by Lillian Csernica on March 17, 2017
David Tallerman, another DFP writer, has encouraged me to share his excellent blog post on the merits of working with DFP.
by Lillian Csernica on March 17, 2017
David Tallerman, another DFP writer, has encouraged me to share his excellent blog post on the merits of working with DFP.
by Lillian Csernica on October 28, 2016
Just 99 cents from now until Halloween!
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.
Also just 99 cents until Halloween!
by Lillian Csernica on October 6, 2016
I had a wonderful time! As always, I was sharing a room with my usual traveling companion and parter in crime, Patricia H. MacEwen. There was a lot to see and do, between the panels and BoFs and the evening events and the hands-on workshops. Big kudos to Con Chair Jason and his Mighty Minions! (My apologies for not getting these links put in sooner. Last week included five appointments, two meetings, plus all the usual chaos.)
I’m very happy to have been appointed moderator for this panel. I had to catch up on some background reading, which brought to my attention just how prolific Shirley Jackson really was. As primary breadwinner for the family, she had to keep the work going out and the money coming in. At the same time she had to shoulder the load expected of a ’50s housewife. All four children were her responsibility, along with every household chore. What an inspiration!
This panel brought me the best of both worlds. I got to participate, drawing on my fascination with Japanese culture. Then I had the pleasure of listening to my fellow panelists and learn from their amazing expertise. Wanda Kurtcu made an excellent moderator, keeping us all in line when the synergy of ideas got too rowdy!
The diversity of panelists made for a variety of perspectives on this topic. We were happy to welcome Garrett Calcaterra to his very first con! He got thrown in at the deep end, and he acquitted himself very well. Keep an eye out for his YA fantasy series, The Dreamwielder Chronicles. The first two books are available now!
I managed to catch the last thirty minutes. Lively and intelligent discussion of our favorite characters. Debates about their true motivations and upcoming loyalties or desertions. Much love for the Christmas lights as a communications device! Many thanks to Mark Gelineau, our host and moderator.
It’s not often I have time at cons to go indulge myself in a programming event just for fun. Trish Henry displayed her amazing skills at paper sculpture by walking us through the basics of making a pop-up card. We started with a heart. From there people made butterflies, a dragon, even a house! Trish provided plenty of colored paper, glitter pens, other decorative supplies, and chocolate eyeballs! Does it get any better than that?
Minions #1, #2, and #3 provided simple, hearty fare that was ready and waiting no matter what time I wandered in. Chili over potatoes both baked and quartered, veggie pasta with an excellent sauce, and much to my utter screaming delight, my absolute favorite: homemade biscuits with sausage gravy. Snack baggies held a choice of popcorn, M&Ms, and even wasabi peas!
The Party Floor!
When I first got off the elevators on my way to my hotel room, I all but walked into a sign that proclaimed the hotel’s policy of keeping things quiet between nine p.m. and seven a.m. That made me burst out laughing. I was on Three, where the Quiet Zone started. The Party Floor was on Two, and it was crowded! Walking the big circle brought me to a new sign every three or four doors, heralding another party with another theme. On Friday night I spent most of the evening hanging out in Kevin and Andy’s ’60s themed bash. On Saturday night the ConJose party was the place to be. Gorgeous lighting effects, lots of comfy furniture, and some salted dark chocolate caramels that were divine!
by Lillian Csernica on September 28, 2016
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)
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
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
I’m sitting here crying. The family of a friend of mine has lost a little girl. There was an Amber Alert out for her, but the authorities didn’t find her in time. This loss, on top of France and Dallas and the rest of 2016, is just too much. I’m reposting this blog in the hope that these stories provide some inspiration and perhaps even comfort.
by Lillian Csernica on August 16, 2014
It has been a long and difficult week all over the world. So many losses. So much upheaval. I’ve seen a lot of information out there about depression and how to cope with it. I’ve seen a lot of really stupid remarks by people who have no idea what it’s like to live with the big Black Dog day in and day out, to go to sleep (if you can) with the Black Dog sitting on your chest and then wake up to it gnawing on your heart.
One suggestion I’ve heard several times is to go do something for other people. Get out of your own head, away from your own life, and help somebody who needs it. You could make all the difference. With that in mind, I’d like to share seven events from my life, seven moments where the kindness…
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by Lillian Csernica on April 15th, 2016
Here in the U.S. today is the deadline for turning in our income tax forms. Money is a subject very much on most people’s minds. This can be stressful. To honor the occasion, here are some highlights from my travels when money was the crucial element.
One Halloween my friend Don suggested we go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The theater was in Newport Beach, CA, about twenty minutes from my house, where all the rich people lived down by the water. This may not sound like I traveled far at all, but I assure you, this was a walk on the wild side into terra incognita. I’d never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’d heard about it, of course, as all teenagers had in my high school days.
Don said if we showed up in costume, we’d get in for free. I went as a voodoo priestess and Don dressed up as a zombie. Zombies weren’t all the rage in those days, so this costume was pretty bizarre. When we got to the box office, we discovered costumes made no difference to the ticket price. Neither of us had any cash on us, and we were too old to go trick-or-treating, so our night was about to go down in flames.
A woman sitting inside the lobby stood up, walked over to us, and slapped a ten dollar bill down on the counter. “You’re in,” she said. We thanked her up one side and down the other, then hurried in to find seats just as the house lights went down. The forbidden fruit was all mine, thanks to that generous stranger.
On the night Pat and I arrived in Kyoto, we were both hungry and exhausted. The bus from the Osaka Airport delivered us to the Kyoto Station. It’s one of the five most expensive buildings in the world. As a transportation hub and a shopping complex, it’s practically a city unto itself. We found a store that sold take-out food. Pat trusted me to identify what was in the deli-style racks and cold cases. I picked out some attractive items and got into the checkout line. When the cashier told me the total, I could manage the paper money, but the coins defeated me. There were tired commuters queuing up behind me, so I held out a handful of change with a sheepish, “Tasukete, kudasai,” which is the formal polite way of saying, “HELP!”
The next and larger problem was the way Japanese do not handle money directly. When you buy something, the cashier puts a little tray down in front of you and you put the money on that. The cashier then picks up the tray and puts the money into the cash drawer. I don’t know if this is a Shinto thing or what. This particular cashier took pity on me and everybody in line behind me. She picked out the right coins, gave me my receipt, and sent me on my way.
In an earlier post I mentioned the weekend bus tour I took to Paris while I spent that summer in the Netherlands. The people on the bus with me were mainly retired folks or middle-aged teachers. I was always the last person to get on the bus because I sat in the tour guide seat right up front beside the driver. This put me in the perfect position to lend a hand when some of the older members of the tour needed help with that first step up into the bus. Since I was on my own, I brought out the parental instinct in everybody.
What does all this have to do with money?
Just before our tour of the Louvre, our bus driver collected everybody’s twelve francs entry fee. Then our French tour guide showed up. Slim, glamorous, pushy, and condescending, she took one look at me and we both knew we’d never be friends. She demanded the entry fee from me. I told her I’d already paid. She got very patient in a way that clearly implied I was trying to weasel out of paying my fair share. The Dutch ladies came to my rescue. One of them said to me, “You are my daughter. You are seventeen years old.” I had no idea what was up with that. I started to explain that I was actually eighteen. She shook her head and spoke in the voice of a career teacher, saying, “If you are under eighteen you do not pay. Come with us.” She and the other ladies formed up around me and marched me past the tour guide, giving her looks that should have set her false eyelashes on fire!
On my way back into the country from the Netherlands, my flight had to land in Seattle as its first point of entry. We all had to go through Customs. That was simple enough, but then we sat there in the airport lounge wondering what was holding up our departure to Los Angeles. My name was called over the public address system. Just my first name. That was strange. I presented myself at the appropriate desk. A Customs official took me to an office where another teenage girl from my flight was looking seriously freaked out. Her eyes were red and her makeup all smeared from crying. She begged me to help her. I was the only person on the plane she’d talked to, so mine was the only name she knew to call for help. She’d made some mistake filling out her Customs forms. They wanted her to pay them twenty dollars or they wouldn’t let her continue on into the country. I had the money on me, thank God, so the officials were satisfied and we all got to fly on to LAX. The poor girl couldn’t stop thanking me and apologizing. When we got off the plane, I was quite relieved to see her mother there to meet her. (My boyfriend was waiting for me, but that’s another story.)
That unknown lady stepped up and paid my way into the movies. Those Dutch ladies stepped up and protected me when I needed help. I’m glad I had a chance to pass on the kindness and help that girl get home safe and sound.
by Lillian Csernica on February 4, 2016
This story came about as a result of me spending my teenage years staying up late on the weekends watching horror movies on Channel 13. (I lived in Southern California then.) More influences include all of the 19th Century ghost stories I love to read, especially the works of M.R. James. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Neil Gaiman for creating the Sandman graphic novels. They set my imagination on fire and went a long way toward planting the seeds of inspiration for “The Screaming Key.”
by Lillian Csernica on January 16, 2015
In 1987 I was in a car accident that left me for dead on Interstate 5 in the middle of the night. I spent a week in the hospital, then months recovering.
Two months after the accident, my boyfriend asked me to marry him. I agreed, and worked three different jobs to help pay for our wedding. This meant driving, something I had no desire to do ever again. I stayed off the freeways, but I did it.
A few years after we got married, we donated my old used car to charity. That meant our only vehicle was the one my husband drove to work every day. If I wanted to go anywhere while he was at work, I walked or took public transportation (the bus).
For years now I have resisted the idea of getting another car. At times it’s been a financial issue. We did have to invest in a van equipped with a lift so we could transport Michael to his various medical appointments. At other times, it’s just been a matter of my bone deep reluctance to get behind the wheel again. There are a lot of crazy people on the roads these days.
This forced me to rely on my husband, my mother, my sister, or a friend when I needed a ride somewhere. I felt like I was in high school again. People kept telling me I needed to get over this fear of driving and just do it. It’s so easy for people to say something like that when they’re not living inside the anxiety, especially anticipatory anxiety. That kind of fear puts a real dent in rational thinking.
My husband and I have had more than one loud, hurtful argument about what a “burden” I’ve been to everyone around me because of my “selfishness” about driving myself around. This resulted in me not going out at all except when I absolutely had to, or when a friend and I spent time together. My depression got worse.
It’s horrible to be caught between relentless fear and the ongoing hostility and judgment from the people I look to for support. With family or total strangers, the bottom line remains the same: I can’t change them. The only person I can change is myself.
Today is a day of celebration. Today I got angry enough to shove my fears aside, go to a used car dealer, and find a car we could afford, one that suits my needs and makes me feel both comfortable and happy.
Today I crossed a big bridge in my life, a bridge that leads to freedom, to independence, and to better mental health.
by Lillian Csernica on December 9, 2015
There were a few moments during the trip that stand out as particularly memorable.
Turning on the lights in our hotel room. There was no main switch just inside the door. We did find the switch for the bathroom (located on the wall outside the bathroom, which is just asking for pranks and accidents). There were small reading lights at the head of each bed, along with a table lamp and a floor lamp. How did we turn them on? There was a slot on the wall in the entryway similar to a credit card reader, only this was vertical. I put my room key in the slot, then pulled it out again. Voila! Light!
Two minutes later the lights went out.
We went through this twice more, trying to figure this out with brains that had long since turned to cottage cheese. I called down to the desk for help and told them the lights wouldn’t stay on. They sent a man from Maintenance, who had me show him what I’d been doing. I had the process half-right. To keep the lights on, one leaves the key in the slot. So every time Pat and I left the room on an outing, we’d check to see who had a key in hand and who had put hers in the light “switch.” This resulted in dialogue that would have done Abbot and Costello proud!
The taxi drivers. I love Japanese taxis. The lace antimacassars on the seats, the white gloves, the automatic passenger door…. Sometimes the drivers were quite formal, and that’s fine. Other times we’d get a driver who was happy to have a chance to practice his English, or maybe he just thought Pat and I were entertaining. (Can’t imagine why anybody would think that!
One driver said, “English is just three words. I love you. I miss you.” My cynical sense of humor kicked in and I told him, “You’re missing one. ‘I want money.'” Fortunately, we were at a stoplight right then. The driver burst out laughing. He mimed writing something down, saying, “I must take notes.” That made us all start laughing again.
On our way back to the hotel from Kiyomizu-dera, we had a driver who wanted to be friendly, but as is often the case, he was nervous about speaking English. He had the radio on, playing classic rock. That was a welcome glimpse of home. Once I said, “American rock ‘n’ roll!” that broke the ice. By then Pat was speaking enough Japanese to get into the conversation as well. The driver revealed his secret stash of chocolates and gave each of us one. Music and chocolate are the perfect ways to go from strangers to friends.
At the smaller gift shop inside the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Pat and I got into conversation with Yuki, the lady behind the counter. She was surprised by how much polite Japanese we could both manage. When we explained our purpose in Kyoto as doing research for our writing, she thought that was quite exciting. Before we left, she brought out two little packets of those sugar star candies like the ones Chihiro feeds to the dust sprites in Spirited Away. She insisted on giving them to us. That was a lovely surprise!
The weather was so mild at the start of our stay I didn’t need my jacket day or night. As the end of October closed in, the nights got colder. In Kyoto Station one night, everybody else had begun to bundle up and there I was. As I came up to the escalator going down, I made way for the older lady ahead of me with a polite, “Dozo.” It was a long escalator. The lady turned around and said, “Are you cold?” Her tone of voice was like my mother’s just before she’d tell me to put on a sweater. This came out of the blue, so I was glad to be able to answer in English. “Outside, yes. Inside, no.” The lady nodded and faced front again. As we neared the bottom, she turned and wished me a good trip. The whole thing was rather endearing.
The ladies at the front desk. Thanks to my endless questions, Miss Nakanishi and Miss Kinjo knew our daily itinerary almost as well as we did. When Pat and I came back from that day’s adventures, they’d greet us and ask specific questions about that day’s activities. I think my boundless enthusiasm for all things Japanese plus my grasp of Japanese history and culture resulted in answers different from the ones a more typical American tourist might give. Over and over again, Japanese people would ask me, “How do you know about that?”
Miss Kinjo is from Okinawa. That gave me a perfect opportunity to ask her about the kijimuna, the “little people” of Okinawa. They’re on the large side for little people, being about as tall as a seven year old child. Flaming red hair makes them unique among Japanese folkloric creatures. All they wear is a garment like a fundoshi made out of leaves. Kijimuna are tricksters. They can be helpful when they want to be, and you’d better not offend them. Miss Kinjo said her grandmother had told her stories about what the kijimuna had done when her grandmother was a little girl.
With Halloween right around the corner, I was curious to see how Japan handled that holiday. I saw decorations and party goods and some costume supplies. The Japanese kids don’t go trick-or-treating the way we do in America. The idea of dressing up as monsters to go door to door demanding candy under threat of “tricks” might strike the Shinto mind as the basis for a Takashi Miike movie!
This is what Halloween looks like in Kyoto: