Curse of the Tasmanian Devils

Curse of Tasmanian Devils

This is the first day in almost two weeks I feel confident enough to say,


The Australian flu, according to the CDC, although I suspect it originated in Tasmania.  Yup.  Someone has figured out a way to shrink Tasmanian Devils, turning them into microbes breathable by humans.  These past two week, those little devils have been spinning tornados in my stomach and then intestines.  I could hear them laughing as I tried unsuccessfully to silence them with gallons of flat ginger ale and stale Saltines.  Ha, ha ha!

I can remember little whilst horizontal.  A marathon of Law & Order on the telly, the Inauguration, stumbling down the hall to the computer and trying to keep up with email.  Folks, this is a not a good idea.  When the Tasmanian Devils have you, just let everything slid.  God knows who I insulted this week.  Or what senseless drivel I’ve released into the ether of the world wide web.  I’ll have to send a mass email out to everyone I know saying, “The Devil made me do it” and this time, it won’t be a lie.

Now, as to why someone would want to shrink Tasmanian Devils, well, the answer isJanscream simple.  The future of these creatures is tenuous so what better way to save them then to turn them into a virus.  Viruses last forever, mutating when in danger into something even more potent.

Thinking (as you can tell from the above) is also not wise while Devils have you in their grip.   Especially about such weighty subjects as what should my public personae be as I board the Starship Twitter?  What’s my platform? Who’s my audience? WHO AM I?

Having no answers, I decided to consult the experts, those exalted beings in our field, the oracles.  In my case, famous writers.  Luckily The Paris Review has been publishing interviews with authors, poets and playwrights for the past sixty years, reviews that are imminently enjoyable (well, most of them) even when devils dance in your lower bowel. For hours I drank in the words of the great ones as they gave answers to the Review’s so-called “quintessential questions,” i.e., what advice would you give to a beginning writer, what implement do you use, what environment do you write in and, of course, when did you decide you were a writer..

INTERVIEWER: When did you first begin writing?

T. CORAGHESSAN BOYLE: In a class in college. As a junior I walked into an elective class that consisted of all the lame, halt, and disaffected crazies on campus, one of whom was a reincarnated Egyptian princess and had the tattoo on her ankle to prove it. Hallelujah, I thought, this is just where I belong. The Paris Review, 2000

Hey, that nails it for me.  How about you?

Now, how about the all-important writing environment.  Maybe I can’t figure out who I am because I’m not working in the right environment.

INTERVIEWER: What would be the best environment for a writer?

WILLIAM FAULKNER: … If you mean me, the best job that was ever offered to me was to become a landlord in a brothel. In my opinion it’s the perfect milieu for an artist to work in. It gives him perfect economic freedom; he’s free of fear and hunger; he has a roof over his head and nothing whatever to do except keep a few simple accounts and to go once every month and pay off the local police. The place is quiet during the morning hours, which is the best time of the day to work. There’s enough social life in the evening, if he wishes to participate, to keep him from being bored; it gives him a certain standing in his society; he has nothing to do because the madam keeps the books; all the inmates of the house are females and would defer to him and call him “sir.” All the bootleggers in the neighborhood would call him “sir.” And he could call the police by their first names. The Paris Review, 1950

Cat House by the side of the road. Nowhere Nevada. The perfect writing environment?

Man Training 1.0

I can’t tell you where I live because if you hate squirrels as much as anyone trying to grow fruits or vegetables, well, you might be tempted to report my hubby to the local sheriff’s department.  In our small town, instead of those sex predator maps, we have squirrel feeder maps, with bull-eyes over the homes of all the vile sons-of-bitches who actually feed the varmints.  Like my husband.

So far Hubby has skirted under the radar, however, we did have a close call the other day when our neighbor came up for a visit and saw this dude (or dudess) begging at the back door.

Outlaw Squirrel

Evil scourge targeted by the Drone Hawks

“Aha,” she said. “Now I know why I can’t go out the back door without being attacked by a squirrel.”  She owns a dog, one of the pets on the city’s approved pets lists.

Luckily she didn’t report him to the local squirrel-hating vigilantes.


Man Training 1.0 is held on our back deck every morning and evening.  The birds stayed away at first, allowing the squirrels to teach Hubby their rules, such as:


Basic Squirrel Rules

“Don’t give us any of those raw peanuts!  Yuck! We only want the roasted kind.”

“We don’t see straight ahead.  Toss our peanuts to either our left or right and then get outta our way.”

“If we tap at the back door, that means we’re hungry.  Doesn’t matter if you have guests or not.  We like a party just like everyone else.”

Once Hubby got those basic rules down,  the birds (particularly the scrub jays) began teaching him their various cries such as:  “Eek, there’s a hawk.”  Evidently they don’t want him throwing out food and tempting young ones when a hawk is circling.  The town has installed perches throughout the hills in order to encourage hawks to deal with the, ahem, squirrel problem.  They patrol the skies above our house every morning and night, waiting to swoop down for a snack.  Unfortunately they not very picky.  A young quail makes a mighty tasting treat.

Now Hubby claims to be able to distinguish squirrel family members.  “There’s Sammy,” he told me one morning. “He’s the son of Rufus, the One-Eyed.”  Although I never asked him how he knew such things.  Perhaps he’s become the Squirrel Whisperer.


Post-script:  In doing my scholarly research for this blog, I discovered the following examples of squirrel/man interactions which more or less prove that squirrels are more intelligent than man:

Why Nevada…

I was raised in Reno, Nevada, which I always thought I could put behind me, but…


The closest I ever came to being a cowgirl!

You know how these things go. Nevada just keeps popping up in my writing, as a setting, a dreaded past, or even as a character. So many other writers have set their novels in Nevada that I did a little investigation to find out how their stories differed from mine. What I found out was, the state has cast its spell on many a writer in much the same way as it did on me.

When you talk about Nevada, most people think Vegas.  And is it true, hundreds of contemporary novels have been set in Sin City (and Sin City North – Reno). Apparently there are more than enough greedy millionaires, soulless gangsters, cunning thieves, pretty heiresses, hard-nosed detectives, and clueless tourists in those towns to satisfy a multitude of writers.


Set in a “fictional” town in Nevada. Stephen King based the story on a real road trip he took through the state.

However, when writers switch their attention inland to the “real” Nevada,  it’s remarkable how the same themes have prevailed: travelers trapped in isolated desert towns where they are toyed with by evil forces (“Skin” and ”Desolation”), UFO encounters that lead to strange maladies and mental afflictions (“Strangers”), and doomsday thrillers generally involving the military or CIA.

I am no different.  When I think of rural Nevada, all of the above themes seem remarkably plausible to me. I’m certain I ran into the arachnid shift-changers of “Scorpio Rising” outside of Ely, an isolated town near the border of Nevada and Utah.

Of course, I’ve only skimmed the surface of the many fine novels set in that other house. The one I can’t seem to escape.  Apparently, once trapped on one of Nevada’s many endless roads, one can never really escape!

One of Nevada's many endless roads. It took almost an hour to get to the mountains on the horizon.

Somewhere between Fallon and Eureka. It took almost an hour to get to the mountains on the horizon.

Coming soon:  Whorehouses, giant red-haired cannibals, the many uses of bat guano, and aliens, of course, aliens.  You can’t talk about Nevada without mentioning aliens.