||Aug 1 2001
A school-aged, Cajun girl is constantly tormented by a young, alleged witch, who threatens to take possession of her baby brother in the Louisiana bayous.
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Witch on the Bayou
Stephie Jo's baby brother is only four-years-old and already exhibiting chillingly similar behavioral traits like deceased brother Joel! This terrifies 10-year-old sibling Stephanie, who's had to "rear him" since he was only five-days-old. Especially since "ole Antoinette," an alleged witch, repeatedly appears to her under a willow tree at St. Agnes Grade School and threatens to take possession of her "son." "...De hour nearin' when he gonna be MY son...." she broke into a wicked laugh. Publisher Willem Meiners calls my new novel "exceptional" and the Downey Eagle has called it a "bayou-spiced winner." THE RISE AND FALL OF THE WITCH ON THE BAYOU chronicles the fictitious life of Stephanie Anne Josephine LeBeque from ages seven to 18 and her triumph over constant adversity: family deaths from a hurricane-fire on September, 1941; the deaths of her close cousin "Peaches" (Marcelline Kay); and finally, the death of her beloved Aunt Beulah Belle. Her Catholic, Bible-based upbringing by Nanan (nickname for "Godmother"), after family deaths in LaFourche Parish, Cajun Country, Louisiana, gives her the strength to "raise" her growing brother, who has been threatened with "l'ouanga," (the witch's spell). The recurring theme of Mama's unforgettable words before she died--"Good always win in de end"--also encourages her throughout her life. Children--young and old--will be entertained, as well as inspired, by this action-packed story of the Cajun-Creole people and their remarkable "joie de vivre" culture, language, history and faith.
"Where you been, Bon a Rien??" Nanan was hollering at him.
"Fell 'sleep on de hammock bag daer," he uttered complacently. "But afore dat, I been gone for some catfishin'...."
He smiled mischievously, stroking a large, black cat in his arms.
Downey author has bayou-spiced winner
DOWNEY--A sense of sinis-
ter foreboding pervades the pages of Laraine Elizabeth Turner's just published first novel, "The Rise and Fall of the Witch on the Bayou."
The kbook, which is really a novelette, issued in paperback by an independent publisher, Baltimore-based AmErica House Book Publishers, is a slim 138-page thriller which tells the tale of the Louisiana bayou-shrouded travails of a pretty, gritty 7-year-old Cajun-
Creole girl who, 'til she reaches young womanhood, is
buffeted by family tragedy and random assaults of witch-induced fear.
Turner, a third-grade/drama teacher at Nueva Vista Elementary/Magnet School in Bell, has resided in Downey with her pastor-husband and 10-year-old son for 6-1/2 years. An older son, age 22, is an Airman 1st Class in the military. A much older daughter is planning to get married soon, and not a little excitement is mounting in Turner's usually quiet household, generated by this unanticipated family development and not least by the book's prospects.
Born and raise in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Turner recalls, when she was about 11 or 12, how she would rock, one at a time, her three baby brothers who were left in her care while her parents were away at work. She didn't mind. While singing lullabies to the little ones, she would even then allow her richly-endowed imagination free play, and it would teem, unaccountably and unbidden for the most part, with flitting images of swamp-dwelling owls and mudbugs, haunting red-eyed, black-clad witches and moss-covered bayou mansions--all later authenticated when she began serious research (which in itself bred anxiety) on the setting of her book, its spirit of place.
Her husband once put his finger on this faculty of pres-
cience and called it "a gift."
Her fertile imagination was noticed early on in her school and her burgeoning language skills were put to use by a kindly high school teacher and the paper's feature editor, coaxing her to contribute rambling feature stories to the school organ.
Writing was not alien to her. her Army dad at one stretch edited an Army newspaper, eliciting an invitation from the Portland Oregonian to join its now Pulitzer Prize-winning staff; an older brother also wrote. So she moved in good company and did not want for encouragement from those around her.
Later, before graduating from Pacific Union College in wine-rich Napa Valley with a bachelor's degree in journalism, Turner in 1977-78 turned her steps toward a year-long sojourn as an exchange student in Collonges, a little French town which was a measly 6-mile bus ride to neighboring Geneva, Switzerland. While the invigorating climate produced wonders for her health, she imbibed some French and lapped the wondrous sights. A stint as editor of the Army Reserves' publication, "The Drill Sargeant," in Santa Rosa followed.
"The Rise and Fall of the Witch on the Bayou" is sprinkled with French words and phrases--Cajunized but French. The book's dialogues are rendered in true, unadulterated early-40's Cajun-Creole, catching its (her research told her) unique speech patterns and accents, and lending a rounded richness--and unintended comic touches--to the book. Thus, "furry tail" obviously means fairy tale; "podnas" is partners; "hide" is heard; "hair," here; "drawz" refers to drawers (these are Cajuns, remember? even though they are kith and kin, as Longfellow's 'forest-primeval' poem with its opening 'mur-muring pines and the hemlock,' recreates the stately Acadian speech rhythms of the early Louisiana settlers) to Evangeline and her long-lost Gabriel; "Nu Awlin" is New Orleans; "mebbe" is maybe; and "bye"--yes, you guessed it--bayou.
The book is actually her third novel, but the first to be published. She's hoping her first two novels--about two feuding sisters, diametrically opposed in taste and temperament--would find a receptive publisher. After completing the first novel, she wrote a sequel. It turned out, to her suprise, to be actually a prequel. "In any even," she said, "Writing them was good exercise."
Extra intensive practice on outlining, plotting, descriptive technique and other sundry literary matters through a correspondence course, "helped me a lot with my projects," she said. "And lest anybody think this business of getting published was easy, it's not."
Buoyed by the eye-opening and confidence-building corres-
pondence course and spurred on by gentle prodding from husband and siblings, she hammered out "The Rise and Fall of the Witch on the Bayou" in less than four months. Her first two unpub-lished novels took years to finish.
"From the beginning, when I was writing the book, it felt good. I really felt it had a good chance of getting published. I revised it 4-5 times. Others shared the same feeling," she said.
This time, compared ot the chilly reception afforded her two previous creations, the response was immediate. Their premonition was dead on. Too, this time, two of her younger siblings, the ones she used to lull to sleep in her arms, now full grown and, morevoer now practicing lawyers, helped her go over the proffered contracts with a fine tootchcomb. The best deal, they decided, was the one proposed by little-known AmErica whose president, Willem Meiners, called the book "exceptional," consigning it under "Fiction" and thus ensuring a wider readership than anyone could have hoped for.
It's easy to see why. Although the book begins with the intimations of childlike innocence, with the heroine rocking her five-year old baby brother to sleep, rank sulfurous odors mingle with allusive scenes of slithering copperheads and frightful "now-you-see-it, now-you-don't" apparitions, symbollizing--and presaging--an inexorable showdown between the agents of good and evil, a theme which with its moral overtones breaks the boundaries of "Children's Fiction."
Meanwhile, as far as the fate of the book is concerned, good omens abound. One unnamed bookstore has reportedly sold out its initial allotment of copies....Music-minded Turner is supposed to be resting from her labors, yet she composes possible lyrics to the songs in her wished-for movie. There is communication with ABC and CBS for possible TV program book-related appearances; other meetings with various groups and agencies have been scheduled; the Orange County Register has expressed interest in reviewing the book; and so on.
The buzz among her circle of friends and associates is upbeat and comforting. How high the book's trajectory arcs, time, as she herself ordains, will tell. This she knows and is very much gratified by--her good publisher changed nary a word in her gripping narrative, a silent but unmistakable nod to her accomplishment prioneering and brave.
Seen in high relief, I liken Turner's grandly realized book to Robert Louis Stevenson's red-and-white cow, echoing E.B. White's caution to would-be writers. For, alone and exposed to the full harsh glare of public scrutiny, Turner's little book will now be "blown by all the winds that pass and wet with all the showers."
Copies of her book are available at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores, or at Amazon.com, publishAmerica.com and Barnes&Noble.com. She can be reached at 861-1950.
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Reader Reviews for "The Rise and Fall of the Witch on the Bayou"
|Reviewed by William Heffner
|I haven't read your book, but I did read your bio of which caught my attention.
God Bless You and Your Loved Ones
Your thankful brother in Christ
Officer William Heffner
The Christian Cop
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|interesting introduction to the work, the excerpt is a tad short, the blurb is excellent.....like the cover..... ;0)...m|