And that’s why I need my morning tea: I’m looking for my brain.
Category Archives: classics
by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2017
Writing is hard. We all know that. Some days we get sidetracked by avoidance behavior. Some days we procrastinate out of laziness or confusion about the story. Some days we’re just plain stuck.
Today I’m having one of those days. Here I sit, working on a blog post, when I’d meant to be making progress on my latest short story. Well, at least it’s productive avoidance behavior, right?
In the spirit of solidarity with my fellow struggling writers, I offer this list full of tips, information, and excellent methods to restart the writing engines. Enjoy!
by Lillian Csernica on December 5, 2016
The letters to Santa Claus have begun to arrive. Right after Thanksgiving, I let the local post offices know that once again I’d be ready, willing, and able to join the network of Volunteer Elves all over the U.S. We answer the letters children write to Santa Claus. We help keep the magic of childhood bright and sparkling.
If you believed in Santa Claus when you were little, please consider lending a hand this holiday season. There are always more letters than there are volunteers available to answer them. Would you like to know how much joy a letter from Santa Claus can bring? Let me share with you some moments from the more than ten years I’ve been answering these letters.
One young lady asked for a gift certificate to a local bookstore. I called the bookstore, explained myself as a volunteer with my local post office, then told the clerk about this very specific request. Would the bookstore be interested in make a donation? The manager asked me to come on over and bring the letter with me. The result? The store donated a gift certificate for the full amount.
Another young lady appealed to Santa Claus to help her convince the kids at school who kept telling her Santa didn’t really exist. Would Santa please send her some sleigh bells so she could prove to her classmates Santa Claus is real? I found two jingle bells, one large, one small, that looked a bit weathered and put them in a padded envelope along with Santa’s reply to the young lady’s letter. A few days later, my mail carrier brought me a note addressed to “The Post Office Santa Claus” from this young lady’s parents. It said, “Thank you so much for keeping our daughter’s dream and belief alive. WE LOVE YOU!”
One year a letter came from two kindergarten age children, a brother and sister who included their school photos. It was clear to me that an adult had helped write the letter. The kids wanted Santa Claus to know that their family had just received housing assistance, so they were going to be moving. They were worried that Santa wouldn’t know where to find them on Christmas Eve. The children each asked for a single toy. Would Santa please bring their mother something nice, maybe perfume?
Thanks to the help of some enthusiastic postal workers, a very generous toy store, and my long-suffering and very supportive husband, we delivered two large, brightly wrapped gifts to the children’s home while the kids and their mother were out looking at Christmas decorations. Grandma was there baking pies. I discovered she’d been the one to help the kids write their letter. They watched a TV show about the people who volunteer to answer letters written to Santa. The little boy had asked Grandma if she thought Santa Claus really would answer their letter. Grandma suggested they give it a try.
One of the happiest moments of my life will always be the way Grandma burst into tears when we brought in the gifts for her grandchildren. I apologized for not knowing what perfume might be best for their mother, since so many people have allergies. Grandma said that didn’t matter. The best gift we could have brought Mom was how happy the kids would be when Grandma told them Santa’s elves had not just answered their letter but made a special trip to bring them their presents.
Be a part of the magic. Stop by your local post office. I know more than a few mail carriers who have been the ones to answer the letters they pick up on their routes. The Post Office provides a starter kit, and there are lots of examples and suggestions online.
Cool art, Alisha! Thank you so much!
The loving, helpful fairy godmother is largely a figment of Disney’s imagination.
If you take a good look at the original fairy tales, fairy godmothers appear most often in stories written by the French précieuses, the best-known being Madame d’Aulnoy. These fairy godmothers are not the grandmotherly rescuer of Disney’s Cinderella, nor are they the well-meaning but sometimes slapstick versions portrayed as Flora, Fauna, and Meriwether in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Fairies who choose to help human beings most often do so because it serves their own purposes. Madame d’Aulnoy and her colleagues made everyone in their stories members of the nobility, especially the fairy godmothers. Even the shepherds and maids were princes and princesses sent into hiding for their protection.
Classic fairy godmothers are willing to guide their godchildren and lend a little magic to the cause, but in return, they expect obedience and respect…
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Don’t miss out! Makes a great “treat”!
by Lillian Csernica on October 7, 2016
Halloween is my favorite “howl-iday.” Since October is the month of “things that go bump in the night,” I’ve dropped the price on The Fright Factory to just 99 cents from now all the way through Halloween itself!
Horror can be anything from the most elegant ghost story to the total freak-out of a bloodthirsty serial killer. The Fright Factory can show you how to make the most of your story ideas:
Choose the best setting.
Build a better monster.
Learn the fine art of creating suspense!
It’s all here, including an essential list of the worst horror cliches no editor wants to see.
GET YOUR COPY NOW!
by Lillian Csernica on October 16, 2016
Today is a very exciting day for me!
After the Happily Ever After: a collection of fractured fairy tales is a massive anthology that features more than seventy stories that transform the well-known and strange fables into sweeter, darker, and more fantastical tales. These certainly aren’t the stories we grew up with.
by Lillian Csernica on September 28, 2016
My panel schedule:
It’s Shirley Been 100 Years
Friday 17:00 – 18:30, Boardroom V (Hyatt Regency SFO)
In December of this year, Shirley Jackson turns 100. Best known for her story “The Lottery” (1948), Jackson has been read by teenagers across the world. But her novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle endure almost as strongly. What is Jackson’s legacy to modern horror? What women are carrying her torch in today’s horror market?
Carrie Sessarego, Lillian Csernica (M)
Kaiju, As Far as the Eye Could See!
Saturday 12:00 – 13:30, Boardroom IV (Hyatt Regency SFO)
Kaiju are a special breed of monster, and deserve a panel all their own to spotlight their talents in thrilling us!
Lillian Csernica, Colin Fisk, BuddhaBabe (M), Xander Kent
Fear of The Other
Saturday 20:00 – 21:30, SandPebble B (Hyatt Regency SFO)
Horror from previous generations draws much of its power from the fear of the Other. In some cases the other is an unknowable being, a cosmic terror, but just as often it’s not, referencing instead more mundane distinctions between us and them. How problematic is the use of the Other to engender fear? Has fear of the Other led to some of the challenges genre faces today relative to inclusiveness and equality?
Lillian Csernica, Juliette Wade (M), Garrett Calcaterra, Gregg Castro t’rowt’raahl Salinan/rumsien Ohlone, Sumiko Saulson
“All men must escape at times from the deadly rhythm of their private thoughts.”
—Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder
Today was one of those days when I had to get out of the house to get out of my own head. I packed up my notebooks, a short story in progress, a fistful of pens, and I took refuge in the local library.
(It’s a sad state of affairs when the local coffeehouse holds more peace and quiet than the library does.)
I wanted something to read, something that wouldn’t tax my weary attention span, yet something that would nourish my writing mind and maybe even get me fired up again.
I roamed the Mystery aisles, where I found The Simple Art of Murder. The Preface is in fact the eponymous essay written by Chandler that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. If you have anything to do with the writing life, you’ll enjoy reading that essay.
The above quotation, taken from the essay, struck me as being a profound truth. Chandler said it in the context of explaining why “escapist literature” has just as much right to exist as what critics consider the more high brow type of literature. My preferred leisure time reading is a good mystery. Getting caught up in the puzzle and the characters takes me away from the stress of my every day life and whatever burdens are weighing on my mind.
Being trapped in “the deadly rhythms” of my private thoughts can trigger my depression or be a symptom of it. Writing in my personal journal isn’t much help then. This is when I need to plunge into the mind of a character. Sinking down to the bone deep level of want and need in someone I’ve created lets me engage in what I think of as primal scream therapy on paper.
There’s a lot of advice out there about how you cannot wait until you’re “in the mood” to write. That’s true. Take the mood you’re in and squeeze it for all it’s worth. Anger. Hate. Grief. Frustration. Despair. Negative emotions tend to be the ones we hold back, so they’ve already built up considerable pressure inside us. Cut the brake lines and ride that emotion down the mountain to whatever head-on collision awaits. It will be messy, but it will also be worth it.
By Lillian Csernica on August 26, 2016
Have you ever had one of those days where the raw, undiluted silliness of people was simply beyond belief?
For me, today was that day.
Finding two hard-boiled eggs.
I had an early doctor appointment this morning, so early I was out of the house and in my car by 7:15 a.m. I stopped at the grocery store for an iced coffee. In the deli I can usually find ready-to-eat hard-boiled eggs. Not today.
At that hour I was one of maybe three customers in the entire store. I asked one of the folks behind the deli counter if they had any more hard-boiled eggs. She came out and looked around in the deli cases, finding none.
Then another clerk hailed me. She wore the tool belt that had sheaths for her box cutters. That meant she worked on the loading dock in the back opening deliveries. (I have no idea what she was doing hanging out by the deli counter.) She told me there was one other place to look for the eggs. This was way across the store. She led me over there, found nothing, and expressed her deep regret.
All I can figure is I was a customer and these people were going to make sure their manager saw them providing good customer service. Two hard-boiled eggs were not that big a deal to me. Seeing these clerks turn my breakfast into The Quest for The Eggs was really funny.
Sittin’ at the car wash
In my front yard we have an oak tree so big and so old several of its limbs are supported by a network of thin cables. The oak tree drips what I assume is sap, leaving sticky trails down the windshields and sides of our vehicles. Living out in nature means a fine dusting of pollen all over everything. Then there are the power lines, which provide wonderful perches for the blue jays, sparrows, robins, and crows. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? The Bird Brigade sits on the power lines and poops all over our vehicles.
I picked up John after school today and ran some errands, which included going to the car wash. You pay your money, get a receipt with a code on it, then drive around to the entrance of the car wash. The average wash takes about ten minutes start to finish. There were four cars ahead of us. Matters were moving along at the usual rate when the next car into the wash unit suddenly backed up. I watched this person pull forward and back up three separate times. What madness was this?
Then I understood. This person had never been through this car wash before. What he or she thought was an alarm was merely the signal to stop the car so the wash could begin.
At this point there were two other cars ahead of me and three more behind me. Why were we all just sitting there watching this poor fool pulling forward and back, risking damage to the car and the wash unit, to say nothing of the next car in line?
I sent John to tell the attendant at the cash register what was going on.
That got sorted out with no injuries to people or machinery, thank God. John and I took our turn. My car now looks all shiny and pretty. I bought John an ice cream sundae as a reward for his patience. The poor guy had been stuck in the car over an hour thanks to a bunch of adults who couldn’t get out of their own way!
by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2016
There you have it. During all the trips I’ve taken, in the midst of all the traveling I’ve done, there’s been a part of me that was waiting, watching, and hoping. I’ve been on the lookout for that signal, that flare of recognition that would tell me I had finally found the trail that would lead me to my true home.
U2 said it best.
And so I keep traveling.