All posts by jmoellerwriter

why do I outline my novels?

Continuing our Q&A theme of the week, a reader asks:

What do you mean by outline? Personally, I find it much harder to plan everything beforehand and then write it in detail. Actually, my “book” was supposed to be a story, maybe two pages long, until I had many more ideas and started adding layers of action and drama upon my main character(s).

Basically, it’s a two-step process. First, I write a synopsis of the book. Usually this is about a thousand words or so, and it is very bare bones. Like, “Caina goes to the Golden Palace and does this” or “Ridmark and Mara talk about Vhaluusk”, that kind of thing. After that, I break the synopsis into chapters and flesh them out before starting the book.

I think this gets the hard part over with before writing the book – that way, you know where you are going, and you don’t have to worry about running out of steam halfway through the book, or running out of plot by Chapter 7. For me, at least, that’s the hard part.

Still, I’ve heard it said there are two types of writers – “planners” and “pantsers”. (I can’t remember where I heard this, otherwise I would attribute it.) Planners create an outline beforehand, while pantsers write by the “seat of their pants”, making it up as they go along. I personally think that planning out a book in advance makes a better book, but YMMV.

For me, though, I think outlining is necessary because of the nature of the books I write. GHOST EXILE is going to be nine books, and FROSTBORN fifteen, and a series that long requires at least some planning, lest I write myself into a corner.

I have a question. Have you ever thought about rewriting your very first book so that you can publish it? Or is it a momento of you’re first struggles as a writer?

No. The amount of effort to rewrite it would be at least the same amount of effort as writing a new book from scratch, and writing a new book from scratch seems like a better use of time.

So, you’ve been writing for yourself before 2005? Did you write many more books like Holy Symbol that are never supposed to see the light of day?

HOLY SYMBOL was the first book I ever finished. Before that I got about halfway through a few others, and I don’t think I’ll go back and finish them. Partly because writing new material would be a better use of time, and partly because I’ve cannibalized a bunch of my old half-finished stuff to produce my new books. Rachaelis Morulan in THE THIRD SOUL originally came from HOLY SYMBOL, and the plot of GHOST IN THE MAZE came from a novella and a short story I wrote but never got published.


how long have I been a writer?

A reader asks:

“For how long have you been an author? Did you write in your teen years? What was your first book and when did you write it?”

I started writing when I was fifteen. I’m not gonna say how long ago that was, but suffice it to say some (or more than some) of the people reading this hadn’t been born yet.

Over the next couple of years I tried to write several novels, but I never could finish them. The farthest I got was about 70,000 words into a book that I suspect would have been a 150,000 word monster, but I just petered out. Eventually I realized that I needed to outline things first, so I started writing outlines. I wrote a 5,000 word outline for a long epic fantasy novel, and I resolved to finish it.

So I did it. I finished writing my first book when I was eighteen. Though to be more accurate, it took so long that I was eighteen when I started and nineteen when I finished. It was called HOLY SYMBOL, and it was 330,000 words and it took me ten months to finish, from August to July. (I have since learned the values of brevity and haste.) It was frankly an atrocious book, and the only way it will ever see the light of day is if someone finds it in my files after I die. Nevertheless, it did teach me that I could finish a novel, which I had never done before. The first one was the hardest, and after that it got easier.

As for how long I’ve been a published author, DEMONSOULED was published in 2005.

I have to admit I find self-publishing ebooks infinitely preferable to traditional publishing.


GHOST EXILE arc words

As I plot out GHOST IN THE INFERNO, I’m surprised by how many of the characters have acquired “arc words”,  phrases that rather neatly describe their plotlines.


“The star is the key to the crystal.”


“Are you the one I have been looking for?”


“The silver fire is your only salvation.”


“Does the world deserve to die?”


“Glass hand.”


“What is perfectible in man?”






Here is (most of) the first chapter of FROSTBORN: THE GORGON SPIRIT. It’s a bit longer than I usually prefer first chapters to be, but that was out of necessity. If you read the previous book FROSTBORN: THE DARK WARDEN, you know that there are a LOT of pieces to pick up after all the things that exploded in that book. :)

Anyway, it looks likely that I’ll be able to release FROSTBORN: THE GORGON SPIRIT sometime in the first week of March if all goes well.



Here’s the table of contents for FROSTBORN: THE GORGON SPIRIT. We should have a sample chapter soon!

A brief prologue

Chapter 1: Blur

Chapter 2: Prey

Chapter 3: Khorduk

Chapter 4: The High Gate

Chapter 5: Swordbearers

Chapter 6: The Vale

Chapter 7: Anathgrimm

Chapter 8: Stone Death

Chapter 9: Lord of the Dark Elves

Chapter 10: The Prince

Chapter 11: The Traitor

Chapter 12: Bonds of Honor

Chapter 13: The Converts

Chapter 14: The Vault Of The North

Chapter 15: Children of Mhor

Chapter 16: A Hard Bargain

Chapter 17: Unworthy

Chapter 18: Dark Magic

Chapter 19: Lures

Chapter 20: The Enemy Of My Enemy

Chapter 21: Lion and Knight

Chapter 22: Hunters

Chapter 23: An Apprentice

Chapter 24: Gate of Ruin



GHOST EXILE questions: did Callatas and Jadriga ever meet?

A reader asks concerning GHOST EXILE:

Did Callatas and Jadriga ever meet?

Good question!

No, for a couple reasons, and some of those reasons will be significant in coming GHOST EXILE books.

One, Jadriga was much older than Callatas. By the time of the GHOSTS books, Callatas was over two hundred years old. Jadriga, however, had existed in some form or another for nearly twenty-five centuries, so while Callatas was a blip upon her radar (more on that below), he wasn’t that much different than many other rival sorcerers she had crushed over the centuries, so she didn’t see him as a significant threat, and was confident she could destroy him if necessary.

Two, Jadriga always avoided the region near Istarinmul because of the loremasters of Iramis. When Callatas destroyed it, Iramis was one of the oldest cities in the world, and the loremasters of Iramis were perhaps the oldest extant organization of sorcerers upon the world. Iramis fought several wars against ancient Maat before Callatas destroyed it, so the loremasters were experts in fighting Maatish necromancy, and they knew what Jadriga was and knew how to fight her. So for that reason she avoided the region around Istarinmul and Iramis and kept away from the loremasters whenever possible.

Third, when Callatas destroyed Iramis, he did it to give himself a free hand to work his Apotheosis, but he also unknowingly removed one of Jadriga’s biggest opponents. Jadriga became aware of him then, along with his plans for the Apotheosis, but she ignored him, partly because he had removed one of her enemies, and partly because she might be able to manipulate him into doing something useful in the future. She thought the Apotheosis was folly, but didn’t trouble herself to stop it, because she knew she would complete her great work before Callatas could finish his Apotheosis.

There are also a couple of other reasons, but we won’t go into them here because of spoilers. :) But needless to say, this will turn up in future GHOST EXILE books. The evil legacy of ancient Maat has caused Caina grief before (CHILD OF THE GHOSTS, GHOST IN THE FORGE, GHOST IN THE MASK) and it will do so yet again.