Monthly Archives: October 2006

The Fine Art of Listening

Yesterday was my grandson’s first birthday. Seems like only yesterday the whole family spent the night in the hospital waiting room while this little miracle came into the world. Friday we celebrated his birthday at his house. All three kids were wound up at having their grandparents for an audience. Dakota threw food at his sister, even sticking a green bean in her ear. I’m not much help in the discipline department. I think they are funny, so that makes them go into high gear even more. In my defense, discipline is not Nana’s job.

My granddaughter is seven-years-old and a total chatterbox. When she was little, I told her mother not to say or do anything in front of the child that she didn’t want me to know because that kid told me everything. She still does.

If it’s been a while since you’ve talked to a seven-year-old, let me remind you that they talk incessantly and ramble from one subject to the next with barely a breath in between. If you drift off for even a moment you might miss something important, as happened to me Friday night.

I can’t relay the entire conversation due to length and subject matter, but suffice it to say, that boys in the first grade haven’t changed much since you were in the first grade. They tease girls, using terminology often learned from older brothers that little girls can’t comprehend. A little boy in Kiera’s class had told her something she just couldn’t grasp. While she thought he was making things up to get attention, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I empathized with her, and had a good laugh later when I relaid the whole story to my husband, finishing with; “She’s such a girl.”

As writers, we need to learn the fine art of listening and not drifting off when the conversation has gone on too long or went off on too many tangents. Not only writers, but people who spend time in the company of children will miss out on golden moments that might not come around again. Kids are funny. They want us to be part of their lives. My granddaughter does not confide in the other adults in her life the way she does me. She trusts me. She knows I listen and I care about what she’s saying. While the others seem only too happy to let her talk to me, I wonder if they have a clue how much they’ve missed in the last seven years.

Do the people in your life–young or old–seek out your counsel? Do they trust you with their innermost confidences? Perhaps you don’t want them to. Maybe you’d rather sit on the couch and watch football and pray no one bothers you until the food’s ready. Oh, how much we miss out on when we live like that.

Take a moment today and focus on what’s coming out of the mouth of the little ones in your life. All they want to do is engage you, shock you, make you laugh, and please you. It isn’t that hard and who knows how much creative fodder you’ll receive for your next project. Best of all, you might get a good belly laugh out of it.

Teresa Slack

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A Different Pond

I was fortunate enough to have a book signing event this afternoon at the Naples, Florida location of Barnes & Noble. Very interesting to say the least. It reminded me of a fishing expedition I once took with my son. We packed the car early one morning and headed out with some frozen shrimp and visions of the “big” catch. There were two options. The pier at the Manatee River (salt water) or the pier at the Skyway bridge (salt water). Given that the later cost about $6 we chose the former. Three hours later, half of our shrimp was gone and all we had to show for it was a five inch grunt. We were dejected as you might imagine. On our way off the pier, we saw this fella cleaning his catch at the fillet tables. He was pulling one snapper after another out of his cooler. I asked how he caught them. Cut shrimp was his answer. That was strange because we were using the same bait.

“Where at?” I asked.

“The Skyway,” he answered.

$6 dollars later, our cooler was filled with Spanish mackerel. We also hooked into a large King mackerel and my son pulled up two Ladyfish (similar to a baby Tarpon). Changing venues was the best move of the day. Apparently we weren’t fishing in the right pond!

At my Naples signing, it was like driving over to the Skyway to fish. I met two former CEOs, a former New York Superior Court Judge, and a lady who owns a ranch in Wyoming next to Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. All of them bought my books. The patrons were casting an incredible amount of discretionary income all over the place. People were hooking up with 10 to 15 books without thinking twice. What a sight to see. And what a day to go fishing. Amen!

One page at a time,


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Cowboys I Know and Love

The song goes, “Mama. Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” However, all three of our grown sons are cowboys, and not the Dallas Cowboy kind either.
My father and maternal grandfather were ranch managers. I spent part of my growing up years on a 60,000 acre Texas cattle ranch, and all our sons are involved in cattle ranching in Texas.
In fact, my husband, Charlie, and two of our sons are working cattle today, October 18, 2006 — much as cowboys did a hundred years ago. I said, “Much As” because a helicopter is being used to aid in gathering the herd.
Since I am also a born again Christian, it is not surprising that I enjoy writing western romance novels with a Chrisitan message. Tsabe House will be reprinting one of my Zondervan western novels titled The Rogue’s Daughter. Rogue takes place in 1890 on a Texas cattle ranch that is much like the one I lived on as a child.
But not all my ancestors were cowboys. Some were French Huguenots.
Sanctuary will be published by Tsaba House in September 2007, the first of three long historicals in the Faith of Our Fathers series. The three historicals trace the route my ancestors took after they left France, traveled to Scotland and finally settled in America.
To learn more about my faith, my family and my writing, please visit my website.
Molly Noble Bull

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Author News

The blog has been pretty quiet lately with only 4 posts for the month of October. I know we’re not hearing from some of the writers because everyone is so busy, myself included. Let’s use this week (or however long it takes for everyone to chime in) to let inquiring minds know what we’ve been up to–writing related or otherwise. I’d especially like to hear from those Tsaba House writers who’ve been keeping a low profile lately.

In September I hosted a book launch for my first romance, The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter. Everyone who attended had a wonderful time. I’ve been working like crazy on my current WIP for the last couple of weeks, determined to have it polished and all the bugs worked out by the end of the year. This is my busy time of year with craft fairs too. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Check out the craft fairs and book fairs in your area and buy a spot where you can set up with your books. An autographed book makes a great gift and readers love meeting you in person.

This weekend was spent near Manchester, Ohio at the Old Thyme Herb & Craft Fair. An estimated crowd of 20,000 visitors from 4 neighboring states and beyond, descended on the beautiful hills of Southern Ohio for the fair. What a wonderful experience. Not only did I meet all kinds of interesting people, hear from faithful readers who were happy to meet me in person for the first time, and get reacquainted with old friends, I sold a lot of books. Couldn’t get any better!

I even set up two book signing events for next summer while at the fair.

Other than craft fairs and working on my new book, I am enjoying autumn and the magical leaf transformations outside my door. Occasionally I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the season. God is so good and has given me so many blessings I can’t afford to overlook during this busy season of my life.

Have a wonderful week, everyone. I can’t wait to see what you are up to.

Teresa Slack

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The Prompts of Fiction

by Samuel J Alibrando

Usually I login blogin Friday but alas, here am I on Tuesday evening.

I am seeing the significance of the “WHO” more than what happens. Since beginning on this “Alien Fiction” story and not knowing where I am going I am literally watching it unfold and enjoying it more than “Lost” or “Dancing with the Stars” [although I might not call them stars per se].

I truly believe we all have a much greater imagination than we give ourselves credit for. We stumble, however, on road blocks we build ourselves or believe must be there. For example; I need to understand everything about writing before I start. I should know the story from start to finish before I can go on. I should decide ahead of time the perspective I am presenting in the story and whether the sequence is linear or have flashbacks or maybe even conflicting viewpoints. That I should know this or that, etc.

We impede our progress with self-proclaimed handicaps. I have even wasted time indecisive about what time and for how long I should assign my writing times.

Let’s face it, no matter what we do or how prepared we are, whatever it is we write it is a work in progress. It will get better with crafting and experience but experience never comes from indecision or inactivity.

The more we write, the more ideas we get. The less we restrain ourselves, the more creative we give ourselves permission to be.

Even this blog I will procrastinate feeling I may not have an idea. I’ve even written things and scapped them. But what is it I am thinking that makes me “edit” myself out of a contribution? They are varied [and boring].

I am just barely discovering that fiction writing can be like a child looking at clouds and seeing images appear. We write and ideas appear, characters take shape, plots unfold. It is WAY more fun than I expected.

Take the pressure off yourself and enjoy the creative process. AFTERWARDS, learn the craft, rework the dialogue, change the perspective. Yeah, this is a volume thing; the more you do the better you get. Just like basketball, golf, playing piano or anything else – more time in practicing gives a proportinately greater yield.

I admit though, I wouldn’t mind getting paid what a doctor gets paid for his “practice”.

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Characters Make Your Story

Most would agree that the best way to get to know the Lord is to spend time with Him — in prayer and praise and Bible reading. The same is true in novel writing.
I often write three long chapters of a novel before I know my characters. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to throw away almost all of the three chapters. Nevertheless, I know my main character by the end of chapter three, and that makes writing and rewriting the rest of my novel much easier.
My blob title, Characters Make Your Story, is not original. It came from a non-fiction book on characterization by Maren Elwood — an excellent textbook, I might add.

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Characters Everywhere we go

Too busy yesterday with yard work to post, but I couldn’t resist the topic of personality traits. Like Aaron, it amazes me that answering a few simple questions can tell people so much about you. A few years ago I read a book compiled by a woman who was once a jury consultant. You know, those people who tell defense teams why they don’t want the mother of four, but will settle for the five-time divorced construction worker with a bad back.

One of the examples the author discussed was men who fix their hair. How telling! I know a young man who never leaves the house until every hair is in place. He spends more time in front of the mirror than 5 women and a fortune on hair care products. Reading that passage was as though the author sat this young man down and talked with him for an hour. She described his passions, his dislikes, his job, and yes, Aaron, even the car he drove.

I am currently working on my 7th fiction work. A concern of mine at this point is that my characters do not become carbon copies of all the others. We all know writers are gigantic ego maniacs. Whether intentionally or not, it’s impossible to keep ourselves completely out of our characters. They get annoyed over the same things that bother us, they discipline their children the way we believe in, and if we jog or listen to Classical music or sleep in on the weekends, our characters usually will too. Argue with me over this point if you must, but you know I’m right. You may mix things up once in a while, but you care so much about your characters because they were created in your image.

So how do I keep my characters fresh? How do I keep from littering my prose with the same old quiet, quirky, clumsy, silly, grumpy, non-confrontational, pro-life, tooth-flossing, hair obsessed, too much salt on the popcorn who doesn’t like to share, poor housekeepers who love dogs and pecan pie?

Solution: I can’t. Fortunately God has created us to be such multi-faceted individuals and filled our lives with equally fascinating, diverse individuals, we have enough material to fill a library of books.

Teresa Slack

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The Difference Between Rites of Passage and Multiple Personalities May be Slight

By Samuel J Alibrando
OK, whenever I’ve taken those personality tests you refer to Aaron, I am very aware at how different my answers would be at different times of my life and possibly change again in my future. I suppose it isn’t schizophrenia if you have multiple personalities over time as long as it is only one personality at a time. I’m talking years here, not minutes. This is another personality thing that makes me believe I could do well with believable fictional characters.

I have to tell you, I really look forward to this [I wrote good fiction] being the past tense instead of the future tense [I’m gonna write good fiction].

I was working on the fiction story I told Aaron and Jodie [editor] about in Denver but it had played in my head so many times for more than 20 years I couldn’t break out into new territory. Next thing I was happily writing non-fiction in a very philosophical way about a ruthlessly honest approach to truth and it leading me to a convincing faith in God. I thought it would be important for my children and grandchildren but a good testimony for many others as well. I still think it is interesting. It would probably be like a Francis Schaeffer book and be 300-400 pages.

Then I had another idea for getting the fiction going. Why not jump in and start writing on one of my story ideas [I truly do have many] that I hadn’t worked through in my head. I wanted to experiment with Teresa’s idea on letting the story take on a life of its own. I had previously blogged about how that has played out for years for me in music for decades.

Anyway, I just started writing this dialogue between this guy and an alien named Todd. Todd was kind of double-crossing his alien comrades by spilling the beans on their ulterior motives. My earthling is Ray for the moment and he is something of a thinker and suspicious of an alien confiding in him.

It was great for me to see things developing in the conversation. All the cynical comments I make at the movies allows me to try to come up with something more believable; from plots to emotions. The 2nd chapter I started on a group meeting of 10 of the alien leaders orbiting earth.

For now I am calling it “Alien Fiction”. These guys convince most of the world that they are the ancestors/creators of earth and pretty convincing. They are playing a paternal card with fail safe fallback plans that are far from paternal. Todd [the honest alien] will eventually reveal to Ray that they didn’t invent themselves or the earth and these discussions will bring God into the picture from an alien perspective- at least an alien who weighs evidence as more convincing than propaganda. I think I can get away with more using that angle. Not exactly Little House on the Prairie but I have all these previously useless ideas as inventions and futuristic technology that I could implement here as well.

OK, I’ve come out of the closet on this. Whadya think? Too crazy? Maybe I relate to the alien?

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