Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hooray for Summer! Thirteen Quotes to Celebrate the Season

Header from samulli

June twenty-first was the longest day of 2015 and the first official day of summer. To celebrate, here are thirteen quotes about my favorite season.
1. Ah, summer - that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It's a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends. ~ Darrell Hammond
2. One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter. ~ Henry David Thoreau
3. Summer: Hair gets lighter. Skin gets darker. Water gets warmer. Drinks get colder. Music gets louder. Nights get longer. Life gets better.~ Unknown
4. Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds. ~ Regina Brett
5. Some of the best memories are made in flip flops. ~ Kellie Elmore
6. Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it. ~ Russel Baker
7. Summer afternoon-- summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. ~ Henry James
8. It's a smile, it's a kiss, it's a sip of wine ... it's summertime! ~ Kenny Chesney
9. If you are not barefoot, you’re overdressed. ~ Unknown
10. Sun is shining. Weather is sweet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet. ~ Bob Marley
11. A girl in a bikini is like having a loaded pistol on your coffee table — there’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s hard to stop thinking about it. ~ Garrison Keillor
12. One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by. ~ Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
13. I love how summer just wraps its arms around you like a warm blanket. ~ Kellie Elmore

What is your favorite season? Do you know a quote concerning it? Please share.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Geeks and Gamers' Guide to World-Building

By Eilis Flynn
The problem with staring at the computer screen for hours on end is what you end up thinking about. Not necessarily the project at hand; instead, it’s quite possible you end up musing about totally unrelated things.

Like world-building. When you write fiction, you always build new worlds. No matter if you’re writing fantasy or you’re writing contemporary, you have to craft an existence other than the one you’re living in. Sometimes the existence you’re describing looks like the one you’re in but with some notable differences, and sometimes the one you’re describing looks nothing like yours, but whatever the situation, you have to make it interesting enough for the reader to want to stay in it for a while.

Welcome to world-building 101, the geeks and gamers edition. What’s the deal with world-building? Too much detail and nobody wants to hear about it; too little and your audience turns away, saying that they can’t “see” the world. What’s a good balance? What makes one created world memorable and another so very forgettable?

Could it be the type of world—you know, historical versus futuristic versus fantasy? What about the contemporary world? What about in comic books and video games and board games, for that matter? What makes each of them memorable or forgettable?

The specific genre or medium doesn’t really matter. Each has specific strengths and weaknesses, and it’s our job to identify, locate, and implement those strengths and overcome those weaknesses. Sometimes, when we are lucky, we can even identify and implement those strengths, and if we’re very, very lucky, we can even implement a strength from one genre or medium and make it work in another. But we have to identify them first.

No matter what you’re writing, the truth is that you have to establish and make your readers believe the world you’re writing about. Comic books and video games (and games in general, for that matter) have been particularly successful in doing this. After all that musing and staring at the computer screen, my friend Jacquie and I decided to examine the worlds and universes that comics and games have built, try to figure out why they work so well (sometimes even across media to film), and how we can use those concepts in our own writing, and we put it all into a workshop for the San Diego romance writers.

We’ll be taking a look at the worlds and universes of comic books and world-building from the viewpoint of games and video games. Is there some carryover? Of course there is. We’ll examine that too. Check out and sign up. It starts July 6!

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#PitMad-Prize Picks from the Twitter Pitch Party

Ever wonder what happens at a Twitter hash tag party? Or if you should enter one?

I’d say, “Go for it.”

Last week on June 4th, I participated in Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness at # PitMad and I wasn’t alone. SC_Author posted this tweet. “There are 31.4k tweets on #PitMad. Basically, if you don't get requests, remember there are 31.4k tweets. 31.4k.”

What’s a request, you ask. It’s when a connected professional in the book-writing business asks an author to send his or her manuscript to them.

 #PitMad, which is short for Pitch Madness is a hashtag event on Twitter where authors post a 140 character pitch or summary of their story. Then they hope agents or editors will favor their pitches, so they can send their manuscript to that agent or editor. Sometimes an agent reads the manuscript and offers to represent the lucky author.  That happened at this #PitMad! Jessie Sima left this post.

"Kelp always thought he was a narwhal. Turns out he was wrong. He's a unicorn. KELP, THE NOT-QUITE NARWHAL "

Thao Le, an agent, favorited the post, Jessie sent her manuscript and, long-story-short, a little while later, Thao tweeted this,"Big thanks to #pitmad & @brendadrake for bringing me and @JessieSima together! We just signed! Give her some love! <3 p="">
That’s the hookup most #PitMad participants are striving for, but it’s also affirming to be noticed. In that spirit, here are thirteen pitches I liked.

1. ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD meets INFERNAL DEVICES. Adele wakes in 1882 with no memory & is hunted by the undead she was born to erase #PitMad #YA
2. Witch survival 101: Don't trust seductive Mr. Hyde alter-ego of cute French boys. Damn. #PitMad #NA #SFF
3. During an OBE, she sees her HS janitor move a dead body; now she must prove he's a killer or be next to die #pitmad #YA IfIStay/RearWindow
4. Colonial America. The fate of his tribe rests in his hands. So does the safety of 1 woman. Trying to ensure both he, may lose all.#PitMad #HF#R
5. Two women research the history behind an abandoned mansion & find mental illness, secrets & isolation mirroring their own. #PitMad #A
6. A haunted CEO is forced to defend her sanity in France. Will premonitions and ghosts lead her to a deadly secret buried long ago? #PitMad #A
7. #pitmad She just turned 16 and already she's the target of a ruthless mob boss & a corporation with business offices in the afterlife. #YA
8. RED QUEEN meets the family feud of ROMEO & JULEIT when 2 teens are forced to battle to settle their families' vicious feud. #PitMad #SFF #YA
9. #PitMad Adelaide must reclaim her memory as a ghost hunter to survive the ghouls out for her blood and the brothers out for her heart #YA
10. 10-year-old Willa teams up with a witch, a purring coffee table, and an insecure shrub to foil her parents' plans for divorce. #MG #PitMad
11. Liam solves the biggest case of his detective career while flunking Bio, having Bday and spraying the suspect with air freshener #MG #PitMad
12. #PitMad US Marshal meets lovely witness. Fleeing for their lives, they fall in love. How will they ever part for the trial? #R
13. Outlaw Ava must choose: run forever, or fight the dragons hunting her—risking her best friend’s life. SERAPHINAxANGELFALL #PitMad #SFF #YA

What do you think? Do any of these pique your interest? I hope so.
I’m still wishing good things for #PitMad participants and still checking the hashtag for comments like Melissa Armstrong’s,"I just scored another #PitMad fave! There's still hope, people!"

Have you ever entered a Twitter event? Or thought about entering one? Please share.

Also, I'd like to give a big thank-you-shout-out to Brenda Drake for putting together contests like #PitMad. She's the author of LIBRARY JUMPERS.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Creating Super-Heroines

By Eilis Flynn

Why is building a super-heroine so different from building a super-hero?

Before I answer that, when you’re about to start writing a new story, how do you create a hero and heroine? Do you start with your hero, or do you start with your heroine? Depends on any number of factors, doesn’t it? Depends on the story you want to tell, right? Same thing with super-heroines and super-heroes.

First of all, you have to understand that they’re not the same. One isn’t better than the other; one isn’t more important than the other; one isn’t preferable to the other. Heroes and heroines are just different. And that is the case with super-heroes and super-heroines.

How are super-heroines created? To get some idea, let’s look at some Qs and their As about some super-heroines in pop culture!

Q: Who was the first super-heroine of the 20th century? (See, I have to be specific about the century, but I’ll get into that later.)
A. Wonder Woman
B. Miss Fury
C. Edith Cavell
D. Sonya

The answer is (B). Believe it or not, it wasn’t Wonder Woman. Journalist Tarpe Mills came out with Miss Fury almost a year before psychiatrist Charles Moulton Marston, the developer of the X-ray machine, introduced Wonder Woman. And Mills came out with her character on her own, as opposed to Marston, who spearheaded a committee to come up with Wondie. Wonder Woman is notable because she battled evil through the 1940s and the 1950s and went on from there, never really going away to this day, while Miss Fury fought crime in one incarnation or another before she went off into the sunset in 1953. (Wonder Woman, of course, continues to live, no matter how many versions of male creators try to kill her off.)

Edith Cavell was a real-life hero of World War I, a nurse who worked on the front. Amazing woman! But not our topic today.

Of course, Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, also introduced a woman warrior in a short story. It wasn’t a very big intro in 1934, and only diehard fans remembered her, but decades later, in 1973, Marvel Comics came up with Red Sonja, based on Howard’s character. There were big differences between Howard’s Sonya and Marvel Comics’ Red Sonja. Howard’s feisty character, who showed up in just one short story, was based in modern times, while Marvel’s Sonja was a contemporary of Conan the Barbarian and also held her own in a fight. Also interesting, but also not our topic today.

Q: Who’s the comic chick who went from girl to woman to girl?
A: Wonder Woman
B: Hawkgirl
C: Supergirl
D: Disco Dazzler

Sorry for the broad hint! Ahem. The answer, of course, is (B). Before super-heroines were big—and super-heroes had barely come on the scene themselves—there was Shiera Sanders, introduced in 1940, just a while after Superman and Batman. But she wasn’t super yet; she was super-hero Hawkman’s girlfriend. By 1941 she had gained super-powers and she fought alongside Hawkman as Hawkgirl. She faded after World War II, but a new version was introduced in 1963, by then Hawkman’s wife—but she was still Hawkgirl. Twenty years later, Hawkgirl became Hawkwoman, but she wasn’t any stronger and she was still very much a sidekick. Another twenty years later, she was Hawkgirl again—but there wasn’t a Hawkman in sight. She was also more likely than not to relax by starting a brawl than taking a bubble bath. (Her secret identity moniker went between Shiera and Shayera, but again, not the point.) The latest version of Hawkgirl will be part of the TV series Legends of Tomorrow, debuting in 2016. She’s as persistent as Wonder Woman herself!

Wonder Woman, of course, was always Wonder Woman (A). There were Wonder Girl and Wonder Tot too, but they were different characters.

Supergirl was always Supergirl (C). There has been a “Superwoman” from time to time, but only for a single story line, and never for long. And of course, she’s got a TV series of her own, starting in a few months on CBS!

Disco Dazzler (D)…oh, that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother workshop!

Q: For those of you who’ve seen the Marvelverse movies, what about the character that Scarlett Johansson portrays? Codenamed Black Widow, Natasha Romanova (1964) was:
A: A Russian spy
B: A ballerina
C: An actual widow
D: All of the above, depending on whom you ask

Natasha has been a complex and many-lived character (D). That black catsuit she often sports? Not original to her. That costume she’s become best known for only began to be her usual outfit in 1970. No, Emma Peel (1965) of the British TV adventure series The Avengers(!) wore the sleek black catsuit before the Black Widow. Natasha started off as a Russian spy who later defected, becoming at one point a freelance agent of the government agency SHIELD. At one point she was implanted with false memories of having been a ballerina; at another point it was revealed she was married, but her husband faked his death before he ultimately died; and she dated Daredevil, Hawkeye, and others. Busy, but when you’re one of a relatively small pool of super-heroines in a mostly male genre, you probably have your pick.

Q: Why was 1976 a notable year for heroines of all stripes?
A: Miss Piggy was introduced
B: The original Charlie’s Angels debuted
C: Phoenix of the X-Men was revealed
D: Apple Computer was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

Kidding! A, B, C, and D all happened. (For those of you who are curious, Jean Grey of the X-Men was first known as Marvel Girl, then became known as Phoenix or Dark Phoenix in the “new” X-Men depending on whether she was threatening to destroy all of humanity, but mostly as Jean Grey. Also popping up in the Marvelverse are Miss Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Captain Marvel, all female. There was a male Captain Marvel, but he was killed off. Also not to be confused with DC Comics’ Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel—male—both of whom must be the topic of yet another workshop, and that Captain Marvel was recently renamed Shazam. So if you’re a longtime Marvel Comics fan, their favorite phrase “Make Mine Marvel” has many layers.)

Q: Why do we remember Supergirl (1959) and Batgirl (1967)?
A: One is Superman’s cousin and the other is not related to Batman at all
B: From their movies. Oops, sorry, Batgirl never had her own movie, and the Supergirl movie is not spoken of in polite company. Alicia Silverstone as “Batgirl” in the Clooney version of Batman isn’t spoken of, either
C: No idea
D: The possibilities are endless!

It’s (D)! Remember when I mentioned that “Superwoman” as a character has popped up from time to time, but never for long? Supergirl has been the cousin since her introduction in the late 1950s, and she’s stayed that way. (She does have a doppelganger of sorts in the form of Power Girl, the slightly older and definitely more zaftig clone/parallel dimension version, who has gone through a number of different changes.) The same isn’t true for Batgirl. Since the version you’re probably most familiar with is Barbara Gordon (Commissioner Gordon’s daughter or niece, depending on the writer), it may come as a surprise to you that before a series of recent company-wide resets of the DC universe, Barbara fought crime as wheelchair-bound Oracle, leaving the titles of “Batgirl” and “Batwoman” to others. For the moment, anyway.

Q: Not precisely a super-heroine, but she’s pretty darn super nonetheless: How many incarnations has the declared dead ex-junkie turned deadly assassin Nikita had since she was first introduced in 1990?
A: One
B: Two
C: Three
D: Four

Oh, this one’s a gimme (D). La Femme Nikita was the original French film, which came out in 1990 (with Annie Parillaud); Americans were so intrigued by it that they came up with their own version under the title Point of No Return in 1993 (with Bridget Fonda as the lead character, renamed Nina); TV got interested in the character and came up with Peta Wilson (1997–2001); and the latest one on TV just ended with Maggie Q as Nikita (2010–13). It’s had four incarnations in 20 years. Why is this character so popular? We’ll discuss it in my workshop for the Carolina Romance Writers, “Building a Super-Heroine,” on right now!

Over the years, Eilis Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, a young adult, a graphic novella, and self-published historical fantasies and short stories (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). Check out if you’re curious about them. As Elizabeth Flynn, she’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years, working with academia, technology, finance, romance fiction, and comic books. She can be reached at Most days, she hangs out at Facebook at eilis.flynn. Hope to see you there!