I have said it before and I will say it again, Suzanne is one of my favorite authors to have guest post. She’s always funny, her posts (and books) are well written and her tourwide giveaways are great! Suzanne resided in New Orleans and has a special feel for this amazing city. Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy!
A Culture, a Cuisine, and Boudreaux
by Suzanne Johnson
Although I’m not a native, living in South Louisiana for many years has brought out a deep love for the mystical, mythical, sometimes myopic, worldview of the world south of I-10, from the scrubby beaches of Cameron Parish to the dense, exotic cypress swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin to the fragile wetlands south of New Orleans.
It’s a world where people live with danger from above and below and around, whether the heavens are raining down so heavily you can’t see an inch in front of your face or the waters are rising around your knees (and inside your house) or a hurricane with some sissy name is bearing down on you from the Gulf.
Rather than create a morose, fatalistic population, the beautiful but harsh environs of Cajun country has produced people who live life with an almost frantic, creative energy, maybe as if unconsciously knowing that any minute they might find things blown away, eroded by a rogue current, or sent underwater. The Acadian ancestors that gave South Louisianans their French culture and language, and the land whose refusal to be farmed created a cuisine built around crawfish and gator and whatever could be caught, cooked, and eaten—all of that created a culture unique in a country that’s become homogenized.
Holidays have their own special twist, so I knew that when I set out to write a story set in South Louisiana during the Christmas holidays, it had to reflect that culture. New Orleans is a world unto itself, but it takes driving west, south of the Mississippi River, to appreciate the stories of the loup-garou, Papa Noel, and, my favorite tradition, the bonfires on the levee.
Old-timers in the communities of South Louisiana, in places with names like Cut Off and Chauvin, Des Allemands and Vacherie, still tell the old stories of the loup-garou, a shapeshifting creature that might sometimes be an enormous bear, a big white dog, or a wolf. It might be a friendly spirit living in the swamp, or it might be a curse passed on from generation to generation. The threat of calling the loup-garou has frightened many a wayward child into behaving.
At Christmas time, they tell stories about Papa Noel, the Cajun version of Santa Claus, who has to take special means to reach the good children of the southern parishes (what the rest of the country calls “counties”) because there are often no roads leading to their houses. Deep in the swamps and wetlands, Papa Noel travels on Christmas Eve in his pirogue (“pee-roe,” a flat-bottomed boat), pulled by his fleet of nine alligators as they deliver toys to the children.
The alligators, of course, are named Gaston, Tiboy (“tee-boy,” short for petite boy), Pierre, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste and Rene. Alphonse leads the way, but he doesn’t have a shiny red nose!
Around 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, in order to help Papa Noel on his way, the people in St. James Parish build thirty-foot teepee-shaped wooden structures along both sides of the levees and set them on fire.
The bonfires on the levee number more than a hundred, and have become a cherished tradition in the Louisiana river parishes as the people celebrate the Festival of the Bonfire. Every year on Christmas Eve, families bring pots of gumbo, lawn chairs, and fireworks and set up alongside their bonfires, waiting for Papa Noel to pass.
It’s a beautiful sight. It’s a party, South Louisiana style.
Christmas in Dogtown
Genre: Sweet Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Story Vault
Date of Publication: December 2012
Number of pages: 30
Word Count: approx. 11,000
A woman who spent years escaping her rural past learns that Dogtown, Louisiana, hides more family secrets than just the recipe for boudin blanc…..
Resa Madere’s on the verge of losing it all. The boyfriend’s gone. The job’s history. Her beloved house is on the brink of foreclosure. She’ll do anything to save it—even spend a long Christmas holiday working in St. James Parish, Louisiana, helping her uncle run the family meat business. But the community of Dogtown, which has been home for seven generations of the Madere and Caillou families, has deep roots and deeper secrets. For Resa, going home is one thing.
Getting out might not be so easy.
“You are stupid,” Resa told her reflection in the tiny, scratched mirror of the White Castle’s rose-pink bathroom. “Stupid, ridiculous, and absurd.”
She’d been wrestling with her curly black hair for a half hour, and the brown eyes that stared back at her from beneath freshly plucked brows and carefully applied eyeliner looked more jittery than sexy. “And idiotic.”
First, it had been almost a week since Chan had asked her to the Saturday night community dance, popping the question almost shyly as they hacked at the bodies of gigantic dead fish. They’d both been covered in blood and smelled like they’d been rolling in bait, which should have tipped her off that anything in Dogtown reeking of romance, well, reeked.
Second, her potential date had left immediately after asking her out so he could catch an alligator that had eaten somebody’s poodle in one of those backwater houses near the swamp. He burned rubber out of the Madere’s driveway after making sure he had enough duct tape to wrap around the gator’s jaws. Adequate duct tape was not an attribute she’d ever sought in a man.
About the Author:
Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance (under the name Susannah Sandlin) from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick. She’s the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series and, as Susannah Sandlin, the Penton Legacy paranormal romance series.
Website and blog www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com
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1 $25 Amazon Gift Card
2 $10 Amazon Gift Cards