Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

"Beasts of the Southern Wild has snatched up four (count 'em!) Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress for Quvenzhane Wallis, Best Director for Benh Zeitlin, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Lucy Alibar and Benh. Congratulations to the whole BEASTS team!"

Synopsis: In an isolated Louisiana swampland known as the Bathtub, young Hushpuppy and her father are part of a community that lives outside of the structure of modern society. When rising flood waters threaten the area, the young girl's resourcefulness and lively imagination are called into play as the region's residents face the approaching disaster.

On Sunday night at the Oscars, we learned the name Quvenzhane Wallis, a young lady that played Hush Puppy in the acclaimed movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

As anyone who follows me knows, my passion is reading and writing about my home state. I am fascinated with any story that includes the levees that I grew up along.

Did any of your choices win?

March 4, 2013: NOTE ADDED AFTER BUYING AND WATCHING THE MOVIE: I expected this film to be more of a story about actual people living along the levees of Louisiana. However, the people portrayed, and the situation they were in, had to be, I presume mostly the little girl's imagination. Interesting, but...

If you want to know how real levee-dwellers in Louisiana live ...read The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, which is historical. (Based on real people and places in the 1950s.)

The Legend of Ghost Dog Island

In my middle grade novel, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, my young protagonist also lives with her fisherman father in the swamps and bayous. It is set in Pierre Part and Morgan City, Louisiana.

Synopsis: Behind every legend lies the truth. Moving is nothing new for ten-year-old Nikki Landry. Her fisherman father relocates their raggedy old houseboat several times a year in search of better crabbing spots. However, their latest move has brought her to a mysterious bayou where she feels something is watching her from a nearby island.

Nikki learns of a local legend about something sinister inhabiting those swamps, stealing the souls of dogs…which would explain the strange howling sounds. Papa reassures her there’s nothing on the island but gators and snakes. He would know. He’s spent his whole life trapping and fishing those bayous and swamps. But Nikki and her new friends uncover strange happenings from years ago that may have started the old legend, and town folks aren’t talking. Then her beloved beagle goes missing.
Join Nikki as she seeks to discover the real truth behind the legend of Ghost Dog Island…before it’s too late.  

Now $3.99 wherever e-books are sold.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Paranormal Thriller and a Vegetarian Recipe

Since I just finished reading the paranormal novel, Between, by Clarissa Johal, I thought I'd invite her for Sunday dinner on the bayou, and to talk about her ghostly thriller. Personally, I had a hard time putting it down between doing mandatory chores...and sleeping.

Welcome Clarissa. Most Cajun folks aren't vegetarian, but  since you are, I decided to get out my Betty Crocker cookbook and find a recipe to suit the occasion. Today, I'm serving up vegetarian chili. I hope you like it. I know your protagonist, Lucinda, doesn't cook, so we couldn't get a recipe from her.

Sit down, have a cup of Peet’s Sumatra coffee—I know it's your favorite—and tell the readers a little about your book.

"Since Lucinda was a young girl, she's been able to see spirits, a gift that didn't come without its problems. Now, a dedicated, young veterinarian, she is committed to the idea that everything can be saved. When Lucinda is involved in a car accident that kills her fiancé, she is devastated and moves to a small town to live a life of self-imposed exile. There, she meets a newcomer and feels an immediate connection with him. However, there is another mysterious stranger to the small town, one that stirs within her a mixture of unease and desire. The spiritual activity around her intensifies as Lucinda is increasingly haunted by memories of the accident. As she is drawn into a bitter tug-a-war from the forces around her, she is likewise pulled into a dangerous twist of past and present events. Forced to make difficult choices, she surprisingly finds that the two men are locked in not only a battle for her life...but a battle for their salvation."

I won't say much about the details of the book so I don't give anything away, but I will say Lucinda has a lot to contend with, with her busy veterinarian practice, her past that she doesn't want to remember, and those manly spirits. Since Amazon won't let me review books for my fellow writers, I'll give it five Gators here...

 What's next?

"My next paranormal novel. It’s about a young woman that gets struck by lightning and then begins to experience unexplainable things. That’s all I can say."

Well, it was nice to have you for dinner, Clarissa. Looking forward to your next ghostly read. Before you go, how can readers find you?

"Just look over their shoulders. Haha, kidding."
Author website: http://clarissajohal.com/

And as promised, here is today's recipe for...                                       
 Vegetarian Chili (Betty Crocker) 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded, finely chopped
2 cans (15 oz each) Progresso® black beans, drained, rinsed
2 cans (14.5 oz each) Muir Glen® organic fire roasted or plain diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
1 cup Cascadian Farm® frozen organic sweet corn
Sour cream or plain yogurt, if desired
Shredded Cheddar cheese, if desired
Chopped fresh cilantro, if desired
  • In 4-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and chiles; cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender.
  • 2 Stir in black beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, cumin and salt. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 5 minutes longer.
  • 3 Top each serving with remaining ingredients.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What is a Cajun?

 (Per definition from wikipedia)

Cajuns (pron.: /ˈkən/; French: les Cadiens or les Acadiens, [le kadjɛ̃, lezakadjɛ̃]) are an ethnic group mainly living in U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French-speakers from Acadia in what are now the Canadian Maritimes). Today, the Cajuns make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population, and have exerted an enormous impact on the state's culture.

Cajuns were officially made an ethnic group in 1980.

The Cajuns retain a unique dialect of the French language and numerous other cultural traits that distinguish them as an ethnic group. Cajuns were officially recognized by the U.S. government as a national ethnic group in 1980 per a discrimination lawsuit filed in federal district court. Presided over by Judge Edwin Hunter, the case, known as Roach v. Dresser Industries Valve and Instrument Division (494 F.Supp. 215, D.C. La., 1980), hinged on the issue of the Cajuns' ethnicity. Significantly, Judge Hunter held in his ruling that:

Mary Trahan, AnnaLee and Yoland Montet,
Near New Iberia, Louisiana
“We conclude that plaintiff is protected by Title VII ban on national origin discrimination. The Louisiana Acadian (Cajun) is alive and well. He is 'up front' and 'main stream.' He is not asking for any special treatment. By affording coverage under the 'national origin' clause of Title VII he is afforded no special privilege. He is given only the same protection as those with English, Spanish, French, Iranian, Portuguese, Mexican, Italian, Irish, et al., ancestors.”
 —- Judge Edwin Hunter 1980.

Their Language
Probably because of the Acadians clinging to their native tongue, In 1921, the State of Louisiana’s new constitution included outlawing the speaking of French in the public schools.  By the 1960’s the language had almost died out. 
However, In 1961, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) was founded, putting the French-language curricula in the public schools. In the rural southwestern Louisiana parishes, nearly one third still speak French on a daily basis.

I am sad to say I was part of the generation that was not taught to speak the melodic and mysterious native language of my father. 

In my debut  novel, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, set in the 1950s, Papa speaks the Cajun dialect, while teaching his daughter, Nikki, that French is "a dying language." 
Join ten-year-old Nikki Landry as she vows to learn her father's languge, while she unravels the mystery of an age-old legend in the gator infested bayous of Cajun country.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Dinner at the Bayou, with YA authors and recipes

Today I  welcome three of my fellow Wenches of Words authors to Sunday dinner on the bayou.  I'm serving up some steaming crawfish etoufee (recipe to follow) and iced sweet tea.
Pass the rice, Samantha while you tell us about your book, The Waterdancer...

Samantha Combs
More than any other book or story I have written, Waterdancer is the most autobiographical. While there are parts of "me" in all my works, this book takes the biggest pieces from my teenhood. And I am more like Bailey that I would care to admit. New to the area, the school, and in a new marriage of her mother's, Bailey is just trying to find her place in the world. It doesn't help that as she approaches her 16th birthday, a super secret family trait begins to show itself. The story is about how she deals with that, and rebuilds relationships in her life she felt long past resurrection.
Sounds like a great book, Samantha. Here, let me pour you a glass of iced tea and tell us something about yourself.

I’m a Southern California author, with 8 published books, 4 paranormals and 4 horrors.  I’m a wife, a mom, a Risk Manager, a sister and a daughter.  I’m a life-juggler.  My blog at www.samanthacombswrites.blogspot.com is a hodge-podge of it all and a great place to get “aspiring writer” tips.  I also have a muse; a cocky, arrogant, diva-like entity named Musina.  Her greatest delight is making me stay up writing till 3am without giving me a CLUE where the story is going.  She’s an evil bitch, but I kind of love her.
Hey, I have one of those muses. A male staute posing as the Thinker, who looks at me with an evil eye every time I get off track with my writing...which is often. Darn muses!

Hey, stop hogging all the crawfish, girl! *grabs the bowl from Samantha's grip* ...and tell us how readers can connect with you if they want to buy one of your books?

They can check out my blog (link above). Or...

Facebook Fan Page
Follow me on Twitter
Ahhhh, here comes Dusty with her berry dark chocolate pie. Yum!  Set it down on the table. You'll have to give us the recipe before you leave. Pull up a chair and tell the readers about your book, Shadow Eyes. I hear it's getting a lot of attention.
Dusty Crabtree
Iris Kohl lives in a world populated by murky shadows that surround, harass, and entice unsuspecting individuals toward evil.  But she is the only one who can see them.  She’s had this ability to see the shadows, as well as brilliantly glowing light figures, ever since an obscure, tragic incident on her fourteenth birthday three years earlier. Although she’s learned to cope, the view of her world begins to shift upon the arrival of three mysterious characters.  First, a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows; second, a new friend with an awe-inspiring aura; and third, a mysterious and alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend.
As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, she must ultimately revisit the most horrific event of her life in order to learn her true identity and become the hero she was meant to be.
That sounds very interesting...and spooky. I'll tell the group something about you, while you serve up your plate.
Dusty Crabtree has been a high school English teacher since 2006, a challenge she thoroughly enjoys. She is also a youth sponsor at Cherokee Hills Christian Church in Oklahoma City and feels very blessed with the amazing opportunities she has to develop meaningful relationships with teens on a daily basis.
How can your readers connect with you Dusty?
They can learn more about my book and me on my blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. Links are below.
What about you, Liz. You've come a really long way to visit with us. I know you're dying to tell us something about your book, First Frost. I see you've been getting a lot of wonderful reviews. *pours Liz another glass of sweet tea*.
Liz De Jesus 
For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and RareArtifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.  She’s about to find out how wrong she is.
A little something about Liz:
Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico. She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi'er Publishing, October 2007), The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 31st 2011) and First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 22nd 2012). She is also a member of The Written Remains Writers Guild http://www.writtenremains.org/. Liz is currently working on a new novel.
If you want to contact Liz, here are some links:
While I say goodbye to my guests, I'd like to share today's recipes. 

Berry Dark Chocolate Pie
2 chocolate piecrusts
16 oz. package frozen blackberries, thawed and drained or 2 cups fresh
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
½ cup blackberry jam
3-4 tbsp. or ½ package of Jell-O sugar-free chocolate fudge pudding mix
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ tsp. almond extract or vanilla extract if preferred
1 container 8 or 9 oz whipped topping
1-2 oz. dark chocolate squares, grated or shaved or use chips

Combine blackberries, sweetened condensed milk, blackberry jam, pudding mix, lemon juice, and almond extract.  Beat on medium high speed until well blended and thick, about 2 minutes.
Spoon blackberry cream mixture over 2 chocolate crusts evenly.  Refrigerate for a total of 4 hours. 
After about 1 hour, top with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.  Continue to refrigerate for another 3 hours or until set. 
Serves 16

Crawfish Etoufee'
2lbs. cleaned crawfish
1 stick butter
2minced onions
2minced bell peppers
4 ribs celery, minced
2cans golden mushroom soup
1can ro tel tomatoes
2tbsp. minced garlic
1bunch green onions (finely chopped)
1bunch parsley (finely chopped)
garlic powder, red pepper, black pepper, salt -to taste
Melt butter on low heat. Add onions, bell peppers and celery. Cook and stir until tender. Do not brown. Add all remaining ingredients except crawfish tails.Seon to taste. Add enough water to make a thick sauce. Cook on low heat for an additional 30 minutes. Stirring often to prevent sticking. Add crawfish and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, stiring often to prevent sticking. Serve over rice. Serves 8 to 10 people.

Come back next Sunday. You're always welcome at the Bayou!)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sharon Ledwith

Today I'd like to welcome Sharon Ledwith to my bayou. First of all because today is a special day for her. It's her birthday!  Those down in Louisiana are  celebrating her birthday by going to the Mardi Gras parades and yelling "Throw me something mister!!!"  The groundhog also comes out to say hi on her very special day! And because it's pretty much the coldest day of the year, he jumps back in his burrow to get warm.  Speaking of cold...err cool, Sharon as has a very cool book out called The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis. Here's the scoop!

When Amanda Sault and her four classmates are caught in a major food fight at school, they are given the choice of suspension or yard duty. It was a no-brainer. A two-week crash course in landscaping leads the kids to discover a weathered stone arch buried in an overgrown backyard. Instead of a forgotten lawn ornament, it turns out to be an ancient time portal from the lost continent of Atlantis. Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from an evil force—the five children, along with two offbeat adults, are sent on the adventure of their lives to save the Earth from an uncertain future. The Timekeepers’ first mission lands them in England in 1214, where they must find an adolescent Robin Hood and his band of merry teens before history is turned upside-down.
About Sharon...
After 21 years in the graphic trade biz, Sharon Ledwith swapped her drafting table for a computer, and entered the wonderful and whacky world of writing. She started pounding the keys until her fingers bled and skin hardened. Eleven years, and many drafts later, her middle-grade/young adult time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS was born.
Sharon lives in the wilds of Muskoka in Central Ontario, with her hubby, a water-logged yellow Labrador and moody calico cat. She survives harsh Canadian winters on caffeine, comfort food, and the occasional dram of scotch.