Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poem: The Princess and the frog

Some frogs do not become princes
no matter how long the kiss
how deep the love.

We must tell our daughters this
especially if they are kind-hearted
especially if they are loyal.

Some fairy godmothers
must challenge us
and lock us in chains
to prevent us from attending the prince's ball.

We old women must acknowledge this.

This is not something that can be told to princes
They don't listen
And they rarely believe that they were truly frogs.
And they tend to believe in their supposed transformation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Being both a Reviewer and Author

I have a somewhat harsh review coming out next month on Fantastic Stories of the Imagination 

Well....harsh for me.

As a reviewer and an author, I'll just say:

1) I hate being given a bad review. But if it's a bad review, I like it if the reviewers actually offer constructive criticism. I tend to do that when I review. I like it if a reviewer is fair and knowledgeable about themselves and their own biases (especially when it comes to race, sex, and religion.)

I've challenged reviewers about three or four times. All  those challenges I considered valid:

I once had a white reviewer lecture me on what Africans really think and why my story Changeling  was so bad and so entirely wrong for Griots, the african anthology it was in. Apparently I -- a black woman-- didn't know African culture as well as she --a white woman who had travelled to Africa-- did. All the Africans I knew loved my story by the way. In addition this reviewer named what she thought was the best story: the only story written by a white woman. I answered her review/bog and said it was interesting that the story she considered the best was the only story in the african antho that was written by a white woman. She didn't know the story she loved was the only story written by a white person but I could only think that she had been trained to like certain types of writing and was unaware how deeply inculturated she was while she was challenging me on culture. So I had to call her on it.

Another reviewer (Neth) hated one of my novels (Wind Follower) and said he couldn't finish it because nothing happened in it. He said among other things he was tired of women being saved by men. I answered him that it isn't a good idea to review a book one could not finish, that the format of that novel was a romance and romances had different rules, and reminded him that just because he wassick of women being saved doesnt mean blck women are sick of it. Black women saved by heroic princes was new for us. We were always the mules of the world and our vaginas were not on pedestals. So should minorities who are now just getting their literary voices shut up because white folks have"already said that." I was right but I shouldn't have done tht because some bloggers like seeming important. To this day this blogger/reviewer posts my comments everywhere. I've been told that other bloggers dislike him because he likes to feel important and probably loves it that an author challenged his review.

One reviewer said she would "anthropology geek" me and correct me about Wind Follower and various folklore issues. She began complaining about what was wrong with my anthropology. I just said no! She concluded I was touchy about my writing and said, "Well, some writers like being told where their mistakes are so they don't do it again." But the truth was that if I create a fantastical world with its own religions, cultures, histories, and social mores -- how can someone come in and tell me about folklore when it's my anthroplogy in my own created world was wrong?

The last reviewer I challenged hadn't been so bad at all...he had "kinda liked it" but he was still dismissive about the writings of a black woman fantasy writer and I hated that dismissiveness. Moreover, I had been so suicidal and depressed while writing that novel that it hurt to see someone dismiss the novel (Wind Follower) that had helped me commit to live.

So I try my best as a reviewer to remember how a bad review feels. I critique many stories by writer friends and I am a tough critiquer. So when I review published books I tend to fall into critiquer/beta reader mode. The trouble with this mindset is that the book I'm reviewing is already published by the time it's in my hand. When I find myself getting annoyed with the book's editor for not helping the writer, I feel the harsh relief is valid. Because I know I care about the writer's future books.  Will see how it all comes out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Speculative Fiction Blog hop catch up

Yep, i totally need to catch up.

Amelia Smith 
Amelia is working on a five-volume epic fantasy series with an allegorical slant. The story follows a group of friends as they grow up in a world falling apart. Book One, Scrapplings, starts just before the main characters meet and covers their first season together.

Here's the link to the whole post:

S B James.

SB, who is a steampunk author, blogs about her writing process and her series, The Inventor's Son. SB is also planning to do a mash-up of zombie tropes. Bring it on!

Here's the link to the whole post:

Dean F. Wilson.

Dean is the latest author to take up the story of his writing process.

Dean is the author of the fantasy series The Children of Telm, and short stories about The Memory Magus. He is now working on a steampunk novel (yay!).

Says Dean:
I write in the fantasy genre because of the freedom it gives me to tell amazing stories that are, on the surface, fantastical, but underneath explore real human issues.
Here's the link to the whole post:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Poem: How to speak to the dying

Do not tell them, "You will live."

They have already seen utter darkness or glorious light

and they will despair and fall inside themselves

because they are not believed.

People don't like being disbelieved.

So you must acknowledge that they are ending

and put aside your own comfort and your need to comfort

and hear them out.

But you must not sit there like a log either.

You have a heart; engage.

You must talk as well.

This is important whether or not the dying is able to speak.

If they are awake or in a coma.

At all times you must make your presence known.

Your full presence, I mean.

You must not be absorbed in the television show

hanging atop their hospital bed.

Even if it's the last of the ninth in the world series.

Except of course, if they are absorbed.

And then, if they are watching the game,

You must gauge yourself

match lightness to lightness, frivolity to frivolity, emotional heft.

If they attempt to resolve some hurt between you

be brave and honest and resolve it.

There is not much use holding a grudge against the dead

but be aware sometimes the dying are still selfish

Although they know they should not be

Although they know they are quite wrong

And have perhaps lived cruel lives.

If they continue to do harm

even on their death bed

challenge them;

why should the weak, frail, and dying

still have power to harm you?

But you must not be the one

to dig up old bones

or to remove skeletons from closets;

I see no point in being cruel.

Particularly if the dying are old and set in their ways.

Why do you think your words will enlighten them now

when words have been useless for so many years?

But you must speak of other things,

the good things in your heart

the loss you will feel when they are gone.

And when the dying goes silent,

And the monitors proclaim death's power

you must continue speaking.

For the soul does not immediately leave the body

synapses do not immediately stop firing.

Tell them you will see them again. . .soon.

Tell them to visit you in dreams. . .

Monday, September 08, 2014

Speculative Fiction Writing Blog Hop: Carole McDonnell

Hi all:

I'm up today for the spec-fic blog hop:
Thanks to  Jessica Rydill, author of Malarat and Children of the Shaman  for telling me about this blog hop.

 Here's a review of one of her books: 

The person who came before me in this blogpost was Harry Manners. Harry Manners is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. A Physics student and obsessive reader, his debut release is the epic post-apocalyptic fantasy trilogy, theRuin Saga. He lives in Bedfordshire, England with his family. When he's not writing, he studies Physics at the University of Warwick, reads a ton-load of books, and generally nerds out—for which he is staunchly unapologetic.

His book is Ruin (Ruin Saga 1) and here's the blurb:
It's been forty years since the End. The world lies in ruins; empty, and quiet. Famine is rife, society is on the brink of failure, and the last survivors are dying. When a barbaric horde bands together to conquer the British Isles, those determined to save the remnants of civilisation must stand against them, as the last war of mankind begins. Here is his post from last week

Thanks to all for including me in this blog hop.

My name is Carole McDonnell

1. What am I working on?

I'm currently working on several fantasy novellas and a YA contemporary fantasy called My Life as an Onion. I've been working on Onion for ages. I tend to write epic fantasy. But this urban-fantasy novella popped up and I couldn't turn my attention from it. Onion is my dumpcake novel. I'm dumping all my neuroses and issues into it. I'm also working on a few novels.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work tends to be rooted in Christian cosmology and are about tribal and racial dynamics. Folks who have never read me often think my stories would be exclusionary because I am so concerned with race and religion. But after they've read my stories, they find them very universal. My stories are pagan, anthropological, multicultural, and Christian epic fantasy. Yet they transcend race and religion. My characters are Black but my stories are not really afro-centric, although they have racial concerns. My genre is called sword and soul. Even when I write steamfunk -- the black equivalent of steampunk-- my stories transcend race.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I've always found the world to be quite magical. To write anything that is purely mainstream or which happens in a closed universe seems false and untrue to me. I thought Christian fantasy was too European and white. I thought black scifi was too African. I wrote Wind Follower because I wanted to write pagan epic fantasy. I wrote The Constant Tower because I wanted to write a fantasy that didn't use European archetypes.

4. How does my writing process work?

Sometimes I dream of a character or characters. Sometimes an idea looms in my mind and won't go. Sometimes I get a vague, dimly-seen setting or premise that persists. If the idea persists, I just write and see where the story goes. In the beginning, I trust my subconsciousness, serendipity, coincidence, and whim, to bring everything together. I only start taking control of the story in the editing/rewrite phase...which is after I see how the story is presenting itself.

My stories present themselves in little snippets. Usually at night. I go to bed and thoughts come to me about what else to add into the plot. Corrections also come this way. Even if I'm not thinking about a story, my mind often is. I suddenly get informed by my mind that something needs to be clarified, changed, added. I end up with a mental list of stuff to do on all my WIPs.  Sometimes I keep paper and pen by my bedside so I won't forget (and so I can sleep.) In the mornings, I get up and work on a story with the intention of clearing this list. I try to clear my mind of everything that came to it during the night. Usually, the list has ideas for all my current WIPs.  So after I've finished updating one story (with the stuff on my list), I go to the next WIP and then the next...whether a review, a religious nonfiction book, a short story or a novel. After my mind is emptied of all the new twists, plot advances, review commentaries, I continue writing because the new stuff usually has opened new avenues in each of the stories. If I'm writing a novel or story, I often listen to music. I also fill my day with watching korean dramas or listening to sermons on the internet.

After a story has advanced about five or so pages, I go back to see what kind of world i have.

I love worldbuilding. The truest worldbuiling is to make the world similar to ours: for instance re: religion: some areas will be very religious and some areas very scientific where some scientists might believe in magic/spirits and some don't. It's best to make it a world where folks behave similarly to those on earth:

The people to be found in any country include: indigenous population, newly-arrived immigrants, descendants of sojourners/immigrants, travelers on business, travelers for pleasure, slaves from other races/cultures, descendants of those slaves/servants, descendants of conquerors (if the indigenous population aren't the majority population), outlaws/refugees/fringe people/illegals fleeing other countries. Then there are people who are part of these groups but who create a subset all their own..such as the disabled of all races, the poor of all races, the outcast from all races, classes, caste, and status. And, yes...there are also other (non) human races to deal with: spirits, faes, malevolences, things inorganic, organic, living, dead, material, spiritual, in between.

Technology often connects to wealth as well. A poor fisherman in a village might just have a little boat, a rich merchant in a large town: The fisherman can afford a boat that runs on steam... and both would have different or maybe similar ceremonies when going out for long voyages. Depends on their culture, their wealth, their legal status.

I write until the story sorts itself out. I tend not to lay clues, hints, foreshadowing because i really don't know what's going on in my stories. But if I see anything that needs amplifying or correcting or streamlining, as I discover the world I'm building, I tweak. I always try to present all aspects of a culture so when i figure out the religions, castes, clans, class, technologies I try to put in people from all permutations of those castes and religions.

I tend to go where the love is. If i find my heart leaping when a character is mentioned, then I go with that as a main character. Sometimes I realize a character is also a main character or an important character because i love him so much. That's what happened with Ephan in The Constant Tower. Originally he was a warrior, but after I described him I fell in love with him. And when I discovered (in the fifth or so draft) that he was an albino, I realized that this culture treated albinos differently than warriors. But it was Ephan's personality that caused all that.

I also drop into my story whatever might serendipitously pop up in the day. So if i discover a curious fact on the news that day, I slip it into the story, trusting everythng will all come together. I also try to write down every thought that comes to me about the story ...even if it's out of order. So I end up using a lot of placeholder scenes. If a placeholder scene takes place in the "future,"  i write the scene in the end of the document or find a place in the latter part of the story where that scene might take place. Then on that sme day I go back through the draft to plant little references to lead to the placeholder scene. I try to link everything I'm writing to stuff already written, and stuff that is supposed to be written. It keeps me from forgetting plot threads and characters.

In the editing phase, i often reassign dialogues, characters, even chapters because I realize they belong elsewhere. I turn infodumps into dialog, description, internalization. If I've made any generalizations about a person or a world or a situation, i try to make scenes where the generalizations are shown in a specific manner. I try to see if there are missing scenes, or a missing chapter, missing plot threads, or a missing sentence. If I discover lost threads or missing threads, I find a point in the story where I can fix that. Then I layer the new plot-thread into the story, fusing it into the rest of the novel and interweaving it.  I like finding these great moments when the new layer merges perfectly well into the old WIP. That always feels like destiny, as if the layer I discovered had always been there --and was just waiting for me to find it.

After i've written a story, i send copies to beta readers. While they crit the story, I make sure all pronouns are used properly. Words like he, his, this, that, there,  are made more specific so there is no confusion about pronoun referrents. I try to make every setting, person, description clearer.

That's about it.

Next up Dean F Wilson  whose blog  will be up on 

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11 and has published an epic fantasy trilogy called The Children of Telm (The Call of Agon, The Road to Rebirth, and The Chains of War), in addition to several poems and short stories. He is currently working on a new steampunk series. Dean has also worked as a journalist for TechEye, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer.

Previous Posts: 

Jessica Rydill:
Jamie Maltman:
Marilyn Peake:
Nic Wilson:
David Pagan:
Travis Hill:
Cherise Kelley:
RJ Crayton:
Sandra K. Williams:
S. Elliot Brandis:
Elle Chambers:
William D. Richards:
Michael Patrick Hicks:
Cat Amesbury:
Heidi Garrett:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Poem: The dark

I fear it's the same as in the old days
Do Jamaican parents still delight in terrorizing their children?

I'd like to forgive it
to say that my mother and her siblings were country folk
so as they laughed like idiots
at making their children tremble in fear
they were ignorant --
not aware that they were building a cavern of fear in our souls.

It's hard, though.

I can forgive the lies they told.
Yes, they were conscienceless in the way they
told self-serving stories to keep their children in line.
I can forgive that.

I can forgive their beatings
and the belts they named:
Stinger with its metal-tip,
Scorpion with its cruel sting.
I can forgive that.

Because they were country folks 
and whuppin was what they did cause they loved you
and wanted to set you on the right path.

But the fear and trembling I strive to forgive.

Because there was spite in their cruel power
when they told us of cruel ghosts inhabiting the dark
when they lay in wait behind walls -- belts in hand-- ready to strike
when they told us what happened to little girls
who do not listen to their mothers and who did not wipe their hands properly

because they had such petty joy in creating terror in us,
because surely there was some other way to make themselves powerful in their own eyes --
other than stampeding kids' hearts.

Because even now the cavern of fear they built inside me
is still operational
when the phone rings
when the mailman comes
when I feel some sudden change in my body.

Because these are seeds 
my mother, aunts, and uncles planted in me
and all that terror
all that fear
is still ingrained
and ever blossoming in me.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Poem: Spin

I'm not wise enough

or insightful enough

to see beyond

the web of the cultural narratives

being spun above ny head!

I cannot push an envelope

if I'm unaware of its size

or go outside a box

if I don't know its shape

but I'm wary of

how certain stories are framed --




I cannot, will not, challenge.

I wouldn't know where to begin.

Nor am I particularly argumentative...

but yes,


I suspect Spin!

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