Wrap-Around Cover Reveal of Unfettered II


Cover detail from Unfettered II edited by Shawn Speakman.

Those diagnosed with cancer have more to worry about than just the disease. I would know. I’ve had it twice.

When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, I was mentally prepared for it. I had gone through treatment for non-Hodgkins ten years earlier and always knew it could come back. This time was different though. I didn’t have health insurance. One of those unfortunate people blessed with a pre-existing condition that no health insurance company would cover. A bottom-line liability. A bad bet. Treating the cancer would bankrupt me instead of them. Such was life pre-ACA.

I decided early on I would not declare medical bankruptcy. I would not become a financial victim of cancer too. I reached out to friends, authors who I had known a long time. And they donated short stories to help.

Unfettered was the result. Sales of the anthology eliminated the debt.

Even then, I knew I would put together Unfettered II. I had to pay forward the help I received. I would help other authors eliminate their medical debt. And in this way, make our author community stronger for it.

As I was putting together the sequel anthology though, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer. She died forty-four days later. I won’t go into my personal pain. I will just say my mother cultivated my love of books and reading. She loved fantasy. And to honor her, Unfettered II became a duel-purpose anthology. All proceeds help alleviate author medical debt as well as cancer research.

Having met my mother several times, artist Todd Lockwood wanted to paint the cover.

In an exclusive reveal on Unbound Worlds, here is the wrap-around artwork for Unfettered II:


The artwork depicts “The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch,” my short story contribution to Unfettered II and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. My mother loved her garden and she is on the right. I will let you decide what the creature laying in wait under the dark bridge represents.

Twenty original new tales comprise Unfettered II and, as the title suggests, the writers were again free to contribute whatever they wished.

Here is the line-up:

  • Foreword by Terry Brooks
  • Bradley P. Beaulieu (Song of Shattered Sands)
  • Jim Butcher (Dresden Files)
  • Rachel Caine
  • Sarah Beth Durst (The Queens of Renthia)
  • David Farland (Runelords)
  • Charlaine Harris
  • Mark Lawrence (Gunlaw)
  • Erin Lindsey (Bloodbound)
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Aidan Moher
  • Naomi Novik
  • Peter Orullian (Vault of Heaven)
  • J.A. Pitts
  • Anthony Ryan (Raven’s Shadow)
  • Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive)
  • Scott Sigler
  • Shawn Speakman (Annwn Cycle)
  • Michael J. Sullivan (The Legends of the First Empire)
  • Django Wexler
  • Janny Wurts (Wars of Light and Shadow
  • Todd Lockwood (Cover Artist)
  • Don Maitz (Interior Illustrator)

I think my mother would have loved this anthology. You can learn more about it on Grim Oak Press.

With the help of New York Times bestselling authors as well as talented newcomers, I have taken the platform Unfettered created to not only confront medical debt but to support the battle against one of our gravest illnesses. Unfettered II is a fantastic sequel anthology but it is more than that; it is proof that we are stronger together than we are apart.

After all, isn’t that what genre fiction is all about?

The wrap-around cover for Unfettered II. Art by Todd Lockwood.