Alex Verus #12 – Risen Covers & Release Date

It’s been a while since I mentioned Alex Verus #12, so here’s a look at the US and UK covers of Risen, the final book in the series!

UK version:

US version:

Release dates have also changed slightly.  The UK version is still coming out on December 2nd, 2021, but the US version’s release date has been moved up a week, to November 30th, 2021.  (I guess my US publishers really don’t like anyone else getting my books first.)

Less than five months to go!  As usual, I’ll put the first chapter of Risen online a month or two before its release, probably some time in October.

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Alex Verus #5 – Hidden

(This is part 5 of a 12-part series of author commentaries on the Alex Verus books.  The master post with links to all the parts is here.)

Hidden was the big planning book of the Alex Verus series.  

My starting idea for Hidden was simple:  do something with Anne’s past.  I wanted to develop the story of Richard’s return, too, but Hidden was mostly about Anne, just as Chosen had been mostly about Alex.  I’d been dropping hints as to Anne’s past in Taken and Chosen, and I thought that this was the right time to reveal exactly what that past was.

Sounds simple, right?  

Yeah, it wasn’t.  Hidden turned out to be an enormous struggle to write.  Counting the first draft, the edits, and the rewrites, finishing Hidden took something like a full year, longer than any book in the series besides Fated.  There were several reasons for this, and the biggest one was that Hidden was the book in which I had to figure out the direction in which the entire Alex Verus series would go.  

Chosen had established that Richard was going to be the big antagonist of the series.  But how was that going to play out?  I didn’t know what Richard wanted or what his plans were, and as a result, in the first draft of Hidden, Richard’s presence was very muted – it’s hard to write a character when you don’t know why they’re there.  Anne’s character was also much vaguer and less clearly defined.  Her dark side was there, but it didn’t show up until later and it was less “dark” and more “ambivalent”.  In both cases, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with the characters, and so I avoided committing them to anything.  

My editors thought this was a terrible idea.  As they saw it, readers were going to have high expectations for Richard, especially after how I’d ended Chosen, and that having him act like this would be a massive anticlimax.  Anne got even harsher feedback – my editors thought she was unlikeable, uninteresting, and a stick-in-the-mud.

So I went back to the drawing board, which brought me right back to the question I’d been avoiding.  Where was the series going?

And somewhere along the way, I came up with an answer.  I’d tie the two together.  Richard’s ultimate plan would involve Anne, and Anne’s future would be shaped by Richard.  The details of that plan would take another two or three years to work out, but the core shape of the story was set in 2013 and never really changed.  Interestingly, the initial spark of the idea came from something I’d read.  Richard’s intentions towards Anne, and the way the story plays out, is (very loosely) based off the events of a fairly popular piece of media.  As far as I know, no-one has guessed what it was, although a couple of people on obscure corners of the Internet have noticed the similarity in theme between it and Alex Verus.  I won’t give it away because I think it’s more interesting as a mystery, but I’ll be curious to see if people can figure it out after the publication of Risen.  

Figuring out Richard’s plan made things fall into place.  I rewrote his scene, and this time it went much more smoothly.  Anne was more difficult.  I improved her character in the rewrite of Hidden, but no matter how long I wrote her, I was never able to get as comfortable with her personality as I was with Luna’s.  Reader reactions have tended to reflect that, too – Anne consistently gets rated as one of the less popular characters in the series, below Alex, Luna, Arachne, Cinder, Landis, Starbreeze, and Hermes.  Something about her personality just never completely clicked, and I’ve never been able to quite fix it.  Maybe it was that her initial character concept was just so weird that was hard for people to really empathise with her.  Maybe I made some mistake when originally designing her that made it hard for her to become a fully three-dimensional person in her own right.  Or maybe it’s something much simpler – it’s just really difficult to write a genuinely good character (as opposed to a decent or okay character) of the opposite sex.  I find most male characters written by female authors to be fairly unsatisfying, so expecting to consistently write good female characters myself is probably asking a lot.  Still, I’ll keep trying.  

Hidden also dealt with the fallout from what had happened in the previous book.  The events of Chosen had split Anne and Sonder from Alex’s group, but while Alex was able to repair his relationship with Anne, Sonder was another story.  I was slightly surprised at how much negative feedback Sonder got as a result – my readers definitely took Alex’s side, and even the ones who still liked Sonder were hoping that he and Alex would become allies again, rather than seeing them as being on fundamentally different paths.  (Anne also got a lot of criticism, but I think finding out her backstory in Hidden made people a bit more willing to sympathise with her.)  The focus on these interactions made Hidden a more character-oriented book than Chosen.  

As part of this, Hidden introduced Alex’s father.  I think a lot of readers wondered at the time how he was supposed to fit into the larger storyline.  Assuming that you’ve already read most if not all of the books, you’ll know the answer to that:  he doesn’t.  Alex’s father has nothing to do with the overarching plot of the Alex Verus series, and he’s in Hidden purely to show how Alex turned out the way he did.  Judging from some of the reactions I got, I think this is probably a bit unusual in this kind of novel, but I thought the insight it gave into Alex’s character and family history was worth the page space.  Alex’s father has never appeared again – his relationship with Alex is pretty much stuck, so there’s no point.

Being a more character-focused book had its drawbacks.  Hidden was published in 2014 to only moderately favourable reactions – its overall ratings were still higher than books #1-3, but they were lower than Chosen’s, and the tone of the reviews was definitely a bit less enthusiastic.  It wasn’t hard to see why.  Chosen had been a “payoff” book with a lot of high drama and excitement, while Hidden was slower and more focused on setting up future developments.  On the positive side, Hidden aged well.  Its ratings would continue to climb over the years, while Chosen’s would go slightly down.  I think readers came to appreciate the character development over time.

And finally, Hidden brought in Hermes, one of the series favourites.  As a few people guessed at the time, Hermes was a fox version of a fantasy creature from Dungeons and Dragons called a blink dog.  When I wrote the book in 2013, it was a new name, but in 2018, another company called Blizzard created a card called “Blink Fox” for their online game, Hearthstone.  So now if you Google “blink fox” you’ll get a hundred variations of the image below, which isn’t what Hermes looks like at all (he’s supposed to look like a European red fox).  Oh well!  

Posted in Author Commentary | 6 Comments

Favours Amazon Release

As promised, Favours is now available on Amazon!  You can buy it from the Amazon US and the Amazon UK Kindle Stores.  The novella is already available from my website in a Kindle-friendly .mobi version, but I know some people prefer to use Amazon’s delivery system rather than downloading the file themselves.

On the subject of downloading files, my website store has now been up for a week and it’s gone . . . pretty well, actually!  There were a lot of teething troubles, since it’s the first time I’ve actually done the tech work of setting up an online commerce platform, but I think at this point I’ve ironed out most of the issues.  Oh, and speaking of issues, thanks to those people who pointed out typos.  Favours has been updated to version 1.1 with the main errors fixed.

The sales for Favours have been quite decent.  Obviously they’re nowhere near the sales of my novels, but then my novels are released in both paper and ebook versions on hundreds of platforms across dozens of countries with the benefit of my publishers’ marketing and distribution networks.  By contrast, the only people who know about Favours are the ones who read this website, so the only way people will find out about it is if it spreads virally.  Still, I think given time, there’s a decent chance that that’ll happen, and if it does then there’ll be more Alex Verus short stories and novellas to come.

For now, though, Favours is pretty much done with, and I think it’s time I got down to the hard work of writing the new series.  I’m hoping to get properly started by the end of the month.

Also, thank you for those who attended and contributed questions to the German book fair on Saturday!  The Zoom meeting format made it very relaxed and easy to do, so I’ll definitely be happy to go back for similar events.

As regards the blog, now that the release of Favours is over, we’re going back to my author commentaries – next week will be the commentary on the big planning book of the Alex Verus series, Hidden.  After that I’ve got a few Ask Luna posts to catch up on, as well as the cover reveals for the release of Risen in December.  See you all then!

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Favours Release Day

(Edit:  Favours is now available in both .epub and .mobi formats.)

Well, it’s finally here!  Favours, the first ever Alex Verus novella, is available on this website as of today!

This is actually quite a big event for me – it’s my first ever step into self-publishing.   Up until now, everything I’ve ever published has been via a traditional publisher.  I’m still intending to keep doing that with my novels, but for short stories and novellas, self-publishing has its advantages.  One big one is speed – I finished editing Favours around two weeks ago, which if I was going the traditional route would have meant that the novella would have come out around June 2022 at the earliest, instead of now.  I’ve also had a lot more control over the whole production process, and it’s been kind of fascinating getting to handle all of the little details that usually get delegated to my publishers.

Of course, this does come with drawbacks.  To set up my website for online sales I’ve had to install and configure a ridiculous number of plugins and pieces of software, many of which have gone wrong in fantastically irritating ways.  I think I’ve ironed out all the bugs, but there’s always the chance that I missed one somewhere along the line.  If you run into any issues, send me an email via my Contact form (which I’ve also had to rebuild from scratch, and which I’m hoping is now finally working).

Speaking of which, you may have noticed that the site has been redesigned.  It’s still under construction, but the majority of the new content is now up.  If you run into any issues, let me know.

One final thing I should mention – somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that I could use this novella as a sort of test case for novellas and Alex Verus short fiction as a whole.  Basically, I’m using Favours as a way to gauge how much interest my readership has in this sort of thing.  If it sells well and gets some decent attention, I’ll take that as a sign that the whole idea of Alex Verus short stories/novellas is worth persisting with.  If it flops, well, I’ll take that as my audience’s way of telling me “stick to novels”.

Now, either way, my main job’s going to continue to be “novelist”.  Now that Favours is done, I’m planning to get to work on my new series:  I’m hoping to start the first book by next month and finish it by around the end of the year.  However, what I do after that is going to be influenced by how things go with Favours.  If Favours does well, there’s a good chance I’ll make a habit of alternating between novels in my main series that I publish the slower traditional way, and novellas/short stories that I can write and self-publish quickly.  Otherwise, I’ll just stick with my old routine of going straight from one novel into another.  We’ll have to see!

And I think that covers about everything.  Go to my Store page to find out more about the novella, and to purchase it in both .epub and .mobi format, or take a look around at the new site.  And for those of you who prefer a more official copy of your books, I’ll be publishing Favours on the Amazon Kindle store next week, on Friday, June 25th.

I hope you enjoy the story!

Additional note:  Since several people have mentioned that they’d prefer to use a Kindle, I’ve made a .mobi version of the file available in addition to the .epub.  You should now be able to download either or both versions from your ‘Sale Complete’ page, but let me know if you run into any problems.

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German Book Fair This Saturday

I’m still in the process of redesigning the website (hoping to have it done by the release of my new novella this Friday) but in the meantime, here’s a brief bit of news for my German readers!

As some of you might know, the Alex Verus books have been doing very well in their German translation – books 1-6 have already been translated and published, and books 7-12 should follow over the next few years.  As a result, I’ve been invited to a German digital book fair (Buchmesse Saar) which’ll be taking place this weekend.  I’ll have a one-hour slot this Saturday, June 19th, at 3.30 PM German time, which you can find here.  Mostly it’s just an opportunity for me to talk to and answer questions from my German readers, so hope to see some of you there!

Posted in Events, News | 7 Comments

Website Changes

Well, after many, many years, my website is finally getting an overhaul.  Its current version has been almost completely unchanged since 2012, and it’s been overdue for a spring cleaning and update for a long time, so that’s what I’m going to do!

The first thing I’ve done has been to move this site to a new and better hosting company (ie the people who own the servers that your computer is reading this post from right now).  By the time you read this, the move should have been completed.   Unfortunately, this has come with a bit of a transition period where the website was half on one server and half on another, so if you commented on the old version of the site, your comment will have been lost . . . sorry!  Things should be stable from now, though, and you guys should hopefully see better loading times from now on.  

Since I’m going to be selling things on this website from now on, I’m also getting around to putting in some security software, which should be done by the end of today.  You’ll know if it’s worked because the ‘Not Secure’ warning at the top of my website should stop displaying, which has been an irritation for a while.

Over the next week, I’ll also be redesigning the site in general.  The contents of the drop-down menus will be resorted, and I’m going to get rid of a bunch of old plugins and widgets that don’t work anymore.  I’m hoping to have it done by next Friday. 

And yes, the new novella is still on schedule to be released by then!  I’m aiming to release it on this site a week from today, on June 18th.

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New Alex Verus Novella: Release Date and Details

Now that I’m back in the country, here’s some more information about the Alex Verus story I mentioned a few weeks ago!

The story’s now written and edited.  Final length after changes and additions is a little over 20,000 words, which puts it in the low end of the ‘novella’ category (for comparison, a typical Alex Verus novel is between 90,000 and 100,000 words).  I finished up the last corrections and edits two days ago, and the manuscript’s ready for publication.  

Now, normally, me being finished with a manuscript would mean you’d get to read it in 9 months or so.  However, since I’m self-publishing this one rather than using a traditional publisher, I can put it out quite a bit faster.  My current plan is to release it in 2 weeks.  

So my planned release date is June 18th/June 25th.  I still need to sort out the cover, format the ebook, and set up the sales/administrative side, but I’m hoping two weeks will be long enough to handle that.

Novella Details

• Title:  Favours
• Length:  20,000 words
• Format:  Ebook
• Platform:  Amazon, and here
• Release Date (this website):  June 18th 2021
• Release Date (Amazon Kindle):  June 25th 2021
• Price:  $2.99

Description

Favours is a side story set in the Alex Verus universe that takes place in between Alex Verus #6, Veiled, and Alex Verus #7, Burned.  

The story is not told from Alex’s point of view, and this is going to be the norm for any short stories/novellas that I do in the Alex Verus setting.  One of the drawbacks of the first-person perspective of the Alex Verus novels is that quite a lot of things get left out of the books because there’s no realistic way for Alex to witness them.  Also, much as I like Alex as a character, I’ve written twelve books from his point of view and I’m about ready for a change – I like the idea of getting to do something a bit different!

In this case, Favours is told from the perspective of Sonder.  Returning to London after his year-long assignment to Washington D.C., Sonder is called into Keeper HQ to work with Caldera on an investigation.  What at first looks likes a simple burglary quickly turns into something much more difficult and dangerous, forcing Sonder to choose where his loyalties lie.

Questions and Answers

Some answers to a few of the questions I’ve been asked so far:

Q. Will you release the story in hard copy format?
A. Not any time soon.  The economics of producing physical copies of short stories/novellas are pretty unfavourable, so the only way that would be likely to happen would be if I brought out a short story collection some day.

Q. Are you going to write more Alex Verus short stories after this one?
A. Depends how well this one does.  If it’s popular enough and gets enough interest, then probably.  If people’s reactions are more along the lines of ‘I didn’t like it’ or ‘I don’t want to read any stories that aren’t about Alex’, then probably not.  

Q. Can you make it available on Kobo/Apple Books/Nook/other distributor?  
A. In theory, yes, but setting up those kinds of accounts can take a fair bit of time and effort and I’m not sure it’s worth it.  Besides, if you’re reading this, that means you can access my website, which means you can just get it directly from here.  

Q. Can you write a story featuring [insert character’s name here]?.
A. Possibly.  I have story ideas for most of the secondary and tertiary characters in the Alex Verus series, but I’m not sure which ones I’ll get around to.

Q. Why is it $2.99?  
A. Amazon places steep financial penalties on authors who price their work even one cent below $2.99, whether on Amazon or anywhere else.  Since I’m selling this on Amazon as well as here on my website, that limits how I can price it.

Q. Are you going to focus more on novellas/short stories from now on?
A. No.  I’ve enjoyed working on this novella, and it’s been really interesting self-publishing it rather than going the trad-pub route – it’s given me a new perspective into how the industry works.  However, my main job is still ‘novelist’, and now that this story’s done, I’m planning to start work on my new series.  If I’m really lucky, I’ll finish the first book by the end of the year, though there’s a good chance it’ll overrun.  But either way, the new book is my priority now.  I’m not intending to write any more short stories until it’s finished.

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Alex Verus #4 – Chosen

(This is part 4 of a 12-part series of author commentaries on the Alex Verus books.  The master post with links to all the parts is here.)

With Chosen, I decided right from the beginning that I was going to move away from the episodic model. This was going to be a ‘series’ book rather than a stand-alone – it would be less self-contained than the previous three, which meant that I could build on the events of Fated, Cursed, and Taken to tell a larger story.

I also decided somewhere in early 2012 that Chosen was going to introduce the major antagonist for the Alex Verus series. I didn’t have to think very hard about who that antagonist would be. There had been a natural arch-enemy for Alex ever since Fated, and it was just a matter of deciding when to bring him in.

In setting Richard as the major antagonist for the Alex Verus series, I permanently diverged the series from the Dresden Files. Fated got (and still gets) loads of comparisons to Dresden due to the similarities between Alex and Harry’s backgrounds – both were apprenticed to dark mages as teenagers but rebelled against them. However, Harry Dresden’s backstory has him kill his old teacher and move on. There are consequences (such as the Doom of Damocles), but for the most part, a line gets drawn under the whole thing – the series is generally less focused on Harry’s past and more focused on external threats. Most of the Dresden books revolve around some kind of supernatural evil threatening innocent people, and Harry has to be the hero and save the day.

Alex’s story would be quite different. Since Richard is not only alive, but vastly more powerful than Alex, he casts much more of a shadow. Alex starts off the series completely outmatched by his old master, and it takes him a long time to work his way up to the point where he can meaningfully oppose him. Richard’s continued presence also has a less obvious, but more important effect – it forces Alex to struggle to define himself. Is he different from his old teacher? If so, how? This fit in with one of the major themes of the Alex Verus series, namely that the biggest threats don’t come from outside; they come from other humans and from ourselves.

So that gave me Chosen’s big theme. Next, I needed a more short-term problem for Alex to deal with. And as it turned out, I had an idea for that, too.

In my teens and twenties, I read a lot of books and comics and watched a lot of TV and movies. Over time, I noticed patterns – stock plots that would get used over and over again. One of these stock plots that every long-running series would use sooner or later was “protagonist did something bad in the past and now has to make amends”. The severity of the bad thing and how serious the amends were would vary, but the general pattern was the same. The story would set up a conflict where it seemed that the only two possible choices were “have the main character go unpunished for the bad thing” and “have the main character be seriously punished for the bad thing”. Then in the resolution, the story would take a third option. Maybe it would turn out that there was some misunderstanding, and the protagonist wasn’t really responsible for what happened after all. Or maybe the person looking for justice could be talked down or brought around somehow, whether by a show of repentance or by giving them some sort of affordable reparation. In either case, the problem would be ‘fixed’ and the series would move on.

But what if the problem couldn’t be fixed? What if there wasn’t a third option?

I thought that sounded interesting.

So I started planning. The natural way to fit this idea into the Alex Verus series was for Alex to have done something in his time as a Dark apprentice. Eventually the friends/family of the victim catch up with him, and want justice. And they’re right, he really did do what he was being accused of. Except their idea of justice is something he’s totally unwilling to accept – namely, executing him. What would he do?

I didn’t know. So I wrote the book to find out.

As it turned out, Alex’s answer ends up being: “yes, what I did was bad, and I’m willing to try to make amends for it, but I’m not willing to die for it. As far as I’m concerned my life’s worth more than your definition of justice, and if you come after me I’ll do whatever’s necessary to stop you.” It wasn’t a very traditionally ‘heroic’ answer, but it felt to me like a rather realistic perspective on the subject of historic wrongdoing that I didn’t see get articulated very much.

Next I needed a set of antagonists to be the vengeance-seekers, and so I designed Will and the Nightstalkers. Working out their powersets and origins felt rather like designing my own version of the Teen Titans or the X-Men. And somewhere along the way I had a rather dark thought. What if I designed this group as the magical version of a ‘teenage superhero team’, young and idealistic and confident and ethnically diverse, and gave them a backstory involving them going on adventures and fighting evil, convinced that they were the heroes of the story?

And then what if they then went after someone completely out of their league and all got horribly murdered?

For whatever reason, that struck me as hilarious. I don’t know what that says about my sense of humour.

Anyway, with that, I had all I needed. I worked on Chosen throughout the spring and summer of 2012 – I had less time pressure since I was done with my law course by then – and I finished the book at the end of September, sending it off to my publishers a few hours before the deadline.

Aside from the Nightstalkers, Chosen also changed Alex’s relationship with Rachel and Cinder. Cinder had straddled the line between ally and enemy in Fated and Cursed, but Chosen moved him firmly out of ‘enemy’ status. He wouldn’t become a formal ally until book #8, but from this point on he was never really in danger of going back into the enemy camp. Cinder had by this point become a very popular character with my readers, probably because of his honesty – his rough but honourable style came across as a lot more attractive than the behaviour of the Council. Rachel, on the other hand, was definitely an enemy, but Chosen would give Alex a reason why he couldn’t just get rid of her – he’d made a promise to Shireen.

That promise (spoiler alert) wouldn’t turn out well. I hadn’t planned that out at the time, I just thought it was an amusingly unfair problem to dump on Alex’s head. “You have to redeem an insane mass murderer who hates you. No, I don’t know how. Good luck!”

Finally, Chosen introduced a new character, Caldera. It made sense for Alex to have a point of contact in the Keepers, and I thought it’d be interesting to use her to show the Keeper point of view. I put a lot of effort into writing Caldera’s character, and I was fairly pleased with the results, but to begin with, readers seemed largely neutral about her – she received very little attention. This would change later on.

When Chosen was released at the end of the summer of 2013, it was as successful as I’d hoped and more. Its reviews were far better than those of the first three books, and the enthusiastic word-of-mouth publicity did a lot to build up my readership in those crucial early years. My sales were still microscopic compared to the big names, but I think this was the point at which readers started to see Alex Verus as something more than just a substitute for when they’d run out of Dresden Files. The enthusiasm would set high expectations for Alex Verus #5, Hidden.

Posted in Author Commentary | 2 Comments

Alex Verus #3.5 – Interlude

(This is part 3.5 of a 12-part series of author commentaries on the Alex Verus books.  The master post with links to all the parts is here.)

Alex Verus #4, Chosen, was the first big transition book for the series. There’s a very noticeable shift between books #1 to #3, and books #5 through #12, and it was in Chosen that the shift happened. To explain why, you need to understand what I was thinking back when I started writing Chosen in 2012.

2012 was Alex Verus’s make-or-break year. Books #1, #2, and #3 were all being released one after another, three months apart – Fated in March, Cursed in June, and Taken in September. This was a deliberate strategic decision that had been made by my editor Darren Nash all the way back in 2010. In an email to me and my agent, Darren explained that his preferred approach for this kind of book didn’t involve big advances and large early print runs. His reasoning was that the success of these kinds of books depended on readers becoming invested in the series and the characters, and you got that via word-of-mouth publicity, online buzz, and time. One way to help with that was momentum, which was why he’d asked me to write books #2 and #3 as quickly as possible, in order to put three out in a single year.

Now that I go back and re-read Darren’s email, it’s pretty impressive how good his predictions were. He specifically said that this approach was a long-term one, depending on ‘long tail’ sales, where you start with very modest numbers of readers and gradually grow them up. Eventually you get enough readers that when a new book came out, fans will buy it in a much more concentrated time frame, and that’s how authors like Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris can hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list with book #15 in a series. My sales numbers are nowhere close to those two, but I’ve reached the point where I do show up on bestseller lists from time to time, and it’s by exactly the process Darren explained back in 2010. Darren Nash has been gone from Orbit for many years now, but he deserves some of the credit for Alex Verus’s success.

But back in 2012, the question wasn’t whether the Alex Verus series would be a bestseller, but whether it’d be continued at all. It’s hard to remember this now, but in the years leading up to 2012, urban fantasy was all the rage. The Twilight movies had brought urban fantasy, YA fantasy, and paranormal romance into the spotlight, and all of a sudden everyone wanted to get in on the action. Not a month went by that some new author didn’t launch a book series with some witch/shapeshifter/vampire/faerie protagonist running around some US city dealing with vampires/weres/magicians/fae and investigating, killing, or having sex with them (usually all three). You could close your eyes and chuck a dart at a map of the USA, and wherever it landed, the nearest city would be the base of operations for some Plucky New Urban Fantasy Lead (First In A New Series!) By 2012, new urban fantasy series were common as celebrity marriages.

They lasted about as long as celebrity marriages, too. The Internet and the convention circuit were packed with new urban fantasy authors desperately struggling to stand out from the crowd and make a name for themselves, and most failed, for the simple reason that people only buy so many books a year. Of those books, only a small fraction are urban fantasy, and out of that fraction, most of the sales go to the big names – Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Charlaine Harris, Laurel K. Hamilton, etc. The new urban fantasy authors were fighting over a fraction of a fraction of the market, and there just wasn’t enough room for more than a handful of them. The result was as depressing as it was predictable. Each new series would be launched with a lot of fanfare, gain some temporary recognition, then its author would have the soul-crushing experience of watching the series that they’d worked so hard on slowly sink without a trace. Back in 2012, in my debut author year, I went to some events and conventions and was introduced to quite a few other urban fantasy writers. Now that I look back on it 9 years later, most have disappeared. The ones who haven’t – the ones who are still writing and publishing today – are pretty much all ones who were already successful before I met them. The “new arrivals” are almost all gone.

(Note: I’m writing all this with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, I knew very little about the market and had no idea how hard a task I’d set myself by trying to make it as an urban fantasy author. If I had, I might have had second thoughts.)

So when Fated came out in 2012, it had a steep hill to climb.

Still, Fated did have a few things going for it. It had gotten an endorsement from Jim Butcher – this was a big deal, as he was probably the biggest name in the genre and didn’t endorse books often. Fated, Cursed, and Taken had all received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, which is the number one magazine in the industry. And possibly because of this, pre-order sales had been decent.

As a result, when my agent got in touch with Orbit in March 2012 to discuss more Alex Verus books, Orbit were willing to listen. They held off for a couple of months to see how Fated would do, but by May 2012 the sales of Fated (while still low) were good enough by new-series standards that Orbit agreed to offer me a new contract. However, this time it was for two books, not three.

The Alex Verus series had gotten a life extension, but I didn’t know how long for.

All of this affected my mindset going into book #4. Rightly or wrongly, I felt that this was going to be the “proving book”. Books #1 through #3 had earned me a bit of leeway, and I needed to use it to show that I could do something interesting enough to make my readers stick around. It was with all this in mind that I sat down in May 2012 to start writing what would eventually become Chosen.

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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!

Posted in News | 15 Comments