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Posts Tagged ‘Assassins’

The chilliness of late autumn has settled over Wood’s Edge. Juncoes & squirrels haunt the birdfeeders. And just a few days ago, I spent another wonderful Thanksgiving with family. This time of year causes me to think about the things I’m most grateful for. The blessings in my life are many, and family and dear friends are near the top of that list. What, you may ask, does that have to do with my writing? More than you may realize!

One of the reoccurring themes in my fiction is family. Sometimes, it’s a traditional family like the parents, children, and mother-in-law in my mermaid story, “Pacific,” due to appear in Shelter of Daylight from Sam’s Dot Publishing and my forthcoming book from Cold Moon Press: The Greener Forest. Sometimes, it’s a family of both blood relations and friends like the Chaloupek Brothers’ Amazing Oddities performers in “Sideshow by the Sea.”  And sometimes, it’s a patchwork family the protagonist builds through the course of a story.

Whether in fiction or real life, most people need security, a sense of belonging, and love. In “Blood of the Swan,” (another story set to appear in The Greener Forest) the main character, Jorund, is a member of a family and a village community. Yet while on his quest for a healer, Jorund finds he’s ready for a different kind of belonging and love. In my science-fiction adventure, “Assassins,” Flynn has abandoned the security of his mother and the family business. When he finally finds someone he wants to love and protect, he struggles to return home.

Home and all that word represents – that’s the key. Whether it’s Frank Baum’s Dorothy building a family of a scarecrow, tin man, lion, and wizard who still longs for Auntie Em and the farm, or Tolkien’s Frodo building a Fellowship who still longs for The Shire – the characters of a story can teach us about family, friendship, and that there’s no place like home.

And so, this November & December, I wish you a holiday season filled with family, whether traditional, non-traditional, or a combination of the two. May you feel secure and loved, and may you take a few minutes away from the football games and dinner table to read a good story or two.

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The third eye, the eye that sees into the mind of another or into the future or past, is often needed when writing a speculative fiction story.

In Science Fiction, it’s common for diverse cultures and alien beings to cross paths. But how do they communicate? A version of the Star Trek universal translator can be employed. I used a translation device in my SF short story, “Pawprints of the Margay.” But that technology isn’t always available in the storyline.

Another SF communication option is to have one or more of the characters able to read minds or sense feelings. An empath (think Star Trek Next Generation’s Troi), a mind-reader, even Spock’s Vulcan mind-meld will all do. The ability to see into another’s thoughts can be a trait of one of the races included in the tale, or a special talent of a select character or group. The singing opossum in my story, “Assassins,” seems to know what is going on in the mind of the central character, Flynn. In this case, the reader is never certain whether an animal third eye is being used, since the point-of-view of the tale doesn’t include the opossum.

In Fantasy, the universal translator is replaced by a wisewoman or wizard character who understands multiple languages (and quite often has special third eye abilities, too). JRR Tolkien’s wizard, Gandalf, and The Lord of the Rings’ elf queen, Galadriel, are examples.  In my story published in UK’s Ethereal Tales, “The Garden Shop,” the main character has the ability to speak and understand the language of plants — certainly an uncommon linguistic talent, but one necessary for this tale.

Sometimes in Fantasy (and SF) there is a Rosetta Stone that serves as a translation device. At other times, a “common” language (or tongue) that all races understand is present. But most often, one or more of the characters has third eye abilities.

In the new anthology from Dark Quest Books, Dragon’s Lure, the dragon in my story, “Weathermaker,” can both send and receive communication by thought. The young woman at the center of the short, May, speaks out-loud. She soon realizes the dragon must be talking to her in mind-speak as well as in an audible voice.

The Residential Aliens anthology, When the Morning Stars Sing, includes my fantasy short, “Blood of the Swan.” Liv, the swan-maiden at the center of this tale has foreknowledge of the arrival of Jorund, the man who comes to ask for her help as a healer. Liv not only has foresight, but also the ability to read some of what is in a person’s mind or heart. And that special ability is intrical to the plot.

Whether called an empath, psychic, mind-melder, thought-reader, swan-maiden, wizard, or dragon — it’s common to find a character with a third eye in speculative fiction. Just take a look at your favorite SF/F tales, and you’ll see what I mean.

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 All 3 of my eShort stories: Assassins, Sideshow by the Sea, and Bells, are YA/Cross-Overs. YA (young adult) books are written for the teenage reader. But some books that feature older teen and young adult characters, like Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-werewolf “Twilight” series, cross-over and become bestsellers in the adult book market.

Adults of all ages can enjoy a Cross-Over book’s plot twists, varied characters, and carefully constructed world. One of the earliest Cross-Overs I purchased for my bookshelf was JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Though Bilbo Baggins is middle-aged in human years, in hobbit years he is a young adult. Tolkien meticulously built a complex world with its own races, geography, history, creatures, rules of war, clothing, and magic.

The book was a precursor to The Lord of the Rings trilogy which also features a young hobbit, Frodo, as the protagonist. Adding to the YA feel of The LOTR trilogy is the boyish friendship of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. But the tangle of plots, subplots, themes, and characters that weave their way through The Lord of the Rings are rich enough to snag countless adult readers.

C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and the rest of his Chronicles of Narnia are also YA/Cross-Over books. Written for the teen (and preteen) reader, the series continues to be read by adults young and old.

Another Cross-Over series I’ve filled my book shelves with is Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, etc. These aren’t really YA books, you might say. But I submit to you that indeed they began as a coming of age story of 2 young men, Shea and Flick, in a carefully crafted world. And then, the Shannara books topped the New York Times bestseller list and became one of the favorite fantasy series of many adult readers.

The last cross-over series I’ll mention is J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, the three main characters in Rowlings’ classic coming of age tales, begin their literary journey as 12-year-olds. And as such, attracted a faithful readership of preteens and teens. But it’s the cross-over into the adult market that has help make the books one of the most successful fantasy series ever published.

 I’m not the only one to notice and celebrate the increase in both the numbers and quality of YA/Cross-Over books. The Baltimore Sun, March 14, 2010, p.4, A&E section featured an article by Susan Carpenter in which she quotes Lizzie Skurnick, author of a collection of essays about YA literature: “I think part of the reason we’re seeing adults reading YA is that often there’s no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain…YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They’re able to have a little more fun…”

 And that’s why YA/Cross-Over books Rock!

They’re entertaining, enlightening, and thought-provoking – but most of all – they’re fun! So why not check-out my YA/Cross-Over story, For the Good of the Settlement And soon, you’ll be able to read some of my other YA/Cross-Overs: The Return of Gunnar Kettilson in Cemetary Moon and Gifts in the Dark in Dia de los Muertos.

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 The snow outside is just deep enough to make a planned trip to the grocery store out of the question, so I decide to do some “office work.”

The business side of writing is necessary, but bothersome for me. Nevertheless, I pull up a couple of things that need to be printed out. Argh! The printer tells me it’s not connected to the computer.

Such techie things I usually leave for my husband to sort out, so I decide to register for a few smaller urls for some of my free stories and poems from www.tinyurl.com (A site I highly recommend. Smaller urls are a blessing!)

All goes well until I try to check for my story, Angels, published in the latest issue of Ensorcelled Magazine (from Berkeley). My computer tells me I’m forbidden to access the magazine from this server. I try several different ways to locate the magazine or story to no avail. (Update: The 4 free poems and 2 free stories that were listed here are no longer available. So, even more things went wrong since this post was written. Good news though, Angels is included in The Greener Forest and For the Good of the Settlement has been updated and published as an eShort).

I decide to check my eShort publisher to see how my eShorts (Bells, Sideshow by the Sea, and Assassins) are doing, only to find the website is down.

Hmm. I have a call into an editor and am awaiting her call-back. I check my phone to make sure it’s working. It is, but the back left burner on the stove seems to have a problem when I try to warm up some soup for lunch. Does this mean I’ll have to start making dinner a little earlier than usual?

Forget the soup. As I make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I decide today is the perfect day to finish some illustrations. As long as my spectacles (a far more interesting word than “glasses”) don’t break and I have water for painting, I’m good to go. Of course as I type this, I know the studio area of the basement remains unfinished and I’ll be wearing my Bob-Cratchett-style fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm as I draw and paint.

Perhaps, I’m meant to research a new story I’m working on. I can read snuggled down in a comfortable chair by the fire and jot notes on a pad. If I’m truly inspired, I can even return to the computer and type as long as I don’t want to print anything out.

What’s the point of this blog? You can always find excuses NOT to write (or illustrate), but if you’re going to have something for publication, you must push yourself to work. Research, write, draw, paint, edit, tiddy-up websites & blogs, register new tiny urls, revise… the list could go on — but keep busy! A writer writes. An illustrator illustrates. A wanna-be finds any excuse to turn on the television and set aside their creative dreams.

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 Many authors, including me, have asked readers to vote for us and our story or poem on the Preditors & Editors Poll: http://www.critters.org/predpoll/  That’s all well and good for the authors, poets, artists, editors, and publications receiving votes — but what’s in it for the readers? Plenty! For readers, you get a chance to read stories & poems and look at books, magazines & anthologies you might not have heard about before. Perhaps you’ll find a writer who’s words you’d like to read more of.

Now, what’s in it for other writers? Gold! By checking out the various books, magazines & anthologies, you can find a few which might be interested in your writing. The nonfiction articles, bookstores, writers’ advice listings, etc. can prove to be valuable resources for you. And check out the editors, too. An editor that scores lots of votes might be someone you’d like to work with on a project. You can also check out your competition for the available slots in a publisher’s schedule. Is your work up to the standards of the work you see listed?

What’s in it for the artists?  Read the above paragraph. You, too, need to familiarize yourself with publications, editors, and your competition.

As for editors, they get a chance to see writers & artists whose work is popular with a segment of the reading population.  Though that information should never be the only deciding factor when it comes to accepting submissions, it is nice to know!

So go to the poll: http://www.critters.org/predpoll/ check-out the categories & nominees, and VOTE BEFORE 11:59 PM JANUARY 14th.  I, of course, would love your vote as a Poet, Artist, and Author — or for my 1 of my Poems: Sea Children or Spiders, my Story-Other: Bells, 1 of my Story-Science Fictions: Angels or Assassins or Sideshow by the Sea, and lastly, my Book Cover Art: Sideshow by the Sea.

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vcw-a-cvr[1] Thanks to author & editor, Dan Cuddy, for the following review of Assassins,  my science fiction adventure eShort.

“Vonnie Crist’s story “Assassins” is a tight-plotted story that blends science fiction and psychological realism. The characters, though of a different world, are no different emotionally than people on 21st century earth. The science fiction elements aren’t preposterous fantasizing but possibilities for the future. The story moves the reader quickly through its introduction of characters and of the strange world they inhabit to the tension of conflict. I can see this tale being adapted to an episode of a future science fiction TV show. In fact the intelligence of Ms Crist’s story is superior to most TV shows.”

The thing I like best about Dan’s comments is when he says the characters in Assassins are no different emotionally than the people of today — because that means today’s reader can identify emotionally with Flynn, Natsu, Jaffee, and the rest of the people in the tale. Writers strive to construct characters that their readers can recognize a part of themselves (or someone they know) in, someone who might eat at the same restaurant as they do or buy their toothpaste in the same store, someone who knows how to feel fear, love, and sadness.

Are each of the characters in Assassins based on one “real” person? No. But each character is assembled from bits and pieces of people I’ve met. Appearance & occupation, dialogue & speech rhythm, how a character interacts with his/her environment & other characters, and choices a character makes when confronted with a problem are all essential to creating a fictional protagonist, antagonist, and cast. By creating characters that Dan, and hopefully other readers, can feel an emotional kinship with — I’ve taken a small step towards good writing.

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Thanks to writer/editor, Patti Kinlock, for the following review of my eShort Assassins:

vcw-a-cvr[1] “Assassins is a fast-paced tale of love, intrigue, loyalty and betrayal set on another world that seems not too different from our own. Flynn is a Traveler eking out a living giving tours of natural wonders on Konur Prime that many of his clients don’t seem all that interested in when he meets the genetically-engineered Natsu and her singing opossum Hoshi. Attracted to Natsu, Flynn invites her (and her pet) to dinner, but their meal is interrupted when he foils an assassination attempt. Now they are all fugitives, and Flynn learns that Natsu and Hoshi are runaways from a science experiment gone horribly wrong, looking for a better existence. Genetically bred to conduct complex scientific research in low-light conditions, Natsu and some other “experiments” in her group didn’t turn out as expected. When Hoshi, a genetically-bred opossum in the same research facility was “rejected” and left to die, Natsu “rescued” him. Unfortunately for Natsu and Hoshi, there are those who wish to eliminate any traces of failure, and now they are the only two “rejects” who haven’t suffered a mysterious illness or accident ending in death. Flynn looks to a trusted cousin for aid in helping the trio escape to the safety of Momma Tereza and The Third Eye in The Canyons. But, just one step ahead of the assassins, Flynn is in love and in over his head. Assassins is a fun read that twists and turns with adventure and a host of colorful characters, where science fiction meets the best and worst of humanity.” — Patti Kinlock, Editor, Lite Circle Books

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