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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The New Year in Writing

I greeted this new January with enthusiasm, after a couple of tough years. Hey, my indoor citrus trees have all blossomed today, what can be bad about a day perfumed with the scent of orange blossoms in January? And it's a new start for many writers, as well. I have quite a few students and the trend to self publishing is accelerating. It's so much easier to simply self publish your book than to suffer through the tiring and discouraging process of querying agents and getting a lot of rejections. And you have no editor, nobody to tell you that the story or memoir you love so much isn't perfect.
But increasingly, I'm seeing sad results from students who blithely published that mystery, romance, or memoir. They sell three copies or maybe ten in a year. Most go to family and friends, one or two to strangers. Alas, the really tough part is that many of these hopeful new writers have paid thousands of dollars to 'publishers' with the profound belief (usually supported by these 'publishers') that they'll make all that money back and more, that a New York editor will notice their book and probably buy it or at least buy the next one.
These 'publishers' now tell novices that in 'today's' publishing world, it's now accepted that authors share some of the risk and pay for the production costs.
This rapidly growing cottage industry saddens me. These 'publishers' are preying on the dreams of novices and they know exactly what to say in order to make the novice believe that All Will Be Well and Lucrative.
Now there ARE reasons to self publish, and you can make decent sales in the self published market, but it takes a LOT of work on the part of the author. The 'build it and they will come' belief is a lovely Hollywood myth, but doesn't apply very well when your book is swimming in a sea of (often very poorly written) self published books.
Where does today's reader look for their next read? Sadly, most of the people I ask still mention a brick and mortar bookstore like Barnes and Noble or Powell's here in Oregon. And they're looking on the shelves, not in the data base that allows a 'publisher' to tell that hopeful novice that his or her book will be 'available from Barnes and Noble'.
Self publishing does open up a world of possibilities, but it requires hours and hours of self promotion on the author's part. The internet is a great way to reach a lot of potential readers, but you have to REACH them. Aha, therin lies the rub!

If you're considering a non-New York publisher for your book, by all means do yourself a huge favor and visit Preditors and Editors and the SFWA Writers Beware pages. These sites both carry a list of publishers who have been flagged for charging fees for their services.
Remember....if it's a REAL publisher, the money flows FROM the publisher TO the writer. It does not EVER flow the other way. If you are paying to publish your book you are self publishing. Since you're writing that check and buying that publisher's services (no matter what that publisher claims) then be a good shopper and see who will give you the most service for the best price.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oregon Spring

This was one of those weekends where I remind myself that if I got the same workout at a gym, I'd have to pay a lot of money. But then, if I was getting that same workout at the gym, it probably wouldn't be raining and hailing on me. But hey, that final shower finished with a rainbow (while it was still raining on me), so it was at least, quite pretty. And not very cold. Since I was doing Chainsaw Calisthenics, I stayed pretty warm. You know that old saying about firewood and warming you twice, right? I was dealing with one of those 'gifts' that come with a bit of a price tag. I have all these big branches you can have for firewood translates to I don't want to have to deal with all those twigs so you can have 'em. So I trimmed off all the really fine twigs (and I burn stuff down to a size smaller than a broomstick) and my beloved chipper even started, first time out after its winter sit. So it was a good day, rain, hail, and all. And I don't even have a pile of branches blocking my driveway. Woohoo.

Then, today was a good flight. We had the Scappoose airpark to ourselves, mostly because everything else was already getting weather, and I got in one really nice crosswind landing (they've been giving me trouble) before rapidly decreasing visibility and rain chased us back to Troutdale, where I got to perfect my crosswind style a bit more. I've been having to unlearn my winter's worth of landing in 30 mph headwinds.... The rain came in on our heels. Classic Oregon spring, but cold. My calendar is what's growing, and right now, according to that calendar, it's early March, not late March. Ah well, the seasons do what the seasons do. We're the ones with the inflexible calendar.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nice Writing News

I got a great call today. Was a classic Oregon February day; rain, wind, sun, more wind. So I was working on students. And Deborah Ross called, editor of the Lace and Blade anthologies, very nice fantasy collections. I've written two stories for her -- Night Wind in the first anthology, and Dragon Wind in the second (not out yet). She called to tell me that Night Wind, a sort of historical fantasy (well, they both are) was on the final Nebula ballot! I had to pry my jaw off my chest. That's way cool. I really enjoyed writing that story.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Slow Spring

Well, my ewe delivered twin ram lambs and now all four of the lambs are out bounding about together in between snow showers, violating at least a couple of laws of physics with their antics. Two more ewes to lamb yet. They're keeping their legs crossed for the moment. Cricket has decided my chickens aren't enough of a herding challenge and is eyeing up on the sheep. But when I took her out to walk steers around with Trudy and her brother, she wasn't quite so sure about those big critters. Dunno why. She's quite ready to keep watch on George's horses and they're much larger than the yearling steers. We'll try again next week and I'll bring Annie along. She loves to make steers move.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Winter Lambing Reality Check

We've had our lovely February break from winter -- sun, mild temperatures. I planted peas and fava beans. Two ewes lambed and I wondered if I even needed to put them in the lambing pen, why not let them stay out in the new spring grass?

Then, my black ewe decided that Today was The Day. She dwadled around in the mild temperatures, not really sure it was time to lie down and Do It yet. And the clouds gathered and the light waned and it sprinkled and yes, we're likely to...again...get snow tonight. Sigh. With a wind, and 30 degree temps. Lamb killing weather, when you're wet and newborn and out in the field.

So it's crunch time. She's pawing, lying down, not really pushing the lambs out yet, but thinking that it's soon. Do I leave her out? Then I have to go out in the dark with a light, which spooks the rest of the sheep and probably her as I pick up her new lambs and coax her to come with me to the warm, dry, lambing pen. Or do I get Annie The Enforcer out there and let her put the ewe in? That's pretty stressful for the ewe. I don't want to do that. So I went out to feed the rest in the waning light, fingers crossed. If she' s not really ready to push she'll come in. I serve alfalfa at night. They love that.

I put out the hay. And hear her bleat 'wait for me'. Closer than the far back of the paddock where I've been keeping them penned (major coyote pressure this year). She's coming! I wait until she's in, everybody is nose deep in the manger, slip through and close the barn gate. Then I have to get her into the lambing pen. No Thank You! She weighs 200 lb, she is wet, and not at ALL interested, never mind clean straw, alfalfa in the feeder and fresh water. Bruce, the ram, watches me balefully, but I snapped a lead to his collar while he was happily eating and tied him, so he can't butt me, like he really wants to.

A bit of wet-sheep wrestling later, she is in and I'm panting. She immediately starts munching on the alfalfa, quite happy to be here. I mutter a couple of not-for-family-viewing comments under my breath as I latch the door. Now, she's FINE with being in there. Hay all to herself!


That is not what I muttered. I am quite soaked (winter fleeces hold a lot of cold rain) and the ram is letting me know that as soon as I unsnap the lead he's going to Discuss my behavior with me. I call Annie in to ride shotgun as I unsnap him. They face off, he decides that really, he'd be better off eating, Annie and I depart. Cricket The Puppy is Really Disappointed that she didn't get to help. I tell her 'later'. Annie tells her 'I'll handle the ram, squirt'. I agree with Annie.

So I'll sneak down there in another hour or two and see what's up. Or out, should I say. It can snow tonight, that's fine. Lambing season is never dull.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Spring Arrival with Lamb and Skies

Well, I declare it officially spring. Two of my ewes have now lambed, each with a single lamb -- I'm blaming the nasty weather earlier, they usually twin. But both are nice, large lambs, one ewe, one ram lamb. This is the first born, the official 'spring is here' announcement. He's a couple of hours old in this picture, nice and dry and already has his belly full.

It has been quite the week. Crocuses blooming, lambs. George is doing great, his surgeon calls him 'one tough guy' and said he could go back to flying at the end of the month. Nice to see him looking good. I miss my rides in the back seat of the twin Comanche he flies. The season has really changed. The sheep always know. So happy spring to you all, even if you do have snow up to your backside.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Puppy Herding

This has been a tough couple of weeks. A lot of things converged and I didn't have enough hours. But hey, life is like that sometimes. And today, I had a date with Trudy, my Aussie puppy Cricket's breeder, to put her on ducks. And I went. Cricket's mom, Tick, is a stunning herder with a lot of herding trial trophies and I wanted to see how she measured up.

So today, on a foggy, cold afternoon, Trudy sorted five ducks out into the small paddock and I...with some trepidation...took a VERY interested Cricket out into the arena. We're looking for natural behavior right now. You can add a lot of training as a pup gets older, but right now, you get what that pup has, unadulterated. And it can be good...or bad. Trying for duck cutlets is bad. So is saying 'uh, got other things to do'. It's a test of what ya got under the hood.

Well, the 'got other things to do' was not an option. Miz Cricket was fighting the lead, ready to party. I grabbed the plastic leaf rake (for scooping puppies off stock), took a deep breath and let her go.

The ideal in herding dogs is one who stays just on the fight/flight zone so that the stock doesn't bolt, but will 'give' to that pressure, especially if the dog uses 'eye' and stares aggressively, and will move off the dog in a calm and organized fashion. Rather than in a panicked route. The ideal dog will find 'balance', positioning the stock between it and the handler (we gotcha!). Mostly you get much less perfection than that. The pup charges into the flock, grips, scatters the stock, what have you. You can fix it later, but it's nice if you don't have to.

So. Miz Cricket. She took off and flanked around the ducks like a pro, came to balance, eyed up. When a duck bit her...twice!....she just backed up a step, stared hard, and pushed it back into the flock. Naughty duck! Now if that had been a rottie puppy, I'd be having you for dinner tonight. Even when a single duck took off screeching, she flanked out and brought him back to the flock, stopping on balance to me and simply holding them.

Wow. Who trained this dog while I wasn't looking?? Trudy was VERY happy. She says she has never seen a pup work this well. Cricket was very happy. Until I finally got hold of her and made her stop working. I think we'd still be out there. Sheep are next. She was all ready when we went down to feed tonight. Well, I'll have a nice lamb crop for her shortly. Just her size.

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