by Molly Jo Realy @RealMojo68
This is New Orleans.
The past never stays buried.
After a broken engagement and the death of her beloved uncle, Penny escapes her nightmares by flying into New Orleans. She finds herself struggling to embrace a new future. Does that mean letting go of her past? What about her new friends ~ the ones accused of murder? In search of something she can’t identify, she discovers things aren’t always as they seem. Somewhere between the French Quarter and the bayous, she finds the answers she’s looking for . . .
And some she’s not.
Now she must uncover the truth between the lies.
New Orleans turns 300 next year. And I may or may not be planning a trip a la book signing.
Josie’s world is almost ready for you. In a few weeks, I’ll have the first draft of NOLA sent off to alpha readers, my editors, and a potential agent or two. Talk about exciting. Of course, I don’t know that the book will be published in time for the NOLA Anniversary, but do you honestly think that will stop me from going? Please, Sugar. That’s like saying tea shouldn’t have, well, sugar.
It’s so great, y’all, that my accent is kicking in at the day job. Yup, that’s right. I was drinking sweet tea and calling them “y’all”, and ~ get this! ~ no one flinched. I mean, it’s like they heard me when I told them I was a creative.
It’s pretty fabulous.
This week I hit a milestone. I reached 79,000 words on the manuscript. Can you imagine? Seventy-nine-thousand. By the time you read this, I may even be over eighty. Them’s a whole lotta words, let me tell you. I can see the finish line. I’m dreaming up marketing. (You’ll help me spread the word, won’tcha?) And I’m feelin’ a little bittersweet. Because once NOLA is written, this relationship I’ve had with these characters for the better part of five years is going to change.
So I thought I’d take today to look back and embrace the changes.
NOLA was originally going to be a short story about a young woman named Nola who had certain supernatural abilities. The more I toyed with the idea, the more I realized my subconscious had already turned the Crescent City into a character, and it couldn’t possibly be a short story. NOLA, the novel, was born.
The main character was renamed Penny Jo Embers. My original plot had her destitute and using all her savings to run away to New Orleans and buy a haunted typewriter. She was going to rent a room in an old house and tell her story. In my mind, it was a very black and white story. She also used a camera to document everything. But it soon became tedious for her to use both a typewriter and a camera. And, like I said, it was very black and white. I had the suspense, except I didn’t know what the suspense story was. So the camera, the haunting, the old house, they all went bye-bye. And Josie went through about eight dynamic changes before I found her story that stuck.
About this time, my friend Lisa told me about a woman in New Orleans who was selling cookbooks she had curated from family recipes. Since I had done the same, I reached out to this woman to see about ordering one of hers. That was the start of a very wonderful friendship with Ms. New Orleans 2014, Lindsay Reine.
In the last three years, Lindsay has become my technical advisor, and at times, spiritual. She has always been available by email, phone call, Facebook, or text to let me know if something works or doesn’t work. And in true New Orleans fashion, she’s often answered my questions before I ask them. You’ll definitely find Lindsay’s influence throughout NOLA. We’re pretty much the real-life equivalents of Josie and Toni.
Y’all have seen the bits and pieces I’ve thrown out. And y’all aren’t stupid. I mean, it’s New Orleans, and I’m writing a mystery. There’s Voodoo, dysfunction, Rougarous, drinking, crime . . .
But there’s also friendship and . . . Well I can’t tell you what else because I don’t want to ruin it. Just know that as far as my NOLA research goes, Lindsay has been invaluable.
Now, the characters. Whew. Where to start? Well, I wanted the story to be Josie’s, and it is. But it’s also the story of her new friends Toni, Rain, and Rain’s older brother, Lou. There’s a cousin who’s also a cop. And a few other secondary peeps in the show. And by secondary, I don’t mean less important.
If you’ve followed me on Instagram, Twitter, or joined my NOLA Swarm on Facebook, you’ve no doubt seen some of the memes I’ve created. That’s a thrill, a joy, I get when I’m able to share parts of the book with you.
Music is also super important. Rain plays melancholy Jazz on the piano when he’s trying to figure things out. Josie still listens to the Strumbellas and Sideshow. Of course, everyone loves Sinatra. And, since the story takes place in October, there’s the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival.
Visit New Orleans will also get a huge shout out of thanks in the acknowledgements but they deserve it here, too. From the very beginning, they have kept the conversation going with helpful links, plenty of information, and just all around support. NOLA wouldn’t be NOLA without NOLA. Bonus: they follow me on Twitter. How stupidcrazyawesomehumbling is that?!
Have I forgotten anything? I think so! Can we take a minute and talk about the food? Hulloh, this is New Orleans! At every corner Josie’s discovering debris and muffaletta and maque choux and chicory and coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde (no surprise there, folks!) and bananas foster and po’boys at Johnny’s and Hurricanes and so much more. [Note to self: Finish curating recipes for the NOLA Companion Cookbook.]
But I’m at a place now where I have to keep my mouth shut and write the ending. Which means ain’t nobody getting any new memes for a while. Well, at least not too many.
NOLA, like New Orleans, is rich with character, setting, ambiance, failures, successes, fear, love, hate, denial, acceptance, monsters. But there’s plenty of good times, too. And so much more.
Truth be told, the main character of NOLA is New Orleans itself.
And I can’t wait to take you there.
With a plane ticket and an autograph pen,
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!