Ecological Niches at the Beach

La Serena

Every day I take a walk on the beach. When I first moved to the beach, I didn’t see much order in the different species of birds I observed, but over the years, I’ve observed how birds share the space and the resources that is offered to them here. They do this in many ways, but I’m simply going to talk about zones of the beach, actual physical space that the birds occupy. No doubt this is because they are foraging for different foods, but sometimes it is because they have adapted to forage for the same resources in different manners. There was a famous study done by Robert MacArthur in which he showed that even though five different species of warblers were all after the same resource, they were able to partition this resource by occupying different zones in the tree. This isn’t entirely what’s going on here at the beach, as some birds are simply after different resources, but sometimes the same resources are partitioned by different birds. The result is bands of activity where certain birds can–and cannot–be found.

For a little reference, here in La Serena, the beach is part of a rich kelp forest belt that reaches from Antartica all the way up to Alaska. Some anthropologists call this the Kelp Road which ancient indigenous peoples may have followed from Asia all the way down to the oldest evidence of human occupation in the Americas: Monte Verde, not far from the city of Puerto Montt in the south of Chile whose human occupation has been dated to around 19,000 years before the present. (If I were feeling a bit of Chilean pride, I would say that the first Americans were Chileans, but, well, that’s a bit of an anachronism.) Evidence of the site shows that these ancient peoples relied heavily on the resources of the kelp forests with a diet rich in mollusks and sea weed (they were eating locos and scallops and cochayuyo, just like modern Chileans). This rich resource also breeds an array of wildlife.

The reason for this plenitude is that the cold, polar waters of the Humboldt Current push nutrients to the surface and feed a plethora of ocean fishes and organisms. The base of the food web on the beach consist of clams, scallops, and crabs, which in turn require a healthy kelp forest. Fish are also plentiful as are various insects that feed on the kelp when they are washed ashore.

But as rich as the resources are, they must be shared. While we tend to think of nature as being rife with conflict and competition, it’s also important to think of animals as cooperating. Fighting is dangerous and most animals will avoid a fight if they can. If nature was as cut throat as some people believe, every visit to the beach would be a ringside seat to a blood bath. Instead, animals learn to live with each other. Evolution favors peaceful co-existence over warfare.

Continue reading “Ecological Niches at the Beach”

The Light of Metals

I’m happy to announce that some translations I made a few years back, before the pandemic, have finally found their way into the light of publication. A friend of mine, Benjamín León, asked me to translate his book of poetry a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to do some translation, so I was happy to do it. These five poems, published in Abisinia Review, represent just a portion of those poems. I hope he’s able to find a place for the rest of them!

The poems definitely deserve publication. They are quintessentially Chilean and absolutely of the Elqui valley. They resonate with stone and an arid sense of existence, dry and resilient. I really am lucky to have the chance to do such work. Congrats, Benjamín!

The Lives Around Us

The Lawn. La Serena, Chile

During COVID, cut off from exploring the wider world, my focus shrank to the life in my front yard. While I’ve always been interested in what critters might lurk in my immediate surroundings, when I had the time, I went to areas where I could see birds or flowers or bees that I’m not likely to see here. It’s not as pleasurable to search for creatures and watch nature while cars zip by and your neighbors stare at the strange guy on the lawn with the binoculars. Pedestrians wonder what I might be looking at crouched in front of a dandelion or turning over rocks at the fence line. Nature and solitude are usually connected in my mind and urban naturalizing can seem something like a paradox. But the truth is, what nature is doing in our urban areas is just as important as what happens in our national parks.

A brief description of the very small area that I have spent the last couple years watching: located in La Serena, Chile, on the Pacific Coast, the lawn of our apartment complex runs up against an iron fence and the road that navigates the coast line. From my window, I can watch dark clouds of piqueros (Peruvian boobies) dive into the blue waters of the Pacific to fish. Because of cars and a slight rise of dunes, I can’t see the beach, so although I hear the zarapitos (whimbrels) whistling on the beach, I don’t see them. The lawn is mostly made up of a dense mat of Bermuda grass and boasts three palm trees, none of them from Chile. There are also several Ngaio trees from Australia or New Zealand, which are brutally pruned just as soon as they get big enough for good bird habitat, it seems. Their leaves are beautiful spearheads with light green spots. But otherwise there is just lawn. The apartment building used to be ringed by lavender and geraniums, but for reasons I don’t understand, it was all cut and replaced with a cement footing. This must have been a disaster for all the pollinators.

Continue reading “The Lives Around Us”

The World Without Crows Wins Audiobook Reviewer’s Choice Award

I’m happy to announce that The World Without Crows, audio version, is now a reviewer’s choice from Audiobook Reviewers! If you haven’t checked it out, here’s the link!

The World Without Crows Goes Audio!

Fans of post-apocalyptic mayhem, madness, and foul murder will be happy to learn that my book, The World Without Crows, is now available to download as an audiobook! I’ve been listening to the book again for the first time in years, and it’s great to hear Eric and Carl Doyle come to life as Eric journeys from Athens, Ohio to western Maine to avoid a global plague. If you haven’t made the leap yet, or if you have friends who are audiobook fans, now’s the time to download The World Without Crows.

It’s strange to think, but I’ve been working on this book in one form or another for over a decade. The first draft of the book, which was named The Island, was written way back in the mists of time while I was living in Buffalo, New York, perhaps as far back as 2011 or 2012, back when streaming Netflix was still a novelty. It wasn’t until I moved to Chile that I decided, with the encouragement of a good friend and my sister, to self-publish the book. Years later, after I had written and released the sequel, my cousin, Carla, encouraged me to investigate audiobooks. Which is how I find myself, years later, listening again to a story I wrote many years ago. 

I had the good fortune to work with the narrator David Gilmore who labored through hurricane damage on his property to get this book out to everyone. Not only did David give an excellent performance of my book (I was especially excited to hear Carl Doyle’s voice), but I’m also grateful that he worked with me to get this book out in this new form. The experience of hearing another person perform your work is a real pleasure, and I can’t thank him enough for his work and his professionalism. So immense gratitude to David Gilmore for his work.

Listening to his narration, I felt as if the book had its own life. I felt myself drawn into the narrative, as if the book was written by someone else, a strange but great feeling. Gilmore’s voice is perfect for the short, terse prose of the book, and I’m lucky to have found him.  

All in all, I’m extremely happy to get this book into more hands (ears), so if you ever have the hankering to go on a hike while being pursued by a deranged psychopath through a landscape of plague-ridden humans, well, this audiobook will scratch that itch.

You can get your copy by clicking below!

The Slinger Trilogy In Print. At last.

The covers of all three members of the Slinger Trilogy. Available for the first time separately as print books and ebooks. Dizang, ain’t that something?

More than a decade ago, I sat down and wrote the following paragraph:

Chapter One:  The Wide, Big, Big Sky

She sat by the fire with her hat tipped over her eyes and her legs crossed in front of her.  Her leather chaps steamed in the heat.  Sparks from the fire circled and spiraled over the fire and into the dark sky over the wide plain.  The sparks illuminated only her figure and that of her horse.  The horse pawed the ground for a minute and then looked off toward the west where just a moment ago, a comet had set, following the second star.  The horse blinked, chewing on the tough grass of Terrence 2226, the fourth planet in the Qing Mei system.

Deepika Padukone, an inspiration for the Slinger.

It was the beginning of a project that would take a decade to complete.

I had a vision of a sprawling western set on an alien world in a galaxy where Indians and Chinese ruled. I took the lead character’s coolness from Ed Dorn’s book of poetry Gunslinger, alluding to it by calling her the “smooth Slinger.” I based her physically on Deepika Padukone and adorned my computer with images of the Bollywood star. At some point, I decided to write the book in a playful western dialect. The idea, once seeded in me, was impossible to unseed. I had no idea at the time that the book would grow into a series of books, and that they would not finally see the light of publication for more than a decade. As the ambition of the trilogy grew, I began to populate the books with more than twenty languages, all rendered phonetically, in an effort to conjure a pioneer world populated by outcasts from all corners of Earth.

The first publisher of The Equilibrium of Stars and Strange Bonds was BlazeVox, a small press in Buffalo. At the time I was living in the Nickel city, and, in the course of my peregrinations around Elmwood Avenue, I met Dan Madden, an illustrator and designer. After talking with him, I thought he might be interested in illustrating the book I was just finishing. At first, I think Dan was reticent, having known a few writers whose work he didn’t particularly enjoy. After he read the first draft of The Equilibrium of Stars, he invited me over to his house and sat me down. “You know,” he told me, “don’t take this the wrong way, but when I read your book, I was like, wow, it’s a real book.” He looked at me. “You know, like a real book.” I laughed and we decided to collaborate on the trilogy. I was grateful to have his wonderful illustrations for the first two publications. Below are three of my absolute favorite illustrations. The first two are of the Slinger herself, including an in-process look at what would later become the cover of the first book. The third is a brilliant rendition of Garland from the second book, Strange Bonds. Perhaps because Garland turned out to be one of my favorite characters of the trilogy, I think this illustration is my favorite.

Continue reading “The Slinger Trilogy In Print. At last.”

Writing Begins on New Project

“The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.” –Carl Sagan

I have always desired to write a lengthy, engaging novel, one that incorporates how I have come to understand the world, one that brings together many different passions of my life and my basic gratitude at being here, on this tiny planet that rocked us gently into being; but such a massive undertaking requires an idea powerful enough to drive it. I don’t remember where or under what circumstances the idea first came to me, but I wrote a short story about this idea several years ago, just barely touching on the repercussions of the idea. Usually when I finish a project, I don’t think about it anymore. It’s one of the benefits of finishing a book or a short story or a poem. It stops nagging at you, chipping away at your daydreams, so that you can think about other things or just relax, unmolested, on the seashore. Finishing the short story did nothing to banish the idea. In fact, more questions came to me, more possibilities. The idea would ruminate quietly in the shadows of my mind while I worked on other projects. Over time, I realized the idea was large and cumbersome, a blue whale gliding through dark waters. The idea required planning, development, and a lot of research that I didn’t know if I had the resources to pursue. It would be an extremely ambitious project to undertake, and I didn’t know if I would ever have the time it would demand.

Continue reading “Writing Begins on New Project”

The World Without Flags wins a FINALIST medal from Readers’ Favorite International!

I’m happy to announce that The World Without Flags is a book award finalist in the Readers’ Favorite International contest! This is an international competition open not only to self published authors like myself but also to publishers both large and small. It’s great to have this recognition for the book, and I’m grateful to the readers at the contest for following Birdie’s journey. Another great honor for the book!

The World Without Flags is a B.R.A.G Honoree!


I’m happy to announce that my newest book has now won a BRAG medallion. It’s great to have all this recognition for the sequel to The World Without Crows. When I started the book, I wasn’t sure if it would work. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to understand Birdie very well because she was such a mystery to me in the first book. I really didn’t know what to expect from her. During the writing of The World Without Flags I discovered a lot about her, her strength, her loyalty, her selflessness, and a determination that bordered on mania. Birdie was a great person to write. I have an immense soft spot in my heart for her. I feel that the medals are for her. Good one, Birdie, you deserve it!


The World Without Flags is an Indie Book Awards Finalist!

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 8.37.17 AM


I’m pleased to announce that my new book, The World Without Flags, has won a Finalist medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards! It’s such a pleasure to have this book recognized by so many diverse people. This is the second award for the book, and it feels wonderful that the book is so well received.

For those who haven’t picked it up yet, The World Without Flags is a stand alone sequel to the first book, The World Without Crows. This book follows the main character of Birdie, 10 years after the events of the first novel, as she struggles with Eric across a post apocalyptic landscape. Driven from her home by a resurgence of the Worm, the two must survive alone in a world turned against them.

I’m honored to have the book recognized by the people at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and I’m happy that Birdie’s story is so well received!