I just realized that my new blog has only 3 subscribers, compared to the 60 that this blog had!
I’m actually going to have a schedule on Embracing Abundance! Hopefully with my “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date” anxiety about my writing will allow me to slow down and communicate better with my fans!
The schedule will be as follows:
Guest Blog on Different Topics. The topic for the next little while is “How I Try to Embrace Abundance in a World of Stress and Worry.”
G.G.’s Profound Thoughts That Promise to Change You Life Forever
Let’s have a writing party! I will give a writing trigger first thing in the morning. All day I expect to receive your 20 minute random writing exercise inspired by the trigger. The next week, my favorite will be posted for you to read before you get to work on the new trigger. The person who was posted by me gets to choose their favorite exercise for the next week (I will e-mail them all at the end of the day) When that person chooses his/her favorite, then they e-mail it back to me and I post it. Will need feedback on whether you want to be anonymous or not.
And a party wouldn’t be a party without refreshments. So the winner has to provide a good dessert recipe!
Writing exercises are the single best way to find your own writing voice. Even if you’ve already found it, it’s great to keep those words coming!
Thursday: Interview with a Fellow Author
Friday: Guest Blog Reviewing someone else’s book or posting a review on your own book.
Saturday: Sweet Saturday Samples (Look up on Internet)
Sunday: Sample of my WIP with comments expected.
Doesn’t that sound fun! Well just paste this URL into your browser and we’ll get started on Monday! http://ggvandagriff.com/blog.
Review of A Perfect Fit
By G.G. Vandagriff
In her latest book, which is definitely Romantic Suspense, Michele Ashman Bell whirls us through worlds we will probably never experience for ourselves. First: A Reality TV Show? I mean, that is the furthest thing from my experience. The closest I come to reality TV is being interviewed for the news! But Michele’s heroine, Andi, is an old hand at performing in front of the camera. A fitness and cookbook guru, as well as a woman who has successfully defeated an eating disorder, she has done many interviews and made and sold an entire line of videos.
Dissatisfied with her dating life, she consents when her manager suggests it might be good publicity for her to try out for the Looking for Mrs. Right reality show. The gorgeous, wealthy Michael Makura is looking for a wife to share his plantation in Kauai and his interest in African philanthropies. Andi* has her own philanthropic organization in Africa: Mothers without Borders.
I must admit, not being beautiful, skinny, or possessed of any stage presence, I enjoyed being in Andi’s shoes just a little bit. Especially, when her dates with Michael took her scuba diving, and exploring an island I will probably never visit, but which I have certainly seen through the beautiful descriptions the author has treated me to. A frustrated clothes hound, I loved wearing her designer clothes, as well. But the harrowing zip ride had me holding onto my zero gravity chair as tightly as I could. And the competition with the other 24 girls was something I never could have handled with Andi’s grace. However, knowing the author, I know that this is something she could have done with ease. That is one reason why it was so fun to read this book, because I could see my friend, Michele, in Andi throughout the whole book.
However, this is definitely more than chick lit. Andi faces the hardest of choices between her growing attachment to Michael (which seems a perfect fit in every way) and her desire to be married for eternity. She is relieved as well as heartbroken when what seems to be a dirty trick eliminates her from the contest and sends her back to New York. She doesn’t realize that she is walking into terror. For a reason no one knows, Andi and her friends are being stalked with intent to kill. One friend has already been killed, and just recently another barely escaped a car accident engineered to murder her. Now it’s Andi’s turn, and let me tell you, the zip ride was nothing compared to what she faces in New York. Michael also arrives, absolutely set on becoming worthy to marry her, unwittingly making himself as target as well. I tell you what—I was up until 2:00 am turning pages on this one. Kudos to Michele for giving me an exciting alternate reality in every sense!
*and Michele Ashman Bell
This statement quoted by President Packer in a fireside on February 1, 1976, and later printed in the Ensign, was made by Orson F. Whitney in the early days of the Church. President Packer was voicing his disappointment in the artists, writers, and musicians of that day (1976) who were clearly not using their talents to aspire to this goal. I have kept that statement close to me as I have written all my books, hoping someday someone would stand on my shoulders and reach this exalted position.
As I read H.B. Moore’s latest book, Ammon, I suddenly realized that that day has arrived. Before you take issue with me on this weighty matter, remember two things. What was the greatest criticism of Shakespeare? That he never wrote anything original. All his plots were derived from legend, history, or myths. What Shakespeare did that earned him the title of “the bard for the ages,” was that he likened these stories to human experience. He drew out of them insights and conflicts that were very accessible to the human mind, not only in his day, but in all the days until the present time. Shakespeare put you in the story and made you face its conflicts. In so doing, he gave these stories a kind of immortality. He gave us heroes and villains with faces, bodies, parts, and passions.
And what of Milton? Didn’t he take his work directly from the Gospel as he knew and understood it? Didn’t he make us participators in his perception of eternal progression? Like Shakespeare, he likened his writings unto us, his readers, so that we could participate as fully as possible in the choices involved in the human drama that is mortality.
Moore does exactly the same thing with Ammon, that great, towering hero of the Book of Mormon. She has written many other books about the heroes of this scripture, but never with the flesh and blood immediacy of Ammon. The way she has accomplished this is by taking what is written, and just as Shakespeare did, studying the brief information to envision unwritten personal reactions, consequences, complications, tests of faith, and all manner of things that might have resulted from the miracles and testimony which Ammon bore to his deadly enemies.
For instance, what do you imagine was the fate of those who were scattering King Lamoni’s flocks? How did they react to the deaths of their comrades? Who exactly were they? Do you imagine they would have been converted by Ammon’s preaching?
What about all the priests and priestesses of the existing temples built to idols? The priests lived off the people. Do you imagine they would have been easily converted?
What would have been the position of King Lamoni himself in regards to his people? Wouldn’t have he had to give up his reign as a virtual dictator in order to allow freedom of religion? What would he and Ammon have done if they were opposed by armed and dangerous rebels who refused to be converted by a Nephite? How would the common man have reacted to accusations that Ammon was only there to create political unrest, so that they might be weakened in the eventuality of a Nephite attack?
Would Ammon have fallen in love? How would this have complicated his missionary labors?
I can almost guarantee that if one puts ones mind to the seemingly simple, heroic story given in the scriptures, one will find many, many consequences and possible story lines to follow. One of the looming, almost insurmountable differences between most of us and H.B. Moore is that we don’t know what she knows about life at that time. With Moore’s capabilities as an historian and a storyteller, the world of the Book of Mormon opens up like a 3-D movie. The smallest detail of life in that age is portrayed with a mastery that makes it seem unremarkable. Her details don’t shout “look what I know,” but rather slip into the story naturally and almost unnoticed. This is a phenomenal achievement.
As for the storytelling, Shakespeare couldn’t have done better! The suspense that builds through the story between Ammon and the unbelievers and that culminates in their capture of his beloved is stellar. Here is a story you know, and yet Moore endows it with natural consequences and elements that seem absolutely real. You all know the ending, and yet, I promise you, this masterful work will keep you up past your bedtime. After reading this book, you will realize that Ammon had to have been a much greater hero than the “superman” who lopped off the arms of the rebels at the waters of Sebus!
In terms of President Packer’s plea for this kind of literature, I hope we LDS writers will all take a lesson from Moore in writing to the greatest measure of our talent and using that talent to help people liken heroes, even everyday heroes, to themselves. There is great comfort and a blessed peace in knowing the things we know because of the Gospel. Even though it is more politically correct to write about the ills of society, let us celebrate the triumph of the Spirit!
And what of those of us who are not writers? What lesson can we take from this fulfillment of Elder Whitney’s prophesy? I truly believe it is what the Lord has demonstrated again and again. I know H.B. Moore. I hope she will not be uncomfortable with my revelation of the fact that she is first and foremost a wife and a mother. In fact, she has quite a handful of very active children. She never misses a game (and they are an athletic crew). Her husband and children are always her first concern. Not an ivory tower writer with a powerful literary agenda, she lives, outwardly at least, a normal life. However, she has a date with the Spirit every morning at five a.m., when she sits down to write. Those few hours that she has to create her stories are magnified. The Lord is there to give her what she needs to do this particular mission in the limited time she has.
H.B. Moore is a mother and a wife. In the time she wrests from hours when others are sleeping, she is also a masterful writer. Once again, the Lord has taken a seemingly ordinary being and helped her to accomplish great things.
Intriguing!, April 28, 2011
Life is a precarious balancing act, and Whitney Award winning author, G. G. Vandagriff understands that on more than one level—both in her own life and in her prolific writing. Vandagriff is the author of a variety of books, including the non-fiction work Deliverance from Depression, the women’s novel, Pieces of Paris, which deals with a woman who must overcome PTSD to save her marriage, the wild and humorous Alex & Briggie mystery series, and an epic pre-WWI historical novel, The Last Waltz. In Vandagriff’s recent novel, Foggy With a Chance of Murder, Chloe Green exists just above layers of grief, despite her talent and success as a best-selling novelist. She writes formula mystery novels to numb her mind, just as her mother drinks to forget her husband’s death. The only thing that is keeping Chloe’s mother semi-functional is Chloe’s successful career as an author. Fed up with her mother’s continually tipsy guests, Chloe escapes to walk the beach. There she meets a man—in the worst of circumstances. Rob Stevens is frantically searching for his young son who’s gone missing. When the young boy drowns in the ocean right before her eyes, Chloe spirals back into a void of self-doubt. Despite her sympathy for other’s losses, she knows that she needs to make a serious change in a world she’s allowed to fill with hopelessness. Watching Rob’s grief reminds Chloe of her own tragedies, including her father’s death, and a heart-breaking romance she thought was over forever. As a result of the young boy’s drowning, a cast of characters enters Chloe’s life, and before she realizes it, she is starting to change. Despite the fact that Chloe’s soul is expanding toward new possibilities, mystery and danger is around every corner as she grows closer to Rob and the volatile circumstances that seem to surround him. Then, an important part of her past returns and Chloe finds herself in the middle of more than one life-threatening situation. Foggy With a Chance of Murder may be shelved with the other garden-variety suspense novels, but Foggy is so much more than the average offering. Vandagriff gives us glimpses into human nature that just aren’t found in the boilerplate mysteries, delving deep into characterization and stacking up the odds in a plot rich with complication and intrigue.
In studying for today’s Sunday school lesson, reading in Jesus the Christ and also the accounts in the four gospels of the incident of Peter trying to walk on the water, I was struck anew by several things.
- Jesus was spending some quality time with His Heavenly Father at the time immediately preceding this incident. This was an important “recharge” for him after losing John the Baptist (one who knew and understood His Divine Mission as no one else) in such a horrible manner. Knowing the sensitivity of His soul as we do, He was no doubt grieving and seeking comfort. He was also much wearied as he had been carrying on for days, preaching and doing miracles. He was saddened that after all He had done for them, the people turned away and only His disciples remained. I don’t know about you, but all the above circumstances would give me a great need for comfort.
- When He came to His disciples at last it was “the fourth watch of the night” (the last watch before dawn) and they were wearied and terrified after a night spent trying to keep their boat together and fight the storm. But more than one account says that they had hardened their hearts against the Savior, and so, in addition to His need to pray, he left them in a situation where they would learn humility by trying to do everything by themselves. How many of us fight the battles of mortality that threaten to destroy us, completely forgetting the enabling power of the Atonement, given by Christ specifically for our aid in these moments, or even years.? A few nights ago, I was experiencing my worst fear—total abandonment. I cried for hours, before remembering the Savior. My prayers changed. I asked to feel His love, calm, and sweet peace. I was still, and let Him be God. My fears left me and I was quieted and filled with sweetness. I didn’t not dwell on my fears any longer, but instead dwelt on that comfort until I drifted off to sleep. Two days later, mortal relief came. But during that time I was sustained by the Savior and His enabling power. The last watch of the night is the time we need to be wary of. We can be worn out. We can be hardened. But the answer is ALWAYS turning to the Lord.
- The irony of the situation is, that as we are right in the midst of our own private miracle, we look down instead of keeping our eyes on the Savior. We sink! We are babies in understanding the power of the Lord and in exercising our faith in Him. We like Paul need to learn that we can do all things through the power of Jesus Christ which strengthens us. “
Don’t look down. Look up. Remember Elder Holland’s counsel: “Chirst knows the way up and He knows the way out. He knows the way, because He is the way.” (“Broken Things to Mend,”) April, 2006 General Conference.) As soon as you lock eyes on the Savior, don’t consider your mortality. Consider yourself enabled by His power. Anxiety overcomes faith. As Paul counseled, “Cast not away therefore thy confidence.” Even in the fourth watch of the night, He will come to you, and rescue you, if you still maintain faith in Him.
Enter the Magical Mystery Tour!
My new mystery, Foggy with A Chance of Murder, is scheduled for release at the end of April. It’s been a while since I’ve publish a mystery (although another Alex and Briggie is also in the works), so to get in the mood, I’m taking my readers on a tour through past mysteries by way of a trivia contest for each book.
Answer these questions about Tangled Roots!
1. What are the names and species of Gladys Harrison’s
2. When do Alex and Briggie first suspect that there is
something more going on than just compiling Holly’s gen-
3. What does Francie’s T-Shirt say?
4. What is Uncle Joey’s profession?
5. What does Briggie say when she confronts the villain
with her deer rifle at the end of the book?
If you can answer these questions, go to http://ggvandagriff.com/contact and enter the answers. This will put you “in the hat” to win a little bit of Tuscany! Winner will be announced here at the end of the month!
When we think of this word, I imagine most of us think of the firemen who lost their lives saving others in 9/ll. If we are of an historical frame of mind, we may think of the prototype—Odysseus in Homer’s, The Odyssey. Or we may think of a president we admire, a person who has mentored us, the founder of an orphanage in an underdeveloped country, an astronaut, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, Winston Churchill, or General Eisenhower. These people are all undoubtedly heroes. When we study their lives, we are influenced by their courage, their optimism which refused to lie down in the face of great odds, their ability to rally people and change their hearts—giving them courage.
I have a personal hero who dedicated the best part of his life to me and my survival. He came into my life unexpectedly and didn’t look like a hero at all. In fact, he was not even a member of the church and was somewhat tipsy at the time. But, he listened to a little voice which, oddly enough, told him that I was the woman he was going to marry. He came right over, and in a manner which I have since found to be totally antithetical to his character, introduced himself and laid all his life’s innermost secrets at my feet. I was a bit overwhelmed, thought him way too intense as well as far more handsome than anyone had a right to be (I had an innate sense of distrust toward handsome men), but used the opening to bear my testimony of the Gospel. He asked me to church. I declined. (The only church he knew of was a Presbyterian Spanish-speaking church, which may explain my reluctance.) However, since I lived in a distant city and had returned there, he began a letter-writing campaign and I learned that he was 1.) possessed of a quirky sense of humor, 2.) a devoted correspondent, 3.) trustworthy and completely honest, 4.) a poet, 5.) to be relied on in any crisis, 6.) a wonderful artist, 7.) for some unknown reason completely intent on my happiness. His presence was not intrusive, like that of a stalker, he was just making himself known and, after about six months, his letters became a fixture in my life.
Then he started calling. Every day. Several times a day. Then, seven months after our first meeting, he flew to Washington, D.C. from Chicago for our first date. It lasted all weekend. Oddly enough, I had broken a date with the man I was planning to marry to go out of town and check internship locations for the next year, just to meet this friend who had intrigued me. (That was the end of the other relationship!) My visitor went home, and in an action he had thus avoided in his long dating life, wrote a letter declaring his love. I fell apart. This could not be. When he asked innocently, "Why?", I told him it was because he was not a member of my church. His reply was, "You don’t know that I’m not going to join!" And that he did. Ten minutes into the first discussion, he gained a never wavering testimony of the First Vision. I was the first LDS person he had ever met.
What neither of us knew at the time of our marriage was that I carried the genes of a very serious illness. This man, my husband, David Vandagriff, was destined for a heroism that would try him to his very core (see I Need Thee Every Hour: Learning to Apply the Atonement in our Daily Lives, Covenant Communications). In the years before and during my illness, he served as a bishop twice and the member of a Stake Presidency with huge geographical bondaries. No one who has seen me ill, and then seen me well in the past five years (the woman he married) can believe that he had the compassion, the generosity, the strength, and the courage to descend into the bi-polar Valley of the Shadow of Death with me, many, many times, always gently pulling me back to some semblance of safety. This is not what he signed up for. He was married to a woman he didn’t know. This is how he describes it: The depression began to change her. The illness did not appear suddenly. G.G. was the sun in my life, and the onset of her illness was like an extended sunset. First, the color of the sun changes, turning slowly to red as it drops lower in the sky. Then, the horizon begins to take slices from that sun, one after another, and the sun grows smaller an smaller until it disappears from sight. In the sky, there is a glow, a memory of the sun, but soon that glow begins to fade. Shadows collect in ravines and behind rocks. Those shadows grow and spread, slowly covering the landscpe. Soon the world is dark, then black, and a long night begins. (I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in our Daily Lives,( Covenant Communications, 2010, p. 44)
That darkness lasted twenty-five years. Certainly, long enough for him to forget that little whisper, "That is the girl you’re going to marry"–the girl with the long brown hair in the ugly bridesmaid dress. It took him to places he never thought he’d go—psych wards, emergency rooms, therapist’s offices. He had to practice law, provide for his family financially and emotionally as I was sick most of my children’s years at home.
During those twenty-five years, he evolved from a happy man to a man of many sorrows and acquainted with grief. It was an Abrahamic trial. But, he did not overcome this trial on his own. After years of endurance, and times when he would have given up, but for timely intervention from the Lord and his helpers here on earth, David and I were both finally witnesses to my miraculous healing. I came back to him, not the woman who had left, but a woman much stronger and closer to my Savior in every way, having fought "tooth and nail" to stay alive.
But, the Lord gave me a hero, because he knew that’s what I needed. David didn’t see himself as heroic material. He definitely would have opted out if the choice had been given him before marriage. But he believed in covenants. He believed that if he did his part, the Lord would perform his—he would enable David to go on. And David did go on.
And we both learned that heroism comes, not from what we do ourselves, but for what we allow our partner and Elder Brother in suffering to do for us. Though there is an element of heroism in both our stories, for us there is one overarching Hero—our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Recently I watched a BYU Devotional by Elder Russel M. Nelson on integrity. (See: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7102&x=59&y=3) It had a profound effect upon me, especially since I was targeted by a scam this week on Craig’s List.
The heart surgeon turned Apostle of the Lord began by using a powerful image of a heart’s valve that regulates the blood flow between the left atrium and the left ventricle, insuring that our bodies are being properly oxygenated by our blood. The valve works by cords which open and shut the valve. If it doesn’t shut properly, “the high pressure exerted by the heart is then impelled directly back to the lungs. If that were to go on very long it would result in failure of both the heart and lungs.” (“Integrity of Heart,” Russell M. Nelson, Devotional Address at Brigham Young University on February 23, 1993.)
Elder Nelson likened the cords of the heart to virtues in the thirteenth article of faith: chastity, benevolence, honesty, etc. If just one of these cords snap, it endangers all the other cords. For example, the scammer who targeted me did not have honesty. One can easily see how the lack of honesty would impair the ability to function with integrity. Integrity means that you are an “all around good person.” Honesty is paramount to integrity. So are the other virtues mentioned in the thirteenth article of faith. Once one snaps, the others will not last long. Our death may not be physical in this metaphor, but it is surely spiritual.
A powerful quote from Job was very sobering: “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit . . . til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.” This applies even when our income or our very lives may be at stake.
As a writer, I have a strong responsibility to have integrity in my work. If I were to lower my standards in order to meet the trends of the day, it might increase my sales, but it would kill me spiritually. Because of the covenants I have made in the temple, I would be under grave condemnation from the Lord if I were to break those covenants by doing or saying anything “ungodly.” This is a mighty challenge for all LDS people, no matter what their profession.
Because I am a writer, I usually think that Shakespeare has the perfect metaphor. Elder Nelson must share this predilection for he shares the following quote from the poem The Rape of Lucrece, as Tarquinius is contemplating the conquest of a woman in lust:
“What win I if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?”
(The Rape of Lucrece (1594), lines 21115)
We can so easily slip without realizing it, if we are not constantly engaged in those things which strengthen our integrity: prayer, repentance, scripture study, repentance, good works, repentance, and most of all charity, the crowning virtue. A charitable person would never be lacking in integrity.
As I redouble my watchfulness of myself in this area, I am sure I will see many ways that I need to improve. It would have been so easy to take just a sip of champagne at Cosimo’s birthday party. I am sure they bought it just for me. It would have been so easy not to return the extra stamp the post office gave me. Are my books as pure in spirit as they are in word?
I try to review my behavior before I partake of the sacrament each week. I find that that deadline, that covenant does more than anything else to keep me in line. And like every mortal, I have a long way to go from where I am to where I am not (in the embrace of the Savior). I only pray that the atonement is adequately merciful in my case and in that of all my brothers and sisters who truly want Celestial lives, but are living in a Telestial world.