Toxophiles

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.

Seriously.

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:

A Noble’s Quest: 5 stars

1100 Before Gods’ War: 5 stars (and her favourite love story)

Demon Invasion: 4 stars (-1 star for awful demon names… seriously. Who writes a story with that many named demons? I knew this was a bad idea from the start, even if I like the story :P)

A Wizard’s Gambit: 5 stars

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.


Work continues on both A Queen’s Edict and Wizards’ War

The book is closing in on 85,000 words. I’m really happy with how it’s progressing.

And I’m almost done the cards for the game. I’ll be bringing it to SkyCon Light in Kitchener on April 28th, so I need to get those cards ordered soon!

SkyCon 2017

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.

 

 

So many projects, so little time

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

Fan Fic to Anthology

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

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

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

DMing

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

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

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

Editing A Hero’s Birth

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

Writing A Queen’s Decree

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

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

Creating board game prototype 3.0

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

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

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

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

Creating RPG based on D&D 5e

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

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

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

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

Conventions

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

Great question!

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

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

Onwards!