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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Manors and Mansions of New Orleans -- An Inspiration for Dead Man's Deal

Sightseeing. One of the easiest things to do in New Orleans; visiting the beautiful and varied collection of homes in the Garden District and Uptown. The St. Charles Streetcar makes this very easy to do — just climb on board, sit back, and marvel.

When I was a tourist I’d spend many hours gazing and oogling over the gorgeous mansions and manors. When I moved here I’d take pictures of the homes, and imagined what life inside them must have been like. I confess, they are one of my author motivations.

Countless books have been written about the unique architecture and historical explanations for our buildings.  So there’s really no point in my explicative.  Although here are some fun facts about why our neighborhoods and home look they way they do.

When the French divvied up their new found land they partitioned the lots so everyone had access to the Mississippi River. In other words, all the real estate was very narrow, but very long. Which made sense, as the river was the only “road” for good and services to travel — the rest of it was largely swamp. So, when you needed to build a home, it only made sense they, too, would be long and narrow. It’s believed the name “shotgun home” came from the idea that, if you opened all the doors in the building, you could fire a shotgun right through the place without hitting anything. But no one knows for sure.

Ravenswood Inspiration
In my urban fantasy, The Dead Man’s Deal, there are three houses controlled by three families, all vying for power over the “normals”, the rest of us. This home pictured above inspired the manor called Ravenswood, home of the villain Malador. Incidentally, it’s the home that makes him evil. The “dark house” is where your magical talents are grounded. Born within it’s wall damns you for eternity.

Magnolia Manor Inspiration
This home is the inspiration for Magnolia Manor, home of Colonel Mustard, and a “white house”. Like Ravenswood, the house bequeaths the power to it’s inhabitants. Born here you are forever “noble”.

Witherspoon Manor Inspiration
But this house is different. This house gets it’s power from the inhabitants. It can be either good or evil depending on you.  It is the only house with “free will.” It gets is name from the family it protects, which today is Witherspoon Manor. In the community, however, it is called Gateway Manor — like a garden gate it swings both ways.

Should you find yourself walking the broken sidewalks of New Orleans, looking wide-eyes at the homes here, you too will make up your own stories. The histories, the hauntings… the house divided. 

We have them all.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Earworm; a Different Kind of Bug

I spend a fair amount of my time browsing blogs and social spheres looking for bugs. Sometimes for research, and sometimes just to amuse me.

But lately I’ve been thinking about another type of creepy crawly: The Earworm.

Wait!  Don’t leave yet… it’s not what you think!

Earworm: Definition

An “earworm” is a song or jingle that gets stuck in your head. Get it? Something boring in through your ears.  And staying there.

In and of themselves, earworms don’t bother me. I tend to foist them on myself, listening to a single song I deem “the song of the day,” over, and over again, so I’m not surprised when I find myself humming it in the shower.

What really bugs me is when I realize I’m humming a song I have NO IDEA how it got in my head.

Let me give you some examples:

Not long ago I lived in San Francisco just a block from the baseball field (some call it the AT&T Field — until some other sponsor comes along; the locals just call it Mays Field). One summer I noticed that, right around 2 pm in the afternoon I was humming the song “Oye Como Va” (that’s the Amazon snippet, enough to get it stuck in your head).

Given that the band Santana is from the Bay Area I could have heard the song while shopping or walking the dogs. But this happened each and every day! For days! I don’t hate the song, but… every day??? While on a walk it passed me. The song… playing on a Duck.

“The Duck” is a tourist attraction in cities that have water nearby. It’s an amphibious vehicle — imagine of a boat with wheels. They have a specific tour route that includes both land and sea, and a specific sound track that voyagers of the Duck are encouraged to participate in with kazoos. You know, so they sound like “ducks”. And sure enough, as the Duck passed my home, each and every day, they played the song “Oye Como Va.”

I don’t need music, necessarily, to get me thinking about a song. Recently I found myself humming Billy Joel’s “Allentown”. Now that’s a song I KNOW I haven’t heard since college, yet I find myself humming it daily. Why? Near my home in New Orleans they are working on a massive public waterworks project. Currently, this involves slamming long posts into the ground with a massive piece of machinery called a Pile Driver. From my window I hear this “sh-boom sh-boom sh-boom”.

“Allentown” is a song about steel workers in Pennsylvania.  Rather than starting the song with Mr. Joel saying, “This song is about the failing steel mill industry”, it starts with a suggestive sound: Sh-boom Sh-boom Sh-boom. My little mind did the rest…

Sometimes I only need a situation. When my husband worked for Hewlett-Packard he’d commute to Palo Alto on the local commuter train. After making him some breakfast and rushing him out the front door by 6:14 am I’d hear Sheena Easton for hours singing “My baby takes the morning train…

Earworm: The Cure

Now that I’ve infected you with a couple of earworms I’ll let you in on a little secret: How to get rid of ‘em.

Do you know the song “Yellow Submarine”? (just click on any of the images, and you’ll hear it.)

Once you realize you have a song stuck in your head, think of the Yellow Submarine. Start at the beginning, with Ringo Starr singing “In the town where I was born…” Don’t throw a lot of concentration at it, just think about the song whilst you go about whatever you were doing. Sometime later, you’ll realize that it isn’t anymore. It’s gone. And the real trick is that the Yellow Submarine itself is NEVER an earworm. I don’t know why. It just isn’t.

So the next time “Stayin’ Alive” is stuck in your head, give it a try. You’ll thank me later when you say to yourself, “Hey, it’s gone! I’m not hearing falsetto in my brain anymore.”

…ah ah ah ah stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…