The Really Big Idea: M. H. Mead

by veilwar

I think I first ran across the idea of genetically engineered dogs in Starship Troopers. Granted, it wasn’t a major part of the story, but it got me thinking. Reading the Uplift Series by David Brin, I wished he had seen fit to have included uplifted dogs along with the dolphins, chimps and gorillas. I’ve always been a dog kinda guy. This quote is again apropos:

There was one species on Terra that lived in very close symbiosis with the domesticated primates. This was a variety of domesticated canines called dogs.

The dogs had learned to achieve a rough simulation of guilt and remorse and worry and other domesticated primate characteristics.

The domesticated primates had learned how to achieve simulations of loyalty and dignity and cheerfulness and other canine characteristics.

The primates claimed that they loved the dogs as much as the dogs loved them. Still, the primates kept the best food for themselves. The dogs noticed this, you can be sure, but they loved the primates so much that they forgave them.

There’s a lot to be said about dogs. Really, really smart dogs would allow rather more scope. And that’s what Margaret Yang and Harry Campion are attempting.

The Big Idea—Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion writing together as M.H. Mead

There are many things to consider when two people collaborate on a novel, but here’s a biggie—do we both love the story? Are we both willing to take this emotional journey with our characters? THE CALINE CONSPIRACY is about dogs, and neither of us has owned a dog in years. Could we let our personal history color our fiction, relive the pain of losing our pets, face the guilt we feel over their deaths?

Some dogs are easy to love. Ours weren’t. Take Hobbes, a goofy-looking mutt that Margaret adopted from the pound. For eight years, Hobbes was the only child Margaret had. She kept Margaret company when her husband was out of town and took daily walks with her. While Hobbes wasn’t affectionate, she was at least quiet and well-behaved.

That is, until Margaret’s children were born. Hobbes never got over losing her status. Once human children joined the family, she went from a sweet girl to a grouchy old lady seemingly overnight. She peed in the house, wouldn’t let anyone pet her, and perferred being alone to being with people.

Harry found Franklin abandoned at a Smokey Mountains campground when he was just out of puppyhood. Franklin was a gorgeous strawberry blond mixed breed who had a warm doggie grin for anyone who came his way. He liked Harry’s family, but he was never really one of them. Franklin was only truly happy when he was running free. He perfected the art of escaping from the fenced-in yard and Harry fielded constant phone calls from angry neighbors when Franklin soiled their yards, chased their children, and flaunted his liberty to their dogs. When forced to stay home, he communicated his displeasure by constant barking.

We gave our hearts to these dogs. We tried everything to help them be the special family members we knew they could be. When our efforts didn’t work, we tried harder. We failed. In the last few months of her life, Hobbes wet the floor several times per day and bit anyone who came near her. Franklin was a wide-roaming transient whose tags were often the only tether maintaining his connection with Harry’s family.

Which brings us back to THE CALINE CONSPIRACY. The main character, Aidra, is a PI who adores dogs. But years ago, she suffered the loss of her beloved Doberman in the most painful way possible. Even now, she refuses to get another pet. She knows that one way or another, even the most wonderful dog will break her heart.

Then Madeline enters Aidra’s life. Madeline is a caline—a genetically-engineered dog that is the ideal of the species. Calines are smart, loyal, gentle, and beautiful. They even smell good, as they emit pheromones that attract and calm humans. But there’s a problem. Madeline is accused of killing her owner and all evidence says she did it. Aidra is hired to clear Madeline’s name—a seemingly impossible task. But the more she investigates, the more she becomes convinced an innocent animal is being framed. Proving it takes everything she has, physically and emotionally, but in the end, she heals some of the scars from her past.

Writing THE CALINE CONSPIRACY healed us, too. Our dogs weren’t perfect. No dog is. Nor is any owner. We did the best we could, trying to give these difficult dogs a happy life in a caring home. Writing THE CALINE CONSPIRACY helped us remember the good times with hard-to-love dogs that we loved anyway. Dogs who, to the best of their abilities, loved us back.

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