R is for River Road Plantations

020_006Earlier this week I wrote a post that talked about Ophélie, the fictional plantation I designed for The House of Crimson and Clover series. Ophélie was based on not one, but many plantations, some of which I’ve visited. In this post, I will introduce you to some of the plantations of the Great River Road in Louisiana.

The River Road refers to the stretch of road, about 20 miles outside of New Orleans, that runs along the Mississippi River toward Baton Rouge. The land was settled in the early 1800s as a popular location for plantations, due to the fertile land (great for sugar) and the location to the river. In its heyday, the River Road contained some of the best and most successful plantations in the entire nation, and today is one of the most popular tourist destinations for plantation sightseeing.

When we picture a plantation, we are often envisioning that grand Greek Revival mansion, with the columns and lined balconies. We picture women in sweeping skirts, and men drinking mint juleps on the porch. In fact, the Big House, as it was called, was only one piece. A plantation might as well have been called a village, for the property was often entirely self-sufficient. You’d find kitchens, blacksmith shops, sugar mills, stores, and anything else they needed to keep daily life running on the plantation. 023_003And, of course, there were rows of slave cabins on the property that housed the many men and women who kept the plantation running through the involuntary servitude of the time.

Almost all commerce was conducted via the river, in an era where steamboats were king. Whatever could not be produced on the plantation could be ordered and delivered.

Although the river was, quite literally, at the end of their driveways, the levee was built to protect their plantations from ruin, and over the years it was built taller and taller. Most of the plantations, therefore, no longer had views of the river that lay less than a football field away.

006_020Eventually, in the 20th century, disease killed off many of the sugar crops, and much of the once-fertile land was sold off to oil refineries and other interested parties. Those that were not sold fell into disrepair. In the 1920s, interest grew in restoring many of these properties to their former glory, and this resulted in a good dozen or so plantations being saved and restored. While some are for private use only, several- such as the famous Oak Alley, Laura, and Destrehan plantations- are open to the public for tours.

The pictures in this post are all from my private collection.

Laura

Laura is one of the oldest Creole-style plantations left on River Road, and it can be spotted by the bright Creole colors. Two things make this property remarkable for us today: the first is how much of the plantation was maintained and restored; the second is that we have significant insight into what life was like on Laura, as Laura Locoul’s vivid diaries are left as a statement to its history. In fact, the tours of Laura are structured around the information contained in her diaries.

Oak Alley

When you envision the quintessential plantation, Oak Alley is what comes to mind. Its hard to believe the 28 trees that line the driveway leading up to Oak Alley’s Big House were designed without that glorious house in mind, but in fact they date back to the 1700s. The house was built in 1829, in the Greek Revival style, but was also heavily influenced by the French Creole architecture of the Caribbean plantations. As with other plantations of the time, the home was abandoned but later purchased and restored, and is now open to the public for tours as well as overnight stays.

Destrehan

Destrehan is the oldest remaining plantation on River Road (and possibly the entire Mississippi Valley), dating back to 1787. The house was built in the popular Greek Revival style. Like many of their neighbors, Destrehan found their success in sugar farming. Although the house fell into disrepair like many others, restoration efforts commenced and they were able to save the Big House and a few outbuildings. Tours are available. You might recognize the house as the one used in Interview with the Vampire.

There are many great plantations not featured here- such as Nottoway, the Houma House, and San Francisco- but they are among those great homes that have been restored to their former glory.

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Q is for Quillan Sullivan

527862_10151523147443162_1679150147_nQuillan Sullivan is my main character in my current Camp NaNoWriMo project, Moonlight and Midwinter (Book 5 of the House of Crimson and Clover series). He’s in his mid-twenties, and, like many of the Sullivans, is a lawyer with Sullivan & Associates, one of the most esteemed law firms in New Orleans, comprised mostly of Sullivans for the past hundred years or so. This, however is a terrible career for Quillan, who is impulsive, unreliable, and has yet to grow up. He hardly ever shows up to work, blows off clients, and his behavior is at a point where his Sullivan name is no longer earning him any goodwill and his job is at risk. Continue reading

P is for Pinterest (House of Crimson and Clover Has a Board!)

I never really got into the whole Pinterest craze until I realized how much fun it would be to have a place where I could pin images related to the House of Crimson and Clover series. So the series now has a Pinterest site!

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Examples of things that I’m including there:

  • Promotional images
  • Family tree snapshots
  • Pictures of places in and around New Orleans where important things happen in the books
  • Mementos from my research trip to New Orleans
  • Anything else related to the series that pops up

I’ll continue adding to it as the stories continue to develop and grow. Maybe scrapbooking is fun, after all!

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N is for NaNoWriMo

nanowrimo-posterIts no secret that I am in love with NaNoWriMo. I love the inspiration it gives me and other writers, I love the community that is built around it, and I love the anticipation of knowing that I will be surrendering myself to an entire month of writing abandon…and that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, I will revisit this project and it will become something even greater if I put the effort into it.

To the critics who criticize the process, saying it promotes quantity over quality, I say: Wrong. It inspires writers to get off their ass and write something. No one ever said first drafts were pretty anyway. To call yourself a writer, you must do one thing only: write. Writing well is something that comes from practice.

I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009. I signed up that year and promptly failed miserably. I learned pretty quickly that I was not prepared for the commitment and that I could- and would- do better the following November. And I did. 2010, 2011, and 2012 were all winning years for me, and this year I’m stretching even further and am/will be participating in the April and July Camp NaNoWriMo sessions.

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Why NaNoWriMo? Why not just write when inspiration strikes? Because most of us writers are also perfectionists. And if we wait for the perfect ideas and the perfect moment, we will write very little and very seldom. NaNoWriMo not only provides specific goals and timetables, but a community of fellow writers pushing you every step of the way. It’s fun, and exciting, and having something tangible to work with at the end of thirty days is like a gift that keeps on giving. The process has taught me better discipline as a writer, and has introduced me to some pretty awesome folks along the way.

I have created a NaNoWriMo page on my blog, that is a central place for my history with NaNo, my updates, links to my profile, and any articles I write about my experiences, as well as tips and tricks. Its easily accessible from the main page, using either the top menu or side menu navigation.

4/16 Camp NaNoWriMo Update: 30k words. Scheduled to finish 5 days early.

Happy noveling!

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M is for My Name

sarahSarah is of both Hebrew and Arabic origin, meaning “princess” in both. The first and most famous mention of the name is in three holy works of the Torah, Old Testament, and the Quran. Sarai, the wife of Abraham, remains beautiful but barren until her old age when she is blessed by God, who tells her she is henceforth to be known as Sarah. The way I always interpreted this was that she was only sort-of awesome, and then God decides she’s going to be full-on awesome by giving her the best name ever. And bam, just like that, she has a son.

SarahMy mother wanted to give me a strong name. There were other names that were “trending” at the time of my birth (she once joked that I was supposed to be “Ingaborg”), but she felt that the name Sarah would carry with it a strength and confidence throughout the years of my life. It was also the name of her best friend, and the title character for the song “Sarah Maria,” from her favorite musician, James Taylor. Of course, there were many other songs written about Sarahs, but they all pretty much sucked. Many have sung them in my presence; few are still around to tell about it.sarah-name-arabic-caligraphy

I never wanted a different name, never thought about changing it. I’ve always been grateful that my mother chose a name for me that I could be proud of.

Also, princess? Accurate.

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