Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The book is done!

Hike with Me: Idaho Centennial Trail Sawtooths is finished. The large print softcover is available through CreateSpace and Amazon. The ebook is available from Amazon right now, additional retailers soon.

I use Smashwords for distribution to additional retailers and unfortunately, I stuffed this book so full of beautiful pictures of the Idaho Sawtooths that the file is too large for processing. There's a way to get around the larger file size, I think, so I'm going to give that a try. But for now, it's available, if not as available as it will be. The work is almost done.

I'm happy with the amount of time that it took me to produce this one. It was a longer trip than in previous years, but I think the main reason that I took longer with it was that my attention was split between doing well in Spanish class and writing this book with a good amount of thought and style. The one year that I finished my book relatively early was the same year that I was taking a creative nonfiction writing class. The class itself helped me focus on the work of my book. The Spanish class took away from focusing on the book, simply because it was a very different type of learning.

Every one of my Hike with Me books is better than the last. It's not just that I'm having bigger and better adventures, though that is part of it. It's also practice and experience and the fact that my husband has become less hesitant about giving me critique that can help improve my writing.

I'm excited to put this book out into the world, and I'm excited to move onto my next projects. There's another nonfiction project in the works, and I still have a story to finish from last summer. I'm finally going to do an online writing workshop that I've wanted to do for years and I'm going to keep writing, keep publishing, keep improving and keep enjoying sharing stories.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Almost Book!

Maybe I could have gotten more work done on my book over the break, but I'm satisfied with what I got done. I'm on the last steps now. Proofreading. Final adjustments. I've got all the words written, all the captions set, all the picture plates placed in the text.

And, as if I needed to sneak this other project in while I was fussing around with getting ready to publish my next Hike with Me book, I went ahead and put out a short book. Or a long short story. It's one of the ones I wrote over the summer, and I put some of it on this blog back in August. I'd been meaning to put it up since August, but I somehow never found the time.

I put it off, because, to be honest, I was afraid to put it up.

Afraid it wouldn't sell. Afraid it would sell. Afraid that it wasn't the right kind of story. Afraid that my effort at cover creation was too amateur - although, I kind of wanted it to look a little silly. The cover I ended up with, I hope, conveys the lightness and fun that I think is in the story.

Putting this book up had the additional advantage that it allowed me to test out the KDP paperback creation system. I'd been creating my hiking books through CreateSpace, but I always had to manually contact Amazon to get them to link the paperback and the email. There is an option to publish an ebook through CreateSpace, but it doesn't allow for much reformatting of the text - I'm not going to publish an ebook with a table of contents that has page numbers, thank you very much.

I've tested out the system by creating a paperback for the other story, Kicking the Desk Job, so I can move forward with more confidence in using it for the Hike with Me book. Unless there are issues. I could always go back to CreateSpace for the Hike with Me if I don't like how this small book turns out.

Though the tools seem nearly identical to CreateSpace, just in a different layout. The cover templates leave something to be desired - who, I ask you, creates a template for a 6x9 trim book that is actually less than 3x4 inches? Other than that, so far so good. The paperback will be available soon.

And Hike with Me: Idaho Centennial Trail Sawtooths will be coming right behind it. Soon. This week - if I can keep my proofreader motivated!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Written Draft Complete

The first draft is complete! And I've reviewed some of Ambrose's suggestions. I write 'some,' because after I addressed them, he went back to read the whole thing again, so I'll have one more set of them to work through.

In the meantime, I'm working on selecting the photos that I'll include in the book, and, if he's still working on it after I've selected, then I'll work on captions as well. I've started work on the cover, but I can't get very far on that until I choose the cover photos.

I wish I could use photos of the beautiful lakes I hiked by on day 3, but that day was particularly smoky. I will include some of them in the book, but they aren't clean enough to use for the cover image. I definitely want a nice mountain shot for the front cover, preferably one that shows a nice "Sawtooth" type mountain.

For the back cover, I'm thinking of a shot with water. Perhaps Fern Falls, but the time of day that I passed those meant that those shots weren't lit the way I'd prefer. If I were going to photograph them, I'd want to be there in the late afternoon, with the sun shining on the water and not into my camera lens.

There were more blurry shots than I realized this time. The pressure of hiking long distances in a tight time frame made me a little more careless with the shutter. I sometimes re-took a blurry shot, but more often I didn't - I'm sure it was a good idea at the time, but I do regret being so hasty now.

Well, I do forgive myself for the haste. I remember the pain in my feet. Even in good boots, they got swollen and sore and complained. And they were just the loudest among the complainers of my body. I pushed myself hard on that trip.

I did get a lot of good pictures. It's not going to be easy to winnow them down for the book. I know I can at least eliminate all the blurry ones, but that won't be enough of a bar. I took over 1000 photos! Only one way to do it - I better get to work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Home Stretch

I didn't finish my draft of the solo trip last weekend. Partly because I wasn't feeling well and partly because the temperature outside was so low. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. My computer desk is located next to the window and so is naturally a bit colder than the couch. Although, for some reason, I often get warmer sitting there than sitting on the couch.

Whatever excuse I might give myself, the draft is not yet complete, though I am well into day 5 - the last day. Writing about it still makes me smile. I love looking at the pictures. I go back through my memories and chide my past self for not taking pictures of parts that I now find I wish I had recorded - the nearly invisible trail up to Observation Peak, for example. At the junction where I crossed it, the trail was indistinguishable from a rut, but I didn't take any pictures of it.

I know that I'm going to have to bring a good deal of focus and concentration to my writing this next week. I would very much like to be done, or nearly done, by New Years. It would be best if I could finish before and keep the book in the same year as the trip was done, but I can handle it if that doesn't happen. I'm not the best at resisting procrastination, especially when my husband tempts me away from my work computer with movies and hikes. Perhaps I'll enlist his help in this scheme.

He has recently decided that to help us eat less sweets, all sweets come with penalty laps. I decide how many laps his treats may be bought for and he decides my price. For example, a pastry left over from an office party can be bought for four laps. A small piece of chocolate only costs two laps. So far, it's been an effective deterrent from eating extra sweets. It isn't that the laps run will balance out the calories from the treat, but that the thought of having to do laps prevents us from eating them - sometimes.

So maybe I'll have to do a similar plan for my writing work over the break - something like, one hour at the writing desk equals one movie. And the television viewing would get more expensive as the week went on, forcing me to spend yet more time at the desk - like 2 hours - in order to watch just one 44 minute episode of Deep Space Nine with Ambrose.

I might have something here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

La clase

The Spanish class experiment is over, and I am relieved. It was interesting, but much more stressful than I anticipated. I did learn a more about Spanish grammar than I knew before, but I'm not convinced that my speaking skills improved very much and my listening skills are pretty much exactly where they were before - but I know how to use the subjunctive! If only I could recognize it in conversational speed speech. . .

For a variety of reasons, I will not be taking a class next semester. The main reason is so that I have time to plan and prepare for doing a solo trip in the early spring rather than late summer, but there are others. I've taken a class every full fall and spring semester since I started working at my current job. I consider it to be a bit of a waste not to take advantage of the reduced tuition that is an employee benefit, but I think I've finally reached scholastic burnout.

I want more time to devote to my own interests, more time to spend with my husband without worrying about whether I have assignments due or need to study. Classes take up a lot of brain space for me, and I want to reclaim it, maybe let it lie fallow for a season and see how I feel about more classes next year.

I do want to continue to study the Spanish language and try to gain a level of fluency, but I'm not convinced by this class that taking college courses is the best way to do that. I'm not sure what the best way would be. My husband has recommended watching commercials; he says that a number of immigrants to America that he knew learned English that way. But they were also living in a country where English was spoken.

I've tried watching television in Spanish, but I inevitably lose the train of conversation as soon as I hear a word I don't know. I run into a similar situation with trying to read books in Spanish, even books that I've read in English before. And, because Spanish words sometimes have objects appended to verbs, the Kindle dictionary lookup can't always tell me what the word is because it won't look up the root word, just the whole word. Which is nonsense, according to the included dictionary.

Maybe I need to buy a dictionary that I can use in the Kindle; that way if the highlight word for lookup feature fails me, I can go to the other dictionary and figure it out based on what I know of roots. Or I could just read at the computer with a dictionary open. But that takes much of the enjoyment of reading out of the equation for me.

One thing class did do for me was give me an incentive to focus on learning the language. I'll have to see whether I can keep some form of that focus without the class to prod me to practice.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Book Writing Thoughts

The write up of my solo trip is going along nicely. I should be finished with the initial draft in the next week or so, which works well with my schedule. I'll be completely done with Spanish class as of 12/12, and my office will be shut down between Christmas and New Years, leaving me with plenty of time to work on polishing the draft, formatting the pictures, and laying out the book.

I find once the words are done and ready, the rest of the book comes together more easily. The formatting of the pictures and their captions takes time, but not the same kind of effort that the writing of the main narrative requires. I'm looking forward to doing the pictures because it's work that is creative but also comfortingly repetitive. The pictures need to be formatted to a certain size, occasionally cropped or otherwise manipulated, but these are tasks that I'm used to doing by now. 

Coming up with captions can sometimes be a bit tricky, but it's still not that difficult for me. Especially when I have my husband to bounce ideas off of as I'm working. 

The hardest part about the pictures is going to be selecting which photos to include. I took over 1000 pictures. Even if I take away all the blurry ones, of which there were quite a few because I was in "hike fast" mode, I'll still have a ton of shots that I won't be able to include in the book. 

But that's part of why I leave the pictures for after the writing. Whatever form the narrative takes, I'll be able to find the pictures that illustrate and compliment that. This time, I'm less focused on narrating every step and more focused on telling an interesting story. There are some interesting tidbits that I don't think will be in the text, but I will include them in a picture with a little caption. Almost as if the pictures and their captions will have "extra" story in them, parallel to the narrative. 

I use the pictures while I write. They help remind me of what happened when, and, quite frankly, they make me smile. Until I get to the point of picture choosing and editing, I'll just  have to keep chipping away at the story of each day - and put some caption notes on the pictures as I scroll by. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Reasonable Pace

Before the Thanksgiving break, I was concerned about whether I would finish writing the first draft of my solo trip before the new year. But as I relaxed into the writing, I found that the words came without much prompting, and I feel that I may well finish within the next two weeks - still cutting it close to get a book published before January, but I could get it done.

I think the main reason that it's easy to write about my trip is that it makes me happy. The trip was hard. Hard on my body and hard on my mind. But the memories make me smile, even the memories of the pain and the difficulties. And especially the memories of the incredible views, the solitude of nature and the animals I spotted in passing (no bears!).

Creating these books started as a project to share the trail with my mom, and the rest of my family, who probably don't understand this whole backpacking thing any better than I did before I started it. It seems a little silly to travel with your legs over the course of days what you could travel in a car in an hour or so. But there are no cars allowed where I like to travel, and the world looks different when you travel 1 to 3 miles per hour instead of 30 to 70.

I appreciate the conveniences in my apartment so much more after I've been deprived of hot, running water, toilets, refrigeration, chairs and beds. And as I sit in my apartment, typing up the adventure of that trip, I appreciate what I purchase with the lack of conveniences.

I purchase confidence, accomplishment, breathtaking views, new experiences, challenges and summits, and the feeling of surmounting those.

It's an exchange I'll take. Sometimes I even think about taking it further, haring off to live somewhere less convenient, where the winters bring feet of snow and the summers mean hard work. Maybe someday. For now, I'll remember my summer experiences during the winters. I'll plan my next year's journeys. And I'll keep writing.