Clarice James

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Author Teresa Santoski and Her Love of East Asian Culture

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)

Clarice:  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: 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.

PFOfullrescoverHands-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.)

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.]

More 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.” Visit her website at www.teresasantoski.com.

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Teresa Santoski  is one of seven published authors who’ll be featured at the MEET & GREET LOCAL CHRISTIAN AUTHORS event scheduled for Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 3:00 to 5:30 pm at Bonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso, 8 Franklin St., Nashua, New Hampshire. Guests will enjoy FREE admission, refreshments, book-signings, special discounts, and a multiple chances to win a door prize, including a Kindle Paperwhite! Click HERE to register!  

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Book Launch Celebration Tips

typewirter and flowersPurpose & Goal of Book Launch: From all reports, most book launches don’t sell tons of books (unless you’re a celebrity author). Readers sell tons of books if they enjoy reading them. Don’t worry if your book launch guests don’t buy that night, but do make sure they meet you personally and enjoy the event. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and can grow sales exponentially.

Your purpose and goals for a book launch event might be multifold and look more like these:

  • Glorify God.
  • Celebrate the book, your family, your friends, your accomplishment.
  • Have fun!
  • Get your name out there.
  • Engage the public and create a positive association.
  • Help your cause (if it’s an integral theme in your book).
  • Sell books.
  • Thank readers and supporters.

First Things First – The Invitation List:

  • Put an invitation list together so you’ll know what kind of venue you need. Separate the list into these groups: 1) Definite; 2) Good Chance; 3) Maybe; and 4) Unlikely.
  • Ask all family members to attend and to bring a few friends with them.
  • Same with all your friends. (You might offer them an incentive for bringing a guest.)
  • Invite all the people from local writing-related groups.
  • Think about 1) local business owners you’ve supported; 2) local business owners who may want to support by donating goods toward a raffle in exchange for the free PR.
  • Leadership from the non-profits you support, especially if their cause is a theme in your book. (Pro-life, anti-sex-trafficking, mental illness, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc.)

Date:

  • Pick a date that gives you enough time to plan—maybe a few months away.
  • Is there a date that would coincide with a theme in your book? (For example, if you have a pro-life theme, you might choose The Walk for Life Day or the National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

Theme:

  • Establish your theme. It will help you in planning decorations, refreshments, and printed materials.

Determine Your Budget: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a fun book launch. But, here a few items that may cost you a little:

  • Refreshments — However, you probably know many who’d be willing to bake and/or buy and donate.
  • Drinks — Even if you get people to bake or bring snacks, you may have to provide water, coffee and tea, along with cream and sugar.
  • Paper goods.
  • Decorations – Might want, but not necessary.
  • Advance copies of your book.
  • Cost of Square Credit Card Processor. (You will need an iPhone or be able to use someone’s.)
  • Raffle prize for those who buy book or door prizes. I bet these could be donated by sponsors.
  • Venue – Many suitable places can be found for free.
  • Swag – Although not necessary, freebies like magnets or bookmarks or whatever are nice.

Choose Your Venue:

  • Based on your estimated attendance, choose a venue that is convenient, easy to find, and a place where most people would be comfortable going.
  • Church halls might work, but they may not qualify as the most neutral place.
  • If you’re book is in your local and national chain bookstores, start there.
  • Outdoor venues might be nice, but it’s hard to count on the weather.
  • Coffee or sandwich shops or ice cream parlor.
  • Christian College Campus.
  • Local public library.
  • Retail stores (Christian-owned, like craft store, garden shop, restaurant).
  • Place of business, if it makes sense based on your book.
  • Location that might match a main scene in your book.

Consider Partners for Your Book Launch

  • Other local Christian authors. (“Meet Your Local Christian Authors!) Each author would have their own list of invitees, which would increase size of event.
  • Staff from ministries you support through book sales.
  • Your publisher (Financial support is unlikely, but they may send books or blog about it).
  • Partner with a ministry or business mentioned in your book, and encourage them to promote their services.

Your Launch Support Team:

  • Event coordinator.
  • Artistic person to do posters, flyers, etc.
  • MC for the evening.
  • Cook/baker to provide refreshments.
  • Set-up, servers, and clean-up teams.
  • Cashier to handle sales.
  • Photographer — Know anyone who will do it for free?
  • Music – Live performer or someone who will handle recorded background music.

Refreshments:

  • If possible make the refreshments to go with the theme.
  • If it makes sense, name some of the food items after characters, settings, or chapters in the book.
  • Have family and friends bake and/or bring items. Doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • Make sure you offer coffee, tea or cold drinks.
  • Remember serving utensils and paper goods.

Have an Agenda and Follow It: Personally hand every guest an agenda so they know exactly what to expect and when. Make them want to hang around by saving the drawings or entertainment for later. Also, by handing guests an agenda personally, you’ll be able to see at a glance who you’ve spoken to. Your agenda might include all or some of the following:

  • Welcome by MC with brief idea of what to expect.
  • MC introduces author and/or mention special guests and/or partners.
  • Author’s greeting – Thank guests for coming, give brief book blurb, and tell people to enjoy refreshments and stick around for reading and drawings.
  • Refreshments served.
  • Q&A – Come up with some questions in case no one asks anything or plant some in the audience.
  • A reading by Author
  • Book signing and sales – Figure out three different messages you’ll sign inside the books. Perhaps a scripture reference, too.
  • Be thankful the whole night long. Try to remember names.
  • Anyone you know who could provide live music?

Sales:

  • Have plenty of books on hand to sell.
  • Don’t handle the sales yourself.
  • Need a cashier, someone who can make change. Need a cash box with plenty of change.
  • Round the price up/down so you’re not dealing with coins.
  • Offer discount prices for volume purchases.
  • Make it easy to buy. Cash or charge. (Square Credit Card Processor for your smart phone.)
  • May want to have order forms on hand with place for credit card info if you run out of books. (Note: Some authors suggest NOT having order forms because it gives people an excuse not to buy that night.)
  • Suggest gift-giving opportunities.

Social Media:

  • Facebook — Post thank you’s and photos of book launch party.
  • Blog about book launch party (before and after).
  • Twitter – Tweet about party, link to blog.
  • Guest blogging — Invite other local Christian authors to post to your blog.
  • Record readings and post audio files online.

PR & Marketing Prior to the Party:

  • Have a cohesive image to all your printed and online promotional material. It’s called branding.
  • When marketing this event, make sure you include what it is, who the host is, where it will be held, date and time, how to get there, who to respond to.
  • Be professional, but be yourself. Let your personality show through all you marketing materials.
  • Order free business or postcards from www.vistaprint.com.
  • Use EventBrite www.eventbrite.com to promote free to friends.
  • Use Facebook invitation and sign-up or an online invitation program.
  • Blog about it.
  • You might be able to get others to promote it on their Facebook sites, too.
  • Send flyers and invitations.
  • Post signs and posters wherever you can.
  • Newspaper articles.
  • Post notice on online calendars.
  • Press releases.
  • Local radio station interviews.
  • Invite other artists to participate (musicians, photographers, poets, non-profits).
  • Brain storm possible sponsors.

PR & Marketing During the Party:

  • Show interest in your guests.
  • Keep your sales pitches light.
  • Use a copy of your book as a guest book.
  • Have guests complete a Contact Info Card. Contact Info Cards of those who purchased book will also qualify for the big raffle and/or door prizes. (Raffle gifts can be those donated by business owners. Or, you can look around your house to see if you have anything new (Bibles, copies of your book, etc.) NO SECOND-HAND JUNK, unless you advertise it as a booby prize.
  • Rally the guests to post reviews, tell a friend, and email a friend, post on Facebook. Let them know you’ll be reminding them.
  • Do you know someone who is a good people person (besides you) that could record conversation tidbits and comments that you could refer to in thank you emails? (You know, like a spy, but not creepy.)
  • Swag or Party Favors – – This isn’t necessary, but if you decide to have others join you, you could each put a little something in a small bag as a guest favor. You might consider a magnet, bookmark, and envelope with a coupon, something with the name of your book on it that they won’t throw out right away.

PR & Marketing After the Party:

  • After event, contact guests and thank them for coming. If at all possible, remark on something personal about them that your people-person (spy) recorded.
  • Via email, remind guests to post reviews and give them the links. Remind them to tell a friend, post on Facebook, Tweet, etc. Consider giving them a funny or outrageous list of comments to choose from. If you make them laugh, they’ll be more likely to want to help you.

Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? I’ll add them to the list. Thanks.


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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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Interview with Author Sharon Srock

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The Women of Valley View: Pam by Sharon Srock will be released in early spring. If you haven’t read the first two books in her series, you have time! The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Ps 34:17-18 (NIV)

Clarice You’re a wife and mother with grown children and a couple of dependent dogs. You’ve worked at the local Air Force Base for over 25 years.  You’ve been an Avon representative for 20 years. And  now you’re a published author. How do you do it all? Besides wife and mother, which career do you most identify with and why?

Sharon:  The answer to how I do it is short and sweet. God. He keeps me focused on the task at hand. I have to make the best use of my time, regardless of which career is demanding my attention at any given time. As for my identity, I’d have to say the writing. It’s what I feel God called me to do and where I feel I can touch lives in a positive way. It’s what I’d like to be remembered for when I’m no longer here.

Clarice:  How long have you been writing? When did you write your first novel?

Sharon:  I wrote my first novel 25 years ago. It was a Star Trek novel that still sits in my closet. Science Fiction wasn’t the path God had for me. It took me a long time to accept that. I wrote the first words of Callie’s story five years ago.

Clarice Who was the first person to encourage you, really encourage, you to keep on writing?

Sharon: Jo Smith, a co-worker. She gave me the right nudge at the right time to get back to writing.

Clarice As in your The Women of Valley View series—Callie, Terri and Pam— do you have a tight-knit group of female friends you turn to? And why do you think women get so involved in each other’s lives?

Sharon: I’ve attended the same Pentecostal church since I was 14. I have a great group of supportive women. They read, they pray, they let me vent. They cheer my successes and give me a shoulder when I fall on my face. I think we’re taught to nurture from the moment we pick up a baby doll. It just grows from there.

Clarice You say you live “in the-middle-of-no-where Oklahoma.” Tell me a little about your state and what makes its people so resilient.

Sharon: The exact town I live in is a small dot on the map called Little Axe. We have a school system, but not our own post office. I don’t know that Oklahoman’s are more resilient than any other place in America. We had back to back tornadoes this last spring. The damage ½ mile for my house is still under repair, but we pull together. We provide for each other. But, isn’t that the same in New York or California?

02 Srock - Women of Valley View- Callie - TerriClarice In Callie, your protagonist is a middle-aged woman drawn to help others. But when her efforts backfire, fear of getting involved takes over. Has that ever happened to you?

Sharon: Honestly, no.  When I was writing Callie’s story, I was struggling so hard with writing issues that I hadn’t focused on since high school. I rewrote the story six times before I hit on a combination that worked.

Clarice:  In Terri, you write about two struggling families and two scheming daughters. How would you counsel someone who is bent on scheming to get their way?

Sharon: Scheming is never a good thing, but it worked out well for Terri and Steve.

Clarice In Pam, “Pam’s divorce broke her heart. The cruelty of her ex-husband broke her spirit. A bottle of sleeping pills almost took her life.”  Forgiveness is the theme running through this story. What made you want to tackle this theme?

Sharon: I’ve been in Pam’s shoes. Not abused and suicidal, but divorced and hurt. I’ve had to learn to forgive some hurts that have never been apologized for. But you can’t carry that stuff around with you and survive. Writing Pam’s story made me examine myself.

Sharon Srock

Sharon Srock

Author Sharon Srock went from science fiction to Christian fiction at slightly less than warp speed. Twenty-five years ago, she cut her writer’s teeth on Star Trek fiction. Today, she writes inspirational stories that focus on ordinary women using their faith to accomplish extraordinary things. Sharon lives in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with her husband and three very large dogs. Her books include: The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri both of which are currently available. The Women of Valley View: Pam will release in May 2014. She also working on The Women of Valley View: Samantha. Connect with her at www.sharonsrock.com.