The Nine Types of Magic: A Guest Post from Dana Swift

We have such a treat for all of you today! Dana Swift has very kindly given us a full breakdown of the magic system in her debut, Cast in Firelight, and we are fascinated. Read on for a look at how she came up with each color’s meaning as well as some fun facts!

The Nine Types of Magic:

Red The ability to create and manipulate fire
From the beginning I always knew I wanted my main female character to be a witch with fire magic. I think there is something inspiring about a witch who can control fire, a substance used in the past to kill women who were accused of witchcraft. Thus, I’ve always been drawn to that power for a witch character.

Orange The ability to enhance your senses and the body’s physical capabilities
I came up with orange magic because it felt so essential to the plot and makes it more plausible for my characters to be crime fighters. I also wanted it to be believable for Adraa, my female heroine, to be just a strong and fast as any male because she’s a powerful in magic.

Yellow The ability to create and manipulate air, especially for flying
I created yellow magic for the ability of flying and travel. In creating a world, one of the big aspects is how do people get from one place to another and how does that affect the cultures of each place. Having the nations of Wickery be able to fly meant they were more interconnected. Though, having their main communication be through letters meant they weren’t as connected as our modern world with the Internet.

Green The ability to manipulate wood and plant life
I grappled with deciding if green should involve the earth more than vegetation, but I thought it would be more unique and important for a society to control the growth of their food over controlling rocks. Also, that way I could have stone buildings in this world that no one would possibly be able to destroy or use against the protagonists, which eliminated some plot holes.

Blue The ability to create and manipulate water
I always wanted the main country of Belwar to be by the coast, so I thought a lot about how people fish and function near the ocean. Thus, I knew I wanted blue magic to be water based.

Purple – The ability to manifest weapons, shields, and boundaries
I created this type of magi purely for fight scenes so that even the weapons they used were made of magic and not just steel.

BlackThe ability to camouflage and cast illusion spells
I added camouflaging and illusions to the world of Wickery so that Adraa hiding her identity with a mask made more sense. Once created, I loved inserting details into the world of how people combat and have certain laws again camouflage magic. For example, they use curtains and bells over doorways so people can hear and see the shift in fabric if someone was entering unannounced. It’s these details that I think brought the world a little more to life.

White The ability to create and manipulate ice, snow, and other winter precipitation
From the beginning I wanted Adraa and Jatin’s main powers to be as opposite as possible. And what’s more opposite than fire and ice?

Pink The ability to heal and enchant potions to fight illness
I really love potions and healing elixirs in fantasy worlds, and I wanted my own version of it. But instead of a magical plant or simple cure-all for any illness much of pink magic is brewing herbs and medicines and then adding magic to it.

Here’s a few more insights into the magic system:

  1. Much of the magic system was created with my desire for a very visual magic, especially for fights. I didn’t want spells to be cast and thrown like bullets. I wanted elements being used in creative ways, shields of plated color conjured through spells and glowing smoke rising off their arms. I also wanted a pantheon of Gods. So, in combining those two things the beginning of Cast in Firelight‘s magic system was born.
  2. The logistics of the system: At the age of nine it is determined if one will be a witch or wizard by whether they have marks on your wrists (another very visual marker for the world and for readers). At around sixteen one’s forte is determined, which means all spells are filtered through that one color, another marker for people of this world to see where a witch or wizard’s biggest magical strengths lie.
  3. In Cast in Firelight the magic system in many ways works like school with magic being a combination of talent and passion. I find with a lot of fantasy centered on magical powers one is born into or obtains one certain power. But I wanted a more academic studious magic that relied not just on genetics and raw talent, but the dedication and ability to choose your own passion, just like in real life. Not all scientists and mathematicians were gifted in that field at the start. Just like not all writers are gifted wordsmiths when they first starting out (I know I wasn’t). Like many professions it’s through study and developing one’s craft that one gets better. So instead of every person having only one ability, in this world with enough talent and perseverance you can be multitalented, and in many ways pick your own forte color.
  4. There are some stereotypes that come with each magic forte, but because fortes are determined through dedication, talent, passion, and will, many people break the mold and it isn’t based on personality like in other stories. The Gods on the other hand? Now, that’s a different story.

Fun Facts about Fencing

Directly related to the magic system is using the magic for fight scenes. But some of the other fighting techniques comes from my experience fencing in college.

  • I went to the University of Texas at Austin, where I majored in both English and Advertising, met my husband, and learned how to fence.
  • I fenced saber, a weapon noted for its speed and ability to slash as well as stab to gain points. One of the big reasons I chose it was because at the time the team needed more women saber fencers. (The three different fencing weapons are epee, foil, and saber.) And I’ve always picked activities I thought more unique and undervalued. For instance, out of all the band and orchestra instruments I selected the viola in grade school and kept playing all the way to senior year. In my high school they needed more girls to join Colorguard, a sport that spins flags, rifles, and sabers to bring visual interpretation to marching band music. Something in me likes the challenge and likes to support things others seem to not be drawn to.
  • My husband and I fenced together, both saberist. There were many times I had to fight him before and after we started dating, but our first day back at practice after our first date we were in a bout. He won and I remember shaking his hand at the end and pulling him close and saying, “That was our first fight.”
  • We actually first started dating right after a huge club tournament. And much of how we got to know each other was talking, jesting, and having fun at fencing practice. Much of the banter in Cast in Firelight comes from my husband and I’s relationship and dynamic. We like to playfully tease one another and it seems to have seeped into my writing.
  • There’s a moment in Cast in Firelight where the two characters spar and though they use magic, much of the emotional drive to win in the scene came from fencing. Also, in that scene there is a moment were swords are locked together and there’s been a time or two where my saber guard has locked with an opponent and it felt like a scene out of a book.
  • In most of the tournaments, I was fighting men more than women due to the fact that in Texas and at the time more men gravitate towards saber. Many seemed to underestimate me or hit too hard to prove a point. Some of those matches are mirrored in fight scenes through Adraa’s point of view where she notes how being a woman in a fight changes the dynamics and at times showcases sexism.
  • Overall, while I can’t say the fighting in my debut is a direct correlation to fencing techniques by any means, the emotion and frustration of a fight came from me tapping back into a time where I trained in this sport and fell in love with my own sparing partner.

Cast in Firelight
By Dana Swift
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593124215 | Delacorte BFYR
Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people. Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child. Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet. Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross . . . and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead. Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals . . ? Fiancées . . ? Partners . . ? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

Dana Swift: twitter | instagram

Dream Casting “Breathless:” A Guest Post from Jennifer Niven

We asked author Jennifer Niven (All the Bright PlacesHolding Up the Universe) for a guest post today and she delivered! Not only did she provide an excellent dream cast for an adaptation of her upcoming novel, Breathless, but she also gave us an inside look at how personal Breathless is to her – and how sometimes art seems to imitate life.

Dream Cast

I almost always write my books with actors in mind for the characters. Particularly when the book is so personal—as Breathless is—it helps give me enough objectivity to write the character. Hopefully we will see Breathless on the big screen. If so, my dream is to cast the actors I had in mind while writing the book—assuming, of course, I’d have an unlimited budget and ultimate power to make those decisions!

For Claude Henry, I envision the amazing Sophia Lillis (I Am Not Okay With This). To me, she is Claude— freckles, short red hair, fire, emotional depth, attitude, and all. For the dreamy and charismatic Jeremiah Crew (who was inspired by my own dreamy and charismatic husband), I picture the magnetic Rudy Pankow (Outer Banks) or multi-talented Luke Eisner (Tall Girl).

For Claude’s no-nonsense best friend, Saz, I imagine someone like Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Never Have I Ever). For Claude’s mom, Lauren, I see Alicia Silverstone or Drew Barrymore.

For her dad, Neil, I picture Michael Sheen. For Wyatt Jones, her hometown crush, Reece King or Chance Perdomo (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina).

And as for the young people she befriends on the island—Sofia Hasmik (All the Bright Places) as Wednesday, Ross Lynch (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) as Grady, and an older Keith L. Williams (Good Boys) as Emory. And as Jared I see the person who inspired the character—a real-life reader and friend named Jared whom I wrote into the story. 🙂

Fun Facts

At the end of my senior year of high school, days after I turned eighteen, my dad told me that he and my mom were splitting up. All my life, it had been the three of us—Mom, Dad, me. My parents were everything. And suddenly, my world turned upside down.

Years later, I visited an island off the coast of Georgia to write this book and met my now husband. He is that barefoot boy of nature who inspired Jeremiah Crew. The one who taught me how to find shark teeth. The adventures in the book are adventures my husband and I had while we were falling in love.

So Breathless is personal both to the teenage Jennifer and the adult Jennifer in ways I never saw coming when I first began working on the story of a girl named Claude whose parents separate days after her high school graduation.

Here’s a little breakdown of just some of the ways in which it’s personal…

Then (teen Jennifer):

  • I grew up in a small Midwestern town with a gay best friend. We constantly dreamed of leaving that town and going out into the world together in pursuit of our big dreams.
  • My parents and I moved there from somewhere else when I was ten.
  • Like Claude, I’m an only child.
  • The Joy Ann Cake Shop was the bakery in our town. Their specialty was thumbprint cookies. J
  • A week before my high school graduation, my dad came into my room to tell me that he and my mom were splitting up. He also asked me not to tell anyone about the impending separation, not even my best friend.
  • Five days after graduation, my mom and I moved away from my hometown, my best friend, all my friends, the boy I liked, my dad, my dog, and my home. Whereas Claude and her mom go to a remote GA island for the summer, my mom and I went to the remote NC mountains.
  • That was the summer I had sex for the first time.
  • It was also the summer I really started writing seriously and began finding my voice. (Although instead of a novel, it was a play about Zelda Fitzgerald.)

Now (adult Jennifer):

  • I traveled to Cumberland Island—one of the islands that inspired the setting for the book—and met my husband, Justin Conway. The real-life Jeremiah Crew. (I had named the character long before I met my husband.) The only notable difference—apart from being older than Claude and Miah— is that there was no Wednesday, he didn’t pull me from the water after I’d swum out too far, and we’ve never actually argued.
  • I wrote Jeremiah Crew before I even knew my husband, but in addition to having the same initials, there are so many eerie similarities, almost as if I conjured him—walking barefoot all over the island, similar backstory in terms of family troubles and having to raise his siblings, becoming sober, having to grow up too fast and be responsible at a young age.
  • Every adventure we have in the book (except for the bike riding one) is an adventure my husband and I had while we were falling in love. The fireflies guiding our way through the dark. Wandering the grounds of the ruins at night. Long beach walks under a blood moon. Waiting for the turtles to appear. Sinking into the pluff mud (me in my sundress and rain boots, him in his Ranger Panties, the same shorts Jeremiah wears in the book). Getting trapped in a basement with the ghost of a woman who loves jewelry. All the things we shared with each other when no one else was listening.
  • We agreed from the first day we met to always, always share everything about ourselves, just like Claude and Miah do.
  • He taught me how to hunt for shark teeth by making circles in the sand.
  • He carried me through the creek when the tide came in and the water was too high.
  • There is an inn on Cumberland and ruins on Cumberland, but a lot of the setting—including the Geechee culture— is also inspired by Sapelo Island, where we’ve spent some time as well.
  • Jared is a real person—a devoted reader of All the Bright Places who works at the inn on Cumberland Island.
  • Wednesday is a reader who won an auction to appear as a character in the book.
  • Claude’s relationship with her mom is very similar to mine with my mom. All my life we’ve always been Penny and Jennifer, Jennifer and Penny. The Niven women.
  • Much of the family history of the Blackwoods comes from my own Niven family history.
  • Now my husband and I live part-time in Los Angeles and part-time in coastal Georgia, just fifteen minutes from Cumberland Island by boat. We still go over and hunt for treasure and wade through the pluff mud and walk the beach under blood moons whenever we can. <3

Breathless
By Jennifer Niven
400 Pages | Ages 14+
ISBN 9781524701963 | Knopf Books for Young Readers
Before: With graduation on the horizon, budding writer Claudine Henry is making plans: college in the fall, become a famous author, and maybe–finally–have sex. She doesn’t even need to be in love. Then her dad drops a bombshell: he’s leaving Claude’s mother. Suddenly, Claude’s entire world feels like a lie, and her future anything but under control.
After: Claude’s mom whisks them away to the last place Claude could imagine nursing a broken heart: a remote, mosquito-infested island off the coast of Georgia. But then Jeremiah Crew happens. Miah is a local trail guide with a passion for photography–and a past he doesn’t like to talk about. He’s brash and enigmatic, and even more infuriatingly, he’s the only one who seems to see Claude for who she wants to be. So when Claude decides to sleep with Miah, she tells herself it’s just sex, nothing more. There’s not enough time to fall in love, especially if it means putting her already broken heart at risk.

Jennifer Niven: website | twitter | instagram

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Heather Smith’s Guide to St. John’s, Newfoundland

A pandemic is no time to travel but we’re always dreaming about the next place we’d love to visit when things are safe again. Thanks to Heather Smith, St. John’s, Newfoundland is now high up on our list – it’s the setting for her latest YA novel, Barry Squires, Full Tilt.

Keep scrolling for Heather’s top five reasons to visit St. John’s!

Heather and her husband outside of Fred’s

1. The People

Get off the plane at the St. John’s International Airport and you might bump into a stranger who’ll treat you like a long-lost friend. “How was your flight, my duck? Bit bumpy at the end there, wasn’t it? We got some wicked wind here, I tells ya. Where are ya staying to anyway? The Newfoundland Hotel? Jeez b’y, that’ll cost you a pretty penny. Why don’t you stay with me? Uncle Dwight’s not in the basement anymore, God rest his soul. Don’t worry, I’ve changed the sheets. Purex was only $4.99 at Pipers this week. I got Aunt Bev a bottle too. She doesn’t get out as much as she used to. Not since the accident.”

Newfoundlanders are a hospitable bunch. Chatty too. Over the course of your stay, you’ll be called duck, love, darlin’, hon, trout, and the ubiquitous ‘buddy’ or ‘missus’. Ask a question and you’ll get a life story. Accept a cup of tea and you’ll get a turkey dinner, a tall tale, and a pair of Nan’s handknitted socks. Don’t worry, your confusion over whether you’re a houseguest or a hostage is completely normal. Some would argue it’s part of the experience.

Of course, Newfoundlanders aren’t perfect. You’re sure to meet a hard ticket who’ll call you something unsavoury, but look on the bright side – at least you can return home with a funny story about the dude in Dildo who said you had a face on ya like a boiled boot.

2. The Food

There are a lot of traditional foods in Newfoundland and Labrador and there are many fine restaurants in and around the St. John’s area that present them in new and interesting ways. You wouldn’t believe what some of these places can do with a slice of bologna! Chinched on Bate’s Hill even make their own! They also do a mean charcuterie board that features house made meats, local cheeses, and homemade mustards and pickles. Delicious! Other notable restaurants include Mallard Cottage and Hungry Heart Café. There’s also Chafe’s Landing which just happens to be located in Petty Harbour, the birthplace of Alan Doyle! (If you’re lucky you might get held hostage by some of his kin!)

3. The Landscape

As soon as the plane emerges from the fog you will see the most rugged beauty you’ve ever seen in your whole entire life. (No exaggeration, Newfoundlanders never stretch the truth.) By the way, did I mention that you might meet Gordon Pinsent? He hands out handknitted socks to newcomers at the airport. Nice guy. I shared a Chinched bologna sandwich with him on Signal Hill once. What’s Signal Hill you ask? Read on, my duck!

Newfoundland in the summer

4. The Touristy Stuff

Downtown St. John’s:

The Duke of Duckworth (Get some beer!)
The Ship Inn (Get some more beer!)
Fred’s Records (Get some music!)
Caine’s Deli (Get a cold plate!)
The Golden Tulip (Get some jewellery!)
Nonia (Get some handknitted socks!)

Other places of note:

Signal Hill National Historic Site (Home of Cabot Tower)
The Narrows (the passage from St. John’s Harbour to the Atlantic – stunning views!)
Cape Spear (North America’s most easterly point)
The Rooms (Fabulous museum and art gallery)
Any hike along the East Coast Trail (more spectacular views!)

5. The Weather (Bahahahahahhahaha!)

Don’t worry, it won’t all be RDF*. If you go in the summer, you’ll be sure to get some fine days – enjoy them while you can!

*Rain, drizzle, and fog.


Now that you know what to expect in Newfoundland, make sure you pick up Barry Squires, Full Tilt when it comes out on September 22!

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O’Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John’s, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he’ll nail the audition. And good thing too — it’d be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry’s journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents’ refusal to take his dreams seriously. Thankfully, Barry has the support of a lively cast of characters: his ever-present grandmother, Nanny Squires; his adorable baby brother, Gord; an old British rocker named Uneven Steven; a group of geriatrics from the One Step Closer to God Nursing Home; and Saibal, a friend with whom Barry gets up to no good.

Other books by Heather:

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O’Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she’s learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun’s mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother’s house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family — a family of friends who care.

Chicken Girl
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
Poppy used to be an optimist. But after a photo of her dressed as Rosie the Riveter is mocked online, she’s having trouble seeing the good in the world. As a result, Poppy trades her beloved vintage clothes for a feathered chicken costume and accepts a job as an anonymous sign waver outside a restaurant. There, Poppy meets six-year-old girl Miracle, who helps Poppy see beyond her own pain, opening her eyes to the people around her: Cam, her twin brother, who is adjusting to life as an openly gay teen; Buck, a charming photographer with a cute British accent and a not-so-cute mean-streak; and Lewis a teen caring for an ailing parent, while struggling to reach the final stages of his gender transition. As the summer unfolds, Poppy stops glorifying the past and starts focusing on the present. But just as she comes to terms with the fact that there is good and bad in everyone, she is tested by a deep betrayal.

Heather Smith: website | twitter | instagram

Author Guest Post: Mental Space by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

We’re bringing you a special treat today: a guest post from Me and Banksy author, Tanya Lloyd Kyi! Check out Tanya’s previous posts on Reading with Rendz and The Contented Reader for more insight into her writing process and be sure to keep an eye on her own blog for the final installment tomorrow.


To write a novel, you need two types of time. Time to sit in front of the keyboard, tapping away. And time to let your mind wander, puzzling over characters and playing with plot twists. The problem with the latter is that it looks suspiciously like doing nothing. And if you live, like I do, in a house with a husband and two teenagers, you’re not allowed to do nothing for long.

Can you drive me to the gym? Can these extra friends stay for dinner? And have you seen my black socks? No, not those black socks, the other ones.

I wrote Me and Banksy on a very tight deadline. I loved my characters — passionate and artistic Dominica, fiery Saanvi, and the über-smart but highly unmotivated Holden. But every day I needed to churn out new pages. I desperately needed time to plan and plot. 

Can you sign these field trip forms? Can you proofread my essay? Where did I put my hat? No, not that hat, the other one.

The answer, I found, was bedtime. Not my kids’ bedtimes, because they stay up later than me these days. No, it was my own bedtime. Instead of picking up a book or plugging in an audiobook like usual, I would turn out the light, close my eyes, and imagine myself in Dominica’s world. More often than not, the glimmer of an idea would appear. Sometimes, I’d scribble it down during breakfast.

Can you book me a haircut? Is this a pimple or a wart? Where did I put my backpack? Yes, of course that one.

I recently read a tweet about making use of unclaimed time. The minutes while waiting for the noodles to boil. I’m going to take that advice to heart this year, and see what new ideas appear, and what new stories I can write. I might just find a few more glimmers, tucked between the socks, the hats, and the backpacks.


Me and Banksy is available now! Make sure you’re following Tanya on social media!

TANYA LLOYD KYI: website | twitter

Guest Post: Women’s History Month

Speak a Word for FreedomJanet Willen and Marjorie Gann: March is Women’s History Month in the U.S., a time to honor women who had the courage to speak up when people in power wanted to keep them quiet. We’re celebrating by showcasing Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery, which tells the stories of fourteen of these women, abolitionists past and present.

Nineteenth-century Englishwoman Elizabeth Heyrick felt she had no choice but to omit her name from her pamphlet Immediate, not Gradual Abolition, urging a quick end to slavery. In 1824 neither men nor women wanted to hear what a woman had to say on the topic. That didn’t stop her.

When U.S. President Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862, his first words were, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” The book was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It opened people’s eyes to slavery’s horrors, turned the North against the South and paved the way for the American Civil War.

Nina Smith, one of today’s heroes, heads an organization that works to free young children enslaved in rug factories in Afghanistan, India and Nepal. Some of the kids are forced to sleep near looms and work seventeen-hour days. When Smith started her work, she thought everyone would agree that slavery was wrong, but she found resistance in surprising places.


These women’s stories and more are highlighted in Speak a Word for Freedom. The book is a critical success:

“An inspiring collection of those who have fought and continue to fight against the evil of slavery and an effectively solemn reminder that slavery remains a global plague.” Kirkus Reviews

“A powerful indictment of human rights abuses and tribute to the women who have fought them.” Starred review, Publishers Weekly

We also wrote the award-winning book Five Thousand Years of Slavery.

GIVEAWAY: Enter for your chance to win a copy of Speak a Word for Freedom by filling in the entry form below. US and Canada only, March 21-31, 2016. Winner to be announced on April 1, 2016. Giveaway is now closed! Congratulations to Sheelagh for winning a copy of the book.