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Hello, Stranger

When I saw that it has been MONTHS since my last posts…Friends, I’ll be honest. That shocked me. It shouldn’t, I know. As mom to two little ones who grow so fast, I should know how quickly time flies from us.

So here were are in mid-May! Summer is here (at least in my neck of the woods) and school is drawing to a close and I’m looking forward to sharing some of these lazy summer hours with all of you.

I’m very excited to be heading to Columbia, SC this weekend for the South Carolina Book Festival where I’ll be sharing two panel stages with authors who leave me pinching myself, frankly. If any of you happen to be in the area Saturday or Sunday, I hope you’ll drop by. Like my blogging friend and fellow writer Laura Maylene Walter, I will return with highlights from the event and maybe even pictures.

In other news, I’m awaiting the page proofs for my upcoming release THE MERMAID COLLECTOR which comes out on October 2. I’ve seen the cover and it’s gorgeous–I can’t wait to share it with you all, along with more information about the novel itself. There’s no gumbo this time around, but there is a lighthouse, a mermaid legend, and star-crossed lovers–several of who manage to untangle their fates just in time. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So here’s to summer everyone. I’ve missed catching up with you all here–so I’d love if you’d take a sec to let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments!

 

I hope it’s not too late to send out a hearty Happy Mardi Gras hug to everyone!

Tonight finds me enjoying a new New Orleans tradition my husband has just shared: Eating Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtators potato chips with cream cheese.  (Hey, they don’t call it Low Fat Tuesday!)

Raising a few Abita Turbodogs. Cheers, everyone!

So in honor of the end of carnival season, tell me:
What are you dipping into tonight?

No, I’m not talking about the Oscars or The Golden Globes (which I always read as The Golden Girls, which is never a bad thing), I’m talking about blog awards.

I have been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award from two very dear friends I have had the good fortune to meet through blogging, Sherry Stanfa-Stanley, and Julia Munroe Martin, who bestowed this on me in May and in my pre-release haze I completely neglected to post my appreciation AND my 7 things you may not know about me!

So without further adoo–and with my warmest thanks to both of you ladies for thinking of me…

7 things you may not know (or want to know? Oh, too late!) about me:

1. I was a hockey goalie for our high school hockey team. It was all guys except for myself and another girl who was also a goalie–only she was actually really, really good.

2. I worked for several summers as a tour guide for the only remaining Shaker Village, at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

3. I was on Romper Room. (Extra points if anyone actually remembers that show.)

4. I love, LOVE to drive.

5. Knives freak the heck out of me. I don’t know if I was a Thanksgiving turkey in a past life, but I always get the heebie-jeebies using knives in cooking. And I LOVE to cook! My husband, who as I’ve mentioned once or twice or a thousand times, is an amazing cook and values his collection of knives and can’t understand why I use a small serrated steak knife to cut a watermelon, for example.

6. Tanya Tucker and I have dated the same man. (Okay, so he was nine when I dated him, and by “dated” I mean he asked me out at recess, then called me that night to break up.)

7. I love stale Peeps.

* * * *

Okay, now fair’s fair…How about 1 little-known thing about all of you?

I’ve got a pile of books on my nightstand that is easily above my head (when I’m lying down, that is–though it’s dangerously close to that height when I’m standing up!) and I am determined to make my way through it this holiday.

But at the top of the pile are two books I’m VERY excited about.

The first is READING MY FATHER by Alexandra Styron which came highly recommended by two women whose admiration for William Styron is out of this world: my mother, and my friend, Teri.

The other is LIVING ARRANGEMENTS, a collection of stories by Laura Maylene Walter, a gifted author I met through blogging. Laura, I can’t wait to dig in, lady. (And because this is the season of giving, I just learned there’s a Goodreads giveaway for one copy!)

I hope everyone is right at this moment enjoying some sort of comfort and/or joy during the holiday season. I can’t wait to see what adventures are ahead for all of us in 2012–and I hope, most of all, that we keep sharing them with one another. The good, the bad, the humdrum.  All of it. Hey, we’re writers! We can turn anything into a story, right?

Okay, back to the gingerbread cookie mines. Warm hugs all around, and I’d love to hear what book you all are cozying up to before visions of sugarplums dance in your heads…

When I first started blogging over a year ago, I never imagined I’d meet so many amazing people.

Never.

I also never imagined that the first group of bloggers I’d get to know would grow to become a fierce and fabulous clan that very recently had its first (of many!) official face-to-face meet up–and though we couldn’t all be there in body, we were definitely all there in spirit.

Little did those of us know who couldn’t be there, that our dear Teri was sending each of us one of these gems:

How cool is this?

I love this bracelet.

I love it not just because it reminds me of the place where we all first met, but I love it because it represents community and support and fun and joy and challenge and celebration among people I am proud to call friends.

I love it because it is everything that is good and pure about the internet, because at the end of the day, isn’t that really the point of all this?

This bracelet makes me so glad I came, and even more glad I stayed.

So dear friends, tell me what you love about this place we call the blogosphere.

In LITTLE GALE GUMBO, there’s a scene where Camille shows Ben how to cook gumbo. Like Ben, I learned how to make the famous New Orleans dish from a reliable source: my husband Ian, who is a native New Orleanian and an incredible cook.

I thought it would be fun to have him share a bit of his experience growing up around so much great food.

Tell us about yourself. I was born and raised in New Orleans, and my roots in Louisiana run far back on both sides of my family. My great-grandmother grew up in Houma, Louisiana and spoke only French until she was fifteen when the family moved to New Orleans. One of my favorite stories of hers was how she became Episcopalian which was very unusual for a Cajun. Her family lived so remotely that when my great-great grandfather became gravely ill, the only priest who ventured into the swamp to console him was the Episcopal priest, so when my great-great-grandfather recovered, he switched to the Episcopal Church.

Why do you think food is such a central part of New Orleans culturally? I think it’s a pervasive part of all cultures to have food at special gatherings of family and friends, so New Orleans isn’t unique that way. The difference with New Orleanians is that food is the special occasion and they don’t need the excuse of a holiday or some other big event to eat extravagantly. The vast majority of family gatherings I remember as a kid were because my grandfather got 40 pounds of crawfish or someone gave him a bunch of blue crabs or oysters or whatever was in season at the time.

What are some of your earliest memories of food? My grandparents always made huge vats of gumbo and froze it, so they would always have a bowl of gumbo waiting for me when I came to visit, chock full of blue crab bodies still in the shell.

Crawfish boils were also a big part of growing up. My grandfather would cook the crawfish in these huge tin wash bins and I have very distinct memories of watching him and being amazed at the amount of cayenne pepper and salt he would pour into these boils. Whole jars of cayenne. Then when they were done cooking, he’d dump the steaming crawfish out onto three picnic tables lined up end-to-end and my cousins and I would sit around them and it was always a race to peel the crawfish before they were all gone.

Your grandfather was a shrimper in Lake Pontchartrain for many years. Did you ever get to go with him? Lots of times. What I remember most was getting up at three in morning and getting out on the water and it would be completely dark. While we were trawling, I can remember sitting under the bulkhead and I couldn’t see anything—all I could feel was these big waves hitting the hull and I remember being certain we were going to sink. Then by the time light came, we’d be finished trawling and my job would be to pick the crabs and the fish out of the shrimp. You had to watch out for the small crabs because their pinch was the worst.

Tell us something people may not know about New Orleans food. New Orleanians are not purists when it comes to their food. I remember my grandfather started putting his etouffee over pasta instead of the traditional rice and it became quite popular among his fellow shrimpers.

What’s your favorite New Orleans dish to cook and your favorite to eat? Definitely gumbo. To me, it’s the one dish I most associate with growing up in New Orleans. But I miss those blue crabs.

* * * *

When Ian isn’t teaching his wife how to make traditional New Orleans dishes, he’s teaching Biology and Anatomy.

Little Gale Gumbo has been out in the world now for 14 days. It’s been a wonderful ride so far, and I’ve got lots more road ahead.

But if you’ll forgive a writer getting more mileage out of a cheezy analogy, I’m going to have to pull the car over for a moment. Link-hugs ahead!

There aren’t words (even for a writer!) to express how grateful and touched I have been by the outpouring of support from friends upon my debut’s release, many of whom I was fortunate enough to meet when I first started this blog over a year ago. There’s a wonderful group of writers and readers and just plain fantastic gals I got to know from agent Betsy Lerner’s blog and I have to say even though I haven’t (yet!) had the opportunity to meet them in person, I feel very close to each one through the community of their fabulous blogs. They have been championing my book from the beginning and I wish I could give each and everyone of them a great big hug. Until the time I can, I say thank you Teri, Downith, Amy, Averil, Lyra, MSB, Lisa, Deb, Sherry, Lizi and Laura.

To my Twitter friends, who have and continue to cheer me on, my warmest thanks! Julia, Natalia, Beth, Erika, Jackie, Melissa, Alex, Kimberly, Sarah, Cynthia, Jenny, Amanda, Roz, Jen, Tom, Teresa, Linda , Victoria, Ollin.

And of course, to my fellow debut sisters at the Deb BallLinda, Joanne, Molly and Rachel–who spent a whole week chatting up Little Gale Gumbo. And all the past Debs, including Eleanor, Elise and Kim!

And I could go on, you all know I could.

So to everyone who has been so kind, who gave feedback and cheer, I am so grateful.

Now, back on the road…and I can’t wait to get into the celebration lane for all of you whose books are coming out next!

In the meantime, I’d love to give away a copy of Little Gale Gumbo! (Open to anyone ANYWHERE. Well, let’s say in this galaxy…)