Friday, July 29, 2016

A Glimmer of Hope (Happy Birthday, LOTR!)

We have come to the end of the very first Silmarillion Awards, my friends, and what fun it has been! We shared our enjoyment of beloved fantasy characters, creatures, and objects with other readers . . . we perked up our ears when books we have yet to read were enthusiastically discussed . . . we saw the most popular nominees and, with hearts splitting from multiple loyalties, voted for our favorites . . . we waited with bated breath as the winners were announced one by one . . . and at last, we celebrated!

This is sadly my only Middle Earth book.
I needs more, precious!
Fantasy is the genre that inspires perhaps the most loyalty in its readers. Fall in love with a fantasy world, and there's no going back.

And one of the authors who played a great part in shaping the genre--in making fantasy what it is today--was J.R.R. Tolkien. Just think of how many fantasy book covers say, "Fans of Lord of the Rings and [fill in the blank] will love [this book]." Think of how anytime someone writes about elves, they're compared to Tolkien's elves. When someone writes about dwarves, about wizards, about fantastical creatures and epic battles and death-defying quests--it's very often held up to the standard of Tolkien.

In honor of him, and of everything related to Middle Earth, a celebration is taking place across the blogosphere this weekend. That's right: we're having a Tolkien Party!

As I was trying to figure out just where to go with this post, I decided to smash all my ideas together. Because parties are fun and chaotic that way. So. On today's itinerary, we have . . .

  • Which LOTR character are you? (link to a quiz)
  • A selection of some of my favorite LOTR and The Hobbit quotes
  • A few of my favorite pieces of music from the soundtracks
  • A tribute to LOTR

Which Lord of the Rings character are you?

I admit, I can't get enough of personality quizzes, and they're especially fun when they relate to book or movie characters! Recently I took THIS ONE and wound up being Gandalf.

I don't know how accurate it is, but I can't complain about the results! (Eccentric: check. Silly: check. Warmhearted: check. Shrewd and powerful tactician? I have no clue. Bwahaha, I just might be awesome at being evil too, who knows?)

If you take the quiz, let me know which character you get! My brother, curiously, was pegged as Gimli. Both my sisters were Sam, and my mom was Merry. (According to the little blurb, she's a prankster--since when?)

I also saw this Meyers-Briggs personality chart for LOTR characters. According to this, I'm Galadriel.

Sorry it's so hard to read. This is as big as I could make it.

Book Quotes

"Do you mean to wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?" ~Gandalf, The Hobbit


Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway. ~The Hobbit

"Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a pitter patter. ~Bilbo, The Hobbit


All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
~The Fellowship of the Ring


"It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not." ~Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

"It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam," said Frodo, "and I could not have borne that."

"Not as certain as being left behind," said Sam.

"But I am going to Mordor."

"I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I'm coming with you." ~Frodo and Sam, The Fellowship of the Ring


"I would cut off your head, beard and all, Master Dwarf, if it stood but a little higher from the ground," said Eomer. ~The Two Towers


"I had forgotten that," said Eomer. "It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. The world is all grown strange. Elf and Dwarf in company walk in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?"

"As he ever has judged," said Aragorn. "Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." ~Eomer and Aragorn, The Two Towers


"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end . . . because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing . . . this shadow. Even darkness must pass." ~Sam, The Two Towers


"As I have begun, so I will go on. We come now to the very brink, where hope and despair are akin. To waver is to fall." ~Aragorn, The Return of the King


"What do you fear, lady?" he asked.

"A cage," she said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire." ~Aragorn and Eowyn, The Return of the King


". . . And so a great evil of this world will be removed. Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron himself is but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." ~Gandalf, The Return of the King



The soundtracks of the LOTR and Hobbit movies are some of my all-time favorites. By turns sweeping and majestic, dark and sinister, heartrending and melancholy, and soft and beautiful, they encompass so very many emotions. I was going to share a few of my favorite tracks, but there's too many, so I'll include one from each of the six movies. These would be among my most beloved tracks, but the list is certainly not exhaustive. (Links lead to YouTube.)

From An Unexpected Journey: The Adventure Begins
From The Desolation of Smaug: Thrice Welcome
From The Battle of the Five Armies: Mithril
From The Fellowship of the Ring: Concerning Hobbits
From The Two Towers: Riders of Rohan
From The Return of the King: The Steward of Gondor

And there are so many more! I love Smaug's exotic theme and the dark choral parts of the Black Riders' theme. I love the swelling heroism of the Fellowship's theme. I love all the elven music. I love the moments of peril sung by frantic violins and low, bellowing brass. I love the soft flutes painting a picture of beauty. I love the poignant strings, the gorgeous vocals, the relentless percussion, the whistles that hearken back to home. I love "I See Fire," "The Last Goodbye," and "May It Be." I LOVE IT ALL.


And lastly, a tribute . . .

I was sixteen (almost seventeen), starting grade eleven, when I read The Fellowship of the Ring. The following spring, I read The Two Towers. And then, at seventeen-almost-eighteen, I read The Return of the King. Sometime prior to all this, before I started keeping record of my books, I read The Hobbit. So I was a lot older than many LOTR fans who picked up the books during their childhood, but they impacted me nevertheless.

With the bold brushstrokes only Tolkien could paint, I witnessed the strain of Frodo's burden, the courage of hobbits, the wisdom of wizards, the corruption of power, the loyalty of truest friends, and the light of hope. I followed the Fellowship across mountain and plain, through forest and over river, to a place of darkest despair--and then to victory. I saw the small and weak press on in the face of overwhelming evil--and win. I saw a best friend seldom thanked for his steadfastness, and stay faithful regardless. I saw races once at odds with each other become allies and brothers-in-arms. I saw a man take up the kingship he was destined for, but not without pain and heartache.

In Middle Earth, I saw a star of hope gleam bright in a sea of darkness. And that is why I love LOTR. Yes, I love the worldbuilding, the humor, the depth of character, the spectrum of emotion, the epic scope, and the lofty themes. But I treasure the picture of hope presented in these books the most.

I recently watched the LOTR movies for the first time, and though they differ somewhat from the books, they stirred up the same emotions all afresh.

My heartfelt thanks goes to Tolkien today, on the 62nd birthday of Lord of the Rings. Thank you for inspiring so many readers in such a profound and memorable way!

(And now I'm longing to reread the books. And re-watch the movies. And play all the soundtracks all at once. But mostly to reread the books.)

Anyway, if you'd like to participate in this big LOTR birthday celebration, please do! We'd love to see your post, whether it's on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, or any other platform. Use #silmawards2016 to make it easy to find. Then go to Jenelle's blog to add your link to the fancy little link-up. And be sure to check out other posts, too--there are lots of awesome articles and tributes and even trivia being shared. Huzzah for Middle Earth!

So tell me, dear questers, what LOTR means to you! Do you remember when you first read it? How as it impacted you? (And if you took the quiz or used the personality chart, which character are you?)

Friday, July 22, 2016

We Have a Winner! {Silmarillion Award for Best Riddling and Poetry}

Oh, hello there. It's much too early for tea, do come back lat-- Oh. Is it that time already? Well then.

*rushes onto stage*

*scans audience and clears throat*

Good morning! I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. But I am getting used to unfamiliar faces intruding upon my quiet routine, so here I am at the request of the fine folk in charge of the Silmarillion Awards.

You've likely already guessed it would be me presenting the Silmaril for Riddling and Poetry. For the sake of riddles, however, I'm inclined to introduce myself thusly. . .

I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he who walks unseen. I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me. I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ring-winner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider--better known as Bilbo Baggins.

It brings me great pleasure to present this award to someone nearly as skilled at riddles and rhymes as I am. Perhaps you can hazard a guess? Here's a poetical conundrum to help you along.

Ancient I am
And enchanted too
With the power of four
I am magically imbued

With wisdom vast
I peer inside minds
Their thoughts and intentions
I sort and divide

September is when
My song will ring out
Then I hem and I haw
Then proclaim with a shout

The house you belong in
One out of four
My most famous student
I placed in Gryffindor

My name should be clear
I'm grouchy and grim
And I sing and I speak
Through a rip near my brim

*smiles a self-contented smile*

Not half bad, considering I've never met him--er, it--before today. Ahem. The winner of the 2016 Riddling and Poetry Silmaril is . . .

*consults a paper*

The Sorting Hat!

Congratulations, my dear fellow! You bear a striking resemblance to the hat of a grouchy wizard in my acquaintance. But that is neither here nor there. For your wise counsel to the new students of Hogwarts, and your guidance often presented in the form of poems and songs, you deserve this gleaming jewel.

Many notable poets and riddlers were contending for this award. You may be interested in seeing how they fared.

Best Riddling and Poetry
111 out of 123 voters answered this question.
The Sorting Hat (Harry Potter Series) 36 / 32%
Curdie Peterson (The Princess and the Goblin) 31 / 28%
Sir Eanrin (Tales of Goldstone Wood) 28 / 25%
Gummy (The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall) 8 / 7%
Leonard the Lightning Tongue (Tales of Goldstone Wood) 8 / 7%

Some close competition among the top three, but in the end, the famous Sorting Hat emerged the winner!

Thank you all for your participation. The Silmarillion Awards would be impossible if not for you! Now, if you'll excuse me, I've tea to steep, a pipe to smoke, and a book to read.

*awkwardly waves goodbye and retreats offstage*

Me: Thank you for taking time away from your comfy morning, Bilbo, to present this award. Congrats again to the Sorting Hat, and thanks to all of you!

Don't forget to visit all the stops. You can see the schedule HERE. And please feel free to join the fun during the last weekend of July, during which time many of us will be celebrating with a Tolkien Party!

No veren! [Enjoy yourself/be joyous]

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Hour Has Come... (Silmarillion Awards presentation schedule)

The hour has come, fellow questers! You have raised your swords; you have let your voices be heard. Ten winners have emerged victorious because of you, and the time has come to unveil these mighty victors.

But we are all fond of dramatics, so rather than parade them out all at once, our suspense will be heightened as each category's winner is announced one at a time. It began on July 16, and shall continue until July 28. (That's more than ten days, the mathematical among you say? There's such a thing as weekends off, you know.) Even I don't know any of the winners, besides my own and the two that have been announced at the time of this writing!

Each of us hosting the Silmarillion Awards will have a distinguished "guest" present on our blogs to present the awards. So far, it's been great fun to meet guests such as Arwen and Aragorn, and I can't wait to meet the rest of the presenters and discover who all the winners are!

I'll be updating this schedule as the posts go live.

Sat. July 16 // E. Rawls with Best Fantasy Weapon
Mon. July 18 // Madeline J. Rose with Most Epic Hero
Tues. July 19 // Abbey with Most Nefarious Villain
Wed. July 20 // J.L. Mbewe with Best Redemption Story
Thurs. July 21 // Jack Lewis Baillot with Best Fantasy Mount
Fri. July 22 // myself with Riddling and Poetry
Mon. July 25 // Zachary Totah with Wisest Counsellor
Tues. July 26 // Deborah O'Carroll with Strangest Character
Wed. July 27 // DJ Edwardson with Most Faithful Friend
Thurs. July 28 // Jenelle Schmidt with Most Heart Wrenching Death Scene
Fri. July 28 // Tolkien Party!

See that last item on the schedule? That's the time where everyone and anyone who wants to can join us in celebrating the birthday of Lord of the Rings! Blog posts, Facebook/Twitter/anything else posts--you can celebrate anywhere you like, however you like. Show your love and appreciation for this epic fantasy story that has touched hearts and helped shaped the genre into what it is today. Jenelle is going to try to include a linkup on her blog so you can share your links and we can all have a big ol' party worthy of Gandalf's fireworks.

In the meantime, make your way to each stop on the list during the coming week and a half, and be sure to congratulate the winners!

Tenna enta lúmë!
[Until that time in Quenya.]

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Editing: What if I'm Making it Worse?

I was chatting about editing with the lovely Savannah a few days ago, and asked her what her top three editing struggles were. The first one she mentioned?
"FEARING THAT I'M ACTUALY MAKING IT WORSE. Like, this is the biggest problem I have and it has literally driven me crazy and made me want to stop editing period. 'Cause I constantly scrutinize every bit and can't decide whether I'm actually making things WORSE!"
Seeing as it's been some time since I compiled any writing tips around here--and considering the fact that I'm drafting and thus, editing is creeping into my mind (it shouldn't be, but it is)--this is perfect post material.

My first tip? Save every draft.

Every single one. You added a new character? Save that draft. You reworked the entire plot? Save that draft. You changed the formatting? SAVE IT. Now, I personally don't go so far as to copy my story into a new document with every tiny change I make--that would be a waste of time--but every time I've worked through the book and made significant changes, I copy and paste it all into a new Word document. That way when I start a new round of edits, the old version is still there, safe and sound. If I hate the way an edited scene turns out, no problem. I can change it back to the old version. The Prophet's Quest, for instance, is preserved in eight separate documents on my laptop (not counting the original paper copy, which is something you never, ever want to read--trust me).

On small scale edits, try it several different ways and compare.

If that pesky paragraph just won't flow or that scene isn't settling into place like you want it to, write it again. And again. And again, if you have to. Then compare the different angles. Which do you like better? Keep that one and either throw the rest away, or save them too, in a separate document for such snippets.

Sometimes it helps to read the different versions out loud.

Get another pair of eyes to help out if you can. A fresh opinion will often smooth things out.

On large scale edits, run with it until you hit a wall.

Something is off in your story, you can feel it. So you decide to change your long-lost prince into the disinherited son of a duke, with healing powers instead of telepathy. Obviously the whole story is going to change. On the cusp of making that editing call, it's easy to be overcome with doubts. What if this change sucks? What if I rewrite the whole book and end up hating it? Guess what, buttercup? You won't know until you try.

So begin editing. Rework the story to fit this new path. You may decide halfway down that, you know what? He really should be a prince after all. But maybe you'll keep the healing powers so that he can save the life of the poisoned wine tester. Or maybe you'll write all the way until the end of the story before realizing that. Or these edits will be exactly what your story needed. You have to start working to find out.

"But that's so inefficient," you say. "To spend all that time and energy only to scrap those words in the end! The horror!" Yes. It is inefficient. But it's not a waste.


I should hope you don't have to create that many drafts to get to the gem beneath the rock, but you get the picture. You may write thousands of words of a second draft before realizing you're going at it all wrong and must start over. But those words were not a waste of time. You eliminated one option and so have a clearer idea of how to start over.

One of my long-time favorite writing "resource" (can you call a person a resource?) is author Gail Carson Levine. She has often mentioned how inefficient she is at writing, and how she'll often produce pages upon pages, discover something is wrong, and have to start over. Sometimes those failed pages are necessary for you to dig into the layers of your story and work through a plot knot or develop your world building. It may not end up in the finished manuscript, but it's a part of the process of getting to that finished manuscript.

Walk it out in your head.

At times, you won't have to actually pick up your pencil or set fingers to keyboard to figure out if a proposed change will help or hinder your story. Sometimes the answer is obvious after a little thought. So before you do go change the first thirty thousand words of your WIP, stop and consider the effects of what you're planning to edit. Every change you make, especially the big ones, has a domino effect on the rest of the story. (Or at least it should. If it doesn't, you're probably writing a collection of short stories, or else you have a plot problem.)

Changing the prince to the penniless son of a duke will mean that those palace scenes have to go, because your character is out on the streets with empty pockets and his finery all tattered from his unfortunate circumstances. But you need him to speak to the queen about the epidemic spreading across the neighboring kingdom to the west. How can he do that if he's no longer a castle resident? Well, perhaps he can summon all his noble gusto to bluster his way into getting an audience with her. Or maybe he can bump into her at the midsummer festival she officiates every year. Another possibility is making the queen a charitable soul who personally feeds the homeless, and she can meet your disinherited noble boy at a shelter.

Big changes take brainstorming to make them work, and the impact they'll have on the rest of your story needs to be considered before taking the plunge. But never fear! If it doesn't work out like you planned, you do have the old version to fall back on.

Take a break.

Staring at the same story for months on end means you're probably sick of it. You've been over the same plot so many times that all the twists are predictable. You've memorized every line of dialogue until they sound cheesy to your own mind. Every change you make doesn't seem to make this book any less disgusting, and you despair of ever turning it into something halfway readable.

Stop. Step away for a while. A week may be enough time to refresh your mind and forget the flaws you've been zeroed in on for ages, or you may need a month or more. However long it needs to be, take a break. Read for fun. Write something small just because you can, no matter how imperfect it is. Refill your well of creativity.

For me, writing for the contests Rooglewood Press put on the past few years has saved my sanity as far as the Journeys of the Chosen series goes. Taking a few months to write and revise something relatively short and altogether new revitalized me. When I returned to The Prophet's Quest or The Prophet's Key, I was raring to go. I fell in love with those stories all over again, and resumed editing/writing with excitement.

Remember art is fluid.

Maybe you're doing all those things, and you're still scared to tweak and fiddle and entirely revamp things. I get it. I've been there. But your story might have to get worse before it can get better. And the only way to get to that place called Better is to start editing. And then keep editing. And edit some more. Your story will transform along the way, and you will too. You'll grow as a writer. Even if you have a huge mess on your hands, you're learning something!

Something I've realized after grueling rounds of editing is that the more you do it, the more fearless you get. I used to moan and groan and clench my teeth to even think of changing my books. (I still do, but those episodes tend to be more short-lived these days.) But as I slowly develop my sense of story, plot, and character, I begin to see the trouble spots more easily. Then I begin to dive in and fix them with less hesitation. The old adage is true: practice does make perfect. Or at least a whole lot better.

What are your top editing woes? What do you do when you're worried about making things worse by changing them? How do you stay motivated to keep editing when you can no longer stand the sight of your manuscript?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

summer bucket list, belated

It's the middle of summer . . . sounds a lot better than halfway through summer, doesn't it? (I'm in denial about the swift passage of time, okay.) Usually if people talk about their summer bucket lists, they do so at the beginning of the season, but I don't follow crowds, so here's my middle-of-the-summer list.

It's half wishful thinking, a quarter to-do list, and two-thirds "this will keep my feet on the ground and head in the clouds and sanity intact."*

*And that was not a normal whole number, but we're all about living life to the fullest, so if my fractions add up to more than the number one,** that's the way it should be.

**Which I'm fully aware they do. (Wow. A footnote of a footnote. Just when I thought I couldn't get stranger.)

Anyway, with the season being in full swing, and my schedule feeling as full as ever, I've been longing for time off, time away, a drop of real summertime, a holiday of any sort, etc. Hence this post.

have a picnic

bike to a park and do devotions & journaling there

color in my coloring book

paint a picture (I have an idea in mind to use lyrics
from this song--go have a listen; it's amazing)

take an afternoon to read a stack of children's books

go to bed earlier

arrange a guest post with someone (you know who you are!)

plan at least two month's worth of post ideas for
when college busyness hits

win the 100-for-100 challenge (we're a third
of the way there . . . we can do thissss)

go swimming at least once

do at least two sessions of The Creative Way each month

finish going through the agent listings in the book I bought

send out first batch of queries (!!!) (this may be
the wishful thinking part)

watch Mockingjay Part 2

bask in the sun

paint my toenails because the current pink polish is half gone

read Peter Pan for the first time

actually use my people watching journal . . .

. . . and my quotes journal

take a few days off work to just chill

remember first drafts are messy

remember to have fun

remember to find joy


Besides the to-do items, it looks like I'm longing for the summers of my childhood. I can't recreate them, but maybe I can rediscover some of the simple things I used to have time for. It'll be interesting to come back to this list in a couple months and hold it up to what reality actually brings.

What are you doing this summer? What's on your to-do list, or longings-of-the-heart list? Are you going anywhere or staying home? If you could return to a childhood summer memory, what would it be and why?

P.S. Voting for the Silmarillion Awards is open until July 14th! Don't forget to cast yours! :)

Monday, July 4, 2016

2016 Silmarillion Awards: Voting

Over the past two weeks, nominations have poured in across all ten blogs hosting the Silmarillion Awards. We asked you to tell us your favorite fantasy characters and items, and your response was thrilling. So many worthy nominations from so many awesome books! (My TBR pile is growing ever larger thanks to this event.)

But only the top five nominations in each category have moved forward to this round: the voting stage. And now it's up to you to pick the best of the best!

I'll include the link to the voting form below, and so will the other nine bloggers. You only need to vote once. So you don't have to check out everyone else's posts, but why wouldn't you want to? Some of us will be talking about the top five in our respective categories, and of course you'd like to read them . . . celebrate those who've come this far . . . speculate who will win . . . all that fun stuff. Right? Right.

Before we get to casting our votes, I am pleased to introduce to you . . .

The Top 5 Riddling and Poetry Nominations

Curdie Peterson (The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald)

Curdie is the heroic young miner in The Princess and the Goblin, fearless, resourceful, and skilled at singing rhymes he makes up on the spot. The goblins in the story hate songs or rhymes of any kind (the author observes that perhaps it is because they can make none of their own) and so verses are the chief defense against the goblins for the miners under the mountain or other people who are out after dark. Curdie is very inventive with his rhymes, which not only are very effective weapons, but also often relevant to the story. He drives off goblins and even rescues the princess with the aid of the power of his fearless riddling songs.

Gummy (The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall)

Gummy is one of Them, one of a handful of Minipins in the very orderly Slipper-on-the-Water who doesn't line up with everyone else and isn't afraid to be different or creative--in fact he revels in it. With his yellow cloak and cone-shaped hat and absent, cheerful manner, he's like a perfect, lazy summer day. He has a heart of gold, is a brave friend in a pinch, and practically breathes poetry. His "scribbles" he calls them. Many of the chapters of The Gammage Cup start with a poem from Gummy's Scribbles (Collected Works). Everything's poetry for him and you'll hardly catch him talking without rhyme.

Sir Eanrin (Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl)

This immortal faerie bard is known both Far and Near for his eloquent verse, often penned in honor of his true love. Even in normal conversation, Eanrin speaks with drama and attitude, and is very conscious of his own fame. (He'd better not hear of this Silmarillion business, or his head will get even bigger.) Whether in the form of a man or a cat, Eanrin wields words with ease. For him, they are weapons with which to strike, gifts to bestow, tools to be used. But, more often than not, they are a means of entertainment, and an expression of "higher emotion," as he calls it.

Leonard the Lightning Tongue (Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl)

Prince Leonard wears many hats, not least among them the self-bestowed title of jester. He juggles balls and words with equal skill. Often he will spontaneously produce a rhyme or song, some of which are parodies of the great Bard Eanrin's works (much to the faerie's distaste, of course). These performances tend to ruffle the feathers of dignified people while delighting the less stoic at the same time. He cobbles together entire songs in the space of a breath, unraveling them lyric by hilarious lyric. Yet underneath Leo's joking, carefree exterior lies a broken young man struggling to set things right.

The Sorting Hat (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

This enchanted brown hat has a tear in its brim, which it uses to talk and sing in rhyme. It decides which of the four houses best suits incoming Hogwarts students. Before the sorting ceremony begins, it always sings a song about each of the four Hogwarts houses. It can also speak telepathically to whomever is wearing it, and it can take into account a student's preference for which house he or she wants. The Sorting Hat's prowess must be great indeed to make it into the Top Five, nonhuman as it is.

It's time to cast your votes!

This link will take you to the voting form. Be sure to hit submit when you're done.

Voting will be open from today (July 4th) until July 14th. Take a look around the other blogs to see the top five in each category, and then pick who YOU think is the very best! May the best characters--and items--win!