2019 wrap-up

I’ll try to keep this brief, although… y’know… writer…

This year has been a good one. It’s our first full year in Saskatchewan, and things are going well. We’ve all settled in and have new friends, work and school are great, and I have no complaints!

In terms of creative work, it’s been busy! Sales through Amazon have been reasonably steady throughout the year, with normal months being 2-digit profit months. That might not sound like a lot, but $20 is way more than $2! So at least I’m headed in the right direction, and the only person I’m competing with is me.

I’m only attending one convention per year now, instead of 2-3, but the one here is much bigger than the ones back in Ontario. The table price is about the same, but there’s WAY more foot traffic, and big name celebrities (My kids and I got to get our picture taken with Billy Dee Williams!).

Artist Alley table layout, SEE 2019

I’ve had short stories published, one with Dark Helix Press in the Futuristic Canada anthology, and another has been picked up for publication in 2020. A Queen’s Edict, book 1 in the Strongblade Siblings series (which follows 400+ years after the Empire’s Foundation trilogy), is being edited, and I’ve made progress on the first draft of A Prophet’s Request, book 2.

My Patreon has more than doubled in monthly donations, and that’s in large part because of the amazing people I play Dungeons and Dragons with. When I first thought about running a game on Discord, I figured I might get a Patron or two, but I’m up to 5 now, with two groups of players! It’s amazing how it’s grown, and if you’d like to check out the podcast, I have three playlists: the full playlist, in chronological order of when the groups played, and separate lists for Group 1 and Group 2, if you want to listen to the same party in order. Currently, that’s over 13 hours of content! Plus I commissioned some art by the amazing Harvey Bunda, to commemorate one of the play sessions, where a half-orc barbarian “wrestled” a merchant’s champion for a discount on mules… in front of a cheering crowd of thousands. Seriously. That happened.

Tempas teaches everyone about orcish wrestling…

I’m looking forward to 2020. Unless something goes terribly wrong, A Queen’s Edict will be coming out, kicking off a new series. I really hope people enjoy it. The cast of characters is fun and interesting, flipping typical fantasy on its head with the majority of characters you meet being female, none of that “she’s really exceptional!” to be an adventurer kind of junk. You see through their actions that they’re all awesome, yet “human.” Their skills and powers aren’t questioned by men. Representation matters, and I feel that women deserve the same treatment that men have had all along, without question.

Grace Strongblade, mercenary

I’m also going to work hard on finishing the first draft of A Prophet’s Request. D&D has been taking up a lot of my creative time and energy, but I want to have the second book coming along nicely, just in case the first book surprises me and does well right out of the gate.

Wishing you a happy holidays, and a great 2020!

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.


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.

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 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.

August Recap

This month I started something new.

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

Well, I’ve found a way. Somehow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoaaa, we’re half way there!

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

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

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

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

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

GenreCon 2017

That’s another con down, 2 more to go! (maybe 3, if I go to Ad Astra in May)

Without further ado… GenreCon 2017 – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

This con was pretty decent to me. For those who judge success in monetary terms, yes, I made enough profit to cover the table and then some. Not a LOT extra… I look at it as, “I got to spend a weekend having fun, and got paid to do it,” instead of my usual paying others for me to do something fun. I mean, I got to talk to people about my books, attend panels as a panelist and talk about the writing process, meet interesting people, and – in this case – see some of the most amazing painting around. Seriously.

Nathan Salmon made this in about 4 minutes.

Nathan Salmon blows my mind. I watched him paint all weekend long, and I was enthralled right up to the last painting. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I knew I wanted something. I said I was thinking about a Star Wars space battle kind of thing, and he said, “Really? I was thinking you’d want fantasy.” So I went back to square one, and realized I have this scene in a short story I’m working on now that would look great! I gave him the description of the scene, with the big purple dragon landed atop a sandstone temple, the sea in the background, and he brought it to life. He agreed to let me use it for the cover art, and I’m so, so thrilled with it! I paid him for two paintings, and when I got home I told my wife to think of something she wanted. She didn’t come up with anything she wanted directly, but thought maybe we could get Hogwarts on the lake, since we all like Harry Potter. The painting he made is stunning. Everything he makes is awesome. He does a LOT of shows across Canada, and will be in Winnipeg next weekend. So if you ever get the chance, watch this guy paint.

You know what? Watch him now. I’m putting the videos of him painting on my YouTube channel. (Forgive me for recording the first one in portrait … my wife gave me heck for starting to record the second one in portrait, so I switched to landscape, which I learned is the proper way to record video)


It was also cool to see Darth Vader. I’ve seen storm troopers, Imperial guards, Boba Fett, and others, but this was the first time I got to meet Vader. He was impressive, for sure, with perfect voice modulation. It could’ve been James Earl Jones speaking. And when I saw him on the first night, he asked if my daughter was there. When I told her the next day, she felt like a celebrity, and said, “You have a famous daughter!” Hahahahaha!

There were a couple Jawas running around the place, too! I laughed every time they’d go by, speaking Jawaese. Such a great costume.

I felt like Luke, trying to dodge the gaffi stick and getting knocked out. Having one yelling at you in Tuskan is an experience I won’t soon forget! Again, amazing cosplay!

I was lucky enough to be there when Judge Brown was looking for a photo with Super Girl. I love this one!

The panels I was on were fun, although two of them only had one attendee each, with the second panel having a larger showing. We discussed self-publishing, world building, and how to start writing a story. I learned a few things at them, and have some ideas for new things to try.

I met Brad, one of the vendors who makes some cool chainmail stuff, at KW TriCon in January, and he picked up A Noble’s Quest there. He was also at GenreCon, and said he loved the book, and picked up A Wizard’s Gambit and Demon Invasion! He also left a review on Amazon, so he’s in the draw for a free mug in April! (If you’ve read one of my stories and want a shot at a mug, please consider leaving your own review, too!)

I’d also like to give a shout out to Andrea Loar, the vendor coordinator. She and her staff was attentive throughout the entire convention. Great customer service, and they were very open to vendor feedback to help make the experience better next year. I’d love to see this con succeed, because it’d be nice to have this sort of event in Guelph, and I think if they incorporate the changes that vendors suggest, it’ll help make it a better experience for everyone!

The Bad

It was quiet for the vendors. Although it was a three day convention, it probably should have been two. Friday night was dead. I had no sales, and the only reason Nathan got work was because a group of girls who were at the hotel for sports events saw his paintings and they all got some, either for themselves or as gifts for others.

Saturday I sold the two books to Brad, and that was it. I was pretty sure at that point that I was going to lose money on my table. I was also there with Targeted, a murder mystery book by Donna Warner and Gloria Ferris set in the Caribbean, and Girl Desecrated, a dark fantasy/psychological thriller by Cheryl Cowtan set in Guelph, with highlanders and vampires. I mentioned their books every time someone looked at the table, but didn’t sell a single copy of either.

Sunday saved me. Despite being even quieter than the Saturday, I had one person return to the table from the previous day to pick up all three of my books. A fellow panelist, Elizabeth Hirst, also picked up A Noble’s Quest, another person bought A Noble’s Quest, and then something that I’m calling instant-karma happened. I was coming back to the table and overheard someone saying he would love to get one of Nathan’s paintings, but he couldn’t. I asked if the problem was that he didn’t have cash, and he said yes. So I told him he could use my Square to get the painting, and I’d give the cash to Nathan. He loved that, and when he came over to my table, he picked up all three books for his nieces! Also, I had my first poster sale! Judge Brown picked up the poster for A Hero’s Birth, because he wants to cosplay as Thomas Strongblade. I think I will lose my mind if that ever happens. It’s a dream of mine to see someone cosplay characters from my books (note: dream fulfilled! My daughter makes an adorable Eliza! I was so tickled that she wanted to do that at both TriCon and GenreCon).

You’ve been judged!

That’s him in the middle, and I think he’d make an AMAZING Thomas.

In the end I squeaked out paying for the cost of the table, so I felt pretty fortunate. I know there were a lot of vendors who complained about the lack of people coming through. The layout of the Holiday Inn wasn’t great for getting people to the vendor area. That, and guests had to get the right kind of pass to even get into the vendor room, which was a point of contention for many, because they paid more for their tables, but people who paid less for the tables in the halls could have guests walk by. Even so, many people could avoid the vendors completely and still take part in the other events. I was shocked when I walked out once and saw the front lobby FULL of people, but we had hardly anyone in the vendor area. I put on my feedback form that they should look for a different venue next time, where the vendors can be accessed more easily. After all, vendors are paying a lot of money to be there. They at least need a fighting chance of being seen. If I’d made a real profit at the con, there were some other vendors there that I would have bought stuff from.

The Ugly

My wife and kids came to GenreCon on Sunday for Paw Patrol. When I asked my wife how it was afterwards, she said, “That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back.” Although there were three pups advertised, only two showed up. And according to my wife, the only thing it had to do with Paw Patrol was that two people were dressed up in the costumes. No theme music. The pups didn’t talk. There was “some dude” with the dogs who talked to the crowd. The dogs didn’t appear to be particularly into it. Then I told her it was $25/ticket for the kids, and she got even more upset, saying there was no way it was worth that much.

Part way through my wife asked the kids if they were enjoying it. My son gave a sort of non-committal, “Yeah” but didn’t want to take part in the totally generic song & dance activities (head and shoulders, knees and toes type stuff). My daughter was much more direct, saying she didn’t like it, and never wanted to do something like that again. It was too bad, because both kids love the TV show, but this was “totally lame.”

The only bright spot was that the $25/ticket also got the kids access to the rest of the con, which leads to…

The Great

I cannot explain to you the amount of joy I felt when Darth Vader walked into the lobby, and my daughter turned to see him. She literally jumped for joy, yelling, “THERE’S DARTH VADER!” over and over again. My wife, who had been back at the table while I was wandering around with the kids, could hear her and came to investigate. The kids dueled with him, and got a bunch of pictures with him, and the grins on their faces are priceless. In a twist ending, my son – who has said before that Luke Skywalker is his favourite – said, “Daddy, guess who my favourite Star Wars character is, now. DARTH VADER!” Yes, his journey to the Dark Side is complete. He, like his sister before him, is now … Vader’s.

Also, there was an orange R2 unit operated by remote control. If anyone knows who was controlling it, please let me know, as I’d love to share the photo with him. (Thanks again to Andrea, who let me know it was Ken Stremlaw). When the R2 unit started playing the Imperial March, my son’s jaw just about hit the floor. He was completely gobsmacked.

If you’d like to see photos, let me know, and I can share them privately. I won’t post them publicly.

They also bought some toys in the vendor room. My daughter picked up a classic Dewback toy that was missing the saddle – despite my gasp, my daughter tore open the plastic bag it was in, and my wife scolded me. “It’s missing pieces. It’s fine if she plays with it.” She has named him “Greeny.” My son got an old Bumblebee (Transformers) action figure, and an original Imperial Shuttle that was missing the top fin, but is otherwise in good shape. It kind of kills me a little bit watching them play with the toys, but at the same time it’s awesome that they’re enjoying these sorts of classic toys that I would have loved as a kid, too.

Would I attend this convention again as a vendor? I think so. I’d want to know that they were doing some solid advertising to bring people through the door, and that the vendors would be more visible. Next year I’ll have my full trilogy out, so if I can get people walking by the table, I have no doubt I’ll make money hand over fist.


This is my first monthly update, and it’s long, because it’s been an action-packed month! I think I might do two posts per month, just because this feels a bit unwieldy.

First up, I attended KW Tri-Con on January 14th.


Here’s my usual Good, Bad, Ugly review:

The Good

They moved the vendors to the main floor this year, so we were centre stage when people came into The Museum. This was a huge improvement over last year, where a lot of vendors had trouble being seen on the second floor.

There were a LOT of cosplayers there. The costumes were fantastic,

He’s no good to me dead.

from Boba Fett to an Ewok, two Judges, Sith and Jedi…

It felt like there was a lightsaber duel going on at least once an hour. While most of them were upstairs, there was one time we were just sitting there at our tables, and suddenly the place shook with combat! Turning in our seats, we saw Jedi and Sith doing battle nearby. I took many more pictures at the con, but can’t share them publicly because my daughter’s in them, and, well, you likely already know why we can’t post them, or you don’t, and I really don’t want to get into that whole can of crazy.

The Bad

It felt a little quiet. Maybe I was spoiled by Kitchener Comic Con being the last con I attended, where they said over 3000 people came in, but other than a sea of cosplayers, there didn’t seem to be that many people there otherwise. Ruistyfles, who shared a table with me, was busy with almost more commissions than she could handle, and she did lovely work. It was fun watching her draw all the figures that people requested. She sold a few prints, too.

And it wasn’t that there wasn’t interest in my books. I had several people approach and talk to me about the books, but there were a few people who talked to me, and then said they wished they had the money to get them and took a card. If past conventions are any indication, taking a card rarely turns over into new readers. And unlike other cons where people say they’ll probably come back to buy my books, and have, that only happened once at Tri-Con, and I’m not sure why. I still sold 6 books (all 3 to one person, 2 to a returning fan, and 1 to another vendor who made some pretty cool chainmail!), so it wasn’t a total bust by any means.

I do feel that $100 for a table for a day is a bit steep for the number of people who come through, though. I ran the numbers, and I had a profit of $39 (after the cost of printing/shipping for books), and the 1/2 table cost $56. So I was down $17 for the day, and another $15 for parking. Certainly not a disaster, but it also marks the first time I haven’t broken even at a convention.

Totally unrelated to the con as a whole, the armour I made my daughter didn’t last much more than an hour. The tape I used to hold it together just couldn’t survive my daughter’s enthusiastic running about! I had hoped she might be able to take part in the masquerade at the end of the convention, but we had no such luck. Even so, she took her crossbow out with her many times, pretending to shoot Jedi during their duels with the Sith. So it wasn’t all bad! I’ve fixed up the armour with packing tape (and lots of it), so it should withstand her enthusiasm better at GenreCon!

The Ugly

I have no major complaints about Tri-Con.

The Great

My. Daughter. Had. A. Blast!

The Museum has a nice vertical layout, and as I knew some of the cosplayers, I felt (mostly) comfortable with giving her run of the convention. We had some rules in place, like she was to check in with me regularly, but otherwise she could check out whatever she wanted. You should’ve seen the look on her face when I told her she was free to explore. Her eyes were like saucers.

Everyone in our market area was smiling at how enthusiastic she was. Every time she’d run back to the table, she’d gush about a new thing or person she saw, and then she’d run off again. Oftentimes I’d see her standing there, watching cosplayers, or chatting their ears off. To all the cosplayers who took the time to talk with her, thank you! She had such an amazing time, and I have no doubt that it’s largely because of the fantastic cosplayer community. At one point she said, “Deadpool uses whatever weapons are handy.” Ummm… thanks, Deadpool, I think? hahaha!

Also, hearing her chant, “Go Sith! Go Sith! Go Sith!” from upstairs during the lightsaber battles was adorable. When she was talking to a group of Jedi and told them her favourite character is Darth Vader, they said, “Wrong group to say that to!” I let them know that my son’s favourite is Luke, so I’ve managed to raise children on both sides of the Force.

She also spent almost all her money at two vendors:

She’s a big fan of tiny things, and she came up with a story of how all these pieces fit together. The cactus was a friend for her baby dragon. The bottle of sushi is the baby dragon’s food, and the “Fire Salts” are to help the baby dragon get its fire breath. She also bought a white dragon for her brother, so they could have a matching pair. Such a sweet big sister!

So even though I walked out with a small loss, I’m pleased to have met new people and not only found a couple new readers, but reconnected with a fan. The con was worth it just to see the joy that my daughter experienced. I would definitely take her again, even if I might think twice about going as a vendor.

Thanks to my Patrons, I got a new cover done for Dawn: A dwarven creation story:

I’m not sure how I feel about it at this point. You see, I went with a different artist this time. When I told Harvey what I wanted, and what my budget was, he said it’d be too much work for the pay. I thought that might have been the case, but I didn’t want to spend more than $50 on the cover for a short story, either. So I sought other options, and Fiverr was suggested. I put together a request and had many responses in short order. I picked someone who had a lot of positive reviews who would do the work for my budget.

What I got was … not exactly what I wanted. Despite sending my own low-quality Paint sketch, she put together her own artistic impression that didn’t fit with what I asked for. That’s not to say it’s bad, it just doesn’t capture what I wrote. On top of that, I had to ask for revisions a couple times, because the first attempt looked pretty bad. I asked her to simplify it, and change the pose on the white giant a bit, and it came out not looking like what I asked for. I put in another request for revision… but in the end, I had to make some alterations myself. I added the strand from the white giant’s hand, and the strand that’s between the shears. The “tree” in the middle wasn’t supposed to be a tree… more of just a tall pillar. “Tree” just doesn’t say “dwarf” to me. And I specifically said achromatic – white to dark grey. No gold.

I’ll chalk this one up to a lesson learned. I just hope readers don’t read that third short story and say, “Well, that cover’s false advertising. That’s nothing like what was described!”

Writing continues. I’ve made progress on A King’s Decree, and also started a new short story that looks at the origin of the Master Monk in Portsmouth (she was mentioned in 1100 BGW (Before Gods’ War), and her people will again be seen in A Hero’s Birth). I have up to 8000 words to play with, and am 1500 words in right now, with the first major conflict almost over. There’s still three scenes to go, so I should be able to squeeze it in to the maximum word count.

There’s another Guelph Genre Fiction Writers meeting coming up February 19th, 2pm, at The Round Table. The topic of the day will be Art. Given my latest experience with Fiverr, I feel like I have an even greater appreciation for finding a great artist you love working with.

Also, The Round Table has a bookshelf in their retail section, so genre fiction writers (especially those who focus on sci-fi and fantasy) can sell their books there.

Last but not least, I will be attending GenreCon here in Guelph from February 3rd-5th.

I’ve got a great location near the pool and hope to have fun! If you’re in the Guelph area, come on by and say hi! I have books, posters, mugs, and character cards available. I’m also on 3 panels:

Saturday, Feb 4th: 

12 Self-Publishing: Books, games and more! JM Frey, Thomas Gofton, Brian Clement, Ryan Toxopeus, Sarah WaterRaven MCCRAE 13:00


14 World Building for Film, Literature and Games. Ryan Toxopeus, Thomas Gofton, Sarah WaterRaven BROCK 14:30

Sunday, Feb 5th:

3 I have a story to tell. But where do I begin? Agnes Jankiewicz, Ryan Toxopeus, MJ Moores MCCRAE 11:00

Genre Fiction Meeting: Conventions

I’ll be hosting a meeting for genre fiction authors at The Red Brick Cafe in downtown Guelph tomorrow, starting at 1pm. After our first meet & greet during the summer, there was a request to talk about conventions, so I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned to help people sell their books. Additionally, I’m asking any genre fiction authors who are Friends of Vocamus Press if they would be interested in having their books represented under the Vocamus banner at a convention or two this winter. I’m hoping to attend KW Tri-Con, and Kitchener Comic Con, where I had a lot of success this year, and gave a talk on self-publishing. However, the tables are not inexpensive, so if I can share half the table with Friends of Vocamus, and showcase local authors’ work, that’d be great!

book-bash-006Guelph Book Bash was last weekend, and it was a great time! Thanks go Luke Hill of Vocamus Press for all the hard work of putting together the event to celebrate the authors who published a book in the last year. Also thanks to Joanne Guidoccio for taking this picture of Marian Thorpe and me at our table. Congratulations to Avril Borthiry for landing a 3-book deal with a traditional publisher!

Anna Bowen hosted the event, calling up the long list of 30 authors to speak about their new work. She even almost got my last name right, saying ToxopEEus, instead of ToxopAYus. Not bad. I’ve heard much worse!

Live music before and after the author segment was provided by Madison Galloway, who played guitar and harmonica, and showcased great range with her voice. I couldn’t believe she’s only 16 years old! She’ll be going places, for sure.

Last but not least, thank you to all the sponsors and partners who help make Book Bash possible. Without your generous contributions, there would be no event!

It was a pretty light week for writing, but I finished with the editing notes I’ve received so far for A Hero’s Birth. Also, I set up the pre-order for Macimanito Môswa just so I had a link to fire off to promote it. I’m not actively promoting the pre-order, because pre-orders don’t count toward ranking, and I’m hoping enough people I know will be interested in it straight away that it’ll go up the ranks and be noticed by people I don’t know. So I’ll be linking to it on Halloween!

Totally screwed

I think the reason my first long-running D&D campaign was so successful is due to two factors:

  1. Dumb luck.
  2. I screwed with the minds of the characters so, so hard.

Dumb Luck

This game started without any sort of real plan on my part. It literally started with us sitting around the table, not knowing what to do, and me saying, “Okay. Make characters. You’re siblings. I’m sick of the meeting in a tavern thing.”

It was an idea we’d never used before, and I figured it’d make it nice and easy to keep the party together without any real treachery. What I hadn’t banked on was the sibling rivalries that would ensue, but that’s another blog post.

Also, they weren’t orphans, or poor, or any of that typical starting stuff. They were the children of nobles in the capital city of Stowenguard. And within the first two minutes, they were all summoned to meet with the king. From there, they were introduced to a prophecy and given a task that sounded quite simple at first, but turned into a monumental mind-fuck.

The first few quests they were given were completely random. Additionally, we added a couple new players to the table for one session, and I can’t remember why they didn’t come back after that. Whatever the reason, they will be featured in Chapter 6. I don’t remember their character names anymore, so I’ll make something up, but they’re fairly pivotal in helping to set the adventurers on the path to their destinies.

The fact that I managed to weave a cohesive story from the random events of the first few campaigns still leaves me a little awestruck. From a random, “Go look for dwarves in the mountains,” and “Find out why we haven’t heard from the lumberjacks” quests they found on a noticeboard, the entire theme of the adventure started to take root. I don’t know when the grand plan of the whole thing fully coalesced in my mind, but when it came together, it was brilliant. Well, at least I guess it was, since my buddy was still thinking about it years later and talked me into writing books about these adventures.

Screwed with their minds

Count the black dots

Count the black dots

As a psychology major, one of my favourite things was how our brains put things where we want them to be. Visual illusions are so much fun, and I just went through a bunch of classic ones with my daughter who had her mind blown by them.

Are the horizontal lines bendy or straight?

Are the horizontal lines bendy or straight?

I just wrapped up the first scene of Chapter 5, which is the culmination of everything … a moment that will live on forever in my mind, because it broke the mind of one of the characters, who became neurotic and paranoid. It was the sort of traumatic event that made the whole campaign work. Betrayal, plots within plots, misdirection … so many twists along the way that every time the players felt like they were making headway, they realized they had no idea what was really going on. The master stroke came much, much later (which will be the end of book 2 in the Strongblade Siblings series), when all the pieces fit together to glorious effect. All of the seemingly random events made sense, and it left the characters (and players) cursing not just the characters in the story, but me as well. In the most delightful way, of course. Just when they had the illusion of safety, another layer would be peeled away, leaving them wondering if anything was what they thought it was.

Things are in motion... right?

Things are in motion… right?

I wrote over 5000 words this week on A King’s Decree, which is way over my quota. I’m not sure how long the book will be when I’m done. According to my outline of chapter headings, I’m 1/3rd of the way through, but some of these chapters that are coming are going to be a fair bit longer. Maybe 90,000-100,000 words for the first book in the series? Not bad. Nowhere near the 140,000+ of A Hero’s Birth, but this is just the opening stages of the story. Book 2 might dwarf even A Hero’s Birth, though. There’s so much that happens in that one!

What would you do?

I’m applying for a grant. I know it’s a long shot, but winning $2000 or $6000 dollars that goes toward new equipment and travel costs would be amazing! A laptop and smart phone (so I can get a Square and take credit card payments) would definitely be in my future. Maybe a good quality microphone so I could make audio books.

I’ve been going through all the conventions I can find in Ontario and figuring out costs of tables, travel, and accommodations. So far I’m up to $4200. I’m still waiting to hear about the table fees for a couple conventions, but even that means I would be short by probably at least $1000.

But I hear there are some great cons elsewhere. If you know of any that you think I should attend (I’d prefer to stay in Canada), please let me know! It’d be awesome to take a trip somewhere to promote my writing.

To my fellow authors, what would you spend $6000 on if you could get new equipment and travel costs covered? If there’s something I’ve missed that could really help me out, I might rearrange my con schedule to fit it in.

Writing went well this week. I wrote 3000 words and finished chapter 4; if I add the work to put together that application, I’m well over the mark. Plus, I drew a very rudimentary map one night to send to Harvey for the new book. A Hero’s Birth will be my first book with two maps: One for the lands we already know, another for the lands across the ocean.

Here’s a sneak peak at the bad map I drew:

A Hero's Birth Map

The eastern lands