Thursday, May 12, 2016

StokerCon 2016 Schedule - Viva Las Vegas, Baby!

Yes, I've been a bit absent.  In all honesty, I spend too much time on Facebook, which is where you can zip to if you want snippets of daily life-- pictures of flowers, bugs, the Three-G Beasty Babies Network.  I blame two of them, the boys, the boys, for keeping me busy-- they've been fighting.  But that's a post for another time.

So here I am in Las Vegas at StokerCon 2016.  I look at The Husband's blog, and of course, he's posted his schedule.  Gee, do you think I should do the same?  Uh...

Saturday:

10:00 A.M. - Panel: THE HORROR OF ROMANCE (Red Rock 4)

11:30 A.M. - Library of the Dead anthology signing (Dealers' Room)

3:30 P.M. - Signing (Dealers' Room)

7:30 P.M. - Bram Stoker Award Banquet (I'm presenting the award for Short Fiction with Michael Marshall Smith)

That's it -- a nice, light schedule this time. Stop me and say hi if you're there!  And if I've never met you in person, don't be afraid to tap me on the shoulder and say, "Hi! I'm XXX from Facebook!" (or just re-jog my aging memory.

VIVA LAS VEGAS, BABY!


Saturday, March 05, 2016

Up to Date!

Yes, believe it or not, I have FINALLY gotten my website links up to date.  You can poke around and see it all on the right side, under "Links".  Because of Blogger weirdness, you should open these in a new tab or window (Right Click, then choose your preference).  It's all there -- where  I'll be (appearances), ebooks, even the big ol' Short Stories page has not only been updated with publication info, but where you can find the story.  There's even a free one in there, if you dig around.  Nope, not gonna tell you-- you gotta go visit.  Check it out!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Live in the Moment

I'm on a roll here!  Yes, I did another guest blog for Women in Horror Month, this one at the request of J.G. Faherty.  It's called Live in the Moment, and it's all about when not to write.  You can find it here.  I'm always interested in your thoughts, so feel free to let me know what you think of it!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Woman's Time

February -- already -- and it's Women in Horror month.  Yep, I'm one of those.  I've written a couple of blogs to celebrate, and the first of those came out today, on the Grey Matter Press site.  It's called "A Woman's Time," but it really applies to everyone.

By the way, the fine folks at Grey Matter Press are publishing an anthology called PEEL BACK THE SKIN, which will be out in June of this year.  Included in the stellar lineup is a particularly nasty story I wrote for them, called "Superheated."  This is an anthology you don't want to miss.

On my list of Things to Do is "Blog Posts: Personal."  I'm going to get better at this, damn it!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tight Little Stitches in a Ghoulie's Head

This is our poor baby Ghoulie Bug, with the addition of 5 stitches in her head, various nicks and cuts, and 2 more stitches in her lower eyelid. Although Grimmy did this, the blame falls squarely on me. I knew he had food aggression since the first week I was home with him and he growled at me when I tried to add a forgotten pill to his bowl after he'd started to eat.  I've been working with him on this and have finally gotten him to where he will tolerate me petting his head after he has his food bowl without growling (a growling 160 lb dog is a scary thing, let me tell you). This does not, of course, extend to dogs, and I know that. It's not an issue, as by the time Ghoulie finishes her food, Grimmy is licking an empty bowl and no longer feels protective about it; Groot eats inside. 

Grimmy has been having some digestive issues, so the vet started him on meds; alas, they upset his stomach.  He yarked up his breakfast yesterday in 3 portions, but the heavy dose of meds had already been given so I figured he wouldn't throw up again but he would definitely be hungry at dinnertime.  He surprised me by picking at his food and finally trying to upend the bowl (like Goblin used to do when he wasn't hungry-- it's like an attempt to "bury" it).  What didn't register in my brain was that if he wasn't eating, this meant Ghoulie would finish first.

I went inside and checked on Groot; he's an anxiety-riddled pup, so with me on the patio, he stopped eating and came to the window.  With me inside, Grimmy started trying to bury his food instead of eat it.  I ran back out, then back in; Groot finally finished his food so I headed back outside. But I didn't make it in time.

Ghoulie is a good girl and she doesn't sniff up to another dog's bowl, but her path to head onto the rocks and go potty took her too close to Grimmy.  He perceived her as a threat to his food and attacked.  I didn't see the whole thing-- Wes started bellowing and grabbing at the doggy door (there isn't enough space between it and the patio door for him to get through) and I leaped through the space.  I caught a glimpse of Ghoulie crouching and heard the horrible snarling that any dog owner knows has gone way beyond the warning phase.  Then I was outside but Grimmy had, thank God, already stopped and was back over by his bowl.

My heart breaks for our blind Ghoulie baby when I think how terrified she must have been, trying to defend herself against a dog she'd thought was a housemate and not understanding the reason for the attack.  She's fine now, all stitched up and calm, with the All-Seeing Eye of Mommy firmly following her every move.  But my heart hurts for Grimmy, too.  I don't know what happened to him in the time before we got him to make him so afraid that someone will take his food away.  Was he underfed and hungry?  It's hard to imagine that, given his size, but it's a definite possibility.  Was there another dog in his original home or at some breeder's, one that chased him away at feeding time?  I read from his records that when he was turned over to a shelter in San Antonio, Texas at about seven months old, he had to immediately undergo surgery because he'd eaten a can of cat food.  You read that correctly-- a CAN of cat food, not just the food.  I think it's a valid speculation that whoever owned him didn't want to bother with the expense of the surgery.  He lucked out when San Antonio Great Dane Rescue stepped in.

Can a dog be sorry for something he did, immediately afterward?  It's interesting that after the chaos stopped-- we got Ghoulie inside, dosed her with hydrogen peroxide, and got the bleeding to stop-- I went back out on the patio to check on Grimmy.  He was like a different dog.  Wes's deep-toned shouting broke up the fight before I could get to it; although Grimmy is deaf, he feels sound vibrations and reacts to them-- shouting, barking, my overly loud sneezes.  He was contrite and submissive and kept running back and forth from his bowl to me.  This morning?  He still doesn't have his usual appetite, but after watching me carefully as I stirred his food to moisten it, he was totally okay with me being there... even to the point of not batting an eye when I repeatedly took his food bowl out from under him (as I kept hand-signaling that he was a good boy) and sprinkled little bits of Parmesan cheese on it to entice him to eat.


So here I sit, typing away while all three Danes-- the Beastie Boys and Ghoulie-- are sound asleep in my office.  They aren't cuddling, but they aren't avoiding each other either.  Ghoulie, bless her grumbling little soul, seems to hold no animosity toward Grimmy.

Maybe we should all be a little more like dogs.

Forgiving.

(Inspiration for the title goes to Joe Lansdale, who wrote a terrific story called "Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back.")


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Missing my Babies...

Greetings from southern Arizona.

It's been awhile since I updated the personal stuff.  This has been a tough year for us.  If you read the April 16th post about Grendel, you've probably figured that he's gone.  He left us on May 16th.  We were out of town for the weekend and our pup sitter had been spending extra time with him.  The tumor inside his rib cage was just enormous and we had him on a blood pressure medication, pain medication, and a vasodilator med to help him breathe.  We'd planned on making the decision when we got home regarding whether to send him over The Rainbow Bridge; he was starting to not want to eat, which is the worst of signs.  Our sweet boy took that decision away from us.  Chris had left the house at 3 p.m., then came back at 6 p.m. and found his body.  She called us as our plane was landing in Phoenix, the last stopover on our way home.  He looked like he passed quietly in his sleep, stretched out with his back against the couch (which was one of his favorite places).  I was devastated not only that he was gone, but that he'd died alone, without me there.  As I was reminded, however, by the man who gave us our first rescue to adopt way back in 2004, "He passed in HIS home where he smelled HIS people and he knew he was safe and loved. Remember that, because it meant the world to him."  Thank you so much, Marc, and also to all the people who sent me good wishes on Facebook.

And to those same people who realized how we were already reeling from letting Goblin go on April 22nd.

My grand old man was one day short of 11 years and 8 months old.  As I said on Facebook, I so wanted to see him make 12, but he made the decision for us when he stopped eating and drinking.  He'd been okay for awhile, toughing out the nausea from the arthritis meds, but eventually even those couldn't help his lower spine.  Even now I tear up when I think of him, and I look at some of the pictures and can still feel his soft fur under my hands.

But we go on, because we must.  Ghoulie is dealing with it, but she's changed a bit-- less confident without her siblings.  Eventually we'll find her company, when the right time comes.

So that's what's gone on in our lives as far as fur babies.  The Husband and I are still writing, of course, and although there's plenty of news on that front I think I'll save it for another blog post.  This one's making me all teary, especially since yesterday marked a year (already!) since Ghost left us.  Time passes, and it heals, but it's a slow, slow process.

'Til next time...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

HELP MAKE A MIRACLE HAPPEN!

Would you like to be part of a miracle?  Then check this out: Waters Edge Great Dane Rescue has just four more days to raise $1,675.00. If they can do that, a miracle happens-- BISSELL Pet Foundation WILL MATCH IT. 

For a small Great Dane rescue, this is, indeed, a miracle.  The scoop is that they are treating terrible medical issues and neglect for 10, yes, TEN, Great Danes sent to them from a hoarding situation in August, where 66 Great Danes were pulled from one house in Arcadia, Florida. Some were starving, others were sick, overbred, full of parasites.  The gorgeous, sweet-souled boy you see below is called Pawley, and he's scheduled for eye surgery on September 17th. He loves everyone and everything, and has been known to kiss horses (I am not kidding).

If everyone who reads this sends just $5.00 and SHARES it-- on their blog, Twitter, Facebook everywhere-- Waters Edge might get that wonderful miracle! Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to say you helped make that happen?  Thank you!


Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Phoenix ComiCon 2015!

Yes, it was fun.  It was noisy.  It was freaking chaos.  Costumes, food, costumes, readers, costumes, games, and did I mention costumes?  Oh, yeah.  I could post pictures but most folks with see stuff like that on my Facebook page.  Instead, I thought I'd go live with NerdwithBalls, who stopped by the booth and interviewed me.  Thanks, guys!  And... voila!



(Link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXBXfM25hCo&feature=youtu.be.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grendel: My Bittersweet Boy

I would say that it's funny that I seem to post on this blog only when something unpleasant happens.  Unpleasant-- there's a word for you.  A way too gentle word for what I'm about to convey.

I am, admittedly, sitting here and drinking, too much, too fast.  I will say right now that I have no intention of editing whatever words happen to find their way into this post, so please forgive spelling errors, grammar screw-ups, perhaps even sentences that make no sense.  I'm not going to screw around with fancy photo-positioning.  That's just the way it's going to be.

The last time I wrote a blog post, despite my best intentions, was when I lost Dad in November, just two days before his 84th birthday.  But already I see I have to revise what I've said here, because the blog post before that, on July 15, 2014, was pretty cheerful.  It even included a picture of me and Grendel, the beautiful Great Dane-- our fourth-- that we drove all the way to North Carolina to pick up in March of 2014. Here's his "official" adoption photograph, showing The Husband, Weston Ochse, Grendel, and me.

Photo by Amy Breckenridge Smith (c) 2013


Yes, that's a long time ago.  I have been meaning to post about my sweet, sweet Ghost, who died in my arms last October 19th.  Really, I meant to.  I even have a list of things on my computer that I want to include.  But every time I think about doing that post, I sort of... shut down.   It hurts too much when I think of my sweet Cuddlebug and how she left me that night.



Well, baby, the pain ain't over yet.  In fact, it's probably just getting a good grip before it really rips in with big, sharp teeth.

How's Goblin? you ask.  You did, right?  He's... old.  Especially for a Great Dane.  Last August he turned eleven, and the year before that, a few days before his birthday, he bloated and went through surgery and recovery.


Now he's a tottering, white-faced old man (not doddering-- there's nothing wrong with his mental faculties); the arthritis in his spine makes him barely able to walk, the medicine that gives him that limited ability and deadens the pain just a bit makes him nauseous, and the nausea medicine screws up his stomach.  In the meantime, believe it or not, he still seems happy.  That quality of life thing: he eats heartily, he's happy to see me, he wants to be petted, he'll drag himself up to greet me (or anyone) at the door, he barks when the doorbell rings, he'll chew on a Nylabone or nibble on a stuffed toy.  So far so good, despite everything else.  So we hang on.  For now.

But Grendel.  Ah... my sweet little Street Thug.

My Bittersweet Boy.

We adopted him a year ago March, in 2014.  Not long after, I began to question the way he panted, and suspected he had hyperthyroidism (the opposite of hypothyroidism). The vet thought I was wrong... until the tests, three times repeated, came back.  Yes, he had it.  And yes, it was caused by the only thing that would do it: Thyroid cancer.

So, surgery.  His entire thyroid was removed, and he made it.  It wasn't easy, and it wasn't a quick recovery.  The perithyroid glands that control the body's calcium level ended up being taken out with the thyroid.  Two pieces of tissue that looked like perithyroid material were re-seeded in the muscle, and eventually at least one of them took-- but not before a major fight with his calcium levels.  At one point, he was literally unable to walk and we feared he had Wobbler's Disease.  Then we finally got him straightened out on prescription calcium, with rechecks every so often.

Then came today.

I've been noticing his energy level drop and his panting increase.  There was a hint of worry in the back of my mind that the Big C had returned in his throat-- I was told that could happen, but if it did, it would be a slow growing thing.  He hasn't been doing much beyond eating and sleeping, not even getting up when my faux daughter, Clara, visited last Tuesday.  I've never seen a dog that didn't so much as rouse when a person he or she liked came around.  One night after feeding him, he went out to potty and I found him a few minutes later, lying on the landscaping rocks just short of the patio.  He seemed just too tired to go those last few feet.

Maybe his calcium level had dropped too low, like it had awhile back when it made him too weak to walk.  Still, he has a good (okay, voracious is a better word) appetite and he certainly hasn't lost any weight. So this morning I called and scheduled a calcium check, sticking the appointment in where I could between other annoying and disastrous crap that has been happening in our lives.  I did some other stuff on the computer upstairs, then headed back down to the first floor at about three-thirty.

And I saw this:

Wtf?

I called the vet and asked "Do you have any appointments open this afternoon?  With anyone?"

I got him in at 5:30.  The vet tried to take a fluid sample and got almost nothing-- the mass on Grendel's side was rock hard.  So they took him back and fired up the x-ray machine.  He was so cooperative that he didn't even need anesthesia for the three shots.  When the tech came to get me, she asked, "Do you want to come back and see?"  I wanted to say no, because I could tell by the look on her face that it wasn't good.  But I went, and four of us-- the doctor, me, and two techs-- stood next to Grendel and stared at the x-rays.  It didn't take a veterinary degree to recognize what was on the display.



The mass (bottom center, pushing outward) is hard and enormous.  This afternoon I guessed it to be about the size of a baseball, at the vet's, about the size of a softball.  As I write this tonight, it seems, incredibly, the size of a cantaloupe-- or perhaps that's just my terror.  It's growing rapidly and the vet said it probably wasn't noticeable until I saw it today because it's been growing into his body cavity, where one lung is wrapped around it and it's pressing on his heart.  Grendel is sort of "left-sided," which is to say that he tends to lie on his left side rather than right, another thing that aided in disguising it.  Even so, make no mistake about it-- I smooch, hug, rub, and love on these dogs constantly.  Just last night I wrapped Grendel in a bear hug as I fed him, and I felt absolutely nothing wrong with his chest.

The thing inside his chest is an alien, and it's a killer.  The vet doesn't think it's operable because of its size and position, but even so, she's going to ask two more doctors tomorrow, including Grendel's main vet.  I am normally an optimistic person, but even I have to be realistic sometimes.  I have to think about how he doesn't get up except to eat and potty (and sometimes he misses the mark on that), and how he has so much trouble breathing.  How he won't play anymore, won't even chew on a bacon-flavored Nylabone.  He sleeps, and he eats, and that's about it.

He doesn't seem to be uncomfortable, but he's a street dog.  Found as a stray, chest peppered with birdshot (you can see the metal dots on the x-rays).  Dogs normally hide pain as a matter of instinct, so who can say for sure that he doesn't hurt?  That this alien mass that's pushing outward on his ribs isn't making him ache?  We know for sure that he struggles to breathe, sometimes even while lying down.  The biggest indicator?  He no longer lies on his left side, and it's obvious that's because it pushes the mass harder against his lungs.

We're going to lose him.  

I haven't cried yet (okay, as of 10:44 p.m. that's become a fib).  Right now I'm full of anger at the unfairness of it.  Anger because when Grendel was found, he was full of birdshot, he had parasites and heartworms and overgrown lumps, he was a blind stray, his eyes and ears were infected, and he had open wounds.  He was underweight and scarred.  And still... he had love, for anyone who petted him and offered him the tiniest bit of affection.



Still he had that sweet, sweet soul.

He was rescued, I think, around the end of October or so in 2013.  We've had him since March, 2014.  This lovely little Street Thug, whose teeth are prematurely broken and worn away and who melts at the slightest kind touch, will have had less than a year and a half with us.  We pulled him through one type of cancer only to lose him to another, more aggressive kind.  And I am filled with impotent rage because the universe will not let me give him enough years to make up for the mess his life was before we became blessed with his presence.

We love you, sweet Grendel.  We will hang on as best we can, for as long as you can.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Dear Dad...



There are many things I've said thank you for in my life, and I want to say them again here, because I believe that you can still hear me.

Dad on his birthday in 2011.
Thank you for taking care of me for so many years, for taking me shopping, and taking me to dinner at places that expanded my tastes and palate, and for hanging in there with me in the meantime (like switching dinners with me at Las Briskas the night I ordered Chile Rellenos and they were too spicy for me to eat). Thank you for Mexican food, Spanish food, Italian food, Transylvania food, Persian food, Swedish food, German food, and all kinds of other food, too.  Thank you for buying me an awesome bicycle and then sponsoring me year after year in the American Cancer Society Bike-A-Thon.

Thank you for your service to this country, for putting your life on the front lines for fourteen months during the Korean war.  Thank you for changing flats for me on cars and SUVs, and for scooping out sludgy oil by the handful and fixing engines and changing taillights when I brought you the latest in a long line of crappy "new" used cars during the entirety of the 1980s.  Thank you for teaching me what you were doing and why you were doing it and how it worked when you were fixing it-- it being car parts, light fixtures, pipes, and even engineering parts.  Thank you for putting in floors and cabinets and sinks, and for buying me my first shotgun because that's what I wanted for my birthday.

Zach, Dad, Alex, Yvonne
Thank you for saving my life by guilting me into quitting smoking in 1984.  Thank you for your sense of humor, for your love of puns and ridiculous T-shirts and Bah-Humbug Christmas sweatshirts.  Thank you for being proud of me and believing I could do anything in the world.  Thank you for being on the other end of those heavy pieces of furniture I always had to move, and for loving my writing and my artwork and for bragging about me to people.  Thank you for buying me my very first tiny computer, and for hanging pictures, and for carrying heavy stuff of every shape and size.

Thank you for eating anything I cooked and telling me it was great (and probably fibbing a few times).  Thank you for genuinely loving the homemade mole sauce I made you for Father's Day one year, and for sharing microwaved dinners with me and for cooking me the most perfect grilled steaks on the planet.  Thank you for taking me to and from doctors, hospitals, and all manner of strange and not-so-fun appointments.  Thank you for suffering through The Sound of Music with me, and a million horror and action movies.  Thank you for enduring boyfriends and late convention hours and rides to and from the airport and for taking care of Chanci when I worked so much overtime to save for a house of my own.  Thank you for opening your home to me at one of the lowest times in my life and therefore giving me the chance to save for that same home.

Thank you for steer skulls and a Colorado River rafting trip and an auto-start on my car so I could endure driving to the commuter train during hellish Chicago winter mornings.  Thank you for hacking all the ice off my truck after a winter ice storm one weekday, so that when I got to it in the parking lot I literally looked up at the sky in bewilderment (while everyone else glared at me).  Thank you for shoveling snow and for cutting grass and for drilling holes in concrete where I needed them.  Thank you for oil changes and brake jobs and new car radios, and for marching down to that car detailer and telling them their employee had intentionally opened a window in my truck so they could break into it later.  Thank you for standing up for me.  Thank you for opening doors for me.

Thank you for moving to Arizona with me, and then for loving it after you did.  Thank you for hanging towel racks and introducing me to Kahlua and Amaretto on the rocks, and for laughing when I couldn't find third gear in that darned Puma of yours and had to coast to the side of the road as the police car went past in the other direction and the officer looked at me like I was insane.  Thank you for trying the lavender piece of candy I offered you in Nebraska, then telling me "It fell out the window." when I asked how you liked it.

Dad and Lily.
Thank you for lending me tools and then giving them to me.  Thank you for a beautiful black velvet jacket that went with my Christmas party outfit but that I couldn't afford.  Thank you for making me always feel smart, intelligent, competent and beautiful.  Thank you for going to my booksignings when no one showed up and for keeping all the newspaper clippings about me.  Thank you for all the photos you took.  Thank you for your understanding, and for your patience and acceptance when you didn't understand at all.  

Thank you for loving all my dogs and worrying about them, and for showing up at the vet's office the day Lily died-- even though no one had told you about it, somehow you knew to drive by and see our car.  Thank you for taking care of them when we were out of town for as long as you were able.  Thank you for liking our birds, and for appreciating that even though you couldn't see the potential in our newly bought house, I could.  Thank you for telling the Sierra Vista Police Officer who came looking for that house's previous owner "I didn't do it, I wasn't there, and it wasn't my job anyway." to make him laugh.

Dad's beloved Porsche.
Thank you for the endless cups of coffee and Belgium pecan waffles and Dunkin' Donuts.  Thank you for introducing me to The Kingston Trio and Nanci Griffith, and for going to see Waylon Jennings with me.  Thank you for cheering for me in martial arts and Escrima matches.  Thank you for putting up with me when I was grumpy and for sharing an office with me in your house.  Thank you for driving an hour to pick me up at some far-flung northern suburb when I got on the wrong train after work one night and fell asleep, and for laughing about it when you got there.

Thank you for worrying about me and for thinking about me and for loving me and for being there for me, and for the billion other things I know I'm missing here.  I believe that somewhere you can read this, and that you can smile about it, and that you'll know how much you meant to me.
I love you, and I will see you again someday where your speech is returned and you can talk my ear off about the latest and greatest in Porsche and motorcycles.

Thank you for being my Dad.

Yvonne




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