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The Legacy of Androva Series

Today's blog post is my top three in terms of defining cover appeal. Covers are very subjective, as any book-lover can tell you. What appeals to one reader won't necessarily appeal to another. However, the experience of browsing for a new book, whether it be online or in a physical bookstore, is very much influenced by the covers we see. Unless I already know the author, it's rare for me to click on/pick up a book when I don't like the cover.

But what makes a good cover? (Disclaimer: I'm not an expert! I just thought it would be an interesting subject). As I've already said, covers are a personal thing. Therefore it makes sense to approach the subject from my own perspective. There are three main things I want from a cover if I'm going to fall in love with it:

1. The wow factor. That indefinable something. An eye-catching cover might be beautiful, or intriguing, or startling, or a combination of all three, but it has to stand out amongst its neighbours.

2. Scene-setting. A sense of what to expect from the book. It's helpful if the cover can point to the genre and the intended age-group.

3. The promise. A good book cover understands the words inside. Its images will translate something important from the story/content. Perhaps another way to describe it might be as a hook. It takes the wow factor to another level of interest, making the reader want to figure out what the cover means, and read the words behind the images.

Everyone knows the saying, “You can't judge a book by its cover.” I searched to find the first use of this phrase, and there are two suggestions: one from as far back as 1867, and the other more recently in 1944. And of course, you can't judge a book by its cover. The cover is only a snapshot. However, what else is a reader supposed to do? There isn't time to read everything! We have to narrow down our choices somehow 😏.

Here are three covers I love, selected at random. They each have the wow factor, they each set the scene, and they also make a promise that's honoured by the stories inside. I've tried to explain what I love about them as if I hadn't already read and enjoyed the actual books.

The Trials of Apollo, The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan.
What I love:

  • The colours, especially the way the blue frames the orange
  • The substitution of the O in the title for a sun
  • The contrast between the golden god-like image with the bow and arrow and the ordinary boy on the street

Lockwood & Co., The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud.
What I love:

  • The old-fashioned font. It's quirky but still legible
  • The image. What is it? Is it something dangerous, or is it the object that will eventually save the day?
  • The contrast between the magic glow/smoke and the looping chains

The Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician's Nephew, by C. S. Lewis.
What I love:

  • The way the different colours blend together
  • The cover manages to include a lot of detail without being too cluttered
  • The combination of apparently disconnected items: a lion's face, pools of water (or something water-like), three rings, some trees, and a boy. How do they all come together in one story?

What do you look for in a cover? Do you like the examples I've chosen ? Thank you very much for visiting my blog today!

This was one of my favorite chapters to write because I got to imagine visiting Shakespeare's Globe Theater in 1600, a few months after it was first built. Luca is pulling out all the stops to get Cass's attention—using time travel to take her somewhere he thinks she will love. As a Light Mage, he has the ability to travel within the earthbound dimension to anywhere he knows by name and sight. He's been a guardian for nearly two thousand earthbound years, which means he knows a lot of places!

You can catch up on earlier chapters by using the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading πŸ’•

12 A Glimpse

The theater rose up around us, three stories high, its twenty even sides giving the impression that it was circular. Like a globe. It was open to the London sky, and the smell of new wood combined with early summer rain was fresh after the stale air of the geography classroom.
I adjusted my focus while our surroundings were still flickering, until I reached the exact location and time I was searching for. I’d deliberately chosen a rehearsal day. We settled in the top row of seating, directly facing the stage. I gently tugged at Cass’s hand until we were both sitting down on the narrow bench behind us. The shadows were enough to keep us hidden as long as we kept still.
The actors on the stage were conferring, speaking in voices too low for us to hear them. Cass looked left and right, up and down, with quick glances, her hand holding tightly onto mine.
“This can’t be what I think it is,” she said.
I squeezed her hand. “Yes it can. This time it’s exactly what you’re thinking.”
“We are not in the Globe Theater. That’s impossible!”
The murmuring of voices from below came to an abrupt halt. I shifted position to conceal her from view. “Vestis aequalis,” I whispered, and our clothes transformed into something more appropriate for the early seventeenth century.
I dressed her as a man. Not that she wouldn’t have made a beautiful Elizabethan lady, but the shock of lead-and-vinegar makeup and no underwear might have been a little much.
“OK?” I asked, giving her a reassuring smile.
She lifted her free hand and ran it inside the high collar with its starched white ruff. The black and white set off her skin perfectly. She looks stunning. Oh, stop it, Luca. Focus.
We were both wearing jackets made from dark, richly embroidered cloth, with close-fitting breeches and stockings. Our cloaks were pinned over one shoulder, as was the fashion.
“You, sir! No person hath the right to claim an audience here. Performances begin next week, at which time you may pay your pennies like everyone else.”
I stood up and made a bow over the low rail. “Apologies, gentlemen all. We meant no offense. My father is one of your investors. Me credite.”
 It was doubtful my “Believe me” spell would work on the entire company of players, which was why I had changed our clothes and focused only on the man speaking to me. I knew he was in charge of this particular production. When I’d been here before, my assignment had been one of the secondary actors.
Cass and I could have hidden backstage. We could have visited the theater when it was empty, but I wanted her to see a scene from Much Ado About Nothing for real. I couldn’t take the risk of attending a performance—the Globe had space for three thousand spectators and it was usually full. My chances of being noticed by another guardian would be too high. A rehearsal was the next best thing.
He’d promised to keep them away from the school, and I trusted him, simply because he had as much to lose as I did. Although our motivations for doing this were very different, we were both breaking the rules.
On the stage below us, the man’s expression relaxed. “Ah, I see. Young sir, forgive me. You may remain.”
One of the actors behind him muttered a complaint. The man frowned. “Yes. Yes, I understand your argument.” He looked at me again. “Your complexion, and that of your companion… you’ll forgive me for saying… you are both rather Spanish in appearance. One cannot be too careful in these troubled times.”
I kept my face expressionless by sheer force of will. The earthbound are so obsessed by skin color. As if physical appearance is what defines an enemy.
“We are recently arrived from the Netherlands and spent much time on deck during our voyage. That’s all.”
I sat down again to indicate that as far as I was concerned, the conversation was over. I was relieved to see those on stage take the hint and return to their rehearsal.
“Is this…? Is this…? When is this?” Cass whispered so quietly I could barely hear her.
“It’s the date I said. June 18, 1600.”
“Look, they’re going to rehearse a scene. It’s Much Ado About Nothing, in case you hadn’t guessed. That’s what they’ll be performing next week. I was here on opening night, too. It was awesome.”
She looked at me without speaking. My eyes, my mouth, my scar, my hair, my neck, my chest. She looked at it all. I didn’t know what to do with my expression, feeling self-conscious in the face of her scrutiny.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Er… I brought you here to see the play. I thought you might like—”
“No,” she said, interrupting. “What are you doing here? With me?”
I didn’t know how to answer. “I came to help you,” I said eventually.
She considered this. I wished so much that I knew what she was thinking. I could force her to tell me with a spell, but only if I was prepared to sacrifice the new and fragile trust between us. I’m not.
“Are you being forced to do this?” she asked.
“No!” I gave the stage a nervous glance and repeated it more quietly. “No. Definitely not.”
She sighed and lowered her shoulders. “I can’t rationalize this. There’s just no way to explain it. None. It’s not a blackout, though. I suppose that’s a good thing. What should I do?”
“Are you asking me?”
“What would you say if I did?”
 “I would say you should watch the rehearsal. They’re pretty good.”
She laughed and held up her hand to muffle the sound. “OK. I’ll watch the rehearsal. How does the saying go? When in Rome… what is it? What did I say?”
“Nothing.” My heart pounded. Some reactions I couldn’t act my way out of. When in Rome, do as the Romans do… and fight in the Colosseum. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and nudged her arm. Good timing, Bill. “Look. Down there. It’s Shakespeare.”
Cass gasped. “The Shakespeare? Do you mean it?”
“Sure. This is his play, and he’s part owner of the Globe, too.”
“Oh my God. Shakespeare.” She leaned forward. “He’s shorter than I expected. How old would he be now?”
“He doesn’t look very happy.”
“Well… he recently started working on Hamlet, so I guess that’s his tragedy face.”
“Wow. Really?”
I grinned. “No. He always looked like that. He invested his life savings into this theater. He’s probably worried about whether he can still afford to go to the pub.”
She smacked me on the arm. “Not funny. He was a genius.”
“Yes, he was.”
“My mom loved Shakespeare’s sonnets. My dad used to quote them to her.”
Her expression became sad and I waited, hardly daring to breathe in case I distracted her from the memory.
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings, that then I scorn to change my state with kings, she recited. “When I was little, I used to wish on that one. I wished that the handsome prince would give up his kingdom in exchange for a life with me so that I wouldn’t have to become a princess.”
She gave me a faint smile. “I hated the idea of being a princess, but I didn’t see why I couldn’t still have the prince.”
There was the minutest softening in the darkness she carried. Just a whisper, but it was there. Hope rose in me so fast it was almost painful. It had been worth the risk of bringing her here, just for that moment.
The scene began and she turned to watch. It was at the end of the second act, when Benedick’s and Beatrice’s friends have hatched a plot to convince the squabbling pair that each of them is secretly loved by the other.
Benedick, the first to overhear the news of Beatrice’s hidden love for him, resolves to return her affection. Beatrice, sent to give Benedick a message, and unaware of his change of heart, responds to his friendly overtures with disbelief.
“Against my will, I am sent to bid you come in to dinner,” said the boy playing Beatrice.
“Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains,” replied Benedick, attempting to deliver a winning smile.
Beatrice looked at him as if he had two heads, saying that she hadn’t taken any pains. “If it had been painful, I would not have come,” she added, with customary scorn.
“You take pleasure, then, in the message?” persisted Benedick, all but batting his eyelashes.
“Yes, just so much as you may take upon a knife’s point,” came Beatrice’s withering reply. She left the stage soon after, leaving Benedick to analyze her words, telling himself there must be a “double meaning” in what she’d said. He reaffirmed his intention to love her before the scene ended.
Cass and I gave them a round of applause, and the two actors bowed. I decided we should probably quit while we were ahead, and with a quick, “Rescindo,” we were back in the classroom in our jeans and shirts.
“I have a lot of questions,” said Cass. “It must be really late, though.”
“No. We returned to the exact moment we left.”
“Like none of it even happened?”
“If you want,” I said carefully. The expression on her face was hard to read. Was she annoyed because she’d told me all those things? Or was that frown caused by the questions she’d just mentioned?
“It did happen,” she said, frowning harder. “You’re not going to make me forget this. I don’t believe you’d be so cruel.”
“That’s not what I meant. I was talking about not telling anyone the stuff you said about your…” My voice trailed off in the face of the glare she gave me. “That’s a great look for Beatrice,” I said, with a weak attempt at a smile.
Cass rolled her eyes. “Yes, but how the hell am I ever going to act the part where I fall in love with you?” Her eyes widened. “No, not you… I mean, the part where Beatrice falls in love with Benedick. Not you. Clearly.”
I held a hand over my chest. “You’re breaking my heart, fair Beatrice. Surely falling in love with me is the easy bit?”
“So modest. And I’m not fair,” she muttered.
“Fair, as in beautiful,” I said. “Which you are.”
“Am I?”
“I think so. For a girl,” I added, then made a face. “No, for a person. I mean… a human being. Or something. Gods.” I considered using a spell to shut myself up. “Sorry.”
“I would return the favor, but I’m not sure I can be as eloquent as you,” she said, grinning.
“Well, thanks,” I said, hanging my head. “I do my best.”
“I think I should go,” she said unexpectedly. “I need to get a few things straight in my head, and I can’t do that when I’m with you.”
“Please don’t… don’t go back to hating me,” I said. Nicely put, Luca. You’re telling her how to think, now? You’re on a roll.
“Sorry,” I said. “Again.”
“I never hated you.”
“But you told me you hate everyone.”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” said Cass, with a sigh of irritation. “I was generalizing. And you were preaching to me at the time, if I remember correctly.”
She paused. “Did all that shit about loving and hating have something to do with this help you’re supposed to be giving me?” she asked.
“Er… maybe?”
“What does maybe mean? Did it, or didn’t it?” she asked.
I answered in an embarrassed rush of words. “Well, it kind of did, but I realized as soon as I said it that it wasn’t helping, so I’m hoping we can pretend I didn’t actually say it.”
“I don’t know what to make of you,” she said.
“I don’t know what to make of you, either.”
She put her head on one side. “Let me get this straight. You want to help me. You travel in time. You may or may not be some kind of wizard, and I feel like we’ve somehow met before. True or false?”
“Cass and Avi haven’t met before,” I said.
She raised her eyebrows. “You’re avoiding the question.”
“It’s the only answer I can give you.”
“All right. I’ll think of some better questions. I have to go now. I’ll message you.”
Without even giving me a backward glance, she unlocked the door and walked through it. I had to admire her self-possession. I was ready to throw a few more chairs to release the tension. I could hardly believe what had just happened. It was going to be a long weekend while I waited to find out what would happen next.

This is the first blog post of a new month, and the weekend turned out slightly better (understatement!) than I was expecting it to. First of all, we had some proper snow. The photo shows the woods at the end of my street on Friday morning, looking like a real-life winter wonderland ❄.

“Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.”
― Mary Oliver

Second of all, the finalists were announced on Saturday for the 2018 Wishing Shelf Awards. I learned that Connecting Magic is a finalist in the category for 9-12 year olds and that Spell Tracker is a finalist in the category for teenagers! 😲

What's unique about these awards is that each book is judged by its target audience in terms of age group. As I've said before, that's equal parts brilliant and scary when it comes to my books. You can read more about the awards on the main website here: Wishing Shelf

I've been working on the sequel to Spell Tracker this weekend. I'm getting to enjoy Devin's POV because he doesn't have much respect for the rules. He'll pretty much do whatever it takes to survive, which means I can put him into some very challenging situations! I love writing, and finding out that someone else enjoyed one of my stories is the best news I could have. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today ❣

It's been over a year since my last post about the importance of opening lines when choosing a new book to read. I read a fair few books in 2018 😏, so I thought it was about time I shared some more recommendations. These are YA books I purchased solely due to their brilliant opening lines. It's an eclectic list in terms of genre, but as before, all the books have one thing in common: I made the decision to read them before I'd reached the end of the first page.

The events in this book are real. Names and places have been changed to protect the Lorien Six, who remain in hiding. Take this as your first warning. Other civilizations do exist. Some of them seek to destroy you.
I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore

Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper. [...] I know better than to be afraid of stories. The forest holds real dangerthieves who lie in wait, crude knives and alchemic powder on their belts, to steal time from anyone venturing outside the safety of the village. We call them bleeders.
Everless, by Sara Holland

There are three requirements to earning a mages name among the JanTep. The first is the strength to defend your family. The second is the ability to wield the high magics that protect our people. The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.
Spellslinger, by Sebastien de Castel

The matriarch of House Kore was running late for a dinner. In the normal course of things, she did not care for punctuality. Punctuality, with its unseemly whiff of eagerness, was for peasants. And she was neither a peasant nor eager to endure a meal with the mongrel heir of House Nyx.
What is taking my carriage so long? she yelled down the hall.
If she arrived too late, she would invite rumors. Which were a great deal more pesky and unseemly than punctuality
The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi

Only fools climbed to the surface. It was stupid to put yourself in danger like that, my mother always said. Not only were there near-constant debris showers from the rubble belt, but you never knew when the Krell would attack. Of course, my father travelled to the surface basically every day—he had to, as a pilot. I supposed by my mothers definition that made him extra foolish, but I always considered him extra brave
Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson

Eliza Mirk is the kind of name you give to the creepy girl who clings to her ex-boyfriend for weeks after hes dumped her because she refuses to accept that he hates her guts. Eliza Mirk is a low-level villain with a secret hideout in the sewers. Eliza Mirk belongs in a comic book.
But Eliza Mirk is me. 
Eliza and Her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia

Aliens are stupid.
Im not talking about real aliens. The Others arent stupid. The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human with the smartest dog. No contest. No, Im talking about the aliens inside our heads. [...] You know, the aliens we imagine, the kind of aliens wed like to attack us, human aliens
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

Down a path worn into the woods, past a stream and a hollowed-out log full of pill bugs and termites, was a glass coffin. It rested right on the ground, and in it slept a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives.
As far as Hazel Evans knew, from what her parents said to her and from what their parents said to them, hed always been there. And no matter what anyone did, he never, ever woke up. 
The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

Destiny sucks.
Sure, it can be all heart bursting and undeniable and Bollywood dance numbers and meet me at the Empire State building. Except when someone else wants to decide who Im going to sleep with for the rest of my life. Then destiny is a bloodsucker, and not the swoony, sparkly vampire kind. 
Love, Hate & Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed

I have forgotten.
When I first opened my eyes I saw a room of white stone, and the light was bright, too bright, coming into the room from two high windows. I have never been so afraid. I dont know this room. I dont know this girl who woke with me, or these children who cry, their faces streaked with black lines. Theyve forgotten, too. But this book was tied to my wrist, and the book says I have a family, and that my family will be marked with dye so Ill know them. I think I have to believe the book.  
The Forgetting, by Sharon Cameron

How much do you read of a book before you decide to buy it? Have I persuaded you to give any of the above books a closer look based on their opening lines? I hope you find lots of great reads in 2019, and thank you for stopping by my blog today!

In this next chapter of Spell Tracker, Luca finally gets to know what Cass is hiding behind her prickly exterior. There's also a hint that Cass might remember something about their shared past life as gladiators in Ancient Rome. This terrifies Luca because she won't be allowed to graduate her earthbound life path if her memories of past lives or magic are restored in any way. Failure to graduate would invoke her contract with the Spell Tracker, leading to a very painful death. Finally, I'd just like to give a sensitivity warning that this chapter deals with the death of an off-page character. Please don't continue if you think this might be a problem for you. You can catch up on earlier chapters by using the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading πŸ’•

11 A Chink in the Armor

I left the gymnasium as fast as I could, hoping that the scream of frustration would remain trapped in my throat. By the look on Gabe’s face, he wouldn’t be following me. Probably just as well. I’ve never felt so angry.
When I judged I was far enough away, I went into an empty classroom, grabbed the first chair I could reach, and threw it at the wall. It glanced off a map of Europe, tearing a hole in the middle of it, and landed on the table underneath with a satisfyingly loud crash. I glanced behind me. “Taceo!” I shouted.
Three more chairs followed in quick succession. Unfortunately, it was much less rewarding now that I’d silenced the noise. I picked up a table and lifted it to shoulder height, ready to launch it at the wall, but started to feel ridiculous. I set it back down and leaned against it.
I was just as annoyed with myself as I was with him. This was exactly the kind of thing he enjoyed, and I should have been prepared for it. Time was never straightforward. No matter what the dimension, it could be a gift or a burden, and he manipulated it to his advantage either way.
As a guardian, I only saw him at the worst of moments, when an assignment faced the ultimate penalty. It didn’t happen often, but still more often than I would have liked. He always treated me like a child, telling me I didn’t understand how necessary he was. How no one else was prepared to do what he did.
“It doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it,” I’d said on one particularly painful occasion.
He had laughed. “Are you telling me your noble sensibilities would tolerate me better if I bowed my head and wept? No. I am not in the business of hiding the truth and certainly not to protect the likes of you.”
I lifted my hands off the table and turned around. The room was a mess. I should probably replace the furniture by hand rather than take the easy way out with a spell. Screw that.
Constituo,” I said, and watched everything return to its former state. The table was the last to move, and I had to jump out of its way to avoid being knocked over.
I lifted the silencing spell and turned to the doorway, where Cass was standing with a look of disbelief on her face.
“It’s not what you think,” I said immediately.
She pushed her bangs out of the way. Her eyes were wide but she showed no sign of being afraid. “Really? You know what I’m thinking, too?”
“No. Of course I don’t. Sorry.”
Slowly, she took a couple of steps into the room.
“So… if you don’t know what I’m thinking, how do you know I didn’t guess right?”
Dedisco,” I said, before I could change my mind. I’d wanted to try using magic on her anyway, and after what he’d just done with the deadline, I figured I had nothing to lose.
“What? I don’t…” She blinked.
I waited to see if the spell would work. Suddenly aware that I was watching her far too closely, I forced myself to walk up to the map of Europe and I leaned in to examine that instead. My right hand reached into my pocket to grip my phone, as if I could somehow prevent it from receiving a text telling me what a huge mistake I’d just made.
Silence. No text, and no sound from Cass, either. I turned around. She was frowning.
“Cass,” I said, pretending surprise. “How long have you been standing there?”
“What just happened?” she asked, ignoring my question.
“Er… what do you mean?”
“I don’t remember,” she said. Her breathing sped up. “I don’t remember. Oh God. I don’t remember.”
“Hey, it’s OK.” I walked up to her. “Everything’s OK.”
“Why do people always say that?” She gave me a frantic look. “It’s the most ridiculous statement ever. It’s a lie. Why say it?”
I swallowed. “Tell me what the problem is. What don’t you remember?”
She gave an incredulous laugh. “Are you serious? I don’t remember. That’s kind of the point.”
“Sorry. I didn’t say that properly. I meant, what’s the last thing you remember?”
Cass rubbed her forehead and attempted to steady her breathing. “I was looking for you. You left the gym while I was on the other side of the court, waiting for play to stop so I could cross, and you looked majorly pissed off. I thought I might finally get past that faΓ§ade of yours.”
“I… what? I don’t have a faΓ§ade,” I said indignantly.
She raised her eyebrows. “Hello? Can we try to keep on topic? I’m more concerned about the fact I just had another blackout than your ego right now.”
“Another blackout? What does that mean?”
After glaring at me for a few seconds, the fight seemed to go out of her. She pulled out a chair and sat down. I took the chair next to her, moving it back a couple of feet to give her some space.
“It happened after my father died.” She gave me a resigned look. “I assume you know about that. Everyone does.”
“All I know is that it happened when you were in fourth grade and he was Devin’s father too.”
“Yeah, that about sums it up. The thing is… I was fine at first. Well… not fine, but… I lived through it, if you know what I mean. I was sad. I grieved for him, even after the truth came out.
“It was shocking, but I think on some level I must have known, you know? I don’t think we were his favorite family. He got impatient a lot. Distracted.”
She shrugged, and my chest tightened painfully at the thought of the brave nine-year-old girl who’d lost her father twice over.
“We heard Dev was going around smashing up his school. I remember feeling sorry for him. I was really close to my mom,” she continued, her voice getting quieter, “and she told me everything would be OK. That the two of us was all we needed. She promised.”
Cass’s face went blank and I braced myself for what she was about to say. “Cross my heart and hope to die. That’s what my mom said. And she did. She carved an X under her collarbone, then slashed her wrists.
“I found her after school one day. Her bed was covered in blood. I never knew one person held so much.” She hesitated and raised her hand to cover her nose and mouth. Her eyes were unfocused. “It smelled sweet and disgusting at the same time, like air freshener in the trash or something. There was no note.”
She lowered her hand. “I never knew what tipped her over the edge. The police kept it all hushed up for my protection. The inquest was private. No reporters.”
“Oh, Cass. I don’t know what to say.” My voice came out low and scratchy. I was determined not to cry. It’s not about me.
“Oh, Avi,” she said, mocking me. “No one ever knows what to say.” She sighed. “I started getting blackouts a few months later after I started junior high. They said it was probably the shock and wanting to forget what I’d seen. I had all kinds of therapy and medication, tests for epilepsy, you name it. They were never certain if the cause was physical or mental. One day I just stopped having them.”
She folded her arms together and bit her lip. “If they’ve come back… I’ll lose my driver’s license. I’ll have to declare it on my college applications. I won’t be able to act anymore, and”—her voice broke—“everyone will feel sorry for me again.”
I didn’t know where to begin. All I wanted to do was put my arms around her and look after her until she stopped hurting. I can’t even touch her. “It wasn’t a blackout,” I said, going for the easiest thing to fix. “It was my fault.”
Your fault? Don’t be stupid. How was it your fault?”
Commemoro,” I said, and waited as it all came back to her.
“Holy shit.”
For a few seconds Cass just looked at me, speechless. Then she got angry. “You did that to me? You made me think I was going crazy again?”
“Er… I didn’t actually know about your blackouts when I…”
Her chair fell backward with a clatter and she leaned over me, fist pulled back. “You complete and utter asshole. How dare you?”
Part of me wanted her to land that punch. I deserved it, and the last thing she needed to do was suppress her emotions more than she already had. However, the second she touched my skin she’d be in agony, and I couldn’t let that happen.
Non,” I said, standing up and backing away.
Her knuckles tightened but her fist didn’t move. “You can kick me if you want,” I said. “But you can’t use your hands.”
“I can…? I can kick you?” She shook her head. “Is that a serious suggestion?”
I nodded. She lowered her arm and I relaxed slightly. Too soon, as it turned out. She sprang forward and kicked me extremely hard in the knee. I went down like a bowling pin.
“Gods, gods, gods,” I said, clutching at my kneecap.
“Gods?” she repeated, standing over me. Her mouth twitched. “Just how many do you need to help you feel better?”
“Twelve,” I replied through gritted teeth. “Sano,” I added, and the pain receded. I exhaled slowly. “What about you? Do you feel better now?”
“Actually, I do,” said Cass. “I feel…” She trailed off and looked at me more closely. “Have you ever had dΓ©jΓ  vu?”
Oh, shit.
“No,” I said quickly. “I don’t believe in it.”
She grinned. “Really? You just believe in the twelve gods, then?”
“There’s no god of dΓ©jΓ  vu,” I said defensively.
“How did you get that scar?”
Double shit.
“Why do you want to know?”
She knelt down on the floor, close enough to touch my face if she wanted to. “I just… I think it has something to do with me.”
“How the hell could it?” I said, scrambling to my feet and backing away.
“I don’t know. I thought you could tell me. You’re the one rearranging the classroom with magic.”
There was no answer to that.
“This scar has nothing to do with Cassandra Vryson,” I said, my voice rising. “I know that for a fact, and that’s all I’m going say on the subject.”
I sound like a teacher. Great strategy, Luca. Cass gets on so well with teachers.
“Fine,” she said, standing up. Her smile had gone. “We both have secrets we want to keep. I won’t talk about this as long as you don’t talk about my mom.”
We regarded each other warily for a few seconds. She took a step backward, then another. I couldn’t let her leave. Not now. She’d voluntarily given me a glimpse of her life path. This was my chance to help her. I had to do something. She was nearly at the door before I had an idea.
“Wait. Please.”
“Why should I?” she asked. “You made it pretty clear you were done talking.”
“Look. There are some… rules. And I won’t break them. I really can’t talk about the dΓ©jΓ  vu thing because the consequences would be irreversible. But there is other stuff we can do.”
“Like what?” she said.
“Come here and I’ll show you.”
Cass raised her eyebrows. “I hope you’re not going to tell me to close my eyes and make my lips into a pout.”
I failed to suppress a smile. “I know this will come as a huge disappointment, but I can’t kiss you.”
She walked toward me until she was standing close enough that I could feel her breath on my face. My smile faded. Her energy signature surrounded me, familiar and exciting. The rest of the world disappeared. It was just the two of us.
“Do you want to kiss me, Avi?”
I couldn’t stop myself. “Yes.”
“I want to kiss you.”
I trembled with the effort of keeping still. Desperately, I reminded myself she’d experience terrible pain if my skin touched hers. Not to mention that she might remember our shared history.
“I can’t.” I moved my head back a fraction. “Believe me, if there was a way to get around this, I’d be taking it. Frigus,” I added, hoping the shock of the cold air would help to strengthen my self-control.
“Keep looking,” said Cass. “For a way around it, I mean. Although… this is freezing. I think the moment might have gone.” She rubbed her arms. “What were you going to show me, if it wasn’t your amazing kissing skills?”
Using a quick “Occludo… sero,” I closed and locked the door. Then I lengthened my sleeves until they formed makeshift gloves and I took her hand.
Scena Globe,” I said, “die 18 Iunii, 1600.” The classroom disappeared.

The second book in the Light Mage Series will be set partly in the earthbound dimension and partly in the magical dimensions, giving me the chance to define life there in more detail. Today's blog post concerns the seven magical professions. There's some variety within the definitions, but each profession has a lot in common. Like the colors of magical energy they use and the spells they know by heart πŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ.

All magicians attend the Academy of Magic in the primary magical dimension until they are sixteen years of age. Their aptitude for each profession is continuously tested until their professors agree on a likely match. Then they go earthbound. One earthbound lifetime equates to a year in the magical dimensions. Magicians usually graduate before their twentieth year.

Luca's society believes a magician's true self is only revealed once all magical ability and memory has been taken away. Kind of like an extreme nature versus nurture test! In order to qualify for a profession, every magician from the lowliest Spell Mason to the most exalted Spell Master has to follow an earthbound life path, reincarnating their way along a series of predetermined choices and challenges all the way to graduation.

1. Spell Masters
Orange/gold spellwork. Elite magicians in terms of both power and skill, second only to the High Council. Responsible for magical law enforcement and the smooth running of all three dimensions. Must prove themselves incorruptible throughout their earthbound life path. The most lucrative profession (alongside Healers).

2. Healers
Purple/silver spellwork. Not as powerful as Spell Masters, but equally skilled. Highly rewarded and well-respected due to the personal impact of the spells they perform. Responsible for all aspects of medicine and physical, mental, and magical health. Must demonstrate compassion to all, irrespective of status, throughout their earthbound life path.

3. Spell Masons
Bronze spellwork. The most common profession with the widest variety of day-to-day responsibilities. Considered generalists. Carry out maintenance and building spells, replenish magical objects such as mage-gates, and also monitor/archive earthbound records on dimension-fabric.

4. Spell Techs
Light-blue spellwork. Equal parts creative and technical. Responsible for maintaining and developing the mage-net and other associated forms of magical communication. Design new spells so frequently that the High Council can barely keep abreast of them. Most other professions use Spell Tech infrastructure without having the first clue how it works.

5. Spell Weavers
Green spellwork. Extremely creative. Entertainers. Generators of art in all its forms: music, writing, painting, sculpture, fashion, dancing, and live performances using all-senses spells. One of the most envied professions due to the spellwork being (incorrectly) perceived as easy and because Spell Weavers occasionally become celebrities.

6. Animal Mages
Red spellwork. The least common profession. Usually requires the magician to live apart from the general population alongside the animals they look after. There is a snowdragon colony in the secondary magical dimension, and part of the next book will take place there πŸ‰πŸ”.

7. Spell Brewers
Dark-blue spellwork. Providers of magical sustenance in the form of spell shots. There is no eating, drinking, or sleeping in the magical dimensions. Magicians only require a regular supply of magical energy. Each profession earns an allowance that can be exchanged at the mage-market for spell shots. The more complicated the shot, the more expensive it is. Different shots are combined with different flavors and other spells according to the magician's preference. Anything from a change in hair color to a headache remedy. If a Spell Brewer invents a new shot that becomes popular with students at the Academy of Magic, they can earn enough to retire in a single semester 😊.

Luca, of course, as a Light Mage, never had a choice of profession. He was destined to be a guardian from an early age, as soon as his magical core began to grow around his heart instead of inside his head. Most ordinary magicians view Light and Shadow Mages with a combination of awe and suspicion, which is something else that will be explored as the trilogy progresses. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today, and I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the world behind the Light Mage Series!

My first blog post of 2019 and it's time for Chapter Ten of Spell Tracker! In this chapter Luca will get to know Gabe a little better. After Gabe reacts badly when he interrupts Luca's and Dev's second kiss, Luca feels like he has nothing to lose by trying a friendship spell. Past memories of his final earthbound life continue to resurface too. However, the Spell Tracker doesn't miss the opportunity to introduce an additional restriction. These restrictions are mainly for the Spell Tracker's own amusement—he doesn't think for one second Luca will actually emerge from their contract the victor. The Spell Tracker is a Shadow Mage, and he thrives on negativity.
You can catch up on earlier chapters by using the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading πŸ’•

10 An Interruption

I don’t know how long it was before we were interrupted. If I’d even considered keeping track of time, I’m pretty sure my ability to do so would have been a little impaired. Where did Devin learn to kiss like this?
“Dev, are you in her—”
The words stopped abruptly and so did we, the sound of our breathing impossibly loud in the shocked silence. I was facing the door where Gabe stood, unmoving, his knuckles white where he was clutching the doorframe.
Devin turned slowly. I realized I was still holding onto him and hastily let go. He and Gabe stared at each other. The tension in Gabe’s expression was more like pain than anger. No one spoke. Should I apologize?
“You’ll be late for tryouts if you don’t go now,” said Gabe in a low voice.
“Oh God, tryouts. What time is it?”
“Ten after. If you run, you’ll still make it,” said Gabe.
Devin glanced between the two of us.
“Go,” I said to him.
“Will you… come and watch?” he asked.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I replied.
“I don’t give a shit,” said Gabe. “Just in case you’re worried about my feelings all of a sudden.” He kept his gaze fixed on a point somewhere over my shoulder. Silence again.
“He doesn’t… I haven’t told him anything,” said Devin.
“Nothing to tell,” said Gabe.
“Right,” agreed Devin. “I’ll… I’ll be going, then.”
There was another excruciating pause. I almost wished Gabe were ranting and raving rather than keeping his emotions locked away behind gritted teeth and pretend disinterest. However, there was no time for a confrontation, and I was sure neither of us wanted Devin to miss his chance to make the team. I leaned into Devin and whispered, “Apoculo.” He left the classroom at a run, his sneakers squeaking on the floor of the corridor when he turned the corner.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Gabe.
I narrowed my eyes, bracing myself for the inevitable onslaught of anger and disgust. But when I looked at him, I saw that he meant it more literally. His face was ash-colored and he was swallowing over and over, like he was actually on the verge of throwing up.
“Do you want to sit down?” I asked, dragging a chair toward him. As he sank into it, his legs wobbling, I turned away and placed my hands on one of the tables.
Calix,” I murmured, quickly followed by, “Aqua frigus.” I picked up the glass of cold water that appeared and turned back to offer it to Gabe, keeping my fingers well away from his.
He took it from me without comment, immediately raising the glass and drinking half the contents. A few drops escaped his mouth and fell down his chin, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Thanks, I suppose.” He looked at the floor next to his feet as he spoke.
“You’re welcome, I suppose,” I replied, equally unsmiling. “Are you feeling better?”
He didn’t answer. Tentatively I reached out to assess his emotions and had to grab hold of the table to steady myself when a wave of shame hit me in the chest. He hated himself. That wasn’t at all what I’d been expecting.
“I’m not stupid,” he said eventually. “I don’t care what Dev says. There’s something different about you.”
“I never said you were stupid.”
“Don’t try to be clever. Every time you lied about what you did—making Dev scream with pain… and you did do that… you took me for a fool.”
“I didn’t lie.”
He gripped the glass a little tighter. “You never corrected Dev when he kept on defending you.”
“Dev wasn’t lying either. He just remembers it differently from you.”
He finally raised his head. “How? We were both there, together, in the same place, at the same time. You’re not suggesting I hallucinated?”
“No.” I wished I could think of a way to get past this without either telling him the truth or making him forget. I didn’t think he would believe me if I told him what I really was, but if I used dedisco and it backfired…
“I swear I didn’t mean to hurt him. I also swear it won’t happen again,” I said quietly.
His gaze sharpened. “Will you swear it on your life? On the lives of everyone in your family?”
“Yes,” I said straight away, keen to prove my sincerity. “I swear on my life and the lives of my family.” Inexplicably, my eyes blurred with sudden tears. I hadn’t thought of my earthbound mother for centuries, but now I could see her face as clearly as if she were standing right in front of me.
Our ancestry had been complicated, just like the Roman Empire. By the time I was born, the people of Gaul had long since been chewed up and digested by the empirical machine. The final battle, Vercingetorix’s last stand at Alesia, had taken place in 52 BC. I’d grown up listening to the stories. Although my mother had both Gallic and African blood, our owners had chosen to give us the name Sequani. It amused them to mention one of the defeated Gallic tribes whenever they were demanding we satisfy their every whim.
My mother had been a survivor. Her dignity had always remained intact, no matter how she was treated. She’d made our parting seem like an opportunity, protecting me from the full knowledge of how precarious my future was likely to be.
Placet accipere cura te ipsum, Avi.”
Promitto,” I’d replied, squaring my small shoulders.
Please take care of yourself, Avi. That’s what she’d said, and that’s what I’d promised to do. I’d failed. Even as a slave, I should have lived longer than seventeen years of age. I’d been sold for the first time at the age of five, which was the last time I ever saw her.
Gabe was watching me with a puzzled look, and I blinked the tears back.
“OK,” he said. “I believe you.”
It was so unexpected, I smiled before I could help myself.
“Don’t smile at me,” he said. “Believing you doesn’t automatically translate to liking you. Even if you didn’t hurt him deliberately, you still did something. We are never going to be friends.”
I put my hands into my pockets. Never is a long time. I don’t think he realizes how long.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said. I shrugged. “Maybe one day I’ll convince you to give me a second chance.”
“Don’t hold your breath. Here,” he added, offering me the glass. I kept my hands in my pockets, shifting to the side to indicate he should put it on the table next to me. I wasn’t going to run the risk of his skin touching mine. Not when we’d only just agreed to a truce.
He looked at the glass more closely before he set it down. “This doesn’t belong to the school. Where did you get this?”
“Uh… Cass and I were practicing our lines before and the water fountain is all the way down the hall.”
“Oh, right, the play. Cavi,” he said. He made a face, too distracted by the reminder of me and Cass to notice that I hadn’t actually answered his question. “Keeping it in the family, aren’t you?”
“Get lost. What are you, Mina?” I said, glaring at him.
He raised an eyebrow. “Did I hit a nerve?”
“You said yourself we’re not friends. So my personal life is none of your business.”
“Except you’re mixing your personal life with one of my friends.”
“Are we back to square one here, or what?” I asked.
He sighed. “No. I don’t know. Look… I’m going to watch Dev. Are you joining me?”
I was about to shake my head but then changed my mind. I wanted to see Devin again and I had a long and lonely weekend ahead of me after everyone left the school this evening. I’d have plenty of time to worry about how to behave with Cass next week.
“Yeah. Let’s go.”
We walked in silence to begin with while I racked my brains for something to say. Guardians didn’t have to make conversation as a rule, so it wasn’t surprising I was bad at it. It simply wasn’t a necessary skill. We were always invisible, hidden in our separate dimension, providing hints and silent encouragement to our assignments as they went about their lives.
What the hell. Here goes nothing. “Amicalis,” I murmured.
“What? Did you say something?”
“Er… Devin says you’ve been friends a long time,” I said.
“Since fourth grade,” Gabe replied.
“Oh. Did you know him when his father…?”
Gabe stopped walking and turned to face me. “He told you about that?”
“No,” I said. “Well, not the details. Just that it happened.”
Gabe continued along the corridor, kicking a screwed-up ball of paper to one side on his way past. “His father was a real piece of work. No one can believe he got away with it for so long. Dev won’t hear a word against him, though.”
“He won’t?”
“No. Says he refuses to judge someone who isn’t around to explain themselves.”
“Really? He never got angry?” I said, surprised.
“Oh, he did. He went off the rails big time. He just got over it.”
Now I was even more convinced Devin had been helped by a guardian.
“He got over it,” I repeated.
“Yeah. Does that shock you?” He slanted me a sideways glance.
“No,” I said. “I don’t know him very well, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of person to hold onto things.”
“He’s not. Not like…” He trailed off.
Not like you? Not like his sister? I wondered what Gabe had been going to say. Before I could think of how to ask him, we arrived at the doors to the gym. Gabe pulled one of them open, releasing a wave of emotion so strong I would have felt it whether I were paying attention or not.
Anticipation. Hope. Disappointment. Resolve. The spectators were just as invested in the outcome as the players. Tryouts were a big deal. The coach’s voice, by turns encouraging and exasperated, rose over the background noise to direct proceedings.
I spotted Devin immediately. He was standing on the sidelines, and I couldn’t tell if he was waiting to play or if he was already done. He was wearing shorts. Of course. Because an even bigger distraction is just what I need right now.
Gabe climbed the steps to an empty bench and I followed him. As we sat down, I noticed a lone figure on the other side of the gym, high up and right at the end of a row. It was Cass. She was slouching against the wall, earbuds in her ears and eyes half closed.
What is she doing here?
I got out my phone. “The Globe must have been a bit like this during auditions.
After I tapped Send, I waited. If I hadn’t been watching so closely, I might have missed it, but one corner of her mouth definitely lifted.
What are you doing here?” she typed back. “No one will believe in Cavi if they catch you eyeing up my brother like that.
I froze. I hadn’t realized she knew about Cavi, let alone me and Devin. If “me and Devin” was even a thing. My stomach flipped like someone was bouncing a basketball inside it. Unable to help myself, I looked at him again. When I glanced back at Cass, she rolled her eyes.
Subtle,” came her message.
Would you rather I came and sat next to you?” I typed quickly. “Or shall I just stare at you until everyone notices?
Her hair fell forward while she typed a reply, and I couldn’t see her expression. “NO,” said her message.
“Dev’s up,” said Gabe, nudging me with his elbow.
I put my phone down and turned to watch. Devin was good: fast and accurate. The determination he played with was kind of exciting. He kisses like that too. As soon as the thought entered my head, I was cringing, grateful Cass couldn’t read my mind. Or anyone else, come to that.
Gabe shouted encouragement when Devin walked up to take a free throw. He turned his head and our eyes met. My stomach flipped again. He grinned, like he knew. I didn’t dare look in Cass’s direction.
When he lined up the shot, I muttered, “Intra.” The ball fell through the hoop without touching the sides, and Gabe and I applauded, along with most of the other spectators.
“I think he’s made the team,” said Gabe. “Coach just said something to him, look.”
The coach was lifting his hand from Devin’s shoulder, and Devin stared back at him with a smile that lit up his face.
“I think you’re right,” I said to Gabe.
“I’ll tell Mina.” He got out his phone. “She didn’t stay because of all the arrangements for this stupid party she’s throwing tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I’d forgotten.”
Gabe huffed a laugh. “How the hell did you manage that? I suppose you’re going with Dev.” He looked up from his phone. He obviously wasn’t delighted at the prospect, but at least he wasn’t outright glaring at me.
“No. I can’t go,” I said.
“Does Mina know?” he asked.
“She won’t notice.”
Gabe stared back at me. “You have met Mina, right?”
I wondered if Cass had been invited. I looked across the gym, but the bench where she’d been sitting was empty. I wished I had seen her leave. Was it too late to go after her?
I was hopeful that her messages were a sign she was relaxing a tiny bit. Especially after we’d just had our first proper conversation about character motivation. I smiled as I remembered. Then my phone buzzed.
Well, isn’t this all nice and cozy. Making friends, are you, Luca? Feeling confident? You just lost half a semester. I’m moving up the deadline. Let’s see you smile now.

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