Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Noonday Demon

This book has been recommended to me several times.

Woman of Letters

The Noonday Demon is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ve always known, intellectually, that writing nonfiction is just as much of an art as writing fiction, but I’m not sure I ever quite believed it. There’s something illusory about great nonfiction. It gives you the illusion that you’re just learning everything there is to know about a subject. In reality, though, nonfiction, just like fiction, is about delivering sequential bits of information to the reader in order to create a continuous emotional experience. However, unlike fiction, which can rely on the logic of causality as a method of organizing its information, nonfiction doesn’t have an obvious internal logic. Any fact can follow any other fact. I have no idea how nonfiction writers decide to organize their work, but luckily I don’t need to know—I can just sit back and enjoy it.

The Noonday Demon is the most…

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Changing Our Equation

by Lillian Csernica on March 27, 2015

We’ve hired a new R.N. for Michael.  One of the three we currently employ will be moving on.  This is a sad occasion, because the R.N.s who do home care become a part of the ecosystem inside the family.  That can be a mixed blessing thanks to that familiar stumbling block, boundary issues.  The nurse who is departing has been a great help to Michael.  She has a particular talent for communicating with him and making him feel like he’s really being heard.  I know he will miss her.  This kind of thing is very hard on someone with Michael’s limitations, because he has so little control over his environment.

When we interviewed the applicants, we did so while sitting in Michael’s room with him so he could be part of our conversation.  He had a rather wary expression each time we introduced an applicant to him.  Once we’d talked to each of the two applicants, I asked Michael if he liked one nurse more than the other.  Our usual question and answer process produced the very firm answer that he does not want his current nurse to leave.  Neither do we, but she’s a fairly young nurse with an excellent mind and a wonderful career ahead of her.  We wish her all the best.

So.  Next month a new person will enter into the daily chaos that makes up my family’s home life.  The nurse will meet Michael’s one to one school aide.  She’ll get to see what goes on during the Homework Wars with John.  Eventually she’ll meet my mother, who will subject her to a good-natured interrogation.  The two regular nurses will teach the new nurse all the little details of Michael’s care that are hard to explain without the hands-on part.  The new nurse will find out how we prefer to have her communicate with the various doctors and the medical supply companies, and we’ll adjust to the way she keeps her nursing notes.  There’s a standard method, of course, but everybody has their own style.

New input is good for Michael.  During her interview, the new nurse and I discovered quite a bit of common ground.  She’s written and published a nonfiction book.  She’s traveled quite a bit, and she’s fond of reading romances.  We’ve already established something of a rapport.   What makes me really happy is this particular nurse’s background in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  She understands what Michael’s life was like from the moment he entered the world.  All the machines, all the tests, all the hopes and fears.  She “gets” our family in a way other nurses might not.  Most importantly, she understands what Michael’s life has been like all these years.  She comes to him with a degree of sympathy and respect that can only result from living through the daily ordeals of the NICU.

In mathematics, when you change one element of an equation, you end up with a different result on the other side of the equals sign.  Our home environment is an equation made up of several elements, some harmonious and others more contradictory.  It will be interesting to see how the presence of the new nurse alters the equation, and what the new outcome will be.


Filed under Family, Special needs, Writing

Not Too Revealing?

by Lillian Csernica on March 23, 2015



Once again I shall be participating in the great April A to Z Blog Challenge!  This is my third year in a row.  Many thanks to Arlee Bird, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and the mighty team of A to Z ninjas who help make this event so special.  When I began my blog three years ago this month, participating in the A to Z Challenge helped me discover the joys of blogging within a community.

Time now to announce what I’ll be blogging about during this year’s challenge!


Sword & Sorcery Movies

So Bad

They’re Great!

One of my guilty pleasures in watching really bad movies.  You can’t do much better than a really bad sword & sorcery movie.  Join me during the month of April for twenty-six awful adventures, hamfisted heroes, hysterical heroines, Vaudeville villains, and some of the tackiest treasures ever invented!


Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, love, romance, Writing

A Failure to Communicate

by Lillian Csernica on March 19, 2015

Once again, I find myself in the position of wanting to start shouting loudly enough to shatter a few windows over at John’s high school.

At the beginning of this year, John and all the other sophomores received their class assignments and went off to locate the text for their courses at the school library.  John ended up not having any texts to pick up because some decisions had not been made at higher levels about which texts would be used.  OK.  It was rather late in the day for that kind of indecision, but no big deal.

A few days later, John’s classes got switched around and one was changed to something entirely different.  Nobody bothered to ask the permission of this special need student’s parents, namely Chris and me.  Nobody bothered notifying us after John started attending this class.  Good thing his IEP was right around the corner.  I printed out all the emails between John’s caseworker/teacher and myself and took them to the meeting to demonstrate the fact that we had been neither consulted nor notified.

All of this is prelude to what I’m angry about today.


The change in schedule put John into Graphic Design.  This was problematic for several reasons, but I’m going to focus on one in particular.  At John’s school, the computer system has lots of lovely software programs so the students can work on their assignments in class or at the Computer Lab.  Nobody told us that in order for John to be able to do the homework for Graphic Design (which nobody bothered telling us about, period), John would need to do as the other students had done and purchase a package of software programs totaling $293.00.

I don’t know about you, but for us that’s a big ticket item.

My husband is a software engineer.  He was already seriously unhappy with a number of things that went on last year when John had to take Digital Literacy.  Guess what?  The same teacher is in charge of Graphic Design.  He’s a nice enough man, but he’s of a rather abstract turn of mind, so his thought processes are diametrically opposed to the way John, being ASD, can learn.  A number of the same issues that came up in Digital Literacy have now arisen in Graphic Design.

I am in a screaming hissy mood right now because John has been sent home with work he’s supposed to do over the weekend, using the software we do not have and, for a number of very good reasons, my husband refuses to buy.  Once again, despite me really hammering this point home at the IEP and in a number of emails, the teachers and school aide do not seem to grasp the point that John CANNOT do these assignments at home.  Not because of any processing issues on his part, but because the autocratic yahoos took it upon themselves to leave us, John’s parents, out of the loop, in violation of his IEP, common courtesy, and common sense.

Have any of you found yourselves in this kind of situation?  What did you do about it?  How do you get the administration to really listen and retain the crucial information about what’s interfering with your child’s education?  As my husband said, I really cannot believe we are the only family who didn’t and doesn’t have almost $300 to pay for a software package essential to the coursework.


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

The Luck o’ the Irish to Ya!

by  Lillian Csernica on March 17, 2015


Sorry I haven’t been around with my usual regularity.  I had a sudden deadline on a short story that required two all nighters (not in a row, thank God), and then I’ve been wrestling with the depression again.  Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing, but in the end it was worth it!  I can’t talk about it yet, but I’ll have some good news soon.


Here’s to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one.
A cold beer and another one.
May your wishes come true and your truth be wise.  Happy St Patrick’ s Day!
Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.
Lullabies, dreams and love ever after.
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes…
That’s the Irish for You!
May your blessings outnumber The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you Wherever you go.

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.

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Writing is good for the soul – so what?

Yes. Yes. And again, yes!


rubbishYesterday my friend Lucy did a post about the quality of genre fiction1 and the horrid effect that in our country the sudden invasion of rank amateurs is doing to the field.
There’s an awful lot of third grade rubbish being self-published, basically written by adolescents of all ages, people that are lacking in terms of writing skills and of genre culture. The sort of people that start working on their fantasy trilogy because they saw Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies and nothing else.

Clearly, there is a Darwinian selection at work, and rubbish will not survive, but right now it is cluttering the (virtual) shelves. A few benighted readers are actually liking this sort of stuff, but basically anyone deserves what they decide to read2.

Now, one of the things my friend Lucy was told was, writing is good for one’s soul.

Which is certainly true…

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~And All Our Yesterdays~ Now Available!

by Lillian Csernica on March 9, 2015

I am delighted to announce that my story “Cunning as a Serpent, Innocent as a Dove,” is now available along with the other great historical short stories in this lovely anthology:


Here’s the link on Amazon: The Kobo and Nook versions are going through the review process and should be available this week.

If any of you would be kind enough to review this anthology, all of us involved would be very grateful.  It’s not essential to review every single story (although we’d be happy if you did).  Please do talk about your overall opinion of the content, perhaps highlighting stories that stood out to you.  Thank you so much!


Filed under cats, charity, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, romance, Writing

There are No Happy Endings

by Lillian Csernica on March 5, 2015

I’m talking about real life.  For me, endings, stoppages, goodbyes, farewells, and leavetakings are all matters for sorrow.

I am really bad at saying goodbye.

Why is that?  Is it because I can’t stand the sense of loss that comes with the departure of a person or animal?  I’m not talking death, I’m just talking no longer a part of my personal life.  That is certainly one form of grief.  When you’ve had to cope with several losses and departures in a short time frame, you start getting very sensitive about just the prospect of one more.  Back when I left 5th grade, we moved that summer and I ended up in an entirely new junior high, away from all the classmates with whom I’d just spent what amounted to the first five years of my life.  My neighbors were gone, their pets were gone, all the landmarks and those little details that had become important just to me because I lived for such a long time in that same neighborhood.

Am I afraid of people leaving because of the more traumatic losses I’ve dealt with?  My parents divorced when I was eleven years old.  I hadn’t seen much of my father on a daily basis because he worked the graveyard shift and slept by day.  Once my parents divorced, my father had to go into rehab for his alcoholism, which meant I didn’t see him at all for months.  Then the whole visitation mess finally got settled, and I started spending every other weekend with Daddy.  This kind of inconsistency can really mess with your head when you’re only eleven.

I’ve lost a best friend to a misunderstanding that should never have happened.  I’ve lost boyfriends to distance and rivals and boredom.  I’ve lost pets to time and illness and predators.  I lost an entire stage of my life once I got married.  Sure, I gained a new stage, but the transition was more than a little nerve-wracking.

Even temporary goodbyes upset me.  When I say goodbye to Michael and John before I leave for a convention, there’s always that faint anxiety in the back of my mind about whether or not I will in fact return to them.  Ours is a world of growing uncertainties.  Accidents happen.  Deliberate mayhem happens.  And sometimes life just goes sideways.  I once promised John that I would always come back.  So far, so good.  I have always come back from every day trip, every weekend away, and even from as far away as Japan.  I have to be careful around John.  If he sees me wearing shoes on the weekend or wearing one of my outdoor cardigans inside the house, he will ask me where I’m going.  He gets nervous, because for him the future is an abstract concept.  It isn’t real to him.  Before my last trip to RadCon, I showed John the dates on the calendar, when I’d be leaving and when I’d be coming home.  That made it real for him.  I also called home twice and talked to him.  I know what this anxiety is like, so I do what I can to help John.

I’m one of those people who gets bummed out when the movie is over and I have to leave the theater.  I love movies.  Sometimes it’s hard to make the transition back to reality, to the daylight world.  Florence King writes about this in her memoir Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady.  She calls it “the other.”  She understands what it’s like to develop relationships with people who exist only in the imagination, some of them in the movies, some of them in books.  It’s hard to see the credits roll or to reach those endpapers and close the book.  I believe that’s one reason people are so committed to writing and reading novel series these days.  You get so invested in the lives of these fictional people that you don’t want the story to end.  That’s one of the factors that gave rise to fan fiction.

It’s March, and I’m never at my best during March.  March 15th is the anniversary of my father’s death.  Mary 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, which has a number of peculiar associations for me.  This month in the U.S. we experience the torment that is Daylight Saving Time.  “Spring ahead, Fall back.”  We lose an hour this month.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an hour to spare.


Filed under autism, cats, Conventions, Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Japan, marriage, Special needs, Writing