A Loss of Brilliance

Maurice Sendak, passed away this morning at age 83 from complications of a stroke. If the name isn’t familiar, his work is. Most every child growing up has read (or at least heard of) his most famous piece: Where the Wild Things Are.

Not only was he a brilliant writer, but he was also a genius illustrator with a unique, almost terrifying, style. I won’t rehash his entire obituary – the NY Times did a masterful job already – but I wanted to honor him and one of my favorite childhood memories on my blog. We will miss you very much Maurice, and in the words of your masterpiece:

“Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up. We love you so.”

I’m Fourteen and a Half Inches

Okay, maybe you’re mind went to a bad place with that title, but it’s not what you’re thinking. Pottermore, the interactive Harry Potter website is finally up and running, waiting for all us Potter-philes to register. I’m not sure how long it’s been active (less than a month, I remember checking around April first and it was still not ready), but it was originally suppose to go live waaaay back in October. So now that I’ve registered and completed Chapter One, was it worth the wait?

Eh, maybe. It’s still a little buggy and there are times the window freezes and I have to refresh to get going again. It’s also fairly predicable to complete each chapter and find the “hidden” goodies. The real treat, what makes it worthwhile to register, is the promised new content. This is the reason I was so anxious, for more of a glimpse into one of my favorite realms. But let’s not get too far ahead. Let’s start at the beginning, Chapter One – Privet Drive.

This is where you begin. Once you’ve registered and been assigned a name (that’s right you can’t choose your own, you have to pick from a list) the “experience” begins at Number 4 Privet Drive. The picture doesn’t really do it justice. There’s nice music and animations like the cat wagging its tail and the wiper flipping on the car’s windshield. You’ll notice on the side that there’s a “Read More” icon. Clicking that opens a separate window which gives you info about a particular event, object, character, etc. There are unique icons for each category to help you explore what you’re interested in more easily. The feather symbol represents exclusive content that must be unlocked by performing a certain interaction – usually clicking something special.

 

This is a little peek at what the entries look like. I edited out the text to avoid any unintentional spoilers for people who may be interested in reading it themselves. Not every entry is as in depth as the one above, but Minerva’s story has become one of my favorites so far. You even have the option of saving your favorites so you have easy access to them at any time.

Once you’ve completed the first few chapters, things get more interesting. This is Diagon Alley – the place you can buy goodies with the galleons you uncover throughout the game. And, more importantly, this is where you get your wand. After completing the numbing task of buying your school supplies, you can head to Ollivander’s Shop where you answer a series of questions to find a wand. Or rather, have  one find you.

This is my wand, copied from my profile page. As you can see, it’s Cedar, 14 1/2 inches, slightly springy with a unicorn hair core. There are notes you’ll uncover in that same chapter that give explanations on the Core, Length & Flexibility, and Wood based on your personality. Quite interesting, though it’s got broad, vague characteristics like a zodiac chart so it applies to most anyone despite your answers. Now that you have a wand, you can start performing magic. There are two ways to do this: Spells and Potions.

Potions are the first thing you’ll learn. It can be a bit of a chore getting things right within the time limit, but with practice – and the right ingredients – it’s rather fun. Casting spells, to me, are less so. These are primarily used to duel other members to gain House Points but are a RPITA to perform. Rather than wave the wand, you have to type out letters of the spell within certain time limits to cast it. For example:

To cast Pretrificus Totalus, you hit “P.” While the Circle is blinking hit the key again and a trail appears leading to the next letter – “T.” You have to time the letter hitting exactly so that your path to letters looks like the shape next to the spell. Easier maybe for someone a little more PC gamer savvy, but for someone like me, less so.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though. Before you start learning magic, you first need to be sorted into your house. This is done, again, by answering a few different questions. Given your honesty (and not purposefully choosing answers to sway the Sorting Hat) you’ll be placed in a house that fits your personality. Most everyone is going to want Gryffindor or Slytherin, but I was curious where my answers would lead me. Can you guess?

Yep, Hufflepuff. And despite, what most of you are thinking, I’m actually quite happy with the Sorting Hat’s choice. I was hoping for them or Ravenclaw as my house, if for nothing more than to be different. The welcome message and notes from JK about Hufflepuff and their house are all new info to me. There’s very little in the books about them, and Harry never visits there like he does the other three houses. The description of their common room reminds me a bit of the Hobbit’s village with round doors and such.

So now that you have a house, you can start accruing House Points. Dueling, making potions, even something small like finding galleons and Chocolate Frog cards earn them. You can check out how you and your house are fairing against the others in the Great Hall whenever you like.

As you can see, Hufflepuff is currently in last place, but we have the second highest points earner on our side, so that could change.

So final thoughts… I’m not as impressed as I had hoped, but I’ve only finished one book so far. I’m enjoying the new, exclusive content the most – it’s really expanding on some of the second and third tier characters as well as deepening the history and universe of Harry Potter. I recommend signing up for an account, even it’s just to read the never-released stuff. Hardcore fans will love it, but the not-so-hardcore may be a little bored after a while. Exploration of the pages is a bit one-note, but the art of every page is gorgeous.

In fact, I’ll leave you with a few of those images while you mull over your decision to join or not. Enjoy!

 

The Hunger Games

In four days and a few hours, The Hunger Games will hit the big screen for the masses to see. I must admit that when the book series first hit shelves, I was skeptical about it. The premise seemed interesting but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to jump into a new series post-Harry Potter. Now, a few years later, I see the trailer just before Chronicle rolls and I am instantly smitten. Of course everything (almost) looks better on the big screen, but this was something that really caught my attention. What I thought the series was about now seemed in question – so I decided to give it a try and picked up the first book.

Because of the movie’s release closing in, everyone has the book for sale and I picked-up a hard cover edition at Target for a steal. I thought it would make for a nice lunch break book (something to read in the half hour while I eat my dinner) but after the first chapter I devoured it cover to cover. With in the first few pages I was hooked on the relationship between Katniss Everdeen and her sister Prim as well as the one between “Catnip” and her hunting partner Gale.

I tried to pace myself and read just a chapter a day during my break and hold off at home – I usually have a “home book” as well that I read at night as well. But I eventually gave in and polished off the last third of the book tonight. There are a bunch of twists and nothing went the way I was expecting it to go, Suzanne Collins did a masterful job of keeping me on my toes (not something many authors can do anymore). Tomorrow night, I’ll be stopping to buy the other two books in the series: Catching Fire and Mockingjay. And while I don’t think I’ll have them finished before the movie premiers this weekend, I’ll have a head start for the next two films!

Casting Call: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Welcome to my newest segment: Casting Call, where I cast the characters from some of my favorite books. When I read, I see the scenes like a I’m watching a movie and usually have a particular actor in mind as I’m reading. WithJohn Carter andThe Hunger Games coming to theaters this month I thought it was the perfect time to put my idea into action.

Up first is my favorite book (so far), The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I read this when it first came out while I was in college (which is longer ago than I care to remember) so my choices of characters are a little dated. But not all of them. The book was already turned into a feature film set to release later this year and I’m a little surprised by some of the choices. Logan Lerman – aka Percy Jackson- as Charlie seems fitting, but as much as I love her, I just don’t see Emma Watson – aka Hermione- as Sam. So here’s how I cast it when I first read it.

Charlie – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Charlie’s a scrawny, nerdy, awkward guy – so who better to play him. And he could pull off both the drama (Mysterious Skin) and comedy (10 Things I Hate About You) of the book extremely well.

Sam – Eliza Dushku

When the book came out, Bring It On had just been released and I loved it. Sam should be tough but pretty with an alternative style – who better to play her than Buffy’s own Faith?

Patrick – Jesse Bradford

He played Dushku’s brother in Bring It On and they had the perfect chemistry as brother and sister. So why change anything? Plus, I think it’d be hot to see him macking with another guy.

Bill (the teacher) – Paul Rudd

He’s actually playing this character in the real film, so…nuff said.

Bob – Matthew Lillard

To the current generation, he’s know for playing Shaggy – but even before that role, I saw him as the wacky, lovable stoner, Bob.

Mary Elizabeth – Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Just a coincidence that they have the same name – she was a later choice, but when I saw her for the first time in Sky High, which I happened to see while I was re-reading the book, I thought she was prefect to play the character.

Brad – Brad Renfro

He would’ve made the perfect Brad, another coincidence that he has the same name. In Bully he played a character with both addiction and sexuality  issues, something Brad faces in the book while dealing with his secret relationship with Patrick. Sadly, Renfro passed away but he’s still the character I see in my head.

Craig – Heath Ledger

Handsome, athletic, and a great sense of humor, he is anti-Charlie and nobody could play him better than the late Heath Ledger. He was an amazing actor, something most people didn’t realize until his final few roles…

So there they are the major characters of Wallflower as I see them when I read the book. I’d love some feedback on what you think of my choices or who you would have chosen. Remember, I “cast” it when I first read the book back in 1999, so if they seem a bit dated, remember that it’s been over 10 years!

 

New Segment…

I’m working on something interesting as a new, monthly segment to the blog. It’s going to be a surprise for now, but I hope to be posting the first tomorrow afternoon-ish. Stay tuned, I think you’ll all really enjoy it. Ciao for now!

Published?

I actually went to college for graphic design and worked in the field for several years. I still love art and design but I love writing, too. I was talking with a friend of mine the other day who is also a “wannabe published” author who said that I was already published many, many, many times over the years. You could actually hear my querying eyebrow pop-up. It never occurred to me until she mentioned it, but I’ve had pieces appear in newspapers across the Mid-Atlantic as well as the nationally published magazines Seventeen and Modern Bride. So should it matter to an agent if my published pieces aren’t technically prose?

Need a little proof? While I didn’t keep everything that I ever worked on, here are a few pieces that I did keep for sentimental/portfolio purposes.

The very, VERY first piece that I did for Bon-Ton’s Valentine’s Day candy sale.

I was in charge of all the ads for housewares/domestics/furniture depts.

Not everything had pretty pictures. But I loved the challenge of typographic ads, too.

“Homeworks Week” was my biggest event. Dozens of ads for different locations depending on the events for that area. It was an intense, but fun event to do – luckily it was only once a year!

I’ve got more pieces to show, but I think I’ll stop this post with my ROP ads.

7 Favorite Literary Romances

7. Harry Potter & Ginny Weasley (the Harry Potter series)

I actually saw the first two movies before I read any of the books, but from the moment I saw Ginny’s crush on Harry in Chamber of Secrets, I knew they were destined to end up together. It may have taken 6 books to get to it, but the moment Harry first realizes his feelings for Ginny is one of my favorite moments in The Half-Blood Prince.

6. Alec Lightwood & Magnus Bane (the Mortal Instruments series)

Poor Alec, I, too, know the heartache of falling in love with your best friend and seeing him fall for someone else. But enter Magnus, the immortal, eccentric warlock to ease that pain and prove that it sometimes takes centuries to find the one your meant to be with forever.

5. Etain Tur-Mukan & Darman (the Star Wars: Republic Commando series)

Etain, a Jedi padawan – who are told love is selfish, and Darman, a clone Commando – who are not “designed” for romance. Like Romeo and Juliet from a galaxy far, far away, these two have to overcome extreme odds to keep their blooming love affair a secret throughout the series.

4. Aragorn & Arwen (the Lord of the Rings series)

Think of it as the opposite of the Twilight romance (looooong before it was ever concieved). Arwen declines her elfin immortality so she can be with the human Aragorn forever.

3. Jo & Fritz (Little Women)

Little Women is one of the first books I can remember reading (that wasn’t Dr. Suess or a children’s abridged version) and remains one of my favorites to this day. My favorite character is the tomboy Jo who eventually marries Fritz, who encourages her to become a professional writer rather waste her talents on tabloid trash.

2. Charlie & Samantha (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

I remember picking up this book at Borders while I was in college and really relating to the main character, Charlie. As he writes you can see the moments when he falls in love with Sam, who sadly sees him more as a little brother than potential boyfriend.

1. Lancelot & Guinevere & Arthur (Le Morte d’Arthur)

Yes, my favorite romance is the love triangle created by these three lovers. The marriage of Arthur and Guinevere, the secret affair between Lancelot and Gwen, and even the platonic “bromance” between Arthur and Lancelot. Sadly this takes place in medieval England and not Utah, making for a tragic ending to the tale.

 

A Poem for Valentine’s Day

The Lovers by Emily Dickinson

The rose did caper on her cheek,
Her bodice rose and fell,
Her pretty speech, like drunken men,
Did stagger pitiful.

Her fingers fumbled at her work, –
Her needle would not go;
What ailed so smart a little maid
It puzzled me to know,

Till opposite I spied a cheek
That bore another rose;
Just opposite, another speech
That like the drunkard goes;

A vest, that like the bodice, danced
To the immortal tune, –
Till those two troubled little clocks
Ticked softly into one.

 

7 [Living] Authors I Would Love to Meet

7. Mike Mignola

OK, so Mike is better known for his Hellboy series, but I must say that one of my favorite novels of all time is Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire.

6. David Sedaris

Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day are two of my favorite books, both of which happen to be written by Sedaris. Naked has an especially close spot for me as I can relate to many of the stories myself.

5. Michael Chabon

I’ve read all of his novels to date, Wonder Boys being the first, which I read after seeing the movie. I’ve since read the rest of them, but my personal favorite has to be The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I’m also excited to read Telegraph Avenue which is due out later this year.

4. J.K. Rowling

So, anyone who follows this blog knew she would be popping up sooner or later. What might be a surprise is how far down the list she actually is given my love for her Harry Potter series.

3. Neil Gailman

He’s the second comic book writer on this list, but he’s written some trippy, though-provoking novels that I just love. American Gods has got to be my favorite of his works – taking a new look at mythology and folklore in a modern age.

2. Stephen King

Originally, he was farther down the list, but after some thought, I bumped him up to the #2 spot. I haven’t come close to reading all of his books, but there are a few of his novels that I’ve read over and over. It and The Stand are both great (albeit long) reads that I enjoy over and over each time I read them. And the movie versions do them great justice.

1. Terry Pratchett

This was an easy choice for favorite. Like Stephen King, I haven’t come close to reading everything he’s written, but slowly I’m getting through them all. I’ve already read all of the books following Death (my favorite character) and the Witches and am branching out into the rest of Discworld.