Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: FOY ON THE ROAD TO LOST by Gordon Atkinson

Congratulations to San Antonio's Gordon Atkinson! Foy On the Road to Lost (Material Media) won an IPPY Award silver medal in Christian Fiction. This is my review, published in the new issue of Lone Star Literary Life. Foyis a little gem.

Gordon Atkinson
Foy: On the Road to LostMaterial Media
Paperback, 978-0-9967-5355-5, (also available as an e-book), 194 pgs., $15.95
March 1, 2017

Minister Foy Davis is having a bad week. His wife, and mother of his daughters, has served him with divorce papers, then two days later, in a more or less mutual decision (“like two lovers staring at each other and saying, almost simultaneously, We need to talk”), he’s been removed and/or resigned as pastor of a Baptist church in San Antonio. Foy’s midlife crisis of faith has been building throughout his adult life. He wonders what it would be like to be “a regular person.” As he’s leaving the church for the last time, he reaches for a vial of rose oil used for anointing the sick, gifted to him by an Episcopal-priest friend, and anoints his own forehead.

Foy sets out to discover what he suspects he might’ve been missing. In New Orleans. During Mardi Gras. He may even take up cigars. Emotionally volatile—swinging from anger to sorrow and back again—Foy is weary of being responsible for his congregation (for their souls, no less), and thinks he’d like to be “mildly empathetic, across a vast emotional chasm,” instead. He has “fantasized about … absolute freedom” for years, but in the event, he may find that it really is just another word for nothing left to lose. No matter how he tries, ecumenical Foy can’t make himself stop caring about people.

Foy: On the Road to Lost, the first novel by Gordon Atkinson, M.Div., doesn’t fit neatly into any of our convenient genres. It is only loosely a novel, as addressed in the Author’s Note. Each chapter is a self-contained unit, and the whole resembles a collection of linked short stories. These related tales are really a character sketch, but too finely developed and richly detailed to be termed a “sketch.”

Atkinson is at his best writing about Foy’s childhood, as a small child in Fort Davis, then as an adolescent in Houston. I’m reminded of the story of Harper Lee’s agent telling her to rework her book from Scout’s point of view—that’s how good Atkinson is with the boy Foy. Another standout character is Foy’s mother, a philosophy student who put away her ambitions to settle down to marriage, motherhood, and the expectations placed on a preacher’s wife in the 1960s. “The Sunday school teachers swaddled [Foy’s] mind every Sunday morning,” Atkinson writes. ”Sunday nights she [Foy’s mother] took him outside under the stars … [and] carefully unwound the swaddling clothes and set him free.”

Kudos belong to the design team responsible for Foy. This slim, bright yellow book sports beautiful end pages of black-and-white photographic images of the mountains of West Texas and charmingly whimsical pencil sketches of a character we assume to be Foy. Even the typeface has a story; it involves a dispute between the owners of a nineteenth-century British press resulting in every piece of the metal typeface being dumped into the Thames. There are so many small, literary jewels in Foy: On the Road to Lost.

Originally published by Lone Star Literary Life.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Promo: A WITNESS TO HISTORY by Janet M. Neugebauer

George H. Mahon,
West Texas Congressman
By Janet M. Neugebauer
Foreword by Kent Hance

  Genre: Texas History / Politics / Biography
Date of Publication: June 30 2017
Number of Pages: 576

Scroll down for Giveaway!


This is the story of George H. Mahon, a man who went to Congress in 1935, when the House Committee on Appropriations still allocated a small amount of money to buy military horses. Forty-four years later, when Mahon retired as Chairman of that same committee, the committee was debating funds to purchase a bomber capable of traveling at 2,000 miles an hour. With a career spanning nearly a half century—spanning almost the entire Cold War—Mahon grew from a West Texas country lawyer to one of the most powerful men in the US House of Representatives, serving twenty-two consecutive terms from 1935–1978.

During his time in Congress, Mahon worked easily with the giants of government, enjoying the friendship and confidence of seven of the eight presidents with whom he served. He worked just as comfortably with his constituents in the Nineteenth Congressional District of Texas. Mahon served on several Congressional committees, but it is through his service on the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations that he had the greatest national impact. He often bragged that under his leadership the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations was the most non-partisan committee in Congress. Mahon led the subcommittee with a strong but gentle hand that earned him the respect of all who served with him.

Janet M. Neugebauer is deputy director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University. Her many works include Lambshead Legacy and Plains Farmer.

Kent Hance is a former Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System and a former member of the US House of Representatives.

April 26-May 7, 2017 

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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.

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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

Excerpt: DEEP EXTRACTION by DiAnn Mills

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

   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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