Monthly Archives: July 2012

Blog Tour: Alexandrea Weis

Alexandrea Weis stopped in for a guest post.

The rhythm of the resurrecting city of New Orleans is reflected everyday in the unified heartbeat of its determined residents. And no matter the devastation, New Orleanians will continually fight to hold on to their beloved little bastion eight feet below sea level. Like the memory of a first kiss, the warmth of New Orleans pervades your soul and forever becomes a part of you. To travel among the wide oaks and antebellum homes of the Garden District makes for beautiful postcard pictures, but it does not give you a true indication of what it means to be a New Orleanian. You have to immerse yourself in the old world atmosphere and varied traditions of the people of this town in order to understand them, and, hopefully, become one of them.

You need to dine in the myriad of exceptional restaurants and take part in a heated discussion about where to find the best bowl of gumbo. Spend a Monday morning drinking coffee and chicory in an old uptown kitchen while learning how to cook the perfect pot of red beans and rice. Experience the wrong way to eat a muffaletta sandwich, the right way to shuck an oyster, and the only way to eat a beignet. And you will always have to remember that if your food isn’t boiled, blackened or fried, it just ain’t cooked.

You will want to traverse the different sections of the old city divided not by points on a compass, but by proximity to the Mississippi River or Lake Pontchartrain. Because no one in the Crescent City could ever tell you where to find the south end of town, but they could recite by heart the neighborhoods along the bend in the river. From the Bywaters to the Irish Chanel, from Lakeview to the infamous Ninth Ward, so many smaller sections alive with their own unique histories make up this city. Each part of New Orleans has a rich heritage based on the struggles of its French, Spanish, Irish, African, or Italian founders.

Then head over to  Canal Street, where the local term “neutral ground” was created in the early 1800s. In those days, the wide thoroughfare was first used as a common market area between the feuding French and Spanish occupants of the city. Take a streetcar ride down legendary St. Charles Avenue to see the world renowned Audubon Zoo. Along the way, soak up the different styles of Victorian, Greek Revival, and Colonial architecture represented by some of the city’s finest homes. Let the soothing rocking motion of the streetcar ease your cares, as the sweet scent of magnolias streams in from the open window beside you. At the end of your streetcar ride, walk the broken cobblestones of the French Quarter, and take in the alluring sights of the tightly packed Creole cottages. Listen for the seductive sounds of Jazz music resonating around you, the smell of great food hovering in the air about you, and let your imagination linger on the romantic wrought iron balconies above you. Make your way to Jackson Square and take in the tall spires of St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic cathedral in the continental Untied States. Walk through the adjoining Cabildo Museum, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. Stroll on over to the Moonwalk, by the edge of the Mississippi River, and enjoy the calliope music coming from the Delta Queen Riverboat. After you have learned to bargain like a pro with the vendors at the French Market, then saunter down the shady sidewalks of Esplanade Avenue. The street made famous by Tennessee Williams and his tale of hidden desire. Finally, let yourself wander the narrow alleys of St. Louis Cemetery Number One, where you can visit the above ground tombs of famous former residents Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen, and Paul Morphy, the chess phenomenon.

But there is another, more important, criteria for being an ingrained member of this eclectic southern city. You have to learn to appreciate life. Not the day-to-day hurried existence that shortens the lives of stockbrokers and businessmen, but the easy lust for the fulfillment of the senses. For everything about New Orleans is tailored to the forgotten art of self-gratification. In these days of such soulless existence, it is a heartwarming relief to find a place unashamed of its abundant way of life. No one in New Orleans regrets the way they live, they only regret when they have to leave it.

So the next time you think about my hometown, don’t linger on the unforgettable disasters of our past. Instead, revel in what makes our city unique, shamelessly flamboyant, and stoically unapologetic for its transgressions. New Orleanians have moved on from Katrina. Despite the numerous media attempts to bury the residents under clouds of negative press and dim outlooks, the people remain resilient. Because they know that when Mardi Gras is over, crawfish season is right around the corner. We may have paid a heavy price for our time in paradise, but we know that somewhere up in the heavens, someone is answering our prayers. After all, the Saints did finally win the Super Bowl.

ABOUT:

Alexandrea Weis is a registered nurse from New Orleans who has been published in several nursing journals and textbooks. She has been writing novels and screenplays for over twenty years. Her first novel, To My Senses, was a finalist for commercial fiction in Eric Hofer Book Awards, a finalist for romance in the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year awards, and a finalist for romance in the USA Book Awards. Her second novel, Recovery, won the Gold Medal for best romantic suspense from The Reader’s Favorite Book Awards and was named best Romantic Suspense by the NABE Pinnacle Book Awards in 2011. Her third book, Sacrifice, closes out the Nicci Beauvoir Series. Her fourth book, highlighting her love of rehabbing wildlife, called Broken Wings, is now out in paperback and ebook.

Ms. Weis is also a permitted wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and when she is not writing, Ms. Weis is rescuing orphaned and injured wildlife. She lives outside of New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of pets.

Website: http://alexandreaweis.com

Blog: http://alexandreaweiscom.blogspot.com/

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It helps to know where you’re going

I’ve discovered that one the hard way.

Some time back, I embarked on a little project called Once Upon an Ever After. I started it with absolutely no idea where it was going. I actually thought that was a good idea. But after a couple of chapters in, I got lost and frustrated because…well, because I didn’t know where I was going. I don’t write with a super detailed outline. But I usually have at least some indication of how the story will progress between beginning, middle and end. Jennings Grove had a chapter list and some basic notes. The Final Quarter had nothing but a chapter list. But I had something.

With Once Upon an Ever After, I knew where the next chapter or two was going, and that was about it. And it almost made me give up on one of my best ideas to date. So I’ve spent the last week or so making notes about the story. There’s going to have to be some rewriting of the parts I’ve already done, but now I have a cohesive plot. It’s a lot more detailed than what I’ve worked with before, but there’s no chapter list, and there’s still plenty of room for the story to evolve as  I write, as I prefer it to.

It’s been a good lesson to learn, and I’m sure it will do me good in the future. Just wish it didn’t have to be such a hard one.


Just read it

While scrolling through Facebook this morning, I saw a link to a column by Dwight Allen called “My Stephen King Problem: A Snob’s Notes.” I’ll admit it: I was intrigued. It’s not too often you see people in the literati crowd take on the King anymore. It’s kind of like arguing about hurricanes. Some people see the impending storm as a reason to party while others just want to get out of Dodge or at least batten down the hatches and ride it out. But the storm itself is really just too big a phenomenon to worry about saying whether it’s good or bad. It’s there. If you live in Phoenix, it doesn’t bother you much. If you’re along the Gulf coast, you may have a hurricane party or have to rebuild. Stephen King has become such a force in writing world that you don’t think much about it until one of his books affects you personally (either because you liked the story or because someone dropped  The Stand in hardback version on your head).

So this guy says he’s a literary snob and didn’t read any King for 25 years. He’d even go out of his way to avoid publications like The New Yorker if it happened to have something by King soiling its pages. But, finally, because a friend had recommended it, he decided to hold his nose and read a few: Christine, Pet Sematary, 11/22/63 and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. He said King’s work was ultimately “workmanlike” but not particularly exciting or original — and it was way too long. Allen complained frequently about King’s unnecessary wordiness — long-winded passages that didn’t say much of anything.

Which struck me as funny, given that the column weighed in at 4,600 words. That’s long by any stretch. For a newspaper column, it would be about 10 times too long. Even for a magazine, this piece is pushing it. And for an online column — its actual home — it should be maybe a quarter of the length. And that’s just for readability. Few people are willing to put that kind of time into reading something like this on a computer screen. There’s no reason for this particular piece to be this long. It’s full of little parenthetical asides that have little if any relevance to the topic at hand. It rambles. The piece is basically a wandering rant. He makes some interesting points, but they’re buried under a slag heap of vitriol.

The ending pretty much says it all:

King may be an adequate enough escape from life, if that’s all you require from a book of fiction, but his work (or what I’ve read of it) is a far cry from literature, which, at its best, is, sentence by sentence, a revelation about life.

Honestly, that’s not a bad view if you happen to not like genre work. I think Allen’s a bit misguided, but that’s his prerogative. It’s his snobbish attitude, not just to King’s writing, but to the people who love his work:

I did feel, however, that I demanded something different (something more?) from a novel than I guessed most of the readers of Stephen King did. (Not that this made me morally superior, just more demanding, a high-maintenance reader.)

I’m not Stephen King’s biggest fan. At least, not his later works. His earlier stuff, such as The Shining and The Stand, and his short stories are wonderful. Some of his later work isn’t as good.  But with something like 50 books under his belt, he’s going to have some sinkers. I prefer the likes of C.S. Friedman, Clive Barker, Matt Hults, Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, Eric S. Brown and Michael West.  But, unlike Allen, I’m not going to knock anyone who likes to read everything King puts out. I’m glad they’re reading at all.

Now don’t get me wrong. As an English teacher, I deplore the general lack of appreciation for literature we see today. I’m enthralled by BeowulfThe Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare, the Romantic poets, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and Martin Cruz Smith. But you know what? I’d never have an appreciation this kind of literature if not for Stephen King.

I started reading at a young age because I saw my mother reading. It varied greatly: Romance novels, The Deathgate Cycle, Stephen King, etc. I decided to pick up Pet Sematary while in middle school. Scared the pants off me. I also wound up reading things like 1984 and Animal Farm that same year. And I kept on reading, King. Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Jordan. And on and on.

As a reporter, one year I got to cover Rock and Read in Rockwall County.  This was a fundraiser for a literacy program where someone would sit in a rocking chair at various places in the county and read. I went from place to place, talking to different participants. One question I always asked: What are you reading? Nearly every one of them got a little embarrassed and replied beginning with “Oh, it’s just…” They seemed to think they should be reading Plato or Vonnegut at all times.

What I told them, I say to you: Be glad you’re reading something. I don’t care if it’s the Rambler essays or a series of pamphlets on shaving weasels. Just read it.


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