Scene-Snippet Sunday and 2X Weekly Winners

book eye candyYikes, but the last week was insane…and no deadlines, even. Doogie the Dermatologist assured me I didn’t have skin cancer; I was just getting old. Okay, he might have said it a bit more nicely than that but I can read between the lines. The Resident Senior had a doctor’s appointment, had atrial fibrillation, and was ordered to go into the hospital–both by her MD and a cardiologist. Which is why she is sitting downstairs watching a John Wayne movie; because she refused. I come by my stubbornness naturally.

Meanwhile, I’m finishing up copyedits on BLACK DIAMOND this weekend, so I thought I’d share a snippet (and yeah, some bookish eye candy).

In this early scene, Jena and her temporary partner, Mac, are driving a captured nuisance gator to the regional headquarters in Thibodaux. Mac is running his mouth, as usual, but Jena’s mind is on the guy she just met: Cole Ryan. Jena doesn’t know it yet, but Cole is going to be an important person in her life…

Mac was animated on the drive to drop off the gator at regional headquarters in Thibodaux, where it would be sent to the LDWF Wildlife Division lab in Baton Rouge for testing.

Using about ten percent of her brain, Jena managed to make appropriate “hmmmmm” and “you think so?” responses when needed. The other ninety percent was busy thinking about Cole Ryan. So much about that man simply didn’t add up.

When she’d seen him in the distance, standing in his doorway for the first time, she’d mistaken him for a different kind of man, the type she thought of as a Terrebonne Hard Case. Usually, Hard Cases were guys that were long on hair and short on teeth, and who lived as much off the land as possible. They ate what they caught and weren’t that picky about what it was. They might boil a mess of crawfish in an iron pot one night, sharing the feast with the whole neighborhood. Two days later, dinner might be a lone bullfrog or a squirrel.

There were lots of Hard Cases in the parish, although not nearly as many as there used to be, Gentry had told her. Most of them were as warm and big-hearted as any other people in Terrebonne—maybe even more so. Hard Cases just lived the way they lived, often the way their parents and grandparents had lived, eking out a living and relying on the bounty of the parish for each meal.

She’d been utterly and absolutely wrong in her assessment, though. Cole Ryan was no Hard Case. He looked to be in his early-to-mid thirties and was clean-shaven but for thick blond hair that reached almost to his waist. Parts of it were pulled into braids, but those strands struck her as more practical than cosmetic, like he wanted to keep his hair off his face. What she’d mistaken for gray-streaked locks were sun streaks in thick, amber-gold hair most women would kill to have. He spent a lot of time outside.

And the man had the clearest, bluest eyes Jena had ever seen outside the brilliance of the sky during a cloudless day in Louisiana winter.

She didn’t even want to think about the six-pack on display or the muscles that moved beneath the tanned skin of his biceps when he opened and closed the door—or crossed his arms over his chest. The man even had perfect teeth, what little she’d been able to see of them from his brief attempt at conversation, a skill in which he was clearly out of practice.

Cole Ryan, if that was his real name, did not have a South Louisiana accent, either. He talked like a Southerner, but one who hailed from Shreveport or Jackson or Birmingham—certainly nowhere south of the I-10. And he talked like an educated man, or at least one who knew how to think on his feet. He’d danced around that story about why he’d moved to Terrebonne smoother than an Olympic skater on ice. He’d also been observant about her injuries, and not just the ones visible on her face.

No, Cole Ryan was not the kind of man who lived like a hermit on the edge of the water behind an abandoned sugarcane field, not unless he was in trouble with the law or had mental health issues.

He was eccentric, but nothing about him raised flags about mental illness or instability. Everything about him said “leave me alone.”

Cole is one of the most interesting characters I’ve written, I think, because he’s so far out of my realm of experience. (Well, in human terms. I can’t say Mirren Kincaid is more in my realm of experience, although if he would like to be, I’m all for it.) ANYWAY, Cole is an interesting guy and…let’s just say I temporarily subscribed to “Off Grid” magazine for a few months there. And the copyeditor asked me an interesting question I hadn’t considered: Whether Jena pronounced her name Geena or Jenna. So, for whatever it’s worth, I pronounce it Jenna, but you can pronounce it anyway you want.

Anyway, BLACK DIAMOND is up for preorder without a cover but it should be coming soon! Release date is October 18.

Now, I haven’t announced winners in a couple of weeks so I have more than the usual today. You’re free to email me about your missing prize win but I am WAY BEHIND, so please be patient. Two full-time jobs and Resident Senior caregiving doesn’t leave a lot of time. I’m hoping to hit up the English department and see if there’s some aspiring young student who’ll take over my mailings in exchange for whatever wisdom I can impart about publishing–after all, I am wise and old–just ask my dermatologist.

Email me at or at the contact tab on this page with the relevant prize info for your win:

BETHANY won the $5 Amazon GC for talking food on Friday. I might need to send you a bottle of Alabama White BBQ Sauce too–LOL.

SANDY won a copy of Jane Godman’s Otherworld Protector, the first in her Otherworld series. It’s available only in digital format, so if you’d prefer a $5 Amazon GC instead of a Kindle version of that book, let me know.

KARIN A won this week’s Reader’s Choice giveaway and chose Lexi George’s newest book, DEMON HUNTING WITH A DIXIE DEB. If you prefer a different book (or an earlier book in Lexi’s series), just let me know.

SUSAN M won a $5 Amazon GC for commenting on Edward Hoornaert’s guest post.

JANE won the first book in Lexi George’s DEMON HUNTING IN DIXIE series for commenting on Lexi’s guest post.

ROGER won last week’s Reader’s Choice giveaway and chose Paul Cornell’s WHO KILLED SHERLOCK HOLMES from that week’s list. If you’d prefer a different book, just let me know!

And that’s it for now. Tomorrow is a holiday here in the U.S., so the weekly Reader’s Choice list will run on Tuesday instead. Have a happy Memorial Day. I shall be copyediting BLACK DIAMOND and perhaps eating watermelon (with salt and pepper)!

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Sh*t Alabama People Eat, and Other Anomalies (And Win a GC)

The “Sh*t Authors Would Like to Say” post was so popular that I thought I’d start a series of such columns. For better or worse, I have enough bad reviews to do at least two or three or more posts on that. But if you have ideas, please leave them in the comments. I probably can’t do “Sh*t My Boss Says.” Because, you know. Anything else?

Anyway, I disappeared yesterday after an unexpected Senior Adult crisis that is okay for now. Today, I’m off having a dermatologist tell me the reason I have so many odd bumps and spots is too much sun exposure in my ne’er-do-well youth. So if I’m late responding to comments, that’s why.

So, anyway, I think the subject of banana sandwiches came up last week, and it made me think about the stuff Southerners eat–or at least the ones I grew up around in rural Alabama. I’m sure every region has its own oddities. “Hot Dish.” I mean, what is that?

There is also no single Southern cuisine, as it varies very much from spot to spot. My best friend grew up in L.A. (Lower Alabama), and she thinks it’s perfectly normal to put yellow cornmeal in cornbread and eat banana sandwiches with fried catfish. Abominations!

I should note here that Southerners, lacking any other reference as to how to eat a thing, will batter it and deep fry it, or they will slap it between two pieces of white bread on which a healthy dollop of Blue Plate or Duke’s mayonnaise (depending on what your mama ate) has been slathered. So there are many things such as pineapple sandwiches and onion sandwiches that are not on my list because I personally have not eaten them.

So here, in no order, are the roots of my raising, as the late Merle Haggard sang. Note that while I lived in New Orleans for many years, my formative years were spent in the far northwestern corner of Alabama in a small cotton mill town which served as a model for Penton. Also, note that a lot of Southern foods and “traditions” were developed during the years after the Great Unpleasantness, when this area was extremely poor. Well, it isn’t exactly wealthy now….

lane cake

  1. Lane Cake. This is the world’s best cake, bar none. And it was recently adapted as the state cake of Alabama. I suspect that was to deflect public attention from the morbid fascination of tapes featuring our 73-year-old governor making sexy talk with his “consultant.” (shudders). Anyway, Lane Cake–in my world–is made up of three or four layers of moist white cake, with a boiled icing that is similar to that of German Chocolate cake except with no chocolate–it’s all eggs and pecans and coconut and white raisins and a very healthy dose of bourbon. The Baptist version I grew up eating had no bourbon, but I have since been heathenized by the non-Baptist version. And everything is better with a little Black Jack.banana_mayo
  2. Banana Sandwiches. Some Yankees have picked up on this and, probably influenced by Elvis, eat banana sandwiches with peanut butter on them. But having grown up 20 miles from Elvis’s birthplace, I can assure you Elvis didn’t grow up eating pb on his “nanner samiches.” They have white bread (the mushier the better), a healthy dose of mayonnaise, and sliced bananas. Period. If you want to be fancy, you eat them with chips.tomato-sandwich-done-1024x680
  3. Tomato Sandwiches. Again, this requires soft, mushy white bread, mayonnaise (never, ever, ever should the abomination known as Miracle Whip–it’s a miracle everyone who eats this sweetened nonsense isn’t horse-whipped), and thick slices of tomato, preferably fresh off the vine, heavily salted and peppered.Fried-Bologna-and-Egg-Sandwich-3-600x397
  4. Fried Bologna. Now, this is good on a sandwich with mayo and black pepper (white bread, of course), but it also makes a decent breakfast meat if one is poor and can’t afford bacon. There’s an art to fried bacon. It needs to be scored about 1.5 inches at the four poles; otherwise, it will curl up in the pan and will not lie nice and flat on one’s sandwich.buttermilk-biscuits-61
  5. Biscuits. Are made with buttermilk, flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Period. They must be rolled and cut, never dropped. If you want to be fancy, brush the tops with a little butter before baking. This is Law.grits
  6. Sweet Grits. Okay, this is peculiar to my part of the state, as my friend from L.A. goes into spasms of horror when I first confessed it. Yes, I grew up eating my grits sweetened. So sue me. I thought everyone ate them that way, so imagine my horror at the idea of shrimp and grits, now one of my favorite dishes in the world. But presented a plain bowl of grits, I’ll still slip out the sugar packets. alabama-sweet-tea-recipe-225x300
  7. Sweet Tea, with or without lemon. In the South, until a few years ago, if you ordered tea at any restaurant, it would arrive so sweet it would make your teeth fall out. Now, most restaurants offer both “sweet tea” and “unsweet tea.” You know, for visiting Yankees.cornbread
  8. Cornbread. This is the source of much debate among Southerners. I grew up eating and making cornbread made with white cornmeal mix, buttermilk, and oil, baked in an iron skillet. I can still cook that with my eyes closed standing on one foot. So I pooh-pooh anyone who works with yellow cornmeal or–oh for the love of all that is holy, don’t do this–adds flour or sugar. That is not cornbread; that is cake, people.peanuts and coke
  9. Peanuts and Coke. This was never a favorite of mine but I’ve seen it consumed a lot. One takes “parched peanuts” (i.e., roasted) and floats them in one’s Coca-Cola (a real one, of course). I also have friends who are wild about boiled peanuts, which I find completely vile. They’re mushy and gross. They’re boiled in the shell, salted, and sold out of the back of pickup trucks on the side of the road. Ugh.fried-green-tomatoes (1)
  10. Fried Green Tomatoes. Okay, this bit of awesomeness has made its way out of the rural South now but I grew up eating them. Pull ’em off the vine green, slice them about 1/8 inch thick, batter them in cornmeal, and fry until they’re tender, then eat with salt and pepper. This is also an excellent way to eat dill pickles–sliced or quartered, battered and fried.

As I said, it probably explains a lot! What’s the oddest thing you grew up eating in your neck of the woods…and does any of the above sound good or totally gross you out? I’ll give away a $5 GC to one commenter. I have two weeks’ worth of winners that will be announced on Sunday!

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