Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR July 30-August 5, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of July 30-August 5, 2018: 

Special Events:
Texas Writers' League Summer Writing Retreat, Nacogdoches July 29-August 3

40th Annual Armadillo Con, Austin, August 3-5

26th Annual Texas Christian Writers' Conference, Houston, August 4

Ongoing Exhibits:

Half Price Books - Clear Lake, IT'S A HARRY POTTER BIRTHDAY PARTY! Grab your wand, put on your robe, hop on your Nimbus 2000. Dress in your best wizarding attire and enjoy treats, coloring, puzzles and games with prizes, plus readings from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 2PM

Murder By the Book, Edgar Cantero will sign and discuss This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Thursday, August 2:
Interabang Books, Brooke McAlary discussing and signing SLOW: SIMPLE LIVING FOR A FRANTIC WORLD, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, J. Patrick Rick discussing and signing EXPUNGED, 7PM

Contemporary Arts Museum, Words & Art Ekphrastic Poetry & Prose Reading, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Igo Library, Frank Faulkner discussing Historic Photos of San Antonio, 2PM

Sugar Land

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, The Gutfeld Monologues: Classic Rants from the Five book signing with Greg Gutfeld, 12PM

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

Stimley Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library, Public Poetry Monthly Reading Series featuring Sean Johnson, Savanah Burns, Rai Crawford, and Elena Gonzales Melinger, 2PM

Writespace, Workshop: "How to Write Great Dialogue" with KJ Russell, 9:30AM

Writespace, Workshop: "Jump Start Your Writing with Travel" with Dr. Cynthia Childress, 1PM

Port Aransas
Port Aransas Community Center, Seasons at Selah, the Legacy of Bamberger Ranch Preserve with discussion & book signing by David K Langford, 11AM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Writers Workshop, 2PM

San Antonio

Red Cat & Co., Michael Cirlos will be signing Humans of San Antonio, 10:30AM

The Twig Book Shop, Sara Mitchell signing Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home For All, 11AM


River Oaks Bookstore, Mike Damante discussing and signing Punk Rock and UFOs: Cryptozoology Meets Anarchy, 3PM


Thursday, July 26, 2018


I reviewed Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart (Crown Publishing Group) by Houston's Mimi Swartz for Lone Star Literary Life. Swartz has impeccably woven science, history, biography, and engineering to create an improbably true account of cardiology’s pursuit of medicine’s Holy Grail — a fully implantable artificial  heart.
Mimi Swartz
Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart
Crown Publishing Group
Hardcover, 978-0-8041-3800-0 (also available as an e-book and audio-book), 336 pgs., $27.00
August 7, 2018
“The medical and engineering professions were like a couple who were profoundly ill-suited for each other but determined to work together for the sake of the children.”
Heart disease is the number one killer on the planet. It is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States, killing approximately 610,000 people in 2017 — one in every four deaths. Approximately twenty-six million Americans have heart disease; 2,150 of them die each day, an average of one death every forty seconds. The solution of choice is a heart transplant, but in any given year there are 2,500 hearts available for 50,000 patients on the waiting list. These are bad odds; and “the person who comes up with a way to replace a failing heart with an artificial one will save countless lives and change the future of humankind.” We are talking another Louis Pasteur, Jonas Salk, or Marie Curie. And, of course, whoever crosses the finish line first will become wealthy beyond most people’s wildest dreams.

Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart is the second book from Texas journalist royalty Mimi Swartz. Texans have read her work for decades in Texas Monthly, where she is an executive editor. Swartz’s National Magazine Award–winning work appears in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Slate, and the New York Times. In Ticker, she has impeccably woven science, history, biography, and engineering to create an improbably true account of cardiology’s pursuit of medicine’s Holy Grail — a fully implantable artificial heart.

Ticker is an education in the development of world-class medical facilities (Baylor College of Medicine, St. Luke’s Hospital, Texas Heart Institute, the Texas Medical Center) that set global standards in the subtropical fever-swamp we like to call Houston. Swartz entertainingly relates the colorful biographies of the independent (insubordinate? hubristic?) titans of cardiothoracic surgery, many of whom called, and call, Texas home (doctors Michael DeBakey, Denton Cooley, Bud Frazier, Billy Cohn). Combine the facilities and the surgeons (and magnetic levitation!) and you get a lesson in the history of cardiology and medical devices. That’s how important Texas has been in the field.

For all of the heart-wrenching pathos expected in stories of people too sick to walk across a room and the families who love them — and there are plenty of these — there is also humor. Swartz is funny and, often, so are her subjects. Dr. Frazier remembers The Incident of the Yucatan Mini Pigs, which occurred when the animal research lab was still on the third floor of St. Luke’s, along with obstetrics and maternity. Also, it’s unnerving how important your home kitchen and local hardware store (not to mention the now-deceased Foley’s department store) have been to the development of assist devices and artificial organs.

Ticker is narrative nonfiction, the art of using literary styles and techniques to tell a factual story — practical and poetic. Swartz excels at cherry-picking among vast amounts of research for the quintessential example of whatever point needs making and by which to extrapolate from the micro to the macro. Facts (the human heart beats around 115,000 times a day) and figures (a healthy heart pumps about two thousand gallons of blood a day) are personalized and analogized. Profound is the correct word for Swartz’s moving descriptions of witnessing heart-transplant surgery. “And then it happens: the new heart begins to take on a richer color as it fills with new blood. It begins to beat,” she writes, “searching for and then finding a normal rhythm, settling into its new home.”

Ticker is beautifully and ingeniously constructed, flowing like a fast-paced science-fiction novel, engendering wide-eyed wonder at a remarkable, smart, compelling, and very human story at the busy intersection of money, politics, law, science, medicine, ethics, and philosophy.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday Roundup: Texas Bookish Calendar for July 23-29, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of July 23-29, 2018: 

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

Macondo Writers Workshop, San Antonio, July 25-28

The Texas Playwright's Festival, Houston, July 26-29

AME: Authors Marketing Event, Dallas, July 27-29

El Tallercito's Writers Conference, Dallas, July 28

Texas Latino Comic Con 2018, Dallas, July 28

Texas Writers' League Summer Writing Retreat, Nacogdoches July 29-August 3

Ongoing Exhibits:

Fort Worth
Black Rooster Cafe, Sara Triana Mitchell presents her children's book, Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home for All, 10:30AM
Spiderhouse Ballroom, Austin Poetry Slam featuring Joanna, 7:15PM

Deep Vellum Books, Sergio Pitol: An Evening with Translator George Henson, 7PM

Interabang Books, Ottessa Moshfegh reading and signing MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION, 7PM

The Wild Detectives, Short Shorts & Tall Tales: an informal backyard reading of short stories and novel excerpts, 7:30PM

El Paso
The Black Orchid Lounge, Barbed Wire Open Mic series, 8PM


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

The Twig Book Shop, Watt Casey discussing and signing My Guitar is a Camera, 5PM

Wednesday, July 25:

BookWoman, Kristin Casey discussing and signing Rock Monster: My Life with Joe Walsh, 7PM

Terrazas Branch Library, Aural Literature July Reading featuring Chicon Street Poets, 7:30PM

Interabang Books, Kent Wascom reading and signing THE NEW INHERITORS, 7PM


Thursday, July 26:
Interabang Books, Brian Abrams discussing and signing OBAMA: AN ORAL HISTORY, 7PM

B&N - River Oaks, Story time with local author Victoria Martin reading and signing Itty Bitty ... Is That You?, 11AM

South Irving Library, Sweet & Salty Love YA Author Panel with with authors Maurene Goo, Amy Spalding, and Siobhan Vivian, 7PM

Sugar Land

Friday, July 27:
Visionary Heights, Ocotillo Review reading featuring Russell Ashworth, Gabrielle Langley, Marc Hess, Rebecca Oxley, Diane Heath, Andrea Barbosa, and Tony Burnett, 6:30PM

New Waverly
Honey's Coffee & Biscuits, Sara Triana Mitchell presents her children's book, Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home for All, 9:30AM

Saturday, July 28:
BookPeople, SAMANTHA M. CLARK speaking & signing The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast, 2PM

Half Price Books - S. Lamar, international street artist and author The Impossible Winterbourne will sell and sign his illustrated children's book The AlphaBots, 1PM

El Paso
B&N - Sunland Park, Roxanne Lambie signing Quantum, 3PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Brian Smith will discuss and sign his book LIFTOFF!: THE TANK, THE STORM, AND THE ASTROS' IMPROBABLE ASCENT TO BASEBALL IMMORTALITY, 1PM

Brasil, Writing workshop followed by a poetry slam hosted by Houston VIP National Poetry Slam Team; poets can earn points toward competing for the national team, 7PM

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

Houston Public Library, Hip Hop for Literacy with Houston Poet Laureate Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton and Slick Rick, 2PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Shyrell Hobson discussing and signing Seams of Gold: Discovering Beauty in Brokenness, 3PM

B&N, The Adventures of Shadow, the Almost Black Kitten book signing with Debra Steffens, 1PM

B&N, Big Man Blue and Two Man Red book signing with Nicole Locker, 2PM



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Interview: Shawn Smucker, author of THE EDGE OF OVER THERE

The Day the Angels Fell, Book 2

  Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: July 3, 2018
Number of Pages: 384

Scroll down for Giveaway!

The captivating sequel to the award-winning The Day the Angels Fell

Abra Miller carries a secret and a responsibility she never expected. 

Before the Tree of Life, everything in Abra Miller’s life had been predictable. Safe. Normal. But after the Tree, everything has felt fragile . . . like holding a soap bubble in the palm of her hand. After years of fruitless searching for the next Tree, she begins to wonder if it was nothing more than a vivid dream.

Now sixteen, Abra finds a clue to the whereabouts of the next Tree of Life when an ominous woman—who looks exactly like a ghost from her past—compels her to travel to New Orleans where she’ll find one of seven gateways between this world and Over There. But she’s not the only one interested in finding the gateway. There’s also a young man searching for his father and sister, who escaped through it years before. As Abra enters the Edge of Over There and begins her pursuit of the Tree once more, she doesn’t know whom to fear or whom to trust.

She’s also starting to think that some doorways should never be opened.



In The Day the Angels Fell, you introduced readers to a twelve-year-old boy who lost his mother to a tragic accident and is desperately seeking the Tree of Life in order to bring her back. How is the sequel, The Edge of Over There, a continuation of this story?
In the sequel, Abra Miller takes on the role of the angel tasked with finding and destroying the Tree of Life. She and Sam have grown apart, but the ancient struggle around the Tree continues, and Abra is swept up in it.

Abra is the main character in your new book. How has her life changed since the events relayed in The Day the Angels Fell?
She is four years older, and she is lonelier after experiencing the events in book 1. She is also hungry for more of the same adventure, more of the same otherworldly involvement, but four years is a long time, and she begins to doubt if any of it really happened or if she would see anything like it again.

You refer to seven gateways between this world and Over There. Can you provide a brief explanation of what these are?
I scoured the internet after finishing book 1, trying to find out more legends about the Tree of Life, and while I did that I came across this one legend, an ancient belief that there were seven gates between Earth and the afterlife. One gate on each continent. I started playing around with this concept, and that’s what led to The Edge of Over There.

What made you decide to write these books, and where do you come up with your creative plots?
I decided to write the first book after spending time in Istanbul with a very good man who was dying of cancer at the age of forty-nine. His story plunged me into thinking quite a lot about death. I combined that theme with some questions I had about Bible stories I’d heard when I was a child, stories that don’t have much in the way of closure. Asking questions is what leads me into new stories.

What type of research was required for writing The Edge of Over There?
I did a lot of research on New Orleans and especially the cemetery that is featured in the story, as well as the backstory of Marie Laveau.

What is one of the main points you hope readers learn from your book?
I’d like readers to continue to engage with me in considering the question, could it be possible death is a gift? I think The Edge of Over There also explores themes of selfishness and power and control, and I hope it challenges our current cultural obsession with living forever and doing anything to remain young.

What are you working on next?
I have a nonfiction book coming out in the fall of 2018, as well as a contemporary adult novel releasing in 2019. I’m very excited about both of these. 

Praise for The Edge of Over There:
“Blending Biblical elements and urban myths, Smucker creates an enthralling story of supernatural battles between the forces of good and evil.” -- Publishers Weekly

The Edge of Over There is a mesmerizing, menacing fantasy. Shawn Smucker fuses New Orleans lore, Christian themes, and dystopian landscapes in a thorough exploration of love and its unintended results.” -- Foreword Reviews (Starred Review) 

Shawn Smucker is the author of The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There. He lives with his wife and six children in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him on his website, where you can also sign up for his newsletter in order to find out when and where the Tree of Life will turn up next.

GRAND PRIZE: Both Books in the The Day the Angels Fell series + Color Changing Tree Mug + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
2ND PRIZE: Both Books + Tree of Life Journal
3RD PRIZE: Both Books + $10 Starbucks Gift Card
  July 17-26, 2018

Author Interview
Book Trailer
Top 10 List
Notable Quotable
Author Interview
Guest Post


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Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday Roundup: TEXAS BOOKISH EVENTS July 16-22, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of July 16-22, 2018: 

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

Barrio Writers Summer Workshop, Pflugerville, July 16-21

Celebration Magazine's 4th Annual Live, Laugh and Learn, Richardson, July 17

Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, Houston, July 18-21

Gemini Ink Writers Conference, San Antonio, July 20-22

The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, Grapevine, July 20-22

Ongoing Exhibits:
Deep Vellum Books, Joe Milazzo presents Of All Places In This Place Of All Places, 7PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, writer, entertainer and internet sensation Melissa Radke will discuss and sign her humorous and inspirational new book, Eat Cake. Be Brave., 7PM [numbered pass required for signing line]

Interabang Books, May Cobb reading and signing BIG WOODS, 7PM

Klyde Warren Park, The Wild Detectives presents the Locals Only Book Club: join author Kathleen Kent to discuss The Dime, 6PM

Murder By the Book, Dan Stuart will sign and discuss The Unfortunate Demise of Marlow Billings, 6:30PM

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

Houston Public Library, Joe Holley discussing and signing Hurricane Season, 6:30PM

Murder By the Book, David Bell will sign and discuss Somebody's Daughter, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Sabina's Coffee House, Ocotillo Review summer edition reading, 6:30PM
Crooked Tree Coffee Shop, Sara Triana Mitchell presents her new children's book, Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home for All, 10:30AM

Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live presents a Reading and Conversation with Sheila Heti, author of Motherhood, and Sigrid Nunez, author The Friend, 7:30PM

South Irving Library, Storyteller DeeCee Cornish, 2PM

George W. Bush Childhood Home, Laura Bush Literacy Program Reading Event, 4:30PM

Friday, July 20:
BookPeople, KATIE WILLIAMS speaking & signing Tell the Machine Goodnight, 7PM

Malvern Books, Page by Page: On Craft & Other Writerly Pursuits: "The Art of Submitting Work: The Triumphs and Pitfalls of Putting Yourself Out There" with Tatiana Ryckman, 7PM

Palo Duro Canyon State Park Gallery & Visitor’s Center, Natalie Bright signing her two newest easy readers + meet the rescue horses and their trainers, 9:30AM

El Paso
Fahrenheit 180, Barbed Wire Open Mic Series, 7:30PM

Murder By the Book, Ace Atkins will sign and discuss The Sinners, and Megan Abbott will sign and discuss Give Me Your Hand, 6:30PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, Eat Cake. Be Brave. book signing with Melissa Radke, 7PM

Saturday, July 21:
Blue Baker Arboretum, Austin SCWBI's Author Lunch featuring Jessica Lee Anderson, 11:30AM

BookPeople, DAVID BOWLES speaking & signing Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico (in conversation with Rebecca Gomez, Curator of Exhibitions & Programs at Mexic-Arte Museum), 2PM

BookPeople, MELISSA RADKE speaking & signing Eat Cake. Be Brave., 6PM

Half Price Books - S. Lamar, local author Henry Nash will sell and sign his inspirational book, Integrity Does Matter: Living a Life Above Reproach, 1PM

Malvern Books, celebrate the launch of Keith R. Rees’ new novel, One Night in Bangkok, 7PM

Winspear Opera House, AT&T Performing Arts Center presents #hearhere: Ira Glass, 8PM

B&N - Golden Triangle Mall, Blaise Ramsay signing Blessing Luna, 2PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "Assaying the Essay" with Bill Sparks, 12:45PM

Galveston Bookshop, Linda Pirtle signing The Mah Jongg Murders, 2PM

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

MATCH Houston, Apollo Poetry Showcase, 7:30PM

Murder By the Book, May Cobb will sign and discuss Big Woods, 4:30PM

Port Neches
Fleur Fine Books, Harold Brown signing My Son, To Whom It May Concern, 3PM

CityLine DFW, Sara Triana Mitchell presents her new children's book, Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home for All, 9, 10, and 11AM

San Antonio

Murder By the Book, Daniel Silva will sign and discuss his new book, The Other Woman, 4PM [line number required for signing]