Monday, December 30, 2013

GLADD is Really Quacked-Up on This One.

                                              GLADD is Really Quacked-Up on This One.

Everyone has their opinion of the GLADD, A&E, and Phil Robertson sage.  GLADD and other organizations were petitioning A&E to remove Robertson from Duck Dynasty because they viewed his comments as "hate speech".  While the term may mean different things to different people, my complaint is it seems so many activists define hate speech as "Expressing a position on a critical social issue different from the one I want expressed".  They develop an Orwellian view of speech something like:  "All speech except hate speech should be tolerated.  Speech that disagrees with my speech is hate speech."

What people need to understand is tolerance means not only getting others to tolerate your ideas, but getting yourself to tolerate the ideas of others as well. There's no question in my mind that the leadership of GLADD has an unwavering opinion they are right in their actions. Their own website says they are "Fighting Media Defamation of LGBT People for Over 25 Years." While I do not think that in itself is a bad cause, I personally find fault with their tactics. It seems ironic that an organization so devoted to expanding one type of freedom for a class of people is also so willing to take away another type of freedom for another class of Americans.

GLADD sees themselves as the loser in this incident. They failed to achieve their objective of stopping the expression of a viewpoint they believe wrong. I see the American people in general as the victors instead. At least in this one case, the right to express an opinion has been protected. Ironically, this benefits GLADD as well as all Americans.  They are one of the most controversial or cutting-edge organizations in our society today, depending on your viewpoint. What would their position be in if someone considered their speech too extreme and tried to suppress it?




Monday, October 14, 2013

Blond or Blonde? The definitive answer.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it is unclear if the origin of the word is Germanic, or Romance. Whatever the case, it was re-introduced into the English language from the French language in the 1600s.

French has two genders: masculine and feminine.  It's a hard concept for native English speakers to understand that a noun can have a gender attached to it. However, it is important in the French language.


The form of an adjective in the French language changes depending on the gender of the noun it modifies. If an adjective modifies a feminine noun, an e is normally added to the end of the adjective. Thus, in French the correct form of blond is homme blond for blond man and femme blonde for blonde woman.

Whenever a noun is imported into the English language, it virtually always drops its gender. Blond is a very rare exception. For one reason or another, the word blond has retained a hint of its gender.  Thus, if the noun modifies a clearly feminine noun such as woman, the adjective is blonde woman. Otherwise, the correct form is blond, such as blond man.

So there you have it. Amaze your friends as one of the few people who get the correct spelling of the adjective every time.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beware the man eating chicken!

There's a sign on a fence at a local theme park that says 'Six foot man eating chicken'. Next to it is a knothole that you're supposed to look through. When you peer in, you see a mannequin of a man eating what looks like fried chicken.  The mannequin is presumably six feet tall.

The joke is you're expecting to see a chicken that is six feet tall and eats men.  When you see something else, you laugh and say something like 'oh, you sure fooled me.'  Interestingly, the park staff was correct in their use of the English language.  It is the readers who are misled.

This is why writers often use hyphens for temporary compounds. Had the staff of the park actually wanted to say it was a chicken that eats men, they should have written 'Man-eating chicken.' Of course there's no such thing, and they would never have occasion to write that.

Another example is the difference between 'Man eating shark' and 'Man-eating shark.'  The presence of the hyphen provides clarity, the shark eats men.  Without the hyphen, the reader could assume it is a man eating shark meat, which is plausible yet different from what the writer may have intended.

The rule is when a temporary compound is used as an adjective before a noun, it's a good idea to include a hyphen to show the reader the two words are intended as an adjective.  An example of a temporary compound is putting the words 'fast' and 'moving' together to get 'fast-moving'.   This phrase when put in front of 'van' says 'fast-moving van'.  Otherwise, the reader could mistake what the writer intended to mean a moving van that moves fast.

I'd like to say due to my superior knowledge of the English language I instinctively know about temporary compounds and hyphens.  The truth is, up to a year ago I had no clue when to use hyphens.  Then someone critiqued an article I wrote and pointed it out. It was very embarrassing to me.  My hope is that by reading this post someone else out there can avoid this pitfall.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's wrong with this song title?

What's wrong with this song title:  You Make Me Feel Like I've Been Locked Out Of Heaven?

If you're a word nerd like me, the answer should jump out at you.  The usage of 'Like' is wrong.  It should be You Make Me Feel As If I've Been Locked Out Of Heaven. We don't expect song writers to have perfect English. In fact, they often intentionally use incorrect English in order to play with the words or sound folksy.  We do expect writers and editors to have perfect English, however.

If you're one of the countless people who have wrongly used like and as if, don't feel stupid.  Many otherwise competent writers of English make this mistake. Yours truly has made that error himself.  It's what I call a word trap and there are many in the English language.

Determining the correct usage is actually quite simple. Like is a preposition while as is a conjunction.  The correct use of like is when a noun or object follows.  He ran like a sprinter.  As should be used directly in front of a verb or clause.  He ran as if he were a sprinter.

That's all you need to know.  Using the correct word is not hard at all once you know the rule and it will allow you to avoid a lot of embarrassing mistakes.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Is There No Shame To This Activity?

I received a disturbing e-mail today.  Someone is offering a Nook as a prize to one lucky contest winner.  There's one catch. To enter, you have to get onto Amazon and give his book a five-star review.

I guess I should not be surprised.  Less than honorable activities have been going on there for quite some time. What is surprising, however, is the openness of the activity.  One might think cheating in this matter is done secretly, under the table, and the person doing it wants to keep his shame hidden.  But to send a mass e-mail to people he does not even know?

We've known there is a lack of objectivity in the Amazon reviews.  Almost every review is a five-star one. People are getting their friends to write reviews, signing onto bogus accounts, paying people for reviews, and now this.

One would think that Amazon would be most concerned of all.  Activities like this assault the brand and undermine their credibility.  Do they take action? The guy posting does not seem to think they will. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is Jealousy a Bad Thing for a Writer?

I'm about to make an admission many writers are afraid to make. I am envious of other writers' works. Even jealous, coveting. When it comes to other people's literature, I must be breaking  the Ninth and Tenth Commandments at least.

When I read an awesome work by another writer, I go through several phases.

  1. Awe – I am captured by the story and especially the main character.  I read it continuously and even when I have put it down for the moment, I'm still thinking about it.
  2. Jealousy – I think to myself  'I wish could write that well'.
  3. Depression – I'm down because I don't think I'll ever be able to write that well.
  4. Evaluation – I look at the story in detail to try and figure out why that story was so successful.
  5. Improvement – Everything I write from this point on is better because of what I have learned from studying this author's work.

As an example, I'm reading the YA Dystopian novel Divergent.  Many people think the plot is a little absurd, but I can easily see how it became a #1 seller.  The main character's narration is awesome. She jumps right out of the book and talks to the reader. 

I spent yesterday in the jealousy and depression phases as a result of what I read. I envied the writer's ability to make a character jump out of the book like that and was feeling down I could not to it that well.  However, today I was able to analyze and evaluate why I as a reader relate so well to the narrator. And, as I worked on the finishing touches of my novel Bear Dreamer, I was able to make my main character's voice stand out just a little more. So, I guess it was worth dancing with the Devil for a couple songs.

Yes, some of my emotions look pretty bad on the surface. However, as a result of these negative feelings my next work will be better. It's a lot like a weight lifter who works out until his arms are sore.  When he gets over the soreness, he is able to lift more weight.

I really don't think jealousy in this instance is an evil thing as long as it does not drive you to wish bad things on the author.  If disciplined properly, it can be a force to help you improve.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Promotion Has Gone Cuckoo

The big story this week has been the jumping of The Cuckoo's Calling from obscurity to number one on Amazon soon as it was revealed it was actually written by J.K. Rowling.  As with most news stories, there are several angles. Let me present mine.

This situation is about as close to a controlled experiment as we are likely to see in the publishing world. A well-run experiment has three types of variables.  Controlled variables are things that are kept the same. Independent variables are things that are changed by the researcher. Dependent variables are the results of the experiment, which are determined by how the researcher manipulates the independent variables.

In this case, the controlled variable is the story, which remains constant throughout.  The independent variable is the familiarity of the author, which is changed from an unknown (Robert Galbraith) to the best known (J.K. Rowling). The dependent variable is the amount of book sales.  By now, everyone knows the results of this experiment.

 The conclusion is no matter how well you can write if no one knows who you are you will probably not sell many books.  In an ideal world, the sales of a particular book are a direct result of how well-written it is and nothing else.   We do not live in an ideal world.

Today's authors must be promoters of books as well as writers of books. A mediocre book that is promoted well will almost always sell a lot more copies than a well-written book that is promoted poorly. It may not be right or fair that a writer must learn to promote himself and his works, but that's the reality we are stuck with. Otherwise, you could be as talented as J. K. Rowling and still not sell many books.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tolerance means more than you think.

I have just finished helping a fellow writer by critiquing a male/male romance story.  What is interesting is, I am a devout Lutheran who believes in strict adherence to the teachings of the Bible and also believes that same Bible condemns homosexuality.  So, why would someone with my religious belief system support a story about a homosexual romance by helping the author critique it?  The answer is it is my opinion the writing profession demands it.  Of all the disciplines, I believe writing should involve the free flow of ideas, even ones I or someone else may disagree with.

It is not up to any one individual to judge what is right or wrong; or appropriate or inappropriate.  We are all equal in that the most we can do is say it is our opinion this is right and that is wrong.  God in heaven has perfect knowledge of right and wrong and the most any of us can do is pray for knowledge of His mind and hope we are doing His will.

I'm sure many gays and social liberals are applauding my words at the moment. They may be joyful that they have 'gotten through' to another religious conservative.  My response to this reaction is 'not so fast'.

I'm finding that a lot of the people who seek tolerance of the gay lifestyle are also equally intolerant of traditional religion. Many of the same people who are politically correct about not mocking homosexuals have no reservations about mocking Jesus or traditional Christians.  My response is that the door swings both ways.  Just as it is wrong for someone to not be tolerated for their sexual lifestyle, it is equally wrong to not tolerate someone for their religious beliefs.

Looking at it logically, there are two possibilities.   Homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God, or it isn't.  If it is not a sin, homosexuals have not committed wrong against God by practicing their lifestyle.  If it is a sin, God is loving and forgiving.  I'm convinced things will sort out at the time of judgment.  In the meantime, if we are to follow God's commandments, we are obligated to treat our neighbor with respect regardless of his or her opinions on social matters.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Inspiration from Pink? The singer I mean.

A lot of writers use music to set the mood while writing.  I find music by Enya good for Fantasy, The Moody Blues for Science Fiction, and Taylor Swift for Romance  and Young Adult.  Lately, I've also come across a song that's useful for inspiration.

Check out the section of lyrics I have selected from Pink's new hit Try:

But just because it burns

 Doesn't mean you're gonna die

 You've gotta get up and try try try

 Gotta get up and try try try

 You gotta get up and try try try

Try is intended as a love song.  The chorus is about getting up after a bad relationship, but can apply to any endeavor, including writing. 

Rejection is the constant companion of any writer.  Virtually nothing is published on its first submission. For my three published short stories, I have accumulated well over a hundred rejections. If I hadn't gotten up and tried after my first few rejections, I would never have gotten published. 

It's the same for every other writer.  No one enjoys rejection, but it's inevitable there will be many before an editor gives that acceptance e-mail.  The successful writer is the one who gets up and tries again.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Man in a Romance Author Group?

Somehow I have found myself one of the only male members of a local writer's group.  I didn't intend to do so. I was looking for a group to join and tried several out. This one showed itself to be exceptionally warm and accepting and I kept coming back.  Although this group calls itself Ozarks Romance Authors (which should have been my first clue it would be all women), they write and share works of all genres.  From reading their works, I have learned a lot about what the female gender thinks.

Admittedly, it feels very strange for me to spend Saturday mornings in a room full of women.  I had this fear that a man who hangs out with women will be regarded as, well, you know.  (Holds hand horizontally and wags it in a gay sign.)  However, I've found that once I got over the fear of what others  think about me being there, it's been a healthy experience for me as a writer.

I can't even begin to count the number of times in my life I've wondered how 'the other side' sees things.  I've spent the last nineteen years trying to understand how my wife thinks.  As to understanding my thirteen-year-old daughter, forget it. The odd thing is finding out what is in the opposite gender's head is as simple as reading what women write.

What's most surprising is, for the most part they really don't think that different from men.   A mystery or young adult story written by a woman reads much like a similar story written by a man. There is one difference, however.  Women seem to go for Romance stories with greater vigor. 

In reality, I don't think you have to be a woman to enjoy a good Romance.  The members of ORA have read several good Romance stories and I relate just as easily to the interaction between lovers as any woman.  I think the big turn-off for men is fear of being seen holding a book with a picture of a hunky man with a chest the size of a garage door and muscles bulging out from every square inch of his torso.  Once I got over that fear of being thought of as 'one of those', I found Romance stories quite enjoyable. 

I'm glad I decided to hang out with a bunch of women one Saturday morning a month.  Now that I can see the results of my experience, I would encourage everyone to step out of their comfort zone every now and then.  It's a great way to grow as a writer.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nobody remembers my rejections—except me.

About two years ago I finally got up the nerve to start submitting some of my short stories for publication.  I surprised myself, managing to sell three stories in the space of eighteen months.  The markets were barely paying--$10 to $20 per sale, but they were still sales. If I had been a crackhead, I still don't think I could have gotten a greater high than receiving that acceptance e-mail, with a real editor telling me how much he or she liked my story.

After clearing that milestone, I thought I'd try for semi-pro and pro markets.I knew the moment I decided to submit my stories to tougher markets I'd get a whole lot more rejections.  For the past nine months I've been watching rejection after rejection come in.  My Duotrope acceptance rate has fallen from seven percent to below three percent, and drops further with each rejection.  I'm watching my e-mails with white knuckles, hoping for that one acceptance that will make the long wait worth it.

I submitted my story The Last Hour on Earth to one of my favorite online magazines,, and watched for five months as it filtered through several rounds of cuts, until I got the message  "Thanks for letting us read this. While it made it to our final round of cuts, in the end there were a few stories we liked more."

Asimov's has been my favorite mag since I was a teenager.  In an effort to fulfill my lifelong dream of being published there, I submitted my hard SF story Sailing to Eden.  Two months later, I got the response "Thank you for letting me see "Sailing to Eden." The story is nicely done, but I’m afraid it's not quite right for me. I look forward to your next one, though."

I submitted a darling piece of horror satire The Count to a 5 cent a word publication.  They replied "While we all enjoyed the piece, we opted to go with other stories."

Please forgive my self-centered narcissism, but I think you get the idea.  I would like to think that with just a little more luck, I could have had my first sale to a semi-pro or professional magazine.  It doesn't quite quench the discouragement though.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rejected by Asimov's, glass still half full

Last Wednesday I received an e-mail from Asimov's stating my short story Sailing to Eden had been rejected.  The content of this message was encouraging, however:

Dear Chuck,

Thank you for letting me see "Sailing to Eden." The story is nicely done, but I’m afraid it's not quite right for me. I look forward to your next one, though.


Sheila Williams, editor
Asimov’s Science Fiction

Someone told me Sheila is the top editor for Asimov's, and for her to get it the story would have to have been passed through several levels.  It could just as easily have been published!!!

I find this really encouraging.  I have a rank list for this story and am sending it to the next professional publisher on it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My meteoric rise to fame as a writer is behind schedule

I was about to say I hope 2013 doesn't suck as bad as 2012.   After more thought, maybe I should say I'm hoping for better things in 2013.  Let me explain.

Let's just say my meteoric rise to fame and fortune as a writer is not going as fast as I had hoped.  I have written a novel, but the main character's voice in my novel Bear Dreamer was not a strong one.  The novel would probably never be accepted for publication anywhere in its current condition.  To this point, my greatest accomplishment  is getting three shorts accepted for publication in the period between January 2011 and May 2012.  One of them sold for $20 and the other sold for $10.  The third is supposed to sell for $40 but it hasn't appeared in one of their publications yet.  So much for riches and success.

There is reason for optimism, however.  The most recent draft of Bear Dreamer has character voices that are actually interesting to follow.  It's in what I hope to be the final draft, then it's time to consider publishing options.  My flash fiction piece was almost accepted by a 5c per word publication.  My short story The Last Hour on Earth has been shortlisted by a semi pro publication and then shortlisted even further.  I'm persistently following up on the short story that hasn't appeared in publication yet.

Maybe this year will see more success than last year.  Then again, maybe I'll just end up with a taller stack of rejection notices.  We'll see.

-Chuck Robertson