Tag Archives: Cresent City Lies

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/

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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!!!

The Garden District of New Orleans

I would venture that when most people think of New Orleans, they conjure images of the French Quarter or a Mardi Gras parade or a bowl of gumbo.  However, there are a few whose minds are immediately drawn to the Garden District.  My love for the District led me to include the area in my novel, “Crescent City Lies.”

Having grown up in the Southern US, I am very familiar with antebellum mansions and lush gardens. My hometown of Aiken, South Carolina is a charming town with beautiful historic houses and another favorite city, Charleston has a plethora of quaint streets lined with spectacular homes and a stroll along the Battery is a step back in time. Yet, despite the familiarity I have with these old homes, I’ll admit to being smitten the first time I visited New Orleans’s Garden District.

Bound by Magazine Street, near the Mississippi River to the south and the famous St. Charles Street and the trolley line to the north, the Garden District is one of the most attractive neighborhoods in the country, boasting well-preserved antebellum homes and immaculate gardens. The area was designed by Barthelemy Lafron in 1382 after the Louisiana Purchase as settlement for American arrivals not anxious to mix with the European residents in the French Quarter. Wealthy from growing cotton and sugar and from the expanding shipping industry, the residents of the Garden District constructed homes in the classic Italianate, Greek Revival, and Victorian styles, contributing to the eclectic atmosphere of the area.

On my first visit to New Orleans, like most tourists, I was anxious to visit the French Quarter. I love quirky and eccentric places and things, and I wasn’t disappointed, the Quarter was all that and more. However, a city guide led to dinner at The Commander’s Palace and intrigued by the neighborhood, we returned the next day.

Despite the early morning hour, the humidity was rising, resting on exposed skin, the air thick with the fragrance of flowers drifting on the soft breeze.  After driving around for a bit, we parked and walked along Prytania Street. Enormous ancient oaks loomed above the sidewalk keeping the secrets of hundreds of years standing as guardians in the District. Quaint clapboard houses of all sizes line the streets, some stately, others whimsical, painted in non-traditional colors. Ornate wrought iron is present everywhere in some fashion, a fence, a railing, a gate often enclosing pristine gardens.

Across the street from The Commander’s Palace restaurant sits the historic Lafayette Cemetery #1. Exceptionally maintained, the cemetery along with the entire Garden District has been commemorated in numerous books, films, and photography.

In my first novel, “Crescent City Lies,” my protagonist inherits her great-aunt’s Garden District home and two pivotal scenes in the novel take place in the cemetery.  The lushness, beauty, and charm of the Garden District inspired me, I hope it will inspire you.

If you have not visited New Orleans do so soon. Take a stroll through the Garden District. Word is you might see Anne Rice working in her garden.

Check out these sites:

The Commander’s Palace

http://www.commanderspalace.com/

Lafayette Cemetery #1

http://www.saveourcemeteries.org/lafayette-cemetery-no-1/

Source: http://www.neworleanscvb.com/visit/neighborhoods/garden-district/

(Photo: One of my favorite houses in the Garden District.  Source: Google Earth)

 

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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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Location, Location, Location

I’m often asked what is so appealing to me about New Orleans and why do I set so many of my stories in New Orleans or Louisiana, Cresent City Lies being one. After all, I’m from South Carolina, a beautiful state with its own vibrant culture and uniqueness. It also has faults as do all places, but we’ll dwell on the positive for now.

When deciding on a setting for a story, I seem to be drawn to the flavor of Louisiana. Nothing like the sultry summer heat in the south, where life slows down, and the humidity rises. The spicy aromas and comforting palate of Cajun food and the smooth sounds of New Orleans jazz are alluring and set a mood that seems to touch my writer’s passion. Wicked antagonists, flawed heroes, and enticing strong women seem to belong in the bayou or the French Quarter.

In reality, I love the beach. Ribbons of sand lapped by waves, air tangy with salt, majestic pelicans soaring against a cornflower blue sky. My heart lies on the shore, rejuvenated by the sun’s heat. My soul rests in the bayou.

At the moment, however, I live in a beautiful place called Spann Hill in southern Kentucky. As you can see from the image below, one taken from the front porch, not a bad place to be. At least, there is water nearby, even has a dock on the huge pond.

I suppose we choose where we want our stories to unfold for lots of reasons. My thoughts always seem to be on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the Battery in Charleston, or an Atlantic beach in Florida. All locations to stir the imagination. Let those places you love spur your stories.

spann-hill

Look for my first novel, Crescent City Lies, to be published in Fall, 2016.

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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Book Covers

The most effective way to entice a reader to read your book is a killer blurb. The question is how do you grab the reader’s attention so they take the time to read it? The best way is by creating a great cover to catch their eye.

I’ve been playing around with Photoshop for several years, so I have this (insane) belief that I can create my own cover.

Delusional, perhaps. Cheaper, definitely.

So I followed the advice of several helpful book cover design sites located through Google and did the following:

• Chose an image that reflects a scene from the story.
• Used only quality images using free-use photos so there are no copyright infringements.
• Title large and easy to read.
• Fonts: No more than two. No comic sans or Papyrus. Did not use all-capital letters, italics, stylized letters. The font is legible.
• Garish colors often turn a reader away according to the tips. I used subtle colors to soothe the eye and allow the title to stand out.
• Followed the guidelines for cover dimensions posted by the publishing platform.

(There was another tip – always use a professional to create a book cover. I ignored that one.)

Crescent City Lies is set in New Orleans and two pivotal scenes take place in a cemetery in the Garden District of the city. I chose to use the iconic tombs from the cemetery to not only represent part of the story but also as symbols of New Orleans.

A side note:

I think book covers are incredibly subjective. It would be a rare cover that garnered universal praise. Personally, I detest the ripped shirt, bare chests images of the male hero of a romance novel. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against bare-chested males. I like them. I do have issues with the notion that there is a standard which must be followed for certain genres, primarily romance. While the argument that the formalistic image makes a romance novel easily recognized is valid, just once I’d like to see a less dramatic, predictable cover.

Well – off the soapbox and on to my attempt at a cover. My cover still needs a bit of tweaking, spacing and the like and as you notice, the area where the blurb should go is still empty. I hate writing blurbs.

I would love your opinion of the cover.

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