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The Legacy of Androva Series

This interview is set after Breaking Magic.

Me: So… the next book will be released in two weeks.
Jax: And? Are we actually in it this time?
Shannon: I don’t know why you sound so keen. I’m quite enjoying the break.
Jax: Where’s your sense of adventure?
Shannon: Hmmm, let me think… I probably left it on the floor of the room where the Breaker tortured us.
Jax: (rolls eyes) Funny.
Me: Actually, the subject of the book was your idea, Jax.
Jax: Mine? (pauses) You don’t mean this book is about Galen, do you?
Me: (nods) Yes
Jax: When can I read it?
Shannon: Me too. When can we read it?
Me: Ah, well, there’s a slight problem with that.
Jax: What?
Me: It kind of has spoilers in it.
Jax: What on Androva is a spoiler?
Shannon: It’s like something that gives away the plot of a story before you’ve read it.
Jax: I don’t understand. He lived two thousand years ago. You can’t call ancient history a spoiler.
Shannon: (frowns) I agree. Whatever he did with his life after we met him… why wouldn’t we be able to read about that? We can’t change anything now.
Jax: Exactly. And even if we did find out something bad, it’s not like we can ever go back there again. Not even to help him. I destroyed the Signature Symbols so returning to Pompeii would be impossible.
Shannon: Is that why we can’t read it? Because he got into trouble and we’d want to help him? (looks at Jax) You know we’d try. Even if it was impossible.
Jax: Of course. And so does she. The author person.
Me: It’s not just about the trouble Galen may or may not have encountered. Did either of you ever wonder what he did with the knowledge you gave him?
Shannon: What knowledge? What are you talking about?
Me: You told him about Angelus and the treaty.
Jax: Yes. Obviously.  So that he could create a spell to enable Shannon to become a magician in our time. (grins) Otherwise none of these books would have been possible.
Me: Do you think that’s all he did? That one spell? When he knew thousands of people on both worlds were about to die?
Shannon: You don’t mean… are you saying he tried to prevent it all from happening?
Jax: You’re kidding me. That would be suicide. Galen was a great magician, but this is Angelus. The most prolific magical killer our worlds have ever known.
Shannon: What happened to him? Please… I can’t bear the thought of him dying when he and Claudia had only just escaped.
Me: Look, I can’t tell you. But if you’ll let me continue—
Jax: (interrupts) You mean you won’t tell us. Anyway, it’s obvious what must have happened. Galen disappeared from Androva’s history one year before the treaty was signed.
Me: (raises eyebrows) And history has never been misreported? Because everyone on Terra knows all about Angelus and the treaty, don’t they?
Shannon: Point taken. What were you going to say before Jax interrupted you?
Me: I was going to say that although I can’t tell you what happens in Galen’s story, I have already started to write the next book, which will be the last in the series. And I’m going to try to find a way to bring Galen’s story and yours together again, even if only at the end.
Shannon: Does that mean Galen survives?
Me: I said Galen’s story, not necessarily Galen himself.
Shannon: But we will get to find out?
Me: I will try. No promises. You should make the most of your break, though. Irrespective of Galen, you will be facing another powerful enemy.
Jax: The last book in the series? But… how is everyone going to know what happens to us if you stop writing about it?
Shannon: Are you serious? After hearing what she just said, that’s your question?
Me: (laughs) I guess you’ll have to find a way to live the rest of your life without other people reading about it, Jax. If you live through the last book, of course.
Jax: What? You wouldn’t dare…
Shannon: (hides a smile) What about Penny and Darius? They’re going to be in the book too, aren’t they?
Me: Of course. They have a big challenge to overcome.
Shannon: Should I warn them?
Jax: No. Darius will only worry. You know what he’s like.
Me: I’m going to end the interview there. Thank you both very much for talking to me today.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post, and if you have ideas for any other characters you’d like me to interview, just let me know!

The subject of today's Spooky Quilling prompt is survival, and it's all about the characters this time. Who they are, and how they deal with their circumstances, will determine the outcome. Oh, and it needs to be creative, too!

Huge thanks to Savannah at The Book Prophet for the opportunity to participate. You can read all about the Spooky Quilling challenge here and I promise there's no better way to get in the mood for Hallowe'en. I highly recommend signing up!

So, onto my story 🎃
I have loved all of the writing so far, but this week I got the chance to create some new characters, which is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Unfortunately, once I'd created them, I got kind of attached to them, and I had to do some editing to keep the word count to a sensible number (a little over 1,700 in the end). I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for reading!

“Nothing scares me, least of all you,” said Mika. He narrowed his eyes. “So don’t even try that stupid Hallowe’en stuff. It’s all fake. Just like you are.”
Travis lifted his chin. “I’m quaking here.” He clutched at his chest. “Oh, wait. My mistake. It must be the laughter I can barely contain at the sight of you trying to intimidate me.”
Mika took a step forwards. He was close enough to smell the spearmint gum on Travis’s breath. Close enough to land a punch, if he chose to throw one. “You’re not intimidated?” he said, lowering his voice. “You sure about that, Trav?”
Travis clenched his hands into fists. They were pushed deep inside the pockets of his jeans and the material scraped against his knuckles. “Look,” he said, “it wasn’t me who put the blood in your locker. If I’d wanted to scare you I’d have done the job properly.”
“Dream on,” said Mika. “Anyway, I know it was you. No one else knows my locker combination and the door hadn’t been forced. You’re so pathetic.” He leaned even closer, scowling. “So desperate.”
Travis lost it. His hands were out of his pockets and around Mika’s neck before the other boy had time to take another breath. Two seconds later they were fighting on the floor, rolling over and over, ignoring the shouts of encouragement that quickly rose up from the other students.
Rather than try to separate them, Miss Harper went behind the counter into the kitchen and fetched a bucket of water. She returned and unceremoniously threw it over the two boys. Travis, who bore the brunt of the soaking, immediately released his grip on Mika. For a few seconds they glared at each other. Mika’s nose was bleeding and a droplet of blood fell on Travis’s face. Travis flinched and immediately pushed Mika away, scrambling to his feet.
Ten minutes later they were in Principal Grange’s office, gazes fixed on the floor and shoulders rigid with a mixture of embarrassment and anger. “This is not the example I expect you to be setting,” said Principal Grange, rubbing his chin to hide his irritation. “You’re seniors now. And I have enough Hallowe’en pranks to deal with already today without you adding to it by brawling in the cafeteria.”
Mika and Travis remained silent while they were given detention. At the end of the school day they returned to the Principal’s Office and were told to mop the corridors. Because of the pranks the Principal had mentioned earlier, there were dried splatters of fake blood decorating the dark-green floor tiles all over the school.
All the corridors?” asked Mika, sensing that his Hallowe’en plans were about to be ruined.
“I don’t know, Mr. Sanson,” said Principal Grange, raising his eyebrows. “It depends how long it takes for me to be satisfied that you’ve worked off your anger. Both of you,” he added, glancing at Travis.
“But, Sir, I really have to be somewhere,” said Travis.
“Then I suggest you get mopping and do your best to convince me.”
As they walked away, Mika spoke under his breath. “Sir, please, Sir, I have to be somewhere.”
“Shut up,” Travis whispered fiercely.
“Oh, and gentlemen?” said Principal Grange, calling after them. “The only words I want to hear coming out of your mouths are apologies. To each other and then to me.”
When they were far enough away not to be overheard, Mika turned to Travis. “You’re not the only one with plans.”
“Yeah, well, mine are kind of essential.” He lowered his gaze.
“What do you mean?” asked Mika, his curiosity getting the better of him.
Travis shrugged, but Mika could see that his jaw was clenched shut as if to prevent himself from answering. He waited, but Travis said nothing. “Suit yourself,” said Mika, picking up his mop and slopping it onto the floor.
Late afternoon became early evening, and the sky outside gradually darkened. Mika thought of the party he was supposed to be going to and sighed. He’d been so relieved to get an invitation. He didn’t want to be alone on Hallowe’en. Everything with Travis had gotten so weird lately. One minute they’d been best friends, and the next minute Travis had pushed him away so fast he still didn’t understand exactly what had happened. With Travis either cutting him dead or insulting him in front of everyone, Mika’s confusion had turned to humiliation, and then to anger. He was still angry. He wore his anger like an armored coat. It was reassuringly solid.
Travis had tried to apologize the previous week, hinting there was some big secret he couldn’t talk about. Mika, pushing his hurt underneath the armored coat where it couldn’t distract him, had laughed in Travis’s face. Travis immediately backed away and returned to behaving as if they were sworn enemies. When the bottle of red liquid had turned up in Mika’s locker that morning, with a fancy “Drink me” label in gothic script, Mika’s anger had spiked high enough to seek out Travis in the cafeteria and challenge him about it.
Suddenly, he realized how quiet it was. He’d reached one of the far corridors and there was no sign of Travis anywhere. Mika let his mop fall to the floor and wondered if he should just get over himself and apologize. Surely Principal Grange couldn’t make them stay much longer. He was starting to feel hungry, too. What time was it, anyway?
He looked to his right and noticed he was close to his own locker. Knowing there was a half-eaten chocolate bar inside, he was just reaching for the dial to enter the combination, when someone grabbed his hand and slammed it into the locker door. The noise echoed in the empty space. Mika let out a rather undignified yelp as pain exploded in the centre of his hand. “What the…?” He turned to look over his shoulder. “Trav?”
Travis said nothing. His face was set in a grimace, as if he were in more pain than Mika. “Don’t… open… the locker,” he managed.
Mika gaped at him. He tried and failed to move his hand.
“Promise me,” said Travis. “Don’t open it.”
“I… OK. Are you going to let me go? And tell me why?”
Travis took a step backwards and Mika pulled his hand away. As he turned it towards him to check the damage he saw a cut in the centre of his palm. Blood began to well up and was soon running towards his wrist in a line of dark red. Travis backed further away, making a low, desperate sound.
Mika froze. There was something about that noise that simultaneously terrified him and made him want to draw closer. He moved forwards, his heart pounding so loudly he couldn’t hear anything above the rushing sound in his ears. Travis was shaking, holding up his hands as if to push Mika away.
“Hey, Tra-a-vis,” came a sing-song voice from the end of the corridor.
Travis and Mika both turned their heads. The stranger approached slowly with a smile on his face, his boots making a rhythmic thudding noise as they hit the tiles one after the other. His posture radiated a lazy confidence.
“So this is where you’ve been hiding. Did you find my gift? Have you quenched your thirst yet? Did it feel… good?”
Mika looked at Travis. Travis swallowed and held one hand up to his throat. The stranger extended his hand and curled his fingers in a beckoning gesture. Travis didn’t move.
“Hmmm. You haven’t drunk it. I’m disappointed.” His gaze flicked in Mika’s direction and suddenly sharpened with interest. “Oh, what do we have here?” said the stranger. “I smell the blood of a pretty young thing. No wonder you’re not interested in mine.”
Travis grabbed hold of Mika’s arm and pushed him away, moving to stand between Mika and the stranger. The stranger laughed. The sound was warm and sweet and Mika found himself swaying towards it. He took a step and then another.
“No,” said Travis, shoving him backwards.
“You can’t stop me, Travis,” said the stranger. “Night has fallen on Hallowe’en. Your first since maturity. We discussed this, remember? You have no strength until you drink. Right now, you’re as weak as this boy here. And if you don’t drink soon, the thirst will overpower you.”
“I’m not going to drink your blood,” said Travis through gritted teeth. “If I choose to create a bond with anyone, it will certainly not be you.”
“His blood?” asked Mika. “Are you kidding me? That’s what was in my locker?”
Your locker?” said the stranger. “But… the energy signature… I was so sure…” The stranger’s head tilted to one side.  He gave Travis a speculative look. “Does he know how you feel about him?”
 Travis pressed his lips together in a thin line. Mika glanced between the two of them, trying to figure out what was going on. His legs were trembling as he fought the desire to move. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to run away from the stranger or towards him.
The stranger took a few steps closer. “Time’s up, Travis. Either you drink from him now, or I will kill him, and you will drink from me. You have one minute to decide.” He folded his arms.
“Run,” said Travis urgently. He gave Mika a push. “Run, and don’t stop until you’re somewhere safe.”
“There’s nowhere safe for him,” said the stranger. “I think he smells good, even if you don’t. I’ll be able to find him again. Twenty seconds gone, by the way.”
“That’s not fair,” said Travis.
“As I said: you drink from him, or I will kill him. Thirty seconds.”
Travis gave Mika a frantic look.
“If you do it, will it hurt? Will I die?” asked Mika. Travis shook his head. “No. You… you will probably… um… like it. But we will be bonded. I can’t help that. Because you’ll be…” He held his throat again. “You’ll be my first.”
“Forty-five seconds,” said the stranger.
“Do it,” said Mika. “I want to survive this. I want us to survive this. Our friendship, our…  our whatever. We can figure the rest out afterwards.”
“Fifty seconds.”
“Are you sure?” Travis reached out to hold Mika round the neck, much more gently than he had done earlier that same day. Mika nodded and Travis lowered his head.

Today’s blog post is about dialogue tags and the challenge of getting the balance right. This is my experience only, and it is not intended to be either expert or all-encompassing!

Dialogue tags can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how they’re used. There are different schools of thought about the right/wrong approach, but my view, as a reader, is that they should be invisible. If the dialogue tag pulls you out of the story in a “Notice me!” kind of way, then it’s not doing its job properly. 
Therefore, using “said” most of the time makes sense to me. However, a little variety in dialogue tags can be great because it’s a quick and easy way to reveal more about the character, as long as you guard against tipping the balance too far from showing into telling. But the challenge is how to introduce that variety. When I sat down to think about it I realised I use four different techniques over and above the ubiquitous he said/she said: 

1.      Adverbs
I know adverbs are disliked by a lot of people… but I don’t mind them. Every so often, my characters say things softly/angrily/slowly etc.
2.      Action tags
When I’m writing a conversation, I sometimes break it up with action tags to show which character is speaking, instead of using dialogue tags. Something like: “he shook his head,” or “she considered this,” or “his eyes widened,” before the character speaks.
3.      Said +
This is where I categorise tags like asked/replied. I use these much less than “said,” but they still turn up regularly.
4.      Said +++
Finally, this is how I think of the more unusual tags. I save these for occasions when I want to make an impact. Examples include: shouted, snapped, muttered, stammered, and protested.

I feel I should also mention my learning curve (thanks to my editor) about what is not a dialogue tag: sighed/laughed/grinned/scowled etc.! Out of curiosity, I did a quick check on Breaking Magic to see what the outcome was in terms of dialogue tags used:

Finally, I looked at an extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. Not just because I love the books and the writing, but because I was curious to see the dialogue tags that were used in the famous scene where Umbridge is asking Snape about the DADA position. Alan Rickman did such a masterful job with all of Snape’s lines, but “Obviously” is one of his more memorable ones.

Here it is:

"You applied for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, I believe?" Professor Umbridge asked Snape.
"Yes," said Snape quietly.
"But you were unsuccessful."
Snape's lip curled.
Professor Umbridge scribbled on her clipboard.
"And you have applied regularly for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post since you first joined the school, I believe?"
"Yes," said Snape quietly, barely moving his lips. He looked very angry.
"Do you have any idea why Dumbledore has consistently refused to appoint you?" asked Umbridge.
"I suggest you ask him," said Snape jerkily.

I think that J.K. Rowling used a brilliant blend of dialogue tags, action tags and adverbs in this scene. And “Obviously” has its own line on the page, which works perfectly. 😊

What’s your view on dialogue tags, either as a reader or a writer? Do you have a preferred style, or do you adapt according to whatever you’re reading or writing at the time? Thank you for stopping by my blog today!

Welcome to the second prompt in the Spooky Quilling challenge! A big thank you to Savannah at The Book Prophet for coming up with such an awesome blogging idea in the run up to Hallowe'en. You can read all about it here and there's still plenty of time to take part. If you're reading this and considering whether or not to sign up, all I can say is: Go for it! You've got nothing to lose, and it's a lot of fun 😊

The second prompt involves writing about a character experiencing your worst fear. It also has to be written in the second person point of view, which I have never done before. Yes, I was scared before I even started!

When I sat down to think about it, I figured out that I don't really have a "worst fear." Not because I'm amazingly fearless or anything (far from it), it's more that I'm scared of a lot of things, so it was kind of hard to pick just one. I settled on the fear of being powerless/trapped and then started writing. I'm incapable of being a plotter, even when it's not a full-length book.

Before you read on, there are a couple of things I want to mention. First, a warning. This is probably the most horrible situation I've ever written about, even taking into account the other villains I've created. Everything is implied, so there are no gory descriptions, but it's still unsettling. (At least, it was to me!). Second, although this will be my shortest prompt, I was surprised by how effective the second person point of view was. I'm so glad I gave it a shot. Next week (the third prompt) will be a longer, more character-driven piece about survival, and I'm already looking forward to writing it. Thank you very much for reading today's post!

You can’t even remember exactly how you got here. That’s how scattered your thoughts have become. All you can think is that it must be a dream. It’s not possible for this to be real.
“Nearly ready,” he says. “You won’t have to wait much longer.”
You would ask him why he’s doing this, but you can’t speak. You can’t move. You can’t even turn your gaze left or right, or blink away the tears stinging your eyes. You can only breathe in sharp, shallow puffs of air that scrape against your throat. You don’t know if it’s because of your fear, but the act of breathing seems to be getting harder.
He leans over you, blocking out the light. His breath smells sweet. Not a nice kind of sweet. More like the sweetness of decay. “Very close,” he whispers. “Aren’t you? You’re very close now.”
The sting where the needle entered your neck has faded to nothing. At first you thought a bug had gotten trapped under your collar. Sometimes the flies got drowsy in the late summer heat and crawled unnoticed into places they shouldn’t. You got off the bus one stop early and shook out your jacket. The bus had been too full anyway. Every seat was taken plus standing room, and the air-conditioning was barely coping.
You didn’t notice him following you. You started to feel light-headed, but you’d skipped lunch in favor of getting off early like you always did on Fridays, so you didn’t worry too much. It wasn’t far until your street. As soon as you were home you’d fix yourself a snack.
The van was parked on the corner. It was just a van. White, no markings, very clean. You were looking at the van when your legs collapsed. From one step to the next, that was it, as if your bones had melted.
You opened your mouth to exclaim in shock, but nothing happened. You had the thought of reaching for your purse to get your phone, but your arms and hands never moved. You realized you were looking up at the sky. It was blue. Not a cloud to be seen.
“Up you come,” he said. He grasped you firmly under your shoulders and knees, rising to his feet with you in his arms, a grotesque parody of a lover’s embrace. No one had held you like this since you were a child. His sleeve was rough under your cheek. You tried to move. You tried to scream. Your teeth ground together and you tasted blood. Your tongue? You didn’t know.
He put you in the van. You tried to scream again. Your thoughts tumbled over and over each other in an attempt to make sense of what was happening.
You don’t know how long the journey lasted or where he brought you. You’re trapped. You still hope you might wake up from this nightmare, but that hope is diminishing the longer this goes on. You don’t know what he’s going to do. You don’t know if you’re going to die. You don’t know if he’s going to kill you or if the drug he gave you will do it for him. You don’t want to die.
“It’s time,” he says. He moves away. It sounds like he’s rummaging inside a bag or maybe a cupboard. When he returns and you realize how he’s going to kill you, you change your mind. You want to die. You want to die right now. But you don’t. And he begins.

As I finalise everything for the release of book six in the series I got to thinking about some of the research I did in an attempt to make Galen's experience of Ancient Rome as accurate as possible. I mean "accurate" in a broad sense because all of the available information has been subjected to some kind of interpretation bias, to a lesser or greater degree!

It left me with a few unanswered questions, which I am still wondering about. Although I haven't been able to find any definitive answers, I thought it would be interesting to blog about two of them.

Boudicca's Fate
Boudicca was the Queen of a Celtic tribe in England called the Iceni. She led a rebellion against the invading Roman army, which happened around 60AD. Her problems all began when her husband died. He'd ruled more or less independently of Rome, but on his death, his will was ignored, and his kingdom was seized. Boudicca and her daughters were supposed to have been treated pretty badly (I won't go into the nasty details).

Her uprising was almost successful. Emperor Nero seriously considered removing Roman forces from Britain entirely. Boudicca commanded an army 100,000-strong and she destroyed three major cities: Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium, killing 80,000 Romans and Britons in the process. She was supposed to have left no one alive, burning the cities to make sure of it. Archaeologists found a layer of black ash beneath the modern-day Verulamium which validates this report. However, despite being massively outnumbered (perhaps by as many as twenty to one), the Romans won the final battle, due to a combination of superior strategy, weapons, and discipline.

This is the point at which accounts differ. We are reliant on Roman historians for our knowledge of the entire uprising and, of course, victors are not necessarily the most reliable narrators! The two main sources disagree. Boudicca was said to have either killed herself in shame, or died of an illness and been given a lavish burial. Those two outcomes are pretty different, don't you think? I was curious enough about the whole thing to invent a fictional account of Boudicca for book six, with a magical slant to the story.

Art: Ancient Rome versus Medieval
Although I didn't spend too much time describing the surroundings of Pompeii and Rome, I did refer to the colours and frescoes (wall paintings) in both Seeking Magic and book six. I looked at examples of what had been excavated from Pompeii's ruins and other art from the same time period and I thought it was pretty impressive.

On the left of this picture is a Roman painting and the one on the right is Medieval. As far as I can tell from my research, there are approximately 1,000 years separating the two. From century to century, in more recent times, art has tended to become more sophisticated. Not in this case, however. And, in my uneducated opinion, the earlier Roman painting is the one that would look better on my wall.

I haven't been able to find out why art changed so much after the fall of the Roman Empire. Was it suppressed? Were the skills simply lost? Some sources say that art stopped being aspirational, because the Romans used their art to show an idealised and beautiful version of the world around them. Instead, in the so-called Dark Ages, art became quite controlled with strong links to religion.

Have you ever researched a particular time in our history, either for school, writing, or just general interest? Have you been left with any unanswered questions? I hope you enjoyed today's blog post and thank you for reading!

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