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 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

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.  

Meditation By Candlelight

I was stuck in traffic.  A ritual occurrence in Los Angeles and while staring blankly at the endless red glow of brake lights ahead, a poem popped into my head just last night.  I was thinking about where we are at as a society versus where we were two hundred years ago… How so much effort used to go into items, art, and food that we now vastly take for granted with our modern conveniences.  How materialism and consumerism have driven us into a vicious cycle of demand and discard.

Technology is by far a great thing, as I am able to type this from my office in one part of the world and you are able to read this in another.  It has connected the world.  It has saved lives.  It has redefined us.

Candlelight though, the incandescence, the way it plays in the air, the way it fades reminds me of a time before traffic and plastic and instant gratification.  A time before technology as it is today.  It makes me think of Beethoven composing a symphony.  It makes me think of Charlotte Bronte penning Jane Eyre.  The candle always makes me think of history.  How many candles illuminated the happenings of great events, ideas and people?  When I sit by a candle I share in that legacy.  And when I think about it, it makes me feel connected to a time before me.


Meditation by candlelight, 

To hone a craft. 

A stitch 

A stroke 

A note. 

How far have we come? 

How far will we go? 

Until we find purpose 




I was wandering around Jerusalem and was standing at the old city wall, near Jaffa Gate when I noticed this dove.  It was just sitting, by itself, up on the stones.  And it almost seemed to possess a look of great consternation.


I thought how funny it would be if this dove was aware of its iconic status as harbinger of peace.  As a symbol of hope.  The bearer of the olive branch.  Then I thought about Tybalt Capulet’s line from Romeo + Juliet: 

“Peace? Peace?  I hate the word…”

And I thought it so fitting, that I had to alter the original photo.


In all reality, this bird was probably just eyeing the old woman toting the bread.  But if not, it seemed to clearly shirk its role as peace bringer.  Possibly too disappointed in the actions of man to pick up the olive branch.  Just waiting and watching the world unravel around it.

What happens when our iconic symbols become ironic?

Web of Color

In my previous post, about the stretch of the Wildwood Trail leading up to the Pittock Mansion, I mentioned the colors caught in spiderwebs.  And I would like to expand on that a bit here.

The last time I was there, about a year ago, right at the beginning of the hike, I noticed these two perfect spider webs right next to each other.

Pittock - A beginning - two spiders II

So many people just walked by and I couldn’t believe it.  I stood there with my camera and tried to capture every flicker of color, from the golden glow of the spiders to the full spectrum caught in their webs.  Alas, I am nothing more than an amateur and failed to capture the full splendor.  My friends and family were ready to walk, eager to reach the mansion, so I had to give up, satisfied only with the memory and an attempt to capture what the eye perceives.  Regardless, I hope you enjoy my effort and find some beauty in the result.

Pittock - A beginning - two spiders - no  bright

The Result of Spontaneity

Every time I go back to visit friends and family in Portland, I go to one of my favorite places to walk.  An upward stretch of trail along the Wildwood Trail between NW Cornell Road and The Pittock Mansion.  If you have never been, I suggest it.  It is lush and green and spectacular.  There are hidden gems of color caught in the spider webs between the trees, mottled sunlight, ivy and ferns galore and at the end, a stunning mansion surrounded by lovely gardens.

Pittock VII - The Mansion

I remember this particular place so well because when I first discovered it, it was an unexpected adventure.  A little more than 14 years ago my brother and I were driving in my old, unreliable Ford Taurus, Norman.  Norman was a temperamental beast with a tendency  toward overheating.  We were driving along NW Cornell Road, the temperature gauge was starting to go up and it would soon be time to pull over.  Then I noticed a seemingly random trailhead and immediately pulled the car over and turned it off.  Norman could cool down and we could explore this new location.  My brother and I started walking.  And it started raining.  This is the Pacific Northwest, after all.  But this didn’t stop us, nor did the mud.  I wanted to know what was at the top and encouraged my brother onward.  And you can only imagine how amazed we were to emerge from the forest to find a parking lot?  It seemed strange and out of place.  It was empty.  We walked across it and for the first time caught a glimpse of the Pittock Mansion.  Had there not been some commonplace items of our era it would have been like stepping back in time.  Cautiously we got closer and examined the dark windows and grey terrace, almost certain we were trespassing.  No one came out and yelled at us.  So we stayed a little and walked around the garden before heading back to the trail to head down to Norman.


After some research, we learned that the Pittock Mansion was accessible to the public, open for tours and basically a museum.  It had belonged to a business tycoon and is supposedly haunted.  All very cool.  But for us, that wasn’t what made the place so incredible.  It was that moment of sheer delight.  A spontaneous adventure that led somewhere, we had discovered the mansion ourselves with no prior knowledge of its existence.  And each time I complete the little hike and emerge on the mansion grounds, I remember that feeling and I cherish it.

There was also that time when we hiked up to the mansion in the POURING rain to find a catered, formal event occurring on the grounds.  Our dog, a dopey red Doberman named Ember, began to run around, into the tents and proceeded to get men in suits and ladies in dresses muddy.  Cue Yakety Sax.  Once we wrangled her, we booked it.  Surely we would be yelled at that time.  Didn’t stick around long enough to find out.  We can only hope the people were dog lovers, as most Oregonians seem to be.

Ember chewing on Nylabone


(Ember chewing on her (Nyla)bone.  I cannot, for the life of me, find a picture of her looking at the camera!  She was a little cross-eyed, so cute.  Much sweet, less brains)


Old Regrets

When I was a kid, my parents got divorced.  I’m not unique here, this happens to many.  It happened when I was between 12 and 13 years old.  And my dog became my best friend more so than ever.

This isn’t to say I didn’t have friends but when the weather was bad or homework was their priority (I wasn’t the best student) my dog was my constant companion.

Tundra was his name and he was a Siberian Husky.  We had many adventures.  I used to put on my roller-blades, attach two leashes to his collar (for balance) and hang on.  I got pretty good at this, crouching down low when we took sharp corners or steep hills.  A couple times I had to bail when he went after some critter and one time I lost control and slammed into the back of a truck.  When my dad saw my bloody countenance, his first question was, “Is the truck okay?”  Then he asked if the dog was okay and finally if I was okay.

When I would run with him, he would pull me to no end.  I would hang onto the leash and leap from foot to foot, sailing through the air.  The trick was to try and maximize the time I spent in the air and not to slow him down.  This was my favorite.  It was the closest I could achieve to actually running with him.  This memory is one I cherish and use to describe the sensation a character in my novel feels when running with a pack of wolves. 

Then there was the forest.  I can’t remember how much acreage there was.  I could spend hours exploring it and it took me years to learn all my different routes.  I was an intrepid explorer.  I fell down many gullies, landed in flooded streams and stinging nettles.  A friend and I were swarmed by wasps that had made their nest underground, which we haplessly trod upon during the fall when it was concealed by leaf litter.  I followed deer and coyotes.  I learned my way and would use the forest to get to other neighborhoods and even to the main part of the nearest town, where a shopping center was located.

Tundra always went with me as did the family dog, Lucy, a Shetland Sheepdog.  As we slipped past the tree-line, I would let the dogs offleash.  While the loyal sheltie stayed with me, Tundra was off and we went our separate ways.  He always came when I called and generally stayed somewhat close.  As I said before, we had many adventures.

When my broken family moved from Oregon to Montana, everything changed.  The dogs had to live in a kennel because the yard either wasn’t fenced or Tundra escaped.  He became an escape artist.  I would always go after him but there was no catching him.  Huskies are born to run.  He got into all kinds of trouble.  He became a chicken killer, steak thief and livestock worrier.  On one occasion I had to stand between my dog and a furious shotgun wielding owner of dead chickens.  It was a very frightening and tense standoff.  My dog lived but I was warned that if he was ever seen around that property again, he would be shot on the spot.  Every time Tundra ran off, I wondered if I would see him again.

In the winters I could let him run.  He would pull me, alongside other huskies, on a sledge.  I would also put on my snowboard and let him pull me through town, though it was tricky to maintain my balance.  I often caught my edge and even broke my tailbone once when we hit ice.

The days of roller-blading were over, chipsealed roads were not friendly to roller-blades.  We would go hiking though but there was no letting him offleash, at least, not as often as he was accustomed to.  The wilderness was vast, a massive expanse of wild stretching between Montana and Idaho.  It was far more dangerous and not a place to let a husky roam.

As time progressed I began working and partaking in extracurricular activities.  I still tried to let him out to run and take him for walks as often as I could but it was a far cry from our adventures together in the forest of my childhood.

After I graduated high school, I left Montana and I left Tundra behind.  I got a job and my own place then got a Doberman puppy named Joe.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t take Tundra with me or go back and get him.  It would have been hard because my place and yard were small but I would have figured something out if I would have known what was to come.

My dad called me one morning and told me that he gave the huskies away (there was another named Shira, I’ll tell her story later).  I asked where they went and he told me to a place up in Northern Montana.  Where they got to run and pull sleds.  It sounded perfect.  Too perfect, like the proverbial farm.  I would ask my dad, nearly every time we spoke, if he knew how the huskies were doing.  They were always doing wonderful.  Even after a number of years had passed, making the huskies an impossible age, they were still doing well.

So I wonder, what really happened to my friend?  Where did he go?  Did he live to a ripe old age pulling sleds and live out his days as a husky should?  My dad’s story never changes.  I only hope it is the truth.  It haunts me to this day though and I suspect I will always carry this regret with me.

Tundra headshot in snow

The stunning escape artist himself.  

Find Tundra II

(not a great picture but this was our forest in Oregon, you can see him peaking through the foliage)  

Temperate rainforest

(another not so great picture but this was one of my favorite places.  Tundra’s not in this pic)

Find Tundra

(find the husky)

Tundra sitting nicely

(he was impossible to brush)            

Lucy come home

(Lucy, the sheltie.  Also an awesome dog. Much loyal, to the end.) 

A visit from a Muse

The query and rejection process is not for the faint of heart and while one does expect it, rejection after rejection, the effect takes its toll.

I take my time, I read about the agent, check her twitter feed, #MSWL, and see what she’s looking for, as well as what projects she is already working on… I probably should be submitting to more agents but I have only submitted to two agents a week for the past few weeks.  Six total.  Not many.

And while the number is small, the fact that I haven’t even gotten a nibble is what bothers me.  At least the form letters are nice and the time is taken to spell my name right (silver lining?) But no one seems even remotely interested.  The thought to shelve my project crossed my mind, to shelve a complete fantasy series because I can’t sell it with the first ten pages and query letter and synopsis.  Of those three things, where have I gone wrong?  The query, the first ten pages or the synopsis? Hmm…. What am I missing?

Here comes the interesting part:

At work, I’m sitting at the front desk and a client comes in.  I don’t know her that well and she knows even less about me, or so I thought.  I ask her how I might assist her, she tells me what she needs and I walk away to retrieve it from the back.  When I return she tells me that she gets vibes from people.  She always has and that the vibe she got from me gave her goose-bumps.  That’s how she can tell the vibe is real.  She told me that whatever I am doing, possibly something with school (reading, writing, lots of paper) I need to keep doing.  To give it my all because I am almost there.  She told me that I’m holding back and need to go forward and give it everything plus an extra ten percent.  That I’m ninety percent there….

I was floored.  If someone were looking into my life, it would be easy to misconceive my writing a novel as school.  It’s almost the same but there’s no teacher to give feedback.  Just rejection form letters.

So I won’t be shelving my manuscript after all.  I have to figure out where to apply the additional effort?  Everywhere makes sense.  I’ve decided to revise the first few chapters, rework my query letter and synopsis and resubmit.  Most important: to not give up and give my manuscript everything I’ve got.

It was such an incredible experience and came at the exact moment it should.

Jerusalem Syndrome Part VI: conclusion of a short fantasy story

Heather stared blankly at her computer screen in the darkness of her bedroom.  She couldn’t focus on her work; she hadn’t done anything with it in days.  Her cell phone rang.  She recognized the ringtone and answered immediately.  It was her husband calling to tell her that the police had turned up nothing about her brother’s disappearance.  There was nothing to give them any direction except from where he vanished, the front of the hospital.  Security cameras showed that Bradley had walked out the front door then everything went black.  There was no trace of him.  Why the equipment failed to raise alarm when he disconnected himself was still a mystery.

There was a long period of silence until her phone rang again, it was Taher.  He called to tell her that her brother had been found.

The old Mitsubishi Montero bounced and rattled as it traversed the desert footpath used mainly by ungulates.  Sheep and goats moved out of the way and camels grunted.  The dust settled as the vehicle came to a stop at the Bedouin camp.  Taher threw open the door and stepped out.  A wave of children ran to him, young boys shouting in such frenzy he couldn’t understand what they were saying.  A few men followed, telling him to come retrieve the man with the infernal mark.

Taher trailed them to the center of their camp and resting on a makeshift table was Bradley, bruised, scraped, scabbed and sunburned.  The men told Taher to get him out of the camp.  To get him far away.  Then the sheikh emerged from his tent and the men, his sons, grew quiet.

The sheikh explained to Taher that since they found Bradley, he had seen three markings appear on the red-haired man’s body.  The infernal mark had been over the heart but faded.  A second mark replaced it but also faded and a third mark emerged across the entire chest and has stayed.  The sheikh said that he could not say what it meant but the heart beats and when they found Bradley there was a great feather over his body so unlike his sons, he was not afraid.  The sheikh continued to explain that the nearest hospital was too great a distance by camel or horse for the red-haired man to endure.  And that his wives and daughters had kept Bradley alive.  It was best that the red-haired man be taken by car to the hospital right away.

The Montero sped across the desert, Taher sat in the back, holding Bradley while one of the Bedouin guides he had hired for the striped hyena expedition drove.  It was because of those guides that he even learned about Bradley’s miraculous discovery which was what led to his recovery.


Heather entered Bradley’s room at a hospital in Be’er Sheva.  The heart rate monitor was a familiar sound and again he was hooked up to an IV but this time he looked at her and smiled his usual half-smile.  She burst into tears and her husband wrapped an arm around her, kissed her on top of the head then walked with her to his bedside.

“How are you feeling?” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Like I was in an oven,” he answered in a hoarse voice.

A small laugh broke through then after a brief moment of silence, she asked, “How did you get to the middle of the Negev from Jerusalem?”

“I’m still trying to work that out,” he answered bleakly.

“Do you remember any of it?”

“Anything in particular?”

She shrugged, not really wanting to speak of what she witnessed.  She was just happy to see him awake, smiling and talking.

“Did you get any new pictures of Apollo and Delphi?” he asked.

Heather burst out into tears again and turned to her husband.  Bradley knew that he was obviously the cause of her crying and regretted this.  Uncertain as to how he could mend the crime of making his sister cry, he looked away.  His gaze landed on a sandy colored dog sitting right outside the doorway to his room.  He briefly wondered how it had gotten into the hospital but then it stood up on its long, slender legs and elegantly trotted away.  It had looked like a small saluki but with pointy ears.

“Apollo” and “Delphi” Striped Hyena photos by the amazing Photographer and Conservationist Ezra Hadad Ezra Hadad Facebook Page