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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Take your best shot

There was a time in my life when many people were infinitely glad I neither owned a firearm nor could shoot one.

But that has all changed. Thanks to some good friends in Mississippi who taught me to shoot and pointed me in the right direction. ;-)

We went to Mississippi recently for some book research and it was some of the most fun research I've ever done. Second only to my week in DC, which I loved!

Now I know what my characters have felt when they've used their weapons. And I know without a doubt I can handle a weapon well, shoot respectably, and stop anyone who thinks about harming my family. Add to that my beloved Louisville Cardinals are in the Sweet Sixteen and on there way to the Final Four, and you have a super amazing weekend!

Here's a list of the super cool weapons I was actually allowed to handle. And.... for those who are still afraid at the thought of me with a weapon... my instructors said I did better than my hubby and better than a lot of hunters they knew. Honest!

We shot a Colt M4~ that thing had some major kick. I totally took out the dirt hill I fired into... on purpose.

Ruger Mark III~ super easy to shoot and looks pretty cool.

Glock 22~ this is my FBI guys' weapon of choice, so I was surprised I didn't like it. Too much kick for my liking which made it harder to keep focused on the targets.

Springfield XD~ now this one was more my speed. I did much better with accuracy, even though my hubby out-shot me.

Remington 870 Tactical Shotgun~ this was my favorite of all. I totally out-shot my hubby and shocked the instructor. Can you guess why? This is the weapon I imagine when I've thought of someone breaking into my house to hurt my family. Now I know how to use it and had a 100% headshot accuracy.

DPMS Panther~ this one was a little too heavy for me to enjoy, but I nailed the target anyway.

Remington 700~ my second favorite weapon. I shot 100% headshots at 300 meters (three football fields). My hubby only shot 300 once, so I'm happy to say I beat him there too. We're not at all competitive. LOL

Anyway... all that to say research is sometimes a totally life-changing thing. And it's fun too. Especially when I graduate best in class. :-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Interview with Christa Banister

Half the fun of reading a book is getting to know the author behind the tales. So I asked Christa Banister a few quirky questions and had to smile while reading the answers. Hope you do to...

Care to share any real-life matchmaker stories?

You know, I wish I could. I've been even less successful than Sydney in the whole matchmaking department. I always try to be really thoughtful about who I set up, but it still always backfires somehow. Once I set up two friends who I thought would really click for a casual getting-to-know you dinner with my hubby and I and another friend, and he ignored the potential love of his life all night. I mean, he didn't speak to her—AT ALL. When I asked him later on whether he was interested in my friend (as if his ignoring her completely wasn't indication enough), he said "there wasn't any chemistry." Perhaps, if he'd actually talked to her...

Oh well, I tried, right?

How much of Sydney is there in Christa?

Sydney and Christa are definitely simpatico in many ways—their spiritual gift of sarcasm, their need for an IV of Diet Cokes and caramel macchiatos, a shared faith and their quirky turns of phrase. But I will say this: Sydney dresses far, far better than I do. She's a regular fashion plate, while I usually opt for something way more casual.

What's the biggest challenge in writing contemporary fiction?

Like many authors (I'm guessing anyway), it's definitely having enough hours in the day to dedicate to it. To get everything just right requires a lot of time and effort, and there's always a million distractions, not to mention that pesky freelance writing day job (ha ha).

Share a little about your life's passion and how you live it out.

When I was a 10-year-old kid reading Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge, I knew that if Judy Blume could get paid for making up stories, that's exactly what I wanted to do. So from a young age, I started cultivating my love of writing by learning as much as I could about the craft and working at it.

Along the way, I had some great teachers and mentors who encouraged me in my pursuit, and once I hit college, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life—become a music journalist for CCM Magazine, and eventually, write novels. So I packed up my hideous Buick Century with anything that would fit and moved to Nashville, Tenn., right after college graduation. After a year and a half of slaving at odd jobs, (and odd, they were!), my dream finally came true back in 2000.

Then after working in various capacities there for 5 1/2 years, I ventured out on my own and started freelancing full-time, which I still do today. I took the novel writing plunge back in 2006, (thanks to the encouragement of several friends), signed with NavPress, and my first novel, Around the World in 80 Dates released in 2007. After having my second novel hit store shelves last August, I'm avidly promoting both books while working on my third novel. It's definitely not an occupation for the faint of heart, but I enjoy spending many, many, many hours with my MacBook, writing until I can't anymore.

Do you have any author quirks? (come on, be honest here ;-)

I'm a really, really talented procrastinator. I also write everything in order and edit as I go, which isn't really a quirk, but definitely not the recommended course of action. I've been told countless times to "just get it down," but I can't move on until it's exactly how I want it. Maybe it's more of a Type A quality than quirky, but there you have it.

What word of encouragement would you share with singles and newly-weds?

No matter what place you are in life, enjoy the journey. When you're single, it's so easy to put your life on hold by focusing on finding "The One" and being married. And once you're married, it'll be like two seconds later, and people will start asking you when you'll settle down and have kids already. So really, it's a never-ending cycle. While it's definitely not a bad thing to look forward to the future, living in the present allows you to fully enjoy the moment and all the joys and life lessons that come with it, knowing that God really does have everything in control. After all, as I've discovered again and again, His clock and my clock aren't always necessarily in sync. But yet, His time is the perfect, even if you may not see it that way at the time.

Where can readers find you on the web?

Readers can check out all things Christa Banister-related at my personal Website ( Not only can you sign up for my newsletter there, but you can click on links to my personal blog, Facebook page and other random goodness.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Blessed Are the Meddlers

Today feels like spring in my neck of the woods and I celebrated by changing the decorations in my dining room and kitchen. Pink, purple and green abound, along with some Irish nick-knacks from my Gram.

And since I can't share the spring sun or my table decorations with you, I thought I'd share another thing that makes me feel like spring... a funny book.

I'm also doing it a bit differently this time. First, you'll find the author's take on her newest novel. Then, Christa will be back to visit and answer some questions so you all can get to know her better.

Here's Christa...

Faith, Hope and Why I Wrote Blessed Are the Meddlers
By Christa A. Banister

What if a couple of months after that fateful meeting in the park with slobbery ol’ Brinkley by their side, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters in You’ve Got Mail ultimately decided their relationship was way better in cyberspace and eventually broke up?

For those of us who love our happy-ever-after endings that the bulk of romantic comedies reliably serve up, that’s a possibility we’re often okay with leaving unexplored.

After all, it just feels better to assume that everyone is happy—no questions asked.

But what does happen after the couple we’ve been rooting for actually gets together? It’s something I’ve always wondered about and something I finally had a chance to explore in my second novel, Blessed Are the Meddlers.

Since Sydney and Gavin are really, truly enjoying their new wedded bliss, I wasn’t shy about it. And I think seeing a couple happily adjusting to newlywed life is a refreshing change of pace, especially when marriage is portrayed in such a bad light in so many TV shows and movies. I mean, once the wedding is over and married life seems about as appealing as the requisite root canal, it’s not surprising that so many people get the wrong idea about God’s amazing gift.

At the same time, however, I didn’t want to abandon some of the singles-specific themes of the first book, which is why the always-helpful Sydney makes it her life’s mission to ensure that her friends and family are as happy as she is—whether they want her help or not (doesn’t every single know someone like that?). But as anyone who has ever played matchmaker knows, meddling in someone’s love life can have some serious complications, something Sydney learns all too quickly, especially when she transforms into love advice guru, Lucy for the Lovelorn.

While I had so much fun writing Sydney per usual, I also loved the journey that Sydney’s sister Samantha was on. Once she finally (!!!) starts dating the oh-so-dashing Eli, it doesn’t seem to make sense that Samantha wouldn’t be happy as a clam. I mean, c’mon, she’s dating the cutest, sweetest guy, and yet she’s still holding a torch for an old flame that’s about as promising as anyone’s chance of guessing all the right Powerball numbers. And while Samantha eventually made some choices that garnered a few groans from readers, I loved how she refused to settle—something I hoped would resonate deeply with anyone who’s been tempted to do just that.

Continuing the trend of the “most unlikely person” getting married from my first book, Around the World in 80 Dates, Sydney’s boss Lucinda is also embarking on an eye-opening journey of her own as she realizes what’s really important not only in a guy, but in life. Sure, she’s still got a pithy one-liner for everything, but she really is growing, a process that everyone can relate to.

And I feel that I grew a little in the writing process, too. Not only did I have the newfound confidence of an author who’s been through the process once before, but I really felt God’s inspiration during the long, long weeks and months it took to come together. When I was short on ideas and so tired I could hardly see straight, I was forced to trust Him for the strength, creativity and energy I needed to complete the work in a way I could be proud of. And relying on Him, rather than my own strength, is something I’m always having to learn—again and again. It’s so easy to rely on your own resources, your own talents, and yet God calls us to rely solely on Him. So I was thankful to be His student yet again as I penned Blessed Are the Meddlers.

Here's more about Christa...

Short Bio:
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog at

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her website at

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Date Nights

I've read and heard a ton about having date nights with your spouse, but not so much on having a date night with your kids. It's just as valuable a time investment.

We have three kiddos and while it's sometimes hard to juggle everything to make those one-on-one times happen, it's given back in spades just to see the smiles on my daughters' faces.

And before anyone says they don't have the time or money... here are some things we've done to save the pocketbook and not crash the clock.

We've spent an hour at Starbucks talking about nothing and everything. My daughters felt pampered going to a grown up place and having hot chocolate, and I got to hear their hearts and left with mine filled. (cost: $5 and an hour; benefit: good memories and full hearts)

We've gone to a local park and fed the ducks and played on the playground. (cost: $0 and as little as 30 minutes to an hour or more if you can keep up with the kiddo; benefit: lots of giggles and some good exercise)

A favorite place for my reader family is the bookstore. We've spent an hour or so browsing, sometimes me reading to them and other times them reading to me. (cost: $0 and an hour; benefit: developing a love of reading and books and learning together)

Close to our house is an amazing ceramic store where I've taken each of my girls to paint a small item of their choosing. Since my kids are crafty, this has been a blast for them and an exercise in self control for me in not "fixing" anything. They are in charge of the paint choices and technique which gives them a sense of responsibility and pride in a job well done. (cost: $5-10 and about and hour and a half; benefits: great keepsakes, sense of accomplishment for both of us and more good memories)

Every few months, either my husband or I do a special dinner date and take one child at a time out to eat. This costs a bit more and takes a little more time, but the benefits grow exponentially with deeper conversations in a relaxed atmosphere.

There's a start to an idea list for mommy/daddy and child dates. What about you all? Let's pool our ideas and find more fun things to strengthen family ties.
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