Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Words; across the universe…

It’s Wednesday, days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, and today, for the first time, when I dropped my kids off at school there were armed police officers at every entrance. I guess it wasn’t something I was prepared for, visually; happy children skipping to class in the final, fun-filled days before they are off for the Christmas holiday, set against the backdrop of a solid police presence.

I may have had a minor panic attack as I drove home. Minor; just a few heart palpitations accompanied by sobbing.

And then one of my favorite songs came on the radio: Across the Universe by the Beatles. It’s a beautiful song, haunting and thought provoking, if you care to listen to the lyrics. Simple, yet sublime.

“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, they slither wildly as they slip away across the universe. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy, are drifting through my opened mind, possessing and caressing me…”

Being a writer, words have always had more power for me than anything physical or visual could ever hope to accomplish. Just last night, after finally getting a handle on my sorrow, I broke up again listening to a letter from a schoolmate to one of his deceased friends, a letter left in a tiny casket. A six year old chose to leave his words with his friend, for eternity.

Words; so effective when we use the right ones, so dangerous when we use the wrong ones… or fail to speak at all.

Words; we choose not to hear, words we over-use, words left unsaid, words that speak volumes.  Words have the power to heal, provoke, comfort, sadden, support, build up, tear down, bring together, rip apart.

A friend recently said to me, offhandedly, “Sometimes words are just words, Jen.” I thought about it a lot and I don’t think words are ever just words. They’re too important. They are an integral part of the construct under which we all communicate. I choose a word, a few words, a phrase, and the simple act of doing so means something.

Whether consciously or otherwise, every syllable counts. Why else would I choose one word over another?

It all means something…

I wasn't even finished writing this blog post when I received an e-mail from a school official explaining the police presence at my local schools this morning:

Reed City police, school investigating possible threat made by student

REED CITY — Police and school officials in Reed City are investigating threats allegedly made by a student

But police and school officials were quick to say that students and staff are safe. The student has been removed from the school while officials investigate the validity of the comments and whether or not the student actually intended the comments to be threats.

Reed City Chief of Police Chuck Davis said that the department has been investigating reports from students, a school employee and a local church official regarding comments from a student. Davis has been working with Reed City School Superintendent Steven Westhoff to determine the validity of the threats, including interviewing the student’s parents and classmates about some of the stories floating around the school and Reed City community.

Westhoff and Davis both say they do not believe there is any real danger or that the student intended to carry out the threats, if any were even made. Davis said his department is investigating each allegation. However, in light of the tragic school shooting in Connecticut last week, the school is taking every precaution necessary, said Westhoff.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure the school is safe no matter what, despite the fact that we have not been able to find any factual information to support that this was a legitimate threat,” he said. “Everything is being done in the interest of safety and we are taking this seriously.”

I don't think I've even begun to process the article, or what it means within the context of my own little universe. All I know is that my universe is but a tiny part of the greater universe, one that you and I and every other living person are tasked to care for in a way that I'm not sure we're doing such a good job at, presently.

While searching for the Beatles version of the song to share with you, I came across a version performed by one of my favorite artists, Rufus Wainwright.

I think the accompanying video is poignant under the circumstances. Take a moment out of your day to check it out. It’s as fitting a visual tribute as I’d ever be able to come up with, because the words… today, they are my words…

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life Minus 3 ½ By Dennis Hart

         “There is nothing more unnerving than having a gun pressed firmly against your head while a fat fucking moron wearing some cheap cologne sits at the other end of it, making jokes as his sausage-like finger massages the trigger.”

Yeah, that’s quite the opening line. The fact that it’s a true story makes it all the more intriguing.
            Like my own twin Doppler radars, which tingle when trouble is afoot, Dennis Hart has a “trouble magnet” which pulses ominously when things are about to get real. Real like being threatened by bookies and embezzling millions of dollars from your place of employment.
            That kind of real.
The first few chapters outline the demise of the authors’ first marriage — one he humorously likens to an alien abduction — and a life plagued by feelings of inadequacy.

               “It was the summer of 1979, the last year I can remember smiling with any sincerity…”  

The gambling begins when, off a co-worker’s tip, Dennis begins playing the options market – sneaking $5,000 out of the matrimonial checking account as start-up capital. His first venture pays off to the tune of $1,750 in a few weeks. Then, as quickly as he made the first $1,750, he lost $6,000. What started as a snowflake, turned into an avalanche. Each day he’d check his portfolio and each day he’d think it would get better. He did quite a bit of creative finagling to keep his wife in the dark and for a while it did get better. A lot better. Then he made a pact to keep it to himself until he'd reached a profit of one million dollars.
               Not a thing could go wrong with that scenario, right?
               Add to this, upheaval at work involving a start-up company one of the co-workers asks Dennis to join, secretly. Thinking he’d be a millionaire soon anyway, it wasn’t much of a stretch to jump on the mutiny train.
All aboard!
            New company, new pressures, and new ways of gambling culminated in him having numerous touts and bookies he was bringing bags of cash to each week.
From here on out, I was the clichéd guy in the heartburn commercial, popping Tums with the turn of every page. It gets bad. Like MILLIONS, bad. I can’t even imagine how he was functioning at this point. So let’s ask him, shall we?  

So, Dennis. First off, I feel the need to ask: How are you? Are you in Vegas playing blackjack right now?

I’m doing just fine, Jeni. LIFE Minus 3 ½ tells a story that is over twenty years in my rearview mirror, so I’m over it, but I think I’m the only one. Right now I’m not in Vegas playing blackjack. I’m clipping coupons from the Sunday paper. To suggest I might be in Vegas is a silly assumption on your part. Vegas is not a place I frequent. I prefer Foxwoods for the occasional night of twenty-one.  

I’ve always thought that addictive behavior didn’t simply occur in a vacuum. It’s clear from the book that a terrible lack of self-esteem played a big part. Do you feel like your gambling issue popped up out of the blue? Do you have any other addictive behaviors – other than popping M&M’s with the frequency and urgency that someone with bladder control issues visits the toilet? Is there anyone in your family with addiction problems; gambling, substance abuse, or the like? I guess I’m wondering if you think there’s a genetic link.

Unlike most people who spread their iniquities between smoking, drinking, and drugs to name a few, the accountant in me decided to create one big habit in the hopes of making it to Broadway someday.  I’ve never smoked, taken drugs, or indulged in the spirits. After living my life without vices, I’d agree gambling came out of the blue, just like getting married at seventeen did. I think it shows that we all have a malfunction waiting to happen. No one in my family ever had any addiction problems and I made sure by drilling down my research to my grandparents who came over on the boat. And please leave my M&M’s out of this.

After an initial scene that played like something out of Goodfellas, you relay with painful specificity how a little options trading turned to sports betting and the acquisition of bookies and touts. It’s unbelievable the amount of money that you stole, gambled, and lost. I found myself holding my breath at times. By the time it all came to a head, I was almost relieved when you got caught. Did it feel that way for you, too?

Actually, the initial scene played like one out of The Godfather. I figure I wagered in the neighborhood of thirty-five million dollars over seven years with up to six bookies. I won somewhere around twelve million and lost around twenty-three million. It was the perfect storm for disaster. A guy with a self-esteem problem due to an early divorce and lack of respect meets up with a company with a severe lack of control over their cash. Add a sprinkle of options excitement to suddenly make me feel as invincible as Spartacus, and a whole lot of illogical sports gambling and you have a recipe for ruin. Let’s not forget my inherent magnets, trouble and bad luck, that guided me down that path of destruction. 

Yes, I suppose I felt the weight of my misdeeds fall off my shoulders when the Fatal Calls were placed, but as soon as that relief was gone, another weight climbed aboard called…prison sentence.    

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure, the scenes in prison are fascinating. What, if anything, do you feel like you learned from the experience, other than not to drop the soap?

There isn’t much to take away from my time in Allenwood Prison Camp, other than to say I left with a sad appraisal of the human experiment. I mean the characters I met, good and bad, you just can’t make up. And this was a minimum security joint. I can’t imagine what really happens in the higher level facilities.

Dropping the soap is pure Hollywood. What’s real is walking into a shank because some dude thinks you’re a rat. Even in minimum security, you sleep with one eye open.  

I have to give props to the wife. You two are still together, right? To what do you attribute her staying power? (Lots of gifts and ass-kissing better be in that answer, somewhere…)

Yes, we are still together, although she scratches her head daily wondering why. Maybe she believes, as the masses do, that the eleven million will show up one day. Now there’s a losing bet.

What are you working on now? Any new books on the horizon?

LIFE Minus 3 ½ was my first serious attempt at writing. When it was done, I found it compelling and hoped it might reach someone in need. After receiving praise for my writing skills, I started wondering if I could create novels. I have a thriller finished titled Pictures of Children which deals with a subject matter that appears almost daily in the newspapers. It is presently in the query stage. I’ve also completed Gulf Boulevard; a humorous adventure which I’m proud to say has been picked up by a literary agency. It’s about a burned-out accountant who wins the lottery, quits his job, and moves to a barrier island off Florida’s west coast to live the life of a hermit. Unbeknownst to him, a mafia hit-man is hiding on the island after a botched hit. Hey, write what you know.

And finally, I’m now working on the sequel to Gulf Boulevard because people tell me it’s that damn funny and they want more. There you have it.

Jeni, I want to thank you for this opportunity to hang out my dirty laundry. You can find my book on Amazon for Kindle and the paperback will also be available shortly.

For more information visit my blog at:


Friday, October 19, 2012

Waiting for Karl Rove - The Sequel... sort of.

Finally! The sequel to Waiting for Karl Rove is available. You can find the e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble... the paperback will be on Amazon soon. Here's an excerpt...

(... from Chapter 2)

               Flash-forward. Oh so bloody* forward. Let’s say, ten years from the moment Kat and I discuss being turned into refrigerator magnets by a deranged killer.
               (*I, Jeni, have Brit language envy so I often pepper my writing with words like “bangers & mash,” “gobsmacked” and “minge.” Look up minge. You’ll get a chuckle.)
               I’m in Lez Salon in the Village, partaking of a pedicure while waiting for my wife, Rachel Maddow, to return from the hipster record shop next door. She’s looking for something by Louie Armstrong or Ella Fitzgerald. We like listening to music on vinyl while we do our scrapbooking.
               Around the time I was traipsing around Las Vegas with Kat Nove, Rachel had a significant other, but that “other” has become insignificant now. We don’t even think about her, except when we get those off-putting phone calls where Alanis Morisette can be heard shrieking in the background from a state-of-the-art sound system. Once, when Rach put it on speakerphone, the “other” referred to me as a “jagged little pill.” I took it as a compliment.
               What happened to The Breadwinner and Thing One and Two, you ask? Sadly, they perished in a freak meteor accident while on the way ice fishing one frigid Michigan morning…
               (*Okay, I’m getting editorial feedback suggesting a gory death involving my husband and two autistic children, even fictionally, is perhaps not the way to go if I want to sell books. Yeesh, people are so fucking sensitive… as if The Breadwinner would take Thing One and Thing Two anywhere without me there to chaperone.)
               What actually happened, in a nutshell, is this:
               The Breadwinner is now known as The Former Breadwinner since our book hit the New York Times bestseller list. He spends a lot of time fishing and doesn’t ask questions like, “Were those divorce papers I signed last month?”
               Thing One graduated from high school and went on to become a dog groomer. With all the filthy lucre rolling in, I was able to purchase a corner shop downtown for his new business —a business that’s thriving despite his penchant for tie-dying the dogs various shades of blue. Once his customer base learned he was autistic, they were hesitant to complain about it* so the fad took off. Our small town is overrun with aqua, sea-foam and royal blue hippy dogs.
               (*Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990)
               Thing Two is presently directing a film in Yemen — accompanied by his paraprofessional, of course. He still doesn’t speak in complete sentences, but he manages to get his point across. Let’s face it, it’s not like you need to be Mensa material to work in Hollywood these days.
               My life is good…
               Later, as I cook dinner for my gal, I hear her sigh into the phone before she pads into the kitchen in her baggy sweatpants and wife-beater. She pushes the speaker button and sets the phone down on the table before opening the refrigerator. As she retrieves a can of V-8 and pops the top, a harried voice emanates from the phone, choking out angsty lyrics along with Alanis…


               “You oughta know!” I startled awake, screaming a line from the famous breakup song. I wiped the drool from my chin and turned to see Kat with my video camera pointed at me, close enough to get a shot of each of my oversized pores.
               “You fell asleep leaning against the elevator doors,” Kat replied. “I was hoping they’d open and I’d get to film you falling on your ass.”
               I nudged her with my elbow. “A little personal space, please.” My words were noticeably slurred.
               “I’m hungry.” Kat’s declaration was equally garbled.
               “You’re drunk,” I giggled.
               “I get hungry when I’m drunk. Let’s find something to eat.”
               I leaned against the elevator doors and rubbed my temples. Eating was the last thing on my mind. In fact, I was starting to get that feeling in my stomach that usually precipitated—
               A river of chunky stomach effluent sprayed from my mouth, covering Kat’s shirt and the camera just before the elevator doors opened and I landed in a tawdry heap in front of a half dozen hotel guests.
               Twelve feet took a step back; six heads looked down at me in disgust.
               Kat laughed uproariously, crossed her legs, presumably in an effort to quell the impending tide, and yanked her baggy t-shirt up to wipe a chunk of something off the camera lens*. Then she panned down to get a shot of me rolling onto my stomach and pulling myself up using someone’s legs for support.
               (*Simultaneously revealing her tattered bra and what looked like a very new tattoo on her stomach: Eric Cartman from South Park, bent over and pulling his butt cheeks open, her naval strategically placed in the center to form his puckered bunghole.  Tattoo: $78.50.  A lifetime reminder of Vegas shame: Priceless.)
               The circle of people who gasped as she flashed her new body art hadn’t clued Kat in, so I decided to let her find out about the tattoo on her own. I’m pretty sure she’d never have done it in her right mind, and about now I was wondering what else we’d been up to.
               I pushed past the now whispering (judgmental) crowd and checked my watch. Just after one AM. I had no idea what had transpired over the last hours - except that Kat had a new tattoo.
               “Hurry up, I gotta pee.” Kat stumbled down the hallway toward our room as I fished in my purse for the credit card key.
               “I can’t find the key,” I muttered.
               Kat danced in front of the door. “Seriously, Jen.”
               “I’m trying… wait, here it is.” I pulled it out and a receipt with a piece of chewed up gum was stuck to my hand. “Oh, gross.”
               Kat grabbed the card, swiped it, opened the door, tossed my video camera on the bed, then tripped into the bathroom. As the door closed behind her, I pondered the gummy receipt from Club Tattoo.
               Oh, no… The crumpled piece of paper in my hand clearly showed two tattoos had been paid for. For a brief second, I prayed Kat had an image of Kenny in his red parka on her ass.
               With dread, I shoved the receipt into my purse, dropped it on the bed and turned to the mirror over the dresser. I squeezed my eyes shut and lifted my shirt.
               When I opened my eyes, the reflection in the mirror revealed the same tattoo Kat had, only mine was of Butters (wearing bunny ears) pulling his butt cheeks open to reveal his pink li’l pucker - the pucker being my navel.
               When I screamed Kat ran out of the bathroom, still zipping up her jeans. “Wha—?” She pointed at my belly. “AHAHAHAHAHHAHA.”
               “You think that’s funny, huh?” I asked as she snorted and guffawed in a very unladylike manner.
               I grabbed the hem of her shirt, yanked her in front of the mirror and pulled the shirt up to her chin.
               Her laughter cut off abruptly.
               “How the hell did that happen?” she shrieked.
               “I’m guessing all the Creepy Crawlies* had something to do with it!” I shrieked back.
               (*Kat’s drink of choice since it was Halloween. We had more than a few before and after starting a riot and crashing a wedding. [Book One people, catch up.] Unfortunately, what happened after the wedding was anybody’s guess.)
               “Don’t shriek at me, missie. I doubt this was my idea.” Kat ran her finger over Cartman’s head, wincing in pain. “Ouch.”
               “So we’re assuming I was the one who came up with the bright idea of getting obnoxious tattoos where our belly buttons serve as cartoon anuses?” I asked.
               “You’re saying that doesn’t sound like something you’d suggest?” She put her finger in her belly button and wiggled it around, sending us both into a fit of giggles.
               I looked down at my stomach. “I’m pretty sure The Breadwinner isn’t going to like this.”


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blog post goes Viral!

No it didn’t, you stupid sheeple. But the title got you here, so let’s talk about Tweetguilt™®©, shall we.

Jocelyn Plums ‏@FilthyRichmond :
If you liked it then you should have blown a load in it.


FRIEND:* That’s not funny! That’s gross!

(note: Not a friend, actually. Nothing says I have no friends and live in a van down by the river (actually I live on a farm across from a cow pasture) like using double social media platforms to chat with strangers regarding your feelings about Twitter.

ME: Yes, that’s why it’s so funny. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

INNER MONOLOGUE: Blown a load? Ugh, the image conjures up buckets of sperm being reverse wet-vac’d into someone’s vagina.

ME: MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA Exactly! That’s why it’s good. Seeing something that obnoxious in print is funny as hell. Someone WROTE THAT SHIT DOWN FOR OTHERS TO SEE!! You forget, we’re a product of Catholic School upbringing.

INNER MONOLOGUE: Don’t retweet that.

ME: Of course I’m gonna retweet it!


ME: You get the reference, right? Beyonce’s lyric, “If you liked it then you should’a put a ring on it…”


ME: (gleeful) I’m doing it…

But I didn’t. I laughed until I fell out of my chair… then I went to dry my hair and debated for thirty minutes as to why I hadn’t retweeted it. You laugh that hard, the tweeter deserves a retweet, right? I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to be. There is a kind of pleasing symbiosis to it all — in ingesting something, and then being able to immediately pass judgment on it with the single click of a button.  Thing is, I wonder how many people want to retweet or even tweet stuff, but they don’t. For whatever reason.

I know what my reason was.

My mom follows me…

Not that I have any reason to worry about what she thinks. In a few years when she’s drooling into a cup, I’ll be the one holding it over her natty housecoat while three King Charles Spaniels with wheezing disorders and hip issues writhe around our feet, so I figure she’s pretty much at my mercy now.

ME: But what will people think?

INNER MONOLOGUE: Who are these “people” you’re worried about?

ME: Huh?

INNER MONOLOGUE: Planning on running for President of the United States… or the PTA anytime soon?


INNER MONOLOGUE: Just playing devil’s advocate…

On and on it went… and it got me thinking about all the shit we say and don’t say, and what we will say and won’t say, and all the shit floating around out there that’s horrible… and we like it.

Oh, don’t even act like you don’t.

I’ll be the first to admit, I love Twitter. I love that it’s balls-out, that it gets political, that it’s inane, explicit, ridiculous, fun, disturbing, stupid, irritating… it’s a lot of things, not to mention a time consuming vortex that could probably use an Over-Tweeters Anonymous program app to go along with it.

The whole Favstar thing bothers me. It seems pandering. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours; you DM me a nude pic, I’ll DM it to a few thousand of my Twitter followers… And don’t get me started on Twitlonger (CHEATING!) Call me a twitter elitist, but if you’re gonna play the game, stick to the 140 character or less limit and take simple joy in knowing someone either thinks you’re brilliant or a douche.

Let that be enough.

Where else can you talk politics, exorcise demons via short form projectile rant, get stock tips, and learn varying and sundry things about everything from butt plugs to bear gestation?

DISCLAIMER: If you’re a parent and let any kid under, let’s say eighteen, sign up for Twitter, I’d probably call DHS on you.

But , to retweet the edgy/offensive/over-the-top or not to retweet the edgy/offensive/over-the-top tweets, that is the question.

What say ye?

(BTW: as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to retweet that damn tweet. Carpe diem!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rigor Mortis

My new book Rigor Mortis is available today in e-book format, so I thought I'd post the first chapter here so you guys can take a look. Kindle also offers the entire first chapter as a free sample.

Rigor Mortis is available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

And I don't want to speak out of turn, but I have it on strict authority that Greg Crites is narrating the audio book as we speak. This book was written with his particular narration skills in mind, and I am extremely excited he's taken time out of his busy schedule to do it for me. If you're an audio book freak, go over and peruse his offerings on I suggest starting with Crusade, one of my favorite books of all time, and that's on a list that includes Christopher Moore's Fool and the amazing Confederacy of Dunces.

And now, without further ado, Chapter One of Rigor Mortis.


The human body demurring to death is never pretty.

Rigor mortis had long ago set in and receded, great gouts of seeping fluid taking the place of the muscle fibers which had ratcheted shorter and shorter until fully contracted, eventually succumbing to the swell of decomposition.

"Oh, fuck me in the ass, she's oozing all over a real Persian rug. What a waste." The buxom bane of my existence hitched up her slacks and crouched next to the putrefying body.

I gnawed on my unlit cigar, still unaccustomed to the foul epithets that consistently slide from between the pretty lips of my secretary-cum-assistant-cum-stalker. Six months ago, Carla Danning sauntered into my life, all tits, temperament and testicular torture, and she's been an invective-spewing shackle around my tackle ever since. Also, I have reason to believe that is not the name she was given at birth.

But let me introduce myself before we go any further.

My name is Declan Morneau - Dex for short. If I look in the mirror, what stares back is a long-haired heap of sinew and gristle, with too few clients and too much drinking time on his hands. He's comfortable in his own skin, uncomfortable around anyone else's - tired, apathetic, and generally resigned to both, due to his propensity toward circumspection.

As a consequence of the aforementioned lack of clients, I supplement my private detective work as a process server. Thanks to the generosity of our slave-owning forbearers, all citizens of these fine United States have the right to be duly informed of being summoned. Sounds good on paper, but you can't sprinkle powdered sugar on that steaming pile and expect it to go down any easier.

From as far back as I can remember, I've had this weird quirk where I see people and emotions in color. I have no idea why, and frankly I don't care. Sometimes it helps me figure people out, sometimes it just confuses things.

Carla Danning is yellow. Which is interesting, since yellow is a universally accepted signal for caution. Sometimes she takes on an amber resonance, a bit of brown filters in just below the yellow, which to me indicates an underlying darkness. She's short of stature with an incongruously large presence and a tendency toward crassness at inopportune moments. It's hard to ignore the woman, even if you want to.

I squatted down next to Carla, my knees and ankles popping a painful symphony of regret.

"See these inconsistencies?" Carla fingered the knots at the base of the tassels running along the edge of the rug. "These are hand-knotted, for sure. And the fringe isn't fixed with machine stitches."

That's the thing. Carla's smart, which was why I grudgingly agreed to hire her, despite the fact that I'd taken out two restraining orders on her in the past six months; restraining orders that had nothing to do with the questions I now have about her past.

The restraining orders had been much like spraying Raid at a scurrying cockroach; you know it isn't going to do much, but at least you're making an effort to establish some boundaries. The background check - that's something else. A more direct assault, one I'm not so sure I can justify.

The heavy feet clomping through the front door are going to belong to Sergeant Lash, a squat sparkplug of a man, weeks from retirement. Lash is all meat with a bulldog square jaw, cleft chin and a bald head. He and I will go through the standard, "How'd you get in, Morneau?" followed by my typical response: "Door was open, Sarge. Had a lead on a client, landed me here."

If I get hired to track someone down and they're dead when I find them, I like to check things out before the cops come in and make my life more difficult. I have my job to do just like them. So I do it, then I call it in.

"Crime scene's on the way." Lash looked down at us and shook his head. "Carla, your perfumery assault on this space, coupled with the stench of decomposition, is a dual nasal assault no man or beast should have to bear."

I placed both hands on my knees and stood, my joints repeating their earlier protest. I tried to cover the chuckle, coughed it out, but the maneuver was unsuccessful.

Our close proximity, on top of my encouragement of the Sergeant's dig, begged retaliatory action. Carla glanced at Officer Murkowski - much younger, more lithe and generally less grumpy than his superior. He walked around the house scribbling in a small notebook. Carla took the opportunity to stick her tongue in my ear while both officers had their backs to us.

I batted her away and continued to scan the room. As far as the body, the homicide in question was a foregone conclusion, considering the knife embedded in the neck of the bloated body, with its blade buried to the hilt. When pondering suicide, pretty young ladies rarely take a kitchen knife to their own necks if options like razor blades, pills and all manner of household chemicals are available.

A cursory check of the tiny house had revealed razors in the bathroom, plenty of prescription sleeping pills and anti-depressants in the medicine cabinet, two boxes of rat poison, and enough lilac-scented Fabuloso under the kitchen sink to take down a water buffalo, should the need have arisen.

"Family hire you?" Lash eyed Carla, who was adjusting her low-cut blouse as she stood up. But his question was for me.

"Yeah, you know the drill," I said.

I'd received the call two days earlier; a concerned woman wanted me to check into the disappearance of a cousin she'd expected to hear from a few days ago, but hadn't. The woman said she thought her cousin had gotten in over her head with something, but she had no idea what that was. Just a feeling she had. Must have been some feeling for her to fork over a five-hundred dollar retainer, which she deposited that same night through my website.

Forty-eight hours and a few background checks later, Carla and I found ourselves at the residence of one Ward Deckard, the owner of the house we now occupied.

Crystal Bell was the name of the woman liquefying on the floor nearby. So far I'd ascertained that Ms. Bell worked as an independent contractor for Deckard's cleaning company. Their personal relationship was still in question, though it might prove difficult to determine since Ward Deckard was presently in the hospital hooked up to all manner of life-support devices, having succumbed to a massive stroke one week ago.

One of the guys from county morgue entered and immediately set upon the body. I squatted down for the third time that day, knowing I'd regret it later, and watched him pull open his medical bag.

"Cavalry is on its way, Morneau. Finish getting what you need and head out," Lash grumbled. He gave me a bit of latitude at crime scenes, but from what I've heard, his replacement won't be so easily managed.

Carla bent over and whispered in my ear, "And startling finds of science allied with beautiful tools to spawn a plethora of pleasures. As I sucked the very pith of such sweet reveries, then you appear, to make these splendors meager by compare."

"Woman, stop with the exclamations of lust over the stench of death. It's unseemly."

Murkowski grinned, tapping the tip of his pen on his chin. "Shakespeare?" When Carla shook her head, he tried again. "Shelley?"

Carla winked at him. "You got it, sweet-pea."

I stood and stretched out the kinks. "You two are grating on my nerves. Take that higher literary learnin' somewhere it'll be appreciated. Preferably another hemisphere."

"Jealous?" Carla asked.

The sound that came out of me is what's generally referred to as a harrumph. "Officer Smiley is welcome to partake of your foul intentions. I've no patience for an overly libidinous female with a mouth like a longshoreman."

"That's not the impression I got last night." Carla wandered over to a stack of books on a table and used a pencil to slide them around as she perused the titles in between looking up to gauge my reaction.

Both cops stared at me, hoping for some elaboration. I had no intention of sharing the events in question; namely Ms. Danning cornering me in our office late into a night spent pouring through old case files, after what even I had to admit was an unfortunate amount of Johnnie Walker.

"Wretched wench, probably the spawn of some otherworldly sea siren and one of those aforementioned longshoremen," I grumbled, heading outside to light my stogie.

I took a long puff and pondered my insufferable assistant. If she'd just stop talking. . . if she were mute, that'd be half the problem solved right there. Much as I hate to admit it - and I'd never admit it to her - the cringe-worthy stuff that drips like honey from her possibly-forked tongue inspires that same gut-burn I usually have right before I guzzle antacid straight from the bottle. Stuff like that isn't supposed to come from a mouth that I now know is glossed with peach-flavored tint. How are you supposed to ignore someone when you know they taste like your favorite fruit? How do you to erase that kind of assault from your sensory processing center?

I kicked a small rock from the gravel driveway and watched it skitter into the grass and come to rest at the base of a stake with a For Sale sign on it. Vale Realty; I made a mental note to contact them.

Damn woman. I'd been minding my own business, trying to track down a lead, something I remembered from an old case file, and there she was in the doorway of my office, holding a pizza out in one hand and a new bottle of scotch in the other, as the buttons of her blouse strained against the maneuver I knew was not inadvertent.

Opening that second bottle hadn't helped matters.

By the time I could even begin to start processing what was happening, she'd straddled me in my office chair and commenced a slow-grinding assault. Add to that the incessant nibbling on my ear, and the result was a perfect storm of unbridled tension that required immediate release.

I shoved her off my lap and onto the floor at my feet, but that had done nothing to dissuade her. She'd popped up like a Jack-in-the-Box, her top three buttons popping at the same time. She leaned over me, her unencumbered and extremely bourgeoning décolletage aligned with my  nose. Which was just below my eyes, which were planted on her neck, and damned if I was going to look left, right, up or down into the widening chasm that would suck me in like the goddamned Bermuda Triangle.

"We done here?" Carla asked, coming around to plant herself in front of me.

"Woman, I'm gonna get a cow bell for around your neck so you can't sneak up on me like that." I backed up few steps and took a long tug on my cigar, blowing the smoke into the empty space between us, hoping it would act as a buffer.

Carla moved through the haze with the steely smile I'd expect Medusa to be wearing just prior to turning someone into stone and dry-humping them into a pile of dust.

"For the moment, we too must be twain, but your moment is almost up, Detective." Carla walked to my sedan and opened the passenger door, sliding in with all the grace of a predatory cat about to make a meal out of something. Namely me.

My ass clenched, my sack shriveled, and my pecker stiffened, in unison. I marveled at how that was physically possible as I tried to unclench, un-shrivel and un-stiffen so I could join her in the car.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Consensual Infidelity

So, what do you think when you hear the term "swinging?"

I immediately think of the movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, or 1970s style key parties as depicted in the movie The Ice Storm. Then, naturally, my mind progresses to sordid scenes with arms and legs akimbo, naughty bits all tangled together in one squished up delightfully debauched—

Ahem. Excuse me, I'm going to need a moment—

Oh, who am I kidding. I get frazzled with one person eyeing me naked. Add one or two more people to the mix and I'd be in full-on panic attack mode before anyone could scream Muskrat!

Note: Muskrat is the safe-word I've chosen in case I should ever need a safe-word during my lifetime. I like to plan ahead, even for eventualities that aren't likely to transpire. I've also written my Academy Award speech, in the event I somehow end up co-starring opposite Morgan Freeman in a romantic comedy.

Anyway, I think I could be a voyeur, if I were allowed to watch the goings-on from behind my hands, occasionally peeking between my fingers - the same way I watch tampon commercials and rated-R sex scenes.

Don't get me wrong, there's no judgment here. I think consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want, and shouldn't have to explain themselves to the moral majority. Let your freak flag fly, people. Just be sure to write about it once your finished so I can live vicariously through you.

Which brings me to today's interview. The book is called Consensual Infidelity: The True Story of One Ordinary Couple's Experiment with Swinging, by Kaysee Smart.

Here's how Wikipedia defines swinging: (What? Your immediate impulse when you need to consult an authority on sex isn't Wikipedia?):

Swinging or (rarely) partner swapping is a non-monogamous behavior, in which singles or partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity. Swinging can take place in a number of contexts, ranging from spontaneous sexual activity at informal gatherings of friends to planned regular social meetings to hooking up with like-minded people at a swingers' club. It can also involve Internet-based swinger social networking services online.

As I scroll down the Wikipedia page, I'm reminded of the All in the Family episode where Edith meets a couple whose names she finds in a "friendship" magazine. Cut to her inviting them over for coffee, only to learn they expect her and Archie to partner-swap.

Archie: Swinging! Is that what you call it?

Male Swinger: Yeah, what do you call it?

Archie: Communism!

Consensual Infidelity has its own humorous moments. At the outset, Kaysee is invited to one of those Tupperware-like parties for sex toys, and her utter mortification with regard to the objects for sale made me wonder how a woman who didn't even own a vibrator ended up in a "swinging" situation.

Then, there are lines like this:

"I hadn't even had my husband's tongue down there until after we'd been married for five years."

Suffice it to say that if you spew iced mocha in the vicinity of your e-reader, that goo isn't coming out of those little crevices around the keys very easily. My Kindle is still sticky.

Consensual Infidelity was such an enlightening read, I asked the author and her husband if they would do a blog interview. Since the book is written from "Kaysee's" perspective, I wanted to put "Justin" in the hot-seat first. Which is where he now sits - bound, with his wrists behind his back. Kidding! I'm kidding… He's answering these questions from safety of his home, with the exact amount of distance most men in this situation would want between themselves and an inquisitive interviewer.

So "Justin," here's the question you posed to your wife one night, which eventually led to your swinging experience: "Have you ever thought about having sex with a woman?" I'm wondering if, at any point, you said to yourself: "I never thought she'd say yes! What have I done?"

JUSTIN: I didn’t have any expectations of a yes or no.

Where did the initial question come from?

JUSTIN: If you ask any guy, they’re going to tell you that a threesome is a sexual fantasy of theirs. Guys talk about it, you hear about it. So I wondered about it in my own life. I thought I might as well take a shot with asking.

In the book, we learn that at some point, while scanning a swingers website, you learned that you might have an easier time finding "couples" rather than just adding one other person to the mix. Was that a segue you were immediately comfortable with? Take us through the thought process, as well as any apprehensions you might have had about that.

JUSTIN: I was pretty comfortable with it. I realized that it made sense. Apprehensions would be eased if both the husband and wife were involved. When I got to know how that world operates, it made sense.

There is a part in the book, a very poignant moment actually, where the swinging relationship takes a more serious turn. It is at the point that all four members of the couple get together, when previously you separated as couples to have sex. I wondered what the difference was for you, specifically, being in the room, and in hindsight, was it something you were prepared for?

JUSTIN: Separate rooms were comfortable, like going on a date. When it went to the four person thing, I thought I would be okay, but it was more emotionally powerful than I was ready for at the time.

When you finally read the book, what did you think?

JUSTIN: The book was good. It accurately depicted what happened. There were a few little things that I saw differently, but I understand how Kaysee saw it through her eyes.

Now for some questions for both "Kaysee" and "Justin."

What was the most positive experience you had during your swinging experience?

KAYSEE: Two answers come to mind immediately: the effect on my marriage and the feeling that somebody “gets me.” Throughout the swinging experience, I felt like Justin was not only my husband, but my confidante and my partner-in-crime. I couldn’t share this enormous secret with anyone but him, so my focus shifted from girlfriend talk time to husband talk time. We had so much to talk about!

The other terrific outcome was the relationship I had with Leslie. She and I got to talk about the frustrations of keeping secrets because our beliefs were so different from mainstream society. She was also the only girlfriend I could talk to about my unusual sexual experiences. Yes, it’s bizarre that I would talk to her about sex with her husband, but her enjoyment of the discussion is what gave us such a close bond. I loved the time she and I spent together.

JUSTIN: It made my relationship with my wife better.

What was the most negative experience you had during your swinging experience?

KAYSEE: Chapters 29-35. It’s so painful to think about, I’d rather not rehash it here.

JUSTIN: I was disappointed with the lack of understand from the other couple. When things got tough, the relationship changed. I think they immediately started planning their exit strategy. It would have been better if there was better communication from them.

How did swinging affect your marital relationship?

KAYSEE: I mentioned earlier how Justin and I connected through our secret conversations. We also reconnected sexually. Having sex as a focus in our social life translated into more sex between the two of us. As I mention in the book, I walked around town with sex on the brain, finally understanding what most men must feel like every day! While the sexual experiences with other people were great, the sex between the two of us was the best.

JUSTIN: I think it made it better.

During my research, I came across a website where a swinger defined swinging as "a way to experience the bodies of people besides your partner, while not having relationships with them." But that wasn't exactly the case with you two. Was yours more of a version of an "open relationship"? Do you think a swinging relationship would be better or worse if the actual "relationship" bit were left out, and it was only concerned with the physical? Why or why not?

KAYSEE: The thought of sex with strangers is scary. I don’t think I would feel safe. The fact that we knew our partners on a social level made the sex easy and fun. We had an open line of communication, so I knew I could say what I needed at any time. I think sex with strangers would be more awkward for me.

I didn’t see our situation as an open relationship because it had such strict boundaries. We weren’t open to sex with just anyone, we were only open to sex with Mark and Leslie. Our arrangement doesn’t fit any of the nice categories: open relationship, polyamory, orgy. Honestly, I don’t even like to call it swinging because there were no parties, no seducing, no clubs. I suppose if I have to define it, it was the couple version of “friends with benefits.”

JUSTIN: Our relationship with the other couple was a friendship relationship. That’s what worked for us. The quick and dirty version isn’t any “worse,” it just depends on the feelings of the people involved. Some people don’t want to get to know people they’re having sex with and that’s fine for them. Ours was not an “open relationship” because it wasn’t random. It was more of a closed setting with just the one other couple and us.

In what ways, if at all, do you think that swinging is different from simple promiscuity? Is being promiscuous as a couple different than being promiscuous as a single person? Is one moral, but not the other? I ask this to sort of get a "starting point" to your thought process and if morality comes into the equation for either of you.

KAYSEE: Morality does come into play. Justin and I discussed it at length before ever meeting anyone. We define “faithfulness” as a loyalty to one another. We are in love and we have each other’s back no matter what. Having sex with someone else does not make us unfaithful because it’s an experience that we’re sharing together. The strengthening of the marital bond that we experienced cannot be immoral.

I believe that promiscuity is considered immoral only by convention. Somewhere along the way, society decided it was a bad idea to have sex with multiple partners. And it is a bad idea if you’re not smart about it. Promiscuous people having loads of babies they don’t want and can’t care for is immoral. Using multiple sex partners for acceptance or revenge or power is immoral. When a single person or a couple has sex because it’s fun and feels good and brings them closer together, how can that be immoral?

JUSTIN: It’s similar. But in the swinging world, there are rules and structure. With a single person having a one night stand, anything goes. Morally, it’s up to the people involved. In the swinging world, no one is trying to impress their morals upon anyone else. Also, if you’re participating, you’ve had that talk with your partner, you’re on the same page.

The book outlines your relationship with one other couple. Is this something you'd consider doing again? Why or why not?

KAYSEE: I’m so glad we had what we had. Unfortunately, there are a lot of down sides. This lifestyle is simply not acceptable to most of society, so it’s stressful to be secretive about it. The process of searching for a great couple is emotionally demanding. If someone handed me an awesome couple and nobody cared what I was doing, I would pick it up again in a heartbeat.

JUSTIN: Yes, I probably would consider doing it again.

Do you have any advice for people considering trying swinging on for size?

KAYSEE: Yes! Start with a strong, stable relationship. Talk about all your wishes, expectations, and boundaries. Be ready for a wild ride. Remember that your relationship with your partner is much more important than anything else. Have fun!

JUSTIN: You have to start with a strong marriage and good communication. There’s no owner’s manual. You just have to have your own experiences and work through them with good communication. Consensual Infidelity is a real life experience that people could read to get a feel for what it might really be like. Even though everybody’s experience is going to be different, it’s helpful to learn what other people have gone through.

I want to thank "Kaysee" and "Justin" for taking the time to do this interview and I recommend the book. I found it very interesting.

Finally, for all of you Archie Bunker fans out there, here's a clip from the Archie and the Swingers episode. It's one of my all-time favorites.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Name is Jeni and I am a Chickenshit

I freely admit it: I am a chickenshit.

(Autocorrect wants me to change that to "chickens hit," which I'm pretty sure they don't do. I've never seen a chicken battering someone with their wings. Autocorrect is stupid.)

So, yeah - chickenshit party of one, my table is ready. Right over there in the corner by the swinging kitchen door. The place where I feel most comfortable: out of the way where nobody will pay attention to me and I can sit and watch everyone else living.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone of my chickenshittery. It'll ruin my street cred.

It would be a shame if the truth got out: the gal who has no problem writing a book that delves deeply into the dysfunction of her own life, not to mention graphic descriptions of her own hemorrhoids - the same person who in fiction will gladly explore any and all issues normally considered taboo - that same person is a Chickenshit extraordinaire.

This week I had two out-of-town book signings and I forced myself to go alone; to drive almost three hours to a part of the state I was unfamiliar with, armed only with a suitcase full of clothes, some toiletries and a handful of Mapquest driving directions that ended up being mostly inaccurate.

NOTE: If you're planning a trip and need directions, let me suggest you use Google maps. Mapquest's motto seems to be: Leave the getting you lost to us.

Now, I'm not going to say that I had a panic attack exactly, as I pulled into the very cheap hotel I'd booked in a seedy side of town, (after having gotten slightly lost as I exited the highway into a downtown that was undergoing a huge amount of construction which required numerous detours) got my room key at the front desk, walked up the stairs with my bag, opened the door, entered, and closed the door behind me.

I didn't exactly have a panic attack. I promptly set my bag down and pushed one of the hotel tables in front of the door which was locked, bolted and had that little slide thing that prohibits the door from being opened more than an inch when engaged.

Oh yes, it was engaged.

Still, my first instinct was to rearrange the room so that access to the only exit, in the event of a fire, would be greatly diminished. I was prepared to die in a fire. I was not prepared for someone to come into the room while I slumbered and have their criminal way with me.

Perhaps I've watched too many episodes of 48 Hours on WE. I am acutely aware that being kidnapped, chopped into a few dozen pieces, then mailed to various places of business, is not out of the realm of possibility. It happens.

But something strange occurred over the course of my next 48 hours:

Sometime after I arrived at the first signing only to find that I'd gone to the wrong bookstore location, and had to get a harried set of driving directions from the very kind employee. (Schuler Books and Music in Lansing rocks!)

Sometime after I breezed into the second Schuler Books location fifteen minutes later than the event was supposed to begin, sucking on an iced coffee - which I knew would only exacerbate the symptoms of my impending nervous breakdown.

Some after the lovely, dreadlocked Whitney (amazing event coordinator) made the storewide announcement over the intercom that I had arrived and we all made our way to the rear of the store.

Sometime after I spoke to a very charming group of people for a couple of hours, all the while ignoring my inner monologue that never stopped bleating, "You're blathering; stop speaking so loudly; what the hell did you just say?"

Sometime after I got back to the hotel, took a shower, then sat staring at the table I'd again pulled in front of the door as a barricade.

Sometime after I spent a restless night praying to not be murdered in my sleep, or get lost the next day on the way to the next event (which I did)…

Sometime after I got through the video presentation and chat with the gathered attendees at Delta Township Library in Lansing and headed to my car, wondering if I'd make it back to the hotel on my own, rather than having to resort to stopping at the local gun shop or liquor store for directions… (The fantastic librarian gave me his cell phone number in case I ended up lost and sobbing on the side of the road. Thanks for everything Thomas!)

Sometime after all of my required duties were complete and I got a couple hours of sleep, before heading home the next morning, a crumpled set of written directions from Google maps clutched in my paw…

Sometime after all of that, it occurred to me.

Holy chickenshit, I did it!

About fifteen miles from home I realized I had a huge grin on my face. I felt like I'd just stepped up to a door I was certain I wouldn't be able to open, balled my fists, clenched my teeth and kicked that damn thing off its hinges.

Okay, so most of you will say, "Big deal." Right?


It was a big deal for me. Like my two autistic kids, I'm very afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone. I don't do it if I don't have to. But I realized that if I was going to regularly require my kids to step out of their comfort zones, it was pretty goddamned disingenuous of me if I couldn't do it myself.

So I did it. And now I know:

I am still a chickenshit. But now I'm a chickenshit who knows she can push through that discomfort and come out the other side feeling like Xena Warrior Goddess Ass Kicker. I'm here to tell you, that feeling was worth two sleepless nights and the worry over being kidnapped, chopped into pieces and having my mutilated remains mailed around the state.

The icing on the cake: "I'm proud of you, Mom," Jake said when I arrived home.

So yeah, totally worth it.

Thanks to everyone at Schuler Books & Music, Delta Township Library in Lansing, and all the wonderful people who were a part of my successful chickenshit weekend, even if you didn't know it.

*Some of the attendees asked if I'd post the video clip I presented so they could pass it along. Here it is:

Saturday, May 5, 2012


When you write a book and put it out there, you’re never sure of the response you will get, and further, never prepared for the feeling when you learn how your work has touched someone else. I can’t tell you how moving it is to get letters every week from parents who have read I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames and say, “Yes! Finally, someone that I can relate to! Your family is my family!”

I have always believed that we all want to be seen; to know that there are other people out there going through the same things. That we are not alone.

So far, that has been the best gift I have received from writing the memoir. Being able to make people laugh in the process is like the cherry on top. I firmly believe humor is one of the few things that can be a great equalizer - something we all need in our lives.

This idea became ever more apparent to me this week because I received two pieces of correspondence that really touched my heart. And on the same day, no less. If I were any further into my pre-menopause journey, I’d have been a puddle of sobbing flesh on the kitchen floor.

First, from a woman whose recent journey has included cancer:

“I find myself thinking about your book when I want to complain about my Big C challenge and missing boob :) Thanks for giving me a different perspective.”

Needless to say, it was she who gifted me with an instant dose of perspective.

Hours later, this message from SPC Bradley Dorroh, US Army hit the “Waiting for Karl Rove” website, and it floored both Kat and I:

“I’m actually deployed to Afghanistan right now and came across your book, “I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames.” I laughed my butt-hole off because I know my wife can relate to you on the ‘joys’ of raising two children, albeit mine aren’t autistic, though sometimes I wonder. Anyways, I read that one and had to have more, I’m almost done with “Waiting for Karl Rove.” You guys are friggin hilarious and thank you so much for keeping me entertained in this shitty place.”

Yeah, so Holy shit. Now I’m positively drowning in perspective. I’ve got perspective coming out of my ass, people. He was so grateful for the human contact from home, I realized that the next time I complain about anything, somebody needs to take me out back and pepper me with buckshot.

SPC Dorroh sent us some pictures of his life over there, and from home, “to show you we are real people.”

“Me and my daughter, the night before I left for deployment, we just had the "Daddy's going away talk."

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“Our emergency eye wash station out here in Afghanistan...gotta love our ingenuity.”

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“I took this picture of a CH-47D Chinook from the window of the one I was riding in. Told ya I get to do some cool shit.”

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“…a beautiful site in such an ugly place. Reminds me of home.” :( 

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The big secret is that I write for me and rarely think about the “audience” as I write; I write what I know, I write what moves me, I write what I find entertaining. Sometimes, I write to figure out the world around me. But it is most certainly a selfish undertaking and I love doing it more than almost anything else in the world.

So, hearing from real people who have enjoyed something I’ve written almost makes me feel guilty. I get so much out of the process itself. But, my interactions with a woman dealing with cancer, and a young man serving in the Army will remain a constant reminder to be grateful that I enjoy what I’m doing, and I still get the benefit of these amazing connections I’m making along the way.

Thank you.