I became a blogger in 2004, right before I got GoGo, because I wanted to chronicle the many forthcoming amazing exploits I would have. That blog was called Grendel in the Underworld. Weird name? Kinda, but there was method to the madness. Grendel was the first dog of my adult life, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi that I purchased from Pet Land in the Boise Towne Square Mall, and me having her led to my deciding to buy a Cardigan and play in conformation. The “underworld” was dog shows. Because I have an active imaginary life that runs parallel to my mundane one, there is always a big production going on in my head, be it how I would get married, or that graduate degree that never materialized (oops), or that dog I am going to breed fifteen years from now, who will be the first Cardi to win Westminster (uh huh…). I imagined writing a book of the same name (with the blog as a companion), after I had been showing dogs for five or ten years and knew all the dirty secrets. In it, Grendel the pet store Pem tagged along for the ride.
Seven years later, the secrets aren’t as dirty, nor as interesting as I’d anticipated, and the Pembroke is long gone, off with the boyfriend who I did not (thank dog) marry. And, after four years of diligent content, GITU was eaten by some glitch in Blogger which, when asked if you want to permanently delete your blog and you say “NOOOOOOO!” thinks that you actually said yes.
August 2004 – February 2009
This is all to say that that blog was kind of a catch-all blog, with a catch-all name. My dog stuff was there, but so was my life, such as it was. When I rebuilt in WordPress immediately following the demise the Blogger blog, I called it simply the Hagaren Cardigans blog (I was fresh out of clever at the time), which kind of limited what was expected in the scope of content. I recently moved again (I had run out of free space on that address, lord forbid I would pay for more), and incorporated my blog and my kennel website, thus restricting myself further.
But to hell with it. I’ve tried running more than one blog at a time, and that has never worked for me. Since the dogs are my life, I guess the other parts of my life with have to live with the dogs, or nowhere, so here it goes…
My thought process, at any given moment, on any given day, is divided along these lines:
(…seasoned but a general overtone of dread concerning money.)
I am always walking around thinking about pedigrees, or rear angles, or what to do to breed perfect head planes and ratios, or what I can do to make my dogs a little happier and healthier. Or I’m thinking of the social structure in an hive-organized alien race, or a particular story arch concerning Jhanes (the protagonist) and Brienne (the other protagonist), and how they will need to make a decision to derail the antagonist (Nerro), in spite of the fact that they don’t completely disagree with her method of thinking. Or it’s the “Better Than Sex” sushi rolls Kim Keifer and I had in Texas several years ago. And that is why, when you are trying to locate me, just listen for the sound of things being run into, or knocked over, and the swearing, because I am usually not paying attention to what is going on outside of my brain.
A question that comes up in the course of small talk is often if one went to college, and when I say yes, they ask what I went for. I say English with a Writing Emphasis, and they raise their brows and chuckle and ask what – exactly – I anticipated doing with that.
“Waiting tables, evidently,” I always respond.
Then I say, “I planned to write a book.”
I have been writing a book – since I was fifteen. It came to me as an offering from the Universe when I was walking around in the pasture of the property I grew up on, because there wasn’t much to do there except walk around in the pasture, for I was over-protected by my grandparents and not allowed to go many places, or do many things, or see many people, because a plane might fall out of the sky and crush me, or something. That day a crack opened to the Other Land.
If you haven’t read Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years – Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz – I CANNOT recommend them enough. I truly believe, once the years have had their way with them, that collection will be one of the finest pieces of literature to come out of our time. I claim Orson Scott Card’s Ender books and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods as huge inspirations towards the kind of books I would like to write, but The Wicked Years is proving very pivotal for me. I didn’t realize how pivotal until the series was completed, and I started them over again, and saw the full scope of the world and the story Maguire had assembled. They are a perfect example of what a complete “other world” is.
It is no small bit of poetry that, this being the case, one of the big themes in those books is the Other Land – and Maguire renders it so well. Even if you don’t know that series, I’m sure you know Oz. Dorothy is swept up in a tornado and is deposited in a different world. Our world doesn’t know that Oz exists, and Oz has never heard of us. The rules are different in each place, but each place is exactly as real. I’ve heard many writers speak and write about this, that they feel as if the worlds they write about are out there, fully formed – they are just the translator for what is going on there, narrating for the rest of us.
I feel no different. The finest gift I have been given in my life is my window to an Other Land. It’s an amazing view. The lives of the people there are perfectly mundane to them, but it is a marvel to me. That is what we love about stories: seeing into lives and lands that are unlike our own, because our own is boring to us. The Other Land is, in a way, something outside of myself. I don’t completely understand this, but if you have experienced this you know what I mean. I often feel like I’m not making things up, but that everything is there, being revealed to me piece by piece. It’s like squinting through foggy glasses. Sometimes you can wipe the haze away and see clearly. Other times you can’t clear the obstruction, and you have to squint and collect what glimpses you can, and then guess at the rest. I don’t always get it right. Sometimes, days or months or years later, I realize I was all wrong, and when I do finally see what it really was, about fifteen other things (which hadn’t until them made sense) fall into place. “Oh! That’s why that is!”
I will never be a prolific author, if I ever become an author at all. This is the only story I will ever have, because it has taken me sixteen years to learn the language and the rules and the culture of that country, and I’m terminally comfortable there. It is four or five books, spanning thousands of years. I will always live part of my life in that place – but I am lazy, and distractable, and always have a billion things going on. I work hard so I can play with the dogs, and that leaves little time for sitting down and transcribing the Other Land. I visit there at some point every day, and some days all day, but getting it on paper is a different animal. I will sometimes go years without working on it, just jotting notes for things I don’t want to forget (though I actually forget very little of it, because it is all so organic and complete that it is hard to lose any one thing for long), and then I will sit down and write 25 pages in a stretch, and then there will be another dry spell.
(There is no spell-check on pen-and-paper – and I couldn’t spell at gun-point.)
What drives me to try to record it is that I want more than anything for everyone else to meet and love the people that I love. I would like nothing more than to be able to say, “How about Alleric? Isn’t he great? Such a completely good person…” and have another person say, “Oh, I totally agree! He is amazing!” I can’t tell you who Alleric is, because Alleric lives in his actions, his attitude, the way he describes his world, in the text that I have yet to fully apply to paper. And I do love Alleric! He’s one of the late-comers, only around the last six or seven years, but he came in like a lion and stole my heart. I would love it if, one day, you all got to know him, and loved him, too. I hate the thought that when I die these people will too, and what’s worse, that no one will know they ever lived.
After I say that I am writing a book, the inevitable question is, “What is it about?”
Dangerous ground, this. It has been very hard for me to answer this question for most of the life of the thing, because there is so much going on there, and going in so many directions, that if you made the mistake of asking you were going to get a 45-minute explanation, chronicling the entire history of the Universe, and a lot of painfully specific details about alien genetics and culture, because I will always be a bit of a scientist and a student of the world, and those are the things that interest me. In the last few months, though, I’ve come back to myself after a long absence, and I have been able to understand the Other Land in a way I was unable to do while my life was cluttered.
The first book is called Pandora’s Children – a name I hate, but which I’m stuck with because now it can be nothing else. I picked it when I was sixteen, and while it is perfectly accurate to the story, it will forever sound like a title chosen by a sixteen-year-old. It is Science Fiction. I would like to have grown up to be a scientist, but I can barely add, and science careers require a great deal of math. For this reason, SciFi has been a good place for me.
This is a story about the colonization of Earth by aliens, told primarily by the descendants of the colonizers – called the Baastylle – so many thousands of years after the fact that the Baastylle don’t remember where they came from, so they can’t really be blamed for wrong-doings. They are hybrids of humans and the aliens. Humanity (stored away for safe-keeping) is coming back. And they aren’t a bit happy – as few colonized people are, I imagine! Dominant themes are human nature (from the very good to the very bad, which is very interesting to explore with a race that is half-human, and so only half-burdened/blessed by human faults and virtues), and God (in the story, humanity is cast as God, and what a disappointment we are when we show up again!), and the soul (a soul is not universal: it is something humans have, which the aliens do not, and is what the alien Drone – who engineered the Baastylle – most loved about humanity, and longed to possess himself). It has been an interesting world to put on and wear around, because it is so deep and complex.
The Drone, from 2003 (only drawing I’ve ever done of him):
Not completely accurate, as I’m not a good enough artist, but close enough. I need to try again, to see if I can do better now. If my artist-idol, Wayne Douglas Barlow, could render him – oh, what a sight that would be! No one can do aliens like WDB! He did creature design for Avatar, Harry Potter, Hellboy, and more. His pencil illustrations make me melt, and I have spent years trying to learn from his work.
I’d planned a little more blather for this, but it is almost 1 am and someone has to work a 12 hour shift tomorrow, slopping crab cakes and paella to the masses. So, more later.