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Posts Tagged ‘achieving your goals’

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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Four Primary Cancers, and Lots of Pending Books, All Inside One Person …

… And the messages, stories, tips, suggestions, mysteries, suspense, and intriguing characters found in both my publishing and cancer journeys can no longer be separated, even temporarily. So, my posts will now include both, in order to remain authentic as well as informative.

In short, members of the medical community at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City are finding me “interesting,” to say the least. My non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma–first diagnosed twenty-four years ago in 1987–has been in remission (I’m knocking on wood right now) for around ten years. That part of the journey, all by itself, is fascinating enough. But what has really taken me into uncharted waters (uncharted for the professionals as well as for me) is the saga of three additional primary cancers (each unrelated in any way to any of the others) over the past seventeen months, starting with the breast cancer diagnosis in April 2010.

Seven surgeries and a round of radiation later, I am heading tomorrow (October 13) into an 18-week course of chemo to obliterate this latest surprise. The apprehension I’m feeling in advance of the chemo is very real but frankly pales in comparison to the scary days preceding the gigantic surgery four weeks ago to get this thing out of me. Everything is now gone except the microscopic stuff that we need to wipe out because, unlike all of my other cancers (that sounds like such a strange thing for someone to say), this latest bad boy is sort of aggressive. The good news is that, according to my guru oncologist who specializes in this particular cancer (and also according to my breast oncologist who has seen all of the tests and pathology), this “remains a very curable situation.” For that, I’m unbelievably grateful.

But I’m not going to lie. The past seventeen months have been a little rough. And yet, in the midst of all the turmoil, I’ve been surprised to realize that the coping skills required to survive cancer with a smile are not all that different from what’s required of writers trying to find their way to successful outcomes on their various publishing journeys. “You can’t be serious,” you might be saying. Well, yes I am. Serious, that is. Totally. Just think about it for a minute …

For example: First and foremost (other than being equipped with at least a modicum of writing knowledge and talent), writers need to maintain a positive outlook–to believe that “this is really possible,” a belief enhanced by the ability to visualize a happy outcome (a published book; a CT scan free of cancer). And the “positive outlook” needs to apply to the person’s entire life, not just to a singular task or challenge. Some people have more trouble with this concept than others, typically complaining about issues or people they have to deal with in their daily lives and then attempting to turn positive when they’re focusing on their writing/publishing objectives. Generally–at least from my own experience–that dichotomy doesn’t work out very well. Whatever outlook surfaces as most dominant in a person’s life–consistently positive versus pessimistic/cynical/complaining–tends to spill over into a person’s view of the publishing journey at hand (and sometimes into the writing as well). And, just as a negative outlook can affect, as one example, the impression a writer makes on publishing professionals (or even potential readers), I believe that those same gloomy characteristics can actually affect a person’s health, including things like cancer recovery. Our minds and bodies are interconnected in ways we don’t fully understand–and there is true power available to us through training ourselves to “think positive.”

Once the positive outlook thing has been mastered, writers need to have a plan that will bring their idea(s) for their book(s) to life. In a novel, the story needs to have plot points. The characters need to have arcs. The book promotion needs to have organization and goals. And those are only the starting points. Each step along the publishing journey’s path requires a plan that acknowledges challenges and realities, and that includes ideas for circumventing and overcoming obstacles. So, too, is the case with cancer. And there are so many kinds of cancers and cancers-within-cancers (a dozen types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; likewise with breast cancer, etc.) that each one requires a different plan. For example, my breast cancer was not only discovered very early but the type of cancer was indolent in nature. We took a very proactive approach with a double mastectomy and reconstruction (and that process is finally, thankfully, fully complete now), and rather than chemo or radiation, I was put on a drug called Arimidex for a total of five years that is basically siphoning all remnants of estrogen out of my body forever. This new cancer, as I said, though, is more aggressive, and thus the plan this time requires chemo.

But there are other elements to “the plan” besides just the treatment options. There are issues to deal with such as the loss of hair, which has turned out to be a really big deal for me (and I’m sure for most other women as well). So, I put together a plan that I hoped would help me manage the trauma associated with the “vision” of my long hair being gone. The initial step in the plan was a “wig party” I hosted in my apartment for members of my family and close friends. A consultant from a wig company came over with several samples of potential “new hair” that were selected to look like pictures of my own hair I had emailed to the organization. We all had pizza and wine while I tried on a variety of selections, some of which were pretty hysterical. (At the end of this post, I’m including a few pictures of the “samples” for your enjoyment. Rest assured that I did not go with the “mermaid” option. 🙂 )

Two options were selected that night, and subsequently I found a second source where I found even more fun stuff and where I ordered further options so I’d have a variety. In my real, normal life, I wear my hair lots of ways–down, up, in a ponytail–and, in order to feel as much like myself as possible once my own hair is gone (within two weeks of the first treatment tomorrow, I’m told), I need to have a similiar variety. (Just like writing/publishing: acknowledge the realities and challenges and then make a plan to overcome the obstacles.) In addition, instead of waiting for my hair to come out in the shower, in clumps on my brush, or all over my sheets at night, I’ve decided to have the long locks buzzed off on Saturday (the 15th). I’m incredibly nervous about that appointment, but my replacement hair will already be in hand, and I’m hopeful that the transition will not be as traumatic as I’m sometimes imagining. (I’ll have a little champagne with me to assist with that hope.)

Writers need to remain flexible with their goals, shifting and reworking their projects and objectives as new ideas emerge or as new knowledge causes a change in approach. Similarly, my goals have shifted to accommodate the chemo’s l8-week schedule. I’m pulling back from a lot of my outside activities and will plug that time into my writing. The new goal is to have two books out of my head (the nonfiction book on breast cancer lessons, and my third novel, which will be a sequel to the now award-winning Separation of Faith http://tinyurl.com/3wk8c57 ) in at least a preliminary draft format by the time the chemo course is over in February 2012.  If I can keep my act together, I’d also like to have the nonfiction project in enough of a final draft form to give to an editor. Toward those ends, I’ve decided to try a 26-day plan for the nonfiction book and a one-month plan for the novel, the blueprints for both being found in Writer’s Digest books:

  • The nonfiction project will follow Write-A-Thon–Write your book in 26 days (and live to tell about it), by Rochelle Melander (http://writenowcoach.com/).
  • The novel will follow Book in a Month–the fool-proof system for writing a novel in 30 days, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D. (http://tinyurl.com/3d2umls).

Write-A-Thon can also be used for novels, by the way. The first half of the book puts the writer into “training,” and the second half launches the 26-day calendar. I’m still in training and will keep you posted on my progress. My target is to start the actual 26 days of writing no later than the first of November.

So, as I ready myself for the first chemo session tomorrow (my daughter will be going with me)–and now that this post is “on paper”–I find myself sitting here amazed at how intrinsically connected my publishing and cancer journeys have become. Both are sort of weird, frankly, and the characteristics required to survive one are remarkably applicable to the other. But I have a plan for both, and I will blog through the tough moments as well those that are easy (starting with a post I’ll write tomorrow during the chemo). Hopefully–as is always my hope–there will be something of value for others in what I write. This is especially true now that my words are intended for cancer patients as well as writers. Who knew the world could become both smaller and larger at the same time?

Have a great fall weekend ahead! Treasure the moments.

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But Especially Square-d!

On Tuesday, August 23, at 3:55 a.m., a message came into my email with the headline, “Your Square Card Reader has shipped … and should arrive on your doorstep in the next 2 to 5 days.” There wasn’t an exclamation point at the end of that message, but there was definitely one in my heart! So exciting!

Some of you who are on technology’s leading edge are already “getting” this. Others, however, might be asking, “What’s a Square?” Well … I didn’t know that answer either until a few weeks ago. Actually, I did know, but I didn’t realize that I did. And, if you’ve ever purchased a product or service while shopping in an Apple store, you know the answer too.

As an almost embarrassingly latecomer to Apple products, I was frankly bowled over by the technology in the Apple store in Atlanta last December when I was surprised by the gift of my iPad for Christmas. Aside from all of the “toys” lined up on tables on either side of the store, affording potential customers the opportunity to play and get themselves irrevocably hooked, I was particularly impressed by the “tools” available to each of the salespeople (none of whom appeared to be much older than eleven, but all of whom might just as well have been Steve Jobs himself in terms of their product knowledge and skill). Each of those salespeople carried in their hands a device that looked just like an iPhone. But when the time came to purchase the iPad, our particular salesfellow used his “iPhone” to complete the transaction–scanned the credit card, completed the payment, and sent the receipt to a printer. Never once did the guy’s fingers touch a cash register, primarily because there wasn’t a cash register anywhere in that store.

Well, the technology in those salepeople’s iPhones has now become available to regular people in the real world (outside of Apple stores), in the form of the “Square.” A couple of months ago, one of my editing clients, who has become a great friend as well, called me to make sure I knew about the Square (and I shudder to think how long I might have taken to discover this amazing development on my own). Basically, the Square is an app available on the iPad and iPhone. And when you order the app, the little Square is automatically sent to you. Writers like you and me, who have supplies of books we’re trying to sell at every conceivable opportunity (I always have a box of books and flyers in the car–and I even carry flyers and bookmarks in my purse), have heretofore been stopped short of the sale when the only option for the potential reader/customer/fan is to use a credit card. First of all, signing up to use credit cards for any sort of business has traditionally been comparable to getting approved for a top security clearance. And even when successful, there was a large and/or complicated machine required to process transactions.

Now I’m here to tell you that signing up for the Square is not only too easy to believe, but the process and the actual Square are free! Yes … free! There will, of course, be the standard processing fee (about 2%) for a credit card transaction (a deductible business expense, by the way, because remember that your book(s) create a business, whether or not we, as writers, want to think about/accept that fact). But securing the technology and getting set up will cost you absolutely nothing! Furthermore, when I do slide someone’s card through that little slot, their purchase amount will immediately be deposited into my bank account, less the fee (only thirty cents on the soft cover, as currently priced).

So, my Square actually arrived on Saturday and, as you can see, the thing is so small and totally portable that the miracle device literally fits in my wallet. (Photos attached to this post will undoubtedly usher in further awe-inspiring moments for you!) Although the iPad was my first Apple product, I’m now so jazzed about the technology that when my next wireless phone upgrade option arrives (shortly), I’m going to switch from the Blackberry to the iPhone. Until then, I’ll make sure to have my iPad with me everywhere I go. And I absolutely cannot wait until I make my first “Square” credit card sale of Separation of Faith and/or The Truth About Cinnamon. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long–and you’ll be the first to know!

The Rest of the Week … Quake, Hurricane, Surgery … (“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”)

As I said … the message about the Square was in my email when I logged on for work Tuesday morning in my home office on the top (18th) floor of the building I moved back into last May. At a little after 1:00 that afternoon, as I was plugging away (having moved my laptop from my desk to the dining room table for a change of scene), the earth moved–and not because of any powerful, extraordinary words zipping from my Technicolor brain through my fingers into my Word document. No. The earth was moving because the earth was moving! Keeping in mind that I lived in California for almost twenty years, there was a part of my memory bank that recognized the shaking of furniture, lamps, etc., and the rattling of dishes in my china cabinet, as an earthquake. However, the disconnect came from the fact that I was sitting at my dining room table in New Jersey!

Since I always keep a cable news channel turned on as background noise, I immediately heard the announcement that there’d been a quake in the Washington, D.C. area. But holy cow! I was feeling that same quake in New Jersey? Next, an anchor who lives on Manhattan’s upper west side called in and said he felt it too. Then I got really excited because I’ve been working hard to cultivate Twitter (a social media element that I hadn’t been using effectively until the John Locke phenomenon–http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/47669-john-locke-hits-1-million-on-the-kindle.html), so I immediately went to Twitter and Facebook and posted “Did anyone else just feel the earthquake in New Jersey?” Well … an editing client of mine in Ohio immediately responded by saying that he felt the shaking in Cleveland! You have to be kidding, I thought! And then the rest of the story about that quake quickly became history.

Of course, that was on Tuesday. Four days later, on Saturday, Hurricane Irene began arriving in New Jersey. (The last edges of wind gusts finally wrapped up last night–36 hours later.) Up here on the 18th floor, the howling of the wind was extremely loud for the entire ten hours of the core part of the storm. And since my office is sort of like a green house in design (a couple of office photos are attached), the rain against all of the windows felt like being in a car wash. But we were all very blessed on my block and in the neighborhood where my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live in their new house. We had no damage, and we didn’t even lose power. (There were several power dips and surges yesterday–Sunday–afternoon, when the wind was actually stronger at times than on Saturday night.) A lot of people in this area of New Jersey are really suffering from wind damage and flooding, and they all remain in my prayers.

Finally, confirmation came through that I’ll be having another surgery (my 7th in 15 months) right after Labor Day. Most of the pathology is in, with a CT scan happening this Thursday to primarily check for lymph node involvement. Once all of the details are together, I’ll share more of what I know, since that’s what I promised you I’d do in my last post.

Meanwhile, we’re starting a brand new week today, and there isn’t a cloud in the breathtakingly gorgeous blue sky! Hope all of you have a fabulous, productive, and happy few days head as well, as we approach a well-deserved long holiday weekend!

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Hello from California!

Yesterday (which also happened to be my birthday) I flew to California for an eclectic week of events. First, my dearest friend in the universe (Elaine, aka E-d-E) lives in the San Francisco area, so I’m staying with her and her family. Haven’t seen her in four years, and so far today, we’ve had a joyous (and basically, totally unproductive) morning of talking and catching up. The hours have been wonderful, and I’m so excited that I’ll be here an entire week, because we seem to have a bottomless reservoir of bottled-up things to tell each other.

Tonight I’ll be attending a reunion of folks from my former corporate/marketing life, which filled up nearly three decades prior to launching my reinvention as a writer and editor. Close to twenty years have passed since I’ve seen these folks, and I’m anxiously awaiting the event, which is due to start in just a few hours.

Then, next Tuesday night, Elaine and her husband Don will host a party for several old friends (all girlfriends except for one fellow–the husband of one of the girlfriends). We’ll be working a book signing for Separation of Faith into that evening. Everyone who’s coming that night also read my first novel (The Truth About Cinnamon–Second Edition version coming by the end of October). But what I’m looking forward to most that night are the hugs and catch-up conversations with so many people who’ve been so dear to me for such a big part of my life!

Speaking (as I was momentarily) about Separation of Faith, I would like to proudly direct you to the latest review posted on Amazon. Three reviews were written prior to yesterday by individuals, and I am incredibly grateful for the time they took to post their comments. This newest review, however, is from one of the official review sources (Readers Favorite) to whom we’ve been forwarding copies of the novel–and I’m sort of over-the-moon about the posting, made even more special by the fact that it was posted on my birthday. 🙂

Here’s the link to the review, in case you’d like to take a look: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1SLHI58I09T1K/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

Meanwhile, I’ll pop in again with another post as the next week in California unfolds. But I have to tell you that this week is proving to be just what the doctor ordered, in the most literal of ways.

Hope you have a great weekend!

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Book Launch Party–September 23, 2010

Thanks so much to everyone who took time from their busy lives to attend my Book Launch Party for Separation of Faith–available on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Separation-Faith-Novel-Cheri-Laser/dp/1450232191/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1286991323&sr=1-1), as well as all other online and traditional book retailerson Thursday evening. We had a great time, rolled out the novel in fine fashion, and had some fun raffles for T-shirts, book bags, lunch with me, and then a special 50-50 for my Rotary club’s scholarship fund.

I’m including a few highlight photos–setting up, mingling, signing, etc. You’ll also note one photo with an elderly gentleman and a small girl. That’s my father Jim (who will be 90 in February) and my granddaughter Natalia (who is three), representing the opposite ends of four generations in our family. Pretty amazing for me.

For those of you who are visiting this blog for the first time, the whole mission of the blog since the launch on November 4, 2009, was to follow the progess of Separation of Faith, through the last stages of the writing, through all of the editing and revision phases, through all of the publishing steps and missteps, and now into the promotional phase. Eventually, this blog will become a book too, chronicling the how’s and how-not-to’s of bringing a novel into the world. There are all sorts of tips and links throughout the postings that I’m told are proving helpful to other writers pursuing their own dreams. So if you’re visiting for the first time, I’d love to hear from you.

Amazon Stats–Separation of Faith

This has been sort of a kick so far. For a brief time yesterday morning (about five minutes), the paperback version of Separation of Faith was ranked 95,000 in Amazon. After checking the graphs I’m able to see as an author, I’m also noticing that the hard cover version is actually ranked higher than the soft cover version, which means that more people are opting to buy the hard cover (an absolutely beautiful product, if I do say so myself 🙂 …). Overall, both versions are consistently hovering in the 100,000s and 200,000s, creeping up higher periodically. The numbers have stayed well under 1 million to date, a range that at least keeps me on the playing field.

I don’t know (and won’t know until the end of next quarter) exactly how many copies this all translates into, and there are other factors involved with Amazon’s rankings, such as how well other books are doing that compete with Separation of Faith. But overall, I’m pretty excited about what’s happening up to this point. Now I just need to keep getting the word out. Thanks so much to all of you who’ve already taken a chance on the novel. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, although I would love to hear from you one way or another.

Cinnamon Update

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the final Cinnamon galley proofing should be completed this weekend. Hopefully that will mean the newly edited Second Edition version of my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon, should be available for purchase sometime next month (October). I feel like I’ve been talking about this (and working on it) for a millenium, and I’ll be so very happy when it’s ready for you. You’ll know as soon as I do when that moment arrives. Meanwhile, the original version (which will soon become a First Edition) is still available on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/TRUTH-ABOUT-CINNAMON-Novel/dp/0595299733/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285426568&sr=1-1).

Thank you all again for continuing to be a part of this Journey and for letting me be a part of yours. Have a wonderful weekend! 

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After the Writing Comes the Pitching

Pitch, pitch, pitch! In every writer’s conference, there’s at least one seminar and breakout session on the fine art of pitching. Then there’s usually an opportunity to actually deliver a pitch to an agent or editor (or several of each/both). And last year I attended a three-day conference in New York City devoted exclusively to the pitch (http://newyorkpitchconference.com/) where small groups, each under the leadership of a different agent or editor, worked on and practiced pitching until our eyes were crossed.

Now that I’m in a window of time where I’m focusing all of my energy on the promotion of Separation of Faith (at least until I start working on novel #3 shortly), my extensive (and ongoing) pitching education has finally arrived at a fully relevant juncture. Consequently, anything in print on the subject of “the pitch” springs off the page (or screen) at me. This morning I saw a post (again by Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest–obviously one of my favorite sources) titled “What Writers Wish They’d Known Before Pitching.” The word “before” is what caught my attention.

After reading the post, I was struck by the fact that this same list might be wisely considered by writers before they actually write the book (a timely thought for me with respect to novel #3). If the “12 Things that Matter …” by Dennis Hensley are not an integral part of an author’s thought process while writing the book, I’m having a hard time imagining them being used effectively in a pitch.

At least this is something else for all of us to consider … http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/07/29/WhatWritersWishTheydKnownBeforePitching.aspx.

Separation of Faith Update

Yesterday I received a copy of the soft cover for my final review. Hopefully the hard cover will arrive today. When I have them both in hand, I’ll take and post a picture here for you.

I’m now designing the invitation for my Book Launch Party on September 23. That sounds like a long time to wait. But before I fully launch the book, I need to make sure that the title is available everywhere, which takes several weeks. I’m also hoping for additional testimonials once I can send key people actual copies of the book rather than a manuscript, and they will need time to read the thing. Then, of course, I need to get through my next surgery on September 2. Consequently, I want to make sure that all the pieces are fully in place before I launch the promotion in my local area.

The online launch will happen more quickly. As soon as Separation of Faith is available through Amazon, etc., I’ll upload the video book trailer (which has turned out to be incredible, by the way) to YouTube and about 15 other video sites. A press release will then go out to the world. So this piece of the plan will hit the streets in just a couple of weeks! Yay!

Meanwhile … the Reduction Edit of The Truth About Cinnamon

There’s only one more chapter to go, and then a final proof. Getting this element of the Journey off my plate is going to be a huge relief!

Taking a Look Back

If anyone is interested in seeing how the specifics of this Journey got started, take a look at the Blog Launch Posting on November 4, 2009 (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/). Even I’m having trouble comprehending how far we’ve come and how many steps have been mastered in almost exactly nine months! (And I’m trying not to fret about the hundreds of steps/promotional to-dos that are still ahead … 🙂 …)

Hope Everyone Has A Terrific Weekend!

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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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First …

Please forgive the distance between this post and my last one. I have been popping in through comments and tag surfing. But otherwise I’ve been so consumed with everything that’s going on, and with everything I’ve been learning, that the time hasn’t been available until this Saturday morning to sit down and write a post about what’s been going on and what I’ve been learning. I’m uncomfortable with this much space in between posts, and I’ll do my best not to go this long in the future.

So …

What’s Been Going on with Separation of Faith?

We’re still in the final proofing/revision stage, which is where we’ve been for about a month and a half now. The other editing stages moved along at a nice clip, but things have really slowed down to a frustrating pace at the moment. The change in momentum started when the proofreader at the publisher took a month instead of the quoted 2-3 weeks. I then had to review the proofreader’s recommendations and then accept or decline each one. In a book that will print at 300 pages, there were only 39 notations, almost half of which were formatting errors that happened when the manuscript was changed from a Word document into the publishing design. I declined five of the remaining issues, which were all semi-colon situations.

After completing that process, I had to go through the entire manuscript again because I was allowed up to 50 additional revisions/corrections, which could be as small as a punctuation mark or as large as adding a paragraph. I ended up with 48 changes, 99% of which were tiny-to-small issues, and there was only one big change where I added a paragraph to the Acknowledgments. In three cases, I added clarifying words to a sentence or reworked the wording. That entire process ate up several days.

Then I returned to the publisher the proofreader’s changes, my changes, and the required changes to the cover all in one email on June 28. The cover changes were done almost immediately, except for one error that’s currently being fixed. Yesterday (July 9, almost two weeks later) I was notified that the proofreader’s revisions had been implemented. But my 48 changes haven’t even been started yet.

There’s a big promotion through the publisher that lasts until July 30, which will enable me to purchase a large supply of my books (for submission to reviewers, contests, etc) with free shipping, a free extra 10% copies, plus substantial author discounts. But in order to take advantage of that promotion, Separation of Faith has to be live.

The editorial staff and everyone else at iUniverse as well has been unbelievably fabulous to this point, and I have every expectation that this little log jam will be unplugged come Monday. But I do admit to some frustration. This is amplified, I’m sure, by the fact that I’m going through breast reconstruction at the same time, so my patience is somewhat altered by the cement bowling balls currently attached to my chest wall … 🙂 … At least I’m getting a shape back, though. The only problem at the moment is that “they” don’t move, and if someone hugs me too hard, they get broken ribs. This situation will be rectified by my next surgery, hopefully in early September.

This sort of production issue (I’m referring to the novel again now … 🙂 …) happens all the time when a book is coming out, regardless of the publishing method. So no matter which path you’re considering (or that you’ve already selected) for your own publishing Journey, be prepared to be patient. Setting expectations levels in advance for a long gestation period is a good idea.

That said, my cover is absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait for you to see the gem. And reading through the beautiful proofed PDF, which is already in the book design format, does turn on the light at the end of the tunnel, even if the train has temporarily slowed to a crawl.

If all goes well this coming Monday and things get back on track, I could be holding my first copies of Separation of Faith in my hands by the end of this month. Considering how long we’ve been talking about that event in this blog, that is going to be one heck of a day! I will take pictures and post them here. 🙂

Once Again, Let Me Emphasize the Importance of Editing!

This sounds like a broken record, I know, but seeing the quality of my novel now, as compared to six months ago, I can’t believe I even entertained the idea that I was good enough to edit the book myself (or that any of my relatives were good enough). Professional editing makes more difference than you can imagine!

Separation of Faith has been through two editorial reviews, a copyedit, and a proofreading, each of those followed by at least one and usually two revisions cycles in which I incorporated recommendations from those edits. Yes, the steps have added months to the publishing process. And yes there was a financial investment involved along with the additional time. But when the novel is released, I will challenge any person in the traditional publishing world to tell me that this book would have been more beautifully edited coming out of a traditional house.

And because the do-it-yourself/self-publishing/print-on-demand world is so flooded with every level of book imaginable, a major key to rising about the pack and having a shot at getting noticed resides in the quality of both the writing and the editing. And some will say that the latter is more critical than the former. So even if you’re still pursuing the traditional route on your Journey, invest in having your manuscript edited before you ever start querying. The odds of getting anyone’s serious attention become slimmer by the minute without that investment.  

The Video Book Trailer for Separation of Faith

The more I study the importance of video book trailers, the more I wonder how anyone could consider publishing a book these days without a video as part of the promotion. If you’re at the stage where you’re trying to decide if one is necessary, the answer is yes. Again, this business is so competitive that trying to get attention for the book you’ve slaved over for months/years/decades is a batlle under the best of circumstances. So we all need to be automatically adding a video book trailer to our plans.

The video for Separation of Faith is about half finished. The fellow who’s helping me is a technical/video genius–but he also has a real job plus a wife and three children (ages 5, 3, and six months). So even though the video is only going to be 60-90 seconds long, we’re still only halfway there after three multiple hour sessions together and I-have-no-idea-how-many hours of individual time for both of us. I know I spent about six hours hunting down appropriate royalty free pictures to use along with others I’d already taken and collected during my initial research for the book.

The music on my video will be an original song by my tech genius, and the “script” (words across the screen) is something we’ve designed together (and is very much a work in progress still). But as this thing comes together, I literally get goosebumps on my arms thinking about this film promoting Separation of Faith being on YouTube and every other conceivable site.

There is a ton of information online to help you if you’re at the point where you need to start thinking about a video book trailer. Everyone seems to have a different formula, and the best one for you will undoubtedly be a combination of what you read, who you know, and what you can contribute yourself. But here are a few links to get you going:

Yes, there’s a lot of work involved–but boy is this part fun!

The Press Release Preparation

The actual publishing date of Separation of Faith will be the day my author copies are ready to send to me. But I will need to wait several weeks after that before officially launching my promotional campaign. That’s because of the time required for the novel to go live on all the online and traditional distribution sites.

Sending out press releases to get people excited about the book would not be a good idea if the book isn’t yet available for ordering everywhere. Even though this novel won’t actually be stocked on the shelves of book stores yet, once the title is live you’ll be able to go into any Barnes & Noble, and any other brick-and-mortar bookseller, and order a copy. And, of course, the title will be available on the major as well as minor online sites as well (not to mention my own book store on my Web site: www.SeparationOfFaith.com).

So I have some time to get all of my ducks in a row. And I’ve been studying up on press releases. Over and over again I’ve been reading that sending out a blanket press release–something identical that goes to bazillions of people–is a bad idea. Press releases need to be tailored and individualized. And since I do have a lot of categories of people/organizations to contact (see my blog post on June 18 https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/48-journey-update-whew/), I’ve begun the process of creating different versions. There are core pieces that will remain the same from one to another, but I really do see the importance of tailoring.

The press release that will go to my little local county newspapers, where I can be billed as a “local author” and already have some publicity history through my community service work, will be vastly different from a press release I’ll send to a potential reviewer. I’m not sure how many versions I’ll end up with. As many as it takes, I suppose.

Update on the Rising Star Application (also discussed in my June 18 post: https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/48-journey-update-whew/)

When I launched this blog last November 4, I promised to share the good, the bad, and the ugly involved with this Journey. Well, I was not accepted into the Rising Star Program–yet. I’ve asked for more detail regarding what was missing from my marketing and promotion plans, and hopefully that information will be forthcoming. But the important point to note is that I will automatically be reconsidered for the program as soon as 250 retail copies of Separation of Faith have been sold.

I know that doesn’t sound like very many copies, if you haven’t been “out there” trying to sell your book yet. But keep this statistic in mind: More than 90% of all books published (whether they’re published via traditional or alternate paths) sell fewer than 1000 copies total throughout the life of the book!

So, as we all hear all the time, if we’re writing because we want to make money, we’re probably in the wrong business. A tiny group of us amidst the tens of millions reaching for the dream will end up earning a few dollars–and a handful of those will eventually earn enough to make a modest living–and a handful of those will do very well–and a couple of those will become celebrities.

Now, as I say to myself almost every day, after hours of all the stuff I’m summarizing in this post, I absolutely cannot believe I’m doing this voluntarily!

At any rate, once I sell 250 copies of the new novel through retail outlets, the Rising Star option will again become available. Getting into that group would raise the realm of possibilities up a bit within the tens of millions of other dreamers on the Journey.

What’s Been Going on with the Reduction Edit for The Truth About Cinnamon?

Substantial progress is finally being made on this element of the Journey’s Plan. For those who are here for the first time, The Truth About Cinnamon was my first novel. And in preparation for the release of Separation of Faith, I’m re-editing Cinnamon, cleaning things up a bit (because I didn’t have someone hammering the editing advice into my head seven years ago) and shortening the length (all without my many Cinnamon fans knowing that anything is missiing … 🙂 …).

But this is a long novel (as first novels often are), and the effort has been huge. Plus, this part of the Plan has been secondary to getting Separation of Faith as perfect as possible. (And things were set back even further through April and May after my breast cancer diagnosis … I’m doing great, by the way). However, I’m now in the midst of a hard copy edit, and as soon as I’m finished with that effort, I’ll key in the changes, do another proofreading, and then I’ll be finished at last! Yay!

The hope is that the 2nd Edition printing of Cinnamon will somewhat coiincide with the launch of Separation of Faith’s promotion.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to check out a free serialization of Cinnamon‘s original (1st Edition) ten chapters, you’ll find them at: http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/24081497/

What’s Been Going on with My Other Writing (Articles, Short Stories …)

A new book is taking shape that chronicles my surgery and reconstruction. Obviously, until the physical process is complete, the book won’t be either. But I think this one might be a new slant on what’s become an epidemic event among women in this country. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’d like to check out the free reads on my other stuff, I recommend that you start with the short story Life at Bat, which is hundreds of times more popular than any of the other pieces, for some reason. You’ll find the story and all my other offerings at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/32280899/Life-at-Bat.

Interesting Reading Links that I’ve Been Collecting to Share with You

Stats

  • This blog: 2809 (last posting 2669)
  • My Web site (www.cherilaser.com): 38,515 (last posting 38,017
  • Scribd: 1291 (This is the first time I’ve posted this stat, but it’s been a lot of fun to watch, so I’ll start tracking it here now.) Click on this link to get to my page–http://www.scribd.com/claser–and then click on Documents up at the top.)

Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July! I’ll look forward to hearing from you, as always.

All the best–Cheri

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A Huge Exciting Discovery for Self-Promoters!

Hi and good morning! One of the key blogs that I follow is by Jane Friedman, strategic director of Writer’s Digest (http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/). She published a post this morning about a site called Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com), where anyone–writers, artists, you-name-it–can try to get backing on a project they’ve developed/are developing/are thinking about developing.

People pledge money (doesn’t have to be much) to back a project, but no one actually pays unless the project reaches its pledge goal within the prescribed time frame. Project creators seem to offer give-aways for backers that are appropriate/relevant to the project, and you can see how the pledges are doing and how much time is left. The whole thing is really fascinating and really caught my attention.

And this isn’t just for writers but for anyone who’s trying to get a dream off the ground.

Perhaps this will be another avenue of promotion for Separation of Faith …?

I did pledge to back one project–a woman in Boston who’s trying to start her own publishing business (http://kck.st/9NwlvH). We’ll see if she meets her goal.

Just thought some of you out there might find this of as much interest as I did.

Later …

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Journey Update–Production Just Around the Corner for Separation of Faith

Considering the length of the road traveled since this blog was launched last November 4 (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/), not to mention all the curves navigated in the process, this is a very exciting point! The proofreader at the publisher has completed his/her task, and the list (not very long) of recommended changes has been returned to me. My job now is to review those recommendations and either accept or reject them. They’re all pretty minor issues (a punctuation mark missing, or one on the wrong side of a parenthesis or quotation mark, etc.). I’ve already been through the list and accepted all but five. Each of those five addressed sentences with semi-colons–and I went with my interpretation rather than the recommendation.

Some of the issues highlighted by the proofreader were created by the design process itself, wherein the transfer of the manuscript into the publishing world’s book format resulted in some weird symbol showing up or some weird line spacing. But I have to tell you that there were several places where inadvertent errors were found that would have absolutely driven me nuts if they had ended up in the printed book. For example, in one of the revision cycles I changed a sentence, and somehow an extra verb was inserted:

  • The way the sentence is supposed to read–“I waited a long time before taking the plunge, until I was almost forty-four …”
  • The way the sentence appeared to the proofreader–“I waited a long time before taking the plunge, until I was almost was forty-four …”

Throughout the dozens of times I read the manuscript, my eyes went right over the extra “was.” And there were several other situations like this one that the proofreader found. So I cannot stress enough (as I’ve done so often before) the importance of submitting our manuscripts to rigorous, professional editing. After working as hard as we do to create these books, we need to ensure that what we’re putting out there is absolutely the highest quality possible. I know the precise “Oh $&$#!” reaction I would have had if those errors would have shown up in the printed book.

Even with all of this editorial diligence, though, I’m sure there will still be something that slips through, as we’ve all seen in books by even the most famous, prolific mainstream authors. But I’m now confident that the editorial quality of my novel will be on par with the best coming out of mainstream houses–and, for me, that sure beats the option of reading through my long-awaited book and finding errors that would have easily been caught by another pair of trained eyes.

In today’s ever-changing publishing climate, the editorial quality of a book can be as important, if not more so, than the writing. So please don’t shortcut (or overlook) the editorial process for your own creations, after you’ve already invested so much of your time and sweat equity.

Now that the proofreading is complete, I have one more opportunity to go through the manuscript and make any last-minute changes. That process should be wrapped up by the end of the week (and so far there aren’t many new things I want to add/change). Once I return everything to the publisher, signaling the end of this round, the proofed changes and any new things I add will be implemented, and I will then have a last sign-off review. Hopefully that turnaround won’t take more than a week. And then–at long last–the book will go into production. That means I’ll have my first copies of Separation of Faith in hand by the middle of July.

At that point, I’ll need to wait until the title has gone live on Amazon and all the other online retailers (a week or ten days after I receive my copies) before I start sending out the press release, posting the video book trailer, and othewise launching the promotional plan. But I can now see that launch point from where I’m standing, and the view is spectacular!

Domain Connections

This is a part of the Plan that I mentioned in an earlier post, but it’s one that will ultimately prove to be very important. I’m talking about domain names. You can secure domains very inexpensively now (like under $20 a year!), and you don’t need to have a product or a Web site in order to get a domain name. So I encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to get the domain for your own name (and/or your pen name), and for the title of your book(s), no matter what stage of your writing you’re in. (I’m using www.GoDaddy.com as my domain registry.)

And you don’t need to create a separate Web site for each domain name. You can link the domains to any existing site (Web site, blog, etc.) that you already have out there. Social media Neanderthal that I was until last fall, I created a separate Web site for www.TheTruthAboutCinnamon.com. But now that I know what I’m doing (sort of), I’m going to let the separate Cinnamon Web site expire and then link the domain to my primary site. That’s what I’ve done with the following domains, connecting them to the appropriate pages of my primary Web site (www.eWritersRUs.com).

I did have to ask the fellow who’s doing my video book trailer to show me how to do the linking–and it’s so easy that I did all the rest on my own. (I felt sort of stupid for asking, actually, once he showed me.) If you click on these links, you’ll see what I mean:

The minimal expense for domains is deductible, if you’re making your book(s) a business enterprise (which is what our books do become, if we want anyone to actually buy them … 🙂 …)

Life at Bat

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, part of the Plan/Journey involves publishing other examples of my writing online (free publishing/free downloads). Several of my short stories and articles are currently available at www.FiledBy.com, www.Scribd.com, and www.RedRoom.com. But universally, the short story titled “Life at Bat” ( http://www.scribd.com/doc/32280899/Life-at-Bat) has been getting the most traffic, which has been extremely interesting for me to observe.

The story is a humorous approach to a life message, and is universally applicable. But if you’re someone who attended Catholic school in the 1950’s and ’60’s, you might find an extra level of enjoyment through reading this story–in case you find yourself with a few free minutes where you have nothing else to do.

Stats

  • This blog–2669 (last update–2591)
  • Web site–38,017 (last update–37,689)

Speaking of www.TheTruthAboutCinnamon.com (which I was doing earlier), the stats at that Web site this morning show 3511. I haven’t really been focusing on that one, but the number is up by a couple of thousand since I last looked. So something is going on there.

Maybe people are checking in to see how the seemingly never-ending reduction edit for the 2nd Edition is coming along … 🙂 …  Answer: I’m finally making great progress. “This summer” is what I’m thinking now for the re-release. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks, as always, for checking in and for following along with this Journey. I love hearing and learning from you! 

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