Kitchener Comic Con 2017

My last convention for the year is my favourite one… Kitchener Comic Con – #3KCC2017 (although I might be getting roped into another con in November – we’ll see)

The Good

Disclaimer: I was asked to help fix up some writing content for KCC this year, and was given a table in Artist Alley as compensation. Special thanks to Ronald Hoppe for that! Hopefully next year won’t be so chaotic leading up to the event, and we will have time to get everything cleaned up well in advance!

I showed up late, like I’m some sort of big shot celebrity (really, I drive a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan that’s dying (seriously? Only 7 years old, with under 90,000km on it, and it’s dying? No more Dodges for us!), and my wife scheduled a test drive for a new (for us) set of wheels for the same morning, and being able to get places took priority). There were a few open tables in Artist Alley, and I was told to take my pick. I got a pretty sweet spot, front and centre near the entrance.

My usual way of going about cons is to set up my table, take a photo, share it on Google Plus (no Facebook on my phone, thanks), and get to work … sitting there, engaging people who stare at my books for long enough that I figure they’re interested.

The photo had to wait. In the first 45 minutes of the con, I sold 6 books and a poster, which is definitely a record for me. I wish I could say that the insane pace kept up all day, but at least there was steady traffic until about dinner time.

One of the students from my lab came down to check out the con. Although she lives a couple blocks from Kitchener City Hall, she hadn’t heard that Kitchener had a Comic Con, so when I told her, she really wanted to come down and check it out.

There were a ton of awesome cosplayers, and I had a great chat with Judge Brown. He’s writing a book, and flying high with it, so that’s awesome! I draw on other writers having fun with their writing like some kind of psychic vampire. It’s invigorating to hear about others having a great time!

I also saw Sarah WaterRaven, who I met at GenreCon. We had a panel together on writing, and she stopped by to chat. She was at KCC as “The Press,” doing interviews for the We Got The Geek podcast, and she wanted to talk to me! Normally something that momentous would hit “The Great” section at the end, but believe it or not, there’s something even better coming up! Even so, this was a major highlight for me. She also asked if I’d be interested in attending another con in November (and also mentioned Ad Astra, which I’ve heard about a few times now, and I’ll probably attend next year).

There were also LARPers (Live Action Role Players) in attendance from Alura Larp. Colton Schug stopped by to chat with me in the quiet hours after 5pm on day 1. If you’re in the Niagara/Hamilton area and interested in LARP, check them out!

At final count, I sold 13 books and one poster. Considering my usual 1-2 sales per month on Amazon, that’s some pretty great outreach. On the second day I also had a lot more people take business cards, saying they wanted to order ebooks. So if that happens, the second day will have been even more worthwhile. But I never count those sales before they happen, because more often than not those cards don’t actually lead to sales.

The Bad

I hate to say this, but I’m not sure it made sense to have this as a two day event. It felt quiet compared to last year. Aside from the hectic start I had on day 1, it was pretty slow the rest of the time, with a few little spurts of activity. After how crazy it was last year, I was expecting more people to come through this year. Not sure why it didn’t happen. From posts I was seeing on Facebook, they were getting attention from the media. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t complain after selling a lot of books (for me). I just expected it to be busier, and I heard some other vendors saying the same thing.

The Ugly

I don’t think I’d say anything was ugly about this con. I love KCC. I’ve attended two years running now, and it’s been good to me both times. I’ll definitely go again.

The Great

I had a milestone moment that I need to share with you all. Seriously, this is the kind of thing that writers live for.

On day one I had a young guy (I won’t mention him by name, since he’s a minor, but he knows who he is) approach my table and start talking to me about my books. He was really enthusiastic, and I had a lot of fun discussing my stories with him. While chatting, he would ask me if I had various things in my stories – demons, necromancers, elves, holy knights, ents. The only thing I said no to on that list was the ents, but I think he’ll be pleasantly surprised with the ending of A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1), because I forgot there’s a scene where there’s something ent-like. Not an ent exactly, but probably close enough to please him.

Anyway, he purchased A Noble’s Quest, A Wizard’s Gambit (Empire’s Foundation Book 2), Demon Invasion, and the poster for A Hero’s Birth!

After the convention and unwinding at home with a movie, I checked my e-mail to find he’d contacted me to ask if he could talk about my books on his YouTube channel. He signed off saying he’s my biggest fan.

Seriously.

I have a biggest fan (who isn’t my daughter). I’m going to have to sit back and let that sink in for a while.

March Recap

This was a pretty great writing month!

Not only did I break the 70,000 word mark on A King’s Decree (book 1 of the Strongblade Siblings series), I also submitted a short story for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award (you can read the first half on April 1st over on Patreon, if you sponsor me for just $2/month).

While at Gryphcon early in the month, I also started on a new series of short stories and hammered out 3000 words for those. The Bulwark, the Hero, and the Ranger will not be available for a long time, as I’ve used up my editing funds and then some. But it was fun getting a start on it, anyway.

Campus Authors, 2016

I attended the Guelph Campus Author event for the third year in a row! The library was under renovations this year, so it was held in the science centre atrium, which was quite nice. Over 90 authors were celebrated this year, and you can see those who came for the event in the picture above. (Yours truly is in the back row in the green shirt)

Changing gears, I attended a game design night at The Round Table and I’m moving forward with designing a game. I won’t go into too much detail here (hint, hint, Patrons will learn more), but it really brings me back to my youth when I used to design all sorts of games, from board games to fleshing out my fantasy world with the Neverwinter Nights game toolbox. It’s a lot of fun (except for cutting out all the little pieces for the proof of concept) and I’ll be showcasing the idea on April 4th at the next game design night!

April 1st and 2nd is Kitchener Comic Con! I’m excited to have been involved in helping out, providing writing feedback for them for sales and press releases. This should be a great convention, with thousands of people coming through the doors! This is definitely the largest con I go to, and I can’t wait!

Additionally, this month I will be drawing the winner of the fantasy mug! If you’re wondering what that’s all about, you can see the post I made recently. If you want to enter, you only have until I draw the winner’s name on April 11th!

Finally, the Guelph Genre Fiction group will be meeting at the Red Papaya at 2pm on April 30th. If you’re a genre fiction writer and Friend of Vocamus Press, come on down to chat about “Titles” and “Book Launches!”

Review: More Cosplay Disasters

More Cosplay Disasters, by Damian Trasler

Genre: Do-it-yourself

Rating: 5 stars

If you read and enjoyed My Cosplay Disasters: The Step-By-Step guide to doing it wrong, I highly recommend the sequel! Trasler’s still at it, building helmets from whatever he has laying around in his workshop. He has the same relaxed, humourous hobbyist attitude, which makes the book a fast and easy read with pictures to help you see every step of the way.

In this book you’ll see him modifying existing pieces, following instructions, and going completely off the rails, winging it by sight alone. Reading this book left me feeling like there has to be another one in the future, because it’s the classic trilogy setup. The first one is light hearted and ends well. The second one leaves you in a pit of despair. Then the third one ends with everyone living happily ever after, overcoming all the terrible odds. I picture it with Trasler working away in his newly well-ventilated workshop, pondering over everything he’s learned over the course of three books – measure twice, cut once. Bondo isn’t scary and works better than wall filler. For the love of all that’s holy, measure! Read the plans when there are plans available – all the way through. And paint only highlights imperfections, it doesn’t cover them up.

And then he will have the most glorious helmet. One he feels he cannot ever beat in terms of craftsmanship, and readers will sit back with a happy sigh and think, “He did it!”

Not that I don’t think that every time he finishes a helmet. Trasler has skills that I can only dream about. But to see him reach what he believes is a wonderful success, instead of saying, “It’s good enough for my purposes.” That’d be grand to see! I know he’ll manage it one day.

But don’t worry, this book isn’t all disasters – the bit at the end is uplifting and fun. I’ve heard from 501st legion people that those helmets need ventilation, because they get bloody hot, so you’re not along Mr. Trasler.

Review: A Facet for the Gem

A Facet for the Gem (The Tale of Eaglefriend Book 1), by C. L. Murray

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3 stars

Morlen is a troubled kid who wants nothing more than to strike out on his own. His hopes are answered when he is sent on the adventure of a lifetime by a wizened old wizard. There are foes at every turn after the city of Korindelf falls to an evil king. There are a couple spoilers in this review, so if you’re going to read it, you might not want to read this review… although if you’ve read any classic fantasy stories before, you’ll see the spoilers coming from half a book away.

If you’re a fan of classic fantasy like Tolkien, you’ll probably enjoy this book quite a lot. It’s well written with some interesting ideas.

I enjoyed it, overall, but a few things stopped me from rating this higher. Usually when I read a book, I read it to and from work, but I found myself not doing that with this one. There were days I wouldn’t read it at all, and just didn’t feel like cracking it open. When I was reading it, there were often parts that I’d completely gloss over without registering a single word, and have to go back to see what I missed. (I thought maybe it’s the fact that I own a mobile phone now, but I’ve started another book after this one, and I haven’t had the same thing happen.)

It was because this is a slow-paced book, and lengthy descriptions tend to take me out of a book, and I start thinking about other things.

For a fantasy book, the area felt too tiny to hold such big ideas. Everything’s just a couple miles away from Korindelf, the main city of conflict. The evil mountains are close in one direction, the eagle mountains are close in the other, and then there’s a magical isle not far from the main city, either. I’m left feeling like Korindelf is a pretty small place, after thinking it was quite a bit larger at the beginning. The locations were interesting … just small.

I also couldn’t imagine how one would attack enemies on the ground from the back of a giant eagle while holding a sword. Wouldn’t the enormous wings get in the way? A spear/lance makes more sense if the eagle’s dive-bombing, not so much if the eagle is rearing to slash with talons. Bow, sure, although the ability to aim would be terrible.

But the sword thing I just couldn’t get behind at all.

Not to mention the whole, “The female character is better than everyone else, but when her and her army are on the run from overwhelming odds, one guy and his bird can save the day.” I saw it coming, but I still groaned when it happened. And she’s belittled by her brothers, probably because they fear she’s more competent than any of them.

That said, it’s a debut novel, and there was enough of interest that I might check the sample for the sequel to see if it gets better.

Contest: Fantasy mug!

Do you like fantasy?

Do you drink out of mugs?

Have you read one of my stories, but didn’t leave a review?

If you said “yes” to all of those, have I got a deal for you! In only one month, I’ll be drawing the winner for a mug! You don’t have to buy anything, just review the story you’ve already read on Amazon.com, and you’ll be entered to win.

If you have reviewed everything of mine that you’ve read, I offer the low-cost alternative of picking up a short story and leaving a review. You can peruse my stories to pick the one you think looks the most interesting over on Amazon.

The contest is open to people worldwide! Amazon has a policy of removing reviews from family members, so as long as you’re not family, you qualify for the draw on April 11th!

Why am I doing this? Reviews signal to others the quality of the stories, so if they see a bunch of reviews, and the story is well rated, people are more likely to give a book a try from an unknown author. So if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read and haven’t left a review, please do!

Good luck!

Gryphcon 2017

Photo care of the Gryphcon team

I went to Gryphcon this weekend as a vendor. If you’ve been following me, you know what that means…

The Good

No table fee is pretty enticing. All they asked for was a donation to put in their raffle. I gave them a copy of A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1).

Gryphcon is a “small but growing” event that’s been in Guelph for 25 years. It draws in roughly 300 people, and they play all sorts of games all weekend long. They’ve got role playing games, board games, card games, whatever kind of games you want. It’s pretty awesome. The games are all scheduled, but I brought along my copy of Star Wars Risk just in case someone wanted to try it out… and someone did! I lost. (I played the Empire, and I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to win as them, after losing 6 games in a row – I had a ridiculous run of luck, killed Luke, blew up the Falcon, and just couldn’t clinch it.) But I’m the kind of person who hears a game is ridiculously hard and dives into it, hoping that one day I can find a way to win.

I found several new readers over the course of the convention, which was awesome! I was flattered when I came back from a panel on board game design (more on that later) to find someone I’d talked to earlier waiting at the table because he wanted to get a copy of A Noble’s Quest. While we were filling out the paperwork, he asked about my digital short stories and picked up all of them! “For $1 each, why not?”

The Bad

There’s something about three day conventions that start on Friday: That first night is dead. I mean, a few people showed up, but other than talking to some of them about my books, there weren’t any sales. I was only there for 3 hours or so, but it felt longer than that. We were told there would be more people Saturday, and that turned out to be true, but not for first thing in the morning. I think it was a couple hours before people started perking up and showing up in larger numbers. So I didn’t bother going in for first thing in the morning on Sunday. I was just too tired, and I figured everyone else would be, too. Besides, I’d already sold a fair number of books during the Saturday, so it wasn’t like I was hurting and struggling to pay for the table.

The Sunday was pretty quiet, too. Aside from a panel I went to on writing, and finding one new reader, not much happened. Turning a negative into a positive, I got some writing done! Over two days, I wrote over 3000 words on a new short story collection. The only reason I didn’t work on A King’s Decree (working title for my fourth book) is that I didn’t have the files with me, so I decided to start something new. Stephen Pearl mentioned an anthology that was looking for short, funny pieces, and since this short story collection is on the lighter side (as light as it can be, fighting followers of Dowreth) I might check it out. I mean, it starts off with Henry the Bulwark, a scrawny older wizard who fights with three enchanted shields, and then goes on to Torsten Carson von Schlepp the Third, the most arrogant “hero” I could come up with, and ends with the story of a yet-unnamed ranger, who might be the weak link in the humour lineup. But we’ll see. The heroes in A King’s Decree have already run into the ranger, and are on the road to meeting Henry next. I like tying in short pieces that showcase other things that are going on around the main storyline.

Anyway, after the raffle, I waited for another hour to see if anyone who hadn’t won the copy of A Noble’s Quest I’d donated would come to buy a copy, but no dice. So I left at 3, figuring other vendors were leaving, one of my kids was sick, and I wanted to give my wife a break after not having me around to help all weekend. If I missed someone who was waiting until the end to pick up a book, I apologize. They’re available locally at The Bookshelf, Janus Books, The Round Table, and the Campus Bookstore (in the Campus Author section, tucked away in the far corner of the store), or online through Createspace (or Amazon if you prefer).

The Ugly

I almost put the dead Friday and early mornings here, except that I still had a good time talking to people, and got some writing done. So no, there wasn’t anything that I’d call ugly about this con.

The Great

Oh. My. God. Have you ever played virtual reality video games? I hadn’t. I mean, I don’t count my work, which uses a driving simulator for research purposes. But a real, immersive environment created with a headset, headphones, and a joystick for each hand… it. was. epic!!! I played this zombie game on survival mode, and I was standing in front of a huge sewage pipe that opened up to a lake. Zombies were coming at me from the water behind me, the sewers, and climbing over the walls to either side. It was INTENSE! It took me a while to get used to sighting the gun, and I didn’t get bullets between round 1 and 2, so by the end of round 2 I was out and down to using a long knife to defend myself from the final zombie. Switching out my flashlight for the knife meant it was quite dark, and I was thankful there was only one zombie left! I found the extra ammo and could only get two packs (16 shots), and bought a flashlight attachment for my gun, in case I needed the knife again. I ran out of bullets pretty early on in round 3 and said, “Oh no.” Then I turned around toward the sewer and there was this HUGE ZOMBIE coming down on me like none I’d seen so far in the game. I swore. Out loud. And was politely told to be careful because there were children there (relax – they were teenagers. They’ve heard and said worse than “Oh shit!”). Anyway, I hacked my way through the big guy, but it took several swipes of my knife, and by that time there were just too many of them. My heart was racing SO HARD for quite a while after that. It was so amazing! Ctrl V is located in Guelph and Waterloo, so if you’d like to play, reserve some time now!

Also, there was a panel on game design. I was the only attendee, so it was interesting being on the other side of that dynamic (there were a couple panels I was on at GenreCon where the panelists outnumbered the attendees 3 to 1). The talk was great, I took some notes, and I’m considering dropping my board game idea for something else that came to mind while they were talking. Apparently “board games” are passé and part of the reason games like Catan and Carcassonne are so popular is because the players are invested in it right from the start, creating the world they play in. So to do something where there’s a board that’s made up of a premade map is “old school.” I still want to do the Wizards’ War setting, but I have a different idea that involves both a city building aspect, and a battle aspect. Multilayered games are also really popular, and they had a really interesting way of looking at it – a game is a platform to bring people together. So I want to work on both cooperative and competitive aspects to the game, instead of it just being a war game. So we’ll see. I’ll play around with it. It’s still in the early days of this idea, so there’s lots of room to play around with concepts and come up with something really fun. And that resonated with one of the designers, who said that the more time you spend coming up with the concept of a game, the better it will be.

The panel on writing took a twist ending, and we got to talking about movies – specifically, making your book into a movie. Katlin Murray had done the flip of that, writing a book based on a movie, but she had a lot of insights. Apparently working directly with a big studio is awful if you like having control over your work. At least 30% of the dialogue has to change from the book if the writer is to get credit for writing the movie script (which they always want). Ever wonder why movies always seem so far off from the book you loved? That’s why. BUT, there’s a loophole (isn’t there always?). If you can get an indie film maker to do it, you can offer it up as a proof of concept that a big studio might pick up and make into a blockbuster without changing the script. THAT sounds like the ideal path to me. I’m pretty anal about controlling my intellectual property, so being able to work with an indie film maker to come out with a movie that closely fits my vision would be great. Even if it never got picked up by a big studio, just seeing my story come to life on the screen would blow my mind.

Conclusion

It was a really great group of people, and I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether I’ll go as a vendor again next year (I should – the trilogy will be complete, and people might want books 2 and 3) or if I’ll just go to play some games. It’d be fun to set up a D&D adventure to run people through. Either way, I’d like to attend again!

Review: Granny Gangs

Granny Gangs, by Tyler Omichinski and Allen Ribo

Genre: Comedy comic book

Rating: 4 stars

There’s a turf war going on in a retired living community. Residents battle over who sells their baked goods.

Despite having a specialization in gerontology and being keenly aware of stereotypes about older adults, I really wanted to check this out. The description in the shop may talk about arthritic hands, but the comic itself is actually empowering, showing spry older ladies sprinting about and attacking each other over their pies. The art is extremely simple – to the point I had difficulty telling what was going on in a couple frames – but I enjoyed the concept and look forward to the next installment. And don’t close the file after reading the comic, because there are letters to the editor at the end that are funny, too!

February Recap

Since I did a GenreCon-specific post this month, I didn’t feel the need to do a two-week post, but rather another monthly one. Plus, our house has been a plague outbreak centre, with two weeks of flu, followed by a stomach bug.

I’ve sent off an 1800 word piece of nonfiction to a CBC contest. It’s my first piece of nonfiction, but it’s about a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart: narcissism. After years of being under the thumb of a narcissist, I felt the need to share my story to give other people hope that there is a way to deal with toxic parents. Special thanks to Karen Conlin for squeezing me in for editing, and T. Pascal for taking a look at it and giving me such glowing feedback!

Also, I’ve finished the first draft of Dark Ones, a short story about a monk named Eshe who has her life torn apart when an army of barbarians led by a dragon sack her town. That’s being submitted to Baen for their short story contest. I’m interviewing editors right now, sending out samples. If you’re an editor and interested in auditioning, get in touch with me so I can send you a 500 word sample to go through. My aunt already went through it, so I know what’s wrong with it. May the best editor win my undying devotion, and years of editing work. 😉


I’m excited to announce that I have a new Patron this month! She came in the middle of the month, which was a big surprise because I only ever talk about Patreon at the end of the month … and it was Patreon that sent her my way. She’d just supported another artist, got a suggestion to check me out, and did! So that was exciting.

If you’re interested in becoming my Patron, just click that link. I’ve added a new perk for the $2 level, where you’ll receive sneak peeks at pieces I’m working on. For instance, this month you’ll receive the full short nonfiction piece I put together for the CBC contest I mentioned earlier. Patrons helped me cover the editing costs for it, so I’m sharing it with them exclusively! If it doesn’t get picked up by the CBC, I’m not sure I’d self-publish it. So this might be your only chance to look at it!


I’ll be attending Gryphcon from March 3rd to 5th. The Saturday is going to be grueling, at 14 hours long. I doubt I’ll go for that whole time… 8am startup is a bit too early for me! Maybe 10am-6pm, depending on how busy it is. But it’s not like it’ll be roaring busy at 8am or anything. It’s a smaller con, with about 300 people in attendance last year.


I had my best week ever on Amazon Kindle Unlimited this month! Over 1300 pages were read. Often I’ll have one person read something in a month, sometimes two, but this month the stars aligned and two people read through both A Noble’s Quest and A Wizard’s Gambit at the same time. I love looking at this graph, so I thought I’d get a screenshot before it disappears in a month!

Review: The Princess and the Apprentice

The Princess and the Apprentice (Queen of Darkness Book 1), by Roland Boykin

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5 stars

Aldan, a wizard’s apprentice, arrives at a castle just ahead of a mage’s army that has allied with demons. Given a tome of awesome power, he spirits the princess Odessa and her two guards out of the castle before the invading army can arrive. What follows is a fast paced adventure in a world that’s much darker than I expected. Perhaps I should have seen it coming, with a series titled “Queen of Darkness” but the budding romance gave the story a light sort of feeling that belied the dangers that plague the land.

From the very beginning, things don’t go the apprentice’s way. Although he receives great boons, he is always on the edge of losing everything. His knowledge and natural power are impressive, but so are those of his enemies. Boykin has his own take on goblins, and they aren’t to be taken lightly!

What’s more, the twist at the end surprised me a lot! It makes me wonder what is actually going on, and I can’t wait for the next installment!

Review: Trickster’s Nab

Trickster’s Nab (Hand of the Trickster Book 2), by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5 stars

Down one member from the previous caper, Now You Don’t is back to cause mischief of all sorts. Taking a break from the capital, they’re out in a smaller port town when they discover a devilish plot: street people and sailors are going missing, only to turn up without their memories. What follows is an adventure full of stealth, cunning, and of course a few big brawls … because when you have an invincible barbarian on your side, you’ve got to use him!

But as much as I love Now You Don’t, the single-power characters are threatening to get stale. When there’s trouble, NYD will conjure the solution, Teller will transform everyone, or Scorp will beat people. That’s just what they do. It was refreshing when Teller’s go-to move failed once in the story. I desperately want Scorp’s invulnerability to fail, too. Mind you, he might die if he goes against overwhelming odds, as usual, and his invulnerability doesn’t work… but as fun as it is watching him single-handedly bust through dozens of adversaries, I feel like any challenges he does face are inconsequential.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll read whatever comes next. The world is interesting and vivid, the characters are fun and funny, and I want to see what happens next.