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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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