Confessions of a Christian Mystic by River Jordan

Bold, daring, and yes, confessional, River Jordan’s collection of personal essays warns you going into it that you’re in for something unique. After all, what is the art of writing, if not a venue to compare notes on this business of life? Only a master can make this plain through the power of fifty delightful stories. This is a writer who asks the big questions for us; who owns a steady faith base yet thinks outside the box. Confessions of a Christian Mystic is devout and dauntless. It is sonorous, beautiful, soul-deep, and fearless. And it is sardonically funny in its skirt-lifted vulnerability. The chapter titled, “Sometimes Good Girls Get Naked” is a case in point. With a deft hold on sentiment without being overly sentimental, I won’t cheapen this important book by suggesting it’s a page-turner—it is better. Confessions of a Christian Mystic is something to savor. You’ll want to pause and ponder at the end of each chapter.
I applaud every essay in this gorgeous gift of a book. River Jordan has woven vignettes of her personal narrative at such an engaging, introspective pitch that I defy every reader not to see themselves in its pages.

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The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith

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The most salient aspect of this compelling story is author Michael Farris Smith’s economic, straight-forward writing. The Fighter is a tight, gritty story written in pitch-perfect Delta colloquialisms that hand the reader an attitude as a working frame of reference. From the get-go, the reader knows the main character, Jack Boucher, was dealt a raw deal. Unceremoniously abandoned by his parents while still in diapers, any reader with a beating heart is immediately invested in Jack’s unfortunate origins. When he is fostered by a single mother with her own cross to bear, the reader is lured page-by-turning-page, in the underbelly of a Deep South setting, hoping to see Jack take what little stability he has and scratch his way to better circumstances. That Jack Boucher grows up to be a fighter is a construct that operates in multiple layers, within a life built much by his own design. A through line of conscionable humanness staggers Jack onward, and there is much in this hubris suggested story to which the reader can relate. For all the reasons I love the author Ron Rash, I applaud Michael Farris Smith for deftly weaving a handful of character intensive threads into a deceivingly simple story. The Fighter is a book that packs a punch of resonance. Though its impact is immediate, its aftermath grows.

https://www.clairefullerton.com

The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend in Jefferson Texas

For the uninitiated, first I’ll answer the question, “What in the world is meant by the Pulpwood Queens?” Thank you for asking. The Pulpwood Queens is a book club. It is the brain-child of one fabulous woman from Texas, Kathy L. Murphy, a painter and hair stylist who owned a salon in Jefferson, Texas, worked as a publisher’s rep until she lost the job, and, rather than lying down, bounced back by consolidating her talents. She opened Beauty and the Book, the world’s only combined hair salon and bookstore. From there, she founded The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas Book Club, which exploded into a nation-wide success. Today, The Pulpwood Queens has 765 book club chapters comprised of the most enthusiastically dedicated readers under the sun. I know this because many of the book club members showed up last weekend in Jefferson, Texas for the annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend. They brought their giddy-up in their get-along, wore tiaras and full costume for 2019’s How the West was Won theme, and, for the first time, I was there as a featured author. I will tell you in no uncertain terms that the weekend was the Mardi Gras of the book world. Three days of back-to-back panels comprised of authors introducing themselves and their latest work to a rapt audience of readers eager to discover new books. And in the middle of it, Kathy Murphy: the hub of the wheel, the Pulpwood Queen herself, her magnanimous heart on her sleeve in the middle of her mother-hen joy.
The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend was an organized, over-the-top, combined book and love-fest. It’s not so easy to corral unbridled enthusiasm into a manageable space, though we all made the trip to Texas for the same reason. We came to fraternize with each other in an arena without hierarchy. We were there because we love books, the people who write them, and all those who read. All this reported, there was a plan. There was structure, lest the two hundred or more participants melt into a fawning, neck-hugging puddle of ecstasy over meeting a long-admired author in person for the first time, or someone known only through Facebook, now within arm’s reach. For months prior, Kathy Murphy’s right-hand administrator, Tiajuana Anderson Neel, sent notice via social media about what to expect from the weekend and when. She posted a list of recommended lodging, suggested costumes, and shared the weekend’s schedule of events on the Pulpwood Queens Website, where she instructed all authors on how to donate an item pertaining to their book, for silent auction, whose proceeds were to benefit everyone’s favorite non-profit, The Pat Conroy Literary Center, in Beaufort, South Carolina.
On a personal note, I wasn’t going to miss this. No fire, torrential rain, nor threat of mudslide could keep me from leaving Malibu, California and making my way to LAX. I was going to Jefferson, Texas on January 17, if I had to walk, spurred by the fire of anticipation over a three-day book festival aimed at mingling authors and readers. Every second it took to get from Malibu to Atlanta to Shreveport then make the forty-nine- minute drive into Jefferson, Texas was worth it, and I knew it for what it was when I checked into the Excelsior House Hotel.
I’d be hard-pressed to envision a better backdrop for a book festival than Jefferson, Texas. Everything in the historic town was within walking distance to the convention center, where the party was held. Ambling down the spacious sidewalk on my way to the opening ceremony, I passed restaurants, a coffee shop, and the fully-realized General Store, which had a sign out front reading, “Welcome to the Pulpwood Queens.” It seemed the entire town was behind Girlfriends Weekend. So much so, that even Jefferson’s mayor showed up. Local shops contributed discount codes to the weekend’s attendees, and area restaurants remained open long past their closing schedule because word of the weekend’s festivities was all over the streets.
One foot inside the convention center, and the party was in full-swing. People milled about in cowboy hats and tiaras, smiling ear-to-ear, wearing boots. It was like being in a bee-hive holding the reins of a live wire, until the introduction of each featured author ensued, and the eight Southern Writers on Writing panelists took the stage, then the entire room suddenly felt like being in church. The audience was riveted as each of the panelists shared their thoughts on what it means to be a writer—a Southern writer, certainly, yet the breadth and scope of the discussion was also far-reaching, setting the tone for the following two days.

To bare witness to authors, nationally known and otherwise, talking about the premise of their books was a study in the passionate fires that lead a writer to pick up a pen in the first place. Throughout the weekend, there were key-note speakers that brought down the house: Revis Wortham, Paula McClain, Ann Weisgarber, Ann Wertz Garvin, Lisa Wingate, River Jordan, and we were all thrilled by the repeated participation of author Patti Callahan Henry, who appeared wearing a black, bouffant wig as the singer, June Carter Cash. One after another, Kathy Murphy moderated panels, giving a forum to authors who introduced themselves and their books in what seemed an intimate setting. Primarily, the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend is geared toward readers; it was to them that each author gave their all, before taking a position at a table to shake hands and sign their book.
A highlight of Girlfriends Weekend was the group that came from Beaufort, South Carolina to share the stories about beloved author, Pat Conroy, who was written about in a series of essays assembled in the engaging book, Our Prince of Scribes. Pat Conroy, many knew, was a proponent of and participant in Girlfriends weekend. On the last day of the weekend, the pillars of The Pat Conroy Literary Center gave a talk about Conroy, with an attendant video that touched the hearts of everyone in the room.
Girlfriends Weekend concluded with a party unlike any other. Billed as The Big Hair Ball, it was all that and more. I’ve never seen such thought go into a bevy of costumes aimed at a western theme: cows, Indians, a pioneer woman, Annie Oakley, outrageous wigs, studded cowboy hats, and a mustache to rival actor Sam Elliot’s swirled on the dance floor in a celebratory vortex to the beats ranging from country to disco to pop.
The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend was simultaneously an education and a blast. I’m thinking I made life-long friends there, in a jury of my peers. Three days in a weekend that felt too short by half, the first thing I did when I got home was mark my calendar for next year’s Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend.
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Claire Fullerton is from Memphis, TN., and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of Mourning Dove, a Southern family saga set in the genteel side of Memphis. Mourning Dove is the 2018 Literary Classics Words on Wings award winner for Book of the Year. It is the 2018 bronze medal winner for Southern Fiction by Readers’ Favorite, a finalist in the 2018 Independent Authors Network Book of the Year, and was listed in the International Faulkner Society’s 2018 William Wisdom competition in the novel category. Claire is the author of Kindle Book Review’s 2016 award for Cultural Fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, and paranormal mystery, A Portal in Time. She contributed to the book, A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window. Her work has appeared in Southern Writers Magazine, and was listed in 2017 and 2018 in their Top Ten Short Stories of the Year. Claire’s work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; Celtic Life International; The Wild Geese, and The Glorious Table. The manuscript for her next novel, Little Tea, is a finalist in the 2018 Faulkner Society’s William Wisdom competition. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Literary Agency.

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Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas – #Family #Drama #Historical #Survival – Claire Fullerton, William Luvaas, Jacqui Murray and Terry Tyler

Thank you to Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Time for more gift ideas from the Cafe and Bookstore and today novels that I have read and reviewed this year, that I can highly recommend. The first author is Claire Fullerton, and her latest release Mourning Dove.About Mourning Dove

“An accurate and heart-wrenching picture of the sensibilities of the American South.” Kirkus Book Reviews

The heart has a home when it has an ally.

If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, eighteen months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s tenth birthday.

Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are…

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A Funny Thing Happened at a Bookstore

Typically, I let a stranger’s rude behavior slide, but in this case, I’m thinking of options. I’m generally thinking of those bullying type personalities you find positioned before the public, and specifically, a certain independent bookstore owner I happened across yesterday. The question I’m turning over concerns calling this bookstore owner on his behavior, lest, in my negligence, he persists in his unseemly rapport with other authors. I’ll set the stage first then tell what transpired:

Because I am twenty-one days into evacuation, due to the fires in Malibu ( currently all power is off in my side of town), I have been staying in Santa Barbara, California. Never one to be completely deterred by unanticipated circumstances, and seeing as how it is a scant six months after the release of my 4X, award-winning novel, Mourning Dove, I decided to use my time wisely by visiting the Santa Barbara Public Library and all area bookstores in what was basically a cold call to introduce Mourning Dove. Authors do well in introducing themselves to bookstore owners if they’re prepared with their one-sheet; ISBN; book description; and distribution information. I’m happy to report I’ve had great luck in so doing. It’s led to scheduled events and my book on the shelves. After all, one hand shakes the other in the book business. We are nothing without each other. This is what I was thinking as I entered this particular bookstore, and discovered the owner standing behind the counter.

It was raining in Santa Barbara, which, in Southern California, is always a conversation starter, and which explained why my one-sheet was a bit damp. I told the owner I am a local, traditionally published author of three books, represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency. Having researched his bookstore online to discover he carries “new, used, and out-of-print books,” and that they carry books by local authors, I told him I wanted to introduce myself and Mourning Dove. For a few minutes, we discussed the weather, the fires in Malibu, the potential threat of mud-slides, then he cast his eyes on my one-sheet. “This book just won the Literary Classics Words on Wings Award for Book of the Year,” I added, to which he abruptly turned, squared his shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “I’ll stop you right here,” he barked. “I’m not going to buy your book.”

Now then, I’ll digress by mentioning I am a Southerner. We’re big on manners. To a Southerner, there is no more egregious sin than bad manners. And for some reason, I was so startled I reverted to my Southern upbringing and perfunctorily cushioned his blow, in an effort at not leaving on a bad note. “Perhaps I wasn’t clear on your bookstore’s policy,” I offered. “What kind of books do you carry?” His answer–and I’m paraphrasing, was along the lines of you better be Faulkner of a current NY Times bestseller. “You’ve explained yourself clearly,” I said. His reply? “I’ve been DEALING with authors for 40 years.”

I’m going to share a quote by Mya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I’ve been thinking about this episode since it happened yesterday, wondering if I have the right take on it; if I’m too sensitive, judgemental, egoistic, and on and on, though I’m not one to second-guess myself. Plain and simple, when I left the bookstore, I felt diminished. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, had he not issued the closing remark of “… dealing with authors for 40 years.”  What this tells me is this bookstore owner thinks its okay to treat authors with such a sorry case of bed-side manners. So much for one hand shaking the other in the book business… In weighing all this, I’ve examined a list of what he could have said, and the whole thing would have happened differently: “Thank you for coming in, this doesn’t sound like something I carry,” this kind of thing.

Now I’m wondering how many authors this man has similarly treated. I’m wondering if any author has ” called him on his stuff,” and concluding probably not.” What occurs to me is that, when in such a quandary, we always have options. In this case, is it better to leave the man to his own devices, or ” call him on his stuff?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malibu Fires from a 1st Person View

We’ve all heard the expression, “Life can turn on a dime,” but I know so few with a frame of reference that makes good on the claim. And I’ve always wondered to what degree events turn before one owns the adage personally. Certainly the death of a significant loved one falls into the justifiable category, where life as one has known it is inalterably changed. There are other examples, but not many.

I have a feeling I’m standing on one of those dimes, but have yet to intuit the  fallout. As I write, there are torrential fires where I live in Malibu, California. At the moment, I’m an hour away in Santa Barbara, where the sun takes center stage over this Spanish-style, manicured town, with its one-way streets apportioned in terra-cotta, wrought-iron  and stucco.  Were it any other time, I’d be wide-eyed and skipping along downtown’s State Street. As it is, I’m disillusioned and displaced– it’s a feeling unlike any other. I took a walk this morning on the city streets, longing for terra firma because I didn’t feel grounded. There’s nothing more unbalancing than a threat to one’s foundation. No matter the location of your feet, a threat on one’s home effects the head.

I’m six whirlwind days into this now, pausing for the first time to assess.  I’ve been on the move with two dogs, a cat and a husband; it took us a while to secure a base.

Last Thursday, there were fire reports in an area separated from Malibu by the arid, Santa Monica Mountains. In the cyclical drought of post-summer Southern California, fire conditions are ripe, in conjunction with the Santa Ana winds, which rage seaward from the desert at 30 to 40 MPR like breath from the hounds of hell.

I was standing in the living room Friday morning, when I saw ashes landing on our front deck. Through the moving filter of grey-cotton billows, the sun was an otherworldly neon-pink. And I’ve heard it said animals intuit pending doom long before people bring themselves to accept it. Our cat, typically self-sufficient, stood in my shadow, and both dogs whined at the front door, when I walked through it in search of my husband, whom I found wielding a full-throttle hose on the roof.

Personalities and priorities come into play, under unanticipated duress. Even with the best intentions in cogent, team-played sports, one discovers individual plans. And it wasn’t as if I didn’t see the merit in my husband battening down the hatches, it’s just that I’m pretty good at grasping the inevitable. I was useful in removing all things potentially flammable from our outside decks, then I left him to go inside and  pack.

I’ve been asked repeatedly what it was I packed so hastily, and understand this is a viable question. My urgent thinking concerned two things: the long-term and that which can’t be replaced. Clothes for both of us for the long-run; jewelry and watches and my accordion file of important papers. Laptops and power cords and cell-phone chargers, winter coats, and walking shoes, and all things pertaining to the maintenance of our pets. I pulled the car out of the garage and loaded it in record time, while my husband turned on every sprinkler on our property. His plan was to stay with the house and fight the fire; mine was to keep my mouth shut until he saw the light.

When the light came, it crept ominously behind our house from the mountain. Through the opaque, unbreathable air, the sky lightened, and I knew it could only mean one thing. Brighter and brighter the backdrop shrieked, the dawning of illumination unwelcome. When the flames appeared, they crowned the ridge in an unbreakable wall, a moving inferno with nowhere to go but down.

That’s when we fled to the car, and turned right on the Pacific Coast Highway. In front of us, the canyons of a state park were ablaze in disconnected, sporadic pockets that seemed to have little to do with each other, yet all headed in the direction of our house. In a last ditch effort, my husband called the local fire department, and miraculously, someone answered the phone. We had no way of knowing what the result would be, in a town spontaneously aflame, but our address was given, and we headed north.

Have you ever travelled with pets, without a plan, nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof? I don’t recommend it unless there’s no other option, which still happens to be our state of affairs.

And the uncertainty of not knowing if one’s house is standing is emotionally and psychically taxing. It’s an exhaustion spawned by a weariness that bypasses the bones and runs like an electrical current in the blood. One keeps going because they have to, in this fight or flight battle with fate. The world, it seems, is relegated to myopic focus. As for all other bets, suffice it to say they’re off.

For the first three days after our evacuation, my husband and I were riveted to the local, heartbreaking news and scoured the internet for information about our area of town, yet there was none to be had. Our house is on the outskirts of Malibu, so far out it can be defined as way beyond the pale. Those three frustrating days felt like searching in a sea of futility. In what I think now is help from divinity, I woke Monday morning and did a random search online of our area’s location. When the large scale, long-range photograph of our area sprang to my screen, I forwarded the image to my husband. He enlarged a dot of the picture, and when the image grew, there was our house!

Three days have transpired, since the discovery of our house standing, and in those days, we have relocated farther north, while awaiting word on when Malibu’s residents will be allowed into the city. There are a handful of social media forums where displaced Malibu residents share information, but the bottom line is nobody is allowed into town, due to the fact that the fire is not wholly contained, and for much of the town, there is no water or power.

I’ve been turning over the idea of powerlessness and how one comes to ultimate surrender. One gets to the point where they simply quit struggling with what is, and does their best to simply make due.

I’ve been hyper-aware of my thoughts these days, knowing, as I do, that one’s attitude defines one’s experience. I seem to have lost my focus a bit. My mind runs laps around the simplest of tasks as I keep looking for center page, and although I fancy myself stoic,  I’m told these are symptoms of trauma. And what startles me most is this awareness of a heightened sense of compassion and empathy I now possess. I’ve seen homeless people in parts of this city I’m in, and it takes everything I have not to break down and weep.

And here sits I, luckier than most, for my husband and I have a house standing, when so many in Malibu don’t.

I may be in an ambiguous spot now, but I can tell you one thing: When they open Malibu to its residents, my plan is to take my bleeding heart and open our front door to those in need.

I will bear witness. Life can and does turn on a dime.

www.https://clairefullerton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Southern Season

A year ago, I was asked by Eva Marie Everson, the acquisitions editor for Firefly Southern Fiction (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, which published my 3rd novel, Mourning Dove) to contribute a novella to a book she had in mind that would consist of four novellas, each set in the South and penned by a writer who hails from the region. Eva’s idea was to capture the 4 seasons as they played out on a Southern stage through the art of setting and story. At the time she asked me to contribute, Eva and I had just finished three exhillerating rounds of edits for Mourning Dove. I knew there would be a long wait ahead before Mourning Dove’s release, and although I’d never written a novella, I figured I might as well try my hand.  It was that, and what self-respecting writer would say no to an editor with whom they’d just had a wonderful experience, who gave the added incentive of A Southern Season’s assigned publication date!

Upon learning the scant guidelines of 20,000 words set in the South during the season of my choosing, I knew right away I’d write a story set in a Memphis fall.  Fall has always been my favorite time of year, for all her eerily suggestive, mood-enhancing promises. As for my hometown of Memphis: I’ll never tire of wrangling her peculiar nuances and charms, which, I’m convinced, are spawned from her proud cultural heritage.

In the days preceding the drafting of my story, I tried on many Memphis hats. There’s much to choose from in that historic, musical mecca on the Mighty Mississippi; it’s seen more than its share of changing times yet still boasts of its past. And the way I see it, a good story always comes down to the characters. How they greet the common place in the every day is where I find the heart of the story. In the Memphis in which I grew up, the particular milieu I come from was rife with story-tellers. As I pondered the subject of my novella, luck had it that one of them called me on the phone.

In the interest of discretion and not wanting to blow my source for all of its future gems, I’ll keep it cryptic by sharing I have the great largess of maintaining a friendship with a certain octogenarian who hails from the genteel side of the Delta and keep it there. Let’s just say it’s not what you say in life, it’s how you say it, and if you asked this particular Southerner for directions to downtown Memphis, they’d take that straight shoot down Poplar and purr it to spun-gold. And I couldn’t tell you now how it was we got on the subject of funerals, but when we did this refined, effusive character unwittingly coined a classic line. ” I know one thing about a Southern funeral,” this nameless person sighed, “you can bet your last dollar that something will go wrong.”

I knew right then that I had my story. I framed my novella within the rites of a three-day, Memphis funeral and titled it Through an Autumn Window. In it, I explored the unspoken complications and attendant guilt and nostalgia of a mother-daughter relationship, and paired it with the festering of unhealed sibling rivalry. I Set this mixed bag of a premise in a Southern culture where everyone tip-toed around iron-clad social mores then I let the games begin!

I am one of four authors who contributed to the book, A Southern Season, and I’m thrilled to announce the book was released on November 1st by Firefly Southern Fiction. There are four different voices depicting the South in this collection of novellas. I believe you’ll find each inspirational !