by Lillian Csernica on February 21, 2017
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Filed under editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, romance, science fiction, tall ships, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 5, 2016
In my many travels I have encountered a variety of drinks. Here are a few of the more entertaining beverages, notable for both their flavors and the stories that go with them.
Apple jack or Apfeljack — During my visit to the Netherlands, my host sisters and I would spend Thursday nights at the disco in the next city. The cover charge included a two drink minimum. In late June the Netherlands can still feel like November in California, so my preferred drink would be apple jack. I strongly suspect the drinks were watered, which was probably a good thing. One night somebody told me a particular guy wanted to dance with me. Turns out he was a big, gorgeous Dutch soldier who had just turned 18. Andre and I enjoyed more than one dance. I tell you, apple jack makes for excellent antifreeze when you’re running to catch the last train home!
Bottled water — These days you see people carrying spiffy personalized water bottles all the time. When I was in Paris, this was a strange sight. I chalked it up to one more thing the Europeans did differently than people from the U.S. When it comes to “sparkling water,” that does make a good alternative to soda if you like the fizz and don’t want the sugar. As I continue to battle my Coca-Cola addiction, sparkling water is my friend!
Dragon’s Breath — There are so many recipes and so many individual variations that I can only point you to Google. Back in the days when I was working at the Renaissance Faire, before I got married, I had a close encounter of the personal kind with a homemade liqueur named Dragon’s Breath. In those days I worked for a jeweler. Our booth was set up right next to the legendary Cardiff Rose, the fencing booth designed to look like a privateer vessel. One day a
pirate privateer came calling with a jug of Dragon’s Breath. I knew the fellow by sight as one of our Faire neighbors, so I felt fairly safe in taking a swig of the brew in the ceramic jug. Oh my stars and garters! Imagine mulled wine with a good dose of brandy. Before my shock could fade, said privateer grabbed me and kissed me. Ever chewed a peppermint or cinnamon candy then inhaled really fast? The kiss felt a whole lot like that!
Melon soda — I first encountered this divine beverage at the Toei Kyoto Studio Park. It came with the meal I ordered at one of the park’s restaurants. Not overly sweet, similar to honeydew melon, and even better when made into a float with vanilla ice cream. Bonus: the melon soda came in a souvenir mug shaped like the hanging paper lanterns that decorated the Park. The Park’s name and logo are written on the side in kanji.
Seattle microbrews — My latest trip to Seattle for Norwescon 39 featured a pumpkin beer party that also furthered my acquaintance with a few more of the spectacular microbrews of the city known mainly for coffee. I regret not writing down the names of each beer. One tasted of coffee and hazelnuts, much to my delight. Another had plenty of ginger. A strong, bitter brew left me thirsty for plain water. I’m just happy nobody took photos of me there. The dress code required me to borrow a helmet made from half a pumpkin with some horns stuck into it!
Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, cosplay, fantasy, Food, Goals, history, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, research, tall ships, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on September 21, 2015
With great pleasure I announce to you the relaunch of my pirate romance, Ship of Dreams! The new cover and fresh interior design come from the multi-talented Bridget McKenna of Zone 1 Design. If you’d like more information on the details of Bridget’s redesign, please go here.
If you love tall ships, tropical ports, a sassy heroine and a hero worth fighting for, you’ll find all that and more once you come aboard the Ship of Dreams!