Friday, October 28, 2011

T-minus 2 Days to NaNoWriMo 2011

I love this time of year. NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. This is really my writerly Christmas. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (with a side of insane).

This will be my eighth year. EIGHT YEARS! I can't even believe it. My first year was the November of my senior year of high school. I can't even wrap my head around that fact. I didn't win until 2009, though. Then again last year. I'm hoping this will be the third year in a row I cross the 50k finish line.

In preparation for NaNo, I've been doing a few things...

1. I've picked out a general plot, the names of my two main characters, and a title. I was starting to panic for a little while at the beginning of October, because I couldn't think of anything. AND THEN IT HIT ME! And there was much rejoicing.

2. I've created a NaNoWriMo 2011 playlist.

3. I'm going to my region's kick-off party on Sunday!

4. I've warned the friends that didn't already know that I do this that I'm going to do this. They needed warning. Querying and doing NaNoWriMo at the same time. My stress level is going to be nuts.

5. I've set a goal to finish my current first draft before November 1. I set this goal today. That gives me three days. HA! We'll see how that goes.

So, all in all, I'm psyched. I'll try to keep this blog updated throughout my NaNoWriMo journey.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Love of the Week: Gum

A certain friend of mine has taken it upon herself to relentlessly quote my previously "most recent" blog post at me until I post a new one. So here's a new one. And now she can stop.

Yes, I'm aware that I keep saying that I'm going to blog more regularly. That darn thing called life keeps getting in the way. As does a multitude of other stuff, including but not limited to my TBR pile, MiMC, e-mail insanity, HPA, alumni bands, car drama, schizophrenic internet, writing a synopsis, getting ready to start querying this novel, and general exhaustion.


So here's a new Love of the Week post. It's lame. And for that, I apologize.

I love me some sugarfree gum, particularly as of late. In particular, I've grown kind of addicted to Extra Dessert Delights.

Here's the thing: A couple of years ago, I lost a ton of weight. During that time, I chewed a lot of sugarfree gum. I'm on a diet again, to lose some of the weight I gained over the summer, and it's become a lifeline. It keeps me from the vending machine and snacks at work. I've gotten some flack from co-workers who have seen my "gum drawer" (I tend to stock up), but the thing works for me. And I need a variety of gum in order to keep my sweet tooth under control, otherwise I start craving things like chocolate. It also comes in handy once NaNoWriMo starts, to keep me away from the snacks during that stressful time too.

So, yes, sugarfree gum is my love of the week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unexpected Writing Exercises

I'm seriously, seriously trying to get back into blogging regularly. My mind's been in about sixty different directions over the last couple of months, so it's been hard. To give you an idea: Pottermania, Portkey (during LeakyCon), Portkey (after LeakyCon), Deathly Hallows Campaign and general HPA staffer stuff, finding an apartment, signing a lease, moving...Dublin Irish Festival and Columbus Feis and upped rehearsal time that comes with those things, Post-Potter Depression, unpacking, trying to get through my TBR pile, writers group, writers group hiatus, diet, revisions, vlogging...identity crises because of Pottermore, then getting over the identity crises...going to funerals and weddings...planning the 20th Anniversary Homecoming alumni band stuff for my high school marching band...starting an agent search...finally finished unpacking, but still trying to buy stuff for the apartment...trying to keep in touch with friends and family...all while trying not to lose my mind. Oh. And now I kinda want a tumblr.

Yeah, it's been a weird summer.

So, please bear with me while I try to get back into the swing of blogging.

My calendar says it's Writing Tuesday. Oh, Writing Tuesday. As I'm taking a small break from serious writing (post-revisions) in favor of researching agents to send my novel to, I had to think for a minute about what to talk about. And then it came to me. Granted, if you watch any of the videos I do on "In the Cardboard Box" (my vlogging project with Emmy), you've heard about this a good three times. Deal. I'm better at talking about things through writing, as opposed to the awkward rambling I do on vlogs.

Have you ever done a round robin story? Where you write the first few lines, then pass it on to the next person to add the next lines? Sometimes it's played by covering the earlier bits of the story up, so you literally end up with one really bizarre story that makes absolutely no sense? I remember we used to do this at the writing camp I went to for a few years when I was younger (yes, I went to a writing was a day camp and was AMAZING). I think we may have done it in Girl Scouts on a few occasions. It's one of those things that's just really entertaining. But we did it at the writing camp because it's also a great exercise of thinking on your feet. It's basically the writer's version of improv.

When I was in high school, I got introduced to RPGs. Not the WoW kind, but the forum kind. The kind that's a lot like a round robin, because you have your character or characters and you tell the story from their point-of-view, picking up wherever the last person to post left off. I used to be really involved in a Harry Potter RPG over on, but it died after a few years (I believe Darkmark has a new RPG now, but I don't participate in that one). At first, I kind of got over it--I was probably a little RPG burnt out--but after a year or two, I really missed the whole thing. Bizarre and wonderful friendships sprout from things like that and I missed chatting and plotting with the friends I'd made on RPDM (granted, it was more chatting than plotting, particularly in my case). I also missed writing the character I'd created. I tried to join other RPGs, but I never stayed very long because it wasn't the same. And I never resurrected my character from RPDM, even though she continued to live in the back of my mind, because it felt wrong to put her into a different place, among different people, with a different story.

Until about three months ago.

Three or so months ago is when I got introduced to a very non-traditional RPG. It was almost more of an experiment. It didn't utilize forums. It utilized blog posts in the form of news articles that you could comment on, and Facebook. Called Magic is Might, it was set during the final Harry Potter book...but it looked at everything else that was going on away from the main story we've all read half a dozen times. And, even more interestingly, the timing of it was played out to coincide with the release of Deathly Hallows Part 2. The characters in the RPG would be fighting the Battle of Hogwarts at the same time as the characters on screen, essentially.

I was fascinated. I decided to resurrect my old character and have her play. She started commenting on the news posts and (I shouldn't have been surprised as I was, considering how welcoming a community the Potterheads usually are) she was immediately welcomed into the story. After a few weeks, I created a second, more evil character. Good and evil. Yin and yang. Innocent and a royal pain in the ass. It was fun. Our characters debated, while the players behind them had heartfelt, nerdy conversations out-of-character. And then the movie came out and the Final Battle wrapped up on Facebook, and we mourned.

And once we were done mourning, we created something new, so we could all keep going. We called it Magic Is Might Continues, because that was all our creativity would allow, and we picked up where the story had left off. We decided to figure out what happened after the Battle. What happened in those 19 years between the end of the last chapter in Deathly Hallows and the beginning of the Epilogue?

We've been going for a couple of months now. The friendships have grown tighter, but likewise the plots of grown...more confusing. We're plotting up a storm for our characters. Emails are exchanged all the time and the "evil" characters are being bitter losers and the "good" characters are getting into relationships with each other. And there's drama and Romeo & Juliet and duels with werewolves and arguments and all kinds of insanity.

BUT (and here's where I get to the Writing Tuesday stuff), it's been such a GREAT writing exercise for me. Other than the great friends I've made, I've also been forced to get used to writing some uncomfortable or emotional or intense scenes. I've had to delve into the head of my "evil" character to see what makes her tick that way. I've had to break my "good" character about fifty times, just to fix her again. In the more adventurous scenes, I've had to pick up the action from the previous poster and carry it forward. It makes me think more about character and action and what someone would say in various situations or debates. I've had to argue the negative side of arguments through my "evil" character.

Moral of the story: It's really amazing, the places you can get practice writing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Love of the Week: Fall TV Season

I have a somewhat pathetic addiction to television. I almost always have it on, even in the background, and I religiously follow a number of shows. Which means this week, I'm going to be in TV heaven as almost ALL of my shows come back (some start next week). It's going to be interesting, though. Having just moved in with two of my friends, we're trying to figure out how to balance the TV/DVR schedules, so none of us miss the shows we NEED to see. But it sounds like it's all going to work out fine, between a DVR and me having a DVD My love of the week for this week is the fall TV season!

Some of the shows I follow and am VERY excited to return:

Castle-- I always watch it right after dance class, usually while getting some much-needed writing or some other project done. It came back tonight. And, boy, did it deliver. I was looking forward to tonight's premiere, because the finale left us in a Lost-style cliffhanger that was driving me ABSOLUTELY NUTS since May. Thank you, Castle. I thought I'd gotten past all that when Lost ended.

Biggest Loser-- I'm big on Biggest Loser...and I haven't always been quite THIS into it. But a couple of years ago, when I was first starting the liquid diet I was on, I started my diet right around the same time that Biggest Loser came back. And that helped me through, losing weight with the contestants. Now I still love it just as's a helpful reminder to keep the weight OFF. And I love the drama. Ya know.

Glee-- I'm a Gleek. I admit it. And I have the hots for Darren Criss, who's signed on as a series regular this year. I shall be in heaven. (Really, I'm not super-emotionally-invested in Glee, I just think it's fun. And, you know. Darren Criss. HE is enough to watch Glee FOREVER.)

NCIS-- This is a new thing for me. I've never actually watched a season of NCIS AS IT AIRS. I got into the show sometime last year, when USA was running one of their many NCIS marathons. My friend/roommate Tracy talks about it all the time and told me I HAD to watch it, so I gave in and gave it a chance one weekend. And I was hooked. Then this summer, I stocked up on all the seasons on DVD and caught up in chronological order. Then Tracy and I got our third roommate (Kathleen) addicted too. I'm excited to watch it as it airs for the first time.

Grey's Anatomy-- I've been really into this show since about season two. It's going to be strange this season, though, because for the last two years, I've watched each new episode with my mom after bell choir rehearsal. Now I don't live with my parents anymore. Fortunately, my roommate Kathleen is into the show as well, so I'll have at least one person to watch it with.

Private Practice-- I think this actually comes back next week, but regardless. I'm not quite as invested in this one as I am in Grey's, but I still enjoy it.

Sister Wives-- Yeah, I know. BUT LISTEN. This show isn't like all the other nutty-huge-family shows TLC has (which I REFUSE TO WATCH, by the way...on principle that Kate was a freaking nutjob and I find the Duggars to be preachy and obnoxious). This show actually shows a completely different lifestyle...a completely different style of huge family. This isn't just a couple of people who have overdone the having-kids thing. This is a very non-traditional family composed of several parents raising many kids. And it's absolutely fascinating. (That, and the marriage equality advocate in me can't stand the fact that polygamy is such a "thing." I'm interested to see how the Brown family's lawsuit of Utah goes.)

Storm Chasers-- I don't even know the rationale behind this one. I'm terrified of thunder storms and tornadoes and the like. But this show always has me riveted, regardless of the fact that about 95% of the cast is downright annoying.

So, there we go. The shows I'm excited to see return to the airwaves. What shows are you most excited for?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago...

I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class. It was a third/fourth period block for BESS 1 (Biology and Earth Science Studies, the science class most of the freshmen were taking), and the first thing that caught my eye was the television. It was on, which was strange in and of itself, but on top of that it was tuned to CNN. Although I had only been a high school student for a couple of weeks, I had learned that the classroom televisions were rarely tuned to anything outside of the school announcement channel and the channel that showed the WKHS News on Fridays. On this particular day, though, the entire class was staring at CNN.

Only minutes before, the first plane had struck the World Trade Center.

Our teacher came in and started class, but she left the TV on. At that time, everyone was just interested to see what would happen. Everyone was assuming it was a tragic accident. There was only one kid in our class that thought otherwise. Every few seconds he would say that it was terrorists. But as this kid had a tendency to think that everything and anything was due to terrorists, no one really gave him a second thought.

I was still sitting in BESS 1 when we watched the second plane hit. After that, the rest of whatever we were learning fell into the background. We were all too mesmerized by what was happening on the television.

The rest of the day is something of a blur to me. I remember no one was talking in the hallways between classes, because everyone was in too much shock. I remember that every single television in the school was showing CNN. I remember that it was during lunch that Osama Bin Laden’s video hit the airwaves, and that everyone was crowded around the four TVs in the middle of the cafeteria. I remember that during my history class at the end of the day, the original lecture was forgotten in favor of talking about terms we would be hearing a lot in the coming weeks, including “Taliban.” Oddly, I also remember that it was that day when I rode the bus home from high school for the first time, because all after-school activities got cancelled, so there was no marching band practice.

That day and the days surrounding it were an emotional roller coaster. My father was in Germany on a business trip and we couldn’t get in contact with him for days. My cousin was in Virginia and his job meant he was sometimes at the Pentagon. Until we found out that he hadn’t been there that day, we were worried about him. The following Friday was a home football game, and our marching band re-worked pre-game to pay tribute to what had happened.

It was a day and a week that I’ll probably never forget, regardless of how many years pass. I don’t think any of us that experienced that day will ever forget it. I’ve heard that each generation has a “where were you when…” moment, that one significant day or event or moment that lives in that generation’s memory forever. September 11, 2001 was our generation’s “where were you when…” moment. It’s the day that our children and our grandchildren will ask us about. It’s the day that future generations will study in history class and write reports about and do projects on. I won’t lie that it will be surreal, some day in the future, when my son or daughter asks me where I was when those planes struck the World Trade Center.

And I’ll tell them…I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and I was just walking into science class…

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dancing Through Life

Pardon the Wicked reference, but it seemed to fit for the title of this post. Hopefully by the end of it, you'll understand why.

In my true writerly nature, I don't do well talking about my feelings. In fact, the only way I seem able to process my feelings is by writing them down. The tougher the stuff is to deal with, the more I feel I need to write.

Today I got some sad news. Terrible news. News that took me a while to process, but when it finally hit, I had to hide in the bathroom to cry, because I didn't want my roommate to ask what was wrong.

I received word that earlier this evening, my wonderful, energetic, amazing Irish dance teacher, Ann Richens, lost her battle with cancer.

I used to dance ballet when I was younger. I danced for several years before quitting. But soon after I quit...I regretted it. I never got to dance pointe. I missed the graceful movements. The regret hit harder in college, when I got the chance to take a couple of dance classes for PE credit. And then I fell in love with watching Irish dance and I knew that was what I wanted to learn next.

Two years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to take Irish dance classes downtown. I fell in love with it immediately. I made friends quickly, I loved the movement, it was fun. I was glad I joined Columbus Celtic Dancers...and a lot of that was in part because of Ann.

Ann was, honestly, the most energetic person I've ever met. She could easily have kicked any of our butts if she'd wanted to. She was strong and inspirational. She encouraged us to try our best...and for those of us to whom the dance steps came a little easier, she pushed us to jump higher, step lighter, extend more. Those of us who chose to compete, she expected us to, not necessarily BE the best, but to DO our best.

And we did.

Many of us have won medals in competition, many teams from our group have gone on to place. We're not world champions, but she treated us like we were. It was because of Ann that I felt comfortable enough to go into competition after dancing for only a year. It was because of Ann that this year when I competed, I won five medals.

Ann had more energy than most people her age I've met. She would travel an hour and a half each Monday evening to and from downtown to teach our dance class. She traveled to Ireland several times a year. She worked with us adults and she also worked with the Richens-Timm Academy kids. I don't think she ever sat still for more than a few hours.

It was apparent to anyone who knew her that she loved teaching. She challenged me, she encouraged me, she inspired me. I'll continue dancing, under however many teachers I end up having throughout the years, but Ann will always have a special place in my heart. She will never be forgotten by anyone whose life she touched, she was just that kind of person.

Ann, you will never be forgotten. You will live on in everyone you taught, in every dance step we learned from you, in every medal we win, and in every performance we put on. Thank you for everything. May you rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Casting Characters

You're lucky you're getting a blog post today. I have been living in a state of constantly refreshing my inbox that is somewhat reminiscent to querying agents. Most of my friends have gotten activated into the beta of Pottermore. I, however, am still waiting. It's rather like being picked last for the team in gym class.

I don't wanna talk about it.

So, you go. Writing Tuesdays. For the next five minutes, my mind will be OFF Pottermore pain.

I went back and forth between two topics. One I might save for later, when I get more involved in the concept. Today, I'll be talking about casting characters.

To be fair, this is not something I'd ever done before this weekend. I'd always considered my characters to live solely inside my head. I've never been good at finding physical representation of any of my characters, because I have very firm ideas of what they look like to me. Occasionally, I've run into some random person on the street or in the grocery store that I'm like "woah, she/he is exactly how I picture [insert character here]" but even that's rather rare for me.

But then this weekend, something spurred me on to cast my characters. I don't know what this "something" was, but...I came to find out that the project was kind of fun. And I kind of like having pictures of all my characters hanging on my writing board over my desk. It makes them all the more REAL to me (which means, it's all the more REAL to me when I have to kill them off...oops?). My roommates got a kick out of it too. They seem to get a kick out of most of the weird writerly things I do..."a kick" being that they smile, nod, and back away slowly.

An interesting thing I discovered during this casting characters project, however, was how difficult it is for me to picture my male characters. I always have a ton of trouble in general with male characters--I hate naming them, I hate describing them, and sometimes they're interchangeable to me. It's really a problem. So it's was an absolute nightmare trying to find people I thought best visually represented my male main characters in my novel. But, I did eventually get it done. And I'm pretty happy with the results.

(I was going to post the pictures of my cast here...but...I'm technology stupid today and couldn't figure it out. Maybe later.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On the Value of Taking Breaks

I do this funny thing whenever I re-read the Harry Potter books. I go into what I call my hidey-hole. I rarely emerge for anything. My writing falls by the wayside and I don't get anything accomplished.

Surely, you've noticed I've just gotten out of one of these bouts of Pottermania. It happens a couple of times a year for me, usually. It's just a thing. I can't explain it.

Recently, I returned to my much-forgotten revisions. And when I picked them back up and started to find out where I'd left off, I realized something. What I had revised before my Potter break was...not great. It was good, but it didn't entirely make sense. It was obvious as I re-read the last chapter I'd revised that I had been burnt out when I'd written it.

Which is fine, because it happens. Burn out happens and it's important to realize that breaks are perfectly justified. I've gotten back on the revisions train and my couple month break for Potter stuff. I just have to learn to take breaks that aren't just for re-reading Harry Potter. It's important to have separation from your novel, if only to get a new perspective on the story.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Love of the Week Returns!

And now I'm back on the blogging train! Hooray!

This week's love of the week was hard for me to figure out. I knew what I wanted to talk about,'s more than just one thing. So I'm going to try to use the broadest phrasing I can possibly use, in the hopes that that will encompass all that I want it to.

The Potter Fandom.

Yes, I know. First of all, I've done nothing but talk about Harry Potter on here for weeks. You're probably all sick of it. And second of all, I couldn't get broader unless I tried to say fandoms in general.

BUT IT WORKS. I PROMISE. Hold your hippogriffs, and I'll explain.

There's something (no pun intended) magical about the Potter fandom in particular. It's a level of love and support and encouragement that I've never seen in any other fandom, and I've been in several. The Potter fandom is more accepting than other fandoms, seems less likely to judge, and we can bond together in two seconds. We like doing things like, say, staying up all night together just to answer one strange trivia question...and then we help each other to succeed.

More explanation? Really? Okay.

Background: Two weeks ago, while the rest of the Harry Potter Alliance staff was down in Orlando for LeakyCon, those of us left behind ran a thing we called Portkey. It was an online conference of sorts, for all those who hadn't been able to go to Leaky. We had trivia contests and shared memories of the fandom and did garbage bag experiments and watched documentaries and geeked out together after the midnight premiere of Deathly Hallows Part 2.

And we Livestreamed. A lot.

I was the Gryffindor Head of House for the Portkey house cup. By virtue of that, I was expected to be on most of the Livestreams. I was fine with that. And by the end of the week, there was this core group of Portkey staffers who were on almost all the Livestreams and had, somehow, become the faces of Portkey itself. We don't know how that happened, but it did. Becca, Devyn, Quinn, Dani, Shrima, Kara, Alex, and I talked more that week, through Skype and on Livestreams, than we had previously. And something crazy happened...apparently our audiences in the Livestream found us funny. They told us they wanted us to stick around. Yeah, it was a strange realization for the rest of us too.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Saturday night. Becca, Devyn, Quinn, Dani, Shrima, Kara, Alex, and I had joked about staying up all Saturday night together on Skype to get the Pottermore Beta clue that was supposed to come out sometime July 31. We all got on Skype Saturday evening. Started talking. And then this weird thing happened. Becca got us our own Livestream channel. We posted something on our old Portkey Facebook page. By 8:30pm EST, we were broadcasting live on our shiny new channel, planning on staying up all night and entertain ourselves by running our mouths. Our channel being new, we weren't "verified," so we couldn't have more than 50 people listening to us at one time. This was fine, because we figured we wouldn't get more than ten or fifteen people who would want to listen to us be weird.

Oh, how wrong we were.

We hit our 50-person cap two hours in. According to our Livestream chat numbers, there were another 60 or 70 people just hanging out in the chat, unable to listen, getting information relayed to them through other listeners. Three hours later, we had the same number of listeners. It was the same four hours later.

Our numbers held strong for at least ten straight hours of Livestreaming. We talked about everything and anything. We talked Potter, and inside jokes, and Pottermore, and speculation. We announced rumors about the clue as we heard them. We counted down to 3am EST, which was when we heard the clue would come out.

And at 3:30am EST, the first Pottermore clue of seven that will be opened this week appeared on the site. Together, my fellow Portkey hosts and I freaked out. With the help of the chat, we figured out the clue, we went to the site. We found the Magic Quill. And then we all registered. Technical difficulties put a damper on some of us, that the others took time to help us through. We shared usernames and laughed and had a blast and freaked out about getting into Beta, even if we haven't been allowed to start playing yet.

Here was the amazing part. Some people didn't get through the first day. They have the rest of the week's worth of clues to try. And instead of pointing and laughing or saying "sorry, sucks for you" or basking in the glory of getting into Pottermore Beta when others didn't...the Potter Fandom has been collectively helping each other. We've been cheering each other on, and letting each other know when the clues come out. We've been helping each other register and get the chance to join Pottermore early.

This is the kind of fandom that we are. We celebrate our individual successes, and then we turn back and help our friends. We're the kind of fandom that stays up all night together, on a Livestream, listening to hilarious fan fiction about the Portkey hosts and making goofy inside jokes like "Snugglemore." We're the kind of fandom that can crash entire fan sites because of one announcement, who keeps each other in the loop even when we've been sworn to secrecy. We only half-joke about wearing our wizard or Death Eater robes on airplanes. We celebrate the birthdays of the author and characters that we love. We're activists who fight real-world Horcruxes. We can speculate with the best of them, solve clues like you wouldn't believe, and when we want to succeed, there's nothing that will stop us.

This is why I love this fandom.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life Transitions

My childhood is all ending this month. Essentially.

I said goodbye to Harry Potter last week. It was emotional. And I know it's not forever. I'm sure I'll see the movie many more times before it leaves theatres, plus there's the DVD to look forward to, and I'm already counting down to Pottermore. Harry will always be a part of my life, but, regardless, an era has ended. A new era for the Harry Potter fandom has started. Tears were shed.

This weekend I say goodbye to my parents. Kind of. I'm moving out of my parents' house permanently. I'm going into a townhouse apartment with two of my best friends. I'll actually be living in the real world...paying rent and all that. It's overwhelming and stressful and I haven't finished packing yet.

The moral of this story is: I'm sorry I haven't posted on here in a while. I intended to get back on my blog schedule this week, but what with the stresses of getting ready to move and the additional stresses that come with Dublin Irish Festival being only a couple of weeks away, I haven't had the chance.

So I week I'll start back on my blog schedule. Moving means I'm getting more serious about a few things, because I'm using it as a benchmark. Getting serious about my diet again. Getting serious about revisions again. Getting serious about this blog, and a possible new vlog project, and other...exciting things that I can't really talk about yet, but (shocker) have to do with Harry Potter.

This has been a month of changes for me. I think I'll have a lot to say as I learn in the real world.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Here at the end...

I've been told a lot of things about my love of Harry Potter

That I'm obsessed.

That it's an addiction.

That I'm a nerd, a geek.

That I have a problem.

I've also gotten a lot of rolled eyes and sighs and maybe-if-we-ignore-it-it'll-go-away kinds of looks.

Maybe it's all true. I embrace it. No one can make me feel bad about my time with Harry Potter. No one can make the last ten years less than they were--and they can't make the coming years less either. I've had experiences I'll never forget. I've made friends I'll always cherish, even if we've grown apart. I've met the most amazing people and learned the most uplifting things, all thanks to this fandom.

Thanks to Harry Potter, I found myself when I didn't even know I was missing. I embraced my inherent nerdiness--the very nerdiness I'd tried to hide--and ran with it. I learned it's okay to be a know-it-all or a goofball or feel lost. These characters taught me how important it is to be myself and to stand up for what I believe in. Harry Potter taught me how to use my voice to speak for those who can't. It taught me that anything can be done if it's worth fighting for. It taught me that it's okay to be scared or unsure in the face of adversity, as long as you face it head-on anyway.

No one can take away the moments I've had over the last decade. Even though it's over, it's not really over. Those memories will always live on. The midnight book releases and midnight premieres, staying up all night to read, making t-shirts and donning costumes, entertaining at the movie theatre, waiting anxiously for the next Mugglecast, solving Jo's scavanger hunts for announcements, RPGs and fan sites, wizard rock, speculations and theories, debating to the death over every miniscule clue or theory or passing reference, Muggelcast Fan Chat late into the night, HPA Livestreams and Skype chats and team meetings, counting down the days and dreading the end. Dying Emmy's hair blue, cheering with every other fan when Hermione punched Draco, house cup competitions and trivia contests, immediately bonding with someone because they're a fellow fan, inside jokes like *confetti* or "delusional" or "HE SAID IRKED", hearing Caitlin scream "not again" in the middle of the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, feeling like this world we read about is read if only we could get to Platform 9 3/4, waiting for cast announcements and theme park announcements, suffering through Post-Potter Depression. Together.

Knowing that, even though it's the end, it's not over.

The fandom will change. It will get a little quieter. The anticipation will be gone, but the fandom is going nowhere. Those of us who grew up with Harry will grow up too. Perhaps have children of our own. And one day, those children will ask about those seven well-loved books on the shelf and we'll take them down and open them up and pass the magic on to the next generation. We'll get to watch them discover Harry Potter for themselves and fret over the next chapter and we'll smile and remember. We'll remember the lessons and the people and the events. We'll remember that anticipation and those friendships.

When that time comes, when I'm passing Harry on to my future children, I know I'll smile. I'll remember vividly the thirteen-year-old girl with the insanely curly hair who skeptically opening this book called Sorcerer's Stone while sitting in her middle school library. That could could never have imagined the impact that book would have.

So, from the bottom of my heart I have to thank you. Thank you to all the friends I made in this fandom and the friends I've yet to meet. Thank you to the fan sites and the podcasts that made me think and laugh and helped me fight away the boredom.

Thank you to Harry, Ron, and Hermione for showing me there are things worth fighting for.

And thank you, JK Rowling, for creating this world for us, that became more than even you probably imagined.

"Of course it's happening inside your head...but why on earth should that mean it is not real?
--Dumbledore, Deathly Hallows UK pg 792--

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Midnight Release Adventures Part 2

The release of Half-Blood Prince will remain in my memory forever for two reasons.

1. It was the first time I had a Potter party.

Sure, I'd done plenty of celebrating with friends for the movies, but as the movies always came out on school days, and at this time I had only just graduated high school, we'd never gotten to celebrate for an entire day. This was the first time my friends and I could fully geek out and count down the hours to the new book. We watched the movies that had come out on DVD by that time. We ate copious amounts of sugar. We laughed over Bertie Bott's and threw half of them away because they were flavors none of us was brave enough to try.

We made t-shirts.

This in itself was both amusing and something of a fail. Amusing because we came up with some clever bit to put on each section of the shirts. Fail because Emmy doesn't know how to tell her right from her left, so the obligatory group pictures turned out hilarious.

This was also the last summer of Media Play. Unlike the release of Order of the Phoenix, my friends I went over early and enjoyed the party over there too. We played trivia games and won points for our houses. Amanda won a stuffed Hedwig in a raffle. We found some of our other friends in line and geeked out with them too. We counted down to midnight, go our books relatively fast, and hurried home to read. While we were in Media Play, though, it had started to storm. Bad. Which leads me to...

2. The death of my "first" car.

I say "first" because it wasn't technically my car, I just drove it more than anyone else in my family. It was a twelve-year-old Cadillac that was affectionately called The Boat. My friends and I had determined long ago it could probably win a fight against anything.

Ha. Not true.

On the drive hom from Media Play, with the rain dumping and the storm raging, we hit a pothole. The car bumped hard, but we drove on. Emmy, who is prone to panicking, asked, "Did we just get hit by lightening?!" Janet told her no, that she probably wouldn't need to ask that question if we had, because she would know. We laughed.

Later on release day, after a bit of sleep, I was reading in my room. The storm started again at random. I ignored it and read on. That afternoon, I left for my summer job at Ritter's. Got in my car. It wouldn't start.

Long story short, we come to find out The Boat had gotten struck by lightening in that second storm. The stupid lightening missed the tree the car was parked under, struck the raised antenna, and proceeded to fry my car's electrical system. The lone survivor was the smiley face ball wearing a mortar board that had been perched on top of the antenna. The smiley face ball now has a scorch mark battle scar down his back, but I kept him anyway for the hilarious memory.

All this for one Harry Potter book.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Love to Hate

There's something to be said for a character who is so vile, so twisted, so amazingly hateable that an entire fan community is able to be in COMPLETE and TOTAL agreement that the character's demise should be slow and painful.

I've been involved in the Harry Potter fan community for a decade, so I know how people can disagree on characters. Everyone's got an opinion. I love Sirius and Luna, but there are people who find Sirius immature and Luna flat-out irritating. Which is fine. To each his own. So that's why it's always amazed me how much the Potter fans can agree so completely on one thing--we all HATE Dolores Umbridge.

In re-reading Order of the Phoenix, I'm reminded just how horrible Umbridge is. She does unthinkable, torturous things and obviously takes pleasure in people's pain. She's prejudiced and has an agenda at all times. She purposefully tries to make Harry and the other rebellious students as miserable as possible. She's just plain mean. She is, simply, the character we all love to hate.

I'd wager a fair guess that Umbridge is more hated than Voldemort (at least he gives interesting monologues).

A couple days ago, this idea was reinforced when I posted a status on Facebook saying how I always remember why I hate Umbridge so much when I read Order of the Phoenix. Within hours, several of my friends had either "liked" the status or made a comment expressing their own severe dislike of Umbridge.

Which got me thinking.

As a reader, I can't stand Umbridge. I laughed when she got carted off by the centaurs. I grit my teeth when she showed up to Dumbledore's funeral. I took great pleasure in reading a funny list of the "Top Ten Fates Wished Upon Umbridge," then printed it off to save forever. I really hate Umbridge. With an undying passion.

As a reader.

As a writer, I'm deeply in awe of the effect Umbridge has on people. I would love nothing more than to be able to write a villain so horrible that he/she gets a similar passionate response from readers. That would pretty much make my life.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Midnight Book Release

The first time I went to the midnight release of a book--any book--was when Order of the Phoenix came out before my junior year of high school.

The concept of a midnight release was new to me and it seemed magical. The bookworm and nerd in me were both very happy. I don't remember why exactly, but for some reason none of my friends were able to go to the release. Maybe we didn't plan anything. Maybe none of us anticipated just how big of a deal it would become.

Whatever the reason, I was on my own for this first midnight release. Almost. My younger sister, Laura, wanted to go too. But there was only one problem: I didn't have my driver's license yet. I was only a few weeks out from being able to take my test, so I couldn't just go with my sister.

This meant our mom had to accompany us.

A few crucial facts about my mom:

1) She's not big on crowds, and there were bound to be crowds at Media Play, which was where Laura and I had reserved our copies of the book.
2) She's not big on waiting in lines, at least as far as I can ever tell.
3) She's not big on being up and out late--she's more of a fall-asleep-on-the-couch-watching-TV kind of person.
4) She's not--NOT--into Harry Potter.

So all things considered, I was more than a little surprised Laura and I managed to convince her to go with us. It may have had something to do with the fact I needed more night driving experience with my temporary license anyway. Or maybe my sad, puppy eyes worked. Whatever the reason, Mom agreed (on the condition that we would only leave half an hour before midnight because she was not waiting in line for two hours).

It could be a tribute to Media Play's dying business that we actually got decent places in line that close to midnight. The second I got that book in my hands, I started reading it. I devoured it. For the next several days of PE summer school, my friend Caitlin and I spent our laps around the track fangirling the book and spouting out theories and analyzing every detail. There was one memorable morning after I'd finished the book, when the first thing I said when I saw Caitlin was "HE SAID 'IRKED!'" (In regards to a bit of Voldemort dialogue...and I always love Voldemort dialogue.) For months after that, the word "irked" was an inside joke for us.

It wasn't the grandest midnight release I ever attended. I don't have pictures from it like I have from others. There weren't any epic marathons or homemade t-shirts and I'm not even entirely sure I went in costume. But that release, and Order of the Phoenix itself, still hold a special place in my heart for being the first.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Goblet of Fire...and Me

I first started reading Harry Potter the fall after Goblet of Fire (the book) was released. As I've said before, I originally refused to read the books, but my friends and two of my aunts were what convinced me otherwise. My friends because there was no escape from their harping. My two aunts becaues they like recommending books to me, rather enthusiastically, when I see them each Thanksgiving. I figured one way or another, I'd be annoyed into reading Harry Potter.

The irony was that it was over Thanksgiving at my one aunt's house that I finished Goblet of Fire, thus catching up in the series completely. I particularly remember sitting in the corner of the family room, conversations going on all around me, my nose stuck in the book. I was toward the end of the novel. Harry was in the graveyard. I had just gotten to the end of this action-packed chapter--had just read the line "Lord Voldemort had risen again"--when my mom told me it was time to go to bed.

It's a mark of how invested I was in these stories I swore I would hate that I barely slept that night. I woke up at first light the next morning (something I don't do) and I resumed my corner in the family room to find out what would happen to Harry.

Goblet of Fire has long been in competition as my favorite Potter book. Perhaps it holds a place in my heart because it was the most recently released when I first fell in love with the series. It's certainly the book I re-read the most while I waited for Order of the Phoenix to come out. Likely, it's also the excitement, plot twists, and thrills. Maybe it's the memory of finishing it over that Thanksgiving. Whatever it is, it was the first Potter book I personally owned. I've read it so often that the binding on my hardcover copy is starting to shred and the cardboard shows through in the corners.

This week, I started it again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Magic Never Dies

This week, I began to re-read Harry Potter for the last time before a movie comes out. It's bittersweet, knowing that this is the last time I'll do this. I'll always re-read the books, of course, but I'll never again be doing it with a purpose in mind. So many times I've re-read them to get ready for a book release or a movie release, but after this summer, that'll all be over.

I've been keeping a journal of thoughts as I've done this. Perhaps that sounds a little overkill, but I can't help it. These stories have been a dear part of my life for more than a decade. So here's the first of my thoughts as I've been reading.

The first time I read Sorcerer's Stone, I was thirteen-years-old. It was fall of 8th grade. My friends had badgered me for months to pick up the book and they'd finally worn me down. I sat at a table in our middle school library and started to read.

At the time, I couldn't tell you what sucked me in. I'm still not entirely sure. Perhaps it was the idea of such an ordinary boy being something more. Perhaps it was the witty writing or the intriguing plot. Perhaps it was simply the magic.

Whatever it was, it hooked me. And not long after, it hooked my sister too when I insisted I read the books to her each night as she cleaned her hamster's cage. Then it hooked other friends who came into my life. The stories were intoxicating.

It doesn't seem to matter how many times I read this first book, or any of the others. I'm still just as invested as the first time. I know what happens, could probably quote the story verbatim, and can find any tiny detail in the book at the drop of a hat, but I'll still stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading, like I've never read the book before. It will still nag the back of my mind as I do other things. When I'm reading it, even if it's for the twentieth time, I still can't put it down.

That is, I think, the true magic of Harry Potter--that the magic never seems to dissipate at all.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Favorite Potter Character (#1)

I know I usually do a post about what book I'm reading each week on Thursday, but the book I'm reading now I'm actually doing to review for Fiction Flurry. So I don't want to spoil the fun and say anything here yet. So instead today you get another random Potter post!


Just like everyone else in the world, I have my favorite characters in everything I read.

Lord of the Rings? Aragorn. The Wicked series by Gregory Maguire? Elphaba. Hunger Games? It's a pretty distinct tie between Cinna and Finnick, but I actually really like Katniss too. Will Grayson, Will Grayson? The first Will Grayson, but Tiny has a special place in my heart too. Prophecy of the Sisters? Lia.

Thinking about it, most of my favorite characters are also the protagonists of said books. Maybe that makes me predictable, but it also makes sense...why read a book if you can't root for the main character?

And while I definitely root for Harry, he's actually never been my favorite character in the Harry Potter books. Actually, two of the three characters I count as my favorites aren't really even in the "starring" cast. They're definitely important, but there are large gaps between when we see them around.

But I'll get to them later.

There's one character in Harry Potter that I've adored since the very beginning.

Hermione Granger.

Honestly, I think the reason I was so drawn to her so early on was because it was like reading about myself on the page. She's kind of nerdy, definitely a know-it-all, a bit of a teacher's pet. She loves school and reading and books. She's very logical. When I was in eighth grade, that pretty much summed me up. I was definitely a nerdy, know-it-all, teacher's pet who loved school and books. That changed a little as I grew older, but for the most part those facets of my personality still remain. Poor Hermione starts off the series as something of an outcast, and just a couple years before I started reading the books, I was an outcast too. The concept of friends I could truly rely on was a relatively new one to me when I started reading Harry Potter.

I even had the out-of-control, dirty blonde hair.

There were times I was compared to Hermione among my group of friends. I've dressed up as Hermione more times than I can remember. She's always been my absolute favorite. I was beyond thrilled when I came to find out that she can be kind of a bad ass when she needs to (giving Malfoy a good slap in Prisoner of Azkaban, anyone?). When I'm reading a book, I can't really deal with the poor-little-me, weak, damsel in distress. Most girls aren't like that in the real world, why should they be like that in stories? I hate it when the female lead feels like her life is incomplete without the guy. It's fine if the girl is a little weak, but she has to have some strength in her somewhere, even if she doesn't realize it at the beginning. These are the characters I like to write, and the characters I like to read.

I think Hermione is one of the most real female leads I've ever read. She has her weaknesses and her insecurities, but she can take care of herself. She gets crushes on boys, but it doesn't run her life. She sometimes needs help, but she's also perfectly capable of taking control of a situation. She can be annoying, but what person isn't like that sometimes? She gives Harry and Ron reality checks all the time, but she gets reality checks right back. She's by no means perfect, which makes her that much more real. Hermione is awkward, uncomfortable with her appearance sometimes, but it's not the central concern in her life. In my opinion, she's about as real as a female character can get, which is probably one of the biggest reasons I've always liked her so much.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let the Pottermania Begin

I wouldn't do it. I refused. For a month and a half during the beginning of eighth grade, I tried to ignore my friends' insistence that I should. I tuned out their intense conversations in between classes about these people they loved that didn't actually exist. They debated theories and storylines, and I rolled my eyes.

Not long into this, I came to find out two of my aunts were just as involved as my friends were. And my aunts liked recommending books to me. It's how I got so immersed in the Dear America series. For several Thanksgivings, I came home with books my aunts thought I'd like. So between my friends and my aunts, I just kind of figured I'd have to do it eventually.

Sometime in October 2000, I gave up. I went to my friend Amanda for help.

"Fine. Tell me which one is first. I'll read it, but I won't like it. Then you guys have to drop it."

We went to the library and she helped me find what I was looking for. I didn't know which one was first. The only thing I knew about it was what my friends had told me. I was going in completely blind and completely convinced I wouldn't like it. I didn't like fantasy or wizards or magic.

After we found the book, I sat down at a table in the library and read the opening of this story so many people loved, but I was sure I would hate. The opening that I would later be able to quote verbatim, because I'd read it so much.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense."

It was pretty much a downward slope for me after that.

For over a decade, Harry Potter has been at some central point in my life. I first started reading the books after Goblet of Fire was released. In fact, I finished reading the fourth book while I was with the aforementioned aunts that Thanksgiving. Many of my fondest memories are from shared Potter experiences I had with friends. These books essentially defined my teenage years and the stories continue to play a part in my life as an adult.

I tend to re-read the whole series straight through at least once a year. Usually twice. I have yet to do it three times in one year, but I imagine it'll happen someday.

This July marks the end of an era. The final Harry Potter movie comes out on July 15. There will be no more movies, no more books, no more releases of any kind to use as an excuse to dress up as a favorite character and party with fellow geeks. I was sad when the final book came out a few years ago, but I knew there were more movies to look forward to. Now those will be over too. It's bittersweet.

But because of this, I've been rather reflective lately regarding the last ten years of Pottermania in my life. Over the next months, I'll be reflecting these points on here. At first, it's probably going to be a little random, but starting at the end of May or beginning of June, I'll start to re-read the series again to get ready for the last movie. At which point, I'll be reflecting on certain moments, certain theories or debates, certain bits of the story, etc. Book by book. Because each book holds special meaning to me. For the last three, I went to the midnight releases. There are specific thoughts I remember having regarding the books or theories around them. There are certain things that happened in my life that relate either directly or indirectly to reading Harry Potter at that time. And, of course, there are certain friends I have that I wouldn't have known otherwise, certain experiences I've had that I wouldn't have gotten to have.

I feel like, because Harry Potter has held such a spot in my life for so long, it's long overdue to reflect on all of this. I hope you join me for this ride.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writing Pains

"This is the magic/curse of writing: That in crafting your fiction, you leave yourself open to sudden moments of unguarded truth, and you have to be willing to tolerate that again and again. You have to keep raising your sword and charging, even knowing you could retreat scorched and missing a limb. You have to keep doing it even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to."

This brilliant quote is from Libba Bray's most recent blog post. And it's just so true and spoke to me so much that I felt I needed to add my own thoughts.

I'm not going to lie. There are sometimes when I wonder why I keep at this writing thing. There are times when I feel like my characters are all the same and my stories are all the same and it's just one giant circle. When I'm smack in the middle of a first draft, there are times when I can barely get up the will power to pick up the pencil (or keyboard...I don't tend to write longhand unless I have to). It's times like this when I really have to hunker down and just do it, because otherwise it's never going to get done.

There are also times when it's emotionally difficult for me to write a scene. A novel I wrote about a year and a half ago, there was a scene that I was absolutely dreading writing. Even now I can't pinpoint exactly what it was, but they were emotions I didn't want to face. More recently, I had to kill off a character I'm pretty partial to. I drew out the scenes leading up to that as much as I could. I dawdled. It took me a week to get to the actual death and then I was depressed for days.

And then there are times that I'm anxious for no reason, but I can tell it has to do with a story on my mind. I had a knot in my stomach all afternoon yesterday and off and on today. There's a story I keep thinking of and it's one that I feel like I should tell--but at the same time, I feel like I shouldn't. It's incredibly draining.

Writing is a painful and wonderful art. It makes us face emotions that we don't want to face, but we have to anyway. We have to think about the tough stuff and we have to understand how to get through it. We get to learn right along with our characters. And I feel like all this, as confusing and painful as it can be, is more a blessing than a curse.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love of the Week: Skyway Flyer

I've gotten really into these indie YouTube musicians. I posted a couple weeks ago about Ministry of Magic, a wizard rock band. This week I'm posting about Skyway Flyer (aka Jason Munday). He is actually one of the members of MoM, but his solo stuff is absolutely amazing too!

I particularly enjoy this acoustic version of a song from his album (which you can buy on iTunes). Definitely check him out!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

(Belated) Book of the Week: The Last Little Blue Envelope

Do you ever have those weeks when life just kind of gets away from you? That's kind of what happened to me this week. Thus why you're getting the book of the week post I normally do on Thursday...on Saturday.

Frankly, I'm just impressed with myself that I'm doing it at all.

Between killing characters, making chaos, trying to get some reading done, and going through all the normal HPA craziness that comes with ending one campaign and starting another, it's kind of amazing I made it to this weekend. It was just an interesting week of trying to get things accomplished, but only getting about half of the things done I wanted to originally.

Ah, well. Win some, lose some. Whatever.


The book I've been reading this week is (finally) The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson. It came out on Tuesday and I was SO EXCITED to finally get it.

It's just as wonderful as I guessed it would be. I always love what Maureen Johnson writes, though, so I didn't worry otherwise. I wish I could have gotten more read this week, but I'm loving it anyway. If you get the chance to read this book, I'm sure you'd love it too. It's just quality YA.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"I have to ask...are you writing a novel?"

BACKGROUND: I bought an Alphasmart 3000 word processor a few months ago. It's kind of a ridiculous looking plastic toy that has become my lifeline to getting significant words down each day. Every day at work, around noon, I go down to the cafeteria, buy a salad, go sit myself down at the smallest table I can find (because when I sit at the longer tables, I end up getting crowded by people when I'd rather have my personal bubble), break out my Alphasmart, and get to work for 45 minutes.

Anyway, so that's what I've been doing almost every lunch break for the last few months. I plug away at my little, silly-looking Alphasmart and try to ignore the people staring at me (because, yes, I have actually caught people staring at me a few times). And then something happened a couple of weeks ago that kind of made my day.

An older gentleman came up to where I was sitting and he said, "Excuse me, but I have to ask. What is that?"

So I explained to him that it's a word processor that I can keep in my bag and hook up to my home computer later.

And then he asked, "I guessed you were writing something! Are you writing a novel?"

There's something incredibly...humbling, I guess...about seeing someone get so excited when they find out you're writing a novel. There's this whole idea that novelists are magicians of sorts, people to be admired. Or, rather, there's that idea among people who like to read, anyway. I don't know about the rest of the population. But you always hear about the dream of "writing the next great American novel" and people say this with a sense of wonder.

And I get that, because I'm a reader. And I follow my favorite authors on the social networks religiously. And I love hearing the backstories.

But, at the same time, I write novels myself. That separation has disappeared for me. I no longer look at writers and say "that's amazing, I want to do that" because I DO do that. I may not be published yet, but I create worlds of my own, and have characters that bug me in the middle of the night, and fend off the plot bunnies, and do word counts, and celebrate finishing a first draft manuscript by getting frozen yogurt. I feel all the ups and downs of writing a novel. I procrastinate like hell in that lull in the middle.

Over the last couple of years, writing novels has just kind of become,

So it was something a little surreal when this gentleman got really excited that I was working on a novel during lunch. And then the surrealness has continued, as apparently the two of us eat lunch at the same time, so I've run into him almost every day since. Usually, he'll just wave enthusiastically, but today we got into a conversation about what I'm writing and if I'm published and all the bookstore drama going on.

Seeing someone I don't know so intrigued and excited about my writing just renews my love of it. It makes me remember what I do, through the eyes of people who don't do it too. I create worlds. I tell stories. I suck people into these times and places that they never expected to be. There is definitely something magical about being a writer.

So thank god for the random strangers who ask things like "Are you writing a novel?" to keep that in perspective.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Love of the Week: Accio Books!

So this week's love is slightly shameless, seeing as how I'm a staffer for the HPA (Harry Potter Alliance).

This is the last week of HPA's annual Accio Books! campaign. The short version of it is that Accio Books! is a book drive. This year we're being super epic and actually building a library for the Bedford-Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School. The school opened in September 2010, but they sadly have no library.


So that's what we're doing. People are collecting books of all kinds for a K-5 school library. Non-fiction, fiction, picture books, novels. If you can think of it, these kids need it.

And, yeah, this is the last week to send in books that will count for points here. But that's still a WHOLE WEEK when you can mail books to the school! Then just make sure you go enter your donations so your points can count for the house of your choice in the house cup competition. I've been giving my points to Gryffindor!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book of the Week: 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Remember that time when I said I wasn't going to read any fun YA until I finally finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Do you want to know how long that plan lasted?

Well, actually it kind of died two weeks ago.

But the second attempt at that plan died yesterday.

I'm still reading Dragon Tattoo, but I need fun YA to keep me going.

I've actually already read this amazing book before, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. I am, however, now RE-reading it, because its sequel comes out next week (The Last Little Blue Envelope) and I'll be darned if I don't get that book the day it comes out. Anyway, this one is just as amazing as the first time I read it. I always love what Maureen Johnson writes, though, so I may be a wee bit prejudiced about it.

Although, in a way, I don't consider it cheating on my Dragon Tattoo goal, seeing as how I've read 13 Little Blue Envelopes before. Next week, when I start reading the sequel as soon as it's in my hands, then I'll definitely be cheating on my goal. But that's next week's issue.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Random Wednesday: Why Tornadoes and I Don't Get Along

I mean, yeah, no one's a big fan of tornadoes. I don't see anyone cheering when they have to take shelter in the basement.

In the interest of full disclosure, Spring is my favorite season. I love the colors and the smells and the warmth (but not too warm of warmth...just enough so I don't have to wear my wool coat anymore). I love the flowers and the garden-planting and the sounds of lawn mowers cranking up again. It's a great time of year.

Minus it being the start of storm season.

I've always been anxious around storms. The thunder and lightening make me unrealistically nervous. I don't find the pounding rain soothing. It kind of gets on my nerves when I have to keep unplugging my computer to save it from power surges, and power outages are not my definition of a jolly good time.

But the worst part...the absolute worst part is the tornadoes.

In a way, it's ironic. I have a rather irrational fear of tornadoes, considering I've never actually ended up in one. But my favorite movie is Wizard of Oz and I was addicted to the show Storm Chasers for a few years.

Yeah, I'm a little backwards.

The very idea of tornadoes (outside of my movies or TV) makes me nervous. It could be on the other side of the city, and I still won't sleep well. It doesn't help that a tornado siren is located somewhere near my house, so when my county goes on warning, my ears get blasted away. I always get a little jittery whenever I have to go take shelter. And I've gotten into this unnerving habit of immediately taking stuff with me to "save," just in case--my laptop, my first teddy bear (Bunky), my sorority pin.

Fortunately, I've figured out ways to relieve the anxiety. In the case of taking shelter, I always take a book with me to read. If I'm reading, I don't let myself think about what's going on around me. And if we don't have to take shelter, I blast my music.

So what inspired this week's random post? It could possibly be the 2am wake-up call I had this morning when the tornado sirens blared because of the tornado hovering over the other side of the city. It made for a rather tired Erin the rest of the day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Writing Tuesday: From the Playlist

I've shared "theme songs" for my novels on here before, so I'm going to do that today too for Writing Tuesday!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about playlists over on Fiction Flurry. If you read that post, then you know that I'm a big fan of novel playlists. I have a little too much fun creating them. And when I hear a song that I feel would fit in well with a character or a feeling or whatever, I almost always get it for my iPod.

This was one of those songs.

I'll admit it...I'm a Gleek. I just think the show is a fun one. And when they did this song for the regionals episode (it's a Glee original, actually!), I knew it belonged on my playlist for Call to Action, the project I'm currently revising. It describes my protagonist, Care's, journey so well for me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Love of the Week: Peeps

What with Easter coming up this weekend, it seemed appropriate for me to have this week's love be something Easter-related.

Like candy.

My favorite Easter candy has always been Peeps. Sugar-covered marshmallows are just a win anyway, but then when they're in cute shapes, I don't see how you can lose.

Plus...they're really fun to put in the microwave!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book(s) of the Week: Dragon Tattoos and Grammar Nerds

I pretty much crank through a book a week. Normally. So I figure I'll use Thursdays to ramble about whatever I'm reading, or have been reading...or read...each week.

The whole "book a week" thing doesn't really count this week, because I'm STILL READING The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Ugh. I miss my YA, but I'm trying really hard (and have already failed once) at not picking up anything YA until I FINISH THIS BOOK.

Here's the thing about Dragon starts out way too slow for me. I've been trying to read this for at least three weeks now and have only just gotten to page 150 or so. And it's JUST NOW interesting me. But I bought the book a few months ago, and I started reading it, so now I feel obligated to finish. *sigh*

The whole "don't read anything until I finish Dragon Tattoo" doesn't count for books on writing, because I pretty much constantly have one I'm in the process of reading. The writing craft books tend to take me a little longer than a week, but...oh, well.

The craft book I'm reading right now is...

I'm really enjoying The Writer's Notebook. I actually bought it at the Book Loft last week when I went there with some of the girls from my writers group. I'm really in no hurry to finish it. I try to read an essay every few days, but they're all really quite interesting. I'm addicted to writing craft books. I can't help it.

And, last but most certainly not least, I'm also reading:

That's right, folks. I'm also reading a book about grammar. But it's a HILARIOUS book about grammar, so that has to count for something, right?


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Random Wednesday: Why People in Ohio Need to Learn to Drive in Precipitation

Wednesdays...they're going to be random. They WERE going to be ranty, but that seemed highly pessimistic of me. So...sometimes there will be rants, and sometimes it'll just be me spurting off whatever I feel like that week.

This week, I want to talk about why people in Ohio need to learn that precipitation DOES NOT EQUAL driving like a moron.

I mentioned earlier that it was raining on Monday. I hate...HATE...when it rains and/or snows where I live, because for some unknown reason this makes people forget all they learned in driver's ed. I mean...this is Ohio. It rains a LOT during the spring and snows a LOT during the winter. It's how the midwest works. But, somehow, during the intervening months, no one can seem to remember what this wet stuff is.

I usually take the back roads to get home from work, mostly because the outer belt is an absolute nightmare during rush hour. BUT, I've since learned that when it's raining hard or snowing, I need to avoid said back roads. The traffic backs up ridiculously. No idea why. It's not like there are that many more people out and driving when it's raining/snowing. It's just that people forget the concepts of the gas pedal and green lights.

So why this rant? It was coming, to be honest. I rant about the sucky driving of my fellow Ohioans nearly every time there's precipitation in the air, because I just don't get why this is a problem. But on Monday I nearly got slammed into by some idiot who ran a red light, and that really was the icing on the cake.

The best part was...after I laid on my horn...he just stared at me like "what?" Yeah. What. IT'S A RED LIGHT, GENIUS!

I'm okay, though. I didn't get hit, even though I was within a few feet of it. But it just didn't help my mood that day, when I was already not a very happy person (Mondays and I just don't get along, and this past Monday was particularly drawn out).

The moral of the story? Learn to drive in precipitation. It's good for you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writing Tuesday: The Voices in My Head

Tuesdays will be my day of talking about writing and the writing life. Thus, I name them WRITING TUESDAY. This will be my day of the week to talk about whatever it is I feel like talking about regarding it my writing, or something I read about writing. Maybe I'll share some passages of WIPs. Who knows?

So, here's my first Writing Tuesday post!

Last night, this conversation happened between me and one of my best friends...

Me: My character is going to hate me.
Tracy: Huh?
Me: She's going to hate me. I'm killing off a ton of people.
Tracy: Okay...
Me: She's never going to talk to me again.
Tracy: You do realize your characters aren't real, right?

I've been told this about a thousand times by people who, well, aren't writers. Because writers realize that, on some level, the characters are real. We know that we can't always control what comes out of our characters mouths.

It's like we have voices in our heads.

I learn new things about my various characters all the time. Right now, I'm writing the first draft of the sequel of the novel I'm about to send out. And I've learned some interesting new things about my characters over the last manuscript and a half.

1. One girl doesn't deal with stress very well. And she's slightly bi-polar most of the time.
2. Another girl can never keep her opinions to herself. Ever. Even when they're arguing about life-or-death situations.
3. My protagonist can be an emotional wreck, but she can also be ridiculously intense and focused.
4. One of my protagonist's best friends...yeah...he actually has a heart. Awwwww.

These things? Yeah, I didn't know about them when I first created these characters. These are things I only ever found out because I let my characters control the story and say what they need to say.

I think this is one of the best things about being a writer--it's like no matter how old we get, we can still have our imaginary friends.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Take 2: A New Schedule...Starting with LOVE OF THE WEEK

You know, I feel like I say this a lot...but I have really been failing at posting on here. Shame on me.

I got to thinking about this over the last few weeks and I realized that really the only time I've posted on here regularly, and not failed, was when I did the Thirty Letters, Thirty Days exercise.

So this leads me to...I'm creating a schedule for myself. Maybe if I have a specific topic to post on Mondays-Fridays, I'll actually...oh, I don't Not everything is going to be writing-related. In fact, as I have the schedule now, only two days a week will be related to what's going on in my writing life. Which I think will be good, especially since I now post over at Fiction Flurry, which is the blog for the writers group I've been active in over the last few months.

So this is the inaugural post of my shiny new schedule. Hopefully this works out well for everyone, because I really do want to post on here more regularly.


It was going to be "Obsession of the Week," but somehow that sounded...I don't know...too intense? Because some things I love I'm not obsessed with. This week's love I am, but that doesn't mean it'll hold true other weeks.

Why did I choose Love of the Week for Monday? Mostly because I despise Mondays. They make me tired and upset and, on rainy Mondays like today, not very much of a people person. The only redeeming quality of Monday is that I have dance class in the evenings. And Castle's on. That's it. Other than that...nope, I hate Mondays. So, with that, I give you the very first Love of the Week. And it's...



That's right. I've gotten into wizard rock. I partly blame this on my being a Harry Potter Alliance staffer and I also partly blame it on my horrible habit of randomly surfing through YouTube. Whatever you want to point fingers at, I found a couple videos of this band on YouTube and watched them.

I fell in love.

I bought and downloaded three of their albums from iTunes.

I've pretty much spent the last few working days listening to MoM music. Mostly because it makes me happy, keeps me awake, and allows me to tune out whatever's going on around me that I don't want to listen to. And if that's not the mark of awesome music, then I don't know what is.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Week 26: What do Harry Potter and NCIS have in common???

Another Monday, another vlog post over at Wo-Town Writers. Figured I'd share it again here. Don't try to follow the logic, because there really isn't any.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Weeks 23 & 24: Heroes vs. Villains vs. Erin

My vlog post for this week for Wo-Town Writers. And since I need to post more on here anyway, figured I'd share the love. Enjoy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where has January gone???

No...really. I think I missed it entirely.

This happens to me almost every month. Halfway through, everyone around me starts talking about how the month is flying by. I scoff. I claim the month is NOT flying by. And, yet, at some point I blink and we're in a new month.

And then I realize, once again, my epic failure of posting here on a regular basis.


Truth is, my life has been eaten by revisions. I'm trying to revise two things at once. Sound crazy? Yeah, it kind of is. Especially since I'm also trying to write a first draft of something else. And I'm trying to do this collaborative project with one of my friends. And I'm trying not to jump off a bridge.

And, of course, on top of all this, my reading list has gotten ridiculous.

I'm not even going to try to list everything I've read over the past few weeks. The "reserve" button on my library's website has been calling to me since mid-January and, of course, all of these books I put on reserve came in at the SAME TIME.

And as I'm reading those, I hear about other shiny books. It's a never-ending cycle, my friends.

At the rate I'm going, I'm not going to need to hunt for reading material until NEXT January. Which is fine, except that in the summer I need to re-read the Harry Potter series (in preparation for the last hoorah of the last movie coming out) and then I need to re-read the first two books in the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy (in preparation for the third book coming out) and then I need to re-read the first two books of The Hollow trilogy (also in preparation of the final installment being released).

Yes, so revisions and reading. That's what I've been doing.

In the little free time I've given myself from all of that, I've also joined a local writing critique group. I'm really excited, because I missed having this kind of interaction with fellow writers. We have a blog. You can find it here.

I've also been Irish Dancing my little butt off. St. Patrick's Day approaches, which means the performance season for us. Pretty much as soon as St. Patrick's stuff is over, our teacher has us getting ready for the Dublin Irish Festival in August. Yes, we start preparing for that in April. No, that's not actually all that early, especially when our teacher has been known to mention in at the very first class of the "school year" (which is always a month after DIF).

My other exciting thing is that I've joined the staff of the Harry Potter Alliance as part of their Web Team. I'm super psyched, and it's doubly exciting because the week I joined we launched the next "Horcrux" in our Deathly Hallows Campaign.

Hopefully, all things are going well with all of you! One person commented on my last post with an "award" -- which I hope to respond to next time, when I'm not so tired. I swear I didn't forget! Remember those revisions? Yup. My soul has been nommed.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Some revision-based musings

You know what I find fascinating?

A year ago (or so), I started quering Nor the Battle. So, it was only a little over a year ago that I finished revising it. I remember when I sent it out into the world, I felt so sure about how it read. I thought it was brilliant. I was confident (for the most part, post-midnight-panic attacks).

Today a funny thing happened.

For some reason, I went back and read the beginning of my manuscript for that. You know what I discovered?

It. Made. Me. Cringe.

What was I thinking, sending that rambly prologue into agents' inboxes for the last YEAR?!

I think it's amazing how my writing perspectives have changed in just a year. The opening felt so pedestrian to me all of a sudden. I didn't know how I could have written that and thought it was such a good opening. Maybe it's because I've had a rather long break from it. Maybe my writing style has changed in the last year and I didn't even notice. Whatever the case, something needed to be done.

So what did I do?

Right then and there, I revised it. Cut out the prologue entirely and fit what had once been in five (or more) pages down to two. Made it so the story starts with Chapter One, with just a bit of explanation as to what's going on in the alternate story (instead of the rambly prologue).

And then, feeling better about myself, I did something I wouldn't have done a year ago.

Right then and there, I sent out two queries. No questions. To some extent, I'd fixed that problem. Now time to test it.

Maybe it didn't make the most sense to send out two queries right away, but I've been digging at this manuscript for a year and a half now. I've revised it multiple times. The only thing I was ever truly if-y on was that prologue. And now that problem has been (I hope) solved. the last year...not only did my writing style apparently change, but I've also gotten more gutsy about sending out queries.

About time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Things being read and things being written

Welcome to 2011! I have to say, I'm having a terrible time getting used to writing/typing 2011. I'm also having a terrible time NOT typing 12 for the month. Which is something of an issue, because I deal with dates nearly every second at my day job, so these last few days have been kind of tiring.

First of all, if you follow the Wo-Town Writers vlog, I said this week that if I feel like sharing what I am/was reading, then I would do that on here instead of in my videos. It was making them far too long and was starting to feel silly. So that's what I'm going to do here. Right now.

The book I'm reading currently is The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore. This is actually only the second book of his that I've read, the first being Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (so funny). I love how ridiculous Moore's stories are and this one is no exception. I'm only about a third of the way into it right now, though. The strange thing for me about reading Moore's novels is that it does take me a while. While I enjoy them thoroughly, they're not quite as enthralling to me as other things, so I tend to get distracted. They're funny stories, comedies, and the novels I can't put down are usually more along a serious line. Still great, though! I bought my copy of Lust Lizard on a whim at Half-Price Books, so the nice thing is I don't have to worry about returning it to the library in time.

Come to think of it, I bought my copy of Lamb at HPB too. Funny how those things work out.

The novel I just finished reading, however, is Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (bought, again, on a whim at HPB...what is it with me and HPB?!). Thank god this past weekend was a long one for me, otherwise I would have been even more tired than I already was over the last couple of days. There was something about this story that sucked me in and I just couldn't put this novel down. I don't know if I could put my finger on what it was. I just know I literally finished this book in one weekend...which is kind of a big deal for me anymore. While I spent the entire novel having a pretty good prediction as to what ordeal main character Annabel had suffered (and was, for the most part, correct), I was still riveted by her story. I loved the underlying plots regarding her and her sisters' relationships with each other, and of course her relationship with Owen. If you haven't read this book...highly recommend.

On a completely un-reading-related note, I'm slowly chipping away at my various projects. Call to Action is very slowly being revised. Its sequel is very slowly taking shape. I'm very slowly losing my mind. You know, the basics. I'm having a slightly more difficult time getting into Care's head for the sequel. Upon reflection, I think this might have to do with how upset she is at this particular moment--it's a certain level of upset that I've never really experienced personally. And her current situation is giving me a headache. New rules in the sequel, new culture of sorts. I'm having to figure out what has become her new every-day, which is exhausting. I might have to resort to index cards to plot this one out...and that's serious, because I don't outline usually.

In the meantime, my procrastination skills have gotten AMAZING.