Archive for June, 2013

aleshapic2 Thanks to author Alesha Escobar for stopping by and sharing some tips on writing fight scenes in fantasy. Enjoy!

Punch, Duck, and Roll: Coordinating Your Fighting in Fantasy by Alesha Escobar

Some of the best parts about writing (and reading) fantasy stories are the epic battles that take place. It could be a swordfight between a hero and his nemesis, magic wielded between mages, or the clash of an army. As a fantasy writer, I love these types of scenes, and they are certainly fun to watch on the TV or movie screen, but when it comes down to actually writing a fight scene, it can be just as daunting as writing a good love scene.

So what can be so difficult about having your hero wielding his sword, leaping over chasms, or landing the perfect punch? Well first, you have to get your terminology down. In real swordplay, swords aren’t “swung.” You make a strike, cut, thrust, or parry (block). If you browse training videos of real swordfights, you’ll also see that many swords aren’t as light and twirly as Hollywood would have you believe. The way you balance and position yourself with your sword is key–it can mean the difference between defending yourself or getting stabbed by your opponent.

Besides using accurate terms, another important aspect to writing a fight scene is the physics of it all. Often, a fist fight is over in seconds–but as writers we have the opportunity to slow things down because this scene will be read and played out in the reader’s mind. Because of this, we can’t have our hero doing two simultaneous fighting moves that don’t make physical sense or may even be physically incompatible with our bodies. We also must take care to describe who is doing what, when they’re doing it, and where the opponents are in relation to each other (are they up close, a few feet away, or hiding behind barricades?)

Tower's Alchemist Cover Finally, don’t forget to round out your battle with emotion. What’s going through the hero’s mind? How does he feel? Is this fight just inserted into the story for the sake of action, or is there something at stake? What does the hero’s fighting style and choices during a fight tell us about him or her? If you have a hard time writing fight scenes, or if you want to make them seem more grounded, these are great questions to take into consideration as you build your fight scene. Happy writing!”

For more information on Alesha Escobar and her books: http://www.aleshaescobar.com and http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAleshaEscobar To connect on twitter: http://twitter.com/The_GrayTower And check out Alesha’s Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/aleshaescobar

Thanks again to Alesha Escobar for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a creative day! – Vonnie

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Readers and Writers Recipes: Brookies

099 These brownie-cookie creations using brownie mix and chocolate chip cookie mix are quick and easy to fix. A hit with kids and grown-ups alike, you’ll always want to keep the ingredients around for a hot-from-the-oven treat for guests. Like my last recipe Chocolate Waffles, Brookies work well for a book club or readers’ group get-together, family party, or any other fun gathering.



1 package Brownie Mix for 9” x 12” pan

   Ingredients to make Brownie Mix

   (usually eggs, vegetable oil, and water)

1 package Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix that makes 36 cookies

   Ingredients to make Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

   (usually eggs and margarine)


1- Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray 30 cupcake tin cups VERY WELL with a vegetable spray like Pam or grease-well.

2- Make Brownies according to directions on package in a bowl.

3- In another bowl, make Chocolate Chip Cookies according to directions on package.

4- Divide the Brownie batter evenly between the 30 cupcake tin cups.

5- Put a scoop of Chocolate Chip Cookie batter in the center of each Brownie-filled cupcake tin cup, making sure to use all the cookie batter.

6- Bake for 12-17 minutes (depends on your oven & mixes used). Watch the Brookies. They’re done when the cookie batter in the center is lightly browned.

7- Remove cupcake tins from oven. Cool briefly. Remove Brookies from tins with a clean knife.

8- Serve warm or cold, with or without ice cream. Keep leftover Brookies in an air-tight container. Brookies also freeze well.


1- Again, make sure your cupcake tin cups are well-oiled, well-greased, or well-sprayed with a vegetable cooking spray (like Pam). Brookies will stick to the pan if you don’t.

2- When finished baking, only cool Brookies slightly, then remove from muffin tin cups. The only down-side to Brookies is that they’re a little challenging to remove from the muffin tin in perfect condition. Of course, imperfect Brookies will still taste fabulous!

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from author, Alesha Escobar.


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Skean copy Whenever the night sky is clear, I look for stars. When I find the first star of evening, I always wish upon it. And now, I find myself hoping for 4 and 5 star reviews for my books. How strange to watch for stars on a website rather than twinkling in the heavens!

Two new reviews of my fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, have been posted. Thanks to Ellen Fritz of Books4Tomorrow for her 5 star review: http://bookstomorrow.blogspot.com/2013/06/review-enchanted-skean-by-vonnie.html And thanks to Aimee Brown of Getting Your Read On for her 4 star review: http://gettingyourreadonaimeebrown.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-enchanted-skeen-by-vonnie-winslow.html I keep my fingers crossed that more readers and reviewers will enjoy my newest book and give it lots of stars.

River of Stars fc But I can’t leave my readers with such a meager blog post – so I’ll share the poem, Orion, from my 2nd book of myth-based poetry, River of Stars. Enjoy!


At the Science Center poetry reading,

the projectionist

activates the planetarium’s dome,

focuses on Orion:

the Great Hunter strides across the heavens,

arms flung wide, ever questing

after that which he cannot have.

Lepus the Hare, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Taurus…

one constellation after another flashes

above us till the roof is a picturebook

filled with celestial allegories.

In the dim planetarium after the show,

seven poets share their work.

Six choose to remain earthbound —

while I, a mere storyteller

inspired by star fire and mythology,

pick up an astronomy book

and begin the journey.

Afterwards, I shake a few hands,

wander into the Baltimore streets,

find my car, glance up.

Even in the city,

Orion appears large and formidable

as he reaches, like humankind,

across the gulf of distance and time

and tries to pluck

the stars from the sky.

©Vonnie Winslow Crist

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Thanks to author Michele Lynn Seigfried for stopping by and sharing her tips on researching a mystery/crime novel. Enjoy!

Researching the Mystery-Crime Novel By Michele Lynn Seigfried

Author photo “Hello, and welcome to my guest post! I want to start by thanking Vonnie for hosting me today. Today’s topic is how to research a mystery-crime novel.

There are an absurd number of factors to consider when writing a mystery/crime novel, as many of you already know. Assuming your audience may include attorneys, court personnel and people in law enforcement; writers want their books to be as realistic as possible. After all, these people who read your books, write reviews. Good reviews help sell more copies. We definitely don’t like to hear that someone didn’t enjoy our work because it was unrealistic (especially if you are writing a true-crime novel)! That is where doing thorough research makes the difference in quality work.

Where do authors typically go to find their research? The internet? Can you believe everything you read on the internet? There are some websites that are more accurate than others. Among those that tend to be reliable resources are websites of government agencies. Most local governments compile their laws into a “code book,” which is posted on their websites. Inside a local code book, you can locate information about types of violations and penalties associated with a particular violation. Sometimes, the exact penalties are not set forth or there is a range of penalties listed, and it’s up to the judge to determine the exact penalty. Repeat offenders typically get increased fines, community service or jail time. Code books can vary greatly from town to town and state to state. It’s a good idea to find the correct information for your book’s location.

More severe criminal activity is not usually listed in a local code book. For these crimes, you may need to look to the legislature or the federal government websites. In my recent novel, Red Tape, I relied heavily on the New Jersey Legislature’s website, which contains all the statutes of the state. I learned that the crime I would have thought was embezzlement isn’t called embezzlement in New Jersey. I also discovered what the penalties were, whether or not there would be jail time, and that the court case would not involve a jury. I also found out that the crime Chelsey was charged with would be tried at a municipal court, and not in Federal nor County court.

Besides government agencies, websites for newspapers are particularly helpful. I have an internet subscription to the New York Times so that I can research their archives. I also subscribe to genealogybank.com which is extremely helpful in finding newspaper articles through a key-word search of their databases. Genealogybank.com has hundreds of newspapers from every state, which includes both recent articles and historical ones. While I haven’t written a historical crime novel yet, I have toyed with the idea after finding articles about my ancestors who were less-than-stellar citizens!

Not interested in doing internet research? There are other ways to track down the information you need to make your facts as real as possible. Consider a visit to the municipal or government buildings in the town where your mystery or crime is taking place. These buildings are open to the public during regular business hours. If you call ahead, you may be able to arrange for a tour with the possibility of seeing the inside of the jail. Take note of your surroundings and decide if any information is important to contain in your work. What do the uniforms of the officers look like? What color, make and model are the emergency vehicles? Do they have K-9 units, etc.?

Are you writing about a location that is too far to visit? Don’t be afraid to make phone calls. See if the police have a press person who is willing to assist you. Contact a local historical society for unique information about a particular location. Call your state division of archives and find out what records they maintain (extremely useful for a historical death certificates and finding causes of deaths). See if there is a state office of legislative services that can direct you to particular laws that are on the books.

Red Tape Try contacting the town/city clerk. They are a wealth of information. They are the keeper of the records, maintainer of historical town information, and if they don’t know something, they typically know where to send you. While there are exceptions to the rule, the majority of town clerks pride themselves on being helpful and will go out of their way to assist you with your research. They can direct you to where their code book can be found and can help you locate anything within the code books, such as penalties for violations. They can provide you with unique information about their town, which is helpful if you are writing about a town you are not from. If you are writing a historical crime novel, the clerk may be able to provide you with copies of old maps. You wouldn’t want to say a crime took place on a certain street, if the street did not exist back when it occurred. They can let you know about regulations for open public records and whether or not you (or the sleuth in your novel) would be privy to certain information about a crime.

Don’t rule out going to a library for assistance. Libraries contain criminal code books, law journals, historical newspapers and other valuable research tools. Librarians are a wealth of information and are generally very helpful.

Lastly, I would highly recommend using social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter to aid you in your research efforts. There are bound to be professionals such as lawyers and police officers who would be willing to give you tips and hints on these sites. You might be able to meet a resident from your novel’s locale who can provide insightful information about the world in which they live. Such unique information would make your book stand out, make the reader feel like they are there, and ultimately, make your book an enjoyable read.”

For more information about Michele Lynn Seigfriedvisit her at: http://michelelynnseigfried.wordpress.com ,

www.facebook.com/MicheleLynnSeigfried and www.goodreads.com/Micheleseig

and follow her on twitter @ Micheleseig

And to purchase Red Tape: Amazon (Kindle & Paperback): amzn.to/12LAJgY

Barnes & Noble (Nook & paperback): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/red-tape-michele-seigfried/1115098453?ean=9781482012880

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/305074

Plus, Red Tape is also available on iTunes.

Thanks again to Michele Lynn Seigfried for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a great day! – Vonnie

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I’ve always found the number 13 to be lucky. I know many of the people reading this post will disagree, whether they suffer from Triskadekaphobia (fear of the number 13) or not.

Maybe it’s because my daughter was born on the 13th of the month – though I liked #13 long before then. Perhaps it’s because a baker’s dozen gives the buyer one extra donut to eat. As a writer, maybe it’s because there are 26 letters in the alphabet (2 times 13). Or perhaps it’s simply because the number 13 is unloved by others.

Skean copy Two thousand and thirteen has been a good year so far in my writing life. My fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, was published by Mockingbird Lane Press, and a collection of speculative stories, Owl Light, is due out from Cold Moon Press within a year. Plus I’ve gotten to interact with my readers at the Bel Air Authors Day (Maryland, USA), Balticon (SF/F con), the Black-Eyed Susan Book Celebration at the Towson Library (Maryland, USA), a Harford Writers Group meeting, and I’m due to speak at several other events including meetings of various branches of the Maryland Writers Association.

And June 13th has turned out to be a good day, too. I have a guest post up on writer Anne E. Johnson’s Jester Harley’s Manuscript Page: http://anneejohnson.blogspot.com/2013/06/vonnie-winslow-crist-on-using-fact-in.html I talk about using fact as the beginning place for writing fiction. You can read about several of the facts that were incorporated in The Enchanted Skean.

I also have a new interview up on Lindsay and Jane’s Views and Reviews: http://lindsayandjaneviewsandreviews.blogspot.com/2013/06/interview-with-vonnie-winslow-crist.html I really appreciated the thoughtful questions posed by Romina, the interviewer, and I hope my answers will prove to be interesting to readers. And thanks to Romina for reviewing The Enchanted Skean. A brief excerpt of her review: “The book evolves around a mystical world that in such a well-written descriptive is easy for the reader to imagine. The characters are fun and defined well in the story…This is a book full of creatures of folklore and…fantastical moments that will appeal to a…reader with a passion for this genre.”

Happy June 13th everyone – and in my next post I’ll tell you about one of my fears and how I was forced to confront it on May 31, 2013.

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Chris Jackson Thanks to author Chris Jackson for stopping by and sharing his thoughts about inspiration and the power of positive feedback.

The Heart of Inspiration by Chris A. Jackson

What inspires you?

I’m not asking where you get your impetus, your ideas, your spark of imagination; I’m asking what impulse drove you to want to do what you do?

I think that for everyone the answer to this question is slightly different. For an athlete it could be the roar of the crowd, the adulation of fans, or the respect of peers. For a business person it could be wealth, respect, or an inner drive to succeed. One thing is certain, however: no matter what you do, when someone tells you that you’ve done it well, it inspires you to do more.

At first, my inspiration to write was something nebulous, a deep feeling that I could do something that people would enjoy, could create something entertaining. And, in the very beginning, when I was writing a story that based upon a roleplaying game campaign I’d created, it was a sense of, “There has got to be some further use for all this work I just completed.” As my writing career progressed, however, I have drawn inspiration from a different quarter. I now know that I write for the sheer pleasure of hearing or talking to people who have enjoyed my work.

The first time this happened, I was at a convention. I honestly can’t remember which one. It might have been Necronomicon, in Tampa Florida, since that was my very first. A young lady had purchased one of my books the previous year, and sought me out the next year. She so enjoyed the novel she’d purchased that she wanted to buy everything else I had in print, and begged me to write a sequel. I was, quite simply, knocked flat by that level of praise. I had received accolades before, some from other writers and professionals, but nothing came close to that simple, honest pleasure I had elicited from a reader.

Every time this happens, and I’m pleased to say that it has happened quite a lot more than I ever expected it would, I get the same thrill. One of the best complements I’ve ever been paid was by a young man who and said that he had been walking around his home reading one of my stories, and he not only forgot where he was, but also forgot he was reading. That tells me that I transported his mind into my world. That is my job, and I had achieved it perfectly. That alone, above anything else, including getting paid to write, has kept me writing.

Chris Jackson Pirate's Honor Interestingly, this is also what I did not get out of a twenty-year career in biomedicine. I enjoyed my work, and I know I achieved some very solid research, and taught a lot of medical students how not to kill their patients, which made me feel good, but there wasn’t that thrill, that big thank you that I’ve received from fans of my stories. This, I think, is the difference between simply “working” and “working to create.” When you create something, whether it’s with your hands, your mind, or the sweat of your brow, and that creation, that “thing”, brings someone pleasure, you get a feeling of accomplishment that cannot be surpassed. I know a chef gets this rush when a comment comes back from a diner that their meal was superb, and I imagine a tailor might get the same rush when a suit or gown is received by the customer with a comment of praise. Artists, and there can be artists in virtually any venue, be it food, painting, storytelling, or decorating, live on that praise. We thrive on it and it drives us to create even more beautiful things.

So, don’t hold back. When you read a book you love, eat a meal you enjoy, view a house or room that has been constructed or decorated to please your eye, laud the artist with praise. In doing so, you’re making the world a more beautiful, positive, and peaceful place. You, in your praise, are creating beauty.”

For more information on Chris A. Jackson and his books including Pathfinder Tales – Pirate’s Honor check his website: www.jaxbooks.com and follow him on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/ChrisAJackson1 and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=726625842

Thanks again to Chris Jackson for his guest post. And now that I’m home from a 2 week trip visiting New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and California – watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an inspired day! – Vonnie

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lesson1b Thanks to author JM Johansen for stopping by and sharing her experiences when working with another author on a collaborative project. Enjoy!

Writing Chesapeake Bay Karma – A Tale of Teamwork by JM Johansen

When Narielle Living and I started writing Chesapeake Bay Karma – The Amulet, we weren’t certain if it would be a viable project. After all, we have always written our own novels in the solitary life mode most novelists and authors use. I get up at 4 AM to write; she locks herself away. We had published an anthology earlier which was quite successful. However, they were individual short stories, not a novel.

I had just finished reading Nikoo McGoldrick and James A. McGoldrick book Marriage of minds: collaborative fiction writing. Heinemann.ISBN978-0-325-00232-3. It made me ponder the barriers in our work-style compatibility.

Narielle and I approach things quite differently. She is a “plotter” who creates an outline and works from it. I am a “flyer” who flies around by the seat of her pants and lets the voices in my head guide me.

How in the world were we going to work together?

We started with an outline and then I added a whole new character and wrote about thirty pages without much thought. It impacted Narielle’s character, so she wrote a section that connected my new characters with her pre-plotted one.

After that I stuck to the outline. Pretty much, anyway.

There was a lot of give and take in this process. I love the period in American history from 1910 – 1935. She loves the ‘60’s. So we wrapped our characters around those eras. We did tons of research and relied heavily on Narielle’s vast knowledge of the Karma viewpoint. It was an enlightening experience for me.

The book came together quite nicely and is selling well. We have followers – groupies, I guess you would call them – who like our work.

And we enjoyed the experience so much we decided to make it a three part series.

karmanojackie We hope you’ll read Chesapeake Bay Karma – the Amulet. Here’s the setup:

Chesapeake Bay Karma showcases the three lifetimes of one amazing woman through a 150 year span. With terrifying recurrent obstacles thrust in her path, and unimaginable devastation at the hands of powerful men and a dominating political system, her soul struggles to defend the ones she loves.

1829, Gloucester, Virginia. Battered and pregnant, Margaret flees Williamsburg to take shelter with her Uncle Mike and protect her unborn son from his politician father, Albert. When Uncle Mike dies eleven years later, Quincy inherits enough land to become a voting landowner. When politician Nathaniel steps into her life, Margaret is torn by desire and distrust. Will Albert find a way to destroy Margaret and Quincy, or will Nathaniel become their savior?

1917, Deltaville, Virginia. Forced into a marriage by her father in order to save his shipping business, Nurse Margene uses her husband Alfred’s money to fund her relationship with lover, Nathan. Spurred on by the Suffrage Movement, she faces the Night of Terrors, only to learn there are crueler realities ahead. Are her son Quinn’s nightmares about a fire that happened 100 years ago a forewarning?

1963, Williamsburg, Virginia. Maggie and Nate share a love that has transcended lifetimes of upheaval. In the summer of ’63, they find their happiness shattered by a threat from Nate’s childhood friend, Al. Will Al manage to perpetuate an evil that has followed them through the folds of time and threatens everything they want in this lifetime? Or, will they finally find a way to end the conflict that began in another era? With the clock ticking, Maggie and Nate struggle to save their son from a darkness that could destroy them all.”

For more information about JM Johansen, visit her website: www.jm-johansen.com or blog: www.jm-johansen.com/blog.html You can find her books at: www.barnesandnoble.com/c/jm-johansen and at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/jm-johansen-amulet

Thanks again to JM Johansen for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a creative day! – Vonnie

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Readers and Writers Recipes: Chocolate Waffles

These brownie-like chocolate waffles are a hit with kids and grown-ups alike. All you need is confectionery sugar to sprinkle on the waffles before serving, but sometimes I put a scoop or 2 of ice cream on top of a chocolate waffle for an extra-special treat. Like last week’s Pepperoni Pizza Dip, Chocolate Waffles work well for a book club or readers’ group get-together, family party, or any other fun gathering.

Chocolate Waffles


1/2 cup margarine (or butter if you prefer), softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

6 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup milk (I use skim)

1-1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)


1- Cream margarine and sugar. Then, beat in eggs one at a time.

2- Stir in vanilla, vegetable oil, and cocoa.

3- Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Then, add milk. Mix until well-blended.

4- Follow the directions on your waffle iron for cooking waffles. Serve hot or cold.


1- Make sure your waffle iron is well-oiled or sprayed with a vegetable cooking spray (like Pam).

2- Watch closely. As soon as the waffles appear cooked, remove them. Remember, because they’re chocolate, it’s harder to tell if they’re burning.

3- The cinnamon is optional. Some people prefer the waffles without it.

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from author, JM Johansen.

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