Tracie McBride's Blog

February 18, 2015

In October 2013, we made a decision as a family to give dog fostering a go. I���ll admit that I was somewhat selfish in my reasons for wanting to foster dogs; we had been thinking about getting a companion for our Staffordshire bull terrier, Hermes, but the cost of keeping another dog plus the potential negative consequences if he failed to bond well with a friend of our choosing were holding us back. The rescue group we work with covers most of the costs (food, equipment and vet bills), and if our dog and the foster clash badly (it hasn���t happened yet, touch wood), we can always move the foster dog to another, more suitable carer. So as well as making a positive community contribution, fostering seemed like a good way to dip our toe in the waters of being a two dog household.


Sixteen months and seventeen puppies and dogs later, and we���re hooked. Every time one of our fosters gets adopted and we wave goodbye to them, it is both a wrench to our hearts and an intensely rewarding experience knowing that we���ve helped save doggy lives.


Of course, there are downsides. It can be frustrating being kept awake all night by a fretting puppy, cleaning up inside ���accidents��� or disposing of a pair of shoes that were perfectly good 15 minutes ago until a teething canine got hold of one. But the biggest downsides come from the humans. If you���re considering adopting a rescue dog and you don���t want to get the carer���s hackles up (dog metaphor deliberate), here are a few tips on what not to say.


I sent an email half an hour ago and nobody���s got back to me. Why are you so slack? Don���t you care about finding a home for these dogs?


We���re not paid 24/7 to stand by for your email. In fact, we���re not paid at all. Rescue volunteers have jobs and families and other commitments, and in between all of that we���re feeding the dogs, walking the dogs, transporting dogs to and from vets, driving on 12 hour round trips to collect death row dogs from country pounds, attending to the screeds of paperwork required by local, state and federal governments��� Besides, you might just be the twelfth applicant for this dog, and we have to respond to the other eleven before it���s your turn.


Why do they cost so much? Surely if you want to save these animals, you should be charging less, or giving them away.


Two reasons ��� one is that animal rescue is expensive. The money rescue groups collect in adoption fees doesn���t begin to cover the costs. Even although nobody is getting paid, and even although we get donations, and reduced rates from sympathetic vets, there are still food bills, vet bills, and transport costs. Collars, leads, food bowls and bedding need to be provided to foster carers. One dog alone coming down with parvovirus can cost thousands of dollars to save. When you adopt a dog from a registered rescue organization, then by law it will be desexed, vaccinated and microchipped, which is more than you will get for the same price (or higher) from a pet shop or breeder.

The other reason is psychology. We want each adoption to be successful, and don���t want to see dogs bouncing back to us because owners can���t afford to keep them, or only adopted them on a whim. This is much less likely to happen if adopters are willing and able to hand over $400 – $500.


We���ve changed our minds ��� we���re not coming to meet the dog after all (usually said an hour after the agreed meeting time).


See ���we���re not paid to do this��� and ���we have lives too, you know.���


We love the look of Fifi and think she would be perfect for us, but we won���t be ready to have a dog for another couple of months. Can you hold her for us?


Short answer ��� no. Long answer ��� the longer we keep dogs in our care, the more expensive it gets, and the more dogs are put down by pounds because they don���t have the space and we don���t have the available carers. Snarky answer ��� don���t start looking for a dog until you���re ready to own a dog. It will only end in heartbreak for you if you fall in love with a dog you can���t have, and wasted time for us (also see ���we���re not paid to do this���.)


I love dogs, but I had to give my last one away because it got too big/I had to move/my girlfriend didn���t like it.


We understand that sometimes life throws curve balls that you didn���t see coming; we fostered a beautiful dog formerly owned by a family who had fallen upon hard times and could no longer afford to keep her. They did the responsible thing and gave her over into foster care, and I was honoured to be able to have a hand in finding a loving new home for her. But some of the reasons people give for getting rid of their pets are clearly foreseeable or downright frivolous; puppies are going to get bigger, landlords are quite likely to say ���no pets���, and who did you commit to first, the girlfriend or the dog? At this point you have to ask yourself ��� do I really love dogs, or do I just love the idea of dogs?


What breed is she crossed with?


A legitimate question on the surface of it. However, whatever breed the dog is listed as is usually the pound���s or the vet���s best guess. The only way to guarantee a dog���s parentage is through pedigree papers from a registered breeder, or a DNA test. As most of our dogs are unclaimed strays rescued from pounds, we���re extremely unlikely to have either of these pieces of paper.


Oh yes…this is surely the face of a killer.


���because I don���t want a dog with any staffy/rotty/heeler/chihuahua/[insert your breed prejudice here].


And I understand your concerns. Not all breeds are going to be suitable for your needs ��� otherwise we wouldn���t have so many different dog breeds. And we can���t guarantee that the dog you���re thinking of adopting won���t show any of the undesirable traits you���re seeking to avoid (they���re living creatures, not second hand cars). Can���t guarantee���but can give a pretty good indication. During their time in foster care, we���ve exposed them to a lot of situations they���re likely to encounter as companion dogs, so we can tell you most, if not all, of the things you need to know about their tendencies and temperament. But if that doesn���t convince you, and purity of breed is still a deal breaker, then I recommend you purchase a dog from a reputable registered breeder, or adopt a dog from a breed-specific rescue group.


���because staffies/rotties/heelers/chihuahuas are aggressive dogs.


OK, now I am no longer humouring you. That���s just illogical. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to be companions to humans. Yes, some breeds might have been selectively bred to encourage a prey drive, or to be wary of strangers, thus making them good guard dogs. However, having an entire breed that is indiscriminately aggressive towards humans would be wildly counter-productive.


I want a dog, but not one that barks or digs or chews. And not one that sheds, or that isn���t house trained, or that is likely to knock stuff over ��� I���m very house proud, and don���t want to be cleaning up messes all the time. I work 50 hours a week, so I won���t be able to come meet any dogs until the weekend. What have you got for me?


A goldfish.


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Published on February 18, 2015 20:20 • 3 views

February 13, 2015

When you’ve been married for nearly 18 years, have three kids, and work one and a half day jobs between you, and one of you is a horror writer, and when you come across the unusual situation (at least, I’m assuming it’s unusual – mathematicians, feel free to provide accurate stats) where a Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day occupy consecutive spots on the calendar, and you lack the energy and inclination to celebrate both…well, something’s got to give. For us, it was a no-brainer – why go out on February 14 and jostle for table space alongside every other loved-up couple in Melbourne when you can coerce your teenage son to babysit on February 13 and go see a new zombie movie on its release day – and get bonus points for supporting Australian made?



Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead could not be more Australian if it had drop bears and zombie kangaroos in it. Depending on your point of view, the dialogue is either rudimentary or true-to-life; most of it consists of just two words – “Mate!” and “FAAAARRKK!” The action is relentless – maybe five minutes are devoted to gentle domestic scenes with protagonist Barry and his wife and child before the zompocalypse erupts, and next thing you know mum and kid are dead (again) zombies with nails in their skulls. It remains faithful to zombie movie tropes, including copious amounts of blood and gore, while at the same time introducing a couple of new ideas that I hadn’t seen before. (Never mind that said ideas range from scientifically highly unlikely to downright impossible – it’s a zombie movie. Just go with it). Even without the novelty, it contains some visually striking, memorable scenes that elevate it above the stock-standard zombie fare. As my husband says, it has “cult classic” written all over it, and was the most fun I’ve had on date night since we watched Zombieland to celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary.


* * * * *



And in other Friday the 13th news – today was the official launch of the horror anthology The Grimorium Verum, the third in Western Legends Publishing’s Tres Librorum Prohibitorum series. The Grimorium Verum contains my story Q is for Quackery. It is a tale of wrath, greed and revenge, and how giving full rein to any of these impulses is unlikely to end well. It was also my third contribution to a Dean M. Drinkel anthology, the other two being Phobophobia and The Demonologia Biblica.


By the time many of you read this, it will be Valentine’s Day – a gift of to your loved one of The Grimorium Verum will be nothing if not memorable.


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Published on February 13, 2015 05:50 • 1 view

January 25, 2015

Came across this little game in a group on Facebook today – write your first name and “.com” in the comments, hit “return”, and see what comes up.���� I was, of course, curious, so I did as instructed, only wrote “tracie.com” in the address bar in a new tab in my browser instead (I made the mistake of commenting on a similar post in the same group and forgetting to turn off notifications. 1,000 emails later…).


I was expecting to get one of those invitations to register a domain name. What I got was this: www.tracie.com –�� a single page, black text on blue background, the text consisting of a six-sentence quotation from “A Christmas Carol”.


A quotation about ghosts.


And that is all. No images, no links, no other pages, no clues as to who created the page or why. The quotation is ridiculously, eerily apt given the common themes and content of my fiction. It’s almost as if a mysterious someone made it just for me to stumble across one day…


#185098665 / gettyimages.com
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Published on January 25, 2015 20:45 • 7 views

January 21, 2015

During a pre-Christmas shopping trip with my parents who were visiting from New Zealand, we visited Bernard���s Magic Shop in Melbourne���s CBD.�� Having been established in 1937, Bernard���s is a Melbourne institution; there���s plenty to keep the average, non-conjuring shopper inspired for gift ideas, but I���m told that there���s even more concealed behind the shop counter for the professional magician (evidently, there is a for-real secret handshake or password or something to ensure that only those privileged to be entrusted with magicians��� secrets may gain access).

While at Bernard���s, we purchased some high quality playing cards to better facilitate our summer holiday games of gin rummy (no magic involved) ��� and I filled out an entry form for two free tickets to the opening night of The Illusionists 2.0. My middle child, Alia, has been a die-hard Cosentino fan since she was five, so my intention was to take her as my plus-one in the unlikely event that I won tickets.


A few weeks later, that unlikely event became a certain event, when a lovely woman from Bernard���s rang to inform me that there were two tickets and a programme awaiting my collection at the State Theatre. Pre-show refreshments were a tub of Lord of the Fries chips French Canadian style, consumed while sitting on the grass outside the Arts Centre and listening to a free live band (even without the free show, there���s not much that can beat the sights and atmosphere of Melbourne City on a mild summer���s night).


The Ilusionists 2.0 is a two-hour extravaganza performed by seven gentlemen, each with a different specialty. I���d seen versions of most of the performances before, but not with such flair; the costumes (who knew you could inject so much personality into basic black?), lighting (or not-lighting, as the case may be ��� the expression ���smoke and mirrors��� originated from stage illusion), choreography and music (the composer, Evan Jolly, boasts amongst many other things the arrangement of the scores for the final four Harry Potter movies) and the varied nature of the different acts made for a riveting and highly entertaining show. Highlights included:


The Unusualist


– Raymond Crowe, a.k.a. The Unusualist, a.k.a. ���That guy who could be one of The Doctors��� and his talent for turning the usually naff art of ventriloquism into something hilarious and very clever.


– James More, a.k.a. The Deceptionist. James More could have stepped out of an alternate universe – an alternate universe where David Beckham became a world-class illusionist instead of a soccer player.


– Luis De Matos a.k.a. The Master Magician. You know how illusionists sometimes like to get members of the audience up on stage to assist, and there are always sceptics who think that the assistant must be a plant? Upon entering the theatre before the show, everyone was handed a sealed envelope to be opened later in the show, which allowed every single person in the audience to participate. (Oh, wait ��� unless we���d all been hypnotized beforehand by Michael C Anthony, and didn���t even know it���)


– Ben Blaque a.k.a. The Weapons Master. Alia could barely stand to watch this act, and I confess to letting slip a few


The Weapons Master


little squeaks of terror during his finale, which involved a carefully calibrated chain reaction, several powerful crossbows, and a dark hood completely covering Ben���s head, and an apple (I assume the hood served two purposes ��� to significantly raise the stunt���s level of difficulty, and to spare the audience most of the gore if he missed).


– Hyun Joon Kim a.k.a. The Manipulator. Hyun Joon Kim appeared on stage early on in the show, and for a comparatively brief time, during which he conjured up more packs of cards than could possibly fit up his sleeves. I wondered, given the brevity of his act, why he got equal billing with the others ��� until he came back on for the ���encore��� for what was arguably the most impressive performance of them all. Watching the close-up on the massive screen above his head, I was struck by how extraordinarily long and slender his fingers were; literally, he was born to do magic.


(My apologies to anyone reading this review who now has a hankering to attend; my tardiness in posting means you only have a few days left to see it, as the show closes in Melbourne on 25 January.)


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Published on January 21, 2015 20:46 • 9 views

January 14, 2015

A book by the name of ���Parlour Games for Modern Families��� came into our possession, and with a lazy summer holiday evening stretching in front of us, I elected to choose a game from it and inflict introduce it to the family. Many of the games were already familiar ��� Charades, 20 Questions, Celebrity Heads, Sardines, most of the card games ��� or were low-tech versions of existing board games e.g. Battleships, Pictionary. (Although it���s hard to go past Electronic Battleships, with its sound effects of splashing water for a miss and a big explosion for a hit, it���s a little sad that we can���t just play a game without first manufacturing pieces out of cardboard and plastic, sticking it in a box and paying $30+ for it).


It ought to come as no surprise that I went straight for the word games, choosing one called Dictionary (a trademarked version of the game can be bought in a box, complete with board and plastic pieces, for around $30 secondhand���). The rules go like this:


Each person takes turn being the reader, choosing a word from the dictionary that they think nobody in the game will know (If the meaning is known to another player, another word is chosen). The reader writes the definition on a piece of paper, and the other players do the same, keeping their definitions hidden from the rest of the players. All pieces of paper are handed to the reader, who then reads out the definitions in random order. The other players then take it in turns to guess which definition was the correct one. Players get two points for guessing the correct answer, one point if another player guesses their made-up answer is correct, and two points to the reader if nobody guesses correctly.


It took a few turns for the younger members of the family to get the hang of writing a convincing-sounding dictionary definition, but by about word #4, we were really struggling to discern real from fake. Here are a couple of samples:


Zythum:


Hint: This is what the aftermath of too much zythum might look like.


Definition 1: A bottomless pit.

Definition 2: A malt beverage used in Ancient Egypt.

Definition 3: Mesopotamian musical instrument.

Definition 4: A drug for the treatment of an enlarged thyroid gland.

Definition 5: The circulatory system of a plant responsible for carrying vitamins.


Gubernation:

Definition 1: The failure to articulate a word due to the presence in the mouth of excess saliva.

Definition 2: The celebration of the birthday of one of royal blood.

Definition 3: The act of a camel expelling mucus to express aggression or displeasure.

Definition 4: Government or guiding control.

Definition 5: A gum or chewing candy popular in the pre-war era.


The winner ��� by one point ��� was my husband, for whom the victory was particularly sweet because he considers himself the least academically-minded member of the family (except for the dog. The dog wasn���t even allowed to play). I put it down to his finely-honed ability to detect bull��� balderdash that gave him the edge.


As for me���I clearly need to spend more time browsing through the dictionary.


 


 


 


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Published on January 14, 2015 20:10 • 5 views

January 5, 2015

Here in Australia it is the 6th of January. I’m already almost a week late in making my New Year’s resolutions. I’d like to say that it is on purpose; in my head, I have a nebulous list of things I’d like to do better or differently, but if I don’t make the list explicit on the first day of January, then they’re less likely to be doomed to failure like 99% of N.Y.R.s.


In the spirit of making resolutions but trying to pretend that they’re not (let’s just call them “lifestyle improvements”), here’s a sample from my anti-bucket list – my list of things that I resolve to go to my grave having never done.



Take a selfie

I’m always happy to be included in someone else’s selfie, and if you get enough rum-and-cokes into me, I might even be persuaded to photobomb. I just don’t want to ever be the one clicking the button. It’s all part of my master plan to remain hopelessly old-fashioned out of touch charmingly old-school.

ablselfie2.jpg


 



Use text speak.

See “charmingly old-school”.
Sky dive.

You know that nightmare where you’re falling from a great height, and you wake up just before you hit the ground? That’s what I imagine sky diving is like, only with the small but very real possibility of suffering a gruesome death.
Bungee jump.

See “sky dive”.
Go on an elephant trek.

This used to be on my bucket list, until I found out that it’s bad for the elephants.

http://journals.worldnomads.com/responsible-travel/story/81053/Thailand/Why-Elephant-Riding-Should-Be-Removed-from-Your-Bucket-List

 6. Get a Brazilian wax.

I have many reasons for putting this one on the list; here’s just one. I have done (and still do) many time-consuming and money-sucking things in the name of fashion or feminine beauty, but I feel that at some point one ought to just stop the insanity. A Brazilian wax is my line in the sand. On the other side of that line also lies botox, cosmetic surgery, anal bleaching, and this stuff: http://www.mynewpinkbutton.com/



 7.  Run a marathon (or climb Mount Everest, or complete any other difficult feat of physical strength and endurance).

Mainly because of an aversion to pain (also reason #2 for not getting a Brazilian wax). I’ve deliberately subjected myself to extreme pain before, three times in fact, when I grew other human beings inside me and extruded them out through sensitive parts of my anatomy, but that made some kind of sense because I got babies out of it. Running a long way for a long time only to get in a car at the other end and go back to where I started…nope, not seeing much sense in that.


(A disclaimer: I mean no insult or disrespect to anyone who has done or wants to do any of the above. As the French say, “chacun à son goût” – each to his/her own.)


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Published on January 05, 2015 19:40 • 8 views

December 7, 2014

cover from AmazonThe anthology Disquiet is now available in ebook from Amazon. To celebrate the occasion, the publisher is running a promotion on Amazon from 3 to 9 January, 2015 – for that week only, you’ll be able to savour the delights of Antipodean dark fiction and poetry  in electronic form for US 99 cents. And to help spread the word about the promotion, I’ve decided to give this newfangled Thunderclap thing a go.


If you’re already familiar with Thunderclap – perhaps you’ve supported a few campaigns, or several, or run your own campaigns – then great! Here’s the link to my campaign. If you choose to support it, that’s even more greatness.


https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/20158-disquiet-unsettling-fiction


If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then read on.


Thunderclap tells us that they are “the first crowd-speaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together.” If you have a message that you want to convey to a wider audience than your current social media avenues allow, then you can set up a Thunderclap campaign. If you can attract a minimum of 100 supporters to back your campaign, then at the appointed time your chosen message will be broadcast automatically by Thunderclap through their Facebook, Twitter and/or Tumblr feeds. Setting up a Thunderclap campaign takes minutes, and the no-frills version is free. For supporters, it’s even easier – a couple of clicks of the mouse, and you’re done and dusted.


Thunderclap’s case studies make for interesting browsing; users as diverse as L’Oreal, The White House and Univision have run successful campaigns reaching millions of people, with the most successful campaign to date going out to over 381 million people.


My ambitions are far more modest; 100 supporters, and a few more readers of Disquiet than I can entice from my immediate circle. Already the few people I’ve mentioned this to who have chosen to support the campaign have brought with them over 22,000 potential pairs of eyes on the message.


Imagine what we could achieve with your help.


 


By original data: Sebastien D'ARCO, animate: Koba-chan [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

OK, so technically this is lightning, not thunder, but you get the idea…


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Published on December 07, 2014 03:01 • 15 views

November 17, 2014

(Disclosure: I received an electronic copy from the publisher for review purposes via Netgalley.)




In the year 2023 Saskia Brandt, detective with the European FIB, comes back from holiday newly single, tired and full of sadness. Heading straight back to the office she finds no peace, only her receptionist dead and no suspects. Given only 12 hours to clear her name she sets to work on unravelling the mystery, one that proves greater than the sum of its parts.


David Proctor is just an academic eating his breakfast until he gets a phone-call telling him the prototype computer – Ego – he has been loaned is now the only one left. Meanwhile someone has broken into his house, someone who wants him to go back to the lab where his wife died in a bomb attack 20 years before.


As the mysteries and intrigue envelop Saskia and David they are forced to unpick their own pasts. Because in D��j�� Vu you find that things aren’t as they seem, truth is a matter of perspective and that the past can change just as quickly as the future.


* * * * *


The science fiction tropes come thick, fast and early on in this techno-thriller, (artificial intelligence, mind wiping and implanted memories, time travel, virtual reality, nanotech and underwater cars, to name a few), so much so that at first I was concerned that many of them might have been thrown in gratuitously. But I needn���t have worried ��� Hocking soon gathers all the threads together and weaves them into an intricate, meticulously plotted tale. FIB detective Saskia Brandt is a compelling character as she struggles to discover and define her true self, all the while staying one step ahead of those who have the will and the means to end her.


I���d hazard a guess that P.K. Dick is one of the author���s influences; D��j�� Vu is in some ways reminiscent of Dick���s work with its themes of memory (both real and invented) and identity. This novel doesn���t break new ground in SF, but is no less intelligent or well-crafted for it.


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Published on November 17, 2014 02:44 • 2 views

(Disclosure: I received an electronic copy from the publisher for review purposes via Netgalley.)




In the year 2023 Saskia Brandt, detective with the European FIB, comes back from holiday newly single, tired and full of sadness. Heading straight back to the office she finds no peace, only her receptionist dead and no suspects. Given only 12 hours to clear her name she sets to work on unravelling the mystery, one that proves greater than the sum of its parts.


David Proctor is just an academic eating his breakfast until he gets a phone-call telling him the prototype computer – Ego – he has been loaned is now the only one left. Meanwhile someone has broken into his house, someone who wants him to go back to the lab where his wife died in a bomb attack 20 years before.


As the mysteries and intrigue envelop Saskia and David they are forced to unpick their own pasts. Because in Déjà Vu you find that things aren’t as they seem, truth is a matter of perspective and that the past can change just as quickly as the future.


* * * * *


The science fiction tropes come thick, fast and early on in this techno-thriller, (artificial intelligence, mind wiping and implanted memories, time travel, virtual reality, nanotech and underwater cars, to name a few), so much so that at first I was concerned that many of them might have been thrown in gratuitously. But I needn’t have worried – Hocking soon gathers all the threads together and weaves them into an intricate, meticulously plotted tale. FIB detective Saskia Brandt is a compelling character as she struggles to discover and define her true self, all the while staying one step ahead of those who have the will and the means to end her.


I’d hazard a guess that P.K. Dick is one of the author’s influences; Déjà Vu is in some ways reminiscent of Dick’s work with its themes of memory (both real and invented) and identity. This novel doesn’t break new ground in SF, but is no less intelligent or well-crafted for it.


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Published on November 17, 2014 02:44 • 6 views

October 30, 2014


(Disclosure: I received an electronic copy from the publisher for review purposes via Netgalley.)


“The Beauty” takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where disease has wiped out the entire human female population. It is narrated by Nate, a young man living a simple and settled existence in a small rural community of boys and men. He holds a special role in the community, that of storyteller. It is a role that he clearly deserves with the distinctive voice that author Aliya Whiteley gives him, a voice that is at once poetic and crystalline.


The community’s life is thrown into chaos with the arrival of The Beauty – mute and faceless fungoid creatures that have arisen from the graves of women and taken on strangely alluring feminine forms. Some literally and figuratively embrace The Beauty as embodiments of love; as Nate says, “The Beauty offer comfort, sex and softness. What else is there?” Others fear and distrust the Beauty – and when the extent of their power becomes fully apparent, the divide widens, with violent and catastrophic consequences.


“The Beauty” is an exemplary representation of New Weird, a subgenre variously described as “cutting edge speculative fiction with a literary slant”, a borderless combination of science fiction, fantasy and supernatural horror, and fiction that “subverts clichés of the fantastic in order to put them to discomfiting, rather than consoling ends.” It is exquisitely crafted, astonishingly creative, and discomfiting as hell.


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Published on October 30, 2014 04:21 • 5 views