Review & Giveaway: The Big Empty, by Loren C. Steffy

BNR The Big Empty

 

About the book, The Big Empty

  • Genre: Western / Rural Fiction / Small Town
  • Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
  • Date of Publication: May 25, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 304 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Big Empty, TheWhen 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 this book:

“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

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Stoney Creek Publishing Group (Currently 25% off) │TAMU PRESS │Bookshop.org│ AmazonGoodreads

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About the author, Loren C. Steffy

author pic steffyLoren 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.

Connect with Loren:

WEBSITE  | FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER |  AMAZON  |  GOODREADS  |  INSTAGRAM | LINKEDIN |

Connect with Stoney Creek Publishing:

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My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellLoren C. Steffy’s debut novel is the perfect blend of his journalistic experience and a flair for good storytelling.

Set in the West Texas of the recent past, The Big Empty is a contemporary western, pitting modern cowboys against big technology, with a two-prong through line that addresses water access and the inevitability of modern development.

It’s a story Steffy tells well. The main characters literally crash into each other in the preface, and it’s obvious that these two men, cowboy Trace Malloy and techie Blaine Witherspoon will be confronting each other throughout the book.

What I found compelling about this story was that each man wants a better future for his family – Witherspoon wants to be settled in once place for a while, something he promised his wife – with a stable life for his family. Malloy wants a future for his son that isn’t tied to ranching, and includes college.

Each of these men also has different beliefs in how these things should be achieved, however. Malloy loves his West Texas home – the titular Big Empty – a flat stretch of land that’s home to cows, of course, but also to host of resident wildlife, including rattlesnakes and scorpions. Witherspoon, on the other hand, thinks technological progress is automatically good and right. In a way, he believes he’s bringing economic water to this proverbial desert.

Steffy has a good ear for dialogue, and that really helped to define the setting, as well as illustrating who was a native Texan and who was newcomer – a ‘homie’ in Malloy’s vernacular. He’s also presented, through this novel, an issue that is still very present in today’s world where we have corporations buying up small towns’ water supplies, and climate change has storms and droughts both increasing in strength and extremity.

It’s this combination of fiction and reality, as well as the conflict that comes between the characters, and how that conflict changes when they must unite – to a point – to fight a common enemy in the final third of the novel – that makes The Big Empty both full of literary craft, and as satisfying as a West Texas sunset.

Goes well with: Chicken fried steak, home fries, and a cold beer.


Giveaway

Giveaway The Big Empty

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 THREE WINNERS:
Signed copy of The Big Empty and logo hat.
(US only; ends midnight CST 11/25/21)

 

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Langston’s Daughters, by Juliette Harper (@jharperbooks) – Review

About the book, Langston’s Daughters Langston's Daughters

  • Publisher: Skye House Publishing
  • Release date: December 3, 2014
  • Formats: paperback, ebook
  • Pages: 156

Kate, Jenny, and Mandy. Langston Lockwood’s daughters. His tyranny drove them away. His suicide draws them home. They inherit his land, his millions, and his mysteries. Meet the women of the Rocking L and the men who come into their lives. Together, they begin the journey to discover the truth about The Lockwood Legacy. From the pain of the past they find the strength to build a dynasty.

Langston’s Daughters is book one of The Lockwood Legacy.

Buy, read, and discuss Langston’s Daughters

Amazon (ebook) | Amazon (paperback) | Goodreads

Per the author, this title will be available from Barnes and Noble soon.


About the author, Juliette Harper

Juliette Harper is the pen name used by the writing team of Patricia Pauletti and Rana K. Williamson. Like the characters of their debut series, The Lockwood Legacy, Juliette is a merging of their creative energies.

Pauletti, an Easterner of Italian descent, is an accomplished musician with an eye for art and design. Williamson, a Texan from a long line of hardheaded Scots, knows the world of the Lockwoods like the back of her hand.

Connect with Juliette

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts

This novel is not only the debut novel from a writing partnership I’m sure will go on to great success, it is the first in a series about Langston Lockwood (now deceased) and his three grown daughters, Kate, Jenny, and Mandy. It’s a romance. It’s also kind of/sort of a western, in that it takes place on a ranch in Texas. Neither of those is my favorite genre, but even if half of the writing partnership that makes up “Juliette Harper” wasn’t one of my oldest blog-buddies, I would say the same thing about this book: It’s a great, fast read full of engaging characters and situations that carry the essence of truth.

What a particularly liked was that each of the three women at the center of this novel were distinct characters with their own habits, preferences, personalities, and voices, but that they still ‘felt’ like people who had shared common experiences and had grown up together, as sisters should. Author Harper also excelled at finding, and relating, the human moments that happen in all families – the way bickering can lead to either laughter or tears, and the way people who disagree with each other can still love one another.

Of course, no romance is complete without hunky guys, and this novel manages to make them (I liked Josh Baxter especially) seem as real and dimensional as the three central characters, and the same is true for all of the supporting characters, and even the community in which the ranch exists. As well, Langston himself, despite having committed an off-camera suicide before the novel even opens, is a very real character, and his presence, while not physical, still looms large throughout the story.

When Mandy is in town noticing the number of empty storefronts, it resonated with me, and likely will with most aware readers, because small towns are facing that all over the U.S., and especially those in parts of the country where farming and ranching remain significant ways of life, as well as crucial parts of the economy. That scene is just one of the many ways Langston’s Daughters has been imbued with levels of depth and realism not found in typical romance novels.

If you want a book that has romance and intrigue without the cookie-cutter heroines and twinkling-blue-eyes heroes that could easily be stock characters, you need to read Langston’s Daughters. If you love books featuring smart, strong women who appreciate and are appreciated by smart, strong men, you need to read this novel. If you like the idea of waking up at six in the morning to ride a horse up to a ridge, this novel is for you.

I can’t wait for the sequel.

Goes well with: Chili, corn bread, and a cold beer.