Author Biographies

Ivy Anderson began her career writing short stories of the dystopian sci-fi genre in grade school. Her writing has always been shaped by a fascination with society’s shortcomings, and an inextinguishable desire for a better, more just future. Having spent years managing a community garden and writing about human interactions with nature, her discovery of Alice Smith’s memoir, which she uncovered with her writing and research partner, Devon Angus, lead her into a four-year-long study of early feminist organizing, urban policy, and the sex worker’s rights movements. Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute, which won the California Historical Society Book Award, is her first book. (


Steven M. Avella is a professor of history at Marquette University and a Roman Catholic priest. He grew up in Sacramento and delivered the Sacramento Bee as a young boy. Although living in the Midwest, Avella maintains an active scholarly interest and genuine affection for the city of his youth, writing three books about the city. In his most recent book, Charles K. McClatchy and the Golden Era of Journalism, he has chronicled the life of one of the most important persons in Sacramento’s history – editor and publisher Charles K. McClatchy. One of the first to explore the rich cache of McClatchy Papers at the Center for Sacramento History, Avella has produced a biography that intersects the life of an important northern California’s newspapermen with the growth and development of California’s capital. (


Julie Barton was born and raised in central Ohio. She knew by age 9 that she wanted to be a writer, but didn’t have the courage to start writing until she was in her thirties. Her first book, a memoir called Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me From Myself, is the harrowing but heartwarming story of her descent into debilitating clinical depression and how a dog helped her recover. Barton’s book became a surprise New York Times Bestseller and she is currently at work on her second memoir. She lives in Piedmont, California with her family. (


Cara Black’s love of all things French was kindled by the French-speaking nuns at her Catholic high school in the Bay Area, where she first encountered French literature and the work of Prix Goncourt winner Romain Gary. In her junior year of high school, she wrote him a fan letter – which he answered – and it inspired her to make her first trip to Paris, where her idol took her out for coffee and a cigar. Since then, she’s traveled to Paris often. For the scoop on real Paris crime, she takes the cops out for drinks and dinner to hear their stories. Her Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series set in Paris has become a New York Times and national bestselling series. Her most recent in the series is Murder on the Quai. Black lives in San Francisco with her husband, a former bookseller. (


Lucy Jane Bledsoe is the author of 5 novels, including the recently released, A Thin Bright Line, an American love story with Cold War complications. The New York Times says that the novel “triumphs as an intimate and humane evocation of day-to-day life under inhumane circumstances,” and the San Francisco Chronicle says the story “shows the sexy side of the 1950s.” Bledsoe spends as much time as possible paddling her kayak and hiking in the mountains, and is one of a tiny handful of people who have spent time at all 3 American stations in Antarctica. She believes that storytelling is one of the most important things humans do. She lives in Berkeley. (


Lisa Brackmann is a California native and a former film industry professional. Living and traveling in China inspired her debut novel and its sequels, all set on the fringes of the Chinese art world. Brackman’s newest book, Go-Between, features the return of heroine Ellie McEnroe on another wild adventure in today’s China. Her other work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Review of Books, Travel+Leisure and CNET. Brackmann was once an issues researcher in a presidential campaign and was the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. Nowadays she travels a lot, most frequently to China, and lives in San Diego. (


Georgeanne Brennan grew up in Laguna Beach reading voraciously and dreaming of living in Europe. Today she is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and entrepreneur, and has a long time home in Provence, where she once lived year-round keeping goats and making and selling cheese. Her cookbook, The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence, won a James Beard Award, and her memoir, A Pig in Provence was rated as one of the top 50 food memoirs. Her latest, My Culinary Journey, Food and Fetes of Provence, continues her memoir with 40 recipes, stories of fetes and festivals, plus photos, some of them of her young family during the goat cheese days. She lives primarily in northern California, where she runs her online company, La Vie Rusic. (


Meg Waite Clayton grew up reading authors like Madeleine L’Engle and Harper Lee, who leapt impossibly tall literary buildings in single bounds. By the time she worked up the nerve to give writing a try, she was 32 years old, a corporate lawyer, and pregnant with her second son; he was eleven when her first novel was released. Now she is a New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including her most recent book, The Race for Paris. Like her past work, it explores the barriers women face and the power of friendship. Her fifty-some shorter pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Runner’s World, and on public radio. (


Kim Culbertson is an award-winning author of four young adult novels. Much of the inspiration for her novels comes from work she’s done as a high school teacher since 1998. In 2012, Culbertson wrote her eBook novella The Liberation of Max McTrue for her students, who she says, have taught her far more than she has taught them over the years. Her second book, The Possibility of Now, tells the story of a teenager suffering a meltdown during her calculus exam, who moves to Tahoe to live with her estranged dad. There she struggles to find a balance between her new friends, her father and her schoolwork. Culbertson lives in the northern California foothills with her husband and daughter. (


Susan Kelly-DeWitt was born in San Francisco but spent most of her childhood in Hawaii before it was a state, living for several years on the grounds of a historic artists’ colony called Wailele. She moved back to Northern California in 1960, and has lived in Sacramento since 1971. Kelly-DeWitt is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and the author of the poetry book Spider Season, and nine previous print and online collections. She has worked as a freelance writer and reviewer for the Sacramento Bee, as the first program director for the Women’s Wisdom Project, as a poet in the schools and in the prisons, as a community college English instructor, as a high school college counselor, and as a longtime creative writing instructor for U.C. Davis Extension. (


Chris Enss is an award winning author, scriptwriter, and comedienne who has written for television and film, and performed on cruise ships and on stage. She has worked with award-winning musicians, writers, directors, producers, and as a screenwriter for Tricor Entertainment. Her passion is for telling the stories of the men and women who shaped American history when they came west, from the ordinary schoolmarms, gold miners, madams, and mail-order brides to the famous names of past and the contemporary who inspired the mythology of the American West. Enss’s latest book, Ma Brker: America’s Most Wanted Mother, explores the legend of Ma Barker and the Barker gang who terrorized the Midwest during the early years of the Great Depression. (


Andy Furillo is a long-time newspaperman who has been in the business for 44 years. Mostly, he has covered criminal justice issues, from murders on the street to life in the prison system. Since April 2015, he has written a sports column for the Sacramento Bee, where he has worked since 1991. He grew up the son of a famous Los Angeles sportswriter and broadcaster, whose career influenced him greatly and is the subject of his book, The Steamer: Bud Furillo and the Golden Age of L.A. Sports. In it, he talks about his father’s experience covering L.A.’s acquisition of the Rams, the Dodgers, and the Lakers, their rise to championships, and reveals inside stories about the greatest athletes and teams to ever play in Los Angeles. (


C.W. Gortner is half-Spanish by birth and was raised in southern Spain. He worked as a fashion executive and as a grant writer before earning his M.F.A. in writing, with a focus on Renaissance history. Then he pursued his dream of publication. Now an international bestseller with over one million copies in print and translations in 28 languages, he is a full-time writer. In his research travels, he has accessed the Vatican Archives, lived in a Spanish castle, and danced in a Tudor hall. His latest novel, Marlene, centers on the life of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age, Marlene Dietrich. Gortner divides his time between San Francisco and Antigua, Guatemala. (


David Helvarg is the son of war refugees from Russia and Nazi Germany who grew up in New York. He became an anti-war activist, then a journalist working as a war correspondent in Northern Ireland and Central America. He’s covered issues from Navy science to the AIDS epidemic, reporting from every continent including Antarctica. After reporting on the car bombing of an Earth First activist, he wrote his first book and became a respected environmental journalist. His latest book, The Golden Shore: California’s Love Affair with the Sea tells of the history, culture, and changing nature of California’s coasts and ocean. Helvarg founded the ocean conservation group Blue Frontier and is a licensed Private Investigator, body-surfer and scuba diver. (


Jessica Barksdale Inclán has degrees in sociology and English literature from C.S.U. Stanislaus and a Master’s degree in English literature from S.F.S.U. She has taught a variety of subjects, including composition, creative writing, mythology, and women’s literature at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, as well an online novel writing courses for U.C.L.A. Extension. Inclán is the author of 14 novels. Her latest, The Burning Hour, tells the story of the Mapps, a fiercely independent Native American family. When faced with the driest fire season on record, they must place their trust in a less than honorable government, while Nick Delgado, a young wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management, struggles with regulations and familial expectations. Inclán lives in Oakland with her husband. (


Mark Jacobson was a voracious reader growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, but didn’t start writing fiction until 30 years into his medical career. In his first novel, Sensing Light, Jacobson draws extensively on his experience taking care of patients and conducting clinical research at San Francisco General Hospital during the first decade of the AIDS epidemic. Jacobson is a professor of medicine at the U.C. San Francisco and an attending physician at San Francisco General Hospital, where he still sees patients and teaches in the “Ward 86” HIV/AIDS clinic. (


Rae Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her love of writing was nourished at the early age of eight when she and her best friend wrote wandering tales of pirates and damsels in distress. She graduated from the U.C. Berkeley where she cultivated a different type of writing—legislation and political policy. After a career of public policy and advocacy, she focused on her first love, writing. In 2013, her debut novel was published. The Trade List, the fourth in her six-book mystery series, was released last year. James is married with two sons and resides in northern California. (


Lindsey Lee Johnson holds a master of professional writing from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in English from the U.C. Davis. She has served as a tutor and mentor at a private learning center, where her focus has been teaching writing to teenagers. Her debut novel, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, exposes the real humans beneath the high school stereotypes of modern adolescents, turning teenage drama into urgent, adult fiction. Born and raised in Marin County, Johnson lives with her husband in Los Angeles. (


John Lescroart is the New York Times bestselling author of over 20 novels, including most recently Fatal. Libraries Unlimited has included him in its publication “The 100 Most Popular Thriller and Suspense Authors.” With sales of over 10 million, his books have been translated into 16 languages in more than 75 countries, and his short stories appear in many anthologies. Each of the last several of Lescroart’s books have been Main Selections of one or more of the Literary Guild, Mystery Guild, and Book of the Month Club. Outside of the book world, Lescroart loves to cook. His original recipes have appeared in Gourmet Magazine and in the cookbook A Taste of Murder. He and his wife Lisa Sawyer live in northern California. (


Erin Lyon graduated with a B.A. in English and then worked in broadcast television at the Sacramento ABC affiliate for 10 years before deciding to attend law school. She is now a practicing civil attorney and spends her free time writing novels about lawyers. After finishing law school, she completed her first novel, I Love You Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions, a comedic, romantic thriller, and has begun working on the sequels. Erin lives in Granite Bay with her husband, teenage daughter and house full of rescue animals. (


Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and daydreamed her way through school, being told she had too much imagination and should learn to contain it. Her major professor at graduate school said no one else ever wrote a science fiction novel and got a linguistics Ph.D. McPherson spent five years as a professor in academia, then stopped fighting the inevitable and has been a full-time novelist for over fifteen years, writing contemporary psychological suspense and detective stories set in the 1920s. Her latest is Dandy Gilver and the Reek of Red Herrings. She has won or been shortlisted for most major crime-writing awards in the United States. McPherson immigrated to America in 2010 and lives in the hills west of Davis. (


Tracey Helton Mitchell is a recovering heroin addict. After completing rehab in 1998, she dedicated her life to the care and treatment of heroin users. Mitchell entered school through an ex-offender’s program, where she earned a B.A. of Business Administration and an M.A. of Public Administration. Her memoir, The Big Fix: Hope After Heroin, tells her story of transformation from homeless heroin addict to stable mother of three and the hard work and lessons that got her there. Mitchell was featured in the movie Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street, on CNN with Anderson Cooper, Vice, the Huffington Post, NPR’s Fresh Air, and the New York Times. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and three children. (


Gina L. Mulligan grew up reading classics and thrillers in San Diego. After college, she began her writing career as a freelance journalist for local and national magazines. While working on a travel article about the Hotel Del Coronado, she stumbled on a passion for historical fiction and spent the next 13 years immersed in the Gilded Age to write two historical novels. Mulligan’s second book, From Across the Room, is an epistolary novel about love and corruption. The unique format was inspired by the numerous letters she received after her breast cancer diagnosis. Mulligan also founded Girls Love Mail, a charity that collects handwritten letters of encouragement for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. (


Steven Nightingale writes novels, sonnets, short stories, and long essays, and is currently exploring a promiscuous range of projects. He has lived in England, France, and for an extended period in Granada, Spain. His interests include the medieval art of Spain and Italy, the American West and the Caribbean, cooking for his wife and daughter, astronomy, venture capital, and Emily Dickinson, whom he loves. Chief among his pleasures is teaching by invitation in schools and universities in Nevada and California. He divides his time between Palo Alto, his beloved home state of Nevada, and the beautiful Albayzin, a barrio in Granada, Spain. His book, Hot Climate of Promises and Grace, is a compilation of 64 short stories that explore of the mysteries of our existence with the consistent theme that paradise is here on Earth. (


Mark Noce was born and raised in the Bay Area and is an avid traveler and backpacker, particularly in Europe and North America. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. By day he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career at places like Google and Facebook. His debut novel, Between Two Fires, is the first in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales. When not reading or writing, you can find him sailing his dad’s boat, listening to U2 or gardening with his family. (


Maureen O’Leary is a Sacramento author and high school teacher. Her latest novel is The Ghost Daughter. An alum of Squaw Valley Community of Writers, her short fiction can be found in the pages of Esopus magazine, Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine, and Xenith, to name a few. O’Leary is also the author of How To Be Manly and The Arrow, Book 1 of the Children of Brigid Trilogy. She loves West African dancing and drumming, reading other people’s books, and working out at old-school gyms. O’Leary also enjoys attending high school football games, but only when she has taught at least half the players on the field. (


Kathryn Olmsted is a professor of history at U.C. Davis. Her four books and numerous journal articles explore her overlapping interests: conspiracy theories, government secrecy, espionage, counterintelligence, and anticommunism. She grew up in southern California and attended Stanford and U.C. Davis. Her most recent book, Right Out of California, explores the big business roots of conservatism in Depression-era California. In the future she plans to write books on the post-World War II history of San Bernardino and on history of the California wine industry since the end of Prohibition. She lives in Davis with her husband. (


Patti Palamidessi is a third-generation co-owner of the venerable Club Pheasant restaurant in West Sacramento, which has been family owned and operated since 1935. She is actively involved in fundraising for a variety of health issues with special attention to children. She is a public speaker on a broad range of health care issues, with an emphasis on epilepsy. Community oriented, Palamidessi is an active Rotarian. Using her life as an example, she published her self-help book, The Other Four Letter Word, with the goal of showing that everyone has the strength inside them to accomplish their goals in life. Palamidessi loves to travel, and enjoys organizing and leading trips to Europe. (


Mike Pereira grew up the son of a rigid father and longtime sports official, Al Pereira. An insult on a hot and miserable summer day in central California drove Pereira to seek his father’s approval by becoming great at something. That search, oddly enough, led him into the world of football refereeing. In his book, After Further Review, he describes his long journey to becoming the head of officiating in the National Football League and eventually his current role as a commentator on Fox Sports. He also gives NFL fans and casual viewers alike insight into NFL rules, their applications, and some of the most controversial calls in recent memory, in terms both can understand. Pereira lives in Sacramento with his wife.


Eric Rauchway writes about and teaches U.S. History at U.C. Davis, where he has been a professor since 2001. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell, an M.A. from Oxford, and a Ph.D. from Stanford. He previously taught at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Oxford. Rauchway is the author of five history books and one novel, his latest book being The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace. He has written for various newspapers including the New York Times and the Washington Post, and has consulted for government and private agencies including the U.S. Department of Justice and a major Hollywood studio. Rauchway lives with his family in Davis, California. (


Eileen Rendahl is the author of 15 novels, the latest of which is Cover Me in Darkness. She is an award-winning, best-selling author of chick lit, romantic suspense, cozy mystery and urban fantasy. She was born in Dayton, Ohio, but raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. After many moves to cities such as St. Louis, Boston, Chicago, and Phoenix, and job hopping from art gallery assistant, communications manager, editorial assistant, and graphic designer, she now writes and lives in Davis. (


Dorothy Rice grew up in San Francisco’s Sunset District, blocks from Ocean Beach and the zoo, back when admission was free. As a girl haunting the library after school she dreamed of becoming a writer, a feat which took longer than anticipated. Rice retired from a career in environmental protection and earned an M.F.A. in creative writing at age 60. Her essays have since appeared in journals including Brain, Child Magazine, The Rumpus and Literary Mama. The Reluctant Artist, her fist published book, was inspired by her father’s lifelong commitment to artistic expression. She now lives in Sacramento with her family. (


Charles Russo grew up in northern New Jersey playing shortstop, reading comic books, and eating pizza. After high school, he moved to California, where his love of Bay Area history led to his first book, Striking Distance: Bruce Lee & the Dawn of Martial Arts in America, which he likes to paraphrase as ‘Bruce Lee’s Motorcycle Diaries.’ Russo works as a photojournalist; his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, VICE, and San Francisco Magazine, and he is, quite inexplicably, a former member of the George W. Bush Administration. He lives in San Francisco with his family and their many house plants. (


Elizabeth Rynecki is the great-granddaughter of Polish-Jewish artist Moshe Rynecki. She grew up with his paintings displayed on the walls of her family home and understood from an early age the art connected her to a legacy from “the old country” in Poland. In 1999, she designed the original Moshe Rynecki: Portrait of a Life in Art website. Today, she continually updates it to keep it current regarding academic research, educational resources, and the tracking of lost Rynecki paintings. Her memoir, Chasing Portraits, tells about Rynecki’s search for her great-grandfather’s lost paintings. She has a B.A. in Rhetoric from Bates College and a master’s degree in Rhetoric and Speech Communications from U.C. Davis. (


Kate Schatz grew up in a house in San Jose, but was pretty much raised in a children’s bookstore and the local library. She is the New York Times-bestselling author of Rad American Women A-Z and, more recently, Rad Women Worldwide, which tells tales of perseverance and radical success from an array of diverse figures from over 31 countries around the world. Figures include Hatshepsut, Malala Yousafzi, Poly Styrene, Ann Bancroft, and many others. Schatz a writer, editor, and educator, passionate about both writing and politics since she was a child. She lives with her family on the island of Alameda, and loves avocados, baseball, karaoke, cats, and researching radical feminist histories. (


Shanthi Sekaran was born and raised in Sacramento. She spent most of her youth wishing she’d grown up in the 60s. She started writing fiction in her early 20s, as she moved from Berkeley to Baltimore to Germany to England. She finally ended up back in Berkeley, where she lives now with her husband and two children. Her second novel, Lucky Boy, tells the story of a boy torn between the love he receives from his adopted mother and from his birth mother, a detained illegal immigrant. Sekaran’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Canteen magazine, and Best New American Voices. She teaches at California College of the Arts and is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. (


Susan Sherman was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is a former artist and chair of the art department of Whittier College and her artwork has been shown nationally in galleries and public spaces. In the mid-1990’s she became a writer and producer of sitcoms, eventually co-creating the television show That’s So Raven on the Disney Network. Despite her success in TV, it had always been her dream to write fiction. Sherman’s second novel, If You Are There, explores Paris in the year 1900, including the science and the history of spiritualism as seen through the eyes of a young Polish cook working for Marie Curie. At the time the Curies, along with many scientists of the period, were enthralled with famous medium Eusapia Palladino. (


Susan Spann is a transactional attorney and former law school professor. She received an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, in particular Chinese and Japanese cultures. Her deep interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series. Her fourth novel, The Ninja’s Daughter, continues the story of sixteenth-century ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo. When not writing or representing clients, her hobbies include Asian cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, and caring for a marine aquarium where she raises seahorses and rare corals. Spann lives in northern California with her family. (


J. Stiles never intended to move to California, but then he married a Bay Area native. Now, ten years later, he resists all attempts to persuade him to leave. Born in rural Minnesota, he moved to New York after college as a character-building exercise that proved rather more successful than first intended. He studied history as a graduate student, worked in publishing for a decade, then brought together his love of scholarship, writing, and storytelling as a biographer. His three books, Jesse James, The First Tycoon, and his latest, Custer’s Trials, recount dramatic lives that reveal the making of modern America. Between them, he has earned two Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award. Stiles lives in Berkeley with his wife and two children. (


John Walton is an author, sociologist and sometime historian who lives and works in Carmel Valley. Long associated with the University of California, he received a Ph.D. from U.C. Santa Barbara and taught for many years at U.C. Davis as a distinguished professor, and is now emeritus. Although much of his research and writing began as academic projects, they have been received and used by organizations ranging from environmental groups in the Eastern Sierra, Native American communities, advocates for preservation and sustainable land use, film makers and historical societies. His latest book, The Legendary Detective: The Private Eye in Fact and Fiction, offers a sweeping history of the American private detective in reality and myth, from the earliest agencies to the hard-boiled heights of the 1930s and ’40s. (


Simon Wood avoided the written word due to his dyslexia. It wasn’t until he moved to Sacramento from England that he pursued writing. Feeling the stigma of dyslexia, he used his engineering background to teach himself how to write fiction. That was 18 years, 14 books and 150 stories ago. He’s been an Anthony Award winner and a Crime Writers’ Dagger Award finalist. His latest book, Deceptive Practices, tells the story of a woman who is blackmailed and framed for murder by the firm she hired to rough up her cheating husband. Wood’s past includes being a racecar driver, pilot, an oil engineer and an occasional private investigator. He spends his free time as an endurance cyclist and rescuing animals. (


Narda Zacchino is a longtime journalist, writer and editor. She is executive editor of Heyday Books and senior fellow at the Annenberg Center for Communication Leadership and Policy. Her book California Comeback: How a “Failed State” Became a Model for the Nation lays out the history of California’s initial experiments with progressivism, its swing to the right under Reagan, near financial collapse under Schwarzenegger, and recent return to stability and progressive policies. At the Los Angeles Times she was a reporter, government and politics editor, and Sacramento bureau chief. She was deputy editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and editor for the Center for Investigative Reporting. In 1995, she co-created the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which draws more than 100,000 to the University of Southern California campus each April.


Kim Zarins has a Ph.D. in English from Cornell University and teaches medieval literature and children’s literature at Sacramento State University. This background helped her write her debut novel, Sometimes We Tell the Truth, which retells Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with modern teens telling stories on an all-day bus ride to Washington, D.C. She has also published two picture books for very young children and contributed about 30 pieces to various world history magazines. (


Mary Zeppa grew up in Homewood Illinois, but has been a Sacramento resident for four decades. A singer and lyricist as well as a poet and literary journalist, she was one fifth of the A cappella quintet Cherry Fizz for 20 years; more recently, she has performed with the Award-Winning Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet at three Sacramento Poetry Center Jazz & Poetry Live events. Zeppa is currently project manager of the Sacramento Poetry Center/916 Ink/Regional Transit project Poets on Board and co-host of the Third Thursdays at the Central Library poetry series. She is the author of two chapbooks, Little Ship of Blessing and The Battered Bride Overture. Most recently she published her full-length collection, My Body Tells ItsOwn Story. (