Back to Behaving

The Easter weekend has ended. We took our daughter to the airport. It may be a month or five before we see her again. Our son, only in Lincoln, is off to San Antonio tomorrow. Our kids are full-fledged grown-ups now. It’s weird. It’s wonderful, too.

My husband and I listened to our “kids” talk about investments, insurance, taxes, and work. Just a few short years ago (I kid myself… more like eight years now) and these two would have been rough-housing and playing music loud. Ten years earlier than that? Probably throwing things at each other and running out the door to go see friends… a few years before that? I suppose I was hiding Easter eggs. They’d have been biting the ears off their chocolate bunnies. I’d have been convincing my kids to taste broccoli salad… which is now a staple at family holidays.

Times keep changing. Not worse. Not better. Just different. Each stage has its ups and downs, and although I’d say the years when they were little were my favorite, I certainly remember being tired of picking up toys and wiping noses and just being tired in general. The energy it took to raise little ones exhausted me. It’s a task for the young. I don’t have grandchildren yet, but wonder if I’ll have enough pep to babysit if I’m ever blessed with the opportunity.

This is one of the reasons I’ve been working hard to lose weight. I have a lot of life to live yet and if I don’t get in better shape, I won’t enjoy those years. Maybe I can go as far to say that I don’t believe I’d really deserve them. I owe my family, my future grandkids, and myself the best woman I can be. Healthy. Happy. Active. Able.

In that vein, the hubs and I have not spent a lot of time thinking about yummy food over the last three months. Oh, I think about food a lot, but not about how delicious it will be. I think about the amount of nutrition and calories it has. The best way to cook it. How to best use the calories we have each day. This is all something we never used to think about. Ever. It’s why we were both overweight and why we need to think about our health now. We need to relearn how to see food, make food, and eat food. So far, my husband’s lost around twenty pounds and I’ve lost around thirty. Eating healthy food works.

Back to the past weekend. I made healthy food with veggie and fruit options. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef. I didn’t make any desserts. There are no chips and dips in this house. Fruits, cheeses, baby carrots, sugar snap peas for snacks. I made meals and tried to set the example of taking small portions. All things I should have done when I was raising my kids, but you know, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, as the saying goes. I can’t change the past.

My kids were very good-natured about the change in how we ate, although my son rolled his eyes at our portions and had seconds and thirds. It’s not like I made tasteless food. We had spaghetti and meatballs one night, shrimp and ground turkey fajitas another night, a full German breakfast for brunch which meant meats, cheeses, fruit, boiled eggs, etc. Salad. Really. We did good.

Then the Easter dinner arrived. For us… Easter means Ham. Dreaded Ham. Delicious Ham. Evil Ham!!

I’ve been training myself to eat food for fuel and nutrition more than taste. It all tastes fine, of course, but there’s a huge difference between a clean tasting and satisfying salad with turkey meat, sunflower seeds, and a boiled egg…. than a big slice of ham with mustard and brown sugar glaze. Quite frankly… I’d forgotten the sensation of eating something so delicious that I wanted more… not because I was hungry… just because it was there. Honestly, I think the Bible says not to eat pork for a serious reason. Bacon… ham… it’s like a freaking drug!! I’m still thinking about it! The taste lingers in my mouth. The idea in my mind that there is a container of ham sitting in my refrigerator right this very moment! I could seriously sit down and eat every slice of it.

So. I do believe my husband will be having a very thick ham sandwich for lunch and I will try very hard to get rid of the last bits of evidence of that delicious meal today. Back to fish and turkey and veggies. Back to eating food that’s good for my mind and body, not my emotions. Back to trying to lose the two pounds that snuck back on over the weekend, and yes, I can’t completely blame the ham… there were these Lemon cello cocktails with frozen grapes, and a bottle of wine or three that had something to do with that, too.

Honestly, I’m looking forward to once again being a sensible grown woman who eats healthy food. I also really enjoyed the weekend. Sometimes you have to fall off the wagon to remember why you were on it to begin with. It’s fun to be naughty, but far more rewarding to be good. But those Lemon Cello cocktails… yeah… I’m keeping those. Everyone needs a vice, after all.

THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN I’D ORIGINALLY THOUGHT

For the past week, I’ve had the urge to opine at length in a blog post, but, I’ve let my blogging wane to almost nothing, so I’ve hesitated.

When I began blogging, I was excited to write. The concept of dropping my ideas in a well and seeing what kind of echo came back was terribly appealing. I didn’t do it because I thought what I had to say was fascinating. I didn’t do it because I believed my opinions to be more accurate than others. I was just telling stories about myself, and I realize it was an exercise in developing my writing style and maybe, in getting to know myself.

I had also wanted to build a platform in hopes of gaining potential readers for my books. In that regard, I do believe blogging has been useful, but not to the same degree as the time it took me to study blogging, learn how to create websites, and figuring out what to say and how to say it.

In the dawn of my blog, my vision of writing was far different from it is now. If anything, I’d say it was cringe-worthy. I essentially clung to the theory of let-it-rip-writing. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar be damned.

I willingly admit, I’m not naturally good at spelling, punctuation, or grammar. It completely eludes me. I have to work very, very hard to write well. My husband tells me he can just see how things are supposed to be spelled. I cannot. Others have told me they just know, almost instinctively, how to punctuate. I do not. Writing has become something I desperately want to do, but almost fear. I’m sure I’ll get over this malaise, but for now, I’ve got writing fever and ague. Give me time. I’m bound to recuperate.

And so, I go about my craft in this new way: I write a sentence. Dissect the sentence. Rearrange the sentence. Then delete the sentence. I’ve turned into my own worst enemy and critique.

Although I may cringe at mistakes in memes, emails, or Facebook posts, I don’t judge—yet, they do irritate me. So, I guess I’m becoming a very different writer than I used to be. Different… and yet, I can almost promise the second after I hit publish on this post, I’ll see a mistake in my writing. Maybe you’ll point it out to me. It’s part of being a writer—humbly accepting criticism because we know it helps us grow.

This is why I attend writing conferences. This weekend is the Spring Conference for the Nebraska Writers Guild. If you’re a writer in this region, or want to be one, you should consider attending. I go to learn about the craft of writing, as well as business, marketing and promotion. I also go to visit with others who are wiser and smarter than I, to make friends, and to network with like minds. It’s always great to see the people I’ve come to think of as family, and I usually go home with pages-worth of ideas, some of which I actually implement.

If you’re interested in attending the NWG Spring Conference, go to the website to sign up today. http://www.nebraskawriters.org/. I’ll see you there!

AND THE WINNER IS…

short-storyThe “About a Nebraska Town” short story contest to promote Nebraska Writers Guild authors received eleven entries: six women and five men. Three different judges read each story and gave feedback which was sent to all of the competitors. And now, it’s time to announce the winner!!

BUT FIRST…

The basic rules of this competition were that it was a private competition for Nebraska Writers Guild members, but not run by the NWG. The fictional stories were to be no longer than 5,000 words and were to reflect the feel of a Nebraska town.

The judges were Victorine E. Lieske, Kim Stokely, Delores Schmidt and I did end up adding my points into the mix as we had three ties.

The rights to the stories entered belong to the original authors and by publishing the winning entry, GMBarlean.com does NOT own the rights to the story. The winner’s story will be published here on this blog, only one time, on March 1st, 2017.

AND NOW IT’S TIME TO ANNOUNCE OUR CONTESTANTS AND OUR WINNER!!!

Winner Badge

THE WINNER OF THE 2017 ABOUT A NEBRASKA TOWN STORY COMPETITION FOR NWG MEMBERS IS…

FAITH COLBURN!!!

To read the winning entry, go to this link. The Winning Story! To learn more about Faith, click her name above and it will take you to her website.

The story Faith entered, Storm Watch, is a great story with wonderful tension and high emotional impact. The writing had rhythm and the author’s Nebraska voice shines. Way to go, Faith! What a moving tale. I hope you’ll use the badge pictured above on your website and Facebook page. You have exclusive gloating rights and can brag as loudly as tolerated by your friends, colleagues and neighbors!!

Second Place belongs to new NWG member, Steve Rose of Iowa, for his story, The Fish. Congratulations!

Honorable Mention goes to Greg Hall of North Bend, Nebraska, for his story, Saving the Dutchman. Congratulations!

The other contestants were: Jennifer Hanisch, Bonnie Lacy, Don Dingman, Sue Bristol, Dennis Seberger, Lois Lewinsdowske, Sarah Buhrman, and Scott Gray.

This Sunday in Seward, Nebraska!

What to do on a Sunday afternoon? If you’re from around my area, near Lincoln, and you’re a fan of supporting Nebraska artists, or one who loves to read and enjoys poetry, I’d suggest you venture out on February 19th to Seward, Nebraska.

Like so many small Nebraska towns, Seward has so much to offer. There’s a Mexican Restaurant on South Highway 15 as well as a Chinese place downtown, and a little cafe downtown, too. Great little shops, a heck of a library, and two places in particular I encourage you to visit: Chapter Books & Gifts and Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room. These are both on Seward Street North of the court-house on the city square. Charming shops, both of them, and they’re both run by great ladies who care about their communities and about Nebraska. Seward is very fortunate to have both of these shops, and their owners, Carla Ketner of Chapter Books and Jeanne Wiemer of Red Path Gallery.

Last summer I had the pleasure of stopping by Red Path Gallery just to check it out. I visited with the owner and we got to talking about Nebraska writers and the Nebraska Writers Guild. Jeanne told me she’d been thinking about having Nebraska authors do readings there at Red Path. I told her I knew a number of Nebraska authors, specifically Guild members, who would make great speakers for her venue. An idea was born.

Good ideas have a way of rolling down hill and collecting speed. Carla of Chapter Books down the block visited with Jeanne and volunteered to help sponsor these events. So what we have now is a book store, an art gallery, and a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, providing a monthly event to bring people out to the small town of Seward for a Sunday afternoon.

This Sunday, Red Path will feature Charlene Neely and Laura Madeline Wiseman, wonderful poets. Every third Sunday of the month will feature a different Nebraska Writers Guild author from screen writers, to biblical enactments, to young adult novelists, writing professors talking about the art of writing, romance novelists… truly, the Nebraska Writers Guild has a wealth of talent to share!

The poster at the top of this post tells you what you need to know. Come on out! Support small towns. Support small business. Support Nebraska artists and authors. Support Nebraska! But most of all, enjoy yourselves. Both events are free to attend. I’ll be there and I hope to see you this coming Sunday in Seward! It’ll be a great day in small town Nebraska!

Nutrisystem Update

Well, it’s my third week on the Nutrisystem plan. I have positives and negatives to report.

The positives first.

The first week’s Turbo Plan is great. It prepares you to eat less and it removed the need to plan and buy foods or think about meals. It gives you a start, and that’s often one of the hardest parts for me. Plus, you see some immediate results, and that gives you hope.

The second week I almost had myself convinced the food wasn’t bad and I could do this for months and months. By the end of the second week, I’d lost ten pounds (not a true ten though, and you’ll see why later.) I have a very long way to go, but I already feel quite a bit better and have more energy. I’m very hopeful I can learn new eating habits. I like the six small meals lifestyle. I’m getting used to small portions. I think I can become a grazer, rather than a big meal twice-a-day kind of person.

Now, here are the negatives.

Last week I caught a stomach bug (I’m still not feeling quite right) and didn’t eat at all for one day because I just couldn’t (lost 2 pounds that day, but it wasn’t a real 2 pounds and didn’t stay off.) The second day of the bug, I tried some food, but didn’t keep it down, so again avoided eating. The third day I began observing the regular schedule Nutrisystem provides, but nothing tasted good. And by that, I mean, it all tasted absolutely horrible.

I remember when I was a little kid, my mother made a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It was so good, I ate too much of it then became sick and threw up the cake. I still can’t eat carrot cake and can’t stand cream cheese frosting. Just looking at it rolls my stomach. So, when you get sick, you tend to remember the taste of the last thing you ate, and you just don’t want that food again.

Because Nutrisystem food all tastes kind of the same… like there’s some kind of process or protein they put in it and it all has a specific after-taste, now I just can’t enjoy the food. Truthfully, I can just barely stand to eat it. Not that it could have been classified as enjoyable to begin with. Oh no. Not tasty at all. But, I was on board with learning a mind-set of food being fuel, not fun. Yet. Here I am, three weeks in, and I can hardly even stand to eat the food. So, I’ll finish up what I have… begrudgingly… and I ordered some ala carte items because I enjoyed the Nutricrush bars and the turbo shakes, and I’m going to try to learn to eat regular food in the way Nutrisystem sets up a daily schedule. I plan to keep doing small portions, and eating specific things six times a day—protein mid-morning and mid-afternoon, a carb mid-afternoon, lots of water, etc.

Fingers crossed. I didn’t think I’d go off the plan after a month, but the food is just so darn horrible. I can’t recommend the food at all. But, I like the tracking system, and I like the way the meals are structured, and I have a far better understanding of protein, carbs, and portions.

I’ll keep you posted. I clearly need to change my relationship with food. There’s a lot in the world to do and see and enjoy, and food should be what fuels me to do those things. It shouldn’t be my main source of entertainment.

WISH ME LUCK

 

This past year I watched a friend of mine lose thirty pounds using Nutrisystem. Compared to me, she looked great before dieting. Now, she looks like a Barbie Doll. I still look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s twin sister.

staypuft-man6

I’ve been walking around in this fat suit for a few years now. I’ve become quite accustomed to it. I’m even comfortable in it. After all, I’ve already paid for the wardrobe  and it seems like a lot of time, effort, and money to have to change. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been telling myself, lo these many years.

But the time has come.

We went on a winter vacation down to New Orleans. Had fun. Ate our way through that part of the south. I gained ten pounds to my already ridiculously overweight body. I could barely walk five blocks without having to stop and rest, and the last night of our vacation, I seriously thought I was having a heart attack. My arm and jaw still hurt the entire next day. It was time to either make peace with leaving the earth, or make some kind of effort to live.

I’d ordered Nutrisystem right before we left for our seven-day vacation. I knew it would be waiting for me when I got home. It was the perfect time for me to re-start my life and get control of my weight. I’d had two days of feeling worried about my heart and health, then I came down with a stomach flu which gave me cramps and a need to race to the bathroom every time I drank water, so yes… minimal food intake was something I was even looking forward to.

Today is day-four using Nutrisystem. This first week is a jump-start where I’m getting 1,000 calories or there-abouts each day. I’m doing fine, although I always feel a little hungry, which isn’t killing me. I’m hoping I can get to a point where feeling a little hungry feels good. I’ve been running on full for way too long.

The funny thing is the portions. Seeing them makes everything so black and white. I look at the tiny little ½ cup of stew in the package I get for lunch and think… well, no wonder I’m fat. This is smaller than most appetizers I eat. Do they fill me up? Well, for about an hour. If I eat some vegetables with it… and I can have as many non-starchy veggies as I want, I can certainly get two or three hours out of that little serving. I’m assuming there are some nutrients and vitamins in the prepackaged entrees that keep me going. I’m willing to trust it. But yes, after a few hours, I kind of need another meal.

Not to worry! With Nutrisystem, you eat six times a day and drink a horse tank full of water! The water seems like a huge pain the ass, but the six little meals are needed. A basic day can look a lot of different ways (this first week). It might be a muffin or a power bar or a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Then a turbo shake which by no means should be compared side-by-side with a milkshake, but I’ve come to enjoy them quite a bit. Lunch might be a lunch power-bar, or a little bowl of stew. Then half way between lunch and dinner, I have a crunch bar… yet another kind of power bar. I usually cave around 4:30 and have ½ cup of carrots, and that’s fine. Then supper comes along and I get a package of maybe Rotini with meatballs, or a little pizza. Something warm. With that, I eat whatever vegetables I have on hand, like green beans or cabbage or pea pods. I sauté them and eat them with the meal. Oh, and I really fill my plate with the veggies, almost to the point I’m tired of eating them before I finish my meal. But again… the program encourages that. There is no limit on non-starchy veggies.

This first week, that’s all I get, and I’m doing just fine with it. I don’t know what next week will bring, but I assume I’ll be able to add in a little more here and there along the way. I’m looking forward to fruit… never thought I’d type those words… and I’m eager to keep trying the different entrees they have.

And that brings me to the point where I have to say I really like this program so far. It’s hard to change the way a person cooks/prepares food, and the prepackaged meals which are labeled: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, take all of the worry of meal planning out of the equation. That’s the most difficult part of adjusting how one eats, at least for me.

I’m obviously not a person who craves veggies, fruit and salads, nor do I enjoy cooking low-calorie foods. And I love to cook and create, but I do it with cream and cheese and butter and pasta! Can I make a lean Chile? Probably. But my instincts want to use sausage and hamburger and refried beans to make it nice and thick… oh… and then I want to serve it with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheddar, and some chopped green onions! Then I’ll want to have seconds because it’s so goooooood!

I think I just identified my problem. It’s not that I like to cook. It’s not that food tastes better when fatty foods are part of their creation (it does, of course!). It’s that I’ve got no damned self-control! I’m a brat who needs to be told “NO!” and then redirected to something more positive. Eating is the easy way to make myself feel better. It’s the band-aid for boredom and anger and sadness and joy and worry and self-loathing and exhaustion and it’ll never be something I can quit altogether. I have to eat. Every day. We all do.

So, yeah. I have to find self-control and that’s something I’m not too good at. I can do it… but I have to dig really deep. Maybe Nutrisystem can help me do that. So, wish me luck. So far so good. Oh, and I’m 6 lbs down, but then again, I was 10 pounds over, so I guess I’m still climbing up hill, but hey… at least I’m climbing.

Sundays at Red Path — Tamsen Butler

Seward, Nebraska, January 15, 2017: Red Path owner, Jeanne Wiemer and Nebraska Writers Guild member, Gina Barlean, have partnered to bring three great things together to make a year’s worth of events: The Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room, The Nebraska Writers Guild, and Nebraska Authors!

This will be a monthly event throughout 2017, on the third Sunday of each month (except for Easter and Father’s Day, in which the event will be on the following Sunday.) Each of these Sunday NWG Author events will begin at 1:30pm with a half hour reception where you can buy something to drink from the Red Path Gallery while you mingle with friends and meet the author who will be speaking. The author (and on some Sundays, two authors) will speak from 2pm to 3pm. There is no charge to attend these events.

About The Red Path Gallery, and Nebraska Writers Guild: Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room is located on the Historic Downtown Square in Seward, Nebraska.  Built as a bank in 1886, the space was converted in 1951 into a law firm – the oldest in Nebraska. Through a labor of love, original architectural features were uncovered, and the historic building was renovated and transformed into an art gallery and wine tasting room. The Nebraska Writers Guild was founded in 1925; its charter members included Bess Streeter Aldrich, Mari Sandoz, and Willa Cather. Today’s NWG members represent a lively cross-section of Nebraska life. Guild activities center on two annual conferences. Novelists and historians, poets and journalists, agents and publishers, screenwriter, editors and columnists ­ all have shared their insights on the art (and business) of writing at these conferences.

If you enjoy art, a nice glass of wine or non-alcoholic beverage, are looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon, love to read and learn about new authors, wish to support the arts in Nebraska, or just want to learn more about the Nebraska Writers Guild… please come!

This is the poster for the first event. Our NWG author will be Tamsen Butler of Omaha. She’s funny, smart, and a great speaker. She teaches about public speaking, using humor in public speaking, and is proof that one can recover from a stroke and continue a very full life! Tamsen’s writing career focuses on financial help books, which will be available for sale. Please visit Tamsen’s website at tamsenbutler.com

LET THE JUDGING BEGIN!

short-story

ALL ENTRIES ARE IN!

The “About a Nebraska Town” short story contest to promote Nebraska Writers Guild authors has received eleven entries: six women and five men. I could not be more excited about the quality of the stories and applicants.

To those who entered stories… judges have until March 1st to read, make comments, and select the winner by a point system. Best of luck to all. I can’t wait to read them, and I know the other judges are just as excited!

 

Below are reminders of the rules of this competition. Judges should keep these factors in mind when judging the stories:

  • This competition is NOT sponsored or run by The Nebraska Writers Guild.
  • Stories entered are no longer than 5,000 words.
  • Stories are fictional, original, and submitted by the author.
  • Stories must be set in a Nebraska town and reflect the feel of a Nebraska town.
  • There is no fee for this competition. It is FREE, privately run, and specifically for Nebraska Writers Guild Members.
  • Your story may be dark, light, humorous, sci-fi, mystery, romance, horror, fantasy… whatever, as long as it’s set in a Nebraska town (small town, big town, real or fictional town, etc.) Not mentioning Nebraska would decrease the story’s odds of winning.
  • Enter stories written for an adult audience. No children’s stories for this competition. (Maybe in the future.)
  • Only twenty-five entries accepted, first come, first serve. (We had 11 and I’m thrilled with that number.)

DEADLINES:

  • The deadline for submission to this competition is January 1st. No more entries accepted at this time.
  • The award for the winner of this competition will be March 1st.

JUDGING:

  • There will be four judges, myself, Victorine E. Lieske, and Kim Stokely and Delores Schmidt.
  • I will announce the winner here on this website and on other social media outlets.

PRIZE:

  • I will publish the winning entry here on my blog, as well as on my Facebook Author Site.
  • The winner will receive a Winner Badge to put on their website or social media pages.
  • All entrants will receive feedback about their story from the judges.
  • The winner will own all gloating rights for winning this competition and can brag as loudly as tolerated by their friends and neighbors.

Judging Notes:

  • Stories which include explicit sex (erotica) or any descriptive scenes of abuse of women, children, or animals, will possibly be excluded. If a story is turned away, the author will privately be given the reasons, but let it be known this is a private business website and I am careful of what content I associate my writing career with.
  • IF your story does include romantic scenes or excessive or harsh swearing and wins, a notice for readers at the time of publication on this site will accompany the story.
  • I and the other judges agree not to use any part of any of the entrants’ stories for personal or business use. By entering your story, we do not own the rights to it, and cannot publish any portion or full extent of it, except for the winner’s here on this blog one time.

 

My Newest Book!

It’s out! Bad Blood of Rosewood, my newest book. I’m doing the happy dance!!

badbloodThe Rosewood series is now complete… or is it? Never say never, right? I may write more about the Thorns and Gloria Larson in the small town of Rosewood. I have quite a cast of characters just hanging out, waiting for me to put them in motion. Ronnie, Doug, Hank, Betty, Josie, Tanya and Debbie. Don’t forget Officer Connors and all the guys at the Old Man Table at the Last Stop Diner. And you know how it is. Small towns have characters around every corner. I’m guessing at some point in the future something mysterious is bound to happen.

Until then, I have written six books for you to read. You can find all of my books on my book table here on this website, or on Amazon.

And if you haven’t read the entire series yet, Please start with Thorns of Rosewood, then read Flames of Rosewood, and finally, Bad Blood of Rosewood

Just a note. I sell exclusively on Amazon for Kindle e-readers and print books. If you own a Nook or other reading device, this may irritate you! I understand. But, over the years since I’ve started selling books, I’ve found by being a Kindle Select author, I sell exponentially more books via Amazon than I do any other channel. To be a Select author on Amazon, I must enter a contract agreeing to only sell through Amazon. Now, of course, I’d like all readers to enjoy my books on their Nooks or Kindles, but earning a living is important, too. (Certainly, my husband thinks so!) So, until I become rich and famous, I’m going to use this tool available to me as an Indie Author so I can get my product out to as many readers all over the world as possible.

Having said that, there are apps you can download for your computers or Androids to read Kindle books. Here is the download, and it’s free. Kindle App

All of the highlighted words, as well as the picture of my book, will take you directly to Amazon to purchase the books, or download the App.

Please share this blog post on your social media, or forward it to your reading friends!

An Interview With Charissa Stastny

cover-between-hope-and-the-highwayAuthor Charissa Stastny has a new book. I’ve read it and can tell you that even though I’m not a romance reader, this one entertained the likes of even this cynic. Between Hope & the Highway is a delightful read with great, unique characters. I’m a fan of Charissa’s writing and Between Hope & the Highway did not disappoint. Today I’m asking her a few questions so you can get to know this joyful and fun-loving author.

Charissa, how did you get started as an author?

C: I’d always wanted to write a book, but never seemed to have time between being a mother, a caregiver, and then a preschool and art teacher. As my children matured, I suddenly found myself spending lots of time waiting for them at sports practices. That’s when I started bringing notebooks and hashing out a story (which ended up being my Bending Willow Trilogy). That hooked me on the writing process…and now I don’t want to stop.

Most writers are readers. What are some of your favorite books?

C: I love The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, any of the Harry Potter books, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and anything by C.S. Lewis. Contemporary romance authors I can’t get enough of are Jennifer Peel, Taylor Dean, and Amy Harmon. I can reread their stories and not tire of them.

What suggestions would you give a potential author to help them become a better writer?

C: There are so many great writing books out there. Read as many of them as you can, and apply new techniques as you learn them. Go to a writing conference each year if you can, and learn how to plot. I’ve done the pantser method for my first three books, and it’s fun…but very inefficient. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks has been the most helpful writing book I’ve found for me.

Who is your favorite author and why?

C: Probably C.S. Lewis. His words are amazing; his thoughts so clear and inspiring. Everything he wrote deserves a place on my shelf and his quotes on my fridge.

author-photoAny special talents?

C: I’m not super good at any one thing, but am proficient at lots of stuff. I’ve tried my hand at painting, crafting, photography, piano, organ, teaching, crocheting, gardening, scrapbooking, basketball, mountain biking, triathlon, and now writing.

If you could have lunch with any character from a book (other than your own), who would it be, where would you eat, and what would you discuss?

C: I would dine with Dumbledore from Harry Potter. We’d eat sushi at Sakana’s (my favorite eating joint) and talk about anything he liked. Seriously, I can’t even think of a good enough question to ask the most powerful wizard ever. If he wanted to discuss Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans…then so be it.

Tell us a little about your family.

C: My husband and I are high school sweethearts and married after his mission. We have four children—3 daughters (one married who is an interior designer/architect, one who served a mission in S. Korea and is now in school for dental hygiene, and one who’s leaving on a mission to Armenia/Georgia and speaking Georgian for the next year and a half before studying to become a P.A.) and one incredible son in high school. We love being together and our favorite activities include biking, hiking, camping, and going to Disneyland.

What got you started on your writing journey?

C: I’ve dabbled with writing since I was a kid. I loved reading clean romance as a teen and wrote many cheesy scenes between handsome cowboys and milkmaids in my journal. The world will NEVER see these! They are cheesier than a Walmart tuxedo.

Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?

C: After my husband read my first book, he commented, “It would have been better with a zombie in it.” Since then, the Search and Find feature on Word has become my best friend. I always use it before I send out drafts to readers, because unfortunately, my husband is skilled at sneaking zombies into files. There is nothing worse than when the masculine hunk in my story tells the girl of his dreams that ‘he wants to eat her brains.’ Ugh!

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

C: Quite a lot. There is always one character I identify with—usually the shy, awkward one with a good heart who doesn’t know how to accessorize. My cool characters are my dreams of how I wish I could be. It’s fun as a writer to live vicariously through our characters.

Do you have a favorite character?

C: I love Suvi and wish I could meet her in real life. Austan’s pretty cool too (he’s a hoot to write), but I don’t know if I’d be brave or confident enough to meet him in person. I wouldn’t be able to come up with witty comebacks fast enough. Bentley is the cutest character I write (he’s 13) and I love him to pieces.

What does your family think about your writing?

C: They think I’m crazy to sit and play with imaginary characters all day. And I am! My 2nd daughter laughed hysterically when she read my early draft of Eyes of Light. She highlighted sections and wrote: “Cheesy! Please Mom, don’t ever publish this. I will be embarrassed for you!” My husband also gave me advice: “Before you publish, you might want to do a search for the word ZOMBIE.” Their tips saved me. Also, my oldest daughter designs my covers and keeps me looking presentable.

If you were stranded on a deserted tropical island with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?

C: Since I can’t build a fire or catch fish, I’d need someone who could be responsible and take care of me. In my mind, that would be James Hinton (from the Bending Willow Trilogy). I imagine he was a Boy Scout when he was young, so he’s very handy, self-reliant, kind, creative, and honorable. I’d feel safe with him.

What kind of trials do your main characters in your newest book have to endure?

C: Liz’s hen-pecking mother has always belittled her because her dreams didn’t align with hers. This has caused internal strife with regards to her self-esteem that she has to overcome (once she realizes it’s there). Liz has also just lost her fiancé in a terrible automobile accident. That’s why she leaves home to escape painful memories. Rawson and Bentley Law are dealing with survivor’s guilt from an accident they were involved in five years ago as well. They each have secrets that have the power to destroy their present happiness.

Why should we read your books?

C: Two reasons: 1) there is a powerful message of forgiveness and redemption woven into the pages that will make you appreciate life more fully, and 2) the characters are witty, vulnerable, charming, and just plain awesome! If you’re like me, you will fall in love with them.

What is one silly fact about you?

C: I can do a ‘mean’ monkey imitation. When I did this at Biblical zoo in Jerusalem, the monkeys spit at me though. I don’t know what that means.

If you could have plastic surgery, what would you change?

C: Nothing. I think wrinkles are earned and are a sign of wisdom. I’ve worked and lived too hard to let some doctor take that away from me.

Now that you know her a little better, I hope you’ll follow her on her website: http://www.charissastastny.com/

I also hope you’ll buy her book, Between Hope & the Highway. You can find all of Charissa’s books at:

https://www.amazon.com/Charissa-Stastny/e/B00847JD1I/