Really Nearly There

Very, very close to finishing the first draft of Alex Verus #9.  With any luck, a week from now, it’ll be done.  I’ll be really glad when it is.

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Audio Top 10

From the Associated Press:  

Audible.com best-sellers for week ending June 23:

Fiction

1. Ubik (Unabridged) by Philip K. Dick, narrated by Luke Daniels (Brilliance Audio)
2. Camino Island: A Novel by John Grisham, narrated by January LaVoy (Random House Audio)
3. Tilt-a-Whirl: John Ceepak, Book 1 by Chris Grabenstein, narrated by Jeff Woodman (Audible Studios)
4. Pandemic: The Extinction Files, Book 1 by A. G. Riddle, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini (Audible Studios)
5. Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker, narrated by Amy McFadden (Brilliance Audio)
6. The Handmaid’s Tale: Special Edition by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Claire Danes, author and full cast (Audible Studios)
7. Beneath the Skin: The Sam Hunter Case Files by Jonathan Maberry, narrated by Ray Porter (Blackstone Audio, Inc.)
8. Come Sundown by Nora Roberts, narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers (Brilliance Audio)
9. Fated: Alex Verus Series, Book 1 by Benedict Jacka, narrated by Gildart Jackson (Tantor Audio)
10. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, narrated by Laura Aikman, Rachel Bavidge, Sophie Aldred, Daniel Weyman and Imogen Church (Penguin Audio)

That’s what an Amazon sale will do for your sales ranking.  It’s pretty cool seeing my name up there, even if it’s only for a week!

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Ask Luna #85

From: Janice

Hello Luna! Given that divination is only really accurate in the short term and that it is complicated by human actions, is it possible to (theoretically) kill Alex Verus by spiking his food or drink with something that will kill him over a longer period of time (e.g. a day or a week, even)?

Theoretically, that would work, yeah. Alex would probably appreciate it if you didn’t spread that around too much.

From: Wyatt freed

Hello Luna. I’m very curious about dreamstones. It is fascinating how they allow one to enter elsewhere like a fish to water. Now that alex has one, what powers is he working on developing. Will he be able to physically transport himself, and influence thoughts, control people? It’s very exciting. I bet it will be a great tool to help bring deleo away from Richard as well since his life depends on it. And I assume that since the dreamstone is now attuned to him it can only be used by him. Does it have to be in proximity to use it?

From what I understand, he’s practising with Elsewhere manipulation in general – shaping the world, that kind of thing. It always happens whenever you’re there, but according to Alex, you can do it much more consciously with practice. Arachne’s also teaching him to step between Elsewhere and dreamshards (apparently they’re a kind of halfway house between Elsewhere and regular dreams).

And yeah, as far as I know Alex is the only one who can use it. Imbued items in general are picky about their bearers. As for proximity, that’s something he’s specifically mentioned he was working on. To begin with he’d always touch the dreamstone to use it, but according to Arachne that isn’t actually necessary – all you need is the link. Last I heard he’d gotten to the point where he could use it at arm’s length or so.

From: Eikfo

Dear Luna,

Apologies to rebound on your answer regarding division of magical and political border (Ask Luna #81) with such a minor detail, but as a local, I cannot help but wonder if you might have any insight if Belgian magical government is somehow divided based on spoken language point of view, as the rest of the country is.

In addition, for a broader subject, do you know if Chance magic can alter digital worlds, such as, for example, video games that have random components, or if it is limited to the material world?

Thank you in advance for your reply,

Yours Sincerely,
Eikfo.

Okay, this is kind of embarrassing to admit, given how close Belgium is, but I honestly don’t have a clue. I pretty much exhausted my knowledge on that particular topic back in that last article. In my defence, European magical history is really complicated, with the different languages and all the hundreds of years of shifting borders. They tried to give us an overview back when I was an apprentice, but I really had trouble following it all.

As for the second question, kind of. Chance magic can affect anything with a random component, which most computer games have. So not much good for a chess program, but pretty useful for messing with the enemies on something like Skyrim. Oh, and obviously you don’t want to play online poker against a chance mage, but you probably guessed that already.

From: Dances With Horses

Hi Luna,

I’d like to ask please how / where Arachne sells her clothes, given that she’s very security conscious and we never hear of you bumping into her other clients.

Secondly, I’d also be grateful to know more about ‘Unicorns Run’. Alex mentioned at one point that unicorns weren’t the sweet and friendly animals of tales and Arachne has a dig at him because his outfit for the event got ruined. So what are unicorns like and what’s the story behind Alex, his clothes and Unicorns Run?

Thanks Luna and good luck with the rebuild of the shop.

Arachne mostly sells her clothes overseas. Actually, ‘sells’ is probably the wrong word, since I think she mostly trades them for goodwill/favours. From what I’ve seen, though, she has less clients than she used to. The world’s getting to be a tough place for magical creatures.

Unicorn’s Run is a Light Council event that has no actual unicorns (as far as I know). It’s one of those names out of ancient history. As for the story, Alex seems kind of reluctant to tell me any details, maybe because he’s embarrassed about it.

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Ask Luna #84

From: Iksander

Journeyman Vesta

Certainly has a nice ring to it doesn’t it! Congratulations on finding your name. I have a couple of questions for you if you have the time:

1) Has Variam passed his/taken his Journeyman tests yet? Follow up, has he decided on a name?

2) What is a Devourer? Sounds rather ominous to me…

Thanks! I liked it too.

Yup, Vari took his tests a while back. Pretty soon after I did mine, funnily enough. It hasn’t made much different in how he acts around us – I’d been expecting him to be a bit more puffed-up about it, but his attitude was more like “good, that’s out of the way”.

Devourers are really nasty magical creatures that do exactly what their name suggests. They were supposed to have been exterminated a long time ago, but unfortunately some mages decided they’d make really good guards, so you still find them around from time to time. I’ve never seen one, but I’ve heard descriptions.

From: Fade

Hi Luna, I was wondering what constitutes a “Master Mage.” I assume that Dark Master status is similar Dark Mage status, where they declare themselves and dare somebody to contradict them. What about light and independents? Is there another series of tests that they need to pass? Or is Master Mage less of an official title and more of a tacit understanding amongst one’s peers? I know Alex has more knowledge of the dark side of the fence, but I’m hoping maybe you picked some knowledge up in the apprentice program? Thank you for your time!

The Council does actually have rules on when someone qualifies as a master mage, but it’s totally different from the journeyman test system – it’s just age. After a certain amount of years as a journeyman (I think it’s 15 or 20 or something) you qualify as a master by default. Sounds kind of stupid, I know, but according to Alex it dates back to when magical life was a lot more dangerous, and the assumption was that if you were a mage at 40 and still alive then you must be doing something right. I’m not sure how many people take it seriously anymore, though. From what I’ve seen modern Light mages are more likely to boast about their rank in the Council or the Keepers or whatever – they don’t seem to care about the master thing.

With Dark mages, it’s exactly what you’ve guessed. They just call themselves that and see if anyone takes them up on the challenge. Usually no-one does.

From: Blackmass

I have a few questions about Jagadev

I understand why Alex won’t tell Vari about what Jagadev has killed members of his family but what about Anne why has he not told her about this

also will Jagadev oppose Drakh an his plans for the council or remain Neutral

also unrelated but what will Arachne do if Drakh succeeds in his grand schemes

The way I understood it, Alex never actually had any hard evidence that Jagadev was responsible for that stuff. So I guess that was part of the reason. He probably also figured that if he told Anne, it’d get back to Vari. Or maybe he just decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

From what’s been happening lately, I think Jagadev’s been helping Richard. Not out of any kind of friendship, more that he thinks it’ll destabilise the Council.

And I have no idea what Arachne’ll do if Richard gets what he wants. Funnily enough, I have the feeling it might not affect her much. It’s more the Council that she’s worried about.

From: Zachariah Loranis

Do you know any Adepts that are very skilled in barrier spells?

I met one whose particular trick was creating force walls. Don’t know if that’s the kind of thing you mean, but she was really good with them.

From: Nick

Luna are there any universal combat spells. By universal I mean almost every magic type can use them.
-Thanks

Not really. Universal spells are generally ‘magic on magic’ stuff. Analysing spells, using focus items, that kind of thing. Combat spells are a lot more specialised. Closest I can think of is a light spell, but even that’s limited to mostly elementalists.

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Still Writing

Still trying to finish Book #9 (which does now have a title).  I’ll be really happy when this one is finally done.

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Playbuzz Interview

There’s a short interview with Alex Verus up on Playbuzz.  Go take a look!

Work on Alex Verus #9 is entering the final stretch.  Hoping to finish it before the end of the month.

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Ask Luna #83

From: Justin

Hello Luna!

I was wondering if Wish magic, or any magic for that matter, can bring back or contact the dead?

Thank you!

Don’t think so. There are plenty of stories about some magic type or other bringing back the dead, but usually what it ends up being is some sort of construct made to look like the dead person. The stories never seem to go away though, maybe because people want to believe them.

From: Hrok

Hi Luna its me again,

I was wondering what you could tell us about Richards magic type. The description of it reminded me of how the Monkey Paws power was described when deflecting bullets, ie. as black threads. Did Richard get his hands on a weaker jinn at some point or is the description of it just coincidence?

I hadn’t thought of that connection, but it does make sense. I don’t know much more about it than you though. Richard doesn’t exactly give interviews, and as far as I know no-one’s picked a fight with him and survived, so there aren’t many eyewitness accounts. So we can make guesses, but it doesn’t really achieve very much.

From: Adam

Hi Luna,

I have enjoyed reading about your adventures with Alex and the others. The most recent installment raised some questions about “universal magic”. Could you answer the following for me:

1) Could Alex, Anne or yourself learn the sorts of untyped magical spells Richard uses? Speculation about his magic type seems to indicate you could…
2) What else can untyped magic achieve?

I’ll sign off with my own speculation as to Richards magic type – While his fighting style clearly reminds Alex of a Diviner could he be a time mage? Lots of time to react, aim and prep his spells, seriously rapid movement at critical moments could all be a function of time magic.

Thanks,

Adam

. . . And the time mage thing’s a possibility too. This is what tends to happen when we discuss Richard, we just keep saying ‘maybe’. Alex couldn’t actually detect any time auras any of the times he ran into Richard, but that doesn’t prove anything, he could just have some way to shroud himself.

As for whether we could use the untyped spells Richard does – short answer is no, because as far as I know, doing that kind of stuff with untyped magic isn’t supposed to be possible. Untyped spells are ‘gateway’ ones which are very general and universal, usually magic that works on other magic. So magesight, focus item use, construct creation, that sort of thing. It’s not supposed to be any use for combat at all, so god only knows how Richard can make it work that way. But that’s the problem with mages. There are so many weird niche uses for magic that no-one knows about, because the few mages who find out about them keep them secret to get an advantage over everyone else.

From: Randy

Dear Luna, was the monkey’s paw destroyed along with Alex’s shop.
Thanks!

Nope. It was in his safe room and Alex picked it up the next day, along with everything else in there. Though honestly, I’m not sure it would have been harmed even if it hadn’t been. I think burning that thing wouldn’t do much except annoy it.

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Fated at a Discount

Still working away on Book 9, but today’s news is that Amazon is selling the ebook version of Fated at a steep discount from May 17th to June 26th as part of their “Start a New Series” promotion.  At the time of writing it’s available for $1.92 on the US Kindle Store, and for £1.49 in the UK.  So if you don’t have a copy yet, or know someone who’s thinking about picking it up, now’s a good time!

Update:  Apparently the discount on the US edition only seems to be applying if you’re trying to buy from the UK.  Sorry to the US readers out there!

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Ask Luna #82

From: Brad

I may have missed it somewhere but could you explain the theory and magic behind constructs?

So, this isn’t something I have any first-hand experience of, but I’ve sat through a bunch of classes and heard a bunch of bits and pieces from Alex. The way I understand it, there are basically two ways to make constructs. The first is like making a magical computer. You get an energy source, tie it to a few animating spells, then add a sort of “program” that works as its brain. It doesn’t have any actual intelligence, so the instructions have to be really simple, and it can’t take initiative or think for itself. On the plus side, since they’re basically just lumps of matter with no internal organs, they’re pretty tough, so they’re good for dangerous work.

The second way is to get a magical creature like an elemental and bind it into a pre-prepared vessel. Basically you trap the thing and use it as the power source and the brain. It makes a much more powerful construct, and it doesn’t need fuelling the way the regular constructs do, so long as you don’t have any problem with the “enslaving a sentient creature” part. Those kinds are called golems, and they’re quite a bit rarer than the first type.

From: Jim

Hey Luna,

I have been thinking about the events that led to Alex having to exit the UK and you taking your journeyman tests.

Now, I am sure that Alex told you that Hakun warned him about Levistus at the end of the White Rose Affair. My question to you is doesn’t Alex seem to be really passive about this threat?

If I were Alex, I would have done a bit of World traveling and gambled my way into some money to hire a dozen or so assassins to kill Levistus. That would seem to be prudent to me.

Why do you think Alex sat around waiting to be killed?

Oh god. Where to start?

Alex already has plenty of money. Here’s the thing about money: it can only buy stuff that’s for sale. “Make a person on the Light Council dead” is not a thing that’s for sale. The only people who’d be able to do something like that probably don’t work for money.

I mean, let’s say you do find someone who’s scary enough to kill a master mage. Try and think about what would happen if you went up to them with a bag of cash and told them to kill one of the highest-ranking people in magical Britain. What’s easier for them – getting the money by killing Levistus, or by killing you?

From: Magnus

Hi, Luna. I have two rather average length questions.
Firstly, if a young diviner walked into Alex’s shop, how do you think he would react? The only other diviner I can remember him interacting with is Helikon (more than likely the wrong spelling, sorry), who’s Alex’s elder; he’s closed off and isolated. Would he treat them the same way he’d treat the other young mages and adepts who walk into his shop?
Secondly, I read, I believe in Taken, that it’s gotten to the point where you can come into contact with something without leaving any of your curse attached to it. Does this also work with people? Because if so, would that mean you’d be able to do things such as high-five people?

First one: I don’t think it’s ever happened, but it’s kind of interesting to think about. I have a feeling he’d probably try and take the kid under his wing. He’s got a bit of a mother-hen instinct that way.

Second one: Yes! And it was really, really satisfying. It’s taken me literally years of work, but it was worth it.

From: Todd Robinson

Hi Luna,

Did Alex ever tell you how he and Starbreeze met? or why Starbreeze gave him the summoning rod?

He did actually tell me the story, but it was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten it. He didn’t tell me why Starbreeze let him use the rod, but it’s not hard to guess – she just decided she trusted him.

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Ask Luna #81

From: Casey

Hi Luna,

I was wondering why Alex gave himself the name Verus. In your response to this same question asked previously, it seems that Alex did a vision quest. What was that process like?

I’m also curious about some of the other mages. I know some mages choose a name based on their mage type. For examples, Cinder and Caldera. Cinder is a fire mage, and his name means partly burned coal or wood. Caldera is an earth mage, and her name means a large volcanic crater. But why did Sonder, Talisid, Landis, Deleo, and Drakh choose their name? Did any of them choose to take the name of a historical mage, or did they just like the way it sounded?

Also, will you and/or Variam choose a new name after passing the journeyman tests? I apologize if you have already answered this somewhere.

Since a mage’s name is supposed to say a lot about them, I’m really curious to why each chose their ‘Mage’ name. Thanks!

Alex has told me a little bit about how he got his name. It sounded fairly weird. There was a castle or something, and some thing that looked like a woman but wasn’t. I had trouble following it, to be honest, but that’s kind of what you expect with Elsewhere. The place doesn’t translate well.

A lot of the mage names are historical ones. Landis was some famous guy back in the 19th century or something, and Talisid is from a myth. Sonder isn’t, funnily enough – he told me once that was actually a word, just an obscure one. Deleo is Latin. Don’t know about Drakh.

And yes, Vari and I both have our new names, though I still prefer going by my birth name with anyone I know.

From: Jeffrey

Is Alex, like okay, hormonally? It seems like he has 0 libido. I know he was on the run, but you’d think the man would have SOME inclinations, if you catch my drift.

Sincerely,
A Concerned Fan

Given my own issues, I’m not going to start throwing stones when it comes to other people’s sex lives.

From: Hrok

Hello Luna!
I was wondering how powerful djinn/genie are in comparison to the dragon beneath Arachne’s home. Hypothetically if a mage ever got control over one would they be able to defeat it? How powerful would one be in comparison with the Monkey’s Paw?

I think that’s kind of like asking who’d win in a fight between an eagle and a whale. They’re completely different playing fields. But I have the feeling that if a fight did somehow happen, it’d be extremely one-sided.

From: AcrossThePond

Hey Luna,

Quick Question– just wondering if Light Council political boundaries always line up with mortal nations? Seems like the case in Great Britain, but do they typically cover more or less area than your average country?

They don’t exactly line up in Great Britain – the magical boundary doesn’t include Northern Ireland, so it’s just Britain and Ireland. That’s why mages never say ‘Great Britain’.

In most cases magical nations are a bit bigger than mundane ones. There aren’t many tiny magical nations, because they wouldn’t have enough mages to make enough of a population. So there’s no independent magical government of Luxembourg – they’re grouped up with Belgium. The US and Canada were meant to merge some time in the past, I think, but there was some sort of argument and now they stick to the national borders.

From: Natter Volo

Dear Alex,

I have a few questions regarding the peculiarities of prescience.

Firstly, is it possible to be influenced negatively by the perception of alternate futures? For example, forseeing the paralyzing gaze of a medusa, or the transfixing beauty of a nymph? Can these sorts of “dangerous sensation” pose a risk to the present self?

Secondly, does the world ever retaliate against blatant and egregious changes to the future? For example, winning the lottery by cheating, but then suffering a series of expensive, disastrous coincidences which gradually strip away the ill-gotten gains.

Lastly,can a person ever see past a choice he does not understand?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read these!

With sincere curiosity, your good stranger,
Natter Volo

You probably should be sending these to Alex, not me, but oh well.

First, yes, but not in the way that you’re thinking. You don’t get actually hit with the consequences, but Alex has mentioned more than once that it’s a bit stressful to see yourself getting killed or maimed in possible futures over and over again. The effects add up.

Second one, kind of. There’s no magical balancing mechanism or anything like that, but there are a whole lot of non-magical ones. For one thing, the police and the Inland Revenue start asking awkward questions once they notice that you’re spending ten times as much money as you’re legitimately earning. And if you do stuff too blatantly or visibly, the Keepers tend to come calling, too. The Order of the Cloak can clean that kind of stuff up easily enough, but it annoys them enough that they’re likely to do something about it.

Third one, no idea. Probably not.

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