Skip to content

Category: Uncategorized

The Year of Chaotic Creation Update!

Posted in Uncategorized

I said I would do it. And now it’s here.

It’s the year of Chaotic Creation. And my, what a year it has been.

Ah, I see it is the 13th of January.

[insert the endless shriek of a thousand souls withering in the icy grasp of a godless universe]

How have I passed the time so far? What have I created, aside from the very, very brief animation above?

I made fan art of my own characters. I started out with Iris, from Nightmare Born:

I drew Iris as a cartoon character, basically head and shoulders. She has red curly hair, anime eyes, and she's wearing a purple and pink shirt. She's outlined in purple.

She’s outlined in purple because that color is a theme in the book.

I tried to cartoon-ify Sophie from The Boss, too, but I forgot her shoes and, as Bronwyn Green noted, it looks like Sophie is aware of the oversight:

I drew Sophie with a big head, long neck, pink dress, shoes.

Please note, I left plenty of room to do shoes and even a shadow on the ground but I was like, eh, fuck it, good enough.

Look, I’m just getting the hang of digital art, okay? I’ve never used a Wacom tablet before and although I am an eternal child, I am also an old. I’ll get better. I’ve even got plans for what I’m doing with this skill when I do get better!

I’ve also started learning some very, very, very basic game design. Will I ever make a game? Who the fuck knows. But it will be nice to know how they work.

“But Jenny,” you may be saying to yourself, “What about your Patreon posts and other posts here?” You’re probably not saying that because you’ve been following this blog and you’re so much nicer to me than I could ever possibly be, but never fear, it’s been lurking in the back of my mind. I’ve been working on those things, as well, but my brain has been pretty overwhelmed with the violent insurrection and the whole civil war thing we have going on of late, so I can only do a little at a time. But you know what? I’m actually very, very, very proud of what I’m getting done, even if it’s not a huge word count every single day.

I hope you’re all staying happy, healthy, and not-seditious. If you aren’t already subscribed to my YouTube channel, it might be worth your while; I’ll be uploading some content soon (internet issues have made uploading anything a total nightmare) and it’s gaming oriented, so if you’re into The WitcherStardew Valley, or Graveyard Keeper, smash that notification button or however the kids are saying shit these days.

2021: The Year Of Chaotic Creation

Posted in Uncategorized

Here’s what I’m doing in 2021. If it sounds good to you, do it, too. I think after the hell year of 2020 and the fact that there really isn’t a ton of light at the end of the tunnel yet, we all need something to get us off the couch and away from doom scrolling and binge-watching, and generally just wandering around in a stupor. We might not be able to get out of the house, but we can get into our heads.

In 2021, I am creating chaotically. And when I say it’s gonna be chaos…it’s gonna be chaos. Because I realized that there is a) no reason that all of my creative energy needs to go into either secret projects I don’t show anyone for fear of feeling “monetized” or projects that are extremely monetized and b) I’m my own boss and I can do literally whatever I want.

Obviously, I’ve got the recaps I’m going to keep doing because I like doing those (although Buffy is getting harder to get on board with; Joss Whedon makes my skin crawl and he’s basically destroyed my love for the show). I’m going to devote more time to The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp, because I’m enjoying that, too.

But you know what else I enjoy? LITERALLY EVERYTHING.

If you stood in my office and you saw all the stuff in here, you’d be like, “This person has never finished a craft project in her life.” I have so many hobbies that in the past, I’ve had to actively participate in community craft fairs to be able to afford more supplies. I’m like some Dickensian urchin warming himself in a doorway, begging passers by, “Please, sir, just a drop of gouache?”

Here are all the things I like…do:

  • knitting
  • crochet
  • community theater
  • oil and acrylic paintings
  • painting and designing custom ouija boards
  • decorating miniature rooms in an unfinished wooden castle for no reason
  • play a little bit of a lot of different instruments, badly
  • sing
  • game
  • crafting theatrical props
  • writing thoughts about metaphysical stuff and rarely posting to a hobby blog
  • epoxy resin pieces
  • watercolor
  • counted cross-stitch
  • illustrating a children’s book I made up
  • bullet journaling
  • coloring in those adult coloring books which is a misleading name because there aren’t any bewbs.
  • soap making
  • needle felting
  • fanfic
  • writing screenplays/teleplays of my own work
  • So much weird mixed medium stuff

Writing is such a very small percentage of what comes out of my head. While I sometimes post art on Instagram, I generally keep it under my hat because I am a writer, you see, and there is only ONE THING I AM ALLOWED TO BE.

Everyone told me that when I turned forty, I would no longer give any fucks. Any at all. And surprisingly, the area hardest hit was my perception of myself and how I’d pigeon-holed myself. Not a single fuck left. I don’t need to keep a side hobby blog for my witchy-poo nonsense. There’s no reason I’m not allowed to put that here. And there’s no reason I’m not allowed to put my art here when it’s not a mental health update or something. And if I want to make a YouTube video of me singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of a green screen scrolling a constant loop of kittens barfing in the background? There’s no reason I shouldn’t put it on this blog.

It’s my blog.

Also, the description of what my company, Trout Nation Inc., does is very vague and I’m the sole shareholder. I’ve also heard that blogs are “dead,” so if I’m one of the last villagers in this abandoned valley, I’m gonna take this in a real, real strange direction.

I know, Business Centaurs aren’t strange enough.

I guess what I’m saying is, plan on seeing a bunch of random stuff next year, as I allow my creative self to do whatever it fucking feels like and I just vomit it in here and on my YouTube channel. If you decide to do the same thing, let’s call it a Chaotic Creation Challenge, and you wanna post stuff to your blog or your social media, put a link in the comments to share. I don’t care if you come back to this post in July like, “Just built the largest card house I’ve ever achieved,” everyone is going to be psyched for you.

Because I’m the President-King of Trout Nation and I decree that we all have to be psyched for each other.

I’m not saying that 2021 is gonna be our best year. I’m definitely not setting goals in stone; we’ve seen how well that’s worked out progressively every year since 2016. But I am saying that 2020 took a lot of stuff from us and it’s time to create in the face of destruction, if that does, in fact, make you feel more hopeful.

If it doesn’t, then I invite you to take the Miserable Bastard Challenge, which is like the Chaotic Creation thing but just staying super cynical and angry. I fully support anyone who just cannot fucking trust 2021.

THE FINAL BOSS BOOK! Title change, cover reveal, and release date!

Posted in Uncategorized


While I had planned to announce The Daughter‘s release date and reveal the cover last week, it just felt…wrong. And I didn’t know why. This is going to be the very last time I’m with Sophie. While I’ve been writing other books, as well, Sophie has been my main focus, my work wife, since I started writing the serialized version of The Boss in…was it 2013? I can’t remember. Either way, for the better part of a decade.

It was difficult to decide on a cover. I kept staring at it, going, “the title just doesn’t look right. None of this looks right. Is that even how ‘daughter’ is spelled? It looks so…wrong.”

I realized that out of all the titles in the series, none of them, not a single one, had referred to Sophie. For example:

  • The Boss referred to Neil.
  • The Girlfriend referred to Valerie.
  • The Bride was Emma.
  • The Ex was Stephen.
  • Obviously, Olivia is The Baby.
  • The Sister referred to Molly
  • The Boyfriend was El-Mudad

Sophie has never had top billing. When you read The Daughter, it’ll be clear who it refers to. But that person isn’t Sophie.

So, without further ado, the title and the cover for the final book in The Boss series will be (already ruined for you by the social media preview):

My Favorite Adult High Fantasy Romances/High Fantasy With Romantic Elements

Posted in Uncategorized

Over on Patreon, I’m running a Jealous Patrons Book Club feature where you can subscribe to recaps or discussion posts for A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I will refrain from putting my opinion on the book here, as that’s not what this post is about.

Instead, this post is about amazing High-Fantasy Romances or High-Fantasy with strong romantic elements that I have read and loved. There are titles on here you might recognize, but overall I feel like these books didn’t get the attention they deserved. You’re gonna see one and go, “Jenny, come on. You really think that one didn’t get enough attention?”

Yes. I think that even the most popular of these should be far more celebrated than they are, even if the only thing left is to declare an international day of appreciation and/or building a statue beneath which the author’s heart and brain will be entombed upon their death, that we may all be grateful to be so close to their most important parts.

That got grim.

Anyway, jam these in your eye holes or your earholes or the tips of your fingers. Which ever way you choose to read (though I’m not sure which formats all of these books are available in, to be perfectly frank). Oh, and I’ve excluded YA High Fantasy from the list because honestly, my list would be like, SUSAN DENNARD OKAY THAT’S ALL YOU NEED LOCK YOURSELF IN A ROOM AND READ EVERYTHING SHE’S WRITTEN, COOL?

These might also seem old, in terms of release. All but one of them are, indeed, decades old. But High Fantasy Romance has been something of a disappointment for me for the past few years. There was such a huge boom in the 00’s in the subgenre, but it feels like its’ petered out a bit. There was also a substantial rise in YA Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy/High Fantasy, so it did feel for a while like publishers went, “And the girly elf books go over here!” and I kind of wandered away from the genre and into books about WWII because congratulations, I’m your dad! But I’m always taking recommendations. Send them my way (and the way of everyone else) in the comments.

Authors On Parler

Posted in Uncategorized

Content Warning: hate speech of any flavor

IMPORTANT UPDATE 12/4/2020: It appears that some early-adopter accounts may have been compromised by bots. The list has been updated to reflect this.

This is a controversial post. I know that before writing it because people have told me that it’s controversial.

“I think putting people on a list is childish and unnecessary,” one person told me. “You’re going to name names and hurt someone’s career!” another said. Of course, the old chestnuts “freedom of speech!” and “just because they have a different opinion!” came up.

They were talking about my plans to out authors who joined Parler in the days after Donald Trump’s landslide failure in the 2020 presidential election.

For those unacquainted with the dregs of the internet, Parler is a Facebook alternative that brings together the worst of QAnon, MAGA, militia aficionados, Christian Dominionists, and more white supremacists than you can shake a blue lives matter flag at. Feeling “censored” by Facebook’s policy of gently suggesting that users double-check some of the baseless, absurd, and dangerous propaganda the right cranked out on the platform by the minute.

It is here I would like to point out the irony of people so invested in free speech not understanding what the First Amendment actually says. And I would like to reiterate that Facebook didn’t remove anyone’s content or prevent them from sharing it. They simply put a little note at the bottom of articles, memes, and lengthy diatribes that stated some of the information included wasn’t the truth when it was, in fact, not the truth. It wasn’t freedom of speech that these people had an issue with. It was the fact that they weren’t being allowed to spread hate, disinformation, wild conspiracy theories, and absurdly transparent calls to violent insurrection or the assassination of political figures as irrefutable truth that made them take their toys and run off to their hate circle.

Again: these are people so invested in destroying any non-white, non-straight, non-Protestant person in the country that they feel any attempt to correct or question their deliberate lies and destructive conspiracy theories was an attack on their personal liberty. By not tacitly accepting that what they are fighting for–genocide, eugenics, torture, tyranny, religious persecution, martial law, the list goes on and sinks lower–is righteous and unimpeachable, the word is ripping away their freedom.

They do not consider themselves free if they are not allowed to harm anyone who doesn’t look, act, and believe exactly as they do.

They do not consider themselves free if they are not allowed to kill, see killing, threaten to kill, or celebrate killing.

But these are the people that I, a queer, disabled person, should treat with the grace of anonymity. The people I should work alongside, potentially meet at industry functions. The people who should be celebrated by readers, who should have an easy path to success because…


Why should we not name the names of people who will happily show up to a book convention and sit beside a marginalized author, smile sweetly, take pictures, then immerse themself in the comforting embrace of free speech like:

  • “For everything that is wrong with this world there is a jew behind it.”
  • “I love laying in bed and rubbing my wet pussy to officers killing n***** men.”
  • “N***** lives don’t matter.”
  • “AIDS kills f*** dead.”
  • “Let’s see them try to enter the people house and attempt to remove our President, a National Treasure!!! Death will become them!”
  • “This woman is Evil Incarnate. We Cannot Allow This Satanic Shill To Enter Office. (Kamala Harris’ eyes turn completely black several times during this interview, she is full of unclean spirits ECHO THIS PLEASE)”
  • “Voting will not remove them. The only things n****** understand are pain and fear”

What was that, people who were horrified at the idea of naming names? Oh, you thought Parler was just the garden variety dog whistles you’re comfortable ignoring?

And this is the stuff in public posts made by users of the site. One can only imagine what kind of horror show goes on behind the locked accounts.

Marginalized people should not, will not, and cannot take a stance of non-involvement and polite tolerance toward people whose sole motivation is our total eradication. Asking us to do so is actively protecting the goals of these people. If your first thought upon seeing this list is, “That’s not nice,” then congratulations: you’re complicit.

But I know the perfect social media site for you to join.

Criteria for inclusion:

Because authors make their money off the internet and building a reader following, when a new platform pops up, we generally see them flock there. You never know when the next mega-platform will pop up, and being an early adopter comes with an initial lack of competition for views. Plus, other platforms have a habit of applying advertising and content rules haphazardly, often punishing authors for sharing excerpts or covers that are too racy. It made sense for many erotic romance authors to try out Parler two years ago; for them to still be there, they must have a damn good reason.

For an author’s name to be included on this list, their Parler account must include one or more of the following:

  • Posts or “echoes” of hate speech
  • Posts or “echoes” of election disinformation
  • A “following” list featuring at least two right-wing provocateurs, i.e., accounts following Donald Trump, InfoWars, or any QAnon accounts are automatically included regardless of original content posted by the user
  • A post-election “joined” date
  • A locked account
  • An announcement on other platforms directing readers to the author’s Parler account for reasons described in the introduction to this post

What are some reasons an author might have a Parler account and not be included in the list?

  • The account is an early adopt that hasn’t been updated frequently
  • The account doesn’t follow anyone
  • There are no posts/”echoes”
  • The author’s body of work is self-explanatory

The authors in question must also be published (either indie or traditional) or in the process of querying; we’re not gonna wait for these people to get book deals.

I came up with these criteria based on things I saw on the site itself, as well as from defenses used by authors and readers. Here are some examples:

  • Jamie Mcguire has a locked account with a verified badge. One of her readers argued that because Facebook removes ad content it deems inappropriate, McGuire was forced to switch platforms in order to advertise her books and publicize herself. This would be more believable if the account wasn’t behind a lock on a website that doesn’t allow access to anyone who doesn’t have a user account. Because that rationale makes absolutely no sense at all, she is on the list.
  • Jim Butcher has a Parler account. It is not verified. He joined in August of 2020. He follows no one. The only post on his account is the default post the site makes to get you started. He is not on the list.
  • Laura Loomer has a book coming out in 2021. She doesn’t need to be on the list because she calls herself a “proud Islamaphobe” and has built her entire brand on her profound hatred. Including her would be redundant. Yes, she’s a bigot and an author; no, she is not on the list.
  • A handful of authors on Parler really do seem to be there just to talk about writing and promote their books. They don’t follow any red-flag accounts, they don’t post weird stuff about killing their fellow citizens in an orgy of patriotism and finally getting to use all those bullets they’ve invested in. They’re just there. Maybe they’re there for nefarious purposes, but there’s no way to prove it. They’re not on the list.
  • Some authors expressed dismay at the fact that they’d joined the site in its early days and didn’t realize what it was for. Usually, their accounts were barely used or completely scrubbed of posts. If I can’t prove a person is there with malicious intent, they’re not on the list.

After nearly a month of combing hashtags and search terms, these are the names on the list. They are not in alphabetical order because for some reason, after reading about how I should die, how my friends should die, how half the country should be murdered, etc.? It just seemed like the straw of work that would break my back.

Please also note: it’s become something of a trend to use initials or close spellings to game search engine and retailer algorithms. Please be absolutely certain that you’ve done your own due diligence. This isn’t a list of hot gossip; this is a list of people who pose a danger to their fellow authors.

Click read more for the list.

So…anything happening in the news? And other updates.

Posted in Uncategorized

CW: This is an overall positive post but the word “suicide” does come up and IDK where everyone is around here, mentally. It’s not super heavy, just the grim, passing reflections of someone who’s been suicidal before. It’s not like, about suicide.

As you know by now, President-Elect Joe Biden is a thing. I partied over the weekend, woke up this morning and was like, wow. This is what it feels like to not wake up disappointed that I didn’t die in my sleep. Wild.

I was more or less holding off on making any, you know, plans or whatnot until after the election. It just didn’t make sense to me to be like, “Yeah, good news, I’ve got all this stuff happening and good content coming just as soon as I know that I’m not going to be sent to a re-education camp.

Since it seems safe (for now) to make future plans, I am tentatively announcing a soft release date for the final book in the Sophie Scaife series. The Daughter will, by all accounts, unless I’m crushed by something heavy or there is a military coup that seizes control of the country, be out on January 21st, 2021.

Because I’m going to be damned if I say goodbye to my imaginary friends and strand them in a Trump presidency. No way, no how.

My first Jennifer Morningstar title, In The Blood, will re-release in February 2021.

Damn, it feels so good to be able to actually write again. You guys. seriously.

Please don’t assume that it was just the election that made me regret waking up in the mornings. Nay, nay! as my good friend Kris Norris is fond of saying. Nay, nay, I have had all sorts of other bullshit going on totally unrelated to politics, white supremacy, and all that other fun MAGA jazz. I have more health bullshit!

As you may know, since I feel like I complain about it constantly, in 2009, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Shortly after the birth of my daughter, I injured my neck while nearly missing a head-on collision with another car. Within weeks, I was calling my doctor complaining of fatigue, the pain from my moderate whiplash turned severe. I was in pain all over, a pain I could hear like a low buzzing in my ears. It took months of insisting that this was not normal childbirth recovery, that I’d had a baby before and never felt so run down and in so much pain in so many non-birth related body parts. Finally, someone listened and sent me to a specialist, and I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

Cut to September of last year, when I slipped and fell in the shower and broke my foot. I was prepared for my body to take a long time to stop hurting. In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve racked up a rather impressive number of accidents that have caused pain that never went away. And I don’t mean “aches and pains when the weather changes,” although I have those, too. Surgery to remove a tumor resulted in a scar that burns even when the evil wizard who put it there isn’t thinking of me. Sometimes, it feels like it’s coming open. The whiplash has never gone away; it, too, has morphed into constant burning.

I thought this was all Fibromyalgia and continued with my life.

Until one day back in September when I posted on Facebook asking if anyone else still had pain in their foot after breaking it. “It aches every time it rains,” seemed to be the most popular answer. When I tried to explain that it wasn’t an ache, that it hurts exactly the way it did the day after I broke it, someone suggested I look up Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS. And I laughed. Because it’s a rare condition and I know someone who has it. What are the odds of that happening?

I went to my friend, whom some of you know as St. Petra of Getting Peter Capaldi to Wish Jenny a Happy Birthday, who also has CRPS. I told her how funny it was that someone would coincidentally suggest I have the same rare condition she has. And since she and I had bonded over our mutual chronic pain and she knows my symptoms, she finally told me something she’d apparently thought for a while: that my symptoms are symptoms of CRPS.

After my diagnosis, I stopped researching Fibromyalgia. What was the point? It’s incurable, I’m treating it the way that works for me, I don’t really need to obsess over it, right? I’d just been noodling along, thinking everything I was experiencing was Fibro. And then I compared and contrasted the symptoms of both and called my doctor because while I have a few symptoms of Fibro, they’re all symptoms in common with CRPS, which I check every single box on.

I am not yet diagnosed, as it is a diagnosis of exclusion. There isn’t a test for it, you just have to test for everything around it. Just like with Fibro. And that process, dear readers, is exhausting. On the heels of a year where I had two mental breakdowns, it’s really been a lot.

However, I’m positive and happy and cautiously optimistic about the future. It’s way, way better to worry about health issues when I know healthcare access will improve and that we’re not as close to plunging into full, unfettered fascism as we were last year.

I don’t really have a way to end this post, so to recap: The Daughter releases January 21, 2021, In The Blood releases in February, it’s likely I have what’s known as the “suicide disease” (which is a stupid name for it because not only is that grim as fuck for people who have it but also there’s already a disease that causes suicide and that’s called mental illness), but I’m still chugging away and things are looking the fuck up.


Posted in Uncategorized

It’s me again! Here to tell you about a book I wrote on Radish and is now available as an e-book and a paperback. That’s right. TODAY! IT’S OUT TODAY!

Thank you to everyone who has preordered the book and/or spread the good word. I’m so excited about this series and actually seeing this one on my Kindle with its gorgeous new cover by Kris at Covers By Kris has reinvigorated me. I’ll be leaning hard into more fantastical stuff in the future and this feels like the biggest, most fun first step possible. Scroll down for an excerpt and buy links. And if you read Nightmare Born and want to leave a review for it somewhere, that would be cool as Arthur Fonzarelli.

The cover of Nightmare Born: A young white woman with curly red hair and wearing ripped jeans and a leather jacket stands in a faded-purple, mist-shrouded forest. The text reads: USA Today Bestselling Author of the Blood Ties series Jenny Trout," at the top and "Nightmare Born" at the bottom.

Conceived in dream. Born a nightmare.

There are a lot of things I know: story structure, Hollywood trivia, what makes a director great… It’s the stuff I didn’t know–who my real father was, that my uncle is a demon, the fact that I’m not human–that’s gotten me into so much trouble.

After ripping my crush’s heart out–literally–I discover that I’m not just a normal autistic seventeen-year-old. I’m the daughter of the King of Nightmares, the cruel and excessively goth ruler of the Nether. Now, I’m stuck at Miss Perkins’s School for Girls, learning how to exist in a world where things really do go bump in the night.

Dangerous magic, treacherous enemies, unfairly hot vampires, and magic schools are all tropes I love in movies. But throw them into my real life? Hard pass. And I still have to deal with queen bees and bullies while unraveling a conspiracy that could crumble the very foundations of reality as we know it? That’s bullsh–

If you ever plan to tear someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest and eat it, prepare to get tased. I know I’m lucky that’s all I got. Then again, the cops managed to take that rich cannibal guy into custody peacefully after he ate his neighbor’s face right there in his driveway, so maybe I’m not lucky. Maybe it’s just procedure for when someone white eats somebody.

Oh yeah. If you ever plan to tear someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest and eat it, prepare to be forcibly sedated, too. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I know that when this stupid shot wears off, I’ll be able to feel what I did. Everybody thinks autistic people have like, zero empathy, but that’s not true. I have too much empathy. So much, I feel like it’s going to crush me most of the time. Once I’m hit with the full weight of what I did to Dakota…

To his family…

To my family.

I picture my mom’s thin face, her freckled skin tinged green as they explain to her what I did. What I am. My memory swirls back to when I stole money from her purse when I was nine. “Don’t you feel bad for doing that? Iris, tell me that you know that what you did was wrong.”

“I do know, Mommy,” I say aloud, my tongue thick and dry. I try to sit up, but something stops me. The padded restraints around the gurney. Oh, right. I’m not nine anymore. I’m seventeen. And I’m a murderer.

“You are not a murderer.”

I blink. The ceiling tiles multiply. When I turn my head, they become a cascade of squares. The room I’m in is completely empty. The walls are bare. No one is here with me.

“Who said that?”

“You’ll find out.”

There’s a door, but there’s no handle on it. Just the outline of the frame and the shift from the bumpiness of the yellow walls to the smoothness of the metal that’s probably been painted over and over a thousand times.

I know I’m in jail. It’s just weird how much it looks like a school.

Cuffed to a hospital bed, loopy on drugs, in some kind of cell for the criminally insane. That seems about right. It’s where I’ve always been pretty sure I’d end up. I just never foresaw it being this early. Or under these circumstances. And I’d kind of hoped it would be more like Arkham. But here I am. Strapped down and hearing voices.

I’m so thirsty. I want a drink of water. I can’t get one because I’m tied down, and there’s no way to call for help. What if they forget me? What if everyone forgets I’m in here? What if I die in here?

Cold sweat stands out on my forehead. It runs into my eyes and I can’t do anything but blink it away. I want to wipe my face. I want a drink of water. I want to sit up. I want my mom. I want to go home.

“Someone get me out of here!” I scream, and it ricochets off the bare walls to hit me like a shockwave of agitation. My fingers grasp futilely; I can’t reach anything. An itch at the back of my head becomes a burning pain that I can’t ease. The thin sheet beneath me twists as I struggle. It bunches under my shoulder blades. I can’t move. I can’t move.

“Get me out!”

The door explodes off its hinges, narrowly missing me.

Did I do that with my mind? Can I use the Force?

The lights overhead flicker; the ones in the hall beyond the door do, too, but the darkness is darker and the brightness is brighter, and I realize that I’m seeing sparks. The lights in the hall haven’t flickered, they’ve burst. A figure wreathed in a cloud of white smoke steps through. As the bulbs overhead buzz back on, I stare in confusion. “Uncle Abe?”

My Uncle Abe has never been a suit-and-tie kind of guy, but that’s how he’s dressed now. Instead of his usual Adidas tracksuit—he has them in every color—and a heavy gold chain around his neck, he wears a full three-piece jacket-vest-pants combo with pinstripes and a long, tan coat that swirls around his legs as he strides into the room. He still looks like a stereotypical Italian guy. Just a different kind of stereotypical Italian guy.

He gestures toward me, and the restraints around my wrists and ankles release their grip, the belts sliding from the buckles of their own volition. I lift my hands and stare at them in disbelief.

“We gotta go!” Uncle Abe says, glancing into the hallway. There are shouts and running feet, but I can’t tell how close they might be because the room is still spinning. Especially, when I sit up.

“Iris, get your ass moving, we gotta get out of here.” He gestures urgently at me, and finally, I manage to put my feet on the floor and stand.

“What’s going on?” I ask him, but he doesn’t answer. He grabs my arm and steers me toward the door. Just outside, a group of uniformed officers has nearly reached us. They draw their weapons, and I flinch, trying to raise my hands to signal I’m no threat.

Uncle Abe throws his arm out and yells, “Back off!”

The police topple backward like a collapsing house of cards.

What the—

Uncle Abe’s grip on my arm tightens and he drags me in the other direction, toward a security door with a coded lock. Just as we reach it, it bursts open. More officers in bulletproof vests crash through. Abe swears and releases me. He reaches out with both hands and grabs hold of nothing as if struggling to pry the air in front of him apart like a pair of stuck elevator doors. There’s a tear and a vertical scar of light rips reality open. Without explanation, he shoves me into the blazing beam. It feels like I’m being burned alive and frozen at the same time. A roar like a tornado hitting a train fills my head. The noise pops off, and I wonder if I’m deaf or dead from the explosion. My ears ring, my vision clears, and I’m standing in the living room of our house.

Mom looks up from where she’s been sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, feet up, body folded around a tattered throw-pillow. Her eyes are red and hollow, and she blinks at me as if she’s seeing a ghost.

I realize that my uncle stands behind me. I catch a glimpse of the hallway we’ve just left before the rift in the air closes, sucking all the light backward. When I face my mom again, she’s already on her feet, running to hold me.

“They said there was—” her voice breaks off as she presses her lips to my forehead. “—an attack at the county jail? Was it you, Abe?”

“What does it look like?” He turns to me and says gruffly, “We’ve got about twenty minutes. Maybe less. Pack a bag.”

“Pack a…” I can’t focus on anything. The sedatives are still at work and I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not because nothing feels real. Am I dreaming? Having a delusion? Is my mind stuck in one of my daydreams permanently?

When I snap out of it, will what happened at school go away?

My hands are covered with dried blood.

“Move,” Uncle Abe commands. “The less you bring with you, the better.”

“Where are we going?” I ask, my tongue thick in my mouth. I’m still so thirsty.

He and my mother share a look. Her face goes pale. “Abe…no…”

“Did you think you were going to be able to keep her forever?” he asks, in a tone I’ve never heard him use with her before. He’s never used it with either of us. He sounds like a stranger. Like a judge passing a righteously harsh sentence.

Mom shakes her head. “No. No, we made a deal! He promised me!”

“He promised you that you could keep your human child,” Uncle Abe says, his voice cold. He can’t be the same guy who calls Mom “Gabby” and asks if she needs money when she leaves for work.

And what does he mean… “Human child?”

“I said get your stuff!” For the first time, I’m truly afraid of Uncle Abe. Of the look on his face, his anger, the finally-fed-up written on every feature in big enough print that even I can recognize it.

But I’m not scared enough to back down. After everything else that’s happened, he isn’t going to be the one to break me.

“No!” I try to stamp my foot, but I’m still not steady, so all I accomplish is rolling my ankle. But I don’t look away. “What did you mean, ‘human’? Why do I have to leave?”

“Are you kidding?” Uncle Abe roars at me. “You ripped a kid’s heart out and ate it. Fill in the blanks!”

“Abbadon!” Mom shouts over him. A tense silence falls. I’ve never heard her use that name before. I always assumed his name was Abraham and that he was just too embarrassed to admit it. But neither of them say anything, until Mom rasps, tears filling her eyes, “Please. Let me be the one to tell her. At least, let me say goodbye.”

“Mom?” My voice trembles. “Why would you say goodbye?”

She puts her arms around me and hugs me tight.

Please don’t let me go.

I’ve seen my mom cry maybe three times in my life. It has felt weird every time, but this time it’s so, so much worse. She steps back and takes a big gulp of air. Then she fakes a smile like I’ll fall for it the way I did when I was a kid. When I don’t, she gives up.

“Mom?” I ask again.

“I have something…” She closes her eyes and a tear rolls down her cheek. “I haven’t been honest with you. About your father.”

Available now in e-book and paperback*! Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Smashwords   

*currently available on Amazon. Further retailers to come.

Dispatches from behind enemy lines

Posted in Uncategorized

We used to leave our doors unlocked. Morning, night, whether we were at home or not. I’ve never felt unsafe in my town. There have certainly been times that I’ve felt unsafe from threats made on the internet, but those threats were coming from other places. Not here. Not in our little rural village.

I open Facebook. I see mugshots of people who share my DNA; two second-cousins I’ve not seen in years. I remember them from childhood: chubby, with bowl cuts, totally indistinguishable from any of the other kids at our middle school. Bill was behind me on the slide ladder at Uncle Junie’s pool when I got stung by a wasp. I didn’t know what to do, so I went down the slide in silent shock. I’ve never trusted hollow, duct-taped aluminum railings again. Both those former kids were arrested as part of a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

I check Twitter. There’s the sheriff of my county, giving an interview defending white supremacist terrorists, specifically the white supremacist terrorists I attended family reunions with. The sheriff and I go to the same dentist. Once, during a routine cleaning, I heard Sheriff Leaf two chairs over, complaining that he wished someone would run against him for the job, which he no longer wanted. When someone did oppose him in the next election, he fought back. My white supremacist second cousin sent threats to people who campaigned for Leaf’s challenger. Less than twelve hours after his disastrous defense of my cousins, Dar Leaf changed his mind again, scrambling desperately to distance himself from the “militia members” he proudly stood with to protest Governor Whitmer’s restrictions.

Over a dozen arrests, spanning several counties. A plot to abduct the Governor, transport her across state lines, and execute her for “treason.” All because bars and gyms were closed to slow the spread of a dangerous pandemic ravaging the country. All because a stubborn barber decided to keep his shop open and was stunned to learn there would be consequences.

My cousins’ sister, whom I’ve remained in contact with via social media, posts an ultimatum: if you believe that they’re involved, unfriend her. They did nothing wrong. If you’re not willing to rally to support them, to raise money for their combined $500,000 bail, if you won’t put a sticker on your car expressing your support, you can unfriend her. I fulfill her request with a click of my trackpad. The last I see of her anger is a vow that she stands with the Michigan Liberty Militia.

The founder of that group hails from our village, where everyone  tempers their gossip with insistence upon the boys’ innocence and pleas that we not trust the media. Wait until you see the evidence, they warn. Things aren’t what they seem.

The Detroit Free Press runs an article about the people involved in the plot. Above the section about my blood relations, they’ve used the heading, “‘redneckery’.” They describe rural white conservatives as some kind of wronged people, whether they intend to, or not. Testimonials from neighbors and descriptions of bleak rural yards strewn with beer cans seem sensational or horrific, I assume, to anyone who’s never lived among the rural working poor. But we all live like this, I think, looking out at the remnants of our weekend campfire in the driveway. There are cans here. And a car that hasn’t moved in years. And we haven’t joined a militia.

“I have hard time wrapping my head around the fact that these guys have dropped everything to help [my step grandparents] and your grandma when they had trouble with their houses,” my mom says in a Facebook comment. But militias? Anybody in Michigan understands those.

I was twelve years old when I learned that the government is out to get us. Not from anyone in my immediate family. At the local pizza place one night, my uncle got into a tense conversation with my grandparents about a family in Idaho who were murdered for exercising their second amendment rights. To him and every other single-issue voter in town, Democrats lurked around every corner, just waiting to take our guns. The FBI, the ATF, Federal Marshals were the enemy.

Yesterday, “President” Trump boasted about U.S. Marshals carrying out an extrajudicial execution in his name. The “president” of this supposed “land of the free” bragged about his death squad killing a civilian while his supporters cheered him on. The same family members who felt the government overstepped in Waco, at Ruby Ridge, now they admire the intelligence of a leader who views not just the U.S. Marshals as his own killing force, but who courts those very militias that are supposed to oppose the extreme fascist actions he’s taken.

Many of the men charged in the terrorist plot against Governor Whitmer are hardcore Trump supporters, but since the ringleader once referred to Trump as a tyrant and owns the same generic anarchy flag found in every metalhead’s basement lair or suburban garage hang-out space, the plot was carried out by Leftists. By Antifa. By BLM. By Democrats and liberals, all howling for the fetal body parts of aborted white, Christian babies. Don’t believe the evidence before your eyes. Believe that the right is right, the left is evil, and it’s perfectly normal to storm the state capitol brandishing two semi-automatic rifles with high capacity magazines because face masks are itchy and you can cure a virus by screaming “freedom” at it.

On October 9th, my mother shared a conservative meme about Covid-19. The text warned that living like you’re afraid of dying means you’re dead already.

Last night, she called to tell me that my seventeen-year-old brother tested positive and has had a fever for days. My eighteen-year-old sister is symptomatic. Not my mother, who voted for Trump and still intends to vote for him. Not my stepfather, who also supports Trump. My siblings, who didn’t have a say in whether or not this man was elected, have been condemned to wait and see if they’ll recover fully, partially, or at all. And on November 3rd, their parents will walk into their polling place and cast their votes for the man who did this to their children. The man who, according to another Facebook post shared by my mother, is fighting a war on behalf of Christians by killing so many of them.

Last week, my friends and I made a lot of uneasy jabs about the cottage across the road from the Airbnb we stayed at. The ramshackle little house needed new gutters. A broken down truck half-covered with blue tarp sat in the driveway. An American flag hung in faded tatters beside a crisp, new “Trump 2020” banner. We joked that the occupants might be responsible for that kidnapping thing we’d heard about in passing.

Not long after that, I stood on the porch of our rental and watched that “Trump 2020” flag hang stiff and cheap in the breeze as my grandmother told me over the phone what the “little shits” had done. When we drove away from our trip, my friends joked that at least we were going to be away from that Trump house.

But that same, cheap nylon “Trump 2020” hangs in pride of place over my neighbor’s porch, as well.

We lock our doors now.