Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Roundup! June 30 - July 6

Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 30 - July 6, 2014:

BookpeopleFormer Houston Mayor BILL WHITE speaking & signing America's Fiscal Constitution: It's Triumph & Collapse, 7PM

Monkeywrench BooksAustin Anarchist Study Group, 7PM

Brazos BookstoreDavid Berg - RUN, BROTHER, RUN, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Chevy Stevens - That Night, 6:30 PM

Tuesday, July 1:
Every Tuesday night at Spiderhouse, poetry, score cards and cash prizes come together for an evening of competitive art.

UMLAUF SCULPTURE GARDEN AND MUSEUM, release party of Dr. Katie Robinson Edwards' Midcentury Modern Art in Texas, 6PM

Murder By the BookJacqueline Winspear will sign and discuss her new stand-alone The Care and Management of Lies, 6:30PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, Sun Poets' Society Open Mic Poetry, 7PM

The Woodlands
B&N - The Woodlands Mall, Taffi DollarEmbracing the Love God Wants You to Have A Life of Peace, Joy, and Victory, 7PM

Thursday, July 3:
Saturday, July 5:

Crow Collection of Asian Art, The Writer's GarretAdventure Asia Family Days: a family/community program which uses poetry and flash fiction to explore and interpret current exhibits, Join Writers in Neighborhoods & Schools (WINS), local writer Robin Turner, and writer/artist Barbara Lee in the Jade Room for a creative writing experience that is "Beyond Words"!, 12PM

Nasher Sculpture Center, The Writer's Garret - Come join Writers in Neighborhoods & Schools (WINS) for "Target First Saturdays," a family/community program (sponsored by Target) which uses poetry and flash fiction to explore and interpret current exhibits, with Lisa Huffaker, 12PM

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen, Confederation of Monsters: The Ambassador's Apprentice by David Harrell, 1PM

San Antonio
B&N - La Cantera, John M. Manguso signs “San Antonio in the Great War,” a new book in the Images of America series, 7PM

Viva! BookstoreBook Signing: I Choose Joy by Nancy S. Kellner, 1PM

South Padre Island

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Amado Women

The Amado Women, Désireé Zamorano 
$16.95, 234 pgs
So this is what I thought that night...I thought, I will not sleep through my life. I am going to live it awake. - Mercy Amado
forgiveness - synonyms: pardon, absolution, exoneration, remission, dispensation, indulgence, clemency, mercy

Our cast:

Mercedes (Mercy) Amado – divorced mother of three, grandmother, teacher

Celeste Amado – eldest daughter, divorced, investment manager, borderline (?) alcoholic

Sylvia Amado Levine – middle child, married mother of two, housewife, Russian lit expert

Nataly Amado – youngest daughter, single, textile artist, bohemian

One of the remarkable things about The Amado Women by Désireé Zamorano is that it is indistinguished. No no no, hold on – allow me to explain. From the above cast descriptions you cannot know the ethnic backgrounds of these women. Their backgrounds could be Italian, Albanian, Egyptian, Welsh. It strikes me as ridiculous in the year 2014 to feel the need to say this: These ladies are Latinas and yet not one lives in the barrio; there are no maids, no chicken-plucking line workers, no yardmen, no halting English or standing around in parks or on street corners waiting for work. They are vibrant women living in California in the twenty-first century – suburbia, Silicon Valley, metropolitan Los Angeles. No one should have to point this out this late in the game: The Amado women are simply, and complexly, American. The lack of stereotypes frees them to just be human and that is such a relief, que no?

Our story begins with a mystery and a crime. Sylvia’s 10-year marriage is falling apart – no, actually it’s being ripped apart and stomped on. Her husband Jack is a successful attorney with all the trappings: McMansion, Ralph Lauren socks, inappropriate landscaping. But Sylvia has discovered that they’re practically broke. What has Jack done with all of their money? That’s the mystery. The crime is that Sylvia (and one of the children) is being stomped on, quite literally, by Jack. Sylvia collects all of the financial paperwork she can find, the clues to the mystery, and sends it to her sister Celeste, the investment manager. Celeste will be able to solve the mystery and track down the missing funds. Except that the brilliant, prudent, and skillful Celeste can’t – the money has disappeared without a trace. There’s no trail to follow and this is the worst clue of all because “…In Celeste’s business, missing money meant addiction: drugs, sex, gambling.”

Désireé  Zamorano
The Amado Women is well-plotted and skillfully paced. Désireé  Zamorano is accomplished at creating atmosphere, especially the menace radiating from Jack. There’s a sexual assault scene between husband and wife that had me shrinking in my chair – the scene powerful enough to evoke self-preservation, instinctively making myself a smaller target. As talented as she is at atmospherics, Ms. Zamorano’s triumph is her characters and her portrayal of the individual histories that converge to form tangled family relationships. In the face of tragedy and the turmoil of the aftermath, these four very different women must come together to form a united whole. Can they do it? This will require forgiveness from each to the other but first, and possibly more difficult, they will have to forgive themselves. 

Désireé Zamorano is a playwright, Pushcart Prize nominee for fiction, and the director of the Community Literacy Center at Occidental College. She also collaborates with InsideOut Writers, a program that works with formerly incarcerated youth.

Welcome Ethiopia!

This morning it is my privilege to welcome Ethiopia to Texasbooklover. Enkuan dehna metu!

Fun facts:

Ethiopia is the country where coffee was first discovered. It was first noticed by a shepherd named Kaldi, whose goats became so spirited after eating berries from a certain tree that they wouldn't sleep at night. The word coffee itself is considered borrowed from the southern Ethiopian lands of Kaffa.

Addis Ababa, the capital, is the highest city in Africa at 8,200 feet.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Roundup June 23-29!

Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 23 - 29, 2014:

Special Events:


ApolloCon 2014, Presented by Houston Science Fiction Association (HSFA) at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston - Intercontinental Airport, June 27-29

Monday, June 23:
Bookpeople, MysteryPeople Presents Debut Novelist NEELY TUCKER speaking & signing The Ways of the Dead, 7PM

Monkeywrench BooksAustin Anarchist Study Group, 7PM

Brazos BookstoreAntonya Nelson - FUNNY ONCE: STORIES, 7PM

Tuesday, June 24:
BookPeople, Bestselling Author GRAEME SIMSION speaking & signing The Rosie Project, 7PM

Monkeywrench Books, Collective Meeting, 8PM

Spider House Cafe & BallroomAustin Poetry Slam, 8PM
Every Tuesday night at Spiderhouse, poetry, score cards and cash prizes come together for an evening of competitive art.

First United Methodist Church of Dallas, DMA Arts & Letters Live: Diana Gabaldon - "Word-of-Mouth Phenomenon," Gabaldon will discuss the highly anticipated eighth book in the Outlander series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, 7:30PM

Brazos BookstoreE.R. Bills - THE 1910 SLOCUM MASSACRE, 7PM

San Antonio
B&N, San Pedro, Sun Poets' Society Open Mic Poetry, 7PM

The Twig Book ShopRichard Whitmire - On The Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools Are Pushing The Envelope, 4:30PM

B&N - Baybrook II, Poetry Reading and Open Mic, 7:30PM

Wednesday, June 25:
BookPeople, MysteryPeople Film Series: DOUBLE INDEMNITY, 6PM

BookPeople, Acclaimed Author LISA HOWORTH speaking & signing Flying Shoes, 7PM

Malvern Books, W. Joe’s Poetry Corner Presents Poetry Karaoke!, 7PM

Highland Park United Methodist Church, Karin Slaughter will discuss Cop Town, 7PM

El Paso
Eloise, Bobby Byrd will read from Otherwise My Life is Ordinary, 6:30PM


AvantGarden, Write About Now Poetry presents: SUMMER LOVIN SLAM!, 7:30PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Graeme Simsion will discuss and sign his debut novel, THE ROSIE PROJECT, 7PM

Katy Budget Books, New Adult author K.A. Tucker signs Five Ways to Fall, the fourth book in her Ten Tiny Breaths series, 6PM

BookPeople, Edgar Award-winning Author Megan Abbott speaking and signing The Fever and Shamus Award-winning Author Alison Gaylin speaking and signing Stay with Me, 7PM

BookwomanDr. Jackie Smith Speaking & Signing STARTING POINT, 7PM

Malvern Books, launch of All the Unspeakable Things, a collection of poetry and shorter pieces by Marty Lloyd Woldman, 7PM

North Oak Cliff Branch Library, Alan Elliot will discuss Legendary Locals of Oak Cliff, 6:30PM 

University Park Public Library, Listen UP! Summer Author Series - Graeme Simsion, the author of The Rosie Project, 7PM


Murder by the BookMatthew Palmer will sign and discuss his debut thriller The American Mission, 6:30PM

River Oaks BookstoreKatie Clark & Sarah Wynne - River Royals, 4PM

Irving Central Library, Karen Harrington, Polly Holyoke, Jeramey Kraatz and Claire Legrand will participate in the Spark Your Imagination Middle Grade Author Panel, 7PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, Leila Meacham Discussion and Signing - Somerset, 2:30PM

Friday, June 27:
BookPeopleYA PANEL EVENT! featuring: LINDSAY CUMMINGS with The Murder Complex, JULIE MURPHY with Side Effects May Vary, JENNIFER MATHIEU with The Truth About Alice, and KRISTIN RAE with Wish You Were Italian, 7PM

Malvern Books, Hard Side of the Big Easy: Crime Noir and Katrina with Tom Zigal and Rod Davis, 6:30PM

The French Room at The Adolphus, Meryl Gordon will discuss The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark, 11:30AM [sold out - email constant to be placed on the waiting list]

South Dallas Cultural Center, “Queerly Speaking: The Rainbow in Our Clouds” will pay homage to Dr. Maya Angelou through songs, poems and movement. This is an open-mic event so feel free to share your favorite piece of work by or about this Phenomenal Woman, 9PM
Murder by the Book, Ingrid Thoft will sign and discuss her second book, Identity, 6:30PM

Saturday, June 28:

B&N - Sunset Valley, Book Signing With Fantasy Author KristaLyn Vetovich - Pure Fyre, 1PM

BookPeople, MysteryPeople Presents Award-winning Author MEG GARDINER speaking & signing Phantom Instinct, 4PM

B&N - Parkdale Mall, Rob Riggs Author Signing - Bigfoot: Exploring the Myth & Discovering the Truth, 1PM

The Wild Detectives, poetry reading by the Grub Street Grackle and friends, 3PM

The Wild Detectives, Backyard Show with Rachel Kate, Raymond Weyandt and the Lonely Solos, and Christian Lee Hutson, 7PM

El Paso
B&N - Fountains at Farah, Phillip Cortez Author Signing - When I Close My Eyes, 2PM

Galveston BookshopAndrew W. Hall signing his newest local history book, Civil War Blockade Running on the Texas Coast, 2PM

Murder by the BookWendy Tyson will sign and discuss Killer Image, 12PM

B&N - Vista Ridge Village, Adventures of the Church-Lady Gang a Conspiracy of Crones by George Arnold, 1PM

Half Price Books, author Thomas McDonald will sell and sign his book, Daydreams of a Country Boy, 12PM

B&N, Author James Logan Harben Signing Come, Elysium: Miracle at Maydee, 11AM

B&N - Preston/Park, Matthew White: Let the Wolf Howl, 1PM

South Padre Island

B&N - Golden Triangle Mall, Author Nick Adams: The American Boomerang How the World's Greatest 'Turnaround' Nation Will Do It Again, 2PM


Friday, June 20, 2014

Carnal Acts

Carnal Acts, Sam Alexander
Arcadia Books
$26, 423 pgs

Carnal Acts by Sam Alexander (#WhoIsSamAlexander) has more layers than an onion: prejudice, xenophobia, religion, class privilege, culture clash, misogyny, economics, global politics. It purports to be a thriller - and it is - but as is the modus operandi of Arcadia Books (London), there is so much more to the story.

Detective Inspector Joni Pax is the newest member of the Major Crime Unit of the brand-new Police Force of North East England, transferred from London after almost losing her life in a take-down gone horribly wrong. Heck Rutherford is a veteran of the force and architect of the new unit, recovering from surgery and cancer treatments. On the night of May Sunday, essentially a celebration of Beltane (even if most people no longer know the origins of the party) amid the ancient ruins of Roman walls and the much more recent ruins of defunct heavy-industry in the far north of England, the girls in the brothel have been warned that it'll be a busy night. Suzana, taken from Albania at the age of seventeen, determines that this is her chance and she will escape or die trying. DI Pax chases after Suzana as she crashes out the front door of the brothel, having killed one thug and seriously injured two others, and disappears into the urban blight. The descriptions of this place remind me of Detroit. But I digress.

Meanwhile, Lord and Lady Favon (an unholy marriage of a psychopath and a sociopath) live on their estate (built of slavery and Caribbean sugar) and manipulate the levers of the townspeople, corrupt officials, and professional mob, in a myriad of illegal enterprises running the gamut from merely unsavory to multiple-mortal-sin-evil. As the body count rises, people disappear, multiple sightings of Suzana are reported, and Albanian mafiosi arrive to dispatch anyone mucking up their business interests, all clues begin to point in one direction. Can Pax and Rutherford shut this down before they get shut down themselves?

"Sam Alexander" is a pen name; there's been a big Twitter campaign to guess who the author really is. Rumor has it that the author is actually a well-known and acclaimed British writer of crime novels. Whoever Sam Alexander is, we know from Carnal Acts that his (or her) plotting is intricate and skillful; the pacing is impeccable - the action never flags even though it is rather a long read for a suspense novel. The mix of characters is well balanced and believable; the portrayal of a fairly insular, homogeneous population on the moors of northern England being dragged kicking and screaming into a more egalitarian post-colonial world of porous borders is both touching and maddening. I wanted to hold the hands of half of these characters and coax them along; others I wanted to slap silly. The only quibble I have with Carnal Acts is the uneven dialogue - at times I was laughing aloud at the verbal jousting and at other times I was exasperated by the cliches spouted by the bad guys.

A few words of warning: this book is tough to take at times. The misogyny is breathtaking - I learned a couple of terms for female genitalia that I wish I could unlearn. I also struggled with some of the graphic descriptions of rape in many varied forms, though I ultimately decided that this wasn't gratuitous. Sex-trafficking is a global scourge that must be faced, not something we hide away and pretend does not exist because it embarrasses us or makes us uncomfortable, or, in my case, homicidal. For the facts and to learn what you can do, please check out the Polaris Project, Safe Horizon, or go here for a list of organizations. The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) can be found here. If you need help for yourself or know of someone who needs help, this is a confidential hotline that is staffed 24 hours: 1-888-373-7888.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Antón Mallick Wants To Be Happy

Antón Mallick Wants To Be Happy, Nicolás Casariego
Hispabooks Publishing (Madrid)
$16.99, 353 pgs
Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know. - Ernest Hemingway
Antón Mallick is not happy. In fact, Mr. Mallick is clinically depressed and suffering from anxiety attacks, and for good reason. But he's had "Enough is enough. I don't want to be a pessimist, or a victim, any more. I reject the status of black hole. This notebook, which I address and dedicate to Vidor Mallick [his great-great-great grandfather], inveterate gambler and amateur loan shark, is proof of my will to optimism, that is, my great desire to become a man with a sunny disposition, happy, normal, one of the guys who springs out of bed every morning and has answers for pretty much every single one of life's many questions." Antón Mallick Wants To Be Happy by Nicolás Casariego (translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead) is a tragicomic chronicle of Mr. Mallick's attempts at breaking free from the depression and anxiety that has gripped him for the past year. He seeks the things we all seek - redemption, reconciliation, reckoning, to create some sense from the randomness.

There are clues dropped at irregular intervals as to the cause of Antón's misery but we aren't let in on the secret until about halfway through and it isn't explained to us until much later. By that point the revelation is expected but the details are shocking. This is your first clue: as Antón begins to clean up the mess in his apartment, "...and open all the envelopes, the piles and piles of letters, all the condolences, invitations, bank statements and bills..." Something momentous has absolutely trashed - almost destroyed - this man's life. He has tried to ameliorate and compensate with alcohol, various substances, and women, to no avail. In fact, it's an encounter with one of these women that finally compels him to try to get himself together. She's pregnant and has disappeared; he's the father and has no idea who she is.

His brother Zoltan, a psychologist in Madrid, and his sister Bela, a professor of Spanish literature in the US, are consulted. Zoltan recommends pop-psyche bubblegum-and-Big-Red titles, such as The Psychology of Optimism: Glass Half Empty or Glass Half Full and Your Erroneous Zones: Step-by-Step Advice for Escaping the Trap of Negative Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life. As Antón notes, " would overall be a good thing if these idiots were right and happiness were nothing but a question of personal discipline, of iron will plus agreeable disposition, and if luck had nothing to do with it, nor circumstances, nor genes, nor lack of intelligence, nor a combination of all of the above." Bela's recommendations tend toward philosophical treatises beginning BCE with Epicurus, and including Marcus Aurelius, Rousseau, Lao Tzu, Sun Tzu, Voltaire, and the Bhagavad Ghita. Antón decides that, "I don't want to be Epicurus, nor Seneca, nor Marcus Aurelius, much as I admire them. They're pessimists, the poor bastards, in spite of doing everything humanly possible to mitigate our suffering and achieve a state of quietude. I don't want to die in life..."

Nicolás Casariego
Antón Mallick Wants To Be Happy is a delightful, almost perfect balance of comedy and tragedy, pop culture and philosophy, the banal and the transcendent. The author, Nicolás Casariego, creates complete characters and complex family relationships with uncannily authentic dialogue. And, for which I am always most grateful, he has confidence in his readers. Casariego doesn't dumb-down any of the concepts Antón considers and discards, although Kierkegaard can make your head hurt. My only complaint is that the pace lags a little during the third quarter. But then again, so does Antón. I truly laughed aloud beginning on page two and by the end of this novel I was quite fond of Antón Mallick. The impetus for the story is pure tragedy but this novel fairly glows with hope.

Nicolás Casariego is the author of eight books, including Cazadores de luz, which was a finalist for the Nadal Award, and co-writer of three feature films. In 2008 he was awarded the Writers OMI residence fellowship for international writers at Ledig House, New York.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Roundup June 16 - 22!

Bookish events in Texas for the week of June 16 - 22, 2014:

Special Events

Texas ComicCon, June 20-22, San Antonio

Monday, June 16:
Bookpeople, MysteryPeople Presents Acclaimed Author JENNY MILCHMAN speaking & signing Ruin Falls, 7PM

Monkeywrench BooksAustin Anarchist Study Group, 7PM

Magnolia Lounge - Fair ParkPandora's Box June Pride Reading, 8PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Lisa Fain will discuss and sign her newest cookbook, THE HOMESICK TEXAN’S FAMILY TABLE, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Lily Koppel - THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB, 7PM

Tuesday, June 17:
BookPeople, Nature Writer TAI MOSES speaking & signing Zooburbia: Meditations on the Wild Animals Among Us, 7PM

BookwomanGetting To Know The Goddess, 7PM

Spider House Cafe & BallroomAustin Poetry Slam, 8PM
Every Tuesday night at Spiderhouse, poetry, score cards and cash prizes come together for an evening of competitive art.

Murder by the BookLinda Fairstein will sign and discuss Terminal City, 6:30PM

San Antonio
BookPeople, Acclaimed Fiction Writer CRISTINA HENRIQUEZ speaking & signing The Book of Unknown Americans, 7PM

BookwomanJenny Milchman speaking & signing Ruin Falls & Cover of Snow, 7:30PM

ToybraryMeet the Author: Hardworking Honey Bee, 10:30AM


Visit Addison, Louisa Lim - The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Summer of Proust: Brazos Book Group, 7PM

Houston Public Library - Central (Julia Ideson), Houston Public Library and the United Nations Association present the World Cafe forum, featuring Former Houston Mayor Bill White discussing his new book, America's Fiscal Constitution: Its Triumph and Collapse, 6PM

Katy Budget Books, Mary Kay Andrews will be signing her latest women's fiction, Save the Date, 6PM

Murder By the BookKevin Hearne will sign and discuss the newest Iron Druid book, Shattered, 6:30PM

Thursday, June 19:
BookPeople, Texas Writers' Leauge: PITCH PRACTICE, 7pm

Malvern Books, Finnegans Wake Reading Group, 7PM

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, The Brothers Hogan: A Fort Worth History by Jacqueline Hogan Towery and Peter Barbour, 1PM

Asia Society Texas Center, Authors & Asia: Louisa Lim, The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Cristina Henriquez - THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS, 7PM

The Heritage Society, Jerry & Marvy Finger Lecture Series, Featuring Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist by Debra L. Winegarten, 12PM

Murder by the BookKate Carlisle will sign and discuss the newest Bibliophile mystery, The Book Stops Here & Hannah Dennison will sign and discuss Murder at Honeychurch Hall, 6:30PM

Museum of Fine Arts - Caroline Wiess Law Building, June Artful Thursday program: Fosse - Presented by Sam Wasson, author of “Fosse," 6:30PM

Irving Public Library - Valley Ranch Library, Spark of (After) Life Author Panel: Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood, Girl of Nightmares), Jennifer Archer (Through Her Eyes, Shadow Girl), Tara Hudson (Hereafter Trilogy), Sonia Gensler (The Dark Between, The Revenant). Special host is Rosemary Clement-Moore (The Splendor Falls, Texas Gothic, Spirit and Dust), 7PM

San Antonio
Nao Restaurant, Local San Antonian and Culinary Institute of America graduate Adan Medrano - Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes, 5:30PM

The Twig Book ShopJenny Milchman - Ruin Falls, 5PM

Viva! BooksWatercolor Journal Pages with Enedina Vasquez, 10AM

Friday, June 20:
BookPeople, Meet former US Secretary of State HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON as she signs copies of her new book Hard Choices, 3PM

Brave New Books, Cubans Against Communism, 3PM

Dallas Museum of Art - Horchow AuditoriumCristina Henriquez - author of The Book of Unknown Americans, 7PM

Dallas Museum of Art - Horchow Auditorium, Oral Fixation (An Obsession with True Life Tales): LOST IN TRANSLATION: An Evening of Stories About Immigration, 9PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Jenny Milchman will discuss and sign her novel, RUIN FALLS, 5PM

Murder by the BookRidley Pearson will sign and discuss The Red Room & Neely Tucker will sign and discuss his debut thriller, The Ways of the Dead, 6:30PM

River Oaks BookstoreJulia Vradelis/Allison Worrell - Muffin Meals, 5PM

San Antonio
Viva! BooksDiscover Your True Vision: Create and Live the Life YOU Love with Rita Mikel, 1PM

Viva! BooksSan Antonio Solstice Ceremony with Jodi Roberts, 5PM

Saturday, June 21:

B&N - Sunset Valley, Book Signing With Romance Writer Britney King - Bedrock, 1PM

Malvern Books, Texas Association of Authors Presents The Best of 2014: Day One, 1PM

B&N - Parkdale Mall, Jim Sanderson Book Signing - Nothing to Lose, 1PM

Half Price Books, Meet retired pastor and author, Chuck Williams, at your Garland HPB. Chuck will sell and sign his book, Eternal Route 66, 1PM


Viva! BookstoreZentangle with Ginny, 10AM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre BoulevardLiterary Mercado, 1PM

The Woodlands
B&N, Don't Talk about It...Be about It An Autobiography of Malik, 2PM

Sunday, June 22:
Vitruvian Park, The Writer's Garret In Partnership with Brookhaven College, Vitruvian Park, The Lab, and Manske Library present Last Writes of Spring Literary Festival, 12PM

Brave New BooksMisdemeanor Traffic Court Procedure w/ Eddie Craig From Rule of Law Radio, 2PM

Malvern Books, Texas Association of Authors Presents The Best of 2014: Day Two, 1PM

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day y'all!

Pic from Read Aloud

Father's Day 2014: 50 Funny and Inspiring Quotes About Dads
From Parade Magazine - my favorite: “The only way I can describe [fatherhood]—it sounds stupid, but—at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, you know how his heart grows like five times? Everything is full; It’s just full all the time.” —Matt Damon

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Poetrypalooza Day 7 - Last Call

Last Call, David Lee
Wings Press
$16, 134 pgs

I have a new Poetrypalooza favorite and a new aspiration in life - for someone to love me this much. Last Call by David Lee is a celebration of, and ode to, his friend the late William Kloefkorn, Poet Laureate of Nebraska. These poems chronicle the lives of a rural West Texas community and the many ways in which the characters of this small town are braided together. Especially one Billy Klogphorne and one Clovis Ledbitter, whom I suspect I ran across many years ago at the now-defunct Cattleman's Restaurant outside Colorado City, Texas. I know these people, I know this place.

Watching the recurring characters develop is a joy. There are many monologues that had me truly laughing out loud. For example, this is the title of one of the poems: "Substitute Teacher or The morning Billy Klogphorne taught the adolescent male Sunday School class lesson on the designated Christian Leader Preparation outline topic of Genesis 5:18, 19 and 23, 24, proving Lamech and polygamy were of the lineage of Cain and therefore accursed of God and Why he was never invited back to teach Sunday School again." Yep. Lee has an astonishing gift for colloquial speech that borders on a sort of onomatopoeia, if that makes any sense. I suspect those of you who know his work will understand what I'm trying to say. There is a prodigious and kindly intelligence at work and play here. I cannot recommend this volume highly enough.

My favorite:

The Traildust Gospel

                               -Juan Bautista, who, folk legend tells us,
                                lost his mind over a woman's footprints
                                in the dust somewhere east of Pecos


Onella Penny smoked a pipe
P.A. tobacco you could smell
two yards over
nobody every mentioned
outside our neighborhood
but what finally made her famous
after the big stomp
was when we noticed
how she walked so hard
for a woman who wasn't
to speak of necessarily

in a dry season
her steps wove dust
cyclone children on the way
to the trash barrel or clothes line
past her ankles, swirls
almost to her knees
so that

one August morning
Billy Klogphorne and Clovis Ledbitter
perched on the back porch furniture
morning coffeeing in short sleeved shirts
saw her emerge like Venus
in an ocean of heat waves
with a kitchen trash

footstep whirlwinds
all around her back yard, in immaculate Texanese
Clovis said One them air dust devils
gets under her housecoat
up her nightgown arising
she'll lift herself
like a full grown female angel
right off the ground
I bet

looked smartly their way
so Billy couldn't laugh or take the wager
leaned over and pretended
something in his coffeecup
needed to be looked at
anything else right then
was not going to be worth the chance


Then the day Marvin Penny
came outside
looking like second place
in a two entrant
world champion fist whipping
she became

neither one surprised
after they heard the scream
through the housewalls across the yard
to the back porch PBR libations
when she learned the rumor
of his gallavantation with Kim Pierce
Billy in perfect Tejano splendor said

that isn't no knuckebumps on his head
you get up and look close
I'll put two dollars
yougn see a clear footprint
from his busted lip
up between and past
that eye'll be swolt black tomorrow
with a bloody nose in the middle
Clovis said No bet
that looks to be a fact


When Cephas Bilberry heard
at the Dew Drop Inn that night
he said Well I hope Marvin he learnt
a lesson from it either way
whatever it was needing
such immediate education
Billy said I imagine he did
Cephas said That being what?
Billy said Next time
he gets knocked on his ass
he'll make sure he falls down
so the following foot marks
don't show

said You mean
whoever did that stomp
it was after he'd already been knocked down?
Clovis said
Unless she can walk around in the air
stomping on heads, you know
a better way?

Billy said
If it's a point
needs to be made
or a trailway to be commended
it might as well be stated proper
so the muckling effort
doesn't need to be repeated

said Well that might be right
Clovis said Yep
ever footstep in this drought
raises a genuine cyclome or leaves a print
sometimes permanent
and that's not blowing smoke
or preacher talk
and Cephas said Godamitey's mama
aint it the truth?


Juan Diego Mendietta
unloading a case of Pabst's Blue Ribbon beer
into the ice cooler at the Dew Drop Inn
heard a voice
saying A woman who walked in air
left a footprint on the face
of Marvin Penny
that could be seen clearly
with one's own eyes

that night
he told Father Gutierrez
the things he heard but the Padre
shook his head sadly and said No my son
these are the words of a fool
drunk on bootleg beer
you must try to remember
milagros almost never occur in Tejas
where there are too many gringos
for the Lord's work

Juan Diego Mendietta
went home in despair
his hope of imparting a miracle's appearance
shattered like his youthful dreams
of making love to Hooter Hagins
but he told his wife Eva who some said
was de la familia de las brujas
while he ate the tacos she made for him
what he heard spoken clearly
who told

her sister Maria Calvones
who told her cousin Isabel Ramones
who cleaned Onella Penny's house
every Monday from nine en la manana
until la hora de cuatro in the afternoon
who went to the Penny casa
the next morning even though it was a Thursday
and knocked

when he
opened his door he said
You aint posta be here today yet
it aint Monday is it?
she screamed and pressed her hands to her cheeks
the inbdelible print of a foot
clearly visible on Marvin Penny's face
¡Madre de dios! she screamed
he said What the hell?
but Isabel Ramones turned and ran
down the calle shouting
¡Es un Milagro! ¡Un Milagro!

votary candles appeared nightly on the porch
of Onella and Marvin Penny's home
which he removed and threw
into the garbage barrel in his dusty back yard
until Onella stopped him saying
You leave those goddam things
right where they are and he said
Yes dear

for a decade the casa de Penny
became a flickering shrine to the miraculous
footprint of the Virgin seen by many
including Juan Diego Mendietta
who was said to be the first witness
and Isabel Ramones who gave the miracle

and it came to pass
at last Onella died of consumption
and el viejo Marvin Penny grew old and sacred
the hairs of his head white as snow
and en la tarde when he went
into his dusty yard
to sit in the warm sun and remember
all those events of his life
that never actually occurred
la gente would come to his house
to sit at his knees and view his face
where at times

when the light
shone from the exact right angle
a small perfect footprint
could be seen by a select few
who were chosen to be witness
and the paisanos would touch his shoulders
and the denim fabric of his clothing
whispering to him
beseeching forgiveness

David Lee was raised in West Texas, my home. He is the author of twenty books of poetry, the first Poet Laureate of Utah, and recently retired as the Chairman of the Department of Language and Literature at Southern Utah University. His many awards include the Mountain & Plains Booksellers Award in Poetry, the Western States Book Award in Poetry, and the Utah Governor's Award for lifetime achievement.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poetrypalooza Day 6 - This River Here: Poems of San Antonio

This River Here: Poems of San Antonio, Carmen Tafolla
Wings Press
$16.95, 92 pgs

Well. I am stunned. If you've never been to San Antonio then please come on down. But if you can't pay a visit then you should definitely pick up a copy of This River Here: Poems of San Antonio by San Antonio's first Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla. The hot, drowsy afternoons; the cool green river; the melody of Tex-Mex in your ears; the savory fire of Tex-Mex on your tongue; the magic of the curanderos in the very air. It's all here, in this book, this herencia, including an offering of photographs to get lost in. We are rich here in this old river city, busily blurring the lines.

My favorites (I had a wonderfully terrible time trying to choose only two):

"Fragile Flames"

Altares viejos of my path-warmed house
older than our prayers
light as sacred sunrays
rich as scarred and ancient wood
your votive one-day candles last
well beyond twilight, stubborn miracles
on this inherited dark wool sarape
with stained and balding fringe
still tipping stripes of life's
most painful, hopeful colors

tiny lights make loans of faith
to midnight's darkest storms
My people
lean on a chance
live on a hope
pray in a fragile flicker
of stolen candlelight

Holy places around us everywhere
tiny hallway tables with a handtorn branch
of esperanza-yellow bloom and seeds
dressertops with tin milagro wings
backyard carefully historied pile of stones
each one a prayer a bead of sweat
protecting red-dressed, star-cloaked Virgin
a now-unsainted Christopher
nervous on the dashboard
with the cross flying above him,
the doilied corner shelf with pictures
of those lost six months or sixty years ago
still with us

These resilient rocks of lifepath prayers
wet-mortared of the past and present
always bow to possible milagros living in the future
Their flowers - living, dead, or artificial - faithful
testifying silently to our belief
that fragile flames
soft-speak the power
of things too real
too strong too deep
to be simply

"San Anto's Mezcla Mágica"

What it means to co-exist,
to bloom together,
is that the lines grow fuzzy,
optical illusions with two different faces
appearing at different times
there is not a street that marks
a neighborhood others have not
crossed into
eaten, loved, lived in, tasted in a different way

Even in Alamo Heights,
tamales end up on the "Old Texas" families'
Thanksgiving tables, while "Graciela's" sells
designer suits in sarape colors
Even on Nogalitos Street
the Chinese tamarind seed is the top-selling snack
at the Mexican food counter,
Indian curry gets scooped up
in comal-warmed pita bread
Vietnamese eggrolls brim out of
toasty tortillas made from
German-milled white flour

At the corner of French and Fredericksburg Road
Martínez Barbacoa pairs steaming barbacoa
with ice-cold, carbonated Big Red,
imports El Milagro tortillas from Austin
and Virgin of Guadalupe wooden bracelets from Mexico,
stacks avocados just lusciously ripe enough
but not too soft, in front of the lusciously Olympian Aztecs
posed on a calendar that only distantly layers
echoed rhythms of the Aztec Calendar

After barbacoa and corn tortillas for breakfast
we want "something different" for lunch
and pair black-smoked Jamaican Jerk Bar-B-Q
with chile-roasted corn
So nighttime at Sam's Burger Joint we are not surprised
when in the Music Hall out back
a tall, blonde Chicana named Patricia Vonne
(née Rodriguez and freshly back from concert tour of Europe)
rattles the cage of the stage and
sings a blend smooth as honey
to the harmony of a rock electric guitar
country fiddle
and Spanish castanets

Carmen Tafolla is the author of more than 20 books. She has received numerous awards, among them the Art of Peace Award; the Charlotte Zolotow Award; the Americas Award, presented at the Library of Congress; two ALA Notable Books; and two international Latino Book Awards. She is currently Writer-in-Residence for Children's, Youth & Transformative Literature at the University of Texas/San Antonio. In 2012, Ms. Tafolla was named the first Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Poetrypalooza Day 5 - Troubling Accents

Troubling Accents, R. Flowers Rivera
Xavier Review Press
$12, 109 pgs

The beautiful, haunted South is ever-present in Troubling Accents by R. Flowers Rivera. It is both an infection and the re-bar in the spines of its native children. The genteel surface is onionskin-thin. Spend any time in the South, paying the least bit of attention, and you sense the threat of violence, always. It seems to live in the air and the soil and the water. The South will make you believe in instinct.

Ms. Rivera's poems are heavy with history, addressing race, class, sex, violence, and, of course, the love that is all mixed up in the middle of the mess. This work is often bleak but it is also honest and courageous; at times defiantly erotic, it issues simultaneously a challenge and a plea to be acknowledged, recognized - to finally be known. This poet gazes at the maelstrom head-on, eyes wide open, and calls it by its name. Ms. Rivera is not afraid to testify.

My favorites:

"Troubling Accents"

I'd think about what they tell children, about kissing your elbow, and I tried to. I actually did. I was that scared... - William Faulkner, from Sanctuary

Leave it to a Southerner to puncture the ordinary,
transmuting violence and my hatred for certain tones
into something brutal and beautiful and vulgar like pie-head,
saturnine boys knifing belt notches for lays,

to have some white man suggest I go slow,
no matter that the air is too humid to sustain
cicadas and serried, clapboard houses
along with my desperate need to question.

What few answers I found only led to more compunction,
making a slattern, purple-mouthed woman
seem almost justified for wanting to kiss her elbow
as she lay among the chaff, desperate to slip the yoke

of Fate. I ran from that land to hide in the New South.
There, there are manners like moribund magnolias.
Effluvium still seeps from every flowery syllable I breathe.
I cannot dissemble whence I come.

Now, not quite an expatriate, I have found a place
inside myself where I can be comfortably nostalgic,
my ears alert for yalls and nems and all those
troubling accents of home.

"Blues Mama"

                      for Bessie Smith

Nip and tuck
that woebegone lip
as the pink flesh falls
fueling the machine
of song.

Powerful lady
trace the sadness
tote it across the stage
called your life.
Loose yourself,
take ahold
thing integrity called craft.

Lexicon of soul
lay it all down
make them know
what it feels like
to be
Once they're rapt
in your stirrin'
be still
don't say
a mumbling word.

has no place
in such an earnest smile
but amidst your own
there's always a market for
a mean woman.

R. Flowers Rivera is a child of Mississippi. Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including African American Review, The Southern Review, and Mischief. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, among others, she was awarded the 1999 Peregrine Prize and the Leo Love Merit Scholarship in Poetry.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Poetrypalooza Day 4 - Again For The First Time

Again For The First Time, Rosemary Catacalos
Wings Press
$16, 79 pgs

This is the Wings Press thirtieth anniversary edition of Again For The First Time by Rosemary Catacalos, first published in 1984 by Tooth of Time Books (New Mexico). Ms. Catacalos is the granddaughter of Greek and Mexican immigrants to San Antonio and this heritage has produced a rich brew. "Ariadne of the Treacherous Thread" appears in many of these poems and haunts the others. The author's words sound like time immemorial, like memory itself, bone-deep and connected through all of los ancianos who came before. Ms. Catacalos convinces me that the drums I sometimes hear are indeed real and that I can perform magic - that I am magic. If we listen to her she will help us learn how to live more appreciatively. And how to die: a respectful nod to time followed by a grin and a wink. True story.

My favorites:


                                                                          in memory of Sam Sinkin

A man dies suddenly and just as suddenly a certain
wave of the hand, the rumple of a linen jacket,
the simple drumbeat of his laughter, become
crucial in a way that yesterday they were not.
Now that there will never be time for that cup
of coffee we were always going to have and that
discussion of the Bill of Rights.
Now that I'll never get to ask you about the special
way this world fit together for a man who built
a western-wear factory and read more than most
and whose mother had kept her samovar boiling and
boiling in a strange country.
Now that what you have taken with you is yours
And what each of us remembers of you is ours,
this is what you have given me to keep:
The bittersweet cries of Yaacov's accordion
at Steven Ross' wedding feast.
Your hand softly beating time on the hotel tablecloth.
The faraway look in your eyes as you watched
us dance the hora, our arms and legs waving
like an ancient line of seaweed swaying on
the floor of the Mediterranean.
The way all at once your face shone as though
you were not only seeing us, as though you
were seeing peace and hearing the world's
heart pound for joy in this dance that
Jews, Arabs, Greeks, Turks, Armenians, brothers
in time and music, all hold in common trust.
The way at that moment you knew something,
remembered something that had long
been lost to this earth.
It was just then that Cousin Hana called to you
from the line of dancers, jolted you back
to this celebration in this hotel in Texas.
Sam, she cried. Sam! Come and dance!
Everybody dance!
I remember the playful wave you gave her
and the way your eyes almost shut
with sudden laughter. And you shouted back
I am dancing! You were dancing, Sam,
and now that it's become so crucial
we see you're dancing still.


The thread you say I've loosened idly,
reeling out, reeling in, to tease you,
confuse you.
No, please believe me.
This thread is not a game.
It has the same rhythm as my breathing.
I spin with it day and night
until the wheel leaves me dizzy.
I suffer and nearly go blind
with every knot and tangle.
My fingers bleed all over the loom
from so much trying. To make
this love I give
a fit cloth for the world,
something to wear proudly.

Rosemary Catacalos was the 2013 Poet Laureate of Texas.