Thursday, June 27, 2013

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Laurie McLean

Laurie McLean spent 20 years as the CEO of a publicity agency and 8 years as an agent and senior agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco.

Following her stint as the CEO of a successful Silicon Valley public relations agency bearing her name, Laurie was able to switch gears in 2002 to immerse herself in writing. She penned three manuscripts before deciding that the life of a literary agent was her destiny. Laurie has been writing professionally since high school–first as a journalist, then as a public relations agent, finally as a novelist. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the State University of New York and a Master’s Degree at Syracuse University’s prestigious Newhouse School of Journalism.

At Foreword, Laurie specializes in adult genre fiction (romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense, horror, etc.) plus middle-grade and young adult children’s books. She does not handle non-fiction, or commercial, literary or women’s fiction, nor does she handle children’s picture books or graphic novels. She prefers to receive the first ten pages and a 1-2 page plot synopsis of a completed/polished manuscript via email (no attachments, please…cut and paste your submission into the body of your email query) at:

For more on Laurie, check out her blog at, follow her on Twitter @agentsavant, and visit her Facebook page at

Prior to founding Foreword, Laurie was also the Dean of San Francisco Writers University and on the management team of the San Francisco Writers Conference. In 2012 Laurie co-founded two ePublishing companies with two of her client partners: for vintage out-of-print romance books with Linda Wisdom; and for out-of-print classic tween and teen books with Douglas Rees.

And now Laurie McLean faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card
Otherland, a series by Tad Williams
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

The Matrix
Across the Universe
A tie for third between the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings series (I know that’s like 10 movies, but that’s how I roll.)

TV Shows:
Twilight Zone (the original with Rod Serling)
Dr. Who (with the 9th doctor, Christopher Eccleston)
Star Trek: The Next Generation

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client? 

A fabulous writer
A wonderful storyteller
A hard worker
Someone who’s open to learning and growing
A pleasant, or even better wickedly funny, personality
A person who makes me motivated to sell their stories

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for? 

In general, I’m looking for all types of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Romance, Mysteries and Thrillers for adults, tweens and teens. If you want to drill down further, I’m especially interested in supernatural, paranormal, epic fantasy, space opera, military science fiction, sci-fi thrillers, psychological horror, every category of romance except inspirational and erotica, cozy mysteries, and any kind of thriller where I cannot stop turning the pages. 

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing about being an agent is change. No two days are ever the same and the industry is in such turmoil and chaos it’s always interesting. Many opportunities crop up often and sometimes simultaneously. It’s perfect for my Triple A personality. My least favorite thing is the hurry up and wait pace I have to endure sometimes. That and having to reject so many hopefuls because I am only one person and until they make a cloning machine, can only handle a finite number of clients.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)
Publishing is a journey. Enjoy every step along the way. You will never be satisfied with where you are (securing an agent, selling your first book, selling another book, becoming a bestselling author, becoming THE most bestselling author of all time), so find things to love about it instead. Celebrate your successes. And don’t reply to hater reviewers no matter what.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I would lunch with William Shakespeare, if only to finally discover his true identity. If we could invite Douglas Adams along too? That would be nirvana. Or maybe he owns the restaurant and comments from behind the bar.  :-)


Wednesday, June 26, 2013


First Paragraph: Harry sat there, aware that every head in the Great Hall had turned to look at him. He was stunned. He felt numb. He was surely dreaming. He had not heard correctly.

Esteemed Reader, I must say this up front: I adore J.K. Rowling. Of course I do. I admire great middle grade writers every chance I get and she's among the absolute best. I'd be out of my mind not to respect her and study her craft with reverence  which is why I'm still doing these posts 17 weeks in. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my favorite in the series and I think it ought to go on and be declared literature at this point. 

But I truly believe every writer has weak parts of their writing. For example, Stephen King knows how to create suspense, but he rarely crafts a satisfying ending (about 40% of the time). Mark Twain was cleverer and funnier than any other writer since, but he did stretch his stories thin for theme and metaphor from time to time. Ernest Hemmingway wrote the manliest fiction I've ever read, but he was a terrible human being:) J.K. Rowling is magical, but I swear she swiped some things from the movie Troll, and the Harry Potter books are not perfect. 

The word perfect and I have never been associated and this blog is often tedious, yet you come back week after week, Esteemed Reader:)  I'm not saying J.K. Rowling is any less awesome just because her books aren't perfect. I also acknowledge that it's a lot easier for me to sit back and criticize than to write my own magical middle grade novel. But no book is sacred and we writers must cut our teeth every opportunity we get. A writer must be a sharp critic of his own work, and an impartial observer of what does and doesn't work in the writing of others.

Chapter 17 is mostly great. There's one rather tedious passage I'm going to pick apart, which is the reason for the long intro. But the chapter opens and ends strong and it's short. I like that in a chapter. 

When we last left Harry, his name had just been drawn from the Goblet of Fire, which is bad news. Chapter 17 is a master class in how to make a bad story problem even worse. First, Rowling has to deal with the aftermath of Harry's joining the tournament, but she gives us hints at what's coming by the chapter's end:

Harry turned to Ron and Hermione; beyond them, he saw the long Gryffindor table all watching him, openmouthed. 
“I didn’t put my name in,” Harry said blankly. “You know I didn’t.” 
Both of them stared just as blankly back.

What's going on with Harry's homies, there? And why are they mysteriously absent from the after party later on? It's because Ron's finally mad at Harry. There, I said it. Also, Cedric Diggory dies.

I'm not worried about spoilers for this series of posts. If you don't like or haven't at least read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, why would you be reading this? So as we all know, Mad Eye Moody isn't really Mad Eye Moody. He's the devious bad guy who put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire and who is plotting Harry's death at the hands of Voldermort. So look how Rowling plays us all for fools:

“After all our meetings and negotiations and compromises, I little expected something of this nature to occur! I have half a mind to leave now!” 
“Empty threat, Karkaroff,” growled a voice from near the door. “You can’t leave your champion now. He’s got to compete. They’ve all got to compete. Binding magical contract, like Dumbledore said. Convenient, eh?” 
Moody had just entered the room. He limped toward the fire, and with every right step he took, there was a loud clunk
“Convenient?” said Karkaroff. “I’m afraid I don’t understand you, Moody.” 
Harry could tell he was trying to sound disdainful, as though what Moody was saying was barely worth his notice, but his hands gave him away; they had balled themselves into fists. 
“Don’t you?” said Moody quietly. “It’s very simple, Karkaroff. Someone put Potter’s name in that goblet knowing he’d have to compete if it came out.”

Moody comes to Harry's defense. We haven't liked him this much since he turned Malfoy into a ferret. In fact, I liked Mad-Eye Moody so much, the first time I read this book and learned Mad-Eye Moody was never really Mad-Eye Moody, I felt betrayed. I felt like I'd lost a friend. But I didn't figure out the mystery before it was revealed and I'll wager most readers didn't. 

The last section of this chapter is Ron and Harry's big fight after which they call off the wedding! It's a great moment and one that's been subtly building over several chapters, as we've been discussing in laborious detail for many weeks. I promise to leave you with the whole fight so you can enjoy it again, but first I want to talk about thinking. 

One of the great strengths of novels is their ability to put us completely in the head of a character, so we can see the world the way they see it. A character in a movie usually can't tell the audience exactly what he's thinking unless he's Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, but book characters do this all the time.  Even in third person, authors can dip into character's heads and tell us what they're thinking. 

Here is a truly excellent passage from early in this chapter, just after Harry's name has been drawn for the tournament, in which the reader knows exactly what Harry is thinking:

Harry got to his feet, trod on the hem of his robes, and stumbled slightly. He set off up the gap between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables. It felt like an immensely long walk; the top table didn’t seem to be getting any nearer at all, and he could feel hundreds and hundreds of eyes upon him, as though each were a searchlight. The buzzing grew louder and louder. After what seemed like an hour, he was right in front of Dumbledore, feeling the stares of all the teachers upon him. 
“Well . . . through the door, Harry,” said Dumbledore. He wasn’t smiling.

Rowling never tells us Harry is feeling nervous and apprehensive. She shows us by showing us what Harry sees and by having him stumble. Having Harry say or think: "Oh dear, I've soiled my school robes," isn't necessary because we know from the details of the scene that he's soiling his school robes (metaphorically speaking). I especially like the detail that Dumbledore isn't smiling. We know Dumbledore loves Harry, so his sternness here is as unsettling to us as it is to Harry, allowing us to know just by virtue of the scene what Harry must be thinking.

Like it or not, storytelling has been forever changed by the advent of television and movies. Showing us the character's reactions will always be more interesting than a chunk of exposition, or worse, a character sitting and thinking. Even when he's telling us exactly what he's thinking, Kevin Spacey's character in House of Cards is killing a dog, not sitting inactive. I've harped on this before, but nothing is more boring than a character sitting alone and thinking about things the reader isn't shown in scene.

Rowling doesn't have Harry sit and think. Heavens no! She has him walk and think. Contrast this scene with the previous:

Harry stood listening to him going down the stone steps beyond it, then, slowly, he started to climb the marble ones. 
Was anyone except Ron and Hermione going to believe him, or would they all think he’d put himself in for the tournament? Yet how could anyone think that, when he was facing competitors who’d had three years’ more magical education than he had — when he was now facing tasks that not only sounded very dangerous, but which were to be performed in front of hundreds of people? Yes, he’d thought about it . . . he’d fantasized about it . . . but it had been a joke, really, an idle sort of dream . . . he’d never really, seriously considered entering. . . . 
But someone else had considered it . . . someone else had wanted him in the tournament, and had made sure he was entered. Why? To give him a treat? He didn’t think so, somehow. . . . 
To see him make a fool of himself? Well, they were likely to get their wish. . .
But to get him killed? 
Was Moody just being his usual paranoid self? Couldn’t someone have put Harry’s name in the goblet as a trick, a practical joke? Did anyone really want him dead? 
Harry was able to answer that at once. Yes, someone wanted him dead, someone had wanted him dead ever since he had been a year old . . . Lord Voldemort. But how could Voldemort have ensured that Harry’s name got into the Goblet of Fire? Voldemort was supposed to be far away, in some distant country, in hiding, alone . . . feeble and powerless. . . . 
Yet in that dream he had had, just before he had awoken with his scar hurting, Voldemort had not been alone . . . he had been talking to Wormtail . . . plotting Harry’s murder. . . . 
Harry got a shock to find himself facing the Fat Lady already.

Yawn. I sort of drifted off for a moment there, Esteemed Reader, but I'm back now. Maybe I'm too picky, but that scene is, in my ever humble opinion, the worst moment in this book since Chapter 2, in which Harry literally sat and thought. We, the reader, know exactly what Harry's thinking, and I doubt many of us care. This is the sort of scene that would usually be played out with Ron and Hermione, but of course, Rowling's keeping them distant because of the way the chapter ends.

I submit to you that there isn't one piece of information in this passage that the reader doesn't already know. If I ever build a Terminator, I'm not sending him after John Connor--let somebody else worry about that kid. I'm sending my Terminator back in  time to convince Rowling or her editor to cut this scene out of the novel. It's dry, it isn't interesting, and if it weren't directly following an awesome scene and directly followed by an awesome scene, it would slow the book to a stop.

Harry isn't doing anything. He is in no way advancing the plot aside from his walking from point A to B. There's no direct conflict here, only thinking about conflict. Unless your before and after scenes are as exciting as Rowling's, Esteemed Reader, seek out sitting-and-thinking passages like this in your manuscript and terminate them. Otherwise, when I write a weekly criticism of your work, I will complain!!! Do you really want to risk that happening!?!

That's going to do it for this week, Esteemed Reader. I'm off to play cards with the YA Cannibals as we're winding down the Writing Day I told you about Monday, even though I wrote both these posts on Sunday. But before I go, I'll leave you with Ron and Harry's big fight as we'll be talking about it more in the coming weeks:

Last Paragraph(s): “Congratulations.” 
“What d’you mean, congratulations?” said Harry, staring at Ron. There was definitely something wrong with the way Ron was smiling: It was more like a grimace. 
“Well . . . no one else got across the Age Line,” said Ron. “Not even Fred and George. What did you use — the Invisibility Cloak?” 
“The Invisibility Cloak wouldn’t have got me over that line,” said Harry slowly. 
“Oh right,” said Ron. “I thought you might’ve told me if it was the Cloak . . . because it would’ve covered both of us, wouldn’t it? But you found another way, did you?” 
“Listen,” said Harry, “I didn’t put my name in that goblet. Someone else must’ve done it.” 
Ron raised his eyebrows. 
“What would they do that for?” “I dunno,” said Harry. He felt it would sound very melodramatic to say, “To kill me.” 
Ron’s eyebrows rose so high that they were in danger of disappearing into his hair. 
“It’s okay, you know, you can tell me the truth,” he said. “If you don’t want everyone else to know, fine, but I don’t know why you’re bothering to lie, you didn’t get into trouble for it, did you? That friend of the Fat Lady’s, that Violet, she’s already told us all Dumbledore’s letting you enter. A thousand Galleons prize money, eh? And you don’t have to do end-of-year tests either. . . .” 
“I didn’t put my name in that goblet!” said Harry, starting to feel angry. 
“Yeah, okay,” said Ron, in exactly the same skeptical tone as Cedric. “Only you said this morning you’d have done it last night, and no one would’ve seen you. . . . I’m not stupid, you know.” 
“You’re doing a really good impression of it,” Harry snapped. 
“Yeah?” said Ron, and there was no trace of a grin, forced or otherwise, on his face now. “You want to get to bed, Harry. I expect you’ll need to be up early tomorrow for a photo-call or something.” 
He wrenched the hangings shut around his four-poster, leaving Harry standing there by the door, staring at the dark red velvet curtains, now hiding one of the few people he had been sure would believe him

Monday, June 24, 2013

NINJA STUFF: Story Compromise

I've had a good weekend, Esteemed Reader, and I hope you have to. As I write this it's Writing Day at my place. I'm on my back porch overlooking a river and the woods with sweet, sweet Yanni playing in my ears (screw you for judging me!). The YA Cannibals are inside writing away. Mike Mullin is still standing after we ate his heart last meeting, convincing him to cut some fat from Ashfall 3: Volcano in the Hood so it's a better read when it reaches you. You're welcome. Since we're fresh out of Mike's heart, I'm cooking a ham and the way we drink, by the time it's done, it will be tasty no matter what I do:)

The only thing that can make a good weekend even better is a great book, and I've certainly got that. I'm reading Wool by Hugh Howey and I'm sorry to put the series down long enough to write this as my mind's still in that world. Don't worry. This isn't another post about self-publishing (though more of those may be coming, as it's a trend I find fascinating). I'm just digging Howey's stuff and wanted to mention it in case you haven't read him yet. I read his I, Zombie last year when I was preparing my own zombie tale and fell deeply in love with his writing. 

Today I want to talk about a big difference between books and movies and why as I age, I find I love books more (and I'm a film-school drop out). When I was a teenager, I was convinced I wanted to be a filmmaker more than anything and I spent every weekend at the movie theater. Later, I discovered I liked writing the screenplays more than actually making the movies and I grew out of my teens, so Hollywood stopped targeting me. More, I found collaborating with actors and a film crew led to many great innovations in my storytelling, but also forced me on a regular basis to compromise my vision (I don't like to share my toys).

Now I find I don't like compromise even as the person on the receiving end of the story. Allow me to elaborate:

Last night, as part of my continuing mission to consume all zombie media, I watched World War Z. It was a fine zombie film. Even rated PG-13, which means everyone dies miraculously bloodless deaths, zombies charging the camera in 3D is pretty cool. I love the Max Brooks novel, of course, and I'm not sure what, if anything, the movie has to do with it, but oh well. Big budget zombies blowing stuff up is cool, whatever title it steals, and the book is also cool. I can enjoy both for separate reasons, even with Brad Pitt's hair remaining perfect no matter what happens to him.

In fact, I was quite caught up in the action until the powers that be inserted their influence in the story and unraveled things. I don't want to spoil the flick, but in a key moment, having defeated some tough zombies, Brad Pitt celebrated his victory with a cool, refreshing Pepsi.

Right away I called bull crap. Brad Pitt, with perfect hair, white teeth, and zero body fat, does not guzzle soda. No way. He was Gwyneth Paltrow's man forever ago and I'm sure he adhered to her recipes for water crest with water sauce. He's enjoying his Pepsi (or whatever beverage was actually in that can) in nearly slow motion solely to convince the audience, who statistically, will not look like Brad Pitt, to have some Pepsi.

This is after a critical scene in which Brad accidentally kicks a Mountain Dew can, alerting zombies to his presence, and rolling the green and red corporate logo across the screen in extreme close-up. His moment of refreshment is followed by a key use of Pepsi cans to help save the world, each can falling into screen logo-first in 3D. The Ninja was drinking a bottled water with his popcorn--I gave up soda for good (mostly) when I decided not to poison myself slowly with high-fructose corn syrup, which I promise is the new nicotine--but dang, if I didn't thirst for a Pepsi last night.

Now blowing up stuff is expensive and I accept that filmmakers gotta get the money somewhere. Last weekend I watched Zod and the Man of Steel throw each other through a Sears and an Ihop among other corporate locations, their logos on screen for long periods of time. It was a step-up from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies where Kryptonians stood in front of giant neon coke signs and threw each other through Marlboro trucks. Actually, the Marlboro logo appears prominently in all of the early Superman movies. Back when I smoked, I smoked Marlboro, but I'm sure that decision was completely unrelated to my childhood programming.

Product placement is nothing new and if I keep listing examples, we'll be here all day. Turn on any TV show or movie. If it's got a budget behind it, they're whoring themselves with something. But this isn't a post about how obese Americans don't need to be subliminally sold soft drinks and candy. That's some other day's rant.  Today, I just want to talk about the compromise the filmmaker had to make and the effect it had.

At one moment, I was watching a pretty cool zombie flick with hands getting chopped off and the undead having their heads bashed in--good times. The next moment, I was aware I had paid 13 bucks to watch a commercial. I don't know what the very last shot of World War Z was. I walked out before then because I didn't care anymore. For me, the fictional spell of story was broken, so I missed the finale in which the toothless, diabetes-ridden Coca-cola polar bears mauled the last of the zombies.

I came home and read Wool, which is genuinely amazing. As I read, I was grateful for the difference in the story experience: the author and I were engaging in a communication of ideas between the two of us without  pausing for a word from his sponsor. The author told me his story the way he wanted to tell it without compromise and it was incredible. I was grateful for the experience.

Books are not immune from corporate influence, of course, (I've read Stephen King's magic Kindle story) but its far less prominent. When I read a book, there's still a greater probability of an uncompromising story that isn't a glorified sales pitch.

Ayn Rand may have endorsed a philosophy that cost America her soul, but she poured out her evil little heart for the reader and right or wrong, her works are the stories she wanted to tell. Atlas Shrugged may be at home on a shelf next to Mein Kampf, but it is the artist's vision laid bare for us without the input of bean counters and marketers.

Maybe I'm just cranky because I recently learned Superman and I are the same age (when did I grow up?), but I want to hear an artist's story, not watch them do a song-and-dance in exchange for singles in their g-string. Thank God, books are still a relatively safe place for a pure conversation between writer and reader.

Thoughts? Sound off below. Oh, and just in case you haven't seen it, here's Brad Pitt in the funniest commercial ever because I'm pretty sure he's serious:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Kathleen Rushall

Kathleen represents a wide range of children’s literature and nonfiction at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She started as an intern at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency, and then spent two years at Waterside Productions agency. She looks forward to garnering fresh voices, strong narratives, and whimsical tales in all areas of young adult literature including contemporary romance, mysteries, historical fiction, and horror. She is open to all genres of YA, but has a soft spot for thrillers, romance, edgy plots, humorous voices, and would love to find a dark mystery. Kathleen is also looking for unique, quirky picture books and all genres of middle grade fiction as well.

In addition to kidlit, Kathleen also represents select nonfiction and is interested in parenting, cooking, crafts, business, alternative medicine, mind-body-spirit, women’s interest, humor, metaphysical, pop-culture, and some how-to.

Kathleen graduated from Seattle University with her bachelor’s degree in English and minor in fine arts. She moved back to her hometown of San Diego to earn her master’s degree in English, specializing in children’s literature, from San Diego State University. When she is not at her desk, Kathleen enjoys exploring new restaurants, dreaming of Ireland, and walking her Australian Shepherd, Finn.

For more information, check out my friends Natalie Aguirre and Casey McCormick's wonderful blog, Literary Rambles.

And now Kathleen Rushall faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?
Ah, such a tough question, there are so many to choose from!

A Song of Ice and Fire (the Game of Thrones series) by George R.R. Martin
Green Darkness by Anya Seton
Wise Child by Monica Furlong

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

Tv Shows
Arrested Development, Parenthood, Rome (and Game of Thrones, although I am an obnoxious fan who can’t stop nitpicking changes from the books)

Euro Trip (guilty pleasure)
About a Boy

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

Great writer, hard working, communicative, positive, sees the importance in editorial critique and revisions, and a sense of humor is always a great quality.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

Contemporary middle grade and YA with humor and heart. A unique picture book that makes me laugh out loud and/ or has a fun twist. Fresh how-to, craft, business, parenting, metaphysical, or mind, body, spirit, health nonfiction projects.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My clients are my favorite part of the job. My authors are talented, driven, upbeat, lovely people. I really enjoy brainstorming new projects and working on revisions, mapping out strategies and helping to grow their careers. My least favorite part of the job is the rejection letters. Agents need to be so selective of the projects we take on but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to send those declines.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

I know the publishing process can feel like a roller coaster, but writing should also be fun. Don’t lose sight of why you chose this, why you love this. This will shine through in your manuscript and your pitch…and enthusiasm is catching.

Also, always do your research. Join writing organizations in your genre (such as SCBWI and RWA). These meetings and conferences are like continuing education for writers. This is where you’ll learn the steps to getting published as well as strengthen your writing (and demonstrate to agents that you are aware of the industry and current market).

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Oscar Wilde. He’s hilarious, clever, intelligent, and a great writer. I imagine he’s wonderful company.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


First Paragraph(s): I don’t believe it!” Ron said, in a stunned voice, as the Hogwarts students filed back up the steps behind the party from Durmstrang. “Krum, Harry! Viktor Krum!” 
“For heaven’s sake, Ron, he’s only a Quidditch player,” said Hermione. 
“Only a Quidditch player?” Ron said, looking at her as though he couldn’t believe his ears. “Hermione — he’s one of the best Seekers in the world! I had no idea he was still at school!”

Hello there, Esteemed Reader! I hope your week is going well. The Ninja has recently learned firsthand that husbands can experience sympathy pregnancy symptoms, which has to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. But I've talked with enough dad's to confirm it's a real thing. I won't bore you with the obnoxious details, but know the whole time I'm experiencing them, I am annoyed and quite disgusted with myself. 

Mrs. Ninja and I have enough complications in our life with one of us being pregnant; we don't need any trouble from me. In a battle, should one soldier be shot in the leg, the rest of her platoon doesn't shoot themselves in the leg to make her feel better. The whole business of sympathy pains is absurd and I'm tired of talking about it (which could be the result of sympathy moodiness), so let's talk about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

It's to be Chapter 16 this week in which we at long last have reached the actual Goblet of Fire, allowing us to fully appreciate the title of the book. The main purpose of Chapter 16 is to establish the rules of the Triwizard Tournament and set up one of the biggest plot points of this book's adventure. Harry Potter is going to compete in that tournament. Of course he is. Can you imagine a Harry Potter book in which Harry spent chapter after chapter cheering for Cedric Diggory from the stands? That's not going to happen and the book would be a lame read if it did. 

To her credit though, Rowling does take the time to build doubt in the reader's mind. This is important for two reasons: 1. it's no fun to read a story in which everything happens the manner in which the reader expects it to happen. 2. Harry is a more relatable, as well as more a consistent character if he is a reluctant hero--see every action hero movie ever made. 

John McClain's days of killing terrorists by the dozens are done until his wife/daughter/son is kidnapped and he has to make a bunch of folks Die Hard one last time, depending on opening weekend grosses. The Man of Steel isn't planning to save the world until General Zod holds it hostage and only he can save us. If Harry rushes to put himself in harm's way without a compelling reason, he isn't a real character, and if his reason is merely seeking additional fame, he isn't the Harry we've grown to love over three books. Russel Crowe doesn't choose to be Gladiator, he's forced to be. And so it's to be with Harry.

As usual, whenever Rowling has some important exposition to relate to the reader and Hermione isn't available, she has Dumbledore. One of the advantages of setting a story in a school is headmasters really do give long speeches to their student body explaining rules of an event:

“Anybody wishing to submit themselves as champion must write their name and school clearly upon a slip of parchment and drop it into the goblet,” said Dumbledore. “Aspiring champions have twenty-four hours in which to put their names forward. Tomorrow night, Halloween, the goblet will return the names of the three it has judged most worthy to represent their schools. The goblet will be placed in the entrance hall tonight, where it will be freely accessible to all those wishing to compete. 
“To ensure that no underage student yields to temptation,” said Dumbledore, “I will be drawing an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire once it has been placed in the entrance hall. Nobody under the age of seventeen will be able to cross this line. 
“Finally, I wish to impress upon any of you wishing to compete that this tournament is not to be entered into lightly. Once a champion has been selected by the Goblet of Fire, he or she is obliged to see the tournament through to the end. The placing of your name in the goblet constitutes a binding, magical contract."

That last line is especially important. The "binding, magical contract" bit guarantees that as soon as Harry is chosen by the Goblet of Fire, he'll have no choice--the key to the reluctant action hero--but to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. And he'll win (by a tie, it's true) because, we'll, he's Harry Potter, dude. And despite his reluctance, Harry may not be entirely opposed to bit a glory:

“You’ll try and get in, won’t you, Harry?” 
Harry thought briefly of Dumbledore’s insistence that nobody under seventeen should submit their name, but then the wonderful picture of himself winning the Triwizard Tournament filled his mind again. . . . He wondered how angry Dumbledore would be if someone younger than seventeen did find a way to get over the Age Line. . .

Writers, take note: Rowling may lay out the rules of the Goblet of Fire in a boring talking head scene, but she doesn't leave it there. In order to keep readers guessing as to how he'll get into the tournament and to show Harry's reluctance, Rowling has to create an obstacle to Harry's entering. It's one thing for Dumbledore to explain there's an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire, but the reader will not accept it unless we're shown. The result is quite funny and comedy is almost always worth slowing your story down for:

“Done it,” Fred said in a triumphant whisper to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. “Just taken it.” 
“What?” said Ron. 
“The Aging Potion, dung brains,” said Fred.
“One drop each,” said George, rubbing his hands together with glee. “We only need to be a few months older.”

Harry watched, fascinated, as Fred pulled a slip of parchment out of his pocket bearing the words Fred Weasley — Hogwarts. Fred walked right up to the edge of the line and stood there, rocking on his toes like a diver preparing for a fifty-foot drop. Then, with the eyes of every person in the entrance hall upon him, he took a great breath and stepped over the line. 
For a split second Harry thought it had worked — George certainly thought so, for he let out a yell of triumph and leapt after Fred — but next moment, there was a loud sizzling sound, and both twins were hurled out of the golden circle as though they had been thrown by an invisible shot-putter. They landed painfully, ten feet away on the cold stone floor, and to add insult to injury, there was a loud popping noise, and both of them sprouted identical long white beards.

And there you have it. Rowling tells us that no one under the age of seventeen can put their name in the Goblet of Fire and then she shows us it's so, giving credibility to Dumbledore's words and a laugh to the young reader.Therefore, Harry Potter cannot enter the tournament, simple as that, so there's no point in his worrying about it. But just as the reader accepts this, Rowling reveals in the last paragraph cliff hanger that Harry's name has somehow been placed in the cup and he must compete. The reluctant hero is forced to act and is made more sympathetic by being forced. That's the meat of the chapter and if Rowling left it there, her story would be moving along nicely and I wouldn't have anything to say about it. 

But Rowling doesn't leave it there. Her pacing and her plots are impeccableusually, but the reason this series is so beloved is for its characters. Though the majority of Chapter 16 is devoted to the Goblet of Fire and this all-important plot point that sets up the novel's main mystery: who put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire and why, there are still whole sections of the chapter devoted to character. 

Rowling further's her running joke of Ron being the world's biggest Victor Krum fan, which will be extra funny later when the world-famous athlete starts dating Ron's would-be (will-be) girlfriend:

Several sixth-year girls were frantically searching their pockets as they walked — “Oh I don’t believe it, I haven’t got a single quill on me —”
"D’you think he’d sign my hat in lipstick?” 
“Really,” Hermione said loftily (another unnecessary adverb--MGN) as they passed the girls, now squabbling over the lipstick. 
“I’m getting his autograph if I can,” said Ron. “You haven’t got a quill, have you, Harry?”

Ron and Hermione aren't the only teens discovering lust for the first time. Harry himself again takes special notice of Cho Chang, which is a crush that will pay off more in the next adventure than this book. And to make matters more interesting, there are veela running around Hogwarts this year, distracting all the boys and mayhap some of the girls:

The girl picked up the dish and carried it carefully off to the Ravenclaw table. Ron was still goggling at the girl as though he had never seen one before. Harry started to laugh. The sound seemed to jog Ron back to his senses. “She’s a veela!” he said hoarsely to Harry. 
“Of course she isn’t!” said Hermione tartly. (this adverb not quite so offensive--MGN) “I don’t see anyone else gaping at her like an idiot!” But she wasn’t entirely right about that. As the girl crossed the Hall, many boys’ heads turned, and some of them seemed to have become temporarily speechless, just like Ron. 
“I’m telling you, that’s not a normal girl!” said Ron, leaning sideways so he could keep a clear view of her. “They don’t make them like that at Hogwarts!” 
“They make them okay at Hogwarts,” said Harry without thinking. Cho happened to be sitting only a few places away from the girl with the silvery hair.

Teenagers thinking about the opposite sex is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but it is important that Rowling's characters be consistent and behave the way non-magical teenagers would behave at this age. More interesting is Hermione's jealousy of Ron noticing another girl, though as I've mentioned, she'll get hers later. Even with everything else going on in this chapter, Rowling makes time to service our main characters and their relationships, which is precisely why we care about everything else going on. 

Of more interest to me in this chapter than teenagers and their hormones is Rowling's treatment of Hagrid, though he'll later have his own romantic issues to contend with. In some ways Hagrid is a big child and a fourth member of the trio. He genuinely seems to enjoy his time with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and few settings in Hogwarts are as vividly described over seven books as Hagrid's hut: 

Hagrid’s cabin comprised a single room, in one corner of which was a gigantic bed covered in a patchwork quilt. A similarly enormous wooden table and chairs stood in front of the fire beneath the quantity of cured hams and dead birds hanging from the ceiling. They sat down at the table while Hagrid started to make tea, and were soon immersed in yet more discussion of the Triwizard Tournament. Hagrid seemed quite as excited about it as they were. 
“You wait,” he said, grinning. “You jus’ wait. Yer going ter see some stuff yeh’ve never seen before. Firs’ task . . . ah, but I’m not supposed ter say.” 
“Go on, Hagrid!” Harry, Ron, and Hermione urged him, but he just shook his head, grinning. 
“I don’ want ter spoil it fer yeh,” said Hagrid. “But it’s gonna be spectacular, I’ll tell yeh that. Them champions’re going ter have their work cut out. Never thought I’d live ter see the Triwizard Tournament played again!” 
They ended up having lunch with Hagrid, though they didn’t eat much — Hagrid had made what he said was a beef casserole, but after Hermione unearthed a large talon in hers, she, Harry, and Ron rather lost their appetites.

It's a lovely scene and Rowling is setting us up perfectly. Who wouldn't want to spend an afternoon in Hagrid's hut, even if lunch wasn't such of a much and the conversation revolved around the main plot? It's a warm, comforting place, and to me, it feels like home. Given his love for Harry and Harry's love for Hagrid, I'm amazed the giant managed to survive seven novels, as Harry's love is typically a death sentence. But just as the reader is feeling safe, even if only for a few paragraphs, Hagrid drops a bomb: 

A light rain had started to fall by midafternoon; it was very cozy sitting by the fire, listening to the gentle patter of the drops on the window, watching Hagrid darning his socks and arguing with Hermione about house-elves — for he flatly refused to join S.P.E.W. when she showed him her badges. 
“It’d be doin’ ’em an unkindness, Hermione,” he said gravely, threading a massive bone needle with thick yellow yarn. “It’s in their nature ter look after humans, that’s what they like, see? Yeh’d be makin’ ’em unhappy ter take away their work, an’ insultin’ ’em if yeh tried ter pay ’em.” 
“But Harry set Dobby free, and he was over the moon about it!” said Hermione. “And we heard he’s asking for wages now!” 
“Yeah, well, yeh get weirdos in every breed. I’m not sayin’ there isn’t the odd elf who’d take freedom, but yeh’ll never persuade most of ’em ter do it — no, nothin’ doin’, Hermione.” 
Hermione looked very cross indeed and stuffed her box of badges back into her cloak pocket.

That may be one of my favorite conversations in the series. I love that Hagrid is wrong and that Rowling dares to give him the wrong view. Hagrid's not a bad guy, the reader knows. A few paragraphs before he was everyone's favorite, so why is he here endorsing slavery?

We can debate the reasons behind Rowling's choice, and by all means, if you disagree with me, sound off in the comments below. But realistically, in order for a society to have slaves, slavery has to be endorsed by a sizable portion of its members, and not just the villains. There are some relatives in my life who hold despicable views, but they love me and I love them right back. Life's too short for philosophical grudges among family.

And it's important to note that Hagrid's argument for continued slavery, wrong though it may be, is not an unkind one. The reasons why he thinks what he thinks are as important as what he thinks. This is worth remembering if you're planning to give your own character a view on the wrong side of history and want them to still be sympathetic. Rhett Butler may have helped form the Klan, but he had handsome, dashing reasons for doing so:) 

That's it for this week's long rambling about Harry Potter absolutely no one asked for. But traffic patterns tell me these weekly snore fests are being read and I enjoy writing them, so meet me here next week  for a discussion of Chapter 17 in which Ron and Harry finally start their big lover's quarrel

Last Paragraph(s): The fire in the goblet had just turned red again. Sparks were flying out of it. A long flame shot suddenly into the air, and borne upon it was another piece of parchment. 
Automatically, it seemed, Dumbledore reached out a long hand and seized the parchment. He held it out and stared at the name written upon it. There was a long pause, during which Dumbledore stared at the slip in his hands, and everyone in the room stared at Dumbledore. And then Dumbledore cleared his throat and read out —
“Harry Potter.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

NINJA STUFF: E-books Vs. Print Books

Hi there, Esteemed Reader! I saw Man of Steel twice this weekend and it was indeed the glorious experience I've been yearning for all year. Henry Cavil is second only to Christopher Reeve as Superman, and Amy Adams is the best onscreen Lois Lane I've ever seen. Johnathan Kent's fate was lame and silly (what an idiot), the Jesus imagery was overbearing and unnecessary, but the action scenes blew my mind and Superman's super-fights have never been more convincing. There's nothing quite so enjoyable as seeing a favorite story well told. But I don't do movie reviews, so that's where we'll leave it.

I wanted to sound off today with my take on e-books: I love them. I've had an Amazon Kindle for two years now and when I'm forced to read an actual physical printed book, I sort of resent it. I've lugged around the wrist bending Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before, and I far prefer the Kindle version.

I realize that in the eyes of some of you Esteemed Readers, I am now worse than Hitler for having admitted that:) I know this because I listen to all the panel discussions of editors and publishers I can get my hands on and many of them are focused on this very topic. And almost always the panel concludes that e-books are nice, but printed books are better. I completely disagree.

I get the argument for the printed book, I do. But as someone who just moved and who has acquired 8 full book cases over a life well-lived; as someone who just had to lug those books over no small number of stairs, when my Kindle could've easily held most of them and been carried in a bag with a bunch of other stuff, I'm wondering why more people aren't openly embracing e-books.

My prediction: print will never die completely, but most reading in the future will be of electronic text. Thank goodness! If people didn't read electronic text, this blog would cease to exist. It's going to be a while before all people have access to e-readers, which is what keeps me from seriously considering self-publishing (more on that in a moment). As with everything in the world influenced by Gordon Gecko and Ayn Rand, there is a great disparity between the few people privileged to have e-readers, and the many who have to rely on physical books to learn how to perform self surgeries and other sad things our current economic model of screw-everybody-but-those-at-the-top has brought about.

When the ninja was a wee child, many Supermans ago, my family was the only one I knew with a personal computer my father got (the phone in my pocket is far more powerful) because he was a man named Kent who worked for a newspaper. These many years later, almost no one works for newspapers (the new Lois Lane works at The Daily Planet, but publishes on a blog), and almost everyone has access to a computer, whatever their economic status. I'm friends with a struggling family who have a laptop, but can't afford internet service, which is why I don't worry about them reading this post:)

Mrs. Ninja is fond of proclaiming that physical media is dead, and despite the shelf of VHS tapes in my closet, she's probably right. I've mentioned before I no longer have a television or a video game system. I played Bioshock Infinite by downloading a PC version to my laptop and I'll be watching the final season of Breaking Bad by purchasing commercial-free episodes through Amazon, which I'll watch when it's convenient to me, not at 10:00 on a Sunday night when I have to be up early to write before work.

The nearest book store is a 30-minute drive from me and I live in Indianapolis, not exactly a ghost town. A few years from now, the nearest book store may be an hour away. Most readers have the option of either the one book shelf at Wal-mart, or the library. With an e-reader, you never have to leave your house for a new book, and you never have to be limited by the supply of your local library or increasingly less-local retailer.

E-books are here to stay and the proliferation of e-readers increases, they're only going to become more prominent. As publishers buy up publishers, creating an eventual super publisher with the power to solely determine what will and won't be published, I say the advent of e-readers is the best possible news for writers. We'll talk more about self publishing another post as its something I've started paying a lot more attention to, but for now I just want to say how happy I am that's it an option.

Writers being able to deliver their stories direct to their readers without a publisher's permission will undoubtedly result in some bad books published before they or their author is ready, but traditional publishing has often resulted in the same. I'm glad I got to read Lynne Reid Bank's The Wrongly-Coulored Dragon and Joni Sensel's 3rd in The Farwalker Trilogy, and if traditional publishing were the only game in town, those books might still be on their author's shelves.

Given that the Ninja routinely interviews literary agents and editors (the path to traditional publishing), and that my review policy specifically forbids self-published books for Book of the Week consideration, all of this is revolutionary thinking for me. An old critique partner of mine, Susan Kaye Quinn, started her blog at the same I started this one. She went the self-publishing route and has far more readers than I do and wonderful books you can and should read right now, right this moment. The Ninja has a collection of manuscripts you may one day get to read.

In conclusion, Man of Steel was seriously mind-blowing:) If you've always wanted to see Superman punch a dude from one side of Metropolis to the other (who wouldn't want to see that?), you need to get to the theater and help get the grosses up so I can one day bask in the joy of a sequel.

And if you have your own thoughts about e-books and/or modern self publishing, please sound off in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


First Paragraph: Early next morning, Harry woke with a plan fully formed in his mind, as though his sleeping brain had been working on it all night. He got up, dressed in the pale dawn light, left the dormitory without waking Ron, and went back down to the deserted common room. Here he took a piece of parchment from the table upon which his Divination homework still lay and wrote the following letter: Dear Sirius, I reckon I just imagined my scar hurting, I was half asleep when I wrote to you last time. There’s no point coming back, everything’s fine here. Don’t worry about me, my head feels completely normal.

Hello there, Esteemed Reader. Sorry to have missed you last week. I wish I could tell you it's because I was working on my new book and was so caught up I simply forgot to blog. Alas, I'm missing a crucial element in my new tale and I won't really be able to get it up and running until I solve the story problem. I'll figure it out; I always do. When I do, I'll be so busy creating the new world I'll forget to eat, shower, take bathroom breaks, etc. It's not inconceivable I may forget to update this blog. In many ways, being a creative writer is a lot like having a mental disorder:)

Last week, I had a boring, run-of-the-mill medical issue. It's since been resolved and as I write this I have lovely painkillers coursing through my system. I'm just fine now, really. This isn't an attempt to prey on your sympathies, just a--heck, I don't know what this is. Stupid painkillers. Stupid mushy brain:) 

Anywho, I'm back this week and eager to chat about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with my favorite Esteemed Reader (that's you!). This week, it's to be Chapter 15. This is yet another chapter that's more about setting things up to happen later rather than things actually happening--that comes next chapter. In order for three wizard schools to compete in a Triwizard tournament, two additional schools need to be introduced at some point. Chapter 15 is that point.

Learning about other branches of wizard society is certainly interesting, but the reader has already been to the Quidditch World Cup, which was like the Epcot of wizard countries. Some fantasy readers are endlessly hungry for imaginary details about cultures that have never actually existed. The Ninja is not one of these readers. I enjoy enough world-building to be caught up in a story, but I have little patience for supplemental material or stories bogged down by too much non-essential detail. 

I watched the new Star Trek movie and I had a good time, but I'm not going to learn to speak Klingon (if I'm investing that kind of time, I'm learning a language I can speak with more people than my friend who lives in his mother's basement). I've only seen one or two of the original Star Trek movies (I can't take Shatner's acting) and only a handful of episodes of the different television series. There are plenty of Trekies out there and for them, supplemental material is available in an incalculable quantity. Good for them, but they aren't the mainstream. I enjoyed the movie because it stuck to action, space lasers, explosions, and a contained story I didn't have to know the complete Trek history to understand. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a mainstream story. Rowling gives us plenty of details about the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, the two rival schools joining in the triwizard tournament, but never too many. In the end, no matter what we learn about the other schools, the reader is going to root for Harry and Hogwarts. Therefore, Rowling restricts our knowledge of the schools to what is relevant to this story. With every new student introduced, Rowling shows us how their presence will impact our characters, thus making the new characters relevant

To start with, Rowling shows us how Hogwarts is getting ready for the arrival of the schools:

Harry noticed too that the castle seemed to be undergoing an extra-thorough cleaning. Several grimy portraits had been scrubbed, much to the displeasure of their subjects, who sat huddled in their frames muttering darkly and wincing as they felt their raw pink faces. The suits of armor were suddenly gleaming and moving without squeaking, and Argus Filch, the caretaker, was behaving so ferociously to any students who forgot to wipe their shoes that he terrified a pair of first-year girls into hysterics.

The subjects of the paintings wincing at their raw pink faces may be my favorite detail in the whole book. It just captures the imagination, doesn't it? But of course the point of this passage is meant to show us the mood of the school as the students and faculty pull together to be ready for competition. This next passage has the details fanboys will need to make their own Harry-Potter-themed whatever, but Rowling presents the information in this same context of the school gearing up for the big game:

When they went down to breakfast on the morning of the thirtieth of October, they found that the Great Hall had been decorated overnight. Enormous silk banners hung from the walls, each of them representing a Hogwarts House: red with a gold lion for Gryffindor, blue with a bronze eagle for Ravenclaw, yellow with a black badger for Hufflepuff, and green with a silver serpent for Slytherin. Behind the teachers’ table, the largest banner of all bore the Hogwarts coat of arms: lion, eagle, badger, and snake united around a large letter H.

The teachers are loading our heroes up with extra lessons and homework under the guise of preparing them for their Ordinary Wizarding Levels. But really, the teachers want their students up to snuff for comparison with the students of rival schools. Hogwarts is preparing itself to do battle, and that's why the details of the coming schools will be interesting rather than supplemental information: the other schools are competitors

If Rowling were writing supplemental material, she might not choose to make the headmaster of Durmstrang a former dark wizard who has a history with Dumbledore, or the headmaster of Beauxbatons a giantess who might make a perfect love interest for a certain Hogwarts gamekeeper. But every detail of these new characters from rival wizard schools is relevant only because of how their presence impacts our protagonists and their journey. Otherwise, Rowling would be better served saving these new characters for their own book.

In this same vein, the long history of oppression for unfortunate house-elves is not interesting since this story isn't about them. This isn't Dobby Unchained (too bad). House-elves and their fate is not a subject relevant to our story until our characters debate it:

Ron now rolled his eyes at the ceiling, which was flooding them all in autumn sunlight, and Fred became extremely interested in his bacon (both twins had refused to buy a S.P.E.W. badge). George, however, leaned in toward Hermione. “Listen, have you ever been down in the kitchens, Hermione?” 
“No, of course not,” said Hermione curtly, “I hardly think students are supposed to —” 
“Well, we have,” said George, indicating Fred, “loads of times, to nick food. And we’ve met them, and they’re happy. They think they’ve got the best job in the world —” 
“That’s because they’re uneducated and brainwashed!”

The liberation of house-elves is a subplot never fully satisfied in the seven Harry Potter books, nor does it need to be. There's a lot of discussion of a house-elf revolution, but it never actually happens. The climax of book seven is not a house-elf uprising (too bad). We do get to see the evolution of a couple house elves throughout the series, but their fight for civil rights continues outside the scope of these books, and that's as it should be. At the end of the day, house-elves and their story is the subject of another book and they are important here only because of how they impact our heroes. 

Still, I love how Rowling cautions children to question society and our rules without coming right out and advising them to. Children who read about Hermione's views on imaginary oppression are growing up to recognize actual oppression. Because Hermione asserts that a fantasy history is in some cases a pack of lies, future conspiracy theorists may question real history. This is actually pretty heady stuff for a "kid's book:"

She noticed them all looking at her and said, with her usual air of impatience that nobody else had read all the books she had, “It’s all in Hogwarts: A History. Though, of course, that book’s not entirely reliable. A Revised History of Hogwarts would be a more accurate title. Or A Highly Biased and Selective History of Hogwarts, Which Glosses Over the Nastier Aspects of the School.” “What are you on about?” said Ron, though Harry thought he knew what was coming. “House-elves!” said Hermione, her eyes flashing. “Not once, in over a thousand pages, does Hogwarts: A History mention that we are all colluding in the oppression of a hundred slaves!”

And that's what I have to say about this book this week. Hope I can think of something else to say about it next week:) We're out of time, Esteemed Reader, but I'm going to leave you with two last descriptions because I think they demonstrate an important prinicipal of writing: the most vivid descriptions usually involve violence or a gross-out  or sometimes both. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rowling would've made a heck of a horror writer and I sincerely hope she's working on a scary story now rather than a sequel to The Casual Vacancy

See how Rowling brings the Owlery to life by highlighting the grossest aspect of it:

The Owlery was a circular stone room, rather cold and drafty, because none of the windows had glass in them. The floor was entirely covered in straw, owl droppings, and the regurgitated skeletons of mice and voles. Hundreds upon hundreds of owls of every breed imaginable were nestled here on perches that rose right up to the top of the tower, nearly all of them asleep, though here and there a round amber eye glared at Harry. He spotted Hedwig nestled between a barn owl and a tawny, and hurried over to her, sliding a little on the dropping-strewn floor.

Owls are interesting, but not as interesting as poop:) And just in case Rowling didn't capture the reader's imagination, there's always that old standby of eating puss, which comes up frequently in the Harry Potter books:

They knew Hermione would rather eat bubotuber pus than miss such an important lesson.

And just because it makes me laugh, here's one last passage:

“Talk about paranoid . . .” Ron glanced nervously over his shoulder to check that Moody was definitely out of earshot and went on. “No wonder they were glad to get shot of him at the Ministry."

Ninja away!!!

Last Paragraph: Karkaroff beckoned forward one of his students. As the boy passed, Harry caught a glimpse of a prominent curved nose and thick black eyebrows. He didn’t need the punch on the arm Ron gave him, or the hiss in his ear, to recognize that profile. “Harry — it’s Krum!”