And that’s why I need my morning tea: I’m looking for my brain.
Category Archives: Humor
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 28, 2016
Knee Update: As long as I stay off of it, my pain level is pretty low. If I’m up and around for more than half an hour, the twinges start. Driving is tough.
I go see my primary care physician on the 4th. “Hello, New Year! Do I need to see an orthopedic specialist?” Somewhere in the world they believe that what you do on the third or fourth day of the New Year indicates how the year in general will go. In pain? No thanks. Doctor appointments? Not a happy thought. Stoned on pain meds? Been there, done that. Tends to slow down my writing.
Speaking of writing, I would like to take a moment to review this year in terms of my career successes.
From Digital Fiction Publishing Corporation come these three titles:
Killing It Softly is packed full of horror stories by female authors including the amazing Nancy Holder! In this volume you will find my vampire story, “Saving Grace.” Historical fiction, this story features a Russian Orthodox noblewoman who is hiding out as a governess in the castle of a 14th Century French nobleman. A party of pilgrims arrives seeking shelter. Among them is a German scholar who has an unhealthy interest in the schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
Uncommon Senses makes available “The Family Spirit,” my Christmas ghost story which originally appeared in Weird Tales. This was the first deliberately humorous short story I’d written. Reading it aloud at conventions is always a lot of fun.
This is the first short story I ever sold. Fallen Idol appeared in After Hours and was later reprinted in DAW’s The Year’s Best Horror Stories XX. Many thanks to Michael Willis and the folks at DFP for bringing the story into the Digital Age!
From Transmundane Press comes this collection of fairy tales in the fine tradition of Tanith Lee’s Tales from the Sisters Grimmer. My story opens three years after the fairy gives the good sister the gift of speaking in flowers and jewels, while her wicked stepsister earned toads and snakes as punishment for her bad manners. “Happily ever after” is in the eye of the beholder!
Sky Warrior Press just released Alterna-TEAs, a steampunk anthology full of danger and excitement. Tea is the pivotal motif to every one of the stories included here. My contribution, “Tea and Trickery,” launches the espionage career of translator Lady Caroline Worthington when she’s recruited by the head of British Intelligence. There’s a nefarious conspiracy afoot intent upon sabotaging Great Britain’s efforts to bring steam engine technology to Japan.
Here’s hoping 2017 sees the launch of The Flower Maiden Saga!
by Lillian Csernica on December 15, 2016
1) Thou shalt slow down. We’re all in a hurry. It’s that time of year. If we can “proceed in a calm, orderly fashion” the way we’re directed to do during emergencies, then maybe we can avoid the kind of emergency that will ruin everybody’s day. Yes, I mean traffic. I also mean elevators, escalators, check out lines, and any other point where the crowd tends to hit a bottle neck.
2)Thou shalt hurry up. This means have your ticket ready when you exit the parking garage. This means get off your cell phone and stop blocking the aisle. This means know what you want to order by the time you get to the head of the fast food line.
3)Thou shalt have mercy on servers, salespeople, and other customer service representatives unless and until they demonstrate deliberate rudeness. Once that happens, demand to see the supervisor or manager. Take the time to make sure those rude people get busted for their bad behavior. You deserve polite service.
4)Thou shalt give no gifts that require labor or maintenance unless by prior explicit agreement. This means any living creature in the pet category, any plant growing in a container, anything from any DIY category on Pinterest, and especially any of those “In A Jar” projects.
5) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s parking space. This goes double for the handicapped slots. Just because you can’t see why a person has a handicapped placard or special license plate, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a disability that qualifies.
6) Thou shalt contain thy children. This includes both physical movement and volume control.
7)Thou shalt prepare, taste, and evaluate any new recipes before inflicting them on innocent and unsuspecting family and/or guests. Have you ever wondered why the women’s magazines bring out all those bizarre recipes for the holiday season? If those food items are so delightful, why aren’t people making them anymore?
8) Thou shalt keep thy receipts. Big stores like Toys R Us and Macy’s are pretty good about “gift receipts,” making returns possible without the person knowing exactly how much you spent on the gift.
9) Thou shalt not put up so many Christmas lights, inflatable snowmen, animatronic reindeer, etc. etc. that you create a traffic hazard by either distracting drivers, blinding them, or both.
10)Thou shalt cover thy nose or mouth in the event of a sneeze or cough. Come on, people. Do the elbow thing. Do NOT use your hands, because you will then spread whatever germs didn’t already escape into the air.
11)Thou shalt send actual written thank you notes. I know, this must sound unbearably old-fashioned in the Digital Age, but it’s the right thing to do. My sons send written thank you notes, and everybody knows Michael and John both need some help to do that. People are surprised and very pleased. Word gets all the way back to my mother, who sat me down and made me write thank you notes as soon as I had learned how to write.
12)Thou shalt give thyself permission to stop trying to make everybody happy all at once, especially when that means losing sight of making thyself happy too. Figure out what really makes you happy, be it baking cookies or driving around looking at Christmas lights or going to church or playing silly board games with your friends. Do those things. Give yourself the gift of “Peace on earth, goodwill toward Man.”
by Lillian Csernica on October 12, 2016
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!
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 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 July 9, 2016
Happy News Item #1:
I’ve sold another story! Details will be forthcoming upon completion of the usual paperwork. I am happy to sell this story, and I’m even happier about the market.
Happy News Item #2:
My Christmas ghost story “The Family Spirit” is now available as part of Digital Fiction Publishing’s Uncommon Senses anthology.
Grab it now and savor all twelve of the marvelous stories it contains!
by Lillian Csernica on June 22, 2016
First you expand by writing. Then you compress by editing. Expand, compress. Expand, compress.
The trouble is, right now I’m compressing the synopsis for Sword Master, Flower Maiden while also expanding a short story that needs to get out to market.
Playing two separate accordions at once is no simple task. Just when I’ve settled into the mindset to murder my darlings in the synopsis, it’s time to switch gears and open the taps for the short story’s new scenes.
Can I work on one project at a time? Can I finish it and then move on to the other? I could, but that would slow down my productivity even more. I have to work on multiple projects at once. The satisfaction of completing a short story and getting it out to market helps me endure the day after day grind of writing a 100,000 word historical romance.
There are days when I do get tired of being neck deep in the details of Japan under the Tokugawa. I want to run away to modern day and drop some creature of folklore into a situation that causes havoc for all concerned. I like blowing things up. It’s very therapeutic.
Sex scenes aren’t as much fun as non-writers seem to think. Those scenes take a lot more work and attention to detail. This is why my favorite scenes in Ship of Dreams are the sea battles. I just loved figuring out how the Black Angel would disable Vasquez’s galleon so he could rescue Rosalind before sinking the ship.
So I’m back to my daily 1000 word quota. And I’m pushing forward on the support documents, so to speak. And I’m hauling short stories out of inventory, ripping out the seams, adding panels, and freshening the trim.
Whoops. Just mixed my metaphors. Oh well. Tell me you’ve never heard an accordion hit a wrong note!
by Lillian Csernica on June 11, 2016
We’d been together for years. It’s hard to remember a time when we haven’t been together. I knew it would be a big commitment. What we’ve built together is strong. There are good days. There are bad days. In the end, we’ve always ended up working at it together again.
Then it happened.
I didn’t see it coming. I really didn’t. One minute I was trudging along in my happy little rut, taking care of that day’s To Do list. The next….
Nothing equals the excitement of a new beginning. A fresh start, full of all the possibilities, the starry-eyed joy that you feel before any of the mistakes start happening.
I wanted to stay up all night. I wanted it to last forever. That feeling. That sense of power, of fulfillment. It’s addictive. It’s also a trap.
The fast fix. The one night stand. Getting it all in one quick and dirty burst.
Short stories are such sluts. They’ll let anybody write them.
I’d betrayed my novel. It sat there at home, waiting for me, while I was off having a fling with A New Idea.
It’s so difficult. At times the temptation is intense. I just want a project I can finish! I love typing “END.” Is that so wrong?
My novel has to come first. Oh, I can have my little stories on the side, but I have to do the day’s work on my novel first. Then, if I have any energy left, any lingering “unmet needs,” only then can I go run off and play with some trollop of a short story.
They call it “career management,” but it feels a lot more like couples therapy.