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Archive for June, 2010

 Beginning a story, a relationship, a quilt, a painting, or a garden is exciting and a bit scary. You start with a blank canvas, an empty plot of ground, a pile of scrap fabric, a character, a smile and “Hello,” or a wag of a tail. Wag of a tail?

Yup, this blog is about my new dog acquired from the local animal shelter. Sandy, (and, yes, I loved Little Orphan Annie’s pup) was a stray who obviously came from less-than-wonderful circumstances. On her first visit to the vet’s office it was determined she had Lyme’s Disease & worms. She was also intact (hadn’t been spayed yet) and wasn’t fully housebroken.

Yikes! There was going to be a big vet bill to get her healthier. Plus, I was going to have to spend lots of hours helping her understand it was wonderful to pee on the grass and not acceptable to pee on the rug. And she was weak and lethargic. But there’s always a price (time, money, sweat, etc.) to be paid to get something in good shape.

We visit the vet again tomorrow for some more shots. The spaying surgery is just a few weeks off. Sandy seems to understand where I want her to pee. She’s eating better and she’s building muscles in her legs. And best of all, she sleeps by my bed at night, can’t wait to see me in the morning, begs for belly-rubs and back-scratches, and looks at me lovingly with her chocolate eyes. Has the time I’ve spent working with Sandy been worth it. You bet!

Now, back to writing, quilting, painting, and gardening! The time you spend in learning the how to’s necessary for these tasks, the mistakes you make and grow from, the small successes, the support of friends and others interested in the same thing, and the finished project are all a part of the creative process. Will we all write a best-seller, stitch a first-prize quilt, paint a masterpiece, or have a garden worthy of a photo feature in a magazine? No, of course not. But each of us can do our best and be proud of our efforts.

Sandy will never be a champion dog (heck, we’re not even sure what breed/breeds she is) — but she brings me joy. And in the end, isn’t happiness, whether from writing, quilting, painting, gardening, or having a pet, what life is all about?

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 Today, I saw Issue #20 of Faerie Magazine on the magazine rack of my local bookstore. The cover promised work from Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess, and Myles Pinkney inside, and I knew Brian Froud would have his usual “World of Froud” essay and illustration included. But would my article share the space with the work of such talented writers and artists?

With shaking hands I opened to Contributors — and there I was, the fourth writer down. Then, I turned the page and checked Contents. Sure enough, Tussie Mussies, my article on “Talking Victorian Bouquets” was listed as being on page 51.

Faerie Magazine’s beautifully illustrated pages seemed stuck together as I leafed through the publication. I sat down on a nearby bench and held back tears. The same joy I felt years ago when my first poem was printed in a local newsletter washed over me as I saw my article and byline on page 51.

This publication credit merits a phone call to my mom and sisters. “Go to a bookstore,” I’ll say. “Ask for Faerie Magazine and read my article on the language of flowers.”  Fans of gardening, all things British, and magazines that are easily acquired at bookstores — they’ll be excited for me. My only regret? My dad died before I was able to push his wheelchair into a Barnes & Noble and pluck a magazine with one of my articles or stories in it from the shelf.

Not especially in to faeries and flowers, my dad would have been even more thrilled over today’s other news: my poem about a Celtic warrior, Before the Battle, will be appearing on July 1 in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Dad was proud of his Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and English ancestors and served in the US Army in World War II. He was a Celtic warrior, the recipient of a Bronze Star, and he would have been 84 this month.

So thank you Editor Kim for including me in Faerie Magazine Issue 20. Thank you Editor Dave for the Heroic Fantasy Quarterly acceptance. And thank you, Dad, for being my hero.

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 Milder temperatures and a slight breeze made today perfect for trimming the boxwoods, roses, and holly trees in my yard. The trick to trimming shrubs is to snip away the weak bits and tidy up the gangly parts that have grown too large. A gardener’s goal is to have a well-shaped, healthy shrub that’s not only pleasing to the eye, but strong enough to withstand wind, drought, freezing temperatures, and the like.

 A writer must trim their fiction in much the same way. She needs to read through her story with a critical eye and clip away the sections that stick out. She also needs to either strengthen the weaker parts of the narrative or cut them out. No matter how lovely the prose, a misshapen story with over-written sections and malnourished paragraphs stands little chance with most editors.

 And speaking of trimming, those who’re fans of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings will remember how Sam Gamgee gets himself in trouble by eavesdropping while trimming the grass outside Frodo Baggins’ window. Gandalf grabs Sam, drags him into Frodo’s home, and asks the terrified hobbit what he heard. Sam’s reply to the wizard: “I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and dragons, and a fiery mountain, and – and Elves, sir. I listened because I couldn’t help myself…”

And I, like many writers, must admit to being guilty of eavesdropping. Over-heard conversations in malls, fast-food restaurants, in supermarket lines, in darkened movie theaters, etc. are a fabulous way to learn the rhythm of dialog. I couldn’t make up some of the conversations I’ve jotted down on a napkin or paper place mat. When my ear catches the strange snippets of strangers’ conversations, I can’t help myself – I write them down, and later season my fiction with those words.

 And finally, a sentence or four about those dragons that Sam mentions to the wizard. With or without well-trimmed claws, these magical creatures are one of my favorite beasties. To read a free poem of mine entitled, Dragons, that was published by EMG-Zine visit: http://tinyurl.com/vonnie-dragon Or you can check out my dragon tale in the new anthology, Dragon’s Lure, illustrated by Linda Saboe (the illo reprinted here with permission from artist) & published by Dark Quest Books: http://www.tinyurl.com/vonnie-dragonlure  

My message today for writers: Trim your fiction, gather good dialog while eavesdropping, and add a little magic to your prose (or poetry).

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Time travel is not only possible, but it occurs thousands of times every day! You see, it happens when a reader suspends their disbelief and enters the world of a story that occurs in the past, the future, or in another world.

I just watched The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian today. The film reminded me of the book of the same name, one of seven that take place in the land of Narnia. Rather than the wardrobe from Book I, an underground train station becomes the portal from England to another place and time for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in Book II. Only a year has past in England since the four siblings returned from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’s adventures, but in Narnia, hundreds of years have slipped by.

 Jubilant to return to Narnia, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy soon discover the time discrepancy and the troubles disrupting the peaceful world they left behind. After many days spent traveling through Narnia and fighting battles beside talking beasts, dwarfs, mobile trees, minotaurs, centaurs, giants, and such – the tales ends with the four children stepping through a doorway of branches to find themselves back in the English train station. And oddly, only a few minutes have passed since they departed. Beloved author, C.S. Lewis, presents different portals in his Narnia books, but the variance in the passage of time is a common thread.

Portals are an oft-used time travel device (in addition to being quite handy for zipping characters from one world to another). Andre’ Norton used a portal to bring her original hero to Witch World. Witch World initially seems to be a place set in the past, but the intrusion of machines in the storyline makes the reader wonder if perhaps it’s a place in the future.

L. Frank Baum utilized a whirling tornado as a portal device to deliver Dorothy to Oz. After days and days of adventures, Dorothy returns to Kansas only a few minutes after she departed. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is another example of a portal transporting the hero from her world to another. A rabbit’s hole serves the function of portal for Lewis Carroll’s book. And again, only a few minutes have passed in the “real” world when Alice returns home from her time-consuming wanderings.

Like many writers before me and some writers who craft stories today, I like to transport readers into the past, the future, or to a different time in a world that I’ve built. Most often, the only portal I use is the turning of a page. The page that carries a reader from their work-a-day world to places where singing opossums or mermaids or dragons or ghosts or zombies or faeries or alien species live their lives to the tick of a different clock. So pick up a book or download a story, and travel through time!

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