Category Archives: Reader Question Day

Reader Question Day #72 – Maglarion vs. Lucan Mandragon

(Note that this has lots of spoilers for both CHILD OF THE GHOSTS and the entire DEMONSOULED series.)

MAM asks, keeping with the theme of some of our recent posts:

Who would win in a fight, Maglarion or Lucan Mandragon?

That is a good question, and it essentially comes down to where in the series you are, because both Maglarion and Lucan Mandragon evolve quite a bit. Over the course of CHILD OF THE GHOSTS, Maglarion acquires a great bloodcrystal, which grants him superhuman healing abilities and fuels his sorcery. Lucan, at the start of DEMONSOULED, is the most powerful wizard in the Grim Marches, but he is otherwise a normal human male. By SOUL OF SWORDS, he can draw on a well of stolen Demonsouled power, has the memories and powers of his ancestor Randur Maendrag (a powerful necromancer), has become an undead revenant, and also carries the Glamdaigyr and the Banurdem, two artifacts of immense magical power.

So, if Maglarion from the end of CHILD OF THE GHOSTS faced Lucan from the beginning of DEMONSOULED, Maglarion would clean Lucan’s clock. But if Lucan from SOUL OF SWORDS faced Maglarion, he would utterly crush Maglarion.

That said, Lucan has an edge that Maglarion simply does not – Lucan believes in things. Maglarion just wants to live forever. Lucan starts out wanting to defend the Grim Marches from dark magic, and by the end of the series, he’s on a crusade to rid the world of the Demonsouled forever. That makes Lucan much, much more dangerous than Maglarion, because Maglarion is simply looking out for himself, albeit in a particularly evil manner. Lucan is willing to go much farther and take greater risks in pursuit of his goals. Maglarion almost destroyed Malarae, but he never attempted anything on the scale of the Great Rising at the end of SOUL OF SORCERY.

So while Maglarion from the end of the CHILD OF GHOSTS might defeat Lucan from the beginning of DEMONSOULED, Lucan’s convictions, and willingness to risk himself, would give Lucan an edge that might let him prevail over Maglarion. But SOUL OF SWORDS Lucan would crush Maglarion, hands-down.


Reader Question Day #71 – how long does it take to write a book?

Several people asked how long it takes to write a book.

I will give you a straight answer, and say that it depends. 🙂

Basically, it depends on how long the book is. Before I start, I outline thoroughly, so I know exactly where I’m going. I’ll usually rewrite the outline three or four times before I’m happy.

Once it’s done, I’ll write the book as fast as I can. I’ve found that writing a rough draft is a bit like pouring molten bronze – it’s best to do it quickly, else it might cool into a funny shape. I’ll try to do a minimum of 3,000 words a day when writing a rough draft, and usually try to push myself to do more. It doesn’t always work, since responsibilities In Real Life often take precedence, but that is the goal.

After the rough draft is done, I’ll revise and edit the book chapter by chapter. Usually I’ll cut anywhere from 200 to a thousand words per chapter, since I tend to overwrite.

So in the end, it boils down to how long the book is. GHOST IN THE ASHES took about five weeks, while SOUL OF SWORDS took two and a half months.


Reader Question Day #67 – Side Quests and Differences of Opinion

DG asks, concerning the DEMONSOULED series:

However, I must say that I am dumbfounded that Timothy did not have a larger part in the later books. He seemed like he was being built up to have a larger role in the first couple books and then he all but disappeared with hardly any mention at all.

What’s interesting is that people have said the same thing about Adalar and Sir Nathan, or Rhodemar Greenshield and Ardanna the High Druid, or some of the other characters in the DEMONSOULED series. I think different people see different things in the books.

In the end, though, I think at some point a writer has to say “stop”. The story must come to a conclusion, and that will be that. One of the big dangers of writing fantasy series is that they tend to grow in the telling. We can all think of a fantasy series that was supposed to be a trilogy, but then turned into six books, or twelve, or expanded infinitely with new characters and new settings and new plots, while the main plot completely stalls out. I didn’t want that to happen to DEMONSOULED.

(Tom Simon has an insightful essay on the topic here.)

So I wanted to avoid prequelitis or the Infinitely Recursive Side Quest, and decided that DEMONSOULED would go seven books, and that would be that. (Though I do plan to do more short stories, and return to the setting in the future.)

That said, I do intend for THE GHOSTS to go on for some time yet, and I think the books will bear up under that. Part of that is THE GHOSTS is structured differently than DEMONSOULED, more episodically than the long epic arc of DEMONSOULED. And I do plan for FROSTBORN to be between fourteen and sixteen books.

We’ll see if I can pull it off. 🙂

Ari asks:

What do you think of this review of GHOST IN THE FLAMES (link redacted)? It seems like the reviewer completely missed the point of the book.

Eh. Well. It’s the Internet, and anyone can say anything they like on the Internet. 🙂

More seriously, the bald fact is that a writer cannot expect everyone to like his work. I have friends and family who have never read a word I have written (unless it was a text message telling them when to meet me at Subway for lunch), who don’t even know I am a writer, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they would not like my books. This isn’t “woe-is-me-I’m-a-bad-writer” complaining, but a simple observation of fact – some of my friends and family don’t read, or only read books about the American Civil War, or would read one of my books out of a sense of obligation and be horrified the first time Mazael cuts off someone’s head. And I have a relative who is eagerly working his way through the entire DEMONSOULED series.

The general reading public is like that, except times a billion.

I know criticism rankles, but if you write long enough it rankles less. When you’re a new writer you’re sensitive, but as you do it longer you get harder. I started writing DEMONSOULED twelve years ago, and since then I’ve written something like twenty novels and a bajillion short stories.

At this point, if someone likes my books, I’m glad of it and a little surprised…but if someone doesn’t, well, no hard feelings. 🙂


Reader Question Day #65 – the family of Caina’s mother

Loretta C writes with kind words about THE GHOSTS books, but has some questions about Caina’s family. Note that the following answers have spoilers for all six GHOSTS books so far:

Does Caina’s mother Laeria have any family? If so, why don’t they turn up in the books?

Yes. They haven’t turned up in the books yet because they don’t know about Caina and Caina doesn’t know about them. They will be a plot point later on, though.

Caina’s mother was a member of House Scorneus, a noble House powerful in the northeastern Empire. The members of House Scorneus are often powerful magi, and often rise to prominence in both the Magisterium and the magistracies of the eastern Empire, which was why Laeria left them. She wasn’t strong enough to become a full magus, and the Magisterium expelled her before she completed her course of study. That was why Laeria seduced and married Caina’s father, Sebastian Amalas. She thought Sebastian would rise high in the Empire, and could then force the Magisterium to take her back. Sebastian, however, was never interested in politics, and Laeria quickly came to despise him – and the daughter she had with him.

Caina doesn’t know about Laeria’s family, partly because Laeria never talked about them while Caina was a child, partly because Caina detested her mother and never cared enough to find out about her mother’s family, and partly because Caina has never traveled in the northeastern Empire. House Scorneus doesn’t know about Caina, because they didn’t care very much about Laeria, and as far as they know, Sebastian, Laeria, and Caina were all killed by Istarish slavers. (The Empire, of course, has neither Facebook nor Google, so it’s much easier to remain anonymous than in 21st century America.)

But if Caina ever declared herself openly – that she was the Countess Caina Amalas, daughter of the late Count Sebastian Amalas, then House Scorneus would quickly realize who she was. And might find she has some new enemies, or perhaps new friends.

But, you know. Spoilers. 🙂

Why didn’t her father divorce her mother if she was so horrible to them both? And why did he marry her in the first place?

Because Sebastian Amalas was, in the end, a man who only took action if he had no other choice left.

If he wanted to divorce Laeria, he would start by first reading what the ancient authors of the Empire had to say on the topic, or historical accounts of noble divorces in the past. He might write a short treatise on the topic. But in the end, he would prefer to ponder and ruminate and let someone else take the initiative. If Laeria had wanted to divorce him, he would have gone along without protest, but Laeria hated her family even more than she hated Sebastian.

In answer to the other question, that is why he married her in the first place, because Laeria seduced him. When they met, he was a.) young, b.) foolish, and c.) Laeria was very attractive. Later he realized his mistake, but again, he tended not to take the initiative.

The one thing that would make him take the initiative is when he thought Caina was threatened, which is why he intervened to keep her away from Laeria, and why he contacted the Ghosts when Laeria became Maglarion’s student. Unfortunately, Sebastian always tended to take the initiative too late.

Why does Caina stay with Corvalis is she is smarter?

Caina is smarter than Corvalis, but that doesn’t trouble either of them. Caina is smarter, though Corvalis is hardly an idiot, even though he did make some questionable decisions. (To paraphrase Albus Dumbledore, being smart simply means you have the opportunity to make bigger mistakes.) As for Corvalis, his relationship with Caina is a bit like Conan of Cimmeria’s relationship with Belit in Robert E. Howard’s QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST:

Conan agreed. He generally agreed to her plans. Hers was the mind that directed their raids, his the arm that carried out her ideas. It mattered little to him where they sailed or whom they fought, so long as they sailed and fought. He found the life good.

Though Caina is plotting against the enemies of the Emperor rather than planning corsair raids. But the dynamic is basically the same.


Reader Question Day #64 – SOUL OF SWORDS and free books

Cheryl asks, concerning my recent adventures with BookBub:

I love having a Kindle and being able to download free books. I’m curious how anyone can make a living being an author if they are giving away the books for free all the time?

That is a good question with a one-word answer, and that word is:


Giving an ebook away for free, by itself, might be a nice thing to do, but it doesn’t translate to sales down the road. If you give people a free ebook without any sequels, they’ll read it and say “oh, that was nice” and go on about their lives, and eventually forget about the writer and the book.

But if you have a free ebook, and that book has sequels, and people like the free book…there’s an excellent chance they’ll go on to buy the sequels. I have four free ebooks – DEMONSOULED, CHILD OF THE GHOSTS, THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS, and THE TESTING – and they’re all the first books in a series.

A few caveats – it’s best if your free book is a complete story, and not a cliffhanger. People get annoyed by cliffhangers, especially at the end of free books. The ideal is a complete story that nonetheless has allows for the characters to continue to have adventures and emotional growth. Additionally, it’s best that the free ebook not be too short. THE TESTING was both a cliffhanger and only about 1500 Kindle locations long, which really annoyed some people. (If I return to THE THIRD SOUL universe at some point, I’ll bundle up the shorter novellas and release a couple of omnibus editions.)

And that is how you make money with a free ebook.

Numerous people also have questions about SOUL OF SWORDS, the final volume in the DEMONSOULED series.

When is SOUL OF SWORDS coming out?

First week in June, barring unexpected technical difficulties. To be notified immediately when the book is available, sign up for my new release newsletter – if you’re a newsletter subscriber, you’ll get a bonus when SOUL OF SWORDS comes out.

Will SOUL OF SWORDS be available on Nook?

SOUL OF SWORDS will be available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords. It will also be available on iBooks and Sony, but it usually takes a new book a week or two to show up in iBooks and Sony.

Will there be a print version of SOUL OF SWORDS?

Yes! There is a trade paperback version of SOUL OF SWORDS, and it will be available shortly after the ebook is out. I’m afraid it will be a bit expensive, since the paperback came to about 403 pages, which mandates a certain price to cover the printing costs. But there will be a paperback version, if you want one.


Reader Question Day #63 – all about DEMONSOULED, GHOST IN THE ASHES, and computer games

Gordon asks:

Couple of questions about a few characters who you have dropped or killed off and I missed it. What happened to Wesson, Gerald’s squire and Sir Nathan?

I can not wait for the final book. You have me hook line and sinker. Well done and a great read.

Thanks for the kind words about the books! I’m glad you liked them.

Concerning Sir Nathan, he did indeed sort of drop off the map. Officially, he died in his sleep between SOUL OF DRAGONS and SOUL OF SORCERY. Originally, in the outline for SOUL OF SORCERY, I had Adalar Greatheart come back as a point-of-view character to come home and bury his father, then get caught up in the Tervingi invasion and the Great Rising, and fall in love with Molly Cravenlock. However, that didn’t work for several reasons, mostly because upon consideration neither Molly nor Adalar would like each other very much, and it added another POV character to what was already a very complex book. So I decided to consolidate a bit. Originally, the Guardian of the Tervingi was a old man, and his apprentice was a young woman. So I flipped the roles, and made the Guardian into an old woman (Aegidia) and her apprentice into a young man (Riothamus), which then let Riothamus be Molly’s love interest. Unfortunately, in the process I never got around to addressing Sir Nathan.

As for Wesson, he became a knight in Lord Malden’s service, and won some lands in Mastaria for himself. He and Adalar are still friends, and Wesson appears briefly in SOUL OF SWORDS.

I think at some point I might do a short story where Adalar and Wesson come back to the Grim Marches to bury Sir Nathan and put his affairs in order. Of course, there will be complications. It’s fiction, so there are always complications, much like real life.

Several people write to ask:

When is SOUL OF SWORDS coming out?

June. I won’t say when in June, but unless I die or get gravely ill or something equally calamitous happens, the book is coming out in June.

Mark asks:

Were parts of Demonsouled inspired by Baldur’s Gate?

Oh, totally. Though the DEMONSOULED books went in quite a different direction than the BALDUR’S GATE computer game series. Writers occasionally talk about their influences, books they read as a child and so forth, but most of my influences came from the computer games of the 1980s and the early 1990s. The QUEST FOR GLORY series was a huge influence, as was ARTHUR: THE QUEST FOR EXCALIBUR (the very first computer RPG I ever played, using my uncle’s old Mac Classic), and two of the early LEGEND OF ZELDA games, specifically A LINK TO THE PAST and LINK’S AWAKENING, both of which, in my opinion, were classics. MASTER OF MAGIC, a combination of Civilization and Magic: The Gathering was another, and I loved that game – I still play it occasionally, 19 years later.

In fact, it was a computer game that got me into reading fiction. I hated reading fiction as a kid, mostly because the teachers invariably assigned books about plucky children and their heroic canine sidekicks, and I hated dogs, a side effect of having a paper route. I preferred books about astronomy, paleontology, geology, and archaeology, but only about ancient Egypt. Then I played BETRAYAL AT KRONDOR, and found the world so fascinating that I started reading the Midkemia novels, and have been reading fiction regularly ever since.

Stefanie asks:

I finished Ghost in the Forge quite a bit ago, and I was wondering what the next book would be.

I’m going to start writing GHOST IN THE ASHES in June, as soon as SOUL OF SWORDS is done. Here are some details on what Caina will do in GHOST IN THE ASHES:


Reader Question Day #62 – all about GHOST IN THE ASHES

Cora writes:

hi i love the ghosts books and am wondering when ghost in the ashes will come out? also, can you give a hint on what the book will be about?

Probably August or September, with September being more likely. I’ll start writing it as soon as I’m done with SOUL OF SWORDS.

As to what it’s about, I’ll give you two answers – one that doesn’t spoil the previous GHOSTS books, and one that does. Read on at your peril! 🙂


In GHOST IN THE ASHES, Caina meets an escaped, pregnant slave girl desperately fleeing from bounty hunters. Since pregnant slave girls are a gold coin a dozen outside of the Empire, this catches Caina’s attention…and she quickly realizes that something very dangerous is underway.

SPOILER ANSWER (only read this if you’ve read the rest of THE GHOSTS books):

The Empire’s war against New Kyre hasn’t been going well…but it has won some sharp victories against Istarinmul. The Istarish have decided they’ve had enough, and have sent an ambassador to Malarae to negotiate peace with the Emperor.

The ambassador is the emir Tanzir Shahan, the younger brother of Rezir Shahan…who, you might recall, Caina killed in GHOST IN THE STORM. Of course, Istarinmul’s neighbor to the south, Anshan, wants Istarinmul and the Empire to continue fighting, and Caina’s job is to make sure the Anshani don’t assassinate Tanzir and blame it on the Empire.

And in the middle of this tense situation, Caina finds the pregnant slave girl pursued by bounty hunters.

Angela asks:

Hello! I was wonder what Halfdan’s background was and how he became a Ghost. It would be cool if you wrote a short story on it,or have you?

I haven’t written a short story about Halfdan. But that’s a good idea – I usually give away a free short story every time I release a new THE GHOSTS novel (this is why you should sign up for my newsletter – you’ll get free stuff), so that might be the topic of the free short story with GHOST IN THE ASHES.

Of course, knowing Halfdan, he would completely lie about his origins in order to advance some mission for the Ghosts. Given how he and Caina enjoy playing mind games with each other, it’s likely he would do the sort of thing the Joker did in THE DARK KNIGHT, and tell a different origin story every time Caina asks, and let Caina pick apart the flaws as a mental exercise.


Reader Question Day #61 – foreign languages and The Devil’s Agent

Father Z asks, concerning my novella THE DEVIL’S AGENT:

Sadly, it’s already out of print (or whatever the term is for an ebook on Amazon!).

Actually, a while back I renamed it to THE DEVIL’S AGENT, and it’s available here:

Sorry for the confusion!

THE DEVIL’S AGENT is about a frustrated writer who, unable to get published, signs an agreement with Satan’s literary agent. However, the agent promptly rejects the frustrated writer’s manuscript as “unsuitable for the literary needs of Hell”…which causes a chain reaction of unexpected consequences.

I wrote that back in 2002 or 2003, I think. Since then, of course, ebooks and self-publishing came along, so I had to rewrite the novella to reflect that. So now it’s sort of a meta-joke on writers who think they are too good to self-publish. 🙂

Pepe asks:

Hi Jonathan, I’ve just finished the demonsouled series and I’m looking forward for the next one. I am a big fan of fantasy but it is hard to find well written and strong stories like yours. Your style is just worderful to me. Mazael my hero. I got a couple of books waiting but I will get back to you and read your other novels soon.

Have you considered to translate your series into Spanish?

Thanks for the kind words about the books! I’m glad you like them.

I definitely would like non-English translations. That said, a good translator is *expensive* – translating a novel-length work can be anywhere from $5000 to $15000, depending on the translator. So for now, a non-English translation isn’t feasible for me to do, alas.


Reader Question Day #60 – the end of DEMONSOULED and THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS

bitetheasp asks:

Is ‘Worlds to Conquer‘ related to the ‘Tower of Endless Worlds‘ series?

Yes. Well. Sort of.

To sum up a long story, I pretty much spent all of 2003 writing the entirety of what would become THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS series. I wrote it as one book, and by the time the final draft was done, it was about 300,000 words. No publisher on God’s green earth is going to publish a 300,000 word book, so I split it up into four, and started trying to sell the first volume, which I called WORLDS TO CONQUER. Eventually, I did sell the first volume, and it was published in August of 2008.

Unfortunately, it did not sell very well, and I made just enough money to buy a double Whopper with cheese, which was delicious, and that was that. I washed my hands of it and forgot about it.

But! Fast forward to 2011, and I discovered ebooks. I got the rights back to WORLDS TO CONQUER, renamed it THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS, and published the series as ebooks in June of 2012. I made the first book in the series, THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS, free, and then I set the three remaining books – A KNIGHT OF THE SACRED BLADE, A WIZARD OF THE WHITE COUNCIL, and THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS, for $2.99 each.

Since then the three paid books have sold together an average of about 180 copies a month, a fact for which I am very grateful. It’s quite a bit different than DEMONSOULED or THE GHOSTS, and I’ve never written anything else quite like it. So I’m grateful that people have been enjoyed them.

If you’re curious about the series, I frankly recommend that you get the free ebook version of THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS rather than the paper version of WORLDS TO CONQUER. It’s free, for one thing, and I’ve also revised and edited it quite a bit.

Scott asks, concerning the DEMONSOULED series:

This is a great series I hope to be reading them for a long time to come. Any idea how many more are to come???

SOUL OF SWORDS will be the last book in the DEMONSOULED series. I’ve been working on DEMONSOULED on and off since 2001, and I would like to try my hand at a new setting and new characters.

That said, I do plan to return to the world (and some of the characters) of DEMONSOULED in later books. Like the way Terry Brooks keeps returning to Shannara, or Terry Prachett to Discworld (though hopefully without Mr. Prachett’s well-publicized support for euthanasia). So someday we will have new books in the DEMONSOULED world.


Reader Question Day #59 – Ghost in the Ashes, Soul of Swords, and medieval cremation

James asks:

I was simply wondering when Ghost in the Ashes is going to come out.

Before I start GHOST IN THE ASHES, I’m going to write the final DEMONSOULED book, SOUL OF SWORDS. Once that is done, I will start GHOST IN THE ASHES. So unless something goes amiss, I should have GHOST IN THE ASHES out by the end of the summer or the beginning of fall.

When can a person expect Soul of Swords?

June. If all goes well. Barring any unforeseen complications, of course. Life has this habit of throwing out unforeseen complications, but hopefully not too many. 🙂

Manwe asks, concerning the covers of the new THE THIRD SOUL books:

Do you have a favorite of the three? Me personally, why I like the girl, either the knight or the mysterious robed stanger would be my favorite.

My favorites are the covers for THE OUTLAW ADEPT and THE TOMB OF BALIGANT, as seen below:

Without giving away any spoilers, the cover for THE TOMB OF BALIGANT is particularly apropos. I’m not completely satisfied with the one for THE BLACK PALADIN, and might change it at some point.

Manwe also concerning our ongoing CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE:

Will you ever go into who the Urdmordar were (more) in this adventure series, or will we have to wait for the books?

Yes. The urdmordar have a big part to play in the rest of this Choose Your Own Adventure, as poor Ridmark will soon find out.

And I see that you put these in the Frostborn tab….is that the name of the new series then?

Also yes. After I write SOUL OF SWORDS and GHOST IN THE ASHES, I want to write the first FROSTBORN book.

Seraph316 asks, also concerning the Choose Your Own Adventure:

Would medieval Christians (Catholics in particular) actually burn there dead? To this day they are still strong on burial, back in that age even more so. Or am I wrong here?

The thing about cremation is a good point.

That said, this takes place about fifteen hundred years after Malahan Pendragon led his people through the magic portal from Britain. So customs would have changed in that time, especially since in Andomhaim it is possible for a necromancer to raise undead. After the first few zombie attacks, I suspect the taboo against cremation would have gone by the wayside very quickly.

And how many more of these episodes are you planning, and will yo do any other choose your own adventures in this world before you release the new series?

I think I will try to do at least one more Choose Your Own Adventure in this setting before I start writing books in it.