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Michelle Newby, NBCC,

Contributing Editor

Texas Reads >> archive
Glenn Dromgoole

Student’s ride home
becomes quite an ordeal


Two novels from Texas writers mix aspects of faith and suspense and keep the action moving.


A Ride Home is San Antonio author Pamela Howell’s debut novel (Westbow Press, $11.95 paperback).


It seemed like a pretty straightforward deal to Kayla, a college student needing a ride home from San Angelo to Arizona for Thanksgiving. At the college’s ride board, she finds another student going her way. Against her roommate’s serious objections, she takes up the offer with this stranger, Mark, who turns out to be quite handsome and engaging. But soon Kayla and Mark are fighting for their lives, out in the middle of nowhere.


On her website,, Howell says this about the story: “A Ride Home has a mix of adventure, danger and romance which will appeal to readers of all ages who crave a novel with all these elements minus the gratuitous profanity and sex so prevalent in this genre and in today’s culture. I wanted to write a book that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have my mother, or my teen-aged daughter, read and discuss.


“A story doesn’t have to use profanity and sex as crutches,” she adds. “A good story stands on its own.”


Hunter: Caught in the Crosshairs (CreateSpace, $16.95 paperback) is the second novel by Abilene author Stephen M. Holt Sr.


Jayson Hunter is a hard-nosed investigative reporter who makes his living ferreting out charlatans and corrupt public officials. On a flight to Denver to expose a doctor suspected of fraud, Hunter literally bumps into Diane Carter, and they have a very friendly chat on the plane. He is smitten, but it turns out she is quite religious — and Hunter has little to do with religion these days.


Diane invites him to come to Cedar Spring, Texas (a city much like Abilene) and check out the “faith community” that she belongs to. Hunter is skeptical, but Diane’s beauty is quite persuasive.


Meanwhile, two of Hunter’s friends are killed back home in Memphis, and the fraudulent doctor is suspected to be behind the murders. Hunter realizes that he is now being hunted. As he draws closer to Diane, Hunter begins to re-examine his own faith and values and what he wants out of life.


This is Holt’s second novel, both of which advocate communities of faith outside the traditional church. Read more at


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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.

    New York: Other Press

    Trade paperback, 978-1-59051-711-6 (also available in e-book and audio)


    Whisper Hollow is IPPY award winner Chris Cander’s second novel, a multifaceted story of family, religion, superstition, redemption, and (mostly) good people pushed to desperate means who prove, again, that Faulkner was right – “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”


    Divided into two parts, beginning in 1916 and 1964, respectively, this novel spans most of the twentieth century in Verra, a coal-mining town tucked into the hills and hollows of West Virginia, populated by hard-working immigrants building better lives for their families in a new country. Sadly, not much changed in Verra in all those years. The aspirations of the second generation are just what their parents hoped for, but the attempted fulfillment of those dreams causes conflict and dredges up pervasive European class issues that have stowed away in their steamer trunks.   >> read more

  • Portland, OR: Tin House

    Paperback, 978-1935639831 (also available as e-book and audiobook)


    The Other Side is the National Book Critics Circle Award– and Edgar Award–nominated memoir from Lacy M. Johnson, who was kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped by a former boyfriend in 2000. This is her story of the before, during, and after. Johnson also tackles universal issues women live with: the illusion of power as puberty works its alchemy and men begin to pay attention to girls who are still children, regardless of the new swell of breast and curve of hip; the sense of always being on stage, under constant evaluation; the popularity of Dead Girls in our culture.  >> read more

New Fiction Confab set for April 25 at Faulk Central Library, Austin; Ward, Specht to speak


New Fiction Confab, an annual event featuring a emerging and mid-career fiction writers, will be held Sat., April 25, sponsored by the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.


Visiting authors Rebecca Makkai, Viet Than Nguyen, Asali Solomon, and Akhil Sharma will lead writing workshops in Austin Public Library branches from 10:30 am to noon.  From 2 to 5 pm, visiting authors will join local writers Amanda Eyre Ward (The Same Sky) and Mary Helen Specht (Migratory Animals) for readings and conversations at the Faulk Central Library, 800 Guadalupe Street. All events are free and open to the public.


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Bookish Texas event highlights  4.19.2015  >> this week
Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor


  • ABILENE  Thurs. Apr. 23, 7 PM, Kay Ellington & Barbara Brannon discuss writing craft and sign The Paragraph Ranch

    Abilene Writers Guild, Rose Park Senior Center, 7 PM: Kay Ellington & Barbara Brannon discuss aspects of the writing craft and sign their Texas novel The Paragraph Ranch

  • DALLAS  Thurs. Apr. 23, 7:30 PM, The Wild Detectives, reading by Award-Winning Poet Cyrus Cassells


  • HOUSTON  Fri.–Sun., Apr. 24-26, Houston Writers Guild Annual Spring Conference

    Writers Guild Annual Spring Conference April 24, 25, & 26. Location:  Houston Marriott Westchase . 2900 Briarpark Drive . Houston, TX 77042. Special Guest:  Jane Friedman, co-founder and publisher of Scratch.


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>> archive
Chris Cander's candor: Curating an interesting life

Kay Ellington, Editor & Publisher


Houstonian Chris Cander, author of 2014 Independent Publisher Gold Award for her novel 11 Stories, has a new book out, Whisper Hollow, released in March by Other Press. Lone Star Literary Life interviewed Cander via email about her path to writing and publishing.



LONE STAR LISTENS: I’m pretty sure you’re the first author I’ve ever interviewed who’s a member of MENSA as well as a former featured bodybuilder on Baywatch. How does one accomplish this match of skills?


CHRIS CANDER: I suppose that’s not a typical CV for a novelist, is it? But I’ve always been curious, and have been fortunate to intersect life in some very interesting ways. I do that in my fiction, too, because I get to experience the world vicariously through my characters. The best thing about my maundering career path is that it’s allowed me to engage with a motley assortment of people and given me plenty of creative fodder.



What is it about Houston that creates so many great Texas writers? What about growing up in Houston influenced your writing?


Houston is a relatively young city to be the fourth largest in this country, but it comes with a rich history. Against the backdrop of the Alamo, the Indian wars, and the cattle drives, early settlers along Buffalo Bayou in the 1830s were known for their profanity and prostitution, drunkenness and dueling. (We locals are still trying to tame one another.) The ship channel and railroads made Houston a successful cotton and lumber market, and the discovery of Texas Tea at Spindletop made the economy go boom in the twentieth century. Since people tend to follow the money, Houston has always been a fascinating melting pot. If there’s a more vibrant place for a writer to observe a cross section of humanity—and to be influenced by those observations—I’d like to know where it is. >> read more

Texas Institute of Letters award winners
announced in Houston April 11


A novel about the deadly tower shooting in Austin and a true story about a man wrongfully convicted of murder have won top prizes from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Elizabeth Crook’s Monday Monday, about the 1966 University of Texas sniper attack and its aftermath, won the $6,000 Jesse H. Jones fiction award.


Michael Morton’s Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey From Prison to Peace won the $5,000 Carr P. Collins Award for best book of nonfiction.


The awards, which include more than $20,000 in prize money, were announced Sat., April 11, in Houston at the group’s 79th annual meeting. Other winners named in a statement from the group were:


  • Merritt Tierce’s Love Me Back for best first published fiction
  • Katherine Hoerth’s Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots for best book of poetry
  • Chloe Honum’s The Tulip-Flame for best first book of poetry
  • Pamela Colloff’s Texas Monthly story “The Witness” for short nonfiction
  • Brian Van Reet’s “Eat the Spoil” (Missouri Review) for short story
  • Bill Wittliff and Ellen McKie, for design of a trade book for The Devil’s Backbone (illustrated by Jack Unruh)
  • Nikki Loftin’s Nightingale’s Nest for children’s book
  • Claudia Guadalupe Martinez’s Pig Park for young adult book
  • Pat Mora and Libby Martinez’s I Pledge Allegiance for children’s picture book
  • Lawrence T. Jones III’s Lens on the Texas Frontier for scholarly book


The Texas Institute of Letters was founded in 1936 to recognize literary achievement and to promote interest in Texas literature.

PEN awards shortlist includes Texas authors

Michelle Newby


Y’all will remember we reported on the 2015 PEN American Literary Awards longlist not long ago. Well the shortlist is out and Texas remains 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).


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 winners will be announced on May 13 with a ceremony following at The New School’s Auditorium in New York on June 8.


Good luck and congratulations to these fine representatives of the literary craft. Y’all do Texas proud.

Cisco writers to host 15 authors Apr. 25-26


The Cisco Writers Club of Cisco, Texas, will host its first-ever Book Look, to be held Sat., April 25 and Sun., April 26, in conjunction with the Cisco FolkLife Festival.  >> read more

Texas Mountain Trail Writers 2015 conference canceled


The Spring Writers Retreat, previously scheduled for April 24-25, 2015, has been canceled. If you were registered for this event, or considering signing up, check updates here.


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Lubbock-area books and authors featured at Lubbock Arts Festival, continuing
Sun., Apr. 19


Books and authors are a vibrant part of the arts scene at the 37th annual Lubbock Arts Festival, continuing today, Sun., Apr. 19, at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center. The festival is the largest of its kind in West Texas. >> read more


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