Thursday, August 29, 2019

Review: FATAL STRIKE by DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills's newest novel, Fatal Strike (Tyndale House Publishers), hit shelves next week! I reviewed it for Lone Star Literary Life. "As is Mills's trademark, Fatal Strike is clean, contemporary, suspenseful crime fiction with compelling characters and relevant, timely themes."

DiAnn Mills
Fatal Strike
Tyndale House Publishers
Hardcover (also available as an e-book), 978-1-4964-2709-0, 400 pgs., $24.99
September 3, 2019

Three bodies have been discovered in Galveston in three days, all apparently murdered by an injection of rattlesnake venom to the heart. The dead are a police officer, a prosecuting attorney, and a judge. The suspects are members of Venenos, a Mexican drug- and human-trafficking gang whose rallying cry is “Reconquista”—reclaiming Texas for Mexico. FBI Special Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert, who’ve not worked together previously, are paired to investigate the deaths. As the investigation progresses, mysterious undercurrents become an undertow, and politics and family secrets muddy the waters so that it’s not clear who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, and whom the agents can trust.

Fatal Strike is the latest novel of Christian suspense and romance from award-winning, best-selling Texas author DiAnn Mills. As is her trademark, Fatal Strike is clean, contemporary, suspenseful crime fiction with compelling characters and relevant, timely themes.

Mills is skilled at creating a pervasive sense of menace. Fatal Strike bolts out of the starting gate on page one with a hostage situation, and the action continues at a quick, steady pace with plenty of eyebrow-raising plot twists that keep the pages turning. You know you’re in for a treat when what you (mistakenly) think has to be the biggest plot twist happens at the halfway point. Mills deftly plants clues throughout the story, and you won’t be able to identify the red herrings until it’s too late.

Agents Riesel and Colbert, partners forced together by circumstance, are sympathetic and flawed, possessing strong, distinct personalities and backstories that provide motivation and rich emotional resonance. It’s a pleasure to follow the healthy negotiation of their working relationship as they learn to like each other, followed by the gradual development of romantic attraction.

Mills’s cast is diverse, providing a layered sense of community. The local priest, Father Gabriel, is “either a candidate for pope or looking for martyrdom,” the chief of police seems suspiciously unhelpful, and mothers are just trying to protect their children. Mills’s dialogue is an intriguing, careful dance between characters, drawing on a satisfying and sophisticated psychology.

This newest novel stands out for its nuanced tension between the church and its sacred responsibilities and the state and its law enforcement responsibilities, and the organic manner in which faith is incorporated. Fatal Strike should have broad appeal across multiple genres and audiences.

Originally published by Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar August 26-September 1, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of August 26 - September 1, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover.

Russian Cultural Center 9th Annual Book Fair, Houston, August 25-30

Brenham BookFest 2019, September 1


Humanities Texas exhibit: Shakespeare, Austin, September 1-October 1

BookPeople, Karen Olsson discussing and signing The Weil Conjectures, 7PM

The Brewtorium, Austin Liti Limits featuring Ron Seybold and K Wendt, 7PM

Native Hostel, Austin Poetry Slam Indy Championship (hosted by Christopher Michael), 7:15PM

The Wild Detectives, Stone Soup Poetry Workshop with the Writer's Garret, 7PM

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

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

The Black Labrador, Houston Writer's House monthly meeting, guest speaker TBA, 6:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, Caroline Fredrickson discussing and signing The Democracy Fix, 6:30PM

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

The Twig Book Shop, Kenneth F. Brown discussing and signing What If?, 5PM

BookPeople, Téa Obreht reading and signing Inland, 7PM [ticketed event]

Cepeda Branch Library, Sharing Stories/Sharing Humanity: A Writing Workshop with Mindy Reed, 7PM

Terrazas Branch Library, Aural Literature August 2019 Reading with Chicon Street Poets, 7:30PM

Avant Garden, Write About Now: Compliment Death Match featuring Salt Lake City Slam Team, 7:30PM

The Menil Collection, Noted photographer and co-founder of FotoFest Fred Baldwin reading and signing his memoir, Dear Mr. Picasso: An Illustrated Love Affair with Freedom, 7PM

The Water Works in Buffalo Bayou Park, Brazos Bookstore presents Summer of Walt Whitman Finale Party: Bayou Nature Walk with Laura Conely, founder of Urban Paths, 6:30PM

BookPeople, David Lagercrantz reading and signing The Girl Who Lived Twice (in conversation with Chandler Baker), 7PM [ticketed event]

MonkeyWrench Books, 2nd Annual Solidarity Party, 8PM

Deep Vellum Books, Deep Vellum Publishing’s Dallas poet chapbook launch with Edyka Chilomé, Fatima-Ayan Malika Hirsi, and Mike Soto, 7PM

Heroes Lounge, Dallas Poetry Slam presents Rudy Francisco, 8PM

B&N - Arboretum, Allen Steadham signing Jordan's World, 2PM

B&N - Sunset Valley, Author signing: Leila Sales, September Scott, Linsey Miller, and Susan Ochoa Ruiz, 11AM [kids and YA event]

B&N - Sunset Valley, Author Signing: Joan Moran, Lily Lewis, and Christopher Brown, 1PM

B&N - Sunset Valley, Author Signing: Charles Erlandson Jr., April Giauque, Lily Tanzer, and Rhonda Erwin, 3PM

Austin Books & Comics, DC artist David Marquez signing Batman Superman #1, 1PM
El Paso
El Paso Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop: "When I Was Cruel" with Sandra Torrez, 12:45PM


Murder By the Book, David Lagercrantz reading and signing The Girl Who Lived Twice, 4:30PM

Patchouli Joe's Books & Indulgences, Grand Opening, 10AM

B&N, Savant book signing with John D. Richmond, 2PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, Dr. Jay Smith signing The Adventures of Chewy the Chihuahua and her Sidekick Cupcake, 2PM

B&N - Town Square, Dawn Milson signing Invisible to Invincible, 1PM

B&N, Joy K. Massenburge signing A Heart Surrendered, 1PM


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Excerpt & Giveaway: ROUNDING HOME by Sarah Swindell

  Genre: Memoir / Family / Autism
Date of Publication: August 2, 2019
Number of Pages: 256

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In 1991, twenty-one-year-old Sarah, the recently divorced mother to two-year-old Hayley, moved from the dusty small town of Farmington, New Mexico to the bustling city of Houston, Texas with dreams of a better life. A year later, she was swept off her feet by Greg Swindell, an established Major League Baseball player who had just signed a lucrative contract with the Houston Astros and was quickly becoming the talk of the city. 

Six weeks after their first date, Greg asked Sarah to quit her job as a hairdresser and marry him during spring training in Florida. Over the next several years, Sarah's Cinderella story continued with the addition of three more children, a lifestyle only a few ever dream of living, and a love story even fewer ever experience.

That is until 2002 when her picture-perfect life came to a gut-wrenching halt, and Sarah was faced with more pain than she ever thought possible. For almost a decade, the puzzle pieces would cease to align due to an avalanche of events; a devastating autism diagnosis, a painful affair, multiple marriages, multiple divorces and her children's own personal struggles with self-harm, eating disorders, and attempted suicide. 

If you have ever felt lost, betrayed, or heartbroken, this story will inspire you to never give up on finding true joy and happiness again. It will prove there is no such thing as the “perfect family” and that difficult times can actually make you stronger than you ever dreamed possible.


"Rounding Home takes you on a riveting journey through the eyes of an exceptional woman who embraced struggle, love, success, and the unimaginable, autism. Get ready to laugh, cry, and flutter with romance; it’s one hell of a love story!" -- Gena Lee Nolin, actress, author, advocate, “Thyroid Sexy,” wife & mother

"In Rounding Home, Sarah writes with gritty honesty, a deeply moving account of life with her autistic son. This testament to the resilience of the human spirit will touch your heart and soul." -- Gayle Nobel, life coach, autism mom, and author of three books about living with autism

"This story of the Swindell family is a poignant demonstration of how each family member responded and was changed, for better or worse, as they struggled to come to terms with how their lives had been altered. And although there was damage along the way, they ultimately triumph by rekindling the love that created their family unit in the first place." -- Dr. Bryan Jepson, author, physician, and father of two sons with autism


I have experienced sadness before, but it was nothing compared to the incredible hopelessness, exhaustion and fear I felt in those early morning hours. I wondered, was the exhaustion from lack of sleep, or was I simply tired of this life? My mind was as foggy as the weather outside, and the depression I felt was as heavy as a cloak I just could not seem to take off no matter how hard I tried. 
            There is nothing easy about having a severely autistic child. At ten years old, Dawson was in one of the most difficult phases in his young life. At the same time, I was undoubtedly in the most difficult phase of my own life and that certainly didn’t make our situation any better. Dawson hardly ever slept, and it seemed that for the last ten years, I was constantly in the “new mommy” phase, continually sleep deprived. I always felt like I just needed to lie down for a minute and shut my eyes.
Dawson makes these loud vocal noises; in the autism world they are called verbal stims. Verbal stims are essentially a coping mechanism autistic children form to help ease the stress they are experiencing, or to drown out things around them that are intolerable. It wasn’t too bad during the day, but in the middle of the night, those sounds became almost unbearable and certainly impossible to sleep through. 
            Sometimes he would cry in the night as if he was in immense pain, but because Dawson is nonverbal, he was never able to tell me what was wrong or show me where it hurt. It was a constant guessing game for me to understand how to help ease his pain and what to do next. Despite all of the intensive therapy we were doing, he just wasn’t making the progress I had desperately hoped for so many years ago. My heart ached for my son; he had to live such a confusing and too-often painful life. To love a child as much as I love Dawson, and to have no idea how to help him, is impossible to describe. At times, I was literally paralyzed with fear just thinking about his future, and now, on top of all of that, I was scared for my own. 
            It was the third time that week I had to get Dawson out of the house in the middle of the night so my teenage daughters could get the rest they needed for school. Those destinationless drives would take me all around Austin as the rest of the city slept. I was so exhausted, tears started to pool in my tired, burning eyes as I strapped Dawson into the back seat and grabbed my coffee off the hood of the car. He started to fuss a little, so I gave him his bowl of Chex to snack on and his beloved silk ribbon that in a way was his security blanket and usually would keep him occupied for a while. I didn’t bother to put on my shoes or a bra as I slipped into the driver’s seat looking like I was going to a pajama party.  

Sarah Swindell lives in the Austin area with her husband, Greg, a former Major League Baseball player and 2019 Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee. Sarah is a commercial actress/model and has been working in the industry for over thirty years. She enjoys spending her free time with her four grown children and several grandchildren who reside in Texas as well. 

Sarah is an avid moviegoer, loves yoga and true-crime podcasts, and advocates for children and adults with autism and other disabilities. Her son was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of eighteen months and continues to touch peoples' hearts to this day.


August 22-September 1, 2019
Author Interview

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Excerpt & Giveaway: THE BIRD BOYS by Lisa Sandlin

A Delpha Wade and
Tom Phelan Mystery
  Genre: Gentle Noir / Mystery / Women Sleuths
Date of Publication: August 20, 2019
Number of Pages: 306

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The new novel from award-winning author Lisa Sandlin catches up with the almost-murdered secretary Delpha Wade (The Do-Right, 2015, set in 1973) as she’s released from a hospital in order to be tucked into the back seat of a police cruiser. Her boss, P. I. Tom Phelan, sets out to spring her. He needs her back in his investigation business, where he’ll soon be chasing a skulking grand larcenist and plotting how to keep a ganjapreneur out of the grabby hands of a brand new agency, the D.E.A. Delpha digs through old records and knocks on strange doors to unravel the dangerous case of two brothers with beaucoup aliases—verifying that sometimes truth is not true, but murder is always murder.


Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“What makes this crime novel soar is the humanity and humility of its main characters. It is by turns exciting, tender, suspenseful, observant, and gently funny. Readers will eagerly await the next installment.” 

Booklist, Starred Review
“Sandlin’s sequel soars on the wings of its spot-on evocation of a time and place and its utterly compelling central characters... A first-rate series crying for word-of-mouth support.”

Kirkus, Starred Review
“Proving that anything old can be new in the right, talented hands, Sandlin has crafted an outstanding series that readers will want to follow and savor.”

Robert Faires, Austin Chronicle
"I confess that as a Beaumonster who remembers that city in the early seventies, the book has a special appeal; Sandlin gets so many details just right. But you don't have to have lived there to be captivated by The Bird Boys. Its characters, wit, exquisite prose, and sense of redemption are so richly crafted that they'll stick to most anyone like, well, a shirt to your skin on an August afternoon in Beaumont."

Excerpt: Chapter Six of The Bird Boys
By Lisa Sandlin

HOW’D SHE KNOW how to talk like that? Zulma Barker. Zulma was serving the last weeks of a forty-one month stretch—she’d driven getaway for a toy boyfriend who’d robbed a pharmacy at gunpoint. Maybe because the young man, a would-be model, scurried out with a gym bag of dexedrine, the judge didn’t buy Zulma’s story, that she’d just been idling in her own car while her lover filled a weight-loss prescription for his mother. The prosecution also noted, in her act of aiding and abetting, the use of an alias as a cover up.
Previous to her bad-decision day, Zulma Barker’d been the popular and respectable receptionist for the Beatrice Adcock Agency in Dallas. She got the job once she agreed to use the pseudonym Cynthia, Beatrice nixing “Zulma” as glamorless. The Agency handled a lot of high-strung people. Zulma learned to supply blandishments to pretty and not-pretty-enough girls panting to be models and to fend off their bitchy mothers. She developed the tone and patter to charm pricey designers and the proper worshipful timbre for photographers. This skill had never been any ambition of Zulma’s. She’d just discovered that her day went easier if she turned her voice into Karo syrup. In time, she discovered a disconcerting side-effect: the secret of feeling like she sounded.
Delpha was working a stint in the kitchen then, winter, around the time President Eisenhower left and John Kennedy moved in. Sometimes she had a cut or a burn to nurse, not to mention the blaze in her heart and belly. She lay on the top bunk after the count and lights-out, tolerating Zulma’s farewell tutorial, which, more or less, went like this: You start with a base of welcome. Use their name if they give it to you, but not a lot because that’s phony. They want to explain, you listen. Listen, listen, listen. Agree, like mmm, uh-huhm, I’ll be. Save your breath, don’t over-talk. Apologize when you’re turning them down. Remember, they’re feeling sorry for themselves—so have your sympathy ready to spool out like scotch tape.
“This is phone work,” Zulma said. “But in person, you got all kinds of advantage, hear?”
Delpha said nothing. Zulma knew she was hearing her.
“You got eye contact, however you want to use it. You can touch ‘em. Their hand. Their elbow, you know, nothing too friendly. You be careful about that.”
Zulma had been. Until the would-be model. Profile like James Dean, only his nose was chunkier. But his ears were better. James Dean’d had ears like an elf. “Hey, wanna hear her?”
“Hear who?”
“Thought I was hearing her.”
 “Not full force.”
Delpha hung her head down over the bunk. She held on, her light-brown hair swinging upside down, while Zulma sat up crosslegged, said pleasantly, “Good evening, Beatrice Adcock Agency. ”  She said “Well, hello, Delpha” as to a friend, went on from there with a whole make-believe conversation: complimenting Delpha’s photos but putting her off until the right shoot came up, saying Delpha didn’t have to do a thing, they’d call her. It was all polite. But Zulma’s contralto carried a startling current of connection, like maybe the girl-caller on the phone had a sister somewhere she didn’t know about, and this was her. Smiling, making eye contact, Zulma reached toward the upper bunk. She squeezed Delpha’s fingers, briefly, gently, leaving Delpha with the sensation she’d been promised something nice. A goose pimple or two tingled her arms.
Zulma hadn’t looked like her usual, pinched, forty-six-year-old self. Must have been Cynthia’s smile that had, for a moment, lit up the bottom bunk like a lost moonbeam.
It was three or four years before Delpha really understood why Zulma-Cynthia’s method worked. Wasn’t the pitch of her voice. It was the need of the person she was talking to.

Lisa Sandlin is the author of The Do-Right, winner of the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America and the Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers. Her new mystery thriller The Bird Boys is set in 1973 in the same town she was born, Beaumont, Texas. Her previous books are The Famous Thing About Death and Message to the Nurse of Dreams, Cinco Puntos Press; In the River Province, SMU Press; and You Who Make the Sky Bend, Pinyon Publishing.

THREE WINNERS: Choice of eBook or Print Copies of THE BIRD BOYS
August 20-30, 2019
(International - eBooks only)

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