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My new novel, The Summer Son, comes out in January. Certainly, there is a lot of seemingly interminable waiting — to see the cover (finally did), to get proofs, to hear from marketing, etc. All perfectly normal, and frankly, my publishing story has unfolded at lightning speed compared with most. I’m not good at patience, but it’s something I’ve had to learn to develop. If you think writing and publishing books might be for you, learn to live with the waiting.

Behind the scenes, though, I’ve been plenty busy. Starting January 24th and continuing for two weeks, I’ll be on a virtual tour to promote the book, doing guest spots on a series of blogs related to books, writing, culture, etc. So for the past week or so, I’ve been writing that material — posts on building characters, finding a publisher, real-life inspirations for fiction, fathers and sons, writing in Montana. I’m about halfway through that stack of work, and still other appearances will be in a Q&A format, so I’m awaiting questions from my kind hosts.

The goal, for me, is to have my plate largely cleared by mid-October, three months before The Summer Son is released. Then, I’m bearing down to finish the first draft of the next novel, so the cycle can begin again. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

(The NFL is upon us again, and so I am a happy boy. Thus, the football-referencing post title. You’re welcome.)

In lieu of any pressing news, let’s do this baby roundup-style:

I’m throwing in with the gang of bloggers over at The Blood-Red Pencil, a wonderful site for writers and editors. My first post as a new member is scheduled to appear Aug. 19 (topic: promotion), and you can be sure I’ll link to it here. If you’re wrestling with a manuscript, wandering into the wild world of independent publishing, flogging your own work or minding your hyphens, The Blood-Red Pencil is an excellent daily stop. And I would have said that even before I wore the pledge pin.

Richard S. Wheeler’s blog has quickly become must-read stuff for me. Here’s his take on Dorchester Publishing’s decision to abandon mass-market books, particularly as it pertains to the Western genre.

A snippet:

It is tempting to suppose that one less publisher in the mass-market western field will strengthen the rest, but it doesn’t work that way. It means less rack space will be devoted to westerns, and they will be harder to find and the genre will be even farther from sight and mind.

People who traffic in the things-ain’t-what-they-once-were trade are simultaneously dead-on and off the mark. The problem: They’re dead-on in a no-shit kind of way (things are never what they once were) and off the mark in the sense that change is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. So it is that a writer at the New York Observer sees no Mailers or Updikes and thus concludes that fiction is culturally irrelevant.

I’m sorry about Theodore Dreiser being dead and all, but he had his time. Let’s allow Carlton Mellick III to have his. I’m not saying The Baby Jesus Butt Plug is a work of comparable merit to An American Tragedy (I’m also not saying it’s not). I’m saying it doesn’t have to be. When we have so many books that speak to so many constituencies — and so many ways to enjoy them — that’s precisely the opposite of cultural irrelevance.

Finally, this is about as entertaining as Glenn Beck gets. I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence.

Thanks to the skills of R.J. Keller, author of the excellent Waiting for Spring, I’m happy to report that 600 Hours of Edward now has a video companion.

Check it out.

In other book-related news, we’re just days away from the start of my blog book tour for 600 Hours. Here’s the itinerary again:

Wednesday, Oct. 28: I’ll be at The Blood-Red Pencil to chat about the novel’s genesis in NaNoWriMo 2008.

Thursday, Oct. 29: Day 2 at The Blood-Red Pencil, where I’ll discuss lessons learned with the independently published version of the novel.

Friday, Oct. 30: Day 3 at The Blood-Red Pencil. On tap: a discussion about landing a contract with Riverbend Publishing, the publisher of 600 Hours of Edward.

Monday, Nov. 2: I’ll have a guest post at For The Sake of Joy, a blog run by writer Kimberly Parker. In it, I’ll discuss the challenges and pitfalls of drawing a main character who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger syndrome. Gavin Bollard’s excellent blog, Life With Aspergers, will link to Kimberly’s site.

Tuesday, Nov. 3: Jim Thomsen will host me for a Q&A. Jim asks deep, penetrating questions — check out the Q&A with Diane Fanning that’s on his site now — so be sure to drop in.

Wednesday, Nov. 4: Cowgirl Dreams author Heidi Thomas will host a guest post from me on using the West as a setting.

Thursday, Nov. 5: Carol Buchanan, a Spur Award winner for God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana, will let me sit down and get into the nuts and bolts of how I wrote from Edward’s point of view.

Be sure to bookmark these blogs and follow along. A signed copy of 600 Hours of Edward will be given away each day, and I’ll be sticking around to chat with folks who drop in a comment.

I’m afraid this will be a rather meager moving of the chains. Much is going on, but none of it is particularly earth-rattling. I’m trying to create a temblor with a thousand tiny leaps.

Some notable things:

  • I continue to line up events related to the launch of 600 Hours of Edward. The latest: I’ll be at Borders Books in Billings on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to sign copies of the novel. This will be the first week of the book’s release, so come on out and get a copy.
  • I’ve finished the writing of blog posts for my virtual book tour, which begins on October 28th (a week from tomorrow) at Blood-Red Pencil. Here’s the complete list of blog spots: https://craiglancaster.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/on-tour/. A signed copy of 600 Hours will be given away every day of the tour, so get in there and mix it up with me in the comments sections of the host blogs.
  • Kudos department: I finally finished reading Carol Buchanan’s lovely debut novel, God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana. My delay in reading it had nothing to do with the book, which is excellent from cover to cover, and everything to do with my own crazy schedule. Carol won a Spur Award for this book, and it’s easy to see why: She has the era, the characters and the dramatic arc locked cold. It’s just a wonderful piece of writing, and fans of fine literature would do well to add it to their to-read list.

More soon. I promise.

Literary agent Nathan Bransford, as he’s wont to do, has posted a fascinating take on his blog about one of the prevalent myths of publishing: that novelists can write books, turn them over to the publisher and start writing again. No promotion or marketing responsibilities. Just coax out the literary brilliance, baby.

Bransford’s conclusion: Some can do it, among them Thomas Pynchon, the inspiration for the blog post. But not many, and certainly very few among those who are trying to find a footing in the business.

The key bit from Bransford:

Every author is a product of their time and had to deal with the realities and constraints of their publishing industry. Hemingway found his way to publication in part because he knew the right people (namely F. Scott Fitzgerald), and his success owed a great deal to his larger than life stature, a literary self-promotional archetype dating back to Byron and beyond. Herman Melville became famous because he wrote travelogues about far flung locales during a time when technology and trade was opening up the world, then crashed and burned when he tried to write novels about silly things like white whales, which didn’t even sell through its 3,000 print run.

Bransford’s well-reasoned musings set me to thinking about the unique challenges and opportunities for authors now. Social media and gadgetry have fundamentally changed the methods in which we communicate with each other and, in many cases, the way we form our language. (ROTFLMAO!) These aren’t exactly revelations; if you’re reading this now, you’re no doubt aware of these transformations. For me, as a new novelist, the Web comes with all kinds of opportunities and all kinds of hesitations. With such seemingly limitless ways in which to promote one’s self and one’s work, which do you choose? How hard do you push? Where is the line between effectively aggressive and annoyingly nettlesome?

I don’t know, exactly. But I have some ideas.

Yesterday, I set up a fan page for myself on Facebook. (You should totally visit it, by the way.) It was every bit as self-centered as it sounds, and I cringed as I sent out invitations to all 600-some of my Facebook friends, inviting them to become my fan. (The embarrassment was even worse when someone told me that the message came across as “Craig Lancaster wants you to be a fan of Craig Lancaster.” Oy!)

Still, I did so knowing that the advantage of such a page was not in allowing me to talk to people who might be interested in my book, but in clearing the way for us to talk with each other. That’s the power of social media; it’s not the amplification of the message (though that’s a nice side benefit) but the establishment of a connection.

To understand this value, you need only look at the appeal of other areas where the barriers between fans and artists or athletes have come down. NASCAR figured out a long time ago that it could engender a loyal following by making its stars accessible to the legions who pack speedways to see them. Joe Pernice earned a fan for life in me when my note to his business office in praise of a song was answered by Joe himself. Bransford himself has a huge following. Yes, many hope that he’ll someday add them to his roster of authors. But the bigger factor is that he discusses things of import to them and opens up a conversation.

Here, then, are some guiding principles I try to stick to as I go around beating my chest on social networks:

  • DO promote news, reviews and interviews. These are professional achievements and things that readers and potential readers alike will be interested in.
  • DO NOT bang the same old drum, day after day after day. I’m not selling T-shirts on the corner. Not yet, anyway.
  • DO try to engage the people who have been nice enough to express an interest in the work.
  • DO NOT come on too strong with any of them. (Naturally, this concept can be lost on someone who lacks the self-awareness to know what “too strong” means.)
  • DO look for legitimate opportunities to plug the work.
  • DO NOT hijack friends’ Facebook/MySpace pages for the aforementioned plugging.
  • DO try to come up with innovative ways to let readers interact with the work. Check out my friend T.L. Hines’ site for some excellent examples of this. He offers a free book download to people who have sent in a picture for his montage, and he has turned readers into characters in books. All very, very cool.
  • DO NOT let screwball promotional ideas usurp the excellence of the work being offered.

What say you?

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