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Hi! First let me apologize for being away so long! I’m working on a post that will bring you up to date on where I’ve been and where I think I might be headed. Hopefully, that new post will be published within the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, I wanted to get word out about this interview. Last year, when I was dealing with the breast cancer (the second of my now four primary cancers), I began writing a book geared toward women who have been newly diagnosed with the illness. Dr. Mehrara was my breast reconstruction surgeon, and he kindly, graciously gave me an hour of his valuable time to answer my questions. The plan at that point was to include the interview as part of my book.

But then two additional primary cancers intervened, one right after the other (I know! Whoever heard of such a thing?), and all of my plans (for just about everything) came off the tracks, including the breast cancer book. Yet this interview with Dr. Mehrara is too important to hold. The information and perspective he provides through his answers needs to be in the hands of women who are facing a breast cancer diagnosis and the many decisions that must be made in a short period of time. So, since he gave me permission to use the interview in any way I choose, you will now find the entire conversation on Scribd: http://tinyurl.com/cbkkzx5, where the access is easy and free.

Please let me hear from you if you choose to check this out. And please help spread the word by forwarding the interview’s link to any woman you know who’s been newly diagnosed with breast cancer and/or anyone close to that woman who will be supporting her.

In closing, I promise you that I’ll be back within a couple of days with that update posting. Take care. Hope you’re all having a good week!

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… With a New Perspective on the Concept of Strength

Since I launched this blog on November 4, 2009, my routine (until recently) has been producing a new post approximately once a week. Sometimes the posts have only been separated by a few days–and I think the most time elapsed between any of the posts, in a worst-case scenario, was two or three weeks. Now, however, we’re sitting at almost two months since my last post, and I feel as if I owe an explanation to those of you who regularly follow my blog.

Of all the elements stitched together to create my own version of a social media process/network, this blog has been (and remains) my favorite–the little niche of the cyberworld that I somehow managed to create (unknowingly, at the start) to house the soul of my writing and the diagram of my dreams. And because the posts are published rather than held secret and close to the chest, I’ve tried from the beginning to strike a chord of familiarity, kinship, and the sharing of information with other writers on their own journey. Happily, that connection does, in fact, appear to have developed, as I’d hoped, although I’ve probably lost some of you lately. But I’d obviously like to increase the scope of readers reached (a goal shared in common, I’m sure, with just about every other blogger on the planet). Perhaps that will be easier once this post is finished and there’s an understanding between you and me of what’s been going on.

There’s a clearly defined mission here in this blog–not just for me but for anyone who simply stops by, or who follows me with a fervor, or who falls somewhere in between. My objective has been to create a place where everyone who’s on some sort of writing/publishing journey–no matter how fresh or seasoned the journey, no matter what level of complexity might be inherent in the writing projects–will find at least one item of immediate value (and hopefully a couple points of interest) embedded within each post.

In order to accomplish this plan, my blog posts needed to be published with a predictable, dependable regularity. And I believe that most bloggers would agree with me when I say that, of all the areas we might neglect from time to time, the regularity/dependability/predictability of blog posts is the last one we want to ignore. So, I’ve really been beating myself up over the distance between the ever-moving “today” and my last published post. There have been many posts drafted but not completed, and even more constructed fully in my head but never transferred to the computer during this long stretch of silence. Of course, none of you could possibly have known that.

One reason for this frustrating development is that I’ve been very careful about muddying up this blog’s clear mission through the inclusion of personal stuff. That pattern was broken a couple of times–once when the “hurricane without a name” hit our part of New Jersey in March 2010, sending me and my family (and thousands of others as well) out of our homes and into a hotel for several days. Pictures on those blog posts justify (for me, anyway) the momentary diversion from my publishing journey intricasies to a focus on basic shelter and food. Another brief detour from this blog’s mission involved intermittent references to my breast cancer (diagnosed on April 1, 2010) and the subsequent treatment. Prior to diving into the creation of my third novel, I’m in the process of writing a book inspired by the breast cancer experience. The book is intended for a target audience of women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer, along with their family members and friends. My hope has been to have that book available to help those women and the people close to them by the end of this month (August 2011).

But that date is slipping, which brings me to (a) the reason for my extended posting absence, to (b) the heart of this post, and ultimately to (c) my re-evaluation of what we, as writers, might view as “strength” from time to time. Here’s the situation: For some reason that the good folks at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhatta can’t yet figure out, I have now been diagnosed with three types of cancer in the last eighteen months. None of the three cancers is a byproduct of any of the others, and they’ve tested me for the potential immunodeficiency things that might be making me vulnerable to a situation like this. Those tests have all been negative. I’ve had six surgeries in fifteen months, the most recent two of those occurring since June 30. And there will be another major surgery required in September. The latest pathology isn’t back yet, but my surgeon suspects that this one is also being discovered very early, as the others have been. And, if his suspicions are correct, any subsequent treatment should be fairly easy to manage and work into my life. So, assuming the pathology (due early next week) ends up being what we anticipate, I’m actually very blessed. In the past many months, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people who are in a lot worse shape than I am.

Needless to say, the whole story is sort of long (perhaps the understatement of the decade) and will be addressed as an addendum in the new book I’m writing rather than as a blog post. But there are a couple of relevant points I do want to make here as I wrap this up. The first point is on the subject of strength. Until recently, I’ve been feeling immensely “un-strong,” concerned beyond words about readers of this blog and the fact that I was letting them down–concerned about the beautiful fans of my two novels who will be waiting for some time yet for the next story from me that will hopefully transport them again into the worlds I create filled with mystery, messed up families, illicit love, suspense, survival, and surprise plot twists.

The truth has been, though, that I haven’t really known what to write in the past few months, especially in this blog. I have lots of updates to share about the two novels I’m trying to market, along with a collection of writing tips I’ve been gathering as I craft my nonfiction project and my next novel. And yet none of those words would come together for me in a blog post, despite the many hours I spent thinking about them. Furthermore, because I’d been so adamant (to myself) about not bringing elements of my personal life into this blog, I didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to explain why I haven’t been writing to you. Consequently, what you’ve been receiving from me is nothing–and that hasn’t been making me feel very strong at all. Quite the contrary!

Over the last couple of weeks, however, I’ve started to acquire a different perspective on the concept of strength. Now I’m beginning to believe that, as writers, we’re stronger sometimes if we don’t say anything. Instead of “don’t just stand there, do something,” turn that around to say, “don’t just do something, stand there.” Perhaps simply publishing a post with a bunch of words because we’re “supposed” to publish a post with regularity isn’t nearly as strong as waiting a considered amount of time until the words we’re going to write are the best we can make them, designed, above all, to be of help to someone else. Sometimes we’re stronger if we fight back a little against the the guilt of not adhering to the crazy schedules we often set for ourselves. Perhaps strength sometimes means pulling inward for a little while rather than spreading ourselves all over the blogosphere like shapeless, directionless amoebas. And I’m convinced, in retrospect, that any blog post I might have written during the last six or seven weeks would have, indeed, come across as shapeless, absent of any direction, and of absolutely no value to anyone else. My prayer is that the post I’m writing at the moment is turning out to be at least a cut above that bleak description. 🙂

The second and final point I want to make as I wrap this up is that I am going to be just fine! I’m in great hands, in a great place–and the good people at Sloan-Kettering are not only going to figure this out, but I believe we’re all going to learn things from my situation that will eventually benefit others down the road. And now that I’ve explained things to you, I’ll be more comfortable about updating you regarding my health progress as well as my publishing progress–because I now understand that, from here on out, at least, the two elements have become, and will remain, inexorably entwined. (They’ve undoubtedly been that way all along. But I must have been thinking subconsciously that keeping them segregated would enable them to operate independently. If one wasn’t working, the other one still would. That might, in fact, be possible, with plenty of practice. I’ll let you know.)

A couple of additional blog posts will follow in close succession to this one, so I can update you on my promotional activities/accomplishments/status and share a few of the tips and ideas I’ve been collecting for you as I’ve been working on my new projects. After that, we should be rolling again on some sort of posting schedule that will remain undefined but certainly frequent enough to be of value.

I’m very happy to be back with you again, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you, if you feel like responding.

Hope you’re all having a fabulous summer and that your own writing Journeys are perfectly on track!

All the best to each of you. –Cheri

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As a consequence of entering Separation of Faith in the “Best Books 2011” Awards competition (one of about 15 contests entered during the last couple of months), this increasingly high-powered little novel of mine is now listed “live” on USA Book News (http://www.usabooknews.com/generalfiction.html).

Winners of this contest will not be announced until October (2011), so the wait for some of these results seems rather interminable. But meanwhile, there’s new visibility as a byproduct.

Book Promotion

The list of promotional to-dos for Separation of Faith seems to grow exponentially by the day, appearing even longer, I sometimes think, because authors have to do all the work themselves (until they become famous … 🙂 …). I’ve been collecting promotional tips, which I’ll be sharing with you in a post later this week.

Current New Project

This is also the week that I will finally begin earnestly writing my next book, which I’ve decided will be my nonfiction story about the last year initiated by the breast cancer. (You can search this blog for all relevant references once the breast cancer popped up.)

Because I diligently kept a daily journal for many months after the diagnosis, and then wrote substantial notes thereafter, I believe this book will be the quickest to complete and properly edit. (You can also search this blog for all of the references to editing Separation of Faith, the most critical of all the steps in the production of this novel. I believe with all my heart that the high quality of editing is directly correlated to the success we’re beginning to realize in contests. Poor or nonexistent editing can squash the dreams about an otherwise well-written, innovative novel. And that’s the most important lesson learned from the post-completion phases of Separation of Faith!)

Once my nonfiction project is comfortably out of my head, I’m confident that focusing on novel #3 will become easier. As long as the nonfiction effort remains incomplete, I’ve found that there are too many distractions that keep me from the heads-down attention required to effectively fire up the next novel.

Lesson: If you have more than one book in your head, pick one to finish. Spending time scattered across more than one project ends up producing nothing of value at all. As we travel this Journey, unless we’re already celebrities, no one is going to be interested in our “ideas.” The only things publishing professionals want to see are finished books!

So, here I go, all set to create a work of nonfiction that will hopefully prove helpful to women who are finding themselves in the same place I was a year ago. More later on this project as the chapters materialize. Really fun (and incredibly fulfilling) to be moving back into the writing part of this Journey.

Hope you all have a great week!

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A Quick Note from Sloan-Kettering in New York

My mini netbook and I are preparing this update at 6:30 am on Wednesday from my hospital bed here at Sloan. And I’m quite sore but doing fine. There wasn’t any lymph node involvement, which is huge news. The fact that they didn’t have to take any of those out will dramatically improve my recovery time.

At the moment, I’m scheduled to go home tomorrow. That could slip until Friday depending on how things are going. Given the extent of surgery, I wouldn’t mind the extra day here, but I’ll take whatever comes my way.

Thank you so much for all of your kind words and prayers. I’m very fortunate that I have a wonderful support network in my family and friends, and now in you as well. And when I opened my eyes yesterday afternoon in the recovery room, the first thing I did was thank God for letting me wake up. I think that was the scariest part for me as they were getting ready to put me under.

By my birthday in October, I should be fully reconstructed with beautiful breasts. The science and technology of plastic surgery following mastectomies is truly mind boggling. And because this was discovered so early, in a routine mammogram, I’m told that I should still be around in my 80s or 90s (at least as far as this cancer is concerned).

So, ladies, get thee all to thy mammograms forthwith!

My plan is to write additional posts while I’m here, although I’m not sure how relative they’ll be to the publishing journey.

Oh, I do have one update on that front, now that I’m thinking about it. Because I earned the Editor’s
Choice designation for Separation of Faith, I’m now eligible for the iUniverse Rising Star program where I would actually receive some marketing and promotional assistance. Of course, I’m only eligible at the moment, not accepted yet.

There’s quite an application to be filled out, in which I’ll need to explain my platform (there’s that word again), my promotional plans, and a bunch of other stuff. Originally, they were asking me to return the completed application by this Friday, May 7. But when I explained what was happening this week, they very graciously gave me an extension to May 27. And I did bring the forms/questions with me to the hospital so I can begin thinking about the details.

I’ll pop back in at some point later today. Meanwhile, thank you again for all the caring voices out there.

Cheri

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Reading Update

Last night I did a lot of catch-up reading on all sorts of writing information I’ve come across over the last week. Not only did I find a bunch of stuff that I think will be of use or interest to you, but my to-do list has expanded considerably. So, thank you very much to me for all the extra work I’ve added to myself … 🙂 Hopefully those new tasks will help you as well as I chronicle them in this blog, learning as I go.

Giving Stuff Away for Free

Because I spent ten weeks posting a free chapter per week from my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon (http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/24081497/), an article titled “Giving it away for free: Obscurity vs. Making Money as a Writer” caught my attention immediately.

Pros and cons are listed in both the post and the comments. Let me know what you think: http://www.bradsreader.com/2010/03/giving-it-away-for-free-obscurity-vs-making-money-as-a-writer/.

If You Love a Little Controversy … 🙂

Since the whole experiment of this blog is to see if a high quality, meticulously edited, self-published novel can get the attention of traditional publishers, the article “Self-Publishing Pro and Con(temptuous)” jumped right off the page into my lap. And since I’ve already had a number of conversations with some of you on the subject, here’s another perspective. And the blog by Alan Rinzler (referenced in my post #30 on March 19) is also addressed again in the article.

If you check this one out, please read all of the comments as well to get the full picture being presented: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/self-publishing-pro-and-contemptuous/.

Using Video as Part of the Book’s Promo

I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject because I will soon need some sort of trailer for Separation of Faithand I have absolutely no clue how to do one. I also have a video of a television interview done with me at a small, regional Connecticut TV station after The Truth About Cinnamon was released. There’s undoubtedly a way to fit that interview video into my plan as well, to help people find out who I am.

So the article titled “7 Reasons Why Writers Need To Start Using Video For Book Promotion” could not have been more timely. Not only did I pick up some great ideas, but I began considering which of my tech guru friends I can tap for assistance (in return for a case of beer or something … 🙂 …)

I might start experimenting soon with the interview video that I already have, maybe posting it here in my blog or on my FiledBy site (where I have the free chapters of Cinnamon). I also have a slick webcam on my mini, and the article said that YouTube has a recording site where you can create your own videos using your webcam.

This is where some of that extra work I mentioned at the beginning of my post is coming from. But I’m getting sort of excited about this video thing–especially if I can find yet another use for my mini.

Take a look at the article if you have a minute:  http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/03/08/7-reasons-why-writers-need-to-start-using-video-for-book-promotion/. And I’d love to hear about any of your own rookie experiences with the video element of this dream journey.

Your Own Writing Retreat

Here’s one I almost forgot to include. Several of you have commented on the difficulty of finding time for our writing as we juggle families, jobs, and life in general. So this article, “Create Your Own Mini-Writing Retreat,” might inspire some ideas: http://writersdigest.com/article/Do-It-Yourself-Writing-Retreats/?print=1.

I also discovered several other links on the subject by Googling “Create Your Own Writing Retreat.” I guess lots of us are in search of solutions to this dilemma.

Editing Update

Separation of Faith is still undergoing the copyedit at the publisher. I probably won’t see those results for another two or three weeks, so I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I have a client who’s asked me to edit two more books for him. Actually, one of the books is by his daughter, who is twelve and has already written a novel! I know! How can that be possible? I did a development edit on her book last August, and she is so tenacious that she’s now coming back for more. I’m so impressed with her! Not only impressed with her writing skill, which is quite amazing for one so young, but also with her drive, her courage about seeking input, and her willingness to write beyond her own personal experiences. When I was twelve, I was writing short stories but never even considered writing a whole book! The idea of doing research to fill in the blanks for things I hadn’t yet experienced hadn’t crossed my mind at that point.

I’ll let you know when this young lady becomes famous.

After I finish the edit for her, I need to get busy again with the reduction edit on The Truth About Cinnamon. Every time I turn around, something else seems to be getting in the way of that. So the moment has come to get firm and stay focused. (Of course, I also have to do my taxes and my dad’s before the 15th. Oh brother.)

Health Update

My appointment with the surgeon is on the 14th in Manhattan. I will, of course, be taking my mini. Not sure if I’ll be working on my book, my client’s book, or my taxes–but with the mini on hand at that sort of appointment, I’m surely going to be working on something.

Meanwhile, I’m too busy to worry about the details of the diagnosis. After receiving a copy of the pathology report, I took a half day to do research on the various facts and options. But I won’t really know the whole story until I see that surgeon. So I’m not allowing myself to fret too much until then.

Stats

Hits on this blog: 1796 (1625 at last report). Definitely moving in the right direction!

Take care. Hope to see you while I’m tag surfing over the next few days.

Cheri

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Book Expo America–the Publishing Industry’s Gigantic Annual Event

This is a gargantuan 3-day event held by the publishing industry in massive exhibit halls around the country once every year. And there’s always been a writer’s conference held the day before the main tent opens. That conference was typically hosted by Writer’s Digest. But WD recently announced that they are not going to participate so they can prepare for their own 2nd annual conference in New York in January 2011. (Their 1st annual last September is the one that changed my writing direction and launched this blog last November 4, so you can bet I’ll be at the next one!)

In lieu of the BEA-WD conference, Book Expo America has just announced that the writer’s conference slot/day will now be filled with the new BEA DIY Authors Conference and Marketplace at the Javits Convention Center in New York on Monday, May 24. That’s Memorial Day, but I don’t think I care–and there won’t be any commute traffic. 🙂  The full Book Expo America Convention and Exhibits will run from Tuesday, May 25-Thursday, May 27. And I’m already registered.

After I published Cinnamon in December 2003, my first BEA and BEA Writer’s Conference were in Chicago in June 2004. And I attended each year thereafter (in Washington, D.C. and New York) until just a couple of years ago when what I was experiencing and learning there became sort of static.

But then the world began changing over night with social media–and then came the conference last September–and now, lo and behold, the opening act for Book Expo America is a DIY (stands for Do It Yourself) writer’s conference! Who would have ever believed it?

This feeds so beautifully into what I’m trying to accomplish here, and the fee is only $199. If you’re out there and trying to accomplish the same thing, I highly recommend your checking out the possibility of attending. Here’s the link: http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/en/Conference/DIY-Authors-Conf-Marketplace/. If you do decide to go, please let me know. I’d love to share a beverage with you there.

Note: You don’t need to attend all of BEA in order to attend the conference on the 24th. The conference is a separate event–but if you’re able to go to BEA as well, you’ll learn more about the scope of the publishing business than you ever dreamed possible. During my first one in Chicago, I was like a deer in headlights.

One More Conference for Consideration 

This one is for all of us but seems a better fit for those who are actively pursuing the query process and meeting with dead ends. Nothing helps us more than having someone tell us why we’re being rejected–giving us specifics that we can actually work on and fix. So Writer’s Digest is holding what they call an “Editor’s Intensive” in September. (They just finished one in March.) The program guarantees that the first 50 pages of your manuscript will be read, and that there will be a 30-minute session with an editor who will offer specific information about what can be done to improve the manuscript and the chances of publication.

Let me know what you think: http://writersdigest.com/events

Update on Biopsy

Well, the news was not what I wanted to hear at 11:00 yesterday morning. I do have breast cancer–but the pathology is uplifting, if there can be such a thing. The spot is small; the discovery is early; and no one seems overly anxious about this–except me and my family.

But I’ll be seeing the surgeon on the 14th unless I can get in sooner, and I’ll let you know what comes next. I’m in the best place in the world for this–Sloan-Kettering’s new 16-story breast cancer center in Manhattan.

So, I’ll be fine–and fortunately, I’m so busy right now with all the elements of this plan, along with my editing work, that I don’t have much spare time for fretting. Plus, I started a “My Breast Cancer Journey” journal last night. If I think I’ve written anything particularly profound as we move forward, I’ll share those words with you.

Meanwhile, thanks so much for all the thoughts and prayers that have already come my way. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Cheri

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