Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cooking Essentials for a First Kitchen

A lot of my non-writer friends ask me where do you get your ideas?
My easy answer—from my life. Things happen and I’m inspired to do research. Then sometime later the experience shows up in my stories.

Right now, a couple of close relatives are getting married while a few more are moving into apartments, and I’d like to help. Most of my nieces, nephews and cousins will need to set up a first kitchen, so here’s my question—what will they need to begin cooking in their new place?

Here’s my list of kitchen essentials, so far.
1. Baking Dish
2. Sauté Pan with a lid
3. Can Opener
4. Vegetable Peeler
5. Knives
6. Cutting Board
7. Measuring Cups and Spoons
8. Mixing Bowls
9. Storage Containers
10. Tongs
11. Cookie Sheets and cake pans
12. Cheese Grater
13. Spatula
14. Colander
15. Salt and Pepper Mills

Can you think of any other must-haves for a startup kitchen? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Father's Day Facts

Happy Father’s Day! We all are fathers, know fathers or have had a dad. Want to celebrate dads by learning some of the facts behind this holiday?

1. Sonora Dodd thought of Father’s Day to honor her father, William Smart.

2. William Smart was a single parent. He raised six children after his wife’s death.  He was also a Civil War veteran.

3. The first Father’s Day happened in Spokane, Washington on June 17, 1910.

4. Sonora and the mayor of Spokane chose June as the month to celebrate because William Smart’s birthday was in June.

5. In 1966, President Johnson picked the third Sunday in June for Father’s Day, but it wasn’t until 1972 when President Nixon was in office that the holiday became permanent.

6. Just how many dads are there? In 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the number of fathers in the nation to be 70.1 million.

7. Also the U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2013 there were over twenty-four million fathers living in married couple homes and had children under the age of 18.

 8. In 2013 survey the Bureau found that two million fathers were single parents.

9. That sounds like a huge number, but it’s actually only 17 percent of the single parents.

10. About 4.2 percent of the single dads were widowed while 33 percent had never married,
44 percent were divorced and 19 percent were separated.

11. In 2011, stay-at-home dads took care of 18% of all preschoolers.

12. These stay-at-home fathers number around 214,000.

13. What will fathers likely do this Father’s Day? Well, it’s a good bet they’ll barbecue.  In 2010, 79.1 million Americans participated in a barbecue.

Dads are pretty important. I hope that you’ll have a chance to celebrate with one or more of these great guys this month!


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What Scary Creatures Are Part of Your Culture?

By Elizabeth MS Flynn, w/a Eilis Flynn
I’m taking a break between editing gigs and starting to think about the workshops I’ll be teaching next year (plan far ahead and you won’t panic as much. Some, but not much), and prime among those are a couple I’ll be doing on Asian myths and legends. Because, you know, they’re fun and I’ve got all this source material staring me in the face every time I turn around in my office (since I’m writing this instead of cleaning my office, because after all, you’d do the same), so I might as well. Right?

Anyway, I have conducted quite a few workshops of myths and legends around the world (“Along the Silk Road and Beyond,” looking at faeries, dragons, vampires, werewolves/shifters, angels, demons, ghosts, water beasties, even “bigfeet”—if you’re interested in any of these, let me know!), examining how those myths are presented and change depending on where you are in the world, and how they’re similar and different, even compared with a culture that may be right next door. So I’m taking the Asian component of those workshops and merging them into data that works for Asian only.

I’m also prepping for this by reading this book called The Book of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster, about mythical creatures specific to Japanese culture. Foster is an ethnographer, so the presentation and topic is right up my alley (anthropology major, many years ago). Foster notes how some of those creatures he’s looking at may have non-Japanese origins, but they have definitely been shaped into distinctively Japanese myths. How’s that, you say? (Of course you did. I heard you!)

I could tell you…but let me ask this: What kind of scary creatures did you grow up hearing about? Let me explain why I’m asking. In my ghost workshop, I looked at ghost stories (yeah! It was fun), and I was amused and fascinated to discover there was a story about a spectral woman in white in many, many cultures and regions. In the US alone, I counted half a dozen, and I didn’t look that hard in American culture (because I was looking around the world and had limited time and resources). Of course, the stories about those women always had the female wearing an outfit appropriate for that culture and region, no matter if the sighting was in Malaysia or Texas or New Jersey. The stories are all similar, from sighting to realization (because there’s always contact with the living, a brief interaction, the disappearance, and then the realization that the woman was dead all along!). Ghosts are ghosts, no matter where you are.

But this isn’t the fairest of examples, because there are ghost stories wherever there are live people, with memories to remember the dead. Or history in general, actually. But the flip to that is the myth of the werewolf, which morphs into the myth of the shapeshifter in regions where the wolf isn’t native. (If you run across a story about wolves in regions like the Pacific Rim, you know you have a borrowed myth because—can you guess? That’s right, there are no wolves around there.)

So what are the scariest stories where you are? Why do you think those are unique to where you live?

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for 40 years, working with academia, technology, and finance nonfiction, and romance fiction. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at and reached at If you’re curious about her books, check out In any case, she can be reached at

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Footprints and baby steps #amwriting #IRink @liviaquinn

There's an analogy that's used to describe how writers should approach the marketing of their books. A single "Footprint" vs. many feetprints if you'll pardon the misnomer. But the analogy holds true and has a great deal of merit.

Late in 2011 I decided to self-publish after a series of weather mishaps that threatened to end my writing for good. That book, under a previous pen name ultimately became Undone. It was the right decision for me at the time and I'm not sorry I went that direction, even though there have been so many changes in the market since. I seem to always be at the end of a trend. ;)

So, I published my little book expecting big things... then pretty much walked away. Not on purpose; my business required my time more than ever, but honestly, I didn't know what I was doing. Finding one little book on Amazon is like finding a particular grain of sand on that beach.  I was learning about the footprint theory, and I learned a lot from that experience. In 2014 with more books under my belt, both partials and final drafts, I decided to restart my writing career. I started fresh with a new pen name, set a goal to publish three books before the Romance Novel Convention in July and three by the end of the year. I accomplished that goal and didn't see any reason why I couldn't continue at that pace for a couple years.

I made a small spreadsheet to brainstorm my prospective minimum and maximum word counts for the year (by month). It was an eye opener. It can be adjusted on the fly when you see something coming up like a two week trip, busy summer plans, or a heavy workload. It's a wonderful tool to encourage you when you think your writing isn't getting anywhere. When I convert my smaller total into books, I get two or three novels, one or two novellas, or a possibility of 3-5 books for the year with the minimum written.

I anticipated being able to follow my "maximum" guidelines but then it was like Tom Brokaw came on TV saying, "We interrupt this lofty writing plan to announce some major changes in your dayjob, your husband's health, and the hit to your writerly budget. Oh, and by the way, did you forget to factor in the maintenance of your published books? social media? promo? newsletters? new covers, formatting and uploading revised books and new books?  Add to that, scheduling of events and followup with readers and other authors?"

Boy, did I!  In 2015, I only published 4 books (the reason for that second column ;) It took seven months to write the first one but it got done.)

In December, I decided to remove my books from KDP select and put everything on Kobo, Nook, Itunes and ARe as well to widen my readership and hopefully increase sales. This took almost three months because there was constant correcting of files, pricing, descriptions, formats, links, "also by" pages... the list goes on.

By mid March my business was in FULL swing and I was again behind on book 5 of my paranormal series. So here I am having just put my newest book, Take These Broken Wings, up for preorder on those sites for September.

Once again I'm reminded that I can only do what I can do and have a semi-balanced life. Still the long range plan is to keep adding to that footprint. As of now, I have published eleven books. Hopefully, by the end of next next year, I'll be closer to twenty, but who knows? Life has a funny way of getting in the way.

Self-publishing is very hard work. You're the "man" no matter how things go. And if you're in it for the long haul, you just gotta keep plugging until you look over your shoulder and see a nice wide footprint.

Can you share your experience with publishing either traditional or self-publishing? Do you struggle to stay on track? I'm here to tell you - You CAN do this! Just don't give up.

Baby steps are better than no steps.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Think You Know Tulips? Thirteen Surprising Tulip Facts

This looks like a rose, but it's a tulip.

Tulips are probably one of the most recognized flowers. Currently, you can see the late spring bloomers in gardens and in grocery store bouquets. Tulips are a pretty common sight in April and May, at least in Wisconsin, but there are things about tulips that may surprise most of us.

This is rose.
1.Did you know that parts of the tulip are edible? You can eat the petals.
2. Supposedly, they have a range of flavors. I’ve not snacked on any myself, but several of my sources say the petals might taste like a bean or like a lettuce leaf or they might have no taste at all. 
3. Apparently, during WWII there were many food storages, so people resorted to eating tulip petals.
4. Most people though don’t value tulips for their taste. They like the tulip’s bright colors and the tulip’s almost perfectly symmetrical shape.
5. In fact, it’s the tulip’s shape that inspired its name, delband, a Persian word for turban. I’m not sure how that became tulip, but I suspect that it may have happened as tulips were carried from country to country. 
6. Originally, tulips grew in Asia. 
7. They still are very popular there. In fact, they are the national flower for both Turkey and Afghanistan.
8. But most people think of the Netherlands when they think of tulips. 
9. That’s probably because the Netherlands is still the world’s leading producer of tulips. 
10. One of my sources claims that the people in the Netherlands grow as many as 3 billion bulbs every year.
11. The man most people credit for starting the bulb industry in the Netherlands was a Flemish botanist named Carolus Clusius. 
12. When he became the director of Leiden University’s botanical gardens, he planted some of the first tulips ever grown in the Netherlands. That was around the year 1593.
13. And that was just the start. Carolus Clusius discovered a virus that altered the shape and color of tulip petals. He experimented and created a number of unique tulip varieties. This inspired tulip mania, an enthusiasm for bulbs, which caused what one source dubbed “an economic frenzy” around 1637. During the time, bulbs were sold at hugely inflated prices. It seems everyone wanted some tulips. 
This might be an example of one of the "broken tulips" Carolus Clusius developed 

I have to confess. I’m a bit of a tulip maniac, myself. I really enjoy growing them and I love sharing them. I hope that you’ll enjoy the virtual bouquets.



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An Oldie But Goodie

We're going into writing conference/pitching season, so I thought these tips from a horror convention way back in 2005 - while old, are still timely - would be helpful to you all.  Feel free to ask questions if you have 'em...

Ten Things We Learned About Pitch Sessions

1. Don't be late for your pitch session. Editors and agents hate "dead time." Besides, it's really hard to tear them away from talking to Peter Straub or whoever else came along to shoot the breeze in the meantime when it's time for the next guy's pitch session.
2. Don't open your briefcase in front of you and unpack as though you were moving into a hotel room. They aren't going to take everyone's material home with them, and they don't need it to hear your pitch. Besides, they want to see your face, and they can't over your briefcase lid.
3. Do dress the part. If you dress like a clown, sure they'll remember you. But not necessarily the way you want them to. Remember, to an editor, horror is only a genre, not a way of life.
4. Don't pitch seven things at once--but do have a couple of backup things ready, in case the agent or editor is clearly not interested in your main choice.
5. If they ask for the manuscript, SEND IT! Don't try to second guess them as to whether or not they're really interested.
6. When they stop talking, it's time for you to leave.
7. If you butt in without a pitch time, it will annoy the agent or editor, so don't do it.
8. If you don't have a pitch time (and do have a con membership), and really, really meant to schedule one, but forgot, and are willing to hang out and wait, people will try to get you that session you really, really need now. Especially if you help.
9. Hang with the pitch organizers, and you may get to eat lunch with the editors.
10. If you need the room cleared, Mr. Harlan Ellison will oblige (or we can find someone who will).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Building Workshops Are Fun!

A while ago, I was invited to give a workshop in another state. The invitation came from a writers' organization, and I had to come up with a workshop. They pretty much gave me carte blanche, and after some addled thought (I was on deadline), I pitched one, and they accepted.

Mind you, I have a list of a couple dozen workshops I've given in the past (I like doing them, both online and in person; I come from a long line of grouchy academics, so coming up with this stuff is second nature), but for this occasion I decided to come up with something new. The workshop was in April, so I began research. It was fun! Well, research is always fun.

And research can be all-absorbing. As much as I wanted to keep going on, I had work to do, work that took precedence. And so I did the work, kept making notes for the workshop, until I finally had a week to do the work I needed for the workshop. Only a week.

Now, I don't like rushing for a deadline. I do deadlines all the time, but I plan for them. But I also had work that took precedence. But I finished the work for the workshop, in plenty of time and days to spare, but I figured I would take this opportunity to ask: How people deal with deadlines? Do you plan for them, or do you ignore them as they loom, forcing you to go crazy at the end? Inquiring minds want to know!

Eilis Flynn writes, edits and presents. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Body Language

Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

Body language can be an important way to make your writing become more three-dimensional, so readers can feel and see and imagine what your characters are saying and doing.  Movements and facial expressions can communicate many things to the reader – thoughts, emotions, ideas.  The movements can include props or other people, each one carefully placed to show something about the characters and the scene.

There is also psychology to body language.  One of the most commonly recognized posture symbols is the crossed arms over the chest, which can signal many things:  A person erecting a barrier between themselves and others; a resistance or defensiveness to what someone else is saying; even just that the person’s arms are cold (which can be further clarified by rubbing of the arms as they are crossed).

Every movement your characters make can be significant of something.  For example, if the hero is standing with arms crossed because someone is telling him something he is resisting, the other character can offer him a drink or a snack or even a handshake, removing the hero’s defensiveness by causing him to release his arms.  Such simple things can make a scene deeper and more touching.

Standing too close or face to face with another person can be considered confrontational or an invasion of the other person’s “bubble.”  People who are just “chatting” will stand farther apart, often positioned side by side or across a table.  This is often more true of men than women; however, other clues can be used to show to show if the characters are being confrontational or being careful not to be confrontational.

Eyes can be part of the body language description used.  Keeping eye contact is considered truthful, trustworthy and honest; however, if the person keeping eye contact is moving around, fidgeting, they may not be giving their full attention to what is being discussed.  Averted eyes can show anxiety disorder, disbelief, shame and other emotions.  Unfocused gaze, tilting of the head or both can indicate boredom or wandering attention.

There are a lot of books and articles about body language to be found in libraries and bookstores.  I also discovered a veritable treasure trove of Internet information on body language to help writers use the right movements, facial expressions and props to make your writing come alive (see below).  

Happy writing!