Monthly Archives: October 2013

Are Public Libraries And Book Stores Relevant?

In the era of widespread access to electronic information it is tempting to dismiss libraries and physical bookstores as historical relics.  

First, I must confess that I am biased in favor of public libraries and bookstores.  I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where we were blessed to have the Carnegie Library system.  The main library, at least at that time, was directly across the street from the University of Pittsburgh and had at least four floors, with the top floor accessible only by climbing a hidden set of stairs.  Up in that “secret place” were books such as Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and other such research publications.  More often than not someone chased me off the floor, the pretext being that I was far too young to understand and appreciate the content of the books in that section of the library.  But just being there was enough to spark my interest in science.

I would go downstairs and a kindly woman would direct me to  books more “appropriate” to my age.  From a less than perfect memory I recall the first book I ever checked out of the library on my own being A Coffin For Demetrius by Eric Ambler.  I was caught in a net that I have yet to shake off.

Libraries and bookstores expose us to the world of ideas whether or not we understand them or not.  We gain exposure to worlds beyond our imaginations, beyond our dreams and yes beyond even our understanding.  It happens because those ideas reside in books, which are in the room with us even if we are unaware of their presence. 

In the mid 70’s I walked into a bookstore having no idea what I wanted to read.  The man behind the counter politely suggested Lucy, the story of an Ethiopian fossil over 3 million years that could bridge the evolutionary gap between apes and humans.  My interest in human evolution has not yet waned.

Yes, certainly, it’s all electronically available over the Internet.   Just log on and find what you want.  But that begs the question as to just what do you want?  Are we destined to leave it to Google and Yahoo to guide our understanding of life?  Electronically suggested reading lists doom us to learning the same set of facts  presented in different formats.

Learning beyond our comfort zones, becoming involved with ideas and concepts that are “beyond us”, stretching our imaginations, requires nurturing of the type that humans give one to another.  What better place is there to find the human element than in a library or a bookstore?  Do you agree?  Let me hear your thoughts.

 

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How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?

”Whatever possessed you to write that story?” is a question I am often asked at book signings.  Along with, ”How long did it take you?”

I am not certain any author can answer either of those questions with any degree of accuracy.  But we all take a stab at it because, “I don’t know,” just isn’t satisfying to the audience—or to me.  After all, I wrote it, I should know how long it took and where the idea came from.  So I take a stab at it. 

For my mystery series, the answer is easy enough.    Counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs, atomic weapons, embedding bombs in human bodies are not original with me.  I took the liberty of juxtaposing such shenanigans with the well-known porous Texas/Mexican border resulting in thrillers that are very real.  Real enough so that authorities have questioned where my information comes from.

 My latest book, Standard Deviation, blends autism, child molestation and quadriplegia into a story of friendship and frustrated love.  So why did I write such a story?  Partially because so many people I know are caregivers to family members who require some degree of special care.  And partially because one of my granddaughters exhibited behavior which, in my mind, was “off center”.    In some sense Standard Deviation resulted from my quest to understand my granddaughter.

Thank God neither child molestation nor physical infirmity are issues my family has had to deal with.  Unfortunately, however, these problems are far too real to many people around us so I decided to include those digressions from “normal” as well.

 The theme of facing the consequences of one’s actions, and the theme of friendship boundaries, are themes that have fascinated me for as far back as I can remember.  So the real answer to how long it took me to write the story is, in truth, it took me a lifetime.

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An Artist’s View Of Life

Confession: I am not typically a fan of poetry.   However,  a few days ago I had a delightful time at Paragraphs On Padre listening to poet Katerine Hoerth read some of her poetry.  Hearing the back-stories for each piece made it even more enjoyable.  Her words flowed smoothly and effortlessly from the paper forming images of everyday occurrences that I had never before appreciated for what they truly were. 

Poets with paper and pen, like artists with brush and paper, simply have a different way of seeing the world around us.   To them it is as if time stops for an instant while every little detail comes into clear focus.  They then weave these minute details into images that are exactly accurate but yet we have never seen with our “naked” eyes. 

For example, an insect smashes into my windshield as I race down the highway and I see a mess that will require cleaning.  Katie’s artist mind captures  a different picture altogether.  As she writes in her poem titled MARTYR,

They come from the south

to paint the landscape with bursts

of beauty and sail across hills, fields

and borders without ever looking

back, following the scent of spring

and a simple yearning to a land they’ve

only felt. . . .

 

Does this sound like the last second of an insect’s life, the insect that just smashed into your windshield?  It certainly didn’t to me when I read it until the Thud that appears on the page a few stanzas down.  Who but an artist would ever think of an insect as being a martyr?  Simple observations, complex thoughts.   That’s what artist’s of Katie’s caliber bring to us.   As I confessed to her afterward, I take 80,000 words and still fail to accomplish what she achieves in several hundred.

For the rest of the above poem I refer you to Among the Mariposas published by Mouthfeel Press (www.mouthfeelpress.com). I also suggest Katie’s other poetry, such as The Garden Uprooted, which describes her transformation from Wisconsin to South Texas, published by Slough Press (sloughpress@gmail.com).

 

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Announcement

I am excited to be launching my new novel-Standard Deviation soon..Stay tunedStandard Deviation Front Cover (2)

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