Slowly getting back up to speed

Well, things are starting to settle down now. After the great Expo (see previous post), meeting a local group of writers, and applying for an independent artist grant, I feel like I’ve got almost everything out of the way to start making headway on A Queen’s Edict. Don’t get me wrong, I wrote some this month. Just not as much as I’m used to, when I’m writing at full speed.

There are still a couple things I need to do… I have a talk I’m giving to my daughter’s class coming up soon, which should be loads of fun! Apparently my daughter told her teacher that I write books, and so she approached me at “meet the teacher” night and asked if I’d talk to her class. Pretty exciting! Also, I need to get my books in the Saskatoon public library, and MacNally books. Finally, ACX is misbehaving and not letting me check my audiobook production of A Noble’s Quest, so I have no idea how that’s going.

But once those final pieces fall into place, I should be able to finish this first draft. It’s taken me so long to write, with the long break this summer for the move, that I think I should be able to go through it straight away because most of the book will be fresh to my eyes.

Finally, friends in Guelph have launched their first Kickstarter under the name “Broken Things” and it’s doing really well! The game, Builders!, is a deck builder where the idea is to hire workers to construct skyscrapers while also sabotaging your opponents. It’s loads of fun, and even though my wife never plays those sorts of games, she tried it one night and loved it. It’s great fun for everyone, and if you’re into games at all, you owe it to yourself to check this one out!

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!

 

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

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.

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!

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.

Behold!

 

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 Amazon.com, 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.

Much work, new visuals, wow…

Monthly report for November, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

But Ryan! Why!?

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

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

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

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

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

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