Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Know what this New Year will bring!

Jean's first book, second edition

I know what this New Year will bring.
  • There will be new experiences to fit into old categories. 
  • There will be unexpected opportunities to weigh and, perhaps, to grasp. 
  • There will be disappointments, insights, understandings, and misunderstandings. 
  • There will be health changes, for better or for worse. 
  • There will be marriages in the New Year. There will be births. 
  • There will be plans to visit exciting places. 
  • There will be new books to read, new recipes to try, and new plantings for the garden. 
  • There will be new people to meet. 
  • There will be old friendships treasured in new ways. 
  • There will be surprises. 
  • There will be separations and estrangements, to take hold or to heal. 
  • There will be losses, and there will be gains. 
  • There will be new stories and songs composed and shared. 
  • There will be secrets. There will be dangers. 
  • There will be hard sacrifices that face us. 
  • There will be good news and there will be bad news (per A Tale of Two Cities).
What significant or deeply meaningful experiences will be ours in the New Year? Will we be tired of the year before the Ides of March or April 15? What will we work to make happen through the time and opportunity given to us?

Given the things we know, there is anticipation that comes with every New Year's Eve and the changing of the clock to 12:01 a.m. Excitement resides in a sense of a fresh start. Its heartbeat is the promise of good as-yet-unknown events. We await pending hopes to form anew, to rearrange themselves, or for us to rearrange, to build, and to take forward. We want to use what is in our hands for creativity and completion.    
     That is to say that the underlying mysteries of the New Year dwell in the details of the specific and fresh hows, whens, whats, whos, and whys of your story and mine. Neither you nor I can give those kinds of details about what our respective and highly personal New Year days will promise or bring to us. We know there will be new days, but what, exactly, will they be? What meaning might they hold for us? How few or many might they be?
     We take with us, into the New Year, some "Why?!" questions that continue to baffle or to plague us. 

The meaning in the New Year resides in the mysteries of love, respect, and people. The numberless and often unspoken desires and longings, hopes for change, and the other parts that affect our lives through others and the parts of our lives that can affect them.  
     For example, 18 years ago on New Year's Eve I had no way of knowing that a publisher would accept my memoir, in finished manuscript* form. And in the UK, something completely unforeseen. That is one personal example of work, study, and input from others, for feedback, finally  reaching an important stage of completion. Can't that happen again for me and again for you? Are we still persevering in the New Year? 
     It is said that the future is unknown. Yet, when we set goals or make resolutions for a New year, we are trying to carve out a promising, better year than we experienced in the previous year. And, we already see the ability to identify the kinds of things we will experience in detail, more than I have given already.

Can't it also be said, "God is beyond Time, yet, he is the God of the new"? "Behold," he has said, "I am making all things new" (Revelation 21.5). God's plan was, is, and will be realized. Regardless. Along with the mystery, the surprises, the hopes and the that assurance. It is God, who is Timeless, assuring us by his unchanging Word that he was, is, and will be with us in our times, our calendar days down to each milli-second. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever we may think of ourselves..too high or too low...All-powerful God, the Creator who is Love, is near. Our challenge is to stay close to him due to our adoration and need.  

God is for us. Are we telling, through our writing, that every person is loved by God ad that his justice is for us, if we trust him. We are called to be children of God.That, dear friends, attends the first and every step forward in the New Year, starting now. "Happy New Year!"

God said, “Behold, I make (am making) all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water" Revelation 21.5,6.

*Not All Roads Lead Home under pen name, Jane Bullard, Highland Books LTD, UK, 1996.
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Your Personal Financial Cliff?

Meeting Dave Ramsey
Meeting Dave Ramsey (Photo credit: iatraveler)
In an on-line review of Dave Ramsey's financial freedom book, The Total Money Makeover, reviewer T. Scarillo said it's an especially fitting read if you're "in a financial hole." Given events of the past few years of bankruptcies, bailouts, and mortgage failures, it's clear from the news that many Americans have been drawn to or thrown into their personal financial hole nightmare. 
     The U.S. now faces, it is claimed, "falling off a financial cliff," due to debts climbing second-by-second, now up to 13 Trillion dollars. 
            There is a television show whose name I've forgotten whereby people are helped to face their personal debts with help. No one likes the idea of falling off a financial cliff or into a financial hole of debt. In fact, watching that show a few times, I realized that many people deeply in debt have no idea how much they owe, and are usually shocked to find out. Yet, they tried to ignore the signs of the problem. It felt less threatening not to know the exact figures. Yet, eventually the harsh numbers relating to debt led to borrowing from family, not repaying, and having more problems pile up and triple, or worse.  
       With many prophecies of national debt just emerging a couple of years ago, at Christmas I gave a copy of Dave Ramsey's Makeover book to every person in my immediate family after hearing good comments about it. One of the men in our family read the entire book during his visit here for Christmas. Whether from a recliner in front of a football game on TV or a sofa in the living room, or wherever... he read until he finished it.
     I never dreamed that within a year the advice in that book would help many of us, including young, college-age readers. Dave even has a financial practice game for children. Balancing a budget has always challenged me, so I get it. The kids' game might be a good place for many of us to begin learning Dave's principles, which have worked to help many people get out of debt, completely.
     The air is fresh up out of any financial hole and into the light!
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Short Postscript about Digital

Hildegard reading and writing
We owe early writers and readers a lot! The drawing represents "Hildegard reading and writing" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hi, friends! 

P. S. for previous my last post about digital (link): 

  Working today, I realize how important it is to develop more, effective reasons and ways to take part in web (internet) networks. 
   My year's-end brain is getting rustier by day and night. After polishing and renewal for it, for 2013, I hope to expand on the important, nay, critical role that web networking plays for writers. 

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Intentional Notes about Digital and Your Reading-Writing Interests

christmas paint
Christmas paint (Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)
You might be interested in reading a repeat article about our increasingly digital reading, on another of my most-read blogs. 
    Is the theme of the personal connections between people strongly on your mind these days? It is on my mind a lot.
     I invite you to connect here. Join this blog (top right column) for automatic blog post delivery...if you have not done so already. Send questions, topics you want to see, and other comments anytime.    

Newsweek sent a notice to me about their switch to digital magazine formatting and delivery to subscribers. I have mixed feelings about whether to continue my subscription. On one hand, I find an occasional article that meets my news or commentary interests, whether or not I agree with the writers' perspectives. On the other hand, I am of a newspaper delivery generation used to reading on paper. 
     During this season, I wish you well in your Christian reflections or post-Hanukkah memories, as everyone also looks forward to a new year. 
Whatever you are writing now, here is a thought for you, whether for digital or other use. Your local library is a place where you might attend or propose a book club for books in your favorite category/genre. The central library in my county has an adult book club that will meet this Thursday at noon to discuss P. D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley.  

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Write about Mental Health and Guns

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut
Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Jean Purcell

When I began this posting, it was the Sunday after the Friday tragedies in Sandy Hook Elementary of Newtown, Connecticut. The principal, school counselor, four teachers, and 20 six- and seven-year-olds in the school...killed by a 20-year-old. 
    In church this Sunday, we prayed for them and for the rapid response people who tried to help them and who did save others who might have been shot if they had not arrived when they did, at the school set in a quiet part of a small town in beautiful Connecticut. 
    We are thankful that we can turn to God, the Creator of all that is good, who is ready to hear our cries of distress over tragedies and able to help. We are thankful that He holds onto the suffering when horror targets little ones and the adults who have devoted themselves to teach and to protect them during school. We pray for their sweet souls and for their parents,siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, doctors, pets, yes, even pets. The list goes on.  
    I am thankful that God is just. He will do as promised, to avenge, in His way, every evil of this world, every evil since the beginning.
   Someone grappling years ago with another tragedy that hit a co-worker's family agonized over the realities of evil and reached a point of realizing that evil does get into people. Sometimes such realization of evil is the first step to deal with its outcomes.
     Evil, in that situation, got into a father and husband's mind and emotions so firmly that he killed his family rather than have mother and children together after a divorce. Nothing good was accomplished, no resolutions were reached. Jealousy, bitterness, and selfishness fed each other and grew into murder. 

This is a time for writers who focus on gun laws that allow assault weapons and rapid-fire firearms to work harder to effect change. The same goes for writers about mental health issues. It is time to call upon others, including lawyers and jurists, to help the mental health profession find ways to get around privacy laws and gun laws, if they are the main hindrances to stopping anything that enables killers. Lawyers, jurists, and law-makers must find ways to relieve parents of responsibility for managing out of control teens and live-in adult children so that they can get help or be isolated where they cannot threaten or harm others. 
     If you are a writer interested in these matters, there is a great need for writers to learn more and to write about possible solutions, or at least possible aids. You can do this as a citizen, not necessarily someone in law enforcement or psychiatry/psychology/counseling professions. Research, study, write...and continue to pray.  

The President spoke this evening to the mourning and shocked community of Newtown, in the high school that 20 children might have attended later on, if not in the first classrooms that day. Friday. The President is calling for action, as yet undetermined, to address issues of legal ownership of certain kinds of guns, and to address mental health needs. Who could not support him in those efforts in light of what has happened, again?
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Why not...Self-Publish Your Book?

My book with pen name

by Jean Purcell

One of the first questions I get from new authors is "Should I self-publish or look for an established publishing house?" 
     I have done both, so my answer is "Why not think about both and see which sounds right for you?" 
     Then I try to add some of the pitfalls, either way. Whether you choose to self-publish or to sell your manuscript to an established publisher, you will learn along the way what is involved. There will probably be hopes, bumps, hard work, and sacrifices along the way, either way.

My first book was Not All Roads Lead Home (NARlH), my memoir, written under a pen name. My relationship with Highland Books, Ltd., UK --the publisher--was very positive. Highland still sells first edition copies throughout the UK.  
    Highland did not have US distribution rights when I wanted the book to be available in my home country. Eventually I started a publishing company, Opine Publishing. The second edition extended the flavor of the relationships, memory, religious influences, and changes--themes of the first edition. 
    Not All Roads Lead Home-Second edition adds key experiences of amazing years when my husband and I traveled to changing parts of the world (30 countries for me) from our temporary home in Geneva, Switzerland, until 1998. 

I love advising first-book authors that contact me. It was something I never expected to do. Helping them is one way I can give back. I enjoy getting to know them and their stories.   
    My hope for you is that whatever path you choose for getting your book published, that your dreams for your book will deepen as you work. Your book might give much-needed positive enjoyment for people in different places in life.
     All the best to you, and why not?

Related articles in hopes that you will not talk yourself out of doing the work of your dreams. 
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Detecting Reasons for Short Getaway

Diagram of where to put smoke alarms. The top ...
Diagram of where to put smoke alarms. The top caption reads "PLACE ONE SMOKE ALARM ON EVERY FLOOR AND SLEEPING ROOM". The top diagram is labeled "MULTI-STORY" with an attic, basement, two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. The bottom diagram is labeled "SINGLE LEVEL" and has similar rooms. Suggestions for smoke alarms are diagramed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On the morning after Thanksgiving Day: The old mini van's ignition gets stuck and my beloved husband needs to get the van, which already has laptop, books, and notebooks stored and packed inside. 

He comes back into the house and look at the owner's manual, which has no info about unlocking a stuck ignition. I go to laptop and find three related articles via Google. Fastest advice to try? Tap the ignition firmly with something that fits the size of the ignition. 

My hero takes a small hammer from the garage, I climb into the van and tap the ignition, because I love hands-on jobs. That does the trick after a few attempts. He can now get away without unpacking the van.  

That night, I'm watching TV late and remember that the dog still needs to go out, when the home security system begins to alarm, "Will Robinson, Danger!" The warning sounds intensify. My daughter, who was watching TV with me, locks the door to the room where we'd been immersed in the TV detective drama, and I call 911 before ADT can call us. I've already turned off the alarm. Or my daughter did that. It is so exciting and unnerving, this alarm drama, that I cannot remember. 

Two policemen arrive at the front door in about 20 minutes. They report answering the dispatch call and having already covered the perimeter of the house, testing every door. They'd like to do a walk-through. They disappear, returning inside where I'm waiting. They found one inside-entry door, to and from the garage, that seems to have been barely ajar yet closed enough to fool the security system, before... 

"Well, dust or anything can blow upward, reach a sensor, and set off the alarm," one says. 

I knew there were 35-40 mph winds that night. His partner mentions noticing a wrench on a window ledge, outside, earlier. 

"Do you know what that's about?" 

I tell them there was a spigot problem on Thanksgiving Day and my husband used the wrench. 

"That's a nice wrench!" the senior policeman says. He leaves for a moment and then he hands a wrench over to me. 

"That's a nice wrench," he repeats. "You don't want to lose that!"

After they leave, daughter and I leash up the dog for a a short walk. On the turnaround, we hear the familiar, troublesome creaking of a neighbor's tall pine tree. Our tree cutter man has already told me that those kinds of pine trees have shallow roots.

"But if that one falls," he said, "It will likely fall across your front yard, not your house." 

Remember those words is reassuring, but we cut short the dog walking--she's done enough of her duty. We'll be inside if this might be the night that tree falls. 

I remember car keys and an important member card being lost for a frustrating day or two recently. Then, a smoke alarm device had worked overtime pn Thanksgiving Day when our wood fire smoke kept setting it off. A guest had unplugged the whole thing to stop it, since we have two other smoke devices working elsewhere. 

Then the van's ignition problem. Altogether, I'm glad my husband is taking these three getaway days to work on his book: too many fix-it distractions at home! 

This morning he called to tell me that he finished the first, full rough draft. Oh, but he's detected a recurring problem with the water heater at our getaway place: No hot water without repeatedly resetting the gauge...or whatever. He's waiting for an water heater expert to come, and meanwhile, will try to get his mind on rewrites for first chapter. He hopes.  
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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mining Gold in the Commonplace-Prepare Yourself for Easter Writing

BAUTZEN, GERMANY - APRIL 08:  Easter riders ha...
BAUTZEN, GERMANY -  Easter riders at traditional lunch during a break of the parade on horseback on April 08, 2012 in Ralbitz, Germany. Sorbians, a Slavic minority in eastern Germany, celebrate Easter with processions of mounted riders dressed in 19th-century outfits who travel from village to village to sing and announce the resurrection of Jesus Christ. ( Getty Images via @daylife)

Writers planning blog posts, articles, or poems for Easter are likely rereading gospel accounts and related Old Testament scriptures, making notes or outlines, praying, and thinking now. 
  Beryl Adamsbaum's Only Believe climaxes at Easter, a golden time for the world that needs to know. On page 118 in her final chapter for the book, Beryl tells about a time she had alone, away from home and "in a small apartment in the Swiss Alps." She was trying to renew herself in a change of scene during a particularly stressful time in her life and her thinking. In the mountain apartment, a change occurred in her habitual way of viewing a big part of her life:   

"God enabled me to see my daily grind as service 
to others and therefore to him. 
He gave me a different perspective on life. 
He helped me to see what I call
'the glorious in the mundane'"

With the last line, above, Beryl continued to extract the ore, the gold, while telling of God at work in a commonplace context...tiredness from drudgery that threatens us in everyday work or service to others. 
  Beryl's description of a deeply experienced insight could be a launching point for you, if you write about the Friday before Easter. What was more mundane, commonplace, or routine than the everyday routines we need to keep. In the world of Jesus in his earthly time, what was more accepted than the crosses of shame used by the punitive Roman Empire
  Yet, routine in Roman-occupied Palestine was soon to be revealed as a scene of glory, where One sent of God and Son of God, took the sin of the world upon himself. Even soldiers at the foot of his cross suspected or foresaw glory without realizing it. The "worst of sinners" for whom Jesus prayed from that rugged cross must have wondered, deep within, what they were not seeing in what they were witnessing, of which they were participants.  
  We think of the record we have of that time: a dozen friends together for a private Passover meal with their mentor, a Roman hearing and trial soon to begin in the middle of the night, lifeless bodies brought down from crosses as "criminals," a tomb gifted for one, and weeping Jews--men and women of no rich reputation or power. These were among the many common ingredients of that historical time when in the midst of the commonplace glory was at work. 
C. S. Lewis said, of Easter, "Away with tears and fears and troubles!...Man is a creature whom the Angels--were they capable of envy--would envy. Let us lift up our hearts! At some future time perhaps even these things it will be a joy to recall" --Letters, C. S. Lewis/Don Giovanni Calabria, 27 March 1948, from The Quotable Lewis.
  What gold of truth and encouragement will you put yourself into mining soon, in preparation to write about Passover or Easter days and nights?      
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Grand Gestures vs. Actions in Literature and Life

English: "To assure you in the most anima...
English: "To assure you in the most animated language" - Mr. Collins proposing to Elizabeth. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: George Allen, 1894. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Illustration by Hugh Thomson to Jane ...
English: Illustration by Hugh Thomson to Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, ca. 1894. (illustration to Chapter 14). with Mr Collins protesting he never reads novels. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Detail of a C. E. Brock illustration for the 1...
Detail of a C. E. Brock illustration for the 1895 edition of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice (Chapter 3) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Reverend William Collins, Pride and Prejudice, upon speaking to Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennet of his proposal of marriage and her refusal: "...As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.'' 

Reverend Collins' "grand gesture" with its grand inferences that he is bravely willing to wait Lizzie out  of her play-acting...was aimed to get her to give him what he wanted. In his idea, it meant she should surely come to her senses and thereby drop her pretenses.

Mr. Colllins had already reminded Lizzie that his state in life and his connections were by far higher and better than those of her family. He had also pointed out to her, in clearest language, that she was unlikely to receive other proposals of marriage. His message was that she was toying with him, on purpose, to increase his interest or ardor (for he could not consider any other explanation) and that he was by far an even better "catch" than she, the next to oldest of the five Bennet daughters, should be able to imagine. If in their right minds, that is...according to Reverend Collins.

The "grand gesture" can be seriously offered or, as in the case of Mr. Collins, it can be shown in its unlikeliness. He really did not mean that he knew she might refuse him again. Rather, he made his grand gesture by trying to straighten out her thinking, to bring her back into her right mind or as a way to save face. Either way, such a gesture underestimates the one to whom it is offered. It also can appear to be based on magnanimous, exceptionally unselfish or generous (depending on the perspective) qualities of the one performing it. 

The grand gesture is counterbalanced weightily by the grand action. The grand action is a powerful action that does not happen in dramatic form or with high-spoken words. It often has no words. It occurs simply, practically, and with no possibility of refusal by the other person whose well-being is the heart of the matter. The object of grand actions is others' well-being: Think of the medic running into battle to save a wounded soldier; think of anyone taking selfless action before anyone can object or stop it. Those who perform grand actions abhor credit or having attention drawn to themselves, their "bravery," "wisdom," or "unselfishness."  

I have never played team sports, but I love sports stories. These can include the grand gesture, something not expected to be accepted or allowed to happen. However, sports stories have grand actions, including youth sports. There is the rare, private example of a player that steps aside for a teammate to have a rare opportunity. There is no matter of words to the recipient: the player does not want his teammate even to know what he has done, only the coach.

In life we recognize grand gestures, which quickly fade in significance; less often do we learn of the grand actions that have affected our lives. I think the most fortunate among us may know of a time we learned about much later, when a parent made a grand action for us. It happened for me, the recipient, and was done by my dad in a matter that I learned about from my mother, decades later. Grand gestures versus great actions in life and in literature can show us much about human behavior and motivations. The darkest night is more dramatic, but the dawn of day invites hope and possibilities.     

The grand action always presents itself as a fait accompli. So, friend, it is done. Eventually we learn that Mr. Darcy, Lizzie's suitor, is a difficult man of surprisingly grand actions...that unfold in time and without fanfare.  

Maybe such a sports grand action would seem to happen only in literature or a movie script, but we know it happens in real life. And when that happens, decisions are  made and acted upon, before anyone can reverse them, change them, or prevent the cost borne by the one taking the action.

What moves life and the stories we love are the contrasts of character development that include such ideas and scenes, from Austen to Dickens to P.D. James, Jan Karon, and, fortunate for us, many others.  
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Writer, Ride Down an Elevator and Propose

Elephant in the St. Louis Zoo
Elephant in the St. Louis Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

St. Louis Review carried Jennifer Brinker's ( report about a writers conference focusing on proposals...for books. The adviser, a publicist, presented a visual picture that, as an editor, I know travels well:
 "Think of a ride down an elevator," Mary Brockgreitens said,
"You have about 10 seconds to tell people
what you do."

If you can imagine feeling like an elephant caught in an elevator, then you can imagine ( if you don't already know) what it feels like to see frustration in the eyes of those around you as you try to describe your book without preparing what to say in as few, dynamic  words as possible. It takes on seconds for pressure to build. And this is true whether the listener is a friend, family member, neighbor, or book editor
     If you cannot say it in ten seconds or less,'re caught, pinched, in trouble with no clear way, or possible way, back...out.

This is why writing it down and memorizing it, being able to say it in your sleep, are essential for authors wanting to create the beginning interest for their book, whether oral presentation for the work or written, as in a book proposal. 

"What's your book about?"

Are you ready to answer well and interestingly in the next 10 seconds?
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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Holiday/Vacation Days Might Reveal...

Håkan Nesser auf dem Blauen Sofa
Håkan Nesser auf dem Blauen Sofa (Photo credit: Das blaue Sofa) Flickr
If you want a quick writer's vacation/holiday, look around you for a safe, private, open field or a public or private lake that you have access to, or just anywhere outside away from the too-familiar places, and preferably where there are some of your favorite nature things. Lakes, ponds, ocean beaches (quiet strands or rocky places are essential), or a hilly place with a view, some shade, and safely not in use by anyone but you. 

Take along a few vital elements like plenty of water, a sandwich, and some fruit or a light snack. Take plenty of whatever you might need, as well as, possibly, a light umbrella to shield from the sun. Oh, and a blanket or, if you plan to go out in a boat or canoe on some calm river, take some cushions for comfort of bum and back.

I am half-way through an Inspector Van Veeteren detective story (Swedish author, Hakan Nesser, beautifully translated into English) that I've read before. A tough case with elusive sources of discovery plagues the chief inspector who is helping in another locale, one week from his own scheduled holiday. He's even thinking of retiring to co-manage a bookshop that needs help while also having more time for daily newspapers and people not necessarily involved in crime-solving. Maybe an interesting woman in his life.

He takes a day off during a lull in this case while other detectives and police on the team continue to track what little information they have to go on. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is not in charge of the case, but has been called in by another locality. Right now, he is heavily depended upon by a local acting chief of police, a young man faced with his first report of a missing person, possibly a murder.

On the day off in the midst of all of this, Inspector Van Veeteren leaves the town where he's lodged in a small hotel. He walks some distance to a river where he rents a canoe. He puts into the canoe, before stepping in and almost upsetting it, his cushions, sun-umbrella, water and some food he brought along. Oh, and his briefcase. 

He is taking a short holiday in the middle of the case that has very few clues so far. Only an anonymous phone call. Van Veeteren is not at all  showing a lack of care by taking this break. He is actually working on the case in another way. Among other reflections, he thinks about a recent conversation with a new friend...about reason and intuition. 

This day, on the river where he eventually pulls in to a quiet space along the bank, he tries to let his mind rest and to see if intuition once again might reveal or at least hint something to him. 

Inspector Van Veeteren and his team do not take crime lightly. They do not "enjoy" their jobs. They do not say so, but any reader can infer that they are called to what they do. They become violently ill on their first hard cases. They lose sleep. They stay away from home for days and nights on end, if needed. They work through heat, cold, and in spite of strange witnesses or possible informants. 

Van Veeteren is thinking of writing his memoirs, but one suspects he will never get to them, that he will not yet retire, that he will keep on doing the hard job that needs his attention right now. It also bears mentioning that the inspector is not a "religious" man, but he seems to know the Bible, telling a teenager, who is overly protective of her religious sect's teachings and teachers, that surely she's heard of the Bible and to go to it and read Isaiah 55:8.  

Meanwhile, the mind, body, and subconscious assistance of the chief inspector require a holiday afternoon with river, canoe, water and snacks, sun umbrella...and briefcase. Hoping for reason and intuition to work together, to give a hint, a thought, something...a thread.   
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Blinding Pride Put on the Bench: NCAA Deals with Failures in Penn State and Football Leadership

English: National Collegiate Athletic Associat...
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) logo.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  "Think about the victims...think about what they were going through..." --Desmond Howard, 7/23/12 --ESPN college football analyst, Heisman Trophy winner, University of Michigan and NFL player 

Moral failures caused extreme damage to children, and a long-standing cover-up of a coach's habitual sexual abuse in the athletic building ended in criminal charges for the perpetrator and disgrace for the Littany Lions football program at Pennsylvania State (Penn) University.  The disgrace was magnified by the "failure of those in power to protect children" (NCAA statement, 7/23/12).  Once exposed, the facts about horrible behaviors by one coach and extensive cover-up within the sports program and university leadership at large became a shocking national story. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, of which the Penn program is a member, today revealed its decisions on penalties in effect for the next four years and, in the case of the football win record, for the period from 1998 to 2012. The NCAA wants the culture of football at Penn to change, and imposed penalties on Penn State due to serious, crippling offenses and failures at the top leadership in the football program, the athletics program, and the university--when its leadership did not tell criminal authorities of reports that a man near the top, on the university campus, was horribly, shamefully, and cruelly using children, assaulting them, and in the athletic building. Protection of children was put away so as to protect one man and one athletic program, and from that point crime and character failures continued, grew, and spread.  

NCAA president, Mark Emmert, decided to focus on institutional responsibility rather than individual failures within one large, powerful segment of the university. Many would say that sports, overall, has become a too-powerful presence on college and university campuses. 

Many of us have looked to sports for enjoyment, as players or as spectators. Outstanding sports biographies continue to inspire, presented in news articles, books, and movies. One feature of the names that last has been the outstanding courage and character of sports coaches and the development of strong character and skills of players. 

This news of the NCAA sanctions and penalties upon a famous and "revered" university sports program carries much farther than one campus, one sport, and one college sports association. This news carries a warning to each one of us. Great responsibilities and tight accountability rest on teachers, and that includes coaches, writers, and all of us who touch the lives of others in any training or teaching capacity.   

Many in sports--and I will add, religious and other--communities forget or choose to ignore the truth that offenses by people in authority cannot be isolated if ignored. Wrongs covered over or denied grow like an invasive disease within the system, touching the weak and the innocent as well as the powerful and the guilty. The deeper the wrongs, the greater the likelihood of damage that spreads like a fog of poison to kill, paralyze, or in other ways harm the life of an entire institution.   

It is sad, definitely, that young athletes at Penn State, innocent of any involvement in the scandal and the resulting legal case, do now suffer. The entire student body and teaching staff are affected by this fog released by silence, the failure of people who should have known better than not to speak up for the weak.  

This is a case of biblical proportions. The wrongs of each person matter beyond themselves, their privacy and individual choices. There is no such thing as "as long as it does not hurt, or touch, anybody else." What does not affect others? What actions do not affect others? And, in this case, children were cruelly treated and caused to fear one man, and anyone close to him. He had immense power over them, their families, and beyond, and what they went through, what they continue to suffer, is a horrible part, now, of a once-great university.    

Good can spread, too, and that is the word of hope. The new football coach at Penn State, Bill O'Brien, has issued a positive statement about dealing with the NCAA-imposed penalties and sanctions. His statement, to his credit, included no complaining. This suggests that he has a correct perspective about where the worst damage has been children who look to important people for protection, not for use and abuse.  

Bill O'Brien offered a mature statement about going forth to do the job he was hired to do within the new situation. He would have every right and much understanding if he decided to leave Penn State, given what he has inherited. If he does stay, many will be pulling for him to do an outstanding and exemplary gain the respect of players and to be a good moral and skills influence upon them. He can, if he chooses, influence the future of players and, ultimately, an entire university and its massive alumni population and fan base...for good. And shame on those who do not support his football program, win or lose.

Writers face the same temptations that brought down Penn State football program to the new level at which it must learn to function. Writers are encouraged within themselves or by others outside themselves to weaken a message while strengthening "appeal," to express points of view in fiction and elsewhere that are popular, "acceptable," and currently part of the easier routes of life.

This means that we must carefully consider why we favor one view or another.

In this case, protecting children is the top priority, far above sports or institutional wins. One hopes that Penn State students, also paying the reverberating price of others' moral and leadership failure, will be helped to realize that innocent children's lives...and their families' lives...have been devastatingly harmed in the most disgusting of power-plays of an adult on a child. The price that must be paid by a university and its fans is nothing compared to the life-long, heavy, and debilitating price already paid by innocent children placed in the care of an adult who, later, was protected by other powerful people. 

It is right that pride be benched in the sports and life of Penn State, as well as other institutions. It is right that idols be removed.     

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