Kill Language – Kill Freedom

I love watching my son grow up. What parent doesn’t, right? The best part for me is how he develops, especially when it comes to language. When he was still a toddler, I was astounded at how quickly he picked up concepts, and how they all tied to language. For instance, I showed him an apple, and said “This is an apple.” He understood right away what I meant. He also didn’t get confused when I taught him colors. I pointed to a red apple to show him “red,” and he easily grasped the difference between “red” and “apple.” I understood then that language is built into our brains and develops naturally as we grow up.

Language keeps us connected to each other, and helps us learn about the world. Without language, we couldn’t build anything (consider the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9). Imagine trying to build a house with others without the ability to communicate what needs to be done.

Even math and music are considered languages, and while some believe they can do without math, most everyone needs music.

Mess with language, and we mess with the free exchange of ideas. People no longer understand their world or each other, and we no longer grow as a species.

George Orwell understood this better than most, I think. He expressed his concerns in an essay titled “Politics and the English Language.”

He dug deeper into and expressed it more in his book, “1984,” most specifically with the language he labeled as “Newspeak.”

According to a website dedicated to Orwell:

“The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought.”

To expand the idea (on the same webpage):

“Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984 there was not as yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication, either in speech or writing. The leading articles in The Times were written in it, but could only be carried out by a specialist. It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English) by about the year 2050. Meanwhile it gained ground steadily, all Party members tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech.”

I ran into this article earlier today:

College Writing Center Declares American Grammar A ‘Racist,’ ‘Unjust Language Structure’

Which in turn led me to University of Washington / Tacoma’s University Writing Program and their Writing Center:

Under “Our Beliefs” of their “Statement on Antiracist and Social Justice Work in the Writing Center” it states:

“The writing center works from several important beliefs that are crucial to helping writers write and succeed in a racist society. The racist conditions of our society are not simply a matter of bias or prejudice that some people hold. In fact, most racism, for instance, is not accomplished through intent. Racism is the normal condition of things. Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations, and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society. For example, linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent “standard” of English. Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”

I’m sure you can see the correlation between Newspeak and what the writing center is espousing.

What led me on this journey (thanks to LK Hunsaker) is this article:

According to the article, some publishers are hiring so-called sensitivity readers “who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as ‘dealing with terminal illness,’ ‘racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families’ or ‘transgender issues.'”

These statements are of special concern:

“Sensitivity readers have emerged in a climate – fueled in part by social media – in which writers are under increased scrutiny for their portrayals of people from marginalized groups, especially when the author is not a part of that group.”

And:

“It feels like I’m supplying the seeds and the gems and the jewels from our culture, and it creates cultural thievery,” Clayton [a sensitivity reader] said. “Why am I going to give you all of those little things that make my culture so interesting so you can go and use it and you don’t understand it?”

Also known as “cultural appropriation.”

As an aside, for me personally, I don’t care who writes about my culture, as long as they do so accurately. Not every person in a particular culture wants to write about their culture, so why limit themselves, and in the end possibly dooming their culture’s future to oblivion because no one dared, or was allowed to, write about it?

As another aside, the article included this:

“Despite the efforts of groups like We Need Diverse Books, ‘it’s more likely that a publishing house will publish a book about an African-American girl by a white woman versus one written by a black woman like me,’ Clayton says.”

I’m calling bullshit on that. During my own search of agents, I had to cross out quite a few because they are actively seeking so-called marginalized writers such as Ms. Clayton. For which I am not a member.

Most agents care only about the story and the quality of writing. They don’t give a rat’s ass about the writer’s race, gender, etc.

Even those seeking minorities still need a salable story, so although a person’s minority status may get them to the front of the line, he/she still has to deliver. Seems to me, Ms. Clayton is holding herself back, and using her race and gender as an excuse not to try, let alone succeed. Too harsh? Offensive even? Good.

Now back to the original subject.

All of this is political correctness not only run amok, but an attempt to control thought. When you control how language is used – eliminating certain words, or changing the definition of words in order to change peoples’ perception – you can control how a person thinks. When you control how someone thinks, that person loses their freedom to think otherwise. They can no longer think critically, because, in a sense, their words are chosen for them. The number of words – and ideas – they can use are curtailed if not outright eliminated.

If I offend you, or if you offend me, all the better. To quote (where it originated I don’t know): “The solution to offensive free speech is more free speech, not less.”

Writers especially need to protect all words and language – our tools of trade. We can’t allow any type of censorship, because once it grabs hold, we may lose everything.

Truth is most often found in offensive speech, because it forces us to think and respond. Human beings are experts at lying to ourselves, and lying to each other. By attempting to control words and speech, the truth gets lost and liars rule at the expense of everyone else.

Swallowed Up

EmpireIt’s rare that I read a book in only two days. I managed to do just that when I read “Empire (In Her Name: Redemption, Book 1)” by Michael R. Hicks. Even though I spent hours reading it on my Nook, and gave myself a headache doing so, I didn’t care. It was that good.

What made it so good wasn’t the premise alone. He managed a perfect combination of exposition, detail and action that swallowed me up as a reader, and made it near impossible to put down. I even teared up at the sad parts, and for a book to do that to me, that’s saying something. Fair warning if you’re curious about the book. There’s a bit of profanity and explicit sex scenes (although thankfully few and short, and fit the plot instead of being — for the most part — gratuitous).

What I liked most about it is that the words disappeared in favor of the story. That’s something all writers should seek to achieve. Writers have to pay attention to every word they use and how they’re structured, so the reader doesn’t even notice them. It seems impossible, and even counter-intuitive, but every reader almost instinctively understands this, especially when it comes to science fiction, fantasy, and other “action” type genres. The last thing a reader wants is to be jarred out of a story because of a poorly written sentence or odd word.

Poetry is an exception, I think. In poetry, the words are supposed to shine. In other writing, whether it be fiction or even non-fiction, the words are the stage hands, not the actors. Mr. Hicks’ words were definitely the stage hands, the story and plot the actors, and he utilized both better than most. I’m a bit envious, but at the same time motivated. It can be done! With a bit more practice and study, perhaps I can achieve that balance myself.

Part of me wants to get the next book in the series right now, but I hesitate. There are other books on my list to read, and I don’t want to keep giving myself a headache because I can’t put down an eBook. If/when I do purchase the next in Hicks’ series, it’ll have to be paper methinks.

EDIT: If/when nothing! I just purchased the other two books in the trilogy (paperback!) and should receive them on December 30.

The main reason is because reading “Empire” inspired me to dive into my own unfinished novel that I haven’t touched in about a year. Gotta keep up that momentum!

Because I can’t help myself!

I recently offered my services as Technical Editor for the CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) magazine entitled AUGIWorld (AUGI stands for Autodesk User Group International). I’ve written two articles for them so far. With no article ideas when the Editor In Chief asked for them as of late, I jumped at the opportunity when he asked for help with technical editing.

Basically my job is to go through the articles and make sure they make sense from a technical standpoint such as software command structure.

Grammar and such I don’t need to worry about, because that’s another person’s job. But I can’t help myself! Of the three I looked at so far, I found minimal grammatical errors on the first two (I still corrected them). The third article tended to not only be wordy, but extremely long sentences. And I thought I wrote long sentences. Oy.

To not tighten up the entire article is like asking me to ignore a chocolate cake sitting in front of me. Again: Oy.

I managed to restrain myself except for the more glaring errors such as using the incorrect word.

Some words of advice:

  1. Do not depend on your software’s spell check. It will not find words used incorrectly such as to, two and too.
  2. Read your work out loud. Some people balk at this, but if you tend toward long sentences this is important. As you read, you will naturally take a breath at the appropriate spot. If there isn’t a period there, add one.
  3. Read a hard copy. A lot of times what is missed on the screen will be found on paper. Don’t ask me why that is. It just is.

Since most of you write, those tidbits are more “Well, duh!” than anything else. Nevertheless, I needed to vent.

Let’s hope the other five articles don’t tempt the Grammar Nazi in me as much.

Bragging Rights

A quicky today.

I’ve spent most of my free time editing a novel for another Christian science fiction author, and a friend who’s writing nonfiction.

I forgot not only how much fun editing can be, but how much I learn in the process. I get to study a person’s voice, how their mind works, and what drives them and their writing.

By critiquing other writers – regardless of chosen genre – I simultaneously edit my own work. I keep a notebook beside me as I edit, so I can write down my ideas and changes before I forget them.

I know how to fix the first three chapters. My main character changes too quickly, while at the same time the story doesn’t move fast enough. I’ve known about the problems for a long time now, but the solutions eluded me until now. Yea!

This entry is also a bragging moment.

Fellow friend and writer wrote a review on "A Reason to Hope." Before you think the review isn’t honest or fair because she’s a friend, I assure you she would not have written the review if she didn’t think my book was worth it. For one, I didn’t even ask for it.

Don’t take my word for it, though. You can read her thoughts HERE.

Thanks bunches, Kara. 

Book Review: House of Dark Shadows & Watcher in the Woods

House of Dark ShadowsWhen the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his rinds loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a move buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into–as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there’s something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading to far-off places–in long ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen’s dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

To usher in his new publishing company, Marcher Lord Press, Jeff Gerke held a contest for an impressive selection of prizes — most of them donated. I was one of the lucky ones and won House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods, Books 1 and 2 of his Dreamhouse Kings series. 

They are written for juvenile audience, so not having read much since I was a young teenager, I didn’t know what to expect.

Watcher in the WoodsI read both books — each just under 300 pages — in less than a week. I read them at night after I put my son to bed. 

It’s been a long time since a story so engripped me, certain nighttime sounds startled me, and I considered leaving a light on. It was fun, actually. What person of any age doesn’t like a good suspense and to be frightened once in a while?

The story continues with Watcher in the Woods. Robert Liparulo deepens and widens the story to include a shady character who knows about the portals and wants them all to himself. He will take any steps necessary to rid the house of the Kings, but the Kings can’t leave under any circumstances. To discover the why, you’ll have to read the books.

From when I received the books in the mail, to finishing them yesterday, the third installment, Gatekeepers, was released. I ordered it yesterday, and can hardly wait to read it.

So whether you’re a teenager or adult that loves suspense and doesn’t mind an occasional (mild) scare, you’ll enjoy this series.

Note: To find out more about each book, click on the graphic.

Book Review: A Lever Long Enough

A Lever Long Enough Book Cover In the near future, the Israeli military has developed a prototypic time machine. When believers in Yeshua (Jesus) create a politically explosive situation that threatens the balance of peace between Israel and nearby countries, the Israelis must send a team of four elite soldiers back to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb and thus disprove Christianity. The team, consisting of a Special Forces soldier as leader (Benjamin), an ex-American astronaut as engineering specialist (Sara), an archaeologist, and a linguist, has exactly seventy-two hours to collect the video evidence. Drawn into a web of first century deception and death, the only way to escape is for the team to change the past. In the present, a traitor, Gideon, attempts to sabotage the mission and seize control of the military complex. Benjamin is the only one who can reveal him, but he is trapped two thousand years away. Even with a time machine, time is running out…

Once in a while a book comes along that will grab me from the first page and won’t let go.

"A Lever Long Enough" accomplished that, and more. 

Using her knowledge of the Bible, science and technology, and 1st Century Jerusalem, Amy Deardon weaves an intriguing story of how even in the midst of religious persecution, faith cannot be squelched — or ignored.

1.     Characterization: 

The reader can relate to most, if not all the characters on some level. She created tensions between the protagonists as well as the antagonists, so the reader will not always be certain if the heroes win in the end.

2.     Plot Structure:

"A Lever Long Enough" begins with the simple idea of returning to the past to disprove the Resurrection. However, so many things go wrong at the beginning, the main characters have to fight for their lives both in the past and the present. The end holds a few surprises that leave the reader simultaneously satisfied and wanting more.

3.      Believable characters and storyline

Amy shows how human nature and powerful governments have not changed in two-thousand years. The reader can easily identify with what happens both in the future and in the past. She adds a warning as well — again without preaching — of a possible near future.

In short, if you like an action-packed story sprinkled with history, romance and mystery, you won’t go wrong with "A Lever Long Enough."

I look forward to Amy’s next book — which she describes in an interview I will post tomorrow. Be sure to check back. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

A Lever Long Enough
by Amy Deardon
Published by Taegais Publishing, LLC (January, 2009)
368 Pages
ISBN – 978-0-9818997-2-5 

Aside: My thanks to Cathy Bryant for letting me steal her book review template.

Review: The Birth to Five Book

Link to Amazon.comAs a mother of a 13-month old boy, and little to no experience in parenting, I admit to experiencing an occasional terror. I always wonder if I’m doing my boy right. Am I teaching him enough now so he won’t fall behind when he enters school? Am I providing enough mental as well as physical stimulation? Does he play and use his imagination to it’s fullest?

At the same time I didn’t want to dive into the hundreds of parenting books out there for the answers. Too often either the advice isn’t sound, they contradict each other, or come across so preachy as to leave me feeling like a terrible parent.

If I could find one book that fit my need for confidence that I won’t screw my child up for the rest of his life, give sound, common-sense advice that’s easy to follow . . .

When Writer to Reader highlighted "The Birth to Five Book" by Brenda Nixon in January, and sponsored a mini-blog tour, I jumped at the chance to participate.

Brenda Nixon did not disappoint. She structured the book into short, concise chapters, perfect for parents who don’t have a lot of time to read a book from cover to cover.

Parents can also read a specific chapter such as potty training without needing to read the previous or subsequent chapters.

She touches on subjects such as reading to your child, whether spanking is best or should be avoided, what do look for when choosing daycare and pre-school facilities, and whether or not a parent is normal regardless of his or her techniques. Brenda’s advice not only makes a lot of sense (I had a few "Duh" moments), but parents can apply her advice easily.

 
For a brand new parent or one with children under five, I recommend this book. Even if you don’t agree with all the advice she gives (and I found little to argue with), in the end you’ll feel far more confident in your parenting skills.
 
As my little guy grows I know I’ll be referring to Brenda’s book time and again — as well as pass it to my husband when we’re feeling out of sorts.
 
My thanks to Peg of Writer to Reader for the opportunity to read and review "The Birth to Five Book" and to Brenda for writing it.
 
by Brenda Nixon
Published by Revell (January, 2009)
224 Pages
ISBN – 978-0-8007-3319-3
 
Tomorrow: Interview with author LK Hunsaker
 

Book Review: Hero, Second Class

When Marcher Lord Press opened for business in October, 2008, I was excited. One publisher finally decided Christian Speculative Fiction was a viable market.

One of MLP’s first releases was "Hero, Second Class," by Mitchell Bonds.

The back-cover copy of this 600-page tome says:

Have at You!

Cyrus Solburg is a young man who dreams of becoming a Hero in a fantasy world in which Heroes owe monthly dues and Villains are allowed only one eclipse per fiscal quarter.

Cyrus becomes the apprentice to Sir Reginald Ogleby, also known as the Crimson Slash, a towering swordsman with a titanic sword and a penchant for self-narrating his own battles. It’s up to Reginald to train Cyrus in the essentials of Heroism so that one day, at the conclusion of his first Quest, Cyrus may become a Hero, Second Class.

More is afoot than the routine of training in the arts of Heroic Derring-Do, however. A bona fide Arch-Villain is on the loose. And this Villain is particularly interested in Cyrus, not least because of how Cyrus seems to have magic coming to him in spite of himself, resulting in tremendous disruption of the magical planes.

Entering into the fray come a wise-cracking Dragon, a petulant gargoyle, the Heroes’ Guild, the Army of Darkness(TM), and a horde of cursed invisible Centaurs. Cyrus will have to call on his friends, a beautiful young cat girl, and all the power of the Capital Letters and Arbitrary Numbers if he is to live to become a full-fledged Hero.

"Hero, Second Class" can be best described as a satirical fantasy with many, and more serious, spiritual elements.

What is a Christian fantasy satire anyway?

The Christian portion comes in when the main characters debate whether a Creator exists, and if so, why does he allow bad things to happen. Neither the author nor the characters answer this question. What’s important is that they ask and seek the answer with an open mind.

The fantasy is obvious. The book swims in memorable and colorful characters (with names such as Crimson Slash, Blue Shock and Purple Paladin for the Heroes), unpredictable magic, and a world most fantasy readers will discover as both familiar and strange.

Mitchell Bonds adroitly satires the fantasy elements, the world we currently live in — especially when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy — and the existing rules of traditional publishing by violating said rules at multiple turns.

One would think these intrusions would jar the reader, but Mitchell made it work. I laughed myself silly more than once.

If you enjoy an action-packed story with memorable characters, and a book willing to make fun of itself, you need to read "Hero, Second Class."

Next up: Lost, Says I. I’m lost on the Internet . . .

Don't Take My Word for It

One advantage to writing a blog is my complete control. I can write anything I want including brag about how good my book is, and hope you buy it based on my opinion alone.

As a reader, though, it’s not always wise to spend money based on the author’s braggadocio (great word, huh?). After all, what do you expect authors to say about their books? That they’re crap? Hardly, unless they don’t want to sell many copies.

When I published through Booksurge, I could have added onto the package reviews by Kirkus Discoveries starting at $399. I decided not to based mostly on the cost. I didn’t think my little novella warranted such an authoritative review. If I published a full-length novel, however, I might have considered it.

Besides, four people have reviewed my book so far — and for free!

A fellow author kindly made hers public, so you no longer have to take my word alone that my book is pretty darned good.

You can read it here:  LKHunsaker’s Review

If you haven’t purchased a book yet, she’s holding a raffle with my book as a prize along with many others. All proceeds go to a program designed to help our injured veterans, but again, don’t take my word for it. Read all about it HERE.