Review: The Kingless Land

The Kingless Land, by Ed Greenwood

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

Overall I enjoyed this story. The pacing was good, with memorable characters and lots of action. There were plenty of unique uses of magic, and you get the sense that this is a huge world with thousands of stories yet to be told.

This isn’t surprising. After meeting Ed Greenwood and listening to him talk, he had an idea that I loved. With the Forgotten Realms, he had only one demand: For every story you tie off, leave three threads dangling for future stories. They might never be stories that the author would touch, but it left avenues open for new authors to choose. When you’re building a gigantic world with multiple authors working in it, that just makes sense.

We start with a warrior and a rogue breaking into a castle, where they meet an imprisoned sorceress. After freeing her, they flee her father, a power-hungry duke who’s bent on dominating everything.

And it wasn’t long before I started to nitpick the magic system and notice problems, which is why this story wasn’t 5 stars. The magic was erratic. For instance, there’s a spell where the sorceress can teleport herself and anyone touching her to anywhere she’s ever been before. Why didn’t she just use that straight off the top? Seems like a good way to get away, rather than running and risking capture by a band of warriors and wizards.

Even the same spells feel different throughout, sometimes. The wizards can summon these huge, winged creatures with two heads that sound nearly impossible to slay in their first encounters, requiring powerful magic to drop. But later a sword is sufficient.

Characters are introduced that have no importance in the story whatsoever. Some are literally introduced, and die before they can accomplish anything of note, despite scenes being written about them. It left me with the feeling that the book could have been shorter, and wouldn’t have suffered for it at all.

And there were points where the POV changed so fast in a scene that I felt dizzy, especially earlier in the book. But this settled down more toward the end, or I just didn’t notice it as much, I’m not sure.

I may or may not pick up the next book in this series. While I liked the characters and pacing, I’m still on the fence about whether I care enough about where the story appears to be going next.

Much work, new visuals, wow…

Monthly report for November, 2017

I did a lot of “behind the scenes” work this month. For instance, I updated this website – pretty much every page on the site was updated. Some of it was grammatical errors, but most of it was content. For instance, the Friends page was updated with a few new people, and a couple were chopped because I haven’t heard from them in ages.

Wizards’ War prototype v4.0 is coming along. After play testing the 2’x2′ board size, I’m confident that it’ll work. I think bigger would be even better, but since I have to balance size and cost, 2’x2′ is as small as I’d want to go. All of the art for the units is done, which is pretty exciting!

There’s a magazine that’s looking for Canadian submissions, and I put together an 800 word flash fiction. I’m … not really sure it’s good enough. I know I say that about all my writing, but I mean it this time. Moreso. It’s just so hard to tell an entire story in so few words. I don’t feel like there’s enough room for meaningful character growth. So I’m flip-flopping on it. The story’s just too straight forward. If I can find a way to add a meaningful twist, I might salvage it.

Edit: So the night I initially wrote this post, I went and worked a bit more on A Queen’s Edict and then came up with a twist for the flash fiction. It’s 300 words longer now, and I’m pretty happy with it.

In other news, the cost of all my books have gone up.

But Ryan! Why!?

Because I need to value my books appropriately if I hope to continue publishing. If I keep trying to sell at low prices, I can never get ahead to pay for editing and art. I really don’t want to run any more Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaigns for my writing, so the prices have edged up. A Noble’s Quest is up to $5 USD for Kindle, and $15 USD for paperback, A Wizard’s Gambit is $6/$20, and A Hero’s Birth will probably be the same, since it’s not too much longer than book 2. Short stories are still only $1 each.

I got some work done on my next book, too. One day I blitzed 2000 words on A Queen’s Edict, which I’m pretty happy about. It’s a Sardo scene, and I really like her. I mean, I like all three protagonists, but I think she might be my favourite. There’s something fun about a noble roguish character. She has Eliza’s charm, but can drift through a variety of social situations, not stuck with being a noblewoman. In this scene she sneaks away from a high-level meeting to have a meal with the troops and listen to their stories. It gives her context in a larger war that she knows little about. And the intel she gathers comes in handy in uncovering more details in the high-level meeting that the party might not have discovered, otherwise. I think I’ll share some of it with my Patrons this month. If you’d like to see exclusive sneak peeks, all it takes is a couple bucks per month. You’ll also hear about my process, and get access to a few short stories that I’ve published with the help of my Patrons!

In related news, I did up a quick text graphic for A Queen’s Edict so when I post lines from it over on Twitter I can start posting the picture to go with it.

Related to the last news, Harvey did up an omnibus cover for the Empire’s Foundation trilogy. This’ll only be available in a digital copy, because all three books in one would just be far too massive to print.

And more art! These are the four pictures for Thrak’s armies. I’ll be painting their unit tokens soon!

Last, but certainly not least, editing continues on A Hero’s Birth. It’s 87% edited, with three chapters remaining. I’m really hoping we’re done before Christmas, but these last three chapters are long, with a great many battles to play out. If we’re not done before Christmas, I’m not sure I’ll have time to get the paperback novels out in time for GenreCon, and that would suck. But we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s certainly not impossible we’ll be done by then.

SkyCon and the Month of October

It was the first year for SkyCon in Kitchener. I met the lead coordinator, Rob, at The Round Table a few weeks ago, and I like the sound of the KW area having a gaming convention. He was eager to have authors there, too, and told me Ed Greenwood, the creator of Forgotten Realms, would be there. The cost of an artist table was pretty reasonable, and I told myself even if I didn’t sell any books, I’d get the chance to meet Ed Greenwood. I can’t tell you what a huge influence the Forgotten Realms has been on me. I stumbled across Drizzt Do’Urden in my youth, and have played so many Forgotten Realms video games over the years (Baldur’s Gate series, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights [which ate MONTHS of my life because it had that amazing toolbox], Neverwinter… and I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting). It’s just been such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet the man who made it all happen.

So, let’s jump right into it, shall we?

The Good

The organization for the con was good. I liked the layout of the dealer’s hallway, right outside the ballrooms where all the gaming took place. The con also had pretty reasonable hours, starting events at 10am, which meant I could sleep in a bit. That’s important to me, because “being on” all day is exhausting, and cons sap my strength. As I write this, it’s not even 8pm and my eyes feel heavy.

I was on two panels the first day – and I don’t think I was supposed to be! It’s probably my own fault, and I misunderstood/misread something along the way, but I thought I was on a panel about DMing at 5pm. Then Tyler told me the DMing panel was at 2pm (Thanks, Tyler!). So I took part in that, and there was a good crowd there (Around 20 people, I’d guess?) for the size of the con. We discussed everything from running one-shots and campaigns, to dealing with problem players and players going “off the rails” (if you’re the sort of DM who plans stuff – something I try to do as little as possible). It was lots of fun!

And then Tyler informed me I was on the panel with him for game design at 5pm (Thanks again, Tyler!). So I THINK I was just supposed to be on that one, and not the DMing panel… so something to watch out for in the future. Apparently I will sneak into panels as a speaker if you don’t stop me.

I mean, I sat right in the middle of the panelists, with my books, like I owned the place. No one told me to go away, so I talked D&D.

The panels were well organized, with a hostess who had a prepared list of questions for the panelists before opening it up to the audience. I really liked that format as opposed to the sort where panelists sit there and make it all up on the fly. Those ones tend to have a single strong personality take charge, and you might not hear from all the panelists. With questions for everyone, you get to hear a wide variety of opinions and stories about every topic!

In terms of book sales, I sold 5 copies of A Noble’s Quest, 1 copy of A Wizard’s Gambit, and 1 copy of Demon Invasion. This more than paid for the cost of the table. I don’t feel comfortable thinking of success in terms of dollars made (you’ll see why below) but I know a lot of people think about it that way. So here’s some hard numbers.

A Noble’s Quest costs a touch over $8/book, and I upped the price to $20. I had been selling them at $15, but at Book Bash earlier this month I saw skinny books of poetry selling for $15 and realized I was seriously undervaluing my work. And if I don’t want to run Indiegogo campaigns for my books anymore, I need to actually start making some money on them. So $12 profit per book is way more than $7.

A Wizard’s Gambit costs around $11/book, and I also increased the price on this one to $25. The book is almost twice as long as book 1, so that’s probably still a pretty good deal.

Demon Invasion costs about $6/novella. I’m keeping the price of that one at $10, because I don’t feel comfortable selling a novella for $15. This means if people buy all three books at a con, and I drop $5 off for the bundle, I’m taking a $1 loss on the novella. I’m okay with that, since my profit margins on the other two books give me more cushion.

So, with the cost of the table, and ordering books, I walked out with a $35 profit. Any time I make any money at a con, I’m happy. My aim is always to recoup the cost of the table, because I usually have fun at a con.

Speaking of making money at cons…

Guess where I’ll be in March!

Ron from Kitchener Comic Con came in near the end of the day on Sunday, slapped this flyer down on my table, and asked me if we could make a deal again.

Last year he offered me a table in exchange for editing the website content. This year he’s asking that I take care of a monthly newsletter for the con.

No way was I going to say no to that! Kitchener Comic Con is the biggest con in this area, I believe, with over 9000 people through the door last year. Getting a table in exchange for writing? No brainer!

Bowtruckle!

 

I also picked up this little thing. If you’ve seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you’ll no doubt recognize the tiny bowtruckle. It’ll find its way into a stocking this Christmas! Wish I’d thought to pick up a card, because I can’t find information on who made this, but she had a lot of cool Harry Potter trinkets at her table. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can update this with a link to her.

If you’re into collectible card games (CCG’s), there’s a brand new one that debuted at SkyCon called Genesis. The artwork is phenomenal, and while I don’t play CCG’s anymore (not since I sunk way too much money into the Star Wars one in my youth), I heard from Nat that the game is great. Really nice people behind this game, too, so I recommend taking a look!

And as I already mentioned, Tyler was there, manning the GenreCon table. That’ll be my next con, come February! And, so long as the timing works out, I SHOULD have paperback copies of A Hero’s Birth ready by then! So exciting!

The Bad

I’m not sure it’s fair to call this bad, because I knew this was the first year of the con. I went in with no expectations of crowd size/sales.

It was pretty quiet. I was lucky that Nat, Tyler, Missy, Dave, and Jon all attended, because I had people to talk to and panels to attend all day the first day. The second day I got editing done on A Hero’s Birth, because I’m pretty sure fewer people came through the doors on Sunday. I could be wrong, but that was just the sense I got.

In their defence, they only came up with the idea of running the con three months ago, so considering the short amount of time to promote, it was REALLY good. I look forward to seeing how it grows next year.

The Ugly

I have nothing to add to this heading. I had a great time, especially because…

The Amazing!

Ed Greenwood!!!

As I mentioned earlier, Ed Greenwood was the big draw for me to attend SkyCon. Even if I sold nothing, meeting a living legend was well worth the cost of the table.

He lived up to my expectations and exceeded them.

When he got there, Rob was introducing him to people, and when they got to my table, Rob excused himself to go check on other things, leaving Ed and me to chat for a while. He’s open and funny, and when he talks to you, you feel like you’re the only person at the convention. Rob was kind enough to take pictures of us, which was awesome.

Ed’s interview on Sunday was well attended, and he engaged the whole room with insights into building worlds, writing, game design, and life. I can’t believe it was only two hours, because the time absolutely flew by. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Speaking of which, Ed left me flabbergasted when he swung by my table and picked up all of my books. All of them. When he talked to me the first time he said he’d be by later to shop, and I took that to mean he’d try out the first book, which was still amazing to me. But when he came back and pointed to each book in turn and said he wanted all of them… wow.

Steven Schend, who I know through Google Plus, and is a friend of Ed, said that not only does Ed routinely pick up books at conventions, he does read them and talks about them on his Twitter account.

And suddenly I freeze. Will he like the books? It’s often said that authors are discovered with a great deal of luck. I know it’s far too early to assume anything will come of it… but the mind can’t help to wander off, fantasizing about hitting it big and being catapulted into the life of creating books, games, and more for people around the world to enjoy.

It’d take an awful lot for me to give up my day job. Just the thought of doing something like that fills me with existential dread.

But what if I could? Would I take that leap?

I honestly don’t know.


 

And this is a two-part post, with the monthly update here at the end…

Aside from attending SkyCon, this month was insanely busy, but I got so much work done!

I told my aunt/editor that I hope to get the editing done for A Hero’s Birth before the new year, so I have time to order books for GenreCon. She started blasting through the chapters, and we’ve edited four or five chapters in a week. With nine chapters left to go, I’m hopeful that we’ll be done very soon!

Prototype 3.0 for Wizards’ War is almost complete, but I hit a snag. While there was a lot of interest in the game at SkyCon, I also got some much needed 1-on-1 time with Tyler, who has the price lists for game components. As it sits right now, a copy of Wizards’ War would be $180 for you to buy. BUT, after a flurry of discussing how to drop the price, we’ve come up with a new way of doing things that won’t change the overall feel of the game too much, but cut the cost of production in half. No longer will players each have their own boards. Instead there will be one huge board with a city in each corner. Instead of individual acrylic tokens for resources, we’ll do resource tracks right on the board with markers to indicate how much you have in storage. So the basic game play and rules remain the same, which is ideal. So I’ll be playing around with creating the files for prototype 4.0. No idea when that will be ready, as finishing editing A Hero’s Birth is my primary goal right now, but I’ll get there.

I started working more seriously on my RPG idea, Strongblade. I’ve been playing around with a character sheet layout, and revising the rules to take it further away from D&D 5e. I just hate the idea of reading through a 400 page tome of legalese to figure out how to make my world fit into the D&D framework. On the other hand, D&D is the largest RPG around, and distancing myself from it might reduce my discoverability. But then, when has that ever stopped me in the past? By the time this is ready to go, I’ll have a bunch of other stuff out, so maybe I’ll have a larger audience.

Yet another game idea entered my brain and refused to leave until I started planning it a bit. Unlike Wizards’ War, which takes place after A Hero’s Birth, this game – which might be called Escape Themat – comes directly from book 2, A Wizard’s Gambit. I don’t want to post spoilers for the book, although if you’re reading this and haven’t read book 2 after it was released two years ago… anyway, it’s a much faster game to play than Wizards’ War. You run, try to save halflings, and hope to make it out of the gates of Themat with your life. Play is determined by cards, and after talking with Ed Greenwood, I think I’ll try to make the cards multipurpose, so they have dice rolls incorporated into them, as well as locations, and other stuff. It’s kind of nice having a game that will be a smaller, simpler project.

 

 

Review: Jump/Drive by Rich Griffith

Jump/Drive, by Rich Griffith

Genre: YA coming of age set in a suspense/action mix

Rating: 4 stars

Some teenagers find themselves in a great deal of trouble when strange things start happening in their town. Something’s wrong with the water, and their habit of drinking Dr. Pepper saves them from the ill effects. They travel about, trying to figure out what’s going on.

The dialogue is strong, and the story unfolds in such a way that I had a hard time putting the book down. The friendships feel real. I had flashbacks to my own teenage years, the way young boys talk to each other with playful mockery.

In fact, it was such an interesting story that I almost missed the fact that there were errors throughout. Extra/missing words and some other small things tripped me up a few times. Sometimes it got a bit repetitive… like a character would say the same thing twice in a row, as though Griffith changed the way it was said, and forgot to remove one of the lines.

The weakest part of the book was in the descriptions. There were moments of clarity where I could envision where the characters were, but also sometimes where I was kind of drawing a blank. I liked how parkour was used throughout, although at first I found it strange reading about parkour, because it’s such a visual sort of thing.

And something that just always bugs me about books set in modern times is all the pop culture references. Some of them I got, others I didn’t. It always feels to me like if you don’t have all the same interests as the author, you’ll miss stuff that might be funny. But it’s the way a lot of people talk, so it also added to the strength of the authenticity of the dialogue, even if I didn’t get what they were talking about!

But at the heart of this story, there’s a lot of internal and group conflict. These boys have been through a lot in their young lives, and nothing’s neat and tidy for any of them. It’s a book that will challenge your beliefs on victim-hood and survival. For that alone, I highly recommend reading it.

Review: R.A. Salvatore’s Transitions trilogy

The Orc King, The Pirate King, and The Ghost King

by R.A. Salvatore

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5 stars

For fans of the Forgotten Realms, and fans of Drizzt Do’Urden specifically, this may be a difficult series to read. We find alliances with old enemies, heroes who fail, and old friends who face destinies that aren’t fair.

In those ways, it mimics life perhaps too closely. Well, perhaps not the alliances with old enemies. In this world, we see a deepening divide that is impossible to imagine ever becoming whole.

But in terms of failure and death, these things don’t always make sense. Sometimes there are other forces, and sometimes you can just do everything right and still fail.

The final line of The Ghost King wrecked me. I’d already had my emotions breaking with the previous scenes, and then the last line hit me and I sobbed.

I don’t know how many years I’ve known Drizzt and his friends. It’s been years since I read through all those books that are still on my shelf. I’m happy to add these ones to my collection, but I think it’ll be a little while before I seek out the next series. An ending to a trilogy like this requires a bit of time to reflect.

So many projects, so little time

In some ways, I made great strides this month. In others, I feel like I haven’t done enough. Why? Let’s take a look at the list!

Fan Fic to Anthology

As I’ve mentioned before, I started volunteering as a Dungeon Master (DM) at The Round Table (TRT). The world that we play in was created by Tom Gofton, the owner of TRT and Lynnvander Studios. As such, I have no rights to the IP, and thought I’d just write a little story summary of the games I ran, so I could share it with the players.

Then there was some question as to whether fan fic is actually legal (it’s not. Written works are covered by copyright laws). However, after the good folks at Lynnvander Studios discussed the situation, Tom was more than happy to have fan fic for his world. I just need to sign a legal agreement, which will be done soon. Moreover, Tyler – also from Lynnvander – requested that I hurry up and polish the story as much as possible and submit it for an anthology he’s helping put out. So this 19000 word novella is off to a good home, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all worked out!

If you’d like an exclusive sneak peek at the first scene in the story, get ye to Patreon and select the $2/month donation option. You’ll see it there on October 1st!

DMing

How much work is it to create ideas for campaigns every two weeks? A lot. On our return from Quebec at the end of August, I spent a couple hours of the drive with my nose buried in a notebook, creating maps and descriptions for a dungeon crawl. The next session early this month followed up on that dungeon crawl, and led to the exciting conclusion where the party fled the mountain complex just before it exploded in fiery doom, a dracolich rising from the lava. (Dracolich: Dragon that defeats death by returning as an undead abomination that can use powerful magic)

Later in the month we were low on DM’s for our regular sessions, so I decided to try something new and run a campaign in my own world, with my own unique spin on the D&D system (more on that later). I churned out 7 first level characters for players to choose from, with the idea that I’d have around 5 players at my table, so a couple characters would go unused. This worked well, because it meant people could choose classes that were interesting to them, and everyone seemed happy with what they got.

And then I pretty much winged it, in terms of coming up with the game session. I mean, I knew the inciting event, but I had no idea what the players would do with it. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and instead of it being a “one-off,” I hope to run another session some day when we can’t run the normal campaign.

Editing A Hero’s Birth

I’ve made this project my primary priority, so it’s been swimming along just fine. No issues here. Promise! I’ve been keeping up with my editor as she sends chapters to me, and we’re 2/3rds complete!

Writing A Queen’s Decree

This … oh, this … Work on my fourth novel has pretty much ground to a halt. Why? So many other projects. I mean, I’m about 3/4 of the way through writing the first draft, and my third book isn’t even out yet. So I feel like I’m way ahead of the game. Also, I’m not sure I’ll have the finances to publish it when it IS complete, so … not high on my priority list. If the Empire’s Foundation trilogy takes off with the release of the final novel, that would bump this up the list of priorities again. However, with slow sales on existing books, and just not getting reviews from people who do buy books, I’m feeling discouraged on this front. The last short story I released had a grand total of one sale on Amazon. I hope the book will do better.

I’ll still write stories, but depending on how other things come along, it might just be at a slower pace, with no intention of publishing them unless something drastic changes. With each book costing so much to bring out, I just can’t keep sinking money into it without seeing some promise of return on investment. That sucks. I love writing, and if money wasn’t an issue, I’d keep doing it forever. But at some point you have to evaluate what you’re doing and figure out if it’s a good use of your time.

Creating board game prototype 3.0

Perhaps you remember the frantic pace I set in whipping out prototypes v1.0 and v2.0? I was like an unstoppable juggernaut of efficiency.

This, too, has slowed. There’s been a disruption with the board game developer nights, with the man who ran them looking for greener pastures. Since then, finding answers to questions has been much, much slower. I’ve still had some game testing and minor tweaks. I’ve been putting together a component list for things I need to make the game. I’ve been arranging game board and punch boards so they’re in a format fit to print. But the urgency behind it all has evaporated. This latest version has taken weeks to put together, instead of days.

That said, I’m planning on showcasing the game at my artist table at SkyCon at the end of October. So that at least gives me a deadline to have everything ready to go. I’m hoping the convention will help generate some interest in the game, which will in turn help with raising funds to make the game with a Kickstarter campaign. With the positive response I’ve had to Wizards’ War, I feel like it can do well. The trick will be getting enough people interested in it to get it funded. When you run a Kickstarter, you’re trying to generate enough funds to make a LOT of copies of the game – somewhere around 1,000.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know 1,000 people. So it’s intimidating. But I love doing it. So even if the Kickstarter isn’t successful, at least I’ll have a game I created and enjoy to play with people I know. It’ll just be the most expensive game I’ve ever owned, with over $300 already invested into prototypes!

Creating RPG based on D&D 5e

When I started writing, the first thing I did was create a bare-bones role playing game (RPG) system. Now, the games we played that inspired the writing were set in the D&D rule set, but I wanted something that was uniquely mine. So I created classes and powers with vague descriptions that I could reference while I was writing. “Okay, the party is about due to level up after all that fun stuff. What new things can they do?”

When I DM’d in my world this month (as mentioned earlier), I decided to work with the D&D 5e rules in order to flesh out my ideas. I have several standard class options to choose from: Hunter, Druid (splits later into Mending or Wrathful subtypes), Protector, Aggressor, Stealth, Fast Talker, Wizard (splits later into Air, Water, Fire, or Earth subtypes), and Priest. But the system doesn’t stop there! There are hybrid classes for every conceivable combination of classes, and the ORDER that you take them in matters, giving you different classes. For instance, a Stealth that takes a level of Wizard can create the hybrid Shadow class. But a Wizard who takes a level of Stealth can create the hybrid Illusionist class.

And then there are what I’ve coined the Ultimate hybrids, which are effectively triple-class characters. The Hero, for instance, is Protector + Wizard + Priest. The Sieger is Hunter + Wizard + Druid. And there are more. PLUS unique classes for other races. That’s right. All that stuff I’ve mentioned so far? That’s just humans.

So when I say I created 7 characters for them to play, that was a LOT of work, figuring out what all those vague powers actually DO in terms of D&D 5e mechanics. So that was a major time sink this month, but oh so worth it. If you’d like to read more about that, I posted on Facebook about the game session:

Conventions

This hasn’t taken up much of my time at all, but it’s worth noting. Tyler (mentioned earlier) attended the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and was kind enough to bring along my books. He even sold a copy of A Noble’s Quest! So that was a nice surprise. EMWF is more of a literary event, so I wasn’t expecting anything from that one. My wife predicted that maybe someone there would have a relative who liked reading fantasy and pick up a book for that other person, and that’s exactly what happened!

I’ve also signed on for two upcoming conventions. The first is SkyCon, which is a gaming convention in Kitchener at the end of October. They’re having Ed Greenwood as a guest. If you haven’t heard of him, he created this little thing called the Forgotten Realms. It only has something like 300 novels associated with it, a chunk of those written by my favourite author, R.A. Salvatore.

I’m going to get to meet Ed Greenwood. I’m so excited. As my wife would say, “NERD ALERT!” I can’t help it. This guy’s a living legend.

Now, it’s the con’s first year, so I don’t expect big crowds, but the table prices are pretty reasonable.

Coming back for its second year (after a hiatus) is GenreCon, right here in Guelph! Last year’s event was … quiet. They kind of threw it together without much notice, they had no celebrity draw, and so it had some problems. But they’ve been working hard at it all year, because they want it to be better. No, awesome! So this year there’s rumour of some star power hitting the con. I don’t see any official posts about it up yet, so I won’t post anything more … but you’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

What’s next?

Great question!

This month I’m going to continue editing as fast as my aunt gets chapters to me, I’ve got DMing at The Round Table, game design nights (with a new one at The Dragon’s south end location), I’m volunteering at Guelph Book Bash on Sunday the 15th, I’m running a Genre Fiction Writers meeting at The Red Papaya on Sunday the 22nd at 2pm, and that should be about it.

Y’know… plus all my normal duties as a husband, father, and researcher.

Onwards!

August Recap

This month I started something new.

I know, I know, I have so much going on, how can I possibly do something ELSE?

Well, I’ve found a way. Somehow.

I started as a game master (GM) at The Round Table for Dungeons and Dragons, Fifth Edition (D&D 5e) and had a blast! It was so much fun that I decided to write out the adventure as a story. However, as I don’t have the rights to the world, I’ll just be sharing it with the players in the campaign.

The group consisted of a human fighter, a gnome druid, a deep elf rogue, and a squirrelley rogue. The second session added a tiefling warlock. The third I had two returning characters, and four new ones. So consistency isn’t really a thing, but it’s fun!

“Wait a minute, Ryan. What’s a squirrelley?”

Great question! To learn more, you can pre-order a copy of the Legacy of Mana! Basically, the squirrelley is a halfling with arm flaps that let it glide, and they have some pretty funny quirks.

The story begins with a quick teaser, introducing the ursine chieftain Grodurs Whiteskull and vulpine Petey Furnax. It then starts into the adventure, following the point of view of Jebeddo Raulner, the gnome druid. So many crazy things happened, some planned, others not, but that’s the great thing about playing these sorts of creative games. It gets your brain working in new and exciting ways, as you have to figure out how to tell a coherent story with players who are making their own decisions about how to make their way through the story.

But – probably not surprisingly – it takes up a lot of my creative time. So I think I’ll just write up the first three sessions, and leave it at that. After all, I don’t want to fall TOO far behind on my other stuff!


Work continues on prototype v3.0 for Wizards’ War. Remaking everything pretty much from scratch is a long slog, but I’m almost done. Just need to get a quote for parts and see how much this thing’s going to cost to produce. Then I’ll start putting the wheels in motion to plan out a Kickstarter campaign.

I’ve also requested some art for the game from Harvey Bunda. After reworking … well, everything! … I don’t need as much art anymore. Thank goodness. But one thing I do need is character art for the four wizards and their units. So that’ll be finished soon. I’ve already received some, too, which I’ll share now!

Sample unit cards for Wizards’ War (Click for larger image)

But this version of the prototype is taking me a lot longer to make because I’ve really spread myself thin. There was a steep learning curve with the D&D 5e, a lot of time and effort put into creating the foundation for that story, plus with my decision to start writing about the adventures, and editing A Hero’s Birth… well, I have almost no free time anymore. It’s a bit stressful. I think once I finish my story arc with the characters in D&D 5e I might take a session off to focus on other stuff. But I’m just having so much fun with the game I don’t want to stop!

So I’ll probably just keep doing everything until I collapse.


Whoaaa, we’re half way there!

Speaking of editing, I’m half way through A Hero’s Birth! If you’re planning on re-reading the series, we’re probably getting close to the time to start. My aunt is e-mailing me a chapter every day or two, which is really intense. I’ve been hammering through them, trying to keep up with her, and it’s AWESOME! I totally feed off this sort of thing, and the faster people throw stuff at me, the more energized I get. I’ve had quite a few nights where I’ve been up past midnight lately, which isn’t a good thing in the respect that I function poorly with less than 7 hours of sleep. But whatever. I’m pumped for everything and I hope other people are excited about what’s coming down the pipe, too!


And I saved the best for last. I took two weeks of holidays, as I often do at the end of the summer. We went to Quebec City! We haven’t gone anywhere in a long time, and we’ve been talking about going to see our aunt (my editor) for a while now. The kids had never been out of province, so it was fun going somewhere completely different. Quebec City is gorgeous, and they had a lot of fun attractions for us touristy types, like Old Quebec, the aquarium, and Montmorency falls.

I remember hearing people saying that people in QC were snooty about French, but that’s the opposite experience we had. Everyone was so friendly, and many employees automatically spoke to us in English if they overheard us talking to each other as we approached. A parking attendant at the aquarium saw our Ontario license plate and spoke to us in English straight away. We only ran into a couple people who didn’t speak English, but they were really friendly about us not understanding French.

That said, we did get a chance to practice speaking French a lot while we were there. We bombarded our poor aunt with question after question, as we failed to remember French words we had learned way back in grade school.

The whole trip was great, and I look forward to visiting again!

July recap

New release!

In case you haven’t heard, my latest short story called Dark Ones has been released!

The story takes place 1250 years Before Gods’ War, making it the furthest back I’ve gone in Illuma’s history. I loved how this story tied several different elements together, so there are easter eggs for fans, and it’s just a fun story if you’re new to my writing.

Eshe awakens from a meditative trance when she feels a psychic force. Barbarian hordes, led by mysterious Dark Ones, approach the city and it is up to her, an order of monks, and the city guard to protect the citizens of Bisoro.

There might be more coming after this story. I ran a D&D campaign at The Round Table that started off shortly after some of the events in this story. We had a blast, and I’m tempted to explore this vast region more, either in D&D games and/or in stories. The more I think about it, the more interesting this whole region and time becomes. Of course I have my main novel series to worry about, and my slow writing schedule means I probably shouldn’t branch off to any large scale work. Maybe one day I’ll get back to this region and flesh it out.


I did a lot of editing this month, and am now up to chapter 20 complete in A Hero’s Birth. For book 4, the working title has changed to A Queen’s Edict, and I’ve decided to use a prologue/epilogue structure with the next series, too. I’d thought about changing it up, and doing letters between some of the characters, but it felt flat to me. So now I’ll be looking at the Emperor’s 6th Son, as he attempts to discover the ancient strength of Murgaphyie. Instead of going back in time, like I did with the Empire’s Foundation series looking at Matthew, these snippets will be happening at the same time as the story, with a parallel arc. It should work a lot better in building up the tension over the course of the series.


I’ve started work on Wizards’ War prototype v3.0. There are so many changes coming down the pipe!

  1. Miniaturization – the game pieces from v2.0 were too large to produce the game in a cost efficient manner. I’m shrinking everything!
  2. Tokens to counters – punch board tokens are expensive. I’m looking at ways to reduce the number of tokens and replacing them with wooden disks, painted with symbols. They’re dirt cheap in comparison, and still look awesome!
  3. Resources to counters – Tommy told me that the small resource cards I had with the game would cost a lot more than standard playing cards, because it means they need to change the formatting on the machines to make the cards. A less expensive way to do things is coloured acrylic cubes. They look great, and I can get different sizes to denote 1 or 5 resources of a certain type.

So I’m redesigning the boards, and putting together an itemized list of everything I will need to order to make 1000 copies of Wizards’ War (gulp!). It’s terrifying to look at the sheet with everything I need. No way is this happening without a successful Kickstarter, that’s for sure!


Because I don’t have enough to do already, I signed up to be a dungeon master at The Round Table. Every second Sunday, I’ll be dragging players, kicking and screaming, through my own story set in the Legacy of Mana world. It’s pretty exciting, and we’ll have our first session tomorrow! I wrote up a little introduction and showed it to Nat and he laughed. A lot. That evil, “everyone’s going to hate you so much” kind of DM laugh. Can’t wait!


Last but not least, July was a pretty good month! I don’t remember the last time I had three people read A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1) through Kindle Unlimited in a 30-day span. Plus a few sales for A Noble’s Quest from the multi-author promotion I joined, and the rather lackluster launch of Dark Ones. Well, that just seems to be how short stories go. Can’t wait to launch A Hero’s Birth and have finished the Empire’s Foundation trilogy!

June Recap

Happy Canada Day!

You remember that comic strip I made with Matthew Strongblade back at the start of the year, because it wouldn’t get out of my head?

It’s baaaa-aaaack! I was sitting at The Round Table with Nat at the end of May and he was talking about how he was editing a comic book. I made the mistake of mentioning how I’d love to do a comic some day, and told him the details of my “community voting choose your own adventure” comic. He LOVED it. Talked about ways of monetizing it to keep it running. He said basically what I’d already been thinking… run it for a year with one character. I’d start off with Matthew, then go to Hendricus Wyrmstriker. Then who knows after that? Pellin? Marcus? Ramar? Arus? Others I haven’t even dreamed of yet? Adventure after adventure, all leading up to the exciting conclusion shown in the prologue of A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1)!

Anyway, I’ve been talking with my friend about how to make that sort of setup work, in terms of my website. Since it won’t be a simple linear story (yes, you might cause Matthew to die, and have to go back!) I’d have to have some sort of map laid out so people can see where the story goes, or is currently, so they can vote. Probably not an issue to have a “current panel” button that links to the latest one, but mapping out the previous panels so people can navigate them to catch up on the story might prove tricky. We’ll see.

Another issue is how to do the “Pay to vote” thing. I already know it’d be dirt cheap – 50 cents or something like that for a vote. The problem is implementing a system where someone pays to vote. Is it a constant stream of micro transactions? Do we let people have a tab, so they can charge up 10 weeks all at once for $5 and take out 50 cents each time they vote? I don’t know. I’m thinking it might be better just to crowd fund it to pay for the whole project in one shot, and then reveal it slowly to people as they vote. Patrons would then get bonus votes, so they could vote twice and have a larger say in the direction the story takes, and start saving up for the second comic that follows Hendricus.

Does the comic sit on this site, or do we create a new one?  I’ve implemented social media logins to limit problems with bot spam. As it was, I had to turn off comments on this blog, because I got a steady stream of spam messages for drugs, porn, etc. I’m going to try leaving comments on for this post, and sharing it to Twitter (where most of the bot spam seems to come from) and see what happens.

I’ve found an artist I’m excited to work with: Sal, aka TheDarkCloak. His stuff looks amazing, and his idea for pricing is right around where I thought it would be. We’ve talked about doing a “simple” art form like Table Titans, and if we get a bigger following, we can do more. That right there is a good reason to go with Kickstarter, I think, so we know how much we have, and what kind of quality we’ll be working with.

Anyway, it’ll still be a while before this becomes a reality. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, with the new novel being edited, and a board game under development, but maybe late this year we can get this ball rolling!


Another blast from the past, the interview I did for the We Got The Geek podcast aired this month! It was the first time I’d been interviewed at a convention, so I was excited about it!


Game design for Wizards’ War has been going swimmingly. June started off with a lot of play testing and a meeting with Nat from Lynnvander Studios to go over the rule book. A couple clarifications were requested, but otherwise he sounded quite pleased with how the game is coming along.

Mid-month we had another game board design night. Lynnvander Studios was off to a convention, so I think my game was the only one there. Mike finally got a chance to play, which was great! Dave had some interesting ideas for expanding the game to include the ability to destroy buildings. So we brainstormed it, and decided to not only let you destroy other people’s buildings, but also let you tear down your own buildings. It means one of your Workers is busy for a while, and you’ve lost your resources that you put into the building, as well as any future use of the building. But it allows you to change your mind after you’ve filled up your city. Additionally, siege engines and Pellin’s fireball have been tweaked to give them more functionality.

We squeaked in another 3-player game at the end of the month and had a lot of fun with it. It was a “fast mode” game with double resource gathering, and I think I need a couple minor tweaks to it, but otherwise it went pretty well.

I have holidays, and I’m hoping to get a bunch more play testing done while I’m off work!


The first 12 chapters of A Hero’s Birth are edited! My aunt has been blazing through the second pass. By my best guess, the book should be ready to release into the wild in October or November. I think that might be too late to submit it for the Campus Authors event and Guelph Book Bash, which is a shame. I’ve got three plaques on my wall, one for each year since 2013. It’d be nice to get the 2017 one, but I doubt it’ll happen. C’est la vie!

While waiting on editing notes, I’ve started working again on book 4 (or book 1 of the Strongblade Siblings series, I never know how to refer to it). The siblings are fighting again. Surprise, surprise. But Sardo has Wizard Runner now, which is an exciting development. Why does a holy rogue need a war horse? You’ll just have to wait to find out!

Review: Parralax, by LJ Cohen

Parallax: Halcyone Space, book 4, by LJ Cohen

Genre: Space Opera

Rating: 5 stars

As soon as I started reading this, the fourth book in the Halcyone Space series, I felt like I’d come home. Even though the characters were still suffering from the events at the end of the third book, catching up with them again was effortless. I’m so impressed with Cohen’s ability to bring out books quickly, and maintain the high quality I’ve come to expect.

The galactic conspiracies grow by leaps and bounds. The protagonists have no idea who to trust, or the depth of deception that underlies everything they know. The build up to the final scenes is not fast paced, but not slow: deliberate. After every scene I would curse Cohen for switching to a different character, because I wanted to stay with who I was reading about, but then I would quickly be immersed in the new story line. There were too many twists and turns for me to be able to see where the story was going, and after finishing it, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!