Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thirteen Zinger Questions

A while ago, we talked about conversation starters. Well, yesterday while I was proctoring a test, I found this fabulous list of questions and I knew I had to share with you.

1. If you had an endless supply of any food, what would you get? I think my answer would change depending on the time, but today I’m going to say ice cream-- all different flavors. The kind of ice cream you can get when you drive up to a custard stand.
2. If you are an animal what would you be and why? I’d be a raccoon. I like how they’re smart and they can pretty much get into anyplace they want to get into. When I was a camp counselor, the raccoons were able to turn the knob on the unit house store door and then open the refrigerator and helped their selves to all of our food.
3. When you were little who is your superhero and why? Robin. My brother was Batman and I wanted to play with him, so I always chose Robin.
4. Are you a morning or a night person? Morning.
5. What’s your favorite thing to do in the summer? Be outside. I like to hike, garden, picnic and just enjoy the sunshine and the nature around me.
Tulips from my garden

6. What’s the weirdest thing you ever ate? Deep-fried grasshoppers.
7. What are your favorite hobbies? Reading. Writing. Photography. And people watching.
8. What’s the ideal dream job for you? Easy. It’s the teaching job I have now.
9. If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic comedy, an action film, or a science fiction? Hard question. I’d like it to be a romantic comedy. That said it’s still unfolding, so I have to let you know at the end.
10. Tell us about a unique or quickie habit of yours. I write fiction, which means I often talk to myself imagining what my characters are saying to each other. Sometimes people catch me doing it.
11. If you are an ice cream flavor, which one would you be and why? I’d be vanilla because it goes with everything, but I’d keep changing my toppings.
12. If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be? Creative. Energetic. Kind.
13. If you could visit a place in the world, where would you choose to go and why? I couldn’t just pick one place. There’s so many wonderful spots of the world that I haven’t seen—I’d like to visit every country at least once.

I think you’ll agree these questions are really interesting. You’ve probably learned a lot about me in this reading, and I’d like to learn about you. If you’re up for it, I’d like you to pick one question and answer it in the comments. Thank you.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thirteen Snapshots of the Wisconsin Romance Writers' 2015 Write Touch Conference and Barbara Vey's Reader Appreciation Luncheon

Just so you know, this Write Touch Conference was my favorite so far. The writers, agents and editors were super approachable. On Friday, I used the suggested conversation starters readers gave me and I made some new friends.

On Saturday at the luncheon, which Barbara Vey had for readers I collected a huge bag of books and then I won another basket of books from Ruthie Knox. I’m looking forward to lots of happy hours with the new stories.

Then, on Sunday, I learned useful things from Mary Buckham, our keynote speaker.

To thank you for your suggestions and to share some of the weekend’s fun with you, here are thirteen pictures.

1. Barbara M. Britton and Kathryn Albright 
2. Jody Allen and Cheryl Yeko
3. Carla Luna Cullen and Karen I. Miller

4.  Molly Maka and Tricia Quinnies
5.  Maureen Welli, Victoria Hinshaw  and Mary Buckham
6. Winning a basket of dirty laundry and books at Barbara Vey's Reader Appreciation Luncheon
7. Donna MacMeans at her table
8. Another fun table at Barbara Vey's Reader Appreciation Luncheon
9. Gina L. Maxwell 
10. Mia Celeste and Ruthie Knox and the box of her books I won. 
11. Tess Gerritsen and Mia Celeste

12. Michelle Grajkowski and Winnie Griggs at Winnie's Table

13. Kate MacEachern

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Setting & Description as Secret Characters in Your Story

By Elizabeth MS Flynn w/a Eilis Flynn

What lingers in your mind when you finish a great story? Sometimes it’s the hero or the heroine. Sometimes it’s the crisp, crackling dialogue that made you laugh out loud (sometimes in public, embarrassingly enough) or bawl (also sometimes in public, definitely embarrassingly enough). And sometimes, whether you realize it or not, it could even be—gasp!—the setting.

Every part of a story can be memorable and stick in the minds of the reader. Setting is an unappreciated factor in so many stories, but without it, truly memorable stories could fall flat. Setting and description can be very, very memorable. Every story has a setting, and it’s a character in its own right. Setting and its description has a voice of its own, and it needs to be heard. Believe it or not, the setting of your story should be as well-defined as any of your human characters, and certainly something that you remember after you finish the work, writing it or reading it. How can you make the settings of your stories so memorable that it lingers in your readers’ minds as much as the hero and the heroine and the dialogue?

Think of weather, rain as miserable as mud or snow soft and deadly. Think of climate, always hot and sticky and humid. Think of seasons, whether summer or spring. Think of the lamppost always shining in the eternal snow in Narnia at the beginning of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (where it’s always winter but never Christmas). All of it comes together to shape your story and sticks in your imagination.

What’ s an example of a memorable settings? Manderley, of course. The great estate that is the center of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is a wonderfully memorable place, filled with wealth and sumptuousness and creepy servants who have it out for someone whom they think wants to replace their favored mistress. Will we ever see Manderley itself, for real? No (although there are various houses that are thought to be the basis of the house). Will we ever see Thornfield Hall, the home of Edward Rochester, the hero of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre? No, but we’ll always look up at great houses and the small window at the top, and remember the attic forever holding a crazy lady locked up there. We’ll always remember, in our mind’s eye, what the house must have looked like in its heyday, and what it looked like after it was set on fire, then in smoldering ruins.

Your setting can stay in the imagination of the reader for as long as he or she remembers the characters or the story. What’s the secret? Come to my online workshop at until May 17 and find out how to make your settings and descriptions as haunting as the authors we examine!

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 more than 35 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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

At a Writer's Conference? Suggestions for Making Small Talk

This weekend, April 24-26, 2015, the Wisconsin Romance Writers are hosting the 2015 Write Touch Conference at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, featuring Mary Buckham, who will give a workshop called, “Down and Dirty Ways to Create Stronger Characters.” Also there will be many agents, writers and editors like: Jade Lee, Cindy Dees, Damon Suede, Jessica Sinsheimer, Shauna Summers, Candace Havens, Nicole Resciniti, Sara Megibow, and Mary Altman.

Mary Buckham

I’m looking forward to attending and meeting everyone, but at the same time, I’m shy and I can be a little socially awkward. In the hopes of helping myself as well as others, I’ve decided to research and post thirteen writing conference conversation starters.

     1. What’s your favorite book?
2. Do you write? What would you love to have your writing compared to?
3. What sessions are you looking forward to the most?
4. Who is your favorite author?
5. What have you read recently? Why did you like or dislike it?
6. What’s the best thing you've discovered at this conference so far?
7. Why did you decide to come to this conference?
8. Where’s the bathroom? (This is probably not the best opener, but at least I’ll get an “I don’t know” response.)
9. Did you attend _____'s talk? What was your take-away?
10. Would you like a glass of water? Cup of coffee?
11. What’s your favorite day of the week? Why?
12. Do you like pets?
13. Do you write? What are you working on?

Okay, I think I’m almost ready to (gulp) chat up new people, but if you can think of any other good conversation openers, please leave them in the comments.

I’d appreciate the advice. Thanks.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Future Picks—What would you like to read?

People who read my blog often know I’m always on the hunt for something new to read. I’m positively addicted to a good story. With that in mind, I’ve been studying the Twitter hash tag MSWL, manuscript wish list, and imagining which new tales I might devour.

At Twitter’s #MSWL, agents, editors, publishers and other literary professionals detail what they’d like to see.

Here are thirteen I’d love to read.

  1. Veronica Park @VeroniKaboom  Mar 18 I love awkwardness, wit, and barely-there romances I can ship. #MSWL
  2. Garrett Marco @garrett_marco · Feb 18
Steamy Fantasy Romance. The three best words. #MSWL 
  1. Jennifer Azantian @jenazantian · Mar 3
I'd love to see some fantasy that plays at the edges of our world. Think @neilhimself 's AMERICAN GODS or NEVERWHERE. #MSWL
  1. Susan Hawk: A MG mystery or detective novel, especially with a historical element. Think FROM THE MIXED UP FILES or CHASING VERMEER.  Fast-paced, with complex characters. 
  2. Erin Harris @ErinHarrisFolio · Mar 6
#MSWL I want a beautifully written YA fantasy with great world building, in the vein of Red Queen and The Darkest Part of the Forest!
  1. Brian Geffen @Brian_Geffen  Mar 27
#MSWL Dark, dangerous, gritty YA that pulls no punches. Thrillers and mysteries in particular. A bit of strangeness is also welcome.
  1. Talia Benamy @taliabenamy  Mar 27 Do you have any books with awesome girl protagonists who break gender stereotypes? Send them my way!
  2. Uwe Stender @UweStender  Apr 4 I found 4 truly funny YA/MG manuscripts in 3 years. But I want to laugh more. Humor, wit, and great writing is my dream team. #MSWL
  3. #MSWLLaura Zats @LZats  Apr 2
#MSWL lighthearted SF for adults
  1.  Angela James @angelajames · Feb 23
I am *incredibly* interested in acquiring, publishing & building a shifter-focused paranormal romance series. I still want PNR!!#MSWL
  1. Michelle Witte @michellewitte · Feb 18
Anything that can be described as: gothic, creepy, eerie, spooky, sinister, surreal. Related: weird, odd, strange, bizarre, quirky. #MSWL
  1. Kathleen Rushall @KatRushall · Feb 18
Got a diverse or multicultural YA fantasy w/ beautiful writing, strong world-building and a kickass voice? I'm your girl.#MSWL
  1. Stacey Friedberg @StaceyFriedberg  Apr 1
I am aching for a beautifully written, super creepy YA or MG. Serious cravings, you guys! #mswl

What do think? Do any of the ideas sound like novels you’d like to read? What would you like to see? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Defense of the Info Dump

By Elizabeth MS Flynn w/a Eilis Flynn

Info dumps are BAD. That’s what we’re always told. Certainly they can slow down the story and even confuse the reader, but let’s face it, sometimes you NEED info dumps. Info dumps are an unwelcome but necessary part of storytelling, you know? Certainly in a story that’s not contemporary; if it’s not the contemporary setting you see around you, you have to set the scene, and if you’re dealing with the historical past (or even the prehistorical past or even the posthistorical past), the futuristic future, and the fantastical futuristic past or alt-past or…well, anyway. If it’s not the in the here and now, some info dumping is necessary.

What kind of info dumping is necessary, you ask? Good question! (Well, it should be a good question, because I am in essence talking to myself, or arguing with myself. And if I lose an argument with myself, I should worry. But that’s neither here nor there.) An imparting of information that sets a scene that’s not necessarily the easiest to understand right off the bat isn’t a dumping of information; it’s the quickest and most effective method by which to set the scene. You just can’t overdo it.

What’s overdoing it? Some people will tell you that overdoing it is when you get a little too enthusiastic about your topic and start pontificating. You risk immediately losing your intended audience that way. Just because you’re fascinated by the button detail of your hero’s boots doesn’t mean that anyone else will be. Your audience may be impressed to a certain point, but after they wake up after being lulled into a doze after the information about the button detail, they may decide that some other activity not involving button detail may be a better use of their time.

And that, of course, is the key. Make sure that there IS no better use of their time. I don’t mean sabotaging everything within the reach of each and every single of your readers, but make sure that all those details, all those info dumps, matter to your overall story. How do you know what truly matters to the story? That’s up to you!

If you’re curious about when and how to deal with the info dump, check out Heather Hiestand’s and my online workshop for the Futuristic Fantasy and Paranormal chapter ( and join in the discussion as we look at what’s an unnecessary info dump and what’s a necessary one!

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 more than 35 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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brainpower Boosters

No matter what your task, you’ll need to use your brain to complete it. And, if you’re like me, sometimes it seems the old noggin just isn't up to it. That’s when I wish I had a little help---something to reconnect and fire up all my synapses. 

Here are thirteen things a person could ingest to hopefully incite a brainstorm.

  1. Broccoli- has potassium, Vitamin C and K and a sluice of other nutrients and antioxidants that help the whole body. reports that, “research suggests that broccoli could help contribute to the brain healing itself in the case of injury.”
  2. Curry- More than one study indicates that the curcumin in curry helps memory, slows the progression of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and may even stimulate the creation of new brain cells. Don’t believe me? Check out this study.
  3. Water-It’s hard to stay focused if you’re dehydrated.
  4. Whole grains-Because whole grains release glucose into your bloodstream slowly, they can help you stay mentally alert longer than a quick jot of a caffeinated beverage.
  5. Green Tea-Along with its antioxidants which help ward off heart disease and cancer, it may even help create new brain cells. Something neurologists had long believed impossible, but just may happen according to this study posted on Science Daily.
  6. Salmon and pretty much all fish really,
  7. Nuts,
  8. Seeds,
  9. Asparagus,
  10.  Other leafy green vegetables,
  11. Olives,
  12. Eggs,
  13. and sage, contain an essential fatty acid, Omega-3. Perhaps my explanation is oversimplified, but this nutrient is important because to think a person needs the electrical signals that make up thought to travel through the brain. These signals must pass from one cell to another through each cell’s membrane, which is made almost completely of fatty acid. Omega-3 helps the membrane stay elastic with enhances the flow of those electrical impulses.

Well, I’m off to the kitchen for water and a brain-stimulating snack, but before I go I’d like to hear from you. What else could I eat that would be beneficial to my brain? I look forward to your suggestions.



Thursday, March 5, 2015

To Spring Ahead Or Not? Thoughts on DST

At 2:00 am on Saturday, March 8, 2015, I’ll lose an hour of sleep and I won’t be alone. According to Time and, “DST aka Daylight Savings Time is now in use in over 70 countries worldwide and affects over a billion people every year. 

DST is an hour change in standard time that was ordinarily implemented to conserve energy. When it’s in effect, it creates the illusion that the sun rises and sets later. I like the sunlight-stretching effect, especially when I can drive home after work and still have some daylight hours to walk or garden, but I don’t like losing the hour of sleep and I’m not alone in having mixed feelings the time change.

There’s a lot of debate about whether DST actually saves energy now that people have replaced the old tungsten bulbs with CFL (compact fluorescent lights) and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, which are more energy-efficient. Also, DST doesn’t factor in all the other electronics people routinely use that require more electricity than lights.  So many argue that DST might actually be consuming more energy than it saves.

Other people complain about the confusion that DST causes because not all countries implement DST and each country sets its own date for this strange clock resetting.

Yet, every year, most of us buy into DST and dutifully spring forward and fall back. That said we don’t do it without voicing our opinions. Here are thirteen.

  1. Daylight Saving Time: Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket. ~ Anonymous
  2. I don't mind going back to daylight saving time. With inflation, the hour will be the only thing I've saved all year. ~ Victor Borge
  3. Daylight savings time is tonight and is one of the best excuses for not being on time, needs to happen more often. ~ Anonymous
  4. I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves. ~ Robertson Davies
  5. Daylight time, a monstrosity in timekeeping. ~ Harry S. Truman
  6. I wish daylight savings time worked the other way in the fall...We could fall forward. Sunrise about 10am. Sunset, 9pm. Cool with me. ~ Anonymous
  7. Don’t forget it’s daylight savings time. You spring forward, then you fall back. It’s like Robert Downey Jr. getting out of bed. ~ David Letterman
  8. I know when it’s daylight savings time because it is pitch black outside and my body refuses to leave the bed. ~ Anonymous
  9. I say it is impossible that so sensible a people [citizens of Paris], under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing. ~ Benjamin Franklin
  10. Instead of daylight savings time, we just need to shorten the workday, so I don’t have to get up while it’s dark. ~ Anonymous
  11. An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later. ~ Winston Churchill
  12. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe “Daylight Saving Time.” ~ Dave Barry
  13. It seems very strange ... that in the course of the world's history so obvious an improvement should never have been adopted. ... The next generation of Britishers would be the better for having had this extra hour of daylight in their childhood. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

What do you think? Are you for DST? Against it? Or still deciding? Please share.