Dogs, music

Been a while since I posted here, to say the least. Sort of dropped out of social media – been busy, and I didn't have much of interest to say, anyway. I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf and at least post on a semi regular basis, though.

One thing that happened was we almost lost Lou. (The real dog, not the character.) He's getting on in years, somewhere the wrong side of fifteen, but he's been healthy as a horse and pretty much the same as ever – chasing squirrels, barking for treats, maybe a bit slower, but then again, so am I.

But one day he stopped eating. Completely. Not a speck, not a morsel. Nothing would tempt him – he barely drank water. After a couple of weeks, he'd occasionally eat about a tablespoon of chicken, if coaxed by hand. He went from 12 lbs to 9 in a matter of weeks – 25% of body weight. He was weakening by the day, and starting to have trouble getting up or going up stairs. It was getting close to decision time.

Vet finally came up with a diagnosis. Pancreatitis. I hadn't know dogs suffered from that. An acute attack usually kills; the chronic version they can survive. The trick is to keep them alive until the inflammation subsides.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, he had one paw out that cold and dreary door when he started to slowly improve. First, an occasional snack, then, an occasional interest in a treat, then actually eating a small dinner.

Finally, eating again, rudely demanding treats on walks, scampering around like the Lou of old. He's still way too thin, maybe a bit over 10 ½ lbs, but he's back.

So he wasn't quite ready to leave. Which is good, because I wasn't quite ready to see him go.

On the music front, my band the Procrastinistas is playing a gig Saturday night at our favorite venue, the Hotel Utah Saloon here in SF. And we have back-up singers. Should be a lot of fun.

Here's a tune with the back-ups -- they're something, live.



Back In San Francisco

Been back in SF for a while. It seems like I never left; I've fallen into the same routine of writing, music practice, dog walking, and occasionally even socializing.

And when I was in Utah, it was like I'd never left there either. I don't think I'm particularly adaptable. It's just that I've spent so much of my life in both places it's like they're some weird extension of each other, even though the two places are nothing alike, nor are the things I do in each.

My new MG effort is going well – I think. It's unlike anything I've written before, so one of these days I'll have to show it to someone and get some objective feedback. I don't often do that, but I'd hate to write the entire thing only to  have people ask "What the hell were you thinking?"

A couple of new songs in the works as well – they're not bad, but they don't have  that instant hook that tells me I have something really good, either. We'll see if they stick.


Back In Utah Again

I've been been in Utah for the last few weeks. Every summer I come back for a month or three for work and various other reasons. I don't ever get much writing done here -- way too busy.

The weather is always the first thing I need to get used to. Where SF has been swinging wildly between 68 - 72 degrees for most of the summer, where I am now keeps a nice constant mid to upper nineties. After the original shock I grow to quite like it. The days are a bit much, but it's nice to stroll about after dark with nothing but a tee shirt. Not advisable in the Bay Area.

It's an easy place to live -- every doctor and dentist has a free parking lot in front of the business. Rush hour is busy, not insane. People are friendly, and it actually possible to buy a house without winning the lottery.

Diversity, however, which is the hallmark of SF is here hard to find. Actually, that's changing, but slowly. It used to be 99% white, at least where I live, but now there are at least a few people of color showing up.  Utahns are taking the change with a shrug -- it's a very conservative state, but also quite tolerent and fair minded in my experience.

As in many red states, they've instituted Voter ID laws -- driver's license, state ID, that whole thing.

Except, unlike some other states, they seem to want people to vote. So in addition to the standard IDs, the following are also acceptable:

TWO forms of identification that bear the name of the voter and provide evidence that the voter resides in the voting precinct, which may include:

A current utility bill or copy thereof dated within 90 days before the election;
A bank or other financial account statement, or legible copy thereof;
A certified birth certificate;
A valid Social Security card;
A check issued by the state or federal government or legible copy thereof;
A paycheck from the voter’s employer, or legible copy thereof
A currently valid Utah hunting or fishing license;
A currently valid U.S. military ID card;
Certified naturalization documents (NOT a green card);
A certified copy of court records showing the voter’s adoption or name change;
A Bureau of Indian Affairs card;
A tribal treaty card;
A valid Medicaid or Medicare or Electronic Benefits Transfer card;
A currently valid ID card issued by a local government within the state;
A currently valid ID card issued by an employer;
A currently valid ID card issued by a college, university, technical school or professional school within the state; or
A current Utah vehicle registration.

Pretty reasonable, I'd say.

Music Stuff

So last month my band played a gig, and I've been trying to forget it ever since.

There was a good Saturday night crowd, crowd, everybody was pumped to see us play, and we were tight from the very first song. But then things went horribly wrong.

There was a temp sound guy at the club, filling in for the regular guy who was off that night working a concert. Things seemed fine until the second song, when feedback started building, eventually drowning out the band. The sound guy couldn't figure out what was causing it, so we stood there for five minutes while he fiddled around with the sound board.. When we started again, the feedback was gone, but the mix now sounded like we were playing underwater. I couldn't even distinguish what notes the bass playing, but his sound dominated, drowning out the other guitar.

Next song, where I sing backup vocals, I found my mike had been cut off. I tried to get the attention of the sound guy, but he was busy chatting with a friend, back to the stage. Finally, someone in the audience saw what was going on and got his attention and he turned it back on, but way too late.

We never recovered. Worst stage experience I ever had, and I felt really bad for the people who had paid good money to hear the band.

Anyway, here's a rough mix of one of my songs we recorded the week after. Simple, but I like it. I'm the second guitar coming in and the harmonies. And of course, still needs to be mixed properly and tweaked a bit, but you get the idea.

Everybody Wants To Be In Love

PS -- Working on a new MG book, a more traditional adventure/fantasy

Upcoming Gig

My band is playing a gig this Saturday night at Hotel Utah in San Francisco. One of my favorite venues, lots of energy and good vibes. We're expecting a good crowd.

For playing live, an enthusiastic crowd is essential to a good set. Writing, of course, is a very solitary pursuit, but with music, the interaction with people is a huge part of it. It's pretty hard to summon up enthusiasm if you're playing in front of five or six uninterested people. (And anyone who plays out has experienced that particular horror during their career, believe me.)

We're debuting a bunch of new songs, then going into the studio the next week to lay down the roughs for our new CD. If anything listenable comes out of the session. I'll post it here.

Meanwhile, I've started on a new MG book -- an adventure fantasy. Every new book I write, I remember a basic truth that I seem to forget between books -- writing is hard.

Book Review

I've taken a break from writing lately, and as a result, have finally had some time for reading. I came across Garth Nix's new YA book, A Confusion of Princes.  (Didn't much care for the title, I must say.)

Now, Garth Nix is one of my favorite writers in the YA and MG field. I've liked everything I've read of his – in fact, his book Sabriel is an all time favorite, brilliant on many different levels.

He's always been known as a fantasy writer, so when I saw he was trying his hand at science fiction, I had to take a look.

Result? A lovely book, lots of fun, with his usual strong characterizations and plot. A tale of an immense empire so far in the future that earth is barely a legend and a memory. Where humans are very different – and yet, of course, very much the same. Lots of action and adventure, yet subtle in many ways.

But what's really neat is that it's the kind of book you hardly ever see any more. When I was young, I loved Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton with their grand sweep and epic adventures. People call it space opera now, which has a slightly pejorative ring, but they sure were a lot of fun to read.

The book took me back to a different age – it's retro, in a way, but also very modern. The influence of Heinlein especially is obvious – and if you might think it's perhaps unintended, note the dedication in the front of the book.

But it's not a copy of Heinlein. Not in any sense – it'd a tip of the hat to the way books were once written. Hard to pull off, but done so smoothly that it never feels forced or phony.

Anyway, a lot of fun and like all of Nix's books, worth the read.


More Dog Stuff

My gf just had some new cabinets installed in her kitchen, and the old ones fixed up so that shelves no longer rest on coffee cans.

The dogs are fine with workmen, but only if she or I are actually in the house. Ruby, being quite protective, tends to cause trouble if there's a stranger in the house when we're not there.

But my gf had to go out. So she put the dogs in the bedroom, where they'd be out of the way. The workman was leaving shortly anyway, and I was supposed to show up shortly after that to take them for their afternoon walk.

So everything worked out fine. Except for one thing. It turns out Ruby can open doors.

Now, I've seen her try before, watching the doorknob move from the other side of the door. And yes, she's got out of a room a couple of times before, but we always assumed that we'd forgot to firmly latch the door – it is an older house, and everything is a bit creaky.

But this time, there was no doubt. The workman had already left, but when I got there, I could see dog faces in the front window, which I thought odd. But I assumed that my gf had just changed her mind for some reason. But no.

All the food from the cabinets was piled on top of the kitchen table. The kitchen table is no barrier to Ruby of course. But she ignored the crackers and dog treats and went right for the thing that is her passion in life – chocolate.

She once ate a half lb box of dark chocolate that was wrapped as a gift, in the car, at the bottom of as bag filled with other gifts, when she was left alone in the car for two minutes. An expensive lesson. And trip to the veterinary ER – chocolate is somewhat poisonous to dogs, and she 's not very big.

This time she knocked off a large tin of unsweetened baking cocoa and pried the lid off. It's bitter, of course. You'd think a dog wouldn't eat it. But for Ruby, it's CHOCOLATE. From sheer luck, I must have arrived almost immediately after, before she had a chance to eat more than a small amount of it.

So all's well that ends well. But she is a clever dog – not exactly smart, the way some dogs are smart, but clever – the kind of dog who loses a ball under a fence and immediately runs around the entire enclosure, looking for a weak point to get in.

And somehow, has figured out the secret of doorknobs

Demon Dogs

I finally finished revisions on my MG project and sent it off to my agent. At least I think it's finished. I thought it was basically done a couple of months ago, just needing some polishing and minor tweaks.

But I discovered otherwise -- and spent a solid month of writing days to get it into proper shape. Hopefully I succeeded, but we'll see what my agent thinks.

Meanwhile, here's a couple of pics of Ruby and Kaspar -- sweet dogs, lying in a dog bed. Five seconds later, DEMON DOGS.

Of course they were just playing -- I think.



Back Again

So, I abandoned posting for a while, as some may have noticed.

For a while I had nothing to say, then I got caught up in my day job, and then in doing revisions to my MG project – the one I thought was pretty good until I looked at it closely and realized it had wonderful potential, but wasn't ready for prime time, not by a long shot.

So now I'm on (hopefully) final revisions, and my agent will submit it somewhere, sometime. I have hopes for it, but you never know, do you?

Now I'm back in SF. And, I've been working on new songs – my band went back to the studio to record a few more songs, and just like writing, getting songs into proper shape always takes longer than you think. I'll post a rough mix of one or two as soon as I decide if they're worth putting out there.

Meanwhile, today and for a while, I'll be over at the sff.world forums doing a Q&A roundtable with authors Carolyn Crane and J.A. Pitts. Drop by and check it out.