Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tadpoles are Cannibals!

A couple of months ago the kids and I went huntin’. Yep, that’s right. We took our nets down to the local park, in the middle of our town, and found a pond. The water reached our ankles, smelled like rotten eggs, and the surface crawled with bugs. Little black dots swam along the edges—thousands of baby tadpoles.

I wasn’t sure what type of frogs or toads they’d become. But it didn’t really matter to the kids. They scooped their hands in the water (ugh, so nasty) and I ended up helping (even worse) and caught about eight tadpoles. We had a fish bowl at home and I, in my infinite wisdom (not), decided to let the kids learn about the life cycle of the frog.


My daughter went online to research how to take care of the slimy, little critters. Youtube has lots of videos, and she learned what type of tadpoles we found and how to feed them. It turn out that toad tadpoles are black and shiny; a brown and slightly bigger tadpole that we thought might be a frog. The ginormous one the length of my pinky turned out to be a bullfrog tadpole, and it seemed sickly. It hadn't even tried to swim away when I scooped it up in the net.

Warning sign #1, ignored.

The next day, I came home from work and my daughter met me at the door with a smile.
"So," I said. "How are the tadpoles?"
"They're all alive. Even the sick one."
"Oh good." I smiled.
She nodded her head, grabbed my hand, and dragged me to her room. "See, all the other tadpoles are taking care of it. They keep cleaning it."
My stomach twisted. "Uh, no, baby. They're not cleaning it. They're...eating it. The tail half-chewed off."
Her eyes widened. "Oh. My. Gosh," she cried. "Mom, why didn't you tell me tadpoles are cannibals!"

The funeral was nice. We wished it well as we flushed what was left of it in the toilet, and consoled ourselves that the tadpole had been dying. We now knew the warning signs and wouldn't make the same mistake in the future. We'd learned our lesson.

The next biggest tadpole turned into a toad within a couple of weeks. Cute little thing. We put him in a separate fishbowl with lots of dirt, ivy vines, and fed him aphids. Which I ended up being the one responsible for catching since my son and daughter declared they were afraid of bugs (I'm a push-over). The other tadpoles were getting bigger, but not at the same rapid rate. They didn't even have legs yet.

The baby frog— I know, I said toad. I was so very wrong. Let me clarify—the baby tree frog grew rapidly with a steady diet of bugs. Then one day, I looked in the bowl and he was missing. Yikes! It happened the week my daughter went to camp so I had to break the news that her frog was on the loose somewhere in her bedroom. I think he fell back behind the dresser, which is too big for me to move.

Darn his little suckered feet. I'm hoping he's still alive, and we're just not seeing him because he's nocturnal, but I'm not holding out much hope.

Warning sign #2, not ignored.

I decided to take the rest of the tadpoles back to the pond so the kids could say goodbye and release them. They were getting too big for the bowl, and I worried they wouldn’t be getting enough oxygen, which turned out to be the cause of the Day of Mass Death a few days later. Unfortunately, the ‘pond’ had dried up, so, I guess I should call it a super, large puddle. All the tadpoles that had been in this body of water were dead. At the time, the kids and I consoled ourselves that we’d saved lives.

Sigh, the relief was short-lived.

About a week later, I woke up one morning to find all but one of the tadpoles dead. It had happened in the night. The water must have gone bad. The lone survivor had wriggled on top of a rock where it was half out of the water. He is the ultimate survivor and I love him so much.

He’s now my cute, little toad. And when I say mine, I mean MINE!

He may be in the kid’s room, but every night after the sun sets, I catch the bugs drawn to the front porch light or pluck aphids off my neighbors rosebushes (yeah, they think I’m a little odd now, shrug). Then I watch over my little Theo until he eats. He’s getting a little chunky and bumpy, but that’s okay. I think he's adorable. Look closely, at the middle of the picture. He's about the size of a penny in real life.

Oh, and don't worry, he's not dead. I touched him and he jumped off away from me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Yesternight's Voyage Interview

Today I'm featured on Joyce Alton's blog, Yesternight's Voyage for my first interview--ever. It's pretty thrilling for me to have been asked, and terrifying to see the post on the blog of someone I consider both a mentor and a friend.

Many thanks to Joyce, aka Clippership, for her wisdom and kindness to a newbie writer. She took me under her sails during the Speculative Fiction Marathon (this year's marathon is in its first week, so if anyone would like to participate, the time is now) on Agent Query Connect and I've learned a ton from her over the last year.

So please take the opportunity to pop on over and scroll through the many writing gems she has posted.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Year of Fun--May (the month I found my dream agent, Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency)

May started off with a bang!

Some of you may remember my earlier post (rant) in which I designated 2011, The Year of Fun. I spent all  of 2010 writing, querying, being rejected by agents, and shelving two books. I despaired that I never would reach my goal. And boy, did I whine about it.

"Blah, blah, blah, I totally suck! I can’t do this!"

I vowed that for 2011 year, I would rediscover my passion for writing. I worked with my critique partners and finished JUJU’S CHILD. I came to adore the characters, setting, and plot. I had a blast writing this story. I decided to query agents, but not obsess over rejection. And if I found my dream agent—well, YAY!!

I finished Juju’s Child in February and sent out four test queries. The same day, I received a full and partial request. I panicked. My critique partners hadn’t finished the final edits. So busted. I threw myself upon their mercy, and Kate, Sarah, Carla, Bessie, and my dad helped me out by getting the critiques back within the week. Whew.

So, I now knew that my query letter worked, and again I have to say a big thank you to my critique partners, especially Deb who worked with me on it line by line. In the three months since I began querying agents, I received 9 full requests and 7 partials, and a whole lot of rejections. Doggone it, receiving those form letters or hearing crickets from the non-responders felt like my soul was being sucked out through my nose.

Once again, I toyed with putting aside my dream. But, the thing is, no matter how often the thought occurred to me to quit, I refused to give up on my dream. I kept querying agents and found Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency through Joyce Alton’s Yesternight's Voyage blog. In her interview with Monica B.W on the Love YA blog, Kathleen said,“Topics of particular interest to me include reincarnation, the occult, the supernatural (not in a zombie or vampire context, more psychic, or witchy, or fey), ghosts (a scary ghost story? yes, please), and psychology.” She also disclosed that her guilty pleasures are Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl. Her interests covered the plots of all three of my manuscripts.

Oh, yeah, I had to query her! Perfection.

I sent the query letter for Juju’s Child, and received a full request for the manuscript half an hour later. That night we emailed back and forth, and I fell deeper under her spell. I kept interrupting my husband’s Xbox experience to gush about this fabulous agent. Thank you my sweet, patient hubby.

The next morning, I went on a ten mile mountain bike ride. In the middle of the woods, I received THE CALL. I almost crashed my bike into a tree trying to dig my phone out of my tight bike shorts. Thankfully, I survived to hear Kathleen tell me that she loved Juju’s Child, and offered representation. I can't even describe how excited and humbled I felt. We had an even more lengthy discussion about revisions and our ideas for improving upon the existing story after I returned home. Her revision suggestions and mine meshed. I notified the other agents who were considering the manuscript and those that  I had queried, and informed them I would be making my decision in a week.

Which is today. So, I am pleased to officially announce that I  found my dream agent in Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary. Next week, I'll receive my agent's revision notes and the hard work begins. Thank you to all my friends and family. This day wouldn't have been possible without your support. I love you guys.

May is the best month, ever (singing the line like Sponge Bob Square Pants).

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