Veiled US Cover Reveal

For those that haven’t yet heard the news, book 6 in the Alex Verus series is titled Veiled, and it’ll be coming out this August 2015.  Here’s the final draft of the US cover!

veiled_front mech.indd

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Ask Luna #43

From: Bruce Donohue

Hello Luna.
In your apprentice program, do you have to learn various languages both known or obscure?
In your assignments in your classes, did they ever explain the different levels of mastery of magic and what makes Master Level truly deserving of the title?
Would you like to be the fly on the wall during this conversation…
Where Richard and Alex are temporarily trapped in the same location, and they finally have a very long monologue heart to heart. Kind of like they like all spill all beans pertaining to the excess baggage they have been carrying around about the other? Now what event would cause them to be stuck in the same space together that they might have to work together to get out of would be very interesting in itself. I know hell yeah, I’d pay to be the fly on the wall to witness that long exchange.

There are a few language classes on the syllabus, but I skipped them.

Master level just means really really good. There’s no exam for it as far as I know. By the time a mage gets to that point their ego would be way too big for them to sit down to any tests, anyway.

And yes, it’d be interesting, but I’m not quite sure how safe it’d be to be a ‘fly on the wall’. Something Alex drummed into me pretty early was that powerful mages are usually pretty good at detecting people, so I have the feeling I’d get spotted fast. Not sure it’d be worth the risk. Besides, from all I’ve heard Richard comes across as a total bastard, so I’m really not sure I WANT to get to know more about his baggage.

From: Bruce Donohue

Hello Luna, hope all is well.

I was wondering… When it comes to Life Magic… Sensing is one of the things they are good at, and they can even do through walls. Now Manipulating life essence is there thing… what is preventing a Life mage to learnt to at a distance learn to pull that essence out of another, or push out so to speak that life essence effecting magic to others also at a distance? With enough practice and though to it, it should be possible, what the range they could effect I guess would be determined by their skill they have dedicated to master. I guess it would mimic what death mages do in some cases and strictly be bound by touch. I know if I was a Life Mage, it would be something that I would explore.

You can see other people at a distance, right? So what’s preventing you from learning how to telekinetically lift them up? By your logic it ought to be possible, right?

Just because you think a mage should be able to do something, doesn’t mean they actually can, any more than thinking that your car ‘should work’ will keep it driving when it’s out of fuel. Life magic can’t do the same things that death magic can, and vice versa.

From: R

Hey Luna,
Be honest, what do you think of Variam? I kinda ship you guys, so I’d love to know.

He’s actually a pretty good guy once you get to know him. Though don’t tell him I said that.

And apparently not only do I have fans, I now have shippers. That’s kind of cool.

From: A Fan

Hey Luna,

Do you know if Richard is single?

Okay, I take back the last comment. You guys are nuts.

From: Geli

Hi Luna,

how are you? Do you think there is a lot potential for your powers to grow and be refined in the future? Not that I want your curse to become even more powerful…

Wish you the best
Geli

Not bad. Pretty busy, but things have been going well.

I’m not sure if my curse is getting more powerful – I don’t remember it ever getting much stronger once I got past twenty or so – but then power’s never really been the problem. There have been lots of times I’ve wanted it to be LESS powerful, but that’s never been an option either.

Mostly what I’ve been learning lately hasn’t been about strengthening my curse, it’s been about exploring different uses and getting better at directing it. I think that’s how it usually works with adepts and mages. They don’t actually get any stronger, they just get more skilled and more efficient.

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Ask Luna #42

From: Nicola

Dear Luna,

“shadow realms” or (“universe”, I forget the correct term) do seem what other stories call “alternative universes”. When man-made, most often it’s stated there are machines that manipulate the space-time continuum, or even whatever there is between universes to create them or modify their properties.

This got me wondering, can a shadow realm be created exclusively by magic or can an eventual non-magical technology based on post-Einstein physics create them, also?

More generally, can what elemental mages do be done also by technology based on vanilla physics, chemistry and biology?

Many thanks!

I don’t even know what post-Einstein physics are, so I’m probably the wrong person to be asking. But as far as I know, no, if you want a shadow realm, you go to a mage to make one or you go home. Or I guess you could just find an existing one.

The kind of stuff that elemental mages do isn’t the same as what you can do with technology, but yes, you can do it . . . what I mean is, it doesn’t work the same way, but you can produce the same results. So an elemental mage can create a light, but you or I could do the same thing with an electric torch. And you can duplicate some of what an ice mage can do with a freezer, and some of what a fire mage can do with a flamethrower, etc etc.

The big difference is that if you want to do stuff the tech way, you need tools. Mages don’t need tools, they just make it happen. So I’d be kind of surprised if there are any tech-y ways of duplicating magic. It seems to work off a whole different approach.

From: Bruce Donohue

Hello,
Has there ever been a mage that is equally at home with all forms of magic? Meaning they are equally talented in all forms, death, life, elemental, mind, etc…

I think there are legends of mages who were like that, but there aren’t any alive nowadays. Given that mages are supposed to be stronger now than they used to be, that probably means the legends were made up.

From: Bruce Donohue

Hello Luna. How are you doing? Hopefully you haven’t been doing to many menial tasks under the guise of been the shop keeper/apprentice. Alex give you that pay raise?
I have a question that hopefully you might be able to pass onto Alex…
Magic normally is categorized in various families. Abjuration, Conjuration/Summoning, Invocation/Evocation, Necromantic, Illusion, Enchantment etc…
Having said that, we all know about the different types and mages being one thing principally but not another.
let me explain my question first…
If a mage was said to an Invoker/Evoker, that would make him able to cast a wide variety of spells as his main wheelhouse, fire,water,death so essentially battle-like, so my question is: Is there such a thing because that would make a mage much more rounded in the type than specialized as he is a Life Mage, or a Divination Mage etc. Because it appears rather limiting otherwise.

He did give me a pay raise, though it was for something different. Well, I’m not complaining.

As for your question, I’m not 100% sure what you’re saying. There are mages who are specialised in battle – they’re called death mages. But they can’t do everything that fire mages can. If they could, fire mages would be kind of redundant.

I get the feeling what you’re really asking is “can I have ALL THE MAGICS?”, in which case I’m pretty sure the answer’s no. Even if you did have the talent for all the magic types, you wouldn’t have time to develop them all. Diviners like Alex take years to learn how to use their magic – not all magic, just THEIR magic. And it takes them years more to actually master it. There’s no way you could learn ALL the magic types, you’d die of old age before you were halfway through.

As for it being ‘limiting’ . . . what, being able to throw fireballs or stop time or heal wounds isn’t enough for you? You want to be able to do it all at once? Seems greedy as hell to me, but then I guess that’s how a lot of mages think. No matter how much they have, it’s never enough . . .

From: BlackMass

Alex says helikaon with divination can do things he can only dream of has he ever specified also how is old helikaon these days

Guys, can you please proof-read these things before you send them to me? Trying to figure out the content of some of these questions gives me a headache.

No idea how old Helikaon is. I’ve never met the guy. Don’t think Alex sees him much these days.

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Ask Luna #41

From: Royd Burgoyne

Hi Luna!

Dedicated fan from Downunder here! Thoroughly enjoying your (and Alex’s) (mis)adventures but I’d love to know if we’ll be seeing more of the Blink Fox in future instalments?

He (?) seems like an intriguing character who will likely cause Alex some grief (eg. emptying the fridge) and we’d love to know more about him :) Bottom line, I hope he features in future adventures! Thanks for any info! Warm regards,

Royd Burgoyne
Perth, Australia

I seem to be getting a lot of fans lately. That’s kind of cool. :)

His name is Hermes, and yeah, he empties the fridge a lot. Though not from stealing it, mostly from just nagging Alex into feeding him. Anne’s the worst, though. I think she’s got some kind of motherly ‘feed everyone’ reflex and every time she’s around seems to be when Hermes shows up.

Can’t promise he’s going to be sticking around, but he has so far, and he doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of going away, so it looks like it’ll stay like this for a while. Alex seems to have been getting on with him better and he’s even taken him out on jobs a few times.

From: Blake

what emotions were you experiencing when trying to get the fateweaver from alex ?

Wow. That’s a walk down memory lane.

Scared, mostly. I was in a lot of pain and I didn’t understand what was going on. And the way Alex was acting was really freaking me out. There was just something wrong about it, and I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what I should do.

It’s really weird remembering that first year. I get chills looking back on it, sometimes. I had SO little clue what I was doing and I could have screwed up so badly. I was really, really lucky. But then, I guess that’s what I’m good at.

From: Kari

Whoa! You have another teacher for your luck magic? How did you end up him/her? Are they affiliated with the light council? I mean, not that you can’t have a light mage as a teacher, it’s just I can’t believe you’d find one to take you on given your aggressive personality and MURDERING MASTER.

Yeaaaaaah, about that. Let’s just say that there’s kind of a reason why the ‘letting them take me on when I have a MURDERING MASTER’ thing got bypassed.

I probably shouldn’t be saying too much just yet – there are some really good reasons that I don’t want to be shouting about her/his identity too loudly. You’ll find out why soon enough. Lessons are going great though.

From: Andy d

Hi Luna
Through much of Alex’s adventure, it seems as if his effectiveness grows by virtue of experience and additional magic items, such as the armor and the sword he recently acquired. Are there additional innate magic abilities he could develop as well to increase his effectiveness. Thanks so much.

Don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Alex develop any really new abilities – he mostly just works with what he’s got. I guess he might have gotten better with his divination, but I don’t think he’s going to suddenly start throwing fireballs or anything unless he does something really out-there. And all the ways of doing that that I know of are extreme enough that I don’t think Alex would ever do them unless he got REALLY pushed to the wall.

Oh, and it’s mostly the armour, btw. I’m not even sure which sword you’re talking about. He’s got a bunch of them in his cabinet, but he doesn’t favour any one of them in particular.

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Holiday Break

Hope you all had a good New Year’s!

Still overseas, still limited Internet access.  Normal posting will resume next week.

And by ‘normal posting’ I mostly mean Ask Luna entries.  I’ve got about 20 questions in the queue, so expect to be seeing those for a while.

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Happy New Year!

Off abroad with little Internet access this week.  Hope you all had a good Christmas, and that you have a happy New Year’s Eve too – see you in 2015!

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End of Year

There are a bunch of Ask Luna questions in the queue, but for today I thought I’d give you guys a general update instead.

Alex Verus #6 is chugging along on the road to publication – for those who remember the ‘The Process’ posts I did a few weeks back, it’s currently in the ‘Waiting for Copy-Edits’ stage.  The worst of the work is done, now, and the finished product you guys get in 2015 should be pretty similar to the version that’s sitting on my hard drive right now.

On the topic of Alex Verus #6, it’s also got a name and a (provisional) release date!  The book will be called Veiled, and it’s due to come out around August 4th-6th 2015.  The story is going to focus on Alex, Caldera, and the political machinations of the Council.  More details closer to the time.

In the meantime, Alex Verus #7 is also going well.  My original plan was to see if I could get it written by the end of March, and so far it’s on schedule, if only just – it’s around 30% complete.  However, I’m going to be overseas over Christmas and New Year, so I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to keep up my writing routine while away from my regular home and patterns.  I guess we’ll just have to see.

And that’s about it for now.  Next week’s post will be an end-of-year round up, and after that we’ll be back to more Ask Luna.  Until then, have a happy Christmas from everyone in the Alex Verus world!

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Ask Luna #40

From: Tom

Hi Luna,

Alex said Onyx is one of the most deadly battle mages he’d ever seen. Does this mean that Morden is stronger, as Onyx is his Chosen? And if not, why does he stay as his Chosen? Finally, staying with the Chosen theme, when would someone stop being a Dark Chosen and become someone’s master?

Thanks Luna, Tom.

I’ve never actually seen Morden in action, but if what I’ve heard is true, he could wipe the floor with Onyx any time he felt like it.  From what I’ve been told Morden’s one of the most powerful Dark mages in the country, and Alex agrees.

The idea of Dark Chosen is that they’re kind of successors-in-waiting.  So at some point, they take over their master’s business.  Or that’s the plan, anyway.  Sometimes they get sick of waiting and leave, sometimes things get nasty.  Not all Dark apprentices get made Chosen, and not all Dark mages with apprentices name Chosen at all.  

From: Geli

Dear Luna,

thank you, that you’re answering all of our questions. Also congratulations on getting more popular. It seems that you’re getting more and more letters.

Back to the purpose of my letter, I’m still thinking about Alex. In my first letter, we both agreed that there was a distinct possibility of Richard changing Alex to a harder, more battle-orientated person. (I said all diviners are naturally pacifists, but I guess we can’t know that until we meet some more.) In my second letter, I asked if Alex was kind of inexperienced outside of battle divination and you pointed me towards the different kinds of divinition and that Alex is following the Appolonian one, while his dreams / warning about the far future belong to the Dionysian one. I read both up by now and found it an interesting topic.

Having recapped our conversation so far, I wondered what methods Richard used to change Alex. The environment was of course a major part, as was the deadly race between the apprentices. But what stood out for me, was the matter of punishment for Alex’s attempted rescue of the girl.

First: A room with nothing but a diviner in it has been described several times as the “ideal” environment for a diviner. Even Alex admits that it was here he learned to throw things with 100% accuracy, and I’m sure he picked up some other tricks in there too. Second, the labyrinth and Tobruk: If I had to design a training course for a diviner to force him to adapt to battle conditions this would be it. Alex had the advantage of only one enemy, a labyrinth and the

future – and as he has proved against our unfortunate teenage Avenger group he excels now in this. Excels to a degree that a Dark Mage looked at him with respect.

So in short: Could it be that Richard had never really punished Alex, but simply created an enviroment that forced Alex to become better? Because if all mages so far agree on one thing, it is that Richard is a master manipulator. And it would fit neatly with why Richard isn’t at all angry at Alex… 

Hope you have a nice day!

Um.  

I’ve read that a few times and each time, it makes more sense.  Tried to find holes in it, but I can’t.  

I think I remember Alex telling me once that the one restriction Tobruk was under was that he wasn’t allowed to do anything permanent.  Looked at another way . . . training environment.  Which means that Alex might have been doing exactly what Richard wanted.  

So yeah.  I think you might be right.  That’s worrying to say the least.  

From: Little Watchmaker

Hi Luna,

firstly I would like to say congratulations on the huge progression with controlling your powers.

Secondly, I’d like to throw a theory at you, see what you think. I hope you don’t mind.

Say I was a mage, I knew another mage and we were friends, we shared similar goals we both respected each other. And I was dying. With my death, my power would be gone. It would be a useless waste. Couldn’t I elect to be harvested by my fellow mage? If the process was mutual and I was willing the process wouldn’t be as traumatic for me. I’d feel much better knowing my power and spirit had been given to someone else and a part of me would live on within him or her. Or perhaps my mind is too complex. What if a loyal magical beasts last wishes were to pass on a final gift of power. What would happen if a blink fox wished to be harvested?

My first reaction is ‘hell no’.  It sounds a lot like asking someone else to murder you.  Thinking about it some more . . . it’s possible, I guess, but it seems really unlikely.  I mean, if you were dying, and you had enough time to set up a Harvesting ritual, wouldn’t you have enough time to find a life mage and get yourself healed instead?  

I’m also not sure how much of the insanity-inducing side effects from Harvesting come from the target being unwilling, and how much just come from the fact that you’re trying to rip out a piece of them and graft it inside your head.  I suppose if you’ve thought of it, it’s a good bet that someone has tried it, but they’d have to be pretty crazy to be willing to give it a go.

Oh, and as far as I know, all attempts to Harvest magical creatures have resulted in permanent insanity and a fifty-percent-plus mortality rate.  For the mage, that is.  Obviously, one hundred percent if you’re the magical creature in question.

From: Royd Burgoyne

Hi Luna!

Dedicated fan from Downunder here! Thoroughly enjoying your (and Alex’s) (mis)adventures but I’d love to know if we’ll be seeing more of the Blink Fox in future instalments?

He (?) seems like an intriguing character who will likely cause Alex some grief (eg. emptying the fridge) and we’d love to know more about him :) Bottom line, I hope he features in future adventures! Thanks for any info! Warm regards,

Royd Burgoyne

Perth, Australia

Yeah, he’s around.  Mostly he begs food off whoever’s home and leaves hairs all over the armchair.  He’s started showing up at Anne’s flat and nagging her for food, too.  I suppose he’s friendly, more or less, but he’s kind of annoying.  All he seems to want to do is eat and sleep.  

I wish Alex had let me name him.  I was going to call him Vulpix but thinking about it, Garfield would probably have been better.  Oh well, he seems attached to Alex at least.

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The Process (Conclusion)

The last part of our look at how an Alex Verus novel gets written.  If you missed the earlier bits of the series, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Putting It Together

So what does the full timeline look like?

1. Idea (? months)
2. Planning (1-2 months)
3. First Draft (5-7 months)
4. Waiting for Edits (1-2 months)
5. Edits (1-4 months)
6. Waiting for Copy-Edits (1-2 months)
7. Copy-Edits (<1 month)
8. Waiting for Proofs (1-2 months)
9. Proofs and AQs (minimal time)
10. Pre-Publication (4-6 months)

We can probably cut out the idea and planning stages, as they’re mostly done in the background while I work on other things.  So that leaves the writing stage (step 3) and then the road to publication (steps 4 to 10).  Adding it all up, we get the following time spans:

First Draft:  5-7 months
Road to Publication:  9-17 months

In practice, the time for the first drafts for the last few books has come in at a consistent 6 months, largely because that’s the deadline I set myself.  The time for the road to publication stage has been more variable.  Chosen took 11 months, Hidden took 14, and the new book is looking like it’ll be 13.  Added together they average to close to a year.  So 6 months to write the book, and 12 months to edit it and get it published.

If this seems like a long time, that’s because it is.

Is It Worth It?

The six months figure to write the book is probably understandable to most of you – it’s slow by the standards of some authors, but fast by the standards of others, and it’s not particularly notable one way or the other.  I suspect the part that most of you are more likely to balk at is the 12-month publication process.  While this figure is pretty standard in the industry, the fact that it takes publishers twice as long to edit and put out a book as it does for me to write it might raise a few eyebrows to those not experienced with the publishing business.

So is all that wait time necessary?  Could it be done faster?

Well, it depends.

Some of the items – in fact, most of the items – in the publication process are very necessary.  All the stages of edits, in particular, are crucial.  All of my books have been greatly improved by the editorial process that they’ve been through – if I were self-publishing, I could put up each new Alex Verus novel on Amazon within a week of finishing the first draft, but they’d be much worse books.  So from that point of view, yes, the wait time’s necessary.

On the other hand, if I’m being honest, it doesn’t probably need to be quite that long.  While edits might be essential, I spend as much time waiting for edits to be delivered as I do actually editing, and by the time we get to the proof stage, the book is mostly just sitting around.  Unfortunately, all of these wait periods are determined by bureaucratic and scheduling decisions made by my publisher, and as such are out of my hands.  I could kick up a fuss, but it’d be pointless – the 12 month processing time is the industry standard, and I’m not a big enough gorilla to demand changes.  All it’d accomplish would be to cause a lot of stress and bad feeling for no real gain, and I’d rather spend my energy on writing.

Finishing Up

And that’s how an Alex Verus novel gets written – hope you found it interesting!  Next week, we’re back to Ask Luna.

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The Process (Part Three)

The third part of our journey from first idea to finished novel.  We left off last week at the stage of waiting for copy-edits.

Step Seven: Copy-Edits (<1 Month)

Copy-edits are the middle stage of the editing process.  A copy-editor checks the manuscript for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as for more subjective things like repeated words, choice of language, and sentence/paragraph length. On top of that they also look for issues such as consistency (are the characters the right age, do the details match up, does Magic Plot Thing A do the same thing in each chapter) and legality (is the publisher going to get sued for anything the author’s written).

This can add up to an awful lot, and the copy-edited manuscripts I get generally look as though they’ve just come back from being graded by a particularly obsessive-compulsive English professor.  Every page will have multiple notes and corrections, and I have to go through each and every one of them to confirm that the corrections and changes are actually right.  (It would be nice if I could just let the copy-editor handle everything – unfortunately it doesn’t work that way and I need to check it personally.)  All of this takes time.

On the plus side, while checking copy-edits takes a while, it’s not actually very demanding from a creative point of view – easier than writing new material, and much easier than rewrites.  I can easily copy-edit a full chapter in a day, and multiple chapters if I work at it. I finished Hidden’s copy-edits in under two weeks.

Step Eight: Waiting for Proofs (1-2 Months)

Back to waiting.  By this point I’m fully occupied with the next book, and I’ve probably stopped thinking about this book at all.

Step Nine: Proofs and Author Questions (<1 Week)

A proof is a copy-edited manuscript that is (almost) ready for publication.  The proof stage marks the first point at which the book is actually printed – copy-edits and edits are typically done electronically, but proof copies are physical bound books.  They usually won’t have a cover – their job isn’t to look pretty, their job is to be read, mainly by a proofreader.

A proofreader is the last line of defence in the editing process, and their job is to catch any errors that made it through all the previous sweeps.  They don’t do major or even minor edits – changes at the proof stage are costly, and the larger the change the more costly.  Mostly they check small, easy-to-miss things like spelling, grammar, page numbering, etc.

Unlike the copy-edits, I don’t double-check the proofreader’s work line by line – instead my publishers send me an email with author questions covering issues that the proofreader has drawn to their attention.  Each question comes with a page and line reference, and I have to look them up one at a time.  It’s slow and tedious work, but thankfully there’s generally not much of it and I can usually get it done in an afternoon.

In theory I’m also supposed to check the proofs myself.  In practice, by the time I get to this stage I’m sick to death of editing the damn book and just want to do something else.  There also isn’t much I’m likely to catch that the proofreader won’t, so I usually just skim the proof copy to make sure the copy-edits actually got done, then go back to writing the next book and trust the proofreader to catch any spelling mistakes.

I sent my responses to the final set of author queries on Hidden around the 25th of March, more than five months before the book’s publication date.  This marked the last point at which I had any influence over the book’s content.

Step Ten: Pre-Publication (4-6 Months)

By this point the book’s content is finished, and it’s all ready to be read.  So you can buy it, right?

Well, no.

Publishers typically schedule book releases a long time in advance.  They have a certain amount of book slots planned over the course of each year, and books are allocated to slots far in advance of their actual publication date (usually a year or so).  For obvious reasons, publishers like to get the books ready to go a long time before they’re due to come out.  Partly this is because booksellers like to have access to the book a while before the release date, but mostly it’s so that the publishers have some safety margin and don’t have to rush.

A little more work on the book is still done during this stage (mostly finalising what’s on the front and back cover) but mostly the publishers spend this time on marketing – pitching the book to booksellers, sending out copies to reviewers, and so on.  How much marketing attention a book gets (and how much good that attention does) varies enormously.

I’m almost completely uninvolved by this point.  Usually all I do is look over the cover copy, and take part in any publicity activities.  Most of my energy is being spent on writing the next book instead.  I finished the first draft of Alex Verus #6 at the end of June, two months before Hidden was due to be released, and I spent very little time thinking about Hidden during this whole stage.

Step Eleven: Publication

The book comes out!  Everyone’s excited!

Well, except me.  I’m busy with Step Four or Step Five of the next book, and with Step One of the book after that.

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