Monthly Archives: June 2013

Your Opinions, Please


How do you know what you really want to write about?  How do you know you’re not just caught up in what seems fun and interesting at that moment?  I love fantasy.  I love folklore and mythology and magic and shamanism and all that good stuff.  I love ghost stories.  I wonder, though.  Just because I enjoy reading about these subjects, does that mean they’re also what I really want to write about?

How do I answer that question?  How do I explore my options in a manner that will lead me to an answer that contains authenticity, real gut level conviction?

Back when I started writing fiction my first few sales were horror stories.  My very first sale, “Fallen Idol,” includes something otherworldly and a certain amount of blood and gore.  After a while, I found I couldn’t keep writing horror.  The ideas that were coming to mind were freaking me out.  I suppose that’s a good thing, but I just couldn’t live with those thoughts and images during the writing, rewriting, and editing process.  It’s unfortunate to be good at something you find out you really don’t enjoy doing.  So I lightened up a little and moved into dark fantasy, along with the other subgenres of fantasy I’d been writing.

Now in addition to my short fiction work, I write historical romance.  Why?  I like history.  I like exploring other cultures and other time periods.  I enjoy embodying the political and social forces at work in my chosen time period in the characters of my hero and heroine.  What’s really fun about the Middle Ages is how most of the royal courts were related by blood if not by marriage as well.  In some parts of the world, everybody hated each other and owed each other money.  A little careful reading will yield enough material for at least half a dozen novels.  And yes, of course, in romance novels you have the ever-popular love scene, with fully adjustable levels of explicitness depending on the publisher and the imprint.

I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t admit I got into writing romance because there’s money in it.  The high demand from readers creates a need that writers and publishers are willing to supply.  Unfortunately, this also results in a certain amount of burn-out among romance writers that creates a two-edged opportunity for authors looking to break into the field.

Today writers face so many considerations.  Building the platform.  Creating a following and maintaining it.  The whole “brand” dynamic.  In the midst of all this essential self-promotion, it’s so easy to lose touch with what we really want to write about.  How can I get back to that?  How can I be sure I’m writing with what’s best in me, giving my work the quality that comes from authentic pleasure in my subject matter and a sense of shared adventure with the reader?

I welcome your input.  Dos and Don’ts, how-to titles, links, flavors of tea, whatever works.  Bring it on!

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How To Write Historical Fiction


I would quibble with a few points here and there, but that’s because I write historical romance. Otherwise I think this is very well written.

Fickle Fascinations

When it comes to writing a good story there are no definite, concrete ‘RULES YOU MUST OBEY’. If you are a skilled enough writer, you can make even the most hare-brained idea work, convention be damned. Quentin Tarantino’s playfully warped interpretation of World War Two in Inglourious Basterds is a prime example. Yet after assessing the merits and faults of both Spartacus and Vikings, I thought, perhaps brazenly, that it would be interesting to outline some of the common pitfalls of historical fiction.

In this study, we will branch out from television to envelop film in a big, affectionate cuddle (if we like it) or a brutish, rib-cracking bear hug (if we don’t). Without further ado, let us begin.

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How to Blow Your Own Mind in Just Five Minutes


Greetings!  Today let’s talk about the power of Asymmetry.

Cover of "Writing Open the Mind: Tapping ...

Cover via Amazon. Used with permission of the author.

In Writing Open the Mind, author Andy Couturier explains, “Asymmetry is a counterpositioning of dissimilar–but not opposite–types….Since each combination of these many dissimilar parts suggests its own meaning, its own interest and power, asymmetry in visual art or in writing encourages participation by the viewer or reader in the fertile process of creation.  In this sense, writing asymmetrically is generous, because it gives the reader many different  ways to understand, instead of insisting on one, one that is only our own.”

Sounds good so far, right?  But how does one actually write asymmetrically?  Here comes the five minute part.  This is the quickest writing exercise I’ve ever found, and I’ll bet that’s true for you as well.  All you have to do to grasp the basic concept is to make a list.  Jot down four items in a particular category (fruit, clothing, tools, etc.).  The fifth item needs to be something dissimilar but not opposite to the other four.   Here are three examples.  Read each column straight down, taking time to absorb each word:

Shark                    Emerald                    Cadillac

 Tuna                      Diamond                  Truck

 Marlin                    Ruby                         Taxi

 Trout                      Sapphire                  Bus

 Daisy                       Peanut                    Guitar

Feel that?  That little twang in your mind when you got to the last word in the list?  That sudden “Hey!  What?” moment is asymmetry in action.  Go ahead, try it.  Write two or three lists.  It’s fun to take that sudden left turn that surprises both your own mind and the mind of your reader.  That surprise, that fun, is what will help energize your writing.  People in the science fiction and fantasy genres talk about the “sense of wonder.”  Bringing some freshness to your writing by juxtaposing asymmetrical story elements can help you recapture that sense of wonder that will touch the reader’s heart and take him or her into another world, the world of your story.

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No Safety Net


by Lillian Csernica on June 1, 2013

Hi there.  It’s just me today.  The May challenge has ended, so here I am working on my own, no theme or prompt or other lifeline to keep me from tumbling off the subject into some chaotic abyss of random thoughts.

Went to see “Iron Man 3” today with John.  You haven’t lived until you’ve gone to see a superhero movie that has full bore CGI SFX in the company of an autistic teenager who wants to go into digital animation for a career.  There are several excellent twists and turns in the movie.  I had a great time, and I know John did too.  The one problem with taking John to the movies: he gets too involved in the story.  He really feels for the characters, so I have to explain to him all over again about stunt doubles and special camera angles and how nobody is really getting blown up or falling out of the airplane or being attacked by a giant squid, etc. etc.   I hate to ruin John’s suspension of disbelief, but that’s better than what happened today.

There we were, in the back row of a relatively small theater.  John has a bad habit of commenting on everything, which I’ve tried repeatedly to deal with at home.  He knows he has to be quiet in church, at the library, and when we go to movies.  Are you familiar with the term “a stage whisper”?  Uh huh.  And the more I hush John, the more intense he’ll get if it’s something really important to him.  He got all worried about Pepper, Iron Man‘s girlfriend, at one point.  I had to let him whisper straight into my ear so we wouldn’t bother the other people in the theater.  It was just one sentence, but he was absolutely determined to tell me.  Fortunately, I had enough light from the movie screen to recognize his expression and realize this was something really important to him, so I listened.

My husband has no idea what he’s missing.  Literally.  He doesn’t see John at home much except on the weekends, and even then Chris is usually reading a book or playing his videogames.  It’s up to me to handle the reinforcement of John’s understanding about what’s real and what isn’t.  If that isn’t hilarious, I don’t know what is.  I mean, think about it.  What do I do for a living?  I write fantasy.  I write romance.  I make my living escaping from everyday life.  I suppose that means I have to keep an even tighter grip on my own sense of reality.  Some days that can be hard.

Today I was happy to throw reality to the wind for two hours and have a good time jumping and cheering and laughing and gasping at all the wonders of “Iron Man 3.”  John and I know what it’s like to live in our dreams, to share them with each other, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything in the world.

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