Thursday, May 31, 2012

Love in the era of social media

Tuesday evening, my gentleman friend and I worked side-by-side on our computers as we often do when I come home and replace my marketing/PR hat with my author one, and he tosses off his copywriter hat and dons his photographer one.

We wear little clothing around here, but there’s no shortage of hats.

I updated my Facebook page to mention my  June 4 speaking engagement in Boise and then scanned my profile for things to update. Once I stopped snickering about the “show my sex in my profile” option, I stared at the “relationship status” field.

For the first time in awhile, I gave it some thought.

I’ve opted to keep that status hidden for most of the 20 months I’ve used Facebook, partly because my details were too complex for two-word explanations. There’s no clicky-button for “forced to admit my friends-with-benefits proposal was woefully misguided when I unexpectedly fell madly, crazily, deeply in love with the guy I sought as my divorce mentor.”

Now that we’ve dated for 14 months and resided under the same roof for six, it’s apparent this thing with my gentleman friend is a serious relationship. Well, as serious as a romantic comedy author could ever be about relationships.

Labels are a gray zone for me. On the blog and on Twitter, I’ve referred exclusively to “my gentleman friend.” My reason was partly to afford him some privacy, and partly because the word “boyfriend” makes me feel like I’m in elementary school playing kiss-tag and flipping my skirt up as a form of flirtation.

Not that I’ve advanced beyond that level of sophistication, but I like to make the distinction.

In the era of social media, relationships are seldom simple. I joined Facebook as a marketing tool for my writing career. Though I rarely make blatant suggestions for people to buy my books, I hoped the humorous, risqué tone of my posts might prompt people to seek out other things I’ve written.

Of the nearly 1,000 “friends” I have on Facebook, perhaps 25-percent are people I know in real life. They might be high school classmates I haven’t seen for 20 years, or they might be girlfriends whose hair I held back over the barroom toilet last week, but they’re people I could easily pick out of a police lineup.

And that’s where things get fuzzy. Plenty of these folks know me, and know my gentleman friend. We routinely tag each other in photos and posts. Though my profile is wide open for any Facebook user to peruse, his has privacy settings ensuring photos of his kids are shielded from face-eating cannibals.

Still, there’s some uncomfortable overlap. People who’ve read my books or blog often “friend” me on Facebook, and I’m always happy to make new friends. But I’m never quite sure what to tell my gentleman friend when he asks, “do you know all these people sending me friend requests?”

Um, sorta?

How do you define knowing someone in the era of social media? I like to believe I know and love every single person who reads this blog, but it’s entirely possible one of you is a serial killer who licks hamsters and sleeps naked in my bed when I’m at work.

Not that I’m judging.

These are all things I discussed with my gentleman friend Tuesday night while we studied our Facebook pages together. In the end, we decided to go for it – to simultaneously update our profiles to “in a relationship” and list each other’s names.

Within 15 seconds, the post announcing the status update had three “likes” and two congratulatory messages.

“Holy crap!” he said. “Who are these people?”

Um, “friends?”

I quickly removed the update so it didn’t show up as a timeline announcement, but rather a status that might have always been there. Even then, I woke to several congratulatory messages the next morning. While I love the sentiments and love knowing people are happy for us, it still feels a little funny.

I suppose this is just the way things are with modern relationships, particularly when one's career requires a public presence. We make up the rules as we go along, we hope we’re getting it right, and we perform course-corrections when we aren't.

A big part of who I am – both as an author and an individual – is my habit of sharing all the absurdly amusing personal details of my life. While I plan to keep doing that, I'm aware that I'm the one who signed on for this – not my loved ones. It's why I always have my gentleman friend preview any post that mentions him (and for the record, he did a great job catching typos in this one!)

What are your thoughts on public profiles, privacy settings, and how much authors or anyone else ought to reveal? How do you decide what to hold back and what to share? Have your feelings evolved at all? Please share!

And in case you are a serial killer stalker who enjoys visiting Idaho, I’ll be speaking at the Boise Public Library from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, June 4 as a kickoff for their summer reading series. Come on out and say hello. Bring the hamsters.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The people I'd like to spank

I recently read the bestselling erotic fiction novel 50 Shades of Grey, a move that prompted the following responses from friends and strangers:

  • Why are you reading that crap?
  • I don’t understand all the hype over that book.
  • Mommy porn, huh?
  • Are you horny?
 For the record, that last one wasn’t my gentleman friend (he’s quite aware the answer is a three-letter word that starts with a D and ends with an –uh.)

But for the others, my response has been pretty simple: Have you read it?

Nine out of ten people shake their heads and tell me no.

Am I the only person who finds this upsetting?

Look, I get it if you’re morally opposed to books that reference blowjobs and sexy spanking. No one’s going to handcuff you to the bed and force to read it. Not even if you beg.

But for those not waving the white flag of vanilla sex, what’s the motive for passing judgment on a book you’ve never read?

I’ll confess right now that I hesitated to read The Hunger Games. I’m not a huge fan of young adult or dystopian novels, and by the time the buzz reached fever pitch, I felt the urge to dig my heels in like a petulant toddler refuse to read it.

What a silly, juvenile mistake that would have been. As it turned out, The Hunger Games is one of my favorite books of all-time. Ditto that for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, another book I read grudgingly and ended up adoring to smithereens.

And yes, there have been plenty of books I’ve felt bullied into reading and ended up wishing I’d spent those six hours drilling holes in my eyeballs with a corkscrew before soaking my face in battery acid.

But at least the act of reading those books gave me the experience to offer up my own judgment – for better or worse.

As an author, I bristle at how acceptable it’s become for readers to make snarky comments about books they haven’t read. They somehow know without cracking the spine that the book is overrated. That it’s too trendy. That it’s trashy.

And that attitude makes me want to grab all the book snobs by the scruff of the neck, bend them over my knee, and spank them one at a time until my palm tingles pleasantly and my breasts heave from panting and sweat trickles from the tip of my collarbone down to my—


How do you feel about the trend of judging books by the hype, as opposed what’s between “it was a dark and stormy night” and “the end?” Please share!

And just to balance out my soapbox rant with a dose of humor, check out this hysterical Saturday Night Live skit featuring 50 Shades of Grey:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who knew Little League was this filthy?

I've spent my entire adult life striving to minimize contact with children. If you'd told me three years ago I'd have two of them sharing my home part-time, I would have poked you in the eye with a Lego.

But since my gentleman friend somehow managed to create the two most outstanding offspring on the planet, I'm more than okay with this new twist in life. It helps that things like Little League games are rife with unintentionally filthy humor that leaves me snickering in the stands each week.

I'll admit I know zilch about baseball, but I can't imagine why parents thought these were appropriate things to shout at young children during Saturday's game:

Urging a player to sprint quickly between bases:
Push off that rubber!

Commending a batter for making contact with the ball:
Way to get a piece!

Announcing the last warm-up pitch:
Balls in, coming down!

Coaching a kid coming up to bat:
You've gotta choke it and drive it!

Congratulating a player for his quick throwing reflexes:
Nice job getting that thing out of your hand!

Instructing the pitcher:
Fast and hard, let's go!

And my favorite, shouted by my gentleman friend as the kids lined up and shook hands at the conclusion of the game:
Way to come from behind, guys!

Are there any sporting events making you laugh these days? Please share!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why I shouldn’t be allowed to eat in public

A couple weeks ago, I had a crazy afternoon at the day job. I opted to eat lunch at my desk, and in the interest of shielding my boobs from spaghetti stains, tucked a napkin in the front of my blouse.

Naturally, that’s when the CEO walked past. He stood in the doorway and stared at my sauce-stained, makeshift bib and the noodle hanging from the side of my mouth.

“I want a picture of that.”

Lucky for him, I embarrass myself with food often enough to make photographic evidence unnecessary. Hang around and you’re bound to witness something.

Just last month, one of the housemates walked into my writing office to discover me with my hand in my bra.

“I dropped a Cheerio,” I explained. “I’m trying to fish it out.”

He shook his head. “Whatever you say.”

The most recent example of my social ineptitude with food happened Monday night at a Little League game. While my gentleman friend’s offspring made the rounds on the ball field, he and I munched sandwiches from a nearby deli.

“Want a bite of my pickle?” he asked.

“Are you talking dirty again?”

He laughed and thrust his pickle – the green kind – in front of my face. I shook my head, not particularly interested, but my gentleman friend insisted.

“It’s really good,” he said, wagging the pickle.

As if to illustrate its juicy goodness, the pickle dribbled a healthy portion of brine down the front of my v-neck shirt.

I reacted like any normal woman would (assuming that normal woman has no sense of taste or decorum). I smashed my boobs together to halt the flow of fluid, curled my tongue into a straw, and slurped the pickle juice from my cleavage.

My gentleman friend blinked in disbelief. “You did not just do that.”

“I did,” I confirmed, glancing around to be sure the parents and players were fixated on the game instead of my pornographic display.

“You licked pickle juice off your boobs at a Little League game.”

“Isn’t that better than if you licked pickle juice off my boobs at a Little League game?”

“Good point,” he agreed, and turned back to the ball field.

So this is why I probably shouldn’t eat in public. Or why I should just start going topless so I never have to worry about lost food and stained shirts.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Things you shouldn't show strangers on planes

Before last week's trip to Kauai, I loaded my Kindle with a dozen books I've been eager to read. My family's go-go-go-go! schedule left approximately 13 minutes of reading time in the six-day trip, which meant I didn't start reading Fifty Shades of Grey until I boarded the plane for home.

In case you're not familiar with the book, it's a wildly popular erotic fiction tale that's raised eyebrows by jetting to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and thrusting (snicker) whips and chains and bondage into the mainstream spotlight.

In other words, not the ideal reading selection when seated next to a stranger curious about e-readers.

"Is that a Kindle?" my seatmate asked not thirty seconds after I flipped it on.

Since we were sitting close enough to share an armrest, I couldn't pretend not to hear her. "It is a Kindle," I agreed, hoping that might conclude the discussion.

"I've never seen one up close before," she said. She peered at my screen, which displayed a detailed description of a sex act that's illegal in several states. "I read a lot of books and I like to take notes on the pages when I read. Can you do that with a Kindle?"

"Sure," I told her. "See, you put the cursor here, like this." I highlighted the words nipple clamps in illustration. "Then you can type like this, and it will highlight the text so you know there's a note there."

To demonstrate, I typed remember to buy some.

"Oh," she said. I couldn't tell from her tone if she was impressed or dismayed, and whether it was a response to the words or the device's functionality. Either way, she was determined to press on.

"Does it have a dictionary?" she asked. "I like to look up words I don't know when I'm reading."

"That's a good question," I said. "I think it does, but I've never used that feature. Let me see."

I highlighted the word fisting and began hunting through the Kindle menu for a dictionary function. My seatmate watched with rapt attention as I poked buttons and scrolled through menus.

"Sorry, I can't find it," I said at last.

"Maybe you have to be in a WiFi zone?"

"Could be. I think it varies from Kindle to Kindle. You can scope them out online."

"Thanks. I think I will."

And with that, she went back to her paperback and I returned to reading a scene that detailed an inventive use for a necktie.

You'd think I might have learned my lesson from that experience, but no. Saturday morning found me sitting at a Little League game alternately cheering for my gentleman friend's offspring and shielding my Kindle screen from the over-exuberant mom beside me who, bizarrely, kept screaming, "way to get a piece!" at batters who made contact with the ball.

Luckily, no one made conversation with either of us.

What's the oddest thing you've been caught reading in public? Has the popularity of e-readers allowed you get away with purchasing selections you might ordinarily hesitate to be seen reading? Please share!

I have to go shop for those nipple clamps.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I'm just here for a good lei

As I type this, I'm sitting barefoot at a table in Kauai with a mai tai beside me and sand in a few crevices not easily accessible in a public beachfront shower.

That combination of elements may be the reason I'm a little fuzzy on who won last week's fake word short story contest. I tallied a few times, but kept getting distracted by the gecko slurping juice from a scooped out papaya peel on the fence, and the sound of my parents' neighbor playing his ukulele on the porch.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure it came down to a tie between entry #2 by Joy Keeney and entry #6 by Phillip Doyle. A slight sunburn has made me too lazy to come up with anything creative for a tiebreaker, so how about if I just award both contestants a signed copy of Believe it or Not?

Congratulations to both Joy and Phillip (email me your snail mail addresses at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com) and thank you so much to everyone who wrote, voted, or giggled!

As you might imagine, spending the week in Hawaii with my parents and my gentleman friend is giving me a lot to smile about. Besides the fact that I'm here to relax and hang out with loved ones, there's a legitimate author-related reason for my journey to the island of Kauai.

The new romantic comedy I began writing two weeks ago is set here on this gorgeous island where my parents reside part-time. Though I'm awaiting my editor's feedback on the first three chapters to know if I'll finish the story, I figure it can't hurt to spent a little time researching.

Sometimes my job sucks so much I can't stand it.

I've been here just over 24 hours and have already seen several things that inspired me with  hearthrobs, laughter, or some combination of both. Allow me to share:
The honeymooners seated next to us on the flight from San Francisco to Hawaii. Both were in their late 80s. I'm pretty sure I saw him cop a feel at least twice.
A bumper sticker tacked to the guardrail at the entrance of a beach where I set one of the first scenes in the new book. It made me giggle on my last visit here, and still has me smiling on this trip.

Strolling in the orchid gardens with my mommy.

You probably need a dirty mind to see why this shell is funny. That means pretty much every blog reader is giggling right now.

My gentleman friend. 'Nough said.

What's making YOU smile right now? Please share!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vote for your favorite fake word short story!

You guys are awesome! Thanks to everyone who took part in our fake word short story contest to win a signed copy of Believe it or Not. Who knew we had such creative blog readers here? 

Well, all of us. I'm pretty much just stating the obvious, huh?

I know I said we'd narrow the field to five finalists, but it's my blog and I decided we're going to have six. Don't you like how that works?

Now, it's your turn to pick a winner. Post your vote in the comments by noon PST on Sunday, May 6. If your entry is one of the six finalists shown here, feel free to lobby for votes via Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, or by offering sexual favors to other readers by explaining clearly and professionally why you deserve to win.

I'll tally the votes on Sunday and announce the winner on next Monday's blog. He or she will win a signed copy of Believe it or Not and the admiration of everyone who reads this blog.

So here are the entries . . .  

The Pink Slip
By Carrie Crain

1973. THE YEAR OF DISCO. At twenty-eight, I was the first female rookie agent for the FBI in D.C. and when you’re a promptitude cowgirl from Texas who handles a Thompson Machine Gun better than her male counterparts, life at the Bureau wasn’t amazeballs.

Jack Justice squozed a “pink slip” in my hand. Jack had been with the Bureau since the Hoover administration. He knew the routine: let the last one who received a raise go first. FBI referred to it as ‘taking the hit.’

“Sorry, bitchtits. Life sucks,” he said.

I kicked his shin. “Life sucks, douchewaffle,” I said. 

The Fictzophrenic Writer
By Joy Keeney

“Ah tweedlefuck, I’ll go wackadoo if I don’t get thingamabob edited.” she said pouring another clup of glomp. She was determined to make this book fantabulous; the gregacious book club would be conversating about it for infinimore yes this book would be amazeballs.

“I’ll show that douchewaffle I can write and what I think of her pompitude.” She said reaching for the bottle…it was her 5th clup this morning. The more she drank the more medimathical she wrote and her typing sounded like kirchkening.

3 hours later…squeeee mudderfugger this story is done!

Just for the squeee of it...
By Ashton

“Wait till you get a load of this wtfery. I was sitting there conversating happily with Angie, and snap, in a second, she goes from gregacious to all angstian. She just glomps on to me, and I'm like, you want me to sherpa your emo, bitchtits? Amazeballs. I managed un-squoze myself and got the hell away from her kirchkening.”

“So you were just like, ‘I’ll be over here, being a douchewaffle? I can’t believe you would do that! Angie loves you infinimore! That’s fantabulous, Mudderfugger.”

“Tweedlefuck! You guys are all wackadoo. I’m leaving!"

By Louise D.
“Tweedlefuck!” The exclamation didn’t make me feel any better.

I’d been waiting in this totally not-fantabulous weather for Prince Charming, my teeth were kirchening and I’d had enough. As I turned to go, a whatchamathingy arrived. My frozen brain searched... that’s right, limousine. PC stepped out, looking totally amazaballs.

“Sorry I’m late, my sweet fictophrenic, traffic was a mudderfugger.” Oblivious to the weather, his gaze only on me, he added, “I love you infinimore. Will you marry me?”


“Squeeeee!” Nothing like a proposal to make me forget my glomp. “Absomondo, I will.”

The kiss that followed was stupendalicious.

By J. Sofie Seamands





His foot hit metal, and the hoe’s handle popped up to meet his third eye.

Holding his head, his vision fogged. His body stiffened as he let out a grunt. After pausing a few seconds to catch his breath, he stepped around the planter boxes.

Granted, slinking out - err - leaving - in the dark wasn’t his best move. But seriously. What’s a guy to do when a “lady’s” so free with fluffs, frequent with the squeeees, and hard with the diangulation?

Girls just don’t get it: if you can’t sleep with ‘em, you’ll never stay over.

The Mystery of the Angstian Fictzophrenic Woman
By Phillip Doyle

My gregacious secretary make a loud “Squeeeeee” just before she busted into my office. “Speed! We gotta a new client in da awfice – ain’t that just fantabulous?” “Easy Bitchtits, I gotta meets da mudderfugger whatchamathingy and makes sure they’re not some wackadoo douchewaffle.” “Tweedlefuck!!” I said to myself when she entered. She was not the kind you would toss outta the sack for Diangulating while you left to peepulate. She was a bit pompitude certainly, but the way she had her thingamabobs squoze in that dress they looked like two grunions ripe for the picking! “I’m Speed Walker – Private Medimathical."