Worldbuilding Articles Poll: Results

Okay, results are in for the poll on the Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft articles!  Thanks to everyone who wrote in.

I’d originally been planning to start off with the articles on the various branches, going through them in order – Light, Matter, Motion, etc.  However, reading through your responses, the overwhelming winner for what everyone was most interested to see was actually the articles on limits.  Which makes sense now that I think about it, but wasn’t something that would have occurred to me on my own.  So I’m going to change my original plan and do the series of articles on the Five Limits first.

The branches come in at joint second place, tied with articles on the Houses and on limiters (again, I wouldn’t have guessed the last one).  So I’ll do those next.  There’s a bit more interest in the more esoteric branches (like Dimension and Primal) than in the simpler ones (like Light and Matter) but not hugely so, so I’ll probably work through the branches in order.  However, I think I might leave the sigl articles for later, since 6 articles on the branches is quite a lot on its own without doing another 6 (at least) to give even a very brief overview of sigl types.

Third in the priority list are Country Affinities, Corporations, and the articles on advanced sensing/channelling/shaping, so they’ll come afterwards.  Sigl Fashion, The Exchange, and Measuring Scales come in as the fourth group, which isn’t too much of a surprise (honestly, I’m surprised an article on “Measuring Scales” got as many votes as it did).

So current rough order is likely to be:

  1. Limits (overview, then 5-ish individual articles)
  2. Branches (6 individual articles)
  3. Houses (2-3 individual articles)
  4. Limiters (probably only 1 article)

2, 3, and 4 may be shuffled around, depending on what I feel like, but given how much interest there was in the Five Limits, they’re definitely getting covered first.  In any case, this comes to around 15 articles, so this’ll definitely keep me busy for quite a while!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #10: The Branches

Essentia in its natural form is highly mutable.  It attunes to anything it passes through, and this attunement can be quite fast – a matter of seconds, in the case of living creatures.  This means that drucrafters don’t generally need to worry about maintaining a reserve of personal essentia;  it’s not a battery that needs to be charged.  As long as they’re in a sufficiently essentia-rich environment, they can replenish their personal essentia in five seconds flat.  Of course, they can also expend all that personal essentia in five seconds flat, but since there’s usually plenty more where that came from, this isn’t generally a problem.

But while essentia is mutable, it’s not ever-changing.  When essentia currents converge to form a Well, the essentia takes on a certain quality and stays that way.  These qualities tend to be quite stable, and Wells will typically produce essentia of almost exactly the same type for year after year, decade after decade.  It’s so consistent that someone who’s really familiar with a particular Well can reliably pick out a sigl that was shaped from it, even one created fifty or a hundred years ago.

From the very beginning, drucrafters noticed that the essentia from Wells seemed to divide into six distinct categories.  These have come to be known as the six branches of drucraft.  A brief overview included below:  for more detail, turn to the respective chapter for that branch.

Light

Light drucraft grants control over the electromagnetic spectrum;  everything from visible light to infrared, ultraviolet, radio, microwaves, X-rays, and gamma rays, though for practical reasons sigls from this branch tend to focus on visible light.  Light effects can create electromagnetic radiation out of essentia (projection), turn that radiation back into essentia again (negation), or bend and redirect existing electromagnetic forces (manipulation).  Relatively weak in terms of the raw energy it can deliver, but the usefulness of its concealment and vision effects means that it sees heavy use in the military and security sphere.

Matter

Matter drucraft can alter nonliving matter by changing its physical properties (mass, hardness, brittleness, strength, reactivity, conductivity, etc).  The change is only temporary and only one property may be changed at a time, but this is still extremely useful for various industrial processes, enough so that the vast majority of global Matter drucraft production is funnelled into manufacturing.  Mass-reduction sigls are also quite popular for personal use.

Motion

Motion drucraft grants control over kinetic energy in all its forms;  heat, cold, momentum, sound, etc.  The most common Motion effects are ones that directly create kinetic energy out of essentia, allowing a drucrafter to generate sources of heat, hurl themselves or an object through the air, or deliver a kinetic strike to a target.  However, as with Light drucraft, this can also be used in reverse;  turning kinetic energy into essentia allows a drucrafter to do such things as slow a fall, create zones of freezing cold, or stop a projectile in mid-air.  Generally considered to be the most directly useful of the branches for offence and defence.

Life

Life drucraft affects living creatures, generally by stimulating, enhancing, or suppressing specific systems within an organism.  Its sigls can accelerate a particular bodily system while also fuelling it with energy, allowing it to function at superhuman levels.  Enhanced strength, speed, dexterity, senses, and sensations are all possible.  By far the most popular use for Life drucraft, however, and the one for which it is most famous, is medicine.  Life drucraft, when combined with modern medical care, can heal or cure most conditions – broadly speaking, anything that a body can heal itself from, a medical drucrafter can fix faster and better.  The vast majority of Life sigl production goes into the medical industry, and sigl-wielding doctors are always in high demand.  There are never enough, though.  No matter how many medical professionals are trained and equipped with sigls, there’s always a demand for more.

Dimension

Dimension drucraft affects space and time.  Its basic effects allow a user to accelerate or decelerate the flow of time in a small area, or stretch or compress space with a similarly small range.  Generally considered the most difficult of the branches to shape and channel.  More so than any of the others, Dimension is considered the ‘generalist’ branch – it doesn’t excel at any one particular thing, but it’s almost impossible to find a task that it can’t help with somehow.  After all, it’s hard to imagine any problem that can’t be affected by space and time.  Due to this, as well as the inherent difficulty of the branch, Dimension experts tend to be specialists.  Probably the least commonly encountered branch in the West, due to the global pattern of Dimension Well distribution.

Primal

Primal drucraft can be thought of as ‘meta-drucraft’ – its effects deal directly with essentia itself.  This makes it useful primarily as a supplement or support.  Primal effects can be used to produce or access more essentia than one would be able to use normally, store personal essentia for later use, infuse essentia into things or people, or extract it in turn.  Also used in the creation of sigls – limiters require Primal drucraft to make, although not to use.  Primal is also the ‘anti-magic’ branch, with several effects that can disrupt or weaken other spells.  However, if you don’t have some other sigl effect that you want to either boost or hinder, Primal drucraft is of limited use.

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Worldbuilding Articles: Reader Poll

Something a little unusual for this week!  Work’s going ahead on Book 3, and progressing well at the moment – I’m currently finishing up the first section, and should be sending it out to my beta readers shortly.  In the meantime, I’m planning out which worldbuilding articles about the Inheritance of Magic setting to put out next.  The ‘Phase 1’ articles were the nine ones that I’ve written already;  now that the basics are covered, I’m moving on to Phase 2.

However, when I tried to come up with a first rough list of the topics to cover for Phase 2, it turned out to be long.  Very long.  I spent a little while trying to decide which to focus on first, before it occurred to me that since I’m mainly doing these for the interest of my readers, I might as well go ahead and ask you.  So here we go!

My current working list for Phase 2 articles is as follows:

  • Branches of Drucraft
  • Light
  • Light Sigls
  • Matter
  • Matter Sigls
  • Motion
  • Motion Sigls
  • Life
  • Life Sigls
  • Dimension
  • Dimension Sigls
  • Primal
  • Primal Sigls
  • The Five Limits
  • The First Limit:  Euler’s Limit
  • The Second Limit:  Primal Limit
  • The Third Limit:  Blood Limit
  • The Fourth Limit:  Limit of Creation
  • The Fifth Limit:  Limit of Operation
  • Measuring Scales:  Faraday vs Universal
  • Houses of the United Kingdom:  The Great Houses
  • Houses of the United Kingdom:  The Lesser Houses
  • Houses of the United Kingdom:  The Minor Houses
  • The Exchange
  • Advanced Sensing
  • Advanced Channelling
  • Advanced Shaping
  • Limiters
  • Shapers and Manifesters
  • Country Affinities
  • Corporations of the United Kingdom
  • Corporations of Europe
  • Corporations of the USA
  • Sigl Fashion

As I said, it’s a long list.  Even if I was putting out one of those a week and doing nothing else, it would take a full 34 weeks . . . and in practise the number is likely to be a lot bigger than that, since I usually only put up worldbuilding articles once a fortnight or so.  So realistically, this is likely to last well into 2025.

What I’d like you guys to do is leave a comment on this blog post with the items from that list you’d be most interested in seeing.  Single favourites are fine, Top 3 or Top 10 is fine, but no more than 10 items, please.  Also, if there are topics that you’d like me to cover that aren’t on that list, feel free to add as write-ins.  I’ll generally consider pretty much anything as a viable topic, so long as it doesn’t strike me as particularly boring or likely to count as a major spoiler.

Note that in the long term I’m probably going to do every item on this list one way or another;  this poll is just to figure out which order to do them in (and whether to put any other items on the list ahead of them).

And that’s it!  Post your requests below.

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Alex Verus #11 in Germany

Alex Verus #11, Forged, is out in its German edition as of last week.  The Alex Verus books have been translated into quite a few languages by this point, but it’s been the German translation that’s been the most successful, and this year the last book is due to be translated and released.  It’ll be the first time one of my series has been fully translated, which is a small (but nice) milestone for me.

Book #12 ought to be coming out in about six months or so, after which my German publisher is going to get to work on translating and then releasing An Inheritance of Magic too!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #9: Shaping

The third, last, and hardest of the drucraft disciplines, shaping is also the rarest.  Channellers aren’t exactly common, but they’re not that hard to find;  learning to channel is slow and difficult, but anybody who works at it long enough and hard enough can become a channeller eventually, and at the higher ranks of Houses and drucraft corporations, basically everyone can channel.  Shaping is a totally different story.

There are two reasons that shapers are so rare.  First, going from channelling to shaping requires a drucrafter to pick up a new skill;  the ability to manipulate and work with free essentia.  “Free essentia” is just the drucraft term for regular essentia – the kind that isn’t attuned to anyone, but is floating around in the air or resting in Wells.  A drucrafter can attune it by taking it into their body, but shaping even the weakest of sigls requires vastly more essentia than any living creature’s body could possibly hold.  This means that the only way to shape a sigl is to learn to use free essentia . . . which is a problem, since directly controlling essentia that hasn’t been attuned to you is impossible.

The way shapers get around this problem is to use indirect control instead.  They learn to use their personal essentia to set up currents, causing the free essentia to be drawn in and concentrated.  Shapers sometimes describe this as ‘painting’, where the shaper’s personal essentia is the paintbrush, or as a ‘whirlpool’, where the free essentia is visualised as a vortex, or even as ‘birds following a leader’ or ‘flock of sheep and a sheepdog’.  The fact that they have to come up with such weird metaphors to explain it is a hint as to the inherent difficulty of the task.  Most channellers find it mind-bendingly impossible at first, and it doesn’t help that most drucrafters are rather bad at sensing, having skipped those parts of the drucraft curriculum to get to that part where they can use magic as quickly as possible.  A drucrafter can get away with this as long as they stick to basic channelling – if all you’re ever planning to do is use not-too-complicated sigls that other people have made for you, then an understanding of your own personal essentia is all you really need.  But it’s woefully inadequate for shaping.

Assuming that a channeller can get past this first hurdle, the next step is to learn to shape an essentia construct.  A construct is basically a blueprint for a sigl, created out of thin strands of essentia, and if you can make a construct for a sigl, you can make the sigl . . . in theory.  In practice it’s quite a lot more difficult than that, partly because making an actual sigl is much more stressful and demanding on one’s shaping skills, and partly because it’s actually quite difficult to know whether you’ve made the construct correctly.  Analysing an essentia construct requires very good sensing skills, so it’s easy to create a construct with a giant flaw that you’re totally unaware of until you try to shape it for real.  This is where a good teacher is enormously helpful – a shaping tutor can analyse a student’s essentia construct and identify such flaws, speeding up the process massively.

Once a would-be shaper has learnt to manipulate free essentia, and can reliably make an essentia construct, the next step is to scale things up.  At this point, paths split.  The “traditional” approach is for a shaper to continue to practise with constructs, making them larger and denser, until they start to work directly with Wells.  This process, however, is quite slow and demanding, and in recent decades it has become more and more common for shapers to focus on training with limiters instead.  Limiters greatly simplify the shaping process by offloading most of the hard work onto the drucrafter who created the limiter.  It does mean that you can’t make a sigl without having the right limiter, but nowadays most Houses and virtually all corporations use this method exclusively, considering the loss in flexibility an acceptable trade-off for the reduced cost and difficulty of training the shaper in the first place.

But even with the limiter method, these costs and difficulties are not small.  The unfortunate fact is that no matter how much they train and practise, every shaper fails their first real shaping attempt.  Most fail their second, third, fourth, and fifth attempts, too.  And this is a problem, because shaping a sigl requires Wells, and Wells cost money.  The easiest way to learn to shape sigls is to practise on a powerful, stable, permanent Well, with a lot of time to try things out and make mistakes . . . but the sort of people who own such Wells are very unlikely indeed to be happy about some newbie messing with them, particularly since it’s entirely possible to damage a Well if you misuse it badly enough.  The most likely way a novice shaper is going to get access to such a Well is if it’s one that their family (or sponsor) owns already.

All of this is a long way of saying that learning to become a shaper is typically very expensive;  training a shaper has a high up-front cost, and someone is going to have to pay it.  Typically that someone is going to be a sponsoring organisation, whether a House or a corporation.  It’s possible to learn shaping without the backing of such an organisation . . . it’s just significantly harder.

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Off Sick

Had been planning to do the Shaping article this week, but I’ve come down with a nasty bug and it’s taking all I’ve got to keep up work on the book.  On the plus side that’s making decent progress (first chapter is about done).  Shaping article should be up next Friday!

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New Year, New Books

In to 2024!  Here’s what to expect for the next few months.

Right at the moment I’m once again busy with edits on An Instruction In Shadow;  specifically, first-round edits from my UK editor.  Usually I do my US and UK edits side by side, but in this case the UK ones arrived a little later, meaning that I’ve had to put Book 3 on hold briefly while I finish this up.  Luckily, just like before, these edits are extremely quick and easy and I’m expecting to have them done by the end of the weekend so that I can get back to my main job.

That job is, of course, writing Book 3 in the Stephen Oakwood series.  I’m currently a few pages in and busy plotting out the first couple of chapters;  it’s got a long way to go but I’m always much happier once the first page is done, so I’m hoping to keep up a decent pace.  This is going to keep me busy for around the first half of the year.

As for this blog, my main project (aside from the usual updates) is going to be more Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft worldbuilding articles.  First on the to-do list is the article on shaping, and after that I’m probably going to go into a mini-series on the six drucraft branches.  That’ll probably keep me busy until well into the spring.

And that’s it!  I’ll post news as and when I get it, but you can probably expect edits on Book 2, a first draft of Book 3, and worldbuilding articles on this blog to be pretty much all of my output for the forseeable future.

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The End Of 2023

So we’re finally coming to the end of the year!

This year has been a very mixed one for me.  Professionally, everything has been great – An Inheritance of Magic was released to good early sales, and I wrote and edited Book 2 in the series, An Instruction in Shadow.  That book is now with my publishers, and I’m gearing up to start Book 3;  if all goes to plan, it should be finished by midsummer of next year.

Outside of my writing, things have been more difficult.  I don’t generally talk about my personal life on this blog, but the short version is that I had some family losses in 2022-2023, and most of the past year and a half has been spent dealing with the consequences.  It’s led to a situation where my professional career is going great, but I haven’t really been in a position to enjoy it.  Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to change any time soon.  Perhaps by this time next year things will have stabilised, but perhaps not.

For those who are wondering, this isn’t likely to slow down my writing – more the opposite, if anything.  I’m the kind of author who tends to use my writing to work through whatever’s currently preoccupying me, with the result that if I’m going through a difficult time, I’m actually likely to end up spend more time working, rather than less.

In any case, I hope you all have had a good Christmas and that your 2023s have gone well.  Next week’s blog post will be some announcements about what I’ve got coming in the next few months, so I’ll see you all in the New Year!

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Merry Christmas!

And it’s that time once again.  Merry Christmas to everyone as 2023 comes to an end.  Next week’s post will be a wrap-up/look-back on the year, so see you then!

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Inheritance of Magic – French Edition!

Some good news for this week – An Inheritance of Magic is getting a French translation!  The publisher is Bayard Editions, and they’re hoping to publish in October 2025.  The German translation has been in production for a long time, so it’s nice to have a second European translation to go with it.

As regards future books, An Instruction in Shadow is sitting with my publishers at the moment, waiting to move on to the next stage of edits.  I’m still working on my plans for Book 3, and hoping to start around the end of the year.

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