Category Archives: Novels

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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Oh Boy!! Close Call!!!

Last night, Microsoft decided I needed an update right at that exact moment. I only had Google Chrome open, so I thought, okay, let’s get this over with. Closed Chrome and hit update.

Oh – wrong move.

When the computer restarted, it would not reboot. I am not an IT guru. I know only enough about computers to make me a pest to IT techs (but I love them). So I did the one thing I was told by a tech to do before you call us, reboot.

I rebooted. Nothing. The Toshiba screen popped up then a gray screen (not even the blue screen of death) appeared with those little rotating dots. I hate those little dots. Nothing happened, even though I waited for thirty minutes.

Grabbing my tablet, I began to look up all combinations of what I assumed had occurred.   Google is a wealth of information, some of it highly confusing I’ve discovered. So I gave up, deciding the Geek Squad was my next stop.

Resigned to the fact that I would be without my laptop for longer than I would be told, I began doing a mental check-up of what was backed up. My manuscript was tucked away in several places as were several works in progress, along with my posts from Writers Unite Workshop, so I hadn’t lost anything. Went to sleep, fairly confident I was only going to be inconvenienced by Microsoft’s mess.

Then I woke up at three a. m. in a cold sweat. The book cover for “Crescent City Lies” is in a Photoshop file in Pictures. The Pictures folder stored only on the laptop’s hard drive and not backed-up.  Oh boy.

When I woke up again around seven, I nervously tapped the start button on the laptop, willing it to life. I didn’t expect it come to life. It didn’t but this time, it seemed to be trying or I was imagining it was. So I rebooted again. Apparently, the computer gods took pity on me. I was back in.

I have written and preached about backing up your work. I have my writing on One Drive, Google Docs, emailed my finished manuscript to myself, and have two flash drives.  Covered, right?  Wrong. I never thought about the book covers or the banners I do for Writers Unite! and its companion groups. What was I thinking?

Apparently, I wasn’t. I do have my photos on Dropbox, but I filled the free Dropbox file up quickly and haven’t gotten around to upgrading. So prelims of my cover were there but not the most recent and nearly completed cover for “Crescent City Lies.”

As of this moment, all important photo files are not only on One Drive and Google Drive but on the flash drive. Next, I am going to upgrade Dropbox so they will sync there.

I have learned my lesson, but it was a close call.

 

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The Muffuletta!

** The Muffuletta **

Have you ever eaten a Muffuletta sandwich? If not, then you’ve likely never visited New Orleans. There is nothing more unique or tasty in the Crescent City.

Emeline Drake, the main character in my novel, “Crescent City Lies,” gets a hankering for one of these delicious sandwiches. A hankering that reopens her past and changes her life.

Yes, the sandwich is that good.

A friend who lives in New Orleans regaled the story of the Muffuletta during a visit. The sandwich was created by the owner of Central Grocery, an Italian market located in the French Quarter. The origin of the name is unclear. It may have been named for a customer or for the baker who created the round Italian bread (the unbelievably delicious bread) used.

There are many places in New Orleans to find this iconic sandwich, but none beat the Central Grocery.

(http://www.centralgrocerynola.com/)

While Central Grocery does mail order, it can be pricey. From the blog “GumboPages,” here is a recipe shared with the blogger by New Orlean’s cook and cookbook author Chiqui Collier. The olive salad recipe is a closely guarded secret by Central Grocery, but this recipe according to Collier comes from the creation of the original muffuletta.

From Collier: “The recipe for the olive salad is the exact way it was given to me. It makes over a gallon, but since your comments indicate that you love it, I’m sure you won’t want to cut it down. It stores very well in the refrigerator for many months and makes great gifts along with the recipe for the sandwich. It does appear in my cookbook, “Cookery N’Orleans Style.”

The Muffuletta

For the olive salad:

• 1-gallon large pimento stuffed green olives, slightly crushed and well drained
• 1-quart jar pickled cauliflower, drained and sliced
• 2 small jars capers, drained
• 1 whole stalk celery, sliced diagonally
• 4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally
• 1 small jar celery seeds
• 1 small jar oregano
• 1 large head fresh garlic, peeled and minced
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 jar pepperoncini, drained (small salad peppers) left whole
• 1 pound large Greek black olives
• 1 jar cocktail onions, drained

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot and mix well. Place in a large jar and cover with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 Crisco oil. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.

For the sandwich:

• 1 round loaf Italian bread
• 1/4 pound mortadella, thinly sliced
• 1/4 pound ham, thinly sliced
• 1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
• 1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, sliced
• 1/4 pound Provolone cheese,sliced
• 1 cup olive salad with oil

Split a muffuletta loaf or a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place meats and cheeses evenly on the bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!

Serves four timid dieters, two hearty New Orleanians or one incredible maiale.

http://www.gumbopages.com/food/samwiches/muff.html

Enjoy!!!!

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