Monthly Archives: October 2014

Guess the True Statement and Win Jessica Bell’s New Thriller, White Lady!

GUESS THE TRUE STATEMENT & WIN JESSICA BELL’S THRILLER, WHITE LADY! (Statement #89)

 

To celebrate the release of Jessica Bell’s latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to the first person to correctly guess the one true statement in the three statements below. To clarify, two statements are lies, and one is true:

Some of Jessica Bell’s first music purchases (in cassette tape!) were ….

a. Bon Jovi, Metallica, U2, Talking Heads

b. Guns N’ Roses, Alice in Chains, AC/DC, Eurythmics

c. Kylie Minogue, Prince, Technotronic, Alannah Myles

What do you think? Which one is true? Write your guess in the comments, along with your email address. Comments will close in 48 hours. If no-one guesses correctly within in 48 hours, comments will stay open until someone does.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will share a different set of true and false statements on each one. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.

ABOUT THE BOOK:



*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?



Click HERE to view the book trailer.

Click HERE for purchase links.

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:

 

Careful: A Love Story for the Middle-Aged

We were getting old.

It struck me rather abruptly one day late in autumn when Michael called to tell me he wouldn’t be coming by as he usually did after work on Fridays because he’d thrown his back out.

“I can come out to your place if you want,” I’d volunteered bravely. It was nearly a two-hour train ride out to his house in the suburbs.

“Thanks, but that’s okay, Kate,” he’d assured me, a trace of his customary good humor shining through his sullenness. “I can’t really do much anyway. Just lie around all day…” he grumbled, in a tone that suggested that he found his infirmity personally insulting.

I knew how he felt. Every year, it seemed, some new aspect of my body threatened to fail. Often I found myself longing for the days when the only effects of aging that I fretted over were my graying hair and wrinkling skin. You don’t worry so much about little things like your appearance when you’re hobbling because some vital body part has stopped working again.

It was unfortunate I’d found him so late, I reflected the following week as I tidied up the tiny studio in which I lived and worked, crammed tight with a queen-sized bed and a king-sized desk and not much else. The apartment of a person who didn’t often entertain visitors; who until recently had expected to spend her middle age alone. A woman who, at forty-five, nonetheless caught herself giggling like a schoolgirl knowing that he would soon be there. Who, anticipating his pending presence, for a multitude of marvelous moments, still felt young.

I smiled. The frenzied desperation of our lovemaking rivaled that of any teenager. We always hurried into it, as if aware that our youth was failing, that soon we might lose either the desire or the ability to make it happen. As if it were the most important thing in the world to get done before we were incapable of doing it anymore.

A rough thumping noise leaked in from the hallway and I leapt clumsily across the room, landing precariously at my doorstep on one trembling foot like an uncoordinated kid on a hopscotch board. Breathlessly I yanked at the door and threw it open as wide as the arms with which I intended to greet him. He entered cautiously, holding his body stiffly upright. I’d been prepared to spring as soon as he knocked, but seeing him still hunched painfully over, I caught myself; patted him gently on the shoulder instead.

“Hmph!” he grunted irritably. “You don’t have to treat me like an old man!”

“Then you should stop acting like one!” I joked, kissing him wetly on the cheek.

“Says Miss, ehhhh! My knee! And ehhhh! My hip!” he retorted pointedly.

That was the noise I made when my joints hurt. I was making it pretty often these days. On bad days I wondered how old people ever even did it. Sometimes walking seemed like too much effort, let alone all the aerobicized contortionism that went with sex.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said sarcastically. “I’ll still never be as old as you, so there!” He had me beat by six months, a fact I delightedly refused to ever let him forget. Playfully I stuck my tongue out at him. He stuck his out back, so I licked it and we both laughed.

“Can I get you a beer?” I offered.

“Oh, god, yes.”

I went into the kitchenette, fetched a bottle from the fridge, and divided it between two glasses, humming some stupid romantic ditty softly to myself and grinning at my own cheerful idiocy. Broken or not, I was happy to see him.

He had sat down on the edge of the bed. I handed him his beer and he took it, downing half of it in one draught. He still seemed to be in pain. I fondled the back of his neck sympathetically, my fingers tingling over the swath of razor-trimmed bristles lining the base of his skull.

“When did you buy the sofa?” he inquired abruptly, taking in the contents of my small apartment with half a glance. I had by undaunted effort and ruthless rearrangement carved out space for a loveseat off in one corner of the main room.

“Someone who was moving out left it behind, so I grabbed it,” I responded, perhaps a little too quickly. It was only partially a lie. I had only paid fifty dollars for it, and the man who was vacating had helped me angle it awkwardly up the stairs.

“And the new bed? Did someone leave that behind, too?” he queried suspiciously, his brow creasing into a multi-layered frown as he sampled the cushiness of our new sleeping arrangement with his one free hand.

“No, I bought that,” I confessed, blanching slightly under his piercing gaze.

“How come?” he demanded, shooting the question at me as if I were a suspect under police interrogation and causing me to glance guiltily away.

“Oh, I just thought it was time we lived like grownups,” I answered vaguely. “The futon was so low to the ground, you know? Made it hard to sit and get dressed.” I’d noticed him having trouble with shoes sometimes. I wasn’t sure if it was due to stiffness in his spine, the effort required to bend around his growing gut, or the combination of both.

“What you mean to say,” he pronounced with an aura of mature dignity, “Is that you thought that after my back’s been out, I might not be able to get up and down off a short bed anymore, isn’t that right?”

“Huh,” I said, extremely impressed by his perceptiveness. I didn’t see any way I was going to win this argument. But I had to think for a second before rejoindering excitedly, “Wait until you see how I fixed the toilet!”

He looked horrified; began struggling to get up. “Kidding! Kidding!” I said, forcing him back down onto the bed with all of the strength it would have required to subdue a newborn kitten.

“You should be nicer to your elders,” he said, wincing.

“I am nice.” I took his glass from his hand and set it on the nightstand, then pushed him gently on the chest while supporting him by the shoulders until he was prone on his back on the bed. I lay down beside him and fondled his arm. It seemed the safest place to touch him.

“Listen, Kate,” he said. “All joking aside, I’m not really sure I’m up to – stuff – today.”

“Then why did you come over?” I kidded.

“Because it’s Friday, of course,” he answered smoothly.

“Just part of the routine, eh?”

“That’s right.” But his eyes twinkled when he said it, and I twinkled to see it.

“You’d better watch it, sweetie,” I teased, poking him playfully in the ribs. “I might start to think you actually like me.”

“I do like you.”

“Well, in case you’re interested, I like you, too,” I answered, nodding my head in affirmation.

“That’s good.”

“I think so.”

“Well, all right then.”

We smiled shyly at each other. I got up to get us another beer. When I returned he was still lying in the same position, as wretched as a sickly old dog and twice as pitiful.

I set our beers down and snuggled up beside him on the bed, placing my hand softly on his chest.

“It’s getting late… Would you like to just go to sleep now?” I said kindly, realizing with a start that this would be the first time we’d gone to bed together without having sex and that I wasn’t really all that bothered by it.

“I’m sorry… I guess I’m not very good company tonight.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” I reassured him. “Want me to help you undress?”

“I can do it!” he responded, seeming a little disgruntled.

“I know, but it’s all romantic and junk if I do it.”

So he let me help him out of his shoes and shirt and pants, and then I wiggled myself into the lacy pink chemise that delicately covered up my sagging this and drooping that while he scooted awkwardly up into the bed and under the covers. I ducked under the blankets, too, climbed astride him, and drew the comforter over us both. I gazed down at him fondly, this man who was aging as fast as I was and with no greater grace. But there was something appealing about him, too, this new, old, fragile Michael. Perhaps all ages have their own special beauty.

His pelvis was directly underneath mine, and I guess I must have made a telling motion because he said again, “I really don’t think I can . . .”

“I’ll be very gentle,” I promised. “I’ll do all the work. Just tell me if it hurts.”

And so I slid him into me, oh, so very slowly and gently, with no sudden or rapid movements, and then, with just the slightest of motions, I gradually let him out, and at length brought him back in again. This went on for a very long time. At long last, I finally felt him tense up, and finish, without hurting anything, and that pleased me immensely. And as we were lying down to sleep, I said to myself, This is how old people do it. Carefully. And I smiled.

***

“Careful” is an excerpt from my forthcoming novel My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged. The piece has been heavily modified to make it self-contained, but the theme is essentially the same as that of my book: how aging changes our view of sex and romance and the people with whom we want to share them.

It’s a cute story, I think; one of my sweeter pieces. This is my favorite line:

“So he let me help him out of his shoes and shirt and pants, and then I wiggled myself into the lacy pink chemise that delicately covered up my sagging this and drooping that while he scooted awkwardly up into the bed and under the covers.”

Paints quite the romantic picture, doesn’t it?

“Careful” was originally published in e-Romance in May 2013.

Copyright © 2013 by Lori Schafer

You can download more FREE excerpts from My Life with Michael from your favorite eBook retailer; please visit the book’s webpage for more information.

My Life with Michael eBook

Are You A New Author? I Want To Read Your Story!

Great opportunity for authors both new and old!

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I will in the very near future be offering my knowledge and skills for proofreading (usage and formatting), editing (line and copy), sentence and paragraph structure, plots (and those plot holes we all dislike so much), point of view, structure of the story, and other services the author deems necessary to publish the best, most polished book they can.

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Detention: An Excerpt from My Memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened

The following 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, now available in paperback and eBook:

Amazon (Universal Link)

Barnes and Noble

Also available in Spanish! Al Oír Sobre la Muerte de Mi Madre Seis Años Después de que Ocurrió

“Steinberg! Schafer! Detention!” Mr. Cooper shouted furiously, his nearly bald pointed head bristling with a temper I had never witnessed before. That possibly no one had ever witnessed before. Normally he disregarded his students entirely and went on, in spite of the constant conversation and ill-concealed catcalls, with his physics lectures as if the classroom were empty, or perhaps irrelevant in the face of so much captivating science. But today we had somehow pierced the thick shield of his academic armor and prodded him into unanticipated and unheard-of disciplinary action. I testily kicked aside the pile of tiny paper airplanes that had grown at my feet during the course of the class and glared at my friend Josh, the one who’d gotten me in trouble. I was a good student; a nerd, most said. I’d never had detention before.

“My mom’s gonna freak,” I whispered nervously.

“Good luck with that,” he said, his face going pale.

“It might be all right. But only because it’s you.”

He grinned his characteristic sideways grin, so full of charm, so full of crap. I never could understand what my mother saw in him. Always strictly polite to his elders, laying it on thick with the ma’ams and sirs which had already gone out of fashion, he was arguably the biggest troublemaker of all of my friends, and definitely the one most likely to try to get me naked. Yet he was the only one she’d still let into the house. Would even leave me alone with him in the bedroom, staying tactfully away from my open door. Almost as if she wanted something to happen.

I gave it to her straight as soon as we emerged from the classroom, before Josh, in spite of his valiant attempt to breeze briskly down the hall with all of the craft and subtlety of one of his paper rockets, had even managed to escape from her sight. “Josh and I were fooling around in class and got detention. I have to come back after school.”

Her lips twitched. I could see the internal conflict boiling within her, picture her cheeks reddening under her makeup as we tiptoed through the crowded corridor, drawing furtive glances from curious students. I didn’t blame them for staring. It wasn’t every day you witnessed an otherwise fairly normal teen-aged girl being escorted to class by a conspicuous and over-dressed middle-aged woman. Kids I didn’t know would pounce on me in the bathroom, nearly dissolving into hilarity at finding me for a moment alone and ripe for ribbing. “Aren’t you the girl whose mother has green hair and comes to school with her?” they would snicker.

“It isn’t really green,” I would argue. “It’s supposed to be blonde; something just went wrong during the coloring.” It was more of a greenish tint than anything. The kind you get from swimming often in a chlorinated pool. Personally, I didn’t think the hair looked anywhere near as stupid as the sunglasses. Wearing mirrored sunglasses indoors is surely not the way to avoid drawing attention to yourself when you’re convinced that your ex-husband and adult daughter are stalking you.

She gritted her teeth, grinding them audibly as if literally chewing over the idea. “Then I guess we’ll have to come back after school,” she muttered bitterly, surrendering to painful necessity.

“Thanks. Otherwise I might get kicked out,” I replied pointedly, hoping she’d catch the implicit threat of it. I’d already missed more than a month that quarter and could, according to school policy, be failed across the board purely on the basis of unexcused absences.

Someone had noticed, taken pity on me. Was it one of the string of psychiatrists my mother had sent me to, each of whom I had at length convinced that I was not the crazy one? Was it one of my teachers, someone who understood that honors students don’t suddenly stop showing up to school for no reason? Was it my guidance counselor, who had been in the office the day my mother had tried to force me to sign the papers saying I was dropping out?

They’d made arrangements, the school board had informed her officiously. One of the teachers – the English teacher I’d had freshman year – had volunteered to take me in, and if she didn’t let me come back, they would force the issue. I’d been touched. I barely remembered Mrs. Silverman; recalled more vividly the handsome, witty boy who’d sat next to me during her class and who had eventually become my first boyfriend. I wondered what it would be like to live with her, her and the other troubled student she’d allegedly taken under her wing. Who would even have imagined that a close-knit suburb could hold two such students?

Even my mother, so bold in the face of imaginary enemies, was unwilling to risk official intervention. She’d let me come back. With conditions. I can’t even guess what she told the principal and the superintendent – whether she in fact convinced them that I might be in some sort of danger, or if they merely thought it best not to chance it, never suspecting that the woman to whom they had admitted entrance was more dangerous by far than any of the nonexistent murderers she feared. But they had permitted it, this insane adult intrusion into the lives of unwitting high school students. As long as she stayed outside the classroom, not in it. Inside, they’d insisted, would be too distracting. But as a goodwill gesture they had commandeered for her a set of her own chairs, one parked outside of each of my classrooms, that she might not grow weary during her dull and lonely vigils. What kind consideration, I’d thought bemusedly. How nice that they’d made an effort to ensure her comfort.

“We’re going home now,” she announced. “You can skip P.E.”

“I still have to come back for detention, Mom,” I reminded her.

“I want to go home for lunch,” she insisted, grabbing me awkwardly by the elbow while I slipped my book-bag over my shoulders.

I didn’t argue. I succumbed to her clutch and followed her silently, listening to the swish of her floor-length skirt as we traversed the corridor towards the parking lot where the student vehicles were stored. We passed the vice-principal, a friendly-faced giant of a man, along the way. I nearly forgot myself and smiled. Following my first string of poorly explained absences, he had tried to be kind to me.

“Schafe!” he’d exclaim when he passed me in the hall, punching me gently on the shoulder with his beefy fist.

“Huff!” I’d answer back, grinning, with the kind of liberty in which only kids who were sorely pitied could safely indulge.

But that was before this, before I’d had a permanent, round-the-clock guardian. Now he didn’t speak; barely even glanced at us as he edged cautiously away, retreating as far as possible against the wall, as if afraid to pass too close or too suddenly. The way everyone did. I didn’t blame them for that, either. They were right to do it.

We reached the double-doors that opened onto the parking lot, barred gates of freedom before which I would have cowed had I been alone, but she approached them boldly, as if it were her inalienable right to pass unhampered through the forbidden exit. It was a closed campus, but the hall monitors stepped politely aside to let us by as they always did, even if they didn’t know about us. Parent with child. Free pass; no questions asked. Submission to parental authority was automatic, guaranteed. Indisputable.

An overcast sky was gradually divesting itself of lukewarm spring rain, sending tiny rivulets of rainwater along the curves of my skull and down the back of my neck like the tickling tendrils of an unseen vine. I’d cast the hood of my raincoat aside, as I always did now. I didn’t like the way it restricted my peripheral vision. Our windshield was spattered thickly with raindrops, but she didn’t turn on the wipers; drove instead in half-invisibility, whether in an effort to conceal or be concealed, I couldn’t say. She had covered her badly transformed hair with a plastic rain-bonnet, of an old-fashioned design I’d never seen before and haven’t seen since. It reminded me of the handkerchief with which she’d attempted to cover up her previously long and curly chestnut hair that night we’d run away from the house, only a week before my stepfather, utterly bewildered at the sudden turn of events, agreed to move out. It hadn’t done much to alter her appearance. I was noting carefully now the effectiveness of her various disguises. Preparing myself for when I needed one.

She fixed us sandwiches, grilled cheese and tomato, the butter-browned bread and melted cheddar infusing our kitchen with a near-heavenly scent. I hesitated before biting into mine, unsure if the meal would be suddenly snatched away, as my breakfast had been, on suspicion of it being poisoned while her back was turned. And unsure also, if one of these days it would be she who had done the poisoning. But she sat down and ate with me, apparently satisfied with the attentiveness of her own preparation, and I took that to mean that my lunch was safe. I wondered whether my dinner would be.

At two-thirty I packed up my homework and reminded her that we needed to go. “In a minute,” she said vaguely, sitting taut and erect on the sofa in the hip-hugging jeans she’d changed into and snapping briskly through the pages of a woman’s magazine. By a quarter to three I was nervous.

“We’re going to be late,” I said.

“We’re not going,” she yawned with affected nonchalance, rising casually from her seat to check the lock on the front door.

“I have to go, Mom.” Inside I was panicking. “I can’t let Josh sit for detention by himself.”

Even the mention of her favorite didn’t move her. “Then you shouldn’t have gotten detention,” she answered blithely, nodding to herself in undoubting affirmation.

I inhaled so sharply that my lungs burned with the force of it. Rose slowly from the table where I’d been studying. Deliberately donned my lavender raincoat, my hands shaking, sweat forming along my hairline like condensation over a steaming pot. Chose my words carefully, not wanting to suggest more than I meant.

“I am going to school.”

I nudged past her to the door, placed my hand on the knob, and gave it a yank. She yanked back, all of her considerable might concentrated on the bones of my wrists, dislodging my grip from the door and sending me crashing through the sheetrock, leaving a nearly woman-sized hole in the wall.

“What do you want from me?!” she yelled nonsensically, as if I were a disobedient child having a fit of temper.

“I want my life back!” I shouted, conscious of the melodrama of it, my pathetic cry, but aware, too, that there was no elegant way to express what I wanted. And no hope of making her understand it even if I found the words with which to explain it.

She didn’t answer, but swung me forcibly around again, causing me to hit the opposite wall of the foyer sideways, leaving a smaller, skinnier trench in the sheetrock. And then grabbed me by one hand, dragged me out to the car, and threw me inside as if I were an uncooperative luggage bag that had been carefully packed but still refused to clamp shut.

I swallowed, rubbing my wrist, relief flowing through me like the midsummer rainshower that so briefly releases the nearly constant tension of northeastern summer skies. I could still make an appearance at detention, might still be able to graduate on time and get out of this hellhole once and for all. She backed blindly out of the driveway and took off, far faster than usual. But not in the direction of my school. Towards the border, the state line.

“I could take you away,” she’d told me once, smugly, after the first time I’d made a break for it and had to be hauled forcibly home. “Take you to the airport and fly you anywhere I want to; somewhere no one will ever find you. And I am your mother and there is absolutely nothing that anyone could do to stop me.” She’d smiled complacently, humming cheerfully under her breath. Pleased with her cleverness, the infallibility of her plan, her power.

I held hard to my seat and harder to my fear. I focused on it, drew strength from it. I didn’t speak. In silence I awaited an opportunity, a happenstance, a careless moment, while she screeched around wet, sandy curves, slamming me sideways, partly restrained by the seatbelt that was intended to ensure my safety but which was hemming me in, trapping me in the car with her like a circus animal in a travelling cage.

“You want a life?” she snarled unexpectedly as we approached a glaring red stop sign, barely tapping the brakes. “I’ll kill us both!”

But my left hand was already on the latch of the belt strapping me into the vehicle; my right hovered by the door handle. I felt her fingers snatching at the vinyl of my jacket as I jumped and rolled uncontrollably out onto the pavement. I heard her cursing violently behind me as the car shuddered to a noisy halt. The backyard backwoods of New England sprawled out before me and I sprinted into them, clawed my way through branches and brambles and pricker-bushes, and came at last to a tall wire fence that I climbed awkwardly, my full-grown feet too large for its twisted footholds, and then jumped, catching my jeans on its pointed peak and tearing them nearly the length of the seam, scraping bits of the soft flesh underneath.

I stopped. Listened. No sound of pursuit came to my ears. I stopped breathing. Listened again. Scanned the sky and tried to judge my direction from the clouds hiding the sun. Took a tentative step, my footfall crackling the underbrush. Listened again and heard nothing. Looked and saw nothing, nothing but trees and bushes and pine needles and the slivered remnants of last autumn’s leaves finally freed from the cover of snow.

And then began trudging the miles through the woods back to town.

I didn’t make it to detention. I covered my ripped pants with my jacket and dragged my torn, tired body back through the deserted hallways of the school, leaving dirty footprints on the freshly polished floors and fingerprints on the classroom doorknob that rattled uselessly in my battered hands. Josh told me later that Mr. Cooper hadn’t shown up, either. Apparently he’d forgotten all about assigning us detention. Had viewed it, perhaps, as a temporary, meaningless distraction from an important lesson in physics.

* * *

“Detention” 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, now available in paperback and eBook.

Amazon (Universal Link)

Barnes and Noble

Also available in Spanish! Al Oír Sobre la Muerte de Mi Madre Seis Años Después de que Ocurrió

“Detention” is also available as a FREE eBook:

Amazon.com

Barnesandnoble.com

Itunes.com

Lulu.com

Poisoned: An Excerpt from My Memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened

“I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it,” she whispered conspiratorially, clutching at the wires crisscrossing her torso as if they were lifelines. “You didn’t really mean to hurt me, did you?”

I didn’t answer. I had no answer for her.

She raised herself; bent her back up off the angled, starched-sheeted bed, the skull-flattened pillow. “You won’t get into any trouble. I promise,” she assured me in her most persuasive tone, leaning towards me as if greater nearness would bring her closer to the truth.

I glanced at my mother, ragged now from our endless day of blood tests and EKGs, pitiful with probes attached to her chest and hands. Then averted my eyes and stared instead at my own hands, knuckles white on the edges of the uncomfortable folding chair on which I perched by her bedside, and wondered if they were even capable of doing her harm. Thought that if they were, that surely they would have done it already.

She bent her face close to mine, the urgency in her voice betraying the calmness of her countenance. “Just tell them what you gave me, sweetheart,” she pleaded.

Her breath stunk of metal fillings and stale cigarettes, and I backed involuntarily away. Hasty and harrowed, to her my retreat conveyed confession and it prodded her on, encouraged her investigation.

“It was poison, wasn’t it?” she whispered excitedly, almost hopefully, I thought. “Just tell me what kind!”

Why was she so obsessed with poison? I speculated, not yet comprehending that it was impossible to rationalize the irrational. She refused to eat at home anymore because the food might be poisoned; preferred the anonymity of restaurant fare. But then it was in my orange juice or her coffee, might have been sprinkled like salt on the eggs or buried deep in the butter, this mysterious killer toxin, by some even more mysterious killer who stalked us, who intended inexplicably to do us harm.

“It’s not too late,” she urged. “If you just tell them what it was, there might be an antidote. They could still save me!” She smiled at me and conscientiously ran her hands over her scalp, smoothing down the short blonde hair she’d had colored and cut in fruitless disguise.

Sometimes I even considered the possibility that she herself was guilty of administering the poison she so terribly feared. If that was the real reason why she kept snatching my meals away at the last second, in an attack of conscience over attempting to murder her own daughter. Even I had begun to look suspiciously at my food; wondered whether I should refuse it, no matter how many meals I had lately missed. I was gradually absorbing her paranoia, cinching it to my core like the belt around my sagging jeans.

“It’s not going to go well with you if something happens to me, you know,” she snarled, all at once dropping her coy sweetness. “I’ve left evidence. They’ll be able to prove it was you. You’ll be locked up for good, I guarantee it.”

I listened to the quiet bleeping of the machinery at her bedside and eyed the doctor staring curiously from the hall, the doctor who had been sent away after admitting they hadn’t been able to find any physical cause for the searing pains in her chest, the shortness of breath. My co-conspirator, no doubt.

“And don’t forget about Bellevue,” she spat. “I’m your mother and I can still have you committed. Maybe it would be good for you,” she concluded nastily, sneering her contempt of my supposed sanity.

It shivered through me, this worst of her threats, the familiar fear of the powerless pitted against the powerful. I imagined myself again, sealed into a strait-jacket, shrieking wildly in protest, proving my lunacy thereby. Being trundled into some dark hole and left there forever to rot, to die, while she roamed freely about, seeking, perhaps, another child, a youngster, a victim more susceptible to accepting her incomprehensible illusions.

“So are you going to tell me or not?” she snapped finally, whipping her head around as if to startle me into the truth, her hands clasping the bed’s guardrails, steadfastly refusing to misbehave in public, in front of witnesses. Hanging on to the cold steel as if afraid she might forget herself again, as she had lately made a habit of doing; bruise my wrists with her claw-like fingers, or box my ears with the flats of her palms.

I bowed my head as if in contemplation, perhaps in prayer. Gazed directly into the once-familiar mud-brown eyes, hollow now, as they had become in recent weeks, vague and empty and occupied elsewhere, in vast regions of runaway imagination that I couldn’t see, couldn’t possibly perceive.

I meditated whether I should try to explain it to her, the irrationality of her suspicion. How could I have poisoned her? I was sixteen, and the internet hadn’t been invented yet. I wouldn’t have known what kind of poison would work on a person, even if I’d had access to some. And how would I have bought it, with her watching me twenty-four hours a day, even while we slept?

I stared unwaveringly into them, the eyes so unlike my own, so nearly inhuman yet not animal either; alien eyes. And abandoned the hope of persuading them with my useless reasoning. Her world had an impenetrable logic all its own.

“I didn’t give you anything, Mom,” I said, turning away.

She cursed out loud. I didn’t look back.

She surrendered. Accepted the doctor’s discharge and took me home. But she eyed me mistrustfully as she ordered me into the king-sized bed we now shared.

“I can’t force you to admit what you did,” she conceded as she lay down, fully dressed, on top of the blankets. “But I still know you did it.”

She clasped her hand hard to her chest and let out a gasp, as if in pain. And almost I wished I had relented and confessed to the uncommitted crime, I pitied her so.

* * *

“Poisoned” received an Honorable Mention in The Avalon Literary Review’s Spring 2014 Contest and was published in that issue. The piece 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, available in paperback and audiobook on November 7, 2014 from retailers worldwide, and available now for Kindle pre-order on Amazon.com.

It’s interesting to note that “Poisoned” is actually an alternate version of a flash fiction piece that I wrote and had published in the amazing Journal of Microliterature in November 2013. At the time I had decided to beef up my writing resume by seeking publishing credits, which are naturally far easier to obtain if you write short stories than long novels. However, short work requires more ideas – a multitude, in fact – and as my fingers flashed across the keyboard day after day, the idea well ran dry and I very quickly found myself searching through my brain for memories I could transform into fiction. As It hadn’t yet occured to me that I would be writing a memoir, the original story wasn’t about my mother and I at all, but rather concerned the relationship between a husband and wife when she is taken mentally ill. You can compare the two versions by reading the original along with my commentary here. Which do you like better?

“Poisoned” is also available as a FREE eBook; you can download it at your favorite eBook retailer.

Book Bloggers Wanted to Host My Forthcoming Memoirs!

Are you a book blogger seeking content for your site? Would you like to host a guest post or author interview, maybe even do a book review?

I am seeking bloggers for an informal blog tour to promote the November 7th release of my forthcoming memoirs. On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness commemorates my adolescent experience of my mother’s psychosis, while Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past is an autobiographical collection of short stories and essays inspired by real-life events.

Both books are short (about ninety pages), are suitable for audiences from teen/YA on up, and will be available in paperback as well as eBook and audiobook. I will be happy to provide whatever type of content you desire, whether it’s a blurb, an excerpt, a guest post on a particular topic, or an interview (either written or oral), and I am also open to offering copies to your readers if you’d like to host a giveaway. Also, although I do have a number of reviewers lined up, I will gladly take more – lots more! – so if either of these books sounds interesting to you and you have time in your schedule to read and review one or both, I will be delighted to send you a free digital copy at your request.

Not a formal book blogger but think you might want to host a stop on my blog tour anyway? Great! In the interest of friendship, I’ve refrained from asking my social media acquaintances who are not book bloggers for reviews or guest posts, but I’m delighted to appear in almost any venue if you think your readers will enjoy my story.

You can contact me via email at lorilschafer(at)outlook(dot)com or via Twitter @LoriLSchafer if you’re interested. I look forward to hearing from you!

Bunny of Doom

The blog hop bunny. I know he looks ponderous, but watch out once he gets moving!

 

I Am Subject: Women Awakening

Well, I’m finally starting to make headway on some of the work that piled up while I was out of town all those weeks. Aside from the dozens of travel posts I have yet to write, the stacks of mail I have yet to open, and oh, yeah, that whole dual book launch thing that’s happening just four weeks from today, I’m not in bad shape. (Excuse me for a moment while I cry. There, there. There, there. Much better.)

Among the major events in a writer’s life that I unfortunately neglected was this one: I am thrilled to announce the publication of author Diane DeBella’s anthology I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening, which features my essay On Writing My Memoir. For those of you who missed it, you can read my piece here, or better yet, click the image below to be taken to the Amazon page and click “Look Inside!” Right after the introduction you’ll find my essay – in fact, it’s the only one that shows up in the preview! How cool is that? I guess there’s something to be said for being first after all.

Needless to say, I’m truly honored to be a part of the #iamsubject project (http://www.iamsubject.com/ – “Keeping girls and women subject of their own lives”) and I’d like to offer my apologies to Diane DeBella and the other authors involved for my tardiness in promoting the anthology’s publication. I’m sure they’ll forgive me once they see what I have planned in compensation. Now if only I could remember where I put that hot air balloon guy’s number…