Archive for March, 2010

22
Mar

Hot Doin’s In V-City!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Future Plans, My books, Writing

My oldest son christened our household “V-City” and published a regular newspaper about our fascinating existence in our small Ozarks community many years ago.  This newsletter contains all our recent news in the scaled down Provo V-City!

First of all, Happy Easter!

Easter is my favorite holiday, because there is such an abundance of things to be grateful for at this time of year.  I am most grateful for the atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ that makes redemption through his infinite love.  I am also thankful for Spring in Utah which is always amazing when seen from my office “The Cranberry Tower” that looks over Utah Valley.

In writing news, I am pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of Discovering Annika , (working title) this fall.  It used to be called The Only Bright Thing, but my publisher disliked the title and the name (Sigrid) of the main character.  So, I’m hoping that they go with this one.  Am also hoping that they come up with a cover as nice as my other books.  This is not a mystery or an historical novel, like my previous offerings.  It is straight women’s fiction.  However, it does have a minor mystery, and a good deal of romance.  The real kind of romance that readers of The Last Waltz will expect from me.  It digs deeply into the origins of romantic feelings and demonstrates different kinds of love.

The story was begun 25 years ago in the Ozarks, when I was mentored in the craft of writing by an outstanding editor, who taught me the art of cutting away the dross and allowing the true story to shine.  It was a painful process and took about five years.  Since that time, the novel has undergone many incarnations, but when I submitted it to my product director last year, she said, “You need to go deeper with this.”  So I began digging once more into the psyches of my characters.  I was surprised at how much my perspective on love has changed from my first writing of this tale.  The waiting was good, for I learned a lot in those many years of letting it simmer.

Annika is living a double life, plagued by flashbacks to a former very passionate relationship and a career as a concert pianist in Europe.  Her husband knows nothing of that Annika.  He thinks she is his stoic, Scandanavian Eve and that he has found Eden in the Ozarks. Annika has never given him the slightest clue about her past, because she is determined to begin a new life with Dennis.  But, as most of us know, if we don’t deal with our emotions properly, they will hold our bodies and our lives hostage until we have let ourselves feel the feelings we have been shutting down.  Dennis must piece together Annika’s real personality, while Annika must decide whether she is the past Annika or the Annika that is living with her husband and three and a half year old son on the Peach Tree Farm.  I can promise you that if you like character-driven fiction, this will be a good, and perhaps even an enlightening read for you.

So, you ask, what about The Crazy Ladies? Well, that book has turned out to be an amazingly wonderful and difficult project.  I have never written any serious fiction this fast and it is a challenge.  I am on my second draft, incorporating the ideas and edits of my three alpha readers.  I will need to add a lot of new material at the end.  Hopefully, you will see it in 2011!

David’s book I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in our Everyday Lives, is steadily climbing the bestseller charts.  You will see it on page one of both DB and Seagull.  In the Seagull retail stores, it is currently #8 in the bestsellers.  It is wonderful Easter read, and his reviews have shown that many people find it to be a life-changing book. You can read daily postings on http://www.atonementblog.com/.

Meanwhile, I am preparing for our second Crazy Ladies research trip–this one a cruise to the Greek Isles.  It promises to be fascinating and exhausting.  Am trying to up my capacity for both aerobic activity and walking and climbing after more than a year of little or no exercise due to my orthopedic problems.  I have a brand new stationary bike, and plan to resume my neighborhood walks.  I have also bought an impressive array of shoes.  I think I may need to take an extra bag, just for shoes!  Everything from silver sandals to Sketcher orthopedic walking shoes!  Wish me luck!

And for goodness sake, if you are an Alex and Briggie fan, be sure to enter the great contest on the contest page of my website: http://ggvandagriff.com/contest!

15
Mar

Everybody’s Doing It–Michele Bell’s First YA

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Authors, Reviews

Summer in ParisInterview of Michele Ashman Bell

GG: Most readers know that you are a very popular romance novelist. Is Summer in Paris the first YA novel that you have written?

MB: It is my first honest-to-goodness YA. Some of my other novels have a youthful tone to them, but are not genuine YA category. Summer in Paris is targeted directly to a YA audience, although I think adults are going to enjoy it also.

GG: Do your writing plans include future YA novels?

MB: I hope so! I love writing for this age group. I feel drawn to youth and want to provide reading material that will do more than just entertain them. I want to give them something to think about and maybe even inspire and uplift them.

GG: It seems to me that the dialogue and thought processes of teenagers would be a particular stretch. It appeared to me that you got both spot on! What is the most difficult challenge you face writing for Y.A.?

MB: I have teenagers at home so I am very keyed into issues and concerns kids are facing today. I also see the influences around them that are pulling these kids so many directions. I biggest challenge/goal is to write stories that will resonate with them and connect with them emotionally. Teens are a tough audience but fiercely loyal.

GG: Which genre of fiction do you most enjoy writing and why?

MB: My writing reflects my mood and what’s going on in my life. I wrote a children’s series which I absolutely loved and had so much fun with, but on the other hand I really like getting into issues for women and digging deep for emotion. Romantic suspense is my favorite genre, but seriously I feel like I reinvent myself with each book.

GG: Do you have any other books coming out in the near future?

MB: I’m so excited that the second book in my Butterfly Box series is finally coming out in July. It has been a long wait and I’m working hard on the third and final book in that series. After that I will launch in the sequel to Summer in Paris.

GG: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

MB: Typing “THE END.” J Seriously, I enjoy pretty much everything. I love research. I can get carried away doing research so I have to be careful. I really love it when I’m writing and I find myself in a completely different spot than I thought I was going. That’s when I know the characters have become real and have taken ownership of the story.

GG: Would you call your novels character driven or plot driven?

MB: Mostly character driven, but most of the time both. Stories usually happen as a result of some type of inspiration or trigger from an idea I get about a character, or from a specific setting I happen to find fascinating or fall in love with. But it’s the characters that really give me the passion for my stories.

GG Did you know the end from the beginning of Summer In Paris?

MB: I did, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. I had to revamp my outline quite a few times, but I ultimately knew where I wanted things to end up. I work better that way. It’s like going on a road trip and having a destination in mind. Without a destination who knows where you’re going to end up!

GG: What is your favorite character that you have ever written? Why?

MB: In my book Without a Flaw I wrote about a woman named Isabelle who was in an abusive marriage finally found the courage to leave her situation and get her life back. I cared so much about her and loved the growth she went through in the novel. I wanted to see her succeed and find joy and happiness. She was awesome!

GG: Do your ideas come to you in the night? In the shower? While chauffeuring your children? What is your most important “composting time?”

MB: That’s a fascinating but very descriptive way to describe the process of mulling over an idea. I have paper and pencil in every nook and cranny of my life because I have to write ideas down when they come or I’ll forget them. Because, ideas come at every possible moment, usually when I’m doing some brainless activity and my mind wanders. I’ve always been a daydreamer and that seems to still be my most creative time.

GG: I know you have tremendously talented children and are extremely involved in their lives. Have you thought about that future (which comes all too fast!) when you are an empty nester? Are your writing goals different for that time of your life?

MB: I still have seven years until my youngest graduates from high school, so I haven’t really even looked that far down the road (probably denial). When I am in that phase of life though, I hope to be with you, GG, traipsing around Europe and doing research. That would be amazing!

GG: Most writers are very hard on themselves about their writing ability. You have achieved great success in your career. But, knowing you as I do, I know that, like most writers, are dissatisfied with some aspect of your work. How would you most like to develop yourself as a writer? Do you have any plans to make this happen.?

MB: I am ashamed to admit that I am terrible with grammar. I could kick myself a million times over for not paying better attention in English classes in high school (although I got great grades – go figure). I know my editor would appreciate me submitting cleaner manuscripts but right now I don’t have plans to take classes to improve this. I’m too busy writing, to learn how to write. Makes no sense to me either.

GG: We have a challenge as LDS writers to “bring people to the light.” How do you feel we can do this most effectively?

MB: I feel this obligation very strongly. Very strongly! I don’t take this lightly either. No matter which market I publish for, no matter which genre, I will always, always, make sure that my stories are consistent with the gospel and appropriate for anyone to read, especially my children and grandchildren. I don’t believe I was given this opportunity to have a voice in the LDS community, the inspirational market, by chance. Our stories can inspire without being preachy. There has to be fundamental truths involved in our characters lives and the plots. It’s the fiber of who I am and what I write, the two are intertwined.

GG: Most people don’t realize that writers serve an “apprenticeship” where they are practicing and learning to write, just like musicians and dancers learn their crafts by practicing and learning specific skills.. How long was your apprenticeship before you were published? How did you go about the task of learning to write?

MB: It took me forever. I wrote for ten years before getting published. I took advantage of community education creative writing classes, went to workshops and writer’s conferences, and joined a multitude of critique groups (I have the scars to prove it). For a while I was an evaluator for Covenant Communications and really got a feel for the LDS market. Learning to write was a long process and it was only because of persistence that I got published. I am not the most gifted and talented writer, but I am very hardworking! I don’t regret any of that time because I learned so much on that journey to getting published.

GG: What advice do you have for aspiring writers who are now serving their apprenticeship (and doubtless experiencing rejections)?

MB: I kept every rejection letter I ever received and I think I have around sixty-seven of them. I believed that one day I would look back and see all the effort I put into my goal of getting published and knew I would feel a great sense of accomplishment. It was so worth it! My advice would be to believe in yourself and never give up. If you want it badly enough it will happen, but you have to keep working and improving your craft and putting your work out there.

Click HERE to purchase Summer in Paris.  Michele’s website is HERE and she also writes a great blog, HERE.

5
Mar

Il Duomo

   Posted by: G.G.    in Italy, Meridian Magazine

We can take some lessons in building our lives from the builders of Florence’s signature piece of Renaissance architecture.

A poet my husband introduced me to, Theodore Roethke, wrote, “We learn by going where we need to go.” Elder Holland in his address “Cast Not Away Therefore thy Confidence” talked about the courage we must have when we are penned in by figurative Egyptians. No one had ever crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be done. He imagined that Moses had to prove his faith by getting his toes wet before the sea parted.

Everyone who has visited Florence has seen the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo (Dome in Italian). The Duomo is capped by the first large dome to be built in the Renaissance, required an almost unbelievable amount of faith by its architects and I think we can draw lessons on faith and hope from it. No one knew how to build such a huge dome when construction was begun. After one hundred years of work, most of the structure of the cathedral was finished, with the builders confidently leaving an enormous hole in the ceiling for a future dome. (Click on photo for larger view.)

The generation that began the dome, spearheaded by architect Filippo Brunelleschi, had no idea how it was to be done, but they started it, using the locally manufactured terra cotta brick. By the standards of that time, a dome of such great size would collapse under its own weight and some large medieval cathedrals had collapsed during construction. The builders went as far as they could using conventional techniques, then contemplated alternatives. Brunelleschi finally conceived of building a smaller dome first to support the structure of the larger dome. This and many other unknown and unorthodox methods were developed and the great dome was completed in 1436. The Duomo has become the most prominent symbol of the beginning of the great Renaissance, which began in Florence, then spread through Italy and the rest of Europe. The Duomo was the prototype for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and every other large dome built during that era.

The great thing about the Renaissance was that its artists (an astounding number rose to prominence in a single place—Florence—much like the miracle of the Founding Fathers congregating in Philadelphia) were not afraid to “push the envelope.” Michelangelo had to have been taught by the Lord, for no one else schooled him to be the greatest sculptor of modern times. And the things he had to know about the pre-existence and creation of man are illustrated on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This scene shows God reaching out to give the divine spark of life to Adam. Most people see that. But what is less evident, is that Elohim’s other arm is around a woman. Could it be Heavenly Mother? Behind Him and this cherished woman are a barely formed press of Spirit children that appear to go on to infinity. This knowledge had to be imparted to Michelangelo by our Heavenly Father. The artist is labeled a humanist, because he portrayed these sacred personalities in human form. However, the artist knew, as we know, that the Creator does have a human form, or perhaps we should say WE have a celestial form. (Click on photo for larger view.)

What is there for us to learn from Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, and the other great artists who seemingly rose from the darkness of the Middle Ages? For me, it is to have vision past the ordinary and the mundane. To use the gifts of creativity I have been given to cross my Red Sea or build my Duomo. To align my will with the Father’s and dare to see what He wants me to accomplish, brick by brick, step by step.

I recently attended a Deseret Book banquet where President Eyring was the speaker. He spoke of the Light of Christ that is in all of God’s children when they come to earth. He likened it to a computer search engine. He said these “search engines” were constantly seeking the Light everywhere. President Eyring said that we who have the Gospel, have the light, and that we must rise to the occasion by shining that light and drawing all seekers of light to us.

That is a tall order. He was speaking to authors, musicians, and artists. However, the same is true in every field of worthy endeavor. We may not see immediately how something is to be done. We may serve a long apprenticeship. We may be the foundation for someone else’s work. However, Zion will eventually shine with a light that will be seen by all the world. Those who hate God will be afraid of that light. But those who love Him will be drawn to it.

The Restoration of the Gospel the greatest renaissance of all time, and the greatest spirits of the pre-existence were reserved to come forth and shine their lights in this time. Look how Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ magnified the unlearned schoolboy, Joseph Smith! We can all be stretched, if we are willing to consecrate our talents unto the Lord. Eventually, because we have the whole truth, we as a Zion society, will be a beacon to the world.