Two years ago today, I had brain surgery. It’s still very weird to write that sentence. Brain surgery. Those words belong in a phrase about how something should be that complicated, as in: “It’s not brain surgery.”

It’s a truthful phrase. Because brain surgery is complicated. And brain surgeons are, thankfully, brilliant. Mine certainly was.

Those of you who have been with this blog for a while know the background here, but for those of you joining me more recently, let me explain. Or, as one of my favorite characters of all time says: “No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

Almost three years ago, I started falling apart. I was injuring myself doing everyday activities. Standing up from a seated position on the floor became increasingly difficult (because I had no strength). And worse, I was occasionally having trouble speaking. Like, I couldn’t make words. I would sit there like a goldfish out of water trying to breathe, opening my mouth but nothing would happen.

Then, the really weird symptoms started. I would get numbness in my right hand that would spread slowly up my arm in a bizarre footlong band and into my upper body. Once it hit the midline of my torso, it would go away. It would travel to different places in my upper body. Sometimes across my back, sometimes into my face, sometimes into my chest. It was the weirdest thing I have ever felt.

Then, I started having trouble typing. And writing. The final straw was when I couldn’t figure out how to make the letter “r.”

Once that started, I could no longer pretend this was just normal aging. Something was seriously wrong. It occurred to me that I might be dying. I was terrified.

My doctor ordered an MRI, but we had to fight with the insurance company to approve the test. My symptoms, taken separately, mimicked other things in a lot of ways.

But in my efforts to research what was going on (yes, I do that), I had made a comprehensive list of every strange thing that was happening. That list is what gave my doctor the ammunition to fight the insurance company and get the MRI approved.

I went in for the test on a Monday afternoon. I had spent the morning working, then my husband dropped me off for test and waited in the parking lot. (That alone tells me that we both knew something was seriously wrong with me.)

Forty-five minutes and one MRI later, I sent my husband a text he’ll never forget: “Being admitted to ER. Please come.”

Turns out I was right about the whole dying thing.

I had surgery that Friday to remove a 5cm atypical meningioma. Although not technically a brain-cell tumor (it’s a tumor of abnormal cells from the brain lining), it had gotten so large that it was compressing several parts of my brain (5cm is about the size of a mandarin orange). It was causing simple partial seizures (the inability to speak or write, the weird crawling numbness in my arm). And it was causing damage to other systems as well, including my memory and muscle coordination. The doctors were surprised I was still walking.

The surgery removed the tumor, but was just the beginning of my recovery. I’m still closely monitored (I’ll be getting MRIs regularly for the rest of my life), and it took a year to fully recover from the surgery.

I was just about to discover what my new normal would be when the pandemic hit…

In some ways, my brain surgery prepared me for the pandemic. (I spent April and May of 2019 locked down in my house, too, for starters.)

In many ways, my brain surgery was a blessing. I take much better care of myself now, and I don’t take things for granted. Thankfully, I no longer have seizures, and the permanent damage is minimal and, although sometimes frustrating, I’ve found ways to cope with the lasting effects.

One of those lasting effects involves my memory. I have gaps now. The best way I can describe it is like a movie that you’re not sure you’ve seen. It sounds vaguely familiar. But once you start watching it, you remember it. In my case, once I get enough information prompts, I can fill the rest in on my own.

The biggest gaps are in the time period before and after my surgery.

One of those gaps was the stories in Fiction River Special Edition: Spies. The volume published the week I was in the hospital. And I had no memory of it, even though I worked on it (and a number of other projects) while I was in the hospital (yeah, I know, Type A much?).

But it’s part of a new StoryBundle Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who edited that volume, is curating. So, I got to read those stories again and jog my memory.

You can, too, if you missed it. In addition to Spies, the Secrets & Lies bundle includes Kris’ eponymous ten-story collection, Dean Wesley Smith’s Dead Hand: A Cold Poker Gang Novel, and seven other fantastic books.

Here’s a bit from Kris on the bundle:

Nothing makes for a better foundation for a crime novel than a secret. The best way to keep a secret? Tell a lie. That’s why secrets and lies go so well together. Every book in this bundle contains a secret, which means lies fill all of them as well. In this bundle, bestselling, award-winning authors from around the world bring crimes from around the world, sometimes adding a supernatural element.

You can get all ten books in this bundle for only $15. Read more about all the books in the bundle, including one StoryBundle exclusive, here.

As always, StoryBundles are a heck of a deal.

And while we’re talking about great deals, you have just a couple more days to get in on the Return of the Fey Kickstarter. We’re unlocked seven stretch goals so far and are working towards the eighth! Click here to see all the amazing rewards you can get for as little as $5!

And today of all days, I’m extra grateful to be here to tell you about these books (and that I can still remember all the words to The Princess Bride ).

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.