Thursday, August 30, 2012

Does this book tour make my butt look big?

I sat down yesterday with my calendar to find a date that might work for a short road trip with my gentleman friend.

It soon dawned on me that my schedule is jam-packed with author-related travel in the coming month.

Then it dawned on me that I probably ought to let readers know about it in case you'd like to attend any of the events. That seems like a better idea than dragging strangers into the venue by their hair and tickling them until they either pee or agree to stick around and listen to me talk.

A few months ago, I was asked to be part of something called The Crazy Eights Author Tour. Actually, I saw the word "crazy" and said "I'm in" before I had any idea what I was being asked to do. For those who care about the details, here's a blurb for the tour:
The Crazy 8s Author Tour is the brainchild of author George Wright. His idea? A group of Oregon writers will celebrate the written word throughout the state. The result? 8 Towns, 8 Bookstores, 8 Events, and 28 amazing authors.
Did you see that? They called me amazing. Well, not just me. I guess there are other authors involved, including:
We aren't all going to be in the same place at the same time, which is unfortunate since I'd love to just follow Bill Cameron all over the state in hopes of having some of his awesomeness rub off on me.

Note to self: When sharing your fondness for male authors, try to avoid using the phrase "rub off on me."

So back to the tour.

Here are the dates and locations I'll be visiting:

Betty’s Books in Baker City, Sept. 14

Betty’s Books
The Crazy 8s Author Tour opens at Betty’s Books in historic Baker City, Oregon. Appearing will be Ruth Tenzer Feldman, Tawna Fenske, Gina Ochsner, Anne Jennings Paris, Eliot Treichel, Ellen Waterston, Karen Spears Zacharias, Anna Keesey, and George Byron Wright.

Cannon Beach Book Company, Sept. 22

Cannon Beach Book Company
With Haystack Rock as our backdrop, we visit the Cannon Beach Book Company, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2010. Appearing will be Ruth Tenzer Feldman, Tawna Fenske, James Bernard Frost, Lauren Kessler, Sid Miller, Barbara Roberts, Karen Spears Zacharias, R. Gregory Nokes, and George Byron Wright. 

Paulina Springs Books in Redmond, Sept. 28
  Paulina Springs Books
Stop number three on the Crazy 8s Author Tour is in lovely Central Oregon at Paulina Springs Books in Redmond. Appearing will be Ruth Tenzer Feldman, Tawna Fenske, Sarahlee Lawrence, Naseem Rakha, Anna Keesey, Ellen Waterston, Karen Spears Zacharias and George Byron Wright.

If you live near one of those areas, I'd love it if you came out and said hello. Or if you don't live in one of those areas but you feel like flying across the country so we can have a pillow fight and braid each other's hair after the event, that's cool, too.

Either way, it should be lots of fun.

And, um....kind of exhausting. I'm looking at about  24 hours of round-trip driving between those three sites. Anyone want to volunteer to be my chauffeur? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

On topless bike riding and other things that shape an author's perspective

Whether you read my blog, buy my books, follow me on Twitter, pal around with me on Facebook, or rifle through my trash seeking love-notes I've exchanged with my gentleman friend, one thing is probably pretty apparent – I adore risque comedy and frank, humorous commentary on sex.

Every now and then in an interview or a Facebook comment, someone will ask me, "What do your parents think of what you write?" or "Are you embarrassed to have your parents read naughty scenes in your books?"

I answer quite honestly that my parents are two of my best beta readers, and that my mom cheerfully catches typos in my sex scenes without batting an eyelash. Since she's reluctant to get a Facebook account of her own, I've given Mom the password to mine. She jokingly refers to it as "our Facebook" and reads every word I write (probably cringing each time I post something on the far end of the risque spectrum, and cringing again when she sees her friends "like" the post).

A couple weeks ago, I got an adorable email from my mom that got me thinking about the funny little ways parents shape their children. In some ways, it answers the "what do  your parents think?" question better than I ever could. Here's the note:
Your father and I are just sitting here on the beach.  The fog finally lifted and it's very warm.  I'm reading one of your books and relaxing.  We just happened to hear a father tell a little girl,"you can't take your shirt off, you're a girl." Made me think of another time, when it was my own little girl, wanting to ride her bike without her shirt on.  Sometimes you have to push back the old ways you are raised with/biases, and just let youngsters be themselves.  Your father has always helped me to overcome some of the strong mores that I was raised with.  Maybe that has something to do with your free-wheeling topics on your blog and in your books.
Now this is a pain to type on my cell.

Sent from my iPhone

Yep, that's me. With no shirt. Riding a bike.
She's referring to the fact that my six-year-old self noticed all the neighborhood boys playing outside without shirts and saw no reason I shouldn't be allowed to do the same. My parents agreed, not making a big deal of it, except to suggest I might consider donning a top when I headed off to first grade.

The way they handled that says a lot about what awesome parents I have, and also partly explains why I grew up without a lot of the body-image issues that seemed to plague many of my peers. I was never made to feel there was anything shameful about the human body or the things it's capable of (with the possible exception of peeing standing up – that was frowned upon after several misguided attempts).

So to answer the questions about whether my parents are embarrassed by my sexual humor, or whether I'm embarrassed to have them read it – hell no.

I mean heck no.

Sorry, Mom. That's the first time I ever cursed, I swear.

As for the rest of you, what kinds of things did your parents do that shaped who you became as a person or a writer? For better or worse, are there things you can point to that molded your views of the world or yourself? Please share!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just when you thought the housemates were gone...

Many of you have expressed concern that my recent household move will halt blog posts about the two twenty-something male housemates who've kept us entertained this past year.

Many of you have read my posts about bizarre happenings in my life and left comments along the lines of, "if it were anyone but you telling this story, I'd never believe it's true."

This post is for you.

A couple days after my gentleman friend and I moved into our new house, I was on the floor of my office cursing like a sailor with my skirt hiked up around my waist as I struggled to stuff the futon into its cover.

It would have been better if I'd just written, "I was in my office writing," huh?

So there I was on the floor with my hair and clothing all askew and my sliding door open to my fenced backyard when I heard a familiar voice.

"Hey, Tawna. How's it going?"

I jumped up, straightened my skirt, and squinted into my backyard. There, peering over the fence with matching grins on their faces, were my two former housemates.

"Er, what's up?" I called, tugging at my skirt as I gave the futon a kick for good measure.

"Nothing," one of them yelled. "Just looking at some rooms."

You read that right. In a city of 82,000 souls and countless homes with rooms for rent, the two former housemates not only decided to go house-hunting together, but to rent space in the home directly behind us.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

To their credit, they came over before committing to rent and made sure we were OK with the arrangement. We agreed, as long as they both promised we will never come home to find them sacked out on out sofa watching war movies and feeding deep-fried pastrami to the dog.

They agreed.

A few days later, I bumped into one of the housemates in the driveway of our old home. We were both there packing a few last-minute things, and it was the first time we'd spoken alone for ages.

"So I've gotta tell you a funny story," he said. "The day we checked out that house and realized it was right behind you, we explained the whole situation to the woman renting the rooms."

Apparently, their new prospective housemate found the whole thing hysterical. "It's a really quiet neighborhood," she told them, "and a lot of the nearby houses are vacant. And everyone's sleeping with their windows open right now because it's so hot. And I don't want to spread gossip or anything, but a couple nights after those two moved in, I heard them really going at it."

The housemates laughed, and politely changed the subject (or so his story goes).

"After he and I left," the housemate continued as we stood there in our old driveway, "we started talking about whether we wanted to rent those rooms or not. And he says to me, 'it's too bad about Tawna. I guess they're not getting along."

Confused, he asked him to elaborate. The other housemate frowned. "You know. The neighbor said they were really going at it. Fighting and stuff."

It took every ounce of self-control the other housemate possessed for him not to fall to the ground laughing. (This is probably a lie – I'm sure he laughed his ass off).

"I don't think she meant they were fighting," he said slowly. "I think she meant going at it –like going at it?"

It took a few beats for the other housemate to get it.

And it took a few hours for me to stop laughing after I heard this story.

"For the record," I informed him. "We were probably just moving furniture up the stairs. Or playing with the dog. Or watching a movie. Or–"

"How about we just never speak of this again?" he said.


And how about I give serious consideration to having my windows permanently sealed?

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's official: You guys are sick puppies

So I'm wondering how disturbed we should all be by the fact that my contest for a copy of  Believe it or Not that's been peed on by my cat turned out to be one of the most popular book giveaways I've ever done.

You guys are sick.

Which is generally a compliment around here, so congratulations.

There were a lot of fun reader comments suggesting alternate theories for who peed on the book, and making pleas to receive this fine treasure.

Among my favorites:
Bryan Thomas wrote:
Well Maestro looks not only guilty but freaking proud, so I'm going with him. Plus, you know, he's male, so maybe he just didn't go for the romance thing. As for why I deserve it, well, for one, a signed cat peed copy has to be worth something some day, right, and even though I already bought the book, my copy will not help my dogs with their nostalgic missing of our cat who is no longer with us. This way, when they miss the cat, they can smell the book. I won't smell it, but I'll read it and keep it in a place of honor with other pet critiqued books...
Karen Lawson wrote:
I entered every give away I could for this book when it first came out and never won it. So, I hesitate to enter, knowing this could be the one I win..... But, Maestro looks guilty, so I'm going with him. As to why I deserve to win - well, I always knew your book was never a piece of shit, so at least the peed version could be worse.... 

Melissa Landers wrote:
None of the above.

I think your Gentleman Friend is the culprit! Perhaps all your romance writing has brought out the alpha male in him, and he felt the uncontrollable urge to mark his territory.

::shifts a sideways glance at Tawna's gentleman friend:: 

Michele Shaw wrote
Matt the cat looks way guilty to me. It's the eyes. I need this copy because I'm sure some day there will be a museum of some kind for items like this, and then I can be one of those old ladies who is so foo-foo she goes around donating quirky, yet outrageoulsy valuable, items to museums! And, yeah, want the signed copy cuz, ya know, sounds too cool.

I adore all of those responses, and wish I had a peed-on book to offer every one of you. But the response I loved most for the sheer imagination required to construct it is this one:

Aurelia Blue wrote
Here's what happened. One (or both) housemates left a dirty sock lying about. Of course he's calling it, "hey, I just took them off to watch TV because that's a given when dudes watch TV. I was totally going to put it back on, but then I forgot, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway because it just disappeared."

Maestro took it because he is your gentleman friend's favorite and thus must reject all other male human presences in your home. He must also reject any object or being that interferes with his time with you, other than of course his special pal, your gentleman friend. But this would include things like books you spent months writing and other cats posing as your pet. I say posing, because he knows HE's your only real pet. So he put the stinky sock in the box and sat back and watched those other two poseur cat pets sniff about. Then he told them it's the new litter box and they laughed. So he took a massive pee on the book and sock not only to show them it was true, but also to count coup on your gentleman friend’s possible rival(s), the housemate(s), but also to give you a little “what for” about spending so much time in front of that blasted keyboard when you could have been petting him. Peeing also demonstrates alpha dominance, so of course Matt the Cat and Blue cat had to whip it out and show their manliness, hence the peed upon book which wasn’t peed on just one of them, therefore none of them, are to blame. The sock is probably buried in the litter box. I can almost guarantee it. A special little “f-you” for the housemate leaving his stench on Alpha Maestro's beautiful den floor. Really this is a house and not a bear pit! ;)

Now as to why I deserve the precious pee book. I have four kids. Three of them started at three different schools this week. Their baby brother is inconsolable. The only respite I get beside the occasional writing day that my fairy-in-law-mother occasionally grants but then expects hard copies of my work for her inspection on completion of the day, is when I sit in a hot bath of rusty water (because my boyLovey forgot to buy softener salt again) soaking in some exotic blend of my best perfume and baby wash (because my daughters decided to make their own bubble bath and wasted all mine, and the perfume, in the effort). I actually tried to download
Believe It Or Not last night on my e-reader as my one little guilty pleasure behind the bastion of the bathroom door and found I didn’t have enough money linked to my account to purchase it. Did I mention my special little toy also broke? So yeah, I’ll gladly read your pee copy. Wont bother me a bit. It’ll be right at home in my little world, you don‘t even have to waste a new on me. Although it would be cool to have your autograph on the pee one all the same. Thanks.

Wow. I almost wish I had two peed-on copies of Believe it or Not to offer Aurelia. But one will have to suffice (along with a non-pee copy that I'll happily sign for you). Shoot your snail mail address to me at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com and I'll get that in the mail right away.

Thanks so much to everyone who played. Doesn't it kinda feel like we should all take a shower now?

Er, maybe not together.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pretty much the worst book giveaway ever

Several months ago, I shared how my pets were obsessed with the giant box of Believe it or Not sent to me by my publisher.

Their obsession eventually waned, and I worked my way through the stockpile of books doing giveaways and promotions.

On the day we moved from our old house to the new one, I peered into the box and discovered one copy remaining.

Unfortunately, someone peed on it.
For the record, it's not saturated or anything. Just lightly drizzled.

The housemates vehemently deny using my book box as a urinal, and I checked all the book's Amazon reviews to make sure no one posted anything like, "this book sucks, so I took a whiz on it."

I don't mean to point fingers here, but I'm pretty sure it was one of the cats. My money is on Maestro, my gentleman friend's favorite among our five felines:
Maestro. Is he the guilty party?

But it's also possible Matt the Cat or Blue Cat committed the offense while jockeying for position in my writing space.
Or was it Blue Cat or Matt the Cat?

No matter, the damage is done. It got me thinking about those weird eBay auctions you see sometimes where someone's selling a piece of gum chewed by Britney Spears, or a Kleenex someone swears Tom Hanks blew his nose in.

So who'd like to own a copy of of Believe it or Not that's been peed on by my cat?


Don't all raise your hands at once.

OK, seriously. Tell me in the comments who you think peed on the book, and why you deserve this very special copy of Believe it or Not.

I'll choose a winner at noon PST on Sunday, August 18. That person will receive the copy of  Believe it or Not that's been ceremoniously anointed by someone in my house, plus one additional, signed copy of the book for your personal use. I'll package the pee copy in a baggie or something to keep it fresh for you, and I'll try not to let it touch the non-pee copy (because obviously we wouldn't want the non-pee copy to taint the pee copy – it might devalue it or something).

Questions? Comments? Suggestions on where I might go to find a qualified mental health professional?

I told you this was pretty much the worst book giveaway ever.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How not to meet your new neighbors

Friday morning, I woke with a jolt. I'd let the dog out for an early bathroom break, and remembered only after hearing her bark at the front of the house that I'd left the backyard gate unlatched.

I jumped out of bed and scrambled downstairs, not bothering to throw on a robe. I yanked the front door open a modest three or four inches to yell for the dog. One of our five cats – all of whom have been confined to the house since the move – glimpsed freedom through the open door and bolted.

"Dammit, Maggie!" I yelled, yanking the door open another couple inches to make a futile grab for her.

That's when I saw the man on my porch.

"Um, hi," he said.

"Hello," I replied, making a useless attempt to stand upright and hide behind the door.

"Does this belong to you?" he asked.

I half expected him to hold up something lacy or battery-powered and was prepared to answer affirmatively without even looking. Then I realized he was pointing at my dog, who sat panting on the porch beside him.

She looked like she was laughing.

"Y-yes," I stammered. "Bindi, come inside!"

Even Bindi could see she was unlikely to fit through the door with me holding it open a mere two or three inches. She seized the opportunity to dance off down the driveway in pursuit of the cat.

Oblivious to my distress – or perhaps delighting in it – the man on my porch stuck out his hand. "I'm Jamie," he said. "My wife and I have lived across the street for about three years. It's a great neighborhood."

"It sure is," I agreed, peering around him for a glimpse at my wayward pets while trying to keep my naked self hidden behind the door. Figuring it wouldn't hurt to draw my new neighbor's attention back to the task at hand, I yelled for my dog.

"Bindi! Come back here, girl!"

"I'll grab her," offered my Good Samaritan neighbor, trotting off down the driveway. He returned seconds later holding my dog by the collar. "Here you go."

"Er, thanks." I squeaked the door open a few more inches, vainly using my hair to cover the upper half of my torso. "Come on, Bin."

The dog scooted inside, wagging her tail and prancing with delight at meeting someone new. I grabbed her by the collar.

"So it was nice to meet you," my new neighbor chattered. "It's a quiet street, and everyone is really friendly."

"Great!" I replied, thinking I could do with a little less friendliness at the moment. "Thank you so much for your help. It was great meeting you, um–"

"Jamie," he supplied. "And my wife is–"

"Thanks again!" I called, and shut the door.

I showered and got dressed and had a lovely morning of walking the dog and working on the new manuscript. Around lunchtime, I went outside to check the mail. As luck would have it, that's when the Good Samaritan neighbor returned home for his lunch break. Spotting me in my driveway, he stared blankly for a moment. Several minutes ticked by, and he remained in his truck.

At last, he sidled out and waved, not meeting my eyes.

"Thanks again for returning Bindi this morning," I yelled across the street. "I really appreciate it."

He halted mid-step, finally turning to look at me. "Bindi? Oh, I thought you were saying Mindi."

"Nope, it's Bindi."

"Huh," he said, taking a few steps up my driveway and scuffing his shoe on the ground. "Look, sorry if I startled you this morning standing on your porch so early."

"No problem," I replied. "Sorry if I startled you this morning by answering my door naked."

He blinked at me. "Is that why you didn't open the door?"

"For the record, I usually do answer the door fully clothed," I supplied. "In case you or your lovely wife ever stop by."


We chatted a few more minutes about pets and neighborhood watch programs (the latter taking on a new meaning in light of our initial encounter). At last, my neighbor turned to go.

"It was nice seeing – er, meeting you," he said.


When interviewers ask why I write comedy, my pat answer is that I'm a magnet for absurdity and it just makes sense to capitalize on that.

Now you know.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How much damage can two 27-year-old boys do when left alone in my house?

If I ever again suggest I'd like to pack up my entire household and move to a different home, you have my permission to slam my nipples in the kitchen cupboard repeatedly until I black out.

Now that we've got that out of the way, you'll be happy to know my move is complete. We're still living out of boxes, and my former home still contains many odds and ends that must be relocated.

The housemates, for example.

Many of you have followed my housemate stories from the beginning, but for those just joining the party, here's a recap: at the start of my divorce in the spring of 2011, the home I shared with my ex proved to be the most challenging asset to divide. Knowing the process might drag out a long time and that prostitution wasn't a desirable method of paying the mortgage, I rented out two rooms in the home to a couple of twenty-something boys.

Besides helping me to make my house payments, those housemates have provided all of us with significant entertainment value over the last sixteen months.

But all good things must come to an end, and by that I mean my gentleman friend and I were so desperate for privacy that we'd taken to necking in the coat closet.

So now we've moved. But since the sale of my former home won't actually close until late August, I offered the housemates an option.

"I'm taking all my furniture when we move August 1," I explained. "Couches, chairs, lamps, dining room table, all the cookware in the kitchen. Same with the refrigerator and the washer & dryer – everything's going with us."

The housemates considered that a moment. "Are you turning off the power?" one of them asked.

"I guess not," I said.

"Water? Sewer?"

I assured them I planned to keep all the utilities going, minus the internet. And I confirmed that the new owners won't take possession until late August.

"We're staying then," they decided.

So they set up their camp chairs in the living room, dragged their record collection out of my antique armoire, filled a cooler with beer and Oreos, and made themselves at home in front of their big-screen TV.

I walked through the living room the next day and squinted at the TV.

"You don't have cable and you can't stream Netflix through the internet anymore, so what on earth are you watching?" I asked.

"PBS," one of them replied.

"It's a special about sharks."

"Right," I said. "Good to see you're making yourselves comfortable."

"It could be better," one of them replied. "When are you taking the hammock?"

Before I had a chance to consider the question, they scurried outside and carried the hammock in from the second-story deck.

"Perfect," they declared, and sat down to watch the Spanish channel.

I have a sneaking suspicion my realtors will be forced to physically drag them from the house when closing day comes for the buyers. I'd kinda like to be there for that.

Mostly because I want my hammock back.