In the Words of…. Grammar Police

Today we’ll handle two grammar faux pas at once.

First of all, something I didn’t think about as a problem and will have to watch to see if I’m perpetrating – When to use “Into” vs “In To”

This extremely quick and helpful article from Writer’s Digest discusses the differences made by the space bar and how to easily remember which version is correct while you write.

Following that, take a peek at how Grammar Police feel about Accepting and Excepting.

This less quick article from Writing Forward gives some helpful tips on keeping the homophones Accept and Except separated in your mind. Their major tip? To Acknowledge is to Accept, and Except is used in Exceptional cases.

…That will definitely make more sense once you’ve read Melissa Donovan’s full explanation.

Be free, my fellow writers! Discover how to avoid these two offenses, and the Grammar Police will steer clear of you that much more.

Ciao Tutti,

RM

Last Minute Christmas Gift Idea and Promotion

If you’ve got a reader on your Christmas list and you just don’t know what to get for them, I’d have to recommend several different books I love, but of course only one will change my life if you choose it.

The Rose Chateau: A Tale of Beauty Meets Beast

BookCoverFrontPreview

Treat your little reader to the story of Beauty and the Beast as they’ve never read it before.

Corinna Faune was just a farmer’s daughter, whose only regal connection was her runaway duke best friend, Alastar. But when her uncle returns home from the neighboring village with a horror tale and one glimmering rose, her entire life is interrupted. Now she’s the unwilling guest of a bad-tempered prince, who found himself at the wrong end of a witch’s curse. Her once normal life is now surrounded by magic with not one, not two, but three conniving witches involved, and none of their allegiances are clear.

Reader comments for The Rose Chateau:

“The Rose Chateau was a wonderfully written story about overcoming life’s circumstances, of finding the good in even a bad situation. It is well written and holds your attention. It is hard to put down because you are drawn into the lives and emotions of the characters. ” – Jean

“Well crafted plot twists laced with suspense, colorful and relatable characters, wonderful character development, and attention to the geography of the fictitious landscape paints a picture that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until the curse is broken. 5/5 stars and definitely recommend it as a good read!” – Grant

“This book was beautifully written. It was hard for me to put it down. I loved the characters, especially Corinna. She was brave, caring, selfless, and kindhearted. She was there for people when no one else was. She is a person everyone should strive to be like. Rebecca Monaco’s writing style was perfect and very descriptive. She did a wonderful job at weaving a classical story into something unique and interesting. I absolutely loved it.” – Alexis

(Yeah, shameless self-promotion. Bad me.)

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Ciao Tutti!

RM

In the Words of Literary Agents…

Ultra-Special Scribbles (formally and maybe will be once again Ultra-Special Blah Blah Blah) is a book blog, although I know most of the normal posts aren’t about books at all.

So to take it back to what matters most to me, let’s talk about this great little article:

The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents.

Not only is the article extremely simple, but it is also very useful for aspiring novelists. Read through the comments from literary agents across the genres to see if you’re making a faux pas in your first chapter – which may be the only thing any agent will ever read from you.

It’s important to make a good first impression.

As Chuck Sambuchino, the article’s author, says, “Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!”

Ciao Tutti!

RM

A Holiday Reminder for the Religious

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought now would be a good time to bring up religion. You see Christians running around during winter, claiming that Christmas is being forgotten, that no one knows what it truly means anymore. The issue I see with that idea is that Christmas decorations go up in stores before Halloween, some of the most prevalent decorations have angelic themes, if you drive around for lights you’re going to see manger scenes, and it’s impossible to listen to the radio without hearing songs about Jesus.

Christmas time is a special time. You will never hear more love or more hatred out of the Christian community. It should be entirely about Christ for them, about spreading love and beauty and knowledge, but it turns into a guilt fest more often than not. If there is one thing that gets through to Christian readers in this post, I hope it’s this: That LOVE is what should guide your every move, not just now in this season but always.

Personal story time!

Growing up, I was always different. I was a product of the new generation – governed by television shows from another country, video games from other countries, and books from all over the world.  I was a liberal mind before I knew what it meant.

My mother is the very best type of Christian you can find. She loves God and the bible and dislikes anyone talking bad about her religion. Her home has many decorations invoking the name of God and speaking of love. She majored in psychology and minored in world religions. She never tries to impose her beliefs on others, but is open to discuss her religion, or any other religion, to anyone who’s interested. She has taught me so much about acceptance and equality that I sometimes forget that the world isn’t full of people like her, who have such a simple and beautiful idea of how to treat others.

I grew up kind and loving and not wanting to hurt others. I wanted to spread excitement and joy and, for a time, my love of Jesus. I’ve touched on some reasons I stopped liking church in a recent post, so I won’t retell that story. I’ll just summarize.

Over the course of my life, I was taught to love others, to not judge them for their life choices, to accept people, and to forgive people seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22 for that last one). But it’s hard to love your own people when you see them treat others harshly, especially during the holidays.

As I told a cousin recently, I am not bitter at Christians just for their treatment of the LGBT+ community. I am bitter for their treatment of others, but I am also bitter for their treatment of me – one of their own. After I was moved into the teen category of placement for youth programs, I never felt comfortable around people at church. I was picked on in middle school at church for my hair, my glasses, my twin sister, and my lack of athletic skill. Even when we moved and joined a new church that was said to be so loving and accepting, I didn’t find any comfort.

It was nearly impossible to have any type of conversation with any of the people I met there. If I wasn’t speaking only of Jesus, if I wasn’t praising my every waking moment of success to him, if I was talking about anything I had an interest in, I was given weird looks, pitying looks, and uncomfortable silence, as though they were debating what to do with me or waiting for me to turn the conversation around and focus only on God again.

I read novels that weren’t sold in Christian bookstores. I watched TV shows that were about fantasy lands and people. Never mind that other kids in the group were watching reality TV, at least theirs was ‘real’. I still didn’t play sports, and I didn’t play an instrument. How was I supposed to fit in, apparently, without these specific skills and interests? I wanted to go to a non-Christian school? Oh no. Poor thing. I watched movies in theaters and I have friends who aren’t Christians and don’t go to church. Scandalous.

Do the majority of Christians ever listen to themselves? You’re trying to build walls around a very limited interest set and then smush everyone inside them. This is not the way to gain new church members. This is not the way to show a love of Christ year round. If the true meaning of Christmas is being lost, the only ones you have to blame for it are yourselves and your behavior.

My friends who aren’t Christians know the Christian meaning of Christmas. I knew an atheist who knew the bible forwards and backwards. He knew the Christian meaning of Christmas. I love Christmas and I love sharing those feelings of giving, acceptance, forgiveness, and love. I love sharing them all year round, and this is the time of year where most people recognize the need to share them.

But it’s hard to stay positive when you find yourself surrounded by groups of religious people all claiming that no one understands and everyone is just faking it and how dare people try to exclude Jesus from their celebrations and…

Stop.

So someone celebrates different from you. So someone doesn’t celebrate at all. This does not make them evil. This does not make you holy. We are all on this Earth, suffering and struggling together. Spread love, not hate. Emulate the God (or gods) you believe in and accept others this holiday season.

If someone passes you on the street and says Merry Christmas, say thank you. If you see a sign that reads Happy Hanukkah, smile at it. If the song on the radio declares a bright Happy Holidays, sing along. Someone is wishing you well, and spitting on those wishes does not make you any better, or any happier, in the end.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

RM

Morals in Movies: Battle of the Year

The movie “Battle of the Year: Dream Team” has some very good lessons in it.

1) Change the way you think, change your life.

Act like champions, be champions. If you wanna be a better person or change your lot it life, it can literally be as simple as changing the way you think. Be positive and the world will look more positive. Be negative and you will only always see the negative. Believe you can do something and you have a much greater chance at succeeding.

2) There is no “I” in “Team”. We must become “We” or this will never work.

Especially in today’s society – we must become “we”. We can’t divide ourselves. We must come together. There is no “us” vs “them” except for what we create. As a country, we must become “we” or we’ll destroy ourselves. As a planet, as a world, we must become “we” or we’ll fall into war forever and never find peace. We must become “we” or we’ll never really succeed.

3) The right kind of pressure builds a team.

You don’t have to get along with everyone all the time. Some types of pressure are good pressures. They pushes you to do better, to be better. You can disagree with others, so long as you channel it to be constructive to your personal growth.

4) I am ___-American.

In one of their dances, there’s a voice over by each member of the group stating what kind of American they are. “I am African-American.” “I am Korean-American.” “I am French-American.” “I am Italian-American.” etc etc. Remember that America is not made up of American-Americans. The only ones who were “original” Americans were the Indians and even they originated somewhere else. We all come from somewhere, even if we were born here in the States, but we can forget all of that and come together as a family, as a team, and accomplish great things. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you are or who you love. We’re all in this together.

There’s more, but these were the big four in my mind.

Ciao tutti,

RM

Growing Up, in the Words of…

As a very old bit of wisdom says, “Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” And whether you believe it was said by Carroll Bryant, Chili Davis, Bob Monkhouse, your therapist, your mother, or someone totally different, it doesn’t matter. It’s not true.

I mean it is true. No one necessarily has to grow up. Unfortunately, most of us are forced into the act.

When you’re young, people praise you for being creative and asking questions and playing pretend and imagining great things. They tell you that you can be anything in the world, anything at all, when you get older. They praise your curiosity.

Then somewhere along the way they tell you to sit down and be quiet. The world spoon feeds you and tells you to grow up. Don’t do that. You’re too old for that. Stop finger painting and reading children’s books and watching fantasy and sci-fi shows and watching clouds and playing pretend and dancing in the rain and chatting up strangers while waiting in line and being so nice to people and being silly and enjoying bumper cars and laughing when someone farts and dreaming of being the president and JUST STOP trying to be something you’re not.

Well who decided what I’m not?

I certainly didn’t decide I wanted to stop helping the kids at church with their arts and crafts and learning fun songs about the endless and bountiful love of an all-powerful, accepting God. The assistant pastor told me I had to go play with the teenagers who teased me for things I couldn’t change and who never played anything I was good at or ever wanted to learn about anything religious. So I grew up, and I stopped loving religion. I stopped loving church because I was told I was too old to have fun there. I was too old to enjoy it.

I didn’t decide the playground was too childish for me or that laughing out loud was inappropriate. The parents who stare at me like I’m about to abduct their children even when I’m just on the swing set making myself dizzy decided that. The guy at 2 am at IHop who complained that me and some friends joking around was disturbing his meal decided that. I didn’t stop enjoying those things. I became ashamed of those things because of society.

I used to revel in my originality and my interests, and now I hide myself from even my extended family because the world has decided I must grow up, I must. I must grow up or I’ll fall behind. I must get a job at a desk or working for minimum wage. I must get a Doctorate. I must get married and have 2.5 kids and a dog.

But I want to wind down after working with a fantasy novel and play video games until I pass out and put bright highlights in my hair and go to work with it and get too emotional over television shows about people who don’t exist and sleep with a giant stuffed tiger and dream about traveling the world and having the job I always wanted to have and get my face painted at a carnival and play on the jungle gym and sing to myself in public and skip when I want to and break out into dance and have fun my way, not society’s way.

And who decided that I couldn’t? Because there’s something wrong in society when we force our citizens to give up on their dreams and to put aside originality to fit in and succeed and yet claim we want “creative individuals” in our job postings.

Growing old is mandatory, and in this world growing up is a rule. And if you break it, you’re either a success story told to inspire others to keep treading the mill or you’re a failure and society uses you to wipe their shoes after work.

Break the mold for a second with me and use your imagination.

What kind of world would we have if we let people keep dreaming as they got older? What kind of innovations would we have if we just let people grow whichever way they wanted to?

Stop telling people to grow up. The greatest horror this world imposes on us is the idea that we must grow up or be deemed a failure.

Ciao tutti,

RM

The Downfall of Our World

A lot of people are throwing blame around in this world, in this country. The other party isn’t cooperating. The president isn’t trying hard enough. The senate and congress are lazy. The super stores are taking everything and giving nothing. The banks are evil. Wall Street is full of heartless rich white guys of the 1%.

So some of the unrest is totally justified. Yes rich, white men are throwing their weight around and claiming to be the voice of the under represented. And yes they get it wrong a lot. Yes the government is flawed and failing in many areas, and yes it has a lot to do with party conflicts that shouldn’t even exist. Yes these issues are real and need attention.

But here’s where we should start our battle. In schools.

Every time an election comes around (and I don’t just mean for presidency), I hear candidates half-mention the need to better our school systems. The problem is that they always decide to cut funding to the arts and bolster the sciences. I’m all for STEM classes, but if we’ve already tried this approach and it hasn’t improved us, why are we still trying it? To quote the brilliant mind of Albert Einstein, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I don’t think the problem with schools is that we focus too much on arts or even that we focus too much on STEM. I think the problem is that teachers understand that most of their students need creativity to learn even if they aren’t artistically inclined but aren’t allowed to provide any of it because of legislature. I think the problem is schools losing programs that allowed kids to find healthy, productive venues for their issues and problems like art and music and literature and then wondering why more and more of the student population hates going to school to the point of dropping out and why bullying is on the rise to the point that some students are being hazed using their food allergies. I think the problem is so much focus on standardized testing and not on helping students remember the information passed graduation.

I think the problem with American education is that some people still think Titanic is just a movie. I think there’s a problem with the fact that most people think “Madonna with Child” is a reference to a pop singer.  I think the problem is that most people don’t know the capital of the United States of America despite living here. I think the problem is that most people don’t think reading is useful, that it’s a low-class hobby, and that our literacy rate for most adults is at a 3rd grade level.

I think the problem is that most people don’t know the definition of racism or sexism but like to throw the words around to attack others while being the definition of the words themselves.

I think the problem is that “the real world” is teaching kids to think like this and not letting teachers correct the issues and instill real passion for learning in their students.

I think the problem is that the government thinks paying teachers less than most people pay babysitters is fair and just and that college tuition rates keep rising till people can’t afford to go or end up finishing with more debt than they can ever pay off and that the world sneers at them for it either way and that a Bachelor’s degree is worth as much as a high school diploma despite the cost and time and effort.

I think our society could be great again. I think our citizens could fix all the issues themselves if they were educated, with or without higher education. I think our people could save this country of freedom if we tried a different tactic and put more money into education and small businesses and healthcare than we put into building our military. I truly believe that if we inspired people to love learning we could fix our broken nation.

But until the angry masses stop shaming the government for making any step in that direction, and until the government takes charge of such an opportunity, we shall never see that growth. The problem is that the angry masses don’t understand that taking steps in this direction are for their benefit because of the current system in place, so they continue to stay angry masses. The problem is that people are too focused on immediate returns and not focused enough on long-term consequences, and this will be the downfall of more than just our country.

This will be the downfall of our world.

Ciao tutti,

RM

In the Words of Gail Carson Levine

Once again I find words of inspiration and wisdom from this lovely YA author.

“You will sometimes write paragraphs of staggering loveliness. You will! Probably you already have. You’ll want to have those paragraphs tattooed on your forehead where everyone will see them. Then you’ll discover that they don’t help you tell your story. Do not do not DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT bend your story to accommodate your brilliant words.”

- Gail Carson Levine, Writing Magic

When writing or creating art in any form, it is never helpful to try and retroactively force a work to fit a new piece. Instead, save that piece of beauty. Put it away for later. Finish what you’ve started and use that brilliant bit for the next project or the one after that.

I came up with a frame of a story once but I had no filling for it. So I put it aside. I came up with a filling once, but no idea how to connect it. So I put it aside. I later realized they could fit together. Although I have not begun work on their joint project, they found they could work together. What crummy work would I have produced if I had tried to force these pieces into an unwilling union with whatever ideas I’d been scribbling out at the time of their conception?

Do not hurt yourself to produce art.

That is the most important thing I can think of to sum this all up. Do not become a detriment to yourself in favor of one small paragraph of brilliance. You will hurt your art, and you will forever be upset at yourself for the outcome. Instead of forcing it, save that piece for later. Or, if you must, discard that piece forever. You may hate yourself for a time, but it wasn’t meant to be and you will eventually understand that your work was better for it.

Ciao tutti,

RM

I Wish My Dentist Lied to Me

When I was very young and I got my first cavity ever, I proudly told the pretty dentist assistant that I would make sure to brush extra well so the tiny cavity I had wouldn’t grow any bigger. My mother and the pretty assistant smiled and laughed a little before I was informed that no amount of brushing was going to help. What did that do? It told me that once a cavity began to form, there was nothing in my own power I could do to stop that bad thing from becoming worse.

When I was in high school, a dentist complimented the whiteness of my teeth despite me never having used any type of whitening product. The very next year, one of his assistants measured my gums and not only told me I was on the road to gingivitis but that my gums were basically at a level about 1-2 millimeters away from when they’d start telling me my gums were “bad”. When I asked what I could do to solve the problem, I was informed that regular brushing and flossing would keep them at their current levels, but nothing I could do under my own power would ever fix the damage already done. My gums were doomed to stay at their detrimental levels unless I underwent surgery, which was hinted to be a course of action I would rather not take.

Sometime else in high school, a kind dentist chatted me up and spoke about lies toothpaste and mouth wash and other products tell you. The major one? That the product will help you regain tooth enamel. Apparently this is something that simply can’t be done. Once you teeth begin to wear away, you can only hope to reinforce what you still have, not regain what you’ve lost.

So over the years, my outlook on oral hygiene has been that there’s nothing I can do but hope to slow the inevitable process of my spiral into full dentures at some potentially not so advanced age.

Complete offense meant to my dentists over the years, but I feel like there was a better way to encourage me to keep up my oral hygiene than convince me there was nothing I could do to help myself improve.

This idea of helplessness started off with my very first offense in oral hygiene. My very first cavity. My very first accident at an age where I didn’t even understand what a cavity was. Scare tactics may work on some, but I felt more and more belittled and useless each time I was more informed on my own health.  Maybe it’s true that I can’t stop a cavity from getting worse or heal gum and tooth decay, but out of all the things in this world that I’ve been handed covered in sugar and sweetness and lies, I wish oral hygiene was one of them. Tell me I can take charge and heal myself. Tell me I can change a downward spiral and work my way back up.

You may think the words of a dentist may have no effect on the rest of your life other than your mental health about gum disease, but that style of thinking – the idea that you can’t fix something about yourself – that’s going to seep over into the rest of your thoughts whether you like it or not and whether you take notice or not.

I wish my dentists had lied to me and told me I could brush and floss my way into a perfect smile all on my own. Because once you start to think you can’t improve, what’s to stop you from not trying to even stay level? What’s to stop me from throwing out my toothbrush entirely and relying on gum or the occasional mouth rinse to hide the smell?

This rant isn’t about oral hygiene anyway.

Ciao tutti,

RM

Kids Movies Shouldn’t Be Just for Kids

The idea in popular thinking that children’s movies have to be light and fluffy and safe and not have too many crude jokes in them the only adults will get is really kind of bs.

I mean, I think people are forgetting how tragic some of the best children’s movies are.

I mean just with Disney:

Beauty and the Beast is about a man cursed to be a beast and a woman he basically kidnaps, and it has near continuous mentions of death.

Cinderella opens with the story of a young girl losing her father. She is then abused by her family, no matter how well she takes it.

In The Lion King, Scar literally throws his brother off a cliff. He is trampled to death and young Simba witnesses the tragedy and is then convinced he is a murderer and exiled from his own kingdom. The entire pride lands turns into a nightmare, complete with never sunny skies and near cannibalistic monsters.

The Little Mermaid has Ursula basically telling Ariel to use sex appeal to win a guy, and she kinda does. Ursula also has a host of shriveled people trapped in her home.

Lady and the Tramp has a terrifying, evil rat trying to kill/steal/eat a baby and several dark scenes – including Lady in the pound.

Have you watched The Rescuers lately? Or it’s sequel? Kidnapping. Attempted murder. Thievery. Traumatic hospital experiences. Bad guys being eaten by wild animals. I mean, seriously.

Treasure Planet is about a broken family. The main character has a history of arrests. Over half the cast is evil. That movie is a bucket of angst.

Lilo and Stitch is another broken family. I mean I could dedicate this whole post to the not-happy and sunshine things in Lilo and Stitch.

Same goes for Oliver and Company – a kitten no one wanted is left to drown in a cardboard box until it breaks and he’s left on the streets. He’s then subjected to a number of scary experiences. There’s a child being kidnapped and held for ransom. Those evil dogs are scary as hell. The bad guy is terrifying. Even one of the heroes could be scary to a little kid – he’s a dirty looking hobo selling fake watches.

Outside of Disney you have movies like The Land Before Time, where Littlefoot watches his mother die and must then travel across the world to find the rest of his family. He meets other kids but even then he’s battered over and over with self-doubt, loneliness, and depression.

An American Tale is a cute movie but when you get older you see it’s a anecdote about immigration and children’s work houses and orphanages and living on the streets of 1870’s America.

Balto is about an outcast half-wolf dog that no one wants to associate with. Other dogs and all humans avoid him. Even when he starts to have good experiences, the other dogs ruin it for him. He nearly dies a few times. The plot of the movie is that a sickness is killing children.

A Little Princess sounds like a cute movie, but I always hated it because it scared me and made me cry. A girl is orphaned while at boarding school, then she’s turned into a servant. Every time she starts to enjoy herself, the headmistress ruins it and threatens her. Her best friend is the victim of racism. Her father was in a war and got amnesia and almost doesn’t recognize his own daughter in the end.

The creator of Rise of the Guardians made a statement when asked about how dark his movie was. He said he wanted to prove kids movies could be dark. Good on him, because a kid’s movie without darkness is a movie without true conflict and thus boring to anyone above the third grade. Anyone younger just likes it because it moves.

I could go on and on.

So all the articles I see lately about how children’s movies are too dark and they need to be fun and friendly and whatever… I mean, stop it. Your kids need more than candy.

Kid’s movies shouldn’t just be for kids. They should be movies you can watch again and again and get something new each time because you’re learning about the world and realizing that was in your favorite movie the whole time.

Ciao tutti,

RM