Sunday, April 22, 2012

Living on the Wind

I've been trying to write an Earth Day blog all week, but frankly, I keep thinking everything I write will fall on deaf ears. Americans care less about the environment now than they did 3 years ago. Even my friends who are rabid liberals and complain about anti-environment legislation all the time don't seem too concerned about how much energy they waste personally.

So today, instead, I'm just going to brag about my electricity provider.

I signed on with the PA Energy Cooperative a couple years ago. PECO still delivers my electricity, but the Energy Coop provides it. I chose them because

1. They're non-profit. I pay dues ($15/household/year) and become, essentially, one of the owners. The dues can be waived for low income households.

2. They give me the option of 20% or 100% sustainable electricity. Their 20% option is LESS than what PECO charges. Their 100% option is, at the moment, about a fifth of a cent per kilowatt hour more than PECO.

3. For their sustainable energy, they use wind power generated in Pennsylvania. No fuel from foreign countries, no getting power from across the US. The energy is generated locally. It's not only good for the earth, it's good for my state and local economies.

I use an average of 231 kwh per month, so it only costs me an extra 44 cents a month to go with the 100% sustainable energy option. (I might also point out that my kwh usage is less than the national average per person. I save about $15 per month just being a bit stingy about how much electricity I use--but that's another blog).

If you live in Pennsylvania, I definitely recommend the PA Energy Coop. Other Energy Coops are springing up across the country. Check them out in your area.

Happy Earth Day,

Thursday, April 12, 2012

National Library Week!

Kansas City, MO Library. I love this building!
First, the news: I'm happy to announce that ALL my novels are now available on Kindle and Nook. BY BLOOD POSSESSED and HANG MY HEAD AND CRY were both released as ebooks in the last two weeks. Only $3.99. These novels are also available in print.

So, here it is, National Library Week. I'll be spending the day at two local libraries. This afternoon from 1 to 4 pm, I'll be chatting with readers at Wissahickon Valley Library in Blue Bell, PA at their Author's Day. Tonight, I'll be discussing what goes into a great mystery novel with mystery writers J.J. Murphy, J.D. Shaw, Sandra Carey Cody, Kathleen Heady and Augustus Cileone at Tredyffrin Library in Strafford, PA at 7:30 pm. All are welcome to attend.

Last month I traveled down to Philly to spend an afternoon at the American Library Association convention. I was reminded that librarians are the coolest people on the planet. I've never met a librarian I didn't enjoy talking to.

But I was thinking this week that I don't get to libraries as often as I used to. Most of my research can be done online these days. I don't have as much time to read as I once did. Yet, when I walk into a library, even one I've never visited, I always feel at home there. The part of my brain that derives comfort from certain foods and certain books also comes alive when I spend time at a library. Lots of great childhood memories. Lots of good feelings from that many books under one roof. Lots of hope for the future when I see parents bringing their children in, especially when race inside, excited to be there.

Even with the increasing prevalence of the Internet and electronic books in our lives, we can't let libraries become obsolete. They're so much more than just a public storehouse for books. They're a kind of canary-in-a-coal-mine indicator of the health and development of their local communities. Even if we library patrons never speak to each other, we all know we're there because we love learning and exploring and imagination. In this day and age, the affirmation that we aren't alone in our quest for these things is essential for the growth of humankind.

Go visit your library.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Controversial Clothing

The last several months I've been working on a new book called The Todd Chronicles, in which Todd MacBride, a quirky, creative undergrad at the University of Arizona, self-appoints himself to chronicle the case files of his criminal psych prof, Gen Ziegler. He sees himself as Watson to her Holmes. I'll tell you more about the book when it makes its debut later this month.

I admit, it's been a while since I went to college, so I had to do all sorts of research into current college life. For instance, in my day, I'd dined at a dismal college cafeteria. The U of A has two student centers with food courts, ethnic restaurants, etc.

Arizona is a fairly warm place, but it can get chilly at night, especially in the winter. In one scene I had Todd stopping at his dorm to don something warmer before going back out for the evening. I googled images of college students in outerwear. Most were wearing sweatshirts. So I went to the U of A store site to view their selection. Out of 18 sweatshirts, 12 had hoods. I recalled that every college student I'd known for the last ten years had at least one hoodie in their wardrobe. I wore one in college, for that matter, though we just called them sweatshirts at the time. And a hoodie seemed to absolutely fit Todd's character.

Then came the Trayvon Martin murder, along with the inane comment by pseudo-journalist Geraldo Riveria that African-American parents shouldn't let their teens wear hoodies lest they be mistaken for criminals. Which is like saying that if you allow teenage daughter to let her belly button show, she might be mistaken for a hooker, or if you let your teenage son wear his pants low, he might be mistaken for a plumber.

But suddenly the hoodie became a symbol for, depending whose side you're on, the urban perp or racial profiling. I asked myself if I should change Todd's cool weather clothing of choice to something else, instead of saying "hoodie" and risk pulling my readers out of the story. My editor, on reading the manuscript, voiced the same concern.

In the end, I decided that Todd would keep his hoodie. It was right for the college setting of the book. It was right for his character.

But, hey, if the reader stops to remember Trayvon Martin a moment, I don't think that's a bad thing. Better we shouldn't forget too soon.



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