Me and Shelly WintersI grew up in the hills poor as a snake, as people used to say. So poor that poverty was a step up. I could have been rich and famous in Hollywood. Except…

My Mom was 16-years-old when I was born. I was two years old when she and I loaded up in an old jalopy with my father, his wife and their two kids and struck out for California. All I ever knew about my dad’s side of the family was that my grandmother was a full-blood Creek Indian named Rachael Sitting Down.

In the Golden State, Mom married a sailor who, as it turned out, was already married. When World War II ended, Mom headed back to Oklahoma with me. Servicemen being discharged had priority over all transportation. Mom had me by the hand outside the Los Angeles bus station after midnight while we waited for space available on a bus.

Mom looked like Little Orphan Annie until she was thirty years old. So there on the street stood a bedraggled teenage girl holding onto a three-year-old kid.

A big black sedan pulled up in front of the bus station to let out a naval officer. A pretty blond woman looked out the back window, then got out with tears in her eyes and walked up to Mom and me. She wore jewelry and expensive clothing. She must have felt sorry for Mom, just looking at her, we were that much out of place.

“Miss, you’re never going to get out of here tonight,” she said. “The little boy looks like he needs to rest. Why don’t you come and stay the night with me and I’ll bring you back in the morning?”

Mom had grown up hard and pretty much unwanted in Oklahoma shacks, having quit school after the 8th Grade and then getting pregnant by a married man out of desperation to get away. The blond woman took us to a mansion in Hollywood; it was the first time Mom had ever walked on carpet or seen chandeliers in a house.

During the course of that night and the next morning, the Hollywood woman made Mom an offer: “Mary, if you’ll come work for me, the kid will never lack for anything the rest of his life.”

The woman was movie starlet Shelly Winters.

But Mom had had enough of the big city. We returned to Oklahoma where she married my stepdad, a share cropper who could neither read nor write. And, instead of in Hollywood, I grew up in the hills so poor that poverty was a step up…

Life with its unexpected twists and turns is like that.

A Viking warrior sidetracked by his love for a beautiful enemy maiden. “Tell me, Brak Bloodaxe, now that you are going to die. Was she worth it?”
     The Foreworld Saga: Bloodaxe by Charles W. Sasser. On sale now by on Kindle and a number 2 bestseller in its category.