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Hi, everyone! And greetings from the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan! The weather is extremely cold here as we brace for our first snow storm of the winter (except for the weird one we had on October 29). Tomorrow (Saturday) we could have as much as five inches, with more across the Hudson River in New Jersey where I live. Natives who usually complain about the winters are actually excited because a winter here with zero snow seems oddly wrong. I’m excited too because I’m one of the strange people who truly loves the snow. And being in the city during the storm will be especially fun.

Meanwhile, I arrived at the hotel just as the conference was getting underway. Had to really push my body through the lingering dizziness from treatment #5, a successful push eventually made possible by my mind, which was excited¬†like a kid about coming here. The sessions began at 4:00 p.m., right on the scheduled dot, and did not conclude until 7:15. Upon returning to my room, there was no heat, and within a few minutes I was shivering. So, they had to call an engineer, who was working somewhere else at that moment, and I waited in the lobby bar where I had a club sandwich and a cranberry juice (missing my favored wine and calamari but pretending). By the time they switched my room, it was almost 9:30. Then I settled in (the new room is great–bigger, newly renovated, and a nice reward), washed my face, took off my hair ( ūüôā ), and sat down to transcribe my copious notes for you from the three sessions. But I’m too tired to do a good job for you,¬†so I’ll get the notes out to you first thing in the morning before I report for duty at session #1 at 9:00.

Here are the three topics and presenters, though, as a tease:

  • “Writing About Yourself in the Digital Age” — A.J. Jacobs, Author
  • “Writing the 21st Century Novel” — Donald Maass, Literary Agent (extraordinary)
  • “Pitch Perfect” — Chuck Sambuchino, Author, and Editor of Guide to Literary Agents

All three sessions were outstanding, although my favorite was Maass. And since I was sitting at a table up front, he sat there too for about fifteen minutes ahead of his presentation. I’ve pitched to him at previous conferences, and he just oozes the desire¬†to help writers. A¬†young fellow next to me had never pitched anything to anyone before (and I think this is his first conference). After a couple of questions from the young man, Maass¬†just instinctively and automatically asked him to give the pitch and then began giving him suggestions. Maass¬†used his last-minute prep time for his own presentation to help an aspiring novelist instead. And that just might turn out to be the most impressive event during these three days. We’ll see.

As an update, I’ve decided that I will pitch my nonfiction project tomorrow. Passing up the opportunity to receive input from a bunch of agents would be fairly stupid, I’ve concluded. Unlike last year, I have absolutely no expectations other than to learn something. You will naturally be updated.

Meanwhile, this weekend¬†is definitely not going to be disappointing. I can already tell. Stay tuned for my early Saturday¬†morning post on today’s sessions. Then there will be four more sessions ahead of the three-hour Pitch Slam in the afternoon. My energy is low but happily uplifted by the inspiration and motivational charge I always get from this conference. Can’t wait to share the details after a little sleep.

Have a good night! I’ll take some pictures of the snow during lunch. Sweet dreams to all!

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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. ūüôā

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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Re-Edited Second Edition of The Truth About Cinnamon Now Available in Digital Format

Hi! First, let me tell you how¬†sorry I am for the scarcity of¬†my posts over the last few weeks. All medical stuff is now finished (as of last Friday),¬†except for the final surgery coming up on February 8. So the old (or even better) blog rhythm will now be returning–and I’m very anxious to get going again!

“Getting going” will really begin revving up as we approach and go through this upcoming weekend, when I’ll be attending the long-awaited second Writer’s Digest Writer’s Convention in New York City (Friday afternoon the 21st through mid-day on Sunday the 23rd). I’ll be blogging in every session I attend.¬†You’ll probably get posts from me from everywhere else too, since I now have an iPad with 3G. I know! I can’t believe it either.

The amazing little thing was a Christmas gift, and I’ll be writing a post comparing the iPad with my mini netbook, which I thought was the bee’s knees (and published several posts about in this blog)¬†until a couple of weeks ago.¬†So, my iPad (the cover has a supplemental keyboard, making blogging a lot easier) and I will be¬†sharing with you every possible tidbit throughout the conferece that I think will be of use/value/interest to you who are plotting out your own journeys in pursuit of¬†“the dream.”

Meanwhile, this quick post is to let you know that the re-edited Second Edition version of The Truth About Cinnamon (my first novel) is now available electronically and can be purchased quickly and inexpensively on Scribd.com (http://www.scribd.com/doc/46985533/THE-TRUTH-ABOUT-CINNAMON), among other electronic venues. The early success of Separation of Faith (my second novel, released in September 2010) has begun moving readers to take a look at Cinnamon, which I’m very excited to see happening. Some long-time Cinnamon fans who’ve also read Separation of Faith still tell me that Cinnamon¬†remains their favorite.

If you’re a reader who loves a long meaty saga with lots of intrigue, suspense, love disasters, and flashbacks¬†transporting you¬†through Irish and Italian immigrant life in New York, I invite you take a look at the re-edited version of The Truth About Cinnamon. Please let me know if you do. I love to hear your input, whatever that might end up being. ūüôā

Now, Stay Tuned for a Week Full of New Information & Experiences to Help Us All Navigate Our Publishing Journeys! I’ll do my best to make you feel as if you’re at the conference along with me. ‘Bye for now.

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Checking In

Hi! Although I’ve been commenting on other blogs and doing a little tag surfing, I haven’t published a new post since a week ago yesterday. But I have been doing a huge amount of reading, and there are a number of things I want to share with you today. First, though …

Copyedit Update–Separation of Faith

On Monday (the 12th), I received the copyedited manuscript (returned to me electronically, with the edit done using Word’s edit tracking) and a letter from the editor. This edit is a lot easier to manage since the issues highlighted are no longer addressing structural issues in the novel, or point of view, or any other storytelling elements. Instead, the editor went line by line to ensure the manuscript’s adherence to publishing standards printed in key references such as The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), the primary source of correctness for publishing professionals.

My own (and seemingly endless) editing of the manuscript had produced a fairly clean copy. But my specialty is developmental editing rather than copyediting.¬†I wouldn’t even pretend to have anywhere near the level of knowledge and recall as this copyeditor with respect to what’s inside the nearly 1000 pages of the CMS. So I’m finding the review of her edit to be extremely valuable in terms of this novel’s quality. My future writing will also benefit from the new information I’m picking up.

In addition to CMS issues, the copyeditor rearranged my words in a few places to either meet a standard or provide clarity. And in her letter to me, she pointed out a small but important plot “hole” that can easily be filled by my adding a few sentences.

She’s the first one who’s noticed that little plot blip, and I’m very grateful that she did. Some voracious fiction reader (or perhaps a lot of them) would certainly have noticed the issue as well, but that would have been after the book was printed, and nothing could have been done at that point to fix the problem. Just one more reason why we need to submit our work to an experienced, professional editor before we start sending things out through queries or moving into the final production stage of a self-publishing process.

Here are several examples of the comments she made in the manuscript margins using Word’s edit-tracking:

  • CMS 8.21: Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus used as part of the name (usually replacing the title holder‚Äôs first name). Titles are normally lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name.
  • Switched [these words] around to avoid passive construction.
  • A word, abbreviation, phrase, or clause that is in apposition to a noun is set off by commas if it is nonrestrictive‚ÄĒthat is, omittable, containing supplementary rather than essential information. If it is restrictive‚ÄĒessential to the noun it belongs to‚ÄĒno commas should appear. CMS 6.43 My older sister, Betty, taught me the alphabet. but My sister Enid lets me hold her doll. (I have two sisters.)
  • CMS 7.63: Individual letters and combinations of letters of the Latin alphabet are usually italicized. I need a word with two e‚Äôs and three s‚Äôs. He signed the document with an X.

Traditional publishers (who will be taking a look at this book if this Journey is successful) put every single one of their titles through this sort of meticulous copyediting. Consequently, they not only understand the importance, but they recognize the quality level of the editing the moment they see it.¬†¬†So we need to do everything in our power to make sure that our manuscripts (if we’re trying to pursue the traditional route) or our printed books (if we’re taking an alternate path) measure up to the standards expected in the traditional publishing arena.

Once¬†Separation of Faith is¬†in the final stage of production, I realize now that I will also need to use a professional proofreader prior to signing off on the end product. Traditional publishers put their titles through several rounds of proofreading before the book is printed–and as we all know through our own reading, there are still typos and other mistakes that manage to show up in books by even the most prolific and highly paid authors.

As I’ve been saying since I began blogging about the steps of this Journey last November 4, the first priority for all of us is to create the highest quality book possible, regardless of what that takes.

Writing Competition

Entering our work in competitions is a great way to collect feedback, grow in our writing craft, get noticed, and add to our following. And there are boatloads of competitions out there. But Writer’s Digest sponsors several that have a high level of legitimacy.¬†They have one that includes a wide variety of writing categories, and the deadline for that competition is May 14. Here’s the link that will also show you WD‘s other contest:¬†¬†http://www.writersdigest.com/competitions. Hope you find something that inspires you. (See later in this post for more on Inspiration.)

Building a Following/Web Presence before You Have a Book

There is so much more being written on this subject every day that keeping up with everything is tough. But here are a couple of links to articles/blogs that I found of particular interest while reading the past week:

  • http://robinmizell.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/awp-panel-discussions-and-lesprit-descalier/¬†I found this comment by Ms. Mizell to be especially interesting: “In considering whether to work with authors, I prefer to see they’re already capable of handling themselves in what can be contentious online conversations. Without an existing Web presence to examine, I can’t rapidly assess how a writer will behave publicly, online, or in an interview, particularly in the heat of the moment. My clients need to be better at it than I am!”
  • http://www.calebjross.com/awpblog/2010/04/08/320/¬†At the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Convention earlier this week, a panel of agents and editors answered questions about the importance of an author platform. This link takes you to a summary of that panel.

A Few Other Highlights

These are links to articles that touch on other issues we’ve discussed through this blog:

Journey Update

Separation of Faith: As soon as I go through the copyedit and accept/reject each of the changes/notations, the manuscript will finally enter the production phase. I’ll let you know when that long-awaited moment arrives. (You’ll probably be able to hear the cork pop!)

The Truth About Cinnamon: News flash! I’m still working on the reduction edit. Target for completion now: late May.¬†

Stats: This blog–1947 (last posting 1796)

Diagnosis Update

My surgery will be on May 4, and I’ll be in the hospital overnight. I sense a new use for my mini coming on … ūüôā

Seriously, this has been found very early, and even though the next couple of months will be a bit bumpy, the prognosis is extremely positive, taking me way out into my 80’s. Hopefully, I will have found my way out of publishing obscurity by then …

Have a great weekend! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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Hi!¬†I’m popping in quickly with a¬†link to a great article that someone just forwarded to me from today’s New York Times. As I work through the latest edit of Separation of Faith, I know I’m guilty of some of this. Perhaps you’ll find something of value in the piece as well.

http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/tangled-passages-4/?emc=eta1

Later …

Cheri

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4th Serialized Issue of Cinnamon Available for Downloading

Monday is here again already, and so is the 4th issue of The Truth About Cinnamon‘s free serialization for your downloading and reading pleasure. ūüôā http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/25379887/

There are a number of other things I’d like to talk about today, but I’m trying to finish up the final edit of Separation of Faith so I can check off that part of the plan by submitting the manuscript¬†to the publisher by tomorrow or Wednesday, at the latest. As soon as I complete the edit, I’ll be back here to add to this post and to do some tag surfing, which has become one of my new favorite things.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a holiday today, I hope you’re having fun with the extra time. Later …

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Third Free Issue of Serialized The Truth About Cinnamon Now Available for Downloading

Hi! This will be very short, just to let you know that the third issue of Cinnamon is now ready, as promised for today, for those of you who have decided to give the story a try:  (http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/25083389/). Remember that this will become a 1st Edition when the newly edited version goes into production in February.

I will write a longer post in the morning, with updates on how The Plan is progressing with respect to Separation of Faith, the stats, etc.

Hope your 2010 is off to a terrific start! Later ….

Cheri

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