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!

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!

Coordinating

This week I started to settle into my new volunteer role as Genre Fiction Coordinator with Vocamus Press. I met with the chief architect of the group to talk about some ideas moving forward, and I’m setting up my first official informational meeting. That’s not to say there won’t be informal discussion as well, but we have a topic that we’re definitely going to talk about: conventions! I’m pretty excited to talk about them, and gauge interest from the other authors in Guelph. It’d be great if we could set up a table and grow our readerships, while offering a wide variety of books.

I also flexed my Genre Fiction Coordinator muscles and talked to the Creative Writing group at the university this week. They had a table out, recruiting people, so I stopped by and gave them my card and a brief rundown of what I’m doing with Vocamus Press. It’d be nice to get some younger writers in there, too. Maybe the more experienced writers will be able to help them along on their journey.

If you are in the Guelph area and at all interested in writing genre fiction (or anything, for that matter), feel free to get in touch with me and we can either talk one-on-one, or you can attend one of our meetings. The current plan is to meet once every 2 months, and maybe there will be some extra events if there’s interest.

October is going to be jam-packed. On top of Thanksgiving with my wife’s side of the family, I’ve got Book Bash and the official meeting with the genre fiction writers on the 23rd, where I’ll be talking to them about attending conventions.


patreon-cover

I started a Patreon account. The idea harkens back to ye olden times when artists had patrons who paid them to create. The difference is, today you can have lots of patrons, and each provides a small amount to help an artist thrive. In some cases, there are artists making a living wage (or better) through Patreon. Sure, that’s a rare case, and I don’t plan on getting to that point, but it can be a huge help to fill the world with beauty.

Okay, my books are filled with adventure, intrigue, and battle … not sure anyone would call that beautiful, but I like it!

I know a lot of people have already contributed to my Indiegogo, and if you have, this isn’t aimed at you. You’ve helped so much already! But if you know someone who’s interested in fantasy and might want to sponsor a writer, please consider sending them my way. My first goal is only $25/month, which will put professional art on the covers of my short stories, as well as allow me to pay for editing. At that amount, I’ll still be covering novellas, novels, and conventions myself, although those are all higher goals.

Even $1/month is a big help, and you’ll not only get an e-book per month at that level, but also get your name listed in the Dedication section of all the books I bring out while you sponsor me. Thanks in advance for your help!


Missed my writing goal by this much! In case that didn’t come through clearly, I was 850 shy of 3000. But I already started my writing for next week while the rest of the family went out for groceries. There was a conversation that happened between the characters that I wasn’t expecting at all. It was stuff I’ve had in the back of my brain since forever, but figured it’d just be “author knowledge” and not come out on the page. But then this druid was there, and has a totally different perspective on existence than any of my main characters and bam. There it was, pouring out of my finger tips. Love it when that sort of thing happens.