Miffed Monday: Talking Down

I really can’t stand it when an author arrogantly presumes that he’s smarter than I am.

This sort of thing occurs more often in nonfiction than in fiction, really.  The closest thing that exists in fiction is when the writer makes some snide, pseudo-sneaky jab at a group of people who hold a particular belief, when the comment has absolutely nothing to do with the overall plot or purpose of the story.  That’s not quite what I’m getting at, though.

What I’m referring to is when a nonfiction author, in an attempt to make his own opinion seem valid, begins his argument by cutting down the intelligence of anyone who holds an opposing belief that happens to be more popular than his own.  When I was in college and my nonfiction reading consisted of literary criticism and scholarly analysis of great literature, it didn’t bother me as much.  Sure, it existed, but I really couldn’t get myself worked up when someone proclaimed that Symbol A, which is widely accepted as meaning Idea B, really means Idea C, and anyone who still believes it means Idea B must lack the literary genius to see otherwise.  Eh, fine, whatever.   Even if I think Idea B does make more sense, I don’t really care about it enough to bother feeling insulted.

When I read a nonfiction book on a topic of my choosing, however, things change.  It’s a topic that I’m already invested in and, therefore, already have some opinions on.  When an author implies that I’m stupid for having those opinions, I’m less inclined to really give his own opinions any honest consideration.  It’s fine, of course, if the author disagrees with my opinion or holds a different point of view.  Odds are, I gathered that much by their title, book summary, etc., and simply decided to read their book in hopes of gaining a better understanding of their beliefs.  That doesn’t mean said author needs to insult my intelligence in the process of validating his own.  Setting that tone tells me that, really, cheap blows is the best that author is capable of.  And if that’s the impression the author gives me by his own words, then why should I bother to finish reading his book?

Example time.  I recently started reading a book about the relationship between science and ethics.  Basically, the book is supposed to show that people can use science to form a moral code.  I’m a Christian, so my own code of morality comes from my faith, and I tend to believe that morality overall depends on a divine source.  But I also know that atheists/agnostics/etc. are perfectly capable of holding themselves to a moral standard.  I also know that some use science to justify their beliefs.  So, I decided that I wanted to read how that worked.  I had no intention of changing my own beliefs, but I was still genuinely curious.  Within the first few pages of the introduction, however, the writer essentially said that anyone who turns to faith/religion as the foundation of moral truth is backwards, dangerous, incapable of rational thought, and would ultimate doom us all.  (Not his exact words…but close.)  Oh?  Is that so, Mr. Author?  Well, I guess you’re just too smart for all of us, then.  Too smart for me, too.  Guess there’s no point in reading the rest of your book…

This begs the question:  why do people — authors, in this case — who think they’re so smart feel the need to insult a group of people who don’t see things their way?  I mean, are they that insecure in their own opinions that they need to clarify, before they do anything else, that anyone who disagrees with them lacks intellectual capability?  Because I’m pretty sure that if you insult anyone who disagrees with you, you probably won’t convert any of them to your opinion.  Which means that, basically, an author who relies on that method will only be making points to an audience who already agrees with him.  That’s fine for what it’s worth, but then, said author probably shouldn’t be framing his book as though it’s meant to turn minds and stimulate thought among people who think differently.  Just sayin’.

Sheesh.  And I thought I was supposed to be the stupid one…

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Friday Find: Peculiar Writing Contests

So I have this nifty book/calendar — A Working Writer’s Daily Planner: Your Year in Writing — that has various tools and tips for writers looking to organize their writing life.  A good portion of the book lists various writing contests, which is how I found this first peculiar contest…

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges writers to create the worst possible opening sentence of the worst possible novel ever.  Excessive-yet-grammatically-correct clauses and punctuation are encouraged.  Writers can enter as many submissions as they want, but should keep their fake sentence below 60 words or so.  All work must be original and previously unpublished, and the official deadline is April 15.  The contest has been going on since the early 80’s, and previous winners (and their sentences) are also available on the site. (Since they’re all only a sentence in length, it doesn’t take long to read through them.)  There are some pretty creative sentences on there…and some pretty humorous ones, too.

After I read through that contest, I decided to do some random searching for others.  That’s when I found…

Silver Goggle’s, “The Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter: A Steampunk’s Shakespeare Anthology.”

…Which basically translates into Shakespeare-meets-steampunk.  Essentially, writers are challenged to re-invent classic works of Shakespeare, giving them a steampunk bent.  You can choose to write 10,000 words based on one of his plays or adapt any of his sonnets.  Use as much Shakespearean language as possible, but you must include steampunk elements as thoroughly as possible — in other words, it has to be unmistakably Shakespeare and unmistakably steampunk simultaneously.  Deadline is May 30.

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing either contest, honestly, though I’d love to try my hand at both.  I mean, purposefully writing a really bad, drawn-out opening sentence?  How awesome is that?  And the idea of steampunk Shakespeare sounds like an absolute blast.  Still, the first contest’s deadline is rather soon, and I’m not sure if I understand the steampunk genre thoroughly enough to do a proper job of the second task.  But these were both quite a find, if you ask me, and worthy of being passed along. 🙂

The Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetramete

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Brain Fuzzies

Everyone always blames Winter for over-staying its welcome, but is it possible that we’re looking at it all wrong?  What if Winter isn’t to blame, but Spring?  What if Winter really wants to part ways, but Spring, ever-so-fickle, is simply throwing a temper tantrum, upset that so many of us ignore its call and continue about our everyday lives?  Perhaps Spring, in a desperate, selfish effort to grow our affections for it, is trying to make us long for it more and more by appearing for a few days before disappearing again without a trace, leaving us to pine for it and wonder, ‘Where has Spring gone?’  Winter, then, ever-dutiful, decides that, well, some season has to stick around, and if Spring won’t do its job properly, then what choice does Winter have but to fill in during Spring’s absence?  Poor Winter…receiving all the blame for Spring’s selfishness…

Anyway.  What was I supposed to be talking about?  *glances at title*  Ah yes, brain fuzzies.

I hate brain fuzzies.  Well, I imagine most people probably do.  After all, they make it impossible to concentrate, cause a person to become easily distracted, and dry up creative juices.  When brain fuzzies invade, there’s little room for anything else.

Because of these brain fuzzies, I’ve been finding it immensely difficult to focus on writing.  I don’t currently have a writing project that I’m actively working on, and trying to decide on one is proving difficult.  I have old ideas I can look to, but…eh.  And I’m able to come up with new ideas, too, but they all seem to lose their luster after a few days.

I think part of my problem is that my writing life lacks the structure it had when I was in college.  For a college paper, I needed to be able to form ideas, organize those ideas, and write them out in a logical, meaningful way in order to get my point across as clearly as possible.  It wasn’t creative writing, of course, but it forced me to view writing in general as a process — an idea that transferred over into the creative writing realm.

I think I could benefit from giving myself a writing project that forces myself to structure my thoughts more.  I need to re-introduce a bit of discipline into my writing routine.  I have a nonfiction idea buzzing around in my head and, while it won’t be fun to write about, it’s a topic that interests me, at least.  I don’t really know how to write a nonfiction book, as I’ve never looked into it and never had any previous desire to write nonfiction, but I think it might be worth looking into.  Even if I don’t get anywhere with it, thinking along the lines of research and structure might help drive the brain fuzzies away, opening my mind up to more creative endeavors, as well.

I still have to read up on the topic a little more before I can decide for sure whether or not I’ll be able to write on it.  If I do decide to pursue this project, I’ll post about it then.  In the meantime, I also have a few short story ideas that I plan to work on.  I haven’t written any new short stories lately, but I do enjoy writing them.  And with my (currently) limited attention span, I’m probably more capable of finishing a short story right now than a novel.

Anyway, that’s that.  Now I’m curious.  Has anyone reading this experienced brain fuzzies in the recent past?  And if so, what did you do to clear them up?  Or, if you’re currently experiencing brain fuzzies, how do you plan on driving them out?

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Fury of the Phoenix — Released! (Or, ‘Amazon, here I come’)

You. Yes, you. Drop what you’re doing and head to Amazon.com to order Cindy Pon’s Fury of the Phoenix. And actually, while you’re there, you should probably order yourself a copy of Pon’s Silver Phoenix, too…that being the first book, after all, with Fury being the sequel.

The novels fall into the fantasy genre — my favorite — but, instead of the standard European setting found in most fantasy, these have an Asian backdrop. The change of setting, along with an intriguing plot and an endearing protagonist and love interest, made the first book a huge hit with me. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the sequel ever since I finished the first, and it’s finally here.

Also, Cindy Pon is holding a contest on her blog to celebrate the release. You’ll need to read the book before you can take part in the contest; however, she’s also offering some pretty awesome swag to those who help spread the word about it. Make sure to check it out.

Aaaand…that about covers it, I think. Just for good measure, here’s the contest link again: http://cindypon.com/2011/fury-meets-mad-men/

Here’s a summary of Fury of the Phoenix taken from the author’s blog, too:

“When Ai Ling leaves her home and family to accompany Chen Yong on his quest to find his father, haunted by the ancient evil she thought she had banished to the underworld, she must use her growing supernatural powers to save Chen Yong from the curses that follow her. Part supernatural page-turner, part love story, and altogether stirring, Fury of the Phoenix further heralds the arrival of Cindy Pon as a stellar author of paranormal romance and fantasy.”

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Miffed Monday: Love Triangles

A brief note:  For anyone who happened to read my first post and happens to recall that this wasn’t my original Monday title…I changed “Monday Monstrosities” to “Miffed Mondays” because the former sounded strange. Well, this sounds strange, too, I guess. Oh well. Don’t be surprised if I change the name again.

Now then. Onto more important matters.

I’ve really begun to loathe stories structured around love triangles. I admit that I was never fond of the concept in the first place. (Do I fail as a girl for having never possessed a desire to have multiple guys simultaneously vie for my affections? Is that really so appealing? Because I’m just not feeling it…) But with each cliche love triangle set-up I ran across, my initially mild dislike deepened, slowly gnawing away at my vague sense of feminine pride. And now, every time I read the something along the lines of, “Which hott guy will Mary Sue end up with?” I throw up a little inside my mouth.

Because, let’s face it, folks: without even opening the book or watching the movie, we know which guy Mary Sue will choose. And it’s rarely ever the one she should choose. Rather than the dear, close friend who would pretty much sacrifice his life for her, Mary Sue would rather spend the rest of her days with the bad boy, the dangerous guy with no future who treats her like garbage a good 80% of the time but really, really cares about her deep down…in an obsessive, somewhat possessive, and frequently creepy way, of course. Fine then, little miss Mary Sue. Fine. Go have fun ruining your life.

Yes, yes, I realize it’s all fiction and nothing I should be getting so worked up over. But if fiction is really rooted in reality, anyway, then isn’t this trend sort of indicative of something? Are girls and women of all ages really that hung up on chasing after bad boys? I certainly hope not. If anything, most (single) girls I know tend to complain that they can’t find any good, decent guys. So what gives? Why do the good guys in contemporary books and movies get slighted so often?

Granted, I’ll admit that not every love triangle works this way. Sometimes, the girl is forced to choose between two good guys. Those are more tolerable scenarios, but I still usually feel bad for the guy who doesn’t get chosen. Well, unless the reader is given some indication that the non-chosen guy will fall in love with another girl or live an otherwise happy life even without doing so. I am then sufficiently appeased, and can count the story as a happy ending.

There are also those love triangles in which the guy who seems to be nice at the outset is actually a scumbag, while the awkward, initially hard-to-deal-with guy turns out to be amazingly kind-hearted and generally awesome. In these situations, the heroine, as soon as she discovers the truth about both guys, wisely chooses the latter without a second thought. Far from disliking these stories, I actually tend to like this set-up.

So I guess I’m not miffed with every love triangle I run across in fiction. Just a certain type. An unfortunately very common type…

Maybe it’s just me, though. Am I the only one who finds it annoying when a fictional heroine chooses the bad boy over the nice guy? Or does anyone else get irrepressibly irked by it, as well?

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Friday Find: Heroism in Japan

My first “Friday Find” is more on the serious side rather than the entertaining side, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, was a devastating blow to the country, and a lot of tragic stories came out as a result. But there have also been some rather inspiring stories, too.

I saw this story on Facebook the other day. Supposedly, this man — Hideaki Akaiwa — braved the cold, powerful waters of the tsunami in order to rescue his wife and mother. How does someone even manage something like that?

Click on the picture to read the full story.

Then there’s also the fact that there have been no reports of mass-looting in Japan. Have things been stolen in the wake of the disaster? Possibly. But not on a mass scale. The Japanese people, overall, seem to consider looting as dishonorable. Imagine that.

(More info here.)

And, of course, there are all those in the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, working to prevent meltdown. It’s pretty scary stuff, even for those of us living clear across the ocean. Imagine how much courage it must take to actually be there.

Click the picture to read more.

A lot of truly amazing stories have come out of Japan, and it’s a shame that more of them don’t get more coverage. Have you heard any other amazing stories coming out of Japan? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Let me know about ’em by dropping me a comment.

In the meantime, please also continue to keep Japan in your thoughts and prayers.

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The Obligatory “Hello” Post

Writing a “hello” post seems a lot like talking to the wall.  Essentially, you’re talking to yourself, and the only way somebody else will really hear what you’re saying is if another human being just happens to walk past during your bout of rambling.  If you’re starting from scratch, your blog has no readers, and there is absolutely no guarantee that you will ever have readers.  And, even if you do eventually have people reading your blog, why would any of them ever think to go back and read your “hello” post?

Come to think of it, an entire blog can easily consist of nothing but one’s ramblings to oneself.  Blogs need to be interesting, or else, people won’t read them.  Bloggers need to be interesting, too, in order to come up with interesting things to write.  Bloggers also need to be relatively sociable within the blogging world — go around the blogging neighborhood, so to speak, introducing themselves through insightful comments and taking an interest in other people’s thoughts before they can dare hope someone might do likewise for them.

My previous blog had no readers.  (Well, actually, there was my sister…but still.)  It was uninteresting.  I was somewhat unsociable, and I rarely updated it.  My hope for this blog is that it will do much, much better, but I admit that I am somewhat skeptical about how things will turn out.

That said, I do have plans for this space, so I’m already off to a better start than before.  This blog will be mostly devoted to my life as a writer, so many of my posts will likely have something to do with writing.  But, because reading about someone’s battles against writer’s block is not always the most interesting thing in the world, I have a few other things planned as well.  With “Monday Monstrosities,” I’ll write about various story cliches and such that are absolutely abhorrent.  “Friday Finds” will be about anything I happen to stumble upon and find interesting in a given week, whether it be a good book, a funny YouTube video, an interesting song, or anything else.  In between the two, I’ll just write about writing.  Current works in progress, questions/random thoughts about writing, and the like.

And that’s that.  I promise to make this as interesting as I know how.  So please read.  Pretty please with a cherry on top?

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