Monday, April 23, 2007

The Dreaded Poison Pen

I came across this cute list of things to do with negative reviews. While Sex in a Tent hasn't been reviewed yet (or printed for that matter!) it's good to have these on standby just in case. I will definitely skip #5 though--even the worst review is no reason to kick a puppy!

Bargain Books & Author's Guilt

Yesterday I was rummaging through my local Warehouse store (for you non-Kiwis that's a discount store like K-Mart or Target) and picked up a book in the "bargain books" bin. It's called Outdoors in New Zealand and it's a compilation of columns published in the New Zealand Herald's "Outdoors" column over a number of years. I'd seen it in a few bookshops, but never bothered to pick it up. But at $2.50, how could I refuse?

Clearly the book has been remaindered. If you're not familiar with the term, that's when a publisher decides that the cost of storing the remaining copies of the book is no longer worthwhile and they unload them at a very low price. Bookstores (and other stores) then sell them off at a fraction of their original cover price. This often happens after the book has been out for a couple of years and sales have dropped off. In the case of the book I just purchased, it's a 2002 publication.

I've picked up some great books from remainder bins. Even Pulitzer Prize-winning novels like The Shipping News! Just the other day I saw a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on a bargain table for $5, if you can believe it! My only explanation for that is there must be a new edition coming out and they're getting rid of the last copies with old cover art or something.

As a bargain-hunter, remaindered books really appeal to me. Especially since I arrived in New Zealand where the average book price is about 30-50% higher than it was in Canada. But now that I'm an author, every bargain purchase comes with a heavy serving of guilt. I know how hard it is to make a living as a writer, and how small a cut the author gets from every book sold. And that's if the book sells at its full cover price! Buying remaindered books means that the author won't get anything at all from my purchase. Oh, the guilt!

Of course, when it comes to the filthy-rich authors like Roald Dahl (or Stephen King, whose books I've also seen in bargain bins) I don't feel too bad. But books like Outdoors in New Zealand are lucky to break even, let alone make the author rich. As a fellow writer, I feel like I should be supporting my colleagues by paying full price for their books. On the other hand, that might mean not buying books in New Zealand at all!

It's a dilemma for me, and one that's not likely to go away any time soon. As much as it would pain me to see my own book sitting in a remainder bin for $2.50 one day, I know that it would be in good company. There's no shame in remaindering. Just ask Roald Dahl or Stephen King!

Monday, April 09, 2007

I've been walking on the railroad

There always seems to be a battle between those who would use the land for economic development, "progress" they like to call it, and those who struggle to preserve as much of nature as they can. Here in New Zealand, it's often a noisy struggle, particularly as property values increase and the temptation to develop the hell out of the country becomes harder to resist.

While the overriding trend is towards greater development of previously natural land, sometimes things work the other way. Land that once had an industrial use is no longer needed for that purpose, and is reclaimed as recreational land.

This has happened all over the world, particularly on waterfront land. As commercial ports become more efficient, they don't require as much space as they once did. Cities are turning their ugly ports into pleasant waterfront areas. It has happened in Toronto, San Francisco, and even here in Wellington.
One of the other places where this can happen is on disused railway lines. In many places where rail was once the only way to move goods (and people) the roads have improved to the point where it no longer makes sense to use trains. Or in the case of the Rimutaka pass here in Wellington, they replaced a winding, mountain pass with a more direct tunnel under the mountains.

So what was once the only way to get from the Hutt Valley to the Wairarapa over the Rimutaka mountains (from the 1870s to the 1950s), is now a pleasant walking track called the Rimutaka Rail Trail.

G and I took a walk there last weekend, since the weather was almost perfect for walking. We didn't cover the whole trail, because it's a five hour, one-way journey that would have left us on the wrong side of the mountains. Instead we walked from the Hutt side to the summit, and back again. It took six hours for the return journey.

Although it is an uphill walk (for the first half anyway), the gradient is so gradual that you hardly notice. The track is more like a gravel road, and there were more bicycles out than walkers. The remains of the railway history are marked by informational signs here and there, as well as a few physical reminders. There are a couple of tunnels, the summit tunnel is over 500 metres long and awfully dark inside! A restored bridge also retains its original feel, and some engine remains at the summit are rusting away in all their glory.
I can't really classify this as a hike, more like a very long stroll through a park. But it was nice to get outdoors on a beautiful fall day, and take advantage of a bit of Wellington's industrial history returned to its semi-natural splendour.

A Book By Any Other Name

Most people don't realise just how little power an author has over her own book. The assumption is that if you wrote it, you're in control of how it turns out. But that's just not true.

In fact, the publisher has the final say on just about everything, including the book's title. So after some market research and a bit of internal debate, my book has a new title. I am now the author of:

Sex in a Tent: A wild couple's guide to getting naughty in nature

It all goes to support the general consensus that sex sells! Which doesn't mean that any of the other great stuff in the book (avoiding or resolving arguments, planning the right kind of trip, romantic meals etc.) is going away. It just means the more provocative side of the book is front and centre. So don't be confused when you see the book under its new title.
And when will you be seeing it, you ask? It looks like the release will happen in October, in time to get it to the top of everyone's holiday wish list.

More release news will appear here as I get it. In the mean time I'm looking forward to the abundant joys of proofreading, which should come my way pretty soon.

The only question remaining is - now that my book title has changed, does the name of my blog still make sense?

Disappearing Huts and Other Mysteries

Planning a camping trip in New Zealand can be a challenge at the best of times. Weather conditions are notoriously hard to predict, and even the most accurate topographic maps don't always tell the whole story. So when G and I sat down to make plans for the Easter weekend, it seemed like a simple enough task--but of course it wasn't.

Our original plan involved a three day trip, staying at two huts in the western Tararuas. The route was a complete loop, which is always nice. One-way trips are a pain to organize, and you need to team up with others who have a car to shuttle. The only other option is to backtrack to your starting point, which means essentially doing the same hike twice.

Having chosen our potential route, I decided to check it out on the internet and see what others had to say about it. Enter problem number one.

One of the huts we'd seen on our map, and decided to stay in on our second night, no longer existed! It had been damaged in a 2003 storm, and removed by the Department of Conservation. The replacement hut hasn't been built yet. Well, there goes our plan!

I also learned that the riverside trail I was hoping to loop back along wasn't really a trail at all. For most of the time, you just follow the river any way that works. This means that if it rains the day before, you could be walking in the river all day--or worse, it could be impassible in places. Our plan was sounding worse and worse.

It was around this time that I convinced G to cut back the trip to two days, staying at the one hut on our route that was still standing, called Waiopehu Hut.

We headed out on Good Friday, in almost perfect weather. April can be pretty rough at times, but the day was shaping up to be sunny, warm and calm. The track was estimated to take 5 hours to reach the hut, and we set off at 10am to tackle our climb up the ridge.

About half way to the hut, according to our topo map, there was a shelter which had fallen on hard times. These emergency shelters are scattered around the mountains, offering some protection to trampers who get caught out in bad weather and can't make it to the next hut.

When I realised that at 2pm we still hadn't passed a shelter, I was more than a little concerned about the time estimate on the track. We are admittedly not very fast walkers, and we often take longer than the estimates to reach our destination. And after all, we hadn't been on a trip since early February. (Where does the time go?!) Still, if we weren't yet half way after 4 hours, we were looking at a long day!
Just after 3pm we reached a clearing and found a sign that said "Old Waiopehu Hut Site". I knew that the hut had been replaced recently, but I wasn't sure how far away they'd moved it. One thing was for sure--the shelter on the map didn't exist! And what about the Waiopehu Hut on our map? Was it showing the old location, where we were standing, or the new one? If the one on the map was the old one, how far away might the new one still be?

It was a relief to arrive at the hut less than half an hour later. And not only was it a shiny, new hut, but it had a spectacular view over the ridge. We could see across to the next ridge, where another track would lead us back to the beginning of the route the next day. We could also see down to the coastline to the west, where hot air balloons from a nearby balloon festival dotted the sky at dusk. (This picture is from slightly earlier, so no balloons.)

Inside the hut things were buzzing. Since it was a long weekend, the trampers were out in force, and in total there were 14 people sleeping at the hut that night. (True to form, I ended up sleeping next to the only one who snored!)

One of the other groups were locals who had done the other ridge track several years before. According to them, it was overgrown and hard to find in places, and deeply eroded in others. Our hike up had been quite reasonable, but after several weeks of sloth it had been tough enough for us. The longer, harder and possibly hard to follow route back didn't sound appealing at all! I made an executive decision (and G didn't fight it) that we would hike out on the same track we came up on. At least we'd know what we were in for that way.

The next day was another beautiful one. Still warm and calm, with the clouds gradually breaking up around noon. We may not have had too much adventure on our trip, but we had some wonderful views and great walking weather. Let's hope winter doesn't show up too soon.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Honeymooners

I got an e-mail recently from a guy in the US who is planning to spend his honeymoon in New Zealand and wants to do some tramping with his new wife.

It's really great to hear people including camping in their holiday plans--especially honeymoon plans! For one thing, it assures me that there are lots of potential buyers out there for How to Make Love in a Tent. But it's also great when people are able to think outside the beach-resort box and use their honeymoon as an opportunity to have an adventure together.

I think that without a doubt exploring the fjords and forests of New Zealand, or the dizzying heights of the Himalayas, is a much more memorable way to begin a life together than lounging beside a pool with a rum punch in hand.

So for all of you thinking about your next vacation (I know I'm always thinking about mine!) I encourage you to pack your hiking boots and do something really memorable.

Do vacations get any more romantic than this?

No way!