Pond. James Pond. And the Slough Trail of despond.

We tried out a couple of new to us trails that start at the Mora ranger station. The trail to James Pond is a .5 mile loop across the highway, fairly flat terrain. Slough Trail is .9 miles on the Ranger station side of the road, with a side trip to the Quillayute River if you take it, and comes back out on the highway, giving you the option of walking back on the highway or returning on the trail. We took the highway back.

Neither of these trails is well maintained, making an otherwise very easy (and short) hike more challenging. Especially the part where you navigate the fallen trees laying over the trail. On the trail to the pond, there’s actually a section where you walk along on a fallen tree and it’s fairly slippery going. On the Slough trail, one fallen tree that blocks the trail is semi broken in half, giving you an opening to sidle through. Another can be climbed over, or straddled to cross. The thick brush growing in on the trail in many places made us wish we had a machete in addition to a walking stick.

In case this doesn’t sound like much of an obstacle, with trees that grow 200-300 feet tall, one falling across the trail isn’t something you just step over. One log came up to about my chest, the other my hips.

But the ground is soft and springy to walk on and the trees are shady and the ferns lush and you really don’t find ugly hiking anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula. Nevertheless, these will not go down in our list of favorite hikes, and not just because of the cougars.

Yes, cougars. If you hike these trails, be sure and read the warning informational sign at the ranger station and carry a big walking stick.

So. Short and fairly level, good choice for beginning hikers. But the obstacles of trees and growth make them more intermediate. And if cougars make you nervous, you might want to pick another trail. Or self-medicate with lots of chocolate, which in addition to soothing nerves also helps make you look bigger in case you need to scare off an aggressive cougar.

When will you write a real book?

In the comments at PBW’s yesterday, a writer who elected to epublish asked about whether it was taking the easy way out, having heard the detractors who say “That’s not a real book.”

First of all, if we lined up all the romance writers followed by other genre writers, multipublished authors who have been in paperback in multiple languages and hit bestseller lists left and right, I could probably make a line from the Washington coast to Cleveland with the ones who have been asked when they’re going to write a real book, by somebody who defines a real book as a literary novel. Or a non-fiction book. Or hardcover. Or that gets critical acclaim (even if it sinks faster than concrete overshoes). Or that wins a Pulitzer. Oh, wait, a romance novel is up for that one now.

Bottom line, there will ALWAYS be somebody who is happy to define what a “real” achievement is for you. You don’t have to agree with their definition, however.

There are good reasons to epublish. Monthly royalty payments. Rapid publishing (although this can vary widely and in some cases is very slow) so that a book gets out and starts earning right away. A market for books that are too different or do not have broad enough appeal for a traditional publisher to take on. Because a book that appeals to a niche market can still be profitable for an epublisher, and for the author, even if it might not sell in the numbers a big publisher would look for.

There are also good reasons to approach epublishing with caution. There is no advance (although some, like Samhain, pay a small advance) which means you need to choose carefully to decide where your book has the best earning potential as you are not guaranteed a minimum in return for your rights to the story.

RWA’s definition of a minimum of 1,500 copies sold (and the definition goes on from there with a much higher number for publishers who use POD but that’s another blog) for publisher recognition struck me as sensible. If at least 1,500 people don’t want to read my story, it probably isn’t very marketable. So I looked for publishers where I could get that level of distribution.

How do you find out if an epublisher is a good bet? Well, look at the website. Is it professional, easy to navigate, does it get a lot of traffic? Are there lots of reviews out of this publisher’s titles? What do readers say about this publisher? Are the titles on Amazon or Fictionwise? Does the publisher have a print program? Loose Id, NCP, Cerridwen/Ellora’s Cave and Samhain all have print programs with distribution in bookstores. What do authors say about the publisher you’re considering? Are any successful epublished authors writing for that publisher? If you do your homework, you can make an informed choice.

I don’t think anybody should go into epublishing blindly, but it’s a valid choice, it makes sense for a lot of writers for a lot of different reasons, and I will be forever grateful for what epublishing has done for me. Oh, yeah, and anybody who thinks it’s taking the easy way hasn’t tried it.

Cozying up to the blank page

PBW has a nice entry on being friends with the page today, and I liked a couple of things she said because they’re so true for me. Wearing comfy clothes, check. Because anything too tight or scratchy or whatever is distracting. In the winter when it’s chilly I like to wear my spa socks to keep my feet cozy, too. Enjoying the solitude of writing because there isn’t enough of it anywhere else, check. I’m a solitary person who never gets to be alone. The page is my refuge. Writing is my refuge, period, really. It’s where I can go to be wild and crazy, and when life is wild and crazy retreating to writing is more essential and comforting than ever.

But she did mention transitions, and I thought about the fact that we prod our difficult toddler from one activity to another by using a transitional object. The duck for bathtime, and so on. Nothing wrong with using a transitional object to get into writing. Writing socks, or whatever works for you. But I do think writing should be comfortable, a welcome place to go to, not something scary. Whatever it takes to make it feel that way.