Showing posts sorted by relevance for query book. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query book. Sort by date Show all posts
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Book update

It's been a while since I posted an update about my book. I wanted to again thank everyone who has purchased it. I released it in November as a fundraiser for the 2009 ITI, and the royalties have helped me pay for the entry fee, travel expenses, food and new gear. I received my 2008 W2 tax form from Lulu the other day. When I showed it to Geoff, he said, "You earned as much from your book in a tenth of a year as I earned in a tenth of the year, working." I didn't remind him of all of the long summer nights I stayed up until 4 a.m. pounding the thing out. I also didn't remind him that the sum only included the books that sold directly through Lulu, and not the boxes I've moved out of the house. Anyway, it's been a lucrative fundraiser, and I wanted to say thanks again.

I also wanted to thank everyone who e-mailed me in the past month with contacts at bike shops and book stores. I'm sorry if I haven't gotten back to you. I made the mistake of posting a request for contacts before I went to Hawaii, and came home to a flood of e-mails. I just wanted to let you know that I have saved them all and will be sorting through them in hopes of expanding my distribution when I have more time. Right now, the book (and any future projects) have been pushed far on the backburner, and that's OK.

A few readers have been nice enough to post reviews online. You can read them here:

Kent's Bike Blog
An Adventure Called Bicycling
Moronacity (not a book review, but a really cool essay just the same.)
The Accidental Athlete
Danielle Musto

UPDATE: Fat Cyclist (Thanks, Elden! Great timing.)
One Less Car

Finally, I want to apologize for the long delay in getting the signed copies of the book out during January. My trip to Hawaii, the fact that I ran out of a shipment before I expected to, and continued busyness all conspired to delay some purchases for a couple weeks. I should have all of the books out now, and I now have more in stock, so if you ordered my book in the past few weeks and you don't have it in hand by Friday, please contact me. The book is still available for purchase, the money still going into my hemorrhaging Iditarod fund. In a couple of new developments, I now have the eBook listed separately. It costs $8 and is available here. Also, approved "Ghost Trails" for sale, but they don't yet have it in stock. For those dead-set on purchasing it from Amazon (who, I will say, take their fair cut), it will likely be listed here in the near future.

I still receive the highest royalties from those who purchase a signed book directly from me, using the "Buy Now" button in the sidebar. I'll only be able to offer this option for the next two weeks. After Feb. 22 I will be in Anchorage and no longer able to process orders until mid-March.

Right now I am working on my gear list and will probably post it in the next few days. (Having it on record helps me more than anyone.) Stay tuned!
Monday, May 09, 2011

The writing process

In the winter of 2009-2010, I sat down to relive my vivid and often emotional journey surrounding my bike tour from Banff to Mexico during the 2009 Tour Divide. I usually came home from work around 11:30 p.m., fed my cat, made myself a peanut butter sandwich, and sprawled out on my bedroom floor in front of my tiny netbook computer. I often stayed up typing until 3:30 or 4 in the morning, and then I'd get up the next morning at 9 or 10, briefly peek outside into the white and gray morning, close my blinds to shut out the already minimal light trickling in from Alaska's winter sky, and type until I had to go to work at 2. If the morning was slightly more inviting I would go for a bike ride, and on my day(s) off I would occasionally venture outside my weird hermit lifestyle to visit friends. They'd ask me what I'd been doing and I'd shrug. "I've been .... sick." And to be honest, I felt sort of sick. My outdoor adventures and physical exercise had fallen by the wayside. I was one-track steamrolling through that book. Working on it brought a wash of intense memories and it was often the best part of my day. I took this strange and uncharacteristic behavior as a sign that I needed to make a major change in my life.

That's the short story about how my Tour Divide book came to be written. The major change I decided to make was to quit my job in Juneau and move to Anchorage to further pursue this project and perhaps start up another writing project. With the fun part all done, though, I was loathe to deal with the tedious work of analyzing and editing my text. I read a dozen books on the traditional publishing market and set to rework my simple adventure memoir into an elaborate book proposal package, which I modified, personalized and sent to six carefully researched agents. Four got back to me. Two weren't interested. Two requested my manuscript. One said he was intrigued but was unable to take on new clients for at least another six to eight months, and left it up to me to get back to him. Another gave me particularly positive feedback. She seemed very genuinely interested in representing me and asked me to send her my "platform" for further consideration.

Platform? I had a simple story; I didn't have a tell-all celebrity expose or amazing new diet or analysis on the war in Afghanistan, or anything one would normally associate with a focused marketing platform. I had already grown weary of the whole tedious process and applied for a new job in Montana that I was almost certain I was going to land. It had suddenly become a bad time to be mired in a big book promotion blitz. So, grasping at a meager hope that the word had suddenly come to mean something different than what I had studied, I asked her to be more specific. The response was both expected and discouraging. "How will you promote your book? How are you going to reach out to your audience? What networks are you a part of? What speaking engagements can you line up? Do you have resources for a potential book tour? Etc." I had dabbled in self-promotion two years earlier with "Ghost Trails," and was already starting to wonder what traditional publishers even offered beyond editing, printing and a stamp of approval. Since modern digital publishing and networking make editing and printing easy commodities to obtain, I was beginning to resent what seemed like an awful lot of work for a simple stamp of approval. With her assertion that I'd be responsible for essentially all book promotions, even the potential funding of them, the agent confirmed that all of my time and efforts could only achieve that one thing - a stamp of approval from an established publishing company. And not even a guaranteed one. "Screw that," I thought. "I'd rather have a job." I put the Tour Divide book back on the shelf. I never even wrote the agent back. Dropped one ball and burned one bridge. I did not consider it a loss.

The book industry ... ugh. I was glad to leave that dream behind. I did not want to be a professional author for the same reasons I would never want to be a professional cyclist (even if I had the talent to do so.) Writing and riding are things I do because they're fun, they're fulfilling, they're challenging, and because they soothe my mind, nudge me out of my comfort zone, and ultimately reward me with a solid sense of well-being. Trying to leverage activities that bring personal joy and fulfillment for profit brings up too many unsavory (if necessary) duties. When I left Anchorage for my new job in Montana, I decided that even if things hadn't turned out they way they did, I would rather work a blue-collar drudgery job and write and ride for fun than write for a living. In December, I had my book edited and gave more serious consideration to publishing, but I really had too much going on to deal with it.

But then life continued to happen, and despite my efforts to renew my convictions, the dream continued to smolder. When I came to California, I decided it would be fun to try to write again, even if just for a while. I could always get that random job later. So I sat down again. I tried to close the blinds against the warm California sun that threatened to lure me outside. I took a few article assignments, received a few small paychecks, generated a few intriguing project ideas. But I couldn't focus on anything. I certainly couldn't write. That Tour Divide book was still looming on the shelf, like a discarded gift box begging to be reopened. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I had no choice but to move that project forward.

(to be continued. I'm actually at the Seattle airport awaiting a flight to Calgary that's just about to board. I'm headed back to Banff for a week of mountains, snow-lined scenic highways, and mountain biking on the Maah Dah Hey Trail in North Dakota. As with most things I do, this blog post is running longer than intended. But I'll write more on this soon. All photos in this post are from runs with Beat and friends on Mission Peak and Black Mountain this past weekend.)
Thursday, May 26, 2011

The publishing process

While I was living in Anchorage, I dedicated a fair amount of time to shopping my Tour Divide book around in the traditional publishing industry. During my conversations with agents and queries to publishers, I learned a bit about the book industry — namely, that it was not only more difficult and more unstable, but also less profitable than the newspaper industry. An agent who tended to take on "niche" projects such as mine told me her clients were lucky to see advances of $5,000. Plus, royalties and press runs were small enough that few authors even earned out their advances — meaning that $5,000 was all they were ever going to see. And this all came after months if not years of securing a publisher, revisions, marketing, etc. This agent was just trying to be realistic, but it was discouraging. I had worked hard just to capture her attention, only to reach a point where I learned even success in the book business wasn't really that successful.

Just before I moved to Montana to return to the publishing business at Adventure Cyclist magazine, I had dinner with a friend where I lamented the bleak prospects for my current book and unwritten future books. I related the hours I had spent working on the project, and how my time spent riding my bicycle around central Alaska and hiking the Chugach Mountains was ultimately more fulfilling and productive. I told him about the school paper I penned when I was 6 years old about "Where I'll Be in the Year 2000" and how I was one of those unfortunate children whose ambition was "to be a writer and write books."

"But, geez, I made more than $5,000 in the first year of Ghost Trails," I sighed.

He just looked at me quizzically. "Then why don't you do that again?"

Independent and digital publishing. Many industry insiders say that's the future. Similar to the sputtering newspaper business, they don't like that it's the future, but they acknowledge it's the direction the industry is headed. As more bookstores shutter their doors and more publishers shed mid-list and niche authors to focus on only those with enough popularity to sell millions, independent publishing will be there to fill in the gaps. I've long believed that outdoor literature has a potential that hasn't yet been fully realized. For the handful of bestsellers like Jon Krakauer who are currently capitalizing on literary nonfiction about outdoor endeavors, there are probably hundreds of talented athletes and explorers embarking on quiet adventures. If even just a fraction of these took the time to sit down and write a book, the world would have some pretty great books.

But would these books ever find a home? In this regard, I don't feel as optimistic. It's no longer enough for a book to be well-written and contain an intriguing story. These days, publishers want books that will stand on their own in the mass market, which is dominated by people who would rather read a tell-all by Levi Johnston than Hemingway. Good outdoor literary nonfiction will always find readers, but possibly not enough to survive in this industry.

Enter this idea I had, about an independent publishing group. A place where outdoor, nature and adventure authors can reach out to a like-minded audience. Perhaps it won't be millions, but it will be comprised of dedicated readers who truly appreciate this kind of work. And the best part is, in this brave new world of indie books, there's a strong potential for writers to actually be financially rewarded for their time — unlike legacy publishing, which is a game of craps at best. I'm calling the project Arctic Glass Press. I'm only starting to get it off the ground, but I already have interest from a couple of authors — Adam Lisonbee, who recently wrote a series of essays about outdoor stoke and the four seasons, and Eric Bruntjen, who compiled two volumes of art and essays by people who have raced the Great Divide. I appreciate these guys getting on board, and hope that in the near future, Arctic Glass Press will become a great source for off-the-beaten-path armchair adventures.

I've also decided to finally release my second book so I can get on with writing my third and fourth book, and so on. The possibilities really are endless. I'm excited. My latest book, about my adventure leading up to and during the 2009 Tour Divide, is called "Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide." I'm hoping to have paperback copies ready to distribute by the second week of June (yes, in time for the start of this year's Tour Divide.) I'll write more about this in an upcoming post, but I've already received good feedback about the few copies I've distributed so far, including an insightful review from my friend, Dave.

This blog post is also a call to other outdoor-adventure-writer types. Anyone who has a book sitting on their hard drive or swirling around in their head. As an independent but full-service publisher, Arctic Glass Press can help you finish and polish your project, and release it to the world. Contact me at and I'll send you more information about getting involved with the project.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book roundup

Summer Reading: Photo by Kris Molendyke, shamelessly lifted from Google+

I created a roundup of links of reviews for "Be Brave, Be Strong," mostly because I wanted to have them all in one place and a reference I can link in my sidebar. Sales were good in June and July and dropped off quite a bit in August, which I expected to happen once the "new release" wave leveled off. What's surprised me is that "Ghost Trails" sales have picked up quite a bit and the older book is now selling at nearly the level of the new book, thanks to Kindle sales. That at least has been a affirmation of so many indie authors' mantras that books are worthy projects because books are forever a source of income. The two together are at least keeping me in gas and groceries as I wrap up a few magazine articles and freelance newspaper columns that won't result in payments until months down the road.

Amid the few freelance assignments I've picked up, I have been working on a third book project. Several, actually. And I admit I've hit walls with my nonfiction projects. One needs a lot more research, and the other just isn't quite resonating with me right now. On the encouragement of a couple of online writer groups that I browse, I've very recently started dabbling in fiction. I don't have high ambitions that this will result in anything great. Honestly, fiction isn't really my thing but conceptualizing a narrative that takes place completely in my imagination has been fun. I have an idea for an adventure story set in Southeast Alaska, and visualizing the landscape has been a rewarding escape on these warm August days.

I really enjoy what I've been spending my days trying to do, but it's been challenging. Anyone who believes that freelance writing is a self-indulgent hobby of a lifestyle has never actually tried to convince people to pay them for words. I love words but even I have a hard time believing that words have the kind of worth that can be traded for gas and groceries and bicycles. So I agonize about how to convince others that they are, including you, the readers of this blog, who I am currently trying to talk into buying my books. I promise I won't start "spamming" my own blog on a regular basis, but if my Diet Pepsi fund runs particularly low, I may continue to try.

So for now, the links:

Cycling Utah published an excerpt of "Be Brave, Be Strong" in its August 2011 issue — to my surprise, the entire Great Divide Basin chapter. That's a lot of words. But I'm always happy to contribute to my first-ever freelance writing gig. I've been an occasional contributor to Cycling Utah since they "paid" me to ride the Salt Lake Century way back in 2004. The excerpt begins on page 30.

Reviews from cyclists and friends:
Bill Martin, Montana endurance mountain bike racer
Dave Chenault, 2011 Alaska Wilderness Classic finisher
Kent Peterson, 2005 Great Divide Race singlespeed finisher
Danni Coffman, super awesome chick in Montana
Jim Speakman, cyclist in Scotland

Reviews from book reviewers and readers:
Flying With Red Haircrow
Tara Chevrestt, "Book Babe"
Amazon reviews
Goodreads reviews
Smashwords reviews
Librarything reviews

Where you can buy the paperback book:
Signed copies direct from me for $15
Signed copies of both "Be Brave" and "Ghost Trails" for  $25.95
From Amazon, on sale for $12.20
From Barnes and Noble, also $12.20

Where you can buy the eBook:
For Amazon Kindle, $8.95
For Barnes and Noble Nook, $8.95
For iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, $8.95
For other e-Readers, $6.71 (files can work for all eReaders; use coupon code XF85Q to get 25% off)
PDF eBook that can be viewed on any computer, $7.16

Finally, if you're interested in previewing the book, Goodreads is offering a free preview of the first 12 chapters. That's about half of the book. My hope is that if you make it that far in, you'll want to read the rest. That preview is located here.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Buy my book?

It just occurred to me today that it's the first week of December. Only 22 more shopping days until Christmas! I wanted to take advantage of the holidays to order more copies of my book about the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational and market it again, but I never got around to it. I placed a big order today and I'm hoping I still have a chance.

To be honest, I could use the "author boost." I have been at work on a second book, a sequel to "Ghost Trails," if you will, about 2009. I feel satisfied with how it's going so far, but the going has been slow. I've been at work on it, on and off, since September, and I'm barely through Chapter 4. Still, I'm happy with the way detail and depth is progressing in my writing, but I'm having a harder time separating myself from the events and emotions I'm writing about, which is crucial. So I come to a hard place and I go away from it for a while, sometimes weeks, and find I always return with renewed perspective. What will happen when and if I finish this book, I'm not sure. Maybe another self-published blog marketing project, maybe the traditional publishing route, or maybe I'll put it in a drawer. We'll see.

Until then, if you like this blog and haven't read the book, now would be a good time to buy it. I wrote "Ghost Trails" about my adventure in the 2008 ITI (the year I didn't get frostbite and finished), as well as the different events in my life that brought me to the starting line. What I set out to communicate in "Ghost Trails" is that you don't have to be an amazing person to accomplish amazing, life-changing things. You just need determination, and childlike awe, and love. It's intended to be an inspirational story, about struggling and achieving joy amid tough physical and mental conditions. It's an adventure story about winter in Alaska.

And now ... it's on sale! I was able to get a good deal through my publisher and can sell it for $11.95, which is $4 off the list price. Shipping is $4.80 extra in the states and $10 internationally. Buying more than one does not increasing the cost of shipping, unless you buy more than three, in which shipping increases to $10 for orders of three to ten books. It would make a good Christmas gift for people who like cycling, adventure stories or Alaska. I should disclose that it does not contain any color pictures. There are a few black and white pictures for the purpose of illustration, but it is far from a photo book. It's a story. A good one, really. I've received a lot of positive feedback in the past year.

The first chapter of the book can be read at this link. If you're interested in purchasing a book and you live in Juneau, contact me directly. I won't charge any shipping and can personally deliver to anywhere in town. Because of lead time, this book will probably arrive fairly close to Christmas - as in after Dec. 20. Keep that in mind when ordering. I'm going to do everything I can to have it delivered by Dec. 25. If you would like me to send it directly to another address than the one you're ordering from, just indicate that in the notes.

Purchase a signed copy(ies) for $11.95 by clicking on the button below. Thanks for supporting this well-fed author. Happy holidays!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Becoming Frozen

Today (August 17) my latest book was released. "Becoming Frozen" is my own story about falling in love with Alaska, after a rash decision to follow my then-boyfriend to the North completely changed the trajectory of my life.

The release coincides with the tenth anniversary of that decision, which was set in motion during the week of my 26th birthday. Coincidentally, I was camping in the Wind Rivers in Wyoming when I had my fateful "why not?" moment, and I hadn't been back those mountains since, until last week. It's funny how life continues turning in circles.

This book is one of the accumulating projects that I finally just had to push out the door. I don't blog much about my book projects, which are part of the day-to-day work I do. (People often wonder what I "do." I'm a freelance copy editor, if you weigh my career by the bulk of my paid contracts. Secondarily I'm an author, and book sales bring in my next largest chunk of income. Then I'm a journalist who contributes to newspapers and magazines. Last, I'm a blogger. Thank you for your clicks.)

Books, however, remain my ambition. I had some encouraging success with "Be Brave, Be Strong," and initially felt confidence that I could bulk up my fish wheel with frequent releases and modest sales, similar to other independent authors I admire. It hasn't quite worked out that way, mainly because I find book writing to be frustratingly difficult. Blogs are a breeze. But books ... they tend to take on a personality of their own that isn't always agreeable. I struggled with "Becoming Frozen." I'll admit that right here. It will be interesting to watch how it's received.

Books are also a challenging market. I saw all this potential with the rise of independent publishing, and it has worked out for me to some extent. I've sold more than 20,000 copies of a book that an agent told me she "loved, but there's no market. Nobody reads books about bicycling." I have three other books that have had reasonable sales. Still, it's difficult to convince people to part with their money for what amounts to low-tech entertainment. So much highly entertaining content is available for free. Even I am guilty of buying and reading only a dozen or so new books per year, and spend many more hours reading newspapers, online magazines, and blogs. I think that's what I struggle with the most in my for-profit projects. Why should/would anyone pay for this?

I've also ventured back into the traditional publishing game to pursue a project about Ann Trason. I've already found a couple of interested publishers, but each has a specific idea of what that book should be. Meanwhile, both my and Ann's ideas about the book continue to shift, and I feel like I'm approaching an impasse. In all honesty, I have no personal interest in traditional publishing. The validation of it does nothing for me, the numbers I've yet seen are not inspiring, and the micromanagement is exasperating. And yet for projects like this one, and others I have in mind, it's really they only way to go.

What's funny about writing is, I don't really believe people should pay me for this. I enjoy writing as much if not more than cycling, and I don't expect to receive payment for the cycling I do. But I do need income, to at least a small extent. Also, Beat is waiting for me to create a million-dollar bestseller so we can retire and move back to Alaska. I tell him I'm way too out of touch to formulate such successful content. I write about what I love. It's pretty esoteric. I'm okay with that. It can still fund groceries.

So with all that, I'm introducing "Becoming Frozen." This book is about the year I lived in Homer, Alaska, and has elements of the typical cheechako tale. A series of random events led to my discovery of endurance racing, and there are also tales of my often humorous "couch-to-100-mile-snow-bike-race" training efforts. For each chapter, I took an excerpt from an original blog post and expanded on it. It was funny to read through all the old entries of a blog I still update and think, "Ah, so young." It also had me wondering what became of readers from the days of yore. If you still check in here and remember commenting on "Up in Alaska" back in 2005 or 2006, I'd love to send you a free digital copy of "Becoming Frozen." E-mail me at jillhomer (at) gmail with your old Blogger (or Typepress, or whatever) handle, and whether you prefer a PDF or eBook file. You'd make my day. (Juancho? Doug? Are you still out there?)

For everyone else, your support is greatly appreciated. I plan to offer signed copies, but I've nearly sold out of what I'll have available before early October. I'll post that link then, but for now you can purchase an eBook (with a free app the file can be read on any device) or paperback at Amazon.

Thank you to Tonya Simpson for editing, and David Shaw at Wild Imagination Photography for the cover photo.

And thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

This and that

I try to avoid bullet-point blog updates, but right now life is tugging from several directions. I have been making progress on writing projects, just as my 2011 tax forms have started to trickle in from the publishing world at large. The numbers are more encouraging than discouraging, and I'm trying to leverage that into motivation to increase my production, send out more queries, and try not to derail my progress with thoughts such as, "I could really benefit from spending the whole day reading articles about eBook formatting" or, "I wrote this bullet point blog post today, and that was almost like being productive." No ... no it wasn't.

• Publishing. Both of my books have been enjoying decent sales for the past few weeks. It has been interesting following the trends in online book sales. It seems bike bloggers now regularly land spots in the list of Amazon's top twenty best sellers in cycling.  There are still many bike books I have yet to read (my Kindle is choked with unread books right now), but one I have been browsing with much amusement is Elden "Fatty" Nelson's "Comedian Mastermind." It helped that I received a paperback copy (does anyone else suffer from Kindle guilt? It's like looking at a stack of overdue library books every day.) Elden even personalized the book with the inscription, "For Jill, who routinely does what I never would even consider. Ride on!" I wasn't sure if this was a compliment or a veiled insult, but the "Ride On" sweetened the sting enough to continue reading.

I have been a regular reader of Fat Cyclist's blog since 2005. He lives about ten miles from the town where I grew up, and I rode with him several times during the spring of 2009, while I was staying in Utah and training for Tour Divide. So I feel like I know the guy; of course, many of the thousands of Fat Cyclist readers probably feel the same way I do. Fatty comes across as personable and friendly, the kind of guy you would like to ride with on a Saturday afternoon. He's also a prolific writer who can be poignant and funny at the same time. "Comedian Mastermind" covers the best of his blog from 2005-2007, printed with introductions and footnotes so you feel, as the back-cover-blurb describes, like Fatty is "standing behind you, reading over your shoulder, and telling you what he was thinking while he wrote and why he wrote it, all while eating a sizable sandwich." It actually does read like a personalized collection — as though Elden compiled this book specifically for me, the girl who regularly does things he never would, so I can laugh along with his self-inflicted misery, two-wheeled triumphs, and keen observations about cycling's often absurd culture.

Of course I'm going to like the book, as a long-time fan. I also tried to look at it as an objective reader, someone who's never heard of Fat Cyclist's blog. Although there's a peppering of inside jokes, thanks to Fatty's informal writing style, you don't have to be a regular reader to get it. For the non-fan, it's a compilation of humorous cycling essays and epic ride stories. For the Fat Cyclist fan, it's a nicely organized digest that's enjoyable to revisit. And if you're like me and enjoy uploading light and short reads on your Kindle for easy consumption at airports and other places of wait, this is a great book for that. Recommended read. (On sale here.)

• Readers. Thanks to the recent post-holiday increase in book sales, I have been hearing from more readers recently. I received an e-mail from a man who is headed to UTMB this August, who told me that he was enjoying the book to the extent that "as a non-bike-rider, the (Tour Divide) is now on my very long term bucket list." Other readers have told me the book inspired them to ride more or plan a bikepacking trip. Next week I will likely join some kind of live chat to answer questions for the Women's Adventure Magazine book club, which is currently discussing "Be Brave, Be Strong." I wanted to say thank you to those who reached out to me (although I suspect many of them are not readers of my blog.) It's definitely motivated me to keep writing.

• Training. I think my taper is going well. I am actually tapering, which means I have noticeably reduced the amount of time I spend exercising each day. This has also proved to be problematic, because if I'm "only" going to run for an hour, I want to make it count. Not because I believe "making it count" will help me next week, but because running hard feels so good and if I only do it for an hour, it won't even hurt. Issues arise because I never did any speed work in training, so running hard inevitably leads to much soreness the following day. This is hardly confidence-inspiring for my hundred-mile snow slog in just over a week. But I try not to think too hard about what six-mile aches implicate for something seventeen times as long.

UTMB. The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc sent out a news release full of interesting statistics. It appears 10,000 people put in for the lottery for the 2012 race. The 2,000 entrants represent 75 nationalities. It didn't specifically say what percentage of participants are from the United States, but it seems only 8 percent of entrants are women. This surprised me; I expected to see something closer to 20 or even 30 percent. This low number makes me want to finish this race even more, and I do plan to work for it this summer. I envision lots of long, steep hikes in the mountains. Yes, it's a tough life, but someone has to do it. We are the eight percent.

• Awesome women. I wanted to congratulate Eszter Horanyi for scorching the course in 2012 Arrowhead 135, setting a new women's bike record at 18 hours and 18 minutes. I've only met Eszter briefly, at last November's 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, but I do read her blog and regard her as a kindred spirit of sorts — possibly what I would be like, if I was fast.

• The Susitna 100. I can't wait for February 18, which has now officially reached the ten-day weather forecast. Right now, the weather looks good, but I am feeling optimistic regardless of what the weather does. Even if it's 35 degrees and raining, I will put on my Juneau Super Suit and snowshoes and slog this thing out. I am genuinely excited about it. My friend Danni and I have been discussing food and strategy. I will probably make a Su100 gear post in the next week.

• Bulleted blog posts. I'll try to avoid them in the future, I promise.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Adventures in publishing

Photos of people reading my books in relaxing settings keep popping up on the Web. I admit I love it. This one is from Andrew Welch.

Just as I was mulling whether or not I should take more of a break in my running routine, I came down with what appears to be a mild stomach flu. It's crept up on me over the last three days of little food and less energy. On Monday I attempted one cramp-plagued run that included a mad dash to an outhouse. I haven't run again since. I think August is not a good month for me. I am glad it's over.

During my down time, I've been browsing the blogs of other authors who have shared their self-publishing stories. I thought I'd share my own story to provide another insight beyond the "How I Sold A Million eBooks" hype, but that I feel has been successful nonetheless. I also hope to entice other aspiring authors to join me at Arctic Glass Press. If you have any interest in independent publishing, please send me an e-mail at and I'll explain more in detail my ideas for an indie author cooperative.

I fell into indie publishing by accident in November 2008. I spent the summer typing up the "long version" of my 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational experience, woven together with the back-story of how I found myself in such a strange situation. I didn't write it with publication in mind, but by August I had a piece of writing I was excited about and wanted to share with others. I mulled how I could go about posting an 80,000-word story on my blog when I had a better idea: I should just publish a book, and maybe my blog readers will buy it to help me fund my 2009 Iditarod attempt.

I researched a few options and put together "Ghost Trails," then publicly released it on November 13, 2008. At the time, I was extremely shy about my project and hadn't even told my then-boyfriend that I planned to release a book. I was so uncertain about it that I convinced myself I had no choice but to cut the rope and hope for the best. So it came as a surprise to everyone. I made plenty of rookie mistakes in the execution and the book went through several drafts after that official release. But overall, I had a good experience with my first foray into self-publishing, in a time that is now considered the cusp of when self-publishing moved from its "vanity" stigma to the more widely accepted entrepreneurial endeavor that it is today. It's impossible to know how many copies of "Ghost Trails" I've sold. I didn't keep track of any of the books I sold from home, which number in the hundreds, and I didn't track sales when I first put the book on Amazon Kindle, thinking no one actually read eBooks. (ha!) But based on what I can track, I figure I sold roughly 2,000 copies of "Ghost Trails" from November 2008 to May 2011.

Fast forward to April 2010, when I had another book I felt was worthy of readers and wanted to look into the traditional publishing route. I worked a considerable number of hours during the months of April and May 2010 crafting a book proposal, writing query letters to agents, fielding calls, and trying to polish my manuscript. Feedback was just positive enough to keep me trying, but I never received any hard offers from agents or publishers. Most eventually fed me what appears to be a common response to authors, all along the lines of "I read your proposal and enjoyed your sample chapters, but your book doesn't fit my market right now." Reading between the lines, I gathered my book was too niche (basically, bikey) to attract a large enough audience to justify publication.

I completed a few freelance projects, but mostly I just lived off my savings during those months despite the fact I felt I was putting in a decent amount of actual work time. I figured I might as well just pay myself to travel around Alaska and ride my bike for a living, which was more fun than contacting publishers and had about the same odds of future financial success. I did this for a month in May and June, and then I got a real job at a magazine in Missoula, Montana.

When I moved to California in March 2011, I decided I wanted to pursue a career more focused on writing and didn't want to waste any more time with the book that had been hanging over my head for a year. I decided to venture down the self-publishing route again, and found the waters to be much friendlier than they were three years ago. For starters, there is a huge network of indie publishers out there these days, offering support and advice. Their sales are starting to match the numbers achieved by professional publishing houses. I don't feel shy about this anymore. I realize that I can create a good product, and I can sell it, without help from the "gatekeepers." I genuinely believe that traditional publishing is not a viable option for me. I wouldn't turn down any opportunity that had more potential than my current efforts, but at the same time, I'm not sure the publishing industry could offer me a better deal, at least not if I continue to write the kind of books I want to write.

My efforts, in my view, have been successful. While crunching my end-of-month numbers the other day, I determined I've sold about 800 copies of "Be Brave, Be Strong" and 300 copies of "Ghost Trails" since the initial release of my second book on June 15, paperback and eBook sales combined. Add to this my magazine and newspaper freelance projects, and it has not been a wholly useless summer. I'd go so far as to say that I'm almost making a living as a writer. Not enough to live un-subsidized in the San Francisco Bay area, no doubt, but if I went back to the frugal life I led when I lived in a small room in Juneau, I'd be set.

I feel that the best thing I can do right now is continue to pursue new projects, and also work to advance my publishing effort. Right now I'm conversing with two authors who are interested in working with me. I'm also consistently tapping away at a new project I'm really excited about. It surpassed 25,000 words today. I'll expound on my book project soon; that is, if I'm still too sick and injured to bike or run. Stay tuned.
Thursday, November 13, 2008

Iditarod fundraiser

It's a book! I made it! Available here!

OK, so, the book. This started in June when an Alaskan author named Seth Kantner (one of my heroes, but that's the subject of another post) came to Juneau to promote his latest book, "Shopping for Porcupine." That also happened to be the same day my parents flew into town to visit me. I dragged them almost directly from the airport to the bookstore to attend Kantner's signing and slideshow. As he flipped through photos of his hard life in the frozen wastelands of the Arctic, I kept glancing over at my mom and dad, expecting to see perplexed looks on their faces. But, like me, they seemed enthralled. I decided two things that evening: I needed to go back to the Iditarod Trail - if not in 2009, then someday. And I needed to get my 2008 experience on paper - not just the quick first impressions of the blog, but everything I could remember.

Before that night, I had already been working on essays of other past adventures, some of which I consider turning points in my life. When I started working on the Iditarod story, I noticed a lot of similar themes that cropped up in some of my old stories. The complimentary details seemed worth drawing together. I moved toward fusing the two projects - like parallel journeys at different points in time. The result is this book: My personal story of the Iditarod Trail and the far-reaching trails that led to it.

I finished it in September and didn't really feel compelled to add much to it. But I wasn't sure what to do with it. There was a sense that maybe it was worthy of publication, but I know myself well and I knew I was just going to bury it in a computer folder and forget about it as I avoided all of the work of trying to get a piece of creative nonfiction published. Years would go by and eventually the computer's hard drive would fizzle out and that would be that.

As I mulled just posting it on a blog (not this one, because this blog is already really long without the addition a 75,000-word post), I came across the idea of self publishing. I have lots of mixed feelings about self publishing, as I'm sure lots of authors do. But I put it together as a book and needled a little covert copy editing out of a friend and was fairly happy with the result.

All was uploaded and done about two weeks ago, but I've been hesitating because I wasn't sure this was what I really wanted to do. But now I don't just want to think about it anymore. This is how all of my best decisions are made. :-)

If you click on this link, you can purchase the book and help support my next big winter racing effort. By buying my book, you get a stack of new and interesting "Up in Alaska" material that you can read in bed, and I get a small royalty that I can put into my new-coat-and-peanut- butter-cup fund. The link will take you directly to the publisher's marketplace site. I understand shipping may be a little high, especially if you don't live in the United States. If that's the case, I am trying to get this listed on, but it will take several weeks at least. You can also download the PDF.

Finally, some of my friends and people I've met are depicted in this book (first-names only in most cases.) I worked really hard to depict the events as accurately as I could, but in the end, I'm relying almost entirely on my own memory. So I apologize in advance if you feel misrepresented in any way.

Also, if you come to this blog solely for the pictures, I am also thinking about putting together a fundraising calendar. And if you come to this site solely to compare your bicycle punishment to mine, don't worry, I'm still training hard and will be back to typing about that soon enough. :-)
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cool! I'm in a book!

An interesting thing arrived in the mail today: "The Bicycle Book: Wit, Wisdom & Wanderings," recently released by Jim Joyce of the Bike Exchange Web site. It's a whole book dedicated to bicycle essays and cartoons, written by various people who contributed to the Web site over the years. One of those essays happens to be mine.

It's been a trip back in time reading it again, because I always write so autobiographically. This is an essay I wrote in early 2004 - nearly four years ago - when I lived in a $300-a-month studio apartment in Tooele, Utah - an apartment that didn't even have a working refrigerator - and I spent my days dreaming about ways to support myself by becoming a freelance writer/graphic designer. I also spent my days riding over and around the Oquirrh Mountains on my first road bike, because my Trek 6500 was out of commission and wasn't very interested in mountain bikes at the time anyway. The essay starts out, "I have always thought of myself as a cycle 'tourist,' someone who uses a bicycle as a means of travel, escape and relaxation."

There's nothing in the essay about snow, or Alaska, or the virtues of fat tires. It's funny to realize how much I've changed since my early incarnations as a cyclist ... and also how much I've stayed the same. Because even though I don't travel much any more, and even though I can only escape as far as 40.4 miles from my home, and even though I can't even remember what relaxing on a bicycle is like, I still remain a "tourist." It's just that, as a tourist, I see the world very differently now.

Anyway, it was fun to see it published after all these years. I chopped off the whole introduction and posted it on my blog more than a year ago - "Of Dogs and Cyclists" - mostly because I liked the tone and thought I'd never see print. It's one of the few scrapes at subtle humor I've ever attempted (I really can't write humor. It's truly a shame.) Now it's in a book. Cool!

I read through quite a bit of the rest of the book at the gym today. It's a light read and a lot of fun. It's peppered with cartoons, a few of which made me laugh out loud. I already signed my life away to appear in this book and don't monetarily benefit from its sales, but I still recommend it as a worthwhile purchase. With Christmas approaching and stockings waiting for quirky little gifts, this book would make a good present for all of the cyclists on your list. We cyclists aren't too picky. We like just about anything and everything about bicycles, and this book definitely fits that description. You can order it here.
Thursday, June 09, 2011

100-mile stare

I still vividly remember the first time I interacted with a runner in the midst of a 100-mile trail run. It was July 2007, on a rock-strewn trail just below Resurrection Pass on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. My ex, Geoff, was running the 50-mile version of the Resurrection Pass 100. I borrowed a mountain bike from a friend and planned to shadow Geoff's trail and cheer him on when I passed. Of course, I made the mistake of leaving about a 45 miles after the race started, so of course I never caught up to him (this is before I realized that I on a mountain bike had no chance of moving faster than Geoff Roes on foot, even in a self-supported 50-mile run.) It rained buckets all day long, until the muddy, rocky singletrack wore the borrowed bike's rim brakes to metal and I had to walk most of the descents. I was walking my bike down one of the last steep sections of trail when I passed a woman bathed in chocolate-colored mud and walking with a pronounced limp.

The organizers of the unofficial race started the 100-miler at about 3 p.m. the afternoon before in an effort to wrap up the 100-mile and 50-mile race at about the same time. This woman had been racing for nearly 24 hours and still had about 16 or 17 more miles to go. She wasn't moving much faster than 3 mph, maybe 2, downhill, and her stilted body language spoke to an intense difficulty in each step. At the time, that kind of effort was nearly impossible for me to comprehend.

The Resurrection Pass 100 had only two aid stations, one at mile 44 and another at 88. The cruelest part of the 88-mile checkpoint was that it was also the finish. Racers had to leave from that checkpoint and run another six miles uphill on a steep gravel road, and then turn around to wrap up the 100. More than a few competitors, unable to face the psychological Everest of the spur, have called it quits at mile 88. I would even meet another woman a couple more miles down the trail who swore it was her plan to do exactly that. I just assumed that was the fate that awaited this obviously suffering runner.

"Wow, this is a full-on mud trap," I said as I passed, trying to inject just a bit of humor into the situation since I was walking a mountain bike downhill and we were both caked in grime. And even though I already knew the answer, I asked, "Are you in the 50-mile race or the 100?"

"The 100," she said in a raspy voice.

"How are you feeling?"

"My calves are shot," she replied. "Feet are painful. I'm wiping out a lot."

My brakes are shot," I said. "I'll probably have to walk most of the way back to Hope."

She looked at me with this bloodshot, memorably intense look of determination in her eyes. "Rather be you than me," she said. "But I'm going to finish this. Even if it takes me all night."

I nodded. "Great race. Good luck."

"Good luck," she replied.

I never did learn whether or not the woman finished the race. But I believe she did, and even though I never learned her name, she lingers in my memory as the kind of "hard woman" that I admire and seek to emulate. I still think of the look in her eyes when I encounter moments of weakness and pain, and it really has made a difference in my outlook over the years.

I've since had a few of my own "100-mile-stare" experiences, both on the outside and inside-looking-in. Few "single-day" endurance efforts fascinate me more than a 100-mile run. I'm really looking forward to traveling to San Diego this weekend, meeting some of the 150 runners signed up for this endeavor, and shadowing the race myself as a pacer. Despite recent injuries, my friend Martina has decided to start the race after all. The original plan was for me to pace her, and I still hope to do so if she pushes beyond mile 50. Whereas for Beat the SD100 is almost a longer "training run," it's a truly unique experience for Martina, and pacing her — if the opportunity arises — may just provide a wholly new education in determination.

The Tour Divide also starts this weekend, Friday morning to be exact. I won't really have a chance to follow the progress of the race at all until Monday, but it will be interesting to see where the starting field of 70 southbound and 15 northbound riders are strung along the course three days into the race. It's a unique year because of flooding and record snowpack in the Rockies. Significant sections of the course have been rerouted, but the riders are still likely to encounter plenty of swollen streams and snow fields. And despite the re-route, there's still a good chance my overall women's course record will fall this year. Cricket Butler, now a two-time veteran of the Tour Divide, delayed her start to June 30 and as far as I understand it, plans to ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in its entirety. Cricket beat me handily in every single stage of TransRockies last summer, so I know she's a better mountain biker than me. I'll be cheering her on especially starting June 30, but I wish all of riders the best of luck and an amazing experience.

I'm just wrapping up the final proof on my own Tour Divide story and hope to have the paperback ready to distribute by next week. I've received some interesting feedback from readers so far, several of whom either know me personally or are directly involved with Tour Divide racing. To make a sweeping generalization, the women I've heard from have been almost overwhelmingly positive, while men seem to have a more reserved viewpoint on the book, using terms such as "brutally honest" and sometimes an outright "too personal." This book is quite personal, and I admit probably more than a little uncomfortable at times. It's a book about coping with what emotionally amounted to a divorce as much as it's a book about racing a mountain bike 2,700 miles.

In the name of full disclosure, I probably should have titled the book "How to Ride the Tour Divide When You're Kind of an Emotional Wreck." After I wrote up the first draft, I went through a range of outlooks about this book, from deciding I would never publish it to trying to re-write the entire thing so I could gloss over the personal stuff. In the end, I decided it was important to my integrity as an artist to maintain a raw kind of honesty, because ultimately that was the truth of the experience. The 2009 Tour Divide happened during an unsettled and upsetting chapter in my life, and my reactions, and the way I interacted with others — including my ex-boyfriend and fellow racers — weren't always admirable or fair. I've since adjusted my outlook and have an amicable relationship with Geoff — in fact, I'm really, really excited for this year's Western States 100 — but the period of time I captured in my book is, amid scenes of overwhelming beauty, sometimes ugly.

So there you have it. I hope you'll still read the book and share your honest opinions with me. Writing, just like endurance racing, is an endless learning process.

Also, for kicks, I recently distributed a few "lender" copies at a bibliophile Web site called LibraryThing to get reactions from readers who had never heard of the Tour Divide and probably had little interest in endurance racing. So far I've already received a few short reviews. You can read them here.

If you want to read along during the Tour Divide but don't have an e-Reader, you can purchase a PDF of the book that will work on any computer with Adobe Reader or other PDF viewer program at a 20-percent discount — $7.16 — for the duration of the race at this link. You can click on the "preview" link below the book cover to preview the first 20 pages. Signed paperbacks will be available for $15.95 plus shipping within the next week or two.
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book giveaway

I've mostly stayed off my feet this week in a pre-emptive — though hopefully unnecessary —hurty-foot recovery plan to avoid plantar fasciitis. Instead, I completed three solid bike rides, one mountain and two road, all in the 25-to-30-mile, 3,500-feet-of-climbing range. Where I live, at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, there a few appealing routes that don't involve at least 3,000 feet of gain. I can either grunt up to elevation or spin through suburban streets and traffic, so I choose the climb, every time. I think the constant climbing has helped improve my strength as a runner, even though I clock significantly more hours on my bikes than on foot. Of course, riding bikes does nothing to help me improve the areas where I'm really weak, such as downhill running and foot strength. I'm in a unique position because I love ultrarunning races but don't necessarily enjoy training runs; and while I love riding bikes, I'm not all that crazy about racing them. I wish there was a way I could do all of my weekday training on bikes and still survive long weekend runs. Yes, I want it all.

Meanwhile, Beat has really taken to my singlespeed, the old and busted Surly Karate Monkey. Even though I rode it untold thousands of miles before, during and after the Tour Divide, and even though the Reba shock is shot, the wheels are ancient, the tires are worn and various parts are creaking, and even though the frame is too small for him (hello toe rub), he's still been grabbing it as his bike of choice on our evening rides. He even rode the singlespeed the day after the San Diego 100, clearing all of the steep pitches that give me stomach aches when I'm fresh. Beat says he enjoys singlespeeding because it draws his concentration away from his bicycle and gear, and allows him to respond to the terrain with body movements. In that way, it's more like running ... which gives me more training ideas.

In final news, I finally got my last book proofs through the system and am ordering my first batch of paperbacks, so they should be ready to distribute by the end of next week or early the following week. (Link to eBook here.) They also will likely be available on Amazon and other online book retailers within that time period as well, but I will be offering signed copies for a couple bucks cheaper, so you should buy them from me. I'll start offering pre-ordering on Monday. For now, I have three copies of my new book to give away to three random blog commenters. I've been posting updates to this blog since November 2005, and obviously this blog has changed and evolved quite a bit since that time (as have most people over six years of their lives.) I've always been a little curious if there's anyone left who read this blog way back then and still checks in from time to time. So for a chance to win a book, all you have to do is leave a comment with a guess of when you first noticed my blog (formerly "Up in Alaska") and how you came across it. Even if it was just two minutes ago because you Googled "Are All Alaskans Crazy?" If you don't want to post your name or info, just type in an alias. I'll randomly draw the winners and post them here on Monday with a request to e-mail me so I can mail you a book.

So again, leave a comment telling me when you found this blog, and possibly get a free book! Easy!

Hope everyone has a great weekend and does something long and fun. I'm headed to the Tahoe area to do some trail work and maybe squeeze in a training run near the TRT100 course. Here's hoping I get to traipse through some snow.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It only took a month, but

I finally got all of my book orders out today. Thank you again to everyone who ordered one, and stuck with me after the frustrating Fed Ex delay. If you don't receive your book(s) in the next few days, please e-mail me because it should be on its way. Even with a handful of cancellations, I still nearly sold out of a fairly hefty order.

This whole Christmas book sale experiment, while frustrating, has actually given me quite a bit of a boost for my new project. After my small disaster in the 2009 ITI and break-up with Geoff, I had pretty much put "Ghost Trails" behind me. But a trickle of sales throughout the year and this recent surge puts my total sales over 1,100 — not bad for a self-published book promoted solely by the author on a single blog. Given that royalties for self-published books are pretty hefty, that number divided by the amount of time I put into that book is almost an income - almost. But it does give me confidence to work on a new project, because I honestly think this one is shaping up better than the first, and I figure the worst I can do is self-publish it and I'll still likely recoup my time. But I plan to spend a little more time on the finished product this time around and hopefully find a commercial publisher.

Today I did a tempo road ride (on the Karate Monkey with studded tires) out to mile 33, about 46 miles round trip. The weather was gorgeous and I almost felt guilty "wasting" it on a road ride. But I just felt like putting in some steady, hard miles. I still train entirely on feel (moreso now than before because I don't even have a working odometer anymore), but I tried to keep my heart rate just below anaerobic, in that 75 to 80 percent range (though, of course, I'm just guessing on that front. I still avoid heart rate monitors or any other kind of technological measure of fitness because I'm now convinced more than ever that the kind of training I like to do, for the kind of events I like to train for, is all in my mind, anyway.) So my level of exertion today was just below "ouch" but still above the level that allows for any deep thought (beyond "Dang, I really overdressed today" and "Ice is pretty.") It felt really good to get out and push hard, possibly the first time I've made a solid effort to do so in months.

I really want to train again - good, focused training, and I think I'm nearly ready to start. I hope I'm ready. And yet, my head remains in the clouds, my heart in the mountains.

Support this blog by buying my book! Signed copies only $11.95 plus shipping.

NOTE: I sold out of my current batch but have another on the way. I contacted the company and they should be sending it USPS, so I expect it in a week or so, accounting for publishing time. If you would like to order a book and have not yet done so, turnover time will be about 10-12 days.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The second book

I've been keeping this blog for nearly five years, and every so often, I create a post that I come precariously close to deleting before I publish it — whether it's too intimate, too "off subject" or too personal. The previous post was one of those. I "wrote" most of it in my head while driving home from Salt Lake City, sleep-deprived and trying to process a swirl of emotions. I tapped it all out after work on Monday, late at night. Then I read it over and decided that I didn't want to publish it. I thought it straddled the barrier of comfortable and uncomfortable for both my family members — all of whom read my blog — and strangers who might happen across it. But a few years back, a woman writer who I greatly admire told me, "Whenever you're convinced you should throw a piece of writing away, that's the stuff you really need to keep." So that's how I treat my blog. Generally, I keep it pretty and bikey, but every once in a while, I venture out.

I'm going through similar thoughts right now with my "Great Divide Book." I've talked about this book on this blog before, and recently have received several questions about it from both family members and a few blog commenters, so I thought I'd update. I started the project last August, completed a couple of chapters, and put it down for most of the fall. I picked it back up in December and dove into the writing full-bore. I was riding less and generally just trying to cope at my place of employment and my personal life in Juneau. I was trying to make some hard decisions, and the project was very cathartic for me. It helped me through a tough period, and I was genuinely sad when I finished the initial draft in March. I went through a couple of self-edits and decided to start pursuing publication in May. I was "funemployed" in Anchorage at the time, and although a overwhelmingly large block of my time was dedicated to the fun side of things, I did spend quite a bit of time researching options and sending out proposals to agents. I caught the initial interest of three agents, one of whom seemed poised to pick it up. However, everything came to a head during a period of monumentally bad timing, the very same week I had been offered a job in Missoula and was faced with uprooting my entire life. I dropped the ball in an embarrassing way, and the agent rightly decided to end discussions with me. So now I'm back to square one, except for I'm employed full-time, and have other training aspirations brewing that will cut into my free time even more.

I could start over, but I find myself asking why I should bother. It does seem a bit futile as a writer to aspire to traditional print publication when the entire industry is struggling. So many jobs are being cut and profits are being slashed that there's almost no money in it for writers, except for a small fraction of the most successful, and niche publications by little-know bloggers about little-known bike races aren't likely to find their way into this upper tier. I could follow a growing trend that I tapped two years ago with a fair amount of success — self publication — and I am considering it. However, before I went forward, I would need to fund a professional edit that I'm not sure I could afford right now, and then there is the time investment that I found to be surprisingly large when I experimented with the format two years ago. Plus, for all of its advantages is the modern market, self-publication of books still carries a huge stigma that I admit does bother me a little. It is still considered preferable to be "legitimately" published, so much so that all serious writers pursue it even when all of the evidence suggests the payout is laughably small for all of the time they have to invest.

My first book, "Ghost Trails," I wrote because I felt I had to. It was something I sincerely believed I had no choice but too create. It really wasn't intended for public consumption until the 11th hour, when I cobbled together a "book," zoomed over to a self-publishing site, and hit "send." I learned a lot from that experience, and now have better ideas for a possible second go. At the same time, I also created the Great Divide Book for personal and admittedly cathartic reasons, so I often wonder if it wasn't just meant to be bound and placed in a drawer, the way so many memoirs have for so many years.

But that's what I'm considering right now. It may be a while yet before I make any solid decisions. In the meantime, I need to somehow find a third project to begin. I can try to improve my Great Divide Book as much as I want, but I miss the intimacy and excitement of its initial creation.
Monday, October 31, 2016

Eight years later

On this day in 2008 ...

On November 1, 2008, I sat in front of my clunky desktop PC in Juneau, Alaska, pondering what I wanted to do with this PDF file I'd spent a few months creating. It was a book I cobbled together from personal essays and blog posts, about this obscure thing I did earlier in the year — riding a fat bike 350 miles over the Alaska Range and into the frigid Interior — and a loose timeline of past events to provide some explanation about how a Mormon girl from Utah with no athletic talent and lots of fears could reach that point.

My blog was as popular as it would ever be, with nearly 100,000 hits per month, and I figured at least a small percentage of readers would be interested enough in the story to buy a book. But would anyone else be interested? Selling a book is a difficult prospect. In order to catch the attention of publishers, the story has to appeal to a larger audience than the few interested in esoteric outdoor sports. Even if the book did sell, the process could take years. I was a journalist, and the thought of "Ghost Trails" being released in 2011 or 2012 — when not even I would care about the story anymore — seemed like a pointless endeavor. So on that (likely rainy) November evening eight years ago, I wavered at a self-publishing Web site, contemplating the possibilities. Could it be that easy?

That's how I started down this path of writing and publishing adventure memoirs. It's been a sometimes bumpy but mostly enjoyable ride. I'm still a journalist at heart, and think of my own writing as such. It's not high literature and it's not painstakingly revised, but it's real, occasionally raw, and as honest as I can make it, within the confines of my own flawed memory. I want my stories to be timely, but I've been known to sit on a project for years (in fact, I'm trying to revive a 2012 project right now.) In the midst of the learning process, I've managed to sell tens of thousands of books. And this is a cliche, but my greatest reward has been comments from people who found inspiration and embarked on a new adventure. Overall, the results have been pretty good for a Mormon girl from Utah with no athletic talent, lots of fears, and exhaustive dedication to weird endeavors that will never appeal to the mass market.

Now it's November 1, 2016, a date I specifically chose to release "Into the North Wind." Today this "Ghost Trails" sequel becomes available on Amazon and other online retailers. I was planning to write something more to celebrate the release, but I've been feeling a little ambivalent about it as of late. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's this phase I'm going through. Today I was working on queries for the Guardian, and thought, "But I don't really want to be a writer. I should try to get more editing work. Maybe I can find a coach who will know a revolutionary way out of my breathing malaise, and I'll start training hard. Because if I was just a little more tired every day, I wouldn't spend so much time worrying about writing."

I am grateful to everyone who bought "Into the North Wind" so far. I've sold 150 copies of the photo book, which was more than I expected and more than made the project worth it. The best journalism combines photos and words, and it was fun to finally do this in book format. There are still a few more copies available at this link:

There's also a less expensive regular (black and white) paperback on Amazon:
Into the North Wind: A Thousand-mile Bicycle Adventure Across Frozen Alaska

And finally the Kindle version, which can also be read on phones and iPads using a free app from Amazon.
Into the North Wind

As always, I appreciate your support over all these years. Thank you!
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Only one more shopping day!

Date: Dec. 17
Mileage: 39.2
December mileage: 470.6

I completely forgot to hold my LIVESTRONG drawing for a book this week. I plugged the pleasingly large numbers into a raffle and Nancy P. is the winner. Congratulations! I sent you an e-mail, but if you didn't receive it, post a comment and let me know. I'm going to hold another drawing this Friday, and this week's pool is still relatively small. Five bucks nets you one ticket. You can donate to the fight against cancer here.

Also, Thursday is the last day to buy a book in time for Christmas. I'm going to make a trip to the post office Friday morning for shipment on "Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, depending where they live (in the U.S.)," according to the postman. Then it's Christmas. You can purchase a signed book or two or several from me directly by clicking on the gold "Buy Now" button in the sidebar of this blog.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in my book-selling efforts this past month. Sales have been strong, better than I expected, and I appreciate your contribution to my "Iditarod fund," as well as your comments and suggestions. Geoff and I were just talking today about the idea that if I could somehow maintain the book sales I've had in the past month, I could make a modest living by riding my bike all the time and occasionally entering a crazy new race and self-publishing a book about it. Of course I know I can't keep that up - on all fronts - but it's fun to dream.

I took one step into the dream life by working hard yesterday and today and achieving my goal - a 30-hour workout week. I've noticed that toward the end of a long workout week, I can't get away with the same things I can when I'm fresh. Like riding for 3.5 hours and not eating anything. I do this all the time, but at the end of a 30-hour week, it cuts a lot deeper. My blood sugar was so low after my ride today that my hands were shaking. And I couldn't recover as the day wore on. My heart rate stayed high, and my energy level remained low.

I know, I know. Classic signs of overtraining. So what am I going to do about it? I'm going to do one last long ride tomorrow. I'm hoping for eight hours if I can survive it. I can't say I'm particularly thrilled about the idea when what I really want is an eight-hour nap, but there are several reasons I think this is important:

1. The weather forecast is calling temps between 8 and 14 and gusting winds to 40 mph, which will drive the windchill to 20 below. I know. Sounds awful. But it will give me a chance to really test the clothing I've put together for the Iditarod, minus stuff I don't own yet (but won't really need when the weather is as "mild" as 20-below windchills. Ha!) It's one thing to go out for two or three hours, and it's quite another to go out for eight. That will give me time to really identify problem spots, like sweat pooling on my back or cold toes.

2. The psychological training for the race is as important as anything, and I really need to become reacquainted with putting in tough, long efforts when I am 100 percent less than fresh.

3. I also need to gain better understanding about maintaining performance when I feel like stopping, so I can avoid another 12-hour bivy in the Farewell Burn.

4. I need to work on eating enough calories to cover my effort during longish efforts. I didn't do so well last week. This week, I won't have much choice, because I think my glycogen deficit is spent.

Should be fun. Or wait, fun's not quite the word. Should be educational. After that, it will be time for rest and recovery, I promise.
Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hold back the rain

Date: Jan. 10
Mileage: 30.1
January mileage: 258.4
Temperature upon departure: 24

Saturday, tempo ride, 30 miles, 2.5 hours. My knee felt much better today. Still some soreness, but I've concluded the problem was almost entirely in having my seat too low. I originally lowered it to help leverage better steering control on the foot paths (i.e. winter singletrack.) I greased the seatpost heavily because it is a tight fit anyway and always a beast to adjust, and I'm guessing that caused it to slip down a little more before it froze in place. I fixed the problem today with a little help and a lot of leverage from Geoff. I am going to install a new seatpost soon.

But I felt a lot more comfortable and even a little faster heading out North Douglas today, despite yet more new snow. I pedal as hard as I can, until my quads are screaming, but that doesn't really translate to speed in these conditions. I've decided that any time I average more than 10 mph, I can count the ride as a "tempo" ride. Nearly 40 inches of snow has fallen since Jan. 2. That would translate to a 120-inch snow month if it continued at this rate, but it's not going to. A warming trend has commenced, and rain is in the forecast now. I wish the rain would hold off for two more days. After that, I'll be gone. But it probably will come Sunday. And when it does, rain on top of several feet of dry powder snow is going to make everything, and I mean everything, horrifically sloppy, nasty and completely unbikeable. Since I've lost my momentum in my 10-day training binge anyway, I see a bit of slumming at the gym in my near future.

But, on a different note, I wanted to share something I found during random Internet browsing:

It's a picture of guys in the U.K. reading my book! They didn't send this photo to me. I found it while I was browsing the blog sites of other 2009 Iditarod racers. I'm guessing one of them is John Ross, who's living the dream and training for the Iditarod Invitational in another typically wet, cold coastal climate. I was pleasantly amused. I never really thought about the possibility of other racers reading my book. I hope it doesn't dissuade anyone from showing up at the starting line. (I have to admit that I question my own sanity when I think too much about my experiences last year.)

I haven't posted about the book in a while, but it's still available. I've made a few edits since the original version and it is slowly becoming more polished. Such is the nature of spontaneous indie publishing. I've sold a little more than 500 copies since November, which is awesome! I'm slowly working on increasing the distribution. It's available now at Hearthside Books in Juneau and Speedway Cycles in Anchorage, and should be up on pretty soon. I'd love to further increase the distribution, but have taken close to no time to actually market the book. I still have yet to send out review copies to several magazines and publications that requested one (I keep running out of my own stash of books.) If you have a favorite little bookstore or bike shop that you think may be at all interested in stocking a book like this, send me an e-mail at and let me know where/how I can contact them so I can send them my pitch. I'm happy with the lucrativeness of this book so far, but I think I've nearly tapped out the market from my blog. Time to branch out.
Thursday, December 04, 2008

Joining Team Fatty

Date: Dec. 3
Mileage: 38.5
December mileage: 84.3

As many of you out there in the world of blogs already know, Elden aka "Fat Cyclist" aka "Fatty" has organized a massive fundraising effort for the LIVESTRONG Challenge. In honor of his wife, Susan, and countless others who are fighting a battle with cancer, he is aiming to raise upwards of $1 million for cancer research and support. I spent a few days thinking about how I could get involved. I didn't think I was going to sign up for an event because I wasn't crazy about the date of the Seattle event, and the others were just so far away.

But then I got an e-mail from my friend in Utah, Chris, who announced he not only committed to raising $5,000(!), but also intends to ride the century in Seattle(!!). Chris is not your typical cyclist. I'm not even sure he'd call himself a cyclist. He's a therapist who sometimes works upwards of 70-80 hours a week. He loves to hike and camp but rarely has time for either, and admits that right now he's "in the worst shape of my life." Chris and I traveled through Alaska, along with Geoff and another friend, Jen, in 2003. Just a few days into the trip, Chris learned his mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. He was nearly on his way back to Utah before his mom strongly encouraged him to continue with the dream trip he had been planning for months. I watched him wrestle with his guilt and grief, and try to comfort his mom from afar. He had a head of long, wavy hair and he shaved it all off in solidarity with her. His mom won her battle with breast cancer. Many do not. When I found out Chris was getting involved with Team Fatty, I felt inspired.

I signed up for the event that I'm still not sure I'll be able to attend. I'd love to go, not only to ride with Chris, but to finally once and for all meet Elden (I know. It's crazy. He lives less than 10 miles from the place where I grew up, but we've never met.) So right now, I'm in for 100 miles in Seattle. That was the easy part. Now the hard part - raising funds. Luckily for me, Elden contacted me with a wonderful idea.

He is holding a series of raffles to help inspire people to donate a few bucks. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, he'll be raffling an Olympus Stylus 1030 SW digital camera. You may recognize this camera because I rave about it all the time. It's my camera, only newer, and less abused, and with even more special features. It's shockproof to 6.6 feet, waterproof to 33 feet, crushproof to 220 pounds of pressure and freezeproof down to 14 degrees (I've used it while it was 25 below and can attest that it continues to work well below 14 degrees.) And you can have a chance to win this camera by visiting next Tuesday and Wednesday and contributing to the LIVESTRONG Challenge. If you win the camera, you to can take mountain bike ride shots like this:

(OK, you'll have to come to Juneau to take a mountain bike shot exactly like this.)

I'm going to throw in a few books for the raffle as well. But, in an effort to coax a few people to donate early, I'd like to offer signed copies of my book to the first five people who donate $25 or more to the LIVESTRONG Challenge through my personal page. I'm "AlaskaJill" on the Seattle team. (Click here to donate.) Every cent will go to this amazing cause, so it's a good way to get the book if you've been thinking you might like to read it.

Also, I wanted thank those who recently bought signed copies of my book through my new Paypal page. The Thanksgiving holiday put my printing back a few days, but I am expecting my order on Thursday or Friday, and will send out books shortly after. I ship priority, so you should have them by the following Wednesday or Thursday. I want to apologize for the short delay, but I have things rolling now and my turnover times should be much shorter from now on. (I can process Christmas orders until Dec. 15. After that, there are no guarentees.)

There's a couple of new reviews of the book. One from Mike Jacobsen. (a cyclist in Washington), and a "non-biker review" from my sister, Lisa (not biased at all.)

I also got a few nice e-mails from readers, including this one from Heidi Olson: "I've really enjoyed reading your book - your descriptions of each day on the trail made me feel like I was right there. I had to grab for a warm blanket several times and I'm sure that I consumed more peanut butter cups then you did through the entire book."

And from Karen Ness: "I really enjoyed the way you flashed back to previous years leading up to move to Alaska, alternating chapters with your Iditarod travels. That was a great way to tell the story. It broadens your base and allows the reader to learn more about where you came from and how you got to where you were on the trail. The way you expanded your story helps for anyone who has followed along on your blog. It is a new story even to old readers."

So what are you waiting for? Go donate! (And then come back Tuesday and donate again for a shot at an awesome camera.)