Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November-Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up and Giveaway

November-Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up and Giveaway

Fatal Incident Giveaway Ends Today at Midnight!!!

  November- Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up.

  November is coming to an end and that means that there are only 24 shopping days until Christmas.  It also means I would like to end November with a treat by highlighting Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Jim Proebstle.

Today is the last day to enter the contest to win a copy of Fatal Incident.  The contest ends at midnight tonight.  The contest is open to people living in the U.S. that are current Booksnob followers.  Good Luck and as always thanks for following Booksnob!

Click here to enter:  Fatal Incident Contest

Check out my book review of Fatal Incident.  Fatal Incident is Proebstle's second novel that he bases on a personal story within his family history.  It is a historical fiction novel that takes place during World War II and highlights the army air transport that happened in Alaska.  Jim has created memorable characters, an intense spy game and different possibilities to what really could have happened on that fateful day when his uncle's plane crashed in the Mount McKinley range.

Fatal Incident Book Review

Be sure to read the Author Interview with Jim Proebstle, he describes the personal back story behind his book and he describes how he keeps writing.  He even tells a funny story.

Jim Proebstle Author Interview

Jim presented me with THREE guest posts to share with my readers.  They were all very enjoyable to read and insightful for all who enjoy the craft of writing and reading.

Guest Post #1
Guest Post #2
Guest Post #3

As November comes to a close I would like to thank Jim for being the November Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  He is a talented writer and I look forward to reading his next book and working with him in the future.  Please visit Jim's website at and support him by reading one of his books. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Lady Of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory

The Lady Of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Women in history walked a fine line and could rarely step outside of the bounds of the control of men. Women learned to represent themselves as men wanted them to be and to hide their true nature of self.  If they chose to venture outside of the rule of men, they would face the consequences that were designed to destroy the will of women. 

The Lady Of The Rivers begins with Jacquetta meeting Joan of Arc who is being held prisoner on her uncle's farm.  Jacquetta has the wisdom of sight but conforms to live within the confines of her society.  Joan of Arc is burned as a heretic before Jacquetta's eyes and it changes the way she lives her life.  Eventually Jacquetta is arranged to marry an old English duke, The Duke of Bedford, who controls most of France.  He doesn't want a wife so much as a prize and someone who can foretell the future.  This marriage is not destined to last long as the Duke dies after a short while and Jacquetta falls in love with her squire, re-marries and has lots of children.

Jacquetta, The Duchess of Bedford, lives in England with her family and serves King Henry VI and his young French wife Margaret.  The Lady of the Rivers serves an unpopular king who is self-serving and naive.  The heir to the throne is the Duke of York but the King won't speak to him and instead appoints others to advise him causing a rift in the family.  The book, The Lady of the Rivers, marks the historical beginnings of the cousins war and chronicles the life of the mother to Elizabeth, Jacquetta's first born, who becomes known as The White Queen.

I love history, especially the little known history of women.  Our history books have pretty much forgotten the importance of the female gender and women are under represented.  Gregory is a historian of women and all her books herald the power of women and their importance in history.  I love to recommend her books to students and pass on the knowledge and perspective she has taught me as a history teacher.  History stands for His Story.  If you want to learn Her Story, you have to read some of Philippa Gregory's novels and revel in the knowledge of women throughout time.

There is a quote I love that says "Well behaved women never make history" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Philippa Gregory always writes about women who defy the odds and break the rules.  Go and venture into the realm of possibilities.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jim Proebstle Author Interview + Giveaway

Author Interview with Jim Proebstle

Read on to find out the personal back story behind Jim Proebstle's new book Fatal Incident.  Jim took his uncle's story and wrote an entertaining book about what might have happened.  Jim also offers good advice to writers. 

Hi Jim,

·        1.  Why did you decide to write this Fatal Incident?

Growing up in Massillon, Ohio, I always remembered the picture of Roy Proebstle, Uncle Curly, on my dad’s chest of drawers in the bedroom.  He was a handsome man in his Captain’s dress uniform flashing a warm smile that reached out to me every time I entered the room.  The story about Curly’s death, however, was always buried deep in my father’s heart.  Occasionally, I would hear comments between him and my mom, but they were always shrouded in the sad tone invoked in the loss of a best friend.  Part of my experience in writing Fatal Incident was the thrill of vicariously participating in that period of my dad’s and Curly’s (Bud and Nick Morgan in the book) life, prior to World War II, when aviation shaped their future paths.

      It was after my father’s death when I started digging deeper that I realized the story we
      were told didn’t hold water.  My cousins, Bob and Jack, agreed. Since no one knew what
      really happened I wanted to write about what could have happened.  All accounts of why
      the crash took place in Fatal Incident are fictional, to be sure, but several possibilities
      could exist.  I wanted to present one of them in order to establish a credible alternative. 

        2.  Do you have any secret writing tips you'd like to share?

Utilizing personality profile instruments, like the Myers-Briggs or Temperament, isn’t new but is very helpful in developing characters that are diverse.  I find that if I spend time developing the character with their individual profile, before I start writing the story, my ability to place them into a scene with better dialogue is enriched.

       3.  Tell us a quirky or funny story about you!

I didn’t know what to expect at my first book signing, a small B. Dalton bookstore in Bemidji, MN.  I noticed that people were hesitant to approach the table.  It seemed like they didn’t know what to say or how to initiate the introduction.  I’m pretty outgoing, so I get out of my chair and greet people with a solid handshake and warm smile, and asked about their interests in reading.  Things took off and books started to sell.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a very attractive lady in her forties approaching.  She was very direct and initiated the introduction completely under her own control, and with a handshake that was unbelievable.  “Unbelievable,” like “all is right with the world unbelievable.”  Her eye contact was clear, smile friendly…I was caught in the headlights.  I managed to acknowledge her remarkable handshake, as she had yet to release her grip, by asking what kind of work she did.  She responded, “Well, I’m a dairy farmer.”  There was a twinkle in her eye.

        4.  Have you ever battled writer's block? How do you deal with it?

Since Fatal Incident is based on true events experienced by my family, I do have a lot of original pictures, letters, newspaper articles, etc. that can quickly get you into the setting of what happened.  My Aunt Millie, Uncle Curly’s wife at the time of the crash is still living and had saved all of the postcards he had sent as a normal part of their correspondence.  Following Uncle Curly’s thoughts gave me the feeling of being there as each postcard identified the various writing locations from Bethel, Alaska to Edmonton, Alberta.  This allowed me to construct a flight map to follow his assignments.  These first-hand resources of the players involved were like listening through a wall with your ear to a glass.

         5.  What's your favorite quote?  

“If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”  Benjamin Franklin

         6.  Who writer inspires you the most?

      As a writer, Larry McMurtry inspires me most.  I never tire of the incredible characters he creates and develops.  His unique talent of bringing characters to life happens with an interconnecting chapter structure that approaches one scene many times from multiple character perspectives.  The collision is very exciting.

 Thanks JIM!!!
If you would like to win a copy of Jim's book, please enter this contest by clicking the link.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Books into Movies

On Thanksgiving I had about 30 people over for dinner.  The last person left about 8pm and you can imagine how tired I was.  So this weekend became a weekend where I watched movies and TV shows that were initially books.  My family enjoyed this and I think it will become a future tradition in my household.  I commonly read the book and then forget about the movie because I don't have time or the book is always better, in my opinion, so why go see it, right?

First we watched Howl's Moving Castle.  I have been wanting to see this for a long time as I loved the director's previous film Spirited Away.  Howl's Moving Castle was an entertaining film for the family as everyone enjoyed the entertaining tale and visuals were beautiful.  The film is based on the book, Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones.  I haven't read it yet but it looks really good.

The second movie we watched at the movie theater. We went to see Hugo Cabret since both my son, daughter and I have all read the book and were eagerly awaiting the film. I loved the film! We spent the extra money and saw it in 3D and I am glad we did. I laughed, I cried and I fell in love with film all over again. Take your family to see Hugo and don't forget to read the book, it is awesome.

Next we saw New Moon. I know I am behind on this and since I read the book I wasn't in a hurry to see the film but my 11 year old daughter has been begging me to see it for the last couple of weeks and so I caved in. The film was OK. The book is better of course but for pre-teen and teenage kids, they were totally into it and so I am glad we watched it together as a family. Now she is going to start begging me to see Eclipse.

After we put the kids to bed my husband and I started watching the AMC series The Walking Dead. It is based on a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman. I have not read his books but I am thinking of checking them out. There are about 15 volumes in the series so far, enough to keep fans reading for
a long time. OMG, this is a good TV series and the zombies are so gross and scary. It is TV 14 but I wouldn't let my kids watch it as they would definitely have bad dreams. SO good, you have to check it out.

So that is my movie weekend. What movies did you watch this weekend that started out as books?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jim Proebstle Guest Post + Giveaway

Hometown Track MN Author in the Spotlight for November has written another thought provoking guest post.  Jim Proebstle has written a book called Fatal Incident and he and his publisher are giving away 3 copies to Booksnob followers who live in the United States.  To enter the contest, click the link:  Fatal Incident Contest


These Boys Have to Grow Up Sometime by Jim Proebstle

            There is a lot of concern about raising kids today, especially with drugs, weirdoes and perverts that may bring harm to our most precious gifts.  It’s understandable.
            “Back in the day,” God, do I sound old, but things were different then.  We grew up more quickly with an emphasis on independence and being able to take care of yourself.  Take this story, for example, and try to find it’s equivalent in 2011.
            In May of 1960, myself and most of my buddies were about to turn sixteen.  We were men, or so we thought, fresh off a successful football season at Central Catholic in Canton, OH.  At the time we were a little out of control, pushing the envelope with mishaps and trouble, but basically good kids.  Most importantly, we were about to get our licenses.  There were no formalities, just pass the written and driving tests and you were “good to go.”
            This whole idea of driving had nothing but adventure written all over it from my point of view, so Bill, Bruce, Larry and I decided to capitalize.  We wanted to take a road trip—three fifteen year olds about to turn sixteen and one sixteen year old.  Fortunate for us, I grew up with a father who, while stern, loved adventure.  His love for camping and the outdoors put him in the league of Crockett and Boone.  Our plan was simple.  I would make an appeal to my dad that we wanted to go camping.  I knew in later years, like sixteen or seventeen, that if I used the word camping in any sentence with my dad, I was likely to get a “Yes.”  For example, if I asked to go to Cleveland and raise hell with my friends for the weekend I was very likely to get a “No” and not see the light of day for the rest of the weekend.  If, however, I asked to borrow the second car and family tent to go camping with my buddies at a state park on Lake Erie near Port Clinton, this would pass muster all day.  He was a good father, just not always tuned into the big picture—namely the campground was ten miles away from Catawba and Cedar Point where we could raise hell and chase girls.
            Back to the story—in Ohio you needed to have a permanent driver, namely one who was licensed and sixteen, in the car with you as a fifteen year-old driver with a temporary permit.  Armed with this knowledge I approached my dad.
            “Dad, some of my buddies on the football team and I have an idea that sounds like fun.”
            “What is it, Jimmy?”
            “Well, it involves camping, but our plan is to be gone until a week from Sunday.”  That was when my mom stopped washing the dishes to give full attention to our little talk.
            “That’s ten days from now.”  He paused, but I could see the gleam in his eye.  He continued.  “What’s your plan?”
            I explained that we had picked out a state park named Raccoon Creek in WV about one hundred and twenty miles away, closer to Pittsburg than he calculated.
            “Who’s going to drive?”
            “Well, that’s why Bill, Bruce and I need your permission to use our car.”  We were the only ones to have two cars so the request made sense.
            “None of you have turned sixteen, yet…you need a driver with a permanent permit.”
            It was time to play my ace-in-the-hole.  “Larry is sixteen.  He’s going, too,” I said.  Larry happened to be the one kid that every parent trusted—what a great cover.
            “I don’t think this is a very good idea, Len,” my mother interrupted with an authoritative tone.
            He paused, and then looked me straight in the eye.  Paused again and turned to my mom and said, “These boys have to grow up sometime.”
            Can you imagine today (2011) giving a car to four kids of our age for a ten day “camping trip” with no contact, cell phone check-ins, or adult supervision?  Nuts, right?  Maybe, but that’s when we started to grow up.  That’s when I started to imagine possibilities, not just with the girls we met, but with everything around me.  I was lucky enough to have parents that encouraged me to take responsibility for growing up.  The freedom of thinking that I was encouraged to develop as a teenager definitely helps me be a better writer today!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Fatal Incident by Jim Proebstle

Fatal Incident by Jim Proebstle

Based on true events,  Fatal Incident is a World War II historical novel that highlights the Army's Air Transport command in Alaska.  In 1943 Captain Roy Proebstle's plane, a C-47, crashed in the Mount McKinley Range.  20 serviceman were lost in the crash and a rescue mission was never attempted.  Fatal Incident is Jim Proebstle's fictional account of what might have happened to his uncle on that fateful day so long ago.

Captain Nick Morgan is a pilot on loan from Northwest airlines in Minnesota where his pregnant wife Martha lives, while Nick is stationed to fly in the Alaskan wilderness for the U.S. army.  Nick trains to fly in one of America's most dangerous landscapes and transports soldiers from place to place, while writing letters to his dear wife.

The Lend-Lease program trains Soviet pilots in Alaska and sends them home with U.S. planes to fight the Germans.  Russia was a U.S ally during WWII but that doesn't mean they didn't have spies in place in the U.S. at that time.

The two story lines intersect as Captain Nick Morgan's plane disappears and everyone is left with questions as to what happened and why.  The Russians just may hold the secret to unlocking the mystery of the Fatal Incident.

Fatal Incident is a novel of WWII that contains great character development, an entertaining storyline and real events from history.  There is a great espionage element to the story as well as romance and intrigue.  If you are a WWII buff, a historical fiction reader or someone who loves planes and spies, this is a novel for you. 

I love the cover art of Fatal Incident and the end pages contain maps of Alaska and flight routes.  I learned a lot about the strategic importance of Alaska during World War II and enjoyed the backdrop of the author's personal story.  My grandfather flew in WWII in Normandy and in Europe and so I am always attracted to books like these.  I am going to share my copy of Fatal Incident with my father in law.  He will love it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

A visual masterpiece, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is sure to delight readers of all ages.  Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives in the train station in Paris and keeps all the clocks running.  Hugo is an inventor, a creative thinker and a thief who needs to steal to eat and create.   He is on a mission to restore a automaton (mechanical man) that his dad found in hopes that his secret wish will come true.  Along the way he meets a old man who runs a toy booth and his granddaughter, Iabelle, who becomes his only friend.   What begins for Hugo as a secret desire becomes a mystery waiting to be solved and he and Isabelle set off on a quest.

The book is a visual tour de force and will have you turning the pages at a fast pace as you read the text and absorb the 284 original drawings and images.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not a typical book as it is like a cinematic film on paper.  The storyline contains some cinematic history and includes visuals from early French films.  The book will leave you with the impressions of a graphic novel combined with a children's picture book.  The text is enjoyable to read in combination with the artwork and the result is a timeless, innovative piece of literature that will leave a lasting impression on the reader.

While I was reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, my 11 year daughter was peering over my shoulder.  When I set the book down, I came back and noticed she had started reading it in tandem with me and for a few days we had two bookmarks in the book and had to fight over who was reading it first.  Now my 13 year old son is in the midst of reading it and our plan is to see the movie version of the book this weekend.   The film version is called Hugo and is directed by Martin Scorsese.

  The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a book for families to read, cherish and treasure.  You must leave a special place for it on your bookshelf and re-visit the reading experience again and again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jim Proebstle Guest Post and Contest

Jim Proebstle Guest Post

While I am getting ready to have 30 people over for dinner on Thanksgiving (I'm crazy, I know) Jim was gracious enough to write a few guest posts for this month as my Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight. 

If you are interested in reading/winning a copy of Jim's new book Fatal Incident please click the link:  Fatal Incident Contest

Engage, don’t Sell at Book signings by Jim Proebstle

            I’m new as an author, so I’m reluctant to give advice.  I am not new, however, in professional selling.  My entire career in corporations, like Xerox, involved responsibilities with customers, both as a salesman and as an executive.  For the last twenty years I have offered consulting advice to large and small corporations in their sales management practices through Prodyne, Inc., a consulting firm I founded in 1991.  The following observations and suggestions are rooted in that experience.
            My first book signing was in a small B. Dalton store in Bemidji, MN.  The longer I sat behind the table, the more people felt awkward in approaching me.  I also knew that being a large man can make it harder for some people to warm up.  It seemed intuitively obvious that day that the people who were “hovering” in the store wanted to talk to me, but didn’t know how.  Being a Rotarian and sharing that value of friendship with others helped.  I didn’t have to sell them the book—they knew I was selling books.  I needed to engage them in the topic of reading, something we both shared as an interest.
            This is where the professional selling model of listening 75% of the time comes in.  But the dilemma is “How do I do that?”  It starts with a smile, getting out from behind the table, shaking hands, making clear eye contact, introducing yourself and engaging them in a conversation with questions.  What kinds of books do you like to read?  Are you a frequent customer of the store?  Have you found what you’re looking for?  Is that t-shirt from the college you went to?  Can I help you with a recommendation?  Would you like to know more about my book?  You get the picture—the list goes on.  Within minutes this first book signing went from a flop to a success and, more importantly, everybody had fun.
            As I gained additional exposure at book signings, the concept of being paired with other authors presented itself.  Many authors, by nature, are more on the introverted side of the personality spectrum.  As a result, they sit there waiting.  A lady next to me fit this mode at a book signing at the Sister Wolf Bookstore in Dorset, MN.  It was crowded so the prospect of getting up and wandering around wouldn’t work.  She asked me what to do.  I suggested that if she had a broken leg and someone came to visit at her home, what would she do?  She wouldn’t sit there and say nothing.  “Of course not,” she said.  Think of this as the same thing.  No. 1, believe they are coming to see you.  No. 2, they may, or may not, buy your book.  No. 3, they will buy or refer your book based on the experience they have with you, as a person.  Be welcoming, be friendly, and be inquisitive.  Take the pressure off them and you by engaging, not selling.  They are more likely to remember your book if they have a pleasant experience to attach it to.
            She asked, “How do I get people to come to my table in the first place?”
            “Let me show you.”  With that the next person into the store had a Michigan State University hat on.  This was too easy as I am green and white clear through.  I said, “Go green,” just loud enough for the person to hear.
            He stopped, looked  in my direction and said, “Go white.”  He came to my table and bought a book.  When I was done I admitted to the lady that it’s not always that easy, but she got the point.  Engage people in a friendly way.
            The dark side of this method is that you will occasionally attract the person who wants to tell you their life story, or about the book they want to write.  Control the discussion by offering to talk more after the book signing or by simply excusing yourself to transfer the discussion as another interested reader arrives.  If my wife, Carole, is with me and senses that this is happening she’ll come to my aid at the table and engage the “talker,” luring them away so I can focus my attention on others.  As in every case, however, the person needs to feel good about the experience through a pleasant enjoyable dialogue.
            I’m still new at this, but I don’t look at book signings the same anymore.  It’s really an opportunity to meet a lot of nice people who share my interest in books.  Sales of your book will be an enjoyable byproduct.

Thanks JIM!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

Parallel lines never intersect but the lines of Triangles do intersect inside this steamy, no holds barred look at three women during their midlife crises.  Each of these women celebrate a birthday and major life changes as they embark on a journey that forever alters their future.

Hopkins alternates the stories of the three women and she uses her unique style of poetry.  Each section is like a play or vignette that builds into a crescendo as each story intertwines and delves into issues such as extramarital affairs, sex, parenting a gay or pregnant teen, AIDS, terminal illness of a child and betrayal.  Some scenes will take your breath away, others will make your heart ache.

This is Hopkins first novel for adults and it is a whopper.  Ellen Hopkins young adult books are daring and delve into risky topics that most authors don't attempt to write about.  Triangles is no exception except it contains adult themes and x-rated scenes. 

This is my fourth book by Hopkins.  I have read the Crank, Glass and Fallout trilogy.  It is absolutely a set of books I adore and while I really liked this book, I enjoyed her young adult series better.  I think Hopkins has attempted to find a new adult audience and I believe new and old readers will enjoy this book.

Currently, I am in my 40's, just like two of the women in Triangles and yet I don't feel I have encountered a mid-life crises.  I am not sure if everyone experiences a mid-life cycle of change and if so, is it always negative and life-changing or can it be so small as to not be noticeable?  Have you experienced a mid-life crises?  What is your opinion?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

Reservation Blues takes place on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington.  Three young men with nothing better to do form a band called Coyote Springs and begin to feel the pride and pain of success.  One plays an enchanted guitar and with virtually no experience this band takes off.  Later two women join the band and so begins their mystical, rock n' roll odyssey as they travel wide and far in their blue van from bar to bar. 

Every chapter begins with a song, lyrics included, and you can download the originals off of itunes.  The songs are Thomas-Build-the-Fire's lyrical original songs for Coyote Springs.  They are also poignant songs that highlight the Indian experience, history and reservation life.

Reservation Blues is a multi-layered story that mimics life and our connections with the past.  There are ancestral dreams and nightmares that connect the past with the present.  Mysticism, storytelling, blues singing, magic, are what kept me reading and so very interested in the unique storyline.  Sherman does not sugar coat the Indian experience in Reservation Blues as alcoholism, abuse, suicide, unemployment and other important issues come up often in the book.   This is one powerful book.  Reservation Blues had me enchanted from the first page and when the story ended, I was literally singing the blues.

Here is my song: You add the guitar solo please and the baby. baby's.
I call it The Reading Blues.

Late at night,
when I finished the book,
I stared at my nook  (I don't really have a nook but it rhymed)
and started to sing,
the reading blues

Baby, I got the reading blues.
I loved that story
now it is over
I must move on
what is a girl to do
I've got the reading blues.

you had my heart, my eyes, my time,
my toe is tapping double time,
to the beat of my soul 
wondering what book I will read next,
will it pass the test.

(Back to chorus).

This is an original copyrighted song by Laura from Booksnob

Friday, November 11, 2011

The River Between Us by Richard Peck

The River Between Us by Richard Peck

The Mississippi river is the longest river in North America.  During the Civil War the river was fought over by the North and South to gain control of ports and shipping routes.  The River Between Us is about people from Grand Tower, Illinois.  A town divided between the North and South with boys leaving to fight on either side.

In 1961, one of the last steamboats arrives in Grand Tower before the blockade and carries two mysterious southern women, Delphine and Calinda.  These two ladies disembark to find a ramshackle town curious and suspicious about the strangers.  The Pruitt family is nice enough to board the strangers and they settle into an easy rapport for awhile.  The Pruitt family consists of Tilly, the main narrator of the story , her twin brother Noah, who is itching to go to war, the younger sister Cass, who sees into the future, and their mother, Mrs. Pruitt, who is trying hard to hold onto her son and keep him out of the war.  Mr. Pruitt is absent from the family.

Mr. Peck has created an entertaining work of historical fiction for teen readers.  There is a mystery to solve, a war to fight, sick to be healed, dead to be buried and stories to tell.  The River Between Us starts out slow and gains speed like a steam engine train.

I read this book because my son is reading it in his 7th grade American History class and I wanted to read it with him.  The Civil War is one of my favorite periods in history to read about.  The River Between Us tells a unique story that taught me a thing or two.  The Battle of Belmont is the first battle fought on the Mississippi River.  The North may have lost the battle but it propelled U.S. Grant forward as a person to contend with and within a year the Union army had made it to New Orleans.  New Orleans was unique as a Southern city because it contained many free people of color.  The free women of color were forbidden to wear hats in 1786 so they chose to wear a tignon otherwise known as kerchief.

The reason I love historical fiction is because I always learn something new. 
What is your favorite period in history to read about?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jim Proebstle Guest Post

Guest Post:  A Writer's Motivation by Jim Proebstle

Jim Proebstle is the Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for November.  To enter a contest to win a copy of Fatal Incident click on the Contest link:  Fatal Incident Contest

A Writer’s Motivation by Jim Proebstle

            As a young boy in the 1950’s it seemed like adults were still very focused on The War, as everyone called it.  My best friend was Tim and his dad served as a Major in the US Army.  Everyone called him, Pete.  He had an endless supply of paraphernalia from his tour of duty—sleeping bags, cool belts, hats, canteens, field glasses, etc.  Tim and I used to “play war” endlessly in the back yard and the woods nearby using every prop we could.  Great fun!  The one thing we were forbidden to touch was his service revolver, a .45 caliber pistol, issued to officers.  We shot the gun once under Pete’s supervision to see just how destructive the weapon could be.  It was scary, but still exciting because my dad didn’t serve in the war, at least not in the armed services.
            My dad held an exempt status deferment due to his aeronautical engineering degree and job with Goodyear Aerospace.  In our house, my brothers and I never talked about the war the way Pete did…you know, first hand stories about army buddies and how this war was the last one we’d ever fight.  The closest we got to war stories was how the neighbors would tell my mom that some men in suits stopped by asking about us; “Did my dad keep regular hours?—Did we get lots of visitors?—Were there lights on in our house at strange hours?”— stuff like that. 
            The only obvious family connection to the war in our house with men in uniforms was the picture of Curly, my dad’s brother, in his pilot uniform.  It was an 8 x 10 portrait sitting on my parent’s chest of drawers in their bedroom.  Uncle Curly seemed like a nice man.  His big smile always greeted me when I went into the room.  His eyes seemed to make the picture come alive, which I would learn was not the case.  He died in a plane crash during the war.  My mom told us boys not to ask questions, since my dad and Curly were very close growing up and it hurt my dad very much to discuss what happened.  That was basically Curly’s existence in our family, other than the occasional reference to how much my older brother looked like Curly.
            As an adult myself, I learned little more of Uncle Curly other than the fact that he was the pilot of that flight and all sixteen passengers and three crew died in Alaska on September 14, 1944.  The hurt inside my father continued until his death in 1990.  My mother died shortly afterwards.  Part of my inheritance was an old cabin in northern Minnesota.  Not much of a place, but important to my parents.  Our visits there over the years made it important to our family as well, so we decided to rebuild, keeping just enough of the old design to preserve the tradition of the “old cabin” alive.
            Before the reconstruction could begin we needed to clean things out.  I’ll never forget my wife, Carole, calling to me from one of the upstairs bedrooms, “Do you want to keep this old box of your dad’s?”             
            My dad was a packrat so my normal reply was, “You decide.” 
            Carole continued, “You might want to look at this before throwing it out.”
            I trudged upstairs and she handed me a box.  It was a cardboard box with broken corners, maybe from a department store.  It was hand labeled, Curly’s Clippings.  I was stunned.  We had never seen the box buried amongst so much stuff.  In it were pictures, newspaper articles, letters of condolence, letters of correspondence from the Army chain of command responsible for the search and rescue, letters written by my grandparents demanding more information, flight aviation maps of Alaska, postcards and many published stories of the unusual crash that took eighteen lives.  All of these documents were from 1944-1945 and in perfect condition.
            As a new author with my first book under my wings, In the Absence of Honor, the box was a treasure trove of motivation, research, passion and creativity all rolled up into one idea, “I need to finish Uncle Curly’s story.”

Thanks Jim,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

I have never proclaimed to be fan of Jane Austen and her books.  I find her books (the two I have read at least) hard to swallow as a modern woman.  OK, I did actually like Northhanger Abbey but I have never read Pride and Prejudice (Shocker, I know) and Sense and Sensibility drove my senses out of bounds.  So when my book club chose Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I thought OMG, I have to read Jane Austen, ugh.  My second thought enjoyed the idea of Jane Austen's characters kicking some zombie butt.  The juxtaposition of sweet, tame, proper society girls from the 1800's battling zombies almost made me gleeful.  Maybe one of them would get eaten.  Fat chance.

So if you know the story of Pride and Prejudice, you pretty much know the story.  Mrs. Bennet has five girls all trained in China, in the art of zombie killing, at the insistence of their practical father.  Mrs. Bennet's dream is to see her daughters properly married to a man with a good income.  It is the Bennet girls duty to defend their town against the frequent zombie attacks.  Lizzy has exceptional killing skills and can behead a zombie in a single swing of her sword.   When she first meets Mr. Darcy at a ball, he offends her with an off handed remark and Lizzy prepares to slit his throat with a dagger.  Unfortunately zombies interrupt the party and the Bennet girls form Pentagram of Death, a 5 pointed star and with daggers in hand decapitate every zombie in the room.  I think this is when Mr. Darcy began to fall in love with Lizzy and I began to love the book.

I hate zombies, they are gross, probably smelly and they just kind of freak me out.  The Bennet girls don't like them either and that made me enjoy this girl power, zombie butt kicking story.   Seth Grahame-Smith has created a strong cast of female characters while still keeping them in Austen's traditional society roles.  I heartily embraced the re-creation of this "great" book and am even a little bit tempted to read Austen's original.  I laughed out loud several times, enjoyed the word play and puns and loved the artwork included of Lizzy and her sisters slaying the undead.  I have to say that I had a darn good time reading this story.  Adding a modern twist, like zombies, to a piece of classic literature is a creative way to get people interested in reading the original.  Do you agree?

Seth Grahame-Smith also has a graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well.

Note:  I am not sure if die hard Austen fans and scholars will enjoy this parody.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Library of Congress

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. with my family and our unanimous favorite place in all of D.C. turned out to be The Library of Congress.  I highly recommend you visit this library, it is definitely awe-inspiring and beautiful.  In fact it makes me want to be elected to Congress just so I could use the library and spend time in the Reading Room whenever I wanted. 

When Washington burned in 1814, many of the books in the library were destroyed.  Jefferson gave Congress his collection of books that numbered about 6000 volumes for whatever price they deemed appropriate.  In 1851 the library again caught on fire and some of Jefferson's library was destroyed.  The library is currently displaying Jefferson's library and they are in the process of restoring his collection.  It is amazing to see and you are not allowed to take pictures!  In 1815, Thomas Jefferson said to John Adams, "I cannot live without books."  And neither can I.  I wonder what Jefferson would think about electronic books.

 There are many beautiful quotes that align the ceiling of the second floor.  My family and I walked the perimeter and read every quote in the building.  Here are some of them.

"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers."
"The true university these days is a collection of books."
"Give instruction unto those who cannot procure it for themselves."
"The inquiry, knowledge and belief of truth is the sovereign good of human nature."
"Wisdom is the principal thing therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding."
 The Reading room is stunning and only people doing research and members of Congress are allowed access to it.  There is a viewing room where you can look down upon the room and take pictures.  It was closed because of a tour but I couldn't miss the opportunity to see the reading room and so, we joined the tour.  There are 24 statues that represent Knowledge and its heroes.  SO, so beautiful. 

The Library also houses two very famous Bibles that are on display for visitors to see.  One is the Gutenberg Bible, one of the first to come off the printing press and the other Bible, The Mainz Bible, is hand written and predates the Gutenberg by about 100 years.  Both are beautiful books.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fatal Incident Contest

Fatal Incident Contest

Hometown Track Minnesota Author, Jim Proebstle and his publisher are giving away 3 copies of his book to Booksnob followers from the United States.  This is an entertaining historical fiction novel that takes place during World War II.  The Contest will end on November 30th.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
Minnesotan Nick Morgan overcomes the hardships of life during the Depression with the thrill of flying. The rush he shares with his soon-to-be wife, Martha, as they barnstorm small Midwestern towns offering plane rides for a dollar, forges a love for each other and a sense of freedom to last a lifetime. But in 1943, Nick must leave Martha, now pregnant, to become a WWII pilot in Alaska for the army's newly formed Air Transport Command. In this uncharted and inaccessible landscape, Nick joins U.S. forces, who have set up a strategic defense position against Japan, and an Lend-Lease supply program that trains Soviet pilots with U.S. aircraft for their war with Germany. The remoteness of Alaska also draws the attention of Manhattan Project scientists in New Mexico as a possible site for atomic bomb testing. When Nick Morgan and his Okie crop-duster copilot, Red, are tapped by the Manhattan Project for classified flying duty over the isolated Yukon Flats region, they have no idea that they will be caught up in a Soviet plot aimed at stealing top-secret bomb and test site development documents. After Nick's plane goes down in a botched hijacking attempt by a Russian agent, all three crewmembers and eighteen military passengers are presumed dead by the U.S. military.
A much-delayed recovery effort, however, reveals there to be at least one survivor, with many bodies missing from the crash site. This sparks a massive search to find the person who escaped with the documents, but a CIA cover-up to conceal the potentially disastrous breach in national security blocks all communication with survivor families in their need for information. Inspired by the true events of an Air Transport Command aircraft disaster in Alaska in 1944, Fatal Incident will attract any reader interested in conspiracy, espionage, and stories of love during wartime.

Contest Rules:
Fill out the form.
Leave a comment (I really love comments)
Must be a Booksnob follower
Must be a resident of the United States
Contest ends 11/30
Good Luck!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis

The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis

Peter Sis is an acclaimed and award winning children's book author and illustrator.  The Conference of the Birds is Peter Sis's first book for adults.  Sis has adapted the 12th century epic poem written by Farid Ud-Din Attar from Persia and given it meaning for modern readers.  Attar's original poem was published in A.D. 1177.

This is the first time I have ever read or heard of the Persian epic poem, The Conference of the Birds.  This version of the poem is a visual masterpiece.  The words are sparse but the artwork speaks volumes.   The story begins when Attar dreams he is a hoopoe bird and calls a gathering of all the birds in the world.  At the bird conference he tells them to look at all the troubles in the world and proposes a solution.  The birds must go to find the true king, Simorgh, who has all the answers but he lives far away on the mountain of Kaf.  The journey is perilous and beautiful as the birds struggle and strive to finish their story of flight.  They travel through seven valleys:  quest, love, understanding, detachment, unity, amazement, and death.  The story of the journey of the birds mimics the human journey of life. For those that choose to read this book, it will deepen your understanding of the human mysteries, the joys and sorrows, and the lessons life has to offer.

The Conference of the Birds is a book that is timeless, a beautiful work of literary art.  It is the type of book that collectors will want to keep on their shelf or coffee table and share with future generations.  I plan to keep my copy in a special place and reread it from time to time.  The illustrations are so beautiful and the images of birds compiled with the love of flight and feathers is so gratifying to me.  Of course I am a huge fan of Peter Sis and his work,  his children books are some of my favorites. 

Quote by Hoopoe bird:  When you feel empty, you have to open up your heart and let the wind sweep through it.