Archive for September, 2009

29
Sep

Tuesday Teaser

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

"Even though I was determined to expose Jane Austen as a fraud, to use those lost letters to illuminate the gap between her own painful single state and the fantasy-laced happy endings of her novels, the magic of her writing entrapped me as quickly as it ever had."

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, p. 94.

29
Sep

Winners and Personal Plans

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest, Future Plans, Plans and Signings

Winners:

I’ve gotten behind in my blogging, but wanted to announce the winners for the Alma and Saving Madeline "contest winners."

 

They are:  Night Owl Mommy and Suze (Saving Madeline)

            Deron Fraley (Alma)

Plans:

I am busier than a one-armed paperhanger trying to get ready for my trip to Florence next week to research for Crazy Ladies, my next series.  Am trying to finish up current novel (The Only Bright Thing), and am in a very difficult part in the rewrite.  Have been working on this one for twenty-five years.  Hopefully, this will be published in 2010, however I have no idea of the timing. 

Have to buy a raincoat, and umbrella, and a new rolling bag . . .

Reviews:

Watch for reviews of The Hidden Branch which should be coming out soon since DB finally got around to sending out review copies yesterday!

Signings:

All you readers who live in Utah County–don’t forget to come visit me at the University Mall DB Ladies’ Night!

23
Sep

What Makes a Historical Novel Great?

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Essays

[I had to write an article for a magazine for my SEO tasks, and this is what happened.  Thought I would share it with you, after adding the last two paragraphs]

I grew up on a diet of historical novels, mostly the romantic with a small r kind. However, when I graduated to the classics, I knew I had found my real genre. "I was born in the wrong era," I thought.

And then, I became a writer, and I entered an historical era of my dreams, tip-toeing softly, gathering atmosphere, facts, foods, language—a zeigeist entirely different from my own pedestrian existence. And, still I didn’t get it right. It wasn’t until I studied why those classic novels were great that I could dare to presume to publish The Last Waltz.

Tolstoy, Hugo, Dostoevsky, Gaskill, Bronte, Austen—what made them so great that they still continue to be relevant, dramatized, and studied? I truly believe the answer is that they wrote of redemption of character. The authors believed in a universe where the hard questions of life had answers. They believed in right and wrong.

Margaret Hale, of Gaskill’s North and South, is my favorite heroine. Up against the hard questions posed by the English Industrial Revolution—class barriers, poverty, and greed—she managed to redeem all those in her small circle of existence with her love and her righteous principles. Her influence traveled beyond her circle and redeemed strategic characters in an industrial town in Victorian England. This was not a fairy tale. It was very real, because it depicted love as it really is—a devotion that acknowledges flaws, but works past them, appealing to the innate goodness of man. Elizabeth Gaskill believed in innate goodness, as did Tolstoy, Hugo, Bronte, etc.

Why is it that the current young generation is turning to fantasy literature in overwhelming numbers? Because fantasy worlds are built on the existence of good and evil. Until this age of relativism, that was the nature of art. And deep within, we still know this.

World renowned critic, John Gardner, explains this far more eloquently than I, in speaking of my favorite author and his work. "Leo Tolstoy knew about the universe of despair and endured a perhaps similar spiritual crisis [to that of Sartre], a crisis certainly profound and all-transforming. He came out of it not with a theory that every man should make up his own rules, asserting values for all men for all time, but with a theory of submission, a theory which equally emphasized freedom but argued that what a man ought to do with his freedom is be quiet, look and listen, try to feel out in his heart and bones what God requires of him—as Levin does in Anna Karenina, or Pierre in War and Peace."(Gardner, John, On Moral Fiction, Basic Books, Inc.: New York, p. 25)

Gardner further asserts that great art always builds, seeking to improve life, not debase it.

Why was Les Miserables one of the greatest stage productions of the modern era? Because it was heroic. It made us believe and embrace the idea that man could change, could be redeemed, could love enough to want to sacrifice, even in a time of great blackness and despair. Though the mid-nineteenth century French revolution failed, Valjean was victorious in his heart and soul.

So when I wanted to write a novel about the triumph of the soul in dark times, I took a lesson from the Greats. I set it in the past, where it would not be unfashionable. Is it too late for us? Genre fiction still deals with good and evil. Should not literary fiction take a lesson from the popularity of such books, possibly even finding a mission there?

Certainly, we as LDS authors and readers should. Remember the Orson F. Whitney prophesy: "We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. God’s ammunition is not exhausted. His highest spirits are held in reserve for the latter times. In God’s name and by His help we will build up a literature whose tops will touch the heaven, though its foundation may now be low on the earth." ("The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord," Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, 1976.)

Inspired by this quote, the LDStorymakers have instituted the Whitney Awards for excellence in fiction. Why not support those LDS writers most in keeping with this revelation by going to http://www.whitneyawards.com and nominating your favorite books?

22
Sep

Should Be Reading

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teaser:

"The bottom dropped out of the moment and she fell.  For the second time in her life, she was overtaken–possessed–by screaming, by rage she didn’t own."

From Love Walked In. by Marisa de los Santos, p. 88.

The Hidden Branch is being launched as I write this.  It has been in the stores for about a week, and already has a review from my great fan, Britt!  You can read it at http://bookhabitue.blogspot.com.

The winner in our contest is:

Susan Winterton from Chandler, AZ.   She will receive the entire set of Alex and Briggie books as well as the same gift package of memorabilia that all the other contestants will receive.

I will be signing all my books at the Layton Hills Mall, Layton, Utah on Saturday, the 26th of September, as well as on Ladies’ Night at the University Mall in Orem, Utah.  (Good to have some signings near home for a change).

After conference, my husband and I will be flying to Florence to research my first book in my new series: The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood, Part One: The Escapade.  I am hoping this will be balm for all of you who are mourning the loss of Alex and Briggie.  There will be four new eccentric heroines, exotic places, and complications galore.

12
Sep

Eye Yi Eye

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

What’s Alex going to do? Charles is gone and Daniel is in town plus two gorgeous Armenians! (Not to mention a murderer!) Hidden Branch is finally out, but the Internet Launch is on til the 17th! See http://ggvandagriff.com!
8
Sep

Welcome to G.G.’s Place!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in My books

(where you never know where you’ll be tomorrow!)

If you haven’t gathered it by now, I have wanderlust.  If you decide to enter my alternate reality (I’ve been making them up since I was nine) you never know where it might take you–the wilds of Wales (Arthurian Omen),  Surf City in the summertime (Hidden Branch), or even turn-of -the century Vienna  (The Last Waltz).  Running away from home is my specialty.  That is because I used to live in a tiny town in the Ozarks where my only transportation was my imagination.  It wasn’t until I moved away from there that I could write about hillbillies in a humorous way (Poisoned Pedigree).  I used to sit in my study and moon over pictures and memories of my two magical vacations at Oxford (Of Deadly Descent).

Now that I am receiving reasonable compensation for my writing efforts, I am no longer bound to my house, and that means you and I are going to be taking some great trips together!  I have a series planned that will take us (God willing!) to Florence, the Greek Isles, Provence, and the Scottish Highlands.

I know some of you have issues with my leaving Alex and Briggie behind, so be assured: I have not absolutely given them up.  However, I do have some important stories to tell first.  And then there are those who plaintively accost me on e-mail, begging for a sequel to The Last Waltz. Well, at least I have that outlined!  Once again, I can only say there are other things to be written first, and hopefully you will find them equally compelling.  I am very happy that my readers take to my characters and alternate worlds so passionately.  That means I’m doing my job!

INTERNET LAUNCH

See my contest page for the rules for winning big in my Internet Launch of my newest Alex and Briggie–The Hidden Branch.

SIGNING TOUR

See my appearances page for my signing tour for The Last Waltz.  I am in the midst of it now, staying close by the air conditioning in Phoenix.  A wonderful new friend, Marjean, has taken me in hand, making sure I get where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Two of my closest friends have new books out:  H.B. Moore’s Alma (see review below) and Rachel Ann NunnesSaving Madeleine (see interview below).  You might want to pick them up when you go to the store to get Hidden Branch  or  The Last Waltz.

4
Sep

The Ultimate in Time Travel: Alma, by H.B. Moore

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Authors

Heather Brown Moore is a lovely woman with a huge talent.  She is also a generous and dear friend.  After I joined LDStorymakers, it was Heather who “showed me the ropes” of blogging and the power  of the blog review.  She is a hard one to keep up with, rising early in the morning to write before her kids wake up, being a devoted mother to four children, participating fully in the LDS writing community, and offering help and advice to many lucky authors.  It is only fitting that it is now my turn to review her latest book.

H.B. Moore takes the admonition to liken the scriptures to ourselves seriously.  Her writings enable us to do the same.  Her book, Alma, is well-written, with her own voice so unobtrusive that you will feel like you have lived through one of my favorite slices of the Book of Mormon.  You can feel, hear, see and taste what life was like in Central America over two millennia ago.  I have had a tough time returning.  I grew to love her fictional characters, Maia (a former wife of King Noah who had embraced the teachings of the gospel), Raquel (the widow of Abinadi), and Helam (Abinadi’s brother) nearly as much as I love Alma.  And Amulon!  He is the snake of all snakes!  Moore is careful to make him human, but as he grows in wickedness, we can see what an oily character he must have been.

It would be hard to find a story from that era that is so meticulously researched, and yet the research is so well integrated into the story that it doesn’t stand out as it would in a lesser writer’s hands.  The story of Alma the Elder, when broken down into its individual elements and challenges, is really quite suspenseful.  Moore didn’t have to speculate much, as she told the tale of the egregious King Noah, his flight into the wilderness and his death by fire.  The story of the capture of the Lamanite women by the priests of Noah was told  in an ingenious manner with a clever twist..  Amulon’s hatred of Alma and the believers was the bow string of the story, being drawn tighter and tighter with every chapter.  When the people of Alma eventually escape, and the arrow cannot be fired, the reader feels the matchless power of the God of the Universe and a profound sense of relief.  And, since you have been in Amulon’s head, you can sense what a hideous feeling of defeat he was going to have as soon as he wakes up from his divinely instituted nap!

Moore’s characterizations are stellar, and the way  she has woven her story around the well-know scriptural facts is brilliant.  She has created women for her heroes who match them in strength and endurance of hardship.  As their faith is tested and they grow in their convictions, it is easy to put yourself in their shoes, experiencing what they are enduring, and learning what they are learning.  Their love stories tenderly touch the heart.

I recommend this book, Alma, for both men and women.  It will make the life and times of this remarkable prophet live in your heart, and you won’t want it to end.

*********

Make a comment on this review and get a chance to win a copy of Alma!

3
Sep

Interview with Rachel Ann Nunes on Saving Madeleine

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Authors

It is my very great blessing to have Rachel for a friend.  She is the most energetic person I have ever known.  Add to this a heart that is as big as Texas, and you have one powerful lady.  I don’t think she understands the word “can’t.”  The author of twenty-eight novels, including the award-winning Daughter of a King, the Whitney nominee, Fields of Home, and the beloved Ariana series, she is beloved by thousands of fans.  But I see the Rachel who strives to, and seems to succeed at doing everything.  She has enriched my life immeasurably by drawing me into the LDStorymakers’ family, of which she is the founder.  I also operate in the capacity of “Nana GG” and have been able to participate in milestone family events.  It is with great pleasure that I publish this interview on my blog.

1.  GG:  Why did you choose to write this book?  Does it represent a particular concern of yours?

Rachel: Several years ago, shock radiated throughout Utah when an infant was found dead after ingesting meth she had found in a plastic bag on the floor of her home. What made this tragic circumstance even more notable and horrific is that weeks earlier her father had forcibly taken her across state lines, hoping to protect her from her mother’s substance abuse.
Authorities found the child, placed her back with her mother, and sent the father to jail for assault and burglary. A little over a week later, the baby was dead and the mother was charged with desecration of a dead body for moving her daughter to cover up the mother’s drug abuse.
All charges against the father were eventually dropped. Sadly, this is not the only story of a child becoming the victim of a parent’s drug use. In my research, I found many more instances, some of which I’ve written under the Author Comments for the book on my website at http://rachelannnunes.com. Though these true-life experiences do not appear in my book, the events inspired me to explore what might have happened in a similar instance. Questions I asked myself include, “Can the ends justify the means in some circumstances?” and “How far would a parent go to save a child they love?”

2.  GG:  Are you taking your fiction in a different direction permanently?  If so, what path are you pursuing now?
Rachel: Saving Madeline is very similar in style to other novels I’ve written–family drama with suspense and romance. However, my next novel Imprints, also contemporary suspense, does go in a different direction as it contains a paranormal element. I’ve always been interested in fantasy, and as a believer I feel that sometimes we are given certain gifts when we need them at different times in our lives. It was only natural that at some point I’d combine my love of women’s fiction and my beliefs with my love of the supernatural. Yet at the same time the novel isn’t so strange as to be considered high fantasy or anything. I think my current readers will be very pleased.

3.  GG:  You have literally thousands of fans who wonder how you can possibly publish as much as you do while raising six children.  I have seen first hand what a hands-on, terrific mother you are.  How do you balance such an intense inner life with your love for and the needs of your children?
Rachel: The kids always came first. Period. That’s my rule. But they have learned not to run to me for every little thing. They learned to solve some problems themselves, and I learned to buy microwaveable snacks. I used to write more easily when they were little children under my desk and around my feet, but as they grew, they became involved in more things and I had less time at the computer. I’d have to tell them I was going into my office for a while and to watch this show, or play in the back yard for certain time. I’d say, “If you aren’t bleeding and it’s not really that important, then don’t come to my office. If you give me time to work, I’ll do x and x for you then.” Sometimes that even worked. I’d often leave the computer on and steal into the office for any available second.
Teenagers are even more demanding, I’ve found. They always need rides or help with some incredibly important last-minute task. But finally for the first time all six are in school (my oldest is on a mission), so I anticipate having a bit easier time writing in the next few months.
One important thing is that I’m careful to tell my children often that I love them more than my writing and if they need me, I’m available to hear what they have to say. Often that means I don’t get all the writing in that I want, but that is the life I chose when I decided to have children. They are the reward that makes not doing all I want with my writing okay. I wouldn’t trade being their mother for all the success in the world.

4. GG:  You seem to be an inexhaustible well of creativity.  Where do your plots originate?

Rachel: They just come–out of thin air, from what I see, from research, from inspiration. The more I write, the more the ideas flow. I’m always compelled to write. It’s as if I’m in a huge amphitheatre and sitting in the audience are all the thousands of story ideas and they are calling to me to write their them. The one that yells the loudest wins. Hmm, that’s sort of like real life children, isn’t it? :-) When I don’t get regular writing time, I’m pretty unhappy.

5. GG:  Do you ever have writer’s block in the Serengeti Plains (the middle of the book)?  If so, what technique do you use to unblock yourself?
I never have had time for writer’s block. There simply is too much else I have to do, so I must write when I have the time. On the occasions when I haven’t felt the strong urge to write, it’s been because I haven’t researched enough, I don’t know where the story is going, or because I’m under too much stress. These are solved respectively by doing the needed research, making a simple line-by-line list of what I have to include to finish the book, and locking myself in my bedroom for a few days to watch an entire season of 24.

6. GG:  What do you think about the direction that LDS fiction is going?  Do you think it is getting better?  If so, why?

Rachel: Overall, I think LDS fiction is getting better. However, some of it isn’t. I feel that many writers are still stuck on the conversion story, which is a great venue for the younger generation, but I personally feel converted and my reading tastes have changed. Now I want to read stories about LDS people in every day situations where they don’t have to convert their neighbor or future spouse. The real life truth is that not everyone sees the light. Perhaps every LDS author goes though the conversion phase, I don’t know. I certainly did, and I’m glad I wrote those novels. But I think it’s time LDS authors explored the other issues our people need to read about. I’m not saying we shouldn’t write about conversions at all, because when they are portrayed realistically they can be powerful and compelling, but for me, it’s hard to see a plot in a suspense novel come to a screeching halt so that we can hear a missionary discussion or have a baptism. I would much rather see the quiet convictions of a character living her religion during personal trials. Or a family who has members struggling with their faith in the midst of some compelling plotline.
I was able to attempt this in several of my LDS novels, and now I’m also reaching out to a wider market where my characters are not overtly LDS. The plot doesn’t focus at all around the Church and convincing the reader that it’s true, but rather on the lives of the characters and what they are feeling and experiencing that may or may not involve their faith (depending on the genre).
I think a lot of LDS readers are ready for this, and I’m grateful my publisher has a national imprint where they can publish such stories. I think our market is growing up a bit, focusing deeper or perhaps even on simply creating more entertaining, believable genre stories that are every bit as good as what is being published in the national market. If we continue in this direction, I think we will eventually reach an entire new set of LDS readers who now don’t read LDS novels because they are so focused on convincing rather than portraying.

7. GG: Many authors are forever indebted to you for founding LDStorymakers.  How do you manage your duties as president and still manage to have time to write so many books and raise so many kids?
Being the president of LDStorymakers does take a lot of time, but at this point, I feel I need to keep involved so that it will continue to go and expand. However, I have been fortunate to surround myself with talented and dedicated people. For most of the years, Brent Rowley and Josi Kilpack were right there, helping with everything. Josi stepped down almost a year ago, and since then Marsh Ward, Tristi Pinkston, and Annette Lyon have gone the extra mile to help Brent and me run things. As the business manager, Brent really is the backbone of Storymakers. We also have other great member volunteers who have run our conferences and pitch in wherever they can. I don’t do it alone by a long shot. Writers are great people and for the large part very capable. All our members are important to the running of Storymakers.

8. GG: Do you take vitamins?  I have never seen anyone with your energy.  If so, what are they?
Rachel: I just take a multi-mineral–when I can remember. In the winter I’ll take vitamin D. I have a type A personality, I suppose. I always have to be pushing and striving to better myself, my family, my work, and to help anyone I can. I have limits, of course, so I’ve had to learn to say no–a lot.

9. GG:  What is the most special thing about Saving Madeline?  Convince me to read it.
Rachel: Saving Madeline is about Caitlin McLoughlin, a public defender, who works hard freeing too many criminal for her peace of mind. When Parker Hathaway is arrested for kidnapping four-year-old Madeline, Caitlin thinks he is just one more criminal she must get through the system, but instead she finds a cause she can believe in. Soon she is in a race to uncover proof that will free Parker and save Madeline before it’s too late.

Saving Madeline really is the exploration of the meaning of love. Romantic love between the main characters, and the filial love between a father and his daughter. I believe people will be fascinated with how the justice system works–or doesn’t. Does the end ever justify the means? I was raised to believe it didn’t, yet, Nephi cut off Laban’s head to assure that an entire generation could live in light. If you knew your child was in danger and the law told you to stay out of it, what could you do? Who would you turn to?

10.GG:  Would you mind sharing your plans for the future of your writing?
Rachel: I plan to publish Imprints next year, which is a sequel to Eyes of a Stranger. In this novel, Autumn, on the day of her father’s funeral, discovers she has a supernatural gift (sometimes she calls it a curse) that was previously only hinted at in Eyes of a Stranger. With this gift, she is able to help a lot of people–though often it puts her into a great deal of danger. I think this will develop into a series of at least three or four books, possibly more. I also see it as a movie someday or TV series. But we’ll see. I’m really excited about it. It’s a fun plotline. She’ll have two love interests through most of the books, and I’m really not sure who she’ll eventually end up with. Though it may occasionally seem obvious to the reader, love is not always what it appears.

Readers:  Make a comment on this blog and be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Saving Madeline. To learn more about Rachel and her books, or to read the first chapter of Saving Madeline, visit her website: http://www.RachelAnnNunes.com.

2
Sep

Yay for Moroni Books and Their Discount!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

If anyone has been wanting to join the Internet Launch for ‘The Hidden Branch, then this deal is for you!  Today I signed at Moroni Books in Ft. Collins, CO, and they told me they were offering a 20% discount on The Hidden Branch through their website http://MoroniBooks.com where you can buy the book on line.

Then, in case you don’t know the rest of the drill, you e-mail me at ggvan1@gmail.com with your name and snail mail address in order to receive Alex and Briggie goodies and be entered into the drawing for the rest of the series (four books) and a Royals t-shirt like Briggie wears which would make a stunning Christmas gift for your mother-in-law!

Watch this blog tomorrow night (I’m traveling) for an interview with Rachel Ann Nunes.