event that something might happen to them. The loss of her mom and dad in that car crash when she was seven had changed her life. Despite what the will had stated, Alyssa’s then-babysitter had convinced the cops to let her stay at her aunt and uncle’s house nearby. The state of New Jersey had made Aunt Laura and Uncle Bruce her new guardians.

            However, when Alyssa was nine, Aunt Laura had died from an allergic reaction to a chocolate filled with raspberry cream that she had barely touched. She’d had a fatal allergy to berries. Then, Uncle Bruce had toughened up his attitude, although he’d always had a stern way of parenting, and had rarely smiled. It just hadn’t involved as much yelling and restrictions before Aunt Laura’s death.

            Because a sorcerer called Master Beau had wanted to enslave Alyssa, he’d erased Uncle Bruce’s memories so that he couldn’t protect her. Master Beau wanted her to find items and ways to help strengthen him for ruling France after the French government had banished him for committing a serious crime. Alyssa had never discovered what the offense had been, though. She still deemed her life to overwhelming for a thirteen-year-old.

            She wore her wide-strapped blue-and-black dress. Her fingers sweated as she tied a blue ribbon in her hair and secured it back halfway. Her hands also shook as she put on her jewelry and makeup.

            She opened her closet and put on her dress shoes, a pair of leather gloves, and then went downstairs. Scooter, the yellow lab, barked by the door.

            Alyssa opened it. No one was outside.

            “Who’s there?!” called Alyssa.

Music played in the backyard.

“I’m not stupid!” Alyssa shouted.

            “Alyssa, what are you doing?” asked Alex.

            “I’m yelling at the man who cursed me!”

            “Wait…someone—”

            “Yes! Simon told me!”

            Alex gasped, covered his mouth, and shook his head.

            “I wish I didn’t have to go to the party anymore.”

            Alex took his phone out of his pants pocket and stared into it. “I got a text from your mentor, Simon. He says he’s not a hundred percent sure if the gloves will help. But he’s almost certain.”

            “Did he find out how I can get rid of these powers?”

            “He’s still working on it.”

            Alyssa inhaled and exhaled.

            “Sweetheart, just give the party a try. If you feel uncomfortable, you can go back inside.”

            “What about that speech we’re supposed to give?”

            “It won’t be long.”

            “But I don’t like speaking in front of crowds.”

            “You only have to say a few sentences. I promise.”

            Alyssa sighed.

            “We should head outside.”

            Alyssa followed him.

            I hope the gloves actually work, she thought.

            She continued to look around for the warlock who’d hexed her. He could be wearing an invisibility poncho, or he could have disappeared in a snap.

Alyssa passed the swimming pool and continued down the small hill into the tent. Orange, yellow, and brown balloons covered each pole. A DJ played music near the entrance. A white cloth covered each table, including the round ones for sitting at and the rectangular ones for serving.

As Alyssa shoved her way through the crowd, she saw her friend, Sydney Watson, gaping at her phone, her elbow-length chestnut curls covering her freckled face.

Stomach tightening, Alyssa sat next to Sydney.

“What’s up?” asked Sydney.

“I don’t want to be here.”

“What’s the problem?”

“I…I…it’s too weird.”

“Tell me, anyway.”

“It’s…it’s…m-magic.”

Sydney tilted her head.

“You forgot? I told you about it when we first met.”

Sydney inhaled. Her eyebrows lifted.

“What’s wrong with you?!”

“You didn’t tell me a lot about it.”

“Well, yeah, because I’m technically not supposed to.”

“You said in April that you defeated a magician. I thought it was the kind at magic shows.”

Alyssa shook her head.

“Wait—so what was it really?”

“Nothing.”

“If this is something serious, you need to tell me.”

“Okay, it’s…it’s…”

Sydney nodded.

“It’s something from a stranger.”

“What?”

“A…an issue with my hands.”

Sydney pressed her lips together.

“I’ll stop there.”

“Alyssa, you’re hiding something.”

“I think it would be better if you stayed out of it.”

“Look, I’m your friend. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Alyssa remained mute.

“If you want us to help you, then you shouldn’t hide things like this.”

“Who said anything about help?”

“Hello, guys,” said Lily Browne, another friend of Alyssa’s. Lily trotted to them, smiling. Her dark brown hair bounced against her waist. She joined Alyssa and Sydney. “This is going to be so awesome.” She giggled.

“I hope so.” Alyssa looked down.

“What’s the matter?” Lily asked. “Had a bad day?”

“Not until right before the party,” she said.

“Aw.” Lily patted her shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”

“Why don’t you tell Lily about what happened to you?” Sydney asked.

“No,” Alyssa answered.

“You can tell me,” said Lily. “I won’t judge you.”

“Maybe later,” muttered Alyssa.

“Alyssa, you really should tell us what happened to you,” said Sydney.

“We won’t tell anyone else,” Lily said. “We promise.”

Alyssa stayed quiet.

A short, tanned-skinned girl entered the tent. It was Krystal Gordillo, Alyssa’s third-closest friend. Krystal ran her fingers through her dark brown hair. “Stupid wind messed up my hair.” She tied her locks, which fell to the middle of her back, into a ponytail. She sat with Alyssa and the other two. “Does anyone else hate when the weather messes up your look?”

That’s what you want to talk about?” Sydney asked. “Krystal, grow up.”

“Yeah, parties are all about fun.” Lily beamed. “You should enjoy yourself.” She sipped her Sprite. “I’m hoping to get my science-of-happiness badge for Girl Scouts. We get an extra treat if we help others become more confident.”

“But I’m a mess,” said Krystal.

“Better than what Alyssa’s dealing with,” Sydney said.

“What happened?” Krystal asked her.

“For the last time, I don’t want to talk about it!”

“Alyssa, not cool,” said Sydney.

“Yeah, I just got here,” Krystal said.

“Can we just change the subject?” asked Alyssa.

“Maybe you’re hungry,” Krystal told her.

“Yeah. Let’s go get some snacks.” Lily stood up.

The four gathered appetizers and beverages. Alyssa nibbled her veggie sticks and chips, and got up.

“Where are you going, Alyssa?” Krystal asked.

“Bathroom.” She put her coat on and ran back inside the house. But she didn’t need the bathroom—she just wanted a break.

She returned to her room, where ink spelled out “Errol was here” on the floor. Her mouth opened and she panted.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, be sure to order the story here.

movie

I Solemnly Swear I am Up to Good Details…for the “Harry Potter” Movies

Unlike many fans, I found the “Harry Potter” films better than the books. I often have either liked the changes or cuts better in the movies, or, at least, didn’t mind them.

There is another post that includes content in the novels. But this post will only focus on the film franchise. It will include details that I noticed in the movies.

1: In “Chamber of Secrets”, there were mostly younger kids as extras

Did anyone else notice that most scenes with Hogwarts student extras had few to no older students (like 5th year and up)? Most looked like 1st and 2nd years, maybe a few 3rd and 4th years. Did the filmmakers have a different vision in mind that maybe most of the older students in the previous movie, “The Sorcerer’s Stone”, were 7th years and there were a lot more 1st years in “The Chamber of Secrets”? If so, that’s surprising (and probably not accurate), especially since they broke child labor laws at least once. In film, anyone under 18 has a mandatory limit of 4 hours on a film set. That’s why many times, teen characters are played by adults in their 20s, sometimes even 30’s (which I think is way too old), but rarely actual teenagers. That’s a different topic, though.

2: From “Prisoner of Azkaban” and on, the students have new uniforms, wear street clothes more often, and the Hogwarts campus looks totally different

Unlike the previous observation above, this reason has been revealed. The scenery looks different, because the filming location was changed from Scotland to New Zealand. I believe it was because they wanted a more fantastic-looking environment. Students are often shown in street clothes when they’re not in classes, because the director wanted to make the kids show more of their personalities instead of just wearing robes the whole time. Speaking of which, the reason the uniform look changed was never explained—I don’t think so.

3: Characters control their emotions far more than in the books

Many people dislike this. In “Order of the Phoenix”, when Harry is talking to Dumbledore shortly after Sirius’s death scene, he is calm in the movie while he is angry and out of control in the book. Most people were disappointed by that and liked his extreme rage in the novel. I, however, thought the film’s portrayal was completely fine. In fact, I’ve always found the characters being calmer in the films than in the books a lot better (no offense, just my personal opinion). I don’t know why. Maybe I feel it makes them stronger?

4: Speaking of controlling emotions, Hagrid and Sirius are calmer in the films than in the books

Well, maybe not Sirius in “Prisoner of Azkaban”, but definitely in “Order of the Phoenix”. I already say why in my other “Harry Potter” post that focused on a lot of the books. If I had thought of this then, I would’ve said that I like movie Hagrid better than book Hagrid. I understand book Ginny being better than movie Ginny if she’s better developed in the novels, but movie Hagrid is far more likable to me than book Hagrid. Why? Because he controls his anger and emotions a lot more in the film franchise. I saw the first four movies before I read the books. I noticed that Hagrid had explosive tempers a lot in the novels, and it didn’t please me. I was often glad when those extreme anger outbursts were cut out of the movies or changed to much calmer episodes. Yes, it’s a significant trait for giants and half-giants. But I’ve always preferred calmer, patient people more. Not just in fiction, but also in real life. Movie Hagrid was closer to my envision. Hagrid may be friendly in the novels, but it’s more emphasized in the movies.

5: Music classes at Hogwarts exist in the movies

Fans constantly point out the lack of core education classes at Hogwarts, such as math, English, science, and social studies. Even though the film franchise doesn’t include liberal arts courses, they do have music classes, such as choir, like that scene in “Prisoner of Azkaban” where the school chorus performs in the great hall, or in “Order of the Phoenix”, where Flitwick is having them rehearse their voices, and in “Half-Blood Prince”, where Flitwick mentions having to teach choir practice. There is also an orchestra in “Goblet of Fire” in the Yule Ball scene and a band playing at the third task in the same movie. I don’t remember any music courses in the novels. But I’m pretty sure there weren’t any.

6: The actors playing Lily and James Potter were much older than their characters

Yet, the crew did not bother to make the characters older in the movies. The actress who played Lily was in her 30’s when they filmed the first movie. The actor who played James was in his 40’s when they filmed the first installment. J.K. Rowling was actually offered the part of Lily, but I think she turned it down. That being said, she could’ve told them that they were only 21 when they died. Unless she wasn’t allowed to, or she forgot, and when she finally remembered, it was too late. Clearly, the casting person had a very different vision of Lily and James. They probably pictured them much older. Once the 7th book was released, readers discovered that Lily and James were much younger than how the films portrayed them. In fact, it’s apparently still a common misconception that they died in their 30’s. The filmmakers had every right to make those characters at least 10 years older than in the books, even if J.K. Rowling demanded that they didn’t. Authors usually don’t get to have any creative control over their book’s film adaptations. J.K. Rowling was one of the few exceptions and it was only because she was an incredibly big-name author.

Anyway, the filmmakers could’ve cast younger actors from the start or when they found out Lily and James’s real ages (which probably wouldn’t have been an option, though), or put youthful makeup on them to look younger, or—just simply made them older in the movies. Nothing would have been messed up as a lot of elements were already cut and changed. Plus, it is common for characters to be made older in the films than in their original sources. This happened with Disney’s “Pocahontas” (and many other adaptations of the same person), 2002’s “Tuck Everlasting”, “The Crucible”, “Percy Jackson” movies, and “The Giver”. The crewmembers probably thought the movies would succeed more and have wider appeals if the main characters were made older than in their original books. Oh well.

So, those are all the observations I had for the “Harry Potter” movies.

movie

You Ain’t Never Read a Critique Like This…For Disney’s “Aladdin” Live-Action Remake (2019)

This year is a huge year for Disney, especially with live-action remakes. I went with some friends to see the live-action remake of “Aladdin”. I liked it.

From the trailer, I could easily see that it was going to differ a lot from the cartoon. Unlike my other movie critiques, this will not have spoilers that occur toward the end of the film. However, there will be some minor revelations. So, if you don’t want to know, I’d suggest you see the movie first. But if you do, or you already saw the film, proceed.

Anyway, let me start off with the strengths.

1: Giving Princess Jasmine a girl BFF

Unlike other Disney princesses, Jasmine has no female companions in the animated version of “Aladdin” (as well as doesn’t have the lead role). I noticed that in recent years and thought about how it would’ve been nice if she had a female companion, like a girl BFF. Coincidentally, it happened. Not long after I realized that Jasmine only had males in her life did I come across an article that announced that she would have a female friend in the 2019 reboot. Yay! More female presence—not counting the extras.

2: The song “Speechless”

This was added in the live-action reboot. It was given to Jasmine and as a single solo. It added character development and more backstory to Jasmine.

3: Will Smith’s portrayal of the genie

While no one will truly beat Robin Williams’ portrayal of the “Aladdin” cartoon in 1992, Will Smith still did a good job. He still executed jokes and humor successfully. I especially admired a realistic approach of the genie’s look and why (I won’t say—see the movie to find out).

Now here are the aspects that could’ve been better.

1: The characterization of Iago and the sultan

Okay, I get it. The creators didn’t want it to be a copy of the cartoon. They also had to make changes for new characters, like Jasmine’s friend, Dahlia. However, I was quite bummed with the sultan and Iago’s developments.

The sultan was dull, conservative, and had little screen time, compared to the cartoon. He was also not nearly as enthusiastic and positive. And he didn’t play with toys. Bummer! I understand that the younger characters need to make their own choices, but cartoon sultan is far better.

And Iago. Oh my God—he was so one-dimensional. He flew around to check on things for Jafar, would repeat phrases, and would state when someone was doing something wrong, such as lying or hiding something. Where was his personality? His complexity? I comprehend how the crew couldn’t re-cast the original cast to reprise their roles. But I still wish Iago was more developed. Like cartoon sultan, animated Iago is far superior.

2: The romance between Aladdin and Jasmine was weaker

In the cartoon version, Aladdin and Jasmine fell in love and stayed that way. However, in the live-action remake, Aladdin has trouble getting Jasmine to love or even trust him. Remember when Jasmine tried to free Aladdin from the guards and revealed her true identity for it in the animated version? That didn’t happen in the live-action remake. Also, while some musical numbers were a bit stronger than in the cartoon, the scene with the song, “A Whole New World” did not convey nearly enough emotion for the audience as in the cartoon.

That being said, I would rate this film 4.5 out of 5 stars. While I liked certain versions of story adaptations equally as much (such as the cartoon and live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movies), this one was almost as good as the cartoon. My main issue was the characterization of Iago and the sultan. I know they aren’t major characters. But still—even if they were just a little different from the animated movie, I would have appreciated that.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend this movie.

Writing

On Writing my Third “Magical Missions” Novel

This process has been SUPER difficult for me. I meant that. For two years, I couldn’t finish a single darn draft. Then, last year, I discovered that I needed to start shorter and sloppier. I realized that my progress differed from other writers. I needed to simplify things drastically. While others write 100,000 words and have to cut, I will have to write 10,000 words and then expand. But that’s another post.

Anyway, the first installment “The Frights of Fiji” is available on Amazon here. The second installment, “The Uncontrollable Curse” can be pre-ordered right here. The third novel is currently titled “Enchanted for Eternity” (which might change) and still has a ways to go. I am writing a synopsis for the current draft. I’m hoping that plot can work for the final draft. Really—I just want this project to be done. About 3.25 years of this WIP have passed and I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to quit.

Yeah—finding an exciting plot was sooo hard. Even recently, long after I completed a full first draft from January to February last year (2018), I have gotten bored with some of my plots. However, the one I’m working on actually sounds pretty exciting, even though I’m not done with the synopsis.

But the idea has stayed the same. My main character, Alyssa, is cursed with magic that she needs to learn to control and keep permanently. I’ll release more information once the story’s pretty much done and nearing publication, which might be early fall, as of now.

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The Journey Continues… Check out this Review of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

I was never really a Lord of the Rings fan. I never read the books nor saw the movies before this one. However, I did do a little research on it after, despite finding this film just okay.

Basically, a bunch of men are continuing their journey from the previous movie, which I didn’t see. Never reading the book, I discovered that many female characters, such as Tariel the elf, and Bard’s daughters, were not in the novel. The film crew added them.

One thing I found surprising was that Bard had kids that were suddenly shown at the end. And they were older—old enough to look after themselves without a nanny. I’d came up with private nickname for Bard, “Guy who looks like he had kids at 17.” Then, after doing research, I discovered that Bard was supposed to be in his 40s. The actor, Luke Evans, was in his early 30s when the movie was shot—I think.

Another interesting aspect was that the elves were not short, like they traditionally are portrayed in other fantasies, excluding Christmas ones (except in “The Santa Claus” movies, where the elves looked like human children—but that’s another topic). They were even fierce.

Because I was never into the LOTR franchise that much nor was I very familiar with it, I was a little lost in the story, which is why I didn’t narrate it. It was also a little intense for me. Therefore, I would rate this film 3 out of 5 stars. It just didn’t hold my attention as much as “Harry Potter” or “Narnia”.

fiction

Excerpt: The Frights of Fiji (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions Book 1)

The raindrops darkened into black, looking as if ink fell from the sky. Alyssa leaned closer to them. She squinted to determine the shapes they formed on the kitchen window… letters.

            No! That couldn’t happen. Yet, a message spelled out as more pigments plopped onto the glass. Alyssa gasped at what it said.

            Your life will never be the same again, Alyssa McCarthy, as magic will interfere.

            What? Magic didn’t exist—at least that’d been what others had told her when she was little. No one on Orion Street could possess enchanted abilities.

            Alyssa had lived here since she’d lost her parents in that car crash five years ago. She’d only been seven then. How would she tell her uncle, Bruce, about this? He’d consider her crazy. He’d already toughened up his attitude and rules. So he might consider it an excuse to escape this house.

            Although Alyssa’s parents had designated her godfather as the first priority guardian, Uncle Bruce forbade her to try and contact him. He’d hidden the phone number and other information about him.

            Since Alyssa’s aunt, Laura, had died three years ago, Uncle Bruce had required fun to be earned. And that took more effort than Alyssa could often accomplish.

            Turning around, she spotted her babysitter, Mrs. Hutchinson, examining the kitchen floor. Alyssa’s eleven-year-old cousin, Hailey, watched the progress. Hailey had mopped the floor. Would she earn a break now? Ever since her uncle, Bruce, had hired Mrs. Hutchinson, Mrs. Hutchinson had admired the way Hailey had done her chores more than Alyssa.

            “Hailey, you can take a break until your next chore,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, get back to work. You’ve been staring at the rain for too long.”

            “Okay.” Alyssa turned back—only to see the message gone and the rain back to its normal transparency.

            “What did I say?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.

            Alyssa sighed. “Fine, I’ll finish washing the dishes.”

She scrubbed her dish and glass with soap under warm running water. Her eyes focused on just those. No way would she want Mrs. Hutchinson to catch her looking out the window again. Mrs. Hutchinson was only in her sixties, but she’d sometimes seem to forget that was 2010 and not 1960 with her guidelines. Yet, it had taken Alyssa a while to realize that she wouldn’t even tolerate the mildest kind of nonsense, such as getting distracted by a windowpane when having to perform chores.

            Now that she finished washing her dishes, Alyssa put them to the side and grabbed some paper towels to dry them.

            “What do you think you’re doing?” Mrs. Hutchinson asked.

Alyssa stopped. “I’m just—”

            “The last few times I was here, you left little bits of food on your dishes.”

            “But they were stuck.”

            “Let me inspect them. Also, if something is rubbery, you have to wash it again.”

            “Why?”

            “Because clean dishes aren’t supposed to be rubbery. And boy, did you do such a sloppy job. Look at that stain on your sweater.”

            Alyssa looked down.

            “That looks like chocolate.”

            Alyssa blushed and arched her eyebrows.  “Hey—it’s just water.” She covered the stain at the bottom of her sweater’s V-neck.

            But Mrs. Hutchinson waved her index finger. “Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Alyssa. That’s rude. In my days, kids respected their elders. We never would dare talk to them that way unless we didn’t mind them smacking our bottoms.”

            “Things change.”

            “Not when I’m here, they don’t. Now let me do my inspection.”

            Great—an inspection! How long would Mrs. Hutchinson take? She might spend a couple minutes or maybe twenty. Alyssa crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She wanted her break now. She wished to read, rest, do a small craft, like lanyards—anything but wait for Mrs. Hutchinson to finish her task.

            “Mrs. Hutchinson?” Alyssa asked.

            “Whatever you need to say, wait till I’m done,” she said.

            Alyssa sighed. She continued to watch Mrs. Hutchinson run her finger down the middle of the front of the dish. She then rubbed it back and forth. When she put it down and nodded, Alyssa figured out that the dish had nothing on it.

            Mrs. Hutchinson spent a few minutes of running her finger down the glass. She put it down and turned to Alyssa. “You’re good. Now what did you want to tell me?”

            “Um . . . if I tell you, can you not give me a hard time?”

            “Okay.”

            “There was writing on the window.”

            Mrs. Hutchinson pursed her lips and tilted her head. “Really?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Nonsense.”

            “No, really, it was there.”

            “There was nothing there when I came, and there’s nothing there right now. So don’t tell me stories.”

            “But it’s not a story.”

            “I don’t want to hear any more. Now it’s time for your next chore.”

            “Aw, but I wanted my break.”

            “Too bad. You have to go vacuum the living room.”

            Alyssa dragged her feet toward the living room and took the vacuum from the corner. She cleaned and thought about that writing as well as how Mrs. Hutchinson wouldn’t believe her. Would a nicer babysitter have believed her? Mrs. Hutchinson had watched her and Hailey for three years, and not once had she smiled or assisted with anything.

            After vacuuming the carpet for about five minutes, Alyssa decided that she had tidied the floor enough. So she stopped and put the vacuum away.

            “Hailey, you and Alyssa need to go get the mail now!” Mrs. Hutchinson called, facing the staircase.            

“Coming!” cried Hailey.

Another rule Uncle Bruce had placed on Alyssa and Hailey was they could only go outside together. He worried about people taking them or something, even though Alyssa would turn thirteen next month. But that rule had been placed because a few months ago, Uncle Bruce had heard about a seventeen-year-old boy who had been shot while skateboarding in his neighborhood. Violence could even happen here in Bursnell, New Jersey.

            Hailey and Alyssa headed to the closet and put their raincoats on until Mrs. Hutchinson said, “It stopped raining outside.”

            “Already?” asked Alyssa.

            “Yes.” Mrs. Hutchinson went to the bathroom.

            The girls walked outside toward the mailbox. Alyssa pulled the mail and headed back toward the door. But mud bubbled from the ground near the house. It piled up, looking like horse manure, and grew as more soil emerged. Alyssa dropped her jaw and stared at it.

            “Alyssa, what’s going on?” Hailey asked.

            “No idea,” said Alyssa.

            The dirt stopped piling up, but it continued to bubble, and the effects spread throughout the whole pile. The bubbles stopped popping up and down. Alyssa and Hailey gasped as they expanded. They kept their mouths open as the bubbles merged together, each one attached to another, forming a single bigger shape. Alyssa and Hailey stepped back as the now giant bubble swelled. And it . . . popped! Particles of exploding mud landed on the girls. They shrieked.

The front door opened to reveal a glowering Mrs. Hutchinson. “What the heck have you two been doing?”

            “T-the mud . . . it e-exploded,” said Hailey.

            “Nonsense!” growled Mrs. Hutchinson. “Get inside!”

            The girls returned inside, pulling and wiping the mud out of their hair. Alyssa could spot the mud in her straight pale-blonde tresses, unlike Hailey, who likely needed more patience to search for globs in her elbow-length red locks. But Alyssa’s hair fell a few inches past her hips, so cleaning out the mud would take longer, even with the shorter layers in the front.

            “How could dirt explode?” Mrs. Hutchinson stomped.

            “I-I think it was magic!” exclaimed Alyssa.

            “There’s no such thing as magic!” screamed Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, you’re twelve years old. You’re too old to say things like that!”

            “But nothing else can make mud explode!” Alyssa said.

            “Mrs. Hutchinson, we swear it did!” whined Hailey.

            “Enough!” snapped Mrs. Hutchinson. “You and Hailey—go upstairs and take showers!”

            Alyssa followed Hailey up the stairs and heaved a sigh. How else would the mud have splattered all over them? Mrs. Hutchinson couldn’t have thought they’d play in the mud like small children.

            “Alyssa, can I shower first?” asked Hailey.

            “Sure,” said Alyssa.

            As Hailey strode into the bathroom, Alyssa walked into her room. She scratched more mud off her skinny jeans (the only jeans she’d worn ever since they’d come into style) and the back of her hand. She stood by her bed since she wanted to keep it clean.

She considered the writing on the window and the exploding mud. Someone wanted magic to interfere with her life, but who, and how come?

            Also, why hadn’t she ever seen wizardry before? Why would her parents and others tell her that it hadn’t existed? Did sorcery just start on earth? Had it hidden somewhere? There had to be some reason why no one had ever believed in it.

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fiction

Animal Psychic: A Short Story

Isabella woke up. Energy filled her mind as she hopped out of bed and got dressed. She brushed her long, dark brown waves and put on her glasses.

Today was her eleventh birthday. She hurried downstairs where her aunt, Molly, prepared breakfast.

“Happy birthday, Isabella,” said Aunt Molly.

“Thanks.” Isabella sat down. She looked outside and frowned. If only her parents and uncle could see her today.

Three years ago, Isabella’s mom had suffered from depression after the dad had died from a heart attack. Isabella’s mother had lost so much control that social services had sent Isabella to live with Aunt Molly. Uncle Tanner had divorced Aunt Molly a year after and had moved to Vancouver.

“Isabella, after breakfast, I have a surprise birthday present for you.” Aunt Molly tied her ash-blonde hair into a bun.

“Oh, yippee.” Isabella ate her pancakes. She cleaned up, and then Aunt Molly led her downstairs to the basement. Aunt Molly turned on the lights. “Ta da.”

An albino guinea pig ran around in its cage. Isabella opened her mouth.

“You get to name her,” Aunt Molly said.

“All right,” Isabella said. “Her name will be… Peppermint.”

“Nice name,” said Aunt Molly.

“Why peppermint, though?” asked a strange female voice.

Isabella gasped. “Aunt Molly, did you hear something?”

“What? The guinea pig making noises?”

“No, someone asked why I named the guinea pig, Peppermint.”

Aunt Molly tilted her head at Isabella.

“I’m serious.”

“Whatever. Play pretend like you’re five.” Aunt Molly returned upstairs.

“Aunt Molly, stop it!”

But Aunt Molly closed the door.

“You can read animal’s minds,” the same unknown voice said.

Isabella breathed and looked around. “W-who’s there?”

“Its me, the guinea pig you named Peppermint,” said the voice.

Gasping, Isabella turned to the creature. She rushed her breathing.

“Last night, someone gave you the power to read animal’s minds,” the voice said.

“But how am I going to convince my aunt?” asked Isabella.

“There is a note in your closet upstairs stating the name of the person. It appeared last night when you were sleeping.”

Isabella hurried upstairs and to her bedroom. She opened her closet and saw a piece of paper under her shoes. She picked it up and read it.

 

Dear Isabella,

 

            I wanted to let you know something about myself. I was born with the power to read everyone’s minds, including animals. I’ve kept it secret from you for many years. I was worried that I was going to scare you. So I sent some magic into the letter that would make you understand what I’ve gone through. I miss you. I wish I could be here for your birthday.

 

            Love,

            Mom

 

Isabella flushed. Tears stung her eyes. How could her own mother want her to read animals’ minds? The mom couldn’t have gone that insane. It made no sense.

Isabella hurried downstairs. “Aunt Molly?”

“What now, Isabella?” Aunt Molly asked.

“I got this note from my mom.” She held up the paper.

Aunt Molly put her hands on her hips.

“It is, I swear. I even recognize the handwriting.”

“Let me see.”

Isabella handed the note to Aunt Molly. Aunt Molly read it. Her eyes watered. She burst into tears. “I c-can’t believe it.”

Isabella remained mute.

“I don’t want you to be like this, Isabella.”

Isabella shook her head. “Neither do I.”

“There’s got to be a way to undo this.”

Isabella paused. Then she returned to the basement.

“You’re back,” Peppermint’s internal voice said.

“I need to get rid of this curse,” Isabella said.

“The only way to get rid of it is to suppress it yourself.”

            “How?”

“You have to replace thoughts of me with thoughts of other people.”

“B-but I can’t forget you.”

“It’ll only take a few minutes. Then you can spend as much time with me as you’d like.”

            Isabella looked down. “Okay.” She returned upstairs and sat in the living room. She closed her eyes. Thoughts of her friends, teachers, and even her mom, came into her head. She thought about the guinea pig, but replaced it with a memory of her dad going to the hospital.

Peppermint’s internal voice faded away from Isabella’s mind. Isabella pushed herself to remember the voice. But she had forgotten.

She went back to the basement. Peppermint made her usual guinea pig sounds. Isabella gazed at her. The animal climbed her cage bars. There were no unusual voices.

Isabella grinned.

 

movie

Tick Tock on “The House with a Clock in its Walls” Review (2018)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

I saw this film with some friends, not knowing what it was going to be about. In some ways, it made the movie more exciting as everything was a surprise.

The film begins with 10-year-old Lewis, who was recently orphaned and is being sent to live with his uncle, Jonathan. Uncle Jonathan seems nice and doesn’t place any rules at that moment. His house, however, seems haunted to Lewis. Lewis’s mom comes up in Lewis’s dream and says that Uncle Jonathan is evil. Lewis wakes up and believes that. He tries to escape. Even the kids at Lewis’s new school consider the house dangerous. They also don’t care about Lewis. Uncle Jonathan’s one rule is not to open a certain cabinet. Tarby, a classmate of Lewis, tries to disobey that guideline, thinking that it’s no problem. Desperate to make friends with Tarby, Lewis breaks that rule and unintentionally raises Isaac Izzard from the dead. It takes time for Uncle Jonathan and his neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, to listen to Lewis when he tries to admit that he opened that forbidden cabinet. After Lewis confessing his wrongdoing, things get worse and intense.

The movie had its light and dark moments. It also had some strange material, such as toilet humor. I had to cover my eyes when the winged lion excreted. That moment when Lewis is trying to undo the eclipse, Uncle Jonathan turns into a baby with the same adult face and voice. I was trying not to laugh, even after that scene. Does humor like that really belong in a dark moment?

Despite it being rated PG, there were a couple of mature words as well as some intensely dark moments that I was getting goosebumps from, even as an adult. I thought it would’ve been better off PG-13.

On the bright side, the story has a lot of excellent elements. The plot was well-thought-out. I appreciated the plot twists, such as when the neighbor, Mrs. Hanchett, was really Selena in disguise this whole time and her dog was Selena’s rat. Selena has been disguised as Lewis’s mom in Lewis’s dreams the entire time. I also admired how Uncle Jonathan was actually a good guy this whole time, despite the hints of him being wicked at the beginning. After the eclipse was undone, he told Lewis not to tell Mrs. Zimmerman about his baby body during the eclipse process. I found that to make him very believable.

Overall, I would rate this 4 out of 5 stars. I’m not sure if I’d recommend this to very young children, but older kids 10 and up may enjoy it. Note, I never read the book and didn’t know there was a book of this until after I saw the movie. I may check it out, though.

movie

The Analysis of “Narnia” (2005 film) – The Likes, the Comments, and the Questions

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

Based on C.S. Lewis’s novel, the first Narnia movie, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, focuses on four siblings, the Pevensies. There’s Peter the oldest. Then there’s Susan, probably close to Peter’s age. There’s Edmond, who seems drawn to his father that’s fighting in the Second World War. And then there’s Lucy, the youngest and the most naïve. She is that typical little kid who annoys her older siblings.

Now before I express my thoughts, please note that I will not bring up events from the book series or the play adaptations. I have never read the novels nor have I seen the play. I have seen both sequels. The second one was in full, but a long time ago. With the third, I only saw bits of it here and there. So this post is only going to discuss the First Narnia movie from 2005, with possibly a comparison to a sequel here and there.

As bombs drop in London, Mrs. Pevensie leads the children out to the underground area to hide. Then she sends them on a train to the country, where it’s safer (this is actually historically accurate, by the way). The four kids find a stern woman named Mrs. McCreedy, who will watch them while they stay. While playing hide-and-seek, Lucy means to hide in a wardrobe—only that it leads her to a snowy environment. Little does she know that she has entered a magical land not part of regular Earth. She meets Mr. Tumnus the faun and likes him as an individual. Edmond ends up in Narnia and meets the White Witch, who seems sweet at first, but is really trying to hurt him. She wants to gain Edmond’s trust. After a bunch of drama where the older kids wouldn’t believe Lucy, they all go through the wardrobe and discover Narnia once again. Things get intense and problematic from there. That’s when the meat of the story begins.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. I used to watch is as a child when it’d come out on DVD. One funny activity my brothers and I would do was guess the children’s ages. It was cute.

Anyway, I’m getting back on topic. I admired the world building and how it was a good way to help kids escape from the horrors of WWII. It was actually written to keep children relaxed and feel like they are escaping the war.

Of course, no story, either written or on screen, is perfect. For instance, who decided that the Pevensie kids would stay with Mrs. McCreedy? She led them around the house with ground rules and no signs of a positive attitude. She especially snapped when Susan touched a statue (and that I supported because Susan should’ve known better at the age she was). No welcoming attitude with “Make yourself at home. You want some water?”? Obviously, the kids wouldn’t have gotten to pick. If Mrs. Pevensie had chosen, perhaps she should’ve been more careful. If the state equivalent in the UK did, then that was they decided. On the bright side, the professor was very sweet. When Lucy cried, he offered to make her some hot chocolate.

When Aslan is executed, Lucy and Susan cry like he was a loved one they’ve known forever. Lucy also wept when Mr. Tumnus turned into stone. I get that they cared about these characters. But I did find it a bit odd that two girls would cry over deaths of animals they barely knew, especially if they weren’t their pets. Well, I guess the viewers needed some sadness and sympathy for all those characters.

Narnia’s time is pretty confusing. One year equals, like, a few minutes in the real world. After Lucy leaves Narnia for the first time, she returns back to where the hide-and-seek game started. At the end, when the kids have become adults and rule Narnia, they return to the wardrobe. The reverse back into the ages they were when they first entered. And they didn’t seem to react much. I wonder why it’s like that. Kind of strange, huh?

And the last point will tie into the sequels. In “Prince Caspian”, a year has passed since “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”. Centuries have gone by in Narnia. There are now humans. While there are adults from Narnia who can be there, adults from Earth are too old to be there. That is why Susan and Peter don’t go back to Narnia in the third film. There, it’s Edmond’s and Lucy’s last times, too. But Edmond is probably a few years older than Lucy. So while I’d understand Edmond’s last time, why Lucy? Unless they plan to lower the maximum age for going to Narnia.

Yes, there is a reason why kids can’t go to Narnia once they reach a certain point. The short answer is that they no longer need it. And there’s more to the long answer. But I don’t know it well. You could search for it elsewhere if you’re really desperate to find out.

Nevertheless, Narnia is a fantastic movie. Both as a fantasy and an amazing film. I would give it 5 out of 5 stars.