Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2010

 Ethereal Tales, a print magazine from the UK, has one of my fantasy short-stories in their newest issue. The version you can now read (if you order a copy of Ethereal Tales Issue Seven) feels finished — but that wasn’t always the case.

The story, “The Garden Shop,” has gone through numerous revisions. It began as a 600-word tale, which I expanded to nearly 3,000 words. Later, I edited the story down to the core 1,000 words. Though the protagonist was always “Katie,” her character, physical appearance, and “otherness” has changed several times.

The plants in the shop have had the same names since the first draft (they’re their real botanical or common names), but their personalities and actions have varied. The intruder who disrupts this Eden was always male, but his motivation and behavior have also undergone numerous changes.

Four, five, six… I’ve lost count how many drafts of “The Garden Shop” have been saved on my computer. But I never gave up on the tale. I knew the central idea had merit, and my knowledge of plants would add authenticity to the story. And I knew if I kept going back to “The Garden Shop” every so often, I’d produce a publishable piece of fiction.

My message to writers: Revise till you get it right. Your persistance will eventually pay off.

My message to readers: The finished story you read in a magazine is often the result of many hours of writing and rewriting. But authors are willing to put the time into their fiction to deliver you an enjoyable tale!

 Want to know more about Ethereal Taleshttp://www.etherealtales.co.uk/  If you look at the Sneeky Peeks for Issue Seven, you can read the beginning of “The Garden Shop.” But be warned, as cheerfully as this tale begins, it has a rather dark magical ending!

Read Full Post »

I find myself in a daydreamy mood today, which is not at all useful in completing next month’s “Harford’s Heart” Writer’s Block column. www.harfordsheart.com  

The column I’m working on features 2 local writers, Jack L. Shagena, Jr. and Henry C. Peden, Jr., who are meticulously researching and writing the history of Harford County. Their books are each subject specific: Mills, Blacksmithing, Churches, Tinsmithing, Barns, Bridges, etc. Fascinating stuff for those of us interested in history or for writers interested in bringing authenticity to their fiction. (And luckily, all but 1 of their books are available at the Harford Historical Society).

 But today, I’ve been daydreaming about a darker world where I’ve set one fantasy story and I’d like to set another. Maybe it’s the warm wind rustling the daffodils every time I go outside with the dog. Maybe it’s the new leaves on the trees that seem so brightly yellow-green against the sky. Maybe it’s the woodpecker persistently searching for insects in the dead maple in the woods. I’m not sure. But whatever the reason, I’m finding it difficult to focus on the here and now.

So what do I do?

Write! I’ll allow myself 2 hours to slip into that dark fantastic world that is demanding to be written about. And then, reluctantly, I’ll pull out my notes again and write my column. No matter how distracting, I feel blessed to be able to daydream so easily. For no less a writer than Edgar Allan Poe wrote: “They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”

So to you writers & artists out there (and everyone else who’s enjoying this gorgeous spring day): Happy Daydreaming!

Read Full Post »

 The saying goes: Faeryfolk live in old oaks. And I love faeryfolk. Maybe it’s because I adore oak trees and made tea party place-settings from acorn tops when I was little. Maybe it’s because I wove huge daisy chains and danced every chance I got in mushroom rings. But ever since I was old enough to hold a book, I’ve been fascinated with fairy and folktales and the creatures who populate those stories. And though I adore the butterfly-winged fairies that sail the breezes and ride mouseback to great celebrations in the deepest parts of the forest, I like lesser-known and darker members of Faerie, too.

Trolls are one of my favorites. The under-the-bridge troll of The Three Billy Goats Gruff is fearsome indeed, but the trolls of the northern woods of Scandinavia are often viewed as nature-helpers. These trolls are responsible for tending plants and animals. I decided to make the trolls in the fourth tale in my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, non-threatening. In fact, they’re comical in appearance and quite fond of snow, unicorns, and playing chess.

Another one of my faeryfolk favorites are stray-sod pixies. Stray-sods have grass growing from their backs. They settle in a meadow or other grassy spot and wait for the unwary pedestrian to step upon them. As soon as a person steps on its back, a stray-sod twists, turns, and confuses the careless hiker. Stray-sods are one of the faeryfolk I’ve included in a novel-in-progress I’m working on.

I’ve included a kelpie in a poem. A kelpie is a waterhorse who waits in moving water for a foolish or curious person. Climb onto a kelpie’s back and you’re likely to be at least dunked if not drowned and eaten. But there’s also something touching about a horse with a shaggy forelock partially hiding its wide set eyes poised at the edge of a stream begging to be petted. Perhaps the kelpie is truly lonely and not just hungry.

And what of the swan-maidens of Celtic tales? Healers and were-creatures of great beauty and shyness, I’ve often wondered under what circumstances would they be bold and vengeful. That bit of speculation resulted in my short story, Blood of the Swan, due to appear in a soon-to-be-printed anthology.

Even goblins make appearances in my writing. I have several varieties of the much-hated goblin race in my looking-for-a-publisher YA novel, The Enchanted Skean. Though there seems to be little to love about them, the main character, Beck, wonders if the goblins also have names and families. And spriggans, rude and obnoxious cousins of goblinkind, appear in one of my short stories currently “out” awaiting a publisher’s decision to accept or reject.

Mermaids are sometimes portrayed as sirens luring men to their death. I played against that type in my eShort, Sideshow by the Sea. Still, I didn’t discard the death-by-merfolk idea all together. Though the protagonist, Dusana, is a sweet girl – the mermen in the story carry knives with sharp, curving blades.

So as spring arrives, sit under an oak, read a fairytale, and look for the lesser-known faeryfolk. Perhaps they’re peering at you from behind a shrub, dangling from a branch above your head, or skulking in your cellar way. Just beware, all fairies are tricksy!

Learn more about Vonnie’s writing at www.vonniewinslowcrist.com

Read Full Post »

 Spring has finally come to our bit of yard near the edge of the woods. Even after the snowiest winter on record in Maryland, the dogwood trees are loaded with blossoms as if to confirm their symbolism. According to a reprinted version of Kate Greenaway’s 1884 book, “Language of Flowers,” dogwoods stand for durability.

Durability is an excellent attribute to have if you’re a smallish tree in a county that has bitter winters. It’s also an excellent trait to have if you’re a writer. You have to endure repeated rejection of your prose or verse. And even when an editor says, “Yes,” there are often multiple revisions to work on before the publishable version of the writing is ready for print.

At the foot of my favorite dogwood, which is rooted in the beginnings of the woods, are some snowdrops. Their nodding white flowers bloomed weeks ago when there was still snow hunkered down in the shadowy crevices of the forest. I recall the lovely blossoms, even though all that’s visible now are the spear-like leaves of the snowdrops.

It’s no wonder in floriography (the language of flowers) snowdrops symbolize hope. And hope is another characteristic that’s quite useful for a writer. Even when a publisher says,”No,” to one of your projects, you must push on. Writers submit and resubmit their stories to editors always hopeful that as they work on their craft, they will find a “home” for each tale.

On the north side of this dogwood tree there is some moss. It appears to be an ordinary moss to me, though a botanist would surely have a special name in both Latin and common tongue for this fuzzy member of the plant kingdom. According to Kate’s book, moss represents maternal love.

 Sometimes, writers think of their stories and illustrators consider their art work to be their children. How silly that sounds to many, but are these small creations not the result of months of incubation and hours of intense concentration as each detail is perfected? In the end, the birth of a tale or painting is followed by some loving discipline as the unruly bits are eliminated and new meritorious characteristics are added. The final step in the creative process, like motherhood (or fatherhood for that matter), is the sending forth of the child into the world — knowing even as you watch your little one climb onto the school bus or your envelope of poems vanish in the mailbox slot that what happens next is out of your control.

The world of writers and illustrators requires durability, hope, and tough love. But aren’t those also qualities each of us needs as we find our way through the maze of our day-to-day world?

 Learn more about Vonnie’s writing at www.vonniewinslowcrist.com

Read Full Post »