Great News! WATERS PLANTATION, the long-awaited sequel to THE DOCTOR’S WIFE and to STEIN HOUSE  is available. It follows many of the characters from both books who move from the Indianola seaport to Washington County, Texas, and continue their story during the political turmoil that builds after Reconstruction.

WATERS PLANTATION, my tenth book, is historical fiction. It will be available on November 6, but you may preorder on Amazon.

Here is an overview:

It is 1875 in Texas, and Albert Waters takes pride in his image––prosperous merchant and plantation owner who freed his wife’s slaves before the Civil War and gave them land after her death. Then his son Toby, ready to depart for Harvard Medical College, demands answers. Was his mother a slave?

How does a man account for the truth that on a drunken night, when all he could think about was Amelia his long-ago lover, he gave into the touch of a slave girl?

Al and the Waters plantation co-operative of former slaves create a community that prospers as they educate their children and work their land. They organize against political forces regaining control through rape, lynchings, and the rise of the KKK.

Al believes he has been given a new life when Amelia arrives with dreams of moving her family from the hurricane dangers of the Texas coast. In the rapidly changing world swirling around him, Al will have to confront the image he has held of himself if he wants to keep Toby and Amelia, the two people he loves most.


These tales trace the Texas story from Cabeza de Vaca who trekked barefoot across the country recording the first accounts of Indian life to empresarios like Stephen F. Austin and Don Martín DeLeón who brought settlers into Mexican Texas. Visionaries—like Padre José Nicolás Ballí, the Singer family, and Sam Robertson—who tried and failed to develop Padre Island into the wonderland that it is today. There are legendary characters like Sally Skull who had five husbands and may have killed some of them, and Josiah Wilbarger who was scalped and lived another ten years to tell his tale. Stories of Shanghai Pierce, cattleman extraordinaire, who had no qualms about rounding up other folks calves and Tol Barret who drilled Texas’ first oil well over thirty years before Spindletop changed the world. Power brokers saved Galveston by building a seawall and raising the level of the island, and Miriam Ferguson, better known as “Ma,” became the first female Texas governor after her husband was impeached. The Sanctified Sisters got rich running the only commune for women and millionaire oilman Edgar B. Davis gave away his money as fast as he made it. All these characters—early-day adventurers, Civil War heroes, and latter day artists and musicians—create the patchwork called Texas.

Texas Tales will be available in softcover or e-book on Amazon about mid-April.

If you want a signed copy for someone who likes Texas stories, contact me at mcilvain.myra@gmail.com.


Queen of Weird’s Book Isn’t Kidding

Two books have just been published that will convince nonbelievers that Austin is weird. Howie Richey just wrote Party Weird: Festivals & Fringe Gatherings of Austin. Chapter 3 is called “Aralyn Hughes.” Aralyn

Myra, Aralyn & Howie in the Texas Assoc of Authors tent at the Texas Book Festival

Myra, Aralyn & Howie in the Texas Assoc of Authors tent at the Texas Book Festival

Hughes is the editor of the second book, Kid Me Not.  The article below offers a sample of Aralyn, “The Queen of Weird.”  You will see how Aralyn and Howie  make a lively Austin team.

By John Kelso

It’s hard to have the blues when you chat with Aralyn Hughes. She can tapdance, paint a picture, tell a story, write a book, throw a costume party, drive an art car covered with pigs, remove a chewing gum stain from a pair of pants, and convince women to be their own boss and do what they want.
Aralyn Hughes, known around Austin as the Queen of Weird, just might be Dan Patrick’s worst nightmare.

It’s not her art car or choice in pets that would make his skin itch. The ’88 Oldsmobile Aralyn bought for $500 is covered with pig figurines. Back when the pig car was running, Aralyn would drive around town selling real estate with her pet pig Ara riding shotgun.

“Lots of people who bought from me wanted to ride in the pig car, and the pig to go along,” Aralyn said. “If I lived in Waco or Lubbock, they’d think I was a lunatic. But here in Austin they just wave.”

So what would ruffle some folks’ shorts? Aralyn, who started Austin’s first abortion clinic when she arrived in town in the mid-1970s, has put together a book called “Kid Me Not.” It’s an anthology of thoughtful stories told by 15 women in their 60s who survived the 1960s and decided not to become mothers for various reasons.

There’s the pain of childbirth, the lifelong commitment, pursuing a career instead of a crib, and some women simply aren’t cut out to be Mom. You’ve heard the expression, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That includes the children.

The stories are well told by some successful women, among them CK Car-man, who worked as a bartender, a crop duster and finally a radio and TV broadcaster; Austin writer and horse rancher Lin Sutherland; and Aralyn, who can tap dance, paint and make you laugh.

Aralyn has done nine solo performances that include, among other things, a straightforward marching order: Gals, you’re the boss of your own life, so do what you want and get after it.

Of course, announcing that you’re not fixing to raise a family sometimes brings the look that asks, “What’s your problem?” In her book, Aralyn writes about a friend she helped through childbirth twice. Later, the friend dropped Aralyn like a bad habit.

“When I asked why, she said, ‘Because you don’t have children and don’t want to have children,’” Aralyn writes. “My feelings were hurt beyond measure.”

Some folks won’t appreciate Aralyn’s outrageous humor. There’s the dominatrix outfit she wears in her movie “Love in the Sixties.” And she’s known around town for her costume parties. She once dressed as a pregnant Girl Scout. The pork and beans ensemble was benign by comparison. The pig went as the pork, while Aralyn filled in as the beans.
“People say, ‘You’re going to ruin your reputation,’” she said. “I’m 68 years old. Do you really think I have to worry about my reputation now?”

Aralyn sees herself as a pioneer. She remembers when “the pill” came along and gave women a choice. Aralyn wants young women today to realize who got the ball rolling for them a half-century ago.

“I was told if I wanted to go to college that was fine,” Aralyn said. But there was a caveat. “I was also told I was going for an MRS degree, because all the men I wanted to be married to were in college.”

So Aralyn attended Oklahoma State and got a degree — in home economics. “For gosh sakes, I thought I was going to be the stitch and stir woman,” she said. “I’m also known around town as the stain queen. I can get a stain out of anything.”

Aralyn’s background certainly wasn’t radical. She grew up in Elk City, Okla., an oil town on Route 66 she describes as “a peek and plum town. Take a peek and you’re plum out of town.”

But Elk City wasn’t a hotbed of activism.

“When the church bells tolled, everybody was there,” she said.

Aralyn was a cheerleader in high school and was president of the Tri Delta sorority at Oklahoma State. She married a Navy man, and nine years later, she split the sheets. He wanted kids; she didn’t. She was flamboyant. Apparently he wasn’t.

“He said it looked as if somebody from the circus lived here because my side of the closet was colorful hats and scarves,” she said. “And I just kind of joked that the circus came to town and I just left with it.”

Aralyn jumped into real estate. Then in 2008, when the housing market went sour, she switched gears and took to the stage. She put together nine monologues. “I just got up and told my story.”

Last year, one of her shows made it to New York for a major solo theater festival.

“I’m a person who gives people permission to do what they want, even if they’re getting along in years,” Aralyn said. “How often do you hear people say, ‘I’m saving for a rainy day?’

“Folks, I say the rainy day is here. You’re in your 60s. Get with it.”

John Kelso’s column appears on Sundays in the Austin-American Statesman. Contact him at jkelso@statesman.com or 512-445-3606.

Myra Invites You!




Internet Radio Interview

Thursday, June 19, from 9 to 9:30am (CST)


Myra talks about Stein House, her award-winning historical novel

Tough Talk with Tony Gambone


click: Listen Live

(Be patient—it takes a few seconds to load)Texas Assoc of Authors Winner[16]


Saturday, June 21, from 1 to 6pm

Malvern Book Store

613 W. 29th


Book Signing for Stein House


Myra will read from Stein House at 1:15

Hope to see you there


I’ve decided to send this note to all my blogging friends.

Legacy is finally out in paper.  To take a look, click here:  http://tinyurl.com/6pmdvvs.

Legacy is historic fiction set in 1945 in a Texas coastal town.   It is the story of a family in turmoil, told from the point-of-view of Miranda, age twelve, who struggles to protect the people she loves, understand the changes in her own body, and make sense of a world at war.

I’ve had a few readers ask if it is my story.  It is not.  I grew up in an apartment near downtown Houston.  My father was absent before the divorce.

My second historic fiction, a tale set in old Indianola the thriving Texas coastal town that blew away in the 1886 storm, is finished.  When the proofreader gets it back to me, I’ll try to figure out the next step.

Thanks for your continued support and encouragemnet.

WWII Memories

I don’t remember Pearl Harbor.  I only remember a few things about 1945Roosevelt’s death creates a vague memory, and the end of the war meant that my uncle stayed with us for a while and screamed at night when an ambulance passed.  The most dramatic recollection, the one that stays with me and continues offering a haunting image is the photo essay in The Saturday Evening Post of the naked bodies stacked like tumbling cordwood and the half-burned humans in a yawning oven of a concentration camp.

In an effort to protect me, to keep me from seeing the horror of those photographs, my parents put the magazine away and refused to let me see what they pored over with such intensity.

I was not an openly rebellious child.  In fact, I grew up in the pre-feminist era when it paid handsomely to play “sweet little Myra Jean”.  That was my public façade. However, I always had contrary opinions and views that I instinctively knew should be kept to myself.  That’s why I did not hesitate for a nanosecond to go downstairs to the drugstore on the corner of our apartment building, sit on the floor-to-ceiling magazine display, and examine very carefully the forbidden photographs.  The paralyzing horror of those scenes seared that day in my memory and jolted me into awareness of events I struggled to understand and never forgot.

Although my family did not discuss it with me, I knew that men classified as 4-F for some medical reason did not serve in the war. Although many of them worked in shipyards and other war-related industries, they couldn’t find work after the war because veterans were given priority. I overheard whispered discussions about men who came home “shell-shocked” and were quietly moved to places where I never saw them again.

My interest in history spurred my looking back at the war years, and led to my first novel evolving into the story of a family held in the grip of its powerful legacy.  As I explored how families at home coped with the war news and waited for word of those missing in action, my novel developed from the wide-eyed point of view of Miranda, a young girl struggling to make sense of the turmoil in her life.  Her growing up parallels the loss of innocence that this country experienced with the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  You will find Legacy at http://tinyurl.com/3pcyx8a.