It’s been just over a year since I announced Lost Dogs, my work-in-progress writing project. I am well into drafting the second act (of three) of LD (almost 58K words, currently), though not as far along as I would like. This is no big surprise to me, because I edit as I write; thus, I tend to make progress slowly. The upside is that I usually have minimal editing to do on the back end, when all the writing is done. Many authors prefer to type as swiftly as possible and do massive clean up later, but after studying under Jack Salamanca, I can’t stand moving forward when I’m not pleased with what I’ve produced to that point.
Another reason why I’m behind is that it’s taken me a while to find the proper voice and tone for this story. I’m mostly satisfied with what I have now, but it may continue to evolve and/or I may refine it further. To some extent, stories write themselves in the way they want to be told; in my early efforts, the tale didn’t feel right. Now, I believe it does, for the most part.
And, of course, some time I could have spent writing LD has gone to this blog, my 40K site, or promoting Dragontamer’s Daughters. With the start of the new year, though, I’ve pretty much put DTD to bed. I’m still aiming to publish LD by summer.
One of the biggest challenges in writing the book is portraying the world from a dog’s point of view. For example, we know that cars are machines that go where we drive them, but a dog might understand a car much differently. There’s quite a bit of “de-familiarization” going in the book: that is, I’ll describe things that we all know well—like corn, or cows, or airplanes—in a way a dog might experience them.
As for the novel itself, it’s the story of what happens after an abrupt event eliminates the human race, leaving behind a group of dogs on Kent Island, MD. The dogs attempt to survive and comes to terms with their new lives and the old ones they’ve lost. The book has a parent-child relationship theme that grounds the novel firmly in the young adult category, which I intended all along. There’s also a religious (!) theme that I did not intend, but it nevertheless developed: as I said, some stories write themselves the way they want to be told.
The main characters are Buddy, a young German Shepherd; his housemate Sally, an older Beagle/Basset mix; Nell, a Retriever/Setter mix; Jake, a taciturn Rottweiler; Penny and Poppy, Pomeranian comic relief; and Rex, a Border Collie of great intelligence and agility. The arrival of Rex in Act Two has really enthused me: he’s a character with much depth, who sometimes overshadow the others. This is not altogether unwanted.
The dogs roam about Kent Island, mostly north and south along Route 8, and have a number of adventures and encounters, some much less pleasant than others. Lost Dogs won’t be as grim as, say, The Plague Dogs or Call of the Wild, but there are some scenes that are heart-breaking. I try to balance that with the occasional funny bit, or moments such as the one below, where Buddy dreams (“Remembers”) of a summer day with his owners:
It’s hot Out and they are in the pool, he and Audrey, in the shade under the trees. Genn and Rob had been in the pool with them, but then they gotten out and now they are sitting in the sun, holding hands and watching as Buddy and Audrey splash. And Sally is with them, under Genn’s chair, and she won’t come in the pool, no matter how often Buddy’s barked to her to come, because she doesn’t like it and Buddy and Audrey are in the low part, where Audrey can just stand on tippy toes without it going over her head, and she knows not to go farther, to where the Wet is deep, and she knows that, but Genn and Rob watch her to make sure and Buddy watches her, too, keeping himself between her and the deep even though he has to swim and swim and swim because his paws can’t touch the bottom but Buddy doesn’t mind because he likes to swim.
But now Audrey is standing on the steps and she has a ball and it’s blue and she throws it as far as she can across the Wet and it goes PSHH and little bits of Wet spray up and Buddy swims to where it is at the top and he opens his mouth and carefully, carefully (because if he doesn’t and he bumps it, the ball will float away, or else he’ll drink some of the Wet even if he doesn’t mean to and Rob doesn’t like when Buddy does that) carefully he plucks up the ball in his jaws and he swims swims swims back to Audrey where she’s standing on the steps and he lets go of the ball and she picks it up and throws it again and he swims swims swims to it and gets it again and brings it back again. And every time Buddy brings the ball back, Audrey claps her hands and says, “Good boy!” and then she throws the ball again and they do this for a long while, how long, Buddy doesn’t know.
And then Rob looks up at the sun that’s going down behind the trees and the other houses and he says, “I guess we better feed these dogs,” and Genn smiles and says, “And feed us and a little girl, too—I know I’m hungry” and Rob smiles, too, and then Genn calls, “Time to get out, Sweetie Pea!” and she gets up, and under the chair, Sally stirs—she’s been Remembering there, because she’s older than Buddy and likes to Remember a lot, especially when it’s hot Out—and yawns, ham-pink tongue curling, and stretches and slowly stands up and Genn has a big towel for Audrey to wrap around herself as she gets out of the Wet and Buddy comes out, too, up the steps, Wet running off his fur everywhere, like it does when it falls from the Empty, and Buddy has the ball and he drops it by Audrey’s feet as she stands there in the Yellow.
She rumpfles his Ears and says, “You’re my best friend, Buddy.”
And Buddy wakes and it’s Dark and the house is silent.
He climbs down out of the bed, where Rob and Genn used to be, and he pads out into the hall. Goes to Audrey’s room.
Climbs into her empty bed and looks out into the Dark.
More about Lost Dogs some other time…