How I Got to Be Queen GREG SARRIS, Like the characters in this story, Greg Sarris lived on Grand Avenue in the roughest section of Santa Rosa. Part American Indian, Filipino and Jewish, Sarris was a foster child and a gang member who became a professor of English at UCLA and the elected chief of a Coast Miwok tribe. A book of his essays, "Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts," was published recently by the University of California Press, and his biography of Mabel McKay, a Pomo medicine woman, inaugurates the UC Press American Geniuses series in 1994. But Sarris says fiction is his first love: "So often my people fight the dark with alcohol, drugs, violence. I'm trying to light it with my stories." "How I Got to Be Queen" will be included in a collection of Sarris' short stories, "Grand Avenue," due in 1994 from Hyperion
The Kite Messenger ERNEST J. FINNEY, Avery, who narrates "The Kite Messenger," is one of four characters whose lives connect in Ernest J. Finney's new novel, "Words of My Roaring." The book is set in 1943 in the town of San Bruno just south of San Francisco, and at its heart, says Finney, is the interplay of the accidental and the intentional. "All of us meet instances which call on us to respond with honor, with courage, with grace. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we do it right. Avery survives, but he commits an act of betrayal that haunts him all his life." Finney, who grew up in San Mateo County and now lives in the San Joaquin Valley with his wife, is the author of three previous novels; his short story "Peacocks" received the 1989 O. Henry Memorial Award first prize. "Words of My Roaring," published this month by Crown Publishers Inc., has been excerpted by permission
Insect Aside Will Baker, Will Baker says that his short stories, criticism and novels usually take place "in real-life territory." "Insect Aside," however, is a chapter in his latest novel, "Shadow Hunter," an eco-sci-fi "speculative" adventure set in the 22nd Century. In the book, Baker, an English professor at UC Davis for 24 years, acknowledges generations of students "who persistently ignored my prejudices against the fantastical and outlandish . . . and thus tempted me into writing such a book." Raised in Idaho, Baker now lives on a 13-acre farm 40 miles from Davis with his wife and two children. "Shadow Hunter," published this month by Pocket Books, has been excerpted by permission
James Was Here ELIZABETH TALLENT, Elizabeth Tallent wrote "James Was Here," she says, because she was "really interested in that sense of American maleness connected to the West and with the prerogatives of maleness that are no longer right. It matters that 'James' takes place in Santa Fe; it's not New York City." Tallent, who teaches English and writing at UC Davis, moved to Northern California four years ago and now lives in Little River near Mendocino. Her third collection of stories, "Honey," which includes "James," will be out in November from Knopf. "It's very much New Mexico, about the nature of intrusion," she says. "I was thinking a lot about boundaries and metaphors for that. It's about relationships, about people who were immigrants and about really adult compromises."