Rant from a Veterinary Technician: The Ultimate Question

While this isn’t the rant I was planning on posting, it feels pertinent because of something that happened at work recently.

We had to let go of a patient.  And while this isn’t terribly uncommon, it just hit me hard as the occasional case does.  Most of the time, we can view humane euthanasia as the ultimate gift—the ability to relinquish pain and suffering.  A body crippled by cancer, heart failure, renal failure—these are probably the most common ailments that ultimately lead to a beloved pets’ demise.  There are others too but these are the ones that are often affiliated with quality of life questions—when is it time?  The short answer: you will know.  If you happen to be wondering how we might guide someone to know when it is time, usually it’s when the pet stops engaging, stops eating and drinking, retreats to far-off corners or unusual places.  There is no cookie-cutter answer, every case is unique, but that is a fairly standard reply when dealing with a chronic, debilitating, and ultimately fatal condition.

But when you have a young life in your hands, one you’re trying to pull through shock and trauma, it can be a rollercoaster ride of emotion.  One minute, everything looks promising and it seems that the patient is going to recover.  The entire team has rallied and is working hard—the patient is fighting and has that dynamic will to live then it all falls apart.  Everything starts to unravel quickly when the patient gives up.  Despite all our intervention, all the advancements in medical technology, the new drugs, and new techniques, once that will is lost, it’s pretty much over.  And while humane euthanasia does alleviate suffering, when we let that little one go on Wednesday, I felt like a failure.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like to work with (human) pediatric patients in critical care, those medical personnel must have the world’s best coping skills.

In the veterinary field, when we see a patient rapidly deteriorating, it often and unfortunately leads to one of the hardest phone calls or conversations—the recommendation for humane euthanasia.  Which often leads to us being asked the ultimate question: how are you able to do it?  The short answer: it’s never easy.

Humane euthanasia is never easy to witness but isn’t always tragic.  One case that stands out in my memory was a very old kitty with Squamous Cell Carcinoma in her sinuses that had most likely metastasized to the brain.  The family knew it was time; the kitty was ready to go.  While we delivered the injection (I was the technician holding for the vet) the kitty was purring contently.  The entire family was there and everyone had a hand on her.  I’m so glad she went to sleep with her family right there beside her.

I always recommend that if you can be present, be there for your pet in the end.

When I had to humanely euthanize my own beloved pup, it was the most surreal feeling I’ve ever experienced.  And after having witnessed the gambit of emotions involved in putting a pet to sleep, I had never experienced it for myself.  When I walked out of the exam room, where it had happened, and into the clinic’s lobby, everything was blurry.  I knew there were people there but their voices were muffled.  When I walked out, I got into the wrong car (the door was unlocked).  Reality kicked in when I didn’t recognize the things in the car.  Later that day, I began to struggle to cope with the decision to end my pup’s life.

There’s The Rainbow Bridge poem (https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm)which a lot of people turn to in order to cope with their sorrow, but that did nothing for me.  One of my friends suggested putting together a scrapbook and while I’m not a crafty person, I went to Michaels to get supplies.  I was wandering around the store and then a song started playing.  I recognized the unmistakable voice of Enya, and I listened at just the right moment when the song lyrics went:

Come, sleep, close your eyes

Come, sleep, give me your sorrow

And I’ll keep watch for you

Until the dawn is breaking through.

Until the morning wakens you.

And I stood frozen—stupefied—in the middle of Michaels.  I came to understand that I had not decided to end my pup’s life—I had decided to take her pain as my own.  I suddenly envisioned the process from an entirely different perspective.  That she would close her eyes, I would take her pain, her sorrow—and watch over her, until she woke up on the other side, completely whole again and free from suffering.  Her pain was now mine to bear and I was content with that.

We’ve put many patients to sleep that we have all come to love—some we’ve watched from beginning to end, some we’ve only met in their final years, and it turns the atmosphere somber while we all grieve in our own way.  No matter how many times we do the procedure, it never gets easy, and I don’t expect it ever will.

*Rant Portion*

If you go to a vet clinic and ask what the charge is to humanely euthanize a pet then make the following comment:

But a bullet is only fifty-nine cents.

We will most likely want to punch you in the face then throat stomp you while you’re bleeding on the ground.  It’s one of the stupidest comments I have heard on way more than one occasion.  If you want to shoot your pet, keep that to yourself and talk to your therapist.  If you need a cheaper resource than a veterinary clinic or hospital, please contact a local shelter.  I’ve even worked at low-cost clinics and heard that comment a few times.  It always makes me see red.  And some jackass even mentioned it at a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner, to which I promptly left.  Don’t be an insensitive prick.  Just don’t.

Our pets are the best and their memories are forever in the heart.  For veterinarians and their staff, this can include many of your pets too.       


Keep the Spirit Alive

We are creatives in a world where it can be difficult to keep the creative spirit alive.  I think we are more sensitive–more in tune with what’s happening around us–and that puts us in the strongest currents of emotional fatigue’s maelstrom.

I almost quit my day job as a veterinary technician. There are many reasons that I won’t divulge here (though I may soon do a rant post) but it had become overwhelmingly obvious that I had hit a wall.

Stress was the main reason–chaotic, non-productive stress.  I can’t write when I am stressed like that.  It fuddles my brain, turns it into a toxic soup, poison for the soul. Usually, I can rely on music to pull me out of such a state but even that didn’t have very lasting effects.  On top of direct stress from my job, there’s the stress of the world, from politics to natural disasters, another mass shooting.  More chaos.  And it turned me to introspection.  Which led to retrospection.

I thought about my childhood, it was a real struggle at times.  My world was much smaller then but my younger brother and I relied on our shared humor to cope.  Dry, sarcastic, witty–our babysitter was often none other than Monty Python on TV.  Despite our sometimes harsh reality, our creativity flourished.  Him as an artist and me as a musician and writer. It made me realize yet again that laughter is often the best medicine (except for treating diarrhea).  While not everything can be turned into a joke and shouldn’t be–there is humor to be found in a lot of little situations that occur throughout the day.  Situations that if allowed, could easily ruin a day.  Nearly two decades ago, one night as the family fell apart around us, we retreated to the TV.  Not to watch it–at least, not conventionally. We turned the volume down and performed our own impromptu voiceovers.  Our favorites were Japanese Anime (Speed Racer and whatever else played in the wee hours on Cartoon Network–before Adult Swim) and infomercials.  Today, my brother and I still share our own brand of off-kilter humor–part of it has even taken its own form in a comic that he mainly works on.  Throughout my high school days, he often left his illustrations all over the house.  Pieces of plain white paper with ink or pencil sketchings.  I began to illustrate a pterodactyl pooping on his creations. He later drew a robot punting my pterodactyl or squeezing it in a vice-like grip and this manifested into Bartok & Roboman, something I hope to see my brother unveil to the world one day.

(original sketches of Bartok & Roboman done by my brother many, many years ago)

Roboman and Bartok with PJ signature  (Roboman riding Bartok in a time-rift series he’s currently working on–the squirrels are a running joke) 

So to quote Victor Borge:

Humor - Victor Borge

And so maybe it is the ability to laugh, even at the bleakest times, that keeps the spirit alive.

Like the time a girl got all road-ragey on me and literally f***ed my car.  No, she did not f*** up my car, like damage it, she actually got out of her car while we were stuck at a traffic light and f***ed my car.  Oh man, I saw too much but did I ever laugh.  Los Angeles, have mercy.

Find the laughter, my friends.

Tall Mountain

Some days it feels like the whole world is falling apart. Rife with hate, anger, violence, destruction–it can be hard to find the good. Emotional fatigue sets in. Apathy. Depression. So I take breaks from social media and the news, stare out the window, watch the birds, go for a walk, eat ice cream, pet the dog. Anything to allow my mind to take a deep breath.

I’ve always found religion interesting. As a non-religious person, watching from the sidelines, it can be confusing, scary, exciting, amusing, and enriching.

But sometimes it is entirely frustrating.

One evening my social anxiety and contempt for religious dogma collided and as I grappled with insomnia, this popped into my mind:


I climb the Tall Mountain 

Camera in hand 

To photograph god(s) in all its/their/her/his 



It takes a lifetime to summit 

Decades of devotion 

Moments of damnation 




When I reach the plateau 

It’s not what I expected 

But still I set up my camera 

To show the world what I’ve witnessed. 


The cudgel came down first 

Bludgeoned my senses 

I’d managed one picture

One click of the shutter.  


Blood pools around me 

I fumble in darkness

The memory card is all that I need.  


In my mouth I place it

I give up my last breath

To swallow the card 

My only testament. 


My body is disposed of 

Sent back to man.  

Carrying my gift 

From the Tall Mountain. 


I hope the whole world sees it

My one picture

And comes to know it

And realize: 


How in all its/their/her/his glory 

How bloody and violent god(s) can be.  


Flying with Najsha

A Writer’s Analysis of her own First Page

Some days I look back at my youth and early adulthood days and fondly recall when writing was just for fun.  Then at some point in my late 20’s I was bit by the desire to be published–which threw me into an entirely unknown world.  A world that is monumentally overwhelming at first.  I might be slower than the rest of you but feel like it has taken me a good few years to finally begin to understand the way things work.

The Query

The Synopsis

The Opening Pages

All these things we must master as writers reaching for conventional publication.  The next step: obtaining an agent.  Here you will most likely enter the realm of the slush pile.

Slush.  Partially melted snow mixed with grit and mud, a grey, depressing mess that exists between the enchanting stillness of winter and the beautiful growth of spring.

So in that sea of grey, we must find a way to shine and that is to put together a stellar package from the query to the opening pages.

My first query submission round was utter failure.  So was the second.  And the truth is, while I thought I knew what I was doing– I didn’t have the first clue.  And of course, I submitted to some of my top tier agents.  So not only did the rejection hurt but knowing that I had blown my one chance of getting that agent to view my manuscript, was injury to injury.

And in the wake of the form letter rejection we are often left numb and wondering:

“Where did I go wrong?” 

Unfortunately, that’s not a question to which we often get an answer.  Agents are too busy and it’s not their job to tell us.

My first tip: invest in yourself as a writer–join critique groups, attend conferences, participate in agent-hosted live webinars.

The most valuable resource I have discovered are webinars.  I have participated in three so far (two on the query, one on the opening pages) and have learned so much.  A synopsis webinar is next on my list.  To me, the most valuable part, the part that makes paying worthwhile, is the agent’s critique.  Just a few words offer a trickle of light in the darkness.

And it is with what I have learned that I begin to prepare for my next round of queries.  New pitch, new title, new opening.

Here is the first page from my original draft that sunk in the slush pile:

Solus Bloodline First Page Draft ITo figure out where I had gone wrong here, didn’t require a webinar, just some time on the internet perusing one of my favorite agent’s Pubrants.

Not only does this page suffer from a critical cliche: opening scene in a battle.

It also suffers from White Room Syndrome– I have not anchored my reader in a time and place.


Onto a revision.  Second draft:

Solus Bloodline First Page Draft II

And fail.  Biggest flaw: Voice. Doesn’t match the rest of the story.  Not engaging.


One agent did give me feedback and said that it didn’t draw her in as she had hoped.  Drat. Back to the drawing board.

So here, here it is.  My current draft:

Solus Bloodline First Page Draft III My hope is that this draft, with a much improved query letter and synopsis (when required) will finally get me a yes.

There are two more “openings to avoid” in Kristin Nelson’s series and when they come out, I will be holding my breath as I read through them, like I always do.

Good luck, fellow writers on your journey!


A quote from Ms. Nelson on cliches:

“Here are things I can’t stand: cliche openings in fantasy novels can include an opening scene set in a battle (and my pet peeve is that I don’t know any of the characters yet so why should I care about this battle) or with a pastoral scene where the protagonist is gathering herbs (I didn’t realize how common this is). Opening chapters where a main protagonist is in the middle of a bodily function (jerking off, vomiting, peeing or what have you) is usually a firm no right from the get-go.  Gross.  Long prologues that often don’t have anything to do with the story. (So common in fantasy, again.) Opening scenes that are all dialogue without any context.  I could probably go on…” – Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary 

9 Story Openings to Avoid (7 out of 9)








Pitch WARS!

Pitch Wars – Blog Links

Pitch Wars – Son of A Pitch! – About

My first event prompted by social media.  How exciting!  Here’s goes:


Arcanum, Adult Fantasy  


Naomi is the best healer in all of Nevre’stra.  She shares a bond with the wolves, which heightens her senses and allows her to make a diagnosis based solely on the scent of an infection.  While scouting the wilderness to help those in need, Naomi encounters her greatest fear, a marauder.  She survives the brutal attack and permanently returns to her home in the city, forever scarred by the violent memories.

Nearly eight years later, the marauder, Delventrus, returns.  Now he wants Naomi’s daughter, Dana’lia.  He forces Naomi to choose between the life of her mate or relinquishing Dana’lia to him.  Naomi does not have time to wait for the city guards or the wolves to intervene, she must decide.  Yet unbeknownst to her, Delventrus has discovered a source of limitless power, and Dana’lia is the key to the source of the power.  Naomi’s dire choice potentially harbors drastic consequences for not only herself but also the inhabitants of Nevre’stra.

First 250 Words: 

Pillars of afternoon sunlight poured in through the tall, narrow windows of the barracks infirmary.  Naomi neTara, the healer, the Luparian, gently held the swollen, red hands of the little girl in front of her.  Clear humor trickled from open sores and black lesions made her pitiful hands grotesque.  The redness seeped up to her wrists but the black lesions were mainly on her palms and fingertips.  It was easy to see why the barracks healer, a former apprentice of Naomi, thought the girl displayed symptoms of Shepherd’s Plague.  Such would be the end of the little girl and disaster for the township she traveled from for help.  But Naomi did not worry.  She held her nose close to the little girl’s hands, closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.  She let the scent of the affliction roll across her olfactories and settle on the back of her tongue.  Naomi inhaled again to be sure.

A wolf padded along the hidden deer-trails of the forest.  When he detected an enticing odor on the wind, he stopped for a moment.  It had been days since he had eaten, since he journeyed from his pack and family in search of his own territory and mate.  The odor on the wind was meat, rotting in the sun, not choice parts but entrails.  It didn’t matter, anything would do.  He sniffed at the entrance of a burrow but the scent of prey was stale.  The rabbits were long gone.


Cholera to Climate Change

I overheard a group of men talking about climate change being a hoax.  That the sudden emergence of rain in Southern California and the cold snap of weather proved their claim.  I found their laughter and mockery of scientific data obnoxious but instead of spouting any facts, could only quip, “It’s called global warming, not regional warming.”


That night, as I dwelled on the encounter, it made me think about the history of epidemics.  How humankind collectively has a tendency to be notoriously shortsighted.  We have rebound from every epidemic to hit us but most epidemics move regionally.  And, most epidemics throughout history were caused by pathogens, the plague, influenza, cholera— now, we can control or curb the spread of pathogens, mostly.  Weather, not so much.

So I thought:

Those who support climate change: if we are wrong, where is the harm in investing in renewable energy sources and attempting to preserve the planet’s resources?

Those who deny climate change: if you are wrong, then we’re all f***ed


Where am I going with this?  Pardon my rambling.  Let’s look to history.

I was perusing a friend’s book called Medicine: An Illustrated History by Albert S. Lyons, M.D. and R. Joseph Petrucelli, II, M.D. and when I came to the 19th century, I stopped at a couple pictures.  The pictures appeared to be efforts of public health advocates attempting to convey to people the importance of hygiene and disease prevention.  Skeletal apparitions loomed over children in a market and one even dispensed water to the public.  Cholera ravaged Europe and America.  In 1854, London, there were 14,000 documented cases and 618 deaths.  In America, three outbreaks swept across the country.

 (“A hint to the Board of Health on how the city invites the Cholera” (1864). Department of Health, City of New York and Satirical woodcut (1866) indicating that pollution was an acknowledged source of disease even before bacteria were discovered to be the cause.)  

When you think of the 19th century, you probably think of slums and soot, the Industrial Revolution, expanding cities with little room for refuse and sewage.

Before the discovery of bacteria, public health officials focused on sanitation, the dispersal of potable water and the removal of sewage and refuse from the streets.  Sanitation was (and still is) important in preventing epidemics.  But it didn’t necessarily catch on right away.  And Germ Theory was only that, a theory.

I can imagine 19th century naysayers spouting, “There is no definitive proof that microorganisms exist!  Humans have no effect on disease!”

The dominate theory at the time, which had existed for centuries, was Galen’s Miasma Theory.  That disease came from bad air, or night air, a poisonous vapor that spread from rotting organic material.  While not a terrible theory, it was the biggest obstacle for 19th century scientists to overcome.  Time for the 1,500-year-old theory to be put to rest.

Enter the scientific method.

Johann Peter Frank, a German physician, used statistics to produce a milestone accomplishment.  System einer Vollstandigen medicinischen Polizey (A complete system of medical policy), written from 1777-78 and first published in 1779.  It emphasized the importance of hygiene and public health, covering issues from public sanitation to sexual hygiene, maternal and child welfare, food safety, and prostitution.

Unfortunately, his work did not lead to a revolution in public health care and was considered influentially negligible.

However, Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-65) found Johann Peter Frank’s volumes informative.  While overseeing the obstetrical wards of the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna, he proved that postpartum infection was contagious.  He required physicians and students to scrub hands with soap and water and soak hands in a chlorinated lime solution before entering the ward and after each exam.  Over the next few months, his instruction resulted in a decreased obstetrical death rate, from 18% to 1%.  He reported his results to the Medical Society of Vienna but the majority of medical scientists and practitioners did not support him.  He completed a book in 1861, ten years after his work overseeing the obstetrical ward, but the profession hardly took notice and prominent scientists opposed his ideas.

I feel horrible for Ignaz Semmelweis, he died in 1865 in an asylum from a blood infection very much like the one he was trying to prevent.

He is credited with having created, for the first time, a system of asepsis— keeping germs away from patients— before germ theory was recognized.

In 1867, Joseph Lister, inspired by the work of Louis Pasteur, published a report showing antiseptic treatment of wounds prevented post-surgical infection from “disease-dust.”  Despite this, the majority of American and European surgeons refused to recognize infection coming from something foreign introduced during surgery.  At least the idea of antiseptic treatments began to take hold.

Louis Pasteur, in 1851, was the first to discover bacteria and its behavior.  He viewed Anthrax bacillus and its reactions on two different tartaric acid crystals.  He proved microorganisms grew anaerobically and aerobically and were responsible for fermentation.  In 1870, after returning home from vacation, found cultures of chicken cholera organisms that he had left out.  When he injected the cultures into healthy hens, no disease was produced and when he injected the same hens with virulent cultures, they were protected from the disease.  Pasteur set out and treated bacterial cultures until he discovered microbes grown in a particular temperature range became harmless and could protect from disease.  In 1881, he proved his results to the public by injecting livestock with a vaccine for anthrax.  When exposed to the pathogen, cattle that had been vaccinated survived and those that did not, died.

Bold Louis Pasteur even tackled rabies and developed the first vaccine for the fatal disease.  In 1885, he used rabies inoculations to save the life of a boy who had been attacked by a rabid dog.  Pasteur’s success resulted in public accolades.

From then on, bacteriology and immunology flourished.  Germ Theory was finally recognized as relevant.

What does this have to do with climate change?  To me, the struggle of Germ Theory’s recognition is a robust example of the shortsightedness of humankind, an inherent stubbornness to cling to old ways and reject reform, even in the face of scientific evidence.  It makes me worry that man’s effect on the climate will only be universally recognized once it is too late.  The biggest difference is that we could recover from the dark ages of public health but I don’t think the same will be true for climate change.


We are at the end of an era.  What we do today will have an effect on us tomorrow.



Life is Strange

It is ironic and sadistic and twisted and somehow beautiful.  It is a struggle  and a different struggle for different people.  I often wonder how people do it all.  Or don’t.  But regardless, life is strange.

I have been working hard trying to get a literary agent.  My query has been through so many revisions, I have lost count.  One agent requested my material but sadly my opening pages didn’t draw her in.  They should have.  So I am back at the drawing board there.  She did say that I have good prose.  I at least have that going for me.  Then one day I get an unexpected email from an agency that wants to represent, distribute and promote my  music.  Ha.  Once upon a time I had a Myspace page for my music under the alias Vienna Gulbransen.  That was my composer name and unless you hung out in Portland, Oregon from 2003-2007 and were involved in some obscure indie film projects then I wouldn’t expect you to know me.  Anyway, the Myspace page apparently still exists out there and that is how the agency found me.  I immediately deleted the email as I am 99.95% certain that it is nothing more than a scam.

According to the agent there has been a “resurgence of interest” in my music.  So that being said, I posted quite a few of my live piano recordings on Soundcloud and will eventually post rejected cues from my brief stint as a film composer.  The cue that supposedly garnered attention was my synthesizer experiment called “Clocks.”

And here it is:

I hope you enjoyed that 🙂

Whatever you’re doing out there, keep at it.  You’ll get there.  Endure the struggle, put up the fight.  Let the fire forge you.  Pull yourself through the mire, climb out of the pit, don’t stay down too long.  And be wary of the unscrupulous.


A little poem, about a bug I adore, fell into my head early this morning– or late last night.  Here it is:

There you sit, so tame on my hand

To let me study you. 

But it’s easy to see that you are not tame. 

(You are too smart to be tamed!)

Too cunning and wily a bug. 


While I observe you,

It’s fair to assume

You equally do the same.


A perfect blend of strength and precision

A camouflaged beastie and artful hunter. 

A keeper of balance

A keeper of flowers

A fearsome predator

Who devours. 


An omen of dread

A partner at lunch

An intricate piece of art

A prankster that imitates a buzzing cockroach

A flicker amongst the brush. 


While I suspect I will never know

what you think of me

I relinquish you now, back to the tree

For you are wild and free. 


Go now and master your domain

You perfect, little beastie. 


This poem didn’t manifest entirely out of nowhere, it was inspired by an encounter yesterday.  On my lunch break, I noticed a stunning praying mantis with striking markings on the sidewalk in front of the building I work at.  Of course I picked it up.  How could I leave such a creature on Ventura Blvd. to be easily trod upon?  Far too busy a place.  My coworker and I held and admired it for a few minutes then took it to a nearby park where I found a tree that the mantis seemed to have been made from.

Why do I adore mantids as I do?  Shortly after I had moved out on my own, my younger brother would come and stay with me on the weekends and over his breaks.  On one of these visits, he decided he wanted to raise a clutch of praying mantises.  The internet was  a far cry from what it is today.  We set out and stopped at a gardening store where much to my brother’s delight, there were some mantis eggs for sale.  One of the workers told us each egg would hatch 20-40 mantis nymphs.  So we set up a small terrarium and the day they hatched we were astounded by the amount of nymphs.  I’m confident that it’s safe to say there were over a hundred between the two eggs.  We scrambled to try and stop them from eating one another and released them into a nearby cluster of bramble.  To eat and be eaten but at least not be trapped.  However, my brother and I kept a few of the nymphs, to raise.  We set each nymph up in its own little bowl with some leaves, a few sticks and a place to collect water.  For the covers, we bought the cheapest pair of pantyhose we could find and cut it up then used a rubber band to secure a piece of pantyhose over the mouth of each little glass bowl.

It was an experience to watch the nymphs grow.  At first they were fed fruit flies and other small bugs, graduating up to crickets and larger insects when they became adults.  One mantis developed a tactic to catch the crickets.  It would hang upside down from the pantyhose cover and snatch the cricket right off the ground, eliminating the cricket’s greatest defense in stealing its ability to jump away.  Another would often rip the head completely off of its prey, holding the decapitated head in one claw and the body in the other.  Quite gruesome but an effective predator, none-the-less.

There were two behaviors I really enjoyed watching with our mantises and one was the way they groomed themselves, much like a cat, actually.  And the other, the way they drank water.  It was the first time I’d ever noticed such behavior in a bug.

While I didn’t happen upon too many wild mantises in Portland, I do see them often here in Los Angeles.  And as I did with the one I found yesterday, I always pick them up.  Sometimes I find them and sometimes they find me.

An omen of dread

I’ll never forget the mantis that flew into my condo one night, a couple years back.  It was a strange ghostly color, almost white and its eyes were red.  It landed on the open sliding glass door and just sat there.  I took a picture of it because I always do when I see a mantis and a camera is handy.  Then about an hour later, the building right next door, not twenty feet away, caught fire.  It was a horrific event to witness and lives were lost.


A partner at lunch

On a much lighter note, I fondly recall a sprightly green praying mantis nymph that joined me for lunch one day.  While I sat outside, writing and eating.  It did the same.  Well, not the writing bit but the eating bit, yes.  It even ventured across the table and walked onto my wrist.


An intricate piece of art


The artistry of nature never ceases to astound me.  Each and every praying mantis looks different.  The one I found yesterday was one of a spectacular pattern.

A prankster that imitates a buzzing cockroach

Regrettably, this I do not have a photo of.  About six years ago, I was studying chemistry at the kitchen table.  I lived on the third floor of an apartment building and had the sliding glass door wide open.  While I was focused on creating a graph, standing over my chart, a bug flew into the apartment and proceeded to fly around my head.  Alarmed, I took to running around the small living room, convinced that it was a big, brown American cockroach (they fly, you know) buzzing my head.  My dog, then a puppy, chased me and bit at my legs while my husband– brave as he might be– grabbed a frying pan from the kitchen intending to smack this thing, flying around my head, right out of the air.  Finally the bug landed, the chaos ended, and it was then that my husband and I realized it was no cockroach, nothing of the sort, but a brown praying mantis.  Much to my relief.

I hope you enjoyed my poem, photos and stories.  If you see a short woman carrying a mantis around Los Angeles, it could very well be me 🙂  But I imagine I’m not the only one.  Mantises are too cool a bug.



Writing Contest: Fantasy and Sci-Fi Novels –> Open Until November 10th!

There is a writing contest going on right now.  If you have a finished adult Fantasy or Sci-Fi manuscript then you should submit!  Here are the details:

Welcome to the 26th (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This is a FREE recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. If you’re writing any kind of fantasy or science fiction novel (for adults), then this 26th contest is for you! The contest is live through end of day, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. The contest is judged by agent Mike Hoogland of Dystel & Goderich.


E-mail entries to dearluckyagent26@gmail.com. Please paste everything. No attachments.

(This contest went live a few hours before the e-mail was created, so several people who submitted early had their work bounce back. Apologies if this was you. As of early October 26, 2017, this e-mail address is up and running and fine. Submit! Thank you. All is now well.)


The first 150-250 words (i.e., your first double-spaced page) of your unpublished, completed fantasy or science fiction novel. You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also note your city of residence (i.e. — the city you live in, not your full address). Submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with each entry. Self-published novels are not eligible.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, you must mention this contest twice through any any social-media. Please provide a social-media link or Twitter handle or screenshot or blog post URL, etc., with your official e-mailed entry so the judge and I can verify eligibility. Some previous entrants could not be considered because they skipped this step! In short, simply spread the word twice through any means and give us a way to verify you did; a TinyURL for this link/contest for you to easily use is http://tinyurl.com/jymslez

An easy way to notify me of your sharing is to include my Twitter handle @chucksambuchino at the end of your mention(s) if using Twitter. If we’re friends on FB, tag me in the mention. If you are going to just use Twitter as your 2 entries, please wait one day between mentions to spread out the notices, instead of simply tweeting twice back to back. Thanks. (Please note that simply tweeting me does not count. You have to include the contest URL with your mention; that’s the point. And if you use Twitter, put my handle @chucksambuchino at the middle or the end, not at the very beginning of the tweet, or else the tweet will be invisible to others.)


screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-29-25-pmMike Hoogland joined Dystel & Goderich after completing a foreign rights internship at Sterling Lord Literistic. Before pursuing a career in publishing, Mike studied at Colgate University and graduated with a degree in political science and the intention to work in government. He interned with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but soon realized his interests and passions were better suited to a career in the publishing industry. After Colgate, Mike went on to gain a valuable education at the Columbia Publishing Course and discovered his passion for the agenting side of the business. He is seeking: sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, upmarket women’s fiction, and some children’s books (picture books, MG, and YA), as well as a wide variety of narrative nonfiction, including science, history, and politics. He is particularly interested in seeing thought-provoking, realistic speculative fiction.

What a wonderful opportunity, I bet this will be a fun contest to judge.  I’ll be submitting my first page 🙂  Good luck to all my fellow writers out there!

tree-hart Image Link   


The Figeater: Nature’s drunk

The figeater beetle, often heard before it is seen.  A deep hum followed by the occasional smack as it bumps into various objects.  Buildings, trucks, windows, people, pretty much anything standing.  I’ve never seen one fly straight, by all visual accounts, the beetles seem to fly intoxicated.  I often find them, in the summer, stunned and on their backs on the sidewalk.  Whenever I encounter one, I pick it up and carry it until it recovers and flies off to inevitably smack into something else.

Even as a larva it moves through its world with comical behavior.  It has legs but doesn’t use them, using the hairs on its back to propel itself instead.  Oh, nature.

Los Angeles has quite a few peculiar bugs, from wind scorpions to potato bugs but the figeater beetle has to be my favorite.  With its beautiful, metallic green carapace and endearing flight patterns, whenever I see (or hear) one, I smile.

My mom came to visit and while sitting out by the pool she thought she had been buzzed by a cockroach and was considerably disturbed.  I told her that that seemed highly unlikely.  While cockroaches do fly sometimes, they mainly seem to do so at night.  When the culprit returned, it revealed itself to be a figeater.  It landed on my mom and she released her characteristic whine of consternation.  I contributed to her chagrin with, “Hey pretty lady, can I buy you a drink?”

A week later, my senior Doberman basked in the gentle rays of the morning sun.  He snoozed on his bed next to the open patio door.  I heard the characteristic buzz of the figeater, followed by a loud smack.  The figeater had flown in, smacked into the wall and landed on my dog.  The poor old boy jolted awake and scrambled away from his bed, frightened by the bug.  Deeply perturbed, he stared at me from the hallway, waiting for me to remove the bug from his bed.  With a great deal of laughter, I did, I sent the figeater on its way and closed the screen door.  Peace restored, my dog eventually returned to his mid-morning slumber.

While people duck and dive out of the way of the figeater’s unpredictable course, I hold my hands up to greet them.  Sometimes it lands on my palm, sometimes it veers away.  Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy the comedy that invariably follows their unpredictable presence.


A figeater on my kitchen window screen last week.