Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Simple Truth

I could be reading a novel or watching a television show and one person does something bad, and then another person makes a remark something like, “You’re going to hell for sure.” Or a person does something good and another person says something like, “That’ll get you into Heaven.”
I hear this and I think, “Oh my goodness, people please don’t be deceived.” Whether the words are spoken in jest or the person really believes what he/she is saying, these remarks are so far from the truth. God will not open the pearly gates of Heaven for you just because you’ve been “good” during your time on the earth. And you won’t go to Hell just because you’ve done things bad. If the latter were the case, nobody would go to Heaven, because even Christians don’t do good all of the time.
God gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, and if we believe in Him, we will not perish but will have everlasting life (John 3:16). In other words, anyone who receives Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior will go to Heaven when their time here on earth is done.
Now, according God’s Word – the Bible, which is full of wisdom to help us to walk in His ways - to be saved is the only way to get to Heaven, and the only way to make sure we don’t end up in Hell.
Do good things for others; acts of kindness that can lift a person’s spirits or even make this world a better place in some way big or small? Yes, most definitely. What would the state of this world be if we didn’t have people who care? But please don’t do these good works because you think God is keeping score and if yours is high enough, then you’ll earn a place in Heaven, because the simple truth is it really doesn’t work that way.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Settling For Less, Young Ladies?

Choices is an entertaining, emotional read that will definitely get the reader thinking. In fact, I’ve been thinking about something lately… Out of all of the female characters in Choices, Angel is the one I created to make the biggest impact. I'm sure there are teenage girls who can relate to her and I'm hoping each of them will be touched so deeply by the story that a change for the better takes place in their lives.

Feisty Angel is my girl. She has a mouth on her and she can back it up. She’s strong. She’s confident. She says what she means, means what she says, and does not care what anybody thinks. Until it comes to Randy, that is. Although she wants to demand respect from him, the thought of being without a boyfriend stifles her efforts. In Randy’s presence, Angel’s strong personality fades away and it is replaced by pitiful indigence.

When I was younger there were people who made me feel like I wasn't okay because I didn't have a boyfriend. So there were times when I considered certain guys to be boyfriends, when I really didn't like them as much as I made myself believe. Today, I would like to say to the young ladies out there that each of you can make it just fine in this world without a boyfriend. Not that you shouldn't have one, but if your boyfriend isn't a guy who treats you with love and respect, then you are settling for less. Not sure if you're settling? Let me help you out, okay? If you answer “yes” to most of the questions below, you might want to give serious thought to what kind of relationship you and your boyfriend really have.

1. Does he come around only when he wants to have sex?
2. Are you having sex with him because you’re afraid he’ll leave you if you don’t?
3. Have you told him that you’re not ready to have sex, but he keeps pressuring you?
4. Does he talk down to you; belittle you with his words, insult you, call you names?
5. Has he raised a hand to you? Or worse, has he brought it back down, striking any part of your body?
6. Have other girls been in your face about him, or have you wanted to have the
‘he’s my man’ argument with another girl?
7. Have you seen with your own eyes that he spends time with another girl? Or maybe even more than one?
8. Does he make you feel like everything that matters to you doesn’t matter at all to him?

I hope your answer to every question was "no", but if there was even one "yes", you really do deserve better. And if you answered “yes” to the fifth question, I suggest that you make your parents or guardians aware of the situation. I also suggest that you distance yourself from your boyfriend; especially if it has happened more than once. If he tells you with utmost sincerity that he knows he has a problem and he wants help to control it, then good because he needs help, but still distance yourself. You are God’s unique creation, not someone’s punching bag.

It might not seem like it, but that one special guy the heavenly Father created just for you is out there. If you haven’t already met him, don’t be in a hurry. I know it can be difficult to wait; everyone needs attention and affection, but when the time is right the one you are meant to be with will find you. In the meantime, focus on improving yourself and reaching your goals.

God Bless :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Those Sneaky Little Typos

Lately I have read novels with quite a few typos. These good reads weren’t published by the authors, but by established publishing companies, so it wasn’t the authors fault that the typos weren’t caught; it was up to the proofreaders to catch them. Still, I wonder how the authors felt when they noticed these mistakes in their published works.
As the author/publisher/proofreader of Choices it was up to me to make sure there were no typos in my finished product. And I did my best to do just that. My book designer sent me the pdfs, and I read through them more than once. (I’m very happy with the story I wrote, but for a while there it was getting on my nerves. The proofreading process can be tedious.) I even found someone else to proofread the galleys the printer sent. But still, after all of that proofreading, my YA Novel went through the printing process with those sneaky little typos undetected. These minor flaws in Choices did a real good job hiding, and, let me tell you, it was like a smack in the face when I noticed them after the book was printed. I was so disappointed; my first published novel and it's not the flawless product I wanted it to be.
I know I don’t have to draw attention to these typos, but a book sale is a show of support that I appreciate very much, so I feel the need to confess that I messed up… just a little bit:
Typo #1 - One day I was working on my next novel, A Mom’s Life, where I include Roscoe’s last name. For those of you who haven't read Choices yet, Roscoe is Randy’s brother. Neither one of them knows how to treat a girl with even an ounce of respect. Randy is the boyfriend Angel puts up with until she comes to her senses, and Roscoe, well, he’s just not a likable guy. Their family life will be revealed in A Mom’s Life, so readers can fully understand why they behave the way they do. Anyway, I remembered mentioning Randy’s last name in Choices, but I didn't remember what it was. So I skimmed the pages of my first novel to find Randy’s last name. That is when I came to the conclusion that no matter how many times a story is proofread some small inconsistency can still be overlooked.
Not that this takes anything away from the story, but in Choices it seems Randy has two last names. On page 28 he’s Randy Morris, but on page 56 he’s Randy Brister. It’s been a while, but if I remember correctly, his last name was Brister when I first wrote the novel, but before it went to the printer I changed it to Morris on the page where he is first introduced –I don’t know what in the world I was thinking - but, in doing so, I forgot that I mentioned the last name Brister in chapter seven entitled “The Question”, so that didn’t get changed to Morris.
Typo #2 - And then, days later, I noticed that on page 60 I didn’t change ‘an hour and a half’ to ‘hours’ as I had intended. The first sentence in the chapter begins with ‘After church’, so most people would think it’s afternoon, but on page 61 I make it clear that it is evening when Shauntice gets home. I write –She put her keys into her pocketbook and made her way through the darkness of the kitchen and into the livingroom, where a lamp on the couch table lit her path.
So, to my readers – present and future - I’d like to apologize for the little inconsistencies in Choices.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Uplifted By The Sounds of Kirk Franklin

Today I put Kirk Franklin’s The Fight of My Life in the CD player. First I played track 16 repeatedly, reminding myself that as a child of God people should be able to see Jesus in me, and then I listened to the entire CD twice. You see, this morning I was a little down. Songs don’t always have to be performed by Christian artists for the lyrics to be uplifting and motivational, but when I’m feeling really low, hearing songs about Jesus is the only thing that can bring back the joy I seemed to have misplaced. I know there are many Christian artists out there who sing messages of hope and love that uplift, but I’d just like to take this moment to thank my favorite Christian artist, Kirk Franklin, for letting God use him to bless me and so many others.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Most Difficult Part To Write

Ever now and then I think about the rape that happens in Choices. I didn’t feel good about what I wrote (as my fingers moved on the keyboard and the heartbreaking scene appeared on the computer monitor, I was actually apologizing to the character who was raped). But there are so many different aspects of the teen sex issue – the girl or guy who are adamant about waiting until marriage, and no amount of peer pressure will change their minds; the girl or guy who wants to wait until marriage, but then begins to feel so strongly for a person that the waiting becomes difficult; the girl who has sex with different guys because she’s seeking affection & the love she isn’t getting at home; the girl who has sex not for the sex, but because she wants to get pregnant, etc. – and, sadly, rapes happen.
When I wrote the rape in this story, I thought, It could almost happen, and then the girl’s mother could walk in on it, and beat the boy out of the house and down the street with a broom. So that is what I planned to write. But I asked a young lady’s opinion, and she said, “Let it happen.” That was a while back, so I can’t remember the reasons for her response, but I do remember that she loved to read. So I took her advice. I let it happen. I could have left out the graphic details (believe me, they are less graphic then the first few drafts), but I didn’t for two reasons: #1 - I wanted every teenage girl who reads this story to learn from the mistake made by the character who is raped, and I didn't think anything would be learned unless the reader could really feel this character's pain. To feel her pain, the reader would have to know everything she went through. The character's mistake: She felt something was wrong. She felt she should ask the guy to leave her home, but she didn’t because she didn’t want to offend him. Girls, we are just too darn nice sometimes. We never want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Well, there’s a time to be quiet and there’s a time to speak up. Now, I’d like to mention something I believe is important: Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of them and one aspect of His work is to guide. But when He speaks, for whatever reason, we don’t always hear Him. And when we do hear Him, we don’t always listen. And if you’re reading this, and you’re not a Christian, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love you enough to help you in times of trouble. For God so loved the world! He gave all of us an instinct for doing the right thing and an instinct to sense when something is wrong. Usually, when we feel like something isn't right, it isn't. But, again, we don’t always listen. This character didn’t listen, but hopefully readers will learn from that. #2 – I wanted to show how a guy could force a girl to have sex and then walk away from the act as if it wasn’t rape, but consensual. At first the girl who is raped hesitantly agreed to have sex with this guy, but then, coming to her senses and deciding to make the choice that was right for her, she changed her mind. She said, “No,” and no means NO!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Reasons Behind the Choices

When I wrote Choices, I thought about some of the different reasons girls have for making the choice to engage in premarital sex; the reasons I knew of, at least.
LaKeeta: The girl who isn't feeling loved, so she has sex with a guy not because she really wants to do it, but because she’s hoping she’ll get pregnant. Her thinking is that she can bring someone into her life who will love her.
Hope: The girl who needs to prove that she’s more mature than people give her credit for, and she thinks that having sex is the way to do that.
Angel: The girl who is searching for the affection and attention she’s not getting at home, so if she has to have sex with a guy to get him to give her the time of day, then that’s what she’ll do.
Shauntice: The girl who wants to remain a virgin until her wedding night, but then she begins to feel so strongly for a guy that it just isn’t as easy to abstain as she thought it would be.
Girl in the mall: The girl who just doesn’t know how to say, “no”, so she gives in to the pressure.
Now as for abstinence, the reason I used was God’s will. God would like us to wait until marriage to have sex, so Bridgette abstains from sex in obedience to God. Shauntice also chose abstinence to be obedient to God, but she got off track for a moment there. Bridgette is the one who never compromises her beliefs. She feels so strongly about abstinence that she breaks up with a guy she really likes when he tries to push her further than she wants to go.
Lately, I’ve been thinking that I should have had a character practicing abstinence not because God says it’s the right thing to do, but because she just wouldn’t want to be with any guy in that way unless she was married to him. Because I’m sure there are unmarried people who are choosing to abstain from sex without even thinking that it is God’s will. Not to say, I don’t care about God’s will, because I do, but Choices has non-Christian as well as Christian characters, so besides being entertaining, my stories must be real, and the reality is - not everyone in this world makes choices according to what God wants. That would be great, and I’m sure the world would be a much better place if everyone did, but that’s just not the case. In fact, even Christians – those of us who should be living each day according to God’s ways - don't always think of His will with every choice we make.
Thank God for His grace and mercy.