Of hippos and walking canes

I’d two great hippo photos from the San Antonio Zoo to put up on this blog, but alas, they can’t be copied over. They were both green screen photos of me and my sister posing. One with a friendly hippo. One with an angry hippo. I was pointing my cane straight at the mouth of the angry one. It’s a funny picture.

The hippo we actually came face to face with was a hungry hippo.

Or at least, one willing to eat what we threw into her widely gaping mouth. The male hippo refused to get out of the water and come see us. He watched.

This was at one of the San Antonio Zoo’s backstage experiences with their animals. They offer one with the okapi and one with the giant tortoises, too. (I think we’ll wait until mating season is over for the tortoises before we try that one).

We were led up the locked stairway behind all the flowers and bushes to see the engines needed to keep the hippo tank water clean, and then past heavily barred entrances that would have protected us from King Kong himself. Into the hippos private areas. And then down to the last barrier keeping us from the hippo tank where our keeper enticed the female hippo out to meet us. She didn’t come racing up, full of enthusiasm. She came stately, walking out of the water like a Hawaiian queen. Then opened her mouth for the food. We threw hay and food pellets into her maw.

We kept a relatively safe three feet away from her (but damn, she could push her head part way through the bars, and did!). I stepped back. My sister leaned forward. Nothing bad happened. We continued to throw food at the hippo’s widely open mouth, which she clearly loved. The male hippo still watched. 

An open hippo mouth is a sight to behold. The ivory tusks surprised us. The rows of molars looked weird. There was some sort of bloody-looking discharge coming off her hide that the keeper explained. And then we got to touch her. Under the chin where it was relatively safe.

My sister and I have petted several rhinos, baby alligators, snakes, and now we’ve added a hippo to our accomplishments. When we were kids we got bitten by Shetland ponies and spit on by llamas. I’ve ridden an elephant. And I’ve got a photo of me as a child riding a giant tortoise back when zoos didn’t know any better.

We will never achieve the Manhunter/Red Dragon’s coup of caressing a sleeping tiger, but it remains a potent fantasy.

Love the San Antonio Zoo. Wish we were closer to the Fort Worth Zoo. Or the Houston Zoo. Check out their behind the scenes programs. Once we slept overnight at the Houston Zoo. Lots of fun.





You can find my books at:

http://amazon.com/author/gretchenrix and at the other usual sites.

Photos by Roxanne Rix.

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:  Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker.  Street Justice by Kris Nelscott. Night Shift by Charlaine Harris.

Thank you, Texas State Education Department

butterflyFriday I gave a lecture on writing and publishing to a group of teachers at Texas State University in San Marcos. I took my sister Roxanne with me in case I froze. Or got caught up in an everlasting loop trying to pronounce something hard like rodomontade. This was my first paid lecture.

I want to thank the Education Department of Texas State University for including us in their summer program. I think our audience learned a little bit. And since it was my first experience in a college classroom as the instructor rather than the student, I also learned a little bit.

We had fun (except for walking the long block up the hill from the parking garage to the Education Building in the heat of near lunchtime). Roxanne did fine. I thought I was going to die. Note to self: Lose Weight! We were carrying deviled eggs from the Cottonseed Cafe as our contribution to lunch, and nineteen of my books we’d decided to give away instead of trying to sell to them. Books are damned heavy.

We got there early and were welcomed into the ongoing publishing class the group was listening to for their last thirty minutes. What I was getting ready to tell them about publishing was in direct opposition to what they were learning right then, so that was really interesting. We came at the right time. Not to “save the day,” but to give them the current (and in my opinion, the future) alternative. The group was young (I expected thirty-year-olds and most were in their twenties), and all women. Texas

First we introduced ourselves. Then we gave away our books. And if you don’t already know, there’s a huge difference between getting something free and paying $13.95 plus tax! Not a single book left. It was worth it. This way we got readers, maybe got the possibility of some library inclusion, and didn’t have to make change. Then we had lunch.

Afterwards, I talked about why I write. About how I write (on a personal computer and sometimes with pen and paper). I love that joke. And I gave them my three favorite tips to help their students write, which I have used myself to great benefit.

Then we got into publishing.

What I know about legacy publishing and agents is almost all through second-hand accounts. Which I told them. I haven’t submitted anything to a magazine or publisher since about 2009. But I passed on what I read from The Passive Voice and Kris Writes, and J.A. Konrath, and then told them about our modest success at self-publishing through Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords, and our paperbacks through CreateSpace.

The comments we got later ranged from thanking us for sharing the several ways I use to get and keep myself writing (the one-hundred-word-a-day challenge, always finishing what you start, and the dictionary random word kickstart program),

to their being encouraged to proceed to self-publish after hearing about our experiences,

to the startling news that this was the first some of them had heard of e-publishing.

And then this was my favorite, that our brutal honesty about our success in publishing these past six years had been eye-opening and appreciated.

Make it so!We’d told them our actual sales figures (both money and numbers of books), and how hard it was to get noticed electronically, while also telling them that we do get noticed, we do sell books, and we do make money. We just don’t make enough money to live on. What I’ll share here is the jaw-dropping statistic that we’ve given away about 20,000 free copies of our e-books.

What I forgot to add was some of the websites or blogs that would help them. Here they are:




Thank you, ladies. Thank you, Texas State. We’d do it again in a New York minute! Unexpected farm animals





WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Persuasion by Jane Austen. Thin Walls by Kris Nelscott.  Superbia Collection by Bernard Schaffer. Stone Cribs by Kris Nelscott. Allan Quartermain by H. Rider Haggard. War at Home by Kris Nelscott. (Actually, this has been two or three week’s worth of reading). Vengeance Is Mine by Mickey Spillane. Days of Rage by Kris Nelscott.

You can find my  books at


Photos by Roxanne Rix and Gretchen Rix.