In August, a group of authors and readers will converge on New Orleans for the annual Authors After Dark convention. One of those authors will be the fabulous Suzanne Johnson, who is also celebrating the release of her first Sentinels of New Orleans novel, Royal Street.
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.
Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.
While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.
To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux.
Book two in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, River Road, will be released November 13.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a copy of Royal Street to one lucky winner.
The New Orleans Lexicon—Talk Like a Native at AAD
Thanks to Jackie and Literary Escapism for inviting me to share a little about my hometown of New Orleans! As a debut author who will be attending my first Authors After Dark this August in NOLA, it’s the best of all worlds.
My debut urban fantasy Royal Street is set in immediate pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. I was living in the city at the time of the hurricane, and writing the novel was one way I dealt with my own post-traumatic stress. But it also gave me a way to write a love letter to a special city and set scenes in some of my favorite spots.
As one of the featured “field trip authors” at AAD, I’ll be taking some readers around town to visit some of the locations I used in Royal Street, and—as you might guess–some of them are off the beaten path. But even hanging around in the French Quarter, there’s a language peculiar to New Orleans that you might want to learn ahead of time. It can keep you from sounding like a tourist or, at least, help you understand some of that funny N’Orluns lingo. We really do have our own language!
So here you have it—my handy AAD-New Orleans Lexicon and Pronunciation Guide.
Street Names. These can drive you nuts! Many of the street names harken back to the days when New Orleans was a French settlement, and then of course the Spanish took over for a while before the Americans settled in. The result is an odd mix of pronunciations. Here are a few you might come across around the AAD Con:
Royal Street is pronounced the English way, even though the street sign says Rue Royal, as is Bourbon Street. But just over a block from Bourbon Street is Burgundy. It’s pronounced Bur-GUN-dee, accent on the “gun.” Running parallel to Canal Street is Iberville, which a lot of the locals pronounce with a short “a” rhyming with bib: “Ib-erville.” Carondelet and Chartres streets get Anglicized: Caron-duh-LET (not “lay”) and Chart-ers (not the French “chart’rus”). And you might see reference to Tchoupitoulas Street: a Houma Indian word pronounced “Chop-a-TOO-lus.”
New Orleans! What about the name of the city itself? The quickest way to mark yourself as a tourist is to pronounce it “New Or-LEENS.” Uh-uh. And you really don’t hear locals saying “N’Awlins” the way the movies use it to look cute. Locals say “New Or-luns” or, more often, “N’Orluns.” When I say it, it has two syllables. Try it!
BUT, just to make the waters muddier, the parish (or county) in which the city of New Orleans is located is Orleans Parish. It is not pronounced “Or’luns” parish. No, it’s pronounced “Or-LEENS” Parish. I cannot explain it; it simply is.
If you hear someone mention the Neutral Ground, he’s talking about what the rest of the world calls a median. In early New Orleans, when the French and Spanish and Americans were all laying claim to different parts of the city, the middle of their common streets were politically neutral zones, or neutral grounds. The name has stuck. No one—seriously, no one—says “median.” They might not even know what you’re talking about.
How about some food names? The praline, a to-die-for candy of browned sugar and pecans, is a “prah-leen,” not a “pray-leen.” That red mudbug is a “crawfish,” not a “crayfish.” If you’re in a restaurant you will see things like etouffee (EH-tou-fay), jambalaya (jom-buh-LIE-yuh), a po-boy sandwich (not “poor boy”) and gumbo—all local favorites. An ingredient in these dishes will often be crawfish or Andouille—a local smoked sausage, pronounced “ahn-dou-wee.” If you order a po-boy (common types are roast beef, oyster, or shrimp), the waitress will ask if you want it dressed. Fully “dressed” means lettuce, mayo, and pickle have been added to your French bread and filling of choise.
You might see references on restaurant menus, signboards, or t-shirts urging you to “Eat the Tail and Suck the Head.” While this sounds more than just vaguely sexual (which is why the t-shirts are so popular!), it actually refers to the manly way to eat a crawfish. Pinch off the tail, eat out the meat, then suck the juices out of the head. Yeah, yeah, I know. Gross.
Sometimes, you’ll order a dozen of something and the restauranteur or business owner will throw in something extra. This is not a “baker’s dozen.” It’s Lagniappe (“lan-yap”)—a little something extra and a New Orleans tradition.
Finally, you can’t get out of New Orleans without a visit to Café du Monde on Jackson Square, where you order the local French donuts called beignets (“ben-YAYS”), traditionally served with café au lait. The coffee at Café du Monde is a chicory blend, which is a little stronger and more bitter than regular coffee, so you need the “au lait” part. Local trick: order a glass of water, and dip your napkin in it to clean the powdered sugar off your chest, or everyone you meet will know where you’ve been and what you’ve been eating!
A fun thing to do in New Orleans is to walk to Canal Street from the Quarter and ride the streetcar through some of the uptown neighborhoods. (Note, it’s a “streetcar” and never a “trolley” or a “cablecar.”) New Orleans is made up of more than 70 distinctive neighborhoods, and a streetcar ride to the end of the line and back will take you through the CBD (Central Business District), the Irish Channel, the Garden District, Uptown, Riverbend, Carrollton, Central City. It’s a great way to see a lot of the local architecture.
Sure, there’s a lot more. There’s the wealth of popular local expressions (yeah you right—a general agreement; who dat—mostly a New Orleans Saints cheer; where yat—which for some reason means how are you). There are other food oddities (in NOLA, macaroni and cheese is “baked macaroni” and tomato sauce is “red gravy”). People might say “acks” instead of “ask.” Old timers “make groceries” instead of shop for groceries, and walk on the “banquette” instead of the sidewalk).
Most of those, you won’t need. In the meantime, I’ll be raising a Pimm’s Cup to you in New Orleans, whether you’ll be at Authors After Dark or just living vicariously. Look me up in the back corner table at the Napoleon House. Yeah you right.
Meet Suzanne Johnson!
Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, after a career in journalism and educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities. She grew up in a small Northwest Alabama town, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis Presley’s birthplace. That, plus living in New Orleans for fifteen years, has given her a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of college football and fried gator on a stick. She is single, lives with two dogs named after professional wrestlers (it was a phase—really), and harbors a no-longer-secret penchant for reality TV shows.
Want to purchase Suzanne’s novels?
Sentinels of New Orleans
Thank you Suzanne for taking the time to stop by Literary Escapism!
Suzanne is giving away a copy of Royal Street. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: If you were going to New Orleans, what would want to know before setting foot within the city? Did Suzanne cover it all or is there something else one should know? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
The contest will stay open until May 15th at which time I’ll determine the winner with help from the snazzy new plug-in I have. I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.