Thursday, July 31, 2014

Goodbye to My Faithful . . . Chair

Eons ago, when I was still an unpublished author, I sprang for what at the time felt like a really expensive desk chair for someone who'd yet to sell a book. I suffer from a bad back thanks to a serious tobogganing accident in my misspent youth, and so I ordered a chair that was custom built to give me the support I needed. It didn't look like much, but it was a wonderful chair.  Every single book I ever published--and a few I didn't--I typed in that chair. When I moved from Australia to New Orleans, it came with me.

Eventually the fabric began to fray. I thought about recovering the seat, but there always seemed to be something else to do. When it went through Katrina, I refused to set it out on the huge trash pile that lined our street and simply scrubbed it down with bleach. My family said, "Don't you think you ought to get a new chair? That thing is embarrassing." I said, "I know. But it's so comfortable. And it's been with me through so much."

But eventually, the foam seat started to disintegrate. The adjustment mechanisms quit adjusting. Even my cleaning lady (tired of sweeping up bits of crumbling foam) said, "I think you need a new chair." And so, last Mother's Day, we trooped down to Ethan Allen and ordered a replacement. Today, it arrived. Yes, it's beautiful. Yes, it's comfortable. I guess after twenty years and twenty-two books, the time had come.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Said That?--UPDATE

Like most authors, I periodically amuse myself by plugging my name into Google Images. It's how I find reissues of foreign editions of my books, such as the French one above, which is a new cover they've given Night in Eden ( can you say, misleading?!). But I occasionally come across surprises, such as this nice boxed quote:
I don't even remember which book that's from. It sounds rather like Night in Eden. But then, women discovering they are stronger than they thought they were is one of the themes that runs through all my books.The same site had another boxed quote from me, and with this one I am absolutely clueless about the origins:

Anyone know? When you've written over two million words, they do tend to blur.

UPDATE: So Google is my friend; I plugged the quotes in and it took me to another site that not only had the quotes, but the books they came from. The first is indeed Night in Eden, while the second is from Whispers of Heaven. They also had a third quote, also from Whispers of  Heaven: "She had discovered early that what we want out of life can change; that the important thing is to learn to recognize or even simply just admit what we really want, and then to have the courage to reach for it." Interesting.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Letting the Good Times Roll

It's official: according to researchers at Harvard and British Columbia, the five happiest cities in the United States are all in Louisiana. They are, in order: Lafayette, Houma, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria. A sixth Louisiana city, Lake Charles, made it into the top ten. (New Orleans, I'm afraid, wasn't very high up on the list).

So why is a place bedeviled by deadly hurricanes and oil spills and poverty so happy? Who knows. But I suspect it has something to do with strong family ties and deep roots, a devotion to good eating and good music, a love of outdoor activities and eating and festivals and eating and... You get the idea.
The unhappiest city in the country was identified as New York City, followed by St. Joseph, Missouri and South Bend, Indiana. Anyone know why?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oops, I Did It Again--UPDATE

He just showed up at my door the other night, a little eight week old kitten. Who dumps a tiny kitten?

I tried to say no. Oh, I gave him some food and fixed up a sheltered box for him to sleep in, but I have no room in my house for any more cats.

He's as cute and sweet as can be. I walk out the house and call him, and he comes on the run, meowing all the way. We've named him Indiana Jones because he's intrepid and adventuresome. He has a vet appointment in the morning, but he really, really needs a proper home. Anyone?
UPDATE: So he went to the vet this morning. Passed his AIDS and leukemia tests, but there is no test for distemper so he's going to be in quarantine in the big crate in the garage for the next 2 weeks (no more climbing trees, poor guy). He has ear mites, fleas, and worms, which we will be treating while he's in isolation. Otherwise the vet says he's strong and healthy and just 8 weeks old. He loves to be petted and purrs his heart out. He's a real sweetheart.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The London Crowd

This is a wonderful overview of many of the places Sebastian visits in London. And it's especially interesting because we see both the way it was and the way it is now--everything from Smithfield and Newgate to Covent Garden, Bow Street, and St. Giles. The focus is the 18th century, but it hadn't really changed that much by 1812.

Has anyone seen this entire series? I'm going to have to track it down,

Thursday, July 17, 2014


If you're not familiar with the expression "cover flat", it's what the industry calls the flat, unbound cover of a paperback but also by extension the paper dust jacket for a hardcover. Sometimes what looks good on a computer screen isn't nearly as effective when you see it in paper, but this time I actually like the real thing even better than the image I was sent. The title and author name are in copper foil, which is much prettier than it looks in the picture. It also made it extraordinarily difficult to photograph without the foil turning white on me.

I've actually had it a few weeks and posted it on Facebook but forgot to talk about it here. I think this is the first time I've ever received the cover before I was even sent the copyedits. They always print the covers before they print the books, but this is still really early for  a book that won't be released until March. Which I know still seems a long time to  wait....

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Other Thing I've Been Doing This Past Year

In addition to writing my Sebastian books, I've also spent the last year getting this house ready to sell.

This is the old Arts and Crafts-era cottage my mom bought when she moved back to New Orleans after my dad died. My elder daughter lived here while she went to medical school, and when she graduated last spring, we decided to fix it up before we put it on the market. It wasn't in that bad of shape, but it's situated in a part of the city that has become hugely sought after (it's actually SIX FEET above sea level). People buy these lovely old homes, rip off the cedar siding, throw all the lovely trim work and beautiful windows in a dumpster, then blow them up and out into hideous monstrosities. We didn't want that to happen, so we finished redoing the bathrooms, completely renovated the kitchen ("with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances," as the real estate ads all say), repainted it inside and out, had the floors refinished... You get the idea.

We thought it would take maybe three or four months. It's taken more than a year and just about killed us. But it was on the market less than twenty-four hours and sold to the first person who looked at it--and who loves it just as it is and says she doesn't want to change a thing. Mission accomplished.

And yet.... This house has been a part of my life for more than twenty years now, with lots of happy memories and laughter tied up in it. I suspect I'm going to shed a tear when the sale actually goes through in a few weeks.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The London of Sebastian St. Cyr: Dealing with the Unknown Dead

Sebastian's London didn't have a morgue, but it did have "dead houses" scattered about the city. Intendedly mainly to receive the bodies of drowning victims pulled from the Thames (there were a surprising number of them) or unidentified corpses found in the streets, the dead houses were actually an innovation. Most British towns and cities (even those in hot climes such as colonial Australia) simply sent their bodies to the mortuaries attached to workhouses (necessary because a lot of people died in workhouses), or to the nearest inn; publicans who refused to accept them could be fined, even when the corpses were in such an advanced state of decomposition that they drove away all living--and paying--customers.

But not Paris. Dating back to at least 1804, the Paris Morgue was quite a clever concept: one centralized, dedicated building for receiving the unidentified dead. No longer were bereaved relatives forced to scour the city, searching the various taverns and work houses for a missing loved one; they could go to one place and look. Of course, so could anyone, which is how the Paris Morgue came to be a tourist attraction. The root word of morgue is actually morguer, to stare. And stare people did.

At the Paris Morgue, the naked bodies of the unclaimed dead--many, but not all, suicide victims pulled from the Seine--were put on display behind a glass window, with their clothes hanging nearby. A particularly gruesome corpse, or a very comely young one, could attract literally thousands a day. So great were the crowds that, after the Revolution of 1830, the city constructed a new, grand edifice. The show was open seven days a week from dawn till six o'clock, and it was free. Visitors to Paris were told to be certain not to miss the morgue, located conveniently right behind Notre Dame; it was even featured in guide books. Men, women, and children jostled one another for the opportunity to leer, or gasp, or sigh in pity at the spectacle.

Despite its popularity, the Morgue did have its critics and eventually, by the late 19th century, the authorities finally stopped displaying the bodies naked. By 1907, public morality had shifted to the extent that one of the longest running public spectacles ended, and the morgue closed its doors. But by then the concept of a centralized repository for the unclaimed dead had spread around the world.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Scout Without Banjo

Several people have asked how Scout is coping now that we've lost her brother, so I thought I'd do an update.

She'd seemed very lethargic in the week or so before Banjo died and actually perked up a bit after he was gone. We realized she must have known he was dying and been depressed because of it. But there's no denying a spark has gone out of her. It isn't just that she's alone now. She was always the timid one and leaned heavily on Banjo for moral support. He was the calm one, the brave one, the one who bathed her face and neck every day and reassured her when things were scary. Now she's lost that, and she's adrift.

Steve especially spends as much time with her as he can, because she's always been his special girl. But she's not eating well. As much as I miss Banjo, I know she misses him more. He was her rock, and now he's gone.
As for Huck, he seems to be feeling a lot better; he's eating and running around and terrorizing the other cats again. But we are still waiting on some test results.