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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, June 25 2022

This month we are asked this question for our Round Robin Blog Hop

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Have you ever included current social, political, or environmental problems in any of your stories or thought about doing so? Why or why not?  Such as:

  • Do you ever include politics in your stories (why and how?)
  • Do you ever address topics like discrimination or race relations?
  • Are your characters with or against law enforcement and do you include the current climate of anti-law enforcement in your writing
  • Have you incorporated gay/lesbian characters? 
  • How does the current economic climate feature in your books?
  • Have you ever included current wars in your books?
  • Has terrorism ever appeared in any of your stories?
  • Do any of your characters address going green/global warming?

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Wow! As one of our Round Robin bloggers commented, that’s a whole book itself, not just a blog post. But….. The answer for me is yes to some of them, no to controversial anything.

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In The Candidate, which I tell people is NOT about politics, political issues are brought up and debated (as in my characters debate the issues) because it is the story of one man, running for president in a close three-way race who is faced with a personal crisis in the midst of that campaign. But the other two candidates also have a deep dark secret that, should it become known, would determine the caliber of the man, possibly change the outcome of the election and change the fate of the nation. And all three of those issues are on this list above. (Not telling you which because I’d love for you to read the book and I don’t want to spoil the secrets.) But it’s still one man’s story and I have chosen not to make the issues the focus of the book.

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Several of my stories involve men or women who have been to war and while the story is about their personal challenges, the effects of those wars and how our country perceived them is critical. When I pitched Worry Stone to an editor she loved the story but wanted me to change the war. Unfortunately, that editor was too young to know how awfully our country treated her warriors when they came home from Vietnam. She wanted me to change the war, but that would have changed the whole book. That hero came home, so thankful to be back in America, eager to put the war behind him and get on with his life, but the student body at the college he chose to attend had other ideas about how he should be treated. He also struggled with the guilt and despair that many soldiers experience in any war. But that war and the hateful things Americans who were opposed to it did to the returning soldiers was critical to that story.

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For me personally, race, religion, culture have never been an issue. I love people for who they are and their color or faith or where they came from has never made a difference. As an author, I have included all kinds of people and I hope treated them all fairly, without discrimination. However, I have not dealt with the social issues that come with race, religion or ethnicity.

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Two of my Tide’s Way books feature a police officer as a main character and the heroine of my mystery is a Deputy Detective here in St Augustine Florida, so my portrayal of law enforcement officers has been entirely positive. Mostly because I personally am a strong supporter of law enforcement. Never mind the time I was pulled over by a baby-cheeked officer in New Hampshire for turning into a private establishment in order to turn around, which he termed as doing so to avoid a traffic directive – NO U TURNs. Or the time a cop pulled me over for supposedly turning right on red without stopping after I’d actually turned left after waiting for all the oncoming traffic to pass. He asked me where I was coming from, realized his error and apologized – must have been a different white car. Everyone makes mistakes so I’m okay with that. I’m just thankful there are men and women willing to put themselves between me and danger, and since I consider them heroes and heroines, I enjoy having them be my main characters some of the time.

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I am sick and tired of having the WOKE generation shoving stuff down my throat that either I don’t and never will believe is right, or that I think they haven’t completely thought through so I will never write of those issues, even though I will include characters that fit into those issues. Like anyone else, I have strong political and social views, but I don’t need to alienate half my readers by using my writing platform to push issues that they find offensive. Not naming names, but I once read ALL of a very prolific writer’s books and couldn’t wait for the next. She included characters who were part of a social world I don’t support, but they were well written characters I could like and enjoy having around. And they are a part of the world we live in. As a long-time friend (and Episcopal Priest) once said, “You can object to the sin, but still love the sinner.” I try to live my life that way and I write with that in mind. But this particular author decided to use her best-selling platform to start pushing a political/social agenda I simply could not accept. So I stopped reading her books. I don't want that kind of writing to be my legacy. As a writer of fiction, I have a choice. Do I just tell a great story that anyone can enjoy? Or do I choose to make a political statement that will piss some people off? I chose the former.

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But perhaps some of my blog hoppers have a different take on the issue so hop on over and check them out.

A.J. Maguire 

Diane Bator 

Connie Vines 

Marci Baun 

Anne Stenhouse 

Dr. Bob Rich 

                                     Rhobin Courtright 

Judith Copek 

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:02 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, May 28 2022

Today's question for the Round Robin Blog Hop: What are your favorite things to do when you need to get away from stalled writing? Does it help you to resume with new ideas on the book you are writing?

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Once upon a time, my standard for getting past the stalled-out hump was to put on my jacket and go for a walk along the shore. I lived in Maine back then so it often involved a coat, hat, scarf and mittens. Maybe it was the fresh air that revived my numb thinking neurons, but really, I think it was a little of several things including taking my eyes off the screen and the temptation to stray over to check my email or social media. It was also the physical exercise. Getting my heart rate up and my blood pumping in the rest of my body surely had an effect on my brain as well.

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While I walked, I’d mull over where in the story I’d gotten bogged down. Maybe mentally review where my protagonist or other characters had been just before then, and what their immediate goals were. And somewhere along the line, whole conversations and scenes would start unfurling in my head. By the time I returned home, I couldn’t wait for the kettle to boil and a fresh mug of tea to be ready so I could sit down and capture all the stuff I’d just lived in my head while walking. Actually, sometimes, I skipped the tea and just started typing. The kettle would still be there after I’d captured the essence of my thoughts. It was like day dreaming in my characters’ world.

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This method would probably still work today but now I have an enthusiastic young Golden Retriever who is eager to go with me every time I leave the house. Concentrating on my imaginary friends is difficult when I own the Welcome Wagon for my neighborhood who insists on saying hello to everyone we pass. I do still get ideas while I walk, but they never get a chance to flower into full-blown scenes and lines of dialog like they did when it was just me. So, my several times a day walks are now devoted to disconnecting from my imaginary world and participating in Jessi’s eager exploration of our very real one.

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Water, however, seems to inspire me with ideas, even when it’s not sloshing against the shore while I walk. Taking a shower spawns thoughts that lead to breaks in my stories. It has occurred to me that perhaps I should install a white-board in the shower where I could take notes, but since I haven’t followed up on that idea, I just hurry back to my desk after I get out, sometimes, admittedly, with the towel wrapped about my middle and my hair still dripping wet. One of these days someone is going to ring my doorbell while I’m sitting at my desk pounding away wearing nothing more than a towel, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

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Another way I’ve found to get past a stalled story line is to fix that mug of tea, back up a chapter or three and just read what I’ve already written. Usually, by the time I get to where I left off, I have plenty of ideas elbowing their way past each other to get typed up and included in the story. Often this is a jumble, but that’s what editing is for. Just get the ideas out there. As another writer friend of mine always says, you can’t edit a blank page.

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If I am really REALLY stuck, the best answer is to put the work in progress aside for a bit. Maybe a few days, or a week. Or maybe while I work on something entirely different. Another book, a blog post, a short story, a letter to a friend or install that new toilet flusher that’s been waiting forever to get done. Or go shopping, even if it’s just groceries or a couple replacement plants for my yard. The point is, to change the subject. Then, when I’ve finished that project, open up this stalled file and read it with fresh eyes. You’d be amazed what germinated while I was busy elsewhere.

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I also have one other sure-fire method of dealing with stalled writing. I am part of a small group of writers. We call ourselves the Sandy Scribblers and we meet once a month. We used to meet in a library followed by lunch afterward. Since the advent of the Covid era, we meet by Zoom, but except for the lost lunch date, it works well. We don’t have to get dressed even, or drive anywhere. Just settle back in my recliner with my iPad in my lap and off we go. We discuss our current projects and bounce ideas around. If I’m having a specific problem, I can send out a summary of my issue, maybe some ideas I’ve had or specific questions ahead of our meeting date so my Sandy Scribbler pals have time to read and think about my current issue ahead of the meeting. One of the ladies I call my personal Mayhem. She thinks of all the very WORST things that could befall my characters who I’ve been trying to shelter from trouble. I pick and choose carefully from her list of suggestions but even if I don’t use any directly, her suggestions provoke lively discussion among the four of us. We end up helping each other solve our problems or whip our reluctant characters into shape.

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Even if you are not part of a regular writer’s critique style group, just talking over your plot problems with your hairdresser/barber or your next-door neighbor over coffee can trigger ideas in your own brain that only happen as you struggle to explain what the problem is out loud for someone else to understand.

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There is also the option of a critique partner(s.) Not just to critique work you’ve already written, but to see holes in your plot that are going to cause trouble down the road. Or help you dig yourself out of the slump you find yourself in now.

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This might seem obvious, but a couple other things to consider are: TURN OFF SOCIAL MEDIA, CLOSE YOUR EMAIL APPS and BANISH THE GAMES.

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So now that my little lecture is done, check out what these other authors do to get away from a stalled writing funk.

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Dr. Bob Rich  

Connie Vines 

Anne Stenhouse 

Diane Bator 

A.J. Maguire 

Rhobin Courtright 

           

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:15 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
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    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida
    skye@skye-writer.com

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