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The Legacy of Androva Series

“Show the reader what’s happening. Don’t just tell them.”

Sound familiar? If you’re a reader and/or a writer, you’ll probably be well aware of the showing versus telling debate. Showing tends to be considered superior – the argument being that no reader wants the entire story handed to them on a plate.

However, it’s normally the case that showing uses a lot more words. This is not always a good thing. As with most things in life, balance is key. I have a theory that showing, using dialogue, is one of the most helpful ways a writer can move their story forward without resorting to out-and-out telling. They can simply have their characters reveal the backstory, or the current setting, or their emotions, or anything else the reader needs to know.

Here are three examples to show (sorry!) what I mean:

Example 1: From the first book in the amazing Partials series, by Dan Wells

“Do you have a name?”
The Partial eyed her carefully, that slow, studying look that made her feel like he was calculating everything about her. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because I’m tired of calling you ‘Partial.’”
He studied her a moment longer, then smiled, slowly and warily. “Samm.”
“Samm,” said Kira. “I have to admit, I was expecting something more unusual.”
“It has two Ms.”
“Why two Ms?”
“Because that’s what it said on my rucksack,” said Samm. “‘Sam M.’ I didn’t realize the M was for a last name: I was two days old; I’d never met anyone with a last name. I was just . . . Samm. I spelled it that way on a report, and it stuck.”

Over the course of this short conversation, Samm, the part-human cyborg, becomes real – even endearing – as the reader’s opinion of him, like Kira’s, is challenged and begins to change. The reference to his life at two days old is an intriguing piece of backstory and the fact that Kira decides to ask his name in the first place confirms what the reader might already have suspected about her character.

Example Two: From the awesome Noah Can’t Even, by Simon James Green

“Naomi Grimes – get your bony little arse down here – NOW!” Ms O’Malley bellowed.
“My name’s Noah!” he shouted down indignantly. “She knows damn well my name’s Noah!” he hissed at Harry.
“I think it’s clear she’s taking the piss.”

This exchange tells us a lot about the teacher, Ms O’Malley, the two friends, Noah and Harry, and also the way they perceive each other. There is the fact that Ms O’Malley calls Noah by a girl’s name, for example. And Noah doesn’t realize she’s being sarcastic, while Harry does, yet he’s matter-of-fact (not mocking) in how he corrects Noah. I’m also a fan of adverbs after dialogue tags (in this case “indignantly”) as they’re immediate and effective. This one tells the reader Noah is completely oblivious.

Example Three: From the incomparable Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

“He’s not a child!” said Sirius impatiently.
“He’s not an adult either!” said Mrs. Weasley, the color rising in her cheeks. “He’s not James, Sirius!”
“I’m perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly,” said Sirius coldly.
“I’m not sure you are!” said Mrs. Weasley. “Sometimes, the way you talk about him, it’s as though you think you’ve got your best friend back!”
“What’s wrong with that?” said Harry.
“What’s wrong, Harry, is that you are not your father, however much you might look like him!” said Mrs. Weasley, her eyes still boring into Sirius. “You are still at school and adults responsible for you should not forget it!”
“Meaning I’m an irresponsible godfather?” demanded Sirius, his voice rising.
“Meaning you have been known to act rashly, Sirius, which is why Dumbledore keeps reminding you to stay at home and —”

This section from The Order of the Phoenix is not particularly exciting or memorable in terms of its place in the story, but it’s great because it demonstrates how J.K. Rowling uses a simple conversation to convey a lot of information in a very efficient way. It reminds the reader of backstory they may have forgotten, and it tells Harry about things he would not otherwise know. It also illustrates the relationship between the adult characters and gives the reader an insight into their particular flaws and strengths.

That’s the last of my three examples. I don’t know if I’ve managed to prove my theory, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. The great thing about reading and writing is that there’s an endless variety of styles and genres available to us. No matter what your preference for showing versus telling, there’s something for everyone. What’s your view? Do you prefer one or the other, or a mixture of both? Thank you for visiting my blog today!

Time for chapter three! Chapters one and two can be found by using the New series label above. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today . I hope you enjoy reading a bit more of the first book in the upcoming Light Mage Series.

3 A Girl 
“Everything OK here?” asked Mr. Mason. Devin and I jumped, not having noticed the teacher approaching. Devin lowered his hands slowly.
Mr. Mason cleared his throat. “Avi,” he said. “About my comments earlier and the history behind your name. I hope I didn’t upset you. This school has a strict policy of inclusion regarding—”
“It’s OK,” I said, cutting him off. “Really.”
“Well… if you’re sure.” He shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other and rubbed his chin. I softened. He wasn’t just quoting policy. It was obvious that he was much more concerned about my feelings than his own.
Gods, this man is crying out for a guardian. My magic reacted instinctively, and almost without thinking I checked his life path, closing my eyes briefly to better visualize the energy map he was carrying.
He hadn’t even begun to explore his potential. I wanted to tell him to open his eyes and look at the world around him rather than live vicariously through his history books. I wanted to tell him he might not have too many more chances to figure out what he was capable of before the opportunity was gone forever.
He’s not mine to teach. He probably never had a guardian of his own.
I sighed. “Really,” I repeated, making eye contact. “Bonum est. Non sollicitare.”
His face relaxed even as his eyes widened a fraction. “Your accent is unusual.”
“Was that Italian, or something?” asked Devin. “What did it mean?”
“It was Latin. He said I shouldn’t worry. Look, Devin, Avi, there’s no need for you to stay any longer,” Mr. Mason went on. “I’m grateful for the help, but don’t waste what’s left of the day.”
Devin nodded and turned to leave, glancing expectantly at me. I had no choice but to follow him, hoping I could think of an excuse for us to split up before we reached the school boundary. We walked along the corridor in silence. He exhaled a couple of times like he’d been about to speak and changed his mind.
“What is it?” I said eventually.
He stared at me and I shifted my gaze to the side just in time. There was a look on his face like he was having an argument with himself.
I tried to make light of it. “I’m not sure I’ve got the legs for a tunic. I’d consider it a favor if you deleted that particular mental image.”
He huffed a surprised laugh, breaking the tension. “That’s not what I was…” He looked down at my legs in their black jeans and made a face. “Well, I wasn’t thinking about that until you just—”
He snapped his mouth shut and a faint blush heated his cheeks. It was endearing. I was still certain I didn’t know him, but there was something about him that drew me in.
“What were you thinking about, then?” I asked.
“Can we start over? You probably didn’t get the best first impression of me or my friends. I… well, I…”
“It’s complicated. Between the three of you,” I offered, remembering the tangled emotions.
“Yes,” he said, making a face. “Something happened over the summer and I’m still… I’m not…. I don’t…”
He stopped walking and turned to give the nearest locker a kick. The noise echoed in the empty space. “What is it about you, Avi? I was going to ask you to come with me for a soda, I swear. I wasn’t even going to mention…”
He ran a hand over his close-cropped black hair. “I mean… why would I even tell you that? School starts on Monday and we all promised not to… I’m doing it again.” He looked at the ceiling. “Will someone please shut me up?”
I tensed, but there was no sign of a change in energy around him. No guardian to answer his plea, even if it had been directed wrongly.
The earthbound always looked to the wide expanse of the sky for help, not understanding that different dimensions can coexist in the same space. They would do better to look over their shoulders. Some of them did. Some of them feel us. But we were careful about making deliberate connections with them. Connections messed with our objectivity in a big way. It wasn’t always possible to avoid them, but we tried.
“It’s my fault,” I said truthfully. I wished I could go back to that first, “Hey,” on the sunny street corner a few hours ago. I could have told him I was waiting for someone. I could have left him alone. I should have.
“No,” he argued. “No, it’s not.”
But it was. He’d touched my skin. I’d used magic on him. I’d looked into his eyes too many times. I should do the right thing and cut him off now. It would be selfish not to. And yet… I hesitated.
His hands were clenching into fists and then unclenching. I could see the ribbons again as his emotions were magnified. They were going to strangle him one day if he didn’t learn how to unravel them. Don’t lose your focus, Luca. You can’t save everyone.
Mitescere,” I said.
“Mit-es?” he repeated slowly, the tense lines of his body already easing. “Is… is that more Latin?”
It was only a temporary measure, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. He needed to calm down and I had to leave. This would accomplish both.
“I’m sorry.”
“What for?” he asked. He blinked as the spell settled around him. In a minute he would have to sit down. He’d be too relaxed to do anything else. It wouldn’t hurt him, and it would wear off soon, but not soon enough for him to see where I went.
“I’m going now.” I took a few steps backward, watching him to make sure he couldn’t follow me. He leaned against the lockers as his strength ebbed away and shook his head.
“You… Did you do this?”
“I’m sorry. Dedisco,” I added, taking no chances, before I ducked out of sight around the corner. I walked as fast as I could, grateful for my soft-soled shoes and that I knew the layout of the school.
With determination, I turned my thoughts away from Devin. I knew where I was going. I needed a school computer, but I wanted to make sure I avoided Mr. Mason. He was still in the school cafeteria, potentially with the janitor he’d mentioned.
The library was exactly where I remembered. After a hastily murmured, “Resero,” I was sliding one of the double doors open. The space inside extended upward for three floors to a series of large skylights at the top, through which the sun was shining steadily.
There was a balcony on each level, and jam-packed shelves extended backward from the railings. The air was hot, enhancing the particular smell that only hundreds of books in an enclosed space could create.
I breathed it in. Luca, you’re too sentimental for your own good. I loved libraries, ever since I’d first discovered the one set aside for guardians’ use. It smelled like the perfect blend of earth and air, balancing wisdom and possibility in equal amount. But these days, in the earthbound dimension, paper was an inefficient way to store information. Libraries like this would become more rare.
I sat down at the large desk near the entrance, where several monitors were waiting silently. I located the nearby power source, and one of the computers came obligingly to life. When the login screen appeared, I typed the details I’d seen Mr. Mason use earlier rather than rely on a spell. I had to practice the earthbound way of doing things if I were to stand a chance of blending in next week.
The menus were easy to navigate. I’d watched technology many times over the shoulders of my previous assignments, and this computer followed the instructions I gave as if my fingers on its keyboard were nothing out of the ordinary.
After I’d pulled up an alphabetized list of senior-year students, I had to swallow away the dryness in my throat before I could continue. I started to scroll down the page with the wheel of the mouse, but soon stopped, frustrated by how long it was taking.
Reperio,” I said. Immediately the list paged down, over and over, too fast for me to see the names. When it stopped, I stared in disbelief.
“Miss Cassandra Vryson.”
Miss? Miss? I sank back into the chair. Dimly, it registered that this earthbound covering did not deal with shock very well. I could hardly breathe, and yet it seemed at the same time I was breathing too much. I barely noticed the photo and other information that flashed onto the screen as the computer, still following my spoken instruction, opened the student’s profile in full.
I knew, of course, that gender could change from life to life for the earthbound. It was my job to know. No one was able to experience all the lessons there were to be learned if they never changed gender. It was just…
I blinked at the monitor, but the information didn’t change. Was he really a… a… girl now? For a few seconds I wondered if I’d gotten it wrong, but soon dismissed my doubt. I’d recognized the energy signature the second I came across it. Even though it had been nearly two thousand years, I’d never stopped looking. And it was a match. This profile was a match.
But I’d thought he… I’d thought… don’t use his name… I’d hoped there would be something left of the boy I once knew. I hadn’t realized until that moment just how much I’d been hoping. I’m a fool. Hope was for the earthbound. It helped them through the worst of their lessons. Mages like me, however, were not supposed to entertain the idea of it, let alone feel it, or, gods forbid, actually need it.
My phone chimed with another text.
Oh, Luca. I wish I could feel what you’re feeling right now. Second restriction: the two of you will have NOTHING in common. Not one single thing. Keep smiling :)
It was with great difficulty that I resisted the temptation to throw the phone to the floor. I held it for a moment, my jaw clenched so tightly I could feel the tension all the way down into my shoulders.
After I’d calmed down, I placed the phone onto the desk and very deliberately leaned forward, reading the information on the screen one line at a time and committing it to memory. Vital statistics (same birth date as I remembered), address (irrelevant, as I couldn’t leave the school), academic history (average, with the exception of Drama), and behavior record (appalling).
The photo was intriguing. He… she… wasn’t smiling, but it was impossible to know the emotion hidden behind the passive expression. The person in the photo could have been feeling anything from boredom, to contempt, to despair. I couldn’t tell.
I pulled up the scheduling application. At first glance it seemed like we weren’t in any of the same classes. Tentatively, I made a couple of changes, and the computer allowed me to save them. I could at least make sure our paths crossed occasionally without having to seek him… her…. out.
After I turned off the computer, I climbed the stairs to the top floor and walked toward the back wall, not stopping until I was hidden from view. It was dark away from the skylights, but I was relieved to find I could still see clearly.
Now I had some time on my hands, I intended to figure out what I could and couldn’t do with this new covering of mine.
Old covering. There’s no way Avitus Sequani can be considered new.
Devin couldn’t touch me without the shock of it causing him pain. And every spell I’d tried had worked perfectly. Still. There were other things I could check.
So I did. I filled the little earthbound space with something different: scenes from history, my history, as a guardian. The green carpet and dusty shelves shimmered before transforming into a new place in time.
First, I was standing in the corner of a battlefield at sunset. Then I was clutching at the rail of a fast-sinking ship. Next, I was watching the ink dry on the most famous declaration in history. I chose them at random, going back and back, until finally I was at the end of my timeline as a guardian. It was the pit beneath the Colosseum, stifling and dark, with the roar of the mob overhead. I stopped.
There was one thing left to check. I knew I could still see energy and emotions, but could I manipulate them? There were no earthbound here to experiment on—not that I would—but this was a place where the earthbound spent time. I wandered along the rows of shelves until I found what I was looking for. An argument. Here. There was an echo of it still in the air.
I encouraged it to disperse, and it did my bidding willingly enough. OK. I’m convinced. I’m still a Light Mage.
This covering, this physical body, was an illusion, however good it was at following my instructions or echoing my emotions. And it was very good. I felt a connection with it at times that was surprising, considering I’d been here only a few hours.
But if it were only an illusion, I would have to be careful. I needed to ensure Avi’s behavior remained within the accepted parameters of an earthbound existence. I supposed I would have to pretend to eat and drink, visit the bathroom, and so on.
I made a mental list. Limited magic. Basic spells only. No time travel. Observe the rules of gravity at all times. And try not to make any connections.
It was a long list, but I didn't care. I was here, and so was hshe. Monday couldn't come soon enough. 

Today’s blog post is a few more musings about the writing process with specific reference to the dreaded writer’s block.

First of all, does it even exist?

If you hadn’t already guessed, the jury is still out! When I researched writer’s block, I discovered a lot of information. It’s a widely recognized term, but there’s no conclusive definition of exactly what it means.
In my opinion, (YMMV), writer’s block is more than I can’t write because it’s always possible to write something. However, you can also feel unable to write, for a variety of reasons. It’s a personal thing, which seems to be where the grey area arises. Is it possible to overcome it using willpower alone? And if it is, does that mean it’s not authentic?

The case for:
“I tell my students there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block,’ and they should respect it. You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.”
—Toni Morrison

The case against:
“Writer’s block is a phony, made up, BS excuse for not doing your work.”
Jerry Seinfeld

I found more quotes discounting writer’s block than acknowledging it. However, given the many websites out there offering solutions, I would also say it’s a real problem for a lot of writers. It’s happened to me in the past, and I’m sure it will happen again.

What causes writer’s block?

Every writer has a different experience, so I can only explain this from my perspective. Here are my top five triggers:

1.      I’m a pantser. I’ve tried to be a plotter. I suck at it. I suck less at being a pantser, but I wish I could plot. At some point during each book, the lack of plot will intimidate me so much that I stop writing. Or else I write very slowly, doubting every sentence.
2.      The halfway point of each book is often a pivotal moment. It feels like I’ve written too much to start again, but also… what if it’s terrible?
3.      If the upcoming chapter is vital to the story, I’m often scared I won’t do it justice, so I put off writing it.
4.      Sometimes I edit the most recent chapter, and I discover I hate nearly every word in it. I should rewrite it, but I know it’s going to be tough. And it feels wrong to write the next chapter before I fix the previous one. So I end up not writing.
5.      The temptation to procrastinate! This includes internet research, creating aesthetics, Twitter, adding to my TBR list, making a fuss of my cat, and staring out of the window. My desk looks over a small area of ancient woodland, which is beautiful but distracting.

I feel like I have to mention that some people say writer’s block doesn’t exist because there’s no “teacher’s block,” or “plumber’s block,” or whatever. And yes, when I arrive at my day job every weekday morning, I never sit at my desk unable to work. (Perhaps that means I’m better at my day job than I am at writing!). I think it comes down to the unpredictability of it. When I’m writing, nothing works the same way twice, and I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities.

Is there a sure fire way to overcome it?

Well, if I knew the answer to this one, I suspect I’d have written a lot more books by now 😉. In the end, it’s about not giving up. I can usually find a way around the problem as long as I persevere.

“When faced with writer’s block, lower your standards and keep going.”
—Sandra Tsing Loh

Thank you for visiting my blog today, and if you have writer’s block right now I wish you a speedy recovery!

Today's blog post is another update on my next book, part of the newly named Light Mage Series, which is turning out to be a lot of fun to write . It's for a slightly older audience than the Legacy of Androva, but there are some common elementsmagic (obviously!), a bit of romance (this time it's m/m), and plenty of life-threatening obstacles. The magic works very differently though, and its backstory is more complicated. I've been world-building in my head whenever I get the chance, which is great because it makes the long commute to my day job seem shorter! This is the second chapter. The first chapter is in the bog post directly before this one.

Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope you're having a great summer so far! In the UK, our weather continues to be surprisingly hot and sunny, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts 😎.

2 A Name 
There was a girl with them. I avoided her gaze, but I could feel it appraising me like I was back in the market at the Forum or something.
“What were you doing in there?” said Gabe suspiciously. I decided to brazen it out. They couldn’t exactly report me for standing in an empty classroom.
“Just looking around. Wouldn’t you, if you were me? Tomorrow, everyone will be staring at me because I’m the new guy. I’d rather not be lost as well.”
Devin’s expression was sympathetic, but Gabe wrinkled his nose, pulling his lips into a sneer. “Whatever,” he said. “If you want to waste the last day of summer break snooping around the school, that’s up to you. Dev, Mina, let’s go.”
“Hold on a second,” said the girl. “He’s the one, isn’t he? The one you were arguing about before.”
She took a step closer. Her self-confidence was so potent it was almost like she had a force field around her. I glanced at her quickly. She was wearing a lot of face paint and those surely weren’t her own eyelashes, but she was still very pretty.
I recognized her from when I’d been standing on the corner, watching everyone arrive. She hadn’t been short of company, but I’d been more interested in the reactions her little group had provoked in others. Although some students had stared, as if they wanted to belong, others had been wary. This girl might be admired, but she wasn’t universally liked.
“What’s your name?” she asked. “Come on, don’t be shy.”
I smiled faintly. She was so sure I would answer, so certain of her place in the social hierarchy of this school. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by making connections all over the place, but perhaps I should use her. It could help me to be friends with someone like Mina.
“Come with me to registration and you’ll be the first to find out,” I said with a shrug.
Her expression flickered while she considered this. I deliberately made eye contact and held it for a couple of seconds. “Volo te mecum venire,” I whispered.
“Well, I’m leaving, even if you’re not,” said Gabe. “Mina, I can’t believe you’re giving airtime to this. It’s pathetic.”
She glared at him. “Did you just call me pathetic?”
He swallowed. “No. Him, I said. He’s pathetic.”
“I’ll go with you,” she said, brushing my arm with her fingertips. Thank the gods for sleeves. Her nails were intricately decorated. Everything about this girl was so contrived, but I found it oddly familiar. She was no different from a Roman socialite.
“Me too,” said Devin. He grinned. “It’d better be worth it, though. If your name’s John or James or something, after all this…”
“He doesn’t look like a James,” said Mina. “Too straight.”
“Straight?” Devin sounded… disappointed?
“No,” said Mina. “The name. Not him.” She considered. “He’s hard to read. He could be… anything.”
Gabe stared at me with open dislike. Things seemed to be getting very complicated all of a sudden. There were undercurrents of emotion swirling between the three of them like colored ribbons. Surprisingly, Devin’s were the darkest, not what I’d expected from his easy-going demeanor.
My training kicked in, like an involuntary reaction to the challenge, and I had to walk away before I did something stupid like grab one of the ribbons to untangle it.
I could guess what my name was going to be. I was pretty sure it would be the name I’d used when I’d last had this face. Perhaps it hadn’t been his choice after all. The nature of my crossing was rather unorthodox. This might be like a default spell or something.
When we arrived at the cafeteria, Gabe reluctantly following a few paces behind us, it was almost deserted. There was just one man sitting at the bank of desks, trying to sip from a mug and scroll through his phone at the same time. He was scruffy and earnest looking.
The man lifted his head and set down the mug, spilling some dark-brown liquid onto the desk. He looked straight at me.
“A-ha!” he exclaimed. “You must be our mysterious new student. I was about to pack up for the day. No one in the team will admit to entering your unusual name into the system, and we were starting to think you were a glitch.”
“Go on then, Mr. Mason,” said Devin, folding his arms expectantly. “What is his name?”
“Avitus Sequani,” I said.
There was a short silence. “Avi is fine, though,” I added.
“Well,” said Mr. Mason, “Avi. Welcome to Sherbourne High School.” He bent over the keyboard in front of him and typed something quickly. “We don’t have a photo in your file. Is it OK if I take one now so I can print your ID card?”
“Er… sure,” I replied. I glanced at the others. Mina and Gabe were whispering to each other, but Devin was watching me, his arms still folded and a puzzled look on his face.
“I hope you don’t  mind that I described your name as unusual,” said Mr. Mason, directing me to stand against the cream-colored wall. “I meant no offense.”
“None taken,” I told him. He held up a camera that was connected to his computer by a black cable. Was I supposed to smile?
“It’s just that I studied the classics in college and the Sequani were part of Gaul in the first century BC. Until Julius Caes—”
“I know,” I interrupted. I didn’t need to be reminded of the history, passed down by those who had emerged victorious from the long years of Gallic-Roman conflict. You have no idea. You weren’t there.
“Oh?” he said, not looking at me as he fiddled with the camera settings. “I suppose I’m not the first person to have mentioned it—fascinating example of just how brilliant Roman strategy could be. Do you know any Latin? Do you…?” His voice and enthusiasm faded to nothing as he looked into the lens and saw my face.
I was furious, and, judging by his expression, failing to hide it. The cords in his neck tightened as he swallowed. “Er… that’s it. Keep still.” He pressed a button on the camera and immediately went back to the computer.
Do I know any Latin? Yeah. I grew up learning the language of the people who slaughtered my ancestors. I grew up learning the language of my owners. How about you, Mr. Mason? You probably studied it for fun, right?
Shit. What was wrong with me? I shouldn’t be getting so emotional over ancient history, even if it was my own.
Mr. Mason’s taps on the keyboard had become slightly agitated, in that way the earthbound have of hoping their technology will somehow perform differently if they press harder. “I’m sorry, er… Avi,” he said. “There seems to be a problem with the photo. I might need to take another one.” His expression showed that this was the last thing he wanted to do.
I walked around to look, followed by the others.
“I can help, Mr. Mason. I did a photography project in Art when I was a junior,” offered Mina. “I… What the hell is that?”
We all stared at the screen. Damnit. I did not look remotely earthbound in that photo. “Dispareo,” I whispered, and the image on the screen faded to black.
“Looks like you’ll have to take another one,” I said. “Maybe you used a special effects setting or something.”
“I’ll take it,” said Mina, grabbing the camera from the table. I returned to my former position in front of the wall while she double-checked the settings.
“OK, Avi, give me your best pose,” she said, raising her perfectly drawn eyebrows. At least while the camera lens was between us, I wouldn’t be making direct eye contact with her. It was far too soon to do it again. “Cotidianus,” I muttered as she pressed the button.
The whole eye contact thing was becoming more of a problem than I’d anticipated. I’d forgotten how face-to-face communication depended on it. Although I had a physical covering, my eyes were like a pathway to the light and the magic inside of me. Even if they weren’t permitted to remember what that light was, the earthbound were still inexorably drawn to it.
The card was duly printed and I put it in the back pocket of my jeans. I frowned when I realized there was a phone in the pocket as well, taking it out to have a closer look.
Why do I have a phone?
It immediately chimed with a text. The first few words flashed up on the screen inside a gray box. I fumbled to touch it before it disappeared, my fingers a little clumsy in their new earthbound covering.
First restriction: now you’ve entered the school, you can’t leave it. I am only able to keep their attention turned away from you if you don’t stray far. Welcome to your new home. Have fun, won’t you, Luca?
Him. That’s why I have a phone. I tightened my grip and the phone dug into my palm. I was growing more used to the physical sensations. My connection with this body was obviously increasing. Briefly, I wondered if that were a good thing or a bad thing.
“Guys, I need to pack up now. Unless you’re going to stay and help, you should get going,” said Mr. Mason.
“Oh, I’d love to help, it’s just that I’m expected somewhere else,” replied Mina sweetly. “Sorry, Mr. Mason.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Gabe. He nudged Devin with his elbow, but Devin remained silent. The puzzled look from earlier hadn’t quite disappeared from his face.
“I’ll stay. I’m not expected anywhere,” I added. Well, I’m not expected anywhere in this dimension. Besides, I was stuck in the school, and access to its student records was exactly what I needed.
Mr. Mason fiddled with the cuff of his shirt. “I was, er… kidding, er… Avi,” he said. “The janitor will be back later. You go on now.”
“I could stay a while,” said Devin. “My mom’s not expecting me until this afternoon.”
It was faint, but I didn’t miss Mr. Mason’s sigh of relief. I scared him. I should fix that.
“What?” said Gabe.
Mina pulled on his arm. “Come on, Gabe, let’s go join the others in the park. You owe me ice cream, remember?”
She walked up to Devin to say goodbye and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She put her mouth to his ear and looked straight at me as she spoke her whispered words.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
He gave an embarrassed cough. “Mina,” he said in a low voice.
“You can’t stay here. He’s dangerous,” said Gabe, taking a step forward. I could sense Mr. Mason’s horror as, for a few seconds, he thought Gabe might be talking about him.
“Ga-a-be,” said Mina slowly. “It’s the school cafeteria in the middle of the day, and the most boring teacher in the school is in charge. Nothing’s going to happen.”
She turned and held her hand to her mouth in pretend remorse. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Mason. I meant the most responsible teacher in the school is in charge.”
He pressed his lips together. I got the impression this wasn’t the first time she’d been openly rude to him. “Thank you, Mina. Are you leaving now, or did you just say that to get my hopes up?”
“We’re leaving.” She dragged Gabe after her. I felt sorry for him. He was only protecting his friend, and what he’d seen had been unpleasant. I would have made him forget it, but the opportunity to take him to one side had simply not presented itself.
And, there was still the niggling problem of his name. It was probably a coincidence, but… Gabe. Gabriel. One of the original seven. The skin on my neck prickled.
No. I won’t spend time worrying about something I can’t control.
Mr. Mason soon had us sweeping the floor, arranging the tables stacked at the side of the room into rows, and putting out the chairs, six to a table. On Monday, they’d be occupied by chattering students eating their lunches, and I might even have found the person I was here for.
It looked like I was going to have to be patient if I wanted the chance to use the computer on my own. My mouth twisted. Patient, I can do. I’ve had a lot of practice.
I glanced up from placing the last chair to see Devin looking at me. “What is it?” I asked. I put my hands on my hips and lowered my chin, pretending to be out of breath so I wouldn’t have to look into his eyes. I wasn’t out of breath. Lifting a few pieces of man-made furniture hardly compared to gladiatorial training.
“This is going to sound crazy, but your name is really familiar,” he said.
“No, it isn’t,” I replied automatically.
“I wasn’t asking you,” he said.
I frowned. “Why would a two-thousand-year-old Latin name be familiar to you?”
“I didn’t say it made sense,” he responded. “I just… I just…” He grimaced before continuing. “This is going to sound even worse, but in my head I can see you wearing, like, a tunic or something…”
 Appearing horrified at his own words, he put his hands over his face. “Oh, shit, just forget I spoke,” he added, his voice slightly muffled.
I gaped at him. This is the fastest connection I've ever made. How can he see so much already?

Today's post is a chapter sample from my work-in-progress, to be released later in 2018 😊 📓.
Thank you very much for visiting my blog and I hope you enjoy the beginning of this new series as much as I enjoyed writing it!

“If I make it possible for you to attend this school, the restrictions will be significant. Do you understand?”
I nodded. Whatever. Whatever it takes. He could do what he liked. He could do his worst. He always did. But he was the only one who could make this happen for me.
“Aren’t you even interested in knowing what the restrictions will be? I could leave you with nothing, Luca.”
For a moment, I hesitated. “Nothing?”
“I see you haven’t completely lost the sense you came here with.” He laughed. “I could leave you with nothing, but I won’t. Where’s the fun in that? I will do my best to strike a balance. Just enough to give you hope you can succeed, but not quite enough to actually do so. How does that sound?”
I pushed away my irritation. “It sounds… typical.”
He loved nothing more than a new contract. My reputation, my magic, and my life, in exchange for this one chance. I knew I would probably fail, but I had to try. I had to. The alternative was unthinkable.
“Excellent. I do like to live down to expectations. Off you go, then. Classes enroll today. You have until the end of the semester.”
It wasn’t long enough. He knew it as well as I did, but I refused to give him the satisfaction of protesting.
“Oh, and Luca? Good luck. You’ll need it.”

1 A Face 
I approached the school slowly. The sidewalk was solid and unforgiving beneath my feet. If I tripped and fell down, everyone would see me do it, and if I used magic to prevent myself from falling, I would only make myself conspicuous for a different reason.
The more I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, the more complicated it seemed to become. The late summer sunshine reflected off every metal surface, as if it were actively trying to disorient me.
It had been a long time. Could everyone tell? I wished I had checked my appearance. I’d been so keen to get away from him that it hadn’t seemed important. I should probably have checked a lot of things.
Perhaps if I wait on this corner for a minute or two…
“Hey,” came a voice. It was close enough to make me jump. I’d been watching the comings and goings through the school gate, fascinated by the groups of students and their differences and similarities. I turned apprehensively.
“Hey,” I repeated, playing it safe.
The boy grinned. His teeth were white and straight. “You’re new.”
You have no idea. “I guess I am,” I said. “Is that a problem?”
I concentrated on keeping my expression as neutral as possible. It was way too soon to reveal anything about myself. I felt my heart speeding up and my shoulders stiffening as if it were happening to someone else. It was the oddest sensation.
“You tell me, dude. I’m just saying hey.”
“It’s not a problem for me,” I replied, thinking, Liar.
“Are you a senior?”
Was I? I couldn’t be sure. I looked down at my shoes for inspiration. One of the laces was coming undone.
“I… er… I’ll be eighteen soon,” I managed. I would never be eighteen, of course. I remained frozen at the point when I’d
“Me too,” said the boy, interrupting my train of thought. “When’s your birthday?”
“Oh. It’s…” I used to hate my birthday. “It’s on Samhain?” My voice rose, turning it into a question. I had a feeling I might have used the wrong word. “Um… the last day of October?”
He blinked. “You mean Halloween?”
“Do I?”
We looked at each other for a second, then he laughed. The sound came easily, as if he made it often. “Is this like one of those games where we have to keep trading questions?”
The game is a little more complicated than that. I tried for a smile. “Why are you even talking to me?”
I hadn’t gone out of my way to attract his attention. And we didn’t know each other. There was nothing about his energy signature that was familiar to me.
The boy tilted his head. His brown eyes tracked my body down to my feet and back up again. “I don’t know. I guess you look interesting. What’s your name?”
“L-l-l…” My voice trailed off. Damn him. I’m not going to be able to use my name, am I? One of the “restrictions,” no doubt.
The boy waited, settling his weight on one hip. My tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth, unable to get past the sound of the L. I was about to choose a name at random, then realized I couldn’t. I didn’t know what name he had chosen. I would have to enroll to find out.
The boy obviously decided to take pity on me.
“I’m Devin. You can come with me to register if you want.”
“I… Why are you being so friendly?”
That laugh again. “You’re hard work, aren’t you? If you’d rather go solo, that’s cool.”
He turned to leave, shifting his backpack into a more comfortable position while he checked the street for traffic. Disappointment made my chest contract for a second, taking me by surprise.
“Stop,” I said. “I’d like to go with you.”
He looked over his shoulder, eyebrows raised. “You going to tell me your name, then?”
I shrugged. The smile took less effort this time. “Wait until we register. I’d rather stay interesting for a bit longer.”
“There’s a fine line between interesting and weird, you know.”
“I’ve heard. I guess it’s a bit like the line between friendly and weird. As long as you stay on the right side of it…”
He frowned, and I bit my lip. Had I gone too far? Fortunately, his frown was soon replaced by a grin. “I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be trouble, newbie.”
I am. But hopefully not for you.
“Define trouble,” I said, following him across the road. He was about to answer when another boy called to him from just inside the school gate.
“Dev! Where’ve you been? All the best lockers are gone, you lazy…” He stopped speaking when he saw me. “Who’s this?”
The second boy was nothing like Devin. He was pale, with sharp features, and his expression was wary.
“This”—Devin reached to put an arm across my shoulders—“is the new guy. He doesn’t have a name yet, but he assures me he’ll get one at registration.”
Devin’s hand was warm and very close to the skin of my neck where my collar ended. I tried not to move. I don’t know what will happen if he touches me. “And this,” he continued, looking at the other boy, “is Gabe, my bes—”
I flinched when I heard the name, and Devin broke off with a howl of pain mid-sentence. He dragged his hand away from me and cradled it to his chest as if he’d been electrocuted. Perhaps he has been. Kind of.
“Dev, you OK?” asked Gabe. He scowled at me and took a threatening step forwards. “What the hell was that? What did you do?”
I ignored him, stepping in front of Devin and blocking his view. I thought I could count on Gabe to be a little nervous of grabbing me, at least right away.
“Devin,” I said softly. “Look at me.” Responding automatically to the instruction, he lifted his gaze. The second our eyes met, I whispered, “Sano. Dedisco.”
His expression cleared and he blinked a couple of times. His eyelashes were still wet from the tears of pain he hadn’t quite shed. Then he looked down at his hand, as if surprised to find it curled against his body.
“Dev,” said Gabe, stepping around me. “What happened? Did he hurt you?”
“I’m…fine,” he replied slowly. “Wait, what? Did who hurt me?”
Him,” said Gabe, gesturing to me with a quick jerk of his head. He was too mistrusting of me to come any closer. “Name-game guy here.”
Devin let out a disbelieving laugh. “Why would you think that? He would never hurt anyone. He’s…” Our eyes met again before I could prevent it. His eyes widened. Don’t say it. Don’t even think it.
“He’s worried we’re going to be late,” I said abruptly, turning away. “Shouldn’t we get going?” I wanted to find out my name. And I wanted to sever the connection with Devin before it had a chance to take hold.
I walked towards the nearest school building, not stopping even when Devin called after me. I heard him and Gabe having a conversation but their voices were too low. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Devin ran up alongside me, slightly out of breath.
“Why does Gabe think you did something to me?” he asked.
Because I did. “I have no idea,” I replied. “Is it this way?”
“Yeah. Look…”
I saw his hand coming towards my arm just in time and twisted to one side before he could make contact with my skin. This was going to be much more difficult than I’d expected. I could fool his eyes and ears, but his touch would know me for what I was, every time.
He gave me an irritated look. I could see the hurt underneath it.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I didn’t want to hurt him. I liked him. Perhaps I should allow the connection. If I’m careful…
“No, I’m the one who’s sorry,” he replied, before I could say anything else. “You want to be on your own? You got it.”
He walked ahead of me, hunching his shoulders. Gabe followed him, glancing at me on his way past. I avoided his gaze, but there was no missing the satisfied expression on his face. I sighed.
I followed them slowly, keeping the two boys in sight so I would know roughly which direction to walk in. The school layout would have been confusing if it had been my first time, but fortunately I had already committed it to memory on a previous visit. Soon enough I saw a sign saying, “Enrolment ®” and realized the cafeteria had to be where everything was set up.
I slowed my pace even further until Devin and Gabe disappeared from view. The hallways were fairly quiet because classes didn’t begin until next week and most students had registered by now. I attracted a few curious looks, but no one spoke to me.
Finally, I passed an empty classroom. I ducked inside and pulled the blind over the glass pane in the door. There was no key in the lock. I bent down until my gaze was level with the handle. “Sero,” I said. Obediently, the lock turned.
Right. First thing’s first.
I took hold of one of the short sleeves of my shirt. “Amplius.” I didn’t stop pulling until it covered the bones of my wrist, immediately repeating the action with the other arm. It might be warm out, but I needed to cover my skin.
What next? It wouldn’t hurt to know what I look like.
I stared at the pale-green blind covering the door pane. Its edges were frayed and there was a brown stain at the bottom.
The blind shimmered, once, twice, then a pool of silver appeared in its centre. A boy’s face, my face, looked back at me from the newly reflective surface. It really is my face. I hadn’t seen it like this in a long time, but I was in no doubt.
The boy had bronze-colored hair and blue-green eyes. There was a crescent-shaped white scar on his cheekbone and his skin was tanned darker than its natural shade. Just like before, from all the hours I’d spent sparring in the hot Roman sun, preparing for that fateful day in the Colosseum.
I touched my cheek with my forefinger, remembering how I’d come by the scar. My sparring partner had been delighted to “decorate that pretty face with a taste of things to come.”
I curled the fingers of my right hand into a loose fist. I could almost feel the handle of the sword and the heavy, reassuring weight of the blade extending from it.
The person in the mirror didn’t belong here. The modern clothes looked out of place on him, like seeing a laptop next to an ancient wax writing tablet. I turned away from my reflection, muttering, “Rescindo.” The blind returned to its previous state.
I had not expected to look like that boy. It was very unsettling. I could only suppose that was what he wanted.
Everything was going to be more difficult with this face. The ancestry that had created my physical appearance was like a melting pot of the best and worst the Roman Empire had to offer, but it wasn’t only that. The passing of thousands of years had changed earthbound faces. The changes were subtle, but undeniable. I looked different.
I held my hands out in front of me. They were shaking slightly. I swallowed, trying not to think about what I’d done with those hands the last time I was earthbound. Get over it, Luca. You chose to come back.
Resero,” I said, and the door unlocked. I stepped out into the corridor. Right into the path of Devin and Gabe. 

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