Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why I blog

Why do I blog?

A number of people haven't asked me this question  Actually, no one has.  But I've decided to answer the question as though they had.

The answer is . . . . actually, I'm not going to tell you until the end of this post.  That way, you have to read everything until you get to the bottom . . . or you could just scroll down and get the answer . . . Never mind.  I'll just tell you now and you can read from that point on or not.  Up to you.

I do it because the emo bunnies make me blog like a puppetmaster makes his puppets dance.

That's right.  The emo bunnies are in control.  You are surprised, I know.

Evolution of a blog.

I started this blog because I was told that it was an important tool to market books.  Actually, I was told that I should start my own website for my books.  That sounded like a lot more work.  I really should start my own website still.  However, I've done more research since that time and discovered it really is a lot of work.  My time is limited and I'd rather spend it writing books, so I settled for a blog.

I named it "The World of Ryallon" because that's where my fantasy novels take place.

Speaking of marketing, feel free to try out my books, if you haven't already. :)  The emo bunnies recommend my Stories for Demented Children.

              


The blog has developed over time though.  I don't use it to market near as much as I should.  Instead, I use it to talk about stuff on the rare occasion that I actually feel like talking about anything.  A lot of my posts are random musings about life and things I think about.  Most of them are probably a good indication that I lack sanity.

I also write tutorials for other writers.  These include details on how to write, edit, market and various other details involved in self-publishing.  Much of these tutorials are part of my journey and sharing the things I've learned along the way.  Hopefully the advice is helpful to those who follow.

I still use it as a marketing tool.  Most of the posts are updates as to what I'm writing and how things are going overall.  I post sneak peak chapters every now and then, which my fans really like.

How the blog is doing.

It's actually doing pretty well.  I don't post often enough, but it gets a lot of views.  The details of my books interest my fans.  I occasionally get new readers who discover my work after reading my posts.  And the emo bunnies are . . . well, they're still miserable, but that's just how they roll.

My first post was may 13th, 2011.  Since then, I've published 124 posts and had over 200,000 views.  My most popular post is "How to make a clickable table of contents in Microsoft Word" with over 100,000 views.  Yeah, that's right.  Over half of my views have been for a tutorial on Word.

In Conclusion

I've been doing this for 4 years now and intend to continue for as long as I'm writing.  I'm sure things will evolve more over time.  We shall see where the journey takes us.

All my best,

John H. Carroll
and the emo bunnies.





Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Where to self publish your book

Publishing is fun and easy

Easy compared to spending years trying to get agents and publishers to realize how brilliant you are.
This is a list of where I publish my ebooks.  Other authors will do it differently, but hopefully this will give you insight in to what an author goes through in this new publishing world.

Before you publish a book, it's helpful to write it . . .  After that, I recommend editing it, then editing it again, having others edit it, setting it aside for a couple of months, then edit again a couple more times.  There's a good chance you'll still miss a thing or two, but the important part is that you polish it and publish a high quality product.  If at all possible, get a professional editor.

You'll also want a cover.  If you can afford a professional or semi-professional one, that's good.  Otherwise you can make your own with Photoshop, GIMP or some other editing software.  The better your cover, the more likely it will be noticed among the countless others.  The better the quality of your book, the more likely people will be to buy the next.

At the end of all my stories, I add authors notes with a brief description of me.  In it, I also add links to my blog, twitter, facebook and goodreads pages.  Then I add short descriptions to my other stories.  I have different copies of the author's notes for each store with links to that store.  In other words, I don't add Smashwords links to Amazon publications or Amazon links to Barnes & Noble publications.

Formatting

I write using Microsoft Word, which makes the formatting easy for me.  In addition, I write fantasy and don't have a lot of pictures, other things that make it easier.  I have a detailed formatting guide here if you need it http://ryallon.blogspot.com/2012/11/publishing-checklist-for-my-book-files.html


Publishing

Before I continue, I want to alert you to a company you should avoid.  Author Solutions and its many tentacles is a company that preys upon hopeful writers.  You can learn more about them here https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/the-case-against-author-solutions-part-1-the-numbers/

There are the places I publish my ebooks.  Others exist and you can look them up.

1. Smashwords.  I recommend using the Smashwords Style Guide to format your word document.  In fact, it's vital if you want to publish through them.  I distribute to Apple, B&N, Kobo, Scribd, and numerous other small bookstores through Smashwords.  Due to time constraints, Smashwords and Amazon are the only two I publish to at the moment.


2.  Amazon.  I make a copy of the Word Document that I used for Smashwords.  Then I add page breaks after the title page, copyright page and chapters.  After that, I save it as a filtered web document and then convert it using mobipocket.  Here is a more specific guide:  https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A17W8UM0MMSQX6

3. Kobo now has self-publishing platform though I use Smashwords. With Kobo, you transform your word document into html by saving it as a filtered web document. Then you use a program such as Calibre to transform it into an epub. You can find more info here: http://download.kobobooks.com/writinglife/en-US/KWL-User-Guide.pdf

4.  B&N has a Smashwords version of my novels, but you can publish directly with them if you like. Warning!!! B&N now partners with Authors solutions.  If you do publish with B&N, do not pay for any of their services.  It's just not a good value. With B&N, you just use the word document used for the others with the exception of specific author's notes and any publishing info.  You can find more info here:  https://www.nookpress.com/ebooks#

5. XinXii is a European competitor to Smashwords.  I haven't used their services, but from my reseach, I personally prefer Smashwords, http://www.xinxii.com/default.php/en


Print books

5.  Createspace is my favorite for print on Demand Books.  I only publish my novels in print, not my short stories.  Createspace is owned by Amazon and has been a dream to work with.  I make all of my covers to fit their guidelines, with a spine and a back cover.  https://www.createspace.com/

5a.  Createspace's biggest competitor is Lightning Source, and many of my peers use their service.  http://www1.lightningsource.com/

5b.  Lulu is the third company that does print on demand books.  I'm not certain how good their service is.  https://www.lulu.com/s1/paperback_b/r/site


Other

6.  Another lesser known place to publish is Scribd. http://www.scribd.com/  You can sell books in PDF form.  I distribute there through Smashwords.  The site has made vast improvements in recent years.  The biggest issue most writers have is its reputation of being a source for pirates to get material, though I don't know how accurate this currently is.

7.  There is also a site called Wattpad. http://www.wattpad.com/  They don't have a way for you to sale books as far as I know, but this is an excellent place to publish free books.  It's also a good way to get input on your writing, especially if you're willing to join groups and return the favor with other writers.  They only accept uploads in .txt, so you'll lose most of your formatting.  Links and tables of contents won't work. 

8. There is also a site called Obooko where you can put free books as well.  In it, you give the readers the right to print out pdf documents for personal use.  You can also supply .mobi (Kindle) and epub (everything else) for people to read on ereaders.

Note:  All of these sites enable you to retain your worldwide copyrights.  You are only giving them the right to distribute or sell for you.  None of them prevent you from distributing elsewhere.

Other opportunities

There are other sites out there where it's possible to publish ebooks.  Look very carefully at there terms and make certain that they don't have any sort of restrictions preventing you from publishing elsewhere, or exclusivity clauses.  Publishing your books is an endeavor where you truly want to read the fine print on everything.  I recommend hiring a contract lawyer if you're not confident about what you're agreeing to.

I don't publish to Google Documents because they have been known to reduce the price on all books, which means Amazon and the rest are going to price match.  This can really mess with your royalties.

Whatever your decisions, don't expect to hit it big right away.  Being a self-published author is a LOT of hard work.  Not only do you need to write quality books, you have to market them.  You can find some marketing tips here on my blog, but those are only a start.

All my best and good luck. :)

John H. Carroll


Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: The Akashic Throne, The Aielund Saga Book 6

The Aielund Saga

The Aielund Saga is a series of books written by author and artist Stephen Nowland.  I first learned of him through a computer game called Neverwinter Nights.  It has a toolset that allows us to tell our stories through game modules using their game engine.  The Aielund Saga is a high-rated, award winning series of modules made by Stephen.  He's turned them into books that are even better.

You can find the module that includes the story for both of these books here: NWN Module

My reviews of the first two books are here: Book Review: Books 1 & 2 of the Aielund Saga
The review of the second two here: Book Review: Books 3 & 4 of the Aielund Saga
And the review of the 5th book is here: Book Review: Upon the Fulcrum of War, The Aielund Saga Book 5

One of my favorite things about these books is that the author paints his covers.  Beautiful artistry. :)

Book 6, The Akashic Throne




Description:
Throughout history, kingdoms have fallen and entire cities have been destroyed under mysterious circumstances, all traces of their existence burned away. Good men are turned into villains, starting wars for seemingly unthinkable reasons. What if you learned these events were not random, and were in fact perpetrated by very real, very tangible tyrants living just beyond the sight of mortals? What if you had a singular opportunity to strike back at these monsters, even if it might cost you your life. Would you take it?

This is the question posed to Aiden Wainwright, former lord of Aielund. Through his actions and those of his companions, he has brought about an uneasy peace in the region, but at a price none of them anticipated. Yet beyond the petty power plays of kings and men lie the puppet masters, watching and manipulating events from behind the scenes, pitting kingdoms against one another for malevolent reasons known only to them. Aiden, wearied from conflict and seeking a more peaceful life, must chose whether to walk away from the only chance at bringing justice to these monsters, or to take up arms for one final battle against an enemy beyond anything he has ever before experienced.

You can get it at Amazon
Smashwords
B&N

Review

This is the final book in the Aielund Saga, one of my favorite fantasy series of all time.  I don't get a lot of time to read much anymore because I spend most of my free time writing, but I still love reading books.  Actually, it's working to support my needy family and sleeping that really interfere.

Epic.  That is the best word to describe the book and the series.  Our heroic adventurers have already saved the world, but in the way of worlds, it refuses to stay saved.  Worlds are very inconsiderate that way.

Aiden, the main character in all the books has become a bit scaly and draconic in appearance in nature.  He's no longer a pawn of kings.  He's now graduated to become a pawn of a wizard.  This is important because he wants to get married at some point and needs practice to be a pawn to his wife. ;)  He's matured a great deal throughout his journeys though and is not quite so foolish as he has been in the past.  There is a constant internal struggle within him that parallels the external struggle the group faces.

Throughout the saga, women have played an equal importance in the story.  This has matured into women who just as confident and empowered as the men, and in some instances, they have their stuff together more than the men do.  Criosa is more than just your typical pretty princess.  She is clever and takes her position as a leader seriously.  Nellise has exuded confidence and leadership throughout the saga, and if not for Aiden, I think she would have been the leader of the band of misfits.  Syana is my favorite in this story.  The strides she makes in understanding herself and those around her is one of the most extraordinary journeys I've read.

Terinus the wizard is an excellent addition to the story.  He is complex and fascinating.  It's difficult to tell what his true nature is going to be though.  Terinus becomes the driving force of this book.

As always, the battles are intense.  It's always a question as to who, if anyone will survive each encounter.  The group gets cool new toys to play with, one of the fun aspects of fantasy.  There are new people for the characters to interact with along the way and new dynamics for the characters' personalities.

Mr. Nowland does an excellent job of wrapping up most the details in this book.  There are a couple of characters that just disappeared, but I have reason to believe they may show up in future series.  We shall see!  The ending is very intense.  Non-stop action for the last few chapters.  I won't tell you what happens, but I will let you know that it's not entirely fair.  In my current mood, that fits perfectly because life hasn't been too fair to me lately.  With my attitude right now, if I had had control of the ending I probably would have taken out the world.  Mr. Nowland's ending is good and right. :)

As with all of Mr. Nowland's books, the dialogue has humor scattered throughout, the battle scenes are vivid and intense.  If you enjoy rousing, epic adventures, this is an excellent series for you.

About the Author

I am often astonished by the sheer amount of ideas that go through my head. I have tasked myself to grab hold of as many as I can, weave them into stories, shaping them to my will, and like, writing them down, because people can't read thoughts.

I spent over fifteen years dealing with poor health, including chronic fatigue syndrome (a symptom of other stuff, but annoying nonetheless) which gave me ample time for thinking, but slowed me down in the way of actually writing.

My first novel was actually done back in aught three, but I didn't care for that sort of thing at the time, so I scrapped it and started writing a new story for Neverwinter Nights, that RPG video game thing you may or may not have heard of.

The story was so successful (filled with rich, creamy character development) that I lamented that only people playing the game would ever see it. In 2009, with my health improving, I resolved to novelize the stories I'd written, in addition to developing the world in which they exist, for fun and profit.

Thus was my first novel conceived, and lo, it was published online, for the enjoyment of all! The saga will be five books in total, with another 4-5 books after that as a second saga that's in the pipeline.

Oh, I also paint. Expect to see more cover art with each title, probably becoming more technically sophisticated each time.


Disclaimer

I have decided to review books that I enjoy. I am an avid reader of fantasy, so most of them will be in that genre. I'm not taking any requests, just reading what catches my eyes. You'll find that most of these are from Indie Authors. The way I figure it, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster and Piers Anthony (my favorite authors) already have enough reviews, but Indies could always use a few more.

It is important to note here that while I am a writer, I am doing these reviews as a reader. I also know a number of the authors I will be reviewing. This is not an exchange of reviews, nor have I been solicited by those authors to write the review.  If I don't like a book, I won't review it.

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Rangers of Ryallon

In which Pelya and Tina have a discussion with a ranger and trapper

This is an excerpt from chapter 16 of "Liquid", Book 2 of the Wyvern Trilogy.  In it, the characters discuss the Rangers of Ryallon and the gods that guide them.  It is a world-building conversation relevant to the story.



Note:  This is a 1st draft version that has not received editing yet.

Excerpt

“Don’t the rangers follow Wutare, the God of Nature?”  Tina asked.

“No.  The rangers follow Enowl, the Goddess of Exploration who is the twin sister of her brother Kexlor, the God of Knowledge.  We explore the world, constantly striving to learn and discover.”

“I wasn’t aware of that.”  Pelya sipped her wine and allowed herself to relax some for the first time in days.  Their mission was urgent, but she needed to take a breath and mentally regroup.  “To be honest, I’ve never met a ranger or had dealings with your guild.  Could you tell me more about it if you have time?”

“Of course.”  Ledwid brightened at the question.  “The Rangers Guild has been around for millennia.  Enowl, the honey haired goddess, loved roaming the world of Ryallon.  She rode a stallion of the whitest white that could leap oceans to travel to any continent.”

Tina raised a suggestive eyebrow.  “Was she naked while she did this?” 

“No, of course not.  She preferred wool and leather to protect her from the elements.”  He shook his head in disbelief at the question.  “Rangers still wear brown and green as she did.  It’s best for camouflage in most areas, though white and brown are preferred in mountains and winter.”  Ledwid tugged at his own leather vest.  “At least once a year, she would visit Kexlor in his library fortress.  She brought him books and items of magic and fascination.”

“And was he naked while he read?”  Tina tried to ask the question seriously, but snorted halfway through, drawing more booming laughter from Murton, a grin from Pelya and a dirty look from Ledwid.

“Enowl begged Kexlor to explore with her, but his legs had been weak since childhood and he preferred the safety of his books.”  Ledwid was doing his best to ignore Tina.  “Yet he wanted to see the things she did while she wanted his guidance and knowledge as she discovered new things.”

Murton whispered loudly to Tina while using a hand to shield his words from his partner.  “This is the creepy part.”

Ledwid turned to him.  “Excuse me?”

Murton attacked him with a kiss before assuming an angelic expression, which caused Tina to snort and giggle.

Ledwid tugged on his vest and recomposed himself.  “Enowl of the green eyes and Kexlor of the blue exchanged their right eyes so they could see what the other saw when needed.”

“See?” Murton said.

Tina covered her eye with a hand.  “Oww.  No thank you.”

Ledwid ignored them.  “They were able to communicate with each other from that time on, but to this day, Enowl still visits her brother in his fortress every year.”

“Doesn’t Kexlor hoard his knowledge and keep it from others?” Pelya asked.  “I remember reading that he charges a fee to the other gods for any information they want.”

Ledwid’s expression turned to stone.

Pelya realized she had just offended him.  “I’m sorry.  I meant no criticism.  I’ve studied the gods throughout my life and find them fascinating.  Kexlor and Enowl are Van Gods, both powerful.  For some reason, I never made the connection between Enowl and the rangers.  It makes sense though.  Enowl carried a bow that fired arrows of insanity made by her brother.  He filled each arrow with so much knowledge, the victim’s head would flood until they screamed and died.  The rare few who did not lose their sanity became disciples of Kexlor.”

Tina shuddered.  “That sounds like a painful way to gain divine favor.”

Ledwid relaxed.  “No offense taken.  You are a surprising young woman, Miss Jornin.  A ranger’s primary weapon is the bow.”  He gestured to his in the corner.  “My arrows don’t cause insanity, but I know how to place them anywhere on a body to kill or incapacitate.”

“I hate bow and arrows,” Pelya admitted.  “I’d rather face a wizard than an archer.  Unless you’re in a large group, the archer has the advantage and usually hides on rooftops, or in your case, I’d imagine in the trees.”

The corner of Ledwid’s mouth rose in amusement.  “It’s not easy to shoot from a tree.  Given enough time, I can usually find a perch that grants me enough leverage for medium range shots.”

“That makes sense.”  Pelya turned her wine glass by the stem while she spoke.  “So are the rangers really priests for Enowl?  Did she form the guild?”

“We’re not priests,” Ledwid said.  “As Enowl explored the world, she found companions to travel with her.  She taught them much of what she knew.  Those companions became her disciples and formed the guild.  There are guild houses on every continent of the world.  We rangers are encouraged to explore at least two continents in our life and are welcome at any guildhouse.”

“That’s fascinating,” Tina said in genuine interest.  “What about the forests though?  Rangers explore wilderness everywhere, but Druids protect the forests.  Aren’t Druids and rangers allies?  You both use bows.”


“Choice of weapons does not determine allies.”  Ledwid frowned.  “Rangers and Druids have always gotten along, but there is mistrust there.  The Druids do not like rangers exploring in their forests.  They refuse to let us establish guildhouses in them.  They treat us with respect though and in many cases ally with us.”


In conclusion

This information applies to more than just this book and gives the reader a little more insight to the world of Ryallon, its people and its gods.

All my best,

John H. Carroll