Thursday, June 28, 2018

Review: HAP & HAZARD AND THE END OF THE WORLD by Diane DeSanders

I reviewed Hap & Hazard and the End of the World: A Novel (Bellevue Literary Press) by Diane DeSanders for Lone Star Literary Life. "This is not a romanticized version of childhood, though the conclusion is pitch-perfect. This is a girl discovering cause and effect, exploring boundaries, feeling for the shape of her life, like the bullfrog trapped in their backyard swimming pool, “ranging the shape and size of the pool, being the shape and size of the pool, forgetting that there was ever anything else but the shape and size of the pool.”

Diane DeSanders
Hap & Hazard and the End of the World: A Novel
Bellevue Literary Press
Paperback, 978-1-9426-5836-8 (also available as an e-book, an audio book, and on Audible), 288 pgs., $16.99
January 9, 2018

Dick and Jane are well off, living with their three daughters in late 1940s Dallas when there were still cows and cotton fields out Preston Road. There are maids, cooks, yardmen, shopping at Neiman’s, dining at the Adolphus, and garden parties where the women are “talking chummily yet guardedly together out on the patio with their beautiful clothes and their diamond-cut ankles, sleek birds circling, feathers out.”

But Dick returned injured and broken from World War II. He’s in constant pain that mixes into an unstable compound with humiliation and frustration at his disfavored status at his father’s car dealership, Lone Star Oldsmobile and Cadillac, where he plays second to his brother. Dick explodes frequently and violently at “intolerable imperfections,” terrorizing his family, friends, pets, strangers, and inanimate objects.

The story is told through the first-person narration of the oldest daughter, seven years old, an anxious, imaginative child, adrift, neglected and lonely, confused by the grown-ups whom she should be able to trust to protect her. “If only I could have a big brother or even a big sister,” she laments, “someone older, or just someone—I need someone—who will tell me at least what it is that we are pretending.”

Hap & Hazard and the End of the World: A Novel is Diane DeSanders’s first book. DeSanders is a fifth-generation Texan who inexplicably lives in Brooklyn, New York. Happily, her Texan bona fides are on ample display in this charming yet heart-wrenching debut about a single tumultuous, pivotal year in the life of a young girl.

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The author’s choice of Dick and Jane for the parents’ names tells us that this unhappy family is not unusual, is in fact typical in the fact of their unhappiness, but the details are important, as is the fact that the child narrator remains nameless.

She relates vignettes representative of the good, the bad, and the ugly of this coming-of-age year, full of pathos in the partial understanding and magical thinking of a child. She desperately wants to believe, to have faith, in all sorts of things—God, Santa Claus, the Easter Rabbit, the adults she must depend upon—but her inquisitive mind demands proof. “I think some stories are real and some are not,” she thinks, “but grown-ups do not seem to want to tell you which are which.”

DeSanders’s word choices are precise, her style fluid, her imagery frequently delightful, as when Aunt Celeste shuffles cards for bridge, “her fingers dancers, the cards acrobats.” The child who narrates her world is sometimes daydreaming, sometimes caught in the rain (“I run out, climb the slippery wooden fence, run, slip on wet grass, fall down, get up, run, run, run”). She negotiates high-stakes playground politics (“a contest as vicious as that in any chicken yard”). Other times she’s sweetly comic: “I’d recently realized grown-ups don’t know what you’re doing if they’re not looking at you,” she tells us. “Although you have to watch out for the sides of their eyes.”

This is not a romanticized version of childhood, though the conclusion is pitch-perfect. This is a girl discovering cause and effect, exploring boundaries, feeling for the shape of her life, like the bullfrog trapped in their backyard swimming pool, “ranging the shape and size of the pool, being the shape and size of the pool, forgetting that there was ever anything else but the shape and size of the pool.”

“How much more they might accomplish if only they could talk to each other.” DeSanders quotes Jane Goodall in an epigraph opposite her author’s note. Goodall was talking about chimpanzees, but the sentiment is aptly chosen for DeSanders’s characters, a nuclear family in perpetual danger of fission.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

2018 PubWest Book Design Awards

PubWest has announced the 2018 Book Design Award winners! Congratulations are in order for Trinity University Press whose The Spirit of Tequila by Joel Salcido (author), Paul Salopek (foreword), and Chantal Martineau (introduction) (Designer: Kristina Kachele, Production Manager: Sarah Nawrocki, Printer: Four Colour Print Group) won gold in the "Photography Book" category.

Congratulations are also in order for Texas Review Press whose Parts by Shoney Flores  (Designer:, Production Manager: Kimberly Davis, Printer: Lightning Source International) won silver in the "Jacket/Cover Design Small Format."

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR June 25-July 1, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of June 25-July 1, 2018:

Special Events:
33rd Texas Shakespeare Festival, Kilgore, June 28-July 29

Writers' League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference, Austin, June 29-July 1

Tejas Storytelling 2018 Conference - It's a Family Reunion: Tales of Kin & Kindred, Fort Worth, June 29-July 1

Ongoing Exhibits:
Routine Fables, Houston, May 25-July 29

Oliver Jeffers: 15 Years of Picturing Books, Abilene, June 7-September 30

Monday, June 25:
Interabang Books, Spencer Wise reading and signing THE EMPEROR OF SHOES, 7PM

Tuesday, June 26:
Interabang Books, Jason discussing and signing Heller STRANGE STARS, 7PM

The Wild Detectives, Richard J. Gonzales presents his new work, Deer Dancer, 7:30PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Aminah Mae Safi will discuss and sign her novel for teens, NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Terrance Hayes reading and signing AMERICAN SONNETS FOR MY PAST AND FUTURE ASSASSIN, 7PM

San Antonio
The Mix, PuroSlam Poetry ft. DJ Donnie Dee, 9:30PM

Wednesday, June 27:
Avant Garden, Write About Now Youth Poetry Slam, 7:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, Dawson Barrett discussing and signing THE DEFIANT, 7PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Michael Cirlos discussing and signing Humans of San Antonio, 5:30PM

The Storybook Garden, Award-winning author David Bowles will read from his latest book, FEATHERED SERPENT, DARK HEART OF SKY, 6:30PM

Thursday, June 28:
BookPeople, DANIEL H. WILSON speaking & signing Clockwork Dynasty, 7PM

Burrowing Owl Books, High Plains Poetry Project hosts Poetry Circle, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Beth Liebling discussing and signing LOVE AND LAUGHTER, 7PM

Poison Girl Bar, Poison Pen Reading Series with Mat Johnson, Heather Dobbins, and Christian Gerard, 8:30PM

Gallery 201, Laredo Border Slam party for departing VP Silke Jasso, 9PM

The Twig Book Shop, David Bowles discussing and signing Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall reading and signing El Verano de Las Mariposas (Summer of the Mariposas Spanish Edition), 5PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony, Story time with local author Maria Ashworth, 10AM

Argos Brewhouse & Bookseller, Open Mic Night, 7PM

B&N - Preston/Royal, Dee Wiggins signing Betraying Eyes, 1PM

Deep Vellum Books, Soup's On! hosted by The Writer's Garret's own Emmy Piercy, 1PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Stone Fruit" with El Paso playwright, poet and visual artist Sarah Walker, 12:45PM

Salt + Honey Bakery Cafe, Salt + Honey Open Mic, 6PM

Galveston Bookshop, Susan P. Baker signing Texas Style Justice, 2PM

B&N - River Oaks, George Arnold signing Ramblin' Rogue, 2PM

Brazos Bookstore, Story Time with Cate Berry, author of Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don't Do Bedtime, 6PM

Catherine Couturier Gallery, Kenny Braun signing his new book, AS FAR AS YOU CAN SEE, 5PM

Half Price Books - Clear Lake, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

River Oaks Bookstore, Atiba Clarke discussing Unexpected Words from a Gifted Angel, 3PM

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Excerpt & Giveaway: CINCO DE MURDER by Rebecca Adler

A Taste of Texas Mystery, #3
Rebecca Adler
Genre:  Texas Cozy Mystery
Date of Publication: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Number of Pages: 304

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Tex-Mex waitress and part-time reporter Josie Callahan serves up more Lone Star justice in this spicy mystery from the author of The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole.
It's fiesta time in Broken Boot, Texas, and tourists are pouring into town faster than free beer at a bull roping for the mouthwatering Cinco de Mayo festivities. Tex-Mex waitress Josie Callahan, her feisty abuela, and even her spunky Chihuahua Lenny are polishing their folklórico dances for Saturday's big parade, while Uncle Eddie is adding his own spicy event to the fiesta menu: Broken Boot's First Annual Charity Chili Cook-off.

But Uncle Eddie's hopes of impressing the town council go up in smoke when cantankerous chili cook Lucky Straw is found dead in his tent. And when Josie's beloved uncle is accused of fatal negligence, she, Lenny, and the steadfast Detective Lightfoot must uncover who ended the ambitious chilihead's life--before another cook kicks the bucket.

"I enjoyed every minute of this high fa looting Texas escapade. The authentic Texas sayings had me rolling on the floor. I'm a Texan and boy did I relate to the towns and chili cook-off so well."
--Texas Book-aholic

"I enjoy the Texas flair and touch while all the food talk just makes me hungry. If you enjoy a good cozy mystery that features an adorable dog and a culinary touch then this is the book/series for you."~Books a Plenty Book Reviews

Amazon   Barnes and Noble   Kobo

By Rebecca Adler

Folklórico Rehearsal

On such a gorgeous May morning, what could be better than a power walk to Cho’s cleaners with my long-haired Chihuahua, Lenny? The morning sun had tossed a wide blanket of gold over the Davis and Chisos mountains, awakening the piñon pines and the weeping junipers from their slumber, illuminating the bluegrass and scrub so they looked like desert jewels. 

The plan had been to retrieve my abuela’s folklórico costume and burn some extra calories. And though we made good time—considering the length of my canine sidekick’s pencil-thin appendages—the morning sun galloped down Broken Boot’s cobbled streets while I paid Mr. Cho with a crumpled five-dollar bill and a coupon for a dozen free tamales.

“Yip.” Lenny lapped from the pet fountain in front of Elaine’s Pies, soaking his black-and-white coat.

“¡Vámonos, amigo!” If we were late to the final dance rehearsal before the   Cinco de Mayo parade, God only knew when Senora Marisol Martinez, our matriarch, would permit me to call her abuela again.

During my first few months back home, I was elated to find I could accomplish tasks in far less time than in the crowded thoroughfares of Austin. Almost a year later, I was forced to admit the slower pace of our dusty little town didn’t aid me in my quest to check things off my list. It merely encouraged me to meander.

On that happy thought, Lenny and I raced down the sidewalk toward Milagro. Suddenly I tripped over the plastic clothes bag, nearly kissing the pavement with my face. “Whose great idea was it to rehearse this early?”


“That’s what I was afraid of.”

When we barreled through the front door of Milagro, the best, and only, Tex-Mex restaurant on Main Street, I expected thefolklórico rehearsal to be in full swing. Instead my best friend, Patti Perez, glared at me, which only made me smile. I was wise to her marshmallow center, in spite of her ghostly Goth appearance.

“Sorry,” I mouthed. After all, it had been my idea for all of us to join the local folklórico troupe—my way of embracing life back in good old Broken Boot, Texas.

“About time,” she chided as I draped Senora Mari’s costume over a stack of hand-painted wooden chairs. In my absence, the other dancers had cleared the dining room to create a dance floor on the beautiful Saltillo tiles.

“I would have called,” I began.

“But I was trapped in a dead zone,” we said in unison. Service was so bad in Broken Boot and its outlying communities that folks were slower here than in the rest of the country in ditching their landlines.

“Where’s Anthony?” When our headwaiter offered his newly formed mariachi band to play for our first performance, I didn’t have the heart to say no. Beggars can’t be choosers, or look a gift band in the mouth.

“Tsk, tsk.” Across the room, Anthony’s new fiancée placed her hand over the bar phone’s mouthpiece. Though christened Lucinda,we’d quickly dubbed her Cindy to avoid calling her Linda, my aunt’s name, and vice versa. “He says his truck has a flat tire.” She scowled at whatever Anthony said next and responded with a flurry of Spanish.

“Who doesn’t keep a spare in the desert?” Patti, whom I referred to as Goth Girl if for no other reason than to hear her snort, delivered this line with a deadpan expression and a flick of her rehearsal skirt.

“Yip,” Lenny said, chasing after her ruffles.

Goth Girl snapped her head in my direction and gave me the stink eye. “Tell me you replaced your spare.”

“Uh, well, not yet, but I will after Cinco de Mayo.” Money was a bit tight, what with the loss of tourists during the winter months.

To my right, Aunt Linda, a stunning middle-aged woman with warm chestnut hair, modeled her bright-colored skirt better than any fashionista in Paris. “That’s what you said about Valentine’s Day.” She was my late mother’s older sister. She might look great in her Wranglers, but she and rhythm had never been introduced.

“And Saint Patrick’s,” chimed in Senora Mari, executing a double spin. This morning she wore a rehearsal skirt of black-tiered lace along with her Milagro uniform of peasant blouse, gray bun at her nape, and large pink flower behind her ear. No matter how much I rehearsed, none of my moves could compare to her sassy head turns and flamboyant poses. Who knew my seventy-something, four-foot-eleven   abuela would turn out to be the star of our ragtag troupe?

A sharp clapping interrupted our chatter. “Let’s try it on the counts,” cried Mrs. Felicia Cogburn, mayor’s wife and self-appointed dance captain.

“Yip,” Lenny agreed.

“Why is that dog here?” Mrs. Cogburn demanded, her hands raised in mid-clap.

“He has a key role, remember?” My abuela smiled, an expression so rare on her dear weathered face it made folks uncomfortable.

Mrs. Cogburn blinked several times. “Of course.” Before she could begin, a small truck landed at the curb with a bed full of musicians, trumpets and guitars in full serenade. The band stopped playing long enough to hurry inside.

¡Ay, Dios! Senora, I had to borrow a spare. Mine was flat.” Anthony waved his friends into a semicircle just inside the door.

Senora Mari thrust a finger into the air. “So you say.” She snapped her head dramatically to the side. “Play.”

With a worried look, Anthony counted off, and the group of dark-haired men and boys began to play the "Jarabe Tapatío"the Mexican hat dance. I spied a familiar face on trumpet. Anthony’s little sister Lily gave me a wink and a nod.

As the trumpets and guitars played, Mrs. Cogburn called out, “And one, two, three, four.”

“Where’s your skirt?” Patti asked as we twirled first right and then left.

“Ah, chicken sticks.” I dodged the dancers, ran up the stairs to my loft apartment, and retrieved my long skirt from a chrome dining chair.

“Yip, yip, yip,” Lenny cried from the bottom of the stairs.

“Sorry.” I found his straw hat on the yellow Formica table and made it downstairs without mishap. “Here you go, handsome.” I perched the hat on his head and tightened the elastic under his chin. As we danced, Lenny would spin in place on his back legs, melting the hearts of the crowd faster than fried ice cream in August.

Rebecca Adler grew up on the sugar beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast. Drawn to the Big Apple by the sweet smell of wishful thinking, she studied acting on Broadway until a dark-eyed cowboy flung her over his saddle and hightailed it to the Southwest.

She's currently content to pour her melodramatic tendencies into writing the Taste of Texas culinary mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime: Here Today, Gone Tamale; The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole; and Cinco de Murder. Set in far West Texas, her humorous stories are filled with delicious suspense and scrumptious Tex-Mex recipes. Her alter ego, Gina Lee Nelson, writes contemporary romance with a sweet, Southern-fried flavor.

A former president of North Texas Romance Writers, Rebecca is currently a member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she spends a great deal of time on her other favorite pastime, directing high school theatre.


Grand Prize: Signed Copies of the Full Taste of Texas Series + $10 Amazon Gift Card
Two Runners-Up: Signed Copies of Cinco de Murder
JUNE 20-29, 2018
(U.S. Only)

Author Interview
Guest Post
Top 5 List
Bonus Review
Character Guest Post
Guest Post + Bonus Review

   blog tour services provided by


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Review: GODDESS OF ANARCHY by Jacqueline Jones

I reviewed Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical (Basic Books) by UT Austin professor of history Jacqueline Jones for Lone Star Literary Life. "Goddess of Anarchy is a dramatic and entertaining account of a difficult, complicated, and flawed but significant life almost lost to history, as are those of untold numbers of impactful women."

Jacqueline Jones
Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical
Basic Books
Hardcover, 978-0-4650-7899-8, (also available as an e-book, an audiobook, and on audio CD), 480 pgs., $32.00
December 2017

Lucy Parsons. Slave, freedwoman, student, wife, mother, writer, editor, internationally renowned orator, socialist, communist, anarchist, cipher. From her birth to a slave in antebellum Virginia in 1851, to her education and formative years in Reconstruction–era Waco, Texas, where she married Albert Parsons, an Anglo man who would later be hanged in connection with the bombing of Haymarket Square, to swiftly industrializing Chicago in the Gilded Age, until her death in 1942, Parsons fought for the laboring masses, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly in a nation dizzy with change, a nation sometimes exalted by rapid innovation, oftentimes staggering beneath it. From the 1880s until the day she died, Parsons “held fast to the ideal of a nonhierarchical society emerging from trade unions, a society without wages and without coercive government of any kind.” Even if this result could be achieved only by dynamite.

Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical is the latest work of biographical history from Jacqueline Jones, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, MacArthur Fellow, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, and winner of the Bancroft Prize. Goddess of Anarchy is a dramatic and entertaining account of a difficult, complicated, and flawed but significant life almost lost to history, as are those of untold numbers of impactful women.

Goddess of Anarchy recounts much of the history of the labor struggle in the United States as told through the prism of Lucy Parsons’s singular, startling life. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was the catalyst for a receptive Parsons to devote her life to “the labor question” and convince her that the two-party system of Republicans and Democrats would always fail the great unwashed in order to remain in power at all costs. Believing the ballot a failure, Parsons advocated bullets.

Parsons’s contemporaries included Mother Jones, Emma Goldman, Eugene V. Debs, Samuel Gompers, and Jane Addams, with all of whom she feuded. Many of her peers thought she harmed the cause by denigrating voting and unions. When Progressivism arrived, Parsons decried charity as “hush money to hide the blushes of the labor robbers.” She thought the New Deal and FDR co-opted the movement.

Though she lived in the public eye for almost seven decades, Parsons went to great pains to veil her African origins and personal life. Parsons “expressed a deep commitment to informed debate and disquisition,” Jones writes, but in the next breath would invoke “the virtues of explosive devices.” As she states in her introduction, Jones intends a “more nuanced approach by integrating Parsons’s secret private life with her high-profile public persona.” I don’t think integration was achieved, and I doubt it possible to reconcile the contradictions of a person exceedingly talented at compartmentalization.

The most pressing issues of Parsons’s lifetime remain so in ours, a circumstance which is either wholly depressing or indicates there is truly nothing new under the sun, or both. The two-party system failed to work for the poor; technology displaced workers; the middle class eroded; money and influence corrupted elections and public policy; a “new iteration of the KKK indicated that the more the pace of technological innovation accelerated, the more likely it became that a significant portion of the white laboring classes would seek refuge in a narrow tribalism.”

Jones’s writing has a vitality to it as she explores Parsons’s many contradictions, offers psychological insights, and tartly makes her points. Jones is a master of the concise introductory paragraph and the concluding paragraph that simultaneously foreshadows and whets the appetite for the next chapter. Goddess of Anarchy is an education and a bravura performance from a stylish wordsmith.