Monthly Archives: October 2015

How Do You Make A Dream Come True?


by Lillian Csernica on October 20, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to accomplish the Number One item on my Bucket List.

Tomorrow morning I depart for a solid week in Kyoto, Japan.

My husband is a kind and generous man.  I complain about him, I tease him by referring to him as The Spousal Unit, but I have to say he gives me the best gifts.  Chris says that because I was willing to spend two months living in the hospital with Michael, because I cancelled my plans to attend Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention, and because I made life easier on everybody here at home who kept up our normal routine, I deserved something special.

So he decided to make my dream come true.  What’s more, I get to take my best friend Pat with me.

en.wikipedia.org

Kyoto is the location for the third book in my Flower Maiden Saga.  I’ve already done a lot of research, but nothing could be better than being right there in one of the greatest cities on earth, a city that has stood for over a thousand years.  And it’s time for the maple leaves to turn color!  The temple gardens will be absolutely gorgeous!

commons.wikimedia.org

Kyoto is also the city where in the Heian Period a lady known as Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji.  That makes this trip something of an artistic pilgrimage to the place where the world’s first novel was written by a woman, a lady of the court whose name continues to be known and respected more than ten centuries later.

My steampunk stories featuring Dr. Harrington and his family center around Kiyomizudera, the Pure Water Temple.  The climax of my historical espionage story “Tea & Trickery” (in AlternaTEAs, forthcoming from Sky Warrior Books) takes place aboard a steam train that departs from Kyoto.  I can’t wait to walk the streets my characters walk, and to stand in the places where their stories unfold.

I probably won’t be online much.  There’s a whole lot to see in Kyoto!  Pat and I will be out there walking through the city, riding the trains, and sharing what may well be our greatest adventure yet!

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Filed under dreams, history, Japan, Kyoto, nature, romance, travel, Writing

On Tour in My Own Back Yard


by Lillian Csernica on October 18, 2015

This weekend Santa Cruz County held its Open Studio Art tour.  The city of Santa Cruz is known as a haven for artists of all kinds.  What people often don’t realize is that up here in the mountains we’ve got a lot of artists as well.

John’s ceramics class had a serious project to complete.  Each student had to go to at least three of the studios on the tour and do what amounted to an interview.  The project worksheets included questions about what mood the artist was trying to create, comparing two different pieces by the same artist, and how the artists the student chose to visit could inspire that student’s own artwork.

John comes from a long line of artists on my mother’s side:

His great- great-grandmother ran a modeling agency back in the 1930s.

His great-grandmother wrote a society column for the newspaper, raised some amazing roses, and created artwork using textiles and ceramics and other media.

His great-grandfather was a professional photographer and filmmaker.

His grandmother sketches and paints, as well as creating multimedia artwork.

His mother (that’s me!) has worked as a professional bellydancer, and actor, and currently as a professional writer.

John is primarily a graphic artist, but he’s learning how to use computer graphics, clay, and other media.

I steered John toward three artists who live here in the San Lorenzo Valley.  John and Michael have lived their whole lives in this area.  It’s good for John to know he doesn’t have to go to a museum to see art.  What’s more, on the tour you’re allowed to see the artists’ studios where they create the pieces on display.

First Studio: Janet Silverglate.  Ms. Silverglate creates art by using found objects, many of which are what most of us would consider scrap materials or just plain junk.  Her style of art is called assemblage.  Each work of art is one of a kind.  John and I were both drawn to a circular artwork that included pieces from several different games such as Scrabble tiles, chess pieces, old Bingo cards, and even some Pick-Up Stix.  The overall look and feel put me in mind of the Kachina dolls I’ve seen in the southwest.

Second Studio: Larry and Pat Worley

Larry Worley takes basket weaving to a whole new level.  My favorite piece was a woven seashell the size of a small suitcase wound around a piece of redwood driftwood.  Simply stunning.

Pat Worley is a textile artist.  One side of her display featured long, rectangular silk scarves dyed in rich, vibrant colors such as fuschia and aquamarine.  The scarves all had leaf patterns running the length of the silk in either silver or gold.  The other side of the display showcased what I thought of as small quilts because of the many pieces of fabric arranged to form patterns or scenes.  The dominant color scheme was black, brown, and rust, with maple leaves as a frequent motif.  Ms. Worley explained the method she used to make the fabric for these as “reverse tie-dye.”  Starting with black cloth and using bleach, she would coax a variety of shades out of the material.  Impressive!

Third studio: Bob Hughes.  To say that Mr. Hughes makes wooden boxes is to say Monet liked to paint flowers.  My favorite box was shaped like the diacritical mark called a tilde, used to denote the palatal nasal sound of the “eñe” in words such as mañana. Mr. Hughes makes more than just boxes.  His vases and candle holders combine varieties of woods, or woods and metals.  Mr. Hughes was kind enough to explain to John, using a guide with step by step images, how he made a particular vase.  John is a visual learner, so this really helped him understand Mr. Hughes’ artistic process.

The artists were all happy to know I wanted John to get a wider understanding of how many ways people create art, and what’s inside them that wants to be expressed.  Getting a good grade on the project is important, but more than that, John has so much potential just waiting to come out through his drawing skills.

Take a look at your local community arts news items.  You’d be amazed what’s waiting for you in your own back yard!

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Filed under art show, artists, autism, creativity, Family, family tradition, home town, homework, Writing

Drink from a Different Well


by Lillian Csernica on October 14, 2015

I’ve been working hard lately on two short stories that will appear in 30 Days Later, the follow-up anthology to 12 Hours Later.  The stories are set in the same milieu, Kyoto 1880.  My main characters, Dr. William Harrington, his wife Constance, his daughter Madelaine, and Nurse Danforth, are all upstanding subjects of Queen Victoria adjusting to life in a foreign country.  Two factors make this adjustment even more challenging.  One, Madelaine has taken an interest in clockwork and other machinery.  Two, the Harrington household keeps attracting the attention of various Japanese supernatural beings.

Does it sound like a strange mix?  It is, and that means research.  Lots and lots of research.  One minute I’m reading up on Victorian fashions, and the next I’m learning exactly why two pulleys are better than one.  I have to stop thinking of Madelaine’s bedroom as being “upstairs.”  Victorian mansions had two floors, sometimes more.  Japanese houses are typically one floor.  I have to load my brain with the correct information.  Facts + imagination are the warp and weft of historical writing.

Unfortunately, a frequent side effect of writing that requires a lot of research under the pressure of a looming deadline is mental fatigue.

I have just discovered a new way to cure mental fatigue that brings with it an additional bonus.

Before the boys came along, I cooked all the time.  I invented my own variations on the recipes in my cookbooks.  Now, Michael is on a liquid diet.  John has the ASD trait of being very finicky about what he will and won’t eat.  Chris works swing shift.  Thanks to insomnia, the boys, and my writing, I never know what my schedule will be like.  Bottom line, cooking and I have become strangers.  I love to eat, but I’m more gourmand than gourmet.

The mental fatigue hit me hard a few days ago. Out of curiosity I started watching “Food Network Star,” the reality TV show where three established Food Network experts mentor fourteen hopefuls through the competition to acquire what it takes to be the new Food Network Star.  Every week some of the hopefuls are eliminated until it comes down to the final three.

I like game shows.  I like cheering on my favorite players.  I like the way reality TV works (most of the time).  So watching this show is fun, entertaining, and relaxing.  It does not require the attention, the focus, and the retention of information that research demands of me, to say nothing of the hard work of actual writing.  Fresh input.  Stimulating another area of the brain.  Taking the pressure off.  All of that is important.

Now here’s the bonus: the process of becoming a Food Network Star is all about finding what is unique about you and what you bring to the entertainment marketplace.  The particular slant here is food and cooking, but we all know that today branding is the name of the game.

One of the biggest challenges for the competitors is learning how to describe a meal in thirty seconds.  Words.  It’s all about vocabulary.  Another challenge is to show the real you, your personal flair.  A big priority is to make a connection with the audience.  On TV that’s done through the camera.  For writers, it’s done on paper, but that connection is still essential.  Hook your reader.  Establish sympathy for your main character.  Make your customer CARE!

See what I’m saying?  There I was, watching this elaborate game show about cooks hoping to become media stars.  Suddenly I realized I was hearing advice and learning skills that could do me a lot of good as a professional writer.

When you hit the wall of mental fatigue, when you can’t stand another moment of what you’re doing but you have to keep on keeping on, go drink from a different well.  Go listen to NPR.  Go watch an expert talk about resurfacing a road, childproofing a house, or bathing an elephant.  Who knows what gems of information or inspiration you might discover?

How do you deal with it when you’re tired of writing?  How do you keep going when the clock is ticking and there’s no time to waste?

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, Japan, research

Getting the Details on Neurodiversity


by Lillian Csernica on October 8, 2015

Juliette Wade devoted one of her recent Dive Into Worldbuilding Hangouts to the subjects of neurotypical symptoms and those which are characteristic of the autistic spectrum.  She was kind enough to invite me to participate as a guest speaker because of my experience with raising John.

You can find the write-up at Juliette’s blog, TalkToYouniverse.

The blog post includes a video of me, so for those of you who don’t know what I look like “live and in person,” brace yourselves.  Just kidding.  I did dress up for the Hangout, as opposed to wearing my usual working clothes of my bathrobe over my sweats.  If anyone has any questions about the subjects discussed in the Hangout, I’m more than happy to answer questions and suggest resources.

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Filed under autism, fantasy, neurodiversity, parenting, research, science fiction, special education, specialneeds, Writing

Clone Me, Please!


by Lillian Csernica on October 7, 2015

Stress.  It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Today Chris took Michael in to have blood drawn so the doctors can see if his kidneys are still improving and the new diet is providing correct nutrition.

Tomorrow I take Michael to the specialist who will check his muscle tone, adjust his Baclofen pump if necessary, and decide whether or not Michael can return to school on Monday.

Tomorrow is also the day I see my therapist.  Thank God she’s willing to do a phone session.

I just got email from John’s teacher/caseworker offering me four dates and times in the next two weeks for John’s annual IEP.  Today is Wednesday, right?  The first of the four choices is this coming Monday.  I need notice, dammit!  We run on some very tight schedules around here.

The second date doesn’t work because in order to attend the IEP Chris has to take a day off of work.  The second choice is a week from today, also a Wednesday.  Taking a day off in the middle of the week causes problems.

The third choice is the 19th, which doesn’t work because I’ll be packing for a week away from home.

The fourth choice doesn’t work because I will be on a plane somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

On the 16th I have a doctor appointment.

On the 26th Michael has a checkup with his gastroenterologist, whom we kept up to date on all of Michael’s travails during his two months in Oakland.  I should be at that appointment, since I’m the one who was at Ground Zero for all the hospital events, but I will still be away from home.

And the 31st is Halloween, of course, which is one of John’s favorite days of the year.  One of mine as well, because I really do enjoy seeing the costumes and giving out candy and/or little toys.  It will be nice to end this month on a festive note.

The 31st is also my deadline for two 2500 word short stories that must be set 30 days apart and relate to each other in some way.  I have a roughdraft on the first story.  I’m 1/3 into the second story.  There will be no doing five drafts per project on these.  I’m going to have to slam them out and hope for the best.

Think happy thoughts for me, my comrades-in-stress.  How do you folks handle this kind of high intensity scheduling?

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Filed under Baclofen pump, Depression, doctors, editing, Family, Fiction, frustration