My name is Wendy. I’m an author.

One of the first things you learn after graduating veterinary school is not to tell strangers on airplanes, buses, trains, waiting rooms, or non-vet-related Facebook groups that you’re a vet.  It sounds crazy, I know.  All those years. All that work. Finally get to put “Dr.” in front of your name.  So why not tell the world?

Here’s how the conversation goes if you do.

Me: Hi, I’m Wendy.  I’m a vet.

Random Stranger: Oh my god, a vet? I have a (fill in breed of) dog (or cat or ferret or reptile).  He’s got this (fill in random medical issue or behavioral problem).  What do you think it could be? –Cue: half an hour of trying to avoid diagnosing a pet you’ve never seen, never will see, and can’t possibly diagnose from the stranger’s description of its malady.

That’s the most common response. We also get: Oh, I wanted to be a vet when I was a kid.  –Of course you did.  Most kids do. Vets are the kids who never grew out of that phase.

And we get: Oh, my daughter (or rarely, son) wants to be a vet.  She’s six.  Can she ask you seven hundred questions about your job?  –Yes, I’ll just bet she can.

And my personal favorite: Oh, I had a great dog (cat, ferret, reptile) but the stupid vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and he died.  –Cue: accusing stare.

To avoid the awkwardness of being stuck in these situations, most of us have an alternative answer to the “So what do you do?” question.  Mine has historically been, “I sell shoes.”  There really aren’t a lot of follow up questions to that particular answer.  One of my friends always uses, “I sell insurance,” because nobody wants to talk to anybody about insurance, and she’s guaranteed a nice quiet flight.

Things have changed for me.  My husband is Mr. Gregarious, so we always talk to people we meet on vacations, and our recent trip was no different.  But this time after the requisite “Where are you from?” I didn’t feel the familiar dread.

Random Stranger:  What do you do?

Me: I’m an author.

To begin with, that just sounds so nice.  I’m an author. Not: I’m an aspiring writer.  I’m an author.  I write books and people buy them.  While it’s not how I make my living (yet), it’s true enough for Random Strangers on a plane.

But it’s more than that.  I’m proud to be a veterinarian, I just don’t always want to talk about work.  I always want to talk about my books.  Authors love to talk about their books.  It’s partly the marketing mindset…maybe I can reach a new reader.  Maybe they know somebody in Hollywood who wants to make a dinosaur movie.  But it’s mostly the excitement of sharing a story with someone new.

There are probably authors out there who don’t share this view. J.K. Rowling probably travels incognito.  If you sit next to her on a plane and ask her what she does for a living, she probably says, “I’m a vet.”  It’s not because she’s so successful that she’s not trying to find new readers anymore, but I’m sure she has her own list of Random Stranger responses that she’s sick to death of answering.  Maybe someday I’ll go back to selling shoes on airplanes again.

But for now…

I’m Wendy.  And I’m an author.

 

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Blog Tour Continues!

Today’s A Haunting of Words interview is with author Travis West.

“If It’s Not Okay, It’s Not the End” – With the help of a late music icon, a newly deceased rock band embarks on a cross-country trip to help their drummer deliver a message to his ex-girlfriend.

What inspired you to write this story?:�

The punk band Rancid has a great song called “Ghost Band.” I heard it one day and knew that I should write about a phantom music group. Originally the band wasn’t going to meet anyone famous, they were just going to discuss the possibilities of meeting their late heroes. As a matter of fact, the original title was going to be, “Do You Think We’ll Meet Keith Moon?” Then I happened upon a quote attributed to the rock star in question and the entire story unfolded in my mind within minutes. Funny how that works. I feel this is my deepest story yet, even if the premise isn’t entirely original. In hindsight I realize it’s about regrets. Regret over loved ones left behind to achieve fame, and those used as stepping stones for the same purpose.

How long have you been writing?:�

Seriously writing, only three years. With a story published at the end of each year.

What genres do you most associate with in your writing:�

The majority of my short stories are speculative fiction, but I don’t think any of them fit into a Sci-fi/Horror/Fantasy box. I’ve only in the last few months discovered Slipstream. All ideas I have for possible novels are more contemporary or literary fiction.

What are you working on right now?:�

Right now I’m working on my own project. I’m writing a series of short stories involving a government shadow group who over the past century and a half attempt to infiltrate an alien race for their own nefarious purposes. Each story takes place in a different period in time from the 1800’s until now. It’s very “pulp” and heavily influenced by old comic books and magazines, such as Weird Tales and Planet Comics. The stories will be strange, violent, funny, and hopefully readers will find it to be entertaining.

What else do you have available/published:
My story “The Most Beautiful Boy” is available in A Matter of Words, and my story “The Errandsman’s Folly” is in A Journey of Words. Both are from Scout Media.

What advice do you give to new writers?�

Keep writing, of course, and always hire a professional editor. A great editor is an invaluable asset. If you use beta readers, which I do recommend, use a balance of men and women. Even if you don’t use a beta reader’s suggestions, at least give those suggestions ample consideration. Don’t assume your story is perfect simply because you think so. A wise person once said, Your ego is not your amigo.

List links where people can find your work:
ScoutMediaBooksMusic.Com
Facebook.Com/TravisWestWrites
TravisJackFlash.Blogspot.Com

You can purchase A Haunting of Words (available in paperback and eBook) through the Scout Media online store at: www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words and get an exclusive companion soundtrack CD, or through Barnes & Nobles, Target, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.

Established in 2013, Scout Media is an independent publishing company, record label, and copy-editing service for aspiring authors and musicians/bands.
scoutmediabooksmusic.com

Planet Earth

This week we’ve been catching up on the BBC’s newest nature series, “Planet Earth II.”  If you watched the first series, you’ll remember it…the cinematography, the remote settings. This time around is no different.  It’s Must See TV, and this time I got to thinking about why.

It’s not the incredible camera work, catching animal behavior that’s never been filmed before.

It’s not the sweeping locations, or the cool “making of…” bit at the end of each episode where you get to watch the miserable producers and camera crews suffering for months in wet jungles or frozen mountainsides waiting for whatever they’re trying to film to saunter by and do something amazing.

No, what keeps you coming back are the stories.

Better than any nature show before it, Planet Earth is telling stories.

Here’s a great example.

This is a marine iguana.

iguana_marina_amblyrhynchus_cristatus_las_bachas_isla_santa_cruz_islas_galapagos_ecuador_2015-07-23_dd_27

Sort of cute in a reptile kind of way. These guys live on the Galapagos Islands in huge colonies, basking on rocks.  When it’s time to make more of them, they head inland and lay their eggs in the warm sand.  The babies hatch, and scramble up to the surface, where they instinctively head for the safety of the rocks.

But then there’s these assholes.

racer-snakes

Racer snakes.  They’re fast and deadly and they love munching on newly-hatched baby marine iguanas.

The faster the babies hatch and run, the more of these assholes show up, slithering into nasty constrictor bundles of snake through which pokes the pathetic little leg of an unfortunate baby iguana.

It’s pretty interesting, and if that was it, you’d say, “Oh, that was pretty interesting.”

But that’s not it.

Here’s how they do it.

They set the scene.

Adult iguanas basking on rocks.  Hatchlings making a run for it. Asshole snakes lining up for the buffet.  You watch a whole lot of baby iguanas turning into snake dinner.

Then there’s this one.

baby-iguana

Pretty cute, all clean and fresh in the world.  You’ve just watched about ten of his brothers and sisters live their entire lives in about two minutes…hatch, run, die.

But not this guy.  He’s special.  You can feel it.  You’ve been primed to feel it.

He takes off.  And the snakes are right there.

iguana-and-snake

They lunge and grab, but NO!  He escapes!  He powers out of the deadly grip and skitters away!  More snakes follow.  He runs! He jumps!  He flips around avoiding the jaws of death!

By the time he makes it to the edge of the rocky safe zone, you’re on your feet screaming, “Run, ye scaley bustert, RUN!”  (I’m not sure why you suddenly became Scottish during the show, but you did.  You do that sometimes.)

He makes it.

That one little iguana makes it to safety.

Now I know that scene is not actually following one single iguana.  I know the editing crews spliced together all the most dramatic escapes to show us this heroic run, this one little guy who beat incredible odds to find his family (who mostly seem to be just sitting there on the rocks watching this go down and doing nothing to help, because adult marine iguanas are apparently assholes too).

But it makes a great story.

It has all the elements, and answers all the questions you should be able to ask of a story.

Who is the main character?  Little iguana guy.

What does he want?  To reach the safety of the rocks and his uncaring iguana parents.

Why can’t he have it?  Bunch of slithering assholes.

What if he doesn’t get it?

Um, this:

planet-earth-ii

The folks at the BBC are tremendous at getting footage of animals in their habitats doing  animal things.

But their triumph is how they tell the story.

And that’s where I leave you for today.  Gotta go back downstairs and find out if that mama Snow Leopard turns out okay.

A fun little story for Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Here’s a story I wrote for a convention anthology last year.  Tonight seemed like the perfect night to share it.

moon-sleep-children

Transformation

 

It started on the full moon.

The first thing I noticed was the difference in my teeth.  You don’t really think about it unless something changes, but if there’s one place on your body that feels the tiniest modification, it’s the inside of your mouth.  I remember looking up at the moon, huge and round, just cresting the treetops.  My tongue probed the difference.  A change in the sharpness.  A change in the shape.

It only lasted a few hours, and by the next morning I didn’t notice it anymore.  I forgot all about it for a month, busy as I was with my life and family.

The next full moon it returned.

That strange, different feeling in my mouth.

This time it was accompanied by a weird, prickly sensation on the back of my neck.  All the hairs stood up, and a cold chill raced down my spine.

The night was overcast, but whenever that glorious full moon peeked through a break in the clouds, I felt it.  It called to me.  I longed to reach up and caress its pockmarked surface.

It made me feel…hungry.

I still lived with my parents then, and my father noticed.  I saw him exchanging worried looks with my mother, but neither one said anything.  They went about their business like nothing was wrong, but I felt their fear.

They knew something.

I wouldn’t beg for answers.  Whatever was happening to me, I could handle it.  It was only a few nights each month.

But it got worse with every rising moon.

The bright glow compelled me to prowl, leaving the safety of my home and family to wander alone in the woods.  The trees looked darker on these nights, their leafy canopy pressing down on my changing form.

Three months after that first full moon, I made the transformation completely.

As the night sky came alive with insects, drawn as I was to the golden orb in the sky, I threw back my head and howled.  Nothing in my life could have prepared me for the depth of that howl.  It came from inside me, from some black corner of my soul, and enveloped me in the rightness of the sound.

My body shook with agony and pleasure.  I felt alive, more alive than at any other moment in all my days.  My limbs changed, my posture and my countenance transforming in the strength of that magnificent, terrible howl.

When I finally stopped, gasping for air, I looked down at my new form and shuddered.

I was a beast.

I had taken on a new form, and even in the fluttering confusion of the transformation, I knew I was dangerous.

My own family wasn’t safe when I changed.  The overpowering hunger filled me.  I wanted to kill, not for food, but for the dark, visceral pleasure of killing. It was my new nature.

The first time I hunted in the body of the beast I was clumsy.  Rage boiled just under the surface of my consciousness and I bolted through the woods, crashing over fallen trees and splashing through fast-running streams.  I didn’t make a kill that night, but the exhilaration of the hunt thrilled me.  Hot blood rushed through my veins, consuming me with fierce, maddened joy.

The next morning I awoke in the middle of a meadow, bare trees waving in a chill autumn wind.  The rage, the hunger, the pain and pleasure were gone.  I was just me again, cold and alone.

I didn’t return to tell my family goodbye.  They knew.  From the first moment my eyes were drawn to that resplendent  full moon, they knew what I would become.

Shifter.

Wolfman.

Most feared of all wolves, most hated of all men.

I’ve kept to the fringes of society all these years, though the desire to return to civilization is strong.  I miss the community of a loving family.  Loneliness crushes my soul.  And most of the month I have control of my body and my hunger.  On the moonless nights, I could live safely among my own kind.

But when the full moon rises, I cannot withstand its pull.

I throw back my head and howl into its golden light and watch my familiar body transform into the most feared hunter of all, the most dangerous predator ever to stalk the woods.

My face shortens.

My teeth grow square and flat.

My spine straightens and my hips extend.

My paws lengthen into dexterous fingers that itch for the cold steel of a weapon.

I am the greatest killer the world has ever known.  And nothing in the forest is safe when the wereman howls.

 

Future Worlds!

A few months ago my publisher Future House had the great idea of putting together an anthology featuring short stories by their sci-fi authors.  The idea is to cross-pollinate our fans and share our worlds with more readers. They asked me to write a short story set in the Horizon Alpha world, and of course I couldn’t say no.

High Wire takes place in the early days, just after the transports crash land at what will become Eden base.  Do you remember the first time you saw a T-rex?  Shiro does.

Check it out, tell your friends, and enjoy a little more time on Tau Ceti e.

Available here on Amazon.

Future Worlds: A Science Fiction Anthology by [Dayton, Cameron, Darling, Michael, Garrett, Jared, Healy, Mark R., Russell, Josi, Vogel, D.W.]