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December 16, 2014

Do Animals Mourn Over Death?

Animal Grieving

I’m sure many of you have seen articles or TV shows, or something that depicted animals grieving over the loss of one of their own. Dolphins and elephants seem to comprise the majority of the examples, but the list is far wider than just those two. My wife and I have had an animal sanctuary for about 20 years, and we average 45 animals at any given time. Despite the amount of work involved, and the money, it is a unique opportunity for us to observe a lot of animal behavior. Unfortunately, I had the chance to do just that a few weeks ago.

A Great Loss

One of my favorites on the sanctuary was a giant female Great Dane—Briella. She weighed 180 pounds, and stood 34.5 inches at the shoulder. Her chest was 44 inches. This was a big girl! You can get an idea of her size in the pictures below.

         

But Brie’s size isn’t what made her special. Great Danes are often called “Gentle Giants” because of their amiable personalities, and it was never more true than with Briella. She loved everyone she met, whether it was a person, a dog, a pig, and even cats.

Despite her size, she was terrified of our little dog Freckles—a fifteen pound monster that picked on poor Brie constantly.

We knew that Great Danes don’t live long. In fact, their lifespan on average is 6-8 years, earning them another, less endearing nickname, “The Heartbreak Breed”. Because of their size, they are prone to hip dysplasia and a host of heart diseases.

We knew all of that, and yet we had high hopes—she had turned 10 years old in September and was still going strong. She looked as if she had lost a few pounds, but not much. And she still ran every day, and jumped four-foot fences as if they were nothing. If Freckles was after Brie, I think she might have jumped a six-foot fence.

          

The First Signs

One night in late September, I noticed she appeared a little thinner. I said something to Mikki about it and we thought it might be just old age. The next week she was noticeably thinner again. We took her to the vet, and discovered she had cancer, and it had spread throughout her body. When we weighed her, we discovered it was worse than we had imagined—she was down to 125 pounds. The vet said there was nothing to do for her.

We said our goodbyes and had the vet put her to sleep. Then we brought her home to bury. Mikki always lets the other animals smell whoever passed, to let them know what happened. When we first started the sanctuary I wondered if this was crazy, or if they would realize what had transpired.

I don’t wonder anymore.

A Time To Mourn

We brought Briella to the big gate separating one part of the property from another. All the dogs were lined up, and each one sniffed her, then they all sat down and just stared for a few moments. After that, everyone went back to their business—all except Butters (Brie’s sister).

Butters stayed at the gate and watched as we buried Brie. Two hours later, she was still there. And four hours after that.

For the next week, Butters went out early in the morning and planted herself by the gate, most of the time just staring out where Brie was buried.

If it had been any other dog, I might not have thought it so odd, but the thing is, that for the ten years we had Butters, she almost never went outside. She would venture out once or twice a day for half an hour or so, and to do her business, but that was the extent of it. This was, without question, a period of mourning her sister.

The behavior continued for another few days, but not as diligently as before. Every morning she’d come out to the gate, but she didn’t stay as long. By the end of the second week, she was back to her old routine of staying inside almost all day. It was a touching display of emotion, and it wasn’t the only time we’ve seen this. The pigs have shown it and even Joe, the horse. But those stories are for another post. All I can tell you is if I had ever questioned, “do animals mourn over death”, I no longer did.

For a long time, scientists refused to recognize that animals had a full range of emotions, but more of them are finally coming around to realizing they were wrong. If you ever get to see it firsthand, it is undeniable, and it’s something you won’t forget.

We don’t have many videos of Briella, but this is a short one of her stealing a cookie from the table. It is times like these when I regret not taking time for that extra video.

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

PS: For a heartbreaking story of an animal mourning, check this story about Ciccio, the dog

December 9, 2014

How To Tighten Up Your Writing

I’m Having A Very, Very, Very Bad Day

Have you ever taken a hard look at the word very? I’m not talking about the use of very as an adjective, or even the use of very as an adverb meaning “truly” or “the actual fact”. I’m referring to the very we hear every day, many times a day—very as an adverb meaning “to a high degree”.

Here are a few sample definitions from Merriam-Webster:

  • Exceedingly (very hot)
  • Exceedingly (didn’t hurt very much)

These are the uses of very that grow very tiring.

What Prompted Me To Write About Very?

At night, after all the animals are fed, I set up at a desk in the kitchen to write. Our family room is next to it and my wife watches TV or reads there. One night while she was watching CNN, I heard Anderson Cooper and another newscaster say the word very so many times I had to stop. I asked my wife to use the DVR and rewind, and this time I counted. In about 24 minutes of air time, they said very 18 times. On two occasions, there was a repeat as in “this was very very serious.”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t care, but these are professionals, reporting for a major news channel. Can’t they do better than very?

The Danger of Intensifiers

An intensifier is described by Merriam-Webster as:

a word (such as really or very ) that gives force or emphasis to a statement.

During the normal course of conversation, you would miss the occasional use of very, but far too often language is riddled with such usage. And writing is even worse. I quickly did a search of my work-in-progress and discovered a few too many uses of very. It forced me to think about that saying—tighten up your writing—in a new light. The good news is that it’s very easy to avoid using “very”.

There is a quote by one of my favorite authors.

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very,” and your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~ Mark Twain.

Of course nowadays, no editor is going to strike out the word damn, but the point is well taken.

Very, used in this context, is known as an intensifier, but in reality it weakens sentences.

How To Fix The Problem and Tighten Up Your Writing

Very is almost always used by writers and/or speakers to make a point, to emphasize something. There are far better ways of doing that. Here are a few examples:

Instead of saying… Say…
Very hot scorching[1]
Very angry enraged
Very pretty gorgeous
Very clean spotless
Very fast quick or rapid
Very hungry starved
Very cold bitter or freezing[2]
Very stupid an imbecile

I think you get the point. Very is not needed in almost every case when it is used as an intensifier. Take a minute and use these examples in sentences. Say each sentence using very, and then each one using the alternate word. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Here are a couple to try out.

  • It was very hot today.
  • It was scorching today.
  • She was very angry at her husband for cheating on her.
  • She was enraged at her husband for cheating on her.
  • I’m very hungry; I haven’t eaten all day.
  • I’m starved; I haven’t eaten all day.

Other Problem Words

I’m picking on the word very, but the rest of the intensifiers are just as guilty. Here’s a very short list.

  • So, as in he is so short.
  • Too, as in that is too much.
  • Really, as in she is a really nice person.
  • Rather[3], as in he was a rather nice chap.
  • Incredibly, as in that was incredibly cool.
  • Absolutely, as in that was absolutely the best.

There are plenty more intensifiers to consider. Wikipedia has a good list for reference.

Bottom Line

The next time you’re talking, or especially when you’re writing, avoid the temptation to use very. Start with that one intensifier, and once you have that down as a habit, start on another one.

If you like grammar posts, here’s one on a saying people mix up all the time.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction booksincluding the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”


  1. or 104°  ↩
  2. or cite the temperature  ↩
  3. used quite often in the UK  ↩

December 1, 2014

How To Use Markdown

Markdown Spices Up Your Writing

Markdown was developed by John Gruber.

Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).

The above was taken from Gruber’s website.

I shied away from trying Markdown for a long time because I don’t know how to write code or do html, and I don’t understand anything that goes beyond simple typing and styles.

But I was intrigued by what seemed like the simplicity of the language, and even more so by the beauty of it. Imagine turning plain text into beautiful documents without a lot of trouble—or so they said. Finally I broke down and decided to give it a try.

After a few feeble attempts, I was about to give up. The basics were easy enough:

  • Using # for Headings
  • Using – or * for unordered lists and numbers for ordered lists
  • A simple > turned text into block quotes
  • And using one asterisk on each side of a word or phrase produced italics. Using two bold.

All of this was fine. But when I ventured into more complex territory I became frustrated. Simple tasks like right and left alignment, making tables, inserting images, etc. It seemed as if I needed to attend software development classes just to get by.

But the lure of what it could do inspired me to keep trying.

One of the nicest things about learning how to use Markdown is the freedom it gives you. I can write entire blog posts on my iMac or iPad without my fingers leaving the keyboard. And then, with a few more keystrokes, I can post it to WordPress, Tumblr, and many other places, including categories and tags.

Here are a few examples of how to turn dull plain text into a great post.

How To Use Markdown

For headings, you simply use hashtags, so when I use one hashtag whatever follows it will be transformed into a primary heading, like this:

This Is How You Make A Heading

If I used three or five hashtags it would look like this:

This Is How You Make A Number Three Heading

And a Number Five Heading

To make a list, you have a few options. I choose the hyphen. Place a hyphen and then a space and whatever follows it will be preceded by a bullet point. (Note, you have to have an extra line between the previous text and your list.)

  • This is a list, but I didn’t have to leave the keyboard to make it.
  • And this is line two.

And this is a block quote (made by using a >followed by a space and then text.)

The Hard Stuff

Everything I’ve showed you so far has been the easy stuff. How about tables and footnotes and images and links?

I have to admit that, at first, I was put off by these and so I wasn’t getting the benefit I should have from Markdown. I would end up writing a post, putting it on WordPress and then inserting images the way I had always done before. If tables were involved it was trickier. And then I got the idea of using a text shortcut app to get the results I wanted.

The following is an example of what you need to do to insert images from your media library on WordPress.

<a href="http://giacomogiammatteo.com"><img src="IMAGE" width="" height="" border="0"></a>

As you can see that’s a lot to remember, so I simply made a shortcut in my shortcut app that expands to this when I type “imagelinkgg”.

Let’s Break This Down

The “gg” part of my shortcut tells the expansion to insert my website address for giacomogiammatteo.com. If someone clicks on the image that will be in the post, it will take them to that site. If I’m writing a blog for my career site, I simply use “imagelinknm” and it takes clickers to “nomistakes.org”.

That’s all great, but the magic comes in next. See the “image” part of the Markdown? All you have to do is replace that with the url of the image on your site and the image will appear. I’m going to show you a link for a pic of one of our rescues, Hotshot.

That doesn’t even begin to address all that you can do with Markdown. Once you grow accustomed to it, even complex posts become easy, and, as I said, the best news is you can write all of this on your iPad and publish it in minutes. I’m sure you can do it on other tablets, but I think there are far more Markdown apps for the Mac and IOS.

Here’s a link to a post I did on CreateSpace and IngramSpark. It was written on my iPad, tables, images, and all.

But That’s Not All

One of my favorite things is being able to make signatures embedded with images and links, and all using plain text Markdown. Here are a few examples:

Please note, you can click on any of the social media icons to connect with me, or the book trailer link to view that.


Have a great day,

Giacomo

Giacomo (Jim) Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

Book Trailer
Website: Giacomo Giammatteo
eMail: gg@giacomog.com

youtubetwittertumblrslideshareredditpinterestlinkedingoogle-+Facebook64

 




The best part of all is I can produce that signature using my text expansion app simply by typing in ggsig.

Bottom Line

I’ve only touched on the basics of what can be done, but the bottom line is Markdown can make your life simpler and help you come across more professionally. If you do guest posts, it’s only one click away to export your Markdown post into an html document which can be uploaded in seconds to a WordPress blog—images and all. Your host will love you for it.

I hope you got some use out of this. If you did please consider signing up for the mailing list

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

November 11, 2014

What Makes A Good Book?

How Important Is Character Development?

Since books have been written, and especially since “bestsellers” have been on the minds of publishers, almost everyone has tried figuring out what makes a good book.

Some people swear it’s plot—that a well-developed mystery with a few good twists will keep readers turning pages. Others swear that character development is the key—the glue that holds it all together. And there is a segment of the analysts who insist it is neither plot nor character development, but storytelling that drives word of mouth, and therefore, sales.

Regardless of what it is, it doesn’t seem to be the same thing for all people. Take a look at the books on top of the list of bestsellers and you’ll find the reviews often have more conflict than the books. I just checked Gone Girl, which has been lingering near the top of the list for a long time. It has an astounding 29,000+ reviews on Amazon, and more than 4,600 of them are either one- or two-star reviews. That means that for every three people who felt the book was fantastic, another person thought it was garbage.

So, who is right?

Nobody’s right. And everyone is right. Different books appeal to different people. Look at some of the other bestsellers and you’ll see what I mean.

Divergent (book one in the series) got almost universally rave reviews, but Allegiant (book three), received more than 4,600 one- and two-star reviews out of 14,000+. Far worse than Gone Girl fared. And Fifty Shades of Grey had almost 10,000 one- and two-star reviews out of a total of 27,000+.

 

What does that tell you?

Nothing, except that something in those books got people talking. Some conflict made people think and discuss the books, which in turn drove sales. Once a book crosses a certain threshold, it doesn’t matter whether it is loved or hated, as long as people are talking about it.

What Is It That Makes You Buy The Next Book?

Or put a book down?

  • What makes you stay up late reading, even when you’re tired?
  • What makes you eager to pick up the book and start reading again?
  • What makes you put a book down, and quit on it?
  • What are your pet peeves?

It seems more and more difficult to write a book today that is considered realistic without resorting to foul language. What do you feel about that?
What are your thoughts about violence in books?

Do you like books where the killer is known up front, or where you have to guess who did it?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment or drop me a line.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

November 4, 2014

What A Copy Editor Can Do For You

Don’t Ignore The Copy Editor

If you’ve ever wondered what a copy editor can do for you, you’re not alone. It’s a decision that thousands of self-published authors face each day, and many of them choose not to engage a pro. I think that’s a decision made on budget and not on common sense. I’ve put together a short Infographic to demonstrate just what a good copy editor can do. If you want more details, check out the posts I did here and here.

 

what a copy editor can do for you

 

 
This is but one tiny example. A good copy editor will transform your manuscript into something beautiful, something precious, something error free. And that’s what you want. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where mistakes and typos almost made me put the book down. In fact, I messed up a few months ago and uploaded the wrong ebook, using the one I had sent to beta readers instead of the one produced after the copy editor. I was mortified, but fortunately I caught it about one week after it went up.

If I had to choose only two things to spend money on when it came to my book it would be a great cover designer and a great copy editor.

###If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

October 28, 2014

How To Edit Books On An iPad

It’s Easy to Proofread On An iPad

If you’ve ever wondered how to edit books on an iPad, you should read this post. If you use Scrivener, this will definitely make your life easier. (This might also work with some of the other ebook reading software. I don’t own a Kindle or Nook, so I couldn’t test it. It didn’t work on the Kindle for iPad app, but the device might offer other options.)

I love Scrivener, but I have always despised incorporating edits or proofreads back into my documents. There is no easy way using Word, or Pages, or any of the standard word processing apps. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a quick fix for editing on Scrivener; we’ll have to wait for the folks at Literature and Latte to bring that to us. But this does offer a great alternative to proofreading in Word, and it might also improve your proofreading skills/effectiveness. How does it help?

  • Easier to spot mistakes when reading on iPad as opposed to on the computer in Word/Pages.
  • Easy to color code mistakes and see where you are going wrong (for future purposes).
  • Easy to incorporate corrections back into Scrivener.

Some of you might not agree with the statement about this being easier to spot mistakes, but for me it’s much easier. And my eyes don’t get as tired as they do using the computer either.

How To Use The iPad For Editing

The options are almost endless, but I’ll tell you how I use it.

The first thing to determine is if you are going to use a color-coded system. Apple offers 5 colors for highlighting: Yellow, green, blue, pink, and orchid. I use the colors as a quick indicator of what type of error I’m facing. It also gives me a great overview of where I’m making the most mistakes. (Not all of the examples here show the color coding.)

Yellow = missing or extra word
Green = misspelling
Blue = punctuation issue
Pink = wrong word (like lead instead of led)
Orchid = other questions (notes required)

This is for proofreading. When I do beta reading, the colors mean other things.

In addition to highlighting words or passages, you can press on the screen and bring up a “note” option. A small “sticky” type image appears (like below) and you can either type a note, or use the microphone built into the keyboard to speak a note, which is transcribed into text. I find this perfect for editing my books in bed.

Each time you highlight or make a note, you have the option of sharing/emailing that correction by itself, but I like to wait until the editing is finished and do it all at once. The following section shows how to do it.

Note: Make sure you highlight enough of the words surrounding a mistake so that you can use the search tool in Scrivener to easily locate the error. In other words, if you found a sentence with an extra word in it, like this:

Bob walked walked to the store instead of driving. Highlight the whole sentence so it’s easy to plug it into the search tool and find it.

Managing Notes

When you’re ready to export your notes, follow these instructions.

  • From anywhere in the book, tap the top left of the screen. You’ll see “library” and next to it a small icon similar to a bulleted list.

Tap the bulleted list.

  • A new screen appears, and on the top right you’ll see “contents, bookmarks, and notes.”

Tap “Notes.”
– You will see the highlights and notes you made, along with the dates you made them and the page number or position in the book.

Notice the Different Colors on the Highlights on the Side. I Used This as an Example Only; This Wasn’t a Real Edit.

  • On the top right, press the share icon. You will be presented with two options: share book or edit notes.

Press “Edit notes.”

  • At the top left of the screen, press “Select All.” This will place a checkmark next to all of your highlights. (The screenshot doesn’t show the checked boxes because I had haven’t hit the select all option at this point.)

  • At the top left of the screen again, press, “Share.” This will bring up an option to export the notes via email, or using Evernote, or other options. I find email the easiest.

The Next Step

Now that you have exported your notes, it’s time to put them to work. Open your project in Scrivener and set the windows to “split vertically.” I display my manuscript on the left side and the exported notes on the right, but do what’s easiest for you. Here’s a screenshot of what mine looks like.

The rest is easy. Fix all of your mistakes, make any other changes you want, and then compile the manuscript in Scrivener and export it in epub or mobi, Word, or whatever you do.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

October 7, 2014

When Should Writers Lie?

Even If It’s Fiction—Should Writers Lie?

I read a review on one of my books the other day, and the person found it unbelievable that 6-year-old kids were drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and using foul language. Mind you, these scenes took place 30+ years ago, and in an ethnic neighborhood in the city. But this wasn’t the first time a reviewer mentioned this. I even had one person email me to state how it almost made him put the book down.

I admit that the kids in my book, Murder Takes Time, do a lot of wrong things. I admit that they do adult things, and that it might be difficult for some readers to identify with that. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t, or doesn’t, happen.

What’s really unbelievable about this, is that readers will buy into almost anything—aliens, vampires, werewolves, insanely ridiculous loves scenes, gruesome murders, car chase scenes that couldn’t be done if the streets were empty (let alone in the middle of rush hour traffic). But these same readers can’t buy into a six-year-old drinking coffee and smoking.

Here’s the Crazy Thing

All of the things these readers couldn’t buy into were true.

These were stories from where I grew up. In our family, and many others, coffee was served to you before school. My mother had coffee waiting for my brothers and me every morning by the time we got downstairs—in first grade! My aunt used to give it to me in a bottle when I was two and three. And damn near every house in the neighborhood had coffee brewing at all times of day. My two aunts, who lived next door, had coffee on at 10:00 at night. That’s how we did things.

What About Cigarettes?

Cigarettes were a different story, but not much different. Most families had at least one parent who smoked, and the majority of the young boys smoked. My older brothers got me started when I was five. I never quit until I had a heart attack 40 years later. And all of the stories about stealing cigarettes were true also. Even the story about the roach races was true. If I thought anyone would doubt anything it would have been the roach races. I even put a picture of the original sign we made to announce it on my website. I’ve included it below.

The other common complaint in the book was the language the kids used. I can tell you that kids in our neighborhood were not saying “oh sugar” when something went wrong. But we did have respect for women and elders.

Should I Have Left Out The Truth?

Should writers lie? In this case, absolutely not. Regardless of what anyone believes or doesn’t believe, Murder Takes Time was the kind of story that demanded a certain amount of honesty. The Friendship & Honor series is built on the basis of the unbreakable bonds formed by a few kids growing up in their neighborhood. Even though these kids have taken different paths and lead different lives, that bond remains.

In order to show that, and to make it work, I had to be honest with the depiction of the young boys. Their bond in the book had to be real, or it wouldn’t have worked when they grew up. And it certainly wouldn’t have held together through several books.

Bottom Line

For anyone who questions—why do I portray kids smoking, and cursing, and drinking coffee as six-years old…it’s because those kids really did that.

And to all the people who have read these books, you have my gratitude. I’ll do my best to keep turning out the best I can.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

September 30, 2014

The Perfect Pet

Freckles—The Perfect Pet?

I was being a little disingenuous with the title of this post; Freckles is not the perfect pet. At least not for us, but she could be the perfect pet for someone.

Freckles is a rat terrier mix. If I didn’t know better I’d swear the “mix” part was wolverine. Thirteen years ago we rescued her from going to the pound and almost certainly, death row, the whole time wondering how anyone could have gotten rid of such a sweet little dog.

Two days later, we realized why. We had two days of quiet, followed by 13 years of incessant barking—at anything and everything. Freckles is the only animal that has made me question our policy of being a no-kill animal sanctuary. She is nasty. Noisy. Mean. Jealous. Envious. Grumpy. Ill tempered. And vicious. Yes vicious.

She has bitten my wife, who is adored by all animals. She has bitten my son, my grandson, my brother, a neighbor, and she has bitten me several times for daring to sit on her couch.

I’m not kidding about the couch. If you notice in the picture, she perches on the back of the couch and dares any person or dog to come near her. In fact, the one with her and Briella—our 180 pound Great Dane—Freckles was “telling” Briella to get off the couch. After a brief showdown, Brie got up and left.

By the way, many years ago that was a couch for humans; now the dogs own it.

But it would be wrong for me to only list her bad side because even Freckles has a good side.

A Redeeming Quality

Yes, even Freckles has redeeming qualities, and perhaps her most endearing and impressive is her confidence. She has confidence galore. At times, I believe it borders on arrogance but she wears it well.

She weighs 15 pounds, but she bosses all the dogs in the house. Dogs up to 12x her size! She chases anything that comes on our property. She even chased after a coyote once, but fortunately for her, one of our other dogs was around to back her up. There is only one place on the property where she won’t go—into the area where we keep Dennis, our wild boar—even Freckles’ confidence has limits.

It’s amazing to watch her audacity. When I feed the dogs, Freckles will walk up as if nothing is wrong and start eating from the other dogs’ bowls. Sometimes they growl and pretend to be fierce, but she ignores them. And it works!

Freckles also has many talents. She has learned how to open the gate between the kitchen and the dog room. She can still jump from the floor to the top of the sofa, and off again. And she can be as stealthy as a ninja when she is attempting to sneak food from the pigs or the cats. Even more amazing, is at 14 years old, she has enough energy for four or five dogs. It makes me afraid to look up the life span of rat terriers.

But she also knows when to be sweet. Our granddaughter visits every other week for two or three days, and she adores Freckles. Oddly enough, the feeling seems to be reciprocal. Freckles lets her do anything and never growls or even bares her teeth. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

Being Serious

I’ve made a lot of jokes about our good friend Freckles, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world. She has made me laugh more times than I can count, and she might be the best watchdog I’ve ever seen. Nothing, and I mean nothing can get within 100 yards of our property without Freckles sounding the alarm.

Bottom Line

Freckles would be the perfect dog for someone who only wanted one dog, especially a person who enjoyed lap dogs or a dog to snuggle with them at night.

We are fortunate enough to see the personalities of many different animals. Over the years I’ve come to realize that there is a place in this world for each and every one of them. So, the next time you go to purchase a dog or a cat, consider looking at the animal shelters. I guarantee you that there is one who would be a perfect match just waiting for you.

PS. Pretty Girl still needs a home. She is at the Austin Animal Shelter and would be a tremendous dog for someone without other animals. She is loyal, friendly, and loving.

If you know of anyone who would be interested in Pretty Girl, please write to me and I can get you all of the information.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

September 23, 2014

Author Visibility

How Does Author Visibility Affect Book Sales?

Before we get into visibility, let’s talk about invisibility and how great it is. Animals have been using invisibility in one form or another for a long time: moths, butterflies, snakes, caterpillars, chameleons, octopuses, lots of fish, and many others. (For a picture of an unbelievable stick caterpillar, check out this post on Invisible Characters.) To these animals, being invisible isn’t an option—it’s for survival.

Humans have a different take on invisibility.

I still remember when I was 8 years old and I saw The Invisible Man for the first time. The movie starred Claude Rains, and man was it great. It gave me months—hell, maybe years—of pleasure, dreaming of things I could do if I were invisible. I even wondered if it was possible to someday turn invisible, and I dreamt of becoming a scientist to figure out a way to accomplish that.

And then my dad ruined it all by telling me there weren’t any invisible people—and there never would be. I can’t say that I blamed him; I think he grew tired of me pretending he couldn’t see me when I was right in front of him.

Okay, that was 50 years ago, and now I am invisible. And you know what? I don’t like it one bit.

What The Hell Do You Mean?

Just what I said. I’m invisible. As an author that is.

The problem is that authors don’t want to be invisible. In fact, unlike the animals discussed above, our survival depends on the opposite—visibility.

When you’re an author, you want everyone to know you’re there. Like a hunter wearing orange during deer season, or a crossing guard with their yellow coats or vests.

According to Bowker, 500,000 new books will be published in 2015. I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math—that’s almost 42,000 books per month. And that doesn’t count the millions of books already for sale. So how the hell are readers going to find you among the masses?

I have news for you…

There Is No Cure For Invisibility…

Except money. Or publicity. Or word of mouth. Or a number of other things that might make you and your book go viral.

When one of the big publishers has an author or a book that they feel has a shot at the bestseller list, they pour money into it. They send out hundreds if not thousands of ARCs (Advanced Review Copies); they place advertisements in the major media centers; and they arrange for reviews at the big papers and magazines. Oh, and they pay for those books to be quite visible in the bookstores, with front-of-store placement, books turned sideways on the shelves, and posters in the windows.

All of that is fine, and it does work, but only for the select few who are deemed worthy of receiving that level of advertising budget. For the peons, and for indie authors, none of those options are feasible. It’s up to us to make a splash, and usually with little or no budget.

But The Problem Is Deeper Than That

Most indie authors believe they have a quick cure for invisibility. They think that if they Tweet about their books endlessly that readers will respond. Or if they post countless times on Facebook, that readers will decide they should buy the books. Or if they put enough images of book covers on Pinterest that someone will pay attention.

This kind of activity will not prompt readers to buy your books. It might, however, convince them not to buy. The sad news is that there is no quick fix for invisibility. None.

Yes, you might get lucky and have Amazon or Apple pick your book to feature, gaining you tens of thousands of readers instantly. Or you might be spotted by an agent or publisher and offered a sweetheart traditional deal. But chances are you won’t. And chances are that nothing you do regarding social media will make enough difference to sell more than a handful of books.

How Do You Sell Books?

The only true and tried method I know of is to write great books, and keep writing them. Don’t stop after the first one and think you’ll sell a gazillion books. And don’t stop after the second or third or fourth book either. You have to keep going. It takes a lot of books to build a following. And every one has to be as good as the first, if not better.

The big-name authors you see at the top of the bestseller lists didn’t get there by being overnight successes. Most of them were still struggling after their fifth or sixth or even tenth book. Look at two of the best-selling indie authors—Russell Blake and Melissa Foster. They were both doing pretty darn good, but it wasn’t until recently that sales exploded. And by that time both of them had more than 20 books published. If they had quit after writing five books, they would have never seen this level of success.

Am I Saying You Have to Write 20 Books?

No. But the chances of striking gold with your first or second novel is equivalent to hitting the lottery. My suggestion is to stop worrying about sales. Stop spending so much time on social media. And keep writing good books. That is the one method that works more than any other.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

September 16, 2014

The Joy of Owning Good Dogs

Good Dogs and Bad Dogs

There are good dogs like Gracie (Coffee Dog), who I wrote about here, and here. And there are good pigs like Sweet Pete, who I mentioned here. And then…there are dogs like Mollie.

The first post I ever wrote was about Mollie—more specifically, the trouble she caused. And then I wrote about her again to emphasize a point in a post regarding a quaint old saying—Eat Shit and Die.

But I have never actually gone into detail on Mollie or why she makes for such an interesting and often unpredictable day.

Ancestry

Many of the animals who find their way to our sanctuary were abused, mistreated, or abandoned. If they behaved badly, I could find it in my heart to forgive them. But they don’t. They are almost always grateful and loving.

Mollie came here a little more than 10 years ago. She wasn’t abused, nor abandoned. She was the result of the bad behavior of one of our other “troublesome” members—Bear. I have a book coming out about Bear soon, so I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say Mollie was not a result of a “planned parenthood” type of arrangement, and the neighbor whose dog Bear “ruined” insisted that I select one of his offspring.

Genetics

Mollie looks nothing like Bear, as you can see from the pictures. But somehow she seems to have inherited all of his DNA. I know that’s not possible, but she did. Trust me. And one trait more than any other that she “assumed” was Bear’s distrust and dislike for strangers.

When I say strangers, I don’t just mean people. Mollie won’t tolerate new dogs, coyotes, wild pigs, deer…she even goes after the herons who come to feast at our pond. But people seem to hold a special place in her heart, and delivery drivers sit at the top of her list. She has bitten Fed-Ex drivers, postal workers, vets, and her favorite—UPS drivers. One time she escaped and chased down the UPS truck and jumped up into it while it was going down the drive. All in a misguided attempt to bite the driver.

Everyone Needs A Guard Dog

I know what many of you might be thinking—that a good guard dog is nice. It makes you feel safe, protected. That’s true. I won’t deny it. But…there is a problem with Mollie and her mutated genes. She not only wants to bite the strangers, she is so passionate about it, that she will bite anyone who is in her way.

I take that back. Somehow my granddaughter, Adalina, has earned immunity. I don’t know how, but she has. Adalina can tug on Mollie, pull her hair, fall on her, use her as a crutch when walking…it doesn’t matter. Mollie never so much as looks sideways at her. However…if anyone else is in the way of Mollie wanting to bite someone—she will bite that person. Even when that person is me. I have learned this the hard way.

Last week, a stranger dared to get lost. She pulled into our driveway and started up our sidewalk. Foolishly, I opened the back door and tried to sneak out to greet her. The image below shows the result. And this was through long pants.

And just so there is no confusion about intent. This is the third time Mollie has done this.

Getting Back To Genetics

The amazing thing is that Mollie has developed this habit—which is identical to Bear’s habit—all on her own. Bear lives with my son a few blocks away. He has visited Mollie, but he hasn’t been here to raise her. Somehow, that wonderful trait has found its way through the gene pool and into sweet Mollie all by itself. Below is a picture of Bear next to Mollie.

Bottom Line

I know that some of you might think that it’s terrible to keep a dog that bites. But we keep every animal on the sanctuary. None of our “family” is put down unless their time has come. And in so many ways, Mollie is a gentle soul.

I mentioned how good she is with Adalina. But she is also wonderful with the pigs. Even when they were small she never tried hurting them. She is also amazing with my niece, who often visits. And she is exactly what I need some nights to kickstart a laugh. What more could I wish for?

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”




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  • This blog will be a little different from many you see. Contrary to the characters in my books, I don’t really kill people, or catch those who do, so the blogs might be about reading, or writing, or animals. These are the things I have great passion for. It might also contain posts about food, or ancestry, or substance abuse. My oldest son is a great cook. My daughter is a genealogist (rootsintheboot.com) and my youngest son is a recovering drug addict. He has been clean for three years, and runs a rehab center (intoactionrecovery.com).

    I hope you enjoy the posts, and please let me know what you think.

    Ciao,

    Giacomo

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