Friday, 3 August 2007

Talking dogs…

Once upon a time, there was a man who angered a great Emperor. The Emperor ordered his death.

‘Oh Most Powerful Lord,’ said the condemned man, ‘only let me live, and I will teach your dog how to talk.’

Now the Emperor was very fond of his dog. He stroked its ears as it sat beside his throne. Most likely the man was lying; it was an improbable offer, but just supposing he could do it? What, after all, was there to lose? So he said,

‘Very well. I grant a stay of execution. If, at the end of a year, my dog can talk, you will go free. If not, then you will die.’

The man bowed low and thanked the Emperor, then left the room to prepare the canine speech classes. His friends rushed up to him.

‘What was the point of that? You’ll never teach a dog to talk.’

The man answered, ‘Many things can happen in a year. I may escape. The Emperor may die. Or, just possibly,’ and he smiled, ‘the dog may learn to talk.’

* * *

I heard this story long ago, I don’t know where, and it stuck with me. If ever anything good and extremely improbable happens, I mutter, ‘What do you know, the dog learnt to talk.’


  1. I do like that story. It's kind of along the same lines as the famous Fats Waller quote:

    "One never knows, do one?"

    A suitable pause between the "knows" and "do" is necessary for full effect.

  2. It's true, one don't.

    Chapter 12 is my favourite so far. Best lines: 'Perhaps the Quiet One had sent the man to fill the bucket. It was possible.'

    I like Oz.

    N.B. Anyone not knowing what I am talking about, buy a copy of 'Close Enough for Government Work' for elucidation.

    You won't regret it.

  3. You're probably going to be mad at me regarding Oz. My son was extraordinarily irritated at his old man when Oz and Leslie collided. If there is one enormous gaffe I made in "Gov Work" it was not going back and letting Dear Reader know that Oz ended up just fine. Instead I just allowed him to be one of many instruments of Leslie's progressive downfall. Shame on me.

    I do abide by the code of all decent writers of prose:

    You can kill of an entire brigade of the US calvary, but don't kill the dog.

    Oz Lives!

  4. I do hope you're not saying that was Oz's last appearance in the book? I'm glad we're back to Ted.

    Jilly Cooper said that if the book seems to be dragging, kill a dog.

    I'm reading slower than normal because I'm staying late at the workshop revising and formatting for POD. This leaves no time at home, in spite of religiously following JK Rowling's advice to neglect the housework.

  5. I am glad you like Ted. He is there till the end, our reluctant hero.

    Good for you, taking the time to be your own editor. Read the thing out loud, you will catch some things that way that simply won't make themselves apparent any other way. And then see if someone else will read the whole thing with a pen at hand to catch the typos that still eluded you. When "Close Enough" was being recorded, I got weekly calls from the woman doing the audio performance to confirm pronunciations, give me progress updates and, rather embarrassingly, let me know about typos she had found, mostly to make sure they actually were typos and the corrections she was going to put in were correct. It was only slightly reassuring when she told me that every book she had done (about a dozen at that point) including the ones from "real" publishers, had at least some typos, many of them had more than my book. And now, since I am more aware of it, I've caught spelling, punctuation and syntax errors in almost every book I've read, including a nice hardback edition of "The Once and Future King" and the latest "Harry Potter". But you still want to deliver as clean a manuscript as possible.

    Let me know how it's going.

    I just snuck a look at my son's CD collection and swiped his "Queen/Greatest Hits" "Radiohead/The Bends" and "Beatles/Please Please Me" to put on my computer. Always looking for good writing music, although nothing so far beats Art Tatum.

  6. The main thing I'm catching is three spaces instead of two, and bally word echoes, which I know I have a problem with.

    I'm fairly obsessive, which in this instance is good, I feel. If you go back far enough, I think books didn't have typos. About fifty years?

    I wish I could write to music. It would drown out some of the noises round here. Today, a digger, yesterday a nearby jazz festival.

  7. We have a cross the street neighbor who, since he retired, seems to think he needs to be doing extraordinarily noisy projects in his garage. Yesterday he was doing something with a power planer and router that sent a fine, penetrating keening sound of innocent wood being tortured throughout the neighborhood. I can block such things out, but it drove my wife up the wall as she was studying (she is a special ed teacher and is taking online classes). There were more than a few moments when I feared for the man's life.

    I read and reviewed "Cracked Ice/Tiger Bite" by anglescribe. Her stuff is muddled beyond description, and yet I found it much more readable than the last half-dozen pieces I ended up deleting these past couple of weeks. I doubt she will ever find her work into print but I do believe she needs to write and not allow herself to be shut up by the rulemongers. Thanks for giving me a nudge to pick up her stories and give them a try.

  8. I feel for your wife. We have a metal plate in the road outside, which sometimes goes 'clank-clank' every few seconds as cars go over it. This does not bother Minty AT ALL, but I have to take my wrecking bar, blocks of wood and bits of felt, lever it up, and pad the corners to stop it.

    Attracting a curious crowd.

    What a nice review you did for angelscribe.

  9. I'm a bit of a voyeur where it comes to wood being tortured. I can't do it myself, mind you, I like my fingers where they are, thank you very much. But, I like to watch wood being cut and planed.

    What can I say? I'm a Timber Beast.

  10. Do you have posters of Norm from "This Old House" in your garage?

    That guy gives me a severe inferiority complex.

    I wore my "Careful, or You'll End Up in My Novel" t-shirt in public for the first time today. It got smiles. Sadly, nobody asked where they could buy my book. Perhaps I should be more blatant. I can do blatant.

  11. You mean you don't have details of where they can buy the book, in big print, on the back of the T-shirt?

    You missed a trick there, Alan.

  12. It is about the only guerilla marketing technique I haven't tried. My daughter loves going to the bookstore, but cringes whenever I approach the customer use computer terminals at Borders because she knows I am going to be doing a search for my book so it will be on the screen for at least a few minutes. Business cards promoting my book stuck inside books on the bestseller rack, putting ribboned "Autographed Copy" cards in the couple of copies they keep at the local independent store, and of course, moving the copy in the library from the regular shelf to the "Just Arrived" one that gets a lot more attention and has less competition. When the thing first came out I even made up flyers that I put under windshield wipers on cars in bookstore parking lots around town. Don't think that worked at all, but it was fun in a semi-dangerous, covert sort of way.
    The flyers were headed "President Bush declares 2005 "Close Enough for Government Work" Year."

  13. Alan,

    I have the same t-shirt. I didn't wear it to the conference. Too cold in the refrigerated Sheraton.

    As for the flyers... how about "Bush calls for burning of Close Enough for Government?

  14. I am trying to figure out a way to have Cheney denounce me. Perhaps if I broadcast a press release announcing that Ampersand is based on our VP?

    I understand Guantanamo is lovely this time of year.

    The royalties will accumulate until I get out.

    Folks there do eventually get out, don't they?

    Another plan might be wanted here.

    Maybe I'll go back to sitting in very public places, holding the book up high enough so everyone can see the cover as I read, laugh and exclaim over its profundity and staggering genius. Has that phrase been used already?

    Rest your eye's Lexi. I think it's terrific that you can do your own cover art. And I am sure it will be just right.

  15. Close Enough for Profundity? Nope, hasn't been used yet.

  16. Dang, I think you just gave me another title in what is so far proving to be an almost completely unknown series.

    Close Enough for Government Work
    Close Enough for Jazz
    Close Enough for You?
    Close Enough for Now
    Close Enough for Hand Grenades
    Close Enough for Congress

  17. Lovely story, that.

    And a very entertaining blog.

    All the best,


  18. Thanks, Nik.

    Nice to have a new visitor to the old blog.

  19. A pleasure to have visited, Lexi.