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The Legacy of Androva Series

World building is one of the best things about writing fantasy books

I love reading and writing about magic. It captivates my imagination more than any other subject. On the face of it, magic could be infinite. It has the potential to be anything, to do anything, like a mysterious power you can’t define or restrict. Yet, in reality, (or rather, in fiction!), there are usually rules about how it works. These are great for the reader, because it means theres a different kind of magic to discover in every book.

When the Legacy of Androva series begins, there are two worlds: Androva, where everyone is a magician, and Terra (our world), where no-one is a magician. The rules of magic, and how its used, are challenged more and more as the books progress.

However, at the start of the series, Androva hasnt changed for centuries. The Code is something the Androvan Council enforces absolutely, too scared of the potential consequences to risk anything new. With that in mind, here are five pieces of information to introduce the reality my characters inhabit at the beginning of Stealing Magic.

  1. Androvans possess a certain amount of magical energy from birth. Its an inherited trait. But it’s not until their thirteenth year that they generate enough energy to ignite a spark of pure magic around which their force field can grow.
  2. Having a force field enhances everything, as if the magician has trapped part of a glittering silver sun inside his or her head. It can be projected outwards and filled with spells. It requires no verbal instruction or hand-held accessories, just vision, skill and intent. A great magician can create a complicated spell in the same way a great Terran artist might paint a masterpiece.
  3. Every green living thing has a force field of its own. Tall trees are a powerful source of this living magic, which can be drawn out by any magician and used to enhance his or her ability. Magic-takers from Androva travel to Terra to harvest its living magic, according to the terms of an ancient treaty between both worlds.
  4. New spells arent encouraged on Androva, and are usually added to the unauthorised list. The magicians creating them risk being punished by the Androvan Council, which is enough to deter most would-be inventors. Despite the lack of new magic, the list of unauthorised spells gets longer every year.
  5. Jax and Darius are underage magicians, and magic-takers. Theyre about to make a forbidden daylight trip to Terra. Shannon, an ordinary teenager, will unexpectedly become a magician when she touches the living magic that Jax is harvesting. The treaty will shatter, and the rules of magic will never be quite the same again!
Ive visited so many magical places inside the pages of a book, and they each have something unique and wonderful about the rules they follow. Would your favourite be Narnia, Middle Earth, or Hogwarts? Or maybe somewhere else? Thank you very much for reading!

Hope everyone is having an amazing weekend! It's Mother's Day here in the UK and it feels like spring might finally be on its way 💐

Today's blog post is a small reveal about book seven, the final instalment in the Legacy of Androva series. It now has a title: Connecting Magic. The three symbols on the left all have a part to play in terms of connecting the characters, their worlds, the past, and the present.

I've copied the description below and the book remains on track for release in early May. I hope to be able to share an extract soon 😊

In the meantime, thank you for visiting my blog today!

Ancient magic and a new enemy. Death is coming.
Shannon, Jax, Darius, and Penny are underage magicians from different worlds. They have defeated the worst of villains and forged a bond that will last for the rest of their lives. But theres no happy ever after yet. In fact, death might be waiting right around the corner, and they have no idea just how fast the clock is ticking.
Problem one: A magical contract, created when Jax and Shannon first met, has recently been triggered, and its life-threatening consequences appear to be unavoidable.
Problem two: Magic obeys the magician. It has no conscience. No filter for good or evil. And Darius is about to demonstrate that a good magician is more than capable of using evil magic.
With Jax and Shannon distracted by the first problem, Penny may not survive the second. Whatever happens, one of the four will face certain death before the end...

United we stand. Divided we fall.
I love taglines. They're such a great way to set the mood for a book or a movie. When I'm browsing for my next read, a good tagline encourages me to read the book's description, taking me one important step closer to buying and reading the book. 
Yes, I love taglines... until the moment arrives when I have to write one. I find them incredibly difficult to get right, and I'm never 100% happy with my creations. They need to be hooky, simple, and hint at the story the prospective reader can expect. Taglines require a different kind of creativity.
For anyone interested in my non-expert approach, this is how I went about it for my current series:
1) I researched taglines for other young adult books to identify the kind of thing I wanted to emulate.
2) I stuck to a basic template. In my case, it was two lines, as suggested by my brilliant cover designer, and I set myself a maximum of fifty characters per line. Using two lines was a great way to incorporate both of the front cover fonts on the back cover.
3) In terms of the creative bit, it seemed that sitting down at my desk with the express intention of inventing a great tagline got me nowhere! I found it easier to come up with ideas when I wasn't concentrating so hard.
This is what I ended up with for the first six books. The tagline for the final book in the series will be revealed soon and the book itself is on track to be released in early May, which is a little ahead of my target six months (since Surviving Magic was released). I am kind of torn between looking forward to it and dreading saying goodbye...
Do you have a favourite tagline for a movie or book? If you're a writer, do you find taglines easy or difficult? Thank you for stopping by my blog!

Notice anything different about this cover?! 😲

I found out yesterday that Breaking Magic is a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Awards for 2017, which is kind of amazing. What's unique about these awards is that each book is judged by its target audience in terms of age group. So... 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

Meanwhile, I'll be spending my weekend writing (and smiling). The main reason I write is because I love it and I doubt I could stop even if I tried to. But finding out someone else enjoyed reading what I've written is, as I said, kind of amazing 🙂

This post is a little bit late, but I decided I couldn't exactly wait another year for Valentine's Day to come around again ðŸ˜

It's intended to be a feel-good story for anyone who likes the Legacy of Androva characters. It follows on from the Christmas short story I wrote at the end of December (you can click on the Short Story label at the top of the post if you're interested in reading that one). I figured it would be fun to add a bit more content to the gap between the end of Seeking Magic and the beginning of Controlling Magic.

I hope you enjoy the story, and thank you for visiting my blog today!

“You know what day it is tomorrow, right?”
Shannon stopped climbing and looked over her shoulder. She and Penny were halfway up the winding staircase leading from the Seminary of Magic’s portal room. It was a cold Friday morning in February and Shannon couldn’t wait to get to the warmth of the main building. They’d arrived early for one of Penny’s catch-up lessons. She wasn’t brave enough to open a portal on her own yet and Shannon or Darius usually accompanied her.
“Of course. It’s Saturday,” Shannon replied.
“And? Have you made any plans?”
Shannon pushed her hands into the pockets of her jacket and shivered. “I’m staying at Mabre House tonight so Jax and I can work on his Immobility Spell in the morning. For that Combat test next week.”
“He’ll never beat you, though. Not unless you let him.” Penny raised her eyebrows.
“I know that. And he knows I wouldn’t. But he’s determined to be second and it’s pretty close between him and Darius at the moment.” Shannon pushed her chin into her scarf. “Can we start walking again? I’m freezing my face off here.”
“That’s it? That’s your only plan for tomorrow? To study Combat. In a training room.” Penny gave an exasperated sigh.
“What are you huffing about?” asked Shannon.
“It’s February 14th tomorrow.”
“It’s… oh,” said Shannon.
“Yes. Oh. I’ve been waiting for a chance to ask you all week, but you’re always with Jax, or I’m with Darius, or something, and now it’s Friday and I was counting on you to have it all worked out…”
“Why would I have it all worked out?” protested Shannon.
“Because you’ve been with Jax for nearly a year. And it’s Valentine’s Day! Come on, Shannon. We always said if we ever both had boyfriends we’d do something together.”
“Yeah, well…” Shannon lowered her gaze, feeling guilty that she’d forgotten all about it. “We never expected our boyfriends to be magicians from a whole other world, though. They’re hardly going to be impressed by a piece of folded cardboard with a love heart on it.”
“No. But I seriously hope that’s not your best idea,” replied Penny.
“I can’t think straight when I’m this cold. Besides, you’re the creative one,” said Shannon.
“I’m also the one who’s only been learning about magic for two months,” said Penny.
“OK. OK.” Shannon turned to climb the remaining stairs. “I’ll try to come up with something later. Maybe during History. I’ll sit at the back.”
“You are History,” said Penny. “You and Jax rewrote it when you faced Angelus.” The two girls reached the door at the top and entered the black stone corridor. A purple-and-silver Fire Spell swirling against the high ceiling meant the temperature was significantly warmer than in the underground portal room. Shannon took off her scarf. “I’m sure Professor Dyttan would be delighted to hear you casually dismissing the other eight thousand years on his syllabus,” she said.
Penny grinned. “Some of his stuff’s all right. The Sygnus Wars, for example.”
“Only because you want a Sygnus and you like drawing them. Come on, you should go. Professor Ashton will be waiting for you.”
“Where will you be?” asked Penny.
“I’m having breakfast with Jax. We’ll wait for you in the Seminary café.” 

“If you don’t stop staring at my mouth, I won’t be responsible for my actions,” said Jax, half an hour later.
“I’m not… I wasn’t…” Shannon gave up, feeling her cheeks get hotter with every second that passed. Jax’s green eyes were full of laughter. Flustered, she dropped her gaze to his mouth again, and it opened in a wide grin. “Right,” he said, pushing his chair back. “You brought this on yourself.”
Shannon, half embarrassed and half laughing, made a poor attempt to run away from her side of the table before Jax caught hold of her hand and pulled her gently to a stop. He glanced left and right, but it was early enough that the café was still mostly empty. “Unless you tell me not to, I’m going to kiss you good morning now,” he said.
“Yes,” said Shannon, leaning in.
“You,” he said, in between kisses, “are… the… worst… kind of… Distraction Spell… going.” He squeezed her hand. “Or the best. Depending on how you look at it.”
“The best,” she said.
“Yeah. But if you look at me like that during a Combat lesson I’m going to report you for unfair tactics,” he joked.
“Like I need any help beating you in Combat,” said Shannon.
“Maybe not. But you can still help me beat Darius. Are we OK for that practice session tomorrow?”
“Of course.” Grateful for the change of subject, Shannon listened as Jax described a new technique he wanted to try. I’m going to kill Penny, she thought. Ever since she mentioned what we should do for Valentine’s Day, all I’ve been able to think about is kissing.
Watching Jax push his black hair off his forehead in a characteristically impatient gesture, Shannon admitted to herself that her boyfriend was very kissable. She smiled.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing. I’ll tell you tomorrow. Hopefully.”
“Tell me what?”
“I don’t know yet. Look, there’s Penny. She’s smiling. Maybe she finally managed to make a Portal Remedy.” 

💖    💖    💖 

“What do you mean, you don’t have any ideas?” said Penny.
“I mean I don’t have any ideas.” Shannon folded her arms defensively. “I’m sorry. I’m rubbish at this.”
“I can’t believe you’ve got nothing. We’re almost out of time.”
“Maybe we should forget about it. It’s not like they even know what Valentine’s Day is,” said Shannon. “And we’re not… I mean… we’re not going to say the L word or anything, are we?”
“No, definitely not,” said Penny. “Way too soon. But after what they did at Christmas, I just wanted…” She trailed off and shrugged.
“I know,” said Shannon sympathetically. “I feel the same, but Jax and Darius have been learning about magic since they were born. The chances of us being able to come up with something to surprise them are pretty remote.”
Penny frowned. “Maybe we’re coming at this from the wrong angle. Maybe we shouldn’t be concentrating on magic at all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… what about Terra? I mean, Earth.”
“What about it?” asked Shannon.
“We could open a portal to anywhere. Couldn’t we? Um… I don’t know… How do you think Jax would like to make a Solo Transference-assisted dive across the Grand Canyon? Or off the top of a pyramid?”
Shannon’s expression was a mixture of fear and excitement. “He’d love it. But it’s so dangerous. And we’d be breaking so many rules.” She made a face. “Which Jax would also love.”
Penny grinned. “We’d need to find a place with a lot less people. But if you’re OK with the basic idea of it, let’s start looking for somewhere to go.” 

💖    💖    💖 

Jax and Shannon had just finished their last Combat duel the following morning when there was a knock at the training room door.
“Yeah, come in,” said Jax, raising his voice.
Penny put her head round the door. “Are you ready?” she said, looking at Shannon.
“Ready for what?” asked Jax.
“I have no idea,” said Darius, appearing behind Penny. “She won’t tell me anything and this bag’s really heavy.”
“Shannon?” said Jax.
“We’re going out for lunch,” said Shannon. “How do you feel about a picnic?”
Jax exchanged a bemused glance with Darius before turning back to Shannon. “You have noticed it’s freezing outside?”
“We’ll see,” said Shannon, taking hold of his hand. She and Penny refused to answer any questions until all four of them were standing in the Mabre House portal room. Getting out her phone, Shannon painstakingly entered some new coordinates on to the wall. The symbols flickered in the low light, waiting to be activated.
“Today,” said Penny, “is 14th February. Where Shannon and I come from, it’s called Valentine’s Day.”
“Who’s Valentine?” asked Darius. “Someone famous?”
“Kind of. It’s more what he stands for. It’s a day for people who are in l—” She bit off the word before she could say it. “A day for people going out with each other to do something nice. Together.”
“Like what?” said Jax.
“Well… you saw Christmas, right? It’s a bit like that but for couples and on a smaller scale. Cards, presents, maybe a special dinner…”
 “But I haven’t… I didn’t….” Darius looked at Jax. “Did you know anything about this?”
“Of course not. You just heard me ask, didn’t you?”
“Calm down, we weren’t expecting you to know,” said Penny. “This is our chance to say thank you for the snow.”
“What are you going to do?” said Jax, looking at the coordinates. “Where is that?”
“We’ll each need a basic Protection Spell. It’s a little more exotic than England,” said Shannon. “But it will be warm. It’s the dry season so there are hardly any tourists. Penny and I got up at the crack of dawn this morning to open a practice portal from David’s house. The time difference works in our favour and there’s no one around.”
“Yeah, the river’s not deep enough for the boats at this time of year,” added Penny. “And the waterfall’s less fierce, but we figured that’s a good thing. Jax and Darius can still break their records for the longest dive, but hopefully we’ll all survive the experience.” She smiled.
“What are you talking about?” said Jax.
“It would be easier to show you,” said Shannon. She activated the portal with one glowing hand. The shimmering doorway rose up obediently from the spellstation. “Angel Falls,” said Shannon, stepping through. 

💖    💖    💖 
Darius ate another piece of chocolate. Penny had made sure to pack plenty, knowing it was her boyfriend’s favourite Terran food. All four underage magicians had fallen on the picnic as if they were starving after the adrenaline rush of travelling up and down the world’s tallest waterfall using only their force fields. Jax, Shannon, and Darius had taken turns to help Penny, whose magic hadn’t reached its full strength yet.
“Darius?” asked Jax.
“Hmmm?” replied his friend. Darius’s face was lifted towards the sun and his eyes were half-closed.
“I think we need to up our game. They’ve definitely gone one better than the snow.”
“No,” said Shannon, putting her hand on Jax’s arm. “The snow was incredible. All Penny and I did was open a portal.”
“It’s not a competition,” said Penny. She gave Jax a wink. “For once.”
He grinned. “All right. But this is amazing.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” said Shannon.
Penny sighed. “I suppose we should be getting back before anyone misses us.”
“Have we got time for a kiss?” said Darius, leaning towards her.
Jax looked at Shannon. “I think that’s a great idea. Surely Valentine’s Day is supposed to involve kissing.”
She nodded. “Yes. Magic, and kissing, and you. My perfect day.”

"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."
Thomas Mann

When it comes to writing, I do not count myself as an expertas long as I'm writing, I'm learning😊. However, after six (and a half!) books, I do understand my own writing style much better than before I started. And, despite my best efforts to the contrary, there are certain things (challenges? issues?) I still cannot change about my writing style/process. It feels like it's time to acknowledge them. Then, hopefully, I'll know in the future not to stress out when they happen. I can dream! In case there are any other writers out there who have similar quirks and might be interested to know they're not alone, here's a top ten:

1) I always start every book thinking, "I don't know if I can do this again. What if I can't do this?"
2) The half-way point of the book is always the worst part. When I look back on what I've written so far, I invariably think it's rubbish. I worry I've wasted my time. I consider starting again. I second-guess everything. Fortunately, I have always managed to persevere, and I've never had to rewrite the first half of the book.
3) I try to ensure my characters end up facing new life-threatening situations/enemies in each adventure. Because I don't outline my plots in advance, this results in a period of time—days/weeks—when I think I won't be able to come up with any way for them to escape. Yet, so far, I always have. (No spoilers—there's no guarantee that all of them always escape). I need to trust that my brain will find a solution even when it seems impossible!
4) I don't write a complete first draft. I edit as I go along. By the time I get to the end, I'm mostly happy with the story and content, prior to my editor applying her expertise to the manuscript, of course. I'm pretty sure this isn't recommended! Most of the advice seems to say you should focus on completing the first draft before you do any serious editing. However, when I sit down to write on any given day, editing what I wrote last time gets me back into the flow of the story. It might work for me because of the whole absence of plotting thing.

5) I worry that my writing speed is very inconsistent. There are days when I can write an entire chapter easily, and other days when an opening paragraph is the best I can do. There is no rhyme or reason to it. I could never be a two thousand words a day writer.

6) I try to write original stories but inevitably I fall back on some tried-and-tested tropes along the way. No wands. No Latin spells. But does magic glow silver? Yes. Yes, it does.

7) I'm still searching for a decent alternative to "he/she rolled his/her eyes." It turns up approximately seven or eight times in each book to demonstrate how my teenage characters are feeling and I wish I used it less!

8) I find taglines and back cover descriptions very very difficult to write!

9) I like using adverbs in dialogue tags. I know I shouldn't, because they tell rather than show the reader how the character is feeling. I try not to. I spend a fair amount of time failing to come up with alternatives. Perhaps moderation is the best I can hope for.

10) I use a thesaurus. Not often, but there are times I'm too tired or in too much of a rush to come up with a synonym myself.

Looking at it from a glass half-full perspective, none of the above prevents me from diving into my imaginary worlds with enthusiasm. However, I think I might have to write a future post with the top ten most amazing things about writing to balance the picture! If you're a writer, do you recognise anything in my list? Thank you for stopping by my blog today!

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” (or an Avenger...)
― Robert Cormier

I’m writing the final book in my first series right now, which means there are all kinds of ideas turning up inside my head. Not just about the current book (that’s normal – I always figure out the story as I go along) but also about what to write next. Unlike Thor, I have the luxury of not having to get it right first time! The possibilities are endless, and although I’m really looking forward to it, I’m also more than a little nervous. I thought it was a good time for a blog post about writing prompts and ideas 🙂

Every story idea is from a prompt of some kind, even if it’s just me, inside my head, making something up. My experience so far has been that each book starts with a question I want to know the answer to. The question works as a foundation on which everything else is constructed. 
  • Stealing Magic: Why is there no such thing as real magic in our world?
  • Capturing Magic: What would happen if someone wanted magic badly enough to kill one of my characters for it?
  • Seeking Magic: How was someone from our world able to become a magician in the first place?
  • Controlling Magic: Could there ever be a situation when science and magic work together?
  • Breaking Magic: What’s Cal’s story?
  • Surviving Magic: What’s Galen’s story? And does his story change everything else?
  • …ing Magic: How does it all end?
From there, the plot develops bit by bit, and it can be based on all different kinds of input. Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I don’t know how to answer this except by saying, “Everywhere.” Since I started writing regularly, my brain bombards me with prompts all day long. It’s like there’s a part of me that’s become receptive to them.

Here are a few examples:
  • Things that resonate with me, like the lyrics of a song, or the reminder of a childhood memory, or a sentence on social media.
  • Things I see. Anything from a random image on a website to a person in an airport.
  • Things I hear. It could be a comment in a meeting at work, a line of dialogue in a film, or a particular item on the news that catches my attention.
  • Things I read. I know there is a view that all stories fit into one of seven (or is it thirty-six?!) basic plots, but there are certainly thousands of different ways to be inspired by other settings and events, both imagined and historical.  
Of course, the challenge then becomes how to use all of these ideas. It can be a bit like herding cats. But as long as I keep noticing them, I figure I’ll always have something to write about. 

In terms of the Legacy of Androva series, I’m working out the final story at the moment. However, I already have a shortlist of questions for potential future books, and I’m nowhere near ready to choose between them. I’ve got a feeling I may have to write a couple of first chapters to help me decide which world to create 🤔
I guess this qualifies as a nice problem to have!

If you are a writer, how do you decide what to write about? Where do your ideas tend to come from? Thank you for reading today’s post!

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