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My Motorcycle Misadventures began when I was 14 years old in rural North Carolina. I identified the broken down old Honda enduro in the barn as my escape vehicle and my dad said “If you can fix it you can ride it.” He helped me do just that and I rode through the tobacco fields to the woods and the creek and to the edge of town and back almost daily, sometimes falling down and sometimes breaking down, and either fixing it or walking it home.
I was 16 when my family moved to South San Jose, California, and my dad got another bike, a red Honda CL 175 K7 Scrambler. He bought it to ride to IBM, and put a luggage rack on it along with a big black carrier on the top back for groceries and his IBM briefcase and toolbox, plus a windscreen. It had an engine protector and front crash bar with foot pegs so he could haul my twin brothers on it for short distances when we went camping. He also carried a smaller front sprocket he could change out for high altitude riding. He liked to take the RV to the Reno Air Races, and to ride two-up to Reno for gambling. It fit well on the back of the RV’s three-foot slide-back bumper and basically, it was equipped for an around-the-world journey.
I took the luggage and the windscreen off and rode it across the freeway to play in the hills and the dirt. Some of the boys in the neighborhood had bikes, too, one had a Husqvarna and other had a Bultaco, I remember, but we didn’t go anywhere the Honda couldn’t go, including straight up dirt hillsides and on the motocross track that used to be there before they built all the houses.
Exit stage left with the bikes until I was married to a man who rode. I rode with him a couple of times on the back and hated it, and early in our marriage he bought a used Yamaha 650 Maxim for my 25th birthday. We rode together a lot, until we split up. Why’d we split up? Well, he didn’t go with me to Europe because of work obligations (the fourth year in a row) and I ended up riding around alone and finding it quite nice, after an angst-ridden week, and I changed. I went where I wanted, when I wanted and alone or with who I wanted, and I was hooked.
I lived Europe for a couple of years, motorcycling and mountain biking, working as a technical writer and saving money to travel. During the six months I lived in Nice I wrote a guidebook to mountain biking the Alpes Maritimes because I couldn’t find any in French or in English. Then I bicycled through West Africa. Home again, I kept working and saving, mountain biking Mount Tam and taking motorcycle trips up and down the California coast.
Back home again, my first opportunity as a travel writer came in 1994. By that time, I had already worked for about ten years as a freelance technical writer in Silicon Valley and in Multimedia Gulch. At that time, everyone, including me, was developing multimedia CD-ROMs. I knew how to script them, and I knew how to write step-by-step how-to guides. This meant that writing my guide to day trips by bicycle was easy. But I didn’t know how to write travelogues. At least, travelogues that magazines and newspapers wanted to buy! So in 1994 I went to the Book Passage Travel Writing conference and learned how.
At this conference I also met Allen Noren, a travel editor who worked for a new web property started by Tim O’Reilly called the Global Network Navigator that published realtime reports from the road. I went up to talk with Allen because he’d ridden up on a BMW touring bike, so we talked for a while. And he told me that because the internet was new (it was 1994, after all), he was having a hard time finding real writers who could deal with email and FTP. So when I proposed sending dispatches from a motorcycle trip, and said I could email and FTP and HTML and dropped a few more key geeky acronyms, he said I was hired. So you see, it pays to talk to random people in parking lots. I got $25 a dispatch, a great editor, and instant notoriety among the about 500 people who were using the web at the time. I authored a book about that trip titled American Borders, and have since self-published my own writing on the web and in print from other trips.
So now I was the motorcycling, travel writing, live-dispatches-from-the-road-to-the-internet gal. American Borders is a book based the 1995 chronicles of breakdowns in small towns all around the USA during a four-month stint as a test rider for Ural America during their R&D phase, testing and improving the bike for the American market. What eventually became the Motorcycle Misadventures series continued in China, India, Europe, and Africa on other cranky indigenous motorcycles like the Chinese Chang Jiang and the Royal Enfield Bullet. On the way I’ve authored a bunch of little free ebooks, like Motorcycling for Beginners, which I’m happy to hear has helped a lot of people by a sensible first bike. And I’ve been published in a lot of anthologies, like the great Travelers’ Tales series and In Search of Adventure, and newspapers and magazines.
When I came home from China, I was invited to join a notorious writing group, the Wild Writing Women, twelve women adventure travel writers in the San Francisco Bay Area who met once monthly to workshop our stories, make dinner, drink and laugh and commiserate. We even traveled together, meeting our friend Maureen Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet, en-mass every two years in an exotic local like Florence, the South of France, Northern Ireland, Marrakesh.
When we complained that our best writing wasn’t getting published, we self-published Wild Writing Women: Stories of World Travel, which was an instant hit, so much so that it was picked up by a New York publishing house the following year, where it eventually floundered due to inattention. It’s still available, and I highly recommend it as a travel classic.
We continued to meet, write, and publish, and some of us even held Wild Writing Women workshops. I set up a website for the group and produced eBooks and magazines of our writing, including Ireland: The Sacred and the Profane, Taking Flight: An Offering for First-Time Travelers, and Writing: Your Passport to Life.
It was through this group that I met Lisa Alpine who is a travel and writing partner and became a dear and lasting friend. When we co-founded Self-Publishing Boot Camp in 2010 it was just to educate a few author buddies in need in the San Francisco Bay Area. The first was a group of eight authors and was held in Lisa’s living room. It grew. And how!
By then I had long been speaking at writing conferences on technical topics like creating your author website, how to write for the web, and effective author blogs, but now self-publishing was the only thing people wanted to know about. Because it took so much of my time to answer questions, and because Lisa went back to writing and teaching travel writing, I quickly put together a little how-to guide and workbook from our workshop notes so I didn’t have to spend so much time repeating myself. Then, because it went out of date so quickly — services and technologies were popping up all over in 2010 — I updated it. And updated it again. It’s now in its 3rd edition. (If you see a used copy on Amazon, don’t buy it. It’s waaay out of date!) I don’t think I realized though just how timely this guide was until I spoke at a California Writers Club meeting to 70 authors and sold 64 books. That was a record, but I still sell a lot of books when I speak on self-publishing at the San Francisco Writers Conference, Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, Central Coast Writers Conference, even events like the Overland Expo. I’ve also presented online for seminars by Be The Media and Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN). And now I’m the self-publishing columnist for PBS MediaShift.
People think of me a motorcyclist, a writer, or a traveler, depending on what community I’m in at the moment, and I love all those things, as well as hiking, yoga, snorkeling and scuba diving, bicycling and, finally, gardening, which seems contrary to my moveable feast of a lifestyle. I’m a committed renter, and currently live in a tiny glass house with a large, lush garden in Point Richmond that looks out across the San Francisco Bay.
I hope you’ll subscribe to my email updates (see form at top right of this page), follow me on Twitter and Pinterest @missadventuring, on Facebook at Misadventures Media or Self-Publishing Boot Camp, email or contact me using the form on this site. Self-publishers, please check out The Indie Author Journey and contact me there. .