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True Worldbuilding Is Not Static

Whenever someone—anyone!—comes around with the writerly advice along the lines of, “Your worldbuilding must be consistent!  Unchanging!  Immutable!” I truly want to wince.  When justification of that advice is couched as a reflection of the “Real World,” my wince turns into a grimace.  Sometimes an eye-roll.  On rare occasions, I might indulge in an under-the-breath “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

I’m not to the point of shouting about it.  Not quite yet, though I’m getting close.  Y’see, I believe the whole “Worldbuilding must be stable” school of thought was a product of the time when exploration of ideas of was cool and hip, but only if everything else remained comfortingly the same.  After all, what kind of chaotic world would it be if we knew how to make people young forever, travel to distant galaxies, and maintain a state of war for centuries if we also GASP didn’t let men fuck women on demand?  I mean, that’s the state of things, yes?

Consistent, unchallenged worldbuilding.  It is a comfort to many, truly.

A moment’s pause for definition…

Worldbuilding is the creation of a secondary world in which a story takes place.  Some writers build the world on the fly.  Others fill six-inch binders with interconnected details before writing a word of actual story.  Neither method is better than another.  What does fall on the “better or worse” spectrum is the inability to tweak what has been determined as Story True in light of new needs, evidence, and preference.

I once had a writer tell me I couldn’t change my worldbuilding mid-story because readers would no longer trust me.  Truly, I do pity the person whose real-life world has been so stable, who has explored so little since one’s worldview was solidified, that any variation is a betrayal, an upheaval, a reason to quit.

Fewer than a hundred years ago, the worldbuilding of nighttime lighting included live flames and the constant risk of uncontrollable fire.  Then the combination of invention, political decision, and material availability expanded electric lighting across the United States.  Every bit of those folks’ worldbuilding changed—purchasing decisions, food storage, day to night rhythms, social interactions, workday lengths, evening entertainment, medical accessibility, everything.

So the claim that worldbuilding must be consistent?  It is bullshit. Well-meaning bullshit, perhaps, but bullshit unexamined nonetheless.

My Darlings, climate change is upending every aspect of our current real-life worldbuilding.  “This regional seaside culture has been built upon generations of lobster fishing” is upended when the lobsters move north to find colder waters.  “The society I’ve created lives peacefully as a semi-nomadic people moving their herds between seasonal watering holes” can become “The society must fight settled villages to access water in order to preserve their own herds” in an instant.

And advances in science change our real-life worldbuilding all the time.  Babies are conceived as a result of intercourse… until artificial insemination.  Injured limbs must always be amputated… until we learn how to set bones with plates and screws, and treat infection with antibiotics.  Antibiotics make us quite casual about infections… until infections become resistant to those antibiotics.  Shaking off a concussion is a sign of strength… until we learn concussions lead to severe brain damage and mental disorders we once dismissed as a “natural” result of aging.  Fourteen-year-olds are considered adults… until we understand brain development.

Women don’t hold positions in government… until they do.  Leadership is only permitted to those who inherit power… until it isn’t.  Same sex marriage is outlawed… until it isn’t.  The rule of law supersedes the wishes of one person… until it doesn’t.

Each of those examples carry massive and far-reaching implications on our assumptions of worldbuilding.  Just raising the age at which a person can legally marry impacts childrearing, education, labor pools, family life, the rate of demographic change, the cycle of economic development, and more.  And if we want to argue about how the Law of Gravity is immutable, I invite you to consider the four humours were once considered so as well.

In reality, there is no such thing—if one wants to reflect “real life”—as omni-consistent worldbuilding.  In real life, our worldbuilding shifts based upon our experience and understanding of the world.

Really, not even the gods adhere to consistency.  When someone tells me worldbuilding must be consistent because the writer is God of the story, I’m fairly certain the person hasn’t much examined the evolution set out in religious texts.  A single example: Biblical worldbuilding changed considerably over the course of the Old Testament, and radically in the New Testament.  Want to talk about how worldbuilding loses all stability when a god decides to make a change?  FFS, the Biblical god changed the rules of LIFE AND DEATH ITSELF.

This does indeed make many, many people uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable enough to demand fictional worldbuilding be stable and unchanging.

But when you start reading/viewing with worldbuilding in mind, you’ll see just how many stories are actually about the disruption of established worldbuilding, because worldbuilding is but marginally about stability.

It IS about how our characters presently understand their world.

It IS about choosing where our characters believe they fit within it.

It is NOT about eternity.

Some stories are about the battle to maintain worldbuilding at all costs, and some are about the battle to grow and transform it.

Both demonstrate the truth: Worldbuilding is quite fragile.

We are drawn to the upheaval of transformative worldbuilding.  We aren’t much interested in the year-to-year consistency of global agriculture before 1883.  But damn do we want to know how the collapse of Krakatoa impacted geography, climate, finance, travel, politics, artwork, and scientific exploration.

We even love worldbuilding disruptions that haven’t yet happened!  If you really want to see worldbuilding-upheaval fascination, watch a documentary on the Yellowstone caldera.  Watch Doomsday Preppers.  Heck, watch The Walking Dead.

Plot is the disruption of worldbuilding.  It can be driven to and from the smallest detail.  Hang an entire epic on the introduction of the potato, the innovation of the stirrup, the invention of non-electric lighting, the revolution of gender equality, the discovery of gut bacteria’s influence on mental function, the cessation of rain, the taming of sentient spiders.  Or break the world apart when new beings appear on the horizon or from the heavens, when bees refuse to pollinate human food crops until a non-aggression treaty is agreed upon, when the gods decide humanity is a waste of time, when the days grow longer minute by minute and no one knows why.

So the truth is, my Darlings, your worldbuilding can change any fucking moment you want, as long as you do three things:

Acknowledge the change.  Real life offers unlimited examples here for the reactions of both individuals and a larger society (and they are often strikingly different).  Deal with the shock, the fear, the joy, the uncertainty, the embracing and the denial, the knowledge and the ignorance.  Sometimes the acknowledgement can be as direct as a character saying, “That’s never happened before!”  Sometimes the acknowledgement involves an explanation from a character versed in history or science.  It depends on your story, your characters, and your plot.

Put it in context.  Massive worldbuilding changes can occur with very little impact on characters and plot, and seemingly small changes can disrupt the underpinnings of the story’s entire design.  The change can be immediate—one massive storm destroys a primary food source—or it can be slow moving—the quiet and years-long emigration of a class of professionals.

By all means, use the consequences.  After all, there is no reason to change your worldbuilding if it isn’t going to either solve a problem or create a compelling problem to solve.  The consequences of a change are most likely to be a combination of positive and negative, and the characters you’ve created will determine the outcome.  Or the consequences of a seemingly major worldbuilding change might seem minor—your characters must arrive three days sooner than planned because the designated festival has been moved forward to meet the whims of rulers who believe they hear the voice of the gods in the rippling of the river—but solve a huge problem of timing for the writer.

Argue with any one of these examples, but please do acknowledge the truth that worldbuilding is not rigid, firm, and unchangable.  Instead, it is flexible, adjustable, and pliable.  It is, indeed, biddable.

And if the writer is the god of any story, the writer damn well better take responsibility for evolution and revolution as well as stability.




One Year Out

Or rather, “The vacation I took to to celebrate being about a year out from the car accident and concussion that pretty much reset my life.”

A core lesson from the accident: I needed to carry decent health insurance, and “decent” tended to fall outside of “what I can afford as a freelancer.”  Truly, at the scene of the accident, I should have been taken to the hospital right away.  I feared the cost more than I feared the health consequences of my brain rattling around in my skull, and I didn’t want to head into my 50s with that same fear of, say, heart palpitations or weird lumps or menopause symptoms or…  You get the idea.

That lesson led to a fulltime job.  Darlings, I do indeed love my job, but going from a freelancer and martial arts instructor to an employee working always on someone else’s preset schedule has been an adjustment.  Especially since the job requires this not-a-morning-person to be onsite at about 6:30 in the morn.  But heck, I’m helping to make whiskey, so I can’t complain!  And the job comes with paid vacation time—something I haven’t had since I was my son’s age—and that led to the celebration.

Last year’s concussion caused lingering problems, from sleep difficulties to sporadic balance issues to minor aphasia to blank-outs.  (Not blackout. Blankout—the sensation of suddenly not knowing a thing that you know you should know, and not being able to articulate anything more than, “Um…  Hold on…  Um…”)  I certainly didn’t trust myself to camp on my own.  NO WAY.  What if I forgot to pack up my food at the end of the night, and attracted a bear?  What if I stumbled into the campfire?  What if I couldn’t remember which direction I was supposed to go on the trail?

For the first time, I was afraid—truly and deeply afraid—to head out on my own.

So I decided to use a bunch of vacation days, packed up my Tucson, and took off for six days in Wyoming.  Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.  I hiked extensively my first couple days up there, and stayed in an extremely Wyoming hotel for the first two nights.


Why the hotel?  Because I was scared to death I wouldn’t be able to figure out a campground.  I’m glad I let myself transition that way, but I needn’t have worried.  I ended up in Grand Tetons (which I preferred to Yellowstone because it had far fewer people and far more solitude) the following evening.

Yes, I had bear spray.  And thankfully lost my fear of accidentally spraying myself in the face with it.

Then I drove mostly two-lane highways through the Wyoming countryside down to Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Vendauwoo.  I climbed boulders.  I walked through the pines.  I watched the Milky Way come into being.  I played with chipmunks.  I read two novels.  I watched cows wander through my campsite.

I ran kata, and bo and nunchaku, and practiced some knife work.  I’m rusty on all of them, but I least I could remember all my empty-hand katas, hit myself in the jaw only a couple times with the nunchaku, and gave myself only one nasty cut with the kukri.  I remembered where the first aid kit was and how to use it.

I stared out the horizon.  I let my mind wander.  I planned what I would do when I returned home, what I would do when I turned 50, and where I’d like to be when I turn 60.

I rested.

I proved to myself I was okay, and okay was pretty damned wonderful.

And since I was okay, I spent the first morning after my return rappelling down thirty-eight stories in downtown Denver to raise funds for the Cancer League of Colorado, in memory of my late husband (liver cancer), my best friend who was also my son’s godmother (breast cancer), and in honor of my martial arts instructor who beat throat cancer last year.  (Donations are still being accepted at the link, if you’re so inclined to give to a group that donates every penny to cancer research and patient support services.)

The highest I’d ever rappelled before was about, maybe, forty feet or so.  When the moment came to step onto the ledge and lean back over the edge, I will tell you honestly I almost backed out.  Then the voice in my head, “Bitch, sit your ass down in that harness and get it done.”  And so I did.

I will not lie.  It was terrifying.  I screamed at least once.  I wanted to quit halfway down.  When I reached the bottom, people had to hold me up for a minute because my legs wouldn’t work.  My son hugged me while I was still shaking, as did my friends Katy, Don and Rob.  (Rob had gone over the edge before me.)

I never wanted to do it again.  Now I kinda do.

So really, what I did on my summer vacation was prove to myself that, even if I’m fragile, I’m fixable.  That I can step off the sidewalk (or the ledge) and still be all right.  That even though I’ve different limitations than I had ten years ago, five years ago, or even one year ago, the way to deal with those limits is not to dial back my ambitions but to rethink my tactics and strategy.

I’m back, my Darlings–ass in the harness, whiskey in hand, stepping over the edge.  Let’s do this.



The Happenings

My goodness, it’s been a long time, hasn’t time?

The short of the long of it is this:

I’m still finishing out the last of the brain and body recovery from the accident, with the lingering sense of knowing that, while I’m doing marvelously better, there are still things I’m a little slow on. Stalling out when running a kata I’ve known for over a dozen years, having to make a conscious effort to un-hunch my right shoulder because the muscles keeps re-knotting itself, needing to keep far more detailed tracking notes than usual at work… Most folks don’t see a difference in me, but I know how hard I’m working to ensure they don’t.

Speaking of work, I have a new position of the distillery: Operations Administrator. Basically, I get paid to ensure our whiskey gets made and distributed. It’s a damned challenge, coming up to speed on everything I need to know, and I’m absolutely loving it. The staff has been remarkably supportive, my direct supervisor has that perfect balance (for me) of holding extremely high expectations while understanding the time and process it takes to meet them, and the person training me in the intricacies of whiskey supply chain management and regulatory compliance is patient and meticulous. I am incredibly fortunate, my Darlings.

The new job seems, at first glance, that it’ll eat into my life more than my current work arrangements as a freelancer.

Quite the opposite, actually.

The benefits and consistent income not only reduce the number the hours I must spend chasing income, they vastly reduce the creativity-eating stress that goes along with that chase. That means my non-day-jobbery hours will be mine and mine alone, and I needn’t constantly weight what sort of writing I ought to be doing. This is a good, wonderful, and marvelous thing for my fiction.

Lastly, I’m weighing some options with Patreon. As you might have read elsewhere, Patreon has restructured their fees. Where once I, as the creator, accepted those fees as a standard cost (and tax deduction) of doing business, Patreon has decided to shift that burden to the patrons, and that burden is in addition to the patrons’ pledged amounts.

I think this sucks, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised or personally hurt if any of y’all decided to pull the plug on my Patreon.

I’m looking into other options—everything from joining another platform, to adding a PayPal link here, to completely shutting down my Patreon. I’ll make a decision within the next two weeks so I can notify everyone before the January 1 payments are pulled. If you have an opinion on this, please feel free to post it here, or drop me an email if you’d prefer.

So that’s the quickie update! More soon to follow—including the exact release date of the cookbook, the fight-writing book, the third installment of Desert Rising, and an article on how the decision to not report assault and harassment is an understandable act of self-defense.


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!



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!


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 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.
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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, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.




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.