Monday, August 29, 2011

Steve Hockensmith & Amy

Who is in the photo at right?

That’s me with my dog Amy. She’s a 3-year-old (we think) Chihuahua-terrier mix (we think) we adopted from the East Bay SPCA (that we know for a fact) in January (again: fact).

My name is Steve Hockensmith and I’m a 43-year-old purebred WASP who’s been adopted by discriminating mystery and horror fans (thanks to my Holmes on the Range and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novels).

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We’re toasting the release of Amy’s new book. Not that she wrote it. It’s a collection of mystery stories and humorous essays that I’ve written over the years. But Amy was the inspiration for the collection. She has a condition called luxating patella that affects her hind legs. Basically, her knee caps don’t like to stay in her knees, which (as you can imagine) doesn’t feel so great. It can also lead to debilitating arthritis. Luxating patella can be corrected surgically, but Amy doesn’t have the money for it and unfortunately neither do I. So the collection’s called My Dog Needs Surgery and it’s available as a 99 cent ebook via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. If I sell enough downloads, Amy can get her surgery sooner rather than later. Not that I’m trying to hold my dog’s health hostage to drum up sales. I’m not National Lampoon!

What's brewing?

No brewing necessary! As we’re in (appropriately enough) the dog days of summer, I’ve opted for a cool, refreshing glass of coffee milk. It’s basically chocolate milk, only with coffee-based syrup. I first encountered it years ago when I was visiting Rhode Island -- it’s the state drink! -- and I’ve raved about it for years. My brother’s moving thereabouts soon, so when he went up to scout for houses, he picked up a bottle of Eclipse coffee syrup for me. I was pleased to discover that it’s just as delicious as I remembered. Too bad about all the corn syrup in it, though. It’s probably a good thing I only drink it once every two decades.

Any treats for you or Amy on this occasion?

My treat is the coffee milk. Amy’s being treated to crackers so she’ll look happy in the picture. For some reason, she’s terrified of cameras, so it can be hard to get a shot of her where it doesn’t look like The Giant Newspaper of Bad Dog Doom is looming over her.

How were you and Amy united?

It was fate. My daughter had been begging us for a dog for quite a while, but I’d resisted out of deference to my beloved old cat Izzy. I wasn’t going to force a 17-year-old cat to deal with a dog all of a sudden. After Izzy finally passed away last summer, I gave myself a few months to grieve. Then I gave in. We knew we wanted a small-ish dog -- we have small-ish children and a small-ish house -- so we monitored the websites of various rescue societies hoping to find a candidate of the right size. We came close a few times, but nothing ever worked out. Finally, frustrated after months of web-surfing, my wife said, “Why don’t we throw the kids in the car and just go to the pound right now?” So we drove to the SPCA facility in Oakland, started to go inside...and bumped into a volunteer taking Amy out for a walk just as we arrived. Amy was the perfect size, cute as the dickens and sweet with the kids. So it was love at first sight all around.

How did she get her name? Any nicknames?

Amy was a stray picked up off the streets of Oakland with no tags, so what her original name might have been nobody knows. They called her Amy at the shelter, though, and since she responded to it we figured we ought to keep it. I tend to call her “Poopsy-Doodle” or just “Poopsy,” however. (I know -- that’s a pretty embarrassing thing for a grown man to admit.) My daughter calls her “Freak.” Much as we love Amy, she does have her quirks. Fortunately, it’s been months since she tried to hump anyone’s head.

Please tell us about your latest books.

Before My Dog Needs Surgery, I put out two other short story collections -- Naughty: Nine Tales of Christmas Crime and Dear Mr. Holmes: Seven Holmes on the Range Mysteries. My latest novel is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, which wraps up the PPZ trilogy. (No one knew it was a trilogy when it got started, but now it does seem nice and tidy that way.) I’m working on various projects at the moment, so I’m not sure which new book of mine will make it into the world next. I just hope it’s not Hey, You Guys -- My Dog STILL Needs Surgery!.

Visit Steve Hockensmith's website.

Writers Read: Steve Hockensmith.

My Book, The Movie: Dreadfully Ever After.

--Marshal Zeringue