Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thirteen Plus Photos of the Night of Romance.

On Thursday, October 9 from 6:30-8:30pm
at the West Allis Public Library, I and some of the Wisconsin Romance Writers’ very best authors attended A Night of Romance

The Wisconsin Romance Writer Panel

Here are thirteen pictures of the fun event.

S. C. Mitchell talks about writing.

L. J. Kentowski  and her books

A book winner

A. Y. Stratton

Exciting times-Liz Czukas and  S.C. Mitchell share a joke.

Gina Maxwell shares her books

Kat de Falla and Rachel Green

So many wonderful books to choose
Liz and Carla trying to listen while I snap pictures.

Tempste O'Riley

Sarah J.  Bradley talks writing

Tricia Quinnes and Carla Luna Cullen
Kathryn Albright and Cheryl Yeko


The authors shared their writing experiences and their books.  If you’re looking for a good read, consider trying one of their stories.

Thanks, and as always I appreciate you stopping by. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Talking about Fear: Thirteen Visceral Signals

How is a crime-solving detective like a successful gambler?  They both look for tells, those small physiological responses a human exhibits when he experiences emotion. Avid readers look for these signs, too and as authors it’s our job to make sure they find them. We’re told to show not tell.
Sometimes that’s hard to do, but I’ll help you out.
Since this is October, the month of frights, let’s start with a quick study in fear responses.
Instead of saying a character like Marcia is afraid something might have happened to Haley writers are supposed to give evidence. Here’s how Harlan Coben shows the growing lump Marcia’s fear created in her throat.

“And that was when Marcia started to feel a small rock form in her chest. There were no clothes in the hamper.
The rock in her chest grew when Marcia checked Haley’s toothbrush, then the sink and shower.
All bone-dry.
The rock grew when she called out to Ted, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. It grew when they drove to captain’s practice and found out that Haley had never showed. It grew when she called Haley’s friends while Ted sent out an e-mail blast—and no one knew where Haley was. It grew when they called the local police, who, despite Marcia’s and Ted’s protestations, believed that Haley was a runaway, a kid blowing off some steam. It grew when forty-eight hours later, the FBI was brought in. It grew when there was still no sign of Haley after a week.
It was as if the earth had swallowed her whole. A month passed. Nothing. Then two. Still no word. And then finally, during the third month, word came—and the rock that had grown in Marcia’s chest, the one that wouldn't let her breathe and kept her up nights, stopped growing.”

From Caught, by Harlan Coben

That old lump-in-the-throat feeling is just one of the visceral symptoms of fright. Here are thirteen more.
  1. Heart racing, skipping or beating loudly.
  2. Labored breathing
  3. Eyes widening
  4. Body trembling
  5. Upset stomach
  6. Sweating
  7. Numbness in toes or fingers
  8. Face blushing
  9. Tingling in hands, scalp or feet
  10. Swaying as if dizzy
  11. Tightness in the chest
  12. Cramps-the urge to use the bathroom
  13. Twitches or jerky movements
I’m sure I've left out lots of fear responses that can be shown. Help me out if you’d like and add to my list in the comments. Thanks.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beware the Info Dump, My Child

By Elizabeth MS Flynn, w/a Eilis Flynn

Say you’re starting work on your latest story. You’ve just done a ton of research on it to get all the details right, down to the outer ridge of your heroine’s boot, manufactured in Kokomo, Indiana, having a distinctive triangular pattern as a post-modern variation of a 15th-century Native American design from the Humptulips, WA, region. You are proud of what you’ve done, and who could blame you? Inspired, you want to bring the reader into the story and you want him or her to be as fascinated and intrigued by it as you are. But you make a small tactical error. Just a small one. You dump all this stuff at the beginning of your story so they can get started on the wonderfulness that is your story…

And you are left scratching your head when the readers don’t come, or they read the first couple of pages…and wander away, choosing not to continue. What happened? Why weren’t they fascinated? What’s wrong with them?!

Here’s the thing. You gave them too MUCH. You didn’t give them a little of the wonderfulness at a time. You scared them away! How did they not find that triangular pattern on your heroine’s boot to be the most fascinating thing in the world? How in the world could they not want to know how that works into the complex comedy of errors plot? How could they not want to know more with that flood of interesting minutia?

This musing came about when my friend Heather Hiestand and I started to talk about the imparting of information and how too much makes our potential reader wander off, bored, especially in today’s short-attention-span society. That’s the problem with info dumps. It’s too much, too soon, and our eyes, used to tidbits about the Kardashians and the latest about Lindsay Lohan, go blind with actual, useful information.

So how much research is just right? What’s the tidbit to work in, what isn’t? Here are some tricks and tips to keep in mind when it comes to making the best use of your research, along with some examples.

info dumps that work
Gone with the Wind:
Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father. But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw. Her eyes were pale green without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes and slightly tilted at the ends. Above them, her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in her magnolia-white skin—that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with bonnets, veils and mittens against hot Georgia suns.

Now you may ask, how the heck did Margaret Mitchell get away with THAT? Talk about a classic info dump!

Why’s it work?
Only with the second paragraph do we find out where the scene is set, in the Georgian country plantation where the family lives. So we learn not only does Scarlett get what she wants, she considers herself beautiful, and she has the world at her fingertips. This opener of Mitchell’s is famous because it is so infamously cumbersome. Whether or not you’re a fan, the introduction shows the reader that the story of Scarlett O’Hara is a story about Americans, a mixture of this and that and resulting in a character who’s flawed and foolish and conniving but strong enough to survive. So this is a case of an info dump that sets up the protagonist.

Then there’s the classic opening for
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.

Does it work?
This is an example of an opener that could work for you, or could not. Aside from the introductory sentence, the details that follow sets the scene, but depending on what you’re expecting to find, it can be considered intriguing or boring. And from what I’ve heard commented, the interest can also be split into forms of fiction you’re interested in, and even gender (behold the modern man, whose interest in classic suspense seems to be at an all-time low unless there’s blood or gore described).

What to describe? Describe the clothing, the surroundings, the setting only as it moves the story. Author Jacquie Rogers, who writes Westerns, has told me from time to time that she tends to skip over details in her stories, to the point that all her characters might as well be naked. Or “nekkid,” her word. That’s the other extreme. Research is lovely, research is glorious, but if it doesn’t further your story, it’s just a lump o’ words. AVOID LUMP O’ WORDS! They stop your story COLD.

Heather and I are presenting this information as a workshop for Emerald City Writers’ Conference in a couple of weeks. Let’s hope that we’re succinct and don’t go into info dumps!

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