Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Roundup: August 31 - September 6

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 31 - September 6, 2015: 

Special Events:
Voces Americanas: Latino Literature in the United States (a Humanities Texas exhibit), San Antonio, September 1 - October 8

Amazing Houston Comic Con, September 4 - 6

Big Bend Comic Con, Alpine, September 5

Monday, August 31:
BookPeople, MysteryPeople Presents Bestselling AuthorSUE GRAFTON speaking & signing X, 7PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson will discuss and sign their new picture book, LEO: A GHOST STORY, 5PM

The Woodlands
The John Cooper School, World Affairs Council of Houston's The Woodlands Series presents: General Stanley McChrystal discussing and signing his new book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, 7PM

Tuesday, September 1:
The Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth Poetry Slam and Open Mic, 8PM
The Korova, PuroSlam!, 10PM

Wednesday, September 2:

San Antonio

Friday, September 4:
ESB-Mexican American Cultural Center, Flor de Nopal Literary Festival workshops with Wade Martin and Vincent Cooper, 2PM

St. Edward's University, Writers' League of Texas workshop with author Katherine Catmull, "He Said She Said: Dialogue is All About Conflict", 9AM

Dallas Public Library, Dallas Zine Party Panel And Workshop with Randy Guthmiller of SHAPE Zines, Anastasia (Stacy) Kirages of the art zine Modernizm and organizer of Houston Zine Fest, David LaBounty, editor and publisher of Workers Write! and The First Line, Sarah Welch of Mystic Multiples and current resident at UT Dallas’ Centraltrak, and Sandra Dalavadros of Cemetery Sisters, 3PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, a Tumblewords Project workshop: "Muze of the Moment" with Richie Marrufo (director of the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series), 12:45PM


B&N - NE Mall, Book Signing With Mystery Author Laurie Moore: Dawn of the Deb: A Debutante Detective Mystery, 1PM

B&N, Author signing with Tekesha Hubbard: The Summer Hook Up, 1PM

B&N - Creekwalk Village, Women's Advocate Sahar Paz, reads and signs Find Your Voice, 5PM

San Antonio

B&N - Town Square, Trent Brown III Signing 3T Chronicles: Talbert the Chef, 11:30AM

Sunday, September 6:
The Wild Detectives, the inaugural DALLAS ZINE PARTY!, 1PM

Friday, August 28, 2015

Excerpt: THE NEPTUNE CHALLENGE by Polly Holyoke

(sequel to the award-winning The Neptune Project)


Polly Holyoke


neptune-challenge-225 (1).jpgGenetically engineered to survive in the ocean, Nere and her friends are recovering from their long, treacherous journey to refuge and settling in at Safety Harbor. Despite its name, plenty of dangers still lurk just outside the colony's boundaries. When two among them are kidnapped, the remaining Neptune kids and their loyal dolphins must set out on a mission even more perilous than their first: infiltrate the kidnapper's fortress to save their friends and steal away a vital scientific secret that may save the world and its oceans. Fighting terrifying mutated creatures and teens, will the Neptune kids find a way to save their friends, themselves, and their underwater world? The stakes couldn't be higher in this thrilling sequel to the award-winning The Neptune Project.

Buy Links:


Our Safety Harbor inlet is calm this morning. Small swells lift and lower me gently. Already the sky overhead is starting to gray, and clouds along the horizon blush pink and red. I can just make out the hardy spruce trees that cling to sharp outcroppings along the shore. The morning is quiet except for the rush of the nearby surf and the cry of a gull winging its way across the dawn sky.

Mariah, the leader of my family’s dolphin pod, finds me bobbing on the swells. Her little calf, Tisi, swims a tight circle around me while her daughter Sokya rushes up and flips water in my face.

“What worries you this morning?” Mariah asks as she cranes her head out of the water so she can see me better. At forty, Mariah is a grandmother several times over. Her teeth are a little worn, and her right side is scarred by an old shark bite, but her eyes are still bright with intelligence. Mariah is also amazing at reading my moods.

“There’re so many people at Safety Harbor,” I try to explain while I rub Sokya’s favorite spot, in front of her dorsal. The slick, rubbery feel of her skin is familiar and comforting. “And they all think Dad’s awesome and great at running things. I’m afraid they expect me to be just like him. That Janni girl wants me to join her Sea Rangers and help fight the Marine Guard and sharks, but I just want to work with dolphins.”

“You led us safely here through many fights and many miles of sea,” Mariah reminds me.

I wince, remembering the dangerous journey my friends and I had to make from the southern sector to reach my father’s colony. I hadn’t really led everyone here safely. Two of our group died on our trip to Safety Harbor, and we lost sweet Pani, one of Mariah’s granddaughters, all killed by Marine Guard divers sent by the Western Collective to capture or eliminate us.

“We never would have made it here without your help,” I say to Mariah.

“I helped the most,” Sokya declares. She leaps out of the water and lands on her side, dousing me with a wave.

Challenges of Writing a Good “Sea-quel” to
The Neptune Project

Writing a good “sea-quel” to The Neptune Project was a fascinating, difficult, and ultimately rewarding challenge. I’ve never had the opportunity to write a second book in a series before, and I had no idea what an intense process it was going to be. This was probably a good thing, or I would have wasted a lot of time worrying instead of diving (so to speak) right into the sequel.  

First of all, I found that writing a sequel is demanding in terms of craft. Sequel authors have to introduce their characters and their complex world quickly, and the premise of my Neptune books is pretty wild. Set two hundred and fifty years in a future where global warming is out of control, scientists decide to genetically alter their own children so that they can survive in the sea. I had to establish that premise, explain the biology of the Neptune kids, and make their undersea colony in the Queen Charlotte Strait a believable place all within the first few chapters. Eep!

Islands in the Queen Charlotte Strait and location of my fictional undersea colony
Secondly, in a sequel new readers have to be brought up to speed on complicated relationships and individual backstories without the author boring returning readers. And I had a lot of characters in The Neptune Project. (Early on I had to make a family tree just to help me keep track of the dolphin family that loves my heroine Nere and protects my Neptune kids). Nere goes into to the water with her ex-best friend and meets up with a group of kids from very diverse backgrounds. Much of the first book is about them overcoming their differences to become a team. It was hard to decide how many of those conflicts to bring on to the pages of The Neptune Challenge. Then it was tricky having all my old characters meet up and form relationships with a new group of wild sea kids who possess orca, shark, and electric eel genes.

Thirdly, as The Neptune Project started to gain fans, I had to deal with a new set of pressures. I will be forever grateful to the dedicated librarians on the Texas Bluebonnet Committee who picked The Neptune Project for their 2014-15 list.  But suddenly I had librarians, teachers, and students all over Texas reading my book and clamoring for a new one. Making the Bluebonnet list with my first children’s book set the literary bar awfully high for my second. And The Neptune Project was such a page turner. Could I write a second book that would be as exciting as the first and still be “good” in terms of ideas, accurate marine research, world building, and character development?

Finally, I wanted to write a story that would please my fans, and wow, they are an enthusiastic bunch. It’s been humbling and wonderful to meet boys and girls who tell me that they’ve read my books eight times, ten times, and the record to date… a whopping twenty-three. But it’s also a daunting prospect trying to write a story to please a kid who has read The Neptune Project twenty-three times!

I am so very grateful to my talented editor at Disney/Hyperion. Julie Moody helped to guide me through this process. Her suggestions definitely helped me to see what needed to be on the page, and what didn’t, to keep Nere’s story coherent and exciting. The good news is, so far even my most ardent fans seemed to be pleased with The Neptune Challenge. I hope you have a chance to plunge into Nere’s undersea world, too, someday soon!


aboutmediveshot.JPGPolly Holyoke is a former teacher and loves reading, camping, skiing, scuba diving and hiking in the desert. She lives in Plano, TX with three rescue dogs, two spoiled cats and a nice husband who tolerates piles of books all over their house. Her debut middle-grade novel,The Neptune Project, was published by Disney/Hyperion and was selected to the 2014-15 Texas Bluebonnet Master List along with state reading lists in Maryland and Ohio. It was also named one of Bank Street’s Best Children’s Books of 2014. Her second children’s book, The Neptune Challenge, was released May, 2015.


Here you can find a treasure box of information about the series, the sea, and writing. There is information for school/group visits, use in the classroom (including curriculum guides), and links for extended research.
You can contact Polly, and her publicist via the “contact” page.


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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Author Interview: DEATH ON PARADISE CREEK by Dianne Smithwick-Braden

The content of this promo post was provided by Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours. If you're a Texas blogger interested in joining the ranks of Lone Star Book Blog Tours, contact Tabatha Pope.


Death on Paradise Creek is a murder mystery seasoned with heartbreak, adventure, a little romance, and a touch of humor. It is the first in a planned three book series.

cover.jpgThe Paradise Creek Inn is open for business in rural Wilbarger County Texas. Business is slow except for the occasional parties for family or friends, until a prestigious actor becomes stranded on the property. Suddenly Lizzie Fletcher and her family are booking parties and events left and right – a dream come true.

Things quickly change when the hired hand makes a gruesome discovery. Sheriff Wade Adams and his team are called to investigate. While evidence is being analyzed, another body is discovered. Long kept secrets revolving around these discoveries begin to unravel.

Death on Paradise Creek is a 60,929 word, 205 page murder mystery set in Wilbarger County Texas.

Paperbacks are $15.95 and ebooks are $6.99

It is available for purchase at: in paperback and for Kindle

Barnes and in paperback and for Nook

Black Rose Writing in paperback



Chapter 6

Lizzie woke Saturday morning to the smell of coffee brewing. She hadn’t realized how much she missed waking up to that smell. She always had coffee after she got to work. She went downstairs to find Ellen and Lois sitting at the kitchen table.

“Good morning, Mama. Good morning, Granny,” she said as she planted a kiss on each woman’s cheek. “Where’s Daddy?”

“He had to get started moving the cattle to the east pasture. He said he’d be missing a lot of work since we’ll be in town for Jan’s festivities later this week,” Ellen explained.

“Lizzie, sit down; I want to talk to you about something,” Lois said.

“Okay. It sounds like something serious Granny.”

“Well, it is in a way. Is your job in Chicago the kind of job you always dreamed about?”

“No, it isn’t. It’s a work my way up the ladder and pay my dues kind of job.”

“Would you still like to run your own inn?”

“That has always been my dream, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.”

“Alright then. I have a proposition for you. I’m getting too old to live in that great big house all alone. You’re parents and I have been talking about this, and we want to see what you think. We’ll turn the house over to you. You can renovate it and make it into the inn you’ve always dreamed of owning.”

“But Granny…”

“Now, let me finish,” Granny interrupted.” I’ll move in here with James and Ellen. You’ll manage the inn. I’ll fund the renovations, within reason mind you. Your parents and I will help when you need it. The old place needs fixing up anyway, and I see no reason to fix it up only for one old lady. It will become a family business.” Granny paused for a moment, and then said, “Well what do you think?”

Lizzie didn’t know what to say. She wanted to jump at the chance to design and run her own inn.


Smithwick-Braden.jpgDianne Smithwick-Braden is a native Texan raised in rural Wilbarger County on the family farm. She is a graduate of Vernon High School and West Texas A & M University. She currently resides in Amarillo, Texas with her husband, Richard. She has been a high school science teacher in Amarillo since August of 1990.

Dianne is an avid reader of fiction but murder mysteries are by far her favorite genre. Death on Paradise Creek is her first novel. She has already begun work on a sequel.

What is your writing process like? Do you have any interesting writing rituals?
Since I work full time most of the year, I carry a notebook around with me. I make notes of ideas and write pieces when I have a few minutes of downtime. I get some of my best ideas while knitting.

What do you consider the most important part of the writing process? What do you consider the most difficult?
The most important part of my writing process is just getting started. I’ve written a lot of things that I later decided not to use. Those things were still useful in helping to get the ideas flowing. The most difficult part for me is finding uninterrupted time to write. I can write for hours without realizing how much time has passed when the story is taking shape. Writing during the school year is very difficult. I’ve spent the entire summer writing this year.

Who or what would you say had the greatest influence on your writing?
I had some amazing teachers that helped me learn the mechanics. My greatest influence outside of school has to be my favorite author Agatha Christie. I’m also a big fan of Clive Cussler and Janet Evanovich.

What do you find most fascinating or addicting about murder mysteries?
It may be the science geek in me but I love trying to solve the mystery before the author reveals it. The best murder mysteries, in my opinion, are the ones I can’t solve beforehand.

If you could time travel, where would you go first?
It’s funny you should ask that. I’ve thought about it many times and would like to see so many things. I believe the place in time that I would like to visit first would be to see Jesus during his ministry. I think it would be amazing to hear him teach and see the miracles he performed. The second place I’d like to go is the old west or maybe the 1920’s, 1930’s, or 1950’s. I could go on and on.

What was the last book that was recommended to you?
A colleague recommended The Rock Hole by Reavis Wortham. I read it and became a fan. I’ve read all of the books in his series and am waiting patiently for the next one.

What would you tell a non-Texan reader about Texas to better help them understand the setting of your story DEATH ON PARADISE CREEK in Wilbarger County?
Wilbarger County is mostly farm and ranch land. The largest town is Vernon with a population of about 12,000 people. It’s situated near the Texas Oklahoma state line. Most families have at least one pickup truck or some sort of 4 wheel drive vehicle. Summers at hot and winters are generally mild. There is only one high school. Kids start school and will go through their entire school life with many of the same people the met in kindergarten. As a result, lifelong friends are made and seem like part of your extended family.

Is there a sequel planned for DEATH ON PARADISE CREEK?
Yes. I finished the first draft of Death under a Full Moon two weeks ago.

What’s next in the writing world of Dianne Smithwick-Braden?
I’ve started making notes for the third book of the series. I don’t have a title for it yet but I do have a few ideas about the plot. I also have ideas for other books with a new cast of characters.






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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


My review of The Land of Rain Shadow: Horned Toad, Texas (Texas Tech University Press) by Joyce Gibson Roach was published in Lone Star Literary Life! From the review:
The stories in Rain Shadow are linked by place, each set in the tiny, fictional town of Horned Toad. As these pieces reflect on the importance of the land, the characters and time periods change but the land abides. Roach quotes Tom Lea in her introduction: “Its richness is space, wide and deep and infinitely colored, visible to the jagged mountain rim of the world – huge and challenging space, to evoke huge and challenging freedom.” Roach and Lea are writing of West Texas, my home.
Roach’s colloquial style had me laughing aloud at the candidate for sheriff in “In Broad Daylight” whose platform is elimination of free bosoms: “A Bra on Every Woman. Let’s keep our women Decent and Strapped Down!” Roach is at her Mark Twain best when poking fun at religious pieties and denominational hierarchies. “Just as I Am” reveals summer revival season as told by a fourteen-year-old girl. “Mid-July to August was the season to gather lukewarm Christians, Backsliders, and New Material into the fold.”
To read the entire review click here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Roundup: August 24 - 30

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 24 - 30, 2015: 

Monday, August 24:
Front Street Books, Anna Badkhen presents Walking With Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah, 5:30PM

BookPeople, MysteryPeople Presents Bestselling Author JENNY MILCHMAN speaking & signing As Night Falls, 7PM

The Lift, First Story Slam! Theme is "Coincidence and Synchronicity," 6:30PM

Tuesday, August 25:

Wednesday, August 26:
Brazos Bookstore, Ellen Urbani reads and signs LANDFALL, 7PM

Houston Public Library, Four Books for Houston Series: Rene Steinke, 6PM

Original OKRA Charity Saloon, Night WrITerS: creative writing workshop led by poet Outspoken Bean, 6PM

Thursday, August 27:

Galveston Bookshop, Kris Rutherford will sign The Galveston Buccaneers and Baseball on the Prairie, 5PM

Saturday, August 29:

Town Lake Metropolitan Park (Austin Pride Festival), Debra Winegarten will sign Oveta Culp Hobby, 10AM

El Paso
B&N - Fountains at Farah, Monica Barrios Author Signing Why Count Sheep When We Can Count Race Cars?, 2PM

Memorial Park Library, Dick Bakken presents Furry Tails of a Sacred Future workshop for The Tumblewords Project, 12:45PM

The Rock House Cafe & Gallery, The Barbed Wire Open Mic Series featuring Dick Bakken, 8PM

Harker Heights
B&N, Cathy Clamp signs Forbidden, 12PM

B&N - Creekwalk Village, Meet Action/Adventure Author Don Candy as he signs Angels Three Five: A Sam McKensie Novel, 1:30PM

San Antonio

Sunday, August 30:
Malvern Books, UT Austin Writing Faculty Reading: includes Elizabeth McCracken, Deb Olin Unferth, Lisa Olstein, and James Magnuson, 3PM

Thursday, August 20, 2015


My review of One Red Thread (Tyrus Books) by Austin's Ernie Wood was published in Lone Star Literary Life. From the review:
If you could go back in time, would you?Would you change events if it were possible to do so? Intervene to prevent a tragedy? Should you? Courage, noble sacrifice or hubris? How would you determine which specific link in the chain to alter, which thread to pull to alter the pattern without the whole tapestry unraveling? Is it even healthy for us to understand “too well” the relationships between those threads? I am mixing my metaphors. Remember the Butterfly Effect. The perfectly chosen epigraph to Part I of One Red Thread is from Ecclesiastes 3:15 — “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before.”
This book was fun and challenging. Follow this link for the entire review. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Excerpt: DIVERTED HEART by Beth Ann Stifflemire

Texas summers are no doubt some of the hottest you'll find. The heat encountered during this summer is not at all what Taylor bargained for. She's at a crossroads between childhood and womanhood, rummaging through the emotions of first love versus passion. Two young men tangle a web of needs and desires in her heart. The summer before college begins, Taylor is thrust from her childhood home in Houston to an inherited family farm on the outskirts of Schulenburg, Texas. Eric, her first love, has gone states away to play college football. Low-spirited and merely trying to get through an expectantly boring summer, she is nearly run off the road by her new country neighbor, Maxwell. Ruggedly handsome, devilishly charming and everything Taylor seeks to avoid, Maxwell does something to her emotions she's struggling desperately to interpret, as they spend the summer filled with each other. Boundaries are tested and the scales of lust tip despite hesitations. A final decision must be made. Did she ever truly love Eric? Is Maxwell simply a lustful thought, or is there more to uncover beneath the surface? One thing is for certain, this summer will change Taylor in every possible way: mind, body and soul.




He looks back at me with intense eyes, and I don’t think it’s because of the crazy weather or our inability to cross the road. Whatever’s been building between us is like a dam about to burst, and you can cut the sexual tension in the air with a knife.

“So let’s go back to my house.” I know it’s the only option, and right now I just want to get there—fast, for more reasons that just getting out of the rain.

He releases his lip from his teeth. “Don’t have much of a choice, do we?” He squeezes my thigh with one hand while the other rests on the steering wheel. His touch pulses through me and only leaves me wanting him to touch me in other places.

With great care, he backs the truck up and makes his way down the road the way we came. The rain is relentless as we pull back up to my house. Max reaches for my bag in the back of the truck.

“Let’s get inside,” I urge him. He nods and we both pile out and sprint back to the house. But it’s pretty pointless, as wet as we already are. After leaping to the porch, I unlock the door and open it quickly, allowing us an escape from the wild weather. Max dashes in behind me and drops the bag just inside the door, closing it behind him. His wet, brawny figure meanders towards me. My heart pounds, my body aching with desire. His gaze pierces through me, and I’m out of fight. Max grasps my head and pulls me straight to his lips, kissing me with such passion it leaves me lightheaded, defenseless. Our lips eventually part and I open my eyes. The flaming look in his eyes gives away his thirst for more. I want it, too.

Max’s hand shifts and glides down my back. He pulls me to his firm body after reaching the small of my back. Ablaze with a frenzied lust, all that I’ve withheld from Max suddenly crumbles away.

Beth Ann is a wife, mother, blogger and book lover from Texas. Her passion is writing stories that draw a reader into a world where they can become the characters and experience a gamut of emotions. When she's not writing, she loves to be home with her family and two yellow labs. In addition she's a sucker for super sappy romance movies, loves trying out Texas wines, is an avid hot tea drinker and enjoys checking items off of her ever-growing bucket list.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Monday Roundup: August 17 - 23!

Bookish events in Texas for the week of August 17 - 23, 2015: 

Special Events:
East Texas Book Festival, Tyler, August 21 - 22

Monday, August 17:
BookPeople, N+1 Editor RICHARD BECK discussing & signing We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980's, with special guests JORDAN SMITH & DEBORAH ESQUENAZI, 7PM

Tuesday, August 18:

Fort Worth
B&N - La Cantera, Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes Release Party, 7PM

The Korova, PuroSlam!, 10PM

Wednesday, August 19:

Thursday, August 20:
Saturday, August 22:
B&N - Preston Royal, Ambassador Robert W. Jordan signs Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11, 2PM

El Paso
B&N - Fountains at Farah, Amy Bennett signing No Vacancy, 2PM

Fort Worth
The Library Cafe, The Lyric Cafe Featuring Kevin Sandbloom, 8PM

Galveston Bookshop, Maria Elena Sandovici signs Stray Dogs and Lonely Beaches, 3PM

B&N - NE Mall, Book Launch With Author Susan Van Volkenburgh: The Stone of Ebenezer, 2PM

B&N - Vista Ridge, book signing for Thirty One Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer (curated by The Well Studio), 11:30AM

B&N - Vista Ridge, Kathyleen Franklin reads and signs Who's Watching Over Me?, 2PM

Mason County M. Beven Eckert Memorial Library, Writers' League of Texas: Texas Writes with Carol Dawson and Carol Flake Chapman, 1PM

B&N - Northcross, Cooking With the Texas Poets Laureate with Elizabeth Ethredge and Jan Seale, 2PM

San Antonio
B&N - La Cantera, local author Axe will sign No Limits No Regrets, 2PM

B&N - Northwoods, Carl E. Coppock discusses and signs Lose the Diet, Lose the Weight, 2PM

The Twig Book Shop, Linda Simone discusses and signs Archeology, 11AM