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Words from Around the Way 

Our twice-annual look at authors from Sonoma, Napa and Marin

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Each spring and fall, we at the Bohemian shine a light on local authors' work, and each spring and fall, we receive more and more submissions. This is due in part to the rise of self-publishing, sure—anyone with a Word file, an internet connection and a few hundred dollars can produce slick-looking paperbacks to give to friends and sell in local bookstores. Because of the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey—originally a print-on-demand book that turned into a New York Times juggernaut—there's a virtual gold rush craze on self-publishing.

But there's something else at play here, and that's this: more accessibility to publishing means more of an impetus to open that Word document titled "Novel.doc" on one's desktop and start to let the words flow. The numbers of writers, especially in our region, is growing, and so are the opportunities for writers to be read. Without that shot, where might some of our best writers be? What if Salinger followed in his father's footsteps and sold cheese for a living?

Below are our twice-annual synopsized works from local authors—both with and without publishers. Until we get simply too many submissions on our doorstep here at the Bohemian, we feel that all are deserving of notice.—G.M.

Thirty-three years after the groundbreaking The Way of the Shaman was published, Mill Valley resident Michael Harner has produced a follow-up guide showing more evidence of heavenly realm. 'Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Spirits and Heavens' (North Atlantic Books; $19.95) is written like a scientific thesis, using personal accounts and interviews of others to support Harner's explanations and conclusions. Many of these experiences involve ayahuasca, a strong psychedelic brew with effects similar to DMT, widely used in ceremonies by Peruvian shamans. Harner explores ayahuasca as well as drumming as ways to make the connection to other worlds. This is heady stuff. To be able to agree or disagree with its principles, one must first be able to understand them, and that's easier said than done. But by using shamanistic techniques, Harner argues, now tens of thousands are able to "enter another reality to travel to other worlds as well as work here in this world to provide healings and other shamanic help." Harner also posits that, in the future, shamanic treatment of illness will become as important and useful as anything in the Western medical world. If the Western world continues the trend of focusing on profit over patients, he might be right.—N.G.

Because wineries don't receive nearly enough coverage in this world, 'The California Directory of Fine Wineries: Central Coast' (Wine House Press; $19.95) is sorely needed. Before the publication of this veritable Rosetta Stone of grape-production facilities—and its predecessor, the Sonoma / Napa / Mendocino addition—thirsty aficionados of the vine used to drive for days in zigzags across the state to discover, if luck smiled, the Golden State's ultra-rare sites of vinological practice. We kid, we kid. Still, readers can consider this book a treasure map to those hidden makers of the vine that one only hears about in generations-old lore. And Sideways—this edition covers the land of Paul Giamatti & Co., focusing on wineries from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Ynez. Residents in Sonoma and Napa will no doubt think, "The Central Coast? Why bother?" The book, published in Sonoma, answers the shrugged question convincingly, with writing by K. Reka Badger and Cheryl Crabtree, evocative photographs by Robert Holmes and detailed information on 51 wineries from down South edited and assembled by Tom Silberkleit. Elegantly bound and packed with maps, profiles, tips and more, the book might be just the impetus for a three-day reservation in the "Jungle Room" at the famed Madonna Inn.—G.M.

North Bay writer David Madgalene is back with another letter-sized, self-published anthology of stories, poetic verse and sexual fantasy, 'The Hoodoo Dog' (Israfel; $7). I have grown to love Madgalene's work, although my favorite way to read his books is not to start at the beginning, but to open to any page and read aloud whatever first couple sentences the eye falls upon. Examples of random passages picked in this style follow: "The monster had the face of a pussycat with the bill of a duckbill platypus. It had the ears of an elephant and it has a squirrel for a toupee." "Several small children join the crowd–demon children obviously sired upon Devil's Prick. A couple of blue-footed boobies in heat run by and pink cockatoo, its gargantuan head bob, bob, bobbing like a red, red robin, lands on Yoko the Houseboy's shoulder and takes a shit." "Daniel picked up that there stick and ran to shove it up Rambo's ass. Rambo was nowhere to be found." Man!—N.G.

Reading 'Because You Have To: A Writing Life' (University of Notre Dame Press; $18) by Santa Rosa author Joan Frank, my right forearm begins to tingle. Then it starts to tense up, like it's being stretched like taffy on the boardwalk. It could be my tendonitis flaring up, or it might be a psychosomatic reaction to reading a book about writing. This isn't a Dummies guide or a "Secrets to Success" book; it's more like therapy for those who wield a pen or a keyboard to survive. The desire to write doesn't live in everyone alongside the ability to do so, and vice-versa. But the gift lies in the ability, and the curse lies in the desire. Even when both match up equally, the results are more often than not less than satisfactory. Thus, the title of this book, set in lowercase typewriter font (as are the chapter titles), beams as a lantern in a dark, lonely forest to those underdog, underappreciated artists of the alphabet. This is for the minds that cannot turn off, with moleskin journals of caffeine-fueled rants and burning forearms from pen-scrawled manifestos in flipbook notepads. This is for writers.—N.G.

When William Koval's wife is tragically murdered, he is left alone, withdrawn and absorbed in his work. He's forced to use, or lose, his accrued vacation days, so he decides to go on the English walking tour he was planning with his wife three years earlier. The tour does not go exactly as expected. He and his fellow tourists deal with complications, and each other, as they explore the English countryside. Santa Rosa author JC Miller's 'Vacation' (Last Light Studio; $14.99) is a story about love, loss and friendship that blends humor and romance and shows how new experiences can heal old pain.—T.M.

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