Mary Helen Specht
Born and raised in Abilene, Texas, Mary Helen Specht has a B.A. in English from Rice University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College, where she won the department’s fiction award. Her writing has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and has appeared in numerous publications, including:The New York Times; The Colorado Review; Prairie Schooner; Michigan Quarterly Review; The Southwest Review; Florida Review; Southwestern American Literature; World Literature Today; Blue Mesa; Hunger Mountain; Bookslut; The Texas Observer; and Night Train, where she won the Richard Yates Short Story Award.
A past Fulbright Scholar to Nigeria and Dobie-Paisano Writing Fellow, Specht teaches creative writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
Her first novel, Migratory Animals, was published by Harper Perennial on January 20, 2015.
"Mary Helen Specht’s debut novel, Migratory Animals, brings to the page an astonishing admixture of ambitiousness, originality, and authority that’s rare among established writers and exceptional for a first effort.... Richly layered and psychologically incisive, “Migratory Animals’’ is that rare first novel that leaves the reader clamoring for the next."
-Meredith Maran for The Boston Globe
Chasing the Sun
Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four and grew up in south Florida, where she received a B.A. in creative writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Austin, Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and NBCLatino.com. CHASING THE SUN, partially inspired by family events, is her first novel. A few of her favorite things:
• Rescue dogs (especially hers)
• Chai lattes, preferably from bookstore cafés
• Alliteration and em dashes (in moderation! says the inner editor)
• Community and compassion, always
"How ordinary lives intersect with extraordinary terror is a central theme of Natalia Sylvester’s Chasing the Sun. Born in Lima, Peru, Sylvester, 30, tells the story of a couple whose family life is upended by a seemingly random kidnapping. Set against the backdrop of political turmoil in 1992 Peru, the suspenseful book depicts what happens to an imperfect marriage when it faces a life-or-death test."
-Raul A. Reyes for NBC News website
"Sylvester is a fine writer with a knack for crafting situations that externalize the characters’ internal struggles."
Mark grew up in Hertfordshire, England, and now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three young children. His first real career was as a newspaper reporter in Colchester, Essex. There, he covered the police and crime beat for almost two years. He also wrote stories on foreign assignments, including accounts from Northern Ireland while with the British Army, and from Romania where he covered the first-anniversary celebrations of that country's revolution. He is currently an Assistant District Attorney with the Travis County DA's office.
Hollow Man is Mark's first fictional foray outside of his well received Hugo Marston series, and also the first to be set in Austin, Texas, where the writer himself currently lives. It is described as a psychological thriller set against the backdrop of the Austin music scene. Publisher Weekly compares the ending to the movie The Usual Suspects.
"As sharp and slick as a switchblade - both excellent entertainment and an acute psychological portrait. Add Mark Pryor to your must-read list - I have."
— Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series.
"[A]n audacious stand-alone that dares the reader to sympathize with a coldblooded killer whose lack of empathy allows his cunning to run free."
— Kirkus Reviews
Jan Jarboe Russell
The Train to Crystal City
Jan Jarboe Russell was born in Beaumont, Texas and grew up in small towns in the Piney Woods of East Texas. At sixteen-years-old she landed a part-time job at the weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Advocate, in her hometown and settled on a career as a journalist and author.
She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After graduation, she worked briefly as a reporter for the Savannah Morning News, and in 1973 became a political reporter at The San Antonio Light. In 1976, she joined the Hearst Bureau in Washington, D.C. where she focused on Texas politics.
In 1984, she was a Nieman Fellow At Harvard college, one of twelve American journalists to study at Harvard during that academic year. While at Harvard, she studied American literature. As a result, she shifted her career towards long-form journalism with a focus on politics, religion and social issues. Upon her return to Texas in 1985, she joined Texas Monthly magazine as a senior editor.
For the past four years, Russell has been at work for Scribner’s on The Train to Crystal City, which tells the story of a secret World War II internment camp that was located in Crystal City, Texas. From 1942 to 1948, thousands of German, Japanese and Italian immigrants and children, many of them born in America, lived behind barbed wire in the 290-acre camp located at the southern tip of Texas, approximately thirty-five miles from the Mexican border.
"[Even] readers with no particular interest in World War II - or ties to Texas - may find it hard to put the book down."
- The Dallas Morning News
" The Train to Crystal City is about identity, allegiance, and home, and the difficulty of determining the loyalties that lie in individual human hearts."
- The Texas Observer
The Goddess of War
Dennis McCown was born in Wyoming, the Cowboy State. Though he has traveled and worked overseas, he settled in Texas, where he is now a college instructor in Adult Education. "Many of my students' harsh life experiences are similar, actually, to what happened to Helen Beulah Mrose, The Goddess of War," he has said. Indeed, McCown felt the parallels between our time and the Old West so similar, he researched them intensively.
"People have not changed at all," he says. "We have a different culture and technological benefits, but how our grandparents and great-grandparents lived their lives is exactly how we live ours." In fact, as a result of his work on "The Goddess of War," McCown has a theory that the scandal of one person's mistakes impacts their descendants for at least three generations. To explain this, McCown paraphrases an old cowboy, "History is like molasses. You can't pour it all out; some sticks to the cup."
Dennis McCown spent 16 years tracking the story of Helen Beulah Mrose. He searched from Mason County west across Texas to El Paso, south into Mexico and north to Sacramento, Calif. He conducted interviews with a “crazy woman,” a deaf man, cemetery caretakers and a big cowboy with a bad German accent. He negotiated the sticky field of outlaw-lawman history, following connections with John Wesley Hardin, George Scarborough and John Selman. All this tracking and tracing, researching and writing resulted in as complete a biography of one of the West’s great female characters as might ever be possible. The Goddess of War: A True Story of Passion, Betrayal and Murder in the Old West (Sunstone Press, 2013) is an important contribution to Western literature. -
The Chili Cookbook
"No one understands how complicated chili is more than Robb Walsh.
The esteemed Texas food writer has tackled the history, culture and techniques behind many of our cherished foodways, including Tex-Mex and barbecue, and his latest book is another addition to the canon.
Titled simply The Chili Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, $18.99), the book is a generous, loving examination of what might be our most comforting dish, whose roots in Texas go back more than 500 years. Walsh takes readers on a stroll through the past, while offering dozens of recipes that, with the help of beautiful photography from Eva Kolenko, somehow feel new and exciting."
-Addie Broyles, Austin American-Statesman
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/living/food-drink/article40459857.html#storylink=cpy
"Once called “the Indiana Jones of food writers,” Texan Robb Walsh has developed a cult of devoted readers who have ridden shotgun with him on his obsessive culinary adventures–from the quest for the perfect cup of coffee, to barbecue battles, to Dr Pepper bootleggers."
–Brad Thomas Parsons
Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, goats, and rambunctious boys. She is the author of the multiply starred-reviewed Nightingale’s Nest and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, which Publisher’s Weekly called “mesmerizing” and Kirkus called “irresistible.” Her latest novel, Wish Girl, was published on February 24, 2015, and will be translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and French.
“It was the writing, of course, that struck my attention first. Loftin gives the book beautiful sequences filled with equally beautiful sentences. . . . As for the characters, there wasn’t a person here that I couldn’t recognize as real. I was quite taken with the fact that Loftin continually sidesteps a lot of the usual middle grade tropes. . . . Smart and beautiful by turns, Nightingale’s Nest does one thing that few will contest. Once you’ve read it, you’ll have a hard time getting it out of your head.” –Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal Blog
What this Story Needs is a Munch and a Crunch
A Pig in a Wig Book
Emma J. Virján is an expert in communications strategy development, graphic design, illustration, marketing communications, advertising, corporate identity and packaging. She founded Virján Design, a graphic design and illustration studio, in 1997.
Emma’s experience ranges from national brands and nonprofits such as Infinity Broadcasting, Save The Children® and The United Way to local companies and organizations such as CyrusOne, WaterTexas, The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and Texas Classroom Teachers Association.
Nacho the Party Puppy, (Random House, 2008) her first children’s book, was featured in the 2008 Texas Book Festival.
Emma holds a BFA in graphic design and illustration from Southwest Texas State University. She lives in Austin, Texas.
When Emma isn’t drawing, she spends her time reading, making lists, cutting out images of the numeral 5, and collecting produce stickers.
Praise for the Pig In A Wig series:
"With its frequent use of sight words and a story line that builds on itself, this is a great choice for absolute beginners and — bonus! — it has a true story arc, with a plot about friendship and cooperation. Searching for pig snouts hidden in the illustrations is an added delight."
- Laura Lutz for The New York Times
Patrice Barton says her artistic talents were first discovered at the age of three, when she was found creating a mural on the dining room wall with a pastry brush and a can of Crisco. Although the work itself was never fully appreciated by her parents, her interest in art was. They quickly gave her a better canvas and more appropriate supplies. Her passion for art grew, and she earned a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas in Austin, where she now lives with her husband and son, a few doggies and one can of Crisco (for cooking only).
Praise for The Invisible Boy
"Barton brings the words on the page to life. She captures the nature of childhood - so innocent, so expressive, and so honest."
- Laird Hunt
Chasing Thugs, Nazis, and Reds: Texas Ranger Norman K. Dixon
Kemp Dixon, an Adjunct Professor of History at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, grew up in McKinney, Elgin, and Austin, Texas, with a Texas Ranger father, Norman K. Dixon, who was raised in Vermont, Ohio, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York.
Texas Ranger Norman Dixon made the front pages of newspapers, but his rigid sense of integrity prevented him from discussing his cases with his wife or his sons, or anyone else, even decades later.
As a Ranger, Dixon broke up the largest oil field theft ring in Texas history, worked to solve the most infamous cold case in Texas history, sought the Phantom Killer, investigated a near-mutiny by cadets and veterans on the campus of Texas A&M, rushed to a rural county to head off a lynching, and kept watch over Texas during World War II. He became the go-to investigator for the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, governors, and the state legislature.
During the final years of his career, which coincided with the McCarthy era in the 1950s, he was the chief of internal security, charged with protecting Texans from the Red Menace.
Using Ranger Dixon’s meticulously-kept diary entries, Kemp Dixon now tells his father’s compelling story.
"Ranger Dixon's lengthy career in law enforcement revealed by his son emphasized the fact that for Texas to remain safe we continue to need the Texas Rangers."
- Chuck Parson, author