The Truth About Trish – free this weekend

the-truth-about-trish600x900My romance novel The Truth About Trish is enjoying a “free” promotion on Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords this weekend.

It seems a suitable time for this particular title to be on free, as I’m giving a workshop today on character-driven plotting, and pacing to maintain tension – and this story was very much a result of character-driven plotting, because I had to dig deep into the characters of Abby (the heroine) and Ryan (her hero) in writing their story.

So pick up a copy and enjoy - and for those of you with Kindles, although Trish is priced at $.99 on Amazon, you can get your free kindle version at Smashwords.

Vanessa

 

Workshop: Character Driven Plotting, Pacing to Maintain Tension

Writing RomanceThis Saturday I’ll be giving a day-long workshop for the Romance Writers of America’s Vancouver Island Chapter. If you’re in the Nanaimo area, come along and join us in an exploration of character-driven plotting, and pacing your novel to maintain story tension.

Workshop Details

When: November 2, 2013, 9:00 to 4:00 (registration from 9:00 to 9:30)
Where: Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Building 255, Room 170, Nanaimo (Campus Parking Map)
Cost: $40.00 if registering after October 19th or at the door. Lunch, coffee, and tea is included.

Session 1—Character-Driven Plotting
In this workshop, Vanessa explores character-driven plotting, and the technique of using the hero and heroine’s personal territory to build a bridge between character and conflict. We all want the magic formula to work: characters + conflict = a great story. Sometimes, we need a little help, and adding a territorial imperative to the mix could be exactly what your story needs.

Session 2—Pacing to Maintain Tension
Pacing a book involves finding the balance between showing and telling, between emotional intensity and distance, between slow and fast. Vanessa makes this complex technical subject clear with graphic examples. Topics include time and the writer: story time, reader time, and writer time; the simple rule that covers it all; and how pacing relates to viewpoint and narrative style.

I’m looking forward to a great day with this group of enthusiastic writers!

Vanessa

Workshop Handout

Book Recommendation – Killing Bliss by EC Sheedy

Killing BlissKilling Bliss by EC Sheedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book when I read the initial release in 2005, and I’m loving it all over again now reading the Kindle edition.  Wonderful story, great characters, and I can’t write a better blurb about it than the author’s own, which starts:

One night. Two bullets. Three runaways.Addy Michaels, living her careful life on a forgotten back road, thinks she’s safe–that the past and its corpses are long buried. Surely after fifteen years the cops have quit looking for the street kids believed to have kidnapped a baby and killed their prostitute foster mother¬, Belle Bliss.Addy couldn’t be more wrong.A cold case.Hot again, when the missing child’s grandmother hires renowned profiler Cade Harding to find her grandson. Cade tracks Addy to her safe haven in a remote area of Washington state. Their attraction to each other is immediate, dangerous, and badly timed because…Cade isn’t alone.

A twisted killer

Faceless and unknowable, a murderer follows in Cade’s footsteps–on the hunt for anyone who can tell the truth about killing Bliss.

All roads lead to Addy.

 ~~~

EC Sheedy has a wonderful knack for a beautiful turn of phrase that has served her well in romance. In her romantic suspense novels, EC reveals a talent for spooky atmospheres and gritty, street-wise characters.

The author is one of the Pen Warriors, a group including myself and 4 other writing friends. At our regular writing retreats, I have the great pleasure of hearing scraps of her stories before they come out. That wets my appetite for the real thing – and I’m heading back to my eReader right now to read a few more pages before my family come for a Sunday night dinner.

Vanessa

View all my reviews

THE HIT – by David Baldacci

The Hit (Will Robie #2)The Hit by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a definite fan of David Baldacci’s Will Robie series. I read this book on the heels of Baldacci’s first Will Robie book. The Innocent. Both are excellent, although I connected more deeply with The Innocent, and loved its character-driven plot.

The Hit is an exciting read, and I will be watching for the third in the Will Robie series. Baldacci is a skilled craftsman when it comes to writing thrillers peopled with vibrant, believable characters. My favorites are some of his early titles, particularly Absolute Power and Absolute Power The Winner The Winner.

Vanessa



View all my reviews

Wool places author Hugh Howey among Science Fiction’s greatest authors!

Wool Omnibus, by Hugh Howey
I just finished reading the Wool Omnibus, and I’m floating. WOOL is everything a great Science Fiction should be – amazing, visceral, delightful story filled with powerful characters caught up in an epic search for meaning!

The birth of a great science fiction author is a very special event, and WOOL puts its author up there with the greatest Science Fiction writers – those who write (and wrote) books about real characters, searching for meaning, searching for their own truth, fighting and losing and winning and – above all – grabbing readers by the throat and carrying them on an amazing journey.

Wool goes up on my electronic bookshelf, along with a few select read-them-again-and-again-over-the-years Science Fiction novels, right between Alexai Panshin’s RITE OF PASSAGE and Robert Hienlien’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.

Thank you, Hugh Howey!   (and thank you @versoe for recommending this book!)

Vanessa Grant

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

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

“Storm – the Author’s Cut” is now available

I expected to have this new edition of one of my favourite romances up back in September, but when I started editing the manuscript in preparation for the new release, I couldn’t resist making a few small changes – then one thing led to another, and here it is, almost the end of December.

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.

Check out Storm – the Author’s Cut at the Amazon Kindle Store – a free sample is available. I’ve decided to enrol this book in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library as well, so members can borrow the book.

… and coming soon – a new print edition of Storm – The Author’s Cut

Enjoy, and to everyone, have a wonderful, fulfilling year in 2012!

Vanessa
 Storm – the Author’s Cut

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

Lawrence Block: lies, spiders, and more lies (book reviews)

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction WritersTelling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Telling Lies for Fun and Profit in the early 1980s, a couple of years after I’d decided to put aside my attempts to write a publishable fiction novel for a while.

I knew I wasn’t done with writing and that I would give it another try sometime, but it wasn’t until I picked up Block’s book of essays about writing that I decided it was time to write again. In friendly conversational style, Block gave me glimpses into a writer’s world that seemed accessible and answered many of my questions before I’d even asked them. Can you name real places in a novel? What about using a pseudonym? With practical musings on a host of subjects, Block’s ramble through the territory of writing gave me an inside view that told me it was time to pick up my dream of being a novelist and dust it off. The result was my first published novel, Pacific Disturbance.

Thanks, Lawrence Block, for giving writers a hand!


 

Spider, Spin Me a Web: A Handbook for Fiction WritersSpider, Spin Me a Web: A Handbook for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great book for writers and anyone thinking about being a writer! This book continues the collection of gems from Lawrence Block’s 10 years as a columnist for Writer’s Digest.

Block’s style is friendly and casual, often irreverent – and filled with gems for the creator. Definitely a keeper for the writer’s bookshelf, and a great read for anyone who is curious about writers and how they do (or don’t do) it. I read this book years ago, and often return to it.



Check out the last two books in the “Lies” series: “The Liar’s Companion” and “The Liar’s Bible”
View all my reviews