Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas in the Rain

Here in the glorious Puget Sound, snow isn't a normal factor at this time of year as much as frost, freeze, and icy rain. Lots of rain. Oh yeah, rain rain rain. And in honor of this weather phenomenon, I wrote CHRISTMAS IN THE RAIN, what happens when rookie super-heroine Sonika goes out on patrol on Christmas Eve. She meets some unexpected faces, and realizes why warming up is a necessity, whether you're a super-hero or anyone out for a walk:

You can find it at:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H33RRNA

Enjoy the season, whatever you celebrate!


Friday, November 8, 2013

CONTEST: Zombies, Romance, and the Chance to Win a Free Book!

Today I’m excited to announce the release of my short story, PIED PIPER OF THE DEAD, in the zombie romance anthology Still Hungry for Your Love.


PIED PIPER OF THE DEAD is an updated retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, with Steampunk elements and zombies, set in a post-apocalyptic version of my hometown. No, no characters (zombie or otherwise) are based off of people I know, although the main characters are inspired by a fictional TV duo. And -- the best part -- my story is but one of 15 stories in this anthology. That’s a whole lot of zombie love. We’ve got traditional zombies, non-traditional zombies, zombies of various speeds, zombies who can be controlled by sound, zombies from around the globe. We’ve even got lesbian voodoo zombies, and I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty awesome.

October was a busy month for me, and November isn’t slowing down any. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the chance to celebrate! So tonight, I want to celebrate by giving away a free digital copy of Still Hungry for Your Love to one lucky commenter!

What’s the catch? There’s always a catch. Fortunately, this one requires no fine print or legal disclaimers. To be entered into the drawing for a FREE digital copy of Still Hungry for Your Love, just do 2 EASY things:
  1. Announce this contest on some form of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, your personal blog, YouTube (if you want to get really creative, I guess), or what have you. Like I said, it’s been a busy, busy month and I can’t get the word out all on my own :)
  2. Comment on this blog with the link to that announcement AND tell me your favorite zombie book or film.
Simple, huh? And you can even enhance your odds of winning. For every type of social media you spread the announcement on, you’ll get an extra entry in the randomizer. So, if you Facebook and Tweet the announcement and place both links in the comments, your name will be entered twice. Make sense? If more than 50 people enter the contest, I’ll even throw in some additional zombie-themed goodies, like a copy of my favorite zombie movie, Shaun of the Dead.

What are you waiting for? Start spreading the word and we’ll kick this celebration off right!


Contest is open until Monday, November 11, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. CST. Winner(s) will be selected randomly. I have one request - if you win, please leave an honest review of the anthology on Amazon or Goodreads. Honest reviews help authors, and we really, really appreciate it. GOOD LUCK!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ghosts Around the World (Hurray!)


By Eilis Flynn
Everyone’s got a personal ghost story, whether they’re believers or not. It’s that something that can’t be explained, something that no matter how much rationalization goes into it, remains a bit—off, somehow, sending shivers down your spine. And it’s not just a few people here and there, either. Every culture has a belief about ghosts.

With my friend and workshop copresenter Jacquie Rogers, I present a series of workshops looking at familiar myths and legends and how they change as we look at them around the world. I was an anthropology major and write fantasy and paranormal, so this works well into what I’m interested in. But as I was doing the research on ghost stories around the world, I realized something interesting. Most of the time I’ve been doing the research, it’s been more or less an academic interest I’ve had, research for the sake of research. But in the case of ghosts, there’s more than a smidgen of belief. No matter how rationally I look at ghosts, no matter how dry and academic, I know there’s something there that can’t be explained away.

Whether it’s a message from an ancestor or an odd vibe in a place that turns out to have had a dark past, ghosts are everywhere, in more ways than you can imagine. Well, maybe you can imagine it. Jacquie and I have gone through many forms of mythological creatures in our journeys along the Silk Road, and it wasn’t that surprising that sometimes we wouldn’t be able to find a true example, depending on the creature we were hunting. We found that stories about vampires are scarce in China (the hopping vampire was the best of it there), while werewolves couldn’t be found in native form a lot outside of Europe, faeries were thin on the ground also out of Europe (but then there were plenty under other names), and dragons could be found in variations, but ghosts … ghost mythologies can be found anywhere and everywhere. Where there is death, there is a ghost myth. There are feetless ghosts in Japan and hungry ghosts in China (complete with a festival to go with it), a friendy ghost named Casper in American kiddie entertainment, séances in any number of variations in every culture that has a ghost legend in order for the living to speak with the dead.

Intrigued by ghosts? Of course you are. We all are. Some of us are terrified, but we are still drawn by them. Before there were myths and legends about dragons and faeries or werewolves or vampires, there were stories about ghosts. As I mentioned before, ghosts—or more precisely, stories about and the presence of deceased ancestors or others no longer on this mortal plain—have been around since humankind itself has been around. As long as there have been people of one kind or another, people who have experienced death among their kind or against another, there have been ghost stories.

It’s not hard to say why ghost stories have been around for so long. Death and speculation about what lies beyond death have been the source of fascination for humans from the time that humans started to develop their own cultures. Was it that odd feeling of being watched when there was no one else around, or some sign that a recently deceased relative was somehow, inconceivably, sending a message from beyond? While there are many variations of how ghosts are perceived, one thing remains the same, whether as a source of comfort or terror: They are with us, unseen. Sometimes they indicate their presence, sometimes they are mute, sometimes the manifestation is human in form, sometimes when something is simply moved—the variations seem endless. As long as mankind has been sentient, there has been a ghost story waiting to be told at the fireside.

Come along and check out what kind of ghosts you can find all over the world. Let us take you on a walk around the world to examine those myths, and see how they shift, change, and evolve as we travel. We’ll be looking at ghosts all around the world at Savvy Authors (savvyauthors.com), starting on Monday, November 11, to November 24. Come join us and find out what kind of ghost story spooks you in particular!

Eilis Flynn and Jacquie Rogers can be found haunting their own websites at eilisflynn.com and jacquierogers.com.

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Zombie Time!

If February is the month for love, October is the month for paranormal. Forget the vampires and werewolves. Lately, the kids and I have been on a zombie kick.

When I was a teen my bedroom was in the basement next to the rec room, so after the rest of the family had gone to bed, I'd sneak out and watch B horror movies until the wee hours of the morning. The first zombie flick I ever saw was the classic Night of the Living Dead. It's black and white, super campy, but a classic nonetheless. Now, 30-some years later, I've been known to go around the house, randomly saying "They're coming to get you, Barbara." The kids just look at me like I've lost my mind, wondering who the heck Barbara is. The famous quote from the film is totally lost on them.

But come Sunday nights, the kids and I are all in front of the TV, watching The Walking Dead. Now those are some zombies they can relate to--if one can relate to shuffling rotting corpses. We've missed an episode here and there, so one of these days we're going to have to buy the whole series and watch it from beginning to end.

And who knew zombies could be funny? My son loves Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. (The kids discovered Twinkies because of that movie.) We do own those DVDs and he watches them over and over again.

We watched World War Z not too long ago. I'll have to say that I much prefer the slow zombies to the fast ones. Even in my less than athletic form, I think I can outrun the slow ones. Fast ones? Nope. I'm gonna be brain food.

One of my favorite zombie movies has got to be Warm Bodies. I've probably watched it a dozen times. Guess it's the romance writer in me. Combine flesh eating zombies with a Romeo and Juliet love story, and you've hooked me.

So what is your favorite zombie movie?


Friday, October 18, 2013

Halloween Magic

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is fun. One of my favorite things about this time of year is that for a month or so, it seems anything is possible. Even magic.

I have to admit, I believe in magic. No, get that picture of women with pointy hats standing around a big black pot over a fire out of your head. What I mean is everyday magic. Things we take for granted, but that if you stop and think, are actually magical.

The most obvious is the birth of a baby. Yes, I understand the biology. I can talk about DNA, and cell and sperm, and zygote. I understand the stages of pregnancy and labor and birth. And yet, there is something magical, something wonderful, about a new tiny human coming into the world.

To take that a little farther, there’s something quite amazing about a flower pushing its way from a seed and up through the soil to bloom with wonderful colors and sweet scents. The sounds of birds in the morning, the way the sun rises every morning (yes, I know it’s actually the earth moving). In fact the computer I’m typing on is amazing to me. The Internet on which I’m sending this blog to the Otherworld Diner is amazing. People from all around the world connecting and talking and sharing. I think that’s magic.

Just understanding science shouldn’t make us less appreciative of the specialness of us and our world. We modern humans seem to have lost the ability to be awed to be amazed.

To see magic.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Of Halloween and Bewitching Brews

October is my favorite month of the year. Temperatures begin to drop, the sun dips more quickly below the horizon, and the smell of pumpkin and apple treats is nearly unavoidable. Add in Halloween or Samhain (depending on how you choose to celebrate) and the excitement that always accompanies the last days of the quickly waning year before the real harshness of winter sets in, and you have what has to be the best time of the year.
I think of autumn as a sensory feast; not just for the eyes and mouth, but for the nose. Autumn has a particular smell. Leaves, pumpkins, apples, cinnamon and cider, dried cornstalks and musty hay bales. It's a smell I want to capture and store for the rest of the year, but one that no perfume or air freshener I've found has been able to duplicate. And now I'm going to ramble a bit in the slightly non-sequitur way my minds works, and hope you say with me to the end.

I don't like mass marketed perfume as a general rule. It bothers my nose and lodges itself in my sinus cavity and coats my throat, and that's just smelling it when it's attached to other people. If I actually attempt to wear it, I get ALL of those great benefits with the added bonus of the alcohol in perfume drying out my already ridiculously dry skin. That's not vanity talking; my skin basically hates me and if I spray certain types of perfume on myself, I will actually develop a rash in the exact shape the perfume molecules took as they viciously assaulted misted gently onto my body. Yes, I have the most awesome superpowers ever. 

Still better than Aquaman

Just because I can't wear perfume doesn't mean I want to smell like I'm not wearing perfume, though. If that makes any sense. And then, I found the answer. The answer, if you're wondering, is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. BPAL is fantastic. They specialize in hand-blended scents using essential oils and other natural products. Since finding them *mumblemumble* years ago, they've become my go-to and I have an embarassing number of imps and bottles scattered around my bathroom (that's a lie, I'm not embarassed at all). Their scents are just about all I wear (and I wear them happily, enjoying both the smell and lack of skin irritation), but that's not the part that makes my little writerly heart skip a beat. Oh no, it's WHAT they use when designing their scents, and I'm not talking ingredients. Actually, I'll let them describe their inspiration in their own words:


These are bookish scents! Perfumes of the highest caliber that are designed with LITERARY ELEMENTS in mind. There are scents inspired by the works of Neil Gaiman, Alice's adventures in Wonderland, the Last Unicorn, the seven deadly sins, even steampunk. Far too many for me to name, and the BPAL website itself is gorgeous, with dark gothic and romantic illustrations, poems, and quotes from the texts that inspire the fragrances. 

How does this all tie into October, autumn, and the obsession with that "fall smell"? Well, if you've hung with me this long, I'm glad you're still interested enough to ask. I was thinking about delightful scents I enjoy because I made apple dumplings today, and the thought of scents I enjoy of course lead me to the BPAL website for the first time in far too long. That's where I saw this:


If anyone can find a way to capture the scent I think of as Autumn, it's BPAL. Looks like October may be the perfect time to indulge in one of my favorite products :)

If you're interested in trying out some of BPAL's wonderful concoctions but don't know what scents work best with your body chemistry, or don't want to commit to a full bottle without first smelling it, there are BPAL forums and trading sites where you can get samples and imps of various fragrances at remarkably low prices. BPAL also has a presense on eBay and Etsy. 

I'm not being compensated in any way for this post (mores the pity), I simply adore BPAL and the product they make. If you're a fan of BPAL, let me know in the comments (I'm always looking for new scent recommendations)! If you're thinking of trying it out, that's awesome! Do you know any BPAL-like companies that you frequent for your perfume-related needs? 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Connecting


By Eilis Flynn

Sometimes blog topics are not easily forthcoming. Some months nothing comes to mind and it’s all you can do to come up with a subject that doesn’t embarrass you. Some months you know you are in the zone because you have not one, not two, maybe not even three! topics. Those are truly blessed times, because you don’t feel as though you’re pulling eyeteeth to write something. And really, nobody wants to do that. (Eating gets tricky, after all, without those eyeteeth. At least ripping slightly tougher forms of food.)(I would use the changing role of teeth as a topic, but somehow, I don't think this is the venue for it. Right? Tell me I'm right.)

Anyway, it’s October, and not only is it the month that relatively sane adults decide to dress up in bizarre fashion (and for the most part aren’t arrested for it) (see "Halloween for a Heroine," my short story, a sequel of sorts to INTRODUCING SONIKA, on sale now at various digital retailers! And I talked more about this last month for Otherworld Diner. End of advertisement), it’s also time for Emerald City Writers’ Conference in Bellevue, WA! At this event, sometimes relatively sane adults dress up in costume for this occasion, too, but not usually as zombies or faery princesses, more like office staffers, most of them with lanyards looped around their necks. It’s fun and it’s educational, and those of us who go to this conference on a regular basis can look forward to seeing other old writer-friends who come in from all over the world for the event. We learn, we reconnect, we can socialize with those who understand our unique travails. Yippee!

While Romance Writers of America's national conference can be and is an experience (almost 3,000-plus authors, editors, agents, and publishers all converge in one small area! The mind reels), the ECWC is smaller, more intimate, and most of the time you can be pretty sure to run into someone you know is there. Not necessarily the case with RWA's national conference (but it is amusing to run into someone who lives 3,000 miles away from you and never ever see someone who was on the same flight as you coming in). You can actually talk to people at a smaller conference. You can actually (and yes, there's that title of this piece!) connect with people.

And that's something that Halloween and conferences have in common, believe it or not. Dressing up in funny costumes? You are connecting with others doing the same thing. (Of course, if you dress up in a funny costume at any other time of year, you may find yourself connecting with the local authorities, but that's another topic. A surfeit of topics!) In the same way that dressing up in funny costumes connects you with others in funny costumes, conferencing allows you to connect with others with the same goals (with costumes not nearly as funny but sometimes equally odd or uncomfortable). In a profession that requires isolation for the most part, connecting at conferences is not only a delight, it is a necessity.

So that's what I'm preparing for right now. I'm conducting a workshop on the secrets of the smirking editor, explaining that it's not the material we're smirking at. What is it? That, of course, is the secret. So I'll be connecting in a whole 'nother way!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. Since she was laid off recently, she’s also looking for a job, which is why she started to think about connecting.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gettin' Organized

There are many ways to plan your book or series - stickie notes, blackboard, legal pad, just hauling off and writing and hoping the characters will "speak" to you, the author, and then there are outlines.

As a pantser I don't do much outlining but I'm fascinated when I see samples of this technique, always hoping I can one day gear my pantser brain in that direction. The closest I've come is dividing up my book in Scrivener which I've been using since 2007.

I found it interesting to see these examples by some well known authors.

Are you a plotter or Pantser? Do you outline? On paper or on the computer?


Livia

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Writing Sequels Are A Pain In My Butt


By Eilis Flynn
It’s one of those tried-and-truisms for writers that writing sequels is the way to go. It’s not until the author further delves into the world/universe that he or she has set up that the readers themselves become vested in the original story and the ongoing saga, the logic goes. I’m all for that. So why is it that it’s taken me way more than a decade to get back into the world of my super-heroine Sonika?

I wrote the original story in a short period of time (at least for me), from August to November 2001. I was at the gym musing about story ideas when I realized that what I really wanted to read was a story about a super-heroine, done the way that comic fans would do it, with an emphasis on characterization and proper choreography (often sadly lacking in other stories with similar themes). And it had to be a super-heroine, because guys are still most of the comics world and there aren’t enough logically created females of the super-powered variety. So I sat down and wrote it. And it was a joy for me, because unlike most stories I’ve written, Sonika’s story just came naturally.

I loved writing INTRODUCING SONIKA. I thought it out like a comic story, with a healthy dose of romance. Of course, that was very early in the super-hero genre finally getting the recognition it has now, so I had a hell of a time selling it, but my timing is usually crap for that kind of thing anyway. In any case, I got to build a world, super-powers, a super-villain, a super-heroine, AND a romance, and it can’t get any better than that!

And after that...I had some sequel ideas that I noodled around with, but I didn’t do much else with that. I usually say that I got busy at work, and I did, but that wasn’t the only reason. It’s the challenge of fantasy: once you create a universe, you have to populate it, you have to build the cultures, figure out how they’re different and how they’re the same. You have to figure out the method of money. What’s valuable, what’s not? Is the gold standard still in effect, or is the floating dollar? You have to figure out what social changes might have occurred in this new world. Now, Sonika’s universe is mostly like our own so I don’t have to worry about coming up with a new type of currency, but when you set up a situation in a parallel reality, you have to figure out what the status quo is in a world that has those differences.

Can you tell I was an anthropology major in college? I spent a long time thinking about these factors. Really, I spent way too much time thinking about it. (Now imagine those voiceover guys: “In a world where a super-heroine has chosen to make her appearance after the murder of her parents...”) But you want your world, no matter how close it is to our own, to work. You don’t want someone to think about the story, either during the initial reading or afterward, and realize: “Hey! That doesn’t make sense!” I don’t know about you, but when that happens to me, I am so disappointed. It ruins the suspension of disbelief. When I want to disbelieve, I want to disbelieve thoroughly, damn it.

So building a culture can be hard work. It can be tricky, it can be frustrating (the research involved can be both fun and arduous), it can be a pain in the ass. But when the culture is built...it’s a sight to behold.

So the sequel to Sonika...I finally wrote it. It took being laid off to finally have the opportunity to jump back in. “Halloween for a Heroine” is a short story, about how the evening patrol on All Hallow’s Eve can be weird and freaky and even dangerous. It’s short, and the cover is going to be fun. And now that I’m unlocked the door to that universe, I can’t wait to explore it again!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. Since she was laid off, she’s also been looking for a job, but in the meantime, she’s thinking about more Sonika adventures. Currently, INTRODUCING SONIKA is available at most online retailers and certainly at the Ellora’s Cave website. The original Sonika short story, “Halloween for a Heroine,” will be available on September 30.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What grabs you?



When I'm looking for a book, either online or in the local bookstore, I usually look at four things - the cover, the back cover blurb, and the first page, in that order. If the first paragraph doesn't grab me after reading the blurb, then I'm liable to move onto the next book on the shelf or the next online recommendation.

Covers are a given. If the cover is, um, tacky? or doesn't seem to reflect the story, I rely on the blurb. The trouble with that is often the blurb promises a story that just doesn't show up between the covers. Has that ever happened to you? Shoot, I pitched a story like that once, ;)

What I'm a sucker for is a great first line. Especially if the book is humorous, the first line can pull you in and the next thing you know you're staying up to finish it!

Here are a couple of my favorites.

"The trouble with dead people today is they have no decorum." Vicky Lobel

"It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." George Orwell

"The night I died I was wrestling the garbage can to the curb." Michelle Bardsley

"He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town."

The children's publishing blog has a page on great openings as well and many other awesome writing resources. Here's two from their site:

"The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.
I'm sixteen now, so you can imagine that's left me with quite a few days of major suckage." Libby Bray

and "The woods were silent, other than the screaming. " M. T. Anderson

You must have your own collection of favorites. Share a couple.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Comprehending Twitter for a Social Networking Idiot

I'll admit it. I don't understand Twitter. My eyes glaze over as I watch the tweets wiz by at light speed in the few minutes I'm on it each day. It seems like you have to live on Twitter 24/7 and wade through a lot of gibberish to catch any tidbits worthwhile. Maybe it's my social media ignorance showing, but the whole thing boggles my mind. But I'm trying to get better at it.

I follow authors I read and who write books similar to what I write (mostly paranormal romance). I also follow those same authors' followers who are readers. I figure if they like those authors' books, they might also like mine. There's no sense in following authors who write non-fiction or murder mysteries or erotica. I don't write it. I don't read it. There's also no reason to follow their readers because they probably don't read what I write.

I follow book bloggers of paranormal romance to see what's trending. I just went through a following binge where I followed a bunch of UK book bloggers. I'm really interested to see what they're reading since I'd really like to break into the UK market.

I don't always auto-follow back other authors. Why? Because if I don't read what they write, I don't need their promo tweets clogging up my twitter feed. Sorry, but it's true. I've also found there are some authors out there who follow massive numbers of people, then unfollow them shortly after to free up their numbers so they can follow more people in an effort to increase their follower numbers. I ask you, if someone has 85,000+ followers, how in the world are they going to see, much less respond, to anybody's tweets?

I try to pay-it-forward. If someone retweets one of my tweets or mentions me or my books or a review, I try to return the favor. Not always right away, but if they tweet something interesting, I'll retweet it for them.

I try to tweet about non-writing things. I know I get bored with all the constant self-promo from some of the authors I follow. A little is fine, but a promo tweet every 15 minutes all day long is a bit too much. I want my followers to know I'm more than just a writer. I'm a person, too. Hopefully an interesting one on my good days.

One thing I realized as I was writing this post is that I wasn't following over half of the diner peeps on Twitter. Shame on me. I fixed that this morning. *G*

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Item on the Menu



There’s a new offering today, but not food.

What? You’d rather have a pie?

 Sorry, maybe next time. The item up today is a book. My book, actually. Today is release day. The Ugly Truth will now be available in all the regular outlets in both electronic and print format.

Here’s a little tease:
If she can't believe what she sees, can she believe what she feels?
When photojournalist Stephie Stephanova visits Ugly Creek, Tennessee to help her best friend, Madison, she expects a boring visit. Then she snaps a photo of something she shouldn't have seen—and falls for a man  she definitely shouldn't have.

Jake Blackwood can deal with his scarred face, though not with his scarred past. A savvy antiques store owner with an eye for the finer things, he's never seen anything so fine as Stephie. But his history with Madison hampers his desire to get closer. So does Stephie's relentless curiosity about his oddball town.

As Stephie probes Ugly Creek's mysteries, she's torn between loyalty to Madison and her feelings for Jake. But when her snapshot threatens the secret at the heart of Ugly Creek, Stephie realizes she will sacrifice anything to protect Jake and the town he loves.

Check it out:

Other retailers coming soon

Have a great weekend!

Cheryel

Friday, August 9, 2013

Spontaneous Combustion and the Joys of Blogging

Despite being an introvert, I’m a talker. Get me with familiar people and a subject I like or find interesting, and I can talk more than most people probably prefer. It’s odd, then, that the hardest part of blogging - for me, at least - is coming up with something to say. Earlier this week, a friend and I spent our entire lunch break engaged in an in-depth discussion of the darker thematic elements beneath the beautiful surface of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Two nights ago, my husband and I discussed accidental adult themes in children’s books after he snickered through our son’s bedtime story. But when I think about writing a blog post? Brick wall. I feel like I have absolutely nothing of interest to talk about.

So, I tried to make a list of things I find interesting for possible blog topics.

The blank page, she haunts me 

Yeah…even I thought it was boring.

I gave up. In a fit comprised of 2 parts self-loathing and 1 part indignation, I decided to check my email as a procrastination method (like you do). A long time ago, I subscribed to an RSS feed of MSNBC’s “Weird News” stories. I checked that folder for the first time in ages. There was a LOT of junk; crazed beauty queens and goats as landscapers and a dead shark found on the subway. Okay, that last one isn't so bad. 

Possible explanation for HOW the shark wound up in that subway car 

There were also some really interesting and thought provoking stories. Stories about spontaneous combustion, secret Korean unicorn lairs, and new Chupacabras. This, I can work with!

This is, actually, why I subscribed to the RSS feed in the first place. Not for the news stories, but for the tiny ideas that spark to life while reading them. Take spontaneous combustion, for example. I don’t know if spontaneous combustion is actually possible in a real world setting, but think of all the possibilities it presents as a story device. Paranormal and speculative fiction are my genres of choice, so let’s put spontaneous combustion into a fantastic setting. Was it really “spontaneous”, or is that a cover up to mask the more nefarious truth? Was the victim smuggling black market dragons and one escaped? Was the victim really a casualty in the war between the fire elementals and the water elementals? Did the victim steal a cursed ancient talisman that activated suddenly, with horrible consequences? The possibilities are only hemmed in by the limits of the imagination.

 So, perhaps it's time I start thinking of blogging (something I struggle with) the same way I think of brainstorming new story ideas (something I *love*). Maybe the weird scraps of daily life that can be turned slightly and used as the starting point of fiction can also fuel blog discussion.

What do you think? Is blogging something you love, or is it more of a chore? Do you pull your story ideas from the strange and fantastic elements of the world around us? Did you see Sharknado? What do you think is the sinister, magical force behind all these reports of spontaneous combustion?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Introducing New Characters Into An Ongoing Series


By Eilis Flynn

I have been pretty open about my unexpected fondness for the TV show ARROW. Of course, I became unexpectedly fond of it when a news report on the first episode referred to a character as a “wealthy billionaire.” I laughed and giggled like mad and of course, asked my husband, who was at this point staring at me as though I’d gone mad, if I could meet a “poor” billionaire. And after that, I looked forward to new episodes for other such silly bits, until I just found myself looking forward to the show, period. Somewhere along the way, I went from looking forward to it for the sake of mockery to looking forward to it for itself.

Of course, part of the fun—at least for me; my husband still thinks I’ve gone off my rocker, because he’s not nearly as fond of the show as I am, but then he doesn’t watch the show for not only linguistic silliness, but also half-dressed, extremely buff men doing buff-men type things—I mean, he watches it for the PLOT, such as it is. Yeah, I can’t quite believe it myself.

Anyway, part of the fun is the over-the-top opera-like drama. On this show, the characters do everything except sing arias about opera-like things. They’re very dark and somber and considering how often people keel over dead (just like in many operas, come to think of it), they deserve to be dark and somber. It’s a little bit opera, a little bit Hamlet, come to think of it.

Now, with all the dark and somberness, we hear that there will be a ray of breezy sunlight coming to this CW version of an opera. (Hey, hubby, if you’re reading this, as I know you do, you may want to stop reading at this point, because I’m going to reveal something about the show for the coming year. And I know you hate spoilers!) To this story of “wealthy billionaire” Oliver Queen, depressed, suffering from PTSD, guilt-ridden, and probably more than a little troubled, the show is adding another character from the DC Entertainment universe, but in contrast to the dark Ollie (aka “the Vigilante”) Queen, it’s going to be Barry “the Flash” Allen, a character who is (in virtually all his incarnations) bright and cheery, as bright and cheery as the red and yellow uniform he eventually dons. Maybe all that cheeriness will be a touch diminished for the sake of the darkness that swirls around this show (instead of the pun-loving, chili-making, girlfriend/wife-adoring character I’m familiar with, he’s going to be hunting for something or other), but he’s still going to be brighter than most everybody else, I assume.

Now, this addition to the cast interests me, because the last thing I heard, the character was being prepped for a feature film somewhere down the line. Now, they’re talking about spinning off the character, eventually, for another CW show, maybe not a film. Or maybe a film.

Now here’s the thing. When you have an established series, you also have an established feel to it. In this case, it’s the pseudo-operatic quality to the story. Introducing a basically breezy character confuses me here, because light draws attention from surrounding darkness, right? Here, it’s like introducing a rap song into an opera. It just seems...wrong. Mind you, I didn’t think ARROW sounded very promising at all when they announced its premiere. But I was wrong, and so maybe that single ray of sunlight will enhance instead of distract from the gloomy opera.

If they give me an occasional linguistic goofball and Felicity Smoak, I’ll be happy. Except, of course, I’ll ask what everyone is asking (I’m sure they’re asking. Of course they are): what about Wonder Woman? The CW network had been talking about a young Wonder Woman show, but they promptly shoved that under the rug when they came up with this idea. Introduce Diana Prince, for crying out loud! Why NOT?

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. She likes to spend some idle moments thinking about super-heroes and some such.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How do YOU know when Summer's over?

This year I've been asking as I usually do of my young customers, "Are you ready for school to start?" and unlike previously years, I have heard only a resounding "No" from them. Some say they have just started enjoying their Summer and school starts next week, just as some serious heat sets in. Usually we have more heat before now but the last two years it's only been in the upper nineties, until now.

My snowball stand is booming in the Spring when kids are in school and they enjoy a reward for making it through the day. At about fifteen after school lets out I get the flood of customers wanting their usual "Spiderman", "Cinderella", "Wedding Cake" or anything else I can come up with. But as the Summer approaches and school lets out, it slows down.

I had a truck driver who came through yesterday who was amazed with the 108 degree heat index that I didn't have a line waiting. He said he'd never had a snowball but it sounded like the perfect thing. He got what I call and Xtreme, snowy ice stuffed with ice cream, doused with flavored syrup and condensed milk on top.

But that's usually how I start feeling the end of Summer. Business gets slower, parents start drooping, and I start hearing about football training camps. Yay! I'm ready for some football even preseason which starts next week.

How do YOu know Summer's coming to an end? And are you ready?

Monday, August 5, 2013

How Far Would You Go For Research?

I write historical paranormal romance. Not only do I have to make paranormal seem, well, normal, but there's a lot of research involved to make the historical time periods come to life on the page.

My first book, OUT OF THE ASHES, was set in Pompeii. Since I wasn't a NY Times bestselling author, I didn't have an unlimited budget to jet off to Italy to do research first hand (oh, how I wish). Instead, I did a lot of arm chair research: days at the library, hours online. I even ordered an old 1943 era tour guide of the ruins of Pompeii off Ebay. All that research paid off. A friend who'd lived abroad for several years read my book, called me up and fussed at me. "When were you in Pompeii and why didn't you look me up while you were there?" I told him I'd never crossed the pond and it was all virtual research. He paid me one of the biggest compliments ever. He said I nailed the setting and it felt like he was walking through the ruins all over again. Score!

My second book, FIRE OF THE DRAGON, was set in 13th century England. Obviously I couldn't travel back in time like my characters and experience what life was like in the Middle Ages, so back to the library and the internet I went. I chose to focus on the not so glamorous part of life back then. No castles, no royalty, no knights in shining armor. Well, okay, I did have knights, but they wore rusty chain mail and slept outside under the stars for the majority of the book. Still, readers of medievals tend to know their stuff, so I wanted to be as accurate as I could. So far, no one has called me out on any factual errors so I think I did a decent job.

The book I'm working on now, the sequel to DRAGON, has a rock climber as the heroine. This is the type of research that I "could" do first hand. I could go to Peak Experiences and take some indoor climbing lessons. Heck, my kids have done it lots of times. There are several places within an hour drive where I could climb sheer rock faces (with a guide, of course) and experience first hand what my heroine will be doing several times throughout the book. But I can't. I just can't do it. I'm terrified of heights. So again, I'm going to have to rely on books and videos, and perhaps an interview or two with insane thrill seekers who hang by microscopic cracks using little more than their toes and fingertips. I know I should try it myself so that I can relay the experience to my readers, but I'm just too much of a chicken. There. I've drawn the line at how far I will go for research. How far would you go?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Different Strokes

I entered my first RWA contest in 2007, the Romancing the Tome First Five Pages. I read my entry to my husband, who makes no bones about what he thinks of reading. The word "book" is spoken with vehemence in our household, unless it's a L'Amour or Johnstone or Brandvolt western ;) (A book arrives in the mail and he announces, "You got a "book!" as if I'd ordered by accident.) He only reads when he's forced to; when he's been forced inside for weeks at a time and has run out of taped "Pawn Stars", Pickers, duck and deer hunting shows, "Strike Force" ad Encore westerns. You get the picture.

So I was astonished and pleased when he listened to my romantic suspense entry and was very complimentary. And then, when I received my constructive and kind rejection letter from Wanda Ottwell at Harlequin SR he was incensed on my behalf. It was sweet. That was then.

When I wrote the next contemporary romance based on my experiences as a rural carrier, he praised the story and the snippet I read to him. But then I felt like something was missing and turned it into a paranormal. I got ready to enter it in te WRW contest and handed him the first pages expectantly.

After much eyebrow scrunching, grunting and several sidelong glances, he handed it back to me with a sigh. "You'll have to give this to someone smarter than me. I'm totally in the dark." (He doesn't do vampires, fairires, or anything that goes bump or hoodoo.)

Encouraged by the WRW judges and not daunted in the least by his opinion I pitched the story in Atlanta at Moonlight and Magnolias to an HQ editor who seemed excited to hear more. Ironically, she also wanted to see a contemporary version! This WAS daunting. I coudn't see myself doing two entirely different genre versions of the same story.

I also gave it to my girlfriend who reads epic fantasy. After reading it and the C.L. Wilson Tairen Soul books I'd sent her, she told her boss with whom she shares her fantasy reading, "Who knew? There's such a thing as chic fantasy!"

What is the moral of this story? I guess it's that there is a genre out there for everyone but if you really want beneficial feedback for your story, search for someone who reads that subgenre.

Do you, like me, read across genres of fiction? Do you read different genres for different purposes? I tend to read historical romance when I want to relax, maybe because I couldn't in a million years actually write it.

I guess another lesson for me was not to let friends and family read my writing. ;))

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Looking at Two Pop Culture Staples


By Eilis Flynn

Over our anniversary week, the hub and I went to see three movies. Since I was laid off, we haven’t been indulging in such expensive fripperies, but it was our anniversary week (29 years!), so we figured, heck, why not. Last week on Otherworld Diner, I looked at the first of these three movies, Iron Man 3, and why it just didn’t have the same charm and even, if you’ll pardon the term, magic of the previous two. And The Avengers, but since that movie made more than a billion dollars, it must have charmed a lot of people (or magicked them, but that’s another topic altogether). Today, I’m going to tell you why Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness also didn’t have quite the charm and (yeah yeah) magic that we were hoping for. It’s a good thing we had a good anniversary week, because otherwise, collectively they were three movies with serious flaws.

First of all, Man of Steel. The hub and I met through comic books, particularly from the source comic book company, so we have an emotional bond with Superman and his Supie family. But the previous Supie movie, Superman Returns (SR), was terrible. No way around it, it was terrible, terrible, terrible. I will never be able to look at Kevin Spacey or Parker Posey again, and let’s not mention Brandon Routh. (Seriously, let’s not. He was tolerable in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but I get a tic when I think about his performance in Superman Returns.) Man of Steel was much better. It still had pretty serious flaws, but one of them was not the casting of Henry Cavill, an Englishman best previously known for another costume drama, The Tudors. Cavill was (I assume) cast for his acting credits and not because he had some vague resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, because he really made me believe that a man could fly. And be all Midwesterny super-heroey. (His line toward the end, when he comments that the American military wants to know “where I hang my cape,” must have been one that a native Brit had fun chewing on. And why not? You don’t get to use idioms like that in The Tudors!)(Then again, knowing Shakespeare’s tendency to come up with slang that has lasted through the centuries, maybe he invented that too. Anyway.)

So Henry Cavill was the bright spot. As a villain, Michael Shannon was good too. Except for the disappointing casting of Amy Adams as Lois Lane (better than Kate Bosworth, but still not very good), I couldn’t complain about the casting that much. Too bad they couldn’t bother to think about the script as much as they did the casting. I have a rating system that, instead of stars, uses “rewrites.” Great movies don’t require rewrites at all or very few, while bad movies need many. (Example: Superman Returns I rated a four to five rewrites. And that was kind. I also wanted to dump my stock. In fact, I think I did.) This was a movie that did fairly well in that regard: There were chunks that clearly needed rethinking—Jonathan Kent’s death was horribly orchestrated and frankly made no sense, for example. It was a bit that read as though it had been written by a video game junkie who hadn’t been allowed out of his room for a decade. The destruction and carnage of not one, but two cities/towns, had clearly been plopped down there by the same video game junkie who sat in front of the screen drooling and no longer had the higher mental capacity to come up with a more sophisticated scene. And the final solution for the villain? Sloppy, sloppy writing. So many better choices, but the drooling video game junkie can only come up with a poor one.

Then there’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Sigh. Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel were remarkable in their widespread carnage and destruction, and that seems to be the theme for the summer. While there are rough totals out there on the Internet about how much projected damage would have been caused in a real-life situation in both cases (if, of course, a super-humanoid had fallen to Earth and an insanely wealthy genius had built a computerized, sophisticated suit of armor), there can be no such projected damage for that caused in this latest Star Trek movie, being as it’s all set in the future. At first glance, the destruction on first glance is less, until you start thinking about the destruction caused across space. The first Trek movie by JJ Abrams had promise; for the most part I liked the casting, even though the script there had its own problems (including the equivalent of Dad giving Junior the keys to the Ferrari because he’d done an adequate job of washing it). This film wastes that potential, and it was clear that the drooling video game junkie was at it again. The battle scenes were less onerous and a bit shorter, but the logic was equally missing. (Benedict Cumberbatch must be the palest human being on Earth not actually suffering from albinism. No spoilers or anything, but the casting here, even though he is a wonderful actor, is just WRONG. And also: at one point he twists his lips in such a way that it became obvious to me that he had studied the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas cartoon. He IS the Grinch!)

Anyway, there are plot points that make it clear that rewrites have fallen by the wayside in favor of destruction and slapping in bits from the original Star Trek TV series, courtesy that same drooling video game junkie. Not to mention the Starfleet Academy uniforms reminded me of Nazi uniforms, which really was an uncomfortable realization. Was it Abrams making a point, or did he let that video game junkie drool on something he shouldn’t have?

All three movies had good points, and they all had bad ones. If nothing else, all three gave us hours of discussion over dinner. And after 29 years of marriage, that’s not such a bad thing!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook (@EilisFlynnAuthor), Twitter (@eilisflynn), or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. See these movies to make up your own mind! But keep an eye out for the drooling video game junkie.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More boom! More bust! Is that all there is?

by Eilis Flynn
To celebrate our 29th anniversary, the hub and I decided to see the three movies out currently that we've been meaning to see: Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and Star Trek Yet Again (sorry, Star Trek Into Darkness). Today we saw IM3, the first of the three. We enjoyed it. I rated it as a half rewrite or one rewrite, which in our rating system is quite good (the numbering refers to the number of rewrites the script would have needed to reach perfection, which of course is not easy at all).

But ... it could have been better (which is why the rating). Robert Downey was fabulous, but even he seemed a little strained to sell the anxiety-plagued Tony Stark. And that's why I knew that the final rewrite I thought it needed would have helped. Downey has shown himself to be capable of breathing true life into what was (in my opinion, but then I'm not a Marvel fan) a flat character. He infused Stark with charm, reason, and even GMC (that's goal, motivation, and conflict, for those of you not in the writing game). But he seemed to press at being afflicted with PTSD. (That the character would suffer from it would make sense; the events--referred to in passing nicely, and reacted to logically by Stark--would be enough to unnerve someone who lived solidly in the real world.)

The other events and characters--the cute kid, the near death and coma of another major character--also seemed to be calculated, and the previous movies didn't have that quality. Again, it's not that I didn't enjoy the movie; it just seemed less organic than the others.

Or maybe I'm just too jaded. The big explosions, the army of empty suits, Gwyneth Paltrow in a sports bra--it seemed like it was pandering to the main part of the audience, males 13-49. The army seemed more than a little nightmarish, the big explosions just there to be the big booms that the audience expected. Paltrow had more to do this time, which was a good thing. (I didn't think hanging around in the sports bra was necessary, but again, clearly I am not the target audience!)

In all, though, I think those things basically denote what this movie, as enjoyable as it was, really is: a summer blockbuster. So it worked for what it was designed for. But I can't help but wonder how much better it could have been with just one more rewrite.

Eilis Flynn is the author of fantasies and, many years ago, a few comic book stories. She lives and works in a fantasy world when she's not editing professionally as Elizabeth MS Flynn. She can be reached at eilisflynn.com, emsflynn.com, or Facebook, Twitter, or ... aw heck, just do a search. She's always around!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Indies in Action

When tragedy strikes, we often feel helpless to do anything but sit in the safety of our homes and watch the devastation and heartache play out on the news. We want to help, but we may be too far away to rush into the fray. Or we don't have the training to offer immediate aid, either by search and rescue or medical first aid. In the aftermath, we may not have the skills to help those who've lost everything rebuild. We want to do something, but don't know how.

Indies in Action, a group of writers, poets, and artists from around the world, have gathered to help those touched by tragedy. In May of 2013 storms and tornadoes ripped through the mid-western United States leaving destruction and desolation in their wake. IIA swiftly put a call out for submission of written works to be used in a charity anthology that has become known as Twist of Fate. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Twist of Fate will go to benefit tornado victims through the May Tornadoes Fund managed by the United Way. I'm very proud to be a part of this project. I may not live near Oklahoma, or have the skills to help rebuild homes torn apart by the wind, but I can put words on the page, offering my support and encouragement to those who have lost so much. Twist of Fate is now in post production and should be released as an ebook later this week, with the trade paperback soon to follow. Look for it online wherever books are sold. We can help those in need.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What Was That?


Where I grew up, there were a lot of trees and not a lot of people. There were roads without any streetlights and few houses. Driving down them, a person could only see as far as her car lights would reach. There were animals too. Dogs, cats, squirrels, possums, snakes. Sometimes something big would rustle the foliage. Most of the time the driver would dismiss the sight. Trust me, a squirrel can make a big rustle.

 Except maybe that was more than a little squirrel could do. Big dog? Local out walking in the dark? Serial killer looking for his next victim? (Quick, make sure the doors are locked). Sometimes the imagination would take a left turn, and the driver would start to wonder. Just how big a dog would it take to make that much noise? A person wouldn’t be walking out here in the dark, no matter how familiar they were with the territory, or what nefarious scheme he was plotting. So what could make that much disturbance in the trees and undergrowth? Maybe a bear down from the mountains? A bobcat or mountain lion? Or was it something else? Something different. Something truly scary? Maybe a bigfoot, or a werewolf? No, those things are just figments of somebody’s imagination. Right?

There are stories of mythical creatures in every culture and every tiny corner of the world. Stories of large furry critters that are human-like, or are humans who change form, are very common. There are many psychological and sociological theories as to why this is. Then again, maybe all those theories are our science-minded society trying to explain away something our ancestors understood as simply part of our world. Maybe, just maybe, they understood something we have lost contact with in our quest to be civilized. Real or not, maybe creatures we don’t understand are things we as human beings need. Maybe we’ve lost our ability to see beyond the obvious. Maybe we no longer know how to see the magic in our world.

So tonight, if you think you see something that can’t possibly be there, think about what your great-something grandparent would believe.

Be careful out there!
Cheryel

Friday, June 7, 2013

&@#^*@!: or, why I can't wait for World War Z

Summer is the season of movies. If you avoid sunlight, heat, non-walled natural spaces, and the beach (*shudder*) like I do, the escapism provided by summer blockbusters is even more anticipated. Forget the lazy river, a bucket of popcorn and a medium movie theater soda (which, incidentally, contains as much liquid as the typical lazy river) is all I need to get me through the dog days until fall.

At the top of my Must See list this summer is, no surprise, World War Z.

 
Words cannot express how excited I am about this movie, so I generally resort to high-pitched monosyllabic utterances and flailing. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, which may be a bit silly since I’ve read the book several times. But, this is one movie that can’t follow the book closely. Not just can't, shouldn't.

I’ll admit, I can be one of those people who have a hard time enjoying movies that diverge too far from the books on which they are based. My level of frustration tends to coincide the degree of love I have for the book and how necessary the divergences are from a story point of view. Stardust? Some grumbling ensued. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? CAPS!LOCK RAGE. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Let’s just say there was an “incident” during which “things happened” and I was “escorted from the theater," and leave it at that.  

But, I’m keeping an open mind about World War Z. This is one of my favorite books of all time (in the top 3, easily). It’s just amazing. If you haven’t read it…well, what are you still doing here? Stop reading and go buy it NOW. Seriously, I've embedded links to the top 4 ebook retailers. Come back after you finish what will be one of the most emotional and satisfying literary adventures of your life. It’s okay, I’ll wait.




Glad to have you back. Are you okay? No? I understand. Crying is all right, we all cry sometimes. Was it the whales? I bet it was the whales. That got me, too. No, I can't even talk about the dog story. Just...no. The feral kids? What are you trying to do to me over here, huh? It's all right, we'll get through it together. Come on, bring it in.
 
Group hug! Let go of all those zombie-induced feels.
 
As I was saying, I’m keeping an open mind about World War Z the movie, because if they tried to make the movie exactly like the book…it would be a catastrophe. World War Z isn’t a story that has one central character moving seamlessly from beginning to middle to end in a linear fashion. That’s not how Max Brooks shambles rolls. It’s more a series of vignettes (a word I just recently realized has a SILENT g *facepalm*). There is a beginning, middle, and end, but each section is comprised of many stories from different people recounting their experiences from the initial outbreak, the middle of the war, and/or in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. From the first signs of the undead in China, to the pandemic hitting African villages, to the Battle of Yonkers, and, finally, the energy expended by the living to take back a world that was overwhelmed. Seriously, the book is a ride. It hits all corners of the world and covers people from all walks of life, recounting their stories from different periods in their lives. Some narrators are reliable, some are not, and some have an agenda they're trying to push. All of the stories are fascinating and very few are connected. That’s why it wouldn’t make a good movie; not in its original state.

Movies are visual media, and the time we spend with a movie is far less than the time required by a novel. From the trailers (I’m avoiding internet spoilers, but figure the trailers are fair game), it looks like the movie will be following a main protagonist (Brad Pitt’s character) as he navigates the zombie-torn world in search of something that will save him, his family, and the rest of the planet. I think this is a great way to stage the movie, by giving audiences a core hero through whom we can experience the world.

Seriously? I’m counting down the days!

Are you looking forward to World War Z? How about any other summer blockbusters (Man of Steel  or This is the End, perhaps)? What are your favorite book-to-movie translation (Jurassic Park and The Green Mile are at the top of my list), and which ones completely missed the mark (here’s looking at you, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)?
 
ja