Giddings Public Library and Cultural Center

WW 2023 Featured authors

Read below for a brief biography of this year's featured authors. Click here to access the list of featured books in our library catalog. Click here for the main festival page.

The Adventures of Jack and Beaux: A Pirate Story by Jack Adams (Round Rock, Texas)

Pastor Jack Adams has been married for 48 years and has three children and three grandchildren. Adams has written three previous books designed to equip people to know the Lord Jesus and have a deeper relationship with God. Adams recently released a new series of children’s books called The Adventures of Jack and Beaux. He writes children’s books to let young readers know that there is a God in heaven who cares for them and wants to have a relationship with them. 

Adams has taught the Word of God in the United States, Central America, South America, and Asia. He believes that those who want to walk with God have the ability to do so. Adams is certain that Jesus has provided everything we need for life and godliness. To schedule Adams for a speaking engagement or for help setting up a discipleship program, he may be contacted at His books are available  on his website at

When Oceans Rise by Robin Alvarez (Del Rio, Texas)

Robin Alvarez is the author of the #1 new release YA ethnic fairytale When Oceans Rise. As a mixed-race Filipina American who experienced domestic abuse, she often writes about characters who fall into in-between spaces as they struggle with identity, abuse, and trauma. Although she spent the majority of her life in beach towns, having almost drowned several times, Alvarez currently resides in a desert where the waters are less likely to kill her. 

Her work has been featured on OwlCrate, ABC, and NBC news affiliates. In her career, Alvarez has worked in news stations, made TV commercials, edited high-end wedding videos, and crafted industrial animations. She’s been a photographer, a painter, and an English teacher. After having children, Alvarez transitioned to working from home teaching Chinese students online. She returned to school and received a master’s degree in creative writing. Alvarez works at Sul Ross University. She will be best friends for coffee. 

Not Murder by Susan P. Baker (Galveston, Texas)

Susan P. Baker, a retired Texas family court judge, presided over everything from murder to divorce for 12 years. Afterward, she traveled as a visiting judge for another 12. Baker’s works are derived from experience in the justice system and events in and around courts in Texas … all fictionalized, of course! 

She has written 11 mystery/suspense novels, two non-fiction books, and an eclectic collection of short pieces. Baker’s novels include the Mavis Davis Mystery series and the Lady Lawyer Mystery series. Her two works of non-fiction are Murdered Judges of the 20th Century and a divorce advice book. Baker has two children and eight grandchildren. She loves dark chocolate, raspberries, and traveling the world. She lives in Galveston with her rescue kitty, Tudi. Visit her online at She can be found on Facebook at

Sheriff of Starr County by David A. Bowles (San Antonio, Texas)

David A. Bowles is an  award-winning author who has published five novels in the Westward Sagas series. A prolific writer, Bowles has written hundreds of stories about history, true-life characters he has met, and characters he created. His stories are based on years of historical research. 

Bowles is the fifth generation of his family to be born in Austin. Both parents were from pioneer settlers. In 1841, his great-grandmother Elnora Van Cleve was the first child born in Austin. The Westward Sagas is based on her family’s 100-year journey from Pennsylvania to Texas. Bowles and his dog Becka enjoy Texas from October–May. When the last bluebonnet has lost its bloom, they pack up the RV and head for cooler weather.

Nyima and the Blue Bear: A Tale of Hope and Compassion by Angela Castillo (Bastrop, Texas)

Angela Castillo  has been writing stories since she created her first tale in green crayon at the age of eight. She’s lived all over Central Texas but mostly hovers around the town of Bastrop, which she loves with an unnatural fierceness and features in many of her books. Castillo has four wild children, a husband who studies astrophysics for fun, and a cat. 

She has written more than 40 books for adults and children, including the bestselling and award-winning Texas Women of Spirit series, the Westward Wanderers series, the WildKind picture book series for children, the Miss Main Street book series set in present-day small-town Texas, and The Three Royal Children and the Batty Aunt series. She and co-author Jamie Foley produced the Busy Moms Guide to Writing series. Together, they are dedicated to helping other authors find the book inside their hearts and make their book dreams come true.  

The Baby with Three Families, Two Countries, and One Promise: An International Adoption Story by Julie Gianelloni Connor (Houston, Texas)

Julie Gianelloni Connor is an award-winning author and retired senior foreign service officer. Her first book, Savoring the Camino de Santiago: It’s the Pilgrimage, Not the Hike, garnered no. 1 status on Amazon in two categories. It subsequently went on to win a silver medal in the eLit national competition as well as being selected as a finalist by Self-Publishing Review. Connor’s short stories have appeared in four anthologies. 

She owns Bayou City Press in Houston, which focuses on travel writing, Houston, history, and international affairs. Connor established Bayou City Press after spending 33 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service. She had nine overseas assignments in seven different countries: Israel, Paraguay, Guatemala, Indonesia, Colombia, Malaysia, and Chile. In Washington, D.C., Connor worked on a variety of matters,  including nuclear non-proliferation, narcotics control, and women’s issues. Connor has one son and lives with her three cats, Halloween, Charles Augustus V, and Layla.   

Washout Express by Jody Day (Fort Stockton, Texas)

Jody Bailey Day writes inspirational fiction, poems, children’s books, and Bible devotionals from her home in West Texas. She is a two-time Grand Prize Winner at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference and has multiple first-place wins with She is the author of the Washout Express series and the Mistletoe Mix-Up series with Pelican Book Group. Her children's book about friendship, Yellow Bottom Bob, is a local favorite, and she loves taking the story to first graders every year. She has given away more than 150 Bob action figures that she crochets. 

Day serves as president of the Fort Stockton Area Writers Group. She and her husband Randy love spending time with their 16 grandchildren. They enjoy vintage movies and serve in the music and prayer ministry at their church. Day recently retired from the Fort Stockton Public Library, where she served as music coordinator for the H. Edward Petsch Foundation for the Arts. She has enjoyed being able to write full time.

Double Bogeys Can Kill by Bob Doerr (Garden Ridge, Texas)

Bob Doerr grew up in a military family, graduated from the Air Force Academy, and had a career in the Air Force, specializing in criminal investigations and counterintelligence. His work brought him into close coordination with the security agencies of many countries. Doerr earned a master’s degree in international relations from Creighton University. 

He has published 20 books and was selected by the Military Writers Society of America as its 2013 author of the year. The Eric Hoffer Awards selected Doerr’s No One Else to Kill as the 2013 first runner-up for commercial fiction. He has co-authored a book with four other authors and has had short stories published in a variety of anthologies. He enjoys writing juvenile fiction as well as mystery/thrillers for adults. He is the past-president of the Military Writers Society of America, and he continues to review books for the organization. Doerr lives in Garden Ridge with his wife of 50 years and their ornery cat, Cinco. 

Selling Your Books Locally by Jamie Foley (Bastrop, Texas)

Award-winning science fiction/fantasy author Jamie Foley loves strategy games, gardening, and making lembas bread. She’s terrified of red wasps and uses them for lightsaber training. When she’s not writing, Foley works for Enclave Publishing or the Christian Writers Institute, typesetting, or drawing maps to Cair Paravel. Her husband is her manly astronaut preacher muse. They live between the Texas Hill Country and the family cattle ranch, where their hyperactive spawnling and wolfpack roam. 

Speculative fiction is Foley’s favorite thing ever. Spiritual powers and magic-flingers? Yes, please. Elementals and dragons? Sure! Angels and demons and everything plausibly in between? You bet. Foley doesn’t think a book needs to have language, gratuitous violence, or sexual content to make an awesome story. And she doesn’t think you have to be preachy to write Christian stories. If her books can reflect one smidgeon of the mind-boggling creativity of Yahweh or the epic heroism of Jesus Christ, Foley’s goal as an author will be achieved.

Etched in Stone by Christine Galib (Houston, Texas)

Odds are very good that as you’re reading this, Christine Galib is reading, writing, running, or taking the road less traveled. She is a systems thinker, educational leader, innovation ecosystem builder, and founder with a non-linear, 15+ year career in helping others discover their creative strengths and develop their entrepreneurial and investor mindsets. Her speaking, writing, and research interests include entrepreneurial mindset development, creativity, innovation, leadership, systems thinking, mindfulness, wellness, and apologetics. 

When she is not writing, Galib serves as senior director of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Ion, Houston’s innovation hub. She is the author of Parables from the Pandemic and The Knights of the Dagger series. She writes on Christianity and faith-based living, as well as archaeological mystery, Grail-quest fiction. She writes to empower the knight in each of us to pursue our quests with grace, courage, and faith. Follow her on Instagram: @christinegalibauthor or Facebook at

Special Ed Meets Kennedy by Michelle Kaiser (Cross Plains, Texas)

Michelle Kaiser and her husband Jim live on a ranch in Cross Plains, Texas, with many of Special Ed’s friends and relatives. Special Ed was different from the other calves on the ranch, and if he had been human instead of bovine, he most certainly would have been bullied for being different, so Kaiser chose to use him as a teaching tool. Kaiser’s mission is to use her books to show children the harmful effects of bullying, to embrace our differences, to value friendships, and to be inclusive. Kaiser surrounded Special Ed with friends who stood up for him and with a wise mother cow who always knew the right things to say to encourage Ed. 

Kaiser enjoys traveling, sewing, and reading when not writing. She volunteers at the local library, serves on their board of directors, and spends much of her time writing grants. Readers can visit her website at to read more about the real Special Ed. 

For the Minds and Wills of Men by Jeff Lanier (Houston, Texas)

Jeff Lanier is a native Houstonian. He earned bachelor’s degrees in history and art history at the University of Texas with a focus on the history of American culture through art and literature. He has a master’s from Rice University, is a member of the American Society of Aesthetics. Lanier lives in Houston with his wife and three kids. His book, For the Minds and Wills of Men, recently won first place in the Dragonfly awards for both historical fiction and first novel. Author and art historian Ross King says, “Lanier brilliantly evokes the energy and excitement of the New York art worlds in this Cold War thriller with an artistic twist. Along the way, he gives us insights into abstract expressionism and the power of art to communicate values and ideas.” 

Kirkus Review said Lanier “intelligently limns not only the American obsession with Communist infiltration in the wake of World War II, but also the emergence of abstract expressionism in the U.S. This is an exceedingly intelligent and unpredictable story. A mesmerizing spy thriller, thoughtful and dramatic.” 

So You Want to Build a Library by Lindsay Leslie (Austin, Texas)

A diary keeper, a journalism major, a public relations executive, now a children’s author—Lindsay Leslie has always operated in a world of written words. She likes to bring her unique outlook on life, quirky humor, and play with words to the page in picture books. Leslie is the award-winning author of So You Want to Build a Library with Capstone Press, Dusk Explorers (SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner, Bank Street Best Book of 2021 with Outstanding Merit, Kirkus starred review, and Amazon Editors’ Pick), Nova the Star Eater, and This Book is Spineless (Booklist starred review) with Page Street Kids. 

Leslie’s fifth picture book is scheduled for summer 2025, and she is currently writing an original picture book for KiwiCo. She hails from Richardson and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. She lives in Austin with her Texas-born novelist husband, Ryan Leslie, two sons, two fur-beasts, and a guinea pig. 

Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz (Fort Worth, Texas)

Leslie Lutz is the author of  Fractured Tide (HarperCollins/Blink), a young adult thriller about an ill-fated scuba trip that strands the protagonist on a time-bending island. Her debut was voted Best of 2020 by Suspense Magazine and became a Junior Library Guild Pick. Lutz’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in various journals, including Typishly, The Lyric, Raintown Review, and Orca Literary Journal. She has been a speaker at DFWCon, TomeCon, and Roanoke Writers Convention, and will be teaching a writing class this year at Thrillerfest in New York City. 

Expected in late fall 2023, Lutz’s next young adult novel, The Dark Place, is the story of a teenage psychic who unleashes unspeakable horror on a small Texas town. Lutz lives in Fort Worth, and when she’s not writing, you can find her watching B-horror movies, scuba diving, or taking care of chickens. You can find out more about Lutz at

Ghost Hunters: Pirates’ Curse by Susan McCauley (Spring, Texas)

Susan McCauley is a screenwriter and award-winning author of fun, fantastical, and spooky books for children, teens, and adults. She has lived on all three coasts of the United States, as well as having spent a few years in the U.K. She loves to travel, snorkel, read, see movies, go to the theatre, and she’s a 1st degree black belt in taekwondo. 

McCauley fell in love with writing, theater, and film at eight years old. That passion inspired her to receive a bachelor’s degree in radio-television with a minor in theater from the University of Houston, a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree in text and performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and King’s College in London. McCauley studied acting with Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day) in Los Angeles. She has published five novels, one novella, and a picture book. Learn more  by visiting

The Time Traveling Team by Miriam Meyer (Lexington, Texas)

Miriam Meyer has been a voracious reader ever since she learned how to read. Writing has also been a favorite pastime for her, writing short stories and keeping a journal faithfully. Meyer has even written plays to perform with her siblings. She got the idea for this book in the fifth grade, and has now fulfilled her dream of publishing a book before high school. 

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Meyer next moved to Michigan, and finally to Texas. Currently she lives in Central Texas with her parents, four siblings, two dogs, and a cat. Meyer attends school at a local parochial school where she aims to earn the most AR (Accelerated Reader) points as possible every year. Besides reading, she enjoys art, skating, playing frisbee, and spending time with her family. She loves traveling as well, and is just waiting for the day when she can time travel like her characters.

The Case of the Disappearing Yarn by Charlotte Mae Mokry (Pflugerville, Texas)

Charlotte Mae Mokry is twelve years old and loves to tell stories. She is the youngest member of her family and the second member to become a published author. Mokry has been homeschooled from the beginning, and writing has really opened up her love for books. 

Mokry’s imagination is wild and takes her on some very creative adventures. This was the first sign that she should try writing. Mokry started writing her first book when she was nine; now three years later, her second book is here to be enjoyed. She is a native Texan and enjoys more than just writing. Mokry also plays the piano, participates in American Heritage Girls, and hangs out with her friends. She takes inspiration from all around her, from her love of reading mystery books, to her pets (cats, dogs, and chickens). Mokry loves stories best when they have an element of real life in them. Will she write more? Yes! She has plans for four more books in her series.

The Middlest Giraffe by Shannon L. Mokry (Pflugerville, Texas)

Shannon L. Mokry has lived in Texas with her family for more than 25 years. For the past 12 years, she has homeschooled her daughters, graduating two of them, and still working on the youngest. During that time, Mokry has written more than 20 children’s books that encourage and teach children about various social and emotional topics. Each book is full of whimsy and serves a purpose in each child’s library. Her own children have often served as fun and whimsical inspiration for the books she writes. 

In addition to writing, Mokry has also started illustrating her own works. With the encouragement of her husband and kids, she has enjoyed exploring the use of watercolors and mixed media to create the whimsical animals in her books. What started out as a simple three-book series, has morphed into a full-on passion and full-time job. Mokry has no fewer than five new projects on her worktable. She sees writing as a part of her life for a long time to come. 

Let the Little Birds Sing by Sandra Fox Murphy (Round Rock, Texas)

Sandra Fox Murphy, originally from Glasgow, Delaware, grew up an “Air Force brat.” She was inspired to write verse and stories while studying the beatnik poets at Indian Valley College in California. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. After retiring from the U.S. Geological Survey, Murphy wrote the novel A Thousand Stars about Ann Hill, who traveled to Rhode Island in 1649. 

Murphy’s second novel, That Beautiful Season, is rich in the love of family and land near the Chesapeake Bay. Murphy completed the Fidelia McCord trilogy in 2022. Set in mid-nineteenth century America and inspired by true events, a pioneering family  travels in a wagon train from the north to Texas. Murphy’s poetry has been published in anthologies (including the recent Earth Song, A Nature Poems Experience), The Write Launch, and in The Ocotillo Review. She is currently working on a story of friendship and judgment set in 1952 Dalhart, Texas.

The Puppy Adventures of Porter and Midge: Out and About by Giselle Nevada (Hutto, Texas)

Originally from the Philippines, Giselle Nevada came to the U.S. to attend Wellesley College where she studied economics. After graduation, Nevada worked in managing risk/compliance teams, specializing in machine learning and more recently, risk policy. She has owned several mastiffs over the past 20 years, some from reputable breeders, and others she rescued as adults. Her experience with rescuing and fostering mastiffs led her to become interested in socialization as a way of preventing future issues. 

Nevada enjoys working with her dogs and has trained them in various canine sports such as carting, conformation, agility, rally, trick dog, nose work, and more. Her puppy, Porter, is an example of the success of early socialization, having earned multiple performance dog titles and even starring in a movie directed by Marian Yeager called Match Me If You Can. She is an active member of various dog clubs. Nevada has lived in Austin for more than two decades, and her passion for dogs and socialization continues to inspire her work. 

The Cupcake Company Baker's Manual by Heidi O'Barr (Pflugerville, Texas)

Heidi O’Barr is the author of two short stories in the Amazon best-selling anthology Beyond The Woods: A Supernatural Anthology, and the co-author and photographer of The Cupcake Company Baker’s Manual. O’Barr won third place in the 2023 Storymakers First Chapter Contest with an excerpt from her novel Bristol King Versus Bigfoot: Legend or Lie. She co-founded the writing critique group The Messy Manuscript Society, which meets monthly and will publish a second anthology in fall 2023. 

O’Barr is also a registered nurse with extensive experience. She provides care for ailments, including drug overdose, snake bites, environmental exposures, mediating gang rivalries, suicide attempts, and dismemberment. She is a reference for writers seeking to portray authentic murder, poisonings, medical tragedies, and mayhem. O’Barr adores confetti, campfires, and loud glasses. Her fears include losing body parts, butter rationing, and extremely loud noises. She lives in Pflugerville with her husband, six children, and a dog named Jingle Bells. 

The First UniBear by Kathleen J. Shields (Canyon Lake, Texas)

Award-winning author, Kathleen J. Shields is a prolific writer in multiple genres. Her primary focus is on children’s books that are educational and inspirational, along with Christian fiction. She has brought us the highly acclaimed Hamilton Troll Adventure series, multiple chapter books for tween readers and the Painting Trilogy. She loves writing stories in rhyme and creating fun adventures for others to read. 

Shields wrote The First UniBear when she was 10 but published it in 2021 in honor of her father, who always believed in her talent. She has published nearly 40 books, two of which were released this year. Shields brings positivity to the world through PAWsitive Vibes—Dogs, and this summer she will release The First Unicorn, an inspirational story detailing how a thoughtful wild horse was bestowed a gift of gold by an angel, thus creating the first unicorn of the world. This book tells a tale that will inspire others to follow Christ’s path of love and generosity. 

Shoot Shovel & Shut Up by Jessica Thompson (Pflugerville, Texas)

Jessica Thompson is the author of Amazon bestselling culinary cozy mystery novels set in Austin: A Caterer’s Guide to Love and Murder and A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide. Her new book is a classic-style mystery set on a Texas family longhorn ranch. She curated the short-story collection Beyond the Woods: A Supernatural Anthology. Active in her writing community, she volunteers as the assistant communications chair for the Storymakers Guild and with the Writers’ League of Texas. 

As an avid home chef and food-science geek, Thompson has won cooking competitions and been featured in the online Taste of Home recipe collection. She is the go-to source for recipes, taste-testing, and food advice among her peers. Thompson lives in the suburbs of Austin with her husband and two children. When not writing, she’s getting her boots dirty at her parents’ nearby longhorn cattle ranch. Whether she’s revving up chainsaws or wrangling charging bulls, she sees it all as plot-inspiring material for her next mystery. 

The Common Man by Mark Vancil (Taylor, Texas)

Mark Vancil is a U.S. Air Force veteran, a former commercial/deep sea diver, and has been an electrician for 40 years. Vancil worked as a data-center engineer for 12 years and worked as a maintenance technician/building engineer for real estate management companies. Together, he and Sharon, his wife of 44 years, have two children and three grandchildren. 

Vancil believes that the paths we choose to take in life have a large effect and impact on who and what we become. The Common Man is the story of the paths he has taken or encountered through his life. Through it all, he has learned first and foremost that God is always with us even when it seems like he is not, so we don’t have to face our challenges alone. Vancil has been in the work force for almost 50 years and this book details the jobs he has had and how those jobs have impacted his life.

Spirit of Gonzales by Betsy Wagner (Columbus, Texas)

Betsy Wagner began writing in 2008 when she learned of her family’s connection to the history of Texas. She retired from a career in education and worked on her first book for 10 years, researching the details of the early days of the Texas Revolution. 

Her first book is used as curriculum for seventh-grade Texas history students at St. Anthony’s Catholic School. Students asked, “What happened next?” That question inspired her to write a sequel. Both books were awarded the Virginia M. Law award by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Those books tell the story of her father’s family. In 2021, Wagner began researching her mother’s family. She just completed her third book, which tells the authentic story of two German families’ immigration into Colorado County and the surrounding areas. Wagner describes her work as Texas historical fiction, which uses “islands of truth joined by bridges of logic.” 

Blood Ties by Leonie Waithman (Katy, Texas)

L. Waithman was born and raised in The Netherlands as the youngest of three girls. She attributes her passion for storytelling to her early years when her father made up stories at bedtime. Her first writing took place in elementary school, where she wrote in a diary every Monday morning that was sent home to parents at the end of the semester. Waithman’s mother treasured reading the diary’s vivid stories of adventures that had taken place on the weekends with neighborhood kids. 

After graduating college and meeting her husband in Australia, Waithman lived in England for a few years before moving to Texas in 2021, where her three children were born. When not writing, she loves to travel. Waithman volunteers her time to archeology and to educating students about the Texas revolution at a State Historic Site.