Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Interview with Author Teresa Santoski

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~ Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

About Teresa Santoski: In addition to being an award-winning humorist and a devotional author, Teresa Santoski is the editor of the English language editions of Living Life and Sena English, two monthly Christian devotional magazines published by Duranno Press, a division of the Seoul, Korea-based Duranno International Ministry. Having spent ten years in the newspaper industry, Teresa continues to write her award-winning humor column, Tete-a-tete. She resides in New Hampshire, “the birthplace of Tupperware and paintball and home of the world’s largest wooden barrel.”

Clarice:  Here’s my icebreaker question. Since New Hampshire is their birthplace, how do you support Tupperware and paintball?

Teresa: Whenever I had to bring treats to school for a party, my mom would always put them in a large red and white Tupperware container. So for me, Tupperware means dessert, which means happiness.  However, I do not personally support paintball—if I may lapse into the New England vernacular here, I’m a “wicked easy tahget” in a game like that.

Clarice: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? And who supported you in this dream and how?

Teresa: I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, but I didn’t do much writing outside of school assignments until my first year of college. At that time, I began writing for various college publications as well as a newspaper and an online magazine.  My “ah-hah” moment, however, didn’t come until the summer going into my junior year. I had declared a double major in Japanese Studies and Cinema and Media Studies, but I wanted to take a class on short story writing.  Soon, I realized that no matter what I studied, I wanted to write after I graduated. So one week into my junior year, I dropped both of my majors and started from scratch as an English major.

Hands-down, my family has been my biggest supporters. They have always believed in my God-given gifts as a writer and encouraged me to take hold of opportunities to do more with my craft. They also let me write about them in my award-winning humor column, Tete-a-tete, which has been reassuring readers that they aren’t the only ones with odd families since May 2008.

Clarice: I first met you a few years ago at a writers’ critique group. You were working on a charming anthropomorphic story featuring feline characters. Please, tell my readers more about this story and how you came to choose this genre. What are your plans for this story?

Teresa: The story has its roots in a conversation I had with my oldest younger brother. He was talking about how he would like to own two cats in the future. One, named Beardsley, would be an evil mastermind who was always causing trouble, and the other, named Porkins, would be a pudgy and lovable oaf who was always taking the blame for Beardsley’s escapades.

I asked Oldest Younger Brother’s permission to develop his future felines into full-fledged characters, and he consented. Beardsley became a former general with a checkered past and a disabled leg due to his service in World War I, and Porkins morphed into a clueless aristocrat with a heart of gold whose family has fallen on hard times in the war’s aftermath.

At the time, also through Oldest Younger Brother’s influence, I was quite interested in monocles and Pickelhauben (those German military helmets with the spike on top), so interwar England seemed like an appropriate setting for my characters. (To see a monocle and a Pickelhaube in action, I encourage you to visit Oldest Younger Brother’s website, www.wanderingwalltoskis.com, and look at the header image at the top of the page.)

PFOfullrescoverClarice:  Your recent book, Prayers for Oppa, is a devotional for performers and their fans, with a focus on the East Asian entertainment industry. Do you mind telling us how a young woman from Brookline, New Hampshire became interested in East Asian pop culture?

Teresa: It’s something that’s always had a presence in my life, in various small ways. We lived on a military base in Massachusetts when I was really little, and my mom was friends with an officer’s wife who was from Korea. They swapped recipes, and her son and I played together. My first-grade teacher had a Japanese exchange student, and she incorporated a lot of Japanese culture into our lessons. 

Things came to a head in college, when my friends recruited me for their anime viewing parties because I had a TV and a VCR. Anime (Japanese cartoons) was my main entry point into East Asian pop culture, followed by music, movies, musicals, and more. I always wanted to do something meaningful for the performers who brought me so much joy through their work. That something took shape as Prayers for Oppa.

Clarice:  Can you tell us what are you currently working on and/or projects you have planned?

Teresa: At this time, my main focus is promoting Prayers for Oppa, working on the second draft of Porkins and Beardsley, and writing my humor column. In the pipeline, I have a compilation of my humor columns, a collection of short stories based on the adventures of my stuffed animals, and a screenplay about a Japanese-American street musician who gives his life to Christ.

Clarice: Family life is a great source of material and inspiration for your humor column Tete-a-tete. Since turnabout is fair play, how would your siblings describe you?

Teresa: I gave each of them the opportunity to describe me in their own words. Here’s what they came up with.

Oldest Younger Brother, age 28: “As a family, we make fun of Teresa for moving slowly. However, this affords her the opportunity to drink in all that happens around her, distilling it into finely tuned wit. While she is never quick on the sidewalk, she is also never quick to anger. It is this ability to always take her time that fills Teresa’s work with nuance, both physical and spiritual, that would elude other writers. Teresa has also afforded me the knowledge that if I were born a woman, I’d be pretty good looking. [Teresa’s note: Oldest Younger Brother once grew out his hair. We looked like twins.]  If Teresa were a Harlem Globetrotter, her nickname would be Frozen Molasses. Love you Teresa!”

Youngest Brother, age 16: “I would describe my sister as a humorous person who enjoys life, cats, and literature. She is in my life to brighten my day and put a different spin on things when the necessity arises. She also is my chauffer when I need her to.”

Younger Sister, age 15: “You are very slow and make weird cat voices and make things become alive.” [Teresa’s note: I make our cat talk, and I give voices and personalities to any stuffed animal that happens to be handy.] “You are nice, but kinda bossy.” [Teresa’s note: I’m her big sister. I’m supposed to be a little bossy.] “You make cool origami boxes and fancy cards and those are cool, and you talk like you’re reading from a dictionary and that can be annoying, but it’s cool. Oh, and you burn easily.” [Teresa’s note: SPF 45 is the best friend of those of us with Irish ancestry.]

Clarice: As a committed Christian, do you plan to seek publication solely in the Christian market? If not, how do you see yourself fitting into the general publishing market?

Teresa: My intention is to go with whatever publication method best suits that particular work. The publishing landscape has changed significantly in recent years, with smaller publishing houses and self-publishing becoming increasingly viable options.

To learn more about Teresa Santoski and her writing, visit her website at www.teresasantoski.com.

A committed Christian and an enthusiast of East Asian pop culture, Teresa combined these passions to write Prayers for Oppa, a devotional for performers and their fans with a focus on the East Asian entertainment industry. The book was published in November 2013 and is available in print and as an ebook. Purchase information can be found here.

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My Husband: One Giant PEZ Dispenser

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Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. ~ Psalm 19:2 (NIV) 

Sometimes my husband is like one giant PEZ dispenser. I never know what flavor-filled fact will pop out of his mouth.

Because of his propensity to store up miscellaneous bits of colorful information, I’ve learned a lot of things I never wanted to know.

Off the top of my head, here are a few:

  • Bernardo O’Higgins is considered one of Chile’s founding fathers. He was an independence leader in the early 1800s credited for helping free Chile from Spain.
  • Athena sprung into existence from the head of Zeus. (She didn’t really. I looked this one up.)
  • The cracking noise a whip makes happens when the end of the whip breaks the sound barrier.
  • While I’m on the topic of sounds, the tick tock of a clock is due to the teeth of the escape gear-advancing against the rocking anchor’s pallets. The rocking is caused by the pendulum’s motion. (Huh?)
  • My husband would be comfortable ordering breakfast at Horn & Hardart if any were still in existence.
  • Coffee beans consumed and processed by various fauna are extremely expensive. (Trust me, if you don’t know why already, you don’t want to.)
  • The Florida Keys seceded from the United States in 1982, renaming themselves “The Conch Republic.” Their motto was “We seceded where others failed.” (He has the t-shirt to prove it.)
  • How Clovis, New Mexico got its name.
  • The Australian lyrebird can imitate many bird calls along with the sound of chainsaws, car alarms, gun shots, and camera shutters. It’s not a liar bird, even though it fakes these sounds. Its tail is shaped like a lyre.
  • Even though my husband and I have never owned or ridden horses, he told me how to hobble one and why. (I guess you never know . . .)
  • I learned about the “Lunch with Uncle Pete” show, a staple of Philadelphia television which aired in the 1950’s till the early ‘60’s. But, since my husband grew up in Virginia, which didn’t air Philadelphia shows, he can’t tell me how he would know this or why he would have had a metal tray displaying Pete’s image. (It all sounds a little creepy to me.)
  • Dragons do not have hands, just feet, and probably don’t eat dumplings.

I’ve also learned that he gets more answers right on Jeopardy, blurting them out before I can finish reading the board. However, since he seldom phrases his answers as a question, I add the “What is” and the Who is” and give myself equal points. (It’s a system that works well for us, well, more so for me.)

There is one specific topic I don’t find near as fascinating as he does.  The weather. While he’s listening to meteorologists like Eric, Barry, Todd, Mike, or Mish, I act as the color commentator. “I like Eric’s tie. It matches Lisa’s dress. Barry needs a haircut, don’t you think? Did you see that suit Todd was wearing? It was almost as white as his teeth. He looked like a Good Humor man. Doesn’t she know that a hairdo like that makes her nose look big?”

I think my husband checks the radar before he goes out to check the mail. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but more often than not, he knows what’s going on in all 50 states. Since I only live in New Hampshire, the importance of the wind speed in Kansas is lost on me.

And what do I know from snow ablation to advection fog? Cold fronts to and high pressures? Cirrus to cumulonimbus clouds? Dew points to dry-line bulges? All I want to know is if I need a coat or an umbrella. And if I’m not going out that day, why should I care? Haven’t I got enough to worry about now that I know dragons are real?

Truthfully, I am never bored and usually amazed at how these subjects come up.  Here’s our conversation from lunch yesterday, after some preliminary chit chat about the invasion of ducks in Thailand — the big news story that day.

HE: “Punt guns have been outlawed in the United States for over 100 years.”

ME: “Good to know. What’s a punt gun?”

HE: “It’s a huge shot gun, about 10 to 12 feet long, weighing in at around 200 pounds. It kicks like a herd of mules.”

ME: “Why would anyone want to use one?”

HE: “For market hunting.”

ME: “What’s market hunting?”

HE: “It’s where hunters killed between 50 and 100 birds with one shot and then sold them to restaurants and hotels. It was outlawed by the Lacey Act of 1900.”

ME: “Oh.”

Everyone has things in life they have a vague curiosity about, things that don’t always warrant an all out search on Google.  These are the things about which I ask my husband. For instance, over breakfast this morning, when I asked him to tell me something about whales, here’s how it went.

HE: “They do not chew cud.”

ME: “What exactly is cud anyway?”

HE: He swallowed his oatmeal before he replied. “Food burped up by ruminants.”

ME: “Ruminants?” I had no idea what he meant.

HE: He held another spoonful at mouth level. “They’re mammals who get nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in one of their stomachs prior to digestion. Like cattle, bison, buffalo, deer, antelopes, giraffes, camels, and chevrotains.”

ME: “Oh.” It sounded familiar, so I suspected it might have been one of those things I’d heard before but didn’t care enough about to remember. “What’s a chevrotain?”

HE: “A mouse deer.”

Facts go in his head, facts come out. Sorta like cerebral cud. But better tasting. Like PEZ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. ~ Colossians 3:18-19 (NIV)


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Welcome First-time Author Jeremiah Peters!

Jeremiah PhotoIs anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. ~ Jas 5:13b (NIV)

The writers critique group I began in Nashua, New Hampshire got happier, crazier, and more interesting the night Jeremiah Peters showed up. I’m certain that he and his compelling stories would make any gathering more interesting, whether in a critique group, in the pulpit, or at home surrounded by children and grandchildren. Jeremiah’s first novel, A Message to Deliver, published by HopeSprings Books, is debuting the first week in June 2014.
A Message to Deliver 

CLARICE: Welcome, Jeremiah! Not everyone who writes is a natural storyteller. You are. When did you start telling stories? When did you decide to put them on paper?

JEREMIAH: First of all, let me say thanks for allowing me this time. It’s a privilege!

I guess I’ve always liked to create stories. I remember sharing scary stories with friends, sometimes around the campfire.  The first story I got paid for was back in fifth grade. My older sister was in seventh grade. Her English assignment was to “Write A Story.” She was having trouble, so I put together this four-page thing. It had evil Twains and good Trids. She got a B-. I thought that was pretty good. I think she paid me a quarter.

CLARICE: Who has influenced your writing the most and how?

JEREMIAH: I loved Ray Bradbury. His writings were imaginative. They aggravated me, too, not always turning out the way I wanted. Also, I loved Agatha Christie. She keeps me guessing until the end. I never figure out her mysteries. I guess I’m a little slow.

CLARICE: Who has supported you the most in your writing dream and how?

JEREMIAH: No contest. My wonderful wife, Jodie. I don’t know how many times I’ve been ready to quit, doubting my own abilities, when she’s been there to encourage me. She’s always believed in me.  Wait. I feel a Kenny Rogers’ song coming on . . .  “She believes in me. I’ll never know just what she sees in me . . . ” I think I’m going to cry.

CLARICE: Go ahead and cry Jeremiah. I’ll wait . . . and probably cry, too, especially if you sing.

Okay, are you composed enough to answer another question? Good.

I first met you a few years ago at the writers’ critique group I was facilitating. Now you and I are in the same fiction critique group. What do you think you gain personally from being an active member in a critique group?

JEREMIAH:  Abuse. You people are too mean! Just kidding. The group offers much. First of all, we share advice about our work. I’m always interested in hearing what the others have to say. Being in a critique group also compels us to write. You don’t want to go empty-handed.

CLARICE: Empty-handed? You mean like you did last month? Moving along . . .

Your first published book, A Message to Deliver published by HopeSprings Books debuts this week.  How would you describe the story in 50 words or less?

JEREMIAH:  A woman, sent from Heaven to deliver God’s message of love, gets caught in a battle against an abortion center, and entangled in the spiritual warfare between an angel and a demon. When the secrets of her own past are revealed, she faces the ultimate question: Is God’s love and forgiveness enough to cover her sins?

I think that was a couple more than fifty. Sorry about that.

CLARICE:  You’re forgiven.

A Message to Deliver is a work of speculative fiction. Do you write in other genres? What are you currently working on and what other projects do you have planned?

JEREMIAH: I’ve dabbled in middle reader fiction in a trilogy called The Adventures of Amelia Black. Also, this summer, at a publisher’s suggestion, I’m working on a Christian fantasy book, tentatively titled The Dragons Are Lying. 

CLARICE: How do you come up with these varied ideas?

JEREMIAH: I have a couple of theories. 1) While I’m sleeping, Armenian leprechauns unzip the back of my head and stick the ideas in my brain. 2) There is an alternate universe where all these stories are real, and somehow certain people on our world are tapped into this reality.  I lean towards the Armenian leprechauns.

Sounds crazy, but isn’t it better than me shrugging my shoulders and mumbling, “I dunno”?

CLARICE: Maybe. But here’s a thought to ponder. An “I dunno” answer might avoid the men in white coats showing up. Next question . . .

As a committed Christian, do you plan to seek publication solely in the Christian market? If not, how do you see yourself fitting into the general publishing market?

JEREMIAH: I’d like to stay in the Christian market if I can. If I were to fit into the regular market it would have to be a publishing house that would accept my Christian world view.

CLARICE: What is an average day in the life of Jeremiah Peters look like?

JEREMIAH: I guess it’s really kind of dull. I’m a Pastor, so I spend time doing my churchly duties: visiting the sick, preparing Bible studies and sermons, vanquishing evil, getting cats out of trees. Stuff like that. Also, I try to write each day. Unfortunately, I don’t always get this done.

CLARICE: Now, how would your wife Jodie answer that same question?

JEREMIAH: My wife would say, “My wonderful husband spends his day thinking of ways to make my life easier. He is such a dreamboat!” [Jeremiah’s wife Jodie was unavailable to either confirm or deny this statement. :-)]

CLARICE: What do you want your readers to know about you? What do you want them to experience while reading your books?

JEREMIAH: I want my books to bring out some emotional response in the reader. I want laughter. I want tears. I want people to say, “Jeremiah, that was a great story.”

In a book like A Message to Deliver it goes beyond that. I want people to think. From the beginning, I said that book was about forgiveness–forgiveness from God, forgiveness of others, and forgiveness of self. I hope when people read the book, it will make them deal with those issues in their own lives.

CLARICE:  One last question. Is it possible for you to be totally serious for any length of time? Do you think it’s even necessary?

JEREMIAH: I’m sorry, Clarice. I couldn’t hear you. There was a rubber chicken sticking out of my ear.

It’s an interesting question, one that I struggle with in blogging. Sometimes I blog on very serious stuff, small devotional things. Other times, I’m trying to raise money for poor boneless chickens. Can you imagine going through life with no bones? It’s a dilemma.

But to answer your question, yes, I can be serious. It’s simply that when I get together with people, like our critique group, I kind of cut loose a bit. However, if you’d like to talk to me of serious issues, like salvation, the Christian walk, God’s plan for this world, I am here and willing.

To learn more about Jeremiah Peters visit his blog Ramblings and Reflections or on Facebook. When Jeremiah is not writing you can find him preaching at the New Hope Church (150 Berkeley Street, Lawrence, MA) and sitting on his deck in Sandown, NH, enjoying the wild life. A Message to Deliver, published in June 2014 by HopeSprings Books, is now available on Amazon.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. ~ Ecc 7:14 (NIV)