Sunday, June 25, 2017
Odd Otis is a "special needs" Australian Shepherd, born in 2007 and blind and deaf from birth. He was rescued from the middle of the Skyway and came to live with Magalia residents Alan and Kathi Hiatt. The story is told in "Odd Otis: An Unusual Tail (Tale) About An Unusual Dog" and his notoriety led to signings and school presentations.
Kathi writes me that "we talk to the kids about the importance of patience and tolerance when dealing with special need animals and people." But because "some of the children have been a little too young to actually read the book," the Hiatts have now published a picture version, with color photographs, to show kids how Odd Otis "can pretty much do all the things other dogs can do." And maybe a few they can't.
"Odd Otis: A Special Needs Dog Who Doesn't Know He's Special Needs" (Amazon Kindle; see oddotis.com) features a large image and a simple caption on each page, written by Odd Otis himself responding to the natural curiosity of children. "I can't see," he writes, "but I can find the doggie door to go do my outside business!"
Why the sporty sunglasses shown on the cover? "When I'm outdoors I wear doggles to protect my eyes from flying bugs and low branches." "Ottie" also has "a special water bowl so it won't tip over if I step on it." On car trips he rides in a car seat.
"There's an upside to being deaf," he writes. "When the rugs are being vacuumed the loud 'VROOM' doesn't wake me from my nap … and when I'm being brushed the noisy hairdryer doesn't scare me!"
He shows "children how to say 'hello': Ask my human if it's OK to pet me; make a fist and let me smell your hand; pet my chest and sides, not the top of my head."
Many of the pictures will tug at the reader's heart (I admit it.). But the book is not about feeling sorry. Instead, it's a celebration of the active life of an unusual dog--and how family love makes all the difference.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Biggs resident Steven J. Thompson has created a fantasy world of sword and sorcery, where the kingdom of Highcynder is threatened not only from without, but now from treachery within. It is a world of gnomes and dwarves, faerie folk and harpies, orcs and witches, a world in which magic exerts its power and tempts even the purest heart.
The kingdom had been saved for a time from the cruel witch and her minions by the heroic Duke Daring and his two young daughters, Emily and her younger sister Elizabeth. That tale is told in "The Daughters Daring." Now, two years later, the witch has become Queen of Newcynder and is preparing to claim Highcynder as her own.
There are adventures aplenty in book two, "The Daughters Daring And The Crystal Sea" ($15.99 in paperback from KECELJ Publishing; also for Amazon Kindle; see facebook.com/SJThompsonBooks). Suitable for kids and young adults, the story features a magic energy ball, a fight with living skeletons, and sea battles that will shiver one's timbers.
Emily is now 14 and practices swordplay with Tobias Ocwen, a year older and also of the Highcynder nobility. Tobias finds Emily "annoyingly beautiful." His father, Baron Ocwen, a foul influence on the Knight's Council, becomes the "first noble to own slaves," creatures called Gharidians, amphibians who talk and walk upright.
Elizabeth takes after her mother, the Duchess Daring, cousin to the King of Highcynder and nemesis of the spider queen Evelyn. The younger sister, Elizabeth practices spells from her mother's book of magic and yearns to find a special flower that grows only in a perilous land, a flower to magnify Elizabeth's magical powers.
One must not forget young Joseph Daring, the sisters' kid brother who in his irrepressible curiosity accidentally sets fire to the King's ballroom. Joseph, perhaps in spite of himself, helps bring to light some things that are just not quite right in Highcynder.
The exciting story keeps several plots in motion at once and Thompson's writing is sure and polished as the reader is drawn into the action. Much remains unresolved, and we eagerly await the magic of the third book in the planned trilogy.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Chico's Doug Keister is fascinated by cemeteries and has published guidebooks to some of the more prominent resting places. A few years ago he discovered that as a novelist the cemetery settings could yield some most interesting, uh, plots, especially if you have a cast of oddball characters dealing with issues of national security. What has followed is a series of romps with historical back stories and guidebook excerpts interwoven (complete with GPS coordinates).
The newest is "The Sleepy Hollow Mystery: A Chick Corbett Yarn" ($9.95 in paperback from Doublewide Productions, www.douglaskeister.com; also for Amazon Kindle). Chick makes his home with Uncle Ray in the desert town of Gerlach, Nevada, only now the story finds them "high in the Limbo Mountains about a hundred miles north of Reno."
They, along with "a three-legged border collie named Phydeaux," on loan from sheepherder Elwood LeFoote, are there to take pictures of a series of petroglyphs found in a cave.
It's the result of a request from Chick's best friend, Mensa-brilliant six-foot-seven Tom Twotrees, a Paiute now working for the Pentagon. FBI agent Desiree Depardieu, Chick's girlfriend, is helping Tom investigate a series of East coast murders due to a gruesome human form of mad-cow disease. A strange symbol is associated with the bodies, and that's what Chick and Uncle Ray are looking for.
Add to the mix the Dark Shadows movie; the fate of Michael Rockefeller (the fifth child of Nelson Rockefeller), who may have been eaten by cannibals during an expedition to New Guinea; and some pretty lurid descriptions of blood drinking.
There's a Nevada connection which leads to Artemus Collins, "Arterial Artie," a man afflicted with hematomania, which is, as Uncle Ray explains, "a craving, often sexual, to drink blood … human blood." Imprisoned for murder, Artemus had escaped, vowing revenge against all those who had wronged him. Triangulating the deaths leads our heroes to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in New York (sleepyhollowcemetery.org), where Washington Irving is buried.
And where Artie's attention turns, chillingly, to Chick and Desiree.
Keister delights in the intricacies of history and characters he has come to love, and readers can be grateful for both.
Sunday, June 04, 2017
"On the day that he turned seven years old," we're told in Brian T. Marshall's extraordinary new novel, "Simon Patrick gave himself a gift. On that day, and every day that followed, he would learn a new word … because for him, words were like candy, tiny little nuggets you popped in your mouth, only to find them expanding, exploding, engulfing you with new flavors, new worlds. … And today, this morning, a good half-century later? This morning's word was serendipity."
Marshall, a Ridge-area writer, has crafted a tale that begins as a mystery and opens up into a realm where gods and goddesses are real, the story of life on earth is not what it seems, and where that very life is threatened by a powerful malevolence from beyond the world.
"Fleet" (available in an Amazon Kindle edition from missppelled press in Magalia; missppelled.com) immerses the reader in a novel so well written it would not be out of place on a national bestseller list.
Serendipity? Everything will change for Simon Patrick, a nondescript professor with an Alzheimer's diagnosis who, as luck has it, finds (as Si tells his friend Ben Carlson, a New York police officer) that "things that might seem pointless, or stupid, or random, suddenly grab you by the collar and won’t let go."
Thus Si helps Ben in communicating with a man found naked on the streets of Manhattan and arrested, a man who doesn't even know his own name, a man speaking an odd language--ancient Greek.
Si is more than intrigued; he bails out the man and takes him home. And gives him a name: "Noman." The stranger begins to learn English at an incredible rate, and it turns out he is incredibly fleet of feet as well. When Si's new housekeeper, Sarah Rhodes, a student at Si's university, takes Noman on an outing to Central Park, he bests an Olympic-caliber runner with nary a bit of hard breathing.
Marshall's work seems effortless, too, as he enmeshes the reader in a world which wrestles with questions about the place of violence and the nature of the split between gods and humans. Here is a talent to be reckoned with.