Never Sit If You Can Dance: Book Review

Writing Notes

Who among us hasn’t said, “I could write a book about my mother!” We often say such things in jest, though the quip’s foundation is actually complimentary. We study our mothers throughout most of our lives trying to piece together the enigmatic variables that result in their particular formula. For many, it takes a lifetime, yet author Jo Giese has done just this in her delightful book, Never Sit If You Can Dance, which, as you might suspect, is a line she learned from her mother.
It is baby-boomer times, simpler times that began in innocence only to explode into the roar of changing times, and author Jo Giese is raised by a stay-at-home mom named Babe. She plans to rise above her mother’s station and believes she has actually done so until later years give her the time to pause and reflect.
It is the little things in this…

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Never Sit If You Can Dance: Book Review

Who among us hasn’t said, “I could write a book about my mother!” We often say such things in jest, though the quip’s foundation is actually complimentary. We study our mothers throughout most of our lives trying to piece together the enigmatic variables that result in their particular formula. For many, it takes a lifetime, yet author Jo Giese has done just this in her delightful book, Never Sit If You Can Dance, which, as you might suspect, is a line she learned from her mother.
It is baby-boomer times, simpler times that began in innocence only to explode into the roar of changing times, and author Jo Giese is raised by a stay-at-home mom named Babe. She plans to rise above her mother’s station and believes she has actually done so until later years give her the time to pause and reflect.
It is the little things in this collection of first-person stories that weave nostalgia so touchingly and seamlessly. It is the commonplace, the every day, the mortar of life that matters, and author Jo Giese tells us why in a series of chapter heading, numbered lessons as demonstrated by her mother—“Don’t be Drab;” “Never Show Up Empty-Handed;” “Go While You Can;” and “The Happiness of Giving and Receiving Flowers” are cases in point.
A wonderfully written, quick paced gem of a book, Never Sit If You Can Dance strikes the middle ground between heartwarming and entertaining. It is an important book in that it gifts the reader with the opportunity to ponder their own mother. In the hands of any book club, there is much fodder to discuss.

An enjoyable book trailer is here: https://youtu.be/LzNj97Rs-pE

 

https://www.clairefullerton.com

News from the Malibu Frontlines

Good Morning from Malibu:

I imagine most of you are aware of the Southern California fires. As of mid-day yesterday, all’s quiet on the western front, though last night around 10:30, my husband looked online to discover there were fires in an agricultural area named Somis, where the lion share of Sunkist lemons and Haas avocados are grown, twenty-some-odd minutes from where I live. Somis is a gorgeous area, and one we go to every so often because of the bountiful, road-side produce stands that defy description and the multitude of serene walking areas. To think of it now in flames breaks my heart.

To a greater or lesser degree, the Santa Ana winds are predictable. They come from the desert and blow to the ocean every year around this time, in hot, erratic gusts like the demonic breath of the hounds of hell. Typically, the Santa Ana winds go on for two days or so, maybe cease for a week or two before they rise up again. Those of us in Malibu are used to the cyclical occurrence, but this go-round was different—it was a stressful 5 days of living in the center of the great unknown. I can best liken the feeling to severe airplane turbulence: one never knows when or how it will end. It’s been the nerve-wracking unpredictability that kept me white-knuckled and gripping onto my own brand of blind faith. And because we live in a glass house on a 60-foot rise facing the ocean, we’re smack in the middle of the Santa Ana wind’s course. It being just after the summer drought and the terrain so tinder-brittle, all I’ve been thinking for the past few days is conditions are the right fodder for a serious fire.

But we’re ones that take brush-clearance seriously. There’s nary a tree close to our house save for two we’re well aware shouldn’t be where they are, but the need for shade in certain areas overrode logic. The trees are a mature nineteen years old now, and the simple truth is I haven’t the heart to remove them. Our scrupulous brush clearance worked in our favor this time last year. We share a property line with a wooded State Park that housed 320 acres of indigenous trees and shrubbery and who knew what all—we were never quite sure because the acreage was so dense. You might have noticed I used the past tense, there. Last November, the Malibu fires burned down the entire state park, raged to our yard’s lower slope, took out 12 pine trees along with our front gate’s electrical system then literally stopped in its path because the summer drought rendered the ground so barren. This explains why the fire never touched our house. Many Malibu friends were not as lucky. The 2018 Woolsey fire started in an area separated from our property by the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains. The area is called Thousand Oaks, and between Thousand Oaks and Malibu is a canyon area called Calabasas, resplendent with houses, for all its hilly, wooded area boasting serpentine vineyards and ocean views. When I heard on the news that the fires were in Thousand Oaks, I knew in my bones that the mountain passes of Kannan Dume Road and Malibu Canyon would go up like a torch, and they did. When my premonition manifest, it was on the ridge behind our house, as we evacuated for what turned out to be 24 days, in an adrenalin fueled flight of terror.

You can probably imagine why the past 5 days have been nerve-wracking. For me, it hasn’t been so much about the unknown as it has been the known. I’d fancied myself above PTSD. I was wrong. I’ve rattled around my glasshouse watching the news and looking for where I just put my hat. It’s been like living in the middle of the very definition of the word disorienting.

It’s 7:21 AM, as I write. I’m now going to get it together and join “the girls” at Westward Beach for an 8:00 AM walk, as is our habit. We’re regrouping at the beach for the first time in days. My guess is we’ll be like blinking moles coming out of our mole-holes to greet the light of day.

The Santa Ana winds have ceased, for now. Please keep your fingers crossed that the worst is behind us!

A Portal in Time

Anna Lucera, the main character in my Paranormal/Mystery, “A Portal in Time” has what I call “dependable intuition”, which is what drives the entire story in such a way that it is an unfolding of events. I chose to give Anna a heightened sense of intuition because I believe many people are aware that intuition has played a role at one time or another in their life. They point to coincidence, precognitive insight, or perhaps a gut-level feeling that has proven to be amazingly accurate. They report a sense of the uncanny in an episode with awe, or perhaps gratitude at the feeling of a type of magical helpfulness that has sprung from deep within. I know this has been the case with me, and I have always been fascinated by the subject.
Years ago, after having read untold books on the subject of intuition out of sheer curiosity and a desire to become educated, I unexpectedly fell into conversation with a passing acquaintance who told me about a woman that taught classes in developing intuition. Intrigued, I called the woman and spoke to her at length about her curriculum. I told her I didn’t want to get all weird about things; I wanted to stay grounded in the real world, yet still believed intuition is a reality and if one can actually be taught to develop theirs, then I’m all in!
For a year and a half, on the first Sunday of every month, I drove to class in Venice, California. The class lasted for five hours, and there were three other students besides myself. The teacher was what is known as a clairvoyant healer, as in, she intuits energetic information through visual images that spring to mind. We began by discussing energy. We learned about the chakra system then moved on to the auric field and its seven layers, which correspond to each chakra in the chakra system. We explored how each of us perceived information, and I learned some people do so visually, others through feeling, others audibly, and still others with an iron-clad “sense of knowing.” There was much more to my year and a half of learning, but what I’ve come to believe is yes, intuition can be developed! This is why I wrote “A Portal in Time.”
In “A Portal in Time,” I painted Anna Lucera as a spirited, slightly off-beat, unpredictable character whom her paramour finds absolutely fascinating. Because she is naturally intuitive, she decides to do the responsible thing and learn everything she can about her ability by going to class!
If you are interested in the subject of intuition and the by-products that come into a life because of its development, then “A Portal in Time” is the book for you!

There is currently a giveaway of A Portal in Time on Facebook at a book site called Sue’s Reading Neighborhood. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SuesReadingNeighborhood/

https://www.clairefullerton.com

Through an Autumn Window: a Novella

At the end of 2017, Eva Marie Everson, the acquisitions editor of Firefly Southern Fiction, asked me if I’d be interested in writing a novella to contribute to a book titled, A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing, scheduled for release in November 2018. At the time, I’d never tried my hand at writing a novella, and my novel, Mourning Dove, was scheduled for release in June of 2018. Thinking I’d be overwhelmed with my pending workload, I was hesitant to commit to the project, until I was given the project’s tempting guidelines: write any story you want to, as long as it’s set in the South during one of the four seasons. Right off the bat, I started thinking about the one season that bypasses California completely, and by this, I refer to the fall. I thought trying my hand at writing something I’d never attempted would be a great opportunity to stretch as a writer, and if you know anything about Southerners, you know they never tire of talking about the South. I said yes to Eva Marie, though at the time, I hadn’t arrived at my novella’s subject. But then kismet came into play when I got a phone call from a particular elderly gentleman in the Delta, who called to tell me about a mutual acquaintance of ours who had recently died. Our conversation was all over the place, beginning with how this person had died ( old age,) dovetailing into where the funeral would take place ( probably Memphis’s Independent Presbyterian Church,) who would, no doubt, attend ( everybody and their brother,) and which Memphis cemetery would serve as the final resting place (Elmwood, or Memorial Park.) Now then, I can only report that the way this particular Delta gentleman tells a story is so chock-full of laser-sharp cultural nuance that the second he got to his perfectly timed punchline ( though it was probably unbeknownst to him,) I knew I had the subject for my novella. Here is the gentleman’s artfully delivered line that spawned my novella:

“The one thing I know about a Southern funeral is something always goes wrong.”

I had a blast writing the novella I ultimately contributed to A Southern Season. I titled it Through an Autumn Window and set it during the three-day rites of a Memphis funeral, where not just one but many things go wrong. You’ll be happy to learn I hit the word count for the novella ( 20,000 words) right on its head. In Through an Autumn Window, I wrote about a long-festering, contentious dynamic between two siblings, even as both carried forth during their mother’s funeral trying to “do the right thing” in an effort at “keeping up appearances,” during their life-altering grief.

Here’s the good news: for the next five days, A Southern Season is free on Kindle. You can get it now by clicking on this link:https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GDZ9WF5

https:clairefullerton.com

The River by Starlight by Ellen Notbohm

Every well-wrought sentence in The River by Starlight is as beautiful as the Henry David Thoreau inspired title. Author Ellen Notbohm has penned a breathlessly epic, masterful story set in early 1900’s Montana in language so lyrically elevated you’ll want to commit much of it to memory but will have to get back to it later—you’ll be too busy turning the pages.
The River by Starlight is a starkly humanistic story. It’s an historical novel intimately and engagingly written in present tense concerning the sweeping life story of dark-haired and diminutive Annie Rushton, whose young marriage is permanently marred by what might be the time’s inchoate perceptions of post-partum depression. There are repercussions to Annie’s malady that propel her to leave everything behind in her home state of Iowa and hop a train to join her bachelor brother in the wilds of homesteading Montana, where she risks starting a new life. Shouldering her heartbreak, Annie applies her headstrong, fierce independence to helping her brother prosper, so when charismatic businessman Adam Fielding, a colleague of her brother’s, enters her life, theirs is a relationship forged on mutual ambition, but as the years wear on, they become two desperate souls unwittingly tossed by the unpredictable storms of life.
Life’s choices come into play, in The River by Starlight. Though Annie and Adam begin with hope and the best intentions, there is only so much one can weather in hope’s defeat by repetitious wounds that won’t heal. Through the years, communication errors and individual judgement calls are made that usher in divergent aims, and all the while is the roiling concern of Annie’s mercurial sanity.
Resiliency, perseverance, love of one’s children, and where to appropriately place one’s pledge are threads that weave the tapestry of this thoroughly realized story, whose themes, I believe, are timeless and universal.
The River by Starlight is a book for the ages. In my mind, it stands with the classics. The novel’s voice and three-part pacing are seamlessly crafted; its tone and mood are deep and oftentimes heart wrenching, so much so that the reader can’t help but be lured by emotional investment in characters so viscerally drawn they come to life on the pages.
The River by Starlight is for those discerning readers who demand excellence in language, craft, and story. It is a plausible, finely researched, resonant book ultimately about the taming of the spirit, set in tumultuous, untamed times.

 

https:www.clairefullerton.com

Colorado Mandala by Brian Francis Heffron: Review

 

22964699A gorgeous, fully realized, generously crafted story on male friendship and the deep wounds motivating main character, Michael, as told through the perspective of his intimately effected best friend and business partner, Paul.
Michael is a Vietnam war vet, with a festering secret underscoring his high-living, swaggering behavior. He is a man’s man to his core: streetwise and wary, cocksure and battle-scarred with his own code of honor. It is post-war 1970’s Manitou Springs, Colorado, and author Brain Francis Heffron captivates the reader with such panoramic descriptions of the Pike’s Peak area at such a finely-tuned altitude as to cast the environment as sacred, while the reader all but breathes the clear mountain air.
The title of this book is inspired by Sarah, the wispy and vulnerable single mother at the center of a lover’s triangle, who paints batik images on silk and twists her long flaxen hair in a bun. Michael is protective of Sarah from an unfolding hidden agenda. Paul struggles with the duality of his building feelings for Sarah and loyalty to Michael. In the expert hands of writer Heffron, each character plays off the others with such reasonable impetus, Colorado Mandala reads like a treatise in deep-seated psychological motivation.
This book is astoundingly action-packed and character-driven. It takes the reader into dark caves and sets them in the gambling center of a mountain party’s cockfight. It is seamlessly paced and weaves minute visual images with poetically descriptive narratives and uncommon use of language. I understand Mr. Heffron is a poet, and it shows. There isn’t a weak sentence in the engaging Colorado Mandala, and I held my breath at its end, during one of the best literary denouements I’ve ever read. Colorado Mandala is the very definition of a page-turner. It will make you a fan of author Brian Francis Heffron, and is the kind of book you’ll recommend to your friends.