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Stubborn as Summer by Justine Graykin

j_graykin_photo “I’m standing on my deck looking out over the leaf-strewn grass, through the woods towards the wetlands. It is a warm October day, drawing close to Halloween, a time, as we say in New England, when the frost is on the pumpkin.

Except there has been no frost.

It is as if summer is holding its breath, refusing to give way to fall.

I am more than half a century old. This seems to me quite remarkable. I remember a world before computers, before the Internet. My grandmother knew an inconceivable world without telephones, cars, or electricity. I was amazed to think about it when she described that world. Now my children look at me the same way.

This year I finished climbing all the mountains in New Hampshire that are four thousand feet or higher, including the Presidentials, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Monroe, windswept rocky piles where the weather can change quickly, the conditions turn deadly, and lives are lost every year. I hiked those mountains and camped out in them alone.

On the trail, the 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, excused themselves to pass me, striding along, leaving me behind. But I kept plodding along, and I reached the summit eventually through sheer stubbornness.

This year saw the publication of one of my novels, at last, after years of effort, writing and rewriting, submitting and compiling the long list of rejections. At last I had success with Archimedes Nesselrode, a whimsical romantic fantasy rather different from my others. But then again, they are all different from one another. I am asked what kind of fiction I write, and I am at a loss to say. It rambles in all sorts of directions, save one: It is never dark. There is enough suffering in reality. I’ll only allow suffering in my fiction if I can put an end to it.

ANcoverLarrythumb So, publishers seeking dark and dystopian, gritty and urban, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching Oprah books, have passed me by, until now. And readers, exhausted from reading all that emotional mayhem, embrace the gentle humor of Archimedes Nesselrode with delight. Because we all need a bit of fun, a touch of the whimsical, now and again.

At conventions and author events, all those 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings have their stack of books, their publishing history. But here I am with Archimedes, and I’ll get there through sheer stubbornness.

In many traditions, Halloween marks the turning of the year. It wears the face of the Crone as it watches summer wither and fade, taking on the appearance of Death as it pulls over its head the cold blanket of winter. But this year, summer digs in its heels, refusing to yield. And here I am, more than half a century old, climbing mountains and persisting in this damn fool ambition to be a writer, suddenly with success. Plodding on. Stubborn as summer.”

Justine Graykin is a writer and free-lance philosopher sustained by her deep, abiding faith in Science, Humanity and the belief that humor is the best anti-gravity device. Author of Archimedes Nesselrode, a book written for adults who are weary of adult books, she is producer of the BroadPod podcast. She lives, writes and putters around her home in rural New Hampshire, occasionally disappearing into the White Mountains with a backpack. You can find her on her website at www.JustineGraykin.com

The Wicked, Weird and Whimsical Words Halloween Blog Tour runs every other day October 23-October 31. Join us all five days for Halloween fun! Be sure to say hello on any post to be entered in a giveaway at the end of the tour.

Thanks to Justine Graykin for her guest post. Be sure and visit the other blog sites for fun Halloween-themed posts (including my guest posts). Coming up on Whimsical Words between now and All Hallow’s Eve: speculative authors L.C. Hu, Trisha Wooldridge, Elizabeth Black, and Gail Z. Martin.

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On July 31, 1965, English author, JK Rowling, was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England. By now, most of us have read at least one of her Harry Potter novels (or for those “I’d rather see the movie instead” folks – have seen one or more of the films based on her books). And many of us have heard about her journey from a barely-getting-by single parent to one of the most successful children’s writers of our time.

I won’t share the inspiring story of JK Rowling’s writing career here, but encourage the curious to visit her website: www.jkrowling.com and discover the details for themselves. What I will share is my gratitude to a writer whose fantasy series about a boy wizard, his friends, and their adventures encouraged many young people to pick up a book (or seven), and read.

Some books take readers on journeys whose destinations can only be reached in the imagination. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are those kinds of books. I thank her for the sharing her magical world and for inspiring me to write my fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean. And I wish her the Happiest of Birthdays!

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Skean copy Though I dislike competing “against others,” I understand that such contests raise the visibility of a book, or in this case, a book trailer. Authors need to do some of their own publicity, even if it’s outside their comfort zone. So I’m stepping into the scary world of promotion and asking for the help of my readers.
The book trailer for “The Enchanted Skean,” my YA fantasy novel from Mockingbird Lane Press, is competing for the You Gotta Read Video Award from July 21 until July 26.
So, dear readers, please go to: Http://yougottaread.com/category/video-contest/  and vote for #17 – “The Enchanted Skean.” That’s #17 – “The Enchanted Skean” by Vonnie Winslow Crist featuring excellent work on the book trailer by MLP’s Jamie Johnson.
Thanks!

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Sandra Saidak Thanks to fantasy author Sandra Saidak for stopping by and sharing how she’s used folklore in her writing. (As my readers know, this is a subject near and dear to my heart, too!)

Using Folklore in Writing Fantasy by Sandra Saidak

I guess I’ve always known about the shapeshifting seals called selkies. I’d heard at least a couple of old ballads, and even seen one printed up in a Beauty and the Beast fanzine. But when I began writing the story which eventually became The Seal Queen, I knew that selkies weren’t quite what I was looking for. I knew I needed some kind of animal shapeshifter, and since the book was going to take place on the southern coast of Ireland, seals certainly made the most sense.

It was while sitting in a Barnes and Noble with a hot chocolate and a copy of The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews, (a wonderful book, which I could not possibly have afforded at the time) that I discovered the roane. While similar to selkies, and just as likely to have their fur stolen and forced to become the wife of some fisherman, these gentle creatures were much more like what I was looking for.

I searched for more information, but could only find one folktale involving the roane, which I will briefly paraphrase here:

A seal trapper lost his knife while attempting to kill a bull-seal. That night, a stranger came to his door, asking to purchase a large number of seal skins. The trapper gathered together a sizable bundle, and while loading them onto the stranger’s horse, found himself pulled onto the horse behind the stranger, who at once rode them to the edge of a cliff—then over it, into the sea.

The trapper found himself in the sea cave of the roane. he stranger, who was actually a roane in human form, was now a seal. Gathered in the cave was a sorrowing group of roane, who surrounded an injured bull-seal. One of them, in human form, held a knife, and asked the trapper if it was his. Terrified, the trapper could only nod. Then, to his amazement, the roane handed him his knife and told him the seal could be saved if the trapper would draw a circle around the wound with the knife, smooth it with his hand, and pray for it to be healed.

The trapper did so, and before his eyes the wound closed and soon disappeared. The trapper swore an oath never to harm another seal and was taken home.

As soon as I read the story, I knew two things: these were the creatures I was looking for, and this tale would appear in my novel. So far, all I had of that novel was a scene in which a pregnant woman was fleeing an abusive situation, and then arriving on an enchanted beach where she could finally feel safe. There, she would begin to discover her own strength and resourcefulness. The themes I saw in the folktale—forgiveness, hope, redemption and healing magic—resonated so strongly that I knew this one little story would shape my entire novel. You can find my version of the tale in Chapter 22 of The Seal Queen.

Sandra Saidak The Seal Queen The Seal Queen’s Cover Blurb: “Drawing on Irish folklore, The Seal Queen tells the story of Briah, an escaped slave who finds sanctuary, for herself and her unborn child, on an enchanted beach. There her life is filled with contented solitude, the joys of motherhood, and even the possibility of love with a merman whose song haunts her dreams.

But Briah’s magical world is shaken when she discovers that her son is the long-awaited savior and future king of the roane (shape-shifting seals, and gentler cousins of the selkies). Briah wants to help these magical creatures, but is unwilling to see her son become a pawn in their deadly schemes. When faced with the choice between sending her child to battle his diabolical father or allowing the roane to be exterminated, Briah insists on finding a third option.”

Find out more about Sandra Saidak by visiting her on Facebook (Sandra Saidak) and checking out her website: http://sandrasaidak.com/

Her books can be purchased on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Saidak/e/B006C1QZR8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 Including not only The Seal Queen, but also Sandra’s prehistoric fiction series, Kalie’s Journey, beginning with Daughter of theGoddess Lands, an epic set in the late Neolithic Age and continued in Shadow of the Horsemen. And a story set in the Kalie universe can be found in Sandra’s short story collection, In the Balance.

Thanks again to Sandra Saidak for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a magical day! – Vonnie

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Skean copy The first reviews of The Enchanted Skean are in, and I couldn’t be happier. Now, I know that not all the reviews are going to be as positive, but I’m delighted that so far readers are pleased with my young adult fantasy novel.

First Amazon review: “5 Stars – What An Imagination. I loved this novel. It transported me into a three dimensional reality full of rich details and memorable characters. I only wish the second book were already published so that I could continue with the characters for the next phase of the journey. P.S. I really want a dragonet of my own!” – Dawn C.

The first review of The Enchanted Skean by Douglas R. Cobb appeared in New Yorker Times. It’s quite long, and I won’t include the whole thing here, but here are a two excerpts:

“Once you begin reading The Enchanted Skean by Vonnie Winslow Crist, you won’t want to put it down.”

The Enchanted Skean… is a remarkable fantasy novel that will have your enraptured from the opening page to the very last one. If you love reading epic fantasy novels filled with magic, myriads of cool characters and races, and plenty of warriors and action, I highly recommend you check out [this book]. I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book in the Chronicles of Lifthrasir, and you will, also, once you read The Enchanted Skean.”  To read full review: http://newyorkertimes.com/2013/04/theenchantedskean/ (Sorry, site has been taken down).

Curious about the book?  Here’s a link to The Enchanted Skean’s book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-8C9OkyJCU and a 3-chapter excerpt: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/books/the_enchanted_skean_excerpt

Thanks Douglas R. Cobb and Dawn C. for your reviews. I hope other readers like the book as much as you.

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Thanks to author Roy Huff for stopping by and sharing his journey as a novelist. And look for the FREE eBOOK offer at the end. Enjoy!

The Making of Everville: The First Pillar by Roy Huff

Roy Huff “There were several aspects in the creation of my first book and the first in a series Everville: The First Pillar that, I think, have helped make it a modestly successful debut novel. Perhaps the most important was that its initial inception came about as a descriptive creative writing paper for a college English class. This helped set the descriptive tone that was kept throughout the entirety of the paper. It also allowed me to get peer feedback without the pressure of writing a book. Once the creative writing paper was written, the response from fellow classmates encouraged me to turn it into a book.

I worked over the course of 18 months on the first 30 pages, then after much deliberation, decided to finish the novel in short order. Honestly, it was the concern over finding a literary agent and a traditional publishing house that delayed the completion of the book. But after doing a little research and reading John Locke’s ebook How I Sold 1 Million ebooks in 5 Months, I decided that I could make a book successful on my own. This helped me shape the creative aspects of the novel to fit my target audience and market the book more effectively. While I don’t agree with all the recommendations by John Locke, some of which I have serious reservations about, there was plenty of good advice in Locke’s book for me to use in moving forward with the publication process.

Roy Huff City of Worms Everville: The First Pillar was a fun project for me, and I’m having an equally fun time in writing the second book, Everville: The City of Worms, as well as continuing to market Everville: The First Pillar. Perhaps that most exciting aspect, aside from building a fantasy world and writing the story itself, is interacting with readers who have read and enjoyed the book. It has inspired me to continue writing and make an even greater effort to reach out to my readers as well as fellow writers. I am grateful to Amazon’s KDP program and Goodreads’ giveaway events, which can be used a platform for small independent authors like myself to reach a wider audience, and perhaps have a greater opportunity for commercial success.

To those aspiring writers, my recommendations are to hire a good editor, get your manuscript proofed and reproofed as much as possible, write what inspires you, never take no for an answer, never give up, and don’t be afraid to spend a significant amount of time promoting yourself and your book. Also, be willing to help others and genuinely invest in their success.

Roy Huff The First Pillar I hope to see you on Twitter @evervillefans, Instagram @owensageblog, Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/evervillefans, and my blog http://www.owensage.com/blog.html

FREE – May 12th through May 16th 2013: Download Everville: The First Pillar for FREE on Amazon during the 5 day Kindle ebook promo http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BCOQSSQ/ and enter the international signed Goodreads paperback giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/51905-the-first-pillar

Thanks again to Roy Huff for his guest Post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an inspired day! – Vonnie

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Skean copy The book world has changed enormously since my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, was published. Yes, I had to do school visits and storytellings, but most of the promoting was done by my small press publisher. The Vegetarian Resource Group secured reviews and in-person interviews, placed ads in print publications, and listed the book in their printed catalog. Brick and mortar stores, both independents and chains, carried the paperback and royalty checks were issued when sales were good.

Nowadays, authors with small press publishers are often responsible for securing their own interviews and reviews. And those interviews are usually done via the internet, whether later published on a blog or offered as a podcast. Advertisements in print publications have been replaced by book trailers on YouTube, online ads, and excerpts read on a computer screen. Online book stores have grabbed a huge share of the book market, and if profits are realized, an online deposit is made in an author’s electronic account.

So what’s an author to do? I say, “Embrace the changes and learn the new world of books!” And that’s what I’m trying to do with The Enchanted Skean, my just-released fantasy novel from Mockingbird Lane Press. For better or worse, the book world is changing, and this writer is trying her best to take advantage of the new technologies and the wide support network offered by the internet.

So please check out the following, and let me know what you think.

Alesha Escobar’s Blog Interview of Vonnie: http://www.aleshaescobar.com/feature-friday-the-enchanted-skean/

Larry Matthew’s Podcast Interview of Vonnie: https://soundcloud.com/larry-matthews/vonnie-winslow-crist-talks

Book Trailer for The Enchanted Skean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-8C9OkyJCU

Online 3-chapter excerpt of The Enchanted Skean: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/books/the_enchanted_skean_excerpt

And giving credit where credit is do, thanks to Alesha and Larry for doing the interviews, Jamie at Mockingbird Lane Press for the book trailer, and the readers who’ve bought the book. It takes lots of support to become a successful author, and I appreciate all the support I’ve received.

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