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Sirens! Tomorrow!

Sirens begins tomorrow!

(Well, Sirens Studio is actually already in progress, but I couldn’t swing my schedule into alignment until the conference itself.)

But I am excited! I pick up a friend at the airport tomorrow morning, then head to the hotel to meet up with existing friends and meet some new ones. A couple folks have volunteered to help out with “The Movement You Don’t See" (it’s a low-low-impact workshop, but I did want to demo a couple things that some might find uncomfortable), so I’ll get to meet up with them, too.

My son has been such a good sport, helping me decide what to leave in and take out of the presentation. My inclination is to teach a three-hour class, so keeping it all within an hour is a bit of a challenge.

So if you’re attending Sirens, find me and say hello! If you’re in the Denver area and not attending, drop me a line if you’d like to BarCon for awhile anyway!

Wolf Kisses

I wept.

My son and I spent an afternoon at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center located near Divide, Colorado. Their work and their goals are both simple and incredible and difficult: restore native wolves to their necessary role as a keystone species in the wild.

If you’d like a primer on why this is important, check out the remarkable changes–mostly unexpected benefits–that resulted from re-introducing wolves to Yellowstone.

Part of our visit included a tour of the facility to “meet” the members of their pack. Mexican grey wolves, grey wolves, coyotes, red and swift fox… We had the opportunity to greet them all. While some creatures were of course more shy than others, it was obvious from the animals’ confident posture and, frankly, their willingness to walk away that they felt neither fearful of their human companions nor needful or dominating them.

Then Dev and I had the opportunity to meet some wolves up close and personal. We entered a two-acre enclosure with a pair of guides, took a seat among the trees, and waited to see if the wolves were interested in us.

Two of the three were. The third, I swear, snorted and rolled her eyes before trotting off to ignore us from a distant. She’s not all that interested in humans.

But her packmates, Kekoa and Keyni, are.

Wolves are big–not silly “big bad wolf” big, but big enough to make their wishes and presence known. They most certainly are not dogs in wild clothing; they are distinctly different in temperament and behavior. Sure, the wolf was happy to have a backscratch… but don’t try to ruffle the ears or snuggle closely. And when a domesticated pupper might come when called even if she doesn’t want to, a wolf is so extremely not interested in such human-centric niceties.

Kekoa gave me a few wolf kisses, but it was Keyni who nudged him aside to straddle my lap and nuzzle closer any moment I paused in my petting and scratching.  Kekoa did indeed love my son, and did not want to wander far from him.  And Keyni was more than happy to pose for final pictures once he scented the hunk of raw beef in my hand.

(Note: The pics can be seen here.  I've spent now 45 minutes attempting to upload pictures and links to LJ, and it's really not interested in them. I've decided my new rule is 15 minutes spent battling for basics before moving on.)

In the middle of all of it, we humans made an attempt at howling. The wolves obliged us with a response, with the coyotes joining in, and the calls and answers went on for minutes, echoing through the trees, and I stood there and wept knowing that I, for just a few moments, was part of it.


A New Martial Arts Home

Last week ended up being incredibly and unexpectedly busy–and for a spectacular reason.

I found a new place to train.

This is not a small thing.

I moved to Colorado a year ago, mind. Though I didn’t spend every moment of the last twelve months seeking out a new dojo-home, I invested a great deal of energy looking up schools and instructors online, asking around, and spending more than a few hours sitting or standing in parking lots watching classes through storefront windows.

That watching-classes part quickly became depressing. I wasn’t looking at how marvelous the students were. I was watching how instructors managed their class and interacted with students… and never once came away thinking, “I’m impressed!” In fact, I never walked away thinking, “Wow, good job.” I wasn’t looking for a school that taught the exact art I’ve learned for the last fifteen-ish years–that’s impossible for many reasons--but was looking for quality instruction and school community.

Yeah, I’m picky. And I don’t apologize for it. But it did leave me with nothing but exhausted options by summer’s start. Then summer was too crazy-busy to expend energy on the search. Then I hit September, was tipping into depression at the prospect of letting yet more months pass without a martial arts home.

So I expanded my search and found a listing for a small school a few more miles away. Rather, I re-found it. It’s a school I’d set aside very early in my search because I thought it was a little too far away. But now that I know non-highway routes and backroads, it’s fairly easy to get to.

I sent off a little note eight days ago asking for a get-to-know you appointment. Last Monday, I received an answer. Tuesday morning, I arrived to meet the husband and wife team running the school. I started classes that evening, and have since spent about ten hours training.


After observing my kata, the head of the school said I had plenty of the yang and he’d like to teach me the yin. He started me on a couple forms–White Crane and Tai Chi–and shared the applications of the movements so I’d start with an understanding of the form rather than its mere memorization.

Husband and wife invited to come in to train during any class I wanted. I love what I learned, I loved how he taught, and during the evening classes, I absolutely loved the camaraderie and collaborative work between all students.

And when he said he’d been waiting for someone who wanted to also teach, I started getting all teary-eyed.

And the topper: I spent Saturday morning observing their kids’ classes, and got all teary-eyed again. They teach young people the way I like to teach young people. They give their young students the respect, attention, and open-heartedness I was looking for.

I am in the right place, and I’m so very glad I chose to be picky.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot -- Camping Edition

Hooray, camping again at Lake Pueblo!  I've been down here four times now--twice camping, twice hiking--and absolutely love the openness, the dryness, and the off-season quiet.

The first time I camped at Lake Pueblo, at a lovely site overlooking the lake, ended early because the winds came up so strong.  I was afraid the tent was going to snap, so packed it in.  Turns out that was a good thing, since an unexpected blizzard was roaring in.

This time?  Stray shower, maybe a thunderstorm, said the forecast.  Winds gusting to 20mph, said the forecast.  That's nothing, my darlings.  I've tent-camped through Indiana thunderstorms strong enough to spawn tornadoes within a couple miles of my campsite.  I've tent-camped in inch-an-hour rainfall.  I've tent-camped in a desert windstorrm.  So 20mph winds with maybe a little rain?  I was not concerned.

So after a fantastic day that involved a lovely hike, proofreading 250 pages, and sausages roasted over an open fire for the pupper and I, I sat outside while the last of the fire burned down.  The moonlight from the east was bright enough to wash most of the stars from the sky.  Off to the west, I saw a couple lightening flashes in the distance.  I took the moments to stash this-n-that in the tent or the Jeep (I don't much like last-minute dashing when other options are available), stirred out the coals so they'd burn down faster, and got myself and Gambit settled in the tent.

It wasn't fifteen minutes later that the first wind gust slammed the tent hard enough to knock a tent pole against my head.  No warning, no preliminary breezes, nothing.  Zero to whatever-speed in a single gust.  I tried everything I knew to do, inside the tent and out, but lost the battle.  For the first time in my camping experience, the wind was strong enough to yank one of the stakes out of the ground.  And when one stake goes, the strain on all the others increases.  In a minute, half the tent was levitating and the other half was considering the same.

Alas, this happened when Gambit and I were still inside the tent and--in the fashion of one with an overactive imagination--I envisioned my dog and I entangled in the tent, blown over the steep hillside, landing in the lake, and dragged down by the weight of the tent and everything in it.  So I wrestled the tent flap open far enough to shove Gambit outside, thinking even if he ran off, he'd be safer anywhere but inside the smooshed tent, then got myself out too.

I remember finding the car keys and jamming them in my mouth.  I remember yanking the poles out of the tent and folding them just enough to fit on the back seat.  I remember dragging the tent halfway under the Jeep so I could lie on the ground (Did I mention the nigh-constant lightening, and the fact I was standing on a high point beside the lake?) and find by feel the valve that would deflate my mattress.  Yeah, that might sound like a stupid thing to consider, but I couldn't wrestle the mattress out of the tangled tent, and the tent and all its contents was going to take off if I let go.  I remember stuffing the tent--along with the sleeping bag, mattress, clothes, and assorted stuff--into the back of the Jeep.

At some point, I had opened a door so Gambit could jump in the Jeep.  I don't remember doing so, but the poor pup was shaking on the front seat when I finally got in the car.

I guess I could have stuck around for awhile to see if the wind died down enough to risk setting the tent back up.  I opted to head home instead.  I didn't know if a pole had snapped (It hadn't. Near I can tell, one end of the pole yanked free of the pin.), or if the weather would get better or worse (I'd lost all connection on my phone), or what the state of everything inside the tent was, seeing as it was now all wadded up in the Jeep.

I drove home.  Got there around midnight.  It took over two hours this morn to sort out and untangle the mess I hauled out of the Jeep, but nothing is terrible or unfixable.  It was just... messy.

I'm thinking that the next time I camp at Pueblo, I'll choose one of the sites set back from the lake views, where junipers and gulches and some such will break the wind before it kills me.  I'm thinking I can damn well drag a chair to one of those views during the day, and sleep in peace at night.  I'm thinking I need to remember more about my desert camping youth than my Midwest camping middle years!

Sirens in Six

In just about six weeks, Sirens will begin in Denver. This year's theme is Lovers... so of course I proposed a fight-related workshop.

(Hey, I wasn't the only one! Amy Boggs is presenting "Love is a Battlefield: Weapons and Methods for When Love Goes Wrong.")

The workshop I'll be presenting is "The Movement You Don't See." We'll be discussing and using pieces of kata to explore and understand things like power generation, grounding, and the like. It won't be about "pretty" kata, but its practical applications. And though movement will be a part of it, intensity will be low. I want participants to understand and be cognitive of the internal experience of fighting stances, strikes, and the like. Once we add the adrenaline of intensity, those thoughts are processed differently. If there's time, I'd love to go over some of the "hidden" pieces of kata and its grappling implications.

Here's an added cool thing: Anyone can sponsor a Sirens workshop or panel for only $35. Alas, it's too late for sponsors to be listed in the program, but if you sponsor "The Movement You Don't See," I'll make a grand sign indicating your sponsorship--your name, or "in memory of," or, "in the name of," or "prefers anonymity." Heck, I'll make the sign no matter who you sponsor!

So if you've the inclination, head over to the Sirens page on sponsorships and support, and check out the listing of Accepted Programming. $35 is all it takes!

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The Incredible Judith Tarr

It is my honor—and I mean that truly—to host author Judith Tarr today.

I first read Tarr’s work in the 1990’s, and continue to be swept up in her stories the moment I read the first page. Her novels encompass the fantastical and historical traditions fantasy readers yearn for, and entwines them with characters who are vibrant, real, flawed, and ever striving. Among my favorites of her works are the White Mare’s Daughter and Arrows of the Sun. Both open trilogies filled with marvelous things. The Washington Post said of her work, “Judith Tarr is as confident in describing the battlefields of war as she is in exploring the conflicts of love,” and I must say I agree completely!

So when it looked possible to include Tarr’s newest novel in the Weird Western bundle—and as a debut!—I was biting my fingernails until she said yes. This woman of sharp observation, honed craft, and polished wit tempered with wide life experience has offered you, my darlings, an opportunity to read Dragons in the Earth through StoryBundle before it’s available to anyone else.

And on top of all that, she agreed to answer a few questions for me!

Dragons in the Earth takes place in Tucson and surrounding areas. I’ve a love for the desert myself, and your respect for the land of your adopted home comes through in your work so strongly. You mentioned elsewhere your reasons for settling in the desert. What has surprised you about desert living? Is that a warning or an enticement?

As I’ve said elsewhere, I moved here for my health. What I didn’t expect was for it to be as livable as it is. “It’s a Dry Heat” is true. I can’t handle humid heat at all, but here, while it’s challenging (and I have to be out in a lot, with the horses), it’s amazingly tolerable. It does not hurt, either, that we build for it, design for it, and plan for it. We make the most of what cool we can find or manufacture.

The other surprising thing, from the being outside all the time standpoint, is that while the desert is notoriously full of snakes, scorpions, and attack cacti, swarms of biting insects are remarkably rare. I can be outside at night without getting eaten alive, and horseback riding in warm weather doesn’t require six layers of Kevlar and a quart of fly spray per horse. We do get barn flies around the summer rains, and mosquitoes if there’s standing water, but it’s nothing like what I dealt with every spring and summer in New England.

I moved from Indiana to the foothills of eastern Colorado, so I completely understand the joy of (mostly) insect-free outdoor enjoyment!

Now, I’m a dog person. A dog person who adopts rescue pups and helps others understand their adopted dogs who have “a past.” What I’ve loved about reading your accounts of working with horses, on your blog and through Patreon, is comparing your explanations of equine communication to canine communication. Can you share a little bit about communicating with horses—the nonverbal exchanges, the predator-prey alignments, the differences between mares and stallions—and the depth you chose to include in your novel.

Now this could be a book.

And it is! Right here, folks can find Writing Horses—your fantastic guide to including horses in a novel without triggering horse-knowledgeable folks to throw said novel against the wall. Or across the stall.

Or a library!

As briefly as I can put it, horses communicate through movement, through body language and through what can be best be described as manipulating energy. They’re extremely subtle, and extremely complex in their interactions. Humans are at a severe disadvantage here; we’re focused in our heads, we’re loud, we’re clumsy, we lack nuance. Horses are extremely patient with us, but it’s a rare horse who doesn’t eventually just give up and stop trying if it’s constantly exposed to oblivious human body-screamers. That’s the checked-out barn potato but also the crazy spookmonster who freaks out about everything.

If a human tries to communicate with a horse on the horse’s own level, even if the effort is at best a clumsy approximation of what a horse would do, the horse tries very very hard to accommodate. That’s especially true of sensitive horses, and horses raised with the expectation that the humans will try to pay attention.

Then things happen. Like you’re longeing your horse on a 20-foot line, and not saying a word. “Riding” him from that far away. Moving him, changing his gaits, with tiny shifts of your own weight and attitude. Or you’re standing with your horse and you’re breathing with her and she started off anxious about something outside, but now she’s breathing slow and deep along with you, and the anxiety is gone. And stays gone as long as you keep that focus.


Mares and stallions? Ah, the myths. Most basically, stallions aren’t the wild hormonal maniacs they’re made out to be. They’re strongly controlled by their instincts, yes, but it’s the mares who control them. Which means human women get along great with stallions. Better than men. A man can be a rival, but a woman is the alpha mare, and he’s wired to defer to her.

Just recently I was going to ride my stallion, but one of my mares wanted the session. As I led him past her, he went nutty. She was driving him off his tiny head with her targeted mareness. I seriously could not get him to focus–and he’s well trained, very smart and wise, and bonded to me. She manipulated him right out of the session. So she got the ride, and he calmed down the minute he was back in his stall with his pile of hay.

And these aren’t even ancient Powers hiding on a ranch outside of Tucson.

Well. Maybe that’s not actually true.

Dragons in the Earth puts together a bunch of elements we often associate with isolation and solitude—a desert setting, caretaking, spiritual and magical undercurrents. What choices and opportunities do you find this provides your characters and their developments?

It lets the characters be very much a part of the landscape and the climate and the overall spirit of the place. At the same time, since that isolation happens just a few miles outside of a city of half a million humans, on land that’s been occupied continually for millennia, there’s the option of entering the urban energy sink and using that to power certain aspects of the magic. Which I will be contemplating for the sequels, because Tucson Magic is a real thing, and it’s urban as well as desert and wilderness.

That’s the thing about the city, in fact. Twenty minutes outside of a heavily populated area is desert or mountain or forest. There’s real wilderness out there. Mountain lions and bears. Bighorn sheep. Saguaro forests. Then you turn around and drive down and you’re in the mall or the University or the barrio.

And even there, you’ll find tiny enclaves: houses with a pipe pen and a couple of horses in back, a garden that’s been there since the Spanish Colonial days, an old sacred hill that looks down on the inner city. There are thousand-year-old pit houses in the middle of the city, or at highway interchanges. And cutting-edge aerospace and biotech, and the airplane graveyard out by the air base.

The stories write themselves.

Would you share your most memorable desert experience?  Your most memorable equine connection?  Either or both?

Oh gosh. There are so many. The mare manipulating the stallion with her hormones–that was a couple of weeks ago. She does things like that all the time. So do the rest of the horses.

For pure desert experience, one of my favorites was a couple of years ago. A writer friend was in town researching a book, and we went down to the Presidio and poked around the remnants of colonial Tucson. From there we headed to Saguaro National Park West, and back in time: we climbed Signal Hill to see the petroglyphs. It was the summer Solstice, 109 degrees F, and we were up on the edge of the sky, where the old ones left messages for the gods and each other. That was a very Tucson day.

What’s coming up next for you, and how can folks who love Dragons in the Earth be informed?

I’m working on a sequel to my space opera, Forgotten Suns, and also on the next Tucson Magic/Horses of the Moon story. I talk about these things intermittently on facebook (with much horse and farm detail), and more often on twitter, where I’m @dancinghorse. Twitter is a good place to find me.

I also have a Patreon, where I post bits of horse and farm news and snippets of fiction. That’s here: https://www.patreon.com/dancinghorse

As a Patreon supporter myself, I can highly recommend it!

Thank you so very much for your time, Judy!

Judith Tarr’s current new release, Dragons in the Earth, is available exclusively through  StoryBundle until September 8!

If you’re ready for more, check out Dancing Horse Farms for information on Tarr’s writer mentoring, and her Horse Camp for Writers.


The Drunkard at Patreon

For years, the Oster merchant Neb has been nagging at me to finish his story. For years, I've been trying to do so. But now--thanks to the whisper of another character who said simply, "It's me, ma'am. Don't worry about them."--the story is rumbling along apace. A truly, not a moment too soon. I needed a break from the heaviness that can be SheyKhala.

The Drunkard is set in the same lands as my novels, and readers will recognize reference to the land of Osterloh as the enemy not yet fully seen in the current storylines. We have threats and fights and battles and blood-hungry beings... but your narrator Neb is a sharp-tongued man with a knack for odd phrasings and secrets that are both softer and harder then he's really comfortable talking about. And no matter what you might hear, he'll have you know he is held in the highest esteem by those merchants who share his penchant for almost-licit dealings, and can count on any of them to nudge the border guards at the proper moment and with the appropriate coin (supplied, of course, by Neb himself).

The dear folks currently supporting me on Patreon will have exclusive, patron-only access to the novella as it unfolds. The first part is up at Patreon now. For a dollar a month, you can join up! I'll also be revamping my Patreon page and offerings in the coming month, so if you've some patron-input you'd like to share, please do!

So here's a taste of The Drunkard.

Um... wait, I didn't mean it quite that way...


The Drunkard

Here’s how those storytelling dimwits begin the tale:

He rode into town at sunset, just as prophecy had foretold. The folk feared to meet his cold stare as he reckoned the worth of their lives against the risking of his own, for he alone could deliver them from the ancient evil that had descended upon Entibar.


Blah, blah, PAH.

First of all, there was no prophecy. Just some babble from old Plegar, who forgot more often than not to pull up his trousers before tottering into the hostel for breakfast. There was no impressive arrival, either. Near as I could figure, the drunkard staggered out of some tavern in Jendayi, passed out amongst sacks of goatswool in the back of my wagon, went overlooked at the border crossing from Calligar to Osterloh, and slept all the way to Entibar. That’s where I found him—just as I’d pulled the wagon alongside my humble mudbrick home—when I tossed a half-empty jug of cheap Calligari wine over the back of the wagon bench.

He yipped like a puppy over that little tap on the head.

"Who in all hells are you?" I demanded when he lurched to his knees. He answered by puking over the wagon's side. By the look of his shirt and open longvest, he'd given the same answer numerous times before since his last visit to the laundry.

I drew the knife I kept secreted under the wagon bench, then climbed down the wheel. The knife wasn't much, but I could stick him if I had to. Or run, despite my stiff back, and yell loud enough to rouse a warrior before the drunkard caught up. I lived outside town, but there was a watchpost over the hill. Someone would hear me if I made an effort.

The man wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. I assumed there were eyes behind the ropes of dark hair slung over his face.

"Gimme a drink," he slurred, his voice raw from retching. "Gimme a drink, old man."

I'm older, not old, so I kicked a cloud of dust at him—an insult that said I'd rather bury him than look at him. "Your last drink is in the dirt, dunghead. Scrape it up and take it with you."

He pushed his hair back to reveal bloodshot eyes amidst circles of bruises. Someone had given him the what-for with both fists. Probably someone familiar with his fine deportment and sweet discourse.

"You're not... Where am I?"

"In my wagon, dunghead."

"But I'm supposed to be..." He stared at his shaking hands. Without another word for me, he snatched up my wine jug like a dying man who'd found the elixir of immortality. I gaped as he gulped. I'd never seen a man so frantic for wine.

"More," he croaked when he'd drained the last.

"This isn't a hostel," I snapped back. "And I'm no hoskeep looking to please a customer."

"You don't want to see me sober, old man."

"I don't want to see you at all."

The drunkard swayed from the wagon's edge far enough to reveal what I'd not noticed before. A very long dagger, like those worn by Calligari warriors for the sort of up-close fighting Osters like me had nightmares about. There was peace between Calligar and Osterloh now, but it was still new and not universally favored.

And I'd thought to poke him with my knife, which now seemed as menacing as straw. Limp straw. My late wife always told me my temper would escort me to my grave.

He jerked his longvest over the dagger as if I'd forget it if I couldn't see it. "Don't run," he said. "Just gimme the drink, I'll be gone."

"I'll get to the watchpost and bring back warriors before you can blink. Sober warriors."

"Don't. Run."

I ran, forgetting to yell. Behind me I heard the clatter of my wagon's gate, then a solid thud. I rounded my home's corner and fell against the wall, sucking air through clenched teeth. My back was in worse shape than I thought.

All I heard was the rustling of tamarisk trees. Unless the Calligari was traipsing tippy-toe over the gritty earth, he wasn't pursuing me. I tightened my hold on the knife and peeked around the corner.

That drunken Calligari was sprawled face down in the dirt. The wagon gate hung open above him. I'd been meaning to fix the latch for a month, and decided the gods loved me enough to have made me procrastinate. If they loved me more, the Calligari had broken his neck. I squinted, counted to twenty, and never once saw him twitch.

I whispered, "Deliver me from malice and dishonor," then kissed my knife's blade as I'd been taught decades ago, during the few months I'd trained as a warrior. A fighter's life hadn't agreed with me then, and my present aversion remained quite hale.

Once I convinced my back it wouldn't hurt any worse if I moved than it did standing still, I faced my wagon. Goatswool wasn't a tempting prize for thieves, but silver was stashed amongst the wool, and those coins were necessary to keep me in the apothecary's good graces. My back wasn't getting better, and I suspected my knees would soon vie for attention. Without a medicinal or two, my trading days were finished, as well as my ability to meet other obligations.

So I determined to summon the watch after my silver was stashed elsewhere. No sense in encouraging questions I didn't wish to answer. I hadn't spent fourteen years guarding my nearly-licit trade dealings to have them spoiled by a drunkard.

Up close, he looked near enough to dead to be of no concern. Knife set on the wagon bench, I crept past him and hauled my aching self up the wheel. I'd be lucky if my back didn't cinch up in mid-reach. Fortunately, I never had to endure such torment. Unfortunately, deliverance came on the edge of the dagger that suddenly appeared between my arm and ribs.

"No time left," the Calligari said, his accent hardening. "Do you have another jug?"

A dozen answers of good wit came to mind, but none were so sharp as that dagger, so I merely sighed. "Two, to be precise. Beer."

He withdrew the dagger without so much as snagging my sleeve. "Fetch it."

"My donkeys—"

"Won't die out here. Keep wasting time, and we will."

Oh, lovely. I'd trundled home a drunkard bent on killing himself and present company if I couldn't keep him soused. I eased down from the wheel and faced my captor. He stank of sweat, mildew, and his recent digestive troubles. No squint-lines framed his blackened eyes, which bleakened my outlook for the future. Calligari warriors were half-crazy by nature, and this one had the aid of fermentation and youth to bolster his madness. I thought one last time of racing for the watchpost, my aching back be damned. But he kept his dagger ready, and running with a blade skewering my thigh would likely prove beyond my abilities.

"I shouldn't be here," he muttered.

"On that we agree."

He flinched, then bared his teeth as if angry I'd had the audacity to overhear him. "I can't fight the demons today."

I snorted, and hobbled toward my home. "No doubt your 'demons' are more terrible than anyone else's troubles."

"Pray gods you never find out."

I found myself abruptly and utterly lacking in curiosity, and opted against begging divine intervention. Since the gods had proved fickle with their favor, I'd be more particular with my prayers.

There's more to Part One--not to mention the many upcoming parts!--so if you're interested in going forward, please check out Patreon for more information.!

Weird Western Linky Round-Up!

Here you go, my darlings!  All the links to author interviews and cool musings.  This post will be updated as new pieces come on line.

Here’s your direct link to the Weird Western Bundle, where you can choose to purchase four novels or all ten novels.  You’ll also have the opportunity to donate a portion of your purchase to Girls Write Now, a fantastic organization dedicated to teaching the writing skills necessary for success.

Here’s the launch post posted by Gemma Files, whose award-winning novel Book of Tongues is in the bundle.

All Covers Large

Joe Bailey, author of Spellslinger, chatted here with fellow bundle-author Kyra Halland (author of bundle book Beneath the Canyons) about mixing magic in Westerns.

Next up, Kyra Halland interviews Tiberius Bogg, the mountain man of Steven White’s Hair of the Bear and New World. You’ll find BOTH those novels in the bundle!

Now we have Steven White’s interview of Idyll author James Derry, chatting about writing, publishing choices, and his other-planetary Western.

Then Walt Starboard, the rancher’s son training to be a county doctor in Derry’s Idyll, tells you about life on the other-planet settlement, including his mother’s coma-inducing illness.

Update August 31:

JP Allen , author of West of Pale, talks with Joe Bailey about the deeper underpinnings that draw him to writing Weird Westerns and the upcoming sequel.

Next, JP Allen hosts Kenneth Mark Hoover, author of Haxen. He shares his thoughts on the importance of history, consistency, and worldbuilding in creating a strong Weird Western.

Once again, Kyra Halland opens her blog to host a bundle author, and this time it’s Judith Tarr, whose newest novel Dragons in the Earth is debuting in the Weird Western Bundle. She shares the Tucson Magic and love of horses that combine with dragons in this fabulous series opener.

More links to come!

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."
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Making the Nice-Guy Challenge A Safe One

In 2013, I made a mistake that still affects my physical abilities—everything from Okinawan weapons training to using a screwdriver.

Two students, father and son, began classes at my dojo. The son was an energetic eight-year-old. The father was a six-foot-six retired drill sergeant who’d trained in a similar style about twenty years prior, but who wanted to start again as a white belt in order to train with his son, and had observed enough of my classes to decide he wanted me as an instructor. He was the kind of returning student who makes a sensei’s job easier by acknowledging long-ago rank is not a measure of present ability. He was fun, supportive of his son and other students, perfectly respectful, and quick to smile. I liked him. Still do.

As I mentioned in The Snarky Partner, I teach hold escapes not only as a basic self-defense technique, but as foundational training for partner work. That’s what the man and his son were learning, alongside another dozen or so new students. As usual, one of the first escapes I taught was a shoulder-hold escape: the bad guy grabs your shoulder, and you break the hold. It’s a totally simple technique I’ve taught and performed thousands of times. I not only know how to teach it in a few minutes, I know the counters, the means to avoid injury, the importance of release, and so forth. So I worked my way around the circle of young and older students, letting them each try it a couple of times with me as their partner, before reaching the father.

I reached up to take hold of his shoulder with my right hand. Just as I grabbed, a younger student starting spinning in place. I gave the child my attention for two seconds—”John, eyes on Sensei!”—and that’s when the father whipped his arm around to perform the escape.

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No matter how nice and skilled a stranger seems, never assume you share the same ground rules for contact. Not even shared terminology is a sign of safety. My version of “testing strikes” might not be anywhere near what you expect. You do not want to discover that difference during the flash-second face and fist share the same space.

Sharing and exploring martial arts with others is an awesome thing, and anyone you’d want to learn with won’t be affronted by establishing boundaries and setting expectations before things get physical. Students well-trained will appreciate and share your insistence on knowing parameters ahead of contact.

As always, questions and comments are most welcome!

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Blair MacGregor

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October 2016



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