Monday, July 16, 2007

OutFOXing the skunk

We have a problem. A stinky problem. It's making me crazy.

Each night at dusk a skunk passes through our backyard on his nightly stroll. He's absolutely adorable with his glossy black and white coat, his bushy tail and his shiny black eyes. He sniffs about, looking for grubs, completely oblivious to us even though we are often sitting just a few feet away.

The problem isn't the skunk. It's Winston, our incredibly stupid (but loveable) springer spaniel. How many times does he have to get sprayed before he gets that the skunk is not a squirrel with a stripe? That if he chases it he's going to get blasted with skunk spray, right in the face and up the nose?

Winston's been sprayed 3 times in the past few months, and twice before that. I've tried to train my family to keep the doors closed in the evening, but too often they're left open, and the next thing we know the dog is tearing about, foaming at the mouth, shaking his head and spreading eau-de skunk all through the house. The first time it happened was at Thanksgiving when we had relatives staying with us for the weekend. At the end of the first evening the dog was let out, but before the door was even shut he came flying back in, and the obnoxious smell was so horrid that it caused a young relative to throw-up, right then and there. Then we had throw-up and a stinky dog to deal with. My daugher came home the next day and said the combination of roasting turkey aroma and skunk smell made her want to throw up too. More recently we were hosting a large gathering of people, a volleyball club wrap-up event, but the party cleared out in exactly 5 minutes flat when the freshly-skunked dog ran through the house. More than one guest has let me know that their clothes still stink of skunk.

If you haven't experienced 'fresh' skunk spray, it's a smell you simply cannot believe. It gets into your mouth, permeates your skin, makes your eyes burn. Everyone in the room, everything in the room absorbs the odor and stinks for months. It doesn't matter how many times we wash Winston, in whatever kind of guaranteed skunk-odor-removing solution, he still stinks for weeks, and the smell lingers for months, especially noticeable when he gets wet. At Thanksgiving our house guests reported that when they returned home after the weekend and opened their suitcases, everything in them smelled of skunk.

What to do, what to do??

When I lamented to my friend (and fellow author) Diane Tullson about my skunk dilemma, she replied with the following...

What the heck was the skunk doing in the yard with so many people around? And wouldn't it be out of skunk-squirt by now? I'm thinking you have a bad skunk. A genuine psycho. A serial-squirter. I think you need to do it in. Ah ah ah, I can hear that vegetarian voice crying for mercy, but no, bring in the guns, Shelley. I'm sure about 48+ Deep Cove residents will support me on this. OH MY. There's probably not a can of tomato juice to be had in N. Vancouver. You're probably not ready to laugh about this just yet.

No, I wasn't.

Another author friend, Kim Denman, always a source of the most intriguing facts, gently explained that the only natural enemy the skunk has is the fox. Therefore, to get rid of the skunk, you simply have to sprinkle fox urine around your property. Sounds logical.

But where does a person get fox urine?

The three of us wondered if human urine might suffice, and we made plans.

This is what the next email from Diane said.

Night vision goggles, that's it! Fill the squirt guns with pee, how about? Get a gun, Shelley. Tell the neighbours to stay away from the windows, put on a nose plug, and do it.

Sadly, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead, I searched the internet and discovered there are pellets available that are made of fox pee. You sprinkle them around your yard to deter the skunk. Not as much fun as squirt guns, I admit, and certainly not as 'fitting', but I'm on the market for fox-pee pellets. If you know of an outlet that sells them, please call me.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Symposium on the Book

Whoa! Was that ever a learning experience!

Yesterday I sat on a panel at the SFU Symposium on the Book.

Four other authors and 5 panelists teamed up to discuss topics such as reaching reluctant readers, (my topic), historical fiction, humour, censorship and fantasy, all for teen readers.

I was there as a presenter, but I felt like an imposter. I gave my little talk about luring teens into "the wonderful world of the written world" (Orville Prescott) but it felt so lightweight compared to the other presentations. Thank goodness I was able to go first. I'm not sure I would have been able to walk to the podium if I had to follow one of the other fabulous presentations.

And what an audience. Such wise questions and reflections.

On another note ~ one of the Steps to Greater Happiness by Mark Holder is: Get Into the flow - do things you can get passionately involved in. "Bike a favourite trail, do yoga, play hockey. Do whatever lets the rest of the world fall away. Watching TV doesn't count. Be an active participant in something that absorbs. you."

I wonder if participating in the symposium counts. I wasn't particularly 'active', but teen fiction is my passion and the rest of the world certainly fell away. Even my skunk problems. But more about that tomorrow.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm between books... it's finally time to set up a blog.

Book news:

The Gotcha Gods is is coming out in the spring of 08! Hurray! Those wonderful people at Orca Book Publishers agreed to publish it, my 7th book. This one will be dedicated to my daughter Cara who has waited patiently for her book. (I often worried that there would be no 7th book, and then Cara would be my only daughter who wouldn't get one. How could I live with that?)

It's fitting that this one is for Cara as it's based on a grad game (The Bead Game) they play at the highschool she graduated from. She was deep in the throes of the game while I was writing it, so I was able to slide many real life incidents right into the book. But it is a book of fiction, thank goodness. The Gotcha Game (as I renamed it) in my book gets way creepier than it does in real life (I hope!) although I have seen my normally sane daughters turn into paranoid, quivering wrecks during the bead game.

I think I'll launch the book with a Gotcha party, where we play a toned down version of the game at home. I love games.

Sister Wife is written and submitted, and now I go through the long, agonizing wait to see whether anyone will be brave enough to publish it. It is based on a girl growing up in a community where polygamy is the norm (men with multiple wives). As the story opens my protagonist is turning 15 so will soon be assigned to a husband, a much older man, but she's not happy about this. This was a completely different kind of book for me, and it took many years to complete. I think I wrote 2 other books during the writing of Sister Wife. I kept putting it aside, and then picking it up again. I was emotionally drained when I finally completed it. Cross your fingers for me on this one.

An amazing thing happened when I finished Sister Wife. The two other members of my writing group, Diane Tullson and Kim Denman completed novels on the very same day! How strange and wonderful is that?

I should start writing a new book right away, but for now I'm content to enjoy summer, putter in my garden, go on extended hikes, and maybe even sail a little, if the engine on the boat ever gets repaired.

That brings me to the Meandering Muse part of this post. A few days ago The Vancouver Sun posted a list of Steps to Greater Happiness compiled by psychologist Mark Holder. One of the steps was to Reclaim your spirituality. "Go to worship, pray, meditate or watch a sunset. Lie on a blanket in the yard to look at the stars and gaze with awe up on the universe."

Always one to do as I'm told, especially in the pursuit of happiness, a group of us set sail in 3 boats last Saturday night. We never actually see the sun set in Deep Cove because of the mountains so the idea was to anchor together in a bay where we could watch it set over Vancouver Island and then sit back and ponder the stars. In the end, we almost watched the sunrise as well as the sunset as our motor died on the way back to the marina. Thank goodness for our dear friends on one of the other boats who noticed we had not returned so turned around and towed us home.

Did this bring me happiness? It sure did. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. (And the sunset was spectacular too.)