Fáilte go dtí an taobh dorcha…

So this happened…

Welcome to the dark side indeed… for her, anyway. This is Ciaragh, (Kee-rah, the feminine form of Ciaran, which means dark in Irish) and she has joined our house as a foster, for now. She is 14 months old, and we are already terribly smitten with her. She is the spitting image of Bryn when she was that age. Actually, she looks more like Bryn at five months because she is so very tiny. A pocket IW! She is curious, sweet, submissive to Willow and so far completely in love with our backyard. She would stay out there all day, whittling sticks and digging to China if we let her. So…things here at The Lettuce have derailed a bit, but all is well: we are puppy-proofing as we go and generally getting to know this precious little muppet. I mean come on, how CUTE is that face?  More Muppet Shenanigans can be had over at Bryn’s blog, Our Daily Bryn (as soon as I get caught up, that is). Also, be sure to watch for the next in the Clobberpaws series – I think Bryn’s story just got a whole lot more interesting! As for Miss Ciaragh, she may be making her debut at GARF! Stay tuned…

All that and the (Goodreads) sync…

Cover design for Tempest: Fall of the Nature Walker
Concept by me, final design by Brian Collins
So, today is a big day. I mean, of course it is, it’s New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2018, but in my little corner of life, it is also Cover Reveal Day for the second book in my trilogy, Tempest, as you can see there just to the right of here. Once again, my good friend Brian, who is so very talented, has created a masterpiece out of my mucky concept. 
In revealing the cover, I am also committing to a timeline, something that is hard AND easy for me in equal measure. I know that I work better with one, and with a hard and fast deadline, but I also know myself. I am extremely impatient and I want ALL OF THE PEOPLE TO HAVE ALL OF THE BOOKS NOW rather than do what normal people do and release them on a schedule. In fact, in order to distract myself from fretting over getting Tempest into the eReaders of ALL OF THE PEOPLE, I distracted myself by writing a prequel of sorts, a history of Orana, that in its current state is just heaps and heaps of slightly coherent ones and zeroes, waiting in my cloud drive to be edited. And by edited, I mean ripped to bits and probably rearranged a bit. I’m pleased with it, but I’m the only one that has read it so far, so there’s that.
In linking my blog to Goodreads (if you’re reading me from there and the cover graphic looks wonky, I’m sorry), I am revealing a part of my self to (hopefully) a large group of people that don’t know me yet, either as a writer or as me. That’s okay, if not a little nerve-wracking. But here I am to reveal parts of both of those sides of me, anxiety be damned. 
The cover for Wanderer is being reworked a bit so that it falls in a bit better with this concept direction we have taken with Tempest, and that will be revealed here as well when it’s ready. If you are new to the Lettuce, please feel free to mosey around. There are large time gaps, I will warn you, and if you go alllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll the way back 10 years to where it started you will see a very different me in the posts. You may also want to head over to Our Daily Bryn, a photo blog of our life with our Irish Wolfhound, Bryn – who is the star of her own series of books (so far only a series of one, but I’m working on that), Clobberpaws.
So, happy new year, welcome to Brave Lettuce, and I hope to hear from you here in the comments or over on Goodreads!

Once again, into the breach…err, semester…

Willow-Pickle's head on the dog bed giving me side eye
Trying the blog thing again are you? Pardon me if I don’t stay
awake until you leave it hanging…again… -Willow-Pickle

Here we find ourselves again, dear friends, my handful or so of Lettuce readers, my Lettuce Heads… Oh, I like that, I think I’m keeping it. You are my Lettuce Heads. Yes.

Sorry, moving on…
Here we are again at the beginning of another semester at Clemson. It is fall, so there is the influx of TOO MANY FRESHMEN that makes class scheduling a nightmare at best and my spreadsheet for captioning a never ending work in process.
Welcome to life in Student Accessibility Services, I suppose.
Those lights in tunnels that I spoke about back in May are still burning. GARF was an amazing experience for this seasoned rennie performer that brought loads of new friends and happy memories and bits to try at other faires. The lack of coffee meetings (and overall lack of Daisy) was hard to manage but we moved onward and upward. I’m now on the cusp of the Enchanted Chalice and CRF, and while I am looking forward to again being in my element I’m finding it difficult to bring up the same amount of joy and anticipation that I am already feeling when I think of next year at GARF. I suppose everyone has their niche, and mine is Newcastle.
That makes me laugh everytime I say it, since my parents-in-law live in a village near Newcastle. The real Newcastle. The one filled with Geordies that doesn’t pull a Brigadoon in the mist every summer in June.
Nothing new to report, really, other than general personal growth over the summer. Coffee meetings with Daisy morphed into snuggly telly time with Willow (and Bryn, when she isn’t being ENTIRELY TOO GROWN UP TO MANAGE A SNUGGLE ANYMORE). Work was steady over the summer, so I was out of the house a lot. I missed dance and poi, but that will start back in a few weeks now that I have a steady paycheck. 
Steady. That’s the word for the summer. 
Coming up though? Watch this space, there’s news on the Nature Walker front. That’s all I can say at the moment, but I’m about to burst here. WATCH.THIS.SPACE

Dia duit ó GARF.

Almost TOO Irish, that.
Go raibh míle maith agat to Chris Heffron (of the Southern Travel Guide) for this great shot from last Sunday afternoon. While hopping from shade spot to shade spot, Bryn and Anne and Bo and I ran into one of our dear friends from the GARF cast, Andy (aka Irish or Jordan Hale) as he was waiting to be able to spend a bit of time with his lady-love (who also works at GARF). Andy is just one of many cast members who have made us feel at home and part of the family at GARF this year (and in years past), and we can’t thank him (and them) enough.
It’s funny, it’s like we are almost too Irish here and Bryn is trying to make a break for it. My sweet girl…she didn’t have the best weekend this time around, adding stealing a sandwich off a table and trying to abscond with a turkey leg to her list of accomplishments this season. I hope that my renewed enthusiasm for this faire will bleed over to her, but I know that I am causing some of her frustration when I expect her to do bad things before she does them. She is still roaring at the horses during the joust and wagging her tail when her favourite princess says her name, so I think she is still my Rennie Hound. Dia linn, for the rest of the run, I say. Dia linn.

Lights at the Ends of Various Tunnels

Me and my girl at GARF,
photo courtesy of the Southern Travel Guide

Yeah, the last post was pretty grim, and if I’m honest, the work situation (that I still can’t talk about) hasn’t gotten any better, but there have been bright spots and that’s what we are going to focus on in THIS post.

One of them is featured in the photo: The Georgia Renaissance Festival. Now, this is not a new thing, not by a longshot, but apparently, the fourteenth year is the charm, hoopskirt issue notwithstanding. I have made friends at GARF in the past, cast members and vendors and directors and the like, but this year just feels different. I feel at home in “Newcastle” in a way I have yet to feel at home in “Fairhaven” after fifteen years in what we refer to as the Northern Kingdom.

What has changed? Me? Having Bryn? I don’t know. But this past weekend, I was able to play, really play, with both the cast and with my partner in crime, Lucy to my Ethel, and the only other member of HOEF that does more than one or two weekends at GARF, Anne. Perhaps it is the beautiful friendship that has formed between her Bo and my Bryn. Perhaps it is Anne’s extrovert that brings my introvert along, often kicking and screaming, to get to know the cast.

Whatever it is, I am profoundly sad on days that I have to miss attending GARF, even though it means a 5 am start every Saturday and a late afternoon arrival back home, dirty and sweaty and hot every Sunday between the middle of April and the first weekend in June. I long to be in the lanes, even though that means pulling turkey tendons out of Bryn’s mouth and replacing steak sandwiches that she snatches in the blink of an eye. I dream of the joust, and of watching with pride as Bryn thumps her tail when her favorite princess rides by, upside down in her saddle, even though I’m fighting the reflection of the sun off the light colored sand which is swirling about in my eyes and nose.

I’m hoping that this feeling of Rennie family will continue into the fall when I am again with my HOEF family in the dog barn on the eastern side of Fairhaven, and that we can project the kind of skilled performance that we are learning at GARF into our wonderfully laid back home at the Enchanted Chalice in Greenville, SC. Vikings ahoy!

I did say tunnels in the title, didn’t I? While GARF is the light at the end of one tunnel, the fact that I only have four days left until my summer break is certainly another. But that tunnel is not quite as bright because I will have several months of empty coffee meetings to look forward to without Daisy. While it hasn’t been easy without her, it has been easier because I’ve had work to distract me. Without my daily commute to Clemson, I am going to have to face what our reality looks like now; no queen on the end of my bed, huffing because I’ve rearranged my legs and accidentally knocked her about. No beautiful blonde/red fawn fur glimmering in the green grass of the back yard as she sunbathes. No teeth chattering in my ear.

But you see that muppet in the picture with me? She is a light of her own, and she and Willow are there to distract me when they can and snuggle with me when they can’t. Their light comes to find me in my tunnel and shines into the darkness to remind me to keep moving forward.

Finally, there is light at the end of the Superginormous Manuscript tunnel…book one in the three book series that it has become is almost ready to go to Amazon, and that is both exciting and horrifying. I took the first Camp Nanowrimo to edit the second book, and am not working on editing/fleshing out the third in between expense reports and mad garb sewing/laundering. So all in all, my life has far more light than dark. I just need to be able to remember that and hang on to it…and keep moving.

I’m so out of the loop I’m a straight line…or a t-plane.

Tá mé na hÉireann.

So what started out as nostalgic blog reading led me to this post: SP14 Wrap Up which further led me to thinking about why I didn’t go to Sandy Paws this year…and why I’m kind of glad.

But first, in case you’ve forgotten who I am because it’s been so long since I’ve posted, I’m still at Clemson, I’m 37 days from summer break from Clemson, I still live in Greenville with Hubs and Daisy and Bryn.  I’m still me.

I’m still not as good of a dog parent as I could be.  Life still gets in the way of keeping toenails perfectly trimmed and practicing our obedience lessons.  I’m still not earning any part of my living, really, through writing.  But I carry on and I dream of a day when “going to work” means “going to my home office and writing for 8 hours.”

But back to what led me to open this post and write…I was looking at the experience I had last year at Sandy Paws…the people that were nasty to me and Anne about not having greyhounds at the end of our leashes, the people that laughed when Bryn nearly pulled me off my feet, and all the other experiences we had that made me feel like an outsider.

Well, I have to share that instead of going back to that pit of thinly veiled anti-racing sentiment and Greyhounds Only Breed Snobbery for the chance to see a handful of people that I truly adore, this year Bryn and I walked in the Greenville SC. St. Patrick’s Day parade and she didn’t pull me down!  No harness, no prong collar (because I’m still just not going to do that to a sensitive breed like a Wolfhound if I can help it), just a martingale and a leash.  I could not have been more proud of her and I’m still telling anyone that will listen about it.

As far as work goes, I am encountering new challenges like t-planes, compilers, ethnography and research rigor and I think I’m muddling through it all right.  I have an amazing staff of women that caption and interpret for Clemson.  Does it make sense to say I love what I do but I don’t love my job?  Anyway.  Off to do more things that “aren’t really important” in the name of keeping up my skills and certification until I get to go home and see that fuzzy face up there.

Sandy Paws Wrap Up or "I told you I’d blog that!"

Screaming at the beach is gnome-much fun!
Photo Courtesy of K. Lazenby

In its own unique way, Sandy Paws time has come and gone again.  We spend weeks on Facebook and in text messages and emails planning and laughing and looking forward to seeing each other.  We despair that we only see each other once a year.  We arrive, and from that moment on there is hugging and laughing and screaming and cheering and spending money and all the exciting things we’ve looked forward to for the past 364 days.

And it is gone, it is over, in the blink of tearful eyes.  Even though this year my time at Sandy Paws was infinitely more challenging due to the addition of one big furry puppy who only has manners when she pleases, it was still gone and over too fast, and we were heading back up I-95 to our lives and jobs.  How does that happen?  Why can’t the enjoyment last as long as the anticipation?  I find myself now back in those 364 days, waiting for Sandy Paws 2015 when I can see my FTH family again…hopefully with a much better behaved Bryn next year.

Now, on to the part of the weekend that made me put my “I’m Gonna Blog That” face on:

I will admit that in the past I have been one of those greyhound owners that I’m about to talk about…and I will extend my heartfelt apologies to anyone that owns a little dog or a big dog or any other kind of non-greyhound or non-sighthound dog that has come to a greyhound event and gotten the Hairy Eyeball from me.  I found out on this trip just how unpleasant even the most well-meaning people can be when they identify your dog as Other or NotAGreyhound and make a point of either looking at you like you’ve got four heads or telling you how to manage your dog in the sea of apparently ravenous high prey drive greyhounds ahead.  I mean really…I think if we did a survey of the dogs that attended Sandy Paws this year you would find that a great many of them live…are you ready? WITH OTHER BREEDS or even…gasp…CATS AND OTHER SPECIES.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have known, loved, and lived with some real Cat-Zappers.  I saw a foster dog catch my cat in his front paws in mid-air.  I know the possibilities.  But for crying out loud…the reception that Anne and I got when we entered the conference center with Millie (Boston terrier who lives with a greyhound and a bloodhound and was NOT on a flexi-lead, thankyouverymuch) and Bryn (wild-eyed Irish Wolfhound puppy of a mere 9 months who is still not sure about everyone and everything she meets) was less than welcoming.  Granted, not all of the almost 200 people that attended know me personally and/or know that I have a greyhound as well as the Big Hairy Beastie that came with me to Sandy Paws, but it’s a good guess that I do IF I AM THERE.

Here are just a few things to chew on if you happened to be in the vicinity of the traveling circus that is me, Anne, and our Nons at the Jekyll Island conference center over the Sandy Paws weekend.

1. The fact that Bryn pulls me around is not funny, really.  It happens when you have a puppy brain in a 97lb body attached to an owner with the upper body strength of a Keebler Elf (to borrow from Sheldon Cooper).  It is a little embarrassing, to be honest, because I’ve never owned a dog like her before and am still learning the best way for both of us to be able to walk calmly and pleasantly.

2. My wolfhound is not going to eat your (fill in name of other breed here) as long as I am still attached to her and/or am conscious.  There is no need to glare at me or pull your greyhound around on the other side of you to protect your precious greyhound from Bryn.  In fact, you may be called out on your Death Glare if we happen to see you do it.

3. I understand that not everyone likes big dogs.  But for heaven’s sake, y’all…this is a sighthound gathering and the hound in question is not an Italian Greyhound!  I’m assuming that most of the people there have at least a passing familiarity with sighthounds that are at least 50lbs and some much more than that (not always because they are big boys, either, but that’s another blog for another day).

4. If I tell you that Bryn needs some space then she needs some space.  It doesn’t matter how many whatevers you have raised/bred/raced/whatever in your day, I know my dog better than you do.  End of.  I appreciate all the offers for help over the weekend from everyone (including my friend Brian who asked me to let Bryn come running at him…which I did) and the compliments were fab for her and me.  It’s hard to believe she has only been in my life for just under 5 months…feels like 5 years some days.

5. A Boston Terrier on a stationary leash that is being held by her owner is probably owned by someone savvy about the prey drives of greyhounds and other sighthounds and will NOT be putting her dog or anyone else’s in a dangerous position, at least not consciously.  A person who brings a small breed into a sighthound event on a flexi lead is a different matter, but that, again, is a blog for another day.

Overall we had so much fun…Bryn slept most of the way home when she wasn’t trying to chew on her Auntsie’s ears or get in the front with Millie.  My FTH family is more precious to me than I can express and even now, as I sit here typing, the thought of THEM…the thought of US…it brings tears to my eyes at how important we all are to each other.

Metrognomes of the world, unite.  Onward and upward…to Mountain Hounds if not before!  (You can see pictures of Bryn at SP14 on her blog, Our Daily Bryn, beginning with the entry for 26 March.)