Archive for November, 2009

30
Nov

What Lies Behind the Fantasy Craze?

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Essays

It is no news that ever since Harry Potter, fantasy books have been in high demand. New authors are sprouting up all the time. Adults are even reading children’s fantasy books, and the adult fantasy market is burgeoning. Why?

Obviously, people are looking for escape from the world they live in and are looking for alternate realities. What characterizes these realities? Almost all of them have a clearly defined sense of good and evil—something that is missing in today’s society. Good and evil still exist, of course, but they are not acknowledged. In the fantasy world, there is no such thing as political correctness!

People are hungry for heroes. So often fantasy has "Christ figures"—a character who will perform an act that will set the fictional universe to rights. By the number of people who crave these stories, it is quite obvious that we possess an internal archetype that knows good and evil and believes in the possibility of redemption. So, while politicians and media pundits are trying to eradicate a belief in absolutes, people are buying more and more books that deal in absolutes.

If the world we live in today were a fantasy, how would things be made right? It is certainly possible that an author would allow things to play out until they became much worse. Until we were on the brink of total annihilation. Then there would be an apocalyptic ending, where the evil are destroyed and the good redeemed.

My novel, The Last Waltz, (http://last-waltz.com) tells the first half of this story, the decline and fall of Austria as a world power that eventually embraces fascism. Something that isn’t very well understood is that Hitler was seen as the hero of the fantasy that all could be restored to rights. Only a very slim part of society saw Hitler for what he really was. Watching the film "Triumph of the Will" reminds me of a scene in Star Wars where the evil Emperor’s storm troopers are marching on display. It is indeed chilling, and one can see how so many people were deceived by its pageantry.

Germany and Austria’s intellectuals, who might have saved the day, had given up on God and morality and embraced decadence as a way of life. After the horror of World War I, they could no longer believe in the code of ethics that had guided Europe for so many hundreds of years.

This disenchantment with the past also gave rise to socialism as an answer: let’s demolish the class system and nationalism altogether. The socialists represented an alternative to fascism that was very attractive to many intellectuals, including Americans who fought with the Communists in the Spanish Civil War in the early ‘thirties.

So history tells us that we must be careful when we choose our heroes. And the present day preoccupation with fantasy tells us that we must be careful not to confuse fantasy with reality. If "thinkers" give up on the real world, who will save it?

29
Nov

Giving it a Rest

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

My poor hip is screaming so loud that I have decided to give it a rest and stay in bed for a week with ice packs, etc.

 

Fun podcast just uploaded at

http://www.ldswomensbookreview.com/wordpress/?p=118  We laughed a LOT!!!

27
Nov

Suzanne Reese’s Review of Hidden Branch

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Reviews

My favorite thing about G.G. Vandagriff’s ‘The Hidden Branch’ is that it doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. The character of Briggie is as fun as her name sounds. She’s a senior lady who lands in jail more than once, yet none of her friends seem nonplussed by the news. And even though the story is whimsical at times, there is some serious action and intrigue. There are plenty of characters, which means plenty of suspects and plenty of reasons to keep turning pages. If you read my review of ‘Last Waltz’ you know that I think Vandagriff is one of the best authors around. ‘The Hidden Branch’ shows that she’s able to adapt to multiple genres with amazing skill.

27
Nov

Kathi Oram Petersen’s Review of Hidden Branch

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Reviews

Do you want a fun read with lots of intrigue that has sleuthing by two wonderful main characters who would rival Agatha Christie’s Poirot? Well I’ve found it in G.G. Vandagriff’s book The Hidden Branch.

This book is just plain fun! Not only does the mystery of the novel twist and turn, but so does your heart as you follow the characters and worry over them. My heart sank when Charles, Alex’s fiancé, has to leave to go to his dying mother. Though I hadn’t read the previous book in the series, which showed the struggle of these two lovebirds getting together, that didn’t stop me from rooting for them to maintain their love. (I’m going to have to read the other books in the series now. Thanks, G.G.) You’ll have to read The Hidden Branch to find out if Charles comes back, and if Alex’s love for him will survive as she works with Briggie to solve this murder mystery.
Grab a warm blanket, a cup of cocoa, and curl up on the couch for this delightful tale.

21
Nov

A Peek Into the Mind and Heart of a Great Talent–C.S. Bezas

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Interviews

GG:  When I visited you last summer and you were so gracious to offer me bed and breakfast, etc. during my Idaho Signing Trip, I became aware you are possessed with more talents than the average person dreams of:  You are an accomplished speaker (EFY, keynote presenter, workshop facilitator, etc.), you are a musical composer, arranger and piano recording artist, you sing (and have done so professionally), you are a published author with books targeted for youth, you are a weekly Meridian columnist, and you understand and use the cyber world for public relations and are able to teach others how to stage PR campaigns.  You are a professional creativity consultant.  I’m sure I’ve missed something.  What is it?
C.S.: Well, for a time I did professional theater … and loved it, I might add. But truly the most meaningful activity of any has been to be a wife and a mother. THAT I’ve found to be the most challenging, yet rewarding experience of them all.

GG:  How do you decide which gift to focus on with your limited time when you have three very active children?
C.S.: That "limited time" question is one we all face, isn’t it—for each child of God has unique talents and they are meant to be used. How do we then engage in the gifts God has given us, yet not short-change our family? I’ve struggled with this. There was a time when my kids were living off of pizza nightly. It had gotten so regular the Domino’s delivery boy knew my family and I had my 16-digit driver’s license number memorized to write those dinner checks!

I don’t think the answer to limited time comes easily. Yet I’ve discovered that if you’re NOT using your gifts, there is an inescapable awareness that travels incessantly with you. I really do believe we promised to do certain things once we arrived here on earth. I believe it is why we each have unique talents so we can first bless our family and then mankind.

For me now those “Domino days” are long gone. I wish they’d never existed. At one point, I chose to quit everything that didn’t pertain to my children. But I had a potent dream that showed me I was to focus on both family and talents. So I’ve since discovered the answer to “limited time” (for me, at least). I now “create” early in the morning before the demands of the day heat up. As a result, I feel a sense of peaceful “discharge” that lasts throughout each day. I’m able fully to focus on my children during the remaining hours and make far more nutritious meals. It has been a tremendously freeing experience!

You asked which gift I focus on and how do I figure that out? It’s usually determined by which deadline I face! But I’m learning to wrest some of that back into personal choice.

One of the other most impactful things I’ve done is to allow joy a presence in my life. I used to feel guilty when I felt joy. Call me whacked, but I struggled for some time to allow a lightness of spirit into my life, especially during the use of my talents. I think, though, there is a surprising amount of people who also struggle with this.

Yet the good news of the gospel really is in knowing Christ paid for us and that we are allowed to feel lightness of spirit. Joy usually comes while serving others. The more I’ve spent time reading my scriptures, the more 2 Nephi 2 (http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_ne/2/25#25) has hit home. It’s helped me realize God gives gifts SO we can serve others, whether that’s making a delicious chicken soup for someone ill or writing a transcendent symphony. It is urgent we each develop our own talents and use them to brighten an ever-darkening world. It is a truth: the world needs your talents to lift and renew hope.

GG:  What is your favorite gift or talent?

C.S.: Wow, what delightfully tough questions! That’s akin to asking which child is the favorite? For me, though, I do love being able to create a mood in a room through my music. I love being able to weave a fabric of sound that moves in and through all present, making us one in the moment. I also love doing the same on stage as an actress, creating little segments of space that escape time’s clutches and live on for months, if not years. Yet I love presenting through either written word or keynote speeches, probably for the same reason. I guess in summary, each gift when used to broaden a life, or to enlarge hope, is the same: it’s being used to renew those who may have lost faith.

GG: How did you discover how gifted you were?

C.S.: Hmmm, I’m not sure if I can answer that. Simply for the reason I never felt I was gifted. I do remember singing at the top of my lungs when I was five while on a swing in my backyard. Pity the neighbors as I toyed with composing (at full voice) to express my feelings for the day! It was during that season in my life I discovered I expressed myself better through art than simply by living like other kids. I often felt lonely; losing myself through creating or reading the dictionary or writing radio plays brought comfort. I think it’s that early loneliness that helps me understand on a deep level the loneliness, longing, or “lostness” that others feel. The arts became my early playground, even while my friends were getting healthy by jumping from jungle gyms! But am I really gifted? Not sure about that. I sometimes think “gifted is as gifted does.” :0)

GG:  What advice can you give other people about discovering their gifts/talents?

C.S.: Ahh, this is a subject I really love. I’ve always felt more “juice” helping others develop their gifts (no matter how latent or undiscovered) than helping myself. It is why I opened my consulting business at MakeYourLifeSomethingBeautiful.com. I just really thrill to help others discover their potential … to help them find why they’ve been sent to earth “for a time such as this”. In truth, it is precisely that phrase from Esther 4:14 http://scriptures.lds.org/en/esth/4/14#14 that drives me to do what I do when coaching other people. I want them to discover why they’ve been placed on this earth, at this time, in the family they have. There is a reason and I love helping others find it.

GG:  Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

C.S.: Yes, yes, yes! I wish I had understood several things MUCH earlier: that none of us are meant to replicate another’s talents or life. We are here to stand for who we uniquely are. I wish I’d understood I didn’t need to apologize for who I was. I wish I’d learned to love myself earlier. I wish I’d learned it is alright simply to be me and to create what *I* was meant to create, instead of feeling so lost. It’s why I now seek to help others find a short cut to their dreams. I took an awfully long way around!

GG:  Once someone has discovered they have a particular ability, how do they go about developing it in this busy world?  Do they have an obligation to try to do this?

C.S.: You ask such wise questions, GG! Discovering gifts is a multi-layered process. And that process is found in one word: DO. You must get out there and DO things to discover #1 where your joy is found, and #2 what interests you enough to keep working at it. One of my students discovered an immense talent with guitar. But as I told her, without effort her talent still would remain hidden.

One of the best indicators of a God-given gift is the feeling of joy. Do you feel joyful doing it? Do you feel a sense of time fading away during the activity? If so, you may very well have found an activity that is your “Esther 4:14” purpose (or at least one of them).

As to whether or not people have an obligation to develop and use their talents to bless others, this is between each person and God. But can you imagine returning home to those heavenly halls, not having used one gift to uplift another during your sojourn on this earth? Esther experienced a newly found gift of courage; what will yours or any of ours be? We can only know by seeking.

I think therein lies the answer whether or not to get busy—in balanced fashion—discovering, developing and using talents. When we move into the higher mode expressed in the thought, “Each One Reach One,” I feel this is when the true essence of 2 Nephi 2:25 is discovered.

Editor’s Note:. To learn more how you too can develop your unique set of gifts, visit http://www.MakeYourLifeSomethingBeautiful.com.

17
Nov

Gratitude

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Spiritual Musings

Since this is the week of Thanksgiving, it is fitting that I should have an experience that makes me extremely grateful for my health and for modern medicine.  As most of my readers know, I had a complete hip replacement last May.  I am still not completely recovered and it was one of if not the most painful thing in my life.  It beat natural childbirth (times 3) and kidney stones.  So, imagine my feelings when two days ago my other hip “went.”   During our trip to Florence, we walked everywhere and I was in constant pain.  I guess I overdid it, but anyone who knows me, knows that isn’t unusual.  I have a high pain tolerance and manage to make it through most things of a physical nature.  However, it’s not necessarily good for or respectful to your body, so it certainly doesn’t count as a virtue.

I couldn’t get into the doctor until today.  Over the weekend, I was certain I was in for another round of surgery without pain killers (I’m allergic) that would make it impossible for me to write my planned novel on Florence before the deadline (Apr 1).  I anticipated an extremely painful cruise to Greece which I might be better off cancelling, and didn’t know how I was going to take care of my coming grandchild.  By far the worst risk to my well-being is my mental health which was taking quite a hit imagining all that pain.

However, I prayed anyway.  I prayed that somehow this would all go away. 

When I went to see Dr. Jackson, he took x-rays and was extremely puzzled.  There appeared to be nothing wrong with my hip at all.  He referred me to a back doctor, because he had never seen such a bad back (severe scoliosis).  The back doctor said that the problem was definitely in my hips and has scheduled me for a shot in the hip joint tomorrow which should take away my pain.

No surgery this time!  The mystery isn’t solved, but I’ve been given a very great blessing.  I still can’t believe it.  I have never realized what a blessing it is to be able to work.  I am so so grateful that I will not be having surgery next week.  I’m so grateful that the Lord has provided for me to be able to go on with my work, my plans, and the chance to be with my daughter when she  has her new baby.

I can’t possibly express how grateful I am for these blessings.  Thank you, Lord.

12
Nov

The Greatest News!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Personal News

I am going to be a grandmother again!  Jack has waited nearly four years for a sibling!  We got to see an ultrasound picture, and the child looks like a kidney bean with little tiny armbuds.  He /She is only 7 weeks old.

Delivery is expected June 15! 

I just booked a cruise yesterday to the Greek Isles (of course we will visit Florence first) that embarks on May 15, after being assured that our cruise insurance will cover cancellation due to early delivery of the munchkin!

It looks like I will need to stay with my daughter for about a month in order to keep Jack entertained, since he is such an interactive child and Buffy will need her rest. 

My book deadline for Crazy Ladies of Oakwood: Volume One-The Tuscan Escapade is April 1st, and it will come out in the fall, so it looks like everything will be neatly slotted into place.  (That makes me nervous–something is bound to go wrong!).

Embracing Abundance is with Covenant.  Am hoping it will come out this summer!

9
Nov

Funny, Serious, Guilt-Freeing & Inspiring

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Reviews

How can one book be so many contradictory things? A book about some fairly famous people by Anne Bradshaw on Family Nights. You will laugh out loud at some of the entries, find some great ideas to spice things up at your house, stop feeling guilty about your FHE "failures," and be inspired by the long-term effects of living with this commandment.

Anne is seriously connected with a lot of people, all of whom it seems have a story to share on this topic. It would make a perfect gift, especially for families with teen-agers or children who won’t stay still!

The only beef I have with the book is not Anne’s fault. I think CFI should have given her a better cover. It must have been a hard choice, but I don’t think a cartoon superhero does justice to the scope of the book. So don’t let the cover scare you away. Read a few of the entries and you will know you have to have this book!

5
Nov

A New Contest!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

The Last Waltz is being read in 3 book clubs that I know of in January: 2 in Colorado and 1 in California. I had nothing to do with setting these up, other than putting a book club page on TLW website (http://last-waltz.com). The book lends itself to book clubs really well because when people finish it, they always seem to want to talk to someone about it.

In order to encourage more book club selection of The Last Waltz, I am offering a wonderful prize: A very trendy 75% cashmere 25% silk scarf/shawl purchased by me in my recent trip to Florence! All you have to do is get your book club to schedule Last Waltz for 2010 and be the first to do so! Then let me know! I’ll have some consolation prizes for those of you not so quick off the mark. The deadline is Nov 30. I love to participate in Book Clubs by speaker phone, if this is something you would like.  If you live on the Wasatch Front, I have been known to visit in person (unless you want to say bad things about the book!)

4
Nov

An Amazing Majority!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Fan Input

When I asked for votes on the order my characters should appear in The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood: Part One–The Florentine Escapade (or Escapade in Tuscany?) I was amazed to find that every single respondent chose McKenzie as the first character to be presented.  The really odd thing about it is that each of my characters work out their own particular craziness in one of the four volumes of the series.  McKenzie is the one I chose (after I wrote the opening chapters) to find herself in Volume One!  So all that works out logically, even if I didn’t see it!

Herc (aka David) and I put off watching NCIS last night long enough to talk over the basics of each woman’s adventures. He is absolutely the best co-conspirator there is.  Witness his magnificent photography.22-Duomo 2-Tweak Of course, as the ladies add their two cents, the plot will evolve and change into something as close to real as I can make it.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read the chapters and advise me!  (See last post if you have no idea what I’m talking about).  Your input was great!