Great Character Development…Plus It Makes Me Smile

The television show Supernatural is one of my favorites for a lot of reasons. Good dialogue, great concept, lots of inside jokes, and great character development. There is a new character, Charlie, who first appeared last season and has been in two more episodes since then. The writers are doing a great job with her character and the clip I'm putting below is a great example of showing what a character is like without any words being spoken. I love this clip and love the actress who plays Charlie, Felicia Day.

Being an Outside the Genre Writer

Right now I have three novels published under my name and have ghost written a number of non-fiction books. I'll have another novel finished pretty quickly and have 4 others partially written, in addition to working on a few other ghost writing projects.

One thing I heard from an agent once was that writers should find a genre and stick to it. However, I think that is analog advice in a digital world. 

The main reason for my belief is that it is the publishers who want a writer to be defined in one genre, not necessarily the fans.

I pulled one book from an agent because they wanted me to squeeze it into a pre-defined formula which I really didn't want to do. Instead, I wrote it the way I wanted it and I've sold some copies and gotten good reviews so far. Sure, it isn't on the bestseller lists but I like it and am proud of it.

In addition to the non-fiction, I've written No' Chance,  the first book in a series that has been called horror as well as a supernatural thriller. The next book in the series, Second Chance, is in the same vein.

Junebug and the Body is also the first in a series but this one is a humorous mystery. It's set in the early 70s so it has an innocent quality and I have been told that it is both nostalgic and laugh out loud funny in places.

The third novel I've published is The Bottle Tree and the closest I can come to pigeonholing it into a category is literary fiction. It has some humor but is more of a serious book with racial conflicts throughout. The book is set in the early years of the 20th century in a turpentine camp located in the Kisatchie National Forest region of Central Louisiana. I'm proud to say that the camp was real and my grandfather and his family lived there when he was a boy.

So why do I write in more than one genre? Because the story that wants me to tell it doesn't cooperate a lot of times. I've told people before, and I hope that they did't think I was BSing them, that I don't write the books so much as the books write themselves. I do try and write every day and sometimes it is a struggle just putting together two or three coherent paragraphs. However, at other times the characters take over and I just let them go. On those days I can knock out 10 to 15 pages with no problem. As the book approaches the end sometimes the last 30 pages will be written in one marathon session not by choice but because the book took over and I'm just providing the fingers for the typing.

I write in more than on genre because I have more than one type of story to tell. I hope you like them all but they are very different.

Website Changes

Just a note to the readers. We're going to be doing some website changes soon, we're getting a logo/banner done, may changing format, etc. so if this suddenly looks different one day don't worry, it's still me.

Also, the website is hosted by GoDaddy and we're having some issues with them. Of course, they deny that it is on their end but it's one of the same problems they faced a few years ago and, sure enough, when the dust settled and a lot of customers were mad they finally 'fessed up. If the website happens to go down be sure and check the Facebook page for any updates or to contact me.

Setting the Atmosphere Through Food (and a Roast Beef Po-Boy Recipe)

As I've mentioned before, most writers pull off of their backgrounds when they set the atmosphere and tone of their books. Some do it by smells (who can forget the sour smell of Bourbon Street on a weekend morning), some do it by sounds (Ernest Gaines is great at this, conveying a sense of poverty by the creaking of worn out bed springs), and others are visual. I often do this by describing a food.

In No' Chance I referenced both the Lucky Dog hot dogs found throughout the French Quarter in New Orleans as well as po-boys served at Johnny's Po-boys there. This is probably a holdover from the family dinners we used to have out at my great grandmother's house in the small community of Bellwood, La. Ma and Pa Alford lived in the heart of the Kisatchie National Forest that became the setting for The Bottle Tree. We used to go there on Sundays and Ma would spend all morning cooking so that we'd have a huge lunch and the day revolved around that meal.

The recipe below is one that reminds me of New Orleans, the taste instantly sending me to the humidity, sights and smells of the Crescent City. This one is made the New Orleans way, dripping with "Debris Gravy". It's also great to make homemade french fries and use them in place of the meat to make the po-boy, but then covering them in the gravy. You have to remember, most of the New Orleans and Cajun foods (two different kinds) were developed because people were poor and had to make do with what they had. This one can be made from inexpensive ingredients but the taste is rich!

I started with a recipe from NOLACuisine.com and then made some changes to suit my family.

I hope you try and enjoy it.

 

Roast Beef Po’ Boy with Debris Gravy Recipe

For the Roast:

1 Beef Chuck Roast (app. 2 ½ pounds). Don’t trim the fat since it adds flavor.

2 Garlic Cloves thinly sliced

Kosher Salt & Black Pepper

Cayenne

Flour to coat roast

3 Tbsp Lard or Vegetable Oil

1 Medium Onion, Diced

1 Medium to Large Carrot, Diced (I prefer to shred it using a cheese grater)

1 tablespoon finely Chopped Garlic

1 Cup Beef Stock

1 Cup Chicken Stock

Water if necessary

2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp Hot Sauce

2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme (you can use dried if you don’t have fresh)

1 Bay Leaf  (fresh or dried)

Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste

 

Cut small slits into the roast, about every 3 inches, try not to pierce all the way to the bottom. Stuff the sliced garlic into the slits.

Season the Roast very liberally on all sides with the Salt & Black Pepper, season with Cayenne to your taste, I don’t use much.

Coat the roast in flour. You want enough to form a light crust when you brown it in the oil. This step will make the gravy just a tad thicker.

Heat the fat in a heavy bottomed Dutch Oven over high heat, when the oil starts to smoke, wait a few more seconds, then carefully add the Roast cut side down. Brown very well on all sides, without burning it. Remove to a plate.

Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of the fat in the pan, add the onions and carrots, cook until just before the onions start to brown, add the garlic (be carefult not to burn the garlic) then place the roast back in the pan, then add the stocks. Finish, if necessary, with enough water to bring the cooking liquid 3/4 of the way up the roast. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then back down to a very low simmer. Simmer covered for 3-4 hours or until the meat falls apart when you look at it (you know what I mean, very tender).

For the Debris Gravy:

Carve the meat into very thin slices, it will be hard to do and will fall apart, that is good. All of the bits and pieces, that fall off are your Debris (pronounced Duh-bree.)

Add all of the bits and chunks to you cooking liquid after skimming off the fat from the surface, keep the carved meat with a little liquid on a warm plate, covered tightly with plastic wrap.

Bring the gravy to a full boil and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Our family adds all of the meat back to the gravy when it has reduced and lets it sit there for a while to moisten the meat.

  

For the Po’ Boy:

New Orleans Style French Bread  (we found out that if you can’t get the good, crusty French bread to make this then you can use the canned Pillsbury Crusty French Bread and it is surprisingly good)

Cut the bread 3/4 of the way through so that the bread folds open as opposed to slicing it all the way through. If you slice it through the sandwich will fall apart. If you are using fresh baked bread wait for it to cool before slicing.

Shredded Lettuce

Mayonnaise

Roast Beef (see above)

Debris Gravy

 

Slather the bread with a very generous portion of Mayonnaise on the inside of the upper and lower halves. Place about a cup of Shredded Lettuce on the bottom half. Cover the lettuce with a generous portion of the “sliced” Beef. Drown the beef with Debris Gravy.

 This recipe will make 4 big Po Boys.

Poem Accepted for Publication in Deep South Magazine

I just got some great news. 

I came across a great publication the other day, Deep South Magazine, and on a whim I submitted the poem that I first published here a few months ago. Deep South Magazine is really focused on Southern culture and since I pride myself as both a Southerner and a Southern writer the magazine is especially interesting to me.

The editor contacted me this morning to let me know that they would be publishing the poem in an issue this summer, which is especially appropriate since Winter In Louisiana is really about our lack of winter.

That motivates me to go ahead and work on the collection of poems, Always the Heat, that I started.

I'll let you know when the poem is published but in the meantime check out the magazine at the link above.