Review: Auckland Allies

Auckland Allies, by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Genre: Urban fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

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

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

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

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

Crimson & Cream, by C.M. Skiera

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Why?

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

Coffee, art, work, MeWe

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

 

Review: Weirdo Company volume 1 by Ben Guilfoy

Weirdo Company volume 1 by Ben Guilfoy

Genre: Modern day military fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

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

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

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

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

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

Toxophiles

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

Seriously.

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


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

A Noble’s Quest: 5 stars

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

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

A Wizard’s Gambit: 5 stars

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

SkyCon 2017

Review Double Header: Dragon, and Harry Potter 2

Dragon (The Emerald of Light), by Dan Watt

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2 stars

I picked up this book at Kitchener Comic Con because I talked to Watt and liked the sounds of a “Monty Python Medieval Spoof” type of story. My imagination automatically went to The Holy Grail, which is a movie I’ve loved since I was a kid.

This is not that.

It didn’t even really remind me of Monty Python much at all. There were a few “silly” moments, but they were done in such a way that I didn’t even crack a smile when I read them, never mind laugh. I found the pacing far too fast, to the point that time and distance had no meaning. Add to that errors in punctuation and word use, and I found myself not enjoying the story. Characters would get a scene at one point, and then later their name pops up again, and I couldn’t recall where I’d seen them. By the end I had little idea of what was even going on, and certainly wasn’t invested in any of the characters. And this wasn’t a long book… didn’t take me long to get through. Part of it might have been that the main character, Burnwood, was utterly terrible with names and didn’t care about anyone he met. But he’d change his mind at random about something that moments before he’d been passionate about, and it just left me with a feeling of, “Why did this scene exist?”


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by JK Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

It’s been about 3 years since I last read through the HP series, and now my son’s old enough that he asked to read them, and has been enjoying them immensely. This book doesn’t disappoint. As this was my third time through the book (the first time was so long ago it doesn’t count), I picked up on a lot of bread crumbs that Rowling put in place. It all weaves together quite well into an engaging story that both of my kids loved. After we were done my son walked up to me and squeaked, “Harry Potter has offered Dobby clothes!” So cute.

I know there are people who complain about Harry Potter books, but if they can capture the imagination of five year olds and get them interested in reading chapter books, I think they’re amazing.

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!

Vendors

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!