Sunday, October 8, 2017

Maps of Ryallon updated 2017

Explanation

This is my fourth post on the maps of Ryallon.  My maps were originally drawn by hand, but I've gradually improved them using GIMP.


I've done previous posts on my maps, which you can find here:
http://ryallon.blogspot.com/2013/10/updated-map-of-ryallon.html
http://ryallon.blogspot.com/2013/04/fantasy-maps-of-ryallon.html
http://ryallon.blogspot.com/2011/05/mapmaking-for-fantasy-worlds.html

It's interesting to see the changes that have happened along the way and how things have evolved. :)

What was changed

Since my last update in 2013, I've cleaned up a lot of the lines.  I've created custom brushes in GIMP to make all the icons uniform.

I've added more cities and named numerous cities in the Western Kingdoms.

The Iynath Empire is still untouched as are a couple of other countries on that side of the map.  I don't have anything happening over there any time soon, so it can wait.

The continent of Nulanea is bigger than Asia (Don't hold me to that. I'm a writer, we change our minds more than is healthy)

What's next

I intend to work on colorizing things next.  First will be all the rivers in blue.  I have a Bamboo brand graphic tablet to use now.  After that, I plan on colorizing the brushes used to make the icons like the mountains and trees.  Then I'll color some of the more open areas to give a better feel for the landscape.

Along the way, I'll continue adding details of cities and countries and adding more names.

The Maps (You can click on the pictures to make them bigger)

Continent of Nulanea, Ryallon.  This is the newest version with ocean and lakes drawn in blue. The dimensions of the working copy are 9034 x 6589. (This version is reduced to improve loading times.)



This is the second hand drawn illustration of the Norther Continent of Ryallon and the first version that I scanned into the computer.  The map above is what I've accomplished through editing in GIMP little by little until I reached the above product.  At this point, I hadn't named it Nulanea yet.



I refined the map of Paruth, which is the setting of Cloudswept and Sidetracked.  These smaller maps are all taken off the refined map above



Once again, I hope you've looking at made up maps for a made up world (so far as you know)  I've certainly enjoyed making it up (so far as you know)

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Saturday, September 30, 2017

"Bounty", Book 2 of the Crazed Trilogy: Chapter 1

Hello,

"Bounty" is book 2 of the Crazed Trilogy.  This is the first draft of the first chapter.  Please keep in mind that it will be edited numerous times before being published.

I hope this preview keeps you excited for the coming of the book.

I'm including an updated map of Nulanea, a northern continent in the world of Ryallon.



Chapter 1


Year 1393, Fifth Age
Being two years after the events of “Kethril”

Early morning rays shone on the bottom of scattered thin clouds over Oimryi, capital city of Mayncal.  Birds darted from manicured trees along the wide avenue to catch insects that braved the cool morning air.  Fancy horse-drawn carriages passed wagons filled with goods from all over the world.  The shouts of drivers rang out over people conversing from the steps of clean white buildings adorned by colorful bright roofs.  Multi-hued mosaic tiles decorated the corners, eaves, windows and doorways.
Beyond the avenue, noises of the city rose with the sun.  Perfumes wafted in the air behind people walking along stone sidewalks.  Sir Danth strolled among them, occasionally nodding or waving to citizens wearing pastel linens and silks that flowed to the ground.  Most stared in astonishment at his full black armor and long red cape.
Sir Danth Wazmordian was a Knight of Morhain, charged sixteen hundred years earlier with guarding the Crown of Morhain.  A tragedy called “The Great Disappearing” had annihilated the citizens of the Morhainian Empire.  Near the end of The Great Disappearing, the greatest wizards and clerics made magical armor and sword for Sir Danth.  The armor made him nearly invincible and nothing could stand against his sword.
In an oversight, his body died of old age after a couple hundred years.  Sir Danth’s soul was bound to the armor.  Therefore, he continued to exist even after his body disintegrated, leaving the armor hollow.
These days, he normally spent his time in poorer districts outside of the city, where the downtrodden lived.  He had spent the night there, arresting a slave trader who was kidnapping homeless children.  That is to say, he had tried to arrest the man.  Sometimes criminals fought rather than go to jail.  That was inevitably a fatal mistake when confronting the dark knight.
Shortly after arriving in Oimryi more than a year ago, Sir Danth had gone looking for something to do.  Being a noble knight, he chose to help those most in need.  It was a shock to the city guard when thugs, gang members, pimps, slavers and other lowlifes started showing up in a bloodied and beaten condition after having been arrested by the knight.
People were quickly recruited to teach Sir Danth a lesson.  Those people were dead, as were the ones who hired them.  Next, specialists, wizards and adventurers of astonishing capabilities came after him at all times of the day and night.  They were under the impression Sir Danth had to sleep sometime, but they were wrong.  Even if an assassin were to get pass the extraordinary magic of the armor, there was nothing to slay.
Corrupt guardsmen and nobles were paid to drive Sir Danth out of town.  However, Sir Danth had been one of the people who had rescued Princess Anilyia the year before, bringing peace between Mayncal and Brindlyn after centuries of animosity.  That and his reputation for driving out the scum of the city gave him immunity from political consequences.
King Ullbra of Mayncal appreciated his daughter’s safe return.  He also appreciated the wonderful work the knight was doing making his city a better place to live without even requesting pay.  The first nobles, judges and city guard leaders who tried to have Sir Danth banished or arrested were put to death when the king found out about the attempts.  After that, the knight was free to come and go as he pleased.
Currently, two individuals followed him down the pleasant avenue.  A man and woman dressed in dark capes that stuck out from the airy colors of citizens.  Their attempts to sneak from buildings, to trees, to other buildings were just as conspicuous among the leisurely walk of other pedestrians.  The behavior had everyone looking at them in bemusement.  When one added the fact that they were extremely noisy and tripping over their own feet, it was clear they were complete amateurs.
Sir Danth considered for a moment that they might be trying to lull him into a false sense of security, but when the man tripped over his own feet and knocked the woman down, he realized they really were that bad.  The knight decided to end the little game.
“Get off me, you idiot!” the woman yelled at the man who leveraged against her back in an attempt to push himself up.
Sir Danth helped him to his feet then held out a gauntlet to the woman.
She took it and stood.  “Thank you!  At least someone around her has some manners.”  She glared at her companion.
Then she realized who had helped her up.
Both would-be assassins lifted their heads to look up at him.  Sir Danth was six feet six inches tall.  In real life, he had been six-four, but the helmet added another two inches.  His armor was black with intricate runes that were only visible if the light caught them just right.  A greatsword was sheathed diagonally across his back with the hilt sticking far above his shoulder.  When drawn it was as long from hilt to tip as he was tall.  A red cloak gilded with golden runes and clasped with a golden amulet of power finished off the effect.
The man foolishly drew his sword and swung it at Sir Danth.  The knight caught the blade easily in his free gauntlet.  He continued to hold the woman’s hand gently with his other.  With a twist, he snapped the blade.  The shriek of snapping metal reverberated off buildings.  All activity on the avenue stopped as eyes turned to watch.
Sir Danth dropped the top half of the blade, leaving the man standing there with a broken sword.
A wet stain appeared on his crotch and flowed downward.
“Perhaps you should run like the stupid coward you are,” Sir Danth suggested.
In a surprising moment of wisdom, the man turned and took the advice.
“Please don’t kill me,” the woman pleaded in a weak voice.  Tears welled in her eyes.  It was obviously taking all of her willpower not to wet herself as her partner had done.
“Of course not, you stupid little girl,” the knight reassured her.  “But you need to grow up and stop playing with bad men.”  He led her to a nearby bench underneath a shade tree and then sat down.  The woman looked at him in fear, wondering what he was about.
Sir Danth pulled her down over his lap and spanked her.
She forgot her fear.  Screams of anger rang through the avenue while her legs kicked in outrage.
Their audience looked on in shock and amusement.
Even with sturdy leggings, the knight’s gauntlet was powerful against her behind.  After the first few blows, the screams of outrage turned to cries of pain and pleas to let her go.
Twenty spankings later, set her on her feet and stood in front of her.
The would-be assassin held her hands gingerly on her buttocks, weeping uncontrollably.
Sir Danth held her chin up so she gazed into the hollow eyeholes of his helmet.  “Now then, I’m sure you will remember this the next time someone asks you to do something foolish, won’t you, you silly little girl?”
She nodded vigorously through her heaving sobs.  Sir Danth released her and pointed in the direction she had come.  The woman took the opportunity to run away, holding her bruised bottom.
The crowd jeered and laughed at her departing figure.
Sir Danth ignored their reaction, including the cheers some gave him.  It wasn’t long before he was past the worst of the throng and people ignored him again.
It bothered him that people would watch while he did all the work.  Individuals took such pleasure in the misfortunes of others.  They understood nothing of the woman’s past or circumstances, nor did they care to learn.  Sir Danth knew that poverty and suppression of people created by governments, churches and the greedy created the very criminals they railed against.
There was a great weight upon his shoulders.  That irritated him since he didn’t actually have shoulders anymore.  He felt the pressure nonetheless.  Centuries of solitude in a dark room guarding a vault that ended up being empty had made him cranky.  He could feel anger in the hollow space where his body should be.  Some days it was hard to control that anger or the gloom that came with it.  At times, he would go someplace quiet where no one could bother him.  Then he would brood awhile.
One thing that made him feel better was killing people.  There was great satisfaction in running his blade smoothly through someone’s heart, or easily separating their head from their shoulders and watching the head fly through the air.  It was almost poetic.  His armor had magical vision that allowed him to see.
The helmet also enabled him to see magical runes, invisible creatures, and spiritual energy.  When a person died, they left their body in spiritual form to continue their existence elsewhere.  Sir Danth enjoyed watching those souls leave their body.  It was a fun game he excelled at.
He could tell when there was a ghost in a building, or even if remnants of strong emotion remained in an area, such as a prison or battlefield.  In the Willden Forest, which was where the Kingdom of Morhain had once existed, the ghosts of his people still resided, wandering through the trees.
He hadn’t known while standing guard in front of the vault for so long, but after leaving and traveling through the forest, he had gradually become aware of them.  He couldn’t talk to them since the spirits were blind and deaf.  It had nearly driven him mad when he realized, but his friends had helped him to keep his sanity.  If it hadn’t been for their efforts he might still be lost in the forest, chasing spirits.
As it was, Sir Danth spent hours, days and weeks pouring over texts and scrolls in the royal library, hoping to find a way to rescue his people from the unnatural limbo they suffered in.  He also perused the stores of antique dealers and wizards hoping for some clue.  The one thing everyone told him to do was to go to Dralin where there was knowledge of everything magical in the world, or so it was rumored.
He had mentioned Dralin to his friend Tathan, a rogue of the worst sort.  Tathan had quickly nixed that idea.  Dralin was a dangerous city, especially for someone like Sir Danth.  Wizards liked to take apart magical armor and study it.  They would go to great lengths to capture the knight.  In addition to that, there was quite the price on Tathan’s head there.  Still, Sir Danth wanted to go.  If there was a way to save his people, he would be willing to risk his existence . . . and Tathan’s.
A short, piercing noise caused everyone on the avenue to stop in their tracks.  Another one sounded and everyone turned toward the palace in the distance.  That was where Sir Danth was headed to sit with Tathan while he had breakfast.  Something had set off one of the magical alarms, an occurrence which had only happened a few times in the history of the city.
The piercing noise continued in short bursts.  It reverberated in his armor, tickling him.  An alarm like that could only mean the palace was under attack or that the royal family was in danger.  He increased his pace.
“Danth!”
The knight turned to see Tathan crouched down at the corner of a side street, waving a gloved hand vigorously for the knight to join him.  His other hand gripped the hilt of a thin, slightly curved sword sheathed at his waist.  Curly black hair framed Tathan’s worried face, partially obscuring a small, opal tipped piercing in his eyebrow.  The leather jacket he wore was pure black with runes down the front opening.  It had no other markings or even seams.  The rest of his clothes were of exquisite quality influenced by the style of Mayncal, but tailor-made to fit in a way that allowed him to move silently.
A glimmer of energy around the rogue let Sir Danth know his friend had activated the powerful ring of invisibility he wore.  Not one to rush, the knight strolled over to see what was the matter.
His casualness only made Tathan wave more vigorously.  The look in his intense grey eyes was frantic.
When Sir Danth reached the corner, Tathan grabbed his arm.  “Let’s go see the world!  There are adventures to be had!”
Sir Danth raised an eyebrow.
Tathan did a double take.  “You know, you’re really going to have to tell me how you raise your eyebrows like that when you don’t have any.  But not now.  Let’s go.”  He tugged on the knight’s arm.
When Sir Danth didn’t budge, Tathan grabbed the arm with both hands and pulled.
The knight still didn’t move.
Tathan yanked a couple of times, then put the arm over his shoulder and pulled with all his might.
Watching his friend strain to move him was highly amusing to the knight.  He released the runes that sealed his arm to his shoulder.
With all resistance gone, Tathan flew forward.  He tumbled at the last second and sprang to his feet, but the arm clanged against his head.
Sir Danth laughed mightily.
“I’m not giving this back.”  Tathan waggled the metal arm.
With a thought, the arm attached to Sir Danth’s shoulder.
Tathan stared at his empty hands.  He sighed.  “Please?”
“Lead on, friend.”  The knight gestured.
Tathan dashed down the street, avoiding pedestrians who couldn’t see him.  Upon realizing Sir Danth followed at a stroll, he came back.  “Please hurry!  We have to go now!”
People shot worried glances at the night speaking to a disembodied voice.
“Why?”  It occurred to Sir Danth the alarms still blaring from the palace might have something to do with his friend’s sudden need to leave the country.
“I don’t have time to explain, just . . . please, let’s hurry.”
“Dralin.”
The word startled Tathan.  “What?”
“We go to Dralin.  There may be information there that will help my people.  If you want me to hurry, we’re going to go to Dralin.”
Tathan considered the words for a brief moment.  He shook his head in refusal.  “No.  There’s no way I’m going back there.  It’s too dangerous.  We’ll die.”
Sir Danth crossed his arms and planted his feet.
Tathan sighed.  “Please.  I’m begging you.  I don’t want to go back there, but we need to leave.  There are other places that might have information.”
“Dralin.”
Tathan sighed again.  He did that a lot.
A squad of guards appeared at the end of the street in the direction Tathan was trying to go.  “There he is!”  They were led by a wizard holding a circle of glass in his hands.  It appeared to be a device that could detect invisibility.
“Fine!  We’ll go to Dralin, but only if we run, now!”  Tathan dashed the other direction
Sir Danth ran after his friend.  They turned the next corner and ran full tilt down the avenue.
Two streets later, another squad appeared directly in front of them.
Tathan jumped.  In midair, he placed one hand on the shoulder of the nearest guard and one hand on the head.  He pushed down to propel himself up and over the others.
The move caught the man by surprise.  His knees buckled at the unseen weight.
The rest saw Sir Danth barreling towards them.  Without enough time to scatter, they threw their arms up to shield themselves.
Sir Danth had the ability to shift in space.  He didn’t understand it, just like he didn’t understand how most of the magic in the armor worked.  What he did understand was that it was very effective.  One moment he was about to run into a helpless guard, the next he was on the other side of the squad, running next to Tathan.
The rogue grinned.
The two were able to stay ahead of the squads, but knew it would only be a matter of time before the mounted cavalry came after them.
After they had run half a mile, Tathan turned down another street and slowed.  His chest heaved as he gulped breaths of air.  He twisted his ring to banish the invisibility then walked into the entrance of a large stable.
Sir Danth mused that one of the nice things about not having a body was that he didn’t have to gulp in large amounts of air after exerting himself.
Tathan grabbed two stable boys by the arms.  “Jufo!  Take Arlen and get my horses ready, now!”  He pushed a silver coin in each of their hands.
They looked at him in surprise, then stared at the coins with wide eyes.
“Now!”  Tathan shoved them towards the back of the stable.
They ran off to do as told.
“You have horses?” Sir Danth asked
“Yeah, I bought them a while back.  I always like to have an escape plan ready.”  Tathan grinned as he followed the boys.  He yelled, “Just the black and the brown!  Leave the white one!”
“Three horses?”
“Yeah, just in case the princess wanted to come with.”  He shrugged.  “That’s not going to happen, so it’s just you and me.”
“I get the black one, yes?”
“Of course!”  Tathan laughed.  “Here he is, one of the finest stallions I’ve ever seen.”  He gestured to a large stallion Jufo was putting tack on.  Arlen was fastening a saddle to the brown.  The white horse in the next stall was beautiful.
“You are going to tell me what happened, yes?”
“Yeah.  I figure you won’t let it go until I do.”
Sir Danth smacked Tathan playfully in the shoulder, sending him staggering forward.  “You are correct about that.”

***

The rode up to vast city gates.  For the first time since arriving in Mayncal, they were closed.  It appeared that the entire army had been mobilized to guard them.
Tathan turned away and rode through side streets to another set of stables.  He flipped gold pieces to a couple of burly men outside the doors.  They opened the doors, closing them once the two were inside.
Tathan and Sir Danth dismounted and led their horses underground into a tunnel that appeared centuries old.  An hour later, they rode out of another stable far beyond the city walls.
“How do you find these things, my felonious friend?” Sir Danth asked as they rode casually toward the west.
“Felonious?”  Tathan smirked.
“Yes, it means a person who is involved in illegal endeavors.”
“I’m aware of what it means.  Let’s just say I’m resourceful and cautious.”  Tathan winked.  “Speaking of cautions, let’s stay off major roads.  There are some back roads where we shouldn’t be disturbed.
“Shall I ask how you know these things?”  Sir Danth raised an eyebrow.
“No.  You shalln’t . . . is that a word?”
“It is most definitely not a word, but it is a nice effort to begin a new language.”
“Thank you!”  Tathan grinned.  “What shall we call it?  Tathanian?”
“I have no intention of calling it anything.  The word you’re looking for is shan’t.”
“Ahh, I knew it was something like that.  I shalln’t be distracted from making my new language though.”  He waggled a finger at Sir Danth.
The knight pulled his horse to a stop.  “Now that we are no longer in immediate danger, what did you do?”
Tathan stopped as well.  He blushed and chewed on his lower lip, not answering the question.
“It would be best to just get it over with, you know.  You’re going to give me the details sooner or later.”
He sighed.  “Yes, well . . . it’s just that . . .”
“Yes?”
“Anilyia and I spent the night in the royal wine cellar.  King and Queen Ullbra came in with Prince Albrato and a few assorted nobles and priests.  They found us sleeping naked on straw with one of the more expensive bottles emptied nearby.”
Sir Danth buried his helm in his gauntlets.
“The king bellowed something about treason and gallows, and all sorts of bad things they do to criminals.  Tathan spread his arms in innocence.  He acted as though I had done something wrong.”
“How silly of him.”  Sir Danth rolled his eyes.
“I know, right? . . . I really do want to know how you roll your eyes when you don’t have any.”  Tathan jabbed a finger in the air.  “Anyway, he drew his sword and started swinging it at me.  Do you know how hard it is to get dressed when you’re fending off an angry king?”
“No . . . actually, yes.  But that’s not important,” Sir Danth waved off the question.  “Go on.”
Tathan opened his mouth as though to insist on more information, but decided to let it go.  “Anyway; Prince Albrato was crying at his wife like a little girl, asking how she could betray him like that.  Queen Ullbra had fainted.  All the nobles were yelling and waving their arms.”
“That’s usually all nobles are good for.”
“I know, right?”  Tathan laughed.  “The king is old and portly, so it wasn’t too hard to keep him at bay, but I accidentally poked him with the tip of my sword.
“Oh dear.”  Sir Danth buried his face in his gauntlets again.
“It wasn’t fatal or anything.  I just poked him in the leg.  It bled a lot, but I didn’t cut the artery.  He certainly squealed like a stuck pig though.”
“Oh dear,” he replied again, not raising his head.
“Anyway, my lovely Princess Anilyia screeched and held her daddy as though I had killed him.  Then she screamed that I had gotten her drunk and raped her.”  Tathan sighed.
Sir Danth raised his head in confusion.  “I thought she loved you? . . .”
Sorrow distorted his smile.  “She does.  She apologized with her eyes and gestured with her head for me to escape.”  Tathan flicked his reins.  He continued the story as they rode.  “It was clear we wouldn’t be able to continue our affair.  Sleeping with a princess and stabbing a king with a magical sword are usually punishable by death.”
“Poking a king with any kind of a sword is usually punishable by death,” Sir Danth pointed out helpfully.
“Yes . . . well, there is that.”  Tathan chuckled.  “She did the only thing she could to save her marriage and the peace between countries.”
Princess Anilyia and Prince Alberto had married as part of a treaty between Mayncal and Brindlyn.  Together they were able to forge an alliance against the Empire of Iynath to the north.  Anilyia had been kidnapped before the wedding could occur.  Sir Danth, Tathan, Tathan’s cousin Liselle, and Vevin, a purple dragon in human form had rescued her from a race of mysterious beings called Rojuun.
“Claiming that you seduced and raped her makes you a criminal in their eyes though.  Surely she knew that?”
“Of course, but even if she had admitted we’re in love, I’m still a criminal in their eyes.  At least this won’t cost them peace.  I don’t know that I could live with myself knowing that I had caused war and possibly even her death for treason.”  Tathan hung his head.  His shoulders slumped.
“That’s noble of you, friend.”
Tathan’s head popped up.  “Actually, I would be able to live with myself.  But I’d feel terrible about the whole thing.

Sir Danth rolled his eyes again and they both burst into laughter.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Book Review: Scars of Devotion

Scars of Devotion, the debut fantasy novel of Ben Kramer





Description

The Empire of Carthis is proud and confident in the knowledge that they are under the protection of the dragon god Carthis. Its nobles believing their dragon ancestry makes them superior to all others, have become arrogant and controlling of the very Church. Their arrogance has opened the way for great evil to insinuate itself into the very heart of the people. A young noble woman scared during a religious ritual is forced to face the reality of this corruption.

Penelope, a young noblewoman just come of marriageable age, is asked to take part in a ritual to awaken her dragon heritage, but all is not well. In moments her world is shattered when the ritual takes a turn for the worst. Now scared in both body and soul, she must learn to find peace within herself and deal with the truths and the task revealed to her by the dragon god Carthis.

Review

I decided to give this book a try and I'm glad I did.  It is an excellent and enjoyable fantasy with characters that were likable and believable.  The pace of the story kept me reading all the way through the end.  Being the first book he has published, the writing was a little raw, as were my first books.  However, it wasn't to the degree where it interfered with the story.

The main character, Penelope, begins as a spoiled and somewhat irritating young woman, but after surviving a tragic situation becomes fascinating.  The author succeeds in avoiding the Mary Sue treatment that some authors fall into (including, perhaps, myself).  The development of her character is intriguing.  It shows depth in the darkness she faces and the effects everything had on her. I found myself rooting for her to find happiness.

The supporting cast is just as interesting as Penelope.  Mr. Kramer develops each character a little at a time rather than trying to rush them all together.  While there are dwarves and gnomes and typical fantasy elements, they're given their own characteristics rather than being cliche.  Well written dialogue adds to each and their personalities are distinct.

The world is presented to the reader in the beginning, but not in so much depth that it feels like an exercise in world building rather than the telling of a story.  As time goes on, details are filled in.  Mr. Kramer does it in such a way that I began to wonder what it would have been like to live in the world in previous times, which is when I realize I'm deep into the story.

The battles are intense and I genuinely felt fear for the survival of the characters.  Magic and weapons of fantasy were realistic while fantasy creatures such as wyverns and dragons amplified the danger.

I'm very much looking forward to future books from Mr. Kramer.

 This is safe for young adults, with mild fantasy violence.

About the Author

Ben Kramer lives in Omaha, Nebraska with his wife, two children, and two dogs. In the time that he has between working and being a husband and father, he writes his short stories and books.

Born the second of three children into a military family, Ben Kramer grew up an Army Brat with plenty of company and sibling rivalry. He first began writing in grade school and continued writing on into his teen years. His first writing ventures were mostly childish poems and he did not even have an interest in epic fantasy till seventh grade.

It was the works of Piers Anthony that opened the door for Ben to find his joy of the many worlds of fantasy to be found in books. From there on where ever he went you could be sure that a book was close to hand. Sadly, though he did attempt to write many stories of his own he never completed them. However, it was during his Junior year of High School that he began developing his world of Paratos. It is in this world which "Scars of Devotion" and his other short stories take place.

After serving in the United States Air Force, separating with the rank of Staff Sergeant, Ben settled down in Omaha, Nebraska with his wife to raise a family. To date Ben Kramer has officially published one book "Scars of Devotion", and has five short stories series that can be found on his website at
www.paratospublishing.x10host.com. 
Ben can also be found on Patreon at www.patreon.com/benkramer 
and www.facebook.com/wraithwriter

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: Upon the Ashes of Empire

The Ballard Chronicles

The Ballard Chronicles is the sequel of The Aielund Saga books written by author and artist Stephen Nowland. They follow the adventures of Aislin Ballard and companions as they track a powerful villain.

Book 3, Upon the Ashes of Empire






Description:

Across frozen mountains and through dark forests, Aislin Ballard and her companions pursue the tyrant who captured their ally and friend into the very heart of enemy territory. Along the way she will face the best and worst of humanity, and astonishing forces which reveal the darkest depths of her soul. But none of this will prepare her for the magnitude of the threat facing this foreign land, as an ancient power, capable of burning entire cities to ash, is unearthed. While she and her companions may be on a mission to save their friend, Aislin finds herself in a unique position to try and save her enemies from themselves.

Review

Easily the best book Stephen L. Nowland has written to this point.  The story draws you in and takes you for the ride without letting go.  The dangers and situations the characters get into are intense and frightening and you're never quite sure if everyone's going to make it.

With each book, Aislin Ballard matures into a more dynamic character and young woman.  She exemplifies determination and optimism not often found.  She continues to excel in this book, however other characters are allowed a chance to shine through.

Jaz's history is filled in when they visit her country.  You learn much more about her including the reason she was in Aislin's country to begin with.  She plays a pivotal role in the plot.  Her wizardry is fun to watch as she explores new things, but her accidental roguish qualities is my favorite aspect.

My favorite character in this book though is Max.  His intelligence and determination to succeed no matter the odds gets the reader's adrenaline going.  His conversations with Madelyn made me chuckle while I admired the wit between the two.  Max and Madelyn made each other better and more interesting.  In fact, I actually found myself looking forward more to their chapters than even Aislin's.

Even Osric has a new villain friend to play with who works with him to create an object that could lead to greater destruction than even he may realize.  I do think the author could have dawdled on these two a bit longer to let us enjoy their despicableness, but I'm sure the heroes didn't mind not having to listen to any more of their crap.

While this book stands out on its own, the history of the countries come into play with surprising references that tie to the prior Aielund Saga bringing greater depth and understanding of the world.  They lay the setting for potential future series and get me excited for what may come.

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.

The Ballard Chronicles follow the events of the Aielund Saga.  However, it is not necessary to read those in order to properly enjoy this series.  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.  I highly recommend both the Ballard Chronicles and the Aielund Saga as excellent examples of epic fantasy.

About the Author

Stephen Nowland's Website

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.


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) 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, August 27, 2017

Book Review: The Fortress of Gold

The Ballard Chronicles

The Ballard Chronicles is the sequel of The Aielund Saga books written by author and artist Stephen Nowland. They follow the adventures of Aislin Ballard and companions as they track a powerful villain.

Book 2, The Fortress of Gold





Description:
Aislin Ballard and her companions journey south in pursuit of the man behind the assault on her home town. Together, they must cross dangerous desert lands, brave bizarre magic and avoid clashing armies as they travel to the legendary mountain city of Aurumgaard. There, they may find clues to his location, but risk being swept up in regional events beyond their control, culminating in a confrontation that will test their resolve, forcing them to question how much they desire to see their quest through to its ultimate conclusion.

Review

The Ballard Chronicles follow the events of the Aielund Saga.  However, it is not necessary to read those in order to properly enjoy this series.  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

Aislin Ballard is one of my favorite characters in any of the thousands of books I've read.  She's strong for a 13yr old girl, but not unrealistically so.  There is exceptional depth of character with the optimism and vulnerability of a young woman.  I think the author nailed the struggle of her youth in an adventuring party perfectly.

One of the things I liked about this book is how Stephen Nowland highlighted the resiliency and determination of human spirit even in the worst of times.  One of the author's strengths, which I've noted in previous reviews is that he allows the women to be strong, but not lose their femininity.  The women occasionally need saving, but no more than the men.  If anything, the men need more saving than the women.

Once character I'd really like to see more of Jaz.  She's an awesome character, my favorite in this series I think, but it felt like her personality wasn't allowed to blossom and show through quite as much in this book.  She did a lot of things, but it seemed largely in the background.  Everyone else in the group shone, especially Madelyn.

I love the steampunk feel of the Kurhain civilization, especially with the muttonchops and mustaches.  Major Maximilian Strauss is a superb character who brings a new dimension to the story.  Switching back and forth between him and Aislin was a perfect touch. It was hard to root for him when his country was the one causing so much trouble for Aislin's group!

I can't wait to see where this group goes.  The hints Stephen Nowland put forward for future books are maddening.  I want to know what happened to ***!  I'm glad *** is back with ***.  I know the Blue Man is going to come back, but will he bring his group with him?.  I'm really worried for ***.

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.

Book 3 is due out soon and I'll review it shortly thereafter!

About the Author

Stephen Nowland's Website

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.


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


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Samantha Swords, an Inspiration

Samantha Swords

In doing research for combat in my books, specifically for Pelya Jornin, the main character of the Dralin and Wyvern Series, I came across a phenomenal woman by the name of Samantha Swords.  Samantha practices and studies European Martial Arts. She also works as cast and crew in the film industry including time at WETA. She's been kind enough to answer a couple of questions I've had about combat with a sword.

Her Tumblr and YouTube have oodles of information on swordplay and the culture surrounding it in modern day.

Samantha Swords on Tumblr
Samantha Swords on YouTube
Samantha Swords on Facebook

New Zealand/Aussie artist, actor, writer & sword-fighter, works in the film industry as cast and crew. Outgoing, adventurous & loving life!

European Martial Arts


Samantha is a student of European Martial Arts. In this video, she states:

Historical European Martial Arts are the martial arts of medieval Europe. Yes, they existed. They were very complicated, very beautiful, just as like the Asian martial arts are. And, unfortunately, they died out, which is why most of us don’t actually know about them these days. But for those of us who are completely crazy about swords, we have been recreating the arts from fighting manuals- books that were left from the people who actually studied in those ancient times.

Like much epic fantasy in books, the world of Ryallon has styles of swordplay similar to that used in Europe.  Granted my characters have magic at their disposal along with supernatural abilities, but the basics still apply.

Much of my writing of combat scenes stretches the abilities of a person beyond what's physically capable.  It's exciting to imagine someone whirling through the air while spinning blades.  However, I believe it important to add as much realism into the details. Pelya Jornin's timeline has her learning martial arts, both physically and intellectually, from the age of four.  She has talent and the work ethic to become one of the best in the world of Ryallon.  She's earned it rather than just picking up a sword and becoming an insta-expert like in many stories.

Weekend Warrior

Samantha is participating in an experimental live action event in September.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1336679351/weekend-warrior/description

Her brief description of the event:

The Kingsmen are my faction in Weekend Warrior- an experiential live action event that will be filmed, documentary style, and challenge you in a new form of medieval-style outdoor adventure. 
I’m joining forces with Skip Lipman and Ron Newcomb of the Forge Studios- they’re well known for the series, ‘The Rangers’, and also Zan Campbell of Fell and Fair, and together we’re creating this event.



An Inspiration

I believe Samantha Swords is an inspiration for young women and anyone to explore their dreams and confront their fears to flourish.  Life can be hard to face.  Sometimes it's best to come with a sword in hand and the ability to use it.

All my best,

John H. Carroll

P.S.  The emo bunnies like her too.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tesla Electric Car Swing Station Concept

Tesla Electric Cars

Elon Musk is beginning to deliver electric cars to masses this year with the advent of the Model 3



These cars look amazing.  I truly believe it's going to change the way we drive over the next 20 years.  Hopefully we'll get flying cars next.  Until that time, this is the future and present of cars and it's exciting!

Charging Stations

Technology has increased to the point where an electric car can be charged at a fantastic rate, but it still takes half an hour or longer to fully charge one. https://www.tesla.com/supercharger  (scroll to the bottom)

This is exceptional compared to where we used to be, but in today's world, many people will still consider it to be a reason not to buy.  People hate waiting (myself included).  There's another potential solution for the future.  It's a concept borrowed from the old west, which was borrowed from ancient times and the need to get messages from one place to the other with as little delay as possible.

Swing Station

In the old west, the Pony Express as well as stagecoach companies would have swing stations where riders and coaches could exchange for fresh horses.  This enabled them to continue their journey without delay.



Tesla Swing Stations

I consider this to be an unlikely scenario, but one that is interesting from a sci-fi point of view and whose potential is worth considering.

Tesla, or other companies could come up with a program where a person joins for a fee.  In exchange, they can drive an electric car to a swing station, and rather than wait for their car to recharge, they just move their belongings to another electric car.  At the next station, they drop that one off and switch to another.  Thus there would be limited wasted time on long journeys.

It could be a viable option for busy travelers such as salespeople.  No matter where they went, there would always be a Tesla waiting for them.  They wouldn't have to worry about maintenance or upkeep of a vehicle.

Some of the Challenges

People would have to make certain their belongings went with them.
If a person did any damage it would be an extra charge.
The program would be expensive in order to cover the cost of all the vehicles.
The program would only take place once there were enough cars to make a large inventory affordable.
People like the comfort of owning their own car.  It's unlikely they would want to exchange vehicles on a regular basis.
The current system of rental cars may be a better solution
It would be unnecessary in cities where there will likely be charging stations in most locations at some point in the next 20 years, negating the need for wait times.  If your car charges at the restaurant, or while you're at work, then there's no need to exchange vehicles.

Battery swap

A concept of exhanging batteries at stations has already been considered by Tesla, so the idea of Swing Stations, may not be feasible.

The reception of the battery swap concept was presented by Elon Musk to his customers, but received little support http://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/news/a25872/elon-musk-tesla-battery-swap/

The Boring Company

If Elon Musk succeeds in his Boring Company and Car Sleds, the sleds that transfer the cars could charge them at the same time, reducing the need for swing stations.  The swing stations would be more for areas where the hyperloop didn't run, such as in the open lands of the west.

In Conclusion

This is an esoteric concept idea, one of countless possibilities for humanity's future.

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Editing tip: Ensuring all quotation marks are in your manuscript

Quotation marks

You most likely know the definition, but here it is from Merriam Webster

Quotation Mark

One of a pair of punctuation marks 

“ ” or ‘ ’ 

used chiefly to indicate the beginning and 

end of a quotation

So now that we have that out of the way . . . 

***

NOTE:  It was noted by Hitch on MobileRead forums:

What happens when you have a character using multiple paragraphs, for his dialogue? In that instance, you would always have more opening quotation marks then closing--and it would be easy to have an odd number.

In this instance, it is true that my double tap method below will not work.  I suppose I may be unusual in that I never allow my characters to have dialogue in two paragraphs.  I always intersperse actions and counter dialogue between.  If you write otherwise, than please do not use the method listed below.

***

When writing a lot of dialogue, it's easy to miss the occasional quotation mark, or even to add an extra.  When editing that dialogue, it's easy to miss it again.  In fact, more missing quotations can appear when you're rearranging sentences.

Readers tend to notice those missing and extra quotation marks, bless their little hearts.

While discussing this problem with a good friend, she mentioned a method to catch all of the mistakes with quotation marks.  It's a bit tedious, but highly effective.

ctrl-f, or the find function.



Here is a screenshot of my first book in which I have 4649 quotation marks (I'm currently re-editing it).  That alone is an indication that there's an error.  As you may have deduced, there should always be an even number of quotation marks.

So far, I've only found 2 missing quotations in the first 1000 words, but there will be more.  In my last 2 books, I had 23 errors in over 7000 quotation marks and 37 errors in over 6000 quotation marks.

How to perform the search

Now as you might imagine, 5,6, or 7 thousand is a lot of quotation marks to do a search on.  I developed a rhythm of double tapping.  That was better, but still not efficient enough.  I then developed a rhythm of multiple double taps.  taptap, taptap, taptap, taptap.  At the end of each double tap, I should be at the end of a sentence and the search number should be an even number.  If not, then I know I missed one or have an extra.  I go back over the last few sentences and fix it.

This is still tedious and takes a half hour to an hour to complete.  I switch from right hand to left hand about every 1000 quotation marks.

That's all there is to it.

It's fairly simple, but that's it.  It's the very last step I take before formatting and publishing.  It's one of those details that sharpens the quality of your book.  It will improve the readability and make it so the reader is less likely to put your story down and go off to do other things.


All my best,

John H. Carroll



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Smashwords July Sale

All but my most recent 2 books are on sale @smashwords for at least half off, including a couple of freebies. A lot of other authors have their books on sale.  Click here to follow through, and feel free to shop for others too. :)







Enjoy!

All my best,

John H. Carroll

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sidetracked, Book 4 of the Wyvern Series

"Sidetracked" is now available!

Book 4 of the Wyvern Series and the 10th book set in the world of Ryallon.  This is a continuation of Pelya's story from the Dralin Trilogy.





Book 4 of the Wyvern Series

War is an everyday fact of life for peasants in the Kingdom of Paruth. Ghosts of soldiers remember battles nobody won. Skeletons of abandoned houses mourn the echoes of families long gone. Smiles are few and far between on the faces of peasants. And none of their wise sayings make any sense.

Constant, dreary rain dampens Pelya’s spirits as she rides Honey through these forlorn lands. Her mission for the Cloudswept bank fell to a dead end in the dungeons under Riell Castle. Recovered papers may hold clues to the fate of the Rojuun named Rruum Tarrrii, but they’re written in an ancient language and only readable with the use of an enchanted monocle.

The influence of the Black Scale Guild is far greater than she ever imagined. Their leader, Tyeromaythan-Devourer of Gods, knows who Pelya is and wants her captured. The plots that banished her from Dralin and the Blue Wyverns are directly linked to the guild, as is her current mission.

Of greater worry to Pelya are her new friends Verna, Calren and an energetic wyvern by the name of Nervy. In the past, she has led friends to sorrow and death. Now, with a price on her head and her inclination to take on ever more dangerous missions, Pelya has every reason to believe she will bring these idealistic new adventurers to their deaths too.

Adventure is everything Calren had hoped and more. He had more treasure than he had ever dreamed of. They had plans to visit places he had only dreamed of. He traveled with the two most beautiful women in the world. However, neither show any interest in him. And no one had ever communicated how terrible killing someone felt.

Verna has begun to regret her excursion into human lands. Humans are cruel and violent. How they tolerate never-ending war is incomprehensible. If not for Calren and Pelya, she might despair of hope. Now she just needs to convince them to end all war and bring peace to the world. That shouldn’t be too hard.

Nervy wasn’t thrilled with his name. He adored Verna and her friends though. Traveling with them was far more interesting than flying around the forest and running away from dragons.

Clues lead the group to the lands of Lord Boagberll and his Huntmaster where the peasants have suffered worse than any other part of Paruth. They will find answers to the Black Scale Guild, the Cloudswept Bank and the Rojuun. They’ll discover even more questions. And maybe in the end, they’ll figure out how to do something about the war.

The Wyvern Series is a swords-and-sorcery series following the journeys of Pelya Jornin. After leaving Dralin, she travels the world searching out injustices and her purpose in life. Along the way, she makes many friends and even more enemies.



All my best,

John H. Carroll