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Posts Tagged ‘Balticon’

As an add-on to yesterday’s post, here’s the link to a bit of the Balticon interview with George RR Martin. A very humble, down-to-earth guy – even if he wanted to be a spaceman! Enjoy! George RR Martin at Balticon50.

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Balticon 2016, also known as Balticon50, has come and gone. Per usual, it was a delightfully busy time for me.

I had an opportunity to chat with author friends, meet fans of my writing and art, read from my books, sign books, participate on panels, and present a writing workshop. In addition, I attended eSpec Book’s fabulous publication party, Gail Z. Martin’s publication party (she’s a wonderful reader – I so enjoyed listening to her fiction), an anthology meeting, and the SFWA meeting.

As a George RR Martin fan, I was happy to have a book signed by the brilliant author of Game of Thrones. (Yes, I’m quite taken with his use of language in the book series and eagerly await the next book).

Plus, I had the chance to meet and learn more about some of my fellow members of Broad Universe (women who write science fiction, fantasy, and horror).

All in all, it was a fabulous weekend. Many thanks to Baltimore Science Fiction Society for inviting me to participate. I hope you’ll want me back in 2017.

Now, I’m back to writing and revising. A new story, new book, and/or new painting is always on my to-do list.

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I had the pleasure of doing an interview with fellow speculative writers and friends, Paul Lagasse and Gary Lester on the last day of Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s Balticon 49 for the audio show: Channel 37 – Serial Science Fiction from the Distant Reaches of UHF.

Alas, the only place to record the conversation was in the foyer of the hotel lobby – so you will hear people walking by and automatic doors whooshing open and close. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll turn up the volume and enjoy:

Channel 37 Audio Invasion Episode 13 featuring Vonnie Winslow Crist.

Thanks, Paul and Gary. Though exhausted after a busy weekend at Balticon, I hope I make sense and give your listeners (and my readers) something to think about.

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Skean copy Next Saturday, the regular Owl Light blog series will resume. Today, I wanted to talk a little about my Young Adult/Cross-Over fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, and Balticon.

This weekend, I’m a guest at Balticon, the annual science-fiction and fantasy con sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Over the years, it’s been fun and a learning experience to serve as a Balticon Poetry Workshop leader, panelist, and contest judge. Plus, I’ve participated in book signings, author readings, Broad Universe rapid fire readings, publication parties, and this year for the first time, the art show. Not to mention, I love sitting in the audience enjoying other speakers and panels.

This year, I was lucky enough to have The Enchanted Skean considered for the Compton Crook Award (given for an author’s first speculative novel). To my surprise and delight, The Enchanted Skean was selected as one of 8 Finalists. Though I didn’t win, I was honored to be in the company of the 7 other wonderful Finalist books. And a quick congratulations to Chuck Gannon, author of Fire With Fire, on the win.

Now, owl-lovers, I haven’t forgotten you! For The Enchanted Skean, I created a race of owl shape-changers called featherfay who play an important part in the plot. In fact, these owls annoy, warn, and eventually save the central character, Beck. Without owls, our hero would have been captured and killed!

My idea for featherfays came from Welsh folklore. In The Mabinogion, two mages (wizards) get together and create a woman made of flowers to be the wife of a hero under a curse. The woman, Blodeuwedd, is beautiful beyond compare, but like flowers, her heart changes with the seasons. Eventually, Blodeuwedd betrays her husband – who is nearly killed by her lover. For her part in the plot, Blodeuwedd is changed into an owl. In some parts of Wales, owls are still called “flower face.”

So I just took the idea of a woman changing into an owl, and made the transformation a part of my featherfays or owl-sprites. Here’s a video some Snowy Owls who just might be able to change into a sprite if the moonlight is right and there’s a bit of magic in the air.

Intrigued by a race of shape-changing owls? Here’s a buy link for The Enchanted Skean.

Remember to visit next week for a post on Screech Owls.

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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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Vonnie2 The end of May is always a busy time for me. Why? Balticon, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s annual convention, is held on the Memorial Day weekend: http://balticon.org For more than 20 years, I’ve helped with the Poetry Workshop with the encouragement of my friend and this year’s con chair, Patti Kinlock. (Of course years ago, Balticon was held on the Easter weekend – and I must say I’m grateful it’s in May nowadays).

Many writers don’t bother to attend conventions and conferences, but I find it’s a good idea to interact not only with readers (and fans), but with other writers. Sometimes you just chat and listen to what others have to say about writing, publishing, and editing on the various panels, but often writers have the opportunity to network. In my case, several invitations to submit to anthologies have come about because I attended a con.

I encourage writers (and would-be writers) to attend conventions and conferences. Soak up as much information as you can and take the time to network. I encourage readers to attend cons where authors and illustrators are talking about their craft, autographing their books, and happily meeting their fans. Maybe one of your favorites will be there, or perhaps you’ll discover a new author whose books are just up your alley!

As for me, this Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be at Balticon in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I’ll be reading with 2 other Young Adult authors at 10AM on Saturday, May 25th and autographing at 5 PM. Plus, I should be at the Broad Universe table www.broaduniverse.org for most of Saturday if you’re interested in chatting or purchasing one of my books. On Sunday, May 26th I’ll be participating in the Broad Universe Reading at 9 AM, leading the Poetry Workshop at 12 noon, attending the Poetry Awards at 1:50 PM, and spending an hour with Cold Moon Press at 8 PM. So please stop by and say “Hi!”

For those who can’t attend Balticon, here are links to 2 guest blogs by me on the Young Adult Cross-Over Market: http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-young-adultcross-over-market-by.html and The Wisewoman Archetype: http://sandywriterblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/guest-post-from-vonnie-winslow-crist-the-wisewoman-archetype/ I hope you enjoy the guest posts.

Skean copy I’ll be doing more guest posts and interviews this spring and summer as I promote The Enchanted Skean. And I’ll be hoping for good reviews from readers, bloggers, and reviewers alike. As for cons – I’m planning on participating in Hallowread: www.hallowread.blogspot.com , Darkover: www.darkovercon.org and maybe one more. Have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend and keep on reading!

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The following is the second part of a 1999 interview I did with science fiction writer, Jack L. Chalker. Click here to read Part I. (Photo of Jack Chalker courtesy of Patti Kinlock, chair of Balticon).

A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVWC: Earlier you mentioned the controversy surrounding The Soul Rider Saga from the mid-eighties (Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Empire of Flux and Anchor, Masters of Flux and Anchor, The Birth of Flux and Anchor, and Children of Flux and Anchor) and just now you mentioned naming characters in a manner that avoids lawsuits. Do you think fear of lawsuits and controversy are having an impact on today’s writers?

JLC: Well, if I really worried about that I wouldn’t have had so much fun with the Well World names. It’s crass, but publishers have insurance for this sort of thing and that’s in my contract as well. I have had some problems with legal staffs, but it was almost always because of commentary, rather than within the story itself. The only serious problems I had were with my autobiographical comments in my story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic, where the insurance company simply wouldn’t take the risk. There are other outlets, though, and other ways to say the same things.

Fear of lawsuits doesn’t affect many writers but it does affect editors and publishers through which we have to deal to get our work out to the public. This is nothing new.

The Soul Rider controversy wasn’t a legal problem, it was simply that people who see things in absolutes and do not understand what this work is about yelled because they believed it was politically incorrect. It may be, but not for what they said. My biggest critics on it, though, have all proudly admitted that they never read it. Unfortunately, at least one of these people is an influential editor for one of the dwindling number of New York publishers and he has kept a lot of writers’ work from going further based on this sort of PC lens. I have had more problems with this sort than with any lawyer.

VWC: I know from checking your website [no longer available], that you’re not convinced that e-books are profitable or that readers typically discover new authors via e-books. I happen to agree with you that many ‘people don’t read novels off screen, and they don’t have a tendency to shell out real money for books when they don’t retain anything physical for their money.’ [Remember this is 1999, before the Kindles, Nooks, etc. were mainstream.] So what do you think is the future of the science fiction/ fantasy publishing industry?

JLC: Unfortunately, I’m very pessimistic not just about science fiction, but about fiction books in general in the future. Readership overall is graying and down. The only areas of increase are tie-ins to movies and TV shows. The new distributors are MBA types who focus only on quick sell-through, maximize quick profits and invest nothing at all in the future or in the long term. These in turn drive the publishers, who can’t get books out on the shelves and racks that the distributors won’t take.

There’s a lot of excitement about Amazon.com and the like, but these are not online book stores, they are book SERVICES. That is, if you know what you want, it’s a quick and easy one stop source. But what about all the people who haven’t seen my books (or anybody you want to name as author). How do the new readers find you? Traditional reviewing sources are always inbred and tend not to have wide influence in any case, and online hype is actually paid for. If my publisher doesn’t pay the fee, Amazon.com doesn’t put those ‘If you like Farmer you’ll like Chalker’ type things up.

New and building readership comes from impulse buying, and that’s where nothing can beat the vanishing bookstore. The distributors weren’t interested in Priam’s Lens, so Barnes and Noble only bought 1,250 copies for their entire chain. Amazon’s selling a bunch, but they’re to my following, not to new people. You can see that I’m very discouraged about the future of books in general. I used to tell new writers not to quit their day jobs until they spent at least three years making more off writing than the job. Now, I tell them don’t quit unless you can retire with no book income.

VWC: Novels are like children, it’s hard to pick a favorite – but nonetheless, do you have a novel of saga that holds a slightly more cherished place in your heart? And is there a book or series that you wish you could change?

JLC: Well, Web of the Chozen was a joke done to win a bet and isn’t one of my personal favorites. It also came out due to some complexities in the wrong order; everybody who’d ignored me had to pay attention when Midnight at the Well of Souls became a spontaneous bestseller; they looked at my next book, which was supposed to be Identity Matrix. As it happened, though, Chozen came out next, and many reviewers and critics never read me again.

Favorite? The original Midnight at the Well of Souls, because it made my career and because it holds up as well now as when it was written. I’m uneven on the series that developed out of it; some are good books, but none, I think, approach the original stand-alone. Soul Rider was my most complex series, one many people could see only as a wild adventure, but that’s okay. Although I’d like to tweak the final book of the five, otherwise it’s pretty much the way I would do it again. The tweaks would be just to make clearer the sources of the wacky ideologies that emerged in the books.

My all-time favorite of all the things I’ve written is a novelette; Dance Band on the Titanic. I think it accomplished more of what I wanted to do in writing than anything else I’ve written.

VWC: Lastly, what advice do you have for the beginning writer who wants to be a novelist?

JLC: Go ahead and write. And, in fact, you can still get published even under the pessimistic conditions I outlined. But unless that first book’s a bestseller and turned into a Major Motion Picture, think of it as something you do for yourself and for posterity, not for a living.

VWC: Thanks for taking the time to talk about writing. I’ve just seen Priam’s Lens on the bookshelves and I’ll be looking for Currents of the Well of Souls and Ghost of the Well of Souls in the near future. Your productivity amazes me!

JLC: Well, I think Currents and its second half are as good as I’ve done in the Well universe in many years (and absolutely no characters or races from the past books, period!) But as to my productivity – I spent a year and a half when they took my books but didn’t publish them. During that time, there were rumors that I was gravely ill, and after Priam appeared many people said, ‘Gee, I thought he was dead, it’s been so long since we saw anything new from him!’ So one person’s productivity…

VWC: Hmm, almost sixty books, not counting re-issues in twenty-five years. I’d say most writers dream of being so prolific. As to rumors of your death, after a similar experience, Mark Twain said, ‘Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.’ Judging from the list of titles on your website that are planned, but not yet completed, we’ll be seeing quite a few more Jack Chalker books as we move into the next millennium.”

End Note: There were additional books written and published after the interview, but not enough for his fans. Jack died on February 11, 2005. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society‘s annual Maryland Young Writers Contest was renamed The Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest in 2006, so his presence is still felt at Balticon and in BSFS. And the first SF organization Jack belonged to, the Washington Science Fiction Association, is still going strong, too. As for me – I am a better writer for having known him. – Vonnie

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