Category Archives: Small business

Passion vs. Marketing

by Lillian Csernica on July 10, 2014

When I started writing I’d go nuts with a new idea.  I’d sit there with my pen and notebook or I’d be at the keyboard just going at it like lightning.  Some ideas were big enough to carry me along for days.  The characters just kept talking or fighting or having adventures.  The worlds kept opening up to me, demanding a record of all their details.  I’d end up with some really hot stuff, but a lot of it was middle, sometimes an ending.  I had to go back and figure out the whole story so I could fit this smokin’ hot piece of writing into it.

These days I’m a little more cautious.  I watch the sound and fury inside my head and think about it for a while.  Novel or short story?  One book or three?  One genre?  More than one?  I tend to evaluate my ideas in terms of marketability.  While this is a practical approach, it also takes some of the fun out of that first rush of inspiration.  I do think about the nuts and bolts such as plot and character.  Those can also be approached from a marketing standpoint first.  A lot of editors want to see POC characters, LGBT characters, and stories that speak to what happens in their lives.

If somebody asked me, “So where is the best place to start?” I’d have to say, “What do you want?  Where are you in your writing, and where do you want to go?”  When you have a new character that you’re all excited about, run with it.  Interview him or her.  Let that character talk to you and tell you the kind of stories your best friend might tell you at 3 a.m. after a long night and some hard times.  It doesn’t matter how much or how little of this material you use.


Then there’s the other approach.  You’re watching the market listings.  You see a new anthology that wants stories about capturing endangered alien species for the Intergalactic Breeding Program.  It just so happens you wrote a paper on the rare Checkerboard Chameleon that is rumored to live out in the wilds of Madagascar.  Looks like you’ve got what you need to start building a submission for that market.

Hold it.

Step back for a minute.

Yes, you have serious knowledge about a rare species and its habitat.  Have you been to Madagascar yourself?  If you have, fabulous.  If you haven’t, you can probably work around that.  Do you have field experience going out and capturing live specimens?  If not, you’re probably going to want to talk to somebody who’s done it and knows the pitfalls.  Then you have to write the story, and rewrite it, and maybe have your expert look it over.  When the story is done, you send it off to the market and cross your fingers.  Your personal credentials will help, but the bottom line is the story.

All of this takes TIME.

What happens if that market rejects the story?  Here you have this custom-built piece of fiction that represents a whole lot of time and energy.  Are there any other markets out there where this story might stand a good chance of being accepted?

Now we have come full circle.  That is the magic question you want to ask yourself BEFORE you sink all that time and energy into writing the story.

If the answer is yes, there are at least five or six other markets where your story fits the guidelines, then go for it.  Be realistic.  Don’t stretch the boundaries of likelihood just because you’re all hot and bothered about this one story idea.

If the answer is no, fall back and rethink your approach.  There may be other markets where your expertise will give your odds a boost, and the story you come up with will have broader marketability potential.  Maximize your investment of time, energy, research, and submission duration.

Passion, inspiration, drive, are all important to the creative process.  Marketing strategy is crucial for business success.  Knowing how to walk the line between them takes experience.  The more you write, the more you submit your stories, the more you learn about yourself, your work, and the business of writing.

May your burning desire to write remain an eternal flame.


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

Z is for Zymurgy

by Lillian Csernica on April 30, 2014


From the branch of applied chemistry dealing with fermentation, as in winemaking, brewing, the preparation of yeast, etc. Origin: 1865–70; zym- + -urgy.

As the grand finale of the A to Z Challenge, I have located an item that I’m sure will make many of you very happy.  It is indeed possible to get chocolate beer!


Thank you to everybody who joined me for this year’s A to Z Challenge.  I look forward to chatting further with my new friends and continuing to entertain the folks who pop in often.  Best wishes to you all!



Filed under Blog challenges, chocolate, Food, Goals, Humor, Small business

T is for Tools

by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2014


Chocolate is so much fun.  Fun to eat, fun to play with, fun to make into all kinds of shapes.  Ideal for the DIY person in your household, I have found some excellent gifts in the form of chocolate Tools.

How classy is this?  A tool box in milk or dark chocolate, with tools in milk or dark.  Mix and match, or go with one flavor for the chocolate purist!


For a bit more whimsy, smaller chocolate tools on the top of cupcakes in favorite flavors of cake and frosting.


I had to include this cake because it is so fantastic.  For the contractor, the woodworker, the handyman/woman, this will make any celebration really special.


What’s your favorite tool?  Can you imagine a chocolate chainsaw?  Maybe a nail gun that shoots chocolate nails?


Leave a comment

Filed under birthday, Blog challenges, chocolate, Family, fantasy, Food, Humor, Small business, Writing

S is for Sea Dragon

by Lillian Csernica on April 21, 2014



Apologies for the delay in posting my entry for this letter.  Russian Easter is a lot of work and a lot of fun.  Somewhere along the line I came down with some kind of illness which kept me in bed today.  Nevertheless, I bring you today’s chocolate wonder:

From, “Jean-Phillipe Maury’s Dragon Sculpture in Chocolate. The tree, dragon and large flowers are dark, white and light chocolate. The pearls and small flowers are sugar, and lanterns are pulled fondant.”


Next comes a marvel from Black Mountain Gold, Fine Artisan Chocolate.  This company has an entire page of Dragon Bars.

Sea Salt Dragon


Last but far from least, a marvelous Chinese Dragon from the Highland Bakery.  No, strictly speaking it’s not a sea dragon, but it’s just so fabulous I had to include it here:

From the Highland Bakery Blog: “Chinese Dragon head, made by Karen out of fondant and modeling chocolate. The bride used to work at Highland Bakery and instead of a traditional tiered cake, she made little individual cakes that snaked back behind the dragon to mimic the shape of its body. ”

What’s your favorite breed of dragon?  How would you like to see it rendered in chocolate?



Filed under birthday, Blog challenges, chocolate, fantasy, Food, romance, Small business

I is for Inhaler

by Lillian Csernica on April 10, 2014


When most of us hear the word “inhaler,” we probably think about people with asthma who use maintenance and rescue inhalers that provide Ventolin and Albuterol, among other medications.  I have asthma, and I use such inhalers.  This being true, it came as quite a shock to me to discover there’s another kind of inhaler out there.


Le Whif Breathable Chocolate

  • Special inhaler allows you to taste coffee and chocolate without eating
  • Available in 3 packs of coffee or chocolate. (Chocolate 3 pack includes 1 each of raspberry, mint and milk chocolate)
  • Tube is 100% biodegradable
  • Each Whif contains 300mg of chocolate, 40-80mg per inhalation (less than 1 calorie)
  • Great for dieters and possibly smokers who prefer chocolate flavor .
  • No, it won’t go into your lungs. The particles will fall deliciously on your tongue.
  • Coffee and Chocolate Whifs available
  • Chocolate Whif ingredients: Organic cane sugar, organic cocoa solids, organic vanilla, natural flavors. May contain traces of soy, wheat, gluten (raspberry whif), and wheat, gluten (mint whif).
  • Coffee Whif ingredients: Powdered sugar (sugar, corn starch), sugar, spray dried coffee powder, natural and artificial flavor, caffeine. Contains 18mg caffeine per serving.


If all this wasn’t mind-blowing enough, there is yet another way to get your chocolate fix.  In the tradition of more powerful recreational stimulants, there is a nasal inhalant system:


This would seem to be the fashion world’s attempt to have their candy and eat it too, without the calories.  The nasal delivery system operates on the principle that the sense of taste is mainly the sense of smell anyway, so by engaging the sense of smell one gets the majority of the pleasure with a minimum of calories.

Fascinating, yes, but a key part of the chocolate experience is the texture, the creaminess, the sense of the chocolate melting across one’s tongue.  When I was working the Northern Ren Faire near San Francisco, I bought a fancy chocolate truffle, approached the young man who would later become my husband, and invited him to meet me in the middle.  You haven’t lived until you’ve kissed your current flame through a mouthful of top quality chocolate!


Filed under Blog challenges, chocolate, fantasy, Humor, romance, Small business, Writing

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Query?

by Lillian Csernica on February 27, 2014

One of the worst parts of being a writer is the waiting.  Short story submissions are the classic example.  Response times have sped up a whole lot thanks to the Digital Age, but the larger, better-paying, and more popular markets can still have response times of three months on average.  That’s one fourth of the entire year!  How can we possibly make a living if each story only goes out four times a year?  The basic truth is that nobody makes a living from short story sales unless he or she has piled up so many with such high profile markets that the anthologists keep calling.  Even so, there’s always going to be more money in novels.

Many guidelines include some indication of when you can expect some kind of response.  Some markets even say, “If you haven’t heard from us by X date, contact us.”  Submittable is a great service, but every now and then a story can fall through the cracks in the servers.  If you’re sending a story to a market whose guidelines are this explicit about response protocol, that’s great.  Most guidelines are not this explicit, and most if not all editors do not want to be badgered.

And so we come to the moment when ninety to one hundred twenty days have passed with no response.  For me, this is the Great Crossroads of Anxiety.  Do I query the editor?  Is that particular editor even still with that magazine?  What if I catch him or her on a bad day?  Will that tip the balance and cost me the sale?  If I don’t query, and something did happen to that story, then I’ll have lost all that time because I didn’t follow up.  What if I decide to wait a little longer?  How much is a “little” longer?  Meanwhile, that story continues to hang fire as time slips away and other markets, possibly better matches for that story, open and close.

There are some variations inside the submission process that are worth noting.  Let’s say you’ve submitted a story to a market where you’ve already sold at least one other story.  If this market has a two tier reading system, odds are good you will bypass the slush pile entirely and move on to the shorter stack that gets closer attention from editors higher up in the decision-making.  If you’ve sold a number of stories to a particular market, the usual submission process might not apply to your work at all.  You could get heads-up notices from editors about upcoming projects before the official announcements.  You might even get invitations to submit.  Now you’re on the inside track and querying isn’t going to be an issue.

Several factors in the submission process are totally beyond our control.  If you’ve entered the query window and you can’t decide what to do, ask around.  Be polite.  Be discreet.  Keep in mind that everybody’s mileage may vary depending on their submission relationship with the particular market in question.  If this still leaves you caught in the paralysis of ambivalence, then just leave it alone.  Better to do nothing than to force the situation.  We never know when we’re just inches from success.

That thought is enough to cause another anxiety attack.  How close are we?  When the rejection comes in, we wonder how close were we?  When we do make a sale, it’s worth some time and thought to figure out what tipped the scales in our favor.  Example: in a recent acceptance letter, the editor told me he and his staff had been hoping somebody would send in a story set in that particular aspect of dark fantasy.  I hit the bull’s-eye.  That one was pure luck combined with market study.  I had no previous track record with that editor to tell me what he really liked and what he really hated.

Thanks to shop talk online, at conventions, and during writer’s group meetings, we have many opportunities to compare data on markets of interest.  I’m always coming across market info that is not of immediate use to me, but I usually know somebody who could benefit from it.  More than once, one quick email and possibly some beta reading has led to a sale for one of my friends and colleagues.  The additional benefit here comes in the ability to compare notes on what this editor said or the time frame in which that editor tends to respond.  This is the pot of gold at the end of the social media rainbow.  The more we talk to each other, the more we share info, the faster all this happens thanks to technology, the sooner we make progress up the ladder of success.

This is how we learn to know when it’s time to query.  This is what we do while we wait for editors to respond.  We get ready.  If we get an acceptance, hurray!  If we get a rejection, we’re poised to send that story out like arrows fired from our bows.  If we’ve used our time wisely and done our best to make our writing as strong as possible, our arrows will find the bull’s-eye.  Again and again and again.


Filed under Awards, Depression, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Small business, Writing

Have #SpecialNeeds #Kids? Shut Them Up! #Malaysia #TCK #Autism

Have #SpecialNeeds #Kids? Shut Them Up! #Malaysia #TCK #Autism.



Filed under autism, charity, Depression, Family, Goals, history, love, Self-image, Small business, Special needs, Writing

Birthday Celebrations, Part Two

by Lillian Csernica on December 29, 2013

Today’s actual partying has included a bento box lunch at my second favorite sushi emporium.  My #1 favorite is closed until New Year‘s.  Chris speculated that the staff was at home pounding mochi, which is entirely possible.  He told me this fascinating fact: pounding mochi for the New Year’s rice cakes is a really big deal in sumo stables.  I can see those large gentlemen being good at it, as strong as they are.   We had a good time at lunch, watching this little tiny Asian girl in her party dress give our server a workout trying to maneuver around the little girl while serving our bento boxes.  The music playing over the PA system was some strange langorous pop music.  Granted, listening to taiko while you’re trying to eat isn’t always that relaxing, but some shamisen and shakuhachi would have been nice.

After lunch we happened to spot a new chocolate shop across the parking lot, Ashby Confections.  This place was amazing.  One of the chocolates on display is made with Ghost chili.  If you’re not familiar with the world of chilis, let’s just say this is the absolute top of the mountain, King/Emperor/God of chilis.  Makes habaneros look like bell peppers.  For you endorphin junkies out there, this might make for quite a culinary adventure.  Me, I chose a Caramel Apple Truffle make with apple brandy the confectioner brought back from Paris.  If all this sounds worth investigating, and believe me, it is, you can see more of the delights available at

There is a rock shop along Highway 9 that I’ve pointed out to Chris more than once.  He suggested we visit it, because now that we’d had some chocolate, nothing would make me happier than buying a new rock.  This sounds silly, but more than once in the days when the depression was still crushing my spirit Chris would take me out and we’d hunt up a shop that sold semiprecious stones.  That’s how I got my labradorite heart, big enough to fit in the palm of my hand.

Mountain Spirit is one of those places where you just know the Buddhist, yoga, Hindu, and New Age folks like to shop.  Plenty of statues of Kwan Yin and Ganesh, prayer flags. and whatever incense was burning.  It’s a nice place with something for every age range.  I had been in there once before, but not on a serious mission of acquisition.  I explored the place, mentally checking off every rock I already had, i.e. amethyst and malachite and lapis lazuli and tiger iron and even Pakistani agate.  Much to my delight, I found a splendid specimen of kyanite.  It was available in obelisk form, which did a lot to show off the color variations and crystalline structure.  Even better was the “raw” specimen that bared the blue/gray crystals in their native matrix.  Had to have it.  The really sweet young lady who runs the shop showed me the listing for kyanite in her book on the meanings of stones.  That information harmonized well with the goals on my immediate horizon for the New Year, so all the better.  Now I just have to find a good display stand.

Kyanite from


Now here I sit, having just completed my Amazon Author Page.  Got a rejection slip today, but hey, that’s still progress, right?  Ad astra, baby!

Leave a comment

Filed under birthday, chocolate, Depression, Family, Humor, romance, Small business, Writing

‘Kittendales’: Shirtless men do their part to get kitties adopted | MNN – Mother Nature Network

by Lillian Csernica on December 4, 2013

Do you know anyone who likes both good-looking half-naked men AND cute fuzzy little kittens?  The fundraising genius at this animal shelter has brought these adorable subjects together in what may well be the perfect Christmas gift for several people on your list:

‘Kittendales’: Shirtless men do their part to get kitties adopted | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

All the proceeds go to support the no-kill animal shelter.  Please, consider buying at least one calendar.  I just ordered mine.  This is some serious eye candy, and it’s a great way to support the dedication of the shelter staff and the volunteers/models.

Happy Holidays!

Leave a comment

Filed under fantasy, Goals, Humor, romance, Small business

Bonus Post! S is for Supporting Small Business!

by Lillian Csernica on April 22, 2013

Please, folks, join me in helping out a really nice pair of people.  He’s a great cook as well as being a  marvelous fencer.  She’s a talented seamstress and the soul of hospitality.  All you need to do is go to this page and click on the VOTE button.  I know a lot of you enjoy good tea and the delights of cupcakes, scones, and other baked goodies.  You’ll be helping two hard workers keep progressing toward their dream business.

On behalf of myself and these two wonderful people, I thank you for your support.


Filed under Awards, Small business