Guest Post by Charlie N. Holmberg, author of The Paper Magician

Today I welcome Charlie N. Holmberg to the blog — her just-released young adult debut, The Paper Magician, is already rocking the Kindle bestseller lists! Charlie stopped by to talk about one of the less glamorous tasks faced by a writer, designing promotional materials, and how things didn’t quite go according to plan. Read on:

The making of the bookmarks for The Paper Magician was fun, but also ended up being quite a handful! This is namely due to my publisher’s decision to change the book’s cover literally days after the first set had been printed up. But it all worked out in the end.

Because The Paper Magician is my debut novel, I had never actually designed a bookmark before. That, and I’m not a designer, so I relied heavily on my friend Sara’s skills. (Sara has also done many a commission for me. She’s excellent.) For the bookmark, we decided to include a picture of Ceony, my protagonist. I sent Sara a description of what Ceony looked like, along with a few references pictures, and then got to work on the text.
There is NOT a lot of space on a bookmark for text, let me tell you that. I Googled several bookmark layouts and studied a few designs from fellow 47North authors to get an idea of what I should include. At first Sara and I tried using a logline for the book, but ultimately we went with a very trimmed-down version of the pitch. Trimming that sucker wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done in my life. 😉 I also had to decide what authorly information to include, and ultimately kept it simple: just my website.
For the commission of Ceony, Sara originally tried the idea of her turning into paper, but the graphics weren’t coming out the way we wanted them to, so she used her genius to incorporate dozens of paper cranes. She matched the bookmark background to the cover and played up the snowflake motif to create the winning design:

Then the cover changed, but fortunately we weren’t back to square one. Sara changed the color scheme and had to nix the snowflakes, instead drawing out the diagram-like lines that decorate the second cover. She added some rolling paper effects as well, which I love, and we got bookmark #2!

I really lucked out using Sara as my designer, since she also happens to work for a printing company. 😉 As for the old bookmarks… we’ll just say they’re collector items.


Homegrown in Salt Lake City, Charlie was raised a Trekkie with three sisters who also have boy names. She writes fantasy novels and does freelance editing on the side. She’s a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, and owns too many pairs of glasses.
Amazon purchase page:


Guest Post by Jeff Wheeler: Here There Be Dragons

The great 47North blog swap of 2013 continues! I’m on Jeff Wheeler’s blog today (talking about History’s Mysteries, or where to look for the story) and he is here to tell us how maps help shape his books. Read on:

There is something essential about having a map in a fantasy world. Back during medieval times, a cartographer would reach the edge of their known world and often draw a picture of a dragon or a sea serpent with the label, “Here There Be Dragons”—meaning, in short, “I have no idea what’s over here.”

I write fantasy fiction and maps have always intrigued me and are a key part of my writing process. Just as the story evolves, so do the maps as I continue to build the world and explore new areas. Let me illustrate how this works using the world of Landmoor as an example.

First off, I am not an artist. Sometimes I sketch my maps on my computer and sometimes I sketch it by hand. There needs to be a mix of mountains, forests, valleys, and rivers. There are little stories behind each of the countries and places and how their history fits into the general plot. I like to keep the borders of my worlds rather vague, suggesting that there are places that have not been discovered yet; where the dragons live, so to speak. It gives me flexibility as an author to continue building the world.

When I was writing my novels Landmoor and Silverkin, I was lucky to have a digital artist friend, Reuben Fox, who took my pathetic rendering and transformed it into the lush map you see above. But the maps always start out as black and white in my head or on the page.

Another question I get asked is how I choose all the place names. This is part of the creative process that I really enjoy and I rarely have trouble coming up with new names. I have a notebook where I write down different character and place names when the flashes of inspiration strike and I often consult that list to pick and choose. I also study maps of this world to be inspired by countries, cities, rivers, and mountains that exist today. But in each of my worlds, there are usually a few key locations which are part of the storyline, the pivot around which the plot rotates.

Take Landmoor—for example. When I was first creating that world, the plot centered around a small fortified town near the edge of a swamp and close to the sea—kind of like a medieval New Orleans. That was the first location I crafted in the world. A moor is a swamp. I stuck the name “land” to it and liked how it looked on paper (I was fourteen when I first imagined that story). I’m always combining words and testing out how they fit together. As the plot of the world began to develop, I realized that there were three different political powers struggling for control over the valley between the two mountain ranges. Because the valley has limited ground, it caused military and political tensions between them. Landmoor became a crossroads for this conflict and provided a place where the tensions intersected and flared up. Add a secret magic hidden in the swamps, some powerful sorcerers manipulating the kingdoms, and soon you have a situation ripe with tension and conflict in which to plop the main character, the son of an eminent trading family who longs to escape his social class and explore the kingdoms outside his stifling cultural expectations.

Now, even though maps are so important to me, I’ve often been asked why I didn’t include one in the world of the Muirwood Trilogy. I do have maps of this world and use them for reference, but I did not include any with the novels deliberately. You see, in Landmoor the main character, Thealos, comes from a trading family and he knows the world he grew up in. He’s familiar with the borders and the politics. In Muirwood, the main character is a kitchen servant who only knows the grounds of Muirwood Abbey where she was abandoned as a baby. As she leaves that world, she is completely lost in a vast world full of locations and politics she knows nothing about. Readers explore the world through Lia’s eyes and there is no looking ahead, trying to use the map to predict the plot or where she may end up. In the first book, she explores the land around her beloved Abbey. In the second book, she gets to see more the kingdom she lives in. In the third book, she leaves her kingdom and travels to another. I left the reader blind on purpose.

One of the neatest things about creating a new fantasy world is that I don’t determine everything in advance. I use a general map as a framework for where the action will happen. But often as the characters wander around a bit, I weave in elements from my own personal travels or places I wish to travel someday.

Let me go back to Muirwood for a moment. I knew the main character, Lia, was a scullion abandoned at an Abbey kitchen. I began searching Google for medieval kitchens to help inspire me. I found a striking image of the Abbot’s kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey in England. I even went so far as to e-mail the groundskeeper and ask for pictures from the inside, which he generously e-mailed to me. On the Abbey’s website, I found an image of the grounds:

On that map, I discovered delightful details, like the Cider Orchard which played a prominent role in the story. This was the beginning of the world. Then I hunted down an ancient map of Glastonbury and the environment around and that research led to other opportunities for topography, climate, and story ideas. Before I had crafted the first chapters, exploring this map inspired many of the scenes that would later happen.

World-building doesn’t happen all at once. While mine begins with a map and a general understanding of the plot and characters and how they will mesh together, I explore the world with my characters leading the way and invent the things that need to be filled in.

Currently, I’m writing the last book of the Mirrowen Trilogy. Yes, it also started with a hand-sketched map. On the northern edge of the map is a scribbled area known as The Scourgelands. For the first two books of the series, I’ve hinted at how dangerous and perilous it is. Now I’ve dragged my characters into the midst of it and am trying to make the journey fit the hype. It’s a land of nightmares and forgotten magic. I can’t wait to drag my readers there next. Perhaps I should post a sign outside that reads, “Here There Be Dragons.”


Jeff Wheeler (@muirwoodwheeler) is a writer from 7-10PM on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, he works for Intel Corporation, is a husband and the father of five kids, and a leader in his local church. He lives in Rocklin, California. When he isn’t listening to books during his commute, he is dreaming up new stories to write.
More information about how he became a writer is found on his website:
Facebook page:
You can find out more about Jeff’s books on his Amazon page


Meet Fellow 47North Author Steve McHugh!

Today I interview fellow 47North author Steve McHugh. Steve writes fantasy, lives in England, and self-published his first two books before they were picked up by 47North. Read on:

Q: Tell me about your books, Steve – what drew you to writing a dark urban fantasy series?

A: My books are Crimes Against Magic and Born of Hatred, the first 2 books in the Hellequin Chronicles. They’re about the life of Nathan (Nate) Garrett, a 1600 year old sorcerer who used to work for Merlin. Each book has flashbacks to a time in his past, which connects with his current story in some way.

I’ve always been drawn to dark fantasy of one kind or another, and when the Hellequin books started to take shape, I knew that was genre they’d be in. I couldn’t have characters from mythology, murder, mayhem and an entire part of the world hidden from human view, without it being on the dark side. 

Q: How did signing with 47North come about?

A: It happened pretty quickly. I had an email from them in Feb asking if they could talk to me about us working together, and then a phone call the next day to discuss everything. A week later they offered me a 3 book deal to republish my first 2 books and then publish my 3rd next year. I’ve been working with them since then.

Q: What will change in the books for the 47North re-release?

A: There are a few changes, things to make the story flow better or make a character a little more interesting. In a way these are my director’s cuts.

Q: Where do you get your best writing done — home, coffeehouse, other?

A: My office is at home, so I get most of my work done there, usually when my 3 daughters are in bed. Otherwise I get harassed constantly or have to settle some dispute or another.

Q: Do you outline your books in advance or are you the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer?

A: Somewhere in the middle. I know the beginning and end and I’ve got a pretty good idea what happens between the two, but I don’t map out every chapter. I tend to have an idea of where I want the end of the chapter to be and then I see what happens. If I mapped everything out in advance, I’d only change it all anyway.

Q: Favorite quote from one of your own books?

A: I’ve got a few favourites, but they spoil the plot somewhat, so my favourite non-spoiler is in Born of Hatred. It’s between Nate and Olivia, an agent for Avalon.

Olivia forced a smile. “You really are not what I’d expected.”

“I’m an enigma wrapped inside a riddle, all bundled in something quite wonderful.”

“It’s nice to see you have a healthy opinion of yourself.”

“It’s a burden I live with every day.”

Q: Just because I’m curious about how other authors function — do you read your Amazon and Goodreads reviews?

A: I try not to because once in a while you’ll get a bad one that’s either nasty, or you really disagree with and you’ll feel crappy. So, I tend to stay away from reading reviews too often. I pop over every once in a while and see how they’re going, but I try not to make a habit of it.

Q: Best thing about the writing life? Worst thing?

A: The best thing is seeing your idea crafted before you, having it come to life. But also, having people who have enjoyed your work tell you so. That’s an amazing experience.

The worst? Deadlines. Deadlines suck. Especially when you get 3 or 4 in a very short period of time. And when that deadline is editing based, it sucks even more.

Q: E-books or paper ones?

A: E-books. These days I don’t have the room for shelves full of books, mostly because my shelves are already full of books. That’s not to say I don’t read paper books any more, but I’m more likely to pick up an e-book.

Q: Finally, what are you working on now?

A: I’m currently working on book 4 of the Hellequin Chronicles, Prison of Hope, and a novella, Infamous Reign, which takes place in the same world as the Hellequin books.

You can find out more about Steve and his books on FacebookTwitter, and his website,