How to Make Sweet Easter Treats

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Hey gang!
I’ve decided to start sharing some of my artistic hobbies with you: chocolate lollipop making, flower arranging, and perhaps even patio table-decorating if we ever get rid of this snow!

These are the arts and crafts I do while I’m plotting my next novel or poem. I like to keep my mind busy with another art form while I’m ironing out the writing project I’m working on, or when I just need to do something different with my creativity.

These easter lollipops are the latest batch of lollipops I’ve made with my nine-year-old daughter. We don’t like to use the words, ‘I’m bored’ around here, but that means coming up with creative activities to suggest to your children, or to do with them.  If you always have some chocolate compound (also called melts), molds and lollipop sticks on hand, you’re set for a fun (though rather messy!) afternoon with your children aged 7 and up. They may even forget about their iPhones and iPads for a while!

It can be an expensive hobby to start up just because you’ll probably want to get molds for every holiday – when we started we got ones for my daughter’s birthday, Christmas, and Easter. The molds are only $3 each, and the compound that melts in the microwave is $5 at Goldas Kitchen (where I love to order all my supplies as they always arrive the next day or in 2 days at the latest). You can probably find it cheaper somewhere like Bulk Barn. The lollipop sticks are $7 for 150, but again you can maybe find them cheaper at Walmart or a party store.

My daughter has told me she’d much rather make chocolate lollipops with us on a weekend afternoon than go to a movie – which these days runs at $50 for a family of four, if you want drinks and popcorn too. The best part is that I can spend $50 on supplies and we get to make the lollipops several times a season (and the molds are reusable forever, just don’t put them in the dishwasher!)

We use paintbrushes to fill in the fine details before filling the molds up with melted chocolate. We had to experiment with bowls and microwave time before being able to make really complicated and detailed molds. Some bowl types get really hot and then burn the chocolate. We now put in 1/4 cup of chocolate melts, put it in the micro for 35 seconds, stir it, then put it in for another 35 seconds, stir again until smooth, and place as much is needed in mold. Now that we’ve figured out the process (we each like to have our own mold to work with, a paintbrush or two of our own, and a section of the counter where we can ‘share’ a bowl of chocolate) the sky’s the limit, and we even make some of these without lollipop sticks to place as decorations on cakes.

We love giving the treats away as gifts. We use small plastic bags, tied with dollar-store ribbon. It feels good to give someone we love a chocolate treat and see their face light up.

Please ask any questions below – I’m happy to try to answer them.

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One Strangely, Incredibly Good Tour!

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STRANGELY, INCREDIBLY GOOD comes out in ebook June 5th, and I’m going on tour in May. Fictionella is setting up an online blog tour for me -I’ll be visiting 25 blogs.

This Is So Exciting!

What do you want me to talk about? Please discuss below, or send me a note via my Facebook Page. I’ll make sure those questions get answered during my blog tour. I’ll also be re-blogging some of the best interviews here.

Another question: I haven’t decided if I should create an event page for the digital launch of the book on June 5, (so many people hate those event invites!) or just create one post, such as, THE DAY IS HERE! ;) and we can all chat on that on the main page of the Facebook Author Page that day. Ideas?

Thanks again for your support and loyalty. You rock.

Can’t wait for you to meet Cat, Eugene, and Gram!

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Love,
Heather

 

The Writing Process Blog Hop

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Thanks very much to Doreen Pendgracs for inviting me to participate in this fun blog hop about the writing process. I met Doreen through PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) many years ago, and she has been a great supporter of all my writing projects ever since. Thanks Doreen!

Doreen Pendgracs

Doreen’s intent is to educate, entertain and inspire writers and anyone interested in creative and cultural endeavours.If you’re a chocolate lover and love to travel, you will enjoy Doreen’s chocolate travel blog at http://diversionswithdoreen.com/. If you’re interested in her latest book, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, visit  http://chocolatour.net/ for updates about the book, and chocolate tours, tastings and events. In addition to non-fiction books, Doreen also writes magazine, newspaper, and online articles and blog posts about travel, lifestyle, chocolate, volunteerism, and other topics for various publications. You can read some of her published articles on the “Samples” page of her static website at http://www.wizardofwords.net.

Doreen’s previous title, Before You Say Yes … A Guide to the Pleasures & Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards was released by Dundurn Press in 2010 and has been renowned as the “volunteer’s bible” as it was written to serve as the ultimate guide for anyone sitting on a board of directors in the non-profit sector. In addition to books and periodical assignments, Doreen has also done writing/editing projects for various corporate clients, and conducted writing and public speaking workshops for numerous writing and community groups. As a Distinguished Toastmaster, Doreen’s speaking abilities have dazzled audiences on Celebrity Cruise Lines and in other forums.
Doreen loves making contact with readers and fellow writers and hopes you will enjoy perusing her wide variety of posts. Drop by her Twitter and don’t forget to check out her Chocolatour website.

Okay, now it’s my turn:
Author Heather Grace Stewart

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1) What am I working on?

I am excited to say that I’m currently “in final edits” on my adult fiction/women’s fiction novel, Strangely, Incredibly Good, with my publisher Morning Rain Publishing. Gosh, I love being able to say that! I got the best Christmas gift ever when they sent me a publishing contract for Strangely, Incredibly Good on December 23rd, 2013! I’m also thrilled that we haven’t revised much from my original manuscript. We’re just looking to clean it up and make it shine now. It is due to be launched on June 5, 2014.

When I’m not working on edits for that book, I’m coming up with the plot for my next book. I can’t say much about that. You’ll just have to wait. :D

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

 I hope that people will say it has more humour than most other women’s fiction novels. I also hope they find it’s more of an escape. It’s about a woman who starts an exercise routine and discovers a genie in her Wii machine! It’s definitely fanciful, but that’s what I set out to do. I wanted it to be based in modern reality, but allow for the characters to escape that reality – and take the reader along with them on that fanciful journey. It’s more adventure packed than some other books that are considered women’s fiction, I think, but then, I didn’t write it specifically for women  – I wrote it for myself, and my friends and family, with hopes that many people from diverse backgrounds, men and women, would pick it up and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

3) Why do I write what I do?


I write to entertain myself, first and foremost. It’s pure entertainment for me. When I’m writing a longer work of fiction like this, I’ve noticed the TV remains off for several weeks at a time, or, only one or two shows pull me in a couple times a week (I do need to watch some times to recharge my batteries after writing all day)!

The topics I choose to write about – in my poetry and in fiction like Strangely, Incredibly Good - are all themes I feel need more discourse in our society. I want to get people thinking and talking about these themes. Sometimes, I just want to poke fun of our society and get us all laughing at ourselves. Other times, I’m more direct, and I’m trying to incite change. This novel was really meant as an escape for the reader, and as a form of entertainment, but there are some themes and sub-themes in there I hope get dissected to pieces in Book Clubs across Canada and beyond. As long as you have some wine in hand and don’t take my book too seriously! The last thing I want is to cause cat fights at Book Clubs!

Side note: My main character’s name is Cat. This could get interesting. We could actually call debates over that character – debates over her actions and what they mean – Cat Fights.

See? I’m having waaaaay too much fun with this book. I may never watch The Bachelor again!

4) How does your writing process work?

The only hard and fast rule I have is to write something every day. If I’ve got a lot of marketing to do, or maybe I’m prepping a writing workshop like the one I just did at Queen’s University, I still set aside half an hour every day to write creatively. I don’t always like what I wrote, but I save it in a file, and work on it the next day, and the day after that.

When I was working on this novel, I got to my desk every morning at 7:30 a.m. and wrote until noon. That’s a little trick I learned when I read that Hemingway did that. Then he went fishing every day at noon. I choose to have lunch, Tweet, check Facebook, do yoga, take a walk, read, or do laundry! Then I get back to other work tasks.

The first week or so of writing Strangely, Incredibly Good, I just wrote. I didn’t edit at all. I tried to not even edit my sentences as I put them down, let alone re-read what I wrote and edit that paragraph or paragraphs. I just wrote. I had an idea, and I saw the beginning, so I wrote that. And then I kept going.

When I got to about 5,000 words, I took a look at what I had, and started plotting. I had cue cards, and a filing system, and filed items on plot, main characters, sub characters, etc. I plotted out how the story was going to end, but I did so in a vague way. My story wasn’t solidified yet. I still had to write and find out what was going to happen.

So, I got back to writing, and worked at a slow but steady pace. Some days I put down 1,000 words; other days, more like 1500. I never wrote beyond that because I never wanted my writing to sound tired.

Once I was finished my book, I spent weeks going over it and massaging it for language, plot development, and character development. Then I wrote up my query letter and started looking for a publisher. This is the first time I’ve found a publisher for my work this quickly. I sent my letters out in early November, and received this request for publication just before Christmas. It doesn’t usually happen like that, trust me. But it does feel meant to be.

This is one experience where I can say I’ve definitely enjoyed the journey, the writing, as much as the destination of getting published.

PLEASE visit the following three writers, who will be posting their answers to these questions next week, Monday, March 31, 2014. Not only are they talented writers, they have become dear friends. I feel blessed that they have become part of my life.

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Joseph Hesch is a writer and poet who lives near Albany, New York. Many of his poems and stories are inspired by the spirit and history his 350-year-old hometown. But often, they capture the observations and feelings of a man who began to create verse and stories in middle age. His work has been published by numerous U.S. literary journals, as well as in anthologies such as Petrichor Rising, a worldwide collaboration with a small group of friends brought together on Twitter. Joe posts many poems and in-progress short stories on his blog, A Thing for Words A founding staff member with the dVerse Poets Pub community, and now a contributor to the Bardo Group, Joe has been named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.”

Please drop by his Twitter timeline and his Facebook page.

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Author Elisa Lorello was born and raised on Long Island, the youngest of seven children. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and eventually launched a career teaching rhetoric and composition. Elisa spent six years in North Carolina, where she split her time between teaching writing to university students and publishing her own work. She has since returned home to the Northeast.

Elisa is the author of Kindle bestselling novels Faking It and Ordinary World, Why I Love Singlehood (co-authored with Sarah Girrell), and Adulation. Faking It, translated in German as Vorgetäuscht, also spent three consecutive weeks at #1 on the German Kindle Bestseller List.

When not writing, Elisa is an unapologetic Duran Duran fan, Pop-Tart enthusiast, walker, and coffee shop patron, and she can sing two-part harmony.

After you visit her awesome website, please visit her on Twitter and drop by her  Facebook Page.

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Author Arianna Merritt, M.Ed, is a Canadian Psychotherapist (registration in progress), Author of ‘Stand Tall & Speak from the Heart: How to Find Your Way’ and the Founder of
Arianna’s Random Thoughts. The focus of her work is centred around issues of expressive writing, self-worth, and perseverance. Arianna empowers individuals to reach their full potential through finding their voices and sharing their stories. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

The Weight Loss Struggle (You Can Help Me With SIG!)

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The main character in my upcoming novel, Strangely, Incredibly Good, struggles with her weight. This is a serious issue and I take it seriously in the book, but the book is also humorous, and I hope you’ll laugh over the situations the main character gets herself into as she struggles to exercise, lose pounds and feel better about herself.

I’m not sure many people know this except my family, but maintaining my weight has never been easy, and I struggled with it in my 20′s. At one point, in my late 20′s, I was 60 pounds overweight, so I know a little about what that feels like, emotionally.

For my novel, I researched what it might feel like to be even more overweight by reading a lot on the topic, surfing discussion forums, and speaking with different women. It was eye-opening for me.

One of the complaints my character  ‘Cat’ has is believing in weight loss programs and products or trends that are only in the business to make money, and don’t actually work. There’s a slimming spray out on the market right now that I thought sounded fantastic, until I read this fact:  “Energy is measured in calories. X Spray contains two calories per dose. That is not enough energy to stop the stomach from grumbling with hunger.”

For years, I was drinking Slim Fast for breakfast and lunch but it never filled me up. I ended up snacking more at the end of the day.

It took me years to stop being conned by all these ‘get thin fast’ techniques and to finally just discipline myself to eat healthier food, smaller portions, and cut out a lot of my sugar intake. I still struggle to eat right every day.

Please share some of your dieting ‘flops,’ if you will, what you learned, and if you’ve found success at keeping a healthy lifestyle, how did you do that? Let’s encourage each other!

The book doesn’t come out until June, and while it is written, it’s never completely finished until we hit ‘publish.’ I know it isn’t easy to discuss this issue, but I’d appreciate any comments you can make, if you feel you can. Your comments may provide me with even more insight to make this character’s struggle a realistic one.

Thanks!
HeatherVeggie Diet

“I hate you, fashion industry, with your tiny t-shirts that would only fit small, starving boys.”

~Cat Glamour  in Strangely, Incredibly Good

What I’m Up To When I’m Not Tweeting/on Facebook

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-In edits this month and next for my novel Strangely, Incredibly Good (more news on that from my new publisher next week!)

-Negotiating sale of poem ‘The Day You Looked Me In The Eyes’ (Three Spaces) to Oxford U. Press! It will be used for a teacher’s resource guide to teach their UK syllabus; anticipated sales are 500 over 3 years. I’ve worked with Oxford University Press a few times and am so impressed with them.

-Preparing to read from The Groovy Granny and teach Haiku and freestyle poetry to Gr. 3′s at a local school (early February 2014)

-Preparing to speak at Queen’s Media and Journalism Conference March 8-9 2014 – thrilled to be invited back!

-Laundry, laundry, laundry (does it clone itself when I’m not looking?)
-My title is a bit of a joke – I do love Tweeting and Facebook, but in my free time I also love Image
just being with my family, scrapbooking, and doing yoga (I’m writing those last two on purpose so I actually commit some time to them soon!)

Can’t wait to share more about my upcoming novel with all of you with a post from my new publisher – NEXT WEEK! :)

Have a great start to 2014, everyone. Make it count.
Heather

2013 in Review (THANK YOU READERS for All Your Blog Visits!)

I’m thrilled to learn that my blog had 21,000 views this year, because I have to admit, I haven’t been focusing my time on creating many blog posts or links to my blog. I’ve been focusing my time on WRITING, and then when I have free time, I’ve created Facebook page posts, because so many of you have joined me there. Thanks again!

I haven’t posted a lot to the blog this year because I’ve been occupied writing my novel. So, thanks for your patience, regular blog readers, and I promise you’ll be rewarded for it in 2014!

All the best for 2014!

xox Heather

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

No One Will Retweet This.

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My brother in law passed away last week from a rare, fast-growing form of cancer. I mourned, and I wrote sad poetry, and I supported my husband who flew to BC to support his family, and I tried to hold myself together for our 8-year-old.

And then I just said screw it, and spent an entire day on Twitter.

Now, because I want my BIL to look down on me and go, ‘Yah, you really seized the day!’ in a proud and not sarcastic manner, let me elaborate. I spent the day on Twitter as an experiment.

I want to learn to use this amazing tool to reach out in a world that, more and more, is turning inward. I mean, the Oxford word of the year is Selfie. What does that say about us? We have more resources for connecting with others than ever before, but lately, it feels like we are more disconnected from one another than ever before. It’s easy to ignore a cell phone call, a text, a tweet, a FB post. Gone are the days when the phone rang loudly and we ran to grab it, then chatted for an hour with our best friend.

Life is fragile, as the death of two dear friends in January and now the death of my BIL have taught me. I want to meet people with like minds, and like perspectives on the world. I also want to meet my opposites. That’s the stuff that makes this fragile life interesting.

So, when I returned to tweeting more regularly after, quite honestly, having had my Facebook feed and blog just spurt out poetry and photography links for many years, I was pleased when I gained over 40 followers in a day.

The fact that one follower kept tweeting #MentionSomeoneBeautiful to me along with 1,000 other women he’d mentioned on his feed is besides the point. I also tried to disregard that one of my new followers calls himself a jackass, eats fire, and drinks milk through a tube that he’d stuck up his throat and out his nose. Hey. We all have our quirks!

I came away with quite a few observations from this experiment. If they can help even one new Tweeter or long-time frustrated Tweeter, I’ll not have wasted an entire day on Twitter, so I must share them.

Go for the Gentle Clap; Be Surprised By the Standing Ovation. Don’t expect a retweet, and above all don’t try to make it happen. Do not try to be funny or clever. Just be yourself and have fun on there. Besides, few of us give or receive Retweets anymore. That’s so 2008. People click one button, to Favorite. Faster. Easier. More like a gentle clap, rather than a standing ovation.

Find Your Own Voice. Some people do retweet, all the time. These are accounts that retweet lots of interesting, or maybe not so interesting, material, or anything a celebrity says, but they don’t have much to say themselves. I’d suggest that if you decide to Tweet, have something to teach people or to entertain your followers, or to enliven or enrich their lives every day. Or, at the very least have a dirty joke or two up your sleeve. Sex gets retweets, and often, mentions, which means you strike up conversations with other people, and there are lots of laughs. I can’t go there because I’m a respected professional writer, or I’m trying to be, anyway, but check out my character @BadAssGrandma  :)

Find Your Time to Tweet. The people who follow you all have schedules and routines they follow. Figure out what those are, so that your tweet gets the most exposure. If you tweet at 5:03 a.m., you may get some writers, or someone’s cat sleeping on the keyboard. Try to tweet at the same time every day, or, every few hours. Find the hour that works for you but make it during those hours when people are looking for something to do other than what they’re supposed to be doing (work hours, 9-5, is a good start).

Have Fun. Don’t take yourself or Twitter too seriously. In 10 years there will be some other social network type invention – probably involving Holograms and dancing penguins and blinking our Favorites with our eyes. We’ll all try to be Super Stars at that again, while our Twitter feeds lie dormant, but still displaying those horrid Tweets of Twitter Past.

Don’t Forget Your Ruby Slippers. Spend the bulk of your time trying to be the Super Star in your real life, giving to the people who love you and have your back. I’m not saying you can’t make genuine online friends on Twitter. I’m saying don’t forget about the people who love you back home. Twitter is Oz. Always bring your ruby slippers when you log on so you can get back home.

If you’re Tweeting to make money, please disregard these observations. I just tweet for fun, and for the applause, applause, applause. Excuse me, I have the urge to go take a Selfie.

Still have to work on my sarcasm…never been good at it. Another reason I’ll never be a Super Star on Twitter!

Heather ;-)

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Sure, I’ll Write Another 1,000 Words…

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Right after I arrange my outdoor office space, take photos of how great it looks, and then play with the paint settings on my camera; then blog, Tweet and Tumblr the photo. Right after that, promise! ;-)

Seriously, I’m half way there, and can’t wait to publish the “Working Title” and an excerpt after my first big edit. That will hopefully be late December. I know it’s a wait, but I hope you’ll feel it’s worth the wait. I’m going to submit to many, many publishers once it’s completed, but will also consider self-publishing ~ just going with the flow.

Thanks for standing by, and for your Likes and Shares of all I write. It keeps me writing…less decorating, more writing! Thanks.

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