This month’s post for my publisher has to do with the necessary evil: making ends meet with a day job. But, it doesn’t have to be a total waste of time away from the writing we all love. Let me explain: (following originally published in a post here.)
All I really want to do is write all day. Even the editing part. Hell, even the writing the book synopsis part. But I can’t. I have a day job.
Lots, ok most, writers have day jobs. We toil away in our cubicles, behind our cash registers, or in our classrooms while story plot lines untangle themselves in our minds only to be knotted beyond recognition by the time we can sit in front of our keyboards again. I’m as guilty as the next writer of grumbling about it and pining my life away for the elusive “I write for a living” holy grail.
Since there doesn’t seem to be a winning lottery ticket or massive inheritance in my near future, I have to go to work, but I don’t have to have such a narrow view of it. You see, as a writer, work can be a microcosm of characters.
My parents and I were very active in our community theaters when I was growing up. Mom and I were the only ones on stage and would go to the malls, coffee shops, and other public places to “people watch” when we were figuring out what our characters needed to talk like or move like. We mentally collected walks, postures, accents, speech patterns, and facial expressions to distribute to the various characters we played over the years. As a writer, I find myself doing the same thing. So, why leave that skill at the malls and coffee shops? Why not take that skill to work to give my written characters the same life?
I have a unique advantage. Maybe only people who work at the malls, movie theaters, and other adult-run kid hangouts have a better advantage. You see, I teach middle school. What does that mean for my character research? I have a wide range of ages in the adults in the building and the kids in the halls and classrooms to study. The variety of language, speech patterns, social interactions, body language, and clothes to describe is vast. Stereotypes are knee deep and unique personalities surround me every day. I may be doing the teaching, but I’m also studying. Just not the stuff in the books.
Think of all the weirdo coworkers you have. Or not weirdos. Maybe just the normal people that have a way of moving, talking, dressing, laughing, that you’d know anywhere. Give those things to your characters to give them authentic life. To remind a reader of someone they met once at the DMV. A kid they were behind in the movie theater concession stand line over-trying to impress the girl from algebra class who happened to be in line ahead of him. Make them real and relatable by giving them features from real people.
The best part of doing character studies at work is that things are constantly changing with people even in mundane jobs. There’s always something new you can use. People change their habits with stress, joy, frustration, illness, or a great date the night before.
Work may take you away from putting words on a page, but it won’t keep you from giving your characters their special quirks, if you’re paying attention.
As a teacher, the first nine weeks of school can feel painfully long, especially as the preteens get antsy. This year, the weather took a turn for the cooler a tad late but just in time for Fall Break and both couldn’t be more welcome.
Making the most of the time off began with getting the house cleaned so I could actually relax instead of thinking of everything I still had to do. Because cleaning and laundry are the banes of my existence, my deal with myself was writing had to wait til the house was clean. So, break out the Clorox, I have a book to finish! Now that the kitchen is clean, all I need now is some pumpkin bread in the oven. (Don’t tell me to go get some pumpkin spice coffee. That’s just nasty.)
The next adventure began when I had an unexpected free afternoon. So, mini me and I decided to take a stroll through our beautiful old town. While my heart may always be in New Orleans, I gotta say Franklin isn’t a bad place to be in the fall. Beautiful old homes, lovely cemeteries, sweet people, delicious treats, and plenty of pumpkins. We call these outings “picture walks” because we can’t help photographing the pretty little town. Come take a picture walk with us!
Carnton Plantation and cemetery
Rest Haven and the old City Cemetery
Historic Downtown homes
Farmers market pumpkins and a sweet treat stop
Hope you enjoyed that little stroll through historic Franklin! Now, go make some fall memories of your own and share them with me!
It’s that time again! Time for my monthly post on my awesome publisher’s blog! This month, with all the news about Hurricane Frances and worrying about those in her path, it got me thinking about my own storm stories. As a kid in Louisiana, I remember the eerie green sky, the stillness of the eye of the storms, and the time my dad and brother went up on the roof in the eye of one to replace shingles that were blown off before the next wall hit.
But the one that still gives me chills was the night we rode out Hurricane Andrew. Read all about it now on the Pandamoon Publishing blog here.
Have you ever read something that took you back to a place that was comfortable, but showed it to you in a different light? Reading The Haunted Heirloom, a cozy mystery by Laura Cayouette, did that for me in a fabulously fun way!
Charlotte Reade is an actress who has given up the glitz and stress of Los Angeles for the casual comfort of New Orleans, a place her family called home for generations, even though it took her some time to find her way there. With a big movie about to launch and a hurricane threatening the city, Charlotte finds herself, and the guy of her dreams, in the middle of a mystery that hits close to home. Very close. In fact, it’s hanging in her bedroom. The chandelier has something to tell her as it moves on its own when her family history is discussed. Will she figure out what it is, or will it continue to be fodder for tour guides leading haunted tours of the city? Or is there a deeper connection to another Garden District family, whose surviving member finds himself in the middle of a haunting of his own?
Laura Cayouette weaves her deep love of the city of New Orleans through her writing on every page. As someone who has spent time in the same places, I can picture everything from the colorful people of the French Quarter, to the sidewalks turned into ramps by live oak roots. For me, it was a chance to settle into the city I adore while getting a glimpse into the behind the scenes world of a Hollywood actress. So much of Laura Cayouette runs through the book in the form of her main character, Charlotte Reade, from her acting career to the pink corseted flamboyance of The Pussyfooters, a local dance group who uses the fun of their performances and parade appearances to raise money for local causes.
The Charlotte Reade mysteries are Laura Cayouette’s love letters to the city that has become home in the way only New Orleans can. The Haunted Heirloom is book 4 in the series, but each book can stand alone. However, I suggest you get them all. They are quick, fun reads! Settle in, pour yourself a drink in your go-cup, and enjoy!
Walking around the French Quarter in New Orleans it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped into another world, which is one of the many reasons it inspires my novels. It’s a city unlike any other. There are so many things that make the place unique, like the food and the people. But one of the most striking things in the city is the architecture.
Here is where the history of the city really unfolds. French and Spanish influences collide here. Buildings surrounding you as you walk can be hundreds of years old, depending on whether or not they survived the couple of fires that swept the city early on. Construction techniques have a lot to do with the longevity of the buildings: cypress wood, brick, and stucco sealing the brick. Some buildings are more “cabin” looking, while others are multi-story ironwork laced mansions. Entresols, a shorter hidden story between the bottom floor and the second floor, were often used as an attic. But wait, aren’t attics on top? Not in old New Orleans. The temps would climb too high in a traditional attic and things would get ruined. So, the entresol was a bit more insulated by the rest of the structure making it great for storage (or nefarious activities of a particular pharmacist way back). Another feature you may notice are the porte cocheres, the larger or double doors that lead from the inner courtyard to the street. Here’s where the carriages would go in and out, like a driveway. Hey, they had to park them somewhere, right? On the backside of the courtyards were often a garcionnere, a building that males over the age of 15 lived in because who really wants to be around a stinky teenage boy all the time? (Ok, not really the reason.) And of course, there are the galleries, the ironwork balconies that give shade to the banquettes (sidewalks) below. We even have one funky cornstalk fence that has a sibling in the Garden District.
Below is a gallery of some of the places I loved for different reasons as I wandered. Some were beauties, some had personality, and some needed someone to love them. Come take a walk with me…. (I should probably state that all photos on my site are my own.)
There are so many more photos I could post here, but these are some of my favorites. I can’t wait to be back down to spend some more time with this eclectic and beautiful city!