Inheritance of Magic 2, Inheritance of Magic 3

First-round edits on Inheritance of Magic 2 (a.k.a An Instruction in Shadow) are done!  Manuscript was emailed off to my editors as of yesterday.

Finishing the first-round edits is the point at which a book really becomes ‘settled’ in my mind.  The first draft takes much more work, but until the first-round edits are agreed on and completed, the book is still somewhat fluid.  There’s always the possibility that the editor will want big changes, or they’ll point things out that make me decide on big changes.  Once the first-round edits are done, that’s no longer true.  The manuscript will still be revised quite a bit in the copy-edits stage, but the fundamental story won’t be.  The version of An Instruction of Shadow that I sent off yesterday will be >95% the same as the version that you guys will be able to read next year.

Which means that it’s time to get started on number 3!  I’m hoping to start writing the first draft around the end of the year, with the aim of finishing in summer 2024.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #7: Sensing

Sensing is the ability to feel essentia, and it is the first and most basic discipline of drucraft.  At its most primitive level, sensing gives a drucrafter awareness of their own personal essentia (the essentia that is attuned to a drucrafter as a result of residing within their own body).  This is absolutely essential for anyone who hopes to move on to channelling or shaping, since both of those disciplines revolve around manipulating personal essentia;  trying to learn them without being able to sense one’s own personal essentia first would be like learning to draw while blindfolded.

Unfortunately for aspiring drucrafters, learning to sense is also the point at which most drucrafters fail out.  Sensing does not require any sort of inherent gift, but it is a demanding skill that requires focus and patience.  It is also a very internal and very passive skill which can’t be learned by simple repetition.  A novice drucrafter who doesn’t approach the discipline in the right way can easily train for weeks without making progress.

In the past sensing was traditionally taught in a religious context, with exercises that focused on prayer and meditation.  With the general decline of religious influence in the drucraft world, this is now less often the case, but the fundamentals of the discipline remain the same:  quiet, stillness, and focus.  Various training regimes have been developed over the centuries, but the goal of all of them is to teach the student to perceive another sense beyond the five that they were born with, and this is inherently a very difficult thing.

Sensing progress typically comes in fits and starts.  Most novice drucrafters (at least those with any talent) are not totally blind to essentia – they can pick it up in occasional flashes of awareness.  However, training that ability to the point where it works consistently, quickly, and reliably takes a long time.  Most drucraft teachers expect their pupils to take at least a year to become capable at sensing, and even then, different teachers have very different definitions of ‘capable’.  In theory, a qualified drucrafter is supposed to be able to reliably sense their own personal essentia, measure the ambient levels of free essentia in their surrounding environment, identify the type of essentia being used in an active sigl, and distinguish someone else’s personal essentia from ambient essentia and from that of a Well.  In practice, it’s quite rare for a drucrafter to really master all four of those skills.  Learning sensing is hard, slow, and often boring, and most drucrafters are keen to leave it behind to get to the more exciting (and prestigious) stuff.

It’s generally accepted among modern drucrafters that the overall level of sensing skill in the drucraft population today is lower than in previous centuries.  In the past, sensing was a necessary gateway skill for locating Wells and shaping sigls, but with the increasing use of finder’s stones and limiters in the modern age, this is no longer the case.  In the modern day, the only ones who really need to be good at sensing are manifesters;  everyone else can generally get by without it.  That being said, sensing still provides insights that can’t be obtained any other way, and many Drucraft Houses and corporate dynasties still make a point of training their heirs to a high level of sensing skill.

Once a drucrafter has mastered the basics of sensing, the hardest part is behind them.  Some will end up as channellers, others as shapers or even manifesters, but statistically it’s quite rare for them to fail completely.  The vast majority of drucrafters who master sensing go on to achieve at least a basic level of competence at channelling as well.

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Inheritance of Magic – Series Health

I’ve got a few more Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft articles planned, but in the meantime, An Inheritance of Magic has been out for a month or so, so here’s some news on how it’s doing.

Short version:  it’s doing pretty well!  Early reviews have been generally positive, and the book’s Amazon and Goodreads ratings are very high – certainly a lot higher than the ratings of the early Alex Verus books.  There have been a couple of common criticisms, but on the whole the book’s gotten far more praise than dislike, and even when people have criticised it it’s generally been on grounds of “this part made me annoyed/upset/angry”, which as far as complaints go is one of the better ones to get.  (Annoyed and upset reactions are something you can work with – it’s apathy and boredom that are the real killers.)

The really important metric isn’t reviews, though, but sales, and as far as that goes the news is also good.  Early sales of Inheritance of Magic have been very good for a new series – much, much better than the early sales of FatedFated’s early sales in 2012 were measured in the hundreds, which is to be expected for a debut author but definitely not something publishers are willing to sustain in the long term.  If the sales of Alex Verus 1, 2 and 3 hadn’t crept upwards over 2012/2013, my publishers would have dropped the series – luckily for me, they didn’t.

That said, while Inheritance of Magic’s first-month sales are much better than Alex Verus 1, they’re a fair bit behind Alex Verus 12.  This is unfortunately the price you pay for starting a new series.  While lots of the Alex Verus fanbase are going to follow me over to the Inheritance series, others won’t, and in the early days of a new series it’s very hard to know what the percentage will be.  The sad truth is that in the short term, dragging out an existing series is usually a much better financial deal for the creator than trying something new.  A new series is a gamble, but an established one is a sure thing, and that’s why so many book, TV, and film series are stretched out way, way beyond their expiration date even long after it’s become obvious that they’ve run out of interesting directions to go.

So I’m expecting the sales of the Inheritance of Magic series to be well under that of the Alex Verus series for a very long time . . . quite possibly forever, given Alex Verus’s eleven-year head start.  That said, I’m still very glad I made the switch.  I’m really enjoying the new series and getting to try something different and build something new.  If I was still writing Alex Verus books, I’d probably be making a little more money, but I’d be enjoying myself much less (and the quality of the books would suffer, too).

For now, only time will tell how well things go.  Books typically grow their readership in a very slow, viral way, where one reader reads it and recommends it to someone else, who recommends it to someone else in turn, and so on.  I expect I’ll have to wait a good 1-2 years to have any sort of clear idea of how well An Inheritance of Magic is likely to do.  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing the rest of the series!

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Inheritance of Magic 2 – An Instruction in Shadow

The sequel to An Inheritance of Magic (current working title:  An Instruction in Shadow) is coming along well.  I’m currently midway through the first-round edits, working through them at a rate of about chapter a day.

One chapter per day is actually really, really fast for a first-round edit – if you’re interested in learning about it in more detail, I’ve written about the different editorial stages here, but short version:  the first-round edits are the big ones, and they can cover anything up to and including full-scale rewrites (which can take months).  So I’m very happy that this time around they’re so easy.  Apparently my editors really liked the first draft as it was!

At the current rate I should be done with the first-round edits in a couple of weeks, at which point I’ll be free to start work on Book 3.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #6: Corporations

Drucraft corporations are much less ancient than Drucraft Houses . . . which is to be expected, as they originated from them.

Houses dominated the drucraft world for thousands of years.  While outsiders could and did learn drucraft themselves, the members of Houses always started with an advantage.  A child of a noble House benefited from better and earlier drucraft training, better access to sigls, and (quite often) a handful of extremely powerful sigls inherited from their parents, stronger than anything they would be able to produce themselves.  In a contest between an outsider and a House heir, the heir could usually be expected to come out on top.  This was not always the case – capable outsiders could and did arise – but when this happened the outsider would usually end up joining the ranks of the Houses, either by marrying some opportunistic aristocrat with an eye for talent, or (in some exceptional cases) starting a House of their own.  In this way the House system maintained itself for a long time.

It was social change that upset this equilibrium.  Urbanisation in Europe led to the formation of a new and increasingly influential middle class, one with an interest in commerce and new markets.  It was inevitable that some of them would take an interest in drucraft.  They lacked the expertise of the Houses, but they had a resource to draw upon;  the cast-offs of the Houses themselves.

Succession had always been a problem for Drucraft Houses.  Dividing a House’s holdings was rarely practical;  often a House’s wealth was concentrated in a single estate and Well, and even where this was not the case, splitting its holdings between multiple children would weaken it, perhaps fatally.  As a result, succession among Drucraft Houses was usually all-or-nothing;  only one child could inherit rulership and title.  Extra daughters had a chance of marrying into a different House, but extra sons tended to be an uncomfortable loose end.

With the new arrivals on the drucraft scene, these ‘spares’ suddenly had an alternate career path open to them.  Partnerships were formed;  the urban middle class brought wealth and business experience, while the nobles brought their drucraft expertise and social connections.  This was the birth of drucraft corporations.

Existence for these early corporations was often a struggle.  The Drucraft Houses had long enjoyed a monopoly on sigls, one which they were not inclined to share, and often they would use their political connections to ensure that the corporations would find themselves barred from the purchase or ownership of permanent Wells.  But the corporations adapted, and came to focus instead on a different market;  temporary Wells, which by their nature were much harder to track or tax.  Still, for the 17th and 18th centuries, corporations existed very much in the shadow of their noble predecessors.

It was during the 19th century that things changed.  The legal principle of limited liability suddenly made companies a far more attractive financial prospect, and drucraft corporations began to grow, expanding in reach and power.  The wars and social upheavals of the next hundred years reduced the power of the old Noble Houses, and the corporations were well positioned to expand into the vacuum.  They benefited even more from the economic liberalisation policies of the late 20th century, and by the dawn of the new millennium, drucraft corporations had overtaken Drucraft Houses in both wealth and importance in virtually every country in the world.

By the 2020s, drucraft corporations have become behemoths, global players in their own right.  While they still have associations with their country of origin, the tendency has been towards multinationalism, and the average large drucraft corporation now has offices in a dozen countries or more.  In some cases it’s no longer clear what a company’s home country is, or whether it even has one.  Drucraft companies dominate the temporary Well market, and own a significant fraction of the permanent one.  They are stereotypically viewed as amoral and concerned only with profit, and in practice this prejudice is often correct.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #5: Houses

Drucraft Houses are essentially magical aristocracy, and like the regular aristocracy, their origins go back thousands of years.   

Drucraft requires sigls, and sigls require Wells.  Drucrafters with reliable access to Wells have a significant advantage over those who do not.  As such, with the spread of drucraft came competition among its practitioners.  Those drucrafters strong, rich, or lucky enough to gain control of a powerful permanent Well would have had a vested interest in maintaining that control.  But how?  A raider can drain a Well’s essentia in an hour;  perhaps a very few drucrafters might have had the resources to place a standing guard on a Well for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but for most, such a solution would have been far out of reach.  All of these drucrafters would thus have been faced with the same problem:  how do you protect something that can’t be moved?

The answer is:  you live on it.  All across the world, drucrafters independently figured out the same solution:  you build a house on top of the Well and move in.  Now, instead of having to protect your home and your Well separately, you can do both at once.  Plus, as a side benefit, living on top of the Well is going to make you extremely familiar with its nature and quirks;  when the time comes to use it shape a sigl, you’re likely to do a much better job, and this advantage will only grow over time.

With reliable access to a powerful Well and with better-quality sigls, these drucrafters naturally prospered.  Their children grew up better-fed, better-protected, and better-taught;  being raised in the presence of a Well and with a drucrafter parent to instruct them, it would be natural for them to learn drucraft skills themselves.  Upon their parents’ death, they would inherit the Well (along with their parents’ property and sigls);  in time, they would have children of their own and the cycle would continue.  As the families grew in wealth and in size, the Well houses grew with them, going from simple one- or two-bedroom shacks to sprawling estates and mansions.

The full story of the development of drucraft Houses is a very long one, but the above paragraphs sketch out the core of it.  The possession of a Well and of the skills to use it evolved into an institution with the family and Well at its core.  Individual Houses would rise and decline;  many were destroyed, either by wars, the schemes of rival Houses, or (most of all), by fratricidal succession conflicts.  But the nature of Wells and of drucraft ensured that whenever one House fell, another would rise to take its place, benefiting from the same feedback loop of generational wealth and knowledge until it would fall and be replaced in turn.

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Inheritance Plans – Going Forward

An Inheritance of Magic is now out and gathering reviews.  With the AMA and most of my interviews and publicity done, things are going to start winding down now, so here’s what you can expect for the rest of the year!

First on my to-do list is the first-round edits for Book 2 in the Inheritance of Magic series, provisionally titled An Instruction in Shadow.  I heard back from my editors earlier in the month, and luckily they seem to really like the book as it is, meaning that the edits to be done are all very minor.  I should be able to get them done in only two or three weeks, after which I’ll be free to start work on Book 3 (I’m hoping to get properly started on that before the end of the year).  Ideally I’d like to finish Book 3 by summer of next year so that it can be published around the autumn of 2025.

As for the blog, my original plans were to write a bunch more of the “Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft” worldbuilding articles by September.  Personal events have put me behind track on that one, but I’m still intending to do it, so hopefully that’ll fill up most of my blog content for November and early December.

Finally, there’s the big question of how Inheritance of Magic is doing.  I’ve been watching the numbers over the past few weeks, and I’m happy to say that so far, it seems to be doing pretty well!  Goodreads ratings are hovering around 4.3 and according to my UK editor, early sales are great.  It’s always tricky to launch a new series when you’re mainly known for another one, but for now it seems that Inheritance is off to a good start.  Now the wait begins – in the long term, the success or failure of the series will depend on how widely it spreads and attracts interest over the next few years.  Right now, there’s no way to predict how that will turn out, but for the moment, things look good.

And that’s it for the moment.  I’m going to be away for much of November, but I’ll try to get a few more Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft pieces done and set them to upload automatically while I’m gone.

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Reddit AMA is done

And it’s about time to wrap this up.  Thanks to everyone who took part, this year’s AMA was super busy with lots of really nice messages from you guys.  See you next year!

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Reddit AMA is live!

My Ask Me Anything to celebrate the launch of An Inheritance of Magic is now live on r/fantasy!

Link to the AMA thread is here.

Drop by to ask about about Inheritance of Magic, Alex Verus, or my writing in general.  I’ll keep answering questions over the next 24 hours or so before wrapping things up.

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Reddit AMA tomorrow!

My Reddit AMA on r/fantasy will start tomorrow, at noon GMT!  (That’s about 24 hours from now.)  Come by if you have any questions about Inheritance of Magic, Alex Verus, or my writing in general.

I’ll put up a direct link to the thread when it goes live tomorrow.  Once it’s up, I’ll answer questions for about 24 hours before bringing things to a close.

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