Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chico novelist fiddles with time


If you fiddle with time, as most science-fiction readers know, time is likely to fiddle back. Oh, the paradoxes of traveling back in time to prevent an earlier self from making a romantic mistake which brought you there in the first place. Throw in an evil Corporation that wants to monopolize time travel and a group of Anarchists who want to overthrow the Corporation, and pull together some innocent (and not so innocent) people from our own time, and you have the makings of fast-paced romp with a time machine that looks suspiciously like a kitchen chair.

The story is called "Tendence And Cavile" ($13.95 in paperback from Leeftail Press,; also available in Amazon Kindle e-book format) by D.T. Kastn (a pen name). Kastn also writes poetry and short stories and she blogs at the Unboxed Project (

Things begin quietly enough. In our own time (whatever that means), Sevannah (Sev) Carlson, having reached the odd age of 37, "had given up on the myth of an intelligent, handsome man and was instead looking for one who could count to ten and wouldn't frighten small children."No wonder she falls for handsome Matthew Adler. But then he disappears and when Sev investigates Matthew's basement, she finds a kitchen chair time machine. When she sit and presses "enter" on the control box she is whisked away to London of an earlier time. What the Dickens?

There she meets another time traveler, an Adept (meaning no chair needed) named Simon or "Sime (In Time)." He becomes her conversational sparring partner through wild trips to the past and future in an effort (at first) to track down Matthew. Think Nick and Nora Charles meet Douglas Adams.

But it becomes clear that Matthew is not quite a paragon of virtue and that, through all the verbal barbs lobbed at each other, Sev and the older Sime might have some kind of future. The quest transforms into a plan to destroy the Corporation. But they must deal with Corporation's Tendence and Cavile.

"They're the enforcers," Sime says. If they catch you? "They take all the years you've traveled, add them up, and tack them onto your present age, effective immediately." Ouch! What happens next? Who wins?

Answers will come, all in good time

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"California's last glaciers"


Tim Palmer, who recently appeared at Lyon Books in Chico for a signing and slide show, knows the mountains of California. Author and master photographer, Palmer has traversed them "by foot and on skis, by canoe and whitewater raft, and in his well-equipped van." "In the spring of 2010," he writes, "I set out for the glaciers of California. I wanted to see them before they were gone."

Hear the sadness: "I wanted to climb on the glaciers' steep slopes, to feel the crunch of their snow underfoot, to drink from crystalline streams cutting their icy surfaces, to sleep at their rocky windswept edges, and to photograph their evanescent beauty so others might also know what was there. It proved to be one of the most remarkable summers of my life."

His report, filled with stunning color photographs, is simply called "California Glaciers" ($29.95 in hardcover from Sierra College Press, published by Heyday Books). It's a personal account, capturing the sense of what it is like to walk atop a glacier, coming to terms with a "glacial truth that required me to stretch my concept of what is real, or likely, or possible: a solid substance that flows. I imagined the creeping ice as if it were extremely dense clay, ever so slowly yielding, bending, and moving to the molding pressure of my hands. Gravity had exerted that kind of force on the ice non-stop for ages, and so the ice bent and slid downhill. By setting foot on the glacier, I had figuratively--and quite imaginably--reentered the ice ages of the past."

Near the center of the book is a glacier portfolio, pages of blues, whites, browns, and reds, from Thompson Peak in the Trinity Alps to Hotlum Glacier on Mount Shasta's east side. A chapter is devoted to Shasta. Listen: "On the towering stratovolcano of the north, California's largest surviving glaciers still move, rupture, creak, crack, groan, push rock, and swallow the unwary."

But these glaciers are fast disappearing. "Throughout the Sierra," Palmer writes, "glaciers are about half as large in area as they were a hundred years ago. ... From a purely nature-focused view, the changes written in the glaciers are tragic and, I might add, heartbreaking."

Here, then, is an elegy to the California glacier.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Orland history, from water towers to Whiskerinos


Orland native Gene Russell has now published some seven books on Orland history. His latest is a collection of pieces that appeared in Wagon Wheels, "journal of the Colusi (co-loo-see) County Historical Society," which he now edits. Arranged in geographical and then chronological order, the well-researched stories begin with Orland proper and then extend out to "Orland in Glenn County ... and Orland in Colusi/Colusa County--remember that Orland was part of Colusa County until the formation of Glenn County in 1891."

"Orland's Colorful Past: Scrapbook" ($20 in paperback from Rustle Inndustries; available at The Rusty Wagon, 420 Walker Street in Orland, or from the author at collects twenty-four articles that not only consider serious topics, such as "Glenn County Civil War Veterans," but more whimsical ones, such as "The Orland Area Whiskerinos and the 1925 Glenn County Fair." The cover of the book shows the "original 1849 Whiskerino emblem" which appeared on kerchiefs. "The first meeting of a Whiskers Club of Orland was held on Friday, July 31, 1925, when 18 former bald-faced men, organized and signed their names to the charter. Officers were chosen and plans made to begin a 'reign of terror for the beardless.'"

Another article charts the history of the Orland Water Tower, still standing today, "126 feet from the ground to the top of the tank," now ringed by "modern communication devices." Back in 1911 Orland had purchased the property but there was some question about how deep the water was. So an expert was brought in, a man named Cofer. "Visiting from Red Bluff was a noted north valley 'water wizard' who reportedly could tell the location and depth of water 'because his vision pierces the innermost bowels of the earth.'" Cofer told town trustees they wouldn't find water much higher than 800 feet. Later, when the actual well was dug, water was just 170 feet down. Oops!

There are also stories of the Ku Klux Klan in Glenn County in the 1920s; the coming of the Chautauqua educational movement (proponent William Jennings Bryan spoke in Willows for a dollar a ticket); and the "Orland Rabbit Drives of 1922-25."

The book contains documentary sources and an extensive name index. It's an authoritative volume that's also fun to read.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Dick Cory on "fiscal cliffs" and thunderstorms


"Much negotiation lies ahead before middle ground can be found," writes Chicoan Dick Cory in his new book, "Down To Earth" ($20 in paperback from the author--write to; also available at Made In Chico). Maybe Congressional seating ought to be rearranged. "Opposing parties should be seated next to one another. ... We must talk with each other rather than at one another. ... Let's make sure 'down to earth' progress is reached before we go over a fiscal cliff or another election occurs. That's my two cents worth. You decide if it's worth a plug nickel."

The retired teacher brings his small-town Nebraska heritage to bear on a multitude of observations. These reflections, the sixth collection of essays since he began writing more than a decade ago, consider "culture and environment" (Cory has been deeply involved in a group considering the disposition of Chico's Teichert Ponds); education ("I am a teacher!"); family ("life hasn't been without pitfalls, but it has never been pitiful"); and "nostalgia and wit" (whatever happened to the Chico "Community Bench" project?).

Cory writes that if he taught English instead of science he would use a thunderstorm as a way of teaching composition. "If you are lucky enough to live on the plains, you are able to watch as the storm approaches along a squall line. This is a slow moving curtain of water flowing from clouds at the front of a storm. Call this the topic sentence. As this shower line reaches you, the precipitation increases, barometric pressure drops, and lightning flashes and thunder courses the sky. This shows the brilliance of the storm and your paragraph. A funnel cloud, called a tornado or cyclone, adds exclamation to your paragraph!"

There are poignant moments, too, as Cory adjusts to life without his wife, Jan, who died in 2012 "the day after our twenty-six wedding anniversary. She was a pillar of strength and love."

The book contains daydreams, letters to the editor, sometimes crotchety observations, and a lot of "chewing the fat" (the term "in America may have arisen from having to chew salt port or fatback when food supplies were low").

As for Cory's views? "You may disagree, but remember I'm only shooting the breeze, gabbing, and chewing the fat."