Sunday, September 21, 2014

Poems of love and grief “at the edges of my life”


Chico writer Joan Goodreau wrote of her son’s disorder in “Strangers Together: How My Son’s Autism Changed My Life” (2013). In her new book experience becomes poetry and she imagines as well how Ian’s brother and sister see him. Then she moves into perhaps deeper waters in poems exploring “separation,” reunion with family and friends, and her own breast cancer diagnosis.

Another Secret Shared: And Other Poems” ($9.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; available locally at Lyon Books in Chico) turns the dailyness of routine into art. The dreams of life can only reach an “Approximation”: “I must accept my own approximations. … Email’s my memoir/ shopping list my poetry/ run to the car late my marathon/ push the shopping cart my dance.”

In “My Reading At Lyon Bookstore,” it is “thirty years after my son Ian’s/ diagnosis of autism. … Suddenly I see Ian tall/ stride through the audience and/ present me with a bouquet like/ I’m an opera singer taking a bow/ to show me that our book’s story still continues unfolding. …”

The poet sees Ian through his brother, together “grown like thistles through cement”: “When I listened to my music/ he swung his body to and fro/ a metronome.” And Ian’s sister, in “Warning”: “When Ian was only as big as/ my cabbage-patch doll/ I nuzzled his cottony head and/ adopted him for my own.”

Later, the poet’s own diagnosis. In “Visualize,” she writes, “My friend says gather the negatives of my life/ let them go with the lump to be removed./ But some things go too deep to find/ even with radioactive markers and dye/ too deep to dig out.”

Yet, as she remembers in “First Poem,” when her grandmother told the young poet that poetic license means you can invent a word that rhymes, “At the edges of my life when/ I fall off in love or grief/ I search around for the right word but then/ use grandma’s license to make it up.”

Lyon Books in downtown Chico will host a reading and book signing with the author Tuesday, September 23, at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Local poet: Drawing strength from the forest


When Butte College writing instructor Shannon Rooney was seven, her family moved to Trinity County. “We lived in a house … surrounded by thick forest. My backyard ‘dissolved’ into woods that led all the way up to the Alps; I could ‘dissolve’ into pines, cedars, and firs for long afternoons, especially in summer.”

That experience provides the title of her new book of poetry, “Dissolve” ($7.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle), and the title of the collections’s first poem. “Dissolve back/ to green haven,” the poet writes, “gentle bower/ of fragrant creek-flow,/ of sky riddled/ with sweet love/ of puffed cloud/ upon puffed cloud,/ of blue jay screeching/ of red-tailed haw/ twee-tweeing,/ of holy moments/ of cattail fluff/ adorning/ morning breeze.”

Life carries us on yet those experiences sustain us, and we must not forget “That There Are Others”: “That there are others/ like me—/ that there are others who quiver and cringe/ walking the busy/ grime-slick streets/ amid red lights glaring,/ car, train, and truck horns blaring,/ our brains bombarded/ by psychic shrapnel//while remembering/ round brush huts,/ sun on naked backs,/ the smell of lupine blooms/ in spring,/ that there are others/ like me….”

As the poet remembers “All that really mattered…,” there is a growing energy in the words, remembering “the maze of trails and secret gullies/ in beckoning hills beyond—/ calling me to rise and wander,/ calling me to see and wonder/ at hidden places, lightly jeweled/ with silver beads of morning dew,/ folded grass revealing/ where doe and fawn had bedded/ in timeless eddies of night.”

In “River,” a realization: “I leak life/ like a clay jar that is cracked—”; “I have gone to seed”; but inside, there’s “a river demanding/ to be a river once more.”

In poems that pluck all the senses, the reader is drawn into wild strength that once was and is yet again, courage in the midst of love and poignant humor.

A reading and book signing with the author will be held at Lyon Books in downtown Chico on Tuesday, September 16 at 7:00 p.m.

Trilogy comes to a suspenseful conclusion


Chico novelist Mike Paull, who retired from a Bay Area dental practice, is also a licensed commercial pilot. Aviation plays a central role in each of his three Brett Raven mysteries: “Flight of Betrayal” (2012), “Flight of Deception” (2013), and now, concluding the trilogy, “Flight of No Return” ($15.99 in paperback from Skyhawk Publishing; also available for Amazon Kindle or visit

Raven, also a pilot, is a dentist as well, but in this latest outing he’s mostly out of the office on a desperate mission to reclaim his kidnaped wife and prevent the death of their two babies being carried by a surrogate. The story takes place in 2001 and, unlike the previous novel, when Raven was pretty much in command in pulling a fast one on the bad guys, in the new novel he’s at their mercy.

While Raven is on the West Coast, a strange murder in New York City brings two cops into the investigation that ends up engulfing Raven and his wife, Annie. She had divorced Raven in 1995, married an associate of Raven’s, John Thomas (J.T.) Talbot, and then, in 2000, when JT was reported killed in a mysterious plane crash, re-married Raven. The newlyweds were going to become parents, through a surrogate pregnancy, until the bottom falls out.

It turns out Annie “was in a hotel suite in New York where a murder took place and now she’s disappeared,” as one of the cops summarizes; and then he adds, “One of the guys in that room is”—well, that remains for the reader to discover.

The price for Annie’s return is a large ransom, and no cops. What follows is some good, old-fashioned salty nail-biting suspense as Raven tries to locate his wife while keeping investigators at arms’ length. He has the help of some unlikely friends, but the bad guys have Annie. It’s a page-turning adventure, right up until the very end.

Canyon Oaks Country Club will be hosting a complimentary wine and cheese reception for Mike Paull at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept 18. The public is invited.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Chico novelist Doug Keister’s continuing adventures


Something just clicked between mysterious FBI agent Desiree Depardieu and one Chick Corbett of Gerlach, Nevada. The twenty-something pair who traipsed through Doug Keister’s first novel, “Desiree” (2010) have arrived at a new venue in “Bullets, Baubles and Bones: A Chick Corbett Mystery” ($12.99 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle).

This time Chick and Desiree are supporting cast for Chick’s best friend, the six-foot-seven Tom Twotrees, the brilliantly offbeat Mensa-member whose “grandfather was a Navajo code-talker during World War II” and who “did Rubik’s Cubes blindfolded with the aid of tiny Braille dots on the faces of the cubes.” Tom’s expertise is needed to make sense of certain strange objects that may lead to the famed but elusive Russian Crown Jewels.

In the Preface we learn that Twotrees contacted Chico writer Doug Keister, whose book on cemeteries in Los Angeles plays a decisive part in the story, to write the tale mostly from Chick’s point of view. It’s a true (though convoluted) story but, uh, a few details had to be altered so Tom and Chick don’t end up in jail.

What unfolds is some serious bad-guy business containing a host of characters (like out of a Russian novel) with names like Anatoly Romanov, Natasha Popov, Vasily Egorov; there’s also “leggy Shasta Gudlae,” “Laura Borealis,” dudes named Edgar and Hamlin Slough, and “Chester Orland” (Chet for short). I mean, these names are all over the map.

Anyway, the novel tells how the Crown Jewels, collected over three centuries by the Romanov family, were smuggled out of Russia as the Bolsheviks took power. Clues to their whereabouts ended up in a casket in 1993, during a ceremony at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Santa Monica symbolically laying to rest Def Jam Records. This really happened. Or some of it did.

Tom’s expertise proves hair-raising, there are characters who are not what they seem, Desiree accepts Chick’s proposal, Russian patience is rewarded, and loose ends are tied together nicely at the end, thanks of course to a big rock and the LaBrea Tar Pits. Did I say convoluted?