Archive for the ‘My books’ Category

3
May

My Foggy Cover

   Posted by: G.G.

I love this cover. For those of you who have never visited the beach in San Clemente, California, the cover perfectly captures the feeling there.  See review below!

A novel of psychologically driven fiction, GG Vandagriff’s, Pieces of Paris, takes readers on a emotional ride that winds through the darkest recesses of painful memories, plunges into unexpected realities, then climbs to breathtaking vistas of understanding, forgiveness and love. 
In Pieces of Paris we see the unraveling of Annalisse, a woman who seems to have everything until dark memories she’s kept deeply buried for years claw their way to the surface, threatening to destroy everything she holds dear. 
The story opens with Annalisse, a woman in her twenties, living a quiet, normal life on a farm in the Ozarks. She is expecting her second child and is mom to three and a half year old son, Jordan. But after four and a half years of bliss she suddenly finds herself being haunted by the past. Her predictable but seemingly happy life with husband Dennis, an attorney, begins to crumble.
The first paragraph of the book reads:
It was the simple things that undid her, Annalisse had discovered. Something as ordinary as the scent of lilacs when the air was heavy, a brief measure of Tchaikovsky, or a dream. A dream like the one she’d awakened from last night – so real she could smell the Paris Metro in it. Any of these things could revive in a moment the memories she’d spent the last six years burying. They crept under the leaden shield around her heart and found the small, secret place where she still had feeling.
So begins Annalisse’s journey of facing a past she’d blocked from her reality until piece by piece, the fragments began to fit together, forcing her to face the pain she’d thought she’d covered . . . until now. 
Leaving another life behind, Annaliese finds refuge and safety in the arms of her beloved, idealistic, husband, Dennis. He is her anchor, her strength, and she puts her past behind her to be with him, and that includes moving to his idea of the Garden of Eden . . . the Ozarks. 
When he meets Annalisse, Dennis knows she is someone unique and special. Dealing with pain from his own past and a broken heart, he focuses on this beautiful woman, vastly different from his past relationship, Annalisse immediately appears to be the perfect person to heal his disillusionment and he knows they are meant to be together. 
When the flashbacks begin, Annalisse keeps them to herself—certain that telling Dennis will destroy their relationship. At the same time Dennis is battling with a controversial legal case, fighting against an industrial firm that is trying to cover up a toxic waste dump, a case that has put his family in danger. 
As each challenge grows and pushes them apart, Dennis and Annalisse both begin to wonder if their marriage is what they really wanted or expected and if the person they are with now is anything like the person they thought they married.
Vandagriff has a true gift of words and paints glorious scenes and intense emotion in this well-paced, gripping drama. This powerful story of second chances, the gift of forgiveness, and the depth of truth will resonate with readers of all ages and stations in life. 
And in the final pages we find the true meaning of the story.
“The day I met you, all I could see anywhere I looked was pain and no possibility of making a difference. You were the only bright thing, and you came just in time.”
“I couldn’t have looked very bright. Oh, Dennis.” She buried her head in his shoulder and held on to him. “You were my only bright thing, too. How have we gotten this far with all these ridiculous expectations of each other?”
Remembering the Twenty-third Psalm he was silent, stroking her hair.
“There’s only one Savior,” Dennis told her.

One of the best ways to truly understand this story is to understand the author, GG Vandagriff. I was able to interview her and ask her about her experiences that lead up to writing this book.
M. Bell: Where did you get the idea for the book? 
GG Vandagriff: It was a combination of 3 very disparate things: 1.) A funny incident when we went canoeing in the Ozarks and David was sitting in the back and I was in the front. He kept yelling “paddle on the right” “paddle on the left”. I looked back and he wasn’t paddling at all! I started laughing at him, because he was so earnest and worried we were going to capsize. We did! We swam in that muddy, cow dung infested creek and he lost his wallet. I have rarely laughed so hard, but even at this distance, he still doesn’t think it was funny. In my writer’s mind, I thought of what a wonderful parody this was of our marriage. Paddle on the Right was the name of the story for years, until I found out what the book was really about, and had to remove the scene. 2.) The Tchaikovsky violin concerto, which I am listening to as I write this. To me, it is the most sublime piece of music written, and is so evocative of every human motion. I was so in love with it, that it veritably created Jules and his whole life and character as he appears in the book. Everything about Jules is in that concerto, except that the concerto ends triumphantly. I hope some day to meet Tchaikovsky (and Tolstoy). 3.) An incident in my doctor’s office that started me thinking: he was the same age and had been a Vietnam War protestor. So had David. I had lost my fiancé in the war. How had it affected our later lives? How did the three of us end up in the Ozarks? Did our past anger and helplessness at the government’s actions have anything to do with our “searching for Eden”? In my doctor’s case, he had graduated at the top of his class and chose to work in a small rural town where he could really help people. Ditto for David, only he was a lawyer. I just wanted to raise my children to be safe. When you read the book, you will definitely recognize all of us: Dr. Gregory, Dennis, and Annalisse. Because the Vietnam War is so far in the past, that eventually went out of the book, as it aged.
M. Bell: What was the research process for this story like? How long did you spend gathering information? 
GG Vandagriff: The research was all internal. I had to go through PTSD and then discover what was wrong with me and how to put it behind me. I was actually having PTSD over my fiancé that was killed in the war. It was very painful. But, as I said the war is not in the book. The PTSD is, however, and I have read a lot about it. The places in the book: I lived in a town that is the model for Blue Creek for sixteen years, I studied near Vienna for six months, and I have visited Paris on many occasions, starting when I was sixteen.
M. Bell: Given that this book is so personal, what was the writing process like for you?
GG Vandagriff: This book taught me everything I know about writing classic fiction. I worked closely with a free-lance editor who operated like a gem cutter. She saw the brilliance in the story, and cut away all the dross, inspiring me to write more cleanly. She even recognized things that I hadn’t realized about the story and its development and so it switched into an entirely different mode. It went from being semi-humorous (I always hide my true feelings in humor) into a book about the “hard questions” of life and marriage, and the triumph of truth over the evil that would separate husbands and wives.
M. Bell: What is the theme of the story and why did you write about it? 
GG Vandagriff: The theme of the story is the difference between narcissistic love (the feeling we have when we think, “ah this person was created just for ME) and real love, when you would sacrifice almost anything in Christlike love for your spouse. That is a big jump, and takes a complex story crafted with much difficulty to tell. It also takes a lifetime of experience.
M. Bell: What do you want readers to get from this story? 
GG Vandagriff: I am hoping that they will give more thought to their own marriages, deconstructing them to the basics, and then, with the help of the Savior, reconstructing them into Celestial marriages.

6
Sep

Is Time Measured by Years or Growth?

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff

I don’t think we are at home in time.  I feel much wiser and more accomplished than I did when I was younger.  The mirror tells me I am aging.  My bones (those that have escaped replacement surgery) tell me I’m older than the hills.  But in my head I’m still 25.  Maybe when I’m resurrected I’ll be 25 in body and a hundred years old in experience.

One thing is for sure:  I’m not wasting my time.  We’ve had a wonderful two week family reunion with all our children, grandchildren, and one remaining grandparent.  Family portraits will be forthcoming.  In the last week we’ve attended a temple wedding and a baby blessing.  Pieces of Paris arrived!  Crazy Ladies has been languishing in neglect after I lopped 100 pages off the beginning.  To vote on your choice for the best 1st chapter (I need your help!) go to my website at http://ggvandagriff.com

Pieces has several launches planned:

19 Sept Authorpallooza evening at Orem Barnes &  Noble

Celebrate Sisterhood (the weekend before conference–place to be announced)

Ladies’ Night (Saturday Night of Conference–place to be announced)

Official Launch with doorprizes and giveaways Oct 9th at Orem Barnes & Noble

 

We have a stand up of Annakin Skywalker in our living room, a tent in the basement, and a little four year old running around singing the various good guy/bad guy themes from Star Wars.  Also, we have an adorable 3 month old smiling and even laughing, as well as showing his big brother he is tough as he can take mauling without alarm.

I am trying to: Finish 5th draft of Crazy Ladies

                   Begin marketing Pieces of Paris

                   Relaunching The Last Waltz

                   Trying not to lose my mind.

14
Aug

Pieces of Paris

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff

A great part of my writing past is about to see the light of day on October 1.  For twenty-five years, I have been layering and reconstructing the novel now known as Pieces of Paris (which my long-time editor claims is my best work so far).  My original title, back in the eighties, was Paddle on the Right, named after a humorous canoeing incident in some river in Missouri where my husband and I capsized.  That scene has long been axed, and the novel has evolved to such an extent that it has gone through at least ten titles.  However, one thing remains.  The question: “What do you do when you find out you are married to a stranger?”

I am not talking about a dangerous stranger, a criminal, or any kind of person with a “shady” past.  I’m talking about a fairly familiar phenomenon.  We never know who the person we marry is in a complete, eternal sense.  As my heroine’s father says, “Why shouldn’t a good marriage be an endless process of exploration and discovery?”

I didn’t know that this book was emotionally biographical.  I was just confused about a lot of issues in my life that had never been resolved.  Alone with my three children most of the day and many nights while my husband worked, or was away, I began having flashbacks to these issues and experiencing long suppressed anger and feelings that had been been put to rest.    In my efforts to deal with these, I entered a sort of twilight life where I existed in the present, but my mind was caught up in the past.

Annalisse Childs, my heroine, has a very dramatic, passionate past, just as I did.  However, hers is full of different and far more interesting issues.  Once a European concert pianist, she is endeavoring to partner her idealistic husband of four years in his “Walden” experience on a farm in Southwest Missouri.  To his credit, Dennis knows nothing of her past except that she grew up on a farm in Wisconsin.  Because of tragic memories Annalisse has no intention of revisiting, she has cut music out of her life.  But, bit by bit, the pieces she once performed in Paris, accompanied by their ecstatic and terrible memories are the thin edge of the wedge.  Once she goes back to the piano, she cannot help the flashbacks from recurring.

As her husband witnesses the transformation of his stoical, practical wife into someone who makes public scenes, cries in closets and basements, and yet clings with superhuman tenacity to his heroic version of reality, he feels as if the ground beneath him has crumbled.  What should he do?  Does he have anything in common with this woman?  Why does she suddenly hate farm life and express a desire to sit up all night in Paris discussing the Opera?  Where is their marriage headed?

As nearly everyone who has read this manuscript has noted, Dennis is a thinly veiled version of my husband David.  Both are truly one-in-a-million amazing men.  And hopefully, reading the account of the hairpin turn in the fictional story will cause you to think deeply about your own relationships, and be filled with the kind of deep-seated well-being that accompanies the truest kind of love.

A MOMENTO: Pieces of Paris is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  Anyone who pre-orders and e-mails me (through my website http://ggvandagriff.com) a copy of their confirmation and snail mail address will receive a sterling silver charm of the Eiffel Tower! Deadline is the end of August.

EXAMINER CONTEST: The winner of the three copies of The Last Waltz are: Wendy Pop, Mary Deborde, and Kristine Armstrong!

9
Apr

If I Were To Die In The Next Few Minutes

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff

If I were to die in the next few minutes, the things I hope I would be remembered for are that: 1.) my grandson thinks I am Supernana and that my stated purpose on earth is to wield a mean light-saber; 2.) that fed my children, even when in the midst of creating an earth-shattering plot twist; 3.) that even though it took a thousand rewrites, I succeeded in finally producing The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War.

The journey to the latter accomplishment is a microcosm of my adult life. The bare facts, the research, and the consuming need to tell the story of Austria between 1913 and 1938, had their birth in the Austrian Alps, 50 miles from Vienna at the Semmering Pass, where I dwelt in a hotel only partially restored from damage incurred by the Russian occupation. I lived with 79 other Stanford students, far away from urban Austrian life (except on our 3-day weekends) concentrating on the study of German language, Austrian art and architecture, Austrian music, Austrian history, and Austrian politics. Surprisingly, I knew very little about these things, as do most average Americans. I didn’t even know that seventy years earlier, Austria had been the center of European art, science, medicine, and music. In spite of or maybe because of this, large forces were at work to drag it out of its glittering past as the Waltz capital of the world into a new century where international socialism would enfranchise every man and there would be no poor. This made Austria’s aristocracy, stranded between past and future, extremely nervous and quite neurotic. Austrian historian, Frederic Morton has called this period a time of “Nervous Splendor.”

So I learned this when I was twenty. It became part of me, more so than the rest of my education because I had seen the art, listened to the Vienna Philharmonic, heard the stories of the survivors from that time, and most of all because I had visited Auschwitz. A personal quest was born to figure out the dynamics of a world where such an unimaginable horror could happen.

During a very hated job as an international banker while putting my husband through Law School, I had an hour and a half bus commute to and from Los Angeles through the slums of East L.A. This is when I personalized all the forces of that Austrian age into the characters of my novel: the debutante turned democrat, Amalia Faulhaber, the German Lieutenant with the soul of a violinist, Eberhard von Waldburg, the naïve but charismatic socialist, Uncle Lorenz, the proud aristocratic grandmother, Eugenia von Hohenburg Reichart, the passionately nationalistic Pole, Doktor Andrzej Zaleski, and the outwardly misogynistic Baron von Schoenenberg. In a single bus ride, I outlined the plot that was to be built upon and developed as I learned to write during my three children’s growing up years.

The time came when they were all grown up, and I realized I knew next to nothing about the kind of suffering that would occur during a World War in the trenches, the loss of an empire, the loss of status, and nearly all physical possessions. At best, my novel was only a superficial rendering. So I set it aside and wrote light fiction—my Alex and Briggie genealogical mysteries—for nearly fifteen years. Then I suffered a serious medical condition that resulted in my inability to write and eventually sapped all my hard-won skill.

Ten years later, I miraculously recovered, and slowly rediscovered myself as a writer. But there was a change. My soul and awareness of suffering had deepened. I now understood what it took to be a survivor.

I also remembered that my writing idol, Tolstoy, had not written his epics from the point of view of one person, and certainly would not do so from the point of view of a nineteen year old debutante. And so I went into the heads of all my major characters, which finally gave the depth to my work that I had been seeking for so long.

My years of development as a writer, to this particular juncture, owe all to the learning process of writing The Last Waltz. I can only hope that my next book: Pieces of Paris (Fall, 2010) will continue that process.

22
Mar

Hot Doin’s In V-City!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff

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!

8
Sep

Welcome to G.G.’s Place!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff

(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.

22
May

Alex and Briggie take to the surf!

   Posted by: G.G.

On the tail end of my convalecense, I am finishing up my final edit of The Hidden Branch, which I think may be my final mystery.  The Last Waltz has given me a taste for more nutritious fiction, although good escape fiction will always have a place in my life.

Alex and Briggie get mixed up with a crowd of wealthy Armenians who live in Orange County, California.  Don’t ask my why.  My brain just convulsed and out came the plot—a rather strange one involving ancient Armenian treasures, professional surfers, kidnapping, a crisis in the relationship between Alex and Charles, and a big surprise in Briggie’s life.  Full of humor and suspense, I hope it will provide a good finale to the series.

In other news, David’s book on the Atonement—In Common Hours—was accepted for publication by Covenant.  Still don’t have a release date.  He is writing a marvelous fantasy, in between nursing me and spending time on his business.

Have a great Memorial Day everyone!

29
Apr

The Last Waltz Website

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff

Have you ever wanted to go to Vienna?  To take a virtual tour, visit the website – http://www.last-waltz.com/ – my brilliant husband just created, and be certain to visit the Vienna section—all of it.  You will see panoramic views of gorgeous buildings inside and out.  Those of you who have read my book, will love to visit the place where all the action took place!  The only objection I have is that Rudolf doesn’t look like that.  He looks like Richard Armitage.

31
Mar

What Would Amalia Look Like?

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff

I have some mental pictures of what Amalia, my heroine in The Last Waltz, would look like and have played the game of trying to decide which actress would play the part if there were ever a movie.

My husband, David, is working on a website for the book and has found some wonderful photographs and paintings from turn-of-the-century Vienna (19th into 20th).  Following are two paintings by the great Viennese artist, Gustav Klimt, that fit my image of what Amalia would have looked like.

The first portrait is of Amalia at the beginning of the book, a girl of 19 just entering into society.

Amalia 1 Small

The second painting is Amalia in her late 30’s, involved in politics and Viennese society as the wife of a minister in the Austrian government. 

Amalia 2 Small

The actual portraits are of Sonia Knips, painted in 1898, Emilie Floege, a Viennese fashion designer and long-time friend of Klimt, completed in 1902.