Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ever feel that someone is watching you?


Olivia Claire High's new romantic suspense novel introduces Samantha (Sam) Farris, a young school teacher soon to be married to Dr. Ryan Wade. All is bliss for the Southern California lovers until--the visions.

"I've been having strange vibes that I'm being watched," she tells her friend Catherine, "and I get this vision inside my head of a person. I think it's a person because all I can make out is a vague form, but I'm convinced a presence of some kind is there." There is indeed a presence--an obsessed woman driven by a voice in her head she claims is Ryan's late wife.

There will be a book launch signing for the Oroville author tomorrow from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Curves, 2190 Myers Street in Oroville.

The story of obsession leads the couple to Hawaii and the far reaches of Northern California. Lives are at stake in "A Stranger's Eyes" ($13.95 in paperback from Fireside Publications; also available in Amazon Kindle e-book format), a sequel of sorts to "Dreams--Shadows of the Night" which featured Sam's friend Catherine Ashley. She was now married to Josh Dallas after his kidnaping in the Amazon. As Catherine listens to Sam, she tell her that "I've had prophetic nightmares. You believe you're being watched by unseen eyes. Both are occurrences not easily explained. They bring out intense emotions that cause feelings of helplessness and fear."

Samantha fears not only for Ryan's life, but that of his daughter, and makes the fateful decision to do as her accuser demands--leave them. She finds solace in a small California mountain town whose residents' lives become intertwined with her own. One might expect Ryan to come to the rescue, and festivities to break out, but there are surprises in store. Even as obsession is dealt with there is another sinister visitation. "An unrecognizable figure," Sam tells Ryan, "came inside my head watching like before."

There is a madman on the loose, and this time the target is Ryan himself. He finds a crushed rose under his windshield wiper, a box of broken cookies, and Sam sees the spray painted words: "You're next, Mrs. Wade." The couple must make a fateful choice and the action never slows until the end.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Anthology features Chico writer's prize-winning science fiction story


For almost thirty years L. Ron Hubbard's "Writers of the Future" contest has honored up-and-coming science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction authors (and illustrators) with a black tie awards ceremony and an anthology of the best entries. Judges are sci-fi luminaries, and the judges, writers and illustrators have gone on to win some of the most prestigious awards in the science-fiction and fantasy communities (including Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

This year's contest honored Tina Gower of Chico and Stephen Sottong of Eureka as quarterly winners, and Gower's story, "Twelve Seconds," went on to win the international grand prize of $5000. (More information, and a video of the awards ceremony, can be found at Winning stories and illustrations appear in "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Vol. 29" ($7.99 in paperback from Galaxy Press; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook ebook formats), edited by Coordinating Judge Dave Wolverton.

Both Gower and Sottong will be speaking and signing copies of the book tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books, 135 Main Street in downtown Chico.

Born in Kokomo, Indiana, Sottong's jobs included radio repair for the Navy and a career as an engineering librarian. His "Planetary Scouts" is a gritty tale of Aidan Pastor and his new Scout partner, Aloysius Lester. "We're supposed to make sure humanity doesn't destroy other intelligent creatures," Aidan tells him, "or pick up something nasty enough to kill us off." That's not quite how things work out. ...

Gower was born in Siskiyou County, married her high school sweetheart, and lives with her family in Chico. She became a school psychologist, trained guide dogs for the blind, and now focuses on raising her family and writing ( "Twelve Seconds" is the harrowing and sensitive story of Howard, an autistic man who works with Eddie to "process memory siphons. I clean and sort. Eddie approves for archival. We are cogs, endlessly pinching, prodding, and polishing homicide victims' last memories on aging holodesks in a dark room."

Howard dreams of being "Howie," the cool guy who saves the day and gets the girl. But then a strange turn of events leads Howard deep into a sinister plot. It's a brilliant and poignant voyage of self-discovery.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chico visitor conjures a fantastical tale


Toward the end of "The Accidental Snake Thief" ($14.99 in paperback from Don't Forget The Magic Publishing; also available in Amazon Kindle ebook format), British-born author Matheu DeSilva has a character explain the "why" of things. There is a sinister 300-year-old plot afoot, guided by the strange, psychically powerful preacher named Carl Jacobi.

"Everything from medicines and foods to consumer culture and social networks had been specifically designed by Jacobi to keep the 'developed' masses numb, dumb, distracted and under strictly monitored control. ... Carl Jacobi and his friends, whoever they were, were also the real masterminds behind the terrorist attacks that prompted western governments to re-write their laws, terrifying the general public into voting away their freedoms in return for a little phony security. These new laws had been Carl Jacobi's final experiment. He wanted to see if the people were ready and willing to be fully enslaved. They were."

There is little to stand against Jacobi except a fifteen-year-old girl named Hazel and her older brother Caleb. Hazel attends a Jacobi church service and winds up freeing the magical snake Aviveri, one of the ancient Maninkari. "We Maninkari were sent here to bring forth life," he tells Hazel and Caleb telepathically. "From bacteria and plants, to the creatures of the land and water, including, eventually, mankind. All were created from us. ... We provide the building blocks but we do not know the designs. That is for the Architect alone to know."

But greedy men planted stories about evil serpents, "legends that tell people not to question or search for alternatives to the 'truths' they are fed by those in power." Now, when most Maninkari are dead, Carl Jacobi is about to take over the world.

What follows in this first book of the Maninkari Trilogy ( is, as the Website suggests, a combination of "The Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter." Hazel and Caleb are given special powers by Aviveri, and together, with a few friends, they must search for their father in South America and fight the Snakekiller minions of Jacobi. There's sometimes gruesome action. Be warned: the novel ends with a cliffhanger.

DeSilva was a recent visitor to The Bookstore in downtown Chico, and signed copies of his book may still be available.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

True tales from a retired Shasta County game warden


In 1960 young Steven Callan and his family moved to Orland; a decade later he graduated from Chico State University. He was hired by the California Department of Fish and Game, became a patrol lieutenant, and transferred to Shasta County in 1981. His career in enforcement spans thirty years; along the way he became active in a host of environmental groups and now lives with his wife in Palo Cedro. His biography establishes his bona fides as a street-smart warden with a tale to tell.

Make that twenty-three tales. "Badges, Bears, and Eagles: The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden" ($13.95 in paperback from Coffeetown Press,; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook ebook formats) is a thrilling ride into the heart of bad guy country. Which is pretty much anywhere in the state, any place that people can abuse wildlife and habitats for a profit.

Callan will be signing copies at the Chico Costco this Friday, June 14, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. A recorded interview is set to air that Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. on Nancy's Bookshelf, with host Nancy Wiegman, on KCHO, 91.7 FM (Northstate Public Radio). The following month, on Thursday, July 25 at 7:00 p.m. look for a signing and presentation at Lyon Books in Chico.

The author has reconstructed his and other cases from memory, interviews and court documents. The result is a series of suspenseful, well-written procedurals in which good triumphs, but not without a lot of foot work and tense dealings with well armed scofflaws.

"The Eagle Case" opens the collection, telling the story out of the Redding regional Fish and Game office in 1985 involving threats to a warden; the killing and possession of a bald eagle, mountain lion, and ring-tailed cat--and that was for starters. The final story, "Bears and Bad Guys," is the longest and most complex, taking up the last quarter of the book. A note summarizes the tale: "In 1995, Lieutenant Steve Callan and Warden Dave Szody conducted a three-year undercover investigation into the unlawful killing of California black bears for their gallbladders, possibly the most successful wildlife related criminal investigation in California history."

It's compelling reading about true public service.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Walking Paradise Flumes


Roger Ekins, who retired from Butte College in 2009, is a longtime Paradise resident fascinated by local history. He and his wife, Helen, have hiked and biked in the area almost daily and now, in a beautifully designed guidebook, the couple share much of what they've learned.

"The Flumes And Trails Of Paradise: Hiking Through History On The Ridge" ($19.95 in paperback from Happy Trails Press) features trailhead maps, hiking tips, the history of Paradise flumes, a section on local wildflowers, and dozens of hikes with detailed commentary and color photographs. Here is a book that will help readers, walkers and mountain bikers see Paradise and surroundings with new appreciation. It's an indispensable good-humored guide, with hikes set out in minutes, and vistas for points of interest at every turn.

The authors will sign copies of the book and present a slide show on "mysteries of the flumes" at Lyon Books in Chico this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. They'll be the interview guests of Nancy Wiegman on Nancy's Bookshelf, this Friday at 10:00 a.m. on KCHO, 91.7 FM (Northstate Public Radio). For details about additional signings, and a list the places the book can be purchased locally, go to

Readers will be rewarded with information on old telephone poles ("the first telephone call in Butte County was made from Cherokee to Oroville in 1878"); empty houses; water pipes ("beware of any 'modern' hoses carrying water off, as these may well lead to an illicit marijuana grow. ... Just keep on hiking"); and "curious equipment."

For instance, the "Double Incline Loop" hike near Lovelock yields a view of a "huge concrete pad that at one time housed the 900 horsepower Westinghouse motor that operated a winch with some 4,400 feet of 1¾ inch cable. ... You are standing on the easternmost end of Diamond Match's amazing double incline" which "operated from 1928 as long as the trees lasted, until 1935." Flatbed cars full of logs were let down on one side of the canyon and empty cars winched up on the other.

"Regardless of how much faith you bring to your flume treks," the authors note, "you won't always find yourself walking on water" (which is sometimes diverted). Regardless, find a store and get the book. It's worth the hike.