Author Archives: tsabahouseauthors

About tsabahouseauthors

The authors of Tsaba House Publishing Inc.

Taglines and other marketing Stuff

I read an article the other day that said a small business–of which writing is one–should complete 3-5 tasks a day to bring visibility to the business. Some of the tasks can be big things like writing a newsletter that might take the whole day. Other tasks, like updating an address book, can be completed along with more than the suggested five tasks a day.

One of the tasks suggested was something I’ve been considering for a while. A business needs a simple tagline to identify the product the business sells. Several years ago Karen Kingsbury trademarked her tagline of LIFE CHANGING FICTION. Simple yet brilliant. That got me thinking.

Before creating a tagline, I need to decide what I write. Karen writes fiction that has the power to change lives. Okay, what does my writing do that sets it apart from every other writer who claims to do the same?

If I were a butterfly perched on a shopper’s shoulder when she entered a bookstore and picked up one of my books, what would I whisper in said shopper’s ear? “Buy this book. It’s awesome,” sounds a little too obvious. Not to mention pushy and vague. I need to give it a little more thought.

What do I want a reader to know about me????????? Not just about the book; she can read the back to find that out. What do I want her, or him, to know about me?

“First off, dear reader, I’m not Karen Kingsbury. You might not have ever heard of me. But people are saying great things. The books are getting glowing reviews and I receive flattering email all the time. If you’ll take the chance on the book in your hands, it’s my belief and earnest hope, you’ll come back for more.”

You’re right, you’re right. Not a very catchy tagline. Let’s try again.

What I really want you to know is that I strive to incorporate a little mystery, a little romance, and a little humor into each of my books. My desire is to touch your heart through fiction by putting you into a situation you can relate to.

There. That’s better. Now you know a little more about the books Teresa Slack writes. But still not catchy as taglines go. Certainly not simple or easy to remember.

I have a few ideas. I’ve been jotting notes and studying other writers’ taglines all weekend. I have a pretty good one in mind that I’ll run past my publisher before the grand unveiling. It isn’t as short as Ms. Kingsbury, but it says who I am. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? I can’t sit on the shoulders of every shopper who enters every bookstore or library in the country. But I can try to let those shoppers know ahead of time who I am and what I believe my mission is for writing what I write.

Happy reading. Oh, and if you happen to find yourself in a bookstore or library in the near future and you pick up one of my books…Oh that’s right, you already know what I’m going to say.

Teresa

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Shutting Off Our Inner Critic

I asked my friend and co-collaborator of a romance anthology, Molly Noble Bull, if she would like to critique my short romance. She said she would be delighted, but warned me that she takes her editing role very seriously and can come across rather tough if the situation warrants. I assured her I didn’t expect anything less.

As a writer, I am my own worst critic. While I am working on a book, I hate it and am sure my editor and publisher will too. Only after I finish the book and the last of the last rewrites, can I step back and say, “Wow! I don’t even remember writing this. It’s actually pretty good.”

Sadly, this carries over into my personal reading. Even when reading for entertainment, I have a hard time removing my editor’s cap. I find myself thinking, “I wouldn’t have used that phrase.” “That character would never react that way.” “Why does the writer have to tell me what the heroine is wearing in every scene? I don’t care.” “I saw that plot twist coming a mile away.” And on and on and on.

I have a friend who tells me I took all the romance out of writing for her. Before she met me, she used to dream of writing a novel. She pictured herself sequestered in a mountain retreat, plucking away at an old manual typewriter while birds twittered in the trees above a babbling brook. She thought writing was the most magical, romantic career in the world. HA!!!!!! Boy, has she changed her tune. After listening to me vent and whine for the last ten years, she realizes life is no Murder She Wrote and most of us aren’t Jessica Fletcher.

She doesn’t even read the way she used to. Because of me, she is always picking apart the books she reads, ever the critic. I took one of her favorite pasttimes and sapped all the joy out of it.

Oh, to be a writer. Or the friend of a writer. It’s not nearly as alluring as it appears on TV.

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Organizing a Blog Tour

evidence-of-grace-small.jpgWith gas prices sitting at well over three dollars a gallon nationwide and no relief in sight since summer’s coming and the oil companies have us by the throat, we writers have to do whatever we can to promote our books. What better way than a blog tour from the comfort of our homes.

June 1st will see the release of my new book, Evidence of Grace, the third installment of my Jenna’s Creek Series. Monday, May 14th marks the beginning of a month long blog tour. I highly recommend blog tours for any writer wanting to attract attention for an upcoming release or event. I know, you may argue that no one really reads blogs and how lucrative can a blog tour be? Well, if you’ve ever embarked on a book tour into actual brick and mortar bookstores, you probably know these don’t have much of an impact on book sales either.

The last one I had in Cincinnati, Ohio was as dismal an affair as you can imagine. People are not impressed with meeting an author in a bookstore anymore. Unless you are a celebrity. After I got home from my signing where no one came into the store to see me and I didn’t sell a single book, I read in the newspaper that James Belushi was doing a book signing in a nearby store and Tom Brokaw was in another. I totally agree with you that neither Jim Belushi or Tom Brokaw are authors and probably didn’t write a word in their books, but they are celebrities and I’m not. I was also heartened to learn that even higher list authors from the big New York City publishing houses have little more luck than me at book signings.

I’m not saying I’m through wasting my time with bookstore signings; it’s a necessary evil in this business. But why not try something much easier, cheaper, and easier on my ego? I notified a few writer friends, posted a plea for participants on a few writing sites I belong to and organized a blog tour. It may not garner a flood of sales. But my name might end up in a few places where it had been before.

According to my publisher, my lackluster attention to my blogs has already had a positive affect on sales. A blog tour can only improve that. The best part is, I don’t have to put gas in my car. I don’t even have to get dressed if I don’t want to. Don’t worry, I will.

Look for me next Monday at the kick-off of my tour when I will be the guest of Molly Noble Bull on her blog. I am looking forward to the whole process. I can’t wait to meet you there.

Have a blessed and prosperous Monday.
Teresa

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What works and what doesn’t

I participated in a local street festival this weekend in hope of selling books and meeting new readers. Suffice it to say, the weekend was not a raging success. It was an outdoor event and the weather couldn’t have cooperated better. While a little windy, it was warm and sunny, the perfect weekend to spend outside. The crowds were not huge, but big enough to insure moderate success. So why didn’t I sell more books, or at least attract the interest from future readers?

While watching visitors breeze past my booth as they tried to avoid eye contact, I noticed a few things I’ll keep in mind while planning my schedule for next year. It wasn’t only me they were avoiding. Most people weren’t buying anything. Except food. Everyone out on this gorgeous last weekend in April was there to buy walking burritoes, deep fried veggies, or ice cream. Hey, don’t knock ’em if you haven’t tried ’em.

One ingenous fellow designed a weapon made out of PVC pipe that shot marshmallows and was selling them by the truckload for $7 to everyone under 18. Other than that, the rest of us sat there and watched the crowds walk past.

Lesson learned, at least for this particular festival. Most attendees are not interested in buying books for summer reading. Several of the people who did approach me are already fans and have copies of all my books. I guess it’s time to branch out a little farther.

I do enjoy setting up at craft fairs and street festivals, even after this dismal showing. Many readers never find themselves in a bookstore and are thrilled to meet an author face to face. It’s always a boost for the old ego when they gush about how wonderful and brilliant you are. The local angle is also good for selling a few copies. Even people who don’t buy will remember you the next time they are in the library looking for something good to read. That’s what this is all about, folks, one reader at a time.

So don’t discount the festivals and craft shows because of one disappointing weekend. I’ll give them another try as my schedule permits. But when I get my application for this one next year, I think I’ll pass.

Have a great week. Teresa

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Winners of Evidence of Grace

evidence-of-grace-small.jpgCongratulations 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. They will each receive autograph advance review copies of Evidence of Grace, the third in my Jenna’s Creek series. Thank you, ladies, for posting your reviews of my books. 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 If anyone has ideas for future contests or promotions, please don’t keep them to yourself. Thanks to all for your participation.

Teresa Slack

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No Results

On January 10th I started an exercise program that, according to the bookcover, would theoretically enable me to lose two sizes in four weeks. I don’t have to tell you when you tell a woman she can lose two clothing sizes in four weeks, you have her attention.

Guess what happened! Nothing! Not only have I not lost two sizes, I haven’t lost one. After doing everything the book said to do, I haven’t lost one measly inch off my entire body. On a brighter note, I haven’t gained either. And that’s saying something considering I have the appetite of an offensive lineman.

Even after three and a half months, I still believe in the program. Everything about it makes sense. While I haven’t lost inches, the neck pain that used to wake me up in the middle of the night has disappeared. My husband is even following the program after years of begging him to get into an exercise routine. He’s losing inches even though he only does the workout half as often as me. Don’t you just hate men? But after three months of disappointment, I believe results can happen. It’s just taking me longer than anyone else on the planet.

Which reminds me of our writing careers. Even though I think I am doing everything right with the exercise program, I am missing something. Maybe you are experiencing the same thing with your writing. You have attended all the right conferences. You’ve read the right books. You’ve studied the market and fine-tuned the life out of your manuscript. But still you can’t get the attention of the publishing world.

Sometimes success seems like it’s beyond our control. Perhaps it is. For a season. There are always things going on inside our bodies that determine when and where we hold on to excess inches. There are also things going on inside the publishing industry that we can’t control. For a season. Maybe this isn’t the time for your manuscript. Maybe you need a little more training. Maybe your book isn’t as ready to seek a publisher as you think. Maybe you have done absolutely everything right, your book is pure genius, but God says the time isn’t right. For a season.

My body will eventually let go of those excess inches if I continue my exercise routine. Even if I never get down to a size 4–I don’t expect that–I no longer have muscle spasms in my neck while brushing my hair that make me cry out in pain. That alone makes those mornings in front of my television contorting my body worth it. Perhaps what you envision for your writing career is not what God has in store for you. Don’t despair. God always has greater plans for us than we can even imagine.

Keep writing. Keep fine tuning and studying the market. Don’t give up. You may never reach super-stardom, but you will achieve what God has in store for you if you only do your part and let Him handle the details.

Have a great weekend.
Teresa

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larkspur150.jpgToday I am excited to talk with Anita Higman and Janice Thompson, co-authors of Larkspur Dreams from Heartsong Presents.

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.

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!

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