Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Our World on Plastics

Our Earth has a human-induced plastic problem. Plastic fills our dumps, our land, and oceans, and our air. Plastics not only make containers and equipment but are in cars, clothes, food packages, candy wrappers, papers, cigarettes, and our media devices. Just about everything has plastics in it, including our drinking water, food, and our bodies. The problem is we don’t know the ultimate effect of microplastics on our environment or within our bodies or how to remove them.

Earth's land, water, and air are not ours, but part of the Earth where we live. Yes, you intuitively know that, but we act like we own the Earth. Some say God gave us this world to do with as we please. If so, he never promised a second world.

Plastics are necessary, and many people remain ignorant or uncaring about the problems that come from the unplanned disposal of all the plastic products we use. Our ever-increasing need for plastics and the resulting pollution expands as our populations' demand for products surpass the limits of the Earth’s natural products to provide them.

We do not know all the dangers of the plastics to the Earth, but we can see what is happening in our waters. Many of us have seen the images of fish, seals, turtles, and other creatures caught up in plastics. We have islands of plastic floating in our oceans. Helen Briggs points out in a BBC article what might be happening to our water wildlife. She states "A study found bits of plastic outnumber baby fish by seven to one in the nursery waters off Hawaii," AND, “There is growing evidence that plastic is being ingested by marine life, but the health implications are unclear.”

"Not only does it contaminate our oceans, but 22 million pounds of plastic are dumped into the Great Lakes every year" (Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune). Now, how they measured this I'm unsure, but I think its safe to say, we throw huge amounts of plastic into our waterways.

Plus, in Michigan, where every square inch is watershed for the Great Lakes, the state has tons of plastics dumped into landfills that have grown into mountains. Plastic in landfills may take 1000 years to decompose, and scientists are not sure how microparticles, those very tiny plastic particles that remain plastic and are now found in Earth's air, water, and soil, will affect our ecosystems (UN Environment Program). Humans also freely dispose of any unwanted trash, much of it plastic, on roadsides, sidewalks, nature trails, and in our local, state, and national parks. I know because I help pick it up. We've all seen images of marine life caught in plastic, but it goes further, affecting microorganisms.

So, if you don't care about what effect plastics are having on the chain of life, do you care that you now have microplastics in your body? They are in your water, even your beer and other liquid products, and in the food you consume. Microplastics are in the air you breathe. So what? The Ecology Center explains more and gives problem information related to each type of plastic. Microplastics can toxify your body with lead, cadmium, or mercury. It can damage fatty acids, which are important in brain function. It can affect other important body chemistry which can cause indigestion or depression problems. Further, it can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or pancreas or thyroid damage as well as have effects on testosterone.

What makes plastics? Plastics are objects made from malleable synthetic or organic polymers, of repeating, often very long molecular threads of carbon and other elemental atoms. Biopolymers are natural and found in every living organism, but synthetic polymers differ. While biopolymers are the foundation of some of our natural products like cotton, linen, paper, and silk, synthetic polymers are man-made plastics. They play an important role in our way of life. Yes, they are made of natural elements but differ.

When was plastic invented? Alexander Parkes, a British scientist, invented the first plastic Parkesine in 1856 and through several variations became registered as celluloid in 1872. It is based on the natural compound cellulose. Celluloid became important in the photography and film industries. Movies were made from it.

Bakelite was patented by Leo Baekeland in 1907 and it was the first plastic made from synthetic materials. It soon formed the body components or containers of radios, telephones, and other household products. The invention of Bakelite led to the development of many other plastics.

This means that in 1000 years all known plastics used in the last 148 years will have degenerated into the elements that made them. If we control our disposal and find safe disposable systems now.

What makes up plastics today? Based on the materials used to create plastic, we have seven basics types of plastic which create products now vital to our way of life. They compose many of our appliances, containers, clothes, and even vehicles. The problem is too many people carelessly dispose of them both consciously and unconsciously.

Each type of plastic differs from others. Some are reusable, but others can become hazardous material after usage. Some plastics are easily recyclable, others are more difficult.

Take your nearest plastic product, maybe the lunch box you brought from home, your water bottle, your instant noodle cup. Study it closely, and you might find a number at its back or bottom. You probably already know what the number represents. It indicates the product's type of plastic.

Seven types of plastic exist, Types 1, 2 and 5 are considered the safest for food and 1 and 2 are the most recyclable.
Type 1: PET or PETE, or Polyester (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is primarily used for food and beverage packaging as it helps prevent oxygen from entering a package’s contents. It also produces a wrinkle-free fabric. It does contain antimony which is a carcinogen and can contaminate any food or liquid stored in it for long or if the plastic is heated. This type of plastic is recyclable.
Type 2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) is a dense and strong plastic used in plastic bags and bottles for products from milk to shampoo to medicines, and is also recyclable.
Type 3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) plastics make toys, medical bags and tubing, and loose-leaf binders among many uses. It is considered a hazardous plastic and is usually not recyclable. The chemicals used to make it can be hazardous to health.
Type 4, LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) “has the simplest plastic polymer chemical structure, making it very easy and very cheap to process.” Plastic bags, plastic wraps, milk cartons, beverage cups, and covering for wire are common products using this plastic, but It is difficult to recycle.
Type 5, PP (Polypropylene) makes up hot food containers and diapers. It isn’t recyclable.
Type 6: PS (Polystyrene) or Styrofoam is used for certain food containers, helmet lines, and packing materials. Hot oily food can leach styrene, a component that could damage the brain and nervous system. Polystyrene is also hard to recycle.
Type 7: Is all other plastics, which can be layers of several types of plastics, but also PC or Polycarbonate which is used for many infant products and food containers. It can cause many health problems and should be avoided as harmful and toxic in certain amounts
More sources for explanations of plastic types: Quality Logo Product, or at Non-Toxic Revolution or at How Stuff Works.

The public's ignorance of plastic types has led to many of our problems. Disposable to most humans means throwing the product away-- anywhere, but that is not always the best answer.

The biggest question is what needs to be done and can it be done? What can you do?

Note: Published in both my gardening and writing blogs.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Charming Villains

This month's shared topic is do you have any charming, likable villains? This topic, like many of the upcoming topics, has left me thinking and wondering about my published characters.


Wikipedia, original cover
I had to think about this first, so I thought about the villains I have read about. Surprise! This is a theme in one of my favorite stories. In Georgette Heyer's 1932 Regency romance novel, The Devil's Cub, the hero starts as a villainous scoundrel but love gradually transforms him. This tends to be a theme in many historical romances. In that European era, the idea existed that noblemen ruled so could do whatever they wanted. While they were often good people, they felt entitled, and society looked the other way as power and wealth were more important than morals. The hero of The Devil's Cub's insouciance and good manners draws readers to him even though he is in the process of abducting the woman who thwarted his plans instead of her eager-to-agree younger sister. As a teen, I read Heyer's books obsessively, and I know the father of this hero had his own story and a few villainous ways, too. He earned redemption when he stepped away from the woman he wanted to let her join the man she loved.

But do I have any likable villains in my novels? Well, sort of but she is only a minor secondary character. Adessa, in Rogue's Rules, is looking for her brother who was sold into slavery. An extraordinarily evil character tells her he can help her find her brother if she will kill the story's heroine. She becomes a friend and supporter of the heroine until she finds a safe way to eliminate her. Is Adessa likable? I don't think her part in the story is extensive enough for the reader to come to like her or not. In another novel, Home World Reax, the reader knows that the one character who acts very charming to other characters is a hateful witch behind doors, so I don't think she counts in this category. 

Which reminds me that we all know psychology and personality type plays into who we are and how we act and react. We all do things that often unintentionally but sometimes intentionally affect others. Some do evil things depending on their mental health, their circumstances, or their history, which left them with a desire for vengeance while they can remain friendly, polite, and charming individuals. 

This happens with story characters, too. Even the main heroic character can want retribution on another character whose past actions have caused them trouble or disaster that haunts them. In the story's progress, this haunted character discovers their perception was incorrect for one reason or another such as the 'evil' incident was either accidental or they've been misinformed, and now they have created evil themselves. Most story villains are characters who think, do, or say mean things due to their personal beliefs. Some villains are guided by even greater villains. To others and in public they are polite, kind, and humorous. Some think that only what they want is important no matter who gets harmed by their desires or greed. However, like some people, psychologically twisted characters can do truly awful things.

I find the idea of a charming and likable villain interesting, which leaves me thinking about how I can develop one for a future story. It will, of course, depend on their purpose.

Please visit these author's blogs to learn their views on this topic:
Skye Taylor 
Fiona McGier 
Judith Copek 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Connie Vines  
Diane Bator 
Helena Fairfax 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Coronavirus and Individual Rights

Watching a TV news segment on Wednesday’s 'Operation Haircut' in front of the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing, one hairdresser said "no one can deny me my God-given rights." At first, I found it funny that someone would say such a thing, especially a woman. Men and women claimed their rights, many dying in the process, but they also made laws governing their usage. Has our education system not taught history? 

I know historical information is not always correct and can be misinterpreted, but some of the events such as the wars that took place and the laws written into code happened. I understand, too, that religion has been a part of the process of gaining human rights. It helped bring law and order to civilizations. Yet humans are fickle. We have had many religious wars trying to discover the right religion. It was one of the reasons early American colonists traveled to the newly discovered continent—the right to follow their religious beliefs. At that time, many European governments were in the hands of a king who held the divine right to rule. Also, at that time, women were the property of their husbands. Anything they earned or inherited became their husband's upon marriage. Before marriage, it belonged to the woman’s father.  



It wasn’t until the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, that rights and government changed. Even then, God was mentioned: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The Declaration does not mention anything about women, but it implies one person’s rights will not impinge on another person’s rights. In Michigan, over 5,000 people have died from Covid19. Do those protesting have the right to possibly further spread the infection to others? Are there better solutions than isolation? Better prevention techniques? Even the selected solutions are being ignored by some individuals.

As to women's God-given rights, it wasn’t until the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, that women began demanding rights. England’s Parliament in The Women’s Property Act of 1870 gave English women the right to own the money they earned and to keep what they inherited. In the United States, it wasn’t until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 that women could vote. Only 100 years ago!

I have no problem with protests or the idea of protesting, or anyone's right to say what they think, and I believe hairdressers are talented, hardworking individuals practicing their art. Right now, this pandemic is affecting many individuals and their families, affecting their livelihood and their freedoms. I understand the frustration and associated panic. We all still need to be aware of all sides of an argument, any argument, and the effects of every solution suggested. We also need to be aware of anyone pushing certain agendas, especially political ones, or we might lose the rights we have come to expect.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Editing


This month's topic is: All books go through multiple edits. What have you learned are your problems, and what irks you about editing?

Editing is very important. No writer writes without making mistakes in wording, structure, or punctuation. Even though my books have been edited multiple times, I still find errors in read-throughs. I hate that when the story is already published!

My common mistakes include:

1. Using the wrong name or misspelling the name for a specific character.

2. Misspelled words. I'm a terrible speller, always have been. I am better than I used to be, but spellings change with time too. I really like online dictionaries with a thesaurus, because I can change out some of the words listed in #4.

3. Misplaced commas, periods, and apostrophes. Since I've started writing, I've become better but when I discover them in published books I am frustrated.

4. Repetition of my unconsciously used favorite words. I keep a list now and try to run through the list to see how many of my over-used words show up. Words like remained, just, like, that, there, before, suddenly, however, although, and through, and also 'and then.'

5. Another mistake I've made is misplaced modifiers, like: I found my dog driving my car.

I make other mistakes, those are just my common ones. If you have a critique partner who is very good with grammar, you are lucky, but if not, a good way to discover mistakes is to read the writing aloud.

The digital world is changing this. Many writing programs like MS Word now have grammar help. Word also allows you to keep a separate dictionary for certain writings, which helps. The Grammarly site is also a great new readily available help source. While this free program catches many mistakes in wording and punctuation, it is not always correct, so users have to be careful. It even works on online-writing like this blog.

Visit these blogs for more takes on this subject!

Diane Bator
Connie Vines
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Anne Stenhouse 
Margaret Fieland
Dr. Bob Rich 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

4th Excerpt from Constantine's Legacy

Travel in the Dark Ages, now called the Early Middle Ages, was difficult whether by land or water.
~*~

Radulf noticed his veltres’ (greyhounds) ears perked up, and their heads turned in the direction of the forest. One stopped, whined, and then caught up with his horse. He noticed Leonard observed the canines also.

“But everyone’s lands are so spread out, even the king’s. Will not such unity become too hard to protect?

“We protect wide-spread villae now. Do you think I would let my steward steal from me?” Ogivia would not. Radulf kept watch through the forest. Something was wrong. He sensed it. With a simple hand motion, he warned his men to remain alert and have their weapons ready.

“What is wrong?” Leonard asked.

“Look about you. Hear and sense as well as see.”

Puzzled, Leonard searched the trees.

“What is different?” Radulf asked.

“The normal forest noises...”

“Exactly.” Radulf lowered his voice and he made some signals with his right hand to the men behind him as he spoke to Leonard. “There are rōbon out there, every ready to kill and steal. Be prepared for an attack.”

Radulf drew his blade, heard Leonard and his men slide their weapons from their scabbards. They rode swords in hand surrounded by silence except for their own horses’ hooves

Screams erupted from among the trees, their numbers indicating a force much larger than his small group. Men in leather battle gear ran forward flinging axes in the ancient Frankish manner of battle. Several loud strikes of ax against wooden shields filled the air, alerting Radulf these were no common road bandits but trained soldiers. They threw with devastating accuracy.

His horse tensed beneath him, upset under the tight reign he held. He knew the animal sensed his tension. An ax hit his shield, the thrust throwing him backwards and off-balance. Even prepared, the added weight briefly caused him to lower his shield while he regained his position.

Many years of battle experience took over. “Ride at all speed! Forward! Forward! Run them down.” Radulf yelled, indicating the soldiers standing in the road ahead of his troop, even as he spurred his horse forward and raised his spatha toward the enemy. The men before them also pulled swords, some already holding their weapons. Others ran to the road’s sides. It took courage to stand before charging horses.

Screams followed and surrounded Radulf. His men’s war bellows followed him and clashed with those of their attackers. Cries of the stricken followed him, both those of his own men and those of their foes. The screams added another note to the dissonance of pounding horse hooves, the thuds and crashes of weapons, and the squeal of injured horses.

His horse’s stride quickened. His troop’s mounts barreled through the men in the road. Thrown axes missed him, but the marauders held no shields, no protection from his spatha and he used it dispassionately. Most ducked and rolled to the side before hooves trampled them. By then, his sword often found some part of the foe’s body. His horse, even if cut, galloped on. He swung a last time, killing a man before passing through the line. Blood sprayed in a long arc, trailing his blade.

Radulf spurred his horse. The animal raced from the ambush. Continuing to press his horse hard in its flight, he followed the old Roman road toward Paris. The blood angered and gratified him, brought memories he needed to quash. Riding at full out gallop helped empty his mind. Two markers down the road, he slowed Morlin to a trot. Sweat lathered the horse’s coat. Once he felt it safe, he slowed his thoughts and reined in his emotions.

Morin’s sides heaved between his legs. The scent of his mount’s sweat and his own ran free and filled his nose. He huffed nearly as hard as his horse.

A glance behind him showed fifteen riders followed, and Leonard, thank God, was one of them, riding close on his gray’s left flank. Leonard’s shield was missing, his spatha’s blade darkened with blood.

Leonard pulled up next to him, but from his son’s stricken look, he knew a first killing already haunted the boy. “It is part of saving your own and your men’s lives.”

“Thou shalt not kill.” The biblical Commandment was all Leonard said.

It struck Radulf, until he realized the comment not aimed at him, but something Leonard tried to work out in his own mind. He snorted and looked away. The world was a vile, murderous place, filled with treachery and evil. Leonard had yet to learn this lesson.

He heard Leonard mutter in Latin, “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.” More learning from Ogivia. He trusted his sister implicitly. He trusted her with his daughter, but more importantly, he had trusted her with Leonard, his heir. He loved his son, but the boy was more monkish than warrior like. His serving Pepin caused his frequent absence from Albrecht. Serving the new Francorum rex was now his duty. Ogivia had raised the boy, loved him, educated him, and kept him safe. Jocelin had seen to his basic training. Last year, Leonard became old enough for him to take over and begin his son’s tutelage as an heir. Since then Radulf had learned that for everything the boy had learned, his faith often outweighed his logic.

He turned his horse to see who still traveled with him and thought it too bad God had not preserved those lost on the road behind, too. Now, however, was not the time to talk with Leonard about the difference of thanking God through prayer and acting to save one’s self from harm. He glanced at the bloody spatha hanging from Leonard’s hand. Obvious Leonard already knew something of this. He urged his horse forward, and they rode a few more makers down the road before he pulled up and dismounted. As Leonard dismounted next to him he asked, “Are you all right?”

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Humor in Writing

Round-robin author and participant Skye Taylor suggested this month's topic on how easy or difficult you find including humor in writing, if have you ever incorporated a true life humorous event in your own life or the life of someone you know in a book you were writing?

I must admit this month's topic is a challenge for me as I hadn't thought about it before. I've always considered humor as the comedy genre, and I know I'd be dismal at it. I think comedy is a very challenging and difficult genre. While I enjoy humor, I know I'd be lousy at writing it as my mind just doesn't (or hasn't so far) been adept at creating it. It's not that I'm incapable of enjoying humor because I do. Creating humor, though, is another matter altogether. 

Usually, any humor I engender is the laughter created by my klutzy actions. For instance, anything I'm wearing or carrying will almost inevitably catch on something as I pass by, jerking me to the side or to an abrupt stop and usually causing me to drop whatever I'm carrying. This includes purse straps, necklaces, bracelets, belt loops, shoe strings, wide sleeves, jacket linings, and pockets (and many other unexpected causes) that catch on various door parts or carts, cars, and anything else that I might walk past. I've elicited many laughs from others watching me. I suppose I could write a character with that problem. Experience, you know, gives great insight. This repetition, though, might bore the reader.

In writing, my humor is mostly conversational. Usually, this is limited to snarky asides from one character to another about different situations as they arise. I’ve never even tried to write a comedic scene.

This all led me to explore humor. So I read Jan Hornung's article about humor in The Internet Writing Journal. She advises the writer, "Don't tell the reader that something is funny. Let the reader discover this for himself. Do this by painting a picture with words that the reader can relate to with all five of his senses. Describe the smells, textures, tastes, sights, and sounds."  

I am very familiar with the concept of showing not telling, but envisioning the humorous scene might be the most difficult part, even when using exaggeration or understatement, which are also recommended for writing humor. I've read where humor is just a reversal of a possible tragedy. Even so, foreshadowing the tragedy and switching it out to a funny disaster is no easy task.

Visit the following authors on how they handle humor:

Skye Taylor 
Diane Bator 
Beverley Bateman 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Connie Vines  
Anne Stenhouse  
Margaret Fieland 
A.J. Maguire  
Victoria Chatham 
Judith Copek 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What draws me into a story?

I read a lot so know the first chapters are very important. While certain character types can draw me in, it is usually the beginning situation the character is in that makes me continue reading. So I must be a what-happens-next type reader. I am willing to read many genres when this format is present.

That was pretty short wasn't it?

The only novel I remember reading and enjoying without this was James Michener's Hawaii, as it starts with the ancient formation of the islands. Yet, I like science and archaeology and have used world-building in my writing. Also, from the title, one might suggest Hawaii was the story's main character. I've probably read other stories with this format but they didn't leave a long-lasting impression.

The page drawing me in
These are things I don't like, and their presence often stops me from reading any further.
  1. Stories told in first-person and present-tense often aggravate me. I have read first-person stories and enjoyed them, so it must be the combination of first-person with the present tense.
  2. A series of prologues and quotes leading up to the first chapter or dividing the story into parts loses my interest. This tends to happen in fantasy, a genre I usually enjoy.
  3. Another aggravation is a beginning with an overly poetic style in the opening chapter, especially when loaded with sentence fragments, metaphors, and similes often found in literary fiction. I wonder if the whole story will continue with this figure-this-out blah-blah-blah wording. It turns me off. Especially when these are from a character's perspective. As the reader, am I supposed to get better acquainted with that character's mentality through this process? It doesn't happen. I'm too busy trying to decipher the wording's intent.
I must admit, though, that in short, creative, non-fiction I don't mind any of these so much. Please visit the blogs listed below for other opinions on this topic.

Victoria Chatham 
Skye Taylor
Helena Fairfax 
Judith Copek
Diane Bator 
Dr. Bob Rich
Fiona McGier 
Connie Vines 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Current Trends in My Fiction

Me thinking
The last round-robin topics got me thinking, do I use social trends in my stories? I had to think about this topic because at first, I did not think I had, but I decided to explore exactly what social trends meant.

The online site Reference defines social trends as "Any type of activity that is participated in by society as a whole. Trends can be long-lasting or short-lived." Another site, WebRef defined it as, "A persistent change in social relations and social structure over time. Trends are the aggregate effect of many uncoordinated individual and group actions, such as bureaucratization, industrialization, urbanization, etc. Social trends also affect individuals even though individuals may be largely unaware that it affects others also in a similar manner."

So this means social trends are always happening, changing and evolving society. Humans are strange creatures. In some human interests, trends can emerge or change very quickly, such as fashion and media, even some aspects of transportation. While clothing keeps some basic constants like underwear, tops, pants, skirts, dress, coats, they can change dramatically in design, fabrics, cut, and preferred colors. New cars come out every year with new designs and innovations to increase interest and buyers. They gradually become old-fashioned. Changes in media may take a few years or decades to establish, but advertisements are constant although always changing in format and tone. So, social trends can define a historical era or become a hallmark of the present one.

Since most of my writing is in the genre of science fiction, and I tend to take historical trends to create my worlds with either approaching or past apocalypses, or how human beliefs, prejudices, and choices change worlds, I must be using trends.

Obviously, digital devices have made a mark on today's society, and I have used them in my scifi stories. Usually, I translate historical or current trends into these stories.

I'm trying to branch out into historical fiction and contemporary romance. I know I will incorporate many social trends in my contemporary, but I've already found out historical fiction is a little more tricky.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Social Issues and Trends in Stories


As discussed in January's Round Robin, within the last decade, societal trends have changed quickly. With the growth in the use of digital and mobile devices, it is not strange that these changes show up in fiction plots.

This month's topic is about current issues and trends that have ended up in a story. One trend happening that might not be in stories is that fewer people are reading novels as Christopher Ingraham reported in a 2016 Washington Post article.

NASA image 
I have not read many novels where the climate was a part of the story. I know that many young adults are also very worried about the world they will live in or if the world will actually survive. I read it in their essays. They are aware of the pollution, deforestation, and species extinction caused by previous generations and how these changes are affecting the world. The climate and environmental disasters in our world are important topics. These, of course, are not trends but events and need further exposure to convince those who remain uninformed. Novels covering this might do great good by informing those who avoid non-fiction but who still read fiction novels as most fiction authors are excellent researchers, too. 
From Wikimedia

Mobile phones, online media, voice-activated devices that take orders and reply back continue to change us. How they are used has led to many social trends and are now frequently an aspect of fiction stories. In reality, individuals are often more interested in what is on their phone than what is taking place around them. Taking selfies, or pictures, or videos about daily happenings and events and posting them to social media has become near obsessive-compulsive as people share many moments of their daily life. Digital relationships seem to have become more important than real-time-and-place relationships. This means social face-to-face encounters are often ignored, or at least, have changed how people interact. Sociologist Frank Fruedi of the Aspen Institute gives more information on how digital and social media are changing our culture and perhaps may produce some intriguing plot lines.

Another trend noticed is how many individuals, companies, and countries are invested in controlling or dividing cultural segments of the population for their own ends, which often leads to encouraging hate groups and increasing prejudices. The partisan attitudes this creates affect how we interact and influence democratic elections and governing by using often incorrect or misleading information. And I'm sure novels exist about computer hacking or about using digital media to manipulate others' perceptions. This trend has happened frequently in history and shown up in novels for a long time as the 1975 movie Rollerball displayed (based on a short story "Roller Ball Murder" the screenplay writer William Harrison had published in Esquire Magazine), but goes much further back to 16th century's non-fiction treatise The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli and the 1885 novel The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells.

Threat and attacks on groups have also become commonplace worldwide based on radical religious or political beliefs. The U.S. has had an ongoing 'War Against Terror' overseas for over a decade while school shootings in the country have become an epidemic. These actions affect public perception not only about the acts themselves but about those who help protect the public from such events. I think this has lead to the trend in contemporary romance stories' many themes of soldiers and first responders as main characters. Deservedly so.

Other trends that might show up in fiction is the use of Uber drivers (which has led to some serious problems, too) and Airbnb.

I also recognize how I have changed. Aging brings its own awareness and problems, but my attitudes have also changed. I worry about any product I use that contains wood. Much of our paper, furniture, home structures, even some of our medicines, use wood, and many are quickly disposed of; so are our forests. Yet the alternative is plastic, and many are careless in their disposal of this product. Awareness about how animals are raised today has drastically reduced how much meat I consume. There is a growing awareness of animals not being the thoughtless creatures believed but creatures with emotional responses and thought processes similar to our own. This has readjusted my opinion of them. Every time I get in a car I consider petroleum's effects on the atmosphere and on the ground. Will these themes occur in my stories? Yes.

These trends could play in developing plot lines in what might develop into some amazing stories in any genre. However, like all story particulars, this type of information needs to be researched and integrated into the setting with care for what the writer's purpose in writing a particular story is.

For more views on social trends in novels visit these authors' blogs.

Skye Taylor
Connie Vines
Dr. Bob Rich
Judith Copek
Fiona McGier

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Heart and Time

A short science fiction piece to celebrate the day. Take time to tell your loved ones they matter to you.
~*~
The young aide put the spoon to the age-shattered woman’s mouth.

Her cloudy eyes studied him. “You look like Justin.”

“Justin?”

“My only love. Took a rocket into space… and poof… he was gone.”

“That must have hurt.”

“It did.” The past briefly haunted her eyes. “But the hurt healed long ago.”

“Take another bite,” he commanded.

She did and sighed. “Time never waits, you know.” Soon her eyes closed as she fell asleep in her wheelchair. He lifted her into her bed.

“Space time and Earth time differ. He returned my love, just a lifetime too late.” Justin turned off the light and left her.