Cypress Neighbors

One of my favorite parts of researching “Bayou Fire” was my time spent out on an actual bayou, Bayou Bœuf. The variety of wildlife was amazing. I was there during brumation season, so did not see any alligators … but I surely did see a lot of other things. I was surprised by how beautiful and peaceful it was Great photographs here.

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If you have visited a swamp or lake in Louisiana you have likely seen the showy white great egrets and blue herons. Many though, have never seen other friends that live amongst the cypress trees.

Alligators, of course, can be found in nearly every Louisiana waterway. I have been told that if their belly is off the ground and they are on all four feet, you are already too late to run! They are more scared of us than aggressive towards us.

There are plenty of varieties of frogs, and reptiles. I try to stay well away from snakes!

Fish, of course, and CRAWFISH! The fourth photo is a crawfish “chimney”.  This isn’t a very tall one, but you can definitely see the definition in each of the balls that the crawfish rolled to the top to make room for his water-filled silo, in preparation for dry times.

I love…

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The French in the Spanish Borderlands: Part II

The French in the Spanish Borderlands: Part II

This article summarizes some of the deep background information I studied when researching Bayou Fire. Enjoy!

History Imagined

Prologue

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms……

Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman’s devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.

Evangeline

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Boston: Ticknor & Company, 1847

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The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was so enthralled with the story of Louisiana’s Acadian people that he penned his epic poem Evangeline, a story of exile, loss, and enduring love. It was an instant hit in 1847 due in large part to its imminently sympathetic main character.

There is a longstanding argument as to whether Evangeline, “a maiden of seventeen summers” at the…

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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: U is for Underpinnings

uAs I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I primarily write historical fiction.  This means researching not only social mores, foods, and events, but also fashion.  When you are looking at the various women’s silhouettes that were en vogue throughout history, you have to also look at the underpinnings that created them.

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Fashion Institute of Technology

I’m not going to lie; women essentially wore two full sets of clothing throughout most of history.  The underthings were almost as heavy as the outer garments.  Corsetry and petticoats were made to fit a given woman’s shape into the styles of the day.  Let’s go back to the earliest period in which I’ve written:  the Regency, which is when Clytie’s Caller is set.  Clytie’s stays (like the ones at the right) would have kept her figure pretty straight, in line with the Empire-waisted dresses that were in fashion at the time.

romantic era
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

Moving forward in time, we come to the Romantic era, as written about in Bayou Fire.  Some of you may recall my early post about idiot sleeves.  Well, the underpinnings at the left are part of how those sleeves kept their shape.  The “plumpers” on the chemise, and the heavily corded petticoats, gave shape to the dresses of the time.

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Found via Pinterest, no source given

Then we come to the late Victorian era, in which the majority of the Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series is set.  The silhouette has changed yet again, becoming more wasp-waisted and constrained.  In In The Eye of The Beholder, I describe Claire’s best corset as being covered in blue china silk. This image is pretty much how I imagined it looking.

It is worth noting that bloomers were not really worn until the late Regency/early Romantic era; it was all about the stays and petticoats throughout most of history.

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Maternity corset, found via Pinterest, no source given

I have also been a historical reenactor so yes, I have worn stays and petticoats.  I own three corsets, one of them custom-made, all from Dark Garden.  If you are interested in corsetry or period attire like this, my plea is that you have a fitting and get a piece that is right for your body.  When I first started reenacting, I borrowed a Victorian corset from a woman much more long-waisted than I am, and the resulting bruises on my hips and overall discomfort were off-putting.  If your corset fits right, it is just as comfortable as any modern-day underpinnings — once you’ve gotten used to wearing it.  Remember, in the periods I write about, young women would have been corseted since puberty, so they were accustomed to it.  They even corseted during pregnancy; stays were the primary foundation garment in daily life.  We are no longer in the habit of corseting, since the modern bra (the original patent for a brassiere was in 1889) came into widespread use during World War I so that corset metal could go to the war effort.  Thus, some care and training is required, wearing your corset only for an hour or two each day at first and gradually increasing the time you do so.