Review: Dark in Death by J. D. Robb

Dark in Death (In Death, #46)Dark in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always enjoy J. D. Robb’s futuristic mysteries.

I love the heart and passion underlying Eve Dallas’s tough exterior, and the authentic portrayal of the healing journey of a woman who (although it isn’t labeled as such) carries Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from early trauma.

Kudos to J D Robb, who has maintained 5-star worthy writing through 46 novels and several novellas following one character. Many series detectives don’t grow during their series, but Robb has maintained personal growth in both for both her detective heroine, Eve Dallas, and the impossibly wealthy but very sexy love of her life, Roarke.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It’s not my favorite of her In Death series. It didn’t resonate with me as deeply in an emotional sense as some of the others in the series, perhaps because there wasn’t as much evolution in Eve’s healing journey, and that’s an aspect of the books that evokes strong emotion in me as a reader.

Dark in Death is definitely a 5-star book and I’ll inevitably go back and read it again, as I have all her other books..

J D, please keep the In Death series coming.

View all my reviews

Fearless Creativity: Thank you, Eric Maisel!

I found this Eric Maisel video last night, and boy did I need it!

Thanks to Creativity Coach Eric Maisel, for this wonderful video on HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY. 

After years of experiencing an easy flow of creative ideas from my mind to my fingers and thus into my book’s Scrivener file, I’ve sunk into a mode where I want to write, but just when the writing starts to flow, I find myself avoiding writing. I started my current novel–writing in a new area, in what seems to be evolving into a genre called boomer-lit, focusing on characters born during the post-WW II Baby Boom generation. These characters are between fifty and seventy now, moving into the final phase of their lives as seniors, elders, parents of children and grandchildren, and–occasionally–living parents of these Baby Boom characters.

I was excited by the idea of writing this book. The span of my characters’ lives gave me a wealth of possible skills, accomplishments, and emotional baggage. And, WOW, and complexity of the family trees and their networks of friends, enemies, and colleagues was dizzying.

I started at the beginning of NaNoWriMo, last November 1, almost 3 months ago. It started with a bang, writing sometimes up to a couple of thousand words a day, but progress soon slowed. It seemed  I would get a couple of good writing days, then the third day, get up almost dreading the computer.

I had 30,000 words written by the end of November when I’d targeted 50,000. During December and January my progress slowed amost to a crawl. I was actively sabotaging my writing, grasping for anything to avoid writing. I did laundry, washed my dishes, checking my email, and had the tidiest house I’ve ever achieved. I didn’t know why I was sabotaging myself, but I was definitely doing a tremendous job of it.

Then, a few weeks ago, I shared my frustration with a writer friend, who told me she was having a similar problem, and had decided to deal with it by committing open her book’s computer file every day, six days a week. She called this process OTFing (open the file-ing). She gave herself a star on her calendar every day she opened the file, whether she wrote a little or a lot. It turned out she usually did do some writing, and opening the file and looking at where she left off kept her in touch with the story, and her book kept moving along.

I adopted her strategy about 3 weeks ago and my novel began to move again. But it’s been moving painfully S L O W L Y

I would OTF every day, but often not until the evening and if I did write, it was often only a few lines. Still, my story was keeping fresh in my mind, although some days I didn’t even know if I liked the story anymore.

I needed help.

So I went online to YouTube and typed in Eric Maisel’s name, looking for this famous creativity coach’s wisdom to solve my problem. Years ago an Eric Maisel book called The Van Gogh Blues had helped me understand the relationship between depression and creativity.

Almost immediately, my YouTube search revealed a 1-hour Eric Maisel video titled HOW TO CREATE FEARLESSLY, in which Dr. Eric Maisel would outline 10 strategies for fearless creating.

It sounded like a perfect fit. After all, I was a writer whose creativity was crippled by fear produced by my supercharged inner critic.

The video turned out to be exactly what I needed. Eric Maisel outlined his ten strategies, explaining them clearly as he went. Listening to Maisel, I learned WHY I so often dreaded writing, while also loving it.

The strategies are

  1. Honor the creative process
  2. Get really easy with mistakes and messes
  3. Create in the middle of things
  4. Crack through everyday resistance
  5. Get a grip on your mind
  6. Get to my own work first thing each day
  7. Expect risks to feel risky (choices provoke anxiety for the human brain, and creative work is filled with choices)
  8. Err on the side of completing projects
  9. Let meaning trump mood
  10. Get smart about the marketplace

Creativity is Hard

Writing, painting, dancing. Every creative process involves making constant choices. What if it’s the wrong choice? The human brain, designed to keep primitive mankind alive, is stressed by choices. For the human mind, every choice is dealt with as if it were a matter of life and death.

Thanks to my curiosity about the human brain, and a lot of research into how it works, I really got it when Maisel described the fear engendered by constantly having to make choices. He was talking about me.

Yes, I was avoiding my book because I had to choose how my characters would respond to situations that threatened, if not their life, their happiness, and their future. I was writing a book complicated in different ways than my previous novels. My inner critic responded this complexity by running wild, sabotaging me by invoking and magnifying every fear my creative self could dream up.   

My creativity, that magical force I’d fallen in love with while playing my grandmother’s piano at the age of seven, imagining the playmate across the street running home in the rain as I created amateur, and very loud, music. That creative spark had blossomed for me for forty books, thirty-five of which had been published. Now it was sabotaging me, but finally, I understood why. 

Last night after watching the video, I honored my creative process (Strategy 1), signed up for Eric Maisel’s Your Best Mind Ever course on Maisel’s website, and went to sleep saying, “I wonder what will happen in my next scene?” 

I woke up having had hardly any sleep, but I wasn’t about to wimp out on Maisel’s expert advice without trying. No matter what, I would get to my own creative work right away (Strategy 6).

I opened my file, started writing, made myself a coffee to keep me going, went back and wrote more. The scene that I’d been skirting around for days suddenly started moving on its own, creating a very tricky situation for my characters!

I told myself I would spend just an hour with that file. What happened in reality? I started at 9 am and didn’t stop until 3 pm.

Word count achieved: 2,000 words, much of it straight out of my subconscious in answer to the question I asked myself before going to sleep.

If anything in my experience resonates with you, check out the video above, and if you want more, check out Maisel’s course on developuing Your Best Mind Ever.

Thank you, Eric Maisel!

The Story of Arthur Truluv – Review

The Story of Arthur TruluvThe Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend suggested this book to me when I told her I was searching for novels featuring older heroes and heroines. I’m so glad she did because The Story of Arthur Truluv is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read.

This is the story of three people who, together, form a loving family: Arthur Truluv, the widow across the street, and an eighteen-year-old girl on the cusp of womanhood. Each of the three is alone and grieving a loss – a spouse lost after decades together, a long-ago dream of love, and the loss of a mother in infancy.

It’s lunchtime, and as always, Arthur visits with her at her grave while he eats, then he wanders among the tombstones imagining what the occupants would tell him if they could speak.

Arthur, who would probably call himself a simple man. The way in which he becomes a catalyst for transformation shows him as self-effacing, sometimes awkward, and often wise, gentle, and loving.

This is a heartfelt book about love, loss, friendship, rebirth, and deep truths – and through it all, the wisdom of a man called Truluv.

The worldbuilding is beautiful, the characters real, the writing gently powerful.

Vanessa.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Video Course: Playing with Time – use pacing to keep readers wanting more

I’m thrilled to announce the release of my new multimedia course on pacing for fiction writers: Playing with Time: use pacing to keep your readers wanting more. 

I’ve had the course open for test readers for a while, and the response is very positive. I’d love it if you’d check out the free introductory videos and let me know what you think.

I hope you’ll check out the free introductory lessons to the course. If you like what you see and want to register, take advantage of my 50% discount coupon by clicking on the link.

Vanessa

Course Contents

In this course, you’ll discover how to use pacing techniques to build tension, emphasize important story events, and keep your readers wanting MORE.

SECTION 1
In Section 1 we’ll explore story pacing with its three different timing clocks, and a formula that can help you control the relationship between time, speed, viewpoint depth, and emotional intensity.

  • Introduction – the Confusion of Pacing
  • The 3 Clocks of Storytelling
  • The Storyteller’s Pacing Formula

SECTION 2
In Section 2 we’ll look at the way a reader’s perception of time fluctuates with the level of excitement, and study techniques you can use to fine-tune pacing and control your readers’ level of excitement.

  • Scenes, Sequels, and Pacing
  • Reader’s Perception of Time and Sequels
  • Pacing Techniques
  • Pacing, Emotional Intensity, and Viewpoint

SECTION 3
In Section 3 we’ll study the effect different writing modes have on pacing, and how you can control pacing using these modes.

  • How to Control Pacing with Fiction Delivery Modes: Dramatic Summary, Dramatic Action, Dialogue, Narration, Description, and Exposition. (Dramatic )

SECTION 4
In Section 4 we’ll explore the structure of Scenes and Sequels more deeply, examining the relationship between Fiction Delivery Modes and Scene and Sequel.

  • Scene and Sequel: the Building Blocks of Fiction
  • Scene and Sequel meets Fiction Delivery Modes
  • Practice Exercise: Analyzing Pacing using Fiction Delivery Modes

I designed this course for writers who want to improve their control over pacing to keep readers wanting more.  The only requirement for enrolment is a willingness to learn.

I’d love to hear feedback on the course.

Have a great day, and may the muse be with you.

Vanessa

IDEAS, From Spark to Fiction – WATCH THE SERIES

Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed. At other times, the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect. Many stories grow out of my own experiences, interviews with interesting people I meet exploring, or comment someone makes that stirs my imagination.

To answer the question, I’ve decided to do a series of videos on the creative sparks that have led to different books I’ve written.

Here’s the playlist. I’ll add to it as I post more videos. If you want to be notified when the playlist is updated, signup for my Storyteller Academy newsletter

WILD PASSAGE – IDEAS, from Spark to Fiction

TAKING CHANCES- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

CATALINA’S LOVER- IDEAS, FROM SPARK TO FICTION

If you enjoyed watching these videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified of the next release. A “like” would come in handy as well.

Where do you get your ideas?

Vanessa

Taking Chances – IDEAS: From Spark to Fiction

Where do I get my story ideas? Most writers have probably heard that question numerous times, and sometimes it’s difficult to answer. Some of my ideas seem to come out of nowhere, fully-formed, and other times the birth of a story is made up of several factors that are only clear in retrospect.

The creative spark that eventually became Taking Chances was born during an afternoon walk with my friend Jan, while describing a novel I’d been reading. Although the book was well-written, I was on a rant because I would not believe in the romantic premise …

Click on the video to listen to how Taking Chances was born…

I had fun remembering this one, and if you enjoyed it too and found it interesting, I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel and share the video with others. A “like” would come in handy as well.

Where do you get your ideas?

Vanessa

Wild Passage – from spark to fiction…

People often ask where I get my ideas for my novels. It can be a difficult question to answer, because every story is different.

My novel Wild Passage, for example, had its origins in the most terrifying night of my life. My husband Brian were 70 miles west of the Oregon coast on our sailboat, Julie Marie II, on a voyage from Canada’s Juan de Fuca straight to San Francisco.

Let me tell you the story…

I had fun remembering this one, and if you enjoyed it too and found it interesting, I have a couple of favours to ask you.

I’d love it if you’d subscribe to my YouTube channel and share the video with others. A “like” would come in handy as well.

And have a great day!

Vanessa

Review of Sharon Karaa’s ACCIDENTS HAPPEN

Accidents HappenAccidents Happen by Sharon Karaa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tabitha Brownlee’s journey from pre-bride jitters to true love begins with a bizarre accident and an attempt to save a life, then suddenly dumps her to a comedic version of “the other side” where she tries to negotiate a bureaucratic snarl-up that seems incapable of reversing her accidental and unauthorized death. While Tabitha’s fights a disaster-prone battle to reunite with her body, the author gradually unveils the loving woman beneath this heroine’s tough outer shell.

ACCIDENTS HAPPEN is the sometimes funny otherworld story of friendship, love, and tough choices, with a wealth of intriguing characters I hope to see in future spin-offs of this book. Good work, Sharon Karaa!

View all my reviews

I’m sponsoring today’s Kindle Nation giveaway! Could you be the one to win a Kindle Fire?

Seeing Stars – only $.99 Mar 10-12, 2017 on Amazon Kindle.

I’m sponsoring today’s Kindle Nation giveaway of a Kindle Fire at Kindle Nation Daily! Follow the instructions at http://tinyurl.com/grpmxnu to enter for your chance to win!

  • Have you entered today’s brand new Kindle Fire Giveaway for March 10? Subscribe free for your chance to win!
  • And keep the good times rolling by checking out my $.99 special on my Seeing Stars Kindle edition.
  • Check out this free giveaway at http://tinyurl.com/grpmxnu  and keep the good times rolling by following my Vanessa Grant Amazon author page (just scroll to the bottom of the page at http://tinyurl.com/grpmxnu and click on the “Follow” link.)

Seeing Stars

Momentary Passion…

Arizona astronomer Claire Welland is anything but starry-eyed when it comes to romance. She knows her home on an isolated mountaintop observatory makes marriage to most men impossible, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have a little romantic fun. The last thing she expects when she comes home to Port Townsend, Washington, for her high school reunion is to be swept off her feet by Blake McKenzie.

Forever Love…

Once the town bad boy, Blake is now a prominent shipbuilder dedicated to helping local teens. When he asks Claire to talk to one of his boys about astronomy, he’s only thinking she might give direction to a troubled kid. He certainly never dreamed she’d inspire him – to fall in love. Now Blake is determined to show Claire that their future together is in the stars … if she’ll only open her eyes.

Have a great day and read a good book!

Vanessa Grant

10 Tips for Effective Writing

10 effective writing tips for for clear, powerful, and effective writing.

In this video, I’m sharing 10 red flags that I look for when revising my writing, a list I’ve built up over the years, distilled from a combination of my own experience and others.

The core is based on a little book I was given when I first went to university several decades ago, and still have in my bookcase: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, a little goldmine for writers first published in 1918, and now in it’s 4th edition (with a 2011 Revised edition by the original authors and William Strunk, Junior).

Feel free to make suggestions for other videos and multimedia online courses you would like to see in future. Reply with your suggestions, or tweet @vanessa_grant

Vanessa