Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Writing where you are...

Right now, I'm reading a thriller based in Bulgaria called Valley of Thracians by Ellis Shuman. It's really good, and Shuman does a great job describing the setting. Here's an example:

"The weathered tenements he passed on the road looked just like those he had imagined Eastern Europe would have, with laundry drooping from metal-railed balconies and faded, chipped paint barely concealing the aging cement bricks of the structures. Graffiti sketched in oversized letters and psychedelic hues shouted at him from the concrete walls..."

I admire writers who can describe places in such detail, partly because it's one of the skills I struggle with. No matter how many stories I've written, there comes a point where I think I have the work completed, and then I read a really amazing description by another writer who uses all the senses to describe the smells, the feel of the air, the hue of the grass... And I think, "Oh, man! I haven't described my settings at all!" Then I go back and re-think my work, trying to put myself into each scene, inserting key details, imagining what the characters see. It happens every time!

Perhaps it's because I tend to focus more on the characters and their dialogue, but I always have to remind myself that they are LOCATED somewhere -- and that that place matters to the readers! Plus, the setting is an impotant tool for writers -- we can use it to subtly set the tone of a scene (is the sky overcast, creating an ominous feeling?) and actually push the plot forward (what does the character see? Someone hovering in a darkened doorway? A dusty lace curtain twitching?).

When we talk about Southern literature, we automatically assume the setting is the South, and that in itself creates meaning before the reader has even turned one page! What do I think of when I imagine the South? Mosquitoes, heat, humidity, condensation on iced tea glasses, frigid air conditioning, cars, highways, lush greenery. That's my South. But I have to remember that others have different assumptions -- someone from Bulgaria, for example, may never have tasted syrupy sweet iced tea. As writers, we must constantly think outside ourselves and describe places as though we've never been there. It's a lesson I have to keep reminding myself!! What's your experience writing about setting?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Freebie, today only!!

Just a quick note... You can get my collection of short stories, Up Pops the Devil, for FREE until midnight tonight (Pacific Standard time).

The collection takes place in North Carolina, Vietnam, and on a subway carriage. In "Up Pops the Devil," pregnant Lara awakes in the middle of the night to find a group of men with guns standing in her bedroom. Her husband Nathan owes them money for cockfighting. On impulse, she flees into the mountains, taking the youngest (a teenage boy) with her. In "The Mood Detectives," a couple becomes obsessed with the depression craze that's hitting the country! In "What's for Dinner?" an insensitive husband wonders why he keeps drawing The Devil tarot card. And in "Viet," a teenage girl visits her mother's homeland of Vietnam and makes a surprising discovery. The characters in this collection confront unfortunate choices, bad luck, and plain old destiny, hoping to make it to the next day.

Just go here:  http://www.amazon.com/Up-Pops-the-Devil-ebook/dp/B00DP77PVC

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Up Pops the Devil!

Up Pops the Devil, short stories by Louisa DangJust wanted to blow my own horn! I've recently released a new collection of eight short stories on Amazon, entitled Up Pops the Devil. I wrote some of them (the longer ones!) when I was working on my M.F.A. thesis, and the shorter ones I wrote later, while working and then taking care of my kids. I figured, they're just sitting on my computer collecting virtual dust, why not publish them?

My friend, author Lisa Logan, and I are also going to be publishing a user guide for publishing ebooks for Kindle. We'll have tons of marketing tips, too, including how to use Twitter to your best advantage, how to set up a blog tour, and lots of links to helpful web tools! I'll keep you posted on when it's coming out -- hopefully, later this month!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

NC writer wins prestigious Southern award for first time!

Western North Carolina writer Terry Roberts has won the prestigious Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction for his novel A Short Time to Stay Here. According to an article in The Mountain Times, this awared "is fast becoming New York’s most prestigious homage to Southern literature."

First started in 2007, the award is given each year for a novel set in the original states of the Confederacy. This is the first time that a North Carolina writer has won the award, and the book sounds fascinating. It delves into the history of a real-life internment camp set up for German soldiers during World War I in the little town of Hot Springs, NC. I had no idea this camp even existed until I began this blog entry! I will definitely be reading this book!