Category Archives: Louisiana

Finally Finished – The New Book for Middle Grade readers

I finally finished my new book.

I was hoping to finish it in February but medical and other issues forced me to keep pushing it back. But, in a marathon session when we were in Austin last week, I managed to knock out 20,000 words (and in the process went over my goal by 10,000 words) but the first book in a series for middle-grade readers is finished.  Now on to the final edits, the cover, and printing. This one will likely not be a Kindle book, thus available only in print.

The title is The Magic Toilet and is the first in a series.

Basically, the twins, Robert and Anthony, have a toilet in their home which somehow transports them to other times and places. In this first book, an unfortunate accident while cleaning the bathroom lands the twins in Frankia, a place with magicians, knights, and dragons, along with a monster who wants to destroy them all.

I started this book by jotting down a title and a few notes back when my sons were in junior high school, they’ll be 26 next month, and on a whim decided to finish it out. I’m pretty happy overall but writing a book for the middle-grades is harder than I thought it would be.

The book will be officially released at the Natchitoches-NSU Folklife Festival in my hometown of Natchitoches, La., on Saturday, July  21, 2018. Of course, it will be available on this website on that date as well but I’d love to see anyone who’d like to get a book autographed and talk to me about the Natchitoches area.

2018 Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival

2018 Natchitoches – NSU Folk Festival

I’ll be back at the Natchitoches NSU (Northwestern State University) Folk Festival on July 21, 2018. As I’ve told my readers before this is my absolute favorite appearance I make as an author. Not only is it in my hometown of Natchitoches, La., but it is held at my alma mater and Dr. Shane Rasmussen and his crew at the Folk Center do a tremendous job of putting together a great festival (click here for information on what types of crafts will be covered) with phenomenal Louisiana food from Natchitoches Meat Pies to a big bowl of cooked greens served with cornbread or hush puppies, or even the “Indian Fry Bread” which I believe is prepared by the Alabama Coushatta Tribe. I recommend stopping by one of the booths which sell handcrafted Jellies and buying a jar so you can smear some of that on top of the fry bread.

I have been invited and will be doing a presentation from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. on Family & Folk History: The Best Sources for Stories, in one of the meeting rooms. Of course, there will be bands playing on different stages all day long as well as participants in the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship.

Interestingly, I got my start doing historical research at the Cammie G. Henry Collection in what was then called the Louisiana Room at the Eugene P. Watson Library on the NSU campus. That collection will have a booth at the festival hosted by Dr. Mary Linn Wernet and her staff from the library and she always has interesting things to talk about and photos of Natchitoches that even I’ve never seen before.

I’ll have copies of all of my books available for signing and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Folk Festival and the Folk Center to help keep Louisiana culture and history alive. I should have my first children / middle-grade book available and launched at the festival. The title of this one? “The Magic Toilet”. Yes, it’s not like my normal books but it is a title and topic I’ve had on my mind since my now 25-year-old twins were just little kids.

Seriously, this festival is the best value of anywhere you can possibly go to since the price of your ticket covers all of the music and crafters and, in addition, it is being held inside the Prather Coliseum which is air conditioned!!!  What more could you ask for during what I am sure is going to be an extra hot July?

Be sure and bring a few extra dollars for food and crafts and stop by my booth and say hello!

A Life Experience – Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday and Leaving New Orleans

Some of my earlier posts have been lost over the years (thanks to crappy security at GoDaddy hosting) and this one came to mind because 1) the family is all working on their bucket lists and 2) today is Ash Wednesday.

New Orleans, La. Mardi Gras Parade

When I go to book signings and conferences, the most common question I’m asked,  like most writers, is “Where do you get New Orleans, La. Mardi Gras Paradeyour ideas?” I always tell people it’s because of something I’ve seen or done somewhere which triggered the initial idea. In No’ Chance, the first book in the Noah Chance series, you’ll notice the heroes of the book end up in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world. The places I talk about in the book are real, and to make it as authentic as possible I even try to get the addresses, directions, number of blocks, etc. all correct.

I lived in New Orleans when I was a kid and so Mardi Gras isn’t a new thing for me. However, several years ago Karren and I were invited to go back with some friends of ours (Thanks Jack and Denise!) .

As long as you don’t get claustrophobic in crowds and understand NOLA culture and people then everybody should do Mardi Gras in New Orleans at least once in their life.  There are a lot of places that celebrate it, Galveston and Jefferson, Tx.,

New Orleans, LA, Mardi Gras Indians. Look for them on Mardi Gras day or Super Sunday.

Mobile, Al., and Mamou, La. are several cities which come to mind, each with their own twist.

However, the most famous Mardi Gras is in the Crescent City and nobody does it like them. There are several different parades on different days, there are the Mardi Gras Indians in the Zulu Parade, and so many other things it’s impossible to cover them all.

This last time we wrapped up our trip on Fat Tuesday and watched the New Orleans Police come through and “clear the streets” at midnight, a time honored tradition, and left the next day on Ash Wednesday.

While leaving we took a couple of turns to try and avoid some traffic and ended up in the Treme District, the front vehicle following a “street funeral”. While it added a while onto the trip, my wife and I couldn’t miss this and so we watched the procession make its way down the street, with the Treme Brass Band playing music as they marched.  This was truly one for the bucket list.

If you don’t understand most of what I’ve talked about in this post, it’s because you’re not familiar with New Orleans and I’d suggest you read up a little and even watch the Treme series from HBO. Of course, I’d also suggest you give No’ Chance a read since there’s a lot of history and culture in there as well.

In the meantime, here’s a video showing them playing in the HBO series. The same song, the same band, in the same neighborhood. When I find the video I shot with my phone I’ll post it as well:

 

Finishing Up New Book

The new book should be with the editor by the end of February at the latest!

The first bunch of books I worked on seemed to fly by, the writing was generally easy and things went pretty smooth even though the publishing on Amazon Kindle and Createspace was still a little glitchy.

However, on the ones I’m working on now, it has been one problem after another.

I decided, after doing a story reading to some kids at the school in Coushatta, La. (with Dr. Shane Rasmussen of the Folklife Center at Northwestern State University ) to do a Middle School – Young Adult book. The fact that at every appearance and festival I’ve attended I’d always been asked if I had any children’s books played a part as well.

As with many of my works, I had the title for a while. The outline of the book popped into my head not long after the visit to the school and, like I usually do, I made some notes and saved them then started writing. In the meantime I would jump from one project to another but always meant to go ahead and wrap up the kids book.

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a health issue which slowed me down for a little while and after that broke my shoulder in two places and banged my head a good one while on vacation. It took a while, a lot longer than when I was young, to heal up and get to the point I could use the keyboard again.

When I finally recovered enough to sit down and get back to work on the book…my notes had disappeared! I still had the first pages I’d written but not my notes. And, apparently the bang to the head had whacked my memory just a little since, for the first time ever, I couldn’t remember how a story I was working on was supposed to progress!

So I’ve spent months now looking for the notes and trying to recreate the ending in my head. Finally, I just decided that it must not have been that good if I’d forgotten and decided to figure out a new storyline using the characters I already had in the book. Once I did that…BANG!!!…a new story appeared and I could use what I’d already written, work in a little mythology,  a little history, and I’m right back on track. Note: this time I made a file with the notes and saved it in several places, plus I wrote it down on a piece of paper.

So by the end of the month I will have (hopefully) finished the first in a new series of books for kids. I won’t tell you the name yet, but I can tell you it has dragons, knights, twin boys named Robert and Anthony (which just happens to be the names of my twin sons) toilets, poo, wizards, and all kinds of other good things!

I’ll announce when it’s ready but it will definitely be completed in paperback for he appearance this summer at the Natchitoches – Northwestern State University Folklife Festival held at the NSU campus on Saturday, July 21, 2018.

If you’ve never been to Natchitoches, Louisiana you should put it on your calendar for this year. It is a beautiful city, the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, and where numerous movies have been filmed including Steel Magnolias, The Horse Soldiers, and many others. There are gorgeous plantations outside of town, history everywhere, Kisatchie National Forest (the site of the turpentine camp in my first book, The Bottle Tree), and so much more. Plus, it’s a reasonably priced place to visit and the Folklife Festival tickets are a great value! It’s my favorite venue to meet people and sell books.

I should have this book and one other new one ready for this year’s festival, maybe more!

 

New Books Coming Soon!

I’ve gotten a few communications on my annual appearance at the Natchitoches/NSU Folklife Festival and whether I will have any new books there and I thought I’d do a short post.

We have an anthology we have put together of some older (pre-1920s) pieces concerning Louisiana as well as the poems from the collection I’m still working on. Also included in the anthology will be the full version of The Bottle Tree, which will also be available as a standalone book. 

In addition, we are working to get a couple of other books together using pre-1920s works which we thought were interesting. Karren is coming across these while helping me do research for my novel, Louisiana, which is still a ways off.

Hopefully, I’ll also have the second book in the Junebug series completed. The title is Junebug and the Monkey. I’m about 25,000+ words into it (100 pages or so) but that’s only about a third finished. For some reason this books is fighting me as hard as I’m fighting it. As many of you know, I’ve always felt that the characters in my book come to visit and sit with me to tell their story but in this case they just won’t come to visit. Still, with any luck it’ll be ready for the festival which is July 15-16, 2016.

I hope to see all of you there!

Northwestern State University to Host the 7th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference September 11-12

LA Studies Conference Poster-2015NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University will host the Sixth Annual Louisiana Studies Conference September 11-12 in the Creative and Performing Arts Complex. The conference opens at 2:30 PM on September 11, and presentations start at 3:15 PM Scholars from throughout Louisiana and eight other states and the United Kingdom will make presentations on aspects of  Louisiana art, history, culture, and literature. Admission to the conference is free and open to the public.

This year’s conference theme is Louisiana Cultural Crossroads. Throughout the two days numerous scholars and creative writers will make presentations. Some of the many topics to be discussed include Louisiana literature, film, and TV, Solomon Northrup, discrimination, vernacular medicine, Choctaw-Apache foodways, voodoo and hoodoo, the blues, the African American experience along the Cane River, archival research and practice, the New Orleans Photo Alliance, oral history collection, the Civil Rights movement, the New Orleans Athletic Club, Buddhism in Louisiana, Creole interior design, colonial Louisiana architecture, the restoration of the African House at Melrose Plantation, mounds in Louisiana, post-Katrina regional competitiveness in New Orleans, traditional occupations, Louisiana wetlands, heritage education, cemeteries, cowboy and cowgirl culture, and language teaching, acquisition, and change. Also included will be panels on the Neutral Strip and professional wrestling in Louisiana. Several creative writers will also address the conference theme, including poets Nina Adel, John P. Doucet, and David Middleton. Also featured will be a dance performance by the Tekrema Center of Art and Culture, and an interactive hambone demonstration and performance with Ed Huey.

The Friday evening keynote, “The Crossroads of a Genre: Exploring the Innovation of Hurricane  Katrina Literature and Popular Culture,” will be given by Dr. Lisa Kirby, director of the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies and Professor of English at Collin College in Spring Creek, Texas, at 6 PM in the Magale Recital Hall.

The Saturday morning keynote, “The Louisiana World Tour: A Photographic & Philosophical Road Trip through the State of My World,” will be given by performance artist and photographer Natasha Sanchez, at 10:30 AM Magale Recital Hall. An exhibit of Sanchez’s photographs will be open for conference participants.

Ms. Sanchez’s address will be followed by the presentation of the winning essays from the 7th Annual NSU Louisiana High School Essay Contest. For this year’s Contest theme, “Louisiana Time Machine!” students addressed the prompt “If you could meet and talk with any Louisianan from the past, present, or future for one hour, who would you choose and why?” The winning essays will be presented at the conference and will also be published in the Louisiana Folklife Journal, the Louisiana Folklife Center’s scholarly journal. This year’s Contest winners are Brant Guerin from Redemptorist High School in Greenwell Springs, for his first place essay, “‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich,” Chelsea Franklin from Crowley High School in Crowley, with her second place essay “The Mysteries of Huey Long,” and Andrea Bradley of Westminster Christian Academy in Ville Platte, for her third place essay “A Talk with the Madam.”

“The essays by this year’s contest winners are magnificent,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the Louisiana Folklife Center at NSU and co-chair of both the conference and the essay contest. “These young writers have managed to capture in words just what makes the historical figures they imagine meeting both interesting and significant.”

“Louisiana is one of those places with great diversity,” said conference participant Dr. Hiram “Pete” Gregory, Professor of Anthropology at NSU. “They come down the rivers, they come along the roads, and they all get together here.”

“This year’s conference theme will highlight some of the many ways that folks in Louisiana have influenced each other at a variety of cultural crossroads,” said Rasmussen. “The significance of these influences upon Louisiana culture cannot be overestimated. Louisianans are stronger and better because of our diversity. I am excited to hear and see what this year’s conference participants will tell us. The conference is free and open to the public, and we want to invite anyone who is interested in how Louisiana has become the state that it is to join us and to take part in these conversations.

A complete conference schedule can be found on the Louisiana Folklife Center’s website at https://louisianafolklife.nsula.edu/. For more information call the Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332.

The Conference is co-sponsored by the NSU Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies, the Friends of the Hanchey Gallery, the Louisiana Folklife Center, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the NSU College of Arts and Sciences, the NSU Department of Fine + Graphic Arts, the NSU Writing Project, the NSU Office of the President, and the NSU Office of the Provost.