Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book Review: Soul Bonds, Book 1 of The Circle of Light Series.

The Circles of Light Series

The Circle of Light Series is an epic fantasy series filled with dragons, magic, adventure and everything wonderful about fantasy.  It is excellent reading for all ages, well written and edited.

Book 1, Soul Bonds

 

Smashwords
Amazon
 

Description:

A young slave girl flees from the Lord who owns her, choosing to die in the mountains rather than become one of his 'pretties'. When that death seems all too likely, she is found by one of the Dragon Kindred and Tika's life takes a twist she could never have imagined in her wildest dreams - or her worst nightmares.
 
You can get it at Amazon
Smashwords
B&N
Kobo

Review

This is the first book in the Circles of Light Series.  It is epic fantasy safe for young adults, though there is mild fantasy violence.  If you're looking for books to keep your interest for lots of reading that may keep you up well past your bedtime, you've found it here.

Tika is a young slave girl with a mysterious past.  After escaping from her slavery to almost certain death, she discovers the fascinating world of dragons.  Those dragons are the best part of the story.  I could tell the author spent a lot of time daydreaming about them and what their existence would be like.

The story begins immediately with Tika's discovery of those dragons.  She forms a bond (thus the title name) with one and her life intertwines with the species from that point on.  You learn about the dragons and about Tika for a chapter or two, giving you the foundation for the rest of the story.

While Tika is the main character, the story that follows is largely about the dragons.  They have personalities as big as they are.  The characters of the dragons are distinct.  It's easy to fall in love with some and dislike others with a passion.  Not surprisingly, they aren't all happy about having a human among them, a fact that becomes pivotal in the events that follow.

Once much of the dragon's story is presented, the plot switches back to Tika, who may be more than just a runaway slave girl.  Tika is a strong and courageous woman without being a Mary Sue.  She's capable and talented, but inexperienced.  There are other strong women in the story whose conversations move the plot forward, rather than focusing on relationships and the such.  Basically, the author avoids the pitfalls that plague so many other strong female leads.

Upon reaching a new destination midway through the book, the rest of the world begins opening up.  The reader gets to meet some of the other races in the world.  It's a fascinating world too with exotic geographies and civilizations that are touched upon without bogging down into mind-numbing world-building.

The villain and some of the evil races are quite easy to dislike.  The villain's personality is well developed and multifaceted rather than being one-dimensional.  There's also a good deal of mystery as to his past.

The ending closes the book well with excitement and suspense.  It leads one to want the next story.  The one negative I found was that it was difficult to keep track of the names on occasion as a few of them sound similar.  But that was resolved as the personalities developed.  Each character is very much their own and their voices are distinct from each other.

One of the things I liked is the mystery involved with every character, who they are and why they are that way.  The author teases the reader with hints, but never fully reveals what the past may hold.  There are stories to develop through the rest of the series.

E.M. Sinclair's writing is daydreamy (yes, that's a word).  You can see the fascination she has in exploring her world with her characters. The book is professional quality and well edited.  I highly recommend for all ages.

About the Author

"From as far back as I can remember, I have always had a feeling that Dragons are real. When you look at a wide sky there is a glimpse from the corner of your eye which must surely be a Dragon whisking past. I always regarded the stories of monstrous fierce Dragons as being completely wrong and I detested stories of St George and his dragon killing tendencies.

 When I was still a small child my grandfather gave me a copy of Kenneth Grahame's The Reluctant Dragon. It made complete sense to me - a Dragon living in a secluded cave, wanting only peace and quiet to write poetry."

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Short Sell Hell

Selling a house

Yay!  This will be an enjoyable process, yes?
Sure, it will totally be enjoyable.  You betcha.  Bless your little heart.

Making the decision to sell a house

So, my wife and I decided to move our family one day.  Our biggest obstacle was selling the house we had owned for 10 years.  We loved the house, just not the town around it anymore.  We had a mortgage and a second line of credit on it.  Considering how much the market had dropped in the previous few years, we knew we probably wouldn't make it.  So we hired a realtor who had experience in short sales just in case it came to that.

Before I continue, I just want to say that Allison Fuhrman was epically awesome.  Best realtor ever.

And US Bank Home Mortgage was epically horrible.  Worst mortage company ever.

House for sale

We posted the house!  Allison sent us this wonderful email on October 3rd, 2012:

Carroll Family,
Here is the MLS listing with all photos and virtual tours.
Please verify the information.  If you see anything you would like to change or modify please do not hesitate to contact me the changes.  I have listed the home as a 3 bedroom, because of the sq. ft. and bathroom count I felt this is a better marketing plan.  The photos came out great and I am very happy with the v-tour as well. 

I am very excited about selling your home and I thank you for the opportunity to do so.
Warm Regards,
Allison

The house

Here is a picture of the house.  It was such a cute little brick Victorian.  We absolutely loved the house and the property lit up like a gingerbread house around Christmas.



Fast forward

Woohoo!  The house is sold! . . . May 20th, 2016.

3 YEARS 7 MONTHS later!

Honestly, I didn't say woohoo.  I pretty much walked out in disbelief after finally signing the paperwork.

What happened

The house didn't sell.  We initiated an aggressive strategy of lowering the price every month in the hope of generating interest and keeping the listing refreshed.

And then everything in our lives fell apart.  Like on an epic level.  I mean it really went to crap.  I'm not even going to talk about it.

The house was the least of my concerns.  I told Allison that we should let it get repossessed.  I didn't care about it in the least.  She encouraged me to keep going though.  A short sale would be far worse for my credit than a repossession.  Bolstered by her words, I told her that I would plug away.  Just let me know what she needed and I'd take care of it.

First buyer

Woohoo!  We got a buyer.  Lots of papers to sign and send off to the bank.  Every detail of my woeful finances was bare to them.  Now we just needed to hurry up and wait . . .

. . . and wait

. . . and wait

After months of waiting, the buyer left.

Another buyer!

More papers, more financial details and more months of waiting.

Buyer gives up.

The next one barely lasted 2 months I believe.

And another,

And another,

Years have passed.  By this time, they have years worth of financial data on how bad things went.

Another,

Another, this one super crazy.  They left too.

Another,

Another before the other has left.  This one even crazier.

Honestly, I'm not exactly sure how many we went through.  At least 7.  I believe it may have been as many as 10.

Along the way, I filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  But it wasn't until I contacted my senator's office with the complaint that we finally saw progress.  After 3 years, it seemed like a reasonable step.

Progress

It took constant work to get the bank to respond to even the simplest requests.  But we finally received short sale approval.  And then they gave us a deadline of 3 weeks to close.  We managed to do it though

Details

Are lacking in this post.  I really just wanted to write it in order to close a difficult chapter of my life.  This is a woohoo sort of letter/thingy/whatever.

My house is sold!  Yay!

If you ever want to buy a house in the Colorado Springs area, I recommend contacting Allison.  She will do her best for you.  Just please don't put her through the hell I did.




Allison Fuhrman
Cherry Creek Properties, LLC
(office) 720-980-9997
(cell) 719-684-3398
(fax) 719-634-6064
fuhrmanrealty@gmail.com


All my best,

John H. Carroll



Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: In the Wake of War, The Ballard Chronicles Book 1

The Ballard Chronicles

The Ballard Chronicles is the sequel of The Aielund Saga books written by author and artist Stephen Nowland. 

Rather than painting his cover on canvas, the author worked with advanced graphics to paint his cover.  Love the eyes in the dagger.

Book 1, In the Wake of War

 
 
 

Description:
The town of Bracksford was caught in the middle of many conflicts during a recent war, yet the tightly-knit community always found a way to pull together and survive against great adversity. Now that peace has finally settled over the land, they struggle to rebuild while haunted by the memories of violence seen and family lost.Aislin Ballard, the innkeeper's daughter goes about her daily life helping the rebuilding effort any way she can, while struggling with deeper issues of loss and a foreboding sense that the king behind the conflict is still out there, seeking vengeance against the realm for losing both the conflict and his throne. When the spectre of war threatens to engulf the region once again, Aislin and a small group of companions find themselves the only ones able to avert disaster, if they can gather their courage and risk all not to fight a war, but to stop one before it begins.

Review

This book follows the events of the Aielund Saga.  However, it is not necessary to reed those in order to properly enjoy this one.  It calls to the actions and deeds of the Saga as backstory and fills in only what you need to know to understand events in this one.  This is safe for young adults, with mild fantasy violence

In the Wake of War is a fast read that draws you in immediately. The scenes blend into each other and it's easy to forget to stop to sleep. (My wife made me.) It has action, adventure and an excellent plot, but the key with this book is the characters.  They each have distinct personalities that make you like or hate them.  Or in Madelyn's case, flip both ways depending on her behavior. My favorite character is Jaz.  I've always had a soft spot for the tinkerer/artificer characters.

The story begins with Aislin. As with all of the author's characters, you instantly become invested in her fate. She's a 12yr, almost 13yr old girl who's seen far too much war and is pushed into a traumatizing situation again. This time, she's determined to fight for her freedom and the freedom of those she cares about. It's unusual to see a girl as the main character in fantasy and it's a refreshing change. In addition, the party that travels with her is made up of men and women. The author allows the women to be strong, but not lose their femininity, which is an issue with many writers.  The women occasionally need saving, but no more than the men.  If anything, the men need more saving than the women.

The group of characters play well off each other, with conflicts interspersed by witty banter.  Events send them off to try to save the day, or many days as the case may be.  The story draws you into the scenes with spooky caves and awesome vistas.  The danger keeps the reader on the edge of the seat and always worried about the fate of the party.

Stephen Nowland's technique has improved over the course of each story and this one is highly refined.  With most Indie Authors, you have to watch for spelling and grammar issues.  Not so with these books.  They are a professional quality and well edited.  There are no wasted words or scenes.  Everything advances the story in a way that you stop hearing the author's voice.

All in all, this was an excellent adventure to read and I can't wait for the next one to come out.

About the Author

I was one of those kids who daydreamed his way through school. All the little adventures I'd concoct in my mind were far more interesting than math or tests or sport. Somehow, I passed the important bits (art and english) and moved on, but always with a creative perspective to my life.

It was around 1992 when the magic of reading really sunk into me, for it was then I discovered fantasy novels. Feist, Salvatore & Eddings showed me worlds that fired my imagination, and from that point on I knew I wanted to write the stories that flitted around the recesses of my imagination.

Unfortunately, I spent most of the next fifteen years dealing with poor health, including resultant chronic fatigue syndrome which interfered with my life immeasurably, but gave me ample time for thought. An abortive attempt to create a story happened around 1996, but I look back on such things as stepping stones on the road to where I wanted to be.

My first complete novel was actually done back in '03, but it was a derivative work based on elements from other stories, something I didn't realise until after I'd written it. The mind can do funny things if you don't keep it on a tight leash! Still, there were some unique points to the story I kept, so I scrapped the rest and began a completely new 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 as the basis for a new fantasy series.

I consider those stories to be merely the first iteration of the saga, for my novels have evolved far beyond the original scope, in terms of detail, plot and character building. Looking back on it now, I can see my style has evolved a very long way from those humble beginnings indeed.

Oh, I also paint. You can expect to see more cover art with each title, becoming more technically sophisticated each time.

Reviews coming soon.

I've read Soul Bonds, Book 1 of The Circle of Light series by E.M. Sinclair.  I just need to write the review for it.

Soul Bonds

The next books I want to read are by Michael Mathias, starting with the Wardstone Trilogy

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. (I am friends with Mr. Nowland, and he even mentioned me in his acknowledgements) 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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

5 years published

Becoming a writer

I self-published my first book, Rojuun, November 24th 2010 at the beginning of the Self-Publishing revolution.  I had high hopes and low expectations as to what to expect.  I discussed it with my wife and told her that self-publishing would likely ruin my chances to get a traditional contract.  However, the thought of going through years worth of rejections when I could put my book out there immediately just seemed foolish.  So I went for it.

I began writing Rojuun in January of 2010.  I had already written some terrible poetry and a couple of short stories.  I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing, but the experience taught me a great deal.

2010 was a vastly different environment than now with self-publishing.  Everyone was trying new things.  Amazon hadn't figured out their algorithms yet, so when I put Rojuun free after finishing the next couple in the series, It took off with thousands of downloads.  Rojuun and a few of my other books are still free and those books draw new readers to my work every week.


Book 4 of the Ryallon Series: Rojuun FREE!

Five year plan

When I first published, I decided on a five year plan.  I would write as much as possible and do everything I could to succeed to a point where writing could sustain me.  I also decided at the time that if I turned out to be a complete failure, I would set it aside and focus on something else.

The reality is that neither of those happened.  I could have done some things differently along the way to create better success.  I should have reinvested some of my money into my books, but I used it to support my family instead.  My family comes before everything.  I would even give up writing to take care of them.  Also, the last few years have gone badly in many ways.  We've had to work through some very rough times, and continue to have to do so.  My last book took 2 years to write because of it.  That's a serious liability when publishing one's own work.  Optimally, I should be publishing 3 or 4 works every year.

That said, I've still achieved a fair amount of success, more than many have experienced.  I haven't counted my sales in nearly a year, so I can't give you exact numbers, but I've sold about 15,000 copies of my books.  I've made a reasonable amount of money, which has helped with the bills along the way.

And I've enjoyed myself. That's a big key right there.  I absolutely love writing. I don't write for others. If I did, then there wouldn't be so many emo bunnies in my books.  I write for myself. When I'm done, I share it with the world because it's cruel for an artist not to. The stories are still for me though.

What I've learned

There is a saying that you don't become a professional until you spend 10,000 hours doing an activity.  After doing some math where I included a lot of time in the past doing some game building for about 4 years where I wrote a great deal of dialog and story creation, I've far surpassed that.  I've also surpassed a million words of published work. I've completed 9 novels, 10 children's stories, 2 novellas, and 4 short stories. Does this mean I'm a professional?  Hard to tell, but it does mean I've put in the time. 

While writing all these books, I've learned to write.  It's a redundant statement, but it's real.  I've gone over and over every word I've written.  I've changed styles.  I've experimented with different techniques.  All the while, I've tried to write excellent stories about fascinating characters that stimulate the imagination.  I'm still learning with every book I write and striving to get better.

My current books won't ever reach the level of success of a JK Rowling or others like that.  I think I made too many mistakes along the way.  I developed a story line that was a little too large with too many characters to follow.  I should have focused down into some of the stories and developed them into adventure series.  It's something I will keep in mind for the future.

Where I'm at now

I just finished a re-edit of Dralin, which is the 1st book overall in the Ryallon Series.  I did one of those things where I wrote books 4,5,6 before 1,2,3.  However, the Dralin Trilogy is a much better prequel than some others that we'll avoid mentioning *coughstarwars123cough*


In doing so, I realized that I had lost some of my enjoyment and verve when it came to writing.  This book returns to the fun, banter and even silliness that my earlier writing had.  It's a blast and I love the characters in it.



 

Book 1: Dralin FREE!

Currently, I'm writing my 10th novel: Cloudswept, Book 3 of the Wyvern Trilogy.  It's going very well.  I expect to have the first draft of this book finished in late February if too many more things don't go wrong.

What the future holds

After I'm finished with this book, I'm going to write books 2 and 3 of the Crazed Trilogy.  I'm afraid I left the characters in that trilogy hanging, along with some very frustrated readers!

I also need to write some more Stories for Demented Children.  It's not near as popular as the Ryallon series, but I have some devoted readers of those.  I have a few ideas down for stories there.  I intend to do another Zachary Zombie story and possibly even an Emo Bunny that Should sequel!

I'm not the best writer, but I'm a solid writer that spins enjoyable yarns.  The characters have become real to me and many of my readers.  I believe that I will at some point support my family with my writing.  In any case, I'll keep plugging away.  I truly love writing.

All my best,

John H. Carroll