Category: News from Ashland Creek Press


Tips for authors: A new year of writing

By Midge Raymond,

With another new year having arrived, my new list of writing goals now reads: Writing Goals of 2011 2012.

Sometimes we don’t accomplish everything we hope to — but that doesn’t mean we can’t re-evaluate and move on. So I thought I’d offer a few writing tips as we welcome 2012 (though I admit I probably need them more than you do).

It wasn’t even two years ago that I discovered Priscilla Long’s List of Works, and I still find that it’s among the best tools I have for keeping track of what I’m doing (or not doing) as a writer. In brief, a List of Works allows you to note what projects you’ve begun (and when), at what stage they are (published or circulating), and what you need to revise, finish, and/or send out.

In all, 2011 was a great writing year. Forgetting English, which went briefly out of print, has a fabulous new life thanks to Kevin Morgan Watson and Press 53. I did a book tour with my dear friend and writing buddy Wendy Call, the award-winning author of No Word for Welcome. I published five stories, won a fiction contest, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Then, of course, there’s the rest of it. I’m still working to complete three unfinished stories (two of which I began back in 2010), and I have a half-dozen ideas for stories that are still waiting for attention (and again, some of these ideas have been sitting there, half-baked, for at least a year…or more). I have half of a new story collection that I’d hoped to finish last year — and then there’s that novel I’ve been working on for the past two years.

But this is what it’s all about: accepting both the good and the less-than-good. Finding the balance. Celebrating the great news and resolving to make great news from the rest…eventually.

So if you’re like me — juggling storylines and submissions — here are a few tips for 2012…

Create a List of Works. Whether you’re just beginning to write or whether you’ve been writing for years, you should have a List of Works. Create it in whatever way works for you … just make sure you write down every single project you begin, and be sure you create one for every calendar year. Most important, go back through your ancient files and list every writing project you’ve ever begun…you never know what might happen when you rediscover these “old” ideas.

Take a close look at unfinished projects. I’ve found many a gem in a long-abandoned project. Even when I have only a vague idea for a story, I’ll jot down a few notes, file it as a “story in progress,” come back to it at least once a year. Often it just sits there for another year, but sometimes I’ll find it at just the right time, and it’ll come to life in new and surprising ways. Never abandon old ideas; you never know when they’ll suddenly be relevant.

Track all your submissions. This may seem incredibly obvious, but I’m always surprised by how many writers don’t keep track of submissions. Thanks to many magazines and publishers accepting online submissions, it’s easier now than ever — but you’ll still want to have some sort of system for whatever you submit in print. I use an Excel spreadsheet; one writer I know keeps a loose-leaf binder; other writers keep simple lists. It’s helpful for many reasons (among them, making sure you don’t submit the same piece to the same publication twice, or forget what you sent when a form rejection arrives) — but most of all, it’ll remind you to keep sending work out there. It can take dozens of rejections before you get an acceptance, and you’ll want to be sure you keep your work circulating.

Take stock of your progress at least twice a year. And quarterly is even better. Taking inventory will help you see what you’ve begun and how far you’ve come — and how far you still need to go. And keep in mind this isn’t meant to stress you out about what you’re not writing but to inspire you to stay on course. You may find that you haven’t gotten anywhere with the novel you’d hoped to write but that you found the perfect ending for a short story you’ve been working on for years. Or you may find that the poem you started isn’t coming together but that it would make a better personal essay anyway. Be open to taking things in new directions.

– See how you can use your new work to better promote the work that’s already out there. When Forgetting English was reissued by Press 53 in April of this year, it was in an expanded version with two new stories. One of the stories, “Lost Art,” hadn’t yet appeared outside the collection, so I thought it would be great to find it a home of its own, which would in turn help promote the new edition of my book. I found the story a home in a beautiful online journal, Escape Into Life, and it was a win-win all around. (Note that you may need to check your publishing contract before embarking on such a venture.) If you’re working on a novel, see if you can send a stand-alone excerpt to a literary magazine to start building buzz as early as you can. And think about how you can use what you know and do best to highlight your own work — for example, this year I’ve also done interviews, Q&As, guest blogs, and magazine articles about the writing process and the writing life, all of which I hope are useful to readers but also bring new attention to Forgetting English.

Happy new year! May 2012 be your best writing year ever.

 

Dark clouds (with a silver lining): Predicting the year ahead in publishing

By John Yunker,

When the CEO of one of the world’s largest publishing houses says he sees dark clouds ahead in 2012, this is big news.

It’s big news not so much because there are dark clouds on the horizon, but because a CEO is saying so.

That is, I believe he is preparing his employees for major structural changes in 2012.

And I’m not just talking about staff reductions, though I’m sure those are coming as well. Cost cutting alone is never the solution when an industry is being disrupted.

Reinvention is the only solution in times like these.

So what does all this reinvention mean?

I have a few thoughts, which I’ll translate into predictions for 2012:

1. Big publishers will stop accepting free returns from booksellers

For years, booksellers have been free to return any unsold books to the publisher, often for a full refund (or full credit). This is a practice that’s unheard of in almost all other retail businesses, and it really hurts publishers. Shipping books back and forth alone is expensive, and small publishers (like us) have been forced to not take returns (except for special circumstances, such as author readings). This industry-wide no-return policy has hurt us because booksellers are used to the no-risk policy supported by larger publishers. Yet I believe that even the large publishers are going to start testing the waters with booksellers in 2012, trying to move away from this practice. This is just not a sustainable practice for either party. Booksellers will naturally be forced to order fewer books and to only order those books they truly believe in, but I think this will ultimately be a good thing; hand-selling books that an employee believes in is what good bookselling is all about. Naturally, I’m a little biased as both an author and publisher: Changing these policies will give authors a more realistic view of sales (i.e., no more huge sales numbers, only to be reduced once the returns come in), and it will level the playing field for all of the small presses.

2. Booksellers will reinvent themselves as cultural curators, publishers, community centers, and gift shops (or all of the above).

I don’t want to live in a world with no local bookstores. And I do not believe that Amazon will win and all local bookstores will lose. I don’t believe this because I’ve already seen signs of bookstores reinventing themselves. Many already sell a mix of new and used books, as well as gifts and locally curated art. A few small stores are also becoming local publishers (many indie bookstores with Espresso Book Machines, such as Vermont’s Northshire Bookstore, run small publishing imprints). And a few others are becoming non-profit cooperatives. I’m also optimistic that we’ll see bookstores begin to embrace books from small publishers again. Booksellers need to embrace their role as cultural curators, separating the great books from the awful books instead of just taking co-op funds from large publishers and promoting the same books as Costco. To survive and thrive, booksellers need to stand apart.

3. Big publishers will take fewer chances on new authors.

Based on what we’re hearing from authors who submit to us, it’s brutal out there. Big publishers are cutting back on new authors and putting more money behind fewer authors — and this is great news for us: The quality of the work we’re seeing is amazing. Truly. And, honestly, it makes sense for the large publishers to put more resources behind their established authors. After all, bestselling authors are now being tempted into self-publishing, and the large publishers need to create compelling reasons for them not to jump ship.

4. Small publishers will take a lead in publishing books that matter

This is hardly much of a prediction, as it has already happened. Look at the nominees and winners of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. We’re talking small presses. But the bad news is the university presses are being hit hard as universities cut budgets.

As a small publisher, we’re well positioned for 2012 because we’re small and we’re focused. We’re building a brand centered around “books with a world view” and “eco-lit,” and we’re embracing technology. That doesn’t mean we won’t be in for a bumpy ride as well. But where others see dark clouds, we see a silver lining.

PS:  Publishing guru Mike Shatskin has a great blog post on this as well.

The Kindle Fire is a great deal as tablets go, but I’m sticking with the old Kindle

By John Yunker,

I like the Kindle Fire.

Though many tech gurus have criticized it for not living up to the Apple iPad (and it doesn’t), the Kindle Fire is an incredible deal at $199.

I played around with the Fire for a bit. And despite the name (Fire? Really?) the device didn’t feel cheap at all, as many said. Though it’s not as user friendly as the iPad, I had no trouble figuring out how to use it. The color screen is a welcome sight if you love full-color books. And the fact that you can start watching movies right away thanks to a one-month free trial of Amazon Prime is no trivial feature. And within a minute of starting up the device, I had all my previous Kindle purchases synced over to this device. Very nifty.

That said, I’m happy to stick with the old-fashioned black-and-white Kindle.

The reason for this is that I already have an iPad.

Right now, the original Kindle and iPad complement one another nicely. The Kindle is lightweight and does one thing extremely well. The iPad is heavy but does everything else extremely well.

And the old Kindle has buttons. I got used to the buttons for zipping through books, and I’m not ready to give them up for an all-touch screen just yet.

The Kindle Fire falls somewhere in between the old Kindle and the iPad, which appears to be a nice place to be given that the the device is projected to sell 5 million units this year and is outselling the iPad at Best Buy.

 

 

Happy Halloween – and welcome to the party!

By Midge Raymond,

Today we are thrilled to be celebrating the official book launch of Out of Breath, and to celebrate we’re hosting a day-long, virtual Halloween bash right here, on this blog.

The nice thing about an online party is that it begins when you show up, and it goes all day — and all evening. To join us, simply scroll down to the comment box and leave your comment, recipe, question, etc. 

We will, however, end our giveaways at midnight Pacific time — so if you’re interested in winning a copy of Out of Breath (we’re giving away both print and e-editions today), stay tuned for the myriad ways you’ll be able to enter. And for all you Kindle users out there: Out of Breath will be $2.99 for one last day, i.e., today.

Throughout the day, we’ll also be posting new reviews, recipes for Halloween treats, and Blair Richmond’s answers to your questions about Out of Breath as well as the sequel, THE GHOST RUNNER, which she is working on right now.

This psychotically happy pumpkin reflects how I feel about Halloween: I love it. And first I’d like to chat about one of the most fun aspects of Halloween: candy. (When it comes to eating candy, I must admit that for me, every day is Halloween.) And as we go about celebrating all the joys of a good sugar high, why not celebrate it in a cruelty-free way?

Here’s a list I’ve compiled, from various sources, of vegan candy:

  • Airheads taffy
  • Chick-o-Sticks
  • Cracker Jack
  • Dots
  • DumDums
  • Hubba Bubba bubblegum
  • Jolly Ranchers (lollipops and hard candy)
  • Jujubees & Jujyfruits
  • Lemonheads, Mambas
  • Mike and Ike
  • Newman’s Own Licorice Twists
  • Now and Later
  • Pez
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Swedish Fish
  • Sweet Tarts
  • Twizzlers
  • Zotz

And let’s not forget about the chocolate! Two chocolate makers that I love both pride themselves on sustainable practices, fair trade, and giving back to the communities that provide their ingredients.

Theo Chocolate makes a few delicious vegan varieties (and I can add with authority that they are divine), including: Cherry & Almond, Mint, Dark Chocolate, Toasted Coconut, and Peppermint Stick.

Endangered Species also makes delicious vegan chocolate — and better yet, the company donates 10% of net profits to fund species and habitat conservation efforts. Among my favorites: All-Natural Dark Chocolate with Mint, All-Natural Extreme Dark Chocolate, All-Natural Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds, and All-Natural Supreme Dark Chocolate.

And if you’re anywhere near a Trader Joe’s, try one of their vegan chocolates: the 70% and 72% dark chocolate bars, and the 73% Belgian dark chocolate non-pareils. Yum.

Okay, now that you’re armed with all the candy you’ll need, we look forward to your questions, your recipes — and we’ll soon be posting info on the first giveaway!

UPDATE: For our first giveaway (for a paperback copy of Out of Breath), here’s all you need to do: Tweet about the virtual book launch party using the hashtags #Halloween and #OOB_party. You’ll be automatically entered in the giveaway, and a winner will be randomly selected sometime after midnight.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Alex at Electrifying Reviews, who is generously giving away an advance review copy of Out of Breath — and this giveaway lasts another two weeks! Enter now at Electrifying Reviews. 

UPDATE: Wondering what you’ll do with all those pumpkin seeds once the carving’s done? The Vegan Version has just stopped by with a few amazing recipes for savory and sweet pumpkin seeds! (See comment below.) And a recipe for cute and delicious mummies, too.

UPDATE: Q&A with Blair Richmond:

Q: What inspired you to write about vampires, and how did you come up with the idea of a vegan vampire?

A: Living in the Northwest, hiking in the fog and ancient forests, it’s hard to not have creepy thoughts from time to time. After all, there are still Bigfoot sightings in these parts from time to time! I’ve always loved Bram Stoker’s novel and I’ve followed the evolution of vampires through the eyes of contemporary writers. But when I saw the vampires in Twilight referred to as “vegetarian” because they “only” killed animals, I felt inspired to help vampires evolve a bit further. So I decided to come up with a green version. I’m a bit of a birder, and we have a bird here called a “sapsucker,” which lives symbiotically off the trees, and that’s what first gave me the idea.

 Q: What has been the feedback from more mainstream young people? Are they receptive to the healthy lifestyle (i.e. running, veganism/vegetarianism)?

A: People love that it’s set in a place where nature is a big part of life. And I’ve been happily surprised that mainstream readers are curious and supportive about the veggie themes of the book. This is great, because I wanted to have a heroine who’s healthy and vibrant to show that veganism is compatible with an athletic lifestyle. I was unhappily surprised to get some negative reviews from vegan bloggers, which was interesting. I think there’s a perception with some people that if you love animals you have to be a perfect vegan. I love animals and don’t eat them, but I’m not a perfect vegan. I’m like Kat, in the book – I do my best but I still eat dairy on occasion. I don’t think we should apologize for it because we’re still doing a lot of good by not eating animals. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim to be 100 percent vegan – that is always my goal – but it means we should forgive ourselves and each other for not being perfect. No human is. I wanted to write a character that is imperfect because she is more real that way. Most readers seem to focus on the romance and the running and the mystery of Kat’s past, and so the fact that Kat and some of the vampires are vegan isn’t really a huge part of the story, just one aspect of it.

UPDATE: …another Q, another A:

Q: I would like to know what running means to Blair, assuming she is a runner: Is it an escape? Is it an endorphin rush? And is it difficult (or, perhaps, easier) to be a vegan runner as opposed to a meat-eating, flexitarian, or vegetarian one?

A: Running, for me, is both an escape and an adventure. Kat is clearly a much better runner than I’ll ever be and many of my runs often end up as hikes. But I love to get out of the house and escape into the woods. I don’t wear a watch. I don’t worry about my time. And I don’t particularly care for marathons or any of those types of races that Kat likes. I just like to be alone with the trees and my thoughts. Much of Out of Breath came from my time meandering through the forests. And as for diet, I haven’t really noticed any change of energy level since I gave up meat. I think I’m actually healthier, though I have a policy against weighing myself!

UPDATE, November 1: Thanks to all who joined us to celebrate Halloween here yesterday! Special thanks to those who sent questions and brought recipes! And congratulations to Carol, who won a copy of Out of Breath — and don’t forget that Electrifying Reviews is hosting a giveaway that ends on November 14, so you’ve still got a couple weeks to enter.

A (virtual) Halloween book launch party!

By Midge Raymond,

UPDATE, October 31: Are you here for the party? You’re at the right place … but opened the wrong door. The party’s actually here.

Come join us!

 

You are all cordially invited to the official Out of Breath Halloween virtual book launch party on Monday, October 31.

This all-day party will be hosted right here on our blog, which means we can have a gigantic online party without worrying about the fire marshal breaking it up. All are welcome!

Doing a virtual book tour of my own this spring made me realize just how celebratory the virtual world can be for writers who are not able to get out there and meet with readers in person. So, as the publishers of this fabulous new book, we hope you’ll join us to celebrate online on Halloween.

Drop by this blog any time on October 31 to get the latest Out of Breath reviews, to sign up for book giveaways, and to participate in a daylong Q&A with the author. We’re delighted to be welcoming bloggers who will be stopping by to share new reviews as well as fantastic recipes for Halloween treats.

The Halloween candy may be virtual, but the good company will be real — hope to see you then!