Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Staying 'up'

I didn't post a blog entry last week because I'm spending most of my time finishing Homegrown Pork for Storey Publishing. It's the first totally 'meat animal' book I've written and it will be my last. I've had pigs for quite awhile but we don't eat them—they're pets. Writing about the meat aspect isn't too hard but illustration research is getting me down.

If you're familiar with Storey's great livestock books you'll know that they're illustrated with line drawings on nearly every page. To create illustrations that perfectly match what's going on in the text, authors provide examples for the illustrator to work from. For instance I recently used Google Images to gather eight representative images of pigs soaking in children's wading pools. They're tucked inside the images file for chapter 8, along with separate files containing images of a British-style pig ark, a Port-a-Hut, a hoop house, extension insulators for electric fencing, pigs wallowing, pigs drinking from troughs, a flap-style pig feeder, and a garden cart.

Normally I love the illustration-gathering phase of my Storey books but this time I'm running across disturbing images that I can't get out of my head. I realize that most people consider animals food and that's okay, but I believe meat-eaters should respect the creatures they eat. Yet I'm seeing so many disrespectful images of grinning hunters posed with wild boar with hats perched on their heads or tied on ATVs as if they're driving them. And pictures of pink baby piglets, dead, curled up in pans and of severed pig heads singed and grinning on a platter, ready to pop in the oven. These things haunt me long after I turn away. I'm writing about them because writing is a writer's job and I think Homegrown Pork will be an excellent book of its kind, but the images upset me so much that I know I'll never tackle a project like this one again. 

Another thing that's upsetting me right now is lack of payment for work I've completed for one of the companies I write for (not Storey). I've been with this company for over 10 years and writing for them has mostly been a joy. I've had to beg for book advances that were past due but magazine checks were never more than a few weeks late. Now they're running three months behind. This amounts to a lot of money that I need right now to feed my animal friends; after all, this is the main reason I write for publication. The other writers I know who write for this company are in the same boat. The company tells us, "We're mailing checks at the end of this week" but they don't. Am I worried? Yes!

So, it can be hard to finish my morning chores in the blistering heat, then come straight to the computer and start working. Since I do this six days a week, I'm struggling to stay motivated. In the past I'd be popping anti-depressants by now but since discovering Reiki, flower essences, and EFT (Gary Craig's Emotional Freedom Technique, a.k.a. tapping), I've been able to stay on a reasonably even keel without medication. Here's a tip: if you write or plan to write, investigate energy modalities; they'll help you stay 'up' without pills.

I also avoid negativity (we haven't had TV for 12 years, I rarely listen to the radio, and I read Google news only as needed) and I immerse myself in positivity as fully as I can. I listen to good music, read uplifting books, visit positive websites, and subscribe to free mailings that lift my spirits when I open my mailbox in the morning.

If you're tired of doom and gloom news reporting, try Happy News. Its motto is "Real News. Compelling Stories. Always Positive". The website is inspiring and the Happy News newsletter, free. 

Positive News – U.S. Edition is another source of inspirational, up-beat news.

And it's hard to beat Daily Good—subscriptions are free.

Another mailing that makes my day is Mike Dooley's Notes from the Universe. I find one in my mailbox five mornings a week. Notes from the Universe might not resonate for everyone but check them out. I love them.

Two blogs I recommend and subscribe to are Marelisa Fábrega's Daring to Live Fully blog and Henrik Edberg's The Positivity Blog. If you know of others like these, please leave a comment and tell me about them. I'd like to subscribe!

And when I'm feeling especially 'down', I take a goat break. See that face at the top of this entry? Kissing that face (and others like it) on a daily basis is more therapeutic than a fistful of Zolofts. I couldn't exist without animals in my life.  :o)
Please visit my Sheep Tips & Tricks and Goat Tips & Tricks blogs, and my Sue Weaver - Ozark Writer public page at Facebook. 


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It Isn't All Roses

I worked at a factory when I started writing in 1969. One day at lunch I told my friends I'd gotten a check for an article the day before and now I could buy winter hay for my horses. A co-worker asked how much I earned and I said, "$180". There was a stunned silence. That was more than we were making for a week's work in a union shop. Finally the person who asked me, said, "If I could sit at home and write stories for $180, I sure wouldn't work in this hole!"

That occasion stayed with me because that's how most folks look at writing: they think writers sit down, type out a few pages, send the results off to an editor, and voilà, it's money in the bank. They don't visualize hours of painstaking research before writing an article or highlighting printouts and compiling fact sheets. They don't know about proofreading and rewrites. And they especially don't realize the crushing rejection attached to writing. It's worth it—but it's there.

Picture this. A company I write for has fallen far behind in payment—a lot of money we need to pay our bills. They are not up front about the delays, even to their editors, some of whom commiserate with their contributors and others who don't seem to care. I agonize over whether or not I should continue writing for this group of magazines. I like them and I've been with them for years. Finally I refuse a feature article that requires days of research to write; I can't afford the time in the event I don't get paid. A month later I receive standard rejection emails for all of my 2013 article proposals. Did I cut my throat or save myself a world of grief? Who knows!

Fortunately, I have Storey Publishing to fall back on. I can't say enough good things about Storey. Every person I've met there has been a dream to work with. And, Storey editors are kind when they copyedit my books.

Readers who have never been writers think what they read is exactly what the author wrote down. Not so at all. Copyeditors delete here and suggest additions there; they move blocks of text from one place to the next. Sometimes stuff a writer really likes gets left out. But copyeditors know what sells books and what doesn't. Although a copyedit is depressing at first glance, the wise writer gives her editors free rein to make changes. And the editors at Storey do publishing right.

There are days when I'd like to heave my computer out the window and try something else. But I won't. I plan to stay with Storey as long as they want my books. There are also self-published ebooks in my immediate future. And, agonizing as it is not knowing when (or if) I'll be paid, I like writing for one of those magazines.

Writing for publication is rewarding but it isn't all roses. Keep it in mind if you choose to write.


Please visit my Goat Tips & Tricks and  Sheep Tips & Tricks blogs, and my writer's page at Facebook

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Google It!

My new Dreamgoat Annie logo, compliments of Teddi Deppner, Web Design

Here's a piece of advice for aspiring writers, especially anyone living in the backend of nowhere, as I do: take time to learn the nuances of your favorite search engine; search engines are a writer's best friend. I use and recommend Google.

Background: Before moving to the Ozarks ten years ago, I lived in Minnesota in a county served by the East Central Regional Library (ECRL) system. This gave me access to 14 brick-and-mortar libraries in six Minnesota counties as well as MnLink, an online feature that made it possible to order books from all 14 ECRL libraries, right from my computer and delivered to my nearest library. Interlibrary loan through ECRL was amazing; in a week or so I had century-old books in my hands originating in libraries states away or reprints from scientific papers of my choice. ECRL is researcher's heaven.

Then we moved to Arkansas. Our local Hardy library is a wonderful, friendly place peopled by the nicest librarians you could possibly imagine. But even associated with Arkansas' White River Library system, research possibilities are sorely limited.

So, I quickly learned that I'd have to buy my own research materials or find them online. I do both. But except for buying competing books to review, Google supplies nearly all my research material.

If you're looking for the ultimate online research experience and have a high-speed internet connection, I strongly suggest you download Google Guide, a free, 5.86 MB, 146 page guide to everything Google. If you can't download it, use the interactive version online. Need a two-page cheat sheet to keep by your computer? It's free too.

Whatever you need, you can find it through Google. I've already written about the thousands of vintage books downloadable, free through Google Books. Need to refer to a map, modern or ancient? They're there. A video? Images of any topic on earth?

And speaking of Google Images, don't you just love the cool goat logo at the top of this entry? I found it by Googling goat logos. I was looking for ideas for a Dreamgoat Annie logo when I came upon this gem. I clicked on the image and was taken to the website of Teddi Deppner, Web designer extraordinaire. I emailed Teddi to ask if she'd design something similar for me. She replied, saying the friend she designed the logo for is no longer in business, so with her gracious permission it's the start of my Dreamgoat Annie logo—watch for further developments!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Confession--Why I Write

Like Emony (at the right) I tend to clam up when others speak

Most writers say they write "because I have to!" And that's a large part of the equation. Writers, myself included, are nearly always compelled to write, but that's rarely the whole picture.

I began writing for publication in 1969. I'd recently had a baby and didn't want to go back to the factory grind to earn the money my ex and I needed to survive. It wasn't enough and I did go back, but I made some juicy sales that spurred me to keep writing in my spare time. I've written for publication ever since.

Nowadays I write fulltime and more, usually six or seven days a week. To support my huge animal family, I must. But I write for other reasons too. For one thing, I love the research that goes into an article or even more, a whole fat book. I'd rather research most topics than eat or sleep. In fact, I vastly over-research because the lure of one more luscious tidbit of information leads me to try one more website. Then another and another and another. Research is my favorite part of writing.

But I also write to be heard. I was an extroverted child but something happened when a favorite teacher belittled me in seventh grade. I stopped speaking up and for the most part I still don't. So, I listen. Other people like that and really, I enjoy it too. But when I try to inject my interests into a conversation, people tend to tune me out. It's terribly discouraging sometimes.

So imagine my surprise when I learned I have…fans. People who enjoy and learn from the things I write. Now I don't fret when I can't get a toehold in a group discussion. Now I just listen, enjoy what the others say, and bide my time. Then, I sit down at the computer and write, knowing my readers care what I have to say. I love being heard. And I appreciate my fans with all my heart.
Please visit my Sheep Tips & Tricks and Goat Tips & Tricks blogs, as well as my Facebook writer's page

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vintage Books as PDF Files--for Free!

Yesterday while searching Google Books and the Biodiversity Heritage Library for a few more old pig books to quote in Homegrown Pork (my upcoming pig book for Storey Publishing), it occurred to me that not everyone knows about these fabulous resources. I've downloaded the full text of hundreds of vintage livestock books over the years and it hasn't cost a cent, not ever. You can do it too.

When I'm researching material for the books and articles I write, I download material directly onto a thumb drive (zip drive) devoted to that subject. This way I don't clog up my working computers, as they tend to get sloooow when I fill them up with PDFs and hi-resolution photos.

These are my pig, horse, and cattle book thumb drives

I keep my thumb drives in a box by my computer. So I can find them quickly, I mark them with a distinctive tag. Since these drives hold an immense amount of material (my pig drive, for instance, holds 4 gigabytes of information), I can download and keep even huge files.

My favorite source of livestock material is the Biodiversity Heritage Library, offering 55,757 separate titles. And, this site is easy to use. Here's what to do.

Navigate to the Biodiversity Heritage Library site, click on Subject (be sure to use the Subject tab, not General or any of the others), and fill in your needs. Let's use Morgan horse for an example. When your search results for Morgan Horse come up, click on Morgan horse again. This will bring up six titles, all of them exquisite, next-to-impossible-to-find-in-print classics like Joseph Battell's The Morgan Horse and register (I paid $150 for a truly battered hardcover copy of this book in 1978 and later sold it for $200) and D. C. Linsley's Morgan Horses, a premium essay on the origin, history, and characteristics of this remarkable American breed of horses. Click on your title of interest and when it loads, choose they type of download you desire from the Download/About this Book pull-down menu at the top of the panel. It's free.

Or, if you'd like to view sheep books, type sheep in the search box; this leads to a choice of 14 subjects including Cheviot sheep, Merino sheep, sheep breeding, sheep breeds, and just plain sheep. Click on sheep again and choose from a list of 155 titles. Wow!

Google Books is my other source of vintage books in public domain. Enter Morgan horses in the search box. When results come up, click on Free Google eBooks in the left hand column (it's under the heading, Any books). Battell and Linsley's books are there, though Biodiversity Heritage Library offers a wider selection.

But, the beauty of Google Books is that most volumes are also downloadable as EPUB files to read on modern readers like Nook. Click on the gear symbol in the upper right hand corner of the page to choose the type of download you prefer. As with Biodiversity Heritage Library, downloads are free.

A third resource I use is the Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project website, where 76 vintage cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century are available as free PDF downloads. Browse the cookbooks or use the website's search feature to home in on specific recipes.

These sites represent a great way to add to your research library for free, less the cost of a thumb drive to store your vintage books. Check them out! You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

If You're Short of Trouble...

Since I'm up to my eyeballs in work this week, with Storey's permission I'm reprinting another favorite Inside Storey blog entry from 2010.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sue Weaver: If You’re Short of Trouble . . .

One of my favorite sayings is the Finnish proverb, “If you’re short of trouble, take a goat.” The Finn who coined that phrase knew goats. They are intelligent, affectionate, winsome souls, but goats have a fey side, too.

Shiloh (left) and Salem (right) are mischievous lunkheads

Background: our property is set up with a 2-acre, rocky, semigrassy expanse we jokingly call our yard, flanked on three sides by animal paddocks and pastures; the fourth side abuts our township road. Our house (a goat-hoof-dented manufactured home — but that’s another story) sets as far back on the 2-acre yard as we could set it, leaving a long rectangular commons between us and the road gate. Our sheep and goats access their pastures through the yard via goat- and sheep-size passageways that keep the equines and cattle from filing in the opposite direction in the same manner.

Having goats and sheep lounging around the yard between grazing sessions is a simple joy that gives us ample opportunity to interact with and enjoy them. Unannounced visitors are, however, forced to run a gauntlet of curious and occasionally ornery animals to reach the house (we put them in their paddocks if we know folks are coming). That includes service providers.

We treasure the UPS driver who carefully winds his truck through sheep and goats rather than hang packages out on the gate. One hot autumn day when he was making deliveries with his side doors open for cross-ventilation, he threaded his way through goats to our door, honked his horn, and stepped smiling from the truck, package in hand. At that moment Salem, one of my giant Boer-Nubian wethers and an especially impish spirit, sprinted for the passenger’s side of the truck precisely as his brother, Shiloh, mounted the driver’s side steps.

I lunged at Salem, snagged his collar, and hauled him back, shouting, “Watch your door!” The driver’s smile slipped as he spied that giant body ascending the steps. Simultaneously, Kahless, our equally huge and seasonally smelly Boer buck clambered up the passenger steps and took a sharp left toward the back of the truck. I dropped Salem’s collar and dove after Kahless as Salem trailed me up the steps and began happily munching paperwork.

The driver, helplessly clutching my package to his side while maintaining a death hold on Shiloh’s collar, pitched the package at our doorstep, and somehow beat Shiloh up the steps. At that point we had three 250-pound, paper-eating goats gridlocked in the UPS truck. Since then, the UPS man secures both doors before turning into our driveway.

I’d like to say that tale is unique, but it isn’t. On February 22 I was working on my Storey cattle book when I heard a commotion in the yard. I backed up the file and stepped out on the deck to spy a young man with a clipboard clutched to his chest retreating at a fast clip across our yard — with a pack of curious sheep and goats hot on his heels. This was surprising because nowadays the road gate is locked through the day while the animals are out of their night paddocks (several of them, particularly Mopple, my lamb, have no fear of motor vehicles and beg to be run down; thus I lock the gate when they're in the yard); he had to have climbed the fence to get in, ignoring the "Livestock Guardian Dog on Duty" sign in the doing.

Teasel is prone to poking people's backsides with her horns

Feyza, a huge and very protective Anatolian-Pyrenees, was lunging and barking furiously but not biting, so I didn't intervene (he was almost out of yelling range by then). However, as the young man crested the hill, Teasel, our intrepid horned goddess, hotfooted it up behind him and jabbed his butt with one of her long horns (in Teaselese this means, "Hurry up!"). Did he jump!

The sheep, goats, and Feyza all flocked together and watched him bail over the fence, leap into his truck, and speed away, while they collectively nudged one another, saying, "Who was that guy?" I imagine he was checking our propane tank. I also imagine he'll call before he comes next time.

Who was that guy?

Even we have trouble with goats’ mischievous natures from time to time. Just last week Big Mama gave birth to beautiful twins. Big Mama retired here because she wasn’t to be bred again, nearly dying after her previous delivery 2 years ago. She is old, a huge, lavishly bearded Boer-Saanen with a mind of her own. We wouldn’t allow our buck, Martok, to breed her. Solution: she backed up to the buck run and encouraged him to breed her through the fence. I observed the hanky-panky and quickly led Big Mama away, thinking they couldn’t have — could they? But they did. Fortune smiled on Big Mama (an aggressively healthy prekidding diet undoubtedly helped), and this year’s delivery went without a hitch.

Big Mama and her brand new daughter, Simka

Goats are a joy, but they’re mischievous, and they can be vexsome, too. My words to the wise: if you don’t have a sense of humor, don’t get goats.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Write About Something You Like

Wolf Moon Gunnar Woolenbrau

The best tip I can give prospective writers is this: write about things you like, especially at the beginning of your career and especially if you write books. It makes sitting at the keyboard for hours on end so much more enjoyable. I've learned that with proper motivation (the need to earn money to feed my horde of animal friends) I can research and write about anything but when it's a topic I love, it's much, much easier.

Writing Homegrown Pork has been a push. I don't like to think about using animals for food and this book, more than anything else I've ever written, is precisely about that. Although, collecting antique recipes for this book has been fun. I find them in vintage cookbooks archived at Feeding America; The Historic American Cookbook Project website. That's a definite perk for writers: you'll discover some seriously cool resources while conducting research.

But don't think that even if you're experienced in the subject you write about that you won't have to do a lot of research—you will. Editors expect writing based on solid, varifiable research, not personal experience, though you can work that in along the way if you like. For fun, I piled up my printouts when I finished writing Hobby Farms Llamas and Alpacas and the stack was almost three feet tall.

Now you're probably wondering what the little cutie pictured at the head of this entry has to do with writing. Nothing at all! Except that he and his mom are frisking around the yard as I write this and I couldn't resist grabbing my camera and framing this shot. That's Wolf Moon Gunnar Woolenbrau. His mom and relatives are part of what keep me at the keyboard most of the day, five and six days a week. Ask me: Is it worth it? You bet!