Fated – UK Audio Release

Okay!  So for this week we’ve got some good news, and some bad news.

So, as some of you may remember, the Alex Verus novels were released in audio format in the US by Tantor a few months back.  One of the questions I’ve been getting since then is “when are they coming out in the UK?”

Well, the good news is that Fated is being released in the UK in audio format on 2nd September!  This is the same date as the release of book #5 in the Alex Verus series, Hidden.  The UK audio will be the same recording as the American Tantor edition, read by the same reader, Gildart Jackson.  You can listen to a sample of it here on SoundCloud.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that, as the eagle-eyed among you may have already spotted, the release date is for Fated, not the Alex Verus novels as a group.  The reason for this is that while Fated is getting a UK audio release, Cursed, Taken, Chosen, and Hidden aren’t, at least not as yet.  So this means that while you’ll be able to listen to Fated, you won’t be able to listen to any of the ones that come after.  This is obviously less than ideal, given that the whole idea of a series like this one is that people who like the first book will hopefully read the others.  Unfortunately, since my UK publishers have the audio rights, it’s their decision and not mine.

I’ve asked when Cursed/Taken/etc are likely to be getting their own UK audio releases, but haven’t gotten any very definite answer.  Best guess is that my publishers are planning to wait and see what the sales of the Fated audio edition are like first.  Unfortunately, given the delay times in the publishing business, this means there’s likely to be a significant wait.

But, on the positive side, one’s better than none, and those of you who’ve been emailing asking for a UK audio edition have got something to look forward to at least.  I’ll keep working on getting audio editions of the rest of the books in the series published in this country as well, and when I have any news I’ll post it up here.  Until then, watch this space!

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Genres and Series

Writing Alex Verus #6 has been an interesting learning experience.  In particular, it’s gotten me thinking about variations within a series.

Normally, a series tends to model itself on the first volume – people pick up book one, and if they like it, they pick up the future books too, looking for more of the same.  To a certain extent, that’s what I’ve been doing with Alex Verus – plot- and character-wise, there’s definitely a lot in common between the books, and it’s obviously meant as one continuous story, albeit an episodic one.  The same characters crop up in each book (with some shuffling), and the structure of each story isn’t massively different (though a lot of that might just come down to my writing style).

That said, while I do think that ‘more of the same’ is a legitimate way to write a series, it’s not quite how I do things.  I get bored quickly if I’m only doing the same thing over and over again.  I don’t know how obvious it is to a reader, but up until now, while writing the Alex Verus novels, I’ve actually been doing a fairly significant amount of experimenting.  With each book I’ve been mixing things up a little, changing the formula to see whether I like the results.

With Cursed, the changes in theme and style from Fated were relatively small, mostly in the form of upping the action scenes.  With Taken, I went the other way.  If you count them up, there are far fewer fights in Taken than in either of the previous two books, but they’re more protracted and more tied into the primary storyline.  Instead Taken ended up having some elements of a murder mystery if anything, as well as introducing two new characters, Anne and Variam.  (Anne and Vari are a good example of an experiment that worked.  I had no idea when I was including them whether they’d stick around or not.  As it turned out, they did.)

With Chosen I did something different.  In books 1-3, Alex was typically drawn into the plot out of a desire to help someone else – someone was in trouble, and Alex would get involved trying to help them.  For Chosen, I decided it would be fun to reverse things.  Instead of Alex being the one helping others, he was the target, and everyone else became involved due to trying to help him.  It was a nice change of pace, and let me explore the character relationships from a new angle.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is that the current book is turning out to be quite different again.  It’s much more focused on politics and on police work, which has been a new experience for me – for one thing, it’s meant that many of the conflicts are very long-distance affairs where Alex never sees the face of his real opponent.  Which causes some issues – how do you keep conflicts interesting without that personal touch?  Not an impossible problem, but it does force me to think, and do things differently.  And there’s always the risk that readers won’t like the changes I make.

But all in all, I prefer it this way.  Writing stories in a slightly different style is harder than writing them in the same style, but it’s more fun, at least in my opinion.  Wonder what I’ll end up doing for book #7?

 

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Ask Luna #28

From: Groundhoggoth

Hi Luna, thanks for the taking the time to deal with some correspondence.

It’s been clear on every occasion when your curse is active (sorry to bring that up) that Alex can see it with his mage’s senses… but is he the only one? There are a couple of occasions where the curse reaches out to other mages & adepts, yet they take no action to steer clear, as if they can’t see it. What gives?

From what I’ve been able to figure out, it’s a combination of sensitivity and practice. Magesight’s kind of like a skill or a spell, and if you aren’t good enough at it, then you can’t spot my curse at all, no matter how hard you try. So Alex can do it because his magesight’s really good and we’ve been hanging out for years, but Anne still can’t, even though I spend as much time with her as I do with him. Vari can sort of vaguely see it, but not clearly, though he’s getting better. But then you get some mages whose magesight is great but who just don’t spot it at all, because they don’t know what they should be looking for.

Oh, and Arachne saw it the instant she first met me without Alex telling her anything. But then she kind of plays by different rules.

And don’t worry about bringing my curse up. I’ve pretty much accepted it nowadays.

From: Anton

Hey Luna, four quick questions:

1. How well versed is Alex in ritual magic?
2. How come Alex doesn’t have a Shadow Realm? Seems like it could be invaluable to a Mage like him.
3. Have you and Alex ever considered combining magic to make a focus? I suspect you could create a solid counter spell focus for Alex maybe even an extremely underpowered version of a fateweaver (sans crazy mind Mage ).
4. Does Alex make his own gate stones?

Thanks for your time.

1. He knows the basics, but he’s not an expert. I don’t think it comes up much in his line of work.

2. Because there are a lot more people who want shadow realms than there are shadow realms going spare. Besides, why would you want one? All they’re good for is cutting yourself off from the rest of the world, and just being able to use magic does enough of that already.

3. I suppose we could try it, but firstly, I’d have to learn how to make focuses, and secondly, a counterspell item that you need to concentrate on to make work isn’t as useful as you’d think. There’s probably something we could do with it, but it’s not likely to happen any time soon unless Alex decides to set it for me as a homework project. (PS, Alex, if you’re reading this, I’m busy enough already.)

4. No, you have to be able to cast gate spells yourself to make a gate stone.

From: Fade

Hi, Luna. I think my question hits on kind of a touchy subject, but has Alex ever shared what kind of mage his old master Richard was? And, followup question, why didn’t Richard take up a fancy single word name like every other Dark mage seems to pride him/herself on? (I’m assuming that, similar to Verus, Drakh isn’t the name on his birth certificate.)

Funny you should ask that – we asked Alex the same thing one Wednesday a few weeks back. He told us that Richard was ‘passing’ – he kept his magic type hidden. It pretty much never happens with Council mages, but more Dark mages do it than you’d think. Obviously it’s really hard, but it’s really useful if they can manage it. Even if they only manage to keep part of their magic a secret, if someone attacks them without knowing about it, it gives them a huge advantage.

As for why he uses a double name rather than a single-word one, I’ve no idea, and you’re right that it’s unusual. Most Dark mages use their mage names and nothing else, and they really don’t like getting called by their birth names.

From: John

Hi, Luna. I’m a fan of you and Alex from the Philippines. I have some questions, if you don’t mind:

1. Do some mortal cultures tend to produce certain types of mages more than they do other types? For example, is there a nation somewhere on Earth that produces a lot of fire mages?

2. Am I correct in suspecting that most Dark mages who successfully graduate from the apprentice stage have conducted the Harvesting ritual? It seems to be the logical outcome when one considers the True Way. And Morden’s Chosen, Onyx was on the verge of defeating Deleo, who had Harvested. I figure the only way he could do that was if he had also Harvested.

For the first question, yep, definitely . . . not always the way you’d think, though. A lot of apprentices seem to think that you get fire mages from hot climates and ice mages from cold climates, but it’s more complicated than that. I think it’s more to do with the culture than the nation.

The Harvesting question is harder, because it’s a taboo subject with mages. You’re literally not even supposed to mention it, and if you do mention it, people start looking at you sideways – it’s a major no-no. So it’s hard to figure out which Dark mages have done it and which haven’t, because Light mages won’t talk about it and Dark mages won’t tell you, at least not in public.

That said . . . people still talk, and there are still rumours. I once got told that Harvesting is supposed to always drive the one who does it insane, it’s just that some of them are really good at hiding it. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I remember when dealing with Deleo that there was something really wrong about her. I had the same feeling the few times I’ve seen Onyx. It’s like there’s some part of you that’s yelling at you to stay away from them.

So weird as it sounds, I’d actually guess that for most Dark mages, they haven’t done it. I’ve met a few other Dark mages who are like that, but most weren’t. They might have been ruthless, but they weren’t crazy. Maybe it’s that given the side effects you’re risking with Harvesting, you have to be more than halfway crazy to do it in the first place.

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Sales and Royalties

Some good news for this week!  My latest set of royalty statements arrived over the weekend, and I’ve had the chance to go through them properly.  They look good – actually, very good.

Advance warning: the rest of this post is going to be about sales figures.  I’m not actually going to copy-paste the entire sea of numbers from my royalty statements up on this blog, partly because I’m pretty sure it would bore most of you to tears, and also because putting your financial details out there on the Internet probably isn’t the smartest thing you can do from a personal security perspective.  However, everything from here on is basically sales analysis.  If you aren’t interested in reading it, skip to the heading below marked ‘TLDR Summary’.

Also, for some background, I wrote a post last year on advances and royalties:  if you’re getting confused about the references to royalties and what ‘earning out an advance’ means, take a look at that first and it should explain most of it.

With that said, here are the highlights.

The Important Bits

  • The first three books in the Alex Verus series (Fated, Cursed, Taken) have now earned out their advance and are into royalties in both the US and the UK.  This means that from now on, any further copies that get sold directly give me money.
  • My sales of Fated, Cursed, and Taken in the second half of 2013 are slightly (but noticeably) higher than the sales of the first half of 2013.  Which probably doesn’t sound like much, but which from my point of view is REALLY encouraging.  Books normally tend to sell less and less as time passes;  the fact that the trend’s going the other way, even slightly, is a very good sign.
  • The sales of Chosen upon its release in August/September 2013 are higher than the sales of Taken upon Taken‘s release in August/September 2012.  Which again doesn’t sound like much, but is a big deal.  It means that an increasing number of people both know about the series and like it enough to buy the next one when it comes out.

With regard to the second point, it’s worth bearing in mind that part of the uptick in sales for Fated/Cursed/Taken in the second half of 2013 can be put down to the release of Chosen and to the December holiday season, both of which are going to skew things a bit.  That said, from a business point of view, the whole point of a book series is that the release of each later book is supposed to boost the sales of each earlier book.  In my case, that seems to be exactly what’s happening, and the sales boost is strong enough that the books are getting into royalties.

The Less Important Bits

  • Ebooks are a really big part of my sales numbers.  In absolute terms, I still sell more paper books than ebooks.  However, the ebook numbers are a high fraction of the paper ones, and they’re climbing – if things keep going as they are, they’re going to overtake my paper sales eventually.  In particular, the further my books get from initial date of publication, the more their sales skew towards electronic rather than print.
  • Despite selling more paper books than ebooks, ebooks actually earn me more in total than paper ones do.  Partly this is because I get a better royalty rate on electronic sales than I do on mass market and trade paperbacks, but the fact that ebooks aren’t subject to returns has a fair bit to do with it.
  • I sell more books in the US than I do in the UK, though not by much.

These are more a matter of trivia than anything else, though they’re still interesting for the sake of curiosity.  Apparently my readers really like ebooks, which probably isn’t too much of a surprise.

Putting It Together

So sales are good, and from the way they’re trending, it’s looking as though they’re going to continue to be good.  The earning-out-the-advance in the UK and US is especially good news – it means I’ll effectively have a second source of income in addition to what I get from my advances.

That said, I’m not going to be buying any mansions any time soon.  I’m financially pretty successful by author standards, but given that most authors make basically nothing, that’s a really low bar to clear.  However, it does mean that barring something unforeseen, I can keep paying my bills through working as a full-time author, for the next couple of years at least.

The sales are also good news for the future of the Alex Verus series.  Publishing is a business, and publishers put out books because they expect those books to make them money.  When a series sells badly, it gets cancelled:  when it sells well, publishers will keep it going.  These sales figures mean that Orbit and Ace are likely to be willing to keep publishing more Alex Verus books – obviously I still have to write them, but it’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll have the choice.  And since right now what I really want to do is keep writing more books in the Alex Verus series, that’s not going to be a difficult choice to make.

Of course, when I’m talking about ‘more books’, I’m looking WAY into the future.  Alex Verus #5, Hidden, is coming out this September, and I’ve already got contracts for Alex Verus #6 and #7, so the ‘more books’ I’m thinking about are numbers #8, #9, or even further beyond.  So this is seriously long-term stuff we’re talking here.  But then, when you’re writing a series that stretches out for years, that’s kind of what you expect, isn’t it?

TLDR Summary

The books are selling well, my readership’s growing, and it’s looking as though I’ll be able to keep writing more books in the Alex Verus series.  Good news all around!

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Ask Luna #27

From: Cyberjaeger

Hey luna just some more ques

1. alex says that vampires where all wiped out but that space mage from the tournament learned his life extension technique from one how is that possible

2. did you ever find the guy that gave the nightstalkers their info on alex

3. are creature like the fair folk real

4. are places like avalon real hell was merlin real

5. was atlantis real

sorry for taking up so much of your time

That is a REALLY random selection of things to ask. Why do you want to know this stuff, again? Oh well, guess I can treat it as revision for my next set of exams.

1. If you’re talking about Vitus, I seriously doubt he learnt it from a vampire directly. From how Alex explained it, right at the end of the vampire wars the mages took a few prisoners and spent a while interrogating them, and the rituals got passed down from there. Given the side effects, I can see why Vitus’ way of doing it never really caught on. There might be better versions of the ritual out there, though . . . nice cheery thought.

2. We never got a definite answer, but Alex and I spent a while talking about it afterwards. We decided that we were looking for someone who had a lot of links to adepts, and who didn’t like Alex much. And when you put it that way, there’s a really obvious candidate, isn’t there? Though we don’t have any proof.

3. I think so, yeah. Not many left, though, and I’ve never met one.

4. No idea about Avalon, but yeah, Merlin was real. Most of the stories from back then are all legends, though. Haven’t a clue which ones are true.

5. God knows.

From: BlackMAss

I wonder have the dark mages ever tried to make their own group similar to the council also how did the ally together during the gate ruin war

Another thing who was the first dark mage and did he creat the true path

Okay, guys, no offence, but spellcheck is a thing. It’d be a lot easier to read these questions if you ran them through MS Word or something first.

As for Dark mage history . . . yeesh, you don’t ask the easy questions, do you? When I started doing this, I was worried I was going to get questions about creepy personal stuff. Instead I keep getting asked about things that happened God knows how long before I was even born. Maybe I ought to find one of the nerdier students from the apprentice programme and get them to do it for me. I mean, I’m not exactly top of my class in this stuff.

But okay, okay, Dark mages. Um . . . first one was some guy called Morthalion, I think. That was back in Syriathis, there are a bunch of legends about him. As for them making their own groups, yeah, I think that’s happened a few times, though I don’t know what happened afterwards.

And I have no idea how they allied during the Gate Rune War, sorry. That’d be one for my history teachers.

From: Nightsbridge

Can wizards work together to blend their disciplines into spells, or is casting an entirely solitary endeavor? Could a time mage and a space mage get together and figure out how to scry a distant location’s past?

Finally one I know something about (more from Alex than from classes, but whatever). Yep, you can blend magic types, there’s a whole field of ritual magic designed specifically to do it. It takes a bit of work, though, and usually they either need a special focus or they have to have worked together for a while.

Mages don’t do it that often in practice because it’s usually easier to do their spells one after another rather than combining them. Like with your example – yeah, you could have a space mage and a time mage work together to do a timesight-scry. But it’d take a lot of work and it’d be less efficient than either spell on its own. So more likely, the space mage would just gate the time mage to wherever they wanted to go, then get the time mage to do their timesight there.

From what I understand, the big problem with doing those kind of combination spells is that they’re slow. So you can’t do them under pressure, because you wouldn’t get them off in time. You have to do them in some kind of protected area, like with most ritual magic.

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Encyclopaedia Arcana #62: Ice Magic

One of the more common elemental types, ice magic is well known as a battle-magic style. While ice mages aren’t quite as common as fire mages, they’re still numerous, much more so than any of the universalist types.

Fire and Ice

Like fire mages, ice mages start off by learning to control temperature, though they control it in the opposite direction. Ice mages are completely unable to generate heat, but they’re great at neutralising it, freezing liquids, objects, or areas. (Luckily for them, they generally also develop a high degree of cold tolerance at the same time – if they didn’t, they’d have a good chance of killing themselves through hypothermia before ever making initiate.) Ice magic tends to focus on locking down and controlling, rather than the wild destructiveness of fire magic, and unlike fire, ice doesn’t spread, meaning that new ice mages tend to cause fewer and less spectacular accidents than novice fire mages do.

Once they’ve mastered basic temperature control, ice mages start working with ice itself. Like most mages, ice mages are unable to actually create material out of nothingness without expending an enormous amount of energy, so the easiest way for them to produce ice to work with is to form it out of nearby bodies of water, or out of atmospheric moisture. With a ready supply of water, an ice mage can shape it into almost anything he likes: walls, platforms, ladders, handheld items, and tools of all descriptions. The volume of material is limited by the amount of water an ice mage has at his disposal, but ice magic has an advantage over types such as fire and force in that ice spells last. A wall of force vanishes as soon as the force mage stops concentrating, but a wall of ice lasts until it melts (which can be quite a while).

Kill It With Ice

Ice magic is well-suited to combat. Even relatively inexperienced ice mages can usually manage some sort of destructive spell: the most common one is a stream of ice shards and super-chilled air, the temperature freezing a target into immobility as the shards rip it apart. More skilled ice mages can simply freeze a target directly, dropping the temperature around it to the degree that it becomes a brittle, lifeless statue. While ice attacks lack the direct destructive power of fire magic, ice mages make up for it by being much better at defence. Ice shields can not only act as a physical barrier, but can slow and freeze attacks as they come in, draining away their energy.

Unusually for a battle-magic type, ice magic has the ability to be quite precise in its effects. While freezing an area or sending a blast of sub-zero air might sound pretty indiscriminate, ice mages can focus their spells to a degree that makes them surprisingly accurate. For this reason, they have a reputation for being good choices if you want to defend or protect something – they’re much less likely to cause collateral damage than a fire or force mages. If an ice mage hits something, it’s generally because he meant to.

Ice Age

Ice mages tend to be rational, organised, and reactive. Often they’re stereotyped as emotionless and cold, but this is inaccurate – ice mages have emotions the same as anyone else, they just tend to be self-controlled about them. Although not inherently destructive, they do have an aggressive streak, and it’s quite possible to make them lose their temper. Doing so is rarely a good idea. A personality quirk of ice mages is that they can be furiously angry, and yet at the same time control and channel their anger in a highly disciplined way. They’re also patient, and have a tendency to hold grudges.

Ice mages tend Light, rather than Dark. They’re disproportionately common in the Council in general and in the more militaristic branches of the Light Council in particular. Relatively few are independents, and those that are usually gravitate towards the more dangerous jobs. Ice mages might prefer order to chaos, but they’re quite happy with conflict.

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Ask Luna #26

From: Cyberjaeger

Hey luna I liked the way you took out the night stalkers in the casino very fine work 

I have some more questions

1. what other worlds were accessible back in the precursor society you mention alata as one

2. What ever happened to syriathis

3. and finally what has your teachers told you about dragons are there any othe breeds of them like sea dragons

Thanks.  Feels like a while ago now. 

Answers for your questions: 

1. Alata’s the only one I can remember.  Well, I guess there were the usual bubbles and shadow realms and stuff.  And I think there might have been other ones accessible from Alata, but I’m not sure.  

2. Got destroyed, I think.  Or abandoned, or something . . . look, this is really old stuff we’re talking here, and I might not have been paying that much attention when we covered it.  I mean, it’s not like you guys are expected to know what happened to every ancient city from thousands of years back, right?

3. I think there’s supposed to be this big split between dracoforms and true dragons.  The lesser ones are just ordinary magical creatures, fairly strong but nothing all that special.  The true dragons are something else and no-one seems to know much about them.  All we get taught in the classes is variants on ‘stay away’.  I’d kind of like to see one one day – Alex and Vari both have, but when they try to describe what they saw it never makes much sense.  

From: Jack.

Could we get an Encyclopaedia article on Ice magic? Thanks, Luna. 

Yeah, I think there’s one around.  I’ll go dig it up.  

From: Nightsbridge

Do you know if there are any methods of longevity that do not involve regular appointments with life mages or horrid ritual magic?

Not that I know about, nope.  It’s one of those subjects that our programme teachers won’t tell us much about.  Well, okay, they’ll tell us SOME things, but they don’t seem all that useful.  You don’t have to listen that long to figure out that it’s not something that mages like spreading around.  

From what Alex has told me low-level life extension isn’t that hard, you just need a life mage.  It’s when you get into the long-term stuff that it gets serious.  There are a bunch of different ways, none of them are public knowledge, and all of them are supposed to have major problems.  Apparently accidents or side effects to longevity magic are how quite a lot of mages end up dying, which seems weirdly backwards.

From: Nightsbridge

Hello again. Hope you don’t mind me sending in another question. I’d like to ask about your magic now.

During your books, we’ve seen you deflect water blasts with your curse-whip. I’m curious about how this works, since usually your curse seems to manifest as things that could have happened anyway, but the spontaneous failure of the magic it contacts makes me scratch my head a bit. Do you know how this works?

Yep, it’s something I’ve talked over with Alex.  It’s a combination of two things.  

Firstly, pretty much all magic types have some limited counterspelling ability.  Basically, if you stick a lot of your own magic into the middle of someone else’s spell, it’s likely to mess it up, even if the spells aren’t directly opposed to each other.  That’s how fire mages and air mages can block each other’s attacks, even though the products of their magic don’t really interact with each other much.  So if I focus my curse, it acts sort of like a shield.  

The second reason (and I think this is the bigger one) is that active spells are actually really fragile.  From what Vari’s told me, a spell you’re directly projecting is always right on the edge of losing cohesion and collapsing in on itself, especially if it’s a combat spell.  So if you take something that specialises in causing concentrated bad luck and pour it into an active spell, then all my curse has to do is find a tiny flaw somewhere to break the spell wide open.   

So putting those two things together, I can mess up almost any spell as long as I hit it right as it’s being cast.  Which is pretty cool.  

From: Claudia

Hi Luna! 

Maybe I’m missing something, but Alex’s power only allows him to see into the future, right? And the difference between a mage and an adept is that an adept can only do one thing with their power whereas a mage can do multiple things sort of all related to a basic power over air, heat, space, time, whatever. So why is Alex a mage and not an adept? If time mages like Sonder can actually manipulate time to some degree, why can’t Alex?

I think I did this question a way back.  

Yeah, Alex’s powers all basically come down to ‘seeing into the future’, in the same way that all Vari’s powers come down to ‘moving heat around’ and all Anne’s powers involve ‘controlling things that are alive’.  No-one calls THEM adepts, though.  I mean, my curse does two things, not one, it produces good luck AND bad luck, so that should mean I’m not an adept either, right?  Or you would have thought.  Not like anyone seems to listen, though.  Well, I suppose Alex and Anne do, but . . .

. . . what were you asking?  Oh, right, why Alex can’t manipulate time.  Beats me.  Life’s not fair, I guess.  Not that he’s got any right to complain given how useful his power is.  If anyone needs extra abilities, it’s those adepts who get something useless like “can see through magical concealment” and nothing else.

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New Reviews – I Read, Therefore I Blog

A nice set of reviews for the Alex Verus series from Caroline Hooton at her site, I Read, Therefore I Blog.  Links for each:

Fated
Cursed
Taken
Chosen

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Writing Patterns

The way I write has changed a lot over the years.

When I was writing my first novel, I was pretty chaotic.  I’d start at odd times and for odd durations and it’d be a complete toss-up whether I would or wouldn’t go back to the book in any given week.  Often I’d go for days or even weeks without making any progress.  Of course, a lot of that was because I didn’t really know what I was progressing to:  it took me fifty thousand words before I even figured out that I was writing a book in the first place.

My second and third books went more smoothly (which is is usually the way).  Still, I wasn’t particularly organised about it – writing wasn’t my job, just something I juggled in between all the other things I was doing in my Gap Year and at university.  After I graduated I started experimenting with different writing methods, some of which worked well and some of which worked . . . less well.  I went through a phase where I’d work from 12 to 3, AM and PM – as in, 12 noon to 3 in the afternoon, then again from midnight to 3 AM.  The fastest I’ve ever written a book was during this period – I finished a young adult novel in a little over two months.  On the other hand, to get that kind of speed I had to make some major trade-offs, and the schedule didn’t do my social life any favours, either.

It wasn’t until Taken that I started trying out a more methodical way of working (not coincidentally, this was around the point I shifted over to writing full-time).  I calculated how long I had until my deadline was up, then worked backwards to figure out how fast I’d have to write to make it.  As things turned out, I didn’t make the deadline, partly because my law finals happened to arrive just a little while before the book was due, and partly because while my arithmetic on the timing had been right, I hadn’t budgeted for any unexpected delays.  The manuscript was a couple of months late – not uncommon in the literary world, but it annoyed me all the same.

When I started Chosen, I took the lessons I’d learned and worked out a schedule.  I knew I had six months to write the book, and I also knew from past experience that my Alex Verus novels were averaging around the 90,000 word mark.  90,000 divided by six is 15,000, and 15,000 words a month comes out to 500 a day.  So, if I wrote 500 words a day for six months, that would equal one book – I just needed to make sure that when the inevitable delays happened, I’d do more on following days to make up for it. It didn’t turn out quite that neatly in practice (it never does) but it worked more than it failed, and I finished Chosen and sent it off to my publishers a few hours before the deadline.

I knew then that it was possible – to set a routine, and keep to it and compensate for any delays well enough to aim for a deadline months away and hit it.  I did the same thing with Hidden, and the same thing happened – I finished the manuscript almost exactly six months from starting it.  And that was how I started Alex Verus #6, and so far it’s working this time, too.

It’s become a routine, now.  I have the fonts and page settings on my word processing program calibrated to around 500 words a page, which means that instead of doing a word count I just need to finish each day’s writing one page on from yesterday.  Sometimes I get ahead of schedule, sometimes I get behind, but the fixed routine gives my day a level of structure that I otherwise wouldn’t have.  Maybe some day I’ll change it once again, but it’s working pretty well for now.  :)

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Ask Luna #25

From: Josh

Hi Luna,

So the Encyclopaedia says that fire magic is just the manipulation of heat. If that’s so, then why are fire and ice magic separate things?

The best way to think of it is to remember that the magic that can use is an extension of your personality.  If you can use fire magic, that says one thing about you, if you can use ice magic that says something else, and so on and so on.   

Well, a lot of personality traits are on an axis.  You can be more or less sociable, more or less logical, that kind of thing.  So a really introverted person and a really extroverted person are still on the same axis.  But does that mean they’re the same kind of person?  The answer’s obviously no, right?   

Well, magic types work the same way.  Fire mages and ice mages can both manipulate heat, but they do it in different ways and for different reasons.  For instance, fire mages are MUCH better at heating something up than cooling it down.  They can kind of cool something off a little bit by redirecting the heat somewhere else, but it’s not really what they’re good at – they’re much better at burning things.  Fire magic isn’t just ‘heat’, it’s action and passion and power.  So a fire mage couldn’t freeze a pool of water into ice – yes, technically it’s heat manipulation, but it goes completely against how their magic works.  They’re about movement and fire, not stillness and cold.  

From: Josh

Sorry for not putting these in the same message. 

How far does a light mage’s control extend? Can they shield? Can they make lasers?

Their control range is pretty similar to most mages, I think.  Long enough that it doesn’t matter unless you’re out on a prairie or a football field or something.  

And yes, they can shield, and yes, they can make lasers.  They’re better at the lasering part than the shielding part, though.  They’re kind of like fire and lightning mages that way – they’re good at frying things, not so good at stopping physical objects.  Though they can do some neat tricks with light manipulation that go a long way towards making up for that.  

From: Cyberjaeger

Hey luna I wonder what other wars have light and dark mages fought also what was the dark wars all about

Dunno which ones the ‘other wars’ are.  Other than what?  

The Dark Wars were this huge set of wars a couple of thousand years back.  Back then the links to Alata were still around, and mages were split between there and Earth.  Mages call it the Precursor society, nowadays.  I don’t know what started it, but it was something to do with this city called Syriathis and it turned into a big war between the Light mages and the Dark ones.  I don’t think there were Light and Dark mages before that, not exactly anyway – that was when they got codified.   

Anyway, the wars went on for ages and got really complicated – it wasn’t just Light and Dark mages, there were normals and nonhuman factions too.  It ended up with the Precursor society getting completely trashed, and somewhere along the line the portals to Alata got cut, too.  There are still bubbles and shadow realms, but nowadays gates on Earth mostly just link to Earth.

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