Veiled Release Week

veiled_front mech.inddAnd we’re almost there!  Veiled is coming out in just a few days, on Tuesday the 4th for the US edition and Thursday the 6th for the UK one.

Release days are always a little strange for me, as I’m usually so wrapped up in the next book that it comes as a bit of a surprise to be reminded that I’ve got a release of the last one.  This one’s no exception – I’m just finishing up the edits for Burned, which should be done by this weekend.   After which it’s on to planning Alex Verus #8!

In other news, there’s another early review of Veiled on Fantasy Book Review, and I’ve got an interview up on Writing Forums.  I’ll put up some more as they come in.

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Ask Luna #50

From: Ivar

Hi Luna,

I hope you are doing well and progressing nicely with your training! I’ve read through all of the previous questions and I see that most people treat you like a knowledge repository for the magic world, but few ever ask about you and everyone else. So, I’d like to ask a bunch of those types of questions!

What genres of music do you like? Tv Shows? Movies? Books?

Music – pretty much the usual stuff. TV and movie-wise, I used to watch anime and stuff like Game of Thrones, but these days I just don’t have the time. As for reading, I used to do it a lot at school, stopped for a while, then recently I’ve gotten into it again, but now it’s mostly programme-related, books on spells and magic theory and things like that.

Has your curse ever given any inanimate objects “bad luck?” Ex. You need a new mobile phone every couple months because your curse shorts it out.

Yes, and it was INCREDIBLY annoying. For the longest time I had to only have the cheapest, crappiest brick-type mobiles because the damn things never lasted more than a month or two.

Now that your curse is more in control can you do things like go to amusement parks or go to the movies? I hope you guys do more than play board games in Alex’s flat!

Amusement parks – oh god no. With what I can do, you really think I want to be around something like a roller-coaster?

We do go to the movies sometimes though. Usually it’s me, Vari, and Anne, and sometimes Alex as well.

Why doesn’t Alex use his divination to win the lottery a little while before it’s drawn and become super rich?

Because his divination wouldn’t work on lotteries that far in advance, and he’s got enough money already.

Do you or any of the others have middle names?

Sure.

Are you a fan of puns?

No, they’re annoying.

Finally, and I apologize for this, but I couldn’t resist asking one of those knowledge repository questions out of curiosity. (Feel free to ignore it)

Do gravity mages have enough control over objects affected by their power to do something crazy like rip a satellite out of orbit to strike their foes? I would think you’d need a lot of control to make sure it landed in the place you wanted it to be.

In theory, yeah. But I’m almost sure it’d be well outside their range, so unless they had some way of getting up into orbit too . . .

Thank you very much for doing this and I hope I didn’t cause you too much trouble.

All the best,
Ivar

That was kind of fun, actually. Makes a change from all the technical stuff.

P.S. I envy your patience and ability to deal with all the truly horrendous grammar in the past.

Appreciate it.

From: Wodden

Dear Luna,

I hope you have been well in the months since I last communicated with you. I have recently readdressed the stories and am once more enthralled – I await the next volume with a great deal of anticipation.

Only the one question (or questions on a single theme) for now:

You have mentioned “spell lists” a number of times. The impression that I get is that, when it comes to the number of spells known, the “list” would actually be quite short for the vast majority of mages, certainly so for elementalists or elementalist hybrids. Clearly the “spell list” for a diviner like Alex is very short (2-3 “spells) whereas for a mage of a type with lots of possible nuance (Life or Mind for example) it may be far longer. Are “spell lists” as much a reflection of mage rank/title as raw power?

From my position as a non-mage outsider, I have thrown together a theoretical “spell list” that I imagine might be reflective of a theoretical “storm mage” (a type of hybrid that you have previously dealt with briefly).

With my best guesswork, I thought a “blade” spell (lightning bolt), a defensive shield (electricity/air combo, about as effective as a fire shield against physical attacks), flight (air movement spell, limitation outside only), a couple of “wind rush/whirwind” type utility spells, the ability to influence storms (weather magic – size, duration, ferocity, direction of travel etc) and possibly a “weather prediction” sense. Does that sound about right as an example of a “spell list” or am I being reductionist?

Sorry for the long winded enquiry and once again you have my eternal gratitude for answering not only my own questions but those of us all.

Spell lists are kind of complicated, and mostly they come down to experience more than power. New mages don’t know much about how to manipulate their magic, so they use it in really crude ways – dump a lot of energy somewhere and call it a day, that kind of thing. The more time and practice they put in, the more they refine it and the more different uses they come up with.

But it also depends on what you consider a different spell (which mages don’t agree on, by the way). Take divination – Alex can protect himself by looking ahead into the short-term futures to dodge attacks, and he can also guarantee he hits a target by picking out the futures in which a shot lands. So are those two different spells, or not? Some people would say they’re both precognition, it’s just that one’s defensive and one’s offensive. But according to Alex they’re pretty different skills: you can be good at one without being good at the other. The type of magic they’re drawing on is the same, but you get a really different result. Then you get the opposite, where the type of magic is different, but the end result is really similar, like a fireball as opposed to an incineration burst. Are those different spells? Most mages would say they are, but maybe not.

So the example spell list you came up with for storm magic could work, and if someone told me they could do that, I’d buy it. But other mages might structure those spells totally differently – they might think of the blade spell as being totally different from a lightning bolt spell, but consider their flight and wind blast effects to be basically the same thing.

Anyway, hope that made some kind of sense. Like I said, it’s complicated.

From: Jeffrey

Dear Ms. Mancuso,

Have you ever visited Italy?

-Jeff

I used to go for holidays as a kid. Went again on my own one last time after I left school. Haven’t gone back.

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Veiled First Review from Publishers Weekly

With the release date of Veiled drawing swiftly closer (that’s August 4th in the US, or August 6th on this side of the pond) here’s the first review, a nice one from Publishers Weekly:

Jacka continues his consistently smart and exciting urban fantasy series, set in present-day London, with this finely crafted sixth installment (after Hidden). Series protagonist Alex Verus, a diviner who can see multiple futures, is grappling with long- and short-term problems . . . As usual, Jacka’s intelligent extrapolations of magic form the basis for a convincing story that features Alex’s prickly relations with his friends and allies—and that shows how magical powers complicate moral choices rather than simplifying them. Fortunately, Alex is as clever as he is cheeky, a sympathetic and daring grappler with ethical dilemmas.

Full link can be found here, but be warned, it contains spoilers!

In other news, I’ve just started work on the edits for Burned.  Luckily they’re nice and short, so I should be able to wrap them up and start planning work on Alex Verus #8 shortly.

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Ask Luna #49

From: Joe

Hi Luna! I was wondering whst Talsid and other council mages think about being exposed in the books? Are they even more upset with Alex, do they think normals will consider it fiction so they are unconcerned, were names and identities changed to prevent identification? Or do they have a different reaction entirely?

Honestly, I’d be surprised if they even knew about it. You’d be surprised how disconnected most mages are from the mundane world. Something as out-there as fantasy books wouldn’t even make it onto their radar.

But yeah, names and identities are changed. I actually have to double-check each of these posts before I put them up, just to make sure I’ve got them all straight. It’s really confusing having so many names for each person.

From: Lili

Hi Luna, I have a couple of questions that may seem odd?

1. It’s been established that magic type is based on personality, but the ability to do magic can sometimes run in families. If you have identical twins and one is a mage, how likely is it that the other twin will also be a mage, and are they likely to have similar types of magic, or could it vary depending on how their personalities turn out?

2. What if someone had multiple personalities/dissociative identity disorder? Could you have two personalities with different types of magic? Could you have one mage personality and one nonmagical personality, or more?

3. Is it possible to possess another person, and if some spirit/entity/other mage possessed someone, would the possessor get the abilities of the host?

1. Some mages actually did some experiments based on exactly that (based off non-mage experiments – I think there’s something about identical twins that appeals to scientific types). Far as I remember, the general conclusion was that yes, most of the time, identical twins had the same magic level classification – if one was a mage, the other was, too, which isn’t likely to be coincidence given how rare mages are. There were some variations in type, but they were pretty minor.

2. I’ve never heard of anything like that. I don’t think you get multiple personalities with multiple magic types, at least not naturally.

3. Grey area. Possession is one of those things that’s forbidden by the Concord, so the teachers are kind of iffy about teaching us about it. I did poke around a bit (given past experience, I had kind of a personal interest) and they told me that suppressing someone’s personality enough to possess them would knock out their magical abilities too, though there might be a transition period where you had access to both. But it didn’t sound like they knew for sure.

From: Jonathan

Hi Luna!

I have been thinking about Alex’s abilities, and there are several contexts in which I would like to see him test them. Has he thought about working on medical experiments? (Or scientific experiments in general)? For example, I think he may make searching for cures for diseases much more efficient. My question is, are there limitations on his ability that would make this unproductive? If not, would he consider it? One can imagine how much time he could eliminate from searching for a cure to AIDS, and so on.

Secondly, K. Anders Ericson’s research on what greatness is and how to achieve it shows that ten thousand hours of focused practice are one part of the formula. It takes ten thousand hours of practice in part because one has to experiment to find the best path. Another part of the practice is internalizing the lessons one learns in the experimenting. My question here is in line with my previous question. Could Alex’s abilities shorten the time it would take for him to achieve mastery in many different areas? He could become seriously dangerous, graceful, talented, etc.

Thirdly, there are some ways in which Alex’s abilities would obviate the need to develop excellence. He could use a shortcut for aiming, for example, so that as a sharpshooter he could just see where the bullet would go, and pull the trigger only when it is right. (This is a bit of an exaggeration, as one would have to take time to hold the gun correctly, etc., so practice would help.)

Lastly, I was thinking about some possible limitations or even drawbacks of his ability. One limitation would be wisdom. Simply because one can see where a course of action would go doesn’t tell you why that course of action is the best. It will give Alex a large amount of accurate data, but figuring out why some course of action is right is very difficult. Thus my question- is there a danger in relying upon the talent and not upon understanding? I personally would be tempted to shoot from the hip, as it were, rather than spend the time on thinking things through.

I am very much looking forward to reading about your next adventure!
My friends and I love this series.

All the best,
Jonathan

Experiment-wise, I don’t think Alex’s abilities would actually be much use. For the simple ones where it only takes an hour or two and you get a yes/no answer, sure, but from what I’ve been told, the kind of experiments you need to cure a disease are a lot longer and more complicated than that. I’ve never heard of diviners working in the medical business, anyway, so there’s probably a good reason why they don’t but life mages do.

As for the other questions, they all kind of tie together. Yeah, Alex can learn things slightly faster than normal. Normally, though, he just short-cuts the whole thing, pretty much how you describe. So he doesn’t need to learn marksmanship the regular way – he just knows what he has to do to hit a target. He’s told me a couple of times that often he doesn’t have a clue WHY something works or HOW it works – he just knows THAT it works. So, he could know which wire to cut on an electrical circuit to make it turn off, without knowing anything about electronics. He just sees cause and effect.

And I hadn’t thought about it, but yeah, I guess that could make you bypass understanding a bit. I’ve noticed that he’ll often jump into situations he doesn’t really understand because he’s counting on being able to figure things out on the fly. But then I kind of do the same thing, so I guess I’m not one to talk.

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Veiled Chapter 1 Online

The first chapter of Veiled is now up on this site in extract form!  You can read it here.

Back in the UK after several weeks of travel.  I’m dealing with various non-writing things, and in the meantime I’m working on the edits for Burned and figuring out plans for Alex Verus #8.

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Ask Luna #48

From: Jeff

Hey Luna, I was wondering how you felt about Alex and Anne getting closer, I know you used to have feelings for him…

Complicated. Let’s leave it at that.

I guess if I had complete freedom to choose, I’d want things to work out for them. Whether they will or not . . . I dunno. I love Anne and she’s my best friend, but she’s got even more issues than Alex does. I’d be really afraid of what would happen if things went wrong.

From: They’retakingthehobbitstoIsengard

Hey Luna,

Alex or Batman, who do you think would win in a fight?

I’d back Alex, but I’ve never been much of a Batman fangirl.  Prefer Marvel.

From: Geli

Hi Luna,

how are you? I have wondered what exact the difference between your abilities and a true Chance mage are. Sure, a mage has a wider range, but what does that mean? What can your master do, that you can’t? Also, considering that spring is coming, I wanted to ask if you have a
favourite colour. Mine is yellow.

Geli

The difference is that I have to use my curse, but she can shape chance effects however she likes. My curse brings good luck to me and bad luck to everyone it touches, so if I want to do something, I have to figure out a way to make it fit with that. Like if I wanted to win at a casino game, I’d have to either use small targeted amounts of my curse on everyone else at the table, or figure out a way to ‘convince’ my curse that making the right number come up would actually help me. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t – my curse seems to be really good at understanding when something is dangerous, but trying to make it understand anything that doesn’t involve physical danger is a pain in the butt.

A chance mage could just mess with probability and make herself win. Or make someone else win, or make the house win – whatever she felt like. Much easier. So I could make someone else lose (easy), make myself win (harder) or make someone else win (REALLY hard, and I’d be fighting my curse the whole way), but for her, doing all three of those would be just as simple no matter which she picked.

Oh, and my favourite colour’s green.

From: AcrossThePond

Dear Luna,

If you’ll indulge my curiosity, I’ve got a couple of random and somewhat esoteric questions for you.

First, have you ever heard of an entropy mage? It seems like something that might fall in the universal family, if you’ve got space and time manipulation and such in there. Being able to mess with the rate at which individual things and complex systems degraded or lost energy would seem to fit.

Second, I think you mentioned some time ago that one of the more specialized fields was a radiation mage- and pure curiosity leads me to inquire if you’ve ever met one, or heard anyone talk about their capabilities? Seems like they could run a gamut anywhere from “microwave popcorn sans the microwave” to “oops was that a fission reaction?”

I’ve heard of entropy mages, but I haven’t met one. They’re pretty rare. They’ve got some overlap with chance magic, so Alex suggested that if I do find one, I should try and get some lessons from him. I’ve heard of a couple of independent ones who work out of America, but they’re not supposed to be all that sociable.

And yes, I’ve met radiation mages. They’re actually pretty common, or more common than some, anyway. They’re one of those hybrid types that’s kind of universal and kind of elemental, depending where they fall on the scale. The one I met was more on the elemental side, and he didn’t go so much for ‘microwave popcorn’ as for ‘laser beams’. Pain in the neck to dodge, let me tell you. They’re also really good for lighting places up, and they can do the usual see-in-the-dark tricks.

From: BigBlade

Hey i was wondering did you guys ever find out where the ruby key cube came from cause if you guys never found it your lives wouldn’t a series of crisis’s and battles. I’d almost think someone knew it would cause this like a domino effect

another question has there been any new investigations into the fateweaver tomb

For the first one, that’s one of the loose threads we’ve never tied up. After the dust had settled Alex went back and questioned the guy who’d had it before me, but he didn’t get a good answer. Alex suspects it was a plant, but he was never able to prove it. Like you said, it did cause a domino effect, but I don’t know why anyone would have done that.

And official investigations . . . not really. Word spread pretty fast about that thing, and once they learned about Abithriax none of the Light or Dark factions wanted to touch it. There were a couple of adepts a year or two back who decided it would be a good idea to break in, but they were dumb enough to try and do it by extorting an entry method out of Cinder and Deleo. Never did find out what happened to them, but it’s not hard to guess.

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Still Away

Out of the country at the moment.  More posts when I get back.

Things I learnt today:  rush-hour traffic in New York is quite impressive.

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Discount on US Fated Ebook

I’m travelling abroad at the moment, so just a quick piece of news:  the US ebook edition of Fated is on sale!  Right now you can get an electronic copy of Fated for $1.99, so if you know anyone who doesn’t have the first book but might be interested in getting into the series, now’s a good time.

In other (and rather more annoying) news, the website’s been playing up following a server move.  The main page works, but all of the sub-pages have failing to load.  I’m working to get it fixed – in the meantime, you can still view the most recent posts via my home page.

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News for June

Some general bits and pieces:

First, Tantor Media is doing their National Audiobook Month promotion.  MP3-CDs and digital downloads are cheaper, and they’ll be doing a giveaway of my stuff later in the month.  So if you’re looking to get any of the Alex Verus audio books, now’s a good time!

Second, I’m going to be away for most of June.  I’ll set up some posts to go out automatically, but I’ll have limited access to email until I get back at the end of the month, so expect a slower response rate than usual.

And finally, proof copies for Veiled are in, review copies have come out, and the book’s getting closer and closer to publication.  I’ll put up the first chapter extract within the next month so you can read it online!

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Ask Luna #47

Long delay with this set of questions. Sorry. Been a busy couple months. I’ll try to get them all done over the next month or so.

From: D

Hello. I have a couple of questions I hoped you would not mind answering.

1. During the Rakshasa wars, who were the Rakshasa fighting, the Indian light council, the British light counsel, (was their a part of the British light counsel that governed India like the British raj) or everyone from the magical world human magical world?

2. was Ravana and Kumbhakarna part of the conflict. ( I know that they were suppose to have been killed by Rama and his army, but they struck me as the kind of chaps who might have a back up plan in case living becomes difficult)?

Thank you.

I’m pretty sure they covered this at some point or other in history class and I missed it – actually, maybe they didn’t, they tend to concentrate on British and European history and forget everything else – so I was just going to say ‘don’t know’, but luckily for you, I felt bad enough about taking so long to answer this one that I looked up Vari and asked him.

According to Vari, the Indian Council had been fighting the rakshasa on and off for thousands of years – there were breaks, but it wasn’t so much a case of peace as putting the war on hold until they had time to get back to it. The Indian mages had a lot more numbers, but the rakshasa tended to get the upper hand by playing the Indian factions off against each other. When the British arrived then it was a three-way fight. The rakshasa did their usual thing and manipulated the British and the Indian mages into attacking each other – it worked for a while, then the mages found out and decided they’d team up and kill the rakshasa instead. Things went downhill for the rakshasa from there.

Ravana was supposed to be one of the old rakshasas – or maybe the original rakshasa, it’s kind of hard to tell since it all happened way back in legend. Like you said, he was supposed to have been killed by Rama, but Vari also says that he was supposed to have been unkillable, so your guess is as good as mine as to what actually happened.

From: Sven

Hey Luna, a quick question can Alex see things that are certain but a long time away? For example, could he see whats going to be on an exam 2 months from now if it has already been written? Thanks

In theory, yes. In practice, tracing a path that far would be nearly impossible. The exam might be fixed, but there’s be so much uncertainty in the two months between now and then that it’d be almost impossible to find a stable route.

At least, with the methods Alex uses. Apparently there are other ones which work better for that kind of thing, but it’s not the sort of divination Alex specialises in.

From: Phillip

Hi Luna! Big fan of your (and Alex’s) work. But a couple thoughts had occurred to me which I really hope are not too … impolite.

The first is about your Curse. It’s connected to the blood right? As in it is past down through the generations from one to the next. From everything shown it is pretty deadly for anyone to get too close to you, physical contact is basically out of the question. So how (and sorry if this is indelicate) do members of your family ever get close enough to someone, to you know, continue the curse? Just seems like keeping the family line going has some big obstacles.

My other thought was about Arachne. I think she is a fascinating individual on so many levels. And I’ll admit that my own inhibitions regarding spiders is playing a part here but I couldn’t help thinking if I was in that cave that she is one very LARGE spider – so, um, what does she eat? It must be an awful lot to support an animal of that size. Or would there be a form of magical sustenance?

Thanks for tolerating the impropriety. I’ll work on some more magically germane questions for next time. All best to you and Alex! (the rest of the group included)

Sigh. Everyone keeps asking that.

Yes, my curse is a bloodline one. Yes, it gets passed down through generations. And yes, physical contact is generally a very bad idea, and yes, for that reason, the women who have it die childless, usually after a very long, healthy, and miserable life, assuming they don’t get tired of waiting and take a short cut. However, the curse doesn’t just go down the family tree, it also goes sideways. So when someone with the curse dies, then the curse just finds the next youngest girl who’s a blood descendant of the curse’s original target. And so on.

As for Arachne, I asked her that once. She said that she used to eat the same way as other spiders. Problem was, she had to eat a lot. I got the impression that she had to not be all that picky about where her food was coming from, if you know what I mean. Anyway, over the years, she developed other ways of getting energy, and she eventually managed to get those to work well enough that she switched over completely. I asked her if she ever missed eating the natural way, and she said no. Which is kind of a relief, to be honest.

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