Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Congratulations to the winners

Congratulations to Nancy Mleczko of Turners Falls, MA and Toni Holt of Waverly, Ohio. They are the winners of my “Be the First to Read Evidence of Grace” contest. Each winner will receive an autograph advance review copies of Evidence of Grace, the third in my Jenna’s Creek series. Thank you, ladies, for posting your reviews. These reviews really help build a buzz about upcoming books. For those of you who did not win, don’t despair, I will be hosting more contests in the future. Feel free to continue to post reviews for any of my books.

I am beginning a blog tour May 14th in honor of the official release of Evidence of Grace on June 1st. If you would like to interview me on your blog, please contact me at teresa@teresaslack.com or teresaslackfanforum@yahoo.com for details. Don't worry, blog tours are quick and painless...and lots of fun. If anyone has ideas for future contests, promotions, or surveys, please don’t keep them to yourself. Thanks to all for your participation.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Chasing Squirrels

Behind our house is a few hundred acres of state owned property. That means I have miles of hiking trails at my disposal. It is a rural area, and I have never run into another person while up there. But I do run into wildlife.

The other day while hiking with my dog Molly, she spotted a squirrel and took off after it like her tail was on fire. She laid her ears back, lowered her body to the ground, and was digging up dirt as she flew down the trail. She wanted that squirrel so badly she could taste it. Literally, I'm sure.

I couldn't help but notice the difference in the way Molly pursued the squirrel and the way she goes after a deer. We often see whitetail deer in the woods too. I try to spot them before Molly has the chance to scare them away so I can observe their majesty and beauty. I'm fortunate to catch a glimpse before they bound over the ridgeline. As soon as Molly spots one, the chase is on. But there is a hesitancy in her stride. She doesn't lower herself to the ground. She doesn't run so fast it looks like her feet are missing the ground. She's curious, but you can tell she's wondering what in the world she'd do with the thing if she caught it.

Sometimes I wonder if we do the same thing with our writing. We say we're going to write the next great American novel. We'll do whatever it takes to finish that project and see it on the bookstore shelf. We attend conferences and read the right books and groan in indignation when a celebrity or ex-president's wife signs a multi-million dollar book deal.

But are we like Molly chasing the deer? We say we want it, but we aren't really willing to put our chests to the ground and paw up earth the way we do when we're chasing the squirrel.

You see, the squirrel isn't a threat. We're confident of our abilities should we catch the squirrel. We can handle an overgrown rat. But a deer, well that's different. We're not big enough to hold onto it on our own. We need help. So we begin our pursuit, but hold back. Even while we're running, we wonder if we've bitten off more than we can chew.

Writing is harder than it looks. It's not as romantic as we've come to believe. It's like any other job. It's hard work. It takes blood and sweat and a strong constitution to stand against the frustration and rejection. That's why you probably know someone who's talked about the same book idea for years but hasn't written the first word.

How much do you want it? Molly thinks she wants that deer when she sets off down the hill after it, but even she knows she's outmatched. She'll put forth a half-hearted attempt every time because she's a herding dog and it's in her nature to chase whatever runs from her.

It's in our nature to want affirmation. We want the pat on the back, the accolades, the respect of our peers, the right to say we've done something that most others only dream about. But are we willing to get down in the dirt and go after it? Only you know how badly you want to catch the illusive dream of writing a novel or seeing your name in a national magazine's byline.

Don't be afraid to chase your dreams. Don't let your dreams be stopped by the fear of what happens should you catch them. Pretend it's only a squirrel you're chasing and see how far it takes you.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Massacre

One can't begin to imagine the terror of walking into a classroom and being forced to stand against a wall...The agony and chaotic thoughts raging through your mind as you think of parents and friends and loved ones and worry about how much they will worry about you until they know you're safe...Or not.

I don't even know what I'm thinking right now so I don't know what to write. To think that I make my living with my pen, yet at this moment I can't form a cognizant thought. The only thing I am certain of at this moment is God is still on the throne and He is still in control.

At this time of disbelief, shock, anger, frustration, betrayal, fear, and desolation, let us call on Jesus. My prayers go out to every student, parent, friend, professor, and staff member of every campus in this country. Please know that God in here in our midst, in our sorrow. May you be comforted in this time of grief.

Monday, April 09, 2007

25th High School Reunion

I received an invitation to my high school reunion last week. Egads! How did this happen? Is it possible that 25 years have passed since I walked across the stage in my cap and gown?

Apparently yes, since these people remember me and request the pleasure of my company at a celebration of the event this June. Even though I haven't earned a million dollars or been awarded a professional sports contract--as if anyone ever thought I would--or an Academy Award or a Nobel prize, I did get a few books published. You gotta admit that's cool and they'll all think so. So I should leave the festivities with my vanity intact, but that still begs the question--what happened to the last 25 years?

Most of the time, high school seems to have happened to someone else. Because of family issues and normal teenage angst, it isn't a period in my life I dwell on. I'd rather think on the last few years when I've become reasonably financially sound, accepting of my body, family nose, and bad teeth, confident enough to speak in front of people, and confident that I might actually have something worth hearing. But when I receive an invitation to a high school reunion, I can't help but remember, if only for a moment, those days as if they were yesterday.

It wasn't all bad. Anyone remember the movie Carrie? Of course you do. My son tells people who weren't fortunate enough to have been there, I looked like Sissy Spacek, just before those evil kids dropped a bucket of blood on her. Real eye candy. Sadly his description isn't too far off the mark. I was equally as popular.

For unpopular, unlovely, debilitatingly shy kids like me, a high school reunion is almost vindication. "See, I didn't turn out half bad. I finally learned what to do with this head of thick blonde hair and my voice doesn't quake in terror if I don't know the answer to your dumb question." Things couldn't have gotten any worse. If you haven't attended a high school reunion, don't pass up the opportunity to go, even if you've gained 50 pounds and lost all your hair. Believe me, no one will care. They'll love you anyway. I was surprised by the fun I had at my 20th. The popularity divisions had broken down over the years and become obsolete. It didn't matter if you were rich in high school, shy, athletic, preppy, or punk. Or whether we were putting our own kids into college or diapers, we were all the same. An aging group of small town kids who spent one night out of 25 years remembering the good times and intentionally ignoring the bad.

But I still haven't answered my question of where the last 25 years went.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Blog tour for Larkspur Dreams

I am pleased and excited to participate in a blog tour of Anita Higman and Janice Thompson who are celebrating the release of their book, Larkspur Dreams. Enjoy the interview and anyone who comments to this blog will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of the book. Now I'll turn the stage over to Anita and Janice.

Thanks, Teresa, for inviting me (Anita Higman) and Janice Thompson to your blog. We’re excited about a novel we’ve written together.

Your Heartsong is entitled, Larkspur Dreams. What’s the theme of your novel?
Anita: Letting God grow us beyond ourselves.
Janice: Opposites not only attract; God often uses our “polar opposite” to complete/fulfill us.

Anita, you and Janice coauthored Larkspur Dreams. How do writers go about coauthoring?
Anita: There are a number of ways to coauthor a novel. One writer can do the research and the other writer can actually write the story. Or coauthors can each choose a character and write from that character’s POV. In the three books we’re writing together, I guess you could say I’m writing the body and wings of the stories, and Janice is helping to make them fly. She has a quite a gift for critiquing.
Janice: Working with Anita is a breeze because she conceives and fully plots the stories then lets me add my thoughts/tidbits to give them flavor. She is so quirky and fun to work with, and I am very proud of the stories we have co-produced. I especially loved the character of Larkspur because I see so much of myself in her.

Were there times when it was hard to work together?
Anita: No hard times. Janice Thompson is a gentle dove of a woman. She is not only talented, but easy to work with. There were a few times in one of the novels that I found myself writing in a way that strayed from the general concept of a Heartsong romance. Janice made some good suggestions, which steered me in the right direction.
Janice: I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with anyone who was so willing to accept critique and/or take suggestions as Anita. She is a precious friend and collaborative partner. I already knew she was talented (even before we began this project) but had no idea how gracious she would be. Since I’ve written for the Heartsong line for years, I was able to “teach her the ropes” (as it were) and she was a ready learner! That’s not to say she hasn’t taught me a thing or two. I’ve learned much from her throughout this process, particularly as it applies to romantic tension. She’s far better at that than I am, and I’m happy to admit it.

Why did you choose to be a writer?
Anita: Ever since I was a little girl, I had this need to express myself in some sort of artistic medium. I’ve tried a number of things: piano, painting, decorating, and acting. But I’ve never been very good at any these endeavors, except writing. I guess really then—writing chose me.
Janice: Like Anita, I’ve always been artistic. As a youngster, I sang, danced and played the piano. I was also very involved in theater as a young person. I’ve been writing since childhood. I wrote my first novella in 6th grade, then went on to write musical comedies for the stage before turning to books in the mid-90’s. Like Anita, I can truly say that I didn’t choose writing; it chose me. Or, perhaps I should say that God chose it for me, as a gift.

How would you describe the characters in Larkspur Dreams?
Anita: Lark and Everett are total opposites. Lark is a sanguine and a free-spirit who loves people and loves being alive. Everett is a cautious guy who enjoys numbers more than people. I love throwing characters together who’ll stir up trouble just by being in the same room.

Janice: As mentioned above, I really related to Larkspur on many levels. She’s as fun-loving and free-spirited as they come. All artsy types will agree! To give her a love interest like Everett (ironically, my grandfather’s name) was terrific because we really got to explore the “opposites attract” principle. It worked like a charm!

Did you both enjoy working with these characters? Why?
Anita: Many of my characters are bits of me. Lark is only a small part of me. I’m more of a melancholy/choleric, and Lark is really a true sanguine with a little bit of phlegmatic thrown in. She is the life of the party, and everybody loves being around her. I enjoyed writing about Lark, because I am a Lark-wannabe. Aren’t we all?
Janice: Will I embarrass myself too much if I say that I enjoy being the life of the party, like Larkspur? I do! I’m a real people person, and I thrive on the affections of the people God has placed in my life. Consequently, I really loved this character. As for Everett. . . I had to “grasp” the concept that someone could actually “be” like that. He seemed foreign to me! But, of course, he was Lark’s perfect/ideal man!

How long have you been writing?
Anita: I’ve been writing for twenty-two years. It’s been a long journey, a hard journey at times, but I’m glad I didn’t get off the train. During those many years, I had a variety of books published, mostly nonfiction, but the passion for writing novels never left me. When I first started this whole process, my kids were little. It became difficult to sit down and concentrate on writing, but I did find bits of time. Also, kids go to bed earlier than adults, so I used that block of time to write rather than watch television. Now, empty nest is around the corner, so soon I’ll have even more time to write.
Janice: I’ve been writing professionally since the 90’s. As mentioned earlier, I wrote musical comedies for the stage. (I was a drama director at a Christian school of the arts for several years.) My first “published” works were magazine articles, then I sold my first novel (Duty to Die) in 2000. Since then, I’ve written/published over 20 books, in nearly every genre: historical fiction, contemporary inspirational romance, cozy mystery, non-fiction devotional, and Christian living.

When did you have your first success as a writer?
Anita: After several years of writing, I had some gradual success—books for children, books of one-act plays, and nonfiction for women. These successes were enough to keep me going toward my ultimate goal, which was to write novels.
Janice: This may sound a bit silly, but my first real writing “success” happened my senior year in high school, when I was chosen to help write the senior production. I had a blast, and the scene I crafted (a 1930’s/Busby Berkeley-esque “The Show Must Go On” scene) was a huge success. I can’t tell you what fun I had, or how great it felt for people to respond as they did.

Do you have any special methods of getting into the writing zone, such as favorite scents, music, or certain foods?
Anita: Sometimes I go to a local French café, order coffee and scrambled eggs, and then write a rough chapter. The noise, music, and bustle energizes me creatively.
Janice: An "ideal" writing situation for me would involve someplace like Starbucks (or otherwise) with a cup of my favorite hot beverage in my hand (to be discussed below). Ironically, when I'm at home, I can't stand having music going. I find it terribly distracting... something about the "beat" drives me nutty. Having the television on is okay, but it's often muted. Crazy, I know. I'm a fanatic about my Diet Dr. Pepper and several flavors of hot tea. I particularly love Earl Grey and Chai Latte, among others. And I'm nuts about hot chocolate in the wintertime. I'm also crazy about my puppies. I have two red mini-dachshunds named Sasha and Copper. They usually settle in next to me on the sofa, Sasha on my right, Copper on my left. When we're all in place (with a cup of tea or a Diet Dr. Pepper on the end table, depending on the season) I'm ready to begin. Of course, I usually have to weed through several emails (clearing a path) before I can actually start writing. Whew! Sounds like quite a process, doesn't it?! It's a wonder I get anything done at all!

What is your best advice for aspiring writers?
Anita: If you feel called to write, don’t let people discourage you. I’m sure they don’t realize the impact of their words, but negative remarks can undermine our courage and joy. Comments similar to: “Maybe you weren’t really meant to be published.” Or, “Are you making any money at this yet?” Perhaps you’ve heard, “Why can’t you write like my favorite author?” Honestly, I could go on and on here. Writing is a great and honorable profession—one that can challenge, inspire, and change people’s lives. If you love words and love arranging them into stories, then don’t let the battering influence of dispiriting comments shatter your dream. Keep pressing on!

Janice: I often say this to young/new writers: Learn the craft, but don’t necessarily write what the publishers/agents/houses tell you to write. Trends change. Stick with the stories God places on your heart and if He intends them to be published, He will find the right publishing house in the right time.

What are your writing plans for the future?
Anita: I’d love to write romantic suspense. I’m also interested in fantasy.
Janice: I’m open to whatever God wants (and I really mean that). If He shifts me in a new direction (women’s fiction, for example) I’m following His lead! If He asks me to lay the writing down for a season in order to accomplish a different task, I’m open to that, too.

We’d love for you to visit our websites at http://www.anitahigman.com/ and http://www.janiceathompson.com/. If you’re interested in our Heartsong novel, Larkspur Dreams, it can be ordered online right now through Barbour Publishing at http://www.barbourbooks.com/book/detail/larkspur-dreams-h-s-734/
Thanks for inviting us to your blog. It’s been fun!
Award-winning author, Anita Higman, has nineteen books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She has been honored as a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston. Anita has a B.A. degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. She’d love for you to visit her website at http://www.anitahigman.com/.

Janice Thompson is a Christian author of over a dozen books - everything from inspirational romances to historical novels, to non-fiction books. She lives in the Houston area with her family and two very mischievous dachshunds. She’d be happy for you to visit her website at http://www.janicethompson.com/.

Don't forget to post your comments for a chance to win Anita and Janice's book.