Friday, March 30, 2007

Forever Edits....Ah, the Life of a Writer

I've come to the conclusion that edits are a part of a writer's life. Probably the biggest part.
The idea of the story seems to be the easiest, the writing follows naturally, but the editing - that's where the dues are paid. The writing, re-writing, reading, re-reading, crossing out, cutting, pasting, adding, re-wording and the opening and closing of the trusty ole' Thesaurus is the everyday norm.

Today is no exception. I'm in the middle of editing chapter 11 of Orientation - and I love every grueling minute of it.

Gotta run - found an 'ly' adverb hidden within a passive sentence.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Orientation - Update

I'm just now completing my edit of Chapter 10. I have to tell you, this story is morphing into something wonderful. I'm really, really pleased with the way it's turning out. I'm almost embarrassed at the version that I've sent out before, because this is so much better. My only fear is, what will I think of this version a few years from now?

What I'm changing, for those who don't know what I'm doing, is the 'way' the story is written, not the story itself. That is still intact. I'm changing it from a passive/narrative story to an active/showing adventure. I want to be able to 'zoom' onto the scene and have the reader following me along on a wild, adventurous ride, much like a roller coaster. Other than the beginning climb, there are no slow spots on a roller coaster. It's one exciting dip and curve until the end. That's the way I want my story. I want the reader to jump on and cling tight - it's fast, fun and full of exciting thrills.

With my Necromancer Series being 8-9 books, it's like getting to ride 8-9 different rides - all just as exciting as the first.

Well, my coffee is about finished percolating. It's time to get to work.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, March 16, 2007

Professor Severus Snape - Hero or Villian?

Professor Severus Snape – Hero or Villain?

As I’ve posted before on this blog, I’m re-reading the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling and I’m really enjoying it. I’m taking my time and paying attention to all the little details, which brings me to the topic at hand, Professor Snape. Is he a hero or villain?

Regardless of which he turns out to be in the seventh book, Deathly Hollows - slated to be released July 21st, he’s clearly my favorite character. He’s the most complex and mysterious of them all.

Now, like millions of other fans across the globe, I too have a theory about our dear Potions, or should I say Defense Against the Dark Arts, Master.

To understand where Professor Severus Snape is now, we must go back to the beginning of his life and see how he got to the place he currently occupies.

Severus Snape was born to misfortune (wizard father and muggle mother) and as a child cried a lot, displaying behavior of someone whose been abused. I think this degrading emotional abuse caused a young Severus to have low-self esteem and issues with trusting others. I believe he then poured himself into his studies, because he couldn’t trust people to not hurt him.

Of course, when he finally came to Hogwarts at eleven, his worst fears were confirmed when he was treated as an outcast and teased by the most popular kids in school (Marauders/Gryffindors – Potter, Black and Lupin). He lashed out at them, not in malice, but as a way to protect himself. Most victims of abuse hurt others to keep from getting hurt themselves. So, animosity grew between Snape, Potter, Black and Lupin – but not true hatred. If anything, I think Snape longed to be like James, but despised him because he couldn’t.

However, being a member of Slytherin house, Snape found acceptance from people like Malfoy, Lestrange and the others who eventually became death eaters. In other words – he didn’t really fit in anywhere and by default hung out with the wrong crowd.

Snape was always in the background, learning, studying, being alone – never stepping out front and showing what he was truly capable of. He’s smart like Hermione, but lacked her confidence and didn’t have the fortune of befriending a Ron and Harry. I think, often times when Professor Snape snapped at Hermione for being ‘an insufferable know-it-all’, it was mostly out of jealousy. You know how the old saying goes: You’re usually guilty of what you find irritating in someone else.

I feel that perhaps Snape went with the flow, keeping all his true emotions inside, thus teaching himself to be an excellent Occlumens, able to hide his thoughts and emotions, so people couldn’t use them against him, including the powerful Lord Voldemort.

I think Snape joined the Death Eaters not out of a desire for power, but to have a place to fit in. He didn’t have the love of a family, he didn’t have the support of friends and he didn’t have the love of his life (Lily Evans – Lily Potter – Harry’s mother). All he had was his potions, his school, and his knowledge – which was great, but not that anyone knew.

How do I know they were great? Look what Harry learned just from the notes left in the potions book by the Half-Blood Prince. At a young age, Snape had an understanding of his craft that exceeded even the teachers. He not only figured out short cuts and better ways to perform written formulas, but created new spells. He also built a wall around himself so strong and so tall, he couldn’t see over it. He didn’t know his own greatness. So, he made a mistake and joined forces with Voldemort - Not because he ‘had’ to, but because he wanted to fit in somewhere… anywhere.

Snape discovered it was more than what he bargained for. Voldemort was no different than is evil parents, or the bullies at school. Everyone tried to present them selves as the best, all the while Snape just sits back in the shadows and watches. He witnesses Voldemort growing in power and influence, and the Potters, Black, Lupin and Dumbledore fighting on the other side, all the while Pettigrew (Wormtail) slithers back and forth between the two camps. None of it concerned him. He was neither for, nor against any of it. He disliked both sides and trusted neither – until he heard part of the prophecy given by Sibyl Trelawney.

I think Snape realized how important of a role he played when he recited the prophecy to Voldemort, but then it was too late to take it back. I think perhaps Snape was able to Occlumens Voldemort and saw what he planned to do – and Snape felt responsible. I think it scared him, and for the first time he actually ‘chose’ the side he wanted to be on, and it wasn’t with Voldemort.

I believe he then went to the one person that he felt accepted him and saw him for what he truly was, and told him everything. Dumbledore helped Snape see himself for what he truly was and gave him the confidence to break away from Voldemort, which he discovered wasn’t as hard to do as he previously believed. Snape realized Voldemort was no more powerful than he was, yet Voldemort was none-the-wiser, nor anyone else for that matter, except Dumbledore – who then began to train Snape to become a spy for the Order. For the first time in his life, Snape had a purpose and someone who believed in him, and that’s really all he ever needed.

I don’t think Potter, Lupin or Black fully accepted Snape as a member of the Order, knowing he was once a Deatheater, but to keep up the rouse, Snape played the part of bitter rival – which somehow resulted in James saving his life. Now, he owed a life debt, but that’s not why Snape has been looking out for Harry all these years. I think he feels responsible for Lily and James death, because he could have stopped it, but out of his anger he chose not to, or he couldn’t without exposing his loyalties. So, guilt and owing a life debt has had him watching over Harry ever since, but he doesn’t always like it – because Harry is a lot like his father, James. He’s popular, likable and headstrong. He also reminds Snape of his mother, Lily, whom Snape loved and perhaps feels guilty over her death.

That brings me to the present and how Snape fits in with what happened in The Half Blood Prince and what I think will happen in Deathly Hallows.

The one thing I know about Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, it’s his insatiable love and loyalty to students at Hogwarts. It was this love that caused Tom Riddle to fear Dumbledore. Not because Voldemort fears Dumbledore is more powerful, but because Dumbledore is the only person in the world who ever cared about Tom Riddle. Love scares Voldemort, because it’s a power he doesn’t understand.

For Snape, that love saved him, combined with perhaps the love of and for Lily Potter as well. But, it’s also in his understanding that the same love Dumbledore had for him, he also has for ALL students of Hogwarts, including Harry and Draco, which caused Snape to have to kill him. First, bound by the unbreakable vow made with Narcissa – to do ‘whatever Voldemort had commanded Draco’, and knowing that in order to save Draco’s life (which would have been Dumbledore’s ultimate desire) Snape had to do it. He had every opportunity to kill Harry afterward, but he didn’t. If he was so evil to kill Dumbledore, killing Draco or Harry would have been nothing to him. I believe Dumbledore communicated with Snape via Occlumency and then begged him to do it, that it was the only way – and gave him instructions on what to do to finish destroying all the horcrux that remained.

Which brings me to what I think will happen.

Harry will destroy all but the last Horcrux, which he will discover is in the very scar on his head. He will face Voldemort, but be unable to kill him and get severely hurt – but Snape will save him and cast the final blow that kills Voldemort. Then Snape will reveal to Harry the whole truth of everything, through Occlumency and through his words. He and Harry will finally have it out and Harry will finally see Snape for who he truly is and then realize what Snape will have to do. Severus Snape will have to kill Harry Potter, because Harry is the last Horcrux. As long as he still lives, Voldemort will always be able to return. Harry willingly chooses to sacrifice himself (much like Dumbledore and his father). He will make Snape enter into an unbreakable vow to always protect his friends. Snape will then kill Harry Potter – and then tell the world that it was Harry who finally destroyed Lord Voldemort, once and for all. Harry will always be known as the Greatest Wizard of All Time, and no longer The Boy Who Lived.

Severus Snape will be the next Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – and will spend the rest of his life protecting the students above all else, just as his predecessor before him. Harry Potter’s name will live in infamy as he is reunited with the people he’s always loved behind the veil – His mum, his dad, Sirius, Ginny and Dumbledore. Bottom line… I believe Professor Severus Snape is a hero, perhaps the true hero of the whole story.

Crazy4Smallville's Weekly Review 6:16

Have you ever been to a restaurant and saw a picture of a big, juicy piece of steak as the special and ordered it, fidgeting all through the appetizer, waiting to sink your teeth into the scrumptious tender meat?

Well, that's what I wanted. Instead was served a dry, bland, burnt piece of jerky that choked me and seared my taste buds so that everything else tasted just as bad. I know I'll never order that item again, but at this point I'm not too sure if I want to go back to that restaurant. I know they have other great items on the menu, but they keep serving me the same old crap every time.

Till next time,

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Word - Prithee

New vocabulary word.

Prithee - Used to express a request or wish.

Now, how do I use this in a sentence?

It is my prithee to know to the truth.
I prithee to be let in!

Not too sure about this one. It's definately a new word for me. It seems almost alien. But, it is my prithee to know the truth of how to use it properly. So, if you know the correct use of this word, I prithee you tell me.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Re-Reading Harry Potter Series

I'm already on book three, The Prisoner of Azkeban, and I have to say that I love this series even better the third time around. I'm taking my time and really soaking up the small bits of description that escaped my attention the first two reads.

I remember the first time I read the series. It was after the fourth book, The Goblet of Fire, had been released and I had already threw out my daughter's paperbacks (because I hadn't read them and was told by the religious community they were evil and taught children witchcraft). I couldn't believe I did such a thing. Here I was - a parent who tried to teach their children to think and make judgements for themselves - banning them because of heretical hearsay.

Well, it bothered me so much, I went out and bought the first book, The Sorcerer's Stone, read it - and loved it. Yes, Harry Potter's a wizard. Yes, he uses a magic wand and Yes, he casts spells like lumos and expelleramus. However, he uses no more real witchcraft than the fairy godmother who placed glass slippers on Cinderella's feet. It isn't true witchcraft - it's fantasy, and well-written one at that. If anything, I find Harry Potter and his friends, very moralistic and a good role model for children, and I completely understand why kids and adults alike have fallen in love with this character.

I learned the proverbial lesson - never to judge a book by it's cover, title and especially hearsay. I don't even read books listed on the NYTimes best seller list, because I find most of them are terrible. Some of the best stories I've ever read have never made the list. Some aren't even published, yet.

The second time I read through the series, I rushed through them trying to refresh the story in anticipation for the sixth book, The Half-Blood Prince. I wanted to make sure I was up-to-date on the story when this book came out. Well, that's sort of what I'm doing now, only I'm taking my time and enjoying the story (besides, I'm saving money because while I'm reading the series I'm not out buying new books to add to my library).

After reading The Prisoner of Azekban, The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince, I had the impression that The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets was not as exciting. But, having just re-read them - I find that not true. I really enjoyed them and found that were perhaps the most magical of them all. It's the fun adventure in these two books that set up all the excitement in the last four. It was here that we first heard about Quidditch, Dobby the House Elf, learned to despise the Dursley's, discovered Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, met Albus Dumbledore, rolled our eyes at Draco Malfoy and shook our heads at Neville Longbottom. It was in these two stories that introduced us to Tom Riddle and started filling in the past of Lord Voldemort. We befriended the half-giant Hagrid and longed to live at the Burrow with the Weasley's. Ron became our best friend and Hermoine showed her true genius.

Rowling put so much heart and humor into these first two stories that my opinion has changed - and I find these two the best of the series so far. However, just starting on The Prisoner of Azekeban - I may change my opinion next week. LOL!

J.K. Rowling may not be the best writer in the world (she uses a passive/telling voice), she's at least one of the most entertaining and creative. I've never wanted so much to be a kid again. To that, I take my hat off for her.

Well, I need to get back to my book.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Catching Up

Can one really catch up with what has already been lost?

Does everyone write in the month of February and March? Perhaps its the faint scent of spring that's bringing on the new wave of stories. I'm excited to see them all, but overwhelmed at the same time.

Every week I find myself scrambling to catch up on crits that I owe to other writers in my critique group, but I can't. I have a lot of critters, but I don't just write a simple critique - It usually takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to do a good critique on a chapter. Some stories I enjoy reading, others are little more painstaking - but I think has great potential.... so I plug away.

However, critting while editing while working isn't really working out. I think I'll just have to let my list of those I owe grow, until I'm through with the manuscript I'm currently working on - then spend a month or so just doing crits to pay them back. As much as I try to go forward - I fall even farther behind.

So, to those critters who I owe - I haven't forgotten about you. You're listed on my 'Tit-for-tat' , and I will get to you eventually. But, I need to focus on getting this manuscript done - and then take a little break.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Comprehending What You Read

I was reading a scripture last night that I don't think I comprehended anything that it truly said. I stopped and re-read it, and still don't have any idea what it truly means. I understand the basics of what it said, but it's just a head knowledge. I can probably quote it, but that's about it.

I know that I'm somewhat intelligent, so it isn't a matter of my brain not being able to rationalize what I'm reading. I think the problem that I'm having is, I don't have the foundational information to use in my understanding. It's like someone trying to explain to me how a carburetor works, when I don't know what parts make up one or for what function it holds.

This has me thinking - Isn't this the foundation of ignorance? Ignorance isn't that the brain's inability to process information - it's that it doesn't have enough initial programming to organize the information into a final conclusion. Without the foundational information - the rest is just illegible, incomprehensible, unrecognizable gibberish.

There's a lot of gibberish I struggle to understand. In my writing, in my relationships, in my spiritual walk, etc. When I come across it - I start to recognize that there's something missing in the foundation of what I think I already know. I'm led back to the beginning.

I've got to learn how to spell, type, write, learn the rules of punctuation, grammar and language, learn how to plot, outline and flesh out characters - before I can manipulate all that information and transform it into something new. I don't create anything - which is to make something from nothing. None of us has creative power. But, if I learn the basic elements of something, I can form it into something else. Just like an old joke indicates, I've got to get my own dirt. (If you don't know the joke (the foundational teaching), you won't get the pun.)

So, while I try to comprehend exactly what happened on the mountain of transfiguration, I'm beginning to see the difficulty in comprehending what I read. It's not about my ability (or lack thereof) to read - but to have the necessary information already stored to help me understand.

If I don't understand 'who' was on the mountain, 'why' they were there, 'what' actually happened and the cause and effect of the act, how will I comprehend what it's trying to tell me?
I'm a curious person by nature, a modern-day Nancy Drew. I want to understand the physical world around me - and the spiritual world within and beyond that. I won't be able to do that unless I can understand, divide or process the information I receive. Reading it - isn't good enough. I must comprehend it.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray