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Sunday, December 28, 2014

“Lori,” Jesse whispers, clutching me tighter. “Lori, I think you’re going insane.”

It is in one of the in-between times, when Mom has decided to let me out for a while. Perhaps she has grown fearful of Social Services. Perhaps she intends to inspect the house from roots to rafters and wants me out of the way. Perhaps she’s simply sick of watching me all day and all night. I don’t know. I know better than to question it.

My friends and I are at a hotel for a school function of some sort. I don’t remember exactly why. Band, or perhaps Key Club? It doesn’t matter. I have reached a point where nothing seems very real anymore.

I am wearing an orange dress my mother bought me. It’s hideous, but I don’t realize that until later. Jesse is with me. He is holding me. I am grateful for that.
We are on one of the upper floors. We are beside a railing. It overlooks the center of the hotel. We are talking. I don’t know what about.

I can see us standing there together. Me in that ugly orange dress with my hair cut short, my face buried in his shoulder. Him with his arms wrapped in a circle around me. I can see it, see it as if I’m above it and not inside it, and in my mind I’ve gotten up onto the railing and I’m teetering there, on the verge of going over, and I don’t know how to stop it; don’t know if I even care anymore about trying to stop it.

“Lori,” Jesse whispers, clutching me tighter. “Lori, I think you’re going insane.”

* * *

This is an excerpt from my memoir On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter's Memoir of Mental Illness. I described in this post how I recently inquired of some of my high school friends whether they had in their possession any photos I might be able to use in assembling my book trailer. Imagine my reaction when my friend Ben – who was always the big picture-taker of the group – responded with this photograph:

Photo courtesy of Ben Sanford
Stunned and happy and heartbroken. To see that moment, captured forever on film, somehow makes it all the more devastating, all the more real. The picture can’t tell what we were saying or thinking. Yet somehow it does. Somehow, it does.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Here’s What’s on Top of My Christmas Tree – What’s on Yours?

I'm helping Angela and Hugh raise up to £250 for charity by sharing what's on top of my Christmas tree! This year blogger Hugh Roberts and his "special lady" Angela have committed to donating £1 for each comment or pingback to Angela and Hugh’s Christmas Tree Topper Challenge. You can check out all of the entries here, but first let me show you my Christmas tree topper:


That's right - I have my very own Abominable Snow Monster! For years now he's been coming by once a year in order to place a star on top of my tree. Is it wrong that this is my favorite part of Christmas? I'm neither very sentimental nor very religious, but somehow seeing the Abominable hovering at the top of my tree fills me with... well, I guess you'd have to call it Christmas spirit!

So what's on the top of your Christmas tree?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Assembling a Book Trailer - Part I

As some of you saw, last week I posted my first book trailer for On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened (I've included it again at the end of this post if you missed it). After I posted it, I got a request from one of my followers to explain how I went about making it. Terrific idea, I thought – I’m totally stealing it!

Let me start off by saying that I did not want to do a typical book trailer. Most of the ones that I’ve seen I think are too long or too dull, spending image after image detailing plot points or posing questions the book purports to answer. At the other extreme, you also see Hollywood-style trailers, which are usually very well-done cinematically, but often make me want to see the movie rather than read the book!

The second most influential factor for me was the realization that trailers, like other forms of visual marketing, are very expensive to have made. It’s not the kind of thing a writer will generally want to do for him or herself because it simply isn’t in their realm of expertise. In my case, however, cash proved to be king. I wanted a trailer and I wanted one now – later on, I reasoned, if it seemed worth the expense, I could have one professionally done.

However, given that my knowledge in this area is severely limited, and my experience with digital media slight, I cast aside some of the early daydreams I had had of gorgeous cinematography, professional graphics, and a custom soundtrack to fit the action. Over-shooting my own skill level, I feared, would only result in an inferior product. I might mess up a sausage soufflĂ© – and why attempt one when I know I can make a mean breakfast burrito? It would be better to make a trailer that was technically simpler, but hopefully equally as meaningful.

The second problem was this – I had no idea what the trailer was going to be about. I wanted a trailer that would evoke the mood of my story without attempting to tell it, which meant emphasizing feel over plotline. I also wanted it to be short, yet the moments from my book that I had considered utilizing required camera work that I just wasn’t sure I could effectively accomplish. I began ruminating over the idea of maybe including some images from my hometown – the problem being, of course, that I don’t have any. So I contacted those few high school friends with whom I’ve stayed loosely in touch and asked around to see if anyone had any pictures or videos that might be suitable for me.

My hopes in this quest were very, very low. First there was the issue of quality, because naturally pictures from twenty-some odd years ago were generally not in digital format. Secondly, unless the images were of me specifically - which, in my mind, was not necessarily a selling point! - I would be unable to use any that contained recognizable people because I wouldn’t have model releases for them.

My friend John Lin responded with a handful of photos from his graduation, which was the year before mine. Most of them were, as I suspected, unusable, as they were mostly of him and his family, and the quality, too, left much to be desired. And in any case, I still didn’t know what I would do with them. They weren’t even my pictures. This was not my graduation.

And that’s when it hit me – this was not my graduation.

I have almost no memories of my high school graduation. Most of what I remember about that day was the thrill of knowing that I would be free once it was over. My happiness over unexpectedly meeting my boyfriend after the ceremony, who had graduated a year ahead of me and whom I hadn’t expected to see again before I left for good. The tension of knowing that the car I had bought without my mother knowing was waiting for me on the street behind our house, waiting for me to pack up and leave. I don’t remember anything like what John no doubt remembers – receiving his diploma, being with his friends and family, throwing his cap in the air. Those things were utterly irrelevant to me. Same type of day, entirely different experience.

I flipped through his photos again, saddened somehow by what they had revealed. There was one in particular that showed students streaming down the lawn from our high school building down to the field with a TV crew filming. The photo was blurry – but how perfect for me, because you couldn’t make out any of the students’ faces. It was someone else’s high school graduation. But in another life, it might have been mine.

I went to and began searching for photos. I wanted typical things, people and objects of which most kids would keep pictures. Their homes, their friends, their pets – maybe even their parents.

It took maybe two hours. Again, there was the issue of model releases, which prevented me from using some of the images I might have liked for me and my mother. And since I preferred free photos over paid ones, I had to dig a little deeper into my well of creativity, as I simply couldn’t find suitable photos for some of my initial ideas.

Once I had assembled the photos, the text was easy. And once I found a site that features royalty-free music, the soundtrack was easy, too. I won’t cover the technical aspects of assembling the project here, as this post is long enough already, but I am going to put together a video that will walk those of you who are interested through the whole process from start to finish. The technicalities of this type of sequence aren’t terribly difficult to master, although there are certainly some tricks that can make it easier.

But the big thing for me was coming up with the idea. Once I had the idea, the rest of it fell into place. So if you’re considering making your own trailer, my advice is to ask yourself these three questions:

1) What do you want to express in the trailer? A story, a mood, a character, a state of mind, an event?

2) What style do you want for your trailer? Will that style effectively convey whatever you said you wanted to achieve in your answer to Question 1?

3) Are you technically capable of achieving your vision for your trailer? Does it need to be flashy, or will simple suit you better? Will your fancy trailer look stupid if you can’t pull it off, or will your plain trailer be too dull even if you assemble it well?

One last important thing to consider is where you will be promoting your trailer. For me, my main outlets are Wordpress and Twitter, both of which consist of audiences that are fairly forgiving. There’s a certain amount of leniency people are willing to grant if your ceramic ashtray is homemade – and for some that may even increase its charm. But if you’re looking to win competitions or be featured on fancy promotional websites, then you might want to consider making an investment in a professional product. Don’t, however, get stuck on the idea that many writers seem to, which is thinking that you can only have one trailer. For the amount of time and money they take to put together, you can make as many as you like, of whatever styles and lengths you like. You are limited only by the size of your own imagination.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Promotional Site - Free Kindle Books and Tips

My memoir is up today on Free Kindle Books and Tips:

From what I hear, this is supposed to be one of the better promotional sites. As to how the resulting sales are going, so far, so good, but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed ;)

Thank You: An Open Letter to the Friends of My Youth

I am honored to have a guest post featured on

"Thank You: An Open Letter to Those Who Stood By Me During Mom's Mental Illness"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Life Raft - Guest Post by Elena (Mrs. Bipolar)

My cell phone rings. It’s 2:30 a.m., but it hasn't woken me. Sleep has abandoned me for weeks, to be replaced by worry and thoughts of rearranging my future. I do not need to look; I know that it's him.


"I need you." Quietly and softly. A tone of voice I haven't heard in months.

Instinctively I pick up my keys and go to the car. Thoughts begin to race through my mind as I drive. He left you. He says it's over. After all his illness has put you through, why are you going to go to feed the mania? But something in his voice had the whisper of my husband. A faint hint of the reason why I fight so hard and forgive so easily.

As I pull up to the hotel and get out of the car, the cold snap of the wind slaps me in the face as if it’s trying to remind me why he's here. He can't live in our home anymore. The laughter and conversation has been replaced by anger, aggressiveness and arguments. The illness is winning. It wasn't so much that he left me as that I let him go. I'm exhausted. So tired from the battle. A battle that seems to be so entrenched in him right now that no amount of medication can halt the forces.

I enter the room and he's standing there, waiting for me. His eyes look at me with such longing. A longing that says come and find me, I'm still here. I see the man I married. He strips me of my clothes and takes away all of my insecurities as easily and naturally as a caterpillar sheds its cocoon. I step into the light, naked both emotionally and physically. I'm not the tall, tanned, slender girl I once was. The years and the illness have taken their toll.

He inhales as if catching his breath. "You're beautiful."

I'm not sure if he is reminding himself or reassuring me. I let him take over, and explore my body. His touch is slow and gentle, comforting in its familiarity. And yet at the same time, it is filled with a newness, a rediscovery. His hands and mouth cover me as if to memorize my body. My skin burns from his breath, his lips, his kiss. I press myself to him, urging him to move faster, but he's lost in the pleasure of my excitement. Only after he feels my body shudder and go still does he climb on top of me. I feel the animal instinct that is driving him. He makes love to me with such passion and need that it spills forth in a crescendo that leaves us both gasping. We lay intertwined, in body and soul. Each of us holding tight to the other as if we were life rafts; as if we were saving one another from drowning.

Reality begins to sneak back in like smoke beneath the door of a burning building. My emotions take control. I can't let him see me cry. I know that the illness will soon return and it will use any weakness I exhibit to wedge its way between us. I have to get out.

He asks me to stay, but I get dressed and leave. The door slams behind me, locking the moment behind it. The sun is rising. In a few hours we will be back at the hospital, seeing psychiatrists, therapists and doctors. I am overcome with the feeling that this is the beginning of the end. What end, I do not know.

* * *

Elena left her retail corporate job over a year ago and began a journey to mold the next chapter of her life by her own rules. She loves to keep a journal and write short stories so it was an easy transition for her to enter the world of blogging. Though it has been an ongoing learning curve, she has jumped in with both feet. Now on the precipice of 50, she has begun a blog to share her humor and bits of wisdom as a woman entering into the prime of her life. You can join her on her quest for serenity at

On a personal note, Elena was a divorced, professionally educated woman raising two children alone when she met her second husband. After a whirlwind romance, they married and blended their families. Together they have four wonderful children, three dogs, two cats and one very busy, noisy house!

Elena’s current husband was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1 very soon after they were married. To raise awareness for mental illnesses, she shares her personal experiences as the spouse of a bipolar person on her second blog,, which she co-authors with another blogger living with bipolar, giving a twin perspective on the disorder. This blog has recently been nominated for Best In Show and Rookie of the Year in the Wego Health Activist Awards. Please visit and endorse her nomination here:


Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Had Promised Myself That I Would Do No Writing

December 6, 2014

I had promised myself that I would do no writing. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Coming from a writer. Some writers have to force themselves to sit down and write. Others have to force themselves not to.

For thirty days following my book’s release, I had intended to do no writing. For months now I have done nearly no writing. Only blog posts and interviews; tweets and requests for reviews. I wanted to complete my media kit and compose press releases; I wanted to post my already-written stories on a multitude of sharing sites, and register my book with the hundreds that offer free promos to authors. I wanted to be able to look back on my launch and know that whatever came of it, I had done what I could to ensure its success.

I didn’t quite make it. I broke down last Saturday – in a very big way. I didn’t even edit, or return to completing one of my several works in progress; I began a new novel. The first day I wrote three thousand words, the day after that, four thousand more. Yesterday I did nothing else and added seven thousand words to the project; in seven days I’ve written twenty-seven thousand words in a book that a week ago I hadn’t even conceived. Today I wrote most of a four-thousand word short story, plus a thousand-word blog post, plus this little one here – I simply don’t want to stop. I don’t want to stop.

I had forgotten how easy it was, how smoothly the words could flow and fly off my fingers, how frustrating it could be to be hampered not by my mind but by the slow speed of my typing and the ability of my back to tolerate being hunched for long hours over a computer. I had forgotten how good it feels to do it, to relax and fall into it, what it means to be working at writing instead of working at promoting my writing.

I forced myself to forget. I didn’t want to remember. I needed to be promoting; I didn’t need to be writing. But now I wonder if maybe I did.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rest Stop

It was hot; Texas-hot, hot like she’d never known. It relieved her to gush forth from the car, to leave the non-air-conditioned enclosure for the open heat, heat that seemed more natural, less oppressive and confining somehow. She looked ruefully down at her body: tank top soaked with great splashes of sweat, denim cutoffs sticking rudely to her skinny thighs. Embarrassing.

Her windshield stood splattered, smashed with insects, unfamiliar enough in their unwrecked form and unrecognizable at all now, their gooey guts of green and yellow speckled and crushed all over everything, everywhere. Resisting the full force of her forearm and the gas-station window-washer, they clung tight to the tempered glass, insistent stowaways for the remainder of her journey.

“Where you headed?” a voice called out.

She glanced up and saw him, an affable-looking man in his late thirties, perhaps early forties, bearing a bit of an accent but no cowboy hat; maybe a local, and maybe not one. There were only two of them there; he had to be speaking to her. She supposed there was no harm in answering.

“California,” she said, bending her elbow again to the window.

“That’s a long way off,” he replied, whistling softly.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed.

He approached her, thumbs tucked into the pockets of his own full-length dungarees, evidently immune to the heat.

“Say, that’s an expensive trip,” he observed. “You, uh — you got enough money to get there?”

Instantly she was on her guard. She circled casually around to the other side of the car, in the direction of the shop and its sleepy attendant. Was he going to rob her? Find out if she had any cash and then knock her down and take it? Instinctively she felt for it with the muscles of her behind, the wallet tucked tightly into her back pocket, crammed into a space too small for its contents, and plastered there now with sweat and fear.

“I think I’ve got enough,” she equivocated, ears burning with the lie.

“You sure?” he prodded encouragingly, penetrating her with moist periwinkle-blue eyes. “Because I, uh, know where you could make some — you know — some extra money. If you needed it.”

So he wasn’t going to rob her; he was offering her a job. The windshield was nearly clean now but she continued scrubbing, pondering the proposal. She wondered what kind of work it would be. Day labor, no doubt. But didn’t people usually want young men for that kind of thing?

He stood smiling kindly, warmly down at her, almost fatherly in aspect. She really could use the money. It had already been two days since she’d eaten. Was saving the rest of it for fuel.

“Thanks,” she said finally, deciding. “But I’m in a hurry; better get going.”

“You’re sure you won’t change your mind?” he replied, a hint of pleading in his voice.

“No,” she asserted. “But thank you for the offer.”

What a nice fellow, she thought as she headed back towards the highway. People sure were friendly down here in Texas. They sure were friendly.


“Rest Stop” is the true story of something that happened to me when I was seventeen. I had run away from my home in Massachusetts shortly after graduation, and now found myself baking in the scorching heat of July in rural Texas. I was supposed to start school at U.C. Berkeley that fall, but since I was still underage and therefore subject to recall if caught, I was understandably anxious about conserving the little money I had, as I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for a kid with no parents, no home, and no local references to find a job. Being mathematically minded, I quite naturally spent the long miles driving in calculating a fairly precise budget, which, once I’d paid for necessities like gas and oil, had little room in it for luxuries like food. And then I stopped at this gas station and here was this wonderful man asking me earnestly if I had enough money to get where I was going or whether I wanted to earn a little extra to tide me over until I arrived safely at my intended destination.

I’m embarrassed to admit now that I was just as naive as the girl in the story. I spent a lot of time traveling alone in the years that followed, and was propositioned numerous times by other equally friendly fellows seeking the company of a young woman for an afternoon or an hour. But this was the first such occasion, and I was so utterly confounded by this man’s incomprehensible behavior that I spent many miles pondering it in my head. Why had this stranger been so inexplicably nice? Who offers money to a girl he doesn’t even know, in exchange for services he isn’t sure she’s qualified to perform? I’d probably driven a good half hour before comprehension finally came roaring into my addled teenaged brain and I understood that I’d come unbelievably close to becoming an unwitting body for hire. At length amusement over the incident replaced my horror, and at least the next time it happened, I was prepared with a polite, “No, thank you, sir.”

* * *

“Rest Stop” is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past. You can learn more about it by visiting the book's webpage or by clicking the image below to be taken to the Amazon details page:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Help an Indie Author in Her Bid to Reach #1 in Amazon's Kindle Store!

And no, it isn't me. I'm afraid I'd need a truly massive amount of help to make that happen!

But Lilo Abernathy certainly has a shot. Her urban fantasy/paranormal romance/mystery The Light Who Shines (Bluebell Kildare Series Book 1) currently stands at about #6,800 in the Kindle Store - which as those of you who have released books on Amazon know, is pretty dang high. Well, Lilo's book has performed so well in the ten months since its release that Amazon has selected it as a Kindle Daily Deal and will be offering at the reduced price of $1.99 this Thursday, November 20th, for one day only.

Now Lilo has it on good authority that it is possible for a Kindle Daily Deal to result in up to 3,000 downloads in a day - and that it may take as few as 3,500 copies sold in a day to reach that precious #1 spot. So she's enlisting the aid of all of her author friends in a cooperative attempt to make that happen.

"Great!" I hear you thinking. "What can I do to help?"

Thanks for asking! The simple answer - share, share, share! Like me, Lilo is very active on Twitter (@Lilo_Abernathy) and also on Facebook (she's created an events page here), so on Thursday, if you could share her tweets or her posts in the venue of your choice, that would be tremendously helpful. She will also be updating her Blogger blog with a post to share if you prefer to do that instead. And if you're really feeling ambitious, you can start a couple of days ahead of time and recruit others to help out, too - hence this post! As Lilo is not on Wordpress, feel free to re-blog my post if you like - whatever it takes to get the word out.

Not much of a social sharer? No problem! Click the image below to check out her book - for only $1.99, you might just want to buy it! ;)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Your book is available for sale in Kindle Store! ‏

That’s the email you get when your pre-order goes live. It happens at midnight, all around the globe, at a different time in every market in which your book is being sold. It’s four o’clock right now where I live. This one was for the UK. 

My book has been available in Australia for roughly ten hours. It will hit here in five or in eight – I don’t know what time zone Amazon uses in figuring twelve o’clock, here in the United States.

Only five to eight hours. I confess I’m not ready – not close to ready. Not only because I still have guest blog posts to write, not only because I have yet to make trailers or even my tweets, not only because I haven’t yet chosen what sites I am going to use for promotion. I’m simply not ready to know.

I’m not ready to know whether my book’s going to sell. I’m not ready to learn whether the months of pre-release preparation will have been worth it or a complete waste of my time; I’m not ready to see my book flop, flounder, or fail, or what is most likely, get lost in the shuffle of millions of others that no one will find.

It’s a great book, if you don’t mind my saying. Although, as always, there will probably be some who won’t like it, I expect, in general, that it will be well-read, well-received, and well-reviewed. That is, if anyone finds it, if anyone buys it, and if it gets any reviews.
There’s a hollow in the pit of my stomach that visits me rarely; I have few occasions in my life that prompt this response that most people call nerves. My body is tired and my brain is exhausted but there’s still so much to do, so much to prepare, so much to research, so much to write. 

I wish that so much of my future wasn’t dependent upon this. I wish that I could write books and not have to sell them; I wish more than anything not to have to rely upon selling them. I wish I were sitting on the beach in Oxnard and that it was warm and that there was sun and that I was writing a book and not trying to sell one.

If wishes were horses…

… I’d grab hold of the nearest stallion and let him run me all the way to Utah.

This ought to be fun, I think, not a day filled with dread, but it’s still better, still better than what tomorrow may bring, or the day after that, or the following week, or the month after next. Still better than knowing what I don’t want to know, still better than facing the fact that countless authors have faced in the opening moments of their potential careers – that it makes no difference if your work is good, if no one ever reads it.

But I’ve still got my rooftop: I’ve still got my greenhouse; I’ve still got my sunshine. And if I still have far too many blog posts to write, that’s all right, too, because at least I am writing. It feels good to be writing. Not good enough to de-tangle my nerves or de-jiggle my jitters or fill the hole in my heart where there ought not to be one. But close. Close enough to keep trying.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I'm Sick of the Sound of My Own Voice - But I Hope You're Not!

Well, I've finally done it! I've finished editing the audiobook of On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened. I confess it was a much more laborious process than I had originally anticipated, and even now I'm not sure I'm quite going to meet ACX's specifications. I suspect that I may have to do a bit more digital manipulation and possibly even some re-recording before they give it the go-ahead, but with only three days remaining until my book release, I'm thrilled just to move it to one of my two dozen back burners for a while.

I'll admit that I was surprised to learn that my book cover would have to be reformatted for the audiobook. I mean, I understand why they want a square cover - presumably to mimic the look of a CD, laserdisc, or vinyl record - but in the current digital age, it doesn't really seem as if it should matter, particularly when the cover is for browsing purposes only and no one is actually going to receive a physical product. Evidently technology moves faster than consumer preferences over what their book covers, whether audio or eBook, ought to look like. Anyway, here is the adjusted cover. As you can see, although the execution differs, the "empty chair" theme remains:

Mother's Death Audiobook

But more on the audiobook production and publishing process later. For now, here's the five-minute sample recording I submitted along with the rest of my files. I would really appreciate any feedback you could give me on this, because I've just noticed something very strange - when I play it back on the desktop computer on which I did the editing, it sounds pretty clean, but on my laptop there are quite a few annoying clicks and pops, and it also seems a lot quieter. I thought you weren't even supposed to get degradation on a transfer of a digital recording, so maybe it's my crappy laptop speakers or my even crappier internet connection.  

So what do you think? Could you listen to me read for two and a half hours? At this point, believe me - better you than me!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Words Reveal What Masks Conceal

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher assigned us a creative writing project for Halloween. We were to compose short stories, which we would then read aloud before the class, coupled with a competition of sorts in which the students would vote on who had written the best one.

Now in my pre-teen years, I was not what you would term the most popular kid in school. Perhaps it was those horrible "Student-of-the-Month" photos of me hanging in the main hallway, which they somehow always managed to take right after gym when my hair was flying every which way, or perhaps it was the oxford shirts and corduroy trousers in which my mother dressed me because I refused to participate in ridiculous wastes of time like school-clothes shopping. It certainly didn't help that in addition to being smart and studious, I was also very, very shy, which led many to believe that I was stuck-up. I suppose if you're naturally adept at making conversation, it's difficult to understand that other kids might not be.

You can therefore easily picture the scene in the classroom that day: the anxious adolescent girl slouched in her seat, sweat drenching the armpits of her button-up shirt as she watched the clock, fervently hoping that time would run out before her turn came. You can imagine my nervousness when, five minutes before the bell, my teacher called me to the front of the class, the last reader to go; my terror as I stumbled up to her desk clutching the half-sheets of paper on which I'd scrawled my assignment. As usual, I had pushed the limits on the suggested length - my story was at least twice as long as anyone else's - and the only saving grace of this enforced public humiliation, I thought, was that I would undoubtedly run out of time to finish it before the lunch bell rang. 

Tucking my loose hair back behind my ears and focusing my eyes firmly on my papers, I began to read. It turned out that reading wasn't so bad; unlike giving an oral report, you didn't actually have to look at any of the other students. And it was a decent story, I reflected as I flipped through the pages, concentrating hard on not losing my place. At least my classmates were sitting silently, which made them easier to ignore.

At last I reached the climax of my tale, which was where it turned gruesome. The main character had gotten trapped in a fire, and I remember describing, in disgusting detail, the sizzle of the hairs frying on his arms as the hot flames neared. I remember describing the flames devouring his flesh, great flaps of it falling from his skeleton as his skin seared away. And I remember the silence of the classroom; I remember it breaking, the moans and groans that swelled all around me as I depicted my main character's excruciating demise, only to be interrupted by the harsh clanging of the bell.

No one stirred; no one rose; no one left. I glanced at my teacher, who nodded. The other students sat rapt while I finished my story, and they applauded when I was done. There was no question that I had won the contest.

I was pleased that my story had gone over well, of course, but it wasn't until the following week, when other kids were still coming up to talk to me about it, that I understood that I had somehow made an impression that went beyond my gruesome, graphic horror story. It was as if I had revealed that somewhere beneath that classic nerdy exterior was a real honest-to-goodness person, a kid who thought about things like destruction and death, and flames eating flesh, and how best to describe such horrific events.

I've never been big on Halloween, myself. I've never liked the pressure of having to pick out a costume and then explain why I chose it; I've never even understood the appeal of dressing up and playing pretend. I have other ways of exploring my dark side. Nowadays you won't find me in a starched, striped shirt, or in old-fashioned slacks, but don't be fooled by the sweats and sports bra in which you'll typically see me lounging about the house, because that's not who I am, either. It's just a costume; an innocuous mask meant to show nothing, to reveal nothing, to suggest nothing. My thoughts are inside me. They can never be exposed by a mere choice of outfit.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Goodreads Review of On Hearing of My Mother's Death!

Byron Edgington (, author of The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying and Life, has posted his review of On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened on Goodreads. I read it yesterday, and his remarks about the book are so kind that I'm still blushing - in fact, his only complaint is that the book is too short (see my remarks following the review):

"Here we have an extended essay/memoir on surviving a parent’s psychosis, inventing a life and then learning of the death of the long-forgotten parent many years after her passing. It’s much too easy to compare such works as Ms Schafer’s to other neglected childhood fare: Jeannette Walls ‘Glass Castle,’ Christina Crawford’s ‘Mommy Dearest’ etc. Too easy, because the parents in those memoirs cannot be easily forgiven; they can only be easily explained. Their cruelty stems from ambition, neglect, the depredations of poor parenting skills. Ms Schafer’s mother, on the other hand, offers a much more subtle, we might say inexplicable source of her wanton neglect and cruel treatment: mental illness and its untreated ravages.

Lori Schafer is an accomplished writer at the apex of her craft. Her images and reflections shimmer on the page: “grilled cheese and tomato…butter-brown bread…’ including good alliteration and excellent use of sentence length variation, she keeps readers moving forward. “The sidewalks were empty. I was empty.” Beautiful stuff.

Transitions are well done, despite many flashbacks and oblique references. Only one time, at an end chapter, and a reference to ‘Lila’ did this reviewer lose the thread, but then it picked up again.

Schafer’s use of a fictional device inside her memoir is very well done. She writes as ‘Gloria,’ to explain the horrors of a childhood in crisis, while giving herself a bit of remove as the writer. It’s an excellent device, and it works very well. It’s also entirely understandable. Much like any child will have an invisible friend, or a security blanket, Schafer has Gloria.

The writer’s voice stays consistent throughout, shifting with subtlety between the teenage, angst-ridden Lori and the determined older Lori living in a car in Berkeley and making her own way. “I was learning,” she writes, scraping for bottles and cans in Berkeley “…like the poor man’s Santa Claus.”

There are a few loose threads: We’re never told what happened to ‘Sandra Johnson.’ Indeed, none of the siblings’ lives are explained. There’s a reference to Schafer’s own concern about being poisoned, a thinly-veiled worry that she might have acquired her mother’s mental illness, but this is not addressed or enlarged. We don’t hear about mom’s own family history, or what may have contributed to her instability, only that ‘Judy Green-Hair’ is a serial marrier. Just open a vein, as they say; readers want more details.

Indeed, one critique of this memoir may be that it’s too darned short, that readers want to know much more about who this writer is: how did that young woman survive all she did? What resources did she uncover in herself? How’s she doing now? Has she finally found ‘a safe place?’

Wordsworth wrote, ‘…the child is father to the man,’ and we must assume he meant mother to the woman as well. If so, at the end of her fine memoir, Lori Schafer pays tribute to that young mother of herself. This is a good, fulfilling memoir. I just wish it was longer, darn it. Four stars, only because it’s too short."

Byron Edgington, author of The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying & Life

Although it's not an unqualified five star review, I'm really very pleased with it because Byron's feedback actually gave me a great idea. It's true that there are certain parts of the story into which I do not delve, in particular, regarding my mother's family history, or what ever happened to my sister. I can't provide answers to those questions simply because I myself don't know the answers. My mother's parents died when I was too young to know them; I don't remember her sister and was merely acquainted with my uncle. I know very little about my mother's life before me, and virtually nothing about the rest of her family. Likewise, my sister and I fell out of touch even before I left home, and as to Sandra Johnson, she's a mystery that will forever remain unsolved.

But at no point do I ever make any of this clear to the reader. Most people, I think, see "family" as constituting a group of people; a set of relations with whom one shares varying levels of affection or bonding. For me, "family" meant Mom. She was it; there really wasn't anyone else to fall under that heading. So it frankly never occurred to me that I might need to explain why I wasn't talking about those larger family issues. But, of course, Byron is absolutely right; readers will be curious about those aspects of the story, and even if I have no real answers to give them, I like the idea of explaining why.

And this, of course, is one of the beauties of independent publishing. I'm not bound to someone else's contract, or to a print run of thousands of copies that are already stacked and waiting in warehouses. So why not add another chapter? Even with my current crazy schedule, I can probably even get that done before the release date, and start fresh with an improved version of the story. A good idea is a good idea - even if it wasn't my idea!

So thank you, Byron, for taking the time to detail what you thought was missing from my book. Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I hope you'll be glad to know that someone is listening.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer

On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened

by Lori Schafer

Giveaway ends November 23, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Squirrel Revolution: A Whimsical Look at the Effects of Human Activities on Our Furry Little Neighbors

Sheriff Wiggins scowled and hung up the phone with a bang and a sigh.

“What is it, Sherriff?” his scrawny young deputy Sam inquired automatically, gazing dreamily out the window as if his thoughts were roaming among the tree-lined streets of the town.

“Pete Grundy says he saw a funny-lookin’ squirrel,” the Sheriff answered.

The deputy guffawed, his attention abruptly reclaimed. “A squirrel?”

“A squirrel,” Wiggins affirmed. “Claims he saw it run and then jump clear across Old Logjam Road, from one side to the other, without touchin’ ground.”

“That ol’ Pete,” Sam smiled, chuckling and shaking his head as if reality really was sometimes more amusing than dreams.

“Come on,” the Sheriff ordered. “We’re goin’ to check it out.”

“Why, Sheriff!” Sam answered in disbelief. “You know Grundy shoots whiskey daily startin’ at noon.”

“Sure ‘nough. But it’s only nine,” the Sheriff replied, angling his clean-shaven chin towards the clock on the wall.

“Since when do we concern ourselves with critters like squirrels?” the deputy demanded suspiciously, his eyes narrowing like a magnifying glass attempting to focus a beam of sunshine into a ray of kindling fire.

“Since Grundy asked me to, and since I owe him a favor,” Wiggins replied flatly, his manner clearly indicating that the discussion was closed, leaving Sam to wonder under what circumstances and in what capacity the Sheriff had found himself in the debt of the town drunk. “Besides,” he added, in somewhat conciliatory fashion, “I been meaning to set up a speed trap on that road for a while anyhow; it won’t hurt us none to keep our eyes open while we’re out there.”

Their watchful eyes nabbed numerous speeders, but no peculiar squirrels, only the rather ordinary ones who rushed heedlessly across the highway in an effort to evade the vehicles which, resplendent and rickety alike, cruised recklessly around the curves of the road as if it were their own private racecourse. When the daylight at last began to dim underneath the generous canopy of trees, and suppertime was drawing near, Wiggins decided to collect his antsy-pantsed deputy and call it a day. Sam had wandered off a little ways into the wood; was taking a leak at the base of a tough-looking shrub when the Sheriff heard him calling softly, “Come and take a look at this, Sheriff.”

Wiggins snorted, stamping his foot impatiently. “You got nothing there I want to see.”

“Not that!” Sam replied in a huff, hastily zipping up his trousers. “There’s a funny creature over here.”

At that, the Sheriff stepped over the guardrail and strode the dozen paces into the wood to join his befuddled deputy. Squatting on the ground not ten feet in front of them, staring intently at the strangers, was a bushy-tailed brown squirrel. The Sheriff nearly scoffed; made ready to call Sam a fool for having a conniption over a common squirrel, when he, too, noticed that there was something strange about it. Its face was all wrong. Its eyes weren’t off to the side, but on the front of its head, like a cat or a dog. And it didn’t look at you like a squirrel normally did either, the way their eyes never seemed to focus on anything, but more like a larger animal might, as if it recognized you for what you were.

The Sheriff and his deputy both stood gaping for a time at the oddly formed creature, until at last, evidently becoming bored with the contest it had so obviously won, it bounded nonchalantly away, leaving the two men standing dubiously dumbstruck at the edge of the darkening forest. Finally Wiggins nodded to himself as if in affirmation and said, “Let’s go,” to Sam, who at once hurried toward their waiting cruiser and its reassuring promise of punctual homecoming.

Wiggins had just cranked the engine when the whoosh of rubber rolling rapidly over asphalt assaulted their ears from around the bend right behind them, forewarning them that another speeder was approaching. Tensely they waited in anticipation of the day’s last catch, Sam quickly raising the radar gun to clock the offender. But when the unfamiliar sedan flew past them in a flurry of dead leaves and loose pebbles, the Sheriff didn’t punch the gas, but instead sat gazing at the road in an apparent stupor until Sam elbowed him in the arm.

“Come on, Sheriff, don’t you wanna nab that guy?” Sam prodded anxiously, perplexed by this unnatural ruffling of the Sheriff’s usual unbreakably calm demeanor. “Looked like an out-of-towner, even!”

Wiggins paused before speaking, removing his hat and running his fingers distractedly through the fine bristles that lined his short-shaven head. “Thought I saw something,” he said finally, reaching for his holster and stroking it as if for reassurance. “Flyin’ up over the road as that car went by. Like a small animal jumping. Jumpin’ on awfully big legs.”


The Sheriff spent most of the following day on the old-fashioned telephone at the stationhouse, playing unmusical tunes with its big square buttons while he scratched notes and doodles in the margins of his giant desk calendar. Who did you call about deformed squirrels? Luckily he had a buddy in the capital, who, with no small reservations, cleared him to talk to his buddy at the capital who might know something about someone who might know someone he could maybe talk to about it. Sam’s amusement with this prolonged process had wilted by late morning, and by mid-afternoon, he was heartily bored.

“Come on, Sheriff,” he whined, peeling the chipped ivory paint from the windowsill while Wiggins sat fiddling with the phone cord, on a seemingly interminable hold for the nineteenth time that day. “Let’s do somethin’, huh? What makes you think anybody cares about the squirrels around here, anyway?”

The Sheriff silenced him with one finger as the phone burst briefly into life. A moment later he was holding his hand over the mouthpiece and gloating, “Washington cares, that’s who. They’re connecting me now.”

Sam listened with greater interest while the Sheriff recounted the story of the two squirrels to the party in Washington, wondering if they had already sent for those men in the white coats to fetch his boss when the call was over. But the conversation seemed peaceable enough, and the Sheriff satisfied as he concluded, “Yes, I sure will do that. Yes, I’ve got the number. Thank you, sir.” He returned the big plastic receiver to its proper place, rubbing his ear in discomfort as he did so, and then tilted back in his chair and gazed thoughtfully out the window that Sam had so lately been denuding while the deputy fidgeted in his boots, awaiting an explanation.

“Well, what did they say?!” he finally exploded, when none was forthcoming.

The Sheriff didn’t answer, but merely continued tilting back in his chair, and then leaning it forward, and then back again while the floorboards creaked irritably beneath his shifting weight.

“How much do you know about evolution, Sam?” he said at length, bringing the chair to a halt and last giving the flooring a rest.

Sam shrugged. “Not much,” he admitted.

“Well, I learned about it in college,” Wiggins replied casually.

“You mean in those two years you were at State?” Sam scoffed.

“Those two years is what made me a Sheriff, and you a deputy,” Wiggins answered scathingly, causing Sam to cringe and blush. “Matter of fact, I learned all manner of useful things in those two years. See, every so often in nature there’s a mistake called a genetic mutation. Most of ‘em are bad, but every so often they’re advantageous to the creatures that get ‘em, and they have lots of babies and pass those traits on to all their children. You know, like with giraffes. The ones with long necks could get better food, so nature kept favorin’ ones with long necks until they grew into what you see today. Get it?”

Sam nodded, his self-esteem blissfully restored.

“Well, what do you suppose might happen if there were somethin’ in a creature’s environment that was real dangerous? Maybe it’s a deadly disease; people who were naturally immune to that sickness would outlive the others, wouldn’t they? And then pass their genes on to their kin, making them immune, too?” Sam nodded again, thinking that maybe you did learn some pretty interesting things in college after all. “An’ if the disease was bad enough, and widespread enough, eventually only the people who were immune to it might be left. Now what do you suppose is the most dangerous thing in the world to a squirrel?”

Sam thought a moment, scratching his skinny thigh nervously with spindly fingers before his face lit up in comprehension. “Rabies!”

“Well, that’s not a bad answer,” the Sheriff conceded. “But most often you don’t find ‘em dead from rabies, do you? You find ‘em dead…”

“…on the road,” the deputy finished the sentence, face glimmering with the hope that he finally understood the point of the Sheriff’s protracted speech. “So a squirrel that grew big legs could jump high over a road and wouldn’t get hit by cars.”

“Exactly!” Wiggins replied. “And you know what else? I been thinkin’ ‘bout that other funny squirrel we saw, the one with eyes up here, that looked right at you?” he said, gesturing towards his own steely grays. “See, that ain’t natural for a squirrel. A squirrel is a prey animal; I mean, other creatures eat it. And normally a prey animal has eyes on the sides of its head, so it can see all around it, like, and tell if somethin’s comin’ after it. Predatory animals, like a wolf or a lion, they got eyes more facing forward; they get better depth perception that way, which makes ‘em better hunters. So if a squirrel’s got eyes in the front of his head, I can only think of two reasons for it. One, it helps him figure out how close cars are, and how fast they’re comin’, so he knows whether it’s safe to cross the street or not.”

“You always see ‘em runnin’ back and forth, like they can’t decide!” Sam interjected excitedly.

“That’s exactly right, an’ that’s how a lot of ‘em get hit. They start goin’ and then stop.” He paused. “The other possibility is that maybe the squirrels are learnin’ to hunt.”

“That’d sure be a sight,” the deputy said with wonder.

“It sure would,” Wiggins replied, gazing out the window again in troubled contemplation, as if wondering whether, even now, a giant squirrel with big teeth and a bigger appetite was approaching their small and poorly defended shack.

“But wait a minute, Sheriff!” Sam exclaimed after a thoughtful moment, tearing the Sheriff away from his disturbing fantasy. “What did Washington say about it?”

Sheriff Wiggins waved his hand dismissively. “They said they were trained squirrels of a different breed from some travelling Russian circus. Said a bunch of ‘em escaped into the wild, and that it was nothing to worry about.”

Sam resumed his struggle to comprehend the Sheriff’s complacency, scratching his leg even more vigorously before moving on to his hairless chest. “But if that’s all it is, then what’s the big deal? They’re just foreign squirrels.”

“The big deal, Sam,” the Sheriff replied, his steely eyes glinting, “Is that they told me to call again if I saw any more like it. Now when did anybody in Washington tell you to call them again unless it was somethin’ really serious? Russian squirrels, my ass. I’d sooner believe that ol’ Pete Grundy went on the wagon.”


Agent Matthews scowled and hung up the phone with a bang and a sigh. “There’s been another sighting,” she said gruffly to her colleague, who was intently scrutinizing a complicated computer graph at the desk beside hers.

“Where?” Collins answered, creasing his eyebrows into an arch that wiggled like the lines connecting the plot points he was examining so closely.

Matthews slapped a spot on the map that hung on the wall beside her, frowning as if she found it irritating or even offensive.

“That means it’s spreading,” Collins declared unnecessarily, glancing back at his graph and its dancing maze of circles and arcs. “Almost every state now. What kind was it?”

“Them,” Matthews corrected him, pressing her temples as if to stave off an impending headache. “The jumper and the one with the funny eyes.”

“Both in one place? That’s odd.”

“The Sheriff who called said it was on a busy rural thoroughfare. Everyone in town takes it as a shortcut to the next town over. He’d set up a speed trap on it.”

“Sounds conducive to both varieties, then.” Then, dropping his voice to a troubled whisper, Collins inquired, “No more of that other kind yet, are there?”

“Not yet,” Matthews replied in an equally hushed tone, discreetly leaning towards her partner as if confiding a top secret. “Speaking of which, we should head up to the test site before the trials are over.”

It was short ride on the elevator from the orderly cube of fluorescent-lit underground offices to the dim, thickly-forested surface where the site had been constructed. A man in a loose, long-sleeved lab coat stood hunched over a clipboard taking notes. He was wearing violet earplugs, presumably to cut the loud rumble of motors that echoed like a pride of full-grown lions chasing a fleeing gazelle. But when he saw Matthews and Collins approaching, he signaled for a stoppage, and the two sedans, two pickup trucks, and two motorcycles that had been revolving in great loops around them shuddered to a halt.

“Did you get him yet?” Collins queried.

The operator consulted his notes. “Eight times. At least once with each vehicle.”


“No effect,” he smiled with obvious admiration.

“Where is it now?” Matthews inquired, scrunching up her nose as if trying to pick up its scent.

“On the inside, at the west end.”

The agents lifted their binoculars and directed their gazes accordingly. The test site was an oval track, constructed of thick asphalt and built in the midst of a dense wood that had been domed and walled round about to keep out curiosity-seekers who might venture this far into the forest. Even as they watched from their vantage point in the center, they observed the crane dumping the pile of acorns on the outside of the track, while the various vehicles resumed their ceaseless race around it. In a few moments, a bold squirrel emerged snuffling at the edge of the wood, evidently smelling the nuts across the way, and sprinted across the road just as one of the pickups was approaching. All three of the observers flinched as the furry animal was brutally crushed under the truck’s heavy tires, its body toppling backwards in the windy wake of the two-ton machine. But even before the vehicle had rounded the next bend, the squirrel had shaken itself and was on its feet again, resuming its race to the other side of the road as if it had merely lost its footing.

“Remarkable!” the man-in-charge exclaimed as they watched a heavy metal cage plop precipitously down on the animal as it frisked about the pile of acorns it had mastered through its desperate courage.

“I still can’t believe that it could… that it could function like that,” Matthews said with awe, slapping her fingers against her forehead as if trying to force her brain to comprehend what was happening.

“It is incredible,” the supervisor agreed. “But not entirely without precedent. Didn’t you ever have a hamster as a child? Those creatures can flatten their bodies enough to crawl underneath a door.”

“But this…!” Matthews interjected, wiping her sweat-fogged glasses with her blouse. “This is an extreme adaptation, isn’t it?”

“Extreme circumstances produce extreme measures,” the supervisor theorized with affected superiority. “What manner of animal survived following the asteroid which drove the dinosaurs to extinction? Small furry mammals; ratlike creatures. And what is a squirrel but a glorified rat?”

He smiled complacently and went back to his notes as Collins and Matthews turned to go. But halfway to the elevator they heard muffled yelling and looked back to find the supervisor frantically waving his arms in order to catch their attention. “Wait, I nearly forgot!” he shouted over the noise of cars that was again resonating throughout the dome. “The litter that she bore last week. It seems that she’s passed it on.”

The agents gaped, their mouths hanging open like ill-conceived flytraps. “The offspring are the same?”

“It appears so, now that they have grown. But they would have to be, anyway, to have survived in the womb during the trials, wouldn’t you think?” Again he smiled broadly, as if pleased with the impressive accomplishments of his subject of study, while the agents retreated towards the elevator.

The following week, Matthews and Collins were still puzzling over the data from the track when another call came in from Sheriff Wiggins.

“Yes, Sheriff,” Matthews answered breathlessly. “Have you seen any more of those odd squirrels?”

“No, not those,” the Sheriff responded. “But a real funny thing happened night before last. You see, I got a call from Ol’ Lady Teasdale asking me to come out ‘cause she’d run over a squirrel. Squished it good, she said. Now if it were anyone else, I’d tell ‘em to go hang, but she’s a dear, tenderhearted thing – the kind that calls the fire department to fetch a cat out of a tree – and she was real upset, cryin’ and all ‘cause she’d hurt a poor defenseless creature, so I said I’d go.”

Wiggins paused to take a deep breath while Collins and Matthews bent over the telephone like children preparing to bob for apples. “Now here’s the strange part. When I got there, it turned out she hadn’t exactly run over the squirrel; it was more like she had parked on top of it. And she was jes’ standin’ there starin’ down at it lyin’ quietly under the wheel, so I says to her, ‘Well, I don’t see that there’s much we can do about it now ‘scept give it a decent burial. If you’ll be so kind as to lend me your keys, Ma’am, I’ll, uh, release it and set free its heavenly soul.’ And that makes her stop cryin’ so she hands over the keys and I get in the car and reverse it a couple of feet, and Ol’ Lady Teasdale starts screaming so loud I think I’ve run over her foot so I stop the car and jump out.

“When I get to her, she don’t look hurt, but she’s still hysterical, shouting, ‘It’s a miracle, Sheriff, a miracle! Call the pastor!’

“ ‘Wait a minute now,’ I said, ‘The pastor’s probably busy workin’ out his sermon for tomorrow, so let’s not disturb him unless we’re sure we got to – what miracle are you talkin’ ‘bout here?’

“ ‘The squirrel, Sheriff! It just jumped up and ran away, not even hurt.’

“An’ I looked down and sure enough, that squirrel was nowhere to be seen. I checked the ground an’ I checked the car an’ I checked all around the yard an’ I even checked the bottom of the old lady’s shoes but that squirrel weren’t nowhere. And the weird thing is that I know I saw it flattened there under that wheel, and, as a matter of fact, I pulled out a little tuft o’ grayish-brown hair from her tire, which proved we weren’t both seein’ things. I even searched the driveway for a hole that it mighta been layin’ in, but there wasn’t one, and her tires were solid, too. And I jes’ plumb can’t understand how a simple ol’ squirrel could survive that kind of crushing unless it had like, a rubber skeleton, or organs that could flatten themselves, or move out of the way when they wanted to, or somethin’ sophisticated an’ unnatural like that.”

Matthews and Collins examined one another searchingly. “Well, naturally that’s ridiculous,” Matthews said shakily into the speakerphone, her voice barely inclining to a whisper. “There must be some other explanation. A rational one,” she added hastily.

“Well, I am sure glad to hear you say that, Ma’am,” Wiggins replied with feeling. “Because I tell you what, I’d be darn scared of a squirrel that had eyes like a wildcat, could leap over a two-lane highway in one jump, and not even be injured by a ton of metal lyin’ plumb on top of it. With as quick as they make babies, creatures like that would overrun the country in no time,” he concluded sagely.

“We appreciate your call,” Collins snapped, cutting off Matthews, who was on the verge of agreeing with the Sheriff. “Call us again with any other news.”

The clash of the phone being reinserted into its base rang out in the comparative silence that followed.

“I think maybe you were right,” Collins said slowly, after a long pause. “Nothing else we’ve tried so far has worked. Maybe there is something to be done with the owls.”

“Everybody likes owls!” Matthews exclaimed hopefully. “But if they evolve to catch the super-squirrels, won’t they become like, super-owls?”

“That’s a chance we’ll have to take,” Collins answered grimly.

“Just imagine…” Matthews said faintly, almost dreamily, “All this, a result of people driving automobiles. Automobiles driving evolution!”

And back at his office, Sheriff Wiggins was installing bars on the window of the stationhouse and saying to his deputy, “I don’t care what you call it, Sam. God, Nature, evolution… it sure does work in mysterious ways.”


Originally published in Separate Worlds, June 2013.

Cover photo attribution: and

I actually had the idea that sparked this story a number of years ago. I don’t recall how I came up with it exactly, but one day I started thinking about the evolutionary process and how it relates to the impact of man on the environment. There’s no doubt that humans are greatly, if not solely, responsible for the extinction of a large number of species, hunting and habitat destruction being two of the primary means by which animal and plant life have gravely diminished in a world in which humans have become predominant. However, if there’s one thing that evolutionary theory teaches us, it’s that life is incredibly adaptable. Remember learning in school about the changes that took place in the moth population during the Industrial Revolution in England? Within a very short space of time the predominantly white moth population became a predominantly black one – because moths had a greater chance of survival when they were better able to blend in with their new, sootier environment. And they reproduce quickly enough to put those physical adaptations in place in the blink of a human eye.

So it seems reasonable to suppose that similar changes would occur in other species whose environments have been severely impacted by human activities. Indeed, it may be those species that are best able to adapt to a human-dominated landscape that will continue to thrive into the next century. The ant. The cockroach. The pigeon. The squirrel.

I actually think it would make for an interesting scientific study, if anyone were sufficiently motivated to do it, to monitor the world’s population of squirrels and track whether they’ve adopted physical or cognitive adaptations in response to alterations in their environment. We think we know how squirrels behave. We see them running halfway across the street and then suddenly scurrying back when they see a car coming, which is how they get hit half the time. But what about the ones we don’t see, the ones who are too smart or too nimble to get caught in traffic? What if there really is something else going on behind the scenes? Look out! It’s a Squirrel Revolution!


"Squirrel Revolution" is also available as a FREE eBook; you can download it at your favorite eBook retailer.