By Chris T. Wilson
The Ojai Art Center Literary Branch is continuing its tradition of bringing local authors and their works to the attention and bookshelves of the community with a new love story.
Novelist Laurence Shames will read from and answer questions about his new e-book, "The Angels Share," on June 4 in the Art Center Theater.
A few things set "The Angel's Share" apart from other works by Shames. This is his first novel set in California.
"My other novels have been set in Florida," Shames said. "I've lived in Ojai for the past 13 years now, and people have asked me many times when I'll base a book in Ojai. With this book, I'm flirting with getting closer.”
Based in Santa Barbara and the nearby wine country, the romantic comedy combines and intertwines three love stories, Shames said.
Another foray the book takes into new territory for Shames is setting a portion of the story in the afterlife.
"The great part of inventing what happens after we die is that it can be whatever you want it to be,Ó Shames said. "No one can tell you that you got it wrong, because no one knows. An important element of the story is that the people who have died still remain in the lives of the people living on Earth.”
One "Angel's Share” character is a winemaker, Shames noted on his newly created blog: laurenceshames.com/blog.
"The title comes from an expression that winemakers use to describe the part of their vintage that is lost to evaporation through pores in the barrels,” Shames blogged. "The hopeful suggestion is that — like much seemingly futile human effort — the lost wine doesn't really go to waste. Its vapors ascend for the enjoyment of the angels.”
And further, Shames said that the angels in the book aren't the sort with wings and harps, but rather entities from beyond sharing their wisdom learned in their own lives with people still struggling with life on Earth.
For now, Shames has chosen to only offer the book in electronic format, which is an adaptation he has made to the ever-changing world of publishing. While he has been publishing novels since 1992 and has developed a core group of fans, he will wait to see how the book sells as an e-book and wait to hear the reaction from his readers before exploring publishing "Angel's Share” in a print edition.
"It's shocking how quickly the market has changed," Shames said. "I would love for there to be a print edition, but I know a lot of people who have published books in print form and they usually end up losing money and having a garage full of their own book. I don't aspire to that."
The book is available as a $2.99 download for the Kindle e-reader from Amazon and for the Nook e-reader through Barnes & Noble.
Liz Grumette, who chairs the Literary Branch for the Art Center, said she has really admired Shames" writings in the past, and "Angel's Share” delivers. Grumette noted that Shames drew a good crowd when he presented at the Art Center three years ago.
"I read his graceful new novel with unusual pleasure,” Grumette stated. "Im delighted that our Art Center audience will have a chance to hear him read and talk about how it came to be written, and tell us about the writing process.”
The event is offered at a suggested donation of $5 and is open to the public. It takes place Monday at 7 p.m. in the Art Center Theater, 113 S. Montgomery St. in downtown Ojai. Learn more by visiting ojaiartcenter.org and laurenceshames.com.