Tag Archive | New Orleans

Procrastination or a Break?

How we define what we’re doing is a matter of perception. My writing plan is to write 5 days week for 4 hours, but I’m not doing that right now. Mardi Gras was a good excuse since one of the big parades goes through my neighborhood. But that was last Saturday and Fat Tuesday was two days ago. The really good news is that I received a contract from Soul Mate Publishing the beginning of February for a new story–The Taste of Her. Will advise when it’s going to be published. That success makes me very happy, and perhaps after I quit celebrating, I’ll get back to work.

What I’m doing instead is taking pictures in City Park. IMG_0895
Here one of the black swans, swimming toward us. See how his wings are lifted. That’s aggressive behavior. He’s telling us not to get too close. We had our 3 dogs with us.
Here’s why. The two have built a nest on a small island in the lagoon that runs along City Park Avenue. Hopefully, folks won’t notice them since they blend in so thoroughly. The orange stripe on their beaks is almost the only way you can find them. We are in great hopes that they will produce cygnets in a couple months. We haven’t any cygnets, black or white, since before Katrina. See my post about the black swan that was injured protecting her nest from vandals last spring. Post title is “Wildlife in New Orleans” from March 19, 2013.

So enough procrastinating this morning. And by the way, if you haven’t read my first novella, The Red Halter Top, I have to ask – “What are you waiting for?”


The Joys of Writing

I’m a happy woman when I am writing. Welcome to the Soul Mate BLOG HOP. After you’ve enjoyed my comments and pictures, please return to Cheryl’s site to continue hopping.

My writing schedule is three to four hours a day, whether creating a new story (that’s the best) or editing and fixing one (harder but still satisfying). I don’t try to work on Sat or Sun, mostly because there are too many distractions when my husband is home. God Bless Him, he seems to think that a ‘quick question’ is not an interruption–where’s the grocery list? Did you see my glasses? What are we having for dinner?
The rest of my household (my younger son, his wife, and son, and my older son) are usually gone to work or school and/or sleeping in the mornings, which is when I write. But we can’t forget the three dogs and two birdsIMG_0828IMG_0660
Here are two of the dogs – our pug and the nine-month-old Golden Retiever. The Golden is a rambunctious and high energy dog who stirs up the other two. The third one – our yellow lab IMG_0537
is shown here with parrot poop on his head. Was standing in the path when I carried the parrot into the kitchen.IMG_0021The point of all this that I have an endless supply of ideas and incidents to include in my stories. The first one doesn’t have any pets, but all the rest do. The Taste of Her has an akita, and we had one until she had cancer. Miss her still.IMG_0027

Happy reading and enjoy my novella–The Red Halter Top, and watch for The Taste of Her–coming soon. Back to the BLOG HOP http://www.cherylyeko.com/

Headphones are a Hazard

Excuse the rant today, but I have to comment on the growing tendency of nearly everyone to wear headphone, especially when walking. We’ve all seen the jokes of folks tripping or falling in holes because they have their faces in their phones. But the headphones can be dangerous when we’re not paying attention to where we are or what’s happening.
I ride my ol’ lady three-wheel bike in City Park about three mornings a week, and almost all the folks walking are wearing headphones. They are so engrossed in the music or whatever and/or have the sound so loud that they cannot hear me when I ring my bike bell to warn them I’m trying to pass. Dangerous. Even folks walking with others are lost in their head phones.
I tend to see some of the same people walking each day, and my game is to try to get them to say hello. My results are poor, but I’ll keep up speaking to them anyway.
I’m proposing that we have a headphone-free day to encourage folks to talk to their friends, greet the others on the walking path, listen to the squawking of the birds and ducks, and generally become aware of the world.
What do you think?

How do you name your characters?

I began today with a picture of a medieval structure in Santa Margarita in northern Italy. My husband and I were on a cruise last fall, and I particularly wanted to see Italy since I have written an historical romance set in 17th Century Italy. IMG_0010 This fortress stood overlooking the harbor and the stone matched my descriptions in the manuscript. I struggled in writing this, however, because I needed both Italian names and ones used in the 17th Century.

I discovered that choosing names for your fiction characters can be challenging. (and some writers are saying “Duh!” ) Knowing this, I’ve still gotten stuck on names. Now contemporary names for Italian characters wasn’t impossible because I bought a copy of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Charcter Naming Sourcebook. It includes sections for male or female names, including family names, for many different cultures and ethnicities. She also added the meaning of each name and a fourteen-page essay on the ‘Art of Naming.’ But I had to research names appropriate to my time frame as well. I ended up using Aimee, Maria, Portia, Isabella, Santina and Domenica for the women and Henri, Carlo, Piero, Luca and Michel for the men.

In my mystery manuscripts I have used typical North American names and tried to throw in a bit of the New Orleans culture (which was not in Kenyon’s book). We have French, Creole, and Cajun heritages represented in names here, and many have been Anglicized or corrupted, if you prefer.
When I was teaching, students always got a laugh at my Yankee-based attempts to pronounce local first and last names. I grew up in Baltimore, and that makes you a Yankee in the deep south.
We have locals with last names like Roux, pronounced “Roo,” and Boute, pronounced “Boo-Tee.” and of course, Bourgeois, but you probably know that one. How about Gautreaux? It’s pronounced “Go-trow.” I won’t even try Troulliet or Troxclair. Then you can throw in a significant contingent of Vietnamese. It became impossible.

One thing I observed in reading other writers’ manuscripts was that names should be distinct. I recall one writer who gave all the male characters first names beginning with ‘J.’ I couldn’t keep them straight–Jason, Jared, Jack, Jeff, Joshua. It was very confusing, and I think she was persuaded to change them.
Another warning is referring to the same character with multiple names, such as using a man’s first name, his last name only (common in jobs, sports, etc), and then throw in a nickname. The reader loses track of who the writer is referring to.
Obviously, your character’s name have to be considered carefully. Women’s names in romance tend to be softer and regionally appropriate. Yet, a story set in Chicago would be fun with a woman named Dixie or Billie Jo or even Bobbie Mae. Hero’s names should be strong and masculine, although a hero named Kyle or Bruce could be fun, too.

When I’m really been stuck, I’ve taken the New Orleans phone book, blindly picked a page, and stuck my forefinger down. I got some useful, local names that way. My hero in the current manuscript, at this point, at least, is named Jim Oliver, and the heroine is Margaret Angelo. She’s a homicide detective and hates to be called Maggie, which the other cops do to piss her off.

If you’re a writer, tell me how you decide on names for your characters. I’m always interested in unique ways to make these important decisions.

Red Letter Day-First Publication

Today is the DAY. My novella, THE RED HALTER TOP, is out – available on Amazon. Whoopee, Dancing and Singing. Red Halter Top 5 final copy 72 DPI
In the meantime, Spring is almost over in New Orleans. Azalea bushes are finished and returning to big, boring bushes that now need to be trimmed. The one overhanging my driveway especially.
French Quarter Fest starts tomorrow–a three-day food, music and drinking festival on the streets of the Quarter. Here’s a link, if you’re interested: http://www.fqfi.org/frenchquarterfest/ But the bad news is that strong thunderstorms and rain are predicted for this afternoon and into tomorrow. Bummer.
The biggest Spring festival is Jazz Fest – http://www.nojazzfest.com/ This is a ten-day long outdoor festival held at the Fair Grounds, a race track about five blocks from my house. I used to live even closer, and these two weekends tie up the parking, congest the traffic, and from my porch I can hear the sounds of the festival, but not any one musician. There are dozens of stages, big star performers, and it seems like hundreds of food booths and juried crafts for sale. You can’t just show up and try to sell your handicrafts or food. You have to submit samples for their approval. Hopefully, the weather will be better for Jazz Fest. But except for shutting down the huge music stages with all the electrical sound equipment, thunderstorms don’t seem to deter the crowds. See more details here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Orleans_Jazz_%26_Heritage_Festival . Besides the threats of thunderstorms, the other warning about Jazz Fest is that by the end of April, we’re into summertime. It’s very hot and humid.
So after promoting my novella and promoting New Orleans, I am happy to report that I started a new story as soon as I finished that blog about what to do next. https://aliceakemp.com/2013/03/26/how-do-you-decide/. I opened a folder I’d set up labeled “New Ideas” and guess what I found inside? I laughed out loud. There was only one sticky note with a phrase I’d written down from something I read. The phrase was “He loved the taste of her mouth.” And a whole story opened in front of me – the title: “The Taste of Her” is a murder mystery where the bad guy seeks to lick the women he captures and kills. I’m nearly fifty pages into it and having a great time.

What goes on in the Spring where you live? What are you working on? I’m also finishing a quilt for my husband’s niece. Will post some pictures next time.
Have a beautiful day, and if you decide to buy my book and like it, give me a good review and tell your friends. If you don’t like it, please just tell me. (-:

Caesar’s Recovery

This is Caesar – he’s a 15-month-old British Lab. They look somewhat different from the typical Labs we see with their long noses, but he has the personality of a Lab, especially now that he’s no longer in pain. He had severe bilateral hip displasia. Notice in the picture how he sits funny.
But now he’s good – two FHO surgeries – femoral head ostectomy, where they cut off the head of femur where it has been grinding in his hip socket. Rehab exercises are building muscles back to support the femurs.
While he was recovering from the surgeries, it was necessary for my husband, my sons, and my grandson to carry him up and down the steps to go outside. We live in what’s called a raised basement house, that is, we live on the 2nd floor, and the ground floor is the basement (and 2 rented apartments). Houses in New Orleans don’t have basements underground because most of the city is built on filled swamps.
Anyway, I digress. Carrying a 68 lb. dog up and down steps wasn’t fun, and I can’t do it – bad back. But that’s all over. He’s healed up, although his butt was shaved and is still absent the hair.IMG_0339 But it’s starting to grow back.

These days he’s able to leap up on the couch without any trouble and sleeps there for hours. Another couple weeks of rehab – where they have him walk a treadmill in water and other strengthening exercises, and he’ll be good to go.

What kind of pets do you have? Are they in good health? We’ve got 2 dogs and 2 birds. Only quiet here so long as no one rings the door bell or the parrot runs out of food. If I can’t work in the noise and the mess, I’m in trouble, my friends.
One last thing – be on the lookout for my short story – The Red Halter Top, coming out on with Soul Mate Publishing on Amazon April 10. I’ll post the link.

Wildlife in New Orleans

New Orleans is a city with a variety of attractions. Bourbon Street’s strip and music clubs often top the list for visitors. But I live near City Park, a 1,300 acre public park within the city. Even though I mainly visit only a small portion, you’ll be amazed at the different kinds of birds I see practically on a daily basis. Canadian geese, barnyard geese, mallards, kingfishers, cormorants, even pelicans in the winter months. Swans are my favorite, however.

We had a nesting pair and a brood of cygnets before Katrina, but none since. It’s hard to tell the males from the females, except the males are somewhat bigger. Notice how this one glares at me – probably because my dogs are too close.

Swans are large, fierce birds you don’t want to mess with, especially when they have a nest. There’ve been a couple of nests built and tended to in the last few years, but no cygnets. Not sure whether predators (racoons, nutria-big rat-like critters) get the eggs or pollution prevents their development or other problems. IMG_0513

I understand swans mate for life, and the saddest thing I ever saw was a lone swam swimming through the lagoons after Katrina flooded the whole area, calling and clearly searching for other swans. These are so-called mute swans, but sometimes you can hear their call – like a soft shriek. A few months later, a donor from Texas gave the park two white and two black swans.

Only one black swan remains, so far as I see, and she was hurt by some vandals who destroyed her nest and eggs (haven’t seen two black swans, but somehow she produced eggs). Named Amanda, the swan is recovering at the clinic of our bird vet, Dr. Gregory Rich. She’s going to be fine. http://newsle.com/article/0/58611741/ This link connects to a picture of her.

Two white swans remain as well, and this week I saw one of them building a nest on a small island in one of the lagoons. Will keep track and post pictures as things develop. Cross your fingers; we might have more cygnets.

Don’t you wish you lived in New Orleans?

P.S. The weather today is clear, sunny, and 64 degrees.