Spring will officially begin in a few days and it seems like a good time to review my writing progress for 2019. The aim, as always, is to complete two books and right now, I'm on track to do that 🙂.
First up will be the sequel to Spell Tracker. The second story in the Light Mage Series takes place partly in the earthbound dimension (Tudor England, to be precise) and partly in the magical dimensions. The surviving primary characters from Spell Tracker all return, and Devin is the narrator this time. His approach to problem-solving is a little less considered than Luca's! One of the characters is accused of committing murder and is forced to go on the run to avoid the death penalty. There's also a new guardian, a girl, who was a sixteenth century French corsair (a kind of legal pirate) in her graduating earthbound life. Here's an excerpt from the beginning:
* * * * * * * * * My boyfriend worries. It’s kind of cute.
“We get audited every earthbound month,” I said. “What are you pacing for?”
“It’s still an audit. Carried out by a Spell Master working for the High Council. Aren’t you even slightly nervous?”
I grabbed hold of his hand and pulled him to a stop. “This is stupid. You nearly tripped over the threshold, for God’s sake. You haven’t used your magic for anything forbidden. You never do.”
He stared at me for a second. Here, in the primary dimension, he looked nothing like his earthbound form. Slender and wide-eyed, magic lending his caramel skin a slight iridescence, he was the most beautiful Light Mage I’d ever seen.
“Who says I’m worrying about me?” he asked with a faint smile.
“Hey,” I protested. “I haven’t broken any rules.”
“Devin. You practically told that guy his life path last week. If I hadn’t dedisco’d him, we’d both be in trouble.”
“I love it when you speak Latin,” I said, grinning.
“Yeah, you love not taking me seriously, too.”
I’d only been a guardian for a few months. A lot of the time I still spoke like the American teenager I used to be.
* * * * * * * * *
The second book is going to be the beginning of a new series tentatively called Beyond Androva, although that name may change as I write it. However, it won't be anything to do with Jax, Shannon, and the others. Much as I love all of those characters, I think I've told their story. Beyond Androva will begin with Serena, Galen's sixteen-year-old sister, and her adventures on a brand-new world after the events of Surviving Magic. Androva originally opened portals to seven other worlds, which means she has five to choose from. (Imbera is a no-go, for obvious reasons, and she's not interested in second-century Terra). Here's an excerpt, again from the beginning:
* * * * * * * * *
“You won’t change my mind. I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. I want to live somewhere interesting,” I said.
“What does that mean?” asked my older brother. “Here is interesting. You don’t have to leave Terra. Or if you insist on changing worlds, you could always go back home.”
I raised my eyebrows. “To what? Home doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone we ever knew on Androva is dead. And if I returned I’d have to endorse the lie about what happened there. I’m not sure I can do that.”
Galen sighed and placed his hand over mine. His magic expanded, powerful and familiar, lighting his eyes with silver and encasing our hands in a veil of energy. He wasn’t using a spell. He was just using magic to illustrate the strength of his feelings. From where I was sitting, it felt a lot like emotional blackmail.
* * * * * * * * *
I'll post updates on timing when I have them! Thank you very much for visiting my blog today 💕
Today's Chapter Fourteen takes us to the halfway point of the book 🙂. At the end of his flashback to Ancient Rome and gladiator training, Luca shies away from remembering how he and Cass were eventually separated. Then he meets up with Devin, who explains the reason for the tension between him, Mina, and Gabe. Luca's attraction to Devin is also becoming more and more difficult to ignore.
If you'd like to catch up with the rest of Spell Tracker so far, you can follow the New series label at the top of this post. I hope you enjoy the chapter, and thank you very much for reading 💕.
14 A Game
I spent every spare moment together as we prepared to enter the Colosseum for
our inaugural fight. Knowing we faced the threat of imminent death, we wanted to
do all we could to celebrate being alive. I believed in the gods when I was
with her. Someone so extraordinary could not have come into existence by
worked hard to fool the lanista into thinking Cass knew what she was
doing. Every night I gave her a horse-riding lesson in secret, and every day
she had to fake her ability a little less.
copy Julius,” I told her. “It’s not just a matter of kick to go and pull to steer
and stop. The horse will feel your weight shifting and respond to a much
lighter touch if you give him the chance.”
got to give me the chance to stay on first,” she complained. “Everything
I’m in agony here, Avi.”
I should take a closer look,” I said, adopting a solemn expression. “Examine
you. Just in case.”
her lip to hide a smile. “In case of what?”
I can find… um… something that doesn’t hurt. You know… to make you feel
stared at me for a second, then she climbed into my lap and we were kissing. It
was fierce, and sweet, and I wouldn’t have noticed if the emperor himself had interrupted
training arena, whenever it looked like she was going to mess up, I deliberately
pushed her off the horse and we fought on the ground with our swords instead. The
horses tolerated the training sessions with remarkable patience. I often felt
ashamed, knowing I would be forced to take one of them into the Colosseum with
me. Very few of the animals that entered the games ever came back.
others continued to laugh at our enmity, and the lanista suspected
nothing. It was important no one knew our real feelings. They would jump at the
chance to use them against us if they could.
the time came when Cass was proficient enough to fight a moving target on
horseback. We started on opposite sides of the arena before urging our horses
into a fast canter in order to attack. Before I had time to properly take aim,
Cass threw her blunted spear, hitting my unprotected shoulder hard and
upsetting my balance. My horse skittered backward. Cass was traveling toward me
so quickly that her practice sword was raining down blows on my head and my
raised shield before I could right myself.
off, my sword, spear, and shield landing on top of me with a clatter. She
shouted triumphantly. I suppressed a grin, happy for her even through the pain
of my landing, and shouted back, “Is that the best you can do?”
worst beats your best any day of the week,” she retorted.
that, she could hold her own. Her confidence increased. Our fighting styles
complemented each other, and we naturally began to pair up against the others.
Cass learned to throw her spear with great precision, while I worked on my
sword fighting, combining force with finesse in a way that had eluded me before.
Once she’d unhorsed an opponent, I finished them off.
us to an ending we would never have chosen.
Enough remembering for now. I’m not ready to think of… I’m not ready.
fortunate this was a weekend. The sun had already passed across the library
skylights and begun its descent by the time I stopped. I’d been lost in bittersweet
memories for half the night and most of the day.
checked my phone. Everyone was messaging about the party. Mina had posted a lot
of photos so that her followers could be in no doubt about how amazing it was going
to be and also how stunning Mina herself was going to look. The whole thing
must have taken her ages.
school ends this year, Mina. What happens then? You can’t cut and paste your
popularity when you go to college.
was an extended debate in the comments about whether “Cavi” would put in an
appearance. Mina hinted, but didn’t promise. I scrolled up and down a couple of
times to see if Gabe or Devin had said anything, but there were no comments
from either of them.
ridiculous how easy it had been for Mina to start the rumor about me and Cass.
The more times it was repeated on social media, the more people believed it. Seeing
the lie on the screen of their phone somehow lent it credibility. At least I
knew Cass didn’t care.
“What did you decide?”
I hadn’t decided anything.
“Still thinking,” I replied.
“I’ll be there in an hour. Delivery gate.
You’ll have to let me in.”
“What?” It struck me as I tapped Send
that my reply was stupid. Devin’s message was pretty clear.
“?” said his reply.
“I don’t know if I want to see you.” I
decided to go for honesty.
“I need your help,” he replied.
sighed. Some things I couldn’t say no to. Helping the earthbound was still my
job. I was on a temporary transfer, not a sabbatical.
“OK. An hour.”
“Cool.” He added a smiley face and I
found myself smiling back at the screen. Be honest, Luca. You do want to see
I passed the time by working on the library
computer to complete a History essay. I wasn’t attending every class, but I
didn’t want to use spells to get out of the entire timetable. I’d be far more
credible as a high school student if I actually spent some time being a
high school student. And graduation didn’t happen by accident. Even with sixty
percent attendance, I had a lot of studying to do.
Devin arrived, I was waiting. He smelled like he’d just had a shower. It was
kind of distracting.
to the alarm system, a couple of teachers are signed in,” I told him. “We
should go to our place. I mean… the place. Backstage. You know.”
place?” he repeated, smiling.
a slip of the…” I trailed off. Then, like an idiot, I touched my tongue to my
you don’t want me to throw myself at you right now, you should turn around and
start walking,” said Devin, not taking his eyes off my mouth.
been here less than a minute. Walk.
started walking, slowly, until I heard him follow a few paces behind me. I
concentrated on finding something sensible to say. It took me a while. “What
did you want my help with?” I asked, looking over my shoulder.
worried about Mina.”
what I was expecting him to say.
there a problem with the party or something?”
He shook his head. “It’s not the party. Look…
I suppose you think Mina is like this super-bitch who’s more into status than
anything else, right?”
down in the same places we’d been before. I didn’t soften the lighting this
time, in an attempt to avoid creating any kind of romantic vibe.
I said. “Are you going to tell me that she’s secretly insecure and
misunderstood, and really she’s hurting worse than all the people whose senior
years she’s trying to ruin?”
my guardian’s objectivity has completely gone to shit.
sorry,” I said before he could answer. “I didn’t mean that. I don’t know her
life path, do I? She might be doing this for someone else.”
a life path?”
I made a
face. “Something the earthbound aren’t supposed to know about.”
shifted closer until our hips and shoulders were touching. “Are you talking
about fate? Most scientists say every decision we make is predetermined. I
haven’t decided what to believe yet.”
I replied. “You haven’t decided.”
just said life path,” he argued. “If there’s a path, it sounds
predetermined to me.”
but there are forks in the path. Look, I’m breaking so many rules here. Can we
talk about Mina instead?”
elbowed my ribs. “You can’t keep telling me stuff, then refusing to explain.”
elbowed him back. “I’m trying to do the right thing.”
exhaled, then shifted position so I could see his face more easily. “Look,
let’s just say, hypothetically, you did have a life path and… choices. What
if someone told you which fork was the most difficult? Or who’d designed the
path… or where it crossed with someone else’s… or what the stakes were…
you see? Free will is so easy to undermine. And once it’s gone, you are done.
So I won’t be responsible for undermining yours.”
nodded. His shock filled the space between us, the ribbon of emotion spiky and
dark, but he did a good job of keeping it from showing on his face. “I get it.
Why didn’t you just say that before?”
Well. I told you. I don’t really know how to be a guardian like this. My
assignments can’t usually interrogate me.”
You make it sound like school.”
shrugged. “It is. Everyone’s learning. All the time.”
pushed up his sleeves. “Is there anything you can tell me that’s not
classified? You said you wanted to help me, before. I was hoping you could help
try. As long as you understand that I can’t tell her what to do.”
laughed. The spiky ribbon had already begun to fade, and now it transformed
into something that fizzed like the surface of a newly poured glass of soda.
“No one can
tell Mina what to do,” he said, grinning.
I said, wanting him to know what it felt like. He blinked. Goosebumps appeared on
doing that?” he asked. “It’s kind of nice.”
are. Rescindo,” I added. Devin looked disappointed.
was the happy version of the snakes and fog you felt before. Thoughts and
beliefs translate to emotions, which translate to mag… to energy,” I said,
correcting myself. “They have more power than most of the earthbound realize.”
you cope? I mean, being able to feel this stuff all the time. Doesn’t it
really. I kind of tune in to it when I need to. I only have three assignments
at a time. I mean… usually. That’s not to say I don’t get distracted, though.”
stared at me, and the fizzing slowed down, softening into something different. I
had to grit my teeth to keep from leaning into it. Gods. Would it be too
obvious if I used a spell to make my jeans a bit less tight?
I said, swallowing, “w-why does Mina need help?”
are you?” he asked.
are you?” he repeated.
I said. “Didn’t I tell you that already?”
you’re Roman. Doesn’t that make you, like, ancient?”
a Roman. When I was last earthbound. But… sorry to disappoint you. I’m not
particularly old, or wise, or anything. My age is a blueprint I carried with me
when I became a guardian.”
mean… you’ll be seventeen forever? Seriously?”
passed differently here. The average earthbound life was equivalent to a year
in the magical dimensions. I wouldn’t live forever, but it would seem like a
long time from Devin’s point of view. And I’d be seventeen for the duration of
it. He was right about that.
quite forever, but… yeah. Sometimes it sucks, but I’ve got used to it.”
God,” he said, relaxing.
thought I was crushing on some really old dude or something.”
“Thanks. I think?”
scooted a little way back from me, and the buzz of attraction between us
diminished. “Sorry,” he said. “You’ll probably think I’m stupid, but I can’t
seem to think clearly when I’m too close to you.”
don’t think you’re stupid.
looked down at his hands. “I’m going to tell you something about me, and Gabe,
and Mina, and you have to promise you won’t repeat it.”
hoping that because of… because of what you are, you can’t break your word. Is
that true, or am I being stupid again?” He looked up. His cheeks were a little
I said. “I wouldn’t have… but now I can’t.”
Devin opened his mouth and closed it again. “This is really difficult.”
don’t have to tell me.”
do. Otherwise you won’t understand. We’ve been friends forever. They’ve always
accepted me for who I am. I mean… that I’m gay. They made it easy for me.”
waited for me to acknowledge it. “OK,” I said. “I know it can be a big deal.
But remember I come from a time when people were pretty open about it.”
don’t seem bothered one way or the other.”
it’s me. Can’t really escape it.”
smiled. “I know, right? The thing is… not everyone feels that way.” His smile
disappeared. “We played this stupid game of truth or dare one night. I didn’t
find out until later, but Mina had been drinking. And once she said… what she said….
things just went from bad to worse.”
did she say?”
only that she’d been in love with Gabe since we were thirteen. He looked like
he was going to throw up when she tried to kiss him.”
guess. I’ve seen how he looks at you.
then he blurts out that he’s gay and in love with me. Can you believe
it? He gave me no warning. He just tried to kiss me and… he’s my friend.
I don’t like him that way.”
hunched his shoulders. “I probably looked like I was going to throw up, too. We
all swore we’d act as if it never happened. But Mina’s changed. I’m worried
about her. I’m worried about both of them.”
Welcome to the first blog post of a new month! I hope everyone is having a good weekend. I went to a bookshop yesterday and while I was browsing I got to thinking about the importance of the back cover. Book descriptions, or blurbs, can be very difficult to write. The description is a sales pitch to the reader and striking the right balance between informative and intriguing, while remaining true to the story inside the cover, is something of art. (And not an art I would claim to have mastered!).
Today's blog post contains a list of my top ten suggestions of what to consider when writing a description and also a look at some different descriptions for a popular book.
Of course, this list is subjective and based on my own experience, but these are the things I try to bear in mind. I've added examples from the excellent description for Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer, a bestselling MG fantasy adventure. As you can see, it manages to convey a lot of information in a very effective way with a low word count.
Make the first sentence interesting "Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous--and extremely high-tech--fairies."
Introduce the main character/s See 1
Provide some information about the setting See 1
Use attention-grabbing words "Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind" "Armed and dangerous" "Extremely high-tech" "Cross-species" "Holds her for ransom"
Hint at the story "He (Artemis Fowl) kidnaps one of them (the fairies), Holly Short, and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family's fortune."
Target audience See 1
Genre See 1
Keep it short The description for Artemis Fowl is <60 words.
Series reference if applicable Not given in the description but the book's title makes it clear that it is the first book in a series.
End on a cliffhanger "But he may have underestimated the fairies' powers. Is he about to trigger a cross-species war?"
I thought it would also be interesting to compare a description for the same book in different markets. I chose the first book in the Harry Potter series because I know the story very well but it's been a long time since I looked at its description.
Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That's because he's being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he's really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.
The story unfolds with a letter arriving for Harry Potter, a simple boy, that brings with it a dark secret. The letter reveals to Harry Potter that both his parents were wizards and were killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when he was just a baby.
Thereafter Potter's journey to the Hogwarts, a school of wizards brimming with magic, mystery and enchantment, spins out into a fascinating tale. After his journey to Hogwarts, young Harry learns of a missing stone — a stone which can be both terrifying and valuable at the same time, depending on who possesses it and how one uses it. Will Harry Potter and his friends be able to get hold of the stone?
Apart from the slight amendment to the title, the UK and US descriptions aren't too dissimilar in terms of the information they contain. However, the UK version ends on a short sentence promising adventure (with an exclamation mark!) whereas the US version ends on a longer sentence that's much more detailed. The third description, from Amazon India, is quite different to the other two. It's more considered, and reveals more about the plot. For example, it specifically mentions Harry's nemesis and also the stone in the book's title.
What do you look for in a book's description? How much does the description influence your decision to buy? I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the art of the back cover, and thank you very much for visiting my blog today!
Today's chapter has Luca remembering a time in Ancient Rome when he and Cass were both gladiators-in-training. They discover the fighting style their lanista (owner) has chosen for them, and they also discover the extent of their feelings for each other. Back then, Luca was living a real earthbound life and had not yet become a guardian. He's also trying to manage (with limited success!) the added complication of his growing attraction to Devin in the present day.
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 💕
13 A Memory
coped with the overnight and weekend solitude reasonably well so far. The quiet
and the darkness of the library, my favorite place, were welcome and necessary after
the sensory overload of a day spent in high school. It was relentless. Mina’s politics
and plotting gave me a headache, and the new-student spotlight showed no signs
of dimming yet. I had to concentrate every second just to blend in.
Such a peculiar
objective: to be one of the crowd. As a guardian I strived to be noticed,
hoping that my assignments would sense the light and the magic I offered. I was
permitted to show them the opportunities built into their life paths as long as
I didn’t compromise their free will.
difficulty didn’t just lie in the fine line between the showing and the
telling. It took years of training before Light Mages could navigate the
earthbound dimension without a physical covering. There was no chance of making
a connection by accident, and certainly not as easily as the one I’d made with
Devin. Everything was dark and heavy here.
It was necessary.
Deliberate. The struggle of being earthbound became real when there was no
guarantee of salvation, and no certain reward for choosing well over choosing
badly. Life lessons didn’t count if they were learned with a visible safety net.
to find a way through her darkness alone. The stakes were so high, yet I
couldn’t tell her anything. As far as she was concerned, I was just Avi, a new
student with questionable social skills and a fear of physical contact.
her to think that I was also a time-traveling magician of some kind did bend
the rules a little, but it didn’t break them. I remained hopeful I could make
this work and leave him empty-handed. His earlier text message had
spurred me into taking a risk. It seemed to have paid off. Please. Please
let me succeed.
left, I stayed where I was, not willing to venture into the corridor until it was
dark outside. I knew the janitor’s routine and how to avoid him. While I was
waiting, I exchanged messages with Devin, congratulating him on making the team.
He asked if we could meet up over the weekend.
“I’ll skip Mina’s party and come see you
instead,” he wrote.
“And what would we do?”
flushed as soon as I’d tapped Send. It had been an honest question but reading
it back on the screen it looked more like an invitation.
“Whatever. You choose.”
My mind immediately
provided one or two unhelpful but appealing suggestions. I wanted to see him
even though I was afraid of the insane chemistry between us. I also felt
ashamed at the thought that I’d nearly kissed his sister. I would end up
helping neither of them at this rate. I was behaving more like one of my
assignments than the guardian I was supposed to be.
“I’ll think about it,” I typed.
“No. Not about what to choose. I mean I’ll
think about whether you should come,” I added.
that sounds even worse.
“I mean, whether we should meet.”
like the flush of embarrassment had spread to my entire body. Devin replied
with a single smiley face. The winking one. I stared at my phone. Shit. I
need a cold shower.
I got up
and left the room. If I kept exchanging messages with Devin I was in danger of
inviting him here right now and to hell with the consequences. I wandered the
empty school for a while, dispersing any echoes of negative energy I
encountered. It was basic guardian housekeeping, and a good distraction.
inevitably ended up back in the library, where I settled in for the night. There,
amongst the books, the separation between the earthbound and magical dimensions
was thinnest and magical energy was easy to obtain. It was the only sustenance
a biography of a nineteenth-century author whose publisher had once been an
assignment of mine. Henry Austen, with some help from me, had persuaded Thomas,
my assignment, to publish a novel written by Henry’s sister. The legacy of that
simple decision was still alive more than two hundred years later. Surely no
one reading her story could be in any doubt. Every life path matters.
The potential is infinite.
I knew he
disagreed with me. Although he was happy to exploit the opportunity of our
arrangement, he thought I was mad to risk so much for what he saw as so little.
Maybe I am mad. Given the scarcity of qualified guardians, the High Council
would be outraged if they had any idea what I’ve done.
When I was
about halfway through the book, I put it down on the carpet. This was the time
of night I looked forward to and dreaded in equal measure, when I would
deliberately revisit another memory of Cass. I had the vain hope that if I
desensitized myself to everything that had happened between us, then I would be
more able to focus on her current manifestation when we were together. Admit
it, Luca. You just like torturing yourself.
started, the memories took on a life of their own, becoming irresistible in
their intensity. There were times I was afraid I wouldn’t return from the Ludus
Magnus in time. I imagined the librarians unlocking the doors in the
morning to find their pale-green carpet and veneered shelves replaced with
stone walls, dust, and the oppressive heat of Rome in summer. If they were really
unlucky, they’d walk straight into a sparring match and get a rudis in
trained a lot. I was always hungry. Unfortunately, gladiators were vegetarians,
and our meals were modest. Meat was too good for the likes of us. It was the
worst food I’d ever had, even though I’d been a slave all my life.
called us the hordearii—the barley men. Sometimes the more well-known
gladiators would be given gifts of food by their fans. It was small comfort
compared to the dangers we faced, but it’s surprising how important small
comforts become when you have nothing else.
started out as my small comfort. She ended up becoming my everything.
thought back to the day we’d been assigned. Our group stood in three rows of
six, squinting into the early evening sun. “The first part of your training is
over,” said the lanista, surveying his property impassively. We’d
learned the hard way to keep our expressions as deadpan as his.
will now complete your training in the style I have chosen for you. An
honorable death awaits, but only if you master these skills. The mob does not
applaud incompetence. It will jeer you on your way to the afterlife if you
paused, making sure we understood. “Those in front, step forward. Retiarius.”
There was a murmur of discontent, and the lanista raised an eyebrow.
“Problem?” He tapped the knife attached to his belt with impatient fingers and
everyone immediately fell silent. He gestured for the first row to step aside.
gladiator fought with a net and a trident, wearing no body armor. Death was
usually messy and painful, though the agile fighter had a fair chance of
survival if his aim was good.
now in front. Secutor.”
the retiarius, the secutor, his customary opponent, was armored
up to the hilt and carried a large rectangular shield and a gladius
sword. The superior weaponry and the protection it gave was balanced by its
weight and lack of maneuverability.
was one row left. The row containing me and Cass. Which type would we be
assigned to? I didn’t know which to wish for. I could succeed at either. Then I
brightened. At least if we were in the same row, we wouldn’t be fighting each
other. That was something to be grateful for.
stared at him blankly. It seemed I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t been
repeated Julius, the boy next to me.
The lanista scowled. “Isn’t that what I said?” We all nodded, keen to
avoid being on the receiving end of his temper.
hearing is damaged, you are of no use to me. Well… is it?” He leaned closer,
pulling out his knife, and Julius, who was still nodding, froze in place.
it is, then. You will begin tomorrow. Do not embarrass me.”
he’d stalked off, his cloak flowing, the six of us looked at each other. Cass
seemed really mad. “I didn’t even know he’d bought some new horses,” said
Julius. “I hope I haven’t forgotten how to ride.”
be stupid,” said one of the others. “We’ve only been here eight weeks. You
don’t forget that fast.” He offered a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
“Although… if you have forgotten, that will make you easier to kill.”
right. Eques fights eques. It’s a better spectacle that way.
stomach churned. I went to stand next to Cass and brushed the back of her hand
with my fingers. She returned the pressure for a second before giving me a
violent shove. I fell against Julius, who swore loudly when we both landed in
you two. Always at each other’s throats. I’ll be glad when one of you kills the
the Ludus had settled into the quiet of the evening, I crept out of my
cell and along the edge of the training arena until I reached the farthest
corner. The shadows were empty. Cass wasn’t there yet. Maybe she wouldn’t meet
me at all. I knew her pretty well by now, and she hadn’t just been angry
before. She’d been scared.
against the wall, drawing up my knees. Eques. It made sense, on
reflection. The eques gladiator entered the arena on horseback, and I
was a good rider. He used a sword and a spear. I was skilled at both. He was
like a combination of retiarius and secutor. It would suit me. Except…
Cass would be eques too.
she’d sliced into my face with her sword, she had stepped up the animosity
toward me. Day after day with no respite. I barely held onto my temper. It was
only the determination that it would be my choice if and when I lost it,
not hers, that stopped me from exploding.
one day, I’d caught her staring at me. The longing on her face was enough of a
shock to make me drop the bowl I was holding, and I gasped with pain when hot
stew landed on my legs.
time I’d turned back, she’d gone, but I’d already decided to confront her. I
asked her to meet me when everyone was asleep, overcoming her initial refusal
by threatening to tell the lanista she’d been stealing.
talked much. I’d said, “What the hell is going on between us?”
replied, “If you don’t know, you’re even stupider than I thought you were.”
at each other. I’d taken a step closer. She’d taken a step. Then another.
Suddenly we were kissing. Neither of us was very good at it that first time,
but it didn’t seem to matter. It was like the first sip of water when you’re
desperately thirsty. At first your brain can’t process how amazing it feels,
but then you go slightly crazy and try to drink the entire well.
stolen meetings had followed. Although we kept up our fighting in front of the
others, in private we became close. We only talked about the present. The past
was too painful and the future was too uncertain. We had no time and no reason
to take it slowly. She was smart, and funny, and beautiful, and I already knew
I’d fallen in love with her.
It was hard to stay awake. The air was warm and I was exhausted from a long
day’s training. My head fell forward and I dreamed of horses.
urgent whisper blended with my dream for a few seconds before my eyes opened.
“Hey. Where have you been?” I said, and yawned.
would not go to sleep. He kept the whole cell awake talking about what
might happen tomorrow.”
her fist against my jaw in a pretend punch and scowled. “Nice to see you were
so worried about me you couldn’t even remain conscious.”
into her hand and she uncurled her fingers, pushing them into my hair and
stroking the back of my neck.
I murmured. “How can I make it up to you?”
about to kiss her when she moved away. “You can teach me how to ride a horse,”
she said. “That lying bastard who sold me told the lanista I was an
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 💕
12 A Glimpse
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.
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
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.
can’t be what I think it is,” she said.
her hand. “Yes it can. This time it’s exactly what you’re thinking.”
“We are not
in the Globe Theater. That’s impossible!”
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.
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.
asked, giving her a reassuring smile.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
stage below us, the man’s expression relaxed. “Ah, I see. Young sir, forgive
me. You may remain.”
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.”
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.
recently arrived from the Netherlands and spent much time on deck during our
voyage. That’s all.”
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
this…? Is this…? When is this?” Cass whispered so quietly I could barely hear
the date I said. June 18, 1600.”
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.”
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.
are you doing here?” she asked.
brought you here to see the play. I thought you might like—”
she said, interrupting. “What are you doing here? With me?”
know how to answer. “I came to help you,” I said eventually.
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.
being forced to do this?” she asked.
gave the stage a nervous glance and repeated it more quietly. “No. Definitely
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?”
would you say if I did?”
“I would say you should watch the rehearsal.
They’re pretty good.”
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?”
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.”
gasped. “The Shakespeare? Do you mean it?”
This is his play, and he’s part owner of the Globe, too.”
God. Shakespeare.” She leaned forward. “He’s shorter than I expected. How old
would he be now?”
doesn’t look very happy.”
he recently started working on Hamlet, so I guess that’s his tragedy face.”
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
smacked me on the arm. “Not funny. He was a genius.”
loved Shakespeare’s sonnets. My dad used to quote them to her.”
expression became sad and I waited, hardly daring to breathe in case I
distracted her from the memory.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
my will, I am sent to bid you come in to dinner,” said the boy playing
Beatrice, I thank you for your pains,” replied Benedick, attempting to deliver
a winning smile.
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.
take pleasure, then, in the message?” persisted Benedick, all but batting his
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.
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.
a lot of questions,” said Cass. “It must be really late, though.”
returned to the exact moment we left.”
none of it even happened?”
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?
happen,” she said, frowning harder. “You’re not going to make me forget this. I
don’t believe you’d be so cruel.”
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.
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?”
modest. And I’m not fair,” she muttered.
as in beautiful,” I said. “Which you are.”
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
return the favor, but I’m not sure I can be as eloquent as you,” she said,
thanks,” I said, hanging my head. “I do my best.”
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.”
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.
I said. “Again.”
told me you hate everyone.”
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.”
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.
does maybe mean? Did it, or didn’t it?” she asked.
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.”
know what to make of you,” she said.
know what to make of you, either.”
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?”
and Avi haven’t met before,” I said.
her eyebrows. “You’re avoiding the question.”
the only answer I can give you.”
right. I’ll think of some better questions. I have to go now. I’ll message
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
― 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 ❣