Saturday, April 28, 2012

Local Author Pens Psychic Thriller

Photo by Joe McGarity

This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Lisa’s Book Nook.  Let’s meet at Lisa’s Book Nook!

Your locally owned bookstores are still best place to find local authors.  It was at Lisa’s Book Nook on Railroad Avenue in Redding that the Fantom Penguin sat down with local author, Tim Hemeon.

“Well, I’ve been interested in writing for a long time.  I started a couple of children’s stories back in the 80’s when I first started teaching, never quite finished them.  I did finally end up writing a science curriculum back in ’99 and I had an offer for publishing that ended up falling through (it was a science kit) and that was a little discouraging but as I thought about it, I thought I did like the writing.  I want to continue writing and I decided to branch out.  Instead of just doing education, (this was a science kit that had physical components), I thought I’ll do something that’s just words on paper.  And then the more I thought about it, I decided I wanted to break out of education and widen my niche.  And as I thought about that, I decided to write a novel about a certain topic that was in my heart at the time.”

“The issue is the topic of healing.  You read in the Bible about Jesus touching someone that can’t walk and then they can walk.  Someone that can’t see, he comes across their path; now they can see.  And you read about this in the four Gospels, in a lot of religious texts.  You hear this preached in churches.  And as someone of faith I many times prayed for people I knew who had diseases, who were injured, who were hurting and I didn’t see them healed.  In some cases their body naturally healed, but I’m talking about a miraculous healing, a biblical type of healing.  And as I was mulling this over for several years I asked ‘What would this look like if someone had this power today in today’s society?’  And it was kind of a neat idea to think about.  It’s not necessarily an original idea but it was a new seed in my heart and as that began to grow I thought, ‘There’s a story here.  I could write a story about this.  What would it look like if someone had this power to know things, to touch people, to heal people and why would they have this power?’”

“This was new ground for me and the book actually took me places I didn’t plan to go because as I’ve got a main character with these great gifts, he’s coming up against opposition and some of the opposition, terrorism, a serial killer and whatnot, it took me into . . . like I have detectives and I have police procedure, SWAT teams, an autopsy, all kinds of things I really didn’t know anything about.  I did have to do quite a bit of research.  I didn’t want a policeman or law enforcement agent to read the book and laugh.  I wanted it to look right, smell right; I wanted them to read it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s accurate.’  A good friend of mine from high school is a cold case murder detective in Southern California that has been to over thirty autopsies in the last few years and he was a great source, Brett Seckinger, a great source down there.  He’s one of the sheriff’s deputies.  I had several other policemen, including my brother, a retired lieutenant, who gave me great feedback and direction.  So I wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I learned real quick you can’t go alone on this.  You have to do a lot of research whether it’s in books or talking to people and I like talking to people, so that was fun.”

“Over the years at different churches I had seen presentations by travelling speakers or guest speakers who had healing services and I had a bit of background in that as well.  And I think I tried to use all of my experiences plus the research to create a pretty good story where this is happening but it’s not an orthodox situation.  I made it sort of an exception to what we would normally think.  It wasn’t like a healing service where people are going and being healed at a church.  It wasn’t like that at all.  It’s an ordinary guy, a sort of Everyman that we could all relate to getting powers he’s not necessarily asking for and doesn’t really know what to do with and where does that take him?”

“I wrote this whole thing by hand in journals.  I’m a bit of an antiquarianist, I guess, old-fashioned just with Bic pens and spiral binders.  Once I had six or seven binders full and the plot was pretty much done then I had to jump into the digital age and type it on a computer, revision over and over and over, constantly polishing.  And then I selected five or six trusted readers, gave them copies of the manuscript after I had copyrighted the book, got their feedback, didn’t take all of it, but I took a good amount of it and used their input to revise even again and again and again.  Finally I had a product I thought was publishable and that’s when the query letter writing stage began.  You write to try to get an agent or to publishers themselves and see who’s interested in this topic and you don’t get to send your book.  I imagined when I finished my book there would be a man maybe with a long beard or a woman very astute with her glasses sitting in a room with a leather chair by a fire and my manuscript would arrive at a high-rise office in New York and they would sit there and read it over an evening and fall in love with it and offer me a contract and well, that’s just a stereotype, right?  So it doesn’t work that way.  It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of query letter writing and most of the people don’t want you to send any of your manuscript; they just want the letter.  So you have to write a darn good letter to get their attention.  If they like it, then they request 5, 10, 50 pages, 100 pages, the whole manuscript and if they like that, you move on.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Redding Man Follows Footsteps of Homer’s Odysseus

Photo by Joe McGarity

This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Legacy Medical Equipment and FreedomAlert, the only Personal Emergency Response System with No Monthly Fees.               

Your locally owned bookstores are still best place to find local authors.  It was at Lisa’s Book Nook on Railroad Avenue in Redding that the Fantom Penguin caught up with local author, Joel Stratte-McClure.

“When I was a young kid in Redding at the age of 9, my favorite book was Myths and Legends of the Ages all about the Greeks and the Romans, the mythology and the characters from that era.  I was just enchanted about it.  And I became a journalist after going to Stanford and Colombia; lived outside of the United States for over 35 years and spent the last 25 years living on the Mediterranean in the South of France where my kids were raised.  I had a dream.  I had a dream that one day I would have the financial and physical resources to actually walk around the sea in the footsteps of Odysseus, Homer’s character in the iconic Odyssey and for my 50th birthday, (I know I don’t look over 50 yet), but for my 50th birthday I gave myself a present to begin that walk, to make that walk.  And at the time I thought it would be a 20-year project similar to the time that it took Odysseus to get back from the Trojan War to Ithaca in Greece and I’m now in my 13th year.  I brought out my first book in 2008.  I’ll bring out a second one late this year or early next.  I’ve walked 8,802 km and I’m having a great time.  After this book I will continue in Turkey down into Egypt.”

“I was told early in the game that the life of a book begins when you write the end and that is completely true.  It’s a lot about marketing and promotion and I enjoy promoting it and marketing it as much as I do walking it and writing it and researching it.  I have a great time doing book tours and talking to independent bookstore owners.  I’m now talking to a lot of schools about the book which is being used as a trigger to get kids interested in reading something other than Harry Potter and also to introduce them to the Odyssey and the Iliad which are two of the most iconic books ever written, the Odyssey of course the world’s first travel narrative, the Iliad the first real war story.  So I am delighted by every aspect of this.  My first book was published traditional hardback in Australia.  It did very well and I have since purchased the rights to the title back from the publisher and my next book is going to come out first as an e-book.  One of the reasons I’m doing that is because the suggestions after the first book were two-fold:  One, people wanted more detailed maps; two, they also wanted photographs.  Obviously to do that in a hardcover, on-paper version of the book is very expensive and from a map point of view, tedious.  But both those problems are taken care of very well in electronic online publishing and so consequently the book will come out first online with a lot of photographs, with maps that people can follow and the traditional hardcopy will follow later.”

“I took off on a very meditative, mid-life walk expecting nothing, so consequently I’m always overjoyed by what happens.  It’s completely serendipitous.  I never know where I’m going to stay.  I’ve stayed in monasteries.  I’ve slept on beaches.  I’ve lost my money and passport in the sea.  I’ve been robbed by Gypsies.  I’ve fallen off a cliff.  I’ve met an enchanting sorceress in Spain.  I’ve been taken in by Moroccan highway construction workers in Northern Morocco and I’ve had a delightful time.  It’s very good from a physical, emotional, spiritual and mental viewpoint.  It’s a fantastic project.  I’ve always hiked, the Himalayas, Walden Pond, you name it.  And I wanted a project that would be a little more substantive and the Mediterranean is 10,000 miles in circumference and I thought that would do.”

“Well, you know the book is called the Idiot and the Odyssey, so most people think I’m the idiot and that I’m off on a fool’s errand.  I don’t think I’m quite as stupid as people think they are, but I don’t bother to explain that to them either.”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Your Community: Michael Dacquisto

Photo by Joe McGarity

This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Legacy Medical Equipment and FreedomAlert, the only Personal Emergency Response System with No Monthly Fees.               

The Fantom Penguin presents another interview in the Your Community series, introducing the community to people in important leadership positions.  This publication, as a matter of policy, does not endorse any candidate, but rather offers them an opportunity to share their stories in their own words.  This week:  Republican congressional candidate Michael Dacquisto.

“My name is Michael Dacquisto.  I’m 58 years old.  My parents were in the service.  We lived all around.  I was born in Washington, DC, spent some time in Puerto Rico, moved back to the Washington, DC area.  My dad was a doctor there, in the service.  Moved out to Indianapolis where I went to high school and then I came out to California, to Palo Alto and I went to Sanford University in the early Seventies and graduated from there in ’75 then I went down to the USC Law School and I graduated from there in 1978.  I began to work for myself as an attorney.  I stayed down there, got married in 1986, had two children and about 1994 decided that we didn’t want to raise our kids in Los Angeles (or actually in the San Fernando Valley) and we looked around the state and decided to move to Redding.”

“Currently I’m a bankruptcy trustee and I practice in that particular area and I also do some civil litigation.  I became a bankruptcy trustee in 1997 and I still am in that capacity today.  That’s a private job not a public job.  It’s not a government job.  And what I do in that capacity is I oversee and administer bankruptcy cases that are filed with the court in Sacramento.  The area that I cover is essentially the same area as the first congressional district.  It’s Northeastern California.  I have administered thousands and thousands and thousands of bankruptcy cases.  One of the reasons I think that’s a good qualification for me as the next congressman from this district is that this country is bankrupt and the principal issue facing this county is the debt, in my opinion, the debt, the deficit and what to do about it.”

“This is my first effort at running for office.  I have never considered past political experience to be necessary or a prerequisite to run for any type of political office at any particular level.  If you look at the past experience of some of the candidates in this particular race, I don’t find that to be impressive.  I actually think we need somebody in there who doesn’t have experience and doesn’t have baggage and can go in and try to effectuate some new solutions to the current problems that we have.  I did it at this time in my life because I, as I said I’m 58, I hope to live another twenty or thirty years.  The government’s financial situation is a mess and if something isn’t done about it, this country is going to turn into Greece times ten probably in my lifetime and certainly in my children’s lifetime and their children’s lifetime and I don’t think that’s the right way to be.  I think we can fix this now and we need to do something about it.  So, now’s as good a time as any and that’s why I’m doing it.”

“The government portrays this as government debt, but it’s not government debt.  It’s the people’s debt.  The government doesn’t create anything.  All it does is take taxes, spend taxes (the tax money) and then borrow money when it doesn’t have enough from the taxes.  So this is our debt.  It’s the people’s debt, the taxpayers’ debt not the government’s debt.  To talk about the problem again in another perspective, if you gave the government all the money that it collects in taxes at the beginning of the year for 2011, on July 31st it would have spent all that money.  So for the next five months in the year the government has to borrow whatever it needs to live on.  Could you imagine running out of money on July 31st and saying ‘From now through December 31st I have to take my plastic out and use that to live on.’?  It’s crazy.  It’s absolute nonsense.  So if you take those steps to get the spending under control, the second part of the formula is I would change the way we collect taxes in this country.  I would abolish the IRS and the income tax code with all of its deductions and its credits and I wouldn’t pay subsidies to companies, agricultural, oil or anything.  The government should stay out of that business.  I would replace it with a flat national sales tax.  I would exclude food, medicine and medical services from that tax.  And the reason that I believe this would work . . .  There are several reasons.  First of all, if you look historically at the total money the government takes in year to year and you compare that to what they call the gross domestic product, which is everything the country produces and sells, it’s pretty constant between 16 and 20% and usually around 18%.  So if your goal is to find an effective, efficient way to collect the same amount of money, you can impose an 18% national sales tax.  The trade-off is:  You’re not paying an income tax anymore, so you have more money to spend.  And when you buy something, it’s going to cost more but you have more in your pocket because you’re not paying an income tax.  The way the government runs its business now, it takes Social Security and Medicare and puts it all in the same pot anyway.  You wouldn’t have to take that out either.  Everything would be covered by the 18%.”

“All the people in the underground economy would now be paying into the system because when they bought a car or they bought clothes or something else they would be paying taxes.  Right now the people in the underground economy, the drug dealers or even just people that are contractors, whoever they happen to be that gets paid cash, they don’t necessarily declare that cash, so they’re not paying income taxes.  This way you collect money from them without sending the police or the marshals or the IRS to go get it.  When they want to buy something, they pay the tax.  If you don’t want to pay the tax, then don’t buy something and you can save your money and the money that you save will go to a bank.  The bank can use it to make loans for other entrepreneurs.  I view it as a win-win situation all the way around and I honestly believe the income that the country collects would increase dramatically if you were to enact that.”

Michael Dacquisto can be reached through his website at

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Imperial Troops Have Entered the Northstate

Photo by Joe McGarity

This week’s Fantom Penguin story is brought to you by Legacy Medical Equipment and FreedomAlert, the only Personal Emergency Response System with No Monthly Fees.               

If you’ve noticed Imperial Stormtroopers at public events, don’t worry.  There is a reason they are here, but it’s not to enforce the policies of the Galactic Empire.  The Fantom Penguin interviewed TK-2053.

“We’re a group of Star Wars costumers obviously and we do charity work and promotional work for local and national charities.”

“Well, we started on Tatooine.  That was a really remote planet, very sandy, windy, hot.  We blew that up after the Death Star was blown up by the Rebels and we found ourselves here on Earth and we’ve kind of been here ever since.”

What sort of work have you been doing here?

“Well, we’ve done Make-a-Wish Foundation Radiothon.  We’ve done bell-ringing for Salvation Army.  We’ve Walked a Mile in Her Shoes to support the Shasta County Women’s Refuge.  We’ve done a lot of other little local things like crash the Richard Simmons party at the Cascade Theater.  That was fun.  And then, of course, we’re hanging out here at cWc Studios trying to help them support the art awakening movement here in Redding.”

And how does George Lucas feel about what you are doing?

“George Lucas is very supportive as long as we, of course, are a complete charity.  We do not raise funds.  We do not actually collect any money.  We don’t handle money at all.  We’re always free for appearances.  We just help support and raise awareness.”

“In our group right now we have about 34 people.  Most of those do have costumes; some don’t.  Some are simply seamstresses and costume/prop builders and stuff like that.”

And you’re based in Mount Shasta?

“That is kind of our base, yeah.  If you want to mail something to us, that’s where it would go.”

And if people are interested in joining your group?

“You can look us up online at  That’s an actual blog site and it will have contact information there for two of our founding fathers.  I’m one of them and I am here in Redding, so you’ll get a hold of me or one of our other guys up north and we’ll handle it from there.”

“Some of our costume parts are purchased from people like us who are into costuming and they’ve done their own work.  Some of them are added to like pieces that we do ourselves that are just kind of mix and match put together.”

And the weapons?

“These are all props that we build.  These are based on a Kenner/Hasbro toy with a lot of added parts to them and paint jobs and electronic stuff added.”

“They’re only actually about 80% screen-accurate, but if you get any more accurate than this you have to build them and they’re very heavy and then you’re carrying around 20 lbs. when you’re trying to do stuff.  These are very light plastic sidearms.”

“We really don’t do birthday parties, per se.  We’re just not that kind of an organization.  Not that we’re against having a good birthday party but usually there’s a lot of kids involved.  Sometimes they’re not properly overseen by adults and our costumes do represent a large amount of investment and we’re non-profit, so it’s all of our own money.”

“Well, ballpark, you’re probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $1200 when you’re all done.  But that’s boots, the helmet, the outfit, the gloves, the weapons, voice amplification units, cooling fans inside.  All that stuff adds up.”

“We just want to get our name out there so people know that if they’ve got a worthy cause that they’d like to help us promote or a charity that they’d like us to help out with; we do all kinds of stuff.”