Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: WELCOME HOMELESS by Alan Graham

My Lone Star Literary Life review for Easter Sunday was of WELCOME HOMELESS: ONE MAN'S JOURNEY OF DISCOVERING THE MEANING OF HOME (Thomas Nelson) by Alan Graham of Austin's Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

Alan Graham (with Lauren Hall)
Welcome Homeless: One Man’s Journey of Discovering the Meaning of Home
Thomas Nelson
Paperback, 978-0-7180-8655-8, (also available as an e-book, an audio book, and on Audible), 240 pgs., $16.99
March 7, 2017
‘Notice it doesn’t say, “Feed the hungry, unless you think he might just have the munchies … Or, “Clothe the naked, unless he doth get drunk on Jack Daniel’s.”’
Alan Graham was struck by inspiration in 1998: food trucks. He envisioned a truck to feed Austin’s homeless where they live. Graham recruited five friends (the “six-pack”), and they pooled their money to buy an old catering truck. Inspired by God’s choice of Mary, an impoverished, uneducated peasant, and the example of Francis of Assisi, Graham understood that it’s about “communion through community, and community through connection,” and “bridging the gap between the divinity of God and dignity of man.” New, warm socks and a choice of Popsicle flavors are useful for this.

Some twenty-odd years later, Mobile Loaves & Fishes has served more than five million meals with the help of more than eighteen thousand volunteers. The mission has expanded to include (“Throw your fear away”) Street Retreats during which volunteers live on the streets with the homeless, micro-enterprises that allow the homeless to earn money with dignity, and the Community First! Village that includes not only housing but a grocery store, workshops, a clinic, a playground, and a dog park, among other amenities.

Welcome Homeless: One Man’s Journey of Discovering the Meaning of Home is Alan Graham’s spiritual memoir and autobiography, but more than that it is an explanation of “the gospel con carne,” and a demonstration of Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ philosophical cornerstone of community. Related in an engaging, colloquial style, and filled with gentle, good-natured humor (“It was like something out of a fairy tale, except instead of a Renaissance era king and queen, it was a badass Latino gangster and his wife”), Welcome Homeless is an inspiration and an exhortation to abandon our comfort zones and to attend not just to the passion, but to the compassion, of Jesus.

Believing human connections are meant to be “relational, not transactional,” Graham befriended the homeless men, women, and children on Austin’s streets, and it changed his life and his faith. “It allowed me to have the kind of faith that doesn’t ignore what’s underneath the overpass … behind the back alley … digging in the Dumpsters,” Graham writes. “It allowed me to know a God that doesn’t pretend what’s happening isn’t happening but, rather, is in the Dumpster too.”

Graham sprinkles facts and figures throughout his narrative, and quotes the Didache, C. S. Lewis, and Saint Augustine, but the bulk is comprised of the stories of people he has met. We go Dumpster-diving with J. P. Burris, meet Gordy the Gentle Giant and a transgender Navajo woman who earned a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Texas while living on the street, and follow the ups and downs of the love story of Brük and Robin. The photographic portraits of these individuals are a thoughtful inclusion.

In the introduction to Welcome Homeless, Graham states his goal for the book: He hopes ‘[we] will start to see the great “I AM” in the “least of these.”’ Mission accomplished, Mr. Graham. I laughed aloud, and I wiped away tears. I can’t imagine a better book for this Easter Sunday.

To help out go here: www.mlf.org.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 4/24-30

Bookish events in Texas for the week of April 24-30, 2017: 

Special Events:
National Book Awards Festival, Huntsville, April 24-25

KTX Poetry Slam, Killeen, April 27-28

10th Annual Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival, McAllen, April 27-30

Dionysia 2017 - The Houston Book of the Dead: How to Live, April 27-30

Houston Writer's Guild Annual Spring Conference, April 28-30

Austin Bookstore Crawl, April 29

Dallas Book Festival & Dallas Festival of Ideas (a combined event), April 29

Fort Bend County Literary & Fine Arts Festival & Parade, Katy, April 29

Meet the Author Day, Bryan, April 29

Northeast Texas Writers Organization (NETWO) Writer's Roundup, Pittsburg, April 29

Pflugerville Book Pfestival, April 29

Texas Mountain Trail Writers 25th Annual Spring Retreat, Alpine & Fort Davis, April 29

The Work & Career of Sandra Cisneros Symposium, San Marcus, April 29

El día de los niños, El día de los libros, statewide, April 30

Ongoing Exhibits:
Stories to Tell: Selections from the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, February 6-July 16

The Human Experience: From Texas to the World literacy initiative, Houston, January 18-May 18

The Lost Generation: World War I Poetry, Denton, January 17-May 11

Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites, Fort Worth, January 21-May 7

Sandra Cisneros: A House of Her Own Exhibition, San Marcos, February 15-July 1

EVERYDAY PEOPLE: THE ART OF JAMES E. RANSOME (a National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature exhibition), Abilene, March 9-May 19

Poet-Trees on Buffalo Bayou, Houston, April 1-30

Monday, April 24:
Abilene Public Library, Texas Author Series: Mike Cox will discuss Texas Disasters, 12PM

B&N - The Homestead, Business Boutique: A Woman's Guide for Making Money Doing What She Loves book signing with Christy Wright, 6PM

BookPeople, Founder of Whole Foods Market JOHN MACKEY speaking & signing The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity, 7PM

B&N - Lincoln Park, Brandon Mull to Discuss and Sign Dragonwatch, 7PM

I Love U A-Latte, Grand opening of the LitXPro Little Library! (with Reunion: The Dallas Review), 7:30PM

SMU - Hughes-Trigg, "Is Cyberwar Coming?" with Jon R. Lindsay, author of China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain, 5:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, Adam Bray discusses and signs STAR WARS: THE VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Karen White will sign and discuss The Night the Lights Went Out, 6:30PM
The Korova, PuroSlam!, 10PM

Wednesday, April 26:

Warwick Melrose Hotel, DFW World Affairs Council hosts George Friedman, author of The Next Decade: What the World Will Look Like, 5:30PM

Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Slam, 7:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, Bianca Bosker discusses and signs CORK DORK, 7PM

San Antonio

Thursday, April 27:
BookPeople, BRIAN MCGREEVY speaking & signing The Lights, 7PM

Malvern Books, an evening with myth-maker and storyteller William Kuko, 7PM

Mr. Catfish & More, NeoSoul Poetry ATX, 8PM


Fort Worth
Half Price Books - Ridgmar, Adrienne Kress signs The Explorers: The Door in the Alley, 6PM



El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Mind Breaths" with Richie David Marrufo, 12:45PM

Rock House Cafe and Gallery, National Poetry Month reading: BorderSenses Presents The Barbed Wire Open Mic Series featuring Poets from the Tumblewords Project, 8PM

Alley Theatre, Glasstire OFF ROAD hosts a conversation between photographer Catherine Opie and writer Eileen Myles, 4PM

B&N - Westheimer, Steve Copling signs Sage Alexander and the Hall of Nightmares, 2PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, 4th Annual Indie Bookstore Day Celebration with giveaways & CAKE, 9:30AM

Brazos Bookstore, Special story time, WITS, Summer of Austen, & drunk coloring for 4th Annual Independent Bookstore Day, 12PM

Sugar Land
Half Price Books, local author Marie Abega will sell and sign My Self Love Book: I am Beautiful Inside & Out, 1PM

Sunday, April 30:
San Antonio
Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, Stone In the Stream: Haiku walk and writing, 12PM

SAY Si, Voices and Vibes featuring Amanda Flores, 11AM

The Twig Book Shop, Tracey Mash discusses and signs Morning Glories, 11AM

The Twig Book Shop, Dr. Vernon James discusses and signs A Child is Waiting, 4PM

San Marcos

Sunday, April 23, 2017


An FBI Task Force Novel, Book 2
By DiAnn Mills

  Genre: Contemporary / Mystery / Christian
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Date of Publication: April 4, 2017
Number of Pages: 413

Scroll down for Giveaway!

A pacemaker should have saved oil and gas magnate Nathan Moore’s life. Instead, it provided his killer with a seemingly perfect means of execution.
A bombing at one of Nathan’s oil rigs days earlier indicates his death could be part of a bigger conspiracy, a web Special Agent Tori Templeton must untangle. But her first order of business is separating the personal from the professional—the victim’s wife, her best friend, is one of the FBI’s prime suspects.
Clearing Sally’s name may be the biggest challenge of her career, but Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer—and to each other—the more intent someone is on silencing them for good.

Watch the book trailer!

Praise for Deep Extraction
“Combined with intense action and stunning twists, this search for truth keeps readers on the edges of their favorite reading chairs.”  Romantic Times

“Mills many fans will devour” Library Journal

Goodreads readers praise Deep Extraction:

“This was truly an amazing, suspenseful read that can be held up as an example of what good Christian suspense should be.”

“DiAnn Mills' writing is evocative of an excellent crime show. Sharp and to the point. Just how I imagine law enforcement work, think and talk.”

“Mills' has captured the rush of adrenaline along with a good romance. Suspense and adventure are the real stars of this book. Her motto is, "Expect an Adventure," and she achieves it in this book.”

Excerpt: Deep Extraction
Chapter 1, Part 1

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN while the dead slept. Which was why some would say a woman shouldn’t tread alone through a cemetery at 2:55 on a Tuesday morning in April. But possible danger had never stopped Houston FBI Special Agent Tori Templeton, especially when her mind marched with determination. Her body refused to give in to rest, but it wasn’t a violent crime robbing her of sleep.
The worn path below a black sky ended at Kevin’s gravesite. She was here to visit the one person who could help her make sense of a puzzling world.
Tonight, like many nights in the past, she made her way to Kevin’s final resting place to talk to him about work, life, problems, and victories. Maybe someday she’d figure out his intrigue with God.
Her brother. Her friend. The one she looked up to and treasured.
Tori didn’t stalk a cemetery because of some superstition that he lay beneath a marble stone and could communicate with her. She visited the site because it signified peace. Maybe by a weird osmosis, she’d find what had given Kevin strength. She wanted to believe he lived pain-free with his God. No cancer. No side effects of chemo and radiation. An eternal home with a God he embraced tighter than life. At least he’d claimed those beliefs before he breathed his last.
 “Special Agent Templeton?” At the sound of the voice, a twinge of annoyance filled her spirit. The man greeting her was a friend, except she wanted to be alone. No need to face him. “Yes, Officer Richards.”
“Saw your car, thought I’d check on you.”
“I’m a creature of habit.”
“I noticed. Nothing’s stirring, so I’ll leave you to your thoughts.” The sadness in his voice drew up a well of compassion, and she turned to him. “Wait. How’s your family?” The man walked the graveyard shift—literally—and he might need a listening ear more than she should ponder the existence of a good God in a world plagued with unrest.
“The same. Ups and downs mixed with hardheads and love.” He sighed and scanned the area. “Nice night.”
A familiar insect’s call reached her ears. “We have a choir.” She smiled into the shadows, where a light, twenty feet away, illuminated his stocky frame and highlighted his silver-gray hair, giving him a halo effect. She stared above his head at a slice of the moon resting on a canvas of stars.
“Cicadas are to the night as robins are to the day.”
“Well stated,” she said. “I never pay attention to them until it’s dark and quiet.” She brushed aside a leaf on Kevin’s gravestone. “We haven’t talked in over a week. Did your son join the Navy?”
“Yes. A good choice. I pray he learns discipline and respect for himself and others.” He said the pray word. Not what she wanted to hear, and she drew in a breath. “Your daughter?”
“Agreed to rehab. Another prayer answered.”
Kevin had used the same language, and look where it got him. Was her brother’s confidence in a divine being a way to endure the devastation of cancer? A crutch in the midst of excruciating pain? Always the same questions as she searched for the why of tragedies.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

   April 20-May4, 2017 

Guest Post: 4 Agencies You Didn’t Know Worked With the FBI
Excerpt: Chapter 1, Part 1
Guest Post: 4 Ways the FBI Assists Other Agencies
Guest Post: 6 Ways the FBI Investigates a Potential Threat
Guest Post: 9 Crimes the FBI Investigates
Guest Post: 10 Ways to Show Character Growth and Change
Guest Post: 10 Ways to Show You're a Strong Woman
Excerpt: Chapter 1, Part 2


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"What really happened to Jimmy?" Deleted Scene from THE GRAVE TENDER by Eliza Maxwell

By Eliza Maxwell

  Genre: Women’s Fiction / Psychological Suspense
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication: April 11, 2017
Number of Pages: 248

Scroll down for Giveaway!

A chilling psychological suspense novel, The Grave Tender explores the dark boundaries people cross to save loved ones, and the limits of family bonds tested by the deepest of betrayals.

Endless questions from a shadow-filled East Texas childhood haunt Hadley Dixon. People said her mother, Winnie, was never quite right, but with one single, irreparable act, life as Hadley knew it was shattered. The aftershocks of that moonlit night left her reeling, but the secrets and lies had started long before.

When a widowed and pregnant Hadley returns years later, it’s not the safe harbor she expects. The mysteries surrounding a local boy’s disappearance remain, and the townspeople still whisper about Hadley’s strange and reclusive Uncle Eli—whispers about a monster in their midst.

But Hadley’s father and grandmother, the cornerstones of everything safe in her world, avoid her questions. If Hadley stays here, will she be giving her children the family they need or putting their lives in danger?

The hunt for answers takes a determined Hadley deep into the pine forests, in search of sunlight that will break through the canopy of lies long enough to reveal the truth.

"The Grave Tender will grasp you in its hooks from the beginning as you try to figure out the truth behind each character, because no one is truly what they seem ... Addicting, easy to read, and hard to put down." - Shelbi LeMeilleur, Insite Magazine

* * *

"What really happened to Jimmy?"


One of the questions I'm asked most often regarding The Grave Tender has to do with Hadley's husband Jimmy.  He's dead in the book by the time we meet grown-up Hadley, but other than a brief reference to having lost him long before, he's been mostly swept away with the scraps left by the editing knife.  This is a scene that didn't quite make it into the final version, for those who can't help but wonder . . .

It was the perfume that gave Jimmy away.  Hadley favored citrusy scents that hinted of springtime and sunny days.  But this was a deeper, velvety aroma that wrapped itself around her husband, trailing an invisible silken ribbon from him, out the door and into the night.

That ribbon was a noose around the neck of her marriage.  Hadley lay awake the night she first smelled the perfume of another woman on Jimmy.  She ran through the possibilities in her mind.  None of them were good.

Hadley wished she were the kind of woman who could lie to herself.  It would be easier if she could set it aside and pretend for all the world like everything was fine, if only for Kate's sake.  But for Hadley, truth was truth.  It could be colored by feelings and interpretations, but feelings didn't change the facts.  She didn't have a secret closet in her mind where she could throw the things she didn't want company to see, slamming the door on them before they had a chance to escape, then go about her business, pretending they didn't exist.

Hadley waited two days, until they had the small apartment to themselves.  Kate was at a friend's house.  She’d be back in an hour.

     “Tell me Jimmy, was it worth it?  Was she worth losing your family for?”

Jimmy wasn’t facing Hadley when she spoke, but he went still.  He looked like a man who’d been sleepwalking and wandered onto a frozen lake without knowing it.  The ground was cracking around his feet.

Any doubts Hadley might have been holding onto were wiped away.  Slowly he turned around, afraid to make any sudden moves.

     “What are you talking about Hadley?” he said, but she could hear the panic just under the surface.

     “Save it Jimmy,” she said quietly, then turned and walked away, shutting their bedroom door behind her.

She tried to stop her heart from breaking, but it was too late.  The damage was done.  She wanted to scream, to throw things, to lash out at Jimmy for doing this unforgiveable thing to her.  And to Kate.

     Oh God, Kate will never understand.
     Hadley thought of her own mother. 
     No, she thought.  I will not do this.  Not this way.

When Jimmy opened the door, she was sitting on the edge of their bed, fighting to be more than her emotions wanted her to be.

     “Hadley, I swear… it was nothing.  She didn’t mean anything…”  He trailed off, looking like a man who knew he was drowning and was powerless to stop himself.

     “Jimmy, if you’re trying to make me feel better, that’s not the way.”

     “It was one time, Hadley.”  He was flailing.  His head was going under.

     “I don’t think you understand, Jimmy,” she said, shaking her head.  “It’s not about that.  It’s about trust.  I’ll never know.  I’ll always wonder if you’re lying.  And besides, once is enough.”

There were women out there who would do anything to keep their marriage together.  Women who defined themselves as a wife, their identities hopelessly tangled up in the idea that their husband completed them in a way that made them somehow less without him.  But Hadley knew who she was, and who she wasn't.  And she wasn't a woman who stayed married to a man she couldn't trust. 

The next day, Hadley contacted a lawyer to start divorce proceedings.  The day after that Jimmy left for his scheduled fourteen days on the off-shore rig that operated in the Gulf of Mexico, hoping when he returned they might be able to work things out.

But Jimmy never had the chance.  Nature decided to take that decision out of Hadley's hands.  On the twelfth day of his fourteen-day run, a storm came howling through the Gulf of Mexico, bringing an angry fury to bear on everything in her path.

The crew of the Diamondback rig was prepared for the storm.  Operations had stopped and the rig was well secured to ride it out.  Off-shore drilling was a dangerous job, but it still came as a shock when the reports came back.  Calvin Miller and Jimmy Bell had gone off the platform into the ocean that day.  There shouldn't have been workers on the platform at all.  It was a death wish.  And yet, the two men went in.  Calvin alone came back out. 

People said he was a lucky man, and he was.  He was lucky to be alive.  Lucky to be able to return home to his new bride Rebecca, who was a spectacularly beautiful young woman.  A young woman who favored a rather expensive perfume that smelled the way velvet feels against your skin.

Eliza Maxwell lives in Texas with her ever patient husband, two impatient kids, a budgie named Sarah, and a bird dog who lives a tortured existence.  She’s an artist and writer, an introvert and a British cop drama addict.  A former bookseller with a lifelong love of the written word, she can often be found barefoot on the front porch lost in a good cup of coffee and a great book.
Grand Prize:The Bookworm Basket ($150 Value)
Signed paperback copy of THE GRAVE TENDER
$50 Amazon gift card
Plush decorative throw blanket (Smoke Grey)
Greatest opening lines of literature coffee mug
Taste of Texas Coffee variety pack
Ferrero Rocher Gift Cube
Library card socks
Paperback copy of THE LIFE WE BURY by Allen Eskens
Paperback copy of SISTERS ONE, TWO, THREE by Nancy Star
1st & 2nd Runners-Up:
Signed paperback copy of THE GRAVE TENDER
 (U.S. Only)

Book Trailer
Author Interview
Deleted Scene

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