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Capturing Eccentric New Orleans

I don’t miss hurricanes and bugs and humidity.

eccentric New Orleans

I don’t miss hurricanes and bugs and humidity. But I miss New Orleans. When I started my Big Uneasy series about New Orleans, we had moved away, but my first New Orleans novel was written while we still lived there.

Do Wah Diddy Die was my first fictional attempt to capture the New Orleans experience from an outsiders point of view. I had written a column for my home town paper, called Letters Home, that tried to do this, but I believed then—and now—that fiction was the best vehicle for a deep dive into what it means to love—and miss—New Orleans. And you know, I had to make my viewpoint character from Wyoming, but I wanted to capture that, too.

The hot air hit Luci in the face like a wet towel. She caught her breath, but it wasn’t catchable with air that thick. Memories stirred. Old, happy memories of long slow days under shaded trees with…Stu? She examined the name from all sides. It seemed to fit within the memory, which returned in a sudden rush. Stu, like Seymour males large and small, had been an utter weenie, but he’d also been someone to play with who took orders well. He got a dragon when she got the pig. Yeah. Luci gave the pig a fond pat, tried out another breath and found it was a little easier, as if her lungs were already adapting to the slower pace and water level in the air. 

“Luci, you’re not in Wyoming anymore,” she murmured.

“Wyoming?” Mickey looked at her. “I know someone from Wyoming.”

Everyone, Luci found, knew someone from Wyoming. And expected you to know them, too. Granted it wasn’t an over-populated state, but Wyoming people liked a large area of personal space. Miles large.

“What—”

“Butt Had,” Luci said. No one ever knew anyone from Butt Had. If they did, they wouldn’t admit it.

“Butt…Had?” Mickey blinked, getting that shell-shocked look again.

“I’m afraid so.” Luci sighed. “You see, when they filed for incorporation, there was this broken “e” key on the typewriter—”

The white around the blue got larger, not smaller, and she decided to give it up as a bad job. “My mother won’t live there, which is far more important to my peace of mind than a few missing ‘e’s’.”

“Uh…huh.” Despite his words, he kept looking at her like she was from Mars instead of a small town in Wyoming that should have been called Butte Head.

* * * *

Luci’s aunts were the other way I tried to capture the over-the-top eccentricity of New Orleans and its people. Like their Mardi Gras parades, New Orleanians come in bold bright colors:

“What?” She looked from one face to the other, seeking enlightenment that might not ever come. It was obvious they were up to something.

“It just won’t do.” Miss Theo picked up the edge of the caftan that Luci had borrowed from Miss Weena. Miss Hermi and Miss Weena both nodded agreement as they circled Luci like vague, charming vultures, their buns bobbing eager approval. “Something in black?”

“Black?” Luci wasn’t sure she wanted to know what was coming, but with Seymour fatality, she knew there was no way to avoid it.

Miss Hermi smiled. “To get the police, Luci dear.”

“Police?” Luci blinked, but their sweet faces didn’t alter one whit. “Police.” They nodded encouragingly. Luci pondered for a beat, then agreed. “Definitely black.”

Mickey would certainly start mourning when he saw her. Might as well beat him to it.

* * * *

So I hope you enjoyed your taste of New Orleans via Do Wah Diddy Die today! I had so much fun—and a few headaches—writing the story. 

Perilously yours,

Pauline

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