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The Legacy of Androva Series

I will freely admit that I’m not very good at what is called “writing to market.” I write what I enjoy. I don’t plan my books in advance and I use third person omniscient a lot of the time. However, books about magic with teenage characters are not exactly unusual, so today’s blog post is a light-hearted look at some common tropes* in YA fantasy and whether I am (inadvertently!) guilty of using any of them. This is my own top twenty list, and I don’t make any claims about its accuracy or completeness

*Trope = a commonly recurring literary device or cliché

So that’s a “Yes” for eight out of twenty tropes, which is forty per cent. More than I expected! Would you include any of these in your top twenty? Do you seek out or avoid books based on their tropes? I hope you enjoyed today’s post and thank you very much for reading!

Or: how to defy gravity using magic ☺
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 Physical.

I suppose the best way to describe this discipline would be to call it the magical equivalent of a workout. It develops strength and reflexes, which then improve performance across the other five disciplines. Of course, it’s also a lot of fun!

Everything that underage magicians learn in Physical is an extension of the basic Solo Transference Spell. Magicians push their force field right to the ends of their fingers and toes, then move their body using only their magic.

All classes are held in the Seminary of Magic’s largest training room--the one which extends to the top of the building, spanning all four floors. The very first lesson is invariably the most difficult, and nearly everyone falls. Some only fall for a few feet before they successfully reinstate their force fields. Others panic and would not survive the fall without help.

The aim is to rise to the top of the room and touch the ceiling with both hands. That’s not the most difficult part, however. The real challenge comes when you have to look down, see your feet balancing on thin air, and trust the strength of your magic to keep you where you are.

Professors only allow three students to try it at any one time, simply because if they fall, three is the most that any professor can rescue simultaneously. Underage magicians crash landing on the stone floor wouldn’t do much for the Seminary’s reputation!

Lessons gradually become more difficult. The second year at the Seminary involves diving, for example. You ascend to the top of the training room, dive to the bottom as quickly as possible, and (most importantly!) land unhurt and on your feet. Most underage magicians play it safe once they’ve achieved the minimum diving time. It takes a lot of nerve to throw yourself into the dive without any hesitation and then reinstate your force field just in time.

By the time you come of age, you can pretty much fly. But it’s more than that. You can cover short distances at incredible speed and project spells at a split-second’s notice. Mastering this discipline can turn an average magician into a great one.

Shannon and Galen are the only two out of all my characters who didn’t fall when they first tried Solo Transference. I think if it were me, I would probably fall! But I would love to have the freedom to move without being tied to the ground. Just imagine being able to sit on the roof to eat lunch, away from the crowds, or take a walk in the woods at treetop height. Where would you explore if you could go up instead of just forwards and backwards? Below is a short extract from a Physical lesson in Seeking Magic. I hope you enjoyed today’s post and thank you for reading!

The lessons up to lunchtime went fine, until Jax nearly made a spectacular error of judgement in Physical, due to his increasing tiredness. Professor Octavian had the class using Solo Transference to run circuits around the room.
This meant running across the floor in the normal way, then up the wall at the end, across the ceiling upside down, and then back down the far wall to where you started from.
Jax got confused about which wall was which, and expected to find himself on the floor, when really he was on the ceiling. For a second, he didn’t have enough Solo Transference energy to hold himself up.
He fell so fast he nearly hit the stone floor face first, only just managing to increase the energy of the spell in time.
Hovering for a few seconds, he could feel the tip of his nose touching the cold stone. The shock caused all the breath to temporarily leave his body.
A couple of underage magicians nearby exclaimed in fright, certain that Jax would not have time to save himself. Everyone else gradually came to a stop as they realised that something was going on.
“Alright, Jax, I think you can sit the rest of the lesson out,” said Professor Octavian calmly.
Jax stood up, waiting for his heart rate to return to normal. Too close for comfort, he thought, walking to the edge of the room on slightly shaky legs.

I'm excited to be able to tell you that Breaking Magic is a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review's 2017 Awards!

The website running the awards can be found here and Breaking Magic is in the YA category.

Callax (Cal), the main character, was a lot of fun to figure out because I'd never written in first person before. He knew so little about his world and himself that it was a real challenge to come up with ways for him to discover it all while keeping his POV intact.

I've stayed with first person for the sixth book in the series, which is Galen's story, but I'll be returning to third person for the seventh (and final) book. I have no idea how easy it will be to switch back, but I have to do it - I could never decide between Jax and Shannon if I had to use a first person POV!

I have several ideas for what the next series might be about, but I'm trying not to get too distracted by them until it's time to start writing...

Do you have a POV preference? As a reader, I don't mind either way, and looking at the books I most recently purchased there seems to be a fairly even split. As a writer, I've enjoyed both first and third person (omniscient). However, I'm not sure I could write a dual POV, and I admire writers who can! Thank you for reading, and I hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend ☺

Ally or adversary? Help or hindrance? Useful or useless? *closes the thesaurus*

Before writing Stealing Magic I would have said my vocabulary was OK. It was good enough to get me through my exams at school and uni. It allowed me to write business cases and presentations in my day job, and I rarely found myself lost for words.

However, writing a book showed me I had been kidding myself, at least to some degree. To begin with, when I wrote the first draft, I was blissfully ignorant. Completely immersed in what was happening to my characters, I wrote almost without thinking because my only desire was to type the words as the story unfolded in my head. But when I read it back, my rose-tinted glasses slipped a little.

It turned out my vocabulary was rather more limited than I had realised. Sometimes it was over-complicated and other times it was boring. It wasn’t just the magic and the world-building. I didn’t know many alternatives for commonly-used actions and emotions so I repeated myself a lot. A character can only roll their eyes so many times before it becomes ridiculous (especially if they’re a teenager – making me guilty of repetition and stereotyping).

OK, I thought. No problem. I’ll just use the thesaurus.

Well… it’s fair to say that was a learning exercise and a half. Why? Because most of the problems could only be resolved by improving my writing, not by inserting alternative words. I found out the thesaurus fixed nothing if the text was badly constructed in the first place. In fact, on occasion, the thesaurus made things worse.

To illustrate the kind of thing I mean, I’ll use an extreme example from the brilliant TV series Friends. There is an episode where Joey uses a thesaurus when he’s writing a letter of recommendation to an adoption agency on behalf of Monica and Chandler.

Original: They are warm nice people with big hearts
‘Improved’: They are humid prepossessing Homo sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps(!)

That’s not to say the thesaurus isn’t helpful. It is, but only in the right context. I often refer to it to find a quick alternative, particularly for adjectives in descriptions. For example, the Seminary of Magic might be an imposing building, but if I say that every single time I should just rename it the Imposing Seminary of Magic. And I'm always searching for different verbs to describe magical energy - it used to be that it only shimmered, but now it glitters, glows, glimmers, radiates, sparkles, and gleams as well!

Therefore, my conclusion is that the thesaurus is like the small bag of cosmetics on the table in my bedroom. It can be a very useful tool, but the outcome depends entirely on how well it’s applied (less is more!) and it can’t actually change my face (sorry, my book). At best, it can enhance it. Or enrich it. Or upgrade it…

Do you use a thesaurus? Do you find it helpful? Thank you for reading today’s post and happy writing!

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 Living Magic.

Old Living Magic was during the time of the treaty, prior to the events of Stealing Magic. New Living Magic is almost a different discipline. I think the best way to illustrate the difference is with a couple of extracts. The first is brand new ☺. It's set one year before the first book. The second is from Seeking Magic, the third book.
Extract One - Before
“Welcome to the foundation course for Living Magic. This is the single most important part of your Seminary training. In order to make the contribution to Androva that your Council requires, it is essential you master these spells.”
Professor Robard surveyed the small class of underage magicians. His eyes narrowed when they reached Jax, who stood next to his friend Darius at the back of the training room. Jax had his arms folded and was staring back at the professor with a bored expression.
 “The course is split into three elements,” Professor Robard continued. “First: portal travel to Terra. Second: the Harvesting Spell. Third: how to transport your living magic back to the Repository in one piece.”
He gave them a brief smile. “Achievement of the monthly harvest quota depends on you. I am sure no-one wishes to come to the attention of the Council for the wrong reasons, hmmm?”
Jax tilted his head so that his mouth was next to Darius’s ear and whispered, “Different day, same problem.”
“Yes, Jax?” asked the professor. “Do you have something you’d like to share?” He raised his eyebrows.
“No, Professor.” Jax’s green eyes looked back steadily. “I was simply agreeing with you. In my experience, the Council’s attention can be… trying.”
A few muffled sniggers could be heard. The professor subdued these with a scowl. Jax’s father Revus was one of Androva’s twenty elected Council representatives. Jax did his best every day to prove he had no intention of following in his father’s footsteps.
The professor sighed. “Magic-taking is an art, Jax. If you have any pride in your ability as an underage magician, you will master it.”
Jax gave him a glare. He decided right there and then to be the best magic-taker Androva had ever produced. Darius, after a sideways glance at his friend, suppressed a smile. Professor Robard was no fool.
“When you come of age, many things will be revealed,” said the professor. “However, this knowledge comes at a price. You will no longer be permitted to visit Terra and walk amongst its abundance of living magic.” He smiled. “It’s quite something. I advise you to make the most of it while you can.”
He waited to be sure his words had sunk in.
“Alright, then. Get to work. The sooner you can demonstrate your ability to calculate Terran coordinates, the sooner I will allow you to open a portal to a destination of your choosing. Then we will find out if you possess any real skill.”
Jax and Darius opened their maps. “I want us to be partners,” said Jax in a low voice.
“Alright,” agreed Darius.
“You help me with the coordinates, and I’ll help you with the harvesting. Deal?”
“Deal,” said Darius. “I’m nervous, though. Aren’t you? Even though we’ll be going to Terra at night, it’s still creepy.”
“Why?” asked Jax.
“The Terrans, of course,” said Darius. “I don’t trust them. Who lives in a world full of magic and doesn’t use any of it?”
Jax huffed a laugh. “They’re probably just stupid. But don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
He gave Darius a mischievous grin. Darius rolled his eyes.  The two boys studied their maps, determined that their partnership would go down in Androvan history.

Extract Two - After
They started with Living Magic. The Universal Spell of the morning was about irrigation. Extracting water from the air and using it to water plants was something that would only be necessary in an emergency drought situation. But Androva’s reliance on its crop growing to feed everyone meant that most Cultivation Spells were on the Universal list. Any magician would then be able to help if ever there were a crisis.
Professor Lenora created some heavy looking grey clouds that drifted in the space below the ceiling. Her intention was to make the Irrigation Spell quite easy at the beginning, with plenty of rainclouds to work with. As the morning went on, it would become more and more difficult when she reduced the intensity of the cloud cover.
Most of the underage magicians figured out the mechanics of the spell quite quickly. But the difficulty wasn’t in removing the water from the clouds. The difficulty was in removing it gradually and directing it accurately towards the plants on the floor. It was important to make every drop of water reach its destination, to avoid wasting any.
Shannon and Jax looked at each other and burst out laughing. They were both soaking wet, as if they had been standing outside in a rainstorm. Jax’s eyelashes were stuck together in spikes with the water, and Shannon’s ponytail was dripping down her back.
Darius, who had had better luck with his first attempt and was still almost completely dry, started laughing as well.
“If you could see what you both look like!” he told them, gazing complacently down at his own dry clothes. “You do know you’re supposed to get the water on the plants, right?”
Shannon decided that Darius was far too pleased with himself.
“What did you say?” she responded, putting one hand behind her ear. “I couldn’t quite hear you. Let me just get this cloud out of the way…”
She raised her hands, and two seconds later torrential rain poured from the cloud above onto Darius. Almost immediately, he was soaked. He gave a yell of protest, trying to dodge the water, but it was too late.
“No, I still can’t quite make out what you’re saying,” said Shannon with a smirk.
Darius pushed his dripping hair out of his eyes and glared at her. Then he raised his own hands. It quickly turned into a water fight, with Jax, Atticus, and Hadrian joining in with enthusiasm. The clouds above rained heavily as they competed to pour as much water on each other as possible.
Once Shannon realised she could create a small pool of water in mid-air and then use her force field to throw it in someone’s face, things got a bit out of control. There were shouts from the boys and the odd scream from Shannon as the fight progressed.
Professor Lenora was at the other end of the training room. As soon as she noticed what was happening, she intervened, but by then there was a great lake of water on the floor, and the underage magicians were soaked to the skin.

And as for the idea of living magic itself... If you've ever walked in an ancient forest when the air is still and there's hardly a sound to be heard, it's easy to believe there might be something magical about it. What would you do if you found an open portal? Would you walk through it, or not? Thank you very much for reading!

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