Sunday, November 27, 2016
When the late Jamison Howard built the strange stone mansion in a "small town tucked away in the mountains of northern California," the locals wondered why construction workers kept adding rooms. Word was that "the matriarch Marguerite Howard was kept prisoner here by her three grown sons since her husband's death years ago."
Readers are ushered into this "Devil's Domain" when young divorcee Holland Wallace, 28, in town to care for her aunt, visits the strange abode and is mistaken for a newly-hired nanny by Jamison's stepson, Gage Langdon, 36.
So begins a romantic suspense novel of intrigue and revenge. "New Beginnings" ($16.00 in paperback from Fireside Publications, firesidepubs.com; also for Amazon Kindle), by Olivia Claire High, unfolds the story of a dysfunctional family and the power of love to set things right. The author, an Oroville resident and prolific novelist, puts a baby at the center of a mystery.
The child is the son of Gage's younger brother, James Howard, and his wife Kim. Little Jamie seems to be sickly. Holland's heart melts for him (and it doesn't hurt that there is something about the strong-willed Gage that's mightily attractive), and it's clear that the household needs a new caregiver.
Kim lives in the house, but suffers from postpartum depression and cannot care for her child. Marguerite is there, too, but though kindly she is agoraphobic and can't bear to leave the residence (so her world gets bigger by adding more rooms). James is flaky and his twin brother, Jonathan, is something of a mystery. Money seems to be no object; Gage, James and Jonathan are the "propertied brothers," and there's a connection south of the border that complicates the family dynamic.
Holland has a past of her own ("My dad's a geography buff," she tells Gage early on; "My sister's name is France and my brother's is Scotland"), but she is determined to protect Jamie when she discovers that the previous nannies had been driven from the house by drugged nightmares, and that someone is messing with the baby's food. But why?
The novel probes the recesses of the human heart but always holds out hope that there can indeed be "new beginnings."
Sunday, November 20, 2016
For Sarah Grace, life was about escaping the wounds of an abusive childhood.
Growing up in Mobridge, South Dakota, she writes in her memoir, she began to experience strange visions and a sense of energies flowing around her.
Then it happened. "One night, in the wee hours of the morning, my mom sprang onto my bed and shoved a pillow over my face. Panicked, I squirmed, kicked, and clawed at her arms, fighting desperately for air until a beautiful angel with long flowing golden hair appeared just above us and told me to stop and play dead. … I had been interfacing with spirits for over a year by that time, but this was the first time one of them had rescued me in a difficult situation. I was grateful."
The Folsom resident, who often visits friends in Chico, writes of finding her true calling in "Journey Into Grace: Tales Of A Psychic Paramedic" ($12.99 in paperback, self-published, sarahkgrace.com; also for Amazon Kindle).
She continued to see "ghosts of Native American tribal members, monks, gurus, recently deceased townspeople" as well as "demons, dragons, gargoyles, and every kind of slimy, sticky sloth imaginable."
Her account takes her to Southern California and beyond. She became a stripper in college; tried marriage; got high on ephedrine and harder drugs; modeled for Playboy; developed bulimia; and became a paramedic. In that job she confronted horrendous traffic accidents and the souls of those killed hovering nearby.
Only after revisiting Mobridge is her trauma finally laid to rest. Plunging into studies of shamanism and energy medicine, she now teaches "other energetically sensitive people how to work with their gifts and apply them in their daily lives."
The bottom line? "I understood that by taking one hundred percent ownership for the state of my well-being and life, I had the power to create my own destiny. … At our core, we all just want to be loved, accepted, and validated for who we are. … Our past does not define us, unless we allow it to."
The author is scheduled to be interviewed by Nancy Wiegman on Nancy's Bookshelf this Friday at 10:00 a.m. at mynspr.org.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Luana Lundquist-Rowland is a licensed Jungian-trained marriage and family therapist. The Burlingame resident lived in Oroville from 1949 through 1970. She's written a fictionalized autobiography of her early years that aims to recapture the spirit of her irrepressible brother--before the darkness of alcoholism sets in.
"Railroad Ties: Broken Hearts And Mended Lives" ($26.95 in paperback from Outskirts Press, outskirtspress.com; also for Amazon Kindle) presents the ups and downs of an American family, visiting relatives by rail, during World War II and on into the 1950s. The story begins with Luana, five years old, born in 1937, and Jimmy, born a year later. Jimmy is "a needy, fussy, and irritable infant," and such traits continue to manifest themselves throughout Jimmy's life. For the author, there's a kind of fate at work here.
Eventually the family moves to Oroville. Tragedy strikes on March 4, 1950 when a group of girls from the Y hike to the upper Thermalito Bridge, then down to the water. One of the girls slips and falls, and she is pulled out by Deanna. But then "Deanna is caught in an undertow; this whirling surge of water sucks her down below the surface." There is no news until August, when Deanna's remains are discovered. "That summer, Jimmy loses faith in a God that answers prayer."
Time moves on. Luana prepares to attend Chico State College. Jimmy is popular in high school but he can't resist the alcohol provided by the older boys. His addiction would become his demise.
In an Epilogue, the author writes of Jimmy that he "is born a rascal," but he also "plays the brother and the life teacher of a sister that becomes a better person for having known him in all his multiplicities of character."
In the end, the story isn't about Jimmy's destiny "as a seemingly bottomless, hopeless and incurable alcoholic." Rather, it's about "a shared childhood and a love between a brother and sister that never falters, no matter what."
Luana Lundquist-Rowland will be at the Book and Wine Pairing, Saturday, November 19, from 2:00-6:00 p.m. at Purple Line Urban Winery, 760 Safford Street in Oroville; for details visit http://bit.ly/2e8lJqe.
Sunday, November 06, 2016
Chicoan Marcia Myers is a fan of "real" mail. "Ink from your pen touches the stationery," she writes, "your fingers touch the paper, and your saliva seals the envelope. (Sealed with a kiss!)."
In this country the agency responsible for getting those letters where they ought to go is the U.S. Postal Service, and Myers, who wrote two "My Hometown Chico" books under the name of Marcia Myers Wilhite, has produced a beautifully crafted coffee table book full of facts and stories about the storied institution.
"Special Delivery" ($59.95 in hardcover from Marcia Myers Publishing, marciamyerspublishing.com) ranges from the Pony Express, the development of postmarks, and postal vehicles, to painted mailboxes, stamps, and the first airmail delivery (in 1859, by balloon).
There's a spread devoted to what Myers describes as "the most expensive commodity in the world by weight," the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. The "octagonal faded scrap of one-inch paper" was purchased by shoe designer Stuart Weitzman in 2014 for $7.9 million.
In the pages devoted to post office art, the author writes that in Chico "we have own own post office mural on the downtown corner of 5th and Broadway. Created by Ray Handy Crane in 1988, the Pony Express thunders across the exterior wall of our downtown post office."
Then there are famous pen pals (Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln; Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot) and some not so famous. In high school the author would write messages on the chalk in the room. The teacher missed it, but "not the boy who attended the same classroom earlier in the day."
Myers notes that she experimented sending "naked mail" through the system, including "a potato, coconut, flip flop, cowboy hat, plunger, … and a can of sardines." Put on enough postage, a clear address, and off it goes.
This captivating book, designed by Connie Ballou, is printed on matte paper with a sewn ribbon marker. The official book release party is Thursday, Nov. 10, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Beatniks in Chico. The Christmas preview is Sunday, Nov. 20, from 4:00-8:00 p.m. at Zucchini and Vine, and from noon until 2:00 p.m. at Magna Carta in Chico Friday, Nov. 25, and Saturday, Nov. 26.