Friday, July 29, 2011

Know-it-All Fail

I think LinkedIn has vicious personality transformation bots at the ready when people (and by people I mean... ME) go in there to discuss things...

I've mentioned the very odd dichotomy between the self-publishers and traditional publishers, ya?

Well that is only one of the categories on which I have strong opinions and want to lecture people... sometimes due to wrong information(this time, strangely, NOT me), but MOSTLY because the self-pub folks are such EAGER BEAVERS and there is a failure to tell people to SLOW THE FREAK DOWN. Make sure your work is EDITED, POLISHED...

And so I've been known to... erm... stongly urge people to find critique groups first, get an editor last... make sure it is FREAKING ADEQUATE TO PUBLISH... okay, so I try not to go this far.

You know... I RECOGNIZE the enthusiasm... I just finished my book, how do I find a publisher (this very second)... I GET IT...

But I think I am too bossy to play in these circles. I feel like I REALLY want to help people, but I KNOW they aren't ready to hear it yet. But if they are going to self-publish, they may never get that reality check elsewhere... It's a fuzzy line, yes?

I think about how much I deeply appreciate Colleen Gleason's reality check when I was querying my lovely 204K first book *rolls eyes* I was so SURE it was ready! I totally would have published that, had I not been intent on traditional publishing at the time...

But anyway, yesterday... it was blogging...

A discussion about all this social media not doing bipcuss for the people discussing the topic.

Erm. What?

Oh, man... They can shoot themselves in the foot and dive at publishing and make themselves look like ninnies with their never before seen by un-related eyes... but to ATTACK MY BLOGOSPHERE?

So I might have lectured that if they weren't seeing impact, they were doing it wrong *shifty*
(it's possible I was even RIGHT on the matter)

So why is it I can't just keep my bloody mouth shut? Why can't I just avoid these conversations that make me want to TEACH EVERYBODY WHAT THE HECK TO DO!? Not everyone WANTS to learn... some are offended at our tartish tone...


I know, honestly, everyone is doing the best they can. I just get frustrated with the part-sales, part naïve places that seem to be the perfect storm for making people think they know more than they do... that there is a shortcut for this process.

Any of the rest of you compelled to stick your feet in your mouth in the name of helping people? Lecture with good intentions? Overshare how people ought to do their thing?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Possum Protest

This isn't HIM, but ours is LIKE him.
Primary progeny peered into purple. A Possum posed, then paraded from the periphery into our garage proper. He placed paws and pranced, priming himself for people. Primary progeny went in the other door. Papa not present; she told me.

Perchance... possum poo provided proof of persistence. Pesky possum parks his posterior on our property! People peeked in peripheral places, but possum is perhaps paranormal... alas... paranormal possums wouldn't poo...

Perhaps a party with pounding will displace possum! No pasta, pears and pale ale for him! Possum parties provide pokes and prods. People will prevail! If pernicious possum would just appear.

A Drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

This drabble happens to be a TRUE story... we've had a regular garage visitor in the form of a possum, and the bloody thing POOed in there! He doesn't seem to live there, though, as I hear they are stinky, and we've not experienced that...erm... and we can't FIND him... But consider this... if you are going to frequent someplace you've not been invited, please be considerate about where you poo.


See, now I wouldn't mind THIS guy...
And this whole thing brought up THIS...

Why do Australians and New Zealanders have CUTE possums, and we are stuck with ROUSs? Aren't the Australians RESPONSIBLE for the things? *scratches head* though I don't know why anybody BROUGHT them here from Australia... the black squirrels from Japan, I get. They make me happy. Possums? Not so much. Could be worse, though. Out in Oregon they ran the size of Volkswagens. The daughter called this one huge, but I think she meant... you know... compared to the chimpunks (our other garage guests)--he is more house cat sized.

And in other news: third Draft of BEGONIA BRIBE is with readers... I sent a version Sunday but only the first half had gotten a polish (I just wanted to meet the original deadline I'd given, in case they'd penciled me in—so they could get started...

Or these!  So cute!
Now I turn serious attention back to KAHLOTUS while they are reading. Amy (Double-Agent 2) asked about it this week... which excited me. I love to hear that she is eager to see how my changes come out. I told her mid-August, so I have my work cut out for me—I am on chapter 7 of, I think 40. About half of it is smaller changes, at least initially, because Helen's PoV is already there and the only changes will have to do with ripples from the other changes. But the other half I need to think on and rewrite—which details HAVE to be there, even though they are currently known only by the OTHER PoVs in the first draft? How do I rewrite it realistically so she WOULD know?

I also thought hard, based on feedback from Leanne... what is the solid, underlying theme, or goal for my MC? I've come up with it. Purpose. She lived a sad life, afraid, in pain... and she escaped it without really living it. She has a second chance now, and maybe her death can be more meaningful. Oh... and based on a blog by my new Potterhead buddy SP, at Harry Potter for Writers, I decided to write intentional character arcs for more characters than just my MC. Two of the characters really had them anyway (Helen and Serena) but there are a few more important characters and it seemed giving their personalities intentional direction gave me some nice conflict and would make the story more satisfying.

I honestly sort of like doing this in the REWRITE rather than the first draft, as I think I can be a little heavy-handed if I try to do that from the start.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Glen Beck: Uninformed, Evil, or Both?

Whereby I use Glenn Beck's logic to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Glenn Beck is a TERRORIST. [warning, I am trying to stay to the humorous side of this, but this is undoubtedly an angry blog—that so many people listen to that ignoramus drives me NUTS]

I got home from work last night to find HWMNBMOTI cooking and listening to CNN. The man (on TV, not HWMNBMOTI) was talking about the kerfuffle related to Glenn Beck and went on to quote him. This is verbatim what Glenn said on his radio show:

“As the thing started to unfold and then there was a shooting at a political camp which sounds a little like you know the Hitler Youth or whatever... I mean who does a camp for kids that's all about politics...disturbing.”

Okay. FIRST let's dissect this for the inaccuracies in it.

Political camp like Hitler Youth:

1)  The Labor party, if we had it in the US, would be the equivalent of the blue collar democrats... Workers, fairness in the work place. These are the midwest democrats who worked for unions in manufacturing... This is a very MODERATE group. Hilter would be... well... Glenn Beck.

2)  The TERRORIST was a Neo-Nazi. Why on earth would he attack a group 'like Hitler Youth'? Answer? He wouldn't.

Who does a political camp?

I'll tell you who... we have these in the US, too—some party affiliated, some not. In fact GLENN BECK is behind some of them. But some are age-old: ever hear of Boys State or Girls State? Model UN? What are these but CAMPS for future leaders? But yes, there are also Young Democrats and Young Republicans--in high schools and colleges... the same ages as the youth in question. [And frankly, I would SO MUCH prefer political process camps over... say Sexual Reorientation camps (talk about an agenda)]

Camp for kids

Residents of this camp were 15-25. Young adults would be a more accurate term. And the FOCUS of these camps IN NORWAY is learning the democratic process. Learning the history, legislation process, leadership skills, THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS (oh yes, surely evil—Hitler was all about Democracy, right? *rolls eyes*)... I suspect, though I don't have friends who have gone... there is also a focus on learning compromise. Norway has multiple parties, so if they don't work together, nothing would ever get done. (I wish they taught THAT in the US)

So Using what we have... Lets just look at this...

Anders Behring Breivik professes but doesn't display Christian Values.
Glenn Beck professes but doesn't display Christian values.

Anders Behring Breivik attacked moderate liberals.
Glenn Beck attacks all liberals.

Anders Behring Breivik is a deep xenophobe who wants people not like him to leave.
Glenn Beck is a deep xenophobe who wants people not like him to leave.

Anders Behring Breivik is a right wing extremist.
Glenn Beck is a right wing extremist.

Anders Behring Breivik wants the democratic process to break down because he thinks only he is right.
Do I really need to say this? Can't you see it's the ultimate goal of the right wing extremists? To BREAK the US government so badly it has no power.

So there you have it. Incontrovertible proof that GLENN BECK IS A TERRORIST.

Which begs my original question... look at all those facts he got wrong? Is he STUPID? Or is he intentionally MISLEADING the stupid? Or both.

I have to conclude the answer is BOTH, and say not only that, but it was ALSO in extremely poor taste—comparing victims to Nazis. I say we douse him with honey and leave him on an ant hill.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Idea Worth Exploring

I visited very few blogs yesterday (sorry about that)--I am feeling a little overwhelmed with keeping up (catching up?)... but one I DID read, which I haven't for a while, as I usually feel stronger obligation to my buddy blogs than the blogs where I'm just a fangirl, was The Rejectionist.

There must have been a sense of kismet at play... She had recently been to PORTLAND... (you know... MY Portland...) for a conference and while she was there had a little magical experience at Powells.  You should go check out her account, and then come back so we can talk about it.

Some of my favorite books...

Did you go yet?

Because NOW I want to talk about this for real... this idea of leaving little love letters in books for the next reader who comes along.  It's a bit of brilliance, isn't it?  Makes a reader feel connected to the LAST reader of the book... makes a reader feel more connected to the BOOK...

Ha!  Can't do THIS on Amazon! *cough* 

Okay, so I don't really want to stick it to Amazon--I love Amazon in a lot of ways. But I ALSO really love local (particularly Indy) book stores.  Wouldn't it be BRILLIANT to start a campaign whereby we all went into our local Indy bookstore and left a love letter (about the book) for the next purchaser of the book that most enchanted us?

I considered libraries, but we can't do it when we check a book back in, or it risks falling back OUT--halve to go in and put it between the pages while it's on the shelf waiting to be selected...

Still... I love the Indy Bookstore idea because I really want them to survive and I think they are in more danger than libraries.

What book would you leave it in?  I am still trying to decide...

I think, while I have some deep favorites, that it needs to be a book that has some magic to it. The obvious answer would be Harry Potter, but I ALSO think I'd like it to be a lesser known treasure... one I don't think the world has had a chance to learn about... love letters, after all, are a little bit private...

Hear that Nicola? I am headed in for a little mischief...

Monday, July 25, 2011

FOMS 47: Tart Willpower 0

And I think some of you may have a guess what that means. You heard me. I joined Google+.

For those of you who DON'T know me... I should probably give you some context.

FOMS: Fear of Missing Something. You heard me. I'm a joiner. I can't bear the idea that there is a party and I'm not a part of it. So when I hear about the next best thing... there I am... early to show up.

The TROUBLE with this is there is always aNOTHER next new thing soon, and I haven't had time to master the LAST new thing... so I am signed up, but left in the role of a fumbler who is a member, but not particularly active.

The OTHER TROUBLE with this is... I can't be bothered to read the instructions. I know... It's stupid and I should just do it, but I grew up in an age where part of the JOY of something was figuring the darned thing out, and READING how to do it was CHEATING. (Am I alone here? I might have twisted that around because I really HATE to read the directions)

No clue if this is legit, but funny...
Digression and disclaimer: Directions in picture form for things that need putting together are an exception. Me and IKEA are FINE friends. Or would be, had we had any money to order stuff since IKEA first hit the US... but when I was assembling my baby stuff—I rocked. Much better than the hubby who literally starts at the step where you count the pieces.

So these new things I join... since I can't be bothered to figure them out... need to suck me in deeply enough to explore. Better yet, they need to drive me to PLAY. The places I've PLAYED... I've mastered... I mastered HPANA, including some HTLM so I could attach links and pictures... I ROCK Facebook... (before that, I didn't totally suck at MySpace). Twitter, I haven't quite got... I mean I am there, and do some stuff... but... I haven't gotten the tutorial for dummies on how to HAVE FUN there, so I haven't mastered the other stuff either...

HPANA: Gnargles&Snorkaks
Facebook: Hart Johnson
Twitter: HartJohnson

Know what else I've joined?

Goodreads: And this is nice, but seems I mostly do it to give book reviews... and... erm... I don't go looking for book reviews when I choose my reading... I am quite convinced this is a poverty thing—that I will check up on books to make decisions when I have money to BUY books... And I like the Goodreads reviews better than... say Amazon... for whatever reason, Amazon seems to draw some trolls. There are criticisms that are stupid. “This book cost too much” (hello, not within author's choice if it was traditionally published.)

(Hart Johnson)

LinkedIn: Talk about not having a clue of the function... A whole bunch of people's rolodexes, yeah? But I recently found some discussions under 'writers' and those aren't too bad, there there are two circles and there can be some friction: the self-publishing circle and the traditionally publishing circles get into it now and then. In fact at the Burrow last week I wrote a fairly detailed post on the options inspired by this unfathomable friction and very strange reverse-snobbery (the self-pubbling folks calling the others stupid for 'giving up part of their hard-earned income)...erm... yeah, okay. (If you want my real response, check out that blog)

Half a dozen writing groups... I don't remember who they are. Some of them have bookmarks at home, some at work... I join, and go back once or twice, then forget...

(Hart Johnson)

And for my finale... Google+

So what did I go and do last week? Joined Google+. I hear it's all the rage. I'm sure it must be—people I respect a lot LOVE IT...

But I will leave you with this thought... I must not get it. It currently seems to me a lot like Facebook, except it spams me (a lot) in a way I haven't figured out how to turn off. I LOVE that it is in my google bar. I ADORE that I can edit my comments. But other than that, I haven't found any advantage and find it less user friendly—harder to find the conversations I care about...

Part of this may be that I live in a TMI world and figure everyone needs to hear what I find worth saying... erm... not really, but HONESTLY, I have two FB profiles... one of people I know personally (or at least very well online) and it has my personal stuff including pictures of my childings and mishaps with life generally... Then I have my AUTHOR profile, which is mostly politics and religion free (not that the other has a lot, but around elections I may express an opinion or two) and that has my ad nauseum updates on the writing process which my friends from high school only care about at about a 20% rate, and those have friended both spots.

I saw a tutorial recently... which I left open all day intending to get to, and then got tired and closed all my windows. But it comes back to me being a person who just isn't going to read the instructions...

But in any case, if you'd like to join me in my cluelessness on any of the above (or tell my how to get one of those handy tools that lists the lot of them for my blog) I have listed my name on each in parentheses...

Any of you have favorites of these... Blogging and FB are remaining in top spot, though I reserve my right to learn something that changes my mind...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

For Norway

My heart goes out to Norway right now. I have several friends in the country--you know some of them-- Mari, Siv, Cold as Heaven... there are more. My memory stinks. I also have Norwegian roots, and frequently point at the Scandenavian countries at those that have figured out the proper balance between letting people achieve and taking care of everybody... And people respond that... well they don't have our problems do they...

Sadly, in a tragic way, that became very untrue yesterday. And my heart goes out to them.  I'd summarize it, but I think Mari does so much better a job--she is after all, THERE.  I encourage you to check out her blog today:  The Giraffability of Digressions.

That's all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

South of Superior

When Harry Dolan's publicist contacted me about an ARC, I told her I found it especially fun to read Dolan's first book because it happened where I lived. She said, “Oh, good! I have another Michigan book...” and proceeded to send it.

That sounds less flattering than it ends up, but the truth is, I hadn't heard of the author or the book before it arrived at my house. It is a different genre than I normally read and I just think I never would have otherwise run across it.

That said, it was a delightful surprise... not that it is so surprising... just that because I wasn't looking, it wasn't expected...

South of Superior by Ellen Airgood 


Madeline Stone is working in a Chicago restaurant, engaged to a well-off man, and looking forward to art school, but she has felt discontented since the death of her guardian Emmy, which followed a very long illness. She feels lost and 'off'.

When she receives a request from the long-time lover of the grandfather who refused to acknowledge her—who left her with a stranger, rather than taking her in when her mother ran off, she is not sure what to think. But Gladys is insistent... she needs help with her sister who is a stroke survivor, and thinks Madeline is the perfect person to do it—to move a couple hundred miles north to a tiny town on the banks of Lake Superior... near her roots... to learn who she is while she provides care for Arbutus.

The offer isn't very appealing, but the women are in Chicago staying with Arbutus's son, so what is the harm in meeting them? And Arbutus is one of those rare people who brings life joy... a pillar... the kind of person who makes you want to reach for what you are... and Madeline decides she needs to go. She breaks off her engagement, quits her job, packs her aging car and drives to another life.

McAllister is tiny. A tourist town in the summer, but without an income of any sort in the winter, so people are very poor. They have to go a long ways to get most things, and in spite of not always liking things their townsmen do, they come through for each other when it matters. These are things you can't learn without living through them... Madeline falls, gets up, fails, and goes on... there is the gamut of emotions, but mostly there is self-discovery.


This is really a great book. I love tiny towns—they become characters in the story. And I love a story where the MC is sure they want one thing, and it turns out they didn't even know themselves well enough to know what they want. It is a coming of age among adults, and I think these stories are in many ways even more interesting than coming of age among young people. It takes a while to learn who we are.

So if you are at all inclined, I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too Darn Hot

I know... rebelling all over the place, waiting to post until this morning, but it's too BLOODY, FREAKING HOT!

To get you in the mood, maybe you should listen here

So instead of WRITING a blog, I thought I'd amuse you with some things I ran across instead...

Twilight Bashers, this is the funniest review EVER and I think many of you will suspect, as I did, that this blogger was channeling me when this was written...

And then there is this, shared with me by my friend Cher Bear:
"Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."--Stephen King  (took some tracking down to verify but this attribution is on Goodreads, so I trust it)
And THAT is a nice segue to THIS: Some info on finding the keys to Pottermore


And then there were a couple really useful links (one writing, one eating)...

Rachelle Gardener had a How To on writing an Elevator Pitch

And Sue had a couple really intriguing posts about SUGAR and biology (and why sugar is best avoided and how difficult that can be in processed food) (the 4th and 5th posts down, I think)

And these points of really great news!

Lynn Rush got a 3 book deal

Stacy Gail got famous by having her name in print (promoting the newly very hot Sci-Fi romance genre)

And finally, I've seen a few progress summaries of late and thought I'd add mine to the mix.

January/February edits of Kahlotus/Legacy and Azalea Assault: Check
Feb-March WRITING of Begonia Bribe: Done, but it took me to May
April editing of [?]: Missed this one completely
May first edit of BB: This one too.
June BuNoWriMo: Check (completed 55K: What Ales Me)
July edit of BB: Done with hard copy edit. Two research intensive scenes to write. Also starting out loud finer point edit. (note: when oral fine point edit done and peers have, I have also begun tinkering with Kahlotus)

Note ONE thing that slows you up can knock you off a couple, but I got back on track, so I feel pretty good there. The longer time it took to write BB knocked off two months scheduled for edits, but I'm making pretty good progress. And that's all I got cuz I'm too darn hot!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


So you all remember my cutie patootie poochie, Joel, yes?

A couple weeks ago Joel was... stodgie... had an obviously irritated... bowel... bad... yucky (messy even). And the hubby took him to the vet to see what was the matter...

Poor Joel had pancreatitis! He was getting too much fat in his diet!

The clincher is he has ALWAYS eaten Iams Weight Control, and we are careful on volume... he gets carrots for treats...

The vet gave us special food, then told hubster what we could MAKE for him if we preferred...

The food we've begun making is rice, chicken and we've been alternating sweet potatoes and green beans.

In two weeks on this non-processed food, Joel has lost a pound and a half... And you can TELL how much better he feels!  So much more energy... happier...

Okay, so the difference isn't that apparent...
And it got me thinking...

I'm a Big Fat Cow...

And it is time to cut the processed food out of MY diet too... maybe this will help me... I can only hope... Okay, so that's a digression... Just... some of the pictures the other night made me cringe. It's gotten out of hand and I need to get it back under control.

But it ALSo , it got me thinking about BOOKS...

And formulas... and rules, and stringency...

I've read some novels that follow the rules... too well... that fit in everything exactly where it should go... and I think that now and then, it is okay, but too much of that, and it is... you know... too much of that... Like too much processed food... it leaves us flabby and unattractive... (and lazy and unenergetic) I've decided what I really love are the novels written with full on HEART that then are brought into line JUST ENOUGH to make it through the labyrinth to publishing... Leave it more natural... shake it up a little... Leave in the individuality of the thing...

I know that isn't what I'm supposed to say. I like a lot of novels that follow all the rules. But those aren't the novels that I love. And nutritionally (erm... metaphorically speaking) I'm not sure those novels are the best for me. I think the rule breakers stretch me and grow me... INSPIRE ME... Show me what is POSSIBLE... Make me dream of what I might become... Now Joel had the same diet for a long time before it was unhealthy... But I think it would be nice to avoid all that... mix it up a little...

It's possible I only see it this way because the rebel in me needs to, but there you have it.

What do you think?  Do you like books that do what they're supposed to? Or books that break some rules?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Barely Blog

Harry reading an excerpt
Harry Dolan Book Signing

So instead of writing a blog post last night, I went to a Harry Dolan author reading... which was definitely good for ME, but it leaves me with just a short blog for YOU...

I was reassured that Harry and I have some things in common... for starters... an enjoyment of reading fantasy but brains that don't seem to come up with those ideas... instead we get the twisted murderous thoughts... erm... or something...

Writing linearly, but knowing where the story is going... though his plotting sounds more detailed than mine... The audience asked if mystery could be WRITTEN off the cuff, characters leading the show... I resisted correcting them and telling them the term was PANTSING... Harry didn't think they worked together... I also resisted telling them about Elizabeth... or that my last novel I knew MOSTLY where I was going, but changed my killer three times there at the end...

It's hard to sit in an audience and not chime in on the answers. Is this just me? I think this is a function of graduate school when we were reinforced for this... or maybe it is my own personal narcissism.

Me with Harry and Liz Crowe
Unlike me, Harry writes slowly and begins each day fixing some of the day before. He supports himself with his books. I don't. There is a possibility he is doing something better than me on this front...

Anyway, my boss was there with her mom and a friend... and my buddy Liz was there... we made Harry pose with us... (he was fabulous by the way—I really enjoyed this)


I Can Share My Title Now!!!

*Drum roll, please*

My first Gardening theme Cozy Mystery, due out next June if nothing changes, is called...

(wait for it)


(the second is currently slated at THE BEGONIA BRIBE and the third will have CC)

I really dig that alliteration thing. It pleases me... and Emily, my editor, said the artists were excited by the idea of Azaleas for the cover because they are such a bright flower. I personally like the contrast of such a happy flower and MURDER!

And that's what I have today...

Happy Tuesday people! Just because it's not Thursday yet, no reason not to be naked.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Down Time

I was almost completely offline for three days...

You would have had to be asleep or absent to not know the last half of last week was spent in a Harry Potter frenzy... Thursday night was the midnight movie attendance... and then... a bit of a...

I don't want to call it a funk. It was happier than a funk, but it was extremely anti-social. I think I spent five hours just READING on Friday (rereading Deathly Hallows)... sitting and reading... I think the last time I did that was when Deathly Hallows first came out. I just... have too much to do, normally. But it was WONDERFUL. Hubby was working... kids slept three hours longer than I did... just quiet house, me and a book.

It's funny how you can crave something and not know what it is. I needed some downtime.

I turned on my computer to check email, but think I spent half hour tops...

My neighbor came over in the evening and invited me to sit poolside and share my excitement about the movie... That was nice too... quiet company and a cocktail...

And then Saturday I decided it MUST be done.

See, there is a downside to writing longhand... it is how I must write at least a part of my stuff... my brain flows through my fingers and a medium point pen onto lined paper... I can't DO emotion, tension... the good stuff... on a screen... but it all has to be TYPED.

[note: just recognized a use for voice recognition software. I've known I couldn't WRITE that way--the brain not flowing out the MOUTH even remotely, but bloody hell if I couldn't TYPE that way... reading what I wrote...]

So Saturday and Sunday I typed about 8000 words... previously written mostly, but I am not the world's speediest typist, and I DO do some editing and fact checking.

So Second Garden Cozy is TYPED and hopefully by the time you read this, my hard copy edit is done with the exception of a few scenes I have noted that need writing--my goal is Saturday for entering what I have and writing what is missing.

Can I tell you a secret? This is a big deal, but it's real hush hush... stop reading now if you're a blabbermouth.

Last Monday my editor emailed me requesting my synopsis for the first Garden Cozy... because TUESDAY THE ART DEPARTMENT MET TO DISCUSS MY COVER!!! SQUEEEEEE!

And I was told my title... but that I really can't share yet, but it wasn't just THIS title, but the next, plus the theme... I'm so excited and I so wish I could share... You totally will be the first to know!  (erm, other than the Burrow, but you know... they are practically ME they're so close... in fact it's possible they know already....)

NOTE: If you are in southeast Michigan, tonight is your chance to catch a Harry Dolan reading!!! It is at 7pm, Nicola Books in Westgate Mall—the last surviving Independent Bookstore in Ann Arbor, and proud guardian of this Fairy Door (there are two book fairy doors—the other is in the library). I'm very excited to meet Harry in person and get my book signed, and I'd love it if any of the rest of you are showing up! Give a shout if you are—I'd love to meet some other local authors face to face--Liz, I am counting on you, sister!
And here is proof someone lives there.
(inside the fairy doors, I mean... I have some blogs about fairy doors. If you are curious, look under the Ann Arbor tag... we are collectively odd... which I love)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One Woman

Seven books, eight films, several GENERATIONS of people who love to read, millions of people, from a few hundred countries speaking dozens of languages... we have all been connected... this has all been possible, because of one woman—now the second richest woman in the world if my attention span has managed to get the facts right (Oprah being first)... richer than the QUEEN...

But man, what a class act.

Joanne Rowling was a single mom on welfare... struggling after a divorce... teaching, but not getting by when on a train ride this AMAZING idea came to her. All of it... the seven book SERIES... It has so many elements of the classic battle between good and evil... the orphaned child, the wise mentor, the prophecy that guarantees he has to face the enemy because the enemy is determined to kill him... It is a classic boarding school tale. It is a metaphor for the Holocaust in several ways. It flirts with mythology related to werewolves, Veela, goblins, giants...

In fact I think the most brilliant job touting all she did was done here by my friend Jason, using a parallel tale from the conversation between Riddle and Slughorn. This is REALLY worth a read if you are a Rowling fan... it is both chuckle-worthy and insiteful... because she does this... uses a VARIETY of brilliant techniques (and like a good mystery writer, a fair few herrings) to tell us what is coming.

One of my favorite things about these books is they can be understood at so many levels. Both of my kids got their first dose in first grade (their request in both cases). And they understood the good versus evil story... and they loved the quidditch and magic and humor... and the friendship... and they missed a lot... Each of them got a reread about every two years because we read them as each new one came out. By upper elementary my daughter was squealing about the romance, my son (who might be a freak) was using early books to predict what would happen later... there is the message that authority isn't always right or good (a theme dear to my own heart). By high school a young adult is ready to spot the foreshadowing, to recognize the character growth... and a college student might do supplemental reading and realize the mythology and classic literature that feeds these books (for example a Veela wedding is known to be a dangerous place...)

But as you know... around here, it is all about ME... so I would like to write a brief letter to Jo, thanking her for what these books have done FOR ME...

Dear Jo,

In 2001, I had heard of the Harry Potter books. I'd listened to a few public radio pieces on 'controversy' over witchcraft in books. Even before reading, I knew I was on your side, as I happen to think people who don't get that fiction is fiction are NUTS, and those trying to censor shelves for others should be be put in their own private lala land to live with other people who are happy to be ignorant and leave the rest of us alone. But I'd been thinking I would wait until my oldest, then six, was about nine. 300 pages, after all, is beyond a first grade attention span. I thought.

When she brought it home from her school library however, I confess I was excited... we began to read... you had me HOOKED from the cat reading the map and the man willfully ignoring it... humor abounded... and by the end of chapter 1, “To Harry Potter-the boy who lived.” which brought out my first tears, I was hooked. I read every free minute and Santa brought the first three books, shortly followed by the brand newly released Goblet of Fire.

While I loved the books up to this point, it is Order of the Phoenix, turning point for Harry, point where he makes his destiny his OWN, instead of a thing happening TO HIM, that I fell thoroughly, deeply and irreversibly in love. I looked for excuses to reread, I spent time thinking about what came next (my own journey paralleling Harry's—it had become an interactive thing). I looked for online articles, read theories, and finally found a community with whom I could predict and debate in brilliant company.

And HERE, is where you changed my life. Forever.

Part of that family was HERE. Lucky bastards.
Those friends, bonding over Harry Potter theory, came from dozens of countries. We ranged in age from teens to 50s. We worked out rules of courtesy to eliminate misunderstandings, whether due to culture, immaturity, the lack of tone and facial expression on the internet... It was community... and then it was more... it was FAMILY. Six years later, many of these people... in fact MOST of them who were fairly dedicated... are still in my life... still supportive friends--family. I have visited a number in person, and when I met them I felt I'd known them for years... I HAD known them for years.

This community and these theories extended into writing fan fiction and reawakened a dream I'd always had that one day I would write... And you taught me that too... how to end a story, how to PLOT a story... how to begin with themes and points of action I wanted to include and to weave them together. In my life there had been dozens of novel starts, but my first long, completed works were all Harry Potter stories.

It also led to my first SHARING my writing, my first encouragement... my writing group, and my decision I could write a 'real' book.

My excitement for the series also was a bonding point with my kids. My 12 year old son and I STILL share books we love and discuss them. Harry Potter is why he trusts me on the matter. And as a mom of a teen and a tween, the movies are the last hold out of things that my children want to do WITH ME.

So thank you, Jo... for both of my families, and for my identity... as a writer...


Hart Johnson
The Watery Tart

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two-Way Mirror

(doh! and a case of premature posting... pretend it is Wednesday, please...)

TOMORROW NIGHT!!!!! OHMYGAWD!!!! But on our countdown, we are to TWO... Two days to the LAST big Harry Potter Group Experience.

You know... I read the first book when my daughter, Tartlet #1, brought it home from the school library at age 6. I was a little excited... I'd wanted to read them, but had slated them (there were 3, 4th out for Christmas) for about 3rd grade. But since she'd brought it home... I read to her... and proceeded to read into my evening the week we had the book... Santa brought the first three... I read them in a closet before Christmas and bought the 4th by new years... and then waited... Was it 2 years? I think it might have been... I'd almost forgotten how much I loved them, but when Order of the Phoenix came out, daughter wanted to read to prep... son wanted to read for the first time... So for me, that made 5 times through the first 4—three times through the 5th... And honestly, the 5th is when I fell in love... with them not as passive I love this stories, but as things going on that I was trying to figure out...

It took me a while... years, even... to work up the nerve to seek out fellow Potterheads. In March of 2005 I finally worked up the nerve to SAY SOMETHING at the Wizard War at HPANA... You know what my first post was on?


Harry was blaming himself for not opening the gift... for not having the reliable way to reach Sirius that could have prevented needing to go into Umbridges office... could have headed off Kreacher betraying Sirus... for causing Sirius' death. He broke that mirror in the bottom of his trunk... but there was too much made for them to be nothing.

We had a lot of predictions... the most popular that the mirrors would be used for the trio to communicate when Harry was out Horcrux hunting. It was fairly certain they would be important SOMEHOW.

I loved though, how they ended up mattering... the tease that that blue eye was a Dumbledore eye... our HOPE that maybe Sirius really DID have it going through the veil and had passed it to DD so he could help Harry... I liked though, that it was nothing so improbable in the end...

That is all I have today, as I am also over at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash talking about Publishing Options, so anyone wanting more meat—particularly writing related stuff, that is where to find it...

Happy Hing Day Folks!!!

Three Deathly Hallows


Xeno Lovegood and his Deathly Hallows Pendant
I confess that on first reading of Deathly Hallows these Hallows threw me off. I had spent YEARS (more than 2) debating how the series would end and while the hints of the horcruxes trickle through, visible as early as Chamber of Secrets, these Hallows felt a little out of left field... but at the SAME TIME, the Hallows connect in Grindelwald and Dumbledore's history (mentioned for the first time In Sorcerer's Stone). And the cloak, left in Dumbledore's care... passed back to Harry... lone heir of the Peverells.

Thinking on it though, I LOVE how Jo managed to surprise me. I was so sure after all that debate, theorizing and speculating with some of the smartest peeps I know that SOMEBODY would have gotten the main story... and some of us got some incredible details right... But not a single person got this...

So let's review them in the order we would encounter them in the Tale of Three Brothers. (didn't you LOVE that animation in the first Deathly Hallows? I adored it—perfect for a fairy tale) (all quotes from Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling)

“So the oldest brother, who was a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for it's owner, a wand worthy of a wizard who had conquered death!”

This may or may not include spoilers if you haven't read the book. I don't know how deeply the movie will get into it. If you HAVEN'T read the book and don't want a spoiler, maybe skip to the next section.

How clever is it that there is an unbeatable wand... that Voldemort GETS but doesn't OWN because it wasn't actually Dumbledore's anymore... Draco disarmed him in Half Blood Prince (so it's Draco's), and then Harry tackles Draco and takes HIS wand, so HARRY then is master of the unbeatable wand...

What I love about this is the unlikely event of Draco 'taking' the wand from Dumbledore... nobody knows it was THE wand... nobody gets it's significance... I think that is a bit of brilliance.

“Then the second brother, who was an arrogant man, decided he wanted to humiliate Death still further, and asked for the power to recall others from Death.”

I love the chance here to explore Dumbledore's personal demons... the tragic family past, the tragedy... and how Dumbledore wanted nothing more than to bring the dead back... was OBSESSED... so obsessed he cursed his own hand... I love the way Harry gets this right, too... he uses the resurrection stone, but not for the unnatural use the second brother tried to use it for, but just for the strength to do what he needed...

"The youngest brother was the humblest and also the wisest of the brothers, and he did not trust Death. So he asked for something that would enable him to go forth from that place without being followed by Death.”

We see the invisibility cloak for the first time in Sorcerer's Stone... we have NO IDEA how special they are... just that they are expensive and rare. But here we learn that in fact MOST wear out quickly and do not protect in the same way. Harry has the real deal. The ONLY real deal... I love how this detail introduces the way the ONLY family line extends from the Peverells

Also wik:

Side note: Colene's blog yesterday prompted me to watch the Deathly Hallows 2 premier on YouTube.
Here are a couple high points:

* Rupert Grint appears to be wearing Dragon Hide... I mean not literally, but the fabric of his suit. I think this rocks. (and I ADORE that when he does his speech he thanks Jo for what her books have done fore Gingers *snort * *cough*makethemsexobjects*cough*) man, he's a charmer.

And this just in... Jason Isaacs just patted his bum for the audience. I'm pretty sure that was for me personally. MAN, I love him... I particularly love that he gets such joy from 'we're practically drag queens'... constuming... “Lucius is gorgeous... oh wait, people can hear us?” *snort*

Molly and Bellatrix (Julie and Helena) both had to be treated by a physical therapist for wand arm after filming their final battle...

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Marauders

The clearest four-ness about the Potterverse is the quartet of boys who set the story rolling way back before it was a story. I wrote a long and detailed version of James Potter's story once upon a time, so I thought a great deal about these four young men.

by Tina Linn at Deviant Art

I see James at the centerpiece of this foursome... not necessarily the 'most popular' (that may very well have been Sirius) but James was the one everyone wanted for a best friend. He was the people person Sirius could charm with his looks, which everyone wants to rub up against, but James was more trust-worthy, more leaderly.

This is not to say James doesn't have flaws—he does. Loads of them. I think when he's young he is a bit oblivious... He's not mean spirited, but he is more intent on fun and less intent paying attention to the repercussions.


I've said this a thousand times and argued it up and down with people who see it otherwise, but Sirius grew up in a messed up house, too short on love, too wealthy and too good looking. I think Sirius felt very strong affection for James—the only true relationship he ever had until Harry. I think he tolerated Remus because James liked him and he knew being friends with a werewolf would drive his parents bonkers, and he teased, poked and prodded at Peter until Peter betrayed his friends.

I think Sirius was popular with the girls and used them happily, but his heart was safely locked in a cold black box. The girls were about sex. So when James' obsession with Lily came about, Sirius didn't get it... certainly didn't endorse it, probably tried to sabotage it a number of times. I am sure they made peace eventually, but I think that had more to do with Sirius realizing he'd lose James if he didn't learn to make nice than anything else.

Sirius always fought the dark arts and for the good side, but I see this as rebellion against the family he hated. Look at how he thought of Regulus, when in reality, Regulus died trying to undermine Voldemort... how much better for both of them if they could have reached out to each other. But that is not the Black Family Way.

Source Leaky Lounge

Oh, I love Remus. In fact honestly, he is the ONLY marauder I really love. I mean I love the others as a story... but Remus is the only one I think is through and through a good person. I have always thought Lily had a deep crush on him, but because of his condition, he pushed her away. I think maybe Remus pushed her toward James... helped James win her... because he trusted James to love her and make her happy.

Were all of Remus' behaviors admirable? Not so much. I see him as SO GRATEFUL to just have friends, to be a part of things, that he stood by and allowed the bullying generally, and of Snape specifically.


And this poor kid... I feel sorry for the young one... the Peter who Sirius says will wet himself if James doesn't stop playing with the snitch... the round lump of a boy, probably teased for eating all the time... for being a bit of a perv... (that is where I see this rat thing coming from... a guy who likes to sneak unnoticed into the girls' dormitories). I think James and Remus were nice to him but Sirius bullied him, though I recognize my biases in that... still, doesn't that feed into why he'd frame Sirius... how he'd end up feeding info to the Death Eaters?

So that's my assessment on that foursome... If you've like a more convincing version of this argument, I invite you to read Awakening, A James Potter Redemption Story.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


You know, the Potterverse is strangely low on the number 5, considering all the prime number stuff they have going elsewhere. It's a shame, as 5 is my favorite number--that and 23, which numerologically adds to 5... but there you have it. But that makes it easy, since I normally don't blog on Sunday.  I leave you with one of very few 5 star dangerous creatures (and the man who loves them)

Created by hyenacub at Deviant Art

(I love Hagrid's obsession *teehee*)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Character Trajectories

For the DA Six... (we are still counting down, after all)


The group that goes to the Ministry at the end of Order of the Phoenix, of course... but I'm not going to talk about that battle, except in passing. What I want to do is look at those six characters and their growth across seven books.


Harry, our fabulous MC, doesn't so much go through unusual growth as on an amazing journey. Harry is ALWAYS a mostly kind boy, with certain strengths and unusually high morals for a boy who grows up with such poor examples.

I love though, the shift from stuff happening TO Harry to Harry making stuff HAPPEN. It is why Order of the Phoenix will remain in my top spot as favorite of the books—this is where the shift happens—where Harry takes control of his destiny. I don't see it so much as character trajectory though, as maturing and accepting something that was always necessary.

He does the best expressions...

You know... Ron is funny, so you can miss it, but he's got a sort of nasty streak. He knows the words he's supposed to say—spouting his parents' beliefs about who should get to be a wizard, but he has accepted a lot of cultural prejudice and has made no effort to UNLEARN most of it. This is beautiful in a way—showing his beliefs about House Elves for instance, illustrates a great truth about prejudices—they are easy to hold in general terms, but when you meet a specific case (Dobby) they fall all to hell.

Over the course of the books, though, we learn a lot of Ron's snark and meanness is insecurity—sixth son—last failure by parents trying again and again for a daughter.

I think though, the set-up... Ron's quiet anger, hidden by humor... the under the surface burbling, fed beautifully into Deathly Hallows and the demons that were able to briefly master him. And mastering them was such a central point of action in the book. Brilliantly played... readers LOVE Ron—he is so real (the central humor figure for much of the series), but the failure... for a time... was played from the beginning. I happen to think Ron's trajectory is a beautiful bit of writing.


Hermione's journey and trajectory is very different. She starts out as a girl who sees the world in black and white, but right from the first book she sees that sometimes breaking the rules can have positive results (making two close friends when formerly she had none).

And this new attitude, through the books, has times that make us CHEER (forming the DA) and times that make us think HOLY CRAP, HERMIONE CROSSED A LINE! (Cursing McLaggen). This, too, I think is brilliant. I think there are some lessons we learn... and overlearn and cross lines on... that we have to learn moderation with.

It is one of my favorite things about Rowling... that the world has lessons that work, and lessons that work too well so you need to reassess... no black and white for her (or me)


Oh, man. Is there any more clear case of FINDING PURPOSE and finally becoming who he was meant to? Clumsy, forgetful, accident prone Neville... taking on the inner school battle and... well this movie will give his GRAND show, so I won't spoil... but Neville goes through a HUGE transformation—ALSO understandable. When Neville is a BABY, his parents are tortured into insanity. He grows up with a gran who has a case of hero worship over her son and keeps pointing out how her grandson doesn't measure up. I'd lack confidence, too.


We meet Luna late, in the course of the books—not until Order of the Phoenix. I loved her from the start. She has a quiet, non-traditional wisdom... and a serenity. Yet she is so obviously ALSO a case for pity—she is moving through the world very alone—she tells Harry more than once, 'It's like having friends'-- like she doesn't know what ACTUALLY having friends is like. MAN, I wanted Harry and Luna to end up together after OoP. I liked what she brought out in him. (and I had other plans for Ginny)

I ALSO really liked that she seemed to be the uninjurred one, for so long, in the Ministry battle—she was pulling her own.


Ginny starts out as timid crush girl. Our first heavy exposure, she is in love with Harry and ends up possessed by HWMNBN (not to be confused with HWMNBMOTI). And then she is quietly sort of present... but barely... she goes to a ball with Neville. She is present in Weasley family situations. But until Order of the Phoenix when we learn she is quite popular, we don't see her a lot.

And then in the DA, we get a taste of just how powerful she is... And she gets Harry's Seeker spot when Umbridge pulls him off...

You know... I had Ginny pegged as eventual Minister of Magic. I think my problem with the Harry/Ginny romance is I like her too well. I wanted her to have her OWN story, not be a sidebar in Harry's... not that wife is sidebar... exactly... I mean I don't think Luna would have been a sidebar. But Harry and Ginny have too much in common and Ginny doesn't trump him by a lot anywhere. He is 'more'. Luna is on a different enough plane that there aren't the comparisons... or so I saw it...

Anyway... I wished Ginny had had a bigger role in DH, if she was going to be Harry's long term partner and all... I like her magical trajectory, and I like how she coped with 'Harry not being ready yet' but I think her line is the one I like least.

6 more days, Potter Peeps!