Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Do dog breeders actually LIKE dogs?

I've been around pedigree dogs for nineteen years and I've been to my fair share of dog shows and I have to ask - do dog breeders actually like dogs? Every pedigree dog we have owned has suffered from in breeding. They have been crippled by arthritis, hyper sensitivity, ulcers, weak stomachs, poor immune systems, dislocating patellas, prone to infection and died young. Our non pure bred dogs have been marked by their good health in comparison. I love pedigree dogs. I've lived under the illusion that the Kennel Club works to improve the health of breeds throughout the country, but looking at pure bred dog breeds today you have to wonder. I know from my experience of showing that the dogs were, on the whole, wheeled into the show venue in crates, taken out only to be groomed within an inch of their lives and taken into the show ring. Many of them were shy, frightened individuals that may have looked pretty but were a far cry from the working dog they were originally bred for. How many champion pooches today would be able to hold up if they were taken out into the field they were originally intended for? Would Bulldogs be able to bull bait and Basset Hounds be able to hunt? I don't think so.

Take the German Shepherd Dog for example. One of my favourite breeds. The first photograph is an example of the type of dog seen in the show ring. Note the deeply sloping back and the elongated weak looking hind legs. The second picture is slightly more robust, with more balanced front and hind quarters and is an example of the so called 'working GSD' that many breeders are trying to produce to save the breed from crippling extinction. I have a GSD so I know first hand what problems these dogs can suffer from - hip dysplasia, early onset arthritis, skin problems, ear problems, self mutilation, stomach problems, twisted bowel... the list goes on and on. I can understand the desire to produce dogs with large shoulders and tiny hips - it gives them an attractive silhouette - but the increasingly narrow hips and wobbly legs that are winning rosettes in the show ring are ruining what should be a robust, intelligent, sensitive, loving dog. When is function over appearance going to be applauded? When will dogs that are dogs - strong, healthy and good tempered - be rewarded over the in bred?

Then there is the Basset Hound. The top picture shows the Basset Hound of today - its heavily folded skin and long ears highly prized by judges. How different this once active hunting dog is from his ancestors of 60 years ago, pictured below getting ready for a hare hunt. Modern Basset Hounds often trip over their own ears and are plagued by skin infections due to their many folds. Who first thought that this type of dog was attractive? I much prefer the lean, muscular healthy lines of the former model to the modern version. Not that I think this dog is ugly, he is a cute creature, but when I look at dogs like the Basset, the Daschund or the Peke I can't help but wonder have people gone too far? When a dog has been bred to such a state that it impairs its ability to be a dog, then things have gone too far. Take the English Bulldog for example. Apparently it can no longer mate without human assistance nor give birth naturally. It makes you wonder.

The Pug is undeniably cute, and has been around for a very long time, but apparently in the quest for an even flatter face modern Pugs are suffering the consequences. Breathing problems as well as difficulties with their eyes, dislocating patellas and a host of other problems bring them close to equalling the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - arguably the unhealthiest dog breed in existence - in the list of genetic faults they can suffer from. Despite - or because - of being so popular, the Cavalier is beset with one congenital disease after another. They are a beautiful dog, both in appearance and temperament, but are so unhealthy that practically all of them will be victim to one genetic disease or another. It is a horrible thing to hold a puppy in your arms and know what is going to kill it.

With adherence to human whims dominating over an animal's health and happiness, and the very body which is supposed to protect the breeds encouraging deformity and in breeding, it is hard to see how there is a way out of this mess. Personally I think breeds like the Cavalier have no hope unless new blood is introduced to them, crossing them back to the spaniels and pugs they originated from. Whether this will happen or not, I don't know. Perhaps cloning of champion stud dogs will become common practice to further lessen pedigree dogs chance of survival.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another one hits the mark!

Good news from the wonderful people at Pen Pricks, the home of micro fiction. They have accepted my fantasy tale 'Sunday Afternoon' for publication in their October issue. Yay!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Voting at Invisible Ink is now possible

You can now vote for my story 'All in the family' at the Invisible Ink website. You will have to register an account with them to vote or leave comments, but don't worry, it is free and you don't have to sign up for anything. It is just to make sure you are a real person and not a robot (or so they say).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Review of the Dark Knight

What doesn't kill you makes you stranger. So says the Joker in Christopher Nolan's second installment of the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight. Following on closely from the first film - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight sees Gotham City besieged by a new villain. A psychopath who wears make up and a purple suit, known only as the Joker. We are also introduced to the White Knight of Gotham - District Attorney Harvey Dent. What follows is two and a half hours of dark action that pushes the comic book movie genre to its limits. The theme of this movie is choice, and the consequence of the choices we make. It runs from the self proclaimed agent of chaos, the Joker, to rule abiding Batman (albeit his own rules) and Harvey Dent. It shows us how the consequences of your actions can be difficult to live with and will, for some, break you. This is a film with flaws. It is not the best movie of all time, possibly not even of the summer, but it is the first movie in a long time that I enjoyed from beginning to end and left the cinema feeling thoroughly satisfied. It had a STORY, pitch perfect performances from the ENTIRE CAST, not just Heath Ledger (although hats off to Heath and Mr Nolan for making my least favourite Bat-verse character incredibly watchable) great action sequences and a gritty, realistic tone (as much as is possible in a movie that centers on a millionaire who dresses up as a bat and fights crime on the mean streets of his city). Will this movie stand the test of time? I don't know, that will remain to be seen, but forget about the hyperbole, ignore the nay-sayers and go see it. I highly recommend it. 5/5.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This one is for Firefly fans

For all you Browncoats out there, there is a new installment of the Serenity comic over at Dark Horse comics myspace page. It is incredibly awesome. Read it here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Quotes of the week

"You have to learn to walk before you can fall"
as said by a logger on Channel 4's new series 'Dangerous Jobs for Girls'


"The story...will strike a chord with anyone with a father"
as posted in a review of a film on imdb.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things that shock people

I have learned from experience that you shock people when...
1. You wear purple eye shadow and a red top. I almost sent a make up woman on a film set into cardiac arrest once when I turned up with purple eye shadow and a red top. Ready for my close up? She thought not.
2. You tell people that you don't drink alcohol. I don't know what the experience of other non drinkers out there has been, but anytime I've told someone I don't drink alcohol they seem to take it as either a personal insult to their way of life or a challenge to make me drink before the night is through - or both. The look on their faces is almost akin to telling them I eat human flesh with fava beans for breakfast (minus the nice Chianti of course).
3. You pick the vegetarian choice on a menu. Ok, I'm not vegetarian but both knowing them and being mistaken for them has led me to realise that admitting to being one in public is almost as bad as saying you don't drink alcohol. Invariably when someone confesses to being vegetarian the meat heads in company will list all the animals they have eaten and how delicious they were.
4. You tell people you write horror fiction. Ok, maybe this one only applies to me. I've been called a dark horse when I told one person what I did. I'm not sure what horror writers look like, but maybe the goth look would be what people expect.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cool Contest Challenge

Here is the link to my winning entry in the Cool Stuff 4 Writers July cool contest challenge - FIRST SWIM. I got chills when I logged onto their site this morning and saw my name on the homepage. By chills I mean pleasant tingles of excitement. Chills are good. Remember folks, before you run off to read my winning story, the brief for the contest was to write a beach scene using purple prose. If you think the writing is bad, it is supposed to be. So bad it's good, yeah baby! While you're over there at Cool Stuff 4 Writers, have a look around. You'll be sure to find something of interest.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cool news

Cave canem. Carpe diem. Caveat emptor. In vino veritas. Veni vidi visa.
Yes dear reader, I have been forced to eat my words - but oh, what a sweet taste they have! While I haven't woken up spouting Latin and looking like Shakira, I have won a competition that I thought was a sure fire rejection! I got great news this evening from the lovely Sandy at Coolstuff4writers that my submission to the July cool contest challenge has been selected as the winner! I'll have the link to my winning entry on the blog in a few days.
Coolstuff4writers is a wonderful resource for writers providing informative articles on all disciplines of writing and publication, an announcement board for news, interviews, incredibly cool stuff to buy to liven up your office and of course the monthly cool contest challenge, which has a $25 prize. The people at coolstuff4writers are really friendly and nice and the site is a fund of information so I can't urge you enough to drop by and look around. You will be amazed at what you find there. I would especially recommend the Book Dr's advice and the past winning entries of the cool contest challenge. I find the first a great resource and the second a valuable way to waste away five minutes when your brain needs a break.
August is turning out of be a good month for my writing with stories appearing in Alienskin magazine, Invisible Ink anthology 2, coolstuff4writes, Tiny lights and hopefully Afflicted hitting the shelves.

And here are some Latin phrases I learned today that I particularly like:-
1. cave laborem "beware of work" - my new motto
2. caveat lector "let the reader beware" - what I am going to print on the front cover of my books
3. cave nil vino "beware of running out of wine" - this one's for you Valpot
4. carpe noctem "seize the night" - who wants the day anyway?

and last, but not least...

5. cacoethes scribendi "bad habit of writing" - apparently means an insatiable urge to write. I like, I like (don't even think of asking me to pronounce it).

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Dublin Horse Show

Went to the RDS today with Hoofpot to watch the Nation's Cup or, as it is more commonly known in Ireland, The Aga Khan. Eight different nations, four riders per team and two rounds of some of the best show jumping around. The weather in Dublin was lovely, for a change, and the going was good in the main arena in the RDS (can't say the same for Ring 1 where the showing classes were held, it was a quagmire). The course was nice and hard and there were only 2 clear rounds in the first leg of the competition. Even Germany, who were favourites and have won the Aga Khan the last two years (you get to keep the trophy if you win three years in a row. So far only 3 nations have done that - Ireland, GB and I can't remember the third) managed to accrue 21 points in their three best rounds. They pulled it together in the second round and had four time penalties, which left them with a total of 24 points and got them third position. Team GB had a fantastic first round with 7 combined points and went on to have an equally good second round to take first. Despite having Eddie Macken, Cian O'Connor, Jessica Kurten and Olympic hopeful Denis Lynch, we failed to live up to early promise and came second. Better than the last few years when we were third. I long for the return of the days when we won all the time.
Funnily enough, even though the jumping was exciting, I didn't enjoy the RDS this year. I've only missed going to the Horse Show once in the last ten years, and I've always enjoyed it but not this year. Maybe it was because I was feeling tired, or low or just because I seem to be sucking the joy out of everything recently. I don't know, it was a shame and I think I ruined Hoofpot's day too. Sorry Hoofpot. It was interesting watching my fellow spectators though. Like one woman who stood up and blew kisses at Eddie Macken or the face of another woman who found someone sitting in her seat. Licking lemons doesn't come close to how sour her mouth looked.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Afflicted up date

Afflicted has arrived! Well, the proof copy has anyway, as pictured here with my goth self. It is very cute and I'm really pleased with the quality of the colours on the cover. Sometimes when you see it printed it isn't as pretty as on the computer screen. I am also very happy with lulu because I ordered it on Friday, it shipped on Saturday and it arrived today. I call that SPEEDY. I have to read through it, make sure there aren't any mistakes and approve it for distribution and then it will be on sale BABY! Get your credit cards ready, people, Afflicted will soon be unleashed upon the world.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


You know what I hate? You know what really gets under my skin? Publications that couldn't be bothered to reply to your submission and let you know you've been rejected. I know they usually give you a date that you should query by, but what is the point in querying when the issue you were submitting for has already been published and your work is not in it? How would you word that email. 'Er, hi, I was just wondering if you rejected me because I didn't see my story in the issue I submitted for?' I don't think so. I would think there was something wrong with my email but I get family emails no problem and the other rejections seem to get through just fine. My acceptance ratio on Duotrope has gone down to 22%. Apparently that is still higher than average for users on the site. My mind boggles at what is average! I hope that for some of the submissions I have labeled as rejected I have been too hasty and one day the acceptance email will arrive in my inbox. It might be the same day that I wake up a size 8 and know how to speak fluent Latin, but hey, anything is possible - right?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Winter is coming

I was struck with the fact that summer is on the wane and autumn is upon us once again when I noticed that it is no longer bright at 4am. I'm sure it has been a gradual decline in brightness but it seems like only yesterday the birds where welcoming in the dawn at 4am and now they are still silent at 5am. The year is winding down again. Winter is approaching. I feel sad.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Where does your Bogeyman live?

I got into a discussion with Hoofpot and Valpot today about the Bogeyman in our house and where he lives. For me, since childhood, he has dwelt at the end of the upstairs landing. The way our house is set up is that at the top of the stairs there are bedrooms to the right (the extension), a small area with a window to the left which leads onto a corridor with more bedrooms and at the end of the corridor is the bathroom. Outside the bathroom is a light. At night, when it is dark, the light in the corridor reaches to the small area with the window at the top of the stairs. This area is always in shadow, leading into darkness. For me, this is where my Bogeyman hides, on the edge of the shadow, waiting for you to enter the corridor on the way to the bathroom. He is tall, wears a suit and has a face without any features. He carries with him an aura of menace and is undeniably, utterly and totally evil. He has also hunted me in my dreams and even now, as an adult, I still run past the stairs at night knowing he is waiting above (I now sleep downstairs). Valpot knows this Bogeyman well, although she has never seen his featureless face as his face is always in shadow. However, I suspect he is the same Bogeyman. Hoofpot didn't join in on the conversation, as she felt it was unwise to discuss things that scare you late at night, before bedtime. She was right, because Valpot and I succeeded in scaring each other so much we didn't want to leave the kitchen.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Writing Up Date

I have two pieces of good news to blog about today. First off, Alienskin Magazine. It has been years in the making, it was my first accepted work and first paid fiction sale and finally it is here, online, for all to read. It even has a really cool graphic to go with it and everything. I am so excited I could jump write (heehee) out of my skin. And to make it even better, it is in the anniversary edition of Alienskin Magazine. All those years ago when I first found it on the net - when it was still a monthly publication - and I dreamed of having a story in it, I never thought I would actually be in the anniversary edition no less. Go check it out now, be horrified and then come back and tell me what you think. It will only be online for two months, so snap it up while you still can. Click on the links above or here to access my story. My second piece of good news is that Invisible Ink Anthology 2 is finally for sale! Yes, dear readers this month you have not one but TWO of my stories to delight and entertain you. Pop on over to Baineth publishers and order your copy of the anthology now, read it when it arrives and then VOTE FOR MY STORY. There is a possible £1,000 prize and publishing deal in it for me if my story wins first prize as voted by you, dear readers, so help me get to that magic first place. Love and light, the Inkpot.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Scraping across the finish line - or not

I'm still smarting from missing Dr Doom's deadline for the Alienskin Magazine Demon Toys flash fiction competition. After four months of having it in my calendar I sat down on July 31st - EST clocks open on my desktop - and started to write my story. Half way through I realised that the deadline was midnight EST July 30th, not 31st. For my regular readers, you might remember my post a few months ago about not leaving things to the last minute anymore. Well, I guess things haven't changed as I left three story entries to the last minute - two I managed to submit on time, the third I missed by a day (Demon Toys). I've started August off on a good note, however, and submitted a story well ahead of its August 15th deadline. May this forward thinking continue.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Things to look out for in August

1. My story 'Who's for dinner?' published in the August/September edition of Alienskin Magazine
2. The things I have learned from rejection in Tiny Lights: Searchlights and Signal Flares
3. Valinora Troy's story 'Last' in Apollo's Lyre
4. Hopefully The Invisible Ink Anthology 2
5. Possibly the launch of International Day of Books titles 'Afflicted' and 'The Other Side of the Mirror'