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No … This Isn’t About Me

Not yet, anyway. ūüôā The author’s name is John Locke (www.DonovanCreed.com). He’s a 60-something baby boomer with big dreams, sort of like me. But there’s a major difference. As of June 21, he has¬†self-published seven novels (Donovan Creed, the¬†detective, is a recurring character), plus two unusual western novels (by his own definition), and now a how-to book titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!¬†(http://www.amazon.com/Sold-Million-eBooks-Months-ebook/dp/B0056BMK6K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1309223049&sr=1-1). And those five months were all in 2011! Here’s the link to this week’s news about his historic accomplishment: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/47669-john-locke-hits-1-million-on-the-kindle.html

If you’re a struggling writer out there who’s just happened upon this blog, or if you’ve been following¬†this Journey since the blog launched on November 4, 2009, there won’t be any surprise in this news:¬†I purchased Locke’s How I Sold …¬†book for my Kindle within moments of reading two days ago about the man’s success.

Locke does not present himself as a great novelist–a refreshingly realistic perspective, especially since I’ve recently read a couple of best-selling novels, which were published through one of the big six mainstream traditional houses and which I could not believe ever saw the printed light of day. Locke does believe he’s a good writer, though, who’s become a better novelist over time as he’s crafted seven Donovan Creed stories for a relatively small, carefully defined,¬†“niche” audience (the “niche” being a key element of the “system” he presents in How I¬†Sold¬†…). And, even though I don’t think I fit into Locke’s description of that niche,¬†my curiosity was definitely piqued. So, a few minutes ago, I ordered two of his Creed novels–his earliest and his most recent, in order¬†to experience his writing growth. ūüôā¬†After all, the books are only¬†99 cents on Kindle (another key part of his “system”).

But the most important aspect of discovering Mr. Locke (for me, at least, and I suspect for a whole bunch of you as well) is that, until a few short months ago, he was in virtually¬†the same position¬†that I (and many of you) are in now–where we’re only selling a handful of books, despite back-¬†(and bank-) breaking¬†promotional efforts. He was languishing along with us in the ever-growing quicksand field of self-published authors, taking solace only in his unflagging determination and the encouraging legitimacy¬†conveyed by his readers.

One¬†significant difference between where he was and where I am was that his body of work is much larger than mine, due, as I learned at the end of his How I Sold …¬†book, to his goal of¬†completing a new novel every¬†eight weeks. In one of the messages I wrote to him after finishing his book, I suggested that,¬†whatever method(s) he uses to create¬†a novel every eight weeks¬†might be a great subject¬†for his next how-to book! I already know that I’m taking way too long per book, but I’ve been working with the goal of producing a book each year. The idea of cranking out six per year never even flickered through my head. In fact, I’d be happy with¬†a novel every six months. Would I buy a book by¬†Locke that explained¬†how¬†he creates a new novel every eight weeks? Especially since that book would undoubtedly be priced somewhere between 99 cents and $5? Well … let me think.

At any rate, in less than six months, John Locke went from selling dribbles of his books on Amazon and other sources to being the first self-published author (and only the fifth or sixth author of any kind) to break through the 1 million book level on Kindle.¬†And this wasn’t just by happenstance. He created a plan–a “system”–which he follows faithfully. And then, when his system actually worked consistently, he took a little time (a few¬†weeks, apparently) to write a book that captures that system for the rest of us, in case we’d like to give the concept a try.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do! I’ll use Locke’s system for the nonfiction work in progress, hopefully due out on eBook by early fall, and then again for my next novel (which I’ve decided will definitely be a sequel to Separation of Faith–http://tinyurl.com/3tljkpc).

“Isn’t that going to be sort of risky?” you might ask.

Au contraire! “What do I have to lose?” is the question circling around me. What would any of us risk losing, compared to where we are now?

Imagine this: thousands of self-published authors–even tens of thousands, perhaps–suddenly experiencing wild success through eBook sales! Sure would be hard to marginalize that statistic or question the validity of authorship when paired with such soaring numbers of happy readers!

I’ll definitely keep you posted on what happens–and please let me know if you give¬†Locke’s ideas a try yourself! From the beginning, I’ve been saying that there’s enough room in this dream for all of us!

Suddenly, the lyrics from an old boomer song by Buffalo Springfiled have begun rolling through my head: “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”¬†That song spoke to a whole generation in the 1960s and early 70s¬†about huge and very serious changes taking place in the country. Although clearly on a lighter, much smaller, and far less dangerous scale, I do believe there’s a revolution underway in the publishing world today. And¬†I would like to be on the leading edge. How about you? ūüôā

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Sort of like a wedding or Thanksgiving, this huge event in my life, which I’ve been looking forward to with great anticipation and preparing for since last fall, is coming to an end today. And when something¬†extraordinary flies by so fast, we try to hang on¬†to the remaining moments. So, I’m taking a little time before I finish packing in my hotel room to savor the experience.¬†More pictures, along with clips of the video from my presentation on the entertainment program yesterday, will be uploaded once I get to San Francisco with Elaine. (I’m going home with her to celebrate her¬†birthday, and our flight leaves Spokane at 5:13 this evening. So¬†my next post¬†with those visuals will most likely be tomorrow morning–Monday).

Meanwhile … what an amazing four days this has been! We arrived at the festival grounds to set up about 8:30 Friday morning and didn’t leave until 8:00 that evening. By the time we stopped at T.J.’s Tavern &¬†Grill (up the street from the festival in Kettle Falls) for a bite to eat and then drove the five miles to our hotel in Colville, we were falling over in a heap around 10:30. The weather was a bit chilly and windy most of that day, but finally warmed up into the low 60s. Thankfully, there was no rain, and the skies were mostly clear, except for some of those astonishing clouds that came floating over us in the afternoon. And yesterday was absolutely perfect, in the low 70s with a¬†brilliant¬†blue sky and just a slight¬†breeze.

Saturday (yesterday) was the main day of the festival.¬†There was a parade, along with incredible stage performances by the local Irish dancers troupe, and great bands playing all sorts of music. There was also “auto smashing,” where people were taking sledge hammers to an old car,¬†along with an extensive list of other activities. And then, of course, there was some author lady from New¬†Jersey, who spoke about her novel Separation of Faith,¬†which is set primarily in Kettle Falls. ūüôā Of course, there were plenty of food vendors offering surprisingly delicious items from pasta dishes to corn dogs and sinfully gigantic elephant ears (pizza-size fried dough covered with sugar and cinnamon). Elaine and I finally gave in yesterday and shared an elephant ear, and I’ve now ingested enough¬†cholesterol and triglycerides to last through the month!¬†As for the craft vendors … just let me say that¬†a huge dent has now been made in my Christmas shopping.

Now,¬†what about book sales? Well, we¬†sold approximately 60 books (50+ of¬†Separation of Faith and¬†7 of the newly released 2nd edition of The Truth about Cinnamon), along with a number of T-shirts. This isn’t quite the sales level I was hoping to hit, but I think the outcome is still worth celebrating. We’re leaving a supply of Separation of Faith for the Kettle Falls Visitor’s Center and for a lovely independent bookseller shop in Colville called Coffee & Books. So, for anyone who missed the festival or who hears about the novel set in this community, there will be several options available to secure a copy!

Although the primary reason for coming to Town & Country Days in Kettle Falls was to sell Separation of Faith, the distinct highlight of the trip was meeting so many awesome people!¬†Both Elaine and I were blown away by the warmth and hospitality shown to us and by the programs and plans being advanced in this small but highly progressive community! We have made some very special new friends! And, now that a sequel to Separation of Faith¬†seems to¬†be clearly in the offing, my connection to Kettle Falls will be ongoing–and another trip here definitely resides in my future.

In closing this post, I want to mention one of the memories from yesterday. The day was¬†getting late, and Elaine and I were beginning to break down our booth, when a young lady¬†named Nichole¬†came up to us with a couple of her friends. She¬†was very lovely, and I’m guessing she was still in high school. (Sorry for the mis-guess, Nichole, if you’re older¬†and in college. ūüôā ) She told us that she loved to read, and she really wanted a copy of Separation of Faith¬†after hearing so much about the novel all day, but she didn’t have¬†any extra money and was torn about¬†spending what she did have on the book.¬†But she ended up buying a soft cover version, with what was obviously a¬†very precious $15 to her. And I was deeply moved by her decision. Not only will Separation of Faith¬†be in the hands of someone representing a young, vibrant demographic,¬†but the fact that my book was elevated¬†to such a priority for her was extremely touching.¬†Nichole has my card, and I’m hoping she’ll check out my blog and discover how much I appreciate her popping in at the end of the festival.

Everyone else who made the effort to find us and who then took a¬† book (or¬†books) home with them is equally as¬†appreciated. Their faces and names are forever imprinted in my mind and heart, and I do hope they stay in touch with me. Without such wonderful people who were willing to take a chance on my novel, I would sort of¬†be doing this job by myself for unknown reasons. So I want each person who¬†visited us to know how¬†very grateful I¬†am for their support and trust. And I’ll¬†be watching for their names to show up in my email or on this blog.

Meanwhile, I guess I’d better¬†get busy with¬†my packing. We’ll¬†be saying¬†goodbye to this¬†beautiful valley community in a couple of hours, but I’ll be taking the memories of every moment and every face home with me.

Will post again tomorrow with pictures. Hope you’re having a terrific weekend!

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Good News Is Especially Fun When You’re Exhausted!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Topics in This Post:

  • Separation of Faith Places Again!
  • Book Club Update
  • Book Club Promotion to Come Soon!
  • Long-Awaited Promotional Trip to Kettle Falls Just Three Weeks Away!
  • Fascinating and Helpful Tips from Bestselling Author Harlan Coben
  • Photo Gallery of Happy Bookers Book Club Meeting in Atlanta on April 19, 2011

Separation of Faith Places Again!

Yesterday I learned that Separation of Faith has placed in yet another contest! Yay! This time the award is an Honorable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival¬†competition! Last month the novel was runner up to the grand prize winner in the Los Angeles¬†DIY Book Festival and, shortly before that, the novel made the first cut in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award.

There are definitely elements of Separation of Faith that make the book/story contest-worthy (one of those elements being the extraordinary editorial quality, thanks to the amazing professional editors who worked so hard with me toward that important objective). Still, a first place contest award continues to elude the novel. Nonetheless, I remain both grateful for the wonderful things that are happening and unendingly hopeful about what I believe awaits on the path ahead. There are ten (I think) contests still in process, and I will, of course, post updates as soon as they come in.

Meanwhile, I’m giving myself permission to celebrate for a minute or two. ūüôā

Book Club Update

At the end of this post is a complete photo album that captures the incredible visit I had with the Happy Bookers Book Club in Atlanta three weeks ago. The memories of that trip remain tantalizing for me as they linger. In addition to viewing the photo album, you are invited to read the comments posted by those amazing women following our meeting and my subsequent post on April 19 (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/atlanta-book-club-event-was-today/.

In preparation for that book club event, I shipped to Atlanta a box full of material collected and developed during my research for Separation of Faith.¬†The items included photos taken while I was in Kettle Falls, Washington (a primary location in the novel), as well as my notes, outlines, sketches of period fashions in the 1940s, and so forth. These are the sorts of things that have become interesting to readers who have finished the book, because I don’t have to worry about giving away any of the story’s secrets and surprises.

The photos that show all of us gathered around the table looking at “stuff” are capturing the moments after our wonderful lunch.¬†Book club members were seeing the research material for the first time. Many thanks to Lynn Henderson, her great camera and photography skills, and other book club members who picked up the camera to make sure Lynn was in some of the pictures!

Book Club Promotion to Come Soon!

As we speak, I’m in the process of moving (house and office). Although I’ve said this many times before, I’m fully committed to never relocating again … ever! The move will be competed¬†by this time next week. In fact, one week from today, I will wake up in my new place. Hurray!

One of the top priorities when I start working in my new home office on May 21 will be the announcement of my book club promotion! Details are still being finalized, but in short, the promotion will offer the opportunity for book club members and me to actually meet one another, as we did in Atlanta. So, if you belong to a book club, I will have news for you very soon!

In advance, I encourage you to read the Happy Bookers’ comments following our April 19 meeting and my blog post that night¬†(https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/atlanta-book-club-event-was-today/). I will be happy to¬†arrange a connection between your book club and theirs, if you’re interested in learning more about their reactions to Separation of Faith. You’re welcome to email me directly at claser58@gmail.com.

Long-Awaited Promotional Trip to Kettle Falls Just Three Weeks Away!

As mentioned previously in this and earlier blog posts, Kettle Falls, Washington is a primary setting in Separation of Faith. (How that came to be, since I live in New Jersey, is a great book club story!) ūüôā¬†In addition, the novel has been endorsed¬†by a former Miss America (Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992), an amazing and incredibly impressive woman who grew up in Kettle Falls.

Each year (for the past 75 years), Kettle Falls hosts a huge festival during the first weekend in June called “Town & Country Days.” The event draws people from the widespread Spokane area and is a great source of pride for the residents of Kettle Falls. Sothis year the festival will feature a book for the very first time (to the best of local historians’ recollections)–and that book is Separation of Faith!

My dearest friend Elaine (since my 41-year-old daughter was a 2-year-old toddler) will fly up from San Francisco on June 1 and meet me in Spokane (after I fly in from New Jersey). We will rent a car and make the 90-minute drive to Kettle Falls. June 2 will be a touring-around day that will include visits to independent booksellers, and then the festival will run from June 3-5.

Elaine and I–and 200 copies of Separation of Faith, along with T-shirts, book bags, etc.–will be in a booth that is already being featured in the Kettle Falls local area press coverage. And on Saturday afternoon (the 4th), Separation of Faith (and I) will be on the entertainment program that follows the parade.

All of the festival’s committee members, as well as the local reporters, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of speaking, sound as excited as I am that this too-fun-for-words event is actually coming together. I will be blogging live from the day Elaine and I arrive in Kettle Falls (on June 1) until the festival is over on June 5. Photos, and hopefully video, will be part of the posts.

So …¬†stay tuned for a little slice of the dream to be realized!

Fascinating and Helpful Tips from Bestselling Author Harlan Coben

On April 26, Jessica Strawser, of Writer’s Digest, published an article about, and an interview with, bestselling author Harlan Coben.¬†Mr. Coben has become a contemporary master of the hook-and-twist novel, and his latest work–Live Wire–became available yesterday (May 12).

Since my novels always contain a plot twist that no one sees coming, I was immediately drawn to¬†Strawser’s article and interview (http://www.writersdigest.com/article/harlan-coben-shares-novel-twist-tips/), especially since I’m currently trying to figure out what that twist will be in my third novel. After reading Coben’s answers, this moved to the top of the pile of things I want to share with you.

Highlight points that really hit home for me (as I struggle along with each of you to travel the path to the Dream) include:

Coben: ” … Writing is one of the few activities where quantity will inevitably make quality. The more you write, the better you’re going to get at it.” (Me: This sort of dovetails into a quote I saw recently from thriller writer Barry Eisler–“The highest profit margin activity an author can engage in is writing.” If you’re someone like me who’s trying to promote a book, or books, while also writing another one, both the Coben and Eisler comments certainly help with priorities. Every time I find myself asking “what’s more important today?” I now fall back on these answers.)

Coben: “… it’s much more important that the character’s real than likable. Likable is not really as important as real.” (Me: This was a point made repeatedly by members of the Happy Bookers Book Club. They told me that the characters all became real to them, and they expressed very strong emotions about each “person” in the story, even those who were despicable because their “despicableness” came through as being highly believable.)

Coben: “… So there is usually a theme, and you do need that character that people care about … Otherwise,¬†I could give you the greatest [plot] twist in the world, but if you don’t care about the characters, you’re not going to follow it.”

Coben: “… There are a lot of writers who would love to take my place. And I know that the only way that good things continue to happen for me is to write, to get your butt in the chair and to write.”

Coben: “… You can skip the TV show you’re watching, you can wake up an hour earlier, you can write during lunch–you always have time to write. If your life is so full of other things that you don’t have time to write, then writing isn’t a priority and you’re not a writer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but face that fact. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to write.”

Me: Got it! Guess I’d better get busy! ūüôā

Please check out Jessica Strawser’s¬†entire article for more of Coben’s fascinating perspective: (http://www.writersdigest.com/article/harlan-coben-shares-novel-twist-tips/)

Hope you’ve found something helpful and/or of interest in this post! And please take a moment to look at the Happy Bookers Book Club photos! Also, have an absolutely¬†wonderful weekend! See you soon!

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As promised, here’s the post about the Atlanta book club event I’ve been mentioning for several months now. In a nutshell: What a fabulous several hours! Thanks so much to the incredible group of women (who call themselves The Happy Bookers) who featured Separation of Faith for their April monthly meeting! I’ve been unbelievably excited about today for a very long time, and I’ll carry the wonderful memories with me forever!

We covered a lot of ground during the three+ hours we were together, so I’m not going to attempt a full summary in this single post. Instead, I’d like to spread the event out over several posts,¬†as I think of additional things that might be of interest to those who regularly follow this blog, as well as to those who might be dropping by for the first time.

This evening, however, I’d like to touch on today’s format (especially for other book club folks who are coming across this post), and also¬†a few of the initial questions that members of the group asked of me.

First of all,

monthly meetings rotate between their houses and include salad lunches where everyone brings something. That simple setup makes starting and sustaining a book club very easy, in case someone reading this post happens to be thinking about getting a new book club going.

This particular book club uses www.LitLovers.com as a base/guide for their discussions, under normal circumstances. And I did study up on those questions, so I would be prepared for anything. But what we learned is that things tend to be a little different when the author is actually there.

For example, the generic questions for fiction (http://www.litlovers.com/run-a-book-club/questions-for-fiction) are designed to get the discussion going among the members about “what the author might have had in mind” with respect to a character, scene, plot thread, etc. But when the author is sitting in the room, the questions on everyone’s minds don’t easily follow a predetermined set of guidelines.

The first thing I was asked about was how and when I got started writing in the first place. Since I’m really old now … and since I’ve been writing all of my life … that explanation took several minutes. And when we finally got to Separation of Faith in particular, there was a great deal of interest in how the idea first came to me, how the characters came into my head, and¬†other questions that dealt with the book’s development and research processes. These are not questions that book club members would find easily answered without the author there,¬†and I had a lot of fun telling the stories behind the scenes.

We did eventually get into specifics of the plot (which I need to be careful about sharing for those of you who have not yet read Separation of Faith :-). I was so excited to be a part of the discussion about the characters and events that I had created and that had become real experiences for those fabulous women as they each made their way through the story. There can hardly be anything more fun for an author than being in a room full of wonderful book club readers who have thoroughly enjoyed the featured book! What other possible reason could there be for doing this job?

As I sift through my memories of today over the next week or so, I will come up with additional elements of the discussion that I can share without giving away the story’s secrets. And I’m hopeful that there will be members of The Happy Bookers who stop by this blog and offer their own comments. The reading experience was theirs, after all, and what they might wish to add to these posts through their comments will be more interesting than anything I have to say anyway!

Attached are a few photos taken at the event, and there will be more posted after I return home to New Jersey (leaving on the train tomorrow [Wed] night–back by Thursday afternoon). And, in closing this post,¬†let me say once again how much fun I had today and what an incredible group of women welcomed me! Book¬†clubs¬†rock! But The Happy Bookers will be hard to top!

Have a great night, everybody!

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