Monday, 22 July 2013

Blogger Book Fair - The Twin Perils of Writing - Sophie's PoV

Thanks to Tash for hosting my first post of the Blogger Book Fair July 2013 :). She's my twin, so she couldn't really say no when I asked her if she'd mind hosting an extra person for the BBF! So this isn't an official stop on my blog hop for the BBF, but, Tasha and I write a book series, The Haward Mysteries, together and I thought it would be fun to start off our itinerary during BBF on each other's blogs, swapping opinions on what it's like to write with each other.

Be warned, we gave each other permission to moan!

Sooo, what dirt can I spill on my darling big sister?...hmmm...this may take a while.

Okay, for a second, I'm going to take a step back and explain the situation. Tash (a.k.a Natasha Duncan-Drake and Tasha D Drake) and I are both writers, we run a publishing company together, Wittegen Press, and we each write our own style of books in many different genres, from urban fantasy through to erotica. However, as I've already mentioned, one series, a New Adult, Urban Fantasy Crime series called The Haward Mysteries, we write together. And this poses some challenges, given that, despite being twins, we have completely different writing methods and rituals.

We do have some writing techniques in common - we both write in English! About there, the similarity ends. I'm a planner: for the most part, I like to sit down and work through the major plot points and make some notes about most scenes. Tash will undoubtedly tell you I'm OTT on my note taking, but let me tell you, it pays when working with someone as scatty as my beloved sister. OMG, she's all over the place! One minute we'd be discussing a particular idea about how magic is cast in the contemporary Britain we were creating for a scene near the beginning of the book and the next she'd have made half a dozen leaps of logic off into ten scenes ahead on how we could use that to achieve x, y and z. Luckily, being her twin, I've had years of practice in keeping up and, most of the time, I could follow the strands and untangle them to make some sense.

Plus, of course, guess which muggins got to do the scene breakdown to make sure that little stroke of genius (yes, I will admit, sometimes she does have good ideas) gets remembered when we finally get to fleshing out that scene? I'll mention here that there was a certain amount of drawing from life in developing the long-suffering attitude of Theo, the older of our twin brother protagonists in The Haward Mysteries.

With The Great Butterfly Attention Span in the mix, it was sometimes hard work getting Tash to focus on the present, the bit of the plot we were actually developing (she likes the exciting bits, not so hot on the structure in between), but, eventually we had a general gist of the world we were creating, we'd discussed the twins, Remy and Theo until we had their back story straight, we had a scene breakdown and we'd agreed to write one twin each. We may have also had a wiki containing all that information by the time we'd finished as well. Yes, I know it sounds a bit anal, but I cannot count the number of times that reference had saved us from trawling through thousands of words looking for a name spelling, or a location description.

Okay, I think I've moaned enough - that was rather cathartic!

I'll be serious for a moment, just a moment, I promise - it was actually fun working with Tash, we wouldn't be about to start writing the second in the series if it had been a nightmare. There were moments where we could have cheerfully killed each other and we have some stand up rows about plot points, but, in the end, I think we produced a pretty cohesive universe to play in and an engaging story in Sacrifice of An Angel. I'm looking forward to starting work on number two, which will see Remy and Theo on secondment to The Drug Squad to help stop the dealers of a magical drug that is killing Natural Magic Users by draining them of their power.
About the author of this article:

Sophie Duncan is a UK author of genre fiction with Wittegen Press. She has been writing since she was a child and has been sharing her work with others since she discovered the internet in the 1990's. She has published original works in many genres, from contemporary fantasy, through crime and mystery drama, to erotic romance. All of her published books can be found listed at her author page on the Wittegen Press website.

Other places Sophie would love to connect with you are:


"Harry Potter (with grownups) meets Midsommer Murders with a magical version of C.S.I. thrown in for good measure." - Rob Drake

The body of a beautiful girl dressed in a ceremonial robe is found on a playground roundabout. Her throat has been ripped out and the roundabout has a bad case of perpetual motion. Is it a ritualistic, magical murder or a setup to distract from the real killer?

That is the question that faces twins, Theo and Remy Haward, detectives in the Sorcerous Crimes Task Force (SeCT), when they are called to the scene in the middle of the night. That and who could commit such an act. They must find the answers to these and other questions, all the while ensuring the general public finds out nothing about the magical world that co-exists with their own.

 Armed with their experience, their natural magical abilities and their complimentary instincts, Remy and Theo must identify the victim, follow the evidence and find the killer before anyone else dies.


"Spegel," Theo addressed the mirror directly by its name and he felt the magic imbued into it flare: it was not a sentient creature and could not generate its own magic, but, like a battery, it remained charged with the power of its users and Theo sensed Remy all over it.

"What were you doing?" Theo enquired as he greeted the object's magic with his own and Remy's.

"I lost my house keys, I'm sure Satan's Little Helper pinched them and I needed to find them quickly," Remy explained a little defensively.

There were no rules about how trivial a Scry could be, so Theo just let that one pass, along with most other thoughts in his head. The complete darkness of the mirror's surface drew his eyes and his mind as he let it swallow his thoughts and, before he drowned in nothing, Theo focused their magic and intoned, this time in proper Grail, "Spegel, tonen Yannan Trowton."

The sensation of falling always caught Theo by surprise and he gasped as the mirror obeyed his command. Physically, he and Remy remained exactly where they were in the safety of the circle, looking into the blackness of the mirror, but Theo shuddered as, with his request, his mind's eye lit up with the colours of the magical world over Trowton. Just like the computer readouts of the lab, the in-built Expressions in the mirror conjured the reds, blues, greens and yellows of human convention. They appeared at first in a blur and the dark mirror gave them a metallic hue.

When the falling sensation stopped and his stomach caught up with him, Theo took a deep breath and examined the image in his mind. He was looking down, as requested, on Trowton and it was not street lamps that lit it up. Much of the town was dark or misty, unrevealed, but small spots, the odd car, or a roof, were lined by the colour of the magical Elements that someone had left on them. Some were so faint that the touch could have been mere chance, but others shone brilliantly and Theo could see several houses presenting impressive amounts of magic, probably the wards of those who lived there.

Theo did not try to identify the magic he was being shown, not yet, instead, his attention shifted to the wide open park, and more specifically to the little corner of it that still showed the bright spectrum of inhuman magic that the SCSI's had Profiled. The whole place was brilliant against the backdrop of the sleepy town and the nexus of it all was the little roundabout that, although it now stood motionless, had swirls of angry colour still circling it.

As his attention narrowed, so too the mirror followed his lead and the rest of the town fell back into the glass' inky depths, out of his consciousness, leaving Remy and him looking down on the storm of magic from twenty feet above it. Remy whistled at the mess they had only partially sensed two nights previously and observed, "How the hell are the cleanup crew going to handle all this?"

There were many theories about the entities from There, and Theo was reminded of one that suggested some of them used magic like animals in the normal world used colour, to display dominance, mating readiness, warnings and such. Theo had an inkling that the theory was at least partially right, because every instinct he had was screaming at him to back off.

"Like everything else about this case, carefully," Theo replied, his tone caustic as he gritted his teeth and he was glad of the protection that was flowing through them and their magic.

"So what do you want to do now?" Remy prompted, sounding just a little nervous. Theo paused: what he had planned next was both dangerous and difficult and would rely on Remy to boost their presence in the ethereal world of the mirror.

"We need to go into that and get physical," he finally announced.

"Feeling suicidal are we?" Remy's scathing response was not altogether unexpected.

However, Theo was not feeling confident enough to bark back orders, instead, he admitted, "Can you think of anything better? We have to be able to trace it and, to do that, we have to touch it."

"You're assuming it's that close to a Fade then?" Remy checked.

"A Fade is only us taking a shortcut through There, this can't be that different," Theo justified. "This thing is like a heavy-hitting Natural and from that lot down there it's clear it's not much on shielding, so we should be able to track the trail back to the source location just like an innate Fade."

Remy was silent for a moment and Theo waited for his twin's opinion. It was not unexpected when it came.

"We're not going in there, I am."

"No," Theo barked the order this time before his little brother charged in.

"I stand a better chance of defending myself if things get nasty," Remy objected.

"And that's why I want you watching my back," Theo explained himself more clearly. "Our protection is going to have to be storm-force and I want you concentrating on

Remy shut up again, but Theo didn't have to see his twin to sense the disapproval from across the circle. His own magic levels were significantly less than Remy's, but they were considerably more than most Naturals and it could be galling to Theo when his brother underestimated his strength. However, he chose not to have that argument while in the immersion of the mirror, so he just waited until he heard a huffy, "I am not letting go of you. One hint of anything hinky and I'm pulling us both out of here."

"Of course," Theo returned passively.

Remy huffed a second time, but Theo knew he was going to get no more arguments and so he slowly backed off the protection and felt Remy taking his place. The protection gained a hard edge as he relinquished control and it told Theo how concerned Remy actually was. Once completely free to concentrate on the tumult of magic below him, Theo did not give himself time to rethink, instead, he let his attention sink into the residue.

This time, Remy's presence did not move with him and, as the alien magic encased him, Theo could not stifle a tremble back in the real world. Still, he reassured himself with the sense of his brother running through the power that kept him separated from the many varied hues of darkness around him. His instincts were still screaming at him to leave well alone, but finding the primary crime scene could cut the case by days and it was worth the risk. Very carefully, Theo changed his awareness from the visual interpretation he had initially created to one at a much baser level of his being.

For any Natural, magic was a part of their physical make-up as much as heart and lungs, and Theo felt the entity's magic rushing against him, chilling his skin in the warm night air. The touch made his heart beat faster and his stomach tied itself in knots as his human instincts tried to reject the foreign entity completely. He had had some contact with other creatures from There over the years: It had quite probably originated from There, but, with alien hostility all around him, Theo had to stifle a streak of panic that lanced through him.

"You okay?" Remy asked sharply.

The check was enough to ground Theo's involuntary nerves and he took a deep breath before responding, "This isn't pleasant."

"Then make it quick," Remy sounded superficially impatient, but Theo knew his twin's disquiet when he heard it.

"Will do," he promised and cast his attention through the mass of magic, searching for its source.

As his third eye was buffeted by the maelstrom around him, Theo was not surprised the roundabout had been perpetually turning and he wondered at the power of a creature that could waste so much magic. If Remy could be like a bull in a china shop sometimes, this entity was a T-Rex. Still, it made a clear trail and if he could find the point the magic had broken through into their world, he could start the process of tracing it. When Theo found it, he could have kicked himself for not zeroing in earlier: outlined in a distinct silver halo, the bulbous hub of the roundabout could not have been more clearly marked as the Point of Portal.

"Found the way in," Theo told Remy. "I'll give you one guess."

"They'll have to replace that whole roundabout," Remy observed, revealing his guess without bothering to answer directly.

"Hmm," Theo agreed, but was more interested in the way the ball of metal pulsed angrily as he focused on it.

Theo narrowed his attention down to just the point of entry and pushed his awareness at it tentatively. The reaction to his mental enquiry was anything but as reticent and Theo tensed as what his mind's eye had interpreted as a flash of silver turned into something much more violent. Pain sliced through him, ugly and ice cold and Theo's mind reared away from it, but he was still surrounded by the storm of left-over magic. Too late, Theo realised why the residue was so strong: it was still connected to its maker.

The anger in the magic was not old, the portal was not some left-over connection to There, it was deliberately open and Theo felt the rush of something coming rapidly closer as its magic closed in on him like a prison.

"Help!" he gasped as his senses started to spin.

"Theo!" Remy responded, the protection tightening round him as his brother spoke and then everything turned on its head as power pulled him in two directions.

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