doll

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Doll

She grows wings that beat the air
until it roars in turbulent currents.

She writes love letters in the dark
with invisible ink in a language
that belongs only to us.

Our hearts are made from stars.
The smallest atoms contain planetary landscapes
we can touch, together.

They will never leave us. Our gravity owns them.
Nowhere in the night sky will you find anything
that is not ours.

We are sisters of the same moon
whose web of light is our home
whose phases wax and wane in time with our bodies.

We can fly to anywhere from here.
Come into my arms and dream.
I have something to show you.

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singer

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Singer

She wasn’t pretty like a model,
not the kind of beauty who disappeared
when the makeup came off.
She was something else,

a song that gets better year after year,
one you appreciate on new levels
the deeper you go.

You didn’t need to know the names of
her musicians to understand her song.
You could even get the words wrong.
It only mattered that you listened.

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death on the web

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Many human endeavors can be understood as an urge to conquer death by creating something that will live on after we’re gone, and blogging is no exception. We put things up and hope they will last. But despite the internet’s ubiquity and massive storage capacity, it has an ephemeral, ever-changing quality. Things die on the web.

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I thought about that last week while subjecting this blog to a couple tools to check for dead links. What sort of things had died here on Mars? Many were links to (and pingbacks from) pages I have taken down due to the evolving nature of my artistic concerns. Some were links to other sites whose owners no longer have them hosted, or pages they took down. Some were links to products and product searches at retailers which, for some reason, were no longer generating valid results. And at least one was just a dumb typo I made in a URL!

It took the better part of a morning to scrub 3000 pages here and repair or delete between 100 and 300 dead links. Hopefully the efforts will keep this site fresh and vibrant for search-engine indexing, and reward people discovering it for the first time with links that actually go somewhere, rather than into the dreaded 404 Error dead zone. I sacrificed a few pages that were so problematic it seemed easier to burn them clean instead of re-doing them. They weren’t getting hits anyway, and the dead links were probably part of their problem.

Mars has always been my little garden of inspirations, and I hope clearing out the dead wood will help it remain a thriving one. Do you have a favorite tool for checking broken links? Drop a line in the comments section here and let me know!

painted abstracts make unique backgrounds

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I’ve been experimenting with a new method of creating colorful, visually interesting backgrounds for things like book covers, business cards, and blog headers. It begins with painting 8 x 11 canvasses which are mounted on a board instead of a frame. They fit nicely on my scanner, so I can digitally manipulate the images later.  This one began as a collage of pages torn from a proof copy of my new poetry book. It ended up as the cover to a new book.

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Throw a filter and text on it, and it comes out like this:

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It looks pretty awesome in print with a matte finish. Once I get a few good scans, the canvases can be recycled by adding layers of different materials to create cracks, swirls, and other interesting textures. Below is the same canvas as above, but in the process of getting a new, messy layer of krackle over it.

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Here’s one I haven’t used for any backgrounds yet, a basic color wash with acrylics.

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I had some old acrylic varnish and played around with pouring it and liquid paint at the same time, splashing water on them while they were drying, and mixing them together before pouring.

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It isn’t going to hang in a museum or anything, but it’s a fun way to get unique backgrounds and textures. I sampled a section of the image for the current header on this blog. The image’s right half is simply a section of the canvas with its colors inverted.

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Blind Alley Blues

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Blind Alley Blues blasts off from where The Lost Crew of the Volya IX ended.

Join Meteor Mags and her criminal crew on a suicide mission to Ceres, and help them steal the biggest guns in the Solar System!

Bang your head as the Psycho 78s play their most nefarious concert of all time, and find out how the band originally got together!

Run for your life in the tornado that terrifies an entire asteroid! And grab all the ammo you can carry, because you are rocking the Asteroid Belt with Meteor Mags and Patches—at a more brutal volume than ever before!

Available in paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also for Kindle, iBook, and Nook Book. See more ebook formats.

21,000 words. 102-page paperback includes black & white ink drawings.

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legend of the frozen coast

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library of female pirates 10: bêlit

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The Library of Female Pirates has thus far focused on historical accounts of real people. But today, let’s have a look at one of my favorite pirate stories: Queen of the Black Coast, by Robert E. Howard, featuring Conan’s brief and ill-fated romance with Bêlit.

The following pages are excerpted from The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, Random House 2002, compiled by Patrice Louinet, editor, and illustrated by Mark Schultz. It presents the first thirteen Conan stories in their original versions, in the order Howard wrote them. My only criticism is the exceedingly small font size for the text, with letters so thin they practically disappear into the page. The book’s completeness and Schultz’s beautiful artwork make this a worthy paperback anyway, and I suppose you could buy the Kindle version instead of investing in a magnifying glass for the print edition.

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In his Foreword, Schultz calls Queen of the Black Coast one of the “indisputable classics of fantastic short fiction, richly deserving recognition and appreciation outside the genre.” You can also appreciate it outside the printed page by listening to a reading of the entire tale, free of charge, at Librivox: Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast. (You have the options to either stream it or download the audio files so you have your own copy.)

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Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan have taken on a modern comic book adaptation of Queen of the Black Coast for Darkhorse in recent years. It is not the tale’s first appearance in comics, either. The good folks at Longbox Graveyard have reviewed the Marvel Comics adaptation at Queen of the Black Coast. The review includes covers and panels like this glorious Buscema rendering of the final, tragic scene:

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What is it about this story that has earned such widespread admiration? Howard’s prose certainly deserves the credit. With a plot that could easily be presented as pulp silliness, Queen of the Black Coast sings like a literary masterpiece under Howard’s pen. The world of masculine power fantasy and adventure take on an urgent, brutal, and even philosophic reality through the author’s use of language.

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But what of the character of Bêlit? She is as full of the drive for savage conquest as Conan, and does not fall into the “damsel in distress” role. She is tough, and she is in charge, and her dialogue reveals a sharp mind. This makes the scene of her mating dance a bit hard to swallow, where this incredibly powerful woman suddenly throws herself at Conan’s feet and begs him to take her. This may be the one out-of-tune note in an otherwise brilliantly composed symphony of female piracy.

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But Bêlit is no shrinking violet who tumbles passively into the barbarian’s arms. After an all-too brief narration summarizing what must have been an epic season of seafaring mayhem for them, she takes her brawny adventurer on a truly suicidal mission. “We fear nothing,” she says to him boldly. “Let us go and sack that city.” It’s easy to see why Conan loves her!

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Other reviewers of this tale have pointed out that Bêlit is a Shemite, which is Howard’s version of Semite, and that Howard borders on ethnic stereotyping by having a Jewish character whose main love is riches and jewels. But I find this avarice very much in character with what we would expect from a pirate, regardless of ethnicity, and we should keep in mind that Howard used all kinds of warrior races as models for his imaginary civilizations. It seems far more odd that Bêlit is described as having pure white skin, despite spending her life in the blazing sun on the decks of her ships!

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Bêlit has a dialogue with Conan in which they discuss their philosophies, and she makes her pledge that she would come back from the grave to save him, so powerful is their love. Along with her dance, these are her major character scenes. After a scene in which she directs her crew in the plunder of some hidden jewels, even heartlessly sacrficing a few of them to do it, Bêlit meets a tragic end off-camera. She dies while the reader joins Conan in the jungle getting his psychedelic trip on thanks to the touch of a nasty plant called the black lotus. That Bêlit should become such a memorable character and bear so much narrative expansion in later adaptations is a testament to the way she commands attention in her brief but intense screen time.

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Conan’s final scene is poignant. The sea means nothing to him without her. It only mattered to him because it mattered to her, and its music is no longer a siren song for him but a lonely requiem. Not even jewels mean anything to him, as he evidences by including them on her boat with her body, which he sends out to the ocean in a blaze. Howard writes it believably, but the depth of Conan’s emotion tells us that he and his pirate love had bonded with an intensity that perhaps the short story did not have the time to fully explore. Still, it is a beautiful monument to the passion and romance female pirates can stir within us, and the loss we feel when they must take that final, fiery voyage back to the seas they loved so much.

Fair winds and following seas, Bêlit.

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painter

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I haven’t painted in two years. But I recently rewrote a couple old memoirs as a poem about painting, and it felt like time to take some pretty colors and make a big splashy mess in the kitchen again. The blank canvases in my office aren’t going to paint themselves, after all. The working title for the painting-in-progress is The Legend of the Frozen Coast, partially in tribute to the Frozen Coast painting I sold on Craigslist a few years back.

I don’t know what other painters think about when they paint, but I have been imagining The Legend of the Frozen Coast as a pirate adventure story starring Meteor Mags’ great-grandmother and read on a radio program. Explore Nordic debauchery in the icy wastelands! Witness the fate of a ferocious kraken frozen in a glacier for 10,000 years! Set fire to a fleet of brigands and mercenaries! Throw in some insults and salty language from The Pirate Primer that arrived this week, and the tale almost writes itself.

Painter

A storm hammers the forest.
The wind rips down his tent.
He can’t make any sense of it in the dark.

The painter drags his sleeping bag to a rock ledge.
It gives no shelter but is clear of the trees.
Electricity tears the sky to shreds.

The rain carries out its assault
not in drops but one continuous torrent.
He huddles in the soaked bag for nine hours,
powerless and small.

Stillness, yet never-ending motion.
The calm shadows of trees on a lake
draw lace stockings on a nightmare.
The struggle for life rages below the surface.

A bee caresses a flower intimately.
He cares nothing for the coming storm.
He is within her and she is within him.
They are one and the same.

Step away from industry. Obliterate
the underlying colors and textures
even when they persist. Use an avalanche.

Give them landslides. Drench them in
thunderstorms of black and broken skies
until they recede. The painter and the canvas
are the cyclone and the shore.

You don’t need to paint this canvas at all.
Do what comes naturally. The painting
will take care of itself.

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indie spotlight: line of thought

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Line of Thought by Peter Deligdisch is long overdue for a spotlight here at Mars Will Send No More. For maybe two years now, Line of Thought has inspired me. Filled with complex and often abstract drawings, this completely black and white book gives me an instant trip to an art museum. It’s the cup of ink-black coffee that wakes me up when my artistic spirit is lagging.

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Line of Thought by Peter Deligdisch

Peter’s newest work is called Almanac, which you can see at http://www.peterdraws.com/#almanac

Maybe you’ve already discovered Peter’s artwork on YouTube or, like me, on Reddit. Line of Thought collects many of his more polished works alongside a few odds and ends that make the book feel like an intimate look at the artist’s sketchbook. I like that kind of thing, but some reviewers criticized the book for not being print-quality reproductions and for including what they felt were doodles.

I enjoy Line of Thought‘s resemblance to underground and indie comics, and to zines, and to publications like Seattle’s Intruder which is entirely comics and art. (Intruder will soon publish its final issue after a pretty amazing run.) This book fits right in with works such as Rick Griffin’s Man from Utopia. It’s an art book, and I think my fellow comic book fans might dig it, too.

Peter works in several distinct styles, but most of his work fits in with what have recently been called zentangles. They are ornately detailed renderings of the plane along shapes which can be either swirling and chaotic, or geometric and orderly. You can make a zentangle out of something representational, or it can be abstract. And when you see Peter’s ink drawings, you can’t help but imagine coloring in all the tiny shapes.

Although I love this book, it may be a mistake to have it categorized in the coloring books category. It got some negative reviews for not really being a coloring book, and that sounds fair. On the other hand, many of the pieces in Line of Thought could totally work as coloring book pages, with a few alterations to the current format. That might include enlarging many of the pieces currently filling half a page (and thus sharing it with another piece). And, pieces with grey-scale shading could be omitted in favor of only pieces created in high-contrast black and white.

That’s not to say it would make me love the book any more, but it would position Deligdisch more accurately in the coloring books category. I’m perfectly content to pick up Line of Thought and flip through the pages whenever I need a reminder that anything is possible in art, that both chaos and order are beautiful and intertwined, and that it’s possible to create pure magic with only a pen and a piece of paper.

Buy Line of Thought by Peter Deligdisch in Paperback.

indie spotlight: tomb of the triceratops

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Click the cover for a free Kindle preview of Tomb of the Triceratops.

Tomb of the Triceratops takes you on a dinosaur dig where researchers and a group of young students uncover a realm where dinosaurs are still alive. The boys selected to go on this archaeological expedition risk their lives to free a triceratops from the clutches of its brutal, otherworldly tormentors.

And that’s just the beginning.

Author Michael Ajax seasons the story with plenty of dino facts that will surely please any dino-maniac. Between the action scenes, the characters are just as likely to discuss the biology of a Stygimoloch as they are their interpersonal conflicts. The people in this story are passionate about dinosaurs, and that makes it especially fun for those of us who share that enthusiasm.

Though action-packed, Tomb of the Triceratops keeps its language and violence in the “family-friendly” range. Even as an adult reader, I was pulled into the nightmarish struggle of the captive triceratops, but the level of detail and word choice did not venture into overly graphic territory. If you thought Jurassic Park and Rex Riders were fun, this is a good addition to your bookshelf.

The boy heroes of the story casually banter with each other, keep secrets from the adults, and have an unforgettable adventure in this first novel by Michael Ajax. Discover the mysteries inside the Tomb of the Triceratops in paperback or for just 99 cents in Kindle.

Author website: http://www.michaelajax.com/

diaries

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Diaries

At the galaxy’s edge float stars no eyes will ever see.
You set them out thoughtfully like candles
in a bedroom, or lanterns on a river.

Some say you care for none of them
that you scattered them on a whim
forgetting all but the brightest
then one day even those.

What if they knew your delicate precision
how your heart ached to let each one go
how every orb was a part of you, shining?

You have named them all
to keep diaries of their travels
their ancient orbits and clusters
who spin in glowing whirlpools for eons.

All your stellar children, the solar seeds you planted
who carve their initials in gravity and burn
for your pleasure, someday they will all be grown.

indie comics spotlight: Ark

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The 140-page graphic novel Ark focuses on the relationships and ideological conflicts within a spaceship’s crew whose mission is not what it seems. The crew is split between humans and animalistic “meta-humans” created by genetic experiments. Across this species gap, some find love and friendship, and others find distrust and resentment.

As the Explorer spaceship approaches the edge of the solar system, communication from Earth has ceased, and no one knows why. Tensions flare between the metas and the humans. A mysterious message and a murder provide the sparks to ignite the flame.

Author Peter Dabbene tells the tale through dialogue for most of the book, and at first glance there is more talking about conflict than actual conflict. But Ark is not science fiction in the vein of Predator or Aliens, where high-tech shoot-outs and physical violence rule the day. Ark more resembles vintage Isaac Asimov stories where character responses to the central concept, and how it affects their relationships, are the true heart of the story.

Without spoiling it, we can say that Dabbene leaves the tale open-ended. Ark could easily be the set-up for a longer, ongoing series. After all, the Explorer logo on the cover bears the Latin phrase “sic itur ad astra,” which means “thus one journeys to the stars.” It could be that the ill-fated ark’s tragedy at the edge of the solar system has laid the foundation for even greater adventures in the uncharted vastness of the galaxy.

ARK (published by Arcana Comics). Available digitally at www.comixology.com ($4.99). Available in print ($19.95) at Arcana’s website and on Amazon.

See more books from this author at http://www.peterdabbene.com/books.htm

drifter

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Drifter

You should stick around sometime.
When you stay in one place long enough
you get to watch people change.

Do you remember the girl too scared to fly?
She grew wings. You missed it.
Everyone goes too fast and drifts apart.

No, it’s true. She grew wings.
If you don’t believe me, then
go to the river any afternoon.

Call her name. You can see her soaring
when the clouds break apart.
Sunset is the only thing to survive.

mermaids

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Mermaids

Dead men in the summer. The loss
comes seasonally, as periodic as tidal
motion, and the townspeople understand
the tide. But they cannot stop it.

Every year, their men hear mermaids
singing on waves that swallow whales and
anchors and things we have not discovered.

The song has not changed in millennia.
Its chorus tells a sensuous dream, a hook
baited with a brightly naked lure.

Fishermen and husbands in a trance
walk into the ocean. The moon offers
guidance, but they do not need it.
They know where promises are fulfilled

in melody, in scaly embraces and breasts
which float like gravity has no power.
Men do not know they drown.

They feed at nipples below the surface
without questioning their joy,
and then oblivion.

The next morning, wives and daughters cry
over empty spots at the breakfast table. Women
know nothing of what their men discover
when they venture into saltwater and never return.

Then shells and gold and gleaming
treasures line the beach as payment for
misappropriated goods.

Summer, with your storms and madness,
your lightning cracks along the shore,
and no one can deny its burning.

anything sounds like a symphony

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A continent gorges itself on new arrivals.
Vagabonds and lost animals collide at midnight

in alleys, sheets, and casinos for distraction,
denial, shouting never into darkness.

Anything sounds like a symphony
when you turn the volume all the way up.

—from Piano

Anything Sounds Like a Symphony: Poetry at Maximum Volume.

Crank up the verse in this new collection of poems about music, stars, gravity, love, calico cats, and everything else. More than 80 poems!

Available in paperback, Kindle, iBooks, and Nook Books.
Paperback Edition includes black-and-white ink drawings.

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Free Kindle Preview.

memo from mars

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“I don’t get blogging.” Someone said that to me recently. What’s there to get? If you ever kept a diary, you get it. Or a dream journal. Or notes while you travel. Or maybe you just pretended to be Captain Kirk and kept an imaginary Captain’s Log.

Stardate: 29 June, 2016.

Halfway through the sixth year on Mars Will Send No More, this blog has outlasted the original five-year voyage of the bloody starship. Thank you, dear reader, for indulging my unhinged rantings about comic books, rough drafts of poems before they get a tune-up, and the never-ending struggle to create an illustration that’s worth a damn.

Strange things happen when you keep a journal. Whether it’s a private diary for your eyes only, or an exploration of something that interests you, you learn. You grow. You change. And you gain a greater perspective on events when you can step back and see where you’ve been.

This blog is a record of things that inspired me—mostly comic books, but also art and music and pop culture artifacts. A few thousand people drop by every day to plunder the archives. They’ve racked up 3.1 million page views since 2011, but they’re a pretty quiet bunch and always leave the archives in order when they leave.

If you’re new to this site and you love comic books even half as much as I do, start with my Top Ten Favorite Single Issues and its follow up Ten More Top Ten Favorites. These lists are also instructive for people who don’t “get” why anyone would be into what many people perceive to be children’s cartoons. You might also be interested in Indie Comics, which includes spotlights on small press comics the creators were kind enough to send for review.

And if you think I’m ending this post without a link to my glorious archive of dinosaur comics, you’re crazy!

The Lost Crew of the Volya IX

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Meteor Mags continues her space-pirate adventures in The Lost Crew of the Volya IX. This 20,000-word story picks up where the collection Red Metal at Dawn left off.

Available in PaperbackKindle. iBookNook Book.

Join Meteor Mags, her cat Patches, and her pirate-radio friend, the shotgun-toting Dr. Plutonian, as they face horror in a not-so-abandoned asteroid mine! Thrill to the savage combat of the alien mating ritual practiced by the invading dragons! Rock out as Patches takes over the digital turntables at an asteroid dive bar! Find out what Mags’ informant Kaufman takes with him on his last day as Chief Administrator of the Port Authority on Mars!

And cover your ears, because Mags and her crew are back—bigger, badder, and louder than ever!

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john constantine 1994

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While re-reading the entire Sandman series from Vertigo this weekend, I found this John Constantine trading card from 1994. It had been safely encased in the original sealed plastic envelope for more than two decades now, like some kind of hell-blazing time capsule. So, what the heck. Why not rip that puppy out and put it on the Internet?

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Origin of Galactus

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We posted these pages in serialized form in the early days of this blog, but that’s proven inconvenient for people searching for this entire epic. Here they are, all in one spot for those legions of internet users who want to know the answer to the most burning question in the universe: Where the heck did Galactus come from?!

Super Villain Classics #1 (1983) compiled pages from even older Thor comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Some supplemental art and dialogue was added to streamline the story into one coherent narrative. Are you interested in those original Thor issues? Check our archives for samples of Thor #162 here and here! Super Villain Classics #1 was reprinted in 1996 as Galactus the Origin.

sketchbooks

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This drawing is based on a photograph of Ellie the Studio Cat. Ellie here is modeling for Tesla, the pirate radio DJ’s Siamese cat in the Meteor Mags series. The Psycho 78s album cover she is lying on needs to be finished, and then it can join the recent crop of drawings for the next set of stories in the series.

It’s been slow going on this drawing, not due to technical factors but emotional ones. Ellie disappeared last month on March 20. I’ve posted her on numerous websites and put up 150 flyers in the neighborhood, talked to many helpful folks in the area, and responded to dozens of phone calls about cat sightings. But no luck.

Ellie was my constant companion through life’s storms for the better part of six years. I miss her more than words can express.

I suppose that’s why we have art.