Yarn O’Clock Update

I have fifteen more pages to edit, and need to check email again, but the UPS guy just came. My first clue was the Direwolves barking hysterically. Tom wants to get a security camera for the front door, but we already have the Canine Emergency Broadcast System. But I guess a camera would let me know if it’s UPS, a random neighbor, or a SWAT team at the door without getting off the couch, so we shall see.

But look what arrived!

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Oops. I seem to have accidentally acquired more yarn. Well, not totally true, as this was the first “cake” style yarn I bought, but it was back ordered, so I found and ordered the luscious Chroma Worsted Yarn by Knit Picks I talked about HERE earlier today.

It’s Lion Brand Mandala yarn, and the color is “gnome.” I’d have bought it for the color name itself. Seriously, look at it. If you love yarn even a little bit, you’d have done the same. Even if you don’t love yarn, you want someone to make you something with this yarn. Don’t lie; I know you do.

It appears the color sequence only repeats once per ball, though, which means I should make something that takes at least 590 yards (5.3 ounces) of yarn, like a baby blanket or shawl, if I want to have all the colors represented, and I do.

Okay, time to clock back in, metaphorically speaking, so I can get to yarn o’clock!

Is It Yarn O’Clock Yet?

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Working at home is wonderful. Keep my own schedule as long as I get the job done, have my canine sidekicks/entourage with me all the time, no business casual or makeup, no commute.

There are some drawbacks, though, such as never really being “off,” the interruptions to do things like tend to the dogs–who are rather high-maintenance–Netflix, snacks, and Facebook.

Lately, my biggest distraction is…

Yarn.

If you’ve followed the blog, you know I’m a lifelong crocheter. (That word looks wrong. Trust me…I’m an editor and words are my business. But it’s not wrong. A person who crochets.) Then a couple of weeks ago, I began teaching myself to knit, first with some ragged, misshapen swatches, then a pretty decent-looking dishcloth which shall never see a dish because I spent hours on the thing, dammit.

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I’m a yarn hoarder. For crochet, though, I tended to stick to more basic brands, with Caron Simply Soft and Deborah Norville Everyday Print Yarn being a couple of favorites. I like to make big crochet projects, and balancing quality and cost is essential. But I always coveted some of the lovely boutique yarns many of my knitting friends used.

As I slowly build my knitting skills, I look for patterns that are very clearly knitted and don’t resemble any crochet style. If it looks like crochet, I can crochet something similar a hell of a lot faster than I can knit. It will be a long time before I knit consistently and quickly enough to justify doing an afghan.

Which means I’m doing small projects–again, sloooooowly–and I can justify buying more expensive, indulgent yarn.

Last week, I found Chroma Worsted Yarn by Knit Picks. It’s 70% wool, 30% nylon, and super soft and not at all itchy-woolly. And here’s the kicker…so many beautiful colors!

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More expensive than I’d usually buy, but as slowly as I currently knit, it will take me several decades to finish a scarf, so I decided to indulge. I bought five balls each of Vermont and Drawing Room.

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Vermont on the left has soft tones of pumpkin, teal, rose, and a heathery purple. Drawing room is grays and sage and lavender and aqua and cream. OMGGorgeous!

I needed a pattern that would work up not too slowly and wouldn’t look too much like crochet, and I chose a fan-and-feather scarf. I don’t wear scarves, but whatever. I might make an exception for this.

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Not blocked, of course, until it’s done (some time in 2056, I estimate). Experienced knitters will see the error where instead of two rows of knit followed by a row of purl I did a row of knit and two rows of purl, but I decided to leave it and keep going. 99.9% of people would never notice. This is in the Vermont yarn.

But that’s my dilemma. I have an edit I must finish today, and the work emails continue to flow, but this yarn is calling to me. I needed a new challenge, and knitting is challenging and satisfying. So is editing, but editing doesn’t involve oh-so-lovely yarn.

Now I have to be a grownup and put on my editing tiara, finish the edit, return it to the author for review…and then I can play with the beautiful yarn.

Direwolf Grooming Day

Oliver is a standard poodle, which means a trip to the groomer every 6-8 weeks. Mozzie is a golden retriever, which would usually mean grooming also, because I’m old and brittle and out of shape and lazy and happily pay someone to blow out all that dense golden undercoat, but Mozzie has a very light coat for a golden. I take him for a nail trim and bathe and brush him at home. Which is good, because he’s an anxious, twitchy dog, and being left for 5-6 hours in a busy pet resort would freak him out.

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Not Mozzie, obviously, because my bathroom is purple, not pink, and my tub is much bigger. Also, Mozzie would probably be afraid of the rubber ducky.

All I want is to get Nutball 1 and Nutball 2 into the car and to Jill’s Pet Resort with a minimum of chaos, but it never works out that way. The moment I begin laying out my clothes, they know. Bra, jeans, shoes. All things they never see unless there’s an outing in my immediate future.

I get the leashes out while they’re outside, but they still know. I get my purse out of the kitchen drawer…dead giveaway. Putting a harness and leash on two panting, whirling, over-excited, highly suspicious 60ish-pound puppies is challenging, to say the least.

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A couple of groomings ago, I didn’t realize I’d hooked Oliver’s leash through his tag ring instead of the leash ring on his collar. Trying to get two insane dogs from the car to the groomer resulted in ring-failure. I had to grab his collar, while Mozzie was in full fight-or-flight mode, trying to slip his collar and depart for the nearest horizon at speed. Luckily, the staff at Jill’s saw what was happening and came to our rescue.

Which is why they now always wear their harnesses when we go out, and why I schedule grooming for Tom’s day off so he can assist with dog-wrangling. Even with his help today, though, while I was bent over putting on Oliver’s harness, Mozzie came cannonballing through the kitchen and head-butted me at full speed. I don’t know how neither of us is unconscious.

As you know if you’ve followed my dog posts, Oliver and Mozzie are great brothers. They get along better than any two dogs I’ve ever had, and have been raised together since they were four and six months old. They very rarely fight. With one exception. When Oliver comes home from grooming, he’s either over-stimulated or annoyed, and he immediately wants to fight. We’ve been working on sorting this out. Today, Oliver started growling the second he came in the door. They’ll keep their distance for a while, and I’m trying to keep things low-key.

Tom and I disagree about Oliver’s grooming. Neither of us wants a “fussy looking” poodle with poms and rosettes and topknots. But I still want him to clearly be a poodle. So he gets a moderate head-puff, short-trimmed feet and face, natural tail, and short clip on the body.

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This will never happen. EVER.

Tom sort of likes Oliver right before grooming, when he looks like a homeless Muppet. He’s cute, regardless, but eventually you have to clip them back into poodle-shape. Never fear, he’ll be Muppety again in no time.

But what you really want to see is before and after photos, right? Yeah, me too.

Okay, Oliver before. Still mind-bogglingly cute, but getting a bit disheveled-looking, and starting to want to tangle.

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And now after. I’m not totally nuts about the full-on, freshly-groomed poodle clip, but you have to reset the poodlemeter from time to time. I’ll like his look best in about two weeks. I’ll like that for a couple of weeks, then start whining that he needs to be groomed again.

Mozzie got a nail trim and a good brushing, which was all he needed. So no before…but when I was taking pictures of Oliver, he didn’t want to be left out. That golden smile!

Freshly groomed or shaggy and rumply, they’re adorable and totally our boys. Just don’t tell Oliver that Mozzie got to go for a walk in the park and play ball with Dad in the back yard while he was gone.

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Classic: Risky Research

The following is a post from my old blog, Fermented Fur, written in February of 2009 when I was doing research for my first book. Some of my fellow authors have been discussing research, and–as usual–I have a unique, slightly warped view of things, so I decided to find and share this post. Authors, is this how you feel when you research?

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(Note: The scenario below took place only in my own imagination. So far. Really, this couldn’t happen. Right???)

Heading out to the garage, I am, as usual, blissfully unaware of my surroundings. I know this isn’t very street-smart. Experts are always saying people should be especially alert while going to and from their cars, whether at home or in a public lot. But there’s way too much going on in my head, so I’m generally busy up there pondering imponderables and composing future blogs, which is also one of the primary reasons I fall down so much. That, and the drinking, which isn’t a factor at this particular moment.

Approaching the corner of the garage, the lid of one of the trash cans raises up a few inches, and I see a pair of shifty eyes and hear, “Psssssst. Hey, over here.”

Realizing that it’s unlikely that Oscar the Grouch has taken up residence in my trash can, I am somewhat suspicious. Most people I know don’t lurk about in trash cans.

Clutching my keys, which experts also claim can be an effective self-defense weapon, I ask, “Who are you, and what do you want?” Because if there’s somebody hiding in your trash can, these are things you need to know.

“I’m Blaster625, from the Anarchist website. I hear you have some questions about incendiary devices.”

“Wait, how do you know that?”

“I have my sources.”

“I was doing a lot of research yesterday, and visited a lot of websites. Some of which, I must say, were more than a little disturbing. Are you from one of them?”

“Maybe. So, I hear you need to blow up a bus.”

“No, Blaster, I most certainly do not need to blow up a bus. I’m doing research for a book I’m writing, and my bad guy is going to try to kill someone by blowing up his bunk in a tour bus.”

“Yeah, sure, right, whatever. About blowing up this bus, though…”

“I do not want to blow up a bus. It’s for a book.”Ballot Box Bunny melon bomb

“Look, if you’re going to keep saying ridiculous shit like that, I can’t help you.”

“Fine! I don’t want help from some wacko anarchist who hides in trash cans and says corny stuff like ‘psssst.'” And what are you, about 15? Shouldn’t you be in school or at the dermatologist or something?”

“No school today. It’s an in-service day for the teachers. I mean, the establishment.”

With that, I stalk back into the house, telling Mr. Blaster he’d better be gone when I come back. I’m thinking I need to get the mat-splitter from the dogs’ grooming utensil basket, as it is the closest thing to a deadly weapon I own. I haven’t read any expert opinions on the viability of a mat-splitter being used in this manner, but it seems like a safe bet.

Making my way back to the garage, mat-splitter tucked in my coat pocket, I’m much more aware of my surroundings than I had been earlier. I notice a brief flash of movement by the garage.

“Look, Blaster, I thought I told you to get lost.”

Suddenly, I am blindsided and find myself sprawled on my back in the icy driveway, a large, masculine figure pinning my arms to the ground. Ordinarily, being pinned under a large, masculine figure has the potential to be of significant interest, but in this case the black body armor is spoiling the mood.

A second riot-gear-clad form steps from behind the garage and says, “Good work, Corporal. Search her for weapons.”

Hauling me to my feet, the Corporal quickly locates my mat-splitter and confiscates it. “What’s this?” he asks. “Some sort of torture device?”

“My dogs think so,” I reply.

“Should’ve known. You anarchists are all sick and twisted individuals.”

“It’s for getting mats out of the dogs’ undercoat, you moron.”

“A likely story. Should I bag it as evidence, Captain?”

The Captain considers this for a moment and says, “Sure. Can never have too much evidence against anarchists and terrorists, I always say.”

I snatch my purse off the ground and whip out my cell phone. The Corporal slams me back against the garage and grabs it from my hand. “Won’t do you any good, sister. We froze your service.”

“What the hell??? Are you people out of your fucking minds? I’m trying to go to work, here.”

The Captain stomps over to me and leans way too far into my personal space. “We know what you’re up to, lady, and you’re not going to get away with it.” He hasn’t actually pulled the assault rifle from the holster over his shoulder, but he looks like he’s thinking about it.

“What I’m up to? Trying to get in my car and go to work?”

“Do you deny that you just met with a member of an anarchist group known as Blaster625?”

“That kid? Well, he was hiding in my trash can when I came out here a few minutes ago. I told him to get lost.”

“Was that before or after he gave you the instructions for building a pipe bomb to blow up a tour bus?”

“He didn’t give me any plans. I don’t want any plans!”

“Uh huh. Then why were you visiting all those bomb-building websites yesterday?”

“As I explained to Blaster-Boy, I am writing a book, and my bad guy is going to try to off my lead male character using an explosive device planted in a tour bus.”

“That’s what all the terrorists say.”

“I think I’m going to have to ask to contact a lawyer.”

“Suspected terrorists don’t get lawyers. We just send you to Gitmo.”

“No, you don’t. George isn’t president anymore. They’re shutting that place down.”

“Well, I haven’t gotten a memo about that yet, so I’m still going with ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ till I hear different.”

“This is ridiculous! I swear, if Ashton Kutcher climbs out of my trunk and even whispers the word ‘Punk’d,’ we’re going to discover just how effective mat-splitters are as an instrument of torture. I can’t stand him anyway, except for when he’s playing Kelso. All I did was Google some sites so I could make the bomb part of my plot sound plausible.”

“You did do that, and you also wrote to a couple of bomb squads and asked them about jurisdictions and investigative process, as well as how to blow up a bus.”

“I never asked how to blow up a bus!”

“Did too.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“Jesus H. Fucking Roosevelt Christ on a Crutch, what is wrong with you people??? I never asked how to blow up a bus.”

“Did too.”

“Arrrrrggggh. Look, do you want to search my house? You will find nothing there even remotely incriminating.”wile-e-coyote-tnt

“Already did.”

“You did? When? How? How did you get past the dogs?”

“Last night, and your dogs are real nice. Probably not terrorists. They like cookies.”

“Might’ve been the last cookies they ever see. So if you didn’t find anything, why are you here?”

“Can’t be too careful.”

“Look, do you want to see the novel I’m writing? Would that help at all?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. What’s it about?”

“What difference does that make?” Sigh. Blank looks from the Corporal and the Captain. “Fine. The male lead is a musician, and someone is trying to do away with him, and so the male and female leads have to figure out who it is so they can live happily ever after.”

“Sounds like a romance. I don’t read them girly-books.” This, from the Captain.

“Oh, for crying out loud! You don’t have to read it, you asshat! I’m just trying to prove to you that I am really writing a book.”

“Well, okay. Are we going inside so I can visit with the doggies again? That little gold one is real cute. He drools kind of a lot, though.”

“No, I am going to get my laptop out of the car and show it to you.”

“I kinda wanted to go inside. It’s cold, and I have a couple more cookies for the dogs.”

“We are not going inside.”

“Fine.”

I approach the car, with the Corporal hovering over my shoulder, and retrieve my laptop from the back seat.

The Captain says, “Corporal, I want you to open up the computer. Don’t want to give her any chances to try something funny.”

The Corporal looks worried. “What if it blows up? I don’t want to get exploded.”

“That’s the kind of funny stuff I’m talking about. Not that it’d be funny. No, not funny at all, blowing up a federal officer.”

“I really don’t want to open it.”

“Oh, just open it, you big baby. You’re wearing body armor and that Darth Vader mask thing. You’ll probably be fine.”

The Corporal doesn’t look reassured, but does as the Captain ordered.

Nobody gets exploded, and in a few minutes, they are perusing my novel-in-progress.

“I was right,” says the Captain. “This is a girly-book.”

“Yes, it is. I am a girl,” I point out.

“Kinda hard to tell in that coat.”

“Go to hell.”

“Now, that’s not nice. We’re just protecting America, you know.”

The Corporal has been reading avidly, scrolling down at considerable velocity. “Are they going to have sex? ‘Cause it sure sounds like they want to.”

“Yes, they are,” I say. “But I’m not up to that part yet. I’m still working on the bomb thing.”

“When you get to the sex part, can I read it?”

“No, not unless it’s published and you fork over full retail price. Now, are you two going to go away? I’m going to be late for work. And give me back my mat-splitter. Darwin’s been running in the mud, and his britches are becoming a mess.”

The Captain gives this some thought, reluctantly hands back my canine torture device, then says, “I guess we’re done here. You don’t seem to be an imminent threat. But we’re watching you.”

I sigh. I’m free to go about my business, but now I’m on some sort of Federal Watch List or something. I’m disconcerted to learn that my home, cell phone, computer, and – apparently – my dogs can be compromised so easily just because I clicked on a few web links and sent a couple of emails.

I’m starting to think I should just write porn and leave the suspense/thriller genre to the terrorists.

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Dinner Bites Back

Sometimes, even though you’ve caught up on work and have no legitimate reason, you simply don’t feel like cooking. Yesterday was one such day.

We’re normally pretty frugal, cooking at home and eating leftovers until they’re gone, even if it takes four days. But I looked at the fridge yesterday, found a whole lot of “meh,” and decided we needed something else. Something not currently in the house, made by someone who was not me.

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There was at least one other option…but takeout seemed to be the way to go.

Next, we had to figure out where this dinner would come from. Wanting something non-pizza-related, it also needed to be somewhere convenient for Tom to stop on the way home from work, and where I could order and pay online, because if I had to talk to a humanoid on the phone, I’d probably decide a baked potato and steamed veggies was an acceptable meal after all.

Applebee’s it is, then.

I decided on the caprese mozzarella chicken, which is grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, grilled onion and tomato, served over garlic mashed potatoes.

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Because I was paying (since it was my idea to get takeout), I also splurged on an order of chicken wonton tacos, because the crispy-crunchy wrap amuses me.

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I’m a gastric bypass patient (November 2001), so any restaurant meal is two to three meals for me. Besides enjoying leftovers later in the evening or for lunch the next day, it helps me justify the cost of ordering out.

Tom arrived with dinner, and it was delicious. I ate two of the tacos and half the caprese mozzarella chicken. I expected to feel really full, because it was a considerable amount of food for my modified tummy.

What I did not expect was the pain.

A few times over the last couple of years, I’ve had some kind of idiopathic gastroenteritis, when my intestines are inflamed and feel like they’re full of ground glass and rusty barbed wire, but this wasn’t it. General Thanksgiving-level fullness was combined with bouts of stabbing pain.

Even now, fifteen or so hours later, it’s not completely resolved. There is a lingering fullness and occasional flashes of “ouch,” but nothing is spewing out either end, so I guess this is progress.

At the height of last night’s gastrointestinal crisis, I almost threw the leftovers in the trash, but I didn’t. Why not? Well, there’s no way in hell I’m eating it, that’s for sure. But I figure if my guts rupture and kill me with caprese-induced peritonitis, Tom will have evidence for his wrongful death lawsuit.

I probably should’ve just scrambled some eggs.

Dogs And Books And Yarn

I haven’t missed a day of posting since I started Furwood Forest a little over a month ago, but I was stumped what to write about today. I have over 500 posts archived from the old Fermented Fur blog, but nothing was catching my attention as something I wanted to post.

Mozzie and Oliver, AKA The Direwolves, weren’t cooperating, which was downright inconsiderate. They’re made of cuteness and shenanigans, and the least they can do is provide blog fodder. I’m their mama, nurse, activity director, chef, concierge, stylist, entertainment committee, teacher, referee, jungle gym, therapist, and maid. All I ask is for them to pull their weight.

Fine. I guess their snuggles are payment enough.

In desperation, I went outside and captured some video of them playing with their Romp-N-Roll Jolly Ball. Luckily for all of us, they’re adorable no matter what they’re doing.

 

While many of you are enjoying something I’m told is called a “weekend,” Tom is at work, and I am about to do the same. If you weren’t aware, I’m the managing editor for Limitless Publishing–and our new imprint, Crave–so I work at home with my Direwolf assistants.

I’ve already conquered Mount Email, and will continue to do so, but aside from managing the editing and proofreading staff, working with designers to assign our book covers, overseeing the creation of cover blurbs, overseeing all stages of production of our horror and romance anthologies, and a bunch of other publishing-related chainsaw juggling, I also edit, both for Limitless and select independent (indie) authors, and that’s what’s on the agenda today. I need to finish a first round of an edit and get it to the author for revisions.

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True story.

Once I achieve the day’s work goals, it’s on to the reward portion of the day, doing what I want. Currently, this means watching Doctor Who–which I’ve never watched before–and working on my knitting.

I’ve crocheted since I was a kid, but knitting is a new challenge. I’ve only been at it about two weeks, and have only worked on swatches of different stitch combinations so far. This is the most recent swatch, a “seersucker” diamond pattern, which came out fairly well.

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I still have a hell of a time casting off at the end of a piece, which makes no sense, because it’s insanely easy. Do two stitches, pull the first loop over the second and off the needle. Yet I can’t get that first loop off in one piece without losing the second one. I resorted to just sliding both stitches off the needle and using a crochet hook to pull the second stitch through the first, then putting it back on the needle. I’ve concluded I knit too tightly, and am trying to adjust my technique.

Last night, I started what might be my first “real” project, though it’s still just practice of basic skills before I move on to more complex stitches. Technically, it will be a dishcloth with a dog on it, though I am still befuddled why anyone would spend time making something pretty and then use it to scrub barbecue sauce off a plate. I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but washing dishes isn’t on the list of options.

It should look something like this:

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And this is what I have so far:

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See? The bottoms of the little puppy paws are beginning to appear.

Thrilling day? Maybe not, but I like quiet and peaceful creativity. Yes, I have some household chores to do, and puppy interaction, dinner to make, and tonight I’ll have my customary bedtime adult beverages because the brain-train has to be derailed at least a little or I’ll never get to sleep.

Some people pack their (for me, theoretical) weekends with activities, but that’s not my life. I like it calm and tranquil and quietly satisfying.

Having said that, The Direwolves will probably stage an insurrection this afternoon or commit some other act of chaos. But until then, I have a steamy mafia princess story to edit.

And probably a snack.

The Unlikely Predator

Mozzie got a bird. Or maybe he found a bird…hard to say, since I didn’t witness the event. I let the Direwolves out for morning potty and settled in the chair on the deck. A moment later, they were in the side yard, where the fence is only about ten feet out from the house, and I noticed they were both standing over something on the ground, examining it very closely.

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Move along. Nothing to see here…

Damn. I’ve been through this before, primarily with Ozark, as I mentioned in this recent post about his fondness for capturing bunnies, which it turns out are not very durable.

Mozzie also found some baby bunnies last spring. He couldn’t get to the ones under the enclosed deck, where the nest turned out to be,  but a couple were just big enough to venture out, and it didn’t go well for them. I eventually rescued and relocated the remaining little hoppers to prevent further unpleasantness.

The boys also surprised a possum one night, but I don’t think it was dead. It was likely just doing its “I’m dead, please don’t kill me deader” bit, and I used the pooper-scooper to put it in the woods outside the fence.

I don’t think Mozzie caught this bird “on the fly,” unless he flushed it and it bonked into the fence and stunned itself. Or it might’ve already been injured when he found it.

When I saw them, Oliver (being a poodle) lost interest in about three seconds and trotted off. I’m pretty sure the bird was still moving then. Mozzie, however, picked it up and tried to make off with it, so I had to corner him. He dropped it, and by now it was dead, so I put it outside the fence.

I have a bird hospital box (an Amazon box with some hand towels in it, very high-tech) for when birds bash into the sliding door, but thus far haven’t needed to use it, because it turns out birds are about as durable as bunnies, which is not very. Once again, I didn’t need to use it today.

For a twitchy, nervous little dog who is afraid of things like the sound freezer drawer opening, ice rattling, rustling of a plastic bag, or dishes rattling when I get a pan out of the cupboard, it’s odd he has this much prey drive. Though now that I think about it, his fears are mostly sound-related. Since baby bunnies and injured birds don’t sound at all like me getting the mixer out, I guess that explains it.

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It’s like if you found out the shy kid who always sits by himself on the bus is secretly a ninja.

I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s a golden retriever, a sporting breed. But he dislikes unexpected things, and it seems like if he encounters a surprise bunny in the yard, he should slink rapidly in the opposite direction.

Now spring is upon us, and I just hope Mama Bunny has decided to find another spot to raise this year’s babies. While the enclosed deck is definitely secure, at least now that Oliver can no longer squeeze under it, it is still in a fenced yard inhabited by two canines, and the rabbits have to come out sometime.

How do your dogs deal with wildlife in their yard? What’s the most disturbing or surprising thing they’ve caught?

Apocalyptic Creativity

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As readers and writers of post-apocalyptic fiction, we’re all preparing for the inevitable. For some, this means, “I should probably consider buying some bottled water and maybe a flamethrower.” For others, it’s more like, “I have an underground bunker in the woods behind my house crammed full of toilet paper and fifty-pound bags of rice, and I don’t even like rice.”

We all know what we should stockpile. The obvious supplies include food, water, weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, tools, things to make fire (nobody wants to be chilly during the apocalypse, and raw snake tastes terrible), fuel, and coffee—because if the apocalypse starts before ten a.m., I’m going to be at a serious disadvantage.

Everybody knows about that stuff. Which means when some moron decides to hide the fact they’ve been bitten, turns, and eats everyone in their hideout, there’s bound to be a good bit of those obvious survival supplies there for the taking. So I think we should consider the less obvious, but very useful, items we should have on hand to make our zombie apocalypse experience more “hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be” and a lot less “oh, shit, I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be able to see my own intestines.”

To compile this list, I did extensive scientific research, by which I mean I posted about it on Facebook. In no particular order…

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Underpants: This is a no-brainer. Nobody likes dirty underwear, and once you turn your only pair inside out, unless an unexpected lull in the fleeing and head-chopping allows you free time to do laundry, you have a problem. And considering the number of times you’re going to walk around a corner and end up screaming, “Aaaahhhh, zombie herd, and I left my flamethrower in my other purse!” you can assume there will be a lot of soiled undies. You’re going to need plenty of spares.

Icy Hot: What with all the machete-swinging, running away, and climbing ladders because zombies don’t understand how ladders work, you can bet there will be a lot of sore muscles. It’s also possible the unspeakable Icy Hot stench will mask your Juicy Human smell. But if it turns out Icy Hot is like barbecue sauce or bacon gravy to zombies, you’re totally screwed. Further research might be required, though I suspect test subjects will be hard to find.

Note: Under no circumstances should the Icy Hot be used in any proximity to the underpants (see above) unless the whiner in your group really needs to be taught a lesson. It’s also an acceptable consequence for the guy who asks everyone you encounter, “You been bit?” because the zombie apocalypse is no excuse for sloppy grammar.

A Golf Umbrella: Sure, they’re big and bulky, and when a major downpour occurs they’re always in the back seat of the car you didn’t drive that day, but they could be very Umbrella_zombiehandy. Not only would a golf umbrella keep the rain off, it provides shade if your apocalyptic adventure is happening where it’s hot and lacking in leafy trees. You can use the pointy end to stab a zombie in the eye-hole (Pro-tip: Close umbrella first), and should the guy next to you suddenly erupt in a fountain of blood and chunks of innards, you can use the umbrella to shield yourself from the gore as you run away. Hey, he was pretty much dead already; you couldn’t have saved him. The zombie apocalypse is no time for sentimentality.

A Small, Light-Powered Calculator: Life in the apocalypse is essenially one giant story problem, and who has time to sit down and scratch out math problems in the dirt with a stick? Maybe some of you can do math in your head, but I find numbers way too slippery, and possibly evil. When we encounter a swarm, I want to be able to quickly calculate how many zombies each member of my group needs to kill. Why? Because if someone isn’t doing their fair share of zombie extermination, I need to know who to trip the next time we’re forced to make a run for it. It’s called “survival,” people. Don’t judge. Also, it’s important to know how to equally divide seven cans of creamed corn among eleven people, because you know someone’s going to cheat.

Several Whoopee Cushions and/or Cans of Spring-Loaded Snakes: It has been pointed out to me that the zombie apocalypse can be a bit grim and depressing, and everyone could benefit from some laughter. Except me. I hate practical jokes, and I’ll stab you in the neck with a rusty spork, which would make me laugh, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

Disclaimer: They say laughter is the best medicine, but I don’t think that works with zombie bites, so you should probably cut off your hand if you’re bitten, just to be safe. Or, you know, whatever body part is affected. Unless it’s your head. That seems counterproductive.

A Bouncy Castle: This is tangentially related to the items above. No, you can’t be expected to pack a bouncy castle, let alone inflate it, but ever since the second episode of Fear the Walking Dead in which the featured family was peeking through the blinds at the neighbor’s kids playing in a bouncy castle while someone with a distinctly zombie-like appearance approached, I’ve wanted to see a bouncy castle full of kid-sized zombies. I mean, how awesome would that be?

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Bonus points if it’s a zombie themed bouncy castle!

I was woefully disappointed, so if you do encounter a bouncy castle, fill it with tiny-human zombies if it doesn’t already contain some, because that is an opportunity that must not be missed. And if you have a cell phone with any battery left, take a damned picture, because when someone re-invents the internet—possibly Al Gore’s grandson—I absolutely need to see that shit.

Car Air Fresheners (But not the pine tree kind. I hate those.): Despite the abundance of clean undies, assuming you took my advice, bathing is going to be a relatively infrequent thing. Everybody knows from years of research (watching campy horror movies), the instant you take off your clothes, whether to bathe or have slutty teenage sex, that’s when the bad stuff happens, so most people won’t often take that risk. You need these air fresheners—I suggest something like “ocean breeze,” personally—to mask the funky aroma of your travel-mates as you continue your endless search for a safe place to hide out.

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What would zombie air freshener smell like? Do we really want to know?

Yellow Pages (assuming you can find any, because everybody just Googles stuff now): An alert aficionado made this suggestion, and it has a lot of merit, as long as you’re not in a major metropolitan area where phone books are six inches thick and weigh forty-three pounds.

First, you can strap them to your forearms as makeshift armor. Studies show the majority of zombie bites occur on the hands and forearms. I might have made up these studies, but I stand by their validity. Also, if you failed to find someone who got eaten before they used up all their stockpiled toilet paper, pages from the phone book could be a substitute. Perhaps best of all, you’ll have a handy guide to the location of all the liquor stores sporting goods stores.

There are several intriguing variations, as well. If you enjoy, for example, crossword puzzle books, you have a source of entertainment on those rare zombie-free evenings. For younger survivors, consider coloring books (don’t forget the crayons!) or connect-the-dots books, but be sure you get small-sized ones or they’ll be too big to strap to their kid-sized arms. I hear some of you shouting, “Sudoku!” but I’m ignoring you. From what I understand, those puzzles involve numbers, and I’ve already told you how I feel about math.

This list is just the beginning. Be creative! Look around you and imagine how ordinary items, things you’d never think would be essential to your post-apocalyptic survival—possibly with amusing side effects. What would you include in your Z-Day supply stash? I’m going to go look in my junk drawer and that weird box in the hall closet and see what other useful things I can find.

PS: As you see in the header, I wrote a couple of zombie books. If you’re interested, you can find them HERE.

Grammar Apocalypse

I have a couple of zombie-related posts planned for this week, in honor of the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead. I’ll discuss my thoughts on the episode tomorrow, I think, since it doesn’t air in the UK until tonight, and it will be full of spoilers.

One small detail that irks the living crap out of me, though, is a common grammar error that’s pervasive in the genre. I can’t help it; I’m an editor. Words are literally my business.

Basic conjugation of “bite” is simple.zombie

Present tense = bite. Zombies bite tasty, slow-moving humans.

Past tense = bit. The zombie bit him on the ass when he tried to crawl under the fence.

Past participle = bitten. Jeb was bitten an hour ago, so it’s too late to cut off his arm to save him. The loud-mouthed idiot got bitten yesterday, and Frank happily shot him in the face. He’d been bitten by a zombie weasel, which was kind of funny. It had bitten him six times before Horace killed it with a lawn dart.

Apparently, past participles do not survive the zombie plague, because nobody uses them. “You been bit?” “I got bit.” “He was bit.” I understand The Walking Dead originated in the rural southeastern United States, and that phrasing is a casual dialect that is accepted in the area. I know it, but I still cringe. Because it’s wrong. Just…wrong.

The rapidly-declining use of proper grammar in our society might be a sign of an impending apocalypse. People so commonly say “he got bit” that it’s accepted, and most people don’t even realize it’s incorrect.

Because of this, even though it goes against every nit-picky bone in my editorial brain, I have to leave it that way in dialogue when I’m editing. That (sadly) is how people talk, so I have to swallow the bitter bile of poor grammar and move on. I still insist on “he was bitten” in narrative, though.

While I have to pick my battles, I refuse to completely surrender.

Classic: Bunnies Should Be More Durable

Flashback to 2010 and recall the lovely, gentle, wonderful, gentle-giant, puppy-and-kitty-loving Ozark, a Great Pyrenees/Lab mix, and his unfortunate interactions with bunnies. In his defense, he probably just wanted to play. But since this was not the first time such a thing occurred, maybe he should’ve figured it out by now.

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Seriously, does this look like a bunny-mauler to you? Either of them, but particularly the one on the right.


Maybe my days off aren’t quite as boring as I think. You can decide.

I woke up at around 7:15 a.m. and wandered out to the kitchen for the customary and metabolically necessary first cup of coffee. The first thing I saw was a note by the coffee pot. Aw, how sweet! My honey-bunny left me a note! I wondered if it would be of the romantic or naughty variety. Or both.

None of the above. This is what it said:

“There is a wounded rabbit out there somewhere. After Ozark dropped it on the deck and I got him in, it was still there for a few minutes, then gone. But I think it was “damaged.” You probably want to go out with them and be prepared.”

See? Neither romantic nor naughty. Upsetting and anxiety-inducing. I had to ingest enough coffee to feel functional, then go search for a damaged-and-probably-dead bunny. Bunnies are not very durable.

Actually, dead is sad, but I was more worried about finding him not-quite-dead, because then I would have to figure out what to do about it. My options were:

a) rush to work and let them try to save it (which never works; see above mention regarding bunnies’ lack of durability)

b) let it suffer and hope it dies soon

c) whack it with a shovel

I do not like any of those options.

While I was in emergency caffeine consumption mode, Ozark came over for his morning stopsignskritch-fest. Lovely, except I quickly discovered his entire head was crawling with fleas.

Apparently, a whole bunny-load of fleas realized their meal ticket was about to be punched, and migrated onto the huge, fluffy, delicious (if spleenless) creature that was currently attached to the bunny. By his teeth.

I also must assume that if the other dogs aren’t infested yet, they will be within about 37 seconds. Awesome.

I found two doses of Frontline Plus for 45-88 pound dogs. I put 1.5 doses of it on Ozark, and put a few drops on the other two, hoping to stem the tide of infestation until I can get more Frontline at work tomorrow.

I also realized I can’t take Ozark to work tomorrow while he’s a walking flea-circus. The owner of Ozark’s puppy, Murphy, would go batshit insane. For a veterinarian, she’s unusually upset by fleas.


Scene we will not witness tomorrow. Sorry, boys!

I went outside and quickly discovered the deceased bunny between the deck and the steps. He was missing large portions of fur. And skin. His eyes looked sad. I watched to make sure there was no blinking.

There was not.

He’s not only merely dead, he’s really most sincerely dead. (Read that part using your Singing Munchkin voice.)

I got a shovel and transported Poor Dead Bunny, who was in full rigor mortis, to his not-quite-final resting place. I am glad tomorrow is trash day.

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Ozark, deceptively innocent-looking bunny-muncher

Ozark has spent an unusual (for him) amount of time out in the yard today, lying in wait. He is hopeful that a search party consisting of the Poor Dead Bunny’s friends and family will show up. He is anticipating another velveteen chew toy.

Given the flea situation, I’m content to let him stay out there a while.