Monthly Archives: June 2014

Contests! Prizes! Fun for Everyone!

by Lillian Csernica on June 30, 2014


I am delighted to announce that on Friday I will go live with The Fright Factory: Build Better Horror. 

To celebrate this occasion, I will be having a contest here every day this week.  Prizes will include:

Free copies of The Fright Factory

I’ll name a character after you in a short story

Autographed horror-themed bookmarks

and more surprises!


Why did William Faulkner write “A Rose for Emily”?

I will draw a name from among the folks who get the right answer.  The winner gets The Fright Factory for free!


Filed under Awards, Fiction, Halloween, Horror, Writing

A Visit to the Normal Zone

by Lillian Csernica on June 25, 2014

Measured against a typical day around here, today was positively Normal.  I do not use that word lightly.

I had an appointment in San Jose today.  Since I’d be in that area anyway, I called up the pediatrician’s office and made an appointment for John.  His blood pressure has been running high lately.  This is a concern for all the obvious reasons, with the added worry that his medication might be contributing.

We don’t see the pediatrician that often these days.  When Michael sees a doctor, it’s usually one of the specialists.  When John sees the doctor, which is maybe twice a year unless he gets really sick for some reason, he’ll see either the pediatrician or the neurologist.  Our usual pediatrician wasn’t available today, so we got to meet one of the newer members of the medical group.  New to us, anyway, given that the two main doctors there are a married couple who were recommended to us by the OB/GYN who delivered both Michael and John.  That makes 18 years total we’ve been going to this particular doctor’s office.

When John was little, the waiting room had a playhouse where he could climb inside and then slide out.  There was a big abacus on the bottom floor and a big clock with moveable hands up on the second.  Now and then another kid would get in there with him.  As John grew, that got to be a tighter fit!  So today I was startled to see the playhouse is gone, replaced by a moderate plasma screen up in the corner and a reasonable salt water fish tank against the wall.

John parked himself in front of the fish tank and proceeded to relate to the fish in the same way he relates so easily to cats, dogs, goats, horses, sheep, cows, llamas, and emus.  That was fascinating to watch, and kept both of us busy until John was called into an exam room.

I’m so used to the finer points of talking to Michael’s specialists that a doctor appointment with John is almost too easy.  The “new” pediatrician gave me quite a bit of useful information about both of John’s medications in the context of teenage patients in general.  That helps.   Like all special needs families, our world tends to be quite circumscribed, but within that world there is a whole other universe of specialized details.  It makes me grateful all over again for John being able to walk, talk, eat, and care for himself.


I’m happy to say that the pediatrician thinks John’s blood pressure is fine, along with his height, weight, thyroid, and general health.  That was a relief.  I’m no fan of blood tests, but I really hate seeing people stick needles into my boys.  When it’s time for the back-to-school physical, we’ll check on John’s allergy to peanuts.  It would be good to know he’s outgrown it, but as Dr. Whitney said, when you jump out of a plane, odds are good the parachute will open.  Still, there’s always the chance that it won’t, so it’s best not to jump out of the plane at all.  I agree.  Better to continue making sure John avoids peanuts in his food than to risk the need to use his Epi-pen against anaphylaxis.

On the way home we stopped at KMart to pick up a boogie board for John.  We just gave one to his best friend last weekend during Lucas’ 13th birthday celebration.  Now that John has his own, he and Lucas can go to the beach together and have fun with their boards in the surf.  The waves at the Santa Cruz public beach are not exactly legendary, but that’s all for the best.

At the moment, John is in the kitchen baking chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Soon he will put his pajamas on and we’ll watch a movie while we eat the cookies.  The R.N. will go off shift and I’ll put Michael to bed, then kiss John goodnight.  The cats will curl up in their spots, I’ll back up my writing and editing for the day, and then I’ll watch Netflix or read before lights out.

I’m used to living in crisis mode.  Now and then I get to visit the Normal Zone.  Nice place.  I’ll have to come back again.


Filed under autism, cats, chocolate, Family, Food, Goals, Humor, Special needs, Writing

ALIAAAAA!!!! (Evo)

A new release! This marks my second appearance in ALIA with my one and only vampire story, “Saving Grace.” Mille grazie to my dear friend and editor Massimo Soumare!


Alia def

Il lungo, lunghissimo percorso per arrivare al prodotto finale è terminato. Onestamente fatico a credere sia così. ALIA Evo è uscito come .mobi su (qui il link) e come .epub sul sito di LN-Librinuovi (qui il link). Il prezzo è di 7,21 euro IVA (22%) compresa.

Sono diciassette racconti, come preannunciato, di tredici autori italiani e quattro di autore straniero. Quanto al genere… beh, sapete anche voi come giudichiamo il tentativo un po’ sovietico di suddividere il fantastico in generi attentamente suddivisi. Diciamo che ci sono almeno cinque racconti abbastanza nitidamente di sf (sia pure variamente contaminati) e dodici che non riesco a etichettare in nessun modo. Una storia di calcio (football)  e di oscuri poteri, per iniziare, la vicenda di una morte dimenticata, la crudeltà inutile e dai risvolti inattesi tra alcuni ragazzi, un confronto che ha come campo di battaglia una città, la…

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The Benefits of a Bad Mood

by Lillian Csernica on June 17, 2014


Tonight I’m working on a chapter of the Japanese novel written from the POV of my hero, Tendo Kazuhiro.  He’s in a very bad mood.  His real state of mind behind the stoic facade of a samurai is depression and sporadic bouts of anger.  He is not happy about living in exile as a ronin.  He is not happy about how he was betrayed by men he thought were his friends, men who got him drunk and then sent him into the path of an enemy whom they knew would draw on Tendo and force Tendo to kill him.

Now he’s gotten himself into another fine mess.  This English girl raised in Japan to speak perfect Japanese and become the highest rank of courtesan has run away from the corrupt samurai who owns her.  Fate brings her right across Tendo’s path at a moment when he either saves her or abandons her to (in his mind) almost certain death.  Being a decent guy, he rescues her.  Now he has put his life in danger by helping a foreigner, which is strictly against the martial law of the Tokugawa Shogunate.  If anybody finds out he’s hiding her inside the broken-down hunter’s shack where he lives, the entire village nearby could be in danger because Tendo makes his living acting as their one-man security force against bandits and ronin like himself.

Yuriko is the English girl.  Tendo has never seen a Western woman.  He’s amazed to discover she’s so beautiful, so graceful.  He’s lonely, he’s a healthy twenty-six year old man, and he wants her.  And yet he knows he can’t touch her.  She is under his protection.  She is a walking death sentence.  Even if he keeps her hidden long enough to hand her over to the lord of his clan, once he does that he’ll never see her again.  So he knows he cannot allow himself to develop any kind of feelings for her, any kind of attachment.

Put all that together and he’s in a very bad mood.

The advantage to a bad mood is simple.  Push a character far enough and he or she will stop caring about maintaining whatever public face his or her life requires.  Then the character will think the forbidden thoughts, consider the forbidden options, and maybe even act on them.  You get to show the reader what your character really thinks and feels.  No filters.  No etiquette restrictions.  Ever had a day when you wanted to say exactly what you think?  To spit out the naked truth?  It feels good, but it usually has consequences.

Consequences make for good storytelling.

When you push your character so far that he or she has dropped the mask and is now simply reacting from a place of pain, other characters can step in and manipulate your main character by offering him or her options that will make it stop hurting.  Some are short term, some are long term, and some could make the pain even worse.

When your main character just can’t take it anymore, he or she is vulnerable.  Dangerous.  Weak?  Maybe.  Reckless?  That’s possible.  You get to decide who or what will push your main character in the direction that will advance your story.  I’m about to throw Tendo into the shark tank.  He will act on impulse and make a bad decision, one that will have serious consequences for both him and Yuriko.

I love my job! Kazuki Kitamura in “Neko Zamurai”



Filed under Depression, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Japan, love, romance, Self-image, Writing

How Weird News Teaches Us Great Storytelling

I came across this while browsing Freshly Pressed. Good writing advice, some really funny/weird stories, plus links to more posts in this blog that will be helpful and entertaining. Enjoy!

The Red Pen of Doom

Every day, there are real stories in the morning newspaper that make you snort coffee out your nose or choke on a blueberry muffin. Note: This is why journalists call such pieces “muffin chokers.”

Yet the daily weirdness is more than funny. If you dissect these stories, you can learn deep storytelling lessons from the shallow end of the journalism pool.

Here’s a real story that just happened in my state: Man steals RV from Wal-Mart parking lot, leads police on wild chase. Swerves into sleepy little town where he knocks cars into front yards and such, then blasts through a house and crashes. Runs out, strips down to his underwear and invades a home to steal girl clothes. Cops catch him and haul him off.

This is pretty typical of a weird news story, and not simply because it started in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart — and yeah…

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Father’s Day Salutes

by Lillian Csernica on June 15th, 2014


I’d like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the male role models out there who are doing their part to help raise the hope of the future.




Now I want to recognize all the single mothers who keep fighting the good fight to provide a solid home for their children.


My warmest regards and respect to the fathers who are in the armed services and cannot be home today with their children.

Best wishes also to the male/male couples out there who are raising families.


My father passed away some time ago, but I see him every day in the face of my younger son John.  Whenever we take Michael bowling, I can hear Daddy’s voice in the crash of the ball against the pins.  Playing billiards with John brings back all the coaching my father did back in the day when that’s what we did on the weekends.  I’ll never stop missing my father, but I know he can see that grandsons he never got to meet in this life.  I know Daddy is with us for every triumph and every celebration, clapping those big hands of his.  I love you, Daddy.

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Filed under autism, Family, history, love, Special needs, Writing

The Cosmic Hat Trick

by Lillian Csernica on June 13, 2014

Yes, that’s right.  The universe is going for the Hat Trick today.

Friday the 13th

A Full Moon

Mercury in retrograde

I don’t know about you, but for me this is the Triad of Tough Luck.  Two of my cats have had serious health problems.  Communications here at home keep getting tangled.  School is out, which contributes its own dose of chaos with changed schedules, more noise, and a lot more traffic.  It’s Father’s Day this weekend, which is something of a downer for me because my father isn’t around anymore.  People I know, friends, family, members of my household staff, are all taking the hit directly or having to cope with the fallout from trouble hitting their nearest and dearest.

As we all know, the news lately has been full of horrific events, coming more and more frequently.

I spend a good chunk of every day combating my depression.  One of the most useful tools I’ve learned is the simple fact that we can change our minds, change our moods, and reframe our perspectives.  Times are hard and it’s easy to get stressed out, even frightened.  It’s all the more important to do whatever we can to protect ourselves from being sucked under by the Riptide of Doom.

Let’s start by doing the full numerology on today’s date.  6+1+3+2+0+1+4 = 17, and  1+7 = 8.  So today’s number is really 8, which is one of the best numbers.  Why?


Wikipedia tells us:


The word for “eight” (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means “prosper” or “wealth” ( – short for “發財”, Pinyin: fā). In regional dialects the words for “eight” and “fortune” are also similar, e.g., Cantonese “baat3” and “faat3“.

There is also a visual resemblance between two digits, “88”, and 囍, the “shuāng xĭ” (“double joy”), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 (“xĭ” meaning “joy” or “happiness”).

The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky.

  • In 2003, A telephone number with all digits being eights was sold for CN¥2.33 million (approximately USD$280,000) to Sichuan Airlines in Chengdu, China.[2]
  • The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 8/8/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm local time (UTC+08).[3]
  • A man in Hangzhou offered to sell his license plate reading A88888 for ¥1.12 million (roughly $164,000).[3]
  • The Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia each have 88 floors.
  • The minivan that GM makes for the Chinese market is called the Buick GL8, but the minivans it sold in other countries didn’t have that name.
  • The Air Canada route from Shanghai to Toronto is Flight AC88.
  • The KLM route from Hong Kong to Amsterdam is Flight KL888.
  • The Etihad Airways route from Abu Dhabi to Beijing then onwards to Nagoya is Flight EY888.
  • The United Airlines route from Beijing to San Francisco is Flight UA888, and the route from Beijing to Newark is Flight UA88.
  • The Air Astana route from Beijing to Almaty is Flight KC888.
  • The British Airways route from Chengdu to London is Flight BA88.
  • One of Cathay Pacific‘s flight numbers from Hong Kong to Vancouver and New York is CX888.
  • Singapore Airlines reserves flight numbers beginning with the number 8 to routes in China and Korea.
  • In Singapore, a breeder of rare Dragon fish (Asian Arowana) (which are “lucky fish” and being a rare species, are required to be microchipped), makes sure to use numbers with plenty of eights in their microchip tag numbers, and appears to reserve particular numbers especially rich in eights and sixes (e.g., 702088880006688) for particularly valuable specimens.[4][5]
  • As part of grand opening promotions, a Commerce Bank branch in New York’s Chinatown raffled off safety deposit box No. 888.
  • An “auspicious” numbering system was adopted by the developers of 39 Conduit Road Hong Kong, where the top floor was “88” – Chinese for double fortune. It is already common in Hong Kong for ~4th floors not to exist; there is no requirement by the Buildings Department for numbering other than that it being “made in a logical order.”[6] A total of 43 intermediate floor numbers are omitted from 39 Conduit Road: those missing include 14, 24, 34, 54, 64, all floors between 40 and 49; the floor number which follows 68 is 88.[6]
  • Similar to the common Western practice of using “9” for price points, it is common to see “8” being used in its place to achieve the same psychological effect. So for example menu prices like $58, $88 are frequently seen.

The Full Moon is gorgeous.  People in Japan have moon-viewing parties.  That usually happens later in the year, but hey, it’s still a fun idea.  Pack a picnic basket and go to the beach to watch the moon rise.  If you live in the right kind of building, you could even sit on the roof.  There’s magic in the air, and romance, and all the good vibes of summer.  School is out!  It’s time to party!

The Full Moon is a great time to launch a new project.  Let’s launch ourselves into a positive, can-do frame of mind.  It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting.  Studies show the simple act of smiling or laughing can change your biochemistry and improve your mood.

Mercury in retrograde?  This one we’re just going to have to ride out.

From the wonderful blog Gala Darling:

“It’s because Mercury rules communication, clear thinking, truth and travel, so when the planet goes retrograde — which means that it looks like it’s going backwards in the sky — all those things go backwards. They start to get ugly and tangle up. Mercury isn’t really going backwards, it’s just hanging out by the sun, but from Earth, that makes it look like it’s in reverse. It typically runs for a couple of weeks, a few times a year.

Check out these dates below and put them in your calendar!

In 2014, Mercury is retrograde from…
February 6th to 28th
June 7th to July 2nd
October 4th to 25th”

Also from Gala Darling, 10 Magical Ways to Make the Most of Mercury Retrograde!

So remember, we are the masters of our destinies and the captains of our souls.  If we choose, we can decide 13 is just a number, the Moon is just a big ball of rock in the sky, and Mercury going retrograde is just an astronomical phenomenon (Try saying that three times fast!).  Choose to be positive.  Choose to make your own luck.  Choose to appreciate and enjoy all the good things that are happening all around us.

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Filed under Depression, fantasy, Goals, Humor, love, marriage, romance, Self-image, Writing

Buried in Paperwork

by Lillian Csernica on June 6, 2014


Now and then I get lucky and my state of mind aligns with my current work needs in a way that helps both.  Right now I really want to get rid of everything unnecessary in my life.  All the clutter, all the clothes, all the accessories, all the STUFF that owns me more than I own it.  That’s a helpful mindset when I look at a manuscript and see everything that does not need to be there.  At the moment, I have a 575 page novel on my desk, along with a 45 page/12,200 word novella.  Both must be edited for length then polished for quality.  I am indeed buried in paperwork.

Editing is a lot like sculpting.  The more you take away, the more the shape emerges from the granite, clay, metal, etc.  The more words you take away, as long as they’re the right words, the better the story emerges.  The stronger the story, the clearer the theme, and the more vibrant the characters.

Opinion varies on how much editing is enough editing.  When do you know?  How can you tell you’re done?  “Good enough” isn’t good enough, right?  So how do you really know when the article or story or novel is ready for the marketplace?

Here’s one opinion:  How to Edit Your Book in Four Steps

I think that system makes a lot of sense.  Step #4 is going to take a big chunk of time, but there’s no other way to be really sure the writing flows smoothly.

This is a more detailed approach:  Line Editing in 10 Easy Steps

Very useful.  I think I’ll be printing out a copy of this and keeping it by my desk.  This is serious nuts and bolts HELP.

What to do when your manuscript is way too long?

Some days I get so caught up in the microwriting I can’t step back and see the big picture.  Given that I have to cut at least 100 pages from my novel, I need to know a reliable method for chopping out great big chunks of the book without damaging the story.  Follow that link to some great advice by thriller author Jodie Renner.

Once I have the manuscript trimmed to the proper word limit, it’s time to do the polishing.  How do you make sure every chapter, scene, paragraph, and sentence is worth keeping?

Candy-Bar Scenes


I will say it is possible to get carried away with the editing process.  Every writer is different.  Every set of work habits is custom-tailored to the mind, style, and real life of each writer.  With respect to the author of this piece, I believe his methods are way too complicated.

How I Self-Edit My Novels: 15 Steps From First Draft to Publication


Time to go apply some of what these links have taught me.  Wish me luck!



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

The Writing On the Wall

by Lillian Csernica on June 2, 2014

My writer’s group often uses prompts.  This month’s prompt is “The Letter.”  In my mind that phrase immediately conjures the image of fine stationery covered with cursive writing.  The envelope might match or it might not, but it would also have cursive writing on it.  When I was young I soon decided my handwriting would never match the elegance of my mother’s or my grandmother’s, so I went the other way and adopted my father’s style of block printing.  I liked the way it looked, and Heaven knows it was much more legible.

Now that the keyboard has replaced the ink pen, what we have gained in speed and legibility we now know we are paying for in the loss of other very important skills.

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Why Those Skills Are Important

Lack of Home Support Means School Support is All the More Crucial

Long Term Consequences: The Big Picture

Forgive me for relying on links, but they’re the easiest way to provide the information I think is essential in the most compact form here on my blog.  All of the articles above apply to mainstream children.  They mean all the more for the special needs kids who are starting off with certain deficits.

I’m scared.  I look at what’s happening in our schools and what’s NOT happening, and I think about the phrase “the hope of the future.”  That hope is looking pretty weak at this point, given the literacy levels of high school students in the U.S.  We have to drop back to the preschool level and start filling in the gaps in our children’s educations.  As much as I’d give my left arm to have my sons be healthy, normal people, for many years now I’ve been very glad they’re in Special Ed, getting annual IEPs with updates whenever my husband and I felt them necessary.

The handwriting is on the wall.  The future is at stake.  People still do handwriting analysis to learn about themselves and their futures.  That practice will go the way of the soap box derby if our children are no longer taught cursive writing.  The loss of cursive writing means the loss of cognitive skills.  We can’t afford to lose any ground, not one inch, not one synapse.

Please, for the love of our kids, for the love of all the kids who need us to stand up and demand what they don’t know they aren’t getting, let’s talk to the principals, the school boards, the politicians and everybody in the chain of command who keeps weakening the skill sets our children must have to repair the damage the world has suffered and to build a new world a better way.


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