Hurricanes and Guest Ellen Byron

Breaking News: Ellen’s lucky winner is Kait Carson! Kait, please check your email.

Edith/Maddie writing from a wintry north of Boston. I’m already packing for my trip to Puerto Rico in a week, but I’m never too busy to welcome great friend Ellen Byron. She has a new book out and you won’t want to miss Wined and Dined in New Orleans!

It’s hurricane season in New Orleans and vintage cookbook fan Ricki James-Diaz is trying to shelve her weather-related fears and focus on her business, Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbook and Kitchenware Shop, housed in the magnificent Bon Vee Culinary House Museum. In this second Vintage Cookbook Mystery, Ricki has to help solve a murder, untangle family secrets, and grow her business, all while living under the threat of a hurricane that could wipe out everything from her home to Bon Vee. 

Repairs on the property unearth crates of very old, very valuable French wine, buried by the home’s builder. Ricki, who’s been struggling to attract more customers to Miss Vee’s, is thrilled when her post about this long-buried treasure goes viral. She’s less thrilled when the post brings distant family members out of the woodwork, all clamoring for a cut of the wine’s sale. When a dead body turns up in Bon Vee’s cheery fall decorations, Ricki is determined to uncover the culprit, but she can’t help wondering what kind of secret her mentor has bottled up, and fears what might happen if she uncorks it.

Take it away, Ellen!

On October 29th, 2020, the day after Hurricane Zeta had blown through New Orleans, my husband and I left Los Angeles to visit our daughter, then a junior at NOLA’s Loyola University in New Orleans. We arrived at midnight to a half-dark city; half-dark because the hurricane’s path had been capricious, leaving the lights on some places and pitch-blackness in others. Unfortunately, the power for our daughter’s apartment took a hit. We spent a cold night sleeping in our clothes on the floor of her living room, on a mattress one of her roommates happened to be getting rid of.

That was just a warmup to Hurricane Ida.

I returned to New Orleans at the end of August 2021. My plan was to do research for Wined and Died in New Orleans, my second Vintage Cookbook Mystery, and then segue into a mother-daughter weekend with my kid.

I arrived on a Wednesday to murmurs of an impending hurricane named Ida. The murmurs became a drumbeat, prompting an agonizing debate: evacuate or stick it out? I passed employees boarding up French Quarter storefronts and families throwing their belongings into cars.

I wanted to stay. Having attended the city’s Tulane University, I’d had my own brushes with hurricanes that never made landfall in the city, veering in another direction at the last minute. I made my case to my daughter. But she put her foot down. “We’re leaving.”

We evacuated to Houston.

Ironically, the agonizing debate of whether to stick it out or evacuate became the research I needed for Wined and Died in New Orleans. I transferred my experience and emotions to my protagonist, Ricki James-Diaz. I took literary license, of course. There’s a gripping scene near the end of the mystery that’s pure fiction. But it’s based on the reality of what could happen when a hurricane collides with New Orleans’ notoriously deep potholes. (Picture shows a pothole hiding under an orange traffic thing.)

Given the toll these regular disasters take on the Big Easy, I am in awe of the city’s resilience, so well summed up in their motto, Laissez les bons temps rouler—”Let the good times roll.” I’m so grateful I got a chance to pay tribute to that resilience in Wined and Died in New Orleans. And pray that catastrophic weather disasters are in the city’s past, not its future.

Readers: have you been through a weather-related emergency? Comment to be entered to win a copy of Bayou Book Thief, Vintage Cookbook #1 (US only).

Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won two Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty Awards for Best Humorous Mystery. Wined and Died in New Orleans is the second book in her new Vintage Cookbook Mysteries. She also writes the Catering Hall Mystery series under the name Maria DiRico. 

Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly Odd Parents. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart. Please visit her at

54 Thoughts

  1. I really enjoy Ellen Byron’s books. I started with the Cajun Country Mysteries set in Louisiana that I listened to on audiobooks . I then picked up the audiobook for Bayou Book Thief which was a wonderful read. I just preordered the audiobook of Wined and Died in New Orleans. While my daughter attended Tulane I was able to visit New Orleans multiple times and fell in love with the city. Ellen Byron’s books capture the spirit of New Orleans and Louisiana.

  2. Howdy, Ellen!! I love your books – all of them! Your writing grabs me with the first sentence and doesn’t let go until the end.

    It’s funny that you ask about weather-related emergency. Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78 in Boston. I was very much caught in it.It snowed 4″ an hour for 39 hours. It was a couple of weeks before we could get our car out of the street. During the second week, my girlfriend, who lived upstairs, and I walked 3 miles to downtown to go to the theatre to see “Clue” and then we walked back. Nothing else to do. I watched a front loader pick up a VW thinking it was a pile of snow.

    I pre-ordered Wined and Died, so I’m all set.

  3. Heck yeah, Ellen. We just through Hurricane Ian and it was the worst weather event I have ever been through. We even came back a day early from our long awaited trip to Hawaii as the cat boarder had texted me about the upcoming storm and wanting to know if I had anyone to pick up the cats. We didn’t. Plus my husband wanted to pick up and put away anything that could fly away. Who would know that our fence could do that. We have hurricane proof windows and I watched the storm, watched roofing materials just peel off of houses, debris floating down the street. Listened to the howling of the over 100 mph winds. Thank goodness we had a generator as it took them 15 day to restore our power and internet. Congrats on your new book and thank you for this chance at your giveaway!! pgenest57 at aol dot com

  4. I’m so excited to pick up my copy of the book tomorrow, Ellen!

    Hurricanes are rare in my part of New England, but I remember when Gloria hit in the fall of 1985. My company sent us all home at nine that morning. Two (male) engineers I worked with instead made plans to meet up at a lake and go windsurfing!

    Blizzards are more familiar to me, and worrying about losing power from them.

    1. When I lived in NY, we had a hurricane blow through and since I lived on the top floor, we got a leak from it. There was also once a minor earthquake, which caused a small crack. So I had the only apartment in NY with both hurricane and earthquake damage!

      Thanks so much for buying the book, Edith. You’re the best.

  5. Living in Southeast Texas, I’ve been through a large number of hurricanes. My first, at age six, was Carla. The last one that affected me personally was Harvey. The worst evacuation was Rita. I can’t count the number of times I loaded up kids, animals and belongings and fled to the north.

  6. Ellen, congrats on your new book!

    I’d be more surprised if someone hadn’t been through a weather related emergency. Here in Massachusetts, we’ve had giant snowstorms (and blizzards) and the odd hurricane or three during the time I’ve been alive. It was never to the point we had to evacuate out of town or anything but power being out for days in the middle of winter was not fun to say the least.

  7. Oh, definitely! Lots of weather-related events here in Maine – I remember the ice storm of 1998, no power at my house for about a week, frozen pipes, terrible time! In 2011, my husband and I were camping when Hurricane Irene ripped through, wind whipping across the lake blew our camping stuff clear across the campground. I love that motto, “Let the good times roll” because no matter what we go through, there’s always good times to remember and more to look forward to!

  8. In an extremely small way, yes. When we lived in the southern part of the state which is also relatively flat, we had a time where we got 6 inches of rain in 45 minutes and it ended up at 7 inches in an hour. To say everything was flooded was an understatement. When we bought out place there where the road was down in the lowest spot with a slight incline of both sides of it, we laughing said we were building our house on the highest ground and over 150 feet from the lowest spot safe from everything. Although it never quite made it to the house, it flooded our garden area and was definitely a sight to see. Thankfully once it stopped raining, the water started flowing down the creeks and lower spots making the road accessible by morning. I can’t imagine staying in a place that endured a horrendous worse situation over and over again with many losing everything and having to start over again multiple times.

    ” Wined and Dined in New Orleans” sounds amazing and I absolutely LOVE the cover. It’s on my TBR list.

    Thank you so much for the chance to win a copy of “Bayou Book Thief”!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  9. Congratulations on the new release, Ellen! My weather emergencies are usually winter-related. In 2014, we got hit with a foot of snow and temperatures in the minus 10 to minus 20 range. The city basically shut down for two days. We were lucky enough to flag down a guy with a blade on his truck to plow our dead end street. Otherwise, we would have had to clear the street ourselves. Good times.

  10. I was in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 when another storm was on track to hit the island. Fortunately, it veered into the Atlantic, but there were plans to evacuate us to the local US Navy base, which had appropriate facilities.

    I missed the two major snowstorms in Western New York. “Snowvember” back in…2014(?) and last fall.

  11. Welcome back and happy release day! Mother Nature’s fury and I are good friends. Ice storms, blizzards, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms — I’ve met a few. The “should I stay or should I go” is always a hard decision!

  12. This sounds like a wonderful job of using personal experience to create a story that entertains while paying tribute to a city with an unstoppable heart. I’ve been lucky not to have gotten caught in weather-related emergencies (I don’t think earthquakes count as ‘weather-related’) but half my family are first responders of one sort or another and they all have stories to tell.

  13. Well, the cover is AM-AZ-ING!!! And I’m sure it’s only half as great as the book. Kudos Ellen! And, hey, I’m Canadian. Currently the main hwy. to our house is closed (again) due to a massive snowstorm. But the dog got walked and the porch got shoveled 🙂 Good luck with it Ellen.

  14. Welcome back to the Wickeds, Ellen and congratulations on Wined and Dined in New Orleans! I’ve lived through hurricanes and blizzards, but nothing will top the Blizzard of 1978. Back in those pre-internet days, it meant no work for a week.

    1. Barb, thanks so much for having me back. Ah yes. I remember when a snow day meant chilling – literally! – at home with no work. Sigh…

  15. Can’t wait to read this, Ellen!

    I lived in NOLA for a year, but never went through I hurricane. I did, however, with Andrew in Miami, Katrina, Charly and Wilma in Fort Myers. In 2004, We were preparing for a hurricane every two weeks! A week before Charly hit, my husband had double hernia surgery. The next week, he was carrying patio furniture inside and battening down the hatches. Charly went from a cat 2 to a cat 4 in two hours…headed straight for us. We hunkered down in our master closet with our senior rescue dog, snacks, water, and a battery-operated radio. I should also mention an unopened bottle of Amaretto was at my side. Six hours later, Charly hit, a huge coconut palm fell in our driveway, just missing the house, and the Amaretto bottle was completely drained.

    In 2006 we moved to Atlanta.

  16. Cannot wait to read this book!

    I lived in Florida for over 40 years, been through many hurricanes, the biggies – Andrew, Wilma, and Irma. The eye of both Katrina and Wilma passed over our house. It was so strange to go from wild, blowing wind to clear, calm, blue skies. Irma was the only storm we evacuated for. Went to Destin when the morning of the storm, the weather reader projected our house (they took the radar to street level) would be in 220 mile an hour winds for twelve hours. We trusted the house but we had a two hundred year old live oak that had a trim scheduled the week after the hurricane was slated to hit. If that came down…. We left at the last minute with the claxons of our cell phones announcing the hurricane’s approach. Destin was lovely, our house survived despite damage from the tree, and we knew how fortunate we were.

  17. I had to evacuate for a fire one night, and that’s the closest I have personally had to live through. But my parents have been evacuated for several nights due to fires three times and my brother and his family lost his house to the wildfires in Nor Cal in 2017. And then they evacuated right after their new house was finished. Fortunately, that fire didn’t destroy their neighborhood again.

    1. Mark, your poor family. What a nightmare. I remember that. Prayers they – and you! – never have to live through another fire evac.

  18. Although I never had to evacuate my home, I did live through a six-day power outage in Connecticut almost ten years ago. My home had well water, which was a royal pain, because that meant that we had no water for the duration of the outage! (No showers, no hand washing except with water that we collected ourselves.) Ellen, I am so happy that you have started another series. I was sad when the Cajun Country mysteries series ended. They are such good books!!

    1. Patti, thank you so much! You know, my family had a cottage on Bantam Lake in CT. Our last visit there before my mom had to sell it was interrupted by yet another hurricane. We had to leave early.

  19. We have had ice storms and a couple blizzards. I remember during one blizzard that we lost power for four days. We bought a generator after that storm!

    Love the book cover!!!

  20. Back in 2008 there was a tornado that came through my town and it ripped the roof off of our house. I was actually driving in it trying to get home, it was scary! It all happened in like 5 minutes or so and was gone, weather is so strange!

    1. Stormi, that is the most terrifying thing ever. I think tornados scare me more than anything. Although having lived through the Northridge Earthquake, i can tell you they’re also TERRIFYING.

  21. Being from Michigan and living in Chicago, I’m familiar with blizzards and tornadoes. I remember one time my Dad coming home and said there was a tornado coming and we looked out the living room window and saw what looked like match sticks flying in the air when the tornado touched down two miles from our house. Loved the Cajun Country Mysteries and I’m looking forward to starting you new series.

  22. I was born and raised in NYC so went through quite a few blizzards. I moved to Florida in my 20’s and have experienced a number of hurricanes as well.

  23. In 1967, Hurricane Beulah roared from the Gulf of Mexico through the Rio Grande Calley of Texas. We waited it out in Harlingen, Texas about 30 miles from South Padre Island. Went right over us. We hunkered down in our house built in 1941 by my parents and luckily were safe. Many people evacuated up north and then could not come home for three weeks as it flooded everywhere. Our house did not flood, though many did, but we had to stay at a friend’s house as the sewers backed up and it was flooded all around us. Also, I have been through an earthquake in Mexico City in 1965 that was pretty bad. We were eating at Sanborn’s and then had gone to stand in the area that sold magazines and I looked at my cousin and she was going backwards while I was going frontwards while we stood up and we looked out at the street, and it was buckling. Our hotel had a lot of damage. But we did okay.

  24. Yes. I ended up being home alone during the Blizzard of ’78. My Dad had to go to the hospital for surgery. They had to take him with a four week drive vehicle. He insisted that my Mom go with him. We had neighbors all around us as well as my aunt and uncle a block away. It was scary when we lost electric and heat, but as soon as the electric came back on, my uncle made his way over to light the thermostat in the space heater. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

  25. I think you’ve inspired me, Ellen! We went through a severe wind event that started and stoked the Holiday Farm Fire here in Oregon. The fire split and came 500 feet on one side and a quarter mile on the other from our home. We were evacuated two weeks. The best news was when we found out our home had survived. The bad news was our 400+ neighbors who lost theirs. I ended up with PTSD and survivor guilt. Fire terrifies me. In a former life, I think I was a witch who was burned at the stake. But now I’m thinking of using that experience in a thriller. Thanks for the idea! ❤️

  26. I’ve been in two weather emergencies in Irmo, SC (a suburb of Columbia) – the “thousand-year” flood of October 2015 caused by the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin, and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

    Hugo buffeted our house in the wee hours of the morning Sept 22, on its trek from Charleston towards Charlotte NC. I was about two months pregnant and paranoid, convinced that any moment the large window in our bedroom would shatter and send shards into my belly. So, I woke up my husband (who was somehow sleeping through the hurricane force winds – the nerve!) and we laid down in the hall. (The window never broke, btw.)

    Hubby went back to sleep, and I continued listening to the radio news and weather reports and to the wind howling until it was time to get ready for work. We both worked at local hospitals in the lab, so our workplaces couldn’t close due to the weather. That morning, I had my quickest commute to work ever, because all the traffic lights were out and no other idiots were on the road – LOL.

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