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.

fiction

Review of Book, “Cooking with Caroline” by Katharina Marcus

Sixteen-year-old Kirsty Matthews attends an assembly with her school, where a celebrity chef named Caroline Connelly announces a healthy cooking class for students. She learns more about the program as students ask Caroline different questions related to it. She unintentionally signs up for it as well as gets in a little drama with a boy named Jake Deacon. How will things progress? Read the book to find out.

This novel had a lot of unique aspects. One thing that stood out to me was the protagonist being overweight. It is not too common for main characters to have heavy figures—at least not in the ones I have read.

Another part that I found surprising was that every other chapter switched from third-person to first-person and focused merely on Kirsty’s thoughts. While that did displease me a bit, it did not distract me too much nor did it bother me a lot.

The food Caroline made the kids prepare sounded interesting, such as healthy soup and even pasta dishes. Sometimes, my mouth watered just from reading this fictional story. Lol.

From the teen life to the cooking lessons, this book brought lots of different feelings to me. I would rate this 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to both kids and adults.

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?

Writing

Writers, Should You Hire a Beta Reader?

Image from Pixabay

What is a beta reader? It’s someone who gives you feedback on your story and its literary elements, such as plot, characterization, conflict, etc. They don’t edit your work or rewrite weak sentences.

So, if you are considering hiring a beta reader, here are some aspects you should be aware of.

Pros

Cheaper than traditional editors

Many book editors, especially those who have worked with big-name best-selling authors (like Stephen King), can charge lots of money for their services. They can range from hundreds to even thousands of dollars.

There are people with that kind of money. But unless you are one of them, start off with a beta reader.

Can return work more quickly 

Depending on the editor and the work, it can take at least a week or month to have the project returned to the client. From my experience, though, beta readers may take less time before they give the customers feedback. This can vary, however, depending on the reader and other factors.

Cons

Might not necessarily answer the writer’s specific questions 

With my last beta reader experience, I sent a bunch of questions to the person that concerned specific issues in my manuscript. The beta reader clarified that she was not an editor, so I said that she could answer the questions she felt were relevant. Sadly, she didn’t answer any.

Can be tough

Despite working on my manuscript for nearly 5 years, the beta reader said it needed a ton of work. Other beta readers bashed my projects, too. However, when I showed them to editors, the stories pleased them. For my current WIP, an editor said that it was strong and only needed minor editing.

I don’t know how typical it is for beta readers to be super-tough, but I am giving my manuscript to other beta readers as well as a developmental editor.

Remember to do what you think will work for you.

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

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. 

Writing

You Can Turn Clichés into More Original Ideas

While pretty much everything has been done before, some ideas are too overdone, according to the general public. Some of those include phrases, metaphors, descriptions, and types of creatures or humanoids.

When I researched for my fantasy stories, I came across how so many typical elements, such as dragons, are considered overdone. So, I made up my own magical entities in my writing.

One cliché I used, however, was having wizards in my novels. But there are no old ones with long white beards in long robes. The magicians are also modern and even post-modern at times. They have their own technology far more advanced than the regular kinds in my books.

Another overdone element I’ve included in my series is a skeleton character. In fact, in early drafts, he was more of a stereotypical skeleton where he was pure evil and carried a scythe. But as I learned more about the writing craft and discovered that pure-evil villains don’t often work (they probably can sometimes), I softened the skeleton’s personality. I’ve developed him to be depressed and insecure about his appearance as well as make him desperate to be human. I’ve also made him afraid of dogs. And no, not because he is built with bones.

Those are just some of the changes I’ve incorporated into the clichés. You could do it, too.  

Writing

Why Names Rarely Have Purposes in My Writing

Many authors choose names for their characters based on their personalities. The names often have meanings for each character based on their behaviors and backstories.

I, however, am not normally like that. I usually choose names for my characters simply by how much they appeal to me. Of course, I take into consideration the characters’ races, religions, ethnicities, and generations when I name them.

While I never name characters based on their personalities, there are a few times my characters’ names had purposes.

For example, in book 1 of my “Magical Missions” series, the main antagonist is Beau Duchamp. I chose Beau so that kids could pronounce his name more easily for a French man.

Another example is Errol, the villain in book 2 of my series. He was inspired by the Grim Reaper. He was also originally named Peril and was eviler in early drafts of the story. However, editors have said that he wasn’t wicked enough to be called “Peril.” So, I changed his name to something that rhymed with his original name.

In my third installment, the main villain has a made-up name: Boo-Champ Corey. The name represents a combination of two other bad guys from my series world.

The final character is a wizard mentor called Mr. Reuber. He was inspired by Hagrid from “Harry Potter”, so his last name sounds similar to Hagrid’s first name, Rubeus. Of course, he isn’t a representation of J.K. Rowling’s creation and he does differ from Hagrid, as well.

However, since book 3 hasn’t been published yet, I don’t know if those characters will make it to the final draft. Hopefully, they will.

Other than these examples, my characters’ names were chosen purely based on what I liked.

fiction

7 is a Magic Number in “Harry Potter” and I Have 7 Unique Questions About it

I am not making up the fact that the number 7 plays an important part in the “Harry Potter” series. People have said it many times. There are 7 books in the main series, 7 Weasley siblings, 7 years at Hogwarts, 7 players per Quidditch team, and 7 horcruxes.

Anyway, here are 7 unique questions I have about the franchise.

1: Do Ilvermorny Students learn French and Spanish?

It was great to learn that there is an American wizard school. Everyone even got to learn about it in the 2016 film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.” However, it serves not only wizard children in the US, but also all of North America. That means Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

I did research on this school on a Wikia site and saw that they learn the same subjects British and Irish children learn at Hogwarts, like transfiguration, potions, and so forth. But if it’s all of North America, where some people speak Spanish or French, how do students and staff communicate with everybody?

2: Why aren’t national anthems sung before Quidditch games?

In real life, the country’s national anthem is always sung at sporting events before the games start. But in “Harry Potter”, no national anthem has been sung before Quidditch games. Obviously, muggle-borns know their country’s national anthems, but do kids who grew up in the wizarding world know them? Could the International Statue of Secrecy have gotten in the way?

3: Does Dumbledore know Harry’s handwriting?

When Harry’s name comes out of the goblet of fire in the fourth installment, everyone accuses him of cheating. But he didn’t enter. Someone else entered for him.

Although Dumbledore has a ton of responsibilities, and can’t keep track of every student’s information (such as their dates of birth), he seems to think Harry put his name in the goblet of fire right after it comes out.

I don’t remember if Harry’s handwriting was described. But does it really mimic or resemble similarities to the actual person who entered Harry into the Triwizard Tournament? At the very least, Harry would have recognized his own handwriting and may have convinced Dumbledore and everybody else that he didn’t recognize the handwriting on the parchment if it differed from the person who entered him.

4: Could Harry have forged Uncle Vernon’s handwriting for his Hogsmeade Permission Slip?

In “Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry has his third year at Hogwarts. Third year students can visit the local village, Hogsmeade, as long as they have a parent or guardian’s permission. Harry convinces Uncle Vernon to sign his permission form, but he refuses unless Harry behaves. But Harry gets angry at Uncle Vernon’s sister, Marge, and he unintentionally causes her to blow up like a balloon and fly away. So, there went his chance of getting his form signed.

However, what if Harry forged Uncle Vernon’s signature? Yes, it’s dishonest. Maybe magic has a way of detecting forgery, but I could be wrong. While the trace detects underage wizardry, I can’t imagine that it or any other magic that monitors wizards tracks every action a magician takes.

5: Why is the age of consent 17 in the wizarding world?

Authors usually have reasons behind details in their stories, especially J.K. Rowling. She chooses names and other elements carefully and with meanings. But it seems to be a mystery to why wizards are legally adults when they turn 17.

6: Who takes care of the students’ animals when they’re in classes?

For some odd reason, students are allowed to bring animals. They have owls for delivering mail. They can also bring a cat or a toad (and a rat in Ron’s case until something about that changes). But where do the animals go when students can’t be with them? How do they act? When do they get their food, relieving breaks, and so forth?

While Hagrid is the gamekeeper, he can’t possibly take care of every single animal, especially cats since they make him sneeze. Hmmm…

7: What happens if a wizard child moves to another country?

When a wizard kid is born, his or her name is added to the respected wizarding school list of their nation. Obviously, they have to grow up and be 11 by September 1st before they can attend. But schools, like Hogwarts, are only available to children in the UK and Ireland.

So, my guess is that if a magician kid moves to another country, his or her name is crossed off the old school’s list and added to the new one. For instance, if a child moves from England to France, maybe their name is removed from the Hogwarts’ list and added to the Beaubaxtons list.

That’s it for all the questions I have about “Harry Potter” that I can’t find elsewhere.

Writing

Why You Shouldn’t Rush Your Writing

I know—you’re eager to finish your story or whatever else you’re working on ASAP. I get it. Many writers probably dream of having a good story within as little time as possible. It’s been four years since I started working on my current project, and I’m still not done. I wanted to get the story over with as quickly as I could.

However, I ended up rushing the draft of this novel. And I realized how flawed it was. While I could easily distinguish my characters, an editor said that they pretty much sounded all the same, except for the protagonist. I had aimed for at least 40,000 words, but ended up with around 32,000.

I’ve always been inspired easily. When I researched how to write a book faster, I tried the techniques, but they resulted in little to no success. I’ve even envied authors who could write several thousands of words a day as well as those who could work on different writing projects at once, which I am teaching myself to do as I don’t want my book series to take forever. I just turned 26 and my goal is to have all 7 installments published by my 30th birthday (the first two are already out).

Regardless, I realized that it was a mistake to rush my story draft within a few weeks. I am now going to go slower and take my time.

Another reason you shouldn’t hurry your writing is that you get errors and may not notice them until it’s too late, no matter how many times you read your writing. I have spotted typos in things I wrote, whether they were stories or blog posts, a year after I published them. No kidding.

I want to type more slowly. But sadly, the Internet has little to offer about that. So, I’m pretty much on my own with that.

Unless you have a tight deadline that isn’t flexible, it’s best to take your time with your writing, regardless of the length or topic.