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Oregonian [Contact]

As my pen name suggests, I'm an American, living in Oregon. I started writing in 2012, just because I had a story (The Baby in the Closet) that I wanted to tell, but since then I have been trying to learn to write better by taking classes at the local college, reading some really useful books on fiction writing, and following their advice. Hopefully it's working!

I like to study history, languages, and science. I try to stretch my writing skills by entering challenges and forcing myself to write to prompts that I would otherwise not write, although Romance, Marauders, and Quidditch are topics I can't write well (so I avoid them). I am a registered nurse and have a daughter and a son.

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Reviews by Oregonian

Voices from Beyond the Veil by minnabird

Rated: 3rd-5th Years • Past Featured Story
Summary: It's Halloween night - the night when the veil between this world and the next is thinnest. Deep below the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries, Millicent Bulstrode might finally find some answers about her former partner.

This story was nominated for Best Dark/Angst in the 2014 Quicksilver Quill Awards.

Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 04/15/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Merlin’s beard, Minna! This story deserves a rip-snorting review. I am taken aback by it.

First of all, the subject is so unusual; at least, I have never read anything about the Department of Mysteries and the work that is done there, or the employees who work there. All we know about that place is the vivid episode in The Order of the Phoenix, which was sufficiently confusing for me that I had to re-read those chapters in the book, putting special emphasis on trying to picture and memorize the physical layout of the department, to make it a little less of a surrealistic dream (or nightmare). So while your story is not a Missing Moment, it definitely takes its impetus from that one moment in the Harry Potter saga.

Interestingly, your story depicted the DoM workers as not mystical-minded but scientific-minded, which was a surprising choice for such a weird place, and yet it makes perfect sense, if one can just get beyond the impression that “This place is really weird.” The implication is that many very mysterious things (time, death, the human brain, etc) are being studied there in stringent fashion. The description of Millicent’s office brings to mind the little, ordinary office that was mentioned in OotP as being located off the Time Room.

I admire how you kept this story from being soppy or even extremely angsty. You depict Millicent as the consummate researcher, approaching the question of deciphering the whisperings from beyond the veil with a scientist’s curiosity but objective self-control. The “breathless wonder” and “goosebumps breaking out on her arms” are signs of scientific excitement, but not loss of control. But she subsequently discovers, as scientists often do, that the research isn’t leading anywhere very fast, but the slowness of the progress does not bother her; she says “That’s what this job is.”

You draw distinct differences in your characterizations of Millicent and Justin, and make it clear in the couple of expository sentences describing the two possible fates of DoM employees, either losing themselves in the pursuit of mysteries or abandoning the profession altogether. Apparently there is a third alternative, a striking of a balance such as what Croaker has achieved, and at first that is what Millicent seems to be aiming for. She thinks that with sensible precautions (the chained chair) she can deal with the possibly more revealing results that can be obtained by listening to the whispers of departed spirits on Hallowe’en night. A sensible, scientifically reasonable hypothesis.

She is not really prepared for how she reacts when, probably beyond her actual expectations of success for this particular experiment, the attempt actually works and she does manage to converse with Justin a little bit. It was interesting that you chose to have her emotions be anger at his having left her and his friends, not longing for him or a momentary impulse to join him; your choice was completely appropriate, both for her character and for what may be a common reaction when a person deliberately ends his or her own life. And it is appropriate that she ends the conversation then; what else was there to say?

So while “..she didn’t much like [the] idea,” she takes a break, maybe only temporary, because she rationally knows she needs some time off to deal with what she has been through.

You have kept Millicent very much in character throughout this story. Nice job there. The story is well structured; the flashbacks alternating with present-time narrative work well. My only comment is about the phrase “…her mind wandering again to the past.” It’s perfectly clear, and I have used that kind of phrase myself, but it seems like a stock phrase for signaling the reader that a flashback is coming up, and I wish we had a fresher way of saying that.

I am glad that you did not obscure the focus of the story by filling it up with descriptive details (we can read OotP for that) or excessive rumination about Millicent’s every thought; these things can clog up the storytelling, and in the end the storytelling is our reason for being here, in my opinion.

Very, very nice job.


Blush by Ithinkrabis2people

Rated: 1st-2nd Years •
Summary: Confidence can be misleading.
This is Alex/Ithinkrabis2people of Ravenclaw, and this is my one-shot for the final of ‘So this is Romance’ class over at the Mugglenet Fanfiction Beta Boards.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/18/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Hi Alex. This is Vicki of Slytherin House. I came across this story which you wrote for the Summer Term classes, and I hope your professors gave you high marks because it is a good little story.

I like the image of Fleur taking matters into her own hands and Bill not being put off by her frankness. The roots of her forthrightness are seen in canon: she first lays eyes on Bill in about June of 1995, goes to work at Gringott’s (where he works) shortly thereafter, summons up her boldness to approach him, as outlined in this story, and is engaged one year later. One might assume that a girl with Veela blood could have her pick of the countless young men who would throw themselves at her, but she ignores them to pursue the one man that she herself has chosen, in a planned, proactive way. Thus she is depicted as having a strong and focused character, completely at odds with the bubblehead image that Bill’s family has of her.

I will admit that I was not entirely sure what Fleur was talking about in the paragraph that begins with her saying “But only wiz some…charm.” When she says,”I wanted to be sure eet was me zis time. I wanted to be in control,” is she saying that she wanted to control who she would be in a romantic relationship with, and that she wanted to be loved for herself, not as an object? In a previous review, Lori speaks of the downside of having Veela blood, and I think that that is a point some readers can identify with; in the real world, it doesn’t take Veela blood to attract a bunch of suitors who want to feed off your success, wealth, fame, glamour, power, even, yes, beauty (if you are so lucky as to have these qualities), and trying to distinguish between the true friends and the leeches can be a real problem. It is perceptive of you to deal with this issue.

The sudden jump in the story from Bill and Fleur’s conversation on the steps of the bank to the scene, one year later, at the Delacour home works very well; there is no need to present any of the intervening courtship because everything necessary was said on the steps. Details of the courtship would have just been filler.

I was amused by the contrast between the Bill that we know, with long hair and a fang earring, and the Bill who is visiting M. Delacour with a ring box in his pocket. His behavior at this moment seems very old-fashioned; I can almost picture him going down on one knee when Fleur appears unexpectedly in the room. But for me the significant moment at the end is not the fact that Bill is about to propose to Fleur; it is the fact that she dates the beginning of their life together from the day when Bill took her on a tour of London, which was shortly after she arrived there, which was shortly after she left Hogwarts where she had met him for the first time. She obviously had the perception to recognize quality when she saw it and the courage to seize it.

This is a thoughtful piece, even though you do not spend a lot of time in the characters’ inner reflections; the story is told through their serious words and actions. I like that sort of story, because that is how we get to know people in real life: by their words and actions. Nice job.

Sybill Trelawney and the Unexpected Gift by Squibstress

Rated: 3rd-5th Years • Past Featured Story
Summary: Sybill Trelawney learns to live with her Inner Eye, cooking sherry, and Minerva McGonagall, in that order. (Friendship fic.)
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/10/14 Title: Chapter 1: Sybill Trelawney and the Unexpected Gift

Hello, Squibstress. This is Vicki of Slytherin House, giving you a tardy review (tardy because I read this story when it first appeared and failed to tell you then how much I liked it) of your wonderful story.
Although it is long and complicated, it still remains completely canon-compliant; it is one of those stories that one prints off and saves in a binder of appendices to the seven books.

You story accomplishes a difficult and yet crucial task: to make the character of Sybill Trelawney understandable and respected. In the seven books, she seems almost wacky, nothing but a figure of fun, and the one or two actual predictions that she makes are so unlike everything else she is presented as doing, that they seem to be Out Of Character. In the books she seems to have no redeeming qualities; she is the comic relief, in a way that no other character is.

I have observed that in “children’s literature”, the author often begins by conceiving of his characters and setting lightheartedly, with no gravitas (e.g. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”), and increases the seriousness of the tone of his ongoing story as he begins to realize its depth, resulting in some unevenness of tone. Sometimes the author goes back and rewrites parts of the story, as Tolkien did with Chapter Five of The Hobbit, to raise those parts to the level of the rest of the work, and that is what I feel you have done here with your treatment of Sybill Trelawney. This is an important contribution to the canon.

What you have given us is a fascinating look into an aspect of the magical world that JK Rowling touches only slightly. The seven books tell us little more than that the Gift does exist, because Sybill exhibits it once or twice, but you have given an explanation about how the whole business of Divination functions. You sum it all up neatly in the short sentence of dialogue by Professor Dorsett: “You can’t use your Gift; it uses you.” That explains a lot. Your analysis of how it works makes a lot of sense.

I very much enjoyed how you interwove scenes from the books involving Sybill into your narrative, in order to tack your story firmly to canon. It was fun to search out these scenes as written by JKR and compare what she wrote (as seen through Harry’s eyes) with your version as seen through Sybill’s. Perhaps that is why Sybill emerged as a figure of fun in the seven books: because we were necessarily seeing everything through Harry’s eyes and could not see her inner self until you graciously spelled it all out for us.

Your characterization of Minerva intrigued me. You depict her as sharp and acerbic even as a seventeen-year-old Head Girl (though she could be friendly with her friend Gussie). In her dealings with Sybill as an adult, Minerva doesn’t seem to have much, if any, of the milk of human kindness in her. Her whole attitude is summed up in your line “…Minerva said something acid.” If she had a kindly or softer side, we don’t see it. By contrast, Professor Dorsett, who has friendly tea parties with Sybill, is kind and understands what is happening to Sybill; Minerva does not. I get the impression that Minerva is dismissive of Sybill because she does not understand. Unfortunately, it is easy to be dismissive of what you don’t understand.

You story recounts Minerva’s apparent change of heart towards Sybill, when she helps Sybill in the entrance hall, but neither JKR nor your story explains why. Nevertheless, after years of obvious lack of respect, Minerva suddenly becomes kinder and after Professor Dumbledore’s death she speaks as if she finally believes that Sybill does have Sight. Neither Sybill nor the reader understands why this change of attitude and behavior occurred.

I enjoyed your little touch of having Minerva say, in the end, that the teaching of Divination would be discontinued. If in truth one either had the Gift or one didn’t, and it could not be taught, then I wonder why the Hogwarts administration took so long to come to this decision. Institutional inertia, I guess.

It is a feat to cover an entire life in 8000 words without being episodic or choppy, and though you show only selected scenes from her life, these scenes flow smoothly one into the next. You writing is skillful and graceful. It was a pleasure to read your story.

Author's Response: And I have a tardy response (my apologies--my hard drive crashed and I've been setting up a new computer and trying to catch up with work, so I'm tardy with just about everything at the moment.) Thanks so much for your detailed review. One of the best aspects of writing for fests is that it gives one a chance (read: forces one) to look at new characters and situations. I've never been particularly interested in Sybill, as I share Minerva's disdain for her discipline, so this was a lovely challenge. I really wanted to find a way to make her something more than a figure of derision, so I'm especially happy if readers find her more interesting than she perhaps was in canon. I write Minerva a lot, and it was also fun to write her from Sybill's POV, which is probably why the acerbic aspect of her character is so prominent here. Thanks again for the thoughtful review.

Island Fortress by William Brennan

Rated: 3rd-5th Years •
Summary: In a world where a Reich openly supported by Grindelwald won the Second World War, Britain is one of the few free countries left in Europe. Its people live in constant fear of the end of the world (otherwise known as nuclear war with the Greater Wizarding Reich) and the pro-Reich Todessen led by Voldemort. But when Voldemort makes his attempt on Harry Potter's life, the results are somewhat different.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/14/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Hi, William. I am glad that you have started a new story because a good story based on World War II will always capture my attention. Plus, my son’s name is William, so I am prejudiced in favor of all Williams.

What a treat to see you using the familiar components of the Harry Potter story in such a novel reconfiguration; it reminds me of those children’s books with different animal body parts on separate little pages that can be flipped to produce an infinite variety of fantastic animals. We are left intensely curious about how the familiar story elements are going to be further repurposed. Suddenly all bets are off. This story could go anywhere.

You have flipped the switch on the Statute of Secrecy also, resulting the complete and open co-operation between Muggles and the wizarding community. This is actually refreshing; that statue had a stultifying feel to it, and it is good to see that people have finally come to their senses about partnering their forces in order to maximize their effectiveness. Wizard-Muggle collaboration must stick in Grindelwald’s craw, no?

The timeline of the story needed some close attention to follow it accurately. The story seems to progress by leaps and bounds, part one comprising World War II from 1944 to 1948; then the second part appears to be war-training games on the grounds of Hogwarts in the late 1970’s; part three, the death of the policemen in Manchester, seems to be undated: and the final part, the evacuation of the Dursleys and the fostering of Harry, is set in 1981, I presume. This leapfrogging takes us quickly from World War II to the beginning of Harry’s life, after which I expect time will progress more slowly.

The pace of your story is very brisk, with continuous action. We learn about the characters by what they say and do, not by mental reflections, ruminations, and reminiscence. All the verbs are active verbs. There is an almost total lack of description, but we don’t miss it amidst all the action; it would just slow down the pace, and anyway we’ve all seen World War II movies, so we know what it looks like.

Your writing style is terse, but I like that. There are definitely no wasted words. Here’s a good example: A search turned up nothing. When a wizard arrived, he was able to confirm that they had taken a Portkey out. Now that information could have been expanded into one or more paragraphs, but doing so would not have improved it any.

There’s a lot of imagination in this story, but that has been true for your other writing too, so I am not surprised. You left an enjoyable story unfinished last year (or maybe it’s just in suspended animation); I hope that this story will keep going to its unpredictable end.


The Silver Doe/The Silver Stag by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 1st-2nd Years •
Summary: A look at how Lily and James still live on through their Patronus counterparts.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 04/20/14 Title: Chapter 1: The Silver Doe/The Silver Stag

Hi, Nagini,

I am constantly amazed by the number and variety of the little things, tiny bits of the Harry Potter world, that you can think of, to write poems about. It is always enjoyable to see what you come up with.

This poem is an interesting contrast between the two Patronuses (Patroni?) of James and Lily, as you envision their natures. The stag is obviously powerful, assertive, ready for combat against evil, a masculine image, while the doe is gentle in demeanor, a feminine figure, but we must remember that as a Patronus she is equally effective at repelling dementors. I’m sure that it’s no coincidence that that the Patronus of James and the Patronus of Lily are male and female of the same species.

Since you have paired them in one poem, it raises the question of whether they have any independent existence outside of being summoned. Is there some invisible “Patronus Land” where they Iive? Do they ever interact? (You see, I can be almost as imaginative as you if I try hard.) And how does the masculine Professor Snape with his female doe Patronus figure in? Why does Harry have the same Patronus as his father? Are they inherited?

Your description of the two animals is vivid and active. But I wondered why the lilies have drowned. Of course you needed the rhyme, but what is the word’s inner meaning? Does it simply mean that Lily is dead now?

A couple of suggestions. Lines two, four, six, and eight of each poem have six beats (three iambic feet). (I read the last line of The Silver Stag this way also, by combining while-the into one beat and e-vil into one beat; there’s probably a technical name for this, but I don’t know it. Some of the other thus-designated lines also need a little compression: Yet-the, ant-lers, And-a.) Lines one, three, five and seven are essentially four iambs each, with a few stray compressions and silent beats. All these things don’t bother my ear at all. The one thing that does bother my ear is line seven of the second verse: it is lacking two beats (one iamb).

As written, we have “His prowess does astound..” but we could add the missing iamb by inserting a two-syllable adjective before “prowess” (“His daring prowess does astound…”) or an adverb (His prowess greatly does astound…”) or a direct object (“His prowess does all men astound…”). With your creative use of language, I’m sure you could think of two better syllables than any of my examples.

The other suggestion has to do with the use of the emphatic verb form. In poetry we sometimes change a simple present tense (“His prowess astounds…”) to an emphatic present tense (“His prowess does astound…”) just to gain an extra syllable for the meter, or to ensure an exact rhyme. It’s okay to do this, and sometimes we don’t have any other way to make the poem work, but if these emphatic constructions can be avoided (unless we actually wish to convey emphasis, of course), that’s even better.

But these are minor points. I love your poetry, and it is hard to ever find anything to improve in it. (Will have to put “Patronus Land” in my folder of plot bunnies. Grins.) Thank you for writing.


Author's Response: Another review! Goodness! I need to hop on over to you author page! :) Thank you!!! And those points on meter are actually very good. I believe I was following a certain pattern, and it is possible that I missed an iambic foot... :) Keep reading! ~Nagini

Fallen Leaves by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 1st-2nd Years •
Summary: 10 year old Lily Evans plays in the woods, not knowing that she has a secret admirer...
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 04/19/14 Title: Chapter 1: Fallen Leaves

Hi, Nagini,

This poem is so sweet. I can see Lily sitting on a park bench, and it must be early in the cold season, perhaps after an early light snow, because she is not too cold in a skirt, and the bench is not too snow-covered to sit on, and the leaves are not totally covered, so that she can see them and pick them up, and the sky is not totally cloud-covered because the sun is shining.

This kind of behavior is so typical for some little girls (probably not for Pansy). It shows a basically caring and compassionate nature. One can often get accurate glimpses into a person’s nature by observing little actions or heeding brief words. You have revealed a lot about Lily in just a few words: little children, tender love, a good nap, fragile, proper, gently, hopes. This poem is so different from your dark/angsty battle poems.

The last two lines come as a bit of a surprise, because they change from a focus on Lily’s behavior to a focus on Severus’ emotional reaction to what he sees. He is smart; he can see immediately that she is special.

Sometimes in free verse the line breaks seem to be located in purely arbitrary places in the sentences, and I find that to be jarring, but you have made your line breaks between coherent elements of the sentences, not fracturing phrases abnormally, and for me that makes the poem easier to read.

In the midst of the dark, sometimes brutal, sometimes harsh lives that these characters led in their later years, it is refreshing to dwell for a moment on earlier, happier moments when they were young children and life was as simple as caring for fallen leaves in your lap. Thanks for writing.


Author's Response: Thank you! :) From time to time I like to take a break from dark/angst and write something happier or a little more quirky. And, if I am to be honest, I totally used my sister as a model for Lily. My sister is three now, but she takes care of everything: a pencil, a car, a pillow, keys, flowers, baby dolls, stuffed animals, her pacifier, books... They are all under her care and she makes sure to sing to them, and cradle them, and put them to bed. It is so adorable! And I figured that even someone who is 9 or 10 would still be apt to do such things, since I certainly was. :) Thank you for reading and reviewing! ~Nagini

Sanguini, the Vampire by teh tarik

Rated: 6th-7th Years • Past Featured Story

Vampirism is the persistence and the perpetuity of the body, a madness of the mind, a gradual separation of the the two; one ages and one stagnates.

Sanguini, the vampire.

Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/14/14 Title: Chapter 1: A Revisionist Narrative of the English Vampire

My, My, Nicole. This is certainly an unusual story. And you say you rushed through it. I don’t think I could write something like this if I spent a week at it.

What strikes me first about your story is the lush verbiage, lush to the point of requiring a certain amount of just slogging through it. The story could be told more compactly, more tersely, but perhaps the effect of drawing out each thought as far as possible is that it gives the story a hypnotic effect, a slow and subtle unfolding. One can hear the vampire’s slow, dispassionate voice as if he were not in a hurry and had all the time in the world, which he almost does.

I have not read any popular literature featuring vampires, and JK Rowling does not discuss them in her seven books, so I have no feel for how vampires fit into the Potterverse. Your opinions on how they live, and what they do are as valid as anyone else’s. And there is a lot of imagination here: the Ministry blood banks (where do they get their supply of blood?), the communities of vampires living in the forest, the loss of memory.

Your story covers a long time span, at least fifty years, from Eldred as a young man in his twenties to Eldred as an old, unattractive man. The sentence I stayed with Eldred for many years is almost dismissive, as if many years is an inconsequential thing in a life that has spanned many centuries. To Eldred, David is a source of money-making material; to David, Eldred is a source of fresh blood that makes David feel miraculous and continuously lucid. One gets the impression that if David ever felt affection for any human being during his lifetime, that was long ago and no longer possible. This explains his murder of Eldred when Eldred was no longer useful to him.

I was not certain of the purpose of the episode in which David meets the vampire who he thinks mad ehim a vampire; I concluded that that purpose was to illustrate to David, and the readers, what David’s ultimate fate would be, immortal body but blank mind.

The encounter with Dennis in the pub forms bookends for the story, a frame, a person for the vampire to tell his story to, so that the readers can hear the story also. The implication is there that David is looking for another young person to be his source of fresh blood, so that he can feel again as he did with Eldred, miraculous and lucid. By naming a canon character, Dennis, you have tied the story at this one point to canon, but I was sorry that you had picked Dennis Creevey to be the tie, because the idea of Dennis or George becoming permanently despondent, depressed, and dysfunctional after the death of Colin or Fred seems overused. I cannot see Dennis wanting to stay permanently with David; after all, Dennis is not writing vampire books.

A very different story, that’s for sure. What inspired you to write it?


Author's Response: Hi there, Vicki!

My goodness, what a detailed and thoughtful and just absolutely wonderful review! Thank you so much for this; it really means a lot to me that you've taken the time to sit through the whole fic and read and leave feedback on my work. Apologies for the delay in responding to your review; I don't usually check for reviews when I come onto the site!

First, I'm not sure why I even chose to write this fic in the first place...? I think I read another Sanguini fic around here, and while I liked it very very much, it didn't seem to offer anything new on the subject and portrayal of vampires. I think the main reason of my writing this fic was to explore a super popular topic (vampires!) and see if I could fit this into the Potterverse.

As for the "lush verbiage", as you so eloquently put it, haha! You're right, most of it is unnecessary and unneeded; I could probably have knocked off 3,000 words from the fic and come up with something more compact and concise. But I did want to draw things out a bit, to expand on the mythology. OK, the main reason for the lengthy word count is because I just wanted to have a bit of fun with this fic and be a bit indulgent with the prose. I'm not usually so ill-disciplined with my writing; hence, this is a fic I really enjoyed writing. It's far from my best work, but still.

I love your comment on time, on how meaningless it is to Sanguini. That's most certainly true. How sad for him.

Thank you for this fantastic review, Vicki! It was a joy to receive.


Masks by L A Moody

Rated: 1st-2nd Years • Past Featured Story
An Intrigue at the Ministry in Two Acts

With illusions and spells at their fingertips, crafting the perfect disguise is a simple matter. The true question is which wizard is truly standing before you. Confusion and catastrophe ensue.

This is L A Moody of Ravenclaw House writing for the Halloween/ Terrible Two-Shot Challenge, Prompt 2: The Masque of Red Death

Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/14/14 Title: Chapter 1: Act I Deployment

Hi, Lourdes. This is Vicki of Slytherin, commenting on your remarkable story Masks about the death of Minister Scrimgeour and the fall of the Ministry.

One scarcely knows where to begin. The story is as full of detail as The Garden of Earthly Delights or Where’s Waldo? The richness of the images boggles the mind, and the storyline is like a footpath through a jungle of lush foliage. (Maybe it seems strange to me because fancy dress balls are not as common in America as they seem to be in Britain, so it is harder for me to identify with the scene.)

You have come up with an elaborate plot to explain how the Death Eaters managed to assassinate so many members of the government at once, and it is elaborately presented. I was confused by Tonks, as I concluded you intended, because she was supposedly at the wedding, but here she was at the Ministry, and the narrative seemed to indicate that she really was Tonks. After reading the story several times, and puzzling over the lines He found Tonks just in time to witness her body spreading horizontally. Her spiky hair dissolved into shellacked, honey curls held back by the trademark velvet bow of Dolores Umbridge, I finally figured out that it was really Umbridge all along, Polyjuiced into the form of Tonks, and the spell was wearing off. (Yes I’m kind of slow on the uptake.) So then I had to go back to all those scenes involving Fake Tonks, seeing that yes, those thoughts and words could have been Umbridge’s (the “girlish titter” should have been a giveaway), and I was increasingly impressed about how you pulled it all off.

I also appreciated your in-depth look at poor Percy at this point in his career. The seven books don’t really give us a lot of insight about Percy; we see him being officious and naive at the beginning of his career, and when he appears in the Room of Requirement he says that he eventually saw things as they were but could not easily extricate himself. Other than that, his mindset is left to our imagination. Luckily you have addressed yourself to it with many well-chosen words (loss, regret, solitary hermit, overworked, undernourished, shabby rooming house, heavy sigh, ache under his ribs) that show us how his dream job has turned to ashes in his mouth. I also like your recognition that, at the tender age of twenty-one, Percy could not see the subtle difference between his father’s job at the Ministry and his own job there. Your story helps us see Percy’s story that runs concurrently with the last four books, as he feels trapped and uncertain about what he should do.

All of the politics of this time were complicated, and your development of Kingsley’s role in this story was admirable. I can’t help thinking that it must have taken you a long time to get all the threads of this story sorted out. All the subtle details and little references in the story (though it takes careful re-reading and thought to catch them all) make this a very impressive story. Well done.

Milk & Black Spiders by minnabird

Rated: 1st-2nd Years •
Summary: Yolanda began life meek and mild, but she much prefers being a black widow. A glimpse into the mind of Blaise Zabini's mother.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 02/17/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Your poem about Blaise Zabini’s mother as a little girl and then a young woman certainly deserves a review. And thank you so much for the clue that Yolanda is the eventual Mrs. Zabini; this fact makes the poem instantly understandable.

I like the contrast between the first half of the poem, when Yolanda is so child-like that she is frightened by the sudden sight of a spider, and the second half, when nothing frightens her. I envision the first half of the poem as taking place in a bathroom because the spider is sitting motionless on a “porcelain throne”, the floor is grouted tile, as old-fashioned bathrooms often were, and the girl is barefoot. Stating that she is too timid to trap another living creature reinforces her childishness.

The two halves of the poem are neatly tied together by the continuous themes: the presence of a real or figurative spider, the presence of milk or cream, the mention of porcelain, and the frequent mention of the colors of things. I presume the rosy-red willow is the pattern on her porcelain tea set.

The second half of the poem contrasts sharply with the first. Yolanda sounds outwardly innocent and harmless as a child, though she secretly knows not to do as she is told, but as an adult she is dangerous, more dangerous than the probably harmless little black spider in the bathroom of her youth. Her guest is so self-assured that he carelessly does not bother to look at what she is putting in his tea. We see him through her eyes”arrogant, lazy, sprawling, brazen, a fool. She has contempt for him. Is this what she thinks justifies her treating him as if she were a spider about to devour its prey? This is the woman who we all believe was not entirely innocent in the deaths of her several husbands.

There is one fragment of a line that is not entirely clear to me. “…it knew it had only itself…” What does this mean?

I enjoyed this poem, an imaginative glimpse into the character of someone about whom we actually know almost nothing. Thank you for writing.

The Unbridled by Amulet

Rated: 6th-7th Years •
Summary: As Lily Evans, Sirius Black, and James Potter enter their Seventh Year, the outside world is darkening. But inside the merry walls of the school, love is abound. Except for Lily, who is too busy trying to quell the horrifying realization that intense dislike might not be the ONLY feeling she has for James Potter after all... And for Sirius, who feels himself darkening with the world, lost in his own intense and disturbing feelings for a certain redhead...
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/17/14 Title: Chapter 1: Prologue

Hi, Grace. This is Vicki of Slytherin House, commenting on the very promising beginning of your story. Any narrative that has been percolating in your brain for so long must have aged like a fine wine, don’t you think? I am glad that you finally decided to pour it out for us readers.

One thing that immediately struck me about your story is that everything”details, settings, conversations, action”serves to propel the story forward. It’s surprising how many authors, even published ones, include extraneous stuff that seems to be just stuck in there for no purpose, distracting the reader from the progress of the story, bogging down the story line. Thanks for not doing that!

There is a richness in the way you describe the home lives of Lily and James and Sirius. It does help to establish their characters well, as you intended, by showing how they interact with other people, but I hope that more plot elements will appear soon in subsequent chapters. The amount of richness in the detail is just about right; if it were any greater, I would feel as if I were getting bogged down, but you have achieved a good balance, not too much or too little.

So far you are doing a good job in keeping your story neatly tacked to canon at many little points along the way. Each time one of these momentary references to canon appears, we feel that your story is touching base with JK Rowling’s story; it gives the reader a feeling of confidence that this story will be good.

You also show wise restraint in your episodes of conversation (Lily and Petunia at home, Lily and Snape in the cafe) that involve tension and some bad feelings; it is easy to over-write such scenes and turn the characters into caricatures, but you did not fall into that error.

Your writing style is very fluid and graceful, with many nice turns of phrase, just different enough to be fresh and noticeable without being “far out” or straining for effect. I was surprised to see you ask for a beta at the end of the last chapter. If this story is unedited by a beta, then it is a testament to your excellent writing ability. I saw only a few grammar and word-usage errors, plus of course the inevitable few pesky typos that yield themselves only to a second set of eyes. It’s really quite clean.

I hope that you will be regaling us with more chapters soon. I suppose this will be mainly a love story, but I am enjoying the glimpses of the beginnings of the tumult that eventually turned into the first wizarding war. Nice job.

Sirius Black: Escape from Azkaban by shadowkat678

Rated: 3rd-5th Years •
Summary: Sirius Black escaped the inescapable, but his journey's just begun. With Aurors on his tail and an award on his head, the last Black finds himself the wizarding world's most wanted. Now comes the impossible: locate the traitor, protect his godson, and get revenge all while on the run from the Ministry of Magic...
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/08/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1: A Dog's Day of Freedom

Hi, Isabella. This is Vicki of Slytherin House, and I must say first of all that I am feeling a little apologetic that none of us readers has yet written a review for this fine story It certainly deserves to be commented on, because your work shows talent.

What strikes me most strongly is your talent for seeing things we all sense but don’t put into words. If I wanted to know how a dog felt on a warm beach, I might have to actually go to the beach with a dog and observe how it feels and what the dog does, but I’ll bet you wrote this completely out of your head, no beach trip required.

All of your scenes include the sensory details that bring the scene to life. For example, when the dog stands on the edge of the cliff, you include the line “…sending a few scarlet-specked stones falling over the edge into the shifting gray foam below..” Now you could have written nothing, or you could have said “..sending a few stones falling over the edge…” but with every added detail (and none of it extraneous), you make the sentence, and the scene, a little richer. There are examples of this kind of thing all through the story. I get the impression that you outline your story’s action as if constructing a skeleton and then go back and fill out all the bones with descriptive details as if adding flesh to the skeleton. I was almost sorry that your narrative jumped immediately from the dog’s impact with the water to his washing up on the shore of the mainland; I would have enjoyed seeing how you would describe his long swim through the frigid sea.

You put yourself very perceptively into the mind of your character. I particularly noticed how neatly you fit his backstory into the narrative as the dog waits and hesitates at the top of the cliff. Now sometimes we writers just have to stick a backstory in because we need to provide the information, but the backstory seems to be just hanging there like an extra appendage. Not so with you; you have inserted this information at a realistic point in the story. It is normal that the dog would hesitate ” that’s quite a jump ” and it’s normal that in this situation the dog would review what has brought him to this point, as if to convince himself that jumping is the right thing to do. His thought at this time Both choices held danger, but only one held hope, is a neat summary to indicate how his internal debate with himself was finally settled. And the next morning, when he notes how alien the sound of the seagulls seems to him, it is perceptive of you to remember that everyday sights and sounds which we ordinary folk take for granted would seem alien to someone who had been in prison for so many years; again you are seeing through his eyes.

The dream sequence during the night after his first day of freedom was informative for letting us know what was in the forefront of his mind. (And thank you for clearly indicating that it was a dream.) However it dragged a bit for me during the section when Sirius, James, and Remus belabored the point of whether Sirius should blame himself; it seemed repetitious. It could have been covered more succinctly, or conversely, some of the repetition could have been replaced by a further development of the idea, so that the same space on the page could have contained more ideas. But this is a small thing. And I like the descriptive sentences about the dream fading away.

You have a good development of Sirius’ thoughts in this chapter, from being focused on a primary goal of revenge against Peter to being focused on a primary goal of finding and protecting Harry and reconnecting with Remus, and only secondarily on taking revenge on Peter.

So you have a good cliff-hanger ending. Goal #1 is good and noble; goal #2 is understandable but full of the possibility to cause a lot of trouble (and ultimately it didn’t happen anyway). Of course if Sirius did eventually murder Peter, he would become a murderer for real and would throw away his chance at a new life, so I am left puzzling “Would he have done it if he could? Would that be the real Sirius?” We shall never know.

I hope you will get reviews from other readers also, especially as the story continues and the action continues to ramp up. It is always fun to read pieces of the Harry Potter canon written from the viewpoint of someone other than Harry Potter, so I will be on the lookout for chapter two.

Author's Response: Thanks for the review, sorry it took so long to respond as I haven't been on a while. I thought that about the dream scene as well and am hoping to fix that soon. I'm been in a bit of a writing slump the last few months and am hoping to get back to this piece soon, but it's giving me a lot of trouble. Life seems to love messing with me about these things. All I get when I try and write chapters are one-shots (which I will hopefully post on here soon. Thanks for reading and hopefully this will continue at some point. :]

Magical by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 1st-2nd Years • Past Featured Story
Summary: Ginny and her brothers sneak down the stairs to look at presents, but instead, Ginny discovers something wonderful about magic.

Written for the Yuletide Challenge, Bonus Prompt. It received a Special Mention. :) Nominated for a 2014 QSQ for Best Poetry!
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 12/08/13 Title: Chapter 1: Magical

Let me be the first, Nagini, to say that this poem is absolutely enchanting. You have perfectly captured the delicate beauty of the tree and its ornaments, the entrancement of the little girl who has not seen that many Christmases yet in her short life, and the kindness of her older brothers who are so loving and protective towards her. The last line echoes the old statement we hear so often: "They grow up all too soon."

Author's Response: Oh, Vicki! :) I am so happy to see that you reviewed this poem, especially after you were kind enough to review it in PA. Thank you so much! It just makes my day!!!!! :)

The Sight of Her by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 3rd-5th Years •
Summary: She has decided to come home for the Christmas season, but you can’t understand why. After all, you and she are no longer friends, and you go out of your way to be spiteful to her.

Petunia Evans cannot stand the freak she lives with, but perhaps there is something more to her feelings than just hatred.

Written for the Yuletide challenge, prompt Holiday Hell.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 12/25/13 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Poor Petunia! As much as she wants to make Lily suffer, she herself is suffering much more. In the beginning she is smiling and dreaming of all the things she can make go wrong for her sister, but after all these things have gone wrong, Petunia is not smiling at all ” quite the opposite.

The tragedy is that she can never see that her troubles stem, not from her sister, but from herself. Her viewpoint is so impassioned, so self-centered, that we will never know what the family dynamics in that household really were. Did her parents really pay more attention to Lily than to her, or was she just so jealous of her sister’s gift that she could see only their love for Lily and never their love for her also?

An interesting glimpse into how the relationship between these two sisters had deteriorated.

Author's Response: Vicki, thank you!!!!! :) Even after you gave me a last minute beta job, you still find the time to read and review and praise my work! I'm glad that you like the dynamics, and also happy that you picked up on the fact that there is a skewed viewpoint. Since we see everything from her eyes (or rather, yours), we get everything from her view, and therefore do not see the thoughts of her parents, nor even Lily's. Maybe Lily reacted more strongly, but Petunia was determined to show Lily as being weak, a cry baby, a liar, and a freak. But even with the skewed narrative, Petunia still had to admit to herself that she had done some things she wasn't proud of. I think it goes to show that everyone can have regrets and feel guilty over something. Thanks again for the review! ~Nagini

The Man of Hogsmeade by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 3rd-5th Years •
Summary: It's the day of the holiday trip into Hogsmeade, and one employee finds that a certain redhead stirs up some mixed feelings over his past, present, and future. But what can he ever do to make things better?

Written for the Yuletide challenge, prompt A Diagon Alley Christmas.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/02/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

This is a nice story, Nagini. Your nameless candy store clerk is an interesting character. You tell us a lot about him in a short while. He is astute enough to pick up on Lily’s faint hint that all is not well at home, and reasonable enough not to jump (conveniently) to the conclusion that she was Muggle-born like him. Her remark merely sets him to reflecting on his own childhood experience. That is realistic and believable.

I like the fact that the store clerk is just drinking butter beer, not getting roaring drunk on fire whiskey. I like that you depict him as thoughtful and introspective. You leave your store clerk at a mental crossroads Can he follow Lily’s example and seek a more optimistic outlook, even given his unhappy childhood? Can he try giving up the drink, to see if that step might improve his life? I sense a hopefulness for this character; it is not too late to change and improve, even if he doesn’t see that quite yet.

This story is a good example of how little things we do or say (as in the case of Lily Evans) can make a significant difference to someone else, often completely unrecognized by us.

Author's Response: Thank you, Vicki! Your support makes me want to write so much more! :)

A Christmas Meal of Snow by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 3rd-5th Years • Past Featured Story
Summary: On Christmas day, Merope finds herself eating snow. But another beggar comes along and ends up sharing something wonderful with her.

Written for the Yuletide challenge, prompt The Unexpected Guest. It took Second Place!

Nominated for a 2014 QSQ for Best General Fic!
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 12/22/13 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Wow! This is a great story, Nagini! Your writing skill just keeps going up and up. There are lots of wonderful lines in this story; the descriptions are just spot-on. Yes, it's a sad story, but not sadder than it needs to be, because canon tells us that that is what it was really like for Merope at the end. And it certainly is Christmasy, in its own way. A surprising twist at the end; I didn't see it coming. Keep up the good work.

Author's Response: Why, thank you! After minna had asked Carole if the meal had to be specifically dinner, I began to think of Merope eating her last Christmas meal, and how her unexpected guest would be another beggar. I got so excited by the idea, but had no idea how it was going to turn out until I started writing. And then Merope was digging through the snow, and it hit me! Her last meal would be of snow. Depressing, actually. :) But I was smiling. I seem to enjoy tormenting my characters. As for the surprise ending, I am glad you didn't see it coming. I didn't see it coming myself, until I realized that maybe my beggar could give readers a message. Thanks for reading, and all your praise and beta work! Good luck in the challenge, and a Merry Christmas to you! ~Nagini

Shared Space by Misdemeanor1331

Rated: 3rd-5th Years •
Summary: It was their first Yule together, and they were going to spend it apart.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 01/02/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Hi, M. Your story is skillfully written, the sentences are fluid, and the word choices are good. The background information is woven smoothly into the narrative, so that even readers like me who haven’t read your other stories about Draco and Hermione can get the picture.

From your statement about Draco’s parents having endured an entire year of “new”, beginning I suppose after the Battle of Hogwarts, this story must be set in December of 1999. And if Draco and Hermione went back to Hogwarts for that “claustrophobic eighth year”, they must have left Hogwarts and started living independently only six months ago. Do I have the timeline correct? I got the feeling from your story that it had been longer than that.

But no mind. It is good to see the two of them making up and hopefully learning more about getting along. I will confess that it concerns me a little when I see stories of Hermione and her male partner, be it Ron or Draco or whoever, continuing the behavior pattern of continual fights, arguments, and stand-offs, because I wonder if they will continue this behavior in the presence of any children they may have someday. Maybe the adult participants will kiss and make up eventually, but witnessing the constant fighting can be traumatic and damaging to the children who must grow up in this atmosphere. Perhaps someday someone should write a story in which Hermione and her male partner come to this realization and take a vow to make a conscious change.

Thank you for writing!


Author's Response: Hi Vicki!

I'm glad you were able to get into my story, and that my writing style worked for you. There's nothing worse than diving into a story and having to pause every other sentence to figure out how it should be read. To be very honest, I hadn't much considered the timeline (shame on me!), but your logic seems pretty spot-on. I did intend them to be living on their own for a bit longer than six months. Good catch, and thanks for pointing it out!

I agree with your concerns regarding Hermione and Draco's (or Ron's, etc.) fights, but I think that, as they mature together as a couple, these spats will die down. Eventually, they'll be able to resolve their conflicts without needing to argue. Or, if an argument is unavoidable, they'll do it away from the sensitive ears of their children. I'm sure there is a fic or two that deals with this moment of clarity, but I haven't found it yet. ;)

Thanks so much for reading and leaving such a wonderful, detailed review!!

The Bench by Writ Encore

Rated: 3rd-5th Years •
Summary: As Amelia Bones awaits her seat on the bench of the High Court, she slowly realizes what it may cost her in the end.

This one is for all of those who have critiqued my work through reviews, comments, or suggestions over the years.. Thank you SPEW, Carole, and most recently, Oregonian. I considered everything while writing this, and hopefully, have made steps in the right direction.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 05/08/14 Title: Chapter 1: Chapter 1: The Appointment

Hi, Jenn. I beg your pardon for not reviewing sooner, but my winter/spring has been filled with other obligations; now I can get back to reviewing stories written in early 2014.

I read this story slowly and carefully, reading between the lines and thinking about the implications of the words in your sentences. As usual, your stories are not quick reads, but they are understandable, and I think this one flows more easily than some of your earlier works did. Your story is not plotty; it is a slice of life, difficult life, a glimpse of conditions that prevailed during the first wizarding war, hints of the politics and intrigues within the Ministry and particularly within its judicial arm, canon characters who flit momentarily onto the scene and then off again, a general feeling of secrecy, anger, and dread. You give nothing away easily; the reader must have done his/her homework to know the background, such as the fact that Edgar is Amelia’s brother.

You show us an Amelia who is a fighter in difficult times, who refuses to allow herself to be manipulated, and who doesn’t have patience with people who are not open and aboveboard. But things are happening beyond her control. Her appointment to the bench is complicated by illegal and underhanded attempts to steal the position from her. Her husband is mixed up in something mysterious and dangerous and will not tell her what it is. Even expecting a baby turns out to be complicated and ambiguous. In the end her brother and his family are murdered, her husband is murdered, and an attempt appears to be made on her life by the nameless woman at the front door.

I do not see a causal connection between the dangerous societal conditions and the fact that Amelia’s baby is eventually stillborn, but perhaps it is meant to show that she has nothing left of her husband, her family, or her security. The only thing she can do now, as Mad-Eye points out, is to testify against the murderers and send them to prison. You end your story with the question: will she do it? I don’t see why she would not do it; she is tough enough to rise from her bed of pain and sorrow in order to put those criminals away. Ironically, you have Mad-Eye say, “…I will personally make sure nobody touches you ever again,” but we know that during the second wizarding war the Death Eaters did manage to kill her.

In this fairly short story you have taken Amelia through a transformative period of her life, referring to her first arrival at the Ministry as a new member of the legal staff, through her development to the role of a judge, and finally her loss of her family and almost of her own life, as the first wizarding war closes in about her and society begins to crumble. In your usual fashion, you choose little glimpses, little moments in time, to represent the whole story arc. I am always intrigued by seeing which little moments of history you choose to shine your light on. An enjoyable story.

Archie and the Muggle Saleswoman by MJ_Padfoot

Rated: 1st-2nd Years •

“Just put them on, Archie, there’s a good chap. You can’t walk around like that, the Muggle at the gate’s already getting suspicious--”(GoF, 84)

This is the true story of Archie’s shopping trip.

One Shot.

Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 06/08/14 Title: Chapter 1: One-Shot

Hi, MJ,

This is Vicki of Slytherin House, commenting on your story. I went trolling through the Humor category in the archives, seeing if there was anything worthwhile there (good humor is hard to write), and I found your delightful little story. I have read some laughing-out-loud humor stories, and some straining-to-be-humorous-but-really-just-stupid stories, and yours is neither; it’s just gently humorous.

Poor, clueless Archie. Even though you specifically say that he read the article in The Daily Prophet about proper Muggle attire to wear at the Quidditch World Cup event, he still didn’t get it right. Or maybe it was The Daily Prophet that didn’t get it right; GoF tells us that not all the wizards attending the match managed to achieve the true Muggle look. Your story didn’t stick exactly to canon, because in GoF Archie’s dress is described as “flowery”, whereas in your story his ultimate selection was plain brown, and GoF describes Archie as “very old,”, whereas in your story he must have been younger than that because the saleswoman gives him her number. But these little variations are totally unimportant.

I loved how the saleswoman treated Archie completely respectfully despite his odd request (perhaps “The customer is always right”) and gave him a “cover” with the other customers and their husbands by explaining that Archie was purchasing a dress for some waggish cross-dressing party, so that set up the group to support Archie by playing along with the gag. I liked the women’s comments, no doubt delivered with a perfectly straight face, as though this spectacle was just an everyday event. “This is my favorite one, Archie.” “It flatters your figure very well.” “It doesn’t wash you out like that salmon one did.”

You have achieved a wonderful balance; everyone is buying into the make-believe, probably assuming that they are supporting a man during an assuredly-embarrassing task of having to try on and buy gender-inappropriate clothing, while unbeknownst to them, Archie is both deadly serious about this purchase and totally unaware that he is buying something no male Muggle would ever wear.

The story suggests, first, that Archie, as a wizard, was so accustomed to wearing robes that he naturally gravitated toward a Muggle garment of similar cut, and, second, that robes for both witches and wizards were sufficiently similar that Archie did not grasp the strict dichotomy of male styles and female styles in the Muggle world. Undoubtedly he noticed that all the men waiting outside the dressing rooms were wearing trousers, but apparently he did not realize that in England they had to wear trousers.

Your story moves along at a nice pace. The plain language is suited in style to the humor genre, where we don’t want flowery, figurative, or overly descriptive verbiage to obscure the humor or the sense of the absurd. And we don’t need a lot of description; we have all been clothes-shopping, and we know exactly what it looks like.

It is gratifying that at the end Archie was successful in buying something he would be happy to wear. After all, we like him and we are on his side. He is a character we can connect with; we care what happens to him, and his story is definitely not boring.

I salute your imagination in taking this tiniest prompt from GoF and developing it into this charming tale. I enjoyed reading it.

Author's Response: Oh, wow. That's a long review. I'm glad that you enjoyed the story. I had a lot of fun writing it. It would be fun to write the back story on why everyone went with Archie's weird dress shopping trip. Hmm..maybe I'll write something. Anyway, thanks for the great review! ~MJ

Blind Weakness by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 1st-2nd Years •
Summary: "There is only power, and those too weak to seek it."
~Professor Quirrell, under the influence of Lord Voldemort

Or perhaps those who seek power are blind to the richer things in this life.

A short poem on those who followed the Dark Lord.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 03/24/14 Title: Chapter 1: Blind Weakness

I like this poem very much, Nagini. It is full of good lines. After reading it over several times, I realized that it has a similar theme to my poem Narcissa In The Forest, but expressed in more figurative language. I like the use of the word "greed" in the first line; I had not thought of it before, but greed is something that would have motivated Voldemort's followers; they were expecting to get something valuable (riches, status, power) when they first allied with him. Nice job.

Author's Response: Aw, thank you! :) I drew my inspiration from the inspiration station, actually, in the PA, and the prompt that grabbed me was "the blind leading the blind." I immediately thought of Voldemort and his followers, because he was certainly blind to the real values in life, and so were his followers. :)

The Show Must Go On by Nagini Riddle

Rated: 1st-2nd Years •
Summary: During the final battle at Hogwarts, Harry has some startling revelations.

Title is borrowed from the song of the same name by Queen.
Reviewer: Oregonian Signed
Date: 03/28/14 Title: Chapter 1: The Show Must Go On

Hi, Nagini. If this is one of your early poems, then I must say you showed your talent early. I particularly like it because, although the word choices are so apt and perceptive, it is also very accessible, so I do not have to struggle (early in the morning, having recently gotten up) to understand any of it. I love how you take little moments and expand them so perceptively.


Author's Response: Thank you! I sometimes feel as though some of my earlier poems are far better than today's work, but that's only because half the time I happen across a poem I don't remember writing and I am struck by how metaphorical and poignant they are. :) Stand by for more of my earlier poems...