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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Ask Luna #65

From: Tyler H

Luna,
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
SFRevu
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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Back!

And I’m back in the UK!  Now that I’ve had time to get over the jet lag, I’m enjoying being home again.  I’ve been doing very little for the past few weeks except holidaying and resting – usually after going this long without getting any writing done I’d be feeling restless, but in this case I’m still very much enjoying not having a deadline anymore.  I must have really needed the break.

I’ve been starting to lay out some plans for Alex Verus #9, but it’s pretty sketchy.  I know roughly what I want to happen in books #9 and #10, but the details aren’t set.  There’s no hurry though – I can’t really start making concrete plans for #9 until #8 is finalised, and I’m still waiting to hear back from my editors on book #8.  Once I do, then the work on the next book will be properly underway.  Until then, it’s still holiday season!

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Ask Luna #63

From: Riley

Luna, you seem to argue with Vari a lot. Do you think he likes you or are you two just too much alike?

Yes.

From: Kurt Von Bosse

Hello Luna,
I have a few questions for you. Some are about you; I hope you don’t find any of them too personal. A couple of these questions are not directly about you and you may not know the answer to them, but as they directly relate to you, you may want to do some research for your own possible benefit.

Alex has told us that to his mage’s sight your curse looks like a silver mist that hovers about you. However, not all mages can detect the presence of your curse. He has also said that there is no sensation caused when being touched by your curse. We know these last two statements are true because when Delio and Kazhad were tracking you around Camden Market and followed you and Alex into the car park area, Alex witnessed your curse reach out and disrupt whatever focus item Kazhad was using to track you with. Had either of them seen a trace of silver mist they could have simply followed it back to you. Also during the Fate Weaver incident that creep Griff Blackstone would never have laid hands on you if he had seen or felt your curse in action.

My first question is whether you know if all mages who can perceive your curse see it in the same way that Alex does? For example, I was wondering if a sound mage might perceive your curse as a deep vibration which gets louder and more dissonant the closer she got to you. Have you ever asked any of your friends about this subject? More important to you, do you know why some mages can perceive your curse and others cannot? Do you think it just depends on whether a mage has really good mage sight or is it possible that certain types of mages are less likely to have that ability in the first place? Delio is a water mage, Kazhad a death mage and Griff was an earth mage. If you knew or could find out that certain types of mages are less likely to be able to recognize your curse and its potential to harm them, it might be something that could be used to your advantage.

Now to the really personal questions; Luna, the people who get touched by your curse don’t feel anything, but what about you? Do you feel your curse touching someone when you are not in direct physical contact with them yourself? Also, do you see a silver mist as Alex describes or do you see something completely different? Do you perceive your curse moving about you in anyway besides your sight? Finally, I would like to know if there are certain times or situations when you can perceive your curse being more active, even if you aren’t looking at it.

(If I’ve misspelled anyone’s name, it’s because I only have the audiobooks.)

First, the easy one: whether people can see my curse is just a matter of how good their magesight is. Though there’s also an element of knowing how to do it: if you know what to look for then that’s one thing, but if you don’t know that you’re supposed to be looking for it in the first place then even mages with pretty high-level magesight might not notice. Familiarity with chance magic seems to have a lot to do with it, too.

How people see it: like you guessed, it varies. Most mages perceive it visually, but I think that’s because that’s how mages get trained. I see it as a silver mist, though not as clearly as Alex does. But here’s the thing – I only started ‘seeing’ it after Alex had been training me for a while. So the really interesting question is: did I learn to see it that way because that’s just how it is, or because that’s how he sees it? I don’t know, but I’ve got a feeling it might be the second.

As for how it feels for me, I can feel my curse without looking at it, or even if my eyes are closed. I couldn’t when I started, but nowadays it’s more like toes or fingers. You know how if you’ve been lying in one place for a while your arm might go slightly numb and you can’t quite feel where it is, but as soon as you move it you know instantly? It’s like that. And yes, I can feel it when it touches someone else, but that’s very very hard to describe . . . I’m not sure if there are any words. Draining without losing anything, maybe. Funnily enough, the one that took me the longest was figuring out when my curse was more active, just because the more active it is, the less I’m likely to be aware of it, if you know what I mean. I’ve been working on it, but it’s hard.

From: Nim

Luna,
I understand you are busy and so I appreciate any answer you can jot down.

The encyclopaedia section on Space Magic says “While space magic can be adapted to be used as a weapon, it’s not really what it’s designed for”

Have you ever seen space magic used as a weapon or has Alex ever spoken of it? Are we talking about actual destructive effects based on the warping of space? It seems tremendously powerful. Thank you for reading my question.

I’ve seen a lot of space magic tricks that involve moving things around one way or other, but I’ve only once seen it used directly as a weapon. It was this crazy space mage locked off in a shadow realm, and he had some spell that sort of crumpled up space, like it was a piece of paper. Anything that was inside the radius, the same thing happened to it that would happen if they were drawings on the paper. You really did not want it to hit you.

The good news is that I’ve never seen any other space mages do it, and the times I’ve asked teachers, they told me that it wasn’t possible. So I think there was something special about the situation. Either it was a property of the shadow realm, or it was some special spell that he developed on his own with some seriously powerful fuel. Whichever it was, it doesn’t seem to be standard issue, thankfully.

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