Monthly Archives: March 2014

Reblog: Divas on Writing

by Lillian Csernica on March 30, 2014

Here’s a very useful article from a very helpful blog.  Enjoy!


Divas on Writing: The Five Basic Elements of Plot (via

The Five Basic Elements of Plot: Exposition Rising Action Climax Falling Action Resolution These five elements are derived from Gustav Freytag’s pyramid-like analysis of dramatic structure, which consists of an exposition or beginning, a rising action…

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, romance, science fiction, Writing

Four Q&A About My Writing Process

by Lillian Csernica on March 28, 2014

Today’s post is part of a Writing Process Blog Hop I was invited into by one of my favorite people, Setsu Uzume.

As part of the Hop, I’m answering four questions about my personal writing process and then passing the baton to four other bloggers whose work I enjoy and respect.

What are you working on?

The first novel in my Japanese historical romance trilogy, Sword Master, Flower Maiden.  I’m plowing through the second edit right now, making adjustments for consistency in characterization as well as upping the stakes here and there.  In Satsuma, Japan, of 1865, an English girl raised to be the highest class of courtesan escapes the cruel samurai Nakazawa who demanded her as payment for her father’s gambling debts when she was just six years old.  Now, sixteen and determined to thwart her captor’s power-hungry schemes, Yuriko flees her guards and rushes straight into the path of bandits  pursued by Tendo Kazuhiro, a ronin watching over a nearby village.  Captivated by Yuriko’s beauty and courage, Tendo is determined to protect her from her enemies.  The love that blossoms between them makes them determined to defeat Nakazawa.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I think history is full of treasures waiting to be discovered, stories waiting to be told.  Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichiro is a fine hero, an excellent leading man for a mystery series.  I hope Tendo Kazuhiro can live up to that standard of excellence as a romance hero.  Multi-ethnic romance is not well represented in the genre, especially in the subgenre of historical romance.  I happen to find Asian men very attractive, so Japan was a natural choice as a setting for my novels.  To bring a Caucasian woman into the Japan of the Tokugawa Shogunate and enable her to speak fluent Japanese took some doing.  I knew Yuriko had to be fluent in order to communicate with Tendo-san.  Only then could they achieve ishin-denshin, or “heart-to-heart communication.”

Why do you write what you write?

I write fantasy.  I write escapist genre fiction because there’s not enough love and magic and a sense of wonder in today’s world.  Part of the reason I write historical fiction is my enjoyment of political intrigue, foreign cultures, and the challenge of recreating my chosen settings on the page.  Short stories are a different thrill altogether.  I have to keep it simple, keep it tight, and still bring plenty of depth and solid story values to my tale.  I also write because I love language.  I love words.  I love being able to speak to someone from a foreign country in his or her own language.  So far my work has been translated into German and Italian.  I would be overjoyed if the Japanese trilogy was to one day be translated into Japanese itself.

How does your writing process work?

The answer to that depends on what I’m working on.  Generally speaking, I go through five drafts.  First draft: plot, dialogue, character and some setting.  Second draft: fleshing out character, making some plot events more intense and raising the stakes.  Third draft: Major revisions as necessary.  Fourth draft: filling in the background details, checking for consistency, changing any character names that conflict, as well as editing for length.  Fifth draft: beating the manuscript like an old rug to knock out everything that doesn’t need to be there then polishing what’s left.  In this draft I get down to what’s called the “microwriting level” and do quality control line by line.  Somewhere between the Third and Fifth Drafts I often call in my beta readers to help me see what I might be missing.  That kind of help is invaluable.

Setsu mentioned listening to music while she writes.  I do that too.  I choose the music based on the emotional tone of the writing I need to do.  When I wrote Ship of Dreams, U2’s “With or Without You” became Alexandre’s theme song.  Rosalind’s music varied from Berlin to Evanescence to Pat Benatar to uplifting instrumentals.

I hereby pass the baton to four writers who are well worth your time and attention:

Sandy Appleyard — “Author of hopeful memoirs and fiction.”  Sandy is a very kind lady with a generous heart.

Dorian Graves — In words and pictures, Dorian does amazing things.  I shall watch her career with interest.

Patricia H. MacEwen — Marine biologist, physical anthropologist, former CSI in Stockton, Pat’s Been There and Done That in places that would make most of us run screaming.  Look for her cover story on the latest issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction!

Blair Bonet — If you’re in the mood for something steamy and southern, start with Moonlight on the Bayou, first in the Benoit Erotic Romances.

Looking forward to your answers, ladies!





Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Humor, Japan, love, romance, science fiction, Writing

Sometimes Things Go Right

by Lillian Csernica on March 28, 2014

John is now a much happier boy.

On Monday he came home from school all happy about his new math work, which is a computer game called “Manga High” that teaches math skills.  He’d earned a reward ticket which entitled him to “a preferred activity” here at home.


On Tuesday he came home proud to tell me he had “been respectful and followed directions.”  That means he listened and learned his new schedule without getting upset about it, winning him another reward ticket.

On Wednesday he came home all happy about being able to spin a basketball on his fingertip  AND being able to make a basket by throwing the ball backward over his head.  We got out his basketball and he gave us all a demonstration of the spinning.

Today he came home with a reward ticket that had a note from his teacher.  “John raised his hand and answered questions.”  That means he participated in class discussions!  This is HUGE!  I was so proud of him, so happy, that I sent him out with his aide to go buy himself a treat.  He chose a Tollhouse Cookie ice cream sandwich, which goes to show John has good taste.

My poor, frustrated, angry boy is happy again.  He likes school.  He comes home all excited over his latest accomplishment.  He’s going in the direction we wanted him to go.  He’s already picking up the skills he’s been having such trouble learning.

Thank you, God.  Thank you to all of John’s teachers, his caseworker, his school staff and his aide.  Thanks to my husband and my sister who were there alongside me for John when he needed us.

Thank you, John.  Thank you for being a strong, brave, marvelous boy, willing to keep trying no matter how hard some tasks can be.


Filed under autism, Awards, Family, Goals, love, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

A to Z Theme Reveal!

by Lillian Csernica on March 24, 2014

Hi there.  Sorry I wasn’t here on the 21st for the official event.  I was at ConDor, whooping it up with some of the finest minds in science fiction and fantasy.  Here I am now, to reveal my theme in all its multifaceted splendor.  A little background on my choice is necessary to make the component parts come together in a way that makes sense.  Because I treasure each of you, Dear Readers, I want to write about a subject of interest to the special needs audience, the SF/F crowd, writers of all varieties, and the folks who fall into their own special niches.  After considerable thought which involved creating and discarding two complete A to Z lists, I have arrived at my solution:

Amazing Chocolate Creations!

What better to entertain my diverse readership than the combination of imagination, originality, and chocolate?  Experience has taught me that chocolate fuels the engines of writing, so there must be some relationship, both alchemical and biochemical, between the supreme sweet and the mysterious ways of the imagination.  Here’s an example, to give you a “taste” of my theme:

Yes indeed, that Arm is made entirely of chocolate.  We’re just a week away from April 1st!  Stay tuned for twenty-six marvels of  confectionery creativity as I participate in my second A to Z Challenge!


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

When Dreams Need Alterations

by Lillian Csernica on March 19, 2014

Today I went to John’s school to meet with his caseworker, his one to one aide, the resource specialist, the Freshman Class counselor, and the school psychologist.  My husband took the day off so he could attend the meeting.  My sister came with us, because she does a lot to oversee his homework and his after school aides.  Three from the Home Team, Five from the School Team, all of us there to figure out what we could do to help John.  His stress levels are so high.  His anxiety behaviors are almost constant.  His grades are up and down.  I know he has trouble sleeping.  High school has been a bigger adjustment than we ever imagined.

After a semester of emails and phone calls and two face to face meetings, it was time to face the truth.  John is in over his head.  His difficulties with processing language are a serious impediment to him keeping up in classes that are increasingly lecture-based.  He can’t listen, process, take notes, and retain the information all at once.  And that’s just in one class.  Multiply that strain times four and it’s easier to see why my 15 year old son is much too stressed out.

It’s time to accept the fact that expecting him to earn a diploma just isn’t realistic.  I hate this.  I burst into tears every time I have to think about it.  Once again, I have to give up the dream of my child eventually learning to live a normal life.  This is hitting me just as hard as the day I had to accept the fact that Michael will never walk.

The meeting went well.  Once we identified the classes where John has the most trouble, the officials brainstormed acceptable alternatives.  We kept at it, comparing and critiquing and combining until we had a new schedule we all felt would suit John’s needs and lower his stress.  My husband, my sister, and I pulled together as a family to take care of family.  We’re going to try the new schedule next week and see how John responds to it.  If need be, we will come back to the table and have another meeting until we find the solution that’s best for John.

Dreams are beautiful, but sometimes the original pattern doesn’t fit.  Alterations can hurt, but once all the work is complete, everybody will be more comfortable.


Filed under autism, Depression, Family, Goals, marriage, Special needs, Writing

My First Sale — It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

by Lillian Csernica on March 16, 2014


That’s right.  The first short story I ever sold, “Fallen Idol,” is alive and well and available for your listening pleasure at Tales to Terrify.  I first sold this story to After Hours, edited by William G. Raley.  He called me up one night to tell me he wanted to buy my story.  What’s more, he created one of the most memorable moments of my writing career when he said, “This is weird even by our standards.”


Thanks to that acceptance, I could later submit “Fallen Idol” to The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXI, edited by Karl Edward Wagner, may he rest in peace.  Karl accepted my story, allowing me to appear on a Table of Contents that included Ramsey Campbell, Ed Gorman, and other greats of the field.

Like any good horror story, “Fallen Idol” continues to rise from the depths as a Reprint Revenant.  My sincere thanks to Pete Fallico, narrator for my story, and all the folks at Tales to Terrify.

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Filed under Awards, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Halloween, Horror, Self-image, Writing

Don’t Quote Me

by Lillian Csernica on March 14, 2014

I’ve always been a very talkative person.  Chatty, loquacious, highly verbal.  Motormouth, logorrhea, won’t shut up.  Call it what you will, I’ve had a longstanding relationship with words.  Like all long term relationships, there have been the good times and the bad.  For example, when I was preschool age, I had trouble pronouncing the letter L.  Given that my first name has three Ls in it, this was a problem.  My mother likes to demonstrate this little difficulty I had by telling the story of my favorite TV show at the time:

Mom: “It was so funny!  Every time ‘Lassie’ would come on, Lili would start saying, ”Assie doggie!  ‘Assie doggie!”

Thanks, Mom.

The next really entertaining example I can recall happened when I was in grade school.  My father and I had gone to the bowling alley and started off with lunch in the diner.  Thanks to hanging out with Daddy, I’d developed a fondness for a particular sandwich and ordered it all the time.  One would think all that practice would have saved me.  Oh no.  When the server came to take our order, I asked for a “French diff beep.”

I don’t remember any incidents from my middle school years, but that’s probably due to my dedicated efforts to obliterate any trace of those three hellish years from my memory.

By now I may have you wondering if I needed speech therapy or if this tongue-tied streak was destined to last me a lifetime.  I spent three years in high school on the Speech and Debate Team, which was a combination of trauma and therapy.  I took Spanish and never mastered the art of rolling my Rs properly, but at least I could carry on a conversation.  A number of my college-bound classmates were perfect on paper, but when the time came for them to actually speak Spanish, their accents were hideous.  I often wish I’d taken French, and I remain relieved that I did not attempt to learn German.  It’s a great language, very precise, but it’s also very demanding.  Just ask anybody who has lived through a “Die, Der, Das” exam.

Now that I am a mother and a “woman of a certain age,” I know that what gets my verbal wires crossed is stress.  I’m moving too fast, trying to do too much at once, trying to speak faster than my jaw, tongue, and lips can keep up.  That would explain jumbling letters and committing that hilarious act known as a Malapropism.  Wiki defines it as “the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance.”  Mrs. Malaprop is a character in The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan best known for committing such verbal reversals.  In high school I once played Mrs. Malaprop.  One of my favorite lines involved Mrs. Malaprop bragging about her niece, attempting to say “ingenuousness and artfulness.”  Instead, she describes the niece as possessing “ingenuity and artifice.”

Penelope Keith as Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals, Chichester Festival Theater

Today, however, I committed an act of pure verbal goofiness.  I must tip my hat to Leanne Shirtliffe, author of Don’t Lick The Minivan.  If not for her wit and wisdom, I would not have caught myself in the act of saying what I said.

You see, John had been eating an apple.  He tends to take large bites.  As he got closer to the core, he did the typical buzz saw maneuver, then threw the core away.  In the light from the kitchen window I could see the gleam of juice on his chin.  I knew he had it on his hands too.  Before I could tell him to go wash up, he bent over and picked up our extremely fluffy black cat, Coco.  That’s when I said it.

“Don’t get the cat sticky!”

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Filed under autism, cats, Family, Fiction, history, Humor, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

My First Anniversary in the Blogosphere

by Lillian Csernica on March 11, 2014

Yes, that’s right, one year ago today I took the plunge and started this blog.

I had just come home from ConDor, a marvelous SF con down in San Diego, CA. I was all fired up, determined to bring my career, social media, platform, brand, hairstyle, skirt length and choice of sushi all into the 21st Century. I had to make up for lost time. Raising two boys with special needs requires a serious investment of time, energy, and sheer stamina. As I sit here typing, it’s late at night at the boys are both asleep. Only now is it quiet enough in the house for me to hear myself think.

I want every single person reading this to know that I treasure you. You do me the honor of reading these posts. I do my best to keep you informed and entertained. When I started training in retail sales, my boss taught me the secret of success: Convince the customer that you are providing value for money. Today more than ever, in our digital lifestyles, time is money. I will always do my best to write something worth the time it takes you to read.

Thank you for your support as I try to keep moving forward with what each of my boys needs in terms of health, education, recreation, love, and validation. Thank you for being here to share with me the triumphs of my writing career. Thank you for listening to my silly jokes and putting up with my work-in-progress technological skills.

Speaking of which, over in the side bar you’ll see the bunch of balloons that’s my badge.  It’s my gift to you, a new skill I acquired this evening, so I could give you some token of my appreciation.  If you like, and if you would, please take that badge and put it on your own page.

Thank you so much for helping me make this year one of growth and progress and success.


Filed under autism, Awards, Blog challenges, Conventions, Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Humor, love, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

A to Z Challenge 2014

by Lillian Csernica on March 10, 2014

Hi there!  We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of my blog.  Last year, as part of launching it, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge.  What is the A to Z Challenge? It’s a blast! I will attempt to write a new blog post for each day of April (except Sundays) for each letter of the alphabet. April 1st is “A”, the 2nd is “B”, and so on.

This year, I’m a whole lot more ready for the Challenge. I will be following a theme for the whole month. What is my theme? Be here on March 21st. See the picture in the sidebar about the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal. That’s the day everyone reveals what their theme will be for the month. Clever, huh?

See you back here on the 21st.  In the meantime, I’ll keep on posting about the ups and downs of the writing life along with the joys of raising my two special needs sons.  Our motto:  “Never a Dull Moment!”


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Shot Pool, Drank Beer, Did Homework

by Lillian Csernica on March 9, 2014

My next door neighbors on the left have two new cats.  Their previous cats, an ancient pair of Siamese named Bonnie and Clyde, went to kitty heaven a few months ago.  John was all excited to have me see the new cats, so today he and I paid a visit to Helen and Michael, where we met two black and white littermates about eight months old.  One is a short hair, and the other is fluffy.  Their names….  Sigh.  You have to wonder sometimes what people are thinking.  The short hair is Micky Marie and her fluffy sister is Minnie Mouser.  I would have thought, given that these people were cool enough to name a brother and sister Siamese Bonnie and Clyde, they would have come up with something less (dare I say it?) goofy.

Oh well.  Nice cats, nice people, gorgeous day.  We all wound up out on the back patio where Michael keeps a pool table.  John likes to shoot eight ball down at Neptune’s Kingdom on the Boardwalk.  He’s not that good at it, only because he doesn’t practice enough.  He did the family proud today, making Michael work for it.  The game went on for a while due to missed shots here and there, but I was delighted to be right at tableside to watch John make some long shots and one or two side pockets that were tricky.  Michael did win, so I played him.  This brought back a flood of memories about my father, who taught me to shoot eight ball and even bought me my own cue stick in a carrying case.  I made one good side pocket shot, and that was enough to make me happy for the day.

I mentioned beer, didn’t I?  As you know, I don’t drink.  It doesn’t mix well with my medication.  One of the few advantages of my weight is my ability to have one or two drinks without feeling them much.  Helen offered me a beer.  My usual polite refusal was halfway out of my mouth when my brain shifted gears and told me I could afford one drink so I should accept my hostess’ hospitality.  Besides, we were shooting pool.  It’s just like having pizza.  Beer is the perfect condiment, accessory, whatever.  So Helen and I drank beer while we watched Michael and John shoot eight ball.  Michael tends to talk his way through his shots, which was fine because it reminded me of so many things Daddy had taught me about the game.  Michael also coached John through some of his more successful shots, so John was happy to have a fresh audience cheering him on.  This was a rare pleasure for me, hanging out with my neighbors on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, my son playing with their animals and us grown-ups talking about a hundred different subjects.  The conversation bounced around as much as the billiard balls did.

The time came for John and me to go back home.  There before us lay the final stages of John’s Earth Science project, a tourist brochure that was meant to encourage people to visit the planet he’d been assigned, which was Mars.  An 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper folded into thirds, divided up into particular sections according to the teacher’s handout.  My sister and John’s two after school aides had been working on this with him for several days.  Now it all came down to me and John.  I read the directions, which included contradictions.  I read them again, spotting the typos.  I read over the rubric and prayed that what John had created would be colorful and informative enough.  We downloaded images and printed out references and cut and pasted and John worked his artistic magic and I made sure all the source materials were documented.  By the time we were done, I needed another beer.  This tourist brochure had better bring home a good grade, or I’ll be answering to my sister and the aides.

John and I had a really good Sunday together.  And that’s what matters the most.


Filed under autism, Family, Goals, Humor, marriage, science fiction, Special needs, Writing