Musing

Here on the west end of Malibu, I spend most of my days writing. I’ve been at a particular pitch for twelve years or so, and what I’ve come to realize is, if a writer stays with it consistently, they’ll realize they’ve created a lifestyle that feels like a spinning wheel whose spokes include the writing of a book, the book’s pre-release promotion,  post-release promotion, oftentimes travel to book events, and all the while, a work-in-progress that perpetuates the cycle.

I discovered long ago that balance is key to being a writer. I don’t think it’s healthy to spend too much time at my desk. I’m in the habit of stringing three or four hours in front of my computer then going outside to walk around, see if the sun is shining, put Groove Music on my headphones, and walk to the beach to watch the surfers. A little air and movement always does me good.

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But it’s amazing what can happen from the simple act of walking outside while taking a break from my desk. Last week, it was this: WP_20200524_10_12_55_Pro

An egret walked around our backyard. It’s been seven days since this majestic bird appeared, and it shows no enthusiasm toward leaving. The Malibu terrain this time of year is hot and dry, and that means the prevalence of lizards, which, I suspect, is the egret’s draw.

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Egret Front Door

As you can see from the above photograph, the egret has made itself quite at home. Even our female, German shepherd, Ceili has grown used to it, though this isn’t always the case, especially when our other two shepherds are involved.

Here are Ceili, Ronin, and our 9-month-old puppy, Sorcha: three German shepherds with Irish names.

February

When it comes to seeking balance in my writing life, the environment I live in, and those that populate it give me a sense of balance.

I’m like may writers. I live on a wheel that constantly spins. It suits me, this combination of creativity, dedication, and purpose. Being a novelist is a fulltime job with no “there” to get to, only the commitment and perseverance it takes to stay on the path. As for the outcome of each book, beyond doing the very best I can do, it’s not my business. My business is to enjoy the process. I am grateful beyond measure when anything comes from one of my books, but it’s enough to enjoy the quality of my days; that I am spending time the way I like to, building something that matters to me, then walking outside to see what’s happening.

 

https://clairefullerton.com

 

Gratitude to the WordPress Book Bloggers

I’d like to adequately express how much the WordPress book blogging community means to me, so suffer me while I warm up to it. I readily admit I’m the long-winded sort, even when I have an important point.

In this day and age of social media at the center of an author’s career, there is much to reconcile, and there are times I wrestle with keeping a proper perspective. On the one hand–and you’d think this to meet me in person–I  am ridiculously extroverted; I have what author, Pat Conroy, labeled the “Southern sickness” of assuming everyone I meet is my best friend, yet on the other, I am intensely private. I don’t like showcasing myself because it feels like grandstanding, and quite frankly I’m not impressed with myself to the point that I think I have anything of significance going over any other writer. We are all of us playing a long-game, making our own way in our chosen field. But sometimes it seems that one has to have an elevated sense of oneself in order to promote one’s work as an author. There’s a fine line these days, and it’s the one thing I didn’t realize going into “being” a writer. I’m probably like many people in their 50’s. We were the generation who woke up one day to discover the entire world was online and all over social media. When that realization dawned on me, it was a major hustle to catch up.

Then there is the concern of reconciling novel-writing as art and publishing a novel as a business. Once upon a time–as little as twenty years ago–authors wrote books and turned them over to their publishing house to promote. If they had an audience to justify a book tour, the publisher paid for an author to travel from book store to library to book club to meet readers in person. This is still done, but on a small, discerning scale primarily intended for authors who have wide name recognition. As for authors with a small or independent press, when it comes to a book tour, it’s all out of pocket because they’re essentially on their own.  Because book publishing options have opened up and there are now thousands upon thousands of authors in the race, the effort is geared toward keeping abreast of the tide and waving one’s hand above the noise. What’s more, in this day and age, the lion’s share of promotion falls to the author and is not only about promoting a book; authors have to promote themselves.

I’ve been torn over this for a while, now. I’ve limited myself in self-promotion by only going so far. I’ll take the opportunity here to add to Conroy’s definition of Southern sickness: friendly as we are, Southerners are an unflashy lot given to personal discretion. Too much going on about oneself is succinctly considered bad form.

I see it all on social media. People post all sorts of personal information from their family to their lifestyle to their political views. I’m not passing judgment, just making an observation, but I do know that too much online, personal information can put one in a vulnerable position and lead to an unintended consequence. It’s the downside of social media and it’s a struggle to strike a manageable balance.

So, how does an author effectively promote their book while striking a healthy balance? And whom should an author trust?

Which brings me to another consideration: There are the legions of online, profiteering book promotion businesses that have cropped up as a result of the book publishing boom. It’s staggering to me and hard to wade through the miasma to discern who is and is not reputable, while an author is hustling for literary recognition and book reviews. Authors need exposure for their releases, but who to choose within a reasonable budget?

Which brings me around to the WordPress book blogging community ( I told you I’d work my way to my point.)

I am humbled and proud to have aligned with the book bloggers here. I believe the book bloggers I’ve met on WordPress are as fine as they come. I stand in awe of Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord. Through Sally, I’ve met Olga Nunez, Michelle James, Robbie Cheadle, Teagan Geneviene, Rosie Amber,  DG Kaye, and Chris the Story Reading Ape to name but a few. I stand in awe of each bloggers’ deft handling of content, organizational skills, dedication, professionalism, and magnanimous spirit. I recognize you all as passionate people involved in the book world for all the right reasons. Your impact upon many authors’ careers is nothing short of significant.

At long last, here is my point:

I thank each of you who has featured my books on your blog for including me in your esteemed fold. Your support of my career is a force that sustains me, and I remain so very grateful.

https:www.clairefullerton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope

One of the gifts of living by the ocean is the view is ever-changing. I have a particular relationship with this constant inconstancy. I am grounded in a reality that fluctuates from no will of mine and it humbles me to bear witness to a majesty I know is endless.

I can literally see the curvature of the earth from my front deck in Malibu. Some days the sea looks like mirrored glass; other days the roiling whitecaps attenuate forever. This is what I can see, yet I know life teems beneath the surface in the labyrinth of an ecosystem of which I can only speculate. And yet I know it is there. Hidden from view, from knowledge, from judgment, from the temptation of assumption. All that is given to me is the moment and my perception. If I stand still and tune into my thoughts, I am aware of my consciousness. I believe if one really wants to know themselves, all they have to do is listen to the song within.

I’m saying all this because first thing this morning, I walked out and was caught unaware by the photograph you see above. It startled me in an awestruck, sobering way, yet the voice I consider the intimate “me” resounded unbiddenly in two words: “Of course.” In that moment, I was reminded of my fundamental beliefs, and they have everything to do with my relationship with the unknown. What I believe is things are rarely as they seem. In the midst of ambiguity, there is always hope.

You don’t need me to remind you these are strange times, unbalancing times, unsettling times, but what I’m thinking of is my understanding of the bigger picture. Because you have to pay attention to your perception of this world. If you do, it dictates experience both immediate and long-range. I’m neither prophet nor seer, but I trust my intuition. When I walked out this morning and saw this neon rainbow placed on the sky seemingly by the hand of God, what I knew at that moment is, always, there is great hope.

 

 

 

 

Irish Keys


I’ve had many people ask me about a certain picture on my website, where I’m standing against a gray stone wall on a windswept day in the middle of an Irish field, with what are obviously the ruins of a monastery behind me. Observant people have thought, “Wait, there’s a ruined monastery behind her, why is her back turned as she looks into the camera, holding a set of keys in her hand as if it were the bigger focal point?” I’m glad for the opportunity to explain that picture here.

We kind of knew where we were heading, my friend Tama and I, and by this I mean we had a loose plan with regard to how we were going to spend the afternoon in Gort, Ireland. We’d been freewheeling across the countryside in a rented car the size of a matchbox,  its steering wheel on the right side while we drove on the left of the two-lane road as if trying to best a test for dyslexia.
Tama is a devout Catholic, who has a thing about historic churches, which is why we couldn’t have adhered to a plan had we made one. “Stop,” Tama would shout each time we spied one of the dim, ominous structures in the distance. We’d scratch the gravel driveway and wander inside, our solitary footsteps crossing the marble floor in a tread lightly and humble yourself echo off the cavernous vaulted ceiling. We did this so many times that after yet another sweep inside a church, I’d leave Tama to light a red votive candle and fall to her pious knees while I wandered the graveyards and read the tombstone inscriptions thinking about impermanence;  knowing I was passing through in more ways than one.

I thought I was alone in the graveyard when a voice sailed from behind me. “Have you found your way to Kilmacduagh monastery?” it queried. I turned to find a young woman taking in my outlander attire of all-weather jacket and rubber-soled shoes. “It’s just up the road there,” she pointed. “You’ll want to knock on the door of the middle house across the road and ask Lily for the keys.”
I was standing behind Tama when she knocked on the front door of a low slung house on a sparsely populated lane. Across the lane, placid fields of damp clover shimmered in the afternoon mist as far as the eye could see. On one verdant field, a series of interspersed ruins jutted in damp metal-gray; some without roofs, some with wrought-iron gates, one in particular beside a towering stone spire with two windows cut in vertical slashes above a narrow door.  When the front door opened, a pair of blue water eyes gave us the once over with a suspicious, “Yes?”

“Are you Lily?” Tama asked.

“I am,” the woman stated.

“We’re here for the keys,” Tama said.

“The keys, is it? Just a moment there,” Lily said, and after she closed the door, Tama and I stood on the doorstep wordlessly, waiting for the next thing to happen.  Seconds later, the door opened and Lily handed us a set of long metal keys. “Just slip them through the door slot when you’re through,” she said with a quick nod and closed the door.

There was no indication of which key went to what, among the cluster of gates and doors throughout the 7th-century monastery called Kilmacduagh, but after enough scrambling, we figured it out. I was so tickled over being given the keys that I couldn’t get over it. “Is this weird?” I said to Tama. “We could be anybody. It feels like we’ve been given the keys to the kingdom without being vetted. It’s not that there’s anything anybody could steal, but that’s not the point.

I could wax rhapsody over the hours we spent unlocking gates,  pushing through doors and climbing the ruins of the eerie, hallowed grounds, but that’s not my point either. My point is that’s Ireland for you: a stranger offering directions without being asked, Lily handing over the keys like an afterthought, and Tama and I trolling the grounds of historic, sacred space when nobody else was around.

A German couple appeared as we made our way back up the lane. They looked at us wide-eyed and queried, “What is this place?”

“It’s a 7th century monastery,” I said, “here, take these keys and slip them through Lily’s door when you’re through.”

 

Claire Fullerton is the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, A Portal in Time, Mourning Dove, and coming May 1st, Litle Tea.

https://www.clairefullerton