On the morning of August 13th, I sat down at the computer in my Southern California office and blithely wrote on Facebook, “Beginning countdown to the launch of Body on the Bayou: A Cajun Country Mystery!”
Unbeknownst to me, as I typed that cheery post, one of the worst natural disasters in Louisiana's history was unfolding in some of the very areas that inspired my series.
The home where we spent the Christmas holidays with friends this year? Flooded. The homes of my friend's kids, grandkids, friends, and other relatives? Under water.
(Beyond the field and trees is Black Bayou. The pumps failed and the house next to it took on over two feet of water.)
I immediately donated to the Red Cross, and shared links to relief funds. I sent money to friends who I knew would never dream of asking for it. When I learned that the high school theater department in the Louisiana town where we stayed had lost all its scripts to the flood waters, I reached out to theater friends from my years as a playwright, and spearheaded a script donation drive.
But how on earth do you promote book in the midst of a disaster? Struggling to find an appropriate answer, I put this question to the mystery community. The responses were incredibly helpful and sympathetic. Authors shared similar stories that surpassed my dilemma, and offered terrific advice.
As several of them pointed out, my series is a love letter to south Louisiana. It was motivated by the passion I developed for this amazing part of the country as a student at Tulane University. Here's my Twitter bio: “Loves the rain; lives in bone-dry Los Angeles. From New York; obsessed with Louisiana.”
I see my series as more than a good mystery yarn, although that’s certainly job one. Readers have written to me for travel tips, and asked for advice on how to host a Cajun-themed party. I’ve developed itineraries and invented recipes – anything to popularize this unique region. Feel free to copy and print the brochure below:
If people don’t buy my books, my series ends, as does a perfect outlet for championing south Louisiana. So I’ve finally accepted that I have to continue “the sell.” For one thing, I’m really happy with Body on the Bayou, and think it’s a fun read. For another, promoting the book is promoting Cajun Country.
But it will be a less giddy promotion by far. Gone will be the excited exclamation marks!!! The banners I designed for my Facebook pages are sedate. And I’ll be donating 10% of my royalties to the relief effort, which will go on for years. (Eleven years after Katrina, the state still bears the scars of that cataclysmic storm.)
I’m scheduled to appear at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge on October 29th. As soon as the flood water began to recede, I contacted the festival organizer to see if the area libraries needed any help. He reported that they survived the storm with remarkably little damage. The festival will go on as planned because, as he said, "It'll be some good medicine for people.”
Please think about visiting Louisiana. Meet the warm and wonderful people. See the fascinating sights. Eat the incredible food. Be “good medicine” for this remarkable part of America. I gar-on-tee you won’t regret it.
And as to my book promotion… BODY ON THE BAYOU, which officially launches on September 13th, is available for pre-sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. See? Not one exclamation mark.
Readers, I’d love any thoughts you have about the floods, promotion, Louisiana, disasters… anything.