For her new book , Fresno's Dixie Salazar wanted to take on the complicated issue of immigration without falling into the standard elements of young adult books.
So she took her time writing "Carmen and Chia Mix Magic" (Black Opal Books, $12.99), and she went through a more complicated editing process than with any other writing project she's tackled.
"It was a challenge," Salazar says. "There are strict rules in this genre, such as having a big battle at the end where good wins out over evil. But, the world isn't always that black and white. I wanted this book to have a more evolved consciousness. I also was inspired to write the book because there's a lack of strong female protagonists in the genre, especially those of color."
In the book, when Carmen Luna's brother is taken by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), she knows her elementary magic will not be enough to free him. Carmen forges a friendship with Chia Yang, a Hmong girl, in an effort to free Tomas and save her home from an evil Realtor, Mr. Silver, who works with ICE to steal the property of those who get deported.
Salazar is an author, artist, activist and educator who published her first novel, "Limbo," in 1995. One of her more recent projects, a photo exhibit of a Fresno homeless camp and the Eco Village Project, brought together her artistic skills and her work as an activist. Salazar has been honored for her work, receiving a Horizon Award and Award of Excellence from the National Women's Political Caucus.
Her new book is another way to use her artistic skills to make a political point. She wants to push the discussion of immigration past facts and figures and bring some humanity to the discussion.
"Carmen and Chia Mix Magic" is a departure for Salazar, who has published five books of poetry, her latest, "Altar for Escaped Voices," that includes poems in the voices of inmates in the California penal system and the homeless. That was another reason Salazar spent so much time on her new book.
"Fiction is always a longer process. With poetry, I can leave it and let it set. I really had to concentrate on getting this book written," Salazar says.
"Carmen and Chia Mix Magic" is available at most online book sites. There will be a book signing at 2 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Gillis Branch Library, 629 W. Dakota Ave.
History in the making
Bullard graduate Sol Smith has taken a break from teaching English to work on a book series and he needs some help. Smith plans to write four books in a series called "California Dreadfuls" aimed at promoting literacy and historical understanding.
Smith finished the first book, "California Dreadfuls #1: The Ghosts of San Francisco Bay," the tale of two cousins from San Francisco's Chinatown who get wrapped up with a ghost from Sir Francis Drake's ship and a rival ghost from a Chinese expedition that is said to predate Drake's landing by over a hundred years. Major elements in the book series are based on California history and myths.
Smith has started a Kickstarter campaign and launched www.californiadreadfuls.com to raise funds to finish the series. The idea to quit his job to write the series came when Smith saw how many "Goosebumps" books his daughters were reading.
"As a professor, I know that all reading is good for cognitive skills, but what if reading books like those could also give them interesting historical or cultural perspectives?" Smith says.
Smith wants to produce the books on his own.
"I have been writing for a long time, but this series has a deeper meaning to me. I want to be able to contribute to literacy. My wife and I have cashed out our retirement and she's been selling some artworks so that I can work on the books. We want to do this on our own so that we can focus on telling the stories and keeping it educational the way we want it," Smith says.
Others of local interest
"I Work At A Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks" (Adams Media, $10.85): Gina Sheridan, whose career as a librarian included time in Fresno, has put together a collection of the odd and weird things she's seen while on the job through www.iworkatapubliclibrary.com. That includes everything from a patron's missing wetsuit to helping someone scan his face to an online dating site.
The book is available at www.amazon.com.
"Finding Vern" (Blue Dove Media, $7.99): Darcy Bellows Mascorro's book is an inspirational true story that largely takes place in Fresno.
After the death of her husband-to-be, Mascorro says she became "the reporter, the ghost buster, the psychic, the scientist and the researcher" in a quest to find out whether anything continues after death.
It's being sold on www.amazon.com.
"State of Pursuit" (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $12.99): The fourth book in Summer Lane's "Collapse Series" has been released. It continues the story of 20-year-old Cassidy Hart and her fight for survival in post-apocalypse America.
"Desperation Passes" (Tuleberg Press, $17.95): Redwood City's Phil Hutcheon's latest work continues the story of Arthur Allenby and Malcom Wade as they get involved in a series of events that obscure a football team's quest to win a bowl game.
Go to www.tuleburgpress.com for more information.