Thursday, January 17, 2008

But, I Don't Wanna Go to School, Mom!

At forty-two, the last thing I wanted was to go back to school, but, thanks to my teenager, I'm being forced to. It's January and that means the end of the semester: projects and cramming for finals. So tonight, for the second night in a row, we are working on a civics project.

Oh joy.

So here I am, struggling to recall what the information I've retained in the years since high school which, I'm sorry to say, is pretty damned little. Being ADD, I wasn't a good student to begin with and then you add teenage angst, hormones along with the fact that I got mono TWICE my senior year and almost ended up not graduating, and you got yourself a cornucopia of delightful educational memories. And now I get this!

Daughter: Describe Capitalism.

Me: Bill Gates

Daughter: Describe Communism.

Me: Itunes...oh, no wait, that would be now since their deal with Sony.

Daughter: Contrast and compare Democratic and Republican parties.

Me: Dumb and dumber.

My daughter wasn't amused.

After we finished the civics project, it was on to advanced algebra. Now in my world, letters and numbers don't mix. It's sort of like putting blue cheese on your Cocoa Puffs... IT JUST DOESN'T WORK! The minute you start substituting numbers with letters, my eyes glaze over and the drool pools in the corner of my mouth before forming a puddle on the floor by my feet. I...just...don' Who uses this anyway? Maybe in some occupations, but certainly none my artistic daughter will go into. But it's required for school. Sorry kiddo, Mom's out on this one.

After that came American Lit....Hellooooo have you read some of this stuff? Harry Potter is ripped from the shelves while being touted as demonic witchcraft yet the schools insist our children read things where depression, poverty, murder and at times perversion run free because it's "Classic Literature". I'd rather sit and listen to Barry Manilow all day while plucking my eyelashes out one by one.

Again, daughter isn't amused. So she picks up her things and heads up to her room There at least she can make up better answers than her mom can in peace and quiet.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Plagiarism, Bad Writing, or Really Not Knowing Any Better

So, here we go. I can hear the snarky-assed comments from them already. They spout from those "literary types" who wouldn't take romance novels serious if one won the Pulitzer Prize or if Oprah suddenly had an epiphany that most, if not all, of the books she picked were hideously depressing and started up a studio chant of "Nora, Nora, Nora" while throwing Angryromancegrrl bookmarks out to the crowd. They insist romance novels are mindless fluff written by just as mindless, if not horny, housewives who couldn't possibly know the quality of the written word because they're too busy drooling over bare-chested men. They are going to have a field day over the latest allegations of possible plagiarism by a fairly well known writer.

This author (and I won't name her because you can just get off your lazy ass and Google it yourself) apparently took anywhere from phrases to nearly complete paragraphs from research books and used them in her historical novels. The whole thing started at the website (a great place, BTW) when a novice romance reader pointed out that she noticed several large chunks of text that read differently than the author's voice. So, armed with several of this author's books and Google (hopefully there was tequila involved because, hey, where's the fun if it wasn't) two of The Bitches got together and started digging. You can go to their blog and find the results there, but I will tell you it was interesting to see the results. Needless to say, the pitchforks and torches were plentiful.

Now I'm not going to say what she did was right. It wasn't. We learn from little on that you at the very least paraphrase (and I have to say I did some pretty sad examples of rewording in my high school years) because it's not right to take credit for someone else's work. I'm even willing to bet if this author has kids that at some point, she probably even reminded them of that as most moms do. But, does this boil down to TRUE plagiarism? Who can say? Maybe. Maybe not.

I do think it falls more into the category of bad writing, or simply being unimaginative and I don't think it's limited to Romance as so many people will try to insist. The whole point is to take the research you have and create something with it. Using it verbatim from a research book is failing to put that bit of information into the story and letting the character convey it through their point of view to the reader. You don't just slap it onto the page. The results are exactly what this person saw: large chunks of text that stand out like Bugatti in a room full of Ford Escorts.

So, let's recap, shall we? DON'T take research directly from the a book and try to pass it off on your own. DO cite your sources if you do. And if you screw up, admit it. Rambling excuses only makes you look ignorant and more guilty. Practice in front of the mirror if you need to..."yeah, I fucked up...big time. I was an idiot!"

See? Very easy.

Oh, and and for you literary types.....BITE ME because I'm a romance writer and damned proud of it.