Posts Tagged ‘Readers for Life’

Artful Description

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Bookstore browsers often look for white space in books, rather than blocks of solid prose.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my current work in progress, specifically trying to figure out how much description is enough to build my world and at what point to do readers have their fill and begin skimming?  I do not want skimming but neither do I want them wondering what the heck a character looks like?

Every writer weighs how much is too much versus how much is not enough.  The late, Elmore Leonard famously said, “think of what you skip reading in a novel: thick paragraphs of prose.”  He is right of course.  I do, did, will.  But I may take his reminder that, “I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.” a little bit too seriously.

Readers need to be grounded in a setting but expect not bored with unnecessary detail.  How much of a hero’s face, form and physical characteristics are expected for the genre and how do you work in those details so they don’t slow the pace?

I know enough not to drop an entire paragraph of description in a large chunk, like a cinderblock in the middle of a stream of your nice even primrose path.  What the heck is a primrose path anyway?

In any case, I’ve been paying special attention to how much description authors write and, more importantly, how and where are the descriptions insert it into their stories.  I’m currently a fan of the hit and run style.  That’s what I’m calling it.  The dialogue is rolling along and then-bam-the writer hits you with a two-sentence extremely concise, telling descriptions so rich that they not only give you a picture in your mind, they make their descriptions do double duty.  And then before you realize it, pow, you are back in action or conversation.

Here is a masterful description of setting by Kristan Higgins that conveys not just the place but the purpose and all in two well-crafted sentences:

Manning Academy was the type of prep school that litters New England.  Stately brick buildings with the requisite ivy, magnolia and dogwood trees, emerald soccer and lacrosse fields, and a promise that for the cost of a small house, we’d get your kids into the colleges of their choice—Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown.

~Kristan Higgins, Too Good to Be True~

Here is a physical description by Susan Elizabeth Phillips from Call Me Irresistible:

Lucy’s elfin features and thick, little girl eyelashes made her look younger than her thirty-one years. She’d grown out her shiny brown hair since her college days and sometimes held it back from her face with an assortment of velvet headbands that Meg wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, just as she’d never have chosen Lucy’s ladylike aqua sheath with its tidy black grosgrain belt.

~ Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Call Me Irresistible~

Author Phillips manages to get a physical description and attire of a secondary character in here with backstory between this character and the heroine and in addition, she relays how the heroine feels about her friend’s choice of wardrobe.  I have to sit down, I’m so impressed.

Here is one from Julia Quinn from a novel in three parts The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway.  Notice how Author Julia Quinn weaves dialogue into her description.

“I told you she looked like Botticelli’s Venus,” her mother said proudly to her father, after a fourth gentleman had commented on the resemblance.  And indeed, with her wavy hair, alabaster skin, and sea-green eyes, Gwen did bear a striking resemblance to the goddess as interpreted by the Italian master.

~Julia Quinn, The Lady Most Likely~

In addition to mixing dialogue into her description, Ms. Quinn also makes her description appropriate for the historical period she is writing and for that I tip my Regency bonnet.

All three of these examples highlight different methods of inserting description naturally into the prose.  None of these authors overstayed their welcome by rattling on and on over a place or person but all gave critical details with extra value by making their description do double duty.  And that is how it’s done!


Romance Writers of America – Atlanta 2013

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Historical Authors Terri Brisbin, Jenna Kernan and Diane Gaston


Have you ever tried to get through airport security without your license?  I did.  The cause was the multiple purse changes at the conference.  The big bag for traveling, the small purse that fits in the conference tote, the small beaded purse for the RITA Awards® and then back to the larger bag.  In all that movement my license ended up amid a sample of hand lotion in my suitcase (which I did tear apart at the airport to no avail).  They let me through thanks to my scuba card that has a photo plus three credit cards with my name.

But let me tell you about the conference.  I went in with two main goals:

1. Stay away from those who shout “The sky is falling.”

2. Have fun.

Pretty straight forward.


Regarding the first goal, I did nod my head and move away from authors, publishers, agents or editors who presented a doomsday outlook for publishing and the publishing industry.  I have to believe that good stories will always find a market even if I don’t know if that market will be in print, electronic or some other medium to be determined.  This didn’t happen as frequently as I feared.  Most folks are seeing an upswing in sales and so forth, even though print sales are generally down everywhere.

Regarding the second goal, I did have fun.  Some I anticipated, some came by way of serendipity.


GEORGIA AQUARIUM:  I try to do one touristy thing in every city I visit for conferences.  This year it was the fabulous aquarium.  Their dolphin show is not to be believed!

Whale Shark at Georgia Aquarium


BOOK SIGNING: Wednesday night I signed Beauty’s Beast in a ballroom with 450 authors as thunder crashed and lights flickered.   Lucky I’d been to the Atlanta Coke gift shop and had my coke penlight!

Readers for Life Literacy signing.


HARLEQUIN DIGITAL PJ PARTY: On Thursday night included lots of fun and silly costumes.  Loved the Cracker Jack and cookies plus the opportunity to have some laughs with the fabulous Harlequin Digital team.

Book Seller of the year, Cathy Genna from the fabulous East Brunswick B&N with Jenna at the hotel bar



THE FIVE MINUTE MEETING:  Sometimes you bump into someone you know or want to meet or haven’t ever met.  I love this about conferences, the serendipity that connects you with just who you wanted to speak to or has you miss that meeting by ten seconds.

Harlequin UK editors creating a flip book at the Harlequin Author Party at the Ritz


HARLEQUIN HOTEL SUITE: There were more than a few minglers in the Harlequin suite.  I attended one for series authors, another for historical authors, and still another Nocturne authors, plus various workshops and informational presentations.  On Thursday I had coffee with friends, coffee with my agent, coffee with my editor followed by coffee with the Nocturne series authors!  I wonder why I had trouble sleeping that night?

Desert table at the Harlequin Authors’ Party at the Ritz


HARLEQUIN HISTORICAL’S TEA: The UK team of editors usually plans a special outing for the historical authors.  This year it was Dr. Bombay’s in a lovely neighborhood of Atlanta.  We had tea, scones, finger sandwiches and conversation with UK editors Linda Fildew and Joanne Carr.  Such a wonderful afternoon that just thinking on it makes me smile.

Historical Authors Diane Gaston and Blythe Grifford outside of an Atlanta tea shop at the Harlequin Historical Authors’ Tea


HARLEQUIN V.I.P LOUNGE: Now I did not have a milestone book or a Rita nomination this year, but was happy to ride on the coattails of author Susan Meier and be her plus one.  She had BOTH a nomination and a milestone (her 50th Book!).  Prior to the big Friday night bash we had an invite the V.I.P Lounge that included make-up artists and hair stylists to make authors really shine before the party.  Editors, Execs and authors mingled and snacked after a toast by Donna Hayes, C.E.O of Harlequin, Int.  Really, I wish I could have stayed there all night but it was off to the party for dancing, open bar and treats.

Author Susan Meier with stylist on her right and Jenna Kernan on her left


HARLEQUIN AUTHOR PARTY: I made it to midnight and had such fun.  A highlight was dancing on the floor with author greats Brenda Jackson and Nora Roberts.  Now that is a party!

Harlequin Digital Jayne Hoogenberk interviews author Jenna Kernan before the Rita Awards (r).


RITA AWARDS: I got to sit at a reserved table with Susan Meier and Jessica Hart who were both nominees.  Prior to the ceremony the Harlequin UK editors offered a Champaign toast and good wishes to their nominees.  The coveted statues were awarded and I especially appreciated the speech by Eloisa James, who showed off a handful of silver Rita® pins marking her numerous nominations prior to her win.  I have two silver pins representing my two nominations and am considering making earrings.


July Literacy Autographing

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013


Jenna Kernan signing her latests paranormal romance, BEAUTY’S BEAST


I’ll be signing my Nocture paranormal romance, BEAUTY’S BEAST in Altanta at #RWA13 Literacy Autographing on July 17th!

The “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing, is open to the public and includess more than 400 authors of romance authors who meet with and sign our books for fans.  This is a wonderful event and proceeds from book sales go to literacy organizations.  The 2013 beneficiaries of the Literacy Autographing are ProLiteracy Worldwide, Literacy Action, Inc., and Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta.

This event is open to the public and there is no entry fee.