Posts Tagged ‘Shadowmagic’

Shadowmagic is on the Kindle

12,October, 2009

It looks like I have definitely joined the 21st century.  Shadowmagic is available on the Amazon Kindle for $5.81.

I use a Sony ebook reader and i love it.  If your thinking of giving ebook readers a try – go for it.  You will be surprised how much you will like it.
John L

The Celtic Balloon Knot

26,September, 2009

I just spent a couple of days at the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ convention in Southport England.  I did two performances and as part of my contract I got a table in the dealer’s hall to sell my novel Shadowmagic.  The dealers hall at a magic convention is a strange and wondrous place.  People selling all sorts of magic devices from: collapsible animatronic bunnies, to full sized guillotines.  All day magicians picked up my novel and asked, “What does it do?”  By the end of the day I was screaming, “It’s a book!  You read it!”  I sold about 70 of them.

In the stall next to me, selling balloons for balloon animal twisting, was latex sculpture extraordinaire – Gerry Luff.  He saw the Celtic knot on the cover of Shadowmagic and sculpted it with balloons – have a look.  Thanks Jerry.

Balloon knot

I’m a published journalist now.

14,September, 2009

I really have no idea where they got that picture – I have no memory of it ever being taken.

Little Ideas

31,August, 2009

John Scalzi’s wonderful science fiction blog, Whatever, has a section called Big Idea, where authors discuss the idea that sparked their novels.  I submitted an essay for Big Idea but John said that since Shadowmagic  is published in the UK that his American readers would find it too difficult to buy it (even though it’s sold through Oh well, Whatever’s loss is Gratuitous Socks’ gain.

Here is my essay   Little Ideas.

Paperback cover 3

Little Ideas

There was no Big Idea for Shadowmagic, just a lot of little ones that added up.

I have always loved first person narratives about a serious situation where the main character keeps his/her sense of humour: Corwin in Nine Princes in Amber, Jim diGriz in the Stainless Steel Rat and (even though, John, I read your book after I wrote Shadowmagic) John Perry in Old Man’s War.  For my first Little Idea, I wanted to create a character like that.

My second Little Idea was to try and create a book that would be as captivating for my 12 year old son as Roger Zelazny’s Amber series was for me at that age.  While writing Shadowmagic I spent half my time trying not to just transcribe Nine Princes in Amber – hopefully I succeeded.  What I did take away was a first person character that was transported into a fantastic situation where he didn’t have a clue as to what was going on.   The reader learns at the same time as the character.

Little Idea three, came from a video game I used to play on the Atari ST – Dudgeon Master.  DN had an interactive map that only revealed new areas of the dudgeon after you found them.   The idea of a land that appeared fully formed only after the rightful king found it was a big part of the first plotting of Shadowmagic.  As the book became fully formed, that idea almost disappeared.  But if I can give a reader just a tiny experience of the feeling I had, in the wee hours of the morning, as I screamed at the sight of a giant dungeon rat appearing on my monitor – I’ve done my job.

Four, Macbeth.  Don’t worry folks, there are no thys and forsooths in Shadowmagic but the idea of a character that allows a soothsayer’s prophesy to shape their life -only to find that the prophesy was completely different to what was expected – has always intrigued me.

Five, and this is a biggie, was a play I saw, years ago, in a little theatre in Cork, Ireland.  It was called Women in Arms and I don’t even know who wrote it.  It was a play about a group of people who told stories from Irish mythology to keep their spirits up.  From that I learned of the ancient Irish texts like: The Tain and the Ulster Cycle.  Stories, that I think, put the Arthurian stuff to shame.  Through my love of Irish mythology I found the myth from the O’Neil clan about how the Red Hand of Ulster came to be on the flag of Northern Ireland.  Telling it would be a spoiler but trust me – it’s a good one.

Six, I wanted Conor, my main character, to realise that his father was much more than he thought.  I’m a dad- cut me a break.

Lastly, I wanted it to have humour.  I make my living as a stand-up comedian and humour is literally my life.  I’m a firm believer that there is no situation so dire or so tragic that still doesn’t allow or need a good joke.  It gets me in trouble at funerals sometimes but I still hold firm to that philosophy.

I wrote Shadowmagic just to see if I could.  I didn’t even expect it to be published but the response I have received from it has been amazing.  It’s given me faith in my writing and (if I may be overly dramatic) it has changed my life.  I won’t make that claim for you readers but I’m sure you will like it.

John Lenahan


Product Description from

A Lord of the Rings for the 21st century. Only a lot shorter. And funnier. And completely different. Conor thought he was an average teenager. OK, so his father only had one hand, spoke to him in ancient languages and was a bit on the eccentric side but, other than that, life was fairly normal. Until, that is, two Celtic warriors on horseback and wearing full armour appear at his front door and try to kill him. After that, things get pretty weird. Shadowmagic is a fantasy adventure for young adults (although grown ups will like it too). Written by one of the most popular magicians in the country it brings a fresh approach to the genre and will have a broad appeal beyond the fantasy sections.

About the Author
John Lenahan is a popular TV magician who became the first person in 85 years to be expelled from the Magic Circle. He has had a prime time BBC1 TV show called ‘Secrets Of Magic’ and also a BBC2 series ‘Stuff The White Rabbit’. He was the voice of the toaster in ‘Red Dwarf’ and has made guest appearances on numerous variety shows. He has toured with Jack Dee, Lenny Henry and Victoria Wood. Shadowmagic was an award-winning podcast novel prior to being signed to Harper Collins

Have a look at Shadowmagic’s  reviews on

Danny & Me

29,August, 2009

Britain’s finest broadcaster, Mr. Danny Baker was kind enough to have me back on his BBC Radio London show to promote Shadowmagic.

danny baker

Have a listen here if you missed it and then never miss another one of Danny’s shows again.


Sanity has returned, Shadowmagic is no. 24

20,August, 2009

OK, it looks like sanity has returned.  An hour after telling everyone I was the no 4 – Most Read Book This Week on  Word must have gotten back to the Bookarmy website programmer.  I can imagine him spitting Doritos as he shouted, “What the…”

Bookarmy logoSo Shadowmagic is now no. 27.  Still pretty respectable me thinks.  The two above me are: Lovely Bones and Slaughterhouse 5 and the two below me are:  The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Enders Game.

I’ve never read Lovely Bones but the other three are some of my all time favourites.

There is still time to sign up for bookarmy and rate your favourite books – hint hint.

No. 4 baby!

19,August, 2009

According to the four most read books this week are:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Shadowmagic by John Lenahan

How cool is that!

John L

More of me talking about… well, me.

7,August, 2009

From here’s me spouting on about marketing a book in the Internet age.  I should have combed my hair.

me about me

Shadowmagic in Paperback Aug. 6th

26,May, 2009

Shadowmagic is out in paperback here in the UK on August 6th.   Here’s the new cover.paperback cover


I’ve been brainstorming about ways to drum up publicity.  The other day it occurred to me that since I got my publishing deal by podcasting on the internet, that maybe the science and technology sections of the newspapers would be interested.  Also the readers of tech sections probably read more fantasy then the readers of the book/arts section.  I decided to call the London Time’s technology editor and try to pitch him a story.

The Time’s switchboard put me through to the Tech Department.  A woman answered and I went straight into my spiel.  “Hello I’m John Lenahan.  I’m the author of a novel that at first no publisher was interested in and then I podcasted it on the net and …”  I went on like this for about four minutes.  She periodically tried to stop me but I plowed forward. 

Finally she said. “This is the tech department.” 

I explained that I knew that and told her that I felt the tech readers were more my audience than the arts readers. 

That’s when she said, “You don’t understand, this is the tech department.  We’re the people you call if your computer stops working or you spill coffee on your keyboard – but good luck with your book.”

I wrote Shadowmagic just to see if I could.

13,November, 2008

This is long – too long – but I just didn’t know how to make it shorter.  It’s the answer to an emailed question from a young author.  He asked – How did you get your book published?  I started writing and before I knew it – I had typed close to 2000 words.  You have been warned.



I wrote Shadowmagic just to see if I could.  About five years ago I read a book that said, “If you write 1000 words a day, at the end of nine months – you can’t not have a novel.”  The book went on to say it won’t necessarily be a good novel but it will be a novel.  I decided to give it a go. 

I don’t want to give you the impression that the first time I put my finger to a keyboard that I wrote a novel.  I am no stranger to writing.  I’m a professional stand up-comedian/magician with several one man shows and eight television programs under my belt and I am also a pretty good journal writer.  Still, writing a novel is on another level.  I truly believe if anyone knew how much work it takes to write a novel they would never embark on it in the first place.  The only thing that keeps me writing my second one is the knowledge that I have actually done it before and it didn’t kill me.

I made writing my 1000 words the priority of the day – easier for me than most since much of my work is at night.  Sometimes I could cruise through the dreaded 1000 before 9:30 am.  Other times it was dark and every word took minutes to write.  I got through the hard times by allowing myself to be crap and reminding myself that I could fix anything later on.  Ironically, the work that came out in slow painful dribs and drabs was the stuff that needed the least rewriting.  The material that flew out so fast that I could hardly see my fingers, was usually a mess. 

About 10,000 words from the end of the first draft I started slipping on my daily word count.  Prior to that I had been religious about it but as I got close to the end I started dogging it.  Anything, changing the oil in my car or sorting my sock drawer, became more important than sitting down to write.  My wife noticed and asked me why – she forced me to question myself and I found the answer.  I had fallen in love with this book and its characters and I subconsciously realised that when it was done others would read it and they would judge it – and me.  I was afraid.  Luckily this realization came at the same time as a very cushy job on a cruise ship.  10 days on a 5 star luxury liner, cruising the Norwegian fiords – and I only had to work two nights.  My word count soared to over 2000 words a day.  I got so engrossed in my writing that meals became intrusions and tears flew freely down my cheeks when a character died.  I typed “THE END” and in a daze walked into the atrium of the ship.  A passenger, I had made friends with earlier in the cruise, saw me and said, “John would you like a glass of champagne?”  How perfect is that?

Rewriting was a joy not a chore.  Firstly I didn’t have to do that much.  Each night I read my 1000 words to my 12 year-old son in bed.  I wore a camping lamp on my head and wielded a red pen.  His bedtime stories were my first proofreads.  Every morning I would start by typing my corrections from the previous day – it got my fingers on the keys – often that’s half the writing battle.

Finally I was ready to send it out – but to who?  I didn’t want to just go through the Writer’s Yearbook and pick out an unknown agent on speck.  I had had enough trouble in my show-business career with crap agents screwing up my reputation and I didn’t want to settle myself with someone that talked a good talk but couldn’t sell a classified to a free newspaper.  I remembered that a colleague of mine was married to a woman who was in publishing.  I picked her brains and she recommended two agents.  The first one wrote me back and said that she wouldn’t read it because she had no experience in the fantasy market.  Saying that, she did read it and wrote back a couple of weeks later saying that really liked it but still couldn’t tell if it was good because it’s the first fantasy novel she’d ever read.  I thought that was fair enough.  The second agent read it, liked it and passed it along to the young adult specialist in his office.  She turned it down.  I found both of these experiences to be heartening. 

Since I was out of recommendations I decided to give something a try.  I found out who the UK editor in chief of Orbit was.  (Orbit is Time Warner’s science fiction press.)  I wrote telling him who I was, explained that I was looking for an agent and asked if he could recommend one he liked working with.  He called me at home the next morning – unfortunately he woke me up.  The night before I had been performing at London’s Comedy Store and hadn’t gotten home until after 3am – I was not at my best.  He recommended an agent he liked but also invited me to send him a synopsis and a couple of chapters.  I didn’t have a synopsis so I sent him the whole thing – I never heard back.  Lesson learned – do what they ask you to do.   

I sent a letter off to the agent saying that I had been recommended to get in touch with her from the editor of Orbit.  (A great opening line for a letter.)  I asked her if she would like to read my manuscript.  It took six months for her to write back saying she wasn’t reading any new manuscripts – six months!  Not that I noticed – my life had taken an unexpected turn that pushed writing and everything else into a very distant back seat.

My wife became ill and died.  (You can read my account of her death on my blog  There you will find a piece called ‘Four Years Ago Today‘.  It was one of the most difficult things I have ever penned and I’m quite proud of it.)

After her death I took a novel writing course at a reputable continuing education school in London called City Lit.  To be honest, I took the course partly just as an excuse to get out of the house – I wasn’t expecting much.  The course turned out to be wonderful and dreadful.  Socially it was one of the best things I have ever done, the teacher and many of my fellow students are still my close friends.  Technically it helped me with the minutia of writing – vocabulary and grammar details that I too frequently gloss over.  Inspirationally it was a nightmare.  The class was full of literary hopefuls that looked at fantasy as the equivalent of an Archie comic book.  They didn’t like my Shadowmagic.

Finally I decided that Shadowmagic just wasn’t any good.  Friends and relatives said they liked it but – what else would they say?  I thought it was good but then I had to admit that there were billions of awful novels out there that are written by people who were convinced that they had typed a masterpiece.  I resolved to stick to comedy – at least I knew I was good at that.

Then I discovered – a website devoted to authors reading their own work and podcasting it in a serialised form.  Shadowmagic was just sitting around collecting dust – why not podcast it as a free audio book? 

I had friends that worked for BBC Radio and with their advice I bought a nice microphone and a digital recorder.  I practiced my speaking and audio editing technique by reading Jack London short stories until I got the sound right, then I recorded five chapters and posted it to podiobooks.

From day one the response was phenomenal.  Fan mail flooded in.  One woman wrote every week trying to guess what would happen in the next chapter.  The act of reading Shadowmagic aloud proved to be a great proofread and prompted me to write another draft.  It took 6 months to finally post the last chapter – by the end Shadowmagic was voted no.1 out of the three hundred or so books on

With my faith in myself and my writing restored I again looked for a publisher.  At a podcasting convention I was recommended a newish small publisher called The Friday Project that specialised in turning blogs into books.  Instead of sending them a manuscript I sent them a memory stick with an MP3 of me reading the book.  Scott Pack the editor of TFP wrote me and said, “I’ve just listened to two chapters and I don’t want to listen any more – I want to read it.”  I got on the underground and he had the manuscript by that afternoon.

Scott chose to publish it.  There was no advance but the royalty percentage was higher than with other publishers, plus he wanted to start with a limited edition hardback.  The clincher to the deal was that, even though the Friday Project was a small house, their marketing and distribution was done through Pan McMillan, one of the largest publishers in the country.  The best of both worlds: a personal relationship with a small company, and access to a big corporate distribution network. 

Scot only asked for one editorial change – he wanted another chapter.  Shadowmagic is a fantasy adventure loosely based on Irish mythology.  My protagonist Conor is thrown into a series of adventures and Scott felt that he needed one more.  He told me I didn’t have to do it but when your first editor asks you to jump, the response should be, “How high?”  I had done some work on Shadowmagic 2 and stole a story line from there.  But as I slotted it into the book, its repercussions quaked through the plot.  After writing over 20,000 words I realised that I was heading for a complete rewrite.  I actually came as close as picking up the phone to tell Scott I wasn’t going to do it, when I had a new idea.  I wrote a 5000 word chapter in two days that actually helps the book.  The other stuff has been safely tucked back into book 2.

The book was slated to be published in the middle of March 2008.  By February the book was proofed and typeset – ready to be printed.  With the support of my podcasting fans and through the efforts of The Friday Project, the special edition run of 1000 had sold 800 copies in pre-order.  I was ecstatic.  Well I was until The Friday Project went bankrupt.  There I was with a sold out hardback first run and my publisher didn’t have enough money to pay for it to be printed.

What followed involved a lot of alcohol and wallowing in self-pity while I daily googled the net for rumours about TFP being saved or bought out.  Finally after losing five years of my life to liver damage, The Friday Project has been resurrected from the ashes as a part of Harper Collins.  Only a handful of authors were asked to rejoin and I’m please to say that I was one.  The hardback of Shadowmagic was published in September and is almost sold out.  The paperback is due for a big launch on St. Patrick ‘s Day 2009.


John Lenahan