My Virtual Book Expo, Part III: Interviews on View


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Louise Penny.png__180x101_q85_subsampling-2 Good news for those of us who didn’t make it to Book Expo America 2016, which wrapped up last week: PBS’s Book View Now conducted interviews with a plethora of authors! I can’t help but think that even I’d been at BEA, I still would have had to watch these afterward!
Here’s a short list:

  • Sherman AlexieTerry-McMillan-I-Almost-Forgot-About-You.png__180x101_q85_subsampling-2
  • Sebastian Junger
  • Colson Whitehead
  • Robert Olen Butler
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, the very tall one!)
  • Maggie Stiefvater
  • Justin CroninSherman-Alexie-Thunder-Boy-Jr.png__180x101_q85_subsampling-2
  • George Saunders
  • Louise Penny
  • Terry McMillan
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Sylvia Day
  • Mo Willems
  • Lauren Oliver
  • Kenny Loggins — yes, that Kenny Loggins!

And many many more!

You can watch on PBS or YouTube; check out the full list here.

So there’s our homework — tune in!




My Virtual Book Expo, Part II: Big Books


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undergroundWhat to read, what to read? Check out big books at Book Expo 2016:

  • Publishers Weekly calls it for Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad) and Ann Patchett (Commonwealth), among others. No complaints from me there. So glad to see Mr. Whitehead making a big splash — well deserved! Here’s the PW take on the best of show so far: “Books by Whitehead, Patchett Among Show’s Biggest.”
  • Michael Mershel of the Dallas Morning News (and a fellow Jayhawk) took a poll of various attendees — including Jeremy Ellis of Houston’s Brazos Bookstore and Julie Wernersbach, the new literary director of the Texas Book Festival. Colson Whitehead appeared again, along with George Saunders for Lincoln in the Bardo. And Dallas’ Kathleen Kent heads off in a new direction with a crime novel, The Dime. More here: How do you find the most interesting books at #BEA16?”
  • If you want to get a preview of some other buzz books, download the latest Buzz Books compilations from Publishers Lunch: Buzz Book 2016 and Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult

croninMy picks?

  • Justin Cronin wraps up his brilliant vampire trilogy with The City of Mirrors — if I were at BEA16, that’s the one I’d be grabbing! Check out Justin’s interview in The Chicago Review of Books.
  • Let’s talk some YA for a sec. I was wowed by the big names putting in appearances: Two of my faves are Lauren Oliver (Replica)and Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer). Then there are new books coming form Leigh Bardugo (Crooked Kingdom), Sabaa Tahir  (A Torch Against the Night, the long-awaited sequel An Ember in the Ashes), Kami Garcia of “Beautiful Creatures” fame (The Lovely Reckless), and Veronica Roth, who starts a new scif-fi series with Carve the Mark. 

Can’t wait to pile some of the above onto my nightstand!

My Virtual BookExpo 2016: Part I


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How I wish I could be in the Windy City this week for Book Expo America. Chicago was always one of my favorite sites for BEA. Alas, I have to be content with a virtual visit.

61GcUy5XZWL.SX316So here we go: Nice to see some familiar faces mentioned in today’s PW Show Daily: 


  • Brunonia Barry previewing her new novel, The Fifth Petal (coming in January — cannot wait for that!)
  • Sebastian Junger at the Adult Authors Breakfast with Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging 

And on the news front, there is a lot to unpack in “Is a Flat Royalty Rate Possible?” I fully agree that publishers should up the royalty percentage for authors (currently 25% for a $11.99 ebook?!? Are you kidding me). Yet I’m not sure a flat rate for all book formats is the answer; seems like that would just lead to publishers locking up all possible rights in perpetuity. And don’t get me started on the the comments from two of the publishers on the panel that “author costs have risen by 50% over the past 15 years, driven in part by higher advances.” Well, there’s an easy answer to THAT: Quit shelling out outrageous advances to minor celebrities to “write” a book. Most of the authors I know would love to be the victim of higher advances!

Thoughts? Weigh in on the comments below!



My 2015 Taaah-DAAAH List



The wise and wonderful Bethany Hegedus inspired me with a Facebook post about taking Julia Cameron’s advice and creating a Ta-Da List instead of To-Do List. It’s the perfect way to reflect on the end of 2015. So, here’s my list. Taaah-DAAAAAH!Eiffel selfie

  1. I landed an amazing new
    job as Director of Philanthropy at one of my favorite organizations, Emancipet, and I’m loving it!
  2. In my ongoing quest to bring my young-adult fantasy series into reality, I mapped out a revision plan for the Book 1, created outlining system for Book 2 (as a perennial pantser, I never thought I could do that!), and started drafting Book 3.
  3. Before leaving my previous job at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, the two Austin events I coordinated set a fundraising record!
  4. I reconnected with several
    of my high school classmates at the Colby High School reunion in June. Now we’re plotting a x0th reunion for just my class in 2016!
  5. I spent some time with my mother to help her look at moving to Wichita — and she’s now on near the top of the waiting list for a wonderful complex.
  6. Xmas ornamentsI had my first-ever grown-up Christmas tree, thanks to my artist sister Cathy Gordon (see picture
    for a detail and check out her amazing portfolio).
  7. On the home front, my big purchase this year was — drumroll! — a new furnace!
  8. I did a better job of paying attention to my health and wellbeing this year by exercising more regularly (next year, I hope to say “excercising regularly”!), almost catching up on my dental work (one crown to go!), and completing a full annual physical. Clean bill of health!
  9. My nephew Gio came down for SXSW, and we saw 12 bands in three days! I also got to see him again when he came to Austin with my sister Cheryl  and niece Sofie in August.
  10. I made my maiden voyage to Las Vegas in December  to celebrate nephew Chris Gordon’s birthday with the Gordon gang! I lost $14.71 cents but it was Vegas, baby!

So there’s my list for 2015. Now I’m off to write up my Taaah-DAAAH List for 2016 — will report back a year from today.




The BEST Best Books List of 2014


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Bookbub may just have put together the real best books list of 2014 in a, well, novel way: The aggregated 23 different Best of 2014 lists — from The Washington Post and Library Journal to Buzzfeed and more — then ranked the titles based on the number of times each book was listed. Check out the cool infographic for the 20 books.

BookBub's Top 3 Books

I’ll just come clean with this here (gulp): I haven’t read any of these books, but you can bet that several of these are on my list to read in 2015. David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is at the top of my list — along with one that didn’t make this list, The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber.

What books were YOUR favorites in 2014? And what book from this list would you most like to read if you haven’t already?

What I Did at the 2014 Texas Book Festival


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Yours Truly with TBF Director Lois Kim (c.) and the Woman of the Weekend (and new boots!) Sarah Bird (Photo by Bob Daemmrich)

Yours Truly with TBF Director Lois Kim (c.) and the Woman of the Weekend (and new boots!) Sarah Bird (Photo by Bob Daemmrich)

Here’s the short version of what I did at the year’s Texas Book Festival (Hint: Follow the links!):


Martin Amis: Slate’s review of Martin Amis’ new novel, “The Zone of Interest,” starts:  “Every review of a new book by Martin Amis must, in some way, be a review of Martin Amis — a reflection on the State of Amis.” Amis himself delivered a brief master course on the State of Amis in his Saturday session in the House Chamber during the Texas Book Festival.

The Texas Writer Award Presentation to Sarah Bird: Lois Kim, executive director of the Texas Book Festival, presented the Texas Writer Award to Sarah Bird Saturday afternoon in the House Chamber …

Joyce Carol Oates: Joyce Carol Oates drew one of Saturday’s largest crowds in the House Chamber during the Texas Book Festival. She started by reading the beginning of “Mastiff,” one of the stories from her new collection, “Lovely, Dark, Deep” and then presented a look into the thought process of assembling a book.


Rebecca Alexander: The Texas Book Festival and the Austin Jewish Book Fair partnered to present Rebecca Alexander, the author of the memoir “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found”  

The Producer: Norman Lear: Legendary producer Norman Lear lived up to his top billing at the Texas Book Festival before a packed House Chamber on Sunday. It was one of those magical festival moments to left everyone in the room wanting another hour or two or three.

Descent Into the Depths: Neil Swidey and Hector Tobar: In Sunday’s “Descent Into the Depths” panel at the Texas Book Festival, journalists Neil Swidey and Hector Tobar explored how the survivors of two man-made disasters have fared on the other side.

Any guesses?! Let’s just say it was a whole ‘nother way of doing the Festival! More later!

Did you go to the 2014 Texas Book Festival? What was your favorite author, moment, session, book, etc.?

The Afterglow of the Writers’ League Conference


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WHAT a weekend at the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference! I’m still taking in much of what I heard on the panels and at Jeff Abbott’s wonderful keynote talk followed by Joshilyn Jackson’s hilarious recounting of

Here I am with Laura Cottam Sajbel, publisher and co-author of "Buoyant."

Here I am with Laura Cottam Sajbel, publisher and co-author of “Buoyant.”

how she came to get an agent and get published. It’s all still percolating in my head, not quite ready to emerge as a blog post, so that will be next.

The weekend ended on a high note when I had the pleasure of moderating a fiction genre group of seventeen attendees. First off, every ONE of them had requests from agents/editors to send partial of full manuscripts! And they were all so jazzed and excited. It’s going to be great fun to see what happens for all of them — plus, now I have some new writing pals!

Since my day job isn’t in the writing or publishing field, it’s a huge treat for me to be immersed in the conference bubble with so many of my favorite people in the literary business: Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Leitich Smith, Martha Hannah and Larry Dowell, Karleen Koen, Natalia Sylvester, Deanna Roy, Carol Dawson, Suzy Spencer (epic!), Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen (dos of the coolest gatos I know!), David Hale Smith, Larry Brill, Stephanie Barko, Beth Sample, Laura Cottam Sajbel, David Furlow, Jeff Abbott, and soooo many more.

Most of all, though, a huge shootout (and virtual cupcakes!) to Becka Oliver, Jennifer Ziegler, and the amazing Noelle for doing such an amazing job of throwing one of the best literary shindigs ever! And if you’re even thinking about coming for the 2015 conference, be sure to sign up whenever registration opens this fall!

If you attended the conference, what was your key takeaway or inspiring moment? 



Natalia Sylvester Leads Off a Big Week in Books


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What a couple of weeks in books right here in Austin! Last week, it was new books from the amazing Sarah Bird and Martha Louise Hunter, and this week we have back-to-back-to-back events.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 9.29.18 PMFirst up is Natalia Sylvester with her debut novel, Chasing the SunI first met Natalia when I was at the Writer’s League of Texas, and tonight I had the pleasure of joining her for her Austin book launch at the wonderful Book Spot in Round Rock (more on that in a later post). I haven’t had a chance to read Natalia’s book yet, but it’s next on my reading list, for sure!

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 9.28.08 PMNatalia was inspired by her own family’s harrowing experience with a kidnapping (her grandfather had been kidnapped in Lima, Peru, long before she was born), and as she was writing the novel, she gathered the courage to ask the questions of her father and mother. Even though the events in the book are completely different from her family’s story, I’m fascinated to see how that all intersects. And it’s been a long process for her, so it’s wonderful to see the results of her efforts in a hardcover format!

Next up: An Evening with Lowell Mick White and Ken Fontenot at Malvern Books on June 6 and then Bethany Hegedus at BookPeople on June 7. Woohoo!

What author appearances are YOU most looking forward this summer, dear readers? 


Author Q&A: Martha Louise Hunter


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Three cheers for another new Texas author! Martha Louise Hunter has just released her first novel, Painting Juliana, published by Goldminds Publishing. I had a chance to visit with Martha about her book and the writing process.


Painting Juliana starts with a recurring dream that Juliana has had since childhood. It’s so vivid it made me want to know more about how you came up with that, and whether you’ve ever experienced a recurring dream or nightmare.

Juliana’s dream is a foreshadowing vehicle. You know it’s coming back when the damn rain just won’t stop beginning when her father, Hugh, is still living at home. Juliana is lying in bed, listening to the rain dripping into a puddle outside her window and thinking about her two children, while Hugh is eating s’mores in the kitchen. The storm is bad, and they join forces, holding hands when the lightning cracks outside the window.

In a broad sense, for Imageboth Juliana and Hugh, the storm is a metaphor for the bad crap that just happens to us in life. The storm also represents Hugh’s race against Alzheimer’s –– no matter how fast he goes, it’s always going to catch him.

Knowing I wanted a device like this, I had an image of Juliana’s father, Hugh, riding down the highway on a vintage motorcycle. The funnel cloud on the horizon didn’t come until later, when I knew I had to make Juliana “face the storm.” You can’t overcome your problems in life unless you face them down –– it’s the only way to change your future. The funnel represents what Juliana was scared of, but she needn’t have been. Although it looked big and scary, it in fact was beautiful –– dazzling white and outlined in gleaming gold –– and it ended up helping her.

My recurring dream is much worse. I’m sitting in a college math final having no idea I’d even signed up for the class –– freaks me out every time I have it. I do have a pleasant one that I have, too, though not nearly as often. I’m a grownup but I’ve just arrived at the summer camp I went to as a kid. I’m so excited, saying to myself, “I’ll get to work out, get a tan… it’s awesome!” 

Juliana loses everything in a pileup of terrible circumstances –– her husband, her children, her home, her income, and even her social standing. And with the exception of her children, what she thought she had turns out to be a mirage of sorts. How difficult was it to chart out Juliana’s growth as misfortune after misfortune comes at her?

I knew where she was –– pain –– and where she was going –– growth. Figuring out how to do that is like building a bridge. The characters have to bounce off each other to build that bridge.

Juliana was too scared to stand up to her daughter, Lindsey, afraid she’d lose her. She had to buckle to her husband, Oliver, because she didn’t think she’d Continue reading

Let the Binge Begin: Publishers Are Finally Getting a Move On


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IMG_2156Well, well, well — could it be that publishers are finally catching on to something indie ebook authors have already figured out? The New York Times takes the pulse of a trend among legacy publishers in “Impatience Has Its Reward: Books Are Rolled Out Faster.” A snippet:

“While the television industry has begun catering to impatient audiences by releasing entire series at once, the book business is upending its traditional timetable by encouraging a kind of binge reading, releasing new works by a single author at an accelerated pace.

“The practice of spacing an author’s books at least one year apart is gradually being discarded as publishers appeal to the same ‘must-know-now’ impulse that drives binge viewing of shows like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Breaking Bad.’ “

What’s slightly amiss here is this: It’s not just the TV binge viewing trend that is driving this; it’s ebooks. Indie authors like Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, Bella Andre, and — of course — E. L. James have mastered that model of cranking out series in record time.

Certain segments of legacy publishing have already been ahead of the curve as well.  In children’s/young adult publishing, look at all the series coming out at a speedier pace, thanks to “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games,” the “Divergent” series, and many more. Heck, children’s publishing has been pumping out books more quickly for years — “Goosebumps,” “The Magic Tree House,” and on and on.

Then there’s the romance genre, which has owned the series market for decades. One word: Harlequin!

So maybe it’s just the creaky cogs of mainstream, rather than genre, publishing that’s finally starting to gear up for the new reality in publishing.

As for binge reading — well, I’ve ALWAYS been a fan of that! More, more, more, I say!