Thursday, January 19, 2017

Punctuation Woes (As in, Don't Do This if You Can Help It)

Two weekends ago, a post popped up on a Facebook group page I'm a part of. It said, "I just upload my first book on amazon." Not trying to be harsh, but the lack of correct grammar did have me hesitate. So I clicked on the link and went on over to Amazon, where I found the book and the description. It looked a little like this (but not exactly, as I don't really want you to find it):
Six young children get abducted by men.
Follow their journey.
Are they escape or not?
Yeah, more worry.

And then, I did the unthinkable. No, I didn't buy the book. I simply looked inside the book with Amazon's handy little feature. I cringed at the first sentence, which seemed amateur, at best, but then, I made my way to the dialogue.
"Do you have to do your makeup right now?," I asked. She stopped applying foundation on her face as she gave me a hatred look. "What?," I asked.
Gasp. Sputter. What?

I started to write a simple post on my Facebook timeline, something akin to: That very awkward moment where a person you don't know tells a group you're involved in that they've decided to self-publish and you go and check the book out and realize within the first three paragraphs that they have no idea how to use punctuation correctly and you wonder, "Do I tell this person or not?"

But I didn't want to call attention to myself or have people ask me what the name of the book was. I also didn't want anyone to think that I thought myself better than this person, because I do not. (I can say that I use punctuation properly and can craft sentences at a deeper level than what is shown in this book, but I will not say I am a better story writer, for I do not know if that is true. And, as we all know, writing is so stinking subjective!) Furthermore, if you're not quite sure what's wrong with the punctuation, I'll show you. The sentence should look like this: "Do you have to do your makeup right now?" I asked. (I'll ignore the incorrect use of the word hatred for now.)

So I canned the remark, and was left wondering: Do I contact this person? It is very clear to me that the author is young (I figured this out from the FB profile) and inexperienced (I figured this out from the writing). And while I have nothing against self-publishing, and may follow that road myself someday, this type of writing--the kind that never sees an editor--is the reason why self-publishing gets a bad name.

And so I asked myself: Would I want someone to tell me? The answer, of course, is yes, but the correspondence would need to be worded very carefully, so as not to cause any issues. Which means that I will not be sending any quick email to this author. My guess is that the readers, who we all know can be ruthless, will let this author know exactly what isn't so kosher with this book.

In the meantime, I'm going to head back to my most polished work-in-progress and get on some revisions, as well as check to make sure that my punctuation is practically perfect...


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Views

The other day, I posted a link on Facebook to a very informative article about Planned Parenthood and the funding it gets.

Someone I went to high school with--we were never friends, per se--commented. He said he read the article and felt sick to his stomach, which I found odd, considering the word abortion only came up once, in this sentence: "To really understand what federal funds pay for at Planned Parenthood, you first need to know that federal tax dollars don’t pay for abortions."

So what was he sick about? I'm not sure. But I didn't want a battle on my hands, so I felt that my response was pretty innocuous.

This prompted an email from said fellow. He wrote,
Christina, I apologize in advance if my questions are too personal for your comfort, but I feel compelled to ask. Have you abandoned your Catholic/Christian faith? What experience or experiences have you had that have shaped or caused you to turn away from Christ? I'm obviously making some assumptions with these questions, but seeing your posts lately has caused me to raise an eyebrow in both disbelief and curiosity.
First off, let me repeat that I went to high school with this fellow but I knew nothing of him past that until we became Facebook friends. He and I both attended a Catholic school, one that I spent all four years hating due to the hypocrisy that infiltrated the place. The first day I walked into that school, I felt ostracized, and while this isn't the forum to vent my rage, I could. I remember feeling despondent at having to wake up each morning and go to a school that touted Christian values but that instead was filled with people whose actions were anything but Christian. Four years of misery is a tough thing to get past, but I did. And while I didn't forsake my Catholic/Christian faith then, I probably could have.

Secondly, I have never and will never agree with everything the Catholic church has to say. Why? Because the rules and regulations of the Catholic church were not put there by Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit or even Moses. They were put in place by a bunch of dudes way back when. The Ten Commandments? Well, that's another thing altogether. I actually do, for the most part, try to live my life by the Ten Commandments. But here's the thing...I also believe in religious freedom and the freedom from all religions. So I can't impose my beliefs on anyone.

And that gets me to my belief that while yes, an abortion is not something I would choose to do, I cannot, under any circumstances, tell another woman that she cannot have an abortion. My body is not her body. Her body is not my body. I don't live her life and she doesn't live mine.


But that belief--a woman should have a choice whether or not to keep a pregnancy--wasn't even the point of the article. And that is why I'm annoyed at my acquaintance's remark. The point of the article was to help people understand that Planned Parenthood is there for so many reasons: namely, they provide preventative care, including testing for STDs and Pap smears. They also provide birth control and educational services, all the things a woman (and man) should have, but things that not everyone has access to unless a place like Planned Parenthood exists.

Now I'm the one making the assumptions here, but if he really read the article with an open mind, wouldn't he have understood exactly what it said? I think he and I will agree to have different views on this subject, and in the meantime, in case you're curious, this was my response to his email:
You can ask away. And right now, I am not sure this answer will be sufficient for you. I have not abandoned my faith. I still follow Jesus Christ but I truly believe that abortion is a personal choice. I would never have one, but I cannot tell a woman what she can do with her own body and I do not think that anyone else can. Furthermore, I have seen what happens when women especially do not have good access to medical care. And despite what you might think, PP and places like it use far more of their dollars for preventative care and education, which is so important for everyone to have. 
Abstinence education doesn't work. Even many of the die-hard Christians I know didn't wait to have sex until they were married. They were just lucky enough that their condom didn't break or that the woman was on the pill (and using that birth control shows they didn't subscribe to all of the "laws" of the Church in the first place). They were also lucky enough to have medical insurance. I won't make any assumptions about your family, but it seems to me that you've always had enough money and access to medical insurance such that a place like PP would never be needed. I hope it always is the case. 
While I have also been lucky enough to have medical insurance, I know many who have relied on PP for simple preventative care--men and women who will suffer greatly if this place is defunded. We have so many problems in this country, and I believe that my ability to empathize and work for the social justice issues that we see and to help out those in need is exactly what Jesus would want me to do. I suspect we differ greatly in our beliefs, and if I'm making you uncomfortable, then please, feel free to unfriend me. I will understand. I'm allowed to post my views just as much as you're allowed to post yours. I hope you have a great day and wish you and your family well.

Monday, January 16, 2017

He Had a Dream

In this divided country we live in, I think it's always a good reminder that someone, somewhere had a dream to bring us together.
I have a dream today! 
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. 
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. 
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: 
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. 
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring! 
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
Excerpted from the speech by Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream. You can read the entire speech, along with footnotes, here. (I've also put a link to a video, but I'm not sure how long the link will be active.)



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rant

Let me say this: Someone who says that anyone can write a book is just plain wrong. Because even if you write the book, every time you open that file on your computer, you think, "What can I do to make this better?" and you're sucked into a vortex or time warp and hours pass and then, you have a new version which could be better, or maybe you actually made it worse, but you can't know for sure until readers actually read it; and even then, after you've gotten fabulous comments from friends, you must find an agent, relying on one little devil of a query letter. You wait and hope and pray and get comfortable with rejection and ask yourself, "Why in the hell am I doing this?" and the only answer you have, because you don't have a published book in hand, is that you love it, love it, love it and can't see not writing, ever. And I think if you don't love it, it's harder to go through all of that and not fold like the proverbial house of cards. So back to the computer I go...


(And thanks for listening. I feel much better now.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fill-in-the-Blank

I've had a ton of fun taking writing prompts from over at S.B.'s website, and just yesterday, she'd posted the following: What's in a Title?

The labels under the post read: fill-in-the blank, new titles, one line and sci-fi, probably because the titles come from sci-fi books. Here's the list of titles to fill in...

A Brief History of __________.

The ______ My Destination.

Journey to the Center of _________.

The Invisible ________.

The _______ in the High _________.

______________ Player One.

The Moon is a Harsh ___________.

War of the _______.

____________ New World.

The ____________ Guide to ___________.

I decided to ignore the sci-fi non-requirement and filled the blanks in with a word that came from my week. Because I'd heard of all of these titles save two, it was somewhat hard to fill these blanks in...I kept wanting to go back to the original title!

A Brief History of Influenza.

The Call of My Destination.

Journey to the Center of a Rolo.

The Invisible Tattoo.

The Hottie in the High-Waist Jeans.

Assassinate Player One.

The Moon is a Harsh Pool Player.

War of the Americas.

Lit New World.

The Harlot's Guide to Anatomy.

I'd be curious to know what your answers would be to these titles. If you feel like sharing, please leave a comment! (And maybe, I'll get around to using these titles as actual writing prompts at some point...)



Friday, January 13, 2017

Social Interaction

I found this picture on Twitter yesterday. I think it sums up my point of view pretty nicely.

I'm not sure where the photo originated, but this one came from  here, I think.