Posts Categorized: The Fire Mages

Now out! ‘The Second God’

September 24, 2016 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages, The Fire Mages' Daughter, The Second God 0

Yes, folks, the story that started in The Fire Mages and continued a generation later in The Fire Mages’ Daughter now reaches its dramatic conclusion, as Drina and the two men in her life, Ly-haam and Arran, are forced to make difficult and dangerous choices to defend their country from new threats.

The Second God is currently just $2.99 for a short time, and The Fire Mages’ Daughter is just $0.99. If you’d like to pick up a copy of The Fire Mages too, hold off until 3rd October, when it will be FREE. All these discounts are available worldwide for the Kindle. If you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime, you can borrow all three books free. You can also buy the books in paperback, and download the ebook free of charge. Click the cover image to be taken to your local Amazon.

Here’s the blurb for The Second God:

Rival gods at war. Mind-bonded giant beasts. A fanatical golden army. Dangerous blood magic.

secondgodcover2500After The Fire Mages and The Fire Mages’ Daughter, the dramatic conclusion to the story…

It’s been five years since the war with the fearsome Blood Clans, whose giant bonded beasts almost destroyed Bennamore. Now the tenuous peace is being put to the test.

Drina’s prisoner-husband and Blood Clan god, Ly-haam, is challenged by the emergence of a second living god.

Drina’s lover, Arran, is vulnerable to flattery from the ambitious fringes of the ruler’s court, but his weakness could endanger many lives.

Meanwhile, on the southern Plains of Kallanash, a new force is arising from the chaos of the Karningplain — a vast golden army, raised in ferocious discipline, and fanatical followers of another kind of god, who is determined to spread his power into an empire, and will let nothing stand in his way.

To combat the threat to Bennamore and its allies, Drina, Arran and Ly-haam must set aside their personal differences and combine their talents in a uniquely dangerous way which will test their heroism to its limits. How much will they have to sacrifice to save their country?


Starting all over again: new book, new genre, new pen-name

July 6, 2016 Publishing/marketing, Regency romances, The Dragon's Egg, The Fire Mages, The Plains of Kallanash 0

When I first became a self-published author, I was right at the very bottom of the pecking order, in author terms. I had no previous published history with a major or independent publisher. I’d never had a short story published in a magazine. I had no fanbase, no mailing list, and my blog had maybe three people following along. I’d hung around the forum at Kboards (the Writers’ Cafe), for a while, so I knew a little bit about starting out. I knew enough to get a professional quality cover, for instance, although not enough to know what sort of cover was needed (luckily, my cover designer did, and came up with a great set of well-branded and striking covers). I knew to have other eyes look at my work before tossing it up on Amazon. I paid a proofreader to tidy up my wayward punctuation.

The-Plains-of-Kallanash-160But there was so much more that I didn’t know — about promotion and launch strategies and hitting the tropes of your genre right on the nose. The result was that my first book, The Plains of Kallanash, pretty much fell flat on its face. A few kind online friends from my critique group and forums bought copies, and after that — crickets. I sold 50+ the first month. The second month? 4 copies. The third month, 4 again. But by the fourth month, I’d discovered promotion, and I sold 68 books. In the fifth month I released The Fire Mages with a ten day promotion campaign and sold 428 books. Borrows were beginning to show up, too, through Amazon’s subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. After that, each new book increased the overall level of sales. DragonsEgg160My sixth book, The Dragon’s Egg, was published at the beginning of May and that month saw combined sales and (estimated) borrows of around 1,000 copies overall. These are far from being order-the-yacht numbers, but the books have earned more than they’ve cost, and continue to earn month after month.

New girl at school

So then, on 28th June, I released a new book. Not just a new title, but new genre, new pen name, new everything. It feels a little like starting at a new school, where everything is different, I don’t know my way around and nobody knows me. I have no fanbase, no mailing list and a brand new website that no one ever visits. No one is out there saying, “Oh look, a new Mary Kingswood book.”

But I do have one huge advantage — the experience gained from publishing the fantasies. I know a lot more about covers and branding and genre expectations, and I had more input on the design this time. I’m more comfortable with my own editing skills, so I’ve skipped the  proofreader (although I’m really nervous about this!). I know that having other eyes look at the book before release is essential, though, so I haven’t skipped this stage. I know that, without a mailing list or fanbase, I need heavy promotion to make the book visible.

Keeping costs down

One aspect that was important to me this time was keeping expenses under control. With the fantasies, I was quite happy to pay whatever it took to ensure that the book was presented to the world as professionally as possible. I hired a top-quality cover designer. For some of the books, I paid for professional beta readers. I bought my own ISBNs and published paperbacks — which turned out to be a huge financial drain, given the number of copies I gave away to friends and family, copies sent to six national libraries (a UK legal requirement) and the shipping costs from the US. The biggest expense was my proofreader, since my fantasies are stupidly long, although she was worth every single penny.

But it took me almost eighteen months to earn enough to cover all those costs and, frankly, I got very twitchy about it. I know a lot more now about writing, editing and publishing, I know what I can and can’t do for myself, so I made the decision to keep the costs for the new series as low as possible. I still needed good covers (I am artistically incompetent, so doing them myself wasn’t an option), but I opted for a less famous cover designer, who did a great job at half the price. I crossed my fingers and did my own proofreading. And there will be no paperbacks for these books, at least until they’ve earned enough to cover the cost.

Release strategy

I don’t need this book to do spectacularly. It’s the first in a series, and I don’t expect to sell many until books 2 and 3 are out. So the launch was deliberately planned to be low-key, full-price, with only a couple of days of modest promotion just after launch to get things off the ground. Then a bigger push for book 2, and all out for book 3. So I put the first three books up on pre-order at $2.99 for release in July, August and September.

At that point, I discovered that romance fans don’t really do pre-order. Oops. The first book dropped to a rank of 650K, and the second was beyond a million! The third book didn’t get a single pre-order, so it had no rank at all. But one of the advantages of self-publishing is flexibility – I brought the release of book 1 forward, to 28th June.

What happened?

It had 11 pre-orders, and after five days had a dozen more sales and 5,000 pages read (equivalent to more than 16 full read-throughs). The rank bobbed around between 15K and 25K, it had just one review, and a good array of also vieweds from the start, but no also boughts. That’s not bad, but it’s not enough to bring in more reviews, mailing list signups or pre-orders for the later books, and the rank was already dropping. The planned promotion was still three weeks away, and the pre-order for book 2 was now six weeks away. I don’t need the book to trouble the bestseller lists, but I do need to keep it from disappearing into oblivion.

So I made the decision to reduce the price to 99c for a few days. Sales increased six-fold and pages read more or less doubled. The increased sales triggered the all-important also-boughts. I’ve already made the decision to keep the 99c price for a few more days.

So what have I learnt?

1) Don’t bother with pre-orders unless you already have a fanbase waiting. Especially, don’t bother with long pre-orders. What I should have done is a short pre-order on book 1, with book 2 set to drop a month later. Book 3 would only go on pre-order when book 2 goes live. I do think the multiple pre-orders help to encourage sales – at least readers know that the rest of the series is on the way.

2) 99c is a powerful incentive. I know a lot of people swear by a 99c launch, and for a big splash that’s a great idea. I wasn’t aiming for that, so I’m happy with the full-price launch, using 99c and free as short-term promotion-only prices.

3) Having no fanbase, and therefore no ARC readers, has really hurt reviews. So far, a week in, I have one review on and one on I’d got used to a mini-flurry of reviews just after release, so the suspense is killing me!

4) Romance is different. Borrows on the fantasy books run at about 2-to-1 over sales (as best I can tell), but for the romance, borrows are more like 3-to-1. And when the price drops, both sales and borrows go UP (unlike the fantasies, where a lower price increases sales but reduces borrows).

All of this has been a salutary lesson – branching out into a new genre means starting again from the bottom. I shall experiment with 99c and free promotions, and I’ll probably bring forward the release dates of books 2 and 3 to avoid a lengthy spell in the telephone number rankings, but I can’t cancel the pre-orders now without a penalty from Amazon. And next time, maybe I’ll get it right!


It’s awards nomination time!

January 2, 2016 General, Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 8

It’s the time of year when blogs and forums all over the internet compile their best-of lists, and some of the bigger ones have proper awards, with nominations and voting and so on. This wouldn’t normally affect me much. I usually haven’t read most of the books nominated, haven’t even heard of a lot of them, so I vote for the one or two I’ve read and off I go.

But sometimes an amazing thing happens – you scan the list of nominations, and find YOUR OWN BOOK! Yes, folks, The Fire Mages has received a nomination in Reddit’s r/Fantasy Stabby Awards, in the self-published and independent category. Which leaves me almost speechless with joy, even though I have zero chance of winning (there are some fantastic books in that category). So thank you, thank you, thank you, whoever nominated the book – you made a small-time author very happy.

Here’s what a Stabby looks like:



A new review of ‘The Fire Mages’

July 30, 2015 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 3

I don’t often post about the reviews my books receive. Reviews are really for readers, a way for someone who’s read a book to summarise what they liked and disliked about it, so that potential readers can judge whether a book is their cup of tea or not. So even a negative review can be helpful. Some reviews of my books say that they’re long or have slow patches or that the main character is hard to like. I wouldn’t argue with any of that. And it means that anyone looking for a fast, action-packed story with a likeable main character will know to move along. A review complaining about explicit sex or swearing will warn off readers who would find that disturbing. A review praising the gender equality in my worlds will alert readers to the possibility of something a little outside the norm.

So all reviews are useful. But occasionally a reviewer gets under the skin of one of my books in a way that is truly heart-warming. It means the reviewer really got what I was trying to say. For me, as a beginner at this writing business, this is just a wonderful moment.

Rachel Cotterill of Strange Charms, a blog which showcases female authors of speculative fiction, had this to say about my ‘unlikeable’ main character:

“Kyra herself is a great heroine. She sets out with a grim determination to train as a scribe, taking extra jobs to make ends meet. […] Almost every choice Kyra makes is goal-oriented, and in her head at least, she’s coolly logical in her decisions (though she’s a somewhat unreliable narrator when it comes to her own emotions).”

This is a perfect summary of her, and a real thrill for me to read. You can read the full review (and many other excellent reviews) here.




Writing update

June 6, 2015 Current writings, The Fire Mages, The Fire Mages' Daughter, The Mages of Bennamore, The Magic Mines of Asharim, The Plains of Kallanash 0

There seems to have been a lot going on lately, what with the launch of The Mages of Bennamore, various other promotions, and the ongoing projects of the next book, and the one after that. So here’s a quick rundown on the state of play.

Weekend promotions

This weekend (6th and 7th June) two of my three books are specially priced. The Plains of Kallanash is at $0.99 (US/UK Amazons only, sadly) and The Fire Mages is free in all Amazons worldwide. This is a great opportunity to complete your collection if you haven’t already got all three books. Click the links to take you to your local Amazon to buy.

The Mages of Bennamore

Release date was 15th May, with 34 pre-orders and a nice little surge of sales to get things underway. Then I had a week of promotion set up – paid advertising every day, with the price staying at $0.99 for the duration. This resulted in a grand total of 274 sales, and set the book up quite well for the rise back to its usual price of $3.99. There are still only 3 reviews on Amazon, and I would love some more, so if you’ve read it but haven’t yet reviewed it, a few lines would be very much appreciated.

The Fire Mages

This is my best seller by far, but it was a bit short on reviews, so I decided to use my free days (the bonus for being exclusive to Amazon) to try to gain a few more readers. The book was free on 24th May, with no paid promotion. I did some blogging and tweeting, mentioned it to the avid fantasy fans on Reddit and then had a piece of luck – the book was picked up for a free advert by Pixel of Ink, with the result that more than 4,000 copies were downloaded in the 24 hour free period! It also brought in several more reviews. As mentioned above, it’s free again this weekend (6-7 June) and will be free on 27-28 June as well, but I haven’t booked much advertising, so I don’t expect to give away more than a few hundred copies this time.

The Plains of Kallanash

Poor old Kallanash has always lagged behind its younger sisters in the sales department, but the release of The Mages of Bennamore put a bit of life into it, and this week I’ve been offering it for $0.99 in an Amazon countdown promotion (again, a benefit of being exclusive to Amazon). This has produced over 100 additional sales, with a couple of days still to go. Hopefully, a few new reviews will filter through, in time. It’s always lovely to have genuine reader feedback, so reviews are always welcome, whether the reader enjoyed the book or not.

The Magic Mines of Asharim

Ah, the next book in the Brightmoon world! This is scheduled for release sometime in the autumn. It’s finished but not yet edited, but before I set off for France last weekend, I popped it onto my Kindle so that I could read it through. It holds up quite well, I’m pleased to say, although naturally it needs a bit of tidying up before it goes off to beta readers. I’ll be starting the editing process very soon – not something I enjoy much (writing the first draft is always more fun), but very necessary to put a bit of polish onto the book.

The Fire Mages’ Daughter

The current work in progress takes a generational leap from the end of The Fire Mages, returning to Bennamore for another clash with the neighbours, this time the mysterious Blood Clans to the west. The clans have discovered a boy god in their midst, but will it lead to war with Bennamore? There will be some familiar characters returning to the story, but the main character is Axandrina, a potential ruler who only wants to return home to her family. I’ve written 60,000 words so far (perhaps half of it), so a way to go yet, but I’m enjoying the way the story is taking shape.

And after that…?

Who knows! But there’s plenty more of the Brightmoon world to discover yet. If you want to hear about all the new releases, don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list (click the Sign up! button up above).


‘The Fire Mages’ FREE today only!

May 24, 2015 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 0

Yes, you can get The Fire Mages completely free, from all Amazons worldwide. This offer is only for today, Sunday 24th June.

Click here to buy from your local Amazon.

You can still get The Mages of Bennamore for just $0.99 (or equivalent) but only for a couple more days. After that, it will be at its normal price of $3.99 (or equivalent).

Readers in the US and UK will also be able to pick up The Plains of Kallanash for just $0.99 or £0.99 from 1st – 7th June.

So many special offers! And if you already have the books – thank you, but please tell your friends about these deals.


‘The Fire Mages’ launch: promotion results

February 10, 2015 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 3

My first epic fantasy book, ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, was published in September with no promotion, apart from me wittering excitedly on social media. It performed exactly as you might suspect (around 60 sales in the first month before flatlining, and only 3 reviews). I always intended to delay heavy promotion until I had at least three books out, but the new book, ‘The Fire Mages’, is a much more marketable candidate (coming of age, young girl finding her powers, loads of magic), so I wanted to give it a bit of a head-start without pushing the boat out financially.

The plan was to keep it at $0.99 for the first two weeks after release, combining that with some promotion every day. The first week would be smaller sites, with the big hitters in the second week. The objective was to generate steady sales which would give the book some staying power once the price reverted to $3.99.

Did it work? Hell, yes. Sales and borrows combined exceeded 600, so ten times the results for the first release. There was some sell-through for Kallanash, and even now, two weeks after the promotions ended, sales and borrows are still buoyant.

The details:

I booked a two-week blog tour with Enchanted Book Tours. I had a Goodreads giveaway which ended a couple of days after release. I also booked slots with 13 promo sites who sent out emails or listed the book on their websites:

BKnights ($21), SciFiFantasyFreak (free), AwesomeGang ($10), EbookLister (free), Flurries of Words ($8), Sweet Free Books ($5), Ebooksoda ($10),BargainEbookHunter ($15); PixelScroll ($15); Booktastik ($5), GenrePulse ($30), BargainBooksy ($40), ENT ($15)

Total promotion expenditure: $261 ($87 for blog tour, $174 for ads).

Sales numbers during promotion:

‘The Fire Mages’ sales: 252; borrows: 48

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ sales: 4; borrows: 4

Best promo sites for this book were: ENT, BargainBooksy, GenrePulse, Bknights, but all of them produced some sales and borrows (borrows were higher than I expected).

Best ranking (briefly): around 2,000 in the US Amazon Kindle store, and appearances in 3 different bestseller lists.

Total sales numbers for the one month since release:

‘The Fire Mages’ sales: 467; borrows: 175

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ sales: 25; borrows: 17

There are now 11 reviews on, 3 on and 6 on Goodreads.

Average sales + borrows over the first month:

Pre-promo (3 days): 23 per day (including 18 pre-orders)

Promo week 1 – free and cheap sites: 13 per day

Promo week 2 – big hitters: 30 per day

Post-promo week 1: 23 per day

Post-promo week 2: 16 per day


During the promotion, ‘The Fire Mages’ was only getting a royalty of $0.35 per sale, but even so, sales and borrows during the promotion covered about two thirds of the cost. The first few days at full royalty ($2.79 per sale) took care of the rest. The books still aren’t in overall profit, but since I paid a lot for cover design, proofreading and so on, I didn’t expect that. Almost three weeks after the last promotion day, I’m still selling and lending a few books a day (10+), ranking is hovering around 15,000 in the US Kindle store, and I am one happy bunny.

Footnote: for anyone who wants the blow-by-blow daily numbers, hop over to the Kboards Writers’ Cafe to the long thread on this (all the numbers are in the first post of the thread).


Magic in the Brightmoon world

January 30, 2015 Brightmoon world, The Fire Mages, The Plains of Kallanash 3

With ‘The Fire Mages’ now out, I thought it might be interesting to look at the way magic is used in the book, and compare it with magic in ‘The Plains of Kallanash’. WARNING: slight spoiler for ‘The Fire Mages’ at the end.

‘The Fire Mages’ is set in the realm of Bennamore. Magic is invoked by the use of spellpages: a trained scribe writes out the words of a spell using magically imbued paper, pen and ink. A special script is used, with many flourishes and symbolic additions to each letter, which can subtly modify the spell, for instance to change the strength, to add constraints or expand it. The spellpage is then burnt in a crucible, with an invocation to the gods: “By the sun, bring light and fire and colour; by the moon, enable the darkness.” The Bennamorians believe that the gods are the final arbiters of whether a spell will work as intended or not.

The scribes who write the spells have no special magical talent themselves. Anyone can be trained to write spellpages, if they have a steady hand and can write accurately. Training takes place at a scribery, and there are five years of study, leading to five levels of scribe:

  • common scribe (reading and writing for the common people, not allowed to scribe spellpages)
  • transaction scribe (working for shopkeepers, inn managers and the like recording their transactions, simple spellpages)
  • contract scribe (working for businesses recording larger deals, more complicated spellpages)
  • personal scribe (working for and advising nobles)
  • law scribe (advising on the law of the whole country)


In theory, anyone can become a scribe to any level. There is no barrier to entry, apart from a simple test of reading and writing ability. However, the tuition has to be paid for, and each year costs twice as much as the year before. This means that the fifth year costs sixteen times as much as the first year.

There is one stage beyond that of law scribe – mage! What’s the difference between a scribe, performing magic by writing spellpages, and a mage? A mage performs exactly the same spells, but without needing to scribe them on magically enhanced paper. He or she (yes, it could be either) uses a vessel filled with magical power to enable their magic, so they just need to speak the words of the spell. The most adept can simply think the words.

They can also use the vessel in other ways, for instance, to touch a sick or injured person, and see where healing is needed, instead of guessing from symptoms. They can imbue paper, ink and quills with magic for scribes to use. They can create shortcuts for spells, for instance, a single word which enables a whole spell, but these have to be prepared in advance. There used to be more powerful mages who could create new spells, but there have been none for a long time, and the power of spellpages generally is waning; many spells which used to be effective are now less reliable.

In Bennamore, this is the only kind of magic that is recognised, and any other form of magic is illegal.

In ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, set in a different part of the same world, there are no spellpages. In fact, over most of the plains, there is no magic at all. The Catastrophe which reshaped the world so devastated that area, that magic of any sort is suppressed. Only at the Ring, surrounding the Tower of Reception, is there any magical ability, but very few people are aware of it. Most don’t even believe in magic.

But there is magic, and it’s innate – everyone has a kind of magic, a ‘connection’ to something which gives them a special affinity with that something. For most people this works at such a low level that they’re not even aware of it. They might just think they happen to be rather good at growing apples or raising pigs or working wood. Some people are aware of their connection, but it isn’t strong enough for them to do anything with it. But a few people have a very strong connection, powerful enough for them to use it. If you have read ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, you will know who has a strong connection, and how they use it!

But anyone who’s read ‘The Fire Mages’ as well may be saying, “Wait a minute, this is the same world, but it has two different kinds of magic in it. How does that work?”

That’s a good question. The answer, as so often in the Brightmoon world, lies in the Catastrophe. When the powerful pre-Catastrophe mages started playing about with forces they couldn’t ultimately control, and realised that the only way to save the world was to destroy magic, naturally they immediately started looking for ways to allow magic to continue anyway. ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ shows the results of one attempt to do that. ‘The Fire Mages’ shows another.

The system of spellpages was created by mages before the Catastrophe. They ‘seeded’ the whole region where Bennamore now stands with a kind of magical power which could be easily transferred to objects – the vessels used by modern mages, and the paper, ink and quills used to create the spellpages. They invented the spells themselves, and the form of writing used to invoke them. And they made the whole system self-perpetuating, so that it doesn’t need anyone with native magical ability. Bennamorian scribes need have no innate talent for magic (although mages generally have some latent capability).

But what about Kyra? Here’s someone who clearly does have a strong innate magical ability, so how does that work?

Another good question, and here comes the slight spoiler. Even in Bennamore, everyone has a connection. That kind of magic is just a part of the human condition in the Brightmoon world, everyone has it, to a greater or lesser degree. But the only forms of magic allowed in Bennamore are the spellpages and the vessel-empowered mages. Any other kind is illegal, and the penalties severe, so those with connections keep very quiet about them.

But not all connections are to mushrooms or root vegetables or sparrows. Kyra’s connection is to magic itself. And that makes her very, very special. It’s a situation that can only arise when a child is born close to magic – in Bennamore, or near one of the many magical places pre-dating the Catastrophe – and even then, it happens very rarely. But when it does, it gives the recipient enormous power, which can be used for great good or great evil. And therein lies the story behind ‘The Fire Mages’.


‘The Fire Mages’ still at a special low price

January 17, 2015 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 2

Just a reminder that ‘The Fire Mages’ is still available at the new-release price of $0.99. To buy, click the link in the box at the right, which takes you to your local Amazon. You have a few more days to buy before it goes to the normal price of $3.99. If you’ve already bought it – thank you! Please tell your friends about it, too. And if you’ve read it, an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads or your blog would be very much appreciated, to help other readers decide if they would enjoy it.

The book has had a few reviews already. Here’s a snippet from the first to hit

“The main characters were more authentic than I think you usually get in fantasy stories, but just like Robin Hobb, Ross is a master at crafting authentic characters. This story had everything I look for in a fantasy novel with action that kept the pages turning and a main character that I was rooting for from page one.”

You can read the rest at Amazon.


‘The Fire Mages’: now available!

January 10, 2015 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 0

My new epic fantasy ‘The Fire Mages’ is now available to buy at all Amazons!  The first review at starts: “I could not put this book down. The pacing was perfect and kept me engaged from beginning to end.”

For the next two weeks it will be priced at just $0.99 (regular price $3.99), so this is a good time to pick up a copy. The paperback is also available, at a regular price of $11.99, but Amazon is offering it at $10.79 at the moment, and if you buy the paperback you get the ebook for free. If you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Prime, you can also borrow the book for free.

‘The Fire Mages’ is an epic fantasy coming of age adventure with (naturally!) a bit of a romance. It’s 150,000 words, or 386 pages. Here’s the blurb:

Kyra has always been drawn to the magic of spellpages. She is determined to leave her small village far behind and become a scribe, wielding the power of magic through her pen. Halfway through her training, she has a mage as patron and her ambitions are within her grasp. But a simple favour for her sister goes disastrously awry, destroying Kyra’s dreams in an instant.

Devastated, she accepts an offer from a stranger to help her find out what went wrong. The young man sees growing power within Kyra, potentially stronger than spellpages or any living mage. The answers to unlocking that power may lie within the glowing walls of the Imperial City, but its magic is strong and the unwary vanish without trace on its streets. Thirsty for knowledge and desperate to avoid another accident, she feels compelled to risk it.

While she focuses on controlling her abilities, a storm of greed and ambition boils up around her. Kyra is a pawn in the struggle for dominance between unscrupulous factions vying for rule of her country. Trusting the wrong side could get her killed–or worse, the potent magic she barely understands could be put to unthinkable evil.