As the school year wraps up, part of me hopes that my son’s teachers will have a nice, relaxing summer. The more realistic part of me realizes that they will instead spend most of that summer in their classrooms preparing for the next school year. Teachers are a crazy, passionate bunch.
I typically avoid talking about the craft or business of writing because I’m not wildly famous or successful. But I have been a freelance writer for almost 20 years now with consistent publications in multiple media. So while I’m not a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, I do know about this topic.
Then again, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling aren’t really Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, either. Both are outstanding writers and deserve all the success they’ve received, but getting where they are took no small amount of luck. The true secret to their success is that they took a one in a million chance and worked their butts off to continue improving and grow that luck into something big.
I’m not a celebrity author. Instead, I’m the guy that most freelancers can expect to become if they stick to writing long enough and get a few lucky breaks along the way. Writing doesn’t pay my bills, but it does provide enough supplemental income that I can support a family of four on a single moderate salary. You won’t find my name on many best-seller lists (though my novel Greystone Valley was there for about five minutes), but I’ve now spent a couple of decades sharing my stories with people. And here’s a few things I’ve learned during that time.
Looking for a way to spice up your Pathfinder game with some free content, or just want to check out some great fiction by freelancers around the industry? The new issue of Wayfinder, the Pathfinder fanzine, is now available!
My contribution to this issue is the “Agents of the Worldwound,” a pair of NPCs that can help spice up any fantasy game but which are specifically tied to the Wrath of the Righteous adventure path.
Check it out! Download your free copy right here!
The roots shuddered and then became more flexible, bunching together and taking the rough form of a woman who stood just a little taller than Sarah and had a pronounced hunch. The treelike creature swayed from side to side but didn’t seem to have any feet with which to move. The two faeries darted to her side and landed on her wooden shoulders. The roots around the makeshift face twisted once more, leaving deep, empty sockets where the figure should have had eyes. In another moment, a pair of pale white lights in the shape of two crescent moons emerged from the sockets and looked at Sarah. The tree-formed face scrunched up and formed into a toothy smile as it saw her.
“Lovely little Linda. You look as young as the day we first met.”
“I’m not Linda,” Sarah said. She raised her wand defensively with her left hand and pointed toward her fallen mother with her right. “She is.”
The tree-creature shambled forward, leaving a raised trench in the earth where the roots pulled away from the ground. Bending her head, she smiled in a matronly way. “Of course it is. Well, this is truly, tantalizingly terrific. I didn’t know I had another grandchild.”
“Not literally, of course. Great-grandchild, at least. Or maybe even great-great. It’s so hard to keep track, especially since I’m a spirit now instead of a person with a real body.”
There are a thousand stories about the wizard who created Greystone Valley, all of them referring to him as a man who disappeared into the mists of history ages ago. There are an equal number of tales about the witch Sabrina, who taught the Wizard his power, but those stories don’t describe somebody distant and gone. Instead, they speak of a spirit who haunts the valley still, stalking the nights for her own mysterious motives.
Thanks to its roots in pulp fiction, the fantasy gaming genre goes very well with comic books. Sure, the mechanics and the fiction don’t always line up, and yes there are a fair share of duds out there. But overall, comics based on popular role-playing games is a consistent, if not high-profile, part of the industry.
There have been a lot of good fantasy RPG comics, from the fun albeit rough in quality Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series of the 1980s to 2016’s extremely fun Pathfinder: Worldscape, which mashed up the Pathfinder RPG with classic heroes such as Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Red Sonja. But my personal favorite RPG-based comic is the series that ran in the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition days.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve attended a dance recital where my daughter kinda-sorta showed dancing skills, and baseball games where my son kinda-sorta showed baseball skills. My wife and I gave both kids effusive praise for their efforts. This leads me to wonder: Can you give kids too much praise?
On reflection, I think that’s a stupid question. But it keeps popping up in my head. Ideally, I want my kids to feel confident but not cocky. They should feel like they’re capable of performing at a high level, but also that there’s more to learn.
It’s one of those stupid mental chess games you wind up playing against yourself. There are a lot of moments where I feel like I overthink things as a parent, and this is one of them. It’s silly to give or withhold praise as though it’s a strategic reserve.
(Spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story below.)
My wife and I recently watched Rogue One. Better late than never, after all. Happily, I found it to be a really good movie. That really puts it into above and beyond territory, because it could have been awful and still been worth watching just for the Vader scene at the end.