“Wizard Body Art: Should She or Shouldn’t She?”
I didn’t intend for so many of my characters to have tattoos. I don’t have any tattoos, after all. All of my nieces and my nephew have them. Oddly enough, both of my paternal grandparents had them. Yes, you heard it here first, folks. My grandmother had a tattoo of a heart on her arm that she got when my grandfather joined the Navy during WWI. It probably seemed romantic and all at the time but when she was in her 60s and I was a kid, it was weird.
But I digress.
My wizard heroine, DJ, is thinking about getting a tattoo. She’s been dithering about it for a while but doesn’t know what to get, where to put it, and is afraid she’ll really have buyer’s regret. I mean, a tramp stamp on an urban fantasy heroine is just so 2008, right?
Meanwhile, I began looking at my other characters and, holy cow. Tats galore. How did that happen? Here’s the tally.
Alex Warin, DJ’s co-sentinel in South Louisiana, has an Enforcer’s mark on his right pec. It’s really more of a scar than a tattoo. Well, okay, technically, it’s a brand. The shape is a crescent moon, signifying the start of a new moon cycle. A lot of the Enforcers are weres, although Alex is not. The enforcers are the beefy guys with weapons that the wizards call in when all else fails. They kill the monsters with very specialized ammo.
Jake Warin, Alex’s cousin and a new Enforcer, is a former Marine, so he has a Marine Devil Dog on his right forearm. Think ticked-off bulldog in a helmet. I think he has another tat on his upper arm but I’d have to dig out my series notebook to find out for sure.
Rene Delachaise is a merman who lives in Orchard—a community in Plaquemines Parish, southeast of New Orleans, near the town of Venice, Louisiana. Water…think lots and lots of water. Perfect for a merman, right? Rene is one of those full-on body art guys, which is not an easy feat since in the world of the Sentinels series, merpeople are aquatic shapeshifters. So they heal too fast for an ordinary tattoo to work. Rene gets around it with salt and vinegar to irritate the skin into scarring. He just has to refresh his ink now and again. Hmmm….high pain tolerance, wouldn’t you think? Rene’s twin brother, Robert, doesn’t have tattoos (especially not that SPECIAL diving bottle-nosed dolphin tat Rene has in a, um, special place). Yeah, Rene’s quite a colorful guy.
Eugenie Dupre, DJ’s human neighbor (who doesn’t know she’s surrounded by wizards, mers and shifters), has five or six tattoos. She’s kind of a new-agey hippie girl who has her own small hair salon, so Euge has the tramp stamp. She has suns and moons and stars and raindrops. (She also has some very creative haircolor but so far hasn’t talked DJ into experimenting.)
That’s a lot of ink, right? About the only major character so far without ink is the undead pirate Jean Lafitte. He considers himself quite handsome enough without any embellishment, so I don’t expect you’ll be seeing him inking up anytime soon.
Which brings us back to DJ. Rene the merman has offered to hook her up with his tattoo artist. Should she or shouldn’t she? Weigh in. If she should get a tattoo, what should it be, and where should she put it? I can tell you this much: it will be small enough to hide—you know, just in case of that buyer’s remorse thing.
Title: River Road
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans ~ Book Two
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Number of pages: 336
Word Count: approx. 92,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.
Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.
It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.
The minute hand of the ornate grandfather clock crept like a gator stuck in swamp mud. I’d been watching it for half an hour, nursing a fizzy cocktail from my perch inside the Hotel Monteleone. The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it had been hand- carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs.
They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.
The infamous Jean Lafitte had expected me at seven. He’d summoned me to his French Quarter hotel suite by courier like I was one of his early nineteenth-century wenches, and I hated to destroy his pirate-king delusions, but the historical undead don’t summon wizards. We summon them.
I’d have blown him off if my boss on the Congress of Elders hadn’t ordered me to comply and my co-sentinel, Alex, hadn’t claimed a prior engagement.
At seven thirty, I abandoned my drink, took a deep breath, and marched through the lobby toward the bank of elevators.
On the long dead-man-walking stroll down the carpeted hallway, I imagined all the horrible requests Jean might make. He’d saved my life a few years ago, after Hurricane Katrina sent the city into freefall, and I hadn’t seen him since. I’d been desperate at the time. I might have promised him unfettered access to modern New Orleans in exchange for his assistance. I might have promised him a place to live. I might have promised him things I don’t even remember. In other words, I might be totally screwed.
I reached the door of the Eudora Welty Suite and knocked, reflecting that Jean Lafitte probably had no idea who Eudora Welty was, and wouldn’t like her if he did. Ms. Welty had been a modern sort of woman who wouldn’t hop to attention when summoned by a scoundrel.
He didn’t answer immediately. I’d made him wait, after all, and Jean lived in a tit- for- tat world. I paused a few breaths and knocked harder. Finally, he flung open the door, waving me inside to a suite plush with tapestries of peach and royal blue, thick carpet that swallowed the narrow heels of my pumps, and a plasma TV he couldn’t possibly know how to operate. What a waste.
“You have many assets, Drusilla, but apparently a respect for time is not among them.” Deep, disapproving voice, French accent, broad shoulders encased in a red linen shirt, long dark hair pulled back into a tail, eyes such a cobalt blue they bordered on navy. And technically speaking, dead.
He was as sexy as ever.
“Sorry.” I slipped my hand in my skirt pocket, fingering the small pouch of magic-infused herbs I carried at all times. My mojo bag wouldn’t help with my own perverse attraction to the man, but it would keep my empathic abilities in check. If he still had a perverse attraction to me, I didn’t want to feel it.
He eased his six-foot-two frame into a sturdy blue chair and slung one long leg over the arm as he gave me a thorough eyeraking, a ghost of a smile on his face.
I perched on the edge of the adjacent sofa, easing back against a pair of plump throw pillows, and looked at him expectantly. I hoped what ever he wanted wouldn’t jeopardize my life, my job, or my meager bank account.
“You are as lovely as ever, Jolie,” Jean said, trotting out his pet name for me that sounded deceptively intimate and brought back a lot of memories, most of them bad. “I will forgive your tardiness— perhaps you were late because you were selecting clothing that I would like.” His gaze lingered on my legs. “You chose beautifully.”
I’d picked a conservative black skirt and simple white blouse with the aim of looking professional for a business meeting, part of my ongoing attempt to prove to the Elders I was a mature wizard worthy of a pay raise. But this was Jean Lafitte, so I should have worn coveralls. I’d forgotten what a letch he could be.
“I have a date after our meeting,” I lied. He didn’t need to know said date involved a round carton with the words Blue Bell Ice Cream printed on front. “Why did you want to see me?”
There, that hadn’t been so difficult—just a simple request. No drama. No threats. No double- entendre. Straight to business.
“Does a man need a reason to see a beautiful woman? Especially one who is indebted to him, and who has made him many promises?” A slow smile spread across his face, drawing my eyes to his full lips and the ragged scar that trailed his jawline.
I might be the empath in the room, but he knew very well that, in some undead kind of way, I thought he was hot.
I felt my face warming to the shade of a trailer- trash bridesmaid’s dress, one whose color had a name like raging rouge. I’d had a similar reaction when I first met Jean in 2005, two days before a mean hurricane with a sissy name turned her malevolent eye toward the Gulf Coast. I blamed my whole predicament on Katrina, the bitch.
Her winds had driven the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the canals that crisscrossed the city, collapsing levees and filling the low, concave metro area like a gigantic soup bowl.
But NBC Nightly News and Anderson Cooper had missed the biggest story of all: how, after the storm, a mob of old gods, historical undead, and other preternatural victims of the scientific age flooded New Orleans. As a wizard, I’d had a ringside seat. Now, three years later, the wizards had finally reached accords with the major preternatural ruling bodies, and the borders were down, as of two days ago. Jean hadn’t wasted any time.***
Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities. She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.