Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts

07 December 2018

Opening Lines: Best and Favorite

Opening Lines: Best and Favorite
by O'Neil De Noux

OK, we've had a few posts about opening lines but I do not think we SleuthSayers put up a post about the favorite and the best opening lines of a short story and novel we have written. So here is my subjective opinion of mine.

The Best opening line of a novel I've written is:

The wail of bagpipes echoes through the cold fog and silences the men at the earthen rampart behind the Rodriguez Canal.
– from BATTLE KISS (2011)

American breastworks at The Battle of New Orleans battlefield, Chalmette, LA
Photo ©2011 O'Neil De Noux

My favorite opening line of a novel I've written is:

There is no trick-or-treating Halloween night, two months AK – After Katrina.
– from CITY OF SECRETS (2013)


Photo of sculpture Mackenzie by Vincent De Noux used on cover of CITY OF SECRETS

The Best opening line of a short story I've written is:

It was a kiss with promise behind it, as much promise as a good girl would give, enough to make my heart race as we stood under the yellow bulb of her front gallery.
– from "Too Wise" (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Vol 132, No. 5, November 2008 Issue

My favorite opening line of a short story I've written is:

The black German shepherd wasn't a cadaver dog but she found the skeleton in the hideaway closet under the stairs of the unpainted, wooden shotgun house.
– from "Just a Old Lady" (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Vol. 60, No. 9, September 2015 Issue)

Lagniappe. How about a Worst? Here is the Worst opening line of a story I wrote that was published:

It was a dark and stormy night with the wind barking through the mangroves like the voices of angry two-year olds fighting over crayons and I dreamt of a land far away, very far away, a helluva distance away, probably on the other side of the world where it wasn't dark nor was there a storm barking through the mangroves, a place where the mangroves were peaceful and green and I could sit reading Shelley or Keats or maybe Sidney Shelton without the wind whipping the pages of my book or the rain pelting my eyes, blurring my vision of Daphne in a see-through dress with the sunlight streaming through the diaphanous material and I could see all her goodies and make yummy sounds as she slinked up to me like a skank in the night (no, it wouldn't be night because we would be on the other side of the world and the sun would be shining – through her dress).
– from "Like a Stank in the Night" (Hardboiled Sex 2006 Collection)

So what are your favorite and best opening lines? What about your worst?

www.oneildenoux.com



26 October 2018

More about Rejections ... again

More about Rejections ... again
by O'Neil De Noux

Got a polite rejection the other day from the editor of a publication inundated with submissions. In the rejection, the editor felt I would, "... soon sell the story elsewhere."

I have great affection and respect for this editor and well, that's how it goes. Sometimes you get accepted, sometimes you don't. I know the story I sent is a good story. As I read the rejection, it felt familiar, like going into my bedroom to take a nap. Somewhere I belong.

The editor has accepted many of my stories in the past and it is always a thrill when a story is accepted. Sometimes you get accepted, sometimes you don't.

Having a story rejected is never as bad as walking across the dance floor to ask a girl to dance and having to walk back alone across the dance floor because there are witnesses at the dance.

The best part of it all is being in the game, being able to send a good story to a good publication. So, I take a nap (naps come easily the older I get) then get back to writing.

The bottom line is to write a story too good to be rejected.

It has been a long, hot summer of writing and more writing and getting the work done. I'm thankful for that. This week we had a couple cool fronts roll through New Orleans and when that happens in October it means (to us) hurricane season might just be over. No matter what we do down here, from June to November we check the National Hurricane Center and local weather channels regularly because a monster can be out there over the warm waters of the South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Bay of Campeche or Gulf of Mexico. The ghosts of Hurricanes Audrey, Betsy, Camille, Andrew, Katrina, Rita and so many lesser storms haunt us.

We were lucky this year, not even a tropical storm came our way, and we fell terrible for those who got hit by the big water-big wind monsters.


Just a photo of trees in Covington, LA

That's all for now.

http://www.oneildenoux.com

01 August 2018

When 18,000 Librarians Attack

by Robert Lopresti

Two weeks ago I wrote about visiting New Orleans.  This time I am going to explain why I was there.  The American Library Association holds its annual conference in late June and this year it was in the Big Easy.

Truth to tell, the main reason I went was that the Government Documents Round Table of ALA was giving me the Lane/Saunders Memorial Research Award for When Women Didn't Count.  But I went to a bunch of professional meetings too.

I am not going to tell you what I learned about the current research on reference work and the shocking changes in Canadian government information trends (email me if you are dying to know), but will stick to things more relevant to SleuthSayers.

Believe it or not, there was a panel of mystery writers, and none of them were librarians.  Here's what I remember about them:

Robert Olen Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and a collector of old postcards.  The latter is relevant because he wrote a book called Had A Good Time, in which each story was inspired by a postcard, and told in the voice of the person who wrote the message.


The great editor Otto Penzler read the book and promptly offered him a contract for two mysteries about one of those characters, an early twentieth century reporter named Christopher Marlowe Cobb.    

"Being of a literary turn of mind, I believe my exact words were 'Oh boy, you betcha!'"  There are four books in the series so far.

Ellen Byron writes "Cajun country mysteries," complete with recipes.  She
says she is so afraid of writing sex scenes that she won't even read the book on how to write sex scenes.

"I have a scar on my forehead where I walked into a tree because I was reading.  I was 25 at the time."

 
Jude Deveraux  has written dozens of popular romances but her new agent wanted her to try something different.  He proposed vampires or zombies; she countered with mysteries. He asked for outlines for three books; she replied with nine outlines, one of them 20,000 words long.  (That's not an outline; that's a novella.)

"I'm always writing about 23-year-old semi-virgins."

Debra LeBlanc writes horror - see her many books with Witch in the title -  but her Nonie Broussard novels are about an amateur sleuth who gets (annoying) help from the occasional ghost.

"I am to literature what Walmart is to department stores."

Amy Stewart has written several quirky nonfiction books.  While researching The Drunken Botanist, about the blessed plants that give us booze, she stumbled on the true story of the Kopp sisters who, in 1915, got into a feud with a drunken mill owner in Paterson, New Jersey.  The eldest, Constance Kopp, became the first female deputy in the state.  All four novels are based on her actual adventures.  The title of the first, Girl Waits With Gun, was an actual newspaper headline.  I can testify the book is a lot of fun.

"My characters are all six feet underground.  I'm like, 'Could y'all wake up for five minutes?  I've got some questions.'"


But there are more reasons to attend ALA than the panels, wonderful as they are.  Above you see a picture of the exhibitor's room.  There is no way I could capture more than a sliver of this joint, which had roughly 700 vendors in it.  That included everything from an author with a card table hawking a single title, to most of the major American publishers with displays the size of a grocery store aisle, to companies trying to sell computer systems, furniture, etc.

It is stunning and bewildering.

One company brought in an espresso cart and had a professional barista mixing up free lattes for the crowd.  "I like Baker and Taylor a lot more than I did an hour ago," said one happy imbiber.

Oh, one big exhibitor was the Library of Congress.  Besides giving away coffee cups they had had an hour when you could have your picture taken with Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.  Dr. Hayden is triply unique being 1) the first female, 2) the first African-American, and 3) the first librarian to hold the office.  There was a very long line so I passed up the opportunity for the pic.

Now, I have a crazy suggestion.  If the ALA conference is ever held near you, you might want to attend.  (Midwinter will be held in Seattle this January.  The bigger summer conference will be in Washington, D.C. in June.)


No, I'm not suggesting you shell out hundreds of bucks to attend panels on cataloging and the learning commons.  But for a lot less ($75 in New Orleans) you can get access to the exhibitor's hall.  And the seven book covers you see here?  They are advance reader copies I picked up for free.  They are just the mysteries; we took home at least as many other titles of different types.  The only limits were our interests and what we wanted to ship them home.

Speaking of which, the photo below shows the post office branch in the exhibitor's hall where librarians were packing up swag to mail home.  We shipped home two boxes.  How many  advance copies would you consider worth the entrance fee?

Enough talk.  I have books to read.


27 July 2018

Harlan Ellison Wrote in Public

Harlan Ellison Wrote in Public
by O'Neil De Noux

In public, in the window of a bookstore with customers milling around, clerks ringing up sales, passersby gawking at the man behind the typewriter and interrupting him with questions – Harlan Ellison wrote short stories. He did this in bookstores around the country, wrote over a hundred stories this way to demystify the writing process. He also did this to promote a book or a bookstore.


Harlan Ellison (in black vest) in Bookstar Bookstore, New Orleans, March 31, 1990

As author-editor-publisher Dean Wesley Smith recently posted, "Harlan called bullshit on the rewriting myth. And he not only called bullshit, he showed clearly, in public, another way."

I witnessed Harlan write a story when he came for the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival in 1990. Typically, a stranger was enlisted to provide an opening line and Harlan would sit behind his Remington typewriter and write the story, having someone tape the pages to the bookstore windows as he progressed.

On Saturday, March 31, 1990, New Orleans nightclub owner and exotic dancer Chris Owens presented Harlan the opening line for a story which Harlan took, sat down and wrote a 4,700 word story entitled "Jane Doe #112," The story of a man haunted by six wraiths, six sickly white faces, not ghosts but figures "as if made of isinglass."


Chris Owens and Harlan Ellison at Bookstar

I watched, took pictures, listened to people ask the writer questions as he wrote, a couple asking extra questions in a gleeful attempt at derailing Harlan, which did not work. I remember him sending me off through the bookstore to look up a fact he needed for the story.


Harlan Ellison and his Remington typewriter

I'm paraphrasing Harlan here. He explained he wrote this way to rebuke the belief writing is mystical, a special process reserved for the few who know the rules, know the secret handshake, wear the invisible super-secret decoder ring. He wanted to show a writer did not need an outline or writing in support groups, critiquing, did not even need re-writes.


Harlan Ellison writing "Jane Doe #112

Dean Wesley Smith is correct in his description of Harlan – "He was a performer, a carny, a man in need of a reason to write a story." As the publisher of Pulphouse Publishing, Dean and Harlan put together a three-volume project called ELLISON UNDER GLASS, to include all the stories Harlan wrote in pubic. Unfortunately, Pulphouse went out of business and the volumes were never published.

In 1990, I was awaiting the release of my second book, THE BIG KISS. For a writer like me who writes in spurts (some long spurts), a writer who re-writes and tweaks and fine-tunes each story and novel, I was amazed as Harlan's feat. I write like a sculptor chiseling a marble slab. Harlan wrote like a painter using delicate, lethal, awe-inspiring brush strokes.


4-year old Vincent De Noux thumbing through his autographed copy of the graphic novel
VIC AND BLOOD: THE CHRONICLES OF A BOY AND HIS DOG by Harlan Ellison

That's all for now.
www.oneildenoux.com




18 July 2018

The Big Neurotic meets the Big Easy

O'Neil De Noux and I at the Cafe Abyssinia for lunch
by Robert Lopresti

In June my wife and I visited New Orleans for the first time.  It was great fun and quite a change from  my Northwest home where we were still celebrating what we call Juneuary.  (As I write this it is Febjuly.  The temperature is 64 degrees and it is drizzling.)

One of the highlights was meeting O'Neil De Noux in person for the first time after years of digital friendship.  O'Neil was kind enough to take us on a tour of the city where his family has lived for hundreds of years.  Boy, was that great.  He is quite a raconteur.

But here was the best part.  O'Neil stopped the car in front of one building and announced that this is where Lucien Caye had his office.  Caye is one of O'Neil's series characters, a post-war private eye.

Just beyond the building there is a park and I immediately remembered the beginning of O'Neil's Shamus-winning short story "The Heart Has Reasons."  Lucien Caye looks out his window and spots a girl sitting in the park.  And that was the  park.

I actually shivered.  It is weird how fiction can do that to us.  It explains why fans have put up marking locations of Baker Street, West 35th Street, and the Reichenbach Falls.

Several friends assured us that the best thing about New Orleans was the music so when my wife and I had a free  evening we decided to see what was on offer.  I'm not a big fan of jazz or Cajun (sorry) but there was one performer listed as folk.  Through the miracle of Youtube we were able to check her out and I would say she was more Bonnie Raitt than folk, but that was fine.

So we strolled over to the French Quarter to the bar where she was playing.  There was nobody and nothing on the stage.  Not so much as a piccolo.  We were greeted by a man at the end of the bar who appeared to be the owner.

"When is the music supposed to start?" I asked.

He smiled.  "Eight thirty."

"And what time is it?"

"Eight thirty."

"But she's not here yet, huh?"

"Nope."

So we strolled about the Quarter for half an hour.  No sacrifice, I assure you.  Coming back at 9 PM we found the stage was still empty.

I looked up the singer's Facebook page and found a notice to her fans that the gig had been cancelled.  I showed it to the apparent-bar-owner who was quite astonished by the news.

So, on the whole, I was not that impressed by the music in New Orleans.

Resident of the Audubon Zoo
I have to get serious now.  That weekend was the 45th anniversary of a famous crime in the city: the UpStairs Lounge arson.  A gay bar was burned and thirty-two people died horribly.  While no one was ever convicted, it is considered pretty certain the culprit was a gay man who had been thrown out of the bar earlier.  (He killed himself a year later.)

A tragedy without doubt.  But the main reason it might be of interest today to those who knew no one involved was the response.  The news media generally ignored that it was a gay bar.  Radio shows made jokes about it.  No government officials mentioned the death of thirty-two citizens.

Many churches refused to hold funerals for the victims.  One Episcopal priest did and was criticized by his parishioners and bishop.  (Unitarians and Methodists stepped up too.  More power to 'em.)  Some families never claimed their deceased's remains.

If there is a positive side to that story it is comparing it to how the nation reacted to the Pulse massacre of 2016.  Looks like we had matured a little since then.

I haven't mentioned the actual reason we were in New Orleans, which was the American Library Association conference.  That's the topic for next time.



01 June 2018

300 and counting ...

by
O'Neil De Noux

On Wednesday, May 7, 1718, the city of La Nouvelle-Orléans was founded by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, on land inhabited by the Chitimacha. It was named for Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, regent of France at the time. On May 7, 2018, we celebrated the city's 300th Birthday.

Known for her musical and culinary heritage as well as her laid-back lifestyle, New Orleans has a literary heritage. Don't have room here to list all the writers who were born here or lived her or came here for inspiration or for po-boys and muffuletta sandwiches – I took a morning to go around and photograph some of the places I could locate where some writers lived and worked.


UPPER PONTALBA BUILDING

The long red-brick Pontalba Buildings on either side of Jackson Square house shops and restaurants along their first floors and apartments along the upper floors. They are often referred to as the oldest continuously-rented apartments in the United States. The Pontalbas were the first buildings to use lacework wrought iron balcony railings in the city, now a prominent feature of New Orleans architecture.

Along the Upper Pontalba Building a door bears the address 540 Saint Peter Street. A Literary Landmark plaque next to the door reads: Residence of Sherwood Anderson, author of "Winesburg, Ohio." While living here, Anderson hosted literary salons that powered the careers of guests William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Carl Sandburg and John Dos Passos. Anderson lived in Apartment B where he wrote his best selling novel DARK LAUGHTER.



Where William Faulkner wrote his first novel, Soldier's Pay, is easy to locate on Pirate Alley, just across from Saint Anthony's Garden at the rear of Saint Louis Cathedral.


FAULKNER HOUSE - pale blue doors

Built in 1840 as a French colonial prison, the narrow three-story building at 624 Pirate Alley now houses FAULKNER HOUSE BOOKS, an antiquarian bookstore specialzing in southern writers. Sitting on the second-story balcony, Faulkner wrote newspaper vignettes to support himself as he wrote his first novel SOLDIER'S PAY .



Built in 1842, the Avart-Peretti House at 632 Saint Peter Street was the residence and studio of Italian-turned-American citizen artist Achille Peretti who was also a sculptor and anarchist. In 1946-47, Tennessee Williams lived here and wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning play A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.


TENNESSEE WILLIAMS Apartment - white door



Tennessee Williams later bought a townhouse a 1014 Dumaine Street, still in the French Quarter and lived there on-and-off from 1962 until his death in 1983. In his MEMOIRS, he wrote, "I hope to die in my sleep ... in this beautiful big brass bed in my New Orleans apartment, the bed that is associated with so much love ..."


TENNESSEE WILLIAMS TOWNHOUSE

Just up the street at 1054 Dumaine, George Alec Effinger wrote his critically acclaimed science-fiction Budayeen books (WHEN GRAVITY FAILS, A FIRE IN THE SUN and THE EXILE KISS) and his Hugo and Nebula Award winning short story "Shrondinger's Kitten."


GEORGE ALEC EFFINGER lived upstairs, right apartment

Still in the French Quarter, at 1113 Chartres Street stands the Beauregard-Keyes House (erected 1826) where Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant de Beauregard lived after the Civil War. Nearly a hundred years later, author Frances Parkinson Keyes (pronounced like 'skies') purchased the house and wrote numerous books there. Her famous New Orleans novel DINNER AT ANTOINE'S is a "least likely person" murder mystery, notable for playing fair with the reader with clues embedded in the novel to solve the case.


BEAUREGARD-KEYES HOUSE

Across narrow Sixth Street from uptown's Lafayette Cemetery at 2900 Prytania Street stands a two-story yellow frame house with four square columns along its front gallery. Here F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in 1919-20, where he wrote his "Letters to Zelda."


FITZGERALD HOUSE


After the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Dutch engineers and scientists came to New Orleans to examine the levee system. They made suggestions on how to keep the water out of the city. After all, they've done a good job keeping the North Sea out of the Netherlands. Their suggestions were not implemented. Too expensive. So the levees were patched up and with rising ocean levels and future storms, we'll see if New Orleans will be around for another 300 years.

Our writings, along with photos and films, may be all that's left of New Orleans in the future.

That's all for now.
http://www.oneildenoux.com/

11 May 2018

The House of Shock

by
O'Neil De Noux

At 10: 30 p.m., Saturday, January 3, 1959, my father, my little brother Danny and I sat in front of our   television as the local news ended and spooky music came on to welcome us to a new series of monster movies called THE HOUSE OF SHOCK. Hosted by Morgus The Magnificent, an Einsteinish hairscientist with frizzy gray-white hair, sunken eyes in a pock-marked face and hideous, protruding teeth, Dr. Morgus introduced a movie about a fellow scientist whose experiment went a little awry.

Listen to the opening theme of THE HOUSE OF SHOCK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09eDKJXUbMc

Morgus the Magnificent AKA: Dr. Momus Alexander Mogus

I sat riveted to the floor watching Boris Karloff's FRANKENSTEIN (1931).


I was terrified and fascinated. FRANKENSTEIN was the only episode my little brother saw. The following Saturday night, when the spooky theme music came on, Danny ran up the stairs screaming, "Turn it down. Turn it down." This was followed, periodically by shouts, "I can still hear it!" Danny did this every time THE HOUSE OF SHOCK came on until he was too big to fit under his bed with his New Orleans Police gear. He was twenty-two by then.

The movie that second Saturday night was DRACULA (1931) with Bela Lugosi at his frightening best.


Following Saturday, you guessed it - THE WOLFMAN (1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and this one really scared me. I figured I could stave off Dracula, who only came out at night.  I had a crucifix and we have garlic at home (my mother was Sicilian-American). I had to get some wolfbane. Frankenstein I could outrun. But the Wolfman? I couldn't out run him and didn't have a silver cane or silver bullets.

I was horrified and thought - at least these monsters weren't in America. But didn't Dracula sail on a ship? Damn.

The next summer - we went to Europe. My father was in the army and was stationed in Italy. The wolfman was in Britain with Dracula and Frankenstein was in Germany or ... where the hell was Transylvania. I looked it up in the World Book Encyclopedia. Romania. Looked awfully close to Italy.

Along with seeing theatrical movies like THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959) and THE LOST WORLD (1960), the monster movies on THE HOUSE OF SHOCK stimulated my imagination then and continues.

Writers need an active imagination. Glad mine started so young.

http://www.oneildenoux.com/

09 March 2018

Just the instrument

by
O'Neil De Noux

2:46 a.m., and I lift my fingers from the keyboard and look at what I've just written on the screen in front of me and realize it's a pretty good paragraph, almost eloquent. Did I write this? Eloquent? We'll see if it makes the cut to stay in the book. I've cut lots of stuff I thought eloquent at first.

The characters keep moving and talking and I stay along with them, typing it out and wonder how many people are going to read this and if they do, will they think of me. No. Why? Because I'm not important. The story is important. The people in it are important. The feelings brought to the reader are important. I'm just the instrument. It flows through me but I'm not important and that's how it should be.

Plot is important, especially in a mystery story. Moving without a plot is like walking through swamp water where your feet can easily bog down and you have to struggle to get moving again. Having said that, I've written stories after creating characters and a situation and not plotting the story and it worked.  It was hard work, but it worked. Writing fiction is confusing work. There are no rules. Except getting it written.

When I wrote my historical novel BATTLE KISS, I knew the Americans would win the Battle of New Orleans. What I didn't know was how the villians (The British) were so heroic and faced incredible hardships to end up on that battlefield only to get slaughtered. I found a starting point, knew how the battle would turn out, created characters and let them lead me through it all.


I've done the same thing with mysteries, often changing the plot as I go through it, dropping in a body or two. What I don't write well are formula stories. Wish I could as they seem to sell.

Like many other writers, sometimes I'm focused like a laser and everything falls into place. Sometimes I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. The odd thing, when writing a novel especially, is to let it simmer when it seems like you're stuck. Daydream about the story when you're away from the computer. EVERY time I've done this - it comes to me. The solution. Why? Because I'm the instrument. The device that gets it done. A novel is a living creature struggling to be born.


In SAINT LOLITA I knew I needed one thing to make it different from other books in the series. Put most of the action away from New Orleans and see how my recurring character LaStanza does away from home. Big problem at first as I researched which Caribbean island to set the story. I'd been to some islands but did not know enough about any island and internet research bogged me down. Hey, it's a novel. Fiction. So I created the island of SAINT LOLITA which lies 76 miles west of Grenada. The novel struggled through my limited intelligence to live. But it's alive. And the Lolita joke worked well.


I knew HOLD ME, BABE would be about a lost song. I gave it to New Orleans Private Eye Lucien Caye and let him go with it. Other characters peeked in, some became important, some not so but the book came together and was nominated for a SHAMUS Award. Same with THE LONG COLD. I'd worked a couple cold cases when I was a homicide detective. What if I had LaStanza work a 30-year-old unsolved murder of someone he went to school with? THE LONG COLD was also nominated for a SHAMUS so someone must have liked reading it.



Sometimes the instrument works like a laser - sharp and focused. Sometimes it gets stuck in mud. Sometimes it doesn't know what the hell it's doing. But it gets done. The short story, the novel, comes together and it's a great feeling re-reading later and thinking - Did I write this?

That's all I have today.

www.oneildenoux.com

05 January 2018

Where is more than the name of a place.

by
O'Neil De Noux

I was fortunate to learn early from a panel of editors: "Setting is the fictional element that most quickly distinguishes the professional writer from the beginner." These were acquisition editors at a couple publishing houses and magazines. Stories without settings did not make it out of the slush pile.

Setting is not just the name of a place or a time-period; it is the feeling of the place and time period. It comprises all conditions - region, geography, neighborhood, buildings, interiors, climate, time of day, season of year.

Setting should appear near the beginning of a novel or story and remain throughout by answering the questions WHERE and WHEN. Using sensory details, the writer can flesh out a setting: the visual, smells, sounds, taste, feeling of the atmosphere. All five senses should be used by describing the little things - what your character sees, hears, feels, tastes and smells.

Every story takes place somewhere. Setting is more than a backdrop, it creates mood, tone and can help establish the theme of a work of fiction. Like characters, it plays an important role in a story. Writers should not neglect setting.

When establishing a setting, get the details correct. You can't have azaleas blooming in Louisiana in December. In New Orleans, the weather is an important part of setting. We have only two seasons - steamy hot in spring, summer and fall - wet cold in winter. There are occasional mild days at the start of spring and the beginning of autumn. Tennessee Williams said these were the only good days in New Orleans.

Go to the place you set your story (or a place like it if you create a fictional city or village or whatever). Go there and watch, listen, take notes. It has helped me often in important scenes.

One of the most gratifying compliments I receive come from New Orleanians telling me how real the city seems in my novels and stories. They see people and places they know. Even The Times-Picayune (a newspaper notoriously indifferent to local genre writers) described my writing as, "the real thing," when it comes to the city.

The weather can come as a surprise as in real life. As I wrote my crime novel BOURBON STREET, I learned about the 1947 Fort Lauderdale Hurricane (hurricanes were not named back then) and how after hitting Fort Lauderdale, crossed Florida into the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into New Orleans. It flooded the city similar to the way the city flooded during Hurricane Katrina, only the water didn't stay as long since there were no lakefront levees to help turn New Orleans into a bowl as it is today. The water quickly receded. I had my characters use the hurricane to assist in their escape.

I do agree with Elmore Leonard to leave out the parts people skip over. A writer, especially a mystery writer, may want to make sure the description of the setting does not overwhelm the scene.

Research. Research. Research when you set a piece in a place you've never been. If you work hard enough you can capture enough of the setting to work.

As I began to write my latest mystery, SAINT LOLITA, I originally set it on a real Caribbean island and quickly saw I'd never get the details correct so I made up an island - Saint Lolita, which lies west of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. I researched islands of the Lesser Antilles to get details of flora and fauna and architecture, populations, cuisine, architecture and weather and I think I pulled it off.


Setting. Don't neglect it, especially in longer stories and novels.

http://www.oneildenoux.com/index.html

06 October 2017

More About Inspirations


by O'Neil De Noux

I started writing in high school and in college, nothing publishable. When I became a road deputy (patrol officer), I took note of what I observed and felt. Notes I'd use to inspire stories. When I became a homicide detective, I knew - this is what I should write about. While my first two novels were not inspired by real cases, the anecdotes in the books were. The small stories and the way the characters talked and thought.

My third novel BLUE ORLEANS is based on a real case we worked. Not only a whodunit, it was a whoisit as it started with a dumped body. Didn't take long to identify the victim as a New Orleans drug dealer, which led to his family and friends, which led to the solution of the case. I jazzed it up in the novel, put in a little sex and violence, created a femme fatale.

   LaStanza Novels 3, 4, 5

My fourth novel CRESCENT CITY KILLS is a telling of another dumped body case, the case of two young New Orleans women executed on the river batture (land between the levee and the water's edge, in this case the Mississippi River). In real life, the murders occurred in Jefferson Parish. In my book, I moved them back to New Orleans were my recurring character NOPD Homicide Detective Dino LaStanza could work it. Condensing the 13-month investigation wasn't hard but pacing the novel was difficult.

Those books also had strong ancillary plots - LaStanza's personal life. But I was fortunate to have a framework. Real cases.

The inspiration of my fifth novel, THE BIG SHOW, came from a phone call from Harlan Ellison who said he had an idea for LaStanza. He gave me flashes of an opening scene and suggested I run with it. I did. All he asked was for me to put an acknowledgement: Thanks Uncle Harlan. Which I did. I made up the rest of the story. Inspiration from a phone call.


The third novel in my Lucien Caye Private Eye series - HOLD ME, BABE (which was a finalist for this year's SHAMUS Award for BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK PRIVATE EYE NOVEL) - was inspired by a conversation with my literary agent Joe Hartlaub (who is also an agent for musicians). He relayed an emotional story about a lost song. I got caught up in the emotion and was inspired.



Hurricanes are inspiring. Look at the flood of Hurricane Katrina-inspired books. I waited eight years before penning CITY OF SECRETS, a story triggered by the haunting poem "Eternal Return" by James Sallis. Sometimes you just have to let an idea ferment.

We writers get inspiration from a lot of sources. The night my wife walked into my home office with a catalog (either a Victoria's Secret or Frederick's of Hollywood catalog) and showed me a new product - the kissable cleavage bra. I made note of what she said, then wrote a story "Kissable Cleavage" that's been published three times. Sorry, don't have a picture of the brassiere to share.

Sometimes it's the little things, sometimes the big ones. Whatever causes emotion in a writer can cause emotion in a reader if well written.

That's all for now.

www.oneildenoux.com