Welcome to the first full week of 2014! I hope you all had a terrific holiday season. I enjoyed being with my family. It was nice stepping away from the blog, but I was surprised at how much I missed it. I am happy to be back sharing more terrific reads with you.
Speaking of great reads, I am pleased to welcome back author Suzanne Johnson, a.k.a. Susanne Sandlin. Suzanne is the author of one of my most recent favorite UF series, The Sentinels of New Orleans. If you have yet to check out this series, do so. It is fantastic!
Suzanne is a busy lady these days as she is not only hard at work on her two series: Penton Legacy and The Sentinels of New Orleans, but she is also just released a serial novel: Lovely Dark and Deep and a novella: Chenoire. Suzanne is here today to talk about the setting of her novella Chenoire, and I am thrilled to have her back. For those of you who are new to Rainy Day Ramblings, let me introduce you to Suzanne:
Suzanne Johnson is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series from Tor Books. Royal Street, book one, came out in April 2012; River Road in November 2012. Book three, Elysian Fields, will be released on August 13, 2013.
A longtime New Orleans resident, Suzanne is a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction for higher education, including the Robert S. Sibley Award for the best university magazine in the U.S. and Canada, for the Rice University Sallyport.
Suzanne is an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapters of RWA. You can find Suzanne on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Suzanne also writes the Penton Legacy under pen name Susannah Sandlin.
Here is Suzanne:
Leaving New Orleans, and Going to Da Parish
by Susannah Sandlin
Authors are often admonished to “write what you know.” Ehh…..sometimes. If I wrote only characters like myself and my friends, they would all be extremely snarky, workaholic single adults who are seriously sleep-deprived.
If I wrote only what I knew, I’d never write about vampires or odd species of shape-shifters or ex-Marine shipwreck divers or Army Rangers. I’d never have undead pirates (or any other pirates) in my books, or wizards, or merpeople, or biologists who hunt gators.
Well, that’s not entirely true. By some odd stroke of fate, I ended up knowing two biologists who hunt gators. One got bitten on the head last year. But I digress.
What about setting? There, too, I don’t always stick close to home—a recent release is set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which makes me cold to even think about—but no matter how far my characters roam, I seem to always bring them back to Louisiana, and not just to the Big Easy.
Don’t get me wrong: I love New Orleans, heart and soul. It’s where I spent much of my adult life. It’s where I learned that a place can make you fall in love with it and then break your heart just as much as a person can. The culture, history, and legends of New Orleans are perfect for stories of paranormals, history, mystery, and suspense (and also, unfortunately, crime).
But it’s also fun to wander away from the city and travel into the rest of South Louisiana, each parish (what the rest of the US calls a county) with its own personality and culture. So for my novella “Chenoire,” I headed up Interstate 10 toward New Orleans East and hooked a right at the rusted monstrosity of the old Six Flags roller coaster—flooded in Hurricane Katrina and still sitting out there (I used Six Flags as a majorly creepy setting in my 2013 novel Elysian Fields).
Soon after that turn, one enters what is affectionately known in New Orleans as “Da Parish.” That would be St. Bernard Parish, a low-lying community sandwiched between Lake Borgne and the Chandeleur Sound. It’s 74 percent water, 26 percent land (sort of), and 100 percent Louisiana. Its people are stubborn and loyal and love their community enough to keep rebuilding no matter what life throws at them.
St. Bernard was the perfect place to set a story about an isolated, mysterious community of people in Chenoire (shin-WAH), a little crossroads near Delacroix (locally pronounced “DELLA-crow”), and what happens when their way of life is intruded upon by a geeky biologist from Alabama.
I also drew on some of the recent history of St. Bernard for the story. The heroine, Faith Garrity, is there to study the latent effects of the 2010 BP oil spill, which hit the parish’s fragile wetlands. Scientists are still finding oil and tar balls in the marshes, and it will be decades before we really know the environmental toll of that spill on the Gulf states.
The hero of “Chenoire,” Zackary Prejean, is still trying to cope with the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
I went through Katrina in the city. My house was damaged, but it was salvageable. My friends in New Orleans East and St. Bernard—all of them—lost everything. The eye of the storm crossed over the eastern part of the parish, pushing a 25-foot storm surge ahead of it. Water rose a foot a minute, caused a refinery leak, and then moved on, leaving the parish to stew in hundred-degree heat in 12 feet of oily water for weeks. Those who hadn’t evacuated were trapped if they were lucky and drowned if they weren’t.
So Zackary’s family members lost their homes, and they lost people they loved. He’s having a hard time moving on, but things that happen with Faith will force him out of the shell in which he’s been hiding.
A lot of people ended up leaving the Parish after Katrina. I returned to New Orleans for a few years before a family situation propelled me to leave the city. I might go back when my day-job days are over. But I’ll always keep writing about New Orleans and Louisiana.
I guess it’s called writing what I know!
What’s your favorite story or book or movie set in Louisiana? Have you ever visited? I’ll choose two commenters to win a copy of “Chenoire” or a swag pack, if you already have the story. Alternately, international entrants (and domestic as well) can receive their choice of any of my books written as either Susannah Sandlin or Suzanne Johnson.
(all photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons click on images for photo credits).
Thanks, Suzanne! New Orleans is a city I long to visit. I first fell in love with this grand old city when I read Ann Rice's Vampire Chronicles twenty years ago. I can't wait to one day visit this historical and haunted city. Until then, I go there vicariously through books and movies. I love that Suzanne brings New Orleans to life in her books. A huge thanks to Suzanne for providing the first guest post and giveaway of 2014! To enter Suzanne's giveaway leave a comment and fill out the Rafflecopter for more chances to win! Suzanne will be back in February with her serial novel: Lovely Dark and Deep. In the meantime head over to Amazon and download the first installment. All future installments will be delivered for free each week until the novel is completed!
Here is my review of Chenoire by Susannah Sandlin
When Faith Garrity’s twin sister died, she lost a part of herself. Unable to move past the pain, the once-driven ornithologist is at risk of losing her career as well.
To save her job, she heads to the oil-ravaged wetlands of Louisiana.
There, in the bayou community of Chenoire, she encounters the handsome but guarded Zackary Préjean, still suffering from a great loss of his own.
She’s drawn to Zack, but soon finds that the Préjean family isn’t what it seems… They have dangerous secrets—and deadly enemies.
Caught up in a feud that threatens the area’s uneasy truce, Faith and Zack must learn to trust each other.
Survival will require enormous sacrifice, but it just might also give them both a way to move on.
Kindle Edition 48 pgs.
Four Stars: A terrific paranormal novella set in the swamplands of Louisiana.
Faith presses the accelerator and spins her tires in the mud. Night is coming and Faith's car is stuck in a mud puddle in the middle of nowhere. Undeterred, Faith abandons the mired car and trudges through the thick mud heading up the road in search of Chenoire and Luce Préjean. Faith is determined to rent a boat even if it means begging strangers. Faith is researching the effects of the BPA oil spill on the local bird life, but she only has a few short days. If she doesn't get a boat, her research is in big trouble. Little does she know that asking the Préjean family for help will change her life forever. In the swamps of Louisiana, there are creatures even more dangerous than the local gators. Will Faith survive her swampy encounter?
What I Liked:
- Novellas are always hard for me to review as I feel like I never get a complete and satisfying story. However, that is not the case with Chenoire by Susannah Sandlin. I was delighted to find that I got a full story and I was not disappointed, aside from the fact that I want more! If you are in the mood for a quick, one sitting read, definitely grab this one.
- I loved the swampy Louisiana setting. Ms. Sandlin (Johnson) always does a tremendous job with her settings. I love that she manages to transport me to her locations with her words. This time, I took a tour of the swampy regions of the St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana. This is an area teeming with creatures of the swamp, including fearsome alligators. I highly recommend any of Suzanne's books because I think her world building is top notch!
- Once Faith arrives in the swamp amongst the Préjean family, it becomes apparent that there is something a bit strange going on. I loved the infusion of paranormal in this one. There are some interesting shapeshifters that stirred my imagination.
- The romance is a fast burner, but it is believable. Two stubborn and determined people suffering the pains of heartache and loss are thrown together when they are placed in a dangerous and deadly situation. What starts out as lustful looks quickly blossoms into something more as the two come together, face a dangerous threat, share secrets and heal each other's hearts. There is plenty of heat and passion in this one even if it is fast and furious.
- I loved that the couple together learns to put their pasts behind them and look forward to the future as they let go of their baggage. Everything wraps up nicely and ends on a high note.
And The Not So Much:
- I feel like a broken record saying this, but with good novellas, I want more. I loved the characters, the shapeshifters and the swamp. I desperately want to know more about the shapeshifters, the Préjean family and the romance. I only hope that this is a prequel to another series!
- I loved the romance, but it does move at a rapid pace. To some it might feel like instalove, but I felt it was believable considering the couple has a lot in common and that they come together over a life threatening event. I would love to see how things develop down the road as the romance is off to a solid start.
- I was fascinated by the research presented regarding the effects of the oil spill on the local bird population. I was curious to know more.
Chenoire is a quick yet satisfying little read. It has plenty of action, a tremendous setting, paranormal entities and a fast and furious romance. If you are a fan of Ms. Sandlin (Johnson) I highly recommend you pick up this novella. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am crossing my fingers that there will be more down the road.
"He grinned at her, a sorry advertisement for the achievements of bayou dentistry."
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.