Bound edits are done!

Well, it’s taken a while, but the first-round edits for Alex Verus #8, Bound, are basically done. I’ve got just a few more changes to make over the weekend, then I’ll be sending them off, and once I do, that’ll be that – there’ll be copy-edits afterwards, but the manuscript I send to my publishers on Monday will be 99% the same as the one you guys will get in your hands come the book’s publication in April.

This set of edits has run longer than I’d expected. I’d planned to get them done by some time in July, but it’s ended up taking a good month longer than that. While the changes were necessary, they’ve put me behind schedule from where I’d wanted to be –I’d been hoping to start Book #9 by the end of August, but now I probably won’t get properly into it until September. On the plus side, the changes have definitely made Bound a better book, and I think I’d rather have a better book than one that goes to the printers faster.

In other news, I’m still planning to go to New York Comicon, but I still haven’t heard anything back from the organisers about what events I’ll be doing. Will update you guys when I know more!

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Ask Luna #71

From: Sotiris

Hey Luna! It is me again. I would like to ask you about religion/faith this time. Are mages any different in their approach to religion than normals? Do mages tend to be more skeptic of a higher power due to their own “higher” powers? Finally is “faith” magic a thing? You know a cleric blessed with the power of God or the enlightment of Buddah or that kind of thing?

Thanks for your time!

Mages have pretty much the same approach to religion as normals do – you get ones of every background – but religious types do seem rarer among mages than everyone else. Either they’re more sceptical than average, or they just don’t like the idea of looking up to anything greater than them. Pick whichever explanation you like.

There are some magical traditions that do centre around faith magic, but it’s hard to find out much about them in Britain. The Light Council here look down on that stuff and when they do talk about it, they’re pretty dismissive.

From: Guilty

Dear Luna,

I have a few questions.
First, how has life as a Mage been so far, with the sudden disappearance of Alex and Anne, and the natural tumult of your life?
Second, how’re things with Vari? (Wink wink nudge nudge)
Thirdly, what’s your favorite fictional book to read?

Best of Luck,

Guilty

P. S.: Pun intended.

It’s been okay if hectic. The period where Anne and Alex were gone and I was on my own was not fun. The couple of weeks afterward weren’t fun either. Since then things have gotten better.

Things with Vari are fine, thank you very much.

Favourite books used to be the Alanna series, but I think I’d pick something different now.

From: Ravenfall

Hello Luna! Big fan here.
I have a question that’s been bothering me for awhile now, and I was wondering if you completely erased someone’s memories, then harvested them, would you still go insane? I mean all they really would be is power stuck in a body with no personality to add to your head right? Thank you for your time and all the best luck to you! Haha

You’d better not be asking this for the reason I think you are.

Magic comes from your personality, so if you wipe out someone’s memories and personality, you’d get rid of their magic too. I have no idea what would happen if you tried to Harvest them afterwards. Please don’t take that as an invitation to find out.

From: Hrok

Hi Luna, thanks for answering my questions.
• Firstly, I was wondering if shape shifters are able to “de-age” themselves by shifting back to a younger age.
Secondly what exactly are the limits of Wish or desire magic? Has there ever been a mage with this ability or is it only in the hands of items such as the Monkeys Paw?

Shifter mages do have some kind of rejuvenation/reincarnation trick that they can do, but it’s a closely kept secret. I do know that there are limits to it, though, as well as an unspecified (but probably high) price tag.

As for wish magic, it’s unlimited. In theory. I mean, it still has limits on magnitude, you can’t wish the world off its axis or something, but as far as magic types go it’s pretty much the ultimate multi-tool. As long as you’ve got enough power, you can do whatever the hell you want. As far as I know, it’s only available via certain magical creatures and items like that one, which might be for the best given how hard mages tend to fight over stuff like that.

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Ask Luna #70

From: Turnip

hi Luna!

1. what color are Onyx’s eyes? (important)

2. how did he and Morden meet?

3. what are Onyx’s hobbies?

4. is Onyx single?

5. what color is your toothbrush? (VERY important)

1. Brown.

2. Good question. I have no idea. He doesn’t exactly talk about his past history. Or talk about anything else. Or spend time with us at all.

3. Beating people up and killing them afterwards, as far as I can tell. Wtf.

4. Double wtf.

5. Green.

That was weird.

From: Fred

Hey Luna, just got a couple of questions.
1. Who generates more mystery/fear is both Light and Dark circles out of Richard and Morden? It seems that Morden has a much greater reputation as a powerful mage than Richard, but also easier to understand his goals.
2. Are life mages able to cure or successfully treat debilitating diseases like cancer or AIDS? Thanks for answering

1. If it was a matter of fame, it’d be Morden, but if you’re going for mystery/fear, it’d be Richard. Morden is probably more hated, but that’s because he’s better-known because he’s on the Council. Richard stays in the shadows. From what we’ve found, though, Richard’s probably the more dangerous.
2. Cancer is difficult because life magic healing mostly revolves around boosting the body’s natural regeneration by supplying it with energy to grow. Given that cancer involves the body growing the wrong way, using basic healing on it is kind of like trying to put out a fire by dousing it with petrol. I think healing works on AIDS as long as you catch it early.

From: Faragorn

So when you mention that Alex’s power will begin ramping up, does that mean he will branch out into Dionysian techniques? Everything he’s have done to date seems Appollonian

Possibly? He doesn’t have any plans in that direction as far as I can tell.

From: Dave

Do mages enjoy the more mundane parts of the ‘normal’ world such as sport, theater, music etc? Alex mentioned Arsenal in the PremierLeague at some point, and I was wondering if mages had any interest in that kind of stuff. If so, what are all your teams?

Oh, they definitely do. Being a mage doesn’t mean you suddenly stop caring about all the things you used to like or anything like that, so they go out to restaurants and to the theatre and everything else. When it comes to sport, though, they’re more likely to keep it quiet – mundane sports are considered kind of lower-class by Light mages.

As for teams, I’ve never really been into football and neither’s Anne, but I know Vari’s an Arsenal fan. I think he’s even been to a few games.

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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

Hi,

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.

Thanks!

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.

Best,

~CE

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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