This is going to be one of my relatively rare gaming posts, but I think it also has some pertinence in fiction, so buckle up your Chain Mail +3 Vs Geekery and here we go:
I wanna complain for a while about Clerics in D&D.
Okay, okay – that was perhaps too harsh, allow me to rephrase: Clerics’ role in D&D parties is a terrible one and I hate them for it. I’m all for playing devoted followers of this or that god (you won’t hear me complaining about paladins, for instance) and I think a divine-oriented campaign or party or adventure is pretty cool. What I don’t like is all the healing magic.
One of my central tenets of GMing is that players have the most fun when they are the closest to destruction. The corollary to this rule is that players work the absolute hardest they can to avoid being close to destruction. This central paradox constitutes the GM’s primary obstacle to creating a fulfilling and sensational adventure. You want to press them, make them desperate, force them to come up with the most outlandish and riskiest possible solution to their problems while, at the same time, they are working feverishly to prevent that from ever happening.
If the players of the world had their way, every dungeon crawl would be a methodical slog in which everyone left with approximately the same hit points they had when they went in. They would win every combat by a country mile. They would save the day with effortless flair and exact revenge on their enemies exactly 24 hours after being wronged. And then gaming would be (and sometimes is) terribly, terribly boring.
The cleric aids and abets this goal of the players. Work really hard to get them desperate and clawing for supplies? The cleric’s gods waves away their exhaustion and heals their injuries. Blind a guy? The cleric’s gods give him back his sight. Kill a PC in an earth-shattering climax? The players are only a brief prayer session away from getting the dead guy right back.
Players love clerics. They love them to the point where, when a D&D party is forming and everybody is making their characters, there’s always somebody who looks around the table and asks “so…which one of us is gonna be the healer?”
Now, whenever this is said, I always (always) say “you don’t need a healer to be an effective team” or “sometimes it’s more fun to not have a healer.”
They never, ever believe me. Not once in 25 years of GMing.
And the real tragedy of it all is that, frequently, nobody really wants to be a healer. They’d much rather be a wizard or a rogue or a paladin or something. They had this cool idea for a halfling barbarian and then they looked around a realized they wouldn’t have anybody throwing healing spells and shrugged and said “well, all right – I guess I’ll be some guy with a bald head and a mace.” This is so, so sad. You’ve got this group of players who “take one for the team” so they can play a character class that actively reduces the chances of things ever getting interesting.
Now, I should point out that there are exceptions to this. There are players who cook up interesting cleric characters and play them in an interesting way (I just ran a campaign with a viking-esque tempest cleric who was pretty cool, it must be said), but these I’ve found to be in the minority. Instead of playing their hearts (and thereby being really, really invested), they play cautiously, making sure to heal up everybody before they get into a scrap, making sure they’re there to prevent anything dire from really happening.
As long as the cleric has spell slots, you are working with a net. As long as you are working with a net, things don’t get “real” (as the kids say). If all the damage you have sustained can be waved away, why were you scared of being gored by that minotaur in the first place? When you play a game like D&D strategically, you can very easily kill the drama. At minimum, you make it way, waaay more difficult for the DM to present you with challenges that test your ingenuity. And challenges that test your ingenuity are the things that you wind up telling stories about later – the sessions you remember forever and which you identify with the most excitement.
There is an analog here in writing, too. Beyond simply healing magic, you need to be cognizant of consequences in your fiction. You need to make sure that the danger is real and that your protagonists don’t deal with it too easily. You need to yank their safety nets away so the audience is hanging on the edge of their seats. So, if you do have world with magical healing, you need to make sure it is associated with the proper sets of complications and consequences that make things interesting. In my Saga of the Redeemed, for instance, I have Tyvian saddled with the Iron Ring, which has very, very potent powers of rejuvenation and endurance associated with it, but that power comes with strings attached (Tyvian’s behavior) and has a variety of costs. Even when he does heal people with it, it creates problems more than it solves them.
Now, such dramatic flourishes are difficult to accomplish in an RPG, but one thing is pretty easy: next time somebody asks who is going to be a healer, volunteer.
Make yourself a Trickster Cleric with NO healing magic.
Make a rogue who practices quack medicine.
Make a druid who specializes in health food (more goodberries, anybody?).
Go into battle without a cleric, and trust the GM and your fellow players to come up with some seriously memorable adventures that won’t be easy, but will be a hell of a lot of fun.
My publisher, in what I hope is just the beginning of an ALL OUT MEDIA BLITZ, just put up a little article of mine on their blog telling people why they, as fantasy fans, would probably dig my work.
No, seriously. Go. Now.
Okay, so for me there always seems to be a balance to be struck between being a human signpost for my work (i.e. super annoying) and being a shirking violet who dare not impose upon others with gauche entreaties to read my pitiful prose (i.e. completely worthless).
This came up at Worldcon, where I had neglected to inform my publisher that I’d be there and I had a signing. This was stupid. I also barely managed to see my editor, which was also stupid (my agent, helpfully enough, made fun of me for not doing so and I was able to hastily remedy the situation).
I’m too used to thinking of myself as invisible – a published author whom few people know about. What I forget is that there is actually something I can do about that. I mean, not a lot – all the self-promotion in the world is only going to net you a couple hundred sales – but something. In any event, I shouldn’t sell myself short. I deserve some attention. I think I am talented. I think people will like my work. And it’s important (and a little cathartic) to actually tell people so from time to time.
And you, too, shouldn’t shirk away from speaking highly about your own work. Do it. Just don’t do it all the time (that’s arrogance) and don’t overdo it (that’s bluster), but tell people all the same. You deserve it.
Oh, right, and BUY MY BOOKS!
Got something to show you guys:
Amazon has the release date as March 27th, 2018. Go here to pre-order.
What’s it about? Well, here’s a brief teaser I whipped up just now (I’m sure it will be subject to change):
After years of staying one step ahead of his enemies, Tyvian Reldamar has finally made it. He and his friends now live incognito in the posh city of Eretheria, living the high life and rubbing elbows with the city’s elite.
That is until someone starts a vicious rumor about Tyvian – they say he is the long-lost heir to the empty Eretherian throne.
Now, hounded by assassins in a city on the verge of popular revolt, Tyvian has to find a way to placate the devious noble houses while also protecting the peasantry and avoiding civil war. And all with that damned conscience-amplifying ring fused to his hand.
It’s a tall order, but if anybody can do it, it’s Tyvian.
But it just might kill him.
Exciting, no? Hold on to your powdered wigs, Tyvian fans! More adventure is coming your way in March!*
(*-barring any unforeseen delays or changes beyond my control)
Hey, friends! I’m here to announce that my story “Lord of the Cul-de-sac” (which originally featured in Galaxy’s Edge last year) has just been sold to Digital Fiction’s Hic Sunt Dracones anthology. It’s been a little while since my last short fiction sale (back in the fall, I think it was) so this is especially welcome news. I’ll keep you all updated on when it publishes.
On that note, my short story “The Masochist’s Assistant” is set to be published in the July/August issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’m especially excited about that one, as I think it is some of my finest work to date and is going to be in a major market like F&SF. For you Tyvian fans, it is a story also set in Alandar (Tyvian’s world) though, as usual with my short fiction, a different corner of it.
And on that note, some of you might be wondering a few things about this here blog:
Thing the First: Why haven’t you been posting as much, Habershaw?
Thing the Second: Is there ever going to be any more Saga of the Redeemed?
Well, the answer to those two things is related. I’ve been working feverishly on a few novel projects for the last 6-8 months or so which has cut into my blog-time. As of this writing, ink has fallen on contracts of various descriptions, but I have not, as yet, been given leave to openly discuss said contracts. When I do, you folks will be the first to know. Suffice to say I am very excited about them, very grateful to have the excellent agent that I do, and am almost certain when I say we haven’t seen the last of that scoundrel, Tyvian Reldamar.
Now then, back to outlining!
Hi! Did you know I have a book signing this coming Thursday, September 8th? No?
Well, I do! Come to Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, MA for me to sign copies of No Good Deed and even, perhaps, do a little reading! I’ll be there from 7pm to 9pm. It’s free!
And…and I also desperately want this thing to be at least a modest success so the guys and gals over at Pandemonium continue to like me and the book sells and I’m not sitting there at a table, all alone, while people shuffle past me to buy Magic: The Gathering cards and try not to make eye contact with me because oh GOD would that be awkward.
I’ve done 3 book signings in my career thus far. Two have been successful (yay!), and one has involved me sitting alone behind the Nook displays at a Barnes and Noble mostly by myself, save for a handful of friends and that one guy who talked to me for a good hour and then didn’t buy the book.
So, in brainstorming over how I can improve my chances, I’ve come up with a variety of things that I probably shouldn’t try. Here they are:
- Anyone who enters the store between the designated hours is trapped inside of a labyrinth (complete with minotaur) that they have exactly two hours to escape and win fabulous prizes. The only way to avoid being devoured by the minotaur is to BUY MY BOOK.
- I shall impose a geas on all in attendance. They must either buy my book and recommend it to friends or turn into an attractive topiary garden-version of themselves until I get 50 reviews on Amazon.
- I will bring cookies. The cookies will contain a slow-acting poison. On one of the pages of my book will be the antidote. Or maybe there isn’t any poison. Maybe I’m making that up. Maybe.
Anyone who refuses to buy the book will have to face Trial By Combat. My champion is Ibtihaj Muhammad.
- Two words: Mind Control.
- I grow much more hair, make it more curly, and then wrap my book up in the dust jackets of Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind. Then we see how long it takes people to catch on.
- I summon up Lucifer and we negotiate (through my agent) for a distribution deal in which every bookstore I sign in has a line of the damned stretching out the door. You know, to drum up a whisper campaign.
I do the whisper campaign Kermit the Frog tries in Muppets Take Manhattan, but instead of in Sardi’s, I do it at every PokeStop in the northeast, and instead of Rizzo and his friends, I use white guys in clever T-shirts and cargo shorts.
- I coax the Kaiju to attack Boston. There is only one Jaeger pilot left, and he is holding stick-fighting auditions in the basement of Pandemonium. It’s the perfect plan.
- Rather than sit there at the table like a chump, I stalk through the book stacks, stealthily slipping signed copies of my book into everybody’s purse, bag, back pocket, or waistband. I whistle the Pink Panther Theme the entire time.
- I slip flyers under the windshield wipers of every car in a mile radius. Written in a hasty scrawl are the words “No Killer Clowns in Pandemonium.” The genius of this, of course, is that it is literally true.
- My cthonic spawn lay their insidious eggs in the water supply of the Boston area. Soon they will hatch, and all will be my slaves. I will use my newfound power to have them buy my book and then force them to use public toilets and outhouses responsibly and cleanly for the rest of their natural lives.
Alas, due to budgetary concerns, I have foregone all of these brilliant strategies. Instead, I merely ask you to show up, bring friends, and give a new(-ish) author a chance.
See you next Thursday!
Hi, folks! More fun stuff about me has hit the inter-tubes. I have an interview up on Grim Tidings Podcast, where the guys ask me about all kinds of things, from my Writers of the Future win to how I got an agent/book deal to my favorite edition of Dungeons and Dragons and so on. Go check it out here!
Man, do I ever talk a lot, huh? Sheesh.
Every author, from time to time, imagines what their books would look like as a movie of television show. Now, the vast majority of us never have that experience, granted, and an even smaller sliver of those that do actually see the book come to life in a way they imagined it, but that doesn’t stop us from trying anyway. So, I’ve been thinking about how to cast my books, and this is what I’ve come up with.
Ron Perlman (Banric Sahand)
So, first on the list is the big bad from Book I, the Mad Prince of Dellor, Banric Sahand. I needed an actor who was big and an imposing presence, somebody with a big voice and who can be really menacing. I got Ron Perlman, which I think is pretty damned spot-on. He’s been playing a lot of heroes in the movies of late, but this guy can play a hell of a villain.
And that’s just what Sahand is.
Michelle Pfeiffer (Lyrelle Reldamar)
Tyvian’s mother needs to look regal and sharp. She needs to bear her age well and have the Reldamar eyes. This is a tough one – I had a lot of ideas here – but I settled on Michelle Pfeiffer for her ability to command a scene above most other things.
Levi Miller (Artus)
It’s something of a fool’s game to bother casting somebody in their early adolescence, since in two or three years this kid will look nothing like Artus anymore, but this guy (from the movie Pan) is the right age with the right look and so on. Granted, if the movie ever were really made (and I’m not holding my breath, superfans), I’d honestly expect the Artus role to go to an unknown. You’d need somebody to grow with the role, in any event, as those who are reading No Good Deed right now can probably attest.
Charlize Theron (Myreon Alafarr)
Myreon is supposed to be tall, graceful, and no-nonsense, all of which Theron can definitely pull off with panache. She’s also able to effortlessly take Tyvian’s breath away, and Theron does that to me, why would Tyvian be any different?
Part of me, though, would like to see Theron play Lyrelle, though, if for no other reason than her portrayal of the evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman.
Gwendoline Christie (Hool)
Since Hool is mostly going to be CGI, what I was mostly looking for here would be the voice. Christie’s voice fits really well, but I also gave some serious thought to Viola Davis. In any event, it should be a woman with a relatively deep voice or someone with a lot of vocal force. Plenty of options there, I suppose, but Christie was who jumped to mind first.
Neil Patrick Harris (Tyvian Reldamar)
Took me a long, long time to nail this one down. I went from Damian Lewis to Chris Pine to any number of other leading men, but I’ve settled here, on Harris, because he’s got the best damned smirk in the business, and that is Tyvian’s go-to expression. He’s also got the right build (though Harris is a bit too tall), and we’ve all seen that he knows how to dress, so yeah, he’s got the whole thing sewn up. Honestly, to some extent Tyvian is a weaponized Barney Stinson, so it all makes a perverse kind of sense.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I have ideas for some of the more minor characters in the two books, too, but let’s not get bogged down in minutiae. I’ll let the casting directors have fun with Carlo diCarlo or Gethrey Andolon, Hacklar Jaevis and Maude Telversham. Authors can’t have all the fun, can we?
Hey guys, me again. I know, I know – I’m being annoying this week. But I’m just so EXCITED, see? Why? Well:
Anyway, if you’ve been keeping up with the blog tour, here’s some new entries:
I’m Interviewed over at Legendarium by the incomparable Jason LaPier!
Finally, the wonderful Beth Cato has hosted an excerpt of NO GOOD DEED on her blog – check it out, and may it give you a taste for more!
More to come soon! Carry on! (and I promise I’ll get back to my regular posting habits in a week or so. Pinky swear.)
Hey there, Tyvian Reldamar fans! It’s time to delve back into Tyvian’s massively dysfunctional life as the second book in the Saga of the Redeemed, No Good Deed, has been released in e-format TODAY! Yes, today! Behold:
Cursed with a magic ring that forbids skullduggery, Tyvian Reldamar’s life of crime is sadly behind him. Now reduced to fencing moldy relics and wheedling favors from petty nobility, he’s pretty sure his life can’t get any worse.
That is until he hears that his old nemesis, Myreon Alafarr, has been framed for a crime she didn’t commit and turned to stone in a penitentiary garden. Somebody is trying to get his attention, and that somebody is playing a very high-stakes game that will draw Tyvian and his friends back to the city of his birth and right under the noses of the Defenders he’s been dodging for so long. And that isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is that the person pulling all the strings is none other than the most powerful sorceress in the West: Lyrelle Reldamar.
Tyvian’s own mother.
Still skeptical of the magnificence in store? Then read an excerpt of the book on Laura Bickle’s blog!
Want to know how I got to this magnificent turn of my fledgling writing career? Head over to Michelle4Laughs site and hear all about my journey to publication, with its twists, turns, and incredibly long wait!
“But Habershaw,” you say, “that’s about your first book! How was writing the second one different?” Well, as luck would have it, Teresa Frohock has a post by me describing that very thing! Check it out!
Over the course of the week I’m going to be making a lot of noise, here, but to give you a heads-up, here’s a handy-dandy overview of the blog tour I’ll be doing at 3 Partners in Shopping. The first feature over at VoodooPrincess is already up!
Let’s see…what else…oh, right! BUY LINKS:
Go go go! Read! Also: Review! Thanks to all of you for your positivity and support, and here’s to more books in the future!
On the one hand, I could make this blog post about how I was getting on the T the other day (Boston’s subway system) and saw a LCD screen displaying the warning that hoverboards are not allowed on the MBTA, which I take to be proof positive that we are, in fact, living in the future (no matter how lame that future has turned out to be). I’m not, though. I’m here to talk about what it’s like writing while stuff you’ve written is being published. Because it’s weird.
Did you know I have a novel coming out tomorrow? No? Why the hell not? Well, I do – NO GOOD DEED comes out tomorrow in e-book form (sold wherever fine e-books are found). Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances come up and express how excited I must be and congratulations and so on. What’s weird, though, is that I’m not thinking all that much about NO GOOD DEED. I mean, yeah, I am excited and I’m very pleased it’s coming out and so on, but my thoughts aren’t on it that much. I’m on to the next book, you see. I’m eyeball deep in the umpteenth draft of my next book, trying to pry my way out of plot problems, trying to breathe life into the characters and so on. When somebody interrupts that internal thought stream to talk about NO GOOD DEED I’m forced to stop and remind myself “oh, right -everybody else is still six months behind me!”
Writing and publishing stuff steadily means there is no time for your to rest on your laurels. You’ve got to keep going, keep writing, keep editing, keep submitting – there is no “break,” really. So, while the thing you finished a year ago is just getting a publishing contract now and won’t hit shelves for another six months, you’re still moving. You kinda have to push what you’ve done out of your head for the stuff you’re doing now and the stuff you want to do next. When the things you publish (stories, novels, whatever) do hit print, it’s enormously gratifying, but it’s also a bit like traveling back in time. “Oh yeah,” you think, “I remember this now – that story was pretty cool!”
So, it’s a little weird. There’s the time-lag between you and the audience – they’re behind you, reading the stories you worked so hard to create, and you’re out in front, still creating new ones nobody will see for months. When you hear from them, it’s like a radio message from the past, telling you how you did all that time ago.
And that’s totally awesome, mind you. But it’s still a little weird.
The blog tour for NO GOOD DEED gets under way tomorrow – watch this space for updates! The book releases then, so be sure to pick up your copy!
If you like paperback instead, I’ve received intel indicating the paperback release of the book will be August 9th, 2016.
- I’ll be on an episode of Grim Tidings Podcast on this Friday, 6/24. I think.
- Again, if you’re in the Boston area, consider checking out a reading and lecture on world building I’ll be giving at the Hingham Public Library on June 30th, from 7:00pm-8:30pm.
That’s all for now! Be talking to you all soon!