Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review Joe Redick

Hello Readers,
I just received this review from Joe Redick.

"Gentle people;

Please be advised that it was an honor to work with Linda Anderson. She is an inspiring new author who has the talent and ability to weave magic into a story. Ms. Anderson has created a masterpiece on a child's level. It is wonderful to think of parents reading this children's book, filled with universal truth, to shiny-eyed children. As a theatrical lighting designer, I must say that it would be wonderful to see it staged some day, as a play.

Many kind regards,
J.M. Redick, MFA, Design and Technical Theatre"

Monday, July 16, 2012

FAQ – Do Wild Animals Make Good Pets?

Absolutely not!

To start with, you need to understand that I did not deliberately take wild animals for pets. When they came my way, it was because for various reasons, they could not survive on their own.  Either they were orphaned babies, they had some sort of injury that would make living in the wild impossible, or they had been confiscated by the Game Warden and brought to me for care.  I had the authority to take such animals because of my U.S.D.A. License to do so.  Most states require a permit of some sort to keep wild animals in captivity.  I also worked in direct cooperation with the Auburn University Veterinary Clinic and spent some time in training at their Raptor Barn.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

FAQ - What’s the saddest thing about being a zookeeper?

Linda and a Yearling Doe

Without a doubt, it was always the death of an animal.  I was always upset when something died.  Sometimes death just happens. An animal is old or has developed an incurable condition. Some species, like hamsters and mice, have very short life spans. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

FAQ - What’s your favorite thing about being a zookeeper?

Gosh, that’s hard to say.  There are many different aspects that I found satisfying and rewarding. Of course, having animals happy and content enough to breed and produce babies was thrilling. I just loved baby anythings.  When the critters in your care are producing lots of babies, that usually means contented critters.

As a teacher, I couldn’t help but teach.  The zoo gave me a forum for telling people about the amazing and wonderful world of animals. No matter who came, regardless of their age or background, I always had something to teach them. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

FAQ - What is body space?

Every living creature, including man, has a body space.  This is rather like an invisible line that separates you from danger.  If you step across that animal’s line, it will step back. Some animals will flee from you if you cross that line. If they can’t flee, may will panic and attack to defend themselves.

Some animals have a narrow body space, some animals have a wide body space. It’s kind of like a safety zone.  In other words, if an animal is a prey animal (food for other animals) it has a very wide body space. Predators often have a narrow body space.  But it really depends on the situation.  The bigger the threat you are to the animal, the bigger its body space.

 As a zookeeper, you need to understand the body space and the nature of every species in your care.  You must also build up a trust relationship with every animal. You must never threaten them or make them fearful, but respect their space.  This takes a bit of talent and a lot of understanding.

Along with body space, eye contact is crucial. To most animals, a direct stare is extremely threatening.  If you are a prey animal, just having someone stare at you can make you nervous.  In other words, if you are being stared at, you are being stalked. If you are being stalked, someone is considering killing and eating you.  For most animals, that’s what life is all about, eating or being eaten.

I’ll give you an example. We purchased a small flock of pygmy goats.  Unlike my first two who were very tame pets, these goats had been used merely as bush goats, to keep a field mowed.  They had not been handled, petted or tamed.  Then suddenly, they had been brought to our farm and thrust into a strange pen. it was nothing at all like their home. 

For days they fled when I approached and would bawl and trample each other to get away from me as I raked their pen. They spent their time huddled in a corner.  I knew this had to change, and quickly before they injured themselves.  I used food as an incentive.  They got a small ration of hay, not enough to starve them, but I wanted them hungry. 

Now, I happen to know that a goat’s most favorite food in the world is sweet feed.  It is an assortment of grains soaked in molasses. Several times a day I would enter their pen with a small bucket of sweet feed. As usual, they would bawl and flee.  At first I would squat down, making myself smaller and talking in a quiet voice. I would rattle the can. They would stop bawling and stare at me, ready to bolt at the slightest wrong move.

Carefully, I would lay belly down, reducing the threat even more. Throughout this process, I would not look at them (staring is a threat). I would peek from the corner of my eye. Before long they would relax a bit.  At that time their body space was a good thirty feet wide.  Slowly, I would take a handful of sweet feed and open it in my flattened palm.  I would reach out as far as my arm would go.  Before long, the enticement of sweet feed, coupled with my very non-threatening body language would allow them to relax a bit more.  A few of the goats would begin to approach. Some would dart past me to another part of the pen. I did not flinch or move, just hold still and keep up a soft monotone of speech.   

After several days of this procedure, one little goat, more bold than the rest, couldn’t resist the temptation.  She crept closer and closer. It took her several minutes to summon the courage, but finally she snatched a mouthful of sweet feed and bolted away.  That was all it took. She immediately came back and snatched another mouthful and quickly finished every bit in my hand.  I knew I had won her over when she licked my fingers for every little crumb! When the others saw that she had not been eaten by the big stranger, their own desire for sweet feed overcame their fear. 

Within the week every goat in the pen crowded around for their daily treat. I had established a ground rule for them. You don’t get sweet feed unless you take it from my hand.  One goat who was extremely shy, took several weeks before she would finally eat from my hand. 

To some, this might seem like a lot of trouble. But as a zookeeper I had to consider the needs of my critters. Through no choice of their own, they were thrust into an alien environment, full of unknown threats and dangers. They needed to become tame and trust me, not only for the sake of the zoo patrons, but for their own safety and protection.  In the event of a serious injury or medical emergency, they needed to trust me enough to take care of them and heal their hurts. If they had continued to stay wild, then in their panic to escape, they could have faced more harm and injury.

If you have any questions about being a zookeeper, about my zoo Storybook Farm Petting Zoo, about animals, or about The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple, please ask!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

FAQ - What is Body Language?

To me, body language is fascinating. It’s a wonderful device God has given creatures to help them understand each other.  Every animal on the planet understands the danger signal when a rattlesnake rattles its tail.
Savannah Monitor Photo
Courtesy of Brockett's Film Fauna, Inc.
As a zookeeper, you really need to understand the animals you are dealing with.  You must understand the warning signs when an animal is frightened as opposed to when it is angry. That will affect how you approach it and how you deal with its issues. This is important because you must consider not only your safety, but the safety of every creature in your care.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

FAQ - What’s it like to be a zookeeper?

Being a zookeeper is like taking care of several hundred children who never grow up. It’s a twenty-four/seven job. In other words, you do not get weekends off, your job is not finished at five o’clock in the afternoon, and don’t even think in terms of a vacation! 

Animals are living feeling beings. Besides food, water, a clean compound, and shelter from the weather; they have all sorts of emotional needs that must be met.  Regardless of species, they have fears, hurts, and angers just like people do. If you accept the responsibility of being a zookeeper, that means you take on the responsibility of understanding their needs and meeting them.

If you don’t like getting dirty, you should never become a zookeeper.  There are times when you feel the only thing in your life is animal poop. Every single day you must rake and shovel wheelbarrows full of it and haul it away. We had a compost bed in the back where we dumped ours.  As it decomposed, we used it in our garden. 

You must be strong enough to lug fifty-pound bags of feed around and heft eighty-pound bales of hay. You must be fit enough to wrestle a one hundred and twenty pound sheep who escaped his pen (yet again) away from the chicken feed trough so he won’t literally eat himself to death.  You must be agile enough to out-maneuver a grown white-tailed deer so you can restrain her long enough to at least partially rub her down with diatomaceous earth to kill the deer lice before she beats you to death with her spindly, but incredibly strong forelegs.

If you have any questions about being a zookeeper, about zoos, about my zoo Storybook Farm Petting Zoo, or about The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple,  please ask.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review - Terry Davidson

Linda, I am by no means a book critic. I have read many books, from philosophy to world history, religion, woodcraft, the art of warfare and many other subjects, but rarely do I ever read novels and almost never children's books. But after you gave me that pamphlet, on The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple and I read the first paragraph, I knew I wanted to read the book. And after you gave me a copy, I can truly say that I wasn't disappointed. It was a very good book, with a good story line. It had everything you would expect, mystery, humor, suspense, love and friendship and it was also very educational. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to be one of the first to read this great book.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review - Sharon Lupella

“This story is filled with rich descriptive language and genuine heart-felt emotions revolving around a mother goose and her goslings.  The book’s characters are well-developed individuals whose interactions with the main character, Sweetie, are role models of friendship . . .

…   I personally enjoyed reading the book. (I read it in one setting.) It had a nice pace, not too slow or too fast. The plot was interesting and had a few twists to it. I liked the way the characters were introduced one at a time as part of the zoo family. I could picture the zoo in my mind with each specific building and the pathways connecting the buildings. It was a unique opportunity to be transported to a place where friends actually worked together to help a friend achieve her goal.”

Sharon Lupella,

Retired Teacher

Book Review - Ellen Fockler

“… First, let me tell you that you are a remarkable writer.  You have a sense of timing, rhythm, and wording that cannot be taught.  You have succeeded admirably in creating very individual characters -- from Sweetie, obviously young, idealistic, and inexperienced, to Matilda, who must bear the grief of her own loss.  My favorite character -- and, I suspect, the favorite for many of your readers -- is Heidi.  The repetition of phrases that is her characteristic is a brilliant device.   

Your knowledge of the zoo and of animals is very apparent.  It is a mark of achievement that you impart a great deal of information to readers in a very natural way -- without sounding as if you were teaching them a lesson.  Well done…”

Ellen Fockler

Current School Library Consultant at Fockler Library Consulting, LLC

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Life in a Zoo the Fictional Version: Pygmy Goats

Baby pygmy goats

My very first goats were a pair of newborn orphan pygmy goats. These two little orphans came from the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine. One of our boarding kennel clients was a student there and telephoned us. She felt that we might give them a good home.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: Geese on The Pond

Emden and Toulousegeese on our pond.

Our home and compound sat on about three acres.  We really didn’t have that much room for all the animals we eventually housed.  After people began donating more and more geese to us, we realized that plastic wading pools simply would not take care of their needs. See the post on Where is Sweetie's Husband? to see a picture of a goose in a wading pool.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: Daisy the Deer and the Emu Chicks

Later in our zoo days we began to breed emus. We had the incubators and all the equipment to hatch eggs for other breeders.  

After the chicks hatch, they spent about a week in the hatchery. Then we took them to the chick barn.  This was a specially built building with four stalls inside it.  The first stall was for the tiny babies. When they reached a certain size, we transferred them to the next stall. It was important to keep the emu chicks separated by size, because the bigger ones could trample and hurt the smaller ones.By the time they were about three months old, they were big enough to stay outside, so we moved them from the barn.   

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: Pheasants

Pheasant Pen
You can see a silver pheasant in the left corner of the picture.  Silver pheasants are easily tamed and get along well with other birds.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Egging: Scale Model Church Diorama

First Presbyterian Church inside Emu Egg.

In The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple, the zookeeper takes not only Sweetie's eggs to sell, but all the goose eggs.  His reason is that a lady from the International Egg Art Guild needs 100 eggs for an egg decorating class. She plans to pay him handsomely for the eggs.

Outside of boiled Easter eggs, most people do not know about this highly advanced and challenging art form.  Real eggs are emptied of their contents, cut open, and decorated in a variety of ways. Most eggers, as people who participate in this art form are called, prefer to put jewels all over the eggs.  I did some of that, but my preference was making miniature scenes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: Silky Chickens

Silky Rooster and Friend
One of our Auburn University Student Volunteers is holding this bird. Young men and women from the university often came out to volunteer and help with our critters.  They did everything from cleaning pens, to scrubbing water pans, to raking the grounds, to helping us build pens, sheds, and fences. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: Lop Rabbit

Lop Rabbit
Over the years we were given many, many rabbits. in fact, at one point in time, we were building more rabbig cages than anything else.  We eventually had over 25 rabbit cages!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Zoonooz Excerpt September / October 1990 circulation 150

Here is an excerpt from our little zoo publication,
We didn't send it out monthly, but every two or three months, as I had time to work on it.

In the early days, we looked for publicity wherever we could find it.  Advertising was at a premiu. The best we could do was get a listing in the telephone directory.
Whenever possible, we would get ourselves into the public.  Sometimes I took Magic the Mini-horse to the library or a school event to allow kids to pet him.

Sometimes we went to the County Fair and set up a few animals for people to pet.  But one of our favorit things was the local parades.  I would walk with Magic attached to his wagon. There would be a rabbit or two in a wire cage in the wagon.  Joe would walk along with Brighty, our standard donkey .

Upcoming events:
  • November 28 – Opelika Christmas Parade!
  • December 12 – Auburn Christmas Parade!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Zoonooz Excerpt September / October 1990 circulation 150

Here is an excerpt from our little zoo publication,
We didn't send it out monthly, but every two or three months, as I had time to work on it.

When we first started collecting animals, we had the typical fencing that most people have around their yards.  Before long we tried chicken wire, but that wasn't strong enough to hold a deer, so we eventually fenced our compound with six-foot horse wire.  Once Faline grew up, even that wasn't sufficient!

As always, our most pressing need was funding.  We did eventually fence the entire three acre compound with nine-foot wooden fencing.  My parents found a sawill that sold seconds (boards with flaws). Everey week for months we would go there and pick up a trailer load of green (not aged) oak boards six inches wide.

We found if we quickly nailed them to a previously installed frame, they would not warp.  They cost us $1 per board.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Writing Craft: Character Development Chart

One of my favorite writing activities is creating characters. 

A skilled writer will take time before writing to develop their characters. You must learn as much as possible about them.  When you know your characters well, you will have a better idea of :
  • what they will say
  • how they will react to a situation
  • what they are likely to do.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Life in a Zoo the Fictional Version: The Emus

A breeder pair of emus in their pen.

Towards the end of our zoo days, we began breeding emus. These are giant birds related to ostriches that come from Australia. Emus are a bit smaller than ostriches. They are about six feet tall and weigh roughly 130 pounds each.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Writing Craft: Setting

Everybody’s gotta be somewhere!

When you are crafting a story, you need to put your characters somewhere.  You need to paint a verbal picture. If your reader can’t see it in their minds, they can’t go there. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: A School Tour

Underprivileged Children get a Hands-on Tour.

When we opened our zoo officially, we were very concerned about how the visitors would treat the animals.  And, we were concerned about the liability of people doing foolish things.

We did not allow people to wander freely throughout the zoo, but conducted guided tours.  It didn’t matter whether it was just a couple or a group of thirty or more. All were welcome, and all were given pretty much the same tour.

It often took an hour or more to get the full tour. We would stop at every pen and compound. Our visitors learned the names of the animals, a bit about the species, and unusual or interesting characteristics of each species. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: Kurye and Deer in the Front Yard

Our Front Yard

Can you see the three deer in the front yard?  Faline is on the left, Daisy has her backside to us, and Lily is facing us near the big white dog.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Zoonooz Excerpt September / October 1990 circulation 150

Financially, we rarely made ends meet.  besides feed bills and maintenance costs, we were constantly building new pens and cages for new adoptees.  Occasionally, we had veterinary bills.  In an attempt to keep our admission fee as low as possible, we offset our expenses in various ways...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Writing Craft: Watch Out For These Killers

If you use the words below, you will be marked for a rank amateur.  Avoid them whenever you can.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Zoonooz Excerpt September / October 1990 circulation 150

As I read through an old Zoonooz, I had forgotten how many wonderful people and organizations pitche in one way or another to help us. 
Corporate Sponsors:
The following businesses have made a monthly commitmenht to finance some part of Crocilla’s Storybook Farm. Is there a place for your business on this list?

Shaklee Health and Home Care Products
Maggie & Lou Kellogg
Entire front aviary

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: The Essence of Pigness

Have you ever met a pig? If not, I highly recommend it.

Pigs are keenly intelligent. They make dogs look like the village idiot.  They are trainable, personable, and are easier to housebreak than a dog. They have general likes and dislikes, but each one is an individual unto himself.

Our very first pigs were a pair of piglets. They were half Guinea and half Arkansas Razorbacks.  They were so cute!  Still on a bottle, they followed us everywhere.  Within minutes, they learned to sit for their bottles.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life in the Zoo: The Fictional Version - Where is Sweetie’s Husband?

Fritz, Sweetie's mate

In the book, Sweetie is apparently without a mate. That is a problem because without a mate, a goose may lay eggs, but they will not be fertile. None will hatch.  Cleopatra has a mate named Tut. Other geese in the story have mates, but they are minor characters and are not mentioned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Three Goose Eggs

Here are three goose eggs I decorated. The Basinette egg makes a great baby shower gift. It’s really unique. Of course, learning to cut that lattice pattern requires that you grind a lot of eggs to dust before you get it right!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing Craft: Power Verbs

Verbs can be a lot of fun. Don’t get caught in a rut! Step out of that box! March to the beat of a different drummer! 
You like my clichés? Don’t use them. They are annoying and trite.  If you’re reading this blog, you should be beyond such drivel!  But I digress… back to the verbs.

When I first started writing, I was poor at grammar. Still am, but I created an Idiot List to help me remember what I needed to know.  If you aren’t sure about something, check on line. A wealth of information is available if you will just avail yourself of it! <tongue in cheek>

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zoonooz Excerpt September / October 1990 circulation 150

Here is an excerpt from the Zoonooz publication we sent out every now and then.  

 People loved coming to our little zoo over and over again. We had our regulars.  Many wanted to help out, so their children could have a wholesome and safe place to visit. Some offered to pay for the upkeep of their favorite animals.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Life in a Zoo: The Real Thing - Bottle Feeding a Fawn -Part Two

Raising Faline was a breeze. The next spring, my real challenge came. Instead of one fawn, I had three, only a few days apart!

Now instead of one bottle, there were three bottles. Now, the first thing I learned was that Daisy, Lily, and Clover each had their own favorite nipples. There was no switching them.

Not too much of a problem when they were on one bottle each. Although holding three bottles at one time was a bit tricky.  At first I tried preparing six bottles with six nipples. But they would have nothing to do with the new nipples, they wanted their original nipples.

Wow! What an uproar when it was time to change bottles!  At just about the same time they would all three suck their bottles flat. I had to snatch them out of their mouths, remove the nipples, and replace them on the three filled bottles.

In the mean time, I was attacked by three obviously starved babies, bawling and mewing, leaping into my lap and trying to suckle any bit of my skin their lips could reach… and all this while trying to screw the nipples on three full bottles without spilling anything!

They were in a shaking frenzy in the few seconds it took me to make the switch. Then trying to unlatch three fawns from my ear lobes, throat, and … ahem… anything else they could reach and getting the RIGHT nipple into the RIGHT mouth caused a few exciting moments.

I can honestly tell you there absolutely are no words to describe adequately the sensation of a lip-lock on one’s armpit!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Anemic Verbs

Some verbs should be buried. Some are so common they have lost value. Mundane words signify a mundane writer. Give your writing a transfusion with power verbs.

The verb to be is worn out, passive, and should be eliminated whenever possible. Excessive use screams first draft! It isn’t easy, but a skilled writer finds a way around them. Write with strength, find better choices!

Verb – to be:

it was
to be

Friday, May 11, 2012

Zoonooz Excerpt September / October 1990 circulation 150

New Additions:
  • Wilbur the Yorkshire Pig donated by Dr. Linda McNeff, D.V.M.
  • Mandarin ducks – incredibly beautiful - they look like painted sculptures!
  • Golden pheasant – another beauty in shades of red and gold.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Life in a Zoo: The Real Thing - Bottle Feeding a Fawn - Part One

Fawns, like all baby mammals, are very much like human babies. They need to nurse, they need comfort and cuddling, and they need to sleep.  Like human babies, in the first few weeks of life they need to be fed round the clock in two-hour intervals.

The first spring we received an orphaned fawn, we learned a lot about feeding babies.  At night she slept in a dog carrier in our bedroom. The alarm clock would go off every two hours. I mixed her formula and fed her.

At first we had trouble getting her to take the bottle.  I had struggled with her for several hours, trying to get her to nurse, but nothing worked.  Then, as my mother hovered over her, she bumped mom’s chin and suddenly started nursing. She needed to bump an udder in order to stimulate the nursing behavior. 

She suckled voraciously. There was much tail switching, stamping of little hooves, forelegs kneeing me as she inhaled the milk.  All feedings were like that. Sometimes in her eagerness to get the bottle, she would actually snatch it out of my hand. 

At first, she took only a third to a half a bottle of milk per feeding.  As she matured, we increased to a full bottle per feeding, then two bottles.  I learned to keep two bottles ready. She would literally suck one bottle flat before I could pull it out of her mouth and cram the next one in!

When she was about a month, she no longer needed night feedings. Thank goodness!

Along with the feedings, came the “diapering”.  Fawns, like puppies and kittens, cannot relieve themselves without their mother stimulating them by licking their little bottoms. (yecch). I wasn’t about to lick her, so I used a warm wet washcloth.  I would hold a disposable diaper under her to catch the “overflow”.

After about a month, we no longer needed diapering. She continued to nurse until weaning, some time in November.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Writing Craft: No-No Words

Some words wave a red flag that screams NOVICE!  I know it’s impossible to not use them, but limit their use whenever possible.  Some are pretentious, and some are simply worn out. 

Over the years, I compiled this list to help tighten my writing.  Don’t worry about them in your first draft, but when you go back for editing, look for them.  Use your FIND function to highlight them. Then reread your document and try to restructure your sentences to eliminate them.

Many programs are different, especially on the newer programs, but I use Office 2003.  Go to EDIT / FIND. Then type in the word you want to find.  Hit enter and it will go to the first time that word is used.  Highlight the word and click the box to go to the next one.

You may find you use these words far too often. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life in a Zoo the Fictional Version: Ira the Akbash Dog

How would you feel if a giant dog whose shoulders came up to the height of your dining room table came charging at you out of the dark?  If you were on a sheep ranch or a farm, you might encounter such an animal, and it would be well worth your time to get out of his way.

Canni nursing a young fawn

There is a chance that you have encountered an Akbash dog. Akbash is a Turkish word meaning “white faced dog”. It is the name of an ancient rare breed of dog from Turkey. hey have been used for thousands of years as a guardian for sheep and goats.

This is a LGD, Livestock Guarding Dog. They do not herd the sheep, moving them from place to place.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Egg Art: How I Got Started as an Egger

For several years during my zoo keeping days, I belonged to the International Egg Art Guild.  This all started by my attending an Alabama Emu Association meeting in which the guest speaker was a lady who decorated eggs.  At first I didn’t think much of it, but later had second thoughts.

Goose Egg Ballerina on Polished Stone with Gold/Pearl/Jade Wire Shrub

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Life in a Zoo the Fictional Version: Freddy and Puddy

Some months after we had met our first live pot-bellied pigs, we heard about a pair in Virginia needing a home. They were a male and female, two years old. They had produced one litter, then the owner had neutered them. These pigs were black, the original color.

It seems the black ones were no longer in vogue and people were breeding for white or spotted pigs. So goes the way of novelty pets.  People get them for the novelty and then cast them aside when the novelty wears off. Fortunately for Freddy and Puddy, I was willing to drive eight hours one-way to give them a home!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Life in a Zoo: The Real Thing- Ping Comes into Our Life

It just so happened that we had a veterinary student from Auburn University volunteering one day. While she was there, one of our setting geese had a heat stroke and went into seizures.  Although quick action saved her life, her nest had been destroyed.

“What a shame,” I shook my head as I cleaned out the nest and tossed the crushed eggs into a trashcan.  I picked up an egg and examined it.  “I think there must be a baby inside, but the shell is cracked.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing Craft: What is a Character?

What are characters?
  • They are the individuals with whom you people your universe. Without them, there is no story. They either do things or things are done to them.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writing Craft: Conflict

Without conflict there is no story, just a news report. 

Life in a Zoo: The Fictional Version- Sweetie's Blackest Moment

When writing a story, at some point the main character must go through a devastating event. It is called the Black Moment. The writer must bring the character to the height of hope and expectation. Then some horrible thing happens that makes it seem like the end of the world.  Now the character must recover from that experience.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Life in a Zoo: The Real Thing - How a Goose Hatches Her Eggs

I was amazed at how many eggs my geese were laying.  Several geese laid their eggs inside an abandoned doghouse. Apparently, it was prime real estate.

We were such novices in those days, and it was long before we ever owned a computer, much less had access to the internet.  So our resources on learning about our critters was limited. 

What I didn’t understand was that I should have taken some of those eggs.  But we left them all.  It didn’t take long before there were so many eggs in the nest that the goose couldn’t possibly reach the ones on the bottom, much less turn them several times a day as was needed.
Usually a bird will lay only one egg a day, depending on the species. Emus will lay one egg every three days. The bird will not begin to incubate the eggs until the nest is full. For some species, that may be two or three eggs, but for some birds, like the emu, they may have fifteen or twenty eggs in the nest.  Geese will usually lay about eight to ten.
There is one of God’s wonderful mysteries. So if a goose lays an egg a day for ten days, why is it that they all hatch on the same day? 

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple: Chapter Two

Tut and Cleopatra, the two African geese were always together. They considered themselves the most regal and elegant of all the zoofolk. Slender bodied and gray backs, their necks and chests were white as snow. Their black beaks could have been made of buffed leather. Tut sported a large leathery hump on the top edge of his beak between his eyes like a crown. Cleopatra’s hump was a bit smaller. Although their markings were similar to Sweetie’s she was much more heavy bodied.

The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple: Chapter One

“…My eggs! He’s stolen my eggs!” Sweetie rooted her beak through her nest and looked back over her shoulder. Mr. Dingsnapple was walking away. He had just placed her four pearly-white eggs in a red wire basket.  She ran as fast as her big webbed feet could carry her. Her huge gray wings flapped with every step.

Writing Craft - Show Don't Tell

One of the hallmarks of skilled writing is the ability to draw the reader into the world you’ve created.
The reader wants to have sympathy for your character. He wants to feel what your character feels and experience what the character experiences. One of the primary reasons for recreational reading is to escape from reality and be somewhere else.
If your story doesn’t draw the reader in quickly, he will lose interest. Your story must pop with experiences that use the senses. Immerse your reader in sensory experiences. He must be able to touch, taste, smell, hear, and see the world you’ve created. Your job is to find words that convey those messages.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Writing Craft - Peopling Your World

When I started writing my first novel, (which will never get published… to many problems and nothing more than an exercise in futility). I realized I didn’t know what my villain looked like. No matter what I thought about, I could not envision this man.  I could not describe him.

Stumped, I looked through magazines for ideas, but he definitely wasn’t the fashion model type.  National Geographic didn’t help, either. 

Several weeks later I was browsing through my photo file of vacation pictures to Charleston, South Carolina.  Suddenly, I stopped and studied a crowd of passers-by. Right in the center of the screen was an angular, lanky man. His baseball cap crammed down on greasy dark hair pulled at an angle to almost hide his eyes. He had tight lips and a grim expression.  By his stance, I could see he was going some place in a hurry. My villain! I’d found my villain!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why a Goose Story?

Over the years, people have told me I needed to put some of my funny animal stories into print. Several ideas milled around in my head, but I really didn’t know that much about writing.

I had participated for year in AuburnUniversity’s Novel Writing Workshop taught by Mary Moran. In this class, we were required to write ten pages per week and share them with the group for critiquing. It was an invaluable class, but my suspense novel manuscript was spotty and had too many missing parts. However, I did learn a bit about character development.

Monday, April 16, 2012

About the Author

Back in the 1990’s my husband Joe Crocilla and I began rescuing cast-off animals that needed a home.  Before long, we housed, loved, and cared for some 150 birds, mammals, and reptiles.  Eventually, we became the smallest U.S.D.A. licensed Petting Zoo in the State of Alabama.

This was a labor of love. Most of our animals were rescue animals, either domestic animals that had no place to go, orphaned wild babies needing TLC, and occasionally a legal home for illegally captive wild animals confiscated from their owners.