Tag Archives: New Orleans

Oh! No! A Murder of Crows!!

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And my ghost stories at  . . .  The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter 

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“Oh! No! A Murder of Crows”

A flock, a flight, a ‘murder of crows’,

Which word to use?

I’m in the throes!

~ ~ ~ ~

I am both terrified and fascinated by crows, and even used a particular ‘murder of crows’ in my latest novel, “Ghosts of White Raven Estate”.

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks and paperbacks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks and paperbacks are Sold!

Yes! That’s what a flock of crows are called, you know . . . a “murder”. But why?

I recently looked up the etymology of “murder of crows” and learned the term is used primarily by writers and poets (not scientists and/or botanists).

According to zBeckabee who posts on FunTrivia, The term “murder” was used to describe a flock of crows as far back as the 15th century, as published by the Oxford English Dictionary. (Here’s a spine-chilling version from 1475: “A morther of crowys.”)

The OED suggests this is an allusion to “the crow’s traditional association with violent death” or “its harsh and raucous cry.” If you’ve ever heard dozens of agitated crows in full cry, it really does sound as if they’re yelling bloody murder.

This usage, which apparently died out after the 1400s, was revived in the 20th century. The first modern citation in the OED comes from 1939, but the usage was undoubtedly popularized by its appearance in An Exaltation of Larks (1968), a compendium of “nouns of multitude” by James Lipton.” ###

Of course Edgar Allen Poe (the poet in residence of my ancestral hometown (Baltimore) uses crows in metaphors, as tormentors, and certainly as messengers; Alfred Hitchcock (my Fave author) uses crows.  And who doesn’t delight in the writing of Joyce Carol Oates and particularly her “Mudgirl Saved by the King of Crows“.

And, let’s not overlook crows at the box office. Oh! Yikes!! Crows don’t seem to fare well on the big screen if 2013 “Wrath of the Crows” directed by Ivan Zuccon is any indication http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2070897/.

But enough about Ivan, more about . . . me!

Let’s take a read of how I used crows to torment-the-tormenter in my latest novel: From “Ghosts of White Raven Estate” this is our beloved anti-hero Father Vivenzio scrapping with the messengers of doom in my novel:

“His breathing quickened; he cautioned himself to not appear fearful. Don’t look over. Don’t look over. A lone howl, long and mournful, emanated from the shadows of the pine grove near the back of the graveyard. The exact source of the howling could not be determined.

The priest clutched at his robes and reached into his pocket for his handkerchief. He mopped his brow, patting the beads of sweat from his forehead. The New Orleans heat had been unbearable when he left the rectory that morning. But now, without the protection of his three-cornered hat, the crows might be attracted to the top of his shiny, baldhead, he imagined.

He scurried along Washington Avenue from St. Charles Avenue to Prytania Street. “How could any family live across the street from a cemetery? Even if it is their own cemetery?” Two hundred years of history. What secrets are enfolded in the history of the Calais family? He admonished himself for his uncharitable thoughts and shrunk down into his collar as a raven cackled in the distance. He did not feel inclined to run from the pack of dogs or cower from the crows and ravens cawing their contempt. This damned heat!

“What the . . .?” Father Vivenzio uttered stopping in his tracks. His eyes caught something strange attached to the cemetery’s wrought-iron fence. Something hanging on the gate up ahead? He stared at the object as he approached, trying to figure out what was hanging on the black iron bars. The object grew more distinct as he advanced. The realization of what it was struck him like a bolt of lightning.

” [Dear Reader: It’s a voodoo doll that has been left for the Good Father to find.]

What does happen to Father Vivenzio is revealed at the end – last chapter – no spoilers here.

But, aren’t you marvelously merry that you did the click! click! on “A Murder of Crows”?

Leave your “Hello” in the comments ~ I love having visitors!

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The #Voodoo Queen’s Shanty ~ ~ ~ Come for A Visit, Stay for A Lifetime

Book Trailer Release!

 

On the edge of the swamps lives the Widow Paris, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. A blue-eyed slave of White Raven Estate, Jasmine le Calais, must brave the swamp after the Hourfor to retrieve her daughter from the clutches of Widow Paris. The Caribbean drums have quieted for the night and mist hangs in the humid air.

As Jasmine, terrified, creeps closer to the Voodoo Queen’s shanty something rustles in the saw grass!

Is it an alligator — or the legendary yellow-eyed swamp monster, Loup Garou?

~ ~ ~ ~

(an excerpt from Chapter 7 – Jasmine Visits the Voodoo Queen)

From the depths of the swamp  the hoot of an owl announced her journey. She held her breath. It hooted again, calling out from the spooky depths of the pine woods. The warning traveled deep into the swamps and was mimicked by other owls. It was a different noise that caught Jasmine’s attention—the slap of a paddle out on the water. She stood perfectly still and turned her eyes to the gloomy waterline. She stopped breathing and listened. Silence all of a sudden, complete silence; no katydids chirping, no drone from the cicadas. The only sound Jasmine heard was the deafening roar in her ears. Her heart pounded, her throat constricted to the point where a scream would not have been possible. She wanted the sound to be a paddle hitting the water, but she involuntarily whispered, “Loup Garou.” Even better it be a swamp witch than the beast, Loup Garou. Jasmine’s eyes darted from right to left. Please! Please don’t hurt me! Stone cold silence prevailed. Torturous nothing. She stood waiting to be torn apart by Loup Garou, trying desperately to push out of her mind the vision of the beast with its sharp fangs and its glowering yellow eyes. If attacked she hoped she would die in the first swipe of the creature’s talons. I’m going to die, she whimpered. Damn Zömbi for not bringing Josie back to me so we could get on our way back to Corbeau Blanc.

If the angry swamp monster was going to pounce, with drool hanging from sharp fangs she wanted her death to be instant. She imagined its yellow eyes burning into her skin as it fixed on her—and her fear. She waited, crouching, and listening.

~ ~ ~ ~

#Ghosts of White Raven Estate.
–> iBooks: http://dld.bz/cSu8G
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myBlog ‘The Page 69 Test’ Applied to #Ghosts of White Raven Estate

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Where eBooks are Sold!

USA/Kindle: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

UK/Kindle:  Ghosts of White Raven Estate

iBooks: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

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FOLLOW THIS BLOG! And my ghost stories at  . . .  The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter 

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Authors and bloggers this week are discussing ‘The Page 69 Test’ – described here by Beth Groundwater.   Basically the test is to read page 69 of any novel and determine if it is the book you want to be reading — much like — according to Beth, music lovers ‘test’ a CD, album, etc. by listening to Track 7.

So! Let’s try the test-du-jour on Ghosts of White Raven Estate .  Here’s page 69 of my latest novel:

Scene:

Widow Paris is proposing to Father Vivenzio that she become Victoria’s companion-of-sorts after the priest has abducted Victoria from (Corbeau Blanc translated to: ) White Raven Estate.  The Voodoo Queen’s ulterior motive, as we will find out, is to insinuate herself into the young woman’s estate:

Let’s listen in as Widow Paris (Marie) has just asked Father Vivenzio (Giorgio)  if Victoria’s beloved cat, Bon-Bon has been delivered to the cottage where the abducted heiress is being held:

Father Vivenzio:  “Yes, [Bon-Bon was delivered] yesterday afternoon. They’re inseparable, the angel and the she-devil.”

Widow Paris chuckled, “So, she’s now happy?”

“Victoria? Wonderfully happy,” he stated sarcastically.

“Well, maybe my plan will help make things more tenable for the mademoiselle.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask, Marie.”

“Don’t be. As I said, it involves money, and it involves opportunity.”

Father Vivenzio pushed his chair back from the desk.

“Comfortable, Giorgio? Ready?”

He nodded, as he picked lint off the sleeve of his robe.

“Giorgio, don’t feign disinterest. It doesn’t become you.” She watched the priest pick up his wine glass and wet his lips. “Now, listen. Mardi Gras is less than a week away. I think it would be beneficial for me to have the company of a beautiful, little white mademoiselle for an afternoon. She could join me on a shopping trip to D.P. Scanlan. Wouldn’t that set Chartres Street on fire?”

“Victoria? You want Victoria to join you on your flirts and – err – business ventures? That is what you want?”

“Of course. She’s such a beautiful little head turner, after all. Can’t you imagine how our gentlemen benefactors would be drawn to the prim virginity of such a lovely creature? I love the idea of the two of us sipping tea at Antoine’s after visiting some of the shops on Decatur Street.”

“Good luck. I could barely get her to cooperate in coming here. Correct that – she did not cooperate – barely or otherwise. Why would she want to cooperate with your devious plan?”

“Because we would propose it to her in the most glorious manner.”

“I’m not at all convinced of the upside to this plan, Marie.”

Widow Paris glared across the desk at the priest, “Alright, let me spell it out for you. She wants out! For God’s sake can you imagine being under house arrest at a convent? The horror of it all makes me shudder. The prim devotion, the prayers, the lack of fashion!”

“Alright! I get it!”

Marie noticed that while the priest refilled his own wine glass, none was offered to her.

“What do you think? A little outing?”

After a few moments time he responded. “Hmm, well maybe. Let me think about it.”

“Giorgio, what’s there to think about?”

“Marie, let me ask you this . . .if you spent time with Victoria would you be able to determine the power behind the poltergeist at Corbeau Blanc. If I’m to manage the estate—in Victoria’s behalf, of course—I need to find a way to control the, uhm, situation.”

[and this is were we turn the page. I hope you enjoyed this peek of Page 69 and that, for you, ‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’ passes ‘The Page 69 Test’.

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#Ghosts of White Raven Estate . . . and . . . NEW #Book Trailers!

Ghosts! ~ Where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts! ~ Where eBooks are Sold!

USA/Kindle: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

UK/Kindle:  Ghosts of White Raven Estate

iBooks: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

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FOLLOW THIS BLOG! And my ghost stories at  . . .  The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter 

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This has been ‘book trailer’ week at A.V. Harrison Publishing and I’m excited to show You the results!

First of all though, let me announce a BIG Switch in the title and design for my NaNoWriMo novel 2012. Same synopsis, New Orleans poltergeists and apparitions tangle with Haitian Voodoo as Forces from ‘The Other Side’ wrestle over the riches at White Raven Estate in New Orleans’ Garden District.

New title! “Ghosts of White Raven Estate”. New Design! [Thank you Kathi Humphries Design and New Media].  Book trailers that I’ve produced and am thrilled to Premier here on my blog:

#1  –>  click! to view ‘A Classic Ghost Story’  book trailer:

#2  –> click! to view ‘NEW Book Trailer: Ghosts of White Raven Estate’

I’m keeping them both — but which one do YOU prefer?  Let me know!

Polldaddy will keep our tally!

Come back and see if YOUR choice is leading!

~*~  ~*~  ~*~  ~*~  ~*~  ~*~

On Amazon ~ Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~

a NaNoWriMo 2012 winner!

1853 New Orleans  ~
The frenzied drumbeats of Voodoo ceremonies vibrate over the city of New Orleans following the 1853 Yellow Fever epidemic.  Ghosts now roam the near-empty halls of White Raven Estate, where nearly all of the members of the wealthy Calais family have died.
Father Vivenzio, an opportunistic New Orleans priest, with VERY close ties to New Orleans’ Voodoo Community scurries back and forth from his parish to White Raven Estate where supernatural forces thwart his attempts at skimming the riches of the estate from the two surviving members of the Calais dynasty–ingenue Victoria Calais and her French-Canadian grandmother.
Frustrated by his inability to gain control over his supernatural nemesis, and hounded by crows, and wild dogs that roam the cemetery across the street from the Calais’ Garden District estate, the priest calls on Widow Paris – New Orleans’ Mambo Queen.
Destiny meets with Death in a carriage-race finish as Faith, Voodoo, and Supernatural Forces collide during Mardi Gras 1853.
☆ Actual Voodoo Spells revealed!
☆ Action and Mystery on every page!
☆ A Beautiful Mambo Queen!
☆ A Death-defying Carriage Race!
☆ Revenge – served New Orleans Hot!

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Chapter 6: “The Mambo Hut” #Ghosts #Free Read

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

USA/Kindle: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

UK/Kindle:  Ghosts of White Raven Estate

iBooks: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

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FOLLOW THIS BLOG! And my ghost stories at  . . .  The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter 

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Thank you for finding your way to the blog of ‘The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter’. As you may know I am running serialized blogs of my most-recently published eNovel, “Ghosts of White Raven Estate”. I have skipped over Chapter 5 because of the adult content. So! Enjoy ‘Jasmine and The Mambo Queen’, Chapter 6.

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Chapter 6

Jasmine Visits the Mambo Queen

The palmetto fronds scratched Jasmine’s skin as she snuck along the trail leading to Widow Paris’ shanty. Her legs itched unmercifully. Jasmine looked over her shoulder imagining that someone was following her, but only saw the outline of weathered oak trees adorned with Spanish moss that swayed back and forth, fanned by the night air. An eerie yellow, pock-faced, moon followed her–its menacing glow casting long shadows. Crickets chirped, and gators lumbered along the banks of the bayou that night – as they did every night. The musky smell of rot and roots hung in the air as Jasmine glanced around as frightened of her surroundings as she was intimidated by her situation. Jasmine had never been to the home of the Mambo queen at night.

Torch fire from flaming spears set in a circle in front of the shanty flashed heavenward. The outline of the shanty was partially blocked by pine boughs. Rats scurried and snakes slithered across the dried mud in front of her. Step by careful step Jasmine moved forward fending off palmetto fronds and tree branches. Wisps of wind cooled the back of Jasmine’s neck.

From somewhere the hoot of an owl announced her journey. She held her breath. It hooted again, calling out from the spooky depths of the pine woods. The warning traveled deep into the swamps and was mimicked by other owls. It was a different noise that caught Jasmine’s attention—the slap of a paddle out on the water. She stood perfectly still and turned her eyes to the gloomy waterline. She stopped breathing and listened. Silence all of a sudden, complete silence; no katydids chirping, no drone from the cicadas. The only sound Jasmine heard was the deafening roar in her ears. Her heart pounded, her throat constricted to the point where a scream would not have been possible. She wanted the sound to be a paddle hitting the water, but she involuntarily whispered, “Loup Garou.” Even better it be a swamp witch than the beast, Loup Garou. Jasmine’s eyes darted from right to left. Please! Please don’t hurt me!  Stone cold silence prevailed. Torturous nothing. She stood waiting to be torn apart by Loup Garou, trying desperately to push out of her mind the vision of the beast with its sharp fangs and its glowering yellow eyes. If attacked she hoped she would die in the first swipe of the creature’s talons. I’m going to die, she whimpered. Damn Zömbi for not bringing Josie back to me so we could get on our way back to Corbeau Blanc.

If the angry swamp monster was going to pounce, with drool hanging from sharp fangs she wanted her death to be instant. She imagined its yellow eyes burning into her skin as it fixed on her—and her fear. She waited, crouching, and listening. The seconds ticked by. Then she heard a second splash further up the banks and wondered; why am I still standing here unharmed? Jasmine then chuckled at her good fortune. Loup Garou had moved along. She wiped the tears from her eyes, “Lawdy, that was close!”

The katydids took up their song again. Now if only the hum of the cicadas would quiet down so she could reassure herself that indeed the creature was making its way back up the shore away from her. But the cicadas would only be silent if the heat lifted – and that wasn’t going to happen.

Jasmine was now within sight of her destination. As she tiptoed closer a board on Widow Paris’ porch creaked. The noise sent a second shock of fear through her body. She held her breath and peered toward the shanty. A man stood on the porch peering out at the darkness, ready to charge any intruder. She watched him crane to see beyond the bright cast of the torches into the shadows where she hid. “Zömbi,” she whispered. With relief she remembered back to the first time they had met. She was seventeen at the time, years ago. He was now at least twice her age.

* * *

That day at the open-air market was as clear in her mind as if it had happened yesterday:  “Miss Sophie? Is that you?” his rich baritone voice boomed out over the crowded stalls, calling for the attention of her mother. The year was 1840 and Sophie d’le Blanc had been showing her how to select ingredients for the Calais family’s meals.

Jasmine stood aside as he rushed toward them parting the masses of servants and slaves with his stride. Her momma handed her the bushels and packages she had been carrying and held out her arms welcoming the powerfully built man.

“Rasmussen! Oh, my goodness! Look at you dressed all fine and dandy! You’ve stepped up right nicely, haven’t you?”

“My name’s Zömbi now, Miss Sophie. I changed my name when,” and his brash laughter startled those around him who had been disinterested in the raucous exchange until then, “well, when I changed my face. Didn’t you know that?”

“Hmm, that was a bad stretch, wasn’t it – Zömbi?”

He nodded. “Yes’um. It surely was. I’m a carriage driver for a rich widow-lady now.”

“Really now? Are you?” Sophie looked up at Zömbi, shielding her eyes from the morning sun.

“Yes, I most certainly am.”

“How old are you, Zömbi?” Her mother took his hands and leaned in, looking deeply into his eyes.

“Oh, I’d say I’m more’n thirty–maybe,” he surveyed the crowded stalls. “It’s been sixteen years since Mr. Hawkins sold me, Miss Sophie.”

“Hmm. I guess it has been. The only measure of time I have is my sweet little Jasmine, here. Well, not really little no mo’, cause she’s growin’ up faster than a weed.”

Jasmine remembered the terror she felt over the impending introduction. She looked down at her calico dress and bare feet and jostled the packages her mother had handed her so that she could pat her hair. Zömbi appraised her and that look of appraisal stuck for going on fifteen years.

Their age difference making no difference to either one of them, Jasmine and Zömbi jumped the broom at a celebration in Congo Park not long after that introduction. The ceremony was kept a secret from the Calais household, “No reason to bring up Zömbi and all that nasty past, Jasmine,” her mother wagged her finger in warning. “That is, if you don’t want to be separated—or sold.”

Zömbi’s commanding voice brought Jasmine back to the present, “Who out there in those weeds? You want trouble, or you gonna make yo’self known?”

“Zömbi! It’s me!” Jasmine hurried on toward the shanty and stepped into the light of the torches. “Call our daughter out. What’s the matter with you?”

“Jazzy?”

“Don’t you start that cuddle talk. Josie and I gotta’ long ways to walk before dawn. You know the trouble I’ll have if Mr. Boulware discovers I’m not back!”

At that moment Widow Paris stepped onto the porch, backlit from the lanterns placed around her front room. “Jasmine? Is that you, honey?”

“Yes’um. I’m here for my daughter Miz Paris. We needs t’ be gettin back now.”

“Well, I’m pleased you’ve found your way to my doorstep, Jasmine,” Widow Paris extended her arm, sweeping it toward the door in a welcome. “Come in for a little spell, and join the congregation. So you won’t be late for your chores we’ll have Zömbi take you and Josie back to the Calais’ in the carriage. You can rest on the way.”

“Yes’um.” Jasmine stepped around the vèvè and up onto the porch assisted by Zömbi who pulled her close.  They walked through the doorway of Widow Paris’ home together.

* * *

“Shh,” Widow Paris cautioned Jasmine as she entered, “Iwa is with us. We are trying to reach Bondyé.”

Wide-eyed, Jasmine nodded and looked around at the others who had gathered after the celebration. They sat crossed-legged in a semi circle facing the altar.  Josie was sitting off to the side in the semi-darkness, her eyes closed. Some of the worshippers were staring straight ahead; others rocked back and forth humming. Jasmine picked a spot next to Zömbi.

She matched up one person to each of her fingers. There were not quite enough people to fill the fingers on both hands. Besides herself and Josie; Zömbi and Widow Paris; there was Sarah, Atabel, and Edgard. They seemed focused on Josie, but Jasmine couldn’t determine why.

“The séance has not begun,” Zömbi leaned over and whispered into her ear. “Shh,” he advised, although she had not said a word.

She nodded and settled in, picking out the trinkets and other objects on the altar as her eyes adjusted to the candlelight thrown by the white tapers. One shiny charm, placed among the beads and burning candles caught her eye—an amethyst in a silver setting.  She thought it looked familiar, but decided her suspicions not possible. Although it looked like the ring worn by Miss Victoria, she decided her impression must be the result of fatigue and a night of celebration.

A bullfrog belched a deep, repetitious rumble that Jasmine had not heard as she crept toward the shanty. She found the refrain soothing as she relaxed into the call while the mauby gourd was passed around. The stir she had created by stepping through the brush toward the shanty was settling down outside. As she took her swig the sweet root that tasted strongly of rum, burned her throat. She passed the gourd on to Edgard who looked down at her but continued to rock hypnotically. His gnarled fingers wrapped around the neck of the gourd. His thumb was missing—from a machete accident, she’d heard. He balanced the gourd in the cradle of his hand and drank hungrily. The congregation was silent up until the moment Zömbi picked up the agogô and began the entrancing rhythm of the campana. The bells would call Iwa to them. Over and over, the same five-beat pattern, as the congregation rocked back and forth.

Minutes ticked by as the white candles that circled the altar burned down. She heard a whispered prayed off to the side. Oh, all-powerful Iwa, we call on you. Keep hidden from us trials and misfortune. We offer what is now yours, your cigar, and your liquor. In return keep our church safe from any calamity that may wish to cross our path.

In unison the worshippers hummed their assent, and the prayers continued around the room as the single drum beat of the agogô continued.

* * *

It was two or three hours past midnight when Jasmine narrowed her eyes and peeked at her surroundings. Widow Paris’ boa constrictor had wrapped itself around the beam in the far corner of the front room, leaving the worshippers to their conjuring. She stifled a yawn and stared into the flames of the candles. Their wax had spilt over creating puddles on the white altar cloth.

Jasmine felt as though she were still entranced; her only reference to the real world was the repetition of the agogô beat outside the shanty. She was carried far away before she realized that Josie had begun to slap her thighs. Softly at first, rocking all the while, her head thrown back. Jasmine brought herself slowly back taking notice that while she was in her own trance, Zömbi had moved.  He was now sitting behind Josie.

“It might be Ogoun, we’ll see,” whispered Widow Paris. “Ogoun,” was what her congregation whispered in agreement.

The surroundings were unnervingly quiet when Jasmine finally woke up. The earliest beginnings of morning would come within an hour or two. She looked around at the worshippers. Five members of the church were sprawled out on the bare floor, sleeping in a tangle of limbs as gossamers of smoke hung in the air. Jasmine looked around for Widow Paris and saw that she was sleeping under mosquito netting in an alcove at the back of the shack. Thick pillar candles burned on either side of her bed. Her snake had moved along the beams and now wrapped itself around the corner beam above Widow Paris’ bed. It was the first time Jasmine had seen Mambo without her characteristic headwrap. She was beautiful.

“Zömbi,” Jasmine shook her husband awake. With his eyes still shut he reached for her hand and patted it, smiling.

“I’ll get Josie. Let’s get you back,” he reassured her.

As they trundled the fifteen-year old into Widow Paris’ carriage, Zömbi asked. “Were you there? Iwa appeared.”

Jasmine shook her head and climbed into the passenger compartment.

“What did he say?” She whispered.

“You’re going to be free—you and Josie. Mambo said that was his message.”

“That’s not possible, Zömbi. Unless she and I both die.”

* ~*~ *

I hope you’ve enjoyed THIS peek of ‘Voodoo Vision’. If you’d prefer not to wait to find out what happens next, full edition copies are available at: 

Ghosts of White Raven Estate  ~ on Kindle

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Nook

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Smashwords for iBooks

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How ‘White Raven Estate’ Became The Setting for my Newest Novel

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

FOLLOW THIS BLOG! And . . .  The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter 
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Ghosts of White Raven Estate  ~ on Kindle

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Nook

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Smashwords for iBooks

•*¨* ♠ ☆•*¨* ♠ ☆•*¨* ♠ ☆

House of the White Raven – La Maison du Corbeau Blanc – is the setting for my newest novel ‘Voodoo Vision: New Orleans House of Spirits’. 

Originally the New Orleans Garden District mansion where heroine Victoria Calais overcomes her rivals was christened, ‘the House of Calais’.

However, there is little intrigue or magic in naming the manor after the family and I mourned this fact as my novel moved toward its publication date.  Even in the hours just before I released ‘Voodoo Vision: New Orleans House of Spirits’ I was still pondering an alternative name for the estate that ancestral spirits would not leave.

In their reluctance for Victoria’s ancestors to depart  it helps that the Calais Cemetery and Mausoleum is situated directly across the boulevard from the Calais manor! At exactly the right moment (as the author) I could conjure any number of Calais ancestors to skim over the graveyard’s lush lawns and back into ‘La Maison du Corbeau Blanc’ – which they do each time that Father Vivenzio comes to call!

Throughout the novel I torment Victoria’s enemies with crows and ravens – hmm – for some reason my psyche thought this was just right; but how to ‘tie it all together’ for the reader?

The Calais family members – at this point in the telling — are white Europeans. But I woke up one morning as the last draft of the novel was approved, deciding emphatically that the Calais home should christened ‘The House of The White Raven’ – or in French, ‘La Maison du Corbeau Blanc’.  My own ancestors are French Canadian and I loved the autobiographical tie-in with my beloved characters.

In the novel, antagonist Father Vivenzio notes (derisively) that the ‘House of the White Raven’ was financed from the coffers of Victoria Calais’ ancestral grandfather in the late 1600s. To leave the mystery open to interpretation the priest does not specify the exact source of the wealth or how it was derived.

La Maison du Corbeau Blanc ~ The House of The White Raven

La Maison du Corbeau Blanc ~ The House of The White Raven

Deciding that I liked the ring of ‘La Maison du Corbeau Blanc’ I set about researching the significance of the White Raven [Corbeau Blanc] and was even more convinced that my intuition had guided me to an appropriate alternate name for the Calais family estate.

You see, Dear Reader, there are many myths about the raven – and happily many directions an author can go in while devising a prequel as to how the manor came to be named after the white raven.

Some of these myths are contained in Native culture, some in biblical scripture.

* The White Raven as Grandson – in the Tinglit tribe (Alaska) the White Raven is born, in human form, to the daughter of Old Man Grandfather. The relationship between Victoria and her ancestral father figures is made apparent as they come back from the grave to assist her in overcoming her adversaries. (But how would have a French-Canadian 1600s grandfather have come to an association with a Pacific Northwest tribe?)

* The Raven as Trickster and Transformer – If Victoria’s great-grandfather had transformed himself in some way – say from lowly ship crew to wealthy New Orleans liqueur proprietor – and because he is White – he could have used ‘The White Raven’ as a double-entendre.

Additionally, the raven has significance in Bible scripture:

* The Raven as the first animal to depart (and never return) to Noah’s Ark – because scripture does not define a role for the raven, as it does for the dove; Victoria’s great-grandfather (who never returns to his ancestral European home) could logically choose this animal to symbolize his flight from  . . .  France . . . or Sicily, or?

Maybe he was Sicilian and had a French wife; or the converse.  Maybe he encountered – or married – a Native American woman for whom the mythological raven held countenance. Will the process of creative writing make him a shipmate, or a frontiersman?

So, over the next year, as I pen the prequel to ‘Voodoo Vision: New Orleans House of Spirits’, I will have to devise a journey by which the patriarch of a French Canadian family comes to name his 1660s estate ‘La Maison du Corbeau Blanc’.

I see Sambuca, Sicily; Nantes, France; and Montreal, Canada in my literary journey.

I hope that you will be along for the trip!

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Chapter 1: “Someone Is Watching” ~ #Free Read Excerpt ‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

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Now that my 2013 novel, “Ghosts of White Raven Estate” is published, I’ve chosen to introduce, in this blog entry, the synopsis and Chapter 1.  In this chapter you will meet Victoria Calais and her grandmother, Madame Calais and come to realize the haunting presence that eerily hangs over their centuries old Garden District manor.

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Synopsis:

1853 New Orleans ~ As the frenzied drumbeats of Voodoo ceremonies vibrate throughout the city, Victoria Calais, beautiful ingénue and resident of New Orleans’ Garden District, is losing her vision.  A Yellow Fever epidemic has just swept the city, leaving her parents and sister dead.

As she goes blind Victoria is visited by a poltergeist that terrorizes the family priest, Father Vivenzio, a frequent (an opportunistic) visitor to the Calais’ estate, La Maison du Corbeau Blanc (The House of the White Falcon).

Unable to gain spiritual supremacy over the unworldly activity swirling through Corbeau Blanc, Father Vivenzio calls on Widow Paris, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

The identity of Father Vivenzio’s supernatural nemesis is revealed at Mardi Gras during a wild carriage race through the streets of New Orleans!

Excerpt:  Chapter 1

1853 ~ Someone Is Watching

It all took place in the fashionable Garden District of New Orleans, where beautiful estates hide behind the screen of tree-lined boulevards. The year was 1853, during an era when family loyalties were guarded vigilantly, some even from beyond the grave.

* * *

Dusky afternoon sunlight streamed into the bedroom of young heiress, Victoria Calais, casting the room in a brooding hue that foreshadows an evening squall. Flying toward the Crescent City at that moment was the kind of storm that causes shutters to clatter, and the shadows of gnarled oaks to bob and weave across expansive lawns.

Victoria sat at her vanity, staring into her mirror but unable to make out her own reflection. Her fingertips, like the feelers of an ant, followed along the edges of each cosmetic item laid out on the embroidered runner decorating her vanity.

A gentle breeze rustled through Victoria’s bedroom, bringing with it the fragrance of rose petals, reminding her that she was not alone. Victoria stiffened and craned her neck squinting into a milky field of vision from heavy-lidded eyes.

“Hello? Who’s here?” She waited. Every instinct told her that someone was standing in the shadows of her room.

A tear rolled down her cheek. Dr. Faust’s diagnosis, delivered the previous day, had been devastating. Hysterical blindness was his prognosis. The diagnosis did not sit well with Victoria’s grandmother, Madame Calais, if her outburst was any indication.

Victoria remembered what life had been like during the weeks that Yellow Fever swept through New Orleans killing her parents, and sister, Evangeline and reached for her sister’s doll. She tugged at its skirt, causing it to fall over with a loud thunk, its porcelain head hitting the mahogany shelf.

“Meow!”

“Oh, Bon-Bon! Did I frighten you, my little pet?”

“Meow!”

Victoria turned toward the plaintive cry just as her cat bounded off the bed and pranced toward her across the richly woven carpet.

“Can you guide me back to my bed?”

Victoria followed the sound of the little bell on Bon-Bon’s collar as the cat scampered back across the room.

“Who understands what has gone on in this room better than you, my attentive little sentry.”

Victoria retraced her steps, her left arm wrapped around the doll.

“Are you there, Bon-Bon?”

A repetitious mew guided her back toward the bed, one carefully retraced step at a time.

Quite suddenly, Victoria stumbled forward, an unexpected lurch into the uncertainty that was her new world.

Bang! The doors of the wardrobe crashed shut.

“Hello! Answer me! Is someone there?”

Eerie silence hung in the air, as the room grew more chilled. Victoria scrambled to her knees looking around apprehensively as a voice called up from the bottom of the stairs. “Victoria! Are you up in your room still?”

“Yes, Grandmother!”

“What is going on? I heard something fall.”

“I tripped, Grandmother! It’s nothing! Bon-Bon was here to save me!”

“Oh, Mon Cher.” Madame Calais softened her voice. “Refresh yourself and come down, Victoria. You’ve been alone in your room all afternoon. We’ll have tea and discuss matters.”

* * *

After dinner that evening a sweeping storm ripped open the southern skies, causing rivulets to run down the side of the Calais home like the veins on the back of an old woman’s hands. In Victoria’s bedroom, shadows danced on the walls as pillar candles spit and flickered. A chill settled over the house, unusual for a New Orleans evening.

Victoria sat on the edge of her bed in semi-darkness. Candles sputtered, causing her to flinch as she sat through the evening deluge pounding at the shutters as she stared straight ahead, listening. She held tightly onto the doll that had belonged to her late sister moving her fingertips over the doll’s porcelain face with its dainty nose and rosebud lips.

“Evangeline is gone, and I am nearly blind. What is to become of us, Bon-Bon?”

The feline pawed at Victoria’s fingertips.

She swiped at her tears and squinted as a shadow passed under her bedroom door.

“Grandmother!” she called out. “Grand-mere?”

Silence loomed. There’s no one to talk to now that Evangeline is gone. Victoria peered across her room trying to blink away the veil preventing her from seeing what had been staring at her the whole time – an apparition wavering in the glow of the candles.

* ~*~ *

I hope you’ve enjoyed THIS peek of ‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’. If you’d prefer not to wait to find out what happens next, full edition copies are available at: 

Ghosts of White Raven Estate  ~ on Kindle

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Nook

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Smashwords for iBooks

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Chapters 2 – 3 ~ #Free Read Excerpt #Ghosts of White Raven Estate

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

USA/Kindle: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

UK/Kindle:  Ghosts of White Raven Estate

iBooks: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

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Now that my 2013 novel, “Ghosts of White Raven Estate” is published, I’ve chosen to introduce, in this blog entry, Chapters 2 and 3.  It gives the reader insight into the relationship between Victoria Calais and her sister, Evangeline; and the tension between them that reaches into Victoria’s life from beyond the grave.  

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Chapter 2

Where the Bones Are Buried

Victoria placed the marker ribbon at that day’s journal entry and closed the leather bound book. After rummaging to make room, she slid it into the top drawer of her writing desk and locked the drawer with the tiny key strung on the gold chain that she wore around her neck. Pushing back her chair, Victoria felt her way to the bedroom window and strained to see across Prytania Street toward the scene that just two months earlier she could easily make out—the Calais Cemetery and Mausoleum. The foot traffic along Prytania Street that day would have observed Father Vivenzio on his way from St. Ann’s Church to La Maison du Corbeau Blanc. The priest smirked, The House of the White Raven, or simply Corbeau Blanc—how pretentiously mysterious. He was practicing his lines aloud as he stepped gingerly: “Madame Calais, I want to ensure that your wishes for Victoria are met.” Thinking of a better approach, he started his speech anew. Father Vivenzio continued up the curved carriage drive. Lanterns affixed to the side posts of the wrought-iron gate adorned the entrance to the driveway. He avoided the cold stare of the alabaster lions. At that very instant a crow swooped down from behind the priest. Father Vivenzio heard the flutter of wings as the vagrant soared toward him. He winced, fearing that the bird would graze his ear. The terror of rabies clutched at him as the scavenger cawed loudly, landing on its intended perch—the lantern to the right of the carriage drive. “To Hell! To Hell!” The bird responded to the banishment by turning its head left, then right, and examining the priest with one eye, then the other. Its squawk sounded a call to arms, and four more crows swooped down. In horror, the priest rushed toward the porch. He scampered up the steps and pulled on the heavy cord, sounding the bell – that announced his arrival. The door creaked opened. There stood Jasmine, imposing, judgmental. Humph! Jasmine! The slave’s face was sullen, as she looked the priest up and down. She was the one woman in the Calais household who didn’t greet the priest with adoration. No sweeping gesture that he should enter. In fact, she usually left him to close the door on his own—unless Madame Calais was standing in the foyer upon his arrival. Then it was “Father Vivenzio! I’ll be tellin’ Madame that you’ve arrived!” All nicey-nice on those occasions!

* * * 

“Father Vivenzio! I’m in here! Do come in,” Madame Calais sang. “How is Victoria? Maybe she would care to join us?” the priest inquired of his generous benefactor. “I’m sure she would, Father. But first, I’m hoping I can confide in you. I’m concerned about Victoria and her loss of vision. The epidemic that nearly wiped out our family is undoubtedly the cause of Victoria’s vision loss. I have a lot to consider, and I may need your assistance planning a course for her future.”

* * *

Victoria crossed the parlor into the conservatory as Jasmine fell back where she stood silently in the shadows of the parlor. “Victoria, darling, sit down with me and Father Vivenzio and have some lemonade. I’ve barely seen you all day.” Father Vivenzio moved to the high-backed chair across from the two women. “If I may, Madame Calais. Shall I begin?” Madame Calais patted the sofa, and Victoria took the cue to sit down as the priest began speaking. “Victoria, your grandmother has made a very generous financial gift to the church. She and I agree that the funds that she has given at your mother’s behest would best be used to renovate the convent where you stayed when your family fell ill.” Victoria gasped. “Shall I continue?” Victoria nodded. Madame Calais held her breath as Victoria glared at the priest. Then she dropped her gaze to the cat. “Bon-Bon?” The cat was flexing her claws in the hem of the reverend’s cassock. “Bon-Bon!” Father Vivenzio looked down and snatched at his robe. “Bon-Bon! No clawing!” The priest stomped his foot at the cat. It raised its back and snarled before darting back to Victoria. He shrugged his shoulders at Madame Calais, grinning sheepishly. Suddenly, with the swiftness of a panther Bon-Bon bounded from Victoria’s lap and, in one wild leap, landed at the pontiff’s feet. The feline then made a mad scramble up the front of the priest’s robe, batting and snarling. The priest screamed, a girlish cry of distress. Madame Calais let out a shriek, matching the cat’s snarl to a pitch, causing Jasmine to rush in from the parlor. The matriarch jumped up. Her teacup clattered, breaking in half. Hot rooibos tea spread over the rug like a bloodstain. “Mon Dieu! Someone, grab the cat! Dear God, what’s got into her! Get her before she scratches Father Vivenzio’s face!” “I should take my leave. Really, I should,” promised Father. As Father Vivenzio left the estate and walked along the towering wrought-iron fence, his thoughts turned to the appointment waiting for him at the rectory. He chuckled as he quickened his pace. Approaching Prytania Street a pack of dogs began to bark and snarl at him from the grounds of the cemetery. Fear danced in tiny prickles up his spine as he imagined the fangs of angry dogs tearing at his garments, biting into his skin. His breathing quickened; he cautioned himself to not appear fearful. Don’t look over. Don’t look over. A lone howl, long and mournful, emanated from the shadows of the pine grove near the back of the graveyard. The exact source of the howling could not be determined.

* ~*~ *

Excerpt Chapter 3

Before the Epidemic

When Victoria awoke, Evangeline was standing at the bedroom window, looking out over the rose garden. Moonlight flooded the room, casting her sister in profile. Evangeline’s white nightgown was no more than a gossamer veil over her young body. Everyone in the Calais family was either tossing and turning or fully awake as it was too hot to sleep in the early autumn before the Yellow Fever epidemic hit. Every creature moved about under the bright glow of the harvest moon. Katydids sang. Beetles skittered through the warm earth; spiders dropped from stalk to leaf, anchoring their glistening webs; garden snakes slithered languorously through the dewy grass, and the spirits floated back and forth between La Maison du Corbeau Blanc and cemetery, catching up on family gossip. It was too hot for all of them. “Evangeline?” “You’re awake, Victoria?” “Yes. What’s out there?” “The night voices are murmuring. I can hear them.” “Whose voice are you hearing tonight, Evie?” Victoria asked, propping herself up on her pillow and winding her long hair up off her neck. “Grandpa’s. I saw him today.” “You did?” “Oui.” “What was he doing?” Victoria fanned her sheets as Evangeline continued to look out over the tea roses, flooded in light as though it were midday. “Sitting at his desk, doing his books.” She brushed her bangs away from her forehead and pricked her nightgown away from the curves of her body. “Was he happy?” “No, he looked sad. Victoria, he looked straight at me.” “Did he say anything?” “Yes. He said one thing.” Evangeline turned to face her sister. Victoria thought how much her sister looked like an angel at that moment. “He did, Evangeline?” She pulled her knees up to her chest, waiting. “What did he say this time, Evie?” “He said, ‘I’ll see you soon, mon cher.” “He’ll appear to you again?” “I don’t know, Victoria. I just got the sense it was actually a warning.” “Why do you say that, Evie?” Evangeline looked out the window and stared, for a moment, at the full moon that hung in the indigo sky before responding, “because as the vision faded, it was replaced by a death mask.”

* ~*~ *

I hope you’ve enjoyed THIS peek of ‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’.

Ghosts of White Raven Estates ~ on Kindle

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Nook

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ on Smashwords for iBooks

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Chapter 4: #Voodoo Queen ~ #Free Read Excerpt ‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Available where eBooks are Sold!

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UK/Kindle:  Ghosts of White Raven Estate

iBooks: Ghosts of White Raven Estate

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Now that my 2013 novel, “Voodoo Vision: House of Spirits” is published, I’ve chosen to introduce in this blog entry the Voodoo Queen herself . . . Widow Paris.  Of the four main characters in this 2012 NaNoWriMo novel, Widow Paris is my ‘Fave’ for her glamour, and her ability to conspire and beguile at the same time.  I hope that you enjoy THIS peek of ‘Voodoo Vision’.  If you are just now joining the ‘excerpt peek’ Chapters 1, 2-3, are included in the line-up of my blog entries.

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Chapter 4

Father Vivenzio dashed up the steps to the rectory. Once inside he quietly closed the door facing Girod Street and looked across the polished floor to the door of his office. Although accustomed to the sight, he shuddered at what he saw. A Voodoo staff was propped just to the left of his door. The dark gnarls that seemed to clutch at the wooden cane resembled the knuckles of a hag. A shaft of light from the stained glass windows caught the amber eyes of the shrunken head decorating the crown of the walking stick. It seemed alive. Watching him. Judging him.

The priest hurried past flinging open the door to his sparsely furnished office. A bookcase, matching desk, and liquor cabinet were the only furnishings, save for one guest chair—occupied at the moment. The fabric of his robes rustled as he rushed across the marble-tiled floor.

An elegantly dressed, slender black woman turned in her chair to greet him, her bracelets jangling as she arranged the brightly colored fabric of her sarong. A brocade wrap protected her from the chill of the rectory office. She was physically and temperamentally more accustomed to the heat of the Caribbean.

“Widow Paris! I’m so pleased that you have waited for me. You’ve made yourself comfortable, I presume?”

“Giorgio, I wasn’t sure if maybe I had the time wrong.”

“Please allow me to apologize. I’m so sorry.”

She arched her finely shaped eyebrows and cocked her head. “Go on, I’m curious what you have to tell me.”

“I think you will find my news most interesting, and encouraging. I was just at the estate of one of St. Ann’s most promising benefactors.”

“Let me guess,” she interrupted. “The Calais’.”

“What the hell! Is there anything you don’t know?”

Widow Paris threw back her head, revealing gold-capped teeth and a broad pink tongue. Her laughter was throaty and decadent, “don’t despair my knowledge of your appointments, Father; unless it was your intention to betray our arrangement. Surely you realize there’s not much you can do that won’t be discussed throughout Tremè. My people help me, and I, in turn, help them.” Her bracelets set off another peal of jangles. She adjusted the head wrap that covered her coal-black hair. Still, tendrils crept out at her neckline like snakes slithering down her back.

I am surrounded by spies. The hair on the priest’s arms stood up in an involuntary shiver as he imagined how his swiping at the ribbon the Voodoo doll hung on must have looked. “Let me begin.”

“No. Let me.”

The priest was silenced.

“You don’t seem to appreciate what it means that Jasmine is a member of my church. Go into any household in the Garden District and you will find members of the Afro-Catholic Church—my church. You make a habit of dismissing people as you conjecture their station according to your world–the White world,” and with that Widow Paris concluded her assessment of the priest’s flaws.

“Well, now, if that doesn’t just explain Jasmine’s attitude toward me.”

“Partly, I suppose.”

'Voodoo Vision' Cast of Characters

‘Voodoo Vision’ Cast of Characters

“Then you know, from your well-placed sources, that Madame Calais has made a sizeable contribution to the church in gratitude for the services and attention her family received from St. Ann’s Church during this past epidemic.”

Widow Paris’ yellow-speckled eyes flashed and the image of a jaguar came to mind as Father Vivenzio felt the glare of the Voodoo priestess. He continued, “So tragic. I did what I could.”

He chose to overlook her snort and let her commandeer the exchange. “Let me guess, you have received from the Calais Trust a contribution of, what? Ten thousand dollars?”

He shook his head, defeated.

“What I don’t know is when you are going to make a contribution to my church based on the Calais generosity.”

“For Christ’s sake, is that what this is all about? Why, I was planning to share the Calais contribution with you this afternoon, Marie. Which is why I am so relieved that you waited for me.”

“How nice. I know that you are anxious to help me with the needs of my people in return for their attendance at mass.”

There was no way out of the split that he owed Widow Paris for their shared endeavors—and his involvement—on both sides of the religious aisle.

He drew out his bankbook and began to write out a check. After the ink dried he handed it to her.

“You’re a shrewd woman, Widow Paris. Very shrewd.”

She laughed in a throaty, suggestive manner. “This should buy someone’s much deserved freedom. Thank you.”

The priest grunted his acknowledgement.

“So, your long-term plans for the Calais’? Do tell,” she coaxed.

“Well, as you undoubtedly know, the Calais fortune is now held solely by the matriarch grandmother and her granddaughter.”

Widow Paris opened and closed her black lace fan as Father Vivenzio continued.

“The grandmother is ailing, and the granddaughter is losing her eyesight.”

She looked bored. “Yes? Yes? Get to the good part, Giorgio!” Widow Paris’ eyes glittered.

“In the end, an incredibly beautiful and wealthy ingénue will be left without a family. Except for the familial community of her church, of course.”

“Well, that is fascinating, now, isn’t it?” she taunted. “Whatever is to be done?” Father Vivenzio stared at the ceiling. “The parish does need a new convent. The current quarters here at St. Ann’s are crumbling. And Madame Calais’ granddaughter was not happy being quarantined there as her immediate family died, one by one, in the Yellow Fever epidemic. It was, of course, my doing that she took flight from the epidemic and was placed here at St. Ann’s. Her father was against it at first, but once the girl’s mother and sister died, he relented in order to save her. Then, he too died. Her grandmother presented the check to St. Ann’s two days ago, but, obviously, you know that. I advanced the idea that the donation, of which your own church will enjoy a portion, be used to renovate the convent.” He pushed back his chair.

Widow Paris sat silently as the priest struggled to his feet, his weight being a hindrance.

“A little red wine, to celebrate our windfall?” he asked.

The priestess nodded. “What’s better than celebrating a glorious afternoon with the blood of Christ?”

~*~*~

I hope you’ve enjoyed these first four chapters of ‘Voodoo Vision’. If you would like to add a copy to your eBook library, it is available at:

Voodoo Vision: New Orleans House of Spirits ~ on Kindle

Voodoo Vision: New Orleans House of Spirits ~ on Nook

Voodoo Vision: New Orleans House of Spirits ~ on Smashwords for iBooks

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•*¨* ♠ ☆ New Novel: ‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’ Parties its Way onto The Book Scene

FOLLOW THIS BLOG! And . . .  The Ghost Chaser’s Daughter 
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This is a very exciting week for me, and I have All of You to thank.

☆♥*¨*• So, Thank You so Much!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Where eBooks are Sold!

Ghosts of White Raven Estate ~ Where eBooks are Sold!

‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’, my NewEST novel partied its way onto the eBook scene with Mardi Gras spirit!

I am so proud of the production team that helped me bring to my readers the first full-length novel that I’ve published in three years.  (‘The Jenkins of Baltimore’ another family-saga— with Civil War overtones—was my 2010 novel.)

‘‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’’ is a NaNoWriMo 2012 winning submission to the eBook world, published by the A.V. Harrison Publishing team of Linda Hope Lee, editor; and Kathi Humphries Design and New Media as contributing designer.

This wild-ride of a New Orleans Garden District 1800s family broke into the Amazon Kindle TOP 4percent within 48 hours of publishing; ranking 45,300 with dozens of sales around the globe!

‘Ghosts of White Raven Estate’ is available where books and eBooks are sold.

Kindle

Nook

 Smashwords for iBooks

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And, once again, Thank you for your support and encouragement over this past year as my newest novel took shape.

I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing the story!

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