Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oroville author adds a ghostly touch to a fiery romance


It begins at Disneyland. Summer Gabriel, on an outing with her widowed brother, Ted, and his two sons, trips on her beach towel at the hotel pool and lands right on top of one Marcus Brennan. Who just happens to be "all muscle and bone put together in a ruggedly handsome package."

Sparks fly from that very moment as Summer, never married, is drawn to Marcus, CEO of an electronics company and also a widower, and his young daughter Sasha. And he is drawn to her. But Summer can't imagine that she--owner of a bookstore in a small northern California town--has anything to offer the high-flying Las Vegas executive.

Yet when the two are together the sex is torrid. It's as if they are destined for each other. But there are plenty of misunderstandings. Add to the mix Marcus' sister-in-law, who wants him for herself, and Marcus' housekeeper, who lets Summer know she can't begin to compare to Marcus' artistic late wife, and it's no wonder Summer repairs to the now ramshackle little house she remembered as a child. A woman named Rose had lived there, and Summer seems to sense her presence.

Therein lies the tale of "Rose Cottage: A Novel of Supernatural Romantic Suspense" ($13.95 in paperback, $9.95 in Kindle e-book, from Fireside Publications) by Olivia Claire High.

The author will launch her new book with a signing at Curves in Oroville, 2190 Myers Street, on Wednesday, August 4, from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Summer finds herself torn between the world filled with her growing love for Marcus, and another world, by turns sinister and comforting, that is opening up to her during her visits to Rose Cottage. Summer is convinced that she is part of a ghostly drama involving both Rose and her evil twin, Rena, now both gone but present still at Rose Cottage. Who murdered Rose's beloved husband? And how does Summer's love of fairytales fit into that drama?

Fairytales do come true (this is a romance, after all), but not before Marcus and Summer learn to listen with their hearts, not just their heads, and learn the meaning of real freedom and the particular logic of the ghostly realm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An essential guide to Bidwell Park's birds


Roger Lederer, retired biologist at Chico State University, has studied birds for four decades. His expertise is on display at "Those Amazing Birds" blog ( and now in the glorious "The Birds of Bidwell Park" ($17.95 in paperback, self-published). Teamed with artist-wife Carol Burr, retired professor of English at the university, Lederer introduces the lives and loves of 86 species commonly found in the park.

The full-color guide features Burr's pen and colored pencil drawings, symbols indicating the best spotting locations, a narrative describing the bird's life-cycle, and a sidebar containing a note of interest. Though some 200 species have been identified in the park, the book focuses on those birds most easily observed by even a casual visitor. It's simply a must-have for both kids and adults.

The book is available at several locations in Chico, including the Chico Creek Nature Center and Lyon Books. Lyon will be hosting a book signing on Wednesday, July 28 at 7:00 p.m.

"The Western Tanager," in both upper and lower park, "is unquestionably the most strikingly colorful bird one might spot in Bidwell Park. . . . The male is mostly yellow with a dark tail, two yellow wing-bars, and an orange-red head. The female is greenish-yellow above and yellow below. . . . The red head of the male is due to a red pigment that the bird has to ingest from insects which in turn have eaten fruits containing the red pigment."

The American crow "suffers from a 100 percent death rate" from West Nile virus, though now "apparently some virus-resistant individuals are surviving to build the populations back." The crow "is one of the few bird species in the world to use tools to obtain food. It will drop acorns or other nuts on roadways and let cars crack the shells, and use sticks to probe for food items in the soil."

Anna's Hummingbird "is the only North American hummingbird with a totally red head. . . . The male has a thin and buzz-like courtship song. While courting, the male performs a display dive at up to 50 mph. When he pulls out of the dive he spreads his wings and tail, resulting in a loud kind of squeak and boom."

Tweet your friends!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stories that focus on the sleazy side of Oroville


Long-time Butte County resident Leslie Hale Roberts is married, the father of two sons, and a careful observer of the estranged and marginalized. He characterizes himself in an author's note as a disabled athlete, "founder of the Institute of Absurdity" and "a friend of those who suffer or fail."

There is much suffering, and much failure, in the thirty-nine "traditional and experimental narratives" that constitute "Voices of a City of Gold: Stories From Oroville, California" ($16.95 in paperback from Von Grafen Productions, available at The author writes me that the stories focus "on the lives of the . . . forgotten. . . . I believe it is an authentic depiction, offensive in some cases, and revealing and even tender in others. I have chosen to use often-vulgar language and perhaps irregular formatting and editing in hopes of capturing the essence of their existence."

The stories are not for the faint of heart. Framed by the trash talk of Duane and Mike, who repeatedly wind up in the Butte County jail, they show in expletive-laden agony men, women and children at the outskirts of "acceptable" society. Here there is prostitution, theft and thuggery, substance abuse (crystal meth is the drug of choice), and sexual violence visited on spouses and children. There is hardly a paragraph in the book that can be quoted in a family newspaper.

One narrator finds Oroville, "despite efforts from the city fathers to otherwise arrest the slide, now in the throes of decay and decadence, hope--and innocence--clinging to its tatters. . . . Unfortunately, the heart of Oroville, like many spent gold field villages, has cancered, its core no longer vibrant but in varying stages of rot." Oroville may be a recreational paradise, but some, many perhaps, are confined to a hellish existence.

The theme of "do not judge" runs throughout the book, though another narrator can't help but deliver a "morality sandwich" about the horrible legacy left by "the single mother with unattended kids."

The characters want to change, but can't. Lest the reader take too much "voyeuristic pleasure in . . . how those below so often fare," the stories, even as they assault common decency, provide uncomfortable moments of recognition. Let the reader understand.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Life's journey: Growing up in Romania, living in Paradise


As World Cup fever grips the world, Gregory Ghica of Paradise, who has taught political science at Butte College, writes that his early skill in soccer "was a great asset in my struggle to survive alone in this world. . . . Through soccer I managed to obtain a Romanian passport and had the opportunity to escape the Communist regime." He came to the United States in 1969, received a Master's Degree in physical education from UC Berkeley, coached soccer and tennis, then obtained a Master's in political science from Cal State Long Beach. It has been an eventful life.

Ghica was born in Romania in 1936. His father was an appeals court judge who died when Ghica was only thirteen, but not before writing his "Will and Testament" in which he admonishes Ghica and his brother to love and care for each other and their mother. "If you follow my advice, you will show the supreme recognition and respect for me even after my death."

Though Ghica only saw the document fifty years after it was written, it provides the frame for his memoir, "A Life To Remember: From the Dungeon of Communism to the American Dream" ($18 in paperback from The book is available at Lyon Books in Chico, where Ghica will be signing copies on Wednesday, July 14 at 7:00 p.m.

The book contains several sections of black-and-white photographs which depict the beauty of Romania and illustrate Ghica's penchant for travel. Acknowledging encouragement from the writer's workshop at Chico State University, Ghica writes clearly. He details the difficulties he faced as the son of a man "not of the working class." More than once good fortune spared him some of the harsher demands of the Communist system. He believes in a Supreme Being, he writes, "but I have never been able to accept any particular church, any formal religion, or, certainly, any man of the cloth."

At the end of the book there are lessons learned. Among them: "No matter what you know, the most important thing is who you know"; "no matter how good and solid a friendship is, that person will sometimes hurt my feelings"; "happiness is like snow--beautiful when it comes and miserable when it melts."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Local author on "America at the crossroads"


Charles W. Frank is convinced that the United States is headed in the wrong direction. His Web site,, which notes that he graduated with a BA in social science from Chico State University, is an impassioned plea for a return to "Christian foundations" that were first established by the Founding Fathers.

He writes me that "our representation with regard to our so called 'republic' has been hijacked by special interests, as we now have evolved to a nation that has the illusion of a democratic process. 'We the people' are now but mere pawns on the chess board of kings (an elitist shadow government)." His analysis is contained in "House of Lords: America In the Balance" ($12.99 in paperback from Tate Publishing), but it is no mere list of wrongs. To his credit, Frank proposes possible solutions that, from his perspective, are consistent with America's unique status.

"Today this divine uniqueness," he writes, "is now clouded with anti-God sentiment, persecution, censorship, demoralization, secularization, confusion, massive monopolistic corporatization, government injustices, and the love of money."

A guest on the Lars Larson radio program, Frank advocates a "decentralization of power" and the establishment of "impartial, independent" agencies that can deal with, for example, "fake news" packages distributed by the Federal government as well as corporate interests which the FCC, and the Congress itself, cannot be trusted to regulate. Such agencies would be composed of "unbiased officials elected by the people in a national election. Let this be the beginning of direct democracy."

In discussing the heart surgery scandal in Redding, he writes that the American Medical Association keeps bad doctors out of jail and, with the complicity of the Food and Drug Administration, stifles those who provide "alternative" treatment. "Let's start by having a law passed that protects doctors from losing their licenses when they treat their patients with unconventional medicine!"

Christians who pay taxes "need to have the freedom of religious expression in the work force and in public institutions." However, "if one's religion does not promote the fruits of genuine love and peace, then obviously it is not useful and should not be allowed to be expressed in the public sector at all."

Consistent or not, perhaps Frank's proposals will spur healthy--and humble--debate.



Food writer Kitty Morse, a Vista, California resident who recently visited Chico, has prepared "A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors For Today's Table" ($18.95 in paperback from La Caravane, available at Lyon Books in Chico). Beautifully designed and photographed, the book offers dozens of recipes (from "Goat Cheese & Olive Appetizers With Melon" to "Grilled Tilapia") familiar to the ancient Hebrews and early Christians. Each menu item offers an associated Biblical reference and an historical and culinary discussion. Morse includes a glossary of foodstuffs mentioned in the King James Bible and suggests menus for entertaining guests. There's more at


"Fit At Fifty Something" ($14.95 in paperback from Two Harbors Press) is Sacramento dentist Brian Bolstad's prescription for a more vigorous middle age. After suffering from debilitating back pain, Bolstad resumed martial arts training in his late forties and now, in his mid-fifties, offers what he calls common sense advice on nutrition and weight control, time management, endurance, stress, and sex. The last half of the book features large black-and-white pictures of the author performing a series of flexibility and range of motion exercises. (A DVD set is available at Witty and blunt ("embrace a little hunger"), Bolstad rocks.


"Willows" ($21.99 in paperback from Arcadia Publishing) is part of the the "Images of America" series. Prepared by the Museum Society of Willows and museum volunteers JoAnn Wright and Evelyn Whisman, the book features over 200 historical photographs with extensive captions. An introduction sets the scene, noting that "the first settlers of what was then the northern part of Colusa County" found land surrounded by willows (fed by a spring near the present town). By the 1870s, farmland was going "for $4-$6 an acre." The "million dollar fire" at Hochheimer's department store in 1920 was devastating, but "can-do" Willows rebuilt.