Twenty-One Years

Twenty-one years ago, I started my first novel.  

It wasn’t meant as a novel, at least not to begin with – it was just a story.  I was still in school at the time, and I’d started and abandoned a lot of stories, and I had no reason to think that this one would be any different.  But that story grew and grew until it became a 100,000 word novel, and by the time it was done I’d started to wonder if it might be publishable.  It wasn’t, of course – 99.9% of first novels are terrible, and mine was no exception.   And I wasn’t thinking in terms of being a full-time writer, or of even being a writer at all.  But if I had to put my finger on the point at which I started out as a novelist, that would be it.  

It took me seven years to go from that day to being published.  When I did get published, it was as a children’s author, which wasn’t surprising, since all four of the novels I’d written were for children.  Books two and three were children’s urban fantasy, with the main characters being elemental mages (sound familiar?) but the book that finally got me a publishing contract had a martial arts theme.  These were the Ninja books, and given that I had a contract for two of them, I was pretty excited. I optimistically believed that I’d arrived, that I’d be able to keep writing children’s books, and that my publisher would keep bringing them out.  

All three of these beliefs turned out to be one hundred percent wrong.  

The following years were tough.  The first Ninja book had mediocre sales, and so did its sequel, leading to my publisher dropping me.  My next book was also rejected, first by my now-ex-publisher, followed by everyone else.  My next book after that was also rejected.  And so was the next book after that.  And so was the next book after that.  (If you’re losing count by this point, you can imagine how much fun this was to experience.)

By 2008/2009, I was starting to lose hope.  My career as an author was dead in the water, and my only income was coming from my work as an English teacher.  I decided it was time to face the facts, enrolled for a law training course, and in the meantime took a half-year contract to teach in China.  Before flying off to Shanghai, I finished up my tenth book, a weird first-person fantasy novel with a protagonist who for some reason I’d made a diviner.  Then I sent it off to my agent, without really expecting that she’d be able to sell it.  In the past, whenever I finished a book, I’d immediately start planning out the next one.  This time I didn’t.  At some level, I felt that this was my last shot.  If it didn’t work out, I was going to give up.

I was back from China and a week away from starting my law course when I got a message from my agent.  An editor at Orbit was tentatively interested in my book.  He didn’t think it was publishable, but thought it could be made that way with a rewrite . . .

Fast forward two and a half years to 2012.  Fated was just being released, books #2 and #3 were written and contracted for, and I was working on a fourth.  Best of all, this time I wasn’t just being published in the UK, but also in North America.  Once upon a time this would have thrilled me, but by this point I’d become wary – I’d had the rug yanked out from under me once, and at the back of my mind I was watching for signs that the same thing was going to happen again.  So I kept writing, but I kept one eye on my sales numbers, always mindful of the possibility that the series was going to fail, as so many do and as mine had before.  

Skip forward a final seven years . . . and that brings us all the way up to today.  Nine Alex Verus books have been published, with a tenth written.  The sales are very healthy, and each new book sells a respectable amount of pre-ordered copies as soon as it hits the shelves.  I’m not sure exactly what the tipping point was, but I realised somewhere in between 2012 and a few years ago that the Alex Verus series was off the endangered species list.  It had built up enough of a fanbase that I didn’t have to worry about it being cancelled any more.  And sure enough, right now I’ve got publishing contracts that run all the way to Alex Verus #12, which means that I can be absolutely sure that the series is going to be completed.  Somewhere around 2021 the last Alex Verus book will come out, and for the first time ever, I’ll see a series that I started be published all the way to its end.  

Seven years from my start as a novelist to my first publication;  seven years from my first publication to my first successful series;  seven years from the start of that series to now.  In the old days, seven years was the traditional length of time for someone new to a craft to go from apprentice to journeyman.  To go from journeyman to master was another story.  I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get there, but I’m working at it, and with every book I try new things and improve a little more.

What a long strange trip it’s been.  Thanks to all of you who’ve helped along the way.  

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Ask Luna #125

From: Sierra

Just for fun have you ever thought about using your magic to give someone good luck by kissing them? And on the flip side give them bad luck by blowing them one? Or vice verse? I know that might seem really lame but I think it might add more to your mystique as a chance mage if you pull it off right.

Actually, the ‘good luck from a kiss’ thing was one of the first conscious tricks I ever learnt. Might even have been the very first, come to think of it. Bad luck from blowing them a kiss seems a little creepy, though. I don’t really like the idea of associating my kisses with that (I have enough bad memories along those lines already).

Generally, since I started training seriously, the direction I’ve been going in has been to use less physical components to my spells, instead of more. Producing good or bad luck just by standing still and apparently doing nothing might not look as impressive, but it’s a lot more useful.

From: Chandler

So these sets of questions are a bit different from the mage related ones just relatively regular ones.

1. Have there ever been a question you wished people would ask you? On the flip side what questions do you wish people would stop asking?

2. What types of movies/tv series and books do you like to watch and read? Do you and the gang play any video games or board games/Table RPGs together?

3. Do like to go see plays/musical theater? I don’t know if Hamilton is playing in the UK but it is pretty good.

1. That first question’s a good one. I don’t know if there was any one thing I really wanted people to ask, but I prefer the ones that are personal without being too personal, if you know what I mean. Stuff I can relate to. I really have trouble staying interested when people keep asking these incredibly dry geography/history questions about magical law enforcement relations in Canada or something equally pointless.

As for questions I wish people would stop asking . . . for the love of god, guys, stop asking me about Richard’s magic type. I don’t know and I’m really running out of ways to say ‘well, it’s possible’.

2. I like anime quite a bit. For books, I used to be a big fan of Animorphs, though I haven’t read them in a while. As for games, we used to play quite a few together but things have gotten more and more stressful/hectic and it’s hard to find the time nowadays.

3. Never got into it, sadly. Couldn’t go to theatres back when my curse was uncontrolled and I have bad associations with those kinds of places in general. I can manage it now, but I still have trouble completely relaxing, which really puts a damper on enjoying a show. I did always kind of like musicals when I could see televised versions.

From: Elaine

Do you know anything about those badgers in Morden’s mansion? I am kind of mystified that Morden would be near them he does not seem the type to associate with magical creatures.

What badgers?

From: Joesph

Have you heard of any magical types that aren’t suppose to exist anymore similar to Fate or Wish mages or perhaps even families of magic?

Has there ever been any magic users who could use multiple types by use of magical artifacts or magical creatures? Not like regular focuses but someone who could use different magic from their own like they would if they actually had them.

Summoning magic’s supposed to not really exist anymore, or at least not in the form it used to, where you had mages who could conjure up all kinds of stuff whenever they felt like it. Summoning magic now gets done by rituals, which are really slow and limited by comparison.

Not quite sure what you mean with the second question. You do get item specialists, but they’re not exactly using multiple types of magic themselves, they’re relying on the item. You do get the occasional really powerful hybrid who can do something like what you’re saying.

From: Matthew

Are there any mage sports, or competitions that are global in nature like soccer, or are sports in general considered to be low brow for mage society.

Duelling’s the most popular mage sport by a long way, and it’s pretty global. Other than that, a surprising amount of mages are fans of regular sports, though they’re usually embarrassed to admit it.

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Road to Publication

Various bits of news for this week.  First and foremost, as of yesterday, I’ve finished and sent off the copy-edits for Fallen.  There are proofreading and author queries still to do, but basically, the manuscript is done:  the version I just sent to my publishers is something like 99.5% identical with the one you guys will be reading this autumn.  

And yes, I know, that’s a long time to wait, especially since the manuscript is almost entirely ready to go.  But publishers have their publishing slots, and that’s just how they do things.  If it’s any consolation, it won’t actually make much difference to how long it’ll take me to finish the series.  

Reedsy has featured Alex Verus as #4 on their list of top fantasy series ever.  I can’t honestly say I think it deserves to place that high, but it’s a nice ego boost.

And on a different note, we’re coming up to Fated‘s seven year anniversary!  Seven years is kind of an interesting number, for reasons that I’ll get into, so I’m planning an anniversary post for two weeks from now.  More details at the time.

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Ask Luna #124

From: Kevin

Okay kinda of a silly question but what House in Hogwarts do you think you would be sorted into?
Ditto for Alex, Vari, Anne, and Sonder. And just for the heck of it Arachne and Hermes.

I always used to imagine myself as being in Gryffindor, but that might just be wishful thinking. It’s not like anyone reads the books and comes away thinking ‘wow, I wish I was in Hufflepuff’. Variam would definitely get Gryffindor, though. Not sure about Alex or Anne, and I don’t think Arachne would be taking that kind of test.

From: Nathan

Hey Luna just have a few questions about the Keepers thanks for answering these you are very helpful Alex is lucky to have you as a friend!
1. Do you know anything about Elandis, the other Captain in the mission to Syria, like his magic type, what Order he is in, or if he is connected to Landis in anyway? It may be a coincidence that they have similar names but it is a small world.
2. Do you know how many Keepers they are in the Orders of the Star, Shield and Cloak? Not looking for exact numbers but like a rough guess.
3. Also would it be accurate that about eighty percent are in the Star, fifteen percent are in the Cloak and the remainder five percent are in the Shield?
4. Does Landis have a rank in the Order of the Shield? Or is a rank system only limited to the other orders.
Thanks again!

1. Nope, don’t know anything about him. I think the name’s a coincidence.
2. A few hundred I think? I dunno, never really cared enough to count.
3. Probably more like 60/30/10, but again that’s kind of a rough guess.
4. He does, but he never uses it. They seem to do authority on a different basis, judging from the few times I’ve seen them.

From: Connor

Forgot to include this in the last post but are Precursor artifacts in a different category from regular magical items such as one-shots focus, and imbued items? Have you Alex, Anne, or Vari ever seen any other Precursor items aside from the Fateweaver?

And last question is the Dreamstone an imbued item or is it some other classification.

Thanks for answering these questions hope the shop is running well!

‘Precursor’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘really old’. There’s supposed to be some technical qualification for it (it has to be X hundred/thousand years old) but I don’t think most people care, they just slap the name on anything they think is old enough.

Dreamstone . . . jury’s out. We were told that it was a focus, but it acts pretty weird for a focus. Alex’s theory is that it’s some fourth kind of category that you only get when something’s tied into Elsewhere.

From: Callum

Do you think the jinn in the Monkey’s Paw is on the same level as the jinn in the box that Anne had? I only ask because someone might come looking for it as a power up to use in the Light-Dark conflict that is going on.

Also what do you think would happen if someone tried to use both of them at the same time? I know that this is a very bad idea but do you think they might cancel each other out by fighting over the host?

It’s really hard to tell, as the only way you can find that kind of thing out is to test them, which isn’t exactly safe. Richard would probably know, but as you can guess, we aren’t going to ask him.

As for trying to use both at the same time, that’s . . . creative. I haven’t got the slightest idea what would happen, but it’s hard to see how it’d work out well for the person trying.

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Fallen US Cover

Here’s an early look at the US cover art for Alex Verus #10, Fallen!

The release date for the US edition has been moved up a little bit, and is currently scheduled for September 24, 2019.  The UK edition will be a little bit later, on October 10th.  

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Ask Luna #123

From: Lisa

Is there a reason Elementalists can create/use gate magic? That type of magic seems more universal, is there a layman’s explanation for why the most direct/physical use of magic can create them?

I asked in one of my classes once and got told that it was because elementalists are the ones who are best at directly affecting the physical world, which gate magic counts for. I never thought it was a very good explanation, honestly. I think they don’t know themselves.

From: Joshua

Hey, In the first Chapter of Chosen you and the crew were sitting around the coffee table playing an interesting sounding board game but the name of the game never seamed to come up. what game were you guys playing I think i might like playing it.

If it’s the one I think you mean, it was Settlers of Catan. Fun game, haven’t played it in a while.

From: Isaac

Do you know the extent of what Vihaela’s hybrid magic can do? It seems she can do most of what regular life and death mages can do individually, is this normal or is it just because she is a really powerful mage?

It’s not normal, she’s just really powerful. I’ve never gotten close enough to get a good look myself, but Alex has and he thinks she can do about 90% of what your average death mage can and about 50% of what your average life mage can as well. So she can heal, and weaken, and kill, and she can do it at range. The one saving grace is that she doesn’t have the ability that pure life mages do of being able to go through defensive magic like shields, but that’s not much consolation if you can’t make shields (like most people).

From: Connor

Have you heard anything about the Precursor artifacts Richard supposedly has? As far as I can tell the Dark Cabal has only been using the imbued items, do you think that Richard is lying about having them? They seem too powerful not to use at least a few of them by now.

On a side not does Richard and Morden’s group of dark mages have an official name by mage society? I used Dark Cabal as a placeholder seems to be fit them perfectly.

I don’t actually know what these Precursor artifacts are supposed to be. I don’t think the Council does either, it’s just their way of saying ‘he can do some stuff that we can’t explain’. It might not be anything to do with artifacts at all.

Dark cabals are usually named after their leader, so it just gets referred to as Drakh’s cabal (by the Council) or Richard’s cabal (by us).

From: Austin

These are questions that have to do with the jinn so I thought I would divide them into numbered questions to make them easier to answer
1. Do you know anything about the different types of Jinn, Arachne mentioned? Do the jann, jinn, shaitans, marids and Ifrits have different levels of wish magic or is that only the ifrits and they each can do something different?
2. And this might get a bit complicated but do you know why all of the different types of Jinn are called the class jinn. I don’t know if that is technically accurate but I did my best.
3. Do you think that the Shaitans might have contributed to the idea of Satan dealing in souls. Like magical creatures being viewed as gods, perhaps the Jinn tricking mages into ruin could be something similar.

Sorry if these are stupid questions, I know jinns are really rare and knowledge is limited about them but I thought I would just ask to be certain.

Thanks for answering and have a nice day!

1. I think from what Arachne said, only marids and ifrits could use true wish magic. The lesser classes had their own magic, but it wasn’t as powerful.

2. You’d have to ask a historian. It’s probably like how people say ‘bread’ to mean anything from the sliced stuff in a loaf to anything you get in a bakery.

3. Probably. From how I understand it, a lot of those bound jinn trickled down into the hands of sensitives and normals, which generally ended about as badly as you’d expect. Wouldn’t have been much of a stretch for stories about that to recast them as demons.

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Ask Luna #122

From: Kevin

Do adepts or sensitives who work for the Light Council get protections that they normally would not get under the Concord?

Yup.

From: Kurt Von Bosse

Hello Luna!

I was thinking about Richard Drakh and Mage Morden and what an odd couple they make. From the way Alex has talked about Dark cabals it seems that for the cabal to work well, someone has to be the boss. There must be one Dark mage that everyone else takes orders from and is afraid to cross otherwise chaos would ensue. Each Dark mage would scramble to assert themself as the leader or would attempt to doublecross their fellow cabal members and not much could be accomplished and not for very long. Even Dark cabals that have strong leadership can still have problems as we saw when Onyx disobeyed orders and openly joined the raid on the Light Council’s vault which resulted in Morden’s fall from power on the Light Council.

Everytime Alex has seen Mage Morden working with other Dark mages or been forced to work with him, Morden has been the unchallenged leader of those Dark mages. Morden is gregarious or pretends to be. He is seen at social gatherings and is often a center of attention.

Richard Drakh rarely openly works with other Dark mages. It was an unusual occasion when he showed up at the Tiger’s Palace with an entourage and they were there for their firepower and not their social skills. When he helped raid the Council’s security vault in disguise, even his fellow Dark mages didn’t know he was Archon. He no longer uses human servants at his mansion. He wasn’t known for taking apprentices before taking on Alex, Tobruk, Rachel and Shireen.

It seems to me that Morden and Drakh have worked well together because they haven’t had to physically work together. Each of them has acted as the boss of their own domain. I wonder that now that Morden is no longer a member of the Light Council if that working relationship will continue to run as smoothly as before. Between the two of them I think of Richard Drakh as being the leader, but I’ve never seen Morden defer to anyone else before.

Finally, there is a wildcard in Vihaela. She has a habit of double crossing her bosses and taking their places of authority. She’s probably not as strong as Drakh or Morden, though we have no way to measure that. My guess is both of Drakh and Morden think they can control Vihaela or deal with her more forcefully if the need arose. Then again, I bet her former employers thought exactly the same thing.

I’m wondering if Alex has said anything about Mages Drakh and Morden and if he thought their working relationship was unusual or out of the ordinary?

This is actually a good question, and it’s something I hadn’t really thought about. Because usually it’s like you say, in a Dark cabal there’s one very definite leader and they’re pretty brutal about maintaining authority.

Now that still kind of applies with Vihaela since Richard and Morden seem to have mostly kept her at arm’s length and every time they’ve worked together it’s been obvious what each side is getting out of it. But when it comes to Richard and Morden it just falls apart. There have been a good couple of times where one of them could easily have gotten rid of the other and taken over as the boss. But they haven’t, and I’m not sure why.

Maybe one of them is definitely in charge and we just don’t know it? Or maybe they’re just friends? (Weird concept, I know, but Dark mages are still people.) I dunno. I think I’ll talk about it with Alex.

From: Alexandus

Hi Luna. So, it’s been established that Vampires were wiped out in our reality. It’s also established that many magical creatures survived by escaping into other worlds. Do you think it’s plausible Richard’s interdimensional sojourn was to secure power / alliances with them?
Leading an army of them from a world portal does sound appropriately villainous for a villain of his scope. And Richard hasn’t aged, either…

I think that takes the record for weirdest theory about Richard’s plans/magic type/whatever that I’ve heard so far.

From: Thomas

Are there Dark Mage factions similar to the ones on the Dark Council? I remember Chalice discussing it with Alex but it was mainly about the ones who wanted to join the Light Council, do you know of any other groups?

Yeah, Chalice has told me a bit about it. They aren’t as organised as the ones on the Council but they do fall into vague groups. You get the reconciler types, like you say, who want the Light and Dark mages to unite, but they aren’t very common. Then you’ve got warrior-code types who are all strength-and-honour, anarchists who are about personal freedom, and a bunch who try to get Dark mages to work together. And then there are a good number who are just totally self-centered and don’t give a rat’s ass about anything except themselves.

From: Jonathan

Have you read anything from Ask Luna that has helped you guys out in general? I think that all of the Richard questions you have gotten recently might be the fandom for lack of a better word, trying to help you and the gang out since you are so busy dealing with mage politics. By that I mean having others look at it from a different perspective might bring up something you might have missed. The internet can be helpful some of the time at least.

It happens, but it’s rare. I do get that people are trying to help, but the problem is that they just don’t have the context. For every bit of information that’s public knowledge, there are about five or ten other relevant details, and those details tend to be quite small ones that you have to have been paying really close attention to spot. So when the people who write in start coming up with theories, they start off about ten steps behind.

The most useful questions from my point of view tend to be perspective, rather than suggestions – looking at things from an angle that we usually don’t do, either because it’s related to old stuff, or because it requires taking a step back and we’re too busy (e.g. Kurt’s question above).

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Ask Luna #121

From: Kevin

1. Is Richard Drakh known internationally or is it just limited to the Great Britain Isles?
2. Do you think there are any similar Dark Mage counterparts in France, Germany or the United States that we might have to worry about?

1. He’s known internationally, but people don’t necessarily care about him very much. It’s sort of like how people from other countries would view the prime minister of Spain.

2. There definitely are, but most people don’t want to get involved in other countries’ problems unless they have to (though they love to talk about them).

From: Alex

Okay this might be a completely obvious and redundant question but do you know what exactly the Gate Rune did? Most likely it had something to do with transportation but do you know any more specifics? It must have been quite useful to cause the equivalent of a Mage World War

I didn’t pay that much attention in the classes where they were covering it, but I got the impression it was more of a spark that set things off than anything else – the Light and Dark mages really didn’t like each other and were just looking for an excuse to start a fight. Though the Gate Rune was supposed to be really powerful too – it was some kind of imbued item that could open up portals to other worlds.

From: James

Do you think Alex is letting his personal biases get in the way of viewing Richard as a potential diviner? Granted the implications that he might be similar to his former teacher would unsettle anyone in the same position, but there have been quite a few times when Alex has bluffed his way through dangerous situations acting confident and unconcerned. Plus I remember Alex saying how little he knows about Richard personally and this could be an older diviner’s way of hiding his magic type from others along with creating a certain mystique that makes Senior Council members terrified of you. I don’t think this makes Alex anything like Richard in terms how he is as a person or the choices he will make in the future, but you know how you said in the past how Anne and Vihaela are sorta alike since they share a life magic connection? I think this could be something similar, and yeah I know this is like the hundredth Richard is a diviner theory post by now but I don’t see how it could anything else.

Maybe. If I had to put money on it, I’d probably say that the diviner theory makes more sense than the others I’ve heard – it’s just a feeling. But Alex is the one who knows the most about being a diviner, so if he says that something’s off, he’s probably right. Maybe Richard’s got some power set that’s close to being a diviner but which is a lot more combat-capable, or something. He does seem to be able to do a lot of stuff that a pure diviner couldn’t. I dunno.

From: Kevin

1. So do you know anything about how Spire manages to maintain power/respect on the Senior Council even though he never votes on anything?

Nope.

From: Kevin

So this is an ominous thought but do you think Crystal could be working with Richard? I thought about their five minute conversation in Hidden and a recruitment pitch is the only thing I could come up with. She fits the profile for a Dark Mage at any rate.

I’m almost sure she is, yeah.

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2019 Overview

Happy New Year to everyone!  Here’s what’ll be coming in the Alex Verus world during 2019.  

First news is that the edits on Alex Verus #10, Fallen, are done.  This book’s had a nice easy edits stage, so I was able to get the edit/rewrite phase done without any trouble.  There are still copy-edits and proofreading changes to be done, but the version that you’ll be reading later this year is going to be 99% identical to the one I’ve got on my hard drive right now.  

With Fallen wrapped up, I can get to work on Alex Verus #11, which’ll be the penultimate book in the series.  I’m aiming to plan it out over the next month or two, and start work around the beginning of spring, with the hope of finishing around this autumn. 

And speaking of this autumn, that’s when Fallen will be coming out!  Current release date is 10 October 2019, and as usual I’ll try to put the first chapter online a month or two in advance (so say sometime in August).  

And hopefully by the time Fallen comes out, I’ll have finished book 11.  Which means that around this time next year, at the beginning of 2020, I’ll be starting the twelfth and final Alex Verus novel and bringing the series to a close.  

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Still out of the country, so my Internet access isn’t very reliable.  I’ll do a New Year’s post next week with a run down of what’s coming in the Alex Verus world in 2019.  Until then, enjoy the holiday!

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