Claire Fullerton's Blog: A Writing Life

May 7, 2019

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Free on Kindle Unlimited until May 12th. Mourning Dove, a Southern family saga set on the genteel side of 1970's Memphis, won the 2018 Words on Wings Award for Book of the Year by Literary Classics, First in Category in the Chanticleer Reviews Somerset Award, The silver medal in regional fiction from the IPPY Awards, and the Bronze medal for Southern Fiction by Readers' Favorite.

Charles Hardin Holley's review: Style and substance are the two necessary ingredients any book must have. This book exemplifies both. I was charmed and delighted by the author’s descriptive abilities. Her use of language, metaphors, turns of phrase kept me turning each page. She can make a table sound interesting.
I now know what it was like to be a Southern Belle. There’s a lot going on more than meets the eye, which is why this is so engrossing. The reader is dropped into the life of the upper crust, replete with a big back story and complicated family life. What characters they are. Posey, the mother, is all about refinement and a survivor. Finley, the bother of narrator and protagonist Millie, is a compelling, complicated, charismatic, enigma, bearing a resemblance to Holden Caufield. Then there is the Colonel; let’s just say he doesn’t come across as a nice guy. There are other supporting characters and they all move the story along.
I enjoyed reading every sentence, and some of them are downright extraordinary and wise.
Claire Fullerton is a bright new star. I’ve read her last two books, and they are great, but this one is a masterpiece. https://amzn.to/2vQg11H
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Published on May 07, 2019 11:12 Tags: award-winner, family-saga, kindle, southern

February 10, 2019

The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend

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 April, 2019 Bonus pick by the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, the 2018 bronze medal winner for Southern Fiction by Readers’ Favorite, a finalist in the 2018 Independent Authors Network Book of the Year, and currently in the final round of the international Chanticleer Somerset Awards for literary fiction as well as listed in the International Faulkner Society’s 2018 William Wisdom competition. 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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Published on February 10, 2019 13:27 Tags: book-club, books-southern-southernfiction

November 17, 2018

Malibu Fire from a First 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 in cogent, team-played sports with the best intentions, 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.
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Published on November 17, 2018 18:16 Tags: author-essay, malibu, malibu-california-fire, malibu-fire

November 5, 2018

Mourning Dove Giveaway Winner

Thank you so much for all who entered the Goodreads Giveaway of the signed, print version of Mourning Dove. I'll be doing this again in the near future :) Congratulations to Deborah Wolfgang. Mourning Dove is coming your way in the mail!
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Published on November 05, 2018 07:43 Tags: congratulations, giveaway, southernfiction

November 4, 2018

My Story Behind 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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Published on November 04, 2018 15:26 Tags: memphis, newrelease, novella, southernfiction

October 25, 2018

Mourning Dove

Thank you to the readers of coming of age, Southern family saga, set in 1970's Memphis, Mourning Dove. I am grateful for your ratings and reviews, and I extend heartfelt appreciation to those who have gone the extra step and posted a comment on Mourning Dove's Amazon page. Reviews of a book go a long way in helping to spread the word!

I spent close to three years writing Mourning Dove. I had two books released between the time I started Mourning Dove and its publication. The fact is, Mourning Dove began as a poem, then I turned it into a 3,000 word piece that came in as the runner up in the San Francisco Writers conferences' contest. Encouraged by this, I took that piece and used it as the basis of Mourning Dove.

Much went into the writing of Mourning Dove: its themes, setting, and subject matter felt to me like working a puzzle. I had a point in mind as I wrote the book, yet didn't want to come out and say it. Readers are intelligent creatures, and I wanted to leave the final assessment to them.

I will be happy to answer any questions about the writing of Mourning Dove on my Goodreads author page!
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Published on October 25, 2018 10:04 Tags: ask-the-author, novel-writing, questions

September 19, 2018

Gifting the Reader

It was an unusual path that led to the creation of my third novel, Mourning Dove, and the thought that spurred me on was gifting the reader with something to ponder.
Mourning Dove started as a poem, written rather cathartically, in verse that sought to put into words the repercussions of a personal experience. I wrote the poem but never shared it, thinking it would be enough to write it and leave it in my journal. Then, in 2013, I saw a call for submissions in the San Francisco Writers Conferences’ contest. In looking at the categories, I decided to tell the abbreviated story behind the poem in the requisite 3,000-word limit and enter it as narrative nonfiction. Because I liked the images and rhythm of the poem, I began my piece with the poem’s first stanza. As I wrote the nonfiction story, I remained true to the feel and flow of the poem. I reached the word limit swiftly and submitted it to the contest, under the title Mastering Ambiguity (there’s a good reason for that title.)
Three months later, I received notice that Mastering Ambiguity was a finalist in the contest, and, as I live in Malibu, I decided to make the trip to the 2013, San Francisco Writers Conference and attend the luncheon where the winner would be announced.
Entering the auditorium, I saw thirty-five, eight seated tables spaced on the floor before a stage. As I found a seat, I told myself that if anything ever came of Mastering Ambiguity, I’d turn it into a full-length novel. Mastering Ambiguity wasn’t pronounced the winner at that luncheon, but it came in as the runner-up. Knowing I had a good story, I kept my pledge and set to work turning Mastering Ambiguity into a novel.
But how to turn a 3,000-word, nonfiction piece into a novel that is essentially a coming- of -age and then some, Southern family saga? It occurred to me that if I focused on a sense of place, in this case, the genteel side of 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis, replete with characters exemplary of old-world social mores, I’d have a solid foundation for a cause and effect story.
I began by defining the aim of Mourning Dove, which would help me suggest its point. Once I had what I wanted to say in hand, I settled upon Mourning Dove’s themes, knowing, if I let them lead, I could write the novel is scenes that would lead to gifting the reader with an overarching point.
When a writer settles upon a theme, or themes in a novel, the idea is to make them universal, so that the reader will identify from the vantage point of their own life. In Mourning Dove’s case, I wanted to expand upon the idea of a search, for I believe all of us are searching for something, be it a daily search or over a lifetime.
Once I knew the beginning and end of Mourning Dove, I wrote the following in a composition book I keep by my keyboard, and allowed it to guide me:
A search for place/home
A search for identity
A search for meaning/God.

From there, I wrote the story of two siblings who were born in Minnesota but moved abruptly during their formative years to the Deep South, where they entered the traditionally Southern environment as outsiders. From here, the novel took on a life of its own and became not only about discovery, but about displacement and the navigational tools one employs, while trying to fit into a culture.
For the most part, writers write from what they know. They use their own impressions and experiences as fodder to one degree or another, in the process of telling a story. I believe this is inevitable and inescapable, and in writing Mourning Dove, I portrayed Memphis as I experienced it. Because I now live in California, the geographical distance afforded an objective eye with a sense of nostalgia for an era now gone by. Late 1970’s through 1980’s Memphis was well worth writing about because I am of a generation raised by those many call “the old guard.” These were the people born to a culture steeped in Southern social mores and tradition, who held to its ways as if manners and form were the template to society, so much so that it verged on stifling.
My aim in writing Mourning Dove was along the lines of depicting the culture the siblings came to as outsiders to show how its influence contributed to their psychological wiring. Because we are all products of our upbringing, it raises the question of nature versus nurture in influencing how a life turns out. It’s a complicated amalgam that contributes to how individuals end up as they do, and in writing Mourning Dove, I wanted to tell the story of siblings who share the same history but come to disparate ends.
Because readers are intelligent beings, I wanted to take the reader through a series of one telling scene to the next, so that they could divine for themselves how what happened in the end came to be.
It’s a give and take in being a writer. If a writer gifts a reader with something to ponder, the reader will take away their own conclusion.

Mourning Dove was a Faulkner Society, William Wisdom contest semi-finalist, and the winner of the 2018 Reader’s Favorite bronze medal for Southern Fiction.

https//www.clairefullerton.com
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Published on September 19, 2018 21:27 Tags: award-winning, coming-of-age, family-saga, novel-writing, southern-ficiton

August 29, 2018

An Author Narrates her Audiobook

I have always loved the solitary act of reading a good book. When I read, I want to be captivated. I want to immerse myself in the language and craft of a story. As a writer, part of me studies word choice and turn of a phrase as I read, but even as I do, I stay involved in the story. And I like the feel of a book: its tactile size and anchoring weight; the entire solidity of the reading experience. So, when my husband suggested I narrate the audiobook of my Southern family saga set in Memphis, Mourning Dove, I didn’t immediately jump. I had to think about it. I had to be convinced it would be worthwhile, shown the current marketplace of audiobooks, and basically set my book bias aside and expand my horizons.
Having grown up in Memphis, where Delta music is a religion, I know my way around many musical genres from the blues to rock-a-billy, to current day rock-n-roll. I had a brother who played the guitar and was as passionate as anyone I’d ever met about music as a language. Growing up with my brother, Haines, was like attending school in all things musical. When he wasn’t playing music, Haines was talking about it, and the very foundation of my teenage years were spent under Haines’s tutelage.
From my early twenties to my early thirties, I was on the radio. I began my disc-jockey career on a whim. I attended college at The University of Denver. There was a control room next to the cafeteria in my dorm’s building, and students could sign up for school credit to spin their favorite records over a building-wide PA system, on a schedule that worked with their classes. As a communications and fine arts major, I jumped when I heard I could do this. It seemed as natural to me as walking. After college, I returned to Memphis and embarked on what became a nine-year, on-air career in radio, beginning as a producer at WHBQ Talk Radio, and ending at the album-oriented rock station: WEGR, Rock-103, on Memphis’s infamous Beale Street. I loved every minute of it, but I got out of radio when I moved to California. I’d been offered a job in the L.A. music business as an A&R representative. Summarily, I took up-and-coming bands to record companies, looking for a record deal. I had luck with a band out of Louisiana named Better Than Ezra. While I was in Los Angeles’ music business, I never once pursued music radio, being, as it was and is that I’m possessed of a southern accent.
READ THE REST HERE: https://cffullerton.wordpress.com/201...
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Published on August 29, 2018 13:57 Tags: audiobook, author-story, author-talk, narration, on-recording, southern-fiction

August 23, 2018

Review of Mourning Dove

From The Power of Words Blog. Thank you, Carole Jarvis!

“Haven’t you noticed the name of the game
around here is what everybody thinks?
You’re only as good as how others consider you.”
- Finley

I love a “different” type of book when it is done well, and Claire Fullerton has achieved exactly that in Mourning Dove. Fullerton’s fresh voice, sense of place, and exquisite writing make this story shine. Creative storytelling reads somewhat like a memoir as life events cause the now-grown Millie to reflect back over her childhood and growing up years, especially as they relate to her brother, Finley. This evocative and poignant story that explores the relationships within the dysfunctional Crossan family captured me from the very first page and never let go.

One normally thinks of people as main characters, but 1970s Memphis is the overarching character around which all else revolves. Mourning Dove is southern to the core, and Fullerton evokes the setting and mores like no one else I’ve ever read. Having lived in the south all my life, there is so much I can relate to. For instance, the southern accent that “operates at lightening speed, and doesn't feel the need for enunciation. Instead, it trips along the lines of implication." And this descriptive passage truly captures the essence of Memphis and southern upper echelons…

It was magnolia-lined and manicured, black-tailed and bow-tied. It glittered in illusory gold and tinkled in sing-song voices. It was cloistered, segregated, and well-appointed, the kind of place where everyone monogrammed their initials on everything from hand towels to silver because nothing mattered more than one’s family and to whom they were connected by lineage that traced through the fertile fields of the Mississippi Delta.

Through Millie’s eyes and voice, we see the close bond between Millie and Finley, a gifted musician with a high intellect – and how a self-absorbed mother and absent alcoholic father affected their lives. It was a time where appearance mattered above all else, with true feelings and emotions well hidden. Posey, the mom, is fascinating – not the most likeable of characters, yet with a vulnerability that touched me. I loved Millie’s expressive thoughts: “I never saw her admit to the complete gamut of emotions inherent in all of mankind, and I thought it was because not all of them played well on her stage. I often wondered if she even possessed unattractive emotions, or if they’d shriveled up and died from lack of use.”

I loved the depth, complexity and realism of Mourning Dove. It’s raw at times, and the unfolding theme of a hero worshipped revealing feet of clay is something to which we can all relate. The seeking of God in different ways, never a "one-size-fits-all" experience, plays an essential part.

Intrigued by the title, I looked up “mourning dove” and discovered how the meaning encompasses the essence of this story: “Their distinctive ‘wooo-oo-oo-oo’ sounds may evoke a feeling of grief over the loss of a dearly beloved. But far from representing death, the symbolism of mourning doves gives optimism with its spirituality. Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.”

Mourning Dove is a classic story that will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended.
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Published on August 23, 2018 10:46 Tags: coming-of-age, deep-south, memphis, review, southern-fiction, upmarket-fiction

August 17, 2018

Bead by Bead: The Ancient Way of Praying Made New

I am savoring this beautiful book, and turning to it nightly as a touchstone at my day's end. Written in accessible language so compelling and engaging, Suzanne Henley Smith's voice is like listening to a friend so rife with personality, I want to hear everything she has to say! There is a wealth of information regarding historical use of prayer practice with the use of beads. I am learning much about various religious practices, and the common thread of a physical ornament to ground one into prayer is something I find reverent in its intent and focus. This is a book for everybody: the devout, the spiritual, the artistic, the seeker. It is a manual of fine balance mixed with humor and intelligence, and its specific aim is something I find admirable as it unites. I recommend this book as a call to worship, no matter one's proclivity or denomination. It is thought-provoking in its invitation to deepen one's relationship with prayer, and I am so pleased to have found this book!
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Published on August 17, 2018 10:48 Tags: historical-religions, prayer, religion, religious-practice-prayer-beads

A Writing Life

Claire Fullerton
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