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January 27, 2015

The Bad Side of Sanctuaries

Life Is Short

I often talk about our sanctuary and how much fun we have with the animals. It’s true. They bring a tremendous amount of joy to us, and great rewards for the work we do. But there is a bad side to sanctuaries, and it’s the part I hate.

Last year was a tough one. We had numerous pit bulls dumped on our property. I wrote about some of the experience here and here.

We lost one of our more difficult cases—a pig named Pearl, and in October we said goodbye to a dog I cherished, a giant Great Dane named Briella. But the year of sadness had just begun, because we lost two more pigs in the next two months, both long before their time.

Bonnie was a sweet, shy, and loving pig who had been with us for 10 years. Ten years is a long time, but I think it was the special circumstances surrounding her that made us form such a strong bond, so let me back up and tell you a little about…

Bonnie’s Story

Back in December of 2004, Mikki (my wife) received a call from Animal Control. A sales rep at one of the furniture companies had called them and said a wild pig was living in the woods behind their warehouse. Animal Control had tried catching her but hadn’t succeeded, so they called Mikki.

The wooded area was only about 2–3 acres, but it was dense and sticker bushes were everywhere. She scoped out the area, and figured out what we needed. Within a few days, Mikki had built a trap and come up with an idea to catch her. Needless to say, since it was a pig, the idea involved food.

We set the trap, covered it with bushes and vines and placed the food in the trap. We figured she had to be hungry, as it was cold and there wasn’t much ground for her to forage. But this was a wily pig. After two weeks, we hadn’t even seen her. We found tracks, heard her deep in the brush a few times, but not even a glimpse of the real thing. It was like we were after Big Foot.

A few days later, we left some food outside of the trap to see if she’d take that. When we returned the next day, that food was gone, but the food inside the trap was still there. This was one smart pig!

A Much-Needed Rest

Mikki had spent hours per day there to no avail. Christmas was approaching, so she took a few days off. When we returned just before the new year, we discovered the pig had given birth. We didn’t know how many babies, but it looked to be four or five based on the tracks we saw in fresh mud.

The danger of those babies dying sent my wife into panic mode, and for the next two days, she stayed—day and night—sleeping in the van and roaming the woods trying to find the pig’s home. She still had no luck, but about one week later she struck gold, catching the mother pig and three babies.

My wife should have been ecstatic, but she wasn’t; she was even more worried because that meant at least one, if not two, baby piglets were out there on their own. We didn’t know how long a pig that young could survive without their mother, especially in such cold weather.

For two more weeks, Mikki spent almost every day at the site, but she came home at nights. We started to think the pigs were gone, when the sales rep called and said she spotted them early one morning—there were two of them.

Renewed Vigor

That news elated my wife, who packed her gear and set off to find these pigs. For three more days—and nights—she tried, but no luck. The pigs were eating food we left, but they wouldn’t venture into the trap. We even rounded up six volunteers one day to traipse through the woods with Mikki to try and roust them out, but we never saw them or heard a peep.

Mikki and I had to go on a business trip, and it killed her leaving the hunt, but she recruited a few volunteers to keep watch. On the third day, we got the call.

The Hunt Was Over

My son picked up the pigs and brought them to the sanctuary. Somehow, they were healthy. We arrived home a few days later, and it was a sight to see. These babies were so full of play, and so happy, it made it all worthwhile.

Take a look at the video of Bonnie and her sister playing. This was during their first week home. Now you can see why they were next to impossible to catch—they’re fast!


 

The picture is of the babies and their mother grazing in the field.

 

This picture was taken a few years ago. Bonnie is on the left,
and her siblings are scattered about. I think they were searching
for acorns—a favorite fall pastime.

 

Something Is Wrong

We had a lot of fun with Fiona (the mother) and her babies over the years. They earned the nickname of “The Wild Bunch” and they made sure to continually earn that nickname, too.

Early this fall I noticed something wrong with Bonnie. When I called the group for lunch, she was slow to respond.

When a pig is late for lunch, you know something is wrong. Pigs don’t miss meals.

Bonnie’s behavior continued for a few days, but then she seemed to return to normal. After another week, though, she was back at it, some days even missing her meal. We called the vet, but he found nothing. Mikki checked her and found nothing. We were puzzled, as Bonnie wasn’t that old, not compared to some of our other pigs.

The next week was hit and miss, but I noticed when she did eat, she wasn’t eating as much, or with the same gusto as she normally did. I started bringing her special treats: apples, tomatoes, grapes, and occasionally cantaloupe (her favorite).

It soon got to where she wasn’t eating at all, but every day she came when I called, and she waited on the side of the fence, staring up at me, knowing I had treats for her. She would stand still and let me pet her while she ate, something Bonnie had never been fond of doing.

A Few Last Treats

The next day, I bought her two cantaloupes and she got to eat one all by herself. I swear that pig was smiling while she ate. She even seemed to have some of her energy back.

I told Mikki about it that night and we thought maybe she was improving. The next day, when I went to feed, she didn’t come when I called.

My heart sank. I knew. I knew she wasn’t coming.

I called twice more, but when she didn’t show up I went looking for her. She was in her barn, snuggled in the hay.

Goodbye Bonnie

We buried her under a couple of big oaks. She loved acorns, so we thought it would be appropriate.

This was Bonnie the day before she died. I didn’t often get pictures of her, but for some reason I took one that day. I’m glad I did.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

BTW: If anyone has an urge to make a tax-deductible donation to our sanctuary, I won’t stop you. And Dennis, AKA, the Great and Wonderful—will look favorably upon you.

Our site isn’t set up yet, but you can email me at jg@tuskanyfalls.com for details. Thanks!

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.”

January 13, 2015

Christmas and Lasagna

Lasagna Is Part of Christmas

If food isn’t one of your priorities, you might want to skip this post. On the other hand, if you want to see what a great Christmas dinner looks like, read on.

Family And Food

My apologies for missing a few weeks of posts, but family and holidays take precedence, especially when food is involved, and being Christmas, we had lots of food! Below is a picture of the pan of lasagna Mikki made. She also made a few more pans for friends who had begged and bribed her. For those of you who haven’t been told a few dozen times or seen my many posts on lasagna (one of my favorite dishes), I’ll state it again…

Mikki makes what I think is the best lasagna in the world. Bar none.

 

 

I know what you’re thinking, that I’m biased because I’m her husband. Not so. To give you an idea of how good her lasagna is I’ll relate a true story.

My brother’s wife (now his ex-wife) loved Mikki’s lasagna so much that even though they are divorced, she still comes to dinner when lasagna is cooked (and she brings her new fiancé). I’m not certain about this next statement, but she may have negotiated the “dinner invitations” as part of the divorce settlement.

So, when it comes to food, I don’t hold back on my criticism, or praise. If Mikki makes a dish I don’t like, I tell her. When it comes to food, there is no room for political correctness.

Back To Dinner

My wife is always complaining about what she cooks, swearing that it isn’t up to par, when in fact, it’s magnificent. The joke around the house is that if she owned a restaurant she would greet everyone with something like this:

“Lasagna is the special tonight, but you probably won’t like it. It’s not as good as my usual.”

But I have to say that this year my wife outdid herself. She credits everything to a new frying pan—the CucinoPro—and although I admit it’s a great pan, I think it had more to do with my wife’s cooking skills.

 

 

Two days before Christmas, she started. Before she was done she had cooked 12 pounds of meatballs, and 46 pounds of lasagna! The one big tray pictured below weighed in at 30.2 pounds. The other three trays totaled 16 pounds.

On top of all that, my ex-sister-in-law and her fiancé brought wine–lots of it.

I told her she didn’t have to, but I think she wanted to ensure her seat at the table for next time. I also think that her fiancé realizes that if it comes down to a decision between him and the lasagna–he’ll be left holding the short straw.

No Gifts For Me

When I was a kid—like all kids—I loved getting gifts. Nothing has changed except the kind of gifts I look forward to are different. I no longer crave material gifts, just family and friends—and a good meal. So my son was kind enough to provide me with additions to Mikki’s fantastic meal. He cooked two of my favorites:

 

A mushroom medley to be enjoyed on crostini.
And one of my all time favorites—homemade ricotta with pears and cinnamon.

Needless to say, we munched on these all day—until it was time for dinner—and then we waited a few hours and started up again.

I’m embarrassed to say that I was caught eating the ricotta and pears the next morning for breakfast.

Unfortunately, like all good things, this too came to an end. But I kept these pictures so I can tease myself as we race toward Easter Sunday, when it starts all over again.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy some of these pics.


My niece Emiliana learning the family recipe.
Meatballs in the new pan. (below)
 

Mikki making meatballs (12 pounds of them!)

Lasagna

Now that I’ve looked at all the pictures, I’m hungry, so I’m off to find something to eat. But thanks to everyone for stopping by. I wish everyone a fantastic new year.ciao,Giacomo

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.”

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.”




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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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