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.

fiction

The Difficult Decision: A Flash Fiction Piece

My energy arose as I thought about my friend, Kylie’s, birthday party happening in two days. Kylie and I had been friends since first grade. I had just completed my freshman year of college, so I looked forward to seeing Kylie after a year.

            But I received a text message from my college friend, Astrid. I read it.

            Lila, my mom just lost her battle with breast cancer. Her funeral is this Saturday.

            Pain shocked my body and my jaw lowered. I responded.

            Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear.

            The door to the house opened. My mom entered, dragging her feet and lacking energy.

            “Mom, are you all right?” I asked.

            “Lila, did you hear what happened to Mrs. Jackson?”

            I paused for a few seconds. “Astrid’s mom?”

            “Yes.” My mother sat. “Her mom and my mom used to be roommates in college, too.”

            I hesitated and then said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”

            “I…I lost touch with her until you met Astrid.”

            My phone sounded another text alert. I checked it. It came from…Kylie.

            So excited for Saturday. Can’t wait to see you.

            I stared at the communication, but did not respond. Kylie’s birthday party and Mrs. Jackson’s funeral fell on the same day.

            I had attended my grandpa’s funeral two years ago, and I’d had a tough time. I missed him, but I hadn’t cried over his death once…not even after hearing about his passing from my mother.

            While other people had wept at his funeral, I had just stood, bored for hours until the speeches had begun.

            I had hoped not to attend any more funerals since. I recall how the time at the funeral home had dragged and I’d been there for hours with my family.

            Aside from that, I had not seen Kylie since graduation from high school. Her party would start at three P.M. So, maybe I could attend the funeral and then leave for the birthday event. But wait—would that offend Astrid? I had a feeling that it might.

            “Lila, we should go to the funeral this Saturday,” my mom said.

            “How long will it last?”

            My mother gave me a sharp look.

            “Well, I’ve got Kylie’s birthday party at three.”

            “Lila, I think you should skip the party and stay at the funeral.”

            My mouth opened.

            “I get it—we’d all rather go to birthday parties than funerals. But frankly, you’re more friendly with Astrid than Kylie now. Plus, going to the funeral shows that you care and you’re willing to give your condolences. I think it would be more polite if you go to the funeral instead.”

            I sighed and texted Kylie.

            Hey, I can’t go to your party. I’ve got to go to a funeral.

            I sent it. A few seconds later, Kylie responded.

            Oh, ok. I understand. Sorry to hear.

            At least she comprehended me. But maybe my mother had a point. Summer break had just started. So, I’d probably hang out with Kylie another time.

Writing

Focusing on Foreshadowing

If you’re a writer, or even a student, you should know what foreshadowing is. It is when clues are given in a story, visual or written, that something might happen later. While twists and surprises are important, too, foreshadowing is essential. After all, everything that happens in a story must be crucial to the plot—eventually.

That being said, I have witnessed some stories using too much foreshadowing, such as the Disney-animated movie, “Aladdin”. Don’t worry. “Aladdin” is a great movie and I enjoyed it very much. However, I still think it overdid it on the foreshadowing, and therefore, it was a bit too predictable for me.

That is another thing to watch out for—too much foreshadowing can displease the reader or audience. Notice how in most forms of storytelling, there is a balance of foreshadowing and unexpected plot twists? That is what people want. It makes a story more enjoyable. A little bit of both is what makes a book, movie, TV show, play, or anything else more pleasurable.

I, myself, have used some foreshadowing in my own books. For example, in one of them, the antagonist hears my main character’s dog bark, and then leaves. I won’t spoil anything beyond that. However, I will assure you that the specific moment foreshadows something that is bound to occur later and remains important.

In another novel of mine, there are characters that are introduced through the phone, but don’t appear in person until later. Once again, I won’t spoil anything. In fact, spoiling is another risk you run when you foreshadow too much.

Of course, it is not easy to use foreshadowing properly. But as you learn over time, it can be doable for you.

fiction

Unlucky Twelve: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Days like this make me want to cry. It was my twelfth birthday and I’d hoped for a fantastic time.

            However, instead things had gone wrong. I’d received my math test back with a grade of fifty—an F. Another thing that’d ruined my birthday had been when I’d fallen down on the basketball court and my pants had come down a bit. Everybody had laughed at me.

            My parents had lectured me about the failing grade I’d earned on my exam. I’d even cried after. They’d yelled, too.

            Who’d want to spend their birthday in misery? Yes, there were people who’d had worse birthdays, such as Shakespeare. He’d actually died on his birthday.

            Still—this is a day I wanted to forget. My older brother had been treated nicely on every birthday he’d had that I could remember, including his twelfth.

            Yes, turning twelve wasn’t as significant as turning thirteen, when you actually became a teenager and could do teen activities. You also could no longer be considered a little kid.

            If my twelfth birthday hadn’t gone right, I could only hope that my thirteenth one would turn out better—a lot better.

            In fact, my parents hadn’t gotten me a cake tonight. Why? Not because of my poor math test grade. But because they’d been busy supporting my brother at his basketball tournament. So, they’d forgotten.

            A few people at school had wished me a happy birthday here and there. But overall, I wish I could have my memories of this day wiped and not remember a single thing.

            Maybe I could have a party at some point later. I hadn’t thought about doing something. But perhaps that could make my mood better. I would have to come up with an idea. Then I, Ally Preston, would feel happier.

fiction

Excerpt: A Curse of Mayhem (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.