Review: Gifts for the one who comes after

Gifts for the one who comes after, by Helen Marshall

Genre: Paranormal

Rating: 5 stars

Marshall has a way with words that makes the macabre and creepy beautiful. While it was a little harder to get into a couple of the later short stories in the collection that were 2nd person, and there was a story that I’m certain had a deeper meaning (I’m terrible at finding those), each and every story was written with graceful prose. Once I started reading, it pulled me along, demanding that I continue from story to story to see what happened next.

There were a couple stories that were difficult for me to read with themes of miscarriage.

I think my favourite story was the one that told you right from the start how the story would end, but encouraged you to read through, because reading the end of the story first wouldn’t make any sense. I followed Marshall’s instructions, and I understood exactly what she meant. And even with her telling the reader how it would end, I still found it surprising.

The variety of voices and locations was refreshing, and it was amazing how she could get me to want to know more about all the varied characters in the stories.

Well done, and highly recommended.

Kitchener Comic Con 2018

You know what time it is! Or maybe you’re new around here and don’t. Long story short, any time I attend a con, I like to write up a “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” report, partly so I remember what a con was like, so I know if I want to go again in future years, partly in case other people are wondering if that con might be good to go to as a vendor. Your mileage may vary, depending on what you’re selling…

The Good

Kitchener Comic Con is the biggest convention I go to, with hundreds, and probably thousands of people coming through the doors. It’s a free event, so you get some really interesting experiences with people wandering through who really have no idea what’s going on. They just come in to see what’s going on, and in some cases you get people coming to get out of the cold for a while. Suffice it to say, you can have some interesting conversations with colourful people! For instance, I had one guy who might’ve been around my age walk by, and I did my usual, “Hi, how are you?” and he stopped, looked at me, and said, “You’re the nicest person in this whole place. You’re the only person who’s asked me that since I got here.”

Well, shucks. I may not win any “Pushy Salesman of the Year” awards, but I’ll take, “Nicest person in this whole place” any day!

There was another older gentleman who reminded me a great deal of my wife’s father, in terms of looks. He stopped by and talked to me about this book collection he kept at home, with some original copies… misprint copies… all sorts of things. He thought I might know something about appraising them (because I sell books?) and I suggested he might try an antique store, as they’d be able to at least point him in the right direction, if they didn’t want them. We had a nice long chat, and he showed me an “original hard cover” of Attack of the Clones published by Lucas Books, written by R. A. Salvatore. I doubt that particular volume will ever be worth anything, since I don’t expect any Star Wars merchandise after Return of the Jedi will ever be worth anything, but some of the other books he talked about sounded really interesting… some of them dating back to the early 1900’s. I wish him well and hope he finds someone who has some knowledge about appraising such things.

Okay, Ryan, that’s all well and good, but how did sales go?

In a word… adequate. I mean, I do editing work for the newsletter for KCC in return for a table, so anything I sell starts making profits for me right away. Ron Hoppe was very good to me, and gave me a whole table, so I got to showcase the prototype of my board game, Wizards’ War. That generated a fair bit of interest, and I got several e-mail addresses to add to my mailing list for when I launch the Kickstarter!

Oh, sales? Right! While I was hoping to do better this year since I have my full trilogy out now, I never took into consideration that there are tiers of spending at conventions. This was something I spoke about at length with another vendor, who pointed out that he wasn’t selling big ticket items, but had quite a few smaller ones selling. As a free event, a lot of people come as a family, and the kids are looking for something cute and shiny, not really giving their parents time to browse themselves. Also – many of us parents have been there – parents prefer to get their kids something over themselves, anyway, so they might not even be looking. For many, coming out to KCC is a big deal to see all the wonderful cosplayers, and there were many in attendance! Chewbacca, Han, the Predator, Deadpool, Spiderman, Poison Ivy, Elsa, Chun-Li… just to name a few!

This knight looked awesome, too!

So having more books might have been almost detrimental. I mean, there was a ton of interest, and I went through dozens of business cards, but if you’ve done a lot of conventions, you know giving out business cards rarely translates into sales. A couple of people assured me they would definitely look for my books later, and while I hope that happens, I don’t count my unhatched chickens. Having three books out for $70 total probably looks like a big investment (it is!). I just don’t think there’s a way around that, except to start doing bigger shows where people are paying to get in the door and are looking for stuff to buy. I really like doing local conventions, but it’s time to step up to play with the big boys and girls at a larger convention, I think.

On day 1 I sold 3 books, and on day 2 I sold 4 (three of which were to one person at the end of the day). It was tough. I talked to a few people who came around my table when they first got there, really liked what they heard, but said they needed to check out the rest of the convention before making any purchases… but they’d probably be back. While I’ve had luck with that sort of thing coming through at other conventions, it just didn’t materialize this time. You win some, you lose some. I covered the cost of parking and gas, and came out with a bit extra. I had some great networking, treated myself to some vendors’ wares, and had a pretty good time in general.

The Bad

2 out of 2 cons I’ve attended this year had Trouble with Tables. When I got to KCC, they hadn’t gotten all the tables they needed. It wasn’t a long wait, fortunately, so I was set up and ready to go before the doors opened. Sometimes conventions feel like barely controlled chaos, and this one certainly had some weird stuff happen. For instance, I got to the con on Sunday and was told I was late… and I certainly wasn’t the only one. Most vendors were coming in for 11am. I remembered seeing somewhere that the show started at 11am, and ran until 4pm. But when I tried to find the information on the mobile website, I didn’t see anything. The website for KCC is bad. Like, half the time when I try to visit it, I’m redirected to some other site that looks and sounds like a virus. But when I close that, and try again, I usually get to the actual website on the second try. Even once you’re there, it’s a bit of a madman’s paradise, with a lot of stuff going on and the information you’re looking for is buried. Anyway, I just checked on my desktop (got that virus-looking page first again!!!), and it does say 11am-4pm. So I dunno why anyone would have thought it started at 10am. And then they tried to say the con went until 5pm, but the vendors were all like, “What? This ends at 4pm.” And a lot of people (myself included) packed up at 4. I’d already told my wife the show ended at 4, and the con was pretty dead by that point anyway, so I wasn’t going to drag it out another hour. I was ready to go home and get some dinner. Conventions always wipe me out (but in a good way).

The Ugly

Seriously, that website needs a total overhaul. The glitchy landing page is a major cause for concern, as I could see people panicking and not trying again.

The Amazing

I was approached by Steveo Torell from Heads or Tails Gaming, who invited me to demo Wizards’ War at his shop in Brantford, and he’s interested in stocking the game when it comes out! I still can’t believe that conversation happened. After telling him the basics of the game, he said he had some people who frequent his shop who would definitely be interested in it.

Also, The Del Morgado Show was my neighbour, and Del interviewed me a couple times. It appears that Del has fans in Germany or somewhere around there, because I picked up a couple sales from the German Amazon site! Always love reaching the international audience!

I picked up this little guy from Artisan Maille, who were right across from me! Brad and I have been friends for about a year now, having first met each other at Tri-Con last year. When I saw he was bringing these little scale dragons, I knew I had to get one. I have a healthy collection of red dragon items (maybe I’ll get them all together and take a picture some time), and this little guy is the perfect addition! It’s a pin, so I was wearing it on my pocket during the convention.

Last but certainly not least, I hit a MAJOR milestone with this show… for the first time since I started keeping track, I am now in the black!!! That’s right! Out of the hole! Any money I make going forward is going to be saved up for cover art and editing, and buying new stock. I’m off work tomorrow because I have a doctor’s appointment out of town, but when I’m home I’m going to go through my stock and see how I’m doing. I think I’ve got a fair bit left. So if there’s something you want, just let me know and I’ll set it aside for you. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally see positive numbers come out of book sales. Thank you to everyone who’s helped me get to this point. I couldn’t have done it without your help. Sure, I do the writing, but without you guys buying my books and telling your friends, I couldn’t have gotten here. So thank you again, a million times!


I like to point the spotlight at other great vendors I meet at these things, so here goes!

Artisan Maille – makes all sorts of amazing chainmail stuff.

Genesis: Battle of Champions – collectible card game. We’ve started the ball rolling on a future collaboration!

The Del Morgado Show – radio show every couple weeks on Mondays at 9pm. (Warning: Adult language)

Heads or Tails Gaming – gaming shop in Brantford.

Daryl J Ball – Author. He’s been supporting my work for a few years now! I met him at the second KCC, where he picked up A Noble’s Quest, and he’s been coming to see me ever since.

Williams Photography – I actually met William because he was selling comic books, not for his photography, but he’s a nice guy and maybe you need a photographer in the Cambridge area!

Dan Watt – Author. He’s got a medieval spoof novel called Dragon (The Emerald of Light) that I picked up. He says it’s a comedy in the vein of Monty Python, so I’m interested to see what that looks like!


Next up: Kitchener Comic Con!

On March 3rd and 4th I’ll be at Kitchener City Hall for Kitchener Comic Con! It runs from 11am to 8pm on Saturday, and 11am to 4pm on Sunday. With my full trilogy out, I’m hoping to do really well.

Some good friends have offered to bring the prototype of my board game, Wizards’ War, to Origins this year. I was so surprised when they offered… with the board game design nights at the local game cafe falling apart months ago, I haven’t done much work on it. But now I have a deadline, and I’m going to have to get some work done on it.

On the plus side, there isn’t too much that needs to be done… I have all the art for the cards, so I just need to fit that to the standard poker card size template, and write out some descriptions, which shouldn’t take long. I also need to finish designing the larger board, order it, and cut out the hexagons. That last part will be the biggest part of the job, as slicing out the hexes isn’t easy, and requires a lot of fiddly work. I’ll look into it more and see if there’s a way to get them pre-cut to save me the headache.

And before you worry that the game will pull me away from my writing (I ran a poll this month and the majority overwhelmingly want me to continue writing book 4), I’ve been writing, too. I shattered the 75,000 word mark on A Queen’s Edict, and also started writing a new project, which will be a stand alone sci-fi novel. At least, that’s my intent. If I had a bunch of people banging down my door for more, I could continue with it, I’m sure.

What are the two books about? I’m glad you asked!

A Queen’s Edict begins almost 450 years after the conclusion of A Hero’s Birth. Grace, Sardo, and Traithaius Strongblade are siblings living in Stowenguard, and on the night of Trai’s 16th birthday, they are summoned to meet the Queen. From there, they embark on a vague quest, seeking to fulfill a prophecy that might be about them, but it’s hard to tell. Even the mission is ill-defined, but they have been assured that they are to destroy the evil Lord Torrak, King of the South.

The sci-fi story, which lacks a title at this point, revolves around the discovery of an alien that’s been frozen in the arctic. With the glaciers melting, it’s found and hauled off for analysis. It appears to be closely related to humans, a potential missing link…

I’ve only written the prologue to the sci-fi story at this point, clocking in at 900 words. There’s no timeline to get it done. It’s just something fun to work on as an aside when I don’t feel like working on my other projects. It’s like procrastinating, but still working.

Review: Scoundrels anthology

Scoundrels anthology, published by Bushmead Publishing

Genre: A mix of sci-fi and fantasy

Rating: Average of 4 stars over 7 stories, ranging from 2 to 5 stars


Miniature You, poem by Linda G. Hill, 4 stars

I’m not usually much of a poetry fan, but I rather enjoyed this one. It starts off as a pleasant sort of thing, and turns pretty dark by the end.

Oceanitides, short story by Laura Johnson, 4 stars

This was written well enough. I liked the Greek feeling of the half-siblings competing for an ancient relic. The twist ending fell kind of flat for me, and nothing stood out to make me say “Wow! That was 5 stars!” But it was enjoyable.

Ties That Lie, novella by Tiffany Woodbeck, 2 stars

There was a lot I didn’t like in this one. There were at least three words used incorrectly (gilding refers to gold, not silver; massive usually refers to something with mass… so a royal garden doesn’t fit the bill; cacophony isn’t one person raising their voice to argue a point, it’s a lot of discordant noises mixing together. Massive I can let slide, because I’ve seen it used this way many times, but the other two really bugged me). The phrasing throughout was bizarre. For instance, at the start of the story every person was described by their hair… and that hair was given such a lifelike quality, I almost expected the various heads of hair to pop off the people and start having interactions of their own. Mien is a fine word maybe once or twice in a story this length, but was overused here. And the “smoothing of skirts” gave me PTSD flashbacks of The Wheel of Time series. Also, so many pursed lips.

In fact, the emotion was so wooden I was fairly certain the main character was a sociopath or psychopath (which would’ve been fine, because it’s a book about Scoundrels, after all). The way she “allowed” her tears to flow at some point made what should have been real sorrow feel like she was forcing it. And then I almost laughed when her betrothed said she was very emotional, because I had seen NO evidence of this. I was figuring at that point that she had somehow fooled him into believing she was emotional, despite the fact that she’s constantly stone-faced. It was all so at odds with itself that I felt baffled when she actually broke down crying later in the story… and just realized that the emotions were poorly written, earlier. It’s the old “show, don’t tell” and I hadn’t been shown that she was emotional. At all.

There were no real twists in the story to try to save it at the end. At least, none that I cared about, as a reader. And I think this calls back to the lack of emotion and caring about the character.

Cuthburt and Crowe, novella by Drew Carmody, 3 stars

I found this story distracting for a couple reason. 1) Run on sentences. I counted 4 “ands” tying together one sentence that just never seemed to end. 2) Incorrect punctuation. When a sentence is spoken, there’s a comma that connects what’s in the quotes with the tag if the tag is directly related to the speaking. For instance, from the fifth paragraph: “Oh, don’t be such a damn stick in the bog, Crowe.” Cuthbert said with a grin, “Yeah, I’d get the princess…”

That’s all backwards. There should be a comma after Crowe, and then a period after grin. This happened repeatedly through this story and bothered me every single time.

3) It was fairly common for words to be missing letters. 4) A super-minor formatting error on the first page made me check the previous story to see what the paragraph indents were, because they looked too large (and they were). But it was only on the first page, so I’m not sure what happened there. I noticed it before I started reading, so it’s not like it pulled me out of the story or anything. Just an oddity. 5) “Massive” was so overused I actually took a screenshot to show a friend when it appeared SEVEN TIMES on one page (and again, sometimes used not quite correctly). There are other words.

All together, it felt like maybe the wrong file was used for this story, because I haven’t seen anything this sloppy in the other stories. It was interesting enough that I still liked it. It felt like a disjointed D&D party (paladin, fighter, rogue, warlock [or necromancer?], mage, and monk), setting up for future adventures.  There were interesting ideas throughout that felt very compartmentalized, like parts of a D&D game. A sort of, “They go here, something interesting happens. They go here, something interesting happens.” etc.

One Last Payday, short story by P.A. Cornell, 5 stars

This sci-fi story was fantastic. A thief gets a job to transport some data from one person to another, and will pay enough for her to finally live her dream and get off world… but there’s a big catch. There’s twists and turns along the way that really captured my imagination. I’d look for more from this author.

From Love to Hatred Turned, short story by Isa Mclaren, 5 stars

Brand made me think of 007 as a roguish art dealer. Suave, intelligent, and one step ahead, he’s a master tactician who knows how to manipulate people. The story was fun and well paced.

The Bridgemaster’s Daughter, short story by John Ryers, 5 stars

I didn’t see the ending of this story coming. Perhaps I should have… the clues were there all along, but I missed putting them together. I love it when that sort of thing happens. With a headstrong female lead, and a charming rogue antagonist, there’s some great, believable banter, and good action.

Dangers of Tensire, novella by Ryan Toxopeus

Come on. I’m not going to review my own story. That’s worse than paying for reviews.

But honestly, I think this anthology is worth picking up just for the three 5-star stories. I plan on looking for more work from those authors.

GenreCon 2018

You probably already know I spent the weekend at GenreCon 2018, so let’s go right ahead to the usual, shall we?

The Good

The hotel and con staff were very friendly and I had a fun weekend.

The Friday night (6-9pm) went better than I thought it would. Last year I hadn’t gotten any sales that first night, so I was pleasantly surprised to have two! Also, a trio of Jawas came running through, and one of them pawed at the character cards on my table! Jawas have always been one of my favourites from Star Wars, and seeing three of them running around acting like Jawas, looking like they were going to steal things, was so fun.

Saturday was the long day (10am-9pm) with lots of events going on, including a celebrity visit from Charisma Carpenter. She was in another part of the con, so I didn’t get to see her, but I heard good things from people who saw her. Nicholas Brendon was supposed to be there, too, but got held up at the border. That day I sold nine books, which was amazing. I had my table costs covered half way through the day, which is always a nice feeling!

I was a panelist at two panels, one on self-publishing with Sarah WaterRaven, and another on world building with Sarah again, and Tommy Gofton and Sen-Foong Lim. Both panels were a lot of fun, and well attended. I had a couple follow-up conversations with people, which were great, too! Networking at a con is worth almost as much as sales, because it’s often about who you know… for instance, I was approached by Assad, who created the Genesis: Battle of Champions collectible card game (all vendor links are at the end). We met at SkyCon last year, and chatted a bit at GenreCon. He mentioned he’s now going full-time game creation and is starting to put out feelers for working with other people – specifically authors. Now, I’m making my own board game, but I know next to nothing about CCG’s. The last one I played was the old Star Wars one from the 90’s. I’m definitely going to follow up with him and at least chat some more about this, because I want to break into gaming. With the synergy I saw happening between my books and board game prototype, I’m convinced that getting into more forms of media can only help.

Additionally, my wife and kids came and had an amazing time. They got their pictures taken with a bunch of cosplayers, from Darth Vader and Storm Troopers to FOUR Judges (from Judge Dredd). I’d share those pictures, but you know how it is…

Sunday was a shorter day (11am-4pm) and was considerably quieter, especially later in the day. I still had 4 sales, so it was a good day. The 501st was around, and it’s always cool seeing Darth Vader and Boba Fett walking through a convention.

The Bad

You know, there wasn’t anything that sticks out as being bad here. Sure, it had its quiet stretches, but I had interesting vendors to either side of me and we talked a lot to pass the time. It felt busier than last year, so you get the sense it’s growing and getting better. I’ll be interested to see what happens next year! Maybe they’ll even get some better weather! It was awful out there with lots of snow and even rain on Sunday, and I’m sure that stopped some people from coming.

I’d guess the only bad thing that happened, I wasn’t really involved with… Nicholas Brendon got stopped at the border, due to ongoing criminal investigations. I guess the con coordinators and Brendon tried to get some paperwork together to help him get across despite the charges, but they still didn’t let him across. If he’d been there, I might have spent some of my earnings on meeting him. But after I shared a post on Facebook about Brendon not coming, I learned from my cousin that Brendon has a pretty sketchy past, legally speaking. Lots of charges, including felonies. So maybe the way it worked out was for the best.

The Ugly

Nothing to put here. I had a good time.

The Great!

Launching A Hero’s Birth at the con was the right call. It was great having people coming up to the table, picking up the last book to see how the trilogy ends. I had four sales just from people I knew were coming, which covered a good chunk of the table cost by themselves. Having that sort of traffic coming in was wonderful! And Dave hung out in the area for a good part of Sunday, and cracked open his copy of A Hero’s Birth to read right beside the table. You can’t buy advertising like that – I have the best fans!

Additionally, I had a couple experiences that I HAVE to share, because they were awesome.

Two young women approached my table, one I had met at SkyCon, and she had figured her friend Nikki would like my books… so she brought Nikki over to my table and introduced us. After we talked, Nikki decided to pick up A Noble’s Quest to see what she thought.

She followed me on Twitter and posted this:

That was such an amazing feeling. But wait! There’s more! Today she came by with her nephew and while he was getting his face painted by Miss Kitty, Nikki told me that she had almost finished A Noble’s Quest already because she was having a hard time putting it down. She said she’d get A Wizard’s Gambit, because she was sure she’d be done A Noble’s Quest very soon. I offered to knock $5 off if she got A Hero’s Birth at the same time, because I usually give a discount if people get three or more books at the con. She picked it up, too! I can’t wait to hear what she thinks!

Another gentleman was walking by my table, and he almost got by me… until he noticed Harvey Bunda’s stunning artwork – specifically, Fyrsanthemar the God Crusher on the cover of A Wizard’s Gambit. He came to talk to me, and wound up getting the entire trilogy in one go when I told him I love dragons, too, and have them in all my books. What a high, right before I was headed to my first panel!


There are a few vendors I’ve met before, and I met some new ones, too! The vendor community is great, and I like to share the spotlight with them.

Adventures of Lollipop – a comic where the characters explore Canada and the world, sometimes time travelling to teach kids about the world around them.

Artisan Maille – awesome chain mail stuff, from armour to dice bags and jewellery.

Critical Shoppe – cute RPG-inspired comic stuff.

Fire and Steel – for all your weapon needs. One day, if my books ever get BIG, I’m going to get the Strongblade mass produced for sale.

Genesis: Battle of Champions – a strategic CCG that uses a board game grid to lay out your armies.

Kyfak – local games and toys. (I meant to get over there and pick up some Star Wars Lego minifigures but forgot!)

Miss Kitty Facepainting and Entertainment – she did face painting and henna at the con, and also puts together parties.

By the numbers

I know a lot of people like to know the exact details of what I consider success. I recently increased the prices on my books, because a) I had someone approach me at a con and say, “Is that it?” when I told them A Noble’s Quest was $15, so I figured I could get away with more, and b) I need to start valuing my writing more, if it’s going to start paying for itself, allowing me to write more books. So here’s the details:

Books sold

2x A Noble’s Quest

2x A Wizard’s Gambit

8x A Hero’s Birth

3x Scoundrels anthology

2x $5 discounts for people who bought the full trilogy

Gross income: $325

Net, after printing costs and table fees: $100

That’s definitely the best I’ve ever done at a convention. Normally I’ll break even, or be a little bit over, which is great. It looks like my belief that I’d get better sales once the trilogy was finished is turning out to be true. My table looks WAY more impressive with five titles on it. While I doubt I’ll have the first book of the Strongblade Siblings series ready to go for next year, I do hope to have my board game, Wizards’ War, ready to go. Maybe that will draw in an entirely new audience, too. One thing’s for sure… if I add any more products to my table, 4 feet just won’t be big enough!

Review: The Last Light of the Sun

The Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2 stars

A funny quick of being a writer (in my experience) is that people buy you books because you write. “Oh, you write? I thought you’d like this book!”

I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while now with the intention of reading it, because I’ve heard for years that Kay is excellent.

I have a feeling these people probably really like Tolkien and other classic fantasy novels that are slow, slow, slow and hugely repetitive. This is not the style of fantasy that I enjoy, and if this is representative of Kay’s style, it’ll be the last book of his I read.

We start off with a merchant from a far distant land visiting a town of what I’d say are vikings. An event has happened, and he’s late so he’s only heard second-hand stories.

And then we never see that character again.

And this is my first major complaint about this book: It could have (and should have) been much shorter than it was. Cut down to AT LEAST 3/4 the length. There are so many throw-away characters that have absolutely no agency in the story. You get to see the POV of a single character for a single scene, and anything that you think might be an important take away from that scene simply isn’t.

All of these extra wasted scenes are interspersed with the stuff you might actually care about. There are these interesting princes from distant lands, a hint of faerie magic, viking raids, and intrigue. The stuff that’s on point is INTERESTING and good. It’s all the other bloody stuff you need to sift through to get to the good stuff that is absolutely painful. This book probably took me twice as long to read as books that I enjoy, because I just couldn’t bring myself to read outside of my rides to work on the bus (and sometimes not even on the bus). I’d finish a scene and just sigh, because I knew there was a good chance I just wasted my time learning about the characters in the last scene, or was about to start a scene with characters I wouldn’t care about. I kept hoping for some brilliant ending that tied all these one-shot characters together to make some sort of masterpiece that I never could have seen coming, but it just didn’t happen.

But then there’s Bern, this thoughtful viking who’s smart and strong and has a conflicted past with his father, who was this legendary raider, who is one of the better characters in the book. There’s Alun, a prince who’s dealing with loss and suddenly finding himself in a position he never wanted. There’s Athelbert, the oldest son of a king who’s been building his empire to beat back the viking raiders… a true warrior poet king… and Athelbert has a great sense of humour and is interesting to follow. There are a few strong female characters in the story who piqued my interest.

There were MORE THAN ENOUGH interesting characters who were central to the main story to keep this going. Thus it’s all the more baffling that these one-shot characters are dropped regularly throughout.

My other major beef with this book is that it’s highly repetitive. Like… there’s no way you’ll forget an event that’s important to the story, because you’re going to hear about it over and over and over again. Like I GET IT! BERN STOLE THE DAMNED HORSE! I REMEMBER THAT FROM THE START OF THE BOOK AND DON’T NEED TO READ IT AGAIN! AND AGAIN! AND AGAIN! AND YES, THE HORSE IS MAGNIFICENT! AND HE SWAM ACROSS A FREEZING STRAIT!

I originally rated the book as 3 stars, but I just dropped it to two because there’s so much that irritated me about how much time I spent reading this book. All those annoyances outweigh how good the central story could have been. But no, in the middle of the climactic battle, let’s just shift to a few other characters who aren’t important at all right now. Let’s just break the flow of this event we’ve all been waiting for for over 500 pages. No reason. Nothing important, that’s for sure. But let’s remind you of the other characters who aren’t fighting.

This book is the perfect example of how not to pace a book.

Book launch and GenreCon 2018, coming up!

This is going to be great.

I mean, if this pair of celebrities doesn’t draw in a ton of people to Guelph on the weekend of February 9th-11th, I don’t know what will. Charisma Carpenter (Cordellia) and Nicholas Brendon (Xander) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame are coming to GenreCon.

True story time: I always loved Xander because in a way he reminded me of me in high school. Awkward, not cool, and often unnoticed. I loved the episode where he had his own adventure going on and was on his own while everyone else dealt with a “big bad” in the background. When he was described as the one who sees, I nodded with understanding. I couldn’t remember ever having a character on a show that spoke to me as much as Xander did.

So I’m having a bit of a fanboy moment right now, because I’m excited to meet Nicholas Brendon. I even went so far as to ask my wife, “Do you think he’d make a good Erwin Winston?” She looked at me and shook her head. There was some alleged relationship issue, but by the sounds of it TMZ used an old photo and got the story wrong. Still, in this day and age that sort of story doesn’t sit well, does it? But his partner said it was misreported and there were no charges, so we need to take her at her word. After all, they wouldn’t let him leave the USA if he was in trouble with the law, would they? So let’s give him a friendly Canadian welcome!

I’m not usually one to think about what actors would play the characters in my books, but that thought got my mind rolling on other members of the Buffyverse I could see stepping into roles. Alyson Hannigan as Pellin. Alexis Denisof as Marcus. James Marsters as Arus.

While I recognize it’s all a pipe dream, it’s fun to think about these things.

I’m a speaker on a couple panels at GenreCon! Both are on Saturday February 10th, with the first at 3pm on indie publishing, and the second at 6pm on world building. These are topics that I love to talk about, and I’m hoping for a great turn out! But even if we only have one person, we’ll still go ahead with the panel. We had that happen with the indie publishing panel last year, and the person who came got some great one-on-four time with all the panelists.

At any rate, I’ve got all my paperback books ready to go, and have already started selling some books through Amazon. The official launch for A Hero’s Birth was January 20th, and I blitzed social media and was humbled by the response, with many people sharing my posts. I know I reached some new people, and was happy to hear from existing fans who were excited for the final book in the trilogy.

As is usual for me when I launch a new book, sales for A Noble’s Quest increased out of the gate. Some people are going on to A Wizard’s Gambit. I expect there’ll be more A Hero’s Birth sales coming up soon. I just wanted to share the book rank graphs to show what I mean…

Book ranks – click to enlarge

A Noble’s Quest is performing far better than normal. You can see several peaks in the last month, indicating sales and people who started reading it on Kindle Unlimited. Since the launch of A Hero’s Birth, you can see that it really hasn’t had a chance to dip down at all, which is fantastic.

A Wizard’s Gambit is also doing better than usual. While not as high as A Noble’s Quest, that’s to be expected. Not everyone who reads book 1 will continue to book 2 (which is a shame, in my opinion… book 2 (and book 3) is a much better book). But also most people take time to read the book. While it’s fairly common to see someone blitz through a book in a day or two through KU, I imagine most readers aren’t so fast. So just seeing a couple peaks for book 2 at this point is encouraging.

Demon Invasion had a single sale, driving it up from a very, very long dry spell (You can tell by the nearly flat line before the peak). That long flat stretch is what the majority of my shorter works look like all the time. I’ve had very little success with short stories and novellas. That’s okay. They’re not necessary reading for the series, and I understand many people just want the full novels.

A Hero’s Birth started with a sale, and has been trailing since. I’m… a little disappointed with the performance here. I know a lot of people are waiting for the paperback copies, as I’ve been having people tell me they’ll be getting copies at GenreCon. I’ve got a package to mail today with a copy of A Hero’s Birth and Scoundrels. I gave away ARCs and a few copies for my “fans for life” from Indiegogo. But for some reason I thought it’d do better in the opening week on Amazon than it has.

I’ve also sold 4 paperbacks this week, which don’t show up on these charts because the sales go through CreateSpace. This is an interesting issue. I’d really like to try printing one of my books through Amazon to see how it works, but I’ve heard the tools just aren’t as good as CreateSpace (no author proof, for example). It’d be nice to have paperback sales count towards the rankings to help rise up and maybe get noticed by even more people. But for the time being, I think I’ll stick with the system I know that makes my life easier.

Now, I’m not done yet. My wife’s put together a media kit for me, so once I put some books in the local book store I’ll be releasing that. Maybe it’ll drum up some more interest. And it’s just a slow growth industry, anyway.

Author Rank

I really can’t complain, with what has been my best week ever in terms of sales. My Author Rank has stayed high (for me), and I’ve got two conventions coming up where I’m expecting to do well. Slowly, bit by bit, my empire grows!

If you’re in the Guelph area and would like to come to GenreCon, it’s running February 9th through 11th. Lots of fun stuff to see and do. Make sure to stop by my table in the vendor area and say hi!

A Hero’s Birth, available now!

Title: A Hero’s Birth

Retailers: Amazon [Kindle] [Paperback]

Genre: Epic Fantasy



After more than four months abroad, Eliza, Thomas, and Sarentha return home in the face of dire warnings and sweeping changes in the empire. They go their separate ways to reflect on their lives and look for ways to move forward. New allies and enemies emerge, and grave challenges face the up-and-coming heroes. They will need to come together, combining their wits and strengths, to overcome ancient foes. In the balance is the world of Illuma: will it enter an age of light, or will it plunge into everlasting darkness, ruled by demons and the undead?


Jason Berry, reviewer at The Bone Breaker rated it 5 stars and said:

What I loved the most about this book is that our three heroes start off on three separate quests/journeys, making their ultimate reunion that much sweeter. You will see Thomas begin to fulfill his destiny, Sarentha’s becoming a dragon hunter, and Eliza’s growth as a leader. And the ending… Whoa! Man, it is difficult to write this review without giving anything away. I better just say this:

Toxopeus has certainly grown as an author. If you like your fantasy filled with intrigue, suspense, and mystery, then this book is for you!

Andy Goldman, author of The Only City Left rated it 4 stars and said:

There’s definitely fun to be had in seeing where the story takes them, as the trilogy has clearly been building up to this big finale. For my taste, this single book could have been a trilogy in its own right.

Bradley Rogers rated it 5 stars and said:

Fantastic read. Riveting from beginning to end. Characters developed beautifully in this book. The world that has been created is absolutely amazing. If you enjoyed the other books in the series this will be a most delightful read. Excelent conclusion to a series. Absolute must read.

I’m quite pleased with how this series has come along. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, but I feel like the books just get better, the deeper into the series I go. While A Noble’s Quest has a strong Dungeons & Dragons feel to it, the characters are more independent by A Hero’s Birth. There’s nothing wrong with the D&D feel, but it felt good having the characters off and doing their own things, allowing me to really focus in on each of them.

I do agree with Andy Goldman that I could’ve taken more time in some of the locations, but with the book already over twice the length of A Noble’s Quest, I felt some brevity was in order. And there’s a reason I’m calling the next set the “Strongblade Siblings series.” Calling this set of Empire’s Foundation books a trilogy from the outset sort of pinned me down to just three books, where it could have probably been 4. While I say there will be four books in the next series, it could easily grow to more, depending on how events unfold. I would very much like to keep each book closer to 100,000 words, so they don’t take as long to bring out as A Hero’s Birth. This book is a beast, at 160,000 words. But don’t worry – I’m not going to slow down too much! I do still enjoy a fast-paced story!

If you’d like to read all the stories in my recommended reading order, here’s the list (short stories are only available for e-readers):

A Noble’s Quest

1100 Before Gods’ War

Demon Invasion

A Wizard’s Gambit

Dawn: A dwarven creation story

A Hero’s Birth

All of these titles are also available through Kindle Unlimited if you have it. Enjoy!

Boxing Day Sale!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

If you’ve been waiting for the completion of the Empire’s Foundation trilogy before you start reading, you might want to get an early jump on it!

Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) of A Hero’s Birth are out. The paperback is formatted and I’ve submitted everything for A Hero’s Birth and waiting on their review of the files so I can order an author proof to make sure everything looks good. So long as there aren’t any delays with CreateSpace, I should have the paperback books ready to roll before GenreCon!

In the meantime, you can get A Noble’s Quest and A Wizard’s Gambit for just 99 cents today! I’ve got a Kindle countdown deal going on, and both books are heavily discounted to help people prepare for the release of book three in January!

In other news, my flash fiction Carbon Concerns has been submitted to a magazine called Futuristic Canada by Dark Helix Press.

“So what’s next?” you ask.



That’s right, the Strongblade Siblings series will be at least 4 books. Maybe 5. I’ll have to wait and see how book 2 goes, because there’s a TON of content for that one, and it might need to be split into two separate novels.

With almost 75,000 words written for A Queen’s Edict, the only problem is funds. I’m banking pretty heavily on my first trilogy doing well after it’s complete. I need this series to succeed, or the next four books don’t get published. Period.

I’ve already run two Indiegogo campaigns, raising over $2000 that went toward costs for editing and art. It was necessary to complete the first trilogy, because I wanted to finish what I started. Now, after getting developmental editing notes from two different editors I’ve learned a LOT about story structure, so I think I can get away without that. But I can’t keep relying on free editing from my aunt, and I certainly can’t afford to sink money into amazing cover art. There are just too many other things that we need to focus on paying for and I won’t put my family in debt for my hobby, no matter how passionate I am about it.

If you’ve enjoyed my work and want to see where the story goes next, I need your help. I’m just one person, I’m an introvert, and not particularly good at using social media and marketing myself. What helps authors succeed is word of mouth from readers.

Here are two concrete things you can do to help:

  1. Leave reviews on my books on, Goodreads, or wherever else. The review doesn’t have to be long or detailed. Reviews are a numbers game, and once I have enough of them, I can have a chance of getting accepted by Book Bub, a site that promotes discounted ebooks. Just by putting A Noble’s Quest up on Book Bub for 99 cents, I can make the money back for the investment from people continuing on with the series. My books have great legs, with many people continuing to read into the series once they start. It’s finding readers that’s the tough part.
  2. Tell your friends. A quick post on social media, or even just sharing a post I make that you like, can help dramatically increase the number of people who learn about my writing.

I’ll be doing all I can to promote my work. My wife knows the journalism industry and writes great press kits, so I’ll be casting a wide net across the country with the completion of the trilogy. I’ll be doing book readings, signings, and continue going to conventions. I’d like to hit a bigger one this year to increase my reach. When people see my art, and hear how passionate I am about my books, they often buy them. I’ve had people say they’ll wait until the trilogy’s finished, because they don’t want to wind up with a series that’s incomplete.

Additionally, I’ll be submitting shorter works with the help of my Patrons. If I get some stories published the traditional way, I can start applying for government grants to offset my editing/art costs. I already have two (1100 Before Gods’ War was published by HDWPBooks in their Theme-thology: New Myths collection, and Dangers of Tensire was published by Phoenix Quill in their Scoundrels anthology), so it won’t take much more before I can apply.

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing. I love it and can’t imagine stopping. Who knows? Maybe some year down the line we’ll have the money and I can pay for editing. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to publish them sooner if this series does well.

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.