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In a Nutshell, Three Elements to Launch 2012’s Writing Year:

1. The third annual Writer’s Digest Conference begins tomorrow (January 20) at the Sheraton in Manhattan, and I am extremely excited, as usual! Those of you who are familiar with this blog understand my affinity for this particular conference and the impact that the first conference in September 2009 had upon my publishing decisions relative to my second novel (Separation of Faith). That first conference also marked the motivating moment for the launch of this blog, among other social media outreach activities.

Throughout the multiplying years in which I’ve been pursuing this literary dream, I have no idea how many sizes and shapes of conferences I’ve attended. A bunch, for certain! And a number of those were actually produced every year by Writer’s Digest in conjunction with Book Expo America (BEA), the publishing industry’s annual convention event. But Writer’s Digest broke away from BEA in 2009 and began holding their own conference. And that’s when everything changed for me. You can read about the reason’s for the metamorphosis in this blog’s Launch posting (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/).

Since then, the WD conference has become the best one out there, in my opinion. For writers in search of the truth about the publishing world and practical information/tools that help us navigate through that world, this conference is “the” place to be. If you’d like to explore the conference agenda and sessions, here’s a quick link: http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/52254/?&. And for those of you with a sustained interest, I’ll be blogging throughout the three days, giving you the inside scoop from the sessions I attend and from other attendees and presenters with whom I have the opportunity to chat.

Regarding the Pitch Slam session on Saturday afternoon, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be pitching. Part of that decision will depend on how I’m feeling (see point #3 below). If I do pitch, I’ll be focusing on my nonfiction project, which isn’t finished (nonfiction books don’t need to be finished before pitching, but I’d prefer that mine were). Still, if I’m feeling empowered by Saturday afternoon, I might run the project by a few of those agents just for the practice. At this writing, I’m fairly certain that I want to move forward with that project on my own, publishing an e-book first followed by print options. I’ll know more about that direction once the conference is over, since I’m attending several sessions on how writers can navigate the wild and ever-changing publishing world on their own. Stay tuned for my blog posts on the subject as the conference unfolds. If you happen to be at the conference yourself, please let me know so we can connect somewhere!

The opening address will begin at 4:00 p.m. EST. You’ll be on my mind! 🙂

2. New Year’s Inspiration can be found almost everywhere we look as writers. People in my life are constantly telling me about someone they know who’s in some sort of jam that could be tweaked and woven into a novel’s plot or subplot. And I recently sat at the pharmacy for 90 minutes where I observed no less than a half dozen interpersonal scenarios that could be spun into fun stories. If we’re alert, there will never be a shortage of material. But as 2012 gets underway and we are all still focusing on our resolutions, I’d like to share a few links I’ve been collecting that I hope will offer you a nudge, an idea, or a little inspiration, if you’re in search of such things.

Please let me know if you find anything helpful in these lists. Since creating consistency in my writing routine is one of my 2012 resolutions, I have the “Reboot” list posted on the wall close by.

3. Where Am I in the Treatment Part of My Life? Currently, I’m in the middle of Round #5 (of 6). The effects became noticeably cumulative, beginning with Round #4, so I’ve been struggling a bit, especially through the holidays. But the good news is that #6 will happen on January 30, followed by the standard three weeks of not-so-hot, which will then be followed by … nothing else! Yay! When this process began with Round #1 on October 13, today’s point on the calendar looked like a millennium away. And yet, here we are, about a month away from being completely finished with the process. And I’m going to the Writer’s Digest Conference, which I wasn’t sure I could make even a few days ago. Lots of blessings to start the New Year!

Two more photos are attached, both of which were taken a week before Christmas. These images seem to be a good way to mark the progress of this journey within a journey.

All the best to each of you as the New Year becomes fully launched. Wishing for each of you that your dreams come true in 2012! Talk to you soon from the conference!

Holiday Thoughts & New Year’s Wishes

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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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Imagine My Surprise!

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

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

Chemo/Hair Update

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

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

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

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This Will Be Quick …

…but important 🙂 !

First, I hope the holiday season is unfolding in a fashion that’s not too crazy for you. There’s such a frenzy that can overtake us, and some people truly love the chaos. I love the spirit, and I used to love the madness. But now, in the midst of the frenzy, I’m doing my best to hang onto the spirit and not let the rest get under my skin. So far, the jury isn’t in yet on how that’s working out for me. Hope you’re happy, though, no matter what side of the zaniness you prefer to be on.

Meanwhile … Separation of Faith is on Kindle–At Last!

The headline basically says everything. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Separation-Faith-Novel-ebook/dp/B004EYT2UM/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1291750767&sr=1-1Please let me know if there are any problems since this just came online.

The Truth About Cinnamon–Second Edition

This morning UPS delivered the soft cover printer copy of the newly edited Second Edition of The Truth About Cinnamon. Yay! This effort has taken over a year, and there aren’t words to express how happy and relieved I am that the process is almost complete. Amazon hasn’t yet updated the site with the new information, but I’m told that anyone who orders a copy now will receive the new version.

To be certain, however, if you’re checking, scroll down to Product Details and look for the copyright date. The original was December 2, 2003. You’ll want to see 2010. Hopefully, everything will be updated shortly.

Getting the new version of Cinnamon back on Kindle is going to take awhile, though, (based on the experience I’ve just had getting Separation of Faith on Kindle–now available). I’ll keep you posted.

Great Listing of Publishing Options for You!

In the process of working this month with a new editing client, who’s struggling with her choice of a publisher, I came across this unbelievable list printed by Writer’s Digest. If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional publishing, but you have no idea where to go or start, your answer will be in this list somewhere, no matter what kind of book(s) you’re hoping to publish.

The list is incredibly comprehensive and includes all of the important detail you’ll need to at least narrow your search. Let me know what you think: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/directory-of-self-publishing-companies.

Huge Endorsement for Separation of Faith

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been blessed to receive a much hoped for endorsement from a former Miss America I met while doing research for Separation of Faith in Kettle Falls, Washington. Here is the full text of her endorsement:

Cheri Laser has written an unbelievably amazing story in Separation of Faith. First, having grown up in Kettle Falls, I can tell you that this novel not only captures the beauty of the area but the flavor and pulse of the community and people as well—and especially the history. The storyline is unique and interwoven, compelling you to turn page after page. And the plot takes you by surprise, pulling you into an emotional journey that makes you laugh and cry, leaving you wanting more on one hand, and yet, on the other, ending with a sense of completion—with a feeling of hope.

I highly recommend Separation of Faith for every reader who loves rich, authentic characters that travel through layers of history into contemporary times, while encountering intrigue, suspense, sorrow, and redemption.

Fiction lovers need to discover this novel and this new author—and I’d really like to see a sequel to Separation of Faith!

–Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992

For me and for what I’m trying to accomplish with this novel, this development is huge, and I am so grateful! A new press release containing the endorsement is being prepared for all media (newspaper, TV, radio) as well as bookstores, Chambers of Commerce, libraries, etc., not only in Kettle Falls and the surrounding valley towns but also in Spokane, the largest anchor city on the eastern side of Washington state. (Seattle is on the western side.)

And … in addition to the endorsement, the town of Kettle Falls has been celebrating something called Town & Country Days every year in early June for about a century. The event brings in thousands of people, and I will have a vendor booth there for Separation of Faith in June 2011. Best of all, Carolyn Sapp has said she’ll be there with me for the weekend to help me promote the novel at the festival. Given her unbelievably busy schedule, I am so thankful for her support and encouragement, and to tell the truth, I’m sort of looking upon this whole thing as my “Oprah moment.”

All of you will definitely be kept in the loop for the excitement, pictures, and great vignettes that are sure to develop as we move forward into the New Year and toward that Kettle Falls experience already filling me with anticipation!

Next Week I’ll Be in Atlanta …

And I’ll write to you from there, if not before.

Meanwhile, happy holiday preparations, with as much or little frenzy as you want surrounding you!  

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Separation of Faith Happily Selling Today

Just wanted to pop in with a quick update on the Amazon stats for Separation of Faith. Over the last week, the ranking kept creeping up (or actually down), which was hard to watch but part of the world we’re in now. This morning, the number was approximately 1,110,000.

But I’ve been working on getting the word out to more on my list (and in the world) every day, learning that the process is not only slow but must be continuous in order to be effective.

Tonight I just checked the Amazon stats, and Separation of Faith is currently sitting at approximately 127,000. This number can fluctuate almost by the minute. But clearly, several someones have been taking a chance on the novel and making a purchase. And my heartfelt thanks goes out to each one, hoping that I’ll hear from people who do read the book.

Once again, here are the key links:

So, this has been a really good day. Hope it has been for you as well.

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The first twenty people who notify me that they’ve received their copies of Separation of Faith ordered from an online source will get a special gift from me in the mail.

Notify me through this blog, or through Facebook (www.facebook.com/cherilaser), or through email (claser58@gmail.com).

Include your name, the name of the online purchase site, the order number, and the address where you’d like your special gift to be sent.

Thank you in advance for following along with this Journey! We’re just getting started now, and I’ll be doing more give-a-ways as we move forward.

Today has been quite a day! Time to rest now. Tomorrow is press release day. Have a great night.

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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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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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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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