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Archive for the ‘Contests’ Category

Hi! This will be a quick post, but one that’s hugely exciting! In January, Amazon opened the fifth annual ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) competition. There are two categories: General Fiction and Young Adult Fiction. A maximum of 5000 entries were accepted into each category prior to the close of the entry period on February 5, 2012. There are a whole bunch of rules and judging levels (http://tinyurl.com/7hgp4qt ) if you’re unfamiliar with the contest/process and interested in learning more for future reference.

At any rate … last year I entered Separation of Faith in the General Fiction category, on sort of a lark. Much to my surprise, the novel made the first cut in the competition (the 5000 entries in each category are narrowed down to the top 1000 in each category). Given the odds, I wasn’t surprised when that was the end of the good news. The 500 novels chosen for the Quarter Finals in the second cut did not include Separation of Faith. And yet I loved the experience anyway!

So … this year I decided to try again. And as you already know from the post headline above, my little book has once again made the first round cut!! There’s no doubt that Separation of Faith has some sort of legs, especially in the contest arena, having won or placed in more than a dozen contests thus far. This success hasn’t translated yet into any significant visibility in the publishing world–but, just like every real writer out there, my motto is, “Where there’s a new day, there’s indestructible hope, no matter how daunting the odds.”

Now we have to wait until March 20 to see if the fresh perspective from a new set of judges will make a difference this time around. Even if the novel didn’t advance any further than the next cut, making the top 500 out of 5000 entries would sure be a kick! Nonetheless, the first round cut authors do receive feedback from two of the judges, which I found to be both interesting and useful last year. I know from all of my other contest experience, though, how many good novels are out there just waiting to be discovered. We’ll simply have to wait and see how Separation of Faith stacks up against the other 999, whose authors are dreaming the same dream along with me. Our stories are whatever they are at this point. Still, a little bit of luck would sure be useful (and appreciated).

Hope all is well with each of you and that your publishing journeys are on your projected paths for 2012! My next post (tomorrow) will include a chemo update as well as a bunch of links to articles that I’ve been collecting for you. There might be a surprise as well. 🙂 Stay tuned … and have a wonderful night/weekend!

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Self-Pub Success Story!

This Wall Street Journal article (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204770404577082303350815824.html) opens by saying that author Darcie Chan’s debut novel, The Mill River Recluse, has sold 400,000 copies and has placed her on the best-seller list “next to writers like Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and Kathryn Stockett.” Then the next paragraph goes on to say, “It’s been a success by any measure, save one. Ms. Chan still hasn’t found a publisher.”

Needless to say, a statement like that grabbed my attention (something of an understatement, to tell the truth). And Ms. Chan’s story turned out to be inspirational, as well as instructional–one more light on the horizon for those of us who’ve decided to try a DIY (do-it-yourself) angle or two on our publishing journeys.

If you haven’t read this story yet, I promise that you’ll learn at least one thing you don’t know already about the worlds of self-publishing and e-books. Furthermore, if you’re trying to decide which way to go with your next book, I suspect that you’ll be a little closer to that decision by the time you finish this article. Enjoy!

The Big Reasons Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously

Sometimes we writers have to pull our hands away from our ears and force ourselves to listen to tough words. At least, that’s what we need to do if we’re serious about growing in our craft and eventually finding a wide readership for our work. This article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/indie-authors-struggle_n_1242935.html?ref=books) puts some of those tough words right in our faces!

Still assimilating the wealth of information from the 2012 Writer’s Digest Conference two weeks ago, I was drawn to this article for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the subject of editing. Not only were there dozens of references at the conference to this critical element of the publishing process, especially if you’re opting for a DIY avenue. But there are dozens more such references in the first year or so of this blog, as I was bringing my second novel, Separation of Faith, into life. Having learned the hard way what happens if you don’t invest in a book’s editing, I was determined to produce a novel comparable, or even superior, in editorial quality to anything coming out of the traditional world.

Separation of Faith has now placed in more than a dozen competitions. First Place continues to be elusive. But the novel has earned Runner Up to the grand prize winner several times, in addition to multiple Bronze prizes and a list of highly ranked Honorable Mentions. And most recently, even though there wasn’t an associated placement, the 2012 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards produced the following feedback from one of the judges:

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “poor” and 5 meaning “excellent,” please evaluate the following:

  • Plot: 4
  • Grammar: 4.5
  • Character Development: 5
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

What did you like best about this book?

Congratulations on writing and publishing your novel! The cover design and packaging is very professional. The back cover copy does a good job of maketing the book to potential readers. You have clearly done a great deal of research, which shows in the historical details and description that bring the scenes alive for the reader. You have created some interesting characters and brought them to life with strong dialogue and characterization. Good job balancing action, dialoge and narration. Good job with grammar, proofreading and formatting of the interior of the book.

How can the author improve this book? (Cheri’s Note: I decided to include this part as well, because I learned something, and I thought some of you might as well. And, we do need to strengthen our nerves so we can hear the improvements along with the accolades!)

Watch out for the overuse of italics, as this can be difficult to read, dilutes the emphasis, and makes the pages look a llittle disorganized. (Cheri’s Note: This comment addressed letters and journals written as part of flashbacks, several of which I formatted in italics.) Also, the book’s price seems a little high. These are minor concerns for a book that is quite strong overall.

The winners’ list for this contest will be announced by the end of this month, and I’m anxious to see who beat me. But the main thing I want to point out here is how important formatting and interior quality are with any book, but especially with self-published books! And even though Separation of Faith didn’t win a slot in this particular competition, the novel, as I said earlier, has placed in more than a dozen others. And there’s no doubt in my mind that a primary reason for that success is the quality of editing. (That’s also a main reason why I truly believe this entire endeavor will eventually take off! 🙂 )

Enjoy this important article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/indie-authors-struggle_n_1242935.html?ref=books) — and have a wonderful Super Bowl weekend!

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Note: All of my notes from the Saturday and Sunday sessions are forthcoming. Here’s what I’ve been able to put together so far. Also, since you’ll only be seeing summaries of the sessions I attended, the WDC staff said that there will be some sort of summary on all of the sessions posted on the conference site at http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/home/?&. I just checked, and they don’t have anything posted yet, so mine will have to do for the moment. 🙂 And I will get them up for you as quickly as I can.

Saturday, January 21–Session #1: E-Book Publishing 101–Jane Friedman, Media Professor and former editor of Writer’s Digest Magazine (This session was of huge interest to me because, even though there was a bit of agent interest in my nonfiction book during the Pitch Slam, I’m still leaning heavily toward the e-pub option for at least that next book. Not only am I excited about the potential of that option, but I really want to learn firsthand what’s involved and how it all works.)

E-pub vs Print on Demand (POD)–author has full control of pricing, cover, etc. with E-pub. Author control varies and can be very limited with POD.

What about author rights with e-pub?

  • Copyright is secure
  • Author has full rights re: publishing & distribution except for new Apple rules (covered below).
  • Authors are not killing future chances with traditional publishers if they go e-pub. Might have been true in the past, but no longer.
  • All rights are the writer’s to sell.
  • Caution re: possible exception(s)–Authors previously published with traditional publisher need to check their contracts for rights on existing titles.

Major e-book retailers, devices & formats

  • Kindle (mobi format)–50-70% of the market
  • B&N Nook (epub)–20-30%
  • Apple iPad & iPhone (epub & the newly announced iBookAuuthor, which is only readable on Apple devices–more later)–less than 20%

These three are the main devices and formats. The others on the market are:

  • Sony (epub)
  • Kobo (epub)
  • Desktop/Laptop (PDFs)

Writers going the e-pub route are working with distribution channels and retailers rather than with publishers. Distrib/Retailer options:

Single Channel (Fomatted to work on only one device) versus  Multiple Channels (Push books out to all single channels)

  • Kindle                                                                                           BookBaby (This one looks really interesting, by the way.)
  • B&N                                                                                               Smashwords
  • iTunes                                                                                            PublishGreen
  • iBooksAuthor*
  • GoogleBookStore
  • Scribd

*The new iBooksAuthor will only work on Apple devices. More in a minute.

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Most distribution services and retailers will accept Word documents.

  • Smashwords: takes MS Word. Free to publish. Author keeps 85% of the net. No Kindle distribution, however. Would need to publish on Kindle separately.)
  • BookBaby: Free conversion from Word, HTML, RTP, Apple Pages, plain text. $99 to publish plus $19 annual fee to sustain. Author keeps 100% of the net.) Also offers print service option plus add-on services for ISBN and cover design.
  • PublishGreen: Converts from MS Word, PDF, InDesign. $399-$999 for “full service” package. Author keeps 90-100% of the net.

When is it better to prep your own e-book files? When you:

  • have text-driven work.
  • are not scared by HTML, CSS, and/or MS style sheets. (Guess this answers the question for me. 🙂 )
  • plan on offering PDF versions of your book.

Formatting & Conversion Definitions 

Conversion is an automated process and = exporting files from one format to another without any editing or styling.

Formatting is a manual process and = editing & styling to “look good” on e-reading devices. Process also corrects things that got messed up during the conversion process.

If you’re comfortable doing these things yourself, here are recommended programs: SIGIL for Formatting and CALIBRE for Conversion. (I am definitely not going to be worrying about this. I’m looking at BookBaby. They had an exhibition table at the conference, and once I get through the last of my treatments, I’ll be following up with them for more detail.)

DIY (Do It Yourself) Formatting Tools:

    • Scrivener–$45
    • PressBooks–free. WordPress based, exports e-pub files.

iBooksAuthor. Newly announced by Apple. Limited to iOS devices for both reading as well as sales (iBook format). Free but limited to Apple products and can only sell through Apple bookstores. Beautiful program, easy, drag-and-drop. But exclusive to Apple products and distribution. Industry had hoped that iBooksAuthor would also create e-pub format. Didn’t turn out that way. If you’ve already created a book for sale/distribution elsewhere and then decide to use iBookAuthor for your e-book, you can continue to sell that book everywhere. But if you use iBooksAuthor for your first effort to publish a given book, your Apple agreement will state that you cannot sell that book through any other channel that iBookstore.

  • VookMaker–forthcoming. Not an Apple product but will be similar to iBooksAuthor in terms of being user friendly with drag-and-drop, etc. But this one is expected to support multiple sales channels.

Again, if you opt to do your e-book with a company like BookBaby, you don’t have to worry about any of these Conversion and Formatting tools and programs. 

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Three biggest factors affecting e-book readership base: (These all seem so obvious that I’m wondering if I missed something.)

  • Price
  • Cover
  • Readership Base

Kindle currently represents 60-70% of all ebooks.

An author’s Amazon Page may very likely be the first and only page a reader looks at. Reference: www.DigitalBookWorld.com — see article by Carolyn McKray on optimizing an author’s presence through their Amazon Page.

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“Sweet-Spot” Pricing for Novels:

  • 99 cents drives volume and Amazon rank, for which Amazon pays 30% royalty.
  • Amazon pays 70% royalty on books prices from $2.99-$9.99.
  • Authors who are getting the hang of things will switch off their pricing between 99 cents and $2.99.
  • The lesser known the author, the less you should charge.
  • If you have a series, consider starting with a loss leader (99 cents to start).

For nonfiction, study what your competition is charging. Go to the Kindle store and drill down to your category to start your analysis.

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Cover: First and most important impression. Needs to look good in thumbnail.

ISBNs:

  • Not mandatory for Kindle.
  • Required for distribution through iBookstore.
  • If you’re going the full DIY e-pub route: ISBN.org to buy ISBNs–$125 (cheaper per unit the more you buy).

Online marketing is critical for e-pubs. Draft a marketing plan and include an in-depth online and social media presence.

Some resources to further pursue research on the e-pub option for your book(s):

Here’s a link for a copy of this entire presentation: http://bit.ly/2012wdc

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Well, there you have it–one of the reasons I’m taking so long to get this stuff out to you. But since this particular topic is of such intense interest to me, I’m hoping that some of you will feel the same way, and I want to make sure I’m sharing as much detail as I captured. And because this one is so extensive, I’m going to publish this post separately, finishing up the other Day #2 sessions in another post. (They’re all shorter, by the way.)

P.S. I entered Separation of Faith again today in the latest Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition, which began accepting entries today. Last year the book made the first cut. We’ll see what happens this time around. If you’re interested, this is really a fun contest, and it’s free! Check out the details at: http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Novel-Award-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=332264011.

Hope your week is off to a good start! See you again soon.

 

 

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Imagine My Surprise!

The last thing I was expecting on Friday (which was also my birthday) was an envelope in the mail filled with a roll of award stickers to place on the covers of my Separation of Faith copies. Guess I’ve been a little distracted lately … 🙂 At any rate, when I saw the words “2011 Award Winner,” I immediately went in search of the specifics. And I soon learned that this amazing little novel has now placed as a Bronze winner in the 2011 Readers Favorite Awards in the category “Fiction–Realistic” (http://tinyurl.com/6hz6z77  ). (First place continues to be elusive–but still possible!) Every little bit of achievement helps along this winding path–and I love the bonus award stickers!

Here’s a link directly to Amazon, in case anyone is interested in checking out Separation of Faith (available in hard cover, soft cover, and Kindle) in more detail– http://tinyurl.com/6hqwgrj . The story has an underlying mystery that takes the reader on a suspense-filled ride filled with illicit love, deception, hope, and redemption, with a plot twist no one ever sees coming! Please let me know if you decide to give the novel a try!

Chemo/Hair Update

Friday I developed a reaction (like a sunburn on my chest, neck, and cheeks) to one of the chemo drugs and was put on Benadryl for two days. That, of course, made me feel sleepy and weird, but otherwise okay. And I’m much better today. Supposedly, the first week after the chemo is when the most side effects are likely to take place, so I’m learning as I go which of those effects will be mine during the three weeks between each of the six treatments. Fortunately, my doctors seem to have remedies for most of the issues, and I’m hopeful that we won’t have to worry about too many of them.

Yesterday I had planned to have my hair taken off, since I know the whole head’s worth will be gone shortly. But even though my daughter was with me in the hair salon where I’ve been going for eleven years, I wasn’t ready and couldn’t go through with the buzz cut. I did have two wigs shaped and styled, however, and they look absolutely fabulous! So that gave me a boost of confidence for when my hair is gone. My guess is that I’ll get my courage up for the buzz cut sometime this week. Once that happens, I’ll post a photo or two of me in my “new” hair, marking the first tangible point on this fresh journey-within-a-journey.

Meanwhile,  tomorrow I will return to my Write-A-Thon objectives and will update you on the progress shortly. Hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend!

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Readers Favorite 2011 Award Winners Are In …

And Separation of Faith received a Bronze “medal” in the “Fiction–Realistic” category. Yay! So, the beat goes on … and everything I said about contests in my previous post today still stands.

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… with More to Come!

One of the questions I’m asked by authors who are getting ready to bring out their first books is whether or not I think that contests are worth the time, effort, and entry fees. And my answer is–especially for the increasing numbers of authors who’ve opted for a non-traditional publishing path–yes! Enter every contest you can get your hands on!

That resounding encouragement is not just because my second novel, Separation of Faith, has proven (unbelievably) to be a story with “contest legs.” Contests are not just about placing or winning. (And so far, Separation of Faith has not grabbed a first prize but has come so-o-o-o close! A full list of the contests and the specific placements is at the end of this post.) For all of us, yet particularly for those of us carrying the entire promotional load required to get our work into the hands of readers, contests can provide a much-needed assist. Each contest–even the list comprising all of the “festivals”–has a separate and independent panel of judges, and no matter how your book ends up doing overall, you’ll receive at least one piece of valuable input per experience. Of course, that input might not be something you want to hear, but sometimes the toughest feedback can turn out to be the most important in the scope of your entire writing/publishing Journey.

A case proving that particular point involves my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon. Just like every other aspiring author out there, I was absolutely convinced that Cinnamon was what the publishing community had been missing. This novel was going to change the world! Well … that was seven+ years ago, and although the world has changed, Cinnamon is certainly not the reason. Contests, however, were instrumental in helping me understand a lot of things about my debut novel, not the least of which is the key role professional editing needs to play in your process if you’ve decided to follow a non-traditional publishing path. Unfortunately, as I was working on the final iterations of Cinnamon, I still believed that all of the edits I’d performed on the book myself (especially since I was an official freelance editor, which surely gave me all the tools I needed) would be more than sufficient. Plus, the book had been put through several proofing rounds performed by educators in my circle of family and friends. What more could I have possibly done? Well … a lot! And I could not have been more wrong about thinking I could manage that critical element on my own! That fact first began creeping into my world through feedback from contest judges.

The Truth About Cinnamon never placed once in any contest. And, after awhile, I stopped entering the book because I recognized that the results were never going to change unless I pulled the book out of circulation, made a ton of major changes, and then handed the book over to a serious, professional editor. Eventually, that’s exactly what I did do, but not until I’d finished writing Separation of Faith, which was subjected to intense (and seemingly endless, at the time) rounds of professional editing from the get-go. Many of the major lessons learned through The Truth About Cinnamon originated in feedback from contest judges. Those lessons included favorable input on characterization, descriptive elements, and the basic storyline. “Needs improvement” comments almost universally centered around point-of-view inconsistencies, unnecessary background information, and confusion in the timeline. But the single most cited reason for Cinnamon’s lack of success in every contest was the poor editing.

That lesson was so indelibly (and painfully) etched on my writing psyche that Separation of Faith–my second novel and the beneficiary of lots of heartbreaking input from novel #1–has actually been cited for editorial excellence! And the whole subject and scope of editing was covered extensively in this blog as I was documenting the editing phases of Separation of Faith in real-time. If you search this blog for “editing,” you’ll find a whole bunch of stuff that might be of value to you, because the time to concentrate on editing, of course, is before you publish you book–:-)–not afterward, as I originally did with Cinnamon.

When readers order copies of The Truth About Cinnamon now, though, they receive a re-edited Second Edition that has addressed the issues raised by readers as well as contest and other feedback while also cutting 20,000 words. That re-editing effort took nearly a year (as I squeezed that work into the rest of my life). Aspiring authors often get themselves into the same situation because they’re so excited about “finishing” their first book that they become impatient. If they’re pursuing a traditional publishing path, they begin sending the manuscript prematurely to agents and editors and end up with piles of rejections. If they’ve decided to take an alternative publishing path, they do as I did and publish too soon. Note to aspiring authors: If you’ve finished writing your first novel, that book is still an early draft until you and the book have been through at least two rounds (and probably more) of professional editing. If you’re sending in a manuscript–or if you’re publishing a manuscript–that hasn’t been professionally edited, you’re submitting/publishing a premature draft that will inevitably disappoint you. And that was the most important lesson gleaned from contest input.

Even after pulling Cinnamon and basically rewriting the book, the editorial quality of the new version still doesn’t equal that of Separation of Faith. But at least the new Cinnamon is miles better than the original–and I’m even considering submitting the novel to a few contests again, just out of curiosity. 🙂

Meanwhile, Separation of Faith is on a contest role–and although the story and characters have obviously made some contribution to these placements, another primary reason for the novel’s success is the excellence in editing. A few competitions haven’t announced the winners yet, and I have a list in front of me of another dozen contests to enter (all named below). Here’s what’s happened so far:

  1. Amazon’s 2011 Breakthrough Novel Award: Made Round 1 Cut. Feedback from Round 2 was interesting and included reports from two judges. One evaluation was glowing and would have moved the novel into Round 3. The second evaluation was the exact opposite and didn’t even sound like the same book had been read by the two judges. So, keep in mind that there’s a great deal of subjectivity in contest judging–just like there’s subjectivity in readers themselves. That’s why I’m entering as many contests as possible. The more feedback you can get, the more you’ll see the consistencies (the positives and negatives) come through in the feedback.
  2. 2011 Paris Book Festival: Runner-Up to Grand Prize Winner.
  3. 2010 DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Book Festival (one of the most prestigious and most important for self-publishers): Runner-Up to Grand Prize Winner.
  4. 2011 San Francisco Book Festival: Honorable Mention (2nd from top) in General Fiction.
  5. 2011 Beach Book Festival: Honorable Mention (top of list) in Fiction.
  6. 2011 New York Book Festival: Honorable Mention (top of list) in Fiction.
  7. 2011 Hollywood Book Festival: Honorable Mention (4th from top) in Fiction

Still waiting for results:

  1. 2011 Reader’s Favorite
  2. Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards–winners to be announced October 14, 2011
  3. USA Best Books 2011–finalists and winners to be announced in October 2011

Contests still to enter:

  1. Los Angeles Book Festival
  2. Benjamin Franklin Awards
  3. IPPYs (Independent Publisher Book Awards)
  4. Los Angeles Book Festival
  5. Foreward Magazine Book of the Year
  6. London Book Festival
  7. New England Book Festival
  8. 2012 Indie Excellence Awards
  9. Green Book Festival
  10. Hudson Valley Festival of Books

And I’m sure there are others. You can’t enter too many, in my opinion. Remember, also, that placing is fun, but what you end up learning about your writing and the story you’ve entered is the most important part of the process in the long run.

Good luck to you if you’re also on the contest path! Please let me know how you’re doing!

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Writing from Colville/Kettle Falls, Washington

Yesterday, this long-awaited adventure (and most important promotional element of my fledgling/old-person writing career to-date) was officially launched!

My dear friend Elaine (friends since my 41-year-old daughter was a toddler of two) flew up from San Francisco to meet me in Spokane. By the time I arrived from New Jersey, around 1:00 p.m. via a delayed connection in Denver, Elaine already had the rental car and picked me up outside baggage claim just like we lived here.

Having her here with me for this experience is so exciting and so perfect. She has not only been one of my biggest fans since I reinvented myself from a corporate person and let the writer out of the box, but she’s also been one of my most important critics. None of us can learn, grow, and become the great writers we all dream of being if we don’t have people reading our work who are willing to tell us the truth. Several significant sections of Separation of Faith were extensively reworked due to Elaine’s input.

At any rate, we then made the drive to the Colville/Kettle Falls, Washingon area, which is the primary setting in Separation of Faith and is located about 90 miles north of Spokane. For those of you who’ve read the novel, I’m presently writing this post from my room in the Colville lodge where Isaiah stayed. And, after checking in yesterday afternoon, Elaine and I drove by the property that was the former convent. We also passed through the neighborhood where Tess and Ava lived, and we had dinner at Barney’s.

So, why are we here in the first place? Well, for the past 75 years or so, a three-day festival called Town & Country Days has been held in Kettle Falls during the first weekend in June, drawing attendance from the entire Spokane area. After Separation of Faith received the endorsement of Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992, who grew up in Kettle Falls, the goal of somehow being a part of that festival was added to my promotional to-dos. Now, following much effort, press releases, phone calls, emails, interviews, etc., the novel has become a featured highlight of this year’s event.

The wonderful people of this magnificently beautiful part of our country are really excited that someone made their little town a key setting in a novel. As for me, I spent three days here doing research in the fall of 2004, and I’m so excited about coming back that I could just pop! I’ll be blogging once or twice a day as we move through the setup of the booth and then into the event, which opens at noon tomorrow. Pictures will be included, beginning with tonight’s post.

If you’re a writer out there who’s plugging away at your own version of the Dream/Journey, let me assure you that there are lots of different paths available to all of us now. And there are many ways to feel validated and legitimate. The most important goal should be to get your work into the hands of readers. Once that happens, if the readers love what you’ve written, what greater validation can there be? If we’re not writing to give readers several hours of unforgettable reading pleasure, then what is our motivation?

Most of us will never become wealthy or hugely famous from our writing. But I’m here to tell you that, if you focus on completing a well-written book with quality editing–and if you’re willing to work hard on the promotional aspects of this business–the possibility of having your own version of a Kettle Falls adventure is an attainable goal for every single writer out there! (And when the bank teller in Colville got all excited yesterday about who I was, I have to tell you that I did feel like a celebrity. Success on this journey can be measured and attained in so many different ways! And right now I’m having a blast, thoroughly enjoying this moment that I worked so hard to create!)

I’m really looking forward to sharing each step of this adventure with you over the next four days! See you again tonight!

Separation of Faith Is A Proud Bridesmaid Again!

Notification arrived yesterday–and sitting right on top of the honorable mentions for the Beach Book Festival competition is Separation of Faith (http://www.beachbookfestival.com/)! This makes the fifth contest placement in the past few months, and I’m enormously honored! I’d be less than honest, however, if I didn’t add that I’m still hoping the novel will win first place in at least one competition! Still, this accumulating record feels pretty good!

Move Completed … At Last 

The nightmare move that just seemed to never end finally concluded the day before I left on this trip! I took pictures of my new office that night, and I’ll post a few tonight along with the festival adventure shots we’ll be taking today.

Hope you all have a wonderful day ahead! Talk to you later! 

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NOTE: This post was drafted on May 18, but I still don’t know how to do certain editing (putting a series if words in italics, for example) on my iPad. So I had planned on doing that editing on my real computer that night in the new place. But I’m having connectivity issues, and yesterday was the moving van part of the process, so last night I fell into bed surrounded by boxes. Decided this morning to publish the post as drafted.
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Today I’ve been up since extra-early o’clock. Slept in the old moving-out-of place last night. The movers are coming this morning to pack all the stuff I didn’t want to attempt moving myself (grandmother’s china, items from my great-grandparents, etc.), along with all the stuff I simply cannot lift (mirrors, big framed wall hangings). So, I’m sitting here for a brief peaceful moment, in advance of the chaos, with some yogurt/granola and my iPad. (Critical elements for life, such as my coffee pot and my computer are over at the new place–but, with my iPad, I’m at least connected, if not caffeinated.)

As I’ve been sitting here in the complete stillness (experienced rarely anymore and only when television is not an option), I’ve been thinking that moving is one of the ways we can sample hell on earth. And every time I move I say the same thing: This is the last time!

How many time have I moved? Funny you should ask. This current move makes number thirty! Yes, a nice round number. So once again I say, “This is the last time!” Seriously.

Not all of the thirty moves were of my own doing. Since I’m counting from when I was born, at least a half dozen or more of those early relocations were my parents’ fault, of course, although several life-altering events are associated with each of those domiciles. But from the time I left for college (and I’m counting the college dorms as being among the thirty “residences”), every move has either been of my own choosing (generally quite exciting situations marking positive changes) or the result of some stupid decision I made along the way.

Several years ago, the thought occurred to me that an interesting idea for a memoir might be to track the formative moments in a life through the places in which a person had lived. And since I have photographs of almost all of the thirty (the number was only 28 when this brainstorm hit), I thought “that person” might be me, and I actually starting crafting the outline for that book.

Then, after spending about forty hours on the project and getting sort of jazzed, another thought occurred to me: What the heck am I doing? Who on earth is going to care about where I lived, or what happened to me and to my family in each of those places, or what I ended up learning from those various parts of the country, types and sizes of houses/apartments, and how each location ran in tandem with the development of my heart, soul, dreams, aspirations, and calamities? No one even knows who in the world “Cheri Laser” is! Not to mention the fact that everyone in America seems to be writing a memoir–even 16-year-old pop singing phenoms named Justin. (There’s actually something a tad bit annoying, to tell the truth, about a 16-year-old person who’s already [theoretically] crammed enough substantive life experiences into sixteen brief years to support a memoir. Do you think there might be any padding in there? Or perhaps the book is only twenty pages long …?)

At any rate … whatever.

After extensive consideration of all the above, no motivating or inspirational answers to my questions were forthcoming, so I ceased my work on that memoir and shifted all of my concentration to Separation of Faith.

Now, who knows? Readers are discovering Separation of Faith all over the country through word of mouth, contest placements, book clubs, and so forth. And dreams have a funny way of materializing, if you never give up. So, maybe someday people will know who the heck I am–and then, perhaps, there might be some interest in the thirty places where I’ve lived and all that comes along with that theme.

Should even a trace of that scenario ever come to pass, I just happen to have a book ready to resurrect on the subject.

Meanwhile, back to the real world of May 18, 2011 and to move number thirty. Hope you all have a beautiful day!

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Good News Is Especially Fun When You’re Exhausted!

Hi! This will be the quickest of posts since this moment finds me literally buried in the chaos of the move. But my genius computer fellow just finished reassembling the technical elements of my office about an hour ago, in the new (and amazingly wonderful) space where I will now be blessed to write each day.

So, after he left, I stopped unpacking for a few minutes to check email–and there I found a message announcing that the winners of the Paris Book Festival had been announced. And guess what? Separation of Faith has placed as runner-up to the winner … again!

I am pleased beyond measure about this string (we’re now at #4) of contest successes! There are five or six contests still outstanding (I think that’s the right number–need to double check), and now there’s even more anticipation than before!

Although I am immensely grateful that Separation of Faith is being so well-received in the book contest world, I remain ever hopeful that when I scan the eventual results of the remaining competitions, there will be that one glorious moment in time when the title Separation of Faith will be at the very top!

Well … no one is going to do my dreaming for me! 🙂

And … if you have a book (or almost have a book) that you’re working hard to promote (or plan on promoting), be sure to check out the whole contest avenue. The 2011 Writer’s Market (http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Market-Deluxe-Robert-Brewer/dp/1582979499/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1305661286&sr=1-2) has an entire section devoted to contests, and pursuing those competitions just might help open some doors that you might not have known were there. (The 2012 Writer’s Market will be out in September. The Deluxe Editions of both the 2011 and 2012 WM come with a searchable DVD of the entire reference.)

Also, please keep in mind one of the key messages delivered many times throughout this blog (through posts as well as reader/writer comments): Quality editing is as important to the success of your book, if not more so, than the quality of your writing and the creativity of your plot. A poorly edited manuscript (or one with no editing at all, other than your own) will cause readers, agents, editors, and yes judges, to bypass a project that is otherwise terrific. And this is true no matter which path to publishing you decide to follow. I’ve seen some very poorly edited books coming out of mainstream houses lately, which never (or hardly ever) used to happen, so remain vigilant if you’re going that direction. If you’re exploring the alternate routes, be sure to have your book professionally edited. Skipping that step will make this steep climb even steeper.

Regarding the move, the furniture will be in my new place this Thursday (day after tomorrow), so I’ll be waking up here on Friday morning! I’ll check back in through another post at that time, and then there will be photos loaded shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, please have a beautiful and productive week on whatever path you’re taking to your own Dream!

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As a consequence of entering Separation of Faith in the “Best Books 2011” Awards competition (one of about 15 contests entered during the last couple of months), this increasingly high-powered little novel of mine is now listed “live” on USA Book News (http://www.usabooknews.com/generalfiction.html).

Winners of this contest will not be announced until October (2011), so the wait for some of these results seems rather interminable. But meanwhile, there’s new visibility as a byproduct.

Book Promotion

The list of promotional to-dos for Separation of Faith seems to grow exponentially by the day, appearing even longer, I sometimes think, because authors have to do all the work themselves (until they become famous … 🙂 …). I’ve been collecting promotional tips, which I’ll be sharing with you in a post later this week.

Current New Project

This is also the week that I will finally begin earnestly writing my next book, which I’ve decided will be my nonfiction story about the last year initiated by the breast cancer. (You can search this blog for all relevant references once the breast cancer popped up.)

Because I diligently kept a daily journal for many months after the diagnosis, and then wrote substantial notes thereafter, I believe this book will be the quickest to complete and properly edit. (You can also search this blog for all of the references to editing Separation of Faith, the most critical of all the steps in the production of this novel. I believe with all my heart that the high quality of editing is directly correlated to the success we’re beginning to realize in contests. Poor or nonexistent editing can squash the dreams about an otherwise well-written, innovative novel. And that’s the most important lesson learned from the post-completion phases of Separation of Faith!)

Once my nonfiction project is comfortably out of my head, I’m confident that focusing on novel #3 will become easier. As long as the nonfiction effort remains incomplete, I’ve found that there are too many distractions that keep me from the heads-down attention required to effectively fire up the next novel.

Lesson: If you have more than one book in your head, pick one to finish. Spending time scattered across more than one project ends up producing nothing of value at all. As we travel this Journey, unless we’re already celebrities, no one is going to be interested in our “ideas.” The only things publishing professionals want to see are finished books!

So, here I go, all set to create a work of nonfiction that will hopefully prove helpful to women who are finding themselves in the same place I was a year ago. More later on this project as the chapters materialize. Really fun (and incredibly fulfilling) to be moving back into the writing part of this Journey.

Hope you all have a great week!

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