Made His Mark: Daniel J. Boorstin, A Man and His World

renee kimball dog photo written by Renee Kimball


Education is learning what you didn’t even know
you didn’t know. ~ 
Daniel J. Boorstin

2018-08-09 renee kimball www Daniel_Boorstin copy wiki commons
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There are many people who have never heard of Daniel J. Boorstin.  You may not know of him or his lifetime of work.  Boorstin is one of a group of modern historians who rose to prominence in the 1950’s and beyond.   At the beginning of his career, there was no internet and the general public was eager for information primarily found in books.

Boorstin was born in 1914 and died in 2004, at the age of 89.   He was a man of many talents, but in terms of authorship and approach he was truly unique.   To study all his work would take a lifetime.

He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for the last book of a trilogy he titled The Americans. The trilogy included:  The Colonial Experience (1958), The National Experience (1965), and The Democratic Experience (1973).

Boorstin’s gift was his laser-like insight and unrivaled ability of connectedness.  He was adept at evaluating trends and society, as well as history, and combining both into highly readable chronologies.  His writing details historical events, social change, progress, and scholarly viewpoints throughout the history of America and the world.  To say that Boorstin was the consummate researcher is an understatement.

Not only was Boorstin adept at interconnecting facts, people, places, inventions, and abstract concepts into a smooth and interconnected whole, no one that I am aware of has written with the same clarity or ability as a historian – Boorstin has no equal.  He was also such a prolific writer; a published annotated bibliography was produced comprised solely of his work in 2000.

2018-08-08 WWW Renee kimball amazon The image - book cover - boorstein 51iKBhLpL4L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_
The Image

Daniel J. Boorstin is what I have personally dubbed “a place keeper.”  He is the type of historical and social writer who sees the pivotal in the mundane, marks it, explains it and knows what effect the event had at a certain point in time, and the impact it could have in the future.  Boorstin was one of the first to literally name certain social conditions.  He was the first to coin “image”, the “non-event” and the “celebrity”, all concepts either invented, or first dissected, by him.” (Hodgson, 2004).

But who was this man? Why is his writing so important to us today?

Boorstin was born in 1914 in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Russian Jewish Immigrants.  His father was an attorney who represented Leo Frank, and despite being found innocent of the rape and murder of a young girl, Frank was later lynched by The Klu Klux Klan.  Anti-Semitism forced the Boorstin family to relocate to Oklahoma.

After completing his early schooling, Boorstin went first to Harvard Law, graduated, then studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.  During 1938, he joined the Communist Party for one year. He dropped his affiliation when Russia and Germany invaded Poland.  He never returned to the Communist Party, and fully denounced it when questioned in later years.

He received his doctorate at Yale and was hired as a professor at Swarthmore College in 1942. Later, Boorstin became a professor at the University of Chicago, holding that position for twenty-five years.  He later attained the position of “Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions,” at the University of Cambridge.  In 1974, he became the Librarian of Congress upon the nomination of then President Gerald Ford, and retained that position for a full twelve years.

He married Ruth Frankel, in 1941.  Their marriage was a solid one lasting the rest of their lives.  Ruth was also Boorstin’s editor. “Without her,” he was quoted as saying, “I think my works would have been twice as long and half as readable.”

Boorstin is most famous for the trilogy, The Americans; however a second well-known trilogy spanned an all-encompassing study of man and the world in which he lives.   That trilogy included : (1) The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself, (2) The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination and (3) The Seekers: The Story of Man’s Continuing Quest to Understand His World Knowledge Trilogy.

These works are maps from where man began, his creations along the way, the curves and changes that mark man’s historical progress, and their effects on society. They are important because Boorstin is a place finder and a place keeper who shows our progress as a country, society, and habitants of this large world that we all are a part – and guides us to something better in ourselves.   These works are lasting works, we can all learn something from Boorstin’s achievements.



Daniel Boorstin’s books cited above are available from Amazon,


Hodgson, Godfrey. Obituary – Daniel Boorstin. Prolific American social historian who charted the corrupting influence of advertising and spin on political life. The Guardian U.S. Edition.

Mon 1 Mar 2004 03.59 ESTFirst published on Mon 1 Mar 2004 03.59 EST.

Daniel J. Boorstin. Wikipedia.

Encyclopedia Britannica. Daniel J. Boorstin. American Historian. The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Washington Post.  Langer, Emily.  Ruth F. Boorstin, writer and editor, dies at 95. December 6, 2013.


A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate, fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters, and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.


Finding Books – Saving a Language and a Culture – by Renee Kimball

 Posted by Renee Kimball

 “There are ways to recover, say tomato seeds, but language is an oral medium . . . it is gone if direct speakers are dead and nothing has been done to document it.” – Keren Rice

In 2013, Raveena Aulakh reported that “half of the world’s 7,000 languages” faced extinction by the end of the 21st century.

Why would this matter?  When a language is lost, so is its culture.

In 1980 Aaron Lansky began a life-long quest to save Yiddish books.  Only 23 years old when he began his search, he was told there were maybe “70,000” Yiddish books left in the world – they were wrong.

Over the next 25 years Lansky and his friends saved 1.5 million Yiddish books and, in the process, created The National Yiddish Book Center, with a membership of 35,000 people– the largest group dedicated to the preservation of Jewish culture in the United States.

Yiddish means “Jewish,” and has its foundational roots in Hebrew, Aramaic, as well as multiple European languages.  For hundreds of years, Jews faced forced relocations across all of Europe. With each new environment, Yiddish accumulated new words, meanings, and pronunciations reflecting the local areas.  The marginalization of Jews prohibited them from displaying or documenting a separate Jewish identity but speaking Yiddish linked Jews as a people.

Lansky knew Yiddish was dying as a form of communication, but for him, Yiddish books represented a written history of the Jews as a people and as a literate culture.  Despite Hitler’s programmed genocide and push for destruction of Jewish culture, Yiddish language and literature managed to survive even the Holocaust moving with their owners across Europe, into the United States, and other countries.

Newly arriving Jewish immigrants to the United States spoke Yiddish as they arrived from war-torn Europe and they brought their Yiddish books.  In fact, Yiddish literature was still published in America up to the 1970s when it began to wane, the Yiddish language and its speakers and readers were disappearing.  Lansky was determined to find these remaining lost gems of literature and save them for the future.

Lansky’s quest was not an easy one.  But he preserved and in 1980, Lansky quit school, withdrew his savings, and rented a U-Haul setting out to rescue whatever Yiddish books he could find.

Lansky’s persistence paid off when elderly Jews who had heard of Lansky’s search, contacted him.  It began with a few, then many, elderly pleading with Lansky to take their Yiddish collections.  Elderly Jews agonized that they had no one to care for their books and their children had no interest in Yiddish or reading it.

For many, the books were often times left with Rabbis or thrown out.  Lansky was not one to shy away from jumping in dumpsters or traveling distances to save these discarded books regardless of the weather and his lack of resources.  Lansky’s search grew and Rabbis were soon transferring stacks of discarded books his way.

Yiddish Book Center, by John Phelan [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Books held by their owners for years were given to Lansky.  To these aging Jews, each book was more than just a story, these books were living things and monumental memories. With each donation, the owner gave a part of their heart, their family, and their remembrances to Lansky for safekeeping.

Along with each book, a story was told.  The act of both the giving and the story telling were, in Lansky’s terms, a “cultural transmission” but even larger than that, “Book by book, he was placing all his hopes in me” (Lansky).

Lansky returned to graduate school and while finishing up his master’s degree in 1980, along with help from his father, friends, and two of his professors, the foundation for the National Yiddish Book Exchange was conceived and incorporated.  (Now changed to National Yiddish Book Center).

Outwitting History is Lansky’s story of his search for a lost language, and what he found along the way represented more than just books.  Lansky’s search takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster that travels across people’s lives and time and the books they treasured.  It is about a love of language and books and the survival of a people.  It is also about a 23 years old’s quest to save a culture and one cannot help but be amazed at his success.  What he found was not just books, but a history of a people.

“This book is an adventure story: It tells how a small group of young people saved Yiddish books from extinction.  It’s also the story of the Yiddish-speaking immigrants who owned and read those books—how they sat us down at their kitchen tables, plied us with tea and cakes, and handed us their personal libraries, one volume at a time. The encounters were almost always emotional:  People cried and poured out their hearts, often with candor that surprised us all.” 


Outwitting History – The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Booksby Aaron Lansky, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2005

“Dying languages: scientists fret as one disappears every 14 days.” The Star By Raveena Aulakh, Environment, April 15, 2013.

Yiddish Book Center.


A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate and fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.


The West Virginia 6 Pack


Let me tell you about the West Virginia 6 Pack. No, I am not talking about a beverage or food of any kind. The WV 6 pack is what I am calling 6 people from WV who traveled to Delaware to visit the beaches along the bay and rescue some wild critters.
Our little group consisted of me, my hubby Jay, our Granddaughter, two former neighbors and their grandson. This was the first year we were able to include our granddaughter in this annual rescue mission. She is 13 and lives in the Parkersburg WV area so just getting her to our home was a 5 hour drive.
The following morning we were up before the sun for the 3 hour drive to Delaware. There we met up with the rest of our group. We were all anxious to get started despite the nasty weather that greeted us. We donned our rain gear and proceed to the beach to brave the wind and rain.

SJBrown BeachOne by one we approached the horseshoe crabs that were in distress. The motion of the waves they rode to shore on forced some of the horseshoe crabs onto their backs. Like turtles horseshoe crabs cannot always turn themselves over when they land on their backs. Some beckoned to us by waving their claws, while others chose to save their strength and remain motionless.

SJBrown Crab ClawThis annual journey to lay their eggs could leave numerous horseshoe crabs baking in the sun if people didn’t come to their rescue. Migrating shore birds also come to witness this yearly occurrence. They come to gorge themselves on horseshoe crab eggs before continuing on their journey to their summer homes.

SJBrown BirdsOur strategy is really quite simple we walk along the top of the waterline flipping horseshoe crabs as we go. On our return trip we venture along the water’s edge. Our little group saved dozens of Horseshoe crabs, a turtle and a blue crab, all before lunch.

SJBrown Horseshoe Crabs

SJBrown Crab 1On the long ride home we discussed our plans for next year. Yes my granddaughter wants to do this again, despite the hours of driving required. She does think we should pack our lunch next time.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website




IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Have you ever wondered what goes into a field trip for a wildlife photographer? January is when I plan out large portions of my year. As snow piles up outside Jay and I spread books, maps and the trusted atlas on the dining room table. We have notes from shows we have watched on the public broadcasting station and migration maps as well.

SJBrown1After reviewing all this we pick a direction and plan out one trip at the time. The desired destination dictates if we will be on the road for just a few days or 10. This year’s 10 day trip will have us zig zagging from state to state and spending extra time in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
We budget for things like gas, food and places to stay. While we spend our days in refuges, parks and out of the way places. We need to plan to be in areas that offer food and lodging each night, but still close to the next day’s sunrise destination. I promise Jay one decent meal a day, and a bed to sleep in, anything beyond that is a bonus.

SJBrown2Before we hit the road we stock up on things like film and snacks. All the camera equipment needs to be ready to capture that magic moment when I encounter a critter. Over the years I have accumulated a number of camera bodies and lens’. This year my largest most expensive lens needed to be replaced before we hit the road. The only good thing about this is that it didn’t happen while I was on the road.
We plan out shorter trips as well. Two or three day trips include locations in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. On each of these trips I load the car with two camera bags, a tripod, raincoats, hiking boots, water shoes, and a duffle bag. Jay packs his duffle bag and the cooler. Longer trips require us to find room for additional duffle bags and food. What I may need to grab in a hurry goes in the back seat for easy access.

SJBrown3Over the years we have learned to plan for anything. Weather, traffic accidents, and lack of critters can divert us from our planned route. On a trip to Tennessee we spent very little time in the state. Instead I captured most of my critter images in Kentucky.

SJBrown4While in Main we struck out at our planned destination and traveled another 3 hours north to get shots of a mama moose and her offspring. The rainy conditions in Georgia pushed us to spend an extra day in Florida on another trip.

SJBrown5Wildlife photography is so much more than having a camera and a love of critters. However this is something I am passionate about and I plan to keep doing it for many years to come. Our next trip is just a few weeks away.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you plan a few adventures of your own.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.

Visit my website to view more of my images

S J Brown Photo vertical




 How do we define a senior season individual? We usually immediately think of gray hair, wrinkled skin, stooped bodies, slow minds, forgetfulness, dentures, and canes.

Typical statements by seniors are:

My life is almost over

            I am too old to cook, clean, drive, exercise, etc.

            All my friends have died

            I feel so alone

 Or we do know those in their senior season who are thriving, surviving, and striving toward their goals and dreams.

Here are some interesting facts about famous authors who achieved their goals in their senior years. Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing in her mid-forties when she was working as a columnist and a freelance writer. She took all her years of growing up and published Little House in the Big Woods at the age of 64.

Penelope Fitzgerald graduated from Oxford and launched her literary career in 1975, at the age of 58. By the age of 61, she published her first book and two later won the Booker Prize for her book, Offshore.

 At the age of 70, John Howell started writing full time. He won honorable mention in a short story competition for Writer’s Digest in 2012. Since then he has four published books.

When he was 66 years old, Frank McCourt published his first book, Angela’s Ashes.

 Diana Athill is the oldest category winning author in the history of the Costa Book Awards. At the age of 91, she won the Biography Award for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End.

 At the age of 70, Mary Wesley’s first published novel was Jumping the Queue, published in 1983.

The conclusion I came to in researching and writing this article is that our age is only a chronological number and it is what we do with the days in our lives that truly matters. I encourage everyone to follow your dream, do not let age or any other factors slow you down.

Making it better

SJBROWN author picBy S J Brown

Each of us in our own way tries to make the world a little better. Writer’s help people escape their daily woes and immerse themselves in another place and time, making the world a little better.

SJBrown1I know a number of teachers that don’t end their connection with their students when the bell rings. They run after school programs, and tutor students. They go to work early and stay late with each student they guide they are making the world a better place.

Anyone who has met me, read one of my blogs or checked out my website site knows, like most wildlife photographers I feel a connection with nature. I try to do my part of make the world a little better. At home I grow my own veggies, compost, buy reusable products, and recycle.

SJBrown3 All of my paper and cardboard waste goes to a local nonprofit that recycles it and uses the money in local schools. I buy potted Christmas trees instead of a cut one and gladly share information on being more environmental friendly with friends and neighbors.

When I clean out my linen closet the sheets, towels, and blankets go to the local humane society. Once we were settled in our home Jay and I realized we had too much furniture. Instead of taking these items to the dump or selling them at a yard sale I listed them for free on a local website. When I remodeled my office I had several sliding glass doors that a gentleman from the area was thrilled to get. I am constantly finding ways to keep things out of the landfill.

SJBrown4Away from home I work with a number of other volunteers planting trees along stream beds. I do presentations for children and adults about wildlife, sharing my love of nature. I am a member of a local gardeners exchange group. There we exchange ideas, information and plants making our little corner of the world a better place.

Occasionally I will take friends or family members out into the field with me giving them a little different perspective on the natural world. I tag monarch Butterflies and take part in citizen science projects.

SJBrown2I buy books from fellow West Virginia writers whenever I can. My little purchase wouldn’t make a difference to Stephen King, but certainly counts to them. I have begun writing book reviews as a way of helping my fellow authors get a little more exposure.
There are so many ways each of us can make things a little better for another person, a critter, or even the world we all share. Take a minute or two and share with me how you accomplish this I am always open to new ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.

Visit my website to view more of my images

The Best Books You Never Read

IMGP6507By S J Brown

The world is filled with unfinished manuscripts. They are stuffed in drawers, stored in a computer file, or sitting on a desktop waiting to be completed. Many years ago I joined a writers group. I admit some members were working on works that apparently weren’t that memorable since I don’t remember all of them.

SJ BRown 2

Then there are those few that stuck with me. One I know was a very well written manuscript. The text introduced me to another way of life among the pine trees of New Jersey. The author did a fabulous job setting the scene with few words.

Every word had a purpose and as a reader I felt I had been there with the little girls as they ran through the trees giggling. I could feel the fabric of their worn homemade cotton dresses. Their fear of the booming voice of their mother brought back memories from my childhood.
The author wasn’t sure she would ever publish it, but she was enjoying working on it. Sadly, “Ode to a Pine Tree” was never published, the author passed away before completing it.

SJ Brown 1Another member of our little group was working on a murder mystery set in 1965. As a retired lawyer he wanted input on the legal aspects of the manuscript. His attention to detail was astounding. Nothing and I mean nothing was included in book unless it was around in 1965. He researched everything from food, to cars, to hairstyles, to furniture and more.

SJ Brown 3One of the main characters was Native American and his beliefs played into the story. His lawyer was a down on his luck lawyer that believed his client was innocent. Proving that would be one of the biggest challenges of his career.
Within the story the author scattered tiny details. These details would come together in a surprise ending. Since the author moved out of the area before this book was published. I may never know if it was published. I do know it isn’t available on Amazon under the working title “The Crooked Knife”.

SJ Brown 4Unless you are a member of my family I am sure you have never read “Alice.” This is a book my mother worked on for years. Her chapters were hand written on a series of yellow legal pads. Mom passed away before her book was completed.
She wanted her manuscript to be a trip down memory lane for family. Although I did take on the task of placing Moms works on a typewritten page, and getting it printed, it has never been made public. My sisters and I decided to honor Moms wishes and print a limited number of copies for each of Moms siblings and of course a copy for each of her girls.

SJ Brown 5

Like many authors I have more than one manuscript in the works. Hopefully I will be releasing one of them in the near future. Meanwhile I am putting the finishing touches on another.

Do you have a project or two that has been percolating for a while? Maybe it is time to pull those pages out of the drawer, or open the file and make sure your book isn’t one that no one will ever read.

Thanks for stopping by.
Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.
Visit my website to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.

Cover 3-26-23


So, You Want to Write A Book…

Keri De Deo



This post by Keri De Deo


When I meet people and mention that I’m an author and editor, they often launch into their book writing aspirations. They end the discussion with the statement, “But I don’t know where to start.”


Yes, Lewis Carroll said, “Begin at the beginning,” but it’s not as simple as that.

Editors and agents want the beginning of a book to capture its audience from the first sentence and to entice the reader to continue to the end.

That’s a daunting task. So, of course, if thinking about this beginning, you’ll never begin. Rather than “begin at the beginning,” begin writing where your idea starts. You can figure out the beginning later.

Diana Gabaldon, a favorite author of mine, speaks about “kernels.” These are small snapshots of characters, descriptions, images…short sentences that start an idea. From there, she develops these ideas into larger and longer texts. Sometimes, these ideas make it into the book, but sometimes, they hit the editing floor. That’s OK.

I repeat: THAT’S OK. Every thought you have for a book or a character or an idea does not have to end up in the book. It doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. It simply means that it’s not meant for the reader. Hold on to those pieces, though, because they could be useful in developing your character.

It’s also important to develop the habit of writing. Write daily–whether it’s in the morning, afternoon, or the middle of the night. Many famous authors write best in the morning, but morning writing isn’t necessarily the best time for all writers. I tend to write best late at night when it’s quiet except for the occasional owl or coyote. That’s my best time, but it may not be your best time. Explore your writing time–see when it flows the best, and then stick to that time and write, write, write.

Don’t worry if it’s good or not–just write. You can figure out if it’s good later, and if it’s not good, you can fix it. Writing is an art, but it’s also a skill that we must practice if we want to improve.

So, good luck with that book! Keep at it, and you just might find yourself among the published authors!

{A previous version of this was posted at}

Keri De Deo, owner of Witty Owl Consulting, lives in northern Arizona and works as a writer, editor, researcher, and instructional designer. She is author of the young adult novel Nothing but a Song, released in December 2017. She loves technology and finding innovative tools for a happy, healthy life. Keri spends her free time with her husband kayaking, hiking, and walking her two beautiful dogs, Maiya and Lilla. To learn more about Keri, visit her website or follow her on Facebook (@authorkeridedeo) and Twitter (@thewittyowl).




IMGP6507 By S. J. Brown

I hope everyone has been keeping warm in these frigid temperatures. Freezing temperatures add a whole new set of challenges for a wildlife photographer. It is a bit harder to sneak up on my subjects in layers of clothes and warm boots. Warm thick gloves make it a little harder to focus the camera and hit the shutter button.

1SJ Brown Waterfall

The cold can kill camera batteries quickly. Even keeping the camera tucked into my coat doesn’t work well for long. Any pictures I take in the extreme cold tend to be close to the shelter of a car or building. So in colder temperatures I rely on luck a bit more. Most critters only venture out into the cold to eat, so they are harder to spot.

So I try to concentrate on other things while I wait for the temperature to rise. This is the perfect time of year to work on those unfinished projects. Personally I have finished 2 articles I had outlined, scanned a bunch of images, and completed a few more chapters on a manuscript. Then I laid out a print Ad What do you think? Is it too crowded? Does it make you want to check out my website?

2 Book Maniacs ADThe local critters interrupt me a lot when I am working in my office. I have 6 windows and a set of glass sliding glass doors. So every bird that flies to the feeders catches my attention. Each squirrel that wanders past the doors distracts me. Before I know it I am behind the lens and my writing comes to a halt.

4SJ Brown DoveWhen I am writing I need quiet with no distractions, no television, no radio, no family members asking questions. I tend to be more productive in the evenings when the house is quiet, its dark outside and the woodstove has the house nice and warm.

What challenges do you face in the winter? How do you tackle those challenges?

3SJ Brown Rabbit  Thanks for stopping by and stay warm.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.


Visit my website to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.


From Lone Star Lawless: “When Cheese Is Love”

Posted by M. K. Waller


In November, Austin Mystery Writers, my critique group, published its second crime fiction anthology, LONE STAR LAWLESS. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my story, “When Cheese Is Love.”

Lone Star Lawless (Wildside Press, 2017)

To set the scene: English teacher Tabitha Baynes has come to Fonda de Paz, the best Tex-Mex restaurant in Central Texas, at the invitation of Gonzalo, the owner, who moved up from Mexico last year. Tabitha has been giving him English lessons; she has also just finished a year-long medically supervised liquid-only diet, and as a result has skinnied down from XXL dresses to a Size One. She looks stunning, and she’s desperate to stay that way. She must be perfect, because Gonzalo is perfect, and tonight, they will dine together–alone. But first, she must do battle with an old enemy. We watch her cross the parking lot and approach the restaurant.


Taking a deep breath, Tabitha lifted her head, smiled, and walked down a pathway lined with trees twinkling with tiny blue lights, toward the evening of her dreams.

First, though, she must pass two serpents.

“Enchilada suizas” is licensed by Steve Dunham under CC BY-2.0.
The first stood in the dimly lit foyer: Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, rearing on hind legs, teeth bared, looming over the crowd waiting to be seated. Illuminated from within, he cast bright reds, blues, greens, yellows across the room. He shone beautiful and fierce—but not nearly so fierce as the serpent that guarded the dining room.

Ana Alvarado, tall and slender, wearing a simple black sheath, its severity lightened by a heavy turquoise necklace, stood at the hostess station. Her black hair was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. Like a Renaissance Madonna, she glowed with serenity and grace.

When Ana saw Tabitha, her Madonna smile turned into a smirk.

Buenas noches. You know, of course, that you are late.”

Skin-deep beauty and a fake accent, thought Tabitha. Everybody in town knew Ana was just plain old Alva Mae Allen, brought up right here in Bur Oak. Her mother was Hispanic and spoke Spanish fluently, but Alva Mae flunked Spanish in high school because she couldn’t conjugate irregular verbs.

Ana gestured toward a door to her right. “Because you are late, you must wait in the bar. I hope Gonzalo is not irritated with you.”

“Thank you, Ana. I’ll have a glass of wine while I wait.”

From first day of kindergarten to the night of high school graduation, Ana had made Tabitha’s life a misery. “Tubby Tabby,” Ana had called her. Twenty years later, she was still a bully.

But Tabitha had changed. She was the All New Tabitha Baynes, sporting a size one dress and a stylish coif, and her own serenity and grace reached all the way down to the bone. Nothing Ana said or did could touch her.

And tonight she would reap her reward: dinner with Gonzalo in El Nicho, the room he reserved for special, intimate parties.

Tabitha had never seen El Nicho.

“Sparkling water” is licensed by Marco Verch under CC BY-2.0

Seated on a high stool at the far end of the bar, close to the kitchen, she skipped the wine (rosé, 20 calories per ounce) and ordered a glass of sparkling water.

A waiter delivered her drink. “An appetizer, perhaps, Senorita? We have something brand new—cheesy Tex-Mex egg rolls—very tasty.

She shook her head. If there was anything she didn’t need, it was cheese. All her life, it had been her favorite food. Now she was trying to replace it with green vegetables.

The waiter winked and retreated. Tabitha looked down at her glass and drew her shawl close around her neck. She wasn’t used to men looking at her that way. It was flattering, but at the same time, unsettling. It made her feel she was nothing but a body.

Holding the shawl closed with one hand, she sipped her drink and calculated. For dinner, she would order a taco salad without the shell (420 calories). But maybe, after today’s extra-grueling workout, she could afford a real taco (571 calories). She wouldn’t even consider her favorite, the beef chimichanga (1580 calories).

The kitchen door opened and the aroma of onion, cumin, chilis engulfed her. Her stomach, which since last night had seen nothing more substantial than broth, gave a lurch. Oh, why bother, she thought. Gonzalo would serve whatever he wanted to, and it would be smothered in what he called his “signature ingredient”—cheese. And she would scarf down every bite.

She checked her watch. Gonzalo had said something about meeting with an architect to discuss plans for adding a new dining room. But what if there was another reason he wasn’t waiting for her? Maybe Ana was right, and Gonzalo was angry because she was late. Or maybe she’d gotten it all wrong, and they weren’t going to share an evening in El Nicho. In the past two months, since she stopped trying to lose weight, he’d treated her to dinner once, twice, sometimes three times a week, to thank her for teaching him to speak English. But she’d always sat by herself in the main dining room. Maybe that was the plan for tonight.

Tabitha had been giving Gonzalo English lessons at the library every afternoon for over a year. He had a good ear and learned fast. She dreaded the day their lessons would end.

Lately, however, there’d been signs he might be interested in extracurricular activities. Free meals at Fonda. Lingering looks. Hands touching when she handed him a pencil. Heads close together as they leaned over a workbook. The gleam in his eyes when she pasted a gold star on his progress chart.

She shrugged. Maybe she was here tonight because he liked gold stars.

She was tying the shawl around her neck when Gonzalo strode in. Her stomach gave another lurch. This time it wasn’t from hunger.

“Ah, mi amor.” Enfolding her hand in both of his, he gazed into her eyes. Her knees melted to the consistency of queso.

“I’m so sorry I was late—”

Mi querida, I would wait for you until the end of time.”

If Fred Schmidt, the high school industrial arts teacher who had been hounding her for weeks to go with him on Saturday nights to the Polka Barn, said he would wait till the end of time, she would laugh and ask if he’d been reading Wuthering Heights. From Gonzalo, the words sounded like a sonnet. . . .


A launch party for LONE STAR LAWLESS will be held at BookPeople in Austin on February 4, 2018, 5:00 p.m.  Authors will speak and sign. The book is dedicated to Gale Albright, AMW member and our dear friend, who died in November 2016.

Austin Mystery Writers: Gale Albright, Valerie Chandler, Kaye George, Laura Oles, and Kaye George (our valued emerita)

Friends who contributed stories: Alexandra Burt, Mark Pryor, Janice Hamrick, Terry Shames, Larry D. Sweazy, George Weir, Manning Wolfe, and Scott Montgomery

Kathy Waller, Laura Oles, Gale Albright, and Valerie Chandler
Kaye George



M. K. Waller, aka Kathy, has published stories in LONE STAR LAWLESS, MURDER ON WHEELS, and DAY OF THE DARK (ed. Kaye George), and in the online magazine MYSTERICAL-E.

Here are links to her personal blog, Telling the Truth, Mainly,

to the Austin Mystery Writers blog,

and to the Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter’s newsletter/blog, HOTSHOTS!, which she edits.