I recently reviewed Steve Ullom’s delightful book: Cigars with Dog: Conversations & Tall Tails. Today we are going to get to know the main character in his book, Dog, a little better.
1) First of all, Dog, do you have a proper name or is your name actually just “Dog,” or is it your pen name?
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! My proper name is Canis Lupus Familiaris. But author Ullom has a hard time remembering names period, much less something as distinguished as my full name. He also feels that if certain celebrities are satisfied with only one name, then one short name should be good enough for someone like me who eats out of a dish without utensils. By the way, if one of your readers wants to invent a utensil that someone without opposable thumbs can use, I would appreciate that.
2) Your breed is Dachshund, but some people call Dachshunds Wiener Dogs, which one do you prefer being called?
I prefer Dachshund. I am very proud of my German heritage, Ja? “Ich bin ein Berliner” and all that. In fact, I had proposed that the cover of the book should be a picture of me in my holiday lederhosen, but you know who nixed THAT idea. He doesn’t think I have the legs for it. I suspect that comment of his is another attempt at some humor at the expense of my short legs. I do, however, look quite fashionable.
3) In the book you share many afternoons with Steve sitting on the porch smoking cigars and drinking beer. This is a bit unusual for a dog. How did the smoking and the beer drinking get started, and which are your favorite cigars and beers?
Being German, you grow up drinking moderately at meals. So that’s how it started. It’s very normal, you know. The smoking started because I was a fan of Groucho Marx, who is a fan of cigars. I don’t have his eyebrows. In fact, I am waggling my eyebrows at you right now but getting no reaction. Anyhow, I thought I could smoke a cigar like him and it would help my comic delivery. By the way, Groucho once said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.” So a book about dogs…why there is a two-for-one deal! My favorite cigars are free ones. My favorite beer is a Belgian Ale, along with a nice pretzel.
4) Let me put you in the hot seat Dog. In the book you take it as a given that cats act like they own the world, but don’t you feel the same way? Don’t you act like Steve’s life should revolve around you?
Didn’t Steve pay for the opportunity to have his life revolve around me when he put down some hard-earned coin for me as a puppy? At any rate, with a change in architectural styles and standards, his life wouldn’t HAVE to revolve around me. If he put the handle on the back porch door down a bit, I could open that door myself and he wouldn’t be so bothered to let me out “always in the last minute of a close sports game” as he puts it. And when you are my size, you try getting the attention of a clerk at the store. It doesn’t work. So he has to sort of help me out with buying things for me, food, cigars, a new pillow. The things you need to get by in life.
5) Related to the previous question, it has often been pointed out that “Dog” spelled backwards is “God.” Do you have a comment on that?
Anubis. The Egyptians, they had it right, didn’t they? Letting us walk around on our back feet with a cool cane and a bottom covering that makes kilts look like budget clothing, all while worshiping us as a god. Although, try to lift a leg sideways to relieve yourself while wearing one of those, and then not dribble on it. That’s a talent, I tell you.
6) In Steve’s book you wrote a spirited rebuttal section for the book. Do you have plans to write a full length book of your own? If so what would this book be about?
When I was a teenage pup, I wanted to write the great canine novel. But my interest lately has moved to screenwriting. I want to write something where Lassie stays in the house, maybe smoking a pipe and reading the evening newspaper, instead of running in and pretending to understand human speech while only barking about some ridiculous issue that Timmy got himself into again. Although, to be honest, I would also like to write a tale where a Dachshund and a Hobbit go off together on an adventure. I think they would have an affinity, based on their, uh, closeness to the ground.
7) Finally what about STEVE? Does he plan to publish any other books soon? If so do you think you will be one of the characters?
He is planning some stories that have a tendency towards the paranormal. Stories where things don’t quite die in the way that we normally think of as the correct sequence in that endeavor. There’s a story about “The Collector” that I like…about a visitor. Another story has a twist on who lives where…and just who is on the other side of the window at night. That one turns out to be a bit comedic. I shouldn’t give too much away, however. There are often dogs in them. I’m a little nervous about being a character in them, to be honest. I don’t know if he can correctly capture my heroic nature. However, one never knows what or who will show up.Thank you very much, Dog, for agreeing to this interview. We hope we can see more of you in Steve's future books and maybe even a book of your very own. Also thank you very much Steve for allowing me to have Dog over here. We are looking forward to that book of paranormal stories you are planing to publish.You can contact Dog by reaching Steve Ullmon at his website or following him on Twitter. ***If you like this blog you can have links to each week's posts delivered to your e-mail address. Please click here.
Do you ever wish you could get your fans more involved with your work? One way to do this is through collaborative fiction. But what is that and how does it work? To find out check out this interview with Lia London who is the author of the collaborative fiction book The Fargenstropple Case, which I reviewed a while ago, and who is currently writing another collaborative fiction project: the YA urban fantasy Magian High. Rolando - What is your definition of collaborative fiction and what made you start writing it? Lia - What I mean by collaborative fiction is a sort of grander version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books we read as kids. It started because one of the main creative consultant friends I have got really busy and couldn’t give me ongoing feedback as often as I wanted (I’m rather demanding that way), so I thought… Well, I’m sure there are other people who’d be glad to boss me around! There is also that sick little part of me that loved going to school and getting assignments, and this is like that. My readers give me writing homework, and I love the challenge. It keeps my brain alive. Rolando - What can you achieve through collaborative fiction that you can’t achieve writing regular fiction? Lia - The collaborators often add at least another layer or two of depth to the story, helping to flesh out subplots that intertwine with the main plot. They’re also good at catching internal inconsistencies I might create, and they keep me true to my genre target audience. Plus, I just really enjoy the interaction. So far, the contributors have all been very pleasant, creative, fun people. Rolando - Please give us a short and general, step-by-step description of how collaborative fiction works. Lia - It’s incredibly simple. I establish a premise, write a chapter, and then ask some questions about where things might go. I may or may not already have ideas, but I always take the readers’ ideas into consideration. My dad calls me the “splicer of suggestions” because I sift through the ideas shared and pick the ones that (a) spark my imagination , and (b) feel most consistent with what we’ve already created. I try to post a few “installments” every week until we wrap up the story. Rolando - When an author begins a story they normally have a notion of what the story will be about and where they want to take it. In collaborative fiction, do you have such an overall general master plan for the story, or is the storyline pretty much “up in the air” at the turn of each chapter? Do your collaborators contribute filler material or do they actually take the story in directions you had not anticipated? Lia - Both. I have a beginning and the climax ending scene in mind, but I’m not overly particular about how I might get there. That’s how I write books for myself, too. The questions I ask and the suggestions the collaborators give nudge the story in the most interesting route to get to the end. But the collaborators add a lot that can change my whole perspective of the piece. With “The Fargenstropple Case,” for instance, one of the first comments suggested adding a love interest. I had not even considered that kind of element, and yet the character proved to be the most enigmatic and useful person in the story! Rolando - In collaborative fiction, part of the trick of keeping your collaborators engaged is writing their suggestions into the story. But what happens if your collaborators want the story to go in a direction you don’t like? Lia - Very rarely someone will suggest something that feels really “off” or unclear and I just don’t use the idea, but since those contributors gave other suggestions as well, it isn’t as if I rejected them. Obviously I can’t write in everyone’s ideas for every chapter. It’s my job to pick the best ones. I don’t think I’ve offended anyone by not using an idea. If I did, they stuck around anyway. Rolando - Can you “get stuck” in collaborative fiction? For example can you write several chapters and then realize the storyline is not working and then you have to backtrack and rewrite the last few chapters in a different way throwing out suggestions you had accepted previously? Lia - Funny you should ask. We just had to do that. In Magian High, we’d gotten so many potential subplots brewing, that it was hard to know which ones to follow. I took a week off over the holidays and streamlined the story down the main themes we were following. A few of the readers have since gone back to check the revisions, and they all seem pleased. But that’s writing. You never get it right the first time, and sometimes you have to explore for a while before you know what “right” even is. Rolando - Do you exchange ideas with your collaborators exclusively through your blog or do you also use other means such as e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? Lia - Twitter and FB for sure. There are a small percentage of them that I actually know personally, and I’ve been able to talk live with them either on the phone or in person. Most of them are teens, so I value their opinions in this YA project, yet I know they are disinclined to write lengthy suggestions in a blog (too much like homework). Rolando - Finally how do you handle the issue of authorship in collaborative fiction? What if a work of collaborative fiction becomes a best seller and one of your collaborators who contributed a lot to the story suddenly claims he/she is entitled to part of the royalties? Lia - Ha! We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose! I do list an acknowledgement page citing the contributors. All who ever comment are included, but those who are more involved do receive special mention. So far there has never been a single contributor who totally dominated the direction of the story. I still retain control, and I am the one doing the writing, after all, and I will run the final story through a few revisions before I take it to “print” and publish it to Amazon. If I suddenly start raking in the big royalties, however, I’d not be averse to sharing with said top contributors, but so far that’s a non-issue. I guess we need a collaborative publicity campaign for that! Thank you very much Lia. I loved the Fargenstropple Case and I hope Magian High is equally good! Apart from the "Fargenstropple Case," Lia has two additional books on Amazon: The Circle of Law, and The Parable Project. You can follow Lia on Twitter or visit her website.
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Today I am posting an interview with professional artist Jennie Rosenbaum. Jennie is an American painter living in Australia who specializes in nudes, but the twist is she doesn't use live models, she uses 3D computer graphics. Jennie's paintings have received awards in many local and international exhibitions and are coveted by collectors world-wide. I was attracted at first to Jennie's art because of her impressive mastery in the portrayal of the female form and her use of light. It was her artwork that inspired me to write my first poem She's Bathed in Light.Jennie is also remarkable in that she was involved in a car accident back in 2004 that left her with a chronic pain disability. However, through sheer will and with help from family and friends she has been able to paint her way through it, and last year she achieved her dream of becoming a mother. In addition Jennie is also an outspoken activist in favor of what she calls nude rights, the fight against censorship, and she leads an online group for people with disabilities. So her story is not only one of artistic success but one of conscience, courage and perseverance.
Now let's get to know Jennie's art and the woman behind the paintings!
Rolando: You have used several techniques to portray the female form. I like your use of color in your watercolor nudes, the simplicity of your impasto nudes and your use of light in your ochre nudes. Do you have a favorite way to represent the female body or do you think each technique captures a specific part of its essence? If so which one?
Jennie: I think each technique fills in a space. Each one occupies a different area of the brain for me and enables me to focus on specific elements of the figure. The ochre works, as you say, are about the way the light caresses the body. I like to explore chiaroscuro, extreme light and dark, to create a three dimensional aspect. As this technique involves removing paint, building layers and stripping them back again, I think it is sometimes the most raw and primal, the most emotional of the three.
My impasto pieces are about the beauty of line and the purity of form. They are inspired by Asian calligraphy and are oddly obsessive. Each line tells a story, and each one must be precise. I like the incongruity between the obsessive, demanding effort, and the simplicity and elegance that is the finished result.
My watercolors are the softer, more relaxed side. I get too wound up and too tight, like a coiled spring, so watercolors are a perfect counterbalance. The flow of water and delight in mixing colors together give me a chance to unwind. I also like to use them to refresh my skills in life drawing, in seeing and noticing the interplay of color in a more subtle way.Go to Next Question Go to Last Question
Rolando: You have expressed your abhorrence for pornography and at the same time decried how contemporary society equates nudity with sexuality. You have stated that nude art does not have to be sexual but it that can be sensual. My question is: Where is the dividing line? At what point can nude sensual art degenerate into pornography and how do we know the difference?Jennie: It's easy to say, we know it when we see it, but that is not always the case anymore, with nude hysteria reaching a fever pitch. I think there are dividing lines. Ones that we can spot if we keep our eyes open. The intention of the artist is usually clear. Posing, exaggeration, lighting, mood, a glance, hand placement- little details give intentions away. I have problems with pornography because I believe it's one of the reasons we have problems discerning these dividing lines now. When nudity is primarily shown as shameful and sexual then that is all anyone can think of. Pornography helps reinforce that. It also reinforces a lot of negative body issues, stereotypes and gender disparity. Porn used to be a playful thing, an art form in its own right, but it has degenerated into a denigration of sex, gender and the beauty of nudity.
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Rolando: The majority of your paintings are women, and you have stated that nude women are more aesthetically pleasing than nude men, that nude women are beautiful, while nude men are interesting but not beautiful. Do you think that this is a cultural convention or an absolute? For example in some societies like the ancient Greeks, male nudity in art was held in high regard.Jennie: I think it has become a cultural convention. Look at a men's magazine, what will you see? Women. Look at women's magazines, what do you see? More women! If anything they are usually more scantily clad. Fashion, movies, everything revolves around the female body. We are obsessed. I could say that is because much of the media is male dominated and that fosters a simultaneous celebration of the female body and a fear of the male nude. That isn't to say the pendulum won't swing back again. Greek men were portrayed as powerful specimens, but, in those days there were fewer concerns about nudity, less knee jerk fear of homosexuality. Nudity and homosexuality were embraced, bodies were gifts from the gods and to be celebrated. I think we can learn a lot from the ancient Greeks!
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Rolando: Much in the same way that many writers get writer's block, is there such a thing as painter's block? Have you gone through long periods where you just stared at the empty canvas or that nothing that you began painting seemed to satisfy you?Jennie: Oh without a doubt! Every painter I know suffers from blocks from time to time, they seem to have similar symptoms and can go from a couple of hours of frustration to weeks or even months of doldrums, self-deprecation and doubt. Everyday I face fear and frustration with my paintings, from a stroke that didn't land quite right to suddenly realizing that some anatomy is wrong and that nothing short of redoing the entire piece will fix it! Personally I find the best way through it is to just keep going, do something different, try something new, do something silly - just keep creating. That's the key.
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Rolando: OK, Jennie, let me put you on the hot seat for a moment. You decry how modern commercial society makes us feel uncomfortable with the imperfect shape of our bodies constantly reminding us how fat we are and so forth. However the majority of the women in your paintings have awesome bodies. Maybe a woman would look at your paintings and say, "I wish I looked like that." Do you think you are contributing to the negative stereotype by painting mostly women with beautiful shapes?Jennie: I try to explore other body types but no matter what shape my model is they almost always end up a similar shape. A gallery owner once told me that my works were fantastic! The figures are just like something out of playboy, that I don't paint like a woman at all! That gave me a massive block for a while, I had a hard time getting past what he had said as it was everything I wanted to avoid. My husband, Liam, answered this for me in the end. My pieces are almost always depicting my own figure. In different stages to be sure, but he told me I keep returning to my own body and exploring that, the shapes and proportions are always the same because they are familiar to me. As I have a hate/hate relationship with my figure you can imagine how that gave me pause. I have a condition known as body dysmorphic disorder, something that prevents me from seeing my own figure as it truly is. No matter what size I am I see the same thing. Fat! Even when I had a waist size as low as 17 inches. This revelation from Liam has really helped to me move past this issue and to start appreciating what I have, clearly some part of my brain knew and just had to educate my eyes! Lately, I have been exploring other body types and I look forward to branching out further, I see it as a sign of growth in my own personal development, perhaps I am becoming less obsessed!
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Rolando: Related to the last question, you have talked about the pros and cons of using virtual models. One of the cons is that virtual models don't have the imperfections that live models do. Do you think you are limiting yourself by painting mostly from virtual models?Jennie: The new technology available is just outstanding. I am launching on a new project soon to bring 3D life (unlife) drawing to everyone and there will be a range of body types, male, female, small, large, I'm really looking forward to it. While virtual models can't get the same...gravity as live models, I think we can explore a lot that way. I do keep my senses and my anatomy skills honed by working from life or from photographs of real people on a regular basis. By using what I know about anatomy I can fill in the blanks left to me by my virtual models.
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Rolando: Let me ask you a final but very personal and difficult question. It is often commented that the great challenges that we face in life are the ones that help us grow and make us better persons. You have stated that it took being hit by a car to discover your passion in life: that in order to deal with your disability you took up painting with a focus that allowed you to become the artist and individual you are today. So the question is: If you could return to the past, to the woman you were before the accident, with only a few minutes memory of what your future will be, would you use those minutes to make a change and prevent the accident from happening, knowing that then you would probably never become the painter and person you are now?Jennie: I think I was always destined to be an artist. It's what I always wanted to be. I was lured away by the siren song of money and regular paychecks. I loved management and being in control, the sound of my high heels on the marble floors, but the truth is that I wasn't happy. I was working my way into an early grave. I like to think that if it hadn't happened I would still have made the decision on my own. But I would have lost even more precious time. Because of this accident I am home with my baby instead of working in the city, I have my husband at home caring for us both, I have work that I love. I have passion and happiness. It's hard to completely resent it! I believe things happen for a reason and that the universe just wanted me to be an artist. I wish it hadn't taken being hit by a car, but I'm not sure I would have listened to anything more subtle. I really did like the money. I would however like the pain to go away now though!
Thank you very much Jennie, you are a lovely person and I greatly admire your work.
You can see more of Jennie's work on Flickr, visit her website, read her blog, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Please note that all pictures shown in this interview should not be copied, or reproduced in any other work of art without Jennie's permission.
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