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Posts Tagged ‘Dragons’

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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 At November’s FaeryCon, I had the honor of meeting and chatting briefly with illustrator extraordinaire, Michael Hague. An admirer of his work for many years, I’d brought along 2 books with hopes for an autograph. Not only did he sign, The Little Mermaid, but he sketched in ballpoint pen a wonderful mermaid and fish on the first pages of the book. His sketching style, quiet manner, and kind smile reminded me of Pop (my grandfather) who used to spend countless hours drawing with me when I was a child. I must admit to being a little misty-eyed when I thanked Michael and turned to leave.

“Wait, isn’t that Tolkien’s World?” Michael asked pointing at the unsigned book I held.

 “Yes,” I responded, and began to explain I didn’t want to take too much of his time since there were other fans waiting in line for autographs. Michael waved his hand in the air, then proceeded to sketch a roaring dragon’s head opposite his painting of “Smaug the Magnificent” from The Hobbit.

 Born in the Year of the Dragon, those legendary creatures remain my favorite fabulous beastie. And in 2010, not only did I manage to place my dragon story, “Weathermaker,” in Dragon’s Lure: Legends of a New Age and became the proud owner of a Michael Hague dragon sketch – but I just learned that a recent review of Dragon’s Lure features a paragraph about “Weathermaker.”

So thanks to BSC Review and their book reviewer. For those who’d like to take a peek at the review: http://tinyurl.com/review-of-dragons-lure (Paragraph #4 focuses on “Weathermaker”)

 And now, to begin a dragon sketch of my own!

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 Milder temperatures and a slight breeze made today perfect for trimming the boxwoods, roses, and holly trees in my yard. The trick to trimming shrubs is to snip away the weak bits and tidy up the gangly parts that have grown too large. A gardener’s goal is to have a well-shaped, healthy shrub that’s not only pleasing to the eye, but strong enough to withstand wind, drought, freezing temperatures, and the like.

 A writer must trim their fiction in much the same way. She needs to read through her story with a critical eye and clip away the sections that stick out. She also needs to either strengthen the weaker parts of the narrative or cut them out. No matter how lovely the prose, a misshapen story with over-written sections and malnourished paragraphs stands little chance with most editors.

 And speaking of trimming, those who’re fans of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings will remember how Sam Gamgee gets himself in trouble by eavesdropping while trimming the grass outside Frodo Baggins’ window. Gandalf grabs Sam, drags him into Frodo’s home, and asks the terrified hobbit what he heard. Sam’s reply to the wizard: “I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and dragons, and a fiery mountain, and – and Elves, sir. I listened because I couldn’t help myself…”

And I, like many writers, must admit to being guilty of eavesdropping. Over-heard conversations in malls, fast-food restaurants, in supermarket lines, in darkened movie theaters, etc. are a fabulous way to learn the rhythm of dialog. I couldn’t make up some of the conversations I’ve jotted down on a napkin or paper place mat. When my ear catches the strange snippets of strangers’ conversations, I can’t help myself – I write them down, and later season my fiction with those words.

 And finally, a sentence or four about those dragons that Sam mentions to the wizard. With or without well-trimmed claws, these magical creatures are one of my favorite beasties. To read a free poem of mine entitled, Dragons, that was published by EMG-Zine visit: http://tinyurl.com/vonnie-dragon Or you can check out my dragon tale in the new anthology, Dragon’s Lure, illustrated by Linda Saboe (the illo reprinted here with permission from artist) & published by Dark Quest Books: http://www.tinyurl.com/vonnie-dragonlure  

My message today for writers: Trim your fiction, gather good dialog while eavesdropping, and add a little magic to your prose (or poetry).

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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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 I just returned from a trip to Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia to visit with family. Along the way, I went to Disney World, and was once again impressed with the imagination and creativity of Walt and his colleagues.

Since my last visit, some of the attractions have been updated to appeal to kids and adults in-tune with the latest technology. One such attraction features Figment, a small purple dragon who flits about and sings a song about Imagination.

Years ago, movable painted sets of a balloon, professor, and of course, the irresistible dragon changed mechanically as cars full of people traveled through the colorful ride. Now, video technology has replaced the mechanical sets. I’m still charmed by Figment and his salute to our senses and imagination, but I miss the workmanship and three-dimensionality of the older version. The newer version of the ride feels sterile and less human somehow.

 So what’s the point of this blog? I think technology is wonderful and technological advances necessary, but believe we need to leave room in our machine-driven world for some simpler things that allow our imaginations to make the leap from real to fantastic.

 One of those simpler things are books. Downloadable eBooks and eShorts are convenient and available wherever there’s internet access, but they can never truly replace the smell of a new book and the sound of its spine as it’s opened for the first time. A picture on the screen cannot wholly replace an illustration skillfully printed on paper. And a beloved tome handed down from grandmother to granddaughter whose worn pages reveal tales of fairies, heroes, lost loves, and, yes, even dragons, will always be more magical than a computer screen.

 I cheer for imagination. I cheer for technology. But I also cheer for hardbound and paperback books which fill our bookshelves, bedside tables, and hungry minds with story.

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 My short story, Weathermaker, appears in the new anthology from Dark Quest Books: Dragon’s Lure. For those who’ve been following my blog (if you haven’t, go back a couple of pages to catch up), I started working on this tale in October. It’s been a rewarding  journey as a writer to take an idea, carry it through several rewrites, and finally see it “in print” in this wonderful anthology.

If you have any interest in dragons, I urge you to order a copy of  Dragon’s Lure: http://www.tinyurl.com/vonnie-dragonlure

And now, here’s a bit more info about Dragon’s Lure (set to debut at Balticon on Sunday, May 30, 2010):

“Here There Be Dragons!  What is the deal with virgins? Why would a dragon want to swallow the moon? Is a bed of treasure really to be desired?

At long last a collection that delves in the lore on what lures a dragon. We bring you nineteen tempting tales of draconic wonder–along with the lyrics to two classic and much-beloved songs–certain to broaden your understanding of these legendary creatures that have fascinated mankind throughout time and across cultures.

Trek across a dragon’s dream space in C.E. Murphy’s Perchance to Dream…Take wing in Misty Massey’s Flying Away Home…and the burning question in Vonnie Winslow Crist’s Weathermaker…got milk? Everything you wanted to know about dragons, but no one has survived to ask…”

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 As I sit with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit open on my lap, I’m thankful for the wonderful speculative fiction that I read as a child. It was those books from long ago that stirred my imagination and inspired me to write stories.

I still have a stack of 10-page fairytale booklets, published by The Platt & Munk Co., Inc. in the early 1930s, given to me 1 at a time for “something to look at” when my parents visited with an elderly friend on the other side of Baltimore.

Before I entered kindergarten, I’d taught myself to read during those visits using Cinderella, Chicken Little, Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Tom Thumb. And who knows, maybe the seed for the precocious opossum in Assassins formed as I read Platt & Munk’s Puss in Boots.

Three of my favorite books when I was a second grader were Ruth Stiles Gannett’s My Father’s Dragon series. In her tales, right under the noses of people in the “real world” lived a family of blue and yellow dragons. I had such vivid memories of the beautifully-colored dragons. I didn’t realize until I bought a copy of the books years later as an adult that the pictures were rendered in pencil. The stunning hues of the dragon family had been imagined by me. And dragons remain one of my favorite things to draw and write about.

Perhaps the most serendipitous introduction I had as a preteen student to the world of magic and folklore came from the librarian at Perry Hall Elementary. In the fifth grade, I’d rush through my regular classwork, and then, ask to go to the library to help put books back on the shelves. By the end of the year, not only did I know the Dewey Decimal System quite well, but the librarian gifted me with 2 slightly damaged books.

The first gift book was Lupe de Osma’s The Witches’ Ride and Other Tales from Costa Rica. I was immediately infatuated with the ghosts, witches, fairies, and other magical beings written about in that book. The beginnings of Bells? The second gift book was about prehistoric creatures that never existed. Among the critters written about were mermaids. The beginnings of Sideshow by the Sea?

Writers tend to write about what they know. What I’ve known since toddlerhood was fairy tales, folktales, myths, legends, and magical creatures introduced to me by books.

Still an avid reader, I gravitate to work by Neil Gaiman, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles de Lint. It’s the fantastical and sometimes dark worlds created by these writers that draws me in. And as a writer, I strive to create my own darkly magical worlds for my readers to enjoy.

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