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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, September 23 2017

This month's Blog Hop topic is:  What characters in other author's books have not left your mind? Have you written a character who wouldn't leave you? Why do you think this happens? 

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Years ago, when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, I read Heidi by Johanna Spyri and fell so in love with Heidi I wanted to be her. I remember lying in a sunny patch of carpet wishing with all my young heart that I could be her and live on that mountain in the Alps with the Grandfather and Peter. It didn’t happen, of course. I grew up, had a family of my own and have lived some amazing adventures (although I’ve never visited the Alps, at least not yet) but I have never forgotten Heidi and Peter. I could say it was because of the beauty of the alps, but I hadn't seen the movie yet. But I think it was because I have always yearned for adventure, to go somewhere different, experience something I haven't yet seen or done and Heidi's world was about as different as my middle class, suburban neighborhood as it gets. 


 

As a teenager, I read a trilogy written about a girl, then woman who lived on an island on the Maine coast. Joanna Bennett was in many ways a lot like me, but I was always more smitten with Nils Sorenson, the boy, then man who loved Joanna and stuck by her through all her bad decisions and headstrong ways until she finally realized how much he meant to her and that all she had thought she needed meant nothing without him. I loved the coast of Maine even though I didn't live there and living on an island had a wonderful allure and Nils Sorenson was the kind of boy I wanted to meet and someday marry. I was too naive to consider what it would be like to be married to a lobsterman who got up before the sun and came home smelling of fish bait, but the steadfastness of his love for Joanna appealed to me.

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Since then three characters, all male, have touched my heart and imagination and stayed with me long after I put the book down. The first was Jamie Fraser (Diana Gabaldon, Outlander) – long before Sam Heughan brought him to life in the Starz series. The second was Jessie Best (Pamela Morsi. Simple Jess) and most recently, Josh Caven (Cheryl Reavis, The Marine.) I think what made these characters so memorable for me was that all of them were strong male characters who loved fiercely, cared deeply, were honorable, selfless and brave, yet vulnerable and in one way or another were able to admit to that vulnerability and open themselves up to the women they loved. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading Jack Reacher’s exploits and he’s a hard character to forget, but the Reachers of this world don’t really need anyone.  Jessie Best, Nils Sorenson, James Fraser and Josh Caven were men I would like had I met them in the real world, and they embodied all the things I valued most in a soul mate, husband and lover. 

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None of the characters I've created have ever quite left me entirely, both male and female. I think this is partly because as the author, I spent months getting to know them. I knew them better than myself in some ways. I knew what hurt them and what healed them. I felt their pain and soared with their successes because I was there as their stories were unfolding and they shared with me, whispers while I was out walking, dreams while I drowsed and outright conversations while I worked. Of my books currently available, I think the two characters who stand out in my heart and head are Matt Steele, my protagonist in The Candidate, and Dani Amico, the heroine in Iain’s Plaid, for different reasons. Matt because his personal journey included a lot of research that brought back memories of the time when I was coming of age, a time of turmoil for our country and myself in so many ways. And Dani stays with me, because her story grew out of one of my own adventures. I went out sailing to explore an island full of history, walked over paths men and women trod for over 400 years, a place I'd only read about. But Dani got to go places I could never see except in my imagination. So, perhaps she is a little piece of me, and I in some ways am a part of her.

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I’d love to hear about the characters that you’ve met in books that have stuck with you. Please comment below and I'll draw one name from a hat and send either The Candidate or Iain's Plaid for your reading pleasure.


Check out some favorite characters these authors can't leave behind.

Anne Stenhouse  

Heidi M. Thomas 
Victoria Chatham 
Diane Bator  
A.J. Maguire  
Judith Copek 
Beverley Bateman 
Fiona McGier 
Rachael Kosinski 
Rhobin Courtright 

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:01 am   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, September 05 2017

I'm sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I've been kind of distressed by all the hateful things I see on the news, on Facebook and in the media. Is this MY world? MY country? Instead of just protesting what we don't like, we riot, maim and kill. Now we are tearing down statues that commemorate our history, for either good or bad, but rioting or tearing down the statues won't change the history. And it won't change the way we view either other today either. It just makes the hate and victimhood go on. I got to wondering what we need to do to make our world better. And I realized it begins with being a good parent.

No one living today is responsible for things that happened before they were born, or even while they were growing up. NO ONE! Everyone, however, is a product of how we grow up and the things we learned as we grew. I am a baby boomer. I am in no way responsible for chauvinistic attitudes that were the norm in previous generations. My dad, was a chauvinist. He, with some reason, expected my mom to do all the “women’s work” around the house. Partly because that’s how he was brought up and partly because he was the sole breadwinner in our family. My mother chose to be a stay at home wife once WWII was over and she no longer needed to replace men in machine shops. So perhaps my father’s expectations were not so outrageous. My husband was a chauvinist. He grew up in a household similar to mine and he expected me, even after I joined the work force to add to our family income, to continue doing all the chores he grew up thinking were for women only. I am not responsible for the society mores of the generations that came before me. What I am responsible for is the generation that comes after me.

My son is not a chauvinist. He learned long before his teenage years how to wash dishes and fix meals. He learned how to do his own laundry, including ironing his dress shirts. He learned how to replace buttons, bake a cake, make his bed, diaper a baby, care for a pet and dozens of other chores once considered women’s work. I was responsible for that. He’s a loving, generous husband today who fully supports his wife’s career. He has walked the floor at night with his crying infants, bathed them, fed them, took them shopping, to the library and the park and tucked them in at night. Not only am I responsible, at least in part, for the man my son has become, but he and I are responsible for the kind of man his son will become and the way women are regarded in generations to come.

I’m not breaking my arm patting my back over my child rearing choices – what I am doing is using this as an example to show that changes in our culture and society don’t come about overnight simply because someone decides it’s more appropriate. Changes come because of the way we teach our young. Robert E. Lee, George Washington and others were not evil men – they were the product of their time. There were, undoubtedly, some very cruel and evil men who not only supported the institution of slavery, but were inhumane in their treatment of those they considered their property. But every white man or woman today is NOT responsible for the attitudes of both good and evil men of a hundred years ago and a society they had no hand in the making of. We aren’t responsible for the way people of color were treated in the sixties either. Nor should all of us be lumped together with the zealots, white supremacists and others who continue to hold those attitudes. What we are responsible for is the society we are creating for tomorrow. For our children and our childrens’ children.

If we teach hate and intolerance, that’s what they will learn. We aren’t born bigots. We aren’t born hating others. We are taught. And that teaching has to stop. But it won’t stop because Black Lives Matter pickets and protests. It won’t stop if everyone who was born with white skin is expected to turn over everything they have to someone with black or brown skin. I realize bringing up a son who views women far differently than my husband or my father did is a lot different than bringing up children who don’t judge others by the color of their skin or the God they pray to, but it can start there. As parents we CAN change the world our children and grandchildren will live in. It won’t happen overnight, but if we teach love, tolerance and universal acceptance, it will happen.

We can’t just be color-blind, though. We have to be proactive about this. We have to talk to our kids about racial diversity. Seems like this is often even harder than talking about sex, but it’s something we need to do. We need to make sure our children have the opportunity to meet and make friends with others of other cultures and skin color. It might mean going out of our way, but if that’s what it takes, then it’s imperative. It would have been a lot easier and quicker for me to sew that button on my son’s shirt or iron it for him than to patiently teach him how to do it and to be willing to praise his imperfect efforts and encourage him to keep trying, but he would never have learned if I hadn’t taken the time or gone out of my way to make it happen. Travel is a great way to experience other cultures and ways of living. If you don’t live where daily interaction is possible, then travel. Visit places where your children will have opportunities.

And most of all, we have to teach love and respect. Love and respect for all mankind. Not just for those of a different color, but of a different faith, or ethnic background. If you want the world to be different in 25 or 50 years, start now helping your children to grow up with a new way of looking at the world they live in. This goes for parents of black children just as much as for those of white. If you teach your child they are a victim and fill them with resentment, that’s how they will grow up. Teach them instead to be proud of who they are and to believe they can be anything they want. Teach them that all white children, and all white people are not racist.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that showed a sign in front of a church that read, “Love everyone, I’ll sort them out later. Signed God.”  But that’s not right either. God created all of us in our rainbow of colors. He won’t be sorting anyone because He loves us all equally. For Christians – if you would be Christ in this troubled world, let’s start by loving everyone and teaching our children too.

Posted by: Skye AT 03:45 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida
    skye@skye-writer.com

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