Monthly Archives: January 2016

Reviews: Good News vs Bad News Part Two


by Lillian Csernica on January 31, 2016

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I’m still mulling over the pros and cons of writing reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, et al.  While I was wandering around the Web today, I came across a blog that talks about how to get our books reviewed.  There’s a lot of info here, and much food for thought.

How to Get Reviews for Your Book (Without Begging, Bribing, or Subterfuge)

I’m leaning toward not reviewing that book I mentioned in Part One.  Given that there’s close to a dozen more books in the series, it’s not like my opinion is going to make much of a difference.  I came across the first book on BookBub, where it’s offered for free as an enticement.   If I did comment on the novel’s extensive flaws, maybe I would be doing some readers some good.

Yes?  No?  Give it up and go write my own stuff?

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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EDIT: I did write the review after all.  Thank you to everyone who has been contributing to the discussion.

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, historical fiction, Horror, research, Writing

Writing Contest and Publishing Company Reveal!


Please support adoptingjames and his start-up. This is a bold endeavor for a parent who already has so much on his plate.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 6.48.43 AMIt’s been a long time coming—Adopting James is hosting its very first writing contest and you’re invited to enter!

The purpose of this contest is to help fund my publishing company to get it off and running. Don’t worry, the winner will be rewarded handsomely—$150 plus perks.

Read on.

When I asked for people to apply to be my partner for my publishing endeavor, I planned on only having one partner, but, like the company, I had to adapt to the unexpected. There were two people I just HAD to have on my team.

Meet the members of my team who are going to help me judge the writing contest and assist me in building Endever Publishing Studios from the ground up!

Lynn Bio PicLynn Galloway, co-founder/owner of Endever Publishing Studios (Louisville, Colorado)

Lynn makes the best mac & cheese ever, which is where her culinary genius stops. Her strengths fall more…

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Reviews: Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News?


by Lillian Csernica on January 22, 2015

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About 2/3 of the new books I read, I read on my Kindle. When I’m finished, Amazon asks me for a star rating, then I get an email asking me for a review.

At the moment, the book I’ve started is so bad I doubt I’ll finish it.  My sense of fairness compels me to read the whole thing just so if I do decide to review the book, I will have given it a thorough examination.  I don’t have that much reading time these days, so I really don’t want to waste it on a book that reads little better than a second draft in desperate need of a copy editor.  What slays me is there are already two sequels ready and waiting. <facepalm>

Let me throw this question out to all of you:  In this brave new world of electronic self-publishing, what purpose are reviews really meant to serve?  I know I may be coming rather late to this discussion, but this is what’s on my mind and I value your opinions.

Reviews are helpful to authors in terms of promotion.  We all want to support each other, right? As a writer, I wouldn’t want to do any damage to a fellow writer’s sales by posting a negative review.  It’s said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I don’t know if I believe that.  If the Internet loves you, it really loves you.  If the Internet decides you should be run out of town on a rail, you’re in trouble.

Unfortunately, there are books out there with serious flaws.  If I’m going to write a review, I have to tell the truth about my reading experience.  I am a published novelist.  I’ve published lots of short stories.  I’ve been writing reviews for Tangent for a long time.  That means I am qualified to evaluate the quality of a story’s plot, characters, setting, tone, theme, and pace.  I know about magic systems and worldbuilding.  Certain historical periods are quite familiar to me.  Can’t say that I’m an expert, but I will give credit where credit is due even if I personally don’t care for the material at hand.

And yet I still feel conflicted.  As a writer and a reader, there are times when I am outraged at the half-witted slop churned out by “authors” who really think somebody out there might be willing to pay good money to read it.  I want to do all I can to support the “Caveat Emptor” school of thought when shopping for reading material online.

It does grind my gears to read reviews by people who either know nothing about the elements of good writing, or don’t know how to articulate what little knowledge they may have.  Shameless gushing in a review makes me suspicious.  Some people are not above stacking the deck in their favor.  Here’s the problem: when an inexperienced and uneducated writer recruits his or her fellow writers whose skill level is pretty much at that same level, nobody is going to do any real good by making comments because they just don’t know what it takes to write a better story.

What do you think about all this?

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, historical fiction, Horror, perspective, publication, Writing

My Personal Chariot of Fire


by Lillian Csernica on January 20, 2016

“Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17). All around them, but beyond the capabilities of the five human physical senses, was all the protection necessary. Elisha would be no prisoner that day. His would be captors would be.”

Today I picked up my car.  Today I drove it home from the dealership.  Today I stopped at the grocery store, I put gas in the car, and I drove home.

I was not afraid.  I did not have an anxiety attack.  In fact, I was happy and excited.

I have been a prisoner of my own fears about driving for a long time now.  Almost thirty years.  It’s called learned helplessness, and it’s born of a vicious emotional cycle that includes hopelessness and depression.

Another condition I battle on a daily basis is anticipatory anxiety.  This robs the future of hope and positive thinking.  I told myself I wasn’t afraid of my driving.  I was afraid of everybody else on the road who drove like maniacs, speeding and changing lanes without signalling and coming right up on my rear bumper like they wanted to shove my car aside.  That was true enough.  I think the real truth was, I could no longer face the responsibility of being the driver.

When I was in the car accident that did in fact kill me, my driving had very little to do with what happened.  My employer had assured me he’d replaced the two right tires on the company car, which were worn down to the point of being dangerous.  He lied to me.  I trusted him, so when we loaded the car that night for the drive from Long Beach to San Francisco, I believed him and I did not check the tires myself.

“Put not your faith in princes and sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  (Ps. 146:3-4)

Five years ago I took two sets of driving lessons to brush up on my driving skills.  My teacher said I’m a good driver.  I have good reaction time and I’m good at judging braking distance.  I have driven on Hwy 17 all the way down to Capitola and back in the car with my teacher.

And yet, I still couldn’t internalize that knowledge to the extent that I would agree to pick out a car and drive it.  My husband said he’d get me a car, but not until he was sure I would in fact use it, and use it all the time.

Why now?  Why did I suddenly stand up last Saturday and say, “Fine.  Let’s do it today.”?  All I can say is the time was right, and I was ready.  We found a car that was everything I wanted, at a price we could afford.  It was raining, but I didn’t let that hold me back.  I got into the car and I test drove it so my husband could listen to the engine.  I was alert, I was focused, and I kept moving forward through the process of evaluating and the buying the car.

My car has become my chariot of fire.  Just as Divine Protection was present but unseen for the Prophet Elisha, so I believe God is watching out for me.  I may not always have faith in myself, but I do have faith in God.  Just look at what we went through this past summer with Michael’s hospital stay.  When Michael needed a priest, Fr. Ninos got there before the ICU team took Michael to be prepped for surgery.  I still don’t know how Fr. Ninos got there so quickly, but he did, and I give thanks every day that my boy is still alive and healthy.

When the depression has been really bad, I have begged God to help me get better.  I have prayed for strength and for courage and for the determination to defeat all the symptoms that have crippled me emotionally, kept me from writing, and prevented me from being a functional member of my family.

“The Lord is my  light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?” (Ps. 12:1)

It’s time to move on.  No more thinking I’m helpless.  No more being afraid.

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How I Saved My Own Future


by Lillian Csernica on January 16, 2015

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In 1987 I was in a car accident that left me for dead on Interstate 5 in the middle of the night.  I spent a week in the hospital, then months recovering.

Two months after the accident, my boyfriend asked me to marry him.  I agreed, and worked three different jobs to help pay for our wedding.  This meant driving, something I had no desire to do ever again.  I stayed off the freeways, but I did it.

A few years after we got married, we donated my old used car to charity.  That meant our only vehicle was the one my husband drove to work every day.  If I wanted to go anywhere while he was at work, I walked or took public transportation (the bus).

For years now I have resisted the idea of getting another car.  At times it’s been a financial issue.  We did have to invest in a van equipped with a lift so we could transport Michael to his various medical appointments.  At other times, it’s just been a matter of my bone deep reluctance to get behind the wheel again.  There are a lot of crazy people on the roads these days.

This forced me to rely on my husband, my mother, my sister, or a friend when I needed a ride somewhere.  I felt like I was in high school again.  People kept telling me I needed to get over this fear of driving and just do it.  It’s so easy for people to say something like that when they’re not living inside the anxiety, especially anticipatory anxiety.  That kind of fear puts a real dent in rational thinking.

My husband and I have had more than one loud, hurtful argument about what a “burden” I’ve been to everyone around me because of my “selfishness” about driving myself around.  This resulted in me not going out at all except when I absolutely had to, or when a friend and I spent time together.   My depression got worse.

It’s horrible to be caught between relentless fear and the ongoing hostility and judgment from the people I look to for support.  With family or total strangers, the bottom line remains the same: I can’t change them.  The only person I can change is myself.

Today is a day of celebration.  Today I got angry enough to shove my fears aside, go to a used car dealer, and find a car we could afford, one that suits my needs and makes me feel both comfortable and happy.

Today I crossed a big bridge in my life, a bridge that leads to freedom, to independence, and to better mental health.

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This is my car, the Dodge Neon.

 

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The Voice of Inspiration — Special Bonus!


by Lillian Csernica on January 11, 2016

One of the most common pieces of editing advice is to read your manuscript out loud.  Hearing the narrative and the dialogue outside of your own mind will show you wear it’s rough or awkward.

The reverse of this technique is to improvise a scene by acting out the dialogue (and the narrative as well, if you like) in one or more character voices.  If sitting there staring at the blank page is inhibiting your flow of inspiration, get up and start moving around while you tell the story aloud.  It helps to have a recording device or a program such as Dragonspeak to capture all those off the cuff gems.

Writers often talk to themselves.  I do it when I’m grocery shopping, debating the selection of various items on my list.  I also do it when I’m watching TV by myself.  A few days ago this led to the beginning of my latest short story.

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So there I was, watching another one of those movies where the team of paranormal investigators seriously regrets hanging out in the haunted insane asylum overnight.  Me, I’d call this a bad idea on paper, never mind actually going inside the building.

It got to the point where I started yelling advice and criticism at the actors.  Having watched far too many of these movies, I can tell from the music and the timing when the next Scary Thing is about to happen.

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I was sitting there, being sarcastic at the characters onscreen, when it suddenly hit me:  This is great dialogue.  A few minutes’ thought gave me the basics I needed to set up a team of wannabe ghost hunters talking to an older relative of one of them who had some actual experience with the paranormal.  The older relative tries to make the kids see how little they really know about the risks involved in stirring up paranormal entities.

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Does it stop them?  It does not.

I’m having a lot of fun shaping the main character by using all of my own objections, all of my knowledge of folklore and superstitions, and what little experience I do have with the paranormal.  A few of my most successful stories have come from using my own voice for a character that I design to suit the needs of the story.  I’m thinking of “Fallen Idol,” “Music Lover,” and “The Family Spirit” in particular.

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Humor in paranormal writing is a happy thing.  Humor in most writing is a happy thing.

Do you find reading your work aloud helps the editing process?  Does acting out a scene just make you feel silly?  Let me know what works for you.

BONUS:  Since my new short story will fit the horror genre, the first three people to respond in the Comments section will receive a copy of my ebook The Fright Factory: Building Better Horror.

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January: Month of Good Intentions


by Lillian Csernica on January 3, 2016

Here we are on the doorstep of a brand new year.  I live in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’s cold, damp, cloudy, often rainy.  This kind of weather makes me want to stay in bed with a good book in hand and at least one cat curled up at my side.  This is not the state of mind that goes well with all the usual resolutions people make at the start of the year.  Most such resolutions involve exercise, diet, taking up some good habit or abandoning some bad one.  I’ve expressed my feelings on the subject of New Year’s Resolutions here and here.

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I’ve been up all night.  Part of that was due to an effort to make progress on the climax of my current novel.  Part of that was due to me falling asleep repeatedly throughout the day.  I sat down on the couch, a cat would sit on my lap, and I’d wake up two hours later.  This is the true meaning of the phrase “cat nap.”  On a cold, wintry day, there’s nothing like a bundle of warm, purring fur to act on me like the strongest tranquilizer.  More than once lately John has had to wake me up because I’ve been snoring while he’s been trying to watch something on TV.

Takes me right back to the days when I had to do the same thing with my mother.  Ah, how history repeats itself.

It’s not just a matter of the cats sleeping on me at every opportunity.  Yes, I am cat furniture.  This role in my life has been well established.  The real problem here has to do with what I’m not calling this year’s resolution.  I have decided for several health reasons that it’s time for me to give up drinking soda.  Soda, pop, cola, whatever you call it in the region where you come from.  The salt, sugar, caffeine, and acid content are bad for my weight, my blood pressure, and my insomnia.  So that’s it.  No more.  I’m going cold turkey.

I figured I’d go through a certain period of withdrawal.  I’ve been expecting the headaches that come in the absence of caffeine.  What I forgot about was how my dependency on caffeine has a lot to do with my level of alertness throughout the day.  Now that I don’t have my caffeine fix, I’m going to have to come up with another way to achieve the level of alertness I need to write well.

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Yes, I know, there are other sources of caffeine.  Coffee leaps to mind.  The trouble is, I do not like coffee.  I never have.  I don’t even like mocha-flavored ice cream.  So becoming a coffee drinker is just not an attractive option.

Tea would be next on the list.  Here now is another one of my peculiar little quirks.  I don’t like drinking hot liquids.  I don’t care how cold out it might be, I’d rather have cold juice or lemonade or quinine.  Hot liquids and I just don’t get along.

Clearly, some kind of adjustments will have to be made.  I might actually achieve a regular sleep schedule.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  That might even lead to keeping regular work hours in my office.  Good heavens, I could be well on my way to tidying up my messy artistic lifestyle.  I can already imagine my husband and my sister making bets on when I go completely nuts and fall off the wagon, demanding a frosty Coke immediately or there will be hell to pay.

That brings to mind a classic aphorism oft quoted at this time of year: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  I suppose that’s second cousin to “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  We want to be virtuous, we think about doing the right/healthy thing, but when the moment of truth arrives, we are weak, wretched, flabby creatures.

And so I say to you, the truth of the matter should be phrased this way: “The road to good intentions is paved with hell.”  Giving up one of my key addictions in the name of living longer is a noble goal.  I’m just not going to be all that much fun to live with until I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Withdrawal and come out into the land of Better Living.

Wish me luck!

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