Looking Back

Well, the new book is done, hopefully for good this time.  Now that I’ve had a few days to recover, here’s a look at where we are, and where things are likely to go!

This rewrite has taken me about four months – I scribbled down the first notes of what would eventually become the plan back in early February, which I wrote about here.  The rest of February and all of March was spent on planning, I started the new version in April, and now here we are.

Although I find rewrites to be hard work, the good news is that I’ve also found them to have a big impact.  Every time that I’ve rewritten one of my novels, the jump in quality has been noticeable – everyone who reads both versions invariably tells me that they like the new version more.  I think a lot of it has to do with coherence.  When I write something new, it’s still very fluid and unformed, and there’ll be all sorts of completely new stuff thrown in, ideas sprouting off in unpredictable directions.  This is fun to write, and hopefully fun to read, but does mean that the end result can feel a bit incoherent, like it’s trying to go in lots of directions at once.  When I go back for a rewrite, one of the things I do is rework those ideas, adjusting them to be consistent with each other and to call back or ahead to the other story elements that didn’t exist when I first put them in.  The result tends to be a much tighter story.

The trade-off of all this is of course how long it takes, but one nice surprise that has come out of this particular rewrite is how supportive all of my readers have been.  Having to tell your readership that you’ve decided that your new book isn’t good enough and that you’re going to be putting publication on hold while you spend the next 3 to 6 months rewriting it instead . . . well, it’s not exactly the kind of news you want to be giving.  But pretty much everyone who’s responded, whether online or in person, has told me some version of “that’s fine, focus on making it good, we’ll wait”.  So, thanks for the patience!

I’d like to be able to tell everyone that the book’s now in the queue and give you all an idea of how long you’ll have to wait for it to come out, but unfortunately, as I wrote about back here, we’ve now got to the stage in the process where I no longer have full control over the timing of things.  The book’s publication date is now up to my publishers, which will depend on two things:  the slot that the book gets assigned to, and how much they want changed.  I’m hoping that my publishers won’t ask for any extensive rewrites (given how long this last one took, it’d be pretty soul-crushing to have to do another), but even if my suspicions are correct and they like it, the final publication date is still up to them.  If I had to take a guess, I’d bet on this book coming out in the summer or autumn of 2023, but I don’t know exactly when.

At some point I’m also going to start putting up some online material for the new series, the equivalent of Alex Verus’s Encyclopaedia Arcana.  I haven’t decided whether to do this before or after the first book’s publication – I have a lot of material for the new setting, but one of the features of the first book is that the reader learns a lot of things as the protagonist does, and I don’t want to spoil the story.  I’ll have a think and decide closer to the time.

And that’s about it!  Again, thanks for everyone’s patience.  It’s been a long road getting here, but at this point I’m pretty sure that all of the hardest work is finished.  As usual, I’ll let you know as soon as I know more.

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Finished

New book is done.  (Again.)  I sent the manuscript off to my publishers two days ago, exactly on time.

I’ve been working on this pretty much flat-out for the past month and now that it’s finally finished, I’m exhausted.  I’m going to collapse for a bit.  More details next week!

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Deadline Time Again

Big rewrite on the new book is nearly finished.  Judging by word counts, I’m at about the 95% mark.  About one more chapter and I’ll be done.

Rewrites are rarely fun, and I’ve been occupied with this same book for more than a year now.  It’ll be a relief once it’s finally sent off.

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Ask Luna #186

From: Kitty

Hi, Luna.

Lately, I find myself thinking a lot about poor ol’ November. I hope he’s doing okay. He’s all on his own, after all. I wonder if he’s developed any new interests, or if he’s remembered anything about his life before becoming a bound synthetic intelligence. Is junk mail piling up in his box? Is he lonely? Maybe you could peek in on him–then give us an update, hmm?
Thanks,
Kitty

I talk to him from time to time – he’s actually been helping me out on a couple of personal projects, and he’s been a really big help.  I don’t think I talk with him as much as Alex did (or does), though.  I get the feeling he much prefers Alex’s way of talking with him – email is a big climb-down after you’re used to speed-of-thought telepathy.  

From: Celia

Hey Luna!

So in Castle Reach, Variam somehow got the mistaken idea Alex owned a Jaguar. How did Variam find out Alex had kind of sort of stolen the car, and how did Vari react? 😉 Any idea whose car it was? Was there any fallout from the theft/unauthorized use?

Any idea if Hermes has ever met that special blink fox to settle down with? 😉 Still keeping my fingers crossed for fox cubs! (Kits? Pups?)

I was there when Variam found out, and he was startled at first, asked why Alex would need to steal a car second, and then just found it really funny.  It was one of the things that helped him warm up to Alex, I think.  (And no, I don’t know whose car it was.)

I don’t know if Hermes has found a girlfriend, but he does disappear for long stretches of time without telling us where he’s going, so I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he has one and he’s keeping it under wraps.  

From: Bret

1. In a previous question you mentioned that when fire mages go up against other they use physical weapons such as guns or swords or magic that doesn’t involve heat or fire do you know what are the non heat magic attacks they would typically use? Would force/kinetic magic be the main one since Sal Sarque apparently had access to it are their other kinds as well? And does Landis or Vari have magic that is good against other fire mages or are they just use physical weapons?

2. Landis mentioned that he was involved in previous military actions do you know what kind? I only ask since the War with Drakh as far as we know was the only large scale conflict that would have those types of engagements. Do you have an idea of what types of missions Landis went on that he became so competent at leading men into battle? Was it lower level Dark Mages causing trouble, missions with the other Councils, or something else? Again not looking for in depth details just how he got so good in a time of presumably relative peace.

3. Is it possible to detect/sense when Alex uses the Fateweaver? Have you with your magic been able to sense when he is using or is the fateweaver’s magic in general undetectable when he uses it?

1.Kinetic is the most common, I think – it tends to be the one fire mages have the most natural affinity for.  Vari just carries a nonmagical backup.  

2.Peace is a relative term – the Council has quite a lot of low-level fights that they get into on a regular basis.  The Order of the Shield are also the ones who get assigned the ‘black-ops’ style missions that aren’t officially supposed to exist.  I get the feeling that a lot of the jobs that Landis has done are the kinds of things that doesn’t get talked about and never officially happened.

3.I can’t sense it at all.  My magesight is pretty bad, though, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  I’ve never been much good at the sensing spells that mages always seem to have up their sleeves.

From: Alex

Do you know what the common abilities of mind, charm, and chance adepts are? Not looking for an in depth answers just what the common types are.

Mind – reading surface thoughts.  Charm – making people like you.  Chance – just general short-term good luck.  These are all the most common by a mile, so much so that people sometimes get surprised when they run into mind, charm, or chance adepts that CAN’T do those things.  They’re all among the most basic spells that mages of those types learn, too.

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Alex Verus Short Stories – Update

I wrote a post last year talking about Alex Verus short stories in which I sketched out ideas for a few different pieces of short fiction set in the Alex Verus universe but with different viewpoint characters.  I’ve still been getting the odd question on the subject, so here’s some information about where things are with that.

I do have one particular short story in the Alex Verus setting that I’ve been wanting to write for a while.  I’d actually been hoping to do it this spring – unfortunately having to do this rewrite has really derailed my schedule and cost me pretty much all the free work time that I’d thought I was going to have.  I’ve had to prioritise, and when it comes to my priority list, writing a new short story is definitely below finishing the current book.

To be honest, time shortage is becoming a problem for me in general, and it’s making the prospects of further short stories look not all that great.  Like I said back in the post where I first announced all this, my main job is and will continue to be writing novels.  Short stories are a fun experimental side project that I try to squeeze in when I have the time, and unfortunately, right now time’s in short supply.  I’ve had several family- and personal-related commitments this year that have really piled up, and while I’ve managed to do all those and also keep up progress on my new book, it hasn’t left me with much time to do anything else.  Possibly that might change in the future, but right now I’m just overloaded.  (I still have emails that need answering from January or something . . . come to think of it, I should do those too once I’m done writing this post.)

However, while I’m not sure I’ll be able to find the time for any further short stories, I do really want to write this one particular short story.  I’m not going to go into details about who it features, but it functions as a sort of extra epilogue to the Alex Verus series as a whole.  As with Favours, it’ll be a bit of an experiment, but it’s an experiment that I really would like to do.  So while I can’t make any promises about a wider set of short stories going forward, I’m pretty sure I’m going to do this one.  I just can’t promise when!

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Rewrite Month

As of this week, I’ve got exactly one month until my deadline.  The rewritten version of Book #1 in the new series is due on June 15th.

It’s pretty common for writers to miss deadlines, but in this case I’ve got additional reasons not to – I’m going to have a lot of personal-life-related stuff starting around mid-June, so if I don’t finish the book by then, everything is going to suddenly get much harder.  On top of that, my contracts with my US and UK publishers are for multiple books, each of which has their own delivery date, meaning that any delay for Book #1 is going to make it that much difficult for me to hit my delivery dates for Books #2 and #3.

All of this means that I’m really committed to finishing this rewrite by June 15th.  I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure I get there.

Unfortunately, this is going to mean a fair amount of work.  At the moment I’m working my way through the manuscript from beginning to end, making the changes I’ve written about here, here, and here.  It’s been going quite well – I’m about 50% of the way through, as measured by chapters/word count, and I’m finished with the really difficult early bit (when you’re doing a rewrite, the hardest part tends to be the first third or so, where the important characters and story elements get introduced), and I’m much happier with the new Version 5.  However, the last 15% or so is going to be slow going.  I’ve come to realise over the course of this that the last 3 or 4 chapters of Version 4 of the new book are just a write-off – they were taking the series in a direction that wouldn’t work at all in the long run and I’m going to have to delete them all completely.  This means I’ll have to write about 30 pages or so of a completely new finale and ending.

Rewriting 6 chapters and then writing 3 new chapters, and doing it all within a month, is doable for me – even once I add in time for editing, it’s the sort of deadline I’ve been able to hit before.  However, it does mean that my next month or so is going to be pretty tense.  Expect my blog posts to get briefer and briefer as June 15th approaches!

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Alex Verus #8 in Germany

The German translation of Alex Verus continues to move along – this week’s release is volume #8, Bound.  It’s coming out on May 16th in paper, ebook, and audio.

The German editions are being released at a steady rate of one every six months, so with this, we should be almost exactly two years from the release of Book #12!

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Rewriting Characters

Still working away on the rewrite of the new book.

One interesting difference between the start of this series and Alex Verus has been how I’ve handled the characters.  In the early Alex Verus books, I made up new characters all the time without thinking about it too much – often they’d be created completely off the top of my head and I’d only come up with backgrounds for them much later, if at all.  This gave the characters a lot of room to expand in unexpected directions, but it also meant that I had to do a lot of work later on figuring out quite basic things about characters that I’d introduced early on but had never really decided on the details for.

For this new series, I’m trying to work out some sort of basic biographical information for all of the really important characters right from the start, along with a general idea of where they’re going and what I’m intending to use them.  It does make this book a bit slower to write, though, since I’m taking the same sort of treatment that only Luna and Alex got back in Fated, and applying it to maybe 6 or 7 characters instead, including some who don’t have very large roles in book 1 but that I’m planning to use a lot more over the course of later books.  Let’s hope it pays off in the future!

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Ask Luna #185

From: Kevin

Hey Luna just two quick questions.

Have you ever heard of Death Magic and Mind Magic forming a hybrid? I heard Life could with Mind as personal enhancement effects if Death was mixed with Mind and would it be similar to that or not?

And have you ever seen/heard of Elemental Mages creating attacks from behind like Richard did with that Jarnaff the Force Mage and Alex as opposed to the regular hand to sight spells most elemental mages use?

Death/mind hybrids are mental combat specialists.  They tend to specialise in stuff like direct mind attacks, mental paralysis, and inflicting damage on a target’s brain.  It’s probably the most feared and disliked combination of magical abilities that you can get – people already don’t trust death mages, and they really don’t trust mind mages, so you can imagine how they react to someone who’s got the worst abilities of both.  I’ve never met one in the apprentice programme, and if there was one, they’d probably be keeping their magic type a secret if they knew what was good for them.

Elemental mages have some ways of attacking a target from behind, but it’s a lot harder than attacking in a straight line, and most of them don’t do it.  

From: Alicia W.

Hey, Luna! How’s things?

I hope you & Vari are holding up OK given the current state of affairs.

I was appalled Saffron had the gall to send you an email pestering you about Alex, but I loved your response! (Ask Luna #182) I literally laughed out loud at the idea of her camping out on Trafalgar Square for days or weeks hoping Alex will show up (which of course, he won’t). Do you think she’ll set up camp there in hopes of catching him? I think she might be desperate enough to try it.

Anyway, as fun as that thought is, the reason I’m writing today is because I am fascinated by gate stones & other magical items. They come in such a dizzying variety of forms. Alex has described a few gate stones in the books, like the one to the ravine outside Arachne’s lair which was carved out of a piece of wood. And there was that cup that made everything put in it taste of chili sauce. And, of course, there was that book that made you forget about it as soon as you looked at the first page.

1. Can any mage create a gate stone, or does it require a space mage to do it?
2. Do mages use a ritual to lay the spell down on a magic item? If not, can you tell us a bit more about how it’s done?
3. Can either you or Alex create your own magical items?
4. What’s the coolest or weirdest gate stone you’ve come across?
5. What’s the coolest or weirdest magical item in the Arcana Emporium right now?

Stay safe!

Alicia

Vari is . . . okay.  I hope.  

Creating a gate stone is actually more about your skill with item creation that your skill with gates, so you don’t need to be a space mage, or even a mage, at least in theory.  Alex told me that I’d be able to do it, and actually thought I might have a talent for it – I’ve been working on it in my spare time, but I don’t have much of that these days, and you really need a teacher to get the hang of item creation, at least if you want to get any good.  It’s the kind of thing that Arachne would have been really good at, but, well . . .

There’s a technique for creating gate stones that uses actual gemstones – those are pretty cool, though kind of expensive.  Another technique I’ve seen uses actual fruit or berries that are grown in the target area.  Then you eat them to cast the spell.  It apparently makes them much much easier to make, but obviously they don’t last very long, so kind of the opposite of gemstones.  

And as for the weirdest item . . . it’d be one of the ones I don’t tell anyone about or keep on the shelves.  Let’s just say that I can see why Alex kept a safe room with a big lock on the door.

From: Nana

Dear Luna,

1. Did Anne tell you how she got Alex out of the shadow realm? I assume it must have taken some time for the Fateweaver to transform his body. How did she manage that before the isolation ward made it impossible to go back?

2. I’m also really sad about Sonder. He had his flaws but he didn’t deserve to die 🙁 How does Anne feel about killing him seeing as she was actually friends with him as opposed to everyone else she killed while being possessed by the jinn?

3. Have you had enough time to get to know the “new” Anne better? I hope you’re not scared of her anymore!

Have a nice day!
Nana

1. Never actually asked.  Gate stone, I’d guess.  The main defensive wards were down by then so it would have been doable, but not easy.  

2. I haven’t asked.  Honestly, I’m a bit afraid to.  That whole month is kind of a huge minefield for both of us, and we’ve sort of silently mutually agreed to avoid it, at least for now.  I mean, if I ask her, and she tells me about how bad she feels about it, that’s one thing.  But what if she doesn’t particularly feel like that?  What am I going to do then?

3. Yes, a bit, and yes, I am.  She’s comfortable to talk to, but again, we haven’t had ‘that’ conversation.  And again, the biggest reason I haven’t brought it up is because I’m not sure what answers I’ll get when I do.  

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Alex Verus Compared To Other Series

. . . by length, that is.

Ethan Sholly has done an in-depth listing of popular fantasy and sci-fi series sorted by their total word counts.  He’s still updating it (and some of the series aren’t finished), but here’s a picture of the list at the time of writing, so you can see how Alex Verus compares!

Some of these were surprises to me, others weren’t.  I don’t think many people will be surprised to see the Wheel of Time or Discworld towards the top, but I was surprised to see just how long the Redwall series was (apparently all those books really add up) and apparently Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle kept going for way longer than I ever realised.

On the other hand, it’s also interesting to see many of the most enduring and influential series towards the shorter end of the list.  The entire seven-book Chronicles of Narnia is shorter than some Brandon Sanderson novels, while the three-volume Lord of the Rings, which is still regarded as the iconic fantasy doorstopper, is actually relatively short compared to many of the works that have come after it.

It’s odd to look at that list and see just how long the Alex Verus series ended up being.  Back when I was starting Fated, I never would have imagined that the whole story would end up taking me ten years and over a million words.  I wonder how long my next series will be?

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