Right from the opening line, How to Survive Your Magical Family is a delight. This novel for younger readers delivers magic, mystery and mayhem… plus credible characters, lots of humour and action aplenty.
Toby is the youngest of the Dartin family and has the least magic. His sister, Helen, has much more practical magical abilities, such as healing animals, ‘imagining a parking spot into existence’ and turning off the iron after she’s left home. All Toby can do is charm any cat that comes to him.
Told between Toby’s point of view and that of his best friend Mia, How to Survive Your Magical Family leaps between normal family dynamics and kidnapping, bribery and vengeance.
Rhoden has created a completely believable alternative world where magical people and ‘flats’ – those who can’t see magic – interact happily, mostly without the ‘flats’ knowing. But she has also created credible child characters, Toby and Mia, who show courage and
intelligence, and have real agency throughout, even in the most hopeless situations. It’s also refreshing that she shows them as young people clearly out of their depth at times, kids who need to rely on the adults in their lives (most of whom are loving and capable) to help them.
… How to Survive Your Magical Family is great fun, and there are enough loose ends to mean that a sequel could be on the cards, to which I say, ‘Deal me in!’ A fabulous read. Highly recommended.
A stunning dystopian world with heart, soul, and hope. For ages 15+.
The complete Chronicles, with one copy of all three novels, signed, plus standard postage for only $45.95. Order the box set by December 12th for pre-Christmas delivery.
“Progressing through the series, I was in awe of the author’s ability to handle grief and intense drama, yet bring hope, faith, loyalty and kindness into such abysmal chaos.”
Thank you for reading and sharing my books.
And please remember how awesome it is if you ask your local library to order one of my books. It helps me to reach readers and adds it mite to the upkeep of the writing attic, all at no cost to you. Thanks!!
What an incredibly sweet story about a boy, friends, family and a loveable group of cats! — Megs, on Goodreads
This is a fun magical story! Really really cool worldbuilding here. I love in general that cats are the “good guys” even though this is a story about cool, sometimes spooky, magic. — Julia, on Goodreads
“Waiting is the hardest thing ever.” Heart, soul, and adventure; this one has it all. Absolutely a light, fun read. — MyBookNest7
I really liked how cute the story was, where it went, the cats, and how they colored the whole story. I feel like there’s a second book in the future. There is not really a cliffhanger, or any thing to indicate that specifically, but I was left with some questions I could see wrapping a second story around and I would absolutely be there to read it. — Steph Bauer
♥️If you like books featuring cats…ESPECIALLY magical cats….this is your next book to pick up♥️ — ShortBookThyme on Instagram
In the meantime, here’s a little snippet of the action:
While Helen drew the sedan over to the side of the carriageway, I walked slowly along the wet verge, scanning the asphalt where the cat was struck, listening for any mewing. There was no sound other than the slick swishing of tyres on rainy road as the traffic sorted itself back into its usual pattern. There wasn’t even any blood. In the gutter, though, was a silver bracelet.
The bracelet was pretty battered and bent, but it looked like solid silver. I considered picking it up. It had a charm clipped on it, in a kind of round shape. But I was searching for something alive, so I walked right on, scanning the verge. Nothing. I turned back toward the car.
Passing that shining bit of silver again, I could see that the round charm was actually in the form of a cat, and the bracelet was more of a bangle and not so battered as I first thought. When I turned to look at it a third time, the round cat charm was seated upright on top of the bangle, looking directly at me.
I gave in. I’m not my father’s son for nothing. Okay, cat plus charm plus silver equals magic. Though why the street cat thought this was a kitten …
I picked up the bangle…
Can’t wait to read on? How to Survive Your Magical Family is available now at these online stores:
Toby’s father is a surgeon and his older sister is a lawyer. But Toby’s dad is also a renowned wizard, and so is his uncle, and his sister can influence people. His mum was special too, but she had to leave…
Toby isn’t any of those things. The only special thing he can do is pretty useless. Toby can talk with cats.
When Toby and his sister rescue a family of abandoned cats on the side of the road and Toby spots a mysterious silver bangle in the gutter, everything changes.
Mia is Toby’s best friend. She’s not magical either – she doesn’t even know magic exists! But when she watches Toby get on the wrong bus to school and a ferocious bus driver screams away with Toby on board, Mia’s world is about to change too.
If you love cats, or magic – and especially both! – this is your book. For confident readers 10+, and cat lovers of all ages. It’s a book with a dual point of view (‘dual POV’ in book-speak), with half of the story told by Toby and half told by Mia.
Once upon a time, there was a Big, Bad Wolf … he blew down the houses of swine, stole from little girls visiting their grandmothers … but maybe the wolf wasn’t so big or bad … Twisted fairy tales centred around this majestic creature written by 45 indie authors from all over the globe
A year of potential, of reckoning, of change and reassessment. A year of the Tiger, a strong character who banishes evil and demonstrates courage. It’s a year to keep going.
For me, 2022 is a year for new writing projects, and the completion of earlier ones. Let me show you my planned journey.
New writing projects
From the WasteLand
An anthology of literary speculative fiction inspired by TS Eliot’s seminal poem The Waste Land, first published in October 1922.
If you are unfamiliar with the poem, suffice it to say that it’s as long as a novella, and its subject matter is the fragmentation of society during and after World War One (WWI). All in beautiful, strange, evocative words. I’ll be writing a lot more about this project soon. It’s going to be wonderful and amazing.
In this novel, I’m focussing on the Australian home front during WWI.
If you’re familiar with Stars, you’ll know that it’s the story of two brothers, Harry and Eddie, who fight at Gallipoli and in France. This new book will fill in all the gaps about what was happening back in Semaphore. More about this story as it progresses. I hope to have the whole manuscript completed this year to submit for publishing in 2023 or 2024.
Don’t worry, How to Survive Your Magical Family is definitely coming this year, from the wonderful Odyssey Books. There have been just too many interruptions to the publishing industry, and too much pressure on staff due to the pandemic.
I’m now hoping for a February release. And I’ll most definitely keep you updated!
In 2021, I kept busy with some substantial shorter fiction for themed anthologies, as well as the odd little tale for drabble collections (a drabble is a tale told in EXACTLY 100 words, no more, no less).
New Tales of Old Volume 2
New fantasy tales based on old myths, fairy stories and legends.
This fantastic (pun intended) anthology is coming from Black Ink Fiction in March. My story features the Cwn Annwn, ghostly hounds of the Welsh hunt.
Stories about a fantasy ancient kingdom inspired by Greek myths and legends
In this wholly realised world, gods and demons vie for supremacy, with humans at risk. Twelve inter-linked stories unfold the tale of the semi-divine women who must face the demons. My story is ‘Ione and the Sea Demon’. This is also coming from Black Ink Fiction in 2022.
Fantasy tales of a malevolent magic mirror
An ancient curse, a lingering threat: these stories tell of the evil effects of the broken mirror’s curse. The stories are all based on legends and all feature the fateful Fae mirror. My story ‘Lady Marian’s Gambit’ plays with the Robin Hood legend. This is coming in 2022 from the groundbreaking Australian independent Black Hare Press.
This wintry horror collection features my drabble about the Sugar Plum Fairy. The book is available now from Black Ink Fiction. Here’s a link: Winter Shocks
I admit that deadlines are good for me. I love writing inside a time frame. But remember, I’m a bit weird – I loved exams. Adrenaline = inspiration for me.
Broad Plain Darkening raised a lot of questions that I couldn’t wait to tackle. So many issues that I wanted to resolve. Imagine me rubbing my hands together in glee.
Once again, I needed a plan.
Strangely, my “plan” looks almost like a maths problem. How does it work?
You’ll notice very few words. The story was in my head. These are just reminders so that nothing got left out. Sticky notes for my brain.
Chapters are important. They need a starting point, an action or change point, and some sort of conclusion – one that leads to the next chapter, or one that closes the action and allows the next chapter to tackle another aspect of the story.
Chapter length is important. That’s what the numbers are about. I’m moving scenes around to ensure that each chapter is a similar length.
The first page of this notebook is dated Oct 19th, 2018. Three years ago today! That means that I was deep in writing Book Three while waiting for the edits to come back for Book Two.
Editing and writing at the same time: heaven!
Editing is such a satisfying task. You wrestle with what comes back; you suddenly see what doesn’t work. Then you scratch your head over how to make this or that point any clearer. You laugh at your hilarious typos (the runted land LOL!) and in your imagination, you high-five the editor at the brilliant saves.
Once again, working with Odyssey Books suited me down to the ground.
Seven-piece Essential Toolkit for Writing a Series
follow up your good starting idea
create characters to care about … ones that YOU care about
expect a great deal of work writing your idea into the first novel … possibly years
refrain from killing your characters too early – but be prepared to kill them at the right time
keep tweaking and submitting until you find a match
be responsive to your publisher’s needs
treasure the publisher who believes in you and your work
I have a dozen ideas for short stories set in the world of the Pale, but it’s no use planning a short story collection (working title The Chronicles of the Pale #4: Before and After) until I actually write those stories.
Jotted words in a notebook – useful as they are – do not turn themselves into publishable writing. And I also have in mind the possibility of a graphic novel or an animation. So a lot of work to be done first, but the world of the Pale now has to wait on edits for my current projects.
In the meantime, watch out for my next novel
How to Survive Your Magical Family
which will be out in time for Christmas. More news soon!
It took a little while to get my head around the possibility of more novels in the world of The Pale. A whole series of post-apocalyptic fiction? But hey! The world was all there, the characters created, and a trajectory beckoned. Plus the world always needs more books with talking animals.
All I needed to do was pick up where I left off, right?
It’s not that easy. Something I found quite testing was to check and re-check my built world, to ensure the consistency of both stories. Remember that I’d invented a highly-detailed setting, with too many characters, too many places, too much that was too clever by half (including an over-clever calendar)? Well, thanks to me being such a smarty-pants, there was too much in my head. I had to match the published version of my world, not the one teeming in my brain.
Hmm, did I mention this particular detail before? I kept asking.
I told myself: probably not.
Can I include it? I thought: Yes, but…
Can I do without it? Answer: YES!
The thing about world-building
It so happens that I know a lot more about the back-stories of the characters than will ever be published.
And that’s the way it should be. I am the iceberg. The published work is the best fraction of it.
Readers really only want to know what’s happening NOW.
They want ACTION. And they want EMOTION. They want RESOLUTION.*
*Beware generalisations. Some readers like the long way round a story
Readers don’t want to know about the hours I devoted to googling baby names as I tried to make my cast diverse and interesting. They don’t want to know about my failed attempts at tracing maps of Tasmania and putting Pale-style names in tricky terrain. And they especially don’t want to hear me arguing with myself about just how evil I can make the villain without turning science fiction into horror.
Stage 7: A Plan for Book 2
Take one ambitious time frame, add a thriving cast, lots of conflict and then make the world explode. Or at least cause the ground to shake.
I’m a pantser by nature, but I needed a plan. More, I needed – for the first time in my fiction writing – to create lists and signposts. I discovered that writing a series is like writing a thesis: there is more material than you can keep in your head at one time. You MUST be organised.
A character listwas easy enough, and here it is. I also asked for it to be included in the printed book, because many readers like to refer back as they’re reading.
A map! Fortunately, I have very talented people in my family – they’re so creative, this lot! – and @bernardjmaher listened carefully, coped with my scribbled diagrams, and voila! a map.
Stage 8: Writing Book 2
The deadline was good for me: six months to the first draft – remember that the first novel took several years to gestate.
I wrote and wrote and wrote. My method is to write a lot, and then edit, edit, edit. Then I add, subtract, rearrange and polish.
Characters from offstage demanded to be heard – for example, Helm, the lost tribesman. He’d always been there as Feather’s missing father, but he insisted that he had a much bigger part to play. More talking animals wanted to be heard, and many of the villains began to flex their muscles. Dystopia is like that!
Back and forth with editing. It was so much better this time around. I was more relaxed about strangers’ eyes on my imagined world, and more confident in my choices. I mus say that working with Odyssey Books has been amazing – truly life-changing.
Amazingly, within a year of launching The Pale, I was back at Readings Carlton, surrounded by well-wishers, thrilled to introduce my new book to the world.