Better now, without teeth

Cono visits his grandpa. (No Hill for a Stepper, except- based on a true story)



Pa and I are sharing a piece of Ma’s famous peach cobbler when I ask, “Pa, what happened to yer teeth?”

“Cono, now I’ll tell ye. My teeth started to achin’ and smellin’ so bad that I figured I needed to take ‘em out, harvest ‘em like an overripe crop.”

 “All of ‘em? Ye pulled all of ‘em?”

 “Shor’did. I got myself a pair’a pliers, sat there on the front porch and pulled out the ones that were botherin’ me the most. The good ones left felt funny bein’ in there without company, so I jes’t took them out too.”

 “Damn!” I say. “They don’t stink no more?”

Pa laughs. “Ain’t nothing left te sniff.”

“He’s an old coot’s what he is,” yells Ma from the kitchen, overhearing the story.

 “I’m surprised ye noticed, Ma,” he yells back. “Ye cain’t see two feet without yer glasses.” He turns back to me. “Don’t ye fret none about it,” he gums out. “Ever since them holes healed up? I kin eat a steak jes’t like ever’ body else. I chew a little longer s’all. But my whistlin’s gone to hell in a hand basket.”

Daily prompt: Aromatic

The Shape of Cono’s Being.

In a previous post titled, The Shape of our Being, I mentioned how experiences shape our humanness. Here’s another example of the “shape” of Carolyn’s Being that shows up in my novels.

Disclaimer: I’m betting on my ‘underdog-ness’ again–that part of me who feels uncomfortable with self-promotion. But try, we must. Right?

NOTE: No Hill for a Stepper, is about Cono, my father (and a huge piece of my heart) who died in 2009 before its publication. Don’t worry, he read and loved the first draft.

In 1942, victimized his entire life by his own father,  fourteen-year-old Cono must stand  up against him an protect his mother and little sister.


I hear Mother scream. I snap back into the present, out of my daydream. Maybe she’s woken up, has seen blood on her sheets reflected in moonlight, seen the blood on Dad’s face. I start to get up, but the quiet has taken over; but only for a moment.

I hear a voice I know is Dad’s but different somehow, guttural like a wolf’s growl. I hear Mother say, “Stop it Wayne!”

My feet touch the floor before the rest of me knows what it’s doing. I open my door. Mother is backing towards me, but away from the bloodied-face man holding a butcher knife, glistening from moonlight, shiny like a raccoon’s mirror. He’s stumbling towards her. My mind freezes. It’s a scene from a scary picture show. No, Cono, I tell myself, this is real. Real life, real time.

Dad’s stopped walking. He’s swaying back and forth like an old porch swing. No, more like the swing of a hanged man’s noose. His eyes are glazed like a film of anger is laying on top that he can’t wipe away. He glances once over to the couch where Pooch is sleeping.

“Mother, keep backing up towards me,” I tell her.

She stares at my father but listens to my words. Dad stops at the kitchen table, he puts his empty palm on the table for balance, the butcher knife in the other hand swaying by his side.

“C’mon, Mother, keep coming to me,” I say softly, feeling a surge of calm and determination at the same time.

Mother has backed all the way up me. I pull her behind my door into the bedroom where Delma is still sleeping. Mother is shaking. My hands are doing the same now. I see our .22 sitting on the open shelf just a few feet away. It’s so close I can almost feel it. It’s like the .22 Hoover found, the one I felt in my hands, the cold steel of it. Now, I want to feel the warm safety of it.

A fear invades my body like a sickness. I’m drowning, but not in water. I’m drowning in the fear of what to do next, what I need to do to protect my family from a madman.


Here’s Cono, my dad. My sister had the novel photoshopped into his hands and gave me this awesome framed photo.

Emma June’s Brain Percolates

From The Moonshine Thicket (1928)

“Frank never did anything to make Mama and Daddy fight. And, he had nothing to do with Mama leaving. Being mad at him would be like Choppers being mad at me for only having two legs.

“I’m sure.”

“And I never told Miss Helen you helped me with that delivery. Just so you know. So, we’re still friends?”

“Still friends,” I tell him.

I spit on my palm and stick it out for him to shake. He smiles and spits. I look him in the eye and shake his wet hand. Friendship, settled.

My brain percolates like Miss Helen’s never-dry coffee pot. I don’t worry about my questions. I worry about what Miss Helen will say when she answers.”




The Shape Of Meta’s Being

“I’m going to bet on MY ‘underdog-ness’ and give this a shot. Some might sigh a bit when they see a fellow blogger try to promote their work. But try we must.” CD-W

In a previous post titled, The Shape of our Being, I mentioned how our experiences shape our humanness, including the Carolyn Being (a work in progress). My “shape” shows up in my novels. In this excerpt from The Last Bordello, Sadie, a prostitute in a 1901 bordello, escorts the virtuous Meta (who accepted Madam Fannie’s offer to be the bordello’s pianist) on a tour of the city.

And truly, thanks for hanging with me!

“Meta, I know this is your first time to a big city. I want to be fair. There is something I want you to understand.” She paused, gathering my attention. “People in town know I’m a painted lady, a prostitute. Or, as some like to say, a lowly whore.”


Sadie held up a hand. “Being seen with me is almost as bad as being a prostitute yourself. People will judge you. Your reputation could be tainted by merely being seen in my presence. I truly don’t want any harm or ill will to come to you. I don’t want you embarrassed by my company.”

Perhaps this was Aunt Amelia’s concern, what she wanted to tell me. If the public thought less of me for playing the piano at a bordello, I didn’t care. Weren’t even prostitutes and their customers entitled to the magic of music?

Unlashing Sadie’s grasp, I stepped a foot to the side. “Sadie, I appreciate your honesty. Now,” I said, my grin widening, “shall we walk back arm in arm like schoolgirls?”

Sadie’s white teeth glistened in the February sun. “Yes,” she said, interlocking an elbow with mine. “Onward to the next stop.”

Excerpt from an Amazon review:

“She uses the issues of the day to create a timely portrait of strong women supporting each other and taking control of their lives. Who would have imagined that these themes would still be as relevant as they are?”


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women’s right activist



Now What? I’ll tell you…

For readers, one book closes while another one opens.  I suppose this is true for authors as well. However, No Hill for a Stepper is not only my first published book, it is my father’s story. Aside from the story itself, it is a reminder of the two years spent beside him taking notes and recording his comments on a cheap Sony recorder. It is a reminder of the trip we took back to his roots both in conversation as well as physically to Rotan, Ranger, Roby, Sweetwater and Temple, Texas. Although Dad did not live long enough to see the published version, my sister gifted me with a fabulous present. She looked at me and said, “This is a present from Dad and I.”

“Dad,” I asked. “Our Dad?”


And there it was, my favorite photo of Dad sitting on the front porch at our homestead except this time, he was holding a copy of my book in his hand.

After the book was published, I began asking readers to send me pictures of themselves reading my father’s story.  Not only did the photos make me feel proud, it made me think of how much my father enjoyed sharing his story with others.


So what’s next? An author’s pen is always close at hand. Meta, one of the central characters in my new book, was the first to introduce herself to me. Other characters have either snuck up behind me and tapped me gently on the shoulder or  have introduced themselves quite spontaneously, yelling “here I am! Put ME in your new book.”  Each time I sit down to write, I am eager to learn what they will do or say next. I have little control over these characters.

It is 1910. There is a farm girl who lives in a German community outside of Fredericksburg. There is a prostitute in a bordello in San Antonio, a thirteen-year-old newspaper boy with a rolled cigarette in his mouth and a wise great aunt. There is the madam of the bordello with her trusty assistant who is laced with spice and grit, and a young man with a deep scar across his face. There are strangers and connections.  There is murder.  There is innocence and guilt. There are lies and deceit. There is only one truth.

THAT is what is next.

But No Hill for a Stepper?  It rests comfortably, open, in the center of my chest.