Dear Santa…

As I was driving through town the other day, something shiny caught my eye. No, it wasn’t the sun, nor was it the reflection of my wintery moon tan in the rear view mirror. On closer inspection, it turned out to be tinsel.

“Tinsel!” I thought to myself. “Can it be that time of year again already? Surely not.”

Then I heard the sweet serenading sound of carols emitting from shop windows and knew it to be true:

Christmas had arrived.

After a few moments contemplating how on earth this had happened – after all, surely it hadn’t been a whole 12 months since last Christmas? – and a few moments more humming along to John Lennon’s Happy Xmas, my thoughts finally wandered to Christmas presents.

This time last year I posted a list of 10 Christmas Presents for Book Lovers, for the simple pleasure of imagining what I would buy for myself and my book-loving partners in crime, had I the means to do so. This year I’m once again trying to save my pennies for more nomadic adventures, but if you’re in need of gift-giving ideas, from library kits to book ends to book-related jewellery, or, like me, simply enjoy imagining what your Christmas list would look like if you owned a money tree, check out the post for some fun suggestions.

Meanwhile, I’ve since come across a mandatory addition to the list. If there’s one thing you buy this Christmas, may I suggest (read: demand) you head over to Spineless Classics and feast your eyes on the awesomeness.

Imagine your favourite book, every word, mounted on your wall as art.

EVERY. WORD.

Take a look:

Pride and Prejudice from Spineless Classics

Is it not the coolest thing ever? They have a wonderful selection of children’s, adventure, historical, religious, romantic and great classics to choose from. Even more exciting, however, is today’s release of their latest design.

Drum roll please…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from Spineless Classics

That’s right. You can now admire the entire text of the first Harry Potter book in a single 700 x 1000mm sheet. And if you’re feeling guilty about spending the money, feel better knowing that 100% of the commissions they pay to the publishers is going to J.K. Rowling’s children’s charity.

This year I’ve told Santa to bypass my house and have an early night (the chimney is still under construction, you see). But had I sent him a letter, it would have included a Spineless Classic on the list.

How about you? Any book-related goodies you’d like to see in your stocking this year?

EDIT 05.12.12 

A new edition to the list could not be denied a place in this post. Introducing The Hobbit:

The Hobbit from Spineless Classics

The Hobbit from Spineless Classics

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Reading Habits

   

In light of my 2012 National Year of Reading goal, I thought it would be fun to take part in this questionnaire that I came across at Lazy Happy Bored Happy Sad, on reading habits. I know lots of people who are very particular about where they read, how they read, what coffee cup they use when they’re reading. So, let’s have a look at my reading habits, shall we?

If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?

There’s a reason the books are so popular; who wouldn’t want to live in a world where there existed a Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Whomping Willow, Forbidden Forest, Floo powder, flying broomsticks, Dobby, Ron Weasley and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans? The wonderful world of Harry Potter has long since been a world I’d love to live in.

Do you read in noisy or quiet places?

I definitely prefer quiet places. That said, I will read anywhere if necessary. Train, bus, dinner table; if I’m lost in a really good book, it won’t matter what noise is going on around me, I won’t hear any of it.

What was the first book you ever read?

The first book I ever read likely took place at an age when that long term memory part of my brain wasn’t yet activated. It could have been anything.

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It would probably take a lifetime to soak in all that there is to be learned from that collection. Language, description, history, theme, expression, characters…it would be some time before I got bored of the sheer mastery of that entire story.

Favorite Author?

This would be a toss up between JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling and Robin Hobb. In fairness to them all I’d have to set them a challenge, whereby they each bring to life a dragon from one of their stories, and nominate that fire breather to battle it out. Last dragon standing wins.

Do reviews influence your choices of reads?

They can do, but I try not to let them influence my choice too much. I usually read by recommendation, which sort of bypasses that process of looking up reviews. I’ve come to realise though that books are much like movies. Too often a bunch of critics have slammed a great movie, prompting me not to go see it at the cinema, only to watch it later and find it amazing. Books, like movies, are subjective. It’s always worth giving something a go and seeing for yourself what to make of it.

Fiction or Non-fiction?

While I’m happy to read both, I mostly read fiction.

Meeting Brandon Sanderson at Supanova 2012

Have you ever met your favorite author?

Tolkien and Rowling, no. I once brushed shoulders with Robin Hobb at a convention before I had read any of her works. I kicked myself for it afterwards, but received a lovely email from her to make up for it. You can read it here. I’ve met Isobelle Carmody, who in my younger years won me over with her Obernewtyn Chronicles, Brandon Sanderson, who I’ve yet to experience due to my lack of commitment to the Wheel of Time, and Ian Irvine, whose fantasy books I also loved during High School. Those are my only claims to authorly fame.

Audio books or Paperback?

When I was younger my parents used to put on the War of the Worlds cassette or Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox for me and my little brother during long car trips, and we absolutely loved it. Since then, I hadn’t had much to do with audio books UNTIL Harry Potter was released on audio, narrated by Stephen Fry. I couldn’t resist the temptation, so I bought it, listened, and by golly was it spectacular! Audio books are such a different reading experience and I’ve made myself a promise to listen to more of them in the future; it’s how storytelling begun, after all, with the verbal sharing of tales.

Classic or Modern Novels?

Both.

Book groups or Solitary Reading?

I’m a solitary reader, but I won’t say no to a good discussion about the pros and cons of my latest read. I’ve never joined a book club, but my writers’ group does have a ‘book club’ segment where we show-and-tell what we’ve been reading and talk a little about how we’re finding it. I find that sort of thing always promotes quite valuable discussion.  The only exception to my solitary reading rule is with my best friend Mel. When I visit her in Sydney we will often spend our days just quietly reading together. True friendship!

Jane Austen pondering discussion at our dinner party

If you could invite three dead authors to a dinner for four, whom would you invite?

JRR Tolkien
Jane Austen
Charles Dickens

We four would have much to discuss on the state and decline of modern day literature.

So that’s me, now it’s your turn. What are your reading habits?

Q is for Questions

So far A-P has been all about me. Now I want to hear from you!

Because polls and surveys are so much fun, why not have a go and fill out this one, just for kicks? I’m not doing any research or collecting personal data (all answers are anonymous), I’m just interested in hearing about you and your experiences with travel. Some questions are just for fun, and others I’m generally interested in hearing your thoughts on.

I’ll post the results on the Storytelling Nomad Facebook Page in the coming weeks, as well as some of the more creative answers, if you feel like getting inventive.

Silly answers welcome, but keep it clean, children.

Take the Storytelling Nomad Q is for Questions Online Survey now! (Fear not! This link will not bite or infect your computer. It will, however, open a new page)

I is for Inspiration

Bridge of Venice

There’s a funny thing that happens when you travel.

Every sense is heightened by unfamiliar places, foreign languages and new experiences. Something as simple as a woman pushing her pram is somehow more interesting as she skillfully navigates the bridges of Venice.  A man paying for his groceries at the supermarket is enthralling when you understand none of the Polish that he speaks but at the same time recognise that he is participating in friendly banter with the checkout woman as you decipher facial expressions, hand gestures and body language.  Doorways become portals. Statues become sentient. People become characters.

The Edinburgh School of English inspired to get creative with their sign.

The mundane suddenly becomes fascinating.

When you watch the world through a traveller’s eyes, I am convinced that inspiration is at your unlimited disposal. With sight, sound, smell, touch and taste all intensified through being surrounded by the unknown, this naturally precipitates a different perspective on not just the extraordinary things, but the standard, run of the mill everyday stuff too.

What could be better fuel for the imagination?

If you have read E is for Edinburgh, then you’ll have some idea already of the impression it made on me. Not least of all was being able to follow in the footsteps of successful writers such as J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith to the Elephant House cafe where they each, at one time or another, went to write parts of their novels. Or seeing the belongings and original works of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns in the Writers Museum.

I have already expressed that I am in no way surprised that they were inspired by such a beautiful city, and though it wasn’t just Edinburgh, it was there that I understood something probably quite significant to my future as a writer.

J.K. Rowling writing Harry Potter at the Elephant House cafe

As I looked at the photos of J.K. Rowling sitting in the cafe writing Harry Potter, I realised that once upon a time she was like the rest of us aspiring creatives. Before Harry Potter was a household name, she sat in that cafe writing her novel, probably never knowing if it would ever see the light of day, wondering if she could afford that fourth cup of coffee. I’m sure that later on when she received her 1st rejection letter she felt as dejected as we all feel when are work is not recognised or loved as much as we love it. I’m even more certain that she felt worse after the 2nd, the 3rd, all the way up to the 12th rejection letter.

All these thoughts led to a small epiphany, all relating back to the big question: How do you know if you’re a writer?

I don’t think I’m the next J.K. Rowling, Tolkien or Robin Hobb. I don’t believe that my stories will survive the ages like the greats of old, or make me loads of money like the greats of today. I am not even convinced that I write particularly well or skillfully.

What I do know is this. If I practised every day I could probably play the piano fairly sufficiently. If I trained morning and night I might be able to make it as an athlete. If I tried really hard I might be able to learn all the things there are to know about accounting and become an accountant. I could probably succeed at many things if I put my heart into it.

But what I have discovered is that I am never going to be any good at any of those things. Why? Because I don’t care enough for them to put in the required effort to try.

Writing, writing, writing!

And then there’s writing.  I wake up every day looking forward to it. Without getting paid for it or ever expecting any monetary remuneration, I sit at my desk and I write. I edit and I perfect as if it were a thesis awaiting submission, and then I click save and sometimes never look at it again. Sometimes it’s hard and I get disappointed when the words don’t accurately reflect the idea in my head, which leads to frustration and misery.  But every day I still go back to it.

It’s the 9-5 job that keeps me in the office from 7am until midnight without a lunch break, and yet I never feel compelled to complain.

And I think that is what maybe, just maybe, makes me a writer. Not my skill with words or my chances of success. Nor any likelihood that it will ever amount to anything more than a little blog called Storytelling Nomad and a few published ramblings.

But like that ordinary woman sitting in her little cafe writing about an unknown wizard called Harry, I’m willing to keep at it every day because I’ve always been told that if there’s something you are truly passionate about, then you won’t care how long you spend working at it or how little you get paid for it, because the undertaking itself will be reward enough.

So I is for Inspiration. Be inspired, not by the people that have already ‘made it’, but by the average Joes like you and me, the ones that may or may not make it, J.K. Rowling circa 1990. I think we can learn the most from these people, because they are the ones that are willing to put their heart and soul into doing the thing they love most with only the smallest of hopes that it may one day amount to more.

Try and see the world through a traveller’s eyes and be inspired by the ordinary. Because if you do it right, extraordinary will certainly follow.

Sunrise in Scotland

E is for Edinburgh

Where to begin?

If you’ve read C is for Castles then you already know what an impression Edinburgh made on me. It had me writing poetry. Me. Poetry. Wonders never cease.

The journey began by train. Now, I’m usually not too eager to participate in long train journeys. While the idea of being able to sit quietly watching scenery fly by, reading a book, or listening to music, is of course very appealing, I rarely get to enjoy such leisurely activities when it comes to actually being on the train.

You see, I lack what I have been told is known as a ‘fuck off face’, if you’ll excuse my French.

Scenic views on the train

What this means is, that if there is one weirdo, crazy person, creepy man, talkative eccentric, drug addict looking for someone to look after her child while she shoots up in the loo (true story), then that person will without fail come and sit next to or opposite me.

Joy!

As such, I usually lack the enthusiasm that many show for long train rides. THANKFULLY, the four and a half hour London-Edinburgh train trip was nothing less than absolutely delightful.

My friend, Hayley, and I were seated opposite each other across a rather agreeable little table, which we agreed was the most civilised we had been since we’d begun our journey. The carriage was peaceful, we had free wifi (a luxury when travelling o/s, I tell you), and as we passed through the English and Scottish countryside, I could do little but admire the stunning scenery.

And that was the beginning of what soon became my favourite leg of the entire trip.

The Writers Museum

For a writer (or an aspiring one at least), there is nothing more satisfying than visiting a place that embraces literature with (wide and very) open arms. Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO city of literature, so they take the whole business of writing and reading very seriously and you can see evidence of it everywhere. From writer’s museums, storytelling centres, author tributes and pavements quoting famous writers, the city is absolutely brimming with creative energy.

The Writers Museum pays tribute to three notable writers, each who at one time lived in Edinburgh: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. The museum houses a permanent exhibition to the three writers, displaying rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and original tools of the trade. Like many of the places I visited in Edinburgh, the museum was interactive, which meant that walking into a room could set off an audio reading of one of the writer’s works. Admission was also free, so no excuses not to get your literary nerd on.

"And yet, and yet this New Road will some day be the Old Road too." Literary flagstones on the streets of Edinburgh

Outside the museum, the courtyard, streets and stairs leading to the museum are paved with quoted flagstones, citing famous Scottish writers.

Another place in Edinburgh worthy of literary note is The Elephant House cafe. This cafe, where yours truly just three weeks ago could be found sipping hot chocolate, was where the literary genius of none other than J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the Harry Potter novels.

And who could blame her?

Where magic happens

The back room of the cafe offers spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle (yes the same one I doted on in C is for Castles), and the hot chocolates ‘aint bad either. It has also played regular host to Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith. They quite clearly put something in the coffee there, and I’m hoping whatever it is they put in the hot chocolate too. Perhaps I left with a little extra writers luck?

But it isn’t just one funky cafe that is fuel for the imagination in this city. There’s a story in every nook and cranny, and you don’t even have to be looking for it. It is hard to say whether writers have found their inspiration in the architecture of Edinburgh, or rather, if Edinburgh was in fact built in faithful reproduction of the fairy tales and romantic stories of old. All you have to do is look up to see Cinderella’s castle or Rapunzel’s tower.

Fairytale buildings

What fascinated me most about this city however, was just that. That it’s a city. And I still loved it. I mentioned in an earlier post that big cities often make me anxious, but thoughts of anxiety were far from my mind when I was there. Whilst it is obviously a tourist attraction, I didn’t get the feeling that I was surrounded by in-a-hurry tourists. The locals were doing their grocery shopping and the students were on their way to classes. The lovers were walking hand in hand and friends were having a laugh at the pub. All this, right in the heart of Edinburgh, amongst the medieval buildings and before the castle’s towering gaze.

Statues in Edinburgh

What’s more, the locals seem to appreciate their city, something people often lose sight of when surrounded by beautiful things every day. Everyone was cheerful, despite the cold, and there were no signs of the graffiti or vandalism that I’ve seen lining the canals of Venice or the streets of London. It’s a beautiful city, and those that live there obviously do not take that for granted.

Whilst the train trip home was just as pleasant as the incoming journey as I watched the sun rise over Scottish seas, I can’t deny I was sad to leave that place. Even now I long to return to Edinburgh.

One day soon…

NB: Edinburgh also had me delving right out of my comfort zone and trying something new to eat – Haggis, otherwise known as sheep’s offal (entrails and internal organs), served with ‘neeps and tatties’, or, turnips and potatoes. I’m happy to announce that it wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.

Bookstores line Edinburgh streets

Holyrood Palace

Me following in J.K. Rowling's footsteps at the Elephant House cafe.

Statues at sunset in Edinburgh

Greyfriars Bobby - the sky terrier known in the 19th Century for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner

Rooftops of Edinburgh

Published Article: Females in Fantasy

A while back I posted about the absence of females in fantasy fiction, an ongoing debate, which provoked quite a heated discussion recently at Tara Moss’s The Book Post. The comments there are something to behold and worthy of a read.

In any case, I reworked my original post and submitted it to Lip, a magazine for girls who “think, feel, create, speak out and live. Girls who aren’t afraid to be themselves.”

As luck would have it, they accepted my submission and this week published my article on their website. Hoorah!

If you’d like to have a read, it’s at: http://lipmag.com/arts/books-arts/heroes-and-heroines-females-in-fantasy/

~storytelling nomad~

An inside look at Pottermore

Last month I received early access to the beta Pottermore website after participating in a Magical Quill challenge, which basically involved answering a question that related to something in the Harry Potter books.

I was pretty excited when I found out that I would be one of a million rewarded with early admission to the elusive site, partly because I really had no idea what Pottermore actually was.

The home page had described it as so:

Pottermore is an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.

So the new content bit sounded pretty damn exciting, but as for the rest of it…”enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books” and “explore the stories like never before”.  What the hell does it all mean!?

Well, let’s start from the beginning. First thing I had to do was choose a name for myself.  Because it’s all child friendly for the little people fans of the series, everyone gets a Harry Potter inspired pseudonym, so that the only way you can add your friends is by asking them what their pseudonym is.

Now, you don’t actually get to make up your pseudonym; you instead get a choice of five to pick from.  I chose DragonSpell167, but also had choices along the lines of UnicornHolly and SpellPatronus, both with random numbers at the end.

So with that over with I was introduced to the site.  And wow.  Really, WOW.

The first thing that hit me was the graphics, which are simply spectacular.  The site takes you though each of the books, chapter by chapter, through a number of images.  The beta version only has book one for now.

At the start of each chapter it looks something like this:

Pottermore: Chapter One

You get a small snippet of the chapter and below it three images of three scenes that are significant to the chapter, which in chapter one are entitled “Number Four, Privet Drive”, “Something Peculiar is Happening” and “Harry is Delivered”.

You then click on one of the scenes, and it takes you to that interactive image.  I say interactive, because that’s what they are.  The pictures are very subtly animated; car lights will flicker if you run your cursor over them, or owls will fly away if you do the same.

Beautiful Hagrid image in Chapter One

Each image also has three layers, and by double clicking you move further into the image from the foreground, to the middle, to the background.  In each layer, you might find objects which you can add to your trunk, or which might offer you extra character, place or scene information, content that did not make the books, or previously unknown backgrounds.  You get to collect Chocolate Frog cards, potions and spells.  Very cool.

So you go through each chapter the same way, exploring the images and finding things within them.  Some chapters may have only one or two images, others three or four.

What a lot of people have been talking about though, is being sorted into a Hogwarts house, and receiving your wand from Olivander.  The very cool thing about this, is that you get to do these things as Harry does them.  If Harry doesn’t get sorted into a House until Chapter 7, then neither do you.  But when you do, it’s a matter of answering a number of mysterious questions that really don’t allow you to cheat in order to get the house you want.

I consider myself proud (and lucky!) to have been sorted into Gryffindor!!! Woooo! You knew this already though, when I told you a while back about my time at Hogwarts.

Being sorted into the COOLEST Hogwarts house...naturally.

You can keep track of your house points, what’s in your trunk, what chapter you’re up to, your Chocolate Frog cards, your wand and everything else on your profile page, which looks like this:

Profile Page

There’s more to it as you scroll down, which unfortunately I couldn’t capture in one image, but basically it just shows your progress and gives you easy access to the rest of the site. The line of yellow dots represent each chapter in the first book, the other larger red circles to the right being the remaining six books which are yet to be opened.  The highlighted yellow dot with the cat avatar pictured above it shows the chapter I’m up to.  The cat is the pet I chose for myself (only when Harry goes to Diagon Alley of course) and which is used as your avatar.  This page also shows the details of my wand, which was likewise chosen for me after answering a number of questions.

An example of the extra content that you might discover is shown here with Professor McGonagall’s background and extra tid bits of information:

Extra content from J. K. Rowling: Professor McGonagall

It goes on to give a particularly interesting history that explains her interest in scouting Harry for the Quidditch team and her eagerness to beat Slytherin.

Finally, the other activity worth mentioning is Wizard Duels.  You can gain house points by duelling with your friends!  You can also go to the Great Hall to see how all the other houses are going in their house point tallies.

All in all, I think it is a very cool concept.  The graphics truly are amazing, and it really is a great accompaniment to the reading of the books.  It’s not until you actually get into the site that you realise how accurate the original description of it was; “an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.”  As confused as I was before, it really does make sense now.

I’ll leave you with a few more images to peruse over, including an example of how the multiple layers work in the Diagon Alley scene.  Give them a click to see them full sized.  I honestly can’t get over the graphics and their multiple layers.  In the meantime, hopefully see you there in October when it becomes available to all!

Harry recieves his letter: In this image, the letters are actually moving around the page

The Forbidden Forest with the Whomping Willow in the foreground

A unicorn slain in the forest

Diagon Alley foreground graphic

Diagon Alley middle layer graphic - the foreground images become slightly unfocused and move aside slightly to reveal what's beyond them.

Diagon Alley Background graphic - the other characters have moved aside to reveal Gringotts Bank, which you can now click on and enter

~storytelling nomad~

I had you fooled, right! Right? Hello?

See how I did that?  Right there.  No there!  The part where I slipped in a sneaky blog post after two weeks of silent truancy, so delicately you didn’t even notice my absence.  Right?  Right?!

Is there an echo in here?

Okay, so maybe a few of you noticed.  And to you I am grateful for the warm welcome back to the blogosphere.  I missed you too!

I think it’s finally time to admit a sad fact; I find it impossible to write without my laptop, a fast internet connection, silence, and more often than not, my own writing space.  This is fine when I’m at home, but as you may have noticed, the name of this blog includes the word ‘nomad’, which may drop a not so subtle hint that I’m not always going to be at home with my laptop, a fast internet connection and sweet, unbroken silence.

(This might be a good time to note that although I do sort of sound like one of those outrageous celebrities claiming they can’t work without a golden toilet seat, a tank of live lobsters and a purple, three-headed shewolf, I swear that I do no associate myself with or emulate such behaviour.  Now bring me that coffee, pronto!)

During my first month as a blogger I aimed to write something every day, which I did.  It immersed me in the world of blogging and became an excellent exercise in helping me to write on command, write better, and basically to write more.  This past month I have come to realise that daily blogging is not always going to be possible, and truthfully, not always favourable.

I tend to do things in surges.  My seasonal job working at the snow often has me working 14 consecutive days without a day off.  I don’t mind because I love working on the mountain and I know the season will only last a few months.  With writing, I immerse myself in it for weeks, months even.  But then I’ll go away and visit friends for a couple of weeks and not write at all.  It’s just the way I’ve always done things, and I find it allows me to fully appreciate and take pleasure in whatever ‘surge’ I’m channeling at the time.  It also means that sometimes I won’t be able to blog, but that hopefully whilst I’m not blogging/writing, I’m away doing something that will later give me inspiration to write.

In short, sometimes I may disappear for a while.  But unless my blog starts growing teeth and snapping at me, kind of like Hagrid’s The Monster Book of Monsters in Harry Potter, then you can rest assure that I will return.

Rah!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sharing all the exciting things that have been happening in Katy land.  I think my brain is about to self combust with all the built up adventures and stories I have been storing in there.  Prepare for the onslaught.

~storytelling nomad~

Snape. Snape. Severus Snape.

Book you’ve read the most number of times

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 20

I have read the Harry Potter books A LOT of times in more than one language.  And I’m okay with that.  However, in light of the fact that I’ve already discussed my love of these books already within this challenge, I feel inclined to instead share with you this ridiculous Harry Potter related video, which recently had me in stitches for the greater part of the day.  Be warned, you might have the words “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” circling around your head for a few days after watching this.

Also, I feel I must add that I have not yet seen the new movie, which devastates me so, but unfortunately work hours won’t permit it for another week.  In any case, although yes, I have read the books a thousand times (not an accurate calculation), and yes I know what happens, I must say that I am insanely jealous of all of you who have had the pleasure of seeing the movie.  So feel free to boast and tell me how spectacularly awesome it is, but please don’t tell me what happens, or what they missed or what they added or what they did or didn’t do right.  I’m in a Harry Potter bliss bubble at the moment and I simply can’t have you popping it.  Deal? DEAL?

I will return this act of charity with many cyber love hugs.

~storytelling nomad~

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 11

Book from your favourite author

I have to pick just one? Okay, you win today Miss Rowling.  And just to be different, I’m going to showcase The Tales of Beedle the Bard.  This book of wizard children’s stories/fairy tales appears in the last of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and is the key to helping Harry, Ron and Hermione find and destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes.  Within, is the Tale of the Three Brothers, which I think the movie adaptation did an amazing job of recreating.  I absolutely loved the animation.

For those of you who haven’t seen the animated version of the Tale of the Three Brothers, or just want to be once again in awe of such epic awesomeness, check it out here.

In true J.K. fashion, this book was originally released as only seven copies, one of which was auctioned off and purchased by Amazon for I.5 million pounds ($3.8 million), with the money going to charity.  Well played J.K, well played.

~storytelling nomad~

Me, Harry Potter, and an FUI (Flying Under the Influence)

30 Day Book Challenge
Day 5: Book you wish you could live in

This is so easy, for the simple reason that I have so often dreamed of living in this particular book.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve read the series, but I do know I’ve done so not only in English, but also in the Italian and French translations.  In fact, I account my knowing words such as ‘owls’ and ‘wands’ in languages other than English to these books.

Since its debut in 1997 when I was a wee 12 year old, the Harry Potter books have captured hearts around the world, uniting children and adults alike in a world where pictures move, magic is real and every flavour beans really are every flavour.  I’m certain I’m not the only one who held a glimmer of hope that one day I, too, would receive a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Sadly, it never came (I blame Australia Post).

HOWEVER, if it had, here are some of the things that would have transpired:

I would have been in Gryffindor house, naturally.  It’s where all the cool kids are at, especially our resident celebrity ‘The Boy Who Lived’ Harry Potter.

Ron and I would have had a lasting love, hindered by a brief estrangement caused by Ron’s jealousy. This was due to the time Harry tried his luck with me at the Yule Ball after a few too many Butterbeers.  We all made up of course and Ron got over it when Harry started making goo goo eyes at Ginny. Now that, he had a harder time getting over.

Ginny wouldn’t have liked me because of aforementioned incident with Harry.  Also, I’m prettier than her.

My best friend would have been Luna.  We would have spent hours observing the Crumple-Horned Snorkack and skipping classes to fly the Thestrals.  Together we would have had shared a belief in the existence of: Moon Frogs, Blibbering Humdingers, Heliopaths, Umgubular Slashkilters, Wrackspurts and Nargles, despite no-one else believing us.  I would, however, shake my head at her when she yakked on about Aquavirius Maggots.  A creature that resembles a brain? Now that’s just ridiculous.

I would have been an astute student of Flying, Transfiguration and Care of Magical Creatures, but absolutely rubbish at History of Magic, much to the dismay of Professor Binns.  I would have had two muggle parents you see, like Hermione, and so knew nothing of magic (or the history of same) before starting at Hogwarts.  That said, Hermione would have been a life saver with her abnormally sized brain, letting me copy her parchment on many occasions in exchange for a few vials of Amortentia, a love potion.  You see, at first I think Hermione was a bit jealous when I started dating Ron, but she got over it when I offered to help her find a boyfriend of her own.  That being, of course, an impossible task seeing as she is so bloody stuck up and a bit of a know-it-all, after many months of failed attempts I would have asked the Weasley brothers if they had any love potions to spare. They would’ve happily obliged, free of charge no less! This was partly because they thought I was totally awesome, but mostly because they thought I was way too good for their little brother.  Hermione would have had her share of loved up wizards, and I would have gotten my homework done.  Result.

My Patronus would have been a Lion.  Take that Dementors! Peow peow!

As Harry had Hedwig, Hermione Crookshanks and Ron Scabbers, my Magical Familiar would have been a Cornish Pixie named Sly.  We would get up to a lot of mischief together, including taunting the Fat Lady with lots of fat mumma jokes, such as “Your mumma so fat, she sat on a rainbow and skittles popped out.” Looking back, I suppose we were quite cruel, but Sly and I enjoyed our antics immensely.  And the Fat Lady got her own back that time we snuck out late and she refused to let us back in, only to be discovered by Snape a short time later, who gave us the arduous task of polishing all the trophies in the trophy cabinet on the evening of the Gryffindor vs Slytherin Quidditch Finals. That bastard.

My wand would be a 12 inch Holly with a Dragon heartstring core.  Apparently this makes it very effective for hexes.

For the end of year exams during my first year at Hogwarts, I would have successfully devised a potion to source and trap all of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.  After doing so, the Ministry of Magic would have been able to destroy said Horcruxes on the advice of Professor Dumbledore.  This would have in turn led to the true death of Voldemort, who apparently was still hanging around like a bad smell after his last rendezvous with the Potters all those years ago.  I would have been commended for my achievements, awarded a medal by the Minister of Magic himself and become something of a celebrity for a brief time.  That was probably the most exciting thing that would have happened during my seven years at Hogwarts.  The rest of my time there would have been pretty boring, with nothing of particular interest happening. 

Oh, wait a sec, Harry Potter did get kind of fat and there was that time he got an FUI for flying under the influence.  He really did enjoy his butterbeers.  Yeah, that was pretty exciting at the time I suppose…

Harry flying under the influence (Courtesy of Izimile which has many other funny images like this one. Click on the photo to be taken to them)

Yep, I sure would’ve liked to live in the Harry Potter books…

~storytelling nomad~

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 4

Book that makes you cry

As a rule, I like to read books that make me feel good, not sad or unhappy.  It’s partly why I love fantasy fiction so much, in that it allows me to escape the harsh truths of reality and enter worlds where magic happens.  It’s also the great thing about fiction, where the author has the creative license to make sure that everything turns out okay in the end, and generally speaking, it does.

In any case, every now and then I hear so many good reviews about a book not of the fantasy genre that I decide I simply must read it and see what all the fuss is about.  Sometimes this results in me being glad I spread my literary wings as I discover something amazing outside of fantasy.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  A great deal of the time it sends me running to my bookshelf, grasping desperately for a Harry Potter book or The Lord of the Rings, ready to re-immerse myself into lands where “stupefy!” will render my enemy temporarily immobile, or where I have a guardian wizard by the name of Gandalf who makes cool fireworks to brighten the night sky.  Happy days.

One such time that sent me running to my bookshelf, but not before I cradled my knees in the corner, rocking back and forth and weeping with sorrow, was Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I have great respect for this woman after discovering that she wrote the book during NaNoWriMo, something I’m looking forward to participating in this year.  It really is a beautifully written story, but honestly, I just couldn’t get past the cruelty to animals part of it.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand in this world, it’s the abuse and/or neglect of animals, and I find reading/watching/hearing about it very difficult.  I can’t even watch animated movies about animals because I know there’s always one that will be trapped or hurt or die and will have me blubbering like a baby.

The cruelty to the elephant in this book was just too much for my weak, animal spirited heart to bear.  And it was one of those things where I just knew that even if everything turned out okay in the end, the damage was already done.  *Cue more weeping*

So yes, this book made me cry, a lot.  And by the end I didn’t feel much better about it either.  *Spoiler Alert* The old man got to go back to the circus, but ultimately he was still rejected and abandoned by his family! Too sad…too sad I tell you!

~storytelling nomad~

Busy being a nerd

Gone Fishing.  Not really.  But had I an office door of some description, that is the sign I’d have liked to have had hanging off it, just because that’s what all the cool kids seem to do these days, you know?

But I digress.

I have been absent from the blogosphere my pretties.  How many times have I set my eyes upon those blogs apologising for their absence, listing their feeble reasons for their lack of posts, cowering on their knees, praying for mercy as they beg forgiveness? Many a time have I witnessed such a sad state of affairs and scoffed at their insolence.  “Shame on you!” I have shouted with a lofty arrogance!  And yet today, my friends, followers, minions…today I yield myself as one of those sad, unworthy bloggers.  OH THE SHAME!

Before I ask of you your compassion, your mercy, your humanity, I must first follow suit and list three reasons for my unexpected leave:

  1. Work – At the snow.  You all knew this one, and frankly, with no electricity or reception I had little choice while this was happening.  Therefore, I refuse to apologise for this you evil fiends!
  2. Supanova – Ohhhh this is where it gets interesting and I start to weep with joy at the memory of my recent trip to Sydney where I joined my fellow nerds at the annual fantasy/sci fi convention.  More about this below.
  3. The Plague – Well that’s what it feels like okay?! Apparently it’s just ye ol influenza, but if the black death gets me don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Also, it has rendered me incapable of blogging, eating chocolate, being anything other than horizontal, and has brought on a severe need of Buffy reruns (potentially also due to aforementioned Supanova trip.  Unconfirmed).

So, as you can see, the past week and a half has had moments of pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, heaven and hell…but mostly, just a lot of no blogging.  Please accept my sincerest apologies.  Are we done?  Good.  Because now I demand you share in all I have to tell you about the nerd fest that was Supanova.  If you are at all confused about this awesome event, I suggest you mosy on over to their website www.supanova.com.au and educate yourself before someone discovers your nerdy ignorance.

But before I go on, I cannot contain it any longer.  I met, talked to, and touched with my bare hands two amazing celebrities.  James Marsters aka Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (SQUEEEEEEEAAALLL!), and Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies, who, without the beach blonde hair that so befits some men/vampires – cough Spike cough – is quite the hotty.

My world is complete!

Oh James, you naughty boy!

Moving along.  It was a bit touch and go there for a while with that damn Chilean ash cloud that continues to stuff around domestic and international flights here in Aus.  Come on Chileans, can’t you keep your volcanoes under control like the rest of us?  As it turns out, last Thursday I was on one of the first flights allowed out of Tassie after a week of flight troubles…phew.  Made it to Sydney and got ready for the 3 day Supanova bonanza.

Adz and I having a few train troubles

I went with my super awesome friend Adz, who is a big nerd also.  After one train hiccup (see right), we made it to the showgrounds where the event began on Friday night.  We spent 2 hours standing in line to purchase our photo and autograph tickets for the Sat and Sun, knowing from previous experiences that this line would get much, much longer over the weekend.

On the Saturday and Sunday we spent our time meeting the celebs (Cue more SQUEALING!), scouring the merchandise stalls and staring in amazement at the as always high standard of cosplayers.  For those of you unfamiliar with cosplay, the faithful wiki dictionary defines it as:

The practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, esp. one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.

Captain Jack Sparrow Cosplay

In other words, absolute awesomeness.  There were characters from Star Wars, Firefly, The Disney Movies, Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Iron Man and so many I didn’t recognise that even I at times felt an unworthy nerd…and that happens rarely.  One of my faves was a certain Captain Jack Sparrow, who looked the spitting image of Johnny Depp.  Sensational.

On the Saturday evening we had the pleasure of watching James Marsters in concert.  Yes ladies, the man can sing! My best friends Mel and Aly joined us, and we couldn’t help but start sighing and giggling every time he looked our way with a cheeky smile.  What a hunny.

On the Sunday evening, Adz and I had the added pleasure of attending a small after party with James and Gareth David Lloyd from Torchwood.  I’ve never watched Torchwood, so can safely say I know zip about the show, its characters and actors.  And yet, as eight of us sat at a table with this actor, everyone seemed relatively star struck.  Except me of course.  I was saving that for James, and well, like I said, I didn’t really know who Gareth was.  Soooo I tried to make conversation, and of course I put my foot in it when I asked “Where in England are you from”….to the WELSHMAN.  Okay okay, so I know being English and all I’m supposed to know this stuff, but I don’t.  It all sounds pommy to me! Thankfully he was most gracious about it, and after receiving many daggers from the Torchwood lovers around the table we managed to steer conversation back to safe topics such as the weather and food.  Boring!

And James, well James was just James.  Buffy is my all time favourite show so it was an amazing experience to meet and talk with him.  He is a big charmer and so interesting, and has the same laugh as Spike…by which I suppose I mean Spike has the same laugh as James? Regardless…I don’t really know how to describe the experience in words.  It was amazing, and yet also strange.  I can see how some fans could get ‘overzealous’ with their admiration (in fact, I think there was one potential stalker at our table), but even so, I find that meeting these ‘celebrities’ further strengthens the reality that differentiates the characters from their performers.  I love Spike and his character, and I ‘know’ him pretty well.  James was awesome and I could see bits of Spike in him, but he isn’t Spike.  Plus, he doesn’t have an English accent…I know, right!?  The actors were interesting, kind and gracious with us, but at the end of the day, this is their job, and meeting us is part of how they market themselves.  It was a wonderful experience, as it always is at these events, but it again reminded me how we can enjoy the shows and the characters in them, but meeting the actors isn’t meeting the characters, because sadly, they don’t exist…sob!

In any case, the night ended on an unexpected note with a lovely girl we met, Susannah, reading my Tarot cards for me after the celebs had left.  It was uncannily accurate!  I have always been interested in this sort of ‘supernatural’ thing; tarot cards and clairvoyants etc, but have never considered it seriously enough to actually try out, my inner sceptic telling me not waste my money on what might be a load of crap.  I’d love to do it again though because it really was amazing what she told me of my past, present and future.  She had me when she pulled out the card with the words: ‘THE HERMIT’.  She was in my head I tell you!

The festivities ended with me, the plague, and a terrifying few hours as the Chilean ash cloud threatened my return flight home.  Thankfully I was on one of the last flights out of Sydney before they went into shut down mode again.  Fate anyone?

Well, I think this account of my absence is long enough for now.  I shall leave you with some photographic evidence of me and my recent squeeze, James.  Here’s to the next post not taking as long as this one.  Of course, if I die of the plague then I can only apologise further and ask that you say kind, but funny things about me when I’m gone.

Me and Spike (My boyfriend, obviously)

~storytelling nomad~

I talk to animals

Jack not eating my face off

I talk to animals.  Maybe I should be more specific.  You see, I don’t go around to any old worm, ant or cockroach asking them how their day is going.  No, I’m much more selective with my Doctor Dolittle tendencies.  My dog, Jack, for example.  <—-That’s him, over there to the left. The one with the crazyman eyes looking like he’s about to eat my face off (It’s not his best angle).  Yep, he’s worthy of the kind of Homo sapien to beast exchange I might participate in.  And in case you were wondering, yes, he does on occasion talk back.

You see, I’m that person who walks into a pet store and believes that every cute, little non-toilet-trained ball of fur is looking at me, and only me, begging to be taken home.  I’m fairly sure I was the nightmare child that begged and begged for a puppy, a kitten or a hamster.  One time I believe I actually hid my auntie’s new puppy down my jacket and hid in the back seat of the car for a reasonable amount of time thinking my ploy a great success.  Which, of course, it wasn’t.  Ahh, my days as a 7 year old dog snatcher now long passed, and yet I still have not grown out of my animal talking ways.

Jack and I have some good ol’ yarns.  He usually monopolises the conversation, telling me how much he needs a scratch behind the ears, shouting at me for not paying him enough attention for the last hour, telling me how happy he is to see me in the morning after 7 or 8 hours of no play.  Yep, Jack and I, we are quite the intellectual conversationalists.

Anyway, there is a point to this animal talking admission.  I realise that together with my post about talking trees you may be starting to wonder if I’m actually a bit of a loony, escaped from the crazy house, slightly ‘unhinged’. Yes?  Well, rest assured I’m about to defend my stark raving madness.  The fantasy fiction buff that I am, I’ve always noticed how many writers in this genre incorporate some affinity for animals in their stories.  Whether it be an ability to understand and talk to animals, or where the animals are spiritually connected to their human protagonists, or simply conveying a love and caring for animals as pets or companions.

I know that one prevalent convention of the fantasy genre is that the main character is often isolated or cut off from society in some way.  Harry Potter had his friends but they couldn’t always be with him or go through the trials he undertook.  And so there was his owl, Hedwig, to keep him company.  In the Farseer Trilogy series that I’m reading at the moment (see my previous post) some people have the ability to talk and bond to animals.  The main character, Fitz, is one of these people, and again, is in many ways detached from society.  His animal bonds offer him the companionship and friendship that he cannot find in the human company he keeps.  In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials every human has a daemon, which is essentially a person’s soul in the shape of an animal.  Isobelle Carmody is another animal lover, advocating, in her Obernewtyn Chonicles, for animals in such a way that a horse must agree and be willing to carry a rider.  Where animals are not owned or considered pets, but exist as equals amongst humans.

I’m sure there are many more examples, but I wonder at this manifestation of animal equality and the many stories whereby the humans have the ability to speak to animals.  Does it stem from some guilt at the maltreatment of animals over the centuries? Or is it some inner, subconscious response to a desire to realise such a possibility?  Perhaps I’m just looking to substantiate my predisposition to talking to animals.  Who knows?  What I do hope, is that in the very least it results in an awareness of animals – not so much as to offer them a seat at the dining table perhaps, but as living things just as worthy of the respect and decency that we expect for ourselves.

Jack says it’s time to play.  The beast has spoken.

~storytelling nomad~