Thanks so much for inviting me over to Wild and Wicked Cowboys as part of my Lickety Split rollout. The response to the book has been amazing, and I love getting the chance to meet with folks who dig cowboy romances in particular.
I grew up in Houston which, as far as accents go, is pretty bland. Maybe because it’s a huge urban center, maybe because it’s home to so many different groups of people, Houston sounds like Texas, but nowhere near the cornpone musicality of rural Texas. As an author, I have a rep for dialogue and distinct language so at every stage Lickety gave me plenty of chances to use dialogue and idiom to set the stage around the characters. Texas mythologizes itself constantly, and these characters participate in that willfully.
For all kinds of reasons, I grew up without much of an accent; my mother was a born mimic who imitated her legal clients subtly to put them at ease. Plus I’d worked as a child actor, doing voiceover besides from the age of 5, so directors had beat the twang out of me early and often. I left for college at 16, and I’d picked up the same social survival trick so in NYC I quickly adopted the rhythm and slang of a Manhattanite. My standard line when flirting with city boys was that my accent only appeared when I was tired, drunk, or horny. #truth
I remember the first time I came home from college for Christmas. After one semester in Manhattan, Texas seemed like a foreign country: suffocating humidity, deep fried everything, and accents too thick to stir with a wooden spoon. For a couple days, people in restaurants mistook me for a Yankee, but somewhere around day three I consciously softened my rhythm and used a couple expressions only a local would know.
Suddenly I was Texan again. That pattern became the norm for the rest of my visits home. By the end of every trip back, the patois and cadence leaked back into my speech patterns and you could hear the Lone Star in every syllable; then I’d fly back and re-acclimate to NYC and the reverse would happen. Of course, it got even weirder when I moved to London. LOL
As it happens, Lickety Split is set at the edge of the Big Thicket, not too far from the Louisiana border. That area has a deep, distinctive southern drawl, with hints of Cajun and creole mixed in. Locals use completely different curse words and general slang, and they speak with a looser, lazier mouth as if the consonants take too much effort to mess with. The East Texas accent sounds soft and slippery to the ear…almost as if the heat and humidity makes enunciating too damn difficult. To be honest, it’s the main reason I situated this book out there… with Patch so zippy and driven, I wanted that exact pace for all my other characters.
Since the first act of the book focuses on Patch coming home after seven years, I wanted his language to reflect his life in NYC, but as the book progressed I let the Texas seep back into his vocabulary and rhythm. Maybe only Texans would notice but I felt like a few solid shifts would not only create a sense of the region, but also hint at the ways in which he’s never really left home in his head and heart. His journey back to Hixville is as much about finding his drawl again as it is learning that home was sweeter than he remembered.
Tucker Biggs is the exact opposite: he’s never been outside of the state and he grew up all the hell over Hardin County. His slang and slowness has kept him safe and steady while life tried to knock him out of the saddle. He dropped out of high school a ways back and grew up rodeoing and oddjobbing his way to 43 when the book starts, so his drawl and word choice needed to root him right where he was. The cocky, confidence of his lazy twang set up a big part of the tension with Patch, both positive and negative.
At the same time, I didn’t want to turn these guys into cowboy cartoons and I spent a lot of time making sure that the way ALL of the characters talked reflected their personal arc. Janet speaks in raunchy innuendo and protective encouragement. Vicky, Pastor Snell, and the Keister sisters had all stayed put around Hixville so their frame of reference (and manner of speaking) was necessarily narrower. Even Bix has a different speech pattern because he’s from Clute (of Mosquito Festival fame!) which is much further South where Big Oil and the Houston/Sugarland sprawl has really eaten away the farms.
Every time I needed guidance, my mother’s family acted as a compass. When I was younger I spent a LOT of time traveling back and forth on I-10 to my great grandmother’s house in Port Arthur, not to mention all my cousins scattered between there Beaumont and Nederland. My relatives are scattered all across south Texas from Corpus Christi to Nacogdoches. When in doubt I just dipped into the family well. LOL
Certain East Texas habits made the local Hixville patois easier to depict:
- The exaggerated, old-school politesse that Sirs and Ma’ams and euphemisms its way out of tight spots and ugly situations.
- The soft lilt of a question that takes the end of a sentence up, even when you’re stating something definitively.
- Compression and discard: “up the house” instead of “up at the house.”… “They’s no way” instead of “There is no way.”…“Yessir” instead of “Yes, sir.”
- a rural frame of reference for symbolic language that charges local objects with meaning: agriculture, tack, feed, equipment, trucks, critters, crops, clothes, rodeos, auctions… anything that feeds the Texan myth is fair game.
- humor and hyperbole to make the point: curmudgeons and complainers are “contrary as a hog on ice” Schmoozers and conmen are “slick as spit.”
- aphorisms shamelessly harvested from my mother’s family in Beaumont and Port Arthur: “a few ants short of a picnic,” “S.O.B. curves,” “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.”
- Friendly understatement for moments of rage or frustration: “Ain’t he just,” “the sweetest thing,” “bless her heart” for folks you want to murder with a two-by-four.
No matter what Hollywood has taught you, Southern is not a monolithic descriptor. Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama sound total different from each other, and Texas even more so. Frankly, Texas is so big and complicated that different areas of the state sound like separate countries.
One of my cousins once told me the reason southerners talk and walk and live so slow is because it’s TOO DAMN HOT to hurry anything. That’s definitely a factor with folks from rural Texas. The temperature and humidity down there determines the architecture, the work rhythm, the clothes, and even the way people socialize…but it’s more complicated than trying not to sweat.
By the same token, people from other places think all southerners talk super-slowly, but that’s nonsense. What they do is talk musically. There’s a rhythm and a melody to conversations which can change the course of events if you know what you’re doing. Some Texans talk faster than auctioneers, but they still take a while to make the point because they tend to take detours in conversation. A real drawl becomes a kind of secret code that lets folks signal where they’re from and what their mood is.
Over the course of Lickety Split, Patch starts to recognize all the little things he misses about his hometown in Hardin County and inadvertently allows the thread of East Texas to wind back into his speech, unconsciously and then because he starts to feel like part of his community. That twang brings him home, and closes the gap with Tucker.
The funniest bonus to writing Lickety Split is that having lived in Hixville with Tucker and Patch and all the supporting players for those months, I found Texas-isms leaking back into my own speech… almost as if I’d literally flown home for an extended stay…as if my time in the book took me home. Even now that the book is finished and out in the world, if I read even a page of the book I catch myself sounding Texan, which tells me the story (and all its twangs) takes folks to exactly the right place.
Bio: Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at:
Lickety Split: love won’t wait.
Patch Hastle grew up in a hurry, ditching East Texas for NYC to make his name as a DJ and model without ever looking back. When his parents die unexpectedly, he heads home to unload the family farm ASAP and skedaddle. Except the will left Patch’s worst enemy in charge: his father’s handsome best friend who made his high school years hell.
Tucker Biggs is going nowhere. Twenty years past his rodeo days, he’s put down roots as the caretaker of the Hastle farm. He knows his buddy’s smartass son still hates his guts, but when Patch shows up growed-up, looking like sin in tight denim, Tucker turns his homecoming into a lesson about old dogs and new kinks.
Patch and Tucker fool around, but they can’t fool themselves. Once the farm’s sold, they mean to call it quits and head off to separate sunsets. With the clock ticking, the city slicker and his down-home hick get roped into each other’s life. If they’re gonna last longer than spit on a griddle, they better figure out what matters—fast.
RAFFLECOPTER: <a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7298308d4/” rel=”nofollow” data-raflid=”7298308d4” data-theme=”classic” data-template=”” id=”rcwidget_dbn359ia”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
In this excerpt from Chapter Four, the day after their first awkward, intense sexual encounter Patch takes a dip in the pond not expecting Tucker to show up.
On the big rock near the pond’s center, Patch stood again and scraped the water from his wavy hair. He had a memory of his pa balancing him on a horse as a boy. Steady now. The sun felt like heaven through his closed eyes. He turned and dove back in.
Even at its deepest, the water only came up to his chest and the carp in the weeds weren’t something he’d ever eat. The bottom was broken rock at one end and cool mud at the other.
Patch had learned to jerk off against those flat rocks, snuck beers, and smoked the only two cigarettes of his life too. Sophomore year, he’d fooled around on the rockier shore with teammates because it was private and navigable in the dark. Against that tree, he’d kissed his first girl (meh) and blown his first boy (yeah!).
Patch stiffened and straightened, twisted to face the gravelly drawl with a cold twist in his gut.
Tucker stood on the opposite shore in Carhartt overalls and that straw work hat. His muscular arms looked tan and greasy against his white undershirt. “I guess we had the same idea.” He glanced at the sky, the water. “It’s hot as a whorehouse on nickel night.” He shifted his weight but came no closer.
A flicker of Tucker naked in the armchair, glittering eyes gazing down at him, the taste of his semen pinning them both in place… Patch blinked it away, hyperconscious of his wet, bare skin and the distance between them. He went no closer to the pebbly shore.
They eyed each other. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three—
“So…. Uhh.” Tucker took his hat off with one hand and wiped his brow and mouth with the other. “We talking?”
Patch frowned, trapped by his nudity and the water.
“I mean, do we talk about what we done?” Tucker crouched at the water’s edge, his boots sinking into the smooth mud. No one had a right to look that good. “Last night. Or are you fixin’ to run off again?” He said run like a cuss word, painting Patch a coward for having some sense.
Patch started to snap back at him out of habit, but then he thought better of it. “Naw.”
“How you today?” Tucker seemed to be actually asking a legitimate question. “Better?”
He shrugged. “I guess. Sure.” Exposed and motionless, he let Tucker’s gaze rest on him across the water. Whatever had passed between them last night had not vanished in sunlight.
Tucker looked relaxed, and cautious.
Patch swallowed, his shaft fattening underwater. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
He crossed his arms. “Which part?” Tucker squinted. “Come to visit? Squirted the side of my trailer? Eaten my load?”
“None. All.” Knowing it was a mistake, certain he would regret it, he pushed through the cool water toward the one person he had no business wanting. He moved as he would’ve for a racy photo shoot, fucking the imaginary lens with his presence, demanding a reaction.
Tucker watched him warily from under the trees still, overalls hanging from one strap. “I guess we are.” A crooked smile bent the edge of his mouth. “Talking.”
The closer Patch got to the shore the more of his torso was revealed: nipples, navel, and gradually the darkened trail down to his pubes. His dick thickened and shifted in the water, swirling around his waist as he advanced. Now his body was clean but his thoughts were everything else.
Tucker stared as if hypnotized. He wiped his lower face, lip to chin, and swallowed. He was sweating now. Was that a boner in his overalls?
Patch strode in slow motion, stirring the calm pond water as if sleepwalking. He shouldn’t want this so much but couldn’t make himself care. Conscious of the picture he made, he crooked a sinful grin just for effect.
Eyes wider, Tucker stood and took a step back. “Well, okay, now. Okay.”
“You afraid of me now?” Patch paused one step before his erection broke the surface. Tucker stood as if rooted to the shore. “Or you gonna come for a swim?”
“I’m good.” Tucker swallowed and his tongue slipped out to taste his lips. He couldn’t seem to look at Patch’s face. “Fine. Y’know.” His hands squeezed and released beside his pockets.
So Patch took the step that brought his knob out of the water and his boner dripped between them. Way too much fun watching the big cowboy squirm. He’d come out here looking for trouble; Patch was happy to give it to him.
On the shady shore, Tucker rocked back on his heels and shifted his straw hat to cover the lump under his coveralls.
Patch couldn’t look anywhere else. Another step. The cool mud sucked at his toes in the water dripped from his skin with each step he shouldn’t take.
How had he gotten here? Naked on the family farm, thigh-deep in stagnant water, walking toward a bear trap. New York City and all its fancy bullshit seemed like the other side of the world. Hot wind pushed through the trees overhead; the kudzu hissed and the live oaks whispered above them.
Tucker stood waiting and wary now, a sexy, lazy no-account who’d only ever wanted to scare him straight. They both knew better, but now they stood a yard apart with disaster churning between them.
Excerpted from Lickety Split by Damon Suede
published by Dreamspinner Press
Copyright 2016. Damon Suede. All Rights Reserved
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lickety-Split-Damon-Suede-ebook/dp/B06X9H7PGL
- Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lickety-split-damon-suede/1125844764
- iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/lickety-split/id1202557878?mt=11
- Dreamspinner: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lickety-split-by-damon-suede-8263-b
- Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lickety-split-6