Sookie Stackhouse – A Great Job of Using Place and Character

Anyone who wants to be an author also needs to be a reader.

I am and always have been a voracious reader, just as Junebug is in Junebug and the Body. I read almost every kind of book that is out there and recently began reading the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, brought to the screen in the HBO series True Blood.. The novels are set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, La. but if you listen to the distances and references in the books it is obvious that, in the author’s mind, Bon Temps isn’t far from my home town of Natchitoches, La.

One day I want to meet Ms. Harris and ask her if she ever lived around here because she has done a fantastic job of capturing characters and the ambiance of the area.

I was reading one section today and wanted to put it here because I think the language and  feel it evokes is great. The language isn’t flowery and probably couldn’t be considered prose, but it is on the money as far as accuracy.

This is from Dead as a Doornail. The setup is:

Sookie is at the hospital visiting a man who is also a shape shifter, technically a were-panther. The man was shot from ambush by an unknown sniper. In the last book he had indicated that he would like to marry and protect Sookie.

“My Gran would have urged me to accept Calvin’s offer. He was a steady man, was a shift leader at Norcross, a job that came with good benefits. You might think that’s laughable, but wait until you have to pay for insurance all by yourself, then laugh.”

It’s a short passage, just a snippet from a longer paragraph, but Ms. Harris has caught a very, very real part of the psyche behind the men in that part of Louisiana taking a particular job. Good benefits.

It is these type of real world details that make her books sing with realism, even when dealing with vampires, were-people, and witches.

I’m putting an Amazon link at the bottom of this post to the 8 book boxed set. I wish I had bought it at the start because I would have saved money

Michael Vick Dog Fighting

Michael Vick has his place in Fiction

If you are a politically correct, Animals Have Rights Too, kind of a person you are probably not gong to like this post very much and I may even lose some potential readers because of it but for some reason I feel compelled to write it.

Let me start off by saying I am not a Michael Vick fan. Not because of the dog fighting deal, we’ll discuss that later, but because he used to play, and play well, for the Atlanta Falcons and I am a die hard, have been forever, stay off of the bandwagon, New Orleans Saints fan. As those of you who read my books know I am from Louisiana and very proud of it, and was a Saints fan back when we were ecstatic if they won just one game a year. As a Saints fan, it is my solemn duty to hate the Falcons and anybody who ever played for the Falcons except for 1) those who now play for the Saints, 2) Bobby Hebert, and 3) Morton Anderson.

Before I get too far off track here though, back to Vick.

As you know, VIck was convicted and sent to prison for dog fighting, a crime which he would not have gone to prison for twenty years (and maybe even ten years) before it happened. I’m not in favor of dog fighting but it happens and the people who do it should be punished, although I think Vick probably was treated a little harshly because of who he was rather than the crime itself. Dog fighting, and rooster/cock fighting, are a throwback to a day that has long passed yet it still is a part of certain cultures. No excuse, but the simple fact is certain poorer Southern communities and cultures don’t view it the same way that more enlightened folks do.  To this day you can drive around the rural south, and I know a spot just a few miles from where I am typing this, and see small chicken coops with each containing a single rooster bred for one purpose…fighting.

Back on topic again, Vick did something wrong and was punished for it. However, his story is one echoed in thousands if not hundreds of thousands of books.

A hero falls and is then redeemed.

Vick came out of prison and went back to what he knew best, football. And no mistake about it, he is a gifted athlete.

He took his place as the third string quarterback on a team that gave him a chance, the Eagles. Then he fought his way back to being a starter.

While I don’t agree with much of what he has done or much of what he has said in his life and career, he does deserve props for stepping back up from a place that is as low as he could go and making his way back to being an NFL superstar.

Hate him if you want, but he does embody many of the characteristics of our greatest fictional heroes. A willingness to fight, a refusal to give up, and the ability to use his talents.

Texas Fires

Can Anything Good Come from the Texas Fires?

Looking out my window at the haze of smoke and driving around and seeing the smoke billowing above the trees here in East Texas reminds me of a huge fire that occurred in the Kistachie National Forest of Central Louisiana back in the late 1980s. I couldn’t find the exact date, but I hadn’t been married long and can remember seeing the smoke from our house 20 miles or so away.

My book, The Bottle Tree is based in the Kisatchie Forest and as I mentioned elsewhere I have actually walked the hills that the characters in there walk, ate the huckleberries off of the scraggly bushes, and found remnants of the old turpentine camps so I dearly love that area. When it was burning it hurt my heart. Now, twenty years later, you occasionally see some burn marks on trees but even those have mostly faded.

I guess my point in saying this is that the loss of people, property, and scenery is horrible but nature has a way of forcing us to recognize that underbrush, drought conditions, and carelessness have results. Just the other day someone drove by our yard when my wife was walking ‘Sup the Wonder Dog. The person casually flipped a lighted cigarette out the window and it landed in our yard. Luckily, she stomped the butt and nothing happened, but what if it had been a quarter mile down the road…or she wasn’t in the front yard…or it was at night.

As writers it is our duty, and actually our compulsion, to take incidences like this and let them live on through our writing. Not just that fires occurred but why they happened and, even more importantly, tell about the people that were affected.

The Bottle Tree deals with fictional life in a real turpentine camp that existed in the Kisatchie Forest in the early 20th century. What the book is about, however, are the people there, mainly Caleb, Leesie, and Johnny and a dog Bo.

That camp will live on as long as people read my book. The people whose lives were affected by the these fires, even those who died in them, can live on in the books as well..

Oh, and when you sell a book, send a donation to the firefighters.