I have a heckuva lot to be grateful for. I try to remain mindful of that fact every day of the year, not just when I’m staring down the barrel of Thanksgiving.

Perusing my post history in this space, to see what I’ve written for the other three Thanksgiving Eves I’ve passed while writing this blog, I was a bit disappointed in myself. While I remembered my first: I’m Thankful for Godzilla, I could not recall the other two. That’s because I didn’t mark the approach of Thanksgiving in the past two years. Shame on me.

Last year, I wrote about attending the Texas Renaissance Festival; and the year before that, it was George Gershwin. Hopefully, my gratitude for spending time with family in Texas; and my appreciation of the contributions George and Ira Gershwin made to the world of music, were apparent, and sufficed as an expression of my thankfulness.

Now, into my third year of being published, and closing in on nine years since I first decided to give this fiction writing thing a go, it seems its high time to express some gratitude.

Especially for last night. I held a launch event for my second novel, The Trouble on Highway One, at the Garden District Book Shop on Prytania Street in New Orleans. I don’t think I can express sufficient appreciation—for everyone who came, for the good folks at the Garden District Book Shop, for all the kind words I received.

Becoming a published fiction writer—and the effort to reach out to new readers, in the hopes of offering something of value (entertainment, escape, anything)—has meant a personal stretch outside my comfort zone. In a big way. I am profoundly grateful for the reception I’ve received as I’ve entered this brave new world.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Garden District Book Shop (and Chapter 1, Part 2)

I am thrilled to announce the local launch of The Trouble on Highway One at the Garden District Book Shop, on Tuesday, November 20, at 6pm! If you are in town, please stop by.

Garden District Book Shop has some very positive associations for me. Shortly after I moved back to New Orleans, in the early 2000’s, I went there to meet Greg Iles. I had just read The Footprints of God, and saw that he would be in town, signing copies of Blood Memory at Garden District Book Shop. It was such a great opportunity to meet an author I had just discovered, and pick up a signed copy of his next book.

And just two years ago, my friend Kristen’s publishing company released a book of poetry, I Am One of You, by Nicole Eiden. (That’s Kristen at the podium in the picture above.) The event she held there was a real success. I’m so excited New Orleans readers will get to pick up their copy of The Trouble on Highway One at Garden District Book Shop!

I plan to read an excerpt during the event. Last week, I mentioned that I would publish the second part of Chapter 1, so here you go:


. . .

Birdie hummed along, until the last passage. Then she sang aloud, her voice like salted honey. A warm, earthy, resonant note.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun.”

Birdie didn’t see the man standing in the road until it was too late. Too late for her.

She swerved to the right, the opposite side from the bayou. In less than an instant, the steep embankment rose up, and her truck ended its collision course against a tree.

Her eyes opened, and her face felt wet. Something obscured her vision. She thought she’d gone into the bayou.

She drew the back of her hand across her forehead. Holding it out to the dim light of the dashboard, it was coated in a thick redness.


She would need to get help. It was too far to walk back to Galliano, and too far to walk forward home to Larose.

Home. Morris. He’d be angry about the truck. But he’d be more worried about her, she knew.

None of it would matter if she couldn’t get out of the truck and flag down help from the road.

She turned toward her driver’s side door, and focused her effort on the door handle. The front end of the truck was crumpled, and it kept her door from opening.

Looking through that window, a familiar figure appeared.

Help is coming to me, she thought.

As the figure grew larger in her view, she saw him. It was a man dressed all in white. Why did he look familiar?

That was the man in the road. What was he doing walking in the middle of the road? Can he help?

As the man came closer, her blood ran cold. He had a man’s face, but there was something unnatural about it. Birdie thought of a picture book she had when she was a child. A picture book of Bible tales. One page showed the devil’s face, when he appeared to Jesus during his forty days in the desert. He had bloodshot eyes, and a rapacious mouth.

That picture terrified her. And that’s what the man’s face looked like.

Now, he stood right outside the truck. Her limbs felt heavy. He held his palm up to the glass of her driver’s side window. All she wanted was to turn away. But she couldn’t.

She was transfixed.

She saw his palm pressed against the glass, but felt an invisible, icy pressure just above her heart.

Terror enveloped her. The pressure escalating to an inexorable conclusion.

In an instant, she was released. No more horror, no more pain above her heart. She could finally turn her gaze. She looked at the passenger seat, and Momma was there. The light of her smile made the devil disappear from Birdie’s thoughts.

Birdie couldn’t feel her own body anymore, but she could feel Momma take her by the hand. They left the truck through the passenger’s side, and someone was waiting there for them. A warm, distant memory made concrete. It was Birdie’s father.

The three of them made their way to the woods.

Like in a dream, Birdie could see her form in the truck, the blood on her face. The devil was nowhere to be seen.

Her heart ached a little for the Becnel children, and more so for Ronnie and young Cecil. Morris made her stop in her tracks. He couldn’t live without her. She tried to turn around. To go back.

Birdie felt herself shrinking. She looked up, and her parents were on each side of her, towering above her. Gently, they each put an arm around her and carried her until she was whole again.

The woods never looked more peaceful. The cicadas sounded otherworldly, heavenly. The smell of eucalyptus enveloped them as they crossed the threshold.


The neutral ground on Harrison Avenue. Some pivotal moments in the story happen on this street.
The neutral ground on Harrison Avenue. Some pivotal moments in the story happen on this street.

They say, “Write what you know.” I’m not quite sure who they are, but that saying seems to be one of those maxims everyone’s heard of.

But what does that mean when it comes to fiction? Especially science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal fiction? Because I’ve never known anyone who’s manifested a supernatural ability. Or, if I do know someone with that type of ability, they’ve kept it hidden from me.

In a lot of ways, this is what I’m aiming for in The Incident Under the Overpass: what would it be like if someone I knew, or someone I could relate to, suddenly discovered they had supernatural powers? The whole magical realism thing.

It made the process of scribing this story more about writing what I might know. So grounding the story in the very real setting of New Orleans just seemed to make sense. It’s where I was born, it’s where I’ve lived for the past thirteen years, and it’s what I know. Since only my imagination knows the characters and the plot, there’s the setting to provide a certain “real” palette.

Some places in the book are real, physical, locations with their real, proper, names. Redd’s Uptilly Tavern, for example. There are two scenes set in this bar, and it’s a place Husband Tim and I know well.

Other places are stand-ins for real life locations. And others are a mixture of both. Like Lacey’s home—the exterior is a house in my neighborhood that I pass often while running. But I don’t know the occupants, and I’ve never been inside, so the interior is purely imagined.

Speaking of running, the overpass that inspired the title (and the opening chapter) continues to intrigue me. Every time I run underneath it, I contemplate those picnic tables that sit unoccupied and in shadow for most of their existence. Coming to life during those rare Brigadoon weekends when someone hosts a family reunion or a barbecue or a crawfish boil.

Crawfish boils. Something unique to this region, like the term “neutral ground.” Everyone from around these parts knows what a neutral ground is. But what about all those far-away readers that I’m hoping to reach? That’s why I’m really glad my Fabulous Editor Shelley is not from New Orleans. I used the term neutral ground in the manuscript, and got a very earnest note back stating that she didn’t know what it meant, and Google searches were unhelpful, and was it a sidewalk?

So I was challenged to come up with an artful way to explain within the story that a neutral ground is the same thing as a street median, the strip dividing the roadway. The etymology has something to do with divisions between the French and Spanish settlers of the city a long time ago, I think, but I didn’t go into that. Suffice it to say that the term takes on utmost importance during Mardi Gras, to know which side of the street to look for your parade-float-riding friends.

And, as an aside to far-away readers who may be interested in this novel and won’t be able to attend the August 27 Book Launch Party (at Redd’s, of course), it is available for pre-order on Amazon . . . 🙂

One parting thought: as I still struggle with bouts of anxiety over this whole book launch, a comforting thought has occurred to me. Maybe I’m taking this whole thing too seriously. (‘Ya think?) In a sense, this is a very serious deal to me—I’ve invested a lot into this story (time, money, sweat equity), and I’ve got a true yearning to write full-time. But in the end, I’ve produced something meant as entertainment, a diversion from reality. Maybe, keeping that end in mind, I should just lighten up a bit.