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Creative Weaponry

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.

I learned a new word recently: parallax. It has become one of my favorites.

Parallax is the visual difference we perceive in an object’s position when we change our own position in relation to the stationary object. It’s why we get the most accurate reading from a standard dial when we view it directly. Tilt your head from one side to the other, or close one eye and then the other, and the dial’s needle will appear to give you a different reading each time. The reading itself doesn’t change, but our perception of it does.

So we’re going to chat today about using the parallax principle in a self-defense context.

It isn’t a revolutionary concept. Think asymmetric warfare, where one side has all the fire power and the other side has… whatever they can find. It’s easy to assume the Big Fire side can inflict horrible destruction on the Whatever side with impunity, and quickly win the day. Easy, and wrong. Rather, the first part can be correct, but the second doesn’t automatically follow.

The parallax, in this context, is mentally shifting one’s own perspective to see the unchangeable from a different angle

So let’s apply this to self-defense.

First, if you’re targeted directly, it’s usually because your attacker has done a quick survival-based calculus and determined you are on the Whatever side, while they are on the Big Fire side. Thousands upon thousands of words can be written about how to project Big Fire rather than Whatever, and they’re all valid to a degree. But even if you perfectly project I AM BIG FIRE DON’T MESS, there will always be someone who decides they’re Bigger Fire, or who will misjudge you completely. And really, any Big Fire attack that assumes Whatevers are easy targets can be proven wrong in ways they can’t imagine. (Because, honestly, if they had imagined, they wouldn’t be attacking.)

But the bottom line is this: unless you’ve been told in advance to expect an attack, the attacker will always have the advantage of surprise.

Second, get used to thinking creatively now, while you’re reading this article in safety, rather than in the middle of a crisis. Give your mind a chance to practice such creativity. Create the neuropathways for your synapses to follow, the emotional response pattern for fear and panic to fall into when things go sideways. Let self-defense creativity become a habit rather than a special event.IMG_20170609_194433_322

A decent starting place is to look at the weapons you are not permitted to carry under most circumstances, and determine what traits make those weapons weapons in the eyes of those banning them for safety purposes.

For example, it’s illegal to carry the keyring pictured above onto an airplane, and it’s illegal to carry it on the ground in many places, because it’s considered akin to knuckle dusters. And yet, the principle behind its use is no different from the “standard” self-defense advice to hold your keys in your fist… with the keys sticking out.

The first one is considered a weapon dangerous enough to outlaw. The second is just something you carry around in your pocket or purse.

Knives? Right out in restricted settings, because people fear (with good reason!) being stabbed. But pencils, Uniball fine point pens, hair sticks, fondue sets, knitting needles… Well, for awhile those last two were indeed banned from airplanes as “dual use” items. But can you imagine everyone tossing out our pens and pencils as well before boarding a plane? Maybe, under the same “BAN ALL LIGHTERS AND BULLWHIPS” craze from a few years ago. The point is, there’s a point. A sharp point. A sharp point that can stab. And the sharp point is shared by many items folks don’t consider weapons because they haven’t shifted their perspective.

I could bring along a six-inch screwdriver on any U.S. flight, whereas a seven-inch one is considered too dangerous—odd, since no one needs a full seven inches to penetrate an eyeball. Also permitted are under-four-inch scissors that have blunt, rather than sharp, tips… which ignores the fact the slash of a sharp edge is almost always more deadly than the stab.

The reality is a weapon is anything that helps you defeat your attacker. It’s why twenty people and four planes can alter the course of an entire nation without once engaging that nation’s powerful military. It’s why fertilizer sales of large quantities are monitored. It’s why a calmly raised voice in a professional situation can stop a harasser from putting hands on your body. And it’s why those TSA lists of banned items sometimes seem ridiculous. Once you start down the mental road of possibilities, the “safety” that comes from banning certain items becomes increasingly brittle.  That’s the parallax, my darlings.

So let’s play a little bit:

I’m at a restaurant. I have at hand the items pictured below. It isn’t the best picture, so I’ll tell you want I have at hand. From left to right: heavy glass salt and pepper shakers, ceramic sugar-packet holder that fits in the palm of my hand, multi-page bound menu with soft metal corners, silverware wrapped in a large cloth napkin, the computer cord, my drink (vodka tonic), a lightweight candle holder and candle (unlit), and the computer. How many of those things are weapons?

All of them, in some context or another, though a couple might take a bit of MacGuyver-ing than others.

The silverware is an easy go-to, whether it’s fork, knife, or spoon. Each can be effective, depending on the target. But the napkin is also a weapon. If I need a non-finesse move, I can throw it in the face of my attacker to gain a second of time. If I want to get all fancy (and therefore more risky), I could dunk a corner in my drink and snap the attacker’s eye with it.

As for the drink, I could toss the contents in the attacker’s face, too. While it’s tempting to consider the glass itself a weapon, think through what it would take to make that a weapon that wouldn’t also slice up my own hand. Possible, certainly, but again more risky. If I had enough distance, I might throw it, though. The little candle holder, or the ceramic sugar packet holder, would actually make the better blunt striking weapon.

The salt and pepper shakers will work for that purpose, too. But if the situation allows nine seconds* to spare—and that’s a really long time in most self-defense contexts—I’d rip the tops off each shaker. Salt in one hand, aimed for the eyes. Picture starting the strike with a closed fist, then splaying the hand open right before contact. Sure, the salt will burn the eyes, but it’ll also scratch them, causing vision impairment that doesn’t depend on a pain threshold.

Pepper goes in the other hand. This time, picture a palm strike, driving upward, to deliver that pepper directly into the nose or mouth. Again, this sort of thing will be… uncomfortable, shall we say, but it’s the impaired breathing that’s truly the desired result. Inhaling a tablespoon of black pepper in the middle of a fight is not conducive to victory.

That multipage menu is stiff enough that it would cause a little, but not much, discomfort if I struck someone with its metal corners. But folded up, it could slow a knife-stab were I really good at keeping it between me and the attacker. If I’m lucky (and holding the menu far enough from my own body) the knife would penetrate the menu, which could allow me a moment to yank the knife from the attacker’s grasp. In that way, the menu is actually a better shield than the computer, as most strikes would bounce off the latter.

And as I’m writing this, I’m realizing I’d have to be damned desperate to put my computer in harm’s way, let alone risk swinging it against someone’s head. I know that’s stupid—I mean, Yay, Carbonite!—but there it is. I now know I’ll hesitate to damage my computer. Good job, silly subconscious!

Ahem. Moving on.

The computer cord is most certainly a weapon—as a strangle-cord, if nothing else—but that does require an up-close and personal aspect, not to mention the need to maneuver behind my opponent to put the weapon to good use. The better use, if I want to maintain distance, might be double it up, with the heavier power pack hanging free to swing it at my attacker. I wouldn’t consider that very effective, though, unless my purpose were to distract before my actual attack.

I admit I’m at a total loss on the sugar packets. I’d love to hear your parallax on that one, my darlings.

One last thing on the parallax: It is all about you, and what you choose to see. It’s all about taking a step to one side or the other, or seeing the subtle shift that can happen when you use but one eye instead of two… and that leads to the final lesson.

You need two eyes to achieve accurate depth perception.

You need two views to understand self-defense.

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.  Because they’re wonderful patrons, they support making the articles on self-defense available to everyone after a period of exclusivity.  But Patrons have access to exclusive content and other benefits as well–whiskey posts, pupper posts, advance ebook copies, and more!  So if you find it valuable and helpful, thank the patrons, and consider becoming one yourself!

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The Expectations and Fault Follow-Up

In the comments to Making the Nice-Guy Challenge a Safe One, mrissa and scallywag195 both shared questions and perspectives I wanted to answer in more detail. That “more detail” ended up being much longer than I thought… but here it is!

Questions from mrissa first:

My question is twofold:

1) In what context would his actions have been reasonable in a class/mat setting? In what context is “respond as though someone who is not in pads etc. is the actual attacker” the correct scenario? If this was a mismatch of reasonable expectations, I am having a hard time seeing where his expectation was reasonable.

The short answer is, “When Sensei says so.” Continue reading The Expectations and Fault Follow-Up

Priests and Heroes, Thieves and Lovers, Blood and Magic

Whether you already own the Fantasy Blog-Off Bundle and are enjoying the ten novels, or are still deciding to choose your own price for the collection chosen by top SFF reviewers, here’s your opportunity to learn more about the writers and their work!  There’s talk about epics and blood magic, lovers and shadows, writing and publishing.

David Benem, What Remains of Heroes

Barbara Webb, City of Burning Shadows

Michael McClung, The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids

William Saraband, Shattered Sands

Crista McHugh, Soul for Trouble

Ben Galley, Bloodrush

Plague Jack, Sins of a Sovereignty

Tavish Kaeden, The Weight of a Crown

Greg James, Under a Colder Sun

Matthew Colville, Priest

Ready for your bundle?  Ten novels, and the opportunity to support Girls Write Now!  Choose your price!

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StoryBundle of Indie Winners

“Ten fine bloggers and blog-sites spent a year considering almost three hundred self-published fantasy books to bring you their ten favorites. It’s hard to imagine you won’t find some gems among them.” — Mark Lawrence

This is a unique bundle to curate as its books were chosen not by me, but by reviewers who took part in the first Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off organized by Mark Lawrence. Each reviewer received over twenty-five books and a mission: Choose one. This bundle contains the books those reviewers put at the very top of their list.

The SPFBO Bundle includes some of the coolest indie fantasy around. Crista McHugh’s A Soul for Troublegives you a witch named Trouble, possessed by the god of chaos. William Saraband’s Shattered Sands follows a slave girl suddenly empowered by forces older than the desert itself. You’ll delve into the more-than-murder mystery of Matthew Colville’s Priest, and follow another priest trying to save the world after the gods disappear in Barbara Webb’s City of Burning Shadows. And The Weight of A Crown from Tavish Kaeden serves up the deep epic of a recently-united realm on the verge of fracturing.

There is the sharp warrior who knows the value of leaving heroism behind in Under A Colder Sun by Greg James, and the ruined hero who chances into a way to surmount the past in David Benem’s What Remains of Heroes. Plague Jack delves deep into a brutal world of conspiracies, consequences, and backlash against a conqueror in Sins of a Sovereignty. Ben Galley smacks a young man into a frontier Wyoming filled with blood magick and secrets in Blood Rush. And Michael McClung’s The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids—the novel scoring highest in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off—races along with a sassy, smart thief who must find an artifact everyone thinks she already has before she’s killed for it.

StoryBundle lets you choose your own price, so you decide how much you’d like to support the writers. For $5—or more, if you’d like—you’ll receive the basic bundle of five novels in DRM-free ebook format. For the bonus price of at least $15, you’ll receive all ten novels. If you choose, a portion of your payment will go toward supporting different charities such as Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now. Over the years, StoryBundle and its participating writers have donated thousands to support awesome charities doing great work.

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Bundle is available for only three weeks, so now is the time to pick up this unique collection of reviewer-beloved fantasy novels, and discover new independent writers who want to take you on thrilling adventures through worlds you’ve never seen with characters you want to know (even if a few of them are rather terrifying).

So here’s how you get your hands on this marvelous collection:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you feel generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format worldwide:

  • Shattered Sands by W. G. Saraband
  • The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden
  • Priest by Matthew Colville
  • What Remains of Heroes by David Benem
  • A Soul for Trouble by Crista McHugh

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:

  • Sins of a Sovereignty by Plague Jack
  • The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung
  • Under a Colder Sun by Greg James
  • Bloodrush by Ben Galley
  • City of Burning Shadows by Barbara J. Webb

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

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What Kurtz Taught A Teen

The fabulous writer and person Judith Tarr has been facilitating a read of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels, first published in 1970s. Tarr also wrote this great post on her discovery of Kurtz’s work, and its impact on opening up her own writing directions.

Tarr just happened to choose the writer who had more influence on me, as a reader, than any other.

Kurtz boosted my writing as well in a couple remarkable ways—I’ll get to that in a little bit—but her stories did more for me as a young person growing up odd in a decidedly conformist environment, as an innately curious person being educated mostly by people who judged first the appropriateness of my questions.

Continue reading What Kurtz Taught A Teen

Once More, Years Later

Originally posted at These Certain Musings, where I tend to put the more personal stuff.  But I think grief and grieving is too little discussed, so I’m doing some extra sharing.

It’s that time of year again, though it seems to have arrived earlier than past years. Usually, by my recollection, I don’t end up feeling quite so sensitive until March, or especially May. Then again, that might be simply my impression.

I’ve been… overly sensitive for the past week or so, even as my writerly self–the one so thrilled and willing with story and character and creation–resurfaced in this new environment of family and encouragement. It’s been like having sunburned feelings: you know the person touching you doesn’t mean to cause pain, but even back-pats of encouragement hurt.

Then yesterday, when my mother was doing nothing more than trying to schedule a birthday dinner for either Sunday or Monday, I just about bit her head off for no reason. Then I tried to do laundry, and ended up stuffing clothes in the washer while tears ran down my face. Then I tried to cook supper, and ended up with the same result. Then I went to apologize to my mother, but what came out of my mouth instead was, “My 40th birthday was when I knew Ron was going to die.”

Until those words spilled out, I really hadn’t aligned past grief with present hurt. But there it is, doncha know, because grief is an unpredictable thing. It isn’t malicious (at least mine isn’t). It is instead almost too polite, apologizing for popping up year after year, and trying to be so subtle it leaves me confused and seemingly unable to identify it for days or weeks.

And the words, while true in an emotional sense, weren’t true in a factual sense. I mean, yes, I spent my fortieth birthday in a VA hospital, helping Ron eat the first meal he’d been permitted in a couple days and arguing with doctors who wanted to put him on blood-thinning medications when he’d almost bled to death internally a few days before. But I didn’t know he was going to die so soon for a few more days. (And I am still bitter and angry that I was the one who, after reading his test results, diagnosed him and told him the diagnosis weeks before a doctor got around to it.)

But the emotions rule, this far removed from the date. And my heart will always link my birthday with losing Ron–even though another four months passed before we lost him.

And I thought I had all that under control after figuring this out last night. Then I read this from Kathryn Cramer, and lost my shit all over again.

At the time Ron was diagnosed, we’d been living separately for almost three years, but we never divorced and we did remain close. There are times I still feel as if he’s simply lost, and I’ll find him if I walk into the next room even though he’s been lost for five years now.

So… I think we’re having a family dinner on Sunday. It’ll probably be okay. I’m giving myself permission to leak emotions all over the place if I feel like it. The feels aren’t going away, and though the feels aren’t pleasant, having them is not a bad thing.

They exist. I exist. One cannot miss what one did not love, and love is not a thing to be left behind.

Wedding 1996

Resolutions for a Balanced New Year

playI will choose and understand my life priorities before I entertain, let alone commit to, “measureable” goals. For example, “My son and I will have conversation today” is a much higher priority than “I will write 1000 words every day.”  What I produce will not be deemed of greater value and importance than who I am and the connections I want to preserve with family and friends.

I will give more weight to my mental and physical health, and the needs of the actual human beings in my life, than I do to word counts, bookings, and schedules. Certainly there are those who will assume I’m speaking from a place of privilege, as someone who must be able to set aside Real Life Responsibilities for some squishy emotional goal. Nope. The past almost-ten years haven’t been a stroll down the primrose path, darlings, and frankly, the journey was made more emotionally difficult by production-focused people at the edges of my life who looked down on my decision to invest time in my son and family rather than a monetary venture.  I wasted time feeling bad about their snubs. I won’t do that again.

If a fill-in-the-blank guru tells me I must perform X tasks in order to reach Y goal, or I’m not really ever going to get Y goal, I will merely assume the guru is telling the truth and move on. It’s very, very easy to get caught up in the Secret of Success Rhetoric. The industry is just as savvy as the diet industry when it comes to guilting people into handing over the lives (and money) in order to prove themselves Not A Loser. Many gurus thrive on enforcing methods that in reality force a person to neglect health, friendships, family, and life experiences for the sake of meeting goals, and will insinuate you’re a lazy, unworthy person if you’re not willing to make those sacrifices. There is no success I could achieve that would be worth such neglect.  I will not be shamed into acting otherwise.

I will more loudly rejoice when I do well. I will share my successes rather than humbly swallow them. Screw that Tall Poppy madness. I invite everyone else to do the same.

And above all, I wish everyone a 2016 that has more laughter than fear, more moments worth remembering than days worth forgetting, more tears shared in the company of others than wept alone, more encouragement in times of doubt than doubt in times of difficulty, and more time with people you love than longings for those beyond reach.

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