Reflections on Blogging from A to Z

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At the end of March, I made an impulsive decision to participate in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I didn’t even know such a thing existed until a friend and fellow author revealed her theme for the project, so I was already a little bit behind the power curve.  However, I hurriedly came up with a plan and jumped in with both feet.

survivor-atoz2b255b2017255d2bv1So, what happened during April?  I posted at least one blog article every single day except one (my most active month).  I doubled my readership (which wasn’t huge, but still … more eyes!).  I was able to share facts from my various historical fiction projects, and create some buzz about the release of Bayou Fire … which happens today!  Most importantly, I met some really nice people and read some interesting articles across a variety of subjects.  My plan to read every single post on the challenge quickly went by the wayside, but I made a point of visiting several each day.  On average, there were about 150 people per day participating … and most of us made it all the way to the end!

If you would like to read all my posts from the challenge, or if you missed some and want to catch up, they’re at this link.  I had a lot of fun, and I’ve already got next year’s challenge planned.  Look for a theme reveal in March 2018!

Blogging from A to Z: Z is for Zydeco

zCan you believe it?  We’re on the last day of #atozchallenge!  I’ll talk more about my experience in a reflections post tomorrow.  For now, let’s get to the business at hand.

Zydeco is a genre of music with its roots in southern Louisiana.  A lot of people think it’s the same thing as Cajun music, but it really isn’t.  Cajun music primarily consists of waltzes and two-steps that came from Acadia — what we now call Nova Scotia.  It came primarily out of white communities.  Zydeco is a little bit more like rhythm and blues, and it came primarily from the people of color.  Another difference is that zydeco is primarily sung in Louisiana Creole, or kouri-vini.  The outside influences are similar, in that both genres feature accordion (button or piano), violin, and rhythm.  The latter is a good way to tell the difference if you’re unsure; Cajun music uses a triangle, and zydeco uses a frottoir, or rub board.

So, where did the term come from?  According to Lee Benoit, a Cajun musician from Rayne, Louisiana, a music journalist had been listening to Clifton Chenier perform a song called “Les Haricots Ne Pas Salé” and asked what the music was called.  Chenier’s Creole accent was so heavy that the journalist wrote down what he thought he heard: zydeco.  Some of the big names in zydeco are the late Boozoo Chavis, Rockin’ Dopsie, the late Buckwheat Zydeco and, of course, Chenier.

I’m delighted to present two zydeco greats today.  The first track is Clifton Chenier’s “M’appel Fou” (They Call Me Crazy), and the second is a fun video featuring Boozoo Chavis’ “Motor Dude Special” — a song named after Chavis’ horse.  Laissez les bontemps rouler!

Blogging from A to Z: Y is for Yellow

Samuel stepped out onto the balcony. Clytie was pressed against the balustrade, trembling in terror.

 
Clyties_Caller“The last time I saw you, you were wearing a lovely dress. What do you girls call that jolly shade of yellow again?”

 
“Primrose,” Samuel said as he stepped forward. “And she can no longer stand the color.”

 
Matthews stared at him. — From my Regency novella, Clytie’s Caller.


yAs with all things, colors go in and out of fashion.  In the early 20th C., here in the United States, one such color was called Alice blue, after Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who favored the shade.  There was even a song written about it, “Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown.”

Wild Flower Pink Evening Primrose Yellow
Wild Evening Primrose, public domain photo via Creative Commons

During the Regency, fashionable colors included puce, a maroon almost the color of dried blood … and named for fleas, of all things, and bottle green — the ingredients for which included arsenic.  Since dyes were not colorfast, you can imagine the eventual result.

Primrose yellow was another fashionable color during the era, and its name came from the wild evening primrose plant’s blossoms.  Nowadays, most primroses are hybrids, and you only find the color at the center.  In any event, ladies of fashion often wore this golden yellow tone in day dresses, evening gowns, etc.

Blogging from A to Z: X is for Xylophone

xToday I want to introduce an amazing group:  the Louisville Leopards Percussionists.  This non-profit organization helps teach music to Louisville, Kentucky, kids ages 7-14.  The Leopards learn music appreciation, how to care for instruments, to improve and compose music, play a variety of percussion instruments, and how to perform as an ensemble.  Several Leopards alumni have gone on to become professional musicians.  The Leopards are a 501(c)3 charity (there is a donation link on their site), with a goal of ensuring that kids can participate regardless of their ability to pay, as music enriches lives and builds community.  They have more than 60 students, from 48 schools in and around Louisville.

This is the first piece I heard from the Leopards, when it went viral on Facebook.  Please enjoy their rehearsal video of Carlos Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.”  If you like what you hear, and are able to do so, please consider making a donation to keep the program going.

Blogging from A to Z: W is for Wooing

wHi, everyone.  Today, we’re going to talk about something that happens a lot in historical fiction, romance, steampunk, and a whole slew of other genres:  wooing.  Dictionary.com defines wooing as “to seek the favor, affection, or love of, especially with a view to marriage.”  I thought I’d take a look at how the male protagonists in my books go about it — for better or for worse, if you’ll pardon the expression.

In Erik LeMaitre’s case, in the Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series, Printto say that he has no idea how to go about courtship is to greatly understate the situation.  He has little experience with human interactions and, frankly, gets it wrong a lot.  He makes demands, put his foot in his mouth, and generally makes just about every mistake you can imagine.  The one thing he has going for him is his hypnotic singing voice, and he uses it.  A lot.  In the same series, Gilbert Rochambeau and Michael Kaye are the guys who are always there as friends, quietly picking up the pieces of broken hearts and showing that they care in so many different ways that their beloveds are halfway in love with them before they even know it.

M&M frt Verson 1Like Erik, Amos Boudreaux (Bayou Fire) jumps in with both feet by offering to take Diana Corbett out for lunch within minutes of meeting her.  He’s a lot more smooth than Erik, but let’s be fair — he hasn’t spent his adult life living in the basement of an opera house.  In the same book, Alcide Devereaux is constrained by the mores of his culture; courtship among the French Creoles of New Orleans was highly ritualized during the 1830s, and we get a look at that in the book.

Two of my characters, Samuel Lee (In The Eye of The Storm) and Farukh Aria (His Beloved Infidel), risk violating social and cultural norms of their time by courting women outside their ethnicity and religion.  Both of them are willing to fly in the face of familial and social prejudice — which can often be a risky proposition, even today.  They both take the tack of sharing their culture with the women in their lives in order to create better understanding on both sides.

Clyties_CallerAnd then there’s Samuel Whittington (Clytie’s Caller).  Sam isn’t planning to fall in love; he just wants to help a friend’s sister, who is dealing with what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder.  He uses their mutual love of books to coax the titular Clytie out of her shell.

Finally, there’s Joe (The Rock Star in the Mirror).  He figures that the best way to get the girl is to become exactly what she wants — with some unexpected consequences.  Learning to be comfortable as himself is the journey of this story.

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Antique Postcard, Public Domain Image via Creative Commons

What all of these men have in common is that they pay attention to the things enjoyed by the women in whom they are interested.  They are thoughtful, willing to apologize when they aren’t perfect and, most importantly, are respectful of the women’s intelligence.  None of them go in for the simpering types.  Each of them goes about wooing differently, but those are the common threads.