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The Story Behind The Story


Happy Halloween! After an unplanned hiatus, The Circus of Brass and Bone (Author's Note: published as A Circus of Brass and Bone) is back! It took longer than I thought it would, and a whole lot has happened in the meantime: two deaths among our family and close friends; the birth of our youngest child; two family health crises; and a state-mandated home renovation. When I returned to writing The Circus of Brass and Bone, I thought I would finish writing the whole story before resuming the serialization. So I wrote. And wrote. And kept writing. And eventually I discovered that I had written past the natural ending point and was halfway into the sequel before I realized it. The print and ebook editions will include a bonus novelette from this story overflow. Print and ebook editions, you ask? Why yes! The current plan is to have them available for purchase by Christmas.

If you're a little rusty on The Circus of Brass and Bone, here's where to start:
The beginning of it all - Episode 1
The beginning of the New York storyline - Episode 8
Right here, with Episode 17! (But read The Story So Far first.)

The next episode will be posted on Monday, November 10th, and new episodes will follow weekly on Monday until we reach the end. I hope you enjoy your Halloween treat!

Mom recovering in hospital after first surgery attempt. .

Update 1/19/2014:

This story has been written for and in memory of my mother. At this point, the medical bills she left behind have been taken care of. With that said, if you've enjoyed reading the story and would like to donate to support it, donations are more than welcome! With two small children, new expenses occur all the time. (Sigh.)

One-time donation


My mother died very recently. This story was started in her time of need. All donations go to help cover the costs of my mother's cancer treatment. She was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer while working at a school in India at the time of diagnosis, so she didn't have health insurance. My parents came back to the U.S. for treatment, so they both gave up their jobs. And they had spent much of their lives working to help others--working with farmers in Africa and teaching in India--so they don't really have anything in the way of a savings cushion.

She survived about 15 months after being diagnosed with ovarian and endometrial cancer. I don't say she struggled or battled or fought--she didn't like using violent imagery to describe it. She endured it with remarkable grace, and it seemed to leave her outwardly untouched for a very long time, even as it spread through her body. Up until the very end, she would run--and then walk--along the Sand Creek bike path, taking photographs that will be displayed in a gallery exhibit later this year.

In the last year of her life, she was able to do much. She saw her photographs from India exhibited in an art gallery. She held her first grandchild. She rejoiced in hearing from many of the people whose lives she had touched over the years. She told me how much it mattered to her that she got so much support from friends, family, and even total strangers who knew of her only from news articles or from The Circus of Brass and Bone. During the darkest days of her treatment, my mother found inspiration and comfort in the kindness of strangers.

One of the last things she did was to celebrate her 33 1/3 wedding anniversary. People came from all over the world to see her, to honor her life, and to say goodbye.

She died because breathing became just too difficult. When my aunt, a nurse, told my mother that she thought my mother would probably die that night, my mother's response was to give her two thumbs up. She was ready to go. And when she stopped breathing, she smiled before she died.

Her last coherent words were to my dad: "I love you."

She lived a rewarding and adventurous life, and she had a good death, though we all wish she could have stayed with us longer.

So what happens next with The Circus of Brass and Bone?

Well, I am constitutionally incapable of leaving things unfinished. Now that I'm back to writing, I hope to be able to put up new episodes about every month, as infant-rearing duties permit. During my mother's illness, some significant bills were racked up. Donations are still what keeps The Circus of Brass and Bone going, and every little bit will help. And if we hit the target donation by the end of the story, there will be a free ebook/audiobook final version circulated once all the editing and polishing and extras are put in and the print version is made. (We're a bit more than 2/3 of the way there already!)

Until next time, keep looking for the light in the darkness.

Abra Staffin-Wiebe

Circus of Brass and Bone

Cookie Wiebe, my mother, was very recently diagnosed with advanced (Stage 3c) ovarian and endometrial cancer. That's serious, but treatable--though the odds are not in her favor. When my parents found out, they were working at a school in India. That complicated things.

Because they were working in India, they don't have health insurance. Cookie's first plan was to get treated in India, where the costs are lower, but when the first attempted surgery didn't go well, the decision was made to come home to America for surgery and treatment. This meant leaving behind their jobs.

Because Cookie and her husband have spent much of their adult life helping others--working with farmers in Africa, teaching in India--they don't have much in the way of savings that can help with the costs.

No health insurance.
No jobs.
No savings cushion.
Desperate need of treatment for a serious diagnosis.
(Edited 2/11 to add: She recently qualified for insurance under Kansas' pre-existing condition insurance plan. Hooray! But the yearly deductible is very high, and the monthly cost is enough to rent an apartment with. At this point, we think she is looking at chemo treatments for the indefinite future and possibly more surgery. She can't work under these conditions and my father is still looking for work, though he's been able to pick up a few hours substitute teaching.)

I'm writing "The Circus of Brass and Bone" as an online serial to raise money to help with my mother's cancer treatment and associated costs. My mother is the kind of person who walks into a room filled with strangers and instantly makes ten new friends. Now, when she most needs help, I hope that knack will still be there.

How you can help:

* Donate! Every bit helps. Donate once or set up a recurring monthly donation (for the length of the serial story, or until you decide to end it--just let me know).

* Spread the word! Talk about "The Circus of Brass and Bone" to your friends, on your blog, on Twitter--wherever people might be interested.

* Keep talking about it. This is an ongoing need.

* Send some positive energy Cookie's way. All prayers and good wishes are really appreciated. She blogs at and twitters as cookiewiebe.