Mardi Gras History

Mardi Gras. I’ve always had a love or hate relationship with it. As a child growing up in California one of the highlights of the year was a box of beads, throws, and Moon Pies my mother’s cousin would send us. The magic of the sparkling beads, fun toys, and the wonders of sugar coated marshmallow pies. What wasn’t to love?

As I grew older, my understanding changed. Carnival is a time of excess and indulgent behavior and people use it as an excuse to sin. Behind the beauty in the pageantry, filthy behaviors happen within some circles. Tens of thousands—and more—dollars are spent only to pelt parade watchers with plastic, guzzle booze, and litter the streets. Think of all the good that money could be used for instead—a waste!

Then I discovered the historical origins and my understanding evolved further. Bachelors in Mobile began the first society as an impromptu parade through town to disturb the peace. The wildness was celebrating the New Year and the timing eventually expanded to be enjoyed before revelers humbled themselves for Lent. After the Civil War, people in the Port City needed something to lift their spirits and carnival was brought back. Today many of the societies donate to non-profits and do volunteer work throughout the year within the community.

While parades and extravagant balls aren’t my personal style, I’ve developed an appreciation for the colorful history it gives Mobile, Alabama. Before I began writing what is now the first book of The Possession Chronicles, Perilous Confessions, I researched the history of Mardi Gras in Mobile through books as well as newspaper articles from the 1905 season I wrote about. I knew I didn’t want to use real society names, so I asked the opinion of a writer friend who had tackled high society and Mardi Gras in a contemporary setting for her YA/NA novel Want. Stephanie gave me permission to use the society she created for her modern take on carnival in my series. I had a lot of fun creating the roots of Mystics of Dardenne and I’d like to think Isaac Laroche would find the Dardennes’ antics entertaining—at the very least.

Writing is all about stirring emotions. Things the author and the reader are passionate about are the best things to use, but passion isn’t always positive. The feelings I’ve had about Mardi Gras throughout my life (from wonder to disgust) can be found within Perilous Confessions. Just as with any topic, whatever your take on carnival season is I hope you’ll continue to find new information and insight to further your understanding of this unique event.

It’s release day for Perilous Confessions! You can read the first five chapters with the “Look Inside” option. (The digital sale price of $0.99 won’t last forever.) To check out Stephanie and her books, find her on Goodreads. Happy reading!

Top Ten Facts Behind the Fiction–CORRODED

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1. The acknowledgement section for Corroded is full of people, but the one that stands out the most is Laurie Halse Anderson. Yes, THE Laurie Halse Anderson. I was blessed to win a full manuscript critique during a fundraiser for the Joplin, Missouri tornado victims in 2011, one of the last full critiques she was able to do. I’ve been in contact with Laurie both before and after the critique and she’s been nothing but supportive. An ultimate mentor—my thanks, again!

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2. Mary Weber is the character that changed the most from how she was portrayed in the original drafts. She’s stronger and more relatable than she was to begin with, thanks in part to honest critique partners and beta readers who shared their displeasure of her with me.

3. In both of my books, my secondary characters vie to over-run the main one, and Corroded is the ultimate example. Ben Thomas was so well-loved by beta readers and my critique group, the story finally morphed to include his own point-of-view chapters.

4. Ben’s sensory issues are influenced by the sensitivities of several people on the autism spectrum including my son and the autobiographical tales by John Elder Robison, Temple Grandin, Donna Williams, and Erin Clemens (who the book is dedicated in part to.) But Ben’s story isn’t a one-size-fits-all autism story. Autism is a spectrum disorder. Each person on the spectrum is unique and lives with a different set of skills and sensitivities, just like anyone else.

5. Weighted blankets can help calm people on the spectrum and other individuals with sensory-related issues. Does it work for everyone? No, but it’s worth trying because it’s a safe, drug-free option to ease anxiety and quiet meltdowns.

6. Ben originally had one obsession—The Avengers, with a focus on Thor because I’m a Marvel girl. As his role expanded, he became more complex with his interests and the history geek emerged.

7. The town in Corroded, Santo Cordero, is based on the Rio Del Mar/Aptos area in Santa Cruz County where I lived during high school. The school I attended had a Mariner mascot—that’s where the idea for Sailor Suzy came from.

8. There was a place on campus called “the pit.” Photographic evidence: that’s me in the middle, rocking my flannel shirt and white moccasins in 1993.

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9. I found the Steinbeck Wax Museum on Cannery Row in Monterey totally creepy when I went there, but what else could you expect from a wax museum in a basement? It did not disappoint, in that regard.

10. I have two older sisters who are much cooler and more interesting than me. While growing up, I almost always shared a room with one of my siblings, but I did have my own room for about two years before my sister closest in age moved back in and I was forced to share my space. I played up those two experiences for Mary and Barbara’s relationship trouble.

Repeats

2015 has been a year of edits. Multiple rounds of edits on my first novel, Fortitude, carried me through winter and spring. In between those, I reworked my second novel, Corroded, to be submission ready for my publisher. (I signed the contract for it in April.) Over the summer, I worked on my messy work-in-progress, as well as line edits on Fortitude.

And Fortitude is finally done! The manuscript is with the designer and cover artist. WooHoo!

Teen me.

Teen me.

Now I’m back to edits on Corroded. I’m spending my early morning hours going through life with Mary and Ben, revisiting the angst and thrill of high school. Would I go back in time if I could?

No!

But I’ll take the safe distance of fiction to reassess those emotions, whether through my own storytelling or the art of others. After all, I think we are all still “coming-of-age.” Even if you are happy where you are in life, there is always something you can do to stretch yourself to the next level.

If you could redo a section of your life, would you?

Adventure Ahead!

At the beginning of August, I took a trip with a comrade (both in homeschooling and writing) to North Carolina. Thanks to a visit from Santa in 2014, we had V.I.P. seats for The Piano Guys concert, and enjoyed two nights in downtown Raleigh.

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As many concerts as I’ve attended over the years, this was my first V.I.P. experience. Great, third row seats, as well as a meet-and-greet afterwards. So much fun! Thanks, girlie!

 

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Then, on the way back south (well, home to the DEEP south), we stopped in one of my bucket list locations—Biltmore Estate.

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100_8148Yes, for those keeping track, this is my second “Bucket List” check-off this year, and both involved traveling.

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As if that adventure wasn’t enough, I’m soon to be off on another. Information on that in the days ahead.

Where have your travels taken you lately?

Scents of Wonder

I’ve been thinking about smells lately. Not necessarily bad odors (though with three kids in the house, there are plenty of those), just the power of memory in regards to one of the main senses.

Childhood, in a jar.

Childhood, in a jar.

To me, a fresh box of Crayola crayons or a container of Play-Doh is childhood.

Camel cigarettes smell like corruption.

The scent of brush fire is fear.

And this…

The battlefield of clear skin.

The battlefield of clear skin.

…is high school.
Open a bottle of Sea Breeze and all the insecurities of my teen years rush back to me. Or did they ever leave?

What smells trigger your memories, for good or ill?