It is four days to Christmas, and if you are anything like me, you are still missing about six presents. There is a chance you will end up going to the grocery store on Christmas Eve and grabbing a chocolate bar and something that looks festive—like an ornament or a six pack of holiday beer—because you seriously waited too long, and next year you are not doing this, you are going to make some homemade mustard or cross-stitch some stockings or some shit. Or maybe you’re going to just give everyone charitable donations. Or maybe you’ll just give up on Christmas and find a winter holiday that involves no presents, even though you like giving presents, just not on a deadline.
…maybe that’s just me.
But let’s pretend it isn’t for a minute. Let’s pretend it’s you too. Maybe not the Christmas part. Maybe this is a birthday/anniversary/Hanukkah/Diwali/etc. problem.
Obviously I think you should buy my books. Duh. I mean, I don’t even think I have to say that. But still, here are some links to Amazon’s nice reviews of Brimstone Angels and Lesser Evils, so you can see I’m not just biased. Paperbacks make fab stocking stuffers, great Secret Santa gifts, and wonderful “Oh shit! I spent $10 on this sibling and $20 on that sibling and if they’re not equal Christmas is going to be CRAZY!” If you can’t get to a bookstore, Amazon does have a nice, quick delivery.
But I have another book, The God Catcher, and people in need of gifts, this is the one you should get.
See, when I wrote The God Catcher, I was trying very hard to please a lot of people. I wanted my editor to like it, of course, and I wanted Ed Greenwood to like it—nothing worse than having the guy who created Waterdeep looking at the book you wrote for his series and going, “Meh.” I wanted to write something that serious Realms fans would like, that made clear I wasn’t bumbling into their favorite world and not taking it seriously. I wanted to write something I was proud of.
But I also wanted to write a book that someone completely new to Forgotten Realms could pick up and fall into. One of the goals of the Fourth Edition Realms was to open the world up for new readers, who maybe felt like they couldn’t penetrate the dense lore of the world. If you’re going to do that, then do that, right? Make the book that anyone can follow, but that’s still Realmsy.
And what I accidentally made—for you, dear readers—is an entry point to convince your reluctant wife, girlfriend*, friends, or family that the Realms is pretty cool.
Seriously: The best feeling after writing The God Catcher was people telling me that their wives and girlfriends had read it, loved it, and gotten why their partner thought the Realms was cool. The best reviews (just a skosh for me above diehard fans saying it was a good read) were from people who said “I don’t usually read this kind of thing, but…”
Why does it work? Dunno. I have guesses.
For the wife/girlfriend/partner: When you are a woman, you can get hit with a lot of fantasy that’s not about you. That’s not a problem in and of itself—reading about other people is part of what makes fiction so great—but eventually…it feels lonely. Your story isn’t in there. And when it is about a woman, it can be hard for writers to shake off the idea that female characters are passive, reactive, and there to support the other characters.
(Try this some time: When you’re reading a book with a core female character and she’s talking to the core male character, what percentage of her lines are questions like “But how can that be?” “Are you sure?” “What are we going to do?” She is propping up the story, not being her own character. This is not fun to read if she’s the one you’re imagining being.)
And I mean it when I say it can be hard for writers: I think about this stuff all the time and my original outline of The Adversary still somehow turned into Farideh twiddling her thumbs while various people tried to figure out how to rescue her. (Which…seriously, if you put that girl in a room with a ball of Christmas lights, you’re going to come back and find them all untangled and laid out. She doesn’t sit.) That undercurrent is there, and it’s really easy to get dragged into.
Or if they are active, a lot of the time, their stories are romances. And again, that’s not a problem in and of itself—I love a good romance. But sometimes you don’t want to get the screaming badass guy. Sometimes you want to be a screaming badass. The God Catcher has no real romance to speak of (I guess there’s some flirting and some potential undercurrents, but it’s not the story). It’s about two women who become friends while trying to figure out who they really are. It’s also about a maybe-dragon and a wizard-cum-thief trying to thwart an evil dragon and a sociopathic assassin with kickass boots, playing a world-spanning game of thrones and threatening to destroy Waterdeep. Either way.
For everyone: you don’t need to know the history of Waterdeep to “get” it. You can, and there are definitely fun little references and mentions in there. But if you are my seventy-five-year-old granma from Utah, you will still “get” it. The story is as much about “dragons and shit” as it is about friendship and personal growth and emotions. Those are a lot easier for some people to grok than goblins.
I’m not saying it’s the only book that will convince your friend or sisters or mother or girlfriend or wife that the Realms are cool. I’m certainly not saying it’s the only book that will convince them fantasy is not a bunch of goofy dwarves and elves walking for hours and killing silly monsters with no purpose. There are loads of those. And I’m not saying I’ve cracked some vast conspiracy wide open by writing about *gasp* women in a fantasy setting. I could do a whole blog post on that.
But I am saying you could totally buy the ebook for their ereader (or maybe the ereader, pre-loaded, if you’ve got the bucks this year)** and have a gift crossed off your list. And maybe convince them the Realms are worth checking out.
Although I’m not sure it’s appropriate for Diwali…
*If you are like me, and you are partnered with a guy who doesn’t get your fantasy or Forgotten Realms love, I have less data for you, but plenty of sympathy. The Husband liked it—and he was one of the people I was trying to write for—and my dad liked it and my sister’s friend Charlie “L.O.V.E.D.” it, but I don’t know of other people’s stories like I do for the ladies. Most men who tell me they liked it already read Realms books.
My personal path for convincing the Husband to like Forgotten Realms was actually this: “He likes Neal Stephenson”–>Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman and other books that are “not really fantasy”–>few titles I love that we can talk about–>Frostfell by Mark Sehestedt. I don’t know what it is about Frostfell, but it convinced him there were cool books in the Realms. Worth a shot!
**No ereader? The God Catcher is also available in the Waterdeep II omnibus, and sometimes you can find it at used book stores. Which in this case I will encourage.