Monday, December 28, 2009

Gardeners! Plan to save that summer abundance with home canning

For gardeners, winter is both a welcome relief from toiling with their beloved Earth and a prison in which nothing can be grown. Even in warmer climates, the winter months hardly compare to the bountiful bliss of summer gardening. Gardeners know to spend their down time researching new plants, shopping seed catalogs, and studying pest and disease control techniques, but sometimes more focus is placed on producing the food instead planning how to consume every bit of it.

If you are a gardener who has yet to learn how to preserve food with home canning, then you are missing out on half the fun. Opening a jar of tomatoes in February that you put up in August is a very satisfying delight. It will let you revisit the glories of a summer enjoyed in your garden and allow you to eat the fruits of your labor long after the first frost.

Home canning often intimidates people. I know I hesitated for a long time before teaching myself this rewarding and addictive hobby, but home canning can be successfully accomplished by anyone who can read a thermometer and possesses the patience to boil water.

If you are considering adding home canning to your gardening skills, then there are some helpful steps you can take even in the winter to prepare for success.

1. Start reading canning recipes so you can get an idea of what you might like to eat. This will help you decide what types of fruits and vegetables to grow.

2. Study your seed catalogs and take note of varieties well suited to food preservation. Marketing materials will often note if a tomato cans well or if a cucumber is ideal for pickling.

3. Make small incremental investments in equipment like canning jars, a large water bath kettle, jar lifter, ladle, thermometer, and funnel. Although none of these items is particularly expensive, stretching out the purchases in the off season will keep your household budget happy. Also, this equipment can be downright impossible to find during the peak of harvest season.

Anyone looking for a concise guide to home canning, should bookmark my website Canning Local where you can find easy-to-follow directions for successful home canning plus yummy recipes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My fantasy ebooks are now available at BarnesandNoble.com

Mainstream exposure to readers has been the elusive holy grail for me as I've marketed my fantasy series the past four years. But thanks to Smashwords.com my novels are now being distributed as ebooks to some major online retailers with BarnesandNoble.com being the first to have successfully added my novels to its digital inventory.

Now fantasy readers who like to shop the Barnes & Noble website will have the chance to notice my work. Just like at my website the first book in The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series, Union of Renegades is free through B&N. And then the three subsequent novels in the series are $4.95 each. Of course I greatly prefer for readers to purchase directly from my website at www.braveluck.com because then I don't have to pay a distributor and a retailer, but it remains important for me to be available through a mainstream ebook retailer. Readers shop at major online retailers and only the lucky few stumble upon my little website, so I'm hoping to gradually gain some traction with the fantasy reading public. I must admit to being a little excited even if I doubt that sales at B&N where I'm buried amid thousands of other titles will exceed what I move through my website, but time will tell.

For Barnes & Noble customers seeking a good fantasy series, here are the links to my novels.

Union of Renegades
The Goddess Queen
Judgment Rising
The Borderlands of Power

To read Barnes & Noble ebooks, its customers need to download an eReader application for their particular devices, like iPhone, Blackberry, PC, Mac, or the Nook.

Monday, November 30, 2009

You can never know too much about survival

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A fun reference with lots of practical advice for survival in various situations. I liked the scope of the book, which ranged from detailed instructions on how to land a plane and cross a river infested with piranhas. It had a fun humor to it as well, with advice on how to ditch a meeting at work and still get credit for being there, how to escape from the trunk of a car, and how to find out the name of someone you wake up next to after drinking too much. All directions were very specific. For example on the how to land a plane section, step 1 was remove the unconscious or dead pilot from the seat.

This is a nice book for my reference collection.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The weak U.S. dollar and ebooks equal a good deal for readers outside United States

Over the past month I've noticed an increase in customers for my ebooks from outside the United States. When this happens, I know that the U.S. dollar is weak. When its value dips I often get a little spurt of international buyers for my ebooks. This greater attention from people outside the United States might also be caused by the increased availability of ebook reading devices around the world. This is all a happy combination for me. I know that people from all over the world download the first book in my epic fantasy series The Rys Chronicles, and I'm pleased that some of them choose to come back and buy the rest. And if the weak dollar enables them to do so affordably, that's great.

I checked some of the currency exchanges today (November 28, 2009). If someone bought the complete series of The Rys Chronicles as 4 ebooks, which are a total of $14.85 U.S., here are today's equivalents in other major currencies:

9.92 Euros
9.02 UK Pounds
15.78 Canadian dollars
16.36 Australian dollars

My ebooks are also easy for people in Europe, North America, Australia, and parts of East Asia to buy. My payment processor PayPal handles 18 currencies right now, and I also know that people outside the United States are sometimes disappointed with the ebooks available to them in their countries. Antiquated publishing models with the major publishers usually place territorial restrictions on titles. This makes sense for printed books because each country can be its own market and each title can be licensed to each market, but for digital ebooks, territorial restrictions don't make sense and annoy readers. If someone finds an ebook on the internet and can't buy it because the retailer is honoring publisher-imposed territorial restrictions, it is impossible for the reader to grasp why they aren't allowed to spend money on a product visible on his or her computer screen.

Fortunately, independent authors like me will sell to anyone who can send a payment through PayPal. I hold all rights to my work and I do not have any territorial restrictions on my novels. I'm open for business whether you are in the United States or not.

Fantasy fans everywhere looking for a good read should visit www.braveluck.com and download for free Union of Renegades.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why fantasy series drag on and why we keep buying them

The fantasy genre thrives on multiple book series. Readers love getting into an exciting world of magic populated by great characters, and then having multiple novels with which to enjoy the experience. Publishers do a lot of printing to meet this need, but then readers often complain that promising series degenerate into meandering narratives that go no where.

Go to any online forum where fantasy books are being discussed and you will always find threads complaining about fantasy series that have gone awry. As a fantasy novelist, I can attest to how difficult it is to write stories that span multiple novels, but I think the inherent difficulty of novel writing is not entirely to blame for fantasy series dragging on through too many volumes. The business interests of publishers are clearly driving these sprawling McMansion-filled acres of fantasy books.

Admittedly, the whole point of a fantasy series is to create an epic saga, which by definition is long, but long for the sake of long is not the same as telling a really good long story.

The problem of needlessly long and usually boring fantasy series arises from the business of selling books to readers who like series. A publisher makes more money by selling more books. The more books a popular series has to offer, then the more money a publisher will likely make. Therefore, if a fantasy novel takes off with readers, then the publisher will naturally want the author to expand the story into multiple volumes. An obvious example of an over-extended series is the Wheel of Time by the late Robert Jordan. The poor man sadly died before completing what was supposed to be a twelve part epic. I have noticed repeatedly in online forums that many readers complain about the books of this series dragging on without much happening. Although Jordan obviously possessed the talent to capture the interest of many readers with his fiction, I suspect the endless pressure to produce more books eroded his ability to craft well-paced novels filled with action. I believe that publishers, naturally driven by their business interests, undermine an author's ability to create compelling fiction when the goal is to produce as many novels as possible. The problem is quantity over quality.

Even the death of the Robert Jordan has not prevented the Wheel of Time's publisher from continuing the series. Brandon Sanderson, an able fantasy author gaining in popularity, was contracted to produce the conclusion to the series. Now here's a big surprise. The much anticipated conclusion of the Wheel of Time is going to be three volumes!

I don't know that there is any way to correct this problem because readers who like series are inexorably drawn to buy the next installment. Even if he or she was disappointed with the last novel by a favored author, that person will find it hard to resist the next novel because it just might be better and something exciting might happen. Hope is a powerful driver of people's actions. I am in that situation right now with the enormously popular series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. The first three books of the series were astounding. When I was reading them, I was constantly thinking about the characters and what might happen when the books were not in my hands. That is exactly the experience I am looking for from great fiction. When the fourth book A Feast for Crows came out I pre-ordered it in hardcover and eagerly started reading it as soon as it arrived. To my disappointment though, that book entered an undeniable doldrums. All of my favorite characters were absent and I did not get to find out anything about anything that had been left hanging at the end of the third book. After reading that book, I very much sensed that it was just a bunch of fluff thrown at me to get my money now that I had been hooked on the series. Even so, I will indulge in buying the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, which illustrates exactly why publishers can make a viable business out of publishing artificially long series just for the sake of selling books. It ceases to be about the story and simply becomes pushing product.

I understand the business forces at play. When a fantasy series takes off, it becomes a recognizable brand, and publishers are not interested in letting a brand come to a timely and glorious end and then risking their capital on developing a new brand around a new story, even if it is from the same author. Publishers appear mostly to play it safe and milk a cash cow series until the skeletal cow drops dead in an over-grazed pasture.

This process is especially vexing for fantasy readers because many of them, like myself, really enjoy reading a good series.

I think the fantasy readers' great love of series is very much inspired by the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This is the starting place for many fans of fantasy, and the trilogy trains them to love multiple book stories. However, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his famous trilogy as one story. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and each book contributes to the ultimate goal of the narrative. He did not write The Fellowship of the Ring, have it take off with readers, and then have his publisher say, "Mr. Tolkien, please keep writing these things until no one can stand them anymore or you drop dead."

As a fantasy writer, I personally follow the model of writing a complete story that happens to take multiple volumes. This is risky, but the risk is all mine. I want to tell the story I want to create and not let it be driven (overworked?) by market forces. I hope that eventually the market will reward my efforts as I create fantasy series that actually end and that avoid long drawn out volumes that are basically killing time instead of advancing a story.

Currently, I offer my complete epic fantasy series The Rys Chronicles as four novels. Anyone can start reading it for free by visiting www.braveluck.com where the first book Union of Renegades is a free ebook download. I am also working on another series, which I am planning to be four novels, that will also be complete instead of never ending when I publish it. I am working on the third novel, and it is terribly difficult for me not to publish the first two because I really like them, but I want to wait until everything is done. Then, when I publish, readers will have a complete series ready to enjoy without interminable waits between novels and pointless volumes meant solely to prey upon readers' cravings for entertainment.

If you are a reader who likes fantasy series, please give mine a try at www.braveluck.com.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana ebook


When I started reading the famous sex guide from ancient India the Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana, I did not know what to expect. I had always heard that it was about sex positions, but it is so much more than that. Most of the sex positions discussed will be familiar to any sexually active person, but a few left me trying to picture them. After describing the exotic positions, the author would inevitably note that practice was required. This makes sense considering this is the same society that developed yoga, which has positions that often require practice.

Some of the most fascinating chapters in the Kama Sutra discuss the sexual privileges enjoyed by kings of that era. In this excerpt Vatsyayana describes the rights to other wives exercised by the kings of various countries:

But according to the customs of some countries there are facilities for Kings to make love to the wives of other men. Thus in the country of the Andras the newly married daughters of the people thereof enter the King’s harem with some presents on the tenth day of their marriage, and having been enjoyed by the King are then dismissed. In the country of the Vatsagulmas the wives of the chief ministers approach the King at night to serve him. In the country of the Vaidarbhas the beautiful wives of the inhabitants pass a month in the King’s harem under the pretence of affection for the King. In the country of the Aparatakas the people gave their beautiful wives as presents to the ministers and the Kings. And lastly in the country of the Saurashtras the women of the city and the country enter the royal harem for the King’s pleasure either together or separately.


I think that the Kama Sutra is best described as erotic anthropology. The richness and artistry of ancient Hindu society are revealed just as much as the sexual practices. Many rules for wooing lovers are contained in the work because what good is sexual knowledge unless you have someone upon which to practice? Advice on how to use go-betweens in the seduction of another person is abundant and used more liberally than the most complex Shakespearean comedy.

The seemingly constant marital infidelity described in the Kama Sutra reveals the primary sexual problem of traditional cultures. The ancient Hindus, like many other historical societies, valued the virgin bride, but young men had seemingly total freedom to pursue sex outside of marriage. This is often accomplished by having affairs with married women. The Kama Sutra also focuses on the upper levels of society. Men of high class can have sex with peasant women as they please, but they are to use more artifice and charm with women of their own class or of higher classes. This attitude illustrates the accepted inequalities among social classes, as described in this excerpt.

The head man of the village, the King’s officer employed there, and the man whose business it is to glean corn, can gain over female villagers simply by asking them. It is on this account that this class of woman are called unchaste women by voluptuaries.
The union of the above mentioned men with this class of woman takes place on the occasions of unpaid labour, of filling the granaries in their houses, of taking things in and out of the house, of cleaning the houses, of working in the fields, and of purchasing cotton, wool, flax, hemp, and thread, and at the season of the purchase, sale, and exchange of various other articles, as well as at the time of doing various other works. In the same way the superintendents of cow pens enjoy the women in the cow pens; and the officers, who have the superintendence of widows, of the women who are without supporters, and of women who have left their husbands, have sexual intercourse with these women. The intelligent accomplish their object by wandering at night in the village, and while villagers also unite with the wives of their sons, being much alone with them. Lastly the superintendents of markets have a great deal to do with the female villagers at the time of their making purchases in the market.

The Kama Sutra re-animates the world of high class Hindus in ancient times. The sculptures on temple walls and the gardens of long crumbled palaces came alive in my imagination as I read it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Adding EPUB format to most of my ebook catalog

I've begun the slow process of adding the ebook format known as epub to my catalog. For years I have been selling ebooks in multiple formats, and I have decided that the time has come to add another one to the mix.

The epub format has been developed in the attempt to offer the publishing industry a standard format for presenting digital reading materials. This is a great idea but I took a wait and see approach over the past year to see if the format actually emerged as a standard. Having watched more and more ebook reading devices add support for the epub format recently, I thought it would be reasonable to start offering more titles in this format.

A standard ebook format that can be read on a variety of devices has appeal to people because they would be better able to preserve their digital libraries even if they bought a new reading device. (This usually only works as long as the ebook file is not restricted with digital rights management.) Some people also read on more than one device, so they would like to buy an ebook that can be loaded to both devices.

The majority of dedicated ebook reading devices now work with the epub format, with the notable exception of Kindle from Amazon. A popular reading application for the iPhone called Stanza also loads epub format ebooks.

Until today, the only titles I offered in epub were the four novels of my original fantasy series The Rys Chronicles, but today, I added an epub option to The Art of War by Sun Tzu. As the weeks go on, I'll peck away at the rest of my catalog and add the epub option to other titles.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Amazon is not the only source of ebooks for the Kindle

The Kindle ebook reader from Amazon has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to the experience of reading books on a digital device. A big selling factor for Kindle has been the device's ability to wirelessly purchase and download content from Amazon. Although this is a little too convenient for my budget, immediate wireless ebook purchases supply instant gratification, and people like getting what they pay for right away.

Although Amazon naturally corrals its customers into solely buying ebooks from Amazon, Kindle is not limited to only adding ebooks wirelessly. Kindles have USB cords that can be connected to a computer and used to load ebooks from the computer to the Kindle. This capability means that personal documents, as long as they are in a compatible format, can be loaded onto the Kindle for portable reading. It also means that unique ebooks not available from the Amazon Kindle store can be loaded onto the Kindle as well, like my fantasy series The Rys Chronicles.

To accomodate Kindle readers, I offer my fantasy novels in the .prc format from Mobipocket that works just fine on a Kindle as long as it does not have digital rights management restrictions on the file. To load a file from a computer to a Kindle, a person uses the USB cord and, once the device is recognized, opens the documents folder where ebooks can be added.

Formats of ebooks that will load onto a Kindle are:

.azw - the format specific to Kindle
.txt - a basic text file that can be made with any text editor or word processor program.
.mobi - mobipocket
.prc - also mobipocket

This process is obviously not as easy as wireless shopping, but it is nice that the Kindle has an alternative method for adding ebooks to it. This capability has allowed Kindle users to access my novels. I admit I get tempted to add my novels to the Amazon Kindle store, but the lousy sales terms restrain me on principle.

If you are a Kindle user and a fantasy reader, my novel Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I is completely free. It can be downloaded here:

free fantasy ebook

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Free fantasy ebook available to read on iPhone and iPod Touch

As a writer serving the digital marketplace, I seek to deliver my novels in as many popular ebook formats as possible. This is actually a rather onerous task, but I hate the thought of people wishing to read my work but not having a file available that will work on the platforms they like to use. When I heard that the iPhone was actually being used to read ebooks, I was quite keen to make my novels available for this device.

The publishing company Smashwords came to my rescue. Writers who sign up to include their works in the Smashwords catalog are automatically added to the ebook catalog for the Stanza ebook reading application for the iPhone or iPod touch. The Stanza reader has proven very popular and the application is well reviewed.

The first novel in my epic fantasy series "Union of Renegades" is totally free and people who like to read ebooks on their iPhone can access it for free through Stanza. Look for "Union of Renegades" by Tracy Falbe in the Smashwords catalog within the Stanza application.

Some people might wonder why people want to read ebooks on their cell phones. The answer is that having access to ebooks within the cell phone lets people have some handy entertainment in all kinds of places, especially when they are stuck waiting somewhere. An ebook on a cell phone certainly beats the germ-infested magazines at the doctor's waiting room.

For iPhone and iPod Touch owners who already have an ebook reading application loaded, they can download my fantasy novel directly from Brave Luck Books and add it to their reading collection.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finally finished my website remodel

Today I uploaded the new and improved pages for my main website where I sell books and ebooks. I'm very happy with how it turned out and that it is finished. I've been wanting to clean up the Falbe Publishing and Brave Luck Books TM websites and cull old content all year, but all the moving I've done over the summer really put the project on hold. Overall, my dear little business has been outright neglected for months, but I'm settled again and getting back in gear. Sales have been trickling in all these months, but it's time to start advertising again and get some action going. The winter months are usually good to me, so hopefully a better presentation will make a big difference in sales. Recession be damned. I offer affordable entertainment.

My completion of this project just makes me want to sing, but a little blog post will have to suffice because shouting out the door "My website is done!" would likely give my new neighbors the wrong impression.

Visit the splendidly renewed Falbe Publishing or Brave Luck Books TM. I'm going to go work on a new novel.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two chick flicks that I recommend

As a woman living with three males of the species, I sometimes arrange for some testosterone-free time and check out movies that don't involve exploding cars. I tend not to be a lady that goes for the typcial chick flick, but really good movies with intelligent feminine inspirations will enthrall me. I like to go for petticoat costume dramas. Two excellent movies I watched over the summer were Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst and The Duchess starring Keira Knightley.

Marie Antoinette really succeeded in drawing me into the life of the young Queen of France. She was portrayed in a very sympathetic manner right from the beginning when she has to give up her puppy at the French border before being presented to her future husband, Louis XVI.

Marie is whisked into the lavish world of Versailles where the intrigues of a bloated court make her head spin and ridiculous layers of protocol strangle her in a gilded cage. Marie entertains herself with the only outlets available to her, which are clothing, candy, champagne, hats, and shoes. The movie does a marvelous job of illustrating her wanton teenage girl rampage of wardrobe excesses that will delight any woman.

Although the focus of the story is very much on Marie as she matures within her protected world of privilege, the larger course of world events are woven into the narrative. The looming French Revolution that will consume Marie and her family is inescapable. In the movie, Marie is scapegoated as the source of France's ailing treasury because of her big spending on frivolous things, but the truth is shown in the scenes with Louis XVI as he depletes his resources aiding the Americans with their revolt against Great Britain. What a splendid chick flick indeed that points out that the real big spenders are the men.

My next recent find of interest to the female audience is The Duchess. It is an extremely well done movie with a deeply feminist view of the era in which it is set. You'll even forgive the star, Keira Knightley for being so amazingly skinny. She plays the real-life character of Georgiana Spencer who became the Duchess of Devonshire. She was famous for her influence in political circles, but the movie focuses on the intense dramas of her personal life. Her marriage to the Duke of Devonshire, played by Ralph Fiennes, is a spiritless match. He is obsessed with the production of a legitimate male heir, which Georgiana finally produces after a couple daughters. I can't reveal too many details about the story because that would spoil it, but she must endure the stifling control of her husband, who is a true patriarch of patriarchy. He even has his mistress live in the same home as his wife. Due to an amazing performance from Ralph Fiennes, the Duke does manage to come across as a human near the end and summon some sympathy from me.

Altogether The Duchess is a very well done movie with a well paced script that tells an intensely emotional story.

And, yes ladies, the heroines in both movies indulge in lovers.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ebooks help bored office workers pass the time

Cubicle inmates around the world struggle with the constant temptation to surf the internet. Their jobs call for them to sit in front of a computer and labor over mind numbing busy work that matters to the workings of the universe not at all. This situation creates the perfect opportunity to silently open a browser window and amuse yourself with the dizzying infinity that is online content. This is great except most websites with their pictures, videos, and advertisements are easily spotted on your computer screen from a distance as evidence of slacking.

To avoid such obvious guilt but still amuse or educate yourself, you can read ebooks at work because they generally only display text on the screen. Passing managers can assume that you are pouring over contracts, software manuals, or some other work related sleep-inducing document. They do not have to know that you are actually reading a novel! To be safe, it is best to keep one of those work documents open alongside the ebook so you can easily switch to it when someone who has the power to fire you walks up.

Office workers can even get around download restrictions on their work computers and enjoy ebooks. This can be accomplished by downloading something on a home computer, saving it to a disk or memory card, and then opening it on the work computer. Ebooks are often available in typical formats like Adobe PDF, HTML, or plain text that most computers already are able to read. And many people who work at only loosely monitored job sites are freely able to download directly to their work computers.

As an author and ebook seller, I know firsthand that people have read my novels at work. I've received comments from people telling me that my fantasy series The Rys Chronicles helped them get through long boring days at work.

For example, J.P. of the United States recently wrote me to say:

"Thanks for your books. They keep me occupied at my desk at work!"

I'd like to add that not only desperate captives enjoy my novels, but I am glad to have eased the boredom of those trapped in the pursuit of paychecks without stimulation.

If you're tired of looking over your shoulder at work to make sure no one realizes your studying personal ads on Craigslist, try reading a novel instead. To download my fantasy novel Union of Renegades for free go to Brave Luck Books.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Falbe Publishing titles now available at Scribd.com

The document sharing website Scribd has expanded to include a store where publishers can sell their books in digital format. Scribd has a huge selection of content, and much of it is free. The content ranges from recipes, academic works, government reports, to commercial fiction. Anyone can join Scribd and add documents to the system. The site also makes it easy to share documents or ebooks with other people.
At this point I have added my epic fantasy series The Rys Chronicles to Scribd. This first book in the series Union of Renegades is free and then the remaining three novels are $4.95 each just the same as my Brave Luck Books website.

Scribd gives sellers a decent 80 percent share of ebook sales minus some processing fees. Because of this arrangement I chose to include my titles. I will soon be adding my nonfiction book Get Dicey: Play Craps and Have Fun to the system in order to expand its sales reach. After that I have a couple small documents that I will add and make available for free.

I'm glad to see venues like this opening up that do not discriminate against content creators outside the big publishing industry. I hope this site gains in popularity. Its still developing because I think that it is actually a fairly new venture, but it works smoothly and comes across as relatively user friendly. Despite its weird name, I think it has a chance of becoming a major focal point in the changing publishing landscape.

Use this button to view my books at Scribd:

Documents

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What I like about self publishing

Self publishing is not an easy road for book authors, but it has the great advantage of being an open road instead of a closed road. Self publishing is a toll road because you will have to pay to produce your own work. Whether self publishing leads an author to disappointment or satisfaction depends on the person and the works being produced.

Like most authors, I started self publishing with grandiose dreams of success. I still have those dreams but operate within modest realities. Since I began producing my writing in 2005, I have earned between $900 to $2,000 a year from sales. Although that is hardly going to finance champagne wishes or caviar dreams, it does indicate that my writing has value, and, over the long term, I will actually enjoy a return on investment. Because my novels and nonfiction are not dependent on current events, the content will not lose value. If I sustain my modest marketing efforts, I can expect to maintain my current sales, which will add up nicely over the years. Even at this lowly level, I enjoy the satisfaction of reaching readers and earning some supplemental income from my creative pursuits.

The satisfaction from being published is what most self publishers are looking for. They just want to be recognized even on a small scale. Self publishing allows blossoming writers to achieve a final product instead of a stack of paper in a closet or a computer file hunkered in the ultimate obscurity of a single hard drive. Achieving a final form is easier to accomplish for other artists. A musician can play his or her music and be heard, even if it is on a street corner or a small local stage. An artist can paint a picture and hang it on a wall for others to see. But a writer has to find a way to bundle his or her text into a form in which it can be distributed to potential readers. This form can be paper books or ebooks. Self publishing is essentially the finishing stage for writers who feel that their work is ready to be read.

Of course getting someone to actually read your self published book or ebook is the ultimate challenge. Readers have hundreds of thousands of books to choose from, and simply getting noticed is a great hurdle. Self published authors are typically out of the book distribution loop, except on very limited circumstances that rarely translate into substantial sales.

Because distribution channels are generally closed to me or only available if I give up a large percentage of the sale, I focus on selling through my websites. This is ideal for self published authors because affordable web hosting and ecommerce services are readily available, and the writer can enjoy true independence. Actually getting people to my website is a challenge, but it happens with the aids of continual promotion and advertising. I enjoy regular sales of my ebooks and books. I even enjoy providing customer service to my readers, who often appreciate the personal attention from the actual creator of the works they are reading. Through my website, I've reached people all over the world and I regularly get positive feedback from readers. None of this would have been possible if I had not pursued self publishing.

The greatest enjoyment I derive from self publishing is the fact that it gives me a public outlet for my creative endeavors. I can pursue my craft of writing and slowly gain a reputation as a writer. Because I have been writing novels for years, I originally pursued traditional routes to publishing in which I queried agents and publishers. As a fantasy writer, I had written a four-part epic, but I soon learned that this is a tremendously difficult concept to market. Although the majority of commercial fantasy is built around the series format, it does not mean that a publisher is the least bit interested in signing a four-book contract with an unknown author. No matter how cleverly I wrote a query letter, the business person reading it would have to see: "Hi, I'm nobody who has published nothing and would like you to publish four of my novels." That is never going to happen. After numerous inevitable rejections, I at least had the spiteful vindication of knowing that no one rejected me based on my novels. I was rejected based on query letters. So, who needs the rejection squad? Self publishing to the rescue.

Admittedly self publishing is an imperfect solution for authors. I have to invest in myself and suffer the consequences of obscurity and limited channels of distribution. But at least I'm out there. People do read my novels. Maybe the day will come when I have significant sales and can enjoy greater financial rewards from my writing. I would certainly enjoy that too.

I do not hesitate to recommend self publishing to writers. My advice is to be realistic, understand the significant barriers to actual success, watch your budget because self publishing investments vary wildly, and tell yourself that you have every right to put your creations in the public arena.

Tracy Falbe is the author of The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series available at http://www.braveluck.com where the first novel Union of Renegades is a free fantasy ebook. Download it today and see what the publishers missed out on.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Flying with my cat - Not as bad as I thought it would be

A cross country move is not easy, and pets definitely complicate an already difficult situation. When moving your pets a long distance, you have two options: drive with the cat or fly. I chose flying because I decided that one day of stress on an airplane for my cat was better than four or five days of stress in a car.

I flew with Northwest Airlines that allows small pets to fly in cabin with the passengers. This appealed to me, especially because I had to make a connection and my cat was not luggage I wanted to get lost. I used an airline approved pet carrier from Pet Sherpa that cost about $60. It looks like a black duffle bag except that most of the sides are mesh to allow for air flow to the pet. The bag was very discreet, and most people did not realize that I had an animal in it. On one flight, the flight attendant actually offered to stow the bag until I informed her that my cat was in it.

The airline charged me $150 to take my cat on the flights. This was about 10 times the amount I paid for the suitcase I checked, but the airline obviously knows that a pet owner is a good target to hit up for money.

One of my greatest concerns about flying with my cat was that his yowling would annoy the other passengers. My cat is notorious for complaining about being in his pet carrier, and he will meow relentlessly until released. Luckily, when I went through airport security, my cat got so scared, he shut up for the rest of the trip. It was required that I remove my cat from his carrier so that his bag could be x-rayed. No one had warned me about needing to remove my pet from the carrier during security check, so I was quite alarmed, but not nearly as freaked out as my cat. I held on to him very tightly because if he got away, I don't know what would have happened, but I envisioned headlines like: Cat shuts down airport.

Airport security frightened my cat so badly that he was relieved to go back into his carrier where he chose to stay silent lest I take him out again and expose him to more weird situations. During the flights, I actually enjoyed having my cat with me. I could slip my hand in his carrier and pet him whenever I wanted. Being able to fly with him in cabin was a great relief to me, and I'm glad I had the option instead of being forced to send him in crate in the cargo hold. I was happy with the experience of flying with my cat. I would even do it again if I had to, but I don't tell my cat.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Book Faery Reviews published my article about writing fiction

Farrah Kennedy at the Book Faery Reviews invited me to write an article about writing fiction, and it was published at her website this morning.

The Challenges and Rewards of Writing Fiction

The Book Faery Reviews provides opinions about a variety of books instead of focusing on a certain genre. Kennedy also includes author interviews and articles written by contributors. It is a very nice website that readers should regularly surf by so they can find new books to read.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Getting back to business

After my big move from California to Michigan, I am slowly getting back on track running Falbe Publishing. This morning, I updated my address throughout the Brave Luck Books (TM) site to say Albion, Michigan instead of Chico, California. Thanks to the find and replace function within my web publishing software this task was not a big headache.

While I was offline a lot during the move, I had a sale over at Smashwords. It was nice to see some action out of that marketplace, which I am hoping will take off with readers eventually. It offers ebook readers plenty of formats and all without DRM, which I know annoys many ebook enthusiasts.

I see on my blog here that I will have to work on getting a new photo. I suppose the one of me basking in the California sun is no longer current. Now I'm sticky in the Midwest humidity. Maybe I'll wait until winter to get a photo of me trying to cope with the Great White North after 14 years of a zero-snow lifestyle.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My epic fantasy books now available at Jexbo.com

I discovered a new book marketplace for self published authors. It's at jexbo.com that is branding itself as a source for books from independent authors. Jexbo offers a good deal for writers seeking affordable marketplaces to list their books. The listing fee is 99 cents per book per month. When a sale is made, Jexbo takes a 5 percent commission.

Because I am seeking new marketing outlets for my fantasy books, I decided to sign up at Jexbo today and all four of my fantasy novels are now listed there.

The first book Union of Renegades is listed at its promotional price of $1 plus shipping and then the remaining three novels of my fantasy series are priced at $9.95 each, which includes shipping.

I'm excited to see market venues such as Jexbo popping up that are specifically meant to service indepedent writers like myself. They distinguish themselves with reasonable listing costs that allow smallscale sellers to make a profit, unlike the big-time marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay that take huge cuts. With the growing amount of writers out there who are taking their creations direct to readers, I am hopeful about these independently oriented marketplaces that are seeking to inform readers about their reading options outside the mainstream cookie-cutter products from the big publishing houses.

See my fantasy books at Jexbo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Winding down from the big move across the country

After fourteen years living in the Western United States, I'm once again living in the Eastern Time Zone. To be closer to family, my husband and I have moved back to our native Michigan. My two years in Nevada and twelve years in California have reshaped my outlook and character substantially, so I now feel somewhat foreign in the land of my birth.

For now my family and I are in a rental house in Albion until we can find a home closer to my husband's new job. Albion is a very small town, especially compared to the densely populated environments I've been living in since 1995. Albion is so quiet it's creepy. At times, the place strikes me as a fake town where a nuclear test blast is about to happen. The utter inactivity of the place blows my mind, and I assure you that Albion has never before blown anybody's mind. I'm not really complaining about the peace and quiet. It is just a shock. For the last eight years I've been living on a busy road next to a fire station and was fine with it. However, the permanent trance that is Albion did allow me to have a very enjoyable bike ride the other morning. I'm used to navigating thick traffic on a bicycle and basically accepting that I could die at any moment, but I went all over Albion and was only passed by three cars.

Right now I'm homesick for California. It was hard to walk away from my gardens and fruit trees and the native oaks that I had watched grow since they first sprouted from my yard and I made sure they did not get mowed. I still love California, but it was time for a change.

In addition to coping with the culture shock of being back in the Midwest, I'm recuperating from a whirlwind cross country move with the family. The experience was wholly unpleasant and our lives are basically in severe disarray. I still have not found a box with my shoes in it so I've only had the pair on my feet for the past two weeks. Despite the chaos, I am getting my publishing business back up and running. That's a nice thing about a home based internet business. You can take it with you.

Over the summer I'm hoping to regain a routine and most importantly get back to my fiction writing. Before all the drama of moving across the country started I was on the verge of starting the third novel in the new series I'm working on. After all the adventure I've just gone through, I'm ready for the therapy of writing fictional epic fantasy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What's cool about ebooks - a message to book lovers

Ebooks have been gaining a share of the reading market as more people discover the pleasures of digital reading or at least are giving it a try. Countless articles have been written by book lovers defending their tree-based medium, which always leaves me wondering why they feel so threatened. I love books too, and ebooks just offer another way to read. I believe that books will always be a part of the media landscape, but that ebooks or digital content will take on a much larger role.

Multiple reasons will contribute to the rise of reading through the digital medium. First among them is the matter of resources and fuel. Trees are at an ever increasing premium on our poor beleaguered Earth who is getting to be more like the old woman who lived in a shoe every day. Of course other plants like hemp can be used to make paper but the process is still energy and water intensive. Scaling back on the consumption of paper will likely be necessary and ebooks do not require paper. Resources are consumed to create and consume ebooks but not on the same scale as harvesting trees, running paper mills, and trucking books all over the continent.

Aside from the issue of resources, ebooks have many appealing characteristics that fulfill needs for readers. Many ebook enthusiasts simply ran out of physical space for shelving their books. Instead of giving up reading, they have scaled back on paper book purchases and adopted digital reading for the sake of space. Ebooks also spare them the need to lug around books.

Next comes the disposability factor. Even a very enjoyable read in the form of a physical paper book becomes obsolete to its owner upon finishing the book unless he or she intends to keep it as a reference or perhaps re-read it. Then the choices are: 1) put it on a shelf to gather dust and take up space 2) donate it to the library 3) give it to a friend 4) donate it to a thrift store charity. All of these things are nice things to do but they still involve storing and then carting around piles of books. With an ebook you can let it hang out in your digital library or simple delete it when you are done reading it. Ebooks are a great replacement for mass market paperbacks, which are almost disposable products anyway. Mass market paperbacks have very limited resale value and tend to start falling apart after two or three readings.

Book lovers rebut these positive aspects of ebooks by insisting that they love to hold a book. They love the feel of it in their hands and turning the pages. Some people even extol the smell of books. I would argue that book lovers love the content of a good book. Do they love holding a bad book that they are not enjoying? When I first started reading ebooks, I was completely unaware of the device upon which I was reading as soon as I became immersed in the story. When I first got my Sony 505, my fingers would actually move to turn a page because my brain had forgotten that I was holding something besides a book. I've also found the screen quality of ebook readers to be great and I have not experienced any eyestrain whatsoever.

As for the often proclaimed devotion to holding a book, I would ask such book lovers if they need to hold the TV during a good show. Do they need to touch the stage at the theater? Do they need to cuddle the radio? In reality, to read an ebook, you are holding a device, so you do get to hold something. And I'll confess that I love holding my ebook reader.

Many people who have never tried an ebook will say that they cannot try it because they do not want to read that much on a computer screen. This is totally understandable, especially with a desktop computer because sitting at a desk just does not seem to be the correct position for reading a book. The ebook reading experience is much more enjoyable with some type of handheld device. Some people are even reading them on their cell phones. Some readers also find that reading an ebook with a laptop computer is also comfortable. I also happen to know that some people even do read novels on their desktop computers. They tend to be bored office workers desperate for stimuli not meant to crush their spirits.

I think book lovers feel threatened by ebooks because they fear that books will go away. I think books will stick around. I like to hope that we'll save the paper for the really good stuff. Most likely is that print on demand production systems will take some waste out of the paper book scene.

With all the reading options presented by ebooks, I think that hardcore book lovers should give digital content a try. The ebook form is definitely going to influence the future of reading.

For those of you who truly love reading and are running out of shelf space, investing in some kind of digital reader could be a good thing. It's great to slip an ebook reader in your bag and have a selection of books to read. If you're like me and are chronically reading three or four books at the same time, an ebook reader is a great convenience, plus I never lose my bookmark.

I still read paper books. I still like them, but I'm happily including ebooks as a way to access reading material. I know if you've read this essay the whole way, you'll think that I'm just praising ebooks because I sell them, but the truth is I sold lots of ebooks before I ever read one. I gave ebook reading a try so I could see what the appeal was and also improve my products, and the above information represents my honest and informed opinions.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Women Biz Owner Radio interviewed me about making money with my novels


I had the pleasure last week of giving an interview for WBO online talk radio about how I make money selling my novels online, mostly as ebooks. I talked about internet marketing and my process for developing my ebooks and bringing them to market. Of course this remains an ongoing journey for me, and I'm still learning but I think that my interview will give people thinking about writing a book and/or ebook some good take-away advice about how to go about it and market themselves online.

Thank you to Jylian who interviewed me and Altha the program coordinator who put together the show. I am flattered that I was selected for your show. WBO has lots of good interviews from all kinds of interesting people if you go through their other episodes.

Anyone else interested in interviewing me on the subject of ebooks, self publishing, and/or fantasy writing can contact me at Falbe Publishing.

You can listen to my WBO interview at this link:

Novelist Builds Online Income with Publishing

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Try a new fantasy series in DRM-free epub

At long last I now have my fantasy series The Rys Chronicles available in the epub format. This is an open industry ebook format that some people want to see become the industry standard. I'm personally indifferent about that but I am aware that some readers prefer this ebook format.

Union of Renegades, the first book of my series, is a free download accessed by thousands of people around the world.

Here's some of the feedback I've had about The Rys Chronicles:

"This story grabbed me from the very first few chapters. Falbe was able to capture the fantasy genre and make it her own. I could not put this book down and was itching for the 2nd. The story is so compelling, you feel like you are on this journey with the lead characters. There is so much action in this book and so much character development, it amazes me that more people don't know about it. I recommend this book for anyone looking for something new and exciting. You will not be disappointed!"

-- Raichail Y., United States

"I started reading fantasy novels only 2 years ago after a good friend introduced me to Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, Raymond E. Feist, Terry Goodkind and others. In my opinion your name belongs in that list."

-- Erik Z., The Netherlands

"You are one of the best fiction writers."

-- Barbara S., South Africa

I invite fantasy readers to visit Brave Luck Books (TM) and my free fantasy novel.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Science fiction readers and writers have a new site to check out on April 15th

A few days ago I received an email out of the blue informing me of the upcoming launch of a new science fiction and fantasy online magazine called Kalkion. There is not much at the website right now except for a video teaser trailer, but presumably starting April 15th, the rest of the website will be published.

The email I received stated that Kalkion was open for submission from new and established ficiton writers. There was also a stated interest in submission of articles and reviews about topics such as science fiction and fantasy writing, conventions, and other events.

The purpose of Kalkion is supposed to be to create an online community where writers get feedback from readers and both sides can benefit from an interactive online discussion.

For science fiction and fantasy writers looking for their first breaks, they should bookmark Kalkion and find out more about submitting their writing once the site goes live.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I finished writing a novel last night

Now that's something a person can't say every day. I am currently working on a new fantasy series that I anticipate to be four novels, which means I'm halfway done. I've been fussing and frowning over the last 30 pages of the novel I just finished for weeks. Ends are about the hardest part of writing a novel in my opinion. Loose ends need to be tied up while still keeping the drama and the action flowing and interesting. And because this novel is part of the series, I have to tie up loose ends while sowing seeds of the continuing story to make readers want to progress to the next book. That combination of tasks is quite hard. I can't say that I have it right yet on the novel I just finished, but I have a good draft and with subsequent edits and re-writes I'll get it polished.

When I write a fantasy series, I try to make each novel have its own story arc while contributing to the overall story of the series. This way each novel has a beginning, middle, and end, but as a unit it is contributing to a larger whole. Some fantasy series tend to always be building up to a BIG THING without ever having much happen, so I work to avoid that problem. I build up to the big thing while having big things happening.

Before plunging into the third novel, I'll be taking a step back and giving the first and second novels a good editing.

Because I won't have my new series done for a couple years yet, fantasy readers interested in testing out a new series, can read The Rys Chronicles, which is completely published. You can start reading Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I for free in ebook form or pick up the paperback for $1 plus shipping. Please go to Brave Luck Books (TM) to discover an epic fantasy from an independent writer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SF Signal the current Fortnight Feature at the Fantasy Tavern

A science fiction blog that I have been following for some time, SF Signal, is right now being promoted from the home page of the Fantasy Tavern. SF Signal is a very well done blog, supported by multiple contributors. There are almost daily updates, usually more than one, tracking every scrap of news -- tidbits as they are called -- concerning the science fiction genre. Fantasy and horror slip into the mix as well because science fiction fans generally have a soft spot for these less technical genres.

The Fantasy Tavern is my genre focused website, and every two weeks I update the Fortnight Feature, which is meant to bring attention to genre-related websites. The feature is free and open to submissions from websites about fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, and their various subgenres. For complete details about how to promote your website for free click here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Writers can get paid to do what they love

Today I was published as a guest blogger at the blog of Cheryl Wright a freelance writer and author who operates Writer2Writer.com a resource for helping people become freelance writers or improve their careers.

At her blog, I contributed this post:

Get Started Freelance Writing By Finding And Picking The Best Clients

In the article I explain the first steps a new freelance writer should take to start getting work. I also offered my thoughts on how to strategize your career and avoid clients that are headaches or deadends.

At this point in my life, I am not doing any freelance work because I am focusing on my fiction writing and marketing my novels, but I could dip back into the freelance scene whenever I need to. If you want to know more about getting paid to write, please follow the link to the article.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Am I becoming a Hillbilly Housewife?

I just might be well on my way to earning the designation Hillbilly Housewife. I'm not married to a hillbilly or a house, but today I did become a guest writer at the blog of Hillbillyhousewife.com.

I will be writing guest posts about home canning. My first one was posted today. Here's the headline with the link:

Home Canning - Good Eatin' from the Old Timers' Pantry

As time allows, I will be contributing regular posts, at least through the growing season, about how to preserve food with home canning.

The opportunity to be a guest blogger came from being listed as a resource at Blogenergizer.com. This service is just getting off the ground, but it is a great concept. People running blogs can go there to pick up free content for their blogs and connect with people like me that are listed as willing to contribute to blogs on certain subjects and be available for interviews as well.

Because I am fast becoming on expert on home canning, I listed it as one of the subjects I could write about and therefore was contacted by Hillbillyhousewife.com. I'm looking forward to being a contributor to this blog. It is nice to get recognition and it allows me to promote my own website about home canning.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My complete epic fantasy series is now available at Smashwords

Over the last three days, I have added all four novels of my fantasy series The Rys Chronicles to the catalog at Smashwords.

Union of Renegades
The Goddess Queen
Judgment Rising
The Borderlands of Power

Smashwords is an ebook publishing service that is also developing into an ebook retail site. Now that I've had a chance to use its publishing system, I can report that it was easy. The only difficult part was the long list of formatting requirements I had to go through to prepare the Word document files before uploading them.

After my novels were converted into various ebook formats, including epub, Mobipocket for Kindle, LRF for Sony, PDF, and RTF, each title was set up on a great merchandising page that allowed me to add a link to where the novels are available in print. I could also embed a video from YouTube, which was a handy way to enhance my pages with the book trailers for my series.

Hopefully I will gain extra exposure for my fantasy series at Smashwords. I used the same pricing as is available at Brave Luck Books (TM). The first book Union of Renegades is free and the subsequent three fantasy novels are $4.95 each. I can also hope to eventually gain some good ratings with the Smashwords system that allows readers to rate what they read. If you are looking for a good fantasy novel, check out the free download Union of Renegades. If you like it, be sure to give it some stars at Smashwords.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Recipe River overflowing with good cooking ideas

Since launching my recipe collection website in late January I have been working hard to add more recipes. Today I published five new recipes and I think I was really thinking spring when I selected them.

There's the new recipe for asparagus soup. This green vegetable that I like to refer to as "witches fingers" is already coming into season in the warmer zones of the country. With asparagus shooting up, strawberries are not far behind and I put together a page with 3 ways to use strawberries. The recipes are for spreads and toppings.

Then, I was actually daring to think about summer. Barbeque season is beckoning, and I plan on trying this recipe for grilled pork with apricot mustard glaze. Pork on the barbeque is just divine. Summer also means tomatoes! So, I posted a decent salsa recipe because that is one of the best ways to gobble fresh vegetables. I'll admit eating vegetables is hard for me, but even I like salsa.

The fifth recipe I added was for crunchy tropical chicken. I don't think it has any seasonal association, but it certainly sounded good.

I created Recipe River as a resource to promote home cooking because preparing your own food is far healthier than relying on restaurants and processed food products.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Expanding my ebook presence online at Smashwords

For some time I've understood the potential of marketing my fantasy novels to readers of ebooks if they could be included in the catalog of an online ebook retailer. Until now I have been shy about this course because many barriers are in place at most ebook retailers.

One barrier is the outright exclusion of self published work. Similar to this is the requirement that an ebook be given an ISBN to be listed. As a publisher I have ISBN numbers but I have only been assigning them to print products. I can't quite imagine why I would need an ISBN for an ebook because it is not like some retailer somewhere is scanning a barcode at checkout time for an ebook. Also, if I were to assign an ISBN to an ebook, I would have to do it for each format, which would get expensive very quickly. ISBNs cost money, you know.

Another typical barrier is a listing fee. Because I am religiously cheap and reserve my marketing dollars for getting people to my websites, I have not taken this route. And finally, some retailers just give terrible terms. Listing my titles at the Amazon Kindle store will only get me a 35 percent share of the retail price. Insulting -- especially because Amazon already gives me 45 percent on my paperbacks.

These various barriers have directed me to an emerging ebook publishing and retail site called Smashwords.

Smashwords, founded by Mark Coker, appears to be positioning itself to benefit writers, publishers, and readers. What a concept. Writers can publish their work as ebooks and connect with a print on demand service. According to a recent interview with Coker at Teleread, Smashwords will soon be supporting publishers who produce multiple authors. Smashwords is so great for self publishing writers and publishers because it gives an 85 percent share of sales minus payment processing fees. Now, that is something worth looking at as a business person. Now how is Smashwords reaching out to ebook readers? It does this by encouraging publishers to offer free samples, producing ebooks in numerous formats, and skipping all the digital rights management (DRM) encryption nonsense that often confuses or annoys customers.

Smashwords is a relatively new service, and right now it is building its catalog and is only entering the phase of improving its merchandising. A big barrier to its success is the fact that anyone can publish here. So, its catalog is filled with a bunch of unknowns. The problem with aggregated self published works is that some might be good and some might be junk. But I suppose that describes the entire publishing industry and all bookstores. Just because something was self published does not mean that it is bad. Just because a publisher selected a book for production does not mean that it is any good. Still, it is difficult to get any marketing traction without any big names, but with the Smashwords system being opened up to actual publishing companies, the system could fill up with titles that have some name recognition. Smashwords certainly presents a fantastic system for a publisher looking for an ebook distribution system at an affordable price.

Another aspect of Smashwords that got me to sign up was the integration of its catalog with the Stanza ebook application that is popular with iPhone users. Apparently ebooks are getting read on smart phones, so joining Smashwords gives me extra visibility to this potential audience.

I look forward to seeing the development of Smashwords. I have added Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I to Smashwords. I am listing it as a free ebook just like at my website. Over the next days I will be adding the rest of The Rys Chronicles novels to Smashwords.

Check out Smashwords and read my free fantasy novel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Read Chapter 1 - In the Service of the Empire from fantasy book

At Brave Luck Books (TM) I just added an excerpt from my fantasy book Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I. It is Chapter 1 - In the Service of the Empire. I have set it up as a webpage prepared for easy printing. I realize that many people are not interested in reading anything longer than a page or two on a computer screen, so now visitors can print out the chapter and read it comfortably.

It occured to me that I should add the printable chapter because my ebook sales do considerably better than my print book sales. I had always attributed this to the fact that I give away the first book in my fantasy series for free as an ebook. Therefore, people who like ebooks can discover my writing for free, and if they like my work, come back and buy the rest of the series.

I tried to adapt this marketing to my print books by offering the first book for $1 plus shipping, which is a low barrier to entry, but still not free. However, the costs associated with manufacturing and shipping require that I charge something for sending out a physical book. But this approach was not matching the marketing results for the ebooks. I'm hoping to alleviate this disparity by providing a printable excerpt for people who like to read from paper.

I know that some fantasy readers are happy to consume the whole series once they can decide if they like my writing. This system works effectively with the ebook audience, but print readers are harder to reach. They need to be reassured about the quality of the product before making a purchase. Initially, I assumed that the free ebook version would accomplish this necessary accessibility, but if a person is not interested in ebooks, then he or she might not take the step of downloading the ebook version even for the purpose of sampling a portion of it. So, perhaps the option to easily print a chapter without any downloading necessary will help book readers give my fantasy fiction a chance.

Go to Chapter 1 - In the Service of the Empire.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Take a look at the new Kindle 2

The launch of the 2.0 version of the Kindle ebook reader from Amazon continues to arouse the attention of readers. This new version of the Kindle cures many of the "ugliness issues" that stuck to the old Kindle like old gum on a nice shoe. The new Kindle 2 is sleek and vastly more appealing. I personally reviewed the original version of the Kindle and found it to be a decent device. Reading on it is completely comfortable, but I did find its menus and navigation confusing. Because I have not had a chance to hold and see the new Kindle yet, I don't know if any of the user interface clumsiness that I perceived in the first model have been alleviated.

The real strength of the Kindle compared to other ebook readers is its wireless access to the largest content selection of books, newspapers, magazines, audio books, and blogs. Some people really like that wireless connectivity, and the ability to subscribe to some major newspapers in the Kindle grants a weak light of hope to the dying newspaper industry.

To help anyone interested in getting a look at the new Kindle 2, I nabbed this video on YouTube from Cnet that also includes a quick little interview with Stephen King. I very much agree with his comments about books and ebooks. Some people like to stir up a books versus ebooks battle, but King sums up my outlook when he says that it is the story or content that counts and the way of accessing it is secondary.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Recommended sources of royalty free stock music and photos



I know that when I put together some book trailers for The Rys Chronicles a year ago, I had to shop around for a decent and affordable source of stock music for the video soundtrack. Prices really vary, but the company I ended up buying from was Shockwave-Sound.com. This place has a tremendous selection of music tracks and sound effects. I also found their categories very helpful. They had a whole category specifically for fantasy and science fiction style epic soundtracks.

What royalty free means is that you pay one price for use of the music or sound in your video productions but you do not have to pay any ongoing royalties as you distribute your video that contains the music. This is a perfect arrangement for promotional videos and advertisements that generate revenue indirectly.

Now I know some people would just use any music they wanted to make a video and not give a thought to licensing. I suppose this is harmless if you are just making something for fun as a hobbyist, but any legitimate business person with commercial goals should do the right thing and properly license and attribute the copyrighted works used in producing promotional material. It could possibly save you a big legal headache. Because so many people need to promote themselves with multimedia there are many sources of affordable media. As I said, for quality and selection, I recommend Shockwave-Sound.com for music and sound effects. And my favorite place for still photographs is Fotolia.com. This place is hands down the most affordable source of stock photos. It is even going to be adding stock video soon, so I can't wait for that to get going.

When I made the book trailers for my fantasy series, I learned many of the skills from reading articles online. That's why I am making this post about affordable stock music and photos to help other interested researchers surfing for information.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My decision against selling ebooks at the Amazon Kindle store

Today I had the honor of having an article published at Teleread on the subject of why I do NOT sell my ebooks through Amazon. Teleread is a blog that promotes digital reading and follows ebook technology and the publishing industry. I was quite thrilled to have my article accepted.

The specifics of why I've decided against entering my titles in the Amazon ebook system are covered at the Teleread article Why I haven't added my ebooks to the Kindle Store. In brief, the sales terms offered by Amazon were woefully inadequate. It's just not in my nature to give someone a 65 percent cut.

However, I think that Amazon is a good company and I've been satisfied by it as a customer and as a paper book vendor, but Amazon is failing to tempt me into their ebook marketplace. This does not mean that my ebooks are not available to Kindle users. The Kindle is a decent ebook reading device and it can display ebooks in an unencrypted Mobipocket format. All but one of my titles are available in the Mobipocket format.

Perhaps as the Amazon ebook venue evolves, I might choose to participate some day if the terms cease to be predatory, but until then I'll just have to market myself one precious visitor at a time to Falbe Publishing or Brave Luck Books (TM).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cooking connects you to your food and protects your health

After two months of effort, I published my newest website last night. I call it Recipe River with the motto "a good life flows from cooking food." It is a recipes website with supplemental articles meant to help people start cooking more of their own food. Cooking is an important skill that has slid off the plates of many people's lives. Cooking your own food the majority of the time is so important because it allows you to know what ingredients you are using and increases the likelihood that you will prepare proper portion sizes. Food from restaurants and fast food restaurants tends to have portions that are way too large and the fat and sugar contents are generally larger as well.

I also believe that cooking causes you to appreciate your food more because you have been involved in the preparation. You put in an effort and get a reward. This is in contrast to slapping down some cash, getting some food, and shoveling it into your mouth without a thought of where it came from or what exactly it is. Being able to cook also breeds a sense of independence and competence. When you are hungry, you know what to do. If you don't know how to cook, then all you can do is look to others to provide for you.

Our society has many barriers that discourage people from cooking. Long work hours and commute times make people think they don't have time to cook. An overabundance of fast food outlets, especially in low income neighborhoods, entice people with convenient albeit unhealthy food. Many people simply don't know how to cook anymore. Schools have cut basic home economics classes and many young people are coming out of families where their parents did not cook.

My goals at Recipe River are to present solutions to these common societal problems by:

Providing recipes for easy dishes that use readily available ingredients.

Informing people about the bad health effects associated with not cooking your food.

Emphasizing the fact that cooking does not really need to take up that much of your time.


I even tackle the issue of single people who are notorious for not cooking very much. I understand that it's hard to cook for just yourself, but once upon a time I was single too, and I cooked my dinner and packed my lunches to bring to work far more often than I ate out. I could not afford to eat out all the time, and I was always amazed to see my co-workers buying their take out lunches every day. What a waste of cash that could have been spent on something nice. (For advice for singles, see my article: Overcoming cooking challenges for single people)

Now for my main point at Recipe River which concerns the subject of obesity. Considered an epidemic at this point, obesity is researched from many different angles, and data are starting to come in that reveal two things:

1. People who cook most of their own meals have a lower incidence of obesity.
2. People who do not cook most of their own meals have a higher incidence of obesity.

Although research on the cooking angle is only beginning, cooking or not cooking is emerging as a greater indicator of obesity than education or ethnicity or income level. (See my article: Not cooking your own food is a recipe for obesity)

I had always suspected this to be the case. To be honest I have some fat friends, who of course lament their condition. I have also noticed that they frequently eat out and I have pointed out to them how unhealthy it is to eat restaurant food so much. These same friends don't even know how to cook. Coincidence? Apparently not.

As for Recipe River, I intend it to become a reference website for all types of recipes for both experienced cooks and novices. It has bread recipes, dessert recipes, main dish recipes, and side dish recipes. I will be adding recipes regularly, which should be easy because I cook constantly and am always looking over new recipes. In the recipes I write, I also try to be clear about how to do certain tasks because I realize that some people don't automatically understand every cooking term.

Although I've been preachy about cooking, I grant that everyone needs to go to restaurants sometimes. I do so myself, but it is important to limit your restaurant use for the sake of your health (and your wallet). If you cook more of your meals, you can save your money and go out someplace nice once in a while.

Before you get hungry again, paddle your canoe over to Recipe River and get cooking.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Recommended Ice Age adventure for winter reading

I just finished reading The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel. It is the third book in her Earth's Children series that I have been enjoying immensely. I read the first book Clan of the Cave Bear about twenty years ago when I was in high school. That is a profoundly gripping novel, especially if you are like me and find yourself wondering what Neanderthals were like.

Although I really thought Clan of the Cave Bear was great, I never continued reading the series until the past few months when I ran across The Valley of the Horses at the library. After almost twenty years, it was like I had just put down the first novel days before. I remembered Ayla like a dear friend and was once again hunting and gathering at her side as she suffered extreme trials in the Neolithic world. Then I quickly proceeded to the third novel, which was utterly fascinating. My full review of The Mammoth Hunters is now at my website the Fantasy Tavern that includes some book reviews.

I mostly read fantasy, but I really enjoy stories set in our real prehistoric times. I think that some fantasy literature even owes its inspiration to our prehistory that beckons our imaginations but left no written records. For example, fantasy fiction usually contains races other than humans, like elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc. This interest in alternative races could be derived from the distant past in which humans actually did encounter and sometimes live in competition with other humanoid species that have gone extinct. Also the common motif of dragons and fighting monsters prevalent in fantasy fiction likely emerges from a time when humans shared the landscape with megafauna and did have to fight or at lease avoid monsters on a regular basis.

For more of my thoughts on various fantasy books and the Earth's Children series, please visit the book review pages at the Fantasy Tavern.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
The Briar King by Greg Keyes
The Charnel Prince by Greg Keyes
Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Valley of the Horses by Jean M. Auel
The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Barack Obama tattoo trend

Even during the long presidential campaign, supporters were getting tattoos of Barack Obama. With his inauguration about to break out like Fat Tuesday, the latest face for Prez-tige tattoos is the leader of the Free World himself. Hey, it's better than getting a tat of the ziz zag man.

In Washington D.C. right now Fatty's Custom Tattoos is offering a free Barack Obama tattoo with a purchase of another tattoo. See article.

Because I just could not resist, I added a Barack Obama tattoo to my free design listing at Destination Tattoo. When people get a Barack Obama tattoo, I imagine they will be simulating the pain felt by many Republicans as the new President takes the oath of office.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Expand your consumption of local food with home canning and food preservation

Focusing on local food products has become increasingly popular as people seek healthier food and try to reduce global warming pollution. Growing gardens is on the rise again as people see the potential for fresh fruit and vegetables out their back doors. Even modest gardens and one or two fruit trees can create tremendous bounty for one family, but does anyone really want to eat 40 pounds of tomatoes before they go bad? The answer is home canning with Mason jars. Canning used to be very common a couple generations ago, and it is on the rise again as people reallize they must take more control of their food sources instead of leaving it solely to mega-polluting agribusiness.

Last summer in cooperation with a local urban farming and environmental group (chicoeco.org) I was the instructor for a home canning seminar. I had taught myself the year before how to do it, and I was amazed at how many people, young and old, turned out for what I considered one of my nerd hobbies. About 25 people showed up to watch me boil water! Actually I discussed many technical details, but it was hardly the sexiest show in town.

Home canning fits in well with the local food movement because it allows people to fully take advantage of local crops, instead of only having them in season. For example if you can locally grown apples, then you are using local apples for most of the year for your desserts, fruit salads, and applesauce instead of buying what is at the grocery store.

Consuming locally grown food is an important way to reduce global warming pollution. A common figure tossed around is that the average American meal has traveled 1,500 miles. A great deal of the transport is caused by shipping foods to places where they are out of season, like tomatoes from warm growing regions (California, Florida, and Mexico) to winter regions. Another large source of all the food travels are centralized processing facilities that have replaced smaller regional operations over the years. This massive shipping of food back and forth across continents and even around the world causes tremendous amounts of fossil fuels to be burned, which exacerbates global warming. Of course some food transport is necessary with coffee being a glaring example, but most of it is unnecessary.

You can reduce the amount of fossil fuel pollution associated with your food by selecting local food whenever possible. When something you like is in season, find a canning recipe, buy a bunch of it, and preserve it. Then you will be able to enjoy that local food for all or part of the year before resorting to the supermarket.

I have a website about home canning where I have assembled my knowledge. I've been working to get the website ready for the coming growing season. This week I added the following recipes:

Applesauce canning recipe
Tomato canning recipes

Whether you garden or only shop your local farmers' market, I encourage you to learn about home canning. The food quality is substantially better than mass produced food and it will connect you with your local food system.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Getting noticed online

Usually I have to search and work hard to seed the internet with links to my various websites. These are called backlinks and they are helpful for gaining popularity with search engines. But over the past two days, I've had two different owners of websites that are directories of free online novels and ebooks contact me about listing my fantasy novel Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I.

Of course being listed in such directories is nothing momentous that will miraculously lead to success, but these new listings will help more people find my work and help search engines send more people to my websites. I'm hoping this is an auspicious start to 2009.

The free ebook directories are:


Finding Free eBooks - all free ebooks, all the time.


and

Online Novels - Free Novels Available on the Internet

Followers