Tag Archives: wedding

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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Doing the Happy Dance


by Lillian Csernica on August 18, 2014

I am delighted to share with you the latest milestone in my writing career.

As of 2:17 a.m. this morning, I have completed this edit of my current novel!

What does this mean?

I made several improvements in the story.
I expanded the role of one character and reduced the role of another.
I fixed the errors in my Japanese words and phrases.
I cut one hundred and fifty-two pages from the manuscript.

The time has not yet come to send the book to my agent.  I have another sixty-six pages to cut.  That will be easier now that the plot has come into clearer focus.  I need to double check a few fine points of Tokugawa period clothing.  I also want to verify my fictional locations on a map of Satsuma (now Kagoshima) so my travel times and overall timetable are still correct given some of the changes in the story.

Even so, I did it!  I got all the way through the edit!  I had hoped to be done by the end of July.  I am eighteen days past that deadline, which all things considered isn’t that bad.  Now for the fun part.  While I finish the clean up work on this manuscript, I’d better get to work on the second book of the trilogy!  Fortune favors the prepared mind.  I want to be ready just in case Lady Luck offers me a three book contract!

 

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Japan, love, marriage, romance, Writing