Archive for February, 2011


Magical Mystery Tour: We Have A Winner! Your Turn Next . . .

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

Lu Ann Worley is the winner of a special prize chosen for her during my journeys in Tuscany!  She answered correctly the five trivia questions taken from Cankered Roots, the first Alex and Briggie mystery.

If you missed the announcement, I am having a Magical Mystery Tour of all my published mysteries prior to the release of Foggy With a Chance of Murder at the end of April.  From now until February 28, you have the opportunity to answer five trivia questions from Of Deadly Descent, my second Alex and Briggie mystery.  It takes place in one of my favorite places on earth that isn’t Italy.  Oxford, England.  Alex is trying to find heretofore unknown cousins that she has traced to Oxford.  These cousins will share in her own inheritance, so when people start dying, she finds herself again a suspect.  Deadly is the favorite of many of my readers, not only because of its setting, but because it introduces the Divine Charles–perfect, eligible, English gentleman who has a yen for Alex.  This is a great introduction to the series, even if you didn’t read Cankered Roots.  Envelope please . . .

The questions are:

1. With which Oxford College is Charles affiliated?

2. How many children does Charles’s brother Frederick have?

3. What is the clue that finally tips Alex off as to the identity of the murderer?

4. Give one earlier clue that Alex observed, but didn’t understand was related to the case.

5. What is Dr. Daniel Grinnell’s tie to Oxford?

To win a special gift bought by me in Tuscany last week, send answers to my website:, where these questions will also be posted.  There will be a drawing for the winner on Feb 28th, at which time he/she will be announced on this blog, along with five more questions taken from Tangled Roots. 


Arrivederci Firenze! Mille Grazie!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

Actually I leave tomorrow at dawn, but wanted to get my final post in today.  I didn’t quite achieve my writing goal, however I got far enough into the winding up conflicts that I have all the last chapters outlined.  Also, had an industry pro go over my first 75,000 words and she gave me lots of good direction, and thought I was off to a good start which was a relief (after all the starts I’ve made on this novel!)

David critiqued my query and did an equally good job.

Yesterday was one of the most fun days I’ve spent.  Adriana and I spent most of it together as I was the only guest and Betta was gone.  We talked seriously, jokingly, and finally by 9 pm were pretty silly.  She took me out to the burbs where I could spend much less on a gold charm for Betta’s necklace.  She  also surprised me by buying about a year’s supply of dark chocolate.  We decided that somewhere on the way home I was gong to turn into a chocolate bar!

Today’s tasks just include organizing expenses, packing, and seeing the Palazzo Vecchio and hopefully the Bibliotecha Nationale for my A & B book and time travel book.  There will be tearful good-byes although I think I’ve convinced Adriana, at least, to come for a visit in the US.

This trip has been more than I ever expected.  Not only has it inspired my writing, but it has inspired my view of the world, and my own relationships with other people.  The kindnesses shown to me by people I will never see again have inspired me to be more Christlike and less selfish.

I hope to come again someday with my whole family.  It is a truly life-changing adventure!


My Big, Fat Italian Birthday Party

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

My hostess, Elisabetta, was kind enough to invite me to her own home for the birthday party of her son, Cosimo.  I felt like I was in an old Italian movie.  All that was missing was the accordian music.  There was the grandmother, dumpling shaped and dressed all in black, her gray hair waved in finger waves by her face and drawn back into a braided bun.  And, of course, she had no teeth.  All of this was very satisfactory until I realized that she was only two years older than me (who came in jeans and a turtleneck).  Oh, my! 

Then there was the wine.  I felt so bad, because I think it was bought especially for me.  There was also champagne.  They already think my religion is strange, so I didn’t dare tell them that it was because of my religion I didn’t drink, but they kept pouring me wine and asking me to just take a sip. I felt really sad to disappoint them.  But they were so happy and laughing and telling me everything that was happening on the television (which was on the whole time we were eating.)

Eating brings me to the amazing food.  First there was a kind of vegetable potato salad that the grandmother made.  Then there was spaghetti with mussels and shrimp (yummy!) as especially requested by Cosimo.  Next, there was spinach tortellini with tomato sauce and fresh cheese. That was when I reached my limit.  I told E. to just box the rest of mine up and I would take it back to the b & b.  She thought this was funny.  (Of course, everything was funny to her because of the vino).  Next was the main course: barbecued steak.  Cosimo kept putting the biggest one on my plate, but of course, I couldn’t eat it, so I kept putting it back on the platter.  Then they insisted I try just a bite with fresh lemon.  Ugh!  I don’t recommend it.  Finally, the piece de resistance: the torte.  I couldn’t turn that down.  It was a vision—kiwi, grapes, oranges (blood and regular)all on a delicate pastry crust overlaid with sweet cream sauce and then gelatin to make it shiny.  It was a lovely, happy meal.

I’ve been sick with a sore throat, so I had to miss my last Sunday at church, and haven’t gotten much writing done, but I forced myself out on the streets today to do my final shopping.  Friends and family, you have some lovely Florentine gifts coming!  I realized how important it was to push myself past the pain in my joints if I’m going to stay mobile.  I definitely felt better after I came home than I did before I left.  Also—this is hilarious—some Japaniese tourists, thinking I was from Florence, asked me directions, handing me their map.  The old city is so confusing, but I actually managed to find the spot where we were standing on his map to show him that he was quite a bit off course.  Morgan, stop laughing!

Have done everything on my list except to visit the Palazzo Vecchio.  Unfortunately, Briggie and Alex are going to have to find a way into the Medici Library.  They wouldn’t let me in today, so I have no idea what it looks like, but it is huge.



Why All Florentines Will Go To Heaven

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

This blog has been full of posts about the kindness of strangers that I have met with in Florence, but I think that last night must take the cake.

It started with the opera that didn’t happen.  The taxi dropped me at Senshall Theater in a part of Florence that is new and chic, where I have never been.  The theater looked like a Nuclear Power plant, which should have been my first clue that something was “off.”  My second clue was that the stage was filled with all the instruments of a rock band and a very advanced technical system was on display immediately inside the doors to the theater.  Clue #3: Everyone was dressed for a rock concert.  This wasn’t going to be The Magic Flute as I knew it, that was for certain.  Then I remembered that nothing about Mozart had been mentioned anywhere.  It was very late for me.  I nearly dozed off, despite the chatter.  When the concert or whatever it was, still hadn’t commenced thirty minutes late, I obeyed the little voice in my head which had been telling me to go home to bed.  I was feeling steadily unwell, and the idea of a rock concert was not at all appealing to me at that moment.

So I went out to the lobby to ask for a taxi to be called.  Well, you never saw such a furor.  Italians:  “Why do you want to leave the concert?”  Me:  “I’m not feeling well.”  Italians:  “Ah!  You need a doctor!  We will call a doctor.” Me:  “No, no, please no.  I will get better.  I just need to sleep.”  Reluctant promise to call a taxi.  A few moments later, beaming Italian approaches me. “You go outside to wait! I get for you Milano25!”  “Milano 25?” I repeat.  “Si Si!  Go. Go.”

Milano 25 turns out to be the most famous taxi in the world.  Before you find out more, let me just say that that little Italian man at the concert hall gave me the best gift he could under the circumstances, all because he was so terribly concerned about the Signora who was too unwell to go to the concert.  It is a gesture I will never forget.  In the night, I received the title to my Crazy Ladies Book: The Only Way to Paradise. In the last chapter, MacKenzie will say, “There is only one way to Paradise and that is love.  I found love in Italy.”

Now, before you do another thing, go to to read about my latest Florentine guardian angel.


A Red Letter Day for 2011

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

I felt the sun HOT on my back!!  Yes, I know that it’s the beginning of February and that just a few days ago, I was complaining about the Siberian Wind, but nevertheless, it’s true!  And Italy does NOT, as I supposed when I planned this trip, have a Mediterranean climate.

I have been confined to quarters with my nose to the grindstone since Tuesday morning.  Today, which started at 5 a.m., my writing went surprisingly well, with the consequence that I was drained by noon. – So, I rewarded myself for all my hard work with a sandwich at Robiglio’s (my corner cafe of which I have become very fond), and a bus trip over the river and through the woods to the Piazzale d’Michelangelo.  That is where it happened.  I was sitting on the steps, contemplating the most beautiful view in Florence–that of the city itself dominated by the red brick dome of the Duomo, when suddenly, my back was warm.  Isn’t that one of the most divine sensations?

I took the opportunity to ponder my novel and where it was headed.  MacKenzie, who started out as way too vanilla for my taste has very nearly gotten out of hand.  Daily her situation becomes more dire,, and I’m hoping to salvage her moral principles before I head home next week.  I probably need to take the computer down to Robiglios again.  I hear passionate Italian voices all around, and it’s like opera.  I don’t care what they’re saying (unless it’s a furious argument), it’s music to my ears.  Presto!  Inzpirazione!!

Speaking of which, tonight is my special treat–I am going to an opera in Italy!  After years of listening to Luciano on my boom box, I am finally going to the Italian Opera.  However, it is Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and I can’t recall if it’s in German or Italian.  Obviously, I’m hoping for the latter.

Another thing that makes it a Red Letter Day is that I was unceremoniously dumped by my busdriver who decided his shift was over, and I found my way home ON FOOT from the train station!  The maze of streets is impossible to describe.  If I could, you would realize that I am a heroine indeed!

Here’s hoping you all have Red Letter Days as well!


This Book Had to Be Written in Italy

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

The people here may not understand economic principles or democratic government in the same way Americans do, but they know how to love each other.  At least, the ones I have been privileged to consort with do.

Utah is beautiful in its own unique way, and I love it, but Tuscany is so soothing, and familiar that it’s like a beautiful quilt of oranges, apricots, silver greens, and apple greens that just wraps you up and coddles you.  The famous discovery of the Renaissance artists and scientists—perspective, is Tuscany’s gift to the world.  I needed that artistic perspective for my novel, and for all the novels that will follow.

I needed to be loved by Betta and Cosimo and Adriana, and by the stranger in the street who was my good Samaritan.  I needed to become intimate with Rogilios, the patisserie on the corner where I sometimes write and sometimes buy the goodies that Betta, Adriana and I like to eat.  I needed to experience pasta with tuna fish!

And tomorrow, I am going to take a break (if the weather remains fine) and take the number 12 bus to the end of the line and watch the sunset on Florence before my special treat—the Opera!


It’s Much Nicer Than a Garrett in Paris

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

This is one of the happiest times I can remember.  I came to Florence to write and to fulfill my therapist’s wish that I become “confident in my competence.”  The first week was all about acclimating myself once more to Florence—feeling its energy, being comfortable on my own, and establishing a rhythm in this spouseless, childless existence.  At the end of week one, I was quite homesick and hadn’t done much original writing, only editing.

However, yesterday and today have been different.  My book has taken hold of me, and everything is coming together.  I owe a lot of this to my environment.  I wrote a piece to go in the front of my book that attempts to explain how I feel and how lucky I am.  It also helps immeasurably that the sun is shining.! 


In this novel, four women find refuge in the little heaven that is called Residenza Betta in Florence. Though they are figments of my imagination, the Residenza is not. Elisabetta, her son Cosimo, and his lovely Adriana are all very real and very dear to me. They are my second family, and I miss them when we are apart.

“Betta” insists on mothering me, though I am the age of her own mother. An act that typifies her is when she went to pick up an opera ticket for me on her motorscooter in the rain, that I could have gotten for myself. She feeds me, she scolds me, she surveys all my purchases to make certain I haven’t been cheated.

Cosimo is now in another hotel, learning his trade, however he could make much more money as a gorgeous Italian actor, and so I tell Adriana, his fiancee to keep him away from Hollywood.

The lovely Adriana is a 21st century incarnation of Renaissance artist, Fra. Fillipo Lippi’s, atypical Madonna model. She is fair with beautiful brown eyes, as well as being very tall and slender. My son took one look at her and said, “If things don’t work out with Cosimo, I’m your man.” We tell each other our secrets and giggle together like sisters.

I write this in this happy house that has given me so much pleasure in Florence.

G.G. Vandagriff

February, 2011