Writer: JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS // Nov.-Dec. 2015
A host of talented authors make their homes in the piney woods, tapping away at stories to stimulate and captivate the imagination.
Here’s a sampling of some who attended this year’s East Texas Book Fest.
MARK W. ALLEN: “Ill Wind,” book one of the Isla De Malhado Trilogy
Allen said he absorbed lessons of the craft “like osmosis” and followed her best practice advice on how to become a good writer: become a good reader.
“I became a voracious reader,” he said. “And when I was 15, I wrote my first novel.”
The sci-fi horror story didn’t pick up much steam, but it reinforced a love of writing and surprisingly, history.
Allen would grow up to work in television for more than 30 years, including a lengthy stint covering breaking news events around the country.
He traveled the world, but Hurricane Andrew’s wrath in 1992 grabbed his attention and held it.
The fascination culminated into his first novel, “Ill Wind,” the first leg of a three-book series that highlights the rich history of the area.
“It took about 10 years to write,” Allen said. “I’ve always been fascinated by history. Establishing a discipline was difficult; it was something I thought about for a while. … I had to do a lot of research.”
With the knowledge, he formulated a story that takes a step back in time to tell the story of early 20th century Galveston.
The tale is infused with emotion and intrigue as profit-seekers attempt a take-over of the island, and land is gobbled up in the quest for riches.
After a decade of writing, research and review, he declared it finished.
“I gave my mom a copy of the book at Christmas,” he said. “She cried.”
Allen is working to complete his final two works, which will focus on pirate John Lafitte’s takeover of Galveston and the island’s subsequent struggles with prohibition.
His mother remains his biggest fan.
“I think I’m doing it as much for her as for me,” he said.
ANNE CONLEY: “Craze,” book one of Pierce Securities
Contemporary romance author Anne Conley of Palestine uses her down time as a full-time mom to indulge her interest the literary world.
Amid the uneventful grind of household chores, she concocts colorful tales of strangers caught up in the throes of instant attraction.
Writing full time isn’t difficult for the former English teacher, so long as her children’s school is in session.
“I’ve always written,” the Palestine resident, 40, said. “It used to be journals, as a release for stressful times. My husband encouraged me to start writing stories.”
Then came the suggestion of turning out a book, she said.
“The first one took about three and a half years,” she said. “It was a goal I’d had, to write a book.”
Somewhere in the process, she started a second book and the trend continued.
In her Stories of Serendipity series, Mrs. Conley explores real people living real lives and romantic adventures in a small Texas town, featuring titles such as “Dream On” and “Neighborly Complications.”
In “The Four Winds,” she chronicles the what-ifs of God’s four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael and Michael, falling in love and becoming human.
“Craze,” her latest, is perhaps best described as a rough and tumble tale about desire and deception in an Austin security firm.
“There’s a ton of stories in my head,” she said with a grin.
Mrs. Conley relishes research and often tackles unfamiliar subjects for the challenge of learning about the world around her.
Each fantasy novel features story lines with “hot guys and the women who love them,” plus opportunities for redemption along the way, she said.
“I like happily ever after romances,” she said. “I think everyone deserves a happily ever after. Sure, they get the guy, but they always find themselves.”
Fans of her work can purchase it through Amazon. Her website is anneconley.com.
J.R. EVERS: “Drifter”
Western writer James Evers, 51, of White Oak, grew up in the country and couldn’t get enough of Louis L’amour’s cowboy adventures.
The Gladewater native started his writing career a few years ago focusing on self-help books, tackling difficult subjects related to addiction and recovery.
His first book, “In This Moment: An Alcoholic’s Path to Recovery,” tells the story of his journey from a broken life and alcoholism to happiness and sobriety.
“It’s non-fiction,” he said. “It is my story, but it is a self-help book also. It remains my best seller to date.”
He distributes copies to an East Texas mission, telling others the grace of God spared his life.
The history buff decided ultimately to take his writing in a different direction – westerns – after meeting his wife.
“I’ve been writing for years, but I never did anything with it,” he said.
Evers said he tested the genre and found a readership eager for tales about campfires and cowpokes.
He’s written several western fiction novels, including, “Piper: The General’s Daughter,” and two short stories titled, “Wyoming Fervor” and “Wyoming Fervor 2.”
His latest work, “Drifter,” was released Sept. 1.
“It’s a good read,” he said. “I really like that one.”
“Drifter” tells the story of a widowed cowboy who travels aimlessly in search of the life he left behind.
Evers said he enjoys happy endings and tries to make sure the dusty, downtrodden cowboy gets the gal.
“I’m currently at work on two other western books, ‘The Carson Brand,’ a spin-off of ‘Lonesome Wake,’ and ‘Shadow Rider,’ a new book about a beautiful, yet rough and tumble female on a search for her father who had abandoned her family,” he said.
Evers, a proud husband and father, works in foundation repair and writes in his spare time. He and his wife, Heather, enjoy visiting small Texas towns in search of collectibles and story inspiration.
“Anytime I’m writing, I try to do research,” Evers said. “I just find it interesting.”
The author’s work is available through Amazon and Outlaws Publishing.
TINA BAUSINGER: “Cold Coffee and Speed Limits: Encouragement for Mamas of Teens”
Humorist Tina Bausinger, 44, of Tyler, spent years rushing her children to school and wiping spilled coffee out of the floorboard.
Rather than lament the chaotic routine, she’s capitalizing on it through her writing.
Several of her works have been published: “War Eagle Women,” “The Art of Disappearing,” “Dad’s Tomatoes” and her latest, “Cold Coffee and Speed Limits,” all available on Amazon.
“I started writing short stories as a kid in junior high,” she said. “I wrote in notebooks and had nothing to do with it.”
She eventually married, started a family and began pondering career choices.
“I came to TJC and took a creative writing class,” she said. “Our first assignment was writing the first chapter of our novel.”
She enjoyed the experience and continued writing, eventually having work published in the national best-selling “Chicken Soup” book series.
Mrs. Bausinger shares mom adventures on her blog, tinabausinger.com and in her latest book.
She describes her work in this way: “Encouragement for mamas of teens with a touch of southern humor tempered with Christian feminism and tacos. Lots of tacos.”
It seems there are ample books about raising kids but very few about coping with typical parent issues: wearing pimples to prom and “Mom, there’s nothing to eat.”
Mrs. Bausinger said her latest work capitalizes on the information void through the sharing of advice, recipes, poems and a heaping helping of “odds and ends.”
She teaches at Tyler Junior College and tries to share her love of the craft with her writing and literature students.
She’s also part of a doctoral program at Texas A&M University for higher education and leadership.
“I love to write,” she said. “I feel super lucky I get to teach. It seems like a dream come true.”
ANN EVERETT (with Carol Mayfield): “Sweet Thangs: Southern Sweets from Two Sassy Sisters”
It’s hard to overlook sassy.
For a heaping helping of attitude, look no further than the town of Brownsboro, population 1,048, and home to a fictional bakery loaded with humor and swagger.
Make-believe bakers Pattiecake and Sugarpie man the counter and enjoy a world marked by unlikely romances, rolling pins and pouty pink aprons.
It is the creation of real-life sisters Ann Everett, a writer from Mount Pleasant; and Carol Mayfield, a school secretary who lives in Brownsboro.
Mrs. Everett dreams up book dramas while Mrs. Mayfield helps with marketing.
“I write sass, sizzle and suspense, Texas-style,” Mrs. Everett, 67, said. “I write mystery with a dash of humor … I’m sassy in everything I do.”
Mrs. Everett started penning stories about 10 years ago, as a fluke.
“Everybody told me I had the gift of gab, and I should write a book,” she said. “Before I knew it, I had 25,000 words, and I wasn’t finished. I wrote a story, but didn’t intend to do anything with it.”
Curious, she posted it to an online website to gauge reader interest and followed through on a suggestion to pursue a publisher.
She landed a three-year contract and continued writing, eventually transitioning into self-publishing.
Today, she’s the author of several books, including the Tizzy/Ridge Trilogy that includes: “You’re Busting my Nuptials,” “Tied With a Bow and No Place to Go” and “Laid Out and Candle Lit.”
Her saucy, home-tested “Sweet Thangs” cookbook is the latest, but not necessarily the last, she said.
The author’s work is available through Amazon. Her cookbook comes in both hard and soft cover with an e-book format expected by October.
For more information about the author, visit anneverett.com.
TWITTER” @TMT _ Jacque
This story originally appeared in the Tyler Morning Telegraph.