Blast from the Past: The Devil is In the Details

Facebook informs me that I wrote this 12 years ago. Enjoy!

How much research should you do before you start writing?

That’s a hard question to answer, to be honest. However, you need to make sure you have the details correct. Your audience may know a lot about your subject matter, even if it’s something that happens in the realm of fiction. For example, in In The Eye of The Beholder: A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera, the majority of the action takes place in 1889 Paris. That’s the year that Gustav Eiffel’s famous tower opened; if I hadn’t mentioned the Eiffel Tower at all, it would have looked rather peculiar to those who know their French history.

Perhaps you’re writing something about combat, maybe sword-fighting? Be sure that the weaponry you describe is doing what it should. I read an otherwise nice short story a while back that had a fellow using a sabre (a cutting/slicing weapon designed for use on horseback) as a thrust-and-parry weapon in ground combat. The blade is not designed for thrust-and-parry; it’s curved, and only sharpened on one edge.

That’s what I mean when I say the devil is in the details. If your reader keeps pausing in your story to say “Wait a minute, that’s not how this works at all,” you’ll distract them and maybe even lose their attention.

I’m researching and writing simultaneously for In The Eye of The Storm, as well as researching for the final book in the trilogy (title as yet undetermined). The only way to make fiction believable is to know the little details of your setting, so get to know your librarian, the internet and any other sources of information that you have available.

Attention to detail will bring your manuscript alive. I promise.

Sample Saturday: “Two Days in June”

Two Days in June V2Hi, everyone. Today’s sample is from Two Days in June, my two-part short story about the June Rebellion in Paris. The event started 189 years ago today and, honestly, if Victor Hugo had never been caught behind one of the barricades, we probably wouldn’t know much about it. Hugo commemorated the events in Les Miserables. In addition to Two Days in June, I touch on the events in Bayou Fire, as Evangeline is in Paris when they occur. I hope you enjoy this sample.

They called themselves the Friends of the Abaissé, an adjunct of the Society of the Rights of Man. To Grantaire’s cynical eyes, they were just another Sorbonne fraternity: wealthy young men playing at philosophy and high-flown ideals of revolution and war without having the slightest idea of the true cost of either. Each time they agreed to meet at the ABC Tavern (“I’ll see you at the Abaissé”), they reveled in their own cleverness at making a pun.

If Combeferre was the group’s guide and Courfeyrac its center, as they’d all often opined, Enjolras was its Chief. When the other men spoke of their mistresses, Enjolras claimed that la Patrie — the Republic — was his only woman.

Of course, Grantaire thought that was another glorious pun. Enjolras’ love was the plump, delightful Marianne, whose parents had named her for the spirit of the Republic. She shared a flat with Olympe, who had nearly as much a hold on Grantaire as his beloved wine.

Wine. Yes, he needed more wine. Perhaps a lengthy toast to the people’s general would be in order once he got to the tavern.

Want your own copy of Two Days in June? Here are the cover copy and purchase links:

Starvation. Fear.

Fighting in the streets.

It’s June 1832, and Paris is once again at war. The students of the Sorbonne rise up against those in power, believing that right and the people are on their side.

But King Louis-Philippe has other plans.

Read Two Days in June, the latest edition of Pocketful of Stories, and enter the world of Les Miserables.

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Marie Laveau’s husband disappeared 200 years ago, but an LSU student thinks she finally found him | Entertainment/Life |

For decades, Laveau was the city’s premier voodoo priestess, renowned as a healer and counselor. As Harrington explained, voodoo was an amalgam of ancestral beliefs brought to New Orleans by enslaved Africans. To chroniclers of the time, it was described as everything from “fake mumbo jumbo stuff” to “demonic orgies and blasphemy.” To members of the Crescent City’s European establishment, the singing, dancing and other aspects of voodoo ceremonies were perceived as a threat.

According to Harrington, Laveau and her fellow voodoo practitioners “may not have discouraged their fears.”

Marie Laveau’s husband disappeared 200 years ago, but an LSU student thinks she finally found him | Entertainment/Life |

Click through to read a fascinating article about an anthropoologist who may have solved the mystery of Marie Laveau’s missing husband, Jacques Paris. Marie is featured in two of my books: Bayou Fire, and Yellowjack and the River Man.

Reconstructing the Menu of a Pub in Ancient Pompeii – Gastro Obscura

As a classical archaeologist whose research centers on food and food preparation in the Roman Mediterranean, I am overjoyed by finds like these, as the information obtained from them shines a bright light on the daily lives of classes of Roman society that are poorly represented in ancient literary sources: slaves and average, working Romans. Spaces like this thermopolium provide archaeologists like me with a realistic portrayal of what Roman food culture was like in comparison to sensational portrayals of Roman food culture, such as those found in satirical literary sources like Petronius’s “Trimalchio’s Banquet” or portrayed in opulent frescoes like those adorning the dining-room walls of the House of the Vettii, an exceptionally well-preserved luxury domus.

In contrast, this thermopolium invites us into an archaeological environment that gives an indication of where many everyday Pompeiians enjoyed cooked meals. According to Dr. Anna Maria Sodo, director and archaeology officer of the Antiquarium of Boscoreale, in the Vesuvian area alone, only 40 percent of the urban dwellings of the working poor and 66 percent of the middle-class homes had fixed hearths for cooking. To meet this high demand, there were at least 80 food and beverage outlets at Pompeii (the site has yet to be fully excavated). But what types of foods did these thermopolia serve to the everyday citizens?

Reconstructing the Menu of a Pub in Ancient Pompeii – Gastro Obscura

Click through for a fascinating look at ancient Roman foodways, including two recipes!

2,000-year-old skeleton identified as senior Roman soldier on Vesuvius rescue mission

“When I arrived at Herculaneum in 2017 I realized that a lot of research went into the skeletons, but nobody thought of analyzing the tools found next to it,” Francesco Sirano, director of the archaeological site at Herculaneum, told NBC News. “So my team and I took a closer look, and what we found was astonishing.”

When the skeleton was discovered 30 years ago, several clues set it apart from the hundreds of others unearthed by archaeologists. It still had a leather belt around its waist, and by its side there were a sword with an ivory hilt, a decorated dagger and a bagful of coins. Still, the skeleton was put on permanent exhibition and identified as a generic soldier.

In-depth analysis revealed that the belt was once decorated with images of a lion and a cherub made of silver and gold. The sword’s scabbard was also decorated with the image of an oval shield.

“All these clues suggest that he was not a simple soldier, more likely a high-ranking officer, even a praetorian,” Sirano says, referring to the elite units who served as personal bodyguards to Roman emperors. “Praetorians wore oval shields. And the coins he had on him was coincidentally the same amount of a praetorian’s monthly wage.”

Whatever the rank of the officer, Sirano said there is no doubt that he was part of a rescue mission launched by a roman fleet following the eruption of the Vesuvius. Recommended

2,000-year-old skeleton identified as senior Roman soldier on Vesuvius rescue mission