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The gift that keeps on giving

Was having a meh day and stumbled across a new review for Machine of Death which made me smile  (go go Kit's Ego!):

Not that this book isn't also darkly funny...because it is. In fact, my favorite story from the entire book ("Fudge" by Kit Yonda) concerns a man looking to prove that the infernal machine can be wrong, no matter what it takes. The story ends, funnily, with a realization that the machine might sometimes be vague, might sometimes be cruel, but it's never wrong. The same can be said of this book: it might be disturbing at times, and other times it might be a little comfortable with itself, but it's never wrong.

So he got my name wrong.  I'll live.  Coming soon in mass-market paperback in a bookstore near you!  (maybe)

The one that wasn't good enough!

One of my rejected stories for Machine of Death 2.  Disappointing, but there were over 2000 entries for 30 spots so what can you do?  Being the first book was and continues to be awesome so it's all good.  be warned, this story is a little bit dark.  it was that kind of a year (no, Wrath didn't write it).  As with all the MOD stories, this is a world in which a machine takes a blood sample and tells you how you're going to die. (sorry about the fonts.  LJ is being weird)


Kit Yona

There was a roadblock up ahead. Maybe it was there for something as simpleas checking for expired inspection stickers, but that wasn't something worth chancing. My head was newly shaved and the beard was coming in nicely, but there was no point in risking it. This was a small town – hell, the two cops were probably a quarter of the entire police force – and a guy on a bicycle with a loaded pack frame on his back was going to get noticed. They hadn't seen me yet, so it was easy to duck back out of sight and loop around to another road. The rest of my ride was quiet and uneventful, as far as it could be. Sure, I jumped at every noise and ducked my head whenever I saw a person. I didn't really have an option.

I circled the roads near my sister's house five times before I felt
confident that the place wasn't staked out. That sounds all
impressive and super spy-like, but it was just common sense. It was
within my abilities to peer into parked cars and make sure nobody was
sitting inside. I'm no James Bond. Shit, four months ago I was just
an acquisitions editor for a book company in New York City. Now I'm
skulking around a town that's a little too far away from Chicago to
be considered a suburb riding a battered ten-speed trying to see if I
can continue to avoid having my brains forcibly removed from my head
for another day. Totally different skill set.

The lights were on inside and I caught glimpses of people moving around,
so I zipped up the driveway and pulled into the open garage door.
Even with Marla's Volvo wagon parked inside there was plenty of room
for me, and I slid my pack off as I dismounted. I watched the street
for a few minutes, but all was quiet. Good. Finally something going
my way.

I knew there was a key hidden under a flowerpot by the rear door, but
only the screen was closed on this warm September evening. I let
myself in and walked through the mudroom into the kitchen. My nieces
were there, sitting at the table eating mac and cheese. Both looked
up as I came in, taking a few seconds to recognize me. A grin burst
across the face of Greer, and the five year old shrieked with
excitement and bounded across the room to hug me as I squatted down.
Hanna's eyes went wide and, rising, she backed out of the kitchen
without a sound. She'd just turned ten and was old enough to
understand that these days, a visit from Uncle Marty wasn't all
sunshine and unicorns.

Greer wriggled from my embrace and began a staccato of lisp-tinged
questions, the next often interrupting the previous and in no way
allowing me to give any sort of an answer. For a few moments I
basked in the simple glow of innocent joy, drinking it in. The smile
I felt creep across my face was the first one in a long time.

Then I heard the distinctive sound of a round being chambered into a
pump-action shotgun.

“Greer! Come over here by Daddy, right now!” My brother-in-law's voice
was harsh and demanding, and my niece turned to protest. “Now,
Greer!” Tears welling in her eyes, she responded to a tone she
recognized. Daddy wasn't fucking around.

I stood up and stared at the weapon trained on my head, resisting the
urge to sigh. Moron. From this range, just take the chest shot.
“Hello, Ben. You look well.”

His knuckles whitened on the stock as he used a leg to shoo Greer behind
him. “Shouldn'ta oughta come here, Marty.”

I held my hands up, shoulder-high. “Running out of places to go,
Ben. Thought I might find some shelter with family.”

His brow furrowed. “You must be kidding. Are you really that stupid?”
His eyes flicked over his shoulder for a second. “Hanna! Get
your sister out of here!”

Greer started to say something when a pair of hands appeared from the
living room doorway and pulled her from the kitchen. I waited until
her muffled outrage fell quiet. “Can we put down the gun and talk
about this? Maybe wait for Marla to get here?”

“I'm here,” said my sister, stepping behind her husband. “Don't put
the gun down, Ben.”

He grunted. “Wasn't planning on it.”

She looked at me with sad eyes, stress causing her to hug herself like
she'd done since we were kids. “Why are you here, Martin? Don't
you know how much trouble you're in?”

I laughed, a short bitter bark. “Yeah, I'm clued in on that, what
with half the American population looking for me. I'm surprised
there's nobody in a car watching the place.”

“They gave up on the cars a while ago.” I managed half a sigh of relief
before she added, “They took over the foreclosure across the street

After a moment of silence I said, “Oh. Shit.”

She was crying now. “You idiot! How could you think they wouldn't be
waiting for you here? With what you did?” She shook her head.
“What you're going to do, I mean.”

“What? What am I going to do?” I gestured angrily. “Who do you
believe, me or some damn Machine?”

“It's never wrong, Martin.” Her voice was trembling as she leaned
against Ben. “It's never wrong.”

“You mean that it hasn't been proven wrong yet,” I snarled. “There's
always a first time. For all you know it could be me. I mean, do
you really think I'm going to . . .” I trailed off as I saw the
answer in her eyes. In a stunned whisper I asked, “Do you really
think I'm some kind of monster?”

She wiped away a tear. “All I know, Martin, is that damn near half
the country
has predictions from the Machine that say GARZAMELLASTOKE,
and you're . . you -”

“Yeah, I'm the last one. The last Garzamellastoke. You know why?” I stepped
forward and Ben poked the gun at me. “I'm the last one because they've killed
everyone else, Marla. They killed them. They took Mom and Dad to
some facility before parading them out and blowing their heads off!
Did you happen to see that? It was on every damn channel, I bet it
got great ratings!” My voice rose in volume and pitch. “Did you
watch when my neighbors dragged my wife and son out in the street and
beat them to death with bats while the police cheered them on? Did
you see Mattie go down, huh? Did you watch your nephew die, Marla?
Have you seen that one snippet where you can see Katie calling my
name right before her head gets caved in? HAVE YOU?”

Ben started to say something as she broke into sobs but I lunged forward and knocked the barrel of the gun to the side. The ensuing discharge started a ringing in my
ears that wouldn't leave for quite some time, but that didn't stop me
from driving a foot between Ben's legs. He crumpled to the floor and
as I tore the gun away Marla threw herself over him. “Don't! Don't kill him!”

I looked at her with horror. “I wouldn't! Why would you think that I would ever do such a thing?”

She glared at me and hissed, “Because when he was tested he got
GARZAMELLASTOKE, you bastard.”

The shotgun fell from my nerveless fingers, clattering on the floor. As I backed away she added, “So did the girls. So did I.” I turned and ran for the
door as she screamed, “SO DID I!”

I tore through the screen door expecting to be cut down in a hail of gunfire, but nothing happened.
Either my sister had been lying or the guys across the street had
just blown it. Didn't really care which. I grabbed my bag from the
garage and careened through another door in back, throwing myself
awkwardly over a spite fence and blundering through a succession of
back yards. Several dogs marked my passing with barking, but I was
otherwise left alone. After a while – I have no idea how long –
I found myself within view of the police station. A pair of cruisers
sat outside and as I watched two cops ran out and jumped in, tearing
out of the parking lot with sirens wailing. It would be so easy to
just walk in and surrender, to let them make my death quick and
painless. Millions of people had my extremely distinctive name as
their predicted means of death, and the rest of my family had been
brutally eliminated. Why? If the Machine was indeed infallible then
killing us served no purpose. Well, tell that to the savaged remains
of my loved ones. What the fuck did I know? I'm a goddamn book

Was a book editor. Now I'm the most wanted and hated mass murderer who hasn't killed anyone. Doesn't want to kill anyone. Won't kill anyone.

Sorry, that's a lie. I would spend several days bringing about a slow and painful demise for the sons of bitches who killed Katie and Mattie. I've read a lot of
books, learned a lot of things. Those people would discover the hate
I have in my heart for them, in the unlikely event I could ever get
back to them. They'd see the monster I'm predicted to be.

An unmarked cruiser sat alone in the parking lot, and I crept over to it. Unlocked, but no keys.
With no black and whites in sight I took what could only be
considered a stupid and desperate chance and walked in the front
door. No doubt there was a dispatcher in the building somewhere, but
for now the lobby was blissfully empty. I vaulted the counter and
found the key pegboard in a matter of seconds.

There was, comically, a box of donuts on one of the desks. I couldn't help but smile as I grabbed it on my way out.

I drove that Crown Vic for damn near eight hundred miles, which was pushing my luck to say the least. I changed plates twice at truck stops but started to get itchy as I neared Rapid City. I had no idea why I headed to South Dakota –
less people, maybe? I'd spent most of the drive lost in thought,
trying to figure out how, even if I were so inclined, I could kill
over a hundred million people. It just didn't seem feasible. Why
couldn't people see that? What kind of world had the fucking Machine
turned this place into?

Bleary-eyed, I pulled off into a town called Box Elder, which proclaimed to be home of both Elsworth Air Force Base and the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. After driving around for a bit I found a medical office building with an
absolutely enormous parking lot that looked like a good place to lay
low for a bit. I tucked myself out of the way between a old Sonata
on four flats and a Corolla that was more rust than car. I
considered the potential danger I was in for about four seconds
before falling asleep in the back seat. Thank god it was September
and not February.

I actually slept, which was a rarity. I had horrible nightmares, which was not. I woke up gasping and drenched in sweat, the accusing eyes of my wife boring into me as the Louisville Slugger – her mob was filled with baseball purists
wielding wooden bats, no aluminum for them – as the killing blow
rushed down. Sitting up, I wiped my brow and looked out into the
utter darkness of what had to be a blackout. I checked my watch and
saw I'd slept for a good fourteen hours – staying ahead of both the
law and murderous vigilantes is tiring work! The headlights of
passing cars were visible out on the road, and as I looked around I
could see twinkles further away. The outage was somewhat localized,
then, and I realized the opportunity that was in front of me. The
building was unlikely to have a live security guard and with the
power down any alarms were likely disabled. I could do with some
medical supplies, and narcotics always had trade value. This was a
chance I had to take. I grabbed a flashlight from my bag and hopped
out of the car.

Halfway across the lot I paused and reflected on what my life had become. All because of that damned Machine and the predictions it doled out. Unreal.

I took my time to confirm that there was nobody inside. It was simple to break a small pane of glass behind a large shrub and reach inside to open a window – this
place wasn't designed with security in mind. I found myself in the
outer office of a podiatrist - not what I needed. Moving out into
the hallway, I found a larger reception area. The directory was on a
wall, next to a large bulletin board, and I grimaced as I saw it was
covered with fliers offering support groups for would-be
'GARZAMELLASTOKE Victims.' I muttered an curse, shaking my head. I'm a book editor, dammit.

As I'd figured, the place was a gold mine for prescription drugs, mostly sample sized but still more than enough hillbilly heroin and such to give me a chance to make some money. Again, I paused and rued what I was being forced to do,
all because of that . . . Machine.

With a start I realized there was one of the fucking things in the office I'd been ransacking. It glinted in the beam of my flashlight, and I put down my bag of narcotics to stare at it for a moment. Aside from pictures I'd never
actually seen one before, having decided early on that I had no
interest in getting my death prediction. Neither had Katie, and . . .

I stepped closer to the thing that had, along with its brethren, ruined my life. I was relieved that any temptation I might be harboring to try the thing was
rendered moot by the power being out . . . except that it didn't seem
to have a power cord. Part of me just wanted to smash the thing into
a thousand pieces, the first salvo in a revolution against the little
evil boxes. Just hit it and keep hitting it until I didn't hurt
anymore, until I was able to close my eyes and not see my terrified
wife and son being dragged out of the house . . .

I jammed my finger in the hole on the face of the thing, instantly feeling a jab. By the time I had the tip in my mouth a slip of paper had popped out the side. I picked it up and fiddled with the flashlight so I could read it.

I . . . really. My eyebrows raised as I pursed my lips. That's how I was supposedly going to do it? A single act that woul bring about my death and killing untold millions as well? I wouldn't even know where to begin . . . well, actually, of course I did. I would have to do research. Reading books was not exactly a foreign field to me. It . . . it was preposterous but not outside the bounds of reality, and so I suppose given enough time and resources I could make it happen. If I wanted to, of course. I mean, I had no desire to be such a maniac that I'd make Hitler look like a fuzzy kitten. Despite what that fucking box said I wasn't some horrible person who could do such a thing. I sighed and closed my eyes, rubbing my brow.

Saw Katie. Saw Mattie. Saw my parents, all being brutally savaged by the ignorant who valued their own lives over those of innocents. My eyes snapped open, then turned to the slip of paper with my death prediction on it again. There was a chair a few feet away from me and I sat on it, tapping the back of the flashlight against my lower lip.

After a while I shut the light off and sat in the dark, thinking.


Words, words, words (by other people)

Read a bit this summer.  Figured I'd mention some of the consumed tomes
on the off chance that something sounds interesting to you.  Or maybe
it's something you read and you completely disagree with my assessment
and will tell me so in most forceful terms!  Maybe.

The Jersey Sting, Ted Sherman and Jay Margolin - Incredible story about
how one busted Ponzi scheme con artist became a federal informant and
snared dozens of NJ politicos.  The greed shown is stunning, as is the
stupidity.  It also highlights how incredibly corrupt a number of
religious organizations are and how they are basically just giant
money-laundering operations hiding behind the Torah.  Despicable.  It's a
fascinating read that gets a little wearying by the end as Soloman Dwek
grinds out deal after deal, but worth it.

Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher - It's Butcher.  It's going to be his usual formula of smaller problems and fights increasing in magnitude while the overhanging 'impossible situation' looms waiting.  He's never going to surprise or dazzle you with his prose, but he's a solid write and a good storyteller, and I enjoyed it for what it was.  If you're not familiar with Butcher this is like book 13 in his Harry Dresden series, which is about a wizard working in Chicago.  It is, for the most part, a good fun series.

She-Wolves: Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, Helen Castor - This grabbed me as Castor used a narrative style to let events unfold, but sadly she abandoned that approach for a more conventional one.  It was still an interesting read, but in a more textbook-ish manner.  Not something I would usually pick up to read, but I'm glad I did.

The Crippled God: Book Ten of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson - It's probably fair to say the when it comes to scope and number of characters George RR Martin can seem like an exercise in restraint when compared to Erikson and this series.  Still, it's always been worth doing some slogging to get to the better parts of the tale, and in the last volume Erikson is much better at sticking with the interesting threads and bringing the story to a sort of conclusion.  Good stuff, especially at the end, and nice to see a payoff for characters I was invested in.  he's got a gift for jumping for jumping from character to character during a battle to give it a down-in-the-trenchs feel.

The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle - This is actually a graphic novel version.  I read the actual book last year - yes I know i was late to the party.  I take the kids to the library a day or two a week and while they find books or use their computers (touchscreens!) I grab a book to read, and I found this one.  It's a good adaptation and the artwork is absolutely gorgeous.  If I get wealthy I'll spring for the hardcover, but you can see the preview here: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Unicorn-Peter-S-Beagle/dp/B005GNLZYG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314974307&sr=1-1

The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie - Abercrombie is not for the faint of heart.  His characters, for the most part, are not heroes but rather flawed people (some severely) put in difficult situations.  His language is about as blue as it gets and he pulls no punches.  He's also quite good at what he does.  This one was not quite as good as the ones from the First Law trilogy but it was still pretty damn spiffy.

The Five,  Robert McCammon - back when i was in grad school and needed something that was the literary equivalent of junk food to wash horribly dry Puritan texts from my mind, I found a dogeared paperback of Swan Song.  It was exactly what i needed and over the next few years McCammon kept supplying breaks from academics.  I'd forgotten about him until i saw The Five in the library and grabbed in on a whim.  It's a wordy mix of horror, suspense, and a whiff or two of the supernatural wrapped up in the healing power of music.  Not going to win any awards but fine to kick back with on a lazy night after the kids have gone to bed and your fridge is stocked with cold beer.

Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman - okay, I read this years ago but wanted to take another crack at it for the American Gods/Anansi Boys debate.  I still think I like AG better overall, b ut this is a good book as well (I think I like The Graveyard Book best of all.  or maybe the Sandman.  jesus they're all good).  it was the perfect book to take with me when I would bring the kids to the pool.

yeah, okay, that's enough for now, methinks.

It's Really Not the Hardest Part

So, the deadline for Machine of Death Volume 2 entries has come and gone (you sent yours in, right?  Weren't you listening to me?  Why don't you listen?)  and now comes the waiting.  That's the theory, at least, but in reality sitting around hoping I beat out approximately 1500 other entries is exactly the opposite of what I should be doing.  Whether or not I make the cut this time doesn't matter - no, wait, that's wrong, it totally matters  - but as far as making sure I keep writing on a regular schedule and keep producing, the results are inconsequential right now.

I've had limited success as a author, so my words should be taken with enough salt to de-ice your driveway in January, but being a writer is like being a shark - you have to keep moving  forward, keeping chasing your goal, and be able to forget about failures or you're going to drown.  Being published in MoD didn't keep me from immediately getting a rejection slip on the next thing I sent out, but that's okay.  That's the way this fiction thing works for those of us who aren't  Gaiman, Rothfuss, etc.  Again, that's fine.   It's okay to fail as a writer.  Over and over and over.  It's not like you're playing baseball, where you'll forever be stuck with a terrible batting average.  It's based on success.   People who requested that I sign their books didn't ask me how many times I'd been rejected before finally getting through (okay, one guy sort of did, but he was an odd duck). Submit to the right places and even if you don't get accepted,  your rejection can even come back with helpful comments or encouragement (a caveat: perhaps the most crushing rejection slip I ever got started with a single word, underlined: Almost.  Ugh).  Pay attention to what they say, because if they cared enough to comment on your work, it appealed to them in some way.  When i was thirteen I sent a story to a small magazine that was exactly what you'd expect from a thirteen-year-old.  The editor rejected it, of course, but sent the slip along with a handwritten page full of suggestions and comments on what he liked and didn't like.  That was an extraordinarily cool thing to do, and I've never forgotten it. 

So, if you did submit to MoD2, good for you.  I hope our stories are right next to each other and that you get Aaron Diaz for the illustration and I get Brandon Bolt.  In the meantime, don't sit around refreshing the site. Go play with that idea you've been toying with.   Keep submitting.  Keep honing your craft and having people help you (my first reader is invaluable and my writing, such as it is, wouldn't be half as good without her insight and critique).  Keep writing. 

Tuneless (and probably Zune-less)

So once again I request help from you, my knowledgeable friends and acquaintances.  Somehow I managed to lose my iRiver mp3 player between the garage and the house a couple of weeks ago, and it refuses to turn up.  Since I need something to cover up the sound of my wheezing and gasping while running I've been poking around but really, I'm somewhat lost.   My past few mp3 players have been iRivers, as the alpha tech in the house had a long and deep hatred of all things Apple, but I'm open to any manufacturer.  I actually found an iPod in one of my wrecks but it doesn't work.  My songs are all saved on my computer (save early, save often) and wait patiently for a new unit to be loaded into. 

Any suggestions?  I prefer simple, to be honest.  I don't have a smart phone and don't wish to go that route.  I think 8MB would be enough - I had about 2500 songs on the last one - and I would like to know if anyone knows of something good, cheap, and simple.

In an MP3 player, I mean.  Thanks in advance.

Half the Respect?

Clarence Clemons died.  Some of you might be saying 'who?'  He was best known as the saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  By all accounts a good guy, and certainly part of a beloved band (as for me on Springsteen, meh.  I know, I know, born and raised in Jersey I'm required to be a fan of both Springsteen and Bon Jovi, but other than 'Johnny 99' and 'No Retreat No Surrender' I could take or leave him.  Perhaps hearing his music NONSTOP my entire life has colored my opinion).  I heard on the radio that tomorrow NJ is going to lower flags to half-staff in his memory.


He's a musician.  The rules for whom the flag should be lowered are hazy and unclear at best, but somehow I'm thinking that lowering it for Clemons cheapens the whole thing somehow.  Actually, why shouldn't it be at half-mast every day?  Why is the passing of any vet worth any less than that of a saxophone player?   Does Clemons' passing really deserve the same kind of reverence given to a firefighter or a cop who gave his or her life trying to save someone?  If that's the case,  maybe the flag should be lowered for everyone who dies - surely each person has someone left behind who is going to suffer from the loss, whether they played on 'Tenth Avenue Freezeout" or not.

Or, maybe, I should resist blogging on days when I'm in a crabby, dark mood.  Lower my flag, so to speak.  I'm not a vet or a cop or a firefighter, so my mild objection might be somewhat misplaced as it's unlikely there will ever be a flag flown at half-mast for me. 

Oh hell, is it jealousy?


Closer to Fine

For those of you who don't know who Scott Lynch is, you're missing a very good fantasy author and should go read The Lies of Locke Lamora as soon as possible.  For those who do, you've probably been asking 'Where is Book 3 and how do we cure Scott of his Martin-itis?'

Scott, who has some issues, has emerged to explain it all in a rather open and honest post right here:  scott-lynch.livejournal.com/261555.html
He doesn't pull any punches or ride the 'wah-poor-me' train, and while I don't share the majority of his problems some parts seemed very familiar.  In fact, I may demand a runoff. 

In any case, it's (to me) fascinating reading and hopefully for him a step in recovering his life.  Oh, and also a step closer to the next book, which is GREATLY anticipated.

The Price of (a tiny little bit of) Fame

I'd mentioned before about getting a bad review and how it actually made me feel good as opposed to bad, like I'd joined a select fraternity.

Now I found another one, and this time it makes me mad.  Because the person didn't like my story?  No.  I'm irked because while she may have read it, she didn't comprehend it.  That she would say denigrating things out of ignorance is most uncool.

I'm not going to provide a link, and I'm not going to reply on her site either.  As mentioned before, that rarely goes well and I'm not interested in getting into a pissing contest with some random person because my story didn't do it for her.  But I am going to vent here and show you why. 

here's her review:
Erk. Even I can tell that the main character's going to have trouble in his relationship. Even though he's supposedly "in love"  his description of his girlfriend sounds more like an advert for a porn-bot than a person. Wow, she's blond, hot, loves to wear the naugh-tay lingerie you buy her and go shopping. I mean, yes, there are women who have those characteristics but only if you cut out lots of other interesting bits.

Okay.  I feel maybe she's dragging her own personal issues into this, just a bit.  At no point is the protagonist's girlfriend mentioned to have blond hair.  She doesn't wear 'naugh-tay' lingerie, she makes the plain pajamas he's buying for her seem like lingerie.  And there's never a mention of her having a love of shopping, but rather that the two of them were forced to go to a mall just before Christmas.  Who was this girl's fact-checker, Sarah Palin? 

I'm going to resist the urge to go refudiate her, though.  Heh.
I am not the best when it comes to making decisions.  I'll get there, but usually there's a great deal of dithering and second-guessing.  Lately I've been dealing with a doozy - what to do about Slappy.  Perhaps it would help to know what Slappy is.

Well, he's a who, not a what, although if you saw him you'd probably consider him a  what as well.  Slappy is one of my 'guard' dogs at work, 140 pounds of rottweiler/german shepherd.  He is fearsome to behold: barrel-chested, armed with a menacing bark and enormous teeth to eat you up with.  Alas, he is a big softie and thinks he's a lapdog.  This is a sweet, friendly, happy dog, possibly the best one I've ever had here.  Laura and I rescued him from a pound years ago and he's been nothing but wonderful, a big furry doofus greeting me at the gate every morning with a salvo or barks while I growl at him to be quiet.  It's a great life for dogs at the yard - an acre to run around on loaded with critters to chase, never a chain or restraint to be worn, and a Kit-made doghouse complete with insulation, sheetrocked walls, and carpeting.  A good life.

But Slappy is getting old and has some problems.  One, he's 14, which is old for a rottie and positively ancient for a junkyard dog (granted, ours are treated like housepets, but still).  He has a leg that's bad for a couple of reasons.  One, he doesn't put much weight on it - none at all when he gets up, and he favors it allt he time.  Two, it has a sore that he simply will not leave alone.  Years ago he had a growth on the paw and the vet removed it, but it's never been quite right.  (The paw was aspirated in January and no cancer found.  the vet suggested exploratory surgery in hopes of 'finding something' inside.  No promise of success and @ $4000.  Not feasible, unfortunately).  I've tried everything to keep him from licking it raw: bandages (chewed off); socks (chewed off); cone of shame (smashed against trailer until collar was destroyed); liquid bandage (licked off); bitter apple stuff (licked off, looked for more) and so on.  For now I clean the wound and change the bandage (well, replace the one he's chewed off, usually) daily.   He has problems climbing the 3 stairs into the trailer on most days (although today he went up like a shot).  His hips are possibly bothering him a bit, and he's definitely lost some weight.  I don't want to keep him alive if he's suffering, and he's clearly not the dog who used to spend the whole day chasing rabbits/cats/possums/etc.  I want him to have quality of life, and when he can't have that anymore I want to do what needs to be done.

Is it time, though?  I've had this choice before, and a good barometer has always been appetite.  I knew it was Moo's time when she stopped eating.  Slappy, however, still has a more than healthy appetite.  He attacks his dinner and eats it all.  He eagerly eats every treat given and steals whatever Awesome leaves around.  If I bring in leftovers he devours them.  He doesn't seem to be in obvious pain, or even any pain.  He's attentive, alert, affectionate, and as far as I can tell, seems pretty content.  Or is my reluctance to put down a terrific friend clouding my vision.

A good friend who knows dogs said I'll know when it's time.  Laura saw him this weekend and was concerned.  She recommended doing it and I had planned on it this week but . . . I'm dithering.  If he's not in pain, if he's eating . . .then I feel i should wait.  So I ask . . . am I wrong?
Yesterday I found the first bad review specifically aimed at my story from Machine of Death.  The person was going story by story and felt that mine, 'didn't go anywhere.'  It was given 2 out of 5 stars.  Other stories were roasted as well, with the best reviews going to stories that haven't normally been winning praise.

I'm supposed to obsess about this, right, have it grind and eat away at me until I become furious that someone would dare malign my work?  Should I, perhaps, handle it like this woman did: booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html ?  Uhm, no.  But it makes for hilarious reading and further reinforced my belief that self-publishing is best for community cookbooks the like.

Truth be told, the negative words pleased me somewhat.  Not as much as a 5-star review might have, but I've never felt more like a writer than I do right now.  Okay, that's not exactly true, the moment I received the email saying I was in the book, that was a pretty writer-y moment.  Oh, and when the check came.  And when you wonderful people made it a #1 bestseller (although that was tempered at the time by other things going on in my life, but still, it was sweet).  And when I held the copy of an actual book with my name in it in my hands.  And when I saw it on the shelves of a Barnes and Noble.  Okay, so there's lots of writer-y moments out there.  Yet this one makes me feel like part of a community, having someone slag my work just like they do to any hack.  I'm a writer, dammit!

You should be a writer too, you know.  I've mentioned they're doing another book over at machineofdeath.net and if you've ever had any dreams of being a writer, why wouldn't you give it a try?  It's free to enter, and believe me, this has been one hell of a fun ride all along and continues to be.  Signing books - fun.  Having a well-respected reviewer in the comics world look ask my name and say, "Right, Kit Yona.  You wrote 'Fudge.'  That was really good.  Very readable.  You stood out for me in that book as a writer, not just someone who managed to do enough with a good idea." - fun.  Try it.  I insist.  And if you get published, I promise not to flame you in a review.  Although if I do you can feel like Stephen King or Charlene Harris or whomever.

Oh, and it's getting high time for me to start nagging you about coming to Otherworld again this year.  It'll be one of the best weekends you will ever have, and that's no hyperbole.  Go check it out: www.otherworld.org  and we guarantee - GUARANTEE - you'll have a great time.  You can trust me - I'm a maligned author.

- Kit