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It's a Dog's Life: The Quills Edition

Our dog is a bit of a dichotomy.

He is the gentlest, neediest, suckiest dog ever when it comes to humans, the kind of pup who'll roll onto his back and offer up his stomach to anyone if he thinks it might result in a belly rub. He's the kind of dog who'll lie on your chest when you're on the couch and lick your face for hours (if you let him). He won't bite down human skin even if you are roughhousing with him and stick your hand into his mouth. He's played with everyone from toddlers to adults and has never shown an ounce of aggression towards people of any age. He loves his humans, all humans (except perhaps for those hooligans who used to throw empty pop cans and stuff at him over our backyard fence - he barks at them).

However, when it comes to the animal kingdom, our beloved Gunn is a tough guy. He steadfastly protects our yard from furry intruders of all shapes and sizes, to the point where we often joke that his unofficial nickname is Killer. Yes, we're not exactly proud of it, but Gunn has a body count. Over the years he's made short work of raccoons, squirrels, birds, rats and mice - always dragging them into the middle of our yard like trophies celebrating his hunting prowess. When we were travelling in Ireland and England earlier this year on our long-overdue honeymoon he scared our dog-sitters shitless by scrapping, to the death, with a feral cat. Now, please understand, this is NOT something we trained him to do - though I think the hours of playing catch in the backyard with his favourite squeaky football probably fine-tuned his chasing skills. In many ways he's like those dogs who won't stop pursuing cars - you just know that someday they will catch one and it won't be good. It wasn't hard to predict that someday he'd wrangle with something that had the upper hand, the only question was what that would be.

Last night we got our answer: PORCUPINE.

Yes, Killer got himself a face and mouthful of quills - dozens upon dozens of them. They were sticking out of his snout, chin, ears, head, tongue, gums and, worst of all, the roof of his mouth looked like a forest of white twigs. It undoubtedly was terrifying for him, and equally horrible for us. Have you ever heard a dog shriek in pain and know that for the time being there was absolutely nothing you could do about it? It breaks your heart. Brent and I ended up sitting on the cold, snowy road with him, holding him still and comforting him, while my father-in-law ran for his truck.

After what seemed like ages, but was likely only ten or fifteen minutes, we were speeding off to the emergency vet clinic, which it turned out only had one doc on-call. So Brent and I were immediately recruited as impromptu veterinary assistants. This job required multiple sets of hands and eyes. One of us had to help with the sedation and monitoring (i.e. play nurse), while the other was needed to assist with the removing of the quills. Well, one look into that quill-riddled gob and my stomach was pitching like a ship in stormy seas, so Brent had to wield the pliers. (As an aside, in that moment I was reminded about how badly my dad wanted me to grow up and become a doctor, and just how much fail that profession would have been for me. I prefer my blood and guts fake and onscreen, thank you very much.) We started the quill-removal procedure out in the main veterinary area, but Gunn's vitals weren't where they needed to be, so everything had to be shifted into the surgery area where he could intubated. Things levelled out after that and the vet and Brent were able to work. An hour and half later, the pair of them were smeared with blood, but Gunn was mostly quill free; two did go in too deep and were unable to be removed, the doc - who was a kind and wonderful lady - said these would most likely fester out on their own. We'll be keeping a close eye on that over the next few days.

Around then I made a joke about how I hoped he learned his lesson about tangling with porcupines, but the vet said that likely wouldn't be the case, and that she's removed quills from the same dogs five, sometimes ten times. Egads! As a pet owner I can't imagine something like that becoming rote. Nor would I ever want to.

We left our credit card number at the desk and carried our limp, still heavily sedated dog out of there. He slept through most of the night, only crying and whining a little bit as the drugs wore off. Really, he was nothing short of a trooper throughout this whole ordeal. On our way to the vet, he sat quietly in the car despite a head full of hurt, and apart from the occasional moment or two of panic and howling, he held it together marvelously. Truth be told, this actually surprised me a little, considering he'll often cry, whine and howl when you are trying to do something as simple and pain-free as trim his nails.

In the end, our wallets are a few hundred dollars lighter (hey, it wouldn't be Christmas without a big-ass vet bill), but our pup, our Killer, will heal up to lick another face, chase another ball and fight another battle (hopefully with less quills).

Gunn is my first dog, who knew it would be such an adventure?  

I love to travel to the US. That's not quite true, I used to. Now, not so much. And after the latest TSA changes that came into effect on Oct. 29, perhaps not at all. Why? Because, quite frankly, I am no longer comfortable with my security options. When travelling in/to the US, one must now either consent to go through the "naked scanner," which purportedly doesn't store images (but tell that to the people whose bodies were found among the 35,000 images stored on that courthouse scanner in Florida). Or be subjected to an intrusive pat-down, which includes the grasping and rubbing of one's genitals. Or, potentially, both.

Okay, I'm willing to put up with a lot of things for the convenience of air travel. I nary thought about cancelling a trip during the seven-year period when my name/passport was flagged with something (for some completely baffling and unknown reason) that resulted in a private, little room search every single time I flew to the States (which was semi-frequently at the time since I was travelling for both business and pleasure). It was annoying, but I adjusted. Making sure my carry-on (this was before the time of liquids regulations) was packed in a manner that made it quick and easy to search, and arriving at the airport extra early.

In the post-9/11 War on Terrorism years, I've been happy to take off my coat, sweater, hat, belt and shoes, unpack laptops, walk through metal detectors and those machines that blow a gust of air on you, be wanded and patted down. I've smiled while the contents of my bags have been emptied and swabbed, and I even managed to keep my mouth shut that time the agents made me cut off my wallet chain (kinda defeats the purpose of having a wallet with a chain, but whatever) and that time they spent TEN minutes investigating my keychain (a dual circular loop with just keys hanging off it - no place to hide anything).

But I think this latest "for our safety" measure is where I have to draw the line - for many reasons. Let's start with the scanners. Some say they are safe, some say they are not. There are different theories, but when pilots' organizations are advising crews to avoid using them, I'm prone to err on the side of caution. It's not like there haven't been lots of things over the years that were said to be safe and later discovered to be not safe at all. But if that was the worst of it, fine, acceptable risk (I'm not that frequent of a flyer).

But then comes the naked part. I know those things are not supposed to store images, etc, but like any computer they come with USB and other ports, and how long before some opportunistic human exploits it? Okay, snowball's chance in hell I'd get caught up in something like that, but still, the reality is that some stranger is looking at a pretty accurate picture of my naked body. And while I'll certainly admit that I dressed provocatively in my early twenties, nudity has always been solely reserved for lovers and my doctor (by necessity only). The idea of some random stranger being allowed into this intimate circle is kinda - to be honest - gross. As hokey as it may sound, I consider my body a temple. And viewing it naked should be a privilege, not a right (and certainly not a right given to some lackey employed by a foreign government). Just stop and think about that for a second... creepy, no?

Now, take into account exchanges like this one I read in today's Toronto Sun:

"A pilot from Skywest was going through security in Denver with his 18-year-old daughter and overheard a TSA officer saying into his headset, "heads up, got a cutie for you.'"

How about now? Creepy yet? Yeah, thought so.

Sadly, if this was the worst of it. I would probably accept the insult to my dignity in order to fly. But it isn't. If you deny the scanner or something shows up blurry in your image or someone's just in the right/wrong kind of mood. Well...

Meet the "enhanced pat-down." This is like your hardcore, x-rated version of a normal security body check (and everyone over the age of 13 is eligible). We're talking palms and fingers lifting and separating breasts, feeling on and around them. It means someone's going to grope your ass, run their hand and fingers over your crotch and maybe even slide their hands into waistband of your pants or skirt. (Guys, simply put, your junk is going to get handled.) According to regulations this pat-down is supposed to be performed by a member of the same sex, but with this policy in effect for less than a month there are already plenty of reports to the contrary online (and you don't have to look too hard to find them either. Actually, just type TSA into Google's news search, and you'll get stories galore of airport security groping high jinks. People are rightly up in arms.).

I don't know about you but if anyone other than my husband did any of those things to me, charges would be filed. Immediately. Regardless of the gender of the perp. In every other facet of daily life these actions would be considered an illegal, sexual violation - except it seems in air travel, where it is government sanctioned. Give me a fucking break. I will not have a side of sexual assault with my $700 plane ticket. That is too much to ask. It's no longer worth it.

Sorry guys, the terrorists have won.

(Especially since there's no evidence that this crazy-ass security theatre business actually catches bad guys, all the recent terrorists have been caught in other ways, by other departments.)

Now, here's the thing. The scary, scary thing. And the reason I decided to blog about this and spread the word and remind people that sometimes we have to put our collective foot down and say, "No, you have gone too far."  I still have to travel for work. There will come a time where I can't opt-out of a trip. There will come a time where I might have to make the choice above, or maybe I'll be one of those folks who doesn't get to make one. Whatever the case, it is not a day I look forward to, nor one I should have to face.

If we don't have ownership and dominion over our bodies. We have nothing.

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Blogger's Block

I don't know when I stopped blogging steadily. I could look it up, but I think it was around 2004, when I started to write for a living and got serious with my boyfriend (now husband). I'd started working at Rue Morgue, which you might assume would give me more to blog about, but - as a life blogger - it actually gave me much less. To wit, today I polished off a sidebar to a cover story (which I can't yet talk about) and stayed late to prep for my cover story interview (which I can't name) tomorrow morning.

I also started to worry about the much-dreaded sin of name-dropping, even though between Rue Morgue and Burning Effigy my entire life seemed to have horror locked squarely in its trajectory, so it was not really any surprise that I made a few friends in the biz along the way. The fact that it made me feel weird that I felt weird about mentioning them was just too weird to try to wrap my head around. Providing yet another dichotomy for the life blogger I once was.

Then came the third. A partner who doesn't use the internet to socialize (i.e. has a Facebook page because everyone else does, but only logs in sporadically, or when he can't reach someone by phone). It went without saying that I would not bring his life (nor the inner workings of our relationship) into the public spotlight, as that's not the life we chose to lead.

And lastly, I found myself working a job where I was getting the opportunity to develop my craft as a writer - and I was getting to write about the genre I loved, to boot. And if I was writing about it there, there was just no point in writing about it here.

So, simply put, I ran out of stuff to talk about.

As I'm sitting here writing this, I'm wondering if I'm crazy to think that this latest stab at blogging is even remotely a good idea.

I guess some conversations are made to be awkward. And we'll find out.


(cross-posted from DeathOfCool.org)

Time Management in a Time of No Time

It occurs to me that August is perhaps the worst month possible for me to have chosen to launch a writing blog. Why? Because I'm so busy with writing/editing related projects (namely, the Rue Morgue Halloween issue and Burning Effigy fall production) at this time of year that keeping a blog could be seen as willful masochism. But then again, this is the stuff that real life is made of. Making time where there is none. Balancing that which seemingly can not be balanced.

On the novel front things have slowed down a tad, but I have used this hectic time to work on developing my main character's back story - particularly those things that happened to him in the two years before the novel takes place. Some of this stuff will be reflected back on in the book, but a lot of it is just to help me make him a realistic character with realistic motivations. I find it interesting that I actually use a lot of the character development tricks I learned when I was studying theatre to flesh out people for the page. Thing is, once you know some things about your character's life, it is easier to know how he/she would possibly react to certain situations later and why. Simply put, "Why?" is always the most important question for me. Because if the "why" isn't believable, why would anything else be?

As far as Burning Effigy stuff goes, I'm deep in editing mode. Fall announcements begin next week, with the Call for Submissions for the second FRESH BLOOD anthology going out shortly thereafter. I'm so behind on my slush pile readings, the thing is in danger of toppling and burying me. I suspect this weekend I'm going to divide everything up into two piles (solicited and unsolicited) then get a couple of our awesome pre-readers to do a bit of story screening for me. I'd love to read everything myself, but I'm only one person, one person with a day job and a novel on the go and multiple novellas to edit and layout for publication. What was that I was saying about willful masochism?

Lastly, earlier this week I got tapped for a really freakin' cool project. It's something I've wanted to do for a while now and would allow me to scratch yet another goal off my lifetime to-do list. I can't really talk about it yet, but to say I'm excited would be a serious understatement. It's nice when you know the direction you want to go in and the universe unexpectedly provides the opportunities to allow that to happen.

I'm also writing the November cover story for Rue Morgue and the Dec/Jan cover story for Access magazine.

To quote the REM song, "I don't sleep I dream."

All the public entries on this LJ prior to this one are now "friends only." Soon this blog will be something else.  Why? Because I'm someone else. Not in body obviously, but in spirit and soul.

It would be a huge lie to say that the reasons I began this blog way back in 2000 still hold true, because they don't. I was once a very public person, fascinated with the idea of sharing a life lived. Then I grew older, learned some valuable (and occasionally painful) lessons and generally moved beyond that whole concept. As a result - even despite having a permanent account - my updates here waned, until they numbered only a few a year. My LJ became a ghost town, a monument to the twentysomething I once was - but no more, change is in the air.

Change that comes after two years of serious soul-searching. Change that feels right in every cell of my body, in the very essence of my being. Change that will hopefully take me somewhere new while also leading me full circle back to my creative self.

Change, as a result of asking myself over and over again: WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

I know I already am many things and those things make me plenty happy: wife, founder of a small press, horror journalist, writer/editor, poet, occasional spoken word performer, etc., etc.  But the time came to grow once more. WHO DO I WANT TO BE FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?

So I pondered and explored; I went to conventions and sat in on every panel I could. See, I already knew part of the answer. I wanted to write a novel. As of matter fact, most of those who know me could tell you that I've been talking about working on some novel or another for years - an effort that in the end always proved futile, at least until now. Sometimes it seemed to be because of time (working at the mag and running a press can be life-consuming, never mind the hours needed to keep a marriage happy, and the occasional personal decompression day), but that wasn't the real reason behind all the starts and stops. Not really, not at its core. It was something else entirely, in fact. The truth of the matter is that something was missing motivation-wise, and I was determined to figure out what that mysterious something was. And in the end I did.

You see, I always thought I wanted to write scary stories for grown-ups. But what I discovered during all this soul-searching was that really I didn't. I mean, I probably should have figured it out a lot sooner, especially considering every novel I'd ever started featured a protagonist under the age of twenty. But what can I say, I can be dense sometimes.

But when it came down it, everything pointed to a market that until two years ago I had barely thought about: young adult fiction. I mean, I read it,  and it could probably be said that I'm pretty much Rue Morgue's YA horror expert, but I never considered it a direction for my own writing - that is until I really thought about it. Then it clicked. Really clicked.  But that was just the beginning. I mean, I had to be sure. So for the past 16-24 months I have read every YA genre book I could get my hands on. And the more I read, the more I knew these were the kind of stories I wanted to tell: coming-of-age tales, with monsters.

Finally, three months ago, I stopped researching and started writing. And along the way I changed virtually everything about my creation process - I evaluated each of my prior failures to see where the failure was rooted, and then took action against it. I was determined to learn from my mistakes.

And short of mentioning my progress occasionally in Facebook and Twitter status updates, and conferring with my beta reader, I kept all the writing and scheming on the down-low. I didn't want to tell too many people in case it didn't stick - I didn't want to become that person who always talked about writing a novel, but never actually completed one. So I gave myself a goal, one I would have to meet before I could start talking publicly about the project, and I met it, just this week.

In fact, it was the meeting of this goal that inspired me to completely overhaul and relaunch this journal. As I said earlier, I don't really have any interest in blogging about the mundane in-and-outs of my daily life anymore, I don't need to. But I do want one to talk about writing, to talk about the challenges of going from editor/horror journalist/poet to novelist, to muse about my creative journey and all the discoveries I've made about myself along the way.

So that's what this is now: my new writing blog - a place where I can share the process and hurdles, the adventure and the dream. Because everyone needs a dream. And of course, the truth of the matter is that dreaming is the easy part. Chasing the dream, and seeing it through to fruition, is not. This is the story of my dream, and I invite you along for the ride. 

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Monica S. Kuebler
Death of Cool

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