Descriptive Writing – How Much is Too Much?

Lately I’ve been devouring books by Sandra Brown. I particularly like her descriptions of people and places. I mentioned her to someone and that person’s response was that she describes too much. I know that not every reader is going to appreciate or like the works of every author. Obviously, that’s one reasons there are so many genres!

I’m in the middle of rewrites on my third Coyote book. For ease, I’m calling it Calypso Coyote, but I see where I can embellish scenes and people with more descriptions. The thing I don’t want to do is have a reader feel that I’ve gone overboard and be thinking “get on with the action – enough details.’  Of course the obvious answer is to make it appropriate to the novel one is writing. In my first book of the Coyote Series, I put in a lot of descriptions. Some people said it gave it a richness, others said it was too much description.

The reason for this blog is to ask you, the reader, how much descriptive writing works for you? At what point do you think, ENOUGH ALREADY! Rather than ‘he said’ I do like ‘he said, sneering.’ I have a far better picture of the character when things like that are added. If the character’s dress and physical looks are described (and I don’t mean in a boring way), I find I can picture them much more readily and they become more  meaningful to me. Same with settings and times of the year. To me it adds depth. However, with descriptive writing come a backing away from the action.

Please, let me know your thoughts on this subject I really am interested to hear what readers have to say about descriptive writing.

Is Timing Everything

I invite you to read this interview Susan Noble of Into Another World, http://wp.me/p2Dhbj-ZX published. She really asked some interesting questions! Timing couldn’t have been better since Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy is free through January 27th!

Today’s Featured Author: Dianne Harman

Today I have author Dianne Harman on my site for a quick Q&A session about her latest book Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy.

Interview

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Tacoma, Washington, grew up in Kansas City and have called Huntington Beach, California my home for many years.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I have always been a reader, really from the time I had a library card before kindergarten! I was an English major in college many years ago. Never thought I had the necessary credentials to write – hadn’t attended workshops, critique groups, etc. My husband gave me a copy of Stephen King’s book, On Writing. He more or less says, “Just Do It” and so I did.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I don’t think you can be a writer of contemporary fiction and not have some of your thoughts and experiences in them. In Blue Coyote Motel, I write of a character who treks to Nepal to attend the Mani Rimdu Festival in the Himalayas. I did. In Tea Party Teddy I write of a political wife who has a woman come up to her when she’s sitting at the head table of the Boys & Girls Club Dinner and tell her it’s wonderful to see a politician not married to a “trophy wife” and who is even wearing the same outfit she wore to the event last years. Swell. That happened to me!

Please tell us about your current release.

My fourth book, published this month, is a novella, a sequel to Tea Party Teddy. The name is Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy. I never planned on writing a sequel, but so many people asked what happened to Nina and Bob, characters from Tea Party Teddy, that it demanded being written. It’s a short political thriller exposing greed and hunger for power in the political world.

What inspired you to write this book?

My husband was a California State Senator and I spent most of the twelve years he was in office in Sacramento, California entertaining Governors, Congressmen and politicians from both parties. I was “an insider” and had first-hand knowledge of just how much greed and corruption there is in politics

How did you come up with the title?

It’s the sequel to Tea Party Teddy, really the legacy he leaves. There’s a strong element of  romance and family life in the book as well as Teddy’s legacy of greed and corruption.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

Love Bob and Nina. Can’t stand the reverend. My favorite character in probably all of my books is the PI, Slade Kelly. He’s a reprobate, but I find him irresistible.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

Sure. It will probably be easier if I just quote a few lines from the back of the book: “Will Bob and Nina be able to hold their family together? Will Slade Kelly, the well-known private investigator, be able to protect the Silva family from the reverend’s criminal plans? And just where do those babies come from that the reverend ‘places’ with families? And why is every television station in California and across the nation featuring Bob Silva as their lead story on the evening news?”

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

I spent some time in a small cottage in a small village in Provence very similar to where Elena lives in my book, Coyote in Provence. I loved the little cottage, the countryside, and the people.

Book Description

The Sequel to Tea Party Teddy…

What happens when Bob Silva, who is married to the ex-wife of Tea Party Teddy, decides to run for the California State Assembly against the Reverend Jim Thurston, a devout Tea Party member? Will Reverend Jim seek revenge for the death of his friend, Tea Party Teddy? Will the Dear Reverend resort to criminal acts to try and win the election?

About the Author 

Dianne Harman draws her stories and characters from a diverse business and personal background. She owned a national antique and art appraisal business for many years, leaving that industry and opening two yoga centers where she taught yoga and certified yoga instructors. Dianne has traveled extensively throughout the world, most recently dividing her time between Huntington Beach, California and Sacramento, California, where her husband was a Senator. A gourmet cook, she has entertained Governors, Congressmen and numerous other political figures in her homes. An avid reader, Dianne brings the richness of her life experiences to her novels, Blue Coyote Motel, Tea Party Teddy, Coyote in Provence, andTea Party Teddy’s Legacy.

You can find out more about Dianne on her website or her blog. You can purchase Tea Party Teddy Legacy and all of Dianne’s books onAmazon.

How to get ideas for your next book?

Christoph Fischer, a top Amazon 500 reviewer, asked me to do a guest post on his blog in conjunction with the free launch promotion of Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy.

Please visit his blog at http://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/2014/01/  He is the author of the compelling Three National Trilogy, one of the most superb series it’s ever been my pleasure to read. I can’t recommend his books highly enough!!

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming the wonderful Dianne Harman, who just released TEA PARTY TEDDY’S LEGACY. Dianne has already been my interview guest on this blog [Link to this interview ] and today she is letting us look ‘behind the scenes’ of her new book. Scroll down for my excited 5 star review

(for my review and the Amazon link scroll down)

A common question writers get is whether or not the people and events in their books are real. If one is writing about events and people in the now, I don’t think they can escape from bringing in parts of themselves, knowingly or unknowingly. In other words, we bring to the table the sum of our experiences. Certainly, that’s been true for me.

I wrote Tea Party Teddy after I’d been seated next to one of the most bigoted, biased politicians I’d ever met at two dinner parties two nights in a row.. And since my husband was a California State Senator and the number three man in the Republican Party in the California Legislature, I had met my share of them. We entertained Congressmen, Governors, Legislators, and Lobbyists of all political persuasion. I was one of the few people privy to the inside workings of politics, and trust me, it’s often not a very pretty picture.

After I sat next to this politician, I began to wonder what his wife and family were like. I was also curious why he hated the illegal immigrants and even the legal immigrants. Where did that come from? His views were not “politically correct.” The story I made up in my mind became the book. The response to Tea Party Teddy was huge. Political papers and blogs featured it. People loved him or hated him and reviews reflected it. There were even a couple of low reviews from people who didn’t like my husband’s politics! My poor husband was never part of the book other than to read it

What so many people missed was that the book was essentially a satire – a look at a minority of people who have a stranglehold on one political party. But make no mistake, money is mother’s milk in politics, and this minority can be counted on for big bucks! The book tells of a man whose fall stems from the need to get money to finance his campaign.

I remember a Saturday morning many years ago when my husband mentioned he had a coffee meeting with a constituent in an hour. He’d just returned from a week of meetings in Washington, D.C. and I told him I thought he needed to take a break. His response: “So and so is a very heavy contributor to my campaigns. If he wants a meeting, he’s paid enough to get the meeting.” In other words, if they pay to play, a politician will listen to them – and probably vote for whatever it is they want.

Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy was a natural offshoot of the first book. Nina and Bob, Teddy’s ex-wife and arch enemy, fall in love and get married. Bob decides to run for the California Legislature against a minister who has the same political beliefs and ethics of Tea Party Teddy. True? Not really, but some traits of politicians, donors, and aides I’d known found their way into the book. There are many good politicians and I made sure Bob was one of them. There’s a line in the book about politicians willing to trade their first-born if they could win a political race. Often, this is sad, but true. Legacy was probably motivated by a need to show there are still some honest politicians. I’ve noticed that once a politician gets beyond the local school board level, the monies they’ve taken to move up the ladder usually means they’re beholden to someone. If you doubt it, look at some of the bills that are passed, locally and nationally, then look at the politician’s voting record and check out his/her supporters. There’s usually a very clear nexus.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Slade Kelly, the lovable reprobate private investigator. So many people have told me he is their very favorite character in my books. Since none of us is perfect, we can all probably identify with a less than perfect character – which may speak to why people love it when a politician is caught in a scandal. And those scandals are only the ones that see the light of day!  I’m in the midst of writing my third book in the Coyote series, and due to public demand, Slade Kelly is the pivotal person in the book!

My Review:

“Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy” by Dianne Harman is a great political thriller about the election campaign for the California State Assembly. Bob Silva, hero of the first book, Tea Party Teddy, runs against far right-wing Reverend Jim Thurston. Silva’s wife used to be married to Tea Party Teddy and is now heavily pregnant.

Harman sets up the rivals brilliantly within a short space of time and with excellent eye for details, background and characterisation. When Silva retreats from the election campaign for private reasons the Reverend needs to step up his game by all means necessary.
With dry wit, great observational skill and humour and with clear knowledge of political processes the author has delivered another excellent story that exposes greed and hunger for power and the extent to which some individuals will go to get what they want.
The term `legacy’ from the title reverberates throughout the story – a well-chosen title. The story is relatively short which is perfect for the tightly edited plot. Nothing is superfluous in this story, this is a well-paced and skilfully narrated novel full of suspense. A compelling and intelligent read that I most enjoyed. 5 enthusiastic and well deserved stars.

Not with a Bang but with a Whimper

Here’s an article I recently wrote for the Huffington Post. Enjoy!

Not With A Bang, But A Whimper

Posted: 01/09/2014 7:

New Year, new thoughts, new beginnings. What is it I haven’t done that I’ve always wanted to do? And more importantly, what’s holding me back from doing it? Do I have the courage to do it this year?

I remember a 40th surprise birthday party for a friend of ours several years ago. The guests were asked to come about an hour before the “birthday boy” was due to arrive. When we got to the party, we were given a “Hello” name badge sticker and asked to write the name of a place we’d like to go and then put it on our clothing so everyone could see it and as an ice breaker, we could discuss the various places we wanted to go with one another. I’d always wanted to go to Nepal, so I put Nepal on mine and looked forward to seeing all the exotic places other people wanted to go.

Wrong!!! The places people wanted to go to were Laughlin, Nevada, San Francisco, Reno, and a few others. I think the most exotic place anyone wanted to visit was Hawaii. I spent the rest of the night talking to myself because no one was interested in Nepal. People looked at my destination, but no one, not one person, ever talked to me. However, the flame had been lit and I became determined to go. A few months later I did and it was a trip I’ve never regretted. Would I have been so determined to go without that experience? I doubt it. From that time on, my life has been more about “If I don’t do it (whatever it is) now, when am I going to do it?” That mantra has become a core belief for me.

So what’s stopping you from doing something you want to do or go somewhere you want to go? Certainly, as we age we’ve earned the right to do some things we want to do. Usually the things that held us back at an earlier age are no longer relevant, such as small children at home, etc. And if you’re retired, the job or lack of time isn’t holding you back. In this Internet Age, we can research anything, so we can no longer use the excuse of not knowing about something.

One of the things I’ve found that holds people back is trying to please everyone in their life. When a family member tells us we shouldn’t do something because… it’s hard to overcome a negative response from them if we’ve been “people pleasers” all these years. So, is it time for me? Absolutely. “If not now, when?”

One of the things we’ve learned (hopefully) in our later years is the art of compromise. I’ve wanted to go to Sicily for a long time, but I just couldn’t make it happen. I’m a vagabond at heart and I’ve been married to someone for years who is happiest at home. Fortunately he’s never tried to keep me from vagabonding around the world, probably knowing it wouldn’t work. For a very significant birthday of mine he told me he was giving me the gift of us going to Sicily. A few weeks later, I sensed him backpedaling, saying things like “You know, I’m not real big on seeing lots of museums and cathedrals, etc.”

I realized he was getting ready to renege on his gift to me. We both love to cook and have attended cooking schools throughout the world. I suggested we go to a cooking school for several days and then explore Sicily on our own. It was a perfect compromise. A win-win situation for both of us. Now each of us is eagerly looking forward to this trip, but for different reasons. He can cook and I can go to the out-of-the-way places where the people are. One of my fondest memories is eating chicken out of a pot which a local cooked in the cab of his truck as I waited for sunrise to see Borobudur in Indonesia. “If not then, when?” Most people I know would never have done that, thinking of all the reasons (particularly sanitary ones) why one shouldn’t eat out of a pot on the back of a dirty truck. I’m so glad I did. I well remember the Indonesian man and the connection we had. I would have missed if I hadn’t thought, “If I don’t do it, will I regret it?”

My son told my husband recently that my husband’s “runway was getting a bit short.” (He was diplomatic enough not to comment on mine!) I’ve thought a lot about that statement and I don’t want to get to the end of my runway regretting that I didn’t do something. The thought’s been cropping up on a daily basis as I watch the hospice caregivers change shifts while they care for our next door neighbor who has terminal cancer. I’ve wondered what’s going through his mind. Does he regret not doing certain things? There will come a time when all of us are unable to do things. In the words of one of my favorite poets, T.S. Eliot, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” I don’t want to whimper. I want my world to end with a bang! Don’t you?

EVER FIND OUT YOUR BOOK IS #1 RECOMMENDED BY AMAZON?

I can’t think of a more wonderful occupation than being an author. We get to create worlds, take the story in our head and commit it to paper, have an excuse to read incessantly, (research, you know!), and talk shop with other authors. What’s not to like?

However, even with all of that, getting an email from someone that one of your books is the #1 book recommended by Amazon in their Mystery, Thriller and Suspense category may top the list. It happened to me last night and I’m still euphoric.

I met with a group of authors yesterday and one of the gentlemen mentioned his fear (and I may be taking some literary license here) was that “his writing wasn’t good enough.” I told him I thought every writer felt that way, so he certainly wasn’t alone.

On the way home, I was playing with the conversation in my mind and realized how true that is for so many writers. We tend to put our work up against the giants of our genre and by so doing, we create a “not good enough” mentality. I’ve been reading the works of an author who has been writing for thirty years. Certainly she’s learned a lot in that time and that’s one of the reasons I think she’s such a good author. Every bit of advice I’ve seen given to new authors tells them to “Write, Write, Write.” There’s a good reason for that. The more one writes, the better one gets.

All of that said, when an entity like Amazon thinks one of your books is good enough to be number #1 on their list, (actually that’s the second book of mine that was #l on the same list – Blue Coyote Motel, the first book in that series), it goes a long way to cut through the writing doubts. The woman who forwarded Amazon’s list to me asked if I had paid Amazon to post it. In other words, was I advertising on Amazon? No, I didn’t. To my knowledge, their choices are probably part of the mysterious algorithm process which seems to be a dark secret. I’ve never heard of anyone paying Amazon to get their book recommended. I don’t think it’s done.

A couple of things I’m taking from this experience: (1) you just never know when something wonderful is going to happen; (2) Amazon is not going to put a book in the #1 slot that they don’t think is good; and (3) the more you write, the more people will notice and buy your works! I probably should add a fourth: serendipitously, I started a promotion this morning to offer the book at $.99 from the normal price of $3.99. Talk about the stars aligning!!!

I invite you to read Coyote in Provence.  http://ow.ly/sGLyj.  I loved writing it and when you read it, you’ll discover that Provence is not a bad place to eat your way through!!!