Monday, December 1, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Christmas in Dogtown by Suzanne Johnson

Thanks to Bewitching Book Tours for hosting this blog tour. I have Suzanne Johnson, author of Christmas in Dogtown here today talking about animal totems. Welcome!


Animal Totems—What’s Yours?

My story “Christmas in Dogtown” takes place in a small Louisiana community built around an ancient crossroads, at the center of which is a large totem pole of a black bear. (Why is there a bear totem in a place called “Dogtown”? Well, you have to read the story!)

I use a lot of animals in my books and stories, which is something I only recently realized. I love animals, so it’s probably instinctive. Sometimes, since I do write paranormals, the animals are shapeshifters. Sometimes, though, they’re just animals. You never know.

The whole history of totem animals is fascinating. They are common in shamanic and indigenous cultures, and an individual (or often, a family or tribe) has a particular animal that is a spirit guide. Those who believe in animal spirit guides today say that we each have a “power animal” that travels alongside them, and we can find it through animals that seem to “pop up” in our everyday lives. See, and you thought it was a coincidence that everywhere you turned there were hummingbirds! Each animal has its own characteristics and meanings for your life.

I don’t know that I believe in spirit guides, but I do have favorite animals. (Note that domesticated animals, which are too far removed from their wild state, don’t qualify.) I have always loved alligators, which I attribute to a small stuffed gator my brother brought back for me as a souvenir when he went through military basic training in Florida. I hauled that little gator around for years. Now I have a nice little gator collection—stuffed ones, and glass ones, and wooden ones.

I use gators a lot in my books—not just the Sentinels of New Orleans series. There are weregators in my story “Chenoire” (written as Susannah Sandlin), gator wranglers in both “Christmas in Dogtown” and Lovely, Dark, and Deep. My novel Deadly, Calm, and Cold (out tomorrow!) mentions the Florida Gators.

Is the alligator my animal totem or spirit guide? I don’t know—I do seem to run across them a lot. They represent a need to be protective of your personal boundaries, a need to be slow to pass judgment, and renewal/new beginnings.

I’m also drawn to bears, although I’d prefer my bears—and my alligators—stay over there in the totem world and not visit me for any personal encounters.

As for the bear in “Christmas in Dogtown,” it incorporates the meaning of the bear as a spirit guide or totem, which tells us that the appearance of a black bear means that it’s an important time for meditation and introspection. It’s certainly a lesson the “Dogtown” heroine, Resa Medere, has to learn after her own bear encounter.

How about you? Do you believe in spirit totems? What animal might be yours?


About the Author
Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance (under the name Susannah Sandlin) from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis' birthplace, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick. She’s the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series and, as Susannah Sandlin, the Penton Legacy paranormal romance series.

Find the author:

Christmas in Dogtown

A woman who spent years escaping her rural past learns that Dogtown, Louisiana, hides more family secrets than just the recipe for boudin blanc…..

Resa Madere’s on the verge of losing it all. The boyfriend’s gone. The job’s history. Her beloved house is on the brink of foreclosure. She’ll do anything to save it—even spend a long Christmas holiday working in St. James Parish, Louisiana, helping her uncle run the family meat business. But the community of Dogtown, which has been home for seven generations of the Madere and Caillou families, has deep roots and deeper secrets. For Resa, going home is one thing.

Getting out might not be so easy.

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  1. i hope it would be a wolf protective and loyal or a owl for the wisdow
    ^^ This is a wonderful christmas story it really moved me so i do recommend it without hesitation. Suzanne really has a way to describe place and feeling it's fabulous

  2. Now I need to pay attention to what animal I see around me frequently. When I had a large garden I had praying mantis everywhere and thought they would go away when I let the garden go to grass. We had a lot of moles. I've continued to see praying mantis around my house even without the garden. Do they count?