Facts from My Fiction: Story Board, “His Beloved Infidel”

layoutHi, everyone.  Yesterday, I shared a little sample of His Beloved Infidel.  This novella ranks among my favorite pieces of work for a variety of reasons.  I got to write about a city I love, share real-world events as seen through the eyes of ordinary people, and learn a great deal about the Persian culture.  I had the opportunity to ask questions of people, as well as studying on my own.

I also gathered a great many images to inspire me.  I use Pinterest for my story boards; it’s easy and convenient.  If I found an inspiring image, I could put it up.  I could also put up photos of places I planned to use in the text so that I could find them for easy reference.  Whether it was architecture, wedding traditions, or poetry, I could take a look and get on track.

You can see the story board for His Beloved Infidel at this link.

Do you use story boarding when you write?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Facts from My Fiction: Roulaison

One of the most dangerous times for slaves in south Louisiana was the roulaison, or cane-cutting season.

Each crop of cane could be cut three times, and the boiling kettles were kept going 24 hours a day to reduce the cane to syrup and, eventually, to granulated sugar.  So, there were people constantly in the fields with machetes cutting down the tough stalks, and working in the boiling sheds with syrup so hot that it could burn down to the bone.  Fatal injuries from burns or machete cuts were not at all uncommon.

I was inspired to share these photos of cane processing equipment from the Oak Alley sugar plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, taken by me in December 2016, by this article from the February 5, 2017, edition of the Baton Rouge AdvocateResearcher maps hidden graveyards of slaves who once tilled Louisiana sugar cane fields

The photos show cane carts, boiling kettles, skimmers, cane knives, and molasses barrels.

Facts from My Fiction: Marie Laveau

This portrait of Marie Laveau, attributed to Frank Schneider, hangs in the Cabildo Museum

Let’s face it: you can’t write about 1830s New Orleans and leave out Marie Laveau. So yes, she appears in my forthcoming book, Bayou Fire.

Marie Laveau (1794-1881) was the second voodoo queen of New Orleans, having been trained by the previous queen, Sanité Dedé.  She was born in New Orleans to a free woman of color named Marguerite Henry and a white planter named Charles Laveau.  Children of color took on the freedom status of their mother, so Marie and her own subsequent children were free.  Her first husband, Jacques Paris, was a Haitian refugee.  The couple were married at St. Louis Cathedral by Père Antoine, a Capuchin priest (who is also mentioned in the text of my tale).

After Paris died, Marie took up with a man named Christophe Glapion.  History is unclear as to whether they actually married.  They had several children and grandchildren. One of their children, also named Marie, became voodoo queen after her mother’s passing. This gave rise to rumors that Marie Laveau was actually immortal.

One of the stories told about her is that she helped an influential man when his son was in trouble. This man went to Marie and said that his son was going on trial for a crime he did not commit and asked for her help.  Marie went to St. Louis Cathedral, where she sat for 24 hours praying while holding hot peppers in her mouth. She left the cathedral and went next door to the Cabildo, where court was held, and put those hot peppers under the judge’s seat. The son was acquitted of the crime, and the father was said to be so grateful that he deeded property at the corner of Royal and St. Ann to Marie and her family.  That property now has a marker citing the occasion.

Marie Laveau’s grave marker, photo by Sharon E. Cathcart

Marie Laveau is interred in the Paris family tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. This may surprise some people, but Marie was a devout Catholic alongside her voodoo practice.

Marie Laveau has been elevated to the status of loa, or minor saint, in the voodoo religion.

If you would like to know more about her, I recommend Carolyn Morrow Long’s scholarly biography, A New Orleans Voodoo Priestess. She is one of the most fascinating women in American history.

Facts from My Fiction: Bernard Marigny

One of the most colorful characters in New Orleans history appears briefly in Bayou Fire.  At the time my story takes place, Bernard Marigny (1785-1868) is 49 years old and has already parted out the family plantation to create the Faubourg Marigny.  His age doesn’t prevent him from stepping away from a game of dice to sign 18-year-old Evangeline DuPre’s dance card.

This portrait of Antoine de Marigny hangs in the Cabildo Museum

So, who is this guy? Well, his grandfather was Antoine Jacques Philippe de Marigny, a French nobleman and geographer. His father, Pierre, was a wealthy planter. He passed when Bernard  was 15 years old, leaving him a fortune of some $7 million.  Consider that this was in 1800s dollars; Bernard would have been a billionaire today.

Anyway, Bernard goes off to Paris to finish his education and comes back to New Orleans.  He promptly starts parting out his family plantation to create the Faubourg Marigny, a Creole suburb that was chartered as its own city in 1836 (it was incorporated into New Orleans in 1852).  He gave the streets names of things he liked, such as Frenchmen, Good Children, Desire, and yes, Craps (that street is now called Burgundy) after the dice game (le crapaud) of which he was so fond.

Portrait of Bernard Marigny

The primary purpose of subdividing the family holdings was to pay off Bernard’s gambling debts.  One could say that Bernard was something of an urban planner; he also had visions of creating a park at Elysian Fields, although that never came to fruition. He also established the Louisiana Jockey Club, with the first horse race run there in 1839.

Bernard was quite a character.  He was twice elected to the New Orleans City Council, and served as President of the Louisiana State Senate.  He mounted an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign as well.  He remained fond of gambling, and eventually lost what was left of the family fortune at cards. He died impoverished and is interred in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Facts from My Fiction: Pineapple

img_1756I learned something very interesting about pineapple during my most recent visit to Louisiana.

Because it was so exotic and unusual, plantation owners would give sliced pineapple to their guests as a welcome treat.  It was a way of showing how happy the planters were that their friends had come to call.

Now, visits weren’t just for supper and a game of cards during the antebellum period.  People would stay for weeks, months, and sometimes even years.  At Oak Alley Plantation, where I took the above photograph, one couple stayed so long that they had two children during their visit!

I’m sure you’re wondering, “How did they get people to go home?”

Well, the answer is actually in the photograph.  When guests had overstayed their welcome, the hostess would present them with a whole pineapple.  That was their signal that it was time to either go visit someone else or go home.  Whoever received this breakfast tray would know that it was time to pack their trunks and move on.

I found this little tidbit so interesting that I incorporated it into my current work-in-progress, Bayou Fire.