Deanne Ouest, Author

Attended a Book Launch Party on Facebook

 

A member of my writing group had a book launch party on Facebook for herself and fellow authors for a series they wrote called Not My 1st Rodeo – Donna Alward, Sarah M. Anderson, and Jenna Bayley-Burke.  It’s a great series and is available as an anthology. All three books are different but have two things in common: second chances and an online dating site: http://notmy1strodeo.com The site is live and contains the dating profiles for our intriguing heroes and heroines as well as a synopsis of each book.

This series is special to me.  While attending the RWA conference in San Antonio, Texas last summer as a very green newbie, a friend and fellow author, L.O. Tools (http://lotooleauthor.com/author/lotooleauthor/) meet some very interesting folks that were attending an agricultural conference a few days before ours started. I was a little late meeting my friend in the lobby and joined her conversation with a fellow attending the agricultural conference. He was a hoot. Some how dating as a mature person came up and a hilarious discussion ensued. More so when he revealed there were sites dedicated to ranchers etc.

Later that night we ran into Donna Alward, a talented and multi-published author who is a member of our local writers group and told her our tale.  She immediately starting spinning ideas and got together Jenna Bayley-Burke and hilarity ensued. It was amazing to see the creative process unfold. They took their ideas, made a pitch to their publishing company and a series was born.

So, this past week the anthology was launched.  For a few hours on Facebook, we meet authors, exchanged some silly posts, had some giggles and just general fun. I really enjoyed it.

I was going to close this off with, “I hope” but am changing it too, “When I have my Facebook launch party for my first book I wanted everyone to have as much fun as I did at Donna’s.”

Thank you Donna for a great time. I always learn something new.

Clearing out the clutter

I hate clutter. It sneaks up on you. Today I did some ‘spring’ cleaning in my kitchen. My kitchen corner cupboards were full of plastic margarine containers, ice cream containers, missing bottoms and missing lids, and dozens of other containers I just didn’t need. My husband saves them all. So out into recycling they went. The I reorganized the cupboards so I could actually find things without things tumbling out.

Getting into the grove of it, I tackled the food cupboards next.  I tossed a lot into the green bin.  Either expired or stale. I’m glad I checked as I’m hosting a Jamberry Nails event tomorrow so I decided to do some baking.  A trip to the grocery store ensued to replace and replenish a few items.

It amazes me that with four people in the household, almost all adults, that the exterior of my cupboards get so dirty.  It’s a pet peeve of mine. If you spill something wipe it up and make sure it didn’t drip down the cupboard door. Or better yet, if you actually spilt it on the floor, check the baseboard under the cupboards. Is it too much to ask?  So another hour to clean down the cupboards.

I moved on to the living room and did some tidying up and dusting. Then did my once a year polishing of the tables. My youngest daughter helped and it was much appreciated. A quick vacuum and wash of the floors and we were done. I even caved and moved the hated floor rug to another room.

Now I will tackle the baking. I don’t do it often enough so it’s time to indulge in two of my favourites – Nanaimo bars and brownies.  The brownies will be split as my daughter doesn’t like hers frosted. I love homemade frosting so they’ll be half and half. For the Nanaimo bars, I always use my grandmother’s recipe. It’s the best version I’ve had. I’ve included both at the end of my post.

After that I’ll make my surprise spread and finish cleaning the kitchen. It’s been a busy day.

NANAIMO BARS

Base:
¼ cup *butter  2 squares semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup white sugar   1 tsp vanilla
½ cup flaked coconut  1 beaten egg large
½ cup chopped walnuts   1 cup oatmeal (instant / quick oats)

Melt in butter and 2 square semi-sweet chocolate in sauce pan over low-meduim heat and mix in sugar. Cook a few minutes and take off burner. Add vanilla. Add beaten egg, chopped nuts and oatmeal. Spread over bottom of 9×9 pan.

Filling:
3 Tbsp soft butter.   ½ tsp vanilla
2 ½ Tbsp milk (approx)   2 cup icing sugar

Topping: Melt 2 squares semi-sweet chocolate & 1 Tbsp butter and pour over mixture. Refrigerate until cool.

*margarine doesn’t taste the same.

FUDGE BROWNIES

1 cup butter  1 cup cocoa
2 cup white sugar  4 large eggs
1½ tsp vanilla   1 1/3 cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder ½ tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

On stove melt butter and add cocoa. Blend in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Blend in flour, baking powder and salt. Add nuts. Pour into A 9*13 greased & floured pan. Cook at 375 for 25-35 minutes. Tooth pick should come out clean. Cool and frost.

Frosting: Melt 3 Tbsp butter, ¼ cup cocoa, and blend in ½ cup milk (2 tbsp at a time) and add ½ tsp vanilla and add 2 cup icing sugar – may need another 1/4 cup of icing sugar. Spread over brownies.

Beautiful Spring Morning

It’s a beautiful spring morning. The birds are twittering in the background high up in the trees, their song a mixture of varying calls surrounding me. The warmth of the sun streaks across the deck and where it touches me it takes away the chill. A gentles breeze is rustling through the pine trees. Voices of other campers break the silence.

Mornings like this are what I look forward too at the camp. A sense of serenity. Of just being in the moment. They happen to infrequently for most of the year. I struggle most days to wake in the morning but for some reason once at the campground I awake early.

I truly enjoy the solitude of my early mornings on my deck, coffee in hand, a book to read as the sun rises and burns off the chill snuggled in a blanket. It is the one thing I truly enjoy about ‘going to the trailer’. The bugs and campfires, I could give up.

It is for these precious moments alone with my thoughts before everyone awakes that I appreciate my time here. The other campers are stirring and once again I must be social as they trundle by. My solitude broken.

View from deck

Spring Cleaning – Setting Goals


 

I’m doing some spring cleaning on the writing front. I’ve looked at where I am at and where I am going and am revisiting my goals for the year. Spring to me is about renewal and that is where I am at.

If you’ve been on my blog before, the first difference is I’ve changed my header. I’m a visual person and although I liked my previous header I wasn’t in love with it and it didn’t reflect where I am at right now. I like the new look. It’s clean-looking, the colors are subtle but it’s still distinctive.

On the actual writing side of the business, I am two-thirds of the way through my first book draft. There have a lot of revisions as I’ve made some changes and corrected some missteps. For me, writing is an iterative process. The more I learn, the more I try to apply.

Translation: The first book will take the longest but it will pay-off on the second and third.

Once I get the first draft to an editor, I suspect the hardest part will occur. Rewrites, fixing plot and story arc. Accepting the critique of my work and applying it. That has been my biggest roadblock. I know once I finish the draft it has to be sent out, so I have been a creative procrastinator the last few months.

Part of my spring cleaning exercise is to mentally get over the fear, just do it and move on. So in setting my new goals, I am going to set some timelines for myself. One of those goals is to be more proactive on my blog and put up a post once a week. It may only be a paragraph or two but I am committing to writing something once a week, even if it’s just to say its been an interesting week.

So my first two goals are:
1. Finish the book one.
2. Post once a week.

See you next week.

Foray into Self-publishing


I have dipped my toes into the water and I like it.

At heart, I am doer who likes to learn things hands-on. So I decided to start small with a collection of poetry I had composed thirty years ago in my teens that I stumbled across during a fall cleaning. It was a pleasant surprise to find my compositions were well done – remember I was teen when I wrote them. After pondering for a bit, I figured why not. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

It gave me the opportunity to learn the basics of Scrivener. From setting up my template to formatting and then exporting to epub format. The next step was registering for the dreaded ISBN. It wasn’t as difficult as I had thought and the staff at Library and Archives Canada were very helpful. Then I had to compose a unique but relevant title and finally, design a book cover (see below) to compliment the collection.

After a few missteps, I had created an epub file that worked. In the end, this was the easy part. The hard part was actually publishing what I had created – putting it out in the public domain.

The next step was where to publish it. There are many options depending on what you want. For the newbies, me being one of them it can be a bit overwhelming. As well, you receive a lot of advice and feedback from others that can compound the conundrum. A good friend and fellow writer mentioned Draft2Digital, which I had not heard of. I checked out D2D’s website and was intrigued. Creating an account gave me an opportunity to look around some more.

Wow, what a great experience it was. The site is fresh, clean looking and has user-friendly instructions. The whole process was quite easy. I owe my friend a bottle of wine for that genius. D2D even gave me the option of downloading a mobi file. This worked out great, as I was able to upload it to Amazon.

My first experience in self-publishing went well. It makes me much more confident that when I go to publish my first novella I will have worked out most the kinks.

To close, a great big thanks to all the wonderful ladies in my local association who constantly share their expertise and experience with the group at large. Those tidbits and tips helped a lot.

 


Introspections-2sig

Amazon.caAmazon.com / Kobo / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Scribd / Tolino

Plotter, Pantser or Snowflake


It has been an interesting journey so far. I tried to be a plotter and outline everything. I really did. I would get so far and then feel myself being drained and losing interest. Then I tried to just let it all go and be a pantser but then I drifted and was all over the place. I was getting frustrated trying to find my groove. Where did I fit?

Then I came across this great book “How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method” by Randy Ingermanson. Wow!  I finally found a process that spoke to me. I really enjoyed this book. I loved how he explained the process by telling it in a story. Goldilocks, the bears, a wolf and a pig. It sounds hokey but for me it worked and kept me engaged. I could see the process in my mind as the book progressed.

I found it a nice balance between plotting and being a pantser. The interesting part for me is that he used a snowflake fractal as an example of how the process works. The best non-mathematical explanation I have come up with for explaining a fractal is simply “repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing loop”. You can find out more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal

This intrigued me as I stumbled across fractals several years ago in a display of yearly calendars. I bought the calendar because I really loved the pictures and have been fascinated by fractals ever since. The pictures below are all different representations of fractals. I just find them really interesting to look at.

My interpretation of the method in the book is similar to the repeating process. Building on what you already have and expanding it as you move forward. It’s what is working for me – at least for now.  As the pictures depict, the process can create some incredible visuals, I hope for the same results in my writing.


fractal_colour_fern2images1imagesth

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What am I thankful for? A tribute to my father

 


 

Reflecting on what I am thankful for many things come to mind. One, is that my family is heathy when many are not. I’m also thankful to have wonderful memories of thanksgiving past that were spent with my parents who are no longer with us. My mother was one of my best friends and I miss her every day but my father was something a little extra special. I am truly thankful for having the father that I had. Dad found joy in life and through that taught us all something. From a young boy, dad’s life had not been easy and sometimes it had been downright difficult but he always persevered and somehow, someway always found something to be happy about.

My father didn’t preach to us and he didn’t lecture us, he always showed us the kind of person you should be. Ironic for someone who now is embarking on a career as a writer, where show, not tell is so important. So this thanksgiving I reflect on his last few years and what he showed to everyone whose life he touched.

My father never got to experience his last thanksgiving as he was too heavily medicated and at the end stage of ALS. I will always remember that thanksgiving as we sat by his bed in vigil. I recall dropping into my in-laws that year to have turkey – we didn’t feel particularly thankful that year watching and waiting as my father wasted away, his only option to end his suffering. It was 13 long days and nights. He died the Friday after thanksgiving – it’s been five years since he left us.

Having watched what my father endured with grace and as much dignity as was humanly possible given his condition, I will always be thankful for my health. My aches and pains are but a drop in the ocean of pain and discomfort he suffered over several years as his body failed him in so many ways while leaving his intelligence and awareness intact until almost the end when medication made it so. The amazing thing was during all of this, he more often than not, had a smile on his face, trying to live each day to his fullest ability no matter his increasing limitations. Dad was extremely fortunate as he had an incredible group of friends that assisted him in his many adventures those last few years. They recall being the fortunate ones to have known him which is a true testament to the person he was.

Dad’s friends would help him into his motorized wheelchair and load him into the old decrepit wheelchair van he had purchased and off they would go, rambling down country roads all across this province. Dad was strapped into his chair bumping around in the back, stopping along the way when they took a fancy. How he survived all the bouncing around, I will never know, but for him, it was a means to an end. Dad’s friends rallied around him and dad was dependent upon them for everything on these journeys, as at this point he had lost all use of his arms and legs, and most of his speech. The headed out on a trip a week, who ever was available going along for the ride. Dad took his last trip in late August 2009, his body failing him to the point that he could no longer be moved out of his bed.

During all of this, instead of drawing from the strength of those around him, dad by his very demeanour, courage and stubbornness, gave us all the strength to meet each day with him and for that I will be eternally grateful and thankful. My dad was an inspiration to us and those who knew him and all who met him during those last few years. I can only hope that if I should ever become as ill as he, I will be able to do so with the courage and dignity he did.

Given his circumstances my dad could have been a bitter and miserable person but he wasn’t. Even as his condition worsened, dad still managed to bring happiness to those around him. Dad always made sure there were treats in his room for the nursing and care staff as a thank you. Dad always the jokester, always tried to make them laugh. What dad gave, he received back tenfold, as he was always sincere in his giving and expected nothing in return. Dad wasn’t perfect, he did have his black moments, who wouldn’t, but those were out numbered by all the little joys he found and shared.

I am eternally thankful to have had the privilege of having such an incredible person as my father, who through his actions to the very end, showed me that the only obstacle in your way is yourself and that there are no limits until your body fails you – only those you put on yourself. That happiness comes from within and no matter what life throws at you, you can decide to be miserable and wallow in self-pity or embrace each day and make It the best you can no matter the circumstance. This is what he showed to everyone he met. Through it all, a smile could always be found, a twinkle in his eye, always reaching for that bit of happiness. Even as he physically weakened and changed, the smile and twinkle remained as brilliant as ever.

I am thankful for having had such an amazing man as my father. Always in my heart and mind.

Fall is in the air

The hours of daylight are getting shorter and the wind is getting brisker. Even with the sun shining brightly the wind whips through you. It is time to hunker down and start hitting the keys.

It’s been a busy end to summer. School is back in, extracurricular activities for the kids are starting and scheduling is becoming an art form. It’s going to be a very busy year.

And now, finding the time to write and to relax is a nocturnal activity in itself. I’ve revisited the story I’ve been fretting away at these last months. It’s not going into the scrap heap but it’s going to get a major renovation.

I learned a lot this summer. Attending the RWA conference was a boon. Between sessions I attend and audio recordings I’ve listened to since, I’ve realized that there is much more to do.

One of the more informative sessions I attended was on world building. I took a lot away from this session. Listening to the panel discuss where they’ve been and what they would do the next time was extremely helpful. It was encouraging to learn the missteps they’ve made even with all their experience – there is hope for me. Whether it was discussing a bold new world based on fantasy or one based in a contemporary setting, there were still many things to consider.

For those built on fantasy, the rules you create for your world are the rules that restrained the progression of your story. They dictate what can and cannot happen and if you’re doing a series they will come back to haunt you.

For contemporary settings they can limit the number and way in which the characters interact and your ability to introduce new ones in a series. For example, an island only has so much room and limits ways for people to be drawn to that particular place.

The fantasy world whether it be earth-bound or in the stars, I took away, was easier if it was outlined. The panel talked about having a reference guide to their world where they logged the rules for ease of reference. That it was much easier to keep running notes as the story developed then having to go back at the end and pull the information out. They related that often the first few chapters were redone, to allow for more flexibility when a series was being contemplated. They were also quick to point out that fans remember everything, so you better get it right.

Which brings me back to my story. As I said I’m not scrapping it, I still hunger to write it, but I now know that I have to put a bit more effort into fleshing out my world and tagging those things that will limit where the story can go from its end if I want a series.

So back to the drawing board, to fill in those nooks and crannies. Make some decisions on where else I might want to go before my travel itinerary is unchangeable and my course is set.

It’s time to build my world. May you find your HEA between the pages.

Learning to blog

What to write? That is the perplexing question. Random thoughts, gentle musings, or well thought out prose. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I’m still trying to find my voice. What to share. What not to share? When is it TMI?  How much of myself do I want to reveal? Thoughts, feelings, opinions, observations? I’m still pondering. . .

Social Media and Housework

image

I’m slowing getting a handle on the social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogging and webpages. Trying to schedule it in amongst the available hours to write when working full-time and other family obligations isn’t easy. I’m making progress though. After many years of waffling, I finally have someone who comes to the house once a week and takes care of those mundane household chores that I dread and avoid as long as I can till it has to be done or else. It has left me with some time I wouldn’t otherwise have.

She is a good friend and I consider her a domestic goddess. She enjoys cleaning and finds it stress reducing. I let her do her thing. My house has never been cleaner. The fridge gets cleaned out and wiped down once a week, all the linens get done, the oven gets cleaned, and the dusting is under control. The kitchen and bathrooms have never been cleaner. My linen closet is neat and tidy and everything fits in – I have never accomplished that. I know it is in the way she folds things but I just don’t have patience.

I’m no longer stressed out and overwhelmed by the household chores when I get home. It may seem like a small thing but to me, it’s a major relief. Thank you to my domestic goddess for lightening my load and giving me the time to do things that reduce my stress.

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