Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them


American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, Sept. 17 – 20, Dallas


Each year hundreds of veteran authors and those just learning the craft of Christian fiction come to ACFW. Lone Star Literary Life’s coverage of this national fiction convention in Dallas continues today with

  • Profiles of Texas Christian authors Lisa Wingate and Karen Witemeyer
  • Previews of key ACFW events in Dallas
  • Podcasts with Texas Christian authors DiAnn Mills, Allison Pittman and Lisa Wingate
  •  An overview of the state of Christian literature
  • And more. >> READ MORE



The State of Christian literature


In my role as the senior book buyer for LifeWay Christian Stores, everyone thinks I’m such a well-rounded reader. That I’ve read all of this year’s top new releases from all of the popular writers as well as all of the Christian classics. They expect that I’ve read enough books to sniff out a bright new voice and that I’ve devoured the popular “it” book of the moment. >> READ MORE




Bethany House author Becky Wade on social media—and her latest books


LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: At ACFW 2015, you’ll be co-teaching a class at ACFW on social media — a technology that seems to have really changed publishing and literature. Were you an early adapter or did you have to gradually warm up to social media?


BECKY WADE: I had to gradually warm up to it! Social media didn’t appeal to me at all at first. I didn’t understand how to use it and so was intimidated by it. Also, many people mentioned to me how time consuming it could be. As an author, wife, and mom to three, I wasn’t exactly eager to embark on something that would demand oodles of my time.



Permian Basin Writers’ Workshop
slated for Sept. 18–19 in Midland


The Permian Basin Writers’ Workshop will be held September 18–19, 2015. Sponsored by the Midland Library Foundation, the workshop has been designed to offer two tracks that attendees may move between at their discretion. One track addresses elements of the writing process, and the other will focus on navigating the industry. (Click here for full schedule of events.)


Venues will be Midland Centennial Library and Midland College, and registration cost is $35.


Presenters include Sara Cortez, Stephen Graham Jones, Seth Fishman, Kay Ellington, and Barbara Brannon.



15th annual West Texas Book Festival, Sept. 21–26, 2015, announces featured authors


The West Texas Book Festival, which will celebrate its 15th annual festival this year during the week of September 21-26 at the Abilene Public Library in Abilene, Texas, announced its lineup of authors this week.


The festival seeks to celebrate books, literacy, and reading, with a special emphasis on local and regional authors. The event is community driven and provides the public with the chance to interact with local authors on a more personal level. The festival includes a number of meet and greet sessions as well as readings and talks. For more information contact Janis Test at (325) 676-6017.


Clockwise from upper left: O'Neal, Bissinger, Castillo, Kent, Thomas, Dearen, Specht (photos from Amarillo Public Library website)



300 authors at Texas Book Fest Oct. 17-18

20th anniversary lineup to feature Margaret Atwood, Taye Diggs, Nick Flynn, Linda Gray, Daniel Handler, Gary Hart, Chuck Palahniuk, and more


AUSTIN—A record 300 authors are coming to the 2015 Texas Book Festival, Oct. 17 and 18, the largest number in the Festival’s twenty-year history. Nationally renowned authors include Margaret Atwood, Taye Diggs, Nick Flynn, Linda Gray, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Gary Hart, Luis Alberto Urerra, Margo Jefferson, Attica Locke, Marie Lu, Chuck Palahniuk, Tavi Gevinson, and Adrian Tomine.


Other headlining authors include Sandra Cisneros (the only 2015 author who was part of the first Festival in 1995), Steve Inskeep, Azar Nafisi, Leonard Pitts, Jr., Mary Helen Specht, Jonathan Lethem, Lauren Groff, John Sununu, Scott Simon, and Robert Christgau. The full list of authors and their featured books is available online at  >>READ MORE


Atwood, Diggs, Simon to be featured presenters at Texas Book Fest Gala Oct. 16


AUSTIN—Acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood (below, right); actor, Broadway star, and children’s book author Taye Diggs (center); and National Public Radio host and author Scott Simon (left) will be featured presenters at the Texas Book Festival’s First Edition Literary Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel Fri., Oct. 16, 2015. >>READ MORE



Texas Reads

>> archive

Someone’s getting married at the ranch, but who?


Lubbock authors Kay Ellington and Barbara Brannon have written the second book in their Paragraph Ranch series, A Wedding at the Paragraph Ranch (Booktrope, $16.95 paperback).


In the first novel, Dee Bennett leaves her position as a college professor to return home to West Texas and care for her mother. Resentful at first, she comes to realize that her hometown of Claxton is really where she belongs, with her farm home (nicknamed the Paragraph Ranch) becoming a gathering place for aspiring writers.


Now Bennett must figure out a way to earn a living in Claxton while maintaining and improving the family farm and continuing to work with the writers’ group. She lands two part-time jobs, as a newspaper political reporter and as a library assistant, and finds herself caught up in political intrigue, high school football, goat-raising, xeriscaping, wind energy, and a budding romance (or maybe two).


Of course, there must be a wedding somewhere in the future, but whose? The authors keep you guessing until the very end.


Ellington and Brannon, who also produce the Lone Star Literary Life online newsletter, will talk about A Wedding at the Paragraph Ranch at the West Texas Book Festival at 9:50 a.m. Sept. 26 at the Abilene Civic Center. For a complete festival schedule, go to


The authors have at least two more Paragraph Ranch novels in the works — A Home at the Paragraph Ranch is scheduled for August 2016, and Christmas at the Paragraph Ranch is planned for October 2016. Read more at


* * * * *


MASCOT SERIES: Sherri Graves Smith has produced a series of children’s books that use collegiate mascots to teach manners and sportsmanship on and off the football field. At last count, Smith had published more than forty books in the series, including five that feature mascots from Texas universities.


They are: Raider Red’s Game Day Rules (Texas Tech), Reveille’s Game Day Rules (Texas A&M), Hook ’Em’s Game Day Rules (University of Texas), Bruiser’s Game Day Rules (Baylor), and SuperFrog’s Game Day Rules (TCU). The books are $14.95 hardcover (Mascot Books).


The words and pictures are essentially the same in each book, except the first and last paragraphs of each book are school-specific and the art work is changed to reflect each school’s colors and name.


The stories, in rhyme, encourage children to share, be polite, offer a helping hand, be patient, and treat opponents with respect. At the end of the book, Smith asks children to sign a “Sportsmanship Pledge.”


Smith, who lives in Georgia, started writing children’s books after being diagnosed with cancer several years ago. Taking cancer treatments nearly every day, she could no longer work as a lawyer or volunteer as a reading tutor, so she took up writing. Read more at her web site,


* * * * *

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

>> Check out his previous Texas Reads columns in Lone Star Lit


Bissinger Texas events for 25th Anniversary Friday Night Lights


In conjunction with Da Capo Press's August 2015 publication of the 25th anniversary edition of  Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, author H. G. “Buzz” Bissinger returns to Texas for a series of events. The publisher announced the following schedule this week:


Buzz Bissinger Book Events, Fall 2015

  • 9/14/15, Hastings (Odessa, TX), 7 p.m., with support from the Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities
  • 9/15/15, High School TBD (Midland, TX)—morning or lunchtime solo talk
  • 9/15/15, Midland County Public Library (Midland, TX), Centennial branch, 5:30-6:30 p.m., solo talk, B&N to sell books
  • 9/15/15, Yucca Theater (Midland, TX), 7:30 p.m.—panel moderated by Jay Hendricks, CBS 7 anchor; ticketed event as fundraiser for Midland County Public Library Foundation
  • 9/16/15, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX), 7 p.m.
  • 9/18/15, Abilene Public Library (Abilene, TX), 12 p.m., Texas Star Trading Company to sell books
  • 9/19/15, Half Price Books (Dallas, TX), 2 p.m.
  • 9/20/15, BookPeople (Austin, TX), 2 p.m.


Sandra Cisneros literary archives acquired by Wittliff Collections at Texas State University


SAN MARCOS—The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University has acquired the literary archives of internationally acclaimed author Sandra Cisneros.


As one of America’s leading writers, Cisneros helped launch the Latino literary boom and is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. She is the author of poetry, a memoir, essays, children’s books, and fiction, including The House on Mango Street, which has sold more than six million copies and inspired generations of readers worldwide.


(Photo by Alan Goldfarb)


“We are delighted that Ms. Cisneros’s papers will serve as a foundational archive for the Wittliff Collections,” Texas State president Denise M. Trauth said. “Ms. Cisneros is among this country’s unique literary voices and her writings about the Mexican-American experience are not only relevant to an international audience, but treasured by individuals from all backgrounds.”


Cisneros was one of the first Latina writers to be published by a major press, and her books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Hundreds of articles and scholarly studies have been written on her work, testifying to her extraordinary talent, vision, and influence.

“It’s important to me that my archives have found a home where I’ve felt at home and respected in my lifetime,” said Sandra Cisneros. “The Wittliff Collection reflects an admiration and appreciation for Texas’s Mexican and Tejano legacy. Their support of Tejano writing projects and Tejano writers firmed my final decision.


“One more consideration: I think it imperative scholars studying my work travel to the world I knew and called home to better understand my work. I’m grateful and thrilled to have my archives at home finally at the Wittliff,” she said. >>READ MORE

Houston author DiAnn Mills on Christian romantic suspense—and real life


DiAnn Mills, Christian suspense author from Houston, takes listeners behind the scenes of her books and her writing life in this week’s podcast interview with Ally Bishop.

>> LISTEN NOW (mp3)




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Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas



Sept 21 - Books and Broomsticks promo

               Because This is My Life, Y’all review

Sept 23 - TexasBookLover (guest post or Author Q&A)

Sept 25 - Hall Ways (Author Q&A or guest post)

Sept 26 - Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books  promo

Sept 28 - The Crazy Bookseller  promo

Sept 30 - Missus Gonzo review

Oct 2 - Texas Book-aholic review

Oct 5 - My Book Fix review

Oct 7 - The Page Unbound (Author Q&A or guest post)

Oct 9 - Texas Book-aholic Review



Dark Places by Reavis Z. Wortham



Sept 13 - The Page Unbound

Sept 14 - All For Love of the Word

Sept 15 - Book Crazy Gals



Mysteries of Love and Grief
by Sanda Scofield



Sept 13 - My Book Fix Review

Sept 14 - The Page Unbound promo

Sept 15 - Texas Book-aholic Review

Sept 16 - Secret Asian Girl Review

Sept 17 - Hall Ways Review

Sept 18 - Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books Review



The Neptune Challenge by Polly Holyoke




Sept 6 - The Page Unbound - review

Sept 7 - Hall Ways - Author Q&A



Hail of Fire by Randy Fritz




Sept 10 - My Book Fix Review

Sept 11 - Texas Book-aholic Review

Sept 12 - Missus Gonzo Review

Sept 13 - Hall Ways Review


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Lone Star Reviews

LONE STAR LISTENS interviews   >> archive

Karen Witemeyer:
Wit and wisdom in pursuing the writing life


Karen Witemeyer, a California native who now calls Abilene home, had her first Christian historical romance published in June 2010. Witemeyer started writing with the intent to publish in 2003. The first manuscript she sent to Bethany House Publishing, a national Christian publishing house, was returned, but the company saw merit in her writing. Six years later, the publisher accepted her manuscript for A Tailor-Made Bride, which was released in June 2010. In the six years since she began publishing she has averaged publishing a novel and a novella each year as well as participating in several book collections. On the eve of the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, we caught up with her via email.



LONE STAR LISTENS: I understand that you grew up in California, moved to Abilene to attend college, met your future husband, and have been there ever since. In the spring Lone Star Literary Life named Abilene a Top Ten Bookish Destination because of its burgeoning literary assets. How does living in Abilene influence your writing?


KAREN WITEMEYER: For being a relatively small town, Abilene has a wonderfully supportive literary environment. When I first started writing with the intent to publish, I joined the Abilene Writers Guild and met a host of other writers at various stages of their careers. From experienced journalists, to middle grade nonfiction writers, to novelists and retired editors, to other unpublished authors and hobbyists, I found a wonderfully supportive group of mentors and friends. Some of my first short pieces that I published came out of contests and challenges sponsored by the guild.


Abilene is also the host city for the West Texas Book Festival, where Texas authors are celebrated. USA Today best-selling author Jodi Thomas will be a featured speaker this year. I’ve been honored as a featured speaker in past years as well. This event draws hundreds of people every year and is sponsored by our local library. We also are home to the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature.


On a more personal note — researching the local history of Abilene and nearby Fort Phantom helped me establish the setting of my first book and many of my subsequent novels. Abilene was founded in 1881 when the Texas & Pacific Railroad came through. Although my books are set in many different areas of Texas, nearly all of them are in the 1880s or early 1890s. When my first novel debuted in 2010, I had my book launch party at Frontier Texas, a wonderful Abilene historical museum that aided in my early research.

Bookish Texas event highlights  9.13.2015
>> GO this week   Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor

  • MIDLAND  Mon., Sept. 14   Midland County Public Library, Marc Brown signs the Arthur books, 5PM

    Midland County Public Library - Centennial Branch, Project Literacy: Marc Brown signs his series of Arthur books, 5PM

  • ODESSA  Mon. Sept. 14  Hastings, Buzz Bissinger signs Friday Night Lights 25th Anniv. Edition, 7PM

    Hastings, Buzz Bissinger signs Friday Night Lights 25th Anniversary Edition, 7PM

  • AUSTIN  Tues, Sept. 15 BookPeople, Thomas Mallon with Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years, 7PM

    BookPeople, Bestselling Author of Watergate, THOMAS MALLON, speaking & signing Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years, 7PM

  • AUSTIN  Fri., Sept. 18   BookPeople, National Book Award Winner Jonathan Franzen with Purity, 7PM

    BookPeople, Critically Acclaimed Author & National Book Award Winner JONATHAN FRANZEN Speaking & Signing Purity, 7PM

  • MOUNT VERNON  Sat., Sept. 18   Franklin County Library, Texas Writes with Natalia Sylvester and Christine Wicker, 10AM

    Franklin County Library, Writers' League of Texas: Texas Writes with Natalia Sylvester and Christine Wicker, 10AM

  • Livingston Press

    978-1-60489-152-2, paperback, 284 pgs., $18.95 (also available in hardcover)

    September 10, 2015


    According to Jim Sanderson, chair of the English and Modern Language Department at Lamar University, Hill Country Property began as a collection of unrelated short stories thirty years ago. After many near misses, it’s been reworked as a novel. Not having read those stories thirty years ago, I can’t compare them against the finished product but suspect that the amount of reworking is responsible for the meandering quality of the novel. Hill Country Property is an average novel with the potential to be better.


    Hill Country Property is a sociological study of a very particular time and place — Austin and the Texas Hill Country in the 1980s. Roger Jackson is a middle-aged former lawyer and student radical whose current job as a private investigator involves stalking and photographing wayward spouses for a divorce attorney. He is unwillingly separated from his wife, Victoria. His father-in-law, Henry, is dying and wants to see his estranged wife, Rebecca, who abandoned the family decades ago, before he dies. Roger embarks on a quixotic quest to find Rebecca for Henry in the hope that this will somehow save his own marriage.  >> READ MORE

  • Texas Tech University Press

    9780896729308, paperback, 406 pgs., $34.95

    July 1, 2015


    SEX AS A POLITICAL CONDITION, the newest smartly designed title in Texas Tech University Press’s Americas series, is professor and activist Carlos Nicolás Flores’s latest novel. Sex As a Political Condition is about history, family, politics, economics, friendship, and religion. I am conflicted. The novel ambitious and has great potential but ultimately disappoints.


    Former narcotrafficante and all-around punk (“from a long line of vain and violent men, always in trouble with women or the law or both”) Honoré del Castillo runs his family’s Mexican curio shop in Escandón (a.k.a. Laredo), Texas. He’s gone straight thanks to his mentor, Juan Sánchez Trusky (a.k.a. Leon Trotsky), a revolutionary. Honoré and Trotsky are part of a humanitarian aid convoy to the Nicaraguan contras. Difficulties ensue: Feds, federales, the CIA, feminists, Republicans, hillbillies, the Guatemalan army, old grudges from narco days. >>READ MORE


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