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Hooray! The Enchanted Skean is now available from Amazon.  The 7-year journey from first words jotted on paper to completed novel has finally yielded a published book!  And I hope you like the cover using my painting and the art director skills of Jamie Johnson. Below is the cover blurb:

Skean copy “The Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir is a YA coming-of-age adventure novel filled with magic, miracles, and mystery. 14-year old Beck Conleth is living a quiet life in the seaside town of Queen’s Weather when his grandmother sends him on a journey to Ulfwood to retrieve his father’s bones and a family skean (dagger). After reaching Ulfwood, Beck discovers the skean is magical, and that it answers only to him. Soon the enchanted skean and its owner attract the attention of dark mages, goblins, and worse. Helped on his journey home by Wisewomen, warriors, shape-changers, and the other good folk of Lifthrasir, Beck faces death, danger, and the theft of his skean.

Accompanied by his best friend, Beck stows away on a ship, takes back his skean, befriends a dragon, and escapes with a troop of thieves. After reaching a dock in West Arnora, the company heads for the fortress of Ravens Haunt. As Beck and his companions face a hideous Skullsoul and an army of ogerhunches, he realizes there is a developing confrontation between good and evil, and he and his enchanted skean have a role to play.”

Thank you to Mockingbird Lane Press & Editor Regina Williams for not only believing in my novel, but helping me make it a better book with their invaluable input. And thanks to friends, family, and fans who’ve helped me on this journey.

Now, the success of The Enchanted Skean rests with you – the readers. So if you enjoy adventure tales filled with magic and epic fantasy, please visit Amazon,  “Like” The Enchanted Skean – Book I of the Chronicles of Lifthrasir, buy a copy, and post a review. If you’re on Goodreads, please post a review there, also. Thanks so much. – Vonnie

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Miracles, mystery, and magic are three of the best words to describe my fantasy short story collection, The Greener Forest. In The Greener Forest miracles are possible. In “Angels,” not only do angels sing in the trees, but pieces of their trunks tell a carver’s hands what to whittle away to free the angel inside the wood. In “Birdling,” a young woman rescues, then cares for a baby bird, but doesn’t know how to teach it to return to the wild. A Brown Man comes to her aid, then “blesses” her with the ability to see and hear the faeryfolk that live in her garden.

There are mysteries to be solved in The Greener Forest, too. Why do spriggans skulk about cypress knees, try to sabotage boats, and wreak havoc near the Ferris Wheel in “Tootsie’s Swamp Tours & Amusement Park?” In “Appleheads,” three kids try to figure out what creature is lurking in Miss Greenspun’s garden. And by showing up unannounced in her backyard, they discover her true identity as the moonlight filters through the branches of an ancient tree.

Magic abounds in The Greener Forest. When a granddaughter places a bowl of milk next to the pond where her grandfather believed a dragon lived, she begins a magical ritual in “Weathermaker.” And in “Blood of the Swan,” a young man searching for a healer to cure his village of an unknown disease becomes entangled in the magical scheme of a swan maiden.

M could stand for mermaid. In “Shoreside,” a ningyo (a kind of Japanese mermaid) who’s married a man and had three children with him, swims into the ocean to save a drowning boy. Once in the waves, the sea begins to call to her, and she must choose between her land-bound family and a life in the water.

M could also stand for murder. In “The Garden Shop,” a would-be thief makes the mistake of trying to rob a shopkeeper who not only knows he shot a fellow small business owner, but happens to be a fairy ready to hand out fairy justice.

And lastly, M could stand for more. Because these stories and more lead the reader into the depths of The Greener Forest, where Faerie and the everyday world collide. There is dark and light, evil and good, and uncertain dusky gray lurking in between the pages of this book. Discover that all is not what it seems at first glance, and wondrous things still happen in The Greener Forest.

The Greener Forest can be purchased at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/Greener-Forest-VW-Crist-Amazon And please stop by http://vonniewinslowcrist.com and http://www.tinyurl.com/Fb-Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-Author

And on this most magical, mysterious and miraculous day, M could also stand for:  Merry Christmas!

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Happy Chinese New Year to each of you. 2012 is a Year of the Dragon — a most auspicious year indeed!

I was born in the Year of the Dragon, several dragons ago, and I think that was the genesis of my life-long fascination with mythical beasts and magical stories.

In celebration, I’m working on a new painting of a red dragon. I began the painting yesterday with washes of colored inks and metallic watercolors. Then, I added a few drizzles of India ink and brilliant green. Next, I used acrylics to paint my slender, long-necked dragon clinging to some vines in the foreground.

Today, I’ve been adding more layers of acrylics on the dragon. I’ve also added a small barn and house with an “English countryside look” to them to the background. And I’ve painted a red dragon’s egg hidden in a leafy spot on the vines. The dragon’s face still needs more detail, and a few of the vines need to be “freshened up” because the newer layers of paint have muted their vibrant green. Still, I think I’m satisfied with my first dragon painting of 2012.

 The painting you see in this post is an older one — but I still like Strawberry Dragon because of his whimsical vibe. However, liking my older artwork is not a “given.” Luckily, I’ve grown as an artist, so much of my older work seems out of step with my new art. But I’ve decide that is something not to cringe at — but to celebrate.

As each of us grows a year older, we hopefully learn new things and improve upon our work — whether writing, painting, teaching, repairing engines, or whatever it is we do.

So chase away the bad luck by banging some pots together, set aside your broom so as not to sweep out the good luck, and remember to honor your ancestors and the local dragon.

As for me — I think I’ll sketch a unicorn!

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I was invited to participate in Darkover this past Thanksgiving weekend in Timonium, Maryland. Wow! What a wonderful con. I was part of several panels including substituting at the last moment on the “Animal Sidekicks” panel for a couple of writers who had planes/rides to catch.

I love adding animal sidekicks in my stories. Per the advice of Dr. John Flynn, who taught “Writing Science Fiction” as part of my Masters in Professional Writing Degree Program & served as my advisor for 2 Independent Studies on writing science fiction & fantasy prose, I try my hardest to avoid cats, dogs, and horses. Now, it’s not because I don’t love cats, dogs, and horses — but rather because they’re the most common animals used.

 So what critters have I used as sidekicks or important characters in my stories? In “Assassins,” I use a singing opossum – it’s genetically altered, hence the singing and glow-in-the-dark eyes. In “Birdling,” a robin is an important character. I must admit to using a one-eyed dog and three-legged cat in “Appleheads,” but they’re really a goblin and bogle, so I’m not sure if that counts. In “Toad,” I use a toad. (That was hard to guess, I know!) In “Henkie’s Fiddle,” a calf-shaped buggane is a sidekick. In “Weathermaker,” a Chinese dragon has a starring role. In a novel I’m pecking away at, I use rats and pigeons as sidekicks. I’m also currently at work on several stories where owls are either a sidekick or necessary character. Then, there’s this tale where telepathic beetles bond with the protagonist…

The advice I gave on the Darkover panel (with a nod to Dr. Flynn) is still good — “Think outside the box.” Cats, dogs, and horses make fabulous sidekicks and characters, but so do spiders (EB White’s “Charlotte’s Web”), cockroaches (Suzanne Collins’ “The Underland Chronicles”), beavers (CS Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”), polar bears (Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”), snakes (JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter”), and even trees (JRR Tolkien’s Treebeard in “Lord of the Rings”).

I think readers like to read about cats, dogs, and horses — but they probably would like a pinch of emu, lizard, and lion, too.

Till next I blog: Happy reading! Happy writing! And thanks so much to the folks at Darkover for inviting me.

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