As Much as I Want to Breathe

clublogo

Today I presented a program to a neighboring community’s Rotary Club. Civic clubs are often comprised of business professionals, and they are a pleasure to speak to as they are good listeners and appreciative of other’s efforts. I’m becoming more comfortable speaking in front of groups. It’s a great opportunity to network, meet new friends, and gain new readers.

Civic organizations often focus on students of area schools. This club, the Schuyler Rotary Club, has a student of the week, as does my home town’s club. Today’s student was a Latino young man named Victor.

Victor took his moment at the microphone to talk about his interests and to thank the group for choosing him as the student of the week. It was easy to admire this young man who was humble and grateful. His interests were in creativity and the arts. It sounded as though he had discovered his love for creating things, and as a creative person, I could relate.

One thing he said made a huge impact. He spoke from the heart when he said, “If someone held me underwater and I wanted more than anything to take a breath of air… that’s how much I want to create things—as much as I want to breathe.”

Wow.

That’s the kind of passion I wish for every young person looking to choose a career. I want that kind of passion and clear desire in what I do. And from the mouth of a young and first generation citizen of our country—like my grandparents and great grandparents were—I want great ideas and words such as his to be heard.

Way to go Rotary. Way to go Victor. I’m glad I got to meet him and hear a new way to think about passion for creativity. Every moment really is an opportunity to learn something new, and we really never know where new knowledge will come from.

Bake on Saturday

My mother was quite the baker. I don’t remember cookies or pies so much, but she made breads. Maybe she was like me and just couldn’t make a cookie to save her life. Mine are never shaped nicely. They’re usually overdone or underdone. I can even mess up store-bought cookie dough. But bread, I can make. Go figure.

I liked this recipe because it actually says it tastes better the next day and keeps for a week. We’ll be enjoying it for breakfast tomorrow morning. It’s a little Christmas tradition some families have. Do you have Christmas baking traditions? What are they?

Another Free Book

Recipes for Revenge 2

I’m feeling gifty this month. Tis the season. I gave away a free signed copy of Casting Stones to Donna Wilder for commenting here on my blog.

Now I’m going to give away a free signed copy of my book, Recipes For Revenge, to one person who comments on my author Facebook page. Yeah, I’m switching it up. I want to find out where I get the most comments. This social media thing is an experiment waiting to happen.

So, go to this link. Like my Facebook page. Comment with at minimum your name, but conversations are great, too. Whatever you choose. I’ll pick one winner, probably on Sunday. Then I’ll mail the book. Give it as a gift or let it be my gift to you.

Now, about this book, Recipes For Revenge, a Four-Course Novel. I published this in 2012 and it been one of those books people have had fun with. It’s four (five actually) short stories. Each story has a different main character and a different problem revolving around a bad boy in their life. Fates step in and teach that bad boy a lesson. The lesson happens to be served by a recipe. Yes, each of the story’s main characters have that one special recipe they’re known for. I include that recipe at the beginning of the story, but there is a little secret ingredient I don’t add to the actual recipe, but gets added in the story. I’d advise leaving that ingredient out if you choose to make the recipes. Oh, and every recipe is a good one. I’ve tried them all. The cookies are especially delightful. Oh, and good news… if you don’t end up being the person who wins the signed print copy of this book, it’s available on Amazon and B&N as an e-book for only .99 cents. You can afford to buy it anyway!

So, I’m tickled if you comment here, but my goal is to see your name under this post on my Facebook page. So if you comment here, that’s fine, but I hope you’ll then go and put your name on my FB page… oh and while you’re there, “like” the page. Thanks!

A Gift of Reading

cross cover

Many of my friends who are writers achieved a goal this month. They participated and won something called Nanowrimo—an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. And it’s grown to be a world-wide event. The winners claim the prize of having written a first draft of a new novel in one month. Technically, 50,000 words. The spirit of competition drives the writers, and the prize is twofold: a pat on the back you give yourself at the end because, by golly, it’s a big deal to write 50,000 words of anything! The other prize is the actual novel. I participated back in 2010.  The novel I wrote happened to be the first book I published, Casting Stones. It’s still selling and I have to say, it’s a book I couldn’t stop thinking about when I wrote it, a book I hated while I was editing it, and a book I have come to love like a first-born child. I read it every year, and every year I like it more.

My writing has grown and maybe even improved since then (5 more books under my belt to date.) But, as far as stories go, I would have to say Casting Stones is still a favorite of mine. The characters are very real to me, and I am proud of the book. So, thank you, Nanowrimo! You showed me I could write a book.

A few thoughts about this novel. It’s a tale about a woman who needs a husband. A woman so broken she doesn’t know how to love, only how to judge. The man she desires could be any man. Strong, yet with weaknesses. Life deals him the hardest of blows and the woman brings him salvation, but it’s a binding , suffocating weight. He isn’t saved, as much as imprisoned. The man’s hard times seem never-ending, but he finds a true savior in an old friend. Sacrifices are made, to be sure, and hands are dirtied, but in the end, the man finds joy and love and peace. Was it worth it? Was it justified? These are all questions I put to the reader as I tell the tale of James Raven and Esther Barton. Set in Nebraska and Missouri, this story’s timeline runs from the ’20s through the ’50s. It’s an emotional experience meant to make the reader think and rethink. It may make the reader cry. It may make the reader angry at moments. But there is a message, and maybe it’s different for every reader.

Casting Stones was originally written as three different books—Prelude, Casting Stones, & Conclusions.  A year later I decided to combine all three parts into one book. I called it the Unabridged version. Now the book is only available with all three parts, and the name is simply, Casting Stones. This book is available in print and as an ebook.

If you’ve read this book, I thank you. If you purchased this book, I thank you even more! (editors aren’t cheap!) If you’ve helped me promote it, or given it as a gift, you are a treasure to me! But if you haven’t read it, or haven’t gifted it, I hope you’ll consider giving it to anyone who enjoys thought-provoking literary fiction. It is time to buy gifts, you know. Christmas is literally weeks away. This small artist would certainly appreciate your support during the 2014 holiday season. I noticed Amazon is offering 30% off on online orders. The book is $12, $10.69 for Prime members, and now with an additional 30% off, you save even more.

Win a free print copy of Casting Stones—my gift of reading to you—just add your email address to your comment at the bottom of this post on my blog, or email me directly at ginabarlean@gmail.com. One winner will be chosen. I will mail the book to the winner.

 

 

Giving Thanks

teach-me-to-be-thankful

It’s time to give thanks. So much to be thankful for I’m sure I can’t remember everything, but I think it’s worth the effort to try.

  • Thank you God for the abundance in my life and for my family’s health and safety.
  • Thank you to my husband for being a wonderful provider.
  • Thank you to my children for being a constant source of joy and pride in my life.
  • Thank you to my church, for welcoming me with open arms.
  • Thank you to my friends for making me smile.
  • Thank you to my extended family. I love you all and am in awe of your unconditional love.
  • Thank you Nebraska. You’re too darn cold in the winter and humid and buggy in the summer, but the fact is, you’re a good safe place to live.
  • Thank you to my pets who allow me to cuddle them and talk to them like they’re babies.
  • Thank you to my writing group who gives me support in the writing endeavors I undertake.
  • Thank you to so many new friends I’ve made over the last several years through writing groups and events.
  • Thank you so much to every person who reads my books. I can hardly believe I’ve had people from all over this country, and other countries who have read the words I’ve written.
  • Thank you to everyone who leaves a review on any book sales distribution site such as Amazon or Barnes & Nobles. Seriously, good reviews sell books and every 4 & 5 star review is like gold to this author.
  • And thank you to everyone who follows and comments on this blog. It means a lot to me to reach out and touch new people, or connect with those I know.

I have a daughter in St. Louis. The images of violence and anger in Ferguson last night are weighing heavy on my mind this morning. My daughter is safe, and for that I’m so thankful, but I’m mournful about the businesses who had to pay a debt they didn’t owe. I’m grieved over a media who no longer reports facts with a controlled tone, but now blurts out hearsay and gossip in voices that sound like little kids tattling on their friends at recess. And I’m praying we can all remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We could use a leader like Doctor King right now. I pray for that and I am thankful for every person who tries to bring harmony to the world.

It’s All About That Bird, ‘Bout That Bird, Yeah Turkey

IMG_0039

I’ve got that song on my mind, All About That Bass, by Meghan Trainor. But yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about that turkey.

I bought a turkey breast last week and kind of forgot about it in my refrigerator. I know. Who can miss a turkey? Well, me, I guess. I kept thinking I was going to make a little Thanksgiving dinner for my husband, son and I, but then the son went back to Lincoln and other things came up, and Sunday afternoon, I realized that bird only had a couple of days left before I wasn’t going to have to start worrying about it being spoiled. And that would be a dirty rotten shame. So, yesterday I decided to make a little Thanksgiving feast for just me and the hubs.

Nope. No company. My daughter won’t be coming home this Thanksgiving. We’ve been invited to a Thanksgiving at my Niece’s family’s home. And my sister and I are cooking a nice big turkey dinner for our church this coming Sunday. So, no worries, I’ll get my share of stuffing and mashed potatoes, and then some. But I love to make that meal in my kitchen and eat it at my table. It’s my favorite meal to cook. And so I did. Smaller portions, just enough for three servings and some leftover turkey. The rest of it is gone already. And it was delish!

I don’t fear the bird. It’s just an oversized chicken. Season it, butter it up, cover it and put it in the oven. Read the rules about time per pound and it’ll be fine. Making cranberry sauce is fun. Bag of cranberries, cup of sugar. The rest is up to me, me, me. I like to cut up a small orange to cook in it along with a cinnamon stick. Makes the joint smell good. Mashed potatoes, shrug. No big deal. Gravy came with the turkey so I didn’t even have to think about that. I had some frozen butternut squash in the freezer. I thawed it and mixed it with some eggs and milk, sprinkled some pecans and brown sugar on top and baked it. Oh, and I had some green beans in the freezer, too. sautéed them in some butter and tossed in a handful of almonds. I had all this stuff in the fridge. I’m all about a well-stocked pantry and fridge.

I tell you all that to tell you this. I think the stress that comes with making Thanksgiving dinner has nothing whatsoever to do with the meal, yet I seem to hear everyone talking about their worries that the bird will be dry, or what stuffing recipe they’ll use, or if they can get away with buying pie crusts. You know, they’re talking about the symptoms, not the disease, if you will. The real stress is cleaning the house, setting the table, doing the math, worry about what everyone will do for the day, the everlasting piles of dishes, the yelling kids, the snoring grandfather, the picky eaters, and on and on. I know, some people live for that stuff, and honestly, I like it too, but when you add that to the cooking, it’s the cooking that gets blamed, because the cooking won’t be offended. The cooking is innocuous.

So, I had a completely stress free thanksgiving dinner. My husband watched football all afternoon and I puttered around in the kitchen. It was done when it was done. And I’ll have lots of family and friend time this week so I’m not worried about that, but yesterday, I think the meal itself tasted better than I’ve ever had because it’s all we had to think about. Plus, we didn’t feel like we needed to go get another helping. Or like we had to make small talk and smile a lot while we ate it.

Now, bring on the wine and people and fun. I’ve enjoyed my turkey treat. Yesterday it was all about the bird.

RESPONSIBILITY TO DO GOOD WORK

194265401_2b9fff6823_z

I found this quote by Bill Gates: “I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.”

This has proved incredibly true for me.Thanks to my computer, I have access to videos and white papers, emails to visit with my friends to get advice, all while I type away in a word document. Think of how fast this allows the world to move now? It’s amazing.

Thanks to the Internet and computers, we now have the world of independent publishing. I can do something that in earlier generations was much more difficult. I do not have to leave my house to publish a book. I don’t have to pay a vanity press to do it for me, or beg an agent to pitch it to a publishing house. I can write it. Hire a professional editor online and email it to them. I can hire a professional cover designer and take care of every ounce of business related with bringing that cover to fruition. I can format the book for print or digital, all on my computer. I can upload it to be printed and in a couple of weeks it shows up at my door in a box via postal service. I can upload the document to Amazon where within 24 hours; it’s available for sale. I can then go to my computer and the Internet where I can, for free, promote my book on my blog, my website, on Twitter and Facebook and a variety of other social media outlets. I can meet other writers all over the country and world where I can get advice or assistance with promoting my books. Independent publishing is an obvious and organic response for those of us who want to write books and have the skills to use computers and the Internet.

Yet, we have a responsibility to create good work; we need to make sure our story is ready for print. And ultimately, whether a book is traditionally or independently published, the reading public is who decides a books success. It doesn’t matter how much money a big traditional publishing house puts behind the promotion of a famous author’s book… if the reading public doesn’t like it, they won’t buy it. In the same token, if an independent author writes a great book, the word gets around far more quickly in this social media world than it ever would have in the past. What a wonderful, wonderful world.

 

The BLUE LADY

2038424062_e0d9357b73

My mom encouraged my creativity. She recognized my need to draw. Not my desire to, but my need. I drew constantly—hours and hours scribbling on any piece of paper I could find. Mother kept every envelope and letter that had a blank backside for me to draw on. The top left drawer of our hutch cabinet had paper and the top right drawer had pens and pencils. She called me an artist, and I believed her.

In lower grades I enjoyed writing poems. I knew they had value because I took a poem to school to read for show and tell and one of my classmates stole it! Right from my desk! People only steal things of value, so although I wasn’t happy about the theft, I certainly felt important to have written something good enough to be pilfered.

In high school I wrote an essay for Mr. Rose, my peculiar English teacher. He gave me an A+, a grade I didn’t get very often, and in the margins of the essay, he wrote in red ink, “This is either prose, or drivel!” For whatever reason, I decided he was complimenting me and I knew then and there, I wanted to write. This led me to journalism class, where I learned how to take pictures and write articles, but I frustrated my teacher, as the convergent thinking required in fact-based news articles was far too restrictive for me. I wanted to add my own opinions. I didn’t realize then, but know now, I simply needed to write fiction.

I made up fictional stories and created worlds and scenes since I was little.

Someone gave me a present of paper dolls—pretty girls and boys with little outfits to cut out. I played and enjoyed them, but the true fun was making my own paper dolls and clothes. I became obsessed with finding the perfect piece of cardboard to make the dolls out of. It couldn’t be too thick, but had to be thick enough to hold up. One day I came across a medium blue file divider—just the right weight. I drew and cut out a woman from the blue board and she became the infamous BLUE LADY!

Even as a child I knew every story had to have conflict. It’s one of the first things we learn when we start to write fiction… stories must have tension. No one wants to read a story about the happy people in the happy village. From the Bible, to nursery rhymes, to any movie or TV show you’ve ever watched, you will find conflict. Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall. Little Bo Peep loses her sheep. Little Red Riding Hood must contend with the wolf. And in my paper doll world, The Blue Lady ruined my little people’s days.

Creativity has always been the path I’ve taken. I tried very hard to be a secretary, and a bookkeeper, but I always found myself staring out the windows. But when I could be a photographer, the world opened up for me. When I could promote the Opera House or the community; ideas abounded. And now that I write, I can create worlds and scenes and characters to my hearts content. Maybe you are a lot like me?

 

 

Change Maker

George Bernard Shaw

If you remember my last post, I had told you I was to give a presentation for a teacher’s sorority. It went well by the way. It’s true, teachers are lovely human beings. But I already knew that.

I had told you I was going to break down my presentation into six parts and post them here, as I found some of the information I dug up fascinating. So, here is part two… coming off admitting I wasn’t the best student in the classes at the higher and more valued end of the learning hierarchy: Math and science. Actually, I stunk.

I found a meme on Facebook that sums up my thoughts fairly well.

“I hate math tests because all through the chapter it’s like really easy and then you think you’ve got it and then the test is like,

IF I THROW A TRIANGLE OUT OF THE CAR AND THE CAR IS GOING 20 MPH AND WIND RESISTANCE IS A THING THAT EXISTS, HOW MANY CUPCAKES CAN PEDRO BUY WITH ONE HUMAN SOUL?

I “googled” the difference between Convergent and Divergent Thinking. This led me to a man named Joy Paul Guilford, born in 1897 in Marquette, Nebraska. He was a psychologist known for recognizing convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that focuses on coming up with the single, well-established answer to a problem. It’s about remembering stored information and following rules and constraints. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, where many creative ideas are generated and evaluated. Multiple solutions are explored.

Obviously, there is quite a bit more to it than this, but these definitions are the gist of it. I am a divergent thinker. I understand the rules and go back to them to solve the ultimate problem, but I like to think, “out of the box,” as they say. And this is where the potential for creation comes from, for me at least. This is why my favorite quote has always been this one by George Bernard Shaw:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

So, I’m not difficult. I’m simply a change-maker!

Note: I love the picture of Shaw I found for this post. I have been enjoying this man’s quote about the unreasonable man for so many years, yet today was the first time I ever really researched him. I found out from the time he began writing, to when his play, Pygmalion won the Academy award, was around 14 years. The information claimed it took him this long to reach his writing stride. This gave me an incredible amount of comfort! What a wonderful thing to realize the best of writers take years to develop their style and ideas. So, the best of me is yet to be.

Write on, my friends!