Behind the Scenes with the Mermen of River Road:

Read on, of course, for the weekly winners. And a quick preview: I just finished the new Kim Harrison Hollows book, Ever After, and will have a review on Thursday with a giveaway (and you can also win it in this week’s Reader’s Choice Contest tomorrow). And Linda Robertson will be here this week with a special guest post to celebrate the upcoming release of Shattered Circle, her new Persephone Alcmedi novel. On Wednesday, I’ll be asking for some input into a new writing project I have coming up. A fun week coming up!

Today, I’m still looking at the long, multi-chapter scene where DJ, Alex, and Jean Lafitte head down into Plaquemines Parish to meet the mermen Rene and Robert Delachaise and their rival mer Denis Villere.

So, how did I pick names for my mermen? Obviously, I wanted names that are commonly found in Southeast Louisiana. I love the name Rene (when it’s a guy’s name, in Louisiana, it’s pronounced REN-ee), and I have a friend in New Orleans whose husband has that name–he was the first Rene I ever met. At the time I wrote River Road, I had never read any of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie novels, nor watched any “True Blood,” so I didn’t know until well later that there was an important character named Rene in the first Sookie book.

(As an aside, I always thought it odd that the name of Sookie’s town was Bon Temps and there were characters with names like Rene because the part of Louisiana that the series is set in–North Louisiana, near Shreveport, is NOT French in the least. It’s pretty much like Alabama and Mississippi. Just plain old Southern.)

Anyway, I wanted Rene to have a twin, and chose Robert (row-BEAR) for no reason in particular, honestly. I chose Delachaise (della-shay) as their last name because it was a street near my house, I liked the word, and that whole part of uptown New Orleans was once part of the Delachaise Plantation.

Denis is another French name that should be pronounced don-EE, but in Louisiana it tends to be pronounced just like “Dennis.” There used to be a local chain of supermarkets called Villere’s, and Villere (VIL-er-ee) is a pretty common name in SO-LA.

Here’s the guy I cast in my head as Rene/Robert, only with shorter hair and a ton of tats. I have his name around somewhere but don’t remember it offhand.

I hadn’t cast Denis when I wrote the book, but after I saw a guy on the TV show “Swamp People,” I knew he was the perfect guy for Denis, except that he seems like a really cool guy (Denis, not quite so much). He has that great braid, though.

The other thing in this section I had fun researching was where for DJ and the gang to meet the
mermen. I found a place with the unlikely name of the Black Velvet, looked at their menu, and knew that was the spot.

When I was in New Orleans for the Royal Street launch, my friends and I drove down to  Buras, Louisiana, in Plaquemines Parish north of Venice, and had a great lunch at the Black Velvet. I had oysters, because, well, I always have oysters. But there were, indeed, meat pies and frog legs on the table. Ever in Plaquemines? Check it out!

Now for this week’s winners. If your name is listed, please email me: suzannej3523 at gmail with your choice of ebook/format or print and the appropriate address. Books unclaimed after 30 days go into the Book Horde list.

RAIHANA won the Reader’s Choice contest, and chose Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans.

BARBARA E won the weekly review book giveaway: your choice of Laura Bickle’s The Hallowed Ones, Felix Gilman’s The Rise of Ransom City (or his first book, The Half-made World), or Sasha Summers’ For the Love of Hades (digital only available on this one). 

ENIGMA 75 won a choice of book from the Book Horde (tab at the top of page) for commenting on Wednesday’s Shop Talk discussion.
Finally, if you’re interested in receiving a book in exchange for a review, please check the list of what’s available at the tab above and let me know. My apologies, but because of postage costs, I can only offer to send review books to reviewers in US/Canada.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back tomorrow with some new releases and a Reader’s Choice Contest!

Behind the Scenes with River Road (and Weekly W*nners)

Since I can’t run a scene snippet from Elysian Fields every week between now and August without running the whole book, time to do some more annotations from River Road–some background, behind-the-scenes info, and things that almost happened, but didn’t.

Also, if you’d like a free read, I have the first chapter of the upcoming Susannah Sandlin release, Omega, online today.

At the end, look for two weeks’ worth of winners. My day job has become kind of a soap opera, so everything is in disarray right now. Including not only announcing winners, but sending out winning books. New office. New computer. Mailing software that doesn’t work with new computer. Dead printer. You get the idea. If you’re waiting for stuff from me, sorry. Continue to be patient. I have a long list to catch up, but I will.

So, when last we did this, we were looking at River Road’s chapter three, so I’ll pick up with chapter four. This begins one of my favorite early sections of the book–where DJ and Alex and the undead pirate Jean Lafitte are meeting at DJ’s office and then driving down into Plaquemines Parish to meet the  mermen for the first time.

A lot changed in River Road as I went through the revision process, but this scene changed very little. In the early drafts, Rene actually met the others at the office, pulling a fishing boat behind his truck, and they all drove to LaFourche Parish instead of Plaquemines. That was before, in my extensive studies of South Louisiana maps, I discovered Burrwood.

(You would not BELIEVE how much time I’ve spent studying maps–LOL.)

So, here’s Plaquemines Parish, southeast of New Orleans, and the red dot waaaaay down at the South Pass outlet at the mouth of the Mississippi River is Burrwood.

In the 1930s, Burrwood looked like this. It was a thriving little community, albeit isolated, where Army Corps of Engineers and riverboat pilots lived. The engineers maintain the integrity of the river, dredging when needed, etc. In the 1940s, during World War II, it became a small base for the US Navy, to defend the Gulf region against invasion by water. During the 1950s, it served as a weather bureau and home base for local fishermen.

Today, because of coastal erosion, Burrwood is totally uninhabited, and most of it lies underwater. The idea of an underwater city attracted me to the area, which got me interested in the wetlands around the mouth of the river, and then to Pass a Loutre. So by the time the scene that begins in River Road was finished, I’d moved the base of the merpeople’s territory dispute to south Plaquemines, around Pass a Loutre and Burrwood. This is their hunting areas.

The Delachaise twins live in the area of Plaquemines called Orchard, while the Villere mermen live not far away in Tidewater. Both of these unincorporated communities lie just outside the small town of Venice, Louisiana. Below is an aerial shot of the land south of Venice, which one cannot reach by car for obvious reasons:

The body of water in the right/center is the Mississippi River. The narrow strips of land on the left and right are lower Plaquemines Parish as one heads toward Pass a Loutre and Burrwood. The water to the right and left of the strips of land? The Gulf of Mexico. Nice place for mermen, right? No roads south of the town of Venice. It’s boats or fins.

So this is where DJ and the gang spend much of their time during River Road when they’re outside of New Orleans. It’s about a ninety-minute drive from New Orleans to Venice, with the road hugging the side of the river. Well, until you reach this sign just south of Venice:

End of the road, Jack! Nothing south of here but water, gators, swamps, wild boar, birds, water, and more water.

Now….Did you win a book this week or last week? If you see your name here, please email me with your snail-mail address or preference, if you’ve won a choice of books.

JENNIFER K won her choice of this week’s Readers Write books: one of Sara Creasy’s Scarabaeus books (Song of Scarabaeus or Children of Scarabaeus), or one of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series.

MELLIANE won her choice of the books from Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. Let me know which one you want!

TERI ANNE won her choice of books from the Book Horde list, for participating in the series Shop Talk discussion (click the tab at the top of the page).

RABID FOX won this week’s Reader’s Choice; she chose the new book by Mark Teppo.

ERIKA won the signed ARC of Cecy Robson’s Sealed with a Curse.

TANYA1224 won a digital copy of Stacey Kennedy’s The Cat’s Meow.

ANDREA won her choice of three YA titles from the Book Horde (tab at the top of the page) for participating in the Shop Talk discussion about YA and New Adult books.

ROGER won last week’s Reader’s Choice; he chose Elle Jasper’s Black Fallen.

And that’s all, folks! See you tomorrow for a new list of releases and a Reader’s Choice contest!