Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Refusing the Gift of Gossip And Rumors Gives You A Superpower

While listening to the Polyweekly podcast (#483 - "Dealing with the gossip mill after coming out") I heard one of the hosts, "LustyGuy", relate a story about the Buddha to explain how he handles the rumor mill.
From Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents (Condra Enterprises, 2005).

One day, the Buddha and a large following of monks and nuns were passing through a village. The Buddha chose a large shade tree to sit beneath so the group could rest awhile out of the heat. He often chose times like these to teach, and so he began to speak. Soon, villagers heard about the visiting teacher and many gathered around to hear him.

One surly young man stood to the side, watching, as the crowd grew larger and larger. To him, it seemed that there were too many people traveling from the city to his village, and each had something to sell or teach. Impatient with the bulging crowd of monks and villagers, he shouted at the Buddha, "Go away! You just want to take advantage of us! You teachers come here to say a few pretty words and then ask for food and money!"

But the Buddha was unruffled by these insults. He remained calm, exuding a feeling of loving-kindness. He politely requested that the man come forward. Then he asked, "Young sir, if you purchased a lovely gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom does the gift then belong?"

The odd question took the young man by surprise. "I guess the gift would still be mine because I was the one who bought it."

"Exactly so," replied the Buddha. "Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses, if I do not get insulted and angry in return, these curses will fall back upon you—the same as the gift returning to its owner."

The young man clasped his hands together and slowly bowed to the Buddha. It was an acknowledgement that a valuable lesson had been learned. And so the Buddha concluded for all to hear, "As a mirror reflects an object, as a still lake reflects the sky: take care that what you speak or act is for good. For goodness will always cast back goodness and harm will always cast back harm."
I've had some pretty ugly rumors circulate about me in my life. REALLY ugly ones.

It's galling - especially when you try to hold yourself to an ideal - to find that others are spreading falsehoods behind your back.

But, in a strange way, it's a gift. It's a superpower, almost.

Because you'll find out who is smart enough and wise enough to find out the truth for themselves, and who is foolish and petty enough to just believe the rumors.

Because you'll find out very quickly who your real friends are.

And you'll find out just as quickly who to avoid.

All while refusing the gift of their rumors.

How To Determine Someone's Intentions In One Easy Step

Sometimes situations can be read in two different ways. Was that person being rude, or were they just clueless? Were they truly sensitive, or being an asshat? Were they genuinely unaware of the ramifications of what they were saying, or were they just hijacking terms of concern and caring in order to further their own agenda?

For me, there's usually a pretty simple way to determine this - but it requires cutting through the societal norm of "politeness" in order to do so.

It's by calling out the behavior in question.

I mentioned a version of this back in 2013 when working with people with Asperger's. The short form goes like this:

When someone is acting in a way that could be seen as rude, ask them if they meant to be rude.

The non-neurotypical person (or the neurotypical person, for that matter) will get upset that they upset you and apologize. They will be unaware of the way their words were perceived.

The same thing applies in other social situations as well. Simply state how you perceived the statement or action that just happened, and ask the person if that's what they meant to do.

Their reaction - and their following action - will tell you everything.

Because it's not just the initial reaction (or denial) that indicates where their head is at, but how they act from then on.

And that gives you the information to know where they're really coming from.

Without using this technique you run the risk of emotional self-diagnosis and deciding that someone is malevolent when they're just stumbling while learning to walk. Or - and arguably worse - you leave yourself vulnerable to those who would otherwise do you harm.

Welcome Delicious Friend! - Discover The Best Hyperlinked Story Out There in Fallen London

Hello, delicious friend!

This post will be of especial interest to those who like steampunk and the like, but all writers and authors should check it out - because something we were all looking for happened, and we didn't notice it.

I last mentioned Fallen London in terms of its beautiful soundtrack, but it definitely deserves a mention in terms of its writing as well. Because it has managed to actually create the hyperlinked story that everyone was expecting last decade (and do it last decade!) and avoid literary notice... because it's billed as a game.

The idea of a hyperlinked story excited the imaginations of many writers and publishers - but nobody really made a good one... at least, one that was recognized publicly as one.  It's arguable that the indie game revolution which celebrated, at least in part, text games like Zork also deserve a place here, but because they required a specific bit of software, I don't include them here.

Fallen London, in contrast, only requires your browser.  I mean, it even works with a text-only browser, as shown below:

Fallen London in a text-only browser
But I find myself using a modern browser and even playing the soundtrack in the background to add to the ambiance.

Fallen London in a modern browser
The basic "hook" of the story is simple:  London, sometime during the gaslight era, was stolen away by bats.  As FailBetter Games puts it:
Thirty years ago, London was stolen. Now it rests on the shore of the Unterzee, that old dark ocean under the world. Hell is close, immortality is cheap, and the screaming has largely stopped…
But that's only the start of the story. It covers so many places and locations that I have only begun to scratch the surface.

A map of most of Fallen London
It's great from a casual perspective because your actions are refreshed over time. (You can gain more by being an "exceptional friend" - e.g. paying - but it's not required at all.) Play for a little bit, leave it be while you do other work, then return for a break.

But more importantly - and the reason I wanted to write more about it here - is because there's a deep and rich story here. While you'll find areas of grinding, they're all in service of story and finding out more about the world of Fallen London and the Unterzee. A plethora of "storylets" will slowly, delightfully, spin out before you as you explore and do more in this world.

And it's this aspect - now that I've played several of the major branches - that is most impressive. Stories involving the sudden appearance of a daughter, of a rumored shop that can change your face, or strange plants growing up from your floorboards are just a small sample of the tales you'll uncover.

This is truly one of the first - and best - hyperlinked stories that exist.

And yes, you can write for them as well.

Check out Fallen London now, delicious friend. And see what hyperlinked stories really look like.

And feel free to message me as Senor Wombat there. He's from Down Under ... er, before London became even more down under.


Remember that everyone's illogical sometimes. Even (gasp!) me.

When someone acts - especially temporarily - in a way that doesn't mesh with either what they say or how they normally behave, it's important to not judge them too harshly while still reminding them of their ideals.

Yes, of course a persistent disconnect between what someone says and does - or between their ideals and actions - is a Big Problem.

Let me use myself as an example.1

I had an ex-girlfriend whom I wished the best to. While we didn't part on the greatest of terms, it wasn't overall a bad breakup. We stayed in occasional contact, nothing big. I told everyone I was just fine.

And then I saw a picture of her with a new significant other on social media.

I got really upset, which surprised both me and some of my friends I vented to.

"She's happier, Steve," they told me. "Isn't that what you wanted? Don't you keep going on about how people should do that compersion thing?"

And it was true.

But that did not mean I'd suddenly changed into another person.

I was being an irrational human, who espouses (and tries to live up to) ideals that I don't always reach.

Luckily, my friends quickly realized what was going on. They were empathetic about the feelings I was experiencing, understanding that I was temporarily illogical, and simultaneously nudging me back toward my own ideals and the way I want to behave.

And with that experience - with that practice - I was able to behave even closer to my ideals the next time a similar situation occurred.

One of these days, I might even get it right.


1 Remember my artistic license policy.

Get my eBooks at almost half price and help change someone's life at the same time!

I'll be honest - I didn't think a powered wheelchair would make that big of a difference in someone's life.

I was wrong.

I found out how wrong I was when I read about Tiffany (pictured above):

Tiffany is 35 years old and three feet tall. She has a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta type 3, or brittle bone disease.

Because of OI, Tiffany can't walk and her bones break very easily. She was born with broken bones, and has broken bones over 200 times since then. She has had surgeries to put rods in both of her legs and a spinal fusion. She has never let OI slow her down, though! She is one of the most outgoing people I've ever known, and she has always done anything she can to help a friend in need. She is a single mom to Jasmyn, who is 8-years-old and just as spirited as her mother! Jasmyn has learned to help Tiffany with everyday tasks that most of us take for granted. Tiffany has always found a way to do anything, but it warms my heart to see Jas help with things like getting Tiffany's wheelchair into their van.

Tiffany has a manual wheelchair, which works best for going out in public, as it's easy to get in their van that does not have a wheelchair lift. However, power wheelchairs are really best for her because they help her to reach higher surfaces like countertops, the sink, the stove, and the washing machine. When Tiffany breaks an arm, finger, or dislocates a shoulder, she can't push herself in her manual wheelchair. A power chair is vital to her day-to-day life. Unfortunately, hers has broken and she has exhausted all avenues of getting a new one through insurance.
After reading about this, I decided to kick in some money to help Tiffany get a powered wheelchair.  Not only did I do that, but I decided to put some of my own eBooks up as rewards to help encourage folks to do the same.

If you contribute $5 or more, you'll get DRM free copies of my flash fiction collections Pencils Made This Scar and Bought Love is a Salaried Position and my short story collection Kicking The Habit.  That's almost half off the normal price of those digital books.

They'll come to you in PDF, ePub, and Kindle formats, so you should have no problem reading them no matter what technology you have.  (And I'll include a guide to help you read them as well.)

If you'd like to help - or if you just want the eBooks at this discounted rate - head over to right away - this only lasts while the campaign does!