Tag Archives: Author

Time Travel Anyone?

Recently on Facebook someone in a group about my hometown (Elgin, Illinois)  posted a video I’d uploaded to YouTube that my grandfather filmed when Jack Kennedy stopped in Elgin on his campaign tour. The Facebook user credited me with the video and requested my friendship on Facebook. I checked out his FB page before accepting the friendship and saw that his name was Dennis Higgins, he lived in Elgin and he wrote a few books. When I asked him about the books he said that two take place in Elgin and one in Chicago. Oh, and the books are all about time travel.

Something you may or may not know about me is that I am a sucker for time travel stories. I am not sure when it began, but I know I liked anything about time travel as far back as when I could only check out books from the children’s part of the library. One of the first time travel stories I remember reading was The Time Garden by Edward Eager. I may or may not have read the other books in his time-travel series, but I think I read at least a few of them. I also remember reading The Children at Green Knowe and other books in that series around that time, which has elements of parallel time in it. While the Chronicles of Narnia are not time-travel stories exactly — I thought of them as such when I devoured them in my teens. When I was teaching I discovered the young adult’s author, Avi, and read his very scary, but delicious Something Upstairs. More recently I have read and loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and 11-22-63.

It doesn’t stop with books — I also love time travel films. Although I don’t remember when I first saw Somewhere in Time, it is a movie I watch whenever it comes on television and is among my top five favorite films. I have not yet read the book by Richard Matheson on which it was based , although I did begin reading it and have it on my Nook. About the same time I first saw Somewhere in Time, I also saw The Two Worlds of Jenny Logan which was another romantic time-travel story, but not nearly as compelling as Somewhere in Time.

I even tried to write a time travel story once for NaNoWriMo. I’d been toying with an idea for a story about a bored 10 year old boy or girl somehow time-traveling to the early 1800’s and meeting young Robert E. Lee while his parents attended a wedding reception at the home ever since we attended a wedding at Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home in Alexandria, VA. While I didn’t finish the story (I got bored with it and lost it in a computer hard drive crash) I did end up learning a lot about Lee and his family. I think if I were to ever write anything about his family I’d write about his mother. Not a lot has been written about her and she was a long-suffering woman with an interesting life.

parallel roads by dennis higginsBack to Mr. Higigns and his time travel books. I borrowed his first book, Parallel Roads (Lost on Route 66) on my Kindle and began reading it in bed Wednesday night at about 10:00. I read about 25% and decided I’d better get to sleep because I had a ton of work to do the next day. I couldn’t sleep so I read some more. Finally at 2 am I put the book down and eventually fell asleep, having read half the book. I didn’t read much yesterday because I was so busy, but did finish the book this morning.

I really enjoyed it. This one does not take place in Elgin, but there is an Elgin pocket watch in it. It is about a 30-something’s search for information about the disappearance of his paternal grandmother shortly after she gave birth to his father. It is also a bit of a travelogue about Route 66, then and now. I always find it interesting that so many authors have been able to make so many different ways to time travel, and this one is unique. I’m not doing a very good job “reviewing” this book. If you want to read a really well-done review about it, check out Ingrid Hall’s review.

You know how sometimes you read a book and it is completely foreign to you? You learn a lot of new things from that kind of book, but it never really feels familiar? Those can be good reads, but I also like the kinds of books that make me feel like I am in my own living room — books that make me nod and think, yeah, that’s right. Books that might make me  think of a parallel experience I have had. That’s what Parallel Roads was for me, in a way. No, I’ve never traveled in time, but I have tracked down some missing family history through my recent forays into genealogy. I also recently took a cross-country trip with an emotional woman. In fact, the road trip (the 1946 one) in the book really did remind me of my recent trip with Clare in quite a number of ways but if I tell you how it might ruin the ending of the book for you.

I am really glad I uploaded that video that my grandfather took and grateful to Dennis for requesting my friendship because of it. I look forward to reading his other books. Time Travel! Elgin! What’s not to love?

The Scent of a Book

Library Scene Time MachineBefore last May, more than one person was surprised to hear that I didn’t own a Kindle or any other kind of e-reader. They knew about my love of gadgets and couldn’t imagine why I’d not bought an e-reader yet. My response was the same to all — as much as I loved technology, I liked the smell of a book better.

Everyone who owned an e-reader tried to get me on-board by telling me how light they were. How I’d be able to hold hundreds of books on it. How easy on the eye they were. I heard so many good things about e-readers that I finally researched them and ended up asking for, and receiving, a Nook Color for Mother’s Day last year. I chose the Nook Color because I’d heard it could be turned into a cheap Android tablet — in case I didn’t like the e-book aspect.

Now, a few months shy of a year later, I give you my opinion: I like the smell of a book.

I also like the feel of a book in my hands and I like the sound of the pages being turned. The other day I considered cataloging all of the books in my house with an app I downloaded on my phone. I was excited at the prospect to touch (and smell) each of my books again and either remember the time spent reading them or relish the anticipation I felt about reading them someday. Then I thought about the books I downloaded on my Nook (and the audio books on my mp3 player). I would never hold those books or smell them or hear their pages turning. Did I really read them? Do I really own them? Can I catalog them?

I recalled the library scene from the 1960’s version of The Time Machine. The Time Traveler pulls a book off a shelf only to have it crumble to dust in his hand. Later he is shown the Talking Rings. Are my e- and audio- books like the talking rings or are they nothing but binary dust motes?

Autograph of Roger Tory PetersonI have read a few books on my Nook Color. My favorite was Stephen King’s 11/22/63, but because I loved it so, I ended up with eye-strain headaches from reading it deep into the night. It was convenient to buy the book the day it came out — but it was a whim buy. I probably would have waited and asked for it for Christmas if I didn’t have the Nook.

Right now I am reading The Big Year on the Nook. (actually I am reading it on my Android phone because my husband is reading the Stephen King book on the Nook). Yesterday in The Big Year I read about Roger Tory Peterson’s account of his Big Year: Wild America and remembered finding a copy of that book in an antique store about 20 years ago. I was a novice birder but recognized one of the authors. Opening the book to check the price ($2.50) I also glanced at the title page and was astounded to see that Peterson had inscribed it with best wishes to a Lloyd Foster. Of course I bought the book. It smells delightful.

This creates another issue — how do authors autograph e-books?


The Geeks Shall Inherit the EarthI just got word that Amazon has shipped my copy of The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins. I’ve not been so excited about a book launch since Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (which sort of proves my own geekiness just by admitting that).

Alexandra Robbins, as you may recall, wrote a book about overachieving high school students and based much of her information on our neighborhood high school, since she went to school there herself. I read it, but was not happy with the message. Clare was a junior at the time and miserable. In fact she has few good memories of high school — mostly because that high school is such a pressure-cooker of a school.

Ms Robbins kindly replied to a Facebook comment I made on her wall (that I’d thrown her earlier book across the room more than once) that her new book is more hopeful. I’m glad. And I’m glad she wrote it.

When Clare was in middle school and lamenting her non-popularity and the loss of her best friend to the popular crowd I told her that, although she doesn’t know it now and may not believe it, she will be the successful one later on. She will be happier than the so-called popular kids when she’s grown. I also told her that she will be the more interesting person too — that the popular kids, for the most part, are two-dimensional and shallow and ultimately boring. That she was none of those things. Of course it didn’t help her then to hear me say that, but it helped me that I believed it — having been in a similar situation high school.

Clare’s a sophomore in college now and so far my prediction is right — at least for her. I don’t follow the popular kids. She’s confident, smart, happy and multi-dimensional. She’s a deep thinker and will do great things in life.

I’m going to get two of these books and one will go to Clare with an inscription from the author for her. (I sort of want it to say, “Your mom was right again!” which is a take off of a line from a Dan Bern song).

Stay tuned — I’ll write more about the book when I’ve actually read it. I’m going to a book reading/signing by Ms Robbins on Saturday. I couldn’t be more excited.

Howard’s Butt

Howard's Butt
Howard's Butt

Unless you’re one of his colleagues,  past students, on Brainstorms or are an Internet Junkie like me, you might not have heard about Howard Rheingold. I first heard about Howard in 1998 when I saw a link to his website on a Dan Bern fan’s online bookmarks. I followed it and saw he had recently started an online forum called Brainstorms. I applied for admission (I sent an email to him telling him about my studies and asking for admittance) and was allowed entry. I was delighted and announced it in class the next time we met. No one knew about Howard Rheingold nor did anyone know what Brainstorms was. No matter — I was in.

I’ve met Howard three times. The first time was at a dinner in Frederick, Maryland. We had Chinese food and I drove Howard back to his hotel via an unintentional  circuitous route through the Pentagon parking lot and Arlington Cemetery. [Note: these were the days before GPS devices and I was a little awed that a hero of mine was IN MY CAR].

Howard & Rupert
Howard & Rupert

The second time I saw Howard was after he’d done a book reading at Politics and Prose about his new book, Smart Mobs. He signed a copy for me mentioning something about “taking a ride” and then a group of us went to Guapos in DC for dinner.

The third time I saw Howard was when I visited San Francisco and he invited my family and me to  hike with him in the mountains near his home (close to Mt Tan).

I’m still a member of Brainstorms and have many friends from that forum, although I rarely visit. About two weeks ago I noticed a post on my Facebook wall that Howard had been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the rectum and had begun a blog about it. Today I saw that his butt has been twittering updates.

Oh Howard…

One of these things is not like the others

If you think this post is weird, blame it on the fact I composed it in my head at 3:00 am when I couldn’t sleep.

One of these authors is not like the others,
One of these authors just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which author is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

So, which one of these Wisconsin Authors is different from the other three?

Michael Perry
Michael Perry

Peter Straub

Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman

David Wroblewski
David Wroblewski

Give up? The answer is Neil Gaiman — he was born in England and is still a British citizen.

What did you think I meant? The hair thing? Nah.

Brian Andreas and his Storypeople

There is a wonderful store in Rockville called As Kindred Spirits. I’m not sure when I first knew about it — I think it was first a kiosk at a mall. It also was at National Airport. Their About Us page does not mention the kiosk in the mall, but I’m fairly certain that’s where I discovered them. I think one reason I liked the kiosk was because the owner reminded me of my best friend from middle school — Cindy. Another reason was their selection. They had unique jewelry and gifts. Their store in Rockville also has clothes — the classy but comfortable kind with brand names like Flax and Willow. I even bought a pair of hemp sandals from As Kindred Spirits a number of years ago. (and yes, I did wonder if I’d get high if I smoked them).

An example of Brian Andreas' work.
An example of Brian Andreas' work.
As Kindred Spirits also carries a unique line of books and artwork called “Storypeople” by Brian Andreas. Not long after the Rockville store opened — or at least not long after I discovered it — the store invited Andreas to do a book reading one evening. What a delightful man he was and what delicious stories he told. I remember feeling as if I’d made a friend that night. I’ve bought many of his books over the years and have given people gifts of his artwork. His artwork is unique because it incorporates his words with his rather primitive, yet colorful, drawings.

I love his books and could read them over and over again (and do). They are small truisms with an eclectic drawing thrown in. They make me nod my head. They make me giggle. They make me snort. They make me laugh out loud. They make me a little sad sometimes. They even made me cry once.

A while back I found his work online and checked the sites out now and then. More recently the company began blogging. A few weeks ago I discovered that Andreas was on Twitter (@brineypup for you Twitterers) and Facebook.

I was most delighted, however, to see that Andreas began his own blog, Zen Bandit, where he posts stories, thoughts and sketches. He even uploaded an audio post and I’m pretty sure will put some videos of his work up on the blog as well.

He and I have exchanged a few words via twitter and I’ll post comments on his blog for sure. This is what I love about the Internet. A person can personally tell someone thanks for making their life a little better.

Thanks Brian!

Artwork by Brian Andreas [from somewhere off the Internet :-) ]

Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book wins Newbery Medal

My adoration for most things Gaiman is probably known by folks who read this blog. I happened to be reading his tweets today when I saw this:


I’m delighted. He’s such an accessible author — he wrote in his journal about writing this book — and kept us updated on its progress. Clare and I bought it at the National Book Festival a few days before its release. You should read it — it’s very good.

Review: Mrs Lieutenant

A couple of weeks ago I received a google alert for Elgin, Illinois. I get them several times a week, and usually read them, then delete them. This one, however, I not only read and saved, but I took action that I don’t regret.

The alert was about an author, Phyllis Zimbler Miller, who grew up in Elgin. I’d not heard of the author, but found her on a site I’d been to before, The Author’s Den.  I sent her a message, telling her I was pleased to see that Elgin produced talented people and that I’d also grown up there. I also found her on twitter and found her weblogs. In fact, this woman is all over the Internet.

I added her to my twitter feed and we exchanged a couple of twits and messages on The Author’s Den. She offered to send me her book to read and review here. I accepted, so here we are.

I have to admit, when I looked at the cover of the book and read the blurb on the back, I was a little worried that I was not going to like it. After all, I was a knee-jerk anti-war teenager (and am a more thoughtful anti-war middle-aged woman). Why on earth would the story of four vastly different women who happened to be married to budding army Lieutenants in the 1970’s interest me in the slightest?

I was mistaken. Mrs. Lieutenant was an interesting read. It kept my interest and I came away from it more enlightened about life of military folk during the Viet Nam war. The book has romance, drama, drama, sex, and conflict. I cared about the characters and hated a couple of them. What more could I ask for?

The premise of the book is that four young women from different US cultures are thrown together for a couple of months on a military base while their husbands complete some needed training. Although backgrounds and pasts differ, their futures seem to all hold at least one near-definite: the possibility of their husband’s going to, and possibly dying, in Viet Nam.

Sharon Gold, the main character, is a Jewish anti-war protester from Chicago, Illinois. Donna is a Puerto Rican married to an “Anglo”. Kim is a white woman from South Carolina who doesn’t like Jews, Puerto Ricans or Blacks. Wendy is a sheltered Black woman from South Carolina.

While I believed the tension between Kim and the other women, I had a hard time understanding the tension that Sharon felt. Maybe I’m too young to remember tension between Jews and non-Jews, or perhaps I’ve lived in a community with a lot of Jewish culture for so long. Although, I do admit to not knowing anyone Jewish in my hometown until I got to high school, but it never seemed to be an issue — in fact I might have known them, just didn’t know they were Jewish.

I think this book might even appeal more to women that lived that life — even if they lived it during other wars, or during times of peace (have we actually had those?)

While Ms Zimbler Miller’s writing style occasionally felt awkward (possibly because she was writing in language of the 1970s), there were some spots of brilliant writing:

“Don’t lie to me. I know you were with a man.”

Jim’s face flushes with the ugliest shade of purple she’s ever seen. His eyes will pop out of his face any minute, landing at her feet and rolling away, becoming marbles for Squeaky to chase.

She sinks to the floor as her knees fold under her. “I swear Jim, I swear on my sister’s life, that I was home all day alone. That I was not with another man today, or ever before, or ever in the future.” The tears plop onto her hands.

He stides down the hall. In a moment he’s back.

He has the gun!

“I’ll kill you if you’re ever with another man. I promise you, Kim, I’ll kill you.”

So, as I told Ms Zimbler Miller in my first message — it’s great to see that Elgin, Illinois produced people with her talent. She spent time at the very same library I did as a young child — perhaps we read the same books.

I’m sending this book to my Aunt Ginny, who went to high school with Ms Zimbler Miller. I think she’ll even get more out of it than I did.

Hurry. Read American Gods. For free.

A few years ago my daughter said she wanted to read a book called Coraline because she saw it in the book tent at the National Book Festival. I didn’t buy it there, but asked about it the next time we were in a bookstore. The book was not available for purchase at the store, but the sales person wrote down the name of the author: Neil Gaiman.

I found an audio version of Coraline at the library and picked it up so we could listen to it on our long drive from Maryland to Illinois for either Christmas or a summer vacation, I don’t recall which. We all loved the story as well as the voice of the narrator, none other than the author himself. There was even some fun-creepy music on the CDs by the Gothic Archies.

As soon as I had internet access again I looked up Neil Gaiman and found that he had an online journal. I subscribed to the blog feed and Mr Gaiman became a part of my daily routine. I bought several of his books, saw him speak twice (once at the National Book Festival and once at a bookstore in Northern Virginia) and marveled at his accessibility.

He’s done it again. In honor of the anniversary of his online journal he asked readers of the blog to vote on what book he would put online for free for a month. He cautioned readers to not vote for their favorite book of his, but for the one they would recommend for a first time Gaiman reader. I voted for Smoke and Mirrors. It is a collection of several short stories and covers the spectrum of his talent. It also is a testament to his accessibility and candor – he explains where each of the the stories came from, where he got the idea.

While you’re going to have to either buy Smoke and Mirrors or borrow it from the library, Neil Gaiman did put a book online for free: American Gods. But only for the month of March. So hurry and read it if you want to.

But don’t read it in the bathtub. You may get electrocuted.