Monday, November 23, 2015

Have we learned?

The American public was polled. Over half of us said we didn't need more immigrants, not with all the problems we already have here. Homelessness, joblessness, uncertain economy, rising taxes and costs of medical care. We especially didn't want those immigrants. Why they'd steal jobs from our own people, add a burden to the already struggling economy. We'd have to educate their kids with our kids, and if they lived near us, our kids might play together. They didn't speak our language or share our religion. We were sorry to hear about the craziness and brutality of their homeland, but their need to get away didn't mean our way of life had to be disrupted. After all, they weren't like us. Lord knows, we couldn't help everyone. So we Americans decided to help no one.

That was in 1939. The people in question were mostly Jews and political exiles fleeing Nazi Germany. Despite the astronomical rise in Germans and Austrians seeking asylum in America in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, we did not increase the number of Visas granted. We turned a blind eye during what is probably the most appalling reign of inhumanity in the 20th century, going so far as to physically turn away a shipload of mostly Jewish emigres. They were returned to Germany. Hundreds of them later died in concentration camps.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20. It's easy for us to sit here 75 years later and render judgement. We weren't there. We didn't share the struggles of Americans then. We didn't feel their fear at the potential danger of having Nazi spies mixed into the group. We didn't have these foreigners coming to our neighborhood with nothing but the clothes on their backs, competing with our people for jobs and food and housing.

But the parallel is unmistakable. Here we are in 2015, and again, people are fleeing oppression and violence. They're boarding inflatable boats and crossing a continent on foot to have a chance at a future. And again American polls reveal our attitude. We say, "I'm sorry to hear about your problems, but you can't come here. Some unsavory characters might sneak in."

How dare we call ourselves a Christian nation when we take a position so clearly lacking compassion and basic kindness. Completely un-Christian.

I'm proud of the stand taken by President Obama and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. They are sticking by the moral compass outlined for us by our forefathers. They're showing that we Americans have learned something in the last 75 years. Certainly we've learned that an Us vs Them mentality is outdated, and it's safe to say that Americans agree, we function as part of a global community. We all share the same air, the same sun, and yes, the same God, whatever we may call him. We get that. If only the majority of Americans were ready to put aside their fearful knee-jerk reactions and act on those beliefs.

In this generation, at this time and for all time, we Americans need to be firm in our commitment to be a beacon of the hope of freedom for people around the world, even when it makes us uncomfortable. If we aren't that beacon, who is?

An even bigger statement of who we are as Americans is this: if we turn our back on emigres out of fear, then the terrorists have won.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Character sketches from my (soon-to-be-released) picture ebook!

What's a good kids' story without great illustrations? Not nearly as much fun, I'd say.


These awesome characters will populate the picture ebook, Mikey and the Swamp Monster, which I hope to release by late October!
I'd written the story ages ago, and since retirement, pulled it out and tweaked it. With permission from my son Mike (whose childhood imaginings inspired the story), I'm getting the ebook ready to launch. 

For illustrations, I again called on the talent of the incredible Mike Rausch (a different Mike) to add visual life to my words. You may remember that Mike also created the acclaimed cover for my historical fiction novel Risking Exposure
Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A meme, and an open mic

At the recommendation of a number of marketing websites, I'm trying my hand at creating memes and sending them off into the world.

Members of the Endless Mountains Writers Group were the featured performers at the Dietrich's open mic night last night. I had the opportunity to sit back and listen to the creations of my fellow storytellers, which was just wonderful. So often during Group, with the paper copies before me and the author's request of things-I-want-to-know-about-this-piece, I have my critique hat on and don't really get a chance to just hear the story develop. What a delightful change of pace. I heard some nuances of voice and character that would have been less obvious on paper, and I definitely felt the overall story flow better by listening to it.
Hildy (aka fearless leader) says she wants the Writers Group to participate in open mic at least annually. For now, I've made myself a promise to let my eyes do less critiquing and to just listen more.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'm back, I think

For a variety of personal and work-related reasons, I haven't blogged in months. Hopefully, I'm getting back in the groove now. 

Tomorrow night, I'll join others from the Dietrich Theater's Endless Mountains Writers Group at Open Mic Night! I'll read the opening scene of my current WIP, the sequel to Risking Exposure, tentatively titled The Path Divided. Stop by the Dietrich at 7:00, pull up a chair, and have a listen. Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Week one of the blog tour!

A few moments in the spotlight, a couple excerpts, and three reviews later, week one of the blog tour is in the history books! A huge thank you to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for acting as tour host.

Here are clips of the book reviews Risking Exposure has received this week.

"Sophie’s character is wonderful; she feels like a real person and has many difficult decisions to make. Through her actions, Sophie is able to show people that everyone has worth and is able to make an impact." Stephanie's Book Reviews

"I loved Sophie! There are some great side characters that add to her story and she needs to decide who she can trust. I enjoy WWII stories and thought this was a refreshing take since it dealt with the youth program that was in place... it moved quickly towards the end and that's when I couldn't put it down." 
 Mel's Shelves

"The writing is also stellar, balancing historical facts with an engrossing story, ensuring that you won't soon forget the history you're learning. The moral is...that being a silent bystander is just as bad as being a perpetrator." Book Babes

Week two promises to be great fun, the sequel. (The sequel of the blog tour, not of the book. Yet.) 

Monday, May 11
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, May 12
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, May 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, May 14
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, May 15
Review at Genre Queen

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Let the blog tour begin!

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Who's up for a road trip?

From May 4th- May 15th, Risking Exposure is going on tour! The gracious Amy Bruno at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours has arranged two weeks of - ahem exposure - fun for me and for readers. The tour will include 13 different blog stops including reviews, features, and excerpts. Check out the tour homepage here and follow along!

Risking Exposure Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, May 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Spotlight & Excerpt at Shelf Full of Books

Tuesday, May 5
Spotlight at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Wednesday, May 6
Review at Mel’s Shelves
Spotlight & Excerpt at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, May 7
Spotlight at Broken Teepee

Friday, May 8
Review at Book Babe

Monday, May 11
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, May 12
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, May 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, May 14
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, May 15
Review at Genre Queen

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rotary and Polio

I had the opportunity to speak at another Rotary Club luncheon last Thursday, this one in Tunkhannock. Rotary Clubs have been quite gracious in extending invitations for me to speak because 1) they need a speaker once a week and I'm local and cheap (the cost of a lunch); and 2) because the main character in Risking Exposure contracts polio, I include some information about polio in my presentation.

So what, you may ask, does Rotary have to do with polio? Plenty, it turns out.

In the early 1950s, over 16,000 paralytic polio cases and 1800 deaths from polio were reported each year in the US alone. After the vaccine was introduced in the US in 1955, incidence declined sharply - less than 1000 cases in 1962 and below 100 cases per year after that.

Rotary International has taken this success to the rest of the world, becoming involved in the worldwide fight against polio since 1979. In the late 1980's, Rotary's End Polio Now campaign joined forces with the World Health Organization, the CDC, Unicef, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to purchase and distribute vaccines. By 2014, only 3 countries (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan) remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 countries in 1988. A truly remarkable achievement.

Rotary is committed to eradicating polio in our lifetime. I'm proud to support them however I can. And I'm honored to be their guest speaker whenever my schedule allows.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Warrior Writers

Last Sunday, I attended a workshop at the Dietrich Theater about the Warrior Writers project. It's a grassroots effort whose mission is to "create a culture that articulates veterans' experiences, provide a creative community for artistic expression, and bear witness to the lived experiences of warriors." - from Warrior Writers website. Through "writing and art-making workshops, we provide a creative community for self-expression and reflection, while also fostering mutual understanding and peer-to-peer support." - from the introduction to the Warrior Writers 2014 collection book.

What an amazing mission it is - use of the arts as a tool for veterans to process their experiences and express them creatively and genuinely. They have offered writing and art workshops, art exhibitions, and performances with vets throughout the US since 2007 and have published several compilation books of vets' stories and poems. This organization uses the arts as tools of healing. Even among us civilians with cushy lives, who couldn't use a little healing?

The Dietrich plans to host a monthly workshop for interested vets. Each workshop will be facilitated by Jennie, a combat veteran who has been active in the Warrior Writers in the Allentown area. A co-facilitator, typically a local writer, will assist. If the project is embraced here the way it has been elsewhere, Jennie expects that local veterans will be ready to lead the workshops in about 6 months. If you or a vet you know who would like to participate, please call the Dietrich at 570-836-1022.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Father Rupert Mayer

When Katie and I visited Munich, we toured a number of beautiful churches with soaring architectural details that made grand, impressive statements - tile and copper roofs, bell towers, leaded glass, and uniquely shaped design.

So when we came across the Burgersaal Church with its relatively plain exterior, we followed the stream of tourists and entered, expecting a relatively plain interior to match. We couldn't have been more wrong. The ceiling frescoes were stunning.

Just as surprising was a display in the church detailing the life and ministry of a person I'd never heard of, Father Rupert Mayer. He was a Jesuit priest who served the Burgersaal Church between the two World Wars. His dedication to the poor and estranged of Munich earned him the nickname "The Apostle of Munich." Were he a man of lesser convictions during those times, his legacy may have ended there - a gentle priest who worked tirelessly to feed and clothe the poor.

But Father Mayer was a man of strong convictions, strong faith in his Catholic beliefs, and an insistence on the rights and dignity of each individual as a child of God. The Nazi regime with its oppression of free speech, its targeted pogroms, and its intolerance for faith-based viewpoints was unbearable for Father Mayer. He preached against the Nazis from the pulpit, in individual meetings with parishioners, and when he led small study groups.

Warned several times by the Gestapo and twice arrested for his outspoken behavior, Father Mayer might have ended up as other Christians did during the Nazi years - a martyr for his faith. But the Nazis saw the strong support Father Mayer had in mostly Catholic Munich, his leagues of dedicated parishioners and how word of his work had spread through Bavaria. They feared that killing him would only strengthen his cause. Instead, they banished him to an Abbey where he was basically a silenced prisoner for the duration of the war.

I never heard of Father Mayer before I stepped into the Burgersaal that day. Since then, I've come across his name dozens of times during the research for my two historical fiction novels set in Nazi-era Munich. Since he was so integral to the people of Munich during that time period, I'm considering including his character in my current Work In Progress.

Father Mayer was beatified in 1987 and now has the title of Blessed. His story has been made into a 2014 film starring Stacy Keach and Darryl Hannah. I hope to find it soon on Netflix or at a Film Festival near me.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Historical footage and virtual view

In the last few days, I've come across a couple really cool videos. One shows actual footage of NYC circa the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Most of the content is street scenes, but there are also shots of landmarks such as the Flatiron Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many others. The B&W images are jerky of course, blurred by age and poor lighting in spots.

The second video is a virtual tour of 17th century London. The computer-generated images take us down alleys, over rooftops, and into marketplaces in a grand simulation of 'what London must have looked like' at the time. The content is presented in 3-D and in color, and it's slick with detail such as shop signs and garbage cans.

Despite the obviously crisp package delivered by the virtual tour, I found it lacking. It showed no people, just an empty shell of a city once alive with their pulsing activity.
The historical NYC footage by contrast was loaded with people - folks driving cars, riding horses, marching in parades, even men engaged in a street fight. It showed real people living real lives, touching in their familiarity even in their now-archaic manner of dress. As a native New Yorker, I found myself pausing the video, trying to reconcile the NY I know with the NY of the past. Different, yes. But oh, so familiar.

What a treasure trove for researchers. And what a delight for people-watchers and city-lovers everywhere.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Plastic Somethings

While cleaning today, I found an odd-shaped Plastic Something sitting on top of the freezer. It's no bigger than my thumbnail with little grooves and slots where it obviously is supposed to fit into or onto Something Else. Looks important, as if Something Else wouldn't work correctly without this strange missing piece. What that might be, I have no idea.

So I asked Michael if he could help me identify this Plastic Something. He didn't recognize the piece either. We now had a choice -

- toss it and find out in hours (or days or weeks) that the Plastic Something was indeed a vital part of Something Else and now the entire thing won't work and aaarrrggghhh! or...

- keep it just in case we figure out where it came from.

We placed it beside the other odd-shaped Somethings on a corner of his desk. Just in case. As time goes by, we'll realize that whatever it came from obviously works fine without it. Then we can pitch it in good conscience. But for now, it gathers dust with its soul mates on his desk.

The other day I found Word files on my desktop I'd written some time ago and forgotten about. Some were first drafts of short stories which I never polished. There were shorter bits too, snippets of character profiles, unusual settings, and story lines jotted down in 30 or more different Word files.
Don't get me wrong. Some are probably trash.
But others have potential. I've just never taken the time to develop them, or more to the point, to figure out where they might fit in some larger work.

Those pieces of manuscript are like that Plastic Something -  I keep them, just in case I figure out where they belong. After all, Something Else might not work properly without them.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Michael and I saw The Imitation Game last weekend, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly. Like so many other movies and books I find intriguing, it is set during the WWII era but not on the battle front. It's the true story of British mathematician Alan Turing who worked at Bletchley Park trying to crack the Enigma code. For those unfamiliar, the Germans had created the Enigma machine, a complex typewriter-looking contraption designed to encrypt messages. Virtually all Nazi communications were sent by these encrypted messages, and many messages were intercepted by the Allies. Day after day, teams of code specialists and German language experts poured over the messages with pencil in hand, to no avail.

Without a way to break the code, the intercepted messages were gibberish. And the man-hours spent trying to decipher the code was pointless within 18 hours - the Germans changed the settings on their Enigma machine each night at midnight.

And the war was not going well. The Allies were weakening.

Enter some of the most brilliant minds of England. Alan Turing and his team built a machine that could work through millions of variables in a fraction of the time it took people with pencil and paper. The machine is essentially the world's first computer. It did the impossible - it cracked the Enigma code.

If this were a Disney movie, that would be the end. Code cracked, messages broken. Nazis lose, Allies win. Black and white.

But what actually happened next is fascinating. Turing realized immediately that the team couldn't break every message intercepted that day. If they did and acted upon that information, the Nazis would know the code had been broken. Turing knew the Nazis probably had another encryption machine ready to go in Enigma's place. So, the team made the heartbreaking decision to only share a few of the decoded messages at a time. Plus, they shared them only with a trusted connection, not with the military attache who expected all of them. 

Tough choices in tough times. Turing and his colleagues lived with the consequences of those choices, hearing about attacks they might have stopped but didn't, lives lost, ships sunk, planes downed. But the overall effect of their decision was right - look how the war turned out.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Like most writers, I'm curious about how my novel is received by individual readers. Luckily I've heard from some readers by email. Finding that personal note in my email is just incredible - I have one printed out and hanging over my writing desk right now.
Some readers have approached me in person at various events, always surprising and encouraging me with their enthusiastic support. 

I've also set up a web monitoring process of sorts. The terms "Jeanne Moran" and "Risking Exposure" are entered into Google Alerts so I'm notified by email when either are mentioned anywhere on the web. I get lots of false hits, you know, an obituary for a 100-year-old Jeanne Moran in Canada, risk of exposure to ebola, that sort of thing. But hey, I get some correct hits too. One of those hits alerted me to the inclusion of Risking Exposure in a Best of 2014 blog post.

Every few weeks, I check the book's sales page on various websites for posted reviews. Today I checked Amazon's Australia site and found this:

Truly wonderful Young Adult novel with a well-written, believable main character you'll root for just as I did. Ms. Moran takes us inside Germany during the advent of WWII and explores the Nazi abhorrence of diversity, anything that deviates from the norm. Working for years in college providing support services for adults with disabilities, this story hit home in so many ways. I couldn't put this amazing book down. Brava, Ms. Moran.

What a wonder. Praise and encouragement from a total stranger on the other side of the world.

Now excuse me while I work on my sequel.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The TBR in 2015 list

For Christmas, Mike gave me "By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review." The volume is a compilation of 65 interviews of writers, artists, historians, and others. The focus of the interviews are books - favorite reads in the last year, favorite childhood books, which books most influenced career choice, that sort of thing.

It was a great way for me to add to my 'To Be Read' list. 

Books written by fellow local authors Eric Buffington, Heather L Adams, Regge Episale, Eugenie D. West, and John Koloski were already piled on my pseudo-desk, waiting for me. After reading "By the Book," I added dozens more to the TBR list, at this point still a list on the public library's website.

There's an interesting mix there of print and audio books, fiction and non-fiction, adult and juvenile literature. There's inspirational, fantasy, historical, and literary, some poetry and short stories - just about any genre imaginable. And with authors like Hilary Mantel, Laurie Halse Anderson, Elmore Leonard, John Irving, Toni Morrison, Laini Taylor, Alice Munro, Thomas Merton, Margaret Atwood...

It's going to be a very good year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

An unbelievable honor

In one of my book give-aways last year, Ramisa the Authoress, a blogger from Australia, scored a copy of Risking Exposure. Lucky for me. She read it, loved it, and placed it on her Favorite Books of All Time list.
She blogged about my book, sponsored a give-away contest, and in general has been unbelievably supportive of my debut novel from half a world away.

In her most recent blog post, she reviewed and categorized some of her 2014 favorites. Risking Exposure figured twice into her list of Best in Books - books you 'pushed' the most to your friends, and books you found thought-provoking/ life-changing.

Whoa.Thank you, Ramisa.
As a writer, that's amazing. Humbling. An unbelievable honor.

If that weren't enough, she mentioned me again under the Looking Ahead category, listing my as yet unfinished, unnamed sequel as one of the books she is anticipating the most, hopefully in 2015.

I'm anticipating the book also. I know my story line, the characters and their interplay, where the story ends, etc. Even so, the process of the story revealing itself as I write is astonishing, confusing, exhilarating. It requires the delicate balance of my conscious mind's need for control and my muse's need for creative license.

I hope the result garnishes fans as loyal and enthusiastic as Ramisa and others who have encouraged me on this adventure.