Tag Archives: hbo

Inspiration and Ambience – New Orleans

To those of you who know me it will come as no surprise that one of my favorite places in the world is New Orleans. I lived there when I was a child and it got into my blood and has never left. 

For a long time I visited there at least once a year, sometimes three or four, but I haven't been back since Katrina hit and when I was invited by some friends to visit there for Mardi Gras 2012 I jumped on the chance.

Unfortunately, scheduling meant I couldn't get there until Monday afternoon, so I missed most of the smaller parades as well as Bacchus, but I was still excited just to see any part of it.

I love the drive down there, although it can be frustrating since the bridges over the Atchafalaya River Basin and the final stretch into the Big Easy can become blocked by the slightest thing, causing unbelievable traffic jams. This time the roads were busy but clear.

The friends had suggested I take a different route once I got to town because of the road closures and traffic . Usually I take the Vieux Carre exit off of I-10, which puts you right into the French Quarter but they advised taking 610 off of 10 and then taking Elysian Fields to St. Claude, St. Claude to Rampart, and Rampart to Iberville on which the hotel was located.

You may be asking why I would be so specific as to the route I took but for those of you familiar with N'awlins will recognize that that path took me right through Treme, the section of the city where Jazz was probably born and also the namesake and location of the HBO series which is one of the best shows on television right now.

It truly, truly gets you into a New Orleans frame of mind, especially if you are a history nut like me, to drive that route and watch the residents of New Orleans, because there aren't a lot of tourists there, making their way to and from the parades. Back to Treme in a minute.

It is impossible for any writer to come to New Orleans and not spot people and places that inspire them. I saw one pretty young woman in a flowing sun dress pedaling her bicycle through the neighborhood, dodging cars and costumed pedestrians, a loaf of french bread in a paper wrapper sticking from her bike basket. Her dress was obviously a little older, she wore no makeup, and the bicycle was beat up but she had a big smile on her face. You could read how happy she was to be out and around that day and how much she loved the city.

The issues with race, a bad economy, the fact that the city still wasn't (and may not ever be) back to normal, and that it was drizzling rain were all banished from thousands of minds when the Orpheus Krewe rolled that night. We had a great place and were bombarded with beads, part of which we kept and part of which we shared with the kids around us.

I remember right after Katrina and getting incredibly mad when some politician remarked that New Orleans shouldn't have money poured into rebuilding when it might flood again and all I could think of was that the man obviously had never been there or at least not where I was.

A writer, I can't call myself an artist, draws material from whoever they see and wherever they are. That's one reason why New Orleans keeps popping up in my work, like in No' Chance, when the gang heads for a showdown there. I have no doubt that people I saw and met over the last couple of days will show up in my work eventually.

I also have to say that I had one of the greatest life experiences ever when I was leaving NO this morning (Ash Wednesday). It may sound a little morbid, but it is what it is.

When we were driving out today I decided to take the long way out and swing back through Treme. I had the soundtrack from the series playing and the song was by the Treme Brass Band. I took a wrong turn but could see the road I wanted to get to a few blocks up and decided just to go that way. Within a few feet I was amazed to see a New Orleans funeral procession (Google it if you don't know what I am talking about) come around the corner dancing their way back to the church just ahead. I was even more astounded to see that the band playing for the mourners was the Treme Brass Band, the same one that I was listening to. 

We lowered our windows, turned the music off, and listened and watched until the procession broke up.

For me, it was one of the coolest experiences in my life. Although it was a funeral, which is why I said it is morbid, for me to happen upon a traditional funeral…in New Orleans…in Treme…with the Treme Brass Band playing…on Ash Wednesday…on my first time back in so many years…it meant a lot to me.

And now, from the HBO series that is absolutely phenomenal, Treme, I bring you Steve Zahn and his character's take on President Bush's reaction to Katrina.

Kudos for Good Writing

Of course I love to read, but I'm a fan of good writing for the movies, television, or anywhere else it applies (like advertisements). 

Just last night I was struck by the fact that some of the best writing being done now is on the series done for HBO and Showtime.

I was burnt by a short lived series called John From Cincinnati that was on HBO. It was a series about God, aliens, family, and most importantly, surfing. However, it was cancelled after the first season leaving a zillion unanswered questions. I can see why it was cancelled since it was very much out of the mold of mind numbing pablum that the general public demands. It required a lot of thought and didn't serve up any easy answers. Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal show and I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind putting in a wee bit of effort to try and understand the ideas behind it. Plus, you may spot something i didn't and be able to share your insights with me.

I've told you before of my fondness of True Blood. Unlike the books, the series just seems to get better as it goes on and doesn't bounce around as much. The books appear disjointed and at times the author completely disregards the timelines she has created,which can cause a but of confusion. This is one of the times when a screen adaptation actually surpasses, or at least enhances, the books since you can now envision the characters she discusses. I think the writers of the small screen versions have done a great job of taking the basic idea behind a single book and turning it into a season long series.

Boardwalk Empire is one that I waited until the second season to start watching, primarily because I wasn't sure that it would make it to Season 2 and I didn't want to get disgusted again. I watched Season 2, and then bought Season 1 on DVD so that I could catch the back stories. It is absolutely phenomenal. Steve Buscemi is a great actor, he always has been in everything he has played, but they have finally managed to find a role that is big enough to allow him to be a non-typical leading man. However, it isn't his acting that makes the show it is definitely the writing. The characters are complex and deep, the story lines fold and unfold, and history is interwoven with fiction. I did hate the turn that Season 2 took at the end, with the loss of a great character, but we'll see how the show develops next season.

That's enough for today, other than to urge you to read my books. I'm still hard at work on the second book in both the Junebug and the Noah Chance series as well as working on another novel and occasionally piddling with my zombie screenplay.

The books should be available in printed form soon but in the meantime you can find them all at my author's page on Amazon.com and on BarnesAndNoble.com for the Nook reader at here, here and here.

Sookie Stackhouse – A Great Job of Using Place and Character

Anyone who wants to be an author also needs to be a reader. 

I am and always have been a voracious reader, just as Junebug is in Junebug and the Body. I read almost every kind of book that is out there and recently began reading the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, brought to the screen in the HBO series True Blood.. The novels are set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, La. but if you listen to the distances and references in the books it is obvious that, in the author's mind, Bon Temps isn't far from my home town of Natchitoches, La. 

One day I want to meet Ms. Harris and ask her if she ever lived around here because she has done a fantastic job of capturing characters and the ambience of the area.

I was reading one section today and wanted to put it here because I think the language and  feel it evokes is great. The language isn't flowery and probably couldn't be considered prose, but it is on the money as far as accuracy.

This is from Dead as a Doornail. The setup is:

Sookie is at the hospital visiting a man who is also a shape shifter, technically a were-panther. The man was shot from ambush by an unknown sniper. In the last book he had indicated that he would like to marry and protect Sookie.

"My Gran would have urged me to accept Calvin's offer. He was a steady man, was a shift leader at Norcross, a job that came with good benefits. You might think that's laughable, but wait until you have to pay for insurance all by yourself, then laugh."

It's a short passage, just a snippet from a longer paragraph, but Ms. Harris has caught a very, very real part of the psyche behind the men in that part of Louisiana taking a particular job. Good benefits.

It is these type of real world details that make her books sing with realism, even when dealing with vampires, were-people, and witches.

I'm putting an Amazon link at the bottom of this post to the 8 book boxed set. I wish I had bought it at the start because I would have saved money