From Guns To Magic

Carolyn McBride
4 min readJul 19, 2022

How a pivot saved my sanity

Image taken by author within Skyrim

How did I go from writing about a small town in the woods with a rising crime problem, and a detective with a past full of pain to a woman who suddenly finds that she can tell the future by studying the stars?

Despite what my presence here on Medium tells you, I am a professional writer. I am a novelist, ghostwriter, and author of short stories and non-fiction.

You might know me as “that writer that teaches how to increase our self-reliance”.

That’s me.

For over a year, I dedicated myself to writing a mystery novel. It was set way up in the wilds of Canada with some pretty interesting characters (if I do say so myself), not to mention a very special wolf. I did a ton of research for the novel. I immersed myself in true crime podcasts, learned all I could about criminal psychology, and studied crime scene photographs and police interviews.

For over a year.

And then I started having doubts about the world we live in. What was the point of putting on a happy face if someone was being tortured and killed? When the nightmares started, I knew I’d plunged in too deeply. It was time to take a break.

Writing about why we needed to build our self-reliance wasn’t helping much. How could it when I was writing about societal collapse, the after-effect of war on the other side of the world and ever-rising prices that I doubted would ever go down? But I can’t stop teaching that. It’s too important.

But I did take a break from crime and mysteries. My mental health demanded it.

For something completely different that would allow me to escape, I took a suggestion from my Eldest Son. (Yes, I have always referred to him online as Eldest Son) He suggested I try playing games. I said something about being too old. He mentioned a YouTuber who was in her 80’s and played Skyrim. There went any objections I had. I had already seen glimpses of the game and it looked inviting, and I loved the background music, so off I went to YouTube and looked up this 80+-year-old powerhouse.

Grandma Shirley, as she’s known online, looks like a mild-mannered, meek little old lady. Watching the documentary about her proved otherwise. I was immediately captivated by her charm and easy-going approach, as have 1.1million other fans. Yes, she really does have that many. YouTube even sent her their golden button award in recognition of her milestone! Shirley does game playthroughs for a variety of her characters, shares her thoughts via vlogs, and even wrote a novel based on her gameplay, which she would read chapters from once a week. She’s been doing this for years.

Grandma Shirley’s in-game character, taken by author

I had no excuse not to check out the game I already thought was interesting. Well, besides the price. So while I worked on a ghostwriting project to pay for the game, I watched Grandma Shirley and plunged back into my first reading love — fantasy novels.

My nightmares finally went away and I found a reason to look forward to going online every morning with my coffee.

Eventually, I got Skyrim and figured out how to play it with the help of Eldest Son and online player guides. It was everything my Son had said. It was exactly what my mental health needed.

I don’t play all the time. I’m responsible for five other people here, the house, the cat and as I mentioned before, I’m a professional writer. That doesn’t happen without putting words down.

But as is my way, I was up with insomnia one night, wondering what would happen if one of my characters took a left on the road and ran into a courier who was looking for her. What would happen if my character had latent abilities that were genetic but never made themselves known until she followed the courier back and…

My creativity and questions could not be stopped.

What happened after that is a tale for tomorrow, but I can tell you that there is an evil Count, a rebellion, a magic tower, and the main character that will change her world.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll introduce you to Naledi Meridian.



Carolyn McBride

I’m a self-sufficiency enthusiast, an author of novels & short stories, a reader, a gardener, lover of good chocolate, coffee & life in the woods.