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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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In 1999, I did an interview with writer Jack L. Chalker for Lite Circle Books’ speculative anthology, Lower Than The Angels. As the anniversary of his death approaches, today and tomorrow I’ll be sharing that interview in two parts as this week’s guest author post. (Photo courtesy of Patti Kinlock).

A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (part I)

“Baltimore-born writer, Jack L. Chalker, is the author of more than fifty books. Best-known for his series novels including The Saga of the Well World, The Four Lords of the Diamond, The Dancing Gods, The Rings of the Master, The Watchers at the Well, The Soul Rider books, The G.O.D., Inc. books, The Changewinds, The Quintara Marathon, and The Wonderland Gambit; Jack is also the author of non-fiction, non-series novels, a collection of short fiction, and the editor of a shared-world anthology. The following interview was conducted by Vonnie Winslow Crist with Jack L. Chalker on June 12, 1999.

VWC: You became involved with science fiction and fantasy writing initially as a fan, right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA JLC: Oh, absolutely. My first published writing was book reviews in a 1958 fanzine; my first Hugo nomination, in 1963, was for my fanzine, Mirage, and I was a member of the Washington (DC) Science Fiction Association from 1958 until 1992 and was a co-founder of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in 1963 (still going strong, still a member) and creator of Balticon. In fact, somewhere on the Web there’s a reprint of my article on the history of fandom in Baltimore, which basically is my fan history as well. I did some sideline professional editing and rewriting in the Sixties, founded and edited Mirage Press, was an Air Commando (USAFR), taught history in the public schools, and helped run various local and national SF conventions. Didn’t turn pro as a writer until 1975.

VWC: From fan, editor, and little-known writer, you turned pro with the publication of A Jungle of Stars. It doesn’t seem to be part of a series, but starting in 1977 with Midnight at the Well of Souls, your novels usually are part of a continuing saga set in their own world. Do you build a world first or allow it to take shape with each book?

JLC: Well, the funny thing was, I had the idea for some sequels to A Jungle of Stars, none of which ever got done, but Midnight at the Well of Souls was never thought of as a series at the beginning. Its origins have been well chronicled – I’d watched Forbidden Planet one time in mid-1976, and wondered what would have happened if the Krell experiment had worked. I quickly decided that they’d fast run through the entire god routine and quickly become bored. No challenges, no questions, an endless and ho-hum present. From that came the concept of them deciding that they must have done it wrong and the Great Experiment to get it right the next time.

The Well World itself was formed that July in isolated Stehekin village in North Cascades National Park in Washington state. There is a trail there that descends more than a mile and goes through abrupt climatological zones as you descend from snow through rainforest and beyond. The changes were so dramatic that I realized that it was what the Well World might be like if walking across it. The final nail in the construct was when the hex concept came up. A New York SF fan, Ben Yalow, suggested the hex for easy movement and since Avalon Hill games was not far from my home in Baltimore, I dropped by and picked up a ton of blank hex maps and pads. On this, the Well World was created in an elaborate physical-political map since lost (by Lester Del Rey, it should be noted, who borrowed it).

From that it almost wrote itself. The only rewrite I did other than to editorial fiat was to redo the end sequence, the last page, which most readers find the most memorable. That was actually done in galleys. The book was supposed to be a “midlist” fill-in book for summer reading and little was expected of it. Instead, it caught on, became a Campus Cult Classic must-read, and essentially made my career. It was then that Del Ray came back waving big money for sequels, far over what they would pay for other works.

Beyond those, I did several stand-alone novels (including a World War II novel), and really didn’t go back to the long form until Four Lords of the Diamond. When that also hit, publishers were only really interested in multi-book sagas. Since I found a big canvas conductive to my own dramatic sense, that’s what most of the Eighties books were. That led to my most controversial and complex project, The Soul Rider Saga.

In all cases, the world and perhaps a scene come first. Although I’m considered a tight plotter, the plot is the very last thing I work out, after the setting and the more interesting characters.

VWC: Speaking of characters, Joe and Marge in The Dancing Gods books, begin with such mundane names, jobs, and appearances, then transform into the stuff of legends as do many of your other characters. Do you begin your characters with someone you know, say a waitress or truck driver, then imagine them a hero? Or do you design a hero and work back to the truck driver and waitress?

JLC: The names pretty much just come. I have to check them to ensure that I’m not going to get sued by anybody real, but beyond that my characters tend to name themselves. Joe’s name is hardly simple, though; it just came out that way. His original name in the manuscript was a gag: it was Joseph Raymon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Alvarez de Oro. Except for the first and last names, that’s the actual “real” name of Lester Del Ray. “Marge” just seemed like a good west Texas name.

Some characters come fully named. I can swear that Nathan Brazil just up and introduced himself to me at Stehekin Lodge. Mavra Chang was a bit more complex; her first name, like the first name of a few others in the first Well World cycle, are titles of lesser known Stravinsky ballets, for example. A vast majority of the Well World hex names are also gags or tongue in cheek place names. I had just been ordered by the Del Rey legal staff not to name anything after anybody real because they were trying to fend off a lawsuit from an ex of Bill Rotsler’s, who was threatening to sue them after Rostler used her as a major villain in his novel. So I created the ultimate “Tuckerism” as it were, almost a challenge. It was quite easy. The northern hemisphere is mostly anagrams of editors and SF writers, the south places, friends and SF fan clubs and members.

Sometimes, the names are obvious in retrospect. Matson was a mover of cargo; his name came from a major trucking line. Still, those who look for meanings in the character names should stop; in most cases they simply fit the character in my own mind.”

Please stop by for A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (Part II) tomorrow.

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As 2012 draws to a close, I look back on a year filled with professional highs and lows.

pillywiggins My young adult novel, The Enchanted Skean, once represented by a successful New York literary agent found itself homeless when the agency closed. Due to family obligations, I couldn’t go to a science-fiction/fantasy convention I wanted to attend, and another con didn’t even acknowledge my desire to participate. My 2nd collection of speculative short stories, Owl Light, needed at least 2 more stories and I couldn’t seem to write the right tales. Plus, I had to wait my turn in the publishing schedule (not always easy to do when you’re anxious to see your work in print). A fantasy painting accepted for a magazine cover was not used when the editor left her position. Several stories I thought well-written were rejected from what seemed to me to be perfect markets. And I could go on.

But wait, before I cry in my tea, for every setback, there was something positive in my author-illustrator life.

My young adult novel, The Enchanted Skean, found a home with the wonderful folks at Mockingbird Lane Press, and is due to be published in early 2013. I was able to attend and participate on writer panels at the Library of Congress,  Balticon, and Darkover. And I had several unexpected book signing opportunities at the Bel Air Authors & Artists Holiday Sale and the Carroll County Farmer’s Market Authors’ Day. Ideas for the 2 tales I needed to write for Owl Light sprang into my head like nibble sprites, and my turn to be published by the excellent Cold Moon Press is rapidly drawing near. Though that one painting hasn’t made it to the cover of a magazine yet, 2 others were used for the covers of Bards & Sages Quarterly and Scifikuest. Perfect markets accepted and published several of my stories: Tales of the Talisman, Ocean Stories, and Zombies for a Cure. And I will go on!

Harford’s Heart Magazine featured one of my paintings as a cover and did a feature article on me as an illustrator. Bards & Sages accepted another painting for a 2013 cover. I had 2 ebooks published by Cold Moon Slivers and, yeah!, I got to do the cover art. I had the opportunity to appear as a guest on several blogs. The reviews for my 1st Cold Moon Press book, The Greener Forest, continue to be good. Broad Universe, a fabulous group that supports women who write speculative work, featured me 3 times on their Broadpod podcast, and once on Broadly Speaking. The beginning of an unpublished YA fantasy novel won the Silver Award from Maryland Writers Association. I felt honored to judge both a poetry competition and an art contest.

I’ve gotten to meet many readers and writers in 2012, both in-person and via Facebook, Goodreads, etc. And I was lucky enough to have a poem in the final issue of EMG-Zine, an online speculative magazine. Yes, I said final issue. Though the archives are supposed to remain available, EMG-Zine has closed its doors to new poems, stories, articles, and art work. The editor may be gaining time to work on her own creative endeavors, but readers and writers will surely miss this lovely publication.

And so, 2012 draws to a close. On this last day of the old year, I have an interview up on Highlighted Author- http://highlightedauthor.com/2012/12/welcome-vonnie-winslow-crist/ Thanks, Charlene A. Wilson for allowing me to finish 2012 on a high note. (Okay, that was a little punny.)  I look forward to 2013 with all of its ups and downs, unexpected curves, and joyous surprises. And may 2013 bring good things to each of you.

PS: Though I try to count my blessings accurately, I’m sure I’ve over-looked a publisher or 2 who has used my work. Thanks to them, too.

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Balticon, the wonderful science fiction and fantasy conference sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, begins tomorrow. Now held at the Hunt Valley Marriot (Hunt Valley, MD), Balticon is always interesting. I usually attend a few writing, publishing, and art focused programs I’m not involved with — plus participate in and moderate several panels on Saturday and Sunday.

 This year, my Balticon schedule begins early with a 4 PM Reading on Friday, May 25. I’ll be reading from my fantasy short story collection, The Greener Forest. (And maybe give listeners a taste of my next collection, Owl Light). Per usual, I’ll be moderating the Poetry Workshop on Sunday afternoon with writing exercises and publishing tips for all.

If you leaf through the 2012 BSFAN book, you’ll see a promo I drew for my upcoming book, Owl Light. There are 30 birds hidden in a “Bird Search.” For those who can’t attend Balticon, watch for information here and on my website shortly on how to download the “Bird Search,” and try it at home.

Cold Moon Press, the publisher of several of my books, is making a special Balticon offer. A Kindle version of my fantasy eBook, Blame it on the Trees, can be downloaded for FREE from now until Monday, May 28th, 11:59 PM. I’d be grateful to anyone who re-posts the free book link below. I’m trying to reach 1,000 readers by Monday at midnight. Won’t you please help?

Have a magical weekend, and please download, review, like, and re-post the link for Blame it on the Trees:

http://tinyurl.com/vonnies-blame-trees-story

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