Monthly Archives: February 2015

Something Completely Different

by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2015

My writing has most often taken the forms of fiction and nonfiction.  What most people don’t know is that I have written poetry.  When I was in high school, I decided sonnets were my favorite form, and of the five variations, I enjoy Spenserian sonnets the most.  Alas, I am not much good at writing sonnets.

In the course of my experiments with poetry, I’ve come up with six examples I consider worth keeping.  Given that we are on the brink of Spring, I will share with you the poem I wrote that best suits the oncoming season.




Child of the summer dawn

Child running on the lawn

Singing high and sweet and clear

Never known such pain and fear.

Sweetest Babe, O Blessed Child,

Save me from this world so wild

Running free to chase the sun

You’ve no battles to be won.

Lucky child, no age have you

Dancing on the morning dew

Never old, you’ll ever be

Deep within the heart of me.

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Guest Blog: The Writer’s Path by Murphy Daley

Krista Tippet interviewed Mary Oliver, the famous and beloved poet, for On Being recently. She encouraged writers to have a specific time to write. It’s great for discipline, she says. The muse will come for regular appointments.

I’ve often thought that is true. But I don’t write like that. Maybe one day I will. It seems like a good idea. But what I actually do is scribble in the margins.

I’ve had a blog for 13 years, with about 2,000 posts. I have three books for sale on Amazon, and the big one that I’m getting ready to put out there this year called The Russian American School of Tomorrow.

RASOT is the one that demanded to be written, and I’ve been slogging away on it for more than ten years. I’ve given hundreds of incomplete drafts to friends, talked about it with strangers, mentally flagellating myself for not getting it done already.

What was wrong with me?

I would write on it on weekends in coffee shops.

I wrote on it while riding the bus to work.

Spare moments in my cube would find it up on my computer, me typing away.

I always always always had a notebook at hand. I would arrive early to meetings and write. I would write on it while other people were late to meetings. I would write on it when meetings got boring.

I loved work trips, plane flights and lonely hotel rooms where I could write. A hard day doing the paid day job and then no interruptions to write in a restaurant while the company bought me dinner.

Those were the times when I can look back and see the clarity. I may not have known what the book was going to say yet, but I loved the writing and myself doing it.

There were other times. When I just didn’t know what to do with RASOT and I cheated on it with other writing projects. That is how my first published book, The Parable of Miriam the Camel Driver, was born. I wanted to write a story that was easier. It came out in a series on my blog. I didn’t really think much of it, until it was done.

That was 2006 and self-publishing was an achievable thing. I learned about editing and layout, cover design, ISBNs and print-on-demand. I put it out on and felt like a star.

But I knew my real book was still waiting to be finished. And my life was still pushing along. I got pregnant and knew that the book was in trouble. I printed out all my chapters (to date) and stapled them separately. I knew I might be able to read them and make notes while holding my newborn. Not the first month, but the second I went over each of these chapters and made notes and found plot inconsistencies, and got a better idea of how the story might progress.

And yes, I showed them to the people who came over to see the baby, with that special cringing pride of the work-in-progress.

Still later came the well. I mean, the falling-into-the-well-and-not-knowing-how-to-get-out. Was it post-partum or regular depression? Or maybe it was life circumstances that happen?

That was the time when it was so hard to think about anything but my victimhood. Oh Me! Me Me Me Me Me. No room for story development.

So naturally, I wrote a non-fiction book. Cheating on my creative work-in-progress to write something very doable. The Pregnant Professional; A Handbook for Women Who Plan to Work During and After Pregnancy was written and published in the middle of some of this. After all, I’d learned from Miriam how to hatch a book. I didn’t want to let it waste.

But I still wasn’t done with RASOT. And those were the hard years. I’d started to think that hopelessness was a lifestyle choice.

Oh. I forgot to mention the writing groups. My delicious word sisters. I’d joined and formed many along the way. And one of them got back together at that time to save me.

I had given up hope, barely remembering that it was an option, when my writer lady friends had a writer group reunion. Well. I tried to make myself presentable and showed up. I looked around at this group and thought, “I was once a capable, competent and valuable person. That is who these people see. They don’t see who I am now.”

And I realized I had to climb out of the well. Whatever it took.

I started to make recordings on my phone of the story. Nonsensical. “This is the part where she is going to have to find the cow…” NOT writing. But something. Something that pushed it forward. Then I could listen to the recording and type it into the computer.

Over time the story worked it out. And when I found myself in the well, victim mantras running through my head, I grabbed on to my creative work and said “NO!” No imaginary conversations, no running through the same tired stories in my head. Right the book!!! What happens after the cow? SAY IT! WRITE IT!

And I did. And I still always kept a notebook with me. And now my phone, which could recognize and type my voice. And every single tool I could think to use to get that beast of a book out there.

Now it stands at 90,680 words. HA! As if those were all. Multiply it by one hundred for all the re-writes. But here it is. Waiting for a cover and a birthing.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron lays down the rule that a writer must write three pages every morning right away. She and Mary Oliver concur on this appointment-style writing habit. Many people swear by it. No doubt it is helpful. That’s simply not the way it happened for me.

Thank you so much, Murphy!  Congratulations on the imminent delivery of The Russian American School of Tomorrow!

For more of Murphy’s insights, visit her Wonderblog.

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RadCon Road Trip Report Part Two

by Lillian Csernica on February 19th, 2015


Yes, Saturday night at RadCon was quite the adventure.  I suppose I really should mention that while Pat and I stayed at the Best Western, the actual venue for the con was the Red Lion Inn.  There were three wings, to say nothing of all the dedicated convention space on the far side of the hotel.  Wing 2 was the center of the action, with this really long hallway that wrapped around to the left and held a steady stream of congoers, pros, people with little tables, the anime room(s), and at least one elevator.  There were stairs, of course.  On Friday I kept getting lost.  On Saturday I could navigate Wings 1 and 2.  By Sunday I still hadn’t figured out Wing 3.  I’m convinced the signs were just clever decoys to conceal the dimensional warp required for access to Wing 3.

Fantastic Stories Super Pack #1

Now for a word on the perils of Shameless Self-Promotion.  Much to my delight, I have a story in Fantastic Stories Presents: Fantasy Super Pack #1.  It’s a hefty book, 750 pages worth, including several of the Biggest Names in the genre.  I had one of my contributor copies with me.  I’d also brought along my copy of Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions.  It’s a trade paperback with a gorgeous cover and a respectable weight of stories.  Trouble was, carrying both of these books around in my tote bag all day had begun to make my arms ache.  What price fame, right?  I do have copies of the covers of my ebooks, color printed and laminated.  Those are much easier to carry with me.

By the time Pat and I returned to our hotel room, we’d been going strong for 16 hours.  It was time for my favorite pajamas and another viewing of “The 5th Element.”  I’ve never actually watched the first half.  Looks like I still haven’t.  Pat tells me I dozed off in my chair.  She managed to get me conscious enough to stagger off to bed.  Pat is quite a brave soul.  She’s one of the few people who know they can wake me up without risking life and limb.

Shopping for souvenirs in the Dealers’ Room.  Yes, it’s true.  I was so busy at this con I had to schedule time to spend money.  It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  There was the Dealer’s Room, way over on one side of the lobby, and then over in Wing 1 or Wing 2 there was this hallway full of hotel rooms that had been converted into a Dealer’s Room mini-mall.  Yes, this was one of those times when I got lost.  Twice.  I came out of one hotel room and turned the wrong way.  (Does anybody remember the hotel where they held SiliCon and the hotel rooms were in these rows of white military bunkers?  You couldn’t tell if you were coming or going.  It all looked alike.)  Even so, I bought John one Batman and one Rocket Raccoon item, then I picked up a steampunk CD for Michael.

As the con wound down on Sunday, Pat and I spent some quality time in the Green Room saying hello and goodbye to many of the wonderful people we’d met.  We were lucky enough to be able to honor what’s become an end-of-the-con tradition for us, which is having dinner with G. David Nordley and his lovely wife Gayle.  Time came for us to hit the road.  We drove halfway across Oregon, then got a motel room for the night.  Sounds like the opening like of a novel!

Monday was full of strange and wonderful events:

Out of town by noon. Stopped much later for a fabulous lunch.  Chili, cornbread, hush puppies, coleslaw, lemonade.

Shasta by daylight.

Pat picked up a Patricia Cornwell audiobook, The Bone Bed.  I like mysteries, so I’d been looking forward to listening to the story.  Not only was the writing surprisingly bad, no body appeared until Chapter 17 or so.  There’s the medical examiner, Kay Scarpetta.  There’s a paleontologist who disappeared.  A rich man is in jail because his wife was missing and a charge of murder had been brought against him.  Then there’s the marine biologist who goes ballistic over a giant sea turtle snarled in fishing lines which also happen to ensnare a third unidentified body.  Pat spotted errors in the medical examiner’s procedures, the handling of the giant sea turtle, and the marine biologist’s behavior toward Kay Scarpetta.  The audiobook consists of eight CDs.  We suffered through four before we couldn’t take it anymore.  It didn’t help matters when the voice actress reading the book kept mispronouncing common words.  Oy!

Got home at 1:30 a.m.  Pat still had to drive to Stockton.  Caffeine is our friend!


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RadCon Road Trip Report Part One

by Lillian Csernica on February 18, 2015

I’ve been away on a week-long mini-vacation to the Wonderful World of RadCon.  I’m sorry I couldn’t blog each day from the con the way I did when I was at Clockwork Alchemy last year.  The hotel’s wifi and my laptop never did settle their differences.


Two lenticular clouds over Shastina


Our fabulous hotel room.  It didn’t have the fireplace, but it did have two big plasma TVs and a kitchenette.




My school visit went really well.  I spoke to three middle school classes with the invaluable support of my longtime collaborator, best friend and wheelwoman, Patricia H. MacEwen.  The kids were great.  Smart, eager, and full of really good ideas.  Much to my joy, among them was a young lady also named Lillian.  One young man asked me if I would read the first two chapters of his novel.  I did, and sent him feedback.  One of the younger boys asked for one of my business cards.  His sister writes stories, so he wanted the card to give to her.  He’d met a “real writer,” and couldn’t wait to tell her.


At the last minute I was added to the NaNoWriMo panel, where I met Jason Andrew Bond.  Read his Hammerhead series!  I’m looking forward to doing so.  His main character Jeffrey Holt sounds fascinating.  Beyond that, Jason has donated 25% of the money he has made to the Disabled Veterans.  This is a man I can respect.

Best Western serves an astonishing breakfast buffet.  Custom-made omelets, plenty of pineapple, and excellent cinnamon rolls.  There was more bacon than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time.

I got a reading slot on Saturday afternoon, which was pretty spiffy given that this was my first year at RadCon.  Four people were there, which is fine with me because it means I was outnumbered and that’s all I ask.  See that drawing?  That’s Amatsu Mikaboshi, August Star of Heaven, the Japanese god of chaos.  He’s the bad guy in my story “A Demon in the Noonday Sun.”  After my reading, a very tall gentleman named Big Dan introduced himself.  Turns out he’s into Japanese history too, so he was pleasantly surprised to discover the story I read was steampunk set in the Kyoto of 1880.  We got to talking, and it turns out he’s also a fan of “When the Last Sword is Drawn,” one of the best movies about the Shinsengumi.  It won all the Japanese Oscars.  I LOVE that movie.  The conversation led us to a place where Pat gave Dan her card so he could contact her about some research for his novel, which sounds quite original.  Lovely man.  I hope to hear from him soon.


The hallways of the hotel were packed with lots of wonderful people in great costumes.  I brought a bag of Mardi Gras coins with me just so I could give out my own version of Hall Costume Awards.  I went through a good two dozen of the coins.  My favorites were the Black Butler, the demon version of InuYasha, and the five different Deadpools who wandered around together in a group.  One of them was female, and she looked fantastic!

In the main lobby of the hotel, three women sat using spinning wheels.  This was fascinating in and of itself, but my attention was focused on the beautiful Samoyed stretched out on his side at the feet of one spinner.  Believe me when I tell you this was the biggest dog I have ever seen.  Fortunately he was also one of the sweetest.  When his owner gave me permission to pet him, I knelt down by his side and petted his thick, fluffy white fur.  I’m well known as a cat person, but if I ever get a dog, it will be a Samoyed.


Ignition!  This amazing, vastly talented fire troupe put on a display out in the hotel courtyard.  Pat and I had been invited to a room party by Esther Jones, who was on the Handicapped Heroes panel with me.  She had a second floor room, so we got to watch the fire display from her balcony!  Entirely by accident, I activated the video function on my phone, so I brought home some footage to show John.  To me the best part of the show happened when six of the performers lined up in a curve.  The first got the fireball started by spitting out what Pat thought was probably vodka.  The second performer “caught” the fireball and kept it moving until all six had sent the fireball around the curve.  That was just way too cool!






I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie Bonham from Sky Warrior Books. This is the publishing house that made available to the world Pat’s excellent novels Rough Magic and Dragon’s Kiss.



In my next post, I will continue with the highlights of RadCon and the further adventures we encountered on our 957 mile drive home!






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Come and See Me at RadCon!

by Lillian Csernica on February 9. 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I’m happy to announce that I will be making my first guest appearance of 2015 at RadCon this coming weekend, Feb. 13th through the 15th.  Yes, that’s right, you can come on over and hang out with the writers, artists, media pros, gamers, cosplayers, fans, and all the other cool people who will be gathering at the Red Lion Inn in Pasco, Washington.


As part of the RadCon Guild’s ongoing support of local schools, I will be participating in presentations for Language Arts classes.

7 p.m.  Opening Ceremonies


3 p.m.   Reading — “A Demon in the Noonday Sun,” soon to appear in Twelve Hours Later, the convention anthology from Clockwork Alchemy 2015.

6 p.m.   Panel — Heroes with Handicaps

How to write believable heroes who have to overcome physical or mental challenges, and may even turn their handicap into another tool at their disposal.


10 a.m.  Panel — The Magical Atheist

How is is possible to believe in magic, but not in a theistic religion? Come find out in this panel which seeks to examine a magical world view that is consistent with both science and the idea of god(s).


RadCon does a lot to bring the wonders of science fiction and fantasy to the younger generation of readers, writers, and dreamers.  I’m proud and honored to be part of these efforts.



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5 Personal Truths About Writing

by Lillian Csernica on February 4, 2015

I’ve been writing in one form or another for most of my life.  I’ve been a professional writer, i.e. I’ve been getting paid to write, for the past twenty-one years.  (Yes, that’s right, my career is now legal in all fifty states. :-D)  There is a whole lot to learn about writing, and about being a writer.  Tonight I want to share with you some personal truths that I’ve distilled out of all the how-to books, the conventions, the writing classes, and the writing itself.

  1. Good writing hurts.  Dorothy Parker once wrote, “Never never dip your quill/In ink that rushes from your heart,” but that’s exactly what we have to do.  If it doesn’t make us laugh or cry or get so angry we want to throw things, then how can we expect it to move our readers?  Some writers say you have to be willing to write about what scares you, what you can’t bear to think about, what causes you so much pain you spend a lot of your energy avoiding it.  Example: I really don’t like to talk about my miscarriage.  I lost my first son.  I had to bury my baby.  Nothing on earth could possibly hurt that badly.  I have a story underway that features a woman who ends up in the psych ward by accident.  The seventy-two hour hold forces her to get in touch with the recent loss of her first baby.  I’ve read parts of the story in my writing class with tears streaming down my face.
  2. Fortune favors the prepared mind.  Louis Pasteur said it first.  I was a screenwriter in Hollywood for a while.  How did this happen?  I sent a letter to a martial arts star asking where I could get some promo photos of him because I wanted to use his image as the model for the hero in the novel I was writing at that time.  Two weeks went by.  One afternoon the phone rang.  It was him, calling me to talk about more than just some photos.  The crux of the conversation was simple: Did I know how to write screenplays?  I answered with an honest no, but I also said my best friend knew how and could teach me.  The star asked me to come up with some ideas to pitch to him and he’d call me back the next day.  My best friend and I came up with one historical and one contemporary premise.  When the star called back, I pitched the ideas and he liked what he heard.  That led to several meetings, two screenplays, and one offer for one of the screenplays.  We didn’t get as far as the green light, but we got a whole lot farther than we might have.  All I’d originally wanted was some headshots.  I ended up hanging out with movie stars.  Not a bad deal, even if it didn’t turn into long-term money.
  3. I can write anywhere, at any time.  This is a skill I’ve had to develop thanks to never knowing when I might end up in the ER because my older son has had a severe seizure.  When my younger son comes home from school, I need to be available for homework and conversation and to be the reassuring presence he needs.  I’ve written at my son’s bedside in the ER at 4 a.m.  I’ve dragged myself through a scene in late morning after a sleepless night thanks to insomnia.  I’ve edited manuscripts in the car going to and from doctor appointments.  Don’t talk to me about “being in the mood” or “courting the Muse.”  I live with clinical depression.  I’m NEVER in the mood, and I damn well write anyway.
  4. We must by any and all means encourage our children to use their imaginations.  My son Michael cannot speak.  What he can do is paint and play Story Dice and use adaptive communication equipment that helps him talk to his teachers and his classmates.  My son John is ASD with speech delay and sensory processing disorder.  It’s very difficult at times for him to deal with frustration or anxiety.  His imaginary friends, adopted from books and movies, help him cope.  His talent for drawing helps him express what he can’t manage to verbalize.  For both of my sons, their imaginations are the keys that unlock the cells in which they might otherwise be trapped by their special needs.  All children need to develop their imaginations as a crucial tool in the learning process.

    What’s so great about imaginative play? In his book Natural Childhood , John Thomson writes: “If the imagination is well nurtured in its first dawning, it can be a sheet anchor throughout life. Imagination in play provides the basis for the child to grow up and eventually to live in the outside world.” The idea here is that if children are given ample time to create and live in the world of the imagination that they are building skills they will need to become flexible, successful adults. Thomson goes on to say “To give full scope to the imagination, the child needs only simple things to play with. She does not need toys that are too ‘perfect’ and her creativity can even be hampered by this type of toy, because there is nothing for her imagination to work on.”

    From a series of articles by author and educator Elizabeth Slade

  5. Tell the stories that only you can tell.  When I was 18, I spent two months living in the Netherlands.  One weekend I took a bus trip to Paris.  There I was, sitting in the shotgun seat next to the bus driver, feeding him orange slices and M&Ms while he told me stories about being a tour guide.  I am the only person who can tell this story.  When I was 6 years old, I woke up one night and heard this horrible noise like a growl that stopped and started, stopped and started again.  I thought it was one of the monsters from “Scooby Doo.”  Many years later I realized it was just my father snoring.  There are probably children who can tell comparable stories, but only I can tell that one.  Only I can describe the few inches of the baby blanket my mother-in-law had been knitting for my baby James.  We wrapped him in it when we laid him in his little white coffin.  The silver crucifix from that coffin hangs on the wall beside me as I type this.  Only I can say these words. 

 What are your personal truths?  About writing or about whatever is most important to you?

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