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 !

 

 

 

 

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Whiskey and Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith

The title Whiskey and Ribbons is derived from a toast delivered by Eamon, one of three narrators in this psychological treatment of love spun unexpectedly and repercussively awry. “Women, you are sleek and gorgeous. You hold us together, you’re the ribbons,” Eamon says, yet we hear this speech as his brother, Dalton’s, memory, for the reader learns at the start that the toast maker is dead. Eamon and Dalton have grown up together as brothers, yet the ties that bind are unusual and not honestly revealed for what they are until well into the story. Author Leesa Cross-Smith holds the reader captive in language so creative and au currant that we identify with both well-drawn characters and readily understand why Eamon’s wife, Evangeline, weighs issues of loyalty between the two charismatic young men, though one is alive and the other is dead. That Evangeline is a new mother, having given birth to Eamon’s son after his death as an officer in the line of duty is the dilemma, for who is she to turn to in her prostrate grief but a brother-in-law who equally grieves? Three vantage points are entwined to tell this one story of familial connections, in a seamlessly crafted, roiling momentum that will have you thinking they each have a justifiable point. All praise this spell-binding debut author. Leesa Cross-Smith has penned an uncommon novel in a voice you won’t easily forget.