NYCC Update

Further to my previous post, some good news: it looks as though I’ll be going to New York Comicon after all! We managed to sort out tickets for Friday and Saturday (that’s the 7th and 8th of October). Still have no idea what events I’ll be taking part in, but there should be at least a panel and a signing or two. Will put up more information once I have it.

Edits still going on Alex Verus #8, Bound, and they’re still slow. Looking towards the start of book #9 now.

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Ask Luna #69

From: Atomica

Hi Luna, Many congratulations on passing your journeyman tests, what’s next for you and will it involve Chalice?

With regard to Alex and his (and Anne’s) employment situation with Morden, although it saved Alex’s life by elevating him to full Keeper, I was thinking back to what Barrayar said in his last conversation with Alex, “I wonder how much you’ll have to pay for it?”. What’s your take on this?

For what it’s worth, in my experience, the kind of allegiances made by those with egos like Richard and Morden don’t endure well, and cracks will start to appear at some point and the fallout could get very messy. Just wondering, who is superior in the ranks of dark mages currently, Morden or Richard, or someone else…?

What’s next . . . long story. Short version is that I’m now a mage, officially speaking, but getting the Light mages to treat me like one is another story. I had a talk with Alex about it and I’m starting to think I might have to start acting a bit differently.

Regarding Morden and Richard, from what we’ve been able to tell, Morden is the public face, but Richard is the one really calling the shots. As for what Alex will have to pay for Morden’s ‘help’ . . . well, that’s not hard to guess. It’ll mean ‘helping’ Morden in return. We don’t know what kind of favours Morden (and Richard) have in mind, but I think it’s safe to say it won’t be anything good.

From: Kurt Von Bosse

Hi Luna.

As I’m certain you know, a few days ago voters in the United Kingdom made a momentous decision on Brexit and voted to leave the European Union. Short of a draconic prophesy, no one can forecast the long-term ramifications of this result, though many economists are predicting a recession in the U.K. as a result, and worse case scenarios say Europe
and perhaps even the rest of world might face economic recession. (Hopefully none of these come to pass or at worst do not last very long.)

To hear Alex talk about mage life, even a serious economic downturn might be little more than an inconvenience to most mages. I picture a powerful mage walking down a street in their town or city and wondering to themselves why so many small businesses are suddenly boarded up or why their favorite restaurant went out of business. With their wealth and power based on accumulated favors and influence and their specialized abilities which allow mages to make money almost on a whim, earning enough income to live comfortably isn’t a major concern.

However, I wonder if Alex’s view is true for all mages. For example, a new mage; such as you Luna, hasn’t had time to build up many favors, influence and any money which might be thrown into such deals. Aside from doing favors there are mages whose abilities make it fairly easy for them to earn extra income if they desire it. Alex can visit a casino any time he needs a little spare change. Mind mages almost have a license to steal. I sure your teacher Chalice doesn’t have to work hard to pick up extra currency. What about you Luna? Perhaps you’d rather not go into specifics, but did you learn anything from Chalice that can help you weather or ignore hard economic times? Because, I don’t see you becoming some kind of bad-luck assassin for hire. Though now that I think about it, someone like Morden or Richard Drakh might think that would be a perfect career path for you.

One last question Luna, are there certain types of mages who aside from selling their services to Council factions or individuals, don’t have a skill set that makes it easy for them to earn extra income? I’m thinking about Caldera and Varium. If they don’t want to become muscle for hire, and aside from whatever they earn as Keepers, how does an earth mage or fire mage earn extra income on the side?

Well, the thing is, there are basically two ways to use your magic to earn a living. First there’s the direct way, which is the one you’re talking about – you figure out a way to use whatever spells you can cast to get a load of cash. Casinos, working for the Council, stuff like that. (In case you’re wondering, the direct way for battle-mages like fire/ice/death mages to earn extra income directly is by robbing people.)

What a lot of apprentices don’t figure out at first is that instead of using your spells to get money directly, instead you can just find someone else who has money, and trade your services for that. For instance, earth mages could try and delve for gold or something, but that’s pretty hard. So what else could they do? Well, for one thing, earth mages are great at building. And there are a lot of other mages who really like the idea of living in an earth-built mansion, and lots of those mages either have money or can get it, so there you go. Basically, as long as there’s SOMETHING you’re good at, you can probably find someone willing to pay you for it. Kind of like the way the regular economy works, I guess.

So far I’ve mostly gone for the direct way, but the more I learn, the more I’m starting to think that the indirect way might be smarter.

From: Sam

Hi Luna,

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

There have been multiple instances of mages who are just on a higher level in the power hierarchy than those around them (Morden and Vihaela just to give a few examples). Do you know how a mage can become so much more powerful? Is it just through practice? Is age a factor? Or are some mages just born with a greater natural talent?

Also, since Tobruk was more powerful than Rachel/Deleo, if he was still alive do you think he would win in a fight against Onyx?

Thank you!I can’t wait to read more and I’ve truly hope you gain absolutely control over your curse!3

For your first question, it’s a case of ‘all of the above’. Natural talent helps, practice helps more. Age tends to be the most important of all, but only if you’ve done something with it. A 50-year-old mage who’s spent his life sitting on his backside isn’t going to amount to much, but that same mage who’s spent his entire adult life training up and seriously focusing on getting as good with his magic as he possibly can is going to be scary. The most powerful mages of all tend to be the ones who started out with plenty of talent then worked really hard on making more of it.

For the second question, I never met the guy, so it’s hard to say. From bits and pieces Alex dropped I get the feeling that Tobruk and Onyx were pretty similar as far as power levels and attitude went, so it’d be a toss-up as to who could beat down the other.

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Editing Week

Working away on the first-round edits of Bound.  Slow going so far.

First-round edits are always the toughest of the editorial stages.  It’s even worse if they’re rewrites, which this one thankfully isn’t, but it’s still hard work.  The problem with edits and rewrites is that you have to simultaneously hold the existing book in your head and also figure out all the bits you want to change with it, kind of like changing a three-dimensional model where every piece you move requires you to alter several other pieces as well.  It actually makes writing a first draft look easy by comparison.  At least when writing a first draft I don’t have to constantly think about whether the bits further on in the book are going to fit in with the new part I’m writing.

Currently making plans to see if I can attend New York Comicon this October.  I’d like to, but they’ve changed the ticketing system and it’s making it really hard to get a place (you had to ‘register as a fan’ first, during one very specific period back in May).  More updates as I get them.

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Ask Luna #68

From: Kurt Von Bosse

Hi Luna.
I know Alex didn’t have a very happy family life while he was growing up and his relationship with his father still appears to be rather strained, but I was wondering if Alex has ever talked about any of the mundane and less stressful elements of his childhood, like what TV shows or movies he watched or books he liked before he ever knew about the world of magic?

From the odd things he’s told me I think he liked escapist stuff. Anything set in another world or another time. He read a lot of books and he watched a lot of movies. I think his favourite thing back then was strategy games, though I get the impression he didn’t have many other people to play them with.

From: BlackMass

What is meld. After taking down White Rose Alex took a new case of a meld dealer but what is it, and how did the case end?

It’s a weird kind of drug that’s supposed to make your magic more powerful or give you the ability to use magic if you couldn’t already. It doesn’t really work, but it works well enough to fool sensitives or some adepts, and it’s also really addictive, so by the time users figure out what’s going on it’s usually too late. The Council comes down hard on anyone they find supplying it. I think Alex and Caldera managed to catch the distributor that time, but I don’t know the full story.

From: Sheryl


1. Do you know what kind of mage Morden is?

2. Do you know what kind of mage Richard is?

3. This one’s a bit difficult – how did Alex actually become a mage? The first we hear of him he’s a mage but most of the detail is about his apprenticeship. How did he sit his mage test?

1. Death mage.

2. We don’t know.

3. See next question.

From: Harrison

Hi Luna,

Do you know why Alex has the title mage? From my understanding, he never finished his apprenticeship with Richard and he was unable to find another mage to take him as an apprentice to finish his. training or enter the light training program.


Same way you can drive a car without passing your driving test. The only ones who give formal tests to become mages are Light mages, and most mages aren’t Light mages. If you’re independent or Dark, and you want to be a mage, you just call yourself a mage. Short term, people will probably laugh at you, and Light mages will tell you you aren’t a ‘real’ mage unless you’ve done things their way, but if you’re good enough and you stick it out long enough, then eventually you’ll get accepted (even if they won’t come out and say so).

Short answer: the Council aren’t the judges of everything.

From: Jeff

Hey, I am just wondering if Morden or Richard are more powerful than Anne or is she the most powerful character in the books?

Another more important question is Verus and Anne going to hook up?

Anne’s very powerful, but she’s powerful in a specific way. I don’t think she could take on Morden or Richard unless she caught them by surprise.

And I have no freaking clue. You want to know the future, ask a diviner.

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Book 8 Updates

Still have a bunch more Ask Luna questions to answer (there was a LONG queue to work though) but for this week I thought I’d take a break from that to give you all some news on Alex Verus #8!

As of last week, I’ve received the first-round edits from my publisher.  I’ve decided more or less what changes to make, so it’s just a matter of getting it done.  Luckily, the plans don’t call for anything too drastic, so the job should be finished before the end of July, hopefully in time for me to get started on Alex Verus #9 in August.  (For those of you confused about what ‘first-round-edits’ means, take a look at my series posts about the stages of a new Alex Verus book.)

Book #8 also has an estimated release date and a title.  It’ll be called Bound and it should be released at the beginning of April 2017.  As usual, I’ll put up more closer to the time, but obviously you’re going to have to wait a while yet for a sample chapter!

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Ask Luna #67

From: Sotiris

Hey Luna!That is an awesome Q&A you have going on and thank you for it! To my questions:
1) Are the mages’ lifespans the same as normals’?
2)I have read that fate magic is all but extinct, but let me ask you this: If it did exist, how easy it would be for the other mages to sense it? Would it be possible that a very strong fate mage was manipulating every event without anyone knowing it?
Thanks for your time! Keep up the good work!

1) Yes and no. Physically they’re exactly the same as normals – there’s nothing about their bodies that’s special. But because they’ve got access to life magic, their actual life expectancy tends to be a lot higher. Kind of like the difference between rich and poor.

2) Sounds kind of paranoid. It could be possible, I guess? I mean, the one time I was around it, I couldn’t sense that anything different was happening. But then, a lot of mages can’t sense my magic, either, at least not without knowing what to look for. Maybe with a bit of practice you could sense fate magic too.

From: Cultural Enigma

Hi Luna,

First, congratulations on passing your journeyman’s test! Second, congratulations on the new(ish) relationship with Vari. Keep him in line – he needs a good sparring partner, the hothead. Is his family the same when you visited them At Christmas?

I have two questions (well three of you count my other one up there ^). 1) Has anyone tried a spell to give Hermes a voice? There has to be one somewhere, he seems smart, loyal, and interesting. Since he is willing to fight for & with Alex, it would be wonderful to hear (and I feel like he might be a bit sarcastic) him interact with the group in a verbal way. The dragon speaks. Arachne speaks. Why can’t Hermes?

2) Anne is one of your closest friends, and as you are the foremost expert on the man Alex Veras, would you please PLEASE tell the both of them that it’s ok to be in love with each other. He obviously likes, respects and trusts her. I found myself in disbelief that they were in the run all that time together and never crossed that bridge, mentioned the bridge or acknowledged the giant pink 800 lb bridge in the room. Clearly they are adults, and while Alex is a gentleman how many years have passed that they have been doing this? Please tell Anne that while Alex may know a lot about mages, he’s kind of a dunderhead when it comes to women apparently and that she may have to make the first move because he is too busy plotting future chess maneuvers to pay attention to HER paying attention to him.

And finally, I think you are a great hero to girls everywhere. I love your spirit, your determination, and your will. I see a little bit of you in both of my daughters, strength, stubbornness, intelligence and indomitable spirit.

I wish you well and hope you find employ doing what you love.



1) It did actually come up once. The way Anne explained it was that it would be possible, but it’d need fairly major body alteration (foxes don’t have the vocal chords that humans do, and they don’t have the speech-related wiring in their brains, either). She wouldn’t be able to do it, but we could probably find a shifter mage who could. But then the question would be, why? I mean, it’d be cool to talk to Hermes, but we already can, kind of. And it would be a huge, invasive, life-altering operation. I mean, if he was desperate to be able to talk, that would be one thing, but as far as we can tell, he isn’t.

2) Yeah, I know, I know. I’ve been thinking about saying something, but every time I’ve been about to, I’ve changed my mind at the last minute. I mean, let’s face it, pretty much my entire love-life has been some mix of ‘trainwreck’ and ‘nonexistent’. I’m the last person who should be handing out advice. Maybe I’m just seeing stuff that isn’t there. Anne is kind of quiet about that particular subject and if she wanted advice, she’d say something . . . wouldn’t she?

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I should say something. At least I’d know more.

Oh, and thanks for that last bit. I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in these emails.

From: Eric

Q: What is the difference between light mages and dark mages?
A: One group uses raw power and influence against their enemies and the other follows the one true way.

If the proverbial alien was watching and forming opinions solely based on the actions of, say Levistus and Barryaran, wouldnt he come to the above conclusion?

Could do? Though I’m not exactly sure which would be which.

When Alex first told me about Light and Dark mages, I thought it was good guys versus bad guys. Then after I saw some more, I thought it was bad guys versus bad guys. Nowadays it feels more like establishment versus rebels. The more I see of them, the less I want to label either of them as good or bad, even if it’s sometimes hard not to.

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Ask Luna #66

From: Toniaraem

For magic that requires touch, like Ann’s, does it have to be skin to skin or can it be done through clothing?

It works just fine through clothing, and through armour too. Anne says she prefers skin to skin, though, especially for delicate work.

From: Kurt Von Bosse

Hi Luna, thank you for answering my previous questions.

I know we will learn the specific new job responsibilities that Alex has in the next book, but I was wondering if you could answer a minor question in regard to his new official status, if not his true position. I feel certain you must be aware of it by now.

Even though Council member Levistus and the Crusaders don’t consider Alex to be a Light mage, technically he is now a full member of the Keepers and no longer just a Keeper Auxiliary.

Do you know if Alex is considered to be a Journeyman Keeper or is his official position higher than that?

I know his new status has little or nothing to do with how Alex will interact with or oppose Richard Drakh or Council member Morden, but after Alex’s last conversation/confrontation with Keeper Caldera, it might make future interactions and conversations with her even more difficult then they will already be if Alex now outranks her. In fact, I think it would really, REALLY get her goat. (I have no idea where that expression comes from, but somehow it feels appropriate.)

Well, there’s official and there’s unofficial.

Official position is that Alex is now a journeyman Keeper of the Order of the Star. So he has the same status as a newly-promoted Keeper. Which puts him at the same rank as Caldera, and as you’ve correctly guessed, she really does not like that. I’m guessing she sees it as something to do with ‘paying your dues’.

Unofficially, it’s more complicated. The way I understand it, a Keeper who’s also a Council aide would usually rank higher than a regular journeyman Keeper. Because Alex is aide to Morden, though, it’s the other way around – on paper he’s a Keeper, but as far as the rest of the Keepers are concerned, he’s definitely not. The Keepers really weren’t fans of the whole ‘bring a Dark Mage onto the Council’ plan, and they’re even less keen that a Dark mage gets to promote aides into their ranks, so they’re doing all they can to get rid of him.

From: Max

Hi Luna,

What does the mage community think of the mundane stage-performance-variety of magician (Houdini, &c.)? Do they care? Do they find it offensive? Are there any stage magicians who have actually magical ability? (One would assume that a genuine adept or mage working in stage magic would also have to have a bizarre sense of humor…)

Mostly stage magicians are so far below their attention of mages that they don’t even notice. If they did, I think it’s about fifty-fifty whether they’d be insulted or just contemptuous.

There are a few adepts who make a living as performers. Not a huge amount, but some. Usually they try to stay off the radar – small audiences, unofficial gigs, that kind of thing, so as not to draw the wrong sort of attention. The big headline stage magicians that people have heard of are pretty much all normals. A real mage wouldn’t take the job, and an adept would end up getting a visit from the Council unless he was very careful.

From: Kurt Von Bosse

Hi Luna, this may be a touchy subject to ask about.
When Alex told you, Vari, Anne and Sonder about his escape from Richard, no one asked him what I thought was an obvious question. Why didn’t Alex try to rescue Catherine Traviss the second time he tried to leave Richard? If he divined there was no way to accomplish this without dying, or it was somehow impossible to divine the outcome, those would have been reasonable answers. However, I wonder if Alex was just too afraid of Richard to even try. I know you can’t answer this question for Alex, but I’m wondering why you didn’t ask him. (Also, I know you can’t answer why none of Alex’s other close friends didn’t ask him the same question.)

We didn’t ask that question because asking would basically have been the same as saying “so, this really WAS all your fault, wasn’t it”. (Yes, we could have put it differently, but that’s how he would have heard it, and he wouldn’t really have been wrong.) Given the state Alex was in, that didn’t seem like the most helpful thing to be doing.

The other reason I didn’t ask was that it wasn’t that hard to read between the lines. The first time Alex tried to leave, he did try divining a way to rescue that girl, and it went really really badly. By the time he got the chance for the second break, he wasn’t in much of a state to think about anything except getting away. So he just ran, and he’s been remembering that for years.

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Ask Luna #65

From: Tyler H

I have noticed that some mages have two names, their mage name and their parent given name.
My question is how did alex get his? I there a particular story to his name or did he just think “verus” sounded good?

Oh, there’s a story to it. Apparently his old master sent him and the rest of his apprentices on some weird vision quest thing in Elsewhere. Alex got his mage name there, and I’m guessing that was where Rachel got ‘Deleo’, too.

From: Faragorn

So, is part of the madness that comes from Harvesting the incorporation of another personality into the harvesting mage’s own?

It would explain Deleo’s schizo behavior. And, if Onyx is a harvester, if he did another force mage it would probably enhance his own tendencies.

That’s definitely part of the reason they act so crazy. Alex and I have two theories on Onyx. One theory is that he’s a Harvester, and that’s why he’s so sociopathic. The other possibility is that he was already so sociopathic that Harvesting couldn’t actually make him all that much worse than he was to begin with.

With Deleo, there’s something else going on. I mean, having Shireen inside of her head is definitely part of why she’s so crazy, but from the one look I got, she’s got something else in there as well, and I definitely mean ‘something’ and not ‘someone’. I don’t know what it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good news.

From: Demetrius pettway

Alex seems to be in dire straights in general and especially most recently. While there may be no low hanging fruit for additional magical power, are there any promising avenues ?
Secondly, thanks for being so helpful with question answering !

Some. There have been some developments that look hopeful, but I can’t say too much about it just yet.

From: Josh G

Hey Luna, I read somewhere that the one who watches over your realm likes to play Fire Emblem. I was wondering if you might know what game said watcher enjoyed the most, and a favorite character? Keep up the good work Luna, and I can’t wait to see how you develop with Mr. Versus’ mentoring and tutelage!

I used to like Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, back when I had a lot of empty hours to fill. Not sure who my favourite character might have been . . . maybe Mia, though levelling her up was a pain in the neck. I probably would have really liked Lucina in that new game in the series, but by the time it came out I wasn’t spending so much time on computer games anymore.

From: DrizztMajere

Hi Luna I loved this last book. The part where Anne had to go along with Alex to Richard’s was mind blowing. I just have two questions for you today. First, when Alex saw the intricacies of the human body kind of how presumably Anne does did he explain why that happened? Lastly, you got bombs put up around you. Any thoughts on how you would deactivate them without dying next time if needed?

No idea what you’re referring to with the first question, but I had time to do a lot of thinking about the second, and I’m not going to play the deactivating game at all. Instead I’m going to make really damn sure that from now on, I only sleep in places that people either can’t reach or don’t know about, preferably both.

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Ask Luna #64

From: Elaine Felicity

Hi Luna,

been taking a trip down your memory lane – one question:

How did you get Alex out of hospital after he got stabbed?

I need details!


Uh, I’m not sure the statute of limitations has run out on that one yet.

We did try talking to them. But once Anne had a look at Alex, she told us that he was going to be dead inside of an hour, and then that hospital guy wouldn’t listen when we tried to explain. If he’d just let us take Alex away, everything would have gone smoothly. And it wasn’t as though anyone got hurt.

From: Ryan

Congratulations on becoming a Journeyman Mage! Have you been approached by other mages for anything yet? And have you chosen your mage name? If so, would you be willing to share your choice?
Thank you

A couple of mages have approached me, but not with anything I really want to do. To be honest, they haven’t really been treating me like a mage at all – it’s more like they think I’m one in name only. It’s kind of annoying. Haven’t figured out what to do about it yet.

I’ve been turning over ideas for names. Most mages go for some kind of name tied in to what they can do, or what they want other people to think they can do. Others go for some historical mage they want to emulate or something. Problem is, neither really appeals to me all that much. I never cared much about mage history, and given how mages treat me, I’m not sure if I really want to emulate them anyway. And naming myself after what my curse does would just be depressing – is that really what I want to go by for the rest of my life?

Maybe I ought just to stick with Luna. But that feels kind of unsatisfying as well. I dunno.

From: Vancefreed

Alex is obviously very afraid of Richard. But he is not omniscient and has to have flaws — can’t Richard using his skills and magecraft hold his own.
And the leading light mages seem hardly any different in practice that the dark. Is Richard preparing to take the gloves off and find ways to be feared and more powerful himself because he is getting ever more boxed in.

I’m assuming you’re getting Alex and Richard’s names mixed up there.

I think the problem Alex has with ‘taking the gloves off’ is that the whole reason he split away from Richard was because he DOESN’T want to be as ruthless as Richard is. I mean, if he was willing to knife someone for a profit, he wouldn’t have left in the first place. That said, trying to be ethical doesn’t do you much good if it just gets you squashed like a bug.

I dunno. I’m kind of glad he’s the one who has to figure this out and not me, to be honest, because I don’t have any great answers. I mean, Alex could have improved his situation a ton plenty of times before now. All he’d have had to do would be say ‘yes’ to Levistus or to Richard, and do what they told him. But then, that’s the problem, isn’t it?

From: David

Give what we learn about Crystal at the end of Taken, why at the beginning of the book is she trying hard to enlist Alex’s help?

Heh. If you’d spent as much time around Light mages as I have, you already know the answer.

Think about it. Crystal is (was) a Light mage. So what she knew about Alex at the time is what all the other Light mages ‘knew’ about Alex. First, he was the (willing) ex-apprentice of Richard, second, he didn’t want to join the Council, and third, he’d been involved in the suspicious disappearances of not one but two Light mages, Griff and Belthas. Put that together, and what do you get? You get something between “shady mercenary type” and “assassin”. That was who Crystal thought she was hiring.

These sorts of reputations don’t go away fast. It’s been years, and I still get Light apprentices who are freaking terrified to go near me. Between being Alex’s apprentice, and Anne’s friend, they all assume I’m some sort of black-widow-in-training. We laugh about it, but it does get annoying at times.

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More Burned Reviews

There have been a whole lot of reviews of Burned coming in, so here’s a selection from the past month or so:

The Irresponsible Reader
Audiobook Reviewer
The Steel Bookshelf
Morbier & Metal
Elizabeth Dickinson

On the topic of reviews:  if you put up a review of my books and you’d like me to link to you, go ahead and send me an email and I probably will.  I do try to link the reviews I find online (especially the ones that have obviously had a lot of effort put into them) but I’m pretty sure I miss quite a few, so feel free to remind me if you want to make sure it’s noticed!

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