Hello, Again!!

Hello, everyone! Been a while but life gets in the way sometimes!

Just a quick update, “Crescent City Lies” is in final edit and only one more chapter and my second novel, “One of Those Days” is finished! More about both novels soon!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer or winter depending on where you are located!

It is a very hot summer here in the US! Cool off with this photo from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans!

What’s cooler than a day the zoo? A day at the Cool Zoo.  At this animal-themed splash park, live elephants look on as kids tube around Gator Run, a 750-foot lazy river ride.

Photo courtesy of (©Audubon Nature Institute).

Happy New Year!

Where better to celebrate New Year’s Eve than in the ultimate party city, New Orleans?  The setting for my upcoming novel, Crescent City Lies, NOLA is the ideal city to ring in 2017.

The Audubon Zoo and the Louisiana Children’s Museum hold events for the entire family. The Allstate Sugar Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade, which proceeds through the French Quarter is fun for all. You can also enjoy the festivities from the deck of a riverboat or a balcony in the French Quarter, or at one of the many fabulous restaurants scattered across the city

My favorite way to welcome the New Year is the celebration in Jackson Square. An annual tradition with music, the traditional fleur-de-lis drop, and spectacular fireworks show called Symphony in the Sky,  the heart of the French Quarter is the place to welcome 2017.

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If you’d like to peek at the New Year’s Eve Party in the French Quarter, visit the Earth Cam which broadcasts 24/7 from Bourbon Street!

http://www.earthcam.com/usa/louisiana/neworleans/bourbonstreet/?cam=bourbonstreet

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Sources:

http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/seasonal/newyears.html

 

Crescent City Lies Location: Jackson Square, New Orleans

The setting for my novel, Crescent City Lies is the enticing city of New Orleans. Let’s look at another location that plays a prominent role in the story.

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Jackson Square 

Jazz, bars, street performers, and tourists may be the soul of the French Quarter, but its heart is the beautiful Jackson Square. On any given day, revelers, tourists, locals, a wedding or two, and art, glorious art fill the Square. I chose the location to be a backdrop for a pivotal scene in my novel, Crescent City Lies. A scene which increases the danger for Emeline Drake as she seeks to unravel the mystery of her great-aunt’s death.

Dominated by the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, the Square faced the Mississippi River and was once known as the Place d’Armes was a public square, an open-air market, and a military parade ground at its inception.  The governor’s mansion, the Cabildo sat on the northwest corner beside the cathedral and the presence of the seat of government and the center of religion made the Square the epicenter of New Orleans life, business, and commerce.

In 1814 the Square underwent a redesign, an iron fence enclosed the perimeter and benches added for sitting. A bronze statue of General Andrew Jackson, hero of New Orleans became the square’s centerpiece. In 1815, the name “Jackson Square” officially replaced the former “Place d’Armes.”

In addition to the historical landmarks, an open-air artist colony has thrived outside the iron gates for over a half-century. Go have your portrait made, sit a spell on a bench with a drink or an ice cream and bask in the beauty that is the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Remember the motto of this city that revels in the joy of living. Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll!

Oh –  and be on the lookout, you might spot Emeline Drake and some of her fellow characters from “Crescent City Lies” strolling through the Square.

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Source Material: http://www.experienceneworleans.com/jackson-square.html

Thanksgiving in New Orleans…

My upcoming novel Crescent City Lies may not be set during the New Orleans holiday season, but it’s a sure bet Emeline Drake and her fellow characters would be celebrating Thanksgiving, Cajun style.

In a city that celebrates food every day of the year, Thanksgiving is revered in New Orleans. In fact, the infamous turducken was popularized by the late and legendary chef, Paul Prudhomme. While I admit, the turkey stuffed with duck and chicken is not my favorite, it certainly embodies the creativity and eccentricity of the Crescent City.

Many of the holiday foods we consider traditional are served on a Cajun dinner table with a unique spin. When I lived in Miami, I had the pleasure of having dinner at the home of a transplanted Cajun. I was served deep-fried turkey, all the trimmings, along with the best dressing I have ever eaten.

My friend didn’t share the family Cajun Dirty Rice dressing recipe, despite my pleas. However, Camellia Bean company offers this recipe, using their Dirty Rice mix. You can certainly make your own dirty rice as the base.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate the day!

For the rest of you, share a bit of Cajun Dirty Rice dressing with us!

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Rice Dressing

This is an easy way to customize the Cajun Dirty Rice Mix with just a few simple additions. Not only is it delicious dressing for your Thanksgiving turkey, the fact that it only takes 25 minutes means it works for busy weeknight dinners – with plenty of left-overs for the rest of the week!

Ingredients:

1 package Camellia Brand Cajun Dirty Rice Mix
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 cup prepared “trinity” seasoning mix (onions, celery, and green peppers)
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped fine
2 bay leaves
4 1/2 cups low-salt beef broth
Sliced green onions to garnish

Preparation:

  1. In a large heavy pot, brown ground beef and pork, breaking into very small
  2. Remove meat, and add flour to drippings, stirring constantly, until mixture is a deep brown roux. Return meat to pot.
  3. Add broth, Cajun Dirty Rice Mix, trinity, thyme, and bay leaves, stirring well to combine.
  4. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Let stand for 5 minutes, stir, and top with chopped green onion garnish.

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Crescent City Lies is scheduled for publication in Fall 2016.

Camellia Beans: http://www.camelliabrand.com/dirty-rice-or-rice-dressing/

Deborah Ratliff: The Writer’s Voice and Other Elements of Style

As I write this, the manuscript for my first novel and I exist apart. The words I’ve written now in the capable hands of my editor. It was a conversation with him regarding my writing idiosyncrasies that provided me with a clearer insight into my writing style and the voice I choose.

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of writing to comprehend is the concept of style. Like fingerprints, one author’s style of writing is unique from another’s and can vary depending on several factors, including the intended audience. Sentence structure, word choice, and the more elusive writer’s voice constitute the elements of style.

Before I returned to writing fiction, a passion from my youth, I wrote professional articles, policy and procedure and training manuals, newsletters, and advertising copy. At times, I might work on policy in the morning, a newsletter in the afternoon. What I failed to realize was I was changing my writing style to fit my readers.

Let’s look at how the description of a thunderstorm varies from one audience to another.

A scientific journal article on the elements of a thunderstorm would present a technically correct explanation of how warm moist air rapidly updrafts into cooler layers of air forming cumulonimbus clouds. Precipitation follows, and cold air sinks creating downdrafts and winds. Electrical charges build up in the water and ice cloud particles and release as lightning, which heats the air with such intensity producing a sound wave we know as thunder.

A storyteller would write of the darkening clouds, the rising winds, a prickly feeling on the skin as the storm intensifies, the driving rain, brilliant lightning flashes, the roar of thunder. Thus, setting a mood or a backdrop for the characters to interact.

The same author can write in an impersonal, technical style or in descriptive prose. It is the choice of words, sentence structure, and the author’s voice that creates style.

Word choice:

Writing experts teach authors to eliminate unnecessary words. To be concise, to choose the best word, an action verb demonstrating a physical or mental act or a concrete noun conveying sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch to convey meaning. We limit our use of adjectives and adverbs and the overuse of certain words such as ‘as,’ ‘that,’ and ‘it.’ Polysyllabic words, alliteration, and consonance create flowing sentences, while onomatopoeia and monosyllabic words can break up the flow.

Sentence Structure:

Good writers carefully structure sentences to extract the most meaning and to facilitate flow. When constructing a sentence, vary the length of the sentence to achieve different rhythms. Also, consider the word and phrase placement within a sentence which can emphasize the sentence meaning. Removing unneeded, vague or repetitive words, and including subordinate phrases and clauses will tighten up a sentence and make it more readable.

Voice:

The most subjective of the three elements of style is voice. Voice is unique to each writer and impacted by the author’s personality and one element of style, word choice.  Whether detached, passionate, objective, humorous, serious, it is yours.

This discussion of style brings me back to my conversation with my editor. I had two repetitive issues in my writing. The underuse of the word ‘that’ and my love of run-on sentences.

Somewhere, while reading what all the writing ‘experts’ suggest, I took the suggestion to eliminate the word ‘that’ where I could. Apparently, there are times when that makes a sentence clearer. My editor decided to replace those I had eliminated in my own edit. Then he read the story again and took them out, deciding the inclusion interfered with my writing style.

The run-on sentences are another issue and result from my desire to write with a smooth flow. I wrote a short story for a challenge a few years ago and received this critique, “Great story, well-done, but use an ‘and’ every now and then.” Apparently, I didn’t heed that message.

My editor offered the following advice. That the choice to construct sentences in this manner was mine. It was my style of writing and my decision to change them. It was at that moment I realized I had the final say on how my book would read.

Granted, I am at liberty to make these choices because I am self-publishing. I doubt the editor of a traditional publishing house would allow me the leeway of making these decisions for myself. The fact is I respect my editor and will likely take his advice, but his words made me realize that the style I choose to write in, my writer’s voice is mine.

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Deborah Ratliff is an administrator for the Writers Unite! Blog and Facebook page. Her first novel, Crescent City Lies, a murder mystery will be published in the Fall of 2016.

Personal Blog: the coastal quill

Author Page: D.A. Ratliff

Facebook: Writers Unite!

Crescent City Lies…

My Book Blurb is Done!

Well.. I hope it is! I love to hear what you think. Would you read this book?

“Crescent City Lies”

Emeline Drake’s great-aunt was dead. A heart attack the coroner concluded, but her aunt’s long-time housekeeper disagreed. She suspected murder.

Returning to New Orleans to claim her inheritance, Emeline thought the harrowing life of a war photojournalist was behind her for a while. She was wrong. Sinister phone calls and blackmail threats, an aggressive real estate agent, and the return of a lost love were only the beginning. Someone was following her.

As the threats against her life and those she loves mount, Emeline stumbles across a fifty-year-old family secret. A secret that could get them all killed.

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Now to decide what to write about the author. Yikes! That’s me!!!

Halloween in the Crescent City

If there was a holiday more suited for New Orleans, I don’t know what it could be. Hoodoo and voodoo and the Krewe Boo, all join forces to bring the Halloween spirit to the Crescent City.

My novel, Crescent City Lies takes place in late spring and early summer, but I can only imagine how my main character Emeline Drake would enjoy the Halloween celebration. Second, only to Mardi Gras, All Hallows Eve is fun for both little ones and adults alike.

From outlandish costumes – really, who better than the good citizens of NOLA to make costumes – to tours of the haunted French Quarter or other parts of the city, New Orleans is the place to be for All Hallows Eve.

Visit a Voodoo shop, join in a street party, enjoy the music and food of the most haunted city in the US and catch the Krewe Boo parade full of scary Three-D props constructed from paper mâché and fiberglass.

I think I’ll write another novel set in New Orleans during Halloween. What better time of the year for a good murder mystery in the Crescent City?

Go Saints!!!

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musings of a southern writer

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