Tag Archives: art

The Perils of Writing Short Fiction


by Lillian Csernica on February 21, 2017

stock-vector-giant-octopus-catches-old-style-sail-ship-hand-drawn-vector-illustration-317248694

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.

banknotes stack of money clipart

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.

canstock22870528

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.

quote-we-all-know-that-art-is-not-truth-art-is-a-lie-that-makes-us-realize-truth-at-least-the-truth-pablo-picasso-2915871

 

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, romance, science fiction, tall ships, Writing

How to Squeeze More Words Out of A Tired Brain


by Lillian Csernica on November 6, 2016

3da74cf4e657e8fc5abcab9ba80f04c6

I’m sitting here yawning. Yesterday I left the house at 11:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until around 10 p.m. That means ten and a half hours. I spent three of those hours driving.

When I finally staggered up the stairway to my office and dropped my bags, I realized I had 90 minutes to get the day’s NaNoWriMo quota done. At midnight, that’s it. You’ve either written that day or you haven’t.

You know how your car engine sounds when you turn the key and the engine tries to turn over, but it just won’t catch? Yeah. That’s the sound my brain was making.

stock-vector-sick-brain-use-light-bulb-saline-bag-vector-illustration-flat-and-minimal-design-need-idea-223263931

I was a bit ahead of the minimum total word count for Day 5, so I was strongly tempted to just let it ride for one day. No no no. I’d signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I’d made the commitment to write every single day in November. Every. Single. Day.

I did cut myself some slack. Make it to the ten thousand word mark, I told myself. Write that much, and you’re off the hook. That meant three pages, or 750 words.

Great. Now what? <sound  of car engine failing to turn over>

32233529-creative-thinking

At times like this I brainstorm. I write down every horrible thing that I could possibly do to my characters. It doesn’t have to make sense, really, it just has to be possible within the story content already established. If all goes well, inspiration will strike, the engine of my imagination will turn over, and the writing flows.

Want some specific examples of how I torture my characters and get the day’s writing done? I’m happy to share.

540_293_resize_20130201_b4753a03bc6881e6e425640c2f5ba5ed_jpg

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under artists, creativity, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, publication, research, Writing

M is for Money


by Lillian Csernica on April 15th, 2016

Here in the U.S. today is the deadline for turning in our income tax forms.  Money is a subject very much on most people’s minds.  This can be stressful.  To honor the occasion, here are some highlights from my travels when money was the crucial element.

51nq7vw3yal-_sy300_

One Halloween my friend Don suggested we go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The theater was in Newport Beach, CA, about twenty minutes from my house, where all the rich people lived down by the water.  This may not sound like I traveled far at all, but I assure you, this was a walk on the wild side into terra incognita.  I’d never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I’d heard about it, of course, as all teenagers had in my high school days.

Don said if we showed up in costume, we’d get in for free.  I went as a voodoo priestess and Don dressed up as a zombie.  Zombies weren’t all the rage in those days, so this costume was pretty bizarre.  When we got to the box office, we discovered costumes made no difference to the ticket price.  Neither of us had any cash on us, and we were too old to go trick-or-treating, so our night was about to go down in flames.

A woman sitting inside the lobby stood up, walked over to us, and slapped a ten dollar bill down on the counter.  “You’re in,” she said.  We thanked her up one side and down the other, then hurried in to find seats just as the house lights went down.  The forbidden fruit was all mine, thanks to that generous stranger.

2

On the night Pat and I arrived in Kyoto, we were both hungry and exhausted.  The bus from the Osaka Airport delivered us to the Kyoto Station.  It’s one of the five most expensive buildings in the world.  As a transportation hub and a shopping complex, it’s practically a city unto itself.  We found a store that sold take-out food.  Pat trusted me to identify what was in the deli-style racks and cold cases.  I picked out some attractive items and got into the checkout line.  When the cashier told me the total, I could manage the paper money, but the coins defeated me.  There were tired commuters queuing up behind me, so I held out a handful of change with a sheepish, “Tasukete, kudasai,” which is the formal polite way of saying, “HELP!”

The next and larger problem was the way Japanese do not handle money directly.  When you buy something, the cashier puts a little tray down in front of you and you put the money on that.  The cashier then picks up the tray and puts the money into the cash drawer.  I don’t know if this is a Shinto thing or what.  This particular cashier took pity on me and everybody in line behind me.  She picked out the right coins, gave me my receipt, and sent me on my way.

louvre-buiten-breed

In an earlier post I mentioned the weekend bus tour I took to Paris while I spent that summer in the Netherlands. The people on the bus with me were mainly retired folks or middle-aged teachers. I was always the last person to get on the bus because I sat in the tour guide seat right up front beside the driver. This put me in the perfect position to lend a hand when some of the older members of the tour needed help with that first step up into the bus.  Since I was on my own, I brought out the parental instinct in everybody.

What does all this have to do with money?

Just before our tour of the Louvre, our bus driver collected everybody’s twelve francs entry fee.  Then our French tour guide showed up.  Slim, glamorous, pushy, and condescending, she took one look at me and we both knew we’d never be friends.  She demanded the entry fee from me.  I told her I’d already paid.  She got very patient in a way that clearly implied I was trying to weasel out of paying my fair share.  The Dutch ladies came to my rescue.  One of them said to me, “You are my daughter.  You are seventeen years old.”  I had no idea what was up with that.  I started to explain that I was actually eighteen.  She shook her head and spoke in the voice of a career teacher, saying, “If you are under eighteen you do not pay.  Come with us.”  She and the other ladies formed up around me and marched me past the tour guide, giving her looks that should have set her false eyelashes on fire!

Customs sign on a Georgian building

On my way back into the country from the Netherlands, my flight had to land in Seattle as its first point of entry.  We all had to go through Customs.  That was simple enough, but then we sat there in the airport lounge wondering what was holding up our departure to Los Angeles.  My name was called over the public address system.  Just my first name.  That was strange.  I presented myself at the appropriate desk.  A Customs official took me to an office where another teenage girl from my flight was looking seriously freaked out. Her eyes were red and her makeup all smeared from crying.  She begged me to help her.  I was the only person on the plane she’d talked to, so mine was the only name she knew to call for help.  She’d made some mistake filling out her Customs forms.   They wanted her to pay them twenty dollars or they wouldn’t let her continue on into the country.  I had the money on me, thank God, so the officials were satisfied and we all got to fly on to LAX.  The poor girl couldn’t stop thanking me and apologizing. When we got off the plane, I was quite relieved to see her mother there to meet her.  (My boyfriend was waiting for me, but that’s another story.)

That unknown lady stepped up and paid my way into the movies.  Those Dutch ladies stepped up and protected me when I needed help.  I’m glad I had a chance to pass on the kindness and help that girl get home safe and sound.

love-money

 

9 Comments

Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, charity, classics, Family, family tradition, Food, frustration, Halloween, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, parenting, perspective, research, travel, worry, Writing

Sexy Pirate Cover Art!


by Lillian Csernica on April 7, 2016

51osbsxftol-_sx331_bo1204203200_

Please vote for SHIP OF DREAMS in Author Shout’s Cover Wars contest!

The prize?

Author Shout says:

The cover with the most votes becomes our book of the week in which we will promote for one week on our site, shout outs, and our newsletter.

Thank you for your support.  The cover was designed by Bridget McKenna of Zone 1 Design, and extremely talented and knowledgeable lady.

 

can-stock-photo_csp15687691

2 Comments

Filed under artists, creativity, dreams, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, history, Lillian Csernica, love, pirates, romance, tall ships, 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 nowimhungry.com, “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?

 

6 Comments

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

K is for Kremlin


by Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2014

 

K

One of the most memorable buildings in the world is the Kremlin, located in Moscow, Russia.  The Moscow Kremlin includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.

 

 

And just because it’s so pretty, here’s another version of the Kremlin made from gingerbread with lovely frosting.

 

If you could create a building out of chocolate, what would you make?  How tall, how many rooms, any gardens or courtyards?

7 Comments

Filed under Blog challenges, chocolate, fantasy, history, Writing

A is for (Chocolate) Art


by Lillian Csernica on April 1, 2014

A

That’s right, it’s Day One of the great April A to Z Challenge!  Today I bring to you the work of Karl Lagerfeld:

fashion.telegraph.co.uk

 

 

What you see in that image is life-size, made entirely of chocolate.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s the real model, Baptiste Giabiconi:

And the master himself, Karl Lagerfeld:

If you could make a whole room out of pure chocolate and put people in it as well, who would you choose? Which room would it be?

 

12 Comments

Filed under Blog challenges, chocolate, fantasy, Goals, Writing

Satisfying Art


by Lillian Csernica on September 13, 2013

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

How do we create the art we want to create despite all the strictures that surround us?  I’m a writer, so I’m going to focus on writing.  I believe a lot of the same considerations extend to painting, dance, music, sculpture, etc.  With that in mind, let me recommend to you the wonderful little book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles  and Ted Orland.  As a writer, I need to know what kind of writing I want to do.  Over the course of the twenty years I’ve been working as a professional writer, I’ve written novels, short stories, screenplays, magazine articles, magazine columns, newspaper articles, poetry, and a whole lot of personal journal entries.  We find out what we want to do, what we most enjoy doing, by trying this, that, and the other.  Effort is made, data is collected, conclusions are arrived at, and off we go.

STAGE ONE:  Explore the possibilities!  What do you really enjoy doing in terms of creating art?  Poetry, short stories, literary work, hardboiled detective novels?  Figure out what you want to do, then go find out how it’s done.  Don’t worry about getting it right the very first time.  T.S. Eliot said, “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.”  For writers, anyway, it’s really quite simple.  Read a lot.  Write a lot.  Study the masters of the writing forms that interest you.

STAGE TWO: Now that you know what you want to write and how to do a good job writing it, go to it!  Every day.  Process goal or productivity goal.  Whatever suits your life.  The question you have to keep asking yourself: Is this me?  Is this my work?  Is this want I want to do, what my soul cries out for, what speaks to me at night when I’m only half-awake?  Or is it what somebody else wants me to write, what somebody else is telling me I should write, what somebody else wishes he or she had the guts to write?  Be on the alert for these differences.  People will try to hijack you the minute you prove you have the courage to break away from the churning mass of wannabes.

STAGE THREE:  So you’re writing.  Good for you!  What do you want to do with it?  Personal self-expression?  Family legacy?  Professional sales?  That’s all fine.  Not everybody has to get out there and endure the daily mud wrestling that means you’re a professional writer.  Given that the majority of the writing blogs I read are about making sales in today’s marketplace, I’m going to speak to that.  Dean Wesley Smith once made a bet with Nina Kiriki Hoffman.  They each had to write one short story a week for one year (and send them out to publishers).  They continued the bet for three years, and by the end of those three years, they were selling to the top professional markets.   The moral of the story?  They worked hard, they kept improving, and they set their sights high right from the start.

STAGE FOUR:  Go do something different.  But wait, you say.  I just learned how to do what I want to do, and now I’m making progress!  Why should I switch horses in mid-race?  The human mind needs and craves a variety of input.  You like to write about cars?  Go write an essay about geraniums.  You like to write short stories?  Write a dozen haiku, or sonnets, or your very own nursery rhymes.  People demand a lot of their “Muse.”  What nobody thinks about is what the Muse needs!  Feed that Muse, people!  Take her on a vacation and let her inspire you to do something fresh and new.  Who knows what adventures you’ll have?  Who knows what strengths you’ll discover?

Stay tuned!  Next, we talk about Money!

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Writing

The Top Five Writing Blogs I Read


by Lillian Csernica on July 24, 2013

 

Kristen Lamb’s Blog — Sharp, personable, meaningful, and informative.  Deserves the title Social Media Maven.

terribleminds: Chuck Wendig — Raunchy, hilarious, heartfelt, and streetwise.

Hunting Down Writing — Full of resources, such as this excellent challenge.

Broadside — Witty, thought-provoking, a valuable perspective on whatever topic she chooses.

Leanne Shirtliffe — Ironic Mom — Just too damn funny.  Whether or not you’re a mother, you will enjoy the author of “Don’t Lick the Minivan.”

Click those links!  You’ll be glad you did!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog challenges, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Writing

Lucky Number 8


by Lillian Csernica on June 9, 2013

Eight Ways To Win My Heart:  I do consider the number eight to be lucky.  The person willing to do some or all of what’s listed below is a winner in my book!

Intelligent conversation.  I value it even more than good chocolate.

Send me something fun via snail mail.  I love to get cards and packages.

Be willing to watch a movie with me, one of the ones I really enjoy due to explosions, strange characters, foreign culture, or a movie star I have a crush on.

Ignore my weirdness on my bad days and accept the apologies I offer later.

Fold the laundry for me.

Convince me that I will finish this book, I will finish the others, I will write and sell good, solid stories, and someday I’ll be nominated for literary awards.

Get me out the door so I’ll take that walk or go for a swim or do something to exercise this aging, high mileage vehicle.

Don’t ever lie to me or jerk me around.  Prove to me that I can’t trust you and you’ll never be on the Authorized Personnel list again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog challenges, Depression, Family, Fiction, Humor, Special needs, Writing