Tag Archives: Small town

Promo & Giveaway: The Big Empty by Loren C. Steffy

THE BIG EMPTY

by
LOREN C. STEFFY
Genre: Western / Rural Fiction / Small Town
Date of Publication: May 25, 2021
Number of Pages: 304 pages 
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When Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.
Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation—and his community—are dying. He wants new- millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind.
Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town—and advance his own career.
What neither man anticipates is the power the “Big Empty” will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.
PRAISE FOR THE BIG EMPTY:
“The Big Empty” captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy’s story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax.”
The Epoch Times
“Like the titular land itself, Steffy’s novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature’s whims.”
Southern Review of Books
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GuestPost

LIFE IMITATING ART IMITATING LIFE –

OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT

GUEST POST BY LOREN STEFFY

Originally published July, 2021, on the author’s blog

Perhaps I should have used a rocket company instead of a semiconductor manufacturing plant.

I found myself thinking that earlier this month, as all eyes were on West Texas for the launch of billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket.

I started writing my novel, The Big Empty, almost 20 years ago, and the idea of a rocket factory in West Texas would have seemed even more over the top than a chip plant. Besides, I knew what chip factories were like. I had toured several of them, and I covered the semiconductor industry.

While my brother is in the private space business, the idea of making the outside company moving into the tiny town of Conquistador an aerospace firm never occurred to me.

At any rate, all this came rushing back to me with the Blue Origin launch, in part because of some excellent reporting by my old paper, the Houston Chronicle. Andrea Leinfelder has a thoroughly reported series on the impact of the private space on small-town Texas. She takes a deep look at both Boca Chica, Space X’s launch site in far south Texas, and Van Horn. The Van Horn piece, in particular, sounds eerily familiar:

This town, like a thousand other rural communities, has seen agriculture diminish and infrastructure deteriorate. Its local improvements often depend on grants. And with Blue Origin’s higher-paid workforce, the town no longer qualifies for citywide grants reserved for low- to moderate-income communities. Residents talk about the tight housing market and problem-plagued water system.

Still, people are excited to see what comes next, with the possibility that Van Horn will become a major launch site for space travelers.

Those were many of the same ideas I tried to capture in The Big Empty. It was what I saw first-hand in the late 1990s when, as I described in my recent guest essay for the Chronicle, I found myself on a sprawling West Texas cattle ranch to cover a tech story.

I’ve always been fascinated with how people live in different environments. When I visit a new place, I like to see what life is like for the residents. I’ve found myself driving through neighborhoods in the interior of Maui and walking through the residential streets of Riyadh (against the “advice” of my government handlers).

Of course, the issues facing small towns in Texas — and across the country — have been going on for decades. But with the Blue Origin launch in Van Horn, I was struck by the old idea of life imitating art (not that I’m ascribing the “art” tag to my book, but you get the point).

In a way, it’s happening again. I’ve been working on a sequel to The Big Empty, which could be described as “a billionaire comes to town.”

Sound familiar?

Loren C. Steffy is the author of five nonfiction books. He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. He has previously worked for news organizations including Bloomberg and the Houston Chronicle, and he is a managing director for 30 Point Strategies, where he leads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. His is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is the co-host of the Rational Middle podcast. The Big Empty is his first novel. Steffy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He lives in Wimberley, Texas, with his wife, three dogs and an ungrateful cat.
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Review & Giveaway: Anahuac by William D. Darling

ANAHUAC
A Texas Story (Volume 2)
by
WILLIAM D. DARLING
  Genre: Historical Fiction / Thriller
Publisher: Canned Peas Productions
Date of Publication: October 3, 2017
Number of Pages: 244

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The Anahuac of 1972 is more than just an isolated outpost on Texas’s Trinity Bay – it’s a place where greed and justice uncomfortably intermingle, where the evangelical fervor of charismatic preachers resonate, where blacks and whites navigate a fragile co-existence, and where a murder leads to even darker mysteries than murder. 
Jim Ward, introduced in Morgan’s Point as a young, idealistic Houston prosecutor, returns in Anahuac as an older, more conflicted, more complicated man, coming to Anahuac to defend a man who appears guilty of a horrible crime. His discoveries lead to entanglements in the very nature of good and evil, in a town that is at once of its time and timeless, steeped in a history that is unexpectedly but definitively drawing Ward in its narrative web.
 

PRAISE FOR ANAHUAC: 

“Austin writer William D. Darling’s second novel, Anahuac, is an entertaining, engrossing legal thriller that offers both darkly humorous and good-natured thrusts at life, love, and law . . . first-rate reading, especially for readers who enjoy legal thrillers, lawyer procedurals, suspense, Texas settings, and characters who live large.” – Lone Star Literary Life
“Darling draws vivid portraits of his setting while also bringing in historical currents like women’s liberation, the growth of container shipping, and the rise of the prosperity gospel, adding interest to what’s otherwise a fairly simple courtroom drama.” – Kirkus Reviews
I’m a Texan originally from the east coast who’s had occasion to meet some of these characters from another planet. Darling weaves us through the minds of lawyers with jealousies, insecurities, questions of faith, honor, and guilt as they tackle the case of a horrible crime that has the potential to put a man of God away forever. I held on tight as we went through the engrossing trial, which did not disappoint! If you love history, crime, passion, religion, and suspense, this is a must read! – Kristy Recker (an Amazon reviewer)
While certainly a period piece, I’m glad that this book didn’t delve too far into Texas history because it already has so much to offer on its own. There is no point in making a masterpiece of the backdrop when the main players, the main point of the story, are so captivating and brilliant already.
I suppose the history of Anahuac leading up to the novel’s present time in the 1970s does serve as a sort of primer before Darling paints his characters with broader and more colorful strokes. Rather than telling us about racial or gender tension, he shows how that strain originated in history and how it evolved into what it was in the 70s. He does the same thing when explaining why the residents of the small town are suspicious of outsiders, even those who are also from Texas but from another town. We’ve seen that trope in movies, but it’s never really explained.
Even before the detailed choreography of the courtroom scenes, one can sense that Darling is an attorney. How? The opening scene all but tells you who murdered Sarita and the main character, Jim, is not really trying to figure out who did it. Jim’s focus is to make sure that the jury can’t say for certain that Reverend Randall Clay killed her. As he builds his case, he might briefly wonder who was really behind it, but his laser-like focus is on making sure his client is found not guilty. And Darling writes the story with this same focus and mission, to let the reader in on what is known for certain and what is hypothetical, with the intent of having us draw the most logical conclusion.
The story of the impending trial is the main thread of the novel, but there are a few other strands woven in concerning the married lives of the couples and the people in their circle that add further tension. I don’t know if those storylines added much to the novel, but I’m pretty sure they carried over from the first book. I think that if I had read Morgan’s Point, I would be more interested in the subplots.
Growing up in a Christian home in Texas, I just had to also mention my specific thoughts on Reverend Clay. I found him fascinating because he struck me as a Billy Graham at first, or maybe I just got that vibe because his medium was radio. But then I definitely likened him to Joel Osteen because of the solicitation for money and the questionable financial practices of his operation. And then he went right back to being a Billy Graham because he could actually spout scripture and theology off the top of his head without stuttering. Anyway, he was a great character and I wouldn’t mind reading about what his deal really is.
My only critiques are production things: the text could use some proofreading and the cover could be less literal and maybe scaled down a bit.
Overall, I thought this was a great read. There is not a wasted word on the page. If you skim, you miss something significant. If you like courtroom dramas, this book is definitely for you.

William D. Darling is a lifelong storyteller and very nearly a native Texan, arriving in his beloved state as an infant in 1942. His first novel, Morgan’s Point, introduced readers to both the mid-‘60s rough-and-tumble world of the Houston courts where Darling came of age, and the Galveston Bay region that has long fascinated him. His latest novel Anahuac, serves as a sequel to Morgan’s Point as well as its own fascinating tale.
Darling, who has lived within the legislative bustle of Washington, D.C. and in the beauty of a Central Texas ranch, currently resides in Austin, where he and his wife have built a longstanding law practice.
UPCOMING AUTHOR APPEARANCES:
January 12, 2018, 7:00PM

Anahuac Reading & Signing

Deep Vellum Books3000 Commerce StreetDallasTXUS 


January 20, 2018, 10:00AM

Anahuac Reading in Anahuac
William D. Darling brings it on home! He’ll read from Anahuac in the city where the new novel is set for the first time ever.
Chambers County Library202 Cummings StreetAnahuacTXUS 

February 17, 2018, 4:30PM
Anahuac Houston Release Event
William D. Darling will sign and read from Anahuac, celebrating the release of the book with friends and well-wishers in the city he once called home, as part of a multi-author event.
Murder by the Books2342 BissonnetHoustonTXUS 

 

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THREE WINNERS EACH WIN A COPY OF ANAHUAC + $10 Amazon Gift Card
January 5-January 14, 2018
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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

1/5/18
Notable Quotable
1/5/18
Author Interview
1/6/18
Review
1/7/18
Notable Quotable
1/8/18
Review
1/9/18
Excerpt
1/10/18
Notable Quotable
1/11/18
Review
1/12/18
Author Interview
1/13/18
Scrapbook Page
1/14/18
Review
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