Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guest post interview
The lovely Yat Yee Chong interviewed me over on her blog--my very first interview! Find out about what I've been reading and my secret fantasy of being a jazz musician. You can check it out HERE.

Triplicity continues
I'm extending the deadline to enter my Triplicity drawing and contest, in celebration of reaching 333 followers. You now have until next Tuesday, June 7, to enter.

Drawing
I'm giving away a $30 amazon gift certificate to one lucky entrant (U.S. only). You just have to leave a comment here, or on the original post. Additional entries are given as follows:

+5 Existing follower
+3 New follower
+2 Tweet contest
+2 Link contest on your blog sidebar
+5 Blog about the contest
+10 Pose an "Ask-the-editor" question on grammar, punctuation, critiquing
+1 Calculate your total number of entries

Microfiction contest
Groan-worthy similes and metaphors
Send up to three entries of original, groan-worthy metaphors or similes, just a sentence each, via e-mail as inline text to laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com.

A few examples:
~Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
~It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.
~His cover was blown like a man with a neat comb-over turning a windy corner.
~Her eyes were the mesmerizing green of a moldy cucumber liquefying in the vegetable drawer.


Open to international contestants.

Prizes (winners may chose any one):
~a 10-page detailed critique
~10 pages of copy editing
~an editorial overview of up to 50 pages, outlining areas for growth
~a character naming consultation. I'll help you research and find/create up to three character names, any genre.

How would you have answered Yat Yee's question: "how would you want your work to be characterized--first three words that pop into your mind?"
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 Laurel Garver
Guest post interview
The lovely Yat Yee Chong interviewed me over on her blog--my very first interview! Find out about what I've been reading and my secret fantasy of being a jazz musician. You can check it out HERE.

Triplicity continues
I'm extending the deadline to enter my Triplicity drawing and contest, in celebration of reaching 333 followers. You now have until next Tuesday, June 7, to enter.

Drawing
I'm giving away a $30 amazon gift certificate to one lucky entrant (U.S. only). You just have to leave a comment here, or on the original post. Additional entries are given as follows:

+5 Existing follower
+3 New follower
+2 Tweet contest
+2 Link contest on your blog sidebar
+5 Blog about the contest
+10 Pose an "Ask-the-editor" question on grammar, punctuation, critiquing
+1 Calculate your total number of entries

Microfiction contest
Groan-worthy similes and metaphors
Send up to three entries of original, groan-worthy metaphors or similes, just a sentence each, via e-mail as inline text to laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com.

A few examples:
~Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
~It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.
~His cover was blown like a man with a neat comb-over turning a windy corner.
~Her eyes were the mesmerizing green of a moldy cucumber liquefying in the vegetable drawer.


Open to international contestants.

Prizes (winners may chose any one):
~a 10-page detailed critique
~10 pages of copy editing
~an editorial overview of up to 50 pages, outlining areas for growth
~a character naming consultation. I'll help you research and find/create up to three character names, any genre.

How would you have answered Yat Yee's question: "how would you want your work to be characterized--first three words that pop into your mind?"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

As summer approaches, the Thestral Gazette is moving to Thestral Thursdays! Hot off the presses, here's the latest scoop from reporter/guest poster Michael Di Gesu.


by Michael Di Gesu, Ravenclaw

LONDON— After maniacal decree number whatever, this investigative reporter decided to learn more about beloved High Inquisitor and Head Mistress of Hogwarts.

Hold onto your wands, broomsticks, and lunch, dear readers. Archives of the Daily Prophet reveal that Dolores Jane Umbridge was Miss Britain Witch 1947.

No, I didn’t put a spell on this article; you are reading correctly. That toad-faced, slack-jawed, sadist was once a beauty queen. What happened to her stunning good looks? For answers, we’ll have to grab a time-turner and go back more than half a century.

Thestral Gazette recently obtained sealed Ministry records from an investigator working deep undercover. They reveal that our so-called pure-blood Headmistress was born to not one, but two muggle parents: Dick and Jane Rumbridge of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. Oh, the irony of her torturing students like Harry Potter to tell “the truth.” Miss Umbridge, as she renamed herself, has plenty to answer for!

After winning her title, sources say the flaxen-haired beauty entered the Ministry of Magic weaving tall tales of her pure ancestry. No-one questioned it. Her sultry looks and girlish voice mesmerized all, especially the male population. Umbridge quickly rose to influential positions with skills that some say would make even Peeves blush.

Her vixen ways and heart-stopping good looks (I still can’t even fathom this) led to a torrid affair with Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge. Within a month of her connection with Fudge, Umbridge was appointed Senior Undersecretary. The two were seen everywhere together: the opera, the Quidditch World Cup, and even at a quiet little bistro in Paris.

The Minister’s wife, Tatiana Fudge, a half-Veela former beauty queen, caught wind of the affair. She hunted down the lovers and found them together in the Leaky Caldron’s bridal suite. Outraged, she cast the Bulgarian-Bullfrog hex: a complicated spell only Veelas can cast. To add insult to injury, Mrs. Fudge left Umbridge with only her girlish voice intact.

Surprisingly, Mrs. Fudge did nothing to her straying husband. Her reason? “My Neil is so very kind to heez staff,” she said. “Zat leetle vorm Dolly Umbridge took total advantage of heez kindness! I lay zee blame entirely on zat tart!”

Devastated to be hideous, Umbridge retaliated in the only way she could—by drafting legislation to oppress part-humans like Mrs. Fudge, including centaurs and werewolves. Our favorite Defense against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin, is now in hiding because of her bitter campaign.

Feeling guilty for his part in Umbridge’s cursed transformation, and perhaps to remove her ugly face from his sight, Fudge appointed her High Inquisitor and Headmistress.

Will we ever be rid of her? Only time will tell. Our best hope is for part-human hybrids to rise up and do her in.

Michael Di Gesu is the Thestral Gazette’s investigative reporter. If you have anything to hide, he will sniff it out. When he’s not digging up secrets and sordid affairs, you’ll find him on the Quidditch pitch with friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Terrified of flying himself, he’s yet to take flight with his buddies. Harry’s still working on it. “Someday I’ll get him on a broom!” Michael blogs at: http://writing-art-and-design.blogspot.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend

Which shady character should Michael investigate next?

Best wishes for a good Memorial Day weekend. Don't forget to enter my Triplicity prize drawing and contest!
Thursday, May 26, 2011 Laurel Garver
As summer approaches, the Thestral Gazette is moving to Thestral Thursdays! Hot off the presses, here's the latest scoop from reporter/guest poster Michael Di Gesu.


by Michael Di Gesu, Ravenclaw

LONDON— After maniacal decree number whatever, this investigative reporter decided to learn more about beloved High Inquisitor and Head Mistress of Hogwarts.

Hold onto your wands, broomsticks, and lunch, dear readers. Archives of the Daily Prophet reveal that Dolores Jane Umbridge was Miss Britain Witch 1947.

No, I didn’t put a spell on this article; you are reading correctly. That toad-faced, slack-jawed, sadist was once a beauty queen. What happened to her stunning good looks? For answers, we’ll have to grab a time-turner and go back more than half a century.

Thestral Gazette recently obtained sealed Ministry records from an investigator working deep undercover. They reveal that our so-called pure-blood Headmistress was born to not one, but two muggle parents: Dick and Jane Rumbridge of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. Oh, the irony of her torturing students like Harry Potter to tell “the truth.” Miss Umbridge, as she renamed herself, has plenty to answer for!

After winning her title, sources say the flaxen-haired beauty entered the Ministry of Magic weaving tall tales of her pure ancestry. No-one questioned it. Her sultry looks and girlish voice mesmerized all, especially the male population. Umbridge quickly rose to influential positions with skills that some say would make even Peeves blush.

Her vixen ways and heart-stopping good looks (I still can’t even fathom this) led to a torrid affair with Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge. Within a month of her connection with Fudge, Umbridge was appointed Senior Undersecretary. The two were seen everywhere together: the opera, the Quidditch World Cup, and even at a quiet little bistro in Paris.

The Minister’s wife, Tatiana Fudge, a half-Veela former beauty queen, caught wind of the affair. She hunted down the lovers and found them together in the Leaky Caldron’s bridal suite. Outraged, she cast the Bulgarian-Bullfrog hex: a complicated spell only Veelas can cast. To add insult to injury, Mrs. Fudge left Umbridge with only her girlish voice intact.

Surprisingly, Mrs. Fudge did nothing to her straying husband. Her reason? “My Neil is so very kind to heez staff,” she said. “Zat leetle vorm Dolly Umbridge took total advantage of heez kindness! I lay zee blame entirely on zat tart!”

Devastated to be hideous, Umbridge retaliated in the only way she could—by drafting legislation to oppress part-humans like Mrs. Fudge, including centaurs and werewolves. Our favorite Defense against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin, is now in hiding because of her bitter campaign.

Feeling guilty for his part in Umbridge’s cursed transformation, and perhaps to remove her ugly face from his sight, Fudge appointed her High Inquisitor and Headmistress.

Will we ever be rid of her? Only time will tell. Our best hope is for part-human hybrids to rise up and do her in.

Michael Di Gesu is the Thestral Gazette’s investigative reporter. If you have anything to hide, he will sniff it out. When he’s not digging up secrets and sordid affairs, you’ll find him on the Quidditch pitch with friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Terrified of flying himself, he’s yet to take flight with his buddies. Harry’s still working on it. “Someday I’ll get him on a broom!” Michael blogs at: http://writing-art-and-design.blogspot.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:
Issue 1: Mrs. Norris's secret identity revealed
Issue 2: Being bullied? Weasel your way out.
Issue 3: Viktor Krum Reunites with Former Girlfriend

Which shady character should Michael investigate next?

Best wishes for a good Memorial Day weekend. Don't forget to enter my Triplicity prize drawing and contest!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today's question comes via my Triplicity contest. You, too, can earn extra chances to win an Amazon gift card by asking me editing questions! Click HERE for more details and to enter.

Dear Editor-on-Call:
When should you capitalize a noun such as "the Virus"? In my WIP, the characters refer to a virus which ended up wiping out most of the human population. Would it be correct to say "the Virus" when referring to it? If so, when they speak of it as belong to a certain person (the creator) would they say "his virus" or "his Virus"?

--Capitals Conundrum
a.k.a. Susan Fields

Dear Cap,
The general rule on capitalization in English is to capitalize proper nouns. In other words, NAMES of specific things.

People and animals
Bob Marley. Billy the Kid. Bo Jangles. Street Sense (racehorse). Tolkien Raintree Mister Baggins (show dog).

Adjectives based on names are also capitalized--Alexander technique, Freudian slip.

Places and Organizations
Seattle. Republic of Congo. Piccadilly Circus. Shop Rite. Grover Cleveland High School. Purdue University. Red Cross. Roman Catholic Church.

Adjectives based on places are also capitalized--French fries, English grammar.

Titles of artistic works (art, music, writing, film, drama)
The Mona Lisa. The Marriage of Figaro. To the Lighthouse. "She Walks in Beauty." Terminator. Waiting for Godot.

Trademarked products
Kleenex. Big Mac. Kindle.

Named events and holidays
Cloverdale County Fair. Annual Walk for Peace. Easter. Rosh Hashanah.

Calendar units (for lack of a better category)
Summer. September. Friday.

The category of noun you describe is a thing. It's less common for a thing to be specifically named, unless it is an artistic work, a trademarked product or a copy of a living thing (Barbie, Winnie the Pooh). We more often use generic terms that the grammar gurus call "common nouns": tree, couch, daisy, leopard, skateboard, pork chop, party, secretary, professor, chemistry, sculpture.

You might have only one spleen, but I'm willing to bet you haven't named it. Likewise, diseases are not treated like proper nouns unless they are named after a person or another proper noun (like a place).

Example:
Julie has diabetes, Glenn has Parkinson's disease and their puppy has Lyme disease.
Jared might have irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease.
Baby Miles needs measles, mumps and rubella inoculations.

If you want to give your fictional virus a name that takes a capital, name it for its creator or the one who discovered it: Malfoy virus, for example. Otherwise, refer to it simply as "the virus" and "his virus."

Which of these trip you up? Any follow-up questions on capitalization rules?
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today's question comes via my Triplicity contest. You, too, can earn extra chances to win an Amazon gift card by asking me editing questions! Click HERE for more details and to enter.

Dear Editor-on-Call:
When should you capitalize a noun such as "the Virus"? In my WIP, the characters refer to a virus which ended up wiping out most of the human population. Would it be correct to say "the Virus" when referring to it? If so, when they speak of it as belong to a certain person (the creator) would they say "his virus" or "his Virus"?

--Capitals Conundrum
a.k.a. Susan Fields

Dear Cap,
The general rule on capitalization in English is to capitalize proper nouns. In other words, NAMES of specific things.

People and animals
Bob Marley. Billy the Kid. Bo Jangles. Street Sense (racehorse). Tolkien Raintree Mister Baggins (show dog).

Adjectives based on names are also capitalized--Alexander technique, Freudian slip.

Places and Organizations
Seattle. Republic of Congo. Piccadilly Circus. Shop Rite. Grover Cleveland High School. Purdue University. Red Cross. Roman Catholic Church.

Adjectives based on places are also capitalized--French fries, English grammar.

Titles of artistic works (art, music, writing, film, drama)
The Mona Lisa. The Marriage of Figaro. To the Lighthouse. "She Walks in Beauty." Terminator. Waiting for Godot.

Trademarked products
Kleenex. Big Mac. Kindle.

Named events and holidays
Cloverdale County Fair. Annual Walk for Peace. Easter. Rosh Hashanah.

Calendar units (for lack of a better category)
Summer. September. Friday.

The category of noun you describe is a thing. It's less common for a thing to be specifically named, unless it is an artistic work, a trademarked product or a copy of a living thing (Barbie, Winnie the Pooh). We more often use generic terms that the grammar gurus call "common nouns": tree, couch, daisy, leopard, skateboard, pork chop, party, secretary, professor, chemistry, sculpture.

You might have only one spleen, but I'm willing to bet you haven't named it. Likewise, diseases are not treated like proper nouns unless they are named after a person or another proper noun (like a place).

Example:
Julie has diabetes, Glenn has Parkinson's disease and their puppy has Lyme disease.
Jared might have irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease.
Baby Miles needs measles, mumps and rubella inoculations.

If you want to give your fictional virus a name that takes a capital, name it for its creator or the one who discovered it: Malfoy virus, for example. Otherwise, refer to it simply as "the virus" and "his virus."

Which of these trip you up? Any follow-up questions on capitalization rules?

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm holding an awesome contest!

Sign up for the random drawing to win a $30 Amazon gift card. Earn extra entries for blogging, tweets and asking me editing questions. Feel free to grab this nifty button I made and use it in your sidebar.

An optional part 2: Send me your most groan-worthy metaphors and similes for a chance to win critiques, editing help or a character naming consult.

Click HERE to see all the details and to enter!

I've recently noticed a big drop off in comments and hits on Thursdays and Fridays. Is this a new trend? I'm wondering if I need to rethink my posting schedule.

What's your habit? Do you look at blogs only on Mon.-Wed.?
Monday, May 23, 2011 Laurel Garver
I'm holding an awesome contest!

Sign up for the random drawing to win a $30 Amazon gift card. Earn extra entries for blogging, tweets and asking me editing questions. Feel free to grab this nifty button I made and use it in your sidebar.

An optional part 2: Send me your most groan-worthy metaphors and similes for a chance to win critiques, editing help or a character naming consult.

Click HERE to see all the details and to enter!

I've recently noticed a big drop off in comments and hits on Thursdays and Fridays. Is this a new trend? I'm wondering if I need to rethink my posting schedule.

What's your habit? Do you look at blogs only on Mon.-Wed.?

Friday, May 20, 2011

By Melissa Sarno, Hufflepuff

LONDON—Bulgarian National Quidditch player Viktor Krum was once again spotted with actress Anastasiya Dilov. The two attended last night’s premiere of her latest film, The Non-magical Exploding Tuba, a satirical take on the Muggle opera The Magic Flute.

The pair have been known for their tumultuous relationship, which began when the Bulgarian social climber crashed the Krum family’s annual pig roast. The known vegetarian reportedly used the Aguamenti spell and was said to have “wreaked havoc” on what was supposed to have been a “private family affair.” Despite her unorthodox methods, Dilov quickly won Krum over. “The girl’s got guts,” the six foot heartthrob said with his signature fist pump.

Of course, others argue that she may also wreak havoc on the famed Seeker’s heart.

Their initial split occurred while Dilov was filming on location in Romania. After Dilov was photographed hand in hand with an unidentified red-haired wizard, Krum reportedly went into a blind rage.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said a member of the film crew. “He apparated there in minutes and nearly took down the set with a Bombarda spell. If he wasn’t so worried that the International Quidditch Association would suspend him, I’m not sure what would have happened.”

Last night, however, the couple was all smiles, despite the fact that questions of Dilov’s fidelity are once again in play. The fashion icon wore a rare dragon skin coat to the premiere, claiming it was “a gift from a friend.”

“Galleons can’t buy that kind of thing,” said renowned fashion designer Augustus Tuttle. “I don’t even want to think about what a person would have to do to get a coat like that.”

Krum declined to comment, but was overheard muttering, “How should I know what she keeps in her drawers?”

Melissa Sarno is Thestral Gazette’s celebrity reporter and co-president of the Herbology Club. When she’s not up to her ankles in mooncalf dung, you can find her accompanying the Frog Choir on harpsichord or writing Witch Lit in the Hogwarts Library. She blogs at http://melissasarno.com/.


Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:




Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Which celebrity of the wizarding world should Melissa investigate next?

Don't forget to enter my contest! Ends May 31!
Friday, May 20, 2011 Laurel Garver
By Melissa Sarno, Hufflepuff

LONDON—Bulgarian National Quidditch player Viktor Krum was once again spotted with actress Anastasiya Dilov. The two attended last night’s premiere of her latest film, The Non-magical Exploding Tuba, a satirical take on the Muggle opera The Magic Flute.

The pair have been known for their tumultuous relationship, which began when the Bulgarian social climber crashed the Krum family’s annual pig roast. The known vegetarian reportedly used the Aguamenti spell and was said to have “wreaked havoc” on what was supposed to have been a “private family affair.” Despite her unorthodox methods, Dilov quickly won Krum over. “The girl’s got guts,” the six foot heartthrob said with his signature fist pump.

Of course, others argue that she may also wreak havoc on the famed Seeker’s heart.

Their initial split occurred while Dilov was filming on location in Romania. After Dilov was photographed hand in hand with an unidentified red-haired wizard, Krum reportedly went into a blind rage.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said a member of the film crew. “He apparated there in minutes and nearly took down the set with a Bombarda spell. If he wasn’t so worried that the International Quidditch Association would suspend him, I’m not sure what would have happened.”

Last night, however, the couple was all smiles, despite the fact that questions of Dilov’s fidelity are once again in play. The fashion icon wore a rare dragon skin coat to the premiere, claiming it was “a gift from a friend.”

“Galleons can’t buy that kind of thing,” said renowned fashion designer Augustus Tuttle. “I don’t even want to think about what a person would have to do to get a coat like that.”

Krum declined to comment, but was overheard muttering, “How should I know what she keeps in her drawers?”

Melissa Sarno is Thestral Gazette’s celebrity reporter and co-president of the Herbology Club. When she’s not up to her ankles in mooncalf dung, you can find her accompanying the Frog Choir on harpsichord or writing Witch Lit in the Hogwarts Library. She blogs at http://melissasarno.com/.


Back issues of the Thestral Gazette:




Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Which celebrity of the wizarding world should Melissa investigate next?

Don't forget to enter my contest! Ends May 31!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I have a quirky love for pattern and symmetry, thus the blogging milestones I chose to celebrate were 111, an "Eleventy one" celebration and 202, my "Too, oh, too Cool" contest.

I'm nearing another such symmetrical milestone--333 followers, so you know what that means. It's time for another celebration with fun and, of course, PRIZES!

My Triplicity celebration and contest is a two-parter--one part skills-based (international), the other, luck-based (US only). You may enter one part of the contest or both, depending on your residency.

Part 1: World's worst metaphors and similes contest
Send up to three entries of original, groan-worthy metaphors or similes (no plagiarism, please) via e-mail as inline text to laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com. For some examples, see my recent blogfest post. This contest is open to international contestants.

The deadline to enter is Tuesday, May 31, 5 p.m. Eastern.

Three top winners will be chosen. Each may chose any one of the following prizes:
~a 10-page detailed critique
~10 pages of copy editing
~an editorial overview of up to 50 pages, outlining areas for growth
~a character naming consultation. I'll help you research and find/create up to three character names, any genre.

Part 2: Prize Drawing
I will be giving away a $30 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner (U.S. residents only, please).

To enter, you must leave a comment to this post.

Bonus entries will be given as follows:
+5 Existing follower
+3 New follower as of 5/19
+2 Tweet contest
+2 Link contest on your blog sidebar
+5 Blog about the contest
+10 Pose an "Ask-the-editor" question on grammar, punctuation, critiquing
+1 Calculate your total number of entries

Contest closes Tuesday, May 31, 5 p.m. Eastern.

Come back tomorrow for your weekly dose of Harry Potter hilarity, The Thestral Gazette, featuring celebrity gossip from the wizarding world by guest reporter Melissa Sarno!
Thursday, May 19, 2011 Laurel Garver
I have a quirky love for pattern and symmetry, thus the blogging milestones I chose to celebrate were 111, an "Eleventy one" celebration and 202, my "Too, oh, too Cool" contest.

I'm nearing another such symmetrical milestone--333 followers, so you know what that means. It's time for another celebration with fun and, of course, PRIZES!

My Triplicity celebration and contest is a two-parter--one part skills-based (international), the other, luck-based (US only). You may enter one part of the contest or both, depending on your residency.

Part 1: World's worst metaphors and similes contest
Send up to three entries of original, groan-worthy metaphors or similes (no plagiarism, please) via e-mail as inline text to laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com. For some examples, see my recent blogfest post. This contest is open to international contestants.

The deadline to enter is Tuesday, May 31, 5 p.m. Eastern.

Three top winners will be chosen. Each may chose any one of the following prizes:
~a 10-page detailed critique
~10 pages of copy editing
~an editorial overview of up to 50 pages, outlining areas for growth
~a character naming consultation. I'll help you research and find/create up to three character names, any genre.

Part 2: Prize Drawing
I will be giving away a $30 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky winner (U.S. residents only, please).

To enter, you must leave a comment to this post.

Bonus entries will be given as follows:
+5 Existing follower
+3 New follower as of 5/19
+2 Tweet contest
+2 Link contest on your blog sidebar
+5 Blog about the contest
+10 Pose an "Ask-the-editor" question on grammar, punctuation, critiquing
+1 Calculate your total number of entries

Contest closes Tuesday, May 31, 5 p.m. Eastern.

Come back tomorrow for your weekly dose of Harry Potter hilarity, The Thestral Gazette, featuring celebrity gossip from the wizarding world by guest reporter Melissa Sarno!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I've had a few cool surprises in my lifetime: an engagement ring on Christmas eve when I was sure I'd have to wait till Valentine's day, the pink lines on the pregnancy test when a doctor told me I'd have to start fertility drugs in a few weeks.

I got another nice surprise like that after work yesterday, though not quite so life changing. This pretty half-Siamese stray kitten wandered into my life. She has been sleeping on my porch or in my flower garden for about a week now. My experience with the neighborhood strays has been mixed--some are as socialized as any house cat, and some are feral, more like a woodland fox than pet material.

This kitten not only let me pet her, she climbed onto me as I knelt beside her. She wanted to be held and went into a snuggle ecstasy when I picked her up. She was socialized, all right.

I called my family on the cell phone and asked them to come outside to meet her.

"I think our new kitten has found us," I said.

My daughter has been begging for a kitten for over a year now. While she had her heart set on a gray tabby, she's over the moon to have been "picked" by this blue-eyed beauty she's calling Rosie. I was sure we'd have to take several trips to local shelters to find a good fit, but Rosie is every bit the affectionate cuddler my daughter hoped for.

"Gifts from God are like this, aren't they?" my daughter said. "Never just the way you pictured it--usually better!"

So far, so good with our new feline friend. She gladly let us carry her into the house, ate the kitty kibble we gave her and used the litter box I showed her. Our elderly dog and cat are being aloof, but not hostile, so time will tell how those relationships grow. She's very thin and will need some veterinary care, so it seems unlikely anyone will start posting "lost cat" signs in the neighborhood.

When a wished-for thing happens, it's always a better story if it doesn't come about quite the way the you expected.

I think there's a lesson here about how to avoid the Mary Sue trap--characters to whom everything comes too easily, too neatly. When (and if) the happily-ever-after does come, give us a twist on the character's expectations, or even defy them. How the character reacts to that "gift"--with gratitude, fear, anger, sorrow, mute shock, hope--can make for a much more complex and satisfying ending. One we want to read.

What are some of your favorite fictional "got my wish, but not the way I expected" endings? How might a twist on character expectation improve your story?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 Laurel Garver
I've had a few cool surprises in my lifetime: an engagement ring on Christmas eve when I was sure I'd have to wait till Valentine's day, the pink lines on the pregnancy test when a doctor told me I'd have to start fertility drugs in a few weeks.

I got another nice surprise like that after work yesterday, though not quite so life changing. This pretty half-Siamese stray kitten wandered into my life. She has been sleeping on my porch or in my flower garden for about a week now. My experience with the neighborhood strays has been mixed--some are as socialized as any house cat, and some are feral, more like a woodland fox than pet material.

This kitten not only let me pet her, she climbed onto me as I knelt beside her. She wanted to be held and went into a snuggle ecstasy when I picked her up. She was socialized, all right.

I called my family on the cell phone and asked them to come outside to meet her.

"I think our new kitten has found us," I said.

My daughter has been begging for a kitten for over a year now. While she had her heart set on a gray tabby, she's over the moon to have been "picked" by this blue-eyed beauty she's calling Rosie. I was sure we'd have to take several trips to local shelters to find a good fit, but Rosie is every bit the affectionate cuddler my daughter hoped for.

"Gifts from God are like this, aren't they?" my daughter said. "Never just the way you pictured it--usually better!"

So far, so good with our new feline friend. She gladly let us carry her into the house, ate the kitty kibble we gave her and used the litter box I showed her. Our elderly dog and cat are being aloof, but not hostile, so time will tell how those relationships grow. She's very thin and will need some veterinary care, so it seems unlikely anyone will start posting "lost cat" signs in the neighborhood.

When a wished-for thing happens, it's always a better story if it doesn't come about quite the way the you expected.

I think there's a lesson here about how to avoid the Mary Sue trap--characters to whom everything comes too easily, too neatly. When (and if) the happily-ever-after does come, give us a twist on the character's expectations, or even defy them. How the character reacts to that "gift"--with gratitude, fear, anger, sorrow, mute shock, hope--can make for a much more complex and satisfying ending. One we want to read.

What are some of your favorite fictional "got my wish, but not the way I expected" endings? How might a twist on character expectation improve your story?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thanks to Leigh T. Moore and Lydia Kang for hosting today's "Laughter is the Best Medicine" blogfest.

We all love bad metaphors and similes as much as...a cow loves yesterday's half-chewed grass sloshing from one stomach to another. Yes indeedy do.

Here are a few more genuine faux gems:

~Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

~It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.

~His cover was blown like a man with a neat comb-over turning a windy corner.

~Her eyes were the mesmerizing green of a moldy cucumber liquefying in the vegetable drawer.

~It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

~ With each breath, her chest heaved like a bulimic after Thanksgiving dinner.

~He looked at her with the warmth of roadkill on an Arizona highway.

And for those who prefer jokes with punchlines:

A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him.

So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can
prevent florist friars.

Your turn! Give us a good groaner pun, or finish this sentence: Bob was a funny as ____.
Monday, May 16, 2011 Laurel Garver
Thanks to Leigh T. Moore and Lydia Kang for hosting today's "Laughter is the Best Medicine" blogfest.

We all love bad metaphors and similes as much as...a cow loves yesterday's half-chewed grass sloshing from one stomach to another. Yes indeedy do.

Here are a few more genuine faux gems:

~Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

~It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.

~His cover was blown like a man with a neat comb-over turning a windy corner.

~Her eyes were the mesmerizing green of a moldy cucumber liquefying in the vegetable drawer.

~It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

~ With each breath, her chest heaved like a bulimic after Thanksgiving dinner.

~He looked at her with the warmth of roadkill on an Arizona highway.

And for those who prefer jokes with punchlines:

A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him.

So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can
prevent florist friars.

Your turn! Give us a good groaner pun, or finish this sentence: Bob was a funny as ____.

Friday, May 13, 2011

By Jen Daiker, Hufflepuff

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS—Are you sick of being your classmates’ guinea pig for jelly-legs jinxes and levicorpus spells? Before you beg your parents to transfer you to Beauxbatons, take heart. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is now beta testing a product sure to delight.

We'll Watch Your Back map (WWYB) tracks the movement of any Hogwarts students you wish to avoid. WWYB will give you the power to navigate Hogwarts safely and calmly. Better yet, you can achieve this safety without involving Hogwarts staff, freeing you from the fear of reprisals for ratting out your tormentors.

Headmistress Minerva McGonagall had only positive things to say about the product.

"Though I try to restrict certain Weasley products from the school grounds, I can't help but applaud this new item that will surely help the students feel more at home. We are aware that not everything can be solved with magic or even be brought to our attention. For those students who feel mistreated, this product will allow them to steer clear of trouble before it starts with privacy and minimal fuss. However, I would implore those targeted by bullies to also consider stopping by my office for additional support."

The Weasley twins aren’t looking to put the WWYB map in the wrong hands, so all students wishing to have a customized WWYB map created for them will undergo private testing to ensure that they truly are being bullied. Interested students are welcome to try out this new product. To sign up for the free trial period, simply stop by Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, 93 Diagon Alley, London, or send your request via owlpost.

Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes continues to grow as new products are constantly being introduced. WWYB should prove a great addition to the lineup that includes Puking Pastilles to aid your escape from exams and those adorable Pygmy Puffs, everyone’s favorite pet alternative.

What will they think of next? Only time will tell. If there’s a product you wish the Weasleys to develop, please stop in and share your ideas today.

Jen Daiker loves transfiguration, fizzing whizbees, and is a founding member of S.P.E.W. She has also been known to dabble with polyjuice potion. She blogs at unedited.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

What products would you like Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to develop?
Friday, May 13, 2011 Laurel Garver
By Jen Daiker, Hufflepuff

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS—Are you sick of being your classmates’ guinea pig for jelly-legs jinxes and levicorpus spells? Before you beg your parents to transfer you to Beauxbatons, take heart. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is now beta testing a product sure to delight.

We'll Watch Your Back map (WWYB) tracks the movement of any Hogwarts students you wish to avoid. WWYB will give you the power to navigate Hogwarts safely and calmly. Better yet, you can achieve this safety without involving Hogwarts staff, freeing you from the fear of reprisals for ratting out your tormentors.

Headmistress Minerva McGonagall had only positive things to say about the product.

"Though I try to restrict certain Weasley products from the school grounds, I can't help but applaud this new item that will surely help the students feel more at home. We are aware that not everything can be solved with magic or even be brought to our attention. For those students who feel mistreated, this product will allow them to steer clear of trouble before it starts with privacy and minimal fuss. However, I would implore those targeted by bullies to also consider stopping by my office for additional support."

The Weasley twins aren’t looking to put the WWYB map in the wrong hands, so all students wishing to have a customized WWYB map created for them will undergo private testing to ensure that they truly are being bullied. Interested students are welcome to try out this new product. To sign up for the free trial period, simply stop by Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, 93 Diagon Alley, London, or send your request via owlpost.

Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes continues to grow as new products are constantly being introduced. WWYB should prove a great addition to the lineup that includes Puking Pastilles to aid your escape from exams and those adorable Pygmy Puffs, everyone’s favorite pet alternative.

What will they think of next? Only time will tell. If there’s a product you wish the Weasleys to develop, please stop in and share your ideas today.

Jen Daiker loves transfiguration, fizzing whizbees, and is a founding member of S.P.E.W. She has also been known to dabble with polyjuice potion. She blogs at unedited.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

What products would you like Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to develop?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We know that complex characters are what readers love most--people who feel real because of inner conflict and mixed emotion. It can be quite tricky to do that well and not end up with a confusing mess.

I've been revisiting Nancy Kress's Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint for some additional guidance to help clear away muddiness in my draft in process. One of the coolest tools she has is an "Emotional Mini-bio." I won't reproduce the whole thing, of course. (I'd rather tease you into buying the book, dedicated Kress fan that I am.) The two initial questions are such good fundamentals, however, I want to share. I think they could form the backbone of every solid character sketch.

What three or four things does your character value most in life?

What things does s/he most fear?

Having these core values and fears firmly in hand will help you predict how a character will feel and react in most situations.

You will get some of your most interesting plot complications from situations where two core values or core fears are in competition.

How might clarifying values and fears help your characterization?
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 Laurel Garver
We know that complex characters are what readers love most--people who feel real because of inner conflict and mixed emotion. It can be quite tricky to do that well and not end up with a confusing mess.

I've been revisiting Nancy Kress's Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint for some additional guidance to help clear away muddiness in my draft in process. One of the coolest tools she has is an "Emotional Mini-bio." I won't reproduce the whole thing, of course. (I'd rather tease you into buying the book, dedicated Kress fan that I am.) The two initial questions are such good fundamentals, however, I want to share. I think they could form the backbone of every solid character sketch.

What three or four things does your character value most in life?

What things does s/he most fear?

Having these core values and fears firmly in hand will help you predict how a character will feel and react in most situations.

You will get some of your most interesting plot complications from situations where two core values or core fears are in competition.

How might clarifying values and fears help your characterization?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Waiting. It's a huge piece of what it is to be human. We wait for the weather to change. We wait for payday or that insurance reimbursement. We wait for decisions to be made, calls to be returned, packages to arrive and all sorts of mundane things that somehow just don't happen instantly.

Writing has its own set of waiting hurdles. We wait for our skill level to improve. We wait for the perfect character name to dawn on us. We wait for the shiny new idea. We wait for solutions to plot holes to occur to us. We wait for critique partners to give feedback. We wait for our market savvy to increase. We wait for agents, editors, reviewers, royalty statements, etc., etc., etc.

My faith tradition ties waiting to one of the "abiding things" along with faith and love: hope. "If we hope for what we do not have," says Romans 8:25, "we wait for it patiently."

Personally, I struggle a lot with hope. It's a heck of a lot easier to despair. No real effort or waiting required. Indeed despair can be yours right now with no wait! Not much of a selling point though, is it? Anyway, I've come to grasp the fact that waiting in a state of hopelessness is actually a kind of impatience--one that immobilizes.

We tend to think of patience as a very passive virtue that requires idle serenity. But the serenity that comes from patience is actually quite active. The patient mind works hard hoping. It refuses to moan or flail around. It keeps a steady routine and doesn't lose sight of the thing hoped for. Patience is diligent (not slothful), continuing to find places to progress during times of waiting.

Let's encourage one another to take up the tools of patience when we're on this wait-filled journey. Here are some I can think of:

~limit "stalking" behaviors online (those aimless hops from post to tweet to status without ever interacting); instead use social media to meet friends and encourage others. Take social media breaks when necessary.

~limit slothful habits (TV, video games and the like); instead produce pages of something every day--drafts, research, notes and outlines, wordplay, journal entries.

~experiment with a new technique, genre, style, POV, verb tense.

~focus on learning--study craft books, attend seminars, research new ideas.

~critique others' work and learn from them.

~read widely and make notes about what other authors do that you can emulate.

I could go on an on about all the active ways to wait--there are so many! The key ingredients are progressing toward a goal because you believe with hope that something good will eventually come of it.

What impatient habits or "habits of despair" do you struggle with? What habits of hopeful patience might you try?
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 Laurel Garver
Waiting. It's a huge piece of what it is to be human. We wait for the weather to change. We wait for payday or that insurance reimbursement. We wait for decisions to be made, calls to be returned, packages to arrive and all sorts of mundane things that somehow just don't happen instantly.

Writing has its own set of waiting hurdles. We wait for our skill level to improve. We wait for the perfect character name to dawn on us. We wait for the shiny new idea. We wait for solutions to plot holes to occur to us. We wait for critique partners to give feedback. We wait for our market savvy to increase. We wait for agents, editors, reviewers, royalty statements, etc., etc., etc.

My faith tradition ties waiting to one of the "abiding things" along with faith and love: hope. "If we hope for what we do not have," says Romans 8:25, "we wait for it patiently."

Personally, I struggle a lot with hope. It's a heck of a lot easier to despair. No real effort or waiting required. Indeed despair can be yours right now with no wait! Not much of a selling point though, is it? Anyway, I've come to grasp the fact that waiting in a state of hopelessness is actually a kind of impatience--one that immobilizes.

We tend to think of patience as a very passive virtue that requires idle serenity. But the serenity that comes from patience is actually quite active. The patient mind works hard hoping. It refuses to moan or flail around. It keeps a steady routine and doesn't lose sight of the thing hoped for. Patience is diligent (not slothful), continuing to find places to progress during times of waiting.

Let's encourage one another to take up the tools of patience when we're on this wait-filled journey. Here are some I can think of:

~limit "stalking" behaviors online (those aimless hops from post to tweet to status without ever interacting); instead use social media to meet friends and encourage others. Take social media breaks when necessary.

~limit slothful habits (TV, video games and the like); instead produce pages of something every day--drafts, research, notes and outlines, wordplay, journal entries.

~experiment with a new technique, genre, style, POV, verb tense.

~focus on learning--study craft books, attend seminars, research new ideas.

~critique others' work and learn from them.

~read widely and make notes about what other authors do that you can emulate.

I could go on an on about all the active ways to wait--there are so many! The key ingredients are progressing toward a goal because you believe with hope that something good will eventually come of it.

What impatient habits or "habits of despair" do you struggle with? What habits of hopeful patience might you try?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Thanks to Dr. Lydia Kang for featuring my question in her weekly post "Medical Mondays." I have a secondary character with a history of drug abuse and had wondered how that might continue to effect his health and mental state after four years of being clean.

You can read all about the long-term effects of prior heroin addiction in Lydia's post, "Heroin today, problems tomorrow." Pretty interesting stuff--good fodder for potential plot complications in my current manuscript.

Have you dealt with medical questions in researching your manuscript? Where did you seek advice?
Monday, May 09, 2011 Laurel Garver
Thanks to Dr. Lydia Kang for featuring my question in her weekly post "Medical Mondays." I have a secondary character with a history of drug abuse and had wondered how that might continue to effect his health and mental state after four years of being clean.

You can read all about the long-term effects of prior heroin addiction in Lydia's post, "Heroin today, problems tomorrow." Pretty interesting stuff--good fodder for potential plot complications in my current manuscript.

Have you dealt with medical questions in researching your manuscript? Where did you seek advice?

Friday, May 06, 2011

by Laurel Garver, Ravenclaw

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS--Student concerns about the Filch/Norris relationship first surfaced when the school caretaker suffered a breakdown after his feline companion Mrs. Norris was left petrified. Though the attack was later confirmed to be the work of a basilisk, students whispered among themselves: “Why such a fuss over a silly cat?”

Why indeed is the long-haired tabby always close to Mr. Flich’s heels? And why the very human name?

Sources close to the pureblood Norris family now confirm the shocking truth: the feline stalking the halls of Hogwarts was in fact once named Clothilde Katz, a Durmstrang graduate and former undersecretary to the Minister of Magical Animal Welfare.

Katz met her late husband Archibald Norris at a Ministry of Magic holiday party. There, witnesses say, Mr. Norris conjured an entire thicket of mistletoe in which he privately wooed the young Miss Katz, a great beauty fifteen years his junior. Within six months, Katz and Norris wed in Durmstrang’s famed Gothic chapel, honeymooned in the Alps and settled in Ottery St. Catchpole.

A broomstick collision claimed Archie Norris’s life less than a year later, leaving his widowed bride heartbroken. The neighboring Filch family soon took her under their wing, frequently inviting her to join them for meals and conversation. It is also believed that they hired Mrs. Norris to provide private tutoring to their then-teenaged son, Argus.

Why tutoring? Ottery St. Catchpole resident Thomas Peepington explained, “Start of every term, them Filches all pretends like Argie gone to King’s Cross with the rest of the Hogwarts lot. Ah, but don’t I see ‘im plain as you please practicing stunning spells with the pretty young widow in ‘er back garden? He ain’t never got no letter from Hogwarts, did he? We always says Argie’s naught but a common squib.”

Clothilde Katz Norris was last seen in human form leaving the Ministry of Magic offices to respond to an emergency call for the Ministry of Magical Animal Welfare. According to the Ministry logbook, she was sent to investigate an illegal cerberus-fighting ring. And she was not alone. An unnamed “assistant” was also logged as accompanying her, via the Floo network, to the alleged fight-ring site.

Newspapers of the time claim that upon arriving at the scene, Mrs. Norris was vaporized by an unknown dark-magic curse. A quiet, corpse-less funeral was held and the Norris estate divvied out among Archie Norris’s surviving nephews. Soon after, Argus Filch left Ottery St. Catchpole to join Hogwarts staff as caretaker. He was accompanied by a handsome tabby he claimed to have “named after” his slain neighbor.

Our investigation has led us to new evidence that Clothilde Katz Norris did not in fact die on that fated emergency call. She was instead transfigured with a spell so powerful, no counter-curse is known. Seventh-year Slytherin Piers Whithin, who took a first in the legilimency O.W.L., earned five double-detentions with Mr. Filch in order to ascertain the whole truth.

According to memories expertly pried by Piers, Mr. Filch had purchased a black-market wand from Lichtenstein when none of Ollivander’s wands would choose him. Upon arriving at the site of the supposed cerberus-fighting ring, Filch turned the wand on his pretty tutor and spoke a spell he believed was a love-enchantment. Instead, Mrs. Norris was fixed in feline form. Mr. Filch sought help from Professor Dumbledore, who thought it best to offer Mr. Filch asylum at Hogwarts and hush up the entire incident.

"They're together forever all right," Piers said. "Just not the way the poor sod had been wishing."

--

Laurel Garver is Thestral Gazette's editor-in-chief and communications secretary for S.P.E.W. She sings in Hogwarts choir, dabbles in Mermish poetry and tirelessly campaigns for an intramural Pegasus polo team.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Who else at Hogwarts do you suspect is not who he or she seems to be?

Friday, May 06, 2011 Laurel Garver
by Laurel Garver, Ravenclaw

HOGSMEDE, INVERNESS--Student concerns about the Filch/Norris relationship first surfaced when the school caretaker suffered a breakdown after his feline companion Mrs. Norris was left petrified. Though the attack was later confirmed to be the work of a basilisk, students whispered among themselves: “Why such a fuss over a silly cat?”

Why indeed is the long-haired tabby always close to Mr. Flich’s heels? And why the very human name?

Sources close to the pureblood Norris family now confirm the shocking truth: the feline stalking the halls of Hogwarts was in fact once named Clothilde Katz, a Durmstrang graduate and former undersecretary to the Minister of Magical Animal Welfare.

Katz met her late husband Archibald Norris at a Ministry of Magic holiday party. There, witnesses say, Mr. Norris conjured an entire thicket of mistletoe in which he privately wooed the young Miss Katz, a great beauty fifteen years his junior. Within six months, Katz and Norris wed in Durmstrang’s famed Gothic chapel, honeymooned in the Alps and settled in Ottery St. Catchpole.

A broomstick collision claimed Archie Norris’s life less than a year later, leaving his widowed bride heartbroken. The neighboring Filch family soon took her under their wing, frequently inviting her to join them for meals and conversation. It is also believed that they hired Mrs. Norris to provide private tutoring to their then-teenaged son, Argus.

Why tutoring? Ottery St. Catchpole resident Thomas Peepington explained, “Start of every term, them Filches all pretends like Argie gone to King’s Cross with the rest of the Hogwarts lot. Ah, but don’t I see ‘im plain as you please practicing stunning spells with the pretty young widow in ‘er back garden? He ain’t never got no letter from Hogwarts, did he? We always says Argie’s naught but a common squib.”

Clothilde Katz Norris was last seen in human form leaving the Ministry of Magic offices to respond to an emergency call for the Ministry of Magical Animal Welfare. According to the Ministry logbook, she was sent to investigate an illegal cerberus-fighting ring. And she was not alone. An unnamed “assistant” was also logged as accompanying her, via the Floo network, to the alleged fight-ring site.

Newspapers of the time claim that upon arriving at the scene, Mrs. Norris was vaporized by an unknown dark-magic curse. A quiet, corpse-less funeral was held and the Norris estate divvied out among Archie Norris’s surviving nephews. Soon after, Argus Filch left Ottery St. Catchpole to join Hogwarts staff as caretaker. He was accompanied by a handsome tabby he claimed to have “named after” his slain neighbor.

Our investigation has led us to new evidence that Clothilde Katz Norris did not in fact die on that fated emergency call. She was instead transfigured with a spell so powerful, no counter-curse is known. Seventh-year Slytherin Piers Whithin, who took a first in the legilimency O.W.L., earned five double-detentions with Mr. Filch in order to ascertain the whole truth.

According to memories expertly pried by Piers, Mr. Filch had purchased a black-market wand from Lichtenstein when none of Ollivander’s wands would choose him. Upon arriving at the site of the supposed cerberus-fighting ring, Filch turned the wand on his pretty tutor and spoke a spell he believed was a love-enchantment. Instead, Mrs. Norris was fixed in feline form. Mr. Filch sought help from Professor Dumbledore, who thought it best to offer Mr. Filch asylum at Hogwarts and hush up the entire incident.

"They're together forever all right," Piers said. "Just not the way the poor sod had been wishing."

--

Laurel Garver is Thestral Gazette's editor-in-chief and communications secretary for S.P.E.W. She sings in Hogwarts choir, dabbles in Mermish poetry and tirelessly campaigns for an intramural Pegasus polo team.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

Who else at Hogwarts do you suspect is not who he or she seems to be?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

My Friday Fun posts will be taking a magical turn beginning this week. That's right, I'm launching at last the Thestral Gazette!



Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, this publication continues the fine tabloid tradition of yellow journalism, revealing the dark underbelly of Hogwarts. Harry Potter fans, plan to be shocked and amazed (or at least amused)!

My stable of crack reporters will bring you all the news that's fit to, um, post. Our inaugural issue features a stunning expose revealing the true identity of that Hogwarts nemesis of all somnambulists, Mrs. Norris.

You might say it's a blogfest idea that has taken on a life of its own. You can read more about the concept HERE.

New articles will go up each Friday through July, and possibly beyond. If you're interested in joining the reporting team and doing a guest post in July or August, drop me a line at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com.

Be sure to stop back tomorrow when the stunning fun commences!
Thursday, May 05, 2011 Laurel Garver
My Friday Fun posts will be taking a magical turn beginning this week. That's right, I'm launching at last the Thestral Gazette!



Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, this publication continues the fine tabloid tradition of yellow journalism, revealing the dark underbelly of Hogwarts. Harry Potter fans, plan to be shocked and amazed (or at least amused)!

My stable of crack reporters will bring you all the news that's fit to, um, post. Our inaugural issue features a stunning expose revealing the true identity of that Hogwarts nemesis of all somnambulists, Mrs. Norris.

You might say it's a blogfest idea that has taken on a life of its own. You can read more about the concept HERE.

New articles will go up each Friday through July, and possibly beyond. If you're interested in joining the reporting team and doing a guest post in July or August, drop me a line at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com.

Be sure to stop back tomorrow when the stunning fun commences!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

One of the most interesting things about staying at friends' houses was discovering just how differently their families approached the evening meal.

My family always ate around 6 p.m. It was a sit-down affair that began with my dad's meandering grace, and usually included two or even three vegetable sides with a casserole or meat and a starch. Hot tea was served nine months of the year. One was expected to have a "no-thank-you-helping" of any newly introduced food that looked unappetizing (a ritual that got easier once I learned to swallow things whole, like you would an aspirin).

We were expected to eat with a napkin in our laps, pass food in a clockwise direction and ask to be excused from the table after eating a portion of everything served, especially the prescribed number of vegetables. Conversation around the table was usually stories about our day, something strange we witnessed, or something interesting read about or heard. Sometimes my parents would share funny stories about family misadventures or their own childhoods. If my parents needed to make a major decision, the dinner table was not the place they'd discuss it.

At my friends' homes, however, dinner was sometimes a quite different affair. Some families ate catch-as-catch-can. Got takeout. Ate on tray tables in front of the TV. Some moms served as short-order cook for all three of the kids. Some families served buffet style. Some plated up portions like at a restaurant. Some sang a grace before meals. Some had silent head-bowed personal prayer. Some dove for the food with no thanks given at all.

Those rituals shape every person and family in deep ways. Here are some details to ask about your character's family dinner rituals:

Who prepares the food?
A parent? The family as a group? An extended family member? A live-in staff person? Faceless people from room service or Burger King's drive through? A handful of restaurants the character frequently patronizes?

Where is the food consumed?

In an eat-in kitchen? A formal dining room? An informal dining room? Kneeling around a low table in a common room? On a breezy porch? On tables in front of the TV? In whatever room the person carries his plate to?

What food items are considered appropriate?
Is there ethnic sameness or diversity in the types of cuisine? Is a special, restrictive diet followed? Is the food ultra-healthy, middling or complete junk food? Are portions large or small?

Who partakes of the meal?

Is everyone in the household seated together? Are certain household members excluded, such as staff or children or all females? Are pets allowed near or even seated at the table?

What behavior is considered appropriate?

Must you wait for everyone to be seated? May you leave as soon as you're finished? How is food served to each person? Is there a pre- or post-meal ritual such as prayer or candle-lighting? Is eating with hands expected or forbidden? How are spills and slurps and burps handled?

How do those around the table interact?
Must silence be maintained? Do only the elders initiate conversation? Do multiple conversations go on at once? Are all persons seated expected to take a turn talking while everyone else listens? Does everyone self-entertain with books or gadgets or the TV?

Thinking about dinnertime rituals can help you better understand--and better illustrate--the values of your characters and their families.

Is your protagonist's family dinner ritual the same as your own or different? Why?
Tuesday, May 03, 2011 Laurel Garver
One of the most interesting things about staying at friends' houses was discovering just how differently their families approached the evening meal.

My family always ate around 6 p.m. It was a sit-down affair that began with my dad's meandering grace, and usually included two or even three vegetable sides with a casserole or meat and a starch. Hot tea was served nine months of the year. One was expected to have a "no-thank-you-helping" of any newly introduced food that looked unappetizing (a ritual that got easier once I learned to swallow things whole, like you would an aspirin).

We were expected to eat with a napkin in our laps, pass food in a clockwise direction and ask to be excused from the table after eating a portion of everything served, especially the prescribed number of vegetables. Conversation around the table was usually stories about our day, something strange we witnessed, or something interesting read about or heard. Sometimes my parents would share funny stories about family misadventures or their own childhoods. If my parents needed to make a major decision, the dinner table was not the place they'd discuss it.

At my friends' homes, however, dinner was sometimes a quite different affair. Some families ate catch-as-catch-can. Got takeout. Ate on tray tables in front of the TV. Some moms served as short-order cook for all three of the kids. Some families served buffet style. Some plated up portions like at a restaurant. Some sang a grace before meals. Some had silent head-bowed personal prayer. Some dove for the food with no thanks given at all.

Those rituals shape every person and family in deep ways. Here are some details to ask about your character's family dinner rituals:

Who prepares the food?
A parent? The family as a group? An extended family member? A live-in staff person? Faceless people from room service or Burger King's drive through? A handful of restaurants the character frequently patronizes?

Where is the food consumed?

In an eat-in kitchen? A formal dining room? An informal dining room? Kneeling around a low table in a common room? On a breezy porch? On tables in front of the TV? In whatever room the person carries his plate to?

What food items are considered appropriate?
Is there ethnic sameness or diversity in the types of cuisine? Is a special, restrictive diet followed? Is the food ultra-healthy, middling or complete junk food? Are portions large or small?

Who partakes of the meal?

Is everyone in the household seated together? Are certain household members excluded, such as staff or children or all females? Are pets allowed near or even seated at the table?

What behavior is considered appropriate?

Must you wait for everyone to be seated? May you leave as soon as you're finished? How is food served to each person? Is there a pre- or post-meal ritual such as prayer or candle-lighting? Is eating with hands expected or forbidden? How are spills and slurps and burps handled?

How do those around the table interact?
Must silence be maintained? Do only the elders initiate conversation? Do multiple conversations go on at once? Are all persons seated expected to take a turn talking while everyone else listens? Does everyone self-entertain with books or gadgets or the TV?

Thinking about dinnertime rituals can help you better understand--and better illustrate--the values of your characters and their families.

Is your protagonist's family dinner ritual the same as your own or different? Why?