April 7, 2014

greetings from... the south

In my novel Hard Hats and Doormats, human resources manager Lexi Burke travels the Gulf Coast training employees, settling disputes and maintaining order for a chemical company. Like Lexi, my first job out of college involved a lot of travel––I visited more than 20 states in four years. In this series, I'll share some of my real life experiences exploring the country.

During my travels across the country, I spent a considerable amount of time visiting a few southern states. Since Texas is basically it's own world, I'm going to save it for another post and focus on Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

I loved my time hanging out in the South. I only visited Oklahoma and Arkansas a couple of times each, but Louisiana was like a second home for a while there. For me it was the place I'd seen in movies and on TV shows like Steel Magnolias, The Waterboy and True Blood. And I mean that as a compliment. The communities were wonderful -- if a little different from what I've always known -- the scenery beautiful and the food to die for.

My favorite foods were found in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The beignets at Cafe Du Monde were one of the most delicious things I've ever had. And I still think about the crawfish etouffee (served on top of avocado) I had for dinner one night at the Napoleon House Bar & Cafe.

I tried other interesting foods, like fried okra (I didn't even know what okra was until I went down south). I never did indulge in cracklin, though the locals told me it was a must, but I think I ate enough crawfish during my time down there to make up for it.

And of course no trip in that part of the country would be complete without trying the Waffle House once or twice. I kid you not, there must be a Waffle House at every other exit on I-10 between New Orleans and Houston. While there's nothing super special about the Waffle House, it was my first time trying grits, which I soon learned to love. I could actually go for some right now.

I still think a lot about the men and women I met on those trips down south. They opened up to me about their families and told me stories about their lives. Every so often I'll see something on TV that reminds me of one of them. And I wonder how they are and what is new in their world.

Fried Okra.

The swamps of Louisiana.

The rocky terrain of southern Oklahoma.

A full meal -- including grits front and center -- at the Waffle House.

Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter.


Birthplace of President Clinton.

About Hard Hats and Doormats
Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.

But after losing out on a big promotion––because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.

While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.

Who says nice girls have to finish last?

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