Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo

This weekend I went to Saskatchewan Entertainment Expo, and that means I get to do my first Good, Bad, and Ugly report for a convention outside of Ontario! Let the games begin!

The Good

The Prairieland Park is a great venue, with a ton of space. This expo was the largest I’ve ever attended as a vendor, by far. I know Kitchener Comic Con says it gets around 9000 people, but there’s just no way those numbers can be accurate. SEE says it pulls in 12000, and it was ridiculously busy. But I think that’s the difference between selling armbands to everyone who comes in (SEE) and counting people who enter the doors of a free event (KCC). I figure KCC has to be counting people more than once, if they leave and come back later, because the foot traffic isn’t even close to the same.

I contacted SEE really late, since we just moved to Saskatoon, and I only found out about the expo recently. All the Artist Alley tables were sold out, but they fit me in to an economy vendor stall, which was much roomier than I’m used to. I need to be careful not to get too used to that sort of luxury!

Photo Credit: Jefferson Smith

Fortunately, Jefferson Smith lives in Saskatoon and generously offered to split the table with me. If you haven’t done conventions before, it’s infinitely better to have someone to share a table with. Companionship helps keep your energy levels up, not to mention you can take breaks and still have someone watching the table for you.

I met a couple local writers on the first day who invited me to their writing events. I’m not 100% sure they’re a good fit for me, one being a “writing prompt” sort of group to help with inspiration and combat writer’s block – neither are things I have problems with – and the other sounding sort of ill-defined, but they want to put together an anthology. Even so, it’s always nice to network with other writers, because writing tends to be a lone wolf sort of activity, and it’s nice to share experiences with others.

In terms of sales, I did quite well. Two people bought the full trilogy, and I sold another half dozen copies of A Noble’s Quest. That more than covered the table costs, which was great! Also, some people requested that I put the books in a local book store because they didn’t have the money to buy them at SEE, so I’ll be looking into that soon. As an unknown author in the area with no fan base, I was really pleased with those numbers. Not only that, but I had several people say they will definitely get the books on Amazon as well. Now, I don’t like to count my sales before they come, but I have a really good feeling about some of those people. The community here is exceptionally supportive of their local artists!

Overall, a fantastic convention. Large, well organized, with a good-sized list of current and past celebrities. It was wonderful. Best convention I’ve ever attended! (Although meeting Ed Greenwood at SkyCon will always stand out as a career highlight for me, and will be tough to beat!)

The Bad

Jefferson had to miss the first day entirely due to illness. That really sucks! He had quite a lot of success on the second day when he was there, and I felt he would have done great with the first day, too.

This next point is super minor, and not a knock against the convention at all… but one bad thing about being in the vendor area is that I was beside a WALL of Funkp Pop figures. It’s amazing how many people turned down our alley and simply didn’t see anything else, as their eyes were immediately grabbed by the sheer enormity of hundreds of Pops. How can a little author hope to compete with the power of pre-existing fandom collectibles? Next year I’ll get in on SEE earlier, so I can hang out in Artist Alley, where I hope my work will shine a bit more.

The Ugly

I felt so bad for the guy across from me. I mean, he had a great convention and sold a ton of comic books. He said it was the most he’d ever sold there. But he had two shelving racks that weren’t super stable looking, with REALLY expensive comics on it. One was $975. Thousands of dollars worth of comics fell to the floor, and that big one cracked. Likely cut the value in half. So painful.

The Vendors

I didn’t actually get to do much networking with vendors at this one. I talked with a couple of the people nearby, but didn’t get out of my area much at all.

Jefferson Smith shared the table with me, and has some interesting sounding fantasy books of his own! Fairly different from my stuff, by the sounds of it, but our writing processes are somewhat similar, and I bet they’re good reads. I read one of his short stories a while back, and it was highly entertaining!

Mike’s Comics (Warning: Link is to Facebook page. If you value your privacy, might have to skip this one.) was across from me, and he’s a really nice guy with a massive comic book collection. He had two booths absolutely packed with boxes of comics!

CmdStore had all the Funko Pops and way, WAY more. My son had to get a Pokemon ball from them, and had a really hard time not getting a Funko Pop. As soon as he saw them, he said he wanted to buy one, and he had to be reminded that there was an entire convention worth of stuff to look at, so he shouldn’t just get the first thing he laid eyes on.

 

Review: The Road

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Post-apocalyptic
Rating: 4-stars
My aunt sent me a copy of The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, and I finally got around to cracking it open a couple weeks ago.
It… took me a bit to get into. I didn’t like the extremely slow start. The way he chose to write the dialogue isn’t to my taste. And everything was so bleak… something I’m not really in the mood for often anymore, given the current state of the world.
Yet I found myself getting drawn into the story of the man and his son. I found myself caring about these nameless characters, and wishing they could find SOME bright hope in a dying, scorched world.
And I cried at the end of it.
I think the father-child bond was what did it for me. I kept trying to imagine myself in such a dire situation, watching my own children slowly wasting away, and it hit me right in the amygdala. It’s a parent’s worst fear.
And I loved how gentle he was with his son, even as he taught him hard truths of the world, or his son figured them out for himself. He took ownership when things went wrong, and realized that when his son did something incorrect, it was his own fault for not double checking things, or teaching his son how to do it properly.
If you can get used to the style of the writing, the book will grab you and not let go until the very end. If you’re a dad who loves your child(ren) fiercely, this won’t be an easy book to read, but there are some great lessons in the darkness.

Review: Auckland Allies

Auckland Allies, by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Genre: Urban fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

Three low-powered magic users work together to uncover a conspiracy that threatens their way of life. The story is well written with a quick pace and enjoyable characters.

I like Sparx a lot… the non-toxic masculinity was refreshing to see. The banter between the characters was great, and there was a lot of action which always keeps me hooked to a story.

I will definitely continue on with this series, and recommend it highly!

Review: Crimson & Cream, by C.M. Skiera

Crimson & Cream, by C.M. Skiera

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

This one had been on my TBR list for a while, and I’m glad I got to it. The writing is excellent, pacing quick, and characters interesting.

You’re in Jetsam’s head throughout most of the story, an orphan who has banded with other orphans to survive in the sewers. At night they come out and take what they need to survive.

This story starts out looking like a simple happy-go-lucky tale with a young protagonist, but quickly turns to a life-and-death struggle. With powerful monsters, an irate lord, and tenacious bounty hunter in his way, Jetsam has to use every ounce of cunning and speed he possesses to avoid a grisly death.

The twist near the end didn’t surprise me, but that’s okay. The story was still fun enough that I enjoyed it from cover-to-cover. I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel!

A Queen’s Edict art, Empire’s Foundation trilogy volume

This month I revealed the sketch for the cover art for A Queen’s Edict! Harvey Bunda has once again done a wonderful job of capturing the character and has brought Grace Strongblade to life. Patrons got the first look, and a few days later I did a public reveal on MeWe.

“But Ryan! What about Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, etc?”

Glad you asked. With all the privacy and data scraping concerns going on across social media, I’ve deleted both my Facebook and Twitter accounts. While Google Plus hasn’t been caught doing anything, the fact that we don’t see how they monetize their site made me feel pretty certain that they’re using our data somehow… but I guess they wanted to jump on top of the problem before it blew up, because they put together a video talking about how they use the data to target ads on sites like YouTube, but they don’t actually give the data to any third parties. So the advertisers have no idea, it’s just Google handling it all internally. So I might share stuff on Google Plus still, but as for Facebook and Twitter, I’m not going back. Honestly, I shared the promo video to show off the cover art on Google Plus, and no one even saw it. For whatever reason, despite people showing interest in the reveal, the actual reveal was swallowed up by the Google algorithm monster. So what’s the point of posting there if posts people want to see never make it to their page?

Honestly, I really like MeWe. I feel a lot happier knowing that anything my friends post comes across my Home page. Certainly, there are fewer people there right now, but I feel like there’s room for growth. G+ has been stagnant for years.. all the followers I found, I found shortly after starting, when people could share circles of people with similar interests. Since then, it’s been flat. Yes, I still have interesting conversations with people there, but I want a platform where I can easily find people, and other people can easily find me. For instance, the Genre Fiction group I started for writers and fans has been adding people steadily. At the start of the month, we were under 70 people, and now we’re up to 89. Not staggering numbers, I know, but it’s growth. And there have been a few people taking part in our weekly writing event, where we share snippets of our writing based on a theme that people vote on. So I’m happy with it!

Anyway, back to the art… half way through the month Harvey sent me a sneak peek video, showcasing the cover art with some filler text. I’m so, so happy with how it turned out. I gave him some lines from the first draft to put into the video, and he sent it to me so I could post it to my own YouTube account.

If you just want to see the art all on its own without the flashy video, that’ll be posted to my Patreon account.


In other news, work continues on Wizards’ War. I’ve nearly got a finished 2’x2′ board, and I’ve been teaching a group of friends the game, so they can teach others when they go to Origins and GenCon this summer! If you’re at either one, look for Broken Things and say ‘hi.’ They’ve got some great games they’re working on! (I really like their deck building game)


Finally, I’ve released the full Empire’s Foundation trilogy as a single volume on Amazon for the low, low price of $9.99! The books in the series have all come down in price, too.

Why?

Because I got some great news! If you’d like to find out that great news, you know where to follow me. It’s not being posted publicly, so if you’d like to know, I’ll tell you in private. But I’ve received some fantastic personal news, and am sharing my good mood by dropping prices across the board.

Coffee, art, work, MeWe

This month I tried out a new fundraising platform that a friend pointed me towards. Ko-fi is a site that lets people give small one-time donations to someone. If you really want, you can even buy someone multiple cups of coffee at a time. There’s no fees for using the site itself, from either the person giving the donation, or those receiving, although PayPal does take a bit. I chipped in a coffee to the makers of the site after receiving 8 coffees in two days, because it’s nice to give back, especially when they don’t demand anything in return.

Now, the “buying me a coffee” thing is a bit of a ruse, because of course that money isn’t being used for coffee. I state right on my page that I’m saving up for the art for A Queen’s Edict. And I’m really close to getting there, already! The majority of the money I’ve saved has come from book sales, with donations from Patreon and Ko-fi helping, too!

I’ve added a little button on the right side of the screen, so if you ever feel like kicking in a one-time donation, it’s right there. As an added perk (?) I take a selfie thanking you for the coffee to share with you and show the world how awesome you are. Don’t believe me? 

So there you have it. Donate a coffee, get a picture of me thanking you. You can forget you ever saw it, doodle obscenities on it, print it out and burn it… the choice is yours!


Work continues on book 4! There’s more departures from the original D&D campaign, with added scenes to tie everything together better and ramp up the pressure on the characters. I’m trying out a new format with this one that’s worked out pretty nicely thus far. The three protagonists get their scenes in the same order, every chapter. Grace starts it out, Sardo is in the middle, and Trai wraps it up… it’s in their birth order. I don’t know if I’ll stick to that through the whole series. There will probably be times when I want one character at a particular point in time, and it won’t make sense to keep that ordering. In fact, I hadn’t expected it to work out as well as it has throughout 85% of this book. It might fall apart at some point, but I’m hoping to make it through the whole book with it.

I think my biggest worry was that it would feel clunky. For instance, in previous books, sometimes I’d end a chapter with a character, and want to continue on with that character straight away for the pacing of the novel. Some chapters a character wouldn’t have their POV come into play at all. So I like this because it forces me to sit down with each character and not play favourites. Everyone has a voice, solving that main criticism of A Noble’s Quest that the characters felt a little flat (although I like to think they come alive more in A Wizard’s Gambit and A Hero’s Birth… I’m just starting this new series out on the right foot).


There’s a new social media platform called MeWe. It’s pretty good! I’m thinking about switching over to it as my main social media site. I’ve already set up a Genre Fiction writing and reading group, a personal writing group, and a personal game design group. Quite a few people are checking it out, so I’ve dropped Facebook and am limiting Google Plus to mostly sharing posts about writing and game design, like what I used Facebook for. If you want the more personal side of my posts, you’ll have to follow me on MeWe.


Work on the audiobook for A Noble’s Quest continues! I’ve been listening to the chapters as the voice actor finishes them, and I’m really happy with his work. This is his first audiobook, and he’s really knocking it out of the park.


Lastly, I’ve been working on Wizards’ War. The playing cards came in, and they look great! I’ll be using them at SkyCon Light on April 28th in Kitchener. Additionally, I’ve been working on revamping some things for the game, and have printed off a new poster for the latest board, and some additional pieces. I didn’t have time to get the new board set up fully for SkyCon, but that’s okay. I’ll get it done in lots of time for both Origins and GenCon. Thanks again to my friends who are bringing it with them to let people try it!

 

Review: Weirdo Company volume 1 by Ben Guilfoy

Weirdo Company volume 1 by Ben Guilfoy

Genre: Modern day military fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

There are five short stories included in this collection, and they’re all a lot of fun! When it started out, it felt like your standard military story that dealt with stuff that was a little weird. But that weird got BIG AND CRAZY really fast! The stuff Weirdo Company deals with is amazing! I mean, the titles of the stories probably give that fact away… but actually following the characters through it all is something else.

I was hooked part way through the first story, with a line that I loved so much I had to make a meme for it…

And it felt like the stories were anticipating my questions, sometimes. I’d be reading, and thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder about X.” When that happened, it wasn’t long before the answer came. That built a lot of trust between me as a reader and the author early on, so I relaxed and enjoyed the stories more as the series continued.

The fifth story had a couple hiccups in it, with what I think was a missing word, and a couple words that I think were typos. I hadn’t noticed it enough to bother me in the other four stories, and I was enjoying it all so much by that point that it didn’t bug me too much.

I will definitely be checking out future volumes in this series, because this was a great read!

Toxophiles

So this month was pretty awesome. Not only has my writing started making money for the first time since I started writing, but a fan group appeared on Facebook.

Seriously.

When I was invited to join my own fan group… no words seem adequate. It was surreal seeing “Toxophiles United” and watching the group grow. At the time of publishing, it’s up to 15 likes.


On top of that, Adriel Wiggins blasted through 4 of my titles and reviewed them all on her website at the same time as she posted an interview I did with her. It was fun, and I recommend reading it if you haven’t yet! If you don’t want to go through all the reviews, here’s the short version:

A Noble’s Quest: 5 stars

1100 Before Gods’ War: 5 stars (and her favourite love story)

Demon Invasion: 4 stars (-1 star for awful demon names… seriously. Who writes a story with that many named demons? I knew this was a bad idea from the start, even if I like the story :P)

A Wizard’s Gambit: 5 stars

All of that? That’s pure author fuel! If you’ve read my books and haven’t left a review yet, those things keep me going. Plus they help other people find my stories. So head on over to Amazon and/or Goodreads and let people know what you think!


New business cards! I gave away so many of them at the first two conventions of the year that I had to get more. I’m not 100% sure they’re worth having. For the amount that you spend on them (I only pick them up when I get a good deal through VistaPrint), and the number you give out with no bites, it sometimes feels like they’re not a wise investment. But at Kitchener Comic Con, one person who took a card checked out book 1 through Amazon, and liked it enough to get the sequel. I’m sure other people have used the cards, too, but maybe just enough to break even.

After giving out all those A Noble’s Quest cards, I thought I’d move on to the next book in the series. Once they’re gone, A Hero’s Birth is next. I can’t imagine going through 250 business cards faster than I can publish books, so this strategy might just continue on for the rest of my writing career. Gotta catch ’em all, or something.


I received payment from Amazon for January, and I have to say… I’m really happy with it. See, I made as much in one month as I did all last year through Amazon sales! Now, before you think, “Whoa! You must be rolling in it!” let me just say I didn’t make a heck of a lot last year… just $40. But still, I’m competing against myself, and only myself, so I’m really excited about this, especially seeing that I’ve continued to have some sales through February and March.


Work continues on both A Queen’s Edict and Wizards’ War

The book is closing in on 85,000 words. I’m really happy with how it’s progressing.

And I’m almost done the cards for the game. I’ll be bringing it to SkyCon Light in Kitchener on April 28th, so I need to get those cards ordered soon!

SkyCon 2017