Comments Off on ULTIMATE SURVIVAL ALASKA RECAP – S03 E01 Fresh Blood

“Fresh Blood”

This begins the third season of Ultimate Survival Alaska on NatGeo!

Everyone enjoyed my recaps last season, and I have such a damn good time poking fun at the staged drama of this faux-reality show, I think we’ll do it again this season – at least as long as the Military team stays in the ‘competition’. I can’t promise my interest will last, if they’re eliminated. We’ll cross that rigged-to-collapse bridge when we come to it!

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The Military Team – on a glacier

In case you missed last month’s announcement, Rudy Reyes didn’t return for this season (not everybody can finish the final 1,200 meters of Mount McKinley on a broken ankle, it seems!), ostensibly due to his work with a new company providing veterans services. Instead, we have former Marine sniper, Daniel Dean. Grady and Jared are back, and still gunning for Dallas Seavey. Dallas is working the rivalry from his end as well, so we’re going to see a lot of replay from S2.

I will endeavor not to confuse everyone with my recaps. The default setting for these will be total sarcasm. Yes, I’m going to be a complete smart-ass. I’ll try to remember to be very obvious, anytime I switch to being serious. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I do see a good teachable moment. Sometimes, someone really does do something totally badass. For all this show is a bunch of manufactured bullshit, it’s still Alaska, and she’ll kill you just as soon as look at you.


Some initial predictions for this season:

Without Rudy, look for Dallas to provide this season’s gratuitous nudity. Not that there’s any comparison between the two. I’m holding out hope that Grady falls into the water a few times.

The Alaskans will once again win the prize for Most Stupid Things Done, as well as its sister category – The Stupidest Thing Done. They’ll have to work hard to top their own trick from last season; shooting a fish in the bottom of their boat – and thus shooting out the bottom of their boat…while it was on the water…and they were inside of it.

While the greatest rivalry BETWEEN teams is Military vs. Endurance, last season did not have a great deal of conflict WITHIN teams. I anticipate quite a lot of made-up drama this season, within the Lower 48 team. Military and Endurance may not be far behind, either.

I think we’ll be seeing more close calls caused by Alaska herself.


The Premise:

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Daniel, Jared & Grady

For those of you who didn’t tune in with us last season, here’s what you need to know –

4 teams/3 members each
13 legs/60 hours each

The teams are inserted by chopper, somewhere very rugged in Alaska. They have 60 hours to make it from insertion to extraction. They’re provided with a map that shows them two routes. One route will be faster, but more dangerous, and it’s each team’s call which they take. The teams MUST rest for 4 hours out of every 24. Their equipment is what they can carry in their packs. While they ARE provided with minimal food stuffs (rice & beans) each leg, in order to have the energy to win each leg, they’ll have to obtain their protein from their surroundings.

The team that reaches the extraction point first, wins the leg, and receives a prize. The prize typically consists of some sort of food treat, or a useful tool. A team is eliminated if it fails to reach the extraction within the allotted 60 hours. As we learned last season, the number of team members who start a leg, must finish the leg. But, if a member is forced out of the competition AFTER completing the leg (due to illness or injury, maybe), the team is not eliminated, and can continue to compete with just two members.


The Teams:

I make no apologies for my obvious bias. These recaps won’t be even handed, in any way!

Military: Grady (former Green Beret), Jared (former SEAL), Daniel (former Marine sniper)

Endurance: Dallas (2 time winner of Iditarod – current time record holder) I have mad respect for Dallas, but during my recaps, I honor the friendly rivalry between him and Military.

Lower 48: What is says on the tin…3 people representing the contiguous United States.

Alaskans: Again, what it says on the tin.



The 4 teams were inserted at a frozen lake (during spring time). They had to locate a flag, get to it, and retrieve the map they would need to get to the extraction. Oh noes! The flag was on the complete opposite side of the frozen lake! What are the odds of that? Our intrepid teams had to choose whether to stay on land, and go around the lake, or to go straight across the ice.

Military and Endurance (of course) both elect to go straight across, while Alaskans and Lower 48 both go around. I’m surprised that Alaskans chose to go around instead of across, since you’d think frozen lakes would be something they encountered just going to work every day. Dallas is a risk taker, so I’m not surprised at Endurance’s choice.

DALLAS wins First to Fall Through the Ice for this season. This also means that he wins First to Strip Off His Shirt. Already, I miss Rudy.

Momentary seriousness for teachable moment – I knew that Grady would elect to go across the ice because he’s a risk taker, like Dallas. However, if you’re familiar with the training the 3 Military members have, it makes sense. Jared’s SEAL training involved insertions, extractions, and survival in all climates from frozen to desert. Grady has gone through the Army’s version of the Marine’s Mountain Warfare School, which Daniel will have taken in order to function as a sniper (as opposed to simply holding the qualification). All three know how to cross ice safely, and what to do if the worst happens.

I was surprised that Dallas, with all of his experience in the worst of Alaska’s conditions, had his team wear their heavy packs on the ice. I would have thought that he’d see Military dragging their packs (in order to lighten and distribute individual loads) on the ice, and would think to do the same. I just can’t imagine why he didn’t think to do the same thing, when he saw the Military up head, just a few hundred yards. I guess all the principles of weight distribution he applies to packing his dog sled don’t automatically translate to human packs.

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Marine Corps rappelling tower

You know, several of the newcomers are mountaineers or climbers of some sort. Maybe we’ll get to see some interesting climbing and rappelling, this season (ya think?). There wasn’t a great deal of it, last season. Perhaps more teams will opt to take the alternate routes, if they have a team member with advanced climbing skills (and Marty will have more chances to stare into the distance and tell stories about all the friends he’s lost). We learned last season that Grady is part mountain goat (and Jared is part fish), so he might lead them on some cool climbs or rappels. Remember, this is a competition where five or ten seconds can mean the difference between first or second place, so dramatically climbing up a 20 foot ice wall and needlessly risking injury, instead of walking 100 yards around it could make all the difference.

I won’t be the least bit sorry if Lower 48 gets eliminated in this first ep. I know I should be more loyal (as an inhabitant of the lower 48), but I find them offensive, on top of annoying as fuck. Right from go, they win Most Likely to Kill Each Other Over Something Stupid. Sweenie is a cranky old man who is deliberately contrary. “Cluck” is whiney, and a deliberate stereotype of a stupid southerner. Kasha is a breathy-voiced, flower-child who stereotypically tries to keep the peace between the two big, strong men in conflict. Because stereotypes aren’t offensive enough, Sweenie accuses Cluck of ‘screaming like a girl’. He makes it clear that this is the worst insult in his lexicon, because the man who taught him how to climb mountains told him to ‘never scream like a girl’. Shame on me for even forgetting (for just a moment) that women exist solely to facilitate men’s masculine activities, and that being female and/or feminine is the very worst thing to be.  Kasha reminded me of my place when she literally begged two adult men to get along, while they all ski down a mountain. Sweenie proved his male superiority when he removed all of his insulated, waterproof gear in order to walk across the lake inlet. He obviously resented his teammates for not listening to his expertise, when he told them they can’t get their rubber, waterproof boots wet.

Anyway, back to the competition.

Military decides to cross the glacier. It’s wet, it’s icy, and it’s a fairly steep incline. Grady and Jared stop to put on their crampons (which are basically ice picks for the bottoms of their shoes), and to rope up for safety. Daniel (decides that the two men who were actually on this show last season don’t have any insight or experience that might be of use to him) goes without his crampons so that he can manufacture a dramatic moment by slipping off the side of the glacier. Lots of shouting and shaky camera angles, and we’re treated to the sight of a rope disappearing off the side of the glacier. Grady and Jared throw themselves to the ground (in heroic fashion), to keep “Daniel” from dragging them all over the side. After the well-timed commercial break, Daniel is miraculously back on top of the ridge, with nothing more than a banged up knee.

Let’s pause here for a team-member highlight! Alaskan team member, Vern Treja, is actually a pretty impressive guy. At 57 years old, he holds the speed record for summiting the highest peak on each continent. He did it in 134 days. That’s serious badassery, no matter how old you are.

Returning to the competition, we find Endurance and Military battling it out in the final stretch. Endurance takes the high road, Military takes the low road, and LOOK OUT! Falling rocks! Quick! Jared, run! 5 whole rocks are tumbling down the hill right toward you! Oh noes! Run about 10 steps, then fall dramatically to your knees, and breathe heavy. It makes you look like you’re exhausted from narrowly escaping death! A rock about the size of my head tumbled down the hill. Wow. Dangerous.

“Daniel” falling off the glacier, because he didn’t wear his crampons like the two experienced competitors did, cost the Military the win in Leg #1. Endurance got to the extraction first, and were rewarded with a couple bottles of beer.

Cause drinking alcohol at altitude is such a bloody brilliant thing to do! It’s not like you’re in any danger of dehydration. It’s not like altitude lowers your oxygen saturation, increasing the effect of the alcohol.

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Another Marine Corps Rappelling Tower!

So, Day #2 dawns bright and sunny. Military charges across the ice until they reach a 200 foot cliff, down which they have to rappel. Apparently, Daniel was in a different Marine Corps than the one I’m familiar with, cause he didn’t go through the same boot camp as everyone else did, so he didn’t learn how to rappel. Either that, or he got a note from his mommy, excusing him from the Crucible that all the other boot Marines had to pass, in order to graduate boot camp. It’s not like rappelling isn’t a basic skill that’s taught at all the rappelling towers, all over every Marine Corps base, so Daniel must have been sick the day they taught that. This means that Grady charges down the cliff like a mountain goat (not my words, this time), while Daniel creeps down, claiming he’s scared and doesn’t know how to do this. Jared seems to think that rappelling in Alaska is different than it is everywhere else. His explanation is that he and Grady are the veteran competitors, and this is Daniel’s first time in Alaska. (shrugs)

Call me crazy, but I don’t know how to ski, so getting onto an Alaskan survival competition show isn’t #1 on my list of things to do today. I wouldn’t enter a surfing competition if I couldn’t swim, either. I mean, who wakes up one day and thinks, “Gee, I have no skills or experience with winter sports, or cold weather survival, but I’m gonna go be on Ultimate Survival Alaska”? Apparently, professional kayak-er and southern cliché, Cluck.

Now, when Dallas claims he has no skills on skis, I believe that as much as I believe Daniel can’t rappel down a 200 foot cliff. Dallas at least has basic cross country skills that he busts out when he’s training the dog teams. Buuuuuut, if that’s the way they want to play it…

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Really Tall Marine Corps Rappelling Tower!

The story they’re telling about Daniel is that he was selected from an open casting call. I’m thinking the casting directors asked everyone “Name the stupidest, most dangerous thing you could do in Alaska.” Daniel’s answer had to be, “Crawl into a brown bear’s den, to see if the bear is inside”. Because that’s naturally the first thing you do, when you come across a bear den in spring, despite the fact your two teammates tell you not to do something so idiotic.

As the second leg draws to a close, I find that I’m feeling very betrayed and disillusioned. First, Girl Scout merit badges. Then, SCUBA certification. I’ve spent decades believing that navigation required tools, such as a map, and a compass. Now, I learn from Cluck that correct navigation requires an aura of the appropriate color! I’m lucky I’ve survived this long, cause I have no idea if my aura is correctly colored! I’ve been misled…lied to! Kasha and Cluck have perfect navigational auras, but Cluck says Sweenie’s aura is the wrong color. Now we know what’s been holding back the Lower 48 team! Now we know why there’s so much discord, and why they’re struggling. It’s all because Sweenie’s aura is the wrong color!

Endurance must have matching, correctly colored auras, as well as properly aligned chakras, because they won the second leg as well. Their prize was chocolate! It’s hard to go wrong with chocolate!


Final Report:

With 2 legs down, and 11 legs to go, team standings are as follows-
Endurance                                                  2
Military                                                      0
Alaskans                                                     0
Lower 48                                                    0

Falls through ice                                         1
Gratuitous removal of clothing                  1
“Near Death” experiences                          5
Fist fights                                                   0
Pointless risks taken                                   1
Obvious displays of stupidity                    2

Keywords:                Week #1               COMPETITION



To Mexico And Back Again

Posted: 28th December 2014 by Kendall McKenna in Personal
Tags: , , , ,

 photo 10384_231902986941443_92837355_n.jpgHappy Holidays to everyone! I hope you’ve all had a happy time, and that things haven’t been too stressful for you. Have you received all the important gifts you needed, or wanted?

It’s been pretty eventful for me, once again. 2014 appears to be trying to give my ass one final kick on its way out the door. Things with Pint Sized Casanova are okay, but I’ve got some health issues that are escalating. I really hate sounding like a whiner, but my recent visit to the doctor revealed something significant.

The status of my writing continues to progress. Waves Break My Fall is selling very, very well. I won’t hesitate to self-publish in the future, specifically short stories and novellas (not that I write many of those). Soul Sick is releasing in January, as part of Totally Bound’s anthology, Semper Fidelis. It’s also releasing as a single volume, in February. In the meantime, I’m continuing to make slow progress on Strength of the Warrior. There have been a lot of distractions, but also, T wasn’t happy with how I was handling something, so he made me go back and overhaul large segments.

Casanova is on his winter break, and things are quiet in that sector, for now. He spent quite a lot of time at his  photo c59becf4-bf88-4e81-962c-9788f9f781c7.jpgmother’s house this past week, at her request. She wanted him to stay the entire two weeks, but I said no. I knew without asking that Casanova would need time away from her, as well as just some time to himself. I’m coming to realize that he gets absolutely no down-time at his mother’s house. She favors her spoiled daughters to the extent that everyone is required to cater to them. Casanova is required to ‘keep an eye on them’. When they demand his attention, his mother requires him to give it to them. When they demand entry into his room, his mother doesn’t allow him to say no. Add to that her need to be the center of the universe, and her histrionics when she doesn’t think she’s getting the level of attention she’s due, and it’s no surprise he feels the need to flee to somewhere peaceful and quiet.

Apparently, DH and Casanova managed to get themselves to and from work/school on their own, without incident, while I was in Puerto Vallarta. Yes, I love Puerto Vallarta! There’s a reason I set Waves there. I’ve traveled extensively, but I’ve returned to P.V. more than any other location. No, DH did not go with me! His ADD requires us to take active vacations. He’s incapable of just sitting and relaxing. I have a girlfriend that I travel with quite a lot. She and I both SCUBA, I take quiet, relaxing trips with her. She likes me as a travel partner because I am such an experienced traveler. I’m organized, I know how all the processes work, I move quickly, I’m not a complainer, and I’m low maintenance.  photo Semper_Fidelis_Anthology_Final200x300.jpg photo Soul_Sick_Final200x300.jpgAlso, my friend has a few things that she’s very particular about, but I don’t have preferences one way or the other. It’s nothing for me to accommodate her needs and wishes, which makes the trip less stressful, and more relaxing for her.

Also, there have been a few times when someone has tried to give us an unnecessary hassle about something stupid. My friend is a lawyer, and easily asserts herself, but I’m about a foot taller than she is. When I assert myself, people tend to pay attention much more quickly. I’ve never had to make a scene, or raise my voice, but I’ve gotten things worked out to our advantage!

A couple of years ago, I was surprised to learn that my friend enjoys watching me interact with certain strangers. I’ve been deflecting unwanted attention for so many years now, apparently I’m not always aware of every single encounter. My friend has compiled this list of her favorite moments between me and…someone. The first time she told all of the stories to a group of our mutual friends, I was so surprised. First, I didn’t know she paid that much attention. Second, I had totally forgotten all about several of the incidents until she brought them up. Third, I’m frequently oblivious to people’s reactions to me, because she’s got an entire list of men I’ve left disappointed, when I had absolutely no idea I was having anything more than a passing conversation. My friend is a pretty good storyteller, so she had our friends in stitches with all of these stories. I just sat listening, mouth agape in surprise. Even I had to laugh at her take on some of the things she’d observed. It’s sometimes hysterical to see yourself through the eyes of someone else who is entertained by your antics.

Since I learned that my friend is entertained by these interactions, I’ve become more aware of them, when they’re occurring. Sometimes I wasn’t sure which was funnier – the interaction itself, or my friend’s hilarity.

 photo umbrellas-by-the-sea.jpgAnyway, I highly recommend Puerto Vallarta as a vacation destination (from November to April, anyway). You almost can’t go wrong, staying at one of the large all-inclusive resorts. This time, we stayed at Secrets, which is an adults-only resort. It’s attached to another resort that does allow families, and we were able to access the facilities and restaurants on that side, but the families weren’t able to access Secrets. It was absolutely delightful. The rooms were decadent. The service was the absolute best we’ve ever experienced. The staff was beyond polite, and were actually friendly. I gained 7 lbs., the food was so delicious. I didn’t over eat during meals, but there was so much variety, I had to sample all throughout the day! Secrets gets 5 Stars from me, as a place to stay while traveling.

Okay, there was one problem. And it was a HUGE one. Again, I’m well-traveled. Free WiFi is standard now, in nearly all hotels and resorts. The quality of the WiFi can sometimes be hit-and-miss, but has greatly improved over time. Typically, it runs slower during the daytime, when many guests are accessing it. Traditionally, it gets easier to access later in the evening, as guests either focus on partying, or they go to sleep.  photo dan-fone-the-flat-sea.jpgSadly, such was not the case during my trip. I sometimes managed to log on with my phone. My iPad found access on a few evenings, but it ran so slow, the apps would time-out. I never got my laptop logged on at all. I had a few guest blog posts scheduled for during my trip. I was ready with my posts. I was all organized, ready to go. The trouble was, I could neither access Dropbox (where all my posts were saved), nor could I get an email to send, or receive, if it had an attachment. I was screwed, all the way around. The situation was compounded by my inability to even communicate with anyone about the trouble I was having, so none of the blog owners knew why I had suddenly disappeared. My friend had purchased a Mexican sim card for her smartphone, so she had a little more access than I did. I tried to access my email via her phone, but it didn’t work. We suspect that she was only able to access her email because the app was already set up.

It’s water under the bridge, at this point.

 photo steve-munch-dolphins-at-anacapa-arch.jpgI have another recommendation for you, too. If you vacation ANYWHERE in Mexico, and you wish to take some sort of excursion, don’t hesitate to book something with Vallarta Adventures. I’m not sure where all of their branches are, but I’ve used their services in all the major tourist cities in Mexico. They offer all sorts of activities, based on what’s available to do in that particular city. Their bread and butter is SCUBA and snorkeling, but they also sometimes have jungle tours, zip-line rides, swimming with dolphins and/or seals, kayaking, paddle boarding, SNUBA…tons of stuff. Prices are reasonable, the boats are immaculate and so well maintained they run like tops. They feed you and water you, and on the trip back, they get you drunk. Safety is paramount. There is always enough staff to keep an eye on everyone, and they watch you like hawks. Vallarta Adventures always gets my stamp of approval.

 photo b4464538-0276-44c8-9e97-085cdad1e84a.jpgNow, if you’ve been following me for awhile, you’re problem aware of the trials and tribulations caused by the arthritis in my tailbone. I also have arthritis in my neck, due to 3 car accidents, and also in my thumbs and index fingers. My neck doesn’t give me a lot of trouble that can’t be managed with chiropractic and anti-inflammatories. When it flares up, I have a series of things I do that has me back to normal within 2-3 days. My hands are predictable, and therefore easy to manage. They hurt in cold weather, which is exacerbated by heavy use. This means that they stiffen up and hurt when I write books during the winter. I manage it with a combination of compression gloves, heat, anti-inflammatories, and pain meds.

 photo 57159f95-df39-4b4f-8818-ced2cadd1b7a.jpgMy tailbone has become steadily more problematic over the last three years. I’ve been treating it with ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory, and acetaminophen for pain. FINALLY, I found a doctor who understands pain management, and he allows me a limited amount of Norco for times when my pain becomes excessive. I have triggers that I’ve identified, and I’m pretty good at managing them. I KNOW that I’m going to need to have Norco on hand for cold weather, fatigue, extended periods of time sitting or standing, uncomfortable beds, and stress. I mean, stress is a bitch, and we all get kicked in the teeth by it, from time-to-time. Mama Kris had a front row seat to my successful pain management, while we were at GRL. Cold weather, long and stressful days, and an unfamiliar bed caused problems, but I medicated as soon as I woke up in the morning, and I made sure to rest mid-day, and I hardly had any trouble at all.

When I left for Puerto Vallarta, I was at the end of my Norco prescription, and a refill wouldn’t be available until after my return home. I didn’t worry about it, though, because I was ON VACATION! I knew the beds would be sumptuous, so there was no reason to be concerned about headaches or back pain. The weather was warm, and I wouldn’t be exerting myself, so fatigue wouldn’t be an issue. The plane rides were my only real concern, so I set aside pain meds specifically for those two days.

I was in trouble from the get-go. Late morning on our first day on the beach, my friend knew there was something wrong with me. I was in denial, thinking the pain would pass if only I could relax. I folded up towels to add cushioning to the lounge chair, but it didn’t work. I realized that if my friend was concerned enough to SAY something about my obvious discomfort, I needed to do something.

Less than an hour later, I was feeling good! I could lay comfortably in my lounge chair, and my friend said I was back to my chipper self. I considered the entire issue to be in the past. Except, my tailbone hurt like hell during dinner. We were in a luxury resort, eating at high-end restaurants, so the chairs were well-padded and intended to be comfortable. I should have been comfortable. I wasn’t. The pain wasn’t excruciating, I was easily able to eat and enjoy the meals. But I was always aware of the pain, and it made me restless. Because I was low on Norco, I had to ration myself. I decided I was better off medicating in the morning, and toughing it out at night, because the bed was comfortable, didn’t cause me any discomfort, and I easily slept through the night.

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Tucker – Soul Sick

However, by the end of each day, I was exhausted. Vampire that I am, I couldn’t stay awake past 9:30 PM. I have NEVER had a trip impacted like this, by my pain. Ever. My issues have never before impacted anyone I was traveling with. I had fun. We had fun. But I realized I have more of a problem than I had realized.

As luck would have it, I had a regular doctor’s appointment scheduled for the Wednesday after I got home. I always go early, so I can be evaluated free of medication, and I can have fasting blood work done. I told my doctor all about how the trip had been impacted by my pain. We reviewed my medications and immediately agreed that increasing the strength of my pain meds was not an option. Starting at ground zero, he administered the usual physical exam to my spine. Everything was as expected, and what I was used to, until he hit the three spots that corresponded to my tailbone. I nearly saw stars. It was like sharp knives being plunged along my tailbone. It was a clear indication that my situation has gotten worse, despite my determination to pretend otherwise. It was somewhat gratifying to have it displayed so obviously for the doctor, too.

Currently, we’re testing whether a stronger anti-inflammatory will do the trick, rather than having to increase my pain meds. While cleaning house yesterday, I realized that my back wasn’t getting stiff and sore as quickly, or as severely, as usual. I suspect that a stronger anti-inflammatory, coupled with an increased quantity of the same pain meds, will be the answer. I don’t know for sure, I just know that I don’t like my life being limited by how much is left in my current prescription. The sad thing about arthritis is that it’s not a muscular disorder. Keeping weight off, and exercising are helpful, but it’s not something that can be treated or cured by stretches, PT, or surgery. It’s a degenerative condition. It’s literally the breaking down of the joint itself, and not the treatable connective tissues.

Okay, enough of all this sad, depressing health stuff. I love Puerto Vallarta. I recommend it for vacations. I had a wonderful time, as I always do with my friend. If you go, remember to take your sunscreen, and reapply it every two hours. If you’re prone to being bug-bit, I recommend a sunscreen that also contains a bug repellant. Avon has begun to add Skin So Soft to a sunscreen, and it does the trick nicely. Even if you aren’t prone to bug bites, you should still use a Deet based repellant at night. Monsters Inside of Me has taught me that more than just mosquitoes love to feast on us. Also, mosquitoes are carriers for other insects, in addition to the diseases they’re famous for on their own. It’s true, you shouldn’t drink the water, but the resorts provide unlimited bottled water for the asking. It’s everywhere, and it’s free, if you’re on an all-inclusive package. Use the bottled water to brush your teeth, too. It’s so very easy to avoid getting sick, though, so don’t let it worry you. I’ve been going to Mexico my entire life, and I’ve never become ill.

I’ve got some work to catch up on, now. Hopefully, I’ll find the time to write about the very quiet, very enlightening Christmas Eve that Casanova and I spent together. I continue to be a very educating experience for him. The kid sat through Ben-Hur with me, and I don’t think he’ll ever see his mother’s religion the same way again. One of these days I’m going to have him watching Paris is Burning before he even realizes what’s happening. 😀






Comments Off on New Title Coming In February 2015



Coming in February 2015, Totally Bound is releasing the second volume of their Men In Uniform anthology, called Semper Fidelis. As you might tell from the title, this collection of stories features characters who are members of assorted branches of the armed forces (excepting the Army). I’m releasing an entirely new story, with a brand new couple, as part of this anthology.

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In addition to its inclusion in the Semper Fidelis volume, my story titled Soul Sick, will also be released as a single novella. Soul Sick introduces us to Jamie and Tucker. Jamie is a captain in the Marine Corps, home from a deployment that came very close to being his last. Tucker has his Masters in Social Work and supervises a drug rehab program. He’s also got hair down to his shoulders, several ear piercings, and more tattoos than visible skin.

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Jamie thought he made it home to Tucker, leaving war behind. Now, each day he battles to fit into his own life, and save the love that saved his life.

Jamie is a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps who carried a photo of Tucker with him throughout his deployment. His body and his heart both make it home, but he isn’t sure about his sanity. It no longer feels as if his own life even fits.


Tucker is a reformed bad boy who has an advanced degree and an important job but still sports long hair and tattoos. He missed Jamie while he was deployed, but he couldn’t stop living his own life. Now, they’re struggling to learn to live with each other again, and things are going downhill fast.

Jamie wants everything to be the way it used to, but his anger and self-destructive behavior begin to push Tucker away. Too much alcohol and a night of violence inside their home take them nearly to the brink. Tucker is willing to fight alongside Jamie to keep it all from falling apart, if Jamie can learn to accept the help he needs…before it’s too late.


Jamie bounded down the steps of the bus. His LPCs hit the asphalt of the parking lot aboard Camp Pendleton. They’d been processed at 29 Palms, so he only had to get his gear and go. Jamie’s rucksack was large and green, just like every other Marine climbing off the bus.

Luck was on his side, for once. Jamie’s was the third ruck he checked. He shouldered the weight, turned on his heel and strode across the blacktop. Pushing his way through the gathering crowd of reuniting families, Jamie murmured apologies and hastily returned words of thanks and farewell from his men.

This was his first deployment since he and Tucker had met. This was Jamie’s first homecoming since the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He didn’t know what to expect—he wasn’t sure how to act. Tucker had vowed, over and over, to be here to greet Jamie when he got home. Until Jamie had begun the final leg of his journey home, he’d thought he wouldn’t mind Tucker greeting him at the house.

For the first time since accepting his commission, envy twisted sourly in Jamie’s gut. He was surrounded by husbands and wives, wrapped in fierce embraces, exchanging passionate kisses of reunion.


He almost stopped walking, but he wasn’t sure he’d actually heard his name.


His heart slammed against his ribs. He surreptitiously scanned the civilians, careful not to turn his head.

“Jamie Anders!” The resonant masculine voice cracked on the final syllable.

He gasped at the sight of Tucker, eagerly making his way through the crowd. His muscles were barely contained by the bright red, short-sleeved henley he wore. His jeans were the well-faded, comfortably soft pair that Jamie had frequently stripped off Tucker’s body.

Finally pushing clear of the throng, Tucker sprinted the final distance between them. His long, dark hair floated around his shoulders, his dark eyes locked on to Jamie’s. Need was a living thing inside him, driving him to drop his rucksack from his shoulder and open his arms wide.

Jamie stumbled back several steps when their bodies collided audibly. He released a laugh that masqueraded as a sob. His arms were full of Tucker, warm and firm against him. Jamie curled his hands into fists, gripping the soft cotton of Tucker’s shirt. He buried his face against Tucker’s neck, inhaling the scent that had lingered in his memory. Fragrant strands of long, silky hair tickled Jamie’s cheek, adding another layer of scent and overloading his senses.

Tucker’s breath was hot against Jamie’s ear. His strong arms, wrapped around Jamie’s shoulders, held him down and made this homecoming real. To his amazement, a violent shudder ran the length of Tucker’s solid frame. The soft sound he made against the shell of Jamie’s ear was part sigh, part sob. That sound reached into Jamie’s chest, wrapped a fist around his heart and cradled it lovingly.

“I missed you so fucking much,” Jamie murmured, his lips dancing lightly along Tucker’s bristly jaw.

“I’m so glad you’re home.” Tucker’s voice was raw with emotion. He swallowed audibly. “I’m glad you’re home and that you’re okay.”

Jamie only nodded. The fronts of his legs were peppered with fresh, angry red scars. He saw demons in his dreams and couldn’t wash a dead man’s blood from beneath his fingernails.

“I wasn’t sure you were serious about meeting me here.” Jamie pulled back but couldn’t meet Tucker’s eyes.

Once again, Tucker proved he was the braver man. Jamie’s face was held between Tucker’s rough hands and their mouths pressed together. Jamie opened for Tucker, welcoming his seeking tongue and licking back against him. It was better than he remembered and as good as he’d dreamed.

They parted reluctantly and Jamie suddenly realized what had just happened. A quick glance around told him no one was paying them any attention. They were just another couple, happy to be reunited.

“I couldn’t wait a second longer to see you again,” Tucker breathed against Jamie’s lips.

Jamie struggled for a long moment. He understood Tucker’s words, but not their meaning. He smiled with sudden comprehension, and agreeing completely.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jamie said, nipping lightly at Tucker’s lower lip.

Tucker stepped back, smiling blindingly. “Do you need to check out with someone?” His hand slid down Jeremy’s arm to grip his hand.

“Already done,” Jamie replied. “Where’s the car?”

Pausing only long enough to throw his rucksack over his shoulder once more, Jamie let himself be led by the hand to where Tucker had parked his pick-up.


I’ll keep you posted on exact release dates and buy links, as I get the information.




They Call Me Grandma

Posted: 8th December 2014 by Kendall McKenna in Personal
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I’ve been promising to share these stories for weeks now, and I keep putting off the actual writing. This article finally pushed me over the edge, metaphorically speaking. I feel for the mother. While I agree that teachers sometimes have a tough job, they also tend to forget that parents are adults. We may need to be engaged, and held somewhat accountable, but not in the same way the students are treated.

Okay, let’s recap-

 photo 263117_496048310451024_1846526626_n.jpgI’m in charge of overseeing the Education and Social Development of Pint-Sized Casanova, due to the fact that, between all of us, I have the most education. I’m also home during the day, and in the best position to actually deal with the school. Since I take my responsibility seriously, I attended Parent-Teacher night, back at the beginning of the school year. DH and I took the paperwork with us, verifying that we are the Responsible Parties. However, Casanova’s bio-mom also went (which was fine), and she took grandma along for company. Grandma is DH’s ex-wife. It’s a small detail, but it seems to have had a large effect on future events.

I don’t know how these Parent-Teacher nights (it was called ‘Open House’ when I was still in school) work in your parts of the world, but ours was designed to tap into those early conditioned behaviors that are intended to pacify and control the students. They required us to respond to the same buzzer that moves the students through their daily classes. We were allotted a limited amount of time with each teacher, which we shared with 25-30 other sets of parents. We were supposed to move from classroom to classroom in the same order our ‘student’ did, during the day. Parents with multiple children in the school were required to bring another parent, which was a huge ‘fuck you’ to single parents, and I suspect was intended as a form of punishment. Anyway, I muddied the waters, I’m sure, by refusing to cooperate. The final straw was requiring parents to sit in the little desks where the kids sit, while the teacher STOOD at the front of the room and talked AT us. After 13 years of conditioning, they expected that we would sit quietly and obey the teacher’s authority.

 photo 553355_10151248180483043_1731975187_n.jpgOur family arrangement isn’t cookie cutter, so this one-size-fits-all event didn’t fit us at all. You’d think after all that, I’d be the one all the teachers remembered. Not the case, apparently, given the reaction I keep getting when I show up at the school, for one reason or another.

Hold that thought – I’ll come back to it in a bit.

Casanova likes his math class, and he’s been doing relatively well in it. He understands the concepts easily enough, we just struggle with his memory issues. Luckily, the curriculum is good old fashioned math, and not that joke they call New Math or Core Competencies. It’s nowhere in the text book, the (digital) workbook, or the syllabus. It wasn’t mentioned at all during Parent-Teacher night. So, imagine my confusion and surprise when Casanova arrived home one day, with a homework assignment outside of the curriculum materials. It looked like his teacher created it on her own, and it was all NEW MATH! The instructions Casanova had said the assignment was ‘required’, but that the score was for extra credit. That’s contradictory. If it’s required, it’s part of the grade. If it’s extra credit, completion is optional.

I also do not want this Core Competencies bullshit to confuse Casanova. Things are difficult enough as they are. So, on the Parent Signature sheet, next to that item, I wrote a note to the teacher to see the longer note I wrote about the assignment, that way there was no confusion about what I had seen and what I had approved (of).

The note I wrote to the teacher basically said, I recognized the Core Competencies, and had first-hand experience with the curriculum to know it’s problematic for those already familiar with the concepts. Keeping Casanova on track with the concepts of the approved curriculum was a challenge, as she and I both knew, and I didn’t think it was wise to complicate things by introducing an entirely different system of calculation, when it didn’t count toward his grade. And finally, Core Competencies has not been approved and adopted in this school district, so I ask that it not be introduced into the classroom. I’m living proof of its invalidity. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation…yada, yada, yada.

When I was summoned to the school to meet with Math Teacher, I didn’t give it much thought. It made sense that she’d want to meet to clarify things, with regard to Casanova, given the issues we face. Instead, she attempted to ambush me. When I came in, Casanova introduced me, and Math Teacher was visibly surprised. After a brief discussion, I came to the conclusion she’d been expecting either, me to be much older, or me to be DH’s ex-wife. (I’m sure bio-mom has been adding to the confusion.) I refuse to sit in a student desk, even if it’s not inside a classroom. I’m aware of the Psychology behind that move, so I always sit on top of the writing surface. We got down to business – which quickly became apparent – was to educate ME on how Math Teacher knows more about education than does someone like ME. Her classroom is her domain, and she’ll teach what she deems needs to be taught, because she’s the expert. There’s nothing wrong with Core Competencies, so it’s likely that my difficulty in mastering the curriculum stems from a general difficulty grasping ALL concepts.

Yes, that was her calling me stupid, and telling me to shut up, and not to question her brilliant expertise.

At this point, I refer you back to my FB post of November 3rd, wherein I stood up and intentionally intimidated Math Teacher, even doing a little minor name calling (to my chagrin). I told her that her assumptions about me were completely inaccurate, and she was never to talk to me in that way again. There was a time I could recite my GPA’s and the score of any assessment test I’d ever taken, because I felt I had to prove I wasn’t a stupid person, but my math curriculum was an utter, epic failure. There’s a reason it’s taken 40 years for schools to resurrect it – the majority of us who know for a fact it’s a failure are finally of an age we’re not likely to have very young, school age children.

 photo 381555_498137166907379_1828571224_n.jpgLater that same week, I had a meeting with History Teacher. This one was at my request. I needed to clarify for the teacher, that I have final say on educational issues, not his bio-mom. I discovered that bio-mom had approached History Teacher and told her that she believed that showing up for class regularly, and turning in homework, justified an A-grade. She didn’t think Casanova should be accountable for the effort he puts in, or the quality of the work he submits. I informed History Teacher to ignore bio-mom (until she showed up with court paperwork saying otherwise!). Casanova knows what’s expected of him, and that he has me to help him, if he needs it. Simply showing up only earns a C. There are no A’s, simply for showing up; A’s take effort to achieve. .

As we ended the conference, History Teacher told me that I wasn’t what she’d expected Casanova’s ‘grandmother’ to be. I questioned her further, and added it to what I’d learned from Math Teacher, and I think DH’s ex-wife was hanging around with bio-mom while she was still here (she’s gone back to Oregon, thank you very much). Anyway, they were at the school together a few times (picking up/dropping off), and made a point to tell everyone she’s Casanova’s grandmother, but NOT making it clear she’s been divorced from DH for 15 years! Math Teacher expecting to have to deal with the ex-wife, really would explain why she leapt right to treating me like a moron. I’m speculating, here. It’s hard to know for sure, when the entire situation is so damn convoluted before we even get out of bed in the morning.

The Vice-Principle asked for a meeting, too. I was pretty sure she was going to try to take me to task for how I treated Math Teacher. That was only partially true. She wanted to explain to me that the district might adopt Core Competencies, and I needed to be ready to accept that, but she’d be happy to explain it to me, so I’d understand that it really does work, how it works, why it works, that the moon is made of green cheese, and unicorns & dragons are real. At this point, I’m sick to death of explaining to people that I understand what it is they mistakenly believe Core Competencies does for students, how, and why. The VP was old enough, I was surprised she was buying into this crap. The teachers are young, I’m not surprised when they’re shocked to learn none of this is new and revolutionary. It was tried in the early 70’s and discarded as a failure. I have no idea who is being falsely credited as ‘brilliant’ for resurrecting this lost and forgotten crock of shit.

Anyway, the point I really want to make is…I’m not a student. I’ve been out of college so long, my loans are all paid off! (They were much cheaper back then, too.) I’ll partner with Casanova’s teachers to keep him in line, and to ensure he gets the most from his education he possibly can, given what he’s dealing with. I’ll check his homework, and I’ll sign off to show his teachers I’m fully aware of what’s going on in his classes. I’ll teach him all the study tricks I know. I’ll work with him until late into the night, when he struggles with an assignment. I’ll read his textbook assignments, and then paraphrase the content for him, in ways that he understands and relates to.

But I’m an adult; I’m NOT a student. When Casanova’s teachers request meetings with me, I accommodate them, but they have no business summoning me, like a truant child to the Principal’s office. I’m not a student, and Casanova’s teachers are not MY teachers. They’re authority figures to their students, most especially inside their classrooms, but they have no authority over me. I will cooperate, but I will not obey, and it’s not reasonable to expect that I will, or that I’ll tolerate attempts to speak to, or treat me, as though I was a student. I assist with homework, I don’t DO homework. I assist with special projects by sharing ideas, buying supplies (within reason), and taking time out to help with preparations. Special projects are not for me to complete, with Casanova’s assistance.

I was absolutely sure that, just about the time I got things settled at school, my responsibilities would be deemed complete, and Casanova would be back with bio-mom, full-time. She had been making a lot of noise about her family being back together (permanently) for Christmas. Casanova kept telling us that she was telling him, it was a done deal. There’s no way to tell if she really believed that to be the case, if she misunderstood the judge, or if it was just a tactic on her part.

Lawyer and Social Worker requested an in-person meeting with DH, and me. Social Worker wanted us to know about a concern she had about something from Casanova’s counseling sessions. Lawyer wanted to get a feel for where DH and I were at, with everything.

 photo 644381_451969084881926_1680786567_n.jpgCasanova was expressing a dark fatalism about his mother getting back full custody at Christmas. She repeatedly told him there was no more court, no more judge, it was happening, no one could stop it. He got highly agitated while discussing this. When he talked about the inevitability, he used terms that sounded like he was facing his doom. Social Worker asked him if he was ready to go back with bio-mom; did he WANT to go back with her, or did he want to stay with us a little longer? His answer to her was along the lines of ‘Whatever everybody else thinks is right’. In her experience, if the kids want reunification, they clearly say so. Casanova’s response, she’s learned, was typical of when the kids don’t want immediate reunification, but to say that out loud makes them feel as though they’re betraying their parent(s). She takes the pressure off of the kids by recommending against reunification for another period of evaluation. That way, it’s not the child’s fault if a parent doesn’t get their way.

Lawyer wanted to find out what our expectations and understandings were. Had we expected to be done with this by Christmas? Or did we have another six months in us? Honestly, it’s not the kid, it’s the mother who drives me bat-shit. I get why he was so freaked out, not wanting to go back, but feeling guilty about it. ‘Cause she WOULD lay the guilt trip on him, if she thought he’d told anyone, anything other than he wanted to be back with her. His life is calm and stable, and he doesn’t have to tolerate the screeching of both of his sisters.

But…she IS his mom.

So, the judge received a report from Social Worker, stating that the minor child continues to THRIVE in the current environment. She recommended that no changes be made, at this time. Additional visitation time with bio-mom could be at our discretion (some weeks, they get along, and he’ll stay over there for 3 days in a row – other weeks I hear screaming just as soon as DH answers his phone). Counseling recommended to continue (for both of them). Re-evaluate at the end of the current school year. Lawyer recommended following Social Worker’s recommendation. Judge said “Sold!” and whacked his gavel down.

I can do this, really I can. I made it through Homecoming. There’s a winter ball of some sort next week (which I won’t even be in town for, ha ha!). At least part of his winter break will be spent with his bio-mom. However, if Thanksgiving was any indication, she gets stressed right at the holiday, and then she lashes out. At 15, Casanova can’t be expected to not react when everyone in the house goes off their rockers. They shout, he shouts, everyone swears, things get thrown, and we get a phone call. So be it.

 photo 313736_153879041439119_485982730_n.jpgInteresting turn of events – it appears that Casanova has not been living up to his nickname! Well…he’s still a shameless flirt, and there are girls always calling him, following him around, and he’s ‘hung out’ with one or two others. But he broke up with the girlfriend, and he hasn’t gotten a new steady one.Also, a few other of the signs I’d picked up on, have disappeared. Social Worker and I agree, it was probably a form of rebellion against his mother. It was something he had control over, it flaunted his mother’s system of beliefs and morals, and he knew it would make her lose her ever-lovin’ mind. Now that he feels in control of his life, he doesn’t need to push his mom’s buttons, anymore. It’s likely he wasn’t even emotionally ready for sex when he became active, but his need to act out and provoke his mother was too great to resist. We’ll see what happens with this winter ball and New Year’s Eve, and whatnot.









Posted: 12th November 2014 by Kendall McKenna in Marketing
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Waves_Break_My_Fall_Final_FrontWaves Break My Fall is now available at Barnes & Nobel for Nook users.





I’m visiting Lynley Wayne’s blog, today. Come visit, and maybe enter to win an eBook copy of Waves Break My Fall!







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