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The Legacy of Androva Series

I'm making good progress with Engraved in Magic, the sequel to Matched in Magic, and it seems like a good time to reflect on how things are going with the story. I've mentioned before on this blog that I'm not a planner. Despite my best efforts to define plots in advance, I never succeed, and I figure out each book while I'm writing it.

That said, Engraved in Magic is a sequel. And sequels are a little different because I obviously have a fixed starting point and usually some ongoing plot lines to pursue as well. For today's post, I thought I'd compare the story I'm writing to the story I intended to write by way of a top ten plan v reality list ☺.

The Plan
The Reality

Art to take over as narrator.
Yes, Art tells the story. It’s been a challenge for me to get to know him because he’s lacking in self-confidence, but he has a kind of quiet determination that’s very appealing. One of my beta readers sums it up by saying that Art is much more of a Darius than a Jax!

An extended timeline for the story. Matched in Magic happened over just four days, and I expect Engraved in Magic to be longer.
No. I’m pretty sure Engraved in Magic is going to be around four days too. There seems to be a lot happening in Vayl since the sponsorship model was overthrown.

Galen, Serena’s brother, to get the chance to help the Ricard family.
Not exactly. The Ricards and mage-sickness are definitely a part of the story. But it’s not Galen who takes the lead.

A new villain.
Yes. I always try to introduce a new villain/threat with every book, although the identity of the villain is proving a little difficult to pin down this time. I’ve changed my mind once already.

Character development for Xavic Dantail.
A little. There is the potential for Xavic’s story to be part of a future book. He's popular with beta readers, so we'll see.

A meeting with Darix, Art’s brother.
Yes. In fact, Darix is a bigger part of this story than I expected.

Different/new magic either in the form of spells unique to Xytovia or something invented by Galen.
There is a lot of brand-new magic/history revealed in this book, but it has nothing to do with Galen. Sorry, Galen… but you did get Surviving Magic all to yourself!

No significant new characters except for the villain.
No. This didn’t work out as I thought it would because a new character turned up early in the story almost from nowhere, and he grabbed the limelight immediately. His name is Kellan.

Art to become more familiar with using magic.
And then some! Art discovers that he’s not an ordinary magician in a way that dramatically changes the course of the story.

Art’s and Serena’s relationship progresses.
Yes. They made a promise to stay together at the end of Matched in Magic, and I’m trying to make sure they keep it. This story is not about Art and Serena breaking up.

It looks like about half of what I planned is happening (kind of) the way I planned it. I don't think that's too bad. At least I know it's worth making a top ten next time!

Engraved in Magic is currently scheduled for a late July release date. I hope everyone is keeping safe and well, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today. Happy reading 💕.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering; these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love; these are what we stay alive for.”
– Dead Poets Society

I love reading poetry. The right poem can brighten a happy day and soothe a difficult one. It can give you a different perspective. It can motivate and inspire you. And it can sometimes take your breath away.

Today's post contains three positive poems that I hope you enjoy. Thank you very much for visiting my blog, and I hope everyone is safe and well 💕.

Writing update: Although it's been a little challenging to make time for writing recently, I'm happy to say that Engraved in Magic remains on track for a late July release ☺.

May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.

― Chief Dan George

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

― Sara Teasdale

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

― Emily Dickinson

In the words of Stephen King: Books are a uniquely portable magic. Escaping into a book is as easy as opening (or clicking on) the cover. It doesn't cost much, and there's very little in the way of limits about where you can go and with whom.

Once a year, I create a blog post that illustrates the importance of opening lines when choosing a new book to read. Without going into detail about the challenges our world is facing right now, it seemed like a good time for this post. As before, the ten YA books in the following list all have one thing in common: I decided I was going to read them before I'd reached the end of the first page.

“Stories want to change, and it is a librarian’s job to preserve them; that’s the natural order of things. The Unwritten Wing of the Library, for all its infinite magic and mystery, is in some ways a futile project. No story, written or unwritten, is static. Left abandoned too long, and given the right stimulation, a book goes wrong in the head. It is a story’s natural ambition to wake up and start telling itself to the world.

The Library of the Unwritten, by A.J. Hackwith

“One day there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story. Once there was a world called Kelanna, a wonderful and terrible world of water and ships and magic. The people of Kelanna were like you in many ways—they spoke and worked and loved and died—but they were different in one very important respect: they couldn’t read.

The Reader, by Traci Chee

Love is for children, said the girl.
Death is for fools, said the shadow.
Darkness is my destiny, said the boy.
Allegiance is my undoing, said the eagle.
Suffering is our fate, said the beauty.
And they were all horribly wrong.

We Hunt the Flame, by Hafsah Faizal

“They were not gentle. And why should they be?
After all, they did not expect her to live past the next morning. The hands that tugged ivory combs through Shahrzad’s waist-length hair and scrubbed sandalwood paste on her bronze arms did so with a brutal kind of detachment.

The Wrath & the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh

I’m gonna miss the Draft.
The Hadfield is disintegrating around me. Black arcs of quantum lightning are melting the ship’s hull to slag. My spacesuit is screaming seventeen different alarms, the lock on this damn cryogenic pod still won’t open, and that’s the one thought blaring in my head.

Aurora Rising, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

“Senior year is begun.
Is begun sounds cooler than the more normal has begun, because if you say it right, you sound like a lone surviving knight delivering dire news to a weary king on the brink of defeat, his limp hand raking his face with dread. The final breach is begun, your grace. The downfall of House Li is begun.
I’m the king in that scenario, by the way, raking my face with dread.
For senior year is begun.

Frankly in Love, by David Yoon

“Everyone dreams of marrying a prince—except for me. I am nothing more than a pawn for my mother’s revenge on the seven kingdoms. For she was betrayed by those close to her, scorned by her true love and cast aside like garbage. In return, she raised her adoptive daughters to be as beautiful as diamonds, cold as ice, formidable like the ocean, and as wicked as they come.

Of Beast and Beauty, by Chanda Hahn

“The rain was falling sideways in the Marsh. It was never a straight downpour. It was always crooked. Just like the people here. Con artists and hustlers and crocs, the lot of them.
Anyone can be a saint until they’re hungry enough.

Sky Without Stars, by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

“Of all the awful things demons do, keeping Latin alive when it deserves to be a dead language might be the worst. To say nothing of ancient Sumerian. And ancient Sumerian translated into Latin? Diabolic.

Slayer, by Kiersten White

“Magic was outlawed in all four kingdoms—and that was putting it lightly. Legally, magic was the worst criminal act a person could commit, and socially, there was nothing considered more despicable. In most areas, just being associated with a convicted witch or warlock was an offense punishable by death.

A Tale of Magic, by Chris Colfer

Would you read any of these books based on the way they begin? Perhaps you already have 🙂. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today, and I hope you find lots of great reads in 2020!

What's more important to you as a reader? Is it that the protagonist needs to be fascinating and the villain complicated? Or do you prefer a fast-paced adventure with an unexpected twist at the end? I was thinking about my own reading preferences in advance of today's post, and I came to the conclusion that I'd take both 😏. If I had to choose, I guess I have a preference for characters over plot because it's rare that I fall in love with a book without falling in love with one or more of the characters too.

It's a widely-accepted truth that most writers have a natural bias toward either plot or character. You obviously need elements of both in order to create a satisfying story, and therefore it can take some work to maintain a balance. As we head into the month of March, I'm in the early stages of writing Engraved in Magic, the second book in the Beyond Androva series. I got to wondering if my bias is plot or character.

My instinct told me it was character because I can't plot stories in advance. I haven't given up trying, but for now, I really can't. And the more I thought about it, the more certain I became. I've always started with the character(s). Jax, for example, showed up in my head right at the beginning of Stealing Magic. His appearance and personality were fully formed, whereas the plot of Stealing Magic was invisible to me. I discovered it chapter by chapter as I wrote it. It grew up around Jax and Shannon. They made it happen because of their choices. I did take some guesses as to where the story was headed, but those guesses were so far off base I'm too embarrassed to describe what they were!

I asked my beta readers for their opinion, (a small sample size, but they know my writing pretty well), and the answer was split 50:50. So I guess there might not be a definitive answer...

In conclusion, I will try to keep a balance between the two. It doesn't matter if my characters come first, as long as they always bring a plot with them for me to discover while I'm writing. In fact, a mysterious new character has just turned up in Engraved in Magic during Chapter Six, and I'm pretty sure he has an intriguing and potentially dangerous backstory. I don't know what it is yet, but I'm sure I'll find out! Thank you very much for visiting my blog today and happy reading 😊.

My current work-in-progress is a continuation of the Beyond Androva series with book two: Engraved in Magic. Although Matched in Magic's ending definitely wasn't a cliffhanger, there are a few in-progress elements that I intend to develop during Serena's and Art's next adventure. Art is taking over the role of narrator this time. He and Xytovia both have a lot to figure out, and that’s without the added complication of a new villain. So far, the story is going well, but of course nothing is happening the way I expected! If you’ve seen any of my other posts about writing, you’ll know I’m not a plotter—though I wish I were.

I put together a new aesthetic this weekend to help me organise my ideas about the story and the look and feel of Xytovia. The purple trees show up again, as you can see, and my characters also discover a new kind of magical symbol. Its purpose is linked to an interesting (and potentially dangerous) time in Xytovia's history from before the war. I hope you enjoy the pictures, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today ☺️.

In the UK, our shortest day of the year happened on December 21st (with less than eight hours between sunrise and sunset). The woods outside my window are quiet and full of bare branches. However, as demonstrated by this photo from New Year's Eve, there is still life alongside the hibernation. Nature never stops creating, no matter how inhospitable the climate might be ☺.

We're a few days into a new decade and new beginnings. Today's blog post contains some quotes that describe this time of year and the way it makes our hopes and dreams seem a little more accessible.

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start.”
— Nido Qubein

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
— C.S. Lewis

“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
— Carl Bard

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, "It will be happier.”
— Alfred Lord Tennyson

My only resolutions for 2020 are to (somehow!) find more time for reading and writing, and music, and being outdoors. I'm not going to be too prescriptive this year in terms of the number of books I hope to release because I want to enjoy the writing without worrying too much about the deadline. But I've already started the second book in the Beyond Androva series, and it will hopefully be released in the summer of 2020. Art is telling the story this time. He's going to pick it up at the exact moment Matched in Magic ended. I'm going to finish with one last quote that explains why I love reading so much. Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope the New Year brings you good health, happiness, and lots of memorable moments ✨.

“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand.”
— Janet Litherland

For my final blog post of 2019, I'm very happy to be able to share an interview with my friend and fellow writer, Anke Schönle. Her first book, A Brighter World, has recently been released, and I was lucky enough to be able to read it before everyone else ☺.

A Brighter World is a contemporary novella-length story for adult readers. I've included the description below, but the Look Inside feature on Amazon (here) is a great way to discover the first three chapters for yourself 📖. You can also visit Anke's website for more information about the book including some exclusive bonus content!

A Brighter World, by Anke Schönle

Benjamin is at the low point of his life when he meets therapist Alexander Senne. Senne tries to help the young man, but then their relationship develops differently than expected.
Interior monologues, dream sequences and flash backs run through the story and lead to the reader often knowing more than the characters.
A story about identity and family, hurt and trust.

And now, on with the interview. I hope you enjoy meeting Anke, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today!

How much of yourself is reflected in this book (for example: professional expertise, personality, or other) and how?

I was recently told Alexander "sounded" like me. Quite a lot of my personality, my family background, the way I grew up went into him, other parts of me are reflected in Benjamin. I used to think that using myself as a foundation for a character was somehow cheating, but in the end we write what we know—from our own experience or from people we meet. There's this great line:
"I'm a writer. Anything you say or do can and will be used in a story", and that's so true. I always carry a notebook...

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Definitely Alexander. I'd shadow him to watch him work with his patients. I considered studying psychology for a while and it still fascinates me. I just hope it wouldn't be one of his migraine days.

How do you hope this book affects its readers?

I hope they can relate to at least one character, feel their pain and share their hope, and find a part of themselves in them. Maybe, just maybe if they had a bad start in life like Benjamin, the book can give them a little hope of things getting brighter. And even Alexander has his own demons that he overcomes with Benjamin's help. Looking at the dark parts of one's life can be painful, but with the right people to lean on I think we can start to heal.

Can you tell us about your cover?

It was designed by my friend Wendy. She's in the UK and I'm in Germany so there was no sitting at a table and discussing drafts—and still we found the final version quite fast. Her first draft matched the picture in my head very well, so it was basically a matter of adjusting colours and details. The idea was that Benjamin starts from a dark point in his life and experiences a better, brighter world once he lets Alexander in, so they walk towards that brighter future side by side.

Sum up your book for Twitter:  280 characters or less.

Oh boy. I love twitter, but being brief isn't my strong suit (unless I'm writing. I'm a lazy writer. Less is more and stuff). How about:
Benjamin meets Alexander at the low point of his life, but when he starts trusting Alexander, things begin to look brighter. A story about hurt and trust, family, identity and overcoming your demons.
Wow that wasn't even 280!

How do you select names for your characters?

I hate that part! Usually it takes me forever (finding titles is just as bad by the way). But the routine I've developed goes something like this:  if character A is based on real life person B, take B's name and change it in at least two stages. For example if the real life person is called Steven, I might go Steven -> Stevie Wonder -> Wanda -> Fish called Wanda -> Jamie Lee Curtis, and the fictional character might end up being called Jamie, Lee or Curtis. Yes, it does take forever! Usually after spending some time with my characters I forget their names' origins. In the case of Ben and Alex I did it for their last names. No, that's not true. Alexander's I just stole directly from a real life person!

How long have you been writing?

The first memory I have of trying to write a book I must have been nine. My mother accused me of plagiarism (absolutely justified) and that was that for quite a while. I wrote my first poem at seven, at fourteen I regularly wrote poems and song lyrics, and in my twenties I discovered fan fiction. I've been writing ever since, but I had to turn forty before I published my first novel.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Music has always played a big role in our family, so I learned a few instruments and sang in different choirs. These days it's mostly singing (classical in a big concert choir and pop in a band) and some trumpet. I read, but not as much as I would like to, I spend a lot of time online, I like to travel, I like going to the movies and to the theatre, I paint, I entertain our three cats—oh and to earn a living I'm a speech therapist, which I do like most of the time.

Did you like reading when you were a child?

I loved it. There's a scene in the book where Benjamin describes himself as a young boy, and that's 100% me. I was always reading. I would get a pile of books from the library every week, people would give me books for my birthday and for Christmas—my granddad was a bookseller, and no way would anyone in my family have said no to another book. My aunt had a ton of books and comics that I was allowed to borrow whenever I wanted. I wouldn't go anywhere, not even for one night, without packing at least one book.

Favourite class in high school. Why?

German and English. Those were the intensive courses I chose for my A-levels. It basically meant reading for ten hours a week, and I was reading all the time anyway, so why not read what was on the curriculum and get decent grades for it? Bonus: field excursions to Berlin and London.

What can we look forward to from you in the future?

I have half a dozen ideas, including trying to adapt "Wie einen seine Mutter tröstet" for the stage—just to see if I can do it and because I love theatre. The project I'm spending the most time on at the moment is a story that will most likely be published online as a fan fiction. And I just finished an online writing class with Neil Gaiman that I still have a ton of homework left from.

Bonus question: You’re stranded on a desert island—which character from your book do you want with you? Why?

OMG Ben. It has to be Ben. Why?? Because he's hot! We'd have a great time. It's a tropical island, right? Nice beaches, crystal clear water, no sharks please. On second thought Angie would be very tempting, too. (She’s a side character that doesn’t get a lot of screen time but boy do I remember the woman she’s based on!) Can I have them both?