Category: News from Ashland Creek Press

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!


Announcing new authors and our 2012 lineup

By John Yunker,

Ashland Creek Press in 2012
When Midge and I started Ashland Creek Press earlier this year, we knew what types of books we wanted to publish. And we noted this right on the home page.

But we weren’t sure exactly how many of these types of books were out there. All we did know was that we would have to be patient. Yet we were pleased and surprised to discover that we have not had to wait very long for amazing books to come our way.

I’m happy to say that our 2012 lineup of books captures the range of themes and issues we are most passionate about — books that introduce you to new cultures and new ideas, and books that have the potential to change the world, or at least the potential to change your way of looking at the world. So here is the lineup for next year, beginning in April:

The Names of Things by John Colman Wood

The Names of Things is one of those novels that sticks with you long after you’ve put it down. The book is a mystery, a love story, and an anthropological journey all wrapped up into one. We couldn’t put the manuscript down and are very happy to be introducing this novel to the world.

Falling into Green by Cher Fischer

Falling into Green is an eco-mystery set in Los Angeles with an ecopsychologist as its main character. This character, Ez Green, is a powerful, quirky, and highly engaging character, and this book is the first in what we hope will be a long series of Ez’s adventures on a changing planet.

And now let’s jump ahead to the fall of 2012 to introduce two newly signed authors and their novels:

The Dragon Keeper by Mindy Mejia

The Dragon Keeper is Mindy’s debut novel, and one of its most endearing characters is an endangered Komodo dragon living in a Minnesota zoo. But it’s ultimately about the woman who cares for the dragon, the perils of captivity, and the incredible series of events that change her life — and the dragon’s — forever. Mindy has an MFA from Hamline University, where The Dragon Keeper was awarded outstanding thesis in fiction in 2009. Her work has appeared in rock, paper, scissors, and Things Japanese: A Collection of Short Stories. She lives and works in Saint Paul, MN.

Balance of Fragile Things by Olivia Chadha

Balance of Fragile Things, Olivia’s debut novel, puts you smack in the middle of a modern American family — an Indian father, a Latvian mother, and a teenage son and daughter — as well as an environmental mystery that threatens to destroy the family’s livelihood as well as the whole town. Olivia completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing at Binghamton University and began her career writing comic book scripts. She teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

And, last but certainly not least, next fall we’ll be publishing the second book in the YA Lithia Trilogy:

The Ghost Runner by Blair Richmond

The second book in this trilogy will follow more of Kat’s adventures with the otherworldly inhabitants of Lithia. To learn more about this series, check out the first book, Out of Breath, which is available now and “officially” launches in October. You can download a PDF excerpt here, and please also join us here on this blog on Halloween, when we’ll be celebrating the publication of Out of Breath with a daylong virtual book launch. You can read some of the book’s early reviews here, including this one from Kirkus Reviews: “This series opener blends genre tradition with West Coast environmentalism … the result feels fresh and original.”

Welcome to all of our wonderful authors!

Author Q&A: Exploring Oregon’s cemeteries

By Midge Raymond,

How does one become interested in cemeteries, of all things? In this Q&A, Johan Mathiesen, author of Mad as the Mist and Snow: Exploring Oregon Through Its Cemeteries, talks about his interest in cemeteries, how he went about researching this book, and where he himself wants to be buried…

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Basically, the book is an extension of an avocation: visiting cemeteries. It’s an activity my wife and I have engaged in for decades. It’s one of the things we do when we visit a new town; we go find their cemeteries. And then some years ago the idea simply popped into my head: Well, I could do a guide to the cemeteries of Oregon; no one has done that yet. To an extent it was an extension of Ralph Friedman’s work on documenting what’s interesting in Oregon. My concept was to isolate one part of what he was looking at and look at it in depth. Another part of me wanted to give a gift to my state. My own personal ethos says I should try as hard as I can to advance the culture of the human race. Simply put, I felt it my duty to make a contribution. Cemeteries was it.

Once I settled on the project of photographing all the cemeteries in the state, I began the long process of locating and visiting them. I began in 2004. I’m not done. I’ve shot more than 600 Oregon cemeteries. I’ve driven countless thousands of miles and spent many a night sleeping in the front seat of my car off some logging road or in the vast expanse of the high desert waiting for the sun. I’ll drive for hours and never play the radio or slip in a CD. Just me and the two-lane or less.

Why cemeteries? What made you interested in cemeteries in the first place?

I blame it on my dad. He had hip ailments and couldn’t walk well, but he was a trained geographer and loved to take long drives through the countryside. I learned to love them, too, and so did my wife. Cemeteries are a natural place to stop and poke around, if you’re in the boondocks. Doing this book was an excuse to pursue my hobby seriously.

How did you choose the cemeteries to include in this book?

They chose themselves. Either they were interesting cemeteries in their own right, or they had an interesting story connected to them.

What are you favorite cemeteries?

Any cemetery that has a lot going on. I don’t like cemeteries that discourage personalization. I like cemeteries that encourage people to decorate the graves of their loved ones. I like cemeteries that invite people to use them.

How are cemeteries adapting to the modern world?

Many ways. Like everything else, cemeteries are living institutions; they either go forward or they die. The biggest hurdle cemeteries currently face is cremation and the discontinuance of using cemeteries. They’ve combated that by devoting increasing space to columbaria, and by integrating cremain depositories within highly landscaped settings. Other cemeteries have incorporated virtual memory displays, either at grave sites or central locations. Cemetery memorials have gone online. Green cemeteries are encroaching on the business. On the opposite end, the extreme income disparity in this country has given rise to a rebirth in elaborate and expensive monuments, while at the same time many have cut back operations or scope.

Any lessons to be learned?

It’s probably too late, but the invention of the lawn cemetery was a major contributor to the death of the mega-cemetery as we know them. We can see that in hindsight, but there was no way to see it going in.

Ever see any ghosts?

Nope. I think there are spirits in a graveyard, but they’re spirits you bring with you. I’m pretty convinced evolution happens, and I don’t see exactly when ghosts would have appeared in the process. In any event, if they’re out there, I’m blind to them.

Where are you going to be buried?

Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland. My wife and I were among the last people to secure plots there before they curtailed sales. If I had my druthers, they’d prop my body under a tree and let the critters eat me, but that’s frowned on in this society. I guess I’ll let the little critters of the soil have me. My most important goal is to remain part of the life cycle. The idea of being sealed in an impermeable coffin scares the beejeebiz out of me.


Learn more about Johan Mathiesen’s book, Mad as the Mist and Snow: Exploring Oregon Through Its Cemeteries, at Ashland Creek Press. The book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and your favorite bookstore.