Wednesday, October 19, 2011

South of Charm Author, Elliot Grace, Shows Up

"Turns out showing up is not trivial. It's the hardest thing in the world, to show up. Even in your body. Most of the time we're not in our bodies. There's this wonderful line in James Joyce's Dubliners, a book of short stories, that starts out, "Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body." ~ Excerpt from a talk on Mindfulness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Click to Order
 Elliot Grace, author of the future best-selling novel, South of Charm, shows up. He does not flinch, nor does he apologize. He writes about real things. Important things. Things many of us wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

I first read Elliot's work at his blog, So Close, But..., in July of 2010. A commentary on the Gulf Oil Spill, his emotive voice and poetic cadence first captured my attention, then left me anguished, angry and horrified. Mr. Grace has a knack for finding beauty in the unspeakable. In my opinion, a rare gift indeed.

Elliot Grace makes us care, because he cares. He makes us want to show up, because he shows up on the page, laying open the raw and the secret. Of this, Elliot says, "In my younger years, Robert Cormier's ruthless YA [young adult] novels inspired the urge to write with as much raw emotion as I was capable." He's still doing that today.

Take South of Charm. Imagine that your once-meek Christian mother is getting loonier by the day because she is convinced your father is cheating. She's vocal and relentless. She will not shut up. She will not back down. Not long ago, your father snapped and beat her.

Now she's spending time with an ear pressed to the wall, convinced that your neighbors, the fine reverend and his wife, are spying on her. What started this recent and bizarre turn of events? An innocent air freshener.

Such are the circumstances surrounding Danny Kaufman's tenth birthday. As the central character of this stunning debut novel, Danny matter-of-factly walks the plank of mental illness, not understanding, but inching forward anyway. One passage yanked my soul.

"In the envelope given to me from my grandparents, I found a birthday card, and a folded up ten dollar bill as I had guessed. It was the only gift I received that year for my birthday. It wasn’t so much as even mentioned by anyone else."

Hell. Can you tell a person, "YOU DO NOT MATTER!" any plainer?

Also privy to his mother's point of view, I watch in horror as the voice in her head gets more authoritative and her tenuous grip on reality fades.

Though I can't help feeling that I am seeing in to Elliot Grace's soul as I read South of Charm, like most authors, when questioned, he is vague on the subject. And of course. It's hard enough to bare one's soul, without being specific about the parts.

When I asked Elliot, "What famous book, if any, would you liken South of Charm to?", he replied, "The first one that comes to mind is King's "Stand By Me," when considering the age of the mc's [main characters]in both my story and King's bestseller. (Although I've got a ways to go before locking horns with a mastermind of that level.)" No, Elliot. You don't.

My last question to Elliot was, "Is there a question about South of Charm that you wish someone would ask but hasn't? His reply, "Love the question, Olivia! How about...looking back, if you could re-write, or change anything about "South of Charm," what would it be? Answer, after reading the emails from those who've read the story, and taken to heart their advice or future requests, I'd include an extra scene or two with that mysterious cat."

Thank you, Elliot, for showing up at That Rebel. You are one of my favorite authors (and people) and it is an honor and a privilege to showcase your book. In the words of an old friend, "If no one has told you, "You're my hero!" yet today, please let me be the first!

Keep 'em coming.
~ Olivia J. Herrell

*To purchase the trade paperback or Kindle version of South of Charm, click here.

** To win a copy of South of Charm over at So Close, But...

From Elliot:-All my current followers have already earned themselves 1 point.
-Any new followers I meet along the way will be awarded 1 point.
-All who comment on any of my blog stops in October will earn 2 points.
-Anyone who leaves reviews for "South of Charm" on either Amazon or GoodReads will earn 5 points.
-At months end, my most behaved foster child for that particular day will be choosing the winners, (trust me, that's a win/win for the entire family EL

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hello October, My Old Friend

Excerpt from a post entitled Grief and October, circa October 7, 2009:
"October is not my favorite month of the year. I'm sure October could care less.

My mother died in October. Three years ago. Interestingly enough, I can't remember now what day. I thought it was the 9th/10th (she died around 12:45 a.m. so I overlap the days in my mind). But, it may've been the 8th/9th.

For the last couple of weeks of September, during the time when she would've been in the hospital, then rehab, then back in the hospital...the time leading up to her death...I relive (and, thus, process) some of the pain that I was too numb to feel.

I can try to ignore it. Pretend it's not there. Stay really busy and look the other way.

But, eventually, those coping mechanisms fail. And I am face-to-face with the reality of my feelings. I am alone with the gut-wrenching knowledge that my Mama, my magnetic north for 50 years, is gone. And, I relive, in spurts and fits and isolated snapshot memories, her last days on earth...
Today, in the middle of what began as a productive day, I was seized by melancholy. It descended from nowhere and sank in to every crevice of my being, leaving me cold, hopeless and full of fear. I perched, fingers hovering above the keys of my iPhone, wanting to call someone, to text someone, and wondering what in the world was the matter with me. Only moments earlier I was fine.

There was a desperate need to call someone. Only who? And about what? What would I tell them? What was it I needed? And how could anyone help me when I didn't know what was wrong?

An hour later, in the aisles of Walmart, I remembered. And understood. It's October.

Hello October, my old friend. I see you've come to talk with me again.

Well, I'm here. I'm listening. I will do what you ask. I will stop for a time and remember Mama. It's gonna hurt anyway, I know.
"...I am not maudlin. Nor morbid. Just grieving. This is my process.

For those who are grieving, no matter how long since your loved-one passed, your process is your process. No one else can put a time-frame on it. They can expect you to be 'healed' or 'cured' of your depression and sadness right away.

But, the reality is, it takes what it takes.

Grief is not bad. Grief is normal. Grief is even beautiful. Allowing our grief honors the one we lost. And it honors our own Self." ~ Olivia J. Herrell, Oct 7, 2009
I just found out that Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, died today. Rest in Peace, Steve. May you bring as much enlightenment to the world in your afterlife as you did while still here on earth.

~ Olivia J. Herrell
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