Category Archives: science fiction

The Wonders of Digital Fiction Publishing


by Lillian Csernica on March 17, 2017

 

Michael Willis is a  lovely man who treats writers with respect. I’ve sold three short stories to DFP so far, and I look forward to submitting more work there in the future.

David Tallerman, another DFP writer, has encouraged me to share his excellent blog post on the merits of working with DFP.

10 Reasons You Should Be Submitting to Digital Fiction Publishing

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5 Favorite Guides to Get Writing Again


by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2017

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Writing is hard. We all know that. Some days we get sidetracked by avoidance behavior. Some days we procrastinate out of laziness or confusion about the story. Some days we’re just plain stuck.

Today I’m having one of those days. Here I sit, working on a blog post, when I’d meant to be making progress on my latest short story. Well, at least it’s productive avoidance behavior, right?

In the spirit of solidarity with my fellow struggling writers, I offer this list full of tips, information, and excellent methods to restart the writing engines. Enjoy!

Four Ways to Rediscover Your Passion for Writing

Nailing Scene Structure

100 Prompts for Writing about Yourself

Stop Putting Off Writing: 9 Experts’ Solutions

End Writing Procrastination Now

 

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The Perils of Writing Short Fiction


by Lillian Csernica on February 21, 2017

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Opportunity cost. Cost/benefit analysis. Return on investment.

I remember these terms from my Economics and Accounting classes. Little did I know I would one day be applying them to which writing projects I chose to pursue.

So far, the Flower Maiden Saga has inspired me to write three consecutive novels. The farther I go in editing and polishing Book One for the big agent pitch, the more of the causes and consequences of the main storyline I see. The core plots for Books Four and Five have already presented themselves.

This is wonderful. I’m excited about all of it. The thing is, my first love is writing short stories. Reading short stories in Asimov’s and Weird Tales and my English Lit. classes made me want to become a writer. The first time I walked into a bookstore and picked up a copy of The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXI and saw my name on the table of contents right there with Ramsey Campbell and Ed Gorman, I very nearly exploded with happiness.

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Short stories are great, but novels are where the money is. I’ve heard that many times. Novels take a while to write and a while to polish and package for publication. Not so with short stories. Short stories will get your name out there and keep it out there.

These are the five main perils of writing short fiction:

  1. Why waste a good idea on a short story? These days it’s all about writing novels. Give the readers what they want, over and over again. Build that brand. Make more money. Fine. If that’s what you want, go for it. Bear in mind there is much to be said for the art and craft of the short story. Hemingway’s “The Killers” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” remain vivid in my mind thirty-five years after I read them in high school.
  2. Short stories are often just one shots. That one shot might be brilliant, but then you have to go write another story. Is that one brilliant story continuing to earn royalties or selling well as a Kindle Single? I visit various writers’ groups online, and I find the emphasis on money to be disheartening. Short stories can be built into a novel. One of my favorite fantasy novels, A Bait of Dreams by Jo Clayton, started out as three short stories that appeared in Asimov’s.
  3. It can be difficult to pack a complex story idea into a limited word count. On the other hand, doing so can result in a stronger story. When I wrote “Fallen Idol,” my first short story sale, I got so caught up in all the research and characters and how-to books’ advice I thought I could rise to the challenge of writing a real novel. Fortunately, I had an attack of reality. All the research and ideas imploded, resulting in a much stronger short story.
  4. Unless you’re selling to the top professional markets, short fiction doesn’t pay much. If you’re sending out enough stories to generate an acceptable amount of sales, way to go! That’s not easy to do, even for the Big Names. I will say that anthologies that pay up front then give you a cut of the royalties can provide some worthwhile income.
  5. Here’s the Peril that cuts to the heart of what it means to be a writer. Are you going to write about what you want to write about, or are you going to write what you think will sell to the markets where you want your work to appear? The Digital Age has opened up a whole lot of  markets. They may not pay much. They may not pay at all. Still, you can get your words out there. Targeting a particular market is a perfectly reasonable career strategy. My first sale to Weird Tales was another day for joyful explosion.

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It comes down to those basic questions we all ask our main characters:

What do you want?

How badly do you want it?

What are you willing to give up in order to get it?

When you’ve answered these three questions, you will be on your way to navigating through the perilous process of telling the stories only you can tell.

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Great Story Titles: 17 Fiction Writing Experts Reveal Their Secrets


(With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, many of us are probably working on titles for this year’s writing project. Many thanks to Alex Limberg at ridethepen.com )

Looking for the perfect title for your story? Not easy to do. 17 fiction writing experts offer tricks and inspiration how to come up with intriguing titles.

Source: Great Story Titles: 17 Fiction Writing Experts Reveal Their Secrets

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Trip Report: Con-Volution 2016


by Lillian Csernica on October 6, 2016

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I had a wonderful time! As always, I was sharing a room with my usual traveling companion and parter in crime, Patricia H. MacEwen. There was a lot to see and do, between the panels and BoFs and the evening events and the hands-on workshops. Big kudos to Con Chair Jason and his Mighty Minions! (My apologies for not getting these links put in sooner. Last week included five appointments, two meetings, plus all the usual chaos.)

It’s Shirley Been 100 Years

I’m very happy to have been appointed moderator for this panel. I had to catch up on some background reading, which brought to my attention just how prolific Shirley Jackson really was. As primary breadwinner for the family, she had to keep the work going out and the money coming in.  At the same time she had to shoulder the load expected of a ’50s housewife. All four children were her responsibility, along with every household chore.  What an inspiration!

Kaiju, As Far As The Eye Could See!

This panel brought me the best of both worlds. I got to participate, drawing on my fascination with Japanese culture. Then I had the pleasure of listening to my fellow panelists and learn from their amazing expertise. Wanda Kurtcu made an excellent moderator, keeping us all in line when the synergy of ideas got too rowdy!

Fear of the Other

The diversity of panelists made for a variety of perspectives on this topic. We were happy to welcome Garrett Calcaterra to his very first con! He got thrown in at the deep end, and he acquitted himself very well. Keep an eye out for his YA fantasy series, The Dreamwielder Chronicles. The first two books are available now!

Stranger Things BoF

I managed to catch the last thirty minutes. Lively and intelligent discussion of our favorite characters. Debates about their true motivations and upcoming loyalties or desertions. Much love for the Christmas lights as a communications device! Many thanks to Mark Gelineau, our host and moderator.

DIY Room: Monster Pop-Up Cards

It’s not often I have time at cons to go indulge myself in a programming event just for fun. Trish Henry displayed her amazing skills at paper sculpture by walking us through the basics of making a pop-up card. We started with a heart. From there people made butterflies, a dragon, even a house! Trish provided plenty of colored paper, glitter pens, other decorative supplies, and chocolate eyeballs! Does it get any better than that?

Green Room

Minions #1, #2, and #3 provided simple, hearty fare that was ready and waiting no matter what time I wandered in. Chili over potatoes both baked and quartered, veggie pasta with an excellent sauce, and much to my utter screaming delight, my absolute favorite: homemade biscuits with sausage gravy. Snack baggies held a choice of popcorn, M&Ms, and even wasabi peas!

The Party Floor!

When I first got off the elevators on my way to my hotel room, I all but walked into a sign that proclaimed the hotel’s policy of keeping things quiet between nine p.m. and seven a.m. That made me burst out laughing. I was on Three, where the Quiet Zone started. The Party Floor was on Two, and it was crowded! Walking the big circle brought me to a new sign every three or four doors, heralding another party with another theme. On Friday night I spent most of the evening hanging out in Kevin and Andy’s ’60s themed bash. On Saturday night the ConJose party was the place to be. Gorgeous lighting effects, lots of comfy furniture, and some salted dark chocolate caramels that were divine!

I’m looking forward to Con-Volution 2017, at the San Ramon Marriott!

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The Age of Monsters


by Lillian Csernica on September 28, 2016

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I hope to see lots of you folks during Con-Volution this weekend at the Hyatt Regency SFO  in Burlingame, CA. With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve been working on some fun freebies. See me at a panel, catch me roaming around the hotel, and you will walk away with some fun, useful, and downright eye-catching items.
And yes, I do sign body parts, provided the Medical Examiner is already done with them!

My panel schedule:

It’s Shirley Been 100 Years

Friday 17:00 – 18:30, Boardroom V (Hyatt Regency SFO)

In December of this year, Shirley Jackson turns 100. Best known for her story “The Lottery” (1948), Jackson has been read by teenagers across the world. But her novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle endure almost as strongly. What is Jackson’s legacy to modern horror? What women are carrying her torch in today’s horror market?

Carrie Sessarego, Lillian Csernica (M)

Kaiju, As Far as the Eye Could See!

Saturday 12:00 – 13:30, Boardroom IV (Hyatt Regency SFO)

Kaiju are a special breed of monster, and deserve a panel all their own to spotlight their talents in thrilling us!

Lillian Csernica, Colin Fisk, BuddhaBabe (M), Xander Kent

Fear of The Other

Saturday 20:00 – 21:30, SandPebble B (Hyatt Regency SFO)

Horror from previous generations draws much of its power from the fear of the Other. In some cases the other is an unknowable being, a cosmic terror, but just as often it’s not, referencing instead more mundane distinctions between us and them. How problematic is the use of the Other to engender fear? Has fear of the Other led to some of the challenges genre faces today relative to inclusiveness and equality?

Lillian Csernica, Juliette Wade (M), Garrett Calcaterra, Gregg Castro t’rowt’raahl Salinan/rumsien Ohlone, Sumiko Saulson


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How to Escape Giving Negative Critiques


by Lillian Csernica on August 23, 2016

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Whether or not you’re involved in a writing group, there comes a time when one of your fellow writers will ask you to read his or her manuscript. If this person has already done you the favor of reading one of yours, you are more or less honor bound to return the kindness.

If you and your colleague are at a comparable level in your writing skills, this could turn out to be a very pleasant and profitable exchange of ideas and perspectives.  This is the best case scenario, and the reason why I urge anyone seriously considering joining a writer’s group to bear in mind these potential issues.

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Sooner or later, the moment will come when you are faced with the terrible prospect of reading a manuscript that is so bad that every page is absolute torture.  No amount of cheery and euphemistic commentary can conceal the fact that this particular stack of paper besmirched with little black ink marks is really, really bad.  Your eyes ache, your fingers are cramped from making copy editing marks, and you’re left with the unhappy knowledge that reading this mess has taken up hours of your life that you will never get back again.

What can we do to protect our sanity, our writing time, and the integrity of our relationships with colleagues while still sparing ourselves the ordeal of forcing ourselves to endure really bad writing?

Honesty  There are some types of fiction that do not appeal to me, so I rarely read them. Regency romance. Westerns. Space opera. Really gruesome horror. Since I don’t read much in these genres, I’m not a very good judge of what works and what doesn’t according to the usual reader expectations. Therefore I can step aside with a clear conscience.

Time  Life gets more and more crowded every day. Finding the time to do our own writing and editing can be difficult enough. Making time for additional critiquing may not be possible. If one has a standing commitment to a regular writing group, that’s one thing. That commitment must be honored. Outside of that, however, a judicious application of the word NO might be essential.

Referral  If you know somebody in your circle of writing acquaintances who might be willing to take on the burden of this critique, present your appeal with full disclosure.  If your colleague agrees, make the connection between the owner of the manuscript and the willing victim, give them your blessing, and exit stage left.

What do you think? Am I being reasonable here? Or am I being to harsh in declaring some manuscripts way too much of a not very good thing?

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5 Ways to Improve the Action in Your Story


by Lillian Csernica on August 13, 2016

Writers tend to be visually oriented. We see our stories playing out much like movies inside our minds. Whatever we can do to enhance the clarity of the images and information we want to convey to the reader will improve the strength of our stories. That clarity begins with making sure we can see exactly what’s going on.

Map out the key locations.  Start with just the distances between the major settings. If you want to get into topography, go for it. Bear in mind there’s a difference between miles on land and nautical miles.

Draw the important action. Draw one scene between two characters on a stage. You could also look down on the action, using an aerial view to keep track of items or characters outside of the protagonist’s sight lines. Split the page into four sections and take the comic book approach!

Storyboard the whole plot. Here’s yet another instance where the index card is the writer’s best friend. I recommend 4×6 size. A cork board, some push pins, and you’ve got your whole story laid out in front of you. On Pinterest you can find another definition of the novel storyboard which might also be quite helpful.

Illustrate the main character’s state of mind. Color can be very powerful on the intuitive level.  Put aside realism for the moment and have a go at the Impressionist school of art. Give the character’s dominant emotion a color. If emotions are clashing, assign a color to each and show that. Does the primary motivation suggest a particular color? Is there a Dark Secret lurking in the back of this character’s mind?

Color code the wardrobes for the major characters. This might sound silly, but if you have more than half a dozen characters to keep track of, you’ll be glad to have an easy way to keep this straight.  This is an even higher priority in historical fiction, where the clothing gets a lot more complicated, along with the fabrics, shades, and appropriate accessories.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t require Da Vinci level drawing skills. The whole purpose of the exercise is to get a clearer picture in our mind’s eye so we can choose the best words to describe the action. Have fun!

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Reblog: No Alphas Here by Polly J. Brown


Beta readers have been on my mind a lot lately. Over the past month, I’ve been polishing up my manuscript, reviewing critique comments and suggestions, and fixing plot holes or inconsistencies. My goal is to send it to beta readers in the next few months before I begin the querying process. I’ve also been a […]

via No Alphas Here by Polly J. Brown — Happy Authors Guild

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See Me Live and In Person!


by Lillian Csernica on May 27, 2016

Come one, come all!  See me make a public spectacle of myself in the best sense as I talk about writing and history.  I’ll be demonstrating the making of Victorian yarn dolls!  Looking forward to seeing you there!

 

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BayCon 2016: It’s All About Space!

Magic Vs. Religion

Friday 13:00 – 14:30, Collaborate 2 (San Mateo Marriott)

Does it matter to the characters? Does it matter to the readers?

Jay Hartlove (M), Lillian Csernica, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Maria Nieto, Teresa Edgerton

Monks in Space

Saturday 10:00 – 11:30, Synergy 5 (San Mateo Marriott)

Many monastic traditions stress the importance of silence and solitude. Leaving behind all the material comforts of Earth for the “final frontier” of dwelling in a monastic community or as a hermit in space would take on additional significance and spiritual impact. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism all have monastic traditions. The First Nation Peoples the traditions of solitude, fasting, and appealing to the spirits to grant a vision of that person’s purpose in life. The mission into space could be a vision quest, or the result of it!

Lillian Csernica (M), Mrs. Laurel Anne Hill, Jennifer Nestojko, G. David Nordley

Autograph Session: Csernica, MacEwen and Wade

Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Convene Lobby (San Mateo Marriott)

Juliette Wade, Lillian Csernica, Patricia H. MacEwen

The Space To Move Forward

Sunday 16:00 – 17:30, Connect 1 (San Mateo Marriott)

Using creativity to counter depression, PTSD and survivors guilt

Steven Mix (M), Lillian Csernica, Margaret McGaffey Fisk, Fr John Blaker

So You’re Ready to Publish

Monday 13:00 – 14:30, Connect 1 (San Mateo Marriott)

Do you Self-Publish or Traditiional Publish? Get an agent or try to go it alone?

J. L. Doty (M), Lillian Csernica, Teresa Edgerton, Kyle Aisteach

 

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Clockwork Alchemy: The Arts of Steampunk
The Undiscovered Countries

Saturday 7pm – 8:50pm Location: The Academy (San Martin Room)

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DIY Victorian Yarn Dolls

Sunday 10am – 11:50am Location: The Workshop (San Juan Room)

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The 3 Rules of Writing Historic Fiction

Monday 11am – 11:50am Location: Author’s Salon (Monterey Room)

 

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