Blogger header image - Legacy of Androva

The Legacy of Androva Series

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!

I had to research a newto meperiod of history for the last Legacy of Androva book and it got me wondering about how often fiction reimagines the facts of the past. My own books, for example, create a potentially different history for our world, where the present remains unchanged.

But just how reliable is 'real' history? I thought I would illustrate how difficult it is to know for sure with a bit of information about Anne Boleyn. I haven't managed to incorporate the Tudors into my writing yet, but it's one of my favourite periods of history, so I might rectify that in a future book! Anyway, returning to AnneKing Henry VIII of England had six wives, and she was the second.

She was born in 1501, and died in 1536. We can suppose there must have been something special about her, because Henry broke with the Catholic Church in order to make her his wife. And he first started writing love letters to Anne in 1526, but did not marry her until 1533. That's a long time to hold the interest of a King!

Henry had her beheaded for treason. Five men, including her own brother, were also executed. This information, in and of itself, appears to be undisputed. But everything else about what happened, including who was innocent or guilty, is not completely certain.

Here are some extracts from contemporary accounts of Anne's execution.

The Tower of London, early morning on 19th May 1536. Anne, formerly Queen of England, is brought here to die. A French swordsman severed her head from her body. Before he did, she made a speech. But what did she say?

Version 1 The Queen suffered with sword this day within the Tower, upon a new scaffold, and died boldly.
Letter, John Husee to Lord Lisle

Version 2 The said Queen (unjustly called) finally was beheaded upon a scaffold within the Tower with open gates. She was brought by the captain upon the said scaffold, and four young ladies followed her. She looked frequently behind her, and when she got upon the scaffold was very much exhausted and amazed. She begged leave to speak to the people, promising to say nothing but what was good. The captain gave her leave, and she began to raise her eyes to Heaven, and cry mercy to God and to the King for the offence she had done, desiring the people always to pray to God for the King, for he was a good, gentle, gracious, and amiable prince.
The Vienna Chronicles

Version 3
"I here humbly submit me to the law as the law has judged me, and as for my offences I accuse no man … I beseech Jesus save my sovereign and master the King, the most godly, noble and gentle Prince there is, and long to reign over you" … which words were spoken with a goodly smiling countenance.
Wriothesley’s Chronicle
Version 4
"Do not think, good people, that I am sorry to die, or that I have done anything to deserve this death. My fault has been my great pride, and the great crime I committed in getting the King to leave my mistress Queen Katherine for my sake, and I pray God to pardon me for it. I say to you all that everything they have accused me of is false."
The Spanish Chronicle

Quite a range of different accounts, and all written by people who were around at the time! Of course, it makes things much more interesting for us readers. Any one of the many different retellings could be correct. Our imaginations are incredibly powerful. Which version do you think is most likely to be true? Thank you for visiting my blog today!

As I write the seventh and final book in the Legacy of Androva series, I got to thinking about how much the characters have developed over the course of the life-threatening adventures they've experienced. I decided it would be interesting to revisit Jax and Darius as they were, two weeks before Stealing Magic, the first book, just to remind myself! They were both fourteen years old and both kind of clueless, albeit in different ways. I think I'll do another interview at the end of book seven (assuming they both survive ðŸ˜‰) to see if I can demonstrate their development simply in terms of the dialogue they use.

I hope you enjoy reading it, and thank you for visiting my blog today!

Me: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Jax: (rolls eyes) Not like we had a choice, is it? Given that we’re your characters.
Darius: (looks embarrassed)
Me: (grins) OK, fair point. But if you’re my characters, how come you sometimes do and say things that I don’t expect you to?
Jax: I could tell you, but then I’d have to project a Distraction Spell so that you didn’t remember. Those are the rules. So why bother? (raises eyebrows) Maybe I’ve told you already…
Me: You’re quite sure of yourself, aren’t you?
Jax: Obviously. I am the best underage magician on Androva.
Darius: (sniggers) Modesty being one of his more hidden qualities.
Jax: Modesty is for girls like you.
Darius: (pushes Jax on the shoulder) Remind me again why I’m friends with you?
Jax: (grins) For my sense of humor, probably.
Me: (tries to get the interview back on track) Can you tell the readers something about yourselves? Like why they should read Stealing Magic, for example.
Jax: Stealing is a strong word. Is it really stealing? (turns to Darius)
Darius: It depends on whether you come from Androva or Terra, I suppose.
Me: Well, the readers are from Terra.
Jax: (shrugs) I don’t think it’s stealing. It’s not as if anyone on Terra even knows it’s there. Perhaps if they knew…
Darius: (looks nervous) They can’t, Jax. We’ve talked about this before.
Jax: (avoids Darius’s gaze) Yeah, I know.
Me: (changes the subject) Tell me a bit about Androva. Imagine you’re talking to someone who isn’t a magician.
Jax: Someone who isn’t a magician? You mean a Terran.
Me: Yes. At the moment, there are no magicians on Terra.
Jax: (leans forward) At the moment? Interesting…
Darius: (shakes his head) Don’t get any ideas.
Jax: (innocent look) I wouldn’t!
Darius: (frowns) Yes, you would.
Me: Can we return to the question please? What’s it like on Androva?
Jax: We’re all magicians, and we don’t do much without using magic. It’s everywhere. Your head would probably find it hard to handle. If you ever went there for real, of course.
Darius: (covers face) Please don’t insult the person who is telling our story. I don’t want to be written out before the first book even starts.
Jax: I don’t think the book would work without me. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the main characters.
Me: You can be a bit of a brat, can’t you?
Jax: (grins) Isn’t that part of my charm?
Darius: (groans) Can we stop the interview before he says anything else?
Me: What about the part of Androva that you don’t know?
Jax: (warily) What do you mean?
Me: There are a lot of secrets, aren’t there?
Jax: (hesitates) Maybe.
Me: How far would you go to find out what they are?
Jax: (looks intrigued) I don’t know. You tell me. How far would I go?
Darius: (warningly) Jax…
Me: Thanks very much both of you. I’m going to have to stop the interview there because we’re out of time.

There is no escaping the fact that writing can be tough. Most writers (including me!) have to make time for it as best they can, usually fitting it in around their day jobs and family time. And let's not forget the importance of reading! I wouldn't be able to write at all if I weren't, first and foremost, an enthusiastic reader.

This quote sums it up pretty well:

However, there are also lots of reasons to be positive about being a writer, which is what today's blog post is all about. I wanted to remind myself, and anyone reading this, that everyone finds it difficult, and persistence pays off. Most importantly, if you want to write, then write! 😊

Before you start, remember:

Here is something to think about while you're writing:

And to wrap things up:

After I finish this post, I'm going back to my current work-in-progress, which is the seventh and final book in the Legacy of Androva series. How are you spending your weekend--reading or writing? If you are a writer, do you have any favourite inspirational quotes? Thank you for visiting my blog today!

Mailing List Subscription

Sign up to receive posts by email and notification of advance reader copies!

* indicates required