Busy Writing

Word count:  80k.
Sections of Alex Verus #8 that have been completed:  4.
Sections of Alex Verus #8 still to be completed:  1.
Title decided:  no.
Mood:  busy.
Further bulletins as events warrant.

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Last Leg

We’re coming into the last month of Alex Verus #8, at least if everything goes to plan.  Currently the manuscript is at a touch under 80,000 words, so if I keep to schedule and the book ends up at a similar length to previous ones, we should be done by the end of February.  I’ll keep you posted.

The last month of the first draft is usually the toughest for each new book – it’s where I’m under the most deadline pressure and where I’m most worried about whether everything will line up right.  Everything usually works out in the end, but only once I actually get to the end, and I’ve got a pretty busy four weeks to navigate first.  Hopefully it’ll work itself out.

The release date for Burned is also drawing closer – it’s April 5th/April 7th, which means we’re at about the three month mark.  I’ll release the first chapter a couple of months in advance, as per usual, so expect it around the beginning of February.  I’m looking forward to reading the reviews for this one – I think you’ll like it!

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Ask Luna #59

From: MassMaster

Hey Luna how do hybrid mages come to be I thought you choose one discipline and that’s it.

That’s like saying ‘how do you choose to be medium height, everyone is supposed to be short or tall’.

You don’t choose a discipline. You find out what you are, you start learning, and at some point other mages will tell you what kind of mage you’re supposed to be. If you fit into one of the pre-existing boxes they’ll tell you that you’re a fill-in-the-blank mage. If you don’t, they’ll call you a hybrid. It’s just a name.

From: Todd

Dear Luna,

Sometimes I wonder if I am a Chance Adept with a strange manifestation of bad luck.

While I could point to vague instances in my day to day life which may or may not involve chance magic, I have been able to document, and confirm with friends, that there is something odd with my uncanny bad luck with tabletop games involving elements of chance. Most typically games which use dice. This manifestation has been so noticeable to my friends that they even call it “Todd Luck”.

Usually if I need to roll high to succeed in some aspect of the game, I will almost always roll low, and vice versa. One time I even rolled eighteen six-sided dice, needing to roll a three or higher and all of the dice rolled ones and twos. A lot of people have runs of bad luck though so I have to point to more unusual aspects as possible evidence.

Dice which I have handled or touched will roll badly for others for a short time too, and those which have been in my possession for a lengthy amount of time are nearly useless to anyone who tries to use them as they seem permanently imbued with bad luck.

For some reason purple dice are less susceptible to this effect – I do not know why other than the fact that it is my favorite color. Whether my decision for it to be my favorite color was a result of this effect, or the differing luck effect on them being a result of that preference I can not be sure.

Even more bizarrely, anyone sitting directly to my right also tends to suffer a heightened amount of bad luck in such games. My friends started placing an empty chair to my right to combat this effect, which has proven to be somewhat effective.

This effect manifests only when the dice roll matters – pretend rolls or trying to roll dice to test who rolls higher always ends with inconclusive results. It also becomes much stronger when I am rolling dice (or drawing cards) in direct opposition with another player, and even stronger still when money is at stake.

Needless to say it didn’t take long for me to completely give up trying to gamble, and I have had to hone my strategical skills in order to minimize the impact of dice on games that involve strategy, allowing me to win such games despite the dice. In that regard I can’t say it’s impact on my life as been entirely negative.

I feel like this effect has either weakened over the years, or I have subconsciously been able to restrain it to a certain degree, but I would be very interested in any tips you may have in regards to controlling chance magic and whether you think this could be evidence of weak magical talent (or curse).

Best regards,
Todd

Okay, that’s definitely one of the more unusual stories I’ve heard, but it does actually sound weirdly familiar. Did you get cursed by some very puritanical family member who really had a thing against gambling, or something? I suppose at least they didn’t have it in for you really badly, or they might have had it work on something worse than dice.

Assuming it’s a real thing and not just a case of selective memory, you could probably learn to control it. The thing about those kinds of curses is that to influence you, they have to be bound to you so closely that you pretty much always can eventually start influencing them back. The only problem is that curses and hexes kind of do what they do, so even if you did do that, all you’d realistically be able to accomplish would be to direct your bad luck at other people, and I don’t know if that’s really how you want to live your life. Plus it’d take months to years.

Or if that sounds like too much work, you could just get a job at casinos where you get paid to sit directly to the left of anyone who’s winning too much at the craps table.

From: MetroMaster

Hey luna I kinda have a a few big questions

1. With Morden now on the council how will that affect the magic community globally

2. How will his council position affect mages in the UK

1. Not much as far as I know, apart from the usual petitions and complaints and snippy comments from other countries.

2. Probably badly.

From: Andrew

Dear Luna, I have been musing over the vexities of gate magic, most particularly that of having to know in good detail the point of arrival. The implication being primarily that you can only safely gate to somewhere you have already either travelled to mundanely or been carried to by another agency. My question is, if I posted to you an intricately woven rug from somewhere else in the world, would that in itself be of sufficient knowledge to use safely as a gate focus?

Kind regards

Andrew

Nope, it’d just be a pretty rug. If you want to gate to a location, you’re best off if you know it very well. There are a lot of ways to do that, but the simplest one is just to head over and spend a few hours studying the place.

The alternative is to use a gate focus, but a gate focus isn’t just some random piece of junk you pick up, it’s a specifically crafted magical item. From what I understand, having the item be tied to the location helps, but you’re still going to have to put in the hours to make it. And as part of the process, you’re going to have to tie the item to the location, so you’re still going to have to end up going there anyway. Bottom line: gates are a great time saver, but someone still has to get there the regular way first.

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Ask Luna #58

From: David

Hi. I was wondering if you knew the story about how Alex picked/got his “Mage” name Verus. The only other wizard that I have heard of who followed a similiar naming convention was Richard Drakh. Do you know if Alex choose from to follow the same convention as his old master or if it just sort of happened? Also you know a little about his dad now, have you ever looked up his original last name?

Funny you should ask – I finally got around to asking Alex about that a little while back. Alex told me that he didn’t so much pick the name as got told it, though he’s not a hundred percent certain whether the one telling him was someone else or not. That’s what happens when you do the vision quest thing, I suppose. As for why he’s using the same name convention as Richard, that is something I am definitely not asking. Alex gets compared to his old master enough that it’s a majorly touchy subject for him.

And no, I’ve never looked up Alex’s dad’s last name. Didn’t care very much, to be honest.

From: AcrossThePond

Been a bit since I’ve been around, but I’ve got what I hope is an interesting question for you: how are the rest of the Light mage governments reacting to the British decision to let a Dark mage inside, so to speak? Is this a globally unprecedented thing? Are the other nations flipping their proverbial shit, or does nobody particularly seem to care?

It’s not completely one-of-a-kind – it’s happened before. Thing is, the places where it’s happened before have all been other countries. And apparently, the British Council used that as a stick to hit the Councils of other countries with in the past – ‘why should we take you seriously when you can’t even keep Dark mages out of your own house’, that sort of thing. So now that it’s happened to them . . . yeah. Kind of embarrassing. I don’t get the sense anything much is happening beyond the usual bickering, though – everyone else has got their own problems to worry about.

From: Blackmass

Hey Luna just wondering what ever happened to lyle after the whitestone fiasco.

He got demoted, basically. He’d already been fired by Levistus after the screwup with the fateweaver – I mean, it’s not like he was teaching classes in the apprentice programme because he wanted to. So when he screwed up again helping Crystal, he got sent to the doghouse.

But what goes around comes around, and eventually he worked his way back into the Council’s good graces again. The whole White Rose disaster helped – so many Light mages got caught up in that that they were scrambling for new people who weren’t associated with it, and by then Lyle’s problems were old history. And from there he just picked up where he left off. Last I heard he was aide to one of the Senior Council called Undaaris, and as far as I’m concerned they can have him.

From: Leif Diehl

Hello Luna , I have a two part question – do you think you can get your gift sufficiently under control to have a boyfriend. Secondly, on divination, are there any magical branches sufficiently close, maybe fate magic, that are sufficiently close that he might branch into them. Would certainly help the cause !

First question – evidence so far is pointing to a maybe, which is an improvement on how it was before.

For the second one, I doubt it. Alex definitely seems good with fate magic – he picked up how to use the fateweaver fast as hell, even with the creepy possession thing – but it was the item doing all the heavy lifting. For whatever reason, mages can’t seem to use fate magic on their own, which is why they made those things in the first place. So unless Alex wants to go back to that place and have another go at psychically arm-wrestling an insane evil mind mage, I think he’ll have to make do with what he’s got.

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Ask Luna #57

From: Rattify

How did Alex originally form his relationship with Starbreeze? Did he acquire the focus first and then used it to meet her, or did he meet her and then buy/make a focus so he could keep in touch? I’m mostly asking because I’m wondering what it would take to re-establish that relationship (or a similar one with another elemental).

The second, kind of. He got caught up in some adventure or other that involved going to a place that Starbreeze used to keep coming back to – can’t remember where, he told me the story but it was a long time ago. There was a fight with some other mage, he helped Starbreeze out, then he needed a way to stay in touch with her and he got the focus from Arachne to do it. Starbreeze agreed to bond to it, and it kind of developed from there.

Theoretically all he’d have to do to reestablish the relationship would be to get Starbreeze to do the same thing again. Alex’s tried a few times, but no luck so far. Apparently air elementals are really, really good at staying hidden when they don’t want to be found, and he can’t convince her to let him find her without finding her first.

From: Mark

What is it about Alex that makes him a Mage and not an Adept? Doesn’t he just do one thing?

Oh, come on, not this question again.

Blah blah, sliding scale, arbitrary definitions, mages are jerks. I answered this back here and here and probably a couple of other times too.

From: Fade

How do Mages deal with having families? I assume light mages are pretty open about the situation, given that they have an organization and a general sense of security, but what about dark mages? Do they have to pretend their spouses are slaves in order to keep them from being used as leverage or targets of revenge? How likely are children to become adepts or mages themselves? And in the case of children with magic, are they often apprenticed by their own parents? Thanks for your time!

Mages have families just like everyone else, but for the most part they keep them separate from their magic life. Or they’re expected to, anyway. If you get an invitation to a Council ball, you won’t get a plus-one for your husband. The good news is that this comes with kind of an unwritten social rule not to target someone’s non-magical family. The bad news is that just like all rules, mages break it. You’ll probably get a bit more sympathy/support if they do, but that’s all.

Children of adepts and mages are a lot more likely to become adepts or mages themselves, but it’s not 100%. They do sometimes get apprenticed by their own parents, but it’s rare. More often, the kid’ll get packed off to someone who matches their magic type.

From: Locnil

Has it occurred to Alex that he, along with Shireen, was always meant to be sacrificed to boost the power of Richard’s two REAL apprentices, Rachel and Tobruk?
Reading back through the older books, it seems unlikely that Richard would have failed to anticipate that Shireen and Alex would eventually break away –
I mean, Richard’s entire speech to Rachel convincing her to Harvest Shireen literally hinged on how she would otherwise remain in her shadow perpetually, so it seems Richard took Shireen in for the sole purpose of having someone for Rachel to Harvest. Then there’s Tobruk – where did he get his Harvesting* crystal from? The same place Rachel got it from, perhaps. Except that Tobruk wouldn’t have needed as much convincing.

The more I think about this theory, the more likely I think that Richard always meant for Alex to be Harvested by Tobruk and Shireen by Rachel, so then he would have two extra powerful enforcers to call on. Except that his plan only half succeeded, so now he’s scrambling to compensate for it, perhaps by recruting Morden** (and Onyx); or perhaps even by convincing Alex to rejoin and hoping he can take over whatever role Richard intended Tobruk to fulfil.

How likely is the above theory, really?

*Come to think of it, how rare are Harvesting crystals? How are they made – can they be manufactured by mages (and if so, what kind of magic is needed?) or must they be found somewhere in nature, like oil or gold?

**Also, the situation with Morden and Onyx (assuming the theory about Onyx being a Harvester is correct) seems to closely parallel Richard and Rachel. Was one perhaps inspired by the other?

It’s possible. God knows what Richard was really planning; Alex doesn’t know and I definitely don’t. I always got the impression that he was the ‘let’s see what happens’ type. As in, if Tobruk Harvests Alex, then great, Tobruk’s now Chosen Number One. If Alex kills Tobruk, then Alex gets the slot instead.

The other option is that Richard always had something very specific in mind for Alex or Rachel or the others, and he just kept it a secret. That’s definitely the more creepy option, but if it’s true, we haven’t figured out what the secret is.

Harvesting crystals aren’t actually that difficult to make, from what I’ve heard. They’re just basic focuses. I mean, just possessing one will get you arrested by the Council if they catch you, but then if you’re willing to actually use the godforsaken things then making the Council unhappy probably isn’t very high on your list of concerns.

And yeah, there’s a good chance Onyx is a Harvester, given how ridiculously strong he is. It might also have something to do with why he’s such a violent sociopath. Then again, maybe he was just that way to begin with.

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Happy New Year!

And off we go into another year of writing.  2015 saw me publish one book (Veiled), finish writing another (Burned), and get most of the way through the next.  By the time this year comes to a close and 2016 rolls into 2017, Alex Verus #8 will be finished (hopefully in February), Alex Verus #7, Burned, will be published (definitely in April), and Alex Verus #9 might even have made it past the first-draft stage entirely.  Let’s see if that’s what actually happens!

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Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas from everyone in the Alex Verus world.  It’s been a good year for me, hope the same’s been true for you!

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Halfway House

We’re now slightly over the halfway mark for the time I’ve marked out for writing Book 8.  I started at the beginning of October, and my deadline is the end of February, so the middle of December marks the 50% point.

Up until recently I’d allow about nine months per Alex Verus book – three months planning time, and six months writing time.  The six months writing time has stayed pretty constant, but the three months planning has shown a tendency over the past couple of years to creep upwards (largely due to the lengthy revisions I had to do on Hidden and Veiled).  Partly as a result, I’ve tried to push myself a bit with the schedule for the last book and for this one, cutting the time budget from six months to five.  It didn’t work out with Burned – I ended up spending exactly as long writing it as I did on the last two – but I’m starting to feel hopeful that I might actually make it for this one.  If I can keep up the five-months-per-book timing, then I should be able to keep to the one-book-per-nine-months timing, too.  (It would be nice if I could get it down to eight, but unfortunately editing and rewriting delays tend to eat up any time I save on the writing part.)

But then again, it’s also possible that the future Alex Verus books will just end up being longer, which means it’ll all cancel out.  Burned is going to be the longest Alex Verus novel by a fair bit, and it might be that that’ll be the pattern from now on.  It’s kind of plausible – there are a lot more characters and ongoing plotlines now, so there’s more for me to keep up with and catch up on in each book – but it’s too early to be sure.  But even if the books do get longer, you have my solemn promise that I won’t do a Harry Potter and have the later books in the series be 2 to 3 times the length of the first.

We’re getting into the Christmas season, so posts will be light until the New Year.  I’ll still be writing (I don’t really take the holidays off) but hopefully you’ll all have a nice break!

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Progress Report

So Alex Verus #8 is on schedule, and sitting at around 45,000 words – this probably means we’re about halfway done, since each Alex Verus novel typically comes in at around 90k or so for the completed version.  (Burned was an exception to this:  it ended up at more like 110,000 words total, which was one of the reasons that it took me an extra month to finish, but I figure you guys probably won’t complain about the slight extra length.)  Projected completion date for #8 is end of February:  I don’t know if I’ll make it, but so far everything looks promising.

I’ve also figured out most of the rest of this book’s plot.  Some of you may remember that a couple of months back I wrote a post where I was thinking about changing my (at the time very vague) ideas and putting two major events into Book 8 instead of putting them into 8 and 9 respectively.  I’ve since changed my mind;  I’ve got plenty of material for Book 8 already, so I’m going back to the original plan.  The bright side of this is that I now have a solid idea of what’ll happen for the next two books of the series, which is a lot further ahead than I usually plan, and means that I’m fairly confident about how things are going.

In other news, Burned’s proofreading and author queries are done, and the book is all set for its release at the beginning of April.  I’m looking forward to reading the reviews of this one – I think you guys will like it!

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Burned UK cover reveal!

We did the US cover a couple of weeks back, and now here’s Alex Verus #7, Burned, in its UK clothes!

BurnedUK300

As with the US cover, there’s a bit of a change of style for this one, though you’ll probably recognise the old elements too.

The UK edition will be released on April 7th, 2016.

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