Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Today's the Day...Did you Make It?

Okay, all you NaNoers! Today's the last day, did you make your goal? What did you do to make it? What did you give up? What did you let slide? What couldn't you let go, and had to do and still make your daily goals? And if you were doing "a book in a month", taking advantage of the writing spirit to finish a book, were you successful? Share your secrets...maybe it will help me next year. :P

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Study Break

BYU just isn't what it used to be.
Or at least, this never happened to me during all my long hours at the Harold B. Lee Library.
I'm not saying it's a bad thing.
In fact, if you've been at the books (or in our case - they keyboard) for a little while
click here for a fun study break.
Courtesy of Vocal Point.

What do you do for study breaks?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Oh the holidays! I am cutting my "to-do" list a little short this year. Do you ever find yourself doing that? My parents' annual picture book will have to wait until after Christmas. I am still doing my cards. I am still doing my poppy-seed bread, but I'm sure both of those will be very last minute. I am even going thin on the decorations this year. The holiday spirit is still here, nonetheless.

And speaking of cutting "to-do" lists...this is my last post! After November I am no longer blogging at MMW. Don't worry, I am still here, just as a visitor--not a blogger. There are just quite a few things on my plate right now, and I wanted to see the e-book to its end and focus plate. So, this is me saying good-bye. And thank you for the comments and the friendships I enjoyed here. And...I'll see you around. :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Brave Girls Club

Have you ever wanted to tell people to treat you with care—to shout from the housetops how hard you are trying and how a little gentleness and kindness would go a long way to ease the burdens you are carrying? Have you ever treated someone unkindly or judged someone based solely on what you observed from the outside only to feel horrible when you discover they were/are dealing with something tremendously difficult or heart-wrenching? If you can relate to any of what I just wrote then this post is for you.

A few weeks ago I followed a link from one of my "friends" (aka sister) on Facebook. It was so uplifting, so inspiring I sent a request to the website "Brave Girls Club" to see if I could re-post it here. They kindly agreed and so today I'd like to share this amazing post with you—exactly as it appears on their website.

We Must See Past What it Seems...

After a dear friend telling me about a hurtful experience she’d had this week…..I began
thinking again about a story I have told a few times….a story that my children will tell to their children, and maybe even beyond that… because it was such a learning experience in our family….maybe even a turning point…it’s a story that I think about often because we were the main characters in it 3 or 4 years ago, and even though it was something that lasted less than 15 minutes….it changed all of us….and now I see others differently, especially when it seems that they might be main characters in the same story…or one a lot like it. I used to be too embarrassed to tell this story….but I am not anymore. This is a human story that everyone needs to hear, I truly believe this…I hope you will stay with it, it’s kinda long.
As we move along…I want you to think about some of the big signs with big messages that I bet you wish you could wear around your neck sometimes so that people would be more gentle….or even that you could put around the neck of someone you love….so that you didn’t have to go into a big long story to defend yourself or someone else….so that people would just stop judging and and just be kind.
First, if you don’t know my history because you are brand new to Brave Girls Club…welcome welcome welcome! I need to start this story by giving you a little bit of background….. you see, my husband had an accident in 2004 that injured the frontal lobe of his brain……it has taken 6 years to get him back……but in the middle there, between 2004 and now…lots and lots of stuff happened. He was essentially out of it…but not just that….he changed to someone else, we lost him. His personality changed completely, he could not work, he was angry and depressed and could not cope with human beings.  He did not feel love or affection, really he only felt anger…rage…and he was suicidal most of the time. He did not remember a lot of things. He could not take care of our family or even himself, really……..(and I want to mention again that through lots of miracles, he is 100% recovered now…we are so thankful….he is even BETTER than he was before his accident)
But……during that time…..he would have these confusing and amazing glitches of time when he would be totally normal. It was bittersweet. They would last for an hour sometimes, and sometimes for days…or even weeks…then he would sink back down into that horrible place. When he was sick, I protected him fiercely. I didn’t want anyone to see him like that…I had faith that someday he would recover….but man oh man it was lonely…I wished every single day that I could just walk around with a sign like this….
….because on the outside…I looked like I had EVERYTHING GOING FOR ME…I looked like I might just have a perfect life….but I was hiding a very painful secret….
Well…a lot of other things happened too………you can imagine what might happen over the years while we have a 7 acre farm, a pretty big international business that we own with lots of employees…..a life that  HE managed before his accident, while he just let me do the fun and creative stuff….now we had lots of medical bills…lots of sorrow and lots of distractions……we also had LOTS of kids…..and no one competent managing the business…
Well…after a few years, I couldn’t hold it all together…our business was suffering for all of the reasons listed above and a few more reasons on top of that……..and we discovered that we were really SINKING. Well……one day when he was partly lucid….he was THERE…he was coherent….I told him the condition of our life.
He kind of panicked and he went straight to work figuring out what he could do. It was insanely heartbreaking when he would “wake up” after weeks or months and I had to tell him how much things were deteriorating financially, etc. It was very hard. But when he could, he did what he could….before his mental illness sucked him back into the prison it kept him in most of the time.
He called a sign place and had a huge sign brought out to our house…the kind that you can put letters on, and it was electric and lit up…….He put it by the road in one of our horse fields……then he drove our Suburban….both of our trucks….my classic Thunderbird that he got me for my birthday a few years earlier…..our tractor…all of our tractor implements…the boat that I worked 10 years to get for him (and that caused his brain injury, incidentally)……….and he lined everything up along the fence and he put a price tag on every single thing. Then, he put the letters on that big huge sign and plugged it in.
You have to understand that we had worked for MANY years for those things. We started a business in our twenties and we sacrificed everything we had for all of those years to make it work. We owned almost all of it outright…….but, when I told him that the business was struggling….this is what he did….
Sooooo…..there it was….all in a row……all of our stuff…..out in our field.
All of the neighbors driving by…our friends…the community…..people who knew us most of our lives and people who knew nothing about us…..we were just the young family who lived in that beautiful little farm house on Beacon Light road with the perfect lawn….or what USED to be.
You see, in addition…for months….our once beautifully manicured yard started to be filled with weeds that were now several feet high. I just couldn’t keep it up. The lawn was a nightmare. Everything was just falling apart all around me and my heart was broken over my husband, too. It was humiliating and exhausting and horrible, really.
Well, the sign was not up in the field for more than a few hours…….when my husband’s phone rang….it was someone who saw all the stuff and my husband’s phone number on the big huge sign. We were sitting out in the yard while he was still coherent and he was feeling devastated about the condition of our lawn…..I was apologizing that I just couldn’t do all of it………..he was so heartbroken at his limitations and that he had left me to try to handle our life alone……we were trying to make a plan…..
He answered his phone…I saw that he was just listening…I could hear that the person’s voice was getting louder and louder and louder……… husband just listened. He turned his back to me a little so I wouldn’t hear. But I could hear it….It seemed to go on and on and on……..
These were the things I could hear on the other end of the phonecall….
“You are bringing down the value of my property with that ugly sign!”
“What are you doing?”
“That is the most obnoxious sign, do you have a permit to have that out there?”
“Are you starting a used car lot?”
“You have got to get all of that moved and out of here or I am calling the authorities”
I sat there, mortified, embarrassed, humiliated, mad, sad, devastated. I was certain that this would snap my husband back into his dark hellish place.
But, when the man was done ranting, my husband waited a second and then very calmly said something that I will never, ever forget…….
“Sir,” he said, “There was a time in this country, in this community…when if you drove past your neighbor’s house and saw every single thing they own was for sale in front of their house…and that their lawn had not been mowed for weeks….that you would stop and say….WHAT IS GOING ON, SOMETHING MUST BE TERRIBLY WRONG, WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP YOU?”
The man was silent…..and then my husband went on to tell him a few details about what was going on with our family….
The man waited a moment and then his tone changed…..he apologized….I mean, really apologized and then said…
“I am going to call all of my friends and see if any of them need any of this stuff….”
I wish with everything in me that we could have put a sign up on that big stupid lit up billboard in our field that said OUR LIFE IS FALLING APART….  but all that we really could put up is a sign with the price of everything that we owned that was worth any money…….
WHAT IF we could all wear a sign that said what WE REALLY MEANT? What if we could go straight past the small talk……..or the masks…….and we could actually go straight to the heart of the matter…….what if our friends and family wore signs like this?
…we would treat each other differently.
I think we should just try to imagine it………that when a friend is quiet…or not showing up to stuff she usually shows up to….or acting a little “off”….or a family member is wearing pajamas to the grocery store for weeks on end……or not answering the phone…..or the lawn is not mowed…..
whatever it is……….
IT IS A SIGN. It is not a sign that can be read in words and letters, but it is a sign that someone needs to be treated gently…that they need help….most of all, that they need love, understanding…and that they DEFINITELY DO NOT need to be judged.
Every time I think of this story….I want to be better…I want to do better, I don’t want any silent signs to go unread before my eyes or my heart…..I don’t want to make up my own answers to what must be going on…I don’t want to assume………..
Let’s be gentle with each other.
Let’s read each other’s signs.
HAPPY NOVEMBER….so much to be thankful for!

I'd love your thoughts on this post. As it is just a couple days after Thanksgiving and technically in the Christmas season I'd like to challenge you to take this post into your life and find a way to pass it on. And I don't mean just share the link to this but rather share the spirit of this message. Find a way to incorporate it into your life and you will have found a way to permanently etch the Christmas spirit into your heart.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black? Friday

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and nobody is going to read this because you are shopping, right? So, truthfully, I could type up pretty much anything I want. ;)

I'm not a Black Friday shopper. Tried it once, but I have serious crowd issues. I'm the person who will shop at 1am during the holidays just to avoid the people. I actually have a love/hate relationship with holiday shopping--I love finding deals and prefer to hold the purchase in my hand rather than shopping online, but I really, really don't like dealing with all the people.

Instead, I think I'll do some writing. Maybe a little editing. And worry about shopping later.

What are your Friday-after-Thanskgiving plans?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grateful For...

To preface I have to say that I have always been a "glass half empty" kind of gal. I still move forward, but think the whole time that the other shoe is going to drop any moment. 'Cause it always does.
But it's Thanksgiving, a time to stop and ponder the abundance placed before us. And I really do have a lot to be grateful for. A loving family, a home of my own, plenty of funds to buy groceries and the necessities of life and more. We went through a period of serious financial stress not too long ago, and it's so nice to be able to do what I need to to care for my family. I"m grateful for the stress of making a feast for my family tomorrow. I'm grateful for my husband's job, even though he has to work tomorrow part of the day, that provides us with money and him with satisfaction and recognition for the first time in years.
I'm grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones. (When we have it. Which is not right now.) I'm grateful for the miracle of healing. I've seen it so many times, in both little ways and grand.
I'm grateful my father-in-law could come and stay a few weeks with us. My hubby is one of the youngest, and his dad started having children late. He turned 80 this year, but still has enough energy to fly down here and spend some time with us. My kids love having him here.
I'm grateful for my testimony of Jesus Christ as my Savior and Guide in all things. I am grateful for my knowledge of the truth, and the peace it brings to me as I face discouragement and trouble.
I am grateful for my talents that help me share that testimony with the world. I don't know where I would be if I couldn't express myself through music and words.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that if I stop to smell the roses, I won't be bogged down with all the rest of it, and I can move forward with more gratitude and faith.
And that's all I really need.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book of My Life

I've posted about this before, but it's been awhile and we have some new faces around MMW now. Once, I was an ardent journal keeper. I documented every day. In. Detail. Now, I really struggle when it comes to recording my thoughts and my days...even though my now seems a lot more important than my then. (Meaning, then I wrote about boys. And boys. Now I have a family who depends on me to record their lives.)

I guess sometimes I feel like if I don't write something down, a sweet moment with my daughter, something funny my son said...will be lost. Forever. Kind of depressing. Yet, in spite of this, I can't seem to make the time. So, I'm asking you...what do you do to set aside time to journal?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Stories (and a book review), G.G, Vandagriff

Today's guest for Saturday Stories is published author G.G. Vandagriff. G.G. is the author of TWELVE books, the latest entitled The Only Way to Paradise.

Following this super fun interview please stay tuned for more on G.G. and my review of The Only Way to Paradise.

Q—Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
My standard line is that I am one of those lucky people who can experience love, hate, misery, euphoria, passion, or elation at will. I can live anywhere at any time in history.  Even the future. I am a writer. Since this is a blog for writers, I hope you all appreciate what a gift this is. I discovered it as a youngster in a very dysfunctional home. I literally wrote myself into another existence in a happy family. I discovered the joy of “writing” before I even learned to read. My “writing” was Crayola picture stories in dime store scrapbooks.
I have lived a life with more than my share of drama, which has had its drawbacks, but is wonderful material for character building. Being bi-polar, I have experienced depths and heights that most people never know. This exaggerated type of life is what many people look for in fiction. I took refuge in writing light fiction when my mind sought escape. But as soon as I was healed (miraculously, of course), I began to express all that I had learned deep in my soul. I have written four books that I consider “real” emotionally: Deliverance From Depression: Finding Hope and Healing through the Power of the Atonement (non-fiction); The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War (Whitney Winner for Best Historical Fiction), Pieces of Paris, and now my new book: The Only Way to Paradise.
As far as hard facts go: I was raised in Southern California, did my undergraduate work at Stanford (where my English teacher informed me that I had “considerable talent” but that I would have to give up my religion if I wanted to succeed as a writer), worked in finance for two years in Boston, and then got my Master’s Degree at George Washington University. I got engaged right in the middle of writing my thesis, which was, of course, a giant distraction! David and I have lived in Chicago, Southern California, Southwest Missouri, Oakwood (Dayton), Ohio, and now Provo. We have three children and 2 grandchildren who are the true light of my life. I am restraining myself from including a photo. I have published 11 books with conventional publishers and am now branching out on my own. The Only Way to Paradise is my first self-published book. All my others, except the two most recent ones, are in process of being published under my husband’s and my own imprint.  
QPlease tell us about your book The Only Way to Paradise.
Paradise started out about 3 ½ years ago to be a fun chick lit about some endearingly eccentric women who were in therapy together and decided to dump their therapist and go to Florence to find healing. However, as soon as I got to know my characters, I began a journey of rewrites that led me to a “real” book about agape (Christlike love) and its relationship to healing. The last version was completed only a month ago. It has been the book that just keeps going deeper and deeper.
QWhat inspired you to write The Only Way to Paradise?
I wanted to write about women who had experienced life on one level, but had failed to find out who they really were and what they were really capable of. Group therapy, such as theirs, was not successful in my case. I wanted to write about real (there’s that word again) healing in a way that non-members could relate to. Since all people have the Light of Christ, I knew that the people who were prepared to learn truth would learn an important piece of it from this story.
QTell us about each of the four main female characters in the book.
MacKenzie: A forty-year old woman with two teenagers and a mysteriously missing husband, who left her in the middle of the night six months prior with no explanation.  He is a doctor and she has been masquerading for twenty years as a society matron in the upper class suburb of Oakwood, Ohio. In reality, she is an artist without a discovered medium, holds degrees from Stanford and Columbia in Art History, and “way back when” she taught her husband, Kurt, to surf, and he taught her to rock climb. Their marriage has become one of parallel lives. She is in therapy to discover what is wrong with her and why her husband left.
Sara: A thirty year old woman masquerading as an ob-gyn, who has a secret life as an uber-talented violinist whom no one has ever heard play, except her teachers. The daughter of self-sacrificing Vietnamese immigrants who saved all their money so she could be a doctor, she is caught in a profession that makes her constantly anxious that she might lose a mother or a baby. She has become a Xanax addict, and as the book opens, has been thrust into therapy by her peers who have given her “mandated leave.” None of her fellow “crazy ladies” know anything of this, and at first she flatly refuses to join in the trip to Florence.
Roxie: Another thirty-year old woman, a descendant of wealthy Cuban refugees, is even more beautiful than J-Lo. However, she hates her beauty and tries to disguise it by wearing sweats and a baseball cap with her pony tail hanging out the back. She has a Cubana’s passion for life, which she treats as a circus. When she gets to Florence, however, she exhibits bizaare behavior, running away from a professor as handsome as Michelangelo’s David. The other crazy ladies realize that her problems are deeper and more mysterious than their own. Roxie doesn’t even know what they are.
Georgia:  A sixty-year-old widow who has led “La Dolce Vita” all over the world as a successful concert violinist, but has lost her career due to early onset arthritis and her beloved husband due to a heart attack just three months prior. Georgia is seeking for a reason to go on living, when she suddenly is inspired to finance a revitalizing trip to Florence for all four of them. She is very wealthy, and this idea is the only thing that has lit even a small spark in her since her husband’s death.
QYou are able to create such a rich tapestry of characters, each with their own depth, how did you do this? Where did you draw their lives from?
As I said in answer #1, I have a lot of experience with mental illness, abuse, and consequently PTSD.
However, I didn’t want to write about illness, I wanted to write about healing. The problem is, you can’t heal someone who isn’t ill. The writing, in previous incarnations of the book, shied away from delving as deeply as it needed to in order to make the healing as dramatic and real (again) as I wanted it to be. I sought paid advice from a NYT best-selling author of women’s fiction. She guessed what my problem was. There was a part of me in each of these women, but I was understandably reluctant to peel back the layers.
She taught me a wonderful technique. I have always been a “discovery” writer, not an outliner. My characters just become. I have so much “fertile soil” of experience, that I never have to look too far for interesting characters, I just dig down inside of me, finding people I have known, and milking my familiarity with quirkiness, tragedy, healing, and at the heart of it all—the Savior. Pam taught me how to harness all of this and really mine the gold that lay beneath my words. The process was this:  I bought large index cards in four colors-one for each character. With these cards, I took one character at a time and created her “arc.” This consisted of beginning with her first scene, and then developing her, scene by scene, each card describing in detail the conflict and drama in it. I was working consciously, but not predictably or facilely toward the person that character would become when her arc was complete. When I had done all four arcs, then the artistry of sorting the cards into chapters, where the arcs were all overlapping, took place. I loved this! Never having had any formal training in plotting or characterization, this filled a big hole in my abilities. I had to go “line upon line, precept upon precept” as deeply as needed to make “truth” happen for each of these ladies, and have that truth overlap and precipitate progress of the plot and finally the resolution. 
QIt is obvious by the intricate and palpable description that you have been to Italy and seen all the amazing towns and sites you show in the book. How did your experiences in Italy define these women and their experiences there?
I know it’s probably a cliché, but it’s true that Italy is a place of miracles, particularly Florence, the seat of the Renaissance. As MacKenzie tries to tell Sara, the energy that propelled the artists and scientists out of the Dark Ages is still there! She insists, and I of course agree, that Florence is a place that makes you believe that “all your dreams can come true.” My royalties made it possible for me to take three trips there during the course of writing this book. The last time I was there almost a month. And I was alone. That’s when the Lord struck me down on the sidewalk, and agape in the form of a handsome young Italian (they’re all handsome!) picked me up carefully, walked me to the famous pastacceria (a combination of a lively cafe and bakery), ordered me a Coke, and sat and chatted with me about the miracle of the Renaissance for forty-five minutes, before surprising me with the gift of four bus tickets! Agape!! It took that experience to teach me why I loved Italy so much—the art is breathtaking, the landscape Celestial, but it is the Florentines with their overflowing love for others that is what makes is truly remarkable and healing. When I learned this, I finally had the reason I was inspired to write this book. Agape opens your heart and prepares you for healing, as you learn a different way of life and step onto “the only way to paradise.”
QThe Only Way to Paradise is your amazing 12th book! How has your writing evolved along the way? What lessons have you learned or what advice would you like to share with all the writers out there?
Don’t be afraid of “rules.” Don’t compare yourself to others. Take the time and energy necessary to find your own voice. If you want to write anything of significance (and here I must admit that I couldn’t exist without “potato chip books” to soothe my harrowed soul) you need to have something to say, and you need to say it as only you can. How do you find this voice? There is no other way that I know of than to do writing practice. Each day, as soon as possible after arising (this is the time for the most unique thought) take a “trigger” (the first line of a novel, a poem, or even a newspaper story—the Internet has whole sites of writing triggers), set your timer for twenty minutes, and write without stoping. Do not lift your pen from the paper. Do not edit. Write whatever comes into your head. 
It is ideal to have a partner to do this with, because you learn so much about your voice when you see how different it is under the same circumstances, with the same trigger, from your partner’s. If you do this, like a musician does scales, pretty soon your writing will pass beneath the superficial into terra incognita—your subconscious. The best writers “tame” their subconscious (88% of their brain) with their conscious voice less and less. I’m not saying that I’m a fan of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying or Joyce’s Ulysses. My mind doesn’t go in those directions. Another very important thing is to read good writers. There is such a thing as osmosis in this case. Good writers are liberating.
QAll the ladies in your story learn some hard but extremely valuable life lessons in Italy. If you can, will you share one life lesson you’ve learned that has affected the way you not only see yourself but your talents as a writer?
I’ve learned to be open to my own spirit and what it is telling me about the universe. Why did it take me 3 visits to discover why I loved Italy so much I couldn’t stay away? Because I wasn’t “listening.” There is a voice inside of all of us that knows when something is eternally true and right. If we are living the gospel, attending the temple,  being diligent in our prayers and scripture study, that voice is attuned to the infinite. You can become who you were born to become. If you “listen” to that voice its power will become greater and greater until you understand the power of what you are writing. And then . . . you start all over with another book. (This one has been so taxing, my next will be another “potato chip” book!)
QOf the four characters who do you see yourself in the most?
It was very surprising to me when I realized that, although there was a great bit of me in each of them, that I was most like Roxie! Since my first trip to Florence, I have become a very flashy dresser, we are both writers, and both terrified of handsome men. (I kept my eyes on David’s tie knot the first time I met him. Our courtship was largely by mail, which allowed me to fall in love with him while not having to look at him.) I am quirky and outrageous, and our traumas are similar, except that I have more of them!
QOf the four characters who is least like you?
Probably Georgia. Although I love her dearly as she develops, I possess no musical talent, and could not for long have tolerated the rootless, cosmopolitan, promiscuous life that she led and thinks she still longs for. Georgia thinks through most of the book that a man is the answer to every problem. At the end of the journey she takes, we are much more in accord.
QIf you had the opportunity to have Georgia’s money and the time to take three friends with you to Italy who would they be and why?
Great question! I think time in Italy is so essential for a woman, that my only problem is narrowing it down to three. Actually, one of the people I would most want to take is a man—my 26 year old son who is very in tune with me emotionally, who is brilliant beyond my ability to comprehend, and whose gretest challenge is the perrenial gifted person’s challenge: “I can do anything passably well. But what am I passionate about? I think Italy and Tuscany for a month would help him put things in perspective. As a matter of fact, perspective was Florence’s gift to the world, and what changed art forever.
The second person I would take would be Sandra. She is a year older than me and still timid about her considerable talent as a water colorist. I would love to take her to San Gimignano to paint the medieval buildings and doorways and archways to her hearts content. She paints “little gems” and I think Tuscany would work its magic on her and give her the sense of well-being and accomplishment she needs to realize her own talent.
The third person I would take would be my BFF, Alana. She is so brilliant, but has had such a hard life, that I don’t understand how she can be as resiliant as she is. She’s also an artist, a photographer, and a writer, but is almost entirely self-taught. Florence would catch my scrappy friend on fire! I want to witness that. I want to see her in the process of having all her dreams come true.
QBefore reading this book (well, when I was just a few pages into it) I decided I had better go watch “Enchanted April” because your story begins with these ladies watching it. How did this movie inspire / influence your book?
I think it inspired the four women in Italy idea. And it certainly is full of agape. (Which I should have caught on to) However, my choice of Florence made all the difference, and turned it into a completely different book. “Enchanted April” is like an Impressionist painting. I don’t know what my book is like, but it isn’t the least blurred. It tackles much harder questions, and I hope it points people in the right direction. I would love for it to be as inspiring as Enchanted April is!
QYou’ve got a blog tour going on right now. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
To be honest, it has been a bit of a disappointment. The quality of the blogs lead me to suspect that I am not talking to an audience that would appreciate this book. Three others are traveling with it: Cankered Roots, Arthurian Omen, and The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War. While the last book is an epic, and really has something for everyone and can be read on any of several levels, the first is my first mystery—entertaining and fun, and the second is a psychological suspense. So those three books have been popular. I don’t know how many readers from that segment of the population will appreciate the subtlties of Paradise, but perhaps there is enough romance and atmosphere to please them. I know that romance and atmosphere are key ingredients in the books I like to read! The most disappointing part has been that bloggers have failed to produce. They just don’t post on the days they’re supposed to. Others are very committed and have given me great interview questions, but none as good a yours. I’m afraid that I have completely worn you and everyone else out!

Seriously, G.G., you did not wear me out! This book was a breath of fresh air and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I guess that's as good a lead as any into my review...

Book Review: The Only Way to Paradise

The Only Way to Paradise is a wonderful, character driven story. Set in the heart of Italy, G.G. Vandagriff takes four unique women, each struggling with their own set of demons, and places them in a world where they not only discover what it is eating away at their souls but leads them on the path to true self-discovery.

Each of the characters face difficult choices and the frightening task of learning who they really are, often times this means digging painfully into their past to discover what made them the women they are today and accepting what they need to do to change.

I found myself completely enchanted by this book. I could see bits and pieces of myself in each and every one of G.G.'s four main characters though I must admit to feeling the strongest kinship with MacKenzie. Through MacKenzie's journey of self-discovery I learned a lot about myself and came to understand the importance of letting go and allowing the Lord to mold one's life. One of my favorite quotes from the book has to do with this. It takes place when MacKenzie, freshly arrived in Italy, finds herself staring at Michelangelo's statue of David.

"Be gentle with yourself," David said to her. "You are not meant to know everything. That is what life is for. Learning day by day. I started as a block of marble. The chisel was slow and painstaking, but it ultimately did its work. Let the chisel work in your life. You will find MacKenzie again. And maybe you will find God."

The book is filled with wonderful life lessons like this one that don't make the reader feel as if they're being preached to, rather they are on their own little journey to self-discovery along with these four women.

G.G. has the uncanny ability to make the reader feel like they are in Italy with these women, painting vivid pictures of the cities and villages and creating life-like Italian men and women whose dialogue is so spot-on with the trade-mark Italian charm.

I found myself laughing, smiling, and completely enchanted by this book and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in a story that is more than just an enjoyable read, but a personally enlightening read as well.

If you'd like to learn more about G.G. Vandagriff or her books you can find it here:

Her website here (it has bio, books, photos, sample writing, book club questions, contact info.

Her interactive blog is: Embracing Abundance 

Her PTSD blog and website are at: PTSD: Secret Storm of the Soul

Her Last Waltz (Whitney Winner) website is It is filled with pictures, character sketches, history of the period, and a synopsis.

Her Facebook Page is  GG Vandagriff-Author.

Her Fan Page is Fans of GG Vandagriff.

Her Amazon Author page is:GG Vandagriff's Amazon Author Page.

If you are interested in purchasing The Only Way to Paradise you can find it 

All of the e-books featured in G.G.'s blog tour are specially priced at $3.99 until the tour ends on Nov. 30. Also available for those who purchase the paperback, is a personalized bookplate for anyone who puts their snail mail address on her website (contact).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wait, it's Friday?

Sorry, but it's afternoon. I'd love to have a great excuse for posting so late, like going to midnight showing of a movie and having to catch up on sleep, but I don't have one. Seriously, I got everyone off to school and work this morning and curled up on the love seat to get warm.

And woke up at almost 1pm. Oops.

Now the day is over, essentially. The kids are home and soon I have to get dinner done and make sure they do all their chores before watching the shows my son borrowed from his friend and has to return this weekend.

This is going to be one of those days where the "writer" part of my persona takes a back seat to the rest of my life. Maybe, though, I can get something done tonight.

It's just how being a writer works sometimes.

Till next week!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Totally Cliche" is Totally LIVE!!!

Mormon Mommy Writers proudly presents....*drumroll here* "TOTALLY CLICHE"!  That's right, you can download your copy of our short story anthology TODAY!  I have been very impressed by the writers of these stories and their high quality of writing.  It doesn't matter that I have read these stories over and over again, I still laugh till tears stream down my face!  Also I need to take the time to thank all the writers in the book for their professionalism and punctuality in sending back edits and working hard to make this story the best it can be!  Most of all, I need to thank Lisa Turner for all her hard work and perseverance in making this e-book happen.  It would never have come to be without her wonderful idea and passion to make it happen!  Be sure to thank Lisa for all her hard work!!

Now, it's time to buy your copy today!  "Totally Cliche" is a great buy at only $.99 a download!  And because it's a short story collection you can read one story at a time if you would like, or devour it in one sitting!  You can get it on Kindle or find it on Smashwords and get it in many different formats including those compatible with Nook, Sony Reader, Ipad/Ipod, and even read it on your computer!  Also, be sure to visit us on Facebook and share our links to this wonderful book!! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apologies...and Realities

I'm so sorry it took me so long to blog today. I'm usually on top of things. I can only claim that my brain was zapped by illness. I (along with several family members) have been working through a cold system that included an ear infection and two sinus infections (all for different people). It's been a hard week, to be sure.
But that brings me to my point about realities. See, I had this plan for finishing my book. And it would have worked...if I lived in a vacuum with no outside distractions. (Though I may have then had to be locked up in a rubber room somewhere.) But I don't. I'm a Mormon, with callings and callings for my husband, and youth activities, and other opportunities to serve. I'm a Mommy, with five kids who tax every bit of who I am some days, forcing me to find my patience after having lost it all over them. And then finally, I am a writer. I've discovered that I cannot ignore those other aspects of myself to only write, as much as I would like to. If there is something on the "Mormon" or "Mommy" list that needs to get done first, I have to do it or I can't rest or settle into a good place to write. My conscience must be clear. (Some days that includes housework. Some days not.)
And I'd forgotten that. I'd tried to put myself into a mold that I DEFINITELY don't fit into. My writing has to come at my own speed, not forced on me by the outside. Even if I'm the one doing the forcing.
So, that being said, I am not giving up, only trying to take a good hard look at the reality of who I am, in all my aspects, and understanding and forgiving myself for not being perfect at everything.

Monday, November 14, 2011

And Then I Changed Her Name

I am a few big scenes away from the end of my current WIP, and I've decided to change my MC's name.

It's only my rough draft, but it's crazy because she's always been "Bonnie." It seemed like the right name at the time, albeit a little old fashioned. But now, I know it's not right. I think I got a new name for her, but I'm going to have to retrain my thinking as I finish drafting and then edit.

I've never changed a name like this before. Once my MC is coined, she is always...her. How about you? Ever done a big name change??

Friday, November 11, 2011


If I could trick my post to go live at 11:11, it would be awesome. But blogger's time does not seem to agree with the time on my computer, so there's just no way I can do it short of complicated math. And that's not going to happen.

Today has been getting a lot of attention because of the repetitive nature of the date. People are planning to get married today (lots of them that I know personally). And, for some, it just "feels lucky." I'm more of the school where you make your own luck, so I don't have a pre-conceived idea of what the day should bring.

I do have to say, though, that it would take A LOT for it to be better than yesterday.

Yesterday I finished my edits on The Tyrant King. Finally. I also took part in the Variant by Rob Wells Book Bomb. That was supreme awesomeness. It felt so good to be a part of something. In case you missed it, we took his Amazon ranking up over 10,000%. It seemed like everyone yesterday was talking about that fabulous book.

Recent events, including last week's Writers Retreat, have gotten me thinking. I take genuine joy in the successes of my fellow writers. Because I'm on a constant path of self discovery, I also tend to take personal stock of my own feelings when someone announces a milestone reached, or a goal obtained.

Where I would expect to find traces of envy, I only find joy. Real happiness for them. This surprises me, as a shred of envy would not only be understandable it would also be somewhat appropriate. I've had friends obtain publishing contracts with publishers that turned me down. Others obtained agents who got them great book deals. And still others sell hundreds of books (in a day, lol) or over the course of a couple of signings. Yet, I'm HAPPY for them.

This is likely the only place you'll see me pointing this out. I'm pleased by my reactions to others' successes, but also mildly puzzled, which is why I'm posting here because it gives me a chance to obtain feedback. You can say I'm "tooting my own horn" and you would be partially right. It could simply be that I'm not a person prone to jealousy. ;)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

E-Book Descriptions

A major part of publishing a book is getting the back cover description just right.  The same goes for e-books, except instead of going on the back of a book it goes on the page with a picture of your cover.  What kind of descriptions make you want to read a book?  Does humor make you want to crack the page?  Is it a good hook that makes you click "buy"?  What would make you want to read a short story collection on e-book?  Have you guessed where I'm going with this yet?
If you guessed that MMW's e-book "Totally Cliched" needs a book a description, then you are right!  That's right, our book is due to come out a week from today!  I've been playing around with a few ideas for the description, but I need your help to figure out what works best.  Please tell me which one you like best and any suggestions you may have to make it better.

1.  What do Alice in Wonderland, an escaped convict, a vampire, a zombie, and Prince Charming all have in common?  They are only some of the characters to grace the pages of a short story collection that is "Totally Cliched".  Read this collection of stories that were inspired by the one thing writers should avoid at all costs...cliches!

2.  Where can you get your Vampire, Zombie, YA romance, and historical romance story fix all in one place?  Try the short story collection that is "Totally Cliched".

3.  Mormon Mommy Writers presents "Totally Cliched", a collection of short stories including:
       "Alice in Clicheland" by Kasey Tross - What's a writer to do when all she can think of is cliches?  Perhaps visit Castle Cliche in Clicheland where all IS as it seems!
      "Scared Stiff by Debra Erfert - Sammy is a girl that has never been scared her entire life despite her best efforts.  Will that all change on a dark and stormy night?
      "Mirage" by Cathy Witbeck - Leslie's mother was killed twenty years ago, yet when her mother's previous employer seeks Leslie as their newest employee, she may be headed for the same fate.
Be sure to read these and many more stories to get your cliche fix today!

Ok, so which do you like best?  How would you make it better?  Thanks for all your help, you guys ROCK!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life Is What Happens...

So if you hadn't noticed, I'd planned to do NaNo, or something like unto it. I got three days into it...and then life fell apart. I'm not going to go into details, but it was unexpected, unplanned, and changes everything. I've spent the past several days dealing with not just this new twist, but the illness that plagues my family everytime the weather changes has reared its ugly head with a vengance, including the semi-expected ear infection for my 4 year old. He woke up Monday night before I'd gone to bed, and spent two hours crying in pain. A miraculous priesthood blessing helped tremendously, and around 3 am he fell asleep. Needless to say, yesterday was a day of zombie-like behavior, mixed with bouts of frustrated tears at how twisted life got in such a short amount of time.

I haven't written a word of my Fairy Godfather in almost a week now. And while I watch with pride and not a little awe at my writing friends who are pumping out 2000-2500 words or more a day, I can't help but despair a little (okay, a lot) as I see my goal fade into the sunset. I want so desperately to finish this, but I've lost a week. And I don't know if I'm going to be able to make it up.

I'm sorry for the vent, but sometimes life is just crazy, and you need a shoulder (or two) to cry on. Thanks for listening, and I promise to return the favor sometime.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are You A Morning Person?

I've been trying to get up early the last couple of months to write. You might remember this little post when my daughter thought she might conspire against me and wake up early, too. Well, I believe she was teething that week. And since, there have been some mornings like that...when my kids SENSE my being awake, but overall it has been successful.

I have to go to bed a little earlier, but that small window of time in the morning can be very productive. My mind actually works better in the morning than it does in the afternoon (starts going into siesta mode then) or nighttime (too full of the day then).

This week I'm having a WAKE UP AND WRITE blogfest with a handful of my blog friends, and it's been nice. We've been talking by email and encouraging each other. (Let me tell you, when others across the country are waking up with you, it makes it MUCH easier.) But as I've discussed it on my blog and seen it discussed on my friend Patti's blog, I've found how many people declare they AREN'T a morning person.

For me, it was kind of a last resort deal. I figured that if I am going to make this writing thing work, I have to try something else. Some people can really make the daytime and nighttime work for them.

What about you? A nighttime person? A morning person? An anytime person? When are your best writing hours?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guest Post and Book Debut: Elizabeth Mueller and "Darkspell"

Today's post is special for me. My very first writing bloggy friend was Elizabeth Mueller. So I am so excited to help announce her debut novel Darkspell.

I also got the privilege of getting the opportunity to read her book and post a review. So, the first part of this post is a guest post from Elizabeth and the second part is my review of the book. Enjoy!

Guest Post, Elizabeth Mueller

I’ve learned a lot from the day Darkspell was picked up by TreasureLine. I had thought it was ready since I’d done so many revisions, critiques and overhauls. Before I submitted the entire manuscript, I decided to review a few more critiques. My heart sunk. It was not ready.

I scrambled over the week cutting and pasting chapters, deleting scenes, adding intensity and toning down. I deleted a sum total of 8,000+ words!

After perfecting the novel, I submitted it. My stomach suffered many forms of nausea—I was afraid that the publisher wouldn’t like it, even though she had read my stellar query letter. 

Darkspell finally came back a few weeks later all marked up. I spent another 2 weeks fixing it and sent it back. While waiting for the editor, I started a Darkspell hullabaloo by setting up a month-long giveaway. After some more waiting, I found that there were tons of typos. I spent another week fixing those and when I was done, inspiration hit on how to improve my book. How? Illustrations! With my publisher’s permission, I spent the next week illustrating the chapters, all 39 of them.

Sometime after that, I had the preformat edited version sent to me as a PDF. I was wowed by how stunning it turned out. Then, magic happened: a week or so later, I held my proof. An actual copy of my baby! How beautiful! I combed through it once more with a red pen and sent the corrections to my publisher.

All along, I’ve been devising ways to get my book out there, setting up pre-order options, contests and such.

And now, here I am, waiting for my books to arrive as I’ve placed the order, as well for the release October 31st! It’s a LOT of work and heartache, but I’ve grown so much from just one book being accepted.

Read the first chapter here!

Book Debut, Darkspell

Winter Sky believes she is everything ordinary ... until she is kissed by Alex Stormhold. As seer of Stormhold Coven, Alex is sworn to be Winter's protector against the darkness that hunts her. Violently thrust into a magical realm she always thought impossible, she stumbles upon a disturbing secret of her own. Will love prove thicker than magic? Included in this volume are author-created illustrations that bestselling author Ellen C. Maze calls a mind blowing treat. Darkspell is classified as a Young Adult Paranormal Romance that will appeal beyond the genre.
                   ~Book Description from

Reviewers on Amazon call Darkspell "Easily a five-star read" and "one of those guilty pleasure books that keep you turning pages."

Elizabeth's creativity fills the pages of her debut novel with more than just words. She painstakingly created drawings for each chapter that really bring the story to life and give the reader a unique glimpse into the world of Winter Sky and Alex Stormhold.

The pages of Darkspell are filled with magic and suspense and a nice helping of romance that even includes a little love triangle. If you're in for a new YA experience Elizabeth's book might just be what you're looking for.

Congrats Elizabeth!


Related Posts with Thumbnails