Wolfgang Smith, A Good Dog and True: 2001-2016

Wolfie

Wolfie was born in a &%^$*&^ puppy mill which is why he had such extreme parrot mouth and looked like a very small, deranged wolf. He was shipped to a pet store where some idiot bought him and then returned him. Then somebody else bought him, and then they gave him to somebody else. I picked him up to take him to Dachshund Rescue as a courier and then refused to hand him over, so I was his fourth owner before he was a year old. We were together for the next fourteen years, through moves to Columbus, two moves in Cincinnati, and one move to New Jersey. He was generally an easy-going dog, aside from the occasional bouts of vamp-face snarling that tapered off as he got older. He had issues. Who doesn’t?

He was the model for Steve in Faking It, and appeared as himself with new puppy Milton in Dogs and Goddesses. I’m sure he’s now chasing squirrels in dog heaven (he always got along with cats), free of the arthritis, blindness, deafness, heart murmur, leg tumor, and other ailments that brought him down in the end.

He is survived by his foster brother, Milton, his foster sisters, Mona and Veronica, and that woman who kept feeding him.

He was a good dog and true, and he will be very much missed.

How to Make a Wedding Cake

1. Roommate announces Thursday night that she’s getting married on Saturday. Congratulate her. Accept when she asks you to be maid of honor. Try to remember what maid of honor does besides stand there. Roommate says they have found a great place to get married near Easton in Columbus. Tell roommate that’s a five-hour round trip with kids and you hope she has a nice time. Go back to work on vastly overdue book until the dawn breaks and kids leave for school. Roommate says they have found a place in Cincinnati to get married. Congratulate her and tell her you’ll be there. Go to sleep.

2. Wake up four hours later and realize that sick puppy is about to run out of special dog food and wedding is tomorrow. Better get a card. Drive to the vet’s. Wake up as you drive. Realize that putting on underwear does not constitute “dressed to leave the house” if dressed in striped sweats and a T-shirt and wearing houseslippers. Realize at twenty-one, this is cute; at sixty-one, assisted living is in near future. Park at vet’s. Continue reading

The Dogs: A Guide

Wolfie:
Wolfie was a puppy mill/pet shop dog who had four owners in his first year. I wasn’t supposed to adopt him–I’d volunteered to be a courier for Dachshund Rescue–but when I picked him up, we bonded and I refused to let him go. That was my last courier job for Dachshund Rescue. He’s getting on now, arthritis in his spine, but he’s still running around, jumping on furniture, and telling the other dogs to get off of his lawn.
Most annoying habit: Running up the stairs and then whining to be carried down.
Favorite occupation: Snuggling

Veronica:
Veronica was a very expensive English cream dachshund who was on her way to Dachshund Rescue when Kathleen stopped by to introduce me to Milton. Veronica had just been handed over to Kathleen, so she was confused to begin with, and then she ended up in this strange backyard, shaking, so I picked her up and cuddled her and that was pretty much it. She’s very high strung, and we’ve had to work with her to get to the point where she’s not terrified of everything, but we’re getting there. She used to just freeze when she was afraid, then we got her confident enough to run away, and now she stays where she is and barks. We’re hoping for serenity and acceptance in the future, but I’m not sure those are in Veronica’s skill set.
Most annoying habit: Barking at nothing on the theory that there’s probably something there, she just can’t see it yet.
Favorite occupation: Gazing at you in deep suspicion with her beautiful eyes.

Milton:
Milton is the perfect dog: confident, outgoing, energetic, easygoing, cuddly . . . the list goes on. In a long line of rescued dogs, Milton is the baseline for normal, if normal is amazing.
Most annoying habit: He has no annoying habits. He’s Milton.
Favorite occupation: Running to embrace life in particular, running the world in general

Mona:
Mona was found by the driveway gate at Dachshund Rescue in a paper bag at six weeks old. She had her breeding documents with her, so the best guess is that they dropped her off as soon as they realized she had no kneecaps in her back legs. The vet advised putting her down, but clearly the vet didn’t know Kathleen at Dachshund Rescue. She came to us tiny and cute (you should see her hoodie pictures) and we weren’t sure what would happen as she grew and gained weight, if her little stick hind legs would continue to work. Turns out, no worries. She runs like a rabbit and gives Milton a run for his money.
Most annoying habit: Chewing on things that will kill her. Caught with: Egg, crochet hook, multiple soft-plastic-handled scissors, shoes. Fave moment: I looked up and saw her trotting by carrying a light bulb in her mouth. Lani said, “I is in your house, stealin’ your ideas.” I took the bulb away. I need all the ideas I can get.
Favorite occupation: Indoors: Finding new things to chew. Outdoors: Running wildly, stopping to see what’s in the grass, running wildly again.

Random Sunday

We’ve finally decided on a name for the house: Squalor. As in:

Q: Where do you live?
A: In Squalor. It’s east of Cincinnati.

I’ve been investigating space heaters and they’ve change a lot since Mollie fell into one when she was two. (Yes, thank you, I still have nightmare flashbacks.) The one I’m using right now is the cutest oil-filled radiator with no glowing coils to maim children, but I’m thinking of trading up to an electric fireplace. Because I’m cold, that’s why.

I still have RV fever. I’ve found a great used one in upstate NY that Krissie and Richie would almost certainly drive down for me, I just don’t have any money. And besides, once I got one, I’d have to redecorate and paint and make curtains and I have this book that is so grossly overdue I have nightmares about it when I’m not having flashback nightmares about Mollie falling into the space heater. Plus some other stuff. But expect to hear more moaning about small RVs. I’s my new obsession. Sorry.

So I got the iPad. For the first couple of months I had it, I mostly played games on it and read the occasional book, and my conclusion was pretty much that it was a fun toy but not the game-changer that everybody kept saying it was. Then I started picking up my e-mail and Googling for spur-of-the-minute stuff and find new apps. And I discovered that it was much easier to read the iPad than it was my old falling-apart Georgette Heyer mysteries as I researched romantic mysteries, so I read all of them as e-books. Then I went on a road trip and realized that if I’d gone for the higher-end edition, I could have been google mapping the entire time and picking up my e-mail ANYWHERE and kicked myself for setting my sights so low. The only thing I don’t do on it now is word processing and the blogs. Everything else, the iPad is easier. It’s a game-changer, folks. I love my iPad (but I still wish they’d given it a less stupid name).

Krissie and Lani and I did a lot of brainstorming for Fairy Tale Lies while she was here, and one of the conclusions we came to is that it had to be about the romances more than the sisterhood. I’m not even sure I know how to write romances anymore, but I’m game to try. Reworking the collage now because we added extra characters (minions, mostly, using Steve Buscemi and Kristin Chenowith for extra evil), and broke the story into four acts (Into the Woods, Hello, Sailor, (Have Fun) Storming the Castle, and The Final Battle). And I changed my placeholders, so that’ll rev things up.

Krissie and I drove for twelve hours (two days) and talked the entire time and she gave me what I desperately needed which was the second book premise. I had the first, third, and fourth, but the second was a black hole since I’d looked at what I’d been going to do and realized that it was All Wrong. Krissie made the suggestion gently the night before we started the trip, and I said, “No, that’s not it.” Then she tried it again when we stopped for the night. “No, that’s not it.” Then she just mentioned it again when we were crossing into Ohio, and I said, “THAT’S IT!” And she muttered, “Three days.” No, she didn’t but she could have. Basically, Liz left home when she was seventeen before she graduated, and the second book takes place in June. “What the hell happens in June?” I said to Krissie. “It can’t be a wedding, that’s in the first book.” “Graduation?” she said. “No,” I said, “nobody in the book is old or young enough to graduate.” Next day: “Graduation?” “No, that won’t work.” Third day: “Graduation?” “Oh, wait, because Liz never graduated? That’s GENIUS.” Three days. It’s a miracle she still talks to me.

Also, I LOVE KRISSIE. I did a blog post about my great day in NYC where I effusively said that I loved many people and things, but I did not mention her because everybody knows she’s my sister and I adore her, but she made the pointed suggestion that perhaps she should have been mentioned so I LOVE KRISSIE. Waiting to hear from Lani now. “You always liked Krissie best.”

Light continues to astound. She’s getting older–she turned nine a couple of weeks ago–so she’s getting craftier, but mostly she’s just implacable. We’ve always known she’s a force of nature, raising Light consists mostly of saying no and sitting on her and she still gets away with murder, but then last week they did testing for the gifted program, and she tested gifted in all three areas. Now you have to understand, Light does not like to read. She lives for TV, sugar, and whatever small plastic things consume her thoughts at the moment (formerly Littlest Pet Shop, now Zoobles, or Zoobies, I get them confused, the little plastic aliens that hurt like hell when you step on them in your bare feet). She does not have an academic bone in her body. And yet, the little buzzsaw is in three gifted programs. I told Lani, “You realize we’re the only thing standing between the rest of the world and your daughter. And I don’t think the rest of the world is ready for her.” The good news is, her plans for the future are to have her own island and three million cats. And a maid to empty the litter box. So we have some time before she takes over the planet, but still, I’m warning you now. Light is coming. If she asks you for anything, say, “NO,” or you’ll end up naked in a barrel.

I’ve been putting together Closet Maid shelving units forever; I don’t even need to read the directions any more. I normally am not a fan of Closet Maid, but they have these fabric boxes that you slide into the square cubbies and they’re very bright and cheerful, and I can put the units on casters and we all know how I feel about Cheerful On Wheels. The best part: One of the fabric boxes has a lion’s face with an open mouth and I can put my trash bags in there and then just pull the next bag through the lion’s open mouth. Really, you have to get one of those for your trash bags. Nothing like feeling happy every time you bag the trash.

They have a green monkey, too, but I’m not sure about him. He looks shifty. And they used to have a blue elephant but he’s disappeared from Amazon. I blame the monkey.

I just bought these shoes:

Then I searched for them online because the place I bought them was out of my size, and found this blog where women were either sneering at them (“I could not take seriously any woman who wore those in public”) or copping to owning a pair. I’m wearing them to RWA in June. I mention that so that those of you who cannot take me seriously if I’m wearing them can brace yourself. Because even in bunny slippers, I’m still a pit bull, baby.

The Kit Cake

Lani sent me the step by step pictures of Sweetness’s Kit cake. She used Wilton fondant because that’s what I had, and paste food coloring I think. She should really be doing this post but Lucy March evidently doesn’t do food how-tos, unlike Argh which will do anything because we are completely undisciplined, so here’s Lucy’s “How To Make A Kit Cake” in pictures:
Continue reading

The Dogs Ate My November

Yes, I know I’ve been lax in posting. November was fraught with dogs.

It began down in SC where Bob and I were working on Wild Ride and my girl Petal turned into Mary Imogen who had a dog named Al, who I discovered in my pictures folders, one of the Chinese Cresteds I’d found in Google Images during the D&G image search. I love this dog:

Al

so I put him in Wild Ride as Al, named after:

Albert

(Check out the matching tongues.) Bob said, “That is one ugly dog,” but I thought Skylar (Al’s real name) was darling so I went back to Google Images to see where I’d found him to see if there were more pictures on that page. And it turned out that he was on a rescue page for Crest Care, the Chinese Crested Rescue group. Yes, folks, Skylar was available for adoption.

I’d explain what I did next, but you already know. My application was processed, my references were checked, and while I waited on the home visit, Bob and I finished the first two scenes in Wild Ride with Al playing a vital role, and sent the proposal off into the black hole that is publishing in November and December.

Then I moved on to Dogs and Goddesses with Lani and Krissie because we came to realize that if we didn’t get a proposal together, it would take us eight years to write the book because we always dropped it for contracted books. So for two weeks we worked on getting the scenes we’d already done into tighter shape and wrote some new ones so that we had a complete first act. Thirty thousand words of scenes, actually. That’s 120 pages. We did it by using the conferencing site, Campfire, and keeping it open all day so that we were virtually in the same room with each other. Occasionally we got a little punch drunk, but we finished that proposal at midnight on the 26th.

I did go home during that two weeks for one Sunday afternoon for Thanksgiving because my brother was cooking and he’s terrific, so we had a classic family dinner with “Please pass the rolls” and “No, not that way,” and while I was there, I happened to mention Al/Skylar, and they printed out his picture. Also in November, Kyra Kirkwood from Dog Fancy magazine called to interview me about the rescue dogs in my novels, and asked me what I was working on now, and I said, “Well, Dogs and Goddesses, and then a book called Wild Ride that has a dog in it I’m in the process of adopting.” And I sent her Al/Skylar’s picture and she loved him, too, and said, “Tell me when you get him.” And in the middle of all this, the generous woman who was supposed to do my home inspection and who had already traveled more than a thousand miles that week for Crest Care, hit a deer on her way, and those of you who are familiar with deer-meets-car accidents know how dangerous that is. She was fine, she said, but I knew from sudden impact accidents of my own that she’d feel horrible for at least a week so I knew it would be awhile longer until Skylar got to Cincinnati. I told Krissie and Lani, who were also waiting to hear about him, and we all said, “Darn,” and Lani said, “Well, send me his measurements when you get him so I can knit him a sweater,” and then we got back to work.

On Monday the 26th, we sent the D&G proposal off to the agents to read and I was settling in to Always Kiss Me Goodnight again when Crest Care e-mailed and said they were ready to re-schedule the home inspection, but that Skylar had been adopted. It was just like in the movies when the background music is playing happily and then you hear the needle scratch across the record. My first reaction was to say bad things, but these are lovely women who rescue dogs, for heaven’s sake; no beating up on good people. They told me they could show me other Chinese Cresteds after I passed the home inspection, but at that point, I was so fixated on Al that I said, “I’ll get back to you.”

So I told my parents, and Kyra at Dog Fancy, and Lani and Krissie, and then I sat on the bed and thought, “Be mature. You want a Chinese Crested, and there are other wonderful dogs out there that need a home.” And then I thought, “No, I wanted Skylar, damn it, he’s in my book.” I know. Sometimes I’m amazed at the four-year-old that is me. While I was sitting there being immature, Wolfie crawled into my lap and said, “Cookie,” or words to that effect (I’ve been writing Dogs and Goddesses a long time), and I picked up my laptop and typed in Dachshund Rescue Ohio” and found the site for the place that had given me Wolfie seven years ago. (The pet rescues are linked under PetFinder.com, so if you’re looking for a particular breed, go there and it will direct you to that breed’s rescue sites.)

And there was Milton.

Milton

So I e-mailed the rescue and sat back to work on Always Kiss Me Goodnight since it was going to be days if not weeks until I’d completed the adoption process, and five minutes later, the coordinator e-mailed me back and gave me the phone number of Kathleen, the woman who ran the rescue. I called her, ready to fill out the application, get my references checked, and wait on the home visit, but she said, “I remember you. You write. You have Wolfgang.” And then she told me about Jake and Abby,and a few of the others, discussing all of their personalities, and I said, “They all sound great, but I think Milton . . .” and she said, “I’ll bring Milton and Oscar and a couple of the others, and we’ll see which one seems right for you. How about day after tomorrow?”

Dachshunds. They’re speed demons.

Then Wednesday didn’t work–it turned out that Milton’s last people hadn’t given him his shots–but on Thursday, Kathleen brought nine dogs out, and my backyard looked like the Sprint commercial which brightened my day considerably. And in the middle of the pack was this little blonde longhaired dachshund who looked frightened, so I picked her up, and Kathleen said her name was Gorgeous, and she and another dog from the same house, Tinkerbell, had just been given up to the rescue by a woman who was dying, in fact she’d just picked them up. So I stood there patting poor trembling Gorgeous and thought, “I don’t need two dogs.” Meanwhile Milton, who is the most cheerful dachshund since the breed began, had stolen my heart. But Gorgeous had her head on my shoulder, and then Kathleen said, “We really don’t want to split up Gorgeous and Tinkerbell . . .

I know, I know. But as Lani pointed out, they’re all under ten pounds so all of them together really make one dog. And Wolfie liked them.

I just adopted three dogs.

So here’s Veronica, formerly Gorgeous, and if you’re an old movie fan you’ll know why it’s Veronica now:

Veronica

But here’s a hint if you’re not:

Veronica Lake

And then Tinkerbell, who I renamed Pink, was too independent to pose but I got her and Milton on the bed, watching the deck door, so here’s a candid:

P & M

I mean, really, which one would you have sent away? Veronica is an English Cream long-haired dachshund, Pink is a piebald dachshund, and Miltie is . . . Miltie. He’s a long-haired dachshund whose hair isn’t all that long, but it doesn’t matter because it’s Miltie. And now I’m thinking maybe Miltie is in Wild Ride. And if I ever do a sequel to Fast Women, Veronica is a shoo-in.

Which brings me to what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving: Petfinder. If you’ve been thinking about getting a pet, please go look there even if you’re sure you don’t want to adopt a rescue. Most of the breeds have puppies available, and the rescue groups have the dogs checked out by a vet and treated for anything that’s wrong, and do any basic training that the dog may have missed from being in a neglectful home. The foster parents can always describe the dog’s personality, what kind of home life he’ll do well in (alone or with other dogs, gets along well with children, quiet or needs a lot of exercise, etc.), and will do everything he or she can to make sure you’re the right fit, something you’re never going to get at Petland. And while everybody wants puppies, older dogs who are already house-broken and through the I’ll-chew-anything stage can be a much better experience for most people. All my dogs have been rescues and every one of them has been an absolute joy, even weird little Wolfie with his overbite and his issues. Especially weird little Wolfie with his overbite and his issues.

So what with Al and Wild Ride and Dogs and Goddesses and Veronica and Pink and Milton, I had a damn good November because the dogs ate it. Go cruise the PetFinder.com site and maybe it’ll happen to you, too.

Cheerful and On Wheels

So I went to DC, alone, which I do not like because I’ve gotten used to traveling with Bob “Let Me Carry That Bag For You” Mayer, although I coped because it’s only a three day trip and I have my bright new cheerful red Vera Bradley carry-on and it has wheels. I’m thinking that may be my new criteria for what I will let into my life: Cheerful and on wheels.

For example, when I got to the hotel, I had Chinese food delivered because Chinese food makes me cheerful–my potsticker obsession is well documented–and it arrives on wheels, or at least I don’t have to go get it or, god forbid, cook it. Then there’s Tivo, the greatest invention since the internet; because of Tivo I can watch My Name Is Earl (cheerful) any time I want (on wheels). And of course there’s great reading in portable paperback, like Terry Pratchett. My favorite character from Pratchett is Susan, I would very much like to be Susan, but if I’m being completely honest here, the Pratchett character I’m most like is The Luggage, described at the L-Shaped Space website as “probably the most homicidal travel accessory in the world . . . . Philosophers at Unseen University have for some years debated the point of whether the Luggage actually thinks, or whether it merely feels. The remainder of the University long ago came to the conclusion that it simply eats.” Since I began my diet on January 1, I’ve gained six pounds. I simply eat a lot.

The day of the speech, I left the hotel early so I could scope out the Smithsonian because somebody wanted a picture of the puffy shirt, and the day was so gorgeous and the architecture was so amazing that I thought, “Well, I’m loving DC,” and then right in the middle of it all, while I’m walking through this pretty little park, I look over and see an obnoxious shiny black limo surrounded by guys in black suits and sunglasses with little earpieces in their ears. Well, it’s Washington, so no big deal, but I started thinking, if I lived in DC, I’d buy a shiny black car and get my friends to wear black suits and sunglasses and put one earbud of their iPods in whenever i traveled. I have friends who would do that, no problem. Gaffney, Brooks, Ramsland, Saul, Stuart, Dreyer who would insist on being armed, and Mayer who refuses to go armed. Doesn’t like guns. Always cuts himself on knives. So I’m thinking maybe that’s what all these guys are, just some goofball and his pals playing games, and then I turn around and I’m in front of the White House. Which doesn’t mean it’s not a goofball and his pals, just that it’s probably an official goofball and his FBI pals. And you know, they have wheels but they don’t look cheerful. So I discarded any plans I had to go into government work.

The White House itself was a disappointment, small and kind of shabby. Plus I’m househunting again and I have a real eye for windows, and I’d swear those puppies were single-glazed. Maybe not, maybe they’re bullet-proof, but it looked cold in there. And I decided if they put the White House up for sale, I wouldn’t even call the realtor to inquire. Congress, on the other hand, remains impressive. Well, the building remains impressive, and wouldn’t you think the people inside would try a LITTLE harder to measure up to the architecture? And then there’s the Washington Monument. Every time I see it, I think that if it was the Clinton Monument, the jokes would never stop.

Where was I? Right, crossing the mall toward the Smithsonian which is freaking amazing, by the way. The American History museum has, besides the puffy shirt and the ruby slippers, Julia Childs’ kitchen, and I’m pretty sure Cousin Russ had eaten there. Before it was in the Smithsonian. Anyway it’s a great kitchen, no granite, no cherry wood, just warm and bright and well-used. A real kitchen. Cheerful. And evidently on wheels since it was moved to the Smithsonian. My kind of place. Then I went through the sculpture garden–they have a station from the Paris Metro there, my absolute all time favorite piece of Art Nouveau RIGHT THERE, and then a couple of yards away Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser, so I had to pause for a few minutes while my head exploded with pleasure–and then I went on to the National Gallery and let me tell you, that’s a nice little art museum the country has there.

I wandered through it without a plan which was perfect for that kind of day. The Cezanne exhibit is up–every time I think of Cezanne I think of what he said about Monet–“He is only an eye, but what an eye!”–and wonder if anybody will ever say, “That Crusie, she was only dialogue, but what dialogue!” and then I realize I’m being conceited again–and you know, Cezanne just does not do it for me. He paints like literary fiction. So I wander around in the nineteenth century because that’s my century, both as an art major and a lit major, and hit this huge painting called “The Favorite of the Emir” by Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant. And I thought, “My God, that’s Liza and Min!” Turns out I write like a nineteenth century painting. Well, here, look for yourself, although this is not a good reproduction because the colors in the original are really electric, gorgeous rich cadmium reds and golds and deep ultramarines:

I love the look on Min’s face, particularly given the title of the painting. You know exactly what she thinks of the Emir.

I stayed until the museum closed and I had such a great time just walking around discovering things, and the day was so beautiful and it make me think that maybe sitting in front of a computer screen making things up was not a cheerful, moving way to live. Of course, that’s how I pay for dog food for the herd, so I can’t give it up, and I wouldn’t want to give it up, but I thought that maybe what I needed was to lift my head up now and then and participate in the positive and portable, the things that keep me happy and moving and light on my feet. I figure this is right up there with “fluid and unpredictable,” my former mantra and one which has led my near and dear to refer to me as erratic and irritating, but hey, it’s my life.

Where was I? Right, the Smithsonian. So I went and did the program, answering the softball questions Pam Regis lobbed at me (and what a sweetheart she is) and met some lovely people, and then Kathy Seidel said, “Come on, I’ll drive you to dinner,” because I was eating with a bunch of WRW people and I love that chapter so everything was good. Except Kathy couldn’t remember the address of the restaurant. (I’m skipping over the part where she made me walk across a field in kitten heels because it would be tacky and ungrateful of me to mention it.) So for the next hour, Kathy and I crisscrossed Washington while I made wisecracks and laughed really hard and she made wisecracks and illegal U-turns that put us in mortal peril (“They’re legal in DC,” she said, “Was that a cop?”). At one point I said, “It’s all right, I’ve lived a full life,” and she said, “Oh, good, shut up,” and then I said, “It would have been nice to see my grandchildren though, assuming Mollie ever has any,” and then she said something cruel and started to turn the wrong way down a one way street, and I said, “NOT THAT WAY, NOT THAT WAY!” and then laughed until I cried. Shortly after that, I started to sing about Charlie on the Boston Transit and Kathy, of course, joined in because she is a woman after my own heart, and I have to tell you, getting lost in DC with Kathy Seidel was the most fun I’ve had since I went to Cocoa Beach and saw the clams. Dinner was great, too, we did finally get there, but driving through DC laughing with a pal is the best.

I’m telling you: Cheerful and on wheels. That’s my next tattoo.