Category Archives: Quincy the Wonder Dog

RIP Quincy: 2000-2012

I had grown used to thinking of him as indestructible, in spite of himself. I called him Quincy the Wonder Dog, not because he was wonderful (although he was), but because it was a constant source of wonder that he managed for almost 12 years to survive his own misadventures. Today, his strength and exuberance and penchant for getting into trouble all came to an end due to untreatable cancer.

I’ve written many words about Quincy on this blog and those of you who follow along are familiar with the stories. My heart is too heavy tonight, my vision too blurred by tears, to tell more. My daughter said it best earlier on her FaceBook status:

“RIP Quincy, you were the best and silliest dog, I love you and miss you so much.”

Yes, so do I.

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Kids and Dogs and Cookies, Oh My!

My daughter was in town last week for a highly anticipated visit, part of which was spent at the beach. Hey, it’s summer. Time at the beach is practically a requirement down here. She left The Intruder Cat behind in New Orleans, but brought along her five-month-old black lab puppy, Jenny. Which was fine. Well, it would have been fine. Except Jenny wasn’t the only pet in residence. I’d also agreed to take custody of Quincy The Wonder Dog for the week. Plus my own ancient curmudgeonly cat. I know, what was I thinking?

So my daughter dropped off The Little Terrorist, as Jenny quickly became known, and she and her brother went to the beach in SC with their dad for several days. Luckily, Jenny is crate trained and I still had a dog crate in the basement.

Now, I love black labs and all three of our dogs have been labs, either purebred or some kind of lab mix. So I KNOW how hyper they are. And after 11 years of dealing with The Wonder Dog, I know exactly how BAD um, that is, how wild ass crazy they can be.

Even so, I was surprised by Jenny’s sheer exuberance. She SO wanted to be best friends with Quincy (and my cat, when she could find her) and was convinced that if she just tried a little bit harder, things would all work out. She was mistaken. Surprise. But the big shock for me was realizing that, in comparison, The [Sadly Maligned] Wonder Dog was a model of calm well-behaved patience and tolerance. Made me feel old.

I tried to take some pictures, but mostly they were a dark blur of moving dog parts. My cell phone is my only camera these days and it pauses for several ominous seconds between when you push “take” and when it actually takes the damn picture. My old cell phone didn’t do this, so I assume this is some fancy new technology, even though I have no idea what’s going on in there. Maybe it’s contacting Homeland Security so they can run the image through a facial recognition program. Probably notifies MI-6 and the Mossad as well. Whatever. But during that time, the tableau has completely changed and I find I’ve taken a picture of . . . carpet that desperately needs to be vacuumed.

My son took this pic, wherein Jenny is attempting a submissive attitude. That didn’t last longer than it took her to notice The Wonder Dog had taken possession of her bone.

Here she is taunting him with her massive hunk of knotted rawhide. No, that is not a euphemism. Quince is not allowed to have rawhide treats — he’s too strong. He tears off huge chunks and swallows them whole and then I end up scraping a slimy fetid mess off the carpet in the middle of the night while thinking up horrific tortures to inflict on whoever invented the damn things.

Here they are together, promising to be good if I’ll let them come inside. If you’ve ever wondered, this is exactly what it looks like right before all hell breaks loose.

And here’s Quincy pouting. Wondering when His Favourite Person is coming back to rescue him. Poor baby.

But mostly we had fun and the cat didn’t inflict too much lasting damage on either dog. A little canine therapy, perhaps a few sessions of shock treatment, and they’ll be good as new. And then the kids came back from the beach and I discovered they no longer had any idea how to fend for themselves, given the amount of food I cooked for them and their friends during the rest of the week. Ahem.

My daughter did make the blueberry pie featured in the last blog post. As an early birthday treat for her brother. Who promptly laid claim to the leftovers and said, “You’re not going to eat this, are you mom?” and took it home with him (which was the plan). And then my daughter somehow talked me into staying up past midnight on her last night here to bake Monster Cookies to take with her on the 13-1/2 hour drive home. Honestly? There was very little persuasion involved.

[I mentioned Monster Cookies on twitter and received a request for the recipe. Rather than add it to this already lengthy post, I added a page called “Misc.” and put it over there. Hope you enjoy, Adrienne!]

So now my house is quiet again and the dog hair has been vacuumed up, narrowly escaping inclusion on the list of Superfund sites, and the cat has emerged from pissed-off seclusion. I’ve already eaten the handful of cookies allotted for my own personal consumption. Although they were satisfyingly large, they didn’t even come close to filling the empty aching void that opened up again when my daughter left. Given her penchant for spending time in far off places, you’d think I’ve have gotten used to that by now. You’d be wrong.

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Doing it backwards

I’ve listened to many writers talk about their writing process. What I’ve learned is fascinating — but also somewhat discouraging if you’re looking for a magic answer to that whole “How To Write” question. Because there isn’t one. There are about a billion.

Some writers start at page one and write straight through until the end. Others start at the beginning, write several chapters, get distracted by something shiny, write a couple chapters at the end, then a few in the middle, and then a few more toward the beginning. Others use an outline — whether highly detailed or just bare bones — and flesh it out until they have a story. Some start knowing plot and nothing else; some start with full-blown characters but no idea of what those characters will do. Some edit as they go and once they’re done, they’re done. Others only edit after the entire rough draft is on the page. Some use spreadsheets. Or whiteboards. Music. Collages. Play-Doh and glitter.

The one thing all these wildly different and often contradictory methods have in common is they each result in a very similar product. A completed manuscript. There is no One Right Way to write a novel.

You have to do what works for you. If what you’re doing is not working, then by all means, look around, listen to what other writers are doing, try a few different things, see whether they work for you. Adopt them if they do and run like hell if they don’t.

Be wary of people who say you “have to” do things — plotting, writing, editing, promoting, querying, whatever — a certain way. What they’re really saying is that THEY have to do things that certain way. Or that they happen to know three other people who do things that way and it works for them. And that’s delightful. Good for them. It does not mean you have to, or even should, do it the same way.

So I’m taking my own advice. What I’ve been doing — writing in a linear progression, the same way I’d read a story — is not working right now. I’m close to being done, but . . . struggling. The writing feels “off” or goes in the wrong direction and I end up deleting it.

But I have a pretty good feel for how this story ends. So I’m going to start there, at the end. I’m going to write that last scene and then go backwards. Like backing a train into the station at full speed, hoping the track is straight and the platform is sturdy and that no one is standing too close to the edg– wait. That’s not a good image.

More like a detective trying to solve a crime. Taking the evidence of what happened and reconstructing it backwards in time, trying to figure out how everyone got there and what they did and said and why. Hoping I can connect the end to the middle without derailing the entire train.

I might even get really drastic and use note cards. And [shudder] coloured sticky notes.

Do I recommend this as a “writing process?” Hell no. I’m not even sure it will work. I might end up making a bigger mess than the one I’ve already got. For me, the important thing is being open to different ways of creating, of discovering how to tell a story. Trying not to become discouraged.

“Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” -Thomas Edison

My next book might have a different process entirely. With my luck, it will be a more difficult process. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is finding what works. If I have any advice at this point it’s to be willing to explore, try new things, look at your process from a different angle. However. Be just as willing to say, “No. That’s not how I do it. That doesn’t work for me.”

So I’m experimenting, doing it backwards. I’m also going to take a week of vacation and get in the car and drive until I run out of road, find some solitude in which to write. But that’s a different post.

By request, here is Quincy the Wonder Dog from a couple summers ago, up at the lake, wet and sandy after a swim, contemplating all the bad things he’s going to do once he’s off that leash. And he did.

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