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.

GenreCon 2018

You probably already know I spent the weekend at GenreCon 2018, so let’s go right ahead to the usual, shall we?

The Good

The hotel and con staff were very friendly and I had a fun weekend.

The Friday night (6-9pm) went better than I thought it would. Last year I hadn’t gotten any sales that first night, so I was pleasantly surprised to have two! Also, a trio of Jawas came running through, and one of them pawed at the character cards on my table! Jawas have always been one of my favourites from Star Wars, and seeing three of them running around acting like Jawas, looking like they were going to steal things, was so fun.

Saturday was the long day (10am-9pm) with lots of events going on, including a celebrity visit from Charisma Carpenter. She was in another part of the con, so I didn’t get to see her, but I heard good things from people who saw her. Nicholas Brendon was supposed to be there, too, but got held up at the border. That day I sold nine books, which was amazing. I had my table costs covered half way through the day, which is always a nice feeling!

I was a panelist at two panels, one on self-publishing with Sarah WaterRaven, and another on world building with Sarah again, and Tommy Gofton and Sen-Foong Lim. Both panels were a lot of fun, and well attended. I had a couple follow-up conversations with people, which were great, too! Networking at a con is worth almost as much as sales, because it’s often about who you know… for instance, I was approached by Assad, who created the Genesis: Battle of Champions collectible card game (all vendor links are at the end). We met at SkyCon last year, and chatted a bit at GenreCon. He mentioned he’s now going full-time game creation and is starting to put out feelers for working with other people – specifically authors. Now, I’m making my own board game, but I know next to nothing about CCG’s. The last one I played was the old Star Wars one from the 90’s. I’m definitely going to follow up with him and at least chat some more about this, because I want to break into gaming. With the synergy I saw happening between my books and board game prototype, I’m convinced that getting into more forms of media can only help.

Additionally, my wife and kids came and had an amazing time. They got their pictures taken with a bunch of cosplayers, from Darth Vader and Storm Troopers to FOUR Judges (from Judge Dredd). I’d share those pictures, but you know how it is…

Sunday was a shorter day (11am-4pm) and was considerably quieter, especially later in the day. I still had 4 sales, so it was a good day. The 501st was around, and it’s always cool seeing Darth Vader and Boba Fett walking through a convention.

The Bad

You know, there wasn’t anything that sticks out as being bad here. Sure, it had its quiet stretches, but I had interesting vendors to either side of me and we talked a lot to pass the time. It felt busier than last year, so you get the sense it’s growing and getting better. I’ll be interested to see what happens next year! Maybe they’ll even get some better weather! It was awful out there with lots of snow and even rain on Sunday, and I’m sure that stopped some people from coming.

I’d guess the only bad thing that happened, I wasn’t really involved with… Nicholas Brendon got stopped at the border, due to ongoing criminal investigations. I guess the con coordinators and Brendon tried to get some paperwork together to help him get across despite the charges, but they still didn’t let him across. If he’d been there, I might have spent some of my earnings on meeting him. But after I shared a post on Facebook about Brendon not coming, I learned from my cousin that Brendon has a pretty sketchy past, legally speaking. Lots of charges, including felonies. So maybe the way it worked out was for the best.

The Ugly

Nothing to put here. I had a good time.

The Great!

Launching A Hero’s Birth at the con was the right call. It was great having people coming up to the table, picking up the last book to see how the trilogy ends. I had four sales just from people I knew were coming, which covered a good chunk of the table cost by themselves. Having that sort of traffic coming in was wonderful! And Dave hung out in the area for a good part of Sunday, and cracked open his copy of A Hero’s Birth to read right beside the table. You can’t buy advertising like that – I have the best fans!

Additionally, I had a couple experiences that I HAVE to share, because they were awesome.

Two young women approached my table, one I had met at SkyCon, and she had figured her friend Nikki would like my books… so she brought Nikki over to my table and introduced us. After we talked, Nikki decided to pick up A Noble’s Quest to see what she thought.

She followed me on Twitter and posted this:

That was such an amazing feeling. But wait! There’s more! Today she came by with her nephew and while he was getting his face painted by Miss Kitty, Nikki told me that she had almost finished A Noble’s Quest already because she was having a hard time putting it down. She said she’d get A Wizard’s Gambit, because she was sure she’d be done A Noble’s Quest very soon. I offered to knock $5 off if she got A Hero’s Birth at the same time, because I usually give a discount if people get three or more books at the con. She picked it up, too! I can’t wait to hear what she thinks!

Another gentleman was walking by my table, and he almost got by me… until he noticed Harvey Bunda’s stunning artwork – specifically, Fyrsanthemar the God Crusher on the cover of A Wizard’s Gambit. He came to talk to me, and wound up getting the entire trilogy in one go when I told him I love dragons, too, and have them in all my books. What a high, right before I was headed to my first panel!

Vendors

There are a few vendors I’ve met before, and I met some new ones, too! The vendor community is great, and I like to share the spotlight with them.

Adventures of Lollipop – a comic where the characters explore Canada and the world, sometimes time travelling to teach kids about the world around them.

Artisan Maille – awesome chain mail stuff, from armour to dice bags and jewellery.

Critical Shoppe – cute RPG-inspired comic stuff.

Fire and Steel – for all your weapon needs. One day, if my books ever get BIG, I’m going to get the Strongblade mass produced for sale.

Genesis: Battle of Champions – a strategic CCG that uses a board game grid to lay out your armies.

Kyfak – local games and toys. (I meant to get over there and pick up some Star Wars Lego minifigures but forgot!)

Miss Kitty Facepainting and Entertainment – she did face painting and henna at the con, and also puts together parties.

By the numbers

I know a lot of people like to know the exact details of what I consider success. I recently increased the prices on my books, because a) I had someone approach me at a con and say, “Is that it?” when I told them A Noble’s Quest was $15, so I figured I could get away with more, and b) I need to start valuing my writing more, if it’s going to start paying for itself, allowing me to write more books. So here’s the details:

Books sold

2x A Noble’s Quest

2x A Wizard’s Gambit

8x A Hero’s Birth

3x Scoundrels anthology

2x $5 discounts for people who bought the full trilogy

Gross income: $325

Net, after printing costs and table fees: $100

That’s definitely the best I’ve ever done at a convention. Normally I’ll break even, or be a little bit over, which is great. It looks like my belief that I’d get better sales once the trilogy was finished is turning out to be true. My table looks WAY more impressive with five titles on it. While I doubt I’ll have the first book of the Strongblade Siblings series ready to go for next year, I do hope to have my board game, Wizards’ War, ready to go. Maybe that will draw in an entirely new audience, too. One thing’s for sure… if I add any more products to my table, 4 feet just won’t be big enough!

A Hero’s Birth, available now!

Title: A Hero’s Birth

Retailers: Amazon [Kindle] [Paperback]

Genre: Epic Fantasy

 


Blurb:

After more than four months abroad, Eliza, Thomas, and Sarentha return home in the face of dire warnings and sweeping changes in the empire. They go their separate ways to reflect on their lives and look for ways to move forward. New allies and enemies emerge, and grave challenges face the up-and-coming heroes. They will need to come together, combining their wits and strengths, to overcome ancient foes. In the balance is the world of Illuma: will it enter an age of light, or will it plunge into everlasting darkness, ruled by demons and the undead?


Reviews:

Jason Berry, reviewer at The Bone Breaker rated it 5 stars and said:

What I loved the most about this book is that our three heroes start off on three separate quests/journeys, making their ultimate reunion that much sweeter. You will see Thomas begin to fulfill his destiny, Sarentha’s becoming a dragon hunter, and Eliza’s growth as a leader. And the ending… Whoa! Man, it is difficult to write this review without giving anything away. I better just say this:

Toxopeus has certainly grown as an author. If you like your fantasy filled with intrigue, suspense, and mystery, then this book is for you!

Andy Goldman, author of The Only City Left rated it 4 stars and said:

There’s definitely fun to be had in seeing where the story takes them, as the trilogy has clearly been building up to this big finale. For my taste, this single book could have been a trilogy in its own right.

Bradley Rogers rated it 5 stars and said:

Fantastic read. Riveting from beginning to end. Characters developed beautifully in this book. The world that has been created is absolutely amazing. If you enjoyed the other books in the series this will be a most delightful read. Excelent conclusion to a series. Absolute must read.


I’m quite pleased with how this series has come along. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, but I feel like the books just get better, the deeper into the series I go. While A Noble’s Quest has a strong Dungeons & Dragons feel to it, the characters are more independent by A Hero’s Birth. There’s nothing wrong with the D&D feel, but it felt good having the characters off and doing their own things, allowing me to really focus in on each of them.

I do agree with Andy Goldman that I could’ve taken more time in some of the locations, but with the book already over twice the length of A Noble’s Quest, I felt some brevity was in order. And there’s a reason I’m calling the next set the “Strongblade Siblings series.” Calling this set of Empire’s Foundation books a trilogy from the outset sort of pinned me down to just three books, where it could have probably been 4. While I say there will be four books in the next series, it could easily grow to more, depending on how events unfold. I would very much like to keep each book closer to 100,000 words, so they don’t take as long to bring out as A Hero’s Birth. This book is a beast, at 160,000 words. But don’t worry – I’m not going to slow down too much! I do still enjoy a fast-paced story!

If you’d like to read all the stories in my recommended reading order, here’s the list (short stories are only available for e-readers):

A Noble’s Quest

1100 Before Gods’ War

Demon Invasion

A Wizard’s Gambit

Dawn: A dwarven creation story

A Hero’s Birth

All of these titles are also available through Kindle Unlimited if you have it. Enjoy!

July recap

New release!

In case you haven’t heard, my latest short story called Dark Ones has been released!

The story takes place 1250 years Before Gods’ War, making it the furthest back I’ve gone in Illuma’s history. I loved how this story tied several different elements together, so there are easter eggs for fans, and it’s just a fun story if you’re new to my writing.

Eshe awakens from a meditative trance when she feels a psychic force. Barbarian hordes, led by mysterious Dark Ones, approach the city and it is up to her, an order of monks, and the city guard to protect the citizens of Bisoro.

There might be more coming after this story. I ran a D&D campaign at The Round Table that started off shortly after some of the events in this story. We had a blast, and I’m tempted to explore this vast region more, either in D&D games and/or in stories. The more I think about it, the more interesting this whole region and time becomes. Of course I have my main novel series to worry about, and my slow writing schedule means I probably shouldn’t branch off to any large scale work. Maybe one day I’ll get back to this region and flesh it out.


I did a lot of editing this month, and am now up to chapter 20 complete in A Hero’s Birth. For book 4, the working title has changed to A Queen’s Edict, and I’ve decided to use a prologue/epilogue structure with the next series, too. I’d thought about changing it up, and doing letters between some of the characters, but it felt flat to me. So now I’ll be looking at the Emperor’s 6th Son, as he attempts to discover the ancient strength of Murgaphyie. Instead of going back in time, like I did with the Empire’s Foundation series looking at Matthew, these snippets will be happening at the same time as the story, with a parallel arc. It should work a lot better in building up the tension over the course of the series.


I’ve started work on Wizards’ War prototype v3.0. There are so many changes coming down the pipe!

  1. Miniaturization – the game pieces from v2.0 were too large to produce the game in a cost efficient manner. I’m shrinking everything!
  2. Tokens to counters – punch board tokens are expensive. I’m looking at ways to reduce the number of tokens and replacing them with wooden disks, painted with symbols. They’re dirt cheap in comparison, and still look awesome!
  3. Resources to counters – Tommy told me that the small resource cards I had with the game would cost a lot more than standard playing cards, because it means they need to change the formatting on the machines to make the cards. A less expensive way to do things is coloured acrylic cubes. They look great, and I can get different sizes to denote 1 or 5 resources of a certain type.

So I’m redesigning the boards, and putting together an itemized list of everything I will need to order to make 1000 copies of Wizards’ War (gulp!). It’s terrifying to look at the sheet with everything I need. No way is this happening without a successful Kickstarter, that’s for sure!


Because I don’t have enough to do already, I signed up to be a dungeon master at The Round Table. Every second Sunday, I’ll be dragging players, kicking and screaming, through my own story set in the Legacy of Mana world. It’s pretty exciting, and we’ll have our first session tomorrow! I wrote up a little introduction and showed it to Nat and he laughed. A lot. That evil, “everyone’s going to hate you so much” kind of DM laugh. Can’t wait!


Last but not least, July was a pretty good month! I don’t remember the last time I had three people read A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1) through Kindle Unlimited in a 30-day span. Plus a few sales for A Noble’s Quest from the multi-author promotion I joined, and the rather lackluster launch of Dark Ones. Well, that just seems to be how short stories go. Can’t wait to launch A Hero’s Birth and have finished the Empire’s Foundation trilogy!