Monday, July 29, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar July 29-August 4, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of July 29-August 4, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover.

2nd Annual Talleres Huitzilopochtli, Edinburg, July 30

Heritage Auctions: Comics & Comic Art, Dallas, August 1-3

Writer Reboot Intensive 2019, Austin, August 1-4

ArmadilloCon 41, Austin, August 2-4

Houston Shakespeare Festival, August 2-11

East Texas Book Bash, Tyler, August 3

WORDFest SW, Burleson, August 3


Howson Branch Library, Star Party with Lindsay Leslie, author of Nova the Star Eater, 2PM

Native Hostel, Austin Poetry Slam Hosted by Peter Nevland, 7:15PM

Paramount Theatre, Hank Green discussing an signing his bestselling debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, 7:30PM [ticketed event]

El Paso
The Station, Barbed Wire Open Mic Series, 8PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Poetry Open Mic, 8PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Beat the Heat: book recommendations with Liz Sullivan of Random House and Brian Contine of Penguin, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Kid’s Creative Writing Workshop with Kathi Appelt, 3PM

Brazos Bookstore, Kathi Appelt reading and signing Angel Thieves, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Jack Carr reading and signing True Believer (in conversation with Tom Abrahams), 6:30PM

Notsuoh, Canción Cannibal Cabaret Summer Tour with poet Amalia Ortiz, 8PM

South Irving Library, A Universe of Stories YA Author Panel featuring Rhoda Belleza, Rachel Caine, Hafsah Faizal, Katharine McGee, and Ashley Poston, including an audience Q&A, book sales, and signings (Join the authors earlier 2PM for an afternoon party with snacks and crafts), 7PM

BookPeople, Stephen Hunter reading and signing Game of Snipers, 7PM

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

DART's Lake June Station, The Writer's Garret's Rail Writer's Community Ride, 9AM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, Jack Carr reading and signing his latest political thriller, True Believer, 7PM

Lark and Owl Booksellers, Children's Writing Workshop with author Nikki Loftin, 3PM
BookWoman, Kayleigh Williamson discussing and signing Cool to Be Me, 6:30PM

Malvern Books, translator Sam Bett introducing and reading from his new book, a translation of Yukio Mishima’s novel Star, joined by poets Sarah Matthis, Wayne Dean, Taylor Davis, Dion K. James, and Stephanie Davison, 7PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, New York Times bestselling travel author Matthew Kepnes discussing and signing Ten Years a Nomad, 7PM

Interabang Books, Caroline Louise Walker reading and signing Man of the Year, 6PM

The Wild Detectives, Canción Cannibal Cabaret Summer Tour with poet Amalia Ortiz, 7:30PM
Murder By the Book, Stephen Hunter reading and signing Game of Snipers, 7PM

San Antonio
Parman Branch Library, Book signing event: Letters to Rose, with special guest Rose Williams, 6PM

Deep Vellum Books, an evening with Houston’s third poet laureate, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, author of Newsworthy, with a special appearance by Poet Rage Almighty, 7PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, New York Times bestselling thriller author Stephen Hunter reading and signing his latest novel, Game of Snipers, 7PM

Galveston Bookshop, Lisa Sandlin signing The Bird Boys, 5PM
Brazos Bookstore, Caroline Louise Walker reading and signing Man of the Year, 6:30PM

Joe A. Guerra Library, Beat the Heat Summer Reads with Len Vlahos, author of The Scar Boys, 3PM

B&N - Arboretum, Vera Worthy signing Ambition on Fleek, 2PM

BookPeople, John Doe discussing and signing More Fun In the World, 2PM

BookPeople, Jennifer Pastiloff discussing and signing On Being Human (in conversation with Meredith Walker), 5PM

Malvern Books, The Lion and the Pirate inclusive open mike (inn association with VSA Texas (The State Organization on Arts and Disability) and the Pen2Paper Creative Writing Contest (a project of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities), 7PM

2nd & Charles, Local author book signing of Out of the Woods and Back Again, 12PM

Dallas Public Library, Folktales and Urban Legends featuring Dallas Storytelling Guild, Mary Jacobs (Haunted Plano, Texas), and Jerry Hestand (Hunting Apes in America: My Life as a Bigfoot Hunter), 2PM

Interabang Books, Sam Staggs discussing and signing Finding Zsa Zsa, 6PM

El Paso
Dead Tree Books, Three Poets Converged in a Tan Bookstore with Wendy Barker (Shimmer), Jo Reyes-Boitel (Michael + Josephine), and Natalia Treviño (VirginX), 3PM

Central Library, Farce or Heroics: a reading of Sex as a Political Conditon, A Border Novel by Carlos Nicolás Flores and a panel discussion chaired by Holly Dysktra on "Feminism and the Macho," 2PM

The Twig Book Shop, Eric Mullin signing Unbinding Education, 11AM


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Author Interview & Giveaway: IBERIAN TIES by Quintin Vargas

Quintin Vargas

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
International Thriller 
Publisher: Vanguard Publishers
Date of Publication: May 13, 2019
Number of Pages: 405

Scroll down for giveaway!

Without a motive, how do you catch a killer? A gripping thriller in the vein of Harlan Coben, Paula Hawkins, and Lee Child.

A rising star psychiatrist, American Nate Shelley is in Spain’s Canary Islands, making his world debut at a convention. But after delivering his keynote address, he and his fiancée Miro are arrested for murder.

Nate knows he’s not guilty, but is his future wife involved in some way in the crime? Miro’s directly implicated when the murder victim is identified as her stalker.

Is Nate’s career ruined? Is he facing life imprisonment? Does the American couple stand a chance of convincing the Spanish authorities—and Interpol—that they’re innocent? Not in a post-Brexit, anti-Trump European environment.

Racing to clear their names, Nate and Miro will soon be embroiled in sham investigations, powerful cartels, and family secrets finally coming to light.

Full of intrigue, this gritty international crime novel is a thrilling ride.


“Brilliant thriller! I totally loved and enjoyed this book!! Interesting twists and turns, well-developed characters and suspense all along the way. Definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. Can't wait for the next book!” –Gaby M., Goodreads Review

“This was an education about cultures and history as well as an unpredictable mystery.” –Robert R., Amazon Review


Interview with Quintin Vargas

Q: How has being a Texan influenced your writing?

A: Growing up and living in Texas have allowed me to be fluent in two languages, and I integrate Spanish and English dialogue into my book IBERIAN TIES. Importantly, Texas has offered me the advantage of being exposed to a confluence of unique ethnic cultures. For instance, my Spanish, Mexican, and mestizo heritage has made me deeply aware of the impact of indigenous populations of the Southwest. Additionally, I learned of a forgotten Jewish segment of society that has virtually disappeared; one of my book’s main characters is of Hispanic descent from South Texas, and she also has Sephardic Jewish roots, which is truly very unfamiliar to many readers.

Q: Why did you choose to write in the thriller genre?

A: I had dedicated more than thirty years to scholarly writings, and I was ready to try something else. Since I enjoyed reading crime fiction, I thought it might be fun to attempt writing it.

Q: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

A: I had the fundamentals of writing before starting to write fiction, having come from an academic and teaching background, but learning the craft of writing commercial fiction was an eye-opener. In many ways, I had to undo much of my inclinations when I wrote for an academic audience. And although creating fictional characters and plots was hard work, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Q: What research did you conduct for writing IBERIAN TIES?

A: I did significant research on the Canary Islands, although I knew the archipelago from my own travels and visits there. I also researched police practices and the Spanish legal system. I also examined the inner workings of cartels, with attention paid to international crime.
Q: Whose work do you most enjoy reading?

A: I’ve learned a lot from John Irving, Harlan Coben, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Daniel Silva. It won’t surprise you to learn that both my wife and I enjoy reading crime and international thrillers. I also await every Joel C. Rosenberg novel that he publishes. I’m beginning to read Lee Child, and I wish I’d picked him up earlier. I started with Killing Floor and enjoyed it greatly.

Q: Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

A: My wife will tell you that I’ve become a full-time writer. My characters are constantly in my head. Often I find myself thinking—and saying-- “such and such a character would’ve said that…” or “this character would never do such a thing”. I will wake up thinking, I’ll put Nate (my main character) in this situation in order to force him to…”

Q: How does your book relate to your faith?

A: The spiritual component is very critical to me. Although I’m writing fiction, I need at least some of my characters to address their spiritual and religious beliefs. For example, my main character is a stable, competent, psychiatrist who is spiritually ambivalent. He is not an atheist; however, he’s not a committed believer either. And, it bothers him, because he wishes he were one or the other. He detests the quasi-intellectual drivel of agnostics in his social circle. One curious thing about Nate—the main character—is that he often finds himself praying, when he is worried or threatened. Yet, he cannot come to a firm belief in God. The arc of his spiritual development will become more prominent in books #2 and #3 as I write the trilogy.

Q: Who would you cast to play your characters in a movie version of your book?

A: Not a serious dramatic actor. If he were alive, Cary Grant would have made an excellent Nate Shelley. I’d need to select a person that can be self-deprecating without falling into annoying levity. Maybe Owen Wilson or even Luke Wilson could pull it off.

Iberian Ties is the first work of fiction published by Quintin Vargas. In addition to being an author, he combined a career as professor and dean in various American universities with becoming owner of a firm that prepared new immigrants to enter the marketplace and international workforce. His work impacted leadership development for various domestic and international private industries, non-profit organizations, and higher education.

As an academic, he served as dean and provost at various universities, including DePaul University in Chicago, the University of Texas, San Antonio, and St. Edward’s University. His academic writings have been highlighted in various publications, including the Journal of Research and Development in Education, the National Commission on Testing and Public Policy, and the Journal of Thought

He and his wife, Marty, have five children and thirteen grandchildren. They reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Three Winners: Choice of Signed Print or eBook Copy
July 23-August 2, 2019
Notable Quotable
Guest Post
Author Interview
Top 15 List
Scrapbook Page

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Thursday, July 25, 2019


“It’s possible to long for home, even when you don’t have one.”

I reviewed Home for Erring and Outcast Girls (Crown Publishing) by Texas's Julie Kibler for Lone Star Literary Life. It seems odd to say that historical fiction is timely, but it is in this case, timely and resonant.

Julie Kibler
Home for Erring and Outcast GirlsCrown Publishing Group
Hardcover (also available as an e-book, audiobook, and on audio CD), 978-0-4514-9933-2, 400 pgs., $27
July 23, 2019

Cate has just moved to Arlington for a new job in the University Collections department of the local campus of the University of Texas when during a morning run, she stumbles across a historical marker for the site of Berachah Home and Cemetery. Her new job allows her to research the residents of the Berachah Home, and she finds their stories resonate powerfully with her own past.

Lizzie and her daughter, Docia, are rescued from a Tyler jail in 1904 by two women from the Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption of Erring Girls in Arlington. Lizzie has been expelled from her home for “seducing” (read “being raped by”) a family member. With no education and no skills, she earns her keep cooking at the county prison farm, where she becomes the victim of what we now call sexual harassment and sex trafficking (read “rape”).

Mattie and her son, Cap, are living hand-to-mouth in Fort Worth after her husband takes off to make his fortune in the Colorado mines, and they never hear from him again. Mattie has just turned her first trick to pay the rent when Cap falls seriously ill. Mattie stumbles across a pamphlet about the Berachah Home, and she sets out seeking asylum.

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls is the second novel from Julie Kibler, following her 2013 bestselling debut, Calling Me Home. Kibler’s new book is mostly historical fiction, so it seems odd to call it “timely,” but it is. Artfully woven of the ills currently roiling our country, resonating in the era of #MeToo and Jeffrey Epstein and the list is too long to name them all, the issues of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls are age-old. Powerful men protect other powerful men, often with the collusion of wives, and countless women and girls are collateral damage.

Kibler’s research is impeccable, the fruit of years of examining everything she could find on the historical Berachah Industrial Home in Arlington, which was operational from 1903 to 1935. The home served approximately three thousand girls and women, along with their children. The grounds (the chapel’s foundation and a cemetery remain) were purchased by the University of Texas at Arlington; the archives are housed at UTA’s Special Collections department.

The pace is quick and steady; action moves fluidly back and forth between the present and the early twentieth century. Kibler is skilled at foreshadowing and organically solving the mysteries, only marred by melodrama in a fleeting few instances. She writes gripping, heart-pounding scenes, then lulls you into a tender scene, which will tug your heartstrings out and tie them into knots. The experience is painful but rewarding.

Eve, the cause of every ill, her descendants the second sex, the weaker vessel, are held responsible, not only for their own behavior but for enforcing the morals of, and controlling the actions of, men. The Berachah Home was founded by and run by a Christian sect, and all of Kibler’s main characters wrestle with faith. Mattie thinks God is not for people like her. Cate says, “I have an understanding with God. I won’t judge him by the people who claim to represent him if he won’t judge me for keeping my distance.” Kibler dips a toe into theological debate, wondering why a religion that claims to follow Jesus wants instead to adhere to the writings of Paul. Of course they blamed themselves. We still do.

Many of the characters in Kibler’s novel were inspired by the people who lived at Berachah. One of the many joys is the depth of these characters, richly drawn and quite fully human. Thankfully, there are no saints among these damaged souls—there but for the grace of pick-your-deity (or whatever moves your universe). These fallen women form families of choice and friendships of sisterhood while mothering each other, attempting a “reciprocity of trust,” which is necessary but so difficult.

Kibler offers a hopeful but realistic conclusion with a measure of peace in which there’s work still to do. Home for Erring and Outcast Girls deserves to be addressed as an accessible and profound work on the ill treatment of women and girls in this society. Of course, Amazon’s metadata is laughably reductive, assigning the novel to “Mothers & Children Fiction” and “Women's Friendship Fiction.” When will work about the female experience finally be considered—simply—human?

Originally published at Lone Star Literary Life.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Author Interview & Giveaway: LIGHT FROM DISTANT STARS by Shawn Smucker


Genre: Christian Fiction / Magical Realism / Rural Fiction
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: July 16, 2019
Number of Pages: 400
Scroll down for Giveaway!

When Cohen Marah steps over his father's body in the basement embalming room of the family's funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory.

Over the next week, Cohen's childhood comes back in living color. The dramatic events that led to his parents' separation. The accident Cohen witnessed and the traumatic images he couldn't unsee. And the two children in the forest who became his friends--and enlisted him in a dark and dangerous undertaking. As the lines blur between what was real and what was imaginary, Cohen is faced with the question he's been avoiding:

Is he responsible for his father's death?

Master story weaver Shawn Smucker relays a tale both eerie and enchanting, one that will have you questioning reality and reaching out for what is true, good, and genuine.


Interview with Shawn Smucker

How does Light from Distant Stars relate to your faith?
Cohen, the protagonist in this story, is really on a quest to remember his childhood and try to figure out what to do with the memories he has of his father. Some good, some bad. I think his journey into the past mirrors my own faith journey in many ways, as I’ve looked back on the faith I had as a child and am not trying to figure out what to do with it. How will I reconcile my new views of God? How can I appreciate what I had as a child but still be okay with moving into something new?

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 
I think the hardest part of writing the book was two-fold – practically, there were multiple time lines I had to keep track of. That was a challenge. Emotionally, it was tough because I was writing about a strained father-son relationship, when in fact I have a wonderful relationship with my father. While Cohen and his father share many similarities with me and my dad, Cohen’s father failed him on a number of basic levels, where my dad really came through for me in my life. So, it was kind of tough to let that happen to my characters.

What do you like to read in your free time?
I love reading novels that have to do with family and include a tiny bit of mysticism. Not necessarily full-on fantasy, but just a little bit of something that can’t be easily explained. This is a reflection of how I view the world, this idea that there is more to everything than what we see.

What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m finishing up a work-in-progress, a manuscript that hopefully will be a book that releases with Revell next summer, July, 2020. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but the main themes I normally write about are present: family, death, and doubt vs. belief. It’s a pretty intense story, and one I’m excited to share.

What book do you wish you could have written?
I just asked my wife this question yesterday! So, my answers are close at hand: A Prayer for Owen Meany. All the Light We Cannot See. East of Eden. And maybe The Brothers K, too. Those are books I reread over and over again. They’re just fantastic.

Shawn Smucker is the author of the young adult novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, as well as the memoir Once We Were Strangers. He lives with his wife and six children in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Copy of Light from Distant Stars
+ Look to the Stars 8”x5” Journal + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card; 
Copy of Light from Distant Stars + Personal Library Kit; 
Copy of Light from Distant Stars + $10 Starbucks Gift Card. 
July 17-27, 2019

Author Interview
BONUS Review
Top Five

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