Monthly Archives: May 2015

Perspective, the Two-Edged Sword


By Lillian Csernica on May 30, 2015

http://www.wpthm.com

Today I read over a story I wrote fifteen years ago.  At the time I thought it was pretty good.  Not Pushcart material, but the basic premise was entertaining.  The antagonist was based on somebody I knew in real life, one of the stranger people I’ve met in my wanderings.  I chose a setting quite familiar to me, a particular type of restaurant where I liked to go often.  I made up a protagonist that seemed to be well-orchestrated in comparison to the antagonist.

The story has been rejected several times.

Why?

That’s the question I kept asking myself.  I trimmed the backstory.  I juiced up the fantasy elements.  I refined the protagonist.  Still didn’t help much.

So today, fifteen years later, I read the story and understood it had some good elements, but it was not fully developed.  In fact, it was time to toss out that version and start from scratch.

That hurts.  It’s not fun admitting you created something that isn’t very good.  That’s one edge of the sword called Perspective.

The other edge is sharper, honed on the whetstone of my keyboard and my notebooks.  I’ve done a lot of writing in the fifteen years since I wrote that story.  I’ve sold a novel and quite a few short stories.  I can’t fix what’s wrong with the original version of that particular story, but I can salvage the ideas that made it worth writing and remake them into better, stronger material.

Beginning writers are often reluctant to let go of part or all of something they’ve written.  They’re sometimes afraid that they won’t be able to think up something else.  Once you learn that there will always be more words, you’re free.  Yes, it’s hard.  Yes, some days the words hide and it feels like squeezing the last drop of blood from solid rock.  Believe me, I’ve had those days and they’re hellish.

There are more words.  More outside, in print and digital forms.  More inside, in the imagination.

If all you can do is take pen in hand and scribble in a cheap composition notebook, whining and crying and complaining about how you can’t get the words right, well guess what?  You’re still writing.  And that’s OK.

Andy Couturier, world class writing instructor, taught me this motto: “Keep the pen moving.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a pen or a pencil or a crayon or your hands on the keyboard or a tape recorder or Dragonspeak.  It doesn’t matter, as long as you keep the pen moving and keep more words appearing on the page.

Another wise person once said, “You have to write something, before you can write something good.”

http://www.wpthm.com

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Filed under Depression, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, perspective, Writing

A Thousand Thanks


by Lillian Csernica on May 26, 2015

Hi there.  I have recovered to the point where I stand a good chance of writing a coherent post here.  The Memorial Day Weekend was spectacular.  Sorry I didn’t manage to blog from the cons as I’d hoped to.  A few items were added to my schedule.  I spent the weekend either speaking before an audience, reading my work aloud, enjoying the company of some truly outstanding people, or trying to scrape together a few hours of sleep.

Sharon Cathcart, Thena MacArthur, and the other folks responsible for Clockwork Alchemy.  What a blast.  When I showed up for the release party for Twelve Hours Later, I had no idea I would be reading my work in front of Harry Turtledove himself.

Jeffrey Cathcart, a gentleman of many talents who is endlessly entertaining.

The team at Artistic Solutions, Inc., responsible for all the marvelous parts of BayCon.  I saw many of my favorite people from the Bay Area con scene, and scored several highly entertaining ribbons for my badge.

Steven Mix saw fit to honor me with a “Mixy,” this gorgeous trophy that consists of three golden stars rising up from the marble base.  When I asked what the award was for, he told me “general awesomeness.”

Justin and Bethany from Dreadfully Punk were kind enough to express their enjoyment of my story “In the Midnight Hour” by giving me a pair of their absolutely marvelous earrings.  Go see what else they have to offer!

Emerian Rich and all the Horror Addicts contributors who turned up for the Horror Addicts BoF.  We had such a good time!

The World’s Tallest Leprechaun.  It’s a good thing I don’t drink, or I would not believe I actually saw him.

The delightful young lady who thanked me in glowing terms for the talk I gave on “Steampunk Alchemy.”  I’m always happy to see the younger generation at cons, and I’m even happier to know the information I provide in my talks is useful to them.

The person who told me he’d heard about The Writer’s Spellbook on another panel about writing techniques.  It gladdens my heart to know all my shameless self-promotion is having an effect!

A big thank you to all the folks who attended the panels, readings, room parties and other events where I appeared or participated.  As far as convention experiences go, this weekend was a personal best for me.  I really think I broke the Fun Barrier!

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Filed under Conventions, cosplay, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, steampunk

The Adventure Begins!


by Lillian Csernica on May 22, 2015

Soon I shall be loading my con gear for a wild weekend of gladsome geekery.  Last year at Clockwork Alchemy I managed to blog every day’s events.  Not quite “live,” but I can’t be everywhere at once, right?

This year will be a flying trapeze act between Clockwork Alchemy and BayCon.  It’s going to be a bit of a marathon, but I will do my best to give you the highlights of each day.

Today my official programming starts at Clockwork Alchemy at 5 p.m. in the San Juan Room.  “Nemo’s Realm: Steampunk Underwater.”  I even have a Powerpoint presentation!  Woo hoo!

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. I will be talking about “Steampunk Alchemy” in the San Juan room.  This will be fun.  I hadn’t realized just how many famous inventors were also into alchemy.

7 p.m. to 8 p.m. will find me at the 12 Hours Later release party!  Show up, buy a copy, and get autographs from the contributing authors you meet there.  Extra bonus:  I’ll have my autographed copy stickers with me.

8:30 p.m. BayCon!  I shall be joining some delightful Women of Wonder at the Horror Addicts BoF.  Join us as we celebrate the release of the Horror Addicts Guide to Life.  There will be trivia games!  Door prizes!  More cool stuff!

SEE YOU THERE!

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Filed under Conventions, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror

Here is my interview with Lillian Csernica


I have to say, Fiona asks some of the best questions I’ve encountered in an interview. What a pleasure!

authorsinterviews

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Name:  Lillian Csernica.  (Pen name: Elaine LeClaire)

Age:  Old enough to have teenage sons.

Where are you from:  I live in Northern California.

A little about yourself, i.e. education, family life, etc.

I’m married and I have two teenage sons who both have special needs.  My older son has cerebral palsy and seizure disorder, so he’s in a wheelchair.  My younger son is autistic.  I’m very fortunate in that I work at home and can make my own hours.  That way I’m available whenever the boys need me.  We do not have what most people think of as normal family life.  While that can be a real strain at times, it has also brought me many blessings in terms of the people we’ve met and the material for my writing.

Fiona:  Tell us your latest news.

The steampunk anthology Twelve Hours Later has just been released.  In it I have…

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Pricing Promotion for Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales


Don’t miss out on this excellent opportunity to read the fine writing of Reggie Lutz!

Reggie Lutz

Heads up Wordpress peeps!

I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal for Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales over Memorial Day weekend. (First day it runs will be .99 and then go up. It starts on the 22nd)

Happy Summer reading!

Adding the link to the book here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TTDWT8K

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Meet the Real Me, Live and In Person!


by Lillian Csernica on May 16, 2015

Convention season is underway, which means I’ll be out and about performing my Shameless Self-Promotion Road Show.

Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner!  I will be appearing at two, count ’em, TWO separate conventions!

FRIDAY

At Clockwork Alchemy:

5 to 6 p.m. “Nemo’s Realm: Steampunk Underwater.”

6 to 7 p.m. “Steampunk Alchemy.”

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Twelve Hours Later release party!

At BayCon:

horroraddicts.wordpress.com

8:30 p.m. Horror Addicts.net BoF/Author Showcase

Hang out with fellow horror fans!  Meet some of the Horror Addicts!  Win prizes!

SATURDAY

At BayCon:

4 p.m. Death panel — How our culture deals with death, or fails to.

I’ll be telling the true story of what happened in 1987 when I died in a car accident!

At Clockwork Alchemy:

6 to 7 p.m. “Steampunk Trinkets”

8 to 10 p.m. “Steampunk Mythology”

Come one, come all!  We’ll be breaking down steam power to its component parts, then dreaming up gods, goddesses, spirits, elementals, and other appropriate Powers That Be to preside over each component.  Be there for the creation of the first Steampunk Pantheon!

SUNDAY

At BayCon:

11:30 a.m. “Vic Spec Fic”

This is short for Victorian Speculative Fiction, best typified by Jules Verne.  There’s a whole lot more worth exploring, so come join my fellow panelists as we compare and contrast the best and the worst of the period!

MONDAY

To Be Announced.  I have no official commitments right now, but you know me!  I’m sure to be up to something!

officialsteampoweredgiraffe.tumblr.com

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Filed under Conventions, fairy tales, fantasy, Fiction, history, steampunk

The Top Five Reasons Why You Need an Editor


by Lillian Csernica on May 12, 2015

Last week somebody out there in Twitter Land had a free copy promotion going on.  I followed the link.  The book looked interesting, a collection of short stories that promised suspense and paranormal chills.  So I downloaded it to my Kindle.  One evening, after the work of the day was done and the kids were asleep, I settled down in happy anticipation.

I was disappointed.

Typos.  Punctuation errors.  Grammatical errors.  Awkward sentence structure.  Stilted dialogue.

These were not the errors of just one author.  These mistakes were present in three different stories by three different authors.  None of the stories in that collection was fit to be published.  How do I know?  Who am I to judge?  I’ve worked as a slush reader for a fiction magazine.  I’ve been reviewing fiction for over twenty years.  I’ve published a novel via traditional publishing, aka the hard way.  I’ve also published over thirty short stories.  I have the experience and the credentials to know the difference between the work of a professional writer and somebody who still has a lot to learn.

As long as there are wannabes, dilettantes, and tyros in the world, there will be some form of vanity press.  Unfortunately, the wonders of the Digital Age have made available to people at every level of writing skill the opportunity to “publish” their writing.  I have to say this.  Just because you can churn out something that looks like a short story, or is long enough to be classified as a novel, that does not make you a writer.

I see far too many people swanking around these days referring to themselves as “authors.”  Having a book to sell has become a fad.  There was a time when going to a seance was the thing to do.  Then Houdini started busting the fakes and the con artists.  Remember when everybody had a Pet Rock?  That was just silly.  Billy Ray Cyrus had his one hit wonder days with “Achy Breaky Heart” and all over the country people were line-dancing to that song.  Now anybody and everybody can slap together their own version of Tolkien Lite, put a cover on it, and fling it out into the electronic marketplace.

This makes me angry, and I’ll tell you why.  Far too many people want to be “authors.”  They don’t want to write.  They don’t even understand the difference.  They do not respect the art and craft of writing.  They do not respect the writers who have spent their lives doing their best to improve their work, to polish their style, to honor the unspoken contract with the reader that says, “You pick up my book and I will give you a story worth reading.”

Having said all that, allow me to offer these thoughts on why an editor is an essential part of a writer’s life.

1. You don’t think you need one.

If you really believe you don’t need an editor, then I hope for your sake that you have some variety of OCD that has made you go over your manuscript with a microscope.  Even then, because of your familiarity with the story and the words, your brain may commit what’s called “closure” and prevent you from spotting an error.

2.  Unless you have an English teacher for a beta reader, odds are good your writer friends don’t know much more than you do.

The best writing teacher I’ve ever had knows all the technical terms for all the nuts and bolts of grammar.  Thanks to him, I know the difference between an “adjectival phrase” and a “predicate phrase.”  I know about the inner essence of sentences.  And I still don’t know much.  If I hadn’t kept that teacher’s handouts, most of what he taught me about the inner workings of what people call “microwriting” would have fallen out of my memory.  My point here is that not many people make it their purpose in life to understand exactly how the English language is supposed to work.

If you’re in a writer’s group or a critique group where all the other people are at the same level of skill and accomplishment, how are you and the rest of the group going to grow as writers?  If you don’t know what you don’t know and nobody there is a qualified authority, you may be able to do each other some good with regard to plot, character, setting, etc., but you aren’t going to bring your manuscript up to the best, most marketable standards.  There are people who know how to do that.  Those people are called editors.

3.  “Fresh eyes” are essential for spotting any mistakes.

Time and effort have proven that I write five drafts before I have what I consider a complete story.  That’s true whether it’s a short story or a novel.  By the time I’ve finished the fifth draft, I’ve caught most of the obvious errors and I’ve cut as much as I know the story does not need.  By this point the story is so familiar to me that I’m sick of looking at it.  Now is the time to hand the manuscript to somebody who has never read it.  If you want to be really drastic, give the story to somebody who does not like that particular type of story.  Me, I don’t read Westerns.  They do nothing for me.  Since I am not likely to be caught up in the story, I will be paying greater attention to the word choices, the grammar, the punctuation, and any typos that pop up.  If one of my writer friends wanted me to beta read a Western manuscript, it would be an uphill battle to draw me into the story and make me feel sympathy for the main characters.  If the writer succeeds in doing so, that really counts for something.

4.  I don’t care how much experience you have, there will be a misspelling or typo lurking in there somewhere.

Believe me when I tell you there are few things more painful that seeing your work in print and THEN spotting the typo, the renegade comma, or the missing word that totally screws up the meaning of that sentence.

5.  There is always room for improvement.

I don’t ask my beta readers for help until I’ve take the manuscript as far as I can possibly go.  Before I give it to them, I do my best to make sure the manuscript is so clean it sparkles.  There’s no point in getting a second opinion on mistakes you know you’ve made.  If you’re hiring an editor, there’s no point in spending money just to be told what you already know.  Make sure your writing is as good as you can possibly make it, then get that second opinion.  As hard as you’ve worked, there will still be other word choices, other possible plot twists, other ways to write a given character’s dialogue.

These are strong statements, I know.  What do you think?  Do you agree?  Do you think I’m full of hot air?  Do you believe there’s no difference between an author and a writer?  Tell me how you you feel about all this.

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Filed under editing, Fiction, Goals, publication, Writing

Mom’s Official Day Off


by Lillian Csernica on May 9, 2015

Here in the United States, tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  This is the day on which we recognize all the love, the effort, and the sacrifices mothers provide for their children.  The traditional observance is taking Mom out to brunch or perhaps dinner, so she doesn’t have to cook or clean up afterward.

Mothers deserve more than one day of official recognition.  We deserve two weeks’ paid vacation with full benefits and room service.  Then maybe somebody would notice how many people it takes to do all of the work just one of us accomplishes on a daily basis.

When John was little, he was a “runner.”  He got out the front door one day and took off up the stairs to street level.  I went after him, slipped on one of the steps, and tore my right calf muscle.  I was laid up for about two weeks, spending the first week off my feet entirely.  My mother came over to help.  My mother-in-law flew in from New Jersey to help.  I think the final total was five people coming on board.  While my leg put me in a whole new world of pain, I must admit I rather enjoyed the validation of my nearest and dearest finding out just how much I really did do around the house.

I do not recommend this method of getting people’s attention.

So to all the mothers out there, birth, adopted, foster, grand-, god-, and fairy godmothers as well, I salute you and all that you do for the people you love.

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My Steampunk Debut!


by Lillian Csernica on May 6, 2015

 

 

I am delighted to announce the release of Twelve Hours Later.  Two of my stories appear here, “In the Midnight Hour” and “A Demon in the Noonday Sun.”  They are my first venture into the wonderful world of steampunk.  Instead of Victorian England, my stories are set in Kyoto, Japan.  The book blurb summarizes the plots nicely:

A devoted nursemaid braves mythical Japanese spirits to save a little girl’s life, only to bring down the wrath of a demon on the child’s father.

 

Kiyomizudera, the Pure Water Temple, which encompasses Otowa Falls.  This is the primary setting for both of my stories.

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Filed under charity, fairy tales, Family, fantasy, Fiction, history, Japan, legend, sword and sorcery, Writing

A to Z: Another Year, Another Adventure!


by Lillian Csernica on May 3, 2015

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Time now to look back on the 26 days of reading, writing, thinking and replying.  I’d like to begin by saying thank you to everyone who stopped by my blog.  A special thank you to the folks who hung out with me, added their observations, and made the whole adventure that much more enjoyable:

Alex Hurst

Jazzfeathers at The Old Shelter

Sue Archer at Doorway Between Worlds

Sourcerer

Lori MacLaughlin at Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams

Pat MacEwen at Bone Speak

Sanch at Living My Imperfect Life

http://www.flowerpicturegallery.com

What Worked:

1) A crazy topic.  I suppose I could call this “a unique theme.”  I had no idea so many people out there enjoy bad sword & sorcery movies as much as I do.  Now we know about each other, so we can form a support group.  LOL

2) Good graphics.  Some of the movies I chose were rather obscure, which made finding graphics for them more difficult.  That in turn made such content more valuable.  Some of those costumes really have to be seen to be believed!

3) Replying to all comments, even if I just hit “Like” now and then.  Give and take is what it’s all about during the A to Z.  It’s just plain polite, of course, but running around seeing what my new friends were creating made this experience organic and exciting.

4) Links.  Good links, informative links, links that lead somewhere worth the click time!

What Didn’t Work:

1) Not getting enough posts written and scheduled ahead of time. I started off with a week’s worth of posts ready to go.  That kept my head above water until around mid-month when my other writing commitments began pushing the blog posts down the priority list.

2) I couldn’t do justice to these movies in really short posts, so it would have been wiser to plan ahead and budget my time accordingly.  The real pleasure for me in talking about these movies comes from the behind the scenes trivia, the little details about special effects snafus, and the consistency errors.

3) Finding the graphics.  This is a two-edged sword, har har.  It sucked up a lot of time, hunting down the graphics, finding the right sizes, and tinkering with the posts until the layout looked just the way I wanted it to be.

4) Toward the end of the month time got tighter and tighter, so I did not make it as far down the list of participants as I’d hoped to go.  The flip side of that was the problem with several of the links I did visit in the lower 1/4 of the list.  Often the links didn’t lead anywhere, or the blogs hadn’t been updated in ages.  That put a dent in my enthusiasm.

I know people are posting their stats and measuring the traffic on their sites.  I respect that, and I pay attention to those numbers when I’m thinking in terms of business and self-promotion.  The A to Z Blog Challenge is something I do for fun.  Last year my theme was chocolate.  This year, bad sword & sorcery movies.  I’ve made some new friends, found some great resources, and I reached my goal of completing the challenge.

Thank you to Arlee and Alex and all the folks who helped out in the A to Z.  I’ll be back again next year!

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Filed under Awards, bad movies, Blog challenges, Family, Goals