Friday, December 16, 2011

Introducing "Nature Abhors a Vacuum" Book 1 of the Aielund Saga


I have met a number of fellow authors on my journey as an Indie.  It surprised me when I discovered a person I had become acquainted with in passing in a gaming community.

Neverwinter Nights is a Dungeons and Dragons rpg (roleplaying game) I got into back in 2005.  It enables the player to use its toolset to create game modules.  I think it surprised a lot of people when the modules being put out were even better than the original campaign of the game.

One of those builders is Stephen L. Nowland.  His Aielund Saga is one of the most highly acclaimed series of modules in Neverwinter Nights and has won awards and achieved the Hall of Fame.

He is turning that excellent saga into a brilliant series of books, the first of which I am introducing to you now.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

For Aiden Wainwright, a short trip to the nearby town of Bracksfordshire was supposed to be an opportunity for continuing his research into the arcane. But unfortunate circumstances see the town gates closed for weeks, and with supplies running low, Aiden finds himself thrust into the role of town saviour. Together with an old friend of dubious character, a drunken ranger on the edge, and a church acolyte out of her depth, he sets out to fill the vacuum of power left by the absent King’s army, and deal with a rapidly escalating situation that threatens the security of the entire land, while uncovering the mysteries behind his own past.

From Stephen

Embarking upon a task to write a novel is a dream I’ve had since the early 90’s, but despite my above average efforts at creative writing in high school, my first attempts were not met with enthusiasm from those unfortunate enough to be my test readers. I recall reading somewhere that most writers have to do it for 10 years before their work gets to a professional level, but I had hoped to circumvent this restriction and become awesome within a few months.

This, of course, didn’t pan out either, and by the mid 90’s I’d just about given up on the whole thing. In 1999, I decided to try again with an interesting story idea I had based on a D&D campaign I’d run a few years earlier. It took me three years to get it done, but the end result was something that most people were pretty impressed with.

I felt there was still room for growth, however, but further efforts were sidelined when I was sucked into the world of Neverwinter Nights, and set about creating stories for that instead. I finished up my epic saga for that in 2009, and the results were pretty spectacular – many players said that my characters and story were brilliant, and so when it came time to try my hand at novel writing once more, I decided to do a novelization of my NWN story, so that people who hadn’t (and wouldn’t) play the game could enjoy it.

And so, the first novel was completed in August 2011, and the feedback has been incredibly positive. As I continue to write the 2nd novel in the saga, I feel that my style is continuing to mature, along with my character building, world building, and story expanding endeavors. I weave the creative fabric of my universe in more complex ways, with far more gratifying results. The 2nd book is going to be my finest work yet, and there is much more to come.

My web page covers a lot of related work, and one can follow my progress on facebook too, if one is so inclined (all the cool kids are doing it!)

You can find it in eBook form at these locations:

Barnes and Noble

For those of you who have Neverwinter Nights and are looking for an excellent module to play:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing without profanity

A Decision

I debated early on whether or not to use profanity in my writing.  After thinking about it for quite a while, I realized that stories could be told perfectly well without it.  Many of my favorite books had absolutely no swear words in them.  Recently, I've noticed that many books do have profanity, especially with Indie Authors who don't have anyone to discourage them from doing so.

My first two stories, "Blue Haired Alien Girlfriend" and "Test Pilot" have some light profanity in them, but it fit at the time.  They were written before I made the decision not to use swearing.  In writing my first novel, "Rojuun", I came to a point where it would make sense for a character to cuss, but I was uncomfortable writing it.  (I can be a total prude in some ways, oddly enough)

Would writing without profanity work?

In this day and age, swearing has become prevalent throughout American society.  Finding someone who doesn't cuss is rarer than finding someone who does.  Would it even be possible for me to write without it?  At first, it started out as an experiment.  Halfway through "Rojuun" I realized that it was pretty easy to do.

There have been two or three times when it's been really hard not to put swearing in a section where it would really fit.  I've been able to cover it by saying: "He said things that weren't polite in any language" or something like that.  It's worked pretty well.

The results

All of my novels and all but the two short stories mentioned previously have no profanity in them, a fact that I'm rather proud of at this point.  The mean characters haven't lost any of their toughness in the process.  The stories read better in my opinion.  It's also been fun putting the challenge before myself and meeting it.  The other advantage is that it makes my books palatable to a wider variety of audience.

The flaw in my plan is that I tend to add graphic violence with details of heads flying through the air and blood splattering against walls.  *sigh*  I don't really market my novels to younger children for this reason.  Another issue is that I tend to get somewhat descriptive with the beginning of sex scenes, although I fade out before it becomes erotica.  I've been accused of having too much kissing.  I'll let you decide if that's a bad thing.

So, to sum it all up: my books have gratuitous violence, mild sex and absolutely no profanity.  There's probably some sort of flaw in that logic, but it's working for me. ;)


I have also read a counterpoint argument by Patty Jansen, a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest.  She makes very good points that refusing to use profanity limits vocabulary.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A note to my readers

To my readers

Many of you enjoy my books while a few of you wish my emo bunnies would die.  Either way, I thank you for reading. :)  Writing is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done in my life.  It's a lot like reading, but I'm right there with the characters, helping them to decide what to do next.  I find myself tearing up when they're sad, my heart races when they're in danger and I grin when they say something funny.  Of course this means I'm probably a bit crazy, but that's okay.  It's fun here in emo bunny land.

I love it when people read my books though.  I have had fans tell me how much they liked a story, how it made them laugh, how they didn't expect what happened next.  Hundreds of people have rated and reviewed my stories.  A few hate them, which is okay, but many more like or love them.  Either way, it is so amazing that people read my writing and respond to it.  I hope I never lose the sense of amazement I feel about it.


This is a fancy sounding word that means only one person or company gets something.  It's generally a requirement of serious relationships. ;)  Amazon posted an offer yesterday that would require an agreement of Exclusivity from Indie Writers.  That means if I accepted the offer, I would only be able to publish my books through Amazon.

Here's the thing: if they were offering me a million dollar publishing contract, I would probably have to take it.  I would because I have a family and times are hard.  A million dollars would buy me a house, cars for me, my wife, my daughter (I have to buy her one when I get rich, cuz she's on my book covers) and the ability to write full time.

However, this is no such thing.  It's an offer to be part of a paid lending library for Kindle users.  Those authors who participate would share a $500,000 pot based on how many times their book was borrowed.  And each author who participates is not allowed to distribute their book anywhere else.

My promise to you

I promise that I will do everything I reasonably can to make my eBooks available to every reader in the world.  If I find it necessary to become exclusive with a company for the survival and comfort of my family, then I will break that promise. :(  However, I will try to avoid that if at all possible, even if it means taking the offer to a different publisher to see if they'll give better distribution. ;)

I want people to read my books.  I want them to do it on the reader they prefer.  I know many of my fans like to read on their iPad, Nook, Kobo or Sony readers.  Some even like reading on a smartphone or computer.  Not everyone likes Amazon.  Not everyone in the world can order through them either.

Right now, my books are available internationally through Smashwords.  They are available in 32 countries through Apple.  Kobo has made deals in England and France.  Amazon distributes through many countries, but charges a $2 surcharge for every book. :(  B&N is only available in the US (they really need to work on that)  I'm honestly not sure about Sony and Diesel's distribution.

The offer

Yesterday, Amazon made Indie Authors using Kindle Direct Publishing an offer to join their KDP Select program.  It sounds very nice.
  • Reach a new audience - Distribute books through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and reach the growing number of US Amazon Prime members.
  • Earn a whole new source of royalties - Earn your share of $500,000 in December and at least $6 million throughout 2012 when readers borrow your books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
  • Promote your book for free to readers worldwide - The newly launched Promotions Manager tool will allow you to directly control the promotion of free books.
  • Instant feedback - Check real-time performance of your books in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
The problem

Lower on the page Amazon says this:

When you choose KDP Select for a book, you're committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital. See the KDP Select Terms and Conditions for more information.

So if I were to join this program, I would have to remove my books from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, Sony and Diesel.  I'm simply not willing to do that.  I'm not willing to shut out readers because they don't buy from Amazon, especially if my readers are in territories that are charged the $2 surcharge by Amazon.

Oh, and I seriously doubt I'd get more than a few dollars of that $500,000 pot.

Other responses to the offer

One of the companies this affects most is Smashwords.  Smashwords is a small company started a few years ago that allows Indie Writers to self-publish their writings as eBooks.  It is how I distribute my works to Apple, B&N, Kobo, Sony and Diesel.  To participate in the program, writers have to unpublish works already submitted through Smashwords and anyone they distribute to.

Smashwords' response to the news is here:

I've listened to a lot of Indie Authors respond in forums such as Kindleboards and author groups, such as Indie Writers Unite, Indie Authors Group, and Book Junkies on facebook.  Some are firmly against it while others have decided to jump in.  Many aren't sure what to do.

Writer Beware is one of the absolute best sites for any and every writer.  They discuss the fine print of the program:

Feelings from Marsha Ward of American Night Writers Association

One of my writing friends, Guido Henkel, wrote his feelings in a blog post:


So please feel free to enjoy or hate my books on your favorite reader.  I'm writing more and they'll be published on all the online stores I can find.  I truly hope they bring you a giggle or a laugh and that the characters in them intrigue you.  Writing is extremely fun for me and hearing from you fills my heart with joy. :)

All my best,

John H. Carroll