Archive for March, 2010

The wisewoman is a character I often use in my fiction. She’s attuned to nature, knowledgeable about animals and plants, and a healer. She’s both midwife and dark angel who opens the doors of birth and death. Usually, she’s been apprenticed to an older wisewoman or is a member of a loosely aligned society of wisewomen. She’s also the owner of a diary, journal, or book of recipes given to her by a now-deceased mentor.

My wisewoman is always a respected member of the community. Loved by some, feared by many, she seems to possess supernatural knowledge. In my stories, the wisewoman is observant, intelligent, intuitive, and empathetic. Using the same information available to the other characters plus her experience and special book, she’s able to find a solution to the problem facing her or another character. Does she do magic? Maybe. I usually leave that up to the reader to decide.

In my eshort, For the Good of the Settlement, the wisewoman and her pet squirrels must decide whether or not to commit murder http:tinyurl.com/vonnie-settlement They’re basically “good,” but will they choose a dark solution to their problem? In my as-yet unpublished novel, The Enchanted Skean, there’s a number of wisewomen who interact with Beck (the main character) as he journeys across the land of Dobran. All of these wisewomen are healers, have special books, a favorite animal, and words of advice for my hero. All of the wisewomen seem to help Beck – but do they assist him out of kindness, for money, or for some ulterior motive?

 I’ve been asked: “Are your wisewomen actually witches?” My response is: no and yes. If you mean “devil-worshipers,” the answer is: no. If you mean “broom-riding hags out to do evil,” again the answer is: no. But if you’re asking if my wisewoman characters might have been accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts because they were a little “different,” the answer is: yes.

 Many of the women accused over the centuries of being witches were nothing more than healers. Their power over disease was viewed as magical. If a woman was able to cure an illness, some people suspected she might be able to cause illnesses. So a wisewoman healer was often called a hedge witch, and though a part of a community was set apart from that same community because of her oneness with nature.

Wisewoman, village elder, healer, or hedge witch – I like nothing more than to toss into my fiction a powerful, mysterious female character. The question is, do readers like to read about such characters?

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 All 3 of my eShort stories: Assassins, Sideshow by the Sea, and Bells, are YA/Cross-Overs. YA (young adult) books are written for the teenage reader. But some books that feature older teen and young adult characters, like Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-werewolf “Twilight” series, cross-over and become bestsellers in the adult book market.

Adults of all ages can enjoy a Cross-Over book’s plot twists, varied characters, and carefully constructed world. One of the earliest Cross-Overs I purchased for my bookshelf was JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Though Bilbo Baggins is middle-aged in human years, in hobbit years he is a young adult. Tolkien meticulously built a complex world with its own races, geography, history, creatures, rules of war, clothing, and magic.

The book was a precursor to The Lord of the Rings trilogy which also features a young hobbit, Frodo, as the protagonist. Adding to the YA feel of The LOTR trilogy is the boyish friendship of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. But the tangle of plots, subplots, themes, and characters that weave their way through The Lord of the Rings are rich enough to snag countless adult readers.

C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and the rest of his Chronicles of Narnia are also YA/Cross-Over books. Written for the teen (and preteen) reader, the series continues to be read by adults young and old.

Another Cross-Over series I’ve filled my book shelves with is Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, etc. These aren’t really YA books, you might say. But I submit to you that indeed they began as a coming of age story of 2 young men, Shea and Flick, in a carefully crafted world. And then, the Shannara books topped the New York Times bestseller list and became one of the favorite fantasy series of many adult readers.

The last cross-over series I’ll mention is J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, the three main characters in Rowlings’ classic coming of age tales, begin their literary journey as 12-year-olds. And as such, attracted a faithful readership of preteens and teens. But it’s the cross-over into the adult market that has help make the books one of the most successful fantasy series ever published.

 I’m not the only one to notice and celebrate the increase in both the numbers and quality of YA/Cross-Over books. The Baltimore Sun, March 14, 2010, p.4, A&E section featured an article by Susan Carpenter in which she quotes Lizzie Skurnick, author of a collection of essays about YA literature: “I think part of the reason we’re seeing adults reading YA is that often there’s no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain…YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They’re able to have a little more fun…”

 And that’s why YA/Cross-Over books Rock!

They’re entertaining, enlightening, and thought-provoking – but most of all – they’re fun! So why not check-out my YA/Cross-Over story, For the Good of the Settlement And soon, you’ll be able to read some of my other YA/Cross-Overs: The Return of Gunnar Kettilson in Cemetary Moon and Gifts in the Dark in Dia de los Muertos.

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 Readers, the challenge is over. Sigh. AuthorsBookshop has closed (10-31-11) with few sales of the 3 books I had listed to help raise money for a worthy cause. Still, I will write a check of my own funds to support Books for Boots.

If you haven’t heard of this non-profit organization, check them out. The money donated to Books for Boots is used “to help greviously wounded war heroes” in VA hospitals where it’s used for special needs and emergencies (including helping families of the soldiers with travel costs when they make  a bedside visit).

Why would I be interested in donating money to this organization? First, it’s a great way to show support for veterans who were injured while serving our country. Plus, I have a son who’s recently returned from serving in Iraq. He was lucky and wasn’t severely  injured — but a number of other soldiers he served with weren’t so lucky. I feel it’s a small thing I can do for the young men and women who’ve volunteered to serve, and have been wounded doing so.

Before AuthorsBookshop closed, had you been looking for a good collection of poetry (Essential Fables and River of Stars) or an anthology of science fiction & fantasy stories (Lower Than The Angels) at a reasonable price for yourself, to give as a gift, or to donate to your local library and purchased one of my books from that site, I would have made a donation to this worthy cause from the proceeds of the sold books.

Update: I’ve since found a new way to support the troops by giving them ebook downloads via Cold Moon Press.

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mermaid Reincarnation is defined as the “rebirth of the soul in successive bodies” (Standard College Dictionary).  But rather than the rebirth of a soul, I’d like to discuss the rebirth of an idea in successive bodies!  By now, some of you are scratching your head and wondering what in the world I’m talking about.  Let me explain.

Often, I begin writing with an idea like: “there’s a real mermaid not far from a jetty off of Ocean City’s shore.”  Hmm.  I decide I spot the mermaid while walking along the beach.  When I see her, I admire her beauty and allure.  Then, I worry about what would happen if my sons came under her spell.  Would they follow her into the water, perhaps to their deaths?  I write a poem about that dark mermaid moment called Ocean Lure.

Next, I decide to write a story about a woman under an umbrella on the beach who watches her husband and children playing in the ocean.  She both admires and fears the deep water, warned by her own mother that the sea will take someone she loves.  On the day written about in Pacific, the woman’s children return to her from the water.  In an uneasy ending, from the safety of the sand, the family watches dolphins leaping from the water like question marks.

Next, I consider swimming in the ocean and write the poem, Water: “Water is the mirror we sink into/ slip to the other side of…” where we “dream of the drowned/ whose bones rock on the bottom/ wear away to sand./ Sand that catches in clothing,/ hides between skinfolds,/ and comes with us/ when we come out of water.”

Another poem follows called Sea Children.  It is written as a series of cinquain (a 5-lined form of poem) that undulates down the page concluding with: “high tide/ cold, hungry green/ swashing the sunbathers/ shivering, we flee its sharp teeth/ sharkwave.// water/ salty moonchild/ rushing from birth to death/ our blood answers when she beckons/ Mother!”  Full poem was printed by SeaStories, and can be read on my website: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com

Finally, filled with appropriate amounts of wonder, magic, and darkness — I consider how I’d feel if a merman came on shore to carry away my daughter.  Horrified was my initial response, but what if going with the merman was for the best?  What are the circumstances that would make if the right choice for a daughter to go with the merman to the bottom of the ocean?  And that’s where I began when I started to write story, Sideshow by the Sea, published in Volume 5 Issue 3 of “Tales of the Talisman” http://www.talesofthetalisman.com and later as an eShort.

That first idea of something beautiful and seductive lurking in the Atlantic has been reincarnated in several bodies.  Whether the idea wore the skin of a free-verse poem, a poem written as a series of cinquain, a short story with a touch of magic, or an urban fantasy — it was still the same idea.  And I suspect, I’ll reincarnate that idea again.

But I am not alone.  If you examine the stories and verse of many authors and poets, there are certain ideas and themes that they repeat in their work.  And by discovering what ideas and themes a writer returns to again and again, a reader can better understand the person behind writing.

Update: Pacific was revised and re-titled, Shoreside, and appears in my book, The Greener Forest. Updated versions of both the poem, Ocean Lure, and the story, Sideshow by the Sea, appear in my book Owl Light.

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