Category Archives: Small business

G is for Grandma


FAMILY GARDENS, FAMILY TREES

“To be one woman, truly, wholly, is to be all women. Tend one garden and you will birth worlds.”

–Kate Braverman

Springtime with its new growth of plants and flowers always makes me think of my maternal grandmother’s flower garden. They say inherited traits skip a generation. That means we’re more like our grandparents than our parents. This is certainly true of me and both of my grandmothers.

My maternal grandmother lived large in a time when that just wasn’t done. Her role model was her own mother, my great-grandmother. Back in the ’30s Nana had gotten a divorce then opened her own modeling agency, two actions way beyond the social norm for women of her time. Nana raised my grandmother in that environment of independence and determination. Grandma became a fashion model. The natural companion for a model is a photographer, right? My grandfather was a professional photographer who later earned a Masters in Cinematography from USC and worked for Universal Studios. I have many of the photos he took of Grandma which show her devilish smile and the wicked sparkle in her eye.

Grandma wrote a society column, full of parties and social events and the kind of good-natured gossip that makes for lively reading. Grandma’s column appeared regularly in the paper, but one day she got her photo in a Mexican newspaper as well. On a trip to Enseñada Grandma donned the traditional traje de luces of the bullfighter, complete with hat and cloak, and fought a bull right there in the bullring. And she won! I now have that “suit of lights” as a treasured reminder of the Grandma who went through the world with high spirits and a fearless heart.

When I think of Grandma’s house, I think of the garden out in the backyard. It might have been the Hall of Flowers at the county fair or the sales floor of an upscale nursery. When I was three years old, we lived with Grandma for a short time. At that age I got into everything, and that included the garden. The roses looked good enough to eat, in sugary pinks, deep golden yellows, and reds even darker than Grandma’s lipstick. Their scents mingled with the delicate fragrance of the night-blooming jasmine and the down-home sweetness of the honeysuckle vines. On hot summer days I liked to sit out there and just breathe.

A lot more grew in Grandma’s garden than just flowers. The towering tree with drooping branches blossomed with thousands of pale lavender petals. This was a “jacaranda.” I loved that word. New and strange, it made me think of spicy food in faraway lands. The raspberry bramble was a dangerous place for little hands and little tummies. The best berries were always deep in the bramble where the birds couldn’t eat them. I had to stick my hand way in there past all the thorns and spiderwebs and bugs. One day my cousin Kevin ate a bunch of berries before they were ripe. His stomach ache taught me the importance of patience, and of letting him go first!

The garden remains a symbol for all of Grandma’s quirks and strengths. What my childhood self remembers the woman I am now can interpret and understand. Grandma was beautiful and exotic and livened up her surroundings. Some days Grandma could be thorny. Some places in her house and in her life little kids just didn’t go. Boundaries are reassuring to a child, even when they provoke unbearable curiosity.

My father’s mother had a much different style. She married my grandfather and set up house as a farm wife, giving him three sons and three daughters. She lived through the Depression and both World Wars. She made a great mulligan stew, played Yahtzee like a pro, and never once commented on the length of my husband’s hair (a ponytail halfway down his back). At eighty-four this Grandma was still going strong and objected strongly to the law taking away her driver’s license.

Grandma lived at the same address throughout my entire life, a trailer park in Ohio. When I think of her garden, I think of the little field beside her trailer, a shaggy patch of weeds and blackberry vines, dandelions and wildflowers, lizards and birds and bumblebees as big as my little kid thumb. It’s a great big happy organic mess. Mother Nature is left to her own devices there. If anybody understands the importance of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” that was my Grandma.

As you can see, my grandmothers are two very different types of women. From my mother’s mother come my sense of adventure, my fondness for costumes, and my love of travel. From my father’s mother come my cooking skills, my love of board games, and my contentment with less than perfect housekeeping.

From both my grandmothers I’ve inherited the need to locate and preserve photos of every generation of the family back as far as I can find. I want my two sons to at least see the relatives they won’t have the opportunity to meet. These photos have become a garden of memories, one that will show my boys and their children the rootstock that we come from, the sturdy vines and delicate blossoms, the everyday ferns and the hothouse roses. I hope that all the babies yet to come will one day know they are the latest buds to blossom in a garden tended with love.

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BayCon 2019 Panel Schedule


by Lillian Csernica on May 22, 2019

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It’s that time of year again! As Memorial Day Weekend approaches, I’m packing up my copies of my latest anthology appearances, my panel notes, and my younger son with an eye to having a wonderful time at this year’s BayCon!

Here’s a list of my panel appearances. Hope to see you there!

Keeping our children involved.

25 May 2019, Saturday 10:00 – 11:30, Connect 3 (San Mateo Marriott)

How do we ENHANCE their education?

Dr. Wanda Kurtcu (Retired Educator) (M), Lillian Csernica (Sense of Wonder Press), Juliette Wade, Sarah Williams (Merrie Pryanksters)

 

How diverse is diversity?

25 May 2019, Saturday 14:30 – 16:00, Synergy 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

As recent events show, this is still a needed discussion. What does diversity and equity look like? How can groups, organizations and communites promote “diversity”, especially when they are not organically positioned to be diverse? What things can be done to attract a more diverse community in whatever you do? (G. Castro)

Gregg Castro (Salinan T’rowt’raahl) (M), Dr. yvonne white (Hayward High School), Lillian Csernica (Sense of Wonder Press), Jean Battiato

 

Why do writers kill characters?

25 May 2019, Saturday 16:00 – 17:30, Connect 5 (San Mateo Marriott)

Does it matter if it’s a main character or a secondary, supporting character?

Fred Wiehe (M), Ms. Jennifer L. Carson (Freelance), Rebecca Inch-Partridge, Lillian Csernica (Sense of Wonder Press)

 

Altered Beast

26 May 2019, Sunday 10:00 – 11:30, Synergy 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

Werewolves and other shapeshifters in mythology and literature

Kevin Andrew Murphy (M), Lillian Csernica (Sense of Wonder Press), Pat MacEwen

 

Spontaneous Story

26 May 2019, Sunday 11:30 – 13:00, Connect 3 (San Mateo Marriott)

Panelists developing a story developed by multiple choice suggestions from audience members.

Jeff Warwick (M), David Brin, Lillian Csernica (Sense of Wonder Press), Mark Gelineau (Gelineau and King), Mrs. Sandra Saidak (Silicon Valley Authors)

 

The Ink That Rushes From Your Heart

27 May 2019, Monday 10:00 – 11:30, Engage (San Mateo Marriott)

Dorothy Parker wrote “Never never dip your quill/In ink that rushes from your heart.” Being willing to do exactly that is what will bring the deepest meaning to our writing. How do we bring ourselves to be that honest and vulnerable in our stories?

Lillian Csernica (Sense of Wonder Press) (M), Jay Hartlove (JayWrites Productions), Ms. Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff (Book View Cafe)

 

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Experience the Wonders of Clockwork Alchemy!


by Lillian Csernica on March 23, 2018

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Join us at the Hyatt Burlingame for a weekend of science, fiction, science fiction, cosplay, music, airship races and more!

Here’s the list of Programming events where you can find me:

Friday, 3 to 4 p.m. Creating Magic Systems for Fantasy

Saturday, 5 to 6 p.m. Steam-y Storytelling: Five Pros Improvise!

Sunday, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. How Steam Changed Japan

Sunday, 2 p.m. Reading “The Wheel of Misfortune”

You can also find me at my table in Author’s Alley where I will have copies of the Clockwork Alchemy anthologies for sale.

My dear son John is coming along, outfitted in his steampunk best. If you see us out there in the halls or event rooms, be sure to say hello!

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Reblog: Media Training with Sally G. Cronin


From Lillian: Sally G. Cronin is a wonderful writer and a role model for all of us who want to be successful in the Digital Age. Thank you, Sally, for sharing your expertise!

 

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via Smorgasbord Media Training for Authors FREE Pdf

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Which Story Should You Write First?


by Lillian Csernica on August 28, 2017

44384633-creativity-and-imagination-concept-open-book-with-magical-city-inside-ship-palm-trees-tropical-islaYou’ve got two or more ideas in your head, fighting for your attention, demanding to be written.

It happens.

What do you do? How do you prioritize them? Maybe you really can write more than one story at once, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Everybody’s got a process. It’s good to know and respect your own. If you’re still somewhat new to writing narrative fiction, you might want to concentrate on one story at a time.

But again, which one?

The answer depends on knowing exactly what you want.

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Are you after the money? Go with the idea that’s most marketable.

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Are you out to make a statement or address an issue? Go with the idea that really sets your heart on fire, be it with anger, grief, or joy.

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Do you have what seems like a really cool idea but you’re all caught up in the worldbuilding and you can’t seem to make the characters behave and there’s all this research? Let that one sit. It sounds like it might be a novel. If you don’t have enough experience yet from writing short stories, writing a novel might be biting off more than you can chew. Do I know this from personal experience? Oh yes.

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When you get to the stage where you see ideas everywhere, that’s when you have to adjust your own settings as a writer. By doing so, you’ll be able to concentrate on the ideas that show up most strongly on the radar of your imagination.

How do you adjust those settings? Ask yourself these questions:

Do you have a deadline to meet? If there’s a submission window open and it has a firm deadline, that movies it up the priority list.

Is the idea time-sensitive? Seasonal themes often require submitting the story several months in advance, so keep an eye on guideline updates.

Do you have a particular word limit in mind? It might seem obvious to think flash fiction can be written in a shorter time frame than a novella. Shorter is often harder, because every word has to do that much more work. If you have more than one work-in-progress, the time factor is an important consideration.

Cost/benefit analysis

Will Idea A yield benefits that outweigh the costs of time, effort, marketing, etc.?

Opportunity cost

What else could you be doing instead of developing Idea A into a story? Maybe Idea B would yield more in the way of benefits long term.

If you want your writing to be more than a few random thoughts jotted in a personal journal while sipping a latte in the local coffeehouse, then this kind of analysis is very important. It may seem too cold and clinical to evaluate a creative effort in these terms, but hey, life is short. Make hay while the sun shines or the storms will come and all that hay will rot in the field. All that opportunity will be lost.

Regardless of which priority you choose, once you have settled on a project, there is one ironclad rule:

FINISH IT!

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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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Reblog: 6 Annoying Things Writers Are Asked To Do And How To Ask Anyway


Are you thinking of asking a writer friend for help with something? Maybe you should think twice.

Source: 6 Annoying Things Writers Are Asked To Do And How To Ask Anyway

Comments Off on Reblog: 6 Annoying Things Writers Are Asked To Do And How To Ask Anyway

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The Greatest Job I’ve Ever Had


by Lillian Csernica on September 17, 2016

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Yes, that’s me. Granted, I was all of eighteen.

Once upon a time, I worked as a Turkish-Moroccan belly dancer. My teacher was a delightful lady from Zaragoza, Spain. I had a genuine, 100% authentic coin belt made by a  man from Turkey. The belt had 144 diamond-shaped metal coins stamped with the image of Venus on the Half-Shell.

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I performed in my high school talent show. The audience actually threw money at the stage. That in itself was funny. Then the stagehands gathered it all up and brought it to me backstage!

My teacher often took me with her when she’d been hired for a party. During the holiday season, we appeared as part of a steady stream of entertainers at a bachelor party. Just one piece of art on the walls in that house could have put me through college. That was the night I got the biggest tip I’d ever received. Some generous soul stuffed a $10 bill down the back of my coin belt!

Ah, the places I’ve been and the things that I’ve seen….

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N is for Nowhere (the Middle Of)


by Lillian Csernica on April 16, 2016

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In Everybody’s Autobiography, Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, CA, “There’s no there there.”  This is not true of Oakland, but I have seen many places where there’s just nothing there.

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On one of our trips to Ohio, Daddy decided to take the southern route on I-15, which meant driving through a whole lot of very hot Nowhere in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.  We had to put beach towels on the car seats.  If I didn’t, and I was wearing shorts, my skin would stick to the slick upholstery.  Peeling myself off of that was no fun at all.  Have any of you ever had to do that?

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Off California Interstate 5, just before you get to the Grapevine, there’s a little town called Lost Hills.  The last time I was there (late ’80s/early ’90s), the town consisted of one stoplight, one gas station, a Motel 6, and one lonely tumbleweed blowing around in the hotel parking lot.  I’ve always wondered where the people lived who worked in Lost Hills.  Maybe they all stayed at the Motel 6.

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My mother likes to travel.  This includes booking bus tours out of the local community center or some other local organization.  I’ve always been fond of castles, so when Mom decided to go to Hearst Castle she took me with her.  Hearst Castle is located in San Simeon, CA, two hundred fifty miles from both Los Angeles and San Francisco.  It’s in the middle of nowhere quite literally because the ranch it sits on includes two hundred fifty thousand acres!  Hearst Castle also sits atop some really steep mountains, so getting there was a challenge.  I was profoundly grateful to know Mom had the sense to leave the driving to a professional tour bus driver.  If coming home from Pasadena had been difficult, getting to and from Hearst Castle could have been a nightmare!

On the drive back from Las Vegas, where Pat and I had attended KillerCon, it was cold and dark and very empty outside our car windows.  Then a sign appeared, a sign with the three words you see in the photo above.  Out in the middle of nowhere, near the Interstate 15 and Hwy 286/288 interchange, in perfect territory for an alien abduction, stands the Alien Fresh Jerky store.  I tell you, “Hotel California” by the Eagles might as well have been playing in the background.  We had to investigate.  How often does an opportunity like this come along?

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Pat got lost in the hot sauce aisle.  Neither of us had ever seen so many different varieties of hot sauce in one place.  I like Thai food so I’m OK with spicy, but some of the labels on those hot sauce bottles should have included HazMat symbols.  Ye gods!

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boards.cruisecritic.com

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How Retail Sales Work Made Me A Better Writer


by Lillian Csernica on February 2, 2016

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I spent ten years working in retail sales.

I am soooooo happy I don’t do that for a living anymore.

Why, you ask?  Because I spent most of those ten years working Renaissance Faires around the western United States.  That might sound like a fun job, getting to dress up in costume and be part of environmental theater and spend all weekend in one big historical shopping mall with stage shows and great food and beer.

The thing is, when you’re working twelve hour days in 90 to 100 degree heat and the wood chips aren’t keeping the dust down and some of your sales crew drink too much on their breaks and forget when to come back to work, it’s not all jousting and turkey legs.

When you’re in retail, you hear “The Customer is always right” at least once a day.  When you work at the Ren Faires, this philosophy gets put to the test all day long, especially later in the day when the Customers have been drinking.  Let me tell you, it is not easy to close a sale on a $1200 Lord of the Rings chess set when the Customer is drunk and living out some Richard the Lion-Hearted fantasy regardless of the fact that Ren Faires are set in Elizabethan England.

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Southern Faire in Agoura, CA, where I hired in at 18.

People who think they’re experts about some period of history just because they’ve watched The Lion in Winter or Henry V or even Mulan really get on my nerves.  If that was true when I was 28 and “a mere shopgirl,” as I was once called, then you can just imagine how I must feel now that I’m 50 and a published historical novelist.

Working in retail has made me a better writer.  On the days when I’m lazy or frustrated or can’t get out of my own way, I remind myself that I could be back behind the counter at the dollar store where I once worked, trying to deal with the shoplifters and the English Second Language folks and the delivery trucks coming in around back.  Talk about an immediate attitude adjustment!  Writing is hard work, but it’s also a dream come true.

Working in retail has made me a better writer.  There were those Customers who were polite and entertaining and absolutely in love with history.  The two different companies I worked for during my Ren Faire days sold items that were often incorporated into weddings.  Meeting a bride who really wanted to know how and why a Queen did this or that made for some memorable conversations.  I got more than a few hugs from people who now had just the right items to make their historical dream weddings come true.

Money is nice, but sometimes I’ve been paid in coin of much greater value.

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I love writing historical fiction.  I love getting the details right.  I love picturing one of those really wonderful Customers sitting down to read one of my books and smiling because I don’t make the common mistakes, and I do my best not to make the uncommon ones either!

Ten years in retail sales gave me experience and perspective on many different kinds of people.  I know how to pitch, I know how to read my target customer, I know how to create the need and demonstrate value for money.  All of those skills are essential in the increasingly competitive fiction marketplace.

Think about the jobs you’ve had.  The people you’ve met.  The ones you really liked and the ones you couldn’t stand.  Characters.  Conflict.  Goals and obstacles.  You have all the raw material you need, right there.  Do your research, by all means, but write about what you know and what matters to you.  Find the heart of the story.

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