Lifelines: Kate’s Story – a new women’s fiction suspense novel from Vanessa Grant

Lifelines: Kate's Story

Kate Taylor hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since her husband David died. It doesn’t help that David’s dog, Socrates, watches her constantly as if he expects her to bring his master back; that her personal life is a series of telephone conversations with her evasive adult daughter and her demanding mother; that working as a family counselor she regularly faces a client named Rachel, a narcissistic woman who evokes Kate’s most painful memories.

Kate is exhausted: tired of coping, tired of listening, tired of life. Then one night on an icy road, she goes into a treacherous skid. A razor’s edge from death, she realizes she wants to live.

She makes plans. She sets goals. She takes a lover. She copes with her daughter’s newest crisis and her mother’s financial foolishness. But then Kate discovers the truth about her client Rachel, and she’s thrown into an ethical nightmare.

Her career could be destroyed.

… so could her life.

Create an eBook with an embedded cover

Many published authors are choosing to independently publish their works as eBooks these days. Many authors have regained their rights from their print publishers and are electronically publishing their previously print-published works, and a number are also choosing to indie publish their new works, leaving their traditional publishers.

Recently I was asked to explain how to create an eBook from a manuscript and also embed custom cover art image in the ebook. I thought it would be useful to post the answer here for anyone who is interested.

This is a brief summary of the three most common scenarios, with links to step-by-step instructions that I have found useful myself. If you are planning to sell your eBook, I recommend that you have your own custom cover art created. When I first started ePublishing my previously print-published books in the 1990s, I created my own covers using Photoshop. However, when eBooks became widely popular a couple of years ago, I realized I needed a more professional look for my covers. (My new covers are now done by Angela Oltmann at Angie-O Creations.)

Option 1: Calibre eBook management (open source software)

If your manuscript was created in Word, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, you can use the Calibre eBook management software. Calibre is available free for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems at calibre-ebook.com. If you find Calibre useful, I suggest donating to calibre to support its continued development. I use Calibre to manage my library of ebooks, and to do conversions from one format to another when I change ebook readers (I’ve used a number of eReaders since the 1990s, so I frequently need to convert.) I notice on discussion boards that many indie authors are using Calibre to generate their MOBI and EPUB ebook files for publication. (Because I write using Scrivener – see below – that’s the program I use to create my own eBook format files from new manuscripts for publication.)

Instructions for conversion using Calibre

Nat Weinham has posted useful instructions for how to use Calibre to convert your word processing manuscript to eBook formats at pdxNat’s How to make an epub / mobi file. Note that when you follow these instructions, the book will be imported into Calibre as a ZIP file. Calibre will then convert this to EPUB and MOBI when you follow the remainder of the instructions.

I suggest that when you view the Calibre Edit Metadata screen, you also add your own custom cover art, and a brief description of the book on the Metadata screen. Fill in the other metadata fields as appropriate, and be sure that your author name is typed in full in the “Author” section, and “sorted” properly in the “Author sort” field – for example, my author name shows as Vanessa Grant, while in the author sort field it’s Grant, Vanessa.

If you have your own custom cover art (highly recommended), click Browse in the “Change Cover” window of Calibre’s Edit Metadata screen, and locate and upload four cover art image into Calibre. That way, when you do the conversion in Calibre, your cover art will be embedded in the EPUB and MOBI eBook files. If  you don’t add your own cover art, Calibre will generate a generic image for the cover.

With those recommended changes, follow the instructions at pdxNat’s How to make an epub / mobi file and you’ll have your compiled ebook files.

Option 2: Scrivener (multi-purpose software for writers, currently $45)

Literature and Latte’s Scrivener is created for writers who want a single program to outline, edit, storyboard, and write. In addition, Scrivener can compile a manuscript into an book for the the most common ebook formats (EPUB and MOBI). Instructions for the various Scrivener compile settings for eBook export are available in a Scrivener video at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/videos/Exporting_eBook.mov. The video includes a screen shot showing how to link your cover image so that it is included in the compiled ebook.

Scrivener is available for Mac and Windows at Literature and Latte’s website (also available on the Mac App store). Reading the extensive list of author testimonials for Scrivener will give you a good picture of Scrivener’s extensive capabilities. I’ve been using Scrivener as a writing tool for about 18 months and I love it! I bought it after reading the many author testimonials. The eBook conversion features are a bonus!

Scrivener can also compile a manuscript for paperback POD/print-on-demand, Roger Colby gives a detailed expiation of the compile settings in his blog How to Use Scrivener to Format a Createspace PDF Interior for Publication

If you don’t want to do it yourself: Using an eBook conversion service

If you don’t want to do your own conversion, there are many book conversion services available. If you go this route, I’d suggest that choose someone recommended by an author you trust (check the websites of indie authors who ePublish their books – many mention the services they use on their blogs). Prices and the services offered vary. I recommend you select someone who is recommended and be sure you understand what services they offer and what the cost is. I’ve used eBookPrep for conversions from several of my previously print-published books, and I’ve been very happy with their services.

May the muse be with you, and good luck with your independent publishing venture!

Vanessa

To DRM or not to DRM – with apologies to Hamlet!

To DRM or not to DRM… that is the question …  

Hopefully Shakespeare’s ghost will forgive me for mangling that line from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy!

(Note: This article has previously been posted on the PenWarriors blog)

A couple of weeks ago when I sent out a tweet announcing that all my eBooks are available in DRM-free editions from Amazon and Smashwords, someone asked for clarification. The subsequent conversation sent me on a hunt for clear descriptions of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) issue as it applies to eBooks. My aim in today’s blog is to give a brief, plain English explanation of Digital Rights Mangement (DRM), with links to more technical information for those who want to learn more.

What is Digital Rights Management?

  • “DRM technologies attempt to control use of digital media [ebooks, digital music files, computer software] by preventing access, copying or conversion to other formats by end users.” Calibre eBook management
  • When you buy an e-book with DRM you don’t really own it but have purchased the permission to use it in a manner dictated to you by the seller. DRM limits what you can do with e-books you have ‘bought’.” Calibre eBook management
  • For those who want the comprehensive, technical definition and history, see Wikipedia

Information About Digital Rights Management

  • Background – software and CDs: In the 1980s and 1990s digital rights technology was used on some computer software and music CDs in an attempt to stop piracy. This technology frequently caused legitimate users to experience computer problems because of the temperamental nature of the DRM control software, and also violated privacy in some instances. The problems experienced by blameless users of select Sony BMG CDs  resulted in the music industry giving up on DRM. The computer software industry also moved away from DRM to a “serial number” and “registration key” model because DRM not only made legitimate users furious, but it was found to be ineffective in stopping piracy.
  • DRM does not stop piracy: As early as 2003, HP Laboratories Cambridge reported “We conclude that given the current and foreseeable state of technology the content protection features of DRM are not effective at combating piracy.”
  • DRM and digital books: Despite the negative experience of the music and computer software industries, many traditional publishers use DRM on eBooks, although there is an increasing body of mainstream information indicating that although costly, it is not effective:

What DRM means to eBook readers

I first began reading eBooks in the 1990s when I purchased a Rocket eBook reader, and have owned a number of electronic reading devices since then. I quickly learned that when I buy a book with DRM technology, I might not be able to read that book on future devices I purchase.

That’s a problem for me. I love to reread favorite books, and I don’t want to have to pay over and over again for the same book. So whenever possible I choose to purchase DRM-Free versions of eBooks.

For more information on digital rights for readers, see

How can you tell if the book you want has DRM technology?

In The Real Cost of Free, Cory Doctorow reports that, “Apple, Audible, Sony and others have stitched up several digital distribution channels with mandatory DRM requirements, so copyright holders don’t get to choose to make their works available on equitable terms.”

However, many eBook sellers do allow copyright holders to choose whether books will be sold with, or without DRM, and a growing number sell only DRM-Free books. I’ve given a list below, and if you know of other sources for DRM-Free books, please comment and I’ll update the list.

Sources for DRM-free books

  • Project Gutenberg –free books in the public domain for multiple formats.
  • Smashwords – over 30,000 books, available in multiple formats – EPUB, Kindle, and others
  • Calibre Open Books – listings for DRM-Free eBooks. Follow links under titles to see formats available. If you are an author or publisher of DRM-Free eBooks and your books are not listed on Calibre’s site, you can add your books to their listings
  • BeWrite Books – all DRM-Free books in multiple formats
  • Baen – speculative fiction DRM-Free eBooks for multiple formats

Sources selling DRM and DRM-Free eBooks. Check to be sure which you’re getting.

  • Fictionwise.com – books labeled “multiformat” are DRM-Free and are available in multiple formats.
  • KoboBooks – see “Download options” in the book description, and look for the words DRM-Free
  • Amazon Kindle books – the method described on this Calibre page for checking if books are DRM-Free no longer works. If anyone knows how to tell if an Amazon book has DRM, please comment and I’ll update this post.

Converting eBooks from one format to another

Calibre’s free eBook library management application is the tool I use to convert DRM-Free books so that I can read them on my iPad AND my Kindle – and any other device I buy in future. It’s also a great program, the price is right (I do donate periodically because Calibre does a great job of updating its library of reading devices and it’s a great free service.) Information on converting is available at Calibre‘s website

A short post … NOT! LOL!

I intended to write a short post, less than 500 words, but I couldn’t manage it! Sorry for the length, but I hope this is useful to eBook readers and authors.

Vanessa

Vanessa Grant books available on Amazon
MultiFormat Vanessa Grant Books on Smashwords

 

 

Writing + an effortless life = attainable goal??

This afternoon I followed an EC Sheedy tweet to Leo Babauta’s blog about an effortless life. I’m sceptical of effortless, but I could handle easier,  and when EC posts words of wisdom I generally check it out because she’s – well, wise.

I was entranced by Babauta’s blog, and impressed by the power of synchronicity. Last week I posted a blog entitled Necessary Lies, Steven Covey, and this writer here and on PenWarriors.com, discussing my recent productivity struggles, which mirrored a pattern described in Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As I mentioned in the blog, I felt an immediate change in energy and productivity when I tried applying Covey’s  Habit 3: “First Things First”

After a productive week applying First-Things-First I’m looking around for wisdom on how to keep my new #1 task free of other members of the numbers tribe (2, 3, 4, 5 … to 3,458 of my should-do’s)

Enter EC Sheedy –> Leo Babauta

Babauta’s post announces that he’s about to publish a new book, The Effortless Life, but while I’m waiting for the book, he has a few tips.

The first tip is beautiful in its simplicity – Babauta describes it as counterintuitive: Do Less

Less = More? Maybe this is the new math that I missed being punished with – I was too early and my kids too late for that educational debacle.

Babauta explains: “I … believe in doing the important things. Do less, and you’ll force yourself to choose between what’s just busywork, and what really matters. Life then becomes effortless, as you accomplish big things while being less busy.”

My writer’s logic likes this a lot. I know that when I have a word limit on a story and I’m forced to write shorter, I usually feel the result is more powerful than the longer version. I get where Babauta is coming from. I don’t know if I’m going to act on his tip #1, but I’m certainly going to think about it.

If my mental (or, lately, written) to-do list has half a dozen urgent things on it – what if I cut that down to 2 and forbid myself from doing the others?

I get twitchy just thinking about it, but maybe “getting twitchy” is a signal that I should think about it. Or maybe, as Star Treck’s Bones once said about Spock, “(S)He’s not firing on all thrusters.”

Babauta’s seven tips are definitely worth reading. the author says his book should be out soon and I’ll be watching for it. I want to read more about Babauta’s Zen-ish take on productivity through simplicity.

I don’t have much practice with simplicity. When a new idea or project wanders across my path, I tend to behave like one of my miniature Australian Shepherds, sniffing after the shiny new thing and failing to resist the urge to herd it!

Necessary Lies, Steven Covey, and this writer…

This blog first appeared at PenWarriors.com

The novel I’m now working on – Truth to Tell (TTT) – has surpassed all my other books by having the longest gestation period on record. I conceived of the idea over two years ago when I wrote a couple of scenes, then stalled and put it aside to work on other priorities. Months later I picked the project up again and realized that I had a good character, but the story needed work.

I brainstormed TTT at a Red Door retreat with with the PenWarriors, and came up with a story that seemed fine–but I didn’t touch it again for months. When I did finally return to TTT, I realized my heroine needed a completely different story – and finally the story caught fire for me.

OK, now we’re cooking!

Part of the problem has been that in my other life as a university faculty member, I’d become involved in a long-term project that took most of my writing energy. A continuing stream of time-sensitive tasks had exhausted my creative energy.

On August 1st I started a 1-year research and program development sabbatical, which should mean that I have time for both R&D AND writing. My husband and I decided to take this chance to tour some parts of North America we’ve wanted to see, complete with my books and computer but away from my telephone so that I can focus on both the R&D and my writing.

It worked pretty well during August. I finished and published a new short story, The Broken Gate, and formulated a plan for the last few chapters of TTT. September I devoted to R&D tasks and getting started on our trip. October–

Hmm. October wasn’t looking so good last Friday when I tried to set some goals for the next week. They looked something like this:

  1. Read and critique a story for a writer friend
  2. Write four modules for the course under development
  3. Write this blog
  4. Get back to TTT

Once again, I realized, my writing had fallen to the back of the queue. When would I get time to finish TTT?

The horrifying thing was that back in mid-August when I was working on the book, I came up with a new title that was a much better fit – and I’d forgotten what it was!

I feared TTT would never get the attention it needed, but items 1, 2, and 3 were time-sensitive commitments that mattered. There was ALWAYS something urgent to get in the way.

Staring at the list I’d written, I could see that I’d fallen into the time management mess Steven Covey talked about in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where long-term projects of importance get pushed to the back of the queue because they are not as urgent as more short term and often less important tasks.

The trouble was, back when I read 7 Habits, I didn’t have a time management problem, but I certainly do now! I get a lot done, but things that are very important to me get neglected – like TTT, the book whose new name I can’t remember

First things first, says Covey’s 3rd Habit. If I don’t put long-term-core-value things that reflect my purpose and values first, they’ll never get done.

The solution: turn the task upside down. So, last Friday I rewrote the list of this week’s goals:

  1. Every day, first spend half an hour on TTT. Use a timer.
  2. Read and critique the story
  3. Complete one module for the university program each day
  4. Write the blog for Monday

Almost magically, my task list became manageable.

When would I get TTT written? First thing every day.

I’m on day 4 now and I’m amazed – it’s working! I get up early and walk the dogs with my husband, then happily settle in to work on TTT (this is my time!) – which, my Scrivener file tells me, is now tentatively retitled Necessary Lies. I give myself an hour, because 30 minutes felt too rushed. Then I make a cup of coffee and start working on R&D – I’ve completed two modules in four days, slower than my goal, but I should be able to get the targeted 4 done this week.

I read and critiqued the story Friday evening – great story. I enjoyed it. Now here I am Monday doing the blog. I just realized I’m one day late on that, because this is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and I got Sunday and Monday mixed up.

I’m in touch with my book, I’m getting other tasks done, and afternoons and evenings I still have time for some sightseeing and other odds and ends – like posting character name searches from my 60,000 name database to my Twitter feed. A habit doesn’t get formed in only four days, but I’m committed – and not to a mental institution!

First things first. This week the system works for me.

I’ve got my A-I-C (a-ah-butt in chair) and it’s fun. Necessary Lies is alive for me and I don’t feel guilty about the other stuff. I realize that my time management has been suffering from “first things last” for a long time. This feels like a miracle!

Vanessa

Check out the free sample of my short story, The Broken Gate
 from Amazon.com
This story will also be appearing in the upcoming PenWarriors anthology of short stories, It Happens at Midnight

Taking a hit – a writer’s toolkit for rejection

Laura Tobias’  Mars, Venus, and the Rejection  at the PenWarriors.com blog is a humorous reflection on the impact rejections make on a writer.

Of course writers aren’t alone – everyone experiences rejection at one time or another. Those of us who put our personal creations out to the world – whether they be stories, songs, dances, or paintings – are inevitably going to be judged on those creations. That judgment may be harsh, approving, or indifferent. I’ve sold 29 novels to major publishers, and one book on writing. I’ve also received my share of rejections. Some rejections haven’t had much of an impact while others have been devastating. A couple of times I’ve had works that I thought were my best rejected, and those rejections hit harder than others.

Usually I’ve been able to learn something from the rejections, sometimes a valuable lesson in craft or marketing. One rejection that came marked the beginning of a period when I had a lot of trouble believing in myself as a writer. I realize now that the rejection probably hit harder because it came shortly after my mother’s death, although I didn’t make the connection at the time.

Every human being gets rejected and it’s difficult for us to avoid taking the “no” as a denial of personal worth. The thing about rejection is that it’s often out of our control. No story will please every reader, and we can’t control the realities of publisher’s balance sheets, marketing research, and editorial opinions. All we can do is tell the best story we can, in the best way we can, and get it out there for people to read.

I’ve gathered a collection of tools to deal with my own crises of confidence. Here are the things that work best for me:

  • Sharing: My first instinct is to keep the rejection and my reaction inside, but I’ve learned how important it is to share it with trusted people. My husband is a great help because he believes in me when my own confidence falters. I know my PenWarrior.com friends will offer support and realistic advice, and they’ll usually share some of their own experiences, which helps me remember I’m not alone.
  • I treasure these books:
    • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This little book of essays is a treasure filled with humor and wisdom!
    • The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression by Eric Maisel. Amazing wisdom and excellent advice based on the experience of many other creative people, and Maisel who is a great creativity coach. Maisel has a number of other books that give practical, inspiring advice to empower yourself and your creativity.
    •  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. One of the most valuable things I learned in this book is to focus on my circle of influence, not my circle of concern. Basically, this means to put my energies where I have power, not on the things that are out of my power. I can’t control what a publisher does, but I can make sure I write the best book I know how, work on my skills, and get my stories out there where people can read them.
  • Remind myself that many excellent authors have had amazing, great stories rejected, then later famously published
    • Stephen King nailed all the rejections he got for Carrie (his famous first novel) to a spike in his bedroom. One of those letters read: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
    • J. K. Rawlings’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (laterSorceror’s) Stone was rejected by 12 publishers before the daughter of Bloomsbury’s CEO begged her father to publish it.
    • Read about these and other rejections of famous, successful authors
Now, if I can just remember all this the next time I get a rejection!

Vanessa

Yippee! … If You Loved Me

Yesterday I received the almost-ready-to-publish-as-an-ebook file of If You Loved Me, a novel of mine originally published by Zebra Bouquet (Kensington Books).  I love this story and I’m so pumped to know it will soon be available once again!

Originally I wrote it for Mills and Boon Harlequin, but my editor there wanted me to

  1. make the heroine younger (she was in her late thirties), and
  2. change the father of her son to someone else
The whole story was based on the premise that Emma’s son had gone kayaking in the wilderness with a friend, and was now missing. Changing Emma’s age would have made her either a child-mother, or a negligent one for letting her pre-adolescent son head into the wilderness without an adult. In addition, it was unlikely she would have achieved prominence as an orthopaedic surgeon at the ripe old age of twenty-something.
My editor was reasonable about Emma’s age because of the negligent mother issue, but wouldn’t budge on the identity of her son’s father. I decided not to change the identity of the father of Emma’s son, because that would change a crucial decision Emma had made in the past – and my plot would make no sense at all. So I withdrew the novel and went on to write several other books for Harlequin.
A few years later I learned that one of the Kensington editors was looking for 70,000 word stories for their new Bouquet imprint. I decided to submit  If You Loved Me. I would need to add an extra 10-15,000 words, but that would be a pleasure as I’d been challenged to fit it into M&B’s 55-60,000 word limit when I first wrote the novel. I sent off an email query and received a phone call from Kensington within a few days.  If You Loved Me became the first of four novels I wrote for Kensington, and I enjoyed the scope the extra length gave me.
I laughed when my new Kensington editor told me that one of the things she loved about the book was the boy’s parentage – the exact thing that had caused me to withdraw the book from M&B. Go figure!
Last year I applied to get the rights back to my four Kensington novels, and when I received the reversion documents I was thrilled because I could have all four novels available as eBooks for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks before the end of 2011.
So here I am with the “e” equivalent of galleys, ready to start the final edit. Unlike the world of print books, I have the opportunity to make any changes I like before the book goes out to the world – and I get to work with my own cover artist on a design! Kensington does great cover art and I liked the covers of my four Bouquets, but being in on the creation with a cover designer like Angela is a real joy.
So while my husband and I continue east on our road trip across the North American continent, I’ll be enjoying a final read through If You Loved Me before it goes to e-press on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks!

Writing and publishing in 2011, Penwarriors, and the power of pull


EC Sheedy’s blog postings always make me think, and her latest Penwarriors.com posting is no exception

EC’s “THE SIDE EFFECTS OF WRITING” got me thinking once again about the universe of publishing, writing, and the tangle of “empowerment + uncertainty” that the explosion of indie publishing has brought to modern writers. I replied to EC’s post earlier today with a bit of a ramble about my own discomfort with marketing, and a few thoughts about traditional print publishing as an unsustainable business model in 2011 – not  to mention being environmentally unfriendly.

As J A Konrath and a host of others have demonstrated, when a writer takes control of her own destiny by using channels like Amazon.com and Smashwords to epublish her own work, the results can be tremendously exciting. Over the last year conversations about indie publishing (print on demand and epublishing) have grown more common among writers everywhere. But as EC reflects,  many of us are uncertain of how to tackle the new realities of promotion intelligently, gracefully and – most importantly, without drowning in a flood of social media options that suck away our writing time.

This evening the dogs and I went for an oceanside walk with a good friend who is not a writer, and she told me she’s just read The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. She told me that one of the books’ premises is that  the old business model of “Pushing” products and controlling customers no longer works. I certainly believe this and from my friend’s description, “The Power of Pull” is based on the law of attraction rather than manipulation of others.

I got quite excited listening, because there’s too much “pushing” going on these days – in politics, in business, in the administration of education. And yet it seems to me the history of the Internet has shown that offering control to the “market” (i.e. Internet users) is what works and draws people to a Web site, to a product, to an idea. Certainly it has been a factor in the success of communications in our modern world of Twitter, Facebook, Google, and our multitude of many-to-many communications.

I’m off to do a little exploration of “The Power of Pull” – and as with most books I buy these days, I’ll avoid slaughtering a tree by purchasing it online. I’ve searched out the book online and have read one rather critical review that claims the book is “old stuff” and not news in the business management world, but I happen to know that a lot of wisdom is “old hat” that “everybody knows.” But knowing and putting into practice are two different things. I notice that very few businesses actually apply this modern wisdom. In short, I’m sceptical of the scepticism of the review LOL.

I’ll give the book the benefit of the doubt because it’s worth it to me to spend a few hours in the hopes I’ll gain some clarity as to how I might navigate the world of promotion a bit more intelligently, and find a way to avoid promotion taking up the mental energy that I need for creating.

I’ll let you know if I learn anything – or if I don’t!

AngieOCreations – Cover Artist

I’m excited to have my daughter, artist Angela Oltmann, working on my new cover art.

When I first began releasing my previously published novels as eBooks I designed my own covers, but I’m certainly not an artist. Then  Angela agreed to create the covers for my upcoming re-releases of Storm and Pacific Disturbance, and I fell in love with her vision of my stories. See Creative Collaboration with Angela

All of the covers below are designed by Angela, who can be reached at [email protected] or through her website angieocreations.com

 
Available from Amazon Kindle
Coming soon!
Coming soon!

 

Christmas wishes

Wherever you are...

My 2010 has flown by at the speed of light, with changes, excitement, confusion,  and a dizzying amount of multitasking. Through it all I’ve been working on the first book of a continuing character mystery series, which I’d planned to write under a pseudonym I used some years ago to write the adventure novel A Man’s Reach. My last big decision of 2010 is to shut down Val Cameron and bring the lonely girl home as Vanessa Grant. Early in 2011, you’ll see an announcement about the adventure novel A Man’s Reach, which is being reissued under the Vanessa Grant name.

The bonus about retiring Val Cameron is, I don’t need to decide if the Down a Dark Road story I’m writing for PenWarriors.com is a Vanessa Grant or a Val Cameron work – the fact that the boundaries between Val and Vanessa were blurring is one of the main reasons for retiring Val.

But now it’s time to focus on home, family (including a grandchild who will celebrate his first Christmas!), and celebrating those I love. I wish you all a warm Christmas with loved ones, and a New Year in which you stride forward on  the path to your most treasured dreams.  Can you believe 2011 is almost here? With Arthur C Clark’s 2001 and 2010 space odyssey years gone, I’m not sure I can count this high.

Wherever you are, it’s likely that the food banks are struggling this year, as they are here where I live. Many grocery store checkouts take donations for local food banks and a little help means a lot when people are wondering where the next meal comes from. It’s only one way to give. There are many. If we can all lend a helping hand, we can make a difference.

Vanessa Grant