Friday, August 29, 2014

When Writers Spread Lies

I recently came across this blog post, "Pistol Packin' Mommas," and my first reaction was: "Awesome! This should be fun and probably informative!"

Because "informative" is what I think of when I see the words "pistol packin' mommas."

After all, I write stories about "pistol packin' mommas."

And then I read the post.

And I got annoyed.

The actual intention of the post, I think, can be found in these lines:
Bottom line, guns make me nervous....

Nevertheless, despite my jitters, I plan to learn to handle guns for the sake of my mystery series....

For Lottie Albright's sake (protagonist in my series) I'll learn to shoot. But as Charlotte Hinger, I doubt that I'll ever learn to like it.
That's all well and good. It's not for me to force anyone to like guns. If they like it, great. If they want one, great.

If they don't like them and don't want one, great.

And if that person is a writer who wants to learn how to shoot and handle guns for their WIP but they personally don't care for guns, that's their business.

But here's the thing: Hinger's post perpetuates a number of lies and misconceptions about guns and those that have/use them. And those lies and misconceptions tend to be accepted by most as "truth."

It's one thing to not care for guns but to do the research anyway in order to add realism to gun use in a story and then write a post about it.

It's an entirely different thing to write a post about it and at the same time continue to spout lies and misconceptions surrounding gun use/ownership.

From the post:
Colorado has a liberal conceal and carry policy. It's easy to get a hand gun permit.
If by "easy" Hinger means "anyone off the street who applies for a permit can get one," that's not true.

But that's one of those things that gets passed around and accepted as "truth" as I mention above.

In Colorado, to get a concealed carry permit you have to apply to the sheriff of the county you live in and pass these requirements (according to CRS 18-12-203):
1. Colorado resident
2. Age 21 or older
3. Not precluded by state or federal law from owning or possessing a firearm (e.g. felony conviction, mentally incompetent)
4. Does not chronically or habitually abuse alcohol
5. Is not an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substances
6. Is not the subject of a civil or criminal restraining order
7. Complete background check, including fingerprint verification by FBI/CBI
8. Demonstrates competence with a handgun by one of the following means:
a. evidence of experience with a firearm through participation in organized shooting competitions or current military service
b. certified firearms instructor
c. honorable discharge from the Armed Forces within past three yearss
d. proof of pistol qualification in Armed Forces within past ten years, if discharged
e. retired law enforcement with pistol qualification within past ten years
f. proof of completion of a handgun training class within the past ten years
The fee for the license is $105.00 and you will be fingerprinted and undergo a felony background check (which means if you fail to pass Requirements #3, #6, and/or #7 above, you won't get a permit).

"Easy to get a permit," right?

Another from the post:
But here's the thing. Recently a man shot a car load of teenagers because he didn't like their loud music. In another incident a father was killed in a theatre for texting his kid. The idea that a person has license to shoot someone because he finds the other individual annoying is ludicrous.
Actually, the ludicrous part is this:
The idea that a person has license to shoot someone because he finds the other individual annoying
A person does not have a license to shoot someone he finds annoying. According to Colorado law, that's second degree murder:
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a) of this subsection (3), murder in the second degree is a class 3 felony where the act causing the death was performed upon a sudden heat of passion, caused by a serious and highly provoking act of the intended victim, affecting the defendant sufficiently to excite an irresistible passion in a reasonable person (C.R.S. 18-3-103(3)(b))
Furthermore, having a concealed carry license is not a license to shoot anyone. The license allows the licensee to carry a handgun concealed on their person for the purpose of self-defense.

If you do decide to shoot someone, they better be coming at you with with the intent of hurting you badly. Otherwise, you have no cause to shoot them. (More on this later in the post.)

Let's look at one more from the post:
I'm very ambivalent about guns. I have a small collection of shotguns and rifles owned by my late husband. I don't have any handguns, but I believe I have the right, indeed the obligation, to defend myself if someone breaks into my home or intends to do me bodily harm. Still...I simply can't bring myself to buy a hand gun or get a license or whatever is required for a conceal and carry permit.
Ambivalence with a gun will get you killed. Especially if you're trying to defend yourself from a home invasion.

Yes, you can believe you
have the right, indeed the obligation, to defend myself if someone breaks into my home or intends to do me bodily harm.
But the mere fact you are ambivalent about guns speaks to a mindset toward the use of guns.

And if you have a mindset that causes you to second guess or hesitate at that critical moment, you will be another statistic.

Belief is one thing.

Constant practice and cultivation of the proper personal defense mindset is critical and key.

If you have decided to purchase a gun for personal defense, to protect you and your family from assault and/or home invasion, then I believe it is vital you put in the time and practice; you must learn about your particular firearm and how it works, you must learn the proper mental and legal response to a violent situation (i.e., when to shoot vs. when not to shoot, what to say when you call law enforcement, etc.), you must go to the range and practice proper firearm handling techniques (and if you can't get to the range, there's dry-fire practice), you must practice hitting the target in the proper place every single time, you must practice shooting from various positions, you must practice drawing from concealment, you must practice your response to that "bump in the night," etc.

First and foremost, you have to come to terms with the stark fact that, if it comes to it, you will be shooting, likely injuring, possibly killing another human being.

If that's not your thing, don't buy a gun for personal defense.

Period.


* * *

Am I making a big thing about this?

Yes, I am.

Why am I making a big thing about this?

Because I'm gun people and these are the kinds of things we gun people have to deal with from non-gun people.

Ignorance of gun information and issues? I don't have a problem with that. I will eagerly provide you with information I have and show you where to get more information about.

But information based on what the Media, Hollywood, TV, politicians, and gun control groups tell you? That kind of thing leads to the lies and misconceptions I just pointed out. That kind of thing leads the majority of non-gun people to believe we gun people are all ignorant, ultra-conservative, Bible-thumping, racist, knuckle-dragging rednecks/old white people.

Sorry. I am Asian with light-brown skin, college-educated, do not belong to an organized religion, value civil liberties, favor small government, and my knuckles drag only when I'm on all fours.

So, yes, I'm making a big thing about this.

My point: learn about the proper mechanics of guns and gun use if your story warrants it and post about what you've learned to aid other writers.

But don't go spreading lies and misinformation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

In Which Our Protagonist Ponders A Bit

 Last Saturday's little rant and Wednesday afternoon's post got me thinking about revisiting a topic I thought I had closed the door on.

I won't say any more at the moment 'cuz I want to do a little more pondering.

And planning.

Pondering and planning.

Stay tuned.


(photo: silegl69 (Mario Sanchez)/stock.xchng)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Comfort Books and the Joy of Re-Reading

Every year (or every two years, depending on what Life is doing to me), without fail, I re-read one particular book.

Actually, it's one particular series.

The Belgariad by David Eddings.

In fact, I'm re-reading the series now.

I believe I have re-read it at least two dozen times.

I first picked up The Belgariad back in the mists of antiquity. Summer 1987, if memory serves.

We were on vacation down in the L.A. area for about a week visiting relatives. My aunt and uncle had taken us out to lunch someplace and then spirited us to the Glendale Galleria. The first thing I did, as I always did when visiting any mall, was head directly to the bookstore.

To Waldenbooks.


At that time, Waldenbooks was one of two popular bookstore chains (the other being B. Dalton). I always liked Waldenbooks. Our local mall had both stores but Waldenbooks was always more inviting than B. Dalton. I think it might've been the decor. B. Dalton (the one in our mall) always seemed spartan compared with Waldenbooks which, to me, was bursting with books.

Not only that, but Waldenbooks had the Otherworlds Club, which catered to sci-fi/fantasy readers like me and offered discounts on selected titles. And a really cool paper newsletter that came out, IIRC, once a month.

So there I was, on an upper floor of the Galleria, making my way past the mall shoppers, and diving directly into Waldenbooks and the sci-fi/fantasy section.

Some months earlier, a high school classmate and fellow sci-fi/fantasy fan named George asked if I'd ever read a book called Pawn of Prophecy. When I told him I hadn't, he immediately grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "You have got to read this!" and proceeded to gush about the book and the series it belonged to, The Belgariad.

By this point in my fantasy reading adventures I had read Papa Tolkien's magnum opus, Lloyd Alexander's novels about Prydain, The Sword of Shannara, and the Narnia books. Plus I was an ardent D&D gamer.

So I liked fantasy fiction and all that went along with it. I figured I'd give the book a try.

So I picked up the first novel, Pawn of Prophecy, and later that night after dinner and conversation with the relatives, settled into the bed in my aunt and uncle's spare room. I figured I'd read a little bit before bed and then get a good night's rest. Tomorrow was Universal Studios and I was jazzed about that.

When I next looked at the clock, thinking "Hey, it's probably late, I should go to bed," it was 1:30am, four and a half hours later, and I was three-quarters of the way through the book.

I finished the book the following evening.

Before we went home from vacation, I asked to go to the Galleria a second time and bought the second book of the series, Queen of Sorcery, to read on the drive back.

I finished the second book two days later.

Bought the other three books of The Belgariad and finished those within the space of a month and a few days.

Beginning my second year in college I started to re-read the series, going through all five books usually in about two months, and kept up the practice at least once a year. I vaguely recall a few instances that I read the series twice in one year, with a four to five month gap between readings.

Why re-read it?

It's my comfort book.

I've heard people complain the writing is pedestrian, the story trite and overdone, and the characters flat and stereotypical.

But I find Eddings to be a captivating storyteller. The moment I begin Chapter One of Pawn of Prophecy and read the words "The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor's farm" I am immediately sucked into the pages of my well-worn, slightly yellowed copy and swept away into Garion's world, lost inside a realm of intrigue, magic, and high adventure.

Even after all these re-readings there are still passages that make me smile, snicker, shudder, and/or cheer heartily. Yes, I know how the story turns out. Yes, I know what's coming next in the narrative. Yes, I know the characters will go here or go there and this event will take place.

But I still find myself getting caught up in the tale and "forgetting" what comes next.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to reading.

Your turn: What's your favorite book to re-read?