Category Archives: Ghost in the Inferno

GHOST EXILE series now in print

I am pleased to report that the entire GHOST EXILE series is now available in paperback format. Links and ISBN information are here at my paperback page.Ā 

It is amusing to see how the books in the bottom row of the picture get progressively thicker the closer it gets to the end of the series. šŸ™‚

-JM

GHOST IN THE WINDS spoiler discussion thread

A few people have asked for a spoiler discussion thread for GHOST IN THE WINDS, so here it is! Share your thoughts about GHOST IN THE WINDS below.

I’ll also mention some of my favorite scenes from the book.

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW!

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In no particular order, my favorite scenes.

1.) I liked Caina, Annarah, and Morgant’s scenes together, both in WINDS and PACTS. Annarah usually takes the side of Caina’s conscience, and Morgant the side of her ruthelessnes.

2.) Whenever Kylon and Mazyan teamed up. I always listened to some Two Steps From Hell for that part. I also liked how Kylon didn’t completely realize how much everyone in the rebel army respected him for beating Master Alchemist Rhataban in single combat. Rhataban had a towering (and mostly deserved) reputation, and Kylon beat him with half the rebel army looking on.

3.) Speaking of Mazyan, Sulaman’s masquerading as a poet was inspired by the old story of Harun al-Raschid wandering the streets in disguise to see to the welfare of his subjects. Harun did it out of choice. Sulaman out of necessity. When he told Caina in GHOST IN THE COWL that if it was within his power he would reward her, he was telling the truth.

4.) Several people emailed how creepy they found Callatas’s lust for Caina after the Elixir Rejuvenata, which pleased me, because I wrote that deliberately. I wanted to make CallatasĀ even more unsettling than he already was, and that was a good way to do it.

5.) Speaking of Callatas, he was a fun villain to write over the series, because he was such a dynamic Big Bad, and he was so dynamic because he made several serious mistakes. Callatas was a very human villain, because he made a lot of errors and he shot himself in the foot from time to time. His biggest mistake was not realizing that Kharnaces had set a trap for him, but his second mistake was both mishandling and underestimating Cassander Nilas, which almost (literally) blew up in his face. I liked writing the scenes in GHOST IN THE PACT and GHOST IN THE WINDS where Callatas had to admit to himself (if no one else) the extent of the problems his arrogance had created for him.

Callatas screwed up, but he never, ever gave up, no matter how serious the setback.

Though when he screwed up, Kalgri was right there to point it out. Repeatedly. And at great length.

6.) Speaking of Cassander, he wasn’t in GHOST IN THE WINDS, but he was one of my favorite villains in the series. He basically shoved aside CallatasĀ as Big Bad in GHOST IN THE SEAL and GHOST IN THE THRONE, and he almost won. His largest mistake was trusting Kalgri. He didn’t trust her very much, but even that little bit of trust was enough to bite him.

7.) Speaking of Kalgri, she was also a fun villain to write, because she was so horribly rational. Her enemies (and allies) liked to call her a madwoman, but both Cassander and Caina grasped the essential truth about her. The Red Huntress was sane to a frightening degree, and most of the time made her decisions based upon clear, remorseless logic. Kalgri didn’t care about anything except 1.) her own survival, and 2.) killing as many people as possible. Everything she did proceeded logicallyĀ from those two objectives, and when she did make mistakes (like losing her temper and fighting Caina hand-to-hand at Silent Ash Temple instead of withdrawing) she learned from them and did not make the mistake again. Or when she almost murdered Damla’s sons for the amusement of it, only to refrain when she realized that killing them might put her at unacceptable risk.

What really made Kalgri dangerous was not the Voice, but her iron self-discipline and her unwavering patience.

Kalgri was almost the most clever person in the books, but unfortunately for her, Samnirdamnus was even cleverer.

8.) Kalgri’s final scene was influenced by Ungoliant from THE SILMARILLION. After I wrote GHOST IN THE RAZOR, aĀ Ā perceptive reader pointed out that Grand Master Callatas and the Red Huntress had a relationship a lot like Morgoth and Ungoliant from Tolkien’s masterwork. So Kalgri’s final scene was inspired by the fate of Ungoliant from THE SILMARILLION, where in the final madness of her insatiable hunger, Ungoliant devours herself.

9.) Samnirdamnus’s long game to defeat Callatas and Kotuluk Iblis and free the Court of the Azure Sovereign. He had been playing the game for a very, very long time, and he had been waiting just as long for someone like Caina to come along, a mortal to whom he could entrust his power at the final critical moment.

And it all came together. For the stars will go out before a Knight of Wind and Air relents in his duty. Caina has been a spy for her entire adult life, but the length of time Samnirdamnus has been a spy can only be measured using chronological terms commonly employed in astronomy.

10.) I liked the final scene with Caina and the Padishah, when the Padishah orders Caina to execute him and save Istarinmul. That was probably the single most noble thing Nahas Tarshahzon did in his life, and he got his revenge on Callatas at the same time. To paraphrase the first Sherlock Holmes story, retribution, though slow in coming, had overtaken Callatas at last.

It was fun to finally write that scene, because the Padishah was first mentioned in GHOST IN THE STORM, and he’s been missing since GHOST IN THE SURGE or so. So it was neat to finally find out what happened to him.

11.) The return of Iramis. That was seriously a neat scene to write. Poor Annarah! She knew the truth the entire time, but she could never tell anyone, because if Callatas ever realized his mistake, he could rectify his mistake with ease and destroy Iramis in truth. As Morgant said, the best liar in GHOST EXILE was the most honest woman of them all.

12.) The end when Sulaman dismisses the charges against Caina and calls for witnesses to speak for her.

13) Finally, I really did like the final scene where Caina comes back and Kylon is waiting for her in the House of Agabyzus.

I admit I hadn’t decided if I was going to keep Caina and Kylon together right up until I actually wrote the end of the book. Originally I was going to have Kylon go back to New Kyre, since he would have thought it his duty. Yet when I wrote GHOST IN THE PACT, I realized that Kylon was still furious at the Surge over Thalastre, and he couldn’t let that go. Additionally, he had seen too much in Istarinmul, and while he had once accepted slavery as part of the natural order of mankind (as indeed almost all pagan societies did on Earth), he couldn’t tolerate it any more.

Additionally, killing Kylon or breaking him up with Caina would have been too similar to the ending of GHOST IN THE SURGE.

And that line in GHOST IN THE PACT when Caina promises to wait for him at the House of Agabyzus! According to the Kindle, that was the most highlighted line in GHOST IN THE PACT. That just begged for payoff. The Iron Laws of Storytelling demanded that Kylon ask Caina to marry him in the House of Agabyzus.

14.) One last thing. A few people have asked what the new GHOST NIGHT series will be about, and this is all I’ll say until I start writing it in mid-2017:

Laeria Scorneus Amalas was not an only child. Not even remotely, and her family would make a sorcery-using Mafia clan look like the Brady Bunch.

-JM

GHOST IN THE INFERNO now available!

BNGhostInTheInferno

I’m pleased to report that GHOST IN THE INFERNO is now availableĀ atĀ Amazon, Amazon UK,Ā Amazon Canada,Ā Amazon Germany,Ā Amazon Australia,Ā Barnes & Noble,Ā Kobo,Ā Google Play, iTunes, andĀ Smashwords.

You can read the first chapter of GHOST IN THE INFERNO right here.

CAINA AMALAS is the Ghost circlemaster of Istarinmul, leader of the Emperorā€™s spies in the city. She has defeated powerful foes, but more dangerous enemies lie before her.

A sorcerous catastrophe threatens to destroy Istarinmul, and the only the mysterious sorceress Annarah, last loremaster of lost Iramis, knows how to stop it.

To rescue Annarah and save Istarinmul, Caina must brave the Inferno, the hellish fortress of the sinister Immortals.

But those who enter the Inferno never returnā€¦

-JM

GHOST IN THE INFERNO vs Help Desk Scammers

This is how determined I am to finish GHOST IN THE INFERNO.

You might have heard of the “Windows support scam” phone calls. Basically, a scammer calls up a victim and claims to be from Microsoft, saying that the victim’s computer has been generating error messages at Microsoft HQ. Then the scammer has the victim go to Event Viewer, locate some perfectly innocuous error messages, and claims these are indicative of a serious problem. After that, the scammer will usually install a piece of “security” software that is useless at best and actively harmful at worst, all while making off with the victim’s credit card number to pay for this useless software. (More details on this kind of scam are on the official Microsoft site at this link.)

Anyway, I sat down to edit GHOST IN THE INFERNO…and I got a call from one of these scammers!

My delight was immense.

My delight was immense because I have been in IT in some capacity for another for a very, very long time, and I know every single way to screw with or lie to a help desk person. Every. Single. Way. I know every single way because I’ve had them all used on me at some time or another. All the tricks are in my head…and here comes this scammer like a sheep wandering into the lion pen at the zoo.

To put it into RPG terms, this must be how an Ancient Red Dragon feels when some level 1 adventurers in unenchanted leather armor wander into his lair and start quoting BEOWULF.

Gleefully I fired up the virtual machine I have for just such an occasion, thinking of all the many ways I was about to amuse myself at the scammer’s expense.Ā If I did it right, and feigned the right amount of ignorance, I could probably waste his entire day…

But then I wouldn’t get any editing done, alas.

So I hung up on him and got through three chapters of GHOST IN THE INFERNO.

It was for the best. Work must take priority over amusement, after all.

I just hope he calls back when GHOST IN THE INFERNO is done. šŸ™‚

-JM

GHOST IN THE INFERNO Table of Contents

Making editing progress on GHOST IN THE INFERNO, and I should have a sample chapter available next week. Meanwhile, I have at last settled on a proper order for the chapters, so here is the Table of Contents:

(I should note that the chapter titles “Undying” and “The Stormdancer and the Assassin” have been used in previous GHOSTS books for reasons that will be obvious after you read GHOST IN THE INFERNO. šŸ™‚ )

Chapter 1: Something Always Goes Wrong

Chapter 2: Wraithblood

Chapter 3: Warnings

Chapter 4: Old Friends

Chapter 5: Instructions

Chapter 6: Ā A Little Task

Chapter 7: Something Else Goes Wrong

Chapter 8: Glass Hand

Chapter 9: Sparks

Chapter 10: Epic Poetry

Chapter 11: The Master Alchemist

Chapter 12: The Iron Hell

Chapter 13: A Man Who Should Be Dead

Chapter 14: Sanctuary

Chapter 15: Written In Flesh

Chapter 16: Encircled

Chapter 17: Undying

Chapter 18: The Stormdancer and the Assassin

Chapter 19: Subjugant

Chapter 20: Hear The Words Of Lore

Chapter 21: Liberator

Chapter 22: Messages

Chapter 23: The Lord of the Heretics

Epilogue

-JM

an impromptu interview about GHOST IN THE INFERNO

A reader had some questions about GHOST IN THE INFERNO, and it turned into a short interview of sorts.

“1. Do you imagine yourself in the main characters shoes when you write?”

Nah. I’m nothing like any of my characters. Ā Considering what happens to my characters, I am relieved by this fact.

“2. Do you have a favorite book or character which you have written about??”

I think SOUL OF SERPENTS was the best DEMONSOULED book, FROSTBORN: THE IRON TOWER was the best FROSTBORN book, and GHOST IN THE MASK, GHOST IN THE HUNT, and GHOST IN THE RAZOR were the best GHOSTS books. But what the writer thinks of his work is not often what the readers actually think of it. šŸ™‚

“3. What is your favorite book (not one of yours)? Do you/ did you read a lot? :)”

I used to read more, but I still usually get through about 40 or 50 books a year. Ebooks help with that, since I can read on my tablet while running on a treadmill in the morning.

Let’s see, favorite books:

For fantasy, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION by Tolkien, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON by Robert E. Howard, KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN by David Gemmell, and the entirety of THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher.

For science fiction, THE HIGH CRUSADE by Poul Anderson, THE ICARUS HUNT by Timothy Zahn, and CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson.

I think PERELANDRA and THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS were the best fiction that CS Lewis wrote. (MERE CHRISTIANITY, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, and A GRIEF OBSERVED would be his best nonfiction.)

For mysteries, THE SIGN OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE SPECKLED BAND, THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS, and THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER (all Sherlock Holmes stories) by Arthur Conan Doyle. (If you ever get the chance, the TV dramatization of THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes does the rare feat of actually improving on the original story, which was already excellent.) Also ONE CORPSE TOO MANY and THE VIRGIN IN THE ICE by Ellis Peters for historical mysteries, and I think TELL NO ONE by Harlan Coben is the prime example of a mystery/thriller. Though since he likes to write about families torn apart by A Dark Secret, I think Mr. Coben may have missed his calling as a writer of Gothic horror.

I owe Jasper Fforde’s THURSDAY NEXT series for inspiration, because I used to find writing love stories tedious, but THURSDAY NEXT showed how a writer could get a lot of dramatic mileage & tension out of a love story.

THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD is considered one of HP Lovecraft’s weaker works, but I think it was his best.

For nonfiction, Julius Caesar’s COMMENTARIES ON THE GALLIC WARS, Xenophon’s ANABASIS (I like Xenophon’s line about putting on his best clothes and armor to overawe his opponents, and then if they killed him, at least he would be dressed properly for it), and Ulysses S Grant’s MEMOIRS of the US Civil War. THE MIDDLE AGES by Morris Bishop is an excellent look at the Western European Middle Ages, and BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM by James McPherson is the best one-volume history of the US Civil War. THE SECOND WORLD WAR by John Keegan, THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Peter Heather, and DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larsen are also some of my favorites. I also liked Alison Weir’s books on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III.

“4. Are you thinking about starting another series or writing a separate book?”

Always! I always have new ideas.

Right now, I only have time to write six or seven books a year, so for now I’m sticking to GHOST EXILE and FROSTBORN. Ideas are easy. Implementing them into actual books is the hard part.

The trouble with stand-alone books is that they don’t sell very well, so I tend to write series.

“5. What is your inspiration? What gave you the idea for these books? (Ghost Exile)”

The idea came about because I thought THE GHOSTS series was going to come to a natural conclusion in GHOST IN THE SURGE, but I wanted to keep writing GHOSTS books.

So how best to do that without the series becoming stagnant and repetitive? I decided to have Caina save the day at the end of GHOST IN THE SURGE, but get punished and exiled for it. That way she would be thrust into a new setting, with new characters, new problems, and new enemies.

The root conflict and plot hook of GHOST EXILE – the wraithblood – was inspired partly by watching HOUSE MD, and partly by reading about various experiments the CIA did with LSD in the 1950s and 1960s. (I believe it was called the MKUltra project). About six years ago I wrote a short story about a wraithblood-addicted locksmith trying to pay off his debts in Istarinmul. That story never got published, but the locksmith eventually evolved into the character of Nerina Strake.

Also, writing a longer series tends to generate its own ideas due to the internal logic of the series – the characters’ actions have consequences. A lot of the plot of GHOST IN THE HUNT was simply a logical consequence of how much Caina irritated her enemies in the previous two books.

One hint for future GHOST EXILE books: someday there will be a GHOST EXILE book that revolves around just how much Callatas has aggravated Cassander Nilas. Internal series logic! šŸ™‚

“6. How did you start writing? Did you have a favorite author that inspired you, or was your parent a writer orā€¦??”

A long time ago I used to run Dungeons and Dragons RPG games for my high school friends, and found that I liked the storytelling aspect of it more than the maps and dice.

“7. Do you wake up in the middle of the night and start writing about an idea you had? My dad does (an author and I wanna go in his tracks) and I sort of do too.”

Nah. If I have an idea, I tend not to write it down. I figure if it’s a good idea, I’ll remember it because I’ll keep thinking about it, but if it’s a bad idea, I’ll forget about it. Usually, the good ideas are for an upcoming book, like “oh, Caina should do this” or “Ridmark should do that”, and I’ll add them into the outline for the next book.

If I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s usually because of leg cramps or insomnia, so I play SKYRIM or BALDUR’S GATE on my computer until I can fall back asleep. Usually, though, I sleep like the dead. Running 5k several times a week likely helps with that. šŸ™‚

“8. How many more books do you plan on writing in all? What if you finish them?!??! šŸ™ :O What will be after that?! May you never run out of witing mojo steam and all that ;)”

FROSTBORN is going to be fifteen books, and GHOST EXILE will be nine.

After that…well, I have no shortage of ideas, and new ones all the time. I’ll keep writing as long as I’m physically able to do so and have an outlet for publication of some kind.

-JM