My Generation is Ruining our Culture

Gonna have to burn any books that offend people...
Gonna have to burn any books that offend people…

I recently posted on Facebook about how our society is too sensitive.

This is a huge problem.

It’s getting to the point where you can’t do anything without a mob of offended people coming out guns blazing over something you did.

I have nothing against people speaking their minds and going after causes that mean something to them. However, how far back are we willing to bend to make these groups of people happy? How much of our liberty are we willing to cull just to cool peoples’ burners?

A bunch of, presumably hangry, New Yorkers thought the Axis symbols on the advertisements for their new series The Man in the High Castle, were too much. A show about Axis winning the war and about the resistance coming after them. A. Show. About. Nazis. Winning. The. War.

Seriously? Seriously, SJWs?

Have a Snickers bar society, have a damn Snickers bar!

Let’s replace all the Nazi and Rising Sun symbols with fluffy bunnies.

What’s that you say? We can’t use a fluffy bunny because some people have PTSD after watching Bugs Bunny cartoons as children?

Okay. Sorry… let’s instead replace the imagery with a cup of water.

What? You can’t be serious… one person is allergic to water and therefore upset that water is shown in an advertisement?

Okay, you’re right. That must not happen! Well, let’s replace the advertisements with black and white checkers.

What’s that? Are you sure? I had no idea that black and white checkered boxes were used in some obscure battle in 1702 in a small town just south of Abu Dhabi…

Oh, is that right? The black background of this blog scares people who are afraid of the dark?

I had better do something about it.

What? No! Not these words… words offend people? Words?! Burn all dictionaries!! Close all schools!!!

Run for your lives!!!!

I assume you all get the point. The political correctness is ruining our culture, and I’m sick of it. Sick of these people bullying the masses into changing something simply because it offends them.

How pathetic that people ask other to change themselves or their things simply because someone, somewhere, at some point in time may or may not get offended.

For all the good and amazing things that came from my generation, this disappoints me the most about it.

On How to Survive @nycmidnight – Short Story Challenge Edition

Every year, hundreds of people come together to battle each other in a challenge of skill for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge (among other contests they host). The challenge isn’t easy (for some) because it forces fresh writers or writers who aren’t yet comfortable with the craft to write outside what they normally write.

If you’re not familiar with it, you can visit the official website, but I’ll give you a quick rundown for those that aren’t. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee (around $40-$55) and joined the contest, you wait until the challenge begins (usually January). When the first round (of three) begins, NYC breaks the writers up into several groups of about 30 per group, and gives each group a set of rules they must play by. Here’s an example from 2015:

Group 19:

  • Genre: Action / Adventure
  • Subject: An Invention
  • Character: A Flight Attendant

What this means is that each writer in group #19 (I was included in this group) must write a short story that adheres to these rules. The story must be action/adventure, the subject of the story must include an invention of some kind, and one of the characters in the story must be a flight attendant (or once was a flight attendant). It must be 2500 words or less, and stick to the formatting (or risk 10% penalty to your score, the other 90% is on style, how close you stuck to your subject, genre, etc).

The biggest complaint from writers I hear is that people are writing outside their “comfort zone” apparently. I don’t often agree with this terminology since what they really mean is they never wrote that subject before and don’t know how to do it (for some reason). In my opinion, all writers should be able to write all subjects. You don’t hear a long jumper complaining when he has to do triple or short jumps? Do you? Well, I don’t really know if you would… I didn’t when I was in Track & Field because jumping is jumping—you can do it, you just need to master the different style. Similarly, writers can write anything, they just need to master it. Remember, just because one hasn’t mastered a subject doesn’t mean they can’t write something that passes for that subject.

Your head is the biggest obstacle to completing a story.

If any of you are familiar with my books or stories, you know that I typically write horror or suspense. So, I could have said that getting Action/Adventure as my genre was “out of my comfort zone” as people like to say, but really, writing is well within my comfort zone and I set out to tackle it with that exact attitude.

Read my winning entry here.

My advice to anyone that joins this challenge is to think of all of it within your means as a writer, and tackle it as the long jumper will tackle triple jumping. It’s all the same thing. Go that way, and you can’t go wrong.

The next two rules aren’t a problem once you get passed that ugly three-headed genre. Now, all you have to do is think up a subject that involves an invention with a character who is a flight attendant. Even if you’ve only just started writing, you should still be able to come up with something. It’s all about imagination and making it work for you. If you don’t have an imagination, then you have no business writing creatively. That said, I’ll bet all of you reading this have an imagination, and therefore, you have the means to spend 2.5 minutes dreaming up a solid idea involving an invention and a flight attendant.

These are my ideas for my group:

  • Action/Adventure: Set in a pyramid, Indiana Jones style (What can I say? I’m nostalgic like that heh-heh-heh)
  • An Invention: The story centers around a stolen artifact that the ancient Egyptians invented called the Sun of Ra, which was a power source similar to a battery (which has a real world counterpart without the fancy name)
  • A Flight Attendant: My main character was a flight attendant, one that wanted to see the world, but like her father, couldn’t stay away from a more adventurous lifestyle.

That’s it! The rest is just filling the blanks up to a maximum of 2500 words, which is probably the hardest part for some writers. Sometime later, I’ll go over ways you can trim your story so you can come in under 2500 words and fit more of the necessary stuff into it to ensure you have everything fleshed out properly (like plot stuff).

Remember, the biggest thing that gets in the way of you completing your story is your head. If you’ll notice, I took elements of action and adventure and incorporated it into my typical style: horror. You can do that, too, as long as the judges feel like you hit the mark on your given genre.

What else can you do? Well, here are some DOs and DON’Ts:

DO use the forums and get some input from beta readers. Listen to them, and let them help you. Generally, you’ll find a nice group of people willing to give you honest feedback. You don’t have to listen, but it’s worth it to at least get a feeling of how your judges may receive your story.

DON’T spend all day worrying about what the judges tell you about your story. If for some reason you don’t pas one of the rounds (or even if you do) and you receive negative feedback that you don’t agree with, that’s okay. They’re judges. They aren’t Gods. Take what you want from them. Just remember, all feedback, whether good and agreeable or bad and disagreeable, it’s all going to lead you to becoming a better writer. In addition, learning to take good criticism turns you into a better person. You win more than you lose.

DO make sure you also help others as a beta reader. If you would like help, it isn’t necessary to beta read for other people, but it’s courtesy. It’s like that whole scratching someone’s back thing… (before the 20th century and they banned touching).

DON’T get angry if a beta reader doesn’t like your story. Like Stephen King said: you can’t please all readers all the time. You can’t even please some of the readers some of the time. You can however please at least a few readers once in a while. (Or something like that, don’t quote me.)

DO go easy on yourself. Relax. Enjoy the contest. Even if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter. If you use the beta readers and be a part of the community with an open mind, you’re guaranteed to come out a better writer. Maybe a fraction better… maybe you’ll come out a whole new person. Either way, you’ll come out all right.

DON’T cheat. Be original. The judges are readers, too. If you write a derivative story that so obviously stole from someone else’s work, you’re going to have a bad time with them. (Of course, there are exceptions, but generally, don’t do it.)

DO your research. If you’re going to write historical fiction, then learn about your subject. If you’re going to write horror, then by God take an hour to learn what makes a horror story so scary. It can only make you better. Just remember, stick to trusted sources. There’s tons of good information on the interwebs, but there’s also just as much shit out there. Be wary. :)

That’s all folks! Have fun, and feel free to head on over to my Facebook page or Twitter to yell at my face if you have other ways of doing it!

On Santa, or Satan… I Guess…

I was told that Santa was Satan.

This was in second grade and the information disseminated from a boy no older that I was. His reasoning, as I hadn’t guessed, was because his religion said as much. He continued to verify this by telling me that Santa, when rearranged, spelled Satan. Not trusting my desk-neighbor, I spelled it out on a piece of paper. Sure enough, he was right. Santa was Satan if you wanted it bad enough to be true.

The thing is I grew up in a household that didn’t allow the children to believe in Santa. We were never allowed to believe in any of those imaginary things. No Santa. No Easter Bunny. Nothing.

However, even though I knew Santa to be false in existence, I never needed to bring doubt to children whom had a strong belief in him. I believed that it was okay for these kids to think Santa existed, and in some way, I lived through them. Then they would tell me stories about how Santa came during Christmas Eve and showered them with gifts, and I would love hearing about it.

The reason children in my family weren’t allowed to believe in these imaginary things was because of our religion. My parents figured that when we believed in Santa, we were idolizing a false God. I didn’t really know what he was the God of. The God of gift giving? …of presents? It never made sense to me.

Probably it was because in the Christian faith, Christmas isn’t about the presents. It’s about the faith. It’s about what happened on that day (which actually didn’t take place on the 25th of December, but that’s another story).

To me, it doesn’t matter. You can have your cake and eat it, too, in this world. You can have your faith, believe in God, and believe that Jesus is your savior. You can celebrate that on Christmas, before Christmas, and any time after.

Does any of that mean we have to do away with Christmas traditions?

Not at all. Christmas traditions are just that. Tradition. Christians may celebrate Christmas as everyone else does, by waking up in the morning and giving gifts to their loved ones. They can even say they are celebrating the giving of gifts as a way to celebrate God’s gift to man, the gift of Jesus Christ to this world.

What about Santa?

Well, what about it? We don’t pray to Santa. Yeah, children send him letters and ask for toys, but what’s so wrong with that? We don’t get on our knees and ask for forgiveness from Santa (although we might only if we don’t want a lump of coal in our stockings). We don’t pray to him all year ’round, and, most importantly, people of faith never forgot their faith at Christmas time. People still pray at the table. They still pray at church. They still worship, and life continues just the same whether or not Santa exists.

So what’s the point of denying the existence of Santa to children? Are we so damaged as adults that we can’t let children have a little fun and imagination in their lives? Do we really feel like Santa degrades faith THAT much that we must tell children that he doesn’t exist and that he is Satan in disguise?

No. We don’t. There’s no reason. As long as you teach your faith the right way, there is no reason children cannot also believe in the existence of a supernatural being who gives gifts out on Christmas. Like all other things, they will grow up and grow out of it. So, for the time being, why can’t we just let them live a little as children? We don’t need them to grow up faster than they already do. They have plenty of time for that later in life.

Spoon and de Platé

As he turned the cream page, Toliver Spoon looked up from his book. It was there he saw Allison cleaning the counter in the kitchen. While he didn’t really want her to clean anything, she insisted because it calmed her, gave her time to think and work through anything that bothered or excited her. He didn’t know what bothered her, but he knew she would come to him when she was comfortable enough to do so.

The champagne sun poured through the window and glazed her skin with a brilliant sheen. Her soft blonde hair reflected the sunlight, giving off an aura as though she were an angel hiding among humanity.

Indeed, Toliver believed her to be just that. An angel. He wasn’t religious, but that didn’t matter because it was the association, how being a seraph aptly described her existence rather than as some supernatural being from heaven.

He thought this because she’d saved him. Before he met her, he lived as a broken man that time and loneliness had destroyed. He had been living in the shadows of his past, his emotional state deteriorated by his inability to find happiness.

In this lonely place, in that dark corner of his life secluded from the world and drowning in the lives of others around him, he thought it would all end the night he gazed down at the polished blade in his hands. He thought that his life couldn’t get better, and he feared that life would only get worse. He knew he was already at the edge of sanity, teetering at that penultimate moment before something would tip him into madness, and he wanted to end it all before it happened.

At the time, he hadn’t realized that he had already plunged into that black abyss. When things are at their darkest, when one can only quantify happiness by faded memories, something takes over. Something not outright understood, but unfortunate, solid in existence. Toliver had come to that point on the night he planned to kill himself, and he was fully ready to leave this world for the next.

That was when Allison de Plate came to him. Truthfully, she had been in his life before, but he never noticed. Even on that night, the night his dark half whispered into his ear, daring him to fade into the darkness, she came out of the shadows and into his life. Perhaps it wasn’t as symbolic as that because it had played out much more mundane. She merely knocked upon his door, and he answered, thus changing his life forever.

However, it wasn’t just his life that changed that night. Allison had changed, too. She was his neighbor, an unknown face among the crowd. That night, she was more than just a regular face hiding with all the others. She was a pretty face distorted by the wretched man she once called her husband. She was somebody he could see, and someone that could see him.

Standing in front him beyond that opened door, she nearly doubled over in pain. Her lip spilled blood onto the floor, her eye purple and inflamed, her left arm slack and motionless from when her husband yanked her too hard and pulled it from its socket. The man with whom she’d giving her live to through marriage had pulled a fistful of hair from her skull, leaving a large bloody patch above her right ear.

Looking at her that night as she shied away from the door with the expectation that he, too, would hurt her, he didn’t see himself the same anymore. In fact, he didn’t see himself at all. He only saw the woman before him, damaged as much on the outside as he was on the inside. While he couldn’t relate to the physical pain, he knew what she knew—likewise, she knew what he knew. They knew this because all broken people can see others who are also broken. They can feel each other. On this connection, they had immediately built a relationship more powerful that either had experienced.

Throughout that evening while he tended to her wounds, they talked about each other. She told him about her life in that apartment, about her husband, about how her father used to treat her behind closed doors. He told her about his life, about how he wanted to kill himself, wanted to end all the pain he was feeling. He told her things that happened to him, too, when he was little, but that no one else knew about or could even understand. In that, he was no longer alone. Neither of them was alone now.

In a hasty moment of rash judgment, they decided to run. They both needed to get away from their lives, and find new hope among the rotting stars. Maybe they would find those beautiful twinkling stars that everyone always talked about but that they had never seen. Maybe they wouldn’t. They didn’t know, but they needed to try.

Now, ten years later, they lived together. They never took to a relationship, but it didn’t matter. They loved with a love that was more than either of them could describe, more than anyone could understand. They found their stars, ones that shined bright within each other, brighter than the ones shining down from the heavens. It was brighter than the sun, hotter than the light shining through that window as she gently wiped the counter clean.

She finally looked up, and smiled. Warm and beautiful, timid and loving, he reciprocated with one of his own. When he returned to his book, he felt his chest tighten, his heart dance, and his emotions sang a song they both could hear. A song they both sung. A song that would last an eternity and more.