2019 wrap-up

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

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

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

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

Artist Alley table layout, SEE 2019

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

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

Tempas teaches everyone about orcish wrestling…

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

Grace Strongblade, mercenary

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

Wishing you a happy holidays, and a great 2020!

August Recap

This month I started something new.

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

Well, I’ve found a way. Somehow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoaaa, we’re half way there!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

The Good

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

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

He’s no good to me dead.

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

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

The Bad

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

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

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

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

The Ugly

I have no major complaints about Tri-Con.

The Great

My. Daughter. Had. A. Blast!

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

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

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

She also spent almost all her money at two vendors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, Feb 4th: 

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


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

Sunday, Feb 5th:

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