Monday, October 31, 2011

Festival of Words this week in St. Landry Parish

The fourth annual Festival of Words, celebrating the written and spoken word, will take place Thursday through Saturday in Grand Coteau, Sunset, Arnaudville and surrounding communities. The event features public readings and performances, student creative writing contests, open mics, writing workshops in the schools and community and “drive-by poetry” readings. Authors scheduled to participate include fiction writer Barb Johnson, poets Darrell Bourque, Toi Derricotte and Tim Seibles and spoken word artists Desiree Dallagiacomo and Latasha Weatherspoon. 
On Saturday, there will be “drive-by poetry” readings at cafes and gift shops in Grand Coteau, performances on the outdoor Community Stage and booksignings by local authors at the festival’s inaugural Book Fair. An afternoon art reception will celebrate “Words and Images,” mixed media compositions by high school students. For the full schedule, visit
Authors signing books at Casa Azul and Catahoula’s restaurant are as follows:
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - Children’s book authors Rosemary Smith, Mel LeCompte, Terry Bethea, Jackie Hirstberg, Theresa Singleton and Roslyn Fouin, and Warren Perrin, author of “Vermilion Parish.”
            12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. - Nancy Duplechain, Jim Booksh, Cat and Don Stafford.
            2 p.m. to 3 p.m. - Cookbook Authors John LaFleur and Carolyn Shelton.
3 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Poets Valentine Pierce and Jim McDowell.
            For more information and a full schedule, visit

Book news
            UL Press will participate in the New Orleans Book Fair from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday along Frenchmen Street in New Orleans. Authors signing books will be James Nolan, author of “Higher Ground” and Freddi William Evans, author of “Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans.” Nolan will also be signing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St. in New Orleans.
Dr. Darrell Bourque, the former Louisiana Poet Laureate, will offer the Marie Fletcher Lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday at Nicholls State University. The event is free and open to the public. Past Fletcher speakers have included Robert Penn Warren and his wife, Eleanor Clark, Cleanth Brooks, Lewis P. Simpson, Sybil Kein, Ernest J. Gaines, X. J. Kennedy, Lee Smith, Fred Chappell, Tim Gautreaux, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ellen Gilchrist, Randall Kenan, Chefs Paul Prudhomme and Chef John Folse.
            Last chance to get tickets to see New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries speak at the Heart of Louisiana’s Annual Romance Readers Luncheon Saturday in Baton Rouge. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Juban’s Restaurant, 3739 Perkin Road, and will also feature book signings. Tickets to “Fall in Love With Romance” are $40 and available through
Christopher E. Cenac Sr., author of “Eyes of an Eagle: Jean-Pierre Cenac, Patriarch: An Illustrated History of Early Houma-Terrebonne” will give a presentation from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at The Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St., in the French Quarter. Admission is free, but seating is limited; call (504) 523-4662 or email

Halloween reads
            New Orleans children’s author Dianne de Las Casas has penned a witchy tale titled “The House That Witchy Built,” based on the Mother Goose rhyme “The House That Jack Built,” this time with a spooky theme and complemented with cut-paper and collage illustrations by Zachary artist Holly Stone-Barker.
            New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison has released “The Hollows Insider,” an encyclopedia of sorts to her sexy supernatural “Hollows” novels. The book is perfect for newcomers to the series, as well as those needing to refresh their memory.
            Pelican Publishing of New Orleans has two books out in time for Halloween.
Halloween expert Lesley Pratt Bannatyne examines America’s love affair with All Hallows Eve and documents its various elements from haunted houses to zombie infatuation in “Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night.” Barbara Sillery takes on our neighbor and its hosts of ghosts in “The Haunting of Mississippi.”
For those of you hoping to catch a glimpse into the other life when on vacation, Tom Ogden “retells” ethereal tales in “Haunted Hotels: Eerie Inns, Ghoulish Guests and Creepy Caretakers.” Of course, Louisiana has more than its share.
Gordon Bonnet, who has penned the Louisiana hurricane tale “Convection,” has two ebooks available for Halloween: “The Conduit” and “Signal to Noise.” Both are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.
When I was published in romance, I had to invent a pen name because there is an accent over the last letter of my first name. My pen name became Cherie Claire to avoid those pesky keystrokes publishers don’t like. How happy I was to see that Chérie De Sues has published a book in time for Halloween and her accent remains! Chalk one up for the French (although she actually spells hers correctly). DeSues’ witchy novel is titled “West Salem,” the first book in the Ravenclaw Trilogy, and naturally takes place in Massachusetts and involves witches. Read more at

Monday, October 24, 2011

Louisiana Book Festival returns!

This Saturday marks the return of the Louisiana Book Festival on the Capitol grounds in Baton Rouge. There will be dozens of authors speaking on a wide variety of subjects, with books for sale afterwards, plus children’s activities, food, arts and crafts, book vendors, and Louisiana author James Wilcox will be honored with the Louisiana Writer Award.
            Best of all, the festival is free.
And I will be speaking about gris gris bags based on my book, “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.”
            In addition, five “WordShops” creative writing seminars will be taught Friday by successful Louisiana authors.
For information, visit
Volunteers are needed to help make the festival a success, and duties range from escorting authors to monitoring workshops and discussions. To volunteer or for more information, visit 

Get Your Mojo Working
            I will be speaking about my book, “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the South Regional Library. Titled “Get Your Mojo Working,” I will discuss the history, culture, and lure of gris gris or mojo bags. Materials will be provided to participants to make a mojo bag; however, attendees are encouraged to bring their own special ingredients, such as herbs, stones and tokens. 

Roger Debuts
Jacklyn Sonnier Hirshberg of Lafayette owns an expansive garden filled with ponds, flowers and a variety of creatures. One of them was a small frog she named Roger. The author of “Nicky the Swamp Dog,” a bestseller for local Acadian House Publishing, Hirshberg decided to make her Roger famous. In “Roger, the Tree Frog,” also published by Acadian House, Roger feels good about himself living at a nursery in town because he believes he has a name. Other tree frogs look up to him because of this. When a woman arrives and buys the plant he’s sleeping on, Roger ends up in a Lafayette home with a host of creatures who also have names. Suddenly, Roger is no longer the big man on campus. As Roger meets the creatures of his new home, he earns new friends. And the lady who inadvertently brings him to her house purchases tadpoles so he will not be lonely. In the end, Roger realizes that friends come in all sizes and shapes, sometimes having buddies of your own kind helps and every new experience, however unsettling the change may be, leads to a better understanding of the world. “Roger the Tree Frog” is a delightful book with photos of the actual tree frog found in Hirshberg’s back yard (along with her other creatures). It’s a valuable moral told in a sweet tale that kids of all ages will love.

Ebook News
Rosemary Smith of Lafayette’s novel, “No Earthly Boundaries,” has been released by Inkwater Press. The book follows a World War II veteran who returns to Butte La Rose to find his girl has married someone else and he can’t make a living hunting, fishing and trapping the way he had expected. He meets a childhood friend who became his true love and discovers an aircraft from another world, forming a friendship with the odd pilot, Sacam. The book is available on in soft cover and e-book format.
The electronic version of Warren Perrin’s “Acadian Redemption: From Beausoleil Broussard to the Queen’s Royal Proclamation” is now available for electronic readers through online bookstores.

Festival of Words
Former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque  will teaches a poetry writing workshop, “Memory, Dream, and Ancestors — finding the poems you didn't know you had in you," from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Arnauld LeDoux Library on the campus of LSU-Eunice. The workshop is free for students and a $10 donation is requested for the general public. Registration required; call Gerald Patout at (337) 550-1381. This workshop is offered through a partnership between the Festival of Words and the Friends of the Library Opelousas-Eunice.

'Louisiana Reflections'
   The Historic New Orleans Collection will host a book signing and lecture for fine art photographer Joseph D’Antoni on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 533 Royal St. in New Orleans. D’Antoni will discuss and sign copies of the newly released “Louisiana Reflections” (Royal Oak Press) at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free, but seating is limited; for reservations call (504) 523-4662 or email D’Antoni received his undergraduate degree from UL, a master’s degree from LSU and a doctorate from the University of Southern California.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Catholic explores paranormal, church doctrine in 'Holy Ghosts'

Gary Jansen grew up Catholic, confident in the explanations the church offered him regarding life and death. When he and his wife moved into his childhood Long Island home, and ghosts from his past returned along with other paranormal experiences, Jansen tried to rationalize the events using his Catholic upbringing.
            His journey coming to grips with his haunted house and his search for answers led him to write “Holy Ghosts Or How a (Not So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night,” now in paperback. It’s the perfect mix of suspenseful ghost stories with thoughtful spiritual reflections on the afterlife.
Jansen intertwines stories of his youth when his mother was convinced the ghost of a woman lived in the house with experiences of the past few years and the creepy noises and tingly feelings he received in his son’s bedroom. As Jansen seeks to find out what is happening in the house and how this may or may not coincide with local tragedies, he offers spiritual writings from Saint Ignatius, seminarian John Bosco and the Bible, among many others to offer spiritual claims of hauntings. He also includes writings on Catholic exorcisms and famous writers and leaders who have claimed to witness ghosts.
            “Holy Ghost” is a level-headed mix of haunting tale with spiritual explanation with a satisfying conclusion one doesn’t usually find reading ghost stories.

New Releases
            Best-selling romance author Sabrina Jeffries, with ties to Louisiana, has a new book out, “To Wed a Wild Lord.” Jeffries will be the keynote speaker of the Nov. 5 Heart of Louisiana’s annual Fall in Love With Romance Reader Luncheon in Baton Rouge. She will join more than a dozen authors (including yours truly) for booksignings, plus Lafayette’s Deborah Leblanc as emcee, at the luncheon; for more information or to register, visit To read more about Jeffries’s new book, visit
Brandi Lee Morrison of Lafayette has published a Christian novel titled “A Southern Tale of Forgiveness,” a print-on-demand novel through CreateSpace. The book follows twins Jolie and Tessandra Cormier of Louisiana. Born in 1919, Jolie resembles her white mother and Tessandra her black father. The girls deal with racial issues in Lafayette Parish and the death of their parents at a young age, then the struggle to survive on their own. For more information and to purchase a book, visit
Annabelle M. Armstrong compiles a history of Baton Rouge’s many neighborhoods in “Historic Neighborhoods of Baton Rouge” by the History Press.  Included are stories of Hundred Oaks, Capital Heights, University Acres, Wimbledon, Tara, Inniswold, Glenwood, Walnut Hills, Stratford, Steele Place, Broussard, Southdowns and other neighborhoods.
Catharine Savage Brosman, professor emerita of French at Tulane University, has authored numerous books of French literary history and criticism and nonfiction prose. Her eighth collection of poetry is “Under the Pergola.”
California native and part-time New Orleans resident Melinda Palacio has published her debut novel, “Ocotilo Dreams.”
Rev. Jerome LeDoux has published “War of the Pews: A Personal Account of St. Augustine Church.”
Virginia Willis, author of “Bon Appetit, Y’all” which was nominated for the IACP Best American Cookbook award, has published “Basic to Brilliant, Y’all,”
Two new cookbooks incorporating fresh ingredients into fun, healthy dishes are “Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking” by Pamela Sheldon Jones and “Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard” by Romney Steele. Both books offer a smaller, square format, complementing recipes with stories, anecdotes and beautiful photography. And both authors agree that it’s time to slow down and enjoy the pleasures of eating well with good company. Bon appetite!
Ron Marz, Sami Basri and Jessica Kholinne have published a comic book starring a mixed race bisexual character from Louisiana titled “Voodoo #1, published by DC Comics.
David Gessner examines the 2010 BP Oil Spill in “The Tarball Chronicles: A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill.”
            William G. McAtee has written “Transformed: A White Mississippi Pastor’s Journey Into Civil Rights and Beyond,” with a foreword by William F. Winter, by The University of Mississippi Press.
Andy Smith, a writer and lecturer on food history, has written “Starving the South, How the North Won the Civil War.” In his book, Smith asks the question: Did hunger defeat the Confederacy?
New Orleans-based Beatles expert — and tax attorney — Bruce Spizer has published “Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records,” which covers all of the singles, albums and extended play discs issued by the Beatles in the U.K. from 1962 through 1970. He is the author of the critically acclaimed books, The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay, TheBeatles’ Story on Capitol Records Parts 1 & 2, The Beatles on Apple Records, The Beatles Solo on Apple Records, The Beatles Swan Song: “She Loves You” & Other Records, and The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America.

E-book news
Louisiana publisher Margaret Media has registered with the online bookstore and their first title to appear on the site is “The Free People of Color of New Orleans” by Mary Gehman. The title will also be available for download by mid-October from ShelfWise and shortly thereafter from and Barnes & Noble. 
“This trial balloon of our best-selling title paves the way for eventually offering our other books in electronic form as well as some new titles published only as e-Books,” Gehman said.


Book events
Ernest J. Gaines, UL’s Writer in Residence emeritus, will read from a work in progress at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Ernest J. Gaines Center in the Dupré Library on campus. A discussion will follow the reading, and Gaines will sign copies of his books at the conclusion of the program. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Derek Mosley at the Gaines Center at 482-1848 or
The book release party for “The Complete Cajun Comics of Ken Meaux and Earl Comeaux” will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Kaplan Museum, 405 North Cushing Ave. in Kaplan. The event is open to the public and Meaux will be sign books. The book collects the comic series Bec Doux et ses amis written in Cajun French and published in The Kaplan Herald and later other southwestern Louisiana newspapers.
Author and licensed death scene investigator Deborah LeBlanc discusses “What’s Real, What Isn’t, and How to Write for Both” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the South Regional Library. LeBlanc will explain her work in paranormal investigation and how it influences her writing of horror and paranormal novels. A question and answer session and book signing follow LeBlanc’s presentation.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The 'Axman' cometh

The killings began in 1910, when a large man broke into a New Orleans grocery store owned by an Italian couple. Mrs. Crutti awoke to a man grasping a meat cleaver demanding money, while her husband groaned, injured, next to her in a pool of blood. When Mrs. Cruitti did as she was told, the man rewarded her with a whack on the head.
            More “burglaries” followed, although it quickly became clear that this was the work of a serial killer, since most of the time after killing the occupants of grocery stores the criminal either stole only small change to disguise his work or took nothing at all. He also abandoned the cleaver for an ax and became known as the “Axman,” mostly targeting Italian-owned groceries of the Crescent City.
            This horrific but fascinating tale opens “The Axman Came from Hell and Other Southern True Crime Stories” by Keven McQueen, published by Pelican of New Orleans. Other stories include the unsolved murder of an LSU professor, the serial killer of Austin who targeted servant girls, the Memphis socialite who slit the throat of her lesbian lover and the bad actress who took out her leading man in Chattanooga. As interesting as the unusual crimes is the police response, sometimes so bungling you wonder how anyone kept the peace in the 19th century and early 20th century South.
            McQueen offers an entertaining writing style that brings the stories to life, making this page-turning captivating. He pokes fun at times, mostly at the ineptitude of law enforcement and the irrational thinking of the criminals. All in all the book makes for a fascinating read, and a must for those who love true crime, particularly crimes of the weird and unusual.

‘Flower Picker’
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Marie Spallino has been writing ever since she can remember, religiously keeping diaries and journals. She grew up along the Vermilion River and dreamed up a story about the land where her house was located.
“I was seven at the time, and thus the story didn’t get too far,” she wrote me by email. “Still, it was a start. Even as a young child, I knew writing was something I wanted to someday do.”
             In the seventh grade she made an important friendship, but when her friendship took a turn, she used writing for solace. Her first novel, “Flower Picker,” was the result.
“Over the years I have re-written and developed this story further, making it the saga it is now,” she wrote. “'Flower Picker’ is a perfect reflection of who I am and of the way I honestly think. It's an expression of Olivia Spallino at my most genuine, honest point. It communicates what I was feeling, and most importantly, what all adolescents feel when we come to an understanding that people aren’t always who we think they are, we can’t change someone who doesn’t want to be changed, and that sometimes we have to move on even though what we want more than anything else in the world is to stay.”
             Spallino’s book is available in Lafayette at J&R Educational Supplies, Teche Drugs & Gifts, The Bookrack, The Little Paintbrush And Books Too, A-Bryans Jewelers and Cocolare Spa. You can also find it at Books on the Teche, New Iberia;  The Percala, Ville Plate; Back In Time Café and Teacher’s Playground, Opelousas; Thriftyway Pharmacy, Abbeville; and Carmichael’s Drugstore, Crowley.

Grand Reveil
The Grand Réveil Acadien or Great Acadian Awakening presented by Louisiane-Acadie is occurring now throughout South Louisiana. The GRA concludes in Lafayette with the Fête des Familles on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Cajundome Convention Center and at Festivals Acadiens et Creole on Sunday, Oct. 16, in Girard Park. Authors such as Warren Perrin (“Vermilion Parish”) and Francois Paradise (“Evangeline: A Coloring Book for Children”) will be selling books and Maine filmmaker Brenda Nasberg Jepson will be selling her DVDs all day Thursday at the Cajundome. I will be there selling “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Tour of Acadiana.” For more information, visit

Author Dinner
            The 2011 Friends of the Library Author Dinner features Jeff Duncan, author of “From Bags to Riches,” Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Petroleum Club. Admission is $20 and books will be sold at the event. Duncan will speak on how the struggling New Orleans Saints, once called the “Aints” as fans put paper bags on their heads during a poor season, came back after Katrina to win the Super Bowl. The social part of the evening begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by a dinner buffet at 7 p.m. The reservation deadline is noon Friday; call 984-8661.

Book events
Ann McCutchan will sign copies of “River Music: An Atchafalaya Story” on Friday, Oct. 14, at Books Along the Teche, 106 E. Main St. in New Iberia. For information, visit
Irene S. Di Maio, LSU professor and translator and editor of “Gerstäcker’s Louisiana: Fiction and Travel Sketches from Antebellum Times through Reconstruction” (LSU Press, 2006) will discuss the book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at The Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St., in New Orleans. Admission is free. For reservations, call (504) 523-4662 or
The Friends of the Jefferson Public Library will conduct its semi-annual Big Book Sale Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 13-16, at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
The Peauxdunque Writers Alliance will host a new literary series titled “Yeah, You Write” with Emcee Nick Fox on Thursday, Oct. 13, at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. The event will feature performances by Amanda Boyden, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Smith, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Mat Johnson and Terri Stoor. Doors open at 7 p.m., performances start at 7:30 p.m. Cover is $5 and reading includes a dance party with deejay. For more information, visit
John Wukovits, author of “Black Sheep: The Life of Pappy Boyington,” will lecture and sign copies from 6-7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the World War II Museum in New Orleans. The book details the Marine’s early life, his military career and service with the Flying Tigers in Burma and China, his feats as a Corsair pilot in the South Pacific and his time in Japanese prison camps. The event will be preceded by a free reception at 5 p.m.

Monday, October 3, 2011

'Selected Shorts' long on enjoyment

            How many times have your turned on public radio and found yourself enthralled by “Selected Shorts,” a series of classic and contemporary fiction performed by actors? And how many times have you reached your destination before the end of the tale?
            I have, more times than I can say. And it’s frustrating!
            On a recent trip I enjoyed the “Selected Shorts, New American Stories” CD set that’s just been released and was able to savor at my leisure four outstanding short contemporary stories read by veteran actors. “Good Living” by Aleksandar Hemon, “Hell-Heaven” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and “Breaking and Entering” by Sherman Alexie all examine the American dream and its validity and mythos.
            I found them all captivating and thought-provoking, with “Breaking and Entering” staying with me long after my drive concluding, an astounding story read by B.D. Wong, the recipient of all five major New York theater awards for his Broadway debut in “M Butterfly.”
This new CD is one of many published in the award-winning series. Other “Selected Shorts” CDs include Pets, Lots of Laughts!, Even More Laughs, Food Fictions and Travel Tales.
            “Selected Shorts” is broadcast on 143 public radio stations nationwide, including KRVS in Lafayette, and attracts 300,000 listeners weekly.

‘Of Love and Dust’
The 2011 Louisiana Book Festival, to be held Oct. 29 in Baton Rouge, will offer a One Book, One Festival discussion featuring “Of Love and Dust” by Louisiana author Ernest Gaines. Because some critics, as well as festival organizers, believe “Of Love and Dust” to be arguably the best Southern movie never made, the Book Festival will feature a hypothetical “casting discussion.” Scholar and writer Reggie Scott Young will ask participants to be casting directors for a film version of the book at 4 p.m. at the State Capitol. Participating readers can prepare for the festival discussion by imagining the actors from today or the past whom they would select to play the roles of Marcus, Jim Kelly, Bonbon, Tite, Pauline and the other characters who appear in the story.

Book Carnival
The Evangeline Parish Library presents the free “Carnival of Books” with author talks, booksignings, children’s entertainment and a used book sale from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Authors attending are Linda LeBert-Corbello, “In the Shadow of My Brother’s Cold Blood,” 10 a.m.; Nancy K. Duplechain, “Dark Bayou,” 10:30 a.m.; and John LaFleur, “Creole Gourmet Secrets of Louisiana, 11 a.m. For information, call (337) 363-1369.

Kindle update
The Lafayette Public Library now has Amazon Kindle compatibility with its Overdrive eBook collection, which means patrons who want to check out library ebooks can now do so on the Kindle. The library offers eBooks and audiobooks for use on a PC or Mac computer and popular mobile devices including smartphones, MP3 players, and other eBook readers including the Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader. Titles are available at the LPL homepage at To find out how to check out ebooks, visit For more information, call the Lafayette Public Library at 261-5787.