Tag Archives: Fear

#atozblogchallenge D is for Don’t


by Lillian Csernica on April 4, 2019

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Some of the lessons I’ve learned in my writing life have been firsthand experience, and some have come from observing the disasters other people have brought upon themselves. Since seven is widely considered a lucky number, I’ve distilled these “teaching moments” down to a list of seven Don’ts:

 

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Don’t burn bridges.

I have written three different regular columns for three different magazines. More than once what I wrote became rather controversial. One of my editors decided it would be a wise move to show my column to someone in the field before the column was published. I did not know about this at the time. What I did know is the way the editor insisted I make changes to that column, all of which were later revealed as being specific points complained about by the person to whom the editor showed it. Were these valid editorial objections? No, they weren’t. They had nothing to do with The Chicago Manual of Style or proper grammar. They had everything to do with private personal agendas. That editor sold me out. Once I found out what had really gone on behind the scenes, I was quite angry. Did I call the editor out? I did not.

Notice, please, that even though this happened twenty years ago, I’m still not naming names. Why? Because in the writing field, which really is a small world, it’s not smart to burn bridges. You just never know where that editor might turn up next. Sure enough, this particular editor went on to work at a magazine that had considerable importance in my chosen profession. Burning that bridge would have had serious repercussions.

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Don’t forget to say thank you.

Nobody owes you anything. If somebody does you a favor, show appreciation in an equivalent and appropriate way. I’m always passing on market information to my fellow writers. At least two of those people made their first sales based on info I sent their way. Writers ahead of me on the career food chain have introduced me to my heroes such as Ray Bradbury and Robert Silverberg. Once a successful writer gave me a roll of gold foil Autographed Copy stickers. Years later there came a day when I met Joseph Malik, a newly published writer, in the SFWA Suite at WorldCon and made sure he had some Autographed Copy stickers for his books. What goes around, comes around. Let’s all help each other.

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Don’t waste energy on self-doubt, anger, jealousy or fear.

None of those will get you where you want to go.

I live with grief, depression, disappointment, and constant fear. I can let them suck all the strength out of me. I can point to all the reasons in my life, valid reasons, for why I don’t get more writing done. Or I can write. Make the time, make the effort, get it done.

Take those emotions and use them to power your writing. Even if all you do is spew your negative emotions into your personal journal, writing is writing. As my dear teacher Andy Couturier says, “Keep the pen moving!”

Don’t be afraid to offend people or make them angry.

When I was little, my mother taught me not to talk about politics or religion. Mom said that was the surest way to start a fight. What do I write about now? My historical novels involve a certain amount of political intrigue. My fantasy often has some kind of religious content. A while back I appeared on a lot of religion panels at conventions. I would often end up defending Christianity, which really upsets some people. Those people took a serious dislike to me because of my beliefs, and that had some career repercussions. Oh well. This is still the land of the free and the home of the brave, at least for the time being. St. John Maximovich, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, once said, “Where there is no adversity, there is no victory.”

Just write. Tell your story. You are not responsible for how people choose to react. If you let fear control your voice, you’ll never say anything dangerous or exciting. Who wants to read safe, boring, middle-of-the-road writing?

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Don’t think you’ll remember it later.

You won’t. Write it down.

Don’t stop learning.

There is so much out there to know. Learning opens doors, and not just in terms of a college degree or a certificate or a license. Like most writers, I know a little about a lot of things. More than once, when I’ve met someone new, I’ve been able to find some common ground almost immediately thanks to knowing about food or music or folk art from their part of the world. And if I know nothing? I ask questions. I listen. I get excited, because I love to learn something new. Just the other day, at the local dollar store, I heard a man speaking a language I thought I recognized. Sure enough, he told me it was Arabic. When I mentioned how beautiful the Arabic script is, the man told me something I did not know. Arabic is read right to left. See? Always learning!

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Don’t stop writing.

I lost my first baby. He’d just started kicking. I was so happy. Called my parents, called the in-laws, told them all about it. Three days later, I ruptured early and that led to a miscarriage. I stopped writing in my personal journal. There was no way I could write down what I was feeling. I could not live through it all again.

Two or three years later, something must have happened to break up the emotional log jam inside my mind. I began writing in my plain spiral notebook with my plain black ballpoint pen. Then I wrote a pirate romance novel for fun and escapism and maybe even profit. I got an agent, who sold that novel. And so Ship of Dreams came into the world.

Keep writing. Every day. Meet your time, fill your quota. It adds up, and you will become a better writer.

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How To Keep Writing When You’re Drowning in Chaos


by Lillian Csernica on February 18, 2019

Hi there. Today I will tell you how to keep up that word count and move forward with your creative life regardless of how crazy your everyday life has become.

What are my qualifications for this?

  • My older boy is an invalid requiring R.N. level care. We have two R.N.s. One has been on vacation. That means I fill in when she can’t be here.
  • My younger son has high-functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder. He attends community college, and he has a lot going for him. Even so, he needs supervision.
  • My mother has been having a series of medical crises since last summer. She’s back in the hospital again after having a heart valve replaced. The insurance is running out and time is against us in finding other caregivers for her.
  • Me, I have Major Depressive Disorder, I don’t sleep much, and I’m not getting any younger.

Having said all that, I can also say that I keep writing. I have three stories coming out in three different anthologies in the next few months. Marketing my novel proposals continues. When I sold my pirate novel, I did it with the help of an agent through traditional publishing. I liked that a lot and I’d like to do the same with my fantasy novels and my historical romance series. We’ll see what happens.

What is my secret? Simple. The ongoing chaos that I live in every day provokes powerful emotions inside me. Love and hate. Joy and grief. Depression and exultation. I’ve never been a halfway kind of person. These emotions are often so big inside me I have to let them out. I have to get them down on paper, get them out of my head, give them somewhere to go.

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And so I write. Maybe not every single day, but three out of five, I write.

Am I angry? My characters fight.

Am I frightened? My characters either hide from or face what frightens them.

Am I sad? My characters talk about it. They fight about it. They do something stupid or something brave or something that just makes it stop hurting for a while.

Whatever emotion is strongest within you, WRITE ABOUT IT.

Personal journal. Vignette. Short story. Chunk of a novel. Whatever size you need.

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No matter how good life is, no matter how bad life gets, WRITE ABOUT IT.

This is how you keep writing. This is how you keep from going under.

Writers commit alchemy every time we put our feelings into words. We take that heavy leaden weight of emotion and through our imaginations we transmute it into the pure gold of storytelling.

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P.S. Why are all the quotations from Ray Bradbury? When I was in grade school he was the first writer to set my mind on fire. Dandelion Wine showed me that I could imagine on paper and make use of everything going on inside my head. The day I finished reading Dandelion Wine was the first day I knew I wanted to be a writer.

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Nevertheless, I Persisted


by Lillian Csernica on December 3, 2018

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Hi there. I’ve tried at least twice to write blog posts since last we met. Got interrupted, fell asleep, had family crises. Never a dull moment.

People who aren’t all that familiar with writing think it’s a great job you can do at home whenever you feel like it. For those of us who are regular, habitual writers, it’s often like that one nightmare where no matter how hard you run, you can never quite reach the thing you’re after. We struggle to find or make the time to write. Then we struggle to produce our desired word count. We sit there second-guessing ourselves, and that’s before the actual editing process starts. Then we rinse and repeat, pretty much every single day.

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NaNoWriMo — Yes, I participated this year. What’s more, I am now the Municipal Liaison for the Santa Cruz County Region, along with a nice woman who handles the UCSC campus which is a city unto itself. This meant I hosted the Kick Off Party, I was there for the Tuesday night write-ins at the library, and I organized the final celebration. Details below. Did I win? Yes I did. 50, 141 words written mostly by hand in my notebook at my favorite Peet’s. So now there is indeed a novel in the Kyoto Steampunk universe.

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Training two new aides for Michael — We have been fortunate enough to hire a second RN and two new aides for Michael. Now that he’s out of school, he needs people to help him fill his day. There are no day programs available to accommodate someone as medically fragile as he is. Michael is a grown man now, and my joints aren’t getting any younger. I am deeply grateful for all the assistance we receive.

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Mom in the hospital, then heart surgery — My mother has been in the hospital for weeks now. She has Stage 4 kidney failure. Home dialysis never did go right. The MDs switched her to hemodialysis after the whole ER panic in August. Unfortunately, MRSA is a tenacious affliction. In the course of treating that, the cardiologist discovered Mom had a weak mitral valve in her heart. This led to a twelve hour surgery to replace the valve. Mom is about to turn 82 come January. I have no words to describe how frightened and stressed out I’ve been during all this. Mom is improving, but it’s at an incremental pace.

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The Night Of Writing Dangerously — The big NaNoWriMo fundraiser. Thanks to the generous donations of my writer friends, I raised the required amount to attend NOWD. What a blast. I drove to San Francisco, found my $12 parking space (thank you, SpotHero!), and made it to the Julia Morgan Ballroom on time. The next eight hours were full of writing and food and jokes and prizes and meeting other writers. I needed a great night out and this was definitely it.

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Thanksgiving — With Mom in the hospital, this was a bittersweet event. She wasn’t at her usual seat at the table. She didn’t make us all wait while she took photos of the food sitting there on the table getting cold. She didn’t make us pose and then sit there until our smiles wilted, resulting in the usual expressions of mild sedation. Those habits might annoy me, but they’re still part of our family tradition, dysfunctional though it may be. We did have a great dinner, cooked by my husband. And I am very thankful Mom is still with us.

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John’s cake looked better.

John’s birthday — Given that we were running back and forth to the hospital and taking care of Michael (fewer caregivers on the weekend, especially major holidays), we stretched John’s birthday out from Friday through Sunday. Chris took him to Dave & Buster’s on Friday. I took him to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald on Saturday along with various other fun stops. On Sunday we had his party with his custom made birthday cake and a pile of presents. My baby is now 20 years old. Next year, Chris plans to take John to Las Vegas.

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The Thank God It’s Over party (NaNoWriMo) — Once again I dressed up and headed out with my bag of NaNoWriMo swag and the prizes for the Bingo sheets we all filled out and various other little mementoes of the month’s adventures. Woodstock Pizza in Santa Cruz is great. The heaters out on the patio kept us cozy while we ate and drank and read from our novels and made the people sitting nearby wonder who all these crazy people were. NaNoWriMo is my happy place in the midst of all the stress I live with daily.

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Mercury might be in retrograde right now, but we did it. Every single one of us who did our best during NaNoWriMo is a winner. I’m exhausted, and I’m still worried, of course, but life is good.

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Coming up next: It’s time to answer this year’s letters to Santa Claus! I already have eight waiting for me!
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New Release! Killing It Softly, Vol. 2


by Lillian Csernica on October 30, 2017

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Just in time for Halloween, Killing It Softly 2, another collection of short stories to be read with the lights on and the doors locked!
Part 1 – Another Space, Another Time
The Whims of My Enemy – Amanda J. Spedding
A Moveable Feast – Jenny Blackford
Softly into the Morning – L. D. Colter
Whispers in the Wax – Tonia Brown
The Screaming Key – Lillian Csernica
Framed – Diana Catt
Bloody Rain – Rie Sheridan Rose
The Idlewild Letters – H.R. Boldwood
Kristall Tag – Holly Newstein
The Adventure of My Ignoble Ancestress – Nancy Holder

Part II – Monster Party
The Devil’s in the Details – Stacey Longo
Octavia – Chantal Boudreau
The Skeench – Debra Robinson
Sandcastle Sacrifices – Jennifer Brozek
Unfilial Child – Laurie Tom
Milk and Cookies – M.J. Sydney
Figaro, Figueroa – Karen Heuler
Scarecrow – Vonnie Winslow Crist
A Great and Terrible Hunger – Elaine Cunningham

Part III – Cognitive Deception
Belongings – Abra Staffin-Wiebe
Evil Little Girl – Barb Goffman
Blue – Julie Travis
The Devil Inside – Shannon Connor Winward
Shining Brook and the Ice Moon Spirit – Jean Graham
Damaged Goods – Lindsey Goddard
Project Handbasket – Rebecca J. Allred
Behind the Eight Ball – Lena Ng
A Faithful Companion – Deborah Sheldon
Omega – Airika Sneve

Part IV – The Changed and the Undead
Little Fingers – Christine Morgan
Golden Rule – Donna J. W. Munro
Fifth Sense – Tina Rath
Cycle – Rebecca Fraser
The Hand of God – Gerri Leen
Vile Deeds – Suzie Lockhart
The Holy Spear – Barbara A. Barnett
Skin and Bones – Rebecca Snow
Death Warmed Over – Rachel Caine

Many of the contributors here also appear in the first Killing It Softly anthology, also well worth your attention.

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Available Now on Smashwords!


by Lillian Csernica on August 15, 2017

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Horror can be anything from the most elegant ghost story to the total freak-out of a bloodthirsty serial killer. The Fright Factory can show you how to make the most of your story ideas. Choose the best setting. Build a better monster. Learn the fine art of creating suspense! It’s all here, including an essential list of the worst horror cliches no editor wants to see.

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Want to find out if I really do know what I’m talking about? Fallen Idol appeared in DAW’s The Year’s Best Horror Stories XX. Just 99 cents from Digital Fiction Publishing!

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My Personal Chariot of Fire


by Lillian Csernica on January 20, 2016

“Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17). All around them, but beyond the capabilities of the five human physical senses, was all the protection necessary. Elisha would be no prisoner that day. His would be captors would be.”

Today I picked up my car.  Today I drove it home from the dealership.  Today I stopped at the grocery store, I put gas in the car, and I drove home.

I was not afraid.  I did not have an anxiety attack.  In fact, I was happy and excited.

I have been a prisoner of my own fears about driving for a long time now.  Almost thirty years.  It’s called learned helplessness, and it’s born of a vicious emotional cycle that includes hopelessness and depression.

Another condition I battle on a daily basis is anticipatory anxiety.  This robs the future of hope and positive thinking.  I told myself I wasn’t afraid of my driving.  I was afraid of everybody else on the road who drove like maniacs, speeding and changing lanes without signalling and coming right up on my rear bumper like they wanted to shove my car aside.  That was true enough.  I think the real truth was, I could no longer face the responsibility of being the driver.

When I was in the car accident that did in fact kill me, my driving had very little to do with what happened.  My employer had assured me he’d replaced the two right tires on the company car, which were worn down to the point of being dangerous.  He lied to me.  I trusted him, so when we loaded the car that night for the drive from Long Beach to San Francisco, I believed him and I did not check the tires myself.

“Put not your faith in princes and sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”  (Ps. 146:3-4)

Five years ago I took two sets of driving lessons to brush up on my driving skills.  My teacher said I’m a good driver.  I have good reaction time and I’m good at judging braking distance.  I have driven on Hwy 17 all the way down to Capitola and back in the car with my teacher.

And yet, I still couldn’t internalize that knowledge to the extent that I would agree to pick out a car and drive it.  My husband said he’d get me a car, but not until he was sure I would in fact use it, and use it all the time.

Why now?  Why did I suddenly stand up last Saturday and say, “Fine.  Let’s do it today.”?  All I can say is the time was right, and I was ready.  We found a car that was everything I wanted, at a price we could afford.  It was raining, but I didn’t let that hold me back.  I got into the car and I test drove it so my husband could listen to the engine.  I was alert, I was focused, and I kept moving forward through the process of evaluating and the buying the car.

My car has become my chariot of fire.  Just as Divine Protection was present but unseen for the Prophet Elisha, so I believe God is watching out for me.  I may not always have faith in myself, but I do have faith in God.  Just look at what we went through this past summer with Michael’s hospital stay.  When Michael needed a priest, Fr. Ninos got there before the ICU team took Michael to be prepped for surgery.  I still don’t know how Fr. Ninos got there so quickly, but he did, and I give thanks every day that my boy is still alive and healthy.

When the depression has been really bad, I have begged God to help me get better.  I have prayed for strength and for courage and for the determination to defeat all the symptoms that have crippled me emotionally, kept me from writing, and prevented me from being a functional member of my family.

“The Lord is my  light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?” (Ps. 12:1)

It’s time to move on.  No more thinking I’m helpless.  No more being afraid.

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Facing the Abyss (NaNoWriMo Prep)


by Lillian Csernica on October 29, 2014

I will never go bungee-jumping.  Not for love or money.  I watch videos of people doing that and I think, “Oh my God, are you insane?”  It’s one thing to be an adrenalin junkie, but it’s another thing to jump off a bridge when all you’ve put your faith in is a glorified rubber band.

Nov. 1 is fast approaching.  I’m standing on the bridge right now, staring down into the abyss that is the emptiness I must fill up during the NaNoWriMo challenge.  Do I have a safety line?  I believe I do, in the form of my plot outline.  I know my beginning, my middle, and my ending.  I also know from past experience that these will change as the story takes shape, as the characters insist on making their own choices, and as I get more research done.  That’s fine.  I am a Planner.  I do not start a novel with the same wild-eyed glee I might feel when I hammer out a hot short story idea.  I keep a running list of all my alternative choices, ideas, possibilities.  Now and then that makes me crazy, but sooner or later I get it all sorted out.  I think of this pile of alternatives as paying somebody to inflate one of those big airbags the stuntmen drop into when they’re doing some stunt from extreme heights.  I’ve got a good, sturdy, glorified rubber band in the form of my plot outline, but I also believe in taking out a life insurance policy.

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I’ve had days where the story has fallen apart on me.  The characters deflate, the plot hits a massive snag, my research is struggling with my imagination, and the words are not coming out the right way.  That stage is almost unbearable.  All I can do is soldier onward and keep trying until something pops back into place or I shake the kaleidoscope and a better pattern emerges.  This is what separates the serious writers from the dilettantes.  Can you hang in there when writing isn’t any fun anymore?  Can you keep going when you really do have to sit down at the keyboard and open a vein?  Fortunately, the NaNoWriMo community is really marvelous at cheering on all the participants.  I have three writing buddies, and I hope to have more.

What doesn’t help is having Major Depressive Disorder on top of a writer’s usual set of woes.  I anticipate some days when I’m going to get discouraged.  On the other hand, having lived in the Pit with the Black Dog gnawing on my guts for months or even years at a time, I can say the boing-boing of bungee jumping doesn’t seem all that intimidating.  At least you get yanked back up again.  I suppose a better parallel for that would be Bi-Polar Disorder, but you’re supposed to write what you know, and I know about depression.

 

I’m feeling that same flutter just under my ribs, that anxiety-induced rush of adrenalin that happened the first time I stood at the end of the high dive.  The board never looks at all high from the water, but once you’re all the way up there looking down, it’s a much different view.  You might think this is no big deal for me, given that I just completed a 90,000 word novel.  It took me eight years to write that novel, from the very first idea to the moment I decided it was time to send the manuscript to my agent.  Now I’m going to try to write a bit more than half that amount in just thirty days.  Part of me is screaming, “Oh my God, are you insane?  You’re really going to jump off that bridge?  What if the outline falls apart?  What if the rubber band breaks?”

Yes, I’m scared.  On the other hand, all the really good stories start with “What if?”

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Fear:My Friend and Enemy


by Lillian Csernica on May 7, 201327408-blogeverday

Day 7: The thing(s) you’re most afraid of

When I first started to sell my short stories, I sold mainly to horror markets.  Horror was big at the time, so there were quite a few magazines and anthologies.  I’ve been asked more than once why I wrote horror.  In my experience, there are three types of horror writers:

The people who write about the struggle between good and evil.

The people who are on the side of the monsters.

The people who write to kill their own monsters.

I fall into the third category.  I have very little control over my world and the conditions under which I live.  I can take some of those conditions and a few of the people, change them and reshape them, then pin them down on paper where I have all the control I need.  In my stories good triumphs over evil.  The monsters die.  It might not be a total victory for the protagonist, because if there’s one thing I believe in its the spectrum of human (and inhuman) behavior that lies between what I consider to be Good and Evil.

I had to give up writing horror because events started happening in my life that supplied me with way too much raw material.  I’m prone to nightmares anyway, have been since I was a child.  I could not commit myself to living with writing horror all the time, not when real life had become so difficult and tragic.  That’s when I switched to writing romance novels.  Nothing like exotic locations, a hot love story, and happy endings as an antidote for that lingering sense of being watched or the endless fear of the dark.

What are the things that most frighten me?

Dying before I can find the right people to act as guardians for Michael and John.

Having a stroke or being diagnosed with a form of dementia that will rob me of my writing mind.

Being blinded, or going blind.

Never being free of some of the problems that keep me from achieving my full potential as a human being.

Great big bird-eating spiders

There are other things, but those are the major categories.  I fear loss.  I fear separation.  I fear endings and goodbyes.

 

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