I’m thrilled to welcome award-winning author Ellen Byron to the Power of 10 series. Today, Ellen shares her love for Louisiana and her upcoming release, Body on the Bayou.
Jambalaya. Of all the fabulous Louisiana dishes, jambalaya is by far my favorite. It’s almost impossible to get it wrong. FYI, there are two basic kinds of jambalaya, brown and red. Red, which has a tomato base, is considered Creole jambalaya and dominates in New Orleans. Brown is prevalent in Cajun Country. I heart them both.
Swamp tours. I’ve done about a half dozen of these and never tire of them. During a recent tour of Lake Martin outside Breaux Bridge, we saw two gators fighting! No matter what tour I take, I’m fascinated by the otherworldly flora and fauna. Swamp tours make for a great day trip from New Orleans, as do…
Plantation tours. I’m a history and architecture buff, so I find these fascinating, especially since many tours now incorporate the dark role slavery played in plantation life. (For years, they ignored it.) My Cajun Country Mystery series was inspired by several of the plantations on the River Road.
Bayou Teche. The definition of a bayou is “a slow-moving body of water,” and South Louisiana is full of them. But my favorite is Bayou Teche, which meanders for a hundred and twenty-five miles through charming towns like New Iberia, Breaux Bridge, and St. Martinville, offering lovely vistas all along the way.
The St. Charles Avenue streetcar. As a college student at Tulane University, one of my favorite off-campus activities was a ride on the legendary St. Charles Avenue streetcar. North of the campus, it took me to the Riverbend neighborhood and Camellia Grill, a NOLA favorite. South, it traveled through the lovely Garden District to the French Quarter. Don’t miss it.
The cocktails. At home, I rarely drink anything but wine and the occasional margarita or mojito. But oh, the drinks of New Orleans. Pimm’s Cup, Ramos Gin Fizz, Brandy Milk Punch, Hurricanes. And of course, the Sazerac, which the Louisiana State Legislature proclaimed as New Orlean’s official cocktail. You’ve gotta love a state that takes such pride in its mixed drinks.
Hotels Mazarin and Le Marais. I’ve had some great hotel experiences in New Orleans, and some dreadful ones. But the hands-down lodging winners are these two beautiful and historic hostelries. The rooms are wonderful, the service impeccable, and the full breakfasts – especially at Mazarin – are excellent. They’re part of the New Orleans Hotel Collection, which rescues derelict properties and turns them into elegant lodging. Bravo, NOHC!
Moon Walk. Moon Walk sits across Decatur Street from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. I love to walk down the steps to the edge of the Mississippi, listen to the river lap at my feet, and watch the boats drift by. It offers a nice break from the Quarter’s cacophony. Fun fact: the Walk is named after one of New Orleans’ most famous mayors, Moon Landrieu, who shepherded the project in the mid-1970s.
Tulane University. Yes, I’m biased because this happens to be my alma mater. But it’s a charming campus, so if you’ve opted for a ride on the St. Charles streetcar, why not take visit the home of the Green Wave? It’s next to Loyola University and across the street from Audubon Park, so you can wander through both of those locations. Or explore some of the turn-of-the-century mansions in the Silk Stocking Ward, which is the nickname for the Uptown area where the universities and park are located.
The people. I just love Louisiana natives. They’re warm, quirky, and engaging. New Orleans is a city, so you will run into the occasional prickly personality. But for the most part, the locals live by the state’s upbeat motto: laissez les bon temps rouler. Let the good times roll!
The Crozats feared that past murders at Crozat Plantation B&B might spell the death of their beloved estate, but they’ve managed to survive the scandal. Now there’s a très bigger story in Pelican, Louisiana: the upcoming nuptials between Maggie Crozat’s nemesis, Police Chief Rufus Durand, and her co-worker, Vanessa Fleer.
Maggie, inexplicably tasked with being Vanessa’s Maid of Honor, quickly discovers why everyone else refused the assignment when the Bridezilla hands her a long list of duties–the most important of which is entertaining Vanessa’s cousin, Ginger Fleer-Starke, a mysterious woman with dangerous secrets. But just days before the wedding, Ginger’s lifeless body is found on the bayou behind Crozat Plantation and the Pelican PD, as well as the Crozats, have another murder mystery on their hands.
There’s a gumbo-potful of suspects, including an ex-Marine with PTSD, an annoying local newspaper reporter, and Vanessa’s own sparkplug of a mother. But when it looks like the investigation is zeroing in on Vanessa as the prime suspect, Maggie reluctantly adds keeping the bride-to-be out of jail to her list of Maid of Honor responsibilities in Body on the Bayou, the second in Ellen Byron’s charming and witty series.
Ellen Byron’s debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, has been nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards, and was chosen by the Library Journal as Debut Mystery of the Month. The second book in the series, Body on the Bayou, which offers “everything cozy readers could want,” according to Publishers Weekly, launches September 13, 2016. Her TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and many network pilots. She’s the recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant.
Where to find Ellen…