Monthly Archives: September 2013

Happy Saturday To Me!

by Lillian Csernica on September 28, 2013


The Success Fairy stopped by today to let me know that Aurora Wolf Literary Journal has accepted my story “The Path of the Sun.”  You can find it there online on October 1st.  Many thanks to Editor/Publisher Michael C. Pennington!




Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Writing

Satisfying Social Conscience

by Lillian Csernica on September 23, 2013

It’s taken me longer to get to this post than I had intended because I discovered I had to more research into the concept of the social conscience.  I was trained to start any debatable subject with a definition of terms, so let’s look at a few:

1) “a knowledge or understanding of what is morally right in a society” from the MacMillan Dictionary.

2) “an attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society” from

3) “a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society” from Oxford Dictionaries

There appears to be general agreement about the precise nature of what the social conscience is.  How does one exercise one’s social conscience?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — ““Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Stephanie Coontz, U.S. social historian — “… what’s been building since the 1980’s is a new kind of social Darwinism that blames poverty and crime and the crisis of our youth on a breakdown of the family. That’s what will last after this flurry on family values.”

George Orwell — “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

Katharine Hepburn — “We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

Stephen Covey — “Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.”

Abigail Adams — “How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking! How often are the laurels worn by those who have had no share in earning them! But there is a future recompense of reward, to which the upright man looks, and which he will most assuredly obtain, provided he perseveres unto the end.”

Looks to me like my research boils down to two points:

The social conscience is the awareness of the needs of others and the ability to recognize when those needs are not being met.

A healthy, active, responsible social conscience compels us to take action, to work for change, to improve the conditions of those members of society who are in need.

So how do we as artists, creators, and (in my case) writers satisfy the awareness conveyed to us by our social conscience?  How do we take action to improve society?

Here’s my brainstorm.  We can go for big changes, we can go for little changes, we can go for whatever action we’re able to take.  When somebody needs our help, when those who have no voice need someone to speak for them, that’s when those of us who work with words can step up and take action.

Volunteer at your local library.

Teach a free class to school age kids on the power of keeping a journal or writing a short story.

Write Op-Ed pieces on the issues that matter to you, that affect your family, your neighborhood, your city, etc.  Take it on at whatever level you can handle, and then grow your efforts from there.

Write for those special niche markets where your personal experience will be invaluable.  Mine is a special needs family, so I can speak to issue that affect parents and caregivers and school authorities and service agencies and of course the special needs people themselves.

When we write our stories and our novels, this is the time to write what we know.  By that I mean the needs we have recognized in society that are not being met.  I know the city of Santa Cruz has the brass-balled gall to charge for parking in handicapped parking spaces in the concrete parking structure down near Pacific Avenue.  We have the license plates for the handicapped on our van.  My mother has a handicapped placard.  Most of Michael’s classmates have either the plates or the placard.

If we can do nothing else, we can get the word out.  We who write can send our messages alerting people to the needs we see.  We can point the finger at the people who should be taking action, by virtue of their paychecks and/or duly elected offices.  We can make these needs known in as many languages as possible, so people know we see them and hear them and recognize their needs or protest their failures to get help to the needy.  SPEAK UP, PEOPLE!  If you’ve been given the talent and the skill to use your words with power, then do it!  Create your beautiful and complex worlds, write your dramatic and poignant stories, blow people’s minds with your visions of how the world is and how it could be.

Edmund Burke said it best: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So what’s it going to be, people?  Are we going to get out there and do whatever we can do, or are we going to let our social conscience atrophy for lack of use?

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Writing

All Hands On Deck!

by Lillian Csernica on September 19, 2013

Yes, that’s right, it’s Talk Like A Pirate Day!  Given that my first published novel was a pirate romance, today holds a special place in my heart.


Goodreads Ratings

My pirate name is:
Mad Charity Roberts

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Two things complete your pirate persona: style and swagger. Maybe a little too much swagger sometimes — but who really cares? Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Sites of interest to pirate aficionados


And now, since this is a pro-literacy blog, I present to you The Pirate Alphabet!


September 19, 2013 · 6:12 pm

Satisfying Money

by Lillian Csernica on September 17, 2013

When I was growing up, my father’s idea of motivational career advice was the sarcastic question, “Do you want to end up flipping burgers?”  It’s become a standing joke in American culture to refer to being at the bottom of the food chain employment-wise if you have to say, “Do you want fries with that?”  The current controversy over raising the minimum wage is further evidence of the general attitude toward unskilled, low-paid work.

People think writing is unskilled labor, right up until they find out how hard it really is to write well.  People think science fiction is a challenge because you have to know some science to write it.  Fair enough.  Other people think fantasy is really easy because all you have to do is “make it all up.”  That remark never ceases to raise my blood pressure.  Do such people ever consider how much effort goes into “making it all up”?  I don’t care if we’re talking about twenty pages for a short story or four hundred pages for a novel.  When there is often so little respect shown toward writing, is it any wonder how hard it is to make any serious amount of money doing it for a living?


This is a very complicated subject because there are so many aspects to it.  Do you care about making any money with your writing?  If so, how much, how often, and through what types of writing?  Do the opinions of other people regarding money and your writing impact your decision-making?  More importantly, do their opinions impact your feelings about your work and/or yourself?  Do you have the “That’s not a real job!” argument with yourself or anyone else?  Money is a symbol in our culture for so many other things, both tangible and intangible.  The general standard being more is better, of course.

I am in the fortunate position of having a husband who pays the bills, maintains the insurance coverage, and in general handles all the big expenditures.  I can stay home with my kids and write.  This does not mean I get to live the fantasy of writing eight hours a day while other people take care of the boys.  I do have nurses for Michael and aides for John, but there are always decisions to make and problems that come up and the joys of living with teenagers to endure.  I make enough money at my writing to fill out my taxes every year.  I pour it all right back into the career in terms of travel and hotel expenses for conventions and the occasional software treat.  (I love e-mail submissions.  For the most part the days are gone when I had to go to the post office, get the manuscript weighed, then plaster stamps across that upper corner of the 9×12.)

Do I make as much money as I’d like to?  No.  I want to be able to build Michael his own custom-designed house with a pool and stables and a room for OT/PT and an art studio and whatever else he wants/needs.  I want to take John to all the events and places he wants to see.  And, as I’ve said so many times before, I want to go to Kyoto for at least two weeks.

The really critical think to remember when it comes to any kind of art is that the amount paid for it is not and should not be an empirical standard for the quality of that art.  Once people start confusing art and money and quality and creativity and genuine worth, we end up with trash like Paris Hilton‘s music videos.

Ask yourself how much money really matters to you when it comes to the subject of your writing.  Does money just complicate the process and rob it of the pure satisfaction of creativity?  If you’re in a position similar to mine, don’t worry about the money.  Just create art for art’s sake.  On the other hand, one of my favorite writers, Florence King, started out writing for the confessional magazines.  She made her living by her writing, and when the “belles lettres kitty” started to run low, she took temp jobs to pay the bills.  It can be done.  Let’s do it according to our own personal standards, not according to the six or ten names we see on the grocery store paperback rack every week.  Let’s write our way, telling our stories, rather than try to hit the jackpot with the next blockbuster.  Those are a matter of timing, luck, and promotional skill more than they’re about quality writing.

The writer must earn money in order to be able to live and to write, but he must by no means live and write for the purpose of making money.
Karl Marx


Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Uncategorized, Writing

Satisfying Art

by Lillian Csernica on September 13, 2013

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

How do we create the art we want to create despite all the strictures that surround us?  I’m a writer, so I’m going to focus on writing.  I believe a lot of the same considerations extend to painting, dance, music, sculpture, etc.  With that in mind, let me recommend to you the wonderful little book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles  and Ted Orland.  As a writer, I need to know what kind of writing I want to do.  Over the course of the twenty years I’ve been working as a professional writer, I’ve written novels, short stories, screenplays, magazine articles, magazine columns, newspaper articles, poetry, and a whole lot of personal journal entries.  We find out what we want to do, what we most enjoy doing, by trying this, that, and the other.  Effort is made, data is collected, conclusions are arrived at, and off we go.

STAGE ONE:  Explore the possibilities!  What do you really enjoy doing in terms of creating art?  Poetry, short stories, literary work, hardboiled detective novels?  Figure out what you want to do, then go find out how it’s done.  Don’t worry about getting it right the very first time.  T.S. Eliot said, “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.”  For writers, anyway, it’s really quite simple.  Read a lot.  Write a lot.  Study the masters of the writing forms that interest you.

STAGE TWO: Now that you know what you want to write and how to do a good job writing it, go to it!  Every day.  Process goal or productivity goal.  Whatever suits your life.  The question you have to keep asking yourself: Is this me?  Is this my work?  Is this want I want to do, what my soul cries out for, what speaks to me at night when I’m only half-awake?  Or is it what somebody else wants me to write, what somebody else is telling me I should write, what somebody else wishes he or she had the guts to write?  Be on the alert for these differences.  People will try to hijack you the minute you prove you have the courage to break away from the churning mass of wannabes.

STAGE THREE:  So you’re writing.  Good for you!  What do you want to do with it?  Personal self-expression?  Family legacy?  Professional sales?  That’s all fine.  Not everybody has to get out there and endure the daily mud wrestling that means you’re a professional writer.  Given that the majority of the writing blogs I read are about making sales in today’s marketplace, I’m going to speak to that.  Dean Wesley Smith once made a bet with Nina Kiriki Hoffman.  They each had to write one short story a week for one year (and send them out to publishers).  They continued the bet for three years, and by the end of those three years, they were selling to the top professional markets.   The moral of the story?  They worked hard, they kept improving, and they set their sights high right from the start.

STAGE FOUR:  Go do something different.  But wait, you say.  I just learned how to do what I want to do, and now I’m making progress!  Why should I switch horses in mid-race?  The human mind needs and craves a variety of input.  You like to write about cars?  Go write an essay about geraniums.  You like to write short stories?  Write a dozen haiku, or sonnets, or your very own nursery rhymes.  People demand a lot of their “Muse.”  What nobody thinks about is what the Muse needs!  Feed that Muse, people!  Take her on a vacation and let her inspire you to do something fresh and new.  Who knows what adventures you’ll have?  Who knows what strengths you’ll discover?

Stay tuned!  Next, we talk about Money!

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Writing

Art, Money, Social Conscience: How do we satisfy all three?

by Lillian Csernica on September 12, 2013

Perspective is a tricky thing.  I’m working on a short story right now that I once thought was my best work yet.  At that time it probably was.  Now I can do better.  Yesterday I was working away, cutting the story’s length and refining characterization and making sure the pace was moving along well.  Then it hit me:

Take a good look at your characters.

This is a high fantasy story.  I have three female characters and three male characters.  Mother, Older Sister, and Evil Witch.  Teenage Hero, Sun God, Sea God.

Alarm bells rang in the part of my mind in charge of marketing.  While I have a good balance of gender representation, the Mother and Older Sister are in the secondary supportive roles and the strongest female plays the Evil Witch.  This is not going to win me any points with editors who want to see strong women as protagonists.

There’s nothing wrong with a teenage male as the protagonist/hero, but that’s been done.  Casting the deities in charge of the Sun and the Sea as males might be in keeping with classical mythology, but that has also been done.

I want to go beyond what’s already been done.  I want to reach for a story with characters who are sympathetic, believable, powerful, and fun to read about.  I also want to write a story that editors will buy.  At what point do I let my creativity be steered by the demands of the marketplace?  At what point do I let the social climate of transgender awareness start to dictate which of my characters are male, female, both, neither, or some new evolution of each?

These are serious questions.  These are career-makers and deal-breakers.  Today’s writers must tread carefully while at the same time take the great leaps of imagination that make their work stand out.

What do you think?  How do these considerations affect your process as a writer?  I would love to know what other writers think and how they take on these challenges.

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

The Kindness of Strangers

by Lillian Csernica on September 7, 2013

The wonderful lady over at ASD Mummy with Issues ( has been kind enough to nominate me for my second Liebster Award.

STEP ONE: List eleven facts about myself.

When eating a proper meal off a plate with silverware, I will eat all of one food item at a time.

I feel more secure when I know I have plenty of pens and pencils within reach.

I cannot wait for the day when I first hear the words, “Grandma, you’re weird.”

If not for the obvious health risks, I would live on pizza and ice cream.

They say, “Lucky at cards, unlucky at love.”  It’s true.  I’m a whist shark with a broken heart.

I have a strong suspicion that I will never get all of my family photographs organized without paying a huge sum to the right people.

I am a devoted collector of unconsidered trifles.

I own every single production of “Pride and Prejudice” available on DVD.

Do I believe in ghosts?  Yes, no, and maybe.

I have been forced to learn that mental health comes at a very high price.

When I played Dungeons & Dragons, I had a set of gem dice of a particular color for every one of my six characters.

STEP TWO:  Answer the questions put to me by the person who nominated me.

1. What is your best summer memory?  The first time we took Michael to a beach event sponsored by emergency services workers who were all into surfing.  Michael got to wear a wetsuit and go out in a kayak.  He even got to ride on a surfboard with an escort of five other surfers!
2. Do you sing in the shower?  Occasionally, but not if my husband can hear me.
3. What frightens you?  Dying too soon, before I’ve made all the arrangements for my sons and written all the stories I want to write.
4. Which bug do you like best?  Ladybugs!
5. Who is the person who makes you laugh?  My best friend.  Her sense of humor is even stranger than mine.
6. Where do you go when you need to get away from it all?  A science fiction convention, preferably one far enough away that it involves a road trip.
7. Are you rude to cold callers?  No.
8. Where would your dream holiday be?  At least two weeks in Kyoto, Japan.
9. What is the one talent you wish you had?  Being able to turn invisible.
10. If you could time travel would you go to the future or the past?  The past.  I’m a history buff, so there are many events I’d like to witness.


STEP THREE:  Nominate eleven other blogs who have less than 300 followers.

I will be contacting each of my nominees with the happy news (and their list of questions) just as soon as I get some sleep and can see straight again.  Congratulations to us all!


Filed under Awards, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

The Three Ps of Writing Success

by Lillian Csernica on September 6, 2013

In Japan there’s a superhero known as P-Man.  He wears a green Spandex bodysuit, white boots, and a helmet with a visor.  Classic Japanese animation superhero.  His mission is to teach little kids about all the virtues of good character.  Politeness, Punctuality, Propriety, Perseverance, etc.  I’ve met P-Man, and he’s really cool.  I don’t know who was wearing the suit the day I met him, but that man was really good with all the little kids who came running up to him.  The Japanese love children anyway, and I imagine the actor inside the P-Man costume had a great time with that particular role.

Think about this for a minute.  A superhero whose mission it is to champion the cause of good character.  These days, that could be considered a superpower in and of itself.

What do writers need to build strong character, to keep going in the face of all the stresses that confront creative people?

PASSION — Write about what matters to you.  What makes you angry?  What makes you cry until your head throbs?  What makes you so happy you think you’ll explode?  Whatever gets you all stirred up is a good source.  Tap into it.  Let it carry you along.  Hot, fresh, passionate writing is what every editor wants to read.  The saying, “If you can’t read it, you can’t write it” proves the importance of passion.  Westerns do nothing for me.  Therefore I am not going to spend the time and effort trying to be the next Louis L’amour.

PARTICIPATION — Get out there and DO things!  Yes, the classic picture of the writer’s life shows us sitting alone in a room in front of our keyboards for hours on end.  Some people are born with enough sound and fury packed into their minds that they can spin dozens of stories without any further input.  Most of us need and would benefit from getting out into the world and gathering all the sensory impressions that will bring our stories to life.  Every day, do one new thing.  Volunteer.  Go find a coffeehouse in a new part of town.  Wander around a nursery that’s full of flowers you’ve never seen before.  Learn how to play Go or Sennet or Chinese checkers.  Gather the raw material that will be woven on the loom of your imagination into the raw fabric of the tapestries we call stories!

PERSEVERANCE — Writing success is in many ways a war of attrition.  The people who rise to the top in their particular genres are often the people who have been writing in those genres longer than anybody else.  A lot of people give up along the way.  A lot of people never finish what they start.  A lot of people don’t take the time to really learn the art and craft of writing, so they just keep pumping out poor quality that never sees the light of day no matter how many times they send it out.  Having said that, let me make a plea for quality.  Sure, we’re all each other’s competition, those of us who work in the same genres, but don’t we all want to see good stories out there?  Don’t we all want to know that the competition is doing its best, so when we do sell a story, the victory is that much sweeter?

So.  Love what you do.  Do what you love.  Keep doing it, over and over and over again.  Even if we don’t land on the Bestseller lists or get lucky and hit the Hollywood jackpot, this is still a nourishing, gratifying way to live.

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Uncategorized, Writing

Answered Prayers

by Lillian Csernica on September 2, 2013

I take great pleasure in announcing my latest sale!  “Hell to Pay” will appear in Revelation: The Seals – Issue #1 – Conquest from Sacred City Productions.

This sale means a lot to me not just because I’m excited about this project, but because I’m happy to be publishing a story with strong Christian elements.  In two of my other stories, “Maeve” and “The Family Spirit,” I make direct reference to the Christian beliefs of the main characters.  These stories are still within the realm of speculative fiction.  Maeve herself becomes the vehicle of something otherworldly which brings wisdom and comfort to the people of a small Irish village.  In Ireland, the presence of the Roman Catholic faith permeates daily existence.  In “The Family Spirit,” the overall context is more Protestant, and that’s fine.  At one point the ghost confronts Ben, the main character, saying, “Are you a Christian, son?”  When Ben nods, the ghost tells him to bow his head to the Lord as grace is said over the holiday meal.

Being a Christian in the world of fantasy and science fiction can sometimes be difficult.  There are some members of some denominations of Christianity who have branded science fiction and fantasy books, games, movies, TV shows, etc. as being tools of the Devil and inspired by occult sources.  Please notice how carefully I qualified the subject of that sentence.  Some people will say anything about anything once they get all fired up and feel the need to pontificate.

Speaking strictly for myself, I will say that more than once I’ve paused in the creation of a character or a plotline and asked myself if I really wanted to work with such materials and express such ideas even though I did not believe in them myself.  For a long time I gave up writing horror because I couldn’t stand to work with the usual materials found in that genre.  I have enough nightmares thanks to the traumas my family has endured.  This larger question has been put to some of the greatest writers of our time, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne.  After he’d published The Scarlet Letter, his father said to him, “Is this your idea of glorifying God?”

I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, Russian Orthodox in particular.  I write all kinds of fantasy, mystery, crime, and historical fiction.  I like to work with the materials of mythology, folklore, cultural tropes and the human psychological needs that give rise to all of them.  I also write romance novels.  I walk a very fine line there because of the love scenes readers expect and demand.  I have discussed the matter with my parish priest who is also my confessor.

The bottom line is I’m a Christian, I’m glad to be one, and I’m very happy to be publishing a story that shows a man praying and wearing a Cross and battling a demon with an angel at his side.  Glory to God!  Glory forever!

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