SkyCon and the Month of October

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 Good

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 Quest costs 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 Invasion costs 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!

Bowtruckle!

 

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!

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

I have nothing to add to this heading. I had a great time, especially because…

The Amazing!

Ed Greenwood!!!

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.

 

 

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!

April Recap

I took the month off writing.

And I feel pretty good about that. Why?

Pull up a seat and have a listen…

Some of my earliest memories involved rolls of paper my dad would bring home from work at the pulp and paper mill. See, sometimes something would go wrong with a roll, or there’d be a bit left over at the end, and once in a while he’d bring one home and I loved that.

You know how sometimes you question why you buy your kids toys, when they take so much joy in garbage, like cardboard boxes? Well, this was exactly that. I loved unrolling the paper and scribbling. Those scribbles often took the form of simple little games. I remember one where I drew some lines on the paper, and then drew little balls of colour that “hopped” along the page, moving further and further right. This wasn’t a game to play with others… just a little something to pass the time and get those creative juices flowing.

But as I got older, the games became more advanced. I made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game out of a big sheet of paper that I made a grid on. I think I’d just played Dragon Warrior on the NES recently, and so the game had a similar style. You played as a turtle, and had to run around. There were random encounters, and bosses on bridges to new areas. It wasn’t much. I don’t even remember if my sister liked it. Probably not. There was a LOT of open space in that game.

When I was a little older I played something called Dungeons and Dragons (2nd edition) with some friends from school. I think I made up a dwarf named Khar, if memory serves (this was 25 years ago, please be patient). They’d already been playing the campaign for a while, so I joined in as a high level fighter. One player was a powerful wizard, I believe another was a rogue, maybe. And another. Anyway, we faced off against the fiercest foe D&D could throw at an adventuring party – a Tarrasque. My dwarf lost an arm and a leg in the battle, but the party managed to bring the foul beast down. Back then you had to do something remarkably difficult to really kill the Tarrasque… wish spells or something? Anyway, we killed it completely, boiled it or whatever to get a ton of gems, and went off to create our own cities. Khar got some magical metal limbs to replace his lost ones, and named his city – none-too-creatively – Bay of Thunder (or something like that… close enough to Thunder Bay, where we grew up, that I wasn’t too proud of it. Worse, the Dungeon Master (DM) later forgot that it was my city, and made an offhand comment years later about how one of the other players had been stupid when they named that city).

Anyway, I didn’t have any books, but I really enjoyed the game. So I went home and tried to create a reasonable facsimile from memory, and not fully understanding what all the rules even were. I mixed what I knew of the game with Lego pieces and my love of the Dragonlance book series to create a poor man’s version of D&D. My sister, cousin, and I played it quite a bit, and I remember thinking how great it was, despite obvious pitfalls (I had NO idea what “Constitution” meant, and thought it was how closely you followed the law, thinking of the American Constitution).

I took over another D&D campaign from another DM set in my favourite world at the time: Krynn. In hindsight, I think the DM must have been sick of running it because the characters were “Chaotic Stupid” and he’d made the mistake of giving them Crystal Revolvers that never jammed. They ran around killing whoever got in their way, whether they were monsters or innocent townsfolk. What a mess.

But I continued to play D&D for a long time. The group of players changed over the years, but I almost always had fun role playing (we eventually tried some other systems, like the Star Wars RPG, Shadowrun, Vampire Masquerade, and Mage). But nothing held my love like D&D did.

Around the time I was finishing high school or starting university, I don’t remember which, I started playing Neverwinter Nights on the computer. This marvelous game had not only a fun campaign, but allowed users to delve into the toolbox to build their own fantastic creations. I’d been running campaigns for a few years (must’ve been university, then) which will eventually be written as the Strongblade Siblings series (books 4-7), and I decided to take a crack at creating my world digitally.

I have no idea how many hours of my life disappeared into that game. In the end, there were 600 maps, and the story still wasn’t complete up to the end of what will be book 5. Creating that game taught me a lot about story, balance, cheating, and what keeps people’s attention. I was really hands-on with the players, allowing them to exchange extra gold for unique things like building their own houses (which I would make for them, according to their desires).

Neverwinter Nights 2 was announced, and the developers said the toolset would be backwards compatible, so we could keep all the hundreds and thousands of hours of work the community put into their games. But that did not come to pass. The tool set was deemed to be too different, and there was nothing they could do. I was heartbroken at the realization that I’d spent so much time working on my game, only to have it die.

I tried to start over with a new story idea and setting with NWN2, but the toolbox was really glitchy. You needed to find workarounds to make basic ideas work, like allowing characters to walk onto a trigger and go to another map. It was so, so, so disappointing. The new toolbox showed a lot of promise, with a ton of customization available, but it was a mess and I gave up.

To get my creative fix, I continued playing D&D with my friends, but we were getting to the age where people were going their separate ways. Thunder Bay … well, there just isn’t a lot there. The city is really isolated, decent jobs are few, and one of our friends headed out of town for work. Down to three people, we kicked around with a bit of role playing. I created a campaign where I told them to make peasants. We’d start off REALLY slow, with a few adventures where they’d get points at the end to invest in their base stats and skills. Thomas was a reckless maniac, getting into a fatal fight at work in the first session. He threw his axe at someone and scored a critical hit. Sarentha turned out to be more roguish, which helped a bit when they were given a job by a mysterious nobleman to enter a tomb.

After those first few sessions, my friend’s wife had been watching us play and said she wanted to give it a go, so she made Eliza, a spirited noblewoman (rogue) with a crossbow. Together the three of them adventured far and wide, discovering part way through the story that they were playing a historical campaign as the ancestors of their previous characters who will be in the Strongblade Siblings series. It was a lot of fun, and I won’t spoil the end of the campaign for you, since the ending of A Hero’s Birth (book 3) is pretty close to how the game ended!

Then I moved to Guelph to be with the woman who is now my wife, and the mother of our two darling children. It’s been a few years since I role played last around a table, but discovered a huge 5th edition campaign going on at a local game cafe called The Round Table. It’s huge with 20+ players split into several groups, each with their own DM, but the DM’s are in constant contact with each other, and what one group does can change what happens to another group. I’ve never seen anything like it. Absolutely wild, and so much fun! It’s kind of weird not being the DM sometimes, but not in a bad way. The DM’s for the event are amazing, and it’s fun to explore this new world.

Standing room only, as at least 12 players battle the enemy commander who refuses to give up until the bitter end.

And all of that is back story for what I’m doing now!

You see, the people at The Round Table also have a game design company called Lynnvander. This D&D campaign we’re playing is their world, with their own unique races and classes. They also do board games, and recently started up a “Game Design Night” event, which happens every couple weeks.

I’ve always had it in my mind that I want to do more than just books. I want to build an empire. Books, board games, computer games, comic books – with the grandest dream being an enormous themed hotel/convention centre. At that point I’ll have “made it.” So when I heard about the chance to pick the brains behind Lynnvander about making games, I took the leap with a little outside encouragement.

That first night we played a game that Lynnvander is developing, but Thomas, the owner, stated that he didn’t want the game development nights to be “the Lynnvander show.” He wanted other people to bring in prototypes and play test their own ideas, too. I had a rough idea of what I wanted my own game to look like, so I took the challenge and created a proof of concept to see what people thought of it.

First night of cutting – this is going to take a while!

And of course I had some help!

“Short help’s better than no help at all.” – Han Solo. Was he ever right!

Proof of concept revealed.

People said it looked interesting, and it reminded them a bit of Warcraft.

I talked with Nat for a long time that night, and at the end he said, “I’m giving you a deadline! Bring in a prototype next time (in two weeks)!” I said I didn’t think that would be possible, but I could probably get it done in a month, so he said that was fine. I just needed a deadline to keep me working on it.

First I needed some supplies. I’d thought about using cardboard, but the foam board looked nicer, so I grabbed a 2-pack of that in black. Also, Nat suggested using a spray adhesive in a well-ventilated room because it would be fast.

It doesn’t get better ventilated than an open garage!

So much cutting.

And I got the prototype done in 2 weeks. Yes, I suffered a horribly cramped index finger from cutting so many pieces of foam board with a utility knife, but I did it.

And Nat and Jon played it (I forgot to take pictures), enjoyed it, and gave me some great feedback. I incorporated a lot of their suggestions, and have made some tweaks of my own as well. The game will look completely different when I bring it in on Tuesday. I’m hoping the new system will help reduce the number of pieces that need to be cut out in the future, and will help stabilize the board to reduce the problems of pieces shifting around the table and needing to be readjusted.

The big reveal…

Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

This is my plan! I figured I already have the ENORMOUS map that Harvey made me for my books… why not use it as the backdrop for game mats for all the players? This isn’t the map I want to use… I’m going to see if Harvey can give me a copy with no text, so I can doctor it a bit to add Stowenguard, Lanton’s Hope, Templus Refuge, and Thrak’s Fortress. But for now, as a place holder, it’ll do.

So by using that, and some public domain art, I created new boards for each player that look great.

They’re pretty large, and my wife said, “They’ll need a big table to play!” but I pointed out that the boards could be close together, and the game is still playable. They don’t HAVE to be spread across a big surface. The printing on foam core was expensive, ringing up at $150 for two boards, but not only were they put on sturdy stock, Staples laminates them, so they’ll last me a long, long time.

I have one more night of cutting ahead of me, and it’ll be the most difficult. Those tiny wound tokens with the red stars are going to be difficult to cut. I’ve found with the smaller tokens, the thumb on my non-cutting hand gets sore from trying to hold the pieces still. IF I need to make another prototype at some point, like a final version for a publisher or something, I’ll make sure to go through a laser cutting service to make it all nice and easy. But for one copy of the game, it’s not so bad.

The next play test is in two days, and I’m looking forward to trying out a larger game, or having a couple games going at once! I’ll try to remember to snap a photo or two this time around. 🙂

Gryphcon 2017

Photo care of the Gryphcon team

I went to Gryphcon this weekend as a vendor. If you’ve been following me, you know what that means…

The Good

No table fee is pretty enticing. All they asked for was a donation to put in their raffle. I gave them a copy of A Noble’s Quest (The Empire’s Foundation Book 1).

Gryphcon is a “small but growing” event that’s been in Guelph for 25 years. It draws in roughly 300 people, and they play all sorts of games all weekend long. They’ve got role playing games, board games, card games, whatever kind of games you want. It’s pretty awesome. The games are all scheduled, but I brought along my copy of Star Wars Risk just in case someone wanted to try it out… and someone did! I lost. (I played the Empire, and I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to win as them, after losing 6 games in a row – I had a ridiculous run of luck, killed Luke, blew up the Falcon, and just couldn’t clinch it.) But I’m the kind of person who hears a game is ridiculously hard and dives into it, hoping that one day I can find a way to win.

I found several new readers over the course of the convention, which was awesome! I was flattered when I came back from a panel on board game design (more on that later) to find someone I’d talked to earlier waiting at the table because he wanted to get a copy of A Noble’s Quest. While we were filling out the paperwork, he asked about my digital short stories and picked up all of them! “For $1 each, why not?”

The Bad

There’s something about three day conventions that start on Friday: That first night is dead. I mean, a few people showed up, but other than talking to some of them about my books, there weren’t any sales. I was only there for 3 hours or so, but it felt longer than that. We were told there would be more people Saturday, and that turned out to be true, but not for first thing in the morning. I think it was a couple hours before people started perking up and showing up in larger numbers. So I didn’t bother going in for first thing in the morning on Sunday. I was just too tired, and I figured everyone else would be, too. Besides, I’d already sold a fair number of books during the Saturday, so it wasn’t like I was hurting and struggling to pay for the table.

The Sunday was pretty quiet, too. Aside from a panel I went to on writing, and finding one new reader, not much happened. Turning a negative into a positive, I got some writing done! Over two days, I wrote over 3000 words on a new short story collection. The only reason I didn’t work on A King’s Decree (working title for my fourth book) is that I didn’t have the files with me, so I decided to start something new. Stephen Pearl mentioned an anthology that was looking for short, funny pieces, and since this short story collection is on the lighter side (as light as it can be, fighting followers of Dowreth) I might check it out. I mean, it starts off with Henry the Bulwark, a scrawny older wizard who fights with three enchanted shields, and then goes on to Torsten Carson von Schlepp the Third, the most arrogant “hero” I could come up with, and ends with the story of a yet-unnamed ranger, who might be the weak link in the humour lineup. But we’ll see. The heroes in A King’s Decree have already run into the ranger, and are on the road to meeting Henry next. I like tying in short pieces that showcase other things that are going on around the main storyline.

Anyway, after the raffle, I waited for another hour to see if anyone who hadn’t won the copy of A Noble’s Quest I’d donated would come to buy a copy, but no dice. So I left at 3, figuring other vendors were leaving, one of my kids was sick, and I wanted to give my wife a break after not having me around to help all weekend. If I missed someone who was waiting until the end to pick up a book, I apologize. They’re available locally at The Bookshelf, Janus Books, The Round Table, and the Campus Bookstore (in the Campus Author section, tucked away in the far corner of the store), or online through Createspace (or Amazon if you prefer).

The Ugly

I almost put the dead Friday and early mornings here, except that I still had a good time talking to people, and got some writing done. So no, there wasn’t anything that I’d call ugly about this con.

The Great

Oh. My. God. Have you ever played virtual reality video games? I hadn’t. I mean, I don’t count my work, which uses a driving simulator for research purposes. But a real, immersive environment created with a headset, headphones, and a joystick for each hand… it. was. epic!!! I played this zombie game on survival mode, and I was standing in front of a huge sewage pipe that opened up to a lake. Zombies were coming at me from the water behind me, the sewers, and climbing over the walls to either side. It was INTENSE! It took me a while to get used to sighting the gun, and I didn’t get bullets between round 1 and 2, so by the end of round 2 I was out and down to using a long knife to defend myself from the final zombie. Switching out my flashlight for the knife meant it was quite dark, and I was thankful there was only one zombie left! I found the extra ammo and could only get two packs (16 shots), and bought a flashlight attachment for my gun, in case I needed the knife again. I ran out of bullets pretty early on in round 3 and said, “Oh no.” Then I turned around toward the sewer and there was this HUGE ZOMBIE coming down on me like none I’d seen so far in the game. I swore. Out loud. And was politely told to be careful because there were children there (relax – they were teenagers. They’ve heard and said worse than “Oh shit!”). Anyway, I hacked my way through the big guy, but it took several swipes of my knife, and by that time there were just too many of them. My heart was racing SO HARD for quite a while after that. It was so amazing! Ctrl V is located in Guelph and Waterloo, so if you’d like to play, reserve some time now!

Also, there was a panel on game design. I was the only attendee, so it was interesting being on the other side of that dynamic (there were a couple panels I was on at GenreCon where the panelists outnumbered the attendees 3 to 1). The talk was great, I took some notes, and I’m considering dropping my board game idea for something else that came to mind while they were talking. Apparently “board games” are passé and part of the reason games like Catan and Carcassonne are so popular is because the players are invested in it right from the start, creating the world they play in. So to do something where there’s a board that’s made up of a premade map is “old school.” I still want to do the Wizards’ War setting, but I have a different idea that involves both a city building aspect, and a battle aspect. Multilayered games are also really popular, and they had a really interesting way of looking at it – a game is a platform to bring people together. So I want to work on both cooperative and competitive aspects to the game, instead of it just being a war game. So we’ll see. I’ll play around with it. It’s still in the early days of this idea, so there’s lots of room to play around with concepts and come up with something really fun. And that resonated with one of the designers, who said that the more time you spend coming up with the concept of a game, the better it will be.

The panel on writing took a twist ending, and we got to talking about movies – specifically, making your book into a movie. Katlin Murray had done the flip of that, writing a book based on a movie, but she had a lot of insights. Apparently working directly with a big studio is awful if you like having control over your work. At least 30% of the dialogue has to change from the book if the writer is to get credit for writing the movie script (which they always want). Ever wonder why movies always seem so far off from the book you loved? That’s why. BUT, there’s a loophole (isn’t there always?). If you can get an indie film maker to do it, you can offer it up as a proof of concept that a big studio might pick up and make into a blockbuster without changing the script. THAT sounds like the ideal path to me. I’m pretty anal about controlling my intellectual property, so being able to work with an indie film maker to come out with a movie that closely fits my vision would be great. Even if it never got picked up by a big studio, just seeing my story come to life on the screen would blow my mind.

Conclusion

It was a really great group of people, and I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether I’ll go as a vendor again next year (I should – the trilogy will be complete, and people might want books 2 and 3) or if I’ll just go to play some games. It’d be fun to set up a D&D adventure to run people through. Either way, I’d like to attend again!

Changing things up

You may or may not have noticed that this blog has been quiet since Boxing Day, with no updates about my writing progress or anything else.

I’m struggling with writing fatigue. Between weekly blog posts, monthly Patreon posts (for those who sponsor me for $2+ per month), keeping up my social media presence on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter, and a general downswing in my drive, something needs to go.  From now on I’ll be doing a general update once per month here, and a more specific, insight-driven post for Patreon (plus social media, with a focus on Google Plus). If I have anything big coming up, I’ll announce it ahead of time.

For instance, this month I’ll be attending KW Tri-Con in Kitchener at The Museum. It runs on January 14th from 10am-7pm and I’m looking forward to seeing people I met last year and meeting new people! I’ll be sharing a table with Ruistyfles, a talented artist, and my daughter’s also going to be coming, cosplaying as Eliza Winston (I made her armour and will be putting the finishing touches on it this week… she’s going to be adorable and it pains me that I can’t share the pictures of her because we have to be cautious with social media pictures due to cyber-stalking – but maybe I’ll take a picture of the armour and post it to G+).


As far as writing goes, I’ve stalled a bit. Instead of writing, I’ve been working on a game in Roll20, which I one day hope to make into a board game. It’s got elements of Risk, Axis and Allies, and some of my own features. It uses the new continent that’s coming out in A Hero’s Birth (oooooooh) and will be played in the time frame between the end of that book, and the beginning of the next series (Strongblade Siblings). While I plan to write “Wizards’ War” some day, I think it’ll be good fun to play out the war as a strategy game. I talked with a buddy, and he had some great suggestions for streamlining things. I’m not sure I want to use some of the more complicated suggestions, like different troop types (like you’d find in Axis and Allies), but I think the battle system has been simplified tremendously and I’m ready to play it. You can choose from Ramar, Arus, Pellin, Thrak, Thigglin, Marcus, Gleriph, Jordak, Ellie’nethise, and Shump. Each wizard has special spells and/or allies that they unlock as they progress in the game. It’s hard to tell if any of the abilities are “game breakers” without testing it.

If you’re interested in trying it out, let me know and I’ll include you in the scheduling e-mails for when we play!