Monday, November 7, 2016

Game Wardens as Heroes? Ten Things You Might Not Know by Susannah Sandlin

My Wilds of the Bayou series (Black Diamond is #2, but they can work as standalones) features danger—and love—for a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agent working deep in the marshes and bayous of Terrebonne Parish.

               Yeah, yeah. That’s fancy “new speak” for Game Warden.

               Before I began my research for this series and realized what badasses these agents are, I had this nebulous idea of what a game warden did. You know the stuff—checking hunting licenses, catching poachers, doing boat-safety classes. Turns out, it’s more complicated than that.

               Here are 10 things you might not know about the modern “wildlife enforcement agent.”

1.      They’re cops. Really. Wildlife departments have biologists and educators, but the enforcement agents? They can stop you for speeding, arrest you for drug possession—or nab you for poaching. Anything a state police officer can do, a state wildlife agent can do.

2.      They’re highly trained. Think special ops. Not only do they have the training for regular police officers, but they also undergo intense specialized fitness, tactical and firearms training during a six-month stint at “the Academy.” In case that isn’t paramilitary enough for you, they also aren’t allowed facial hair or tattoos that are visible in uniform.

3.      If you’re lost in Louisiana, the first guys to come looking for you will likely be wildlife enforcement agents, who lead the state’s search and rescue efforts. They are your first responders. Which is good, because there’s a lot of water in Louisiana and they have big… boats.

4.      We’ve all seen cop shows where the officers gather at the beginning of a shift in a muster room and go over the case work. No. Enforcement agents are on call pretty much 24/7, set their own hours in many cases, and live in whatever parish (aka county) they’re assigned to. They spend a LOT of time in their vehicles.

5.      Their vehicles are big black pickup trucks. (Can’t sling a gator in the back of an SUV or a sedan.) They might or might not be hauling boats or ATVs.

6.      They will be VERY well armed, including what most of us call assault rifles, which they began carrying after taking fire from civilians as they tried to rescue trapped flood victims in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Sigh. My adopted hometown does have its issues.

7.      They have cool toys. Case in point: if you want to catch an alligator poacher, what’s the best toy to have in a stakeout? That would be a motorized fake alligator head operated by remote control. Suspected poacher comes along, click the remote, and the “alligator” glides along the bayou with only his head visible. Downside: when the poacher shoots the “gator,’ he also breaks the toy.

8.      They have good night vision. Hard to sneak up on an illegal hunter, poacher or drug dealer with headlights. Hard to do a nighttime stakeout in a rural unlit area with big flashlights. Enforcement agents must have really good night vision.

9.      They’re predominately male. Sure, women can become Louisiana wildlife enforcement agents but there are very, very few. I assumed it was the physical requirements of the job—I mean, slugging through swampland for hours carrying heavy gear is not for sissies. But my law enforcement consultant said it was mostly the longstanding culture of male game wardens and their association with hunting and fishing…guy stuff. Which is why I made the main agent in BLACK DIAMOND a woman. So there.

10.   Their work is extremely hazardous. Never mind the alligators and snakes slithering all over the bayous and swamps. Think about it—the people wildlife agents encounter in the rural nooks and crannies are almost always armed and know how to shoot. So our agents are badasses.

               And badasses, as we all know, make GREAT romantic heroes!

Black Diamond
Wilds of the Bayou Series
Book Two
Susannah Sandlin

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Date of Publication: October 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1503940413
ASIN: B01F1Z6818

Number of pages: 266
Word Count: approx. 80,000

Cover Artist: Michael Rehder

Book Description:

For some people, the untamed beauty of the bayou is a place to hide. For Louisiana wildlife agent Jena Sinclair, it’s a place of refuge—one where she can almost forget the tragedy that scarred both her skin and her soul. But when the remains of yet another fisherman turn up, Jena realizes that Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes is not safe for her…or anyone else.

The mysterious deaths aren’t her only problem. A dangerous drug known as Black Diamond is circulating through Terrebonne Parish, turning addicts into unpredictable sociopaths. Jena’s investigation leads her to Cole Ryan—a handsome, wary recluse struggling with his own troubled history—who knows more than he’s willing to admit. If they want to stop the killer, Jena and Cole must step out of the shadows of their pasts and learn to help each other…before the evils lurking in the bayou consume them both.

Amazon     BN    Book Depository    Books-a-Million    Indie Bound


Cole stood inside the door, knowing she’d be there any second. She would knock, probably with a firm rap to remind him who had the authority here, and it wasn’t him. She would expect to come inside, and while he could deny her entrance without a warrant, he wouldn’t. It would raise too much suspicion.
His fists clenched and unclenched. Again. Again. The press and release of tension filtered out some of the stiffness from his arms and shoulders. The woman was striking, her wistful expression had resonated with him, and he had wanted to look at her. He’d looked long and hard enough that she’d caught him standing in the doorway like an idiot. Otherwise, he could’ve pretended to be gone and not answered his door. Now, hiding wasn’t an option.
The last thing he needed in his life was a woman. Especially a woman with a badge and a gun.
Though expected, the sharp knock made his shoulders jerk upward, and his fingers clenched again into fists. Weapons his body provided to protect itself, to protect him, to keep everyone away.
“Sir, I know you’re in there. I’m Agent Sinclair of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries.” Her voice was clear and no-nonsense. He tried to place her accent—she wasn’t from Terrebonne Parish but didn’t have a typical Southern accent either. “I want to talk to you about the gator in front of your neighbor Doris’s house. It’ll only take a minute or two.”
Damn. Now that he knew his neighbor’s real name, the Wicked Witch was dead. Now she was Doris.
He took a deep breath, turned, and opened the door an inch. Maybe two inches.
A hazel eye, heavy on the green, and the bill of a dark-green baseball cap came into view, peering through the crack. A strand of hair that trailed over her forehead from beneath the cap shone like pure molten fire.
“You can open it all the way, you know. I don’t bite. I’d like to come inside for a few minutes and talk, or you can come out on the porch. Having a conversation isn’t optional, but where we have it is. For now.”
Damn it. Cole had to admit he was stuck and it was his own damned fault for standing in the doorway and watching her for so long. He opened the door wide, dread giving way to curiosity when he finally saw her face up close. She was beautiful but lightly scarred, more on her cheeks than her forehead, so she’d probably been hit by flying glass rather than having her head go through a windshield. Fairly recent too. The spots were still pink, but they were scars and not wounds. Five or six months old, he’d say. Eventually, they’d fade and, with her fair skin, would easily cover with makeup. If she hadn’t been so close—not to mention his fixation on her face—he wouldn’t have noticed them even now.

“Are you going to let me come inside, or are you coming outside, or do I need to make it an official order?”

About the Author:

Suzanne Johnson writing as Susannah Sandlin is the author of the award-winning Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, including the 2013 Holt Medallion Award-winning Absolution and Omega and Allegiance, which were nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She also wrote The Collectors romantic suspense duology, including Lovely, Dark, and Deep, 2015 Holt Medallion winner and 2015 Booksellers Best Award winner. Her new suspense series Wilds of the Bayou started in 2016 with the release of Wild Man’s Curse and continues with Black Diamond. Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Susannah loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV. 

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