Category Archives: Awards

All Writers Need This Skill


by Lillian Csernica on August 22, 2017

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What is that skill? Eavesdropping.

From Wikipedia:

An eavesdropper was someone who stands at the eavesdrop (where the water drops, i.e., next to the house) so as to hear what is said within. The PBS documentaries, Inside the Court of Henry VIII (April 8, 2015)[3] and Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace (June 30, 2013) include segments that display and discuss “eavedrops”, carved wooden figures Henry VIII had built into the eaves (overhanging edges of the beams in the ceiling) of Hampton Court to discourage unwanted gossip or dissension from the King’s wishes and rule, to foment paranoia and fear,[4] and demonstrate that everything said there was being overheard; literally, that the walls had ears.[5]

I recently made the observation that cell phones have taken all the fun out of eavesdropping. When I said this, I was referring to texting. People have all kinds of conversations that people nearby can’t overhear, aside from the clicking of the keyboard.

A friend of mine pointed out that I was quite mistaken. He lives in San Francisco and makes frequent use of public transit. This gives him the opportunity to listen in on the amazing variety of really personal subjects people discuss when making actual calls on their cell phones.

Good point! This makes me feel better, even though most of the conversations I do overhear aren’t worth the time or attention.

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Eavesdropping is like panning for gold. You have to sift through a lot of mud before you see the gleam of real treasure. That one gleam can spark an idea that makes all that mud worthwhile.

When my younger son was little, he did what all little kids do, which is eat with his hands. At that time we had four cats in the house. Put these two facts together, and you get the day I heard myself say:

“Don’t get the cat sticky!”

People say the most absurd things, especially when they’re trying to be clever. I was sitting in the local Italian bakery on Sunday, writing in my journal while I ate a Lobster Tail. (I know, it’s not on my diet. I was celebrating my latest sale of a short story.) Two women came in and studied the goodies in the bakery cases. One said,

“The gelato is good, but the pastries are just a little too Italian for me.”

Sorry? What? If she didn’t like Italian pastries, why on earth had she come to an Italian bakery? Questions like this can get your imagination fired up. I could brainstorm ten crazy answers to that question. At least one might be worth building into a new story.

One of the greatest proofs of the value of eavesdropping is Harlan Ellison‘s short story Jeffty is Five. Mr. Ellison has said that the title came from a conversation he overheard. The actual statement was, “Jeff is fine. He’s always fine.” By hearing it as “Jeff is five. He’s always five.”, Mr. Ellison found the seed of an idea. It flowered into a story that went on to win the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and a nomination for the World Fantasy Award.

 

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F is for Furnishings (Art Nouveau – #AtoZChallenge)


by Lillian Csernica on April 7, 2017

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Ornate brass and porcelain inkwell

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Art Nouveau fruit bowl

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Commode by Paul Aribe. France, circa 1912.

From Wikipedia:

The term originates in the vocabulary of French furniture from about 1700. At that time, a commode meant a cabinet or chest of drawers, low enough so that it sat at the height of the dado rail (à hauteur d’appui). It was a piece of veneered case furniture much wider than it was high, raised on high or low legs[2] and with (commode à vantaux) or without enclosing drawers.

 

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Art Nouveau carved settee

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Polished pewter card tray with maiden, 1906

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Art Nouveau fireplace

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Art Nouveau cabinet

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Juventa Art Nouveau flower dish circa 1905

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Art Nouveau Pewter Desk Thermometer

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Rattan chair by Carlo Bugatti, 1900

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Live Auctioneers

Leaded glass three panel floor screen.

 

 

 

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NaNoWriMo 2016: VICTORY!


by Lillian Csernica on November 30, 2016

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Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Bouquet of Rivals, Book 3 of The Flower Maiden Saga, weighs in at 50,064 words.

 

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NaNoWriMo Round 2


by Lillian Csernica on October 12, 2016

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Back in 2014, I won NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words of Garden of Lies, the second book in my Flower Maiden trilogy.

I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016. I hope to get to the 50,000 word mark on the third book of the trilogy. 7 pages a day, every day.

I thumb my nose at the Forces of Chaos that beset me on a daily basis. Come what may, I shall write my daily quota. By December 1, I will have at least half of the first draft of my new novel.

(Then comes the Labor of Hercules known as Editing the Manuscript, but I’ll get to that when the time comes.)

I send my best wishes to everybody else crazy dedicated enough to embrace NaNoWriMo!

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How We Survived a Three Convention Weekend


by Lillian Csernica on June 4, 2016

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Hi, gang. I made it through all four days of Clockwork Alchemy, BayCon, and Fanime.I would have written this post sooner, but the sudden discovery of John being WAY behind on preparing his Final presentation/exam in one of his classes caused me to devote what energies I had to making sure he met today’s deadline. I love that boy dearly, but some days he makes me crazy.

The weekend was packed with memorable moments.  This was John’s first time really participating in conventions.  (He did make a brief appearance at the Meet the Guest Reception of one BayCon about ten or twelve years ago. We had to keep him away from the buffet and out from under everybody else’s tables.) It was a spectacular weekend!  John even won a Hall Costume Award for his steampunk attire.

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Technolo-John meets Mega Man!

John had quite a few adventures, including playing the communications officer aboard the Starship Artemis. He made a light saber in one of the DIY workshops, and he discovered the joys of hanging out in the Hospitality Suite having munchies and watching “Wheel of Fortune” on a big plasma screen.  That might sound silly, but I was pleased to see John guessing the solutions with everybody else.

At Fanime, all the people in costume blew John’s mind. He’d been hoping to meet some of his favorite superheroes. Sure enough, one man was dressed as Nightwing, and one young lady wore a Raven costume. Raven told John how much she liked his steampunk outfit. That had him walking on air!

Business was good. I sold all but one of the anthology copies I brought with me.  Gave away all the beaded space-theme bookmarks and the Japanese art print bookmarks, all of which had this here blog’s URL on the back.  Shameless Self-Promotion! John got to see people asking me for my autograph as I signed their copies.  This is my idea of Take Your Kid To Work Day. Now John knows that I really am (kinda) famous.

Yarn Doll

Courtesy of Leigh Flynn

At Clockwork Alchemy on Sunday morning I had a good time teaching the Victorian Yarn Doll DIY.  Yarn colors included forest green, wine red, and navy blue, as well as what I like to call the “steampunk rainbow.” This is a yarn made up of several jewel tone colors suitable for the steampunk era. Traditional Victorian yarn dolls are either boys or girls.  Out of respect for the gender fluid community, I wanted to provide materials that were both inclusive and diverse. If you’re interested in making yarn dolls, Pinterest is a gold mine of methods, styles, and materials.

Mixy Award

This is the Mixy Award, created by Steve Mix in honor of those people who he feels deserve recognition for their ongoing contributions to fandom and the convention community.  At this year’s BayCon, Steve granted me the honor of presenting the Mixy to none other than my best friend and co-conspirator, Pat MacEwen.  Convincing her to bring the spiffy clothes and dress up on Saturday night was a bit of a challenge, because of course I couldn’t tell her why.

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Steve Mix was also responsible for the D20 challenge.  Several of us who are gamers past or present brought our best D20s to the con.  Whenever some of us would cross paths, we’d roll against each other. Best of five was the general rule.  Whoever won got to keep all the dice involved in that particular round.  I brought five D20s with me, and I left with five D20s, so I broke even.

In the bar of the San Mateo Marriott, the tables are glass.  That meant that in the evening when we had anywhere from three to seven people rolling at once, we made a glorious racket!  (I have to give the staff of the hotel credit.  They embraced the weirdness that is fandom like good sports.  The valets were having a great time collecting badge ribbons.) Steve has the best D20.  It’s made of some kind of metal, and it rolls high and hard.  I told him he should name it the “Deathstar D20”!

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The Snow Jedi

I’m going to break one of my own rules here and post a photo of myself in my jammies. That is indeed the very light saber John made.  This goes to show how much fun I was having. I actually asked Pat to take a photo of me looking like this. This had to be my best Clockwork/Fanime/BayCon ever!

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Around the World (A to Z Blog Challenge Wrap-Up)


by Lillian Csernica on May 6, 2016

 

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I had a marvelous time participating in this year’s A to Z Blog Challenge.  My technical skills as a blogger have improved, so I could add a greater variety of media to my posts.  My theme was Travel.  I didn’t want this to be just another travel advice blog, especially when there are so many out there who have traveled farther and know so much more than I do.

So I fell back on what I do best: laughing at myself.  I have been a lot of places and seen a lot of things.  It’s been my privilege to meet some wonderful people, generous, compassionate, and hospitable.  There’s a whole lot of the world left to see.  That means there are many more people I’ll be meeting, and many more stories waiting to be lived!

This year I really did challenge myself to pick words for each letter that would catch the reader’s eye.  Then I had to come up with aspects of my travels that suited the word I’d chosen.  I think I was most successful with “M is for Money.”  Looking more closely at the trips I’ve taken across the U.S. helped me relive those memories of my father with the perspective I now have as an adult.  I may well collect the posts from this year’s challenge and develop them more fully into an actual memoir.

Many thanks to all the folks who stopped by to take a look here, clicked “Like,” and maybe even left a comment.  It’s been a great pleasure to meet you and find out how you chose to post from A to Z.  Thank you to all of the A to Z Blog Challenge staffers who do so much to make this possible.  It’s a marvelous event, the product of what is clearly a lot of hard work.

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New Discoveries:

Djinniah and the English LanguageDjinniah and the English Language

My Travels in the Middle East and Beyond

Onomastics Outside the Box

Silvia Writes

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Ongoing Friends from Last Year and Beyond:

Ruralspaceman

Diary of a Dublin Housewife

Fae Forensics

Three’s A Herd

This Old Shelter

Sherrie’s Scriptorium

 

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G is for Gifts


by Lillian Csernica on April 8, 2016

Today I have some stories to tell that come from the United States of America.  My homeland is a big country.  You can do a lot of traveling without needing your passport!  Along the way I’ve had the pleasure of giving and receiving some wonderful gifts.

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San Francisco, California — I was at the San Francisco International Airport when I met a Buddhist monk with a heavy French accent.  We got to talking.  Like most holy men in public places, the monk was probably accustomed to people gravitating to him.  He seemed to understand a whole lot more about me than what little personal information came up in the conversation.  His gift to me took the form of sincere compassion and some encouraging words.  As a token of my gratitude I gave him a pewter sunflower with “Believe” engraved on it.  This is why I love to travel.  You never know who you might meet, or what might happen when you do.

Maui, Hawaii — The Hawaiian Lei Greeting has been a part of Polynesian culture for several centuries.  Many tour packages allow you to choose just how luxuriant you’d like your lei greeting to be.  Before the boys came along, I took a trip to Maui with my mother.  It was quite an adventure, including a luau and a submarine ride.  Magpie that I am, I got all excited about the leis made not from flowers but seashells.  Ever since I was little I’ve had a great fondness for seashells.  Mom has been to Hawaii more than once, so she had quite a few shell leis.  She has given them all to me, along with the kukui nut bracelet and earrings belonging to my great-grandmother.

Las Vegas, Nevada — Many years ago my husband and I stayed at the Excalibur.  My father and stepmother lived in Ohio at that time.  My stepsister lived in Vegas, so we decided to meet in the middle for Christmas at her house.  (I have several stories from that trip!)   In the Excalibur there was the usual casino floor with card tables and slot machines.  Downstairs, I found a whole floor for kids full of carnival games such as Skee Ball, the Ring Toss, the Dime Toss.  There were also a few games where you used what amounted to a small catapult to shoot a frog onto a lily pad or a witch doll into a cauldron.  I know how to play poker, blackjack, and even whist, but I’m not much for gambling.  On the other hand, I love to win prizes.  I must have won close to a dozen, most of them some type of stuffed toy.  I did not have room in my luggage for all of them.  Besides, it was really more about winning them than actually keeping all those toys.  So what did I do with them?  Remember, this was Christmastime.  I wandered around the hotel, giving the toys away to little kids (with their parents’ permission).

 

Seattle, Washington –I had gone up to Vashon Island with a friend to visit the All Merciful Saviour Russian Orthodox Monastery.  I’ve been blessed to know Abbot Tryphon and Hierodeacon Paul for more than 20 years.  That visit deserves its own post.  Right now I want to mention yet another meeting in yet another airport.  In the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I was waiting for my flight to be called.  My friend and I got into conversation with two ladies who admired my friend’s earrings, which I had made.  As it turns out, one of the ladies also made her own jewelry, including the pair of earrings she was wearing.  I don’t know what prompted her to do it, but my fellow jeweler took off her earrings and gave them to me right then and there!  People are so kind.  We forget that, with all the conflict and grief in the world.  I will always treasure those earrings as a reminder of that trip and a reminder of the difference an generous impulse can make.

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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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NaNoWriMo Finish Line!


by Lillian Csernica on November 26, 2014

 

 

GARDEN OF LIES

50,156 total word count so far.

Not bad for my first try!

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NaNoWriMo Week Three: Time to Hit Turbo!


by Lillian Csernica on November 21, 2014

As of this moment, my official word count is 37,100.  That leaves 12,900 words to be written in the next 9 days.  1433 with a repeating decimal per day and I’ll bring it in by the 30th.  I’ve been writing between 1700 and 2000 per day, so the NaNoWriMo site tells me I’m looking at hitting the finish line on the 27th.  Thanksgiving Day.  Holy cats.

I have to say, I am doing what I really hadn’t thought I could do.  10,000 words per week?  That’s 40 pages, according to standard ms format.  Writing every single day, come hell or high water?  Now that the rainy season has finally arrived, high water is not an impossibility, given that one border of my property is marked by a creek.  As for the hell….  Some days are better than others, some days are worse, but the writing still has to get done, yes?

I must confess that this week I’ve had to push myself harder to get the work done.  November is one of my busier months.  Michael’s name day is Nov. 7th, the Feast of the Synaxis of the Archangels.  There are four important birthdays this month, including my father’s on the 18th and John’s on the 23rd.  And then we have Thanksgiving.  This alone involves a complex list of questions and decisions that have to be made and remade every year:

  • Where are we eating?
  • Who is eating with us?
  • What are we eating?  Who can eat what?  What can’t we have due to food allergies, lactose or gluten intolerance, and any possible philosophical or religious conflicts?
  • Do we have enough room?  Where will we put the kids?
  • And then there’s the usual chaos surrounding making sure we have all the cooking utensils, pots, pans, baking necessities and enough matching pieces of everything to set a nice table.

This year, for some reason I’ve decided to get crazy and make some napkin rings.  Curse you, Pinterest!  You have so many pretty pictures, and you make it all sound so easy!  I raided a fabric store today for craft glue, ribbons, and a bizarre variety of buttons.  You know you’ve gone off the deep end when the ladies who work at the store can’t resist asking what you plan to make.  That particular pile of supplies will go toward both napkin rings and Christmas ornaments.  That explanation lowered the Weird Level of my purchases to something that made sense.

And yet I cannot allow myself to be distracted!  No messing around with craft projects until my daily word quota has been written!  One of the big reasons I enjoy making jewelry is because it works parts of my brain that I don’t necessarily use while I’m writing.  I use a different department in the Idea Factory, so to speak.  It also keeps my hands busy while the novel’s characters are having private meetings in the back of my mind.  They’re busy making decisions and mounting conspiracies, so when I go back to the keyboard to have another go at writing, I’ll discover mutiny on the page.  They wanna do what they wanna do.  The great part about NaNoWriMo is I just let my fictional people run wild.  This is like the Dress Rehearsal.  Get it out of your systems now, boys and girls!  That way when we buckle down for Opening Night, we’re ready to put on the professional performance.

Still, it is hard to maintain momentum over this long a haul when I’ve never done it before.  Gotta get there.  Gotta make it to the finish line, if only to give my agent a heart attack when I tell her I’ve already written half of the sequel to Sword Master, Flower Maiden.  It’s important to know how to motivate yourself, right?

Idea Factory

The Idea Factory

 

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