Thursday, July 21, 2005

Looking for a good rant?

Because I am a Christian and because I have expressed some strong views here, a lot of people have been pretty vocal about despising me. I am aware that some bloggers, when they can't think of anything else to rant about, will cruise over here to see if they can read something outrageous into one of my posts. (I can hardly wait to see what they'll do with this one.) I read widely in the blogosphere, so I see one of those "Brenda Coulter is a bigot" posts every week or two. I have a thick skin, so they rarely provoke a response from me. But I do sometimes wonder why I bother those people so much. What's the problem? If you hate me, stop reading my blog. Sheesh.

The blogosphere is generally considered to be one big conversation. If a blogger agrees or disagrees with someone, the accepted practice is to provide an excerpt from the post in question and then link to it so readers can find out more and make their own judgments. But lately I've noticed a lot of bloggers are refusing to "dignify" those with whom they disagree. When someone rants about another blogger but doesn't link, the unwritten message is clear: "I hate that person and I'm not going to send her any traffic."

Seems pretty childish to me. And I can't think it's wise for bloggers to slam those doors on their readers' curiosity and prevent them from investigating issues. If I give you my opinion about what somebody else has written, I believe I owe you a link so you can check it out and check me out. Maybe I missed something important. Maybe I misunderstood and then misrepresented somebody's words. I count on you people to call me on that stuff.

It's not outside of the realm of possibility that I might be wrong sometimes, or that I might make a snap judgment about something and rethink it later. I don't always express myself well, either, and that can lead to misunderstandings. So I like it when you talk back to my blog posts. That's what keeps things real around here.

I read widely in the blogosphere, and several times in the past couple of months I've seen my own words on other blogs and found they had not been attributed to me; neither had the bloggers linked to my site. Friends, there's a name for that kind of thing, and it's copyright infringement. It's one thing to quote and then critiicize someone's words. Copyright law provides for that under the "fair use" doctrine so we can review articles and books and such. But when words are quoted and not attributed, that's not a bona-fide review.

Oh, don't worry -- I'm not bothered enough to yank anybody into court over this. But bloggers who pull stunts like that are taking enormous risks. Even when you agree with a blogger, you should never use her material without attribution. That's still copyright infringement, even when kindly meant.

Today I came across this blog post quoting several paragraphs from my July 18 post without ever mentioning my name, my blog's name, or even providing a link. It was a flagrant violation of my copyright, but apart from the legal issue, it was a breach of internet etiquette. In the blogosphere, if you're going to talk about another blogger, you link to her. If you can't bear the idea of "promoting" her that way, you should still do it for the sake of your readers. Surely they deserve access to the whole story, not just those portions you have filtered for your own purposes.

Now, about that blog I linked to in the previous paragraph. I tried to post a comment there but was unable to do so because I'm not registered at the site. Here's what I would have posted:

". . . I mean, hey, I think I can understand the sentiment, but the logic of this, coming from an author, escapes me completely."

Well, I'm not sure why you're looking for logic in that, as I stated quite clearly that it was a quirk of my personality. And you have erroneously labelled me a member of the "anti-Harry Potter crowd." Read my post again: I did not dismiss the books as trash. I merely said I am not sufficiently curious to read them. Also, the tone of my post was tongue-in-cheek. You appear to have missed that entirely.

You patted yourself on the back for being "fair" to me, but after quoting extensively from my post without attribution, you went on to interpret my words without even linking to my blog so your readers could see my entire post and judge for themselves whether you had correctly summarized my views. In fact, I was not bashing Harry Potter books or ridiculing the people who read them. I simply stated that I was tired of seeing so many news stories about a subject that interests me not at all. (I suppose you will now accuse me of advocating censorship.)

As for you giving me "the benefit of the doubt" by proposing to read one of my books, I thank you, but that's not necessary. My romance novels (the first of which is out of print; the second will be released in March) are written specifically for people who share my Christian worldview; others are likely to find them heavy-handed. I'm not greatly talented and I have no expectations of stardom, but I love writing and I'm gratified that many on my home team apparently found a lot to like in my first book.


Small Blue Thing said...

I can't understand those modern liberal talibans, Brenda. Sorry.

Blue Thing

Anonymous said...

Some people just do not have manners, in real life or on the internet. I also read many, many blogs. Always, bloggers who have MANNERS link to quotes (even to blogs with which they disagree ideologically). That's netiquette. Your critic has no manners. Maybe they will learn some before the decade's over.

As a Harry Potter lover, I didn't take any offense at what you wrote. I figure people can be sick of HP hype or join the bandwagon or be mildy interested, and what does it matter? You don't have to love everything I do. Variety...the spice of life.

And for the record, I've known you online, Brenda, for what, a couple years? Three? You are no bigot, my dear. You can be opinionated, but you're no bigot.

Of course, to some people, anyone who disagrees with them is a bigot. Ah, well.

Mir--who just finished HP VI and was teary and is very, very eager for the grand conclusion....

Walt said...

"Because I am a Christian"

I didn't post anything because you were a Christian. An atheist could have written what you posted and I would have said the same thing.

Your post essentially disparaged the success of a fellow author. There was no tongue-in-cheek sentiment expressed in that section that I could see.

Are there other extremely successful authors that you also purposefully don't read?

As to your inability to post a reply at the blog in question, I wasn't aware of a problem with my Spam filter -- because no one has to register to post.

As to the two paragraphs that were unattributed, I'll fix those right away.

As to your responding comment in this post declaring that your books are
"written specifically for people who share my Christian worldview":
When the preacher is preaching to the choir, nobody outside the church hears it. If it's a wonderful sermon, it needs to have the word spread, so that everyone may benefit. Who knows, the preacher may even convert a few along the way. But if the preacher is only teaching to the converted, he's hiding his light under a basket. I'll find your book and I'll read it. After all, I do want to judge you by your work, and not your reputation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda,

You wrote: My romance novels [...] are written specifically for people who share my Christian worldview; others are likely to find them heavy-handed.

Yours is the first and so far only inspirational romance I have felt any inclination to read, and I found that when I tried to put myself in the mindset of the target audience Finding Hope worked very nicely for me. I don't necessarily think one has to agree with or share the world view presented in a story in order to be able to enjoy or appreciate the novel or aspects of it. What resonated with me in Finding Hope were the characters of Hope and Charles, and the loving and witty tone of the whole.

As for Harry Potter and being contrary, the world is full of books and everybody has their reasons for reading or not reading what the next person does. To one person the Harry Potter series is a standard for judging fellow readers or writers, to another it is Shakespeare or Toni Morrison. Somebody prefers to stick with bestsellers, another chooses to stay with little-known titles. Critical analysis of somebody else's reading habits can be entertaining, but can one really assess the worth or quality of a piece of writing itself by picking apart how the writer chose his or her reading material? Just like one particular guide to writing would not be right for every writer, how could any particular novel be expected to appeal to every reader or teach every writer what s/he needs to lean in order to improve his/her craft? Does the success of a particular book/segment of books make it more important as a study tool than the personal resonance of a lesser known title?

Masters of any art or craft have important lessons to teach. But bestsellerdom is not the only measure of mastery, and masters are not the sole possessors of wisdom, either.

Apologies for the length of my comment! I got carried away by the thoughts and questions raised by your blog post and the one you linked to. Most interesting, thank you :-)

Kind regards,
Danielle C.

Heather Diane Tipton said...

In response to Walt's post up there, Brenda, about preaching to the choir... speaking as the choir, I enjoy your book (soon to be plural) and books that are of a similar quality. I don't think there is anything wrong with "preaching to the choir" after all we need it too. There are people that are supposed to preach to others and those that are supposed to preach to the choir. Both are needed. Neither are wrong. You rock Brenda.

Jaynie R said...

I read your blog because you are one of the few people I disagree with who seems capable of articulating your views in a way that makes me truely think about the opposing point of view. I'm not Christian, I don't read your books, but I certainly respect you as a person and as a blogger, and especially as a writer who I have learned a lot about the industry from.

I try to link and attribute in all my posts, although I admit in one recent post I refused to link to someone who really irritated me. Instead I linked to someone else who linked to them *g* - my way of ensuring a blogger friend got links, and the offending site didn't get them straight from me.

Brenda Coulter said...

Walt, the first several paragraphs of my post referred to certain other bloggers, not you. But, yes -- I would appreciate it very much if you would attribute the excerpts you lifted from my blog.

Your post essentially disparaged the success of a fellow author. There was no tongue-in-cheek sentiment expressed in that section that I could see.

Well, as I wrote the thing, surely I am the best authority on what I meant by it. I maintain that it was a lighthearted piece. And being uninterested in an author hardly equates to disparaging her success.

When the preacher is preaching to the choir, nobody outside the church hears it. If it's a wonderful sermon, it needs to have the word spread, so that everyone may benefit. Who knows, the preacher may even convert a few along the way.

Well, certainly -- if others are willing to listen. I'm all in favor of books meant to evangelize, but my stories are intended as treats for my fellow believers. If "outsiders" enjoy them, I am thrilled. But that's not the audience I have in mind when I write.

Brenda Coulter said...

I don't necessarily think one has to agree with or share the world view presented in a story in order to be able to enjoy or appreciate the novel or aspects of it.

Danielle, I agree. I have often enjoyed books that don't support my worldview. I don't demand that all of the books I read -- or that all of my friends, for that matter -- share my belief system; merely that they not deride it.

Jaynie and Blue Thing, I love it that you feel welcome here. I love the diversity of the readers of this blog -- it really keeps things interesting. Thanks for commenting.

Mir and Heather, your continued support is deeply appreciated.

Kristin said...

Hey, Brenda, I avoided reading "The DaVinci Code" until now. Know why? I, too, hate jumping on the bandwagon. Usually what appeals to a large crowd, never seems to appeal to me. (not always, but generally).

But, being a movie freak, and knowing that the book was soon to be made into a movie that I would probably watch, I wanted to read the book before Hollywood got a hold of it.

Guess what? I am half-way through the book and STILL don't get why it is on everybody's nightstand. So far, I am having an "eh" reaction.

I love reading your blog, and don't think you are ever preaching views at people. You always have thoughtful things to say on a variety of topics. Keep it up!

clew said...

Hi Brenda -

Just surfed through and enjoyed browsing your blog. I have long dreamt of being a professional writer, but alas it has only been a hobby. Perhaps you'll inspire me to take another step. Please visit if you like - my blog isn't much, but it's mine. As Lord Byron put it (more or less), just letting the thoughts out so they don't drive me crazy :)


Brenda Coulter said...

Kristin, The Da Vinci Code is another book I haven't read. But while I might one day succumb to Harry Potter, I don't ever expect to read The Da Vinci Code because all that playing fast and loose with certain Biblical facts would annoy me too much. ;-)

Clew, writing fiction will stretch your imagination, feed your hunger to create, and keep your brain sharp. I'd say it's a pretty worthwhile activity, whether or not you're ever published.

Thanks for reading my blog. Love your fish. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Re: Preaching to the converted:

That's exactly what Paul does in the New Testament. A good portion of Holy Writ is specifically for the edification of those who ALREADY BELIEVE. That doesn't mean it doesn't have "converting" power or value, or even other value. But when Paul writes, "To the church at...", that means his message is for believers. The power of God makes the Bible valuable for EVERYONE, but each book/gospel/epistle does have an intended audience. :)

Christian romance is written for a particular audience that doesn't want steamy sex or foul language within its covers. They want what is termed "a clean read." They don't want to hear God's name taken in vain.

Can others read it and enjoy it, sure. But most of the time that I've known a non-Christian to read "Inspirational Romance", the tendency is to call it preachy. Well, gee, there's a reason for that perception. To the intended audience, it won't seem preachy, cause the characters may well talk just like WE do. For instance, a day doesn't go by that I don't reference God or Christ or some Bible truth in email or conversation. A day doesn't go by that I don't talk to God. A day doesn't go by that I don't thank God for something. A day doesn't go by that I don't struggle against a besetting sin of my own or feel outrage over some immoral thing being perpetrated in my community.

To an atheist or nominal believer, that may seem "preachy" or "holy rollerish" when depicted in a romance novel. To the audience of Christian romances, that's just life. :)


Julana said...

Re Harry Potter--I'm with you.
I've reached a certain age where I've realized my time left here is finite. It's valuable.

Anonymous said...

My time here was always finite. But Harry Potter is no less enjoyable than any genre fiction--romance, mystery, thriller, horror, sci-fi--and certainly as enjoyable as much literary fiction I've read. If I can set aside three hours for a romance, I sure as shooting can set aside two or three times that for a Potter installment. :)

If anything, I could say that if our time is finite and valuable, let's all stop reading everything but Scripture, stop blogging, stop reading blogs, stop doing anything that is diverting, and simply go out and preach the gospel 20/6 (well, gotta leave time for sleep and rest and worship with the body, after all).

But no. I can savor life. God has given me eternity....there's lots of time. And maybe Miss Rowling will be in Paradise, and we can have a nice chat about silly magical creatures after my painting lesson with Giotto and before I go off for my music lesson with Johann Sebastian Bach.