Tag Archives: southern us

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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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.

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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*** Coming Soon*** Crescent City Lies

I’m excited, my first novel Crescent City Lies is currently being edited. A romantic suspense, it’s the story of a woman who inherits a home and art gallery in New Orleans from her great-aunt, only to discover her aunt may have been murdered.  Stay tuned for more on the book and a prequel to introduce the main character.

With publishing is just around the corner and I thought it would be fun to document the journey.  I know the publishing process can be frustrating and daunting for a lot of people. Hopefully, by posting the trials and tribulations of publishing through Amazon Kindle, I can help take some of the mystery out of the process.

Hope you will join me in my journey to publication!

 

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I’m Back!!!

 

Mexico City Beach

My wonderful family just took me to the beach hoping it would make me feel better…. It did! This is the pier on Mexico City Beach, Florida, where we visited last week.

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Greetings, all!

February is nearly behind us. I had all intentions to pay attention to my blog in 2016 but I have been sick since before Christmas with chronic bronchitis. The fog is beginning to lift and my intention is to return, posting more short stories, as well as posting more chapters of the novels. The Pegasus Star and The Last Chance, I’m serializing on the blog. I also want to discuss the writing process and what has helped me become a better writer.

There is one thing I must do, however, before I can continue. Many of the short stories I posted here are results of prompts provided on a wonderful site on WordPress, Monday’s Finish the Story.  The moderator, Barbara Beacham, was a photographer as well as a writer and she gave us weeks of fun as we played with words to match her excellent, thought-provoking prompts.  Barbara shared with her loyal followers that she was ill and in November 2015, her husband informed us she had passed away.

All of us know the friends we find on the Internet can become as important to us as those we touch in our lives every day. My life was enriched by this lovely woman and diminished by her loss. Barbara’s wit, kind comments, support and overall joy is sorely missed, not only by her family but by those of us who got to know her and each other while participating on Monday’s Finish the Story. May she rest in peace.

I will be more attentive to The Coastal Quill and thank all of you who follow me.

Chat soon!

Debbie

Short Story: Someday

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Someday

Hey boys, how ’bout y’all makin’ yer Ma some wind chimes?”

William never expected to find the old wind chimes he and his cousins made for their grandmother Julia one muggy summer day along the South Carolina coast. He discovered the chimes in the rickety shed, Ma Julia’s words echoing in his mind.

Wrapped in tissue paper, the chimes looked nearly pristine after all the years. He chuckled, the words “redneck wind chimes” amusing now. So young at the time, they didn’t understand what the word ‘redneck’ meant, only that they’d heard it. He remembered how Ma Julia had laughed until tears flowed down her face.

She gathered them together, “Boys… our skin don’t turn red, but we’re just as important as those that do. Someday, this word and the words they call us will no longer be hateful, and we’ll live as friends.”

William waited for someday.

Word Count:  148

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This story is dedicated to the citizens of Charleston, SC who proved in the face of tragedy that someday is possible. I grew up in South Carolina, and from an early age the segregation I witnessed bothered me. I didn’t understand why I could walk into the front of the dime store, yet black people had to use the rear entrance. Fortunately, I was raised by very fair-minded people who taught me racism in any form was wrong.

The moving sight of thousands marching together on the Ravenel Bridge will stay with me forever.

Link to Ravenel Bridge story…. http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150621/PC16/150629842

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mondays-finish-the-story Written for the wonderful writing challenge, Mondays Finish the Story. Each Monday, Barbara Beacham posts a picture prompt, along with the first line of the story. The stories must be between 100-150 words and must include the given first line, shown in italics in the story.

Special thanks to Barbara Beacham for sharing her excellent photography skills to provide such challenging prompts. Check out the MFTS blog… some great short stories posted.  https://mondaysfinishthestory.wordpress.com/ 

Direct link to this week’s stories… http://new.inlinkz.com/view.php?id=536225

May Day Memories…

Happy May Day

The first day of May brings wonderful memories for me. I grew up in Aiken, South Carolina and each May Day the school system held a celebration. As a first grader, I was selected as a court attendant, called princesses, for the May Queen. Which, when you are six-years-old is a magical thing.

Required dress for the occasion was white and frilly. My mother bought a dotted Swiss dress with a flouncy skirt and tiny ruffles. On May Day, I was convinced I was a Disney princess, the crowning touches, white patent leather shoes with lace-trimmed socks and white gloves.

Arriving at my school where the celebration was held, I couldn’t believe how beautiful the grounds were. Planters filled with flowers were scattered over the lawn and a regal high-backed chair, decked out in red velvet, sat under a flower adorned arbor. On each side of the chair were tiny benches where the princess court would sit. The most imposing feature, however, was the May Pole standing in an open area of the lawn. Painted white, the pole held multi-colored streamers, gracefully falling to the ground.

The highlight of the day was the arrival of the May Queen. Always a high-school senior, the queen was dressed in a long white gown, glittery crown on her head, and she carried a bouquet of colorful flowers. Her golden hair arranged in a French twist, I thought she was more beautiful than Cinderella.

The princesses danced around the May Pole, crisscrossing the streamers until the white pole was covered, not the neatest of wrappings but so much fun. I was an observer of the celebration from then on, but I never forgot my moment as a princess in the May Queen’s court.

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(Images found on Google Images. No commercial use intended.)