Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dinner on the Bayou with guest, Linda Benson

Today, I'm cooking up some Cajun chicken and sausage gumbo with my guest author, Linda Benson.
Welcome to the Bayou, Linda.  We'll be serving up dinner in a little while, but first, tell us a little about how important setting is in your writing.

Just as setting plays a big part in your book, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, many of my books have been inspired by setting, also. I am a country girl, surrounded by forest and farm land, and because this is such a large part of who I am, elements of nature and the land sneak into to everything that I write.
Your wonderful book, Six Degrees of Lost, is on sale right now for an amazing price.  Tell us something about it.
A Lost Dog,  A First Love, A Journey
Six Degrees of Lost, set in the Pacific Northwest where I live, tells the story of two teenagers who are both looking for their place in life. If you love animals, plots with twists and turns, and stories told in two voices, you’ll enjoy this richly-layered novel, available as an E-Book. Get it now until May 15...for only 99 cents at AMAZON.

Thirteen-year-old Olive, with nowhere else to go, is uprooted from sunny California and dumped in rainy Washington State like a stray. That's exactly what she feels like surrounded by her aunt’s collection of homeless dogs, cats, and horses.

Fourteen-year-old David’s future is already carved in stone. From a military family with two brothers serving overseas, he’s been pointed towards the Air Force Academy his entire life - but a rafting trip gone awry might ruin his chances.
When a runaway dog is almost hit by a car, the search for its owner leads Olive and David, two teens from entirely different backgrounds, to an unlikely bond. Will their growing attraction to each other be enough to keep Olive from a foolhardy journey to find her mother? Will David risk his family’s plans to save her?

Here’s a short excerpt:
“So what’s with all those dogs barking in the back yard?”

“They’re foster dogs. My aunt takes them in when they get too crowded at the animal shelter. Some of them aren’t adoptable, and would be put to sleep otherwise.”

“Really?” I gulp.

“We’ve also got six cats in the house, plus the horses out back. Come on, I’ll show you.” The yellow dog jumps up and down, begging for the stick. Olive flings it down the driveway. I see a small shelter out back, with sagging fences. Olive is already headed that way, taking short barefoot steps on the gravel, so I follow.

A sway-backed pinto horse, with a mouth full of hay, sticks his head out from the shelter and then turns and goes back to his breakfast. It looks kind of bony. “Wow,” I say. “Skinny.”

“Yeah, that’s Paintball.” She grins. “Well, that’s what I call him. He was found wandering loose up in the National Forest. Aunt Trudy says somebody just dumped him there.”

“Why would anybody do that?”

Olive shrugs. “I know. Hard to believe, huh? I guess they couldn’t afford to feed him, but still, that’s just mean.”

A huge brown horse wanders over to the fence. “Who’s this one?” I reach between the strands of wire and pat his head. He’s just as skinny as the first one.

“My aunt says he’s ancient, and we’ll probably never get his weight back on. They found him tied to a tree in front of the animal shelter, but they don’t really have any facilities for horses there, so he came here instead. He’s sweet, huh?”

“Yeah, he seems nice.” The old horse pushes his head underneath my hand, clearly enjoying the attention.

“I call him Shakespeare. ‘Cause he looks so noble and elegant.”

Elegant? I think. That’s a stretch. “Can you ride them?”

“I don’t know. Aunt Trudy says we don’t really know that much about them. Anyway, it’s been too hot, and she’s always busy. She’s a clerk at the animal shelter thrift shop, and she takes turns working down at the shelter, besides feeding all these animals here at home.”

Olive talks so fast she makes my head swim. She barely takes a breath, and rattles on. “So besides the ones she takes in from the shelter, my aunt is always finding animals, too. She says there must be an invisible sign at the bottom of the driveway that says: Lost Animals Stop Here.”

“Is that how you found this dog?” I stroke the big lab’s ears, and he presses against me.

“He was standing in the middle of the road,” she says, “and almost got hit by a car.” She smiles. “Maybe he was reading the sign.”

About the author:

Linda Benson is the author of several middle grade and young adult books, including Walking the Dog, Six Degrees of Lost, The Girl Who Remembered Horses, Finding Chance, and The Horse Jar (which has been translated into Spanish.)

Her passion for nature and animals often finds its way into her writing. She has been a veterinary assistant, zoo keeper, race track groom, realtor, children’s librarian, and owned both a native plant nursery and a saddle shop.

Ms. Benson lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a variety of animals, all of them adopted. When she's not petting a dog, cat, horse, or donkey, traipsing through the woods, or gardening with native plants, she's most likely working on her next book.

Linda, I've read and really enjoyed Six Degrees of Lost, and can't wait to read the others. How can our visitors find more about you?

You can reach me at:

Now for dinner!!!
Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
8 chicken thighs (I much prefer dark meat in a gumbo)
1 1/2 lbs richard's smoked sausage, sliced (or your favorite smoked sausage)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
salt and cayenne pepper
green onion, chopped
parsley, chopped


1. Brown chicken thighs and sausage in a cast iron dutch oven. Remove from pot and let cool.
2. Add oil to the pot. With wire whisk, blend in flour. Continue stirring constantly, until flour is the color of chocolate syrup. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO CONSTANTLY STIR THIS! Once the flour has browned to this point, quickly add onions, bell pepper and celery. Cook until onions are transparent. Add enough water to fill the pot about half way. Simmer.
3. Meanwhile, debone chicken. Add chicken and sausage. If needed, add more water to cover the chicken.
4. Add minced garlic, salt, and cayenne.
5. Let simmer for about an hour.
6. With a large spoon, skim as much fat as possible from the top.
7. Serve in a soup plate, over hot cooked rice.
8. Sprinkle green onions, parsley, and file in the bowls.




Linda Benson said...

Thanks for having me as your guest, Rita, and mentioning the .99 sale of Six Degrees of Lost! Only one problem - LOL - now I'm hungry! What time is dinner?? ;-)

Rita Monette, Writer said...

Nice having you. Dinner is Now!!! Grab a plate! Watch out for the gator though.

Sharon Ledwith said...

Mind if I pull out a chair and join you, gals? Between your awesome story and this delicious gumbo, I believe I'm in great company! Wishing you all the success with your books, Linda! And Rita - this gumbo is to die for! Cheers!

Rita Monette, Writer said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sharon. I knew you'd be here sooner or later, once the smell of that gumbo reached Canada!