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Murder on Marawa Prime, my science fiction murder mystery, was reviewed in Analog, December 2016 issue, in “The Reference Library” column by Don Sakers.

First, my thanks to Don for taking the time to read, then review my novelette. Nowadays, there are so many science fiction books released each year, that it’s hard to catch the eye of a well-known reviewer – much less have a good review published in one of the grand old magazines of science fiction, Analog.

So what did Don think? Here’s an excerpt: “Murder on Marawa Prime is a SF story and a noir mystery, set on a fascinating and well-drawn planet, all packed into a novelette that will leave you wanting more… The story’s tightly plotted, and author Crist does an excellent job of keeping multiple balls in the air while revealing the unique and deadly secrets that have brought murder to Marawa Prime.” – Don Sakers

Murder_Cover_CS_front Woot! This fabulous review adds to the positive comments (used on the front and back covers of the book) from several authors whose writing I admire:

“Inventive and entertaining – a real thrill-ride!” – Gail Z. Martin author of The Ascendent Kingdoms Saga and The Chronicles of the Necromancer series.

“Vonnie Crist serves up some deliciously dangerous interstellar noir in Murder on Marawa Prime. One part Raymond Chandler, one part Agatha Christie, and a huge dose of her own exceptionally clean prose and understated worldbuilding, this is a fast-moving nail-biter on a planet at once iconic and alien. Just one word of warning: don’t aggravate the geneered singing opossum.” – Charles E. Gannon, author of The Tales of the Terran Republic series.

“A fast-paced story of assassins, genetic engineering, singing opossums and betrayal, Vonnie Winslow Crist writes the future fantastic.” – Deborah Walker (also writes as Kelda Crich)

Interested in taking a look at Murder on Marawa Prime? You can find links to various formats on Pole to Pole Publishing’s website: http://poletopolepublishing.com/books/murder-on-marawa-prime/

 

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Today, of all days, it seems a difference of opinion is what it’s all about. But I’m not here to talk politics!

I did get drawn into a Facebook conversation about unicorns and Pegasus. (I know — my geeky side is about to shine).

Someone argued that a winged unicorn must be called an alicorn. I beg to differ. Alicorn is indeed a term sometimes used for a winged unicorn, but I believe the word means the horn of a unicorn. Originally, it appears alicorn comes from the Italian alicorno, alicorne meaning “unicorn.” And alicorno, alicorne appear to have their origins in a Latin word for unicorn: unicornis. (And I just confirmed what many have thought, I was one of the weird kids who chose Latin as my “language” in middle school and high school).

Alicorn remains a really cool word, just as the idea of a unicorn’s horn as a cure for poison is most magical. Alicorns or unicorn horns also appear on various coat-of-arms and other insignia, as well as in spell books and healer’s journals of long ago.

catseye_final-72dpi Which brings me to the first review of “In a Cat’s Eye,” the marvelous anthology of cat stories I recently edited (with Kelly A. Harmon) for Pole to Pole Publishing. I’m delighted with the review, and thank NerdGirl and NerdGirl Vamp for a wonderful review.

Alas, one of my favorite stories in “In a Cat’s Eye,” the reviewer, while saying it was good, didn’t really get. Oh, no!

But then I pause — language, politics, editing, and reviews all benefit from a difference in opinion — even if we don’t see it at first. For how boring this world would be if we were all alike.

 

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small owl light When I see a new review for my book has been published on a website, I always hold my breath for a moment as I click on the link. It shouldn’t matter what a reviewer thinks about my writing – but it does!

Many thanks to reviewer January Gray for her kind words. A sample quote: “A very pleasurable and magical book you will read over and over.” Thanks to January, also, for her 5 Star rating on Amazon. To read all of January’s comments about Owl Light, visit her webpage.

Owl Light has 5 reviews, all 5 Stars. Woot! I hope some of you might be interested in buying and reading this collection of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and ghost-tale stories. (And please post a review so I can read what YOU thought about Owl Light).

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The Greener Forest 300 dpi cover Every time I discover a new review of my books, my hands sweat and my heart thumps quickly. It’s always a little scary to see what a reader thinks of the worlds I’ve created. Perhaps they won’t like my story or language or characters or… Well, you get the idea.

I really appreciate my readers, and I try to not only please myself with my tales, but also, those people who part with a few dollars and open the (real or virtual) pages of my books. I’m thankful for readers and for their support, both when they purchase my books and when they take the time to review them.

Here are some Amazon reviews of The Greener Forest:

“A fantastic collection of short stories about the hazy boundary between our world and the hidden faerie world, with roots in archetypal fables (the good get rewarded, the bad get punished), but with branches extending into a more modern setting. Judging by the cover, I gather the author is also an accomplished artist, but sadly the interior illustrations were not made available in the Kindle edition. I wish I could have seen them.” – Mark Taylor  (Sorry Mark, Kindle versions usually don’t include illos. You can see some of the illos included in The Greener Forest on my website).

“Mrs. Crist has a wonderfully vivid imagination which is brought to life in these poems and stories. She is both an excellent writer and an extremely talented artist. The imagery in the poetry is beautiful, such as in “The Greener Forest”, “Late Winter,” and “Key.” What makes the stories truly touching and memorable are the relationships between the characters. “Birdling” reminded me of traditional stories of faeries and how tricky they can be. In “Appleheads” and “Blood of the Swan” the bonds of friendship and affection are truly magical and deep. In “Scarecrow” one is reminded to accept friendship no matter who or what it is from, and to do what is right despite what others say or think. As also in “Blame it on the Trees” we remember to look beneath the surface at what is within. Finally, we learn to respect the natural world, for it is very much alive, and the home of many creatures. Some of the other stories were very short and I wanted more from them, but nevertheless they were still imaginative and well-written. Well done Mrs. Crist. Well done. ” – AM

And a link to a post with earlier reviews of The Greener Forest Intrigued? Why not buy a copy?

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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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Networking, that ambiguous term that means a friendly chat that may or may not result in a career opportunity, works. I’ll give you a few examples to prove my point.

About 10 years ago, I was selling my books at the now non-existent Bel Air (MD) Book Festival on a sweltering day that ended in a cloud-burst. A woman looked at my illustration & book display, asked for contact information, and said she was thinking about starting a magazine. I smiled, chatted with her briefly, handed her my number, and never gave the conversation a 2nd thought. Several years later, I got a call from that woman, Fran Johnson, who was now editor/publisher of Harford’s Heart Magazine, and she offered me the chance to write the magazine’s book review column. And how I even came to be at that book festival is another tale of a friend of a friend suggesting the festival organizer contact me.

 Nearly 30 years ago (yikes, I’m dating myself here), I was standing next to a woman in an aerobics dance class and she was complaining about the illustrator she was using for a cookbook she’d written. I said I could do the job. She asked to see samples. And that was the start of not only a multiple-book working relationship with Bobbie Hinman & Prima Publishing, but the opening of a door that led me to The Vegetarian Resource Group. And  in addition to doing design & illustration work for VRG books and pamphlets, I’ve been illustrating The Vegetarian Journal for 25 years now. Perhaps most importantly, my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, was published by the VRG.

 In 2009, as President of the Maryland State National League of American Pen Women, I was putting together an Arts Day. I needed women editors for a literary panel. Fran (see above) was busy, but I called a few women I knew who edited literary magazines and a friend who was working for an e-publisher, and had a wonderful group of women for the panel. (All of whom I met through networking). But I still needed a woman editor from a commercial publication to round-out the panel. I looked at the magazines on my shelf, and with little hope of a “Yes,” called Kim Cross of Faerie Magazine. To my delight, Kim agreed to come to the Arts Day and participate on the Women Editors panel. We amicably chatted that day, and have since developed a friendly relationship.  And because of that networking opportunity, I’ve contributed both fiction and nonfiction to Faerie Magazine.

 Which brings me to the newest bonus of networking. For years, I’ve help lead Balticon’s Poetry Workshop (Balticon is the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s Annual Convention). There, I met author & editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Danielle was editing an anthology of short stories about dragons for Dark Quest Books, and agreed to let me submit a story. The story was selected, Dragon’s Lure was published, and then the book was reviewed by Professor C. of BSCReview — now, BoomTron. Professor C. loved my story, so when my new book, The Greener Forest, was published, I asked him if he’d be interested in reviewing it. He said, “Yes.” And the resulting review and interview can be found on the wonderful BoomTron site: http://www.boomtron.com/2011/04/the-greener-forest-by-vonnie-winslow-crist-review/  and http://www.boomtron.com/2011/04/vonnie-winslow-crist-interview/

Would any of these things have happened without networking? Maybe. But I think writers, illustrators, and anyone looking to expand their professional opportunities need to keep their eyes and ears open to networking possibilities. You never know who might be next to you in line at the grocery store or where that conversation at a meeting might lead.

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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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