Misquoting Pacquiao Misquoting the Bible

Boxer Manny Pacquiao came under fire for an interview with a conservative (i.e. Republican) reporter that attributed him with comments that implied he wanted gays put to death. The media and LGBT crowds quickly descended on him and fans and supporters stepped away from him. If Pacquiao had actually said those things, then the hate would’ve been certainly deserved. The problem is, Manny didn’t actually say that gays should be put to death, but his true beliefs aren’t much better.

Here’s what really happened. The author of the article in question, Granville Ampong, included a passage from Leviticus that states: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death”. But Ampong did it in a way that seemed to attribute the quote to Pacquiao, when in fact this was something that Ampong inserted on his own. Ampong has come out publicly and confirmed this was all his doing, and according to an official statement by Pacquiao:

Pacquiao does not now and has never believed that people deserve death because of their sexual orientation.

Pacquiao is simply against the marriage of anyone that is not Man and Woman as he believes is stated in the Bible. “I didn’t say that, that’s a lie… I didn’t know that quote from Leviticus because I haven’t read the Book of Leviticus yet,” he said.

So what we have here is really just bad reporting, exacerbated by bad reporting about the bad reporting. A bunch of reporters on TV and the web jumped the gun and didn’t really get the full context of the original article (many probably didn’t even actually read it), and the original article itself was poorly written with a clear agenda that is far from unbiased reporting and virtually dripping with the author’s own personal beliefs. What we should really take away from this debacle: don’t be so quick to believe headlines. Read, research, and come to your own conclusion. It seems like common sense, but apparently we all still have much to learn in that regard.

Now don’t get me wrong, Manny shouldn’t be let off the hook either. His opposition to gay marriage is clear and he did invoke Sodom and Gommorrah in his interview (which isn’t exactly “nice”), and he does insist that we should look to the bible for guidance on all matters. But look at his quote above again: “I didn’t know that quote from Leviticus because I haven’t read the Book of Leviticus yet”.

He. hasn’t. read. it.

This is a man insisting that everyone lives according to God’s law when he himself doesn’t even know what that law says. Perhaps if he did, he wouldn’t have all those tattoos, which Leviticus also bans, as illustrated by the awesome picture below.

Manny Pacquiao hasn't read Leviticus

How to find ideas

As an author, I often hear the inevitable question: “Where do you get your ideas?” Inspiration can be found everywhere, but there are a few idea sources that work particularly well for me. Maybe they’ll work for you too.

1.) Educational shows – Discovery Channel, Science Channel, and History Channel can be your best friends. The world is full of fascinating facts, large and small. Any one of them can be the inspiration for a new scene in a story, a plot device, or a whole new project.

2.) Excellent photography – Sometimes when I’m feeling in a creative funk, I just load up Flickr and browse random photos. Again, the world is a fascinating place and there are countless amateur and professional photographers out there capturing inspiring moments and places.

3.) Reading – I read a lot of novels, but I also read blogs, news articles, scientific journals, etc. The more you know, the more creative you can be. Each bit of knowledge is like a new color in your palette, allowing you to add more vibrancy and variance to your work.

4.) The shower – Yes, the shower! One of the few luxuries I allow myself is hot, long showers. In the shower my muscles relax, the soil of the previous day washes away, and my soothed mind inexplicably finds ways to work out plot problems that had been vexing me for days. Some of my greatest “A ha!” moments have hit me in the middle of a shower. It’s kind of similar to the famous “Eureka” moment Archimedes had in his bath tub.

The items I listed above honestly account for the vast majority of the fantastical stuff I’ve put in my writing, but I’m always looking for new sources of creative energy. What works for you? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

Writing is a Skill. Learn it.

“Must have excellent written communication skills.” You see this all the time in job posts, but what does it really mean? Do people really even care about writing skills anymore?

The answer is yes.

All of us are presented with moments when we must communicate our ideas in written form. It may be an admissions essay, or a cover letter for your resume, or a complaint to your landlord, an explanation to a co-worker, a sales pitch for a new client, or a letter to your boss justifying your reasons for a raise. You will have to write, and oftentimes what you write will affect the chances of you getting what you want, so you might as well learn how to be good at it.

Yes, you have to learn how to write. For some reason, many people seem baffled by this idea. “I’ve been writing all my life,” they say. “It can’t be that hard.” These are the same people that fill literary agent inboxes with horrible novels and are outraged when they get rejected.

To those people, I ask a simple question — can you talk? I’m sure you can. But does being able to talk automatically mean you can sing? Of course not. You have to learn how to sing. You have to practice. Even if you have an innate talent for it, that only gets you so far. You still have to learn the art of singing if you want to move people’s emotions with your voice.

The same is true for writing.

With a little research and practice you can dramatically improve your skill at communicating with the written word. You can learn to evoke sympathy, bring people to tears, or stoke the fires of anger with your words. You can learn how to transport your thoughts into someone else’s mind with nothing but letters. Writing is the closest thing we have to telepathy.

But, like all skills, writing demands a sacrifice. Learning to write well is a chore. It takes work and research, and one can get lost in the vast sea of “How to Write” books out there (it has long been said that the best way to make money at writing is to write a book about writing). But the most important thing you’ll ever learn about writing is this:

All writing — all writing — is storytelling.

When you read a blog, you’re reading a story about one person’s experience. When you read a news article, you’re reading a story of real events and people. When you read a product description, you’re reading a manufactured story a marketing team wants to tell you. Even as you read this post, what you’re reading are tiny stories about types of people and events and situations you can relate to as part of my efforts to convince you to do something. Learn how to tell good stories, and people will want to listen to what you say. That is influence. That is power.

So, where to begin? First, write and write often. Get a blog. Sign up for a free blog Blogger or Tumblr or LiveJournal and just write. Blog every day if you can. You can tell others about your blog, or not. It doesn’t really matter, because all you have to do is write. Write about whatever you like — food, poetry, politics, cats. Whatever. Just remember that your goal is to write compelling stories about your topic. Stories have characters, and settings, and a firm beginning, middle and end. Your writing should have all of these.

While you’re doing your writing, read. All good writers must be good readers. I’m sure you’ve read stories before, but when you read as a writer, stories take on new meaning. You dissect and analyze the style and technique of the author. You see things from a different perspective. For example, as a reader I enjoyed the Harry Potter books, but it wasn’t until I became a writer and took a more technical look at the books that I truly appreciated J.K. Rowling’s skill (the Invisibility Cloak is a brilliant plot device).

You should also read some books and articles in that aforementioned sea of “How to Write” material. I personally advocate Sol Stein’s Stein On Writing. The Internet also has a wealth of great material for learning how to write, and I particularly like this timeless article on Persuasive Writing, which is the most useful type of writing for the average person.

And when you’ve done all that writing and reading, go back and look at what you wrote earlier. Do you see the flaws? Has the practice and research changed your ideas of what “good” writing is? If so, take note of what you’ve learned, apply it, and keep writing and reading. If not, keep writing and reading. Remember you’re working on a skill here and, as required with any type of craft, mastery takes time. But stay committed, and I guarantee that new perspectives and opportunities will open up to you because of your new ability to move hearts and minds with your words.

Matt Stover on Reddit

A couple of months ago, best-selling author Matthew Stover proclaimed his presence on the link-sharing geekfest known as Reddit, and graciously answered questions thrown at him from the unwashed masses. This had a great impact on me for several reasons.

Firstly, I’m an avid Redditor, and I love when semi-famous people I know of show up and proclaim their geekitude as well. It’s a great way to connect with your fanbase, and it’s not a bad promotional move either. If you’re a writer with any sort of name recognition or publishing success I’d recommend you consider this as a marketing option.

Secondly, I’m a huge fan of Matt Stover. I became familiar with his work through his Star Wars Novels. He wrote the novelization of the Revenge of the Sith movie, but he’s most known for writing a book called Traitor, which was a pivotal installment in the New Jedi Order series. I don’t want to sound too melodramatic, but this book changed my life. It was more than a sci-fi story — it was filled with complex, mature philosophy and raw emotion. The plot focuses on Han and Leia’s son Jacen, a young Jedi trying to find his place in the universe as he struggles with reconciling his Uncle Luke’s teachings with a violent and cruel alien enemy known as the Yuuzhan Vong. Jacen eventually becomes an (initially) unwilling student of Vergere, an avian alien companion of the Yuuzhan Vong who was once a member of the Old Jedi Order back before Palpatine took over. She takes Jacen on a far different spiritual journey than his Jedi teachings ever did — one that deals in many moral gray areas — and she does so through remarkably cruel tutelage. Throughout the book, you’re never quite sure what her motives are, but there’s a definite method to her madness.

Traitor inspired me to write a story about a young man in our world, struggling to understand existence via the instruction of a madman bent on escaping life as a mere mortal, or immortal. Matt Stover’s work inspired me to write The Remortal.

So, I was obviously tickled pink when I saw him pop up on Reddit and field questions about his life, his profession, and whatever else came up. What struck me most was how honest Stover was about how “bestseller” status doesn’t necessarily equate to an easy living as a writer. He’s a 2-time New York Times Bestseller who has written for the world’s most well-known sci-fi franchise. You’d think he’d be set, right? But so fast. As Stover wrote:

The things most conducive to writing is to be able to pay rent and buy food.

I have always had a day job. Writing has never provided sufficient income for me to retire from the job market. I’m applying for day jobs right now. I have tended bar, waited tables, worked as a fry-cook, a vacuum-clear salesman, an exterminator and I’m not even warmed up. If you have a job you can offer, post a note on my blog.

That’s life in SFF, buckaroo.

Now, Stover’s situation is a little different since most of the profits from his work go straight to LucasArts, but with other authors like Kevin J. Anderson and Tim Zahn enjoying much more “successful” careers, largely (though arguably) because of their work in the Star Wars expanded universe, this is still kind of sobering.

But Stover’s Reddit posts go beyond the topic and money and delve into life lessons, writing, and timeless advice. I particularly liked this tidbit on writer’s block

There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. There is such a thing as depression, and most writers suffer from it. Then everything you write looks like shit, so you can’t move forward. There is also exhaustion, which a lot of depressed people suffer from because the disease fucks with your sleep pattern.

Breaking it is easy. You just remind yourself that your work doesn’t suck, that it looks like shit only to you, and then you tell yourself “I don’t need a [nap, drink, gunshot to the head, whatever]. All I need is a good idea.”

Because that’s the truth.

Read Matt Stover’s IAmA posts here on Reddit.