Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Carole's body parts meme

Her head and chin resting in her hands, her elbows on her knees, and tears streaming from her eyes and across her cheek, Molly remembered his cheek as he had elbowed her when he saw her eyeing the tear in Fabio's shirt. No, he had not taken it on the chin, telling her that he (k)needed her to love him alone..with all her heart, mind, body and soul. That would mean toeing the line.

(added this as a comment then realized it should've been a post.)

Body parts meme

I'm so close to completing The New Sirens--working title of the sequel to Seaborn, that I took time tonight to go back and look at notes from my writing/crit group for the early chapters. One of the sentences called out as "nice" in chapter one is,

She kicked higher, pulling Shelly by the hand, one foot bounding off Ochleros' arm, up to his shoulder where she set her feet down and leaned an elbow against the sea-demon's ear.

Forget about the context, sea-demons, who Ochleros or Shelly is, or whether this sentence is really "nice," and focus on the hand, foot, arm, shoulder, feet, elbow, and ear. That is a nice pile of body parts in one place, seven of them. I didn't do this on purpose, it came out in the action. She's in the water, kicking to a nice high, comfortable place--and as everyone knows, sea-demons just love to have their ears elbowed.

Okay, it's meme time:

How many body parts can you plausibly jam into a sentence without simply listing them? Internal parts as well. I for one would like to read a sentence with "lung," "earlobe," and "big toe" in it.

Not going to tag anyone. I'm going to x-post. Open to all. Leave a sentence in a comment here, or post it on your blog, journal, or wherever you soapbox.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

DreamCast for Wind Follower

Okay, deep in my heart I want Wind Follower to be a super CGI film, but if we decided to use a human cast instead of an animated one, here is my dreamcast for Wind Follower:

First up, the Pagatsu household.

Loic should be played by Takeshi Kaneshiro

Or James Duval who is of Vietnamese-French heritage and was in the Native American Film, The Doe Boy.

Both of them are good, I think. Except that perhaps they are a bit old for the part. And they aren't animated beings.

The actress Gina Pareno would be Jontay

Andy Lau would make a grea Taer.

Firmine Richards would make a great Monua

Now I have to find a dark-skinned black actress for Satha...although I really feel Jennifer Hudson would be a great Satha.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Personal Demons countdown

A countdown timer for Stacia's next book:

Here's the code to copy and paste if you want to place this on your site:

<iframe scrolling="no" style="width:214px;height:314px;" frameborder="0" src="" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0"></iframe>

Stacia: I stuck the countdown script on my blog, but you can post it anywhere. You can find it here:

Top Ten Signals the Book is one of Mine (Sylvia Kelso)

Top Ten Signals the Book is One of Mine (Sylvia Kelso)

1. Most often it’s written in first person, sometimes two or even three voices of same. I like first person for the potential to bias and limit the viewpoint, and even better, produce an unreliable narrator. I also like present tense, much to some readers' protests.

2. The characters are smart – all of them. (I get told this, so I hope it’s true.)

3. The hero has a Very Bad Time, not limited to lots of angst.

4. The fantasies, if not the SF, can often be tagged as moral Swords and Sorcery. The point isn’t having power so much handling it morally.

5. There are some literally explosive endings – volcanic eruptions, that kind of thing.

6. There are always politics, NOT intended as allegories of ours, and they’re complicated.

7. The land – or landscapes – are conspicuous, important, and beautiful.

8. The protagonist can be male or female, no apparent continued bias to either.

9. The style is also noticeable. Apparently you’ll either love or hate it. I don’t plan for that, it just happens.

10. There’s more than a dash of sex, not always straight, and the occasional dash of comedy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Top ten signs a book was written by me (Chris Howard)

Top ten signs a book was written by me (Chris Howard)

1. Half the book takes place underwater.

2. The other half is no more than three miles from the coast, on board a ship, close to the water, you get it.

3. There's at least one good line in ancient Greek ...têi kreagrai tôn orchipedôn helkoimên es abysson.

4. At least one of the families--the protag's or some other major characters'--is really messed up, capital D Dysfunctional--hell, capitalize all the letters.

5. Someone commits suicide--usually for a cause.

6. There's a brutal internal struggle going on--I love plot lines around characters fighting themselves, fighting some change in themselves.

7. Female protag. I haven't written a male protagonist in the last three novels.

8. Someone is brought back from the dead--sometimes many someones, sometimes many times, sometimes armies of them.

9. One of the characters is from the Azores. (I can't say why this is, some deep fascination with the islands, I'm thinking).

10. Aristotle is mentioned in a favorable light, if not all out gushed over. "Greatest hacker who ever lived, man."


Top tipoffs you're reading a Carole McDonnell story

First person with strange narrative or third person with strange narrativeI tend to always write in the first person. Frankly, I'm scared of the third person narration. When I do it it feels flat and banal. I simply cannot write it straight. Plus...when I write in the third person, the characters seem distance. Unless I make the story a fairy-tale or very stylized.

Estranged Brothers/Family Outcast/In-law problems/Isolated from society, clan or casteYes, although I have no brothers. Brothers separated through ideology or family circumstances seem to abound. Seems something external to my own life has so affected my brain that this idea has become a part of my subconscious. I wonder if it was because I read King Lear and loved it so much. This occurred in my short story, Homecoming at the Borderlands Cafe (published in Jigsaw Nation) and in Wind Follower.

Very kind people/Moral TreacheryI suspect that like Blance Dubois, I live trusting in the kindness of people. I love kindness. But I also love moral treachery. Betraying friends. I can only think I was influenced by Tristan and Isolde, and by Wings of a Dove. Manners and societal issues are very important, especially etiquette. As Talking Heads sang, "I hate people when they're not polite."

An ill main character.Whether it's mental illness, physical illness, developmental delay...all my stories have at least one character with a life that has been thwarted by some grievous emotional or physical wound. My story Black is the color of my true love's hair, published in Fantastical Visions III has an Irish knight who is riding home from the Crusades who has been wounded by a sword...and the wound is incurable. My characters also cannot sleep.

Sexual issuesAh me! I think sex is so dang complicated. Sex used as a sleeping pill. Sex used as a means of comfort. Sex used to manipulate. I don't know if any of my characters have ever had any kind of sane sex. Relationships between older women and young men. Loic in Wind Follower had mother issues. In addition, most of my characters truly don't believe they are loved. Often, the love that another person has for them is all they really have.

Morbid introspection/Religion/Existentialism/WorldwearinessMy books always have some religious issue. Sometimes there are political issues fighting against it. Accompanying this religious atmosphere is often a heavy dose of morbid introspection. My characters are too honest with themselves about their temptation and sin.

Married protagonistsInterracial/intercultural marriage, odd combinations, or May-July relationshipsRomance is about finding the right and perfect person. Often one of my characters falls in love at first sight. In my story characters are always thinking of marriage. Marriage is the most romantic of journeys. Then there is life versus love. Can the love survive?

Hubby is white and I'm black so I guess that explains why I do interracial relationships. My characters don't fall into the typical physical ideal.

A challenge to my readersI can't help it. I don't like to think of myself as argumentative but I always have to get some political point into my books, and I totally don't care who it offends. Some sections in my books can make a reader angry or uncomfortable.

A poetic normalcyI love normal life. I like sincerity in stories about normal folks. I read a lot of memoirs and nonfiction and my narration feels like a normal person is narrating it. Yet the narration has to be lyrical and beautiful and poetic.

Religion, The Supernatural and GodThe supernatural is such an important part of my life. For some religion is all about dogma and doctrine but Biblical Christianity has a lot of supernatural stuff in it. Plus I'm Jamaican. The Jamaican and the Pentecostal mentality in me always has to make religion supernatural. My characters often need some supernatural event to help them out of their fix. They are also very aware of sin. Redemption and the love of God is very important. Even if religion isn't Christianity, I'd like to think that something in the book shows my relationship with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Top Ten Signs a Book was Written by Me

This is a little meme that's been going around, I got it from the Fangs Fur & Fey livejournal community (and posted this there too.)

I'd love to see my fellow Juno authors' Top Tens!

1. Third person. I'm not a fan of first person and don't write in it. My romances are, of course, written from third omniscient, but my urban fantasy is strictly from the heroine's POV.

2. Absent Families. Either they're dead or they're just a bunch of jerks, but not one heroine I've ever written has had a warm family relationship. Fathers often sell their kids out. Mothers are cruel and distant.

3. Everybody drinks like they're trying to keep up with Dean Martin. And they drink all sorts of things. The heroes might have a preference for Scotch, but basically, if you show a bottle of booze to a character in one of my books they'll drink it.

4. Twist endings. Not all of my books have them, but the large majority does. Either the villain's motives aren't what they seemed, or the guy we thought was the bad guy isn't. Even if it isn't a major plot point (it usually is), at some point we're going to be surprised.

5. Smoking. Yeah, I know. Not everyone smokes, but enough people do that it's safe to say if you pick up one of my books chances are somebody, some time, is going to smoke a cigarette.

6. Smooth dialogue, everybody is smart. Nobody is stupid (at least nobody we're supposed to like), not even the characters who never had an education. They may not know algebra but they have agile minds, and their dialogue tends to be quick and clean.

7. Manners/the man pays. Oh, yes. My characters use each others' last names regularly and often wait to be invited to use firsts. My men open doors, believe in "ladies first", prepare drinks, and always pay for meals (unless the heroine specifically does the inviting.) They get a little anal about it, too, sometimes. Even my poor uneducated men know how to treat a lady, and that's how they see them, too--as ladies.

8. Everybody has great sex. Like I said, my heroes believe in ladies first.

9. Heroes are dark/heroines are slim. Both personally and physically. I'm another one who just doesn't find blond men terribly appealing as a rule, so my heroes have dark hair and dark eyes. Most of them have Deep Secrets too, or if they don't they're just plain criminals. Also, my heroines tend not to be curvy. They're slim, small-breasted, probably not particularly tall, and average pretty.

10. Violence/stuff explodes/car chases/infernos. Oh how I love action. People in my books are always running, away from the crazy guy with the knife or the evil spirit they don't yet know how to defeat. They're in the car breaking laws as bad guys shoot at them or hordes of vampires chase them. Fire is everywhere. Houses catch fire, warehouses, corpses, heroes are fire demons who can burn stuff to a crisp just by thinking of it--now that I'm thinking of it, if something isn't burning yet in one of my books it's probably at least been foreshadowed. Just give it time. Everything burns.

I have also done a preliminary Stacia Kane website. It's here. If you have a minute, check it out. I think it's pretty blah, but as I said on livejournal last night, I really find GoDaddy's "Web Site Tonight" web builder to be difficult and painful to use. It's slow, it's not very customizeable...argh. Just a pain in the butt. So please be kind. :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

In defense of romance

I have a writer acquaintance... a good soul who is way more famous than I am...a good person... except that she doesn't think much of romance. She belittles it often and very often bewails the fact that people feel compelled to put a love story into a novel.

Well, I tend to think romance is important. All the divorces, all the broken-hearted children of divorce, all the grieving lonely folks out there....all attest to the importance of romance (or the lack of romance) in our lives. A good romance lightens the heart. A sour romance destroys the spirit -- usually temporarily, often permanently.

Romance novels are about the pairings between people. In heterosexual novels, they are about the creation of a family. Jane Austen wrote novels about marriageableness because she felt class, personal idiosyncracies, and intellect all must work together to create a good marriage. And why was Jane so interested in marriage? Ever read her life? Ever studied her flaky mother who had pretensions to gentility and who sent off all her children at birth until they were of age to return home? And didn't accept one particular son because he had a mental and physical defect, sending the kid off forever? Ah, of such a life is a romance writer born!

I write romance because all around me I see the effect of love and weird marital pairings. Generally, my characters are married and involved in very loving, very unhappy marriages. Being American, I was taught by television romance that marriages were either loving and happy or unloving and unhappy. But as I grew up I began to realize there was something very untrue about that. I was surrounded by loving unhappy marriages. People with sick spouses, insane spouses, sick children, sick parents, poor lives. The love and faithfulness they showed each other certainly wasn't mirrored often in the stories I saw on television. On television, people gave as reasons for their divorce: "I've fallen in love with someone else" or "my mother-in-law broke up my marriage" or "we married too young" or "I just couldn't take it (whatever it was) any longer" or "we were poor and that just destroyed our marriage."

Honestly, there were a few divorces in my neighborhood but folks just didn't divorce that quickly. Perhaps because they were poor, perhaps because they were very religious (Orthodox Jewish, Evangelical Christian, and Roman Catholic) but they just kinda endured and created an odd kind of deep enduring love. And it's that enduring that fascinates me. What is that deep part of the human soul that enables them to be faithful to someone throughout all kinds of adversity? Why does a woman stay with a drunk husband because she loves him? Why does a handsome gorgeous husband stay with a fat overweight sickly wife because he loves her? What is that love about? Even now, when I walk around my neighborhood and listen to old women whining about their old husbands, I'm amazed at how much love is present in such hard marriages.

I am also very interested in the decisions -- generally, the small decision that ultimately destroys a life...or makes that life harder than it should be. Young folks are always making bad decisions without quite realizing it. And women, alas, when they marry are often pulled into a strange weird ride by their husbands. That's what happens in Wind Follower. That's what happens in many marriages. You hitch your wagon to that horse (or star) or mule (or dull asteroid) and many people stick it out. Why?

I am also fascinated by inequalities in love. There is a french saying, "There is always one who kisses and one who turns the cheek." Loose translation: "one person often loves more than the other." What's that about? I'm still unsure if my character Satha is even in love with her husband Loic. But I am sure that Loic loves and adores her. Hey, I've seen enough instances of my poor female friends hooking up with rich guys simply because they can get a better life. And what's wrong with that? If a poor woman is pretty and has the opportunity to marry a rich adoring single guy...I say go for it. Not feminism, I know. But many of the feminists I know haven't been as poor or desperate as some of my hood friends who grew up without fathers or without a proper home.

That also dovetails nicely into stories about a character's need for an extended family (or not) affects marital choices. I grew up in an extended family, shunted from family member to family member after my father deserted my mother for another woman. What happened? I married into a large Irish clan. I had a choice between a guy with virtually no family and a guy from a large irish clan. Guess what I chose? Luckily I was lucky. My marriage is a good loving one, but I'd say that health issues etc has made it fall into the category of loving-but-hard marriages. Which I am beginning to see is very common.

So that's what I write about. Not that I believe a romance novel actually enlightens us about who or how we love. But at least, we examine it. And that's what romance is about, isn't it? The examination of love in its deepest most enduring aspects.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Juno Books widget update

Here's a no-countdown version of the widget I posted here.

The directions for use are almost the same. A few differences: you can include a blurb in this version and this one uses the cover images from This one's also a little narrower (180 pixels wide) so it can be used sidebars all over the Web.

1. Download the widget code here. (Right-click, Save Target As...)

2. Open the file up and change the book and link information to your own.

3. Save it someplace on the Web, someplace you can get to it from a web browser (For example, here on FBTO).

4. Change the "src=" link in the following IFrame code to the file you saved in Step 3, and place the IFram code in your blog, web page, anywhere, pass it around to all your blogging friends, readers, fans.

Here's the IFrame code:

<iframe scrolling="no" style="width:180px;height:322px;" frameborder="0" src="" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0"></iframe>

Here's an example with Wind Follower:

Please post a comment here with questions--if you need help getting your book information, help with placing the widget code somewhere on the web. You can also email me with questions:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Aiming High

I'm going to sound awfully vain right now but hey....

I expected Wind Follower to be on a lot of best of lists. Now, part of this is normal writer expectation. When writing, most honest writers truly believe they have written the best book in the world. (Hey, you have to be conceited enough to survive in this publishing world.) The other part is that, well, I was a literature major in college. That's all I did. In fact I never took any writing classes. So reading all those wonderful literary works, one gets this idea in one's head that one day one will do a great work also.

Well, Wind Follower was on a few best of lists. A few. Several reviewers placed it in their top ten favorite books of all time. Some included it in their best of the year list. Some liked certain aspects of it.

But the resounding universal praise for it just isn't there. (Okay, I'm whining...and I know it.) One reason for this is that many people still haven't heard of it. Another reason is that the book, like all books, isn't to everyone's taste. Very few books, great or not, is liked by everyone. If one considers all the lists out there -- in this case, all the speculative fiction lists-- very few books are on ALL those lists.

At first I was feeling a bit forgotten, rejected and alone. But then I got sane. Or as sane as a writer can be. I'm a debut author, after all. I have to aim high. And herein lies the big decisions: Lord knows what aiming high actually entails. Many reviewers loved the originality of my setting. Question: should I aim for another original setting? Many reviewers loved the beauty of the language. Again, the same question: should I try to repeat that in my next work?

The search for the perfect reader, I'm beginning to realize, can be a self-denying self-thwarting search...especially for people-pleasers with rejection issues. What if I don't want to write another story like Wind Follower? At least not now? What if something grittier, less lovely, less fantastical calls me? What if something within me wants to write a book about sexual healing in contemporary time? Would those who love my original setting follow me into contemporary realms? Would those who love beautiful language want to hear harsh urban sounds? Would those who like its Christian elements turn against me if I write a book that is frankly very political and racial?

I've asked my hubby and friends who they believe my perfect readers might be. They tell me that all my stories are very heart-felt, barebones emotions, aching. They say that my core readers will be people who like to be taken on a devastating, but truthful, heart ride. There will be concentric circles and tangential circles filled with other kinds of fans: those who like Carole McDonnell stories when she writes about black issues, those who like Carole McDonnell stories when she writes high fantasy, those who like Carole McDonnell stories when she writes about religion, those who like Carole McDonnell stories even when she has a miserable noble failure. Etc, Etc. And there will be circles completely far from these circles: those who do not like Carole McDonnell stories at all.

The thing for me to do, however, is to write...and to see clear...and to create only those stories that God and my soul need me to write.

So...come what may, come new story -- whatever you are-- Onward. And welcome to those of you who will be my core fans. -C