How to Make Free to Low Cost Shrimp Hides

Please follow and like:

Dwarf shrimp are adorable, easy to care for aquatics. But if you’re like me and simply can’t abide a single species tank – they need places to hide if you want them to propagate. Even supposedly shrimp-safe fish, like the peaceful micro rasboras and the weensy dwarf amber barb, will eat shrimplets. Though tangles of driftwood and tumbles of rock will help, the more hides the better.

But, the price tags on shrimp hides is appalling! Ack.

So here’s some free or low-cost alternatives.

If you’re into dwarf shrimp, chances are you have one (or several!) planted tanks. Know those small, black baskets that come with aquatic plants? They make awesome hides! And they’re free.


You can stick them in the substrate as-is, or weave moss through the slits to create a moss top, like I did here with strands of phoenix moss.


If moss isn’t your gig, scraps of non-metal screen attached with aquarium safe silicone works well too. One of our lawn chairs broke, so I cut out the mesh cup holder and used that. 100% free hides!


Another inexpensive solution that also conditions your water is cholla. I like to get them in lengths and then scare the crap out of everyone by using power tools to cut them into pieces.


After cutting, stick them in a bowl, pour boiling water on them, and then wait until they expand bit and sink (usually within 24-hours). Even expanded, their holes are so thin that only the most determined of fish could reach your shrimplets.


Other free to low cost alternatives are:

  • Pieces of broken clay pots (no sharp edges)
  • PVC scraps
  • Tiny planters (the kind tiny terrarium plants come in)
  • Tiny Tupperware

Or any other aquarium safe material you have on hand that can provide cover for your shrimp. Get creative and alternatives will abound.

Happy tanking!

Apex – Revive the Drive!

Please follow and like:



I’ve long been a fan of Apex, both their book and magazine arm. Even have a signed edition of Descended from Darkness: Apex Magazine Vol. 1 *hugs it*

Jason and Lesley have some spiffy stuff for their Revive the Drive 2017! Including Pet Wars – Pumpkin vs. Oz, original poems, interviews, stories and, coolest of all, raises for artists and authors! So, come help us unlock levels!

Here’s an interview with Jason Sizemore, to give you a taste of Apex. Oh, and remember, to check out Apex Book Company for fantastic stories!

Cyani -What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you guys at a convention?

Jason – Okay, I’m going to share an experience that is described in detail in my book For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher.

I walked in on a group of…older people engaging in group intercourse (read: orgy). They invited me to join them. When I turned them down (politely), they asked if I wanted to partake of some honey baked ham they had out on a folding card table. Again, I turned them down.

Cyani – Does Apex have any office traditions?

Jason – The first thing I have to do is to make sure that Lesley Conner is fueled up and ready to go. Naturally, her fuel is coffee. The high-intensity stuff that they give to race car drivers. Without it, she is mostly useless. And cranky. Oh god, cranky.

Cyani – Editing and running a business are tough jobs. Besides Pumpkin’s not-so-subtle threats, what gets you guys through ‘those days’?

Jason – Lesley and I ride the whole circuit of emotions during a typical week. From silly to angry, from professional to immature. The key is that one of us has at least a toe in the pool of sanity. Sometimes I’ll pull her back from the verge, sometimes she’ll pull me back.

Cyani – Speaking of, what is Pumpkin’s role at Apex? He seems cute and cuddly but does a diabolical spirit reside within?

Jason – Pumpkin is a many things at once. He is cute and cuddly. He does a good job forcing me to take the occasional break by demanding I hold him for pets and chin rubs. But he has a dark side.

When he thinks I’m not giving him enough attention, he will intentionally push books off my inventory shelves. Or he’ll sit on the keyboard and give me a look that says “You’re done.”

He also thinks the printer is possessed and will attack it when it is printing.

Silly kitty.

Cyani – Thanks for your time, Jason. Here’s to great success at Apex!

Top 10 Gifts for Writers

Please follow and like:



It’s Christmas and you have one of those weird creatures to buy for – the ever elusive writer. Whatever to do?

Despite our strange habits, oddities and general mayhem there’s one thing that writers covet above all others – books! Yup. All sorts. Big ones, small ones, snazzy ones, raggy ones. Doesn’t matter, they each contain the stuff our dreams are made of.

Chances are, your writer has a Wish List of books in their favorite genres that could encompass several known worlds and perhaps a few that have yet to be discovered. By all means, please gift them! But if you also want to show support for their chosen insanity career, please consider these. I own each of them and can vouch for their awesomeness, it’s true. See. They’re right behind me.

Listed in no particular order:




Finding Your Voice is one of my all-time favorites to recommend. It helps break the shackles of vanilla and thrust writers into the realm of the unique. Also check out Les’ Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go




The Fire in Fiction does exactly what it promises by lighting a fire in the writer’s creative soul to push their craft to the next level. You can also pre-order Donald’s newest book, The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface, which releases on December 30th.




Writing Monsters  is an invaluable resource that teaches writers how to create believable monsters of all sorts to terrify their readers. If your writer is into Fantasy &/or Sci Fi, also check out The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing & Publishing Your Bestseller! 




Conflict, Action & Suspense ah the very core of what makes fiction exciting! Without which, we’d be left with ever-so-dull drudgery. A must have for every writer’s shelf.




Spunk & Bite  puts the snap in fiction. Knowing the rules is great, but knowing when and how to break them is the thing bestsellers are made of.




The Art of War for Writers is filled with easy to read, easy to digest tips on writing that can instantly help any writer – fledgling or advanced. I’d also recommend all of James’ books. Yup. All of them. Go on, get them. They’re all stellar. Including another of my personal favorites, The Mental Game of Writing: How to Overcome Obstacles, Stay Creative and Productive, and Free Your Mind for Success





Bullies, Bastards, & Bitches are at the very center of chaos and destruction in fiction. Villany, oh foul Villany, where would we be without you?




Plot Perfect is an all-around inspiring book on creating novels worthy of the eyes of readers. I’d also suggest another one of Paula’s goodies Writing with Quiet Hands: How to Shape Your Writing to Resonate with Readers.




Dynamic Characters are the creatures through which our victims readers experience the story, view the world, experience the thrills, chills and terrors. Along the same line is Nancy’s Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints.




Make a Scene and they will come 🙂  Seriously though, this is pretty close to being THE book on creating vivid scenes that thrust the story forward and for creating multiple layers within your scenes to keep the readers buckled in until the very end.

And this very post is proof that we writers are obsessive about books. Couldn’t even stick to the 10 promised in the title. Tisk. Ah well, there’s worse addictions.

Have a Creative Christmas!

Furrville’s Sheila Abbott!

Please follow and like:





Please welcome Sheila Abbott, owner of Furrville! She makes wonderful, handmade hats and cute, fuzzy tails. My daughter has one of her black cat hats and not only does she love it but it’s sturdy.

Take it away, Sheila!

What got you interested in doing what you do? Speaking of that, what DO you do? 😉 

I started going to anime cons and fell in love with the furry leggings, ears and such that I saw. I decided that since I wasn’t working and was looking to start a business, that this would be perfect for me as I enjoy making these pieces and they are fun. I love going to cons and I love meeting new people and I really love the excitement from those who see a hat and love it. I love making people smile and that makes the pin stabs, scissor cuts and broken needles worth it. What do I do? I make fun hats out of fleece material and I put either cat, puppy or long ears on them. Some hats are simple (fleece hat with pink fleece inner cat ears), some have cotton material for inner ears (fleece hat with perhaps candy corn material for inner ears) and then some have embroidered designs – usually those are requested. Recently I did a super awesome one – white fleece hat with puppy ears and embroidered black eyes on it – I called it ‘Spooky’. Oh, I also make kitty tails out of fleece or faux fur. The leggings and headbands are also made out of faux fur.

Is there something that keeps you going when you’re having one of those days?

Just ‘one’ of those days? lol  Well, sheer determination to succeed is what puts my butt in the chair every day and pushes me to sew something – even if it’s just a test run on a new idea.

What’s the coolest thing you ever made?

I personally love the hat with long ears I made – my daughter keeps trying to steal it…lol…or maybe it was the animal print doll dress with matching leggings and cuffs…hard choice!! lol




What would you love to make but haven’t made yet?

I would love to make a hoodie with animal ears.

What’s the most rewarding thing about working independently?

My own schedule – freedom to come and go. I get to see more of my family than I would working a 9-5 job.

What do you feel is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?

Staying on target. You have to be disciplined even when it’s warm and sunny outside.

Were there surprises along the way? Things involved in your business that you didn’t expect when you started?

Well, when I first started I didn’t know how to sew or embroider so having to learn both was a huge stepping stone for me. But, I did it and today I am making my own designs.





Do you do custom work? If so, what’s your preferred way for people to contact you?

Yes I do!! You can contact me thru either Facebook or Etsy

Where do you get inspiration for your projects?

Honestly, the smiles on the faces of those who are so excited to see their finished piece or sets. That makes my day.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love photography, scuba diving and playing World of Warcraft with my daughter.

What do you like to do when you’re able to eke in time just for you?

Read, Write, play World of Warcraft, watch movies…

What drives you to continue, to press on in a sometimes challenging industry?

I want to succeed…I don’t want to fail…

Do you have any goal setting or time management tips you’d like to share that help you accomplish your goals?

I follow a routine every day – I won’t lie, there are days when that routine gets pushed but, I find it’s easier to stay focused and to finish projects if I follow a routine.

Are there any hints or tips you’d like to offer others who are interested in pursuing a career on the art side?

Stay positive. There will be many who will try and put you or your work down and you need to have thicker skin for the naysayers. You got this. You can do it.

Where can we stalk you on the web?

Etsy Store:

Facebook Page:

Twitter: @Furrville

Species Profile: Emerald Tree Skink

Please follow and like:



I’m excited to introduce you guys to Ryan Chermel, owner of Borayus Exotics! He’s not only a knowledgeable reptile guy but he’s also doing us and our environment a huge service by raising captive bred lizards. This is a subject close to my heart as many reptiles found in your average pet store are ripped from their homes in the wild and most die in transit before ever reaching the store. It’s unthinkably cruel and heartbreaking. Reputable, eco-conscious breeders like Ryan are hard to find and I’m pleased to bring him here today to share his experiences with Emerald Tree Skinks with you.

The Emerald Tree Skink

by Ryan Chermel

The enigmatic and sometimes eccentric and rarely shy Emerald Tree Skink (Lamprolepis smaragdina) is a wonder to behold in any collection. This species mainly comes into the USA from importers that snatch the skinks from one of their various localities, as they are widespread through eastern Indonesia, ranging from Lombok and Sulawesi in the west to New Guinea in the east. It also occurs in the Philippines and Solomon Islands, Admiralty Islands and Marshall Islands. While captive populations are established and thriving, the skink has yet to see any keepers produce the bloodlines effectively. The coloration may vary greatly within populations of different localities. The most stunning specimens are a vibrant green color throughout, hence the name, emerald tree skink, with a slightly paler belly. Others may be bluish or brown, sometimes spotted with pale or dark spots, especially on their feet. The body is moderately robust, and in captivity, it can be very robust, as these critters will eat everything in sight, and the snout is long and pointed. Small ear openings can be seen mid-way between the snout and the forelimb on either side of the head.

Their curious nature is what makes this species of skink truly intriguing to watch. Their activities vary from interacting with one another through many different series of head-bobbing ceremonies that seem to transform the skinks from lizards to jackhammers in mere moments, and they also participate in tug-o-war matches against one another when food enters the cage, and will sometimes even chase one another around. No matter what is going on around them, you better believe that these observant little critters are aware of it!




A male tree skink is a peculiarly interesting lizard to watch. If a female is present in his immediate area, one of two things may happen: He may sit on her back and try to sleep there, or he may engage in a series of intense head-bobbing that is noted above and, from there, he may chase her around endlessly, clamping down onto her feet as he tries to court her. The entire enclosure can quickly turn into a green blur if you are housing a decently sized colony together because once that male starts running, nobody wants to get in his way. With that being said, males can be housed together quite successfully, however I strongly urge any future tree skink keepers to have a group with far more females than males to protect the males from displaying aggression towards one another. Another thing that can help to ease the pressures of housing multiple males together in one vivarium is to make sure that the vivarium is quite sizeable for the males to establish their “territories” which are not traditional in any sense, and can be quite hard to identify for the first few weeks of having the skinks. The males and females will find particular spots that they enjoy, and they will go to them in the early morning and in the evening to rest. However, as with many colony based lizards, they will irritate one another, so sometimes “territories” are invaded by other obnoxious members of the group. Oftentimes, the sunny disposition of these lizards shines through, for they will slink away from the situation instead of confronting one another under most circumstances and they will move along like this, kind of in a slow manner, until they find a new position to perch up along and rest.

I have found that an enclosure that is 3’ tall by 2’ deep by 3’ long tend to suit these mostly arboreal skinks the best. It is also very important to provide them several forms of climbing materials so that they can move vertically as they would in the wild. An emphasis, or extreme effort does not need to be made when it comes to providing places to hide, however, since these animals generally settle in quite quickly!

These skinks go through many different cycles of energy during the day. While observing my colony over the past year, I noticed that they follow a particular pattern of high energy followed by the entire group slowing down and relaxing. The most humorous activity that they partake in is when one member of the group makes a sudden movement and then, all of the sudden; the attention of all of the members of the group is gained instantaneously as three pairs of eyes immediately pop open.

The intelligence that these lizards display is quite remarkable, especially when you consider how small that they are. From snout to vent, these lizards, when fully grown are around 3-4.5 inches. The total body length averages are between 8-10 inches on average. There is no true determining size difference between males and females in this particular species. Instead, the only dimorphism that I have recognized is the yellowing of the foot pads on the rear legs of the males. The females will have grey/silver with black speckle marks across their rear feet. Displays of intelligence come in the common form, for, like most lizards, the tree skink is a visual learner. Their social structure is very intriguing, yes, but their ability to learn circles around food. When I first obtained my group of skinks, I had them set up in a large Exo Terra vivarium. After only a few weeks, they recognized the sound of my door when I came in the room, and knew the look of the cricket bags / the appearance of the bin for the superworms / the bowl I would feed their fruits to them out of. Once one spotted the food in my hands, it would creep up to the borderline of the doors, then the others would quickly notice the behavior and take notice of the food as well and before I would even make it to the door, I would have five skinks staring me down, some with their front legs pressing the glass, some members of the group pacing back and forth excitedly. The skinks also surprised me when they were not skittish. Once they began to make the association with me and the coming of food for them, I was able to move things around in their enclosure without any kamikaze escapades. With that being said, the skink’s diet makes it an opportunistic predator, eating anything that it can get its jaws on. It will also eat select fruits, berries, mango, banana, sweeter fruits in general.

It’s Cyani again – Thanks Ryan! To any of my readers, if you’d like to contact Ryan about Emerald Tree Skinks or other lizards click here: Ryan Chermel or Borayus Exotics


9 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

Please follow and like:



Ah yes, tis that time of year when social media is inundated with posts on how many words your friends have written in a day, laments on not hitting word count goals, celebrations on exceeding goals etc. Truly it’d make one think that all writers are engrossed in this strange NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) tradition in which writers scramble to splatter 50k words on their pages during the month of November.

This is the time of year when some writers are at optimum stress levels, their emotions swinging wildly hither and yon depending on if they hit their daily word count or not. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are 9 tips to put NaNo in perspective and keep a modicum of sanity:

1. Contrary to what social media posts would have you believe NaNo is not something all writers participate in. Many authors write year round, not just November, so this is just another month in our writing calendars. Don’t let social pressure or other writers guilt you into participating if you don’t want to or don’t feel it’d be productive for your writing. The most important thing is to write in a way that fits YOU, in a way that allows you to create your best work. If NaNo fits, use it. If it doesn’t, dump it.

2. If you do choose to participate, knowing that, besides the YA market, 50k words is not a novel can take pressure off. Most adult genres require 70-110k to be considered novel length, which means that 50k is a rough draft. So relax, all first drafts suck. Embrace the suck. Love the suck. You can always fix it once the heat of NaNo wears off.

3. Or not…I hear from many writers who are discouraged by NaNo because what they’re left with at the end is 50k of…well…mess. So focused were they on puking those words on the page that they left no time to make sure that those words were making sense. That the plot worked. That the characters shined. So come December, they’re staring at a monstrosity that would take months to re-do or might not be salvageable. If you find this happening, forget the word count. If you end up with 10-15k of good, solid writing at the end of the month then you’ve won.

4. NaNo is really about inspiring you to write. If you write each day, you’re a winner whether or not you hit the 50k mark. Enjoy the process. Don’t stress it. After all, stress is one of the most diabolical murderers of creativity.

5. Take time off. That’s right, procrastinate. Some of our best ideas are born of, as Stephen King puts it, the boys in the basement.

6. When you say no, mean no. Turn off the phone, keep it off. Turn off emails, keep it off. If you decline a dinner request, movie, hangout with friends don’t let them weasel you into changing your mind. Your writing time is precious and if you don’t treat it that way, no one will.

7. Celebrate your accomplishments. Even if you didn’t hit your daily word count goal, chances are that you wrote something or learned something about your story or writing habits that is worthy of celebrating or at least a mental pat on the back.

8. Keep reassessing. Yeah, this will likely cut into your time but it’s worth it. By always assessing if the story, plot, characters are on the right path, if you can add more trouble, throw more blockades up or go deeper – and taking the time to change it now – it not only makes for a better story but also eliminates a lot of time-devouring revisions later.

9. Remember, the pinnacle of success for an author isn’t churning out word count, it’s creating stories that delight, engage and enthrall the reader. If you’ve done that, it’s a win no matter how many or how few words you put on the page this month.

Black Forest ~ Decadent Red Wine

Please follow and like:



Seriously, what creature of the dark could resist a wine dubbed Black Forest? Certainly not me. If you’re looking for a delightful red to go with your Halloween festivities, you can’t go wrong with this one.

This is the first Cupcake Vineyards wine I’ve tried. Though I’ve seen them in the store the Cupcake brand name thing was just too froof laden for me. Until…the Black Forest. It’s lovely from its label right down deep into its guts.

This wine has a beautiful fragrance that releases immediately upon opening. Seriously, my husband could smell it across the room. This is not a bad thing, it tantalizes the senses before its even poured. The color in glass is dark, nearly purple red. Taste wise? Wow. Yeah. It’s smooooooth. One of the smoother reds I’ve tasted that still remain on my side of the dry spectrum. Berries! And I think, perhaps cherry? It’s not listed as a taste on their site but something in there has a decadent cherry-esque taste.

So, with this positive experience, I’ll have to try more of their wines – like the Red Velvet which supposedly has one of my favorite flavors, coconut! And perhaps the Cabernet Sauvignon, if I can get over the white label lol



Bones in Your Bonfire

Please follow and like:




Nothing quite embodies the Fall nor compliments its array of colors and scents quite like a cozy bonfire with it’s warm orange flames licking into the night to ward off the chill, but few are aware of its charred history.

Long ago on Samhain, the night when the veil between this world and that of the spirit world is the thinnest, druids gathered to protect their people’s crops and the people themselves from the destructive forces of evil spirits. The druids traveled to homes to request offerings of crops, animals and even…humans. Whether these sacrifices traipsed willingly into the wicker cages or not is lost in the mists of time.

Once they’d gathered their sacrifices, the druids would don an assortment of costumes and light carved turnips to keep themselves safe from the spirits that broke free of the veil. Then, they fed their sacrifices to large fires and danced around the spiraling flames holding the skulls of their ancestors aloft as yet another talisman to ward off the dead. When the fires died naught remained of their sacrifices – crop, animal and human alike – except for ash and bones mingled within the embers.

So the next time you’re cuddled around a bonfire roasting marshmallows and the air is crisp with the herald of Winter, perhaps take a moment to remember those lost to the flames of the past, whose final screams rose to the heavens in the druids’ bone fires. And who knows, maybe some poor soul burns at that very moment in sacrificial fires lit not far from where you sit… (du du du du).

The Road to Hell is Paved With 3x5s

Please follow and like:




Hell for your characters that is 🙂

Those seemingly benign lined cards are a perfect tool of torment! Wield them right and the characters will writhe until the very end and with them the most precious of all tormentees – the reader.

Just how do you use these office supplies for creating doom? Why, any way that’s effective for you as an author. Here’s how I use them.

Once the main forces of my novel are set in my head and I have a solid grasp of the characters, plot and The End, I unsheath the Sharpies and haul out the cards. Then it’s time to plot out the gritty and the nitty for the battle plan! Each card represents a scene and each Sharpie color represents a character VP (View Point) so they can be easily tracked on the field. As scenes are written, it becomes clear which are essential, which can be combined and which are not necessary. There’s something strangely satisfying in wadding up a 3×5 whilst proclaiming “Haha! Your redundancy is futile!”

Then, I spread them out on the battle field, check for any gaps and create new scenes to strengthen the whole. This gives me a broad view to assess any weaknesses, where the story might lag, where it needs more speed, less speed, and balance the Force of tension and release.

Once their formation is complete and I’m satisfied with their placement it’s time to pile them up in order and take them to the computer. As powerful as 3x5s are they’re too small to contain exact marching orders, so these are plugged into the manuscript and include everything that the scene is supposed to accomplish – the emotions, the character innards and outters, foreshadows, clues, twists and troubles. As the scenes are briefed, they’re allotted into chapters.

And then…it’s time to write!

Let the games begin! Muahahahah!

Agent Ponderings

Please follow and like:



Last week I received an email from an agent regarding my current manuscript Kranken Gears, a fantasy that’s on submission. It was from an agent who knows I’ve already done several R&Rs (Revise & Resubmit) for other agents. Truly, it’s a bit like the R&R Pokey – put more bad guy in, no take the bad guy out, put more world building in, no now take it all out. Put more of these characters in, no, now take them all out (except for the main), bring the word count up, no bring the word count down…*continues to hum the pokey*

Seriously, they each wanted something incredibly different from the other requests so now there’s multiple flavors of Kranken Gears on my drive.

Don’t misinterpret, there’s nothing wrong with any of these R&R requests. What they’ve done is illuminate the basic truth that readers have individual tastes and that is precisely what editors and agents are at their soft, plushy core – great lovers of books. Readers.

Anyway, I digress, she sent me an email with these lovely, thoughtful insights and suggestions on how to make the novel better. I understood and agreed with her assessments except for one – when she said this probably wasn’t what I wanted to hear. That confused me because she invited me to resend the manuscript once it was revised which made it more of an opportunity than anything else. So I couldn’t figure out why it confused me until tonight whilst pondering her assessments and how to best incorporate them in the Sacred Pool (that’d be my whirlpool where Ideas are born). Water, that great clarifier of thoughts, led me to the answer.

Yes, I want an agent – the right agent. So yes, I one day do want to hear an offer of representation from someone who is the right partner for me and my work to help get the story into the hands of publishers and thus the readers. So, yeah, I do want to hear that.

But. And I mean that but most emphatically – was what she said in this email something I didn’t want to hear?

No. It’s precisely what I wanted, perhaps even needed, to hear because the detailed advice within her email has given me more tools to hone my story, to create the very best I can for my readers so that I can one day hear the words I covet. Words from that most precious of people – readers. They perhaps won’t be said exactly this way but the gist will be the same.

“I love your story! The characters are amazing! They made me forget about <enter any of life’s myriad of maladies here>. Oh, oh! And when will the next book be out? I can’t wait!”

That is what I want to hear.

Any advice that comes along that helps in that endeavor, any amount of revisions, any number of hours in the Sacred Pool devising better ways to immerse the reader in my worlds and stories is what I need to hear or do so that one day some reader out there will send me an email that says –

“Omg! It’s my favorite book!”