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Archive for the ‘Creative Writing’ Category

Write-A-Thon Presents Fresh Approach to the Familiar

As mentioned in earlier posts, I’m proceeding with Write-A-Thon–Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander. I’m trying out this method to jump-start my nonfiction project on the subjects of mastectomy and reconstruction. The first part of the book involves “training” and includes lots of reading (underlining and highlighting), writing exercises (consolidated in the recommended dedicated journal), and preliminary organization (I’m not there yet). The second half of the book launches the 26-day write-a-thon and guides the writer through the entire process. My goal is to be at that launch point by November 1.

So far, the training portion has been more compelling than I expected. For example, one of the early writing exercises sounds familiar, on the surface, to all of us: “Write down where you envision yourself being in five years?” How many times have we heard this technique throughout high school, college, technical training classes, job interviews, etc., almost to the point of being a cliche? So, at first, I wasn’t too impressed, nor was I eager to answer the question yet again (especially given the fact that I’m currently going through chemo and am focused, at the moment, at much earlier target dates, such as losing my hair this week and my final chemo treatment next February). As I read further, however, my attitude began to change, largely due to the imaginative twist Melander applied to the question, making the exercise specifically relative to writers:

“Imagine yourself five years from now. Everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your writing goals. Write about your accomplishments–what degrees you have earned, what articles and books you have written, what talk shows you have appeared on, the awards you have won. Write about your daily writing practice. What does it look like? Where and when do you write? How much are you able to accomplish each day? Envision your writing community–who do you connect with, who buys your books, who reviews them, who is interested in the ideas you are sharing and the stories you are telling? Write about anything else that is relevant: where you live, what other work you do, or how your day unfolds in addition to the writing. Use as much sensory detail as possible.”

WellI really liked the part about everything going “as well as it possibly could” over the five-year period. 🙂 Sort of started me off in an exceptionally happy mood. But the big surprise showed up when I started answering all of the individual sub-questions. Apparently, my subconscious must have been working on some of this stuff during the years I’ve spent writing and publishing two novels because I had no problem identifying immediately where I would be in five years, complete with all of the surrounding details. According to me, by then I will have written three additional novels plus three nonfiction books. Some of them will have been self-published and some will have been picked up by mainstream houses. My talk show appearances, which I was totally making up in my imagination, were of particular interest to me. Surprisingly, I did not have myself on Oprah but instead logged appearances on all of the national morning shows, in addition to local affiliates. And, with five novels and four nonfiction books under my belt at that point, I wrote that my very first novel–The Truth about Cinnamon–was “the one garnering the most attention” five years out. Interesting

Keep in mind that my writing in the prescribed journal just poured out of me, without the slightest hesitation or pause to think things over. And, as I wrote, I didn’t feel as if I were projecting into the future. Instead, the words felt more like reality being captured, making the exercise fascinating on one hand and hysterically funny on the other.

The instructions recommend repeating the journal entries a total of four times over a week’s period of time, with each round focusing on a slightly different visual of the situation in five years. Three examples of the variances include:

  • Write book jacket copy about yourself.
  • Write an acceptance speech for a major literary award.
  • Write an introduction for yourself and tell what sort of an event it is for.

I haven’t completed all four entries yet. But one thing I have learned is that my speaking engagements will have become a really big deal and a major source of revenue for me by then. That will certainly be something to look forward to! 🙂

Even if you’re not interested in trying to write a book in 26 days, I highly recommend going through this exercise for every aspiring author (or even authors who’ve already experienced some level of publishing success). All of the details–and I mean down to the tiniest morsel–of what I want to do, where I want to be, and what I want my life to look like in five years are now being captured in this unique journal. And since I believe in the maxim that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity,” I’ll be all set in the preparation category, if I accomplish even half of what I’ve written down! So, when the opportunity shows up, the journal will be transformed into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yay!

Meanwhile … back to reality … the launch of my 26-day write-a-thon (for the third of nine books I’m supposed to have written in five years) is now only seven days away. Guess I’d been get my head out of that journal and the future, and back to work instead! Will definitely keep you posted on my progress.

Chemo/Hair Update

Last Saturday, I managed to attend a wedding with all of my own hair. There wasn’t even a large of amount of thinning evident at that point, and I was beginning to imagine that I would be the lone exception out of millions who would get through this process without becoming bald. However … I was told that the hair loss would happen during the first cycle–and now that I’m on day 13 (of 21) in that cycle, the thinning is increasing on a dramatic scale each day. My suspicion is that I will be calling my hair salon for the buzz cut appointment before this week is over.

Although I realize that I’m at the front end of this chemotherapy process–with plenty of side effect surprises undoubtedly ahead of me between now and February 2012–I’m doing remarkably well to-date. There was a sunburn-like flush on my chest, neck, and face from days 2-4, and I experienced a lot of dizziness (no blonde jokes, please) and fatigue for about a week. But other than that, I’ve been surprised by the absence of issues. The one exception to that has been the unrelenting trauma associated with the prospect of losing my hair. And I’m honestly beginning to believe that, once the hair is gone (and I’m able to open my eyes when looking in a mirror), I will be over the biggest hump of this whole eighteen-week thing. Anticipating the “event” is consuming an unbelievable amount of energy and focus, an irritating distraction that may very well accelerate my decision about when to finally face the music.

As I told you in an earlier post, I had originally scheduled myself to have my hair buzzed off on Saturday, October 15. But I chickened out and opted instead to just have my two new wigs cut and styled. Now I’m really glad that I was such a wimp, and I’m hoping this confession will be helpful to any women who might be a little earlier in the process than I am when they stumble upon this blog. Lots of people will suggest that you take a proactive approach and have your hair taken off before the follicles starting withering away and the strands start coming out in your hands as you brush or in the shower. Others will suggest that you wait, letting the process unfold gradually. One way or another–if you’re on a drug protocol that results in hair loss–your hair will be gone within three weeks of your first treatment anyway. So, how you decide to handle the difficult situation will depend on lots of personal variables.

For me, waiting has proven to be the right decision. So was the decision to get those wigs in advance and have them cut and styled to match me. As I brushed my hair this morning (I have a lot of long and thick but fine hair), watching my scalp become increasingly visible, I was comforted as I looked at those wigs on my vanity. I realize now that I’m going to look a lot better once I start wearing them than I’m going to by tomorrow (probably), as my disappearing hair makes me look older and less vibrant each day. With a wig on–one that’s been chosen to make me look like myself–I will, in fact, look just like myself. What a concept! So … to other women in the same situation … decide on whichever approach feels most comfortable to you (recognizing that no approach will really feel comfortable as you anticipate your first view of yourself with a bald head)–but do have other hair options ready to go right at the beginning of your chemo. I have the two wigs, and I have also ordered two items called “halos,” which are hair pieces on sort of headbands that stick out when you wear hats, softening your face and the unmistakable look of no hair, regardless of what kind of hat you’re wearing. Knowing that those hair options are there for me is going to make the trip to my salon this week a lot easier–although I’m guessing that won’t be the best day of my life, no matter what I do to prepare.

Attached is a photo I took of myself yesterday. You won’t notice the thinning, but that was the day the loss first became really obvious to me. So, I decided to capture the moment. You probably won’t ever see my bald head (although maybe I’ll become more courageous as time goes on). But I will definitely post a picture of me in my new hair on whichever upcoming day turns out to be Buzz-Day for me.

In the interim, as I said earlier in this post, I need to get back to work! Hope you’re all having a great week!

Cheri's Lingering Hair on October 24, 2011

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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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Novel #3, Where Art Thou?

In a post I published a week or two ago, I mentioned that as soon as the promotional efforts for Separation of Faith were fully underway, the need to start writing another book began swelling within me. And, athough my days have been packed with marketing and promotion to-dos ever since, the time I’m spending in thoughts about the next story is increasing exponentially each day.

Then this morning I ran across a folder I’ve been keeping for years entitled very simply “Ideas.” So, I gave myself some time to enter the folder and subsequently found all sorts of inspiration in my notes that date back as far as several decades. My eye was particularly drawn to a couple of pages written in longhand that I kept while serving on my one-and-only jury duty. I think that was in about 1989, athough I didn’t write the date in my notes.

Because my most consistent idea for novel #3 incorporates a crime (which I think I’m ready to try now that two novels are under my belt), the discovery of the jury duty notes was pretty exciting. Apparently, I must have been thinking “novel” way back then because I wrote descriptions of the eleven other jurors plus the single alternate. I also started a description of the judge but didn’t finish him, for some reason.

That experience was so long ago that I have no idea how much of these descriptions was based on what I was actually observing versus the role my imagination and plans for a story might have played in what I wrote. But here’s a sample, highlighting seven of us:

“Martha–white, age 67, wears glasses, widow, 4 daughters, 11 grandchildren, husband was a Prof. of Engl. Lit at local college. Skinny. White hair. Attractive.”

“Leticia–age 21, black, beautiful, short hair, slightly overweight, great makeup, faded jeans outfit, unmarried (never was), mother of 5-year-old son, handles doctor’s office work (OB/GYN), concerned about time commitment. Never learned how to drive. Neutral about jury duty.”

“Mimi–age 36, black, married, 2 children, legal secretary, gold streaks in her hair, doesn’t ‘see color,’ wears glasses.”

“Kevin–age 23, white, handsome, athletic, long hair, very bright, laborer, h.s. grad., parents divorced, father actor, married, 3-yr-old son. Vision problem. Wants to serve on jury but worried about family/child care scheduling. Wife works. Waits patiently.”

“Donato–age 26, white (Italian), handsome, thick black hair, married, 3 children (1, 2, 3), BA in Poli Sci, working for U.S. congressman, studying for MA. Very nervous. Hands shake when speaking. Dry mouth. VERY INTELLIGENT–very upset that legal education could produce incompetent attorneys that represent poor people who truly have a case.”

“Michael–42 years old, white, Georgia State ‘perpetual student,’ gray hair, not unattractive, very personable, gay.”

“Alternate–Albert–age 20, black, student, unmarried, ‘freaking out’ over missing class. Wrote a note to the judge. Bailiff jumped all over him for not mentioning the problem earlier.”

Well, I have no idea if any of this will serve as a foundation for anything at all. But the descriptions did take me back to what I remember as a wonderful, eclectic group of folks who were thrown together for three days and miraculously managed to come up with what we unanimously believed was the right verdict. They all knew I was a writer and joked about showing up in a book some day. Funny. The images grow clearer as I work to retrieve the memories from so far away. Frankly, I’m very proud of myself for saving the notes and excited about the discovery.

That same file included random thoughts about good opening lines and potential story threads. So, this is sort of an interesting study about how novels can take root–borne of something real that happens to us and then taking on a life of their own from there.

Also, if you’ve been a writer all of your life, you might want to go exploring through your files and drawers. Very possibly you might have written something down on a napkin a long time ago that you then stuck away somewhere. Inspiration is often like the watched pot that never boils. The thoughts start flowing into our heads as soon as we stop trying to force them to materialize.

Speaking of Stuff Found in Drawers

In the same folder as the jury descriptions, I found an essay written about the same time (1990) that I was seriously trying to get published because the “Barbara Bush controversy” referenced in the essay was actually ongoing at the time. The rejections (also saved in the folder) are all quite encouraging–but they’re still rejections in the end. 🙂

The essay’s subject matter deals with women’s roles in the workplace (remember, that was in 1990!). As I mentioned in my Scribd description when I published the essay a few minutes ago, I’m amazed at how relevant a lot of the words still are today, twenty years later.

If you’re interested in taking a gander at some of the stuff writers stick away, you can find the essay on Scribd at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38697919/Where-Is-Everybody.

Making a Novel “Unforgettable”

If you’re working on a novel, here’s an article that really popped out of the reading pile at me: “5 Ways to Make Your Novel Unforgettable.” It’s actually five different elements of a single, very critical point. Hope you find the information of use: http://victoriamixon.com/2010/09/13/5-ways-to-make-your-novel-unforgettable/.

A Final Thought Combining Both Writing & Promotion

In several articles I read yesterday, various authors spoke to the reality of needing a minimum of six months to even get a novel off the ground. Separation of Faith has been officially launched now for about three weeks. So I’m going to stop running around like an idiot, trying to make everything happen this afternoon.

There’s an endless list of things to pursue on the promotional road, with new angles appearing every day. Over the next month, I’m going to readjust my activities so there’s some promotion and some new writing going on every day. The plan is unfolding, and the Journey is on track. No need to make myself any crazier than I already was.

Perhaps that’s a good thought for all of us to consider while we’re going after this dream …?

Have a good week!

 

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Separation of Faith at Final Approval Stage (Again)

Yesterday the issues with the cover on Separation of Faith were resolved, and I approved the changes. My contacts at iUniverse/Author Solutions (parent of iUniverse) have been amazingly helpful and supportive. Of course, the process never moves along as quickly as I’d like, but I’m only one of many authors/issues they’re juggling. And I have to keep reminding myself that this last month of delay was initiated by me when I found things that needed to be changed upon receipt of the original printer copies (one sample of the hard cover and one of the soft). I also have to keep reminding myself how fortunate I am that those necessary changes were discovered before hundreds of books were printed for my initial launch supply. (Every time I think about what would have happened, my knees start to buckle!)

The updated printer copies containing all of the corrected issues should be in my hands by this Friday (August 27). Once I give that final go-ahead, the title will again begin feeding into all of the various sources where the novel can be purchased. And as soon as we know for certain that Separation of Faith is really, truly available everywhere, we will re-launch the social media blitz, and I will officially enter the marketing/promotion segment of this Journey.

Invitations for my Book Launch Party on September 23 have already been printed and will be going out this week. Press releases to the local newspapers and to every person/group in my contact world will be sent as soon as I’m sure the title is live through all of the critical online retailers (Amazon, etc.). When my intial supply of books arrives (shortly after my September 2 surgery, I hope), I’ll be sending copies out for potential reviews, endorsements, and testimonials. There are also a number of contests that I’ll be entering, with looming deadlines. In addition to my Book Launch Party, I’ll be scheduling local events in every venue possible–independent book stores, restaurants, groups, clubs–wherever I can garner interest. And assuming I’m able to secure an endorsement from one significant individual (name to be withheld until I get the endorsement), I’ll be traveling from New Jersey to Kettle Falls, Washington (a primary setting in the novel) in October for a big community-wide book event. As long as I’m already that far “out West,” I’ll move on to San Francisco where I’ll attend an IBM reunion (part of my other life, years ago, before I reinvented myself into author/editor). My best friend for forty years (Elaine–probably the original BFF) lives there, so I’ll have a welcome chance to spend a few days with her and her family. Hopefully, I’ll be able to interest some of those IBM reunion folks in Separation of Faith as well. 🙂

Obviously, I’ll have to work in a quick recovery from my September 2 surgery. Squeezing breast cancer stuff into a book launch is something of a challenge. 🙂 But I’m amazingly blessed that we found the illness so early, that the pathology was so encouraging, and that the process required to bring things under control could have been a whole lot worse. I’m also thankful every day that I have this work, not to mention the layers of dreams and possibilities that never seem to thin out as the Journey moves forward. And sharing each step with you has become an unbelievably important and rewarding part of the entire endeavor.

Update: Second Edition of The Truth About Cinnamon

Guess what? The re-edited version is actually in production! I know. I’ve been talking about this part of the Journey’s plan for so long (see November 4 Blog Launch Post) that the reality is difficult to process. But yesterday I learned that the updates to the cover (updated bio, photo, and other stuff that’s changed over the last six years) are complete and should be sent to me shortly for approval. The bazillions of changes to the book’s interior are being implemented and should be in my hands for review in approximately five business days.

There will come a point very shortly where The Truth About Cinnamon will not be available anywhere for purchase for a brief period of time. The original (which will then officially become a First Edition) will be removed from all retail outlets, and the Second Edition won’t go live until I’ve submitted my final approval. So, even though I’d rather have you read the new version (if you’ve never experienced Cinnamon before), if you’re someone who’s interested in collecting First Editions, this would be the moment to do that for The Truth About Cinnamon (http://www.amazon.com/TRUTH-ABOUT-CINNAMON-Novel/dp/0595299733/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282751665&sr=1-1).

Transition Reading

As I continue my reading in search of interesting tidbits to share with you, I’m discovering a gravitation toward articles dealing with the process of writing again. That’s because I’m excited about getting back into my primary love–the actual writing of another book. Although there isn’t any decision yet as to which story idea I’ll pursue, I’ve been pleased to realize that three strong ideas have managed to survive the grueling process of bringing Separation of Faith and a new Cinnamon to life.

One article–“4 Ways to Improve Narrative Drive in Your Story”–caught my eye because the lessons/suggestions are succinct and easy to digest: (http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/08/17/4WaysToImproveNarrativeDriveInYourStory.aspx). Stay tuned for more like this as I shift into the realm of process and technique again where, after all, the true passion of a writer lives and breathes. Right?

A second article is about a man named Ransom Stephens who published his first novel as an E-book on www.Scribd.com. He chose this method after trying (unsuccessfully) the traditional publishing route over an extended period. On Scribd, however, he experienced a huge success, and now that same novel has been picked up by a publisher in the world that originally rejected him–a story I’m sure we all entertain in the Dream lane of our Journeys.

Scribd is a vehicle I’ve experimented with as well, publishing a number of short stories, essays, and free excerpts of Cinnamon on that site. (This story has been among the most popular:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/32280899/Life-at-Bat, and you can get to my other stuff there as well.) Very shortly (as soon as Separation of Faith has gone live, hopefully next week), I’m going to publish the first chapter on Scribd.

Meanwhile, check out Ransom Stephens’ story (doesn’t he have the greatest name?), which was featured by Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest: http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/08/18/ThePowerOfAnEmailNetwork10YearsInTheMaking.aspx. His Journey is not only full of great information but is incredibly inspirational as well.

Well, that’s the latest. Take care, and have a terrific week!

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The Editing, Opening-the-Kimono Thing Again

Following yesterday’s post, I was having a conversation with someone about the importance of having our work edited and the various reasons why writers remain hesitant to seek input. For me, that hesitation existed in spades years ago, before I grew my sea legs as a writer. That’s when I was still trying to make myself believe that I had somehow been miraculously born with everything I needed to know about writing novels already embedded in the creative side of my brain.

I remember one editor I’d queried directly (at a major New York publishing house, something you could still do in those days), who actually asked to see the entire manuscript of my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon. I believe there was a dust cloud behind my car as I raced directly to the closest Federal Express office. After spending all that money to overnight the manuscript, I waited a couple of months to hear back from her. Then she called me (!), giving me a valuable few minutes of her time over the phone, a gesture I absolutely did not appreciate as I should have. (I’d be groveling all over the floor if something like that happened today!)

At any rate, during that call, she said something like, “Your first draft of The Truth About Cinnamon isn’t a bad outline for starters.” And then she proceeded to give me a list of things that she thought needed to be changed/added/deleted/thrown into oblivion, if I wanted her to consider taking on the book. She was truly offering me a gift of immeasurable proportions. But, of course, I thought the manuscript was completely finished and ready for a multi-million dollar distribution–and, of course, I thought the editor was nuts, out of touch, off base, and you know the rest of the litany. Ah, the lament! If I had only listened to her, I would have certainly saved myself years of wasted time and effort. And hers is only one example of advice I foolishly turned away in those early days.

Instead of having the effect she’d intended, however, that editor’s input only caused me to pull inward for a long time, avoiding any further possibilities of having someone else tell me that what I’d written wasn’t very good. (Never mind the fact that she never said my work wasn’t good. On the contrary, she was trying to tell me that I might have a shot. But I wasn’t paying attention or hearing her at all.)

Hey! What if I’d let a professional editor into my writing world before I’d even begun queryingespecially before I’d begun querying? Who knows what would have happened, because here’s one unavoidable truth we all need to keep in mind: No matter what we attempt to do in life, we learn how to inprove ourselves and our craft/sport/art/business by playing with people who are better and more accomplished than we are. And no matter how good we become, there will always be people who are better than we are. For aspiring authors, those “people” are editors.

Believe me when I say that I remain fearful to this day of hearing anyone tell me that something I’ve labored to write needs a lot of work. But now the years have instilled in me the confidence that I can actually fix problems, once I’ve given people permission to point issues out to me. That entire process is intended to make the writing/story better, not to make me (or any writer) feel bad.

The person with whom I was speaking yesterday after my post was published said that, in addition to the editing thing, a lot of writers are also fearful of sharing their work because they think their idea(s) might be stolen. That particular reason hadn’t occurred to me, but my conversation with him was freshly on my mind this morning when Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest posted this link in her “Best Of Tweets for Writers” list from last week: http://jasonlbaptiste.com/startups/they-will-steal-your-idea-they-cannot-steal-what-really-matters/. The article centers more on techical writing and development than on fiction, although the concept is still totally applicable. Aside from the fact that legitimate editors are not in the business of stealing writers’ work, even if they did decide to co-opt an idea for a novel, there’s no way anyone could steal the author’s planned implementation for that novel, the essence of all the characters, the plot twists that exist only in the author’s head, and so forth.

Basically, in the end, there isn’t any legitimate reason for avoiding a professional edit of our workor for releasing our work into the hands of beta readers–and there are plenty of reasons for submitting our work to such scrutiny. Removing all the excuses for not having our work placed under a microscope is the goalmy goal–and hopefully the link and the additional thoughts shared in this post will be further steps in that direction.

We need to believe in ourselves, but not exclusively in ourselves! So let “the people” in. 🙂

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Separation of Faith Is Almost Here!

Last week Separation of Faith, the novel that’s been tracked through this blog since the launch posting last November 4 (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/, went into post-production where all the formatting is finalized and the printer files are established. By the end of this week, I should have in my hands the “printer copy” for the hard cover and the soft cover for one final review. These will be actual copies of the book, covers and all, and their receipt will be a hugely monumental moment! I’ll take pictures and post them for all to see!

Once I approve everything, the book will “go live,” marking the official publishing date, and the title will begin feeding into all of the online and brick-and-mortar retail outlets. That process will take another couple of weeks, and I’m not going to do any promotion until I know that the book is available everywhere. Needless to say, the next two or three weeks will be unbelievably busy as I pull what feels like millions of marketing pieces together.

The one date that I do have confirmed is my book launch party, which will be at the Hilton in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, on Thursday, September 23, from 4-7 pm. That’s when all stops will be pulled out and the Journey’s next phase will officially begin. A Calendar of Events will be added to the Web site very shortly (www.SeparationOfFaith.com), and the last quarter of the year promises to be extremely full of stuff (much of which I probably can’t even imagine yet). My second surgery (search my blog for “breast cancer” to find relevant headings in posts) will be on September 2, and that operation (part of the reconstruction process) is supposed to make me a lot more comfortable than I’ve been since the big surgery on May 4. So I should be in great shape and kicking at the gate by September 23. A high energy level will definitely be crucial.

As we’ve discussed, one of the key elements in this plan is the video book trailer, which is going to be an amazing little thriller running 90 seconds. On Tuesday July 27, I’ll be spending the better part of the day with the fellow who’s putting the thing together for me. We are very close to having a finished product, and I absolutely cannot wait to share the end result with you! In preparation, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about using video book trailers effectively, and I’ve learned that there are at least 14 different sites, in addition to YouTube, where our masterpiece will need to be loaded. As I’ve said many times since I started trying to get my arms around this octopus–Yikes!

The Focus of My Reading Lately 

Now that there is really nothing left to do to the internals of Separation of Faith, my editing focus has been on the reduction of The Truth About Cinnamon (which seems to have been going on for a millenium at this point). Right now I’m entering the changes from the last edit. When finished with that, I’ll do one more read-through on the computer–and then–YAY!–the updated manuscript will go to the publisher–hopefully by the end of July!

Since this will be a re-do agreed to by the publisher when I elected to publish Separation of Faith with them, the book will basically go directly into production. At that point, the original version (which will then become an official 1st Edition) will no longer be available for purchase anywhere. The new 2nd Edition will probably take about six weeks to go live. So, by the time I’m launching the promotion for Separation of Faith, the new Cinnamon should be available. At least, that’s the plan.

Meanwhile, in addition to thoughts about my third novel, which are beginning to gel in the spare recesses of my mind, my attention has been drawn to every blog and article I can find relative to book promotion. I thought my list of avenues to attack was fairly comprehensive as a result of the Rising Star Application (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/48-journey-update-whew/). But there is actually a seemingly endless list, I’m discovering, of things I need to try. Looking at the whole picture is always a little overwhelming for me, so I’ll take a topic or two at a time, as they develop, and share them here like I’ve been doing with the video book trailer. The concentration on the promotional elements will begin in earnest the moment the Cinnamon edit is complete.

Some Additional Information for You

Along with things I need to learn and do for my own Journey, I continue to be on the lookout for information that I think will be helpful to you on your Journeys as well. This week I found several articles that touch on topics we’ve addressed before, but that I continue to believe are extremely important for all of us:

  • Alan Rinzler, Consulting Editor at Jossey-Bass Publishing in San Francisco, wrote a post titled The Author Background Check: Cautionary Notes (http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/). This subject was one of the huge revelations that launched my blog and Journey last fall after attending the Writer’s Digest Conference in September in Manhattan. The fact that our queries of agents or editors in traditional publishing houses immediately triggers a Google search of us blew me away. Well, there are apparently lots of other checks performed as well, and since everything ever posted online about any of us remains there forever, that could be highly problematic. Decisions that affect our Journeys are frequently made based on what’s being discovered. Rinzler’s article could be very sobering for some of us who are trying to break into the traditional publishing arena. (In March, I referenced another of Rinzler’s posts on his view of self-publishing, which you might find of interest if you missed it the first time: https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/30-journey-from-publishing-obscurity/.)
  • We’ve talked a whole lot about the importance of having our work edited by professionals (something I did not do, much to my regret, with my first novel). Here are three more perspectives on that subject, which has become a major hot button for me: 1) The Myth of the Evil Editor by Victoria Strauss (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2010/07/myth-of-evil-editor.html); 2) A Fourth of July Lesson in the Value of Editors by writingfordigital (http://writingfordigital.com/2010/07/04/a-fourth-of-july-lesson-in-the-value-of-editors/); 3) A Good Edit Would’ve Fixed That by April L. Hamilton (http://aprillhamilton.blogspot.com/2010/06/good-edit-wouldve-fixed-that.html). The point abundantly made by all three of these is that the quality of editing in our work is as important, if not more so, than our writing, our stories, and our characters combined. And this is true whether we’re pursuing our Journeys via a mainstream route or an alternate path.
  • Since I’m beginning my focus on the development of my third novel, I was drawn to Janet Fitch’s 10 Rules for Writers (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/07/janet-fitchs-10-rules-for-writers.html), which I found very useful and thought you might as well. I especially enjoyed her point #10: “Torture Your Protagonist. The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerablity and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.” After reading wonderful pieces like this, I begin to think that I should have my head examined for trying to compete in this business … 🙂
  • Here’s another interesting take on self-publishing–My Novel: There’s An App for That! by David Carnoy (http://publishingperspectives.com/?p=17935).
  • Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest posted about “New Tools for Entrepreneurial Writers” that consolidate social media input into a daily newspaper: (http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/CommentView.aspx?guid=f0aa3c49-14df-4391-82a7-a77bc90d93d4).
  • And finally–and probably my favorite–Victoria Mixon, Editor, posted 6 Personality Types Who Will Succeed as Writers (http://victoriamixon.com/2010/07/13/6-personality-types-who-will-succeed-as-writers/). I encourage you to read the entire post. But I was particularly struck by her “#5. THE PATIENT: those who take their time, realizing life is long and a career in the arts takes the whole of it and even the greats never lived long enough to learn it all.”  What she goes on to write is so beautiful and so applicable to all of us that I want to end this post with her words:

“Somerset Maughm lamented it. Flannery O’Connor lamented it. You can lament it too: you will never live long enough. You can devote all the decades of your life to the craft you love and be ecstatic you did, but you will still die, like Albert Einstein, leaning out of bed with the last frail ounce of strength, grasping for a reproducable theorum of the divine.

“And you will know, as you lean, that you gave it your all, every day of your life: your passion and curiosity and love and devotion to this craft that means so much to so many but, especially, to you. And you will die grateful you had the chance, thanking heaven you stumbled on it while there was all that time to luxuriate in it … even if you became a writer only days before you died.

“It came to you–this extraordinary craft–as a free and unfettered gift, and you got to own it, for just a little while.”

Have A Great Week, Everybody!

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Productivity on Memorial Day

Hope you’re all enjoying the holiday weekend and that the weather wherever you are is as perfectly gorgeous as we’re blessed with here in the New York City area today!

This morning my family and I were at a neighbor’s house for a lovely casual get-together. The tiny parade (about five minutes long) in our town passes right in front of our hosts’ lovely home, and we had a wonderful time!

Since then, I’ve been trying to be productive. On Scribd.com, I have now published four articles and three short stories for your free reading and downloading pleasure. (This is the same site where I published the free serialization of The Truth about Cinnamon.) Here’s the link that will take you to one of the short stories–http://www.scribd.com/doc/32280899/Life-at-Bat-and you can get to everything else I’ve published on Scribd from that page.

Let me know if you find anything interesting … 🙂

If you have a lot of things you’ve written that you’ve been stuffing in drawers, sites like www.Scribd.com offer terrific opportunities for you to get your work “out there.” Not only is the publishing free, but the traffic (visits, reads, downloads) is tracked for you so you can see what sort of interest your writing is generating. I announced the publishing of my artilces and short stories on my Facebook and Twitter sites, among others, to help get the ball rolling. I’ll let you know if I see anything happen with my traffic numbers.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to investigate this possibility, if you’re on a publishing Journey of your own.

New York Times Editorial on E-Reading

This editorial was in yesterday’s New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/opinion/30sun4.html), and since we’ve been discussing the whole subject of e-books lately, I thought you might find the perspective of interest.

Thoughts on To-Do Lists

Something I’ve noticed in the last few weeks is sort of astonishing to me, probably because it’s never happened (or I’ve never let it happen) to me before. Normally, my to-do lists expand daily–after finishing four or five things on one day, six or seven things get added later that day or the next. So there’s never any sense that I’m getting my arms around the octopus. Sound at all familiar?

But since my surgery, I’ve cut back on my commitments and made a concerted effort to stop saying yes to every request that comes along. Consequently, an amazing thing has been happening! My to-do list is getting shorter. Of course, I only have about three weeks before I’ll be running on full steam again, so I doubt that the list will ever be empty. (Can you even begin to imagine a time when you had absolutely nothing that needed to be done?)

And some of the notations on the list can be deceiving. For example, the line item that simply said “Publish articles and stories on Scribd” took nearly three days to accomplish because all seven pieces needed to be edited and polished first. There aren’t very many things on the list (most of which are related to the marketing and promotion of Separation of Faith) that can be finished in a few minutes. So accomplishing even one or two things in a day can be monumental. And still, during the past week, the list has grown shorter.

Even with that miracle, however, the remaining list is still somewhat overwhelming. But the fact that I’m not allowing any new items to be added (for a little while, at least) is making a remarkable impact on my stress level. And I highly recommend the experience!

Naturally, I realize that there aren’t many realistic opportunities for everyone to stop the spinning and just get off the ride. Perhaps a couple of days, though–or just one day every now and then–when you allow yourself to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m full today,” would do wonders for your blood pressure.

Believe me, as I was blogging on my mini netbook, in my hospital bed at 5:00 in the morning just a few hours after my surgery, I would not have believed that slowing down was possible. Imagine my surprise these four weeks later, having learned that I was wrong again.

If you decide to give a short term to-do shutdown a try yourself, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to add supporting your efforts to my list … 🙂

Finally, I’d Like to Send My Heartfelt Thanks to All the Veterans Out There! Hope Your Day Has Been Absolutely Perfect for You!

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