Of Guns and Pens

I can imagine this post to be a bit rambly, as I try to make sense of all that happened last weekend. Already from my previous post, there was a small mentioning of what would eventually become one of the worst weekends ever. I don’t expect to find any resolution of any sort, let alone a silver lining. I just want to explain and analyze from there.

Last weekend was one that I was originally looking forward to, and for two reasons: 1. The red egg and ginger party for my dad’s friend’s new grandson was held (and for those who don’t know what a red egg and ginger party is, you can read about it here) and 2. I got to participate in an event for Barnes & Noble for my very first time.

The latter event, as short notice as it was, was one I was particularly looking forward to, as it was for Barnes & Noble’s very first Teen Book Festival. Someone I used to go to high school with works at one about an hour and a half away from where I live, and informed me of how they’re looking for authors – specifically young adult and fantasy/science fiction authors – and wanted to see if I’m interested in. After about a week of going back and forth with her and her manager, all was settled. I would be signing prints of the cover art for A Moment’s Worth, all the while encouraging people to buy it.

I was set and ready for both events. But then last Friday evening was where the horrors began when, via the Twitter account of Harry Shum Jr., I learned that one of my favorite YouTube artists, Christina Grimmie, was shot by a psychopath with a gun, while meeting fans at a meet & greet following a concert she performed at in Orlando, Florida. I was stunned to the core, as I began following the hashtag #PrayforChristina for the next two hours, hoping all the while that she would be okay. The status of her being in critical condition was my lingering bit of hope that she could pull through this. I took a brief break for a little bit to take care of things, but when I returned to Twitter is when I learned of her passing. #RIPChristina immediately took the place of #PrayforChristina.

As I said, I’ve been a fan of Christina for years; long before the rest of the nation became aware of her existence via her participation on “The Voice” two years ago. I remember the first video that I saw her in, when she dropped her first EP, when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her passion, and even that one year where she did a convincing job of having people think the trolls got her convinced to move back to her home state of New Jersey (only to later reveal it as an April Fool’s joke). I like many fans have been asking myself the same thing: How could someone so spunky, with such an incredible voice, and so young (she was only two years younger than me!) be gone?

This affected me a great deal, and I really didn’t have time to let it sink in as I still went off to that red egg party later that morning. My appetite was not entirely present and my mood was down. How ironic it was to be at a celebration for a new life, when someone else’s was unfairly taken that previous night.

I was also on edge about it all, knowing that she was doing a signing when she got shot, and my first signing was the very next day. And while I am nowhere near as well known as Christina, all of the sudden, I couldn’t help but fear for my safety (and passing by a sign in support of Trump while on the way to the bookstore was not reassuring at all).

I really thought Christina’s murder would be the worst of it for last weekend. Little did I know that 24 hours later, I would be proven very, very wrong.

I woke up the morning of the Barnes & Noble event to the news of yet another mass shooting that happened while I was asleep; this time at a gay nightclub four miles away from the venue Christina was killed at. While at first it was reported that 20 people were killed and 23 were injured, it was a few hours later where I learned that it was actually 49 people dead and 53 injured, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

I was saddened to learn that just after another phenomenal musician had fallen, something like this had to happen again. What made this extra horrible is that this was an attack on the LGBT community, by a man who was too scared to be himself. But once again, I did not have the proper time to really absorb this, for I was out the door a few hours later to the Teen Book Festival.

The festival itself went fine, with a few signings and interactions take place throughout the time I was there. Not once did I feel like I was in danger’s way, thankfully, and the staff there were really nice and accommodating and I’m honored that they hosted me. And yet all the while, the lives lost in a place for people to let loose and dance settled somewhere in the back of my mind, making itself poignant enough to where I would never forget about them.

It’s really these last few days where I’ve really gotten to let both events sink in; as names of the deceased started showing up in news outlets all over and artists – both on YouTube and in the mainstream – paid tribute to their fallen colleague. Candlelight vigils were held for both shootings and the news continues to pour out more than we would want to know about the deranged men responsible in both cases. And once more, the debate regarding gun control in our country is as prominent as ever… and hopefully this time, we won’t let it die down.

There are so many thoughts and feelings on all this; on what was supposed to happen last weekend and what shouldn’t have happened last weekend. The feeling of wanting to cry all the time has drained me and the fact that innocent lives that were with us a week ago are gone now infuriates me. And yet somehow, in the mist of things, I found myself editing my second novel as hard as ever before, for I really want to get it out into the world, now more than ever.

I haven’t spoken heavily of what the second novel is about yet. What I will say is that it’s set in a future where many of today’s issues are bettered, and that includes gun control. While there is going to be a core issue that does involve toying with civil liberties and freedoms, it’s set in way to which it shows that vents and prayers aren’t enough; and that you actually have to step up and DO SOMETHING in order to right a wrong. I’m a strong believer in the pen being mightier than the sword, and hopefully it can outdo a gun too. Despite it not being my original intention, I want this next novel of mine to make a difference.

My thoughts and condolences are with everyone who was affected by last week’s shootings. To the House of Representatives: I look to you now and challenge you to put aside your differences, your egos, and whatever personal beliefs you have, and do what is right and LONG overdue for the American people.

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