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Posts Tagged ‘Folktales’

 At the recent FaerieCon, I attended a clay sculpting workshop led by the delightful, Patricia Hedegaard. (Shown to the right of text). Ten attendees were each given a lump of clay and 2 black beads. We borrowed Patricia’s ceramic tools, and with her patient instruction — 10 strangely different goblins were born.

 And though the medium is different (words instead of clay), creating a goblin character for a story is much the same. The writer begins with a heap of words and possible ideas in her head. She begins to separate the words, stringing a few together at a time, and eventually shapes them into sentences.

 Next, the writer gathers the sentences into paragraphs. She edits her descriptions, reveals the goblin through its actions (rather than telling), double-checks her folklore and legend references for accuracy, and tosses the faery creature into a plot with a few twists and turns.

 And if the writer is lucky or skilled or a little bit of both — a well-rounded goblin character appears. Whether the nasty, nose-picking spriggans of “Tootsie’s Swamp Tours & Amusement Park” or the mischievous gremlers of “Waiting for More” or the shape-shifting bogle and goblin from “Appleheads,” I had fun creating an assortment of goblins and their kin for my new book, The Greener Forest, due out in March 2011 from Cold Moon Press: http://coldmoonpress.com  And I also had fun creating the little goblin to the left.

My challenge to you: Take time out of your busy schedule to create something magical whether in words or clay or the medium of your choice. And check out the brand new publishing company – Cold Moon Press.

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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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 Ghostly folklore, legends, and family stories are fertile soil for growing fiction of spirits, specters, the dead and undead. An example of this is my short story Bells.

Step one, start with what you’re familiar with by recalling and jotting down memories. For me, I remember seeing (for a split second) my great-great-grandmother beside me in the wavy mirror of my great-aunt’s home.

Great Aunt Georgie lived in a small town in western New York state known for its lake-effect snows. But it wasn’t the winter I recalled. For the first 20 years of my life, my family and I spent the Fourth of July in Phelps, NY at a family reunion with dozens of assorted cousins. And I remembered the leather strap of bells attached to the front door handle that clanged every time the door was opened or closed.

Step two, look at family memorabilia and photo albums. I leafed through an old album and spotted a sepia-toned picture of my Great Aunt June and Great Uncle Clifford. Then, I returned to step one and wrote down down a sleigh ride story Uncle Clifford had told me.

Step three, add some facts to root your fiction in reality. Mentioning actual locations, traditions, regional or national events, or historical figures all work well. Aunt Georgie’s house was located on the corner of Park Street and another road, and Oaks Corners wasn’t too far away. My father-in-law did indeed drill holes in his family’s Christmas tree’s trunk and filled-in the bare spots with whatever greenery was handy to create a fuller tree. And train gardens (HO, N Gauge, and American Flyer) are a part of my family’s traditions.

Step four, mix it up! Use your imagination to scramble facts and make-believe. In truth, Aunt June out-lived my great uncle by 15 years.

Step five, identify your theme and use your writing skills to gently shape the story. Re-order, tweak, polish, trim, expand – whatever is needed in the writing to make the tale flow smoothly from beginning to end.

So writers, use these steps to compose a ghostly story. Readers, try to figure out where the truth exists in some of your favorite ghost tales.

As for me, I followed these same steps when creating my zombie love story: The Return of Gunnar Kettilson due to appear shortly in Cemetery Moon magazine. But I’ll leave you guessing as to which parts are memory, which are folklore, which are fact, and which are make-believe.

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 The saying goes: Faeryfolk live in old oaks. And I love faeryfolk. Maybe it’s because I adore oak trees and made tea party place-settings from acorn tops when I was little. Maybe it’s because I wove huge daisy chains and danced every chance I got in mushroom rings. But ever since I was old enough to hold a book, I’ve been fascinated with fairy and folktales and the creatures who populate those stories. And though I adore the butterfly-winged fairies that sail the breezes and ride mouseback to great celebrations in the deepest parts of the forest, I like lesser-known and darker members of Faerie, too.

Trolls are one of my favorites. The under-the-bridge troll of The Three Billy Goats Gruff is fearsome indeed, but the trolls of the northern woods of Scandinavia are often viewed as nature-helpers. These trolls are responsible for tending plants and animals. I decided to make the trolls in the fourth tale in my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, non-threatening. In fact, they’re comical in appearance and quite fond of snow, unicorns, and playing chess.

Another one of my faeryfolk favorites are stray-sod pixies. Stray-sods have grass growing from their backs. They settle in a meadow or other grassy spot and wait for the unwary pedestrian to step upon them. As soon as a person steps on its back, a stray-sod twists, turns, and confuses the careless hiker. Stray-sods are one of the faeryfolk I’ve included in a novel-in-progress I’m working on.

I’ve included a kelpie in a poem. A kelpie is a waterhorse who waits in moving water for a foolish or curious person. Climb onto a kelpie’s back and you’re likely to be at least dunked if not drowned and eaten. But there’s also something touching about a horse with a shaggy forelock partially hiding its wide set eyes poised at the edge of a stream begging to be petted. Perhaps the kelpie is truly lonely and not just hungry.

And what of the swan-maidens of Celtic tales? Healers and were-creatures of great beauty and shyness, I’ve often wondered under what circumstances would they be bold and vengeful. That bit of speculation resulted in my short story, Blood of the Swan, due to appear in a soon-to-be-printed anthology.

Even goblins make appearances in my writing. I have several varieties of the much-hated goblin race in my looking-for-a-publisher YA novel, The Enchanted Skean. Though there seems to be little to love about them, the main character, Beck, wonders if the goblins also have names and families. And spriggans, rude and obnoxious cousins of goblinkind, appear in one of my short stories currently “out” awaiting a publisher’s decision to accept or reject.

Mermaids are sometimes portrayed as sirens luring men to their death. I played against that type in my eShort, Sideshow by the Sea. Still, I didn’t discard the death-by-merfolk idea all together. Though the protagonist, Dusana, is a sweet girl – the mermen in the story carry knives with sharp, curving blades.

So as spring arrives, sit under an oak, read a fairytale, and look for the lesser-known faeryfolk. Perhaps they’re peering at you from behind a shrub, dangling from a branch above your head, or skulking in your cellar way. Just beware, all fairies are tricksy!

Learn more about Vonnie’s writing at www.vonniewinslowcrist.com

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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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