Sunday, February 23, 2014

A week of connections

I had the good fortune of participating in two author events this past week. On Tuesday evening, I met with a dozen or so teens at the Library Express in Scranton's Steamtown Mall. They are the Teen Action Board, a group of 12-18-year-olds who enjoy stories - reading them, creating them, and acting them out. They're even creating their own Mystery Murder Theater. So this smart and interesting group listened to my shpiel about how I came up with my story idea, how I researched it, etc. There were some great questions and some interesting discussion, mostly about the way that our own experiences and interests shape what we write about.

Then yesterday, I had a book signing at the same location. A number of old friends and fellow writers came by, a fantastic show of support which I deeply appreciate. Some folks who wandered in to the Library Express stopped by to look at the display of my research materials. That gave me a great chance to share photos of Munich, reprints of Nazi propaganda, my 1930s camera, and the other materials I used to immerse myself in the book's time and place while I wrote.

My favorite moments are when someone who doesn't know me wanders over to the display (often drawn by the incredible book cover by Michael Rausch), picks up a copy of Risking Exposure, and reads the blurb on the back. I watch their expression go from mild interest to a half-smile, usually accompanied by the raised eyebrows or the 'humh' that defines curiosity. It's a wonderful moment of connection. I look forward to getting more of those.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Another free e-book day!

Join people all around the world today only - download Risking Exposure to your Kindle for free! Next Saturday, February 22nd, I'll be signing (print) books at the Library Express at the Steamtown Mall from 11:30-2:00. Stop by to say hello!

On Tuesday evening, I'll meet with the Teen Action Board at the Albright Library in Scranton. This is a group of about 15 teens interested in stories - reading them, creating them, and sharing them. Sure, I'll share some of my historical research. But mostly I hope to get them thinking and talking about times and settings of interest to them. Victorian England?

Australia when it was a penal colony?

Ancient Greece?

Regardless, there's a lot involved in creating the backdrop for a
story and making it authentic.

The author needs to get a sense of the place, its smells and sounds, its mood, its management of everyday needs like school and commerce. The author also needs to get a feel for the time in history, the common language, the cultural norms and customs, the manner of dress and way of thinking that define an era. I'm rediscovering all that. I have begun research for another novel, the sequel to Risking Exposure. I continue to be fascinated by what it takes to act according to your own conscience despite what's happening around you. Like this guy.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Day in the Life

In honor of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, (how can it be that long ago??) here is a piece I wrote a few years back. It's thoroughly corny and trite, but it's fun. 

All I Need Is Love…and The Beatles

When I was a Little Child, The Beatles were Here, There, and Everywhere. Something in their Rock and Roll Music touched me, and fifty years later There’s A Place for them still In My Life. Any Time At All, All I’ve Got to Do is pull out my CDs or my well-worn vinyl. I Want To Tell You, When I’m Sixty-Four, I Will still be listening and loving their music and their lyrics.
Back in the 60’s, The Beatles guided a generation through the Misery of the Revolution that spread Across the Universe. They assured us things were Getting Better and that in The End, the human race could Come Together. They said that if just Two Of Us could speak Words Of Love, we could start Fixing A Hole, bringing people All Together Now as family, Mother Nature’s Sons and daughters. They believed that We Can Work It Out.
I’ve Got A Feeling they were right.
Their Words and tunes created The Inner Light I needed to Help! me as I grew. If I Fell for someone too quickly, The Beatles told me to Slow Down. When This Boy broke my heart over Another Girl, they reminded me I Should Have Known Better. Then, With A Little Help from My Friends, I could Wait until some new Boys asked to Hold Me Tight.  
The Beatles broke up Long Long Long ago and the Helter Skelter world still turns. But What Goes On hasn’t changed. Past all those Birthdays, through countless Hello, Goodbyes, their lyrics still ring true. They taught me that each day is A Beginning and history isn’t made of Chains, that there will be Rain before the Sun King comes, and that I need to earn Money and give my share to the Taxman. The government may as well take it, ‘cause Money Can’t Buy Me Love.
Today when I’m Down and I think I’m A Loser, I take The Beatles’ advice, find someone to help Carry That Weight and pretty soon, I Feel Fine. On a Hard Day’s Night when It’s All Too Much for me and I can’t get a Good Night’s sleep, I just Step Inside Love and soon I’ll Be Back on my feet again. When I Drive My Car or want to Get Back to Yesterday, The Beatles Don’t Let Me Down. Can you Dig It?
If the soundtrack playing down the Long and Winding Road of your life includes The Beatles, Baby, You’re a Rich Man too. From Me To You, I suggest we Let It Be.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Three amazing people you've probably never heard of

Today, Super Bowl Sunday, our media's talking heads will polish up and show off sports figures, all of whom pull down 6- and 7-figure salaries. They'll be touted a strong, heroic types to be admired and emulated. But aside from providing entertainment and the thrill of the moment, I know nothing about whether or not these folks are true heroes.

So I thought today was a good day to introduce you to a few people who truly made a difference in their world. These are real people I've read about, not in the tabloids, not splashed across the evening news, but in small footnotes in a worn book or those plexiglass-covered placards at nondescript museum displays.

 - Irena Sendler (1910-2008) Irena was a Polish nurse who worked with the Underground during World War II. In the German-occupied Warsaw ghetto, she enlisted the help of two dozen other people to create false identity papers and smuggle 2500 Jewish children to locations outside the ghetto walls. She kept a list of the children's names and where they'd gone buried in a jar in her backyard in the hopes of reuniting children and parents.
In the late 1990's, a group of Kansas students stumbled across her story. When they learned that she was still alive, they connected with her and decided to spread her story.

 - Ida Lewis (1842-1911) As the daughter of the keeper of Lime Rock (RI) Lighthouse, Ida became a strong swimmer and oarsman at an early age. In addition to taking on the duties of keeper as her parents' health failed, Ida was frequently called on to perform rescues. Her first was at 17-years-old, when she single-handedly pulled four young men from the frigid water alongside their capsized sailboat. Over her lifetime as keeper, she saved 18 people from drowning.

 - Mary Anning (1799-1847) While fossil hunting on the Lyme Regis cliffs as a twelve-year-old, Mary made an astounding discovery - the first dinosaur skeleton, an ichthyosaur. Until then, animal extinction was thought to be impossible, and this finding turned the scientific community upside down. She was too young and too poor to be considered part in the upheaval, so she sought to give herself the credentials she needed to be taken seriously. She worked her way though school and became a paleontologist at a time when very few women went to college, never mind on digs. Her findings and her work started a fundamental shift in scientific thinking about prehistoric life.

None of these people saved the world or made a fortune. Their names may be lost to history. But each of them did what they could with their gifts and their passions. They didn't rest in comfort and assume someone else would do something. And our lives are richer for it.
Can the same be said of today's sport figures?