Janet R Stafford

Un-Polarizing, Part 2



Polarization is two people taking opposite opinions and not giving an inch. And, as fellow author EM Kaplan commented on my previous blog, it makes for great drama. And she’s absolutely right! At the very least, a bit of contention adds a dash of tension. So let’s continue looking into how the theme of polarization and un-polarization shows up in my books.


Un-Polarizing, Part 1



I’ve been writing for a while and now that I have a “body of work,” I have noticed an interesting trend. I tend to put people with opposing viewpoints and opinions together.


This probably should not be a surprise, given the fact that I live during an era in which we are told over and over again that Americans are “polarized.” It happened during the tumultuous 1960s, and reared its head again during the 1990s. And now it’s completely out of control. Or at least it seems to be that way. Sometimes I wonder if our “polarization” is not the result of being told continuously that we are polarized. Is it a classic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Guess I will have to leave that one to future historians.


What I started to do was write just one blog on how communication and love operate in my books, but it looks as if it’s going to be two or three. But don’t worry. I’ll stop before it turns into a dissertation.


I first noticed that I was connecting my books to my contemporary setting In 2001. After 9/11, I was working on another draft of SAINT MAGGIE. During that time, anger and fear were rife. Nationally, we wanted to strike out and destroy. At the very least, we wanted to circle the wagons. Not surprisingly, I noticed that the church-going characters of SAINT MAGGIE also are feeling betrayed, angered and frightened thanks to the behavior of a trusted member of the town, so much so that they respond in a most un-Christlike manner. Even the analytical Eli gets caught up in it and ends up writing a harsh editorial. Thank goodness he has Maggie. 


I'd be lying if I said the fall-winter season was easy for me. It hasn't been. The church where I serve added "Director of Communications" to my job, which was great because it meant extra income and give me to the opportunity to expand my skills in that area, but adding that to what I do was challenging.




I love working with a character like Maggie. She tries her best to treat others with love and respect. She is gentle, attentive, and kind. And she often does the unthinkable – she makes sacrifices in the name of those qualities. She is real. And she has the real thing.


Long Live Love - Just Not the Gorgeous Kind


 When I set about writing Saint Maggie, I knew one thing: if there was going to be romance, it would be between two average people. There would be no ripped, breathtakingly handsome man and no shapely, astoundingly gorgeous woman tearing each other's clothes off in a scene that I'm pretty sure never happens.





"The Dundee Cake" will be FREE on Kindle from Thanksgiving Day (November 24) through November 27. 
It's Christmas 1852.  Widow Maggie is struggling to run a boarding house and raise two daughters all on her own. She has hired a woman named Emily to help her. Even though Maggie is white and Emily is black, they become friends. When Emily and her husband Nate experience a tragedy, Maggie reaches out to help them - even though it means making sacrifices.





Back in the summer my stepdaughter, Kirstina, suggested that I work on a series of stories for Young Adults featuring Frankie, Maggie's youngest daughter with her late husband John Blaine. Then a friend and beta reader, Laura, suggested that I add Maggie's oldest daughter, Lydia, to the mix because she liked the interplay between the two young women.

So now I'm working on the short story series which at the moment is called "Maggie's Daughters." The first one up is "The Enlistment," although I may change the title to "The Mustering In" to give it that 19th century feel. Central characters are Frankie and Patrick. Two pages of first draft pages follow. Enjoy!

It's About the Power of Love




I recently published my fourth book in the Saint Maggie series. After five years I finally realize what my series is about. (Better late than never, huh?)


The Gilded Age





I am getting closer to publishing SEEING THE ELEPHANT. While I’m still not completely satisfied with the dialog in a few places, I will be giving my beta readers copies to peruse and comment upon. So we’re getting there, and if all goes well, the book will finally be published in September. It’s a big son-of-a-gun, so have your reading glasses on hand.


Now, on to the conversation of the day.


In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published a book that became the name of an era: The Gilded Age.  This period, generally believed to be between 1870 and 1900, was marked by rapid industrialization, economic growth, and immigration, most notably in the North and West. While wages for the average worker rose, there was nonetheless also a remarkably unequal distribution of wealth.


Twain and Dudley’s book is set in the United States at the very beginning of the Gilded Age. Marvin Felheim[i], who wrote the introduction to my yellowed paperback copy of the book, notes that the story’s primary criticism was focused on “the greed and lust – for land, for money, for power – of an alliance of Western land speculators, Eastern capitalists, and corrupt officials who dominated the society and appreciably altered its character.”[ii] He goes on to say:


The “Gilded Age” was a “peaceful” era following the horrors of the Civil War. The North, industrialized and righteous, had won. One consequence was the westward extension of institutions representing its victorious value system. Expansion was in the air. Capital was available and bankers were looking avidly for investments. The West, with all its rich potentialities, both of wealth and adventure, lay ready to be exploited. Colonel Sellers’ [a principle character] ambitious schemes were not merely the idle dreams of a satirist’s euphoric imagination: they represented the hopes and beliefs of a nation.[iii]





And yet again we hear of another terrorist attack. This time it’s Nice, France. And once more we hear the litany of how it was carried out, how many were hurt and how badly, followed by hours of anxiety-making speculation by “news” networks that actually present infotainment, followed public outrage, grief, and depression, and concluded with indignant, windy speeches by political “big bugs” (as Eli would call them) ranting for revenge or pleading for peace.



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