Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Love letters, scrapbooking among new releases

New releases
    Best-selling author Laura Childs uses New Orleans as a background for her new “scrapbooking mystery.” An anchorwoman strangled and hung from the balcony of a hotel was supposed to interview scrapbooking maven Carmela Bertrand in “Postcards from the Dead” and so sets the stage of a mystery that comes with scrapbooking tips and Creole recipes.
    Covington native Christian Garcia’s uncle Bradford Lancaster entrusted him with 200 love letters written between his maternal grandparents Joseph Bradford Lancaster and Amanda Doerr. Garcia compiled the letters into “Now and Always: A Louisiana Love Story,” which spans the romance between 1901 and 1916. The book is available at
    Katrina Owens is an American nurse working in a Riyadh hospital in Saudi Arabia but she’s ready to move on from the dysfunctional Saudi society, especially with its treatment of women. On the same day Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, Katrina is harassed by a religious fanatic and flees when she fights back. She takes refuge on the palace grounds of a powerful Saudi prince and lands in the center of an international plot. The book is penned by authors Thomas Joseph Perez, a native of Mobile who has lived for years in Saudi Arabia.
    Josephine Templeton of Baton Rouge has published an historical romance titled “A Pirate’s Kiss” as an ebook. For more information, visit

Book events
    Phil Sims has self-published his first novel through Cross Books titled “Not Without Purpose” and will launch the title from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the American Legion Post 13 Clubhouse, 401 Forsythe Ave. in Monroe. He will also be presenting a program at the Cpl. J. R. Searcy Library in the Woodlawn community at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2. The book is available at in print and ebook.
    An open mic en Francais, or la scene ouverte, begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Casa Azul in Grand Coteau. Participants are invited to share poems, stories, songs and other forms of creative expression in French or listen and enjoy.  Works can be borrowed or original. For information, contact Patrice Melnick at (337) 662-1032 or

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Monday, August 27, 2012

McFarland continues intriguing mystery series

    Nora McFarland spent years shooting video for a TV station in Bakersfield. I met her while working at the Bakersfield Californian newspaper and McFarland gave me insight into the region that I’ll never forget. Because for years when I lived in L.A. people always laughed about Bakersfield. It was a place to drive through on your way to San Francisco, not stop.
    Bakersfield has its less than savory side — massive dairy farms, oil fields. But there is more to the sleepy San Joaquin Valley town that once beckoned Dust Bowl exiles in the 1930s (think “Grapes of Wrath”). I discovered Basque cuisine, Buck Owens and tenacity among its citizens.
    McFarland embraces all in her Lilly Hawkins mystery series, from the Tule Fog that swallows everything in its path to its roadside diners offering all-American fare, where I fondly remember enjoying lunch with McFarland when she was beginning this series.
    Her latest is “Going to the Bad” and, like her previous two novels, keeps you hanging on the edge of your seat to its conclusion. The story revolves around Lilly Hawkins, a TV news photographer who is now more into assigning stories because of the shift in journalism making reporters shoot their own video. She still drives the TV van and carries equipment with her, so whenever mysteries pop up you know Lilly will have that camera ready.
    In “Going to the Bad,” this time the mystery’s personal. Her beloved Uncle Bud, who’s anything from perfect, has been shot and his life hangs by a thread. Because Lilly can’t stand to wait in a hospital room for news, she makes news of her own. She begins following leads that take her through Christmas Eve into Christmas Day and a past Bud insisted she never find out.
    If you haven’t discovered McFarland yet, I suggest reading all three in the series; I’m still partial to that first one I had the pleasure of witnessing in early stages. But don’t miss “Going to the Bad,” a well-written, edgy mystery with humor, suspense and fun surrounding a stubborn but very likeable character in a profession few people understand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Catch Worth's romance while you can

    Writing romance novels is a lot more complicated than people imagine. There’s no formula, no outlines to follow and it’s not something easy to do.
    Take Harlequin books, for example. I once met a woman who wanted to write something “fast and easy” and thought Harlequin would be a good fit. She also imagined they would be easy to sell and she could quit her day job once that happened.
    Unfortunately, all of the above are myths. Nothing is fast and easy to write, nor quick to publish. Being a published author of romance novels myself, I can honestly say it’s a tough, tough business. And outside of James Patterson and J.K. Rowling — and a few others — most writers have day jobs.
    The reason I bring this up is that Lenora Worth of Louisiana has a new Love Inspired Suspense novel from Harlequin. “The Diamond Secret” takes place in New Orleans and concerns a treasure hunter, an antique shop owner and a mysterious diamond. The book is in stores for August and when Aug. 31 rolls around, will be gone. That’s another unfortunate reality about romance writing; the books don’t stay on the bookstore shelves very long.
    Here’s some more facts — Worth has written 32 books for three different publishers and is contracted for four more. In 2006 she received her 25th book pin from Harlequin. Her books have won both regional and national awards and she now has more than 1 million books in print.
    You won’t see Worth’s book highlighted like Patterson and Rowling so unless you’re on her mailing list, an avid romance fan (and there are millions) or read my column, you might never know her book is now available. So hurry to your bookstore before the end of the month and support a local writer doing well. 

New releases
    Tom Wooten of New Orleans has published “We Shall Not Be Moved: Rebuilding Home in the Wake of Katrina,” a narrative nonfictional account of recovery in five New Orleans neighborhoods.  Walter Isaacson, who writes the foreword, calls the book, “A moving portrait of a city’s struggle to rebuild. It is not an account of Katrina per se. . . . Rather, it is a story of the arduous endeavor residents have undertaken in New Orleans. . . . Every bit as gripping and important as tales from the storm itself.”
    Cooper Iris Books has published an ebook, “Disposable Girl, A Story of Bullying and the Quest for Acceptance,” written by Nancy Rust. The book is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores.
     Thirteen-year-old Khalif Aziz of New Orleans has written the first science fantasy-adventure book in “The Magikh Series.” Aziz’s first installment, “The Black Phoenix,” is now available through
John in the news
    Elton John included the Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council of Lake Charles in the singer’s recently released book, “Love is the Cure.” John discusses the beauty of South Louisiana, as well as the dedication of the Council in the book.
    “There’s something magical about Southwest Louisiana. Cypress trees frame the haunting bayou. Flooded rice paddies and lonely prairies without a house or a living soul for miles,” he writes in “Love is the Cure.”
    “It’s one of the most rural places in America, and as much of rural America, there is a quiet but deadly AIDS crisis that has been simmering for decades.”
    The American Press of Lake Charles has a full story on the book and his mention of the Council at

Book events
    Ron Thibodeaux will sign “Hell or High Water: How Cajun Fortitude Withstood Hurricanes Rita and Ike” at 6 p.m. Monday at the Vermilion Parish Library in Abbeville.
    Marie Bookman will sign her Katrina-inspired book of poetry, “Breach of My Heart,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Maple Street Bookstore in New Orleans.
    Margaret Simon of Lafayette will sign copies of her young adult novel “Blessen” from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Saint Street Inn, 407 Brook Ave. in Lafayette. Dinner will be served during this time it’s a great chance to enjoy this lovely new restaurant, as well as this outstanding book.
    Cornell Landry will be reading and signing his latest book “The Tiger and the Honey Badger Take on the Zoo,” illustrated by Sean Gautreaux, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Maple Street Bookstore in New Orleans. Also at Maple Street Bookstore Saturday will be historical fiction novelist Katherine Howe, author of the New York Times-bestseller “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” at 6 p.m. She will read and sign her newest book, “The House of Velvet and Glass,” the story of a young woman poised on the cusp of the 20th century, torn between loss and love, driven to seek answers in the depths of a crystal ball. I reviewed “Deliverance Dane” last year, found it a fascinating read and you can view this review on my blog at
    Angus Woodward will discuss and sign copies of “Americanisation: Lessons in American Culture and Language” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and Cajun historical romances under the name of Cherie Claire. She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at or visit her blog,

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tennessee Williams Fest offers contests

    For all you aspiring writers out there, the publishing world can be a daunting mountain to climb. One way to test the waters is to submit to writing contests.
    The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival has three opportunities for writers, offering monetary prizes, recognition and chances at attending one of the country’s finest literary events.
    Coming up first is the third annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Poetry Contest, judged by Ava Leavell Hayman. The deadline is Aug. 15. Writers may submit two to four original, unpublished poems of any style or theme, with a combined length of up to 400 lines.
    The grand prize is $1,000 and a VIP All-Access Pass ($500 value) for the 27th annual festival, which will March 20-24, 2013, in New Orleans. Winners also receive publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine and a public reading on a literary panel at the 2013 festival.
    The top 10 finalists will receive a panel pass ($75 value) to attend the 2013 Festival, which admits participant to more than two dozen events. Additionally, their names will be published on
    The entry fee is $20. For information and guidelines, visit
    For playwrights, there’s the 27th Annual One-Act Play Contest with a deadline of Nov. 1. Writers may submit never produced one-act plays with a small cast that run no more than one hour in length. The entry fee is $25.
    Fiction writers may prefer the fifth annual Fiction Contest with a deadline of Nov. 15. The judge will be Michael Cunningham, author of the novels “A Home at the End of the World,” “Flesh and Blood,” “The Hours” and “Specimen Days.” The festival accepts unpublished short stories up to 7,000 words by writers who have never published a book of fiction. Entry fee is $25.
    The grand prize for one-act plays and fiction is $1,500 with domestic airfare, accommodations and a VIP All-Access Pass festival pass, reading at the festival and more.
    Need more motivation?
    Kristen-Paige Madonia won the second annual fiction contest and her debut novel “Fingerprints of You” will be published on Aug. 7 with Simon & Schuster. “Fingerprints of You,” a young adult literary novel, depicts the journey of Lemon Williams, a feisty pregnant 17-year-old as she embarks on a cross-country road trip in search of her father, a man she has never met.
    So get writing and start submitting.

New releases
    Daniel Wolff has been documenting New Orleans and its road to recovery, looking at a cross-section residents and the lives of everyday American heroes in “Fight For Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back.” He will be discussing and signing his book from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Garden District Bookstore in New Orleans.
    Tanner Colby grew up in Louisiana and Alabama and examines the failure of racial integration in his book “Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America.” Colby looks at the separation of African-Americans and Caucasians in the workplace, in churches, in schools and in residential neighborhoods, but the church section is set in Louisiana.
    Nimbus Publishing has published a new edition of Mi’kmaq Medicines: Remedies and Recollections by Laurie Lacey. The latest edition includes a revised text and new preface from the author on current perspectives in Mi’kmaq medicines. The Mi’kmaq were Native Americans of the Canadian Maritimes who interacted with the Acadians. Some of the plants and their curative properties listed in the book may resonate with many Louisiana Cajuns.
    Erick D. Burgess of Denham Springs has published two books and one collection of short stories set in Louisiana. His third book, “Darker Than Night,” a thriller also set in Louisiana, has just been released. For information, visit
    Amy Hammond will publish new collegiate children’s books in September, including “When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Tiger” for LSU fans. Hammond has already releases similar titles for the University of Florida and Florida State and will include the University of Tennessee and Alabama, as well as LSU, come September.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at