Risen in Germany, and DragonCon Interview

Several bits of news for this week!

First, as you may have already guessed from the image, the twelfth and final Alex Verus book is at last being released in its German translation this coming week (Monday 17th June for the audio edition, Wednesday 19th June for the print and ebook versions).  This marks the end of a long journey for the German edition – Blanvalet have been producing the translations for years now, and they’ve finally finished working their way through the backlog.  Thanks to all of my German readers who’ve been supporting the series, and I hope you enjoy the final volume!

I’m also doing an interview for DragonCon this summer – I won’t be able to make it to the convention itself (still trying to finish Inheritance of Magic #3) but I’m doing a virtual interview for the Dragon Con Urban Fantasy Track.  The interview itself is scheduled for next week – I don’t know when the video will be released, but I’ll post a link up once it is.

We’re also starting to get into the run-up to the release of Inheritance of Magic #2, An Instruction in Shadow.  My current plan is to release the first two chapters online prior to the book’s release in October – Chapter 1 will go up in August, and Chapter 2 in September.  I’ll put up exact dates closer to the time.

And that’s all for now!  Next week is another Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft post, this one on the subject of tracing and limiters.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #20: Sigl Creation (Manifesting)

Sigls are created through the third of the drucraft disciplines – shaping.  Shaping is the art of manipulating free essentia (typically, though not always, in a Well) and causing it to crystallise into a piece of solid essentia, otherwise known as aurum.  If the shaping is successful, this piece of aurum is known as a sigl.

Shaping sigls nowadays is done in one of two ways:  tracing (i.e. shaping with a limiter) and manifesting.  This chapter will cover manifesting, while Chapter #21 will cover tracing.

Manifesting

Manifesting (otherwise known as free shaping) is the original and oldest method of shaping a sigl.  The shaper goes to a Well, draws out the essentia, and crystallises it into a sigl.  To anyone watching, it looks as though the shaper is ‘thinking’ the sigl into being.  They visualise the shape of the sigl, then use the essentia from the Well to make it manifest, hence the name.

Manifesting gives a shaper absolute freedom – they can quite literally shape the essentia into whatever they like.  This freedom, however, is a double-edged sword.  It gives the shaper infinite ways to design a sigl, but also gives them infinite ways to get it wrong, and there are many more ways to design a sigl that doesn’t work than there are to design one that does.

Manifesting can be best compared to freehand drawing or painting.  It’s very easy to do badly, and very hard to do well.  To get good at it, a shaper has to spend a lot of time practising and developing secondary skills, including, but not limited to:  the ability to shape lines of essentia neatly and precisely, the ability to keep essentia out of certain areas, the ability to stabilise the entirety of an essentia construct while focusing on a single part of it, and the ability to do all those things while still drawing in more essentia to build the sigl.  Most importantly of all, the would-be-manifester needs to have excellent sensing skills.  A basic ability to feel essentia is not enough – a manifester needs to be able to sense individual strands finely enough that they can tell when and where they’ve made a mistake.  Otherwise, it’s virtually guaranteed that they’ll end up with a nonfunctional sigl.

Achieving proficiency in all of these things is very difficult, and requires months or years of dedicated study.  Most who try to become manifesters fail, and even those who succeed invariably only do so after many botched attempts.  Essentia constructs help, but even so, there isn’t a manifester in the world who hasn’t got to where they are without at least a few total failures.

History of Manifesting

In the old days, all (or nearly all) sigls were created by manifesting.  It’s the default method used when people have nothing else to draw upon, and it’s still the fallback option today.

However, in the 20th century, the tracing approach saw a massive rise in popularity, overtaking and supplanting its rival.  Nowadays, manifesting is relatively rare, to the point that there are drucrafters (particularly ones in the corporate ecosystem) who’ve never set hands on a manifested sigl in their entire lives.

Nevertheless, manifesting still commands a certain prestige.  Calling yourself a manifester gets attention in the drucraft world – there’s a reason no-one ever calls themselves a ‘tracer’.  Even if isn’t the most cost-effective or practical way to shape a sigl, simply being able to manifest effectively announces that you’ve reached a very high level of shaping skill.  Also, the more powerful a sigl, the more likely that it was created via manifestation . . . and while powerful, custom-made sigls are rare, people are naturally going to find them a lot more impressive than mass-produced weaker ones.

Advantages of Manifesting

  • Flexibility:  Great scope for customisation and adjustment.  A sigl can be created at any level of strength, at any size, and with any essentia requirement or attunement ratio, and these can be adjusted on the fly to better match the Well that the manifester is using or the wielder that they’re shaping for.
  • No equipment required:  A manifester needs themselves, a Well, and enough time to work.  Nothing else.
  • Power:  A manifester is free to make a sigl as powerful as they possibly can, using all the essentia available.  As a result, manifested sigls are, on average, slightly stronger than traced ones.

Disadvantages of Manifesting

  • Unreliability:  The freedom of manifestation has major drawbacks, namely that if the manifester makes a big enough mistake, the sigl will fail completely, wasting some or all of the Well’s essentia.  This rarely happens if the manifester knows what he’s doing, but small quirks and weird unusual flaws are quite common.
  • High skill floor:  It takes years to train a manifester, and the supply of expert manifesters never meets the demand.  As a result, experienced manifesters usually charge very high prices for their services.
  • Burden on the manifester:  To make a sigl, a manifester must have a good understanding of how that sigl works.  Training and guidance can help, but a manifester can never just ‘follow the instructions’ and avoid doing the work entirely.
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Spring into Summer

Quick update on how things are going:

• First draft of Inheritance of Magic #3 is now 2/3rds finished.  I’m hoping to finish the last 1/3rd with about another 2 months of work, meaning that it’ll be done by the end of July.  A little past my deadline, but not too far.  In any case, barring any disasters it’ll definitely be done by the end of summer.

• Next on the to-do list for the Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft is (1) limiters and (2) a more detailed overview of the branches and the effects that can be produced with them.  Number (2) is a pretty huge topic, so I don’t know if I’ll do it all in one go – might do a couple of branches, then take a break and do something else.  Currently planning to do the limiters article for next week’s post.

• The UK cover for Inheritance of Magic #2, An Instruction in Shadow, is nearly ready for release!  I’ve looked at the early drafts and really like it – currently just waiting for Orbit UK to do their official cover launch, at which point I’ll post it up here.  Release date is about four months from now, in October 2024, and I’ll put up at least one extract in the summer.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #19:  The Lesser Houses

An overview of some of the more notable Lesser Houses of the UK.  Due to how many Lesser Houses there are in the UK (they currently number over thirty) this list is deliberately incomplete.

Ashford

A relatively new player on the UK drucraft scene, House Ashford was an obscure minor house from Kent before rising to prominence in the aftermath of the Second World War.  The House acquired a small empire of Wells in postwar West Germany, proceeded to build a similar network of Wells across England, and finally became a Lesser House upon taking possession of an A+ Light Well in north London in 1998.  A specialist in Light essentia, they do not sell to the Exchange;  the majority of their wealth comes from supplying the militaries of NATO, and they have been extremely focused on acquiring Light Wells, to the point that their yearly production of Light sigls matches or exceeds the majority of the Great Houses.  Their sudden rise has earned them many enemies, and relationships between them and their House and corporate rivals are tense.

Blackheath

Another new arrival to the ranks of the Lesser Houses, founded by a London-born entrepreneur who started his first company at 16.  Supposedly, the House was born when its founder was was turned away at the door from a drucraft club on grounds that he wasn’t a member of a Drucraft House.  This incensed him so much that he restructured one of his property leasing companies into a Well leasing company, rechristened it ‘House Blackheath’ after his place of birth, and registered it as an official House with the Board.  According to the story, the day that the registration went through, the newly designated Head of House Blackheath marched back to the club in question to demand entry . . . only to discover that the members of the club in question had that very same morning changed the club rules such that only members of Drucraft House of a certain minimum age could enter.  This started a long-running feud that ended with House Blackheath achieving Lesser House status . . . whether the founder ever got to join his club, the story doesn’t say.

Egmont

The most recent Great House to slip down to Lesser status.  From the late 1990s onwards they were one of the leading Houses to financialise, replacing most of their Wells with stock portfolios and only keeping their family Light S Well to maintain the seat on the Board.  Unfortunately for them, they overreached, and their family companies went bankrupt in the 2008 financial crash.  House Egmont lost something in the region of 90% of its holdings and was forced to sell their Light S Well to avoid total liquidation (the Well is now held by the Asmart corporation).

The House continued to decline throughout the 2010s, shedding Wells and properties, and is currently clinging on to Lesser House status by its fingernails.  As of the early 2020s a new, younger Heir has taken over the House.  He seems to have stopped the bleeding for the moment, but the House is still believed to be heavily in debt and it’s anyone’s guess how much longer it’ll last.

Ingham

One of the oldest Lesser Houses, House Ingham has held Lesser House status for over two centuries.  The family has never shown any ambition towards Great House status, being seemingly quite content with their A+ Well in Norfolk and their modest but secure position in the House hierarchy.  The current Head of House Ingham can trace his lineage back through generations of Inghams, all of whom have presided over the same estate, the same holdings, and the same family tradition.

Raval

An Indian House, the Raval (originally Rawal) family operate the Raval Group, a multinational conglomerate active around the world in various sectors.  One of their companies is a drucraft holding and leasing one;  while relatively small compared to their other holdings, it was enough to enable them to reach Lesser House status in the mid-20th century.  The massive wealth of their parent company has effectively shielded House Raval from market fluctuations, making this a very stable House.  In the past they have tended to be relatively passive, content only to make money, but following the death of the family patriarch in the late 2010s and control of the House passing to a new Heir, they’ve started to exercise some influence on the Board.

Volkov

One of the youngest Lesser Houses, founded by a Russian-Ukranian businessman who became enormously wealthy in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Unlike most Great and Lesser Houses, House Volkov owns very few permanent Wells;  the majority of their income comes from the exploitation of temporary Wells in the UK and in Eastern Europe, with their sole A+ Well (acquired in the early 2000s) being more of a figurehead owned solely to give them a Board seat.  They acquired this Well only with difficulty;  by the time they made the bid, various parties had taken action against them, accusing the House of a variety of illegal activities.  The court cases and dispute proceedings dragged on for years until House Volkov finally settled out of court, paying undisclosed (but widely believed to be enormous) sums of money to establish themselves as the UK’s newest Lesser House.  Their dubious reputation hasn’t left them, and they’re still widely distrusted.  The current Head of House, Gregory Volkov, has no clearly established heir, and most believe that the House will pass away when he does.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #18:  The Great Houses 

An overview of the current Great Houses of the UK.

Barrett-Lennard

House Barrett-Lennard is the only House in the UK to own title to an S+ Well, which is located in their family estate in Colchester, Essex.  It is the second-most powerful Light Well in the entire world, and the amount of wealth it represents is so enormous that it’s difficult to measure.

For House Barrett-Lennard, their fantastic wealth has proved more of a curse than a blessing.  Over the course of the 20th century, bitter rivalries sprung up within the family, eventually leading to a massive succession crisis.  The fighting dragged on for decades and could easily be the subject of an entire article in itself, involving as it did everything from financial manoeuvring, marriage alliances, and court cases to kidnapping, blackmail, and assassination attempts.  As of the 2020s the conflict has bogged down into a stalemate, with the two principal heir-claimants of the family both unable to oust the other.  In the meantime the House’s day-to-day affairs are run by a board of trustees, who have so far been able to keep the House just about functional despite the ongoing civil war amongst its owners.  House colours are red, black, and gold.

Cawley

House Cawley is both the newest Great House (they are currently the only Great House to have achieved that status this century) and also the youngest (dating their founding to some time in the 1920s).  Their roots are in Northern Ireland, around Belfast, and the majority of their Wells are still from there.  House Cawley have a somewhat turbulent history, due to having been caught up in the Troubles;  the political violence during this period frequently spilled over into the drucraft sphere, resulting in the House receiving more than their fair share of experience with raids.  House Cawley, however, seemed to thrive in this environment, to the extent that they were able to purchase one of the UK’s four S-class Matter Wells in 2003.

The symbol of House Cawley is a red lion rampant on a background of white, and their House colours are red and white.

Chetwynd

A moderately old House hailing from Shropshire and Wales.  House Chetwynd claims that their family Light S Well is the oldest S-class Well in the UK;  while this is disputed, it is certainly very, very old.  Renowned for their skill with Light essentia and for the beauty of their estates;  Chetwynd sigls are sold only to a very exclusive clientele, and command a premium price.  House colours are blue and gold.

De Haughton

House De Haughton is notable for being the only House in the UK to control not one, but two S-class Wells.  Like House Chetwynd their specialty is Light essentia, but they’re somewhat less exclusive and their sigls are featured prominently in the Exchange.  They sell very well to the tourist market, and the House is, unsurprisingly, enormously wealthy as a result;  they’re commonly believed to be the second- or third-richest House in the UK.  So far they’ve managed to avoid the devastating succession wars that crippled House Barrett-Lennard, though if rumours are to believed their internal politics can be somewhat rough-and-tumble;  one prospective De Haughton heir died under mysterious circumstances and another was ejected from the family with no official explanation.

A very old House, De Haughton’s ancestral holdings are in Lancashire.  Its symbol of a red rose has remained unchanged since the fifteenth century.

Hawker

House Hawker claims to be the oldest of all of the Great Houses, though for most of its history it was an obscure family of little note.  It rose abruptly in power and influence in the 20th century, attaining Great House status with its acquisition of one of the UK’s only two S-class Motion Wells.  For most of its time as a Great House, House Hawker has been primarily a military supplier;  nowadays it continues to do most of its business with the UK armed forces and other NATO militaries.  It does not sell its sigls openly on the Exchange.

Ancestral holdings are in Somerset, though many of the family emigrated to (and subsequently returned from) Australia.  House colours are silver with red trim.

Meath

House Meath takes their name from County Meath in the Republic of Ireland, though the family emigrated and settled in the London area in the early 1800s.  They hold a Light S Well but are more famous for their wealth, which is mostly derived from financial holdings, and they are commonly viewed as an investment banking family that just happens to manage a drucraft business on the side.  Known to lend out money to struggling drucraft families, to the point that some Houses make reference to the ‘Bank of Meath’.  Said loans often seem to be made on very generous terms, leading to various rumours about why the Meaths appear so casual about repayment.  Primary House colour is turquoise.

Reisinger

Full name is Prideaux-Reisinger, though Reisinger is the more commonly used version.  An ancient House originating from Cornwall whose history has been complicated by various marriages to French and German Houses over the centuries;  the full family tree of the House is exceedingly complex and they have relatives all over Europe.  House symbol and colours (black chevron on a white shield) are based on the Cornish location of Prideaux, but members of the House nowadays reside almost entirely around the capital and possess no significant holdings in their county of origin.  They hold a Light S Well in central London.

Winterton

Based in Lincolnshire and holders of a Light S Well.  Notable in the past for a long and bitter rivalry with House De Haughton;  the two Houses raided one another for decades, and at times the fighting escalated enough to require Board intervention.  This is now mostly ancient history, however, and the Houses have been (more or less) at peace for a full generation.  Insofar as the two Houses still compete, it’s on the pages of the Exchange catalogue, where they both try to displace the other as the dominant provider of Light sigls sold to private purchasers.  House De Haughton tends to outsell Winterton due to their larger reserve of Wells, but the market is big enough that both can exist comfortably.

Although their House Well and family estate is in Lincolnshire, Winterton is unusually widely spread for a House, and branches of the family can be found scattered around the UK and the world.  Principal House colour is green, with red, gold, and white trim.

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Halfway

Book #3 of the Inheritance of Magic series has reached its halfway mark.  Judging whether a book’s half done always involves a bit of guesswork since I’m never quite sure how long it’s going to be or how much time it’ll take to do the chapters that are left, but these days I tend to set 90,000 words as a target length.  My books usually come in at a little longer than this, but not too much longer, so once a book’s passed the 45,000 word mark, I feel like I can call it halfway done.

The downside of this is that there’s really no chance I’m going to hit my June deadline.  This isn’t really too much of a surprise, since I knew from the start that it was unrealistic.  Back when I was writing the early Alex Verus books, my target was to average 9 months for each book – 3 months planning and editing, 6 months writing.  But even back then I had trouble hitting that, and nowadays I’m not even close – my actual writing speed these days averages to about 12 months per book.  I’d prefer it to be faster, but doing so means rushing and skipping over a lot of planning and editorial work that makes a big difference to the overall result.  Given the choice between spending an extra few months and putting out a book I’m not happy with, I’d rather spend the extra months.  I’m still a relatively new-ish author, and I’m planning to keep writing for decades more, which means that these books are going to be a part of my author history for a long, long time.  I want them to be good enough that I don’t feel embarrassed to point people at them.

In other news, my US & Canada sales numbers for An Inheritance of Magic have finally come in, and they’re pretty good!  Royalties for the first 3 months come to around 75% of the book’s advance.  This doesn’t mean that I’ll get to 150% in 6 months (book sales are heavily frontloaded) but it does means that I can safely predict that the book’s going to earn out its advance.  So based on sales numbers alone, I don’t think I’m going to have any trouble selling future books in the series to my US publisher.  Which means you guys in the USA can expect my books to keep coming out where you can buy them for the next few years!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #17:  Houses of the UK

Houses in the United Kingdom are divided into three categories:  Great, Lesser, and minor.  Great Houses are those which possess a Well of class S or S+, Lesser Houses are those which possess a Well of class A+, and all other Houses are classed as minor.

While in the past the Great and Lesser Houses had various special privileges under the law, these were chipped away at over the centuries, and most of the remaining ones were effectively nullified by the Oakenshott ruling of 1927, which set the precedent that House membership did not grant any special status in criminal or civil proceedings.  Great and Lesser House status does still give the House the right to a seat on the Board, but corporations and private individuals with appropriate Well holdings also qualify for Board seats in exactly the same way.  Nowadays the only legal benefits unique to the Houses are extremely minor and antiquated ones, such the right to a certain term of address or being entitled to wear a particular item of clothing to Board meetings.

By the mid 20th century, it was commonly believed that the time of the British Houses was coming to an end, and that they would dwindle into insignificance.  While many Houses did indeed suffer this fate, others proved more adaptable, and successfully made use of their Wells, sigl traditions, and inherited wealth to carve out a niche for themselves in the modern world.  Most of the current Houses of the UK are weaker than they once were, and in absolute terms the fraction of the British economy that they control is small, but they command an amount of influence out of proportion to their size and a House surname still carries a good deal of social weight.

The Great Houses

At the time of writing, the Great Houses of the UK number eight:  Barrett-Lennard, Cawley, Chetwynd, De Haughton, Hawker, Meath, Reisinger, and Winterton.  There are currently nineteen S+ and S-class Wells officially registered in the United Kingdom, and these Great Houses collectively own just under half of them.

These Wells rarely change hands, and as such the number of Great Houses rarely rises or falls.  This is partly due to special UK regulations that restrict the sale and purchase of S+ and S-class Wells, and partly because the Great Houses are all fantastically wealthy – for a new Great House to rise, they’d have to buy an S-class Well from its existing owner, and said owners generally have little motivation to sell.  The last time that the count of Great Houses changed was in 2009, when House Egmont sold its Light S Well to LLV Holdings, relinquishing its Great House status in the process.  The roster has remained steady since then.

A brief overview of the current Great Houses can be found in Chapter #18.

The Lesser Houses

Lesser Houses are those Houses of the UK who own a Well of class A+.

A+ Wells in the UK are highly valued.  The legal restrictions on their sale are much less onerous than those on the sale of S-class ones, and while acquiring an A+ Well is still a difficult and expensive process, it’s a realistic goal for a sufficiently wealthy House, corporation, or individual.  Lesser House status also grants a seat on the Board, automatically making the holder a player in UK politics.  As a result, competition for these Wells is fierce.  A minor House will fight tooth and nail to own one, and a Lesser House won’t sell theirs unless utterly desperate.  It’s almost unheard of for a House to own more than one A+ Well, and very few corporations have succeeded in purchasing one (though not for lack of trying).

Unlike the Great Houses, Lesser Houses see a fair amount of turnover.  While some of the current Lesser Houses have held their place for more than a century, there have been just as many new arrivals who owe their places to a meteoric rise (often followed by an equally meteoric fall).

There are too many Lesser Houses to list in detail, but a few of the more notable ones are described in Chapter #19.

The Minor Houses

Any House whose most powerful Well is of A-class or below is considered a minor House.

There is no significant barrier preventing a family from declaring themselves a minor House.  In theory, anyone with a D-class Well in their back garden could draw themselves up a coat of arms and start calling themselves ‘House Something-or-other’ – they’d be laughed at, but they could do it.  In practice, though, most minor Houses are quite old, with family trees and ancestral holdings tracing back hundreds of years.  Often they end up outlasting Great and Lesser Houses vastly more wealthy than they are, simply because they aren’t notable enough to draw unfriendly attention.   

Minor Houses often have a strong connection to their family Wells and lands.  A typical minor House will have held land in a particular county for hundreds of years, and it’s not uncommon for them to have groundskeepers or Well tenders or shapers whose great-grandparents worked for the great-grandparents of the current Head of House.  It’s common for minor Houses who’ve recently made the jump to Lesser House status to place heavy emphasis on this family history, as if to remind everyone that they haven’t forgotten their origins.

But while most Minor Houses are old, many aren’t.  It’s surprisingly common for a new House to be founded by some locator or investment banker or car salesman who by some strange set of circumstances came into possession of a Well and decided to make a go of it.  Most of these new-born Houses disappear within a generation or two, but others take root and grow, and over time come to develop histories and traditions of their own.

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Alex Verus in Germany – End of the Series

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but we’re only a couple of months away from the German release of Alex Verus #12!  It’ll be released in Germany in audio format on June 17th, and in paper/ebook format on June 19th.

The German Alex Verus books have been coming out regularly at 6-month intervals for a while now, and finally, after many years, we’re approaching the end.  It’s a milestone for me since this is the first time I’ve ever had a series be fully translated, so it’s going to be quite satisfying to see all 12 Alex Verus books on my shelf in their German editions.

Thanks to all of my German readers for supporting the series so consistently and for so long!  Due to how well the Alex Verus books have sold, once Book 12 is out, my German publishers are also going to be bringing out a German edition of my Inheritance of Magic series – the first book should be out next year, in 2025.  This wouldn’t have been possible if so many of you hadn’t kept buying the books, so I’m very grateful for your help.

Next week will be another Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft article, either on limiters or on the UK Houses – I haven’t yet decided which I’ll do first.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft #16:  Limit of Operation

A sigl won’t work without a bearer. 

The least-studied of the Five Limits, the Limit of Operation is often treated as more of an afterthought.  For the most part this is a reflection of the attitudes of drucrafters – drucrafters are typically very interested in how they can increase their own power, and as such have tended to focus on those limitations that most restrict that, such as Euler’s Limit and the Blood Limit.  The question of whether a sigl would work without them doesn’t usually strike them as terribly important.

However, the Limit of Operation does have major implications for the use of drucraft in many fields, particularly industry, exploration, and warfare.  The 20th century saw increasing use of automation, with humans being replaced by computers, robotic systems, and drones.  The Limit of Operation meant that such automation could not be replicated in the field of drucraft.  And since many of the things that drucraft could do couldn’t (and still can’t) be done any other way, this meant that in an age of increasing mechanisation, the profession of drucraft remained solidly human.

Reasons for the Limit of Operation

The Limit of Operation is an interesting one in that it reveals an important facet of how drucraft works.  After all, if one thinks about it, there’s no obvious reason why a sigl should require a wielder.  A fire will burn so long as it has fuel, an electric circuit will continue to work as long as it has electricity, and even the most sophisticated of machines can continue to run so long as they don’t break down or run out of power.  They do need oversight and maintenance, but in principle, there’s no reason that it should have to be a human hand shovelling the coal into the furnace, or a human mind troubleshooting the operating system of the computer that runs the factory.  It’s just that it’s usually more practical to do it that way.

So why doesn’t the same apply to drucraft?  Why can’t you put a sigl somewhere, and have it draw essentia on its own?

The short answer is that while it may not seem that way to a novice drucrafter, it turns out that living, conscious creatures are actually quite good at channelling and directing essentia.  Learning to sense and channel is hard, but with enough time and effort, it’s possible.  Getting an inanimate object to do it in your place isn’t.  The exact ways in which essentia interacts with consciousness are complex and still not fully understood but the short version is:  if you want a sigl to work, you need a conscious mind using it.

Implications of the Limit of Operation

The Limit of Operation has far-reaching implications for the drucraft world.  Much of human technological progress over the past two or three centuries has focused on the construction of mechanisms capable of independent action.  Such machines need maintenance and direction, but a good deal of their utility stems from the fact that they can function on their own power.

The Limit of Operation means that this doesn’t work for drucraft.  You can’t have sigl-powered automatons, and you can’t have the sigl equivalents of things like streetlights or cars or washing machines, and you can’t have the drucraft versions of things like ammunition or bombs, where the energy is stored up when the thing is created, ready to be released at the pull of a trigger or touch of a button.  If you want something to be done with drucraft, you need an actual human being there to do it for you.

This effectively puts a minimum floor on the cost of doing anything with drucraft.  Drucrafters are rare, and drucrafters with a specific type of sigl are rarer still, meaning that if you want ready access to a particular drucraft effect, you need to keep a drucrafter with the appropriate sigl on hand.  And if they’re there, they can’t be somewhere else.  This, over time, has caused drucraft presence and expertise to concentrate in small enclaves, while everyone else can easily go their entire lives without seeing drucraft being used, or in fact even knowing it exists at all.

Workarounds

Much like the Primal Limit, there is one area where the Limit of Operation doesn’t fully apply, and it’s pretty much exactly the same one.  You can’t make a torchlight sigl that works without a bearer, and you can’t make a mass-reduction sigl that works without a bearer, but it is possible to make a Primal sigl that works without a bearer . . . with some caveats.

Calling these items “sigls” is somewhat misleading.  They don’t have a kernel, they don’t contain personal essentia, and they can’t generally do the same things.  They’re very bad at direct effects, and if you want to manipulate light, or matter, or anything else in the physical world, they’re pretty much useless.

What these items are good for is redirecting essentia.  They can shape essentia currents over an area, causing it to gather in a certain location, or run along certain channels.  This process is slow, and as such these items are generally incorporated into parts of a building or landscape.  When used in such a way, they are referred to as wards.

The main use for wards is to protect and enhance a Well.  A properly designed warding arrangement can allow a permanent Well to replenish itself slightly faster when depleted, and make it less likely that the Well will be weakened from prolonged or excessive use.  It’s even possible to use this method to strengthen a Well over time, growing it incrementally year by year.  Raising a Well’s class in this manner is a very long-term project, one measured in decades if not generations, but it’s one of the only known ways to actually increase the power of sigls you can produce.

Many Drucraft Houses in Britain have family legends claiming that their family Wells were grown in just such a way, and some have records of Well strength dating back to the Middle Ages.  While such stories are often exaggerated, it does seem likely that many of the most powerful Wells throughout the world owe their existence to exactly this kind of slow, patient work done over hundreds of years.

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Inheritance of Magic – Six Month Mark

We’ve almost finished with the Five Limits in the Beginner’s Guide to Drucraft series – the fifth and final article will be on the Limit of Operation.  That’s all written and ready to go (and will be coming out next Friday), but as of this week, we’ve just hit the point at which An Inheritance of Magic has been on sale for six months.  So this post’s going to be an overview of how the book and the series is doing.

First, a little bit of background on how the publishing industry works.  Books published by mainstream publishing nowadays generally use the advance against royalties model – you can read the details in that link, but the short version is that you can roughly measure how well a book is doing by dividing the royalty earnings by the total advance.  As a general rule, the break-even rate for the publisher is around 100% of the advance – if the royalties are below 100% they’re probably making a loss, if it’s above 100% they’re probably making a profit.

In the case of the Alex Verus books, all 12 eventually cleared the 100% mark, meaning that all of them were profitable for the publisher.  In some cases, they were very profitable – while writing this post I went and looked up the US sales figures for Fated, and the total royalties compared to the advance are currently sitting at around 650%.  This was the reason my US and UK publishers were so happy to keep on publishing my Alex Verus books – I’d earned them a lot of money.  It was also why I had such an easy time getting them to publish the Inheritance of Magic series afterwards.

So how’s Inheritance of Magic doing?

Well, the short answer is:  pretty well!  I’ve just got my royalty statements for the second half of 2023, and my UK royalties from book 1 come to around 80% of the advance.  My US number are harder to estimate, since they take an extra month to send me my sales reports, but depending on how I eyeball it, the numbers come to somewhere between 50% and 90%.  Given that this is after less than 3 months of sales, it’s looking as though both the UK and US editions are on course to comfortably break the 100% mark, which is the important thing.

So it looks as though the series is going to be a success, which means I’ll be able to keep on writing it, probably all the way to its conclusion.  I was fairly confident that this was going to happen, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.  I put a lot of effort into developing the setting and storyline for the Inheritance of Magic series – if you add up planning, writing, and rewriting time, the first book alone took years.  I could have scrapped all of that and started over from scratch – I’ve done it before – but it would have been a pretty miserable job, so it’s a big relief to know that I’m not going to have to do it.

As to when that conclusion’s going to be, I don’t have any solid numbers as yet.  If I had to guess, though, I’d estimate the series length of Inheritance of Magic to be somewhere in the ballpark of Alex Verus – i.e. around 12 books.  Which means, at the current rate, with me putting out 1 book a year, the last one is likely to come out around the mid-2030s.  It feels a bit crazy to plan something THAT far ahead, but looking at my writing speed and my writing patterns, that does feel like the most realistic prediction.  But then again, who knows – maybe I’ll get faster at writing, or more condensed when it comes to series length, we’ll just have to see.  In any case, it’ll be interesting to look back at this post 10 years from now and see how accurate it was . . .

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