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!).
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.
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.
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.
I had a great time at SEE this month, selling 16 books, which might be a record! On top of that, I got my picture taken with my kids and Billy Dee Williams, which was amazing! You don’t really get a chance to talk to the celebrity when you’re doing the photos, but just saying a few words, and hearing his voice was like a soothing balm for the soul.
Can’t wait to go again next year!
A local friend of mine read through my book series on Kindle Unlimited, finishing A Noble’s Quest last month, and then pounding through A Wizard’s Gambit and A Hero’s Birth this month. Add those pages read to the sale of the ebook trilogy to someone in the UK, and two paperback books through Amazon, and that’s a good month!
I doubled the number of patrons this month, thanks to some generous D&D players! We ran two groups through a Prologue session to give them a sense of scale for the world and threats to come, which was a lot of fun, and you can read about that in a previous post on this blog. I’m working on the audio for a podcast for the second group’s experience with the prologue, and it’s taking me a while to get through. But it’ll happen! I learned a lot from this first one, so future files should be much cleaner and faster to check.
As you may or may not know, I’ve been running a D&D game through Discord, based on the universe I write about in the majority of my stories.
The game begins with a prologue, where players pick a pre-made level 15 hero of the realm. I created a fighter, paladin, rogue, ranger, cleric, wizard, bard, or sorcerer for players to choose from. The prologue is a bit more “rail road” than I normally like my campaigns to be. Usually I’ll have an idea for a campaign, and if players go with it, great, if not, I adapt. It’s funny how often players wind up going with the story idea, but it’s fantastic when it goes completely off the rails, too!
I originally had 6 players who signed up for the Discord server to play, and they picked everything but the wizard and fighter. But when game day came, two of the players who had just moved the day before were a no show. I figured they were probably exhausted from the move, so we played with 4 players: ranger, rogue, cleric, and sorcerer.
I was then contacted by other people who wanted to play at my table, too, and it quickly filled up with the two people who missed the first session, and three new people. So we had a paladin, bard, cleric, rogue, and ranger.
Additionally, someone contacted me through Discord saying he wanted to support me through Patreon and join a group! It was after group 1 finished the prologue, so I told him if he joined, he would have to miss that and go right into the main campaign, which he was fine with.
And we’ve all had an awesome time playing through the prologue! I was going to record the audio for the first session, but didn’t have the right permissions. The session was longer than I thought it would be, mostly because of some impressive role playing, so we wrapped up the prologue on a second session with Group 1. We then ran Group 2 through the prologue in a single sitting, although it was quite the heroic session, taking until 12:30am EST. And I got an audio recording for that session, which I will post to YouTube when it’s done being put together.
What was most fascinating for me was seeing how the two groups played differently. I want to highlight some of those differences, so I’ll go through each section of the prologue, and show how each group handled the challenges.
Before I get to that, if you’d like a spot at my virtual table, Patrons are guaranteed a spot, so if you’ve got a need to play, donate today!
Lordship of Invenny
The players were informed that they were to head to the Lordship of Invenny and help Sir Petrick Mythos with an issue for which he required immediate aid. If they were successful, they would receive 5000 gold pieces each, and their choice of a magical item from the royal treasury. They then traveled 10 days from the Kingdom of the Sun (capital) to the Lordship of Invenny with a brief description of the travel, until they reached a pavilion tent where they met with Sir Petrick.
After discovering that there was something wrong with the forest, (the rogue performed an insight check to ensure Sir Petrick was being honest – he was) they split the party. The cleric and sorcerer went to speak with Father Starson, who told them there was nothing magical or evil about the woods. It was naturally foul, with the bleeding trees, and they would be best off getting their wood from a forest further west. Sir Petrick didn’t like that plan, because it would slow down production, and he wanted the outpost built as quickly as possible, so it was ready for trade with the southern kingdoms.
The rogue and ranger went to the woods, where they discovered proof of the bleeding trees, and Sir Petrick’s son Kyln, who was skulking around the edge of the woods. He joined their group “to carry the bags.” (Ain’t that rogue a stinker?)
The cleric and sorcerer spoke with Harriette the carpenter, who discussed how the bleeding trees had spooked the workers two months ago, and also learned that the stone was “wrong” near the town. But the bleeding trees, one drained and dried, made for excellent wood. She told them that she had chopped down one of the trees herself, and the stump was still oozing blood, long after the tree was removed.
Kyln told the ranger and rogue about how Father Starson had gone the furthest into the woods. The ranger found Father Starson’s trail into the woods, but decided not to investigate without the rest of the party.
Together once more, they headed to the inn to rest. There, they found the lead stonemason, Kurtis, complaining about how Sir Petrick wouldn’t let him leave. He figured there was no way they could build the outpost without good stone, stating that all three of their pit mines south of town had come up with shattered rock beneath the surface. They had first discovered the problem 8 months ago, 6 months earlier than the bleeding trees.
The party slept that night (the rogue stole into Sir Petrick’s tent to tell Kyln that the plan for the morning had changed), and met up with Kurtis in the morning. They found the pit mines were exactly as described, with shards of stone, and decided it was time to find the source of the corruption. They entered the woods…
After learning about the bleeding trees, the party went to speak to Father Starson together. After hearing the spiel about how the woods weren’t evil or magical, they performed an insight check and discovered that Father Starson wasn’t being exactly honest with them… (dun dun dun!)
He told them that there was certainly something unsettling about the woods, and they would be best off getting wood from the forest farther to the west. When pressed about what was so unsettling, he said he had found a hidden road half an hour into the woods and they should investigate for themselves. (They didn’t do another insight check… so perhaps he withheld a bit more information…?) If they wanted more information about the woods, they could speak with Harriette. The cleric asked what religious symbol was on the temple, and was told it was just a pavilion tent with no religious symbol hanging over the door.
They talked to Harriette and got the same information as Group 1, although they pressed her further and discovered that Kyln Mythos often spent time around the woods. So when they went to the woods, they called out to Kyln and he came out immediately to talk to them. He told them about how Father Starson had gone the furthest into the woods, and Kyln was too scared to go deeper on his own.
The cleric used Cure Wounds on the bleeding tree stump and discovered that the stump withered at his touch. They left Kyln and headed into the woods on their own…
The Forest of Woes
Both groups went into the woods and discovered the cobblestone road, buried under a layer of dead leaves and dirt. The entire time, there were no signs of life… not even insects. The forest was eerily quiet, and both parties had at least one character who detected an unpleasant odour of rot on their journey.
At this point, they tried stabbing a tree to see what happened, and instead of oozing blood, it spurted at them. The party tried to close the wound with a Cure Wounds spell, which caused the tree to not only stop bleeding, but wither. Turn Undead was used, and the trees in the area shook in reaction. But the trees gave off no signs of being evil or magical, so the party didn’t know what to make of that.
After a day of following the road, the party came to a white marble tower. While the sorcerer and cleric set up camp in the road, the ranger and rogue explored the outer area around the tower.
They found an outer yard that was surrounded by a broken down grey stone wall. Inside the outer wall was an old fountain in similar disrepair. Digging through the dirt that had built up in the fountain over the years, the rogue discovered a golden key. Satisfied with the find, he and the ranger went back to camp. The next day they discovered runes around the base of the building for a Protection from Evil spell. They wondered if the tower was to keep out evil, or if there was something inside that was being kept from escaping. With what intelligence they had gathered, they sent Kyln back to town. They decided to enter, the outer wooden door collapsing at their touch…
When they saw the tower in the distance, they immediately set up camp and went to sleep, not wanting to risk anything during the night. In the morning they also found the golden key in the fountain, and the paladin discovered the Protection from Evil runes using her Divine Sense. Upon further inspection, they determined that the runes were indeed set to keep evil out of the tower (they rolled better). What was more, the bard had done his homework and immediately recognized that the white marble was from far to the south, and not native to the area. It made him think of ancient history, which discussed the War of Light and Dark, where the Knights of Light built buildings to keep out the darkness (this is a hint that I reward parties who have high history scores, because there’s always lore behind everything, and knowing it will add flavour to the game).
They knocked on the front door and it collapsed, so they entered…
Tower: Main Floor
The room had three walls with doors to the left, straight ahead, and right. The door to the left was wood in good condition, straight ahead was a crumbling wooden door like the one they had just knocked down, and the third to the right was made of stone. In the middle of the room was a stone desk.
They ignored the desk, and inspected the doors. The rogue found the left wooden door had runes engraved into it, which they determined was a Firestorm spell. They left that door alone.
The door straight ahead they knocked down to discover a room full of thick dust. There were pads where bedding might have once been, and when the rogue investigated the room, the dust stirred and blinded him. Lesser restoration fixed his vision, and he went back in after Detect Magic showed something necromantic glowing on one of the pads, under dust. The rogue tried to get it, but again went blind. The ranger used her bow to hook the object, but before she could slide it off, a clump of dust fell and blinded her. This went on for a hilariously long amount of time, before they finally managed to get the object out, covered in a blanket, and left it there on the floor while they continued adventuring.
The stone door had runes engraved in Celestial that said, “those who live in the light are welcome.” Through the door they found stairs leading up and down. They decided to go up…
The cleric immediately headed to the stone desk, and the paladin went straight for the wooden door that was in good condition. She knocked, which pushed the door just enough to set off the Firestorm spell. Boom! The bard quipped, “Those were my favourite eyebrows” which was awesome. With the door blown off, they discovered a shelving unit with a charred garment and nothing else.
The cleric discovered 5 drawers with nothing but dust and broken glass inside them.
The door straight ahead was destroyed by the Firestorm, and they didn’t bother investigating what had been through it. They went straight to the stone door and decided to go up…
Tower: Top Floor
At the top of the stairs, they found a room with rows of stone desks and a lectern at the front. There were broken windows all around the outer wall behind the lectern with the remains of stained glass windows.
After letting the others look and fail to find anything, the rogue went in and scoured the room, discovering an ancient holy text, a robe with a white key, and a secret door to a room with a loom, skein of jet-black fabric, and another tome. They took the fabric and the tome and decided to check out the basement, next…
They didn’t do so great on their investigation rolls, only finding the holy text in the lectern. But the paladin used her Divine Sense, and felt goodness coming from behind the wall that shared the door they had come into the room through. After several attempts, they found the switch that opened the secret door. They took the fabric and tome and decided to check out the basement, next…
The door at the bottom opened with the white key, which both parties had, and inside they found another room with more of the jet-black cloth covering a huge 10 foot by 10 foot object in the middle of the room.
The rogue got hurt as soon as he went into the room, so he left. The cleric wanted to pull off the jet-black fabric immediately, but the party begged her to reconsider. They had used up a fair number of cleric spells, and wanted to head out to examine their loot more thoroughly, so they left…
The paladin, cleric, and bard entered the room without issue and started to look around. When the rogue and ranger went in, they both got splitting headaches and left the room. By deduction, they learned that Chaotic characters who entered the room were being injured.
They examined the cloth closely, finding that it radiated goodness. The paladin peeked under the cloth and when she couldn’t figure out what was there, the bard discovered that it was a magic portal. After much deliberation, they decided to go through the portal…
Group 1 had taken a lot more time going through the town, so it was late by the time they made camp, and we broke off after they checked out the items, discovering that the holy text from the lectern was a 1000 year old tome that discussed how everything came into being, telling about a Lord of Light (Sharrow) even older than Pholtus, the god of light that the cleric worshiped. Thinking it might be of incalculable value, she stored it in a hole in a tree, where she could find it later when they were done with the tower.
The other text was an instruction manual for how to imbue cloth with magic, specifically the jet-black fabric with spells that would repel and burn any undead who touched it. They hung the skein of fabric from the broken front door, so nothing evil could come out in the night and get them.
The necromantic object they took out of the room filled with dust turned out to be a heavily pitted dagger. The ranger stabbed it into a tree, but the blade snapped off.
That night they all had nightmares (except the rogue). The cleric dreamed of Pholtus emerging from the holy text, a warm being of light. Then a much, much larger being came out of the book, swallowing up the smaller one. When it wept a golden tear from above, it fell on the cleric and smothered her.
The ranger dreamed of the white tower pushing away evil trees that grew around the outside. A vision that proved true, when she woke, for the trees grew in such a way that they did not touch the tower at all.
The sorcerer dreamed of Conflar, the dragon from whence his family’s power came from, attacking the tower, but being dragged away by the twisted trees, where he disappeared.
The next morning they decided to brave the Firestorm door. The rogue and sorcerer went into the main room, while the cleric and ranger stood outside the main door to the building. The sorcerer then case Mage Hand to open the door, which triggered the Firestorm spell. Boom! Even just outside the door wasn’t safe, and everyone took damage (except the rogue). Inside the closet they found nothing but charred fabric. No magic robe for either group!
To the basement they went, where they discussed their options. Once the portal was revealed, the rogue leapt into action and bounded through. The others had to follow…
(I will point out at this point that nobody thought to inspect the portal, or they would have found runes that described the function of the portal, and where it went… although there was a good chance they wouldn’t have understood where “Oos” was)
Through the Portal
On the other side of the portal was a small stone room, 20 feet by 20 feet. On the far side of the room, a gleaming great sword sat propped against the wall, and they found a hatch in the ceiling with no hinges and no lock.
The great sword radiated evil and necromancy, but had the words “Sharrow’s Law” etched into it. Believing the ancient Lord of Light could not have a weapon that was all that bad, the ranger took it. They then boosted the rogue up to the hatch, who successfully pushed open the door and he rolled out of the way to avoid harm as stone and earth cascaded down.
Using the rogues rope of climbing, they climbed up to discover a ring of white stones around them. Upon further inspection, they determined it was probably a similar tower to the one they had left behind, but it had collapsed ages ago. All around them was a familiar scene, with old, twisted trees. And in the distance, a faint light bobbed up and down, illuminating a cloaked figure that walked away from them…
Detect Magic showed the sword was necromantic, and an identify spell let them know it had a +2 enchantment. When no one else said they would use it, the ranger offered to take it.
The rogue and cleric failed to open the hatch, so the cleric and ranger boosted the paladin up, who successfully pushed the hatch open. They all took damage from falling debris. The rogue used the rope of climbing, an they all went up to see the light in the distance, moving away from them…
Both groups followed the light, and the cloaked figure who held it, until the figure sat down on a tree stump inside a clearing.
The sorcerer cast Dancing Lights to get a better look at the figure. When they saw it was undead, they decided they had no interest in speaking to such an evil abomination and leapt into action. But the lich was ready for them and the lantern exploded, revealing a demilich! The floating skull rose up and screamed a bloodcurdling howl that dropped the cleric and rogue to zero hit points. The lich then pointed at the sorcerer and said, “Die,” and he did. The ranger, all alone, said out of character, “I hope you guys don’t think I’m a jerk, but…” They yelled, “RUN! Get out of here! Warn everyone on the other side! Cover the portal with the anti-evil cloth!”
And she ran. As she fled, she saw countless undead moving in the trees. She evaded them with her quick movement speed, made it back to the fallen tower, through the hatch…
To discover the lich had cast Dimension Door to beat her there. It dominated her, and she went back out of the tower and walked alongside the lich, who asked her questions about G’lothor, “the greatest of us” but she had never heard of such a figure. When she returned to the clearing, she found her old companions raised as undead monsters, and the scene faded to black…
This is where things were WILDLY different. Group 2 spoke to the figure, not knowing it was a lich. It mentioned how it alone had stayed sane over the 1000 years since G’lothor had fallen. The bard, against all odds, knew of G’lothor, an ancient lich that had felled cities and civilizations in its attempt to cover the world in darkness. The party decided that they didn’t want anything to do with anyone who had a friend like that…
The lich picked up the lantern and threw it with the aim of it dropping in front of the party. The cleric ran forward, fumbled the catch, and the paladin – right beside the cleric – caught it. The cleric peered at the lantern to see what was so special about it, and the demilich stared back. The lantern exploded, and the demilich howled. The rogue and ranger were reduced to zero hit points.
And this is why the fight was so wildly different. With a paladin (boosting saving throws), a cleric (giving advantage on saving throws), and a bard (extra healing), it was REALLY hard to get the players down and keep them down. A Mass Healing Word got the rogue and ranger back up, but the lich used Power Word Kill to kill the rogue. The demilich took damage regularly, but also managed to heal through its Life Drain ability (until they started getting advantage on their saves from the cleric’s spell). The cleric, bard, and paladin held their own through five rounds of combat, surviving a second howl from the demilich.
But then the undead army swarmed through the woods into the clearing, and the last thing they heard was the lich laughing…
Because it was 12:30am at that point for the players out east, and I knew they needed to get some sleep.
Both parties will be starting in different locations. Group 1 is far to the north, 5 months travel for regular folk. It’ll be deep into winter when their adventure begins.
Group 2 will be in the desert city of Khor’thun, not so far from the Forest of Woes, so they will be experiencing the first wave of trouble in the late fall, long before the threat reaches the far north.
I can’t wait to dig into it. Group 1 has already generated their characters, and Group 2 has started discussions. I’m hoping the other two players in Group 2 can get their sound working and will be able to join us for next time!
I think I have officially thrown in the towel on board game design. With work days being longer than they were in Guelph, and not having my Guelph game design friends here in Saskatoon, I just don’t feel up to it anymore.
And I’ve found a really great group of people to play Dungeons and Dragons with, so we get together 1-2 times per month. I’ve been playing a gnomish wizard and enjoying the experience quite a bit! I don’t normally play spell casters, but had a fun idea for a cowardly wizard who only wants to have a store to sell magical items that he makes. He’s grown more brazen as he gains power, but still prefers it if other people do the heavy lifting. That said, one of the players called him the MVP of one of our previous games because he dished out serious amounts of pain with a lot of burning hands spells!
But I miss DMing. Our DM here in Saskatoon is good, but his game is pretty old-school. It’s been 100% dungeon crawls up to 4th level, and we got rail-roaded into staying there longer than we would have liked.
So I got to thinking that I want to run something as well. As often happens, it started with a map…
Nothing fancy, just a small slice of a world, as is my usual way of starting out. When I thought about actually running the game, I got an idea for a split campaign… starting players out with level 15 heroes of the realm who are investigating something peculiar. The Forest of Woes sounded like a nice place to start, and I began generating ideas for NPCs in the Lordship of Invenny, and a kernel of a quest popped in my brain.
Here we are, a few weeks later, and this map is just one of several. The entire first adventure for the level 15 characters is planned out, and I’m happy with how it came along. The plan is that they’ll play one session as the heroes to learn about the setting and back story, and then think about what they want to do to create their own level 1 characters who will start off far to the north of this location. I’ve even got some ideas of how that second session will start out, but it will be much more free form. I prefer it when the players help me discover the world, rather than having a campaign on rails that they need to follow.
I popped the idea online, with the added idea that Patrons who support me at $3/month would get a guaranteed spot at the virtual table. I didn’t get any bites on that, but that’s okay. I’m just looking forward to DMing again! But if anyone ever does decide to back me, the funds will go back into my book writing.
There’s some debate about the DM-for-hire model, but I figure people used to pay $5 every two weeks to sit at my table when I ran a game in Guelph, so $3/month for a game wouldn’t be too much of an ask. Could be some people will decide to donate later, but even if no one does, I’m feeling energized and happy, forging another world in my universe! I’m going to ask the players if they’d be okay with recording the session as a podcast, so you might just be hearing about this some more later!
Well, things are starting to settle down now. After the great Expo (see previous post), meeting a local group of writers, and applying for an independent artist grant, I feel like I’ve got almost everything out of the way to start making headway on A Queen’s Edict. Don’t get me wrong, I wrote some this month. Just not as much as I’m used to, when I’m writing at full speed.
There are still a couple things I need to do… I have a talk I’m giving to my daughter’s class coming up soon, which should be loads of fun! Apparently my daughter told her teacher that I write books, and so she approached me at “meet the teacher” night and asked if I’d talk to her class. Pretty exciting! Also, I need to get my books in the Saskatoon public library, and MacNally books. Finally, ACX is misbehaving and not letting me check my audiobook production of A Noble’s Quest, so I have no idea how that’s going.
But once those final pieces fall into place, I should be able to finish this first draft. It’s taken me so long to write, with the long break this summer for the move, that I think I should be able to go through it straight away because most of the book will be fresh to my eyes.
Finally, friends in Guelph have launched their first Kickstarter under the name “Broken Things” and it’s doing really well! The game, Builders!, is a deck builder where the idea is to hire workers to construct skyscrapers while also sabotaging your opponents. It’s loads of fun, and even though my wife never plays those sorts of games, she tried it one night and loved it. It’s great fun for everyone, and if you’re into games at all, you owe it to yourself to check this one out!
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.
This month I tried out a new fundraising platform that a friend pointed me towards. Ko-fi is a site that lets people give small one-time donations to someone. If you really want, you can even buy someone multiple cups of coffee at a time. There’s no fees for using the site itself, from either the person giving the donation, or those receiving, although PayPal does take a bit. I chipped in a coffee to the makers of the site after receiving 8 coffees in two days, because it’s nice to give back, especially when they don’t demand anything in return.
Now, the “buying me a coffee” thing is a bit of a ruse, because of course that money isn’t being used for coffee. I state right on my page that I’m saving up for the art for A Queen’s Edict. And I’m really close to getting there, already! The majority of the money I’ve saved has come from book sales, with donations from Patreon and Ko-fi helping, too!
I’ve added a little button on the right side of the screen, so if you ever feel like kicking in a one-time donation, it’s right there. As an added perk (?) I take a selfie thanking you for the coffee to share with you and show the world how awesome you are. Don’t believe me?
So there you have it. Donate a coffee, get a picture of me thanking you. You can forget you ever saw it, doodle obscenities on it, print it out and burn it… the choice is yours!
Work continues on book 4! There’s more departures from the original D&D campaign, with added scenes to tie everything together better and ramp up the pressure on the characters. I’m trying out a new format with this one that’s worked out pretty nicely thus far. The three protagonists get their scenes in the same order, every chapter. Grace starts it out, Sardo is in the middle, and Trai wraps it up… it’s in their birth order. I don’t know if I’ll stick to that through the whole series. There will probably be times when I want one character at a particular point in time, and it won’t make sense to keep that ordering. In fact, I hadn’t expected it to work out as well as it has throughout 85% of this book. It might fall apart at some point, but I’m hoping to make it through the whole book with it.
I think my biggest worry was that it would feel clunky. For instance, in previous books, sometimes I’d end a chapter with a character, and want to continue on with that character straight away for the pacing of the novel. Some chapters a character wouldn’t have their POV come into play at all. So I like this because it forces me to sit down with each character and not play favourites. Everyone has a voice, solving that main criticism of A Noble’s Quest that the characters felt a little flat (although I like to think they come alive more in A Wizard’s Gambit and A Hero’s Birth… I’m just starting this new series out on the right foot).
There’s a new social media platform called MeWe. It’s pretty good! I’m thinking about switching over to it as my main social media site. I’ve already set up a Genre Fiction writing and reading group, a personal writing group, and a personal game design group. Quite a few people are checking it out, so I’ve dropped Facebook and am limiting Google Plus to mostly sharing posts about writing and game design, like what I used Facebook for. If you want the more personal side of my posts, you’ll have to follow me on MeWe.
Work on the audiobook for A Noble’s Quest continues! I’ve been listening to the chapters as the voice actor finishes them, and I’m really happy with his work. This is his first audiobook, and he’s really knocking it out of the park.
Lastly, I’ve been working on Wizards’ War. The playing cards came in, and they look great! I’ll be using them at SkyCon Light on April 28th in Kitchener. Additionally, I’ve been working on revamping some things for the game, and have printed off a new poster for the latest board, and some additional pieces. I didn’t have time to get the new board set up fully for SkyCon, but that’s okay. I’ll get it done in lots of time for both Origins and GenCon. Thanks again to my friends who are bringing it with them to let people try it!
So this month was pretty awesome. Not only has my writing started making money for the first time since I started writing, but a fan group appeared on Facebook.
When I was invited to join my own fan group… no words seem adequate. It was surreal seeing “Toxophiles United” and watching the group grow. At the time of publishing, it’s up to 15 likes.
On top of that, Adriel Wiggins blasted through 4 of my titles and reviewed them all on her website at the same time as she posted an interview I did with her. It was fun, and I recommend reading it if you haven’t yet! If you don’t want to go through all the reviews, here’s the short version:
All of that? That’s pure author fuel! If you’ve read my books and haven’t left a review yet, those things keep me going. Plus they help other people find my stories. So head on over to Amazon and/or Goodreads and let people know what you think!
New business cards! I gave away so many of them at the first two conventions of the year that I had to get more. I’m not 100% sure they’re worth having. For the amount that you spend on them (I only pick them up when I get a good deal through VistaPrint), and the number you give out with no bites, it sometimes feels like they’re not a wise investment. But at Kitchener Comic Con, one person who took a card checked out book 1 through Amazon, and liked it enough to get the sequel. I’m sure other people have used the cards, too, but maybe just enough to break even.
After giving out all those A Noble’s Quest cards, I thought I’d move on to the next book in the series. Once they’re gone, A Hero’s Birth is next. I can’t imagine going through 250 business cards faster than I can publish books, so this strategy might just continue on for the rest of my writing career. Gotta catch ’em all, or something.
I received payment from Amazon for January, and I have to say… I’m really happy with it. See, I made as much in one month as I did all last year through Amazon sales! Now, before you think, “Whoa! You must be rolling in it!” let me just say I didn’t make a heck of a lot last year… just $40. But still, I’m competing against myself, and only myself, so I’m really excited about this, especially seeing that I’ve continued to have some sales through February and March.
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.
It was the first year for SkyCon in Kitchener. I met the lead coordinator, Rob, at The Round Table a few weeks ago, and I like the sound of the KW area having a gaming convention. He was eager to have authors there, too, and told me Ed Greenwood, the creator of Forgotten Realms, would be there. The cost of an artist table was pretty reasonable, and I told myself even if I didn’t sell any books, I’d get the chance to meet Ed Greenwood. I can’t tell you what a huge influence the Forgotten Realms has been on me. I stumbled across Drizzt Do’Urden in my youth, and have played so many Forgotten Realms video games over the years (Baldur’s Gate series, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights [which ate MONTHS of my life because it had that amazing toolbox], Neverwinter… and I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting). It’s just been such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet the man who made it all happen.
So, let’s jump right into it, shall we?
The organization for the con was good. I liked the layout of the dealer’s hallway, right outside the ballrooms where all the gaming took place. The con also had pretty reasonable hours, starting events at 10am, which meant I could sleep in a bit. That’s important to me, because “being on” all day is exhausting, and cons sap my strength. As I write this, it’s not even 8pm and my eyes feel heavy.
I was on two panels the first day – and I don’t think I was supposed to be! It’s probably my own fault, and I misunderstood/misread something along the way, but I thought I was on a panel about DMing at 5pm. Then Tyler told me the DMing panel was at 2pm (Thanks, Tyler!). So I took part in that, and there was a good crowd there (Around 20 people, I’d guess?) for the size of the con. We discussed everything from running one-shots and campaigns, to dealing with problem players and players going “off the rails” (if you’re the sort of DM who plans stuff – something I try to do as little as possible). It was lots of fun!
And then Tyler informed me I was on the panel with him for game design at 5pm (Thanks again, Tyler!). So I THINK I was just supposed to be on that one, and not the DMing panel… so something to watch out for in the future. Apparently I will sneak into panels as a speaker if you don’t stop me.
I mean, I sat right in the middle of the panelists, with my books, like I owned the place. No one told me to go away, so I talked D&D.
The panels were well organized, with a hostess who had a prepared list of questions for the panelists before opening it up to the audience. I really liked that format as opposed to the sort where panelists sit there and make it all up on the fly. Those ones tend to have a single strong personality take charge, and you might not hear from all the panelists. With questions for everyone, you get to hear a wide variety of opinions and stories about every topic!
In terms of book sales, I sold 5 copies of A Noble’s Quest, 1 copy of A Wizard’s Gambit, and 1 copy of Demon Invasion. This more than paid for the cost of the table. I don’t feel comfortable thinking of success in terms of dollars made (you’ll see why below) but I know a lot of people think about it that way. So here’s some hard numbers.
A Noble’s Questcosts a touch over $8/book, and I upped the price to $20. I had been selling them at $15, but at Book Bash earlier this month I saw skinny books of poetry selling for $15 and realized I was seriously undervaluing my work. And if I don’t want to run Indiegogo campaigns for my books anymore, I need to actually start making some money on them. So $12 profit per book is way more than $7.
A Wizard’s Gambit costs around $11/book, and I also increased the price on this one to $25. The book is almost twice as long as book 1, so that’s probably still a pretty good deal.
Demon Invasioncosts about $6/novella. I’m keeping the price of that one at $10, because I don’t feel comfortable selling a novella for $15. This means if people buy all three books at a con, and I drop $5 off for the bundle, I’m taking a $1 loss on the novella. I’m okay with that, since my profit margins on the other two books give me more cushion.
So, with the cost of the table, and ordering books, I walked out with a $35 profit. Any time I make any money at a con, I’m happy. My aim is always to recoup the cost of the table, because I usually have fun at a con.
Speaking of making money at cons…
Guess where I’ll be in March!
Ron from Kitchener Comic Con came in near the end of the day on Sunday, slapped this flyer down on my table, and asked me if we could make a deal again.
Last year he offered me a table in exchange for editing the website content. This year he’s asking that I take care of a monthly newsletter for the con.
No way was I going to say no to that! Kitchener Comic Con is the biggest con in this area, I believe, with over 9000 people through the door last year. Getting a table in exchange for writing? No brainer!
I also picked up this little thing. If you’ve seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you’ll no doubt recognize the tiny bowtruckle. It’ll find its way into a stocking this Christmas! Wish I’d thought to pick up a card, because I can’t find information on who made this, but she had a lot of cool Harry Potter trinkets at her table. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can update this with a link to her.
If you’re into collectible card games (CCG’s), there’s a brand new one that debuted at SkyCon called Genesis. The artwork is phenomenal, and while I don’t play CCG’s anymore (not since I sunk way too much money into the Star Wars one in my youth), I heard from Nat that the game is great. Really nice people behind this game, too, so I recommend taking a look!
And as I already mentioned, Tyler was there, manning the GenreCon table. That’ll be my next con, come February! And, so long as the timing works out, I SHOULD have paperback copies of A Hero’s Birth ready by then! So exciting!
I’m not sure it’s fair to call this bad, because I knew this was the first year of the con. I went in with no expectations of crowd size/sales.
It was pretty quiet. I was lucky that Nat, Tyler, Missy, Dave, and Jon all attended, because I had people to talk to and panels to attend all day the first day. The second day I got editing done on A Hero’s Birth, because I’m pretty sure fewer people came through the doors on Sunday. I could be wrong, but that was just the sense I got.
In their defence, they only came up with the idea of running the con three months ago, so considering the short amount of time to promote, it was REALLY good. I look forward to seeing how it grows next year.
I have nothing to add to this heading. I had a great time, especially because…
As I mentioned earlier, Ed Greenwood was the big draw for me to attend SkyCon. Even if I sold nothing, meeting a living legend was well worth the cost of the table.
He lived up to my expectations and exceeded them.
When he got there, Rob was introducing him to people, and when they got to my table, Rob excused himself to go check on other things, leaving Ed and me to chat for a while. He’s open and funny, and when he talks to you, you feel like you’re the only person at the convention. Rob was kind enough to take pictures of us, which was awesome.
Ed’s interview on Sunday was well attended, and he engaged the whole room with insights into building worlds, writing, game design, and life. I can’t believe it was only two hours, because the time absolutely flew by. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Speaking of which, Ed left me flabbergasted when he swung by my table and picked up all of my books. All of them. When he talked to me the first time he said he’d be by later to shop, and I took that to mean he’d try out the first book, which was still amazing to me. But when he came back and pointed to each book in turn and said he wanted all of them… wow.
Steven Schend, who I know through Google Plus, and is a friend of Ed, said that not only does Ed routinely pick up books at conventions, he does read them and talks about them on his Twitter account.
And suddenly I freeze. Will he like the books? It’s often said that authors are discovered with a great deal of luck. I know it’s far too early to assume anything will come of it… but the mind can’t help to wander off, fantasizing about hitting it big and being catapulted into the life of creating books, games, and more for people around the world to enjoy.
It’d take an awful lot for me to give up my day job. Just the thought of doing something like that fills me with existential dread.
But what if I could? Would I take that leap?
I honestly don’t know.
And this is a two-part post, with the monthly update here at the end…
Aside from attending SkyCon, this month was insanely busy, but I got so much work done!
I told my aunt/editor that I hope to get the editing done for A Hero’s Birth before the new year, so I have time to order books for GenreCon. She started blasting through the chapters, and we’ve edited four or five chapters in a week. With nine chapters left to go, I’m hopeful that we’ll be done very soon!
Prototype 3.0 for Wizards’ War is almost complete, but I hit a snag. While there was a lot of interest in the game at SkyCon, I also got some much needed 1-on-1 time with Tyler, who has the price lists for game components. As it sits right now, a copy of Wizards’ War would be $180 for you to buy. BUT, after a flurry of discussing how to drop the price, we’ve come up with a new way of doing things that won’t change the overall feel of the game too much, but cut the cost of production in half. No longer will players each have their own boards. Instead there will be one huge board with a city in each corner. Instead of individual acrylic tokens for resources, we’ll do resource tracks right on the board with markers to indicate how much you have in storage. So the basic game play and rules remain the same, which is ideal. So I’ll be playing around with creating the files for prototype 4.0. No idea when that will be ready, as finishing editing A Hero’s Birth is my primary goal right now, but I’ll get there.
I started working more seriously on my RPG idea, Strongblade. I’ve been playing around with a character sheet layout, and revising the rules to take it further away from D&D 5e. I just hate the idea of reading through a 400 page tome of legalese to figure out how to make my world fit into the D&D framework. On the other hand, D&D is the largest RPG around, and distancing myself from it might reduce my discoverability. But then, when has that ever stopped me in the past? By the time this is ready to go, I’ll have a bunch of other stuff out, so maybe I’ll have a larger audience.
Yet another game idea entered my brain and refused to leave until I started planning it a bit. Unlike Wizards’ War, which takes place after A Hero’s Birth, this game – which might be called Escape Themat – comes directly from book 2, A Wizard’s Gambit. I don’t want to post spoilers for the book, although if you’re reading this and haven’t read book 2 after it was released two years ago… anyway, it’s a much faster game to play than Wizards’ War. You run, try to save halflings, and hope to make it out of the gates of Themat with your life. Play is determined by cards, and after talking with Ed Greenwood, I think I’ll try to make the cards multipurpose, so they have dice rolls incorporated into them, as well as locations, and other stuff. It’s kind of nice having a game that will be a smaller, simpler project.