About this blog...

Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about zoos, the natural world, and writing. Welcome to the erratic thoughts of a zoo mystery author! See ZooMysteries.com for more photos and information about my books. Click here for cool sites about elephants and conservation organizations.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Appearance at event, February 29

Just a note to let you know that I will be at the Multnomah County Library in downtown Portland (801 SW 10th) Sunday, February 28, from noon to three PM. This is the annual Writers Resource Fair and I will be personning* the Sisters in Crime table. Drop by and say hi!


* Yes, writers get to create neologisms.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fame and Glory: Ancient Science Rediscovered

Well how about that. My old International Zoo Yearbook articles from my zoo keeping days are still available! Here's one on handraising a mandrill.

I'm pleased to say another article is cited in the IUCN Hippo Bibliography: Wilson, J. & Littlewood, A. (1978). First year of a hand-reared hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius at Portland Zoo. International Zoo Yearbook, Zoological Society of London 18: 211-213.

And part of Mellen JD, Littlewood AP, Barrow BC, Stevens VJ. 1981. Individual and social behavior in a captive troop of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Primates 22(2):206-20 is online.

The Internet may be as close to immortality as I ever come. It was fun to write up the handrearing studies and make use of the tedious amount of daily records we kept on Kubwa Sana (the baby hippo) and Roger, the mandrill.

The behavioral study on mandrills was also very cool. It's rare to have the opportunity to simply hold still and watch animals. It's amazing what you can learn if you try to take yourself out of the equation, just hold still and watch. We did it with checklists and timers, but next time you are at the zoo, find some animal that is awake (a peacock will do) and watch quietly for ten or fifteen minutes. That's a long time for us busy primates, but you will see things that surprise you. Zoo visitors work so hard to interact with the animals, but many times you really can get more out of observation. Try to see with an open mind. Let go of Asesop's fables and kid's books and dramatic nature shows and all that baggage we bring to animals. Just watch.

Here's a couple of pictures from my hand-rearing days.

Roger meets his mother, Lulu.


Yes, you can cuddle with a hippo.


Monday, February 1, 2010

The Agony of Outlining

I'm shoveling gravel into plot holes and it's heavy work. I am thrilled that Did Not Survive, the second of the Iris Oakley zoo-dunnits, is due out from Poisoned Pen Press in August 2010. Did Not Survive is in production and that means it's time to start outlining #3. I'm bi-polaring between the delight of having a second mystery accepted and the pain of making my brain work. Each book is born from an outline, so all my writer's block happens at the front end. Writing is the reward for outlining, as I see it.

Why go to the trouble of figuring it all out in advance? Because I write myself into corners otherwise. I know I'll get better ideas as I write and, with an outline, I can more easily see where to go back and adjust for the brainwave.

The "outline" is really a chart of brief scene descriptions--the key elements with notes about what day it is, why the scene is necessary, and so on.

Here's a photo of cedar waxwings that my husband took recently. I'm using it as therapy for my sore cortex. Aren't they perfect beautiful beings? Maybe tomorrow a flock of ideas will light on my head and carry my plot to new heights!