The Untold Tales of Harry Potter (100WCGU)

This weeks 100 word challenge for grown ups is:

For this week, I want you to concentrate on one particular style of writing – dialogue. As it will be a conversation and they can be long, you are going to be able to use up to 150 words!

The prompt is: …’Are you sure it should be that colour?’ ….

So the maximum number of words is 158.

So many options to write about, but somehow I found myself attempting to channel JK Rowling. Forgive me Potter fans.

Hermione Granger

Image via Wikipedia

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Harry asked.

“Of course I do,” Hermione snapped, running her finger down the book. “I just hope the brumblevine is fresh enough,” she mumbled to herself.

“And what is it supposed to do again?” Ron asked.

“I told you, this potion should make Harry impervious to every curse.”

“Don’t you think if it was that simple they would have given it to Harry long ago?” Ron scoffed.

“I found it in a very rare book. Perhaps they just didn’t remember it.”

“Even Dumbledore?” Harry asked.

“Dumbledore has millions of things to think about.”

“Are you sure it should be that colour?” Ron asked, looking into the brownish-green sludge.

“Erm, I’m not sure. It says it should be puce. What colour is puce anyway?”

“I don’t know,” Ron said. “But she’s going to blow.”

The potion exploded turning their skin purple wherever it hit.

“My mistake,” Hermione whispered.

Don't forget to check out all the other entries.

When Favorite Writers Fade or Stories Go On Too Long

I am beginning to think that sequels are a bad idea in any form. We all know that movie sequels tend to get worse the higher the number on them.  But have you ever noticed that book series can do the same?

I’m not really talking about fantasy series like The Lord of the Rings, Fablehaven, or Harry Potter, all of which needed multiple books to tell the complete story. These are series that the authors always intended to make into a series, I believe.

I mean those series that come because the first book was such a wonderful success that the author decides (for whatever reason) to stay with these characters for more books and more stories.

Perhaps I should backtrack a little to explain.

I am an avid reader. I know, that is a shocking surprise.

Nathan is shocked!

I devour books like chocolate. I especially love books with fabulous writing or books that take me on a journey to a place I’ve never been. I read books from every genre, but often find myself drawn to historical fiction because I love the way fact and fiction blend to remind us all that history isn’t just what we read in books. History was lived by real people.

When I find a book I love, it inevitably affects my writing to some extent. Or at least that was true until I started to find my own style and my own voice, but I still learn from the masters.

If I find an author I love, I tend to read every book I can find written by that person. I love to read series that allow me to live with my favorite characters as they travel through even more adventures and take me along with them.

Except when the stories go on too long.

Back in high school and into college one book that I absolutely adored, which led me to devouring the series that followed was Clan of the Cave Bears  by Jean M. Auel. I loved it so much that it influenced a story I wrote for a short story writing class in college. I wish I could find a copy of that story, but I am sure it is lost in the dusty collections at my parent’s house, or perhaps filed away in some drawer somewhere, or on my old 5 1/4 inch floppy disks that held my writing life at the time.

How does one get stuff off of those now, anyway?

Back on track. I haven’t read any of the Earth’s Children series for a long time, and really just hold the memory of the books in my mind. However, when I went to the library the other day and saw The Land of Painted Caves, I snatched it up like it was a million dollars left behind by some kind billionaire to be found by me.

I dove into this 757 page book, excited to continue the journey of one of the best female protagonists ever, Ayla, and one of the most romantic love stories between her and Jondalar.

You know where this is heading, don’t you?

The story was good, and actually had a few surprises. However, I’m not sure if I have become more discerning in my tastes and expectations of good writing, or if Ms. Auel had a horrible editor, but this novel could have been written in hundreds of fewer pages.  If I broke the story down into a sort of outline it would go something like this:

  • Ayla, Jondalar, travel with their daughter Jonayla, their three horses and Wolf a long distance to meet with other Clans.
  • Upon arriving, anyone not familiar with the animals would be shocked as they watched Ayla interact and control these wild creatures.
  • After Ayla speaks, those who are not familiar with her would be startled by the unique accent that shows she is from a distant land and was raised in different traditions.
  • Hunters go hunting, a lot.
  • Ayla, who is training to be a Zelandonii (spiritual leader) will go with the First (head of the Zelandonii) into a sacred cave that contains cave paintings of all types. We go with her on the journey into these caves, with pages of minute detail describing everything she sees. I would like to amend my post called “The Magic is in the Details” to say that the magic is in selective details.
  • Somebody makes a lamp using animal fat and dried mushrooms to go into the cave.
  • And . . . repeat.

I almost feel guilty writing this because I do love her work, and Ms. Auel is a writer who has influenced me incredibly. Her influence on my writing can even be found in this blog, if you read The Storyteller or The Moon Calls.

But, as often happens in these long drawn out series, some of the magic is gone. The same thing happened to me when I read The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon (which I admit is a true guilty pleasure, romance novel meets history and the sexiest man I’ve ever read about).

I think, what happens, is that a writer feels like they have to finish following the lives of the characters they love. But sometimes the original story is all we need, so then the characters can live on in our imagination.

Perhaps authors find their comfort zone and then become afraid that they will not be able to follow up on their initial success with a new idea. If that’s what happens, it makes me sad, because people who can write should always take chances. Don’t you think?

I apologize for this extra long post.  But I would love to hear from you, are there any series that you think should have ended after only one or two books, but still carry on?

Battling Boggarts Part II

Riddikulus!” I yell at the form that hovered by me yesterday, but the spell did not work. Why? Because this time the boggart took the shape of myself.

Before I explain, I would like to refer you back to my original Battling Boggarts where I took on a few of the things that torture me and changed them with a flick of my wrist.

But how do you do that, when your biggest enemy is yourself?

As you know, I flew to Seattle yesterday. This is partially a mini-vacation for myself, but the pretense to get me here was to attend a conference called One Theatre World organized by TYA/USA the American branch of a larger international organization. This is the world that I am supposed to belong to. This is the world that my degrees and my passion for theater and its power as an educational and social tool is supposed to be part of my community.

Why don’t I feel like I belong?

The first people I ran into were some of my mentors. They both run companies that I studied and included in my dissertation. I admire both of them for their work and their passion.

When they asked me where I am and what I am doing, I stuttered like a fool. I blushed to say “I’m in Kansas” (remember, many of the locals ask, “how did you END UP here?”) I couldn’t claim my work with pride and confidence.

Why can’t I ? Why am I so hard on myself.

I want to flick the wand at my self doubts and my fears and turn them into something else.

I want my face to be on this woman

Image from Allsorts 2005

The History of My Life in Books

Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown...

Image via Wikipedia

Some friends and I recently signed up for a website dedicated to books. It was our chance to share our passion for reading, and to create a virtual book group for more reading and discussion.

This could be a good or bad thing. Good, because I will be able to have interesting discussions about books and discover new books to read. Bad, because I can already feel the pull of another technological addiction that will distract me from accomplishing other tasks.

However, I have begun my lists of books read, or books I hope to read. I have watched in amazement as my friends’ lists leap into the thousands. I know that I too have probably read that many books, but I have had trouble remembering what I’ve read or finding books. Plus I need more time to dedicate to plumping up my lists.

But how, I asked myself, do I recall every book I’ve ever read?

As I am sitting in the car on the endless drive back home, I’ve been pondering this question. A moment ago it hit me—the books I read tell the story of my life. All I need to do to find the titles is drift back into time and label the periods of my life. If I search through my interests at a given period, I will find all the books I’ve ever read.

There are the books I turn to for comfort. These include books I re-read almost every year, from a variety of genres. The list includes Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Austen, books by Maeve Binchy, and recently The Lord of the Rings among others. Some of the books in this list are ones that II read as a child and am now introducing to my daughter, or books that she is introducing to me.

There are the books that represent my academic degrees and my love of learning. The topics under this section cover numerous fields: English Literature, Western Theater, Japanese theater, Non-Western Theater children’s theater, puppetry and a smattering of history, sociology, psychology, humanities and theory. This collection includes books that I picked up out of interest, or because I read something that intrigued me.

There are the books that represent my desire to write, ranging from how to writing books, books on creativity, young adult and children’s novels.

There are books exploring culture from many perspectives. I have children’s stories and fables from around the world. This includes books from my time in Japan, on Japanese culture, stories, and language (some actually in Japanese).

There are books about various research projects that I have started, if not finished. Some of them have turned into articles or papers, some sit waiting for me to pick up and start again. The topics include: women writers, interesting women in history, perfectionism, honors programming, overcoming stage fright and bullying.

There are books that represent my search for identity or my desire to reinvent myself and start over. These include books on spirituality and psychology, self help and memoirs.

There are books from lists. Some of the lists include books that I read because I had to, not because I wanted to. There are books from the list of recommended reading for people going to college that I decided I had to conquer when I was in high school. I don’t think I succeeded. There are books from Oprah’s Book Club that I used to read because I thought they must be good. I found many of them depressing so I stopped reading from that list.

There are books that I read and hated, because I believed that I should give them a chance and read them through, or because once I started I felt like I had to finish. There are books that I started and never finished as I finally gave myself permission to stop reading things I didn’t like. Nobody would arrest me for putting down a book midway.

There are books I’ve read for fun, or for guilty pleasure. Some caught my eye in the bookstore, most of them representing whatever I was feeling in my life at the moment. These include books that I read for the beauty of the language, or because the cover art was interesting. Or books I read on lazy vacation days when I simply feel like reading.

There are books from various book groups which represent a mixture of my own interests and the interests of other intelligent women. There are books I read when I have no time to read.

There are books that reflect my working life, or the working life I hope to create. There consist of books that I use as resources for classes, including picture books, Shel Silverstein, and books on teaching. There are books I read as I developed my skills at teaching College Composition classes. This doesn’t even include all the journal articles, or unpublished manuscripts I’ve read at the request of someone at work.

There are books on the paranormal, because of my fascination with that topic.

There are books on Judaism and the Holocaust (that just reminded me of one interesting book called The Jews and the Japanese which merged two of my interests). There are books about culture, travel, and food. There are books by women writers both for and about women.

I must not forget the list of books I plan to read, or hope to read in the future.

This list keeps growing as I type it. I think that I will learn much about my own story by creating this bookish history.

Billions of words. Millions of pages. Each one adds to the story of Lisa, as it is reflected through books.

I am excited to see what my future story becomes, as it is revealed by the books I choose to read.

How about you? What is the history of your life in books? What does your reading material say about you?

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