A Powerful Memoir of Healing and the Spirit of Survival

Tonight I finished reading one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time – M. J. Adam’s Unforgiving – the Memoir of an Asperger Teen

I met the author at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference a few weeks ago, and talking with her was a pleasure from the first moment. How could it be otherwise when she told me that she’d once learned something very important about writing from a workshop I presented in Surrey – that when you’re writing about relationships, there must be personal growth for the characters.

Learning that I’d helped a developing writer made my day, and before the conference ended I had the pleasure of sharing the special kind of conversation that writers treasure. I went home with her memoir and promised myself I’d read it soon.

Well, I’ve  just finished reading Unforgiving, and I want to tell everyone what a great thing M. J. Adam has done.

Unforgiving – the Memoir of an Asperger Teen is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

M. J. Adam has crafted an inspiring book, a definite must-read for anyone who has, knows, is, or was an Asperger’s teen. I highly recommend it for anyone who cares about child survivors of any kind of trauma, or for teens struggling to understand themselves and the world they live in.

The events that happened to Margaret Jean should never happen to any child. Yet they did happen, and each page of Margaret Jean’s memoir rings with love, the amazing power of healing, and the spirit of survival.

I cried. I laughed. I cheered Margaret Jean’s indomitable inner strength, and felt honoured that she had shared herself so deeply with this reader.

Buy this book. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Vanessa Grant

Author-friendly in spades – Kobo’s new WritingLife Rocks

The other day I received notice from KoboBooks that my new Writing Life account was ready.  I’d been excited by the recent news that Kobo would be rolling out a new, writer-friendly interface for authors wishing to publish eBook editions of their books, and eager to take a look.

I went right over to find out what Kobo meant by writer-friendly. Amazon’s interface is writer-friendly, as is Smashwords. Barnes and Noble’s, not so much , but I’m hoping for improvements there now that Microsoft has invested in B&N. If Writing Life made it as convenient to publish eBooks as Smashwords and Amazon, I’d be happy. More would definitely be a bonus.

I got much more!

Signup: The signup process was easy – it took me less than 5 minutes, and that included looking up my banking information.

Distribution: KoboBooks are distributed in over 170 countries!

Payment – Yes! I was hoping for payment through PayPal rather than checks by snail mail  – but I got even better. A bonus for Canadian (and I assume other non-USA) authors and publishers - Kobo pays by direct deposit to my Canadian bank account

Publishing my booksFast, Easy, and Smooth!

This is the easiest process for uploading ebooks files, pricing, choosing sales channels, and entering the book’s meta-data that I’ve ever used. Not only was it fast to get the data up there, with easy to use forms and very little waiting – the books were available for sale almost immediately. It was easy to opt out of DRM (see my blog about digital rights management) so that my readers don’t need to worry about being locked into one format.

Information on sales – Writing Life has a beautiful “Dashboard” that allows writers and publishers to see sales numbers and estimated dollars earned at a glance, and a quick link to the publishing daqta for all books in the account.

Kudos to Kobo for a slick, convenient interface, and a system that makes authors books available in the ePUB format worldwide, on excellent terms (Kobo asks that the contract terms be kept confidential, but I found them very fair).

Kobo Rocks!

Vanessa Grant romance novels newly released on KoboBooks
– DRMfree, samples available at KoboBooks

If You Loved Me (#1 in the Emma and Jamie series)
The Colors of Love (#2 in the Emma and Jamie series)
Storm – the Author’s Cut

Indie Authors Post Open Letter to Microsoft about Barnes and Noble

I wasn’t the only indie author to welcome the recent news that Microsoft had come to Barnes and Noble’s rescue. If you missed the news, see the Wall Street Journal article Microsoft Hooks Onto Nook: Software Maker’s $300 Million Deal Gives It a 17.6% Stake in Barnes & Noble Subsidiary

I started rereleasing my previously published books some years ago, when I applied to my print publisher for reversion of rights of some of my print-published titles. Back then I believed eBook adoption would be swift and enthusiastic, but it was actually over ten years before eReaders became a common sight.

The last few years have been filled with big changes in publishing, and where authors who chose to publish their own works were once looked down upon, so many big authors have joined the crowd of “indies” (independently published authors using the readily available vehicles for publishing their own eBooks and POD – AKA Print on Demand – books) that most traditionally published authors are at least considering applying for reversion of rights and independently ePublishing their backlist. It’s hard to argue that “real authors don’t self-publish” when J. K. Rowling is going the indie route for eBook releases of Harry Potter.

Amazon has taken the lead in making it easy and inexpensive for authors to publish independently with Kindle Digital Publishing and CreateSpace Print on Demand services, and supporting services and forums for indie authors. Authors wanting to make their books available on the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo, and Apple devices can go direct to the online vendors like Barnes & Noble and Apple, or they can go through Smashwords.com which offers eBook publishing and sales, and  distribution services to other retail channels like Apple, Kobobooks, Sony, and Barnes and Noble.

When I learned that Microsoft was investing $300 million in Barnes and Noble’s digital book business, like many others, I hoped that this would give new life to Barnes and Noble’s digital book presence, and allow B&N to offer both authors and readers better service. Frankly, Barnes and Noble’s performance in this area has been disappointing.

Competition gives both readers and authors more choices, and creates a healthier industry.

Author Libby Fischer Hellman, publicist Rebecca Crowley, NYT bestselling author Ruth Harris, and thriller author CJ West have done more than wish good things for Microsoft’s investment in Barnes and Noble. They’ve taken the time to analyze their experience of digital publishing through Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and write an open letter to Microsoft sharing their view of how Microsoft can help make Barnes and Noble’s digital book presence better for readers, authors, and the publishing industry.

If you want to see healthy competition in the eBook world, pop over to Libby’s blog and read the Open Letter to Microsoft written by these four authors. While you’re there, take the time to use the share buttons at the top of the blog to spread the word, and make a comment yourself.

And have a good day!

Vanessa

Free book – March 3 and 4. “If You Loved Me”

As a gift to my readers, I’m setting the Kindle eBook version of my romance novel “If You Loved Me” free for two days – March 2 and 3rd. Have a free read on me!

This edition includes a free preview of The Colors of Love.

In my September 23, 2011 blog Yippee! … If You Loved Me  I shared some amusing moments during this novel’s original journey to publication has some amusing moments, and talked about my excitement about this new edition of this romantic novel.

The majority of If You Loved Me is set in a beautiful – and remote – area of the Pacific Northwest coastline that was my home for many years.

She needed his help to find her son – no matter what the cost!Surgeon Emma Garrett had made sacrifices to follow her dream of becoming a doctor – and yet none was as painful as turning down Gray McKenzie. But not even the threat of losing her greatest love could stop Emma from fulfilling her dream of repairing the bodies of damaged children.Now widowed with a thriving Seattle practice and an eighteen-year-old son, Emma is suddenly plunged into the wilderness when her son and his friend disappear on a kayaking trip. She desperately needs the help of an expert who knows the territory – and nobody knows the Pacific Ocean’s north coast wilderness like Gray McKenzie.But when Emma arrives on Gray’s remote doorstep unannounced and determined that Gray will rescue her son, she soon realizes that reawakening her past may cost far more than she’d imagined.

Available from Amazon USA and Amazon UK (also Amazon DE, IT, FR, and ES)

Enjoy!

Vanessa

Plotting 2012 – aided by Covey, Milk, and synchronization

(This post also appeared at PenWarriors.com)

It’s January and I’m plotting my life in 2012. As with most tales, there’s a backstory:

  • SETTING: Vanessa’s newly remodelled study. Fresh paint, new carpet, several years of hoarding cleared out. Time: mid-December
  • GREMLIN (Vanessa’s internal critic): Here it is 2012 and you’ve got a todo list the size of the Grand Canyon. Get organized, woman!
  • VANESSA: I visited the grand canyon back in 2011 and I KNOW it’s a mile deep. Maybe I can sort this mess into a stack of smaller piles.
  • GREMLIN: You need a system.
  • VANESSA (sorting):
  • GREMLIN: Look at that heap of TODOs! I suppose you think you’re Superwoman now?
  • VANESSA: Shut up. I’m setting goals.
  • GREMLIN: Hah! You cleaned out your office last month, now you’re going for world’s worst task hoarder!
  • VANESSA (looking for lethal weapon): Kill the gremlin … kill the gremlin.
  • GREMLIN: You need a syst–No! No! Don’t shoot! You– (GREMLIN slinks out of room, slamming door and leaving blood behind on new carpet)
  • VANESSA (Locks door behind GREMLIN, then starts looking for a system…)
  • CRITIC (whispers through door): I told you so!

Obviously, this story is never going to hit the bestseller lists, but thankfully as December rolled towards January, I embarked on a search for a … (okay, GREMLIN, you win) a system for managing my Grand Canyon sized TODO list. Back in October (see Necessary Lies, Stephen Covey, and This Writer), I resolved to follow Stephen Covey’s suggestion of focusing on those important but not urgent tasks that build towards future goals (Quadrant II goals). I succeeded in putting First Things First for ten days and spent the first part of each day on my novel, NECESSARY LIES. On the eleventh day, unfortunately, NECESSARY LIES got buried by a pile of important AND urgent tasks, and GREMLIN woke up.

  • GREMLIN: How can you call yourself a writer, if you’re not writing? You’ll never finish that book.
  • VANESSA: Yes, I will, but other things are important too! I just need a system that keeps the most important things in front of me.
  • GREMLIN: System, smystem. You gotta USE your system. Every day. Like brushing your teeth.
  • VANESSA: Well … yeah.
Gremlin isn’t supposed to win arguments … or sneak through locked doors.
So I went looking for a system that would help me focus on important goals while keeping my life under control. My requirements were:
  • keep Quadrant II goals in front of me each day
  • remind me of urgent-but-not-important commitments (Quadrant I)
  • give me a way to record (and remember) time-sensitive commitments
  • allow me to access both urgent and non-urgent goals and tasks on my iPhone, iPad, and any computer I use.

At least one of my goals had been achieved – with my wonderful husband’s help, we’d transformed my study from a hoarder’s hell into an inviting study. Now it was time to organize my goals and my life. Over Christmas, I tried out a few ideas:

  • I read the Michael Hyatt article, “Is that task important or merely urgent?” which mentioned using Priority Matrix  to emulate the Covey 4-sector organizer. I downloaded Priority Matrix (for Mac, iPad, and iPhone). I installed the software and put my  TODO list into Priority Matrix sectors. Here’s a simplified version of what I did:
  • Priority Matrix + Covey trial: I found Priority Matrix flexible, and definitely easy to work with using Covey’s 4-quadrant model on my Mac, and I was pleased to find that the Apps for the iPhone and iPad synchronized well. (I also learned that Priority Matrix is in alpha development for Windows.) By Christmas I had realized that while I loved the 4-sector view and synchronization features of Priority Matrix, for the system to be effective, I needed to visit it every day. The best way too make sure I did that was to use the same application for appointments, other time sensitive commitments,  and goals. Priority matrix didn’t have the scheduling and reporting features I needed.
  • Getting Things Done Remember the Milk – Over Christmas I talked with my son about his experience using David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system with Remember the Milk, a Web/Android/iPhone app. GTD sounded too high-maintenance for me, but if you’re a GTD fan, check out Advanced GTD with Remember The Milk, and also take a look at the simplified version described in Monk to Done.
  • Covey + Remember the Milk -  If Remember the Milk could work with GTD, maybe I could make it work with Covey’s First Things First model. I decided to try out the free version of Remember the Milk (RTM) and soon realized that this friendly, flexible application could:
    • be used on in all common Web browsers, Android phones, iPhones, and iPad
    • synchronize across all installations, i.e. phone, tablet, Web (daily sync is free, more frequent sync requires upgrading to the pro version)
    • have separate lists for different category tasks (achieved by setting task “category” and adding your own lists and/or modifying RTM’s default lists. Some of my categories are WRITING, RESEARCH, PROMOTION, BUSINESS TASKS, PERSONAL) Tasks can be viewed by category, or in a big list of “All Tasks”
    • optionally set due date and time, specify repeating intervals for regular tasks, plus time commitment for tasks (I’ve set Quadrant II goals I want to visit every day to “repeat: every 1 day”)
    • prioritize (priority 1, 2, or 3), categorize, and tag tasks
    • create saved searches using  lists  (I Googled “rtm + Covey” and found links to a number of posts on RTM’s website (the Google search gave me better results than RTM’s own internal site search)
    • send a daily list of tasks, and also a 15 minute reminder of individual tasks, to my phone.
    • It would be wonderful if RTM allowed me to choose either its Priority 1, 2, 3 system or a Covey quadrant model of priorities, but many RTM users have found ways to make Covey’s First Things First and RTM work together.
  • Result = RTM + Covey. I tried using RTM’s priorities, but I couldn’t get the result I wanted. When I read  Using the “First Things First” Paradigm with RTM  and got the idea of simplifying the author’s system and tagging items as “important” to flag them for my Quadrant II list, then using the Due Date to determine urgency. I then created 2 saved searches based on Due Date and “important” tag status, and named them Q1 and Q2. I’ll probably refine the searches over time. I can see from what others have done that there’s lots of room for tweaking the system.

The beginning of a New Year is a great time to be playing with plotting the year ahead, and I’m pretty happy with how my new system is shaping up. I’ve been using Remember the Milk for about a week now. I spent the first day getting enough tasks and appointments into the system to allow me to experiment with searching, tested that the syncing was working well across my iPhone, iPad, and computer (Web). Then upgraded to the Pro version to allow unlimited synchronizing.

Alright, Gremlin. I’ve got a system I like and I’m USING it. It’s even got a name I like – Remember the Milk has a friendly casual sound. I’ve got my January appointments recorded and RTM sends my iPhone reminders of important-to-me, time-sensitive things like my daughter’s birthday dinner yesterday, while giving me a way to track less urgent, but still important items like this blog and a commitment to myself to write every day (tag: important and repeat:every 1 day) .

So there, Gremlin! I can too do this.

Vanessa

Check out my new release: Storm – the Author’s Cut, now available on Kindle

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!

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 angela@oltmann.ca or through her website angieocreations.com

 
Available from Amazon Kindle
Coming soon!
Coming soon!

 

About writing Stray Lady

Stray LadyI got the idea for Stray Lady while I was writing my fifth romance novel,  Jenny’s Turn. I needed someone to shake Jenny out of her hopeless love for Jake, and get her far enough away for Jake to realize how much she meant to him. I reached for inspiration and Jenny’s phone rang. When she picked it up, there was her cousin George. Like Jake – the hero of Jenny’s Turn – I didn’t realize at first that George was a woman.

George and her guitar caused me quite a bit of trouble while I was writing Stray Lady. Here’s a woman sailing around the world and afraid to stop because she’s running from her grief. George’s story unfolded for me as I wrote Jenny’s Turn and I had to take a firm hand with this restless woman to stop her from taking over her cousin’s romance.

“Just step back,” I told George firmly. “This is Jenny’s story, not yours. I’ll do you next, I promise.”

Once Jenny’s Turn was shipped off to my publisher, I was finally free to let George loose, but as soon as I put her on the page of her own romance, she started causing trouble for me again. How on earth could I get George to stay in one place long enough to fall in love?

I hope readers enjoy  Stray Lady as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Vanessa Grant

Synopsis of Stray Lady

Shipwreck …

One minute George was sailing single-handed down Canada’s west coast, willing the salt breezes to show her how to go on living without her late husband.

… and rescue

The next she was being pulled from the waves by island lighthouse keeper Lyle Stevens and drawn into a magic existence with Lyle and his daughter. Lyle offered George love and the home she’d never known – but did she have the courage to gamble on love again?

This novel is available in a variety of eBook formats

 

About writing After All This Time

Carrie Brooke fell in love with her employer, Charles Kantos, the first time she saw him, but she’d always been careful not to let it show. Now she’d ruined it all, and when she woke up in bed with him the morning after his best friend’s wedding, Carrie knew there was only one thing to do – run. But Carrie was Kantos Holdings’s best acquisitions specialist and Charles wasn’t letting her quit.

… about writing After All This Time

“I wrote After All This Time shortly after returning to Vancouver Island from Mexico, where I had been living for two years. Like many of my stories, a number of diverse ideas came together to create the story After All This Time. I’d just spent two years in a strongly family oriented,  laid back, machismo culture. Driving to a friend’s guest house near Vancouver I drove by numerous golf courses which I noticed particularly because there was controversy over a wealthy developer’s plans to build a new golf course on farmland near my new home. And last – or perhaps I should say first of all, I’d years ago shared a table at a writer’s event with another romance writer who said one day she wanted to open a book with the heroine in bed with the hero. Personally, I’d always preferred to let my hero and heroine develop some chemistry first, but … well, it was different with Charles and Carrie. I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.” Vanessa Grant

Originally published in hardcover by Mills and Boon Limited.

Available as an eBook for Kindle and Other Devices


About writing Storm – the Author’s Cut

Storm is my second novel, the story of Luke and Laurie falling in love on the magical islands of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. Luke and Laurie have always had a special place in my heart, and the storm that drew them together symbolized many coastal adventures I’ve shared with my husband.

When I wrote Storm, I set the story on the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, islands originally named after the wife of the British King George III without regard to the fact that the indigenous First Nations had already named their islands. In 2009 the province of British Columbia signed a historic reconciliation agreement with the Haida Nation, and the islands were renamed Haida Gwaii. Because the romance in Storm is so much a part of the heritage of Haida Gwaii, I wanted to bring the story forward into the 21st Century.

In bringing the islands forward to the present day, I’ve taken artistic license with regard to logging on Lyell Island. A few years after the book was originally published, a national park was established and the Gwaii Trust was given the task of managing the forests. Because logging itself is not central to the story, I’ve taken the artistic license of leaving the logging camp on Lyell Island

… Vanessa Grant

Synopsis of Storm – the Author’s Cut

She had become what others wanted – could he help her find herself?

Broadcaster Laurie Mather wanted desperately to be aboard Luke Lucas’s seaplane when he flew out on a search-and-rescue mission off the treacherous coast of northern British Columbia – for professional reasons, but also for deeply rooted personal reasons.But when she pressured Luke into accepting her presence, she had no idea that she was Luke’s private fantasy, a warm living voice he listened to on lonely flights – but one he had no desire to turn into reality.When Laurie succeeded in talking her way aboard Luke’s plane, her well-ordered life was changed forever.

Print version available from Amazon
eBook versions also available