A Not-So-Short Story

The Alex Verus short story that I’ve been working on is done! 

However, it turns out I underestimated how long it was going to be.  The unedited version is 17,500 words long, which is less ‘short story’ and more on the borderline between ‘novelette’ and ‘novella’ – it’s about 20% the length of a full Alex Verus novel, which is quite a lot more than I was expecting.  It was more work than I was planning on, but I’m glad I did it – it was interesting to write Alex Verus’s world from the viewpoint of someone else.  

Now that the story’s done, I’m deciding what to do with it.  I’m probably going to make it available online, but I haven’t decided exactly where – at the moment the main options I’m considering are Kindle, Patreon, and my own website right here.  It needs a bit of editing and formatting first, so it’ll take a little while regardless.  This first story is probably going to function as a sort of testing-the-waters experiment – depending on what sort of response it gets, I’ll decide whether to write more.

In the meantime, I’ve got a couple more author commentaries written and ready to go.  I’m going to be out of the country for a couple of weeks, but I’ve put both pieces on this blog and set them to auto-publish, so they should come out automatically over the next two Fridays.  The first is an ‘interlude’ piece looking at the release of Alex Verus #1, #2, and #3 in 2012, and the second is the commentary on Alex Verus #4, Chosen.  Hopefully they’ll come out on schedule, but if not, I’ll fix it when I get back!

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Alex Verus #3 – Taken

(This is part 3 of a 12-part series of author commentaries on the Alex Verus books.  The master post with links to all the parts is here.)

Taken was the last Alex Verus novel that was a pre-Alex-Verus novel, in that it was the last one written before Fated came out. I started it in the spring of 2011, and finished around the beginning of January 2012, a few months before Fated’s release. (I’d hoped to finish earlier, but I had my final law exams in the summer of 2011 and had to put Taken on hold for a few months.) At the time, I still had no expectations of becoming a full-time author. My writing hadn’t earned me a living wage for the past 12 years, and I didn’t really believe that was going to change. As far as I was concerned, law was my career; writing was a side job.

As I got ready to start writing Taken, though, the first signs were showing that it might become something more. Around early 2011 my agent secured a contract with Penguin USA, and it was agreed that the books would be published in the US and Canada as well, on the same schedule as the UK ones. All of a sudden I was getting twice the money (and more than twice the potential readership) for the same amount of work. It didn’t make me any more successful – I’d yet to sell a single book – but it did reduce the amount of pressure I felt.

Partly as a result of this, I wrote Taken quite differently from Cursed. Cursed had been very fast-paced and action-packed, whereas for Taken, I dialled things back a bit. With Cursed, I’d tried to write an Alex Verus story that was an action thriller. In Taken, I went for a theme that was more of a cross between “mystery” and “supernatural horror”. As it turned out, “supernatural horror” fit the Alex Verus setting quite well.

The change in theme made Taken a slower book than Cursed, but that had its upsides. Since the plot wasn’t rushing so quickly from one battle to another, there was time to have some longer conversations and let the characters develop a bit. Luna got to settle into her new role as Alex’s apprentice, and I started to show more parts of mage society. There were fewer fights, but I tried to make the fights that did happen tenser and more interesting, especially the hide-and-seek between Alex and the assassins in the flats in Archway, and the motorway chase in the Jaguar. I thought the whole book worked better as a result, and apparently my readers agree, since Taken is rated slightly but significantly higher than Cursed on every review site I’ve found.

Taken, like Cursed, was written to an episodic model. The episodic model was how I’d imagined the Alex Verus series at the beginning, and how I’d sold it to my publishers – the idea was that characters would change and develop, but each book would be a clearly separate story, and so readers could skip books or jump in later in the series without missing much. It was the same model used by the early books of the Dresden Files, along with most TV shows. Without intending it, though, I was already drifting away from the episodic model, and Taken was probably the last Alex Verus book that followed it one hundred percent. The villain in Cursed is Belthas, and the villain in Taken is Vitus Aubuchon, but by the time you get to Chosen and Hidden the villains start to be more numerous and complicated and the conflicts don’t get neatly tied up at the end of the book anymore.

Taken was also the book where I introduced Anne and Variam (technically Anne makes her first appearance at the end of Cursed, but it’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it). When planning out Taken I decided I wanted some apprentice mages for Luna to interact with, and so I went back to a pair of old children’s fantasy novels that I’d written in 2007-2008. The first book had three main human characters: an air mage called John, a fire mage called Variam, and a light/shadow mage called Caitlin. (Anne joined them in the sequel.) For reasons that made sense to me at the time, I dropped John and Caitlin, kept Anne and Variam, and modified their backstories to have them show up in the apprentice programme at about the same time as Luna. At the time I had no idea how important they’d become – they were an experiment that I was prepared to keep or abandon, depending how things went.

By the end of Taken, most of the core elements of the Alex Verus series were in place. We had the central group of five – Alex, Luna, Anne, Variam, and Sonder – plus Arachne as a mentor figure. The main concepts of the world (magic types, the Council, Dark mages, shadow realms, imbued items/focuses/one-shots, and so on) had all been developed. From this point on, the series would focus less on establishing the world, and more on telling stories with what was there already. Future books would keep adding to the setting, but those additions tended to be smaller and more incremental.

Of course, back then, I had no way of knowing that there WOULD be any future books.

The contract I signed with Orbit in 2010, and the contract I signed with Penguin in 2011, had been for three novels: Alex Verus #1, Alex Verus #2, and Alex Verus #3. There was no guarantee there’d be an Alex Verus #4. My publishers seemed to like the series, but publishers don’t decide whether to keep or abandon a series based on how much they like it. They make that decision based on a very simple calculation: does it make a profit or a loss? Publishing a book costs money: you have to pay an advance to the author, pay the salaries of all the people who work on the book throughout its production cycle, and finally pay to mass-produce the book itself. Publishers add up that number, then they look at the book’s sales to see how much money the book’s made, and they add up that number as well. Then they look to see which number’s bigger.

It’s not always that simple. Sometimes publishers will keep on a prestigious but low-selling author for publicity reasons, and often with new authors publishers will take the attitude of “we’ll spend a little bit of money now in the hope that it’ll pay off down the line”. But ultimately publishing is a business and there are very sharp limits as to how much of a loss business owners will tolerate. If that loss gets too big, you’re out.

With Taken written, edited, and sent off, I’d done all I could. The success of the Alex Verus series was now out of my hands. Its sales in 2012 would determine whether it would live or die.

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Spring Update

It’s been a while, so here’s an update on what’s going on with Alex Verus and my writing in general.  

The copy-edits for Alex Verus #12, Risen, have been finished and the manuscript’s back with my publishers.  I’m more or less finished with the book at this point – it’ll get one last look-over when I see it in proof form, and that’s it.  Everything’s on schedule and Risen’s going to be coming out eight months from now as planned.

I’ve also finished up my work for the computer game I was writing for, Terra Invicta.  It’s currently being tested in a closed beta and isn’t available to the public, but I’ll let you guys know once it gets made available on general release.  

I spent a lot of the first three months of this year writing notes and doing planning and world-building for my new series, but at the moment that’s winding down.  I’ve reached the point where I’ve done pretty much all the preparation that I need, and the only thing to do is to start.  In fact, I’d been planning to start at the beginning of May, but I was divided as to whether to start on the new book, or whether to write an Alex Verus short story that I’ve had in mind for a few weeks now.  

In the end I picked the short story, and that’s what I’m working on right now.  What swayed me in the end was the fact that I’ve just come off writing a 12-book series – it made sense to me to experiment a bit and try a few different things before I plunge into a new multi-year project.  I know that once I start writing the new book I’ll be concentrating on it too much to write anything else, so if I don’t do this story now it’ll probably never get done.

I haven’t figured out exactly what I’ll do with the story once it’s finished – I could shop it around to my publishers, but they’d probably take ages to decide what to do with it.  I’m more inclined to make it available online, and I’ve got a couple of ideas about how to do that, but it’ll take a bit of setup to make it work.  I’ll give you more info once I have it.

And that’s about all the news for now!  Next week we’re going back to the author commentaries, with Alex Verus #3, Taken.  

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Alex Verus #2 – Cursed

(This is part 2 of a 12-part series of author commentaries on the Alex Verus books.  The master post with links to all the parts is here.)

I emailed off my rewritten version of Fated in March 2010. The initial response was silence. After two or three months, though, I started to get encouraging signals, and on June 2nd 2010 I checked my email to find a message from my agent saying “How many books do you envisage and can you write book 2 in 6 months?”

I didn’t know much about the writing business back then, but instinct told me that this was the sort of question that had very definite correct and incorrect answers. So I wrote back saying “lots!” and “yes!”.

And very soon I had a contract. Fated and two sequel novels would be published in 2012 at three-month intervals, with the hope of building enough of a readership that Orbit could keep on bringing out more books afterwards. All I had to do was write two more books by the end of 2011, and make them good enough to sell.

So I got to work on what would eventually become Cursed.

The result of all this was that Cursed was written under heavier time pressure than any book I’d done before, and any I’ve done since. Nowadays, when I start a new book, my approach is “take your time and do it right”. With Cursed, I dived straight in and made it up as I went along. I didn’t even start off with a real plot, and whenever I didn’t know what to do next I put in an action scene instead. Which is why poor Alex gets caught up in no less than four assassination attempts before the book’s even half done, and I just kept ramping it up from there. Killer golems, military hardware, a giant dragon, big explosions, infantry battles, magical combat, wish-granting artefacts . . . I wanted to make the book exciting and so I threw in everything and the kitchen sink.

Underneath all the action, though, were some more serious themes. The core of Cursed (as the title hints) isn’t the fighting, it’s Alex’s relationship with Luna. One of the problems I’d had in Fated – and the biggest reason I’d had so much trouble writing Luna’s character – was that I’d never really defined exactly what that relationship was. Was Luna Alex’s friend, who’d accompany him on adventures but who was otherwise independent? Was she Alex’s love interest and maybe-eventually-girlfriend? Or was she his apprentice and student? In Fated I’d left open the possibilities of all three, but by Cursed it was becoming clear that that just wasn’t working. I needed a clear answer.

In the end I got that answer by a method that was messy, but felt right. I gave the characters free rein and let them develop naturally to see how they’d handle it. Unsurprisingly, the answer was “badly”. Luna promptly got a new love interest, Alex got jealous and tried to push Luna to be more diligent about her apprentice duties, Luna rebelled and asked why she needed to be a dutiful apprentice when the monkey’s paw was so much faster . . . and so on.

The whole sequence of events made me realise what should have been obvious from the beginning. Luna COULDN’T be all three things at once. Luna couldn’t be a friend and equal partner to Alex because the power and experience differential between them was too great. And she couldn’t be both his girlfriend and his apprentice because, well, romantic relationships between teachers and students are frowned upon for very good reasons. The only two paths that made sense to me were (a) Luna striking out on her own, and (b) Luna becoming Alex’s apprentice for real and accepting his authority in a relationship that was very clearly established as a non-sexual one.

I picked (b), and it worked perfectly. The friction between Alex and Luna vanished and they settled into a comfortable relationship that would last for the rest of the series. Oddly enough, they ended up developing a much stronger friendship along the way. I think that Luna and (especially) Alex are the kinds of people who need boundaries, but aren’t very good about setting them. The nebulous nature of Alex and Luna’s relationship in Fated and early Cursed was bad for them both – the master-apprentice relationship, with its clear rules about what each can expect from the other, suits them much better.

This was also the book which established Cinder as one of the dark-horse favourites among my readers, which was quite impressive given how little page time he had. He’d continue to be one of the most popular recurring characters for the rest of the series.

The last thing about Cursed that stuck in my mind is to do with reader reactions.

I was quite active on the internet around 2012. I did various bits of book publicity and visited a lot of blogs and forums, and something that I saw come up a lot in book discussions was the topic of rape and sexual assault, and how much a lot of readers didn’t like them being included in stories. There was a lot of discussion about how overused it was for such a serious topic, and how it frequently destroyed readers’ enjoyment of a story, particularly when it wasn’t the focus of a book. Everyone seemed to agree that one of the main characters having something like this happen to her was massively important – it should be accompanied by trigger warnings and the trauma and recovery should be a major focus of the story. It didn’t matter if the scene was written as violent – tricking/compelling someone into sex was just as bad. Basically, any kind of nonconsensual sex was A Very Big Deal and should be handled extremely carefully. I took note of this, and moved on.

It was only years later that it occurred to me that I’d written exactly that as happening to Alex in Cursed.

And not a single person had mentioned it.

When I say “not a single person”, I’m not exaggerating. Quite a few readers made negative comments about Meredith being a seducer, but it was the fact that she was a female seducer that they had a problem with. The actual act of her magically mind-controlling people into sleeping with her? Didn’t register at all. I tried bringing it up a couple of times to people that I knew had strong opinions about the prevalence of rape/sexual assault in fiction, and both times the response was along the lines of “huh, yeah, never noticed that”.

Now, I knew why Alex hadn’t been particularly traumatised by the experience. Alex has gone through a ton of abuse in his backstory and as a result, even as early as book 2, he is (by normal standards) ridiculously mentally resilient. Having someone magically influence him into sex not only doesn’t make the list of the 10 worst things that have ever happened to him, it wouldn’t even break the top 100. But that didn’t explain the lack of attention it got from readers.

I’d like to say it’s strange how that whole thing went under the radar . . . but the truth is, I know EXACTLY why it went under the radar, and that knowledge bothered me for quite some time. Eventually I got over it and accepted it, but it was a definite learning experience that changed my outlook on the world.

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Alex Verus #1 – Fated

(This is part 1 of a 12-part series of author commentaries on the Alex Verus books.  The master post with links to all the parts is here.)

At the end of the last part of this series, we were up to late 2009, and I’d taken on the task of rewriting Fated.

Rewriting is hard work. Since I was changing the setting of Fated, the knock-on effects meant I had to change a lot of the story, which meant changing many of the scenes, which meant changing the characters. And in the course of that I noticed all kinds of things that I thought could have been done better, which made me want to change THOSE things too. The result was, at least to my eyes, a mess. It was sort of like taking apart an old car, throwing away half the bits, using what was left to build a new car, making a bunch of different parts to fill in all the gaps, and then putting a fresh coat of paint on the whole thing and hoping it’d work.

Amazingly, it did. It still surprises me that out of the thousands of reviews I’ve read of Fated, virtually no-one took issue with how bolted-together the whole thing was. They were far more likely to comment on the voice, or the characters, or how similar Alex was/wasn’t to Harry Dresden. Either I did a better job than I realised, or I’m just much pickier about this kind of thing than the average reader.

As an example of what I’m talking about: almost none of the major scenes in Fated were originally set in London. They were all in the setting’s fantasy otherworld. When I did the rewrite I took the events and the dialogue, deleted all the references to location, and plonked them down in arbitrarily chosen spots around London or the UK. Often this meant completely rewriting the scenes. But no-one complained – and in fact, when they did mention the new locations, it was to say that they liked them – so I guess it worked.

So if you ever find yourself wondering where those weirder, slightly jarring details in Fated came from . . . now you know.

About the only thing that didn’t change much in the rewrite was Alex himself. I’d always been quite happy with his personality and the way his divination worked, and so while I was rewriting everything else, Alex became the stable centre that everything else oriented around. Luna was another story. I’d struggled with her character in the first draft – I liked the idea of her curse, but her personality always felt a bit incomplete and empty. I ended up rewriting many of her scenes, trying different things and looking for something that worked. In the end what made the character click for me was realising that at the start of the novel, Luna was badly depressed. She was trying to put a brave face on it, but her curse was driving her to despair and by the events of Fated she was willing to take what were (by normal standards) insane risks because she felt she had nothing to lose. Luna in Fated is at her absolute lowest point and even at her worst moments in the later books, things are never as bad for her as they are at the start of the series. In any case, the rewrite improved her character a lot, and laid the foundations for what she would eventually turn into in book 3 onwards.

But when you’re dealing with that many moving parts, there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes. And while I think I did a pretty good job with the rewrite, it wasn’t perfect.

On something like the third editing pass, I was reworking the final confrontation where Alex gets possessed by the mind mage Abithriax. I wanted some way to show at the end that Abithriax really was gone, and thought that it could work for Alex to have some very characteristic (and slightly annoying) thing he could say that would confirm to Luna that he was himself again. So I had Alex call her “good girl”, and then went back to previous chapters and had him do it a couple of times earlier, too, to establish the pattern (and to show Luna’s irritated reaction). I wasn’t all that satisfied with the line – it felt a bit clumsy – and if I’d had a fourth editing pass I probably would have taken it out again, but as it turned out three editing passes were enough to make my editors happy, and I was way too busy with my law work to go over the book yet again just for the sake of it. I sent off the manuscript and quickly forgot about it amongst the 1000s of other changes I’d made.

Until Fated came out in 2012. At which point I got reminded of it. Repeatedly.

I got SO MUCH hate for that line. If you go to Fated’s Goodreads page you can find literally hundreds of reviews bringing it up. The “nicer” ones just called it sexist and patronising. The less nice ones went into detail about the homicidal rage that they were feeling towards Alex, the book in general, and me for writing it, along with some comments about how I clearly hated women. I’d been around the Internet long enough to have some experience with how inflamed people could get about fiction, but this was the first time I’d been on the receiving end of it, and it took me aback. Still, I learned my lesson.

Aside from that, reviews were generally positive, with readers praising the concept of the divination magic in particular. The most common criticism was that there was too much info-dumping . . . however, the second most common criticism was that the reader didn’t feel that they understood how the setting worked and what was possible. At the time, I didn’t see how I could fix either of those issues without making the other one worse. Now that I’m more experienced I think I can see some ways, but it’s not an easy problem.

But back then, reviews were nothing but a far-off dream. I finished Fated’s rewrite in March 2010, sent it off to my agent, and went back to studying law.

Posted in Author Commentary | 3 Comments

Alex Verus #0 – Prelude

(This is part 0 of a 12-part series of author commentaries on the Alex Verus books.  The master post with links to all the parts is here.)

In the late summer of 2009, I returned home to London. I’d just finished a six-month trip working as a schoolteacher in Anhui, China, and I was about to start a law conversion course that would end, after two years, with me qualifying as a UK solicitor. I wasn’t writing any novels, and I wasn’t planning to. I’d sent off my last book to my agent before going to China, had heard nothing back in response, and had more or less forgotten about it – by this point my career as an author was dead in the water, my only income was coming from my teaching work, and I was focused on making a career change. I’d decided somewhere around the end of 2008 that I should face facts and accept that I wasn’t going to make it as a writer. It was time to get a steady job so that I could support myself and my family.

At which point I got a call from my agent telling me that a senior editor called Darren Nash from Orbit had read my most recent book and would like to meet me.

The meeting with Darren Nash was friendly, though his feedback was mixed. Darren liked the divination magic of the main character and he liked Luna’s curse, but he didn’t think that setting the story half in London and half in a fantasy world worked very well. He suggested that I focus on just one world, rather than two – maybe consider rewriting Fated so as to make it an urban fantasy novel, instead?

At which point I should mention that Fated didn’t start off as an urban fantasy at all.

The origins of Fated go all the way back to the year 2000, and the second novel I ever wrote. It was a children’s fantasy; more specifically, a portal fantasy, one where the protagonists travelled to another world where they developed their magical powers. I wrote three other children’s books in the same setting over the 2000s, and they were mostly set in the same otherworld – a fantastic, wondrous place of natural beauty and magical creatures. So when I (for some reason) decided to make the jump to adult fantasy and wrote the first Alex Verus novel in 2008, that was the setting I used. Alex had his shop and his flat, but he spent most of his time travelling to and having adventures in this vast, magical, sparsely populated wilderness.

Darren Nash suggested that instead of splitting the focus of the book between two worlds, I should pick just one. Either make Alex originate from the fantasy world, and centre the story around that. Or have Alex grounded much more strongly in this world, and set the majority of the scenes in London instead. On the whole, he thought that the second option was better – he thought the Camden atmosphere was good, and the scenes in the Arcana Emporium were funny, and that I could do more with that, rather than making Alex’s shop an afterthought. This would make the book fit more into the “urban fantasy” subgenre, which was still relatively new and popular back in 2009.

I listened, thought about it, and decided that his points made sense. I’d rewrite the book.

There was, however, a catch. Darren, being the up-front type, explained to me that if I kept the book as it was, they wouldn’t publish it. However, even if I rewrote it along exactly the lines that we’d agreed, they STILL might not publish it. It was quite possible that I could do months of work rewriting the book to their specifications, and they’d just reject it all over again.

On the other hand, “we’ll reject your book if we don’t like it” wasn’t actually any different from the position I was in already. And I’d been impressed with Darren Nash – he seemed perceptive and intelligent. I decided to trust him.

So as I started my path towards becoming a lawyer, I took on an additional job. During the day I attended lectures and workshops at my college in Holborn, learning about contract law and criminal law and land and equities and trusts. And in the evenings, whenever my preparation for the next day was done and I had a spare couple of hours, I’d chip away at the task of rewriting Fated.

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Author Commentary on the Alex Verus Series

(Note: This is a master post that functions as an index.  For the links to the individual commentaries for each book, scroll to the bottom.)

As I’m writing this, it’s April 2021, and the Alex Verus series is slowly drawing to an end.  The final book in the series, Risen, is currently at its copy-edits stage, and will be published in eight months.  So with the endpoint of the series coming steadily nearer, I thought it might be fun to write a retrospective on the books.  

Originally I was going to do 1 blog post per “trilogy”, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had more than enough to say to fill up 1 post per book, so that’s how I’m going to do it.  After all, each of these books represents something like 1 year of my life – a lot happened over each of them!

You can think of these posts as “author commentaries” or as a series of Author’s Notes.  They’ll contain background information on the book, titbits of information about how it was written or what I was intending, and my thoughts on the book in hindsight.  They’ll also include some context about what was happening in my life when I wrote it, since (especially for the first three) that actually had quite a big influence over how the series turned out.  

Since I put up 1 post a week on this blog and there are 12 books in the Alex Verus series, this is going to be a long project!  It’d take a minimum of 3 months even if I just wrote all of these posts back to back.  And I won’t be writing them back to back – there’ll be other posts mixed in about topics like Terra Invicta (the computer game I’m working on), Alex Verus short stories (which I’m still planning on doing), and the new series I’m writing notes for, plus the occasional Ask Luna.  So this is probably going to run for something like 6 months total, and by the time I get up to writing the commentary for Risen, I’m expecting Risen to be right on the verge of release.  So this’ll also work as a kind of recap leading up to book 12.  

SPOILER WARNING:  For obvious reasons, the author commentary for each book will contain spoilers for that book, for all earlier books in the series, and occasional spoilers for future books too.  Consider yourself warned!  

Well, with that out of the way, let’s get going!  The links below will be filled in as I write the posts.  The first will be a “prelude” to the series, explaining how the Alex Verus world came to exist as it did and why it got changed so drastically (it’ll make sense once you read it).  That’ll be released next week, on April 9th.  After that I’ll get going on the author commentaries for the books in the series, beginning with Fated.  

Author Commentary on Alex Verus #0 – Prelude
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #1 – Fated
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #2 – Cursed
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #3 – Taken
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #3.5 – Interlude
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #4 – Chosen
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #5 – Hidden
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #6 – Veiled
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #7 – Burned
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #8 – Bound
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #9 – Marked
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #10 – Fallen
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #11 – Forged
Author Commentary on Alex Verus #12 – Risen

Posted in Author Commentary | 4 Comments

Ask Luna #176

Name: Kevin

1. Are there augmentation rituals for lack of a better term that can increase a mages abilities that doesn’t have to do with Harvesting? And if so are they worth the effort like would they make Caldera and Slate a match for Vihaela?

2. Are there factions on the Light Council that are nationalistic/pro British as it were? I couldn’t understand for the longest time how Isolationists would be a political force but then like in real life there have always been leave us alone types and usually it had to do with nationalism.

1. No clue, honestly. I’ve heard of augmentation rituals, but I don’t really know how they work. But the general rule for stuff like this is that you don’t get anything for free – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

2. You’re asking the wrong person about this kind of stuff – I’d have trouble even telling you the names of all the factions, much less what they believe in. It’d be pretty weird if the factions weren’t “pro-British”, though. Why would you want to be a member of any faction that wasn’t pro-your-own-country?

Name: Andrew

Hello,

I was wondering how tracking spells work. Do they work differently depending on your magic type or is it kinda the same for everyone?

They’re different depending on magic type, but I think they’re all either living family (based off your biological signature) or universal (based off your magical signature).

Name: Andrew

Hello Luna,

So dragons can see the future and unlike diviners they can see past free will, right? So what happens if a dragon looks into its own future. Does it see every part of its life, unable to change any of it?

Okay, look, seriously. What goes through the heads of you guys when you’re asking stuff like this? Like, stop and think about it for a second. How would I know the answer to this? How would ANYONE know the answer to this?

It reminds me of how people used to keep on asking these endless questions about Richard or Morden. And they’d never be reasonable questions, they’d be ones like “Why did Richard do (random thing from seven years ago), do you think it’s because (random guess here)?” I started giving increasingly sarcastic answers along the lines of “go ask him” and eventually I think people noticed that it was getting on my nerves, but I’m not sure they ever figured out why.

Maybe I should try just making up answers. It’d be a lot easier and I’m not sure it’d make much difference.

Name: Andrew

Hi Luna,

Thank you for answering my question about hybrid mages:D

If magic is like a spectrum and mages are a small circle on that spectrum then what happens if their circle is in the center? If their circle was a little larger than average and they were in the exact center of the spectrum would that particular mage have a tiny bit of skill in every “element” of magic?

There is no circle. There is no actual giant magic spectrum where you can walk into the middle of it and pick a spot and get magic powers. It’s just a way of explaining it.

Name: Andrew

Hi Luna,

What’s your favorite Pokemon?

The one with four legs.

Name: Magnus

hi! How powerful can a mage or a magical creature get? what’s the limit?

Seven.

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Risen Edits

After I’ve finished my first draft of a new novel, the next step in the publication process is first-round edits.  This is the stage where my editors get their first full look at the new book, and give me their editorial feedback on it.  For Alex Verus #12, Risen, these arrived a week or two ago.

Editorial feedback can mean a lot of things.  The sort that writers are scared of is the kind where your editor tells you that they loved the book and they think it’s perfect, they just have a few small suggestions . . . and then the “small suggestions” turn out to be something like “instead of making the main character a detective, we want you to make him a singing purple dinosaur.”  (This is an exaggeration, but not by much.  I’ve never been asked to change my main character’s species, but I have been asked to change things like their sex or the world the story takes place in.)

In the case of the Alex Verus series, the books that changed the most in the edits stage were book #1, Fated, and book #5, Hidden.  In both cases it took months of planning and rewriting.  Rewriting a book is very difficult, much harder than writing a new one from scratch, since everything you change has the potential to cause knock-on effects in the rest of the book and make other parts no longer work.  It’s sort of like trying to redesign a complicated machine after it’s already been built.  

Fortunately, as the Alex Verus series has progressed, this has happened less and less.  Book #10, Fallen, and Book #11, Forged, had very few editorial changes – in both cases my editors sent it back to me with the message “we’re not suggesting any big changes because we think this is really good already”.  

And thankfully, the trend’s continued with Risen.  From beginning to end, including responses and discussion, I’ve been able to do the first-round edits in barely over a week.  The edited manuscript was sent to my publishers on Wednesday.  I still have to do copy-edits, proofreading edits, and author questions, but if I had to guess, the version of Risen that I sent off two days ago is about 99% identical to the one that you guys are going to get your hands on when the book comes out this December.  

So in short:  everything’s going well!  Risen is on schedule to be published on December 2nd 2021 in the UK, and December 7th 2021 in the US.  

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Applications Closed

Thanks to everyone who applied in response to last Friday’s call for beta readers!  It’s been a week, and applications are now closed.  

When I wrote last week’s post, I had no idea how many applications I would get.  As it turned out, the answer was “a lot”, and I’ve spent a good part of the past week going through emails.  I was surprised by how many of the messages mentioned that they check this blog every week – when you write a blog it tends to feel as though the posts you write just disappear off into the ether, so it was really interesting to discover that there are lots of you out there who’ve been reading these posts every week for a year or more.  

Unfortunately, the downside of getting so many applications is that there was no possible way I could accept all of them – if I had, the beta reader group would have ballooned out to an impossibly bloated size.  So I’ve had to turn lots of people away.  The emails were sent out yesterday, which means that if you sent me an application between Friday and yesterday, and I haven’t replied to your email with a confirmation, then I’m afraid the answer is a no.  I know it’s disappointing, but there were simply too many.  I’ll keep people’s email addresses, and if spaces open up in future then I’ll go back to some of the ones who didn’t make it in the first time, but realistically, the group’s now more than big enough, so this probably isn’t going to happen any time soon.  Sorry.  🙁

Now that the beta reading episode’s over, next week’s post will be an update on the publication progress of Alex Verus #12, Risen.

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