Monthly Archives: May 2014

And the Clock Wound Down


by Lillian Csernica on May 28, 2014

Meant to get to this more promptly, but upon my return home I discovered one of my cats had developed a serious abscess.  We took him to the vet the next morning, and it was worse than we realized.  Fortunately, our vet is great, so the cat will be fine.

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I started my Monday off with the naginata demo held in the War Room.  Alyne and Malyne Hazard taught a good dozen of us how to hold the naginata, then the proper forms for executing the head cut called “men” and the shin cut called “tsune.”  I had some trouble with my form and doing things in the proper order, and then remembering to yell as well!  Cheerful and patient, the Hazard sisters and their assistants corrected us with smiles and encouragement.  By the end of the hour I could even look my opponent in the eyes instead of staring at my target while I struck.  What a thrill to be able to learn such a weapon, the main weapon of Japanese women in my chosen time period!

Monday morning’s panel schedule put Pat and me back to back, with my “Steampunk in Japan” panel followed by her “Steampunk CSI.”  I had divided my panel material into two parts.  The first dealt with the technology transfers that came from the West with the three French military missions, the two German missions, and then the United States and other countries joining in as trade opened up after the Shogunate fell and the Meiji Restoration was well underway.  The second half gave an overview of popular facets of steampunk culture in modern Japan to be found in anime, manga, music and fashion.  Before the panel started, one fellow asked me if I’d be addressing modern Japan, such as the SteamGarden events, and I was happy to tell him I would be.

Pat drew a good crowd for “Steampunk CSI.”  I was running the Power Point program, which meant I sat there pushing the button to advance the slides.  With an examination of the technology available in Sherlock Holmes’ days, Pat showed what could have been possible in terms of forensic science.  (I do wish she’d warned me ahead of time about some of the case photos that showed that shotgun and knife wounds really look like and why.  Good thing I don’t eat much for breakfast!)  The people in the crowd who had an interest in the Jack the Ripper mystery got their dose of fascination when Pat talked about Patricia Cornwell’s book on the subject.

We’d made arrangements for late check-out, which gave us until 1 p.m.  That was a very narrow margin, because I was on from 11 to noon and Pat from noon to 1 p.m.  I slipped out early, cleared the last of my luggage from our room, parked it with Pat, then ran back to make sure I tipped our maid.  I’m a bit OCD about tipping.  One, it’s customary, two, it’s polite to show appreciation this way, and three, some people who live on the margins rely on that money to make the difference.  I might not know exactly who those people are, but that’s none of my business anyway.

Nautilus shells: N. macromphalus (left), A. scrobiculatus (centre), N. pompilius (right)

Pat hadn’t been to the Caravan Bazaar yet, so off we went.  I finally made it back to the lady selling the wonderful embroidered patches.  We worked out a trade for one of my contributor’s copies of Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails.  She got the book and I got two patches, one with a rocket ship and one with a Nautilus (the sea creature).  She even threw in a third patch that expressed the theme of another of my stories.  Such a deal!

At last it was time to hit the road for home.  We got to my house considerably earlier than we usually arrive.  Fortunately, the holiday traffic was all going the other way as people who went to Santa Cruz returned to Silicon Valley and points north.  My boys always like to see “Aunt Pat,” especially Michael.  Then Pat and I sat down in my office and spent two or three hours at the computer which were devoted to an important aspect of her Shameless Self-Promotion.  It was a funny feeling to be the person who knew more about what we were doing, but I’d traveled the route we were taking already, so I could explain the comparative advantages of the choices available.  If it seems like I’m being deliberately vague, I am.  It’s for Pat to announce and present what we came up with when the time is right.

The cats missed me, the kids were glad to see me, and nothing had blown up or broken down while I was away.  All in all, a really spectacular weekend!

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Clocking In, Clocking Out


Lillian Csernica on May 25th, 2014

 

Busy busy busy day!  For some insane reason I was awake by 8:30 a.m.  It might have had something to do with the somnolent sound effects from Pat’s side of the room, but maybe what I heard was just some maid being a little too enthusiastic with a vacuum.  That’s all right.  I took a shower, made myself presentable for the public, and got a good head start on a problem I discovered when I checked my panel notes for today.  I’d forgotten to print out the latest update of my notes for the “Steampunk in Japan” panel.  I knew the hotel had an Office Center, but I did not think it would be open on a Sunday.  I was right.

 

myvectory.blogspot.com

So off I went to Guest Services.  That’s such a plain phrase.  I much prefer the term “concierge,” don’t you?  Guest Services is a department, but the concierge is the Person Who Handles The Problem.  Sure enough, the nice fellow there directed me to a PC complete with printer in the lobby.  Once I figured out which USB port was the right one, I opened the file, printed my notes and all was right with my world.  The Hilton now owns the Doubletree, and I must say the new management has made some good improvements.  Anybody who makes my life easier is a winner in my eyes!

Now it was time to continue Map Quest!  Off I went to the Caravan Bazaar, determined to hunt down the last two stamps I needed.  I found the Handmade by Droids booth.  I had to pass their challenge in order to win their stamp.  They asked me to do my best impression of “a steam-powered penguin in a mad rage.”  Oh wow!  Good thing I’d taken that Improv training with the commedia dell’arte troupe back in the days when Northern Ren Faire made you take workshops.  Imagine me waddling side to side with my arms flapping stiffly while I alternated “Squawk squawk squawk!” with chuffing and hissing noises.  Did I get the stamp?  Oh yeah!

 

My final destination kept eluding me.  I learned later that I kept missing the booth because “The sign was hidden behind the shrunken heads.”  I went back to the Sacramento Steampunk Society table to throw myself on the mercy of the lady in charge.  I pled my case, mentioning that I had lived up to the challenge of the steampunk penguin impression.  You know what happened next, right?  That’s right.  I had to do the penguin impression again.  I won the badge ribbon of white satin with a metallic red trail leading to the X that marks the spot.  Two high quality chocolate coins came with it.  The dear lady brought out the “special prizes for the people we really like.”  In a variety of small ornamental tins were tiny sewing kits, just what attendees of this costume-oriented con would enjoy!  I chose the ginger tin because that enabled me to return the lady’s kindness by reaching  into my purse and pulling out a ginger candy.  She was delighted.  I now sport a Society pin on my badge lanyard.

www,jadefinejewelry.com

I came back to our hotel room around 1 p.m.  Pat was up.  I was torn between calling the maid to tidy the room and just falling over for a nap.  I did call the maid, and she turned out to be this really sweet older lady from the Canton area of China.  We got to talking, and she asked me if I spoke any Chinese.  I can say “Nihao,” “shay  shay nee,” and “doh jay sai.”  (They mean “Hello,” and “thank you” in both Mandarin and Cantonese.  Please forgive my transliteration.  It’s the best I can do.)  The maid gave me an approving laugh.  I pulled my cross chain out from under my blouse to show her the small piece of jade I wear, Taiwanese jade that my mother gave me.  The length of the chain allows the jade to rest next to my heart.  When the maid saw that, she threw her arms around me and hugged me.  I love meeting new people, I really do, especially people from other countries.

Soon it was time to get some food into me before my panel at 5 p.m.  The menu in Sprigs was the same as the bar, which makes sense during a con.  That meant I had the linguine and meat balls again.  Hey, I know what I like.  Jeffrey went dashing by again in his attire as The Phantom of the Opera.  Since he was in character, I called out “Eric!” but that didn’t work, so I tried “Jeffrey!”  There’s something about his presence that demanded I rise to meet him.  We chatted for a few minutes and he was off again.  At some point in the day I had an opportunity to tell his wife Sharon how much I appreciated the talk Jeffrey and I had yesterday.  She was very pleased to hear it.  She knows what a gem she has in him.

Then it was Magic time!  I was worried about what size audience I might have because it was in the window of dinner time.  Fortunately, at least a dozen people turned up for “Making Magic Meaningful.”  (I am now OUT of bookmarks.  I knew I should have made the wine-colored set!)  Creating magic systems for fantasy fiction and gaming is one of my favorite subjects.  Programming gave me 90 minutes for the panel, and I needed it.  Each section of my panel notes corresponds to chapters in The Writer’s Spellbook.  I can go into as much or as little detail as people want on any of the many aspects of creating a strong, consistent magic system.  We had a good time.  I called on Pat to speak at points when her particular adventures in fantasy and forensics have led to either knowledge or experience by turns fascinating and freaky.

After the panel we went out into the hallway so Con Ops could pack up and secure the room.  A cluster of folks stayed with me, including Matthew and Mark.  Matthew is a delightful 15 year old boy who kept thanking me for helping him see what he needed to think about to fix his story.  I encouraged him to tell me about the plot.  As he went along I asked questions about cause and effect between events, character motivation, the real problem at the heart of the story, and who hired the bad guys.  As we went along, Matthew began to understand the importance of backstory and the details of how his world works.  Bright kid, very excited about what he’d learned from my talk.  I made sure he had my blog URL and told him I’d be happy to answer questions and talk writing with him.  I’m all for helping young writers who are just starting out.

Mark was closer to my age group.  He’s a member of RWA!  We got to talking about a very complex storyline involving shapeshifters and a secret temple in the wilds of Turkey.  Pat and I directed Mark to some books and movies that might provide more ideas and some different angles on the issues he wants to address.  He plans to get “The Writer’s Spellbook,” which is always good news to me.

In a surprisingly short time, 9 p.m. was upon us, time for Pat to present her talk on “Sky Warriors.”  It was just the two of us sitting there, wrestling with the Power Point projector as usual.  Around 9:15 p.m. we were joined by a couple that boggled my mind.  All in black, a cross between Elizabethan, steampunk, sky pirate, and a dash of Goth, they made an impressive pair.  I can now say I have seen a steampunk codpiece.  Pat gave her talk, and the gentleman of the pair asked some knowledgeable questions.  He’s a pilot, so he knew some of the more modern history of airships, dirigibles, blimps, etc.

My feet were ready to give it up for the day.  Pat made the night’s cookie raid on the front desk, and now here we are, snug in our hotel room, ready to watch some action movie or more episodes of “Forensics Files.”  Tomorrow we have “Steampunk in Japan” and “Steampunk CSI” back to back, and then I’m going to see the Japanese sisters do their naginata demo.  That should be great!

 

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Rocking the Clock


by Lillian Csernica on May 24, 2014

Nelson’s Navy vs. the Nautilus — Thanks to Pat, my 10 a.m. panel had the added benefit of a Power Point presentation.  She’d created slides to back up my lecture notes.  This is Silicon Valley, after all.  People expect good tech!  The schematics of the Plongeur, the French submarine on which Jules Verne based the Nautilus, brought the right steampunk touch.  I had been hoping there might be some Naval personnel in the audience.  We had good attendance for that hour, including a retired Communications and Intelligence officer who had some very useful and interesting comments.

Harry Turtledove GoH panel –Harry Turtledove is so much fun.  A thoroughly gracious man, he asked us what we wanted him to do for the hour.  When nobody else said anything, I got the ball rolling with a question about writing alternate history.  Mr. Turtledove read an essay on the Dos and Don’ts of writing alternate history.  Some of the turns of phrase were so clever and so witty they had me laughing out loud.  Given that I write historical fiction, I’m thinking it would be an adventure to try alternate history.  I’m having a blast with the steampunk world.  This might be a whole new genre for me.

Authors’ Row — Authors with tables for their books and promotional items.  Sharon Cathcart writes some wonderful books based on The Phantom of the Opera.  Her husband Jeffrey was on hand dressed as the Phantom.  He has in fact played the Phantom onstage.  I was fortunate enough to have a chat later with Jeffrey about his various hobbies.  Turns out Jeffrey sings, writes poetry, builds models, has studied all the weapons of fencing, and more.  Jeffrey has so many talents he does very much resemble Leroux’s Phantom, with the added bonus that he’s not a sociopath!  Jeffrey is also exceedingly kind to any child he meets while dressed as the Phantom who is confined to a wheelchair.  Jeffrey said who better to champion special needs children than the Phantom, who was himself a child in need of special care?  The man had me in tears, because of course my son Michael must use a wheelchair.

 

Original Japanese 1988 Cast Audio Cassette Recording

Artists’ Gallery — Beaded art!  Automatons!  A Tardis!  An anatomical sketch of a mermaid, complete with scientific notes!  There was a pegboard wall with a running story on it made up of sticky notes in various colors big enough to hold a sentence or two.  Gotta love opportunities for audience participation.  I added my own contribution: “I activated the proto-Roomba and soon the floor was completely clear.  I had no idea what to do with all the scattered flowers.”

Pat and I weighed our dining options and settled on the bar here at the Doubletree.  Sprigs, the overhauled version of the Coffee Garden, keeps rather limited hours which are not all that compatible with the Programming schedule.  This turned out to be good luck.  While we were sitting at our table on the edge of the concourse, somebody passed by and called my name.  It took me a second to recognize him because I haven’t seen him in twenty years.  We worked together at the Northern Renaissance Faire.  He and his lady took a seat and we had a delightful meal together.  He’s been in law enforcement, so he and Pat traded some stories.  He’s a grandfather now and my sons are well into their teens, so I’m feeling the years a bit right now.  That’s OK.

Speaking of audience participation, there is a treasure map/scavenger hunt put on by Sacramento Steampunk Society.  The search takes you to various locations in the Artists’ Gallery, the Caravan Tent (dealers’ room), and Authors’ Row.  Each location gives you a stamp, mainly ink but I did get one written by pen and one like an address label.  Tomorrow I’ll collect the last two stamps I need in the Caravan Bazaar, then I will return to the Sacramento Steampunk Society’s table and receive the secret prize!

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The Clock is Ticking


by Lillian Csernica on May 23, 2014

 

 

 

I will soon be heading over the hill to San Jose where I will spend the Memorial Day Weekend frolicking among the devotees of all things steampunk.

I’ve never attended Clockwork Alchemy, although I do have friends who are into steampunk.  I finally got it in gear (ho ho) and became a Browncoat not too long ago, so I am fit to join the Clockwork ranks.

 

I fear I cannot match the sartorial splendor of the better-dressed participants.  C’est la vie.  After the week I’ve had, it will be a major accomplishment to show up fully dressed with my lecture notes and in my right mind!

I have made a goodly pile of steampunk-themed bookmarks, so if you’re at Clockwork be sure to say hi and grab one.  My blog URL is on the back.  I am ever in pursuit of Shameless Self-Promotion!

It’s funny how life circles back on itself in some matters.  Years ago I worked Dickens Fair in when it was held on the Wharf in San Francisco.  I wore a riding habit made of cranberry wool with emerald satin facing on the lapels.  The buttons were mother-of-pearl.  I had gloves, I had a reticule, and I even had a top hat with emerald chiffon draping from the crown.  Anchoring it in place was a pewter brooch almost the diameter of my palm which showed a lady in profile with her hair blowing around her head to form the circle.  Now and then I’d switch that for this astounding piece of costume jewelry that came from my great-grandmother’s collection.  Also the size of my palm, it was made of concentric circles of rhinestones getting steadily larger until the huge one in the center.  People joke about some engagement rings looking like the headlight on a train engine.  This rhinestone pin could be absolutely blinding!

Alas, as I have accumulated years since those days, so too have I accumulated sheer mass, so I can’t fit into the riding habit anymore.  Oh well.  I shall do my best to live up to the occasion in my own peculiar ways.  A plain but professional outfit can be livened up considerably by some of my one-of-a-kind jewelry.  I was rummaging through the Bead Drawers this week and came up with both a pocket watch charm in gold and an octopus charm in silver.  Now surely I should be able to make something out of that combination!

If all goes well and I’m coherent enough, I’ll be posting here each night during Clockwork.  Stay tuned!

 

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For Your Reading Pleasure


by Lillian Csernica on May 20th, 2014

 

My story “Hell to Pay” is now available in Revelation: The First Seal (Conquest) from Sacred City Productions.

If you like demons and supermodels, smart ass dialogue and serious payback, then you’re in for a good time!

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My Clockwork Alchemy Debut


by Lillian Csernica on May 19, 2014

 

The wonderful people behind Fanime and Clockwork Alchemy were gracious enough to accept some ideas I suggested for Programming at Clockwork Alchemy. This will be my schedule for the weekend:

 

*Clockwork Combo — Magic? Fri. at 8:00 p.m. (San Carlos)

Nelson’s Navy vs. the Nautilus Sat. at Noon (San Carlos)

*Making Magic Meaningful Sun. at 5:00 p.m. (Monterey)

*Sky Warriors Sun. at 9:00 p.m. (San Carlos)

Steampunk in Japan Mon. at 11:00 a.m. (San Carlos)

*Steampunk CSI Mon. at Noon (San Carlos)

Please note: The panels marked with a * mean Patricia H. MacEwen will either be leading the discussion or adding her expertise to mine.

 

I look forward to seeing everybody who can make it. I will be bringing my usual Shameless Self-Promotion Kit, along with news of coming releases and the appropriate party favors.

Now remember, a ticket to Clockwork Alchemy ALSO gets you into Fanime! Such a deal!

 

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One Good Heart Can Change the World


by Lillian Csernica on May 15th, 2014

 

Today I would like to salute the men and women who serve in the police force and as fire fighters.  People go into these lines of work for various reasons.  One key reason is their desire to help people.  The two stories below demonstrate the warm, caring hearts that beat behind the badges these two officers wear.

 

 

 

One Police Officer Has Changed A Special Needs Family’s Life

 

 

One Police Officer Has Become an Ambassador for Kindness

 

Here’s the story of a man who was already busy fighting a fire when suddenly he was called upon to deliver a baby.  Now that’s what I call multi-tasking!

 

 

British Firefighters Use Midwife Skills

 

It helps to be in the right place at the right time.  It helps to have special emergency training.  What really helps is having a compassionate heart and the willingness to take action, not just when circumstances demand desperate measures but in the little moments that can make a huge difference.

To all of you “ordinary people” out there all over the world who will never be recognized publicly for what you do, thank you so much.  Thank you for lighting that candle rather than just cursing the darkness.

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Happy Mother’s Day To All of Us


by Lillian Csernica on May 11, 2014

Happy Mother’s Day!  To all women involved in some aspect of raising the next generation, let me say I salute you and I commend you for your efforts.  Our children are the hope of the future.  Everybody who fights for education, for good nutrition, for safe and sane home environments, for love and kindness and the Golden Rule, you’re all fighting for the future.

Some of you don’t get paid enough.  Many of you don’t get paid at all.  Yet you continue to invest your time, your training, and the blood, sweat and tears that go into raising children.  For every child who learns to love books, for every special needs child who masters a skill that had been an ongoing struggle, for every parent who needs answers and comes to you, for every fellow soldier in the fight who needs support and encouragement, you have been there.

God bless every single one of you.

Mothers.  Stepmothers.  Adoptive mothers.  Foster mothers.  Grandmothers.  Nuns.  Teachers.  Nurses.  Caseworkers.  Daycare workers.  One to one aides.  Home care providers.  Respite workers.  Red Cross workers.  Doctors Without Borders.  MFTs.  LCSWs.  Female law enforcement officers.  Female soldiers.  I also recognize the male counterparts of all these roles.  Nothing says a man can’t be a good mother too.  I’ve seen it, and I respect that.

Yes, budgets keep getting cut.  Yes, there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Yes, some days it’s all just too much to bear.  And yet today becomes tomorrow and you’re still there, still fighting the good fight, still showing the children under your care that you ARE there, and you will CONTINUE to be there for as long as you possibly can.  You may be the candle that is lit against the cursing of the darkness.  You may be that one person that one child remembers for the rest of his or her life.  You may be the one who made the difference on that one particular day when things could have gone one way or the other.  That day may yet be coming, and you will be there.

Keep those lights burning.  Show the children the way to the future.  Help them learn whatever you can teach them that will help them build a better future.  For all the times that people should have said thank you and didn’t, or should say thank you and don’t, please accept this, my THANK YOU.  Know that you are valued, that you are appreciated, that we could not do this without you.

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Yet More Good News!


by Lillian Csernica on May 9, 2014

It’s been a good week.  Today’s mail brought yet another contributor’s copy from another sale.  “The Restless Armadillo,” co-written with Kevin Andrew Murphy, is now available in Kindle and trade paperback formats!

 

When Kevin and I did a reading of “The Restless Armadillo” at ConDor in March, we got quite a few laughs out of the audience.  This story has to be one of the weirdest and funniest I’ve written.  I’m sure a large dose of the credit goes to Kevin with his wide knowledge of the occult and his amazing creativity.

I have ten stories and one essay out to market right now.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!  The way my luck is running this week, I may score another sale!

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A New Anthology Release!


by Lillian Csernica on May 7, 2014

Fresh from Dragon’s Roost Press comes DESOLATION: 21 TALES FOR TAILS!

Among the 21 TALES of dark speculative fiction you will find my short story “Camp Miskatonic.”  Yes, it’s a Mythos story, but I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen one like this.  Termite infestation prevents Maria Sanchez and her cousin Innocencia from attending their usual summer camp through their Catholic church’s youth group.  Instead, they find themselves thrown in with a mixture of girls from other Christian denominations.  This year’s rival in the camp athletic competition is the mysterious Camp Miskatonic.  From the minute the bus pulls up inside the Camp Miskatonic compound, Maria has a bad feeling about the sickly-looking girls in their purple and black camp uniforms with the weird silver squiggle.

This is one of my favorite stories among all the ones I’ve written.  I’ve read a lot of Lovecraft, August Derleth, and other authors who have written inside Lovecraft’s universe.  I’ve seen a lot of male characters, but very few females.  What could be more antithetical to the grim, dark, alien weirdness of the Mythos than an all-girls summer camp run by a Christian church?  Maria and Innocencia are both smart, strong girls.  They might not live up to the Golden Rule all the time but they do abide by the lessons their Abuela has taught them about what’s right, what’s wrong, and why they should always be home before dark!

So where do the TAILS come in?  Dragon’s Roost Press will donate a portion of the proceeds from every copy sold to the Last Day Dog Rescue Organization. This organization rescues dogs from high-kill shelters where the dogs are put down or sold for medical experimentation.  I’m a cat person, but I’m more than happy to help out the folks who have dedicated themselves to finding good, safe homes for these poor dogs who don’t deserve to suffer.

Thank you for your support.  I hope you enjoy my story, along with the twenty other wonderful stories waiting for you!

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