Sunday, October 26, 2014

Writing about Louisiana

Dayne Sherman
October 26, 2014
550 Words

The Richest Place on Earth

Seven years ago I was chatting with one of my distant cousins on the corner of North Magnolia and West Thomas in Hammond. Many readers will know the location as PJ’s Coffee, a place where I have written large sections of my books.

On this particular day I was given a great gift, the tale of a local conflict fought between hunters and a timber company. The timber company was killing hardwoods to make room for more valuable pine trees, and the local men used fire to even the score, burning hundreds of acres of young pines to protest the destruction of good hunting land.

The slogan back in the 1960s was catchy: “For every oak a pine!”

I went home and wrote 40 pages in a day or two, caught up in the spirit of a tale that I turned into fiction, setting it in “Baxter Parish,” a region all my own. Though it only took a few days to write the first section of my novel titled Zion, named for a little community surrounding Little Zion Methodist Church, it took seven years to write the rest of the book and to give the story adequate justice.

The key to writing is finishing a project. I never gave up on the long and complex mystery novel, and now I am proud that it will soon be available to readers.

Seven years ago I couldn’t have known that there would be a hotly contested marshal’s race in the 7th Ward. One of my main characters is Donald Brownlow, the marshal, and a decent guide for any of the candidates vying for the position on November 4. Some early readers have sent questions about the strange office of the marshal in my book. I tell them to drive down a street in South Tangipahoa, and let me know if there are more yard signs advertising candidates than people. We do have a marshal, and plenty of folks want to win the race.

There is no place more interesting as a subject than Tangipahoa Parish, a place so dangerous it was once called “Bloody Tangipahoa.”

I tend to think the stress and strain of the area is enormous, the transitory nature of a place near two interstates, the “Crosshairs of the South,” as I call it. This past week there was a horrifying story of a woman trying to sell her ten-year-old daughter to strangers at a gas station near I-55. You can’t make up stories like this.

All of the horror aside, our region is the richest place on earth for a fiction writer. You can bet on it.

I write to meet readers. I’d like to invite my readers to the national book launch for Zion, my latest novel, on October 30. The event will be held at the Hammond Regional Arts Center, 217 E. Thomas St. There will be a signing and reading from 4-6:30 PM. I'll read from 5:30-6 PM, and we’ll be done in time for the Saints game. Come and go as you please. Books will be available for purchase.

I hope to see you there.

--Dayne Sherman is the author of Zion: A Novel, which will be released on October 30th. His website is
Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker
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