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“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” — Woodrow T. Wilson

Friends are on my mind today. Two of my good friends, Karen and Wendy, have birthdays this week. Just last week, I had the opportunity to spend several hours (including lunch) with Patti, a friend who I haven’t had a chance to visit with in-person for two years. I chatted with dear friend Kelly on the phone just the other day. And I’m looking forward to spending time with more friends this summer.

Besides family, I think friends and their friendship are the most important thing holding my world together–which is why friendship often plays such an important role in my stories and books.

BeyondSheercliffs_Balticon Like the unlikely group pulled together in JRR Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, sometimes the friendships we forge because of a common goal turn out to be the most meaningful. At their core, Star Wars and Star Trek, are also about unlikely friendships. As is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. For “Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” [Bill Watterson].

The concept of friendship growing from a common goal (and enemy) led me to cobble together several groups of seemingly dissimilar individuals in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir). And the idea of friendship is also playing an important role in my current work-in-progress novel, Beyond the Sheercliffs (Book 1.5 of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir). 

The fight against evil; the quest for an item or person of great value; shared hunger, thirst, and danger; a common goal; and unexpected circumstances that link characters together are all wonderful devices in storytelling that can be the seeds of friendship. And best of all, readers understand friendship. It is something we all have in common.

A great majority of us desire strong friendships. We all have known the pain of a friendship that has ended. Many of us have watched a friend grown apart from us or change in a way that makes them a different person–and one which we no longer want to be friends with. Most of us remember the joyful feelings of realizing someone has moved from friendly acquaintance to friend. And we embrace the truth of Helen Keller’s sentiment: “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

And so, as I shape and polish the various friendships in Beyond the Sheercliffs, I urge you to reach out to your friends. Take the time to phone, message, or better yet, visit with your friends. Or maybe, make the effort to develop a friendly acquaintance into a friend. Because “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out” [Walter Winchell], and we could all use more of those sorts of people in our lives.

 

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“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas A. Edison

I’m not sure if I am astounding myself, but I am working hard on numerous projects:

*Judging a poetry competition–both a fun and challenging job. I love reading what creative minds come up with!

Rocket space ship . Mixed media*Editing 2 anthologies, “Re-Launch” and “Re-Quest” for Pole to Pole Publishing. And I will be reading for 2 more anthologies (“Re-Terrify” and “Re-Enchanted”) shortly.

*Finishing a novel, adding to 2 in-progress short story collections, and working on a nonfiction book.

*Writing several short stories and poems for anthologies or magazines.

*Thinning the book herd. (My bookshelves are sagging dangerously low).

*Putting together a bibliography of my writing and illustrations – then, entering the speculative work into http://isfdb.org  Plus, if the publication qualifies, adding it to my listing on Poets & Writers data base.

*Working on genealogy–and putting together several books based on that information. Yes, I know these publications won’t be “best-sellers,” but it’s a nice way to preserve the information and make it available to family members and other interested people. And I have no “time limit” on these books — as more information trickles in and I want to include as much as possible. (Librarians be warned, I will need help in doing the research to “ground” these historical accounts in history).

*Knitting 30-plus scarf & hat sets by Christmas for daughters (I do call my daughters-in-law, “daughters,” too, because they are dear to me), sisters, nieces, etc. I was given a huge amount of lovely yarn, and I’m aiming to use up much of it in the process. Plus, knitting at least a dozen men’s hats for sons, nephews, brothers-in-law, etc. for Christmas.

*Then, there is family: time spent with husband, kids, grandkids, friends, my mom and other family members. And art – I want to paint at least 2 new pieces of cover art this summer. And visits – I’ve fallen behind on my visits due to a 2017 and 2016 filled with trips to NC and SC to help older relatives who were dying. Wait, I’ve forgotten gardening! My gardens so need work. And the birds – feeders need to be repaired or replaced and birdhouses need to be hung.

I could (and should) go on. But I hope you get the idea.

I encourage you to look at your life. List what you are doing and what goals you can set for yourself. Can’t think of anything to do? Check out the volunteer opportunities in your area. I challenge you to astound yourself!

 

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Murder on Marawa Prime, my science fiction murder mystery, was reviewed in Analog, December 2016 issue, in “The Reference Library” column by Don Sakers.

First, my thanks to Don for taking the time to read, then review my novelette. Nowadays, there are so many science fiction books released each year, that it’s hard to catch the eye of a well-known reviewer – much less have a good review published in one of the grand old magazines of science fiction, Analog.

So what did Don think? Here’s an excerpt: “Murder on Marawa Prime is a SF story and a noir mystery, set on a fascinating and well-drawn planet, all packed into a novelette that will leave you wanting more… The story’s tightly plotted, and author Crist does an excellent job of keeping multiple balls in the air while revealing the unique and deadly secrets that have brought murder to Marawa Prime.” – Don Sakers

Murder_Cover_CS_front Woot! This fabulous review adds to the positive comments (used on the front and back covers of the book) from several authors whose writing I admire:

“Inventive and entertaining – a real thrill-ride!” – Gail Z. Martin author of The Ascendent Kingdoms Saga and The Chronicles of the Necromancer series.

“Vonnie Crist serves up some deliciously dangerous interstellar noir in Murder on Marawa Prime. One part Raymond Chandler, one part Agatha Christie, and a huge dose of her own exceptionally clean prose and understated worldbuilding, this is a fast-moving nail-biter on a planet at once iconic and alien. Just one word of warning: don’t aggravate the geneered singing opossum.” – Charles E. Gannon, author of The Tales of the Terran Republic series.

“A fast-paced story of assassins, genetic engineering, singing opossums and betrayal, Vonnie Winslow Crist writes the future fantastic.” – Deborah Walker (also writes as Kelda Crich)

Interested in taking a look at Murder on Marawa Prime? You can find links to various formats on Pole to Pole Publishing’s website: http://poletopolepublishing.com/books/murder-on-marawa-prime/

 

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As a writer of speculative fiction, I have to be aware of the spelling and pronunciation of the places and people which are part of the imaginary worlds I build.

A long jumble of letters with a weird pronunciation might seem to be a good way to announce that my story is set in a fantastical world. Bizarre accents and hyphenated names might appear to be an easy way to signal to my readers that the characters aren’t human. But I don’t want to work that hard to figure out (and remember) crazy pronunciations, and neither do my readers.

So what’s a writer of science fiction and fantasy to do? I recommend selecting names that are easy to remember and pronounce – but ones which “fit” your world.

crist-dagger For example, in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger, I used baby name books to select Nordic, Celtic, Old English, Scandinavian, etc. names for some of my characters. Other characters’ names are mixed-up combinations of the names of family members and friends. Each time I began moving the letters around to create a character’s or race’s name, I used the sound of the letter combinations to determine if the result felt like it belonged in Lifthrasir.

Lifthra-what? Lifthrasir (LEEF-thra-seer) is the name of the imaginary world of The Enchanted Dagger and the forthcoming Beyond the Sheercliffs. It is from Norse mythology, and according to Teresa Norman’s book, A World of Baby Names, it means: “She who holds fast to life, desiring life…[Lifthrasir] is considered to be the mother of humanity after all perished at Ragnarok.” Well, what better name for the world I’m creating in which the good folk must fight for their lives, their children’s lives, and control of their world?

An example of my letter-scramble technique, would be Grindee, a particular kind of goblin. A dear friend’s nickname is Dee. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and I thought she’d grin during parts of the book. So why not name a goblin for her and her sense of humor?

Another example: a minor character in The Enchanted Dagger is named Mobree Dug. Mo is the nickname of another friend, and the first 4 letters of her last name are “bree.” Dug is the phonetic spelling of a brother-in-law’s name.

As for the title character, Beck – I have a sister and sister-in-law both named Becky. Plus, the name of the instructor who taught my Writing the Novel graduate course was Mr. Becker. In addition, Beck (again according to Norman’s book) is a Scandinavian name which is the “Transferred use of the surname meaning ‘dweller near the brook.'” In The Enchanted DaggerBeck comes from a seaside town, and water plays an important part in his interaction with magic.

The names of other family members and friends became a warrior race – the Janepar, a race close to nature – the D’Anlo, the wisewomen – the Alywyn Sisterhood, the Wenbo River, the towns of Raystev and Larmik, the country – Dobran, even the gravediggers Nate and Stu, and I could go on and on. (Though I won’t, since by now, you’re quite bored).

But you’ll notice, Grindee, Beck, Lifthrasir and the rest aren’t too difficult to read or pronounce. Believe me when I say your readers will appreciate the effort when you make names easy to pronounce and remember even if you world is far, far away or long, long ago or even beyond our galaxy.

To take a look at The Enchanted Skean, visit https://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Dagger-Chronicles-Lifthrasir/dp/1941559182/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489363491&sr=8-1

For a totally different take on Pronunciation, here’s the link to writer friend Andrew McDonough’s take on the subject: https://andrewmcdowellauthor.com/2017/03/12/pronunciation

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Pole to Pole Publishing http://poletopolepublishing.com just opened submissions for their next themed, speculative anthology, Dark Luminous Wings. And yes, I’m one of the editors again.

Editing a themed anthology is both challenging and rewarding. As an editor, you have the opportunity to read hundreds of stories – each trying to address the theme in an unique manner. But their “unique” story isn’t as unique as many authors believe it to be.

Pole to Pole Publishing’s 2016 anthology, In a Cat’s Eye, featured darkly speculative stories about cats. Kelly Harmon and I read hundreds of stories, and wanted to have one (and only one) story representing “expected” speculative cat roles, plus a few “out of the box” tales as well.

Therefore, only one cat as witch’s familiar, Egyptian cat, transformation into a cat, cat god, and robot cat story were accepted. There were several good stories in each of these cat-egories (pun intended), but we were committed to a mix of stories, so once a “slot” was filled, we didn’t accept a similar tale. So those writers who discarded their first, second, and maybe even third story idea, and came up with something very different had a better chance of serious consideration – like steampunk cats, zombie cats, mutate space cats, and clockwork world cats. To see the results, you can purchase In a Cat’s Eye here: http://poletopolepublishing.com/books/in-a-cats-eye

We approached Pole to Pole Publishing’s 2015 speculative anthology, Hides the Dark Tower in a similar manner. Once we had a Rapunzel, castle-fortress, sea witch, shot, water, and signal tower story, we didn’t accept a second story which repeated the theme or storyline. We looked for tales which were “different,” like towering circus signs or smoke stacks. To read those tales we did publish, you can check out Hides the Dark Tower here: http://poletopolepublishing.com/books/hides-the-dark-tower

I hope a few of my readers will write and submit a “dark luminous wings” story for the latest Pole to Pole Publishing anthology. What do we mean by the theme? I can’t tell you! As the stories come in, a book will form. It will be a dark, magical, imaginative, winged journey for both the editors and our readers. So think “out of the box” and send us your best story! http://poletopolepublishing.com/submissions

 

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Inspiration can be found in many places: people around you, things you hear or see, quotes, prayers, a hug from a dear friend… I often find inspiration for writing, art, and life when reading.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) to be asked by Sally Peters Roll for a quote from one of my books for her new book, When I Look To The Sky. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

So on page 66, below a quote from Rumi: “Beauty surrounds us.”  and on the opposite page from a quote from Edgar Allan Poe: “It is a happiness to wonder; it is a happiness to dream.,” you will see: “The world is full of mystery and magic. We just need to look, listen, and believe that wondrous things are still possible.” – Vonnie Winslow Crist

Cover-Electronic-GreenerForest The quote is from page 11 of my fantasy story collection, The Greener Forest, and expresses my view of the world.

So readers, if you’re looking to slip into “that magical place where Faerie and the everyday world collide,” you might enjoy my story collection from Pole to Pole Publishing, The Greener Forest. It is described by E.J Stevens, author of the Hunter’s Guild urban fantasy series, Spirit Guide young adult series, and Ivy Granger urban fantasy series as: “An intriguing look at the diverse relationships between humans and fairies. A wonderful, imaginative, multifaceted collection.”

And TJ Perkins, author of the Shadow Legacy fantasy adventure series, the Kim & Kelly Mystery Series, and Four Little Witches, described The Greener Forest as: “Magickal, enchanting and so enticing. I was pulled in and couldn’t stop reading!”

Or if you’re looking for a little inspiration, you might want to check out When I Look To The Sky – A Collection of Quotes, Poems, and Prayers for Loss, Grief, and Healing  by Sally Peters Roll, MSW. (And remember to keep an eye out for an inspiring quote from me!)

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One year over and another one begins. It seems a perfect time to look at my 2016 writing and art stats, and set some 2017 goals – which are to write/draw/publish more than I did in 2016! And I don’t want to forget to say a heartfelt Thank You to all my readers for buying and reading my work. 🙂

2016 Awards: “Bloodguiltless” won Silver Honorable Mention, Writers of the Future Contest.

2016 Publications:

Cover-Electronic-GreenerForest Books:

The Greener Forest ( fantasy story collection) revised, enlarged, and re-published by Pole to Pole Publishing.

Murder on Marawa Prime (sf novelette) from Pole to Pole Publishing.

The Enchanted Dagger (revised fantasy novel) from Pole to Pole Publishing.

In a Cat’s Eye (co-edited) from Pole to Pole Publishing.

Short Stories:

“The Cafe at the End of the Lane” in The Night Cafe anthology.

“Shoreside” in Fantasy Divinia Magazine and in their Memories of the Past – 2016 Best of Anthology.

Murder_Cover_CS_front “Appleheads” in Les Cabinets des Polytheites anthology.

“The Garden Shop” online in The Lorelei Signal.

“Pawprints of the Margay” in The Great Tome of Fantastic and Wondrous Places.

“Bad Moon Rising” in Unoriginal.

“The Burryman” in The Great Tome of Cryptids and Legendary Creatures.

“The Monk’s Fosterling” in FrostFire Worlds.

“Feathers” in Trysts of Fate.

51q9gur7vpl “Gifts in the Dark” released as an eBook by Digital Fiction Publishing Company.

“The Clockwork Owl” in FrostFire Worlds

“Henkie’s Fiddle” podcast in Cast of Wonders.

“Balming the Thorn” in FrostFire Worlds.

“Smoke and Sprites” in Jouth UFO Anthology.

“Tower Farm” in Outposts of Beyond (and included in re-issue of Dogs of War)

“Justice” in Devolution Z.

crist-dagger “Beneath the Summer Moon” in Hoofbeats – Flying with Magical Horses.

Essay: “Country Stroll” in Culture Cult Magazine – Spring Issue

Poems:

“Flower-Face” in The Dark Ones – Tales and Poems of the Shadow Gods

“Owl Light” in 47 – 16 Volume 1 – Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie

“Goblin King” in 47 – 16 Volume 2 – Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie

catseye_final-72dpi “Mourning” in The Grief Diaries

“Phoenix” in The Show Must Go On – Short Fiction & Poetry Inspired by Freddie Mercury & Queen

“September Fifth” in The Show Must Go On – Short Fiction & Poetry Inspired by Freddie Mercury & Queen

“Venus” in Garland of the Goddess – Tales and Poems of the Feminine Divine

“Night” in Garland of the Goddess – Tales and Poems of the Feminine Divine

“The Deluge” in Culture Cult Magazine – Monsoon Issue

“Tree Frog” in Culture Cult Magazine – Monsoon Issue

Art:

“Boy and Dog in the Purple Mountains” (cover art) Spaceports & Spidersilk Jan. 2016

“Scarecrow” (cover art) Spaceports & Spidersilk Oct. 2016

3 interior illustration in Alban Lake Publishing magazines (my apologies if I’ve missed any publications – I’ll update later if I find any more).

Now on to 2017!

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