So many projects, so little time

In some ways, I made great strides this month. In others, I feel like I haven’t done enough. Why? Let’s take a look at the list!

Fan Fic to Anthology

As I’ve mentioned before, I started volunteering as a Dungeon Master (DM) at The Round Table (TRT). The world that we play in was created by Tom Gofton, the owner of TRT and Lynnvander Studios. As such, I have no rights to the IP, and thought I’d just write a little story summary of the games I ran, so I could share it with the players.

Then there was some question as to whether fan fic is actually legal (it’s not. Written works are covered by copyright laws). However, after the good folks at Lynnvander Studios discussed the situation, Tom was more than happy to have fan fic for his world. I just need to sign a legal agreement, which will be done soon. Moreover, Tyler – also from Lynnvander – requested that I hurry up and polish the story as much as possible and submit it for an anthology he’s helping put out. So this 19000 word novella is off to a good home, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all worked out!

If you’d like an exclusive sneak peek at the first scene in the story, get ye to Patreon and select the $2/month donation option. You’ll see it there on October 1st!


How much work is it to create ideas for campaigns every two weeks? A lot. On our return from Quebec at the end of August, I spent a couple hours of the drive with my nose buried in a notebook, creating maps and descriptions for a dungeon crawl. The next session early this month followed up on that dungeon crawl, and led to the exciting conclusion where the party fled the mountain complex just before it exploded in fiery doom, a dracolich rising from the lava. (Dracolich: Dragon that defeats death by returning as an undead abomination that can use powerful magic)

Later in the month we were low on DM’s for our regular sessions, so I decided to try something new and run a campaign in my own world, with my own unique spin on the D&D system (more on that later). I churned out 7 first level characters for players to choose from, with the idea that I’d have around 5 players at my table, so a couple characters would go unused. This worked well, because it meant people could choose classes that were interesting to them, and everyone seemed happy with what they got.

And then I pretty much winged it, in terms of coming up with the game session. I mean, I knew the inciting event, but I had no idea what the players would do with it. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and instead of it being a “one-off,” I hope to run another session some day when we can’t run the normal campaign.

Editing A Hero’s Birth

I’ve made this project my primary priority, so it’s been swimming along just fine. No issues here. Promise! I’ve been keeping up with my editor as she sends chapters to me, and we’re 2/3rds complete!

Writing A Queen’s Decree

This … oh, this … Work on my fourth novel has pretty much ground to a halt. Why? So many other projects. I mean, I’m about 3/4 of the way through writing the first draft, and my third book isn’t even out yet. So I feel like I’m way ahead of the game. Also, I’m not sure I’ll have the finances to publish it when it IS complete, so … not high on my priority list. If the Empire’s Foundation trilogy takes off with the release of the final novel, that would bump this up the list of priorities again. However, with slow sales on existing books, and just not getting reviews from people who do buy books, I’m feeling discouraged on this front. The last short story I released had a grand total of one sale on Amazon. I hope the book will do better.

I’ll still write stories, but depending on how other things come along, it might just be at a slower pace, with no intention of publishing them unless something drastic changes. With each book costing so much to bring out, I just can’t keep sinking money into it without seeing some promise of return on investment. That sucks. I love writing, and if money wasn’t an issue, I’d keep doing it forever. But at some point you have to evaluate what you’re doing and figure out if it’s a good use of your time.

Creating board game prototype 3.0

Perhaps you remember the frantic pace I set in whipping out prototypes v1.0 and v2.0? I was like an unstoppable juggernaut of efficiency.

This, too, has slowed. There’s been a disruption with the board game developer nights, with the man who ran them looking for greener pastures. Since then, finding answers to questions has been much, much slower. I’ve still had some game testing and minor tweaks. I’ve been putting together a component list for things I need to make the game. I’ve been arranging game board and punch boards so they’re in a format fit to print. But the urgency behind it all has evaporated. This latest version has taken weeks to put together, instead of days.

That said, I’m planning on showcasing the game at my artist table at SkyCon at the end of October. So that at least gives me a deadline to have everything ready to go. I’m hoping the convention will help generate some interest in the game, which will in turn help with raising funds to make the game with a Kickstarter campaign. With the positive response I’ve had to Wizards’ War, I feel like it can do well. The trick will be getting enough people interested in it to get it funded. When you run a Kickstarter, you’re trying to generate enough funds to make a LOT of copies of the game – somewhere around 1,000.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know 1,000 people. So it’s intimidating. But I love doing it. So even if the Kickstarter isn’t successful, at least I’ll have a game I created and enjoy to play with people I know. It’ll just be the most expensive game I’ve ever owned, with over $300 already invested into prototypes!

Creating RPG based on D&D 5e

When I started writing, the first thing I did was create a bare-bones role playing game (RPG) system. Now, the games we played that inspired the writing were set in the D&D rule set, but I wanted something that was uniquely mine. So I created classes and powers with vague descriptions that I could reference while I was writing. “Okay, the party is about due to level up after all that fun stuff. What new things can they do?”

When I DM’d in my world this month (as mentioned earlier), I decided to work with the D&D 5e rules in order to flesh out my ideas. I have several standard class options to choose from: Hunter, Druid (splits later into Mending or Wrathful subtypes), Protector, Aggressor, Stealth, Fast Talker, Wizard (splits later into Air, Water, Fire, or Earth subtypes), and Priest. But the system doesn’t stop there! There are hybrid classes for every conceivable combination of classes, and the ORDER that you take them in matters, giving you different classes. For instance, a Stealth that takes a level of Wizard can create the hybrid Shadow class. But a Wizard who takes a level of Stealth can create the hybrid Illusionist class.

And then there are what I’ve coined the Ultimate hybrids, which are effectively triple-class characters. The Hero, for instance, is Protector + Wizard + Priest. The Sieger is Hunter + Wizard + Druid. And there are more. PLUS unique classes for other races. That’s right. All that stuff I’ve mentioned so far? That’s just humans.

So when I say I created 7 characters for them to play, that was a LOT of work, figuring out what all those vague powers actually DO in terms of D&D 5e mechanics. So that was a major time sink this month, but oh so worth it. If you’d like to read more about that, I posted on Facebook about the game session:


This hasn’t taken up much of my time at all, but it’s worth noting. Tyler (mentioned earlier) attended the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and was kind enough to bring along my books. He even sold a copy of A Noble’s Quest! So that was a nice surprise. EMWF is more of a literary event, so I wasn’t expecting anything from that one. My wife predicted that maybe someone there would have a relative who liked reading fantasy and pick up a book for that other person, and that’s exactly what happened!

I’ve also signed on for two upcoming conventions. The first is SkyCon, which is a gaming convention in Kitchener at the end of October. They’re having Ed Greenwood as a guest. If you haven’t heard of him, he created this little thing called the Forgotten Realms. It only has something like 300 novels associated with it, a chunk of those written by my favourite author, R.A. Salvatore.

I’m going to get to meet Ed Greenwood. I’m so excited. As my wife would say, “NERD ALERT!” I can’t help it. This guy’s a living legend.

Now, it’s the con’s first year, so I don’t expect big crowds, but the table prices are pretty reasonable.

Coming back for its second year (after a hiatus) is GenreCon, right here in Guelph! Last year’s event was … quiet. They kind of threw it together without much notice, they had no celebrity draw, and so it had some problems. But they’ve been working hard at it all year, because they want it to be better. No, awesome! So this year there’s rumour of some star power hitting the con. I don’t see any official posts about it up yet, so I won’t post anything more … but you’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

What’s next?

Great question!

This month I’m going to continue editing as fast as my aunt gets chapters to me, I’ve got DMing at The Round Table, game design nights (with a new one at The Dragon’s south end location), I’m volunteering at Guelph Book Bash on Sunday the 15th, I’m running a Genre Fiction Writers meeting at The Red Papaya on Sunday the 22nd at 2pm, and that should be about it.

Y’know… plus all my normal duties as a husband, father, and researcher.


June Recap

Happy Canada Day!

You remember that comic strip I made with Matthew Strongblade back at the start of the year, because it wouldn’t get out of my head?

It’s baaaa-aaaack! I was sitting at The Round Table with Nat at the end of May and he was talking about how he was editing a comic book. I made the mistake of mentioning how I’d love to do a comic some day, and told him the details of my “community voting choose your own adventure” comic. He LOVED it. Talked about ways of monetizing it to keep it running. He said basically what I’d already been thinking… run it for a year with one character. I’d start off with Matthew, then go to Hendricus Wyrmstriker. Then who knows after that? Pellin? Marcus? Ramar? Arus? Others I haven’t even dreamed of yet? Adventure after adventure, all leading up to the exciting conclusion shown in the prologue of A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1)!

Anyway, I’ve been talking with my friend about how to make that sort of setup work, in terms of my website. Since it won’t be a simple linear story (yes, you might cause Matthew to die, and have to go back!) I’d have to have some sort of map laid out so people can see where the story goes, or is currently, so they can vote. Probably not an issue to have a “current panel” button that links to the latest one, but mapping out the previous panels so people can navigate them to catch up on the story might prove tricky. We’ll see.

Another issue is how to do the “Pay to vote” thing. I already know it’d be dirt cheap – 50 cents or something like that for a vote. The problem is implementing a system where someone pays to vote. Is it a constant stream of micro transactions? Do we let people have a tab, so they can charge up 10 weeks all at once for $5 and take out 50 cents each time they vote? I don’t know. I’m thinking it might be better just to crowd fund it to pay for the whole project in one shot, and then reveal it slowly to people as they vote. Patrons would then get bonus votes, so they could vote twice and have a larger say in the direction the story takes, and start saving up for the second comic that follows Hendricus.

Does the comic sit on this site, or do we create a new one?  I’ve implemented social media logins to limit problems with bot spam. As it was, I had to turn off comments on this blog, because I got a steady stream of spam messages for drugs, porn, etc. I’m going to try leaving comments on for this post, and sharing it to Twitter (where most of the bot spam seems to come from) and see what happens.

I’ve found an artist I’m excited to work with: Sal, aka TheDarkCloak. His stuff looks amazing, and his idea for pricing is right around where I thought it would be. We’ve talked about doing a “simple” art form like Table Titans, and if we get a bigger following, we can do more. That right there is a good reason to go with Kickstarter, I think, so we know how much we have, and what kind of quality we’ll be working with.

Anyway, it’ll still be a while before this becomes a reality. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, with the new novel being edited, and a board game under development, but maybe late this year we can get this ball rolling!

Another blast from the past, the interview I did for the We Got The Geek podcast aired this month! It was the first time I’d been interviewed at a convention, so I was excited about it!

Game design for Wizards’ War has been going swimmingly. June started off with a lot of play testing and a meeting with Nat from Lynnvander Studios to go over the rule book. A couple clarifications were requested, but otherwise he sounded quite pleased with how the game is coming along.

Mid-month we had another game board design night. Lynnvander Studios was off to a convention, so I think my game was the only one there. Mike finally got a chance to play, which was great! Dave had some interesting ideas for expanding the game to include the ability to destroy buildings. So we brainstormed it, and decided to not only let you destroy other people’s buildings, but also let you tear down your own buildings. It means one of your Workers is busy for a while, and you’ve lost your resources that you put into the building, as well as any future use of the building. But it allows you to change your mind after you’ve filled up your city. Additionally, siege engines and Pellin’s fireball have been tweaked to give them more functionality.

We squeaked in another 3-player game at the end of the month and had a lot of fun with it. It was a “fast mode” game with double resource gathering, and I think I need a couple minor tweaks to it, but otherwise it went pretty well.

I have holidays, and I’m hoping to get a bunch more play testing done while I’m off work!

The first 12 chapters of A Hero’s Birth are edited! My aunt has been blazing through the second pass. By my best guess, the book should be ready to release into the wild in October or November. I think that might be too late to submit it for the Campus Authors event and Guelph Book Bash, which is a shame. I’ve got three plaques on my wall, one for each year since 2013. It’d be nice to get the 2017 one, but I doubt it’ll happen. C’est la vie!

While waiting on editing notes, I’ve started working again on book 4 (or book 1 of the Strongblade Siblings series, I never know how to refer to it). The siblings are fighting again. Surprise, surprise. But Sardo has Wizard Runner now, which is an exciting development. Why does a holy rogue need a war horse? You’ll just have to wait to find out!


This week I crossed the 30,000 word mark in A King’s Decree. In this book I consciously did something that I haven’t done in previous books: I slowed down. After the action and intrigue of the first story arc, I let the implications simmer for a bit. I fleshed out the scene, added new and interesting characters, and now I’ll move on to the next round of craziness.

I’ve learned quite a lot from writing my first trilogy, and one thing I’ve discovered about my writing style is that I don’t slow down much. It’s go, go, go, go, go! Events don’t have a lot of time to sink in, for either the reader or the characters. Even with that fast, relentless pace, my books were getting quite long. I don’t plan on slowing down so much that reading becomes tedious – I hate that sort of thing – but I want people to picture what’s in my mind, or at least a reasonably close facsimile. I want the reader to see the emotions running through the characters as they absorb what’s happened to them.

I know I’m not a perfect writer. I doubt I’ll write a “best seller.” But it’s important to me to grow and learn with each book that I write. So to those of you who are along for the ride, thanks for your faith in me. It means a lot!

I’d like to do a One Month Follow-up on the crazy promotion where hundreds of copies of Demon Invasion were downloaded. The idea behind a “free” promo is the hope that you’ll find new readers. You’d think that you’d see an uptick in sales on other works if such a promo were to work.



Pretty slow month.

As you can see, the following month was slow. Slower than normal. It’s been a while since I’ve only had one sale, and one KU reader.

Maybe a month isn’t long enough? Maybe my books have been added to “To be read” lists, and people just have a lot of books to read, because they found a lot of authors they like through free promos?

Or maybe people who look for big free promotions aren’t buying books, because they only want to read for free.

I don’t know. I can’t let the slow sales drag me down, because…

Two people in one day said they’re enjoying my books. Just so we’re clear, that’s a record, and really exciting!

One has just started reading A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1) and had this to say: 

The other is getting into A Wizard’s Gambit (Empire’s Foundation Book 2), and had some great advice:

I’m a fan of +Ryan Toxopeus, both on here and his stories. I think he tells good stories and I like his characters and his ideas.

Now the “but.”Last night I read two particular scenes, one a fight between two men who like the same woman and a dragon, and another scene the protagonist is in the house of a super-wealthy under cover dragon who has run off and his mansion has been looted.

See what I just told you? I was told that too. When I read his stories I never forget I’m being told a story, a story I like, but I have the feel of being told a story. I don’t get the immersion I look for in a novel.

For those not familiar with “Show, don’t tell,” it’s a rule that says it’s best to show the reader what’s going on, so they can see it in their minds, instead of being straightforward about it. An example:

Carlotte was nervous.

Carlotte’s heart raced, and she wiped at sweat on her brow.

In both cases, the reader knows that Carlotte is, indeed, nervous. But in the second one, you never actually said it. The reader sees the symptoms of discomfort and sweating and puts the pieces together. It makes the writing longer, but helps the reader become more immersed in the writing.

This is something I know I need to work on. When I wrote A Noble’s Quest, I had never even heard the term “Show, don’t tell.” While writing the second book, I still wasn’t really sure I had a grasp of the concept (and seeing Rich’s feedback, I know I still have more work to do on mastering this). I wonder if perhaps A Hero’s Birth is as long as it is because I’m finally showing the reader more. Yes, there are times you can tell, I think. You don’t always want to show everything, because it can make the writing cumbersome. But if you show the important bits, and the parts where it makes sense to slow down and let the scene unfold, the reader will love you for it.

So that’s my next writer’s goal. Show more, at least where it makes sense.

I sometimes think I’ll go back and rework my first books with all the knowledge I’ve gained. Maybe some day I will, but for now I want to keep my forward momentum.

I read an article that made me concerned that A Hero’s Birth might be too long. After some discussion about the length of the book, I realized it’s better as it is. I really wasn’t looking forward to coming up with another title for what would have been book 4, not to mention paying for more cover art. The ending of book 3 would have been weaker than I would have liked, too. But a 700 page book isn’t obscene, in the land of fantasy books.

Last but not least, I got more work done on the “bonus” material for A Hero’s Birth.

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

Lots of great stuff

I’ll start with the most exciting news of the week! I was interviewed by Steve DeWinter for the upcoming FantasyCon over on Facebook, and we had a great chat. Don’t be scared off by the 40 minute timer, it flew by really quickly with a lot of fun topics.

In other news, Book Bash 2015 was great! One of the hardest parts of self-publishing is marketing, so having a local group like Vocamus Press putting on a free event like that is extremely helpful.

I sold a copy of A Noble’s Quest and A Wizard’s Gambit shortly after arriving, and I thought, “Even if that’s all I sell, I’m happy!” It was just fun being there and chatting with people. But in total I sold four copies of A Noble’s Quest and three copies of A Wizard’s Gambit. One of the latter was to a former student who just finished reading the first book and wanted the second. That was pretty exciting!

The best moment was when Gord Miller, Green candidate for Guelph in the upcoming federal election, stopped at my table and picked up a copy of A Noble’s Quest. I knew he was coming, because I’d stopped by the campaign office with a physical copy of my letter to the editor of the Guelph Tribune. When I was leaving I told two of the people on his team that I was headed to Book Bash and found out Gord was going, too! I joked, “Maybe he’ll buy a copy of my book” and they asked what kind of stuff I wrote. When I said fantasy, I was told Gord was a huge fantasy fan, so he just might! Even still, it was a shock when he showed up and said he wanted a copy. Most people ask questions, or want to hear what it’s about. He just came right over and wanted one. It was pretty surreal.

And if you were waiting for my usual Friday post, sorry about the delay. Despite both of us being a little under the weather yesterday, I took my daughter to a Guelph Storm hockey game. Gord got a section of seats for volunteers with the campaign, and my daughter was in a couple of the ads, so I wanted to bring her. She loved seeing herself on the jumbotron, and being a part of helping get Gord elected. She got a green piece of chalk from the campaign office before the game, and was writing “Gord Miller” on the sidewalk on the way to the game. At the game she handed out flyers. I love how much she’s enjoying the whole experience!

Here’s the ad for anyone who’s interested (my daughter shows up at 0:17)

Can’t stop the gifs

Before I get to the gifs…


1100 BGW (Before Gods’ War) is available on Smashwords and Amazon!

Amurtag and her fellow minotaur farmers are called away from the harvest by the priests. Margaff, their new chief, is making a play for power over all the minotaur tribes using a secret weapon. But when Amurtag questions him publicly, he shares his vision for the future. The question is, will everyone stand by and allow him to take control?

This short story originally showed up in Theme-Thology: New Myths (I still provide the link because there are more great stories in the anthology if you’re interested in checking them out!), and now that we’re outside of the 1-year exclusivity period, I’m publishing it as a stand alone story. If you’re a fan of my novels, you might have already guessed that this short story is tied to Illuma by the title, which is the year when it starts (Almost 2000 years before A Noble’s Quest).


You may remember me talking about game creation last week. Well, I started wondering how I would break up the island for a conquest sort of game. And then I needed sprites to mark where the heroes were, of course. And that led me to this wonderful, free sprite generating program that is completely addicting. I might tinker with them a bit to clean them up, but it’s fun making all these little sprites that might one day populate a game. And when I say “one day,” I do mean in the distant future. I spent some time this week looking into game programming, and the common theme was, “Start small so you can have some successes.” As usual, I’m dreaming big, so I imagine it would take a long time for me to build up the skills necessary to do justice to the game I want.

Human Heroes:


Matthew Strongblade


Hendricus Wyrmstriker


Pellin Boltsmaster







Dwarven Heroes:




Dwarven Rager


Dwarven Sapper







Halfling Heroes:


Gayle “The Eye”

Halfling Soldier

Halfling Soldier

Halfling Stealth

Halfling Stealth







Elven Heroes:




Elven Bladesinger


Elven Stalker







Gnome Heroes:


Thigglin Turin


Gnome Soldier


Gnome Stealth







Orc Hero (The Orcs only get one Hero because they’re nomads without a city):