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Our Community Focus

2017 Author Spotlight

The Community Focus Proudly Presents Local Authors

By Sabrina Marshall

Diane Lang

When not spending her time volunteering at wildlife centers across the Bay Area, Diane Lang is writing about some of our more “overlooked” friends in nature. In her children’s book Vulture Verses, Lang hopes to connect children to the wilder side of life through poem and rhymes, with illustrations by Lauren Gallegos. From the titular creature (vultures) to slithering snakes, the book teaches children why these animals are so important to our world in an easy to understand fashion. Several encounters during her time as a volunteer educator inspired this book, including a conversation with a visitor who remarked that perhaps turkey vultures weren’t so ugly after all. “The more we understand, the more we appreciate,” said Lang.

In addition to Vulture Verses, Lang has a new book out this year, entitled Daytime, Nighttime, All Though the Year, which summarizes the life of nocturnal animals, month-by-month, to “showcase the various animals through the seasons.” The book appeals to kids around 4-6 years old, as animals such as bears and porcupines are described in simple verse with detailed illustrations.

Lang has always loved animals and used to raise guide dog puppies. She has also rescued tortoises and tarantulas! However, it wasn’t until her volunteer work that she realized how much she wanted to teach others, especially kids, about the wonders of the animal kingdom. “In my role with children, I want them to realize that cool stuff is happening right where they live,” said Lang, “not just in far-off places like Africa.”

Her new book, Daytime, Nighttime, All Through the Year, should be available alongside Vulture Verses in many bookstores as well as online, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She also has a variety of learning activities posted on her website,


Richard L. Wren

After working with an insurance company for 61 years, Richard L. Wren proves there’s no wrong time to pursue your dreams. At age 82 he started writing his first fiction novel, Casey’s Slip, after being inspired by the stories he told his daughters when they were children. “My stories are designed for pure entertainment,” said Wren on his website. “I do not have a whole story in mind when I start. I let the story develop itself, just as life does.“ In fact, all of his fiction novels draw from Wren’s personal experiences. For instance, his second and third novels, Joshua’s Revenge and Justice for Joshua, revolve around a world-class martial artist, not unlike one of his daughters, who is approaching her black belt in Chinese Martial Arts. In addition, these books feature locations Wren is quite familiar with such as San Francisco’s Chinatown and downtown Oakland. Casey’s Slip features a “Hell’s Angel” type protagonist operating in Oakland’s marina, reminiscent of Wren’s friend who is still a part of Hell’s Angels. The novel’s sequel, Murder Made Legal, deals with the police and court system in Oakland, where his son is a real-life detective for the Oakland PD.

In addition to these two series, Wren has also authored a booklet entitled Self-Publishing: It Ain’t Rocket Science, about how to motivate yourself to write and get your writing published. Featuring helpful, hopeful, and straightforward tips on navigating the online world of publishing, it’s short and to the point. “ A great example of someone who has reinvented himself and his career,” according to his website, Wren is definitely someone writers old and young can aspire to, and his booklet is the perfect place to start following in his footsteps. All of Wren’s works are available online with Amazon, and most of his works can be found in bookstores like Barnes & Noble.


Merci Martin & Wanda Bishop

Designed to enlighten children about the wonders of the Oak Woodlands of California, Merci Martin and Wanda Bishop’s new book, The Crow and the Earthquake, explains the natural phenomena of earthquakes from the perspective of California’s native wildlife. Rather than cause children to fear the rumbling of the earth, the authors hope to explain them along with their after effects through easy to understand dialogue between characters. The California condor is an atypical main character for a children’s book, as is the topic of earthquakes, but they educate children in an unusual way.

As for the authors themselves, Martin and Bishop both have experience as educators for younger children and reside in the Bay Area, Martinez and Walnut, Creek, respectively. Martin describes herself as a “keen observer, lover, and protector of our natural world,” whereas Bishop works as a museum director and has designed natural history classes for preschools. They both visit classrooms and give stimulating talks to children about Crow and the book’s cast of characters. This book is actually the second in their series, California Tales That Teach, following The Crow and the Feather.

The Crow and the Earthquake can be found online and in stores across multiple retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Cupola Press.


Deborah Lee Rose

Rather than fill a book with facts and figures, Deborah Lee Rose wanted to tell kids a true story about how science, nature, and technology can work together for the betterment of others. In her book Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle, Rose details how an American bald eagle named Beauty received a fully 3D printed prosthetic beak after being found in Alaska with her upper beak missing. The book follows Beauty from birth, detailing what was discovered about her life up until losing her beak and the amazing scientific feat that helped her survive. Focusing mainly on the beak, Rose worked on this book with raptor biologist Janie Veltkamp, who brought Beauty in for her new beak, to give incredible details on the prototypes, testing, and eventual surgery. Brilliant photographs compliment Rose’s words, giving children a reading experience unlike any other, plus it features educational guides, key word definitions, and STEM activity downloads, seamlessly merging story with scholastic standards.

Award winning and internationally published, Rose has written several other children’s books, including Jimmy the Joey, about a koala rescue. She commonly writes with the intention of providing children with an educational story and science class prep - not surprisingly after she helped create and direct communications for the STEM website In addition to her literary works, Rose was also once the director of communications for the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek.

Rose’s book is available at Barnes & Noble and online at a variety of sites, including Amazon and Cornell Lab Publishing Group.


Matt Kirkland
Matt grew up in Pittsburg and is a self-taught artist. He currently lives in Martinez with his wife, daughter, dog, cat and five chickens. He has written and illustrated two children's books, The Traveling Dinosaur Pals and Evelynn and the Eleven Elephants.

 The Traveling Dinosaur Pals is a children's book that features bright and colorful pictures that tell the story of a group of dinosaur friends traveling on their way to a birthday party. Each dinosaur comes from a different place and has a different way of traveling. Children will love the pictures of dinosaurs driving cars, riding motorcycles, roller skating and more! 

Evelynn and the Eleven Elephants is a fun and colorful children's book that follows Evelynn as she looks for her eleven elephant friends. Each one has a favorite activity and she must find them all! Children will love the rhyming story and the visually striking pictures on each page.

Both books are perfect for children ages 2 to 5, and they make great gifts for birthdays and Christmas, or just because.

You can find Kirkland’s books at White Rabbit Boutique, 529 Main Street, Martinez, Barnes & Noble, and online at ETSY and Amazon.

Shadow of the Mountain Writers Guild
Intended to entertain, inform and challenge the imagination, the anthology titled Insight, Hindsight and Flights of Fancy offers a great read.  In fact, several terrific reads. The stories appeal to almost every reader and inquirer.  By reading the stories in the volume, you will discover the inside voices of the authors and develop the uncharted areas of your mind.

The eleven local authors who produced the anthology have been growing together as writers for ten-plus years and call their group the Shadow of the Mountain Writers Guild. They have helped each other develop fun, poignant and provocative stories in quality fashion.  They published their first anthology of stories in 2014 under the title Tremors: Short Fiction by California Writers. 

Insight, Hindsight and Flights of Fancy will be available on Amazon (paperback and e-book) and in multiple retailers by mid-spring 2018. Tremors: Short Fiction by California Writers can be found at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.