Monday, December 14, 2015

Bonfires on the Levee, by Rita Monette

...A Louisiana Tradition

By Rita Monette
author of louisiana lore

Every year in south Louisiana, there is an interesting tradition that was started over a hundred years ago: The bonfires on the levee.

During this event, over one hundred 30-foot-plus tall wooden bonfire structures are built along the Mississippi River levee near the town of Lutcher in order to light the way for Papa Noel (Cajun country’s Santa) on Christmas Eve. These bonfires, doused with a flammable liquid, are all ignited at the same moment at 7 p.m. (CST).

The old folks in the area, that still participate in this event, tell us that long ago before the Levee's were built, the bonfires were lit to help light the way for friends and family that came to visit on Christmas Eve. And for the sake of the children, to help light the way for Santa.

The fires were traditionally built in the shape of crude pyramids or "tepees", and it is only in recent years that the builders have gotten very creative. Newspapers and television stations have increased coverage each year until these bonfires have turned into a competition between their makers, each attempting to design and build the most original and the biggest. 

It is a site to behold to anyone that wishes to join in. There are even special sternwheelers, paddle boats, or river boats that offer bonfire cruises down the Mississippi River.

Today, each family or street of families come together and start building their structures usually during the Thanksgiving break from school. And when the time comes for the festivities, they enjoy in their lawn chairs, the bonfires, fireworks, and a pot of gumbo.

You will always see the displayed pirogue with Papa Noel being pulled by his special alligators, led by Alphonse.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pierre Part, Louisiana, by Rita Monette

Pierre Part, Louisiana

by Rita Monette

I’ve spent the last few weeks in my home state of Louisiana, promoting my books and visiting relatives.

While there, I visited my brother in the small town of Pierre Part, Louisiana, which also happens to be the home of Troy Landry of the Swamp People TV series, and where my series, The Nikki Landry Swamp Legends, begins. No, Nikki is not kin to Troy—at least I don’t think so. 

The town is about as Cajun as anywhere in Louisiana. Folks there make their living in the bayous, where crawfish, crabs, and alligators are plentiful.

However, I came across one man that makes his living gathering old cypress and turning it into artistic creations. His name is Adam Morales. He says he is blessed to be able to see things in the old remains of cypress trees. Here are a couple of his creations.

Many folks in Pierre Part still live in houseboats, just like they did back in 1956 where my stories begin.

Last month was the release of book two, The Curse at Pirate’s Cove, which is set in the nearby town of Morgan City, and in the Atchafalaya Swamp, where Mr. Morales collects the cypress for his artwork. 

Follow Nikki and her friends as they find an old pirate ship in the swamp, encounter some ghostly pirates, and end up lost in 1814 in the largest swamp in the United States.

Get your copy at Amazon

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Pirates are Here! , by Rita Monette


Today is the RE-release of The Curse at Pirate's Cove, the second in the series of The Nikki Landry Swamp Legends. The story of a young girl growing up in the bayous of Louisiana in the 1950s.

In this episode, Nikki turns eleven years old. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NIKKI! Papa had promised her she could ride her bike to school when she turned three syllables. The wait was over.  Or so she thought.

Yep, Nikki didn't get very far on her rusty old bike. Papa had found it at a landfill, so it was pretty beat up. Would she be doomed to ride the smelly old school bus for the rest of her young years? She needed to find a way to get a new bike.

Nikki goes to see the movie, The Buccaneer, about Jean Lafitte, the pirate. She then learns about an old ship in the swamps, and how it could have belonged to some pirates, who had buried treasure all up and down the bayous. So she makes a birthday wish to find the gold...and writes it in her diary.

That's When things go terribly wrong. Was there a curse on the treasure? Did her wish trigger that curse?

Nikki and her friends go a big adventure when some ghostly pirate's show up to retrieve what was rightfully theirs.

The pirates whisk them away into 1814, where a famous war was taking place...The Battle of New Orleans.

As Nikki and her friends escape the chaos, will they be able to find their way through the Atchafalaya Swamp and back home to Morgan City?

Here's an excerpt:

“How do you know it’s a pirate ship?”
“It has to be, Nikki. Listen.” He turned toward me. “I was out at Uncle Luke’s this past weekend, and he told me all about it.”
“I ain’t believing there’s no pirate ship out in those swamps.” I lifted my chin.
“Just hear me out, Tomboy.” He sounded impatient. “There’s a legend that goes along with it, see.” He leaned toward me and lowered his voice. “There might even be a curse.”
“A legend?” He had my attention. I prided myself in being a super legend buster ever since I solved the one about Ghost Dog Island last year. I even got my picture in the newspaper. “Well, tell me about it.”
“I’m trying to.” He waved his hands in the air.
We propped ourselves against a couple of large limbs and got out our lunch bags.
“Uncle Luke says he first heard about it back when he was a kid. He says a friend of his grandfather, by the name of Beco, was out trapping on Fog Island with his buddy Clamare. They came across this here hole in the ground with a half-buried wooden chest, see. It had a big old lock on it. There was a couple of coins in the dirt, so Clamare picked them up and slipped them in his pocket. Beco decided he’d go back for some tools and shovels to dig the rest of it out, and told Clamare to stay there and watch the chest. On his way out to the edge of the island, he saw this ragged old ship. Thinking it was kind of odd looking for being in the swamps and all, he got a little closer. It had a broken mast and raggedy sails.” He poked me with his elbow. “When was the last time you ever saw a fishing boat with sails?”
I shook my head. “Never.” I unwrapped a peanut butter and jam sandwich and took a bite. “What’d he do?”
“Well, he started to board it, see?” Spikes dug into his own lunch bag. “But then he heard some talking coming out of the boat. He stopped right then and there, ’cause he didn’t know who might be on that old wreck out in the middle of nowhere, and there weren’t no other boats around. This one had a big old hole in the hull, so it couldn’t have sailed there on its own. At least anytime in recent history.”
“Then what?” I licked some of the jam off my fingers.
“Then someone stuck his head up over the bow, see. He had on one of them three pointed hats that pirates always wore. Old Beco yelled a big hello, and the man took out a pistol and shot over his head. Well, Beco took off right then and there. That night, he went down to T-Noon’s bar and got drunk, and told some other fellows about it. The next day, they all went back out to the island with shovels and brought guns just in case that crazy guy in the boat was still there.”
“Was he?” I asked.
“Nope. The ship was gone, and so was Clamare.”
“What about the treasure?”
“They never could find it. Not even the hole it was in.”

Rita Monette

I grew up in the bayous, and the legends are based loosely on my childhood and some of the tales my dad used to tell. I also do the pencil illustrations within the books.

You'll find the book available at my publisher, Mirror World Publishing , Amazon, or almost any book seller. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

James Lee Burke feature by Rita Monette

 James Lee Burke: One of my favorita authors
by Rita Monette

Today, I'd like to feature one of my favorite authors, James Lee Burke. A two-time Edgar Award winner!  I literally have his entire collection of The Dave Robicheaux series. This series is set in New Iberia, Louisiana.

I first found James Lee while browsing a local grocery store in Michigan, for a book to read on my work break. The name of the book was "Purple Cane Road." I read the excerpt and, as a Louisiana girl, raised in purple cane territory, I simply had to read it. I've been hooked ever since. 

James Lee Burke can describe the Louisiana scenery and culture like no other. If you like crime novels mixed with some Cajun essence, you should read the Robicheaux series. He also has a series about a Texas ranger set in east Texas. 

Then there are his scenes in Missoula, Montana. I've never been there, but James Lee's descriptions will make you feel you are there. Another must-read is "In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead." Haunting!  

Here's his biography taken from his web site. Go there for a complete list of his works and other information. Read on!!! 

Lee Burke was born in Houston, Texas, in 1936 and grew up on the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast. He attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute and later received a B. A. Degree in English and an M. A. from the University of Missouri in 1958 and 1960 respectively. Over the years he worked as a landman for Sinclair Oil Company, pipeliner, land surveyor, newspaper reporter, college English professor, social worker on Skid Row in Los Angeles, clerk for the Louisiana Employment Service, and instructor in the U. S. Job Corps.

He and his wife Pearl met in graduate school and have been married 48 years, they have four children: Jim Jr., an assistant U.S. Attorney; Andree, a school psychologist; Pamala, a T. V. ad producer; and Alafair, a law professor and novelist who has 4 novels out with Henry Holt publishing.

Burke's work has been awarded an Edgar twice for Best Crime Novel of the Year. He has also been a recipient of a Breadloaf and Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEA grant. Two of his novels, Heaven's Prisoners and Two For Texas, have been made into motion pictures. His short stories have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, New Stories from the South, Best American Short Stories, Antioch Review, Southern Review, and The Kenyon Review. His novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years, and upon publication by Louisiana State University press was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Today he and his wife live in Missoula, Montana, and New Iberia, Louisiana. 

Burke's Published Books are as follows:

Half of Paradise
To the Bright and Shining Sun
Lay Down My Sword and Shield
Two for Texas
The Convict
The Lost Get-Back Boogie
The Neon Rain
Heaven's Prisoners
Black Cherry Blues
A Morning for Flamingos
A Stained White Radiance
In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead
Burning Angel
Dixie City Jam
Cadillac Jukebox
Cimarron Rose
Sunset Limited
Purple Cane Road
Jolie Blon's Bounce
White Doves at Morning

Here's a video promoting his new book, Wayfaring Stranger: