Update from last week

Alex Verus #8 is on track now and going well!  Hooray!

On the downside, still haven’t received the UK sales data.  Will do a post on that when I get it.

Been a while since I’ve done any Ask Lunas, will put up a new one once I get another question or two.

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Good news, bad news

Mixed week today.

Bad news: Alex Verus #8 is still going really slow.

Good news: Copy-edits on Alex Verus #7 are done, which means the book’s pretty much done too.  The version I’ve sent off today is 99% identical to the version you guys will be getting your hands on this coming April.

Even better news: Got the US sales data for the first half of this year, and it’s very good.  I’ll write more about it when I get the UK news too and I have a fuller picture, but it’s all positive so far!

So more good than bad, really.  Still, let’s hope the new book starts making some progress soon.

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Starts and Changes

Still working away on Alex Verus #8.  It’s slow going.  I’m going to have to push to make the deadline on this one.

One reason for the delay has been a rethink of the book’s content.  This is the phase of writing in which I have to make most of the major choices about how the story will pan out, and one choice I’ve recently made has been to compress a couple of major events;  instead of taking place at the ends of book 8 and book 9 respectively, I’m now thinking of placing them both in this book instead.  It’ll mean the overall story arc will be accelerated, but I think that might be a good thing.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, some people have been pointing out to me that they haven’t been seeing new posts.  I put up new posts each Friday at 9am (plus or minus an hour for DST) but recently posts haven’t been showing on the main page until Saturday or Sunday.  The problem seems to have been caused by a plugin (WordPress Super Cache) which I’ve since turned off.  As far as I can tell the issue’s fixed, but drop me a comment or an email if it happens again.

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More Veiled Reviews

A bunch of reviews have been piling up for Veiled over the past month, so here’s a selection of them!

Joshua Hill at Fantasy Book Review
Kathy Davie at KD Did It
Antony Williams at SFF Chronicles
HC Newton at Irresponsible Reader
Terrance McArthur at Kings River Life
Gergana from Goodreads
And finally, one from Katherine Brown, finishing up a full set of reviews of the whole series.

Still working away on book #8 in the meantime.  Starting’s always hard.

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Ask Luna #54

From: Geli

Hello Luna,

it has been quite some time, I hope you are well.
After hearing from Alex and your last adventure, I can’t help but wonder again. So hopefully you don’t mind to indulge me. :)

Since the incident with the adept gang out for revenge, Alex seems to take a lot of care to not kill anyone. Is that a deliberate decision to stay low in the current political climate, or has something within Alex changed?

Have you heard how Sonder is doing or if he might forgive Alex? I am kind of missing him. He might have high moral standards, and be a bit of a prick about them, but he was a good friend and reliable.

Does it not feel strange to know that there might be a lot more Light Mages out to kill Alex, than Dark Mages? After all, Morden and Richard (and pretty much every other Dark Mage we’ve seen) seem to respect Alex and what him on their side. While Levistus (and probably his entire faction) now just wants Alex dead.

Last question… if it is a question of survival, could you imagine being a Dark Mage, Luna?

Greetings from Germany

Alex has always had issues with killing anyone unless they try to kill him first, but since that August he’s definitely changed. The thing with those adepts really cut him up, I think – both with what happened and then how Anne and Sonder took it afterwards.

As for Sonder, I haven’t heard from him for a while. He’s been off on this exchange program with the US, going to Washington to meet the high-up political types. I’m pretty sure he and Alex haven’t been talking. As for whether that’ll change . . . I dunno. He’s good at what he does, I guess, but I’ve got the feeling he wants more than I want to give.

Re: Light and Dark mages, no, it doesn’t feel strange. Ever since what happened with Griff, I’ve had trouble trusting the Council, and being in the apprentice programme hasn’t really changed that. They’re nice and polite to your face, and you’ll get talking to them, and then right when you’re starting to feel comfortable someone will say something or ask something, just a little passing comment, and all of a sudden you get reminded about just how much they don’t care about anyone who isn’t another Light mage. It’s not something I say out loud, but honestly, I’m not sure that being a Dark mage would be that bad. It’s pretty much do what you want, when you want.

From: Frog

Dear Luna,
You seem to be an experienced dueller, and have also had more than your fair share of combat experience. Judging from your past experiences, your curse-whip seems to be able to snuff out things like fire and air. What type of combat magic would your spell ot be able to combat in a dueal situation? Thanks.

Pretty much all of them. I haven’t yet found a spell that my curse can’t mess up with enough work. The issue is reaction time and exposure time. If a fire blast’s half a second away from hitting, then sending my curse out might help, but it’s not enough.

From: Bre

Hi Luna,

In Fated, Morden told Alex that Richard went to great lengths to recruit him, and more recently in Veiled Levistus said that he had no conception of how far back Richard had chosen his steps. Does Alex have any suspicions at this point that Richard might have been more involved in his life than he realized? Helikaon has worked with Dark mages before; could Richard have arranged for him to teach Alex divination? Could he have been arranging things to ensure that Alex became his apprentice ever since he came into his powers, or maybe even in his childhood? Creepy thought, but it does seem like something Richard would be capable of. Have you guys talked about it?



Ugh, I don’t know. Alex tends to go silent when I mention Richard, so while we’ve talked about it, the conversations don’t last very long.

It’s definitely creepy, and I suppose it’s possible, but I can’t believe that Richard could have been working back THAT far. I mean, he’s just a guy. Yes, he’s a mage, and from what Alex and everyone else says he’s a really dangerous one, but he doesn’t control everything. I don’t think that the times Alex messed with his plans were all part of a bigger plan. It feels to me more like Alex DID mess up Richard’s plans, it’s just that Richard adapted to it.

From: blackmass

hey luna I wonder with alex being with the keepers, will he be upgrading his gear cause his usual stuff apart from the armor and mist cloak may not cut it anymore

I’m not sure what he’d upgrade his gear to. I mean, Alex has got a ton of stuff already – he’s got a cabinet in the safe room with swords and machine guns and imbued items and God knows what else. The thing is, most of the time he doesn’t use them because they wouldn’t really help. I asked Alex once why he doesn’t carry his bigger weapons more often, and his answer was basically: because it wouldn’t help. A machine gun would draw attention and make him a bigger target, and it still wouldn’t be enough to take on a battle-mage, so what’s the point?

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Starting Over

Well, it’s about that time again.  I’m back in the country, the edits on Alex Verus #7, Burned, are done, and it’s past time that I got started on the next.  As of today, Alex Verus #8 is just an empty text file (it doesn’t even have a title yet) but you’ve got to start somewhere.

It’s always hard getting started, but six months of work from now, this is going to be a completed book.

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Ask Luna #53

From: Annie

I have a quick question about mage culture, for lack of a better term. I noticed that in Taken, during the apprentice tournament, every single duel was between either two men or two women – and it seemed like too many in a row to put down to luck of the draw. Elsewhere in the books no one seems to have any wierd hang-ups about hitting girls, so it struck me as a little strange. Is it some kind of mage custom to keep formal duels segregated by sex? Or was it a coincidence? It’s just something I was wondering about. Thanks a lot for your time!

They’re not actually segregated. The way they do it is that the boys and girls are seeded separately, then the boys are grouped together at the top of the tree and the girls are grouped together at the bottom. So if you have 9 boys and 7 girls entering, then the first round will be four male vs male, three female vs female, and one mixed-gender fight in the middle. After that everyone moves up as you’d expect, but because of the way they’re placed there’s never more than one mixed-gender bout per round. Obviously this only applies if it’s knockout format, but most of the other formats seem to have been designed to minimise it, too.

As for why the Council still do it that way, well, it’s tradition, but it’s probably something to do with the fact that most men don’t seem to like fighting women if they can avoid it. I found that one a bit weird at first, but once it was explained to me I could see where they were coming from. Of course that only applies for Lights and independents. Dark mages don’t seem to have any hang-ups about hitting girls, or anyone else for that matter.

From: drizztmajere

Hello Luna, I am glad to see another story with you and our favorite divinator, if that is even a word. lol. My question to you is how would you feel about living with Landis so that you can experience the rush you are looking for with following Alex into battle? It might be fun. :) You seem to have found a new teacher and you are already making progress in your using your chance magic congratulations. My next question is about an individuals use of magic. Alex has made it clear that you have to have a certain personality to use a certain type of magic. Can you become more of a hybrid with a deeper understanding of your own individual power with a power closer to yours?

Living with Landis? Seriously? Sure, he’s fun, but the guy’s supposed to have blown up three different houses. I know I’m lucky, but there’s being lucky and then there’s just asking for it.

Not sure what you’re asking with the second one. If you’re a hybrid, then you’re going to have an understanding of both magic types, yeah. If you mean, can you ‘branch out’ into another magic type, then yeah, kind of. It takes a LOT of work, though, and you’re really going to be struggling uphill compared to a natural mage of that type.

From: Jim

Just wondering what happened to the woman who tried to help Alex at the train station.

You mean the fight at Stratford? She got smashed up pretty bad. Didn’t die, which was pretty lucky on her part. It was a stupid bloody thing to do.

From: Araris

Hi Luna,
So now that you’ve seen two adult fire mages, who would you put your money on, Cinder or Landis?
Which magic types do you find the most difficult to duel? Which are the most fun? Do you ever get to duel teachers?
What are you most hoping to learn to do as your training progresses?
How often does Hermes come to visit?

Cinder or Landis . . . It’s close, but I think I’d say Landis. Cinder is very good, but Landis has one of the best defences I’ve ever seen. Wouldn’t have a clue how to get a spell through it.

Hardest type to duel is probably force. Most annoying is probably ice, with illusion as a close second. I actually find fire the easiest, though maybe that’s just because I’ve had so much practice. Never tried a fire teacher, though.

Nowadays, the thing I’d really like to do training-wise is graduate. It’d open up so much.

And Hermes drops around about twice a week, on average.

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Ask Luna #52

From: Beagle

Hi Luna, long time reader, first time caller (or typer?). Just a few questions on clearing up a few things I have heard about:
I’ve heard stories about their being ‘creatures’ inhabiting the waterways of the UK, ranging from goddesses to even a dragon living in the Thames. Is that a bit too preposterous?
I have also heard tales of a ‘wizard’ or two within the Met, would you happen to know anything about that at all?
Would drug use affect the use of magic? Say, would taking a hallucinogenic change the effect of something like Alex’s magic, or a stimulant amplify the power/accuracy?
Finally, have you ever considered expanding your magical studies? I hear there is a fairly big magic ‘college’ somewhere in New York state….

There are definitely creatures in the UK waterways. As far as I know, none are dragons. As for goddesses, well, that depends on your point of view.

The Met Police doesn’t hold any officially recognised Light mages as far as I know, but they’ve got a special unit that deals with magic-related cases. I’m pretty sure most of the members are adepts or sensitives. Suppose there could be a mage in there too, it’s not like there’s a hard-and-fast dividing line.

Drug use is fairly popular with sensitives, and there are a few adepts who go in for it too, but it’s rare among mages. The Keepers come down pretty hard on mages who break laws while ‘under the influence’.

And I suppose I could go to a US college, but honestly, I’m not sure how much they’d have to teach me. I’d rather graduate and do my own thing.

From: Wodden

Dear Luna,

As always you have my profound thanks for responding to my question and I appreciate the detail provided. I feel much clearer on “spell lists” now.

Another question(s), if you would indulge me…

I was wondering about wards. There are evidently a number of types described in the stories thus far – gate wards, shrouding of various types, alarm wards etc.

My questions this time are about wards. What sort of wards can be cast by a given mage? For example, if a mage does not have access to gates can they create a gate ward or must they contract with another mage who does have the ability? If so, would this not leave the contracting mage vulnerable should the hired caster choose to circumvent the ward? How would Dark mages accomplish a comprehensive multi-layering of wards given the distrust inherent in that affiliation?

I could go into more nuance and specific, but I think you will see where my curiosity is aimed – any enlightenment on the whole ward question would be most welcome and greatly appreciated.

As ever, gratefully yours, Wodden.

The basic ward spell is a general spell, meaning that it can be learnt by pretty much all mages (though not adepts – sucks to be me). However, the ward spell is only a carrier. You still have to tie in a ‘payload’ spell if you want the ward to do anything, and that spell has to be supplied the regular way. So if you want a gate ward, you’ll need a space mage to supply that part of it. And yes, this means you have to trust the guy who’s casting the payload spell, and yes, that brings all the problems you’d expect. Light mages have a bunch of certified ward experts who’ll do the whole thing as a package deal (both the carrier framework and the payload to go with it) – the standard setup is some combination of a gate ward, a shroud, and an alarm. They don’t come cheap, though. As for how Dark mages do it, god knows. That’s their problem, thankfully.

From: Fade

What, if any, repercussions did Natasha face after what she pulled during your duel at Fountain Reach? Have you all determined the magic types of Talisid or Levistus? Have you gotten enough control over your curse that you can touch someone without assistance from an item?

Natasha got away with a slap on the wrist. Alex went and had a talk with her mistress afterwards, and the outcome was that Natasha got pulled out of all my classes and hasn’t shared one with me since. For a while I wanted to get my own back, but I guess Anne kind of took care of that.

Levistus is a mind mage, as well as probably having some other tricks. Think Talisid might be too.

And yes, I have. Takes work, but I’m getting there.

From: Jason

Hey, Luna!

First, I want to congratulate you on the amazing progress you’ve made in controlling your curse. Us non-magic users really appreciate it.

I do have a question. I came across an accounting of an experience you had after a duel with some girl named Natasha. You beat her soundly in the duel, but then she struck you while your back was turned. The report said that Anne healed you, but had to get close. I was under the impression that your curse at that range was fatal, yet the account I read wasn’t very clear on how the curses affect took hold of Anne.

I know you were kind of out of it when this went down, but I’m sure you, Alex, and Anne must have talked about it at some point.

Can you shed some light on the subject?

PS I might be a non-magic user, but I have my sources of information.

The thing about my curse is that it works with what’s in the environment. If you’re up on a rooftop, it’ll try and make you go over the edge. If you’re in a car, it’ll crash the car. If there’s someone in the area with a loaded gun, it’ll make him take a shot at you (and you can guess how lucky that shot’ll be).

Now, I don’t know exactly what happened with my curse in Fountain Reach, but within an hour of Anne touching me, she got snatched by Vitus. My best guess – and this is only a guess – is that the curse somehow managed to set things up so as to convince Crystal and Vitus that Anne was the missing link for their immortality formula. How it did that, I don’t know. But Crystal’s been after Anne ever since, and I think she still thinks that she can drain Anne to make her life forever. Which means that there’s a good chance that as a result of healing me, Anne’s going to have that psycho after her for the rest of her life.

. . . Christ. When I write it down like that, it’s really depressing. I wonder if there’s some way we can stop her?

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Ask Luna #51

From: Manila

luna, do you like any video games? do you play them with everyone?

Oh, yeah. I had consoles growing up, then after I left school I started getting into MMORPGs. There was a couple of years where I wasn’t doing much else – Second Life, Gaia Online, and especially WoW. For a while I pretty much lived in WoW and the only thing that pulled me out was working enough hours to pay the bills. After I met Alex I went cold turkey, though. Funny thing – after I quit, I lost all desire to go back, and it just got stronger and stronger until just the idea of logging in actually made me feel sick. Still can’t face it. I think I associate it with everything else back then.

On the plus side, I started playing Smash Bros a year or two back with Vari and the others and now I love it. Still don’t think I ever want to go back to MMORPGs, but Smash is fun.

From: Beth

Hi Luna,

I was wondering if you had any idea when the next Encyclopaedia Arcana will be available? I love reading them and would hopefully like to see more soon.

Haven’t got any lined up at the moment. If enough people ask for the same article, I could go dig one up.

From: Anton

Hey Luna,
A question about Alex’s armor. I’m having trouble picturing it my head. Is it thin enough to wear under regular clothing like other forms of body armor or is it too bulky? Alex has been wearing a large coat to cover it up which indicates bulk, yet Arachne seemed surprised to see that he wasn’t wearing it underneath his clothing. Also, has Alex started using the mistcloak again?

It looks like a combo of plates and mesh. Not super bulky, but it’s not thin, either. It fits under regular clothing, but you can see the outline if you look, unless he’s wearing something very baggy or one of his long coats.

And yes, he’s gone back to using the mist cloak lately. Kind of dangerous, but I guess he knows what he’s doing.

From: Locnil

Glad to see you’re back and answering questions! Got a couple I’d been wondering for a while, actually.

About foci – how much use can a given mage get out of them? As I understand, they’re a way to use magic you can’t normally – so a dispelling focus would let you dispel something even if you couldn’t normally dispel. So the question is, does your own type of magic limit the kind of foci you could use? Say, could Alex use an air magic focus to fly? Or a shielding focus to create shields, a force magic focus to use attack spells, life magic foci to heal, etc. If so, do most mages eventually build up a collection of foci for all the kinds of magic they can’t use? Or are foci too hard/expensive to create for there to be that many?

Secondly, did Alex learn more about divination from Richard, or Helikaon? Or is most of his knowledge from self-learning?

Lastly, could Richard be a diviner? Looking thought the questions about his magic type, I thought he might be a Dark diviner, like a older, more ruthless version of Alex, which would explain his interest in Alex and his desire (and ability now I think about it) to keep his magic hidden. And also Morden’s interest in recruiting Alex, now apparently passed on to Richard now that he’s back. But I then thought it would be likely diviners could easily recognise each other, due to the results their magic would get when used on each other, so now I’m uncertain. Could Richard be a diviner?

With a focus, the amount of use you can get out of it is based off four things: (a) your strength, (b) the focus’ strength, (c) your skill with focuses in general and (d) your compatibility with the focus.

The last one is the most complicated, and it varies from mage to mage. General rule is that the closer the focus spell is to your own magic, the easier a time you’ll have using it. So from that point of view, the best focus is one that uses a spell that’s from your own magic type (like a fire mage using a focus with a fire spell). Next best is a type that’s different, but related (like ice to snow). Next best after that is a focus from a magic type that’s not related, but within your own family (elemental, living, universal). And a focus from a different family is worst of all.

Then on top of that, there’s the complexity issue. Focuses don’t have the flexibility of a natural spell, too many of the parameters get set in creation. So you REALLY would not want to use a healing magic focus, except for super-basic emergency first aid (and even that’s dangerous). And . . .

Yeah, this could go on forever. I’ll stop or we’ll be here all day.

Other questions: Alex learnt the basics of magic from Richard, but it was mostly universal stuff, I think. I don’t think Richard taught him any divination spells, or if he did, Alex doesn’t talk about it. Helikaon was the one who taught him actual divination.

And yeah, that’s one of the possibilities that we’ve talked about. Divination’s one of the ‘ghost’ types, so it would fit with Alex never having been able to tell. But figuring it out for sure would involve someone getting really close to Richard, which is on our to-do list somewhere between “not unless we absolutely have to” and “never”, so I’d rather keep that theoretical.

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Gone Away

Just a reminder that I’ll be out of the country for a fortnight starting this Saturday.  Any email, etc will be put on hold until I get back.  In the meantime, I’ve got three weeks worth of Ask Luna posts going up tomorrow and the next two Fridays after that.

Oh, and here’s another review of Veiled, this one from The Bookbag!

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