Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A New Episode of "L.T. and Pony: Adventures in Equine Friendship"

Every. Single. Year.

The scene: Pony's stall, first cold and rainy night of the winter.

ME: *approaches with Pony's blanket* *lets her smell it* *attempts to put it over her shoulder* I'm going to slowly and carefully put this on you and it will keep you warm and dry.


ME: Calm down.


ME: It's the same blanket! We do this every year!


ME: For cripes sake. *throws blanket on Pony as she shuffles backwards away from me.*

PONY: *immediately freezes* Oh. That-- that wasn't so bad. *lets me put it on without any further trouble.*

ME: You're ridiculous.

PONY: *looks at self* I LOOK ridiculous. Thanks.

At least by now we can have this exchange more briefly and without the aid of a halter. It's gotten a lot better. But still.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Saying Things I Shouldn't: On BLACKFISH

First of all, right off the bat, I would like to openly state that all opinions expressed in all posts on this blog are my own. But especially this post. I would also like to state that while I have researched the film thoroughly, I have not watched it. 

Now. I know what you're thinking. But I don't want to spend an hour and a half of my time pissed off, so there's that. It's my choice.

I also don't have network television and refuse to support the filmmakers by seeking other avenues. 

Being a zookeeper myself as well as a former employee of a large, well-known aquarium (in fact an aquarium that is EXTREMELY relevant to this topic), I have a lot that I WANT to say about BLACKFISH, and a lot that I won't. I also want to say that I don't personally, on a moral level, 100% support SeaWorld. But I have come to terms with it because of what I'll say below.

I will say that every documentary has an agenda, and this one is no different. This documentary's agenda is an attack on SeaWorld and all aquariums that keep cetaceans in their pools. BUT.

You would probably not even know what a killer whale was if SeaWorld didn't exist.

Our ocean, our planet, is changing at an alarming rate. Since I'm already being controversial I'll just go ahead and close the soap box loop and say that climate change is a really big freaking deal, whether we want to admit it or not. Without zoos and aquariums it would be so much easier to not care about these animals, about what we as humans are doing and have done to them and their homes. 

If you didn't know what a killer whale was, you probably wouldn't have bothered to watch BLACKFISH. 

Zoos and aquariums do a lot of good. We expose people to new things, educate them about things they thought they already knew, get them to care. And it's so, so important that you care MORE about the animals in the wild than the ones in the zoo.

Animals living in responsible, accredited zoos have it made-- they live longer, are healthier, and suffer less than their wild counterparts. They have a steady food source, plenty of mental stimulation, lots of personal space and choices, and, in a good zoo, are never "forced" to do anything. They also have personal nutritionists and doctors, something that most humans don't even have. 

I'm keeping comments closed on this post. No offense, my lovely Google visitors. But I don't want this to turn into a debate. These are my thoughts, take them or leave them. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Craft Fair(s) 2013! And some random art updates

Tis the season, my lovelies! Instead of giving you a huge long narrative about this year's craft fair(s), I'm going to let the pictures (mostly) speak for themselves.

This is a picture-heavy post (obviously), focusing on the work that I've done over the last year and the things I took to the first of several craft fairs I'll be attending this holiday season.

All images in this blog post are of my original art work and belong to me. Click on any of the photos to view them larger.

This is a (very poor, sorry!) picture of a steampunk desk clock I made for Husband's cousin last year. I'm currently working on some more of these, including a wall-clock sized version. I've gotten a lot of ideas and grown as a builder over the last year so I'm really excited to see how they turn out!

I've also really been into tiny paintings, especially, for some reason, animal eyes. The first is my boy kitty's face, and the second is an arctic fox.

Tiny trees in a bottle!

Paper flower wreath made from recycled book pages

Cinnamon dough and quilled paper ornaments. There's a couple tiny top hats in there, too.

A wedding present I painted for a good friend

Paper flower arrangement with burlap petals.

Cartoon animal painting series!

80's gator!

Hand-painted and glitter-bombed glass ornaments

Melted snowmen in glass ornaments

A better picture of the cinnamon dough ornaments. These smell SO GOOD.

Smaller (7") paper flower wreath, again made from recycled book pages.

And finally, the paper bunting I made for a baby shower earlier this year. I kind of love it!

What do you think? I think I've improved a lot. I'm especially proud of my paintings, as up until late last year, I was MOST CERTAINLY NOT a painter. I guess I just needed to find my style!

PS-- if you love something you see here, I take orders! Email me at the email on my contact page for prices and shipping. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

A review: FATE FORGOTTEN by Amalia Dillin!

So the lovely Amalia Dillin recently gifted me with an e-ARC of FATE FORGOTTEN, the 2nd book in the Fate of the Gods series. Her first book, FORGED BY FATE, was a great read, and I'm so excited to share my thoughts on book 2!

Book 2 picks up where Book 1 left off. Eve is perfectly content in the present with Garritt, and baby Alex. Except Adam is still very much in the picture, and to make matters both better and worse, so is Thor, coming to the DeLeons this time as Lars. The other main threads follow Eve's past after her life with Thorgrim, and even venture into the future, where the archangel Michael has even more to worry about from the two destined lovers. In the future, there might not be anything strong enough to keep Adam and Eve apart.

The thing I love about Amalia's writing is  that she has such a versatile voice. Both the first and the second book span literal millennia of history, with the second book even dabbling in the future. Split timelines, split POVs, and split narratives all would be completely unwieldy in the wrong hands, but Amalia handles all of these masterfully. She seamlessly blends time periods, cultures, mythologies (PLURAL), and on top of that, a huge cast of characters.

I also loved that this book didn't feel like a transition between books 1 and 2. It was a complete story, with threads from the first book carrying through (so read book 1 first... You won't regret it anyway!) but it also left a major opening for book 3.

One of my favorite parts of the series is how Dillin handles the mythos. She finds a way to juggle thousands of years of religion and main characters that reincarnate.

The characters, despite being mainly immortal, are relatable and human. The settings are sweeping and beautifully described. There are several surprises in store, too!

Don't forget to check out the novellas in the series, too. Don't miss a moment :)

FATE FORGOTTEN is out in print and e-book from World Weaver Press. Pick it up on Amazon.

Edit: hyperlinks don't seem to be working for some reason, sorry folks! I'll fix them tonight.

Monday, October 28, 2013

NaNoWriMo Approaches: Tips on writing quickly

I'm not participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, at least not in the traditional sense. I will use November to help me get some words on the page but I plan to do my own thang because dammit Jim, I'm a writer, not a machine. Also November is going to be like this for me:

I don't think I want to get on my own bad side next month. 

Anyway, NaNo is always a bit interesting to me. Writing quickly is sort of seen as a bad thing in the writing community, but there's good reason. Too many people who participate in things like NaNo or write quickly in general don't put in the time to properly edit their work afterward. To be honest, I don't think many people reading this post will have that problem.

But I'll say it again in case this is the very first time you're seeing it: don't write a book in November and send it off in queries in December! Bad idea. Very bad. 

Of course, as you well know if you've ever read my blog, there are exceptions to every rule. And in fact, once you're under contract with a publishing house, you may be expected to write quickly to meet deadlines. It may not be a book a month, but it may still be faster than you're used to. 

Now for my confession:

I write better when I write quickly. And you might, too. So here are some tips on how to get the most out of an exercise like NaNoWriMo.

1.) Just. Write. It. Already. I see people stall out on books all the time. The common complaint is akin to Writer's Block ("I just don't know where to go next"). Well, personally (and everyone is different!), I always know the ending of my story before I begin. And I am a tried-and-true pantser. Sometimes I know the beginning, too, but for the most part it's like filling in a treasure map where the only mark I have to begin with is the "X", and I don't even know where I'm standing. Even if you don't know how the ending of your book is going to go down, chances are you've got some inkling of what you want to happen (So and So wind up together, apart, Bad Guy dies, Bad Guy lives, Good Guy dies, Good Guy lives, etc.). You don't NEED details. At least not to start. 

Note: if you're a die-hard plotter, and you absolutely DO need details, your best bet for a quick writing exercise is to outline what you plan to write beforehand. 

So once you have a general idea of your ending, you know that every scene in your book has to move the story that way somehow. Maybe you have an idea of how to get there from where you're at, but you can't connect the dots. That's okay. 

Repeat after me: That's OKAY.

You don't need to connect the dots RIGHT NOW. If you're stuck, write the next scene you know is coming up. Just do it. Let go and do it. Even if you're missing crucial plot details, just plug in something silly like Bunnies and Carrots and write around it. You might be surprised. I can't say this is a miracle cure for everyone, but every time I've tried this, I've either a.) filled in the missing plot details/ scenes as soon as I moved on, or b.) realized I didn't even need the intermittent stuff I was so worried about in the first place. 

2.) Carry a notebook with you everywhere you go. When I write quickly, I'm usually only able to do so because I live and breathe my story. I think about it every spare moment I have. Oftentimes, I get my best ideas when I'm nowhere near my computer. I carry a little lined notebook with me everywhere I go. I have a different one for each story, so I can fill it with ideas, place/ character names and traits, maps of my settings, plot lines, etc. I even sometimes write whole scenes or chapters by hand and transcribe them later on. By having a notebook handy, you won't forget that awesome plot idea you had on your way to work in the morning. Hopefully. 

There are some pretty nifty cell phone memo apps for this kind of thing, too. I just prefer my notebooks. 

3.) A draft is a DRAFT. Don't worry about making it pretty! Write. Get the story out of your head. The best thing about written words is that you can always change them later. You're not committed to something just because you typed it. Get the story out, fix it later. Remember, this isn't going to see the light of day for a while anyway. (RIGHT???) You'll have plenty of time to edit and tweak. It can be SO HARD to ignore typos and grammar and plot holes and lines of Bunnies and Carrots and Bunnies and Carrots but you'll be thankful you did later, when you have the bulk of the drafting out of the way.

4.) Re-read the previous scene when you sit down to write again. This is the best way I've found to re-connect with the voice, re-immerse myself, and pick up the story thread immediately after I left off. But try not to let yourself get caught up in editing while you're re-reading! 

5.) If you do get completely stuck, talk your plot out to someone, even if they aren't really listening. This is quite possibly the single most important thing I can leave you with. Sometimes, sharing your plot out loud with someone else will kick-start your own plotting brain and give you the answer you're missing. It's human nature. When discussing a problem with someone, our brains start looking for a solution. So even if the other person has no context for the issue or isn't suggesting things that will work, I often find that the answers come to me when I talk it out. 

So remember kids, just get it out of your head. Worry about fixing it later. And most importantly, FIX IT LATER before ANYONE ELSE SEES IT. Okay. I think my work here is done. 

Happy speedy writing!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Giraffes are awesome! (And also kind of jerks)

If you're a big fan of giraffes, you may not want to read this post. It might change your view of them.

If you hate giraffes, you're probably not going to find anything here to REALLY fuel your rage. But it might help vindicate you a little bit.

If you're neutral or kinda meh on giraffes, well-- you're in the right place, my friend!

Giraffes (or giraffe, as the commonly accepted singular/plural), are pretty freaking awesome!

They have extreme vertebrae! Giraffe have seven vertebrae in their necks, just like us humans. But while ours are a centimeter or so thick, a giraffe's neck vertebrae are a little under a foot long each. A fully grown giraffe can have a six foot long neck!

Speaking of six feet, giraffe moms give birth while standing up! Baby giraffes have a six foot fall to welcome them into the world. Luckily, baby is also about six feet tall at birth, so it's more of a slide than a thump. But we think the jolt might help baby take its first breath, and possibly break the umbilical cord.

Giraffes' tongues can be up to eighteen inches long! The general rule is that for every foot a giraffe is tall, their tongue will be an inch long. So for an eighteen foot tall giraffe, their tongue will be about eighteen inches long.

Their tongues are a dark purple/ black color! At least the first 6-7 inches or so. Why? Simple: sunscreen.

They eat dead animals! 


Wait, what?

Yeah. It's true. This is the life-changing giraffe fact, and your little Halloween twist. MWA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

Wait! Come back! There's a good reason, I swear!

Giraffe sometimes eat the carcasses of dead birds and other small animals. You thought they were herbivores, huh? Well, they mostly are. The eating of carcasses isn't for the meat, it's for the bones. Which sounds worse until you realize that plants don't have a whole lot of calcium in them, and the giraffe has a massive skeleton to support. For healthy bone growth, they need to source the calcium from somewhere.


There's more where this came from (MY BRAAAAAAAAAINSSSSSSS) but that's all for today, kids! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On being bad online, or, why social media is HAAAAAAAAAAARD when you're having a tough time

Dear You,

Last week, the lovely Summer Heacock wrote this really interesting post on her blog about oversharing (basically, a writer's How Not To Act). To be fair, there are lots of "rules" for writers online, lots of things that we are expected to know and follow and do and not do and little dances and secret handshakes and a second-letter-replacement cipher, all of which add up to Membership in the Real Writer's Club.


Okay. So. I'm not laughing to be mean. I'm not even laughing sarcastically. I'm laughing ironically. (I think. I can never remember what the real definition of ironic is anymore. I'M SO CONFUSED. Is it ironic that I don't know what ironic means anymore??)

There is no Real Writer's Club. And most of the "rules" out there are common sense that must be stated as a Rule because someone, somewhere, didn't think of that.

Raise your hand if you knew absolutely everything when you started this crazy journey.


I... have made, and continue to make, LOTS of mistakes. If I was ever issued a card for the Real Writer's Club (which hasn't arrived in the mail, by the way), I should think it would have been revoked by now. I KNOW I'm not supposed to use rhetorical questions in queries and pitches. My first drafts inevitably include them anyway. I KNOW I'm not supposed to be too familiar with agents. It's so easy to feel like I know them from following them on Twitter that I often have to delete several forms of "So how's the knee injury?" and "Nice new color on the front door there!" (There's a fine line between "personalized" and "stalker". I prefer not to get anywhere near that line).

I KNOW I'm not supposed to talk about rejection. But there-- there, is my fatal flaw.

There's something you need to know about me. This isn't an excuse, or a backpedal. It's simply the truth. I am, by nature, robust and upbeat. I dislike complaining and while I, like most of the world these days, do suffer from anxiety and depression at times, I am, for the most part, a relatively positive person. When bad things happen I deal with them in one of two ways: vent to someone, or internalize it and self-combust at a later date.

Yeah, healthy, right?

The problem is that I often vent about the little stuff and internalize the big stuff. SUPER healthy. I hate it, wish I could change it. I find myself complaining more and more about little stuff the more big stuff I have going wrong. Big and little are, of course, subjective.

And this past year/ year-and-a-half, has been fraught with Big Stuff. Loss. Sickness (mine and others). Professional rejection, on so many levels, that I can't even go into. Disappointment. Writing rejection (yes, I'm mentioning it). Financial trouble. And I've watched several people close to me go through some very difficult things, as well. Of course this isn't my burden to carry but it still hurts me to watch my friends and family hurt.

Maybe this is how everyone else's life is, too. I don't know, having only been myself. I do know I'm extra sensitive to pain, both emotionally and physically, so perhaps I don't handle it as well as I could.

I have SO. MUCH. good in my life. SO MUCH. I have so much to be grateful for, so much I shouldn't take for granted, but at the end of the day, when so much Big Stuff flies at you, it's hard to see the forest for the trees or some other more appropriate metaphor.

Long story short, you may have never heard me say, "Got another email rejecting ______ today" here or on Twitter, but rest assured I've said it. I probably told you about that or some other Big Thing by way of "Can't believe there's no more donuts left in this house *sad face*" or similar.

The past few months, I have dealt with this Debbie Downer Diarrhea Of The Keyboard by clamming up instead, simply not posting for days or weeks at a time because if I didn't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all. And it was working fine until I saw Summer's post and could no longer hide from myself. Regardless of how I see it, I am Oversharing of the Negativity.

So, from me to you, I'm sorry for breaking the Rules. I'm hoping to be more positive online from now on. I'm hoping to find the balance between being Real and being Whiny. And I'm hoping to keep the internet friends I've come to know and love!



How do you deal with Big Stuff in your life and online?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


So once again the lovely Amalia Dillin has asked me to share the cover and copy for her upcoming novel, FATE FORGOTTEN, the second book in the Fate of the Gods trilogy. (You can find FORGED BY FATE, the amazing first book, here.)

HERE SHE (and he, I suppose) IS!!!! (are!!!!):

Doesn't she get the most gorgeous covers???


And here's some more info about FATE FORGOTTEN:

Since the gods returned Adam's memory six hundred years ago, Thor has been a scourge on his lives. But when Adam learns that Thor has been haunting his steps out of love for Eve, he is determined to banish the thunder god once and for all. Adam is no fool: Eve still loves the man she knew as Thorgrim, and if she ever learned he still lived, that he still loved her, Adam would lose any chance of winning Eve to his side, never mind liberating the world. But after everything Thor has done to protect Eve, everything he's sacrificed, the thunder god won't go without a fight. Not as long as Eve might love him again.

Which means that Adam has to find a new ally. The enemy of his enemy, complete with burning sword and righteous resentment of the gods. But in order to attract the Archangel Michael's attention, he needs Eve -- an unmarried Eve, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

It shouldn't be too difficult to find her in the future. Not now that he knows how to look.

FATE FORGOTTEN will pick up where FORGED BY FATE left off with Thor, Eve, and Adam! In the meantime, don't forget to add it on Goodreads, and you can learn more about the series and the individual titles over at World Weaver Press, or at

Thanks for letting me share, Amalia!! 

FATE FORGOTTEN is out on November 5th of this year.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Factual Shark Week: FORKS!!!!

So since Discovery has, er, jumped the shark with Shark Week this year, I decided I'd do a Factual Shark Week of my own and take it back to its roots: educational fun to make people excited about sharks and show that they aren't mysterious monsters.

And I thought I'd take it here on the blog by talking about the most awesomest part of sharks: their teeth.

Shark teeth come in many shapes and sizes, but for our purposes there are four kinds. Today we're talking about fork teeth.

Fork teeth look like this:

Basically, if you're a shark who eats smaller fish, you're going to want fork teeth.

Fork teeth help small fish eaters catch their dinner in two ways. The first way is by acting like our dinner forks: STABBY STABBY STABBY. The second way is by acting like a net when the shark's mouth is closed, preventing small fish from swimming right back out the way they came in.

So! There you have it. One variety of shark teeth down, three to go.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

365 Levels of Hell, or, Why I hate a certain popular matching puzzle game (and yet still keep playing)

I'm not usually the type to fall into trends right away. It always takes me a while to catch on-- I was late to Harry Potter, Twilight, Plants vs. Zombies, I still haven't read 50 Shades (though I don't plan to), and I rarely buy things right when they come out unless I'm really, really excited about them.

So it's taken me a while to decide that this game I kept hearing about on Facebook and Twitter was something I might be interested in playing.

This game, let's say it's called Fruit Flipping Journey, involves matching brightly colored "fruits" to a catchy, looping soundtrack against a whimsical fruity backdrop. It's pretty neat because it's not just about racking up points; each level has a particular goal and a certain amount of moves or minimum amount of points required to pass it.

But there's a problem.

Each time you play a level, the tiles are dealt randomly. Which means not every level is solvable every time. Especially when you have a low move count or a difficult goal, it can take you many tries to pass one. freaking. level.


It gets worse. You can only have five lives at a time. You accrue new lives every half hour, but only up to five.

I've been stuck a couple of times now. I was stuck about a week ago, for about a week. I must have replayed that stupid level over 60 times. Finally, I managed to pass it, through sheer perseverance and a serious amount of luck.

The next day, I got stuck on the third level after that.

The sad part is? I COULD make the game much easier. I could PAY ACTUAL MONEY to buy extra lives, or extra moves, or special "fruits" that blow the whole board clean open and make magic rain down from the heavens. Or I COULD link it to my Facebook profile and annoy every person I'm friends with with constant updates on how I'm doing on my Fruit Flipping Journey.

But I refuse. I refuse to give in. I refuse to pay $34.99 for even what might be the best weapon in the whole game (and no, that's not a typo. There's legit something you can buy for THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS).

So instead I truck along, five lives at a time, waiting days, sometimes weeks, to advance to a new level. I fall asleep with the stupid looping soundtrack and visions of brightly colored fruits in my head and some creepy guy saying "TASTY" and hate myself a little more. And the next day, I pick up my phone, and I try again.

It's okay though. I'm pretty sure I just solved the level I'm stuck on by throwing my phone at the wall.

Take that, Candy-- err-- Fruit Flipping Journey. That'll show ya.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Being a Zookeeper is Pretty Freaking Awesome

I feel like I don't even really need to write this post. And yet, I will.

There are a lot of reasons being a zookeeper is Pretty Freaking Awesome. Just like there are a lot of reasons it's a tough job. Working with animals is rewarding and frustrating. But here are some of the best perks:

You get to meet the MOST interesting people. Ha! Bet you thought all the perks would be about animals, huh?

Believe it or not, even on my more introverted days, some of my favorite work moments come from the people who visit us. Why? Because...

You get to make a difference. Zoos, back in their infancy, used to be displays of wealth and power. Shows, menageries, circuses, royal collections. But over time, zoos have discovered their true purpose: to educate the public about the animals that live there. When you walk into a responsible, accredited zoo, you should do more than see animals. You should learn to love them, the places they come from, and this planet we live on. Every single day I go to work, I get the chance to show people those things. I get to share the love I have for this planet and its inhabitants with every face I talk to. Whether they listen or not is up to them, but at least I get to try.

Plus, there are some really cool people out there who have done some really cool things. And I love hearing about them.

It's awesome working for a place that literally makes a difference in the world we live in. When I go home at night, I know that I haven't just done my job. I've helped climate change. I've encouraged a donation that might save a cheetah, or a tiger, or a lion's life. I've changed someone's mind about buying rhino horn or a tiger pelt next time they're in Asia.

I've told someone why it's important to keep certain weeds in their yard, and turn off their porch lights when they go to bed.

You get to learn so much. I LOVE learning. LOVE it. My job is awesome because I get to actually use the knowledge I've amassed over the years. (As a side note, I get to use a lot of my favorite skills in my job, too-- public speaking, time management, interpretation, etc.). And I never, ever, stop learning. I pick up new facts every day. The animals teach me something new every day.

You get to work with like-minded people. Zoos are FULL of people who are just as passionate about animals and the environment as you are. If you love either of those (and really, you can't just love one or the other, they are irrevocably intertwined), it's awesome having a workplace where everyone feels exactly the same about those things as you. There's no awkward conversation because everyone is already on the same page.

Of course, the best part:

You get to work with animals. I said before that there's not very much time for this. But there is some. And those moments? Are the best of my day.

I play with babies, snuggle pocket-sized marsupials, scritch antelope backs, talk to parrots, handle the world's second largest frog, maneuver pythons into my arms, and pet animals we didn't even know existed a hundred years ago. I go to work every day and see things I would never see in my lifetime otherwise, and I am so, so thankful that they let me do my job. Some days, I can't believe they PAY me for it.

So. Being a zookeeper?

It's not an easy job, no. But it is, to me at least, the best job in the world.

Being a writer is a pretty close second, though. :)

Interested in pursuing a career as a zookeeper? See my ultimate guide here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Being a Zookeeper Isn't Always a Dream Job

I've declared this week, while I wait on The Writer's Voice to happen, The Week of Whys. You'll see . . . why . . . as we go.

Don't let the title of our first post fool you-- I love my job. LOVE. L.O.V.E. it.

But there are a lot of things about my job that people don't always understand or expect, and if you or anyone you know is considering a job in this field, I suggest you point them this way.

Zookeeping, and animal care in general, is a highly desirable field to work in. It seems obvious why, especially if you love animals. After all, zookeepers must do nothing but the fun stuff, right? They must just spend all day hugging penguins (scarier than it sounds) and riding lions (not a thing), right?

Er. Well. Not right.

Here's why being a zookeeper is a tough, tough job.

Animals get hurt, sick, old, and eventually, they die. There's simply no way around this truth. Even working with some of the best exotic animal vets in the world (which I do; I would trust our vets with my life and the lives of my pets, who are akin to my children), sometimes there's just nothing you can do. Zoo animals live on average up to 40% longer than their wild counterparts, but at some point even the most long-lived animal will simply succumb to time. We do everything we can, but it's not always enough. Accidents happen. Diseases happen. Fate happens.

This, is the hardest part. Rest assured, as sad as you may be to hear an animal at your local zoo has died, the staff that worked there, poured their sweat and blood and energy and love into that animal, are sadder.

It sucks, to work with an animal for years, sometimes since birth, and watch them grow old and die. We carry these hurts with us in tiny little pockets in our heart. No matter how long ago, we will always remember.

If you want to work in a zoo, be prepared.

Animals are hard to take care of. Well, this seems obvious, but it's not always. There really is no "easy" zoo animal. Some are easier than others, sure, but to give the animals the level of care our standards call for requires a lot more work than you'd think. I work with a lot of terrarium type enclosures that seem easy because they're small. But they all get completely stripped out, washed down, and replaced every day or every other day. Before, when I worked with penguins, we would completely melt the ice in a half to a third of the exhibit and blow in fresh snow every morning.

If you want to work with ocean animals, it's a bit easier as hoses and filtration tend to do a lot of the work for you. But there's still hundreds of pounds of fish to thaw, bucket, carry, and feed out.

There's so much diversity in land animals that pretty much every species requires different care. Every species gets its own daily menu at my zoo, and part of my job is "cooking" for all of them. Imagine working in a restaurant where the menu is different for each customer that walks in.

Frogs require wearing special gloves to prevent us contaminating them with a deadly fungus. Elephants can drop about 150 lbs of manure each, PER DAY. Some animals eat a thin slurry that gets everywhere and dries to the consistency of cement and has to be scrubbed off each and every morning. Antelope poo comes out in little balls that range from sunflower seed size to chocolate covered cashew size, and we have to rake it all up. Bales of hay weigh over a 100 pounds, and yes, we do have to move them on our own. We cut thick branches off of trees we farm for the purpose of feeding. We clean dishes, we sweep floors, we dust, we mop, we empty the trash. We have to work in weather that reaches below freezing and over 100 degrees, in the full sun, in the rain, on holidays, on weekends, early in the morning and late, late at night. Some animals can kill you. Some animals can make you very sick. Some animals can cripple you for life.

We never have soft hands.

When people ask about our jobs, we want to share, but sometimes, it's just overwhelming knowing where to start, what to say.

There isn't a lot of time for snuggles. What most people don't realize about zookeeping is that we spend so much of our day just taking care of the animals that we don't have much time left over for what we all got into the field to do: spend time with the animals. But, in a lot of ways, this is a good thing. My zoo concentrates on breeding, and animals behave more naturally without humans interfering all the time and influencing their behavior. They get the attention from us that they need, but this isn't the job for you if all you want to do is bond and play with animals.

You will still have to deal with people. A lot of people start out wanting to get into this field because they aren't "people" people. But, uh, bad news. You actually HAVE to be a people person to work in this field because a.) you will always work with the public in some capacity, and b.) you will still have to work with your co-workers. It will never just be you and the animals.

It's not an easy job to get. In fact, it's getting harder and harder to get into this field. There are plenty of sources out there for how to get into it, but the more research you do, the better off you'll be. More and more often, you have to be a jack of all trades to work here. Expand your horizons and apply, apply, apply. My own two cents? It's 90% about your attitude (after your qualifications). Be confident, but nothing is below you. If you don't believe me, see paragraph above again about spending most of our day cleaning up poo.

So. Still want to be a zookeeper? Good. If you've read this far and it still sounds awesome, then you're probably one of the right people for the job.

It IS rewarding. More on that later this week :)

Edit: check out my companion post here: Why being a zookeeper is pretty freaking awesome.

Interested in pursuing a career as a zookeeper? See my ultimate guide here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Writer's Voice Entry: SEVEN LITTLE DEADLIES

I'm doing something a bit strange today, friends. Basically, if you're here from the dark creeping crevices of the internet (or, you know, the bright and sunny ones), feel free to ignore this post. If you're here from The Writer's Voice contest, and especially if you're a JUDGE for said contest, why, hello there!

*offers comfy seat*

*passes cookie*

*pours fizzy pink lemonade*

Okay, okay. The rest of you can have cookies and lemonade, too. Here you go.

Without further ado, my entry, SEVEN LITTLE DEADLIES, a young adult supernatural romance.


Rachel and her boyfriend, Ryan, each have their own reasons for running. For Rachel, it's the morphing of her normally annoying-but-genial stepdad into a violent monster. For Ryan, it's his past-- one that he's not too fond of sharing.

The night Rachel's stepdad tries to kill her, the teens decide to leave their small Tennessee town and strike out for California in Ryan's '68 Camaro. But the further they get from home, the more strange things Rachel sees—like a leather-clad woman who has a thing for classic cars, and can apparently change the weather—and the more she begins to wonder about her boyfriend.

Despite their best efforts, their freedom is short-lived. Not long after they make it to California, Rachel's stepdad catches up to them, ending Ryan's life and changing Rachel's forever.  But things only get stranger after Rachel returns home. First, there are the hints that Ryan might not be dead after all. Then, there's the mysterious package that shows up at her door, containing a dagger she last saw buried in her stepdad's back. Something evil is brewing, and Rachel—and the car Ryan left behind—are in the middle of the storm.

SEVEN LITTLE DEADLIES is a young adult supernatural romance complete at 87,000 words.

First 250 words:

Chapter 1
July: New Mexico

 The cop car stayed behind us for forty miles.

Ryan's brow creased every time he glanced in the rearview mirror, and his knuckles were white on the steering wheel.

"Do you think he's running our plates or something?" I tried to keep my voice steady--panicking wouldn't help keep Ryan calm—but my throat clenched around the last word and squeaked into the silence around us.

"I don't know, Rachel. He could just be following us." He sighed, and unclenched one hand long enough to run it through his curly black hair. "But he's been back there for an awful long time."

"Maybe we should pull over." I didn't want to tell Ryan, but the tension was ready to burst out of me. If we didn't get away from the cop soon, I was going to have a meltdown.

"Pull over where?" He waved one arm across the dashboard, gesturing at the empty plains on either side of the cracked four-lane highway, rimmed by unending barbed-wire fences on either side.

Defeated, I wrapped my arms tighter around my midriff and sank further into my seat, the cop car dropping out of sight in the side mirror.

"I hate New Mexico." I muttered to myself. Ryan overheard, as usual. He grabbed my left elbow and tugged on my arm until I looked over at him.

"Hey," he said. His dimples peeked out of his cheeks, which meant the grin there was real. "We're almost there."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Contest! Forthcoming! Involving pics of angry cats!

So it's been AGES since I've had a contest. And I want to have another one. And what better contest than one inspired by hilarious conversations with good friends?

Here's a quick breakdown. I like looking at pictures of angry cats. They make me laugh. And I want to see all your angry cat pics.

But not Grumpy Cat. Because Grumpy Cat is already a thing.

Now, because I am an animal care professional I do have to have an affidavit-- please don't hurt, scare, or otherwise be cruel to your cat to capture the picture of them angry. If there is evidence of such in any of the pics I receive I will disqualify them automatically.

This contest is more for fun than the prize, though there will be one (two).

Anyway. There will be two winners-- one for sending an angry cat pic, and one for participation regarding the angry cat pics, that will be announced later.

So this is a call for angry cat pics! They must be YOUR angry cat pics! Of your cat, or someone else's cat whom you have permission to use! Tweet them to me @LTHost or email them to my wickedmoon921 email at gmail with your cat's name, your name, and a point of contact (twitter name, blog address) so I can source the pics properly. I'll have your contact info when you send it to me so no worries there.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mothra vs. ... Butterfly-ra?

Just a quick one tonight, lovelies. If you've ever seen a winged insect and wondered if it was a moth or a butterfly, then boy, is this the post for you!

There are many different varieties of butterflies and moths, so it can be a bit hard to tell. But here are a few easy ways:

Butterflies are active during the day, moths are active at night. This seems like a "Duh," but it's true.

Butterflies most often rest with their wings up, moths with their wings open. Butterflies will open their wings when sunning-- being cold-blooded, they can take in extra heat from the increased surface area of their open wings. But they still often have them canted slightly upward. A moth's open wings will lie flat.

Moths are fuzzy. Moths have fuzzy antennae and bodies. Butterflies are smooth in both places.

Butterflies tend to be more brightly colored, moths tend to be more muted. This makes sense when taken with their most active time of day. Darker, duller colors make it easier to blend in at night, and brighter colors aren't really visible in the dark, so why bother? Butterflies have a few reasons for being brightly colored-- self-species identification, poison advertisement, poison mimicry. Of course, there are both brightly colored moths and dull colored butterflies. But for the most part, this rule holds.

There you go! This isn't everything, but it's a good start.

Go. Identify. Be happy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Responsible Animal Ownership

Yesterday, I happened to see one of my Twitter friends ask a general question about what kind of small animal she should get as a pet. The choices were two domesticated animals, and one wild animal. All small mammals, all common pets, but very different from each other.

Basically, when it comes to wild (exotic) animals, there's a point where I draw a line. To be fair, animals like sugar gliders and chinchillas (even though chinchillas are sold in the pet trade, they are still wild animals!) can make perfectly fine pets, if you do your research and understand what you're getting into. Hedgehogs are common pets in many areas, and, from what I hear, in Japan pretty much anything goes.

Small mammals, for a responsible, well-informed owner? Sure. The problem is anything outside of that.

My line? I draw it at carnivores/ predators, especially cats, birds of prey, wolves and wolf hybrids (most of which are just huskies, by the way), etc. Have people had these animals successfully as pets in the past? Sure. Should you? No.

I'm sorry to say it so bluntly. But I work with these animals for a living and I wouldn't want one as a pet.

Back to small animals.

If you do your research and understand what you're getting into, go for it. You have my blessing. BUT if you fall into any of these categories, please, do the animals and yourself a favor, and don't do it:

Not financially stable enough to provide proper veterinary care, housing, food, or enrichment. A lot of people don't realize that exotic animals = expensive animals. They often require special diets and housing, and vet bills, due to their exoticness, can be far more expensive. Really take a step back and assess your finances before you make the decision to purchase even a small exotic pet.

Not doing enough research to understand the species and their unique care. There's a reason certain domestic animals are popular pets. Cats, for example, are fairly self-sufficient. But a lot of exotics aren't exactly throw-in-some-kibble-and-go animals. Sugar gliders, for example, require fresh-- not frozen-- fruit every day, which must be cut into glider mouth-sized pieces. On top of that, gliders often succumb to a calcium/ nutrient deficiency if given a poor diet that can actually cripple them. If you don't do your research and know this before you purchase one, you could wind up with a very sick pet. Certain animals can't eat certain things: even things like iceberg lettuce and celery can be deadly to bunnies, but people often think that an animal that eats greens can eat anything . . . green.

Not in it for the long haul. Is this an animal that you can see being part of your life for the next (if you did your research you'll know how long the average lifespan is) years? Are you planning to have kids, or move to a state/ country where this animal is illegal? Can you find proper care for this animal when you go on vacation? A lot of times, this is where pets end up left behind. Purchasing an animal is an investment and commitment not to be taken lightly. Think about the other end of things. When you're done with this animal, what will happen to it? What if you can't find another home for it, and it has to go to an already over-crowded shelter?

Parrots can live as long as humans can. If you buy a bird when you're thirty, who will take care of it after you're gone? (I mean, we can hope you and the bird both make it your 100th birthday... but yeah).

These are all things to think about before you get into a commitment that's not as easy to get out of.

So there. Sorry for any rantiness but this is a subject close to my heart, which breaks a little every time I see an animal listed on Craigslist because they are too loud/ too noisy/ too smelly/ too aggressive/ too expensive/ too hard to care for.

As always, I'm an advocate for you, too. If you have any questions or want any resources on responsible animal ownership, you have but to ask.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Saying Things I Shouldn't: What I Want In An Agent (And You Should Too)

If you've been around the writing community for more than a few days, chances are you've run into something, somewhere, explaining the Rules of publishing. At every level of writing--aspiring author, agented author, on- submission author, contracted author, published author, and even all the way up to INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING author--there are things you are simply not supposed to say or do. In public, at least. And these days, in public for most of us is online.

But there are some things that simply need to be said, regardless of these rules. Mostly because, as it turns out, we're all thinking them anyway.

So here's something that's a bit unorthodox. Agents are always posting about what they want from writers on their websites, blogs, twitter, etc. This is totally fair and acceptable and I have no issue with this whatsoever-- I like it, because it helps me get to know the agents better and figure out if they're someone I'd be interested in working with. But lately, after writing query after query, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I want from an agent. Because, let's be honest: an agent-author relationship is a two-way street.

Let me say that again, in its own paragraph, to make sure everyone gets this:

An agent-author relationship is a two-way street.

Here's the thing. Agents are a bit like celebrities, especially if they have an online presence. The chances of getting one to represent you are slim to none. Being picked out of the slushpile and whisked away to Maybe Being Published Is Next Land is all very romantic.

But not every agent is right for you.

There's a lot of advice out there amongst the other Rules that says to query widely. I basically disagree. I think you should query smartly. Find the agents who are best for you and your work. The agents who represent not only what you've written, but what you want to write. The agents who work at agencies that do the things you want your work to accomplish. If you think it'd be nice to have your book turned into a movie, it would be a good idea to look at agents who work at agencies with a proven track record of film deals. If you want your book to sell internationally, the agents you query should have connections or be versed in foreign rights.

If you'd like an agent to keep you in the loop while on submission, you should look for agents who do that. Likewise, if you don't want to hear from them until or unless there's a deal on the table, you should try to research agents who do that.

And so on and so forth. Basically what I'm trying to say is that I think querying widely might not always be the best idea. Just because someone is an agent doesn't mean they should be YOUR agent.

In other words, the same Rules apply on the other side of the table. Do your research, but know what you want. Don't just query an agent expecting them to pick you because you Need To Have An Agent.

The right agent is more important than just any agent. I've seen several writer friends hurt and burned by wrong agents. These agents were completely awesome and perfect-- for other people. They made other clients happy. But they were wrong for my friends.

So, for me, the things I want in an agent are the things that I look for when I do my querying research. Do I need everything on this list? No. Of course not. I might be as surprised by an agent that doesn't do these things as an agent can be surprised by that one query in that genre they don't represent. I'm not closed to possibility. But I do exercise restraint.

As writers, we need to have some degree of restraint when querying. Sure, querying 400 agents ups your chances of getting represented. But are all 400 of them really the best advocate for your work?



I think you know the answer.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Siiiiiiilent Flight!

This post title would have been so much better four months ago. Ah well.

Most people know that owls fly silently. The why of this is pretty simple: it makes them better hunters. Effortless, in fact. Their large eyes help them see in the dark. Their excellent hearing helps them pinpoint their prey. And their silent flight helps them swoop in undetected. They are amazing predators. But how do they do the stealth thing?

It all comes down to feathers. You know, those things birds are covered with.

These are macaw feathers, and fairly representative of the feathers of many birds:


Now, feathers come in all different sizes and colors and levels of floofiness, but what I'm wanting you to pay attention to here is the symmetry. Notice that the shaft in the middle is offset, with one being much larger than the other. These are flight feathers-- found on the edges of the wings-- and the short edge of the feather is the leading edge. Macaw feathers are stiff and thick, almost like plastic. They sort of rattle together if you shake them in your hand.

Now, for comparison, an owl's flight feathers:

There are several obvious differences between these two sets of feathers. Owl feathers are larger, wider, and more rounded at the tips. One other difference, though difficult to know without holding them, is that owl feathers are much softer, almost like structured down.

But there are a couple other things, more difficult to see here, that help owls fly silently. The first is the velcro-like structure of bird feathers. If you've ever handled a bird feather too much (or given it to a small child), they can look pretty tattered pretty quickly. What a lot of people don't know is that they can look pretty tattered on a bird, too-- the bird just preens them back into pristine condition. You can do this, too, the next time you handle a feather. Stroke the vanes of the feather gently with your fingers from the quill to the edges. It won't look as good as it does when the bird does it, but they've had tons of practice.

Anyway, this velcro effect will help by keeping the feathers together in one uniform piece so they break up the air as a whole instead of in tiny bits and pieces. But the real secret is in the leading edge of the feather.

Here's a close-up of a barn owl feather:


A-ha! Those little tiny ruffly bits at the top-- those are the secret!!! Right there!! You can see it!!

Okay, okay. I'm not crazy. Just excitable.

But, really-- that's the secret. Those tiny barbs act like baffles to break up the air flowing over each feather and the wing as a whole. Break up the air, and you can fly like a ninja. An air ninja.

Aw yeah.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You May Not Like This Post

Guys. (And gals).

Most of you reading this don't need this message. But I've decided to step away from my usual candy-coated honesty and give you a straight-up, brutal message regarding rejection.

See, the thing about rejection is that it hurts. This seems painfully obvious (hardy-har-har), but it bears repeating. And the other thing about rejection is that it can be hard to understand. No one wants to sit around and mull for hours about why so-and-so never texted them back, or why that manager from the interview that went so well never called, or why Dream Agent 1.0 never even bothered to respond to your query.

But the other OTHER thing is, being hurt by or not understanding rejection gives you NO RIGHTS AT ALL.

That's right. I'm saying it. Someone's got to.

Just because you're upset that you were rejected, or you don't get why, doesn't mean that ANYONE owes you ANYTHING. In fact, unless you have entered into a monetary agreement with someone, there's very little in life that anyone will ever actually owe you. Sure, people SHOULD pay up and at least send you an "I'm not interested" text/ email for closure's sake. But there is no law that says anyone has to. And if you get that much, you're lucky.

That's the hard message. Now the hard words.

If you are having a difficult time dealing with rejection, whether it be romantic, personal, or professional, it is never, and I mean NEVER, okay to take it out on someone.

Vent, sure. Go ahead and do that. But do it privately. Do not attack the person who rejected you-- they have their reasons as surely as you feel entitled to know them. But again, they have zero obligation to share them with you. And sometimes, even if they do tell you why, there may not be anything you can change. You can be upset all you want about it but until humanity invents the Next Big Thing Logic Parameter Machine, subjectivity will always play a part in rejection. Is it fair? No.

But this isn't the third grade. No one has to play nice here.

Our society tends to focus so much on the Me Show that we forget other people are people, too. Those rejectors are not sitting behind desks and laughing gleefully every time they press send on a form email. They're trying to do a job the best they can with the tools they have available. And if that means breaking some hearts, well, they will. But they don't set out to do so. Choosing to be heart broken is all on you.

You simply can. not. take it personally.

Okay. I've yelled long enough. Here's where I break out the candy and pats on the back.

I'm not impervious, you know. I have spent my fair share of hours lamenting at how unfair the system is. Wondering what I did wrong, what I could change, if I could have a second chance. Asking everyone I know if there's something wrong with me, if I'm crazy to think I had a shot to begin with. And this all happened yesterday, by the way. I'm totally right there with you.

But I understand the other side, too. I get it. In my past, I've had to do some rejecting. It's not easy, and not taken lightly or with glee. Once, when I was interviewing candidates for a new position at one of my former jobs, I had called to tell a candidate that we were going to give them the position. Not two minutes after I got off the phone, my boss pulled me into his office and told me that he had given me the info of the wrong person to call. I had to call that person back and TAKE BACK THEIR GOOD NEWS. She was devastated, and confused, and understandably upset. I felt like scum. I cried after.

From this side of the desk, rejection is a bit harder to swallow, but it's also simply a fact of life. Even if I had it all: an agent and a book deal and my husband and my dream job and every animal I wanted, there would still be critics of said book, friends and acquaintances that didn't text me back, bad days at work, and days when my animals wanted nothing to do with me. There is literally nothing you can do to escape rejection. Especially when you put yourself out there to be rejected.

So the next logical question is, is there anything you can do to deal with rejection?

Well, yes.

But you're not going to like it. Because I'm not going to candy-coat this for you, either.

The cure for rejection is:

To get over it.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Cover Reveal: FORGED BY FATE by Amalia Dillin!!

Man, I don't know about you, but I LOVE book covers.

And I'm SO HAPPY I get to share the cover for a book by my lovely friend, Amalia Dillin!

Since no one ever reads the words BEFORE the cover, here you go:

Isn't it GORGEOUS??? *passes out*

I LOVE THIS COVER! Seriously, I could just snuggle it! I love the lightning in the back and the smoky colors and Eve's dress and the tree! AH, YOU GUYS!!!!

Oh, yeah, I guess I should tell you guys what the book is about. Here goes:

Every god, from each of the world’s pantheons, mythologies, and religions — they’re all real.

After Adam fell, God made Eve to protect the world. — Adam has pursued Eve since the dawn of creation, intent on using her power to create a new world and make himself its God. Throughout history, Eve has thwarted him, determined to protect the world and all of creation. Unknown to her, the Norse god Thor has been sent by the Council of Gods to keep her from Adam’s influence, and more, to protect the interests of the gods themselves. But this time, Adam is after something more than just Eve’s power — he desires her too, body and soul, even if it means the destruction of the world. Eve cannot allow it, but as one generation melds into the next, she begins to wonder if Adam might be a man she could love.

Sounds great, right???  

It comes out March 5th from World Weaver Press in paperback and e-book. If you want to add it on GoodReads, go here. To visit Amalia's blog, go here. And if you're on Twitter, be sure to tell her what you think of her cover

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Sad Truth About White Tigers and White Lions

How can you not love the majesty of this cat?

Or this one?

They are beautiful animals, both of them. But, despite much miseducation and misconception, white lions and tigers are not subspecies of their kinds. Nor are they typically very healthy, or even responsible to breed. They also aren't endangered-- though all subspecies of tigers and some populations of lions are. They are, in fact, simply genetic outliers of already established subspecies.

The white coloration of these animals is caused by a recessive gene mutation* that can only be achieved consistently through certain reproductive scenarios. There is about a 1 in 10,000 chance of this mutation occurring naturally. For lions, a slightly lighter coloration doesn't harm them much-- they are already pretty light in color and live in the open savannah. But for tigers, having stark white against black stripes in the shadows of the jungle is a death sentence. You can't hunt very well if your prey can see you coming a mile away. 

Also, white cats stand out more to human hunters, which is always a bad thing. 

Of course, when kept in human care these color variations are seen as treasured and rare, and therefore coveted. 

In fact, in India, ever since the first white tiger was captured by a Maharajah a century ago, it has been tradition to keep some at the Maharajah's summer palace. But the problem with keeping white tigers (and lions) is that the breeding needed to achieve the white coloration is rather drastic. A male first generation white tiger has a litter of cubs with an orange tiger female. These will all be orange. But if the male first generation white tiger has a second litter with one of his own (orange, second generation) daughters, the white coloration can appear in those (third generation) cubs.  

I'm sure you can see where this is going. Inbreeding= bad. Inbreeding, in fact, results in vision problems, hip and spine deformities, kidney problems, and other assorted issues. White tigers aren't healthy and, quite simply, responsible zoos don't breed them. 

Now, before you jump up and say, "But I totally saw one at _____ Zoo!" Well, yes. Sometimes responsible zoos display these animals, because at least in our facilities we can give them a good life with access to all the medical care they'll need, and ensure their genes stay out of the very limited pool of the species we are trying to save. But, again, we don't breed them. 

What we do breed are the non-recessively mutated color varieties, as much as we can, responsibly tracking family trees and genetics to ensure inbreeding doesn't occur. Every single subspecies of tiger is currently endangered. Lions aren't yet on the list, but industry people are pushing to get them there. If we don't save these animals now, we may never get the chance. There are, for example, only about 400 Sumatran tigers left in the entire world. 

So while I love and admire big white cats as much as anyone, thinking about them mostly makes me sad, and I'm 100% onboard with focusing industry efforts to save the animals we need to. Cats have a mystery and power that makes them enchanting to us, and without them our world would be significantly less beautiful. 

Want to help save tigers? Support your local AZA accredited zoo-- as of 2011, AZA accreditation will only be given to zoos who do not breed recessive mutation cats. And the work most zoos do could quite literally not be done without the people who go there. If you want any more specific sources, feel free to email me or leave a question in the comments and I'll point you in the right direction. 

*This does not apply to true albinistic cats, who will have no stripes (in tigers), and reddish/ pink eyes. "White" cats have colored eyes. Melanism (all, mostly, or significantly black) is the reverse of albinism and also not included.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sharks are CRAZY MoFos

Sharks are basically my favorite animal, excluding mythological ones. And assuming I can PICK a favorite, since I pretty much love them all.

Here's the craziest thing I know about sharks. Baby sharks come out of mom three different ways: live birth (long science word: viviparous), laying eggs which then hatch (long science word: oviparous), and ovoviviparous, which is as cool as it sounds. The young form in eggs which stay inside the mother until they are developed enough. They then hatch-- still inside mom-- and she gives birth to the live young.

THIS IS NOT THE CRAZY PART. That's still frickin' cool, right? But it gets better. SO MUCH BETTER. Er. Well, it gets SO MUCH CRAZIER.

So there's a shark called the sand tiger. Not to be confused with the plain ol' tiger shark. The sand tiger is more of a shallower-water species. But that doesn't stop it from having the CRAZIEST FETUSES IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

See, sand tiger sharks are ovoviviparous (the eggs-hatch-inside-mom-and-live-young-swim-out thing). Like all female sharks, they have TWO uteri. The two uteri have independent openings but share the birth canal. And mom will develop eggs in both uteri at the same time.

That's still not the crazy part. The crazy part is that those eggs are literally in a race for survival. Whichever egg hatches first will EAT the rest of the young in its uterus before being born live. Typically only one pup from each uterus survives.

So every sand tiger shark born is already a winner.

Isn't nature amazing???

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: Life Imitates Art, etc.

Yesterday I posted the photo that inspired ETERNAL EMBRACE. But if I'm honest, it wasn't just the photo. It was the story behind it.

I mentioned that this grave had been found in Italy. But not just anywhere in Italy. It was found in Mantua, Italy.

If you know your Shakespeare, you might be freaking out a little bit right now. I did.

In high school, I had the fortune of playing a small part in a community theatre production of Romeo and Juliet at the exact same time we studied the play in our English class. (Somewhat funny story: the movie SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE also came out then. It was a Very Romeo And Juliet Year for me). I had the whole thing practically memorized by the end of the unit, between the theatre production and the skits and live readings we did as a class and the interpretations we did for my speech team and the seventeen times I went to see SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Romeo and Juliet holds a very special place in my heart.

So when I read about this couple, found locked together forever in the SAME ITALIAN CITY where Romeo is exiled in the play, it just felt right that I should . . . write about them. They were buried, miles from Verona (where the play takes place), together. They had to have died at or near the same time, like the lovers in Shakespeare's play. They were young. They were so inseparable that no one would divide them even in death.

That-- that is the kind of love that makes my heart skip a beat.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: A Real-Life Love

So I was lurking around the internet one day a couple years ago and saw this picture that made me cry.

From here
Granted, I had just recently gotten married so I was kind of a romantic emotional wreck anyway BUT it still really, really connected with me. The short version is that archaeologists found this grave in Italy. They estimate it to be about six thousand years old, and the couple are young (under twenty), one male and one female.

You guys. I don't know how much you know about the Neolithic. But they just didn't bury people together. Unless something special or extra tragic happened. A double burial like this? Never been seen before.

With a writer's efficiency, my mind asked how they wound up in that grave together, and then immediately started answering the question. And ETERNAL EMBRACE was born, from the dust and eroded bone of their tragedy.

But it gets even awesomer. And tomorrow, I'll tell you why.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: The Playlist of Their Lives

I don't normally get into listening to other people's playlists for books (unless I really really love them), so I won't be offended if you skip riiiiight over this one. But I thought I'd at least throw it out there because music influenced SO MUCH of this book. Heartaching, heartbreaking music. Music that makes me FEEL things. You know. So I know I'm not a robot.

I will do you a favor and not tell you every song I've listened to. Just the ones that are particularly close to my heart, and the heart of the story.

Wow. I feel like I'm in a beauty pageant. Here's hoping I don't fail the interview portion of the competition.

If I had to pick a theme song for ETERNAL EMBRACE, it would be Rabbit Heart [Raise It Up] by Florence + the Machine. Not only did FloMac's music influence a large part of this novel, this song in particular is very, very relevant.

There are also a couple FloMac songs that influenced or just plain fit for specific chapters of EE. These include Heavy In Your Arms and Dog Days Are Over.

Adele and Sara Bareilles also make appearances, with Set Fire to the Rain and Let the Rain, respectively. Funnily enough, both of these songs have over-arching relevance as well as specific influence on a very short scene where it's... raining.

If you have a Spotify account and want to listen to the entire ETERNAL EMBRACE playlist, you can find me there as wickedmoon921.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: Naming Neolithic Characters

When I decided to write a book set in the Neolithic period, I didn't realize that naming my characters would be so difficult. I mean, you can go the route that I've seen in other books and do names like He-Who-Walks-In-The-Garden, but I a.) wanted something a bit shorter and b.) wanted something a bit sneakier. You know, names I could fit hints and clues about the plot into. *cue evil writer laugh*

ETERNAL EMBRACE is set about 6,000 years ago in Europe. At that time there was a lot of symbolism in Neolithic settlements but not much in the way of writing. Stone carvings were fairly common, especially in religious contexts, but not of words. In fact, there doesn't seem to be much agreement on any particular Neolithic language. So, realistically, finding accurate character names would be close to impossible without a time machine.

I decided to settle for something that just sounded like it came from ancient times, but I didn't want to steal another language and have someone be upset that my characters lived in Europe but spoke Ancient Egyptian or similar. I also frankly had no idea where to begin making up my own, aside from the technique I mentioned in the first paragraph. However, there's the Basque language, only now spoken in parts of modern-day Spain and France. The tiny, meandering roots of Basque go way back to the Mesolithic.

I got really excited when I found this dictionary of a theoretical language called VCV (standing for Vowel-Consonant-Vowel), derived from the Basque language. Then I was really disappointed when further research proved this theory to be... unreliable. Whether it's accurate or not, using this dictionary did give me some pretty period-sounding character names, and I did get to hide some plot clues in them. Even if I'm the only person who knows what they are.

For example, the father of my main male character is named Esoha. The interpretation I chose for his name is "wise counselor," which is exactly what I wanted him to be.

Made-up names? Yes. Awesome names? Still also yes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pitch Wars Lead-Up Week: A Little Bit About A Little Book

The easiest place to start sharing little bits about ETERNAL EMBRACE is the setting. 

It's a YA historical romance, set in the Neolithic period. Boy, was this a challenge for me. I'm a major history nerd but the Neolithic was a bit ... new... to me. (Ha. That was a joke. Neo-- new-- I'll show myself out). After months of research, luckily aided by my college's ample library, I wrote a book. 

In the time period ETERNAL EMBRACE takes place in, life hadn't changed much for thousands of years, but it was slowly starting to morph from the hunter-gatherer society we've all read about into the agrarian lifestyle that we all KNOW. This time in history is so fascinating because it's so reachable. These people lived in a place we all carry deep in our hearts and memories. A simple village, sturdily built, populated by farmers and herders. Some nomadic societies lingered, but as humankind figured out that raising crops and herds meant they didn't have to follow the food, they planted roots, literally and figuratively. 

Survival for most people doesn't change much more until the Industrial Revolution. Sure, politics and nations and peoples and cultures came and went, but the structure of humanity stayed with raising crops and livestock to survive. We still do it today. This time period was a cusp between the world we know and a world we can only imagine. 

Of course, with the new drive to raise livestock and crops, both those things become very important to the people of this time. Not only survival, but currency comes in the form of said livestock and crops, and a family without them will fare poorly indeed.  
Which is important for my main character, as it turns out. 

More tomorrow :)

One Week til PITCH WARS!!!

... and I am going to freak out.

*breathes into paper bag*

*puts head between knees*

*breathes into paper bag some more*

When this unexpected, incredible journey began over a month ago, I never thought the end would come up so... quickly. I sent my entry in to Cupid last night and then promptly felt a bit sad. How could this awesome, amazing thing be almost over?

Well, I won't grab for the tissues just yet. There's still the agent round, starting January 23rd. And regardless of how that goes, this has been an experience to remember. I've met so many awesome people because of Pitch Wars. And of course, I got to work with Cupid, who helped  me make my beloved book into something even stronger and better! *squee*

For the next few days I'll be posting little bits here and there about my Pitch Wars book, ETERNAL EMBRACE. So stay tuned, and don't forget to check back starting on the 23rd for more on the agent round.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Possums Vs. Opossums

Earlier today I mentioned on Twitter that I had been trying to explain the difference between a possum and an opossum to my husband. A handful of replies I got made me realize that this would be an excellent Random Animal Fact for today, but it's a tad too long to fit into a tweet. Despite that, the easiest way to explain this is still on a very simplistic level:

This is a type of opossum, familiar to just about anyone who lives in North America:

From Wikipedia

This is a type of possum, familiar to those who live in Australia/ New Zealand:

From The Internet

Now, to be fair, you can consider both "possum" and "opossum" to be family terms, meaning there are many species of each. I suppose the easiest way to divide them is into Eastern and Western hemisphere varieties, the possum being found in the Eastern hemisphere and the opossum being found in the Western.

Both are marsupials, meaning they give live birth to premature young who crawl into Mom's pouch and finish their development there. One just happens to be a lot... scarier looking than the other.

I've worked with both. Opossums hiss, which can be off-putting, and they have teeth like some vicious predator, which can be off-putting. They have naked tails and black eyes and one of the ones I worked with had a skin condition that meant it was balding which was VERY off-putting. But they were still cool little creatures. (The one with the possum-pattern-baldness had been hit by a car and was un-releasable. She walked mostly in circles, but was very affectionate).

Possums are some of the cutest creatures on this entire planet. My beloved sugar gliders are a variety of possum and there's also a creature called a pygmy possum that I INSTANTLY knew I would love as soon as I heard the name. I mean LOOK! Just-- LOOK!!!


But to be fair, possums also have teeth like some kind of vicious predator (some people affectionately refer to sugar gliders as "flying staple guns"), they have the same black eyes, and sugar gliders make this noise called crabbing which basically sounds like someone murdering a duck. Loudly. So it's not all fun and games, even if their little faces do melt my heart.

There you have it. Now go forth and share.