Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Things We Do For Love


by Lillian Csernica on August 4, 2013

There may never come a day when my sons fully appreciate the sacrifices I have made for them.  I know for a fact there will never come a day when I admit to them the crimes I did not commit because I couldn’t risk getting tossed in jail and being separated from them.

John’s First Grade teacher is retired now, a happy circumstance for all concerned.  Now I no longer need concern myself with her arrogance, incompetence, and favoritism causing harm to the innocent children in her classes.

Michael’s newest R.N., a woman who has the gall to argue with me about how we do things for Michael, a routine constantly evolving and updated by frequent consultations with his specialists.  This woman wants me to call a particular doctor and have the orders rewritten according to her idea of “what Michael really needs.”

A former male aide of John’s who liked to text while driving.  I caught him doing this one day when John was in the car with him.  That resulted in a small but significant mushroom cloud over my house.

Michael’s longest-term aide, who was late three days out of five, the bane of the Transportation department, and the reason Michael missed school more than once and Chris and I both missed important appointments due to waiting for this aide to finally show up.  Granted, she had a long commute, but come ON.  After a few months you figure out the best commute patterns.

John’s female aide who left bruises on his arms and once left him in the backseat of her car while she went into a coffee house and had a cup.  If I could have laid my hands on concrete proof of that one, I’d have had her head on a pole.

My mother, who drives me to heights of foaming outrage and frustration on a regular basis.  She’s Michael’s favorite person in the world, and she is THE grandparent on the West Coast, so for John’s sake I have to bite the bullet and preserve amicable relations.

Sigh….  Then there are all the little people along the way, the secretaries and the pharmacy assistants and the customer service people and the Medi-Cal voicemail creatures and the rest of the nuts and bolts in our glorious managed health care system.

I should be grateful.  I should be happy that for the sake of my sons I’ve finally learned tact, diplomacy, self-restraint, and the art of committing assault and battery with politeness.  I love my sons, and for the sake of that love and for their well-being I will not unleash the pent-up fury that makes my head ache and my guts churn and ties my neck muscles into knots.  I should give thanks for being taught the patience to choose my battles, and the wisdom to rally the right allies.  There have been times when I have indeed put the Fear of Me into several school officials and not a few medical personnel.

I am Mother.  Pray that you do not hear me roar.

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Filed under Depression, Family, Goals, Humor, Self-image, Special needs

Top Ten Tips on What To Not Do


by Lillian Csernica on August 2, 2013

Once upon a time, I wrote columns for Speculations.  I also wrote a few articles.  One of them was “Horrible Cliches to Avoid” in which I listed the most frequent cliches I came across while reading short horror fiction for my Tangent review column, “The Penny Dreadful Reader.”  A noteworthy SF writer was kind enough to credit that article with saving him from making one of those mistakes when he set out to write his first horror story.

Why am I telling you all this?  As a reviewer, I’d really like to spend my time reading good fiction and commenting on how good it is.  Contrary to what some people have thought in the past, I don’t get a thrill out of reading mediocre-to-dismal fiction and then bashing it in my reviews.  That gets really tiresome, but I trudge ever onward in the hope of finding new voices with impressive skills.

With that hope in mind, let me explain some of the errors that will get your submissions tossed out before they even get to the stage of being tagged with form rejections.

One: Ignore the guidelines.  C’mon, people!  RTFM, or in this case, RTFG.  The editors post their guidelines so writers know what they want and what they don’t want.  Also, it’s much easier these days to actually read the ‘zines and get a good feel for what the editors’ tastes lean toward.  When I started submitting stories, it was all print and you had to buy a sample copy.  To make the odds of acceptance even higher, editors are also telling writers what they don’t want, and in much greater detail.  I strongly suggest reading this excellent example from Strange Horizons.

Two:  Don’t submit the story exactly the way the editors want it formatted.  I’m talking about file format as well as font, italics, etc.  The submission process moves so fast these days the first readers might very well be happy to spot the error that means they can flush that submission and move on to the next.  I’m not saying I know of anybody who really thinks that way, but I have worked as a slush reader and anything that got me through the mountain of manuscripts faster was a blessing.

Three:  Send your submission to the wrong editor.  This annoys the editor whose in box you have mistakenly cluttered up.  If you’re really lucky, that editor will pass the submission along to the right editor.  I’m fully aware that with some ‘zines it takes some work to find out who’s in charge of what.  You might still not get an actual name, just an e-mail address.  Do your best to find the right person.  I’ve had query replies and shortlist notices come from people whose names were not among those on the actual contact list.  One lovely woman told me to address my correspondence to her so I’d get faster replies.

Four:  Exceed the length limits.  Don’t do this without asking if it’s OK first.  Better yet, follow that excellent piece of editorial advice I learned years ago and “Cut it ’til it bleeds.”  Some projects have more flexibility in the total word count.  Other projects do not.  If you really think your story is a great fit for the project even though you’re over the length limit (and I’m talking no more than a thousand words.  More than that is just unreasonable.), query first, and make it the shortest, most professional query possible.  Editors are insanely busy, always have been, always will be.  Respect that.

Five:  List every sale you’ve had since Miss Jenny stuck your poem about your puppy up on the classroom bulletin board.  Most guidelines ask for the “most recent” sales.  They might well add the “most relevant.”  If you work in more than one genre, as many of us do, you want to show off the credentials that will convince the editor receiving this particular submission that you know what you’re doing and other editors think so too.  I don’t use my horror sales when I’m submitting a high fantasy story, and vice versa.

Six:  Mention your blog, your blogging awards, how many followers you have, average hits per day, etc.  Again, the key word here is “relevant.”  If your blogging experience establishes you as having knowledge that actively informs the content of your story, great.  Otherwise, less is more.

Seven:  Machine gun the editors with submissions.  Yes, some editors will accept multiple submissions.  Editors tend to limit this to three per writer.  Also, respect the editors’ time limits on when you can send in a new submission after the current one is processed.  I’ve read guidelines that say please wait at least seven days.  If you don’t abide by these parameters, you run the risk of getting your name on a list.  Writers who ignore the guidelines and clog up the submission channels might just find all of their submissions getting deleted without so much as a glance.  I’ve seen editors make this possibility very clear.

(A brief aside:  In my opinion, multiple submissions are silly because the odds of acceptance are slim enough without competing against yourself.  Response times are so much faster these days.  A little patience may result in a higher overall success rate.  Still, do as the editor asks, and best of luck to you.)

Eight:  Not keeping proper track of your submissions, response times, acceptances, personal vs. form rejections, contact names, etc.  Seems obvious, doesn’t it?  Of course you keep track of all this data.  If you don’t, you’re spiking your career management in a big way.  Do you really want to deal with the embarrassment of finding out you’ve submitted the same story to the same editor who rejected it once already?  Another potential hazard is committing the multiple submission of the same story to the same market because for whatever reason you have no record of your submissions and you forgot where you already sent the story.  This is a worst case scenario, but I’ll bet you a gift card to your favorite indie bookseller it’s happened at least once.

Nine:  Cornering an editor at a public event such as a SF convention and asking about the submission status of your story.  Unless you’re a Big Name, and I mean a BIG Name, this just isn’t done.  Unless, of course, the editor contacts you and says he or she wants to talk about your story.  Do the happy dance, calm down, and prepare for that meeting like a professional.

Ten Bad manners.  There is no excuse for being rude and stupid.  Why on earth would you want to be rude and stupid to an editor who might buy your story and help push your career along?  People do it.  People with no grounds for arrogance of any sort get uppity with editors.  Listen well, young padawans:  Writing fiction means working in a buyer’s market.  When you’re selling in a buyer’s market, DO NOT piss off the buyers.

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Horror, Humor, science fiction, Writing