Tag Archives: fiction

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/

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.

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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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