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My books are now available at the Alameda County Library!

So, my books have finally made it into the Alameda County Library system. I have to admit it was a pretty cool surprise to be browsing the new arrivals at my local branch and see my own book on the shelf!

Library Book

What was even neater, though, was checking the course catalog and finding that one of my books has been checked out already!

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Not bad for a random weekday, eh? :)

 

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On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened is now FREE with Amazon Prime Reading!

Now FREE with Amazon Prime Reading!

That’s right – my memoir has been selected for Amazon’s Prime Reading program, which means that the eBook will be available free to all Amazon Prime members for a limited time. The book can be read on a Kindle or any other device using one of Amazon’s free apps.

This newly expanded version is nearly twice the length of the original book and contains eight new chapters. Download your free copy today!

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It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.

Then came my mother’s psychosis.

I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.

My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.

But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.

She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until 2013 that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.

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Brooke Shields on Dating George Michael

I am profiling actress Brooke Shields in my forthcoming book It’s the Iron: How My Iron Deficiency was Misdiagnosed as Arthritis, and Why Your Depression, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety, and Chronic Pain and Fatigue Might Be Low Iron, Too. Ms. Shields, in her brave autobiographical account of her experience with postpartum depression, Down Came the Rain, was one of the first celebrities to speak out about this common condition. Based on my research and my recently obtained knowledge of Ms. Shields’ life, I have numerous reasons to believe that her postpartum depression was, in fact, caused by low iron. A number of studies have linked the development of PPD to iron deficiency, and there are certain facts of Ms. Shields’ case – including excessive bleeding during and after the delivery of her daughter Rowan – that indicate that this could have been the precipitating factor of her depression.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post! I have also been reading There Was a Little Girl, Ms. Shields’ account of her relationship with her hard-drinking but well-loved manager mother. In it, Ms. Shields recounts numerous details of her early and young adult life, including this charming story of dating a young George Michael! In light of his untimely recent passing, I thought you might get a kick out of reading this biographical tidbit, and I do hope you will “get” all of Ms. Shields’ lyrical references, which add significantly to the cuteness of the piece. But I’ll let her tell it:

“I had recently gone on The Tonight Show to promote On Your Own and Johnny had asked me with whom I would want to be stranded on a desert island. (Such an original question!) I said I had a crush on George Michael. Mom had decorated a denim shirt of mine with ‘WHAM’ in glitter paint and Bedazzles. She glued pins and little pictures of George and surprised me with it to wear to his concert. I almost wore it on Carson.

“As luck would have it, while in Chicago on the book tour, we discovered we were staying at the same boutique hotel as George. Mom was enamored of the fact that he was famous, and she loved his voice. Mom had contacted George’s publicist to say that I was staying in the same place and hoped to meet him if possible. He said he would love to take me to dinner but because of our being bothered by the press we should probably just arrange dinner at the hotel. I nearly fell on my face.

“George decided to get food delivered to the private dining room on the rooftop. I arrived at the meal in colored jeans and a blouse. The table was beautifully set and all the foods I liked had been ordered. George said he had read some place that I liked to be healthy so he picked accordingly. There were flowers and candles and we talked nonstop. He complimented me on my blouse. When dinner was over, George walked me to my hotel room and said he wanted to see me again. He left without even trying to kiss me. I was so touched by what a gentleman he was. (I wanted to yell, ‘Wait, please don’t ‘go-go’!’)

“Back in my hotel bedroom Gavin and my mom had put CAUTION: POLICE LINE. DO NOT CROSS tape all over my bed. There were signs that said THIS MEANS, YOU, GEORGE! I guess this was payback for my sign-hanging stunt down the hallway for Mom after her date with Woody Allen.

“George and I managed to go on a few more dates in New York City that involved shopping or meals. He held my hand and even bought me a mauve cashmere sweater from Charivari on the Upper West Side. I thought he was a remarkable, respectful, and patient gentleman who was obviously aware of my hesitance regarding sex. Mom was thrilled. She said he had good taste and was sweetly old-fashioned. Nobody had ever been willing to move so slowly. It must be love.

“On the night before I was to go back to Princeton for my sophomore year, George invited me to a party for Grace Jones. When we arrived at the club, Boy George ran up to us and started screaming about how he had heard the rumor but was happy to see us actually together. Before the evening got too late, my boyfriend George ‘carelessly’ whispered into my ear, ‘Why don’t we get out of here?’

“We got into the limo and headed back to my home in New Jersey. As we were nearing the house, George put up the partition and turned to me. I thought, Oh my God – I’m going to get to have my first time with George Michael in the back of the limo! Forget Catholicism and the book. Forget my mother. God would understand! I gazed at George with puckered lips. He looked deep into my eyes and said, ‘I think we need to take a break. I need to concentrate on my career.’ WHAM!

“I was devastated. Mom tried to comfort me and promised that I was going to be OK. She obviously didn’t see him as a threat at any stop of the way. Mom encouraged friendships with people like George Michael, Michael Jackson, and John Travolta, because I believe she was impressed by their genuinely sweet natures as well as their level of fame. These were the types of more gentle male friends who loved my mom and did not pose a threat to her.

“I went back to my new place just off campus and cried myself to sleep for weeks. But my sophomore year went by and I finally got over George.”

***

Sweet story, isn’t it? Shields has many other entertaining stories to tell, and I must say, her insights are often impressive – she is definitely much more than an exceptionally pretty face :)

A Fifty-Word Horror Story

The zombies crashed into the house.

“Brains!” they moaned.

The family was gathered around the television, watching. None of them moved.

The zombies scratched their heads. The parents were staring at the screen. The children’s mouths hung open.

“No brains!” the zombies moaned.

And moved on to the next house.

What I Learned from Watching Scooby-Doo

Scooby-Doo. Amazing, isn’t it? Here it is, nearly fifty years after the first episode aired, and Scooby-Doo movies and cartoons are still being made.

I’ll admit that I haven’t watched any of the newer programs myself, so I can’t speak as to their quality. I loved the original Scooby-Doo shows way too much to taint my memory of them with some newer (and undoubtedly less charming) version of a classic. Besides, I still watch the reruns from time and time, and you know what? I’ll be darned if they aren’t just as good as they were when I was a kid. Of course, maybe I appreciate them on a slightly different level now.

Because it turns out that the Scooby-Doo shows, in their early manifestations, weren’t about a gang of teenagers and a talking dog. They weren’t about how many ways you can work chocolate sauce into a quadruple-decker sandwich, or how easily villains are fooled by cheap, impromptu disguises. They weren’t even about solving mysteries. What Scooby-Doo was really about was the triumph of reason over superstition. Because what devotees of Scooby-Doo learned from watching the show was simply this: There is a rational explanation for everything.

It’s brilliantly done. You have Fred and Velma, the logical leaders of the group, who are consistently convinced that there’s no such thing as ghosts and are determined to prove it. You have Daphne, who stands on the fence, being sometimes a believer and sometimes a skeptic. And finally you have Scooby and Shaggy, the superstitious “cowards” who fall prey to every supernatural trick. Yet they’re the ones who always end up having to lure their paranormal pursuers into the gang’s cleverly designed trap. They’re the ones who constantly have to find the courage to confront their fears, and who ultimately reap the greatest satisfaction from uncovering the truth. And they’re undeniably our favorites, the ones we identify with and support.

You can’t help but root for the hungry young man and his faithful and equally hungry Great Dane, to hope that they’ll learn to trust the logic of their peers even as we ourselves learn to trust it. Because the show proves, time and again, how needless their fear really is, how silly their conviction that werewolves and mummies and monsters are real. And as viewers, we know better, because we know how it always ends. The phosphorescent alien footprints trailing across a barren field. The eerie thumping of a mysterious and invisible drummer. The green ghosts emerging from hidden hallways and secret staircases to taunt and terrorize our valiant crew. Week after week, we watch and we learn.

There’s no such thing as ghosts. It’s always a trick, a scheme devised by mere mortal men to keep people away from the site of the haunting or other creepy phenomenon. There’s always a plot to abscond with someone else’s treasure, or to foil the attempts of greedy neighbors to abscond with one’s own. No matter how frightening or eerie or persuasive the phantom, it always turns out to be a man in disguise.

That’s what makes Scooby-Doo the ultimate symbol of my generation. It’s why we think the way we do; why we champion proof and science, and why we’ve discarded spooks and angels. It’s why when a door slams shut in the middle of the night we suspect a prowler and not a poltergeist. It’s why we blame trick photography and digital imaging for producing shapes and shadows we can’t discern or identify. It’s why we’ve lost belief in demonic possession and intensified our interest in mental illness, and why we hope to find aliens and not to fight them. Because we know that crime is real. That evil is real. That fear is real. But we also know that no supernatural power lies behind them. Only a human, just like us.

Is it better this way? Perhaps. Except that we’ve gone beyond the golden Scooby-Doo moment of discovering that the spirit of which we were deathly afraid is just a run-of-the-mill crook playing a trick. There’s no revelation here, no joy in finally uncovering the man behind the mask. Because we never thought for a moment that the ghost was real. We never believed it was anything more than another troubled human taking what wasn’t theirs and scaring people in the process. Because that’s how thoroughly we understand humans now, how much more dangerous they are than demons and phantoms. Fear doesn’t come from outer space or beyond the grave anymore. It’s right here beside us, sleeping in the upstairs apartment or working in the next tiny cubicle or tramping down the same tiled hallway.

Science has triumphed. Rationality has triumphed. But they haven’t turned our world into a prettier or less intimidating place. Rather they’ve made us aware that what humans harbor in the darkest depths of their hearts is more frightening by far than any monster we could have imagined. We expect monsters to kill and destroy without thinking, and without reason. We don’t expect spirits to care whom they frighten, or whom they hurt. But we expect humans to behave better than beasts or bogeymen. How do we explain it when they don’t?

Scooby-Doo understands. Because here, in the real world, behind every event we can’t explain, there also lies a mystery to unravel. Perhaps it’s not the mystery we were expecting, because it’s not merely a matter of proving that the ghost is a fake, or that there’s a real live person behind it. This infinitely more complex riddle can never be solved in twenty-two minutes with a jumbo box of laundry detergent and an industrial-sized fan. It’s the mystery of human behavior, of what truly transpires on the other side of the masks that all of us wear.

***

This essay is also available in eBook on Amazon and in audiobook on Audible.

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Words Reveal What Masks Conceal: An Essay for Halloween

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.

***

This essay is also available in eBook for Amazon Kindle and in audiobook on Audible.

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“Weekend Away: An Almost-Erotic, Almost-Love Story” is FREE for Kindle through 9/17

My long short story Weekend Away: An Almost-Erotic, Almost-Love Story is FREE for Kindle through Monday the 17th.

Prefer the audiobook? It’s now available on Amazon at the discounted price of only $2.77!

***

“And then we were standing, rising up from the water, and as the droplets cascaded down my naked body I imagined myself as a mortal and less awe-inspiring version of Aphrodite, and Jesse as Poseidon, except with, um, only one prong in his trident.”

Cindy’s friend Jesse is great – especially when he gets out of her way after the “benefits” part of their evening is over. So when he proposes a weekend excursion at a nearby lake, she’s naturally suspicious – isn’t that the kind of thing “couples” do? Now she might never be able to get the smell of him off her…

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Now find out what happens to the author when her real-life inspirations read her book…

In Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged, we learned the story of Sam and Kathy and Ted, three good friends who become even better lovers. Now find out what happens to the author when her real-life inspirations read her book in The Other Three of Us.

The Kindle box set featuring both Parts 1 & 2 of this follow-up sequel is FREE for Kindle on Amazon through Monday, September 17th!

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Last Day to Get “In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer” FREE for Kindle

Today is the last day to download In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer for FREE for Kindle.

It was coming at last.

The end of all things.

All but the darkness…

Everything comes to an end. Lives and loves, joy and innocence, peoples and nations; nothing is spared. Even our own world must one day bid us farewell.

In this collection of short fiction, author Lori Schafer examines these ends – how they occur, why they occur, and what they mean to us when they do. Features author commentary on selected pieces.

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