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Texas Reads >> archive
Glenn Dromgoole


Crows, buzzards and coyotes
featured in children’s books


Crows, buzzards, and coyotes might seem like unlikely characters to feature in a children’s book, but two Texas authors have done just that in their new volumes.


Veteran children’s author Kathi Appelt of College Station has two new picture books -- one featuring crows, the other featuring coyotes.


Counting Crows (Simon and Schuster, $17.99 hardcover, illustrated by Rob Dunlavy) is a read-aloud counting book for young children. In fact, I intend to read it to my three-year-old granddaughter next week. It’s a fun book, counting from one to twelve black crows dressed in red and white sweaters.


Appelt’s other picture book, When Otis Courted Mama (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 hardcover) features Cordell the coyote and his mama and deals with divorced and blended family concerns. Cordell gets along just fine with his perfectly good daddy and perfectly good mama, even though they now live on opposite sides of the desert and daddy has remarried.


Cordell lives most of the time with mama, and other coyotes come courting her. He doesn’t much like them, and at first he doesn’t much like the latest one, Otis, either. But that might change.


Now, to the buzzards, or rather turkey vultures. In her first novel, Austin author Marge Wood puts them at the heart of her story for young readers (ten and up), The Secret Buzzard Society (Comburg Castle Press, $9.95 paperback).


Wood’s four main characters – all twelve-year-olds -- form the Secret Buzzard Society with a motto, “Just be kind.” The main organizer, Ingrid, is fascinated by turkey vultures, and she and best friend Ruby even organize a science fair project about them.


Another friend, Stanley, is also a turkey vulture fanatic, and he makes movies about them. The fourth member of the group is Miguel, who is from Mexico. He’s living with his aunt and uncle while his father, an “undocumented worker,” works on a nearby ranch and tries to keep from being deported by the Border Patrol.


All this takes place in the fictional small town of Chert, located between Abilene and Sweetwater.  When I read about Chert, I immediately thought of Trent, and it turns out that’s where Wood placed it in her mind.


The four Buzzard Society members are not exactly popular with their classmates – in fact, they’re considered rather weird. Imagine that!


But one day in the school lunchroom, after being shunned, Ingrid suggests, “I say we start a buzzard club, and any time we see someone being treated like a buzzard, we do something friendly for them.” Readers of The Secret Buzzard Society will not only learn a lot about turkey vultures but something about how to treat people as well. I plan to give the book to my ten-year-old granddaughter. I think she’ll like it.


Wood is available for school and library presentations and book signings. Contact her at


She has several book signings scheduled, including:

Saturday, March 28, 3 p.m., Cameron Public Library

Saturday, April 4, 2-4 p.m., Half Price Books, 2929 S. Lamar, Austin

 Sunday, April 12, 2-4 p.m., It’s About Thyme, 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin

 Saturday, April 18, 2-4 p.m., Texas Star Trading Company, Abilene



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Glenn Dromgoole is co-author of 101 Essential Texas Books. Contact him at

>> Read his past Texas Reads
columns in Lone Star Literary Life here.





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My Beautiful City Austin


Houston: John M. Hardy Publishing

Hardcover, 978-0-9903714-0-3

176 pages, $24.00

November 2014


The seven linked stories in architect and University of Texas professor David Heymann’s first collection of short fiction are a testimonial to his passion for Austin and, hopefully, function as a warning. We flock to gorgeous, temperate Austin and that laid back hippie-techie-arty-nerdy-hipster-music-dude-everything-is-cool-or-soon-will-be vibe. But we refuse to respect what we love and destroy the qualities we claim to value. Suburban sprawl, disregard of ethical architecture and environmental considerations, and what Heymann calls “steroidal houses, huge and tall and…pretentious…starter mansions…” are endangering our beautiful city.

 >> read more

Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman

Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman by Elizabeth Harris, winner of the 2014 Gival Press Novel Award, is unconventional historical fiction spanning the years from the 1920s to the 1950s in a fictional Central Texas settled by German immigrants in the nineteenth century. Alternating between delighting you with pastoral descriptions of the Hill Country, lulling you with sepia-toned portraits of the good ol’ days, and smacking you in the face with the gender, race, and class conventions (convictions? crimes?) of the period, Mayhem is a surprising blend of plot-driven crime story, character study, and social critique.  >> read more

Bookish Texas event highlights  3.22.2015  >> this week
Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor


  • SEGUIN  Mon., Mar 23  AgriLife Extension Bldg, Mark Gustafson, A Naturalist's Guide to the Texas Hill Country, 6:30PM


  • HOUSTON  Wed. Mar. 25, Murder by the Book, Harlan Coben signs and discusses The Stranger, 6:30PM


  • DENTON   Thurs., Mar. 26, 6 PM: Friends of UNT Libraries annual meeting and dinner featuring Deborah Crombie


Lone Star Book Reviews >> more
Michelle Newby, NBCC,

Contributing Editor



>> archive
Susan Wittig Albert: Mystery and mentoring

Kay Ellington, Editor & Publisher


As professor of English at UT-Austin and New Orleans's Sophie Newcomb College and administrator at Southwest Texas State University -- not to mention role-model author -- Susan Wittig Albert has inspired and influenced a full generation of writers. Her Work of Her Own: A Woman's Guide to Creating a Right Livelihood was recently released in a 20th Anniversary edition. It was our good fortune to talk with her on publication day for the Lake Union Press edition of A Wilder Rose, the acclaimed fictional treatment of the life of Rose Wilder Lane that she had originally self-published.


LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Susan, you are certainly a prolific author under a variety of names. Why did you use pen names, and how many books have you published?


SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT: When I was writing YAs, I was a ghostwriter for a number of series under different names: Carolyn Keene, the Hardy Boys, Francine Pascal, and others. When my husband, Bill Albert, and I wrote together, the publisher wanted us to write under one name: we chose Robin Paige, and published a dozen books under that pseudonym. . . . I stopped counting when I got past 100. : ) >> more

Texas writers honored with PEN nominations

Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor


As further proof that Texas is brimful of exceptional literary talent, the 2015 PEN American Literary Awards longlist was released this week, and Texas is well represented. Finalists for the Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000) include Texas-born Cynthia Bond for Ruby (Hogarth, 2014), also an Oprah Book Club 2.0 pick, and Dallasite Merritt Tierce for Love Me Back (Doubleday, 2014).


Surrendering Oz: A Life in Essays (Etruscan Press: 2014) by Bonnie Friedman, who teaches creative writing at the University of North Texas, is a finalist for the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000).


Catherine Musemeche, MD, is a finalist for the E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000) for Small: Life and Death on the Front Lines of Pediatric Surgery (Dartmouth College Press, 2014). Dr. Musemeche, a pediatric surgeon for twenty years, earned her medical degree and also taught at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. She currently lives in Austin.


S. C. “Sam” Gwynne’s Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson (Scribner: 2014) is a finalist for the Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000). A former executive editor of Texas Monthly and lecturer at the University of Texas School of Journalism, Gwynne lives in Austin.


Dallas’s Deep Vellum Publishing’s debut release, Texas: the Great Theft, by Carmen Boullosa, translated from the Spanish by Texan Samantha Schnee of Words Without Borders, is a finalist for the Translation Prize ($3,000).


PEN American has been honoring literary achievement for more than fifty years. The shorlist nominations will be released on April 15th. The winners will be announced on May 13 with a ceremony following at the New School’s Auditorium in New York on June 8th.


Good luck and, as Molly would say, “Good on ya!” to all of our Texas talent.

Authors, bookstores, festivals draw book lovers and writers statewide


We polled our staff—in a most informal but serious way—about the places in Texas that fueled their bookish imaginations. What literary  destinations called to them, to get out the map, get in the car, and go? Was it a whim to attend a festival, a desire to follow in a favorite author's footsteps, an urge to browse the shelves of an unusual bookshop, a hunt for a novel's real-life inspiration? Find out what we decided—and whether you agree. >> read more






#10 THROUGH #6


Full slate of book events at
second annual Wildcatter Exchange March 27-29


The Wildcatter Exchange, Fort Worth’s South Main Village second annual celebration of the written word in all its various forms, is set for March 27-29 in the following locations: Landers Machine Shop 207 E. Broadway; Starr Conspiracy 122 S. Main Street, Amphibian Theatre 120 S. Main Street, J.O. Design 440 S. Main Street, Shipping & Receiving 201 S. Calhoun Street. >> read more

2015 Texas Author Series continues
Mar. 23
at Abilene Public Library with "Football"

The Texas Author Series is an extension of the West Texas Book Festival and allows the Friends of the Library to present free public programs in the spring. Funds from the festival underwrite the Texas Author Series. This spring’s series includes five programs, featuring history, mystery, football, romance and inspiration.



All the programs begin at noon at the Abilene Public Library downtown. A delicious lunch is served at 11:45 for just $5, or you may bring your own. Books are available for purchase and signing.

>> read more

Former Poet Laureate Hass to read, sign at Texas Tech April 10


LUBBOCK  – In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Texas Tech Presidential Lecture & Performance series presents Robert Hass, U.S. Poet Laureate (1995-1997), Friday, April 10, 7 p.m. at the Allen Theatre on the Tech campus, for a reading followed by a book signing. Hass’s work is rooted in the landscapes of his native Northern California. Widely read and much honored, he has brought the kind of energy in his poetry to his work as an essayist, translator, and activist on behalf of poetry, literacy, and the environment.


Hass was selected for the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, twice honored with the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, named winner of  2014 Wallace Stevens Award, and in 1973 selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1973.  He is professor of English at UC Berkeley.


 General admission is $18, Tickets are available from Select-A-Seat at ( 806) 770-2000. Admission for Tech students is free ticket with valid TTU ID.

Today we feature Henery Press out of Dallas. Fans of whodunits know that in a short time these publishers made their mark in the mystery genre. We were excited to corresponded with the Henery Press team a couple of weeks back.


Lone Star Literary Life: Why did you pick the Dallas area (Plano) as the location of your publishing house? What are the pros and cons of being away from New York and the presumed center of the publishing scene?


Henery Press: We chose Dallas by default, since both co-founders live here. And it’s been wonderful. With GoToMeeting, Skype, and even old-fashioned email, Dallas is just as centered as New York (plus the rent is cheaper here!). We like being on our own lily pad (or chicken coop – we make a lot of chicken/hen references here in the Hen House). Of course, situated in the middle of the country means we’re only a quick plane ride to either coast.

>> read more

BEHIND THE SPINE industry insights with guest writers >> archive
No mystery to Dallas publisher Henery Press’s success

Kay Ellington

Second Annual Dallas Book Festival set for April 18

The Second Annual Dallas Book Festival (formerly the International Book Fair) will be held at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library Saturday, April 18, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.


In 2006 the Dallas International Book Fair presented annual literary events showcasing works by internationally acclaimed authors as well as national, regional and local authors representing diverse regions of the world. The event was renamed in February 2014 as the Dallas Book Festival with a purpose to continue the goal of promoting a love for books, reading and literacy through multilingual and multicultural activities with a focus on spotlighting the city of Dallas and its wide range of ethnic and cultural diversity.

>> read more


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