Five Reasons I Love Harry Potter

  1. Hermione is an amazing witch, smart and intelligent, but realistic. She is not always easy to get along with and can be somewhat of a know-it-all. But I identified with her when I first read the books as a kid. And as an adult, I still love her.
  2. Dumbledore because out of reach mentor characters are my favorite. See also my love for Gandalf & Merlin.
  3. Butterbeer because it sounds delicious. And because you can concoct close enough versions with adult beverages that taste pretty yummy.
  4. The Marauder’s Map is such an amazing bit of magic. I wish I lived in a world with Moony, Prongs, Padfoot and Wormtail. It would be so useful to have such a great map!
  5. Fred & George are the best comic relief. I still love their exit from Hogwarts during the end of Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix. It is the best.

My favorite things

I love Maria’s song in the Sound of Music. But I’ve never been super decisive about favorites. And it is almost impossible for me to name a favorite book or author because there have been so many books that have moved me, changed my life or that I keep coming back to. I wanted to share some of my favorite things.

Today I’ll start with Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Because I love Elizabeth’s story & Austen’s wit. But also, this book represents so much hope to me. Jane and Elizabeth are in an impossible situation with their financial situation, but they are able to overcome their obstacles and find their place in the world.

I struggle with the resolution of marriage as being the way to overcome one’s obstacles in life. However, I think that Jane Austen was an astute observer of her society and used her pen to showcase the issues of her female main characters and how society constrained them at the time. Pride & Prejudice showcases the precarious class status of upper class women at the time. It show how the patriarchy kept women in an insecure situation, financially. Finally, I admire Lizzy because she is so willing to speak her own mind. She is perhaps the most candid of the characters in the novel. And she is unafraid to offend or surprise.

Setting the Tone

I often listen to music while I write and playlists can help me to set the tone of what I am working on. I love finding a new ear worm that will play back into my writing.

Lately, I’ve been using Spotify to curate my playlists for various projects and voices. I don’t always have the list playing as I’m writing. But often, even if I am not listening to the songs on the list, a song or piece of a song will be playing in repeat in my head as I’m writing. Here’s the playlist for my current project, True Love Bites, a vampire love story.

I’ve heard other writers mention that listening with songs that have lyrics is distracting to them. That doesn’t hold true for me, most of the time. I find music a great way for me to transition from “real” life into my writing life. Every writer is different.

Prompted 4.0

The bar was crowded despite it being late on a Thursday evening, everyone had to work tomorrow, but seemed to be celebrating the weekend a day early. Grey sat at a table near the back, the top of the table was old, worn and sticky with spilled boozy. He sat in an uncomfortable chair, waiting for her to arrive. The table revealed three empty tumblers and a fourth filled with an amber liquid.

Grey sighed then took a sip of his whiskey. She said she’d be there by 11 p.m., but it was nearing a quarter to eleven.

Where was she? Kaz was never late. He checked his watch again, and the clock struck midnight.

When he looked up, there she stood at the entrance of the bar, radiant as ever. Her skin glowed the soft silver of the moonlight. As she crossed the threshold of the establishment, the crowd went silent for a moment and all eyes fell on her.

Her silver hair and eyes a contrast against her smooth charcoal skin. No one made a sound as she shimmied up to the bar, ordered a cosmopolitan, and wandered to the back of the bar. She didn’t seem to notice all eyes on her, even as she sat to face Grey.

“Sorry I’m late,” she said, and took a sip of her drink.

Thoughts on Rereading the Abhorsen Trilogy

I recently decided to reread the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix.

Even though it’s been fifteen years or so, I remember discovering Sabriel in the basement of my public library around seventh or eighth grade. I had this feeling of discovery, even though I found the book by chance, it felt special. The cover had a woman in a blue overcoat and silver keys and it ignited my imagination. I took the book home, read it, and bought a copy for myself because I loved it so much.

I still felt the special-ness of that memory as I took the book off the shelf. After reading Sabriel as an adult, the story still holds up for me. I found the problems of the Abhorsen (good necromancer) interesting and realistic. Nix does a great job of pacing and holding the tension. I finished Sabriel and then went on to read Lirael right away and I found that I still have a bit of a love-hate relationship because this story isn’t as straightforward as Sabriel’s. Sabriel is on a quest to save her father. Lirael’s story is more about finding herself and making her own place in the world, apart from having the Sight of the Clayr. But I finished it in a couple of days and went on to read Abhorsen, which is faster paced than Lirael, but still has some pacing problems compared to Sabriel.

Overall, I would recommend reading this series if you love YA and love fantasy. Sabriel is probably my favorite of the three, but that doesn’t seem surprising. I can still see the library in my mind when I think of discovering that book, so many good associations and memories. And a great story.

Prompted 3.0

It was a long way to Philadelphia and, if anyone asked, Jennifer couldn’t really explain why she was going there. All she knew was that she HAD to make the trip…

She was on a mission from God. Or so the angel in her dream had told when she woke up at three a.m. in a cold sweat. She quickly changed into jeans and t-shirt before grabbing her essentials – phone, keys, and wallet – before running to her car.

Before she knew it, she hopped onto I-94 from downtown Chicago, and cruised eastward to Philly. She drove straight through for twelve hours, only stopping to refill her gas tank, driving until she reached the center of Philly.

When she parked, she blinked and got out of the car. The afternoon sunshine hurt her eyes. She asked a passerby, “Where am I?”

They gave her a weird look and went on. She kept on asking until someone answered, “Philadelphia.”

She couldn’t remember getting into the car or even why she made the trip. She walked around, feeling lost, but unready to get back in the car and make the long drive home. As she meandered, a man walked up to her and said, “Are you alright miss?”

Jennifer looked into his eyes and smiled. “You know, I think I am, now. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee with me?”

He looked at his watch and frowned. “I was supposed to meet a friend, but I suppose I can spare half an hour,” he said, “there’s a great place a couple blocks away.”

She smiled and followed him.

Fantasy of Manners: A Perfect Marriage

I discovered fantasy as a genre when I read the Hobbit as a thirteen year old – the sense of adventure carried me away. But truth be told, if the whole of the novel had taken place in Bilbo’s Hobbit-hole, I would have been just as happy. As much as I loved the fantasy and adventure that Tolkien evoked, I enjoyed the sense of place that he provided.

Before that fateful book, I had been dedicated to classics (for both children and adults) such as Anne of Green Gables, the Scarlet Letter, and Treasure Island. Classics provided me a strong sense of place and characterization. I wanted to be Anne – I longed for red hair – and lamented my own brunette strands. I suppose my longing for her hair is an irony considering how much Anne hated it, but I wanted to be so much like her I didn’t care.

Prince Edward Island is as much of a fairytale place to me as the Shire or Middle Earth.

And as much as I loved the books that transported me to the past, after reading the Hobbit I was inspired to seek out more fantasy and more adventure. I went on to read the Lord of the Rings through the rest of middle school and early high school. Then I moved on to other fantasy authors, such as David Eddings and Mercedes Lackey.

However, I still longed for the novels that transported me to the past like a great classic can. I discovered Jane Austen quite by accident in 2005, when a friend and I went to see the version of Pride & Prejudice where Keira Knightley played Elizabeth Bennet. And no matter how you feel about Keira Knightley as an actress, that movie made me curious about the novel. What I loved about the movie was the way the music swept me into a time and place that I could not otherwise go.

What enticed me to pick the novel up was a review of the movie that described the movie ending as over-romantic and sentimental. I wanted to see how Austen envisioned the ending. So, with the movie in mind, I picked up the novel and fell in love with classics all over again.

More specifically, I fell in love with Jane Austen as a writer. I adored her sense of wit and irony. I loved her subtleties. Finally, I enjoyed what were essentially “happily ever after” endings.

In the interim years, I enjoyed my passions of fantasy and Jane Austen separately until I discovered a sub-genre of fantasy that married my two passions into a single entity. I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell, The Magician & Mrs. Quent, and A Natural History of Dragons. These books brought my two favorite types of stories together.

However, what cemented my love of the fantasy of manners genre was Shades of Milk & Honey. This world brings together the social constraints of Jane Austen, with incredible world-building and the sort of magic that makes me fall in love with fantasy all over again. Mary Robinette Kowal’s imagining of glamour as a woman’s art constrains what the magic can do and how it is used. However, even with the plotline of a young woman trying to find a man to marry, Kowal brings a sense of adventure. There is a fantastical edge to the world that promises to ask questions beyond the parlor. A perfect marriage of genres, if you ask me.

What is your favorite fantasy of manners novel?