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!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Good News to Share

Hi, if you'd like to find out more about my news. Visit
Thank you, blog friends and readers.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

What You Can Learn From Watching Movies

This is an article I wrote a while back - but Hellboy came on this weekend, so I dug it out to share.

I was watching a movie the other day – well, rewatching Hellboy, if you must know – and I realized something I’d noticed many times while sitting in a movie theater or in front of my television:  Movies can help you write a book.

How?  I guess I should explain.  I do a bit of screenwriting, too, so I can tell you, the structure of books and movies is very similar.  They each have a three-act format, and consist of plot points, a dark moment and a climax.  They don’t always have a denouement (kind of an epilogue or explanation of the ending), but a lot of them do.

At my writers meeting this morning, I was using the movie The Rock as an example.  When I watched this movie at the theater with my husband, we actually told each other “plot point,” “dark moment,” and such as the movie commenced, because it was an almost textbook format.  The movie was good and did well at the box office, so they must have done something right.

The movie begins with our main character, Stanley Goodspeed, at work and then home, where he and his fiancee discuss their relationship.  Stanley’s fiancee Carla tells him she’s pregnant.  And then the government comes to get him, to take him to San Francisco for a national emergency, leaving Carla at home.  Stanley tells her to come join him in San Francisco and they’ll be able to be together while they’re there, then he leaves.

Goodspeed’s life changes when he discovers Brigadier General Hummel has taken over the island of Alcatraz and is holding a tour group hostage, threatening to bombard San Francisco with chemical weapons if his demands are not met.  This emergency not only requires his expertise, it requires him to be a part of the team who will go in and try to stop Hummel (plot point).  And he’s going to need help.

Enter John Patrick Mason (a handsome Sean Connery), the only inmate to have ever escaped from the island, long held illegally by the FBI for stealing a microfilm of government secrets – like who really killed JFK.  He agrees to help, but uses the opportunity to escape his captors and Stanley (cause and effect).  Stanley tracks him down; Mason has gone to see his daughter, and Stanley sympathizes with him.   A bond is beginning to form between the two men (plot point).

They join an expert SEAL team to breach the island through the underground escape route Mason originally used to escape.  When the SEAL team is beginning to doubt Mason’s knowledge, he gets through a large, deadly fan because he has the cadence of its turns memorized by count.  Unfortunately, the SEAL team is killed (first dark moment), leaving the two men on their own.  Mason’s not sure he wants to continue, but Stanley’s moral character convinces him it’s the right thing to do and he reluctantly continues to help.  Stanley’s not convinced he can be an action hero and Mason knows the FBI lied about giving him his freedom, so they work at cross-purposes until they establish a base of trust (plot point).
In the meantime, Carla is on her way to San Francisco, which makes Stanley more worried for her and his baby’s safety.  The renegade Marines on the island with Hummel are trying to find him and Mason; they want to kill them and use a hostage to try to get them to show themselves (raising the stakes). 

Hopefully, you’ve begun to see the pattern in the movie.  I don’t want to ruin the end of it for you, but I can highly recommend it, if you want to watch it.  Books do the same thing.  They give you a protagonist (or two), make you care about them and the people and things they love, then add in a antagonist (or several) who want to keep the protagonist from succeeding at their goal.  You keep throwing obstacles in the protagonist’s way, make them seem almost insurmountable, and then help them overcome them.  Near the end, the dark moment is when the protagonist begins to doubt they can succeed.  Every book, every movie, every story needs a dark moment.  It makes a happy ending even more satisfying.

The most important thing to remember is your protagonist will overcome and save the day.  It’s essential to bring that closure to your reader or audience, or they may throw the book across the room or leave the movie in frustration.  It’s not to say your protagonist can’t have help, but they’ve always got to be THE ONE.  While Mason helps Stanley get to the end, Stanley is ultimately the one who saves the people on Alcatraz and the entire city of San Francisco, including his fiancĂ©e Carla.  It gives you a good feeling when he wins.

Watching movies can help a writer learn structure, plotting, character development and many of the other things needed to write a good story, so the next time you feel guilty sitting in front of a movie, remember, it’s research.  Just don’t forget, to write a novel, you have to actually write.

Get to that keyboard!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thirteen Facts You Might Not Know About Daffodils

Did you know that many people believe daffodils symbolize hope? I’m with them. Golden petals inspire me.

Even though it’s April and the weather forecasters predict snow tomorrow, I’m excited because a few of my early daffodils are blooming. Daffodils are hardy. They’re one of the flowers that can withstand and even bloom in snow.  To me, that’s hope, which is probably why I’m a daffodil fan.
I’m betting you might be, too.  Here are thirteen other facts about them that you might not know.

1. Daffodils are part of the Amaryllis family. Sometimes they’re also called narcissus, jonquils and Lenten lilies.
2. But they’re mostly called Lenten lilies in Wales, where they are the national flower. In Wales, they say if you spot the first daffodil of the season, you’ll likely have a year that’s full of wealth. I wish the pictures of my daffodils have that effect for you.
3. Another rumor about daffodils is that they’ll bring good fortune if you receive a bunch of them.
4. But apparently if you’re given just one, it will bring you misfortune instead.
5. If you’re thinking about giving a bunch of daffodils, you should know that daffodils have a toxic chemical in their leaves and stems that can cause damage to other cut flowers you put them with.
6. This toxin, called lycorine, might be why deer and rabbits leave daffodils alone.
7. In addition, this toxin can irate a person’s skin. If this happens to you, you have a condition called daffodil itch. This hasn’t happened to me yet, even though I pick a lot of my daffodils. Hopefully, it won’t.
8. According to my sources, there are over 13, 000 different types of daffodils and they range in height from 6 to 20 inches in height.
9. Daffodils have leafless stems and each stem can have from one to twenty blooms.
10. Although most people grow daffodils from bulbs, the yellow flowers can also be propagated from seeds.
11. I’ve never tried growing daffodils from seed because I’ve found that if you leave the leaves after the daffodils have bloomed, the bulbs develop bulblets or little bulbs.
12. I also use bulb fertilizer because I really want more daffodils.
13. Several of my sources said that in Victorian times daffodils were a symbol of chivalry and that today gifts of daffodils are believed to ensure happiness.

That’s my wish for you. Please accept this virtual bouquet and we can share the happiness together.


It's Good To Be Back (Writing)!

Somebody asked me a few months ago if I had given up writing. I was shocked at that question and said no. But when someone else asked me that same question a few days later, I knew I had to get back into the game, back into the writing.

It's not as if I haven't been writing. I even had all the rights to my books, so I had to make sure to re-release those, and even self-publish the second book in the Sonika series. That one I finished early last year, and it was ready. It was just waiting for me to...what? Re-edit the first. (I re-edited everything else.  Once an editor, you know.)  So here they are.

The Sonika Stories are Introducing Sonika and the two short stories that follow up, both seasonal offerings, all together for the first time! It's available at Amazon:

Then there's Dreaming Beauty, the second book in the world of Sonika, where there are no super-heroes, but a man who finds a comatose woman awake in his dreams, and he has to find out why someone tried to kill her. You can find that at Amazon too:

So for the last two months, a new edition of this book and a brand-new book both! Boy, does it feel great!