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#GetSilent: The Anatomy of an Ignored Issue; Part One: “MAGA Martha”

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If you missed the prologue to this story, you need to read it before delving into this part; there’s simply too much to sum up to get us to this next point. All of the information in this post has come from people involved, either directly or peripherally. If they’ve asked me to obscure their identities, I have.

Also, please note: the information here is presented without screenshots. The reason for this is that there are so many, the posts will become too image heavy and frankly, difficult to read. These screenshots can be produced at a moment’s notice via email or social media if any of the “Sassies” or their supporters feel they are being slandered and need to take any of the legal action they’ve baselessly threatened others with.

In January of 2019, a reader known as Nikki was temporarily suspended from Twitter as a result of an argument with some of the “Sassies” (now consisting of M.R. Rutter, Paula M. Hunter, Gail Geiger, and K.N. Blackburn). Nikki, it should be noted, was an early critic of Santino Hassel. As a result, she had changed her Twitter display name to “Nikki C. Fisher,” a play on “catfisher,” the popular term for someone who lies about their identity for personal gain on the internet. When Lissa Gromley blogged about her experience with the Sassies, she handed over three-thousand pages of the Sassies’ private chat to Fisher, who posted details about the Sassies’ treatment of Gromley on Twitter. As support for Gromley grew among the readers and bloggers associated with Fisher (and as another, unrelated author scandal unfolded), the Sassies employed a tactic they had congratulated themselves about in their private chat: they “discovered” information about Fisher and exposed her true identity: author Nikki Fisher.

Blackburn attacked Fisher, accusing her of “lying, and looking for notoriety.” Fisher denied lying about anyone; she’d recently unfollowed a large number of people due to their association with another author and tweeted about it, but she genuinely had no idea about Gromley or the Sassies. Still, they piled on, with Geiger boasting:

“One should use their names investigative skills when going after someone especially for they claim to be a writer. As we do investigate and research EVERYTHING! The targeting was not only inappropriate it was truly immature and deserving of the loss that followed. Meg we got you!”

Fisher responded:

“What targeting? Everyone is talking about it but no one wants to tell me where this targeting is?”

Geiger insisted that Fisher had deleted a tweet slandering Rutter, demanded an apology, and warned that her actions would harm her career. Blackburn also alleged that Fisher had deleted a tweet and also demanded an apology, going so far as to say that the people who unfollowed Fisher did so because they knew she was spreading misinformation. Yet, Fisher still insisted she had no idea what was going on.

Because she didn’t. Because Nikki Fisher, author, and Nikki C. Fisher, blogger, weren’t the same people, despite Geiger’s crowing about their extensive research. Their shoddy detective work had caused an innocent author to lose followers and readers, and they refused to back down, fully convinced that Nikki C. Fisher and Nikki Fisher were the same person.

Later that month, Gromley wrote her blog post about her experiences with the Sassies, and conflict ensued between (the real) Nikki C. Fisher and the group. Blackburn referenced her alleged career success and swollen bank account several times to imply that the “trolls” were jealous (a quick check of her Amazon profile on March 18, 2019, showed her as being the author of one book, currently ranked lower than #25,000 in each of its categories and #996,984 overall) and threatened that Gromley would be served with a lawsuit the next week (she was not, and has not been, to date). As the Twitter spat went on, a suspicious account popped up in defense of Blackburn.

Reader Angela says:

“One morning Nikki told us in a chat that she was in twitter jail for something involving all those authors. I don’t remember what tweet was reported though. So we starting being funny on twitter and doing this #FreeNikki stuff. I decided to check the mentions of the people involved and saw some random person tweeted KN and said she was looking for a series to read and found her on twitter and sorry she has all these trolls. I clicked on her and it’s just all maga. She supports the maga hat kids and said the elder was guilty of “stolen valor” and just all the crap maga people say. There’s no way this person is a romance reader in my mind. There’s also no damn way you could use any general search terms on amazon and have KN’s book show up. So I know this is all set up. So you can see what happened after that.”

“MAGA Martha” had created her account in January of 2019, very close to the time that Nikki Fisher, author, had been incorrectly doxed. Her bio claimed that she’d been locked out of her past account and that was why her current account was so new. Martha rushed to Blackburn’s defense, stating that she should block trolls and that Martha, a new account who’d only ever tweeted vitriolic conservative talking points before and nothing at all about books, was excited to buy Blackburn’s novel. When blogger Darien Moya saw Martha’s “stolen valor” remarks about Nathan Phillips, she tweeted her objections; Martha fired back, accusing Moya, a black woman, of racism against white people (though at one point, Martha, whose user pic was of a white woman with blonde hair, accuses Moya of incorrectly assuming that Martha was white).

Meanwhile, Blackburn received a one-star review on her book, a review which she blamed on the blogger Fisher, calling it fake and telling another Twitter user that she had contacted Amazon to take it down. They did not take it down, likely because the review was highly detailed, including plot points that one couldn’t know without at least skimming the book. Blackburn bragged on Twitter that she had only positive reviews and therefore this one must have been fake. One of those reviews came from “Phil.” Shortly after Gromley’s break with the Sassies, Phil posted five reviews on the same day: two five-stars for Geiger, one apiece for Hunter and Blackburn, and a one-star for Gromley that read only “badly researched. DNF.” Before that, the Phil account was occasionally reviewing the odd electronic item or books about horticulture. Phil’s passion for indie romance appeared to spring up just in time to one-star bomb Gromley and praise the other Sassies.

Except for Rutter. Because according to Gromley and others, Phil is her husband. Rutter allegedly used her husband’s account to five star her friends’ books and one-star Gromley. These actions are consistent with the Sassies’ policy of “when we do it, it’s okay.” Though they screamed down a valid, if critical, review as fake, they’re fine with fake reviews tilted in their favor.

Blackburn also accused Angela and Moya of “going after” MAGA Martha simply because Martha had stated she would buy Blackburn’s book. In Blackburn’s world, it was inconceivable that someone would be more concerned with white supremacy than with Blackburn’s books and career. She continued to insist that a personal vendetta was the only reason anyone cared about the contents of MAGA Martha’s racist tweets. Blackburn piled on Moya, mocking her for using African-American Vernacular English and demanding that Moya “use proper English” when speaking to her. When several people pointed out the racism in her tweet, Blackburn doubled down:

“Asking someone to speak proper English isn’t bigoted. If I went to Spain, I would speak Spanish. If I was speaking to a Frenchman, I would speak French. I speak proper English. I would like the same courtesy, please. 🙂 “

She goes on to taunt Moya by asking if Moya dropped out of high school and advising her to get a GED. As her racist insults escalated, Blackburn accused Moya of hiding her identity to “[…]smear others without fallout[…].”

Again, this group of authors privately bragged about bringing their sockpuppet accounts into Twitter arguments to fight on their side. When they do it, it’s “sassy.” When others tweet from their actual accounts, they’re dishonest and probably tweeting under an assumed identity.

Despite MAGA Martha’s continued abuse of Moya, Blackburn didn’t step in to shut it down, even when other readers appealed to her to do so. Nor did Geiger, who stepped in to defend MAGA Martha in a series of Tweets from her author account:

“As an author I DO NOT control the views, be it political, religious, or otherwise of my followers or readers. And I do not care it’s their right to those things. If they want to read my books then good I’m glad. But if someone else has a problem with these things, too damn bad!

“I will not follow the hypocrites and be rude or nasty to someone just because they like a politician who everyone else despises. Or because their religion is one where they worship in Mosk or are Wiccan. I will not put MY own personal views on anyone who wants to read my work

“And neither should anyone else. I watched as 2 people trashed an author and a new reader because the reader supports a politician that is EXTREMELY unpopular. Neither deserved the attack at all. And furthermore this reader is actually a very nice per who, after reading my

“Friends book posted it to HER Facebook page and told all her friends, also book readers, to get my friends books. As authors we do not want to put our feelings/views upon others shutting out those who don’t fit in our little cookie cutter life. To this reader I want to say,

“Thank you for being an awesome person and reader! You didn’t deserve that attack and neither did my friend. But I am glad you stood your ground and defended your right to be an individual. Authors do not control their audience.”

To Geiger and Blackburn, white supremacy was simply a difference of opinion that should be lauded. MAGA Martha was a brave, noble figure. Meanwhile, Martha began assembling photoshop collages of Moya’s tweets to “prove” that Moya was the real racist. These tweets included telling Blackburn that no one cared about who read her books, that nobody needed to create sockpuppet accounts, and calling Martha “Becky” and telling her to watch Fox and Friends. The strongest racial statement Moya makes in any of the screenshots is to say “AMEN!” in a quoted tweet about white people needing to assimilate into the human race, a tweet that had nothing to do with any of the Sassies.

Since I started trying to piece together this story, I’ve had several people theorize to me that MAGA Martha is Blackburn’s own alt-account. Some claim it’s Rutter’s or Geiger’s sockpuppet. But it’s generally agreed that MAGA Martha is the outlet for one of the Sassies to air her white supremacist grievances. Why else would they rally around MAGA Martha? Why else would they risk their careers by standing up for a proud white supremacist?

In a tweet, Blackburn says:

“Woke up to record-breaking sales! [star eyes, mind-blown emojis] I sold the most copies I’ve ever sold in one day yesterday, including release day. Considering yesterday’s events, I’m super grateful to everyone who voiced support or gave HMH a shot. [heart emoji] Thank you all! [heart emoji].”

Perhaps they view vocal white supremacists a crucial part of their reader base? In any case, the Sassies now sought to spin themselves as victims of a vicious attack, frequently implying that Blackburn couldn’t have committed any degree of racism due to Blackburn being “more native than not” (she is a self-proclaimed descendant of Pocahontas.) In a February Tweet, Blackburn stated:

“[…] I have an oddly large bone structure for a woman too, courtesy of the cross breed between my German/Irish father and my very Native mother (Apache, Algonquin, Cherokee, Creek, Pueblo, Blackfoot, Comanche, as far as we know).”

Some Twitter users doubted this claim, as in the past she’d talked about the love story between her Nazi-with-a-heart-of-gold grandfather and her Jewish grandmother who fell for each other in a concentration camp. Her use of the term “cross breed” and insistence that there was no racial component to telling someone not to use the language of their culture also raised eyebrows among a few Native readers; at one point in the conversation, Blackburn says:

“LOL, how dare I ask someone to speak my language!”

Later, she tries to deflect another Twitter user’s accusation of racism by claiming that English isn’t her native language at all.

People also became concerned over an unearthed tweet in which Blackburn stated that the Vikings were the original inhabitants of North America. As the latter is an oft-repeated white supremacist talking point, it led some to believe that MAGA Martha was Blackburn’s account, after all. This rumor gained traction the more Blackburn tweeted to defend her anti-black racist attacks on Moya’s speech:

“The act of speaking the language most spoken and taunt in our country is not racist. Can people use the language to say racist things? Sure. Your friends here have done it plenty. [shrug emoji]”

Blackburn now cast herself as the true victim of racism, despite continuing to argue that mocking AAVE had no racial connotations.

“Proper English is that derived from William Shakespeare, responsible for most of the modern words that we use. No, it isn’t a racial concept. It’s a literary one. Like there isn’t a big enough racial issue, let’s make words one too!”

When other Twitter users continued to point out that there absolutely is a racial component to language, especially in the United States, Blackburn leaped to a new tactic: accuse anyone who mocked Geiger’s spelling of “mosque” as “mosk” of being ableist due to Geiger’s history of traumatic brain injury.

Mocking spelling errors can arguably be deemed ableist depending on context; namely, whether or not the misspelling is intentional or a mistake. But there was no context for Geiger’s brain injury. Geiger had explained her “mosk” tweet as being the result of using speech-to-text. After people pointed out that they were unable to elicit “mosk” in place of “mosque” with their own speech-to-text programs (and because the word was used in a series of tweets defending and praising a white supremacist), they assumed Geiger’s typo was a satirical misspelling aimed to the eye dialect of the alt-right. When Geiger’s condition came to light, several of those mocking her acknowledged their mistake and called for others to stop pointing out the misspelling. But now, Blackburn and her defenders felt her anti-AAVE screed against Moya (which began before Geiger’s tweet was mocked) was somehow justified:

“Doesn’t matter. You all took place. Silence is compliance. When you don’t speak out against it, you are guilty of it. You posted it with the intent to have her mocked for having a traumatic brain injury. Seriously, think about how that makes you all look.”

Blackburn felt that Angela, who had tweeted screenshots of Geiger’s rant in defense of MAGA Martha, had done so with the sole purpose of creating an ableist dogpile. Blackburn also began tweeting that those calling her out for her racist campaign against Moya would be sued for deliberately and maliciously harming Blackburn’s business, a claim that seemed difficult to prove after all her public gloating over her success and the great sales the controversy had earned her. To date, no one has been served, though several sockpuppet accounts have emerged threatening to investigate parties involved in order to file suits.

Considering the Sassie’s previous attempts, it won’t be surprising if their stellar detective work leads to Blackburn suing the wrong individual.

In February, a screenshot of a 2016 rant from Blackburn’s public Facebook account cast more doubt on Blackburn’s motivations for mocking Moya’s speech:

“I have kept silent for the most part, but I’ve had it up to my eyebrows hearing about how the Oscars are too white and that black kids don’t have enough role models to look up to. This is my question: why are you teaching your children that in order for someone to be a role model, they have to share your skin color or heritage? My husband and I watch UFC. We still haven’t missed a fight in over two years. It’s likely that [redacted] is going to grow up watching the sport, liking it, maybe even wanting to participate in it himself. I would never limit my son by only pointing out the white fighters, or the only Irish title holder in the UFC’s history, just because we’re white and have a lot of Irish ancestry. There are some seriously gifted fighters who are black. If my son came home and said that he wanted to be like Demetrius Johnson or Jon Jones, I would tell him to go for it; work hard like they do, put your heart and soul into what you love, and one day, you’ll be as good as they are. Because when I look at people, I don’t see the color of their skin. I see their personality, their drive and devotion, their work ethic and their accomplishments. That’s what makes someone a role model, not the color of skin they were born with.”


Come back for Part Three: Down The Toilet


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I’m so happy to kick off the Northern Circle series with the re-release of my first ever shifter romance, Awakening DelilahThis novella was originally published in 2011, and now it’s here, shined up a bit (I can’t believe how much my writing has evolved with a few short years and no word count restrictions from publishers).

The cover of Awakening Delilah features a beautiful, dark-skinned Black woman in profile, in front of a misty background of a pine forest. There is a ghostly image of a doe standing over her shoulder and the logo for the Northern Circle series in the bottom right corner.


When Delilah Lewis moved from Boston to Gwinn Close, a sanctuary for shifters in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she knew there would be an adjustment period. She just never thought getting shot at by poachers would be a part of that adjustment. When two sexy shifters come to her rescue, things get even more complicated. Delilah is a good girl, with a good-girl upbringing, and both men make her want to be very bad…

Miguel and Darius are in a committed relationship, but once they meet Delilah, they want more. While Delilah wonders if Gwinn Close is right for her, Miguel and Darius do everything they can to convince her to stay. But secrets from their past threaten a future with the woman they both crave. And while she struggles to let go of her boring former life, both men work to bring out the wild animal in her…

Amazon Smashwords 

The Northern Circle series is a multi-author project featuring series and stand-alone novels and novellas by Bronwyn Green, Kris Norris, and Jessica Jarman. All of the stories will feature paranormal elements and take place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (home of the Keweenaw Vortex). Look out for more books later this year!

#GetSilent: The Anatomy of an Ignored Issue; Prologue: “What constitutes an attack?”

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In January, I declared a hiatus from anything to do with the romance community to work on my mental health. I thought that I could carefully weed out the bad apples and toxic pontificators in the community and everything would be fine. Instead, I found that when you see a wide-reaching, long-running campaign of doxing, stalking, racist attacks, and threats against dogs and children, it’s a lot harder to sleep at night when you’re trying to not get involved or just watch from the fringes and you know you have the platform to bring the abuse to light.

At least, it’s harder for some people to sleep. Others are snoozing comfortably. But we’ll get to that later.

Much later. Because whoo doggy. This is a long one.

Before we go on this journey today, it’s important to note that there will be chunks of this twisted, complicated tale left out, at the request of individuals who are trying to disentangle themselves from what has been a months-long battle. Also, some parts of the story may be told out of order as the narrative calls for it due to issues of clarity and continuity; I’ll note when this is the case.

But for right now, let’s start in June of 2018, in the aftermath of Faleena Hopkins’s failed attempt to trademark the word “cocky”. #CockyGate, as it became known, sparked a sometimes heated, genre-wide debate among indie romance and erotica authors who were tired of the scammers and cheaters running roughshod over the self-publishing world. A new tag, #GetLoud, covered issues from bookstuffing to shady marketing tactics. One such popular trick used to earn the coveted orange #1 Bestseller badges on Amazon is by putting your book in a category it doesn’t belong in. For example, shortly after Fifty Shades of Grey fell out of the top slot in the erotica, erotic romance, and contemporary romance categories, readers found it inexplicably listed as the “#1 Bestseller” in “humor/pets/dogs & cats”.

Not a joke. It’s currently coasting at a sweet #257 in the “Holiday Romance” category, despite featuring precisely zero depictions of any holiday festivities.

Obviously, this kind of trickery doesn’t sit well with authors. As much as we talk about how there’s room for everyone on the playground and this is a community, not a competition, the fact remains that Amazon’s algorithm (upon which indie authors, especially, depend for visibility and book sales) doesn’t care about sisterhood. Get your book to #1 in any category, even the wrong category, and you’ve increased the number of eyeballs in front of which Amazon will place your book. It’s an easy system to abuse, and authors are right to be fed up with it. This led some on the #GetLoud tag to suggest mass reporting books that had been miscategorized.

In a private message to me, Individual A explained that at the time, emailing Amazon about which categories to place your book in would result in Amazon not only recommending inappropriate categories but categorizing your books for you based on the keywords you entered into your book’s description. For example, if I were to write a book about a vampire mechanic who falls in love with a ballerina but I was unsure if it belonged in paranormal romance or romantic comedy, Amazon might helpfully look at the keywords “ballerina,” “mechanic,” and “vampire,” and decide to categorize the book as, “non-fiction/arts & entertainment/ballet,” “non-fiction/automotive/repair and maintenance,” and “fiction/young adult/paranormal/vampires.”

I’m not sure if those are real categories, but you understand what I’m trying to illustrate here. Some of the books being reported weren’t the result of authors breaking the rules, but authors trying to follow them. To prove their point, Individual A contacted Amazon through the same channel and received a response that proved their theory, then presented this evidence to the #GetLoud tag. They warned that mass reporting books due to incorrect categories could harm innocent authors. There was a disagreement; authors M.R. Rutter, G.L. Geiger, Paula M. Hunter, and Lissa Gromley were apparently on the side that felt Individual A was undermining the goal of #GetLoud. Words and subtweets were exchanged, and it created an animosity that lingered among the four authors.

On October 28, 2018, Individual A became the topic of a group Facebook message between Rutter, Geiger, Hunter, and Gromley. In the chat, 3,000 pages of which were shared with me for this profile, Hunter revealed Individual A’s real name and links it to Individual A’s pseudonym:

“Bad to [real name redacted] aka [Individual A]. [They] jumped all over me after I kindly provided a list of Amazon categories. [Individual A] was getting nasty at Pippi about category squatting, saying that not everyone does it on purpose and then going on about stockphoto (of people)profile pictures on Amazon not being a problem.”

There is no indication of any interaction between Individual A and “Pippi” on the subject beyond a single, cordial conversation. As for going on about stock photos, that was also a limited interaction with Hunter’s sockpuppet account, a chicken persona. Individual A had merely cautioned that mass reporting might have ill-effects on authors in the indie community and that an author using a stock photo to hide their identity wasn’t uncommon or necessarily nefarious. After scouring Individual A’s timeline, I can personally find no evidence of any nastiness on Individual A’s part. Certainly, nothing that would justify Hunter’s seeming obsession with Individual A; shortly after the above message, Hunter added:

“I got plenty of screenshot on [real name redacted]. LOL [Individual A] has even hidden [their] personal info on [their] website. I got that before [Individual A] started paying to hide it.”

It seems that simply by disagreeing with Hunter, Individual A was deserving of a gross intrusion into their privacy. Whether or not Individual A was even aware it was Hunter they were talking to isn’t clear. What is clear is that this one small interaction that took place over the course of a single day was enough to incite Hunter to find Individual A’s personal information and file it away for future use months later.

An exchange with an almost comical lack of awareness followed those messages:

Hunter: “[Individual A] was tagging Meg in everything at the RWA Con. Lol.”

Rutter: “It was bizarre”

Geiger: “Omg. Stalker much”

Rutter: “I know. Creepy”

Individual A tagging someone they believed was a friendly acquaintance on social media was creepy stalking to Hunter, Rutter, and Geiger; Hunter investigating Individual A over a conversation between Individual A and Hunter’s sockpuppet account was reasonable. As was their obsession with “trolls” and “bullies” and “haters”. At numerous points in the months-long conversation, members of the chat congratulate each other and themselves in their skill at taking on people they viewed as their enemies, including finding out personal information as they did with Individual A. At one point, Geiger even brags:

“Yes but we also know how to trigger him and he knows it but he is too stupid to know how to mess with anyone of us”

The five of them (the group later grew to include author Kay Blackburn) not only celebrated the thought of causing psychological harm to the people who ran afoul of them, but Hunter continued to ferret out the personal information of other twitter users. Three of the authors ran multiple Twitter accounts; Hunter’s chicken, Geiger’s @AuthorPrime01, and an account Rutter referred to as “Maggie.” Throughout the chat log, coy references are made to “Maggie” becoming angry and unleashing abuse on a target. Hunter gloats that someone arguing with her chicken handle didn’t know it was her. Geiger simply seemed to want to keep her social media attacks partially hidden behind her secondary account. While Geiger tweeted official book news under her real name, she engaged in these Twitter fights as @AuthorPrime01. None of them seemed terribly concerned with keeping these secondary identities secret, but separating their author identity from their increasingly aggressive and cliquey online behavior was something they were certainly familiar with.

In a post to her blog made in December of 2018, Gromley explains that she and the other authors had created the Sassy Literary Ladies, a Facebook group for reader interaction. Gromley describes the private chat between the authors as a fairly common group message between online friends:

During the Sassies private conversations, we discussed many things, from how one person was in constant pain, what their family was doing, the books in general that we had published, and so forth. Every so often, I’d talk about my dog or about other things too, sincerely believing I was a part of this group and that we could share anything together without judgment.

It’s unclear from reading the chat transcript how, why, or when this changed. It appears to have done so literally overnight; after a friendly chat into the early hours of November 28th, the group goes unusually quiet. At 7:37 pm, this conversation takes place:

Gromley: “What happened to Gloria’s account? 🙁 ”

Geiger: “I paid with no interaction is not a successful page so I shut it down I’ll be doing other things anyway and I’m too busy with the group and with my Twitter which is far more successful so I worry about an author page on Facebook some other time”

Gromley: “Ohhh. Oddly, on my side your personal page isn’t showing either. 🙁 I has a sad.”

Geiger: “[shrug emoji] Facebook go figure”

Blackburn shows up to second Geiger’s comment about Facebook, and once again, the discussion in the group message slows to a trickle but nothing seems to be wrong. Everyone is busy with other things. On November 30th, Gromley informs the group that she’s updating the Sassy Literary Ladies website and asks Blackburn if she has a logo. At 6:37 p.m., Gromley posts:

“Gloria… 🙁 I’m blocked from you on Twitter. Did I do something wrong?”

When no one answers, Gromley posts again at 6:54:

” 🙁 I has a sad…”

Two minutes later, Rutter responds:

“Hey Lissa I forgot if you had a college degree. I’m doing a personal survey.”

Gromley confirms that she has four degrees, and Rutter asks where they’re from. A minute later, at 7:01 p.m., Gromley responds with the names of the schools she attended. The chat goes silent until her next message at 7:20:

“-still doesn’t understand why she’s blocked-“

At this time, Blackburn enters the chat to say she won’t be answering messages for a while due to a family situation. Gromley asks Rutter to message her, but Rutter is unavailable and indicates that she’ll contact Gromley when she returns home.

The next exchange begins on December 1st, when Rutter opens the chat for the day with:

“I got a disturbing call from a friend. Did anyone query agents and editors using my name?”

Geiger, Rutter, Hunter, and Blackburn bemoan the unprofessionalism of an author who would stoop to such tactics. Gromley appears in the chat at 12:37. No one responds to her messages. At 3:20, Rutter asks:

“I’m confused. I looked at the years you were in college Lissa and can’t figure it out. Why 4 years for an associates but 2 years for both a bachelors and a masters and 1 year for a second masters. Did you misenter the dates?”

Remember, Rutter had asked for the information about Gromley’s degrees for a personal survey. Supposing we gave Rutter the benefit of the doubt here, perhaps there was a personal survey asking about the college degrees of online friends. And perhaps Rutter asked the follow-up question because she truly feared that Gromley’s degree may have been given to her by a fraudulent school. But what follows over the course of the next few hours amounts to a cross-examination that culminates on Gromley sharing her official college transcripts on December 2nd.

At 9:05 p.m., all hell breaks loose:

Geiger: “I’m going to put this kindly as possibly. For quite some time you have been saying and doing things that are questionable. You make grandiose claims of things then later your story changes. It raises more than a few eyebrows. But I chose to let them slide. Then your behavior started to get stranger. You seemed to have a constant need for attention. Wanting all conversations to revolve around you. You’d but into a conversation I was having with Meg or Kay or Paula about your

Dog and how it’s pestering you. When our conversation was about my book covers

Or Kay’s new release, or when we were all chatting with Bean. It felt as if a spoiled child

Was demanding attention away from the child we were taking to. “Somebody come get this dog before I throw him in the closet!”

That was not appropriate and certainly not funny. If you have nothing to add to an already in progress conversation then you say NOTHING! But you chose to continuously try to get our attention away from Bean and on to you. This was extremely annoying. The next day we are discussing the song I wrote for my book 2 and you suddenly cut in with a story that has noting to do with the conversation but screamed of “Pay attention to me!” A very childish maneuver. When we were dealing with Bob and I had THOUGHT James was the culprit what did you do? YOU outed him as the troll so others would attack him. Which another account did. When I said I wanted to keep that info under wraps, as we were still investing, what was your answer to me? “OOPS” and laughing faces. When we all apologized to James… you didn’t. And you didn’t straighten out the FACT it was YOU who outed him and NOT me! But that was okay with you, right? Let me take the fall for your bad judgement. This was completely inappropriate. Did you bother to apologize to me for making me the bad guy? Did you apologize to James? No! You went on your marry little way doing as you always do, AS YOU PLEASE AND DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES TO ANYONE ELSE. We make plans for our group and you make promises you cannot keep or do not intend to keep. Aka the flyers. We had seen NO proof of them even though BOTH Paula and Meg asked to see them. Your response to their requests went completely ignored. My biggest grievance with you is your complete lack of respect and boundaries. I shared my sons post on MY Facebook page. Which is kept private for a reason and what you did is exactly why. You wormhole through my account and comment DIRECTLY to my son. This is completely inappropriate and crosses all kids of boundaries. Yes, I realize my son is a public figure and an adult, but the key words here are MY SON! Someone else would have commented to ME not Matt. All my friends see my posts about him, do they wormhole through and address him as if they know him personally like you did? No they don’t! They comment to me. Ask me to tell him they congratulate him. But you go on his Facebook and comment as if he knows you, which he does NOT! I did show your comment to Kay and she agreed that your comment came across flirty as well. I am not and NEVER will be okay with anyone using ME to get to HIM! Good grief! His career is just taking off and you cross the freaking line? Your behavior is why you are blocked on ALL my social media

And why I will NOT be speaking to you after today. We are done. And I’m completely offended at the fact you will try to backpedal like you did about using Meg and [redacted] by Querying their friends in the publishing world. How dare you do that and when given the opportunity to be honest dodge and say ‘Whoever used Meg’s name to query without permission shows a complete lack of disrespect. I’m so sorry, Meg.’

The WHOEVER IS YOU! I don’t want you to ever contact me or my family ever again. And DO NOT follow ANY of my kids social media. They already know who you are and what you’ve done. If anything, you should be ashamed of yourself, but we all know you aren’t.”

At this point, Hunter shows up to assert that all of Geiger’s allegations are true. Rutter says she’ll keep an open mind. Gromley denies every allegation and is shocked at Geiger’s insistence that she’s tried to further her career through association with Geiger’s apparently famous son, or that she’s begged for attention. The suddenly un-busy Blackburn returns for another cross-examination, telling Gromley:

“…don’t take this the wrong way, because I’m nobody myself. But…why would anyone query with your name? I mean…you’re nobody yourself.”

But she doesn’t mean it in a mean way.

Though Gromley produced her college transcripts, Rutter can’t produce the query, the name of the agent who was allegedly queried, or which email address was used for the query. Gromley insists that she hasn’t queried any agents in a year (and in her blog post corrects it to two years and asserts that she can provide proof of the queries she has made and the contents of the letters, none of which mention any other authors).

Blackburn: “I’ll be honest, this sounds…well. Very suspicious, at best.”

Rutter: “I know that. I told her that it didn’t come from my end and moved on. She did read me the first paragraph and I was appalled by the bad writing.”

When Hunter returns, it’s to add another charge to the growing list of offenses the group wishes to level against Gromley:

“Lissa, why do still continue to be friends with Craig and joined his groups after the way he behaved towards me and the bad mouthing he gave us? To me it smacks of disloyalty towards to Sassy group.”

Gromley insists she never joined any of this Craig person’s groups, though she still followed him on social media to keep tabs on him. Much in the way Hunter routinely scouted out the personal information of the “bullies” they encountered online. This, however, seems suspicious to all of them, even through Rutter admits to still being friends with this Craig individual. Gromley offers to provide screenshots of the groups she’s in on Facebook, but Blackburn says that the only thing it will prove is that Gromley left the groups, then took the screenshots. Blackburn also claims to have seen screenshots of Gromley participating in Craig’s group, but won’t produce them for Gromley.

The chat devolves from there, with Blackburn feeling “uncomfortable” with Gromley’s presence, Geiger feeling that Gromley congratulating her (adult) son on a role was inappropriate contact with her “child” (as her own friends from childhood would never dream of speaking to her children without her being involved), and Rutter criticizing Gromley’s “non-committal” answers about her education (which included providing her transcripts and student I.D. numbers). When Gromley steps away from the conversation in frustration and hurt, it’s declared evidence of wrong-doing. When she responds again, she’s “digging”. And all along, Blackburn continues to talk about how uncomfortable she is, how she’s worried about what she’s gotten into by attaching her name to the group, and how she’s not sure she wants to invest in the Sassies with Gromley’s involvement. So suspicious, that Blackburn interrogates Gromley about a GoFundMe organized by a family member and accuses her of lying about a legal matter. Again, Gromley provides too much information to appease them, giving them the name and phone number of the magistrate handling the case, as well as the case number, the county the case is going to court in, and the real names of her family members. These answers come rapid-fire, with timestamps often noting the questions have been answered in the same minute they were asked.

Eventually, Blackburn says (and please, remember this for the record in upcoming installments, it will most certainly come up again):

“I cannot be associated with someoen who lies, uses people, or manipulates.”

Gromley tells them that when she proves their allegations false, she wants an apology, but Blackburn insists:

“Sorry, but we gave you multiple chances to show us proof. You didn’t do that.”

On December 2nd, Blackburn announces the dissolution of Sassy Literary Ladies and the departure of Gromley. On December 3rd, Gromley leaves the chat.

In her blog post, in which Gromley addresses each of the group’s allegations, she also speculates on the motives of the group to turn on her:

I’ll be honest. It seemed like they got bored because nothing was going on on Twitter that they could get involved with. Cockygate, the bookstuffers, Bob Villian and so forth were over with. It was like they needed a new target […].

Now, you may be thinking, “Wow, Jenny, that’s some garden variety mean girl stuff…but what does it have to do with all the wild shit you talked about in the first paragraph of this long ass post?”

This was just a primer on how Blackburn, Rutter, Geiger, and Hunter cultivate online excitement. And as damaging as their treatment of Gromley was, it’s nothing compared what they embarked on in January of 2019.


Next time: “Part One: MAGA Martha”

State Of The Trout: cover reveal, new series, and The Year of Re-releases!

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Hey there, Trout Nation! I’ve got lots of news this time around, so lets jump right in!

First, grab your calendars and cross out “2019” because this is officially the year of Trout Freedom. One of my old publishers folded, and I got the rights back to Abigail Barnette’s earliest works, which means I can retool and republish them. Some of them (like the Naughtily Ever After series) will become full-length novels; others will remain novellas with a little spit-and-polish to update them; it’s been nearly a decade since some of them were published.

The first one up is my shifter novella, Awakening Delilah, which was first published in 2011:

The cover of Awakening Delilah features a beautiful, dark-skinned Black woman in profile, in front of a misty background of a pine forest. There is a ghostly image of a doe standing over her shoulder and the logo for the Northern Circle series in the bottom right corner.

When Delilah moved from Boston to Gwinn Close, a sanctuary for shifters in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she knew there would be an adjustment period. Fitting into the isolated and close-knit community deep in the wilderness isn’t something her affluent upbringing and cosmopolitan lifestyle prepared her for. When two hot, bisexual shifters rescue her from poachers, both of the rugged, commanding men make this good girl want to be very bad.

Miguel and Darius are wholly devoted to each other, but shifters need a pack. When they meet Delilah and feel an instant spark, they know they have to do whatever it takes to keep her. But secrets from their past threaten a future with the woman they both crave. And while Delilah struggles to embrace the Gwinn Close way of life, it’s up to Darius and Miguel to bring out the wild animal in her… 

Do you like fated mates? Insta-lust? Hot three-way sex? Then this is the story for you. And guess what?

You don’t even have to wait for it. Awakening Delilah will be out on March 19th!

I’m also super psyched to announce that Awakening Delilah marks the beginning of a new collaboration between Bronwyn Green, Jessica Jarman, Kris Norris, and myself. The Northern Circle series will feature contemporary paranormal romance novellas, novels, and short stories set in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula.

So, be on the look-out for re-releases from me, more books in the Northern Circle series, and pick up the new version of Awakening Delilah on March 19th!

Patreon Appreciation Video

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All right, all right, all right! Time to thank all my Patreon $5 and up pledges! In a video that…did not go as successfully as I hoped. But it’s still an enjoyable, kind of maybe spooky story (but more like a cautionary tale) about me and Bronwyn Green trespassing.

I’m hoping to have corrected closed captions on this and yesterday’s video by tonight. Sorry for the delay, I’m just really inept at using YouTube’s caption system.

Mom and Wednesday See Phantom Of The Opera

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My daughter is obsessed with The Phantom of The Opera. I don’t know why. Obviously, some of this is due to her constant involvement in community theater (next Friday marks her fourth show this season), but I’d be lying if I said she only just found Phandom. When she was three, one of her Christmas presents was a set of Phantom-themed felt hand puppets (Christine, Raoul, and The Phantom). She’s been into this since she was a toddler.

Last year, I was lucky enough to give her an even better Christmas present: front row tickets to the national touring company of Phantom, which stopped in Kalamazoo in February.

I mean, front row tickets to the matinee. I don’t have front-row-at-7-p.m.-money. I’m not the Monopoly man.

Now, this Christmas present was really the ultimate sacrifice, as I knew that I would be the one who had to take her to the show. And I am not hugely enthusiastic about Phantom. Especially not when the movie is on a near constant loop in my home. But it was worth it all to hear her biting criticisms of the performers.

Since it’s been a while since she was on my YouTube channel (as she has reminded me countless times), I was happy to collaborate on this video with her, in which we discuss the cool parts and the weird parts and whether or not Gerry Butler was a good Phantom.

Spoiler: we are hotly divided on that.

Stayed tuned tomorrow for the “spooky” Patreon reward video for January/February!

Trout Trouble!

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Remember Double Steve Bonus Mondays? Well, I’m in Double Steve Trouble right now. Over Double Steve Bonus Monday, kind of. Why? I can’t go into real deep detail about it until after all the legal stuff is over, but there’s a dispute over the usage of one of the Double Steve Bonus Monday photos. Now, I need to settle out of court. So, I created a GoFundMe. I’m always asked you guys to crowdfund my fabulous lifestyle and now here I am with this glamorous lawsuit? Get out of town. It’s freakin’ Dynasty over here!

After things are settled and I can talk about the case, I have a lot of advice to give authors/bloggers/creatives so they don’t end up in a “live and learn” kind of situation. But in the meantime, if you could share my GoFundMe around, I would super appreciate it. In the meantime, you’re running a blog, keep track of where you got all of your photos from and the license they’re being used under.


A Confused Bisexual: An Interlude

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INTERIOR – BEDROOM – NIGHT. JENNY has just watched footage of Chris Evans helping Regina King balance so she wouldn’t trip on her dress while accepting her Oscar.

Would you have sex with Chris Evans?

Mr. Jen shakes his head and doesn’t look up from his phone.

But why not?

Because I don’t like men. I don’t think of men sexually.

Okay, but. How?

What do you mean how?

How do you not like dudes?

They just do nothing for me.

What if you had to?

Why would I have to?

The world will end! You would have sex with Chris Evans to stop the world from ending.

Why is the world ending?

Why don’t you find Chris Evans hot?

Because I’m straight!

How? I can’t get my melon around this! How does that even work?

It’s just how it is. Imagine someone you would never have sex with.


That’s what it’s like.

So for you…having sex with Chris Evans would be like me having sex with Rush Limbaugh?

Don’t be disgusting. Chris Evans is not Rush Limbaugh.

So, you would have sex with Chris Evans.

Mr. Jen sighs deeply. A long silence follows.

Let’s say you got a cold or something. The gay cold. That made you gay.

A gay cold.

Yeah. You got a cold and now you’re gay. Who are your top five?

It’s five now?

No, just who would be in your top five. Look, we can make this the bi flu. I’ll meet you halfway here.

I thought bi doesn’t mean halfway.

Work with me! So, you have the bi flu–

I would still have sex with the girls!

But why

Imagine having sex with one of your friends.

Jenny visibly tries to imagine such a scenario.

Oh. Ew.

That’s what it’s like to not be sexually attracted to someone. I just am not interested in sex with guys.

Okay…but not even Chris Evans?



State Of The Trout: Writing News and 2019 Book Releases (Yes, including another Boss book)

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Hey there everybody! So, as you may recall, 2019 got off to a real, real fucking rocky start for me. I’m still not 100% recovered from my breakdown, so rather than push myself into another one, I decided to step back and accept that yup, I’ll probably have to put off Where We Land, which had been slated for March. And now I’m accepting the fact that yup, I have to tell everyone that’s what’s happening. Which sucks. But yes, for now, Where We Land is being pushed back. To when? I don’t know. Probably May. Maybe earlier. It’s all going to depend on my healing, how well I can function, and how much I can expend my energy. I very much downplayed the severity of what was going on, but as I’m still not quite myself, I don’t want to rush a book, have everyone hate it because it’s rushed, and then fall back into the pit of, “You were never supposed to do this, you’re a mistake, you don’t belong in the world,” which is the really dark place my imposter syndrome takes me.


This doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Nightmare Born is still updating every Tuesday on the Radish app. A new chapter becomes free every Tuesday, too, so if you’re patient enough, it can be a free read!

I’m also very pleased to announce that I’ve started writing for SyFy Fangrrls. They asked me to watch a movie called I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle and write about it.

A promotional image for I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle, featuring comic-style drawings of the cast and the demonic motorbike with the words "most motorcycles run on petrol...the one runs on blood!"

Yeah, it’s a real movie. You can read “67 thoughts we had while watching I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle” here. 

Look for more from me at SyFy Fangrrls coming soon, including articles about The Good Place and how fucking mad I am at the way we treat teenage girls in the fantasy genre.

Now, let’s talk about books. I’ve already mentioned that Where We Land is probably going to come out in May. But there will still be books in March and April. I’m working on re-releasing some of my Abigail Barnette titles that I’ve received the rights back on. Awakening Delilah will be available again in March, as part of the Northern Circle series that will feature books by me, Bronwyn Green, Jessica Jarman, and Kris Norris. All the books in the Northern Circle series will be paranormal romances set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, making the deer, fox, and bat shifters in Awakening Delilah a perfect fit.

April brings us baseball (well, technically, March brings us baseball this year), so my Hardball series, previously released as three novellas (Long Relief, Double Header, and Triple Play), will be re-released as an anthology.

Now, if you already own those books, you don’t have to re-buy any of them. Any changes will be extremely insignificant, as I’m pretty happy with them.

Then, coming up in the fall, yes, there will be another book about Sophie Scaife and the men she loves. The Stepmother is going to pick up very close to where The Boyfriend ended. And it’s going to be a ride.

So, that’s the news I have for 2019, writing-wise. So far. I mean, anything can happen, right? Maybe tomorrow I’ll get offered a three book contract to write about marmalade.

The Accidental Cat

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A little over a year ago, my mother-in-law died suddenly. Being the geographically closest family members, all of the death responsibilities fell to us. This included rehoming her demon cat, Pumpkin.

To tell the rest of the story, I have to make it clear that Pumpkin was not a cat I hated due to me just not understanding how cats work or what cats’ emotional needs are. When I say this cat was evil, it is because it attacked out of pure malice. Yes, the cat had a troubled backstory: it was a declawed stray trying to survive on its own in the trailer park where my mother-in-law lived at the time. I could understand why such an animal might deceptively coil itself around a person’s ankles as Pumpkin was wont to do, begging to be petted only to suddenly and violently change its mind the last second. That seems like reasonable, albeit traumatized, cat behavior.

So, why, understanding this, do I still maintain that Pumpkin might have been the actual devil? Out of all the times I can recall being attacked by Pumpkin for absolutely no reason, the one that sticks out most was when she ran from the back bedroom of Mother-In-Law’s trailer specifically to attack me as I was leaving the house. Though I hadn’t interacted with Pumpkin at all until that moment, she zoomed down the hallway, straight to where I stood with the door already opening for me to leave. She bit my Achilles tendon, causing my ankle to swell and my shoe to fill with blood. I shook myself free, but it remains second only to the time I was repeatedly bitten by a dog as my worst animal experience.

Everyone who visited Mother-In-Law had similar stories about this cat, who loved its owner and sought to maul any other living human. My children were terrified of her. Hell, grown people were so terrified of her that some of Mother-In-Law’s friends refused to enter her home. The cat was a menace.

Years go by. My husband’s mother moved out of the trailer park, across the state to a town near Flint. Pumpkin, of course, went with her and continued her life as an indoor/outdoor menace, often slinking out any time the front door opened. When Mother-In-Law’s health declined, she hired an unlicensed home aide through the recommendation of another person in her apartment complex. This woman came to the house and did laundry, bought groceries, cleaned the apartment, anything that my disabled Mother-In-Law could no longer do on her own. We were happy that there was someone close by that Mother-In-Law could count on, but the woman was…odd. She was conversationally flighty, forgetting from one second to the next what she’d just been talking about. She moved constantly, almost manic in her mannerisms. She was unrelentingly cheerful and instantly overfamiliar, revealing far too much about herself and her family dramas (of which there seemed to be an endless source) than strictly necessary upon first meeting someone.

“There’s something not quite right about her,” Mother-In-Law said once, fondly. “But she really is sweet. She’s a terrible driver, though. If we go anywhere, I have to drive. She’s a menace on the road.”

Coming from a woman who had once veered across the center line directly into the path of an oncoming semi because she’d taken a few too many painkillers and was trying to answer her cellphone, this was a terrifying criticism.

When it became clear that Mother-In-Law needed to be closer to us if she was going to maintain any independence, she moved into some apartments not far from my husband’s work. In the week before the move, though, Pumpkin disappeared.

Mother-In-Law was understandably distraught. “I have to leave in three days! I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t get her to come back inside!” But luckily, Pumpkin returned in the nick of time, found in the parking lot by Mother-In-Law’s caretaker.

Pumpkin had some trouble adjusting to the new apartment. Not all that unusual for a cat. She stopped going outside, running away from instead of toward freedom when people came and left. She seemed to have lost some weight while she was missing but never put it back on, despite eating more than she ever had before. But the strangest part of Pumpkin’s behavior was the lack of bloodshed; from the moment Mother-In-Law brought the cat to the new place, it never attacked anyone again.

In the weeks before she died, Mother-In-Law commented on these changes. “I don’t know what happened to her when she was missing, but she’s a completely different cat now.” This wasn’t a negative. It’s always good when people can visit your home without fending off an animal attack. And it was also a great relief, in the wake of Mother-In-Law’s death, to think that we might not have to euthanize the cat for the good of mankind. Old age and one last misadventure had calmed Pumpkin enough that it might actually be possible to rehome it. Somehow, dealing with the demon cat had become the easiest part of the entire ordeal.

I called a friend who has cats because I find that people who really, really like cats either know someone who’s looking for another cat or are looking for a new addition, themselves. After stalking the traumatized Pumpkin around the apartment, I managed to get a few photos of her. I texted them to Cristin, who immediately offered to take her on the basis off her sad story. All I needed to do was take Pumpkin for a check-up and to update her vaccines. I called the vet and made an appointment.

“And how old is the cat?” the receptionist asked.

I tried to do the kind of panicked time math one does when recalling events that don’t directly concern them. Let’s see, she got the cat when her dad was still alive and he died while we were living in Grand Rapids, and it was in the fall so it wouldn’t have been 2006 because we moved away from Grand Rapids in June of 2006. That means she had to get the cat sometime between 2003 and 2005. It was fully-grown when she got it, so even assuming the cat was a year old, that means… “I don’t know. Between thirteen or fifteen years old?”

“But there’s a problem,” I explained. “This cat is so violent. It’s the most dangerous cat I’ve ever seen in my life. We need to probably sedate it.” After all, a tiger can only change so much about its stripes. The cat hadn’t attacked anyone in ages, but nobody had been trying to take it to the vet, either.

The vet’s office gave me some medication I could administer in the cat’s wet food. I did what had to be done and returned a few hours later with my son as backup. I went to the eerily empty apartment armed with thick leather gloves and a cat carrier. I instructed my son to close all the doors and said a silent prayer that I wouldn’t end up in the ER needing stitches. I’d already drugged the cat, but it still put up a fight trying to get it into the carrier. Somehow, we got it to the vet’s office. They only had Pumpkin in the exam room for a short time before they came out and asked to speak to us.

“How old did you say this cat was?” The vet tech asked, frowning at the computer.

“At least thirteen. Possibly fifteen or even older.” I explained how Pumpkin had originally been a stray and how she fit into the convoluted timeline I’d used to figure it all out. “Why?”

“Because there is no way that cat is more than five years old.”

I laughed in disbelief. Then I heard Mother-In-Law’s voice in my memory, clear as a bell: “She’s like a completely different cat.”

The vet came out to explain stuff about tartar and degrees of teeth yellowing and changes to eyes and fur and muscle tone. I just nodded along, stunned. I knew I wasn’t mistaken in my estimate. What I didn’t know was what the fuck was going on. Was Pumpkin immortal? That would have been the second worse news I’d gotten that week.

At home, my husband and I looked through some of Mother-In-Law’s photos, until we found one of Pumpkin. We compared it to the photos I’d taken on my phone.

We were looking at pictures of two clearly different cats.

The resemblance was startling, don’t get me wrong. Their markings weren’t the same, but they were similar enough that it wouldn’t have been apparent without a side-by-side comparison. We were still definitely looking at two different cats. “Pumpkin” wasn’t smaller post-move because she’d lost weight. The cat I took from my Mother-In-Law’s apartment was substantially smaller in length and height, as well. But how did New Pumpkin come into my Mother-In-Law’s care? And what the hell happened to Pumpkin Classic?

“You don’t think your mom would have adopted another cat because Pumpkin died or something?” I asked, even though she had been one of the least likely people I could think of who would do something like that. She wasn’t sentimental enough that the loss of her cat would have sent her into denial. Plus, the new Pumpkin was declawed, something Mother-In-Law opposed and had lamented about Old Pumpkin. She was a practical person and wouldn’t have been so consumed with cat-related grief that she would seek out and mutilate another cat. So, we started tossing around the clues we had.

Pumpkin had been found and returned by Mother-In-Law’s caretaker. The strange, spaced-out woman who seemed to have only one foot planted in reality. Who was a noted reckless driver. Who often let the cat out as she was leaving.

Who brought back a different cat.

Wearing Pumpkin’s collar.

I think you can puzzle these pieces together, here. I regret to say that, outlandish as it sounds, the only explanation that makes sense (and I used that term loosely) is that the caregiver ran over and killed Pumpkin, then somehow (and I don’t even want to know) found a strikingly similar tortoiseshell cat, had it declawed and returned it with Pumpkin’s collar on it.

Today, “Pumpkin” still lives with my cat-loving friend. She’s still cagey and traumatized, but I would imagine that could be due to being suddenly adopted, declawed, moved to two locations in two days, and then having its new owner die only months later. Totally reasonable.

And the original Pumpkin is probably residing happily in hell, where it belongs.