Guest Ellen Byron

Mardi Gras cover 1 MB

NEWS FLASH: Ellen’s winner is Linda Herold!

Edith here, gearing up for one kind of costume holiday, and delighted to welcome good friend Ellen Byron, who is going to share about another kind. But first – her new book is out, Mardi Gras Murder!

A flood has up-ended life in tiny Pelican, Louisiana, and deposited the body of a stranger in the bayou behind Crozat Plantation Bed and Breakfast. Meanwhile, the post-flood recovery has put a controversial exhibit about the little-known Louisiana Orphan Train on hold. But the resilient citizens of Pelican aren’t about to let some hundred-year flood ruin their Mardi Gras festivities, which include Courirs de Mardi Gras – Mardi Gras Runs – a gumbo cook-off, and the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen pageant contest.  When a pageant judge is shot, Maggie Crozat is convinced that his death is somehow connected to the stranger’s. And she wonders – does someone want the gumbo-shaped pageant queen crown bad enough to kill for it? Or are the deaths somehow related to the Orphan Train, which delivered its last charges to Cajun Country in 1929?

Ellen will give away a copy of the book to one commenter here today, too (restricted to continental US only). Take it away, Ellen!

The Wonderful World of Mardi Gras World

I have to confess, despite the prodigious amount of time I’ve spent in New Orleans, I’d never been to Mardi Gras World. The venue is generally written off as a tourist destination and visiting tourist destinations is something those of us who like to consider ourselves honorary citizens tend to be snobby about. But since the theme of my new release is Mardi Gras, I decided to finally pay MGW a visit. And what a revelation.


My agent, Doug Grad, and I were both in town for the ALA convention, so we decided to go together. Located along the river walking distance from the convention center, Mardi Gras World is a must-see. The tour begins with a movie about the Kern family, which has been making Mardi Gras floats for umpteen years. A bunch of costumes are available, offering visitors a chance to dress like the Krewe members that man the floats, and me the chance to look like a total idiot. (Props for Doug jumping into the game. To protect his dignity – and mine – I will not be sharing that photo.)

After the movie, a guide walks visitors through the facility, where people are constructing the decorations that will grace next year’s floats. This is no Disneyland, folks. Artists and craftspeople are working incredibly hard to make Mardi Gras magic.



The tour concludes in the gift shop, as most tours in general do, but with the “lagniappe” – a Louisiana expression that means “a little something extra” – of a slice of King Cake, the traditional Mardi pastry.


And I got an extra gift – images I could use in my Shameless Shilling Campaign to celebrate the launch of MARDI GRAS MURDER.

Me on float

Readers: What is your favorite tourist site? Have you ever visited a site you loved that people dismiss as too touristy? Remember, Ellen’s giving away a copy of Mardi Gras Murder to one lucky US commenter!

Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country Mystery series has been nominated for Agatha, Daphne, and Lefty Awards. Body on the Bayou and A Cajun Christmas Killing both won the Best Humorous Mystery Lefty Award. Her TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and many network pilots; published plays include the award-winning Graceland.


82 Thoughts

  1. Bravo! New Orleans and Mardi Gras are still on my to-do list. Favorite tourist site is Gettysburg battlefield. The new visitors center has incorporated two places that were often dismissed by locals: the Electric Map and the Cyclorama. Both very worth seeing.

  2. Reading your latest book now, savoring each page! One of my fav tourist attractions is the WWII museum in NOLA. Loved the girls at the canteen dressed like 40’s singers. How do they get their bright red lipstick to look so glossy but natural. Of course they are 25!

  3. I have your book in my reading pile beside my reading chair…soon to be read. My favorite tourist site is probably Denali National Park.

  4. Good Morning Ellen,
    I love the floats! They are beautiful !! I have never been to New Orleans myself. It looks very interesting!😊
    My one place I have always wanted to go to is New York City to see the Statue of Liberty.

  5. Good morning and thanks for being here! I have only been to NOLA in books, but would live to visit someday! I just got back from NYC and we did the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Probably considered very touristy as far as quantity of people but I really enjoyed the information about the creation of her and the changes to immigration over the years. Very thoughtful displays, if you take the time. Congrats on the new book, can’t wait to read it!

    1. Thanks so much! The Statue and Ellis Island are such a part of our country’s history that I don’t think anyone cares if they’re considered “touristy.” My mother bought Ellis Island bricks to commemorate her parents coming to this country from Italy with her as a toddler.

  6. Sounds like an awesome book. I don’t travel and don’t do touristy things.

  7. I would love to visit New Orleans, even during Mardi Gras. Just the colors would have me in awe! How fun that must have been to see the floats being made. I think floats make a parade.
    Besides visiting Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm when I was in California, I have enjoyed going to Conner Prairie here in Indiana. If you go during October, you even might see the Headless Horseman! Even as an adult, it can be scary!
    I love your books and am glad this one is out. I have been looking forward to reading it.

  8. Two of my favorite places to visit are New Orleans and Charleston and the countryside around both. Thanks for the giveaway, as I love this series.

  9. Oh my gosh, I love that last photo! In Key West all the tourists go to the quay to celebrate sunset–and so do we! I am happy to drink over-priced, watered down drinks and watch the sun go down. Best of luck with Mardi Gras Murder, Ellen!

  10. Oddly enough, I think the place that I decided was “too touristy” to visit much was Niagara Falls. And I grew up only 40 miles from the Falls (worked there for a couple years). But maybe that’s a natural reaction for a local.

    Congrats on the new book!

    1. Thanks, Liz! It’s funny how you have a reaction to touristy sites when you live somewhere. Yet when there’s a newcomer to L.A., I never fail to take them to Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood sign, two of the most touristy places on earth.

  11. I love this series and have this book on hold at the library! Congrats Ms. Byron on a your new book! Living in Wisconsin, we have the “tourist trap” of Wisconsin Dells. The Dells claim is that they are the “water park capitol of the nation” and I think it’s true. There are so many indoor/outdoor waterparks for people to choose from and throughout the year, the Dells is always packed with tourists. It’s also just a great place for families to have a good time, whether it’s strolling the main street, eating homemade fudge, having goofy pictures taken, buying silly souviners or riding on the famous boat tours on the Wisconsin River. It’s a place where a lot of great memories are made and families return year after year. I find there’s nothing more relaxing than a boat tour and enjoying the natural beauty my state has to offer during the summer!

    1. Thank you so much, Andrea! I did summer stock in northern Wisconsin years ago, and we rehearsed in Baraboo. But we never got to the Dells, which bummed you out. We drove by quickly, but I really wish we’d spent some time there.

  12. Congrats on the new book! I’m sure it is as good as the rest of your books. My daughter lives in Phoenix and when I visited her in July, we went to Tombstone. Most of the “old” town is new but one building is historic and it is a museum outfitted like the original bar/hotel/brothel. Fascinating.

  13. I had never heard of Mardi Gras World before your post, Ellen. It looks awesome. I can’t think of anywhere that I consider too touristy to visit, although I think it does tend to take locals longer to get around to the tourist stuff than the real tourists. Once you live in a city it seems life commitments don’t leave any time to sightsee. (And I love your shameless shilling photos!)

    1. Marla, that is so true. Locals pooh-pooh MGW, but they don’t know what they’re missing. Then again, when I was ten, I refused to ever visit the Bronx Zoo again, one of NYC’s most famous sights. I’d been there on way too many school trips!

  14. Welcome back, Ellen! What fun! Jackson Hole, Wyoming has a western show in the middle of town which is pretty darn hokey but a lot of fun — complete with stagecoaches and a shootout.

  15. I also have never been to Mardi Gras World, but I grew up in Mardi Gras world so I feel this post. I loved Niagara Falls (sorry, Liz!) but I am fine with most natural wonders. What has no appeal to me are the Disneys (world and land), though I have been in the past. I’ll take a real castle instead.

    1. LOL, if anyone would get this, it’s you! I’m telling you, Ramona, it’s a great look behind the scenes. I’m with you re: real castle, although I’ve been to both Disneys. Very much fun the first time for both but that was years ago. Visits with Eliza to Land waaaayy less fun over the years because it’s SO crowded. You spend an hour on line for a three-minute ride.

  16. How awesome to get your photo on one of the floats! Can’t wait for the opportunity to read ” Mardi Gras Murder”! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy. <3

    Up until this year, I would have said Niagara Falls. Millions of people from all over the world go there every year. We fought the crowds and loved it. We even took a helicopter ride over the falls. That was major on two counts – one, it was my suggestion and two, I have a death grip fear of heights.

    However, this year we went to Yellowstone National Park and I have to say that out did anything we have ever done. Again a zillion other tourist, but such an amazing sight. To see such wildlife in their natural environment and not a zoo is awesome! We saw both grizzly and black bear as well as otter, bison, mountain goat, elk, deer, eagle, and lots more. We loved it so we are going back for a more extended stay this year.

    Then again, you might say we live in a tourist trap of sorts. We have always loved this area and just recently moved lock , stock and barrel here. It is the Folk Music Capital of the World. We are a town of less than 3000 people, but from April to middle of November, we are visited by people of every state and nationality. We have a festivals just about every 3-4 weeks starting with the Folk Festival and ending with the Fall Bluegrass Festival. This past weekend was the Bean Fest and Outhouse Races, which was this last weekend. There is always something to do and we love our tourist. 🙂
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Kay, where do you live? It sounds GREAT. And agree on Yellowstone! We went in 2015. What a revelation. It was amazing.

      BTW, I also have a horrible fear of heights. Props to you for getting in that helicopter at Niagara Falls!

  17. Congratulations on your new book! I can’t wait to read it! I visited Salem, Massachusetts this summer and before we went on our trip several people told me that it was too touristy and not to waste our time going there. We decided to visit anyway (because it’s Salem!) and I LOVED it. So glad I didn’t listen to those saying to skip it.

    1. Oh, I’ve wanted to go to Salem since I was a kid. We vacationed a lot in New England but never got there, which bums me out. Someday I want to combine a trip to Crime Bake with a visit to Salem.

  18. Congratulations on the new release! I love visiting the Empire State Building because my husband and I got engaged up there. Good thing I’m not afraid of heights. I love NOLA–I need to spend more time there!

    1. Thank you! And I LOVE that you got engaged on top of the Empire State Building! It’s like the movie, but I can’t remember the name. My dad had an office there for a while. So cool to visit him.

  19. I love your books!!! I was happy to receive an ecopy from Netgalley and read it oh at the beginning of the year! Gopher is my favorite book dog! I would love to visit New Orleans, I bet it so cool! I haven’t been to any huge tourist places but I would…lol. Patiently (maybe not so patiently) waiting on a next book!! 🙂

    1. Stormi, thank you so much!!! I’m thrilled you love my books. And that Gopher is your favorite book dog because he was inspired by our beloved late basset hound, Lucy!

  20. I have been to New Orleans once for a conference. I would love to go back one day. I went to New York a couple of year’s ago, and visited the Empire State Building. It is very touristy, but it was fun!

  21. That sounds like a fabulous place to visit. I’m sorry I missed it when I was there last year.

    And the book is wonderful! (I’ve read it so don’t enter me.)

  22. I love visiting New Orleans in your books since I’ve never been, thank you for the mini vacations. MGW looks like a lot of fun! Disneyland is probably my favorite touristy location, but I would also love to take my kids to see the Statue of Liberty. What an amazing history she has, and my six year old son is obsessed with her, lol.

    1. Marci, I LOVE that your six-year-old is obsessed with the Lady of the Harbor, as we New Yorkers sometimes call her. NYC is actually a great place for a family vacay. SO much to do!

  23. Congratulations! Great pictures. I have never been to New Orleans or Mardi Gras and MGW looks like a tame way to visit. For years and years I loved Disneyland. I could lose myself in the fantasy of it all but last few years has been too crowded and too orchestrated even for Disneyland. I love all things touristy though, can’t pass a sign on a road trip.

  24. Thanks for visiting Ellen! My favorite tourist site is Old Orchard Beach, Maine. It is very busy in the summer but since we move up there for the season I am able to go to the beach in the morning and the evening and no matter the weather the beach is mostly empty if you time it right. Perfection!

  25. Hope to visit The Arizona at Pearl Harbor. My uncle died on it. Love your series!!!

    1. Sandy, your uncle is a national hero. I’m so sorry. The Arizona and Punchbowl National Cemetery are deeply moving locations. I hope you get to Hawaii sometime to see them.

  26. Ellen, what a great peek behind the scenes with the Mardi Gras floats! My favorite tourist spots in NOLA are the cemetery tours and Central Grocery — love their muffulettas.:)

  27. I’ve been to NOLA for a wedding weekend that went by all too quickly — I would love to visit again because there is just so much to see and do. I was fortunate however to have time to ride on a streetcar, have chicory coffee and beignets and Cafe du Monde and drinks at The Napoleon House. My other favorite tourist destinations are The Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina and Colonial Williamsburg ~

  28. I guess that touristy place that I have been to is Niagara Falls. It is always crowded there but it’s an amazing sight. I’ve been there 4 times.

  29. I loved to travel before my body kinda rebelled. Loved Prince Edward Island and seeing the Rockies in Colorado. NOLA seems to tourist but then the food sounds wonderful

  30. When I traveled I considered myself a tourist so was happy to see Disneyland, Disney World, the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, the Tower of London, etc. I usually read up on places before I went but I can’t imagine going to see someplace I may never get back to and not seeing the major attraction there. I did see Westminster Abbey twice because on the tours but only saw St Paul’s Cathedral from the regular bus going to and from the Tower of London.

  31. I love Gatlingburg, TN. It actually is too touristy in some areas, but if you get off the main drag you can find some amazing things. Plus my main reason to go is to just be in a cabin in the woods.

      1. OMG, OMG!!! I am shocked to see my name as the winner!!! Thank you so much!!!

  32. Congrats Ellen on the new release!!
    I love Key West. I know some people think it’s kind of kitchy and overpriced, but I’ve been there twice and I just love it. I can’t wait to go back.

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