Monthly Archives: May 2013

Making Friends in Yokohama


by Lillian Csernica May 30, 2013

27408-blogeverday

Day 31: A vivid memory

When I was at Nippon 2007, the first World Science Fiction Convention ever held in Asia, I had an opportunity to meet a really wonderful young lady.  I knew her as Matsuzakisan.  It was the night of the Hugo AwardsMy best friend Pat MacEwen and I had dressed in our best, which for me included the yukata and obi I’d bought in the Dealer’s Room earlier that day.  I had no idea how to put on the lightweight summer kimono.  It’s not like putting on a bathrobe and just tying the sash around your waist.  My dignity was being preserved by a combination of bobby pins and safety pins thanks to the efforts of some friends in the ASFA Suite, the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists.  Once the formal Award ceremony was over, the party floor got busy and more people came drifting into the suite.  That’s when I met Matsuzaki-san.

One of the American young men had brought Matsuzaki-san up to the ASFA Suite with him.  After a few painful minutes of trying to talk to each other, the young man and Matsuzaki-san realized they really couldn’t communicate.  The young man was at a loss and drifted away.  Having been alone in the corner at more than one party, I wasn’t about to stand there and watch Matsuzaki-san suffer that embarrassment.  I didn’t speak much Japanese at all then, but I could point her toward the food and the drinks and make sure she had some of both.  My helpers and I were still trying to sort out my yukata situation when Matsuzaki-san came over to me and said, “I am kimono master.”  She tugged and pulled and spun me around and got me sorted out good and proper.  That won her the general admiration of everybody watching this floor show, effectively breaking the ice with the rest of the people present.

Matsuzaki-san and I sat on a couch together so I could show her the little photo album I’d brought with photos of my husband, Michael and John, and of course my cats.  Matsuzaki-san showed me the photo of her dog she kept on her phone.  He was a shaggy little black and white fellow who looked very cuddly.  I found out that Matsuzaki-san worked as a taxi dispatcher.  Now that impressed the daylights out of me.  Second only to being an air traffic controller, I can’t imagine a job that would put the pressure on a person to keep track of so many places and people at once.  The more I got to know Matsuzaki-san, the more I enjoyed her company.

When it was time for me to move on to the SFWA Suite, I made sure Matsuzaki-san had made enough new friends that she’d have people to talk to after I left.  I needn’t have worried.  Matsuzaki-san was also very talented at origami.  She took one of the pieces of hotel notepaper and made two, count ’em, TWO cranes joined at the wingtip.  Now how cool is that?  When I left, Matsuzaki-san was sitting with a group of people, answering questions and making something new.

I love Japan.  Every Japanese person I have ever met has been kind and helpful and really smart and good at all kinds of things.  I can’t wait for the day I visit Kyoto.

Anata ga inakute sabishiidesu, Matsuzaki-san.

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Don’t Lose It, Use it!


by Lillian Csernica on May 30, 2013

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Day 30: React to this term: Letting Go

 When I contemplate the phrase “letting go,” I see my hand opening and something drifting away, the same way a balloon will float up into the sky.  Whatever it is that I’m letting go of moves away from me.  That seems too passive to me.  I want to be the one doing the moving.

I have some trouble with ambivalence.  I’m not sure if this is a side effect of all that practice I did for the Debate team, or if my compulsion toward fairness keeps me stuck sitting on the fence.  My therapist often asks me, “How do you feel about that?” or “How does that make you feel?” or “What are the feelings?”  Sometimes it can be really hard to get past all the thinking and reach that basic, primal level.  The feeling waiting down there is often sorrow or anger.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to, and, as they say, your mileage may vary, so take it for what it’s worth.  I think letting go can be about more than just releasing whatever or whoever it is by standing there and watching that bus drive away.  My therapist taught me that attachments arise from investing emotions into situations or people.  The greater our emotional investment, the stronger our attachment.  Given that, I believe it’s important to take the proactive stance of withdrawing our emotional investment, just like withdrawing money from the bank.  Take it back!  Once it’s all mine again, I can re-invest it anywhere I like.

See what I’m getting at?  Instead of thinking of letting go in terms of loss, take back that emotional investment and regain that energy and strength!  Don’t just sit there and mourn the loss of something that might well have been causing you some kind of harm.  Make it a positive act of liberation!

 

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The Soundtrack of My Life


by Lillian Csernica on May 30, 2013

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Day 29: Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories.

Music is very important to writers.  Many well-known writers have commented on what kind of music they like to listen to while writing.  For some it’s classical.  For others it’s rock and roll.  Me, I like taoki drumming or classical Spanish guitar, unless I’m in one of those states of mind where I dig out my old Def Leppard or W.A.S.P. cassettes from my high school days.  (Hey, what was I supposed to do?  I hadn’t been diagnosed yet and I wasn’t about to use recreational drugs to treat my depression.)  Here then are the songs that embody the recurrent themes that have appear in my internal narrative, so to speak.

1. “Anxiety” by Pat Benatar

I’m an adult child of an alcoholic, so I learned all about anxiety from an early age.  Joining the Speech and Debate Team in high school meant learning to overcome most people’s worst fear, public speaking.  Becoming the mother of two special needs sons took me to a whole new plane of anxiety.  So the funny part about this video is that going to the dentist doesn’t bother me at all.

2. “Don’t Let It Show” by Pat Benatar

“Never let ’em see you sweat,” right?

3. “Lonely in Your Nightmare” by Duran Duran

This pretty much sums up my love life from ages fourteen to nineteen.  I was a serious fan girl for Duran Duran back in the ’80s.  I even had a laser disc of all their music videos.  Much good that did me, since the technology for it became obsolete almost as soon as it was available to the public.

4. “I Need a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler

Oh yeah, when I hit what my mother called my “boy crazy” days, I was looking for my white knight in black leather.  More irony here, now that this song applies to my work in writing romance.  I do have my Japanese hero, Tendo Kazuhiro, so I won’t have to go looking for a new hero for the next new book, at least not until I finish the Japanese trilogy.

5. “Everybody’s Broken” by Bon Jovi

Married life is tough. Fifty per cent of marriages fail between years three and five.  Those are the stats for normal people who face the usual pressures of money and work and in-laws and kids and their unique difficulties.  It’s even tougher when you suddenly find yourselves stuck in the middle of the nightmare of losing your first baby.  That right there is enough to end a lot of marriages.  When your next child has a really hard time of it, and Lucky #3 turns out to have his share of grief as well, I’m here to tell you it seems like God just isn’t going to cut you a break.  I was really happy when Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.  They deserve it.  I’ve been a serious fan of Bon Jovi since their early days. taking comfort in their music and their lyrics during the good days and the bad.

6. “Come Sail Away” by Styx

I write fantasy.  I write it to escape the hardships of my own life as much as I write it to provide escapism for my readers.  The imagery in this song is so wonderful.  It gives me that feeling of soaring off toward some happier place with my hair blowing back and my eyes on the glowing horizon.

7. “Don’t Wait for Heroes” by Dennis DeYoung

Here’s an anthem for all of us who have felt powerless and hopeless and beaten by life.  That this song is on the same list with “I Need a Hero” shows my progress from the days when I lived my life expecting some man to rescue me.  I can take care of myself.  I can be the hero I need.  I can be the hero my sons need.

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Worth a Thousand Words


by Lillian Csernica on May 28, 2013

Day 28: Only pictures

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Dear Sir/Madam


by Lillian Csernica on May 27, 2013

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Day 27: A letter to your readers

Dear Folks Kind Enough to Read What I Write Here,

This reminds me of acting on stage.  You know the audience is out there, just past the bright lights.  You can’t see them because from the stage the audience is one vast darkness, the number of people in it unknown.  Granted, I can read my stats and find out how many of you there are, but that’s not the same as being able to see your reactions to my work.  I can hear you, much like an actor can, in terms of the comments you make.  So blogging is an act of faith, a partnership.  You join my audience to see today’s show, and I do my best to put on a good show for you.

To those of you who are special needs parents, I offer my hopes and prayers for the health, strength, and success of your children.  For you I offer a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, and all the resources I’m aware of.  Our lives are hard lives.  It takes a special needs parent to have anything like a clue about the life of another  special needs parent.  I was at BayCon this weekend and got into conversation with someone in the Con Suite.  We’d been talking for a good hour before he made mention of his daughter and her diagnosis.  Suddenly there I was, talking to another member of our tribe.  We never know where we’ll meet, do we?  There’s always comfort in the meeting.  We recognize each other.  We suddenly understand volumes about that other parent’s life.  Common ground, shared experience, that sense of support.

To the writers who are listening, I offer my thanks and my appreciation.  It takes a writer to understand a writer.  That can get a little strange when a horror writer is talking to a romance writer (I’ve been on both ends of that conversation!), but both writers know how it is to carve out time for writing, to wait anxiously for editorial decisions, to keep the flame burning when it seems like there just ain’t no more oil in the lamp.  I wonder if social media has helped some of us writers find the comfort and support that past generations have had to seek in alcohol or drugs or other unhealthy pursuits.  It would be interesting to see the comparative statistics, but that would be a staggering pile of data to assemble and analyze.

To those of you I don’t know well yet, I look forward to your comments and your blog posts.  My Reader is always full of wonderful and entertaining and thought-provoking material.

With warmest regards,

Lillian

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Two Kinds Of Pain


by Lillian Csernica on May 27, 2013

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I spent Saturday and Sunday at BayCon, so I’m afraid I’m running a bit behind again.  Time now to catch up, then I’ll handle today’s prompt in a separate post.

 Day 25: Something someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget (good or bad)

I don’t drive.  I can drive, I have a valid, current license, and I’ve taken classes to make sure I’m up on the latest laws and related matters.  I do not have my own car, and I do not like to drive.  Maybe it has to do with that car accident that killed me.  Maybe it has to do with how wary I am of the really bad drivers that come through the mountains especially during tourist season.  Whatever the cause, the result is that I have to find someone to take me to appointments, classes, meetings, etc.  Yes, I’ve taken buses and ridden trains.  Once in a while I’ve had to take a taxi.  When I take Michael to a local appointment, we ride MetroParacruz which provides door to door service to the elderly and disabled.

One of the people in my extended family who almost never has to take me places told me one day that because I don’t drive, I am a burden.  This person went on at length about how selfish and self-centered and lazy I am because I expect other people to drive me around.  I could get into the other issues that built up to this particular conversation, but that’s not germane to the prompt.  I was told I am a burden.  That hurt.  The idea that I have no gratitude or consideration for the people who help me also hurt.  This pain has made it much harder for me to ask for help when I need it, not just with driving but with a number of other situations.Day 26: Something you read online. Leave a link and discuss, if you’d like.

I’ve been reading The Haunted Mansion Project Year One, presented by Rain Graves and edited by E.S. Magill.  I love a good ghost story.  I think I’ve scoured Netflix for everything worth watching in both Western European and Asian cultures.  It’s one of my hobbies and/or occupational hazards to take an interest in paranormal investigations.  Again and again I find myself asking the question, “What on earth made those people think it was a good idea to spend the night in an abandoned insane asylum?”  So here’s my link:

Most Famous and Notorious Abandoned and Haunted Insane Asylums in History

Rule One for bad horror movies is “Don’t go into the basement with nothing but a lit candle,” right?  Think about it.  To actively seek out the turbulent psychic forces that have soaked into the physical and etheric structure of asylums that existed when really horrible things were done to people who were mentally ill, disabled in some way, or just inconvenient for families heartless enough to dump them in such places.  That’s not just asking for trouble, that’s backing up the U-Haul truck and begging somebody to pack it full.  Doesn’t matter if the haunting is residual or intelligent or active.  Going into such a place after dark is A BAD IDEA.

I welcome your comments, your debate, your experiences.

Would you go along on one of these expeditions?  Why or why not?

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Want To Trade?


by Lillian Csernica on May 24, 2013

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Day 24: Your top 3 worst traits

 

I’m a clutter bug.

 

I’m a slave to anticipatory anxiety.

 

I let my fear of other people’s anger control my actions.

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The Seven Secrets of Success


by Lillian Csernica on May 23, 2013

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Day 23: Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you

You make your own luck.

How do you get to be in the right place at the right time?  By working hard, keeping up with the latest news on your chosen field, and cultivating your contacts.  That way, when opportunity knocks, you can open that door.  There is a certain amount of genuine luck involved in success.  You are the one who determines just how big a percentage of that luck comes your way.  John Grisham is a good example of this.  When he wrote his first novel, he used his own money to get several copies published.  He then gave those books to all the people he knew who were involved in the legal profession.  This was some time ago, before all the social media we have now to help us in our pursuit of shameless self-promotion.  Grisham generated enough interest in his book to get a deal from a major publishing house.  High on my list of favorite quotations is, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”  Grisham knew his target market and did the leg work to create the buzz he needed to launch his professional writing career.  If you do the work, you will find out where the right place is and you will know the right time to be there.

Never let people know just how intelligent you really are.

Does this seem sneaky, underhanded, self-defeating?  It’s not.  Always keep something in reserve.  Let’s say your boss needs somebody to take over a certain project you’ve had your eye on.  That’s when you step forward a reveal your knowledge and/or experience with something that will make a significant contribution to that project.  If you haven’t gone around shooting your mouth off about this particular advantage, it remains an advantage, a secret weapon, a magic wand.  In one of her etiquette books Miss Manners gives the example of having a PhD.  Sure, you could go around announcing it, but people will be much more impressed when they find out from someone else.  There are times when it can be very useful to be underestimated, especially by the opposition.

Learn how to listen.  People will tell you so much, more than they realize.

Oh sure, in school they told us over and over again to hush up and pay attention.  When I was on the Speech and Debate Team in college, I acquired a much more useful ability.  I learned to listen to what people were not saying.  It’s tricky, the auditory version of “reading between the lines.”  Sometimes people are trying to be subtle.  Sometimes they’re avoiding a painful subject.  Sometimes they’re hiding information they don’t want you to know.  Misdirection is an art mastered not just by stage magicians.  I’ve met quite a few people who are very good at making sure you only hear what they want you to hear.  On the other hand, sometimes people don’t realize what they’re really telling you.  Remember that line from Hamlet?  “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”  The Queen thought Baptista went too far, revealing her true opinion by the way she kept denying it.

There’s another aspect to the art of listening.  If you learn to listen well, people will open up to you and tell you all sorts of things.  Most people just want to be heard.  They want some kind of validation for their opinion, their outrage, their anxiety, their pain.  The First Noble Truth of Buddhism states “Everyone suffers.”  That being so, people need to talk about it.  Psychotherapy is known as “the talking cure.”  I’m not saying you have to sit there and be somebody’s cheap therapist (although that does happen in friendships from time to time).  It’s a great kindness to truly listen to someone and let that person know he or she has been heard.  When you’re a writer, you know that everyone has a story, probably several.  I’m always happy to listen to an expert talk, no matter what the field of expertise.  I’m sure to learn something anecdotal, a one-of-a-kind story no Web search could turn up.

Do it now.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Speaking as someone who died in a car accident and was given a second chance, I’m here to tell you this is the absolute truth.

Pain itself won’t kill you, but envy and hatred are lethal.

If you want to know about the power of physical pain to clear the mind and sharpen the priorities, I highly recommend The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  Yes, pain is terrible.  Yes, it drains your strength and leaches all the color out of life.  Pain can be dealt with.  I won’t say cured, because I know people with fibromyalgia who live with chronic pain.  Envy and hatred are corrosive to the soul.  They will waste your time, ruin your life, cripple your body, and turn you into a nasty, vindictive, bitter person.  Envy is a stupid self-defeating emotion because, as I mentioned above, everybody suffers.  Maybe we don’t see their suffering, but it’s there somewhere sooner or later.  Buddhism also says “Attachment leads to suffering.”  From what I’ve seen in life, hatred is born of thwarted attachment.  Give it up.  Let it go.  Free the attachment.  Life’s too short to be dragging around the rotting corpse of resentment.

Know the limits of your own strength.

I’m old enough to remember when Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”   Why is this important?  It’s the key to making sure we don’t set ourselves up for failure.  When I’m working at a steady pace on a writing project, I know I can produce five pages or fifteen hundred words in ninety minutes.  Some days I do get that burst of inspiration or enthusiasm that helps me go farther.  Some days it’s all I can do to crank out the fifteen hundred.  Every day I aim for the fifteen hundred, not three thousand or five thousand.  (It depends on the project, of course, to say nothing of deadlines!)  If I push too hard on the wrong day, I could end up hating what I’ve written or giving myself a headache or taking a wrong turn in the story because of mental fatigue.  This is not quality writing time, because I’ve hurt myself and I may have hurt my story.  So I know my limitations and I work within them.

Practice gratitude.  People appreciate being appreciated.

Let me share with you a recent example of something small and goofy that brought a surprising amount of happiness to a lot of people.  May 1st is May Day.  In many parts of the world May Day is celebrated by friends making baskets of fresh flowers and other small treats and leaving them on people’s doorsteps anonymously.  Here in America I haven’t seen or heard much of May Day celebrations along that line since I was in elementary school.  (Yes, I know it’s Beltane for the pagan folks.)  I was in the Dollar Tree during the last week of April.  These silly plush toy flowers as long as my arm had cute little smiley faces circled by two-tone petals in pink and orange, blue and yellow, purple and red.  I bought three.

The first flower my son John gave to the lady at McDonald’s who gives him extra treats now and then.  She spent twenty years working as a special needs aide, and she thinks of John as her adopted nephew.  The second flower I gave to my therapist.  The third flower John and I gave to his homeroom teacher.  All three ladies reacted with surprise and delight, telling us stories of how they thought May Day had been forgotten, what they did to celebrate it when they were school age, and how happy they were to see the custom still continued.  Those flowers are artificial, true, but I chose them for that very reason.  They will remain a lasting reminder of the happiness and nostalgia of May Day.  John’s teacher uses hers in the classroom as a pointer during lessons!

Such little things, those flowers.  Each cost me one dollar.  The gift of appreciation, of gratitude, came back to me and John multiplied again and again.  You never know how far such a gift will be carried, and how much good it will do along the way.

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Rant: Your Brat, My Problem


by Lillian Csernica on May 22, 2013

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Day 22: Rant about something. Get up on your soapbox and tell us how you really feel. (a pet peeve, a current event, a controversial topic, something your husband or roommate or neighbor or boss does that really ticks you off)

This rant goes out to all those parents who feel no need to instill any kind of boundaries, limitations, discipline, manners, or common courtesy in their obnoxious offspring.

People, let’s get this straight.  If you do not discipline your children the other six days of the week, they are not going to be little angels in church on Sunday.  I am not speaking in a metaphorical sense.  When I go to church, I’m there to worship God, find spiritual comfort, and come away with a refreshed sense of peace.  This does not really happen when I have to listen to a tyrannical kindergartener fuss and whine and carry on because he or she is being told, “No,” a word the child does not seem to recognize or understand, much less obey.

When I’m out shopping, I don’t want to have to worry about your obnoxious little brats racing through the clothing racks playing hide and seek and putting themselves in the path of my shopping cart.  I will confess that there have been a few occasions when I was sorely tempted to move those few inches forward or back in order to have the little monsters bounce right off my cart.  That would not be a mature, responsible approach, to say nothing of how it would lead to the kind of screaming and bawling that make me want to go Godzilla on everything and everyone around me.  It’s a safe bet that the galloping little hooligans are going to trip over something or run into something sooner or later, which will result in said hellish racket as they make it clear to everyone in a five mile radius that they have been cruelly abused and now deserve every possible treat they can think of to shut them up.

You know who you are.  You know who I am, too.  You’ve seen me giving you that tight-lipped, impatient stare as you cost me time and effort by making me wait for the chaos to settle down so normal business can continue.

For those of you who try to throw the “You just don’t understand” excuse at me, let me tell you this.  I would have given my left arm to have my son Michael be capable of such running around and speaking clearly and making demands at that age.  As for my son John, when he was in kindergarten, he was what people in autism circles refer to as a “runner.”  We had to keep changing the locks on the front door so it would take him at least two weeks to figure them out and get outside when we weren’t looking/were busy with Michael.  One day John got out and went running up the front steps to street level.  I went rushing after him, came down wrong on my right foot, and tore my right calf muscle.  Do you know what that feels like?  It feels like somebody unzipped the back of my leg, stuffed it full of hot marbles, then zipped it back up again.  AND I STILL HAD TO GO CATCH JOHN.

Discipline your children.  Teach them to be quiet, considerate, respectful, and polite.  If you can’t manage that, then either stay home or have someone take care of your kids while you’re out in the kind of environments where rabid, bossy, careless, and selfish little kids are a nightmare for everyone concerned.

Godzilla star

Godzilla star (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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by Lillian Csernica on May 21, 2013

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Day 21: A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives

No Pain, No Gain

Top Ten Ways to Keep Your Writing Fun and Fresh

W is for Whorf’s Hypothesis

S is for Sabotage

Autism Positivity 2013

J is for Joie de Vivre

Controlled Chaos

 

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