I miss New Orleans. I was there last March and arrived back home in San Francisco just as the Shelter in Place (SIP) was about to be issued. It was surreal to go from a place full of people to a city emptied out overnight. Of course New Orleans soon had its own shutdown, but I had been in the thick of the French Quarter for a week with its teeming masses and the juxtaposition was jarring. I miss being in New Orleans and hope to return soon. 

I’ve always wondered if I had a choice about Olivia and New Orleans. Did I choose the city or did it cast a spell over me? It’s too late now to care because the city is embedded in Book 3. Olivia’s family history is connected to the founding of what is one of the most captivating places in the world. Like Miami, at times it doesn’t feel like you’re in the United States, its architecture and multilingual population giving it an international feel.  At times, like in Miami, it doesn’t feel like you’re in the United States; it’s architecture and multilingual population give it an international feel.

When I was there in March I wandered through graveyards and churches looking for images that would inspire me—soaking up the creative and artistic energy of the city. It was my second visit to New Orleans for the book and it helped cement the places and people who are pivotal to Olivia and the story itself. The portrait below caught my attention the minute I saw it inside the Voodoo Museum. I immediately appropriated it for my story. This is how it ended up working in the third book, which is still unnamed.

“ I quickly shoved the soil into a small velvet bag under the watchful gaze of an unknown woman hovering overhead. “Be quick cousin,” Sabine urged. “I could lose my tour guide license if they catch us.”

I looked up at the cool grey stone statue, the angel’s hands folded in prayer above us and said a small one myself that we would not be caught in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 stealing dirt. That was no way for me to kick off working for a presidential candidate and I didn’t want Sabine to have trouble with the locals, but we needed the purloined earth for my alter. It was already hot as hades outside, and I did not relish prolonging our time in the humidity searching for our final ingredient. Fortunately, we were undetected and walked out with our prize tucked safely away in my purse.

We walked back to the Voodoo Museum which was closed for lunch. My shirt clung to me as we stepped inside the wood paneled storefront. It was difficult to know where to look first. The place was a mix of history and merchandising. Several photos of the great voodoo priestess Marie Laveau hung on the walls as well as portraits of dozens of other people. There were shelves lined with Gris-Gris kits to make good luck charms. I followed my cousin past the cash register and down a narrow hallway, stopping to stare at a painting of a woman who was the spitting image of her.

“Is this your great, great grandmother Isabel? I asked.

Sabine nodded. “Yes,” she said. “I’ve been told many times I look just like her.”

“It’s true,” I said. “You two could be twins.”

Have you been to New Orleans or do you live there now? Do you have a favorite photo you’d like to share? Send it to me and I’ll feature it in an upcoming social media post.

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