Writing Update

A quick update this week covering the various things I’m working on.  


Alex Verus #12 is still with my publishers.  They’ve told me that I should be getting the first-round edits back around the end of the month, so probably not much longer to wait.  Release date is unchanged – it’ll be coming out December 2021.  

Short Stories

I’ve plotted out one Alex Verus short story, and done some thinking about templates and models for distribution, etc.  I’m leaning towards sticking with this website at the moment and just using a Paypal link or something, since on consideration I’m not sure that Patreon (or whatever) really adds enough that it’d be worth asking readers to sign up for an account there.  I haven’t started work on writing any stories, yet, because of my other projects (see below).

Terra Invicta

Normally once I’m done with an Alex Verus novel I get to work on the next one.  This time I’ve been spending my post-book lull a bit differently – I’ve been doing some for-contract writing on a computer strategy game called Terra Invicta.  I’ll write more about it in a future post – it’s been fun to work on a team for a change instead of doing everything on my own.  

New Book

. . . of course, writing books on my own is still my actual job.  New book is still in the planning stage, with 100+ pages of notes.  I’ve got a fairly good handle now on the world, story, and characters, but there are a lot of details to figure out before I’ll be comfortable starting.  Still, I’m a lot closer than I was two months ago.  Once I’m done with Risen’s first-round edits, I’ll start planning out a timescale.

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Arcana Emporium Artwork!

Something different for this week! 

An environment artist called Lucy Zini got in touch with me a while ago about a university project involving concept art of the Arcana Emporium, Alex’s shop in the Alex Verus series.  Here are some of the pieces she’s produced!

The first is a scene of the Emporium in the evening rain – this is pretty much how it would have looked in that rainy day in Book 5, Hidden.  Click on it for a bigger view!

It’s actually very close to how I imagined Alex’s shop.  The main difference is the climbing plant wrapping up the left side and above the door, which Alex probably isn’t enough of a gardener to maintain, but which definitely makes it look a lot nicer.

Next is one in the spring, which is the time of year when the series starts with Fated:

Definitely blends in a lot more.  You’d probably barely notice it among all the other weird shops unless you took a second look, which feels exactly right.

If you want to see more, go to Lucy Zini’s page here – she also has some variations of how she designed the shop front, and a collection of images for the kinds of things I described the shop as selling (crystal balls, daggers, herbs, etc).  Go take a look!

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Alex Verus – The Future (Short Fiction)

As promised two weeks ago, here’s some news about where I am with the Alex Verus series.

First things first:  the manuscript of the final Alex Verus novel, Risen, is still with my publishers.  I’m supposed to get the first-round edits back by around the end of February.  If all goes to plan, release date will be the end of this year, December 2nd 2021 in the UK, and December 7th 2021 in the US.  

The main topic of this post, though, is shorter fiction, ie short stories.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have any plans to write any further Alex Verus novels, since Risen is going to tie up Alex’s story in a fairly final manner.  However, the Alex Verus setting is a big one, and there are many parts of it that didn’t get much attention.  A lot of this is due to the series being written in the first person.  Since the books are all from Alex’s point of view, you only see and hear what Alex does, meaning that some quite important events never get told because there’s no way for Alex to be there to see them.  For example, one of the more common questions I get from readers is some variation of “where did Richard go in those missing years” and my answer to them is always that they’ll never know, because the reader only sees what Alex sees and Richard has absolutely zero inclination to reveal his personal secrets to Alex, or to anyone else.  (The other reason you’re never going to know is that the full answer would be such a ridiculously long story that it’d be the length of a novel, if not several novels, which I don’t intend to write.)

There are other Alex Verus side stories, though, that are a lot more practical to tell – first meetings, background events, and day-in-the-life style accounts.  A lot of them are stories that I worked out as background material or to flesh out characters, but which never made it into the books because they didn’t fit in with the plot.  Some of the ones that I’ve sketched out are:  

  • Dark Academy:  A story about Morden and Vihaela running Richard’s adept training school in the shadow realm of Arcadia.  
  • First Encounters:  How Variam became Landis’s apprentice.
  • Timesight:  An episode from Sonder’s work as a Keeper auxiliary, involving Council politics and Caldera.
  • (Redacted):  A story following two major characters set after Risen (identities withheld so as to prevent spoilers).

I’ve got quite a few of these stories lined up, and I’d be interested in telling them.  There are, however, a couple of problems.  

The first problem is that I don’t know how much time writing short stories would take away from my main job, which is (and will continue to be) writing novels.  I think – in theory – I ought to be able to write the occasional story in between novels during the kinds of periods when I wouldn’t be getting any work done on the main book anyway.  However, I don’t know this for sure, and it’s possible that short stories would end up conflicting with my novel writing.  If that ever turns out to be the case, then the short stories are getting axed.  

The second problem is a much bigger one:  it’s really hard to make short fiction commercially viable.  Most successful short story writers, like Stephen King, are successful because they’re famous through having sold a truckload of non-short-story books already.  There are ways to try to sell individual short stories, but they require quite a lot of effort and marketing, and I’m very doubtful that it’s worth the amount of work it’d take, given that any time I’m spending on that is time I’m not spending on writing the next book.  

So what I’m leaning towards at the moment is a kind of experimental trial.  I’ll put up a handful of short stories online, either here or on a site like Patreon, make them freely available, and ask readers to pay what they think they’re worth.  Honour system, basically.  Then, depending on how they do, I’ll either keep writing more, or I won’t.  (If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see what the answer to “what do readers think they’re worth” turns out to be.)  This’ll still require a bit of time and effort to set up, but less so than any kind of shop arrangement.

Anyway, this is still all in the theory-and-planning stage, so it won’t be happening especially soon.  Let me know in the comments what you think and if you have any suggestions.  

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Ask Luna #175

From: Banarok

Hello Luna!

Just curious about the shop, since mage society don’t seem to care much about property rights and such who actually own the store on paper?

If you did Alex gift it to you and where did the funds to rebuild it come from?

What’s the most valuble item in the shop, that’s actually for sale?

The shop was Alex’s at first. After I rebuilt it and he was spending all his time in the War Rooms, he transferred it over to me. I would have been okay with sharing, so him doing that was the point at which I realised that no, he definitely wasn’t coming back. As for the funds . . . pretty sure I shouldn’t be admitting to that on paper.

The most valuable thing that’s actually for sale would be one of the focuses. I’ve got a small collection on the right hand-shelf by the counter. I don’t keep price tags on them since it’s a case of “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”. Seriously, though, I hardly ever sell the things – all the turnover comes from the regular stock. But there are some side benefits to having genuine focuses out on the shelf, even if they’re not very good focuses.

From: Julian

Hi! so,three questions i have are:
1)can a magic user have a “place of power”,where his magic is stronger
if he stays there?
2)is it all possible to use magic to take someone and give them skills,like making an non athletic person good at football?
3)Are there any truth in the Irish legend of an Salmon who is extrememly intelligent and is older than humanity,coud sucha magical creature exist?
thank you for your time.

1) Yes, there are various rituals that do it – mages call the powered-up result a sanctum. Some people claim you don’t even need a ritual, if you keep using a place for enough years then it just naturally adapts to you. I’m not sure it’s true though.
2) Kind of. Mind mages can do it in theory, but I think there are so many problems that it usually ends up being more trouble than it’s worth. Of course, if you’re willing to get creative, there are other ways. I could make you amazing at football, so long as you didn’t expect it to last.
3) I mean, I’ve never heard of it, but I can’t see any reason it’s impossible? Why a salmon, though . . .

From: James

Hey Luna since a lot of the people who read the series are from the United States I was wondering if they had any unique mage traits, and or if you get along with them as well as people in the UK?

Also are they any unique qualities about British mages you have seen compared to ones in other countries?

I’ve met a few US mages. Haven’t noticed that they have any specific magic traits, though they do tend to be a bit more blatant with their magic than I’m used to. I get on with them well enough, haven’t noticed anything very strong one way or another.

I’m not sure what British mages are actually like, but for some reason, American mages seem to think we’re all really cultured and polite. Which I find weird, personally, since I’m not at all sure I’m either of those things, but who knows . . .

From: Brian D Walton

Hello Luna,

Do you happen to know the recipe for the elderflower and lime cordial that Anne made and mentioned in Chosen, Chapter 1? If so, would you mind sharing it with us? That sounded delicious, and I’d love to try it.

It was very delicious. Unfortunately, Anne was the one who knew how to make it, and Anne’s . . . not doing that kind of thing any more. I’m not sure we’re ever getting any more of it.

From: Andrew

Hi Luna,

I’m interested in hybrid mages and what some of the odder magical combinations might be. What’s the strangest and/or most unusual combination of abilities you’ve ever heard of one mage possessing? Are there any fire mages who have a knack for mind magic or ice mages who can use timesight? What’s the oddest combo you’ve ever heard of?

There aren’t any odd combos.  At least not from their point of view.  This is one of those things that most people don’t seem to get about hybrids – there isn’t actually such a thing as a ‘hybrid’, not really.  

See, when people hear the word ‘hybrid’, they think it’s like taking two different things and mixing it together.  Like, you take a bunch of spells from the ‘fire’ bucket, and a bunch of spells from the ‘mind’ bucket, like you’re at a sweet shop, and you mix and match until you have what you want.  That’s not how it works.  A better way to think of it is as a circular colour spectrum, like this.  Each mage is a little circle or oval on that spectrum, and they have the ability to use the magic within that tiny little area.  Now, maybe one end of that oval is a sort of green-blue, and the other end is a sort of blue-green, but there’s no one point at which it stops being green and starts being blue – they just blend into one another.  

That’s how ‘hybrid’ mages work.  From their point of view, the spells they use are all the same type of magic – THEIR type.  It’s other people who call them hybrids, because they don’t fit into the other people’s way of naming things.  But just because they name things that way, that doesn’t make them right.

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Alex Verus – The Future (After Book 12)

Okay, it’s been a couple of weeks since I sent off the manuscript for Risen and I’ve recovered a bit, so here’s a look at what’s going to be happening with the Alex Verus setting going forward!

(Sidenote:  I originally titled this post ‘Alex Verus – The Future’ before checking and realising that I wrote a post titled exactly that all the way back in 2012.  Amusingly, when I went back and read it, it turns out that I predicted back then that the total number of Alex Verus books would be 10-12.  Pretty good guess given that I was only writing book #4 at the time!)

So, blog content first of all.  I’ve got one more round of Ask Luna questions queued up, which I’ll be answering next week, after which the backlog should be empty again.  After that, there’ll be a post dealing with short stories (see below), and after that I’ve got a longer series of posts planned, a sort of overview of the entire Alex Verus series.  Now that it’s fully written, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at the books in context, and how they divide up.  You can look at the Alex Verus series as four trilogies – 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12.  Each set of three is quite different to the others and each represents a different stage of how I was writing and looking at the series as a whole.  More on that later.  

What most of you will probably be more interested in, though, is the question of future Alex Verus work.  Well, bad news first:  I’ve still got no plans to write any more novels in the series.  However, there are a bunch of smaller side stories that I’m interested in – stories featuring side characters that I would have liked to show more of, and events that I developed for the main plotline but which never made it in to the books because the Alex Verus novels are told from Alex’s point of view and Alex wasn’t there to see them.  There are a LOT of these stories that I’ve got plans or notes for and that I’ve worked out some elements of.  However, there are issues with ever writing them, the big one being that it’s really hard to make short fiction commercially viable.  I’ve got one or two ideas that might help with the problem, though – I’ll go into more detail in a blog post on the subject in a few weeks.  

And finally, on a lighter note, Fated, Cursed, and Taken have been published a second time in French, this time in mass market paperback (MMPB) format.  The covers of Fated and Cursed have the artist’s take on Alex and Luna.

I like them both, though they’re both drawn as much better-looking than I imagine them as being, especially Luna – she looks as though she’s stepped off the cover of Vogue!

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Ask Luna #174

From: Celia

I’m sorry my previous questions had already been asked! I should have read all your previous Ask Luna’s and encyclopedia articles before asking stuff. My bad! Please don’t hesitate to skip my prior redundant questions – your time is valuable, and I really appreciate the time you devote to answering our questions.

I am caught up now, so pretty sure this question hasn’t been asked. In the entry on Masters and Apprentices, you mention that the “most common” way a Light apprentice becomes a mage is by passing their journeyman tests, but that it can also be done in several ways. But do these tests require the approval of their master? I am wondering what are the other ways for an apprentice to become a Light Mage? Obviously appointment as a councilor’s liaison like the trick Morden pulled is one, but I doubt that’s common for a random apprentice.

I ask because you also note it is “far from unknown” for Masters to be abusive to their apprentice. So suppose you have a master who is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive. (I shudder to think of Undaaris with a young apprentice!)

So the apprentice wants to become a journeyman to get away from their abusive master. But the master can simply claim the apprentice isn’t ready and deny their request to take the journeyman test so he can continue abusing them – for years. Or if the apprentice can take the test without their masters consent, after the age of 18, couldn’t their master ensure they fail either by calling in favors or intentionally agreeing on tests he knows the apprentice won’t pass?

So the apprentice can run away – leaving them vulnerable to their master catching them, or perhaps other mages capturing them – is a runaway apprentice still covered by the protection of the concords? (For whatever that’s worth.)

Or the apprentice could seek dissolution instead of running away. But what grounds are considered adequate for dissolving the master/apprenticeship contract? Would abuse count? I know you said the master usually doesn’t contest dissolution so as to avoid his dirty laundry being aired publically – but what if he does contest it? It becomes his word versus apprentice’s. And then he likely treats the apprentice even worse afterwards.

Assuming the dissolution DOES work, the former apprentice now is not a light mage, no master will probably want them since they were “disobedient and disloyal”, and they are not protected by the concords, right…? So their former master could legally kill them right in the War Rooms if he wanted to, right…? (Under mage law, anyway.)

So that is why I am wondering how else an apprentice might become a Light Mage other than going through their journeyman tests. No one seemed to acknowledge that fellow “Wolf” as a light Mage after he dropped out, and that would really be awful for an apprentice to be in that position just because their master was abusive.

Thanks so much! And sorry this is so long.

No, that’s fine, it’s a good question.

So there are two main ways you can become a Light mage. The standard way is that your master negotiates with the Council and agrees on a set of tests for your journeyman exam. This is how 90% of Light mages do it. It’s safe, but it’s slow (months and months), and as you’ve noticed, it does kind of require your master to cooperate.

The second way is that you approach the Council directly and demand a journeyman test. As long as you’ve been in the apprentice programme for at least 15 months and aren’t wanted for any crimes, the Council’s legally required to give you one. This was what I did. It raises a few eyebrows, and yes, you do get people assuming that it means you’ve had a falling-out, given that that’s the most common reason for an apprentice to do it. But it does mean that if an apprentice has a master who’s totally blocking them, they have an out.

Alternate option is to “branch-swing” and find a different master. Probably the hardest one to pull off unless you get lucky or you’re good at networking. It’s not easy to find a new teacher, and a lot of mages won’t take an apprentice who left their old master on bad terms (they don’t want to make enemies). And if your current master finds out you’re looking . . . well, that’s probably going to be an unpleasant conversation.

From: Michael

Why don’t mages seem to learn new spells after completing apprenticeships? Alex mentioned that Helkion has forgotten more about divination than he will learn in the next ~20 years, but I’ve not heard of Alex using any new spells. Similarly, Rachel still uses the same disintegration spell. It works for her against weaker mages, but she and her partners were completely outclassed by Morden during the fate weaver incident.

Lots of reasons. Sometimes it’s habit – they get set in their ways, especially if the way they already do things seems to work. Sometimes they’re just not very imaginative and it never occurs to them to try. And sometimes there legitimately isn’t much point. Like, with Rachel, her disintegrate spell kills anyone it hits. What kind of spell is she going to learn that’s MORE deadly than that? Something that kills them twice? If she wanted to get better at magical combat, she’d be better off working on speed and accuracy and shield-breaking, and those are more a matter of lots of little improvements rather than learning something totally new.

Alex is much better in a fight nowadays then he used to be, but that’s because his movements are more efficient and he’s got better weapons and tools armour. I don’t think there are any new divination spells he could learn that would make a big difference.

From: Carrie

Hi Luna,

I know you’re confidant that Alex won’t become Richard, but his limits have constantly pushed and his most recent dealings with Rachel and Shireen seemed to have pushed him to max. How much more can he bend that line without breaking, especially in light of Shireen calling Alex Richard’s Chosen?

Well, Richard had his apprentices kill each other, while Alex has done pretty much everything he can to protect me and keep me alive (including risking his life more times than I like to think about).

So, from my point of view, that seems like a pretty important difference.

From: Robert

Has Harry Dresden ever contacted Alex about buying any ingredients or tools for his lab?


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The End

And it’s done.  

I finished editing the manuscript for Alex Verus #12, a.k.a. Risen, last weekend, and sent it off to my publishers at the beginning of the week.  It’s now with my US and UK editors and will stay with them until they get back to me with their first-round edits – if you’re curious, we’re now on Step 4 (Waiting for Edits) of the process that I wrote about here.  My Alex Verus novels have required fewer and fewer rewrites/revisions over the years, and for book #10 and #11, the edits stage was very quick and painless.  So at the risk of jinxing myself, I’m not expecting any delays – that the book should be published in December 2021 on schedule.  (I know, I know, you’d rather have it sooner, but my publishers like to schedule books ages in advance – they probably would have pushed it all the way to 2022 if I hadn’t specifically asked them to release it no later than one year after Forged.)

Right now, though, the biggest thing on my mind is that I’m finally done with Alex Verus.  It’s a very weird feeling – my entire professional identity for the past nine years has been ‘the guy who writes the Alex Verus series’.  Now Alex Verus is finished, but I’m not.  I’m going to move on to something new.  

It does feel kind of appropriate that I finished the last Alex Verus book right at the end of 2020.  Alex Verus is very much a 2010s series – it was written in between 2008 and 2020, and the in-universe timeline begins with Fated in 2011 and ends with Risen in 2017.  I guess my next series will be my one for the 2020s!  

Which brings me to the question of what my next project will be, but I’m not going to get into that just yet.  It’s something I’m thinking about (and have been thinking about off and on for more than a year) but right now, I’ve been working on Risen pretty much flat out since the spring/summer of 2020, and I’m kind of exhausted.  I’m going to a take a break.  I’ve got various bits of news concerning new books and future Alex Verus stuff, but that can wait!

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Busy editing Risen.  It’s the last time I’ll be doing this for an Alex Verus novel.  Strange feeling.

Book should be heading off to my publishers by Monday.

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Happy New Year!

Happy 2021 to everyone!  Hope it goes well!

I’m just in the middle of writing the last pages of the epilogue to Book #12.  It should all be done and sent off by next week’s post – I’ll go into more detail then.

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Merry Christmas Update

Merry Christmas to everyone!  I know 2020 hasn’t been the best year for a lot of you, but hopefully things will get better.  

Alex Verus #12, otherwise known as Risen, is very close to done.  I finished the last chapter and wrote ‘THE END’ a couple of days ago.  Just need to do the epilogue and give it one last edit.

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