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The Legacy of Androva Series

Today's blog post is a new short story, set at the end of Seeking Magic, the third book in the series. That book just happened to finish right around Christmas time, so adding a couple of extra scenes seemed like too good an opportunity to miss 😊

I hope you enjoy it and thank you for visiting my blog today!

“I’ve been thinking,” said Jax, getting up from the sofa and walking to the window. He looked out at the street, where sparkling lights were visible in nearly every house. “This Christmas they have on Terra—it’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it? Much bigger than our Winter Festival.”
He looked over his shoulder at Darius, who smiled. “You just noticed? I think it’s nice. There are no magicians here, but they still believe in magic.”
Jax faced the window again. His green eyes flickered, reflecting the red-and-white Santa Claus on the front lawn of the house next door. “I didn’t just notice. I had to be an elf in that primary school play, thank you very much. I’ll be having nightmares about it for a while yet.”
Darius laughed. “You deserved it. And Terran technology certainly has its uses. I’ll cherish those images forever.”
“That’s what you think.”
“You didn’t.” Darius reached into his pocket. “I knew I shouldn’t have given you my phone to look after during that Combat lesson. Some friend you are.”
“I’m a good friend,” Jax protested. “I got rid of something that would only have caused us to argue in the future.”
“Yeah, well, what about the argument we’re about to have right now? I’ll just ask Shannon to resend them to me, anyway.”
Jax turned back and gave Darius a rather smug smile.
“You did not mess with Shannon’s phone,” said Darius, raising his eyebrows. “She’ll be so mad. And her magic is still way stronger than yours, or did you forget that?”
“She deleted them herself. She asked me what I wanted as a Christmas present, and I told her I wanted those elf photos to disappear.” He shook his head. “Unfortunately, she also said the whole thing was engraved on her memory anyway, and she reserved the right to laugh about it whenever she wanted… but at least no one else can.”
“Well, whatever deal you made with Shannon, I’m still annoyed with you,” said Darius.
Jax crossed the room and sat down again. “So, I wanted to ask for your help with something.”
Darius sighed with exasperation. “Did you not hear what I just said?”
“I’m sorry. What can I say? I was desperate.”
“Fine,” said Darius. “I accept your apology. But you have to be a test subject for my Research Spell next week. Agreed?”
“I don’t know. What exactly is in your Dream Remedy, again?”
“I’m remaking it. I’m thinking elves. Lots of elves. With black hair and green eyes.” He laughed at the look on Jax’s face. “What did you want my help with?” Darius asked, when he’d managed to get his amusement under control.
“It’s about this Christmas thing. Shannon doesn’t want a big present or anything. She says after all the drama recently with the time travel, and Penny becoming a magician, that she’s happy if we just spend the day together, but I think she deserves something amazing. Only, I don’t know exactly what…”
Darius leaned forwards. “Yes! I was thinking the same about Penny. She says being a magician is enough for all the Christmases and birthdays she’ll ever have, but I disagree. I want to make sure she never forgets our first Christmas,” he added, his cheeks going a bit red.
“Right,” said Jax, giving Darius an understanding grin.
“What shall we do, then?” Darius looked at the time on his phone. “They’ll be back from helping Mrs. Blackwood soon, so we’d better talk fast.”
“The problem,” said Jax, “is that we don’t have any Terran money, and we can’t use a spell in front of Shannon’s sister or Penny’s family.” He made a face. “Magic isn’t exactly discreet.”
“Wow. Jax following the rules and not showing off either. It must be love,” joked Darius.
“Shut up,” said Jax. It was his turn to blush. Annoyed, he filled his palms with an Ice Spell and pressed them against his cheeks for a second. As he lowered his hands, he gave them a thoughtful look. “Although… there might be a spell we can use. I’ve just had an idea.”
“Tell me,” said Darius, and Jax explained. 


On Christmas morning, Shannon woke up slowly to the sound of her younger sister’s excited giggling. “He’s been, Shannon, he’s been!” she shouted. “Come downstairs and see what Santa Claus brought you. And you won’t believe what else has happened!”
“In a minute, Tammy,” she called back, stifling a yawn. She turned her head into the pillow, smiling as she remembered the evening before.
Shannon had spent Christmas Eve on Androva with Jax, Darius, and Penny. She, Jax, and Darius had taken turns using Manipulation Spells to create ever more extravagant Christmas-themed food, drink, and decorations, while Penny used her brand-new force field to draw snowflakes in the air. By the time Revus, Jax’s father, returned home, the usually sombre Mabre House kitchen looked more like a Santa’s Grotto in a department store.
Revus’s face had been mixture of horror and disbelief, though he had done his best to muster a polite smile for Shannon’s and Penny’s benefit. He’d immediately turned around and said he had some urgent paperwork to see to in his office, and he’d barely closed the kitchen door behind him when the four friends broke into helpless giggling. By the time Jax and Darius took her and Penny through the portal and back home, it had been quite late.
Jax and Darius were coming to Terra for Christmas dinner, which Shannon’s parents were hosting for both families later that day. Shannon knew Penny would want to arrive early to practice using her force field some more in the privacy of Shannon’s bedroom. Though Penny was excited about joining the Seminary of Magic in the New Year, she was nervous about being able to keep up with the lessons.
Shannon was just about to push back the covers when her phone chimed with a text. “Are you awake?” it said.
Yes. Just.
Look outside,” came the reply.
Shannon got out of bed and walked to the window. When she moved the curtain to one side, she gasped. Snow! There was snow all over her garden. It was perfect, like the white Christmas of her dreams. As she watched, a figure dressed all in black stepped out from under the chestnut tree at the edge of the garden. Jax looked up at her and grinned, before glancing down at his phone and typing quickly. “Happy Christmas, Shannon. x,” said his text.
Shannon pointed to Jax and then the garden with an incredulous look. “You?” she typed.
He nodded and wrote a reply. “Me and Darius. The snow goes all the way to Penny’s house. Thank Androva she doesn’t live far!
I love it. It’s the best present I’ve ever had. xxx
Jax’s grin got bigger. “I’ll be back for those kisses in person later.
Shannon watched him leave, her own smile wide enough to make her cheeks ache. Penny was going to be so happy when she saw the snow. She had a feeling this was going to be the best Christmas ever.

Today's blog post is a light-hearted A to Z for the holiday season with a reading and writing theme and lots of reading recommendations!

A is for Ask
If you think people don’t already know that more books, or the means to buy more books, is all you want for Christmas—make sure you drop plenty of hints. Otherwise, if you unwrap a scarf on Christmas morning, you’ve only got yourself to blame.
B is for Books 📚
Is there a better word in the alphabet that begins with B?
C is for Chocolate 🍫
Or cake, or candy, or chips! Make sure you start the holidays with a plentiful supply of your fuel of choice. I rely on eating dark chocolate at regular intervals when I’m writing or reading (my justification is that I use up a lot of mental energy).
D is for Dragons 🐲
Just because every A to Z should include a dragon somewhere, especially if it’s an A to Z about books and writing. Also, I would love to see Santa’s sleigh being pulled by dragons instead of reindeer one year.
E is for Elf 🎅 (not just for Christmas)
There are a lot of elves at this time of year, particularly Santa Claus himself, who is often described as the Head Elf. However, if you like the fantasy genre, there are amazing elves (good and bad) waiting to be discovered all year round. It’s difficult to pick just one example, but I do love the character of Natalie, the half-elf in the Royal Institute of Magic, by Victor Kloss. Royal Institute of Magic (Amazon US)
F is for Fairy tales 👸
One of my favourite reimagined/retold fairy tale series completed this year. The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer was brilliant. Land of Stories book 6 (Amazon US)
G is for Gifts 🎁
Everyone I buy a gift for usually ends up with a book. I love having a legitimate excuse to go to a bookshop and spend ages browsing the shelves. OK, I often end up with an additional book for me, but surely that’s just a perfect example of win/win?
H is for Haven 🏖
At this time of year, it’s even more important to have somewhere to write that’s not part of the craziness of everyday life. I struggle to keep my desk free from clutter at the best of times and I’m trying not to let cards/wrapping/decorations take up residence next to my laptop.
I is for Illustrations
There have been some amazing book covers this year. I am definitely the kind of reader who is more likely to try a new book if I like the cover. For example, Emily R. King’s The Hundredth Queen series has incredible covers, don’t you think? Hundredth Queen Series (Amazon US)
J is for Joy 😍
The holiday season is nearly here. Do something that makes you happy, just for the sake of it. Today some of my family and I went to see Thor Ragnarok . It was brilliant!
K is for Kindle 📖
Don’t forget to check out the top 100 free Kindle books in your favourite genre over the holidays. You can read for free on the Kindle App, and there are often some great choices available. Here are three free books I really enjoyed:
The Game, by Terry Schott The Game (Amazon US)
Open Minds, by Susan Kaye Quinn Open Minds (Amazon US)
Gone, by Christine Kersey Gone (Amazon US)
L is for Library 🏫
If you haven’t visited your local library recently, maybe you can find time before it closes for the holiday season. Libraries lend you books to read for free… need I say more?
M is for Music 🎶
Reading, and writing, and music are so closely linked for me. I love making different playlists to write and read to, and I love coming across lyrics that describe what my characters are going through. End of year awards and top ten lists can be a great way to discover new music.
N is for New Year 🎉
And New Year’s resolutions! I try not to make too big a deal out of setting myself targets because I think it’s important to allow things to happen naturally rather than to feel down about something you didn’t achieve. However, that said, my two resolutions are to finish the final book in the Legacy of Androva series and to launch a new series as well.
O is for Older (and Wiser) 🦉
Reading isn’t just for entertainment. Whatever you read in 2017, you’re bound to have learned something new.
P is for Perseverance 🙂
If you’re a writer, the most important thing is to keep writing, year after year. Don’t worry about how much or how often, just don’t give up!
R is for Recommendations 👍
Help other bookworms by letting them know about any great books you’ve read this year. Recommendations are never more helpful than when you have some Christmas cash in your pocket. Here are some 2017 favourites of mine:
The Summoner Series, by Taran Matharu Summoner Series (Amazon US)
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas The Hate U Give (Amazon US)
They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera They Both Die at the End (Amazon US)
Magnus Chase, by Rick Riordan (I read book three this year, but the whole series is great) Magnus Chase book 3 (Amazon US)
S is for Snow
Here’s hoping… Although it’s unlikely where I live, I’d love to be able to curl up and read a book, by the window, with the Christmas tree on one side and a snowy landscape on the other.
T is for Tradition 📕
Congratulations to all the new authors whose dreams of being traditionally published have come true in 2017, and good luck to anyone wishing to pursue that route in 2018 😊. There is so much amazing writing talent around these days that us readers are spoilt for choice!
U is for Unique 😝
We all are. And that’s a good thing, which should be celebrated. Hopefully, old-fashioned stereotypes will continue to be challenged in 2018 and diversity in fiction will increase.
V is for VIP 👭
Take a moment to tell the person or people in your life how much you appreciate them. Don’t assume they know already. There are very few people in my life who know that I write, but I definitely couldn’t do it without their support.
W is for Wish 🤞
If you can’t make a wish at Christmas, when can you? If I were to make a wish related to reading and writing, it would be to have time to do more of both.
X is for eXperiment 🔬
A new year can be a good time to try something new, like reading or writing in a new genre, or perhaps trying poetry, or short stories. There are no rules, after all!
Y is for Young Adult Books Becoming Movies 📽
(OK, so that’s a bit of a fudge for the letter Y!). I am looking forward to: Ready Player One, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, and Love, Simon.
Z is for 💤
I have a tendency to get so excited by the fact I don’t have to go to work over Christmas that I stay up really late reading and writing, and end up exhausted by the time work starts again. This year, I’m going to strike more of a balance. At least, I’m going to try…

I hope you enjoyed my A to Z, and if you have any recommendations for books I could read over the holidays, please let me know! And, as always, thank you for reading 😊

This weekend I didn't get very much writing done because I was a little distracted by it finally being December 😊
Yes, the decorations are now up 🎅 🎄 🎁

I say "finally," about December, but in actual fact this year has gone by so fast I feel more than a little unprepared for the holiday season. To get me in the mood, I thought I would look at some festive young adult reading choices and today's post contains three suggestions. Fair warning: they are all romance plots, which seems to be a recurring theme for Christmas books. I confess that I go through phases of liking/not liking romance, but at this time of year I am more easily persuaded!

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Amazon US
Amazon description
I've left some clues for you. If you want them, turn the page. If you don't, put the book back on the shelf, please.
At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.
As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet….

I read this one ages ago and absolutely loved it. I realised recently that I haven't got around to reading its sequel: The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, which is a great excuse for me to read the first book again!
Here are a couple of quotes to introduce you to the characters:
Lily: I've always resented Hermione, because I wanted to be her so badly and she never seemed to appreciate as much as I thought she should that she got be her. She got to live at Hogwarts and be friends with Harry and kiss Ron, which was supposed to happen to me.
Dash: I find I very rarely live up to my words. And since you know me primarily through my words, there are oh so many ways I can disappoint.

And also, it opens really well:
Imagine this:
You’re in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author’s books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.
What do you do?
The choice, I think, is obvious:
You take down the red notebook and open it.
And then you do whatever it tells you to do.

My True Love Gave to Me, short story collection by various authors
Amazon US
Amazon description
This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.

This book is great for three reasons:
1. The kindle version is currently £0.99/$0.99 on Amazon.
2. It's made up of short stories, which means you dip in and out of it easily.
3. There are lots of different styles/authors, which increases the chance you'll find something you like.

Here are a few quotes:
"He says presents aren't important, but I think they are - not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you."
"Shame leads to secrets, and secrets lead to lies, and lies ruin everything."
"And there - when he smiles, his whole faces lights up. It's like his other expressions are placeholders."

Kiss Me in New York, by Catherine Rider
Amazon US
Amazon description
Charlotte is a British student, waiting for a flight home after the worst semester of her life. Anthony is a native New Yorker, surprising his girlfriend at the airport after three months apart. Charlotte has just been dumped, and Anthony is about to be dumped, right in the middle of the holiday crowd.

Charlotte’s flight is cancelled when a blizzard blows in, and Anthony can’t bear to go home. So, they set out into the city together, clutching a book Charlotte picks up in the airport gift shop: Ten Easy Steps for Getting Over Your Ex. For this one night, they’ll focus on healing their broken hearts ... together.

I haven't read this yet, but I'm going to try it because it looks like a sweet story, it's not too long, and although I am fussy when it comes to romances, I like the sound of this one.

Also, I usually reread at least one of the Harry Potter books over Christmas. I suppose it's kind of like a tradition, along with The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol. As you can see, my cat's tradition is to take up residence under the tree and treat it like a giant cat toy 🐈

Do you have any particular books you're looking forward to reading this Christmas or any recommendations? Thank you for stopping by my blog today!

In other words, how to change the world around you! There are six disciplines taught at the Seminary of Magic on Androva: Combat, Remedies, History, Living Magic, Physical and Manipulation. Today's post is about Manipulation.

Whenever magic is used to create, or to change, or even to destroy, chances are the magician will be using a Manipulation Spell. It's a discipline of contrasts: from the simplest of spells to the most complicated, from the gentlest to the most powerful. First years at the Seminary of Magic start out moving basic objects across the table. Those simple Movement Spells can progress far enough to build and furnish an underground portal room by the time they graduate.

Underage magicians spend as much time studying Manipulation as they do on all the other five disciplines put together. Along the way they encounter Illusion and Illumination Spells, they learn how to change emotions and memories, they open and close portals, they create fire and ice, they master the art of protecting, hiding, tearing down, rebuilding, and changing anything and everything--colours, textures, flavours, sizes, and shapes. The limits of magic are being tested all the time, especially since Research Spells were reintroduced at the beginning of the third book in the series. It's going to take a while for Androva to get back to the sophisticated magic of Galen's time, but they've made a good start.

These are my favourite Manipulation Spells:
  • 1. Portals
  • 2. The Communication Spell (unique to Jax, Shannon, Galen, and Claudia)
  • 3. Signature Symbols
  • 4. Illumination Spells. Imagine being able to create a smoke-free firework display in whatever patterns/colours you felt like, or a rainbow, or even something as ordinary as a bedside light that just happened to look like a different animal every night
  • 5. Augmentation/Reduction/Cleaning Spells (just so that all my clothes would fit perfectly, every day, and I would never have to do any housework 😊)
  • 6. Prophecy stories. Although I reserve the right to change my mind if I don't like what the prophecy reveals!
I'm writing this post while working on the seventh and final book in the series. Alongside a formidable new enemy, a new Manipulation Spell will be revealed that is one of the most sinister yet. To say that it's worse than deadly probably sounds a bit cryptic, but that's the best way I can think of to describe it.

Finally, here is an extract from Controlling Magic, when Jax's father performs Distraction Spells on the four underage magicians (with their consent, and for a very good reason), but it doesn't quite go according to plan...

Distraction Spells by recall, though more difficult, were possible. Darius was soon blinking in confusion, but found that he was very calm and happy at the same time. Not something he was accustomed to feeling when standing across from Revus. He tilted his head to the side slightly as he tried to make sense of it.
Revus, with a gentle smile, sent Darius to the kitchen to make something to eat. Jax was next, and Revus could see that his son was still struggling with the idea of willingly submitting to a Distraction Spell. His teeth were gritted together, and his hands were pushed deep into his pockets.
But he did as he was asked, and his face soon relaxed as the spells took effect. When he realised he was smiling broadly at his father, his brow furrowed ever so slightly. “Harmony Spell?” he asked, trying and failing to frown properly.
“Maybe,” said Revus, suppressing a smile. Jax hated that he was so susceptible to Harmony Spells, seeing it as a sign of weakness. But he couldn’t fight them once they had taken hold. “I won’t ask why.” Jax sighed. “I’m too chilled to care, fortunately for you.”
Then it was Penny’s turn, and she found herself quaking slightly as she faced Revus on her own. “I’ll still be able to remember dragons, won’t I?” she asked apprehensively. “You’re not going to wipe out everything?”
Revus shook his head. “Just the Medaxus part. That’s what I want you to focus on.”
Penny concentrated, and Revus completed the spells quickly. She met up with Darius and Jax in the kitchen, where they were having fun using Manipulation Spells on their food. Penny joined in with enthusiasm.
Finally it was Shannon’s turn. Revus knew she was not at all susceptible to Harmony Spells, so he had deliberately left her until last. With the other three underage magicians all being so cheerful, he hoped that Shannon would be naturally swept up in the happy atmosphere.
They faced each other for a moment. Shannon thought it was a bit like being at the doctor for a vaccination. You knew you had to have it for your own good, but the prospect was still quite unpleasant. One piece at a time, she recalled the memories that Revus instructed her to, and just like her friends, she was soon struggling to understand what she was doing and why she was standing in front of Revus.
Revus tried his most powerful Harmony Spell at the end, just in case it might work this time. As Shannon felt the slightly warm silver mist reach her, she stepped backwards suspiciously, and Revus realised he might have made a mistake. “Why are you doing a Harmony Spell?” Shannon asked warily. Her force field expanded automatically to defend her, and her hands glowed.
“Why are you doing a Harmony Spell?” Shannon repeated, a bit more forcefully.
“Do you trust me?” Revus asked calmly.
Shannon started to nod, then stopped half way through. “Why am I thinking about dragons?” she asked.
Using all the skill he had learned as a Council interrogator, Revus managed to keep his face blank. “I don’t know what you mean,” he replied evenly.
Shannon felt her force field buzzing as its energy magnified. What am I resisting? she wondered. The Harmony Spell dispersed, but something still wasn’t right.
“Dragons flying over a great expanse of water,” she murmured, closing her eyes. “The water is such a dark blue that it looks almost purple. And there is a city on the horizon. It’s…” She paused. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Revus, absolutely horrified, hit Shannon with a Distraction Spell so powerful that she staggered backwards. He tried to keep his panic under control. Shannon was describing something that she couldn’t possibly know. She was describing Imbera. The dazzling splendour of Imbera that Androvan magicians had first discovered. Before they understood the stolen foundations on which the Imberan society was built.

Manipulation is the final discipline of the six and I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit more about it. It's been a lot of fun to write about how magic is taught on Androva. If you are interested, you can access the other five disciplines using the "Six Disciplines" label. Thank you very much for reading!

I’m writing the final book in my first series right now, which means there are all kinds of ideas turning up inside my head. Not just about the current book (that’s normal – I always figure out the story as I go along) but also about what to write next. The possibilities are endless, and although I’m really looking forward to it, I’m also more than a little nervous. I thought it was a good time for a blog post about writing prompts and ideas 🙂

Every story idea is from a prompt of some kind, even if it’s just me, inside my head, making something up. My experience so far has been that each book starts with a question I want to know the answer to. The question works as a foundation on which everything else is constructed. 
  • Stealing Magic: Why is there no such thing as real magic in our world?
  • Capturing Magic: What would happen if someone wanted magic badly enough to kill one of my characters for it?
  • Seeking Magic: How was someone from our world able to become a magician in the first place?
  • Controlling Magic: Could there ever be a situation when science and magic work together?
  • Breaking Magic: What’s Cal’s story?
  • Surviving Magic: What’s Galen’s story? And does his story change everything else?
  • …ing Magic: How does it all end?
From there, the plot develops bit by bit, and it can be based on all different kinds of input. Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I don’t know how to answer this except by saying, “Everywhere.” Since I started writing regularly, my brain bombards me with prompts all day long. It’s like there’s a part of me that’s become receptive to them.

Here are a few examples:
  • Things that resonate with me, like the lyrics of a song, or the reminder of a childhood memory, or a sentence on social media.
  • Things I see. Anything from a random image on a website to a person in an airport.
  • Things I hear. It could be a comment in a meeting at work, a line of dialogue in a film, or a particular item on the news that catches my attention.
  • Things I read. I know there is a view that all stories fit into one of seven (or is it thirty-six?!) basic plots, but there are certainly thousands of different ways to be inspired by other settings and events, both imagined and historical.  
Of course, the challenge then becomes how to use all of these ideas. It can be a bit like herding cats. But as long as I keep noticing them, I figure I’ll always have something to write about. 

In terms of the Legacy of Androva series, I’m working out the final story at the moment. However, I already have a shortlist of questions for potential future books, and I’m nowhere near ready to choose between them. I’ve got a feeling I may have to write a couple of first chapters to help me decide which world to create 🤔
I guess this qualifies as a nice problem to have!

If you are a writer, how do you decide what to write about? Where do your ideas tend to come from? Thank you for reading today’s post!

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