Wednesday, 27 July 2016

HP Scavenger Hunt + GIVEAWAY!

Do you feel like taking part in a Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win something special? Well, then, here's your chance! S.P. Sipal - the author of A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter - is holding one today on Facebook and Twitter (11 am - 2 pm Eastern US) as part of her book launch party. Press this link to take you to the Facebook Event. I'm sure it'll be fun. There will be interviews with authors from around the world influenced by J.K. Rowling, excerpts from A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter, discussion of all things Harry Potter, a scavenger hunt, and, of course, a giveaway! Isn't it a fine thing for Harry Potter Month?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter by S.P. Sipal

Hi all! I'd like to introduce to your attention (if you haven't heard of it yet) 'A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter' - an excellent book for anyone who wants to improve one's writing and go behind the scene of J.K. Rowling's writing tricks and techniques - written by a fellow HP fan! I thought it would make sense to do it now seeing as how the author is having a book release week and we're having Harry Potter Month and this is the kind of book that is all about Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling and it's all happening at the same time, so yay! I found this book extremely useful in my writing endeavours and I know that I'll be using its excellent advice again when writing my fantasy novel. In any case, I think that you'll find this book an excellent store of information and knowledge whether you are a writer or not and you will definitely enjoy it if you are a HP fan!


You can read more about what the author has planned for the release week HERE. Please do! There's a giveway planned and many other things at the launch party.

A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter:

5th year anniversary edition! Expanded and improved. Includes references to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Improve Your Writing with Harry Potter as Your Text!

The Harry Potter magic lives on as J.K. Rowling expands her wizarding world into new stories and formats. For five years, writers and fans from all continents have used A Writer's Guide to Harry Potter to delve beneath her pages' surface to discover the skill and artistry which created a story that enchanted audiences across generations. In this newly revised and expanded edition, S.P. Sipal takes you even deeper than before, exploring new techniques, and even peering into the artistic and marketing vision behind the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

No matter your genre, this guide will help you strengthen your writing by virtually apprenticing under a bestselling mentor. Through fifteen lessons, discover the expert techniques Ms. Rowling employs which makes her series such a phenomenal success and which will help improve your own craft and style.

Topics include:
  • characterization
  • world building
  • backstory
  • mystery plotting
  • myths and archetypes
  • fan interaction
  • social media
  • and author-driven publishing and promotion.

MY REVIEW:

A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter by S. P. Sipal is an amazing treasure trove for someone who happens to be both a writer and a Harry Potter fan. The depth of research that went into writing this book is astounding. In fact, I'm simply floored by the author’s profound insight into many layers hidden between the lines of J.K. Rowling’s excellent books. I thought that I knew Harry Potter books from cover to cover, having read them obsessively for many years, but the author of this guide managed to pick out all these amazing details – from the biggest to the tiniest ones – and then put it all into words and explain everything so well. It made me think about my own writing in ways I never considered before. It made my mind explode with new ideas and all sorts of possibilities for making my book so much better. It is full of special treats, advice and techniques that will help make your book stand out and remain with readers for many years to come. I confess that I got distracted quite a lot while reading it, because all the while it made me think about different ways in which I could improve my book and I wanted to start right now. It is as inspiration as the books it is based upon and I can’t wait to start revising my own novel in hopes of using all these excellent lessons provided by the guide.

Friday, 22 July 2016

'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' quote

One of those rare cases when Hermione, bless her, lost her head :D

'Devil's Snare, Devil's Snare... What did Professor Sprout say? It likes the dark and the damp - '

'So light a fire!' Harry choked.

'Yes - of course - but there's no wood!' Hermione cried, wringing her hands.

'HAVE YOU GONE MAD?' Ron bellowed. 'ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?'

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Chapter Sixteen 'Through the Trapdoor'

Monday, 18 July 2016

Harry & Ginny - Witch Weekly Edition

I'm no good at photoshop and stuff like that but I can't help imagining Witch Weekly's special edition dedicated to Harry and Ginny's romance once they went public again. I'm sure such a rag as this would jump at the chance to write something scathing and gossipy about them. So here are some headlines that I came up with upon the occasion:

WITCH WEEKLY
Special Edition

HARRY POTTER'S SWEETHEART: Is She The One?



The Chosen One Off The Market: Truth or Ruse? p. 4

GINEVRA WEASLEY: does she have what it takes? p. 5-6

Q&A with HARRY POTTER: Fact or Fiction?

Find out everything you ever wanted to know about The Boy Who Lived! Including interviews with his classmates, professors, colleagues, and a special guest piece by Rita Skeeter! p. 7-12

What to wear on a date with The Chosen One?

Find out what the experts think! Special sponsor 'Twilfitt & Tattings' p. 13-14

You & Harry: A Perfect Match?

Find out if you and The Chosen One belong together! What do the stars say?
p. 15

Read Sybil Trelawney's Gloomy Predictions:

"I have always Seen that this boy's life is full of heartache..."
p. 16


*****

So, guys, what do you think? What other headlines and features would you like to include? Leave your ideas in the comments! 

By the way, maybe someone can make it into an actual magazine cover? That would be fun! 

Hmm... maybe I could also write some of these articles for the next year and create an actual magazine?

*clears her throat* 

So... ahem, ahem... if anyone wishes to try their Quick Quotes Quills at penning an article for a wizarding magazine, I'll be glad to hear from you...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Wizarding World in Danger of Exposure - an open letter by Draco Malfoy

Today I decided to have some fun and pulled out from my archives something that I wrote for a fanfic a long time ago))) So! I present to you a letter of outrage I'm sure Draco Malfoy would definitely write at some point, attacking Hermione Granger and her activity at the Ministry of Magic. I hope you'll enjoy it and tell me what you think!

THE DAILY PROPHET

WIZARDING WORLD IN DANGER OF EXPOSURE

An open letter to the wizarding community 

By DRACO MALFOY

It has been of some concern to myself and my fellow witches and wizards from old pure-blood families to witness an alarming rise of pro-Muggle activity within the Ministry of Magic in recent years. While some might say and others might agree that it is, without a doubt, a worthy cause to maintain friendly ties between our communities and to graciously welcome and support Muggle-born witches and wizards into our fold, we find it rather disquieting to discover that certain members of the Ministry of Magic are over-zealous in their attempts to establish what we can only regard as a strictly Muggle-born society, governed by their new, untested laws; as well as promote (surely to some extent) Muggle awareness of our existence. 

In any case, one can hardly argue that with so many Muggle-born witches and wizards occupying important positions within the Ministry of Magic nowadays, we have never been closer to the brink of exposure now than in recent decades. Therefore, I sincerely hope that this is someone’s idea of a bad joke. Otherwise, I am very much concerned for the well-being of the Wizarding World once it becomes exposed to Muggles and history repeats itself. I do not suppose that anyone, who is familiar with our history at least, must be reminded of the constant danger wizards faced while exposed to the Muggle eye before the institution of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy of 1689. 

Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger
Prominent among those who believe that Muggles can be trusted with the knowledge of our existence is one Hermione Granger – a Muggle-born witch of some talent who, it has been whispered, makes up in brains what she lacks in bloodlines. Having no ties to the wizarding community (or any knowledge of it) before she received her Hogwarts letter, she has, in the course of many years, often failed to grasp many of our long-standing customs and traditions. Indeed, ever since she arrived into our world, she has been trying to change and even undermine our ways that had been part of our heritage for centuries – heritage, that her Muggle descent does not allow her either to value or simply comprehend. 

Her subversive activity started while she was still at Hogwarts. It was then when she launched her first attack at our traditions by aiming straight at the heart of every respectable wizarding household – house-elves, our faithful servants and dutiful companions – implanting dangerous ideas into their heads and going so far as to sabotage their work by trying to set them free against their knowledge, will and their very nature. Naturally, now that she is holding such an important position in the department of Magical Law Enforcement, it seems that there is no one who can stop her as she continues her devastating campaign, mindless of harm and distress that she is inflicting upon house-elves and their owners by her forceful actions that should not be tolerated or, indeed, permitted. 

Should we let Ms Granger have her way and carry on the execution of her unfounded belief that she is doing right by house-elves setting them free against their wishes and our traditions, she will not stop there. Before we know it, she will demand the introduction of Magic Awareness subject in Muggle schools, the main aim of which will, naturally, be to learn how to recognize a witch or a wizard living in the neighbourhood, which will instantly put us in direct danger of Muggle detection. And from there it is not hard to predict what will happen next. 

So I urge you to protect and preserve our legacy and stand against the tide of ill-meant intentions of some of the Ministry of Magic employees before it is too late and our children first and foremost – the hope and future of our world – become an easy target in the face of witch-hunters – something that surely even Ms Granger must understand, having two young children of her own.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Centaurs in HP universe: insecure in their own superiority?

I hope you’ll bear with me here. I might be taking my obsession with HP a little too far (or maybe that’s just my Ravenclaw personality rearing its head) but today I’d like to talk about centaurs and run by you a theory that I formed while rereading Chapter Fifteen “The Forbidden Forest” from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone a few weeks ago. 

I would like to start with a short background note on centaurs from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them textbook. I will skip the details on how they look or what their origins are and will concentrate on things that I find relevant to the topic that I’m about to expand upon: 

The ways of the centaur are shrouded in mystery. They are generally speaking as mistrustful of wizards as they are of Muggles and indeed seem to make little differentiation between us. They live in herds ranging from ten to fifty members. They are reputed to be well-versed in magical healing, divination, archery and astronomy. 

Being intelligent and capable of speech, it should not strictly speaking be termed a beast, but by its own request it has been classified as such by the Ministry of Magic. In fact, the centaurs objected to some of the creatures with whom they were asked to share ‘being’ status, such as hags and vampires, and declared that they would manage their own affairs separately from wizards. 

The centaur is given an XXXX classification* not because it is unduly aggressive, but because it should be treated with great respect. 

 (*Dangerous/requires specialist knowledge/skilled wizard may handle) 

The first time we meet the centaurs is when Harry, Hermione, Neville and Draco serve detention in the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid and Fang. First we meet Ronan and Bane. The original impression that I got from reading the part, where they appeared, was of calm and mysterious creatures who talk in riddles and don’t seem to be in any hurry to answer Hagrid’s urgent questions. They keep gazing at the sky, repeating “Mars is bright tonight” and other philosophical things like “Always the innocent are the first victims” and “Forest hides many secrets”. According to Hagrid, who is about to lose his patience with them, they don’t care about anything closer than the moon. He also calls them ‘ruddy star-gazers’ but acknowledges that they are very deep and know things but don’t let on much. 

So far everything seems just fine. Such ancient and mythological creatures as centaurs are supposed to be mysterious, wise and impossible to understand as they contemplate skies, stars and planets. But a page or so later we witness a scene that shatters that perception. Firenze, another centaur we meet, saves Harry from the hooded figure that had been drinking the dead unicorn’s blood and takes Harry to Hagrid on his back, because it would be quicker this way and because Harry was in real danger (we know very well who that hooded figure was). However, when Ronan and Bane appear again they are less than calm as they burst through the trees, their flanks heaving and sweaty. In fact, they are outraged at Firenze’s behaviour: 

“Firenze!” Bane thundered. “What are you doing? You have a human on your back! Have you no shame? Are you a common mule?” 

Firenze tries to explain his conduct: 

“Do you realize who this is?” said Firenze. “This is the Potter boy. The quicker he leaves this Forest, the better.” 

It makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, Bane doesn’t agree. In fact, he thinks that Firenze has been indiscreet with the important information entrusted to him by the stars and that he had let Harry in on secrets that he is not supposed to know. 

“What have you been telling him?” growled Bane. “Remember, Firenze, we are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens. Have we not read what is to come in the movements of the planets?” 

Ronan tries to excuse Firenze’s actions: 

“I’m sure Firenze thought he was acting for the best,” he said, in his gloomy voice. 

But Bane has none of that. Bane kicked his back legs in anger. 

“For the best! What is that to do with us? Centaurs are concerned with what has been foretold! It is not our business to run around like donkeys after stray humans in our Forest!” 

Later, when Firenze galloped away with Harry on his back, leaving Ronan and Bane behind, Harry asked him why Bane had been so angry. It seems like a legitimate question. Why did he get so riled up just because Firenze opted to carry Harry on his back as it would save time and probably Harry’s life? I didn’t think it was a big deal. Firenze didn’t think it was a big deal. Even Ronan didn’t think that the incident merited such violent reaction. Firenze, after all, was doing what he thought was right: he was saving a young boy’s life. But Bane didn’t care about that. I think what Bane really cared about was how such behavior would reflect on centaurs as a whole. After mulling it over, I think I can see where he’s coming from. 

Centaurs – ancient, intelligent, proud creatures – have inhabited the planet long before humans appeared. They freely roamed the land and studied the skies until primitive yet cunning humans started spreading and occupying more and more of their territory, driving them deeper and deeper into the forest. I think that in the beginning the relationship between centaurs and wizards must have been quite friendly and centaurs might have even been freely sharing with them their knowledge until wizards started using it against them. I mean, people have a bad track record throughout history, so that wouldn’t be all that surprising. No wonder that Bane is adamant that they should guard most zealously their secrets against humans. Maybe it was back then when they made a promise to the skies and stars not to divulge their knowledge to them. 

But that’s not even the worst. Not only might humans have stolen some of their secrets and drove them deep into the forest, they actually put a label on them (‘magical being’ which centaurs refused to carry, because they do not recognize humans’ laws) and started treating them like animals! Or, at the very least, like magical creatures deemed to have near-human intelligence. So said Dolores Umbridge in OotP. But I’m sure that she’s not the only one who thinks that, because though magical and charming, wizarding community is no stranger to bigotry, discrimination and oppression. And, of course, being perceived as magical creatures of near-human intelligence is a great insult with centaurs, because they believe that their intelligence far outstrips that of humans’. So, of course, hearing that on a regular basis would not help to keep their relationship friendly. 

Looking at all that, I’d say that Bane’s reaction to Firenze carrying a human on his back is quite justified. Though centaurs have no doubt of their superior mind, they are vulnerable and insecure in the face of centuries of humans treating them as inferior beings. In fact, they are so touchy about that now that any innocently or carelessly spoken word can be interpreted by them as an encroachment upon their status and mental abilities. I think that Bane is so afraid of being perceived as an animal that anything remotely animal-like drives him into frenzy and violence, which, ironically, makes him behave more like an animal that he is so afraid to appear as. Firenze, on the other hand, is more than secure in his belief and doesn’t think that choosing to help a human by carrying him on his back or teaching them Divination (considered a dishonor and betrayal by other centaurs) will strip him of his intelligence or superiority. 

However, in OotP, the conflict escalated to the point where Firenze was kicked out of the Forest (almost kicked to death if not for Hagrid), because he agreed to help Dumbledore (according to centaurs “he is peddling our knowledge and secrets among humans” and “there can be no return from such disgrace), while the other centaurs succumbed more and more to violence. But I think that at the core of the conflict are humans (no matter whether they are Muggles or wizards) and their attitude to those who are different. Those they discriminate against, those they oppress, those they put labels on, because in this way it’s easier to put them in a certain frame and keep them there. And even Hermione, though the brightest witch of her generation, out of sheer desperation committed a horrible offence by behaving in a typically human fashion when she tried to use centaurs to get rid of Umbridge. Suffice it to say that it didn’t go too well with the centaurs for whom ‘helping humans’ is tantamount to ‘serving them’ and they most certainly don’t:

“So we were to do your dirt work, were we, human girl? We were to act as your servants, drive away your enemies like obedient hounds?” 

“We do not help humans! We are a race apart and proud to be so. We will not permit you to walk from here, boasting that we did your bidding!” 

“They came here unasked, they must pay the consequences!” 

“We are an ancient people who will not stand wizard invasion and insults!” 

I guess I just wanted to say that centaurs are a good example of how even the most intelligent and superior of beings can be turned into barbarians and animals without being aware of it themselves. They are trying so hard to prove their superiority that they don’t realize that the methods they are using and the attitude they’ve adopted have completely opposite results, and that that’s what strips them of their superiority in the first place. And isn’t that just tragic? 

On an unrelated topic, I really love rereading HP with someone else, because then I get such brainwaves and I get to discuss them with passion worthy of Hermione :D 

**All quotes (in italics) belong to J.K. Rowling. The images of centaurs are taken from Pottermore.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Revisiting J.K. Rowling's old website

If you don't mind, today we'll be using the Pensieve to travel many years back into the past. You see, I've decided to go down the memory lane and revisit J.K. Rowling's old website. Who's with me? Dive in, then! 

 
In 2004 Jo's website went through a complete makeover and became what I think was the coolest author website ever. It was just awesome and I think what made it so great and unusual was that it had Jo's personal touch all over the place. It looked like a cluttered desktop, littered with Jo's own stuff: family photos, different mementos, gum wrappers (from all the gum she used to chew after quitting smoking), her glasses, her notes, etc.. 


You could click on different things (a hairbrush, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, etc.) that worked like Portkeys: they glowed bright blue and transported you to a different part of the website. You could hear different background noises: the phone ringing, the car honking, the dog barking, the fly buzzing, snatches of a programme on Wizarding Wireless, Peeves swooshing past... There were riddles to uncover and special prizes to receive. For example, you could get these wonderful old drawings done by Jo herself: 


There was so much to explore and so many things to look for! I particularly loved its different sections: News, Diary, Biography, Rumours, Rubbish Bin, Wizard of the Month, Extra Stuff... so much extra stuff! I still upon occasion find myself rereading it as it provides a treasure trove of information that goes beyond the books and into the very core of Jo's creative process.


The biography was written by Jo herself and on each page you got to see some mementos referring to her past. Here, for example, is the first page of her story that she supplied with an old photo of her mom, her sister and herself, a hand-drawn picture of what (according to her) she looked like as a baby and a pair of train tickets (because her parents met on a train): 


Wizard of the Month section changed every month for some time. Here are some familiar faces for your viewing pleasure: 


News and Diary sections weren't updated as often as one could have wished for but it was always fun just to click on them, because you got to see different wizarding advertisements that appeared and disappeared. 


Rumours and Rubbish Bin sections were just hilarious as she parried all that rubbish that was routinely reported about her. Rubbish Bin was actually divided into: Starting to Smell, Excessive Additives, Recycled, Mouldy, Pure Garbage, Toxic. If anyone is interested, I've got all these sections preserved :D


Then there was The Secret Door. It opened once in a while, containing some new information, usually pertaining to new books. In order to get this much coveted new information you had to find and work out the clues (something I was never good at but, thankfully, many others were!).


But a real gem, in my personal opinion, were the W.O.M.B.A.T.s. I adored them! For those who don't know, W.O.M.B.A.T.s were special aptitude tests that consisted of three parts, encompassing pretty much every aspect of life in the wizarding community, and had to be taken within a certain time limit. It was quite difficult, because it was not a trivia kind of test about books but a test where you had to deduce things based on your knowledge of the wizarding world and its many intricacies, but it was fun and you got marks from 'Outstanding' to 'Troll' and also a fancy certificate. I still have all three of mine! This is the description of the tests from the old website:  
 
The W.O.M.B.A.T.s, unlike the O.W.L.s, consist exclusively of written papers. Therefore W.O.M.B.A.T.s could be sat by Muggles as well as wizards, although the Wizarding Examinations Authority does not believe that any Muggle would have the degree of inner knowledge required to achieve a pass.


So, as you can see, I really loved that old website and I really miss it. Does anyone else know what I'm talking about or am I just this old? :D