Thursday, September 29, 2011

Periodically I fall into these ditches of apathy, where I have no desire to write or even blog. Every idea strikes me as stupid and I'm absolutely certain I have nothing of value to add to the already burgeoning blogosphere. I read thirty blog posts and comment on three. I feel afraid to be honest about it, because I worry it might be catching. Who wants to be the person turning others' inner worlds into one big "whatever"?

I can stupidly assume others don't get tied up in these neurotic knots. But who's to say they don't? Nothing like apathy to keep you from breaking the silence.

Instead, they (and I) can pretend. "Fake it till you make it," right? Confidence is really just a big con, after all. Pretending you have what it takes. That you're invincible. That death isn't lurking closer than anyone wants to admit.

I don't know about you, but this approach to confidence never works for me. My own soul screams at the fakery. I can remember Samuel picking a king for Israel and having God tell him, "man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

The word "confidence" literally means "with faith," believing something is true. But believing what? There's the rub.

One can be quite confident that life is futile. Or that suffering is an illusion. Or any host of things. This kind of "negative confidence" leads, as one might expect, to negative outcomes.

Your confidence is what you believe. Not a mask you put on, but a set of truths you live into. Becoming more confident doesn't involve developing a better facade, but discarding lies and genuinely discovering and hanging onto better truths.

Here are a few I'm hanging onto today:
~No one is alone; If I'm in this world, I have a part to play.
~Evil prevails when good people do nothing.

What ideas have given you "negative confidence"? What better truths do you desire to hang onto?

Thursday, September 29, 2011 Laurel Garver
Periodically I fall into these ditches of apathy, where I have no desire to write or even blog. Every idea strikes me as stupid and I'm absolutely certain I have nothing of value to add to the already burgeoning blogosphere. I read thirty blog posts and comment on three. I feel afraid to be honest about it, because I worry it might be catching. Who wants to be the person turning others' inner worlds into one big "whatever"?

I can stupidly assume others don't get tied up in these neurotic knots. But who's to say they don't? Nothing like apathy to keep you from breaking the silence.

Instead, they (and I) can pretend. "Fake it till you make it," right? Confidence is really just a big con, after all. Pretending you have what it takes. That you're invincible. That death isn't lurking closer than anyone wants to admit.

I don't know about you, but this approach to confidence never works for me. My own soul screams at the fakery. I can remember Samuel picking a king for Israel and having God tell him, "man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

The word "confidence" literally means "with faith," believing something is true. But believing what? There's the rub.

One can be quite confident that life is futile. Or that suffering is an illusion. Or any host of things. This kind of "negative confidence" leads, as one might expect, to negative outcomes.

Your confidence is what you believe. Not a mask you put on, but a set of truths you live into. Becoming more confident doesn't involve developing a better facade, but discarding lies and genuinely discovering and hanging onto better truths.

Here are a few I'm hanging onto today:
~No one is alone; If I'm in this world, I have a part to play.
~Evil prevails when good people do nothing.

What ideas have given you "negative confidence"? What better truths do you desire to hang onto?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Today my special guest is Elle Strauss, one of my first blogging buddies when I started Laurel's Leaves back in 2009. I'm delighted to have Elle here to tell us about the release of her new book CLOCKWISE: “A teen time traveler accidentally takes her secret crush back in time. Awkward.”

Elle Strauss writes time travel and merfolk chic-lit, light SF and historical YA fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, hanging out with friends and family, and sometimes traveling. To ward off writer's butt she does a bit of hiking, biking and yoga.

You can visit Elle's blog at Elle Strauss Books.

Tell us a little about your main character, Casey.
Casey just wants to be normal like her friend Lucinda and the other kids at her school. She could deal with minor inconveniences like being over-tall and crazy hair, but she’s just focused on this other problem, and how to keep a low profile because of it.

Casey treats her ability to time travel like an embarrassing malady on par with acne or bad hair. Why is it such a curse for her?
Well, uncontrolled trips back to the 19th century would be an issue for most people, and when you’re fifteen going on sixteen, it can be so embarrassing.

If you could play casting director, who would you want to play Casey in a film of Clockwise?
I really had to think about this, but I think I would choose Demi Lovato.

Casey ends up bringing along her secret crush, Nate, on her travels to the past. Tell us a little about Nate.

Nate’s an easy going guy, a good student and excellent athlete. He’s a fairly new student to Cambridge High, and as such a very exciting addition as far as the girls are concerned. He’s used to being part of the popular crowd so found it easy to slide into this group once again. Unfortunately, he let himself get caught by a pretty girl who lacks heart.

Who would you cast for the role of Nate?
Alex Pettyfer would make a good Nate (though he may be getting kind of old for this role).

What were some of your favorite discoveries while researching the historical aspects of Clockwise?
Researching the Civil War and the events that led up to it was fascinating. I wasn’t raised in America so I missed out on detailed teaching of this historical event in school.

Where can readers get a copy of Clockwise?
So glad you asked! CLOCKWISE is launching electronically this week and it’s only 2.99 on Amazon! Click HERE for more information and to purchase.

Thanks so much, so much for having me, Laurel!

===

To celebrate the release of CLOCKWISE, Elle is giving away five debut books by authors that you can meet on her blog tour, going on now.

LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden
THE CLEARING by Anne Riley
THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL by Heather McCorkle
PERILOUS by Tamara Hart Heiner
THE HATING GAME by Talli Roland

How to win? Sign up for Elle’s newsletter to enter. For extra entries, just comment on any blog in the tour. The more blogs you visit and comment on, the more chances you have to win.

Five books, five days, five winners!

Any other questions for Elle?
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today my special guest is Elle Strauss, one of my first blogging buddies when I started Laurel's Leaves back in 2009. I'm delighted to have Elle here to tell us about the release of her new book CLOCKWISE: “A teen time traveler accidentally takes her secret crush back in time. Awkward.”

Elle Strauss writes time travel and merfolk chic-lit, light SF and historical YA fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, hanging out with friends and family, and sometimes traveling. To ward off writer's butt she does a bit of hiking, biking and yoga.

You can visit Elle's blog at Elle Strauss Books.

Tell us a little about your main character, Casey.
Casey just wants to be normal like her friend Lucinda and the other kids at her school. She could deal with minor inconveniences like being over-tall and crazy hair, but she’s just focused on this other problem, and how to keep a low profile because of it.

Casey treats her ability to time travel like an embarrassing malady on par with acne or bad hair. Why is it such a curse for her?
Well, uncontrolled trips back to the 19th century would be an issue for most people, and when you’re fifteen going on sixteen, it can be so embarrassing.

If you could play casting director, who would you want to play Casey in a film of Clockwise?
I really had to think about this, but I think I would choose Demi Lovato.

Casey ends up bringing along her secret crush, Nate, on her travels to the past. Tell us a little about Nate.

Nate’s an easy going guy, a good student and excellent athlete. He’s a fairly new student to Cambridge High, and as such a very exciting addition as far as the girls are concerned. He’s used to being part of the popular crowd so found it easy to slide into this group once again. Unfortunately, he let himself get caught by a pretty girl who lacks heart.

Who would you cast for the role of Nate?
Alex Pettyfer would make a good Nate (though he may be getting kind of old for this role).

What were some of your favorite discoveries while researching the historical aspects of Clockwise?
Researching the Civil War and the events that led up to it was fascinating. I wasn’t raised in America so I missed out on detailed teaching of this historical event in school.

Where can readers get a copy of Clockwise?
So glad you asked! CLOCKWISE is launching electronically this week and it’s only 2.99 on Amazon! Click HERE for more information and to purchase.

Thanks so much, so much for having me, Laurel!

===

To celebrate the release of CLOCKWISE, Elle is giving away five debut books by authors that you can meet on her blog tour, going on now.

LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden
THE CLEARING by Anne Riley
THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL by Heather McCorkle
PERILOUS by Tamara Hart Heiner
THE HATING GAME by Talli Roland

How to win? Sign up for Elle’s newsletter to enter. For extra entries, just comment on any blog in the tour. The more blogs you visit and comment on, the more chances you have to win.

Five books, five days, five winners!

Any other questions for Elle?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

By Melissa Sarno, Hufflepuff

Honeywater Press announces the release of WHO AM I by award-winning author Gilderoy Lockhart.

The 1,045 page book hits shelves on September 23rd and features the psychological musings of the man who accidentally erased his own memory. One of the few permanent residents of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Lockhart uses the book to reflect on who he is, who he was, and, even, who he might become.

“We took a risk,” says Ebenezer Coolidge, a representative from Honeywater. “We want readers to open this book and find a new Lockhart. A little less refined. A little more undone.”

But early reviews of the book have not been kind.

Popular book blogger Winnifried Littlewock calls it “a nonsensical, babbling mess,” and goes on to say, “I’m not even sure [Lockhart] knows what the question is. Never mind the answer.”

According to a small group of existentialists at the Magical Who Institute, however, that kind of ambiguity is what makes the work so appealing. “We are all walking around asking the same question of ourselves. The fact that Lockhart never quite gets to an answer is refreshing.”

And many others are rallying for Lockhart, pleased that Honeywater Press took the author under its wing when none of the other big houses were willing. “I’m not going to read it or anything,” says one fan. “But I like that it’s out there.”

“We’re not expecting a huge crowd tomorrow,” says the owner of Flourish and Blotts Bookseller, where, years earlier, people were lined up around the block to get to a Lockhart signing. “But, hey, we’ll serve some Nettle Wine. Maybe that will lead to some sales.”

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/.

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.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Can this doomed book launch be saved? What creative ways would you market if you were on Lockhart's promotions team?
Thursday, September 22, 2011 Laurel Garver
By Melissa Sarno, Hufflepuff

Honeywater Press announces the release of WHO AM I by award-winning author Gilderoy Lockhart.

The 1,045 page book hits shelves on September 23rd and features the psychological musings of the man who accidentally erased his own memory. One of the few permanent residents of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Lockhart uses the book to reflect on who he is, who he was, and, even, who he might become.

“We took a risk,” says Ebenezer Coolidge, a representative from Honeywater. “We want readers to open this book and find a new Lockhart. A little less refined. A little more undone.”

But early reviews of the book have not been kind.

Popular book blogger Winnifried Littlewock calls it “a nonsensical, babbling mess,” and goes on to say, “I’m not even sure [Lockhart] knows what the question is. Never mind the answer.”

According to a small group of existentialists at the Magical Who Institute, however, that kind of ambiguity is what makes the work so appealing. “We are all walking around asking the same question of ourselves. The fact that Lockhart never quite gets to an answer is refreshing.”

And many others are rallying for Lockhart, pleased that Honeywater Press took the author under its wing when none of the other big houses were willing. “I’m not going to read it or anything,” says one fan. “But I like that it’s out there.”

“We’re not expecting a huge crowd tomorrow,” says the owner of Flourish and Blotts Bookseller, where, years earlier, people were lined up around the block to get to a Lockhart signing. “But, hey, we’ll serve some Nettle Wine. Maybe that will lead to some sales.”

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/.

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.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Can this doomed book launch be saved? What creative ways would you market if you were on Lockhart's promotions team?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

As little as I've been able to be online these days, I keep coming across stories that have clouded my sense of what publishing path would fit me best.

Like this one: He Beats Me, But He's My Publisher

And this: Author Polly Courtney Quits Big 6

And then there's the whole productivity issue, as explained here: How Fast Do You Have to Write to Build a Successful Career?

Suddenly I'm feeling my inner brakes squealing, my inner turn-signal clicking and my hand about to pull hard to the left.

After all, the Indie side has its proponents: Revenge of the Rejected

And proponents with many caveats: When NOT to Go Indie
And Why Self-Publishing is Better Than You Think
And somewhere in the middle: When you don't care - more Indie thoughts

Of course, there's always "the middle way"--small press publishing

Michelle's small publisher series at The Innocent Flower covers lots of the pros and cons.


When it comes down to it, there are a number of questions to ask yourself when trying to navigate through all this information.

1. What does success look like TO ME?
Quitting the day job to write full time might be your goal. Or having a loyal following. It might mean having a certain level of control. Producing work that you feel proud of. Reaching a particular target audience with something helpful and life-giving.

2. What are my no-go areas?
What sacrifices am I not willing to make in my career? This might involve decisions about genres and approaches, financial risk, public exposure, associations. Where are you unwilling to compromise?

3. What kind of writing lifestyle can I maintain?
This question is perhaps the toughest to answer. It has to do with your stamina, your level of self-motivation, your ability to deal with outside pressure and to some degree the strength of your ego.

What do you think? Have you chosen a particular path? Why? What went into that decision?
Image credit: morguefile.com
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 Laurel Garver
As little as I've been able to be online these days, I keep coming across stories that have clouded my sense of what publishing path would fit me best.

Like this one: He Beats Me, But He's My Publisher

And this: Author Polly Courtney Quits Big 6

And then there's the whole productivity issue, as explained here: How Fast Do You Have to Write to Build a Successful Career?

Suddenly I'm feeling my inner brakes squealing, my inner turn-signal clicking and my hand about to pull hard to the left.

After all, the Indie side has its proponents: Revenge of the Rejected

And proponents with many caveats: When NOT to Go Indie
And Why Self-Publishing is Better Than You Think
And somewhere in the middle: When you don't care - more Indie thoughts

Of course, there's always "the middle way"--small press publishing

Michelle's small publisher series at The Innocent Flower covers lots of the pros and cons.


When it comes down to it, there are a number of questions to ask yourself when trying to navigate through all this information.

1. What does success look like TO ME?
Quitting the day job to write full time might be your goal. Or having a loyal following. It might mean having a certain level of control. Producing work that you feel proud of. Reaching a particular target audience with something helpful and life-giving.

2. What are my no-go areas?
What sacrifices am I not willing to make in my career? This might involve decisions about genres and approaches, financial risk, public exposure, associations. Where are you unwilling to compromise?

3. What kind of writing lifestyle can I maintain?
This question is perhaps the toughest to answer. It has to do with your stamina, your level of self-motivation, your ability to deal with outside pressure and to some degree the strength of your ego.

What do you think? Have you chosen a particular path? Why? What went into that decision?
Image credit: morguefile.com

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I've been trying to learn all I can about book trailers and came across this nifty site, which collects a bunch of MG and YA trailers, called Book Trailers for All. Created for librarians and teachers, it has plenty of samples to watch and learn from--things you might want to emulate or avoid. I think the coolest one, which has custom animation, is below, for Tell Me a Secret by Holly Culpa:



When I consider how I'd invest in marketing a book, I think shelling out for a really superb trailer looks like it ought to give a lot of bang for one's buck. Videos can be released widely, even go viral, without any additional cost beyond the initial outlay for art and music. Printed matter has a role to play in marketing, too, I suppose, though with book signings becoming less common, paper swag might not be the best place to put most of your promo dollars.

What are some things you like to see in book trailers? Dislike?
Thursday, September 15, 2011 Laurel Garver
I've been trying to learn all I can about book trailers and came across this nifty site, which collects a bunch of MG and YA trailers, called Book Trailers for All. Created for librarians and teachers, it has plenty of samples to watch and learn from--things you might want to emulate or avoid. I think the coolest one, which has custom animation, is below, for Tell Me a Secret by Holly Culpa:



When I consider how I'd invest in marketing a book, I think shelling out for a really superb trailer looks like it ought to give a lot of bang for one's buck. Videos can be released widely, even go viral, without any additional cost beyond the initial outlay for art and music. Printed matter has a role to play in marketing, too, I suppose, though with book signings becoming less common, paper swag might not be the best place to put most of your promo dollars.

What are some things you like to see in book trailers? Dislike?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

After all anybody is as their
land and air is. Anybody
is as the sky is low or high,
the air heavy or clean
and anybody is as there
is wind or no wind there.
It is that which makes them
and the arts they make
and the work they do
and the way they eat
and the way they drink
and the way they learn
and everything.

--Gertrude Stein,
“An American and France”
(1936), n.p.

I came across this quote while copy editing at work and felt Stein had hit on something important about the intersection of setting and character.

Where you are makes you who you are.

At a picnic last weekend, my friend Shareen spoke of loving to visit the American West and feeling most at home in wide-open spaces under an endless sky. She grew up in Africa's vast grasslands. And she made it sound so very compelling. But alas, I'd feel exposed and terrified in Shareen's grasslands. I grew up in a river valley surrounded by mid-size eastern mountains and lush forests. She'd likely feel claustrophobic and oppressed where I feel safe and free.

What feels safe or good or beautiful or desirable is something shaped in profound ways by setting, by milieu (that is, the larger context of social relationships within a setting). Whether your character wears her nails natural or paints them black, fire-engine red or pale mauve is shaped by where she comes from. Whether he drinks Coors or Courvoisier is likewise due in part to his milieu.

Granted, we live in a very mobile society. People often leave their home settings in young adulthood, never to return. But Stein draws us back to the truth that "you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." In the best characterizations, the person's roots will show, often in subtle ways--a silent head-bow before a meal, the secret stash of CDs, an odd rock used as a paperweight.

As you develop characters, remember to think about where they come from and how the current setting fits or doesn't fit with that early experience. Let that homeland be the filter through which they imagine and make mental associations and draw colorful metaphors and similes. Let it shape their choice of housing and hobbies and confidantes.

What are some of your favorite characters shaped by their setting? How might you try to show setting shaping your characters?
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 Laurel Garver
After all anybody is as their
land and air is. Anybody
is as the sky is low or high,
the air heavy or clean
and anybody is as there
is wind or no wind there.
It is that which makes them
and the arts they make
and the work they do
and the way they eat
and the way they drink
and the way they learn
and everything.

--Gertrude Stein,
“An American and France”
(1936), n.p.

I came across this quote while copy editing at work and felt Stein had hit on something important about the intersection of setting and character.

Where you are makes you who you are.

At a picnic last weekend, my friend Shareen spoke of loving to visit the American West and feeling most at home in wide-open spaces under an endless sky. She grew up in Africa's vast grasslands. And she made it sound so very compelling. But alas, I'd feel exposed and terrified in Shareen's grasslands. I grew up in a river valley surrounded by mid-size eastern mountains and lush forests. She'd likely feel claustrophobic and oppressed where I feel safe and free.

What feels safe or good or beautiful or desirable is something shaped in profound ways by setting, by milieu (that is, the larger context of social relationships within a setting). Whether your character wears her nails natural or paints them black, fire-engine red or pale mauve is shaped by where she comes from. Whether he drinks Coors or Courvoisier is likewise due in part to his milieu.

Granted, we live in a very mobile society. People often leave their home settings in young adulthood, never to return. But Stein draws us back to the truth that "you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." In the best characterizations, the person's roots will show, often in subtle ways--a silent head-bow before a meal, the secret stash of CDs, an odd rock used as a paperweight.

As you develop characters, remember to think about where they come from and how the current setting fits or doesn't fit with that early experience. Let that homeland be the filter through which they imagine and make mental associations and draw colorful metaphors and similes. Let it shape their choice of housing and hobbies and confidantes.

What are some of your favorite characters shaped by their setting? How might you try to show setting shaping your characters?

Thursday, September 08, 2011


by Abby Gabby, Ravenclaw

Dear Abby Gabby,
I’ve accidentally scheduled two dates with two boys for the same night! What do I do?
~Split in two from Slytherin

Dear Split,
Well, it’s no surprise to me a sneaky Slytherin would do something like that. Get yourself a time-turner so you can be in two places at once! There may be one available in the school, but you’ll have to find the bearer, which shouldn’t be too hard. Just check all the advanced classes and if you see the same student twice— that’ll be your girl.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
Is there a way to guarantee I won’t eat a bogey flavored Bertie Bott’s bean?
~Snot-shy from Ravenclaw

Dear Snots,
Yes. Just offer Ron Weasley a few— he’s notorious for getting bogey flavored beans every time. Then you should be fine to eat the rest without getting a bogey one. Just watch out for the vomit flavored bean—usually orange-speckled pink. That one’s a doozie.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
I really want the guy I like to win a spot on the Quidditch team, but my Gryffindor conscience is not letting me do anything sneaky. What do I do?
~Honorable from Gryffindor

Dear Goody Goody,
Unwad your panties and perform a Confundus charm on the competition. Live a little—you never know how fun it is until you try. Besides, you can use it as an excuse to practice your charms. You never know when you might need this spell in a real battle.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
There is this girl I really like in my Potions class. But I’m too shy to approach her! What do I do?
~Nervous from Hufflepuff

Dear Nerves,
Brew yourself some Felix Felicis potion to give you the confidence to ask her out! It will need to stew for six months, however, so during that time practice your smile!

Word of warning: it may make you overconfident, so I’d get advice from some who has had experience with it like Harry Potter or Ron Weasley. (There is a rumor going around that Ron was tricked and did not actually consume the potion the day of his best-ever Quidditch match, so take his advice with a grain of salt.)

Thestral Gazette advice columnist Abby Gabby, a member of the Ravenclaw house, prefers to keep her true identity a secret (for the sake of her trusted advisees, of course). She loves divination, lending a shoulder to cry on, and quite possibly has the slightest crush on Professor Firenze. She blogs as her alter ego, Abby Minard at Above Water.

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.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

How would you advise these Hogwarts students? Any new questions for Abby?
Thursday, September 08, 2011 Laurel Garver

by Abby Gabby, Ravenclaw

Dear Abby Gabby,
I’ve accidentally scheduled two dates with two boys for the same night! What do I do?
~Split in two from Slytherin

Dear Split,
Well, it’s no surprise to me a sneaky Slytherin would do something like that. Get yourself a time-turner so you can be in two places at once! There may be one available in the school, but you’ll have to find the bearer, which shouldn’t be too hard. Just check all the advanced classes and if you see the same student twice— that’ll be your girl.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
Is there a way to guarantee I won’t eat a bogey flavored Bertie Bott’s bean?
~Snot-shy from Ravenclaw

Dear Snots,
Yes. Just offer Ron Weasley a few— he’s notorious for getting bogey flavored beans every time. Then you should be fine to eat the rest without getting a bogey one. Just watch out for the vomit flavored bean—usually orange-speckled pink. That one’s a doozie.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
I really want the guy I like to win a spot on the Quidditch team, but my Gryffindor conscience is not letting me do anything sneaky. What do I do?
~Honorable from Gryffindor

Dear Goody Goody,
Unwad your panties and perform a Confundus charm on the competition. Live a little—you never know how fun it is until you try. Besides, you can use it as an excuse to practice your charms. You never know when you might need this spell in a real battle.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
There is this girl I really like in my Potions class. But I’m too shy to approach her! What do I do?
~Nervous from Hufflepuff

Dear Nerves,
Brew yourself some Felix Felicis potion to give you the confidence to ask her out! It will need to stew for six months, however, so during that time practice your smile!

Word of warning: it may make you overconfident, so I’d get advice from some who has had experience with it like Harry Potter or Ron Weasley. (There is a rumor going around that Ron was tricked and did not actually consume the potion the day of his best-ever Quidditch match, so take his advice with a grain of salt.)

Thestral Gazette advice columnist Abby Gabby, a member of the Ravenclaw house, prefers to keep her true identity a secret (for the sake of her trusted advisees, of course). She loves divination, lending a shoulder to cry on, and quite possibly has the slightest crush on Professor Firenze. She blogs as her alter ego, Abby Minard at Above Water.

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.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

How would you advise these Hogwarts students? Any new questions for Abby?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Taking a five-week hiatus from blogging didn't turn out quite like I'd expected, but it was just what I needed.

August turned weirdly chaotic, full of those mini-disasters that felt like I was living farcical chick lit or something. Seriously, an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week? In Pennsylvania? What was up with that? Even more fun, the day I dropped off my spouse to live on campus for a week to teach an intensive college-prep class, my daughter got violent stomach flu and was awake until 1:30 AM, unable to keep even water down. She nailed my oriental rug and five rental places had no available carpet shampooers--this two days before a house guest was due to arrive (and she was six hours late!). Spot cleaning and vanilla candles barely held the stench at bay until we could shampoo the rug--a week later. When my hubby came home from his program, he caught a different GI virus that lasted five days, including his birthday. The printer at work went kaput. I can't find my cell phone anywhere. All our pets got fleas, and the dog, a UTI. It won't stop raining and my daughter's schoolbus was 25 minutes late this morning and how come every other recycling can on the block was emptied but ours?

In the midst of this, small windows of writing time were a nice escape. In the back of my mind, I know I need to make some decisions about which writing project will take priority and how or if I'll proceed with the others. But today isn't the day.

Today I need some chocolate. And my cell phone. And something nice to happen for a change.

Have you ever had disasters cluster like this? Tell me your craziest stories!

Image source: Florida Center for Instructional Technology
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 Laurel Garver
Taking a five-week hiatus from blogging didn't turn out quite like I'd expected, but it was just what I needed.

August turned weirdly chaotic, full of those mini-disasters that felt like I was living farcical chick lit or something. Seriously, an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week? In Pennsylvania? What was up with that? Even more fun, the day I dropped off my spouse to live on campus for a week to teach an intensive college-prep class, my daughter got violent stomach flu and was awake until 1:30 AM, unable to keep even water down. She nailed my oriental rug and five rental places had no available carpet shampooers--this two days before a house guest was due to arrive (and she was six hours late!). Spot cleaning and vanilla candles barely held the stench at bay until we could shampoo the rug--a week later. When my hubby came home from his program, he caught a different GI virus that lasted five days, including his birthday. The printer at work went kaput. I can't find my cell phone anywhere. All our pets got fleas, and the dog, a UTI. It won't stop raining and my daughter's schoolbus was 25 minutes late this morning and how come every other recycling can on the block was emptied but ours?

In the midst of this, small windows of writing time were a nice escape. In the back of my mind, I know I need to make some decisions about which writing project will take priority and how or if I'll proceed with the others. But today isn't the day.

Today I need some chocolate. And my cell phone. And something nice to happen for a change.

Have you ever had disasters cluster like this? Tell me your craziest stories!

Image source: Florida Center for Instructional Technology