Music Monday: “Iko Iko”

Hi, everyone. Can you believe we’re in May already?

When I was a little kid, I only knew the Dixie Cups‘ version of “Iko Iko.” I liked the women’s harmonies, but I thought the lyrics were nonsense words. I didn’t know the first thing about Kouri-Vini (Louisiana Creole) or Black Masking Indians. I learned about the latter in my first cultural anthropology course, and studied the former while researching Bayou Fire.

This is a wonderful version of the song, from Playing for Change. Enjoy!

The World of 1870 Paris

The World of 1870 Paris

Paris is one of my favorite cities and, as a result, a favorite setting for my stories. I a good deal of time researching Paris and what it was like from the 1830s through the 1890s for various projects, including my Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series. Check out what some of my fellow historical fiction authors studied for their own works.

All about historical fiction

While launching Paris In Ruins, a number of authors and bloggers hosted guest articles featuring the world of 1870 Paris.

On the Washington Independent Review of Books, editor-in-chief Holly Smith invited me to write about The Enduring Allure of Paris.

Paris—a city ingrained in our imaginations. A city that is both grand and lived in, a city of massive cathedrals and quiet neighborhoods, a city full of mystery and romance. The city of love, the city of light.Why have writers flocked to Paris for hundreds of years? A brief dip into history sets the stage. In the middle ages, the Catholic church established schools attached to major monasteries to train scholars not only for the church, but also to serve in government. Read more …

On Sarah Johnson’s well-known blog Reading the Past, I wrote about the Delights of a Research Trip to Paris.

Paris In…

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Frequently Asked Question: Are You a Risk Taker?

Hi, everyone. It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for a question from the Insecure Writers Support Group.

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I guess the answer is: it depends on what you mean by risk.

I wrote The Rock Star in the Mirror in second person present POV. Honestly, it was an experiment. However, I wound up loving both the immediacy and the conversational tone it gave to Joe the Lion.

Several  of my books (the Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series and Down on the Corner of Love, just to name a couple of examples) deal with racism and prejudice — which has somehow become controversial to call out, but not to perform. Bayou Fire‘s female protagonist, Diana, lives with an invisible illness.

Some people might say that by writing about these issues, I’m doing something risky. I don’t think so. All art is intended to be thought-provoking.

Honestly, I think I took a bigger risk when I took a sternwheeler ride on the Mississippi River when researching Bayou Fire than in anything I’ve ever written. I’m a lousy sailor, but I got on that boat anyway so that I could see what it was like to ride one and understand how it worked.

At the end of the day, shouldn’t we all be extending ourselves just a little bit for our art?

Sweet dreams – how to write dream sequences – The History Quill

As Freud would tell you, dreams are chock full of symbolism. Striking a balance between clumsy, overt symbols and being confusingly cryptic is a tricky skill to master but, used properly, symbols can make a dream sequence stand out and get important information over to the reader.

A good rule of thumb is this: don’t try to be too clever. Resist the urge to be too trippy – the symbology of your dream sequence needs to be decipherable. And, like a line in a murder mystery, your readers will assume everything is relevant, no matter how random things may seem on the face of it. Dreams in real life are full of weird stuff that doesn’t make sense, but in a dream sequence you can’t afford to risk confusing your reader with red herrings.

Sweet dreams – how to write dream sequences – The History Quill

In Bayou Fire, Diana Corbett had recurring dreams in childhood that were disturbing enough for her parents to take her to a psychiatrist. She thinks she’s outgrown them, until she winds up in New Orleans as an adult and they come back. There’s a crucial tie-in to the location, but she doesn’t know that until much later.

Click through to see some great advice on how to handle dream sequences in your fiction, regardless of genre.