Friday, 10 February 2017

The Peacock's Pearl

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. If you're not familiar with this blog, scroll down to see what it's all about.

 The Peacock's Pearl (Book #1 in the Cat Mahal is Magic series) Post 41

 The Peacock's Pearl (2016) is the only book I've ever written that sprang from a cover. That's not odd, since covers generally don't appear until the book is close to publication. In this case, I was trawling through a pre-made cover site before doing a workshop on self-publishing for a writers' group when I spotted the cover you see on the left. It had place-holder text, but for some reason I just took to it. For one thing, it stood out on the site because it wasn't photographic or abstract. It was uncluttered.

I looked at it for a bit and then a name popped into my head; Cat Mahal. It's not the first time a name has just popped in like that, but it was the first time it ever did it in response to a cover. I soon found I knew a lot about Cat and her story, but there was a problem; she felt like a series character to me, with a quest that would cover multiple books. If I bought the cover, which I wanted to do, I would be tied to a single book, because series covers should look like series covers. I thought about things, and came back a few times to revisit the cover.  I looked at a few others that might work with my developing idea. I still liked this cover. 

After a bit I put things in the too-hard basket and settled down to write the book. I intended a snappy 20K story for the YA audience, and I'd already decided the books would follow a quest or treasure hunt, that Cat would be hunting and that a male counterpart would be after the same things. I wanted alliterative titles, in the same format, and I decided to go for a gemstone theme. Now, how about The Prince's Pearl, The Duke's Diamond and the Rajah's Ruby? How about The Pirate's Pearl? The Dastardly Diamond? The Evil Emerald? The Peacock's Pearl?  I liked that, so that's where I began. (It wasn't until much later that I found out there really are peacock pearls...)

Cat Mahal is an ethical witch, and the descendant of ethical witches. She is also a suburban teenager dealing with friends, her professor mother, an unknown father, an annoying distant cousin, her self-willed familiar and her peculiar 5Xgreat grandmother, Elizabeth, who was born in the 1700s, but who, although kind-of-dead, looks twenty-five and is still very much around and running an on-line jewellery business. It is Elizabeth's actions in her long-ago teens that lead Cat into her quest. 

The snappy 20K ended up over 60K, because the story, as stories do, became more complex than I expected, covering my own take on magic, ethics, complicated family tree research, two centuries of history and more secrets than you could poke a wand at. (And no, Cat doesn't use a wand, or a broomstick and although Elizabeth has a cauldron she uses it for storing gemstones.) 

I finally tied up the story on a bit of a cliffhanger and then returned to the pre-made cover site. I expected "my" cover would be sold, but it wasn't. Then I had an idea. I contacted the site and asked if it was (a) legal and (b) ethical if I used the same cover more than once, simply changing the title. Then I had an even better idea. Could I use the same cover with different background colour? As it turned out the artist was willing to ring the changes for me. I priced six variations, but when I got the costs the artist had assumed I wanted six plus the original. Okay, I thought. Seven books make a good series. So, I bought the variations as a job lot. This gave me covers for The Peacock's Pearl, The Drake's Diamond, The Raven's Ruby, The Swan's Sapphire, The Tiger's Topaz, The Eagle's Emerald and The Owl's Opal. You can see the covers here. Now I just have six more books to write.

Just for fun, I made a Pinterest board for the series. That is here

The first book is available as ebook here and paperback here or from Amazon . It is available from other on-line shops too and (rather to my bemusement) from eBay. PDF review copies are available from sodgers(AT) 

The second book, The Drake's Diamond, is a wip at present. With any luck I'll get it done in time for it to have its own entry later in this blog.

About the Blog

Sally is Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. 


  1. I love the first book and want all the rest! Following on Pinterest! Sharing too.

  2. Thanks! I'm hoping to get The Drake's Diamond out soon. If you feel like writing a review that would be lovely.


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