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!
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 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 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.”
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.
One of the many reasons for Amazon’s success with the Kindle has been the fact that you can buy a book for the Kindle but read it on many different devices, such as the Android, iPad, and iPhone. All you need to do is download apps for these devices and log in to your account.
But what if you don’t have one of these devices? What if you just want to read your book on your old-fashioned computer screen using your web browser?
Amazon has a solution for that as well — the Cloud Reader.
You’ll notice that this intro screen stresses that the Cloud Reader is optimized for the iPad, which might seem peculiar since Amazon also offers a Kindle App for the iPad. There’s a reason for this, which I’ll explain in a moment. But let’s just focus on your PC web browser first, as there are two points worth highlighting.
Once you click the “get started” button, you’ll be notified that the Cloud Reader works offline as well. This is a very cool feature and means that your browser will cache copies of your books onto your computer so you don’t need an Internet connection to read them. And, yes, this also works on the iPad.
After you click through this screen, you’ll be asked to log in — and then you’ll see the books that you’ve purchased:
These books are synced to your Kindle and any device-specific Kindle apps. So if you read to page 100 on a book here and switch to your iPad app, you can pick up at page 100. Another great feature.
Making sense of Web Apps vs. Native Apps
What Amazon is doing here with the Cloud Reader isn’t just a generous gesture for those folks out there who want to read on their PCs. The purpose of the Cloud Reader is to bypass Apple’s app store. But before I get into that, I want to explain the difference between a web app and a native app.
A web app is like a web site. It’s anything that you access via your web browser, like the Cloud Reader. A native app, on the other hand, is anything that is device-specific, like an app purchased over the Apple App store or Google’s Android store. These are applications developed specifically for a device. Native apps are generally considered superior to web apps because they open faster and can take advantage of all the benefits of the device’s operating system. Web apps, because they live in a web browser, just don’t feel as responsive overall — though this “offline” reading feature of the Cloud Reader marks one bold attempt to change that.
Finally, I should note that people LOVE apps, particularly if they’re free. And there’s something to be said for having an icon on your iPhone that you can access with one click (rather than inputting a long URL). I’m not sure that most people know that they can bookmark web apps on their iPhones and iPads to create “app like” icons on their home screens.
So for now, users prefer native apps to web apps.
Which brings me back to Amazon. If users prefer native apps, and Amazon already offers a native Kindle app, why did Amazon go to the trouble of launching a web app?
Because six months ago, Apple changed the way it operates its app store. It told Amazon and others that if you were going to have a link in your app to your store, you’d have to give Apple 30% of any revenues from any sales that comes through people clicking on that link.
So what did Amazon do? It removed the Kindle store link from its native Kindle app.
But if you go to the Cloud Reader web app, you’ll see, in the upper right corner, a link to the Kindle store.
Which brings me back to the iPad. Let’s say you’ve been happily using the Kindle app for the iPad, and you recently noticed that the Kindle store button went missing. Well, now you can get it back by going to your web browser and navigating to the Cloud Reader.
The experience isn’t as good as the native app, but it’s not bad.
And I’ll give Amazon a great deal of credit for trying to maintain a positive user experience in the face of Apple’s unfortunate behavior. I say “unfortunate” because the Apple iBookstore is nowhere near as sophisticated as the Amazon Kindle store. I would rather have seen Apple innovate with its store and compete with Amazon than simply block the Kindle store altogether. I understand why Apple did what it did, but the users — that is, us readers — suffer because Apple has not worked hard enough to be competitive with Amazon.
One of the reasons I love Ashland is that it’s so delightfully bookish: We’ve got Bloomsbury Books, a fabulous public library, Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library, and several other independently owned bookstores — not to mention all the other gift and antique shops that have fabulous book finds.
I stumbled across this little gem in one afternoon while walking through the Railroad District — it’s a little hidden away in what used to be a gas station/garage. As you can see, the building hasn’t changed; it still reads “Haskins Garage” and the old gas pump still stands right outside.
Inside is a wonderful, eclectic selection of used books, signs, license plates — it’s like a museum, not only for its selection but for the building itself; it’s still got the wide-open space and the high ceilings.
Perhaps best of all is that when you visit Rogue Books, you’ll find that you’re right across the street from Noble Coffee, another neighborhood treasure.