Friday, June 26, 2009

Cookbook Offers Recipe for Happy Family Life

Judy Alter, editor of TCU Press for 23 years and author of numerous children’s books and historical titles, has written a cookbook that is more than a cookbook..

The book is filled with recipes, but it also tells her story of how food has been a big part of her family’s life through various changes over the years.

The book, Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books (State House Press, $18.95 paperback), includes 160 recipes. She also offers her "recipe for a happy family." It goes like this:

"Start with a lot of love.

"Mix in some firm rules, respect, a willingness to share, and a willingness to listen. Season with lots of laughter, more than a few pets, a lot of ‘extended family,’ and frequent meals together.

"Stir and mix frequently. Gets better with age."

Judy is retiring from TCU Press next month, so she’ll have time to try out even more recipes.

Texas Flags: Robert Maberry Jr., author of the award-winning book Texas Flags, takes up residence this fall as a history professor at Abilene’s McMurry University.

And Texas A&M University Press, which published Texas Flags, is bringing out a paperback edition of the coffee-table book this summer. It will sell for $29.95.

Also joining the McMurry history faculty is noted Texas historian, author and Alamo movie consultant Steve Hardin, who moves to Abilene from Victoria College. Among Hardin’s books are Texian Iliad and Texian Macabre.

Maberry and Hardin replace Robert Pace, who is entering the Episcopal seminary in Austin this fall, and Bob Wettemann, who has moved to Fort Bragg, N.C., as an Army historian.

New Novel: Former Abilene Reporter-News entertainment editor Bob Lapham has released a new novel -- his fifth book – Ethan’s Keys ($17.95 paperback,

The story revolves around Ethan Crowe, 73, and his 25-year-old nephew, Rob, who barely know each other as the story begins. Ethan has served time in prison for white-collar crime. Rob is searching for meaning in his life.

The novel, says Lapham, "is about a man’s unique gift for seeing the blessed simplicity of God’s grace through Jesus, then through extraordinary dedication and compassion, passing it on."

The story, he adds, "deals with poverty, wealth, infidelity, sex, murder, and more through a dozen interesting characters who drift in and out of Rob’s and Ethan’s evolving relationship."

While a student at Texas Tech, Lapham was a back-up vocalist to rock and roll legend Buddy Holly. In 2003 Lapham published a novel based on his experiences called Meet Me at the River Buddy Holly.

Read more about Ethan’s Keys at

Coming Back in Print: Fans of novelist Jane Roberts Wood will be happy to learn that two of her more recent novels will be back in print this fall.

Grace and Roseborough are being reissued in paperback in October ($19.95 each) by the University of North Texas Press, which also published the paperback editions of her acclaimed trilogy – The Train to Estelline, A Place Called Sweet Shrub and Dance a Little Longer.

Wood has won a number of literary awards, including the A.C. Greene Award, and her novel The Train to Estelline has made several lists of top Texas books of all time. It’s on my list of 10 Great Books for Your Texas Library.

Texas Almanac: The Texas Almanac, first published in 1857, has switched homes.

The 2010-2011 edition, due out in November, will now be under the auspices of the Texas State Historical Association instead of the Belo Corporation and the Dallas Morning News.

The historical association itself moved last year from Austin to Denton. Its offices are now on the campus of the University of North Texas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Have Been Diagnosed with a Fatal Disease

This is the title poem in my book I Have Been Diagnosed with a Fatal Disease and Other Poems:

I have been diagnosed with a fatal disease.
Everyone who gets this disease eventually dies.

I don’t know how long I have, but I think
I should try to make the most of every day.

Come to terms with what is ultimately important.
Spend more time with those I love.

Take more time to appreciate every breath,
every sunrise, every kiss, every smile, every word.

Worry less and enjoy more.
Make my corner of the world a little better place.

For, after all, I don’t know how much longer
I will be around.

I have been diagnosed with a fatal disease.
It’s called life – and there is no cure.

My book, I Have Been Diagnosed with a Fatal Disease and Other Poems, is a collection of 64 short poems -- some serious, some light. I will post others on this blog from time to time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Four New Books by Texas Authors

A Mouse Goes to School

Abilene author Rita Rose Rasco and artist Debra H. Warr have teamed up to produce a delightful and entertaining children’s book with an important message.

"Mozzarella House Mouse Goes to School" ($10 paperback) tells the story of Kristi, a little girl who wears leg braces, and her tiny mouse friend, Mozzarella.

Kristi decides to sneak Mozzarella in with her on the first day of first grade. When Mozzie gets loose in the school cafeteria, chaos ensues as workers try to catch the little mouse. Finally, a rude red-haired boy grabs her and swings her around by her tail while describing her as a "rat" and "the ugliest pet."

Kristi’s friends learn some valuable lessons about friendship, kindness, and acceptance.

If you can’t find the book at a bookstore, contact the author at or (325) 692-0086.

Retelling of an Old Tale

Canyon journalist, educator, author and poet Donald Mace Williams has published "Wolfe," a poetry chapbook that is a brilliant retelling of the epic poem "Beowulf" in a contemporary setting in Palo Duro Canyon.

"In keeping with my purpose of modernizing the Beowulf episodes," Williams explains, "I have used rhymed couplets, rather than the Old English alliterative verse form"

Here is how it begins:

"Fat Herefords grazed on rich brown grass,
"Tom Rogers watched three winters pass,
"Then, all his ranch paid off, designed
"A bunkhouse, biggest of its kind."

To order the 28-page chapbook ($6.50 including tax), contact the author at 2920 Mable Drive, Canyon 79015, or go to

Texas in the Civil War

Kenneth W. Howell, assistant professor at Prairie View A&M University, is the editor of a collection of scholarly essays, "The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas during the Civil War" (University of North Texas Press, $34.95 hardcover).

Among the pieces:

"Explaining the Causes of the Civil War: A Texas Perspective" by James Smallwood.

"Hide Your Daughters: The Yankees Have Arrived in the Coastal Bend, 1863" by Charles D. Spurlin.

"The Confederate Governors of Texas" by Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr.

"On the Edge of First Freedoms: Black Texans and the Civil War" by Ronald E. Goodwin and Bruce A. Glasrud.

Big Bend Adventures

Gary Clark, a nature columnist and college dean from Houston, is the author of "Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventures for Everyone" (Texas A&M University Press, $17.95 flexbound).

The book, which includes more than 50 color photographs by Kathy Adams Clark, is a compact, concise and easy to read guide to the park.

Clark includes two-hour adventures, half-day adventures, a full-day adventure, adventures with families and small children, adventures for the physically fit, adventures at an easy pace, adventures for people with limited physical mobility, adventures in a vehicle, and adventures for nature lovers.

Kathi Appelt Named A.C. Greene Award Winner

Kathi Appelt of College Station, author of more than 30 books for children and young adults, is the winner of the 2009 A.C. Greene Award, given annually by Friends of the Abilene Public Library to a distinguished Texas author.

The award will be presented on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Boots & Books Luncheon of the West Texas Book & Music Festival at the Abilene Civic Center.

Appelt's most recent book, The Underneath, intended for readers ages 9-12, has won national recognition as a Newbery Honor Book, among other accolades.

Appelt joins a distinguished list of Texas authors to receive the A.C. Greene Award, first presented in 2001. They are:

2001 - John Graves, Glen Rose
2002 - Walt McDonald, Lubbock
2003 - Elmer Kelton, San Angelo
2004 - Sandra Brown, Fort Worth
2005 - Liz Carpenter, Austin
2006 - Jane Roberts Wood, Argyle
2007 - Carlton Stowers, Cedar Hill
2008 - Don Graham, Austin

For more information about the West Texas Book & Music Festival, go to the web site at and then click on the festival icon. For luncheon reservations, at $30 each, send checks to FOL, 202 Cedar Street, Abilene, TX 79601.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dixie Cash Coming to Texas Star

Jeffery McClanahan and Pamela Cumbie grew up in West Texas and now live in the DFW area. They write bestselling novels together under the delightful name of DIXIE CASH.

Their novels have wonderful titles, beginning with "Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash" (2004). They followed that with "My Heart May Be Broken But My Hair Still Looks Great" (2005); "I Gave You My Heart and You Sold It Online" (2006); and "Don't Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes" (2008).

Now comes novel number five, also with a shoe theme (fettish?) -- "Curing My Blues with a New Pair of Shoes" --due out in July.

We've had several calls at Texas Star Trading Company -- -- about when the new book would be out and when the Dixie Cash sisters might come to Texas Star for a book signing.

Well, we've scheduled them for Saturday, August 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. Come by and meet the sisters, enjoy a few laughs, and pick up their new novel (and the older ones if you haven't read them).

We like having Jeffery and Pam at Texas Star for several reasons:

1. We sell a lot of their books.
2. Their books are fun to read.
3. Pam used to live in Abilene and still has a lot of friends here.
4. Readers enjoy meeting them because they enjoy meeting readers.
5. They like to shop at Texas Star and encourage others to do so.

Come see for yourself on Saturday, August 8. If you want to order the book or books in advance, call us at 325-672-9696 or e-mail us at

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Windshield History CDs

The Abilene and Fort Worth cultural tourism folks have produced a pair of CDs that tell about the history of the towns you drive by on the way from Fort Worth to Abilene or Abilene to Fort Worth.

The CDs are called "Windshield History" and they offer interesting vignettes along the 150-mile stretch of West Texas that a little more than a century ago was the Texas frontier.

Conceived and written by McMurry University history professors Don Frazier and Robert Pace, the CDs involve a number of Abilene residents who portray characters from the past bringing alive the story of their part of Texas.

The first CD, which came out three years ago, follows Highways 180 and 351 from Fort Worth to Abilene, passing through towns like Mineral Wells, Breckenridge and Albany. The new CD, released this month, follows Interstate 20 from Abilene to Fort Worth, with pieces on places like Clyde, Baird, Cisco, Ranger, Thurber and Weatherford.

Great for a summer road trip and reasonably priced at $5.99 each, the CDs are available online at or by calling Texas Star at 325-672-9696.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10 Great Books About Texas

Selected by Glenn Dromgoole
Texas Star Trading Company

If someone were to ask me to recommend 10 Texas books they should have on their shelf, here are some I would suggest. They rank among the best Texas books ever published, and all are still in print. In fact, they are available from Texas Star Trading Company and our web site,, at 10 percent off retail price.

The Time It Never Rained, a novel by Elmer Kelton about the drought of the 1950s. Kelton, voted by his peers as the greatest Western writer ever, considers this his signature book.

The Train to Estelline, a novel by Jane Roberts Wood about a teacher in a one-room school in West Texas. First in a trilogy that includes A Place Called Sweet Shrub and Dance a Little Longer.

Lonesome Dove, generally regarded as the best novel by Larry McMurtry.

Lone Star Literature, edited by Don Graham, an impressive anthology that includes pieces by more than 60 great Texas writers.

The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog, the first of John Erickson's lovable series, considered a children's book for ages 9-12 but popular with adults as well.

The Longhorns by J. Frank Dobie, which explains in story and legend the historical significance of the Texas Longhorn, the cattle drive, and the cowboy. You might also check out Learning from Longhorns, which I co-authored with Lester Galbreath, longtime manager of the state Longhorn herd. We pay tribute to Dobie's book in ours.

Texas Cowboy Cooking by Tom Perini, probably the best-selling (and best) Texas cookbook ever published. At Texas Star, it is our best-selling book of any genre year after year, and we usually have autographed copies available. We also recommend my mother-in-law's great down-home cookbook, You'll Be Going Back for Seconds, our second best-selling cookbook. Oh, and you might want to try a can of Perini steak rub.

A Personal Country by A. C. Greene, maybe the best book ever about West Texas. A.C. grew up in Abilene, then made his literary reputation in Dallas. He lent his name to the A.C. Greene Award presented every year at the West Texas Book & Music Festival to a distinguished Texas author. He also wrote The 50 Best Books on Texas, several of which are on my list as well.

Goodbye to a River by John Graves, sometimes considered the best book about Texas, period. Not sure I would go that far, but certainly it's one of the best. It is a story of his canoe trip down the Brazos before dams and developments changed the river forever.

Interwoven by Sallie Reynolds Matthews, a memoir by a pioneer woman about life on the Texas frontier.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Great Week for Book Lovers

If you love books and you're anywhere close to Abilene this weekend, you ought to stop by the huge book sale sponsored by Friends of the Abilene Public Library.

The Friends fill the exhibit hall at the Abilene Civic Center with thousands of books, and people come in from all over to pick up some great book bargains. It's one of the best book sales of its kind in the state.

The sale begins Thursday evening, June 18, 5 to 8 p.m., with a preview sale for members of Friends. Memberships are available at the door, and quite a few folks join every year just to get first pick of the books.

The sale opens to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Hardback and trade paperback books are $1.75, mass market paperbacks are 75 cents, and there is a section of nearly new books at a fraction of the cover price, and another section for old and rare books. On Sunday, shoppers can fill a big brown paper bag with books for just $6 per bag.

All the profits from the book sale benefit the Abilene Public Library. But perhaps the best thing is that the sale gives new life to old books. It gets them in people's homes and allows more readers an opportunity to enjoy them.

3 National Championships

In all the glory years of Texas A&M athletics (and there have been quite a few, though not many in my years, 1962-66), the Aggies have won just four national championships -- 1939 football being the one we are most likely to talk about. The women Aggies won three softball championships in the 1980s,.

Now, all of a sudden, A&M has won three national championships in just two weeks:

-- Men's golf.

-- Women's track.

-- Men's track.

Well, that might not be all that impressive if you were from Ohio State, Florida, USC, or that U from Austin. But, even if we had no particular interest in golf or track, Aggies started paying attention when we were declared national champions in something other than engineering or ag research.

So, what does this have to do with Texas books, which is the point of this blog? Maybe nothing. But when the A&M golf team made a miraculous run that resulted in an incredible national championship, I suggested to Texas A&M Press that they might want to do a quick paperback book on it, and they seemed receptive and talked to an A&M author I recommended.

Then, whoop!, a couple of weeks later A&M won the two track national championships. So I'm not sure now where the book idea stands. But if it all comes to fruition, maybe we'll have a book to hold in our hands celebrating at least the golf championship, and maybe track too, when football season rolls around.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Somewhere in America

I am in the middle of a national tour promoting my latest book, Parables from the Diamond: Meditations for Men on Baseball & Life (Bright Sky Press, $9.95). I am the co-author with my friend, Phil Christopher. We both live in Abilene, Texas.

I was in Denver earlier this evening. In the morning I'll be in Albany, NY. Yesterday I was in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Also this week, stops in Tampa, Florida; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Bakersfield, California; Philadelphia; Bluefield, West Virginia; Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The best part is: I didn't have to leave the house.No strip searches in airports. No extra charges for checked bags. No red-eye flights. No delays on the tarmac.

Our publisher, Bright Sky Press, hooked up with a promoter who arranges author interviews on sports radio talk shows. So far, he has booked me onto 18 programs. They call, we talk for 10-15 minutes, they make a nice plug for the book, and I don't have to leave the house. Don't even have to get dressed. All I have to do is talk about our book -- mine and Phil's. What could be better than that?

Parables from the Diamond is a collection of 50 very short (one page or so) meditations on baseball topics that men should be able to relate to their lives. A few examples:

Nobody's Perfect
We All Go Through Slumps
There Is No Such Thing As a Routine Play
A Broken Bat Still Has Value
Everyone Drops the Ball Now and Then
Bad Hops Happen to Good People
Who Is In Your Hall of Fame?

I recommend the book to you. (Well, isn't that a surprise?) And you don't even have to get dressed to order an autographed copy. Click on to and scroll down to Parables from the Diamond and add it to your cart. For just $8.95 instead of $9.95. Or, if you prefer, call Texas Star at 325-672-9696 and order it over the phone.

One of the questions nearly every radio interviewer has asked is: how did this book come about. Well, I've been a baseball fan since I was a kid way back in the '50s and have always wanted to write a baseball book. Phil and I got together and worked on the project for a couple of years, and I think we came up with a different kind of book on baseball and life. And what has pleased me is that all these sports radio talk show guys seem to really like the book.

Well, I'm looking forward to being in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Omaha, Rochester, and other places in the next week. And all I have to do is pick up the phone, pour a cold glass of iced tea, and talk about my book.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Welcome to Texas Reads

Welcome to the Texas Reads blog. My name is Glenn Dromgoole, and I have been writing a syndicated newspaper column called Texas Reads for seven years. Now I'm expanding it to a blog as well, as a way to supplement the information in the column and make it available to residents who may not see the printed column.

The column appears every week in the Abilene Reporter-News, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, San Angelo Standard Times, Bryan-College Station Eagle, Beaumont Enterprise, and New Braunfels Herald Zeitung, and from time to time in the Round Rock Leader.

In the column I write about Texas books and authors, and that's what I will do in this blog. The blog will allow me to comment on some books that I might not get around to in my column, pass on information about book events around the state, and offer some recommendations, top 10 lists, and such from time to time.

Be aware, I will also take the opportunity to promote some of my own books, since I can't write about them in my column, and I will also tell you about the Texas book and gift store that my wife and I own in downtown Abilene.

It's Texas Star Trading Company, and you can look up our website at We offer discounts on nearly all the Texas books we sell. And if you can't find the book on our website, you can always call or e-mail us and see if it's available or can be ordered. Our telephone number is 325-672-9696; the store's e-mail address is You may have seen the ad that we run in Texas Monthly every month, usually promoting our line of T-shirts, mugs, tote bags, magnets and note pads with the phrase "Fixin' To -- The State Verb of Texas."

If you want to tell me about upcoming book festivals and other literary events, e-mail me at I am not providing an opportunity for direct feedback on this blog because I am strongly opposed to anonymous postings.

I am the author of 22 books, which you can find on the Texas Star website and which I will talk about every so often. My latest is a book of meditations for men on baseball and life which I co-authored with my friend Phil Christopher, an Abilene minister. It's called Parables from the Diamond, it's $9.95 ($8.95 at Texas Star), and it makes a great gift for a man or young person. The 50 pieces in the book are quite short and they all try to relate something from baseball to the kind of daily issues and challenges men face in their lives.

Before I started writing books, I was a newspaper writer and editor for more than 30 years, including 12 years as editor of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Enough for now. I hope you will tell other people who like books about this blog. And keep me posted on literary developments around the state.

Thanks, and good reading.

Glenn Dromgoole

Book views Texas history from above

A new book of photographs takes a different look at Texas history.
"Historic Texas from the Air" (University of Texas Press, $45) is a colorful, informative and interesting coffee-table book that focuses on 73 historic sites. The authors – David Buisserer, Richard Francaviglia and Gerald Saxon – and photographer Jack W. Graves Jr. are associated with, or have taught at, the University of Texas at Arlington.

Graves’ aerial photographs are the highlight of the book, of course, but each photo is accompanied by a page or two of text explaining the site’s significance. Historic photographs or maps also illustrate most entries.

Well-known sites such as the Alamo, San Jacinto, the State Capitol, Spindletop and Dealey Plaza are pictured, as well as some lesser-known places like the Medicine Mounds of Hardeman County, the Hueco Tanks of El Paso, La Lomita Chapel in Mission, and the Fanthorp Inn in Anderson.

The 73 sites are representative of various aspects of Texas history and geography. The authors divide the book into six sections and include an introductory essay for each – The Land, The Indian Presence, French and Spaniards, 19th Century Forts and Communications, 19th Century Settlements and Industries, and Texas in the 20th Century.

Even with such an excellent collection as this, the authors concede that there are many other locales not covered. "Texas has hundreds of sites," they write, "where important events and developments – wars, migrations, treaties, and inventions – took place."

Still, readers will find in these 73 selections a rich variety of the state’s history and culture in such places as the Big Thicket, Fort Richardson (Jacksboro), Caddo Mounds (Alto), Camino Real in Nacogdoches and San Augustine, Palo Alto Battlefield (Brownsville), Indianola, Washington-on-the-Brazos, Fort Concho in San Angelo, Fort Phantom in Abilene, the main square in San Marcos, the Salt War (El Paso), the industrial ghost town of Thurber, the Houston Ship Channel, the Fort Worth Stockyards, the LBJ Ranch, and Six Flags Over Texas.

A little about how the pictures were taken: "Jack (Graves) deliberately kept his altitude low – usually about 300 to 800 feet above the ground," the book explains, "in order to capture the texture of the places. We chose this ‘bird’s-eye’ perspective because we wanted to provide a rather intimate but unfamiliar look at the Lone Star State’s history and geography. We feel that this perspective perfectly captures the details while also presenting the bigger picture."

"Historic Texas from the Air" is an impressive and readable representation of Texas history that deserves a place in every Texan’s library.
How to purchase: The book is available at a 10 percent discount ($40.50) at Texas Star Trading Company, 325-672-9696, or

Glenn Dromgoole writes about Texas books and authors. Contact him at