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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

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

 

Inspiration

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!)

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. And I am among the millions of readers who are grateful.

Of course, sentimental reader that I am on occasion, I love his A Christmas Carol and the transformation of Scrooge most. That said, how can any reader not enjoy his many books including Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Nickolas Nickleby, Bleak House, and Hard Times.

An extravagance I usually don’t allow myself, I have purchased Charles Dickens complete works – and it is with great pleasure I open the volume and settle into the detailed and sometimes grim world of Dickens.

So Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens – and thanks! For more information on Dickens, check out this link.

On January 27, 1832, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was born in Daresbury, England. Better known to readers (including me) as Lewis Carroll, he spun one of the most popular stories of the Victorian era, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It is no wonder Lewis Carroll developed into a storyteller – he was the eldest son in a family of 11 children. As the eldest daughter of 4 girls, I, too, developed storytelling abilities while trying to entertain my younger sisters – so I can identify with a part of his writer’s journey.

But Lewis Carroll’s most famous world – Wonderland – was born not from telling his younger siblings stories, but from telling tales to Alice Liddell and her sisters, daughters of George Liddell. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865 and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found Then was published in 1871.

Though I imagine Lewis Carroll would be surprised by Walt Disney’s interpretation of his book and the more recent films staring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, I suspect he’d be delighted to see his imaginary world come to life on the screen.

So Happy Birthday, Lewis Carroll! If you’d like to know more about the creator of Twiddledum and Twiddledee, here’s a link.

IMG_1821 Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. Born on January 19, 1809, Edgar lived only 40 years, but his impact on writing has lasted much longer.

Many of today’s writers of dark fantasy, horror, and detective stories can trace their genre’s roots back to Poe. And arguably, even science fiction short stories can find a rootlet embedded in one of his tales.

I, too, have always been a fan of Poe’s wonderfully fantastical tales and lyric poetry. So it is with admiration that I say, “Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe!”

For those who want to learn more, here’s a link to more information on this American writer.

Yes, Winnie-the-Pooh fans, today is the birthday of Alan Alexander Milne, the author of the two original books about Pooh Bear and his friends. Born on January 18, 1882 in London, England, AA Milne based his most famous books on the adventures (real or imaginary) of his son, Christopher Robin Milne and his stuffed animal playmates.

As a child, mom, and granny, I’ve always loved the characters who inhabit the Thousand Acre Wood. Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Roo, and of course, Christopher Robin, each bring a smile to the millions of readers who’ve spent some time in their presence.

Winnie-the-Pooh, published in 1926, and The House at Pooh Corner, published in 1928, are gifts to the children of the past, present, and future. Like all writers, I hope some of my stories will positively impact a few readers – so I guess, in a way, I aspire to be like AA Milne!

Want to learn more about AA Milne and his writing? Check out this link.