kate’s mundania, valentine, and “dog celebrity,” oh my.

I haven’t been blogging lately because I have too much to say.  I don’t want to get started, as it feels like trying to empty the sea with a teaspoon. Why bother.  I commit what may be an unhealthy percentage of my cognitive capacity to composing the things I wish I had the ability to write down.  Ability = time.  I could not possibly sit down and type or hand write it all; there is so much of it, always racing.  I may not be able to remember not to burn the lentils (every FUCKING time), or focus long enough not to leave the ring without collecting my ribbons (when someone asks I say, “Yes.  It is my first dog show.”), but I CAN remember – almost verbatim – everything I have ever composed for a blog post, a letter, an article, or a scene in The Book.

It’s easier to be active on Facebook, so I’m present there.  I can do that a little at a time, here and there throughout the day, whereas a blog post eats up hours – because that is generally what it takes for me to get one the way I want it.  I usually have a “thought purge” at the end of the day while I wind down from work and get ready for bed, between catching up on emails/chatting with what friends are still up/spending time with Ella/working on whatever Sculpey piece I have going.  I love Facebook.  I think it is genius.  [Also insidious and probably evil, but nevermind!]  I don’t know what the platform is like for normal people, but I think it is an invaluable resource for dog people.  It is a tool for us get to know our peers, some of whom we would never have the opportunity to meet otherwise.  Often, now, when we go to a National we are already friends with people we’ve never seen face-to-face.  It is wonderful to be able to see others’ dogs, share in their wins, console their losses, and….well…have fodder for gossip.  [But you didn’t hear that from me.]

I will try to be better about maintaining the blog, because it is nice to explore expanded ideas and tell longer stories from time to time.

So…

I am happy to report that my life is fairly settled.  For now.  For me.  My life has felt like a big dead spot for…for pretty much forever.  I have always struggled with horrible self-esteem.  Nothing I do or am is ever good enough, and no matter how people act towards me or tell me otherwise, I’m sure everyone hates me.  It’s the emotional equivalent of anorexia, I guess.

This hasn’t gone away, but I’ve finally learned to ignore it.  I’ve seen plenty of enormous assholes go about their lives like King Tut – many of them successful and (for some reason) with friends – so I have decided that I can’t be as bad as all that.  Instead of wringing my hands and hiding in the corner I’m trying to learn to art of self-deprecating humor (because that’s the easiest way for me to cope), and I’m trying not worry so much about what other people think.  Basically, all I have ever done is worry about what other people think, and that’s a miserable way to live because you judge everything you say and do.  It’s exhausting and depressing.  So.  Fuck it.

In regard to The Book, I haven’t been writing much (besides the in-my-head way), but I have been reading a ton, and analyzing the style and technique of authors I respect.   A problem that I’ve encountered over and over again is that – because I take so long to get this monster out – 200 or 300 pages in I have matured so much as a writer that what I have recorded is basically garbage.  I felt as though what I had going this last round was what it would be, but as I enter this next stage in my life (in which I am becoming all woo-woo and touchy-feely) I feel like the story is beginning to shift from two dimensions into three.  Well, from three into four, actually, but that is a hard feeling to describe to someone who has never felt it, like trying to explain what “love” feels like.  Anyway, I feel as though what I was writing before was surface (and very adolescent), and now I am dipping into what it feels like to inhabit these characters.  The difference is that now – for whatever reason – I can actually step inside of them, where as before I was watching.  Instead of seeing them pick up a glass, now I feel the condensation on the outside of it.

I think this may be a product of me spending so much time thinking about what it’s like to be series’ protagonist, Jhanes.

When I was learning to write in school, we were asked:  “What makes the day this story starts on different from any other day?”  The direction I chose to take was:  “What makes this character different from any other character?”

The difference is that Jhanes can feel/see/perceive living things in their entirety, and manipulate them; he’s the only one of his race who can do this.  When he is young (when the story starts), he can first change himself, then heal others.  Later, he learns to manipulate DNA – and he keeps learning for his entire life…which (sorry to give a spoiler) turns out to be endless, through no choice of his own.  When he’s young, he’s arrogant and foolish – as the young are prone to be!  As he matures, he is burdened by the magnitude of his ability and power and is obsessed with governing it, and not causing harm to the world.

I want this series to be good.  I am positive it will be the only thing I ever write.  I want it to feel real, the way all of my favorite books feel real – as if you could puncture some membrane and step into that other reality.  I think that is what defines a truly great book.  I want it to be Middle-Earth, or Maguire’s Oz, or Hogwarts.  Will it be?  If I live long enough I’ll find out.

Now… I am trying to take the approach of not inducing this baby before it’s ready.  I’m letting it gestate.  It’s not a thing you can rush.  When it’s done, it will be ready for the page.  And if it’s never done, oh well.  There’s nothing I can do about that.  I’m investing my apprenticeship as a storyteller in walking around inside of Jhanes’s life:  loving the people he loves, regretting the things he wishes he’d done differently, reaching out with this alien perception into the bodies and cells of other living things.  THAT PART feels pretty cool, I’ll admit.  I love creating worlds, and there’s a lot of potential for that in this one, as the country is expansive.  After sixteen years as a tourist in this world, I’m beginning to feel like a native. I can answer about question about the place that you could think of.  Ecology? Economy? History?  Culture?  It’s all in my brain… apparently pushing out all valuable life skills and social graces.

I love two things more than anything:  my dogs and this book.  Every day I fall more deeply in love with both of them.  Each day, I see and understand both more fully.

I chopped my expository introduction, which I have been trying to talk myself into killing for years.  It felt clunky and lifeless and bogged down the whole thing, but I didn’t trust people to be able to slip into the alien place well enough without a guide (in the form of a human to explain it all). After studying how a couple of very talented authors did it, I feel more comfortable and am taking the leap.  I kept the first paragraph from the old story (it always felt correct), but the rest has been going in a different direction.  Same story, written differently.  There are existing bits I will keep (the ::snort:: well-written stuff), but I think I will have to cut almost everything I have.

Here is a little of the new stuff, though it’s rough and unedited – hot off the word processor.  Disclaimer: My spelling and grammar and usage aren’t always the best – I know this and apologize for it; [[hopefully]] I will make some editor insane one day.  If you aren’t interested in reading it, skip down past the indented text and go on reading about dogs and dog figurines.

Jhanes rarely dreamed. When he did it was in sensations rather than imagery: in electricity and coursing fluids and heat. He dreamed of others’ dreaming: of the shuffling and reordering of their brains. He dreamed of light: of the foreign cells in his skin that collected the sun and fed energy into his blood, or of the creatures inside his gut which aided digestion. He dreamed of their curve and volume and slept quietly, for in spite of their complexity his dreams were pleasant.

Jhanes dreamed of the cold wasps in the attic. He dreamed of the crows on the roof – their dead feathers bristled around their vibrant forms. When the old Speaker, Mas, entered the house to join Jhanes’s father in front of the fire, Jhanes dreamed of him: of the tissue of his fingers and toes warming and of the surface of his shins, which burned as he sat close to the fire.

Jhanes had slept so deeply that the sunlight hadn’t stirred him. The sun was well up and filtering through the wooden slats of his shutters, passing through the dust motes and spreading in lines across his wool blanket. The shutters weren’t air-tight, and the room was as frigid. It was well past time to board up the window from both sides and stuff straw in between. Jhanes’s father had been at him to do so for the better part of the month, but Jhanes had been waiting for this – for the cold to become intolerable. He hated the winter stuffiness of the small, closed-in room.

Jhanes balled more tightly into the warmth of his blankets, and inhaled deeply, absently watching the gas exchange in his lungs with one corner of his attention while the rest of him turned outward to feel into the hearthroom.

The hearthroom was warm. He felt this on the skin of the two figures in front of the fire. Jhanes’s father was heating water for the morning tea and talking with Mas in subdued tones. Jhanes eavesdropped briefly – listening to the vibration of bones in ears, the flex of tongues, the slap of vocal cords. Their conversation was nothing worth overhearing: town gossip, none of it even new. Often Jhanes heard the sound of their soft laughter, muffled by the wall and door of his room.

Jhanes had known it would be cold this morning when he’d gone to bed. The way the animals and plants had settled in had told him, and for the first time there had been an edge to the air after the sun had gone down.  He had not undressed, though he hated the way his long shift tangled his legs when he slept. He had not wanted to slide into chilly clothes this morning. He’d let the fire in the main room warm up his blood and his belongings first.

Maeter and Mas did not notice him as he joined them in the hearthroom. The hinges of his door were fairly new and recently oiled, so there was no noise to alert them. Himself, Jhanes moved silently: as if he weighed nothing; as if he weren’t there. It was not something he attempted to do; it seemed to a product of whatever he was. Mas and Maeter might never have commented on this unnerving quality, but others had. Jhanes knew it unsettled the Speaker and his father, at least a little. He could read it the lingering tension across their shoulders every time he accidentally snuck up on them.

Jhanes waited.  His father, Maeter, and the Speaker were almost identically stooped, though from drastically different lives. Maeter had worked over the hoe, while Mas had leaned over papers, his spine curling more and more as his vision degraded from years of printing text in poor light. When they were in public they stood tall and straight. Here they let their long careers weigh them down – a relaxed moment between old friends.

Mas couldn’t feel Jhanes the way he could other Baastylle, but Jhanes’s silence swept at the edge of the Speaker’s perception. Mas cocked his head almost imperceptibly. Jhanes didn’t see it, but felt it in the crackle of well-used vertebrae. Mas turned his head a fraction, enough to capture Jhanes in his peripheral vision. 

You’re lurking,” Mas said.

Jhanes looked down guiltily. He stopped himself from clutching the front of his shift and twisting the fabric: a compulsion he was trying to break himself of, because he hated how timid it made him look. He saw himself through Mas, shadowy in the corner of the Speaker’s vision, then echoed and sharpened as Maeter turned to look at Jhanes directly.

Mas had meant it as a joke, Jhanes knew, so he painstakingly erased the guilty expression, watching himself as he did so, crafting his face into a grimace of embarrassment instead, as if to say, “You caught me!”  He didn’t think he’d ever stop feeling guilty when he did something strange, but he was getting better at hiding the guilt.

He was getting very good, actually. And very good at shaping the way others perceived him. He’d been learning to walk with a heavier footfall, though he forgot sometimes, as he had this morning. He changed the curve of his smile and the cast of his eyes, altering his expression fraction by fraction until he felt Mas melt a little at the charm of it. Jhanes forced people to like him. He’d changed his body gradually as he’d grown, until he was pretty, because people appreciated beautiful things. He’d changed his voice until people turned their heads, to catch the downy sound of it. He watched their reactions to what he did, and remembered, and used whatever smile or gesture had affected them over and over again until his behaviors were so well-honed that his mere presence was disarming.

He could use this skill almost effortlessly now, to the point that he often forgot that this made-up person was not who he actually was. But Maeter knew. Even as Mas – the mind-reader – was fooled, Maeter was not.  He gave Jhanes such a stern frown that Jhanes felt freshly guilty, and deservedly so this time.

He dropped the act.

Sorry,” Jhanes said to Maeter, though Mas smiled, thinking that Jhanes had addressed him.

Maeter returned to the tea, dipping a ladle-full to test the potency. It had grown strong and Maeter pulled the filter from the water before it became bitter. He dumped the steepings on top of the fire, where they sizzled and popped.

Jhanes went to the water basin in the corner of the hearthroom to wash up. Wetting a cloth, he scrubbed his face and his short hair while Maeter brought the tea and the warm goat’s cream to the table. Today Maeter had shaved a few curls of cinnamon bark onto the cream before heating it. The cinnamon had been imported from the South. It was not an item Maeter could have afforded, but Mas gifted it to him annually – because Mas knew how much Maeter loved the spice, and because Mas loved Maeter.

They didn’t talk about their love, these two. They never would have in Jhanes’s presence, Jhanes knew, but they hadn’t outside of his presence, either.  Jhanes was certain of this. He didn’t know how he was certain, just as he didn’t know how he was able to feel the pressure against Mas’s skin as the Speaker grasped the ladle and served out the tea, moving quickly before the heat penetrated the thin walls of the ceramic cup and burned his fingertips.

Mas set the cup down at Jhanes’s place, and Jhanes took his chair.  He leaned over the cup to draw the steam into his mouth, to smell and taste the flavor of the amber liquid. He dwelt for a moment on this peculiarity of his anatomy. Lately, he could not help but to tumble into things  – to get lost inside the architecture of life.  Warm-blooded things scented the air with their nostrils. They smelled where they breathed. A Baastylle was warm-blooded, but he breathed where he heard – through passages that lead from his ears to his throat – and smelled where he tasted – with his tongue and the roof of his mouth. There was no separate landmark for breathing, no muzzle or a wet nose to flex, the way a cat or a deer would, to test the news on the wind. His race shared this “tasting” with reptiles, Jhanes supposed (he loved the dancing, forked ribbon-tongues of the little garter snakes that sunned themselves on the forest paths outside of town), but Baastylle and snakes had nothing else in common.  Nor were other animals as nearly hairless and bipedal as his kind. And birds stood on two legs, but they has wings, and there were hundreds of different kinds of birds. There was only one kind of Baastylle.

The unusualness of his race had been nagging him, like a cheat-grass seed lodged in his clothing.  He could not ignore the prick of it, but neither could he find it to dislodge it.

He must adopt a certain expression when he fell into looking, Jhanes thought, because when he came back Mas and his father were watching him with particular keenness. Jhanes smiled an easy smile, and poured the warm cream from the kettle into his own cup, watching the inert liquids swirl together in patterns like the conjuring of magic.

Magic, Jhanes thought.

As long as he could remember, Jhanes had possessed this extra sense, this seeing into living things. Is it magic? Jhanes asked himself, and tried not to puff himself up at the thrill of it. No one else had ever been known to do it. Mas and Maeter were the only two creatures in the world that knew Jhanes could, though, so maybe others had kept the secret close as well. Jhanes could not feel stone, or water, or air, or the tea – except for some echo of the essence of the goat who had given the fresh milk, yesterday or the day before. The tea leaves were too long dead for there to be anything left of life in them. Non-living things were as solid or as un-graspable or as invisible to him as they were to everyone else. …

 

As I said in one of my more recent posts, the Magic Fox figurines have been kind of a ride.  I have a way to go with my skill set (I tell people I’m still in apprenticeship with myself ), but I was pleased with the last three dogs I did, and the last dragon – and I am never pleased with anything I do.

The surreal thing is that I’m not entirely sure how I make them.  I just finished a book called Pegasus, by Robin McKinley, and in it one of the characters says, “Sculptors don’t sculpt, you know.  They set things free.”  I dog-eared the page, because that is what it feels like.  I sit down with no idea what I’m going to do, or how (I feel like I forget how to do it every time, and always have a period of panic, during which I’m afraid I won’t remember how), yet at the end of eight or ten or twelve hours I have this thing that actually looks kind of cool, which people seem to  love when it arrives in the mail…with any luck in one piece.

When I was a kid, I used to make about a billion little lizards – skinks, I called, them – by taking this cheap oil-based clay that my grandma brought home from the local grocery store, twisting the four colors together (in different combinations) to make it candycane-striped, and giving them legs and tails and eyes.  They stayed flexible for months, and could have many adventures, played out by a child whose guardians didn’t want her out around people because she might – oh, I don’t know – get raped or killed or learn how to function in the presence of other human beings.  [Side note:  I have started calling my upbringing “The Veal Cage,” which neatly sums up what it was like.]  I haven’t sculpted much, so I’m still kind of surprised that I can do this.  But I have always been an artist, and usually very good at a medium when I try it for the first time.  I once picked up a set of wood-carving tools, carved a dragon into a basswood lid (it looked great) and then never did it again.  I get bored easily, and often only do something once.  I am good, but I don’t stick with anything long enough to master it.

My family has been on my ass my entire life to do something with my art, but I always resented the art, because I wanted to be a writer.  It is easier to be an artist.  It is immediate, at least when it comes to sharing it with other.  People can just look at what you have made and “ooooo” and “awww” and be done with it in a few minutes.  They don’t have to sit down and read it for hours and then talk about it – something that was impossible for my grandparents, with their third and eighth grade educations, who survived the depression and wondered why I wasted all that paper.  They were not cruel.  For them, I hung the moon, and they saved me from my god-awful, irresponsible parents.  They were just from a different world, and they had no idea what to do with the overly-imaginative, alien child that had been dumped in their laps.

I have been on hiatus for a few weeks.  I have a lot of work to do, and a lot more people who have contacted me, but I have stopped taking orders until I catch up.  I was feeling burned out, so I took a break, but am about to head back in again.  I’ve spent my break thinking about how to do it, though, and for me this is often as good as actually doing it.  I hope this will translate into my pieces being exponentially better than they were before.

I love when people get the piece they ordered.  I love when they talk about the detail, how the photos do them no justice [And they don’t! The photos don’t show the hours with the tiny paintbrush, the play of color, the way the paint job it works with the physical shape of the piece…], and say that I have captured the soul of their dog – because I am all about the dog souls these past few years.  I don’t feel like every piece is a success, but I am continuing to do this for the pieces that are, because those successes do feel like magic to me.

“Ranger”
“Simon”
“Caleb”

When I started writing this post a few DAYs ago [See!  This is why I hate to post!], I had intended to talk about Ollie and Ella and others in the same breath, but for now I will settle for Valentine, and transition into a subject I have wanted to talk about for some time.

Valentine just went home from two weeks at Camp Granny.  She was here for the duration of her first heat, so that we didn’t end up with a litter of very inbred black and white dogs.  I have had Ollie by himself a couple of times, but this is the first time I’ve had Valentine by herself.

I think it is pretty obvious that she is my favorite of the Rush x Ella babies.  Conformation-wise she is in the middle of the pack between the “pets” (Leeloo and Rook) and the “show” puppies (Ollie and Caity), but she is at the top of the pile when it comes to brains and personality and the “X” factor.

Valentine is spooky-smart.  She isn’t hyper, but she needs to be entertained all the time or she gets bored and makes trouble.   And the trouble is usually creative.  Kathy said while we were down there this weekend that having Valentine is more like having a child than a dog.

“Or a monkey?” I asked.

You see, Valentine is an enormous pain in the ass.

We have a motion-sensitive talking dog ball that ended up on the other side of the wall one night – the wall against my bed.  She figured out that she could go under my bed and scratch at the wall and make it go off, so scratch she did.  And once she gets under there she is impossible to extricate.  And – she has selective hearing.

I had a jar of peanut butter on top of a crate to stuff her Kong with, because she’s used to getting a peanut butter Kong for her bedtime snack. One day, when I was occupied with the interwebs, she got the jar down and unscrewed the lid.  Ever since she was a baby, when someone finished a drink she begged for the bottle.  She loves to unscrew lids.  Well, she opened the peanut butter, but her mother took it from her and ate most of the contents… and immediately grew enormously fat.

These are two examples of Valentine’s many fun “tricks.”

Good thing she’s cute.  And, WOW, is she cute…  This bitch sparkles.

This leads me to my next point:  the “X” factor.

One of the reasons I have put off talking about this for so long is that I’m pretty sure everyone is going to think I’m bat-shit insane.  I hope the fact that I am paranoid about this disqualifies me from actually being so.

Bear with me.  It will take more than one post for me to explain all of this nonsense.

Ready?  Okay.

It is hard to convey “Valentine” as a dog-person, just as it is hard to convey Ella.  They are both dogs you have to experience to understand the scope of them – their spirit, their magnitude, their magic.  I feel like part of them comes across in the photos I take.  People say, “You capture their personalities so well!”  In my opinion, it’s not my skill, but that the subjects are so strong that they glow out of the image.  If I have a skill, I would like to think that it’s in seeing which dogs have that “something extra” and choosing those dogs as subjects.

When I have stayed down in Boston, I keep having the experience of walking down the street with Valentine, and having people come up to me and ask, “That’s Valentine, isn’t it?”  They don’t recognize me, but they recognize her, and everyone in the neighborhood knows her by name and wants to approach her and engage her.  Kathy told me that when they take Val and Ollie out, everyone comes to see Val.  When they had Ollie by himself these past two weeks, almost no one noticed him.

When I was blogging a lot when Ella was younger, I often had strangers approach me at dog functions and ask, “Excuse me…but is that Ella?”  It was so bizarre.

This is dog celebrity.  This is, as so Wiccan termed it, “Presence.”

I am obsessed with Presence.  It is so intangible, so difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.  The reason human-people become stars (the fact that Wiccan – as quoted later in this post – said pretty much the same thing after I had written this is very consoling!!!) is not entirely because of their skill at acting – it is something else, something extra that makes people want to watch them, want to like them.  Star-power.

Whiskey is a star…

“I coulda played Queen Elizabeth…”

…though Whiskey is more a Cate Blanchett to Valentine’s Sarah Silverman.  Whiskey is refined and regal.  Val is a stand-up comic.  People (and judges, from the looks of it) flock to her.

Magnum is one, too.  He’s Ben Stiller in Zoolander.

“I call thith ‘Blue Steel,’ ladieth.”

And Ella?  Well, you know she’s a star!  She knows it, too.  She announces it to every human she approaches on the street – bark-talks to them, and wags her whole body, and looks them in the eye, and they fall all over her.

“That’s right! Ah’m tha Queen ov tha Mutha-f*@&ing Universe.” (Sorry, she swears a lot…uh, in a strong Oklahoma accent……)

You can see and feel “presence” almost from birth.  This is the puppy that stands out, that is everyone’s favorite, long before you know who is going to be the show dog and who is going to be the pet.  When I had the litter Ella was born into, everyone who wrote to ask for a puppy wanted her – and wanted her badly.

I once had to report someone to Dogster because they had stolen photos of her off my old blog and posted them as their own, claiming that she was their dog.  They had written a whole back-story for her.  She had come from a farm and died of a twisted stomach.  Not only did they fake-own my real dog, but their fake dog was dead…

Seriously, WTF??? 

I have had the pleasure of being able to chat with Wiccan York-Patten a number of times in the last few months, on a variety of topics.  You may know her from a little movie called, “Winning the Cardigan National Photo Contest, Always.”  Great photographer, awesome person – kind and unique and talented and so interesting.

Wiccan has a dog, Simon (he’s the blue merle figurine shown above), who is also a dog celebrity.  She takes pictures of him because he is the kind of dog (like Ella) who NEEDS to have photos taken of him, like the paparazzi trailing after Johnny Depp.  When I asked her if I could talk about him in this post, I also asked her if she could explain to me why she thought this was.

“He’s totally got… presence. Which is funny – I can’t describe it, but people come to us when we’re walking down the street in Seattle. They stop cars to look at him, to ask me what he is, they come to talk to me. 

“He has a wicked sense of humor – when we’re posing somewhere (like the shots in Pike Place market and the unicorn coin operated ride) he totally works the crowd; he’ll stand there and bark and grin at people while he’s doing it. He swaggers – he just sort of operates on a different level than the other dogs here. 

“I think it’s because he tends to look people in the eye – unlike Caleb, and even Tempe – he gives direct eye contact all the time (camera and people.) 

“Honestly, I have people who love the pictures of the dogs, but 90 percent of the time, if someone messages me about wanting a dog, it’s because of him. His personality shows in pictures, and he likes what he does – so really, it’s him that gave me the learning curve on the camera, I got better and better because he was willing to work and likes to show off.”  

[Kate jumping in here:  I so feel this way about Ella, too.]  

“I just say – presence – some folks have it, and like to be on stage, and some folks don’t! … I bet you know what I mean, when you take out a group of dogs, there’s always one dog people are drawn to. Presence.”

My favorite dog celebrity?  Checkers.

OMG.  I love Checkers.  And it’s nice that some other lunatic knows what their dog is saying!  ;)

I discovered Checkers via friends who owned his litter sister, and hold him up as an example of what I am talking about when I talk about a dog being “something more” because it is SO easy to see it in him.  He and his personal assistant (because Checkers cannot operate a keyboard, nor a camera), Tom Kochheiser, had – lately – a blog, and now a Facebook page where Checkers shares his take on the world.

Now…  tell me this dog doesn’t have Capitol “P” Personality.

(All captions and photos from “Checker’s World“.)

“What do you think I am thinking about now?”
“AN ENTIRE SLICE OF SALAMI!!! Steady now…come closer…”
“I know that smiles are the gift that keeps on giving, so here’s one for you!”
“Seriously…?”
“Yes, you squirrels, I possess the magic tennis ball, which increases my Cardigan powers tenfold. Be afraid, be very afraid!”
“We went flower picking today in our garden. Nash and I can verify that these flowers are 100% squirrel free!”

What’s my point, you ask?

Well, I want to breed that kind of dog.

Uh.  That’s insane, you say.

Maybe.  I have no idea.  I’ll tell yah in ten or fifteen years.

I don’t know if it’s a heritable trait.  I don’t know if it’s genetics or how they are raised or just a random thing that happens, but I intend to find out.

I think that dogs have a lot of potential that isn’t utilized, and I am against the kind of dogs that “show breeding” produces.  Yes, I think we should endeavor to produce correct dogs, but not at the expense of what makes a really GREAT dog so amazing.  I think we should focus as much of our energies on producing smart dogs, dogs with big personalities, dogs people can enjoy on an elevated level.  I feel that these things often get lost in the shuffle of trying to produce a dog who can bring home a 25¢ ribbon.

If you want my opinion, I think dog shows have a clock on them.  They are a hold-over from a Victorian mindset, and in my heart of hearts I believe that the world economy is becoming such that only the very wealthy will be able to compete in conformation in the coming years.  We’re using up our easy-to-obtain resources at a staggering rate.  The cheap and easy times are behind us.  It isn’t the end of the world (unless we are idiots and don’t change our ways), but we are going to have to change how we live our lives.  I think there is going to have to be an end to excess, and I think money spent to run a dog around on a lead for a few minutes for no material gain qualifies as excess.

I think the future of the dog is as a companion – but not just as a companion.  They have the capacity to be more.   They want to be more.  Dogs have been bred, for thousands of years, to want to form a bond with humans.  They have been domesticated longer than any other animal, and that makes them different from any other living thing on Earth.

I talked to Dawn about this once, handed over about 5000 pounds of bullshit in a ten pound sack, because I am very bad at communicating my very convoluted thoughts in a concise way.  I thrown 50 different angles of explanation at the wall and hope that, from all of them, people can figure out what I’m trying to say.  When I stopped talking Dawn said, “Oh.  You mean they’ll become X,”  which was exactly what I meant.  Of course I can’t remember what she said now, and I’m betting she won’t be able to either, so I’ll just have to go back to the 5000 pounds of bullshit.

I have spent years thinking about this – and thinking hard about it.  Watching dogs interact with people, with other dogs; watching puppies I have bred grow, and tracking how they’ve developed.  I am willing to admit that it may just be New Age bullroar (to borrow the term from my hero, John Hodgman), but I am going to play with it for a few years before I admit defeat.

Anyone who has had a truly great dog knows what I’m talking about.  Everyone has heart dogs, but when you have a soul dog it is something almost spiritual.  I had lots of dogs I loved.  Then came Ella, and my perception was changed.  Some people may see the excess of commentary on this dog and say, “Wow, she sure is obsessed with that animal,” but to me it just feels like being in love.  It feels like finding that mythical soul mate the movies and TV shows and the books swear is out there.  Except most people don’t find theirs, because humans are damaged, nasty, selfish things. Dogs?  Dogs are the opposite of selfish.  And if they’re broken, it’s because you broke them, and then – intentional or not – that’s YOUR FAULT.

All dogs have the capacity to bond, but I say, “Why not focus on breed on that bonding ability?”  Why not try to intensify it?

This is a dangerous kind of dog to breed, though, because they are a huge responsibility.  A high-bonding dog, in a situation with an owner who doesn’t feed its need to bond and be nurtured, is a poor thing indeed.  I saw it happen with a dog that I bred, and I am watching how hard it has been to get him back.  It isn’t so much that he was abused; he just wasn’t spiritually fed, and he shut down.  He was damaged by things that wouldn’t have phased a “harder” dog, but because he wanted more from his person, he was hurt by the absence of someone to connect to.  He’s coming back, but it’s a slow and difficult process, and I will never forgive myself for placing him erroneously, because it was the easier thing to do.  For this reason, I am being EXTREMELY careful how I place anything I breed from now on.  But that’s a ramble for another day.

It is so hard to explain my theories on this, and this post has been being stitched together for days, and I am so fucking tired of it, so I will wrap this up now and return to this topic in more detail and – hopefully – more clarity in days to come.

The gist:

What I see in dogs with Presence is a step toward a new kind of dog.  The modern world has taken the thing that made dogs valuable to us – that they had jobs, that they could work for us – away from them.  We no longer need herders, or draft dogs, or dogs to chase game.  If dogs are to survive they must find a new niche – a new job.  And the new job of dogs is to be present for humans – to be a connection, to be a companion to our souls, to be a bond in a world where we are increasingly separated from each other by technology.

I told Kathy I was writing this post, and asked her why she wanted Valentine, when she came down to meet the puppies expecting to get Ollie.

“You know, she just drew my attention.  I actually had been watching her on the cam but tried not to get attached, as I knew she was taken.  She seemed to attach to us, just be more connected when we visited, and I think that is what got us.”

I feel that this type of dog is what future of the species should be.

I will end on a small brag about Caity.  Caity is the Rush x Ella baby that Heidi Spradling (Rush’s owner) took home with her to Alabama.   Heidi says she is both cute AND sweet, and she has been doing pretty well in the ring, too!  She hasn’t been out many times, but has several Reserve wins, and two majors under her belt.

Checking up on her momma!

Caity is another one that I always felt was special.  As with all dogs of Presence, you can see it in photos.  I hope to be able to meet her again one day.  My puppies are all very important to me, and she’s the one I haven’t seen since she left at eight weeks.  She seems like a really cool little dog. She was when she was wee, and now she’s grown into a kind, funny little lady.

Heidi says that at night Caity comes over and puts her head on Heidi’s lap and watches the computer screen as she works or plays games, and after 20 or 30 minutes falls asleep.

Maybe I am biased, but I think that is pretty cool…

as a way to break up the blog radio-silence…

…here is a story.

This morning I am trying to finish up this Simon figurine that has been giving me grief. I am maybe 20 hours in, after three attempts and forming him, and trying to get the paint job done before noon because I am meeting a co-worker to take Ella for a walk on the beach.  And, of course, I haven’t eaten, so I’m all kinds of crabby.  I went to bed at 3 am, and rolled out of bed about 9 am, straight into my computer chair and started painting.

And the dogs will not stop barking.  Another dog crosses a street in the next county, and they hurl themselves into the chair at the window, to stare out and look for other things to bark at.  And I have had about enough.  I am hungry, un-showered, irritated because the piece I’m doing has not been easy (and I have no patience, and can usually only be persuaded to do something if I know it will be easy), and annoyed I know I will run out of time before I have to leave… and then they all start barking like maniacs.  Every one, at full volume.

I yell at them a couple of times to shut up, but they don’t.  “Oh my God, SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” I scream shrilly, and hoist myself up to stomp out into the living room with great drama, to enforce the wrath…

…and there is a very well-dressed older lady at the screen door, clutching a Jehovah’s Witnesses brochure to her breast.

And I. Am. MORTIFIED.  I am grubby, in a white shirt with no bra, paint all over me, clutching a dog figurine with no eyes painted on yet.  There is a shelf behind me, full of other dog figurines (the ones that need to be sent out), and a vortex of barking dogs churning at my feet.  Yes, I think.  I in no way look like an insane person.

She says, “Oh, yes, I’m the reason they’re barking!” with a big, friendly smile, and starts in on her routine, which I can’t hear, for the barking, which has not abated in any way.  All I can think is:  Oh, please let this be over soon.

I wade though the bog of dog bodies and grab the pamphlet through the crack I open in the door, which the dogs are now trying to flood through, and must have looked like the angriest person she had ever seen.

“It looks nice,” she said cheerfully, of the figurine.

I mumbled a thanks and shut the door.

a funny thing happened…

Sometime back in November, in the Micheals in August, ME, I picked up 5 lb block of Marblex clay and announced to Dawn that I was going to purchase it and “show her what a good artist I am.”

A month or so later I carved out an evening to make something.  I’d been planning to make a little clay sculpture of each of Dawn’s four dogs, as thanks for taking me in after I was bereft, jobless in an economically dead area of rural Western New York, having spent the last three years helping take care of a paralyzed uncle and dying inside.

I had just taken a cute photo of Magnum on his perch at the top of the couch, so I thought I would do that.

I posted a picture of it, unpainted, on Facebook to show what I was up to, as Facebook has want to know these things.

A girl I had been chatting with a little – who is waiting to get her first show Cardi – asked if I would make some for her.  I said sure, why not, I’ll give it a shot.

I posted a picture of Magnum and the second dog, painted, on Facebook.

Someone else, who – amusingly – lives about 5 miles from my grandmother in Idaho, asked if I would do one for her, too.

When I finished that one, I posted it.

Enough people liked and commented on that photo that – in this latest incarnation of Facebook – it garnered enough interest to pop up in the feeds of people who weren’t even friends of mine.  One of those strangers asked for three.

And then there were more.  And more.  And suddenly I have more work that I know what to do with.

This is seriously the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me.

Here I’ve been, these last seven years, leaning back in my chair and tenting my hands and wondering, wondering, wondering how I was possibly going to be able to support my lifestyle.  I live modestly, but I have the MOST.  RIDICULOUS. EXPENSIVE. HOBBY.  I show and breed dogs.

I squandered my college career on a Writing degree, and I have no desire to go back to school, because I don’t want to be any of the things I would have to go back for.  I don’t want to be a nurse or an accountant or a teacher.  I make a living waiting tables, but not enough for dogs. Because, WOW, don’t know if you noticed, but dogs are expensive…

And then, as accidentally as I have lived my entire rather interesting life, I sort of founder into this.

It won’t make me rich, I promise you.  They take forever and I can’t charge what I would have to if I was making an hourly wage comparable to what I make in a night at the restaurant, which averages $15-$30 an hour.  But it is something I can do a few days a week, while I sit with Ella and listen to music and chat with people online.  It is a second job, because so many of us need second and third jobs these days.  It is shows for Ollie and Valentine and those who will come after them.  It is a litter of puppies this summer, which will probably be Ella’s last.  Don’t know if you noticed, but having puppies is my world, and I do it with the care and attention which engineers pay to designing a bridge.  It’s me being able to provide for the ones I’ve bred before, and to make sure if Ella gets hurt or gets sick, I can pay whatever I need to make sure she gets the best care she can.  It’s being able to help friends out when they need it – as I have been helped by so many of the friends I have made in this breed.

Long story short:  I guess the Secret works.  ;)

Second most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me:  hearing my father utter the words, “I guess we should have sent you to Art School.” He, the racehorse-training ex-cowboy.

Also:  my grandmother has Alzheimer’s.  At almost 90, this is not a tragedy, but still.  This is the woman who raised me, because my parents (My dad, now 70, and my mom, now 60… if you can do the math, I’m 32.) weren’t parents and lit off for better adventures.

I am not sure what to do with this information.  I am still not feeling it, and not looking forward to that feeling when the wall finally breaks down.

a short boston vacation

I had a long weekend over the 24th/25th/26th, so I headed down to see the grandpuppies and their family in Boston.  I made lots of photo plans, including a “posed” session (babies with Ella, babies with their family, maybe even dogs and ME…), and while the sun was nice and it wasn’t TOO cold, the wind sabotaged my ambition.  I did get a few, but nothing I am thrilled with.

I have traveled a lot, driven all over, and the drive from Warren to Boston is the easiest I have ever made.  I have done it half a dozen times on my own, and several more with Dawn for shows or visits to Joanna’s, and the three hours feels more like one.  And most of that one hour feels like it’s spent stuck in traffic on I-93, going INTO Boston, because apparently I can only make it there during rush hour.

What a cool town it is, though.  I’ve only spent time in the area around Kathy and Jim’s house, but would like to go into the city and do a little touristy stuff when the weather gets better.  Coming from the West, where everything is new, some of the larger New England cities intrigue me.  They are like creatures.  You can feel that they have been there longer, that they better understand who they are.

I am so in love with Valentine and Ollie’s family, if I haven’t made that obvious.  They take care of and spoil those dogs they way I would, and those puppies have thrived, and really come to their full potential as doggy “people”.  At night, when Jim and Kathy have chocolate pudding with whipped cream, the puppies each get a little whipped cream from the can in their bowls.  I love spoiling dogs like that.

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Attending to Mommy Kathy.

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Valentine gets cooler every time I see her.  She is so fun.  Kathy finally put her finger on it when she said, “She is just so interesting to live with.”  Never a dull moment with that one.  Take this photo, for example:

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Valentine has no interest in fetching.  What she does want is for the OTHER dog to run and fetch, so she can chase that dog, usually with something else – a ball or a toy – in her mouth.  This is so funny, because this is what her grandmother Bronte liked to do:  run along while the others played, with a toy of her own.  Valentine is not one who is content to let things happen on their own.  She knows how to get things done, and she knows how to communicate her desires.  I was trying to take a photo of Ollie and Ella on the other side of the yard, and she was standing beside me, staring at me with this well-loved yard-ball in her mouth.  Staring.  And staring.  And staring.  So I turned around and took a few photos of her.  Then she came closer and stood up on her hind end to dig at my leg with her tiny Tyrannosaur arms.  This is how she insists that the toy be thrown, Kathy had told me the day before.  “Don’t waste my valuable time,” Val says.  “Do you know who I am? I won’t stand for this!”  This is how Val asks for everything.  If you have spent too long not paying attention to her, she will sit up and dig at you to remind you she is there, and needs service.  Also, Ollie does what his mother did forever (which took forever to break), which is to drop the ball 6 feet away and fail to understand why you are not throwing it.  Val will not fetch, but she will bring the ball back from that 6 feet, so you can throw it.  She will deposit Ollie’s ball at her people’s feet, pick her toy back up, and back away, waiting to give chase again.  This is just one of many, many funny things she does.

Kathy has been training them to free-stack, and here Valentine is stacking for her mommy.

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“Cheese, please!”

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Ollie’s heart is as big as Valentine’s brain.  He is such a good, sweet boy, and has really blossomed in his new home.  He just finished dropping all his coat, so he should have hair again for the next show, at the beginning of April.

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We went out to Concord, MA, on Saturday and hit the town for some lunch and dog-showing-off.  Few things get as much attention as a trio of Cardigans, if only because people can’t figure out what the hell they are, especially when there are three of them.  One can be a corgi/border collie mix (or whatever), but a matched set blows their minds.  Afterward we found a nature trail and stayed out until the cold drove us back to the car.  The dogs were unphased, of course.  They ran and ran, and played in the water, and marched in the mud.

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Ella and Val frolicking.  There are several more photos in the album, here.

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And more…

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Kathy had this clock made for me, and I picked it up while I was down.  Brian (Kathy’s son) found a black and white one in a shop in New York City, and Kathy contacted the company (Pink Cloud) to see if they would do a custom one (since she knows how nuts I am about Ella).  It hangs above the dog cookie jar on my desk, ticking comfortingly and wagging away.  I love it.

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Ella rated the weekend 5 balls out of 5.

monday, monday…

Time for another round-up post!

My weekend is Sunday/Monday – at least in the off-season.  When tourist time rolls around we are open all week, and who knows what will befall me.  I like to set aside one day to take a ton of pictures (because it’s good for my soul) if the weather is nice.  Today the sun was warm and lovely, even if the wind was brisk.  Here are a few from my yard session and my walk with Ella later on.

View the full album here.

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Whiskey, growing up like a dream!

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Ella tries to talk Ian out of his hard-won stick.

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Magnum prepares to pounce.

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There were no pictures of Elli, as she chose to sit on the porch and look disgusted while everyone ran around and chewed on sticks.

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Ella is in love with Whiskey.  I don’t know if it’s Whiskey herself, or if it’s because Whiskey is a puppy.  Ella has always liked puppies, and likes them more since she had some of her own.

Well, she likes her until…

 …she tries to steal her stick…

…!!!

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There is a great nature trail a quarter of a mile from the house.  It’s been impassable most of the winter because it’s shaded by timber and the snow doesn’t melt.  I can’t wait for warm weather, to hike it every day.

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Under the category of puppy updates, the Rush x Ella babies (a.k.a. the mostly “Astronomy” litter – Valentine had to be funny, and mine, no matter what kind of star name I tried to give her, or how I tried to give her away) are growing up.

Rook (Hagaren’s Wandering Star) continues to be goofy…

“My ice. Mine.”  (Narration by Brianna.)

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…Leeloo (Hagaren’s Blue Moon) continues to be beautiful…

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…and Caity (Hagaren Regent Calico Sky) has a new blue puppy to keep her busy.

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I am planning to go South next weekend to look at Joanna’s new Daisy Poppy babies, and to spend a little time with my own.  I  love having grandpuppies!

Valentine loving on Brian.

And Ollie getting in on the kisses, too.

Brian is Kathy and Jim’s son, and Ollie’s “official” owner.  He is also (apparently) the most popular young man in the world.  I swear I get more hits from Google because his name is listed as Ollie’s owner than I do from people searching for dog-related things!

Karen posted some current photos of Brady, Ella’s next husband, and I stole them from her Facebook feed.  She says he was out playing with the sheep, and went straight from the pasture to the table.  Valentine and Ollie are the first dogs I have owned with correct coats, and Brady is the same.  I have to say, I may become a coat nut!

And, lastly but not leastly, a big congratulations to Carolyn Cannon and Mandy Katasse, whose boy Pilot (GCH C-Myste Baledwr Free To Disagree) went Best of Breed at Westminster today.  He brought a whole cheering squad with him from all over the country, and it seems to have worked!  Carolyn and Mandy bred my own foundation dog, Golem, as well as his sister Blue.  They are the most wonderful people, and I am so glad they have been blessed with this amazing experience!  They must still feel like they are dreaming.

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As of this writing they have not gone to group, but I know there will be many people sitting in front of their TVs tonight, cheering Pilot on.

to all the dogs i’ve loved before

Susan’s Christmas card finally made it to me from my old address in New York, and she printed some photos of Dexter for  me!  The little guy has it rough!  Ella is the love of my life, but I have never LIKED another dog as much as I like Dexter.  He’s a big love, and a handsome fella, too!

(NOTE: Susan Parmenter is an outstanding artist, and does the most wonderful pet portrait commissions.  The Cardigan in the top left corner of the linked page is a painting she did for me, which was a gift to the woman who helped me do the temperament testing on Stella/Dexter/Ella’s litter.)

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On the back of this photo Susan wrote: “Captain Dexter – loves to ride on the seat! …Wonders if he likes Corona, too!”

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Dexter on the left and Stella (Dex and Ella’s litter mate) on the right.

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With his “squidgie.”

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With daddy Tim.

my other third, aka the book

Preface:

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.

G.I.T.U.

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…

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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):

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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.

Anyway…

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.