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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Death of a Beagle

Lately I haven't been as diligent about promoting the work of other authors as I have in the past. I feel kinda' bad about it, actually. I fully intend to get back to plugging for others here on the Two-Fisted Blog. Some have asked for reviews, others have not, but I feel obligated to read and review just the same. I feel solidarity with my fellow authors, and I know indies and unknowns, especially, desperately need Amazon reviews and word-of-cybermouth to get noticed by their potential readership. The Two-Fisted Blog is over two years old now, and will continue to promote good reads for as long as it lives.

But lately I've had to cut way back on some activities in order to nurture my own fledgling career as an author. Obviously I haven't had much reading time. And my poor online book store, Virtual Pulp Press, hasn't been getting the TLC it needs (part of that is due to a convoluted situation with the computers in my house). Let's not even discuss other non-breadwinning activities...

So I've been putting what spare minutes and hours I can scrape up into Tier Zero, my sequel to Hell and Gone. Right now it's going through the beta read. Some helpful feedback so far, and no red flags or cause for massive rewrites (knock on wood). But there is one minor tragedy.

Let me rewind. I had a character in H&G, Gordy Puttcamp, who was a pilot. I had another character which was his dog Sentry. My favorite breed is the pit bull, and so I wrote Sentry as a large American terrier who is well-trained and plays with bowling balls like other dogs play with tennis balls (he's based on a real dog, BTW).

Puttcamp isn't in the sequel, so neither is Sentry. But I did give Rocco's Retreads another four-legged friend this time out, and her name is Shotgun (because that is the seat she claims as her own when riding in a motor vehicle).

Shotgun was a beagle. Why? Well, I learned a little about the breed some years ago. Despite their diminutive stature and stuffed-toy cuteness, beagles are hunting dogs. I've heard some folks say their noses are even more sensitive than a bloodhound's. With such an impressive scent-catching ability, I figured a beagle would be an interesting choice for a bomb-sniffing hound, which could be trained for other useful wartime tasks, as well.

As I wrote the first draft, I came to love the little furball--her floppy ears, stubby legs, her pitch-coded howling...

Then a beta reader pointed out that he's never seen beagles used for bomb-sniffing. Come to think of it, neither have I. Not that I've been around bomb squads in the military or civilian world, but I've seen pictures and videos. I haven't seen beagles or bloodhounds used for drug-sniffing, either.

With time as valuable a commodity as it is for me, I showed remarkable self-discipline in not spending half a day or more researching exactly why that is. This time I simply told myself, "There must be a reason why police and bomb disposal forces use mostly shepherds for working dogs."

(I've actually seen some MPs use rotweillers. And my beta reader mentioned Belgian malinois, which look enough like small German shepherds that I've probably mistaken one breed for the other in the past.)

And, while thinking further on the issue, I reminded myself that there were other chores I would have the canine performing which required a high degree of stealth. Beagles are not easily trained to be silent in any circumstance, especially when on a scent.

So, fickle mercenary jerk that I am, I had to put the poor girl down.I want it on the record that I tried, I really tried, to use a non-macho breed for a dog hero.

I had a girl-talk scene or two; there's a romantic sub-plot; a cute little sawed-off hound dog with a cold, wet nose and a wagging tail...I was really showing my sensitive side, there, until my roll was slowed by the mean old realism monster. But alas, no more vanilla-almond iced latte` for me--back to scalding hot black java in a beat-up canteen cup.

That's right, dear readers: Shotgun the beagle is dead. Long live Shotgun the shepherd mix. And things just aren't quite the same in the blood-splattered jungles of Indonesia...

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