Memories of Algonquin Park

I wrote this guest blog for author Jacqui Nelson’s NORTH OF THE BORDER blog series, which invites authors to explore how Canada inspires storytelling. I had a wonderful time exploring so many childhood memories and reflecting on how those memories and the park inspired my own growth as a storyteller.

Who’s next on my North of the Border guest blog series? Today we have Vanessa Grant, author of the Time for Love series and Writing Romance!

Where does Vanessa get her inspiration? How is Canada part of her inspiration? Read on and see…

Memories of Algonquin Park, by Vanessa Grant. 

Andy and Jessie Grant – a War, a Wedding, a Family, and a Park 
My grandfather, Andrew Martin Grant, joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in World War I. He was injured by a shell explosion and left lying on the battlefield, and went on to serve in England’s 528th Forestry Battalion until the end of World War I. 

He also fell in love and married Jessie Beauchamp in December, 1917 and after the war ended November 11, 1918, they decided to remain in England where Jessie had family. 

Jessie’s first son, my Uncle Norman, was born in England in early 1919. A year later when she discovered she was pregnant again, Jessie and Andy decided that, with Britain’s economy in post-war economic chaos and jobs scarce, Andy should return Canada where he knew he could get work. Jessie would stay in England until the baby was born.

My father William Douglas Grant (Doug) was born September 12, 1920. Five weeks later Jessie and her babies sailed from Liverpool, bound for Canada. After 21 days of rough water, she was grateful to meet her father-in-law and let him take over getting them to her husband Andy in Algonquin Park.

To read the rest of this blog CLICK HERE  

The full version of this blog is posted on author Jacqui Nelson’s NORTH OF THE BORDER blog series, which invites authors to explore how Canada inspires storytelling. Writing this blog, I had a wonderful time exploring so many great memories of Canada’s Algonquin Park, and reflecting on how they inspired my own growth as a storyteller.

Source of dog image State Library of New South Wales collection [Public Domain]

 

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

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

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

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

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.

Book Review: Sinners and Saints, by Elaine Dryer

Sinners and SaintsSinners and Saints by Eileen Dreyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Digital books are wonderful. Wander into a Web site, browse through a screen or two, stumble across a title I haven’t read by an author I admire, and – presto, it’s on my ereader.

Sinners and Saints is classic Eileen Dreyer, with a plot that twists through multiple layers and secrets, and arrives breathlessly at a very satisfying ending amid a New Orleans hurricane.

This book has Eileen Dreyer’s signature on it, which is just as distinctive as Johnny Cash’s voice singing The Man in Black.  No spoilers here. For those of you who are fans of Dryer’s dark mysteries, you’ll recognize her touch in the heroine – a forensic trauma nurse; the setting, evocative and danger filled in a perfect-for-the-story stormy, darkly magical New Orleans; and a damaged hero who is darkly perfect.

Read Saints and Sinners yourself – if you like mysterious tales with memorable characters and dark twists, you’ll be glad you did!

I’m an Eileen Dreyer fan from years back. Now that I’ve finished this book, I’m about to start reading my new copy of her If Looks Could Kill. I read this shadowy, pulse-pounding Elaine Dreyer years ago, and can’t wait to revisit Dryer’s Pyrite, Missouri, and the heroine of If Looks Could Kill.

Vanessa

View all my reviews

A very enjoyable read! NO ROLE FOR A GENTLEMAN

No Role for a GentlemanNo Role for a Gentleman by Gail Whitiker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a pleasure to read!

I just finished reading friend and fellow writer Gail Whitiker’s new historical, NO ROLE FOR A GENTLEMAN. The author’s prose is beautiful and evocative, but the true beauty of her novel lies in the creation of characters with warmth, integrity, vulnerability, and a passion for life that brings them vibrantly alive.

Thank you for a warmly enjoyable visit to the past, and the companionship of Lawrence, Lady Joanna, their families, and the colorful world of Regency theatre and archeology, which is woven seamlessly and intriguingly throughout the story.

NO ROLE FOR A GENTLEMAN features characters from its predecessor, NO OCCUPATION FOR A LADY – also a very enjoyable read. No Occupation for a Lady

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