I’m so thrilled to announce the release of the much anticipated anthology, Masks, filled with tales about Mardi Gras and New Orleans. This has been in the making since last year and it’s so rewarding to see the book finally in reader hands!
My short story including in this anthology is titled “La Femme en Rouge” and features a trans woman struggling to find acceptance with her father. It’s a suspense-filled tale that features tarot readings, mysterious encounters, and a washboard band.
There were really several factors of my life that inspired this piece. I have several friends in the LGBT community, and have witnessed first hand the kind of pain and bigotry they face for coming out to family and friends. I admire the bravery these people have in order to be who they know they are. I wanted to explore this with Josie. I wanted the reader to walk beside her and feel her struggles, her confusion, and her fear. I wanted to make this story feel personal.
That’s really a mantra I’ve carried in many of my stories lately. I’ve worked hard to write stories that get under the skin, so to speak. When Filles Vertes Press asked me if I wanted to write about Mardi Gras, I instantly knew I had to say yes because I wanted an excuse to write about New Orleans. That place lingers with you long after you’ve left it.
Back in 2000, I joined a bunch of internet friends I had never met or even seen in person and traveled to New Orleans with them around Halloween. I was a senior in High School at the time and was on the verge of burning out from stress. This was a cathartic time for me. We went ghost hunting, we dressed up like vampires, we experienced Bourbon Street. I wasn’t nearly as confident in myself as I am now, and that time seems almost surreal.
One of my friends was the only one of us who could speak fluent Creole and she was our negotiator and our representative as we navigated the enormous city. At one point we had to switch hotels because the first one we went to was so haunted that all of us had nightmares and couldn’t bring ourselves to stay. Our Creole speaking friend was the only one who could negotiate with the manager to get us moved. She was tough, quiet, and had the best acidic comebacks of the group.
As I began writing books and short stories, she remained my champion over the years. She always encouraged me to continue and demanded to get to beta read my first horror book when I got it put together. She loved reading horror, and she had the kind of personality that she would be honest with me if there were problems. I worked hard on my writing, preparing to send her my first horror book that she was excited to read.
A few years back, I learned that she had died of an illness she had fought for years without telling hardly any of us. That was the kind of person she was. She didn’t like to let on that she was struggling, and she didn’t want people to worry over her. That was her choice.
When this anthology offer came up, I leapt at it because I knew she would have loved it. She loved New Orleans. She posted about it constantly, knowing the streets better than she knew her own hometown. She never got the chance to live there, but she visited every chance she could.
This story is dedicated to her, because she knew the potential I had and she always encouraged me even when she probably feared for herself. Her love of New Orleans is weaved into the story of “La Femme en Rouge”, and I like to think she would have appreciated my attention to detail. She would have flipped at being able to read an entire anthology about Mardi Gras.