Every meal makes a difference

By Midge Raymond,

Here at Ashland Creek Press, we’re delighted to participate in today’s virtual Meatout event, along with so many others who are passionate about their health, the environment, and the well-being of animals. For those unfamiliar with Meatout: It has become the world’s largest annual grassroots diet education campaign, encouraging people to explore a wholesome, nonviolent diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s a fantastic campaign — for so many reasons — and it’s wonderful to see such a great list of participating bloggers offering news, recipes, and inspiration about compassionate choices.

Diet is such a personal choice, and John and I get a lot of questions — some curious, some polite, some defensive — about the way we choose to eat and live. But what’s been especially interesting for us, as writers and editors, is to see the reactions to John’s novel, The Tourist Trail. As soon as it was published, it was clear that the book was having a strong emotional effect on readers — which, of course, is the whole idea of publishing a novel.

We heard from people in the animal-rights community who were glad to have a book that reflected vegans and activists as regular people (rather than hippies or terrorists, which is so often the case).  We also heard from readers who said the book has opened their eyes to the plights of the world’s oceans and its creatures, that it put into human terms a problem that before had been purely theoretical to them — and this was hugely inspiring, to know that the book taught as well as entertained.

Yet still other readers had a different response: They were bothered by the truths that the book revealed: the fact that our oceans are in peril, that innocent animals are being illegally hunted and slaughtered, that our governments still have a long way to go when it comes to animal protection. And this was tough for both of us to hear — and especially to know that people would prefer not to finish the book than to face up to the very real challenges that are facing our planet.

And at the same time, it’s understandable — life can be overwhelming enough without having to worry about the future of the planet — and this is one reason we love Meatout. By simply rethinking one’s diet, a person can have an enormous positive impact on the natural world. For example, every person who gives up meat saves the lives of more than 100 animals a year. And even the little changes count: If every American were to replace just one chicken meal each week with a vegetarian or vegan meal, this would be  the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road.

So we say, give it a try. A few smart and compassionate people you know agree: Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” And Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Check out Meatout Monday for a great way to start.


Ashland’s Tree of the Year

By John Yunker,

There are many things to love about Ashland, Oregon.

Like the fact that every year, since 1988, the city honors a “Tree of the Year.”

Oregonians love their trees. In fact, did you know that Oregon has extended the traditional Arbor Day celebration into a week-long affair? Celebrated during the first week of April.

I’ve noticed that a few other cities also honor Trees of the Year, like Newport, Rhode Island and Austin, Texas. There’s even a European Tree of the Year. I don’t believe there is an “American Tree of the Year” competition yet, but there should be.

And Ashland would certainly field a competitive team.

Ashland is home to amazing assortment of native and imported trees — from the Ponderosa Pine to the Monkey Puzzle to the Giant Sequoia.

You can see the full list of Ashland’s Trees of the Year here.

In the weeks ahead we’ll be posting photos of these Ashland trees. It’s a great excuse to escape from our computers and spend a little time with the oldest living residents of Ashland.

  Category: On nature
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The new publishing paradigm

By John Yunker,

If you’re looking for an agent, a publisher, or just trying to make sense of the publishing business, I recommend following Jane Friedman’s blog.

She posted a guest article by the writer John Rember, who recently published with the upstart press Dream of Things. He provides great insights into the publishing model today and why it makes good sense for new writers to consider new publishers.

He writes:

And self-publishing is easier and cheaper than ever. The trouble is, you have to be your own marketing department and quality control. Traditional media won’t normally review self-published books unless you’ve become notorious or you somehow manage to sell a hundred thousand copies. Publishers Weekly does not look favorably upon books that haven’t come from their mainstream clients.

… I went looking for a university press, but then Dream of Things Publishing appeared on the scene, with a business model that is taking advantage of the opportunities left by the ongoing collapse of the old system.

Obviously, I’m biased in favor of us upstart publishers.

And, just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that a writer turn down a six-figure advance with a mainstream publisher in favor of an upstart. I certainly would have taken such a deal if it had been offered to me when my agent was shopping around The Tourist Trail.

But what I am suggesting is that authors who have had difficulty finding an agent or finding a mainstream publisher would be wise to consider submitting to a small press before self-publishing.  Self-publishing isn’t easy, and it can be expensive. You need an editor, designer, and marketer to help you craft and promote a book that would not look out of place in a Barnes & Noble. You also need readers and a way to reach them. If you have a few million Twitter followers, then by all means self-publish. But if you’re like most of us, more focused on writing than building a “platform,” self-publishing may not be the best approach.

A new publishing paradigm is emerging, one in which authors have more opportunities than ever before, which in turn means more decisions to make than ever before. In the old days, you got an agent and you got a publisher and that was pretty much it. Today, it can be more challenging to find an agent and even more challenging to get an offer from a major publisher. But the good news is that there are more options — and these may be better in the long run. If you find a small publisher with a niche focus, you probably won’t get an advance, but you will get a bigger chunk of royalties. Or, if you’ve got money, and/or the ability to write, design, edit, and market your book, you can go straight to Amazon and self-publish the book yourself.

I knew, when I didn’t find a mainstream home for The Tourist Trail, that I wanted to get it out into the world, even if I had to do it myself. And it turned out for the best — in researching the best possible homes for the book, I realized there was a need out there for a press devoted to books about animal protection, wildlife, the environment, and good stories about the people who are out there working hard to save endangered species and the natural world. And so not only did I publish my book but Ashland Creek Press was born.

And we are now taking submissions. If you’ve got a book that fits our mission, we’d love to see it. And if you’re just getting started on your eco-lit novel, memoir, travel guide, keep us in mind when you finish.

  Category: On publishing
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How to add a book excerpt to your web site using Amazon Kindle for the Web

By John Yunker,

Late last year, Amazon unveiled Kindle for the Web, a feature that allows authors and publishers to easily post book excerpts on their web sites.

Here’s what it looks like on my web site (you can click here to see it live):

By pasting a text string supplied by Amazon, I can give visitors a free sample of my book without them having to download anything.

Here’s a brief overview of how I did it:

First of all, you need to have BOTH a physical copy of your book on Amazon as well as a Kindle edition.

Next, look at the Amazon page of your physical book. You should see the following button on the right side of the page:

Click the “Read first chapter FREE” button and you’ll see your Kindle edition of your book. I’ve included an excerpt of my book below:

On the right side of this page is an “Embed” button. Select it and you’ll see this:

All you need to do to is copy and past the text string into a web page.

I had created a “Chapter One” web page that included only a header; below this I pasted the text string. I also adjusted the size so that the book would fit within my established page layout. You can add your Amazon Associate’s tag if you want to get a referral fee for everyone who purchases a book.


Great resources for writers

By Midge Raymond,

One of the most important components in a great story is great dialogue — yet sometimes a writer can only travel so far to do his or her research. Fortunately, the Library of Congress has made available a series of American English Dialect Recordings — and it’s well worth checking out. Funded by the Center for Applied Linguistics and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the recordings feature 118 hours of speech samples, linguistic interviews, oral histories, conversations, and excerpts from public speeches, drawn from archives and private collections.

For a reader/listener, it’s an amazing glimpse into U.S. social and linguistic history — and for a writer, it’s an invaluable way to tune your ear to the nuances of America’s myriad dialects. As the web site states, the project “reveals distinctions in speech related to gender, race, social class, education, age, literacy, ethnic background, and occupational group (including the specialized jargon or vocabulary of various occupations). The oral history interviews are a rich resource on many topics, such as storytelling and family histories; descriptions of holiday celebrations, traditional farming, schools, education, health care, and the uses of traditional medicines; and discussions of race relations, politics, and natural disasters such as floods.” The recordings were made from 1941 to 1984 and include forty-three states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and parts of Canada.

If you’re a writer who has trouble focusing, you should check out WriteRoom software, which promises “distraction free writing.” It aims to eliminate all the extras that come along with Word (such as margins) and provide a space for nothing but letters on a page. (The one distraction, though, is that it seems to encourage you to spend all sorts of time choosing colors and fonts for your “distraction-free” page.) I prefer Omm Writer (the original version) for my own distraction-free writing time. The image below is what my screen looks like:

Online dictionaries and thesauruses are wonderful resources — and if you ever need to go a step beyond the dictionary, visit Wordnik, which provides not only a definition of any word you type in but examples as well, including real-time examples from Twitter. It’s really cool — but be warned that it could be another major time drain as well.

Wishing you happy, distraction-free writing.