Have you read what I’ve read? Local authors are an eclectic bunch 12/15/13


I’m a reader.  Ever since I was old enough to be allowed to head off to the Visalia City and the Tulare County Libraries on my own (long enough ago for them to have been two different libraries!),  I’ve haunted book racks for something to read.

For a long time, my books of choice were science fiction, and science fact.  I put a good sized dent in the list of books written by Isaac Assimov (but at over 400 titles, I’ve still got a long way to go!), and I think I’ve read all of Carl Sagan’s popular books.  Recently I read the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  That was a first, as I read them all on the computer, rather than in book form.  I had up until now resisted reading on the screen, as it didn’t seem quite right.  Once I got into them, though, the medium in which the words were presented faded into the background, as happens with any good story.

There are plenty of other famous and not-so-famous authors I’ve read over the years, but recently I’ve had the chance to read some books written by locals.  With only one exception (so far), I’ve even had the pleasant experience of meeting them in person.

Starting off my list of books written by local authors is “Thank God I Paid Cash For The Rolls!” by Porterville/Springville resident Eric Ball.  I’m just getting into this book, and it’s a rather unusual departure for me from my usual reads, so I’m only about half-way through.  Eric writes in a readable and understandable format as he discusses “stories of financial struggle, survival and success”.  You might think a book by a money man, about money, would be either a terrible bore or well over your head, but neither is the case.  I’m hoping to glean some good lessons as I continue to read.  Heaven knows I could use some help managing money!  I’ve met Eric in person, so it brings the stories to life in a different way when you tend, as I do quite often, to read the book in their voice!  It’s a bit like he’s there, walking you through the process.

Next up is a book that I ran across quite accidentally.  I was in downtown Visalia on a Saturday, and walked into the middle of an arts and crafts street faire.  I was strolling along Main Street when a man stepped up to me and asked if he could talk to me for a minute about his book.  Now, usually I’d just brush off someone who accosted me on the street trying to sell me something with a polite “no thanks”, but this time I stopped to listen.  I don’t know if it was the atmosphere of the street faire, the nature of the crowd or just what, but I stopped to chat with him.  He handed me a copy of “Legacy – A Father’s Tale“.  Roger Laird, of Exeter, told me a bit about the plot of this book, the first installment of a planned series, and it piqued my interest.  The cover shows a young man and a dragon, and I told Roger that I wasn’t much into fantasy stories.  However, between the inclusion of the Arthur of Camelot/Merlin story arc in the science fiction series Stargate SG1, and my watching the BBC series Merlin, I’ve grown a bit fond of some of them, as long as the fantasy element doesn’t become a way to cover poor storytelling.  We talked about the story for a bit, and I came away thinking this might be an interesting read.  I bought a copy from him on the spot.  I enjoyed the book, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequels.

The author I haven’t met (yet) is Terry L. Ommen.  Readers of the Times Delta’s community bloggers will recognize him from his “Historic Happenings” blog, a history of Visalia and Tulare County.  I picked up his “Wild Tulare County – Outlaws, Rogues & Rebels” and enjoyed reading about the storied history of our fair county and it’s environs.  I’ve also purchased a copy of “Visalia Then and Now“.  It’s really something to see historical pictures of Visalia, and then see recent images taken at virtually the same location.  I recommend both to anyone interested in the history of Visalia and Tulare County.

Next up is another bit of a departure from my usual reading genres.  It’s an autobiography that, if the story were pitched as a movie plot, few would believe.  “From Privilege to PRIDE – Love is the road” by Candi Hood and Kristin Beasley is the story of two women, best friends, who make a mid-life discovery that shakes both their worlds to the very core.  One a southern California surfer girl who married and had children, the other a traditional Mormon girl who married and had children of her own, both women in mid-life come to the realization they are lesbians, and in love with each other!  The pain in the adjustments each made to live an authentic life, the blending of their existing families, the persecution they suffered professionally, and the effects on those around them make for absorbing reading.  Now organic fruit growers outside of Reedley, “The Ubiquitous Farm” is an attempt at pesticide-free, ecologically balanced farming, with the most unexpected crop of family farmers the region has ever seen!  Candi and Kristin are friends of mine, so I’m a bit biased, but I think you’ll find their book an intriguing read!

The remaining author on my list of locals is G.L. McCarthy, of Visalia.  She’s the author of the Alexandria Whitney mystery series, five (so far, the 6th is in progress) stories of murder, revenge, ghosts (including a Civil War soldier “adopted” by Alexandria and her friends), spirit guides, insanity, jealousy, and even kittens (who can resist kittens??).  “Taylorwood“, “Thunder Mountain Ranch“, “but, Mercury’s not in retrograde!“, “Death by Fright“, and “Not A Good Reason” tell the story of Alexandria Whitney, a teacher at the Taylorwood school for girls who becomes entangled in a web of murder and intrigue as she tries to remake her life after breaking up with her girlfriend.  (yes, it’s a lesbian murder mystery series, and I had my doubts, too, that I would find the stories interesting.  Trust me, they’re good!) Disclaimer: I am listed as an editor for “Not A Good Reason”, as I read the pre-publication edition and offered some suggestions.  A minor character in the book also happens to be a 9-1-1 dispatcher named Jim Reeves.  Interesting “coincidence”, I know.  😉  That dispatcher has a much more prominent role in the next book.  I can’t wait to read it!

There are undoubtably many more local authors whose works are worthy of your time, but these are the five that I know personally (and one more who I’ll undoubtably meet eventually).  An eclectic group of people, with different writing styles and subjects, each can expand your horizons in ways you might not have expected.  Check them out.

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