Sunday, May 25, 2014

Help our libraries!

This past Wednesday, I was The Author at the Susquehanna County Library Association's annual Author Luncheon. What an honor to speak in front of 60 attendees! The event is a fundraiser for the Library, and Susan Stone, Head Librarian, told me that library fundraising is becoming more commonplace than ever before. Even within the luncheon there was fundraising - a sale of 50/50 tickets, and silent auction for some lovely prints, flowering bulbs, jewelry, and a favorite among the attendees, a 'books and bubbly' basket. I am pleased to think that my presentation may have helped the library raise a few dollars.

What a shame it has come to that. Between deep state funding cuts (thank you, Tom Corbett), consumer demand and need for costly technology, and increased operating expenses for maintenance and heat, our public libraries have trouble balancing their budgets. And yet on a fundamental level, our very existence as a free nation depends on free exchange of ideas. Those ideas are cataloged and stored in our public libraries, and are accessible without charge to anyone who asks. It seems our Public Libraries joins our Public Schools as institutions present in virtually every community in America, providing free access to information vital to our continuity as a prosperous nation and doing so with ever-dwindling funds.

On a recent History Channel show, I learned that Ben Franklin 'invented' and established the world's first free Public Library. One commentator expressed a belief that the free Public Library was actually Franklin's greatest contribution to mankind. Long may our libraries remain free and public.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How we confront our fears

The other day, one of those black, hairy spiders, the ones that are over an inch long and look like a child of Shelob from Lord of the Rings, crawled past my co-worker's feet. She screamed and jumped back, and the now-frightened spider tried to hide in a corner. Startled, I hollered too, then grabbed a tissue box and chased the bugger until he was history. When I was done flushing his remnants down the toilet, I scrubbed my hands and shuddered. But my poor co-worker had barely moved from her frozen terror.

I'm not fond of spiders, and ones longer than my thumb and hairier than a chihuahua give me the creeps. But the incident made me think - why do we each react so differently to what we're afraid of? Some of us are temporarily paralyzed by our fear. Unable to react to or gain control over the object of our fear, it controls us and leaves us vulnerable. Thieves who use the victim's own fear as a weapon against them take advantage of this very human reaction.

Then there are people who fight against the object of their fear. This may be a positive fight, as I hope mine was, ridding my workplace of a totally gross critter. But others may exhibit their fight against the object of their fear in a negative, harmful way. In a recent op-ed in the NY Times, Nicholas Kristof says that Boko Haram, the terrorist group responsible for kidnapping over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, is reacting to their own fears.

He says that they are afraid of the societal changes bound to take place when girls and women are educated. The result of education for girls is a society in which women are more able to provide for themselves and their families. This means a more robust economy which in turn strengthens the tax base. Educated women are less likely to be dependent on a male provider, and may not be willing to remain in a more traditional subservient role.

So maybe that's why Boko Haram is lashing out at the Nigerian schoolgirls. They are afraid that intelligent, educated women will not put up with their bullying and will not go along with their propaganda.

Image from Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The most frequent questions, Pt. 3

Will there be a sequel to Risking Exposure? What are you writing now?

When I finished writing Risking Exposure, I was tired. I had spent several years reading everything I could get my hands on about the Nazi era, watching documentaries, etc. Pouring through so much twisting of the truth and outright evil was exhausting, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My conclusion was that I never wanted to read another thing about Nazi Germany ever again.

But within 6 or 8 weeks, something happened. I'd be driving down the road and a character I'd relegated to the 'deleted scenes' folder would pop into my mind. Something a neighbor said would remind me of a dialogue exchange I'd cut. Pretty soon those characters and exchanges were forming new scenes and it became clear - the characters in my deleted scenes folder wanted their story told too. It's my job to give them their opportunity.

What is taking shape is a sequel, although told through another character's POV. No, I don't have a title or a time frame for release. That's actually not even on my radar yet.
I've been researching events which took place in Munich during July 1938 until very early 1939, about 6 months after Risking Exposure ends. I have what I believe to be a framework on which to hang my story. In my over-ambitious mind, I have set a goal of getting a first draft written by the end of 2014. (I may kick myself for making that public.)