Category Archives: Humor

How Writers Dress for Success


by Lillian Csernica on August 6, 2018

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On days when I’m not going to be leaving the house, I observe the time-honored tradition of working in my Bathrobe. By the end of the day I’ve usually accumulated an interesting variety of odds and ends in the pockets.

In my right pocket, where things most often end up, I have my comb, two small butterfly paper clips, an unopened alcohol wipe, and a green plastic fly.

In my left pocket, where I carry more important items, my SFWA secret decoder ring awaits being used on relevant emails.

My nightstand is littered with the bits and pieces I pull out of my pockets before I go to bed at night. I’ve learned to make a ritual of this. There’s nothing like a few harsh metallic noises coming from the washer or dryer to cause the Spousal Unit unwelcome distress.

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There are different schools of thought on how writers should suit up for their daily work count. Some dress as if they were going to the office, because that is what they are doing. Some dress in a manner that helps them connect with the material they’re working on. I find that idea entertaining. If I were to dress in a manner suitable for the heroine of my current novel, I’d be wearing a yukata and zori. For the short story in progress, Victorian attire of the 1880s. Of the two I’d choose the yukata for summer comfort and ease of movement. I’ve worn corsets, but I confess I’m not a big fan of steel boning.

Pro tip: Nothing says we have to look like the back of the book photo all the time.

Back to the Bathrobe. Built for comfort, if not for style. When I’m writing, I want no distractions. If my shoes annoy me, I take them off. If the clip in my hair isn’t comfortable, out it goes. I’ve never carried this idea to its ultimate extreme, largely because I do most of my writing either at my favorite coffeehouse out in public, or here at home on the living room couch. Neither is an appropriate context for creating while I’m in my birthday suit.

I find that I do my best work when I’m comfortable. This means more than just wearing slippers and sitting in a comfy chair, although those can be important elements. I can’t write when I’m hungry. I really can’t concentrate when my blood sugar is low. I need a certain amount of background noise to help me focus. I don’t mind being a little cold, but I can’t stand being too hot. Total silence makes me jumpy, because the selective hearing I’ve developed over 22 years of having a medically fragile son keeps me alert for the sounds I should be hearing.

All this explains why I hang out at my local Peet’s Coffee so much. It provides everything I need to do good work.

There’s one really great aspect of the Bathrobe. Remember when we were little kids and pinned towels around our necks for capes? Or we used those old sheets to make a pillow fort? We could be anybody in those capes. The pillow fort could be a crater on Mars or the penthouse in Tahiti. That’s what the Bathrobe does for me. Because there’s no pressure, there’s no appearance to maintain, I can relax and be whoever I need to be for that day’s writing. Let the record show I own three different bathrobes.

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In her article about Authors and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman, Vanessa Friedman writes:

As Ms. Newman discovered, Virginia Woolf actually had a name for this awareness: “frock consciousness.” She used it to refer to the way she employed clothing to denote character, and changes in character, particularly as they applied to her book “Mrs. Dalloway.” But really, it’s a (not surprisingly) perfect turn of phrase that could apply to us all.

What do you wear when you write? Do you have a favorite set of writing clothes?

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #31


by Lillian Csernica on May 31, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

You must learn to broaden your horizons day by day.

A LEAF ON THE WIND

PART III

Kathleen regained consciousness. She kept her eyes shut and her breathing regular. Thousands of voices made a steady clamor somewhere just on the other side of a door or wall. She lay on a couch that held the lingering odors of sweaty bodies, stale pizza, and something sugary. Concrete. Paper. Old draperies.

“I know you’re awake.” A woman’s voice, both dainty and authoritative. “Sit up. There’s much to discuss.”

Kathleen opened her eyes to see an excellent copy of Jane Fonda’s Barbarella. Posters on the walls ran heavily to superhero themes, classic Kirby art along with movie posters from the Marvel universe. She sat up slowly. All those voices…. She groaned.

“A comic con? Really?”

“This is where we blend in best.” The woman frowned. “Well, here and Burning Man.”

“Who is ‘we’?”

“We don’t have time for the basics. What name did the man give you?”

“Leaf. Leaves that Fall At Twilight.”

“In what language?”

“Japanese.”

“Of course. I’ll give you another name for him: otaku. Are you familiar with that word?”

Kathleen nodded. It meant the crazier kind of fan boy, the one with obsessions and a poor sense of personal hygiene. “I take it that’s not his real name?”

“No. Human vocal chords can’t duplicate our language. The result would approximate a whale singing light opera on meth.”

The very idea made Kathleen’s brain hurt.

“On behalf of the members of my crew,” Barbarella said, “I apologize for Leaf’s disruption of your life. He means well, but he takes his hobbies too seriously.”

“‘Hobbies’? What part of his ‘hobbies’ am I?”

“He’s on our cultural analysis staff. He loves Earth storytelling, the classics and the trash and everything in between.”

“So he really did want to carry me off to some enchanted kingdom.”

“I think the word he used was ‘Wakanda.'”

Despite her consternation, Kathleen burst out laughing. “If there’s one place I’d want to go, that would be it.” She sighed. “Where is Leaf now?”

“In detention aboard our ship. He faces disciplinary action for using a breath weapon.”

“He didn’t hurt me.”

“Do you know what day it is?”

“If it isn’t Saturday, then no, I don’t.”

“It’s Sunday afternoon.”

“I’ve been out that long? Why?”

The faux Barbarella stared at Kathleen. She threw both hands upward and took a seat on the couch, facing Kathleen.

“You might as well hear all of it. Leaf carried you through the transport rift. He’d used a personal code to deliver him directly to his quarters. He might have kept you hidden long enough to make returning you to Earth too costly.”

“But?”

“When he applied the breath weapon, he lingered too long, allowing some of it to escape into the atmosphere. Our sensors alerted us immediately.”

“All this trouble because he wouldn’t stop kissing me in time?”

Barbarella nodded.

Kathleen felt a slight pang on Leaf’s behalf. It had been an amazing kiss. “What’s going to happen to him?”

“That will depend on how much damage control I can do before we return to our galaxy. The use of the breath weapon for the purposes of abduction violates at least three treaties.”

Kathleen could see where this was going. “Can you lock him into one biological shape?”

Barbarella looked at her in surprise. “Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Do it. Lock him into the Winter Soldier shape he was in when he appeared to me. Then leave him here on Earth.”

“What justice would that serve?”

“Exile. For a crime of the magnitude you’re describing, somebody will demand exile, permanent detention, or death.”

“What’s in this for you?”

Kathleen waved at one poster of Captain America: Winter Soldier. “Do you really have to ask? Leave him with me. He’ll be happy, you’ll be rid of a loose cannon, and I can keep an eye on him.”

“This would take time. The bio-ban alone–”

“Ever heard of marooning? That’s what you’ll do. He broke the rules. You abandoned him thousands of light years from home on a planet without the technological level that would enable him to escape. Your hands are clean.”

Barbarella gave her a grudging smile. “I’m almost sorry you won’t be coming back with us.”

“You’ll do it?”

“Understand, if he manages to cross the line again, both of you will pay for it.”

“I’ll take that risk.”

#

The following Thursday Kathleen came home from work to find Leaf sitting on her couch, remote in hand, surrounded by DVD cases and videogames and piles of books. On the coffee table sat a big salad bowl full of popcorn. Three empty pizza boxes stood in a neat pile by the front door. By the sound of the ’70s music, Leaf was watching Guardians of the Galaxy again.

“Hi, honey,” she called. “I’m home.”

Leaf hit Pause, sprang off the couch, and swept her up into a pepperoni-flavored kiss.

END

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #27


by Lillian Csernica on May 27, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Past inspirations and experiences will be helpful in your job.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

Ellen sat at one round marble table. It was just big enough to hold her laptop and a cup of overpriced coffee. As she surveyed the earnest faces clustered around the grouping of three little tables, she wondered if she should have ordered a double espresso. Three women in the fifty-plus range. Two men, one a retired welder and the other a skinny, twitchy fellow in his thirties. She knew better than to make assumptions, but these people looked about as exciting as the smell of boiling brussel sprouts.

The mission in St. Petersberg had been way too exciting. Two assets dead, a safe house blown up, and bad blood with the other agencies involved. Ellen came out of it with a concussion, internal bruising, and eight weeks’ mandatory leave while the investigation tried to sort out who screwed who when. Her agency’s psych team recommended she take up some quiet hobby.

Birdwatching had felt too much like surveillance work. On the plus side, Ellen had called in three drug deals, two stolen cars, and the beginnings of a home invasion.

One quilting class convinced her that she’d become a chess master before she got the hang of all the patterns and pieces.

Knitting was right out. As Ellen’s supervisor had put it, “Anybody who puts a pair of needles that long into Ellen’s hands better bring a big stack of body bags.”

So here she was, at a local writing group.

Felicia, the group’s “facilitator,” tapped her spoon against her coffee cup. She beamed a perfect PTA Mom smile. “I’d like to welcome you all to the first meeting of this session. Why don’t we start by introducing ourselves. Tell us your name and you preferred genre.”

Ellen let the names wash past her in the general noise of the coffeehouse. The ’60s rock on the PA system combined with the bean grinder to trigger the beginnings of a headache. A fine excuse for more caffeine. Her turn came.

“Ellen. Nonfiction.”

“Any particular kind?” Felicia asked.

For a moment Ellen was tempted to say forensic archaeology. At the agency she’d developed a reputation for being able to guess time of death to within half an hour on a fresh body, and to within a week on anyone they had to recover.

“Oh, you know. Household hints, Martha Stewart stuff.”

She’d looked up various women writers, hoping to work up some kind of profile she could match. Back of the book photos qualified as glamor shots among the literary intelligentsia. Ellen had found the genre writers more to her liking, especially the fantasy and mystery people. With them in mind she wore jeans, a T shirt with a Dashiell Hammet classic cover, and a gray cardigan.

“Let’s get started,” Felicia said. “Fifteen minutes for our first writing prompt.” She tapped a few keys on her laptop. “Here we are. ‘Journeys end in lovers’ meeting.'”

Everyone grabbed their pens or bent to their keyboards. Ellen stared at the blank page. Her journeys ended in meetings, all right, but not with lovers. There was no love lost between her and the people the agency sent her to “meet.”

“Ellen,” Felicia murmured. “Remember, keep the pen moving.”

The man lay there on the sidewalk, surrounded by pieces of the shattered window glass. It was almost pretty, the way the streetlights’ sodium glare reflected off all the shiny bits, giving the man a halo in death he’d surely never earned in life. Did he have a wife somewhere? Would she miss him? Time would pass. Sooner or later she’d realize he was never coming home. Would she cry? Would she miss him? Or would she heave a secret sigh of relief? So many problems solved, so many arguments that now would never happen. There were loose ends. There were always loose ends. That’s why God invented scissors. A few discreet snips here and there and everything would be nice and tidy. She’d always been an independent woman. Now she could enjoy a more complete freedom.

Ellen smiled. Maybe this writing thing would work out after all.

END

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #25


by Lillian Csernica on May 25, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Laughter shall fuel the spirit’s engine.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Kyoto. Nice hotel room. More like an apartment.

Could not figure out how to work the overhead light. Little reading lights by each bed.

Found what looked like an upright card reader where a light switch would be.

Stuck my room key in, light came on, pulled my key out. A minute later the light went out. Rinse, repeat, about three times.

Called front desk. Explained problem. They were puzzled. Sent a guy to check.

He put my key card in the slot. Light came on. He didn’t see any problem. Why?

HE LEFT THE KEY CARD IN THE KEY READER.

That was the secret! Once I removed the key, as I would if I was leaving the room, then the lights would automatically turn off about a minute after I’d left the room.

I have rarely felt like such a total bonehead.

 

 

 

 

 

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #19


by Lillian Csernica on May 19, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Your shoes will make you happy today.

 

 

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #16


by Lillian Csernica on May 16, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.

VICTORY IS SWEET

Regina sat in the highest room atop the marble tower on the Isle of the Turquoise Clouds. In honor of the coming moment, she wore midnight blue velvet, her river of black hair swept up and held in place with clusters of diamonds. On the desk before her lay two pieces of parchment. On one, a list topped by the word Temptation. On the other, a similar list topped by the word Opportunity. She contemplated the words written beneath Temptation, inked in the blood of a rare night bird. Words of power. Words of warning. Dangerous words. As such, all the more attractive.

Beneath Opportunity lay words written in ink made of water from the Sacred Spring of Seven Rainbows mixed with the crushed petals of the Sunrise Lotus, which blossomed only on the morning of the first day of the New Year. Fortune favored the prepared mind. Regina had made her preparations with the greatest care. The decision that lay before her could alter destinies beyond the scope of her imagination, perhaps even beyond the reach of her dreams.

The first full moon of Spring hung round and bright. The night-blooming flowers raised their faces in its silvery light, loosing their fragrances upon the evening breeze. The constellations graced the heavens with their sparkling patterns. Regina read the lists again, then bent her head. A nod, a bow, a gesture of surrender to the ineffable powers of Chance and Fate.

The hourglass ran empty. The moment of decision had arrived.

At the base of the tower, the ship’s bell rang three times. Regina rose from the desk, taking one list with her. She walked to the ivory lattice gates that opened onto a shaft running the length of the tower. Summoning a turquoise cloud, Regina descended to the ground floor. She raised one hand and the heavy oaken door swung inward.

Before her stood a creature that came up to her shoulder. It wore a white shirt, blue lederhosen, black shoes with shiny buckles, and one of those ridiculous Robin Hood-style hats that failed to hide the creature’s pointed ears. On one small hand rested an oblong box wrapped in scarlet silk. On the other hand rested another oblong box wrapped in silk the blue of a perfect summer sky.

“The red,” Regina said.

“You are certain?” The creature’s high, reedy voice sounded like crickets. “The penalty is the loss of our deliveries for the remainder of your lifetime.”

“Do not presume to instruct me. The next decision I make could cause you considerable pain.”

The creature bowed. “As you wish.”

Regina took the scarlet box and unwrapped the silk. To choose Temptation was to risk everything she’d learned, everything she’d built. To choose Opportunity meant running the same risk, but the reward was tremendous.

The silk fell away, baring a box made of sturdy brown paper. She opened the end flaps. A tube of mirror-bright silver slid out onto her palm. Inside lay twenty-four discs of the finest baked confection known to any living being.

“Well chosen,” the creature said. “Few can penetrate the logic of the double-bluff.” It stepped back and made Regina another bow. “Until next year.”

END

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#blogchallenge: Fortune Cookie #7


by Lillian Csernica on May 7, 2018

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Today’s fortune says:

A surprise gift from another will make a lasting impression.

 

The Kindness of Cousins

Bennie stirred the potion with a copper rod. Three circles right, three circles left. If he’d added the ingredients in strict accord with the recipe, the copper rod would show it by remaining clean and shiny.  Taking a deep breath, Bennie lifted the rod out of the potion.

Verdigris.

Bennie flung the corroded rod into the corner where three other rods already lay. He didn’t want to dump out another three hours’ work. He didn’t want to start again. He did want to complete the potion and show Magister Verlaine proof that not all of the Magister’s harsh criticisms were valid.

Bennie grabbed an earthenware mug in the shape of a toadstool and poured himself a beer. He wasn’t the best at making potions, but he did brew a damn fine beer.

A flutter of wings drew his attention to the window. The shutters were open wide to keep the fresh air blowing in and dissipating the fumes from the potion. A red shouldered hawk hopped down from the windowsill and gave Bennie an expectant look. A small cloth pouch hung round the hawk’s neck on a cord.

“Oh, hello, Alistair.” Bennie picked up a dish of seed corn from the kitchen shelf. “Here you go.” He set the dish on the floor.

Alistair straightened up and bit through the cord around his feathered neck. The pouch fell to the floor and Alistair fell on the seed corn, pecking away. Bennie gathered up the pouch, wondering what Alma May had sent him this time. His cousin had already survived the rigors of Magister Verlaine’s teaching style. The pouch contained a small scroll and a single peridot as big as the tip of his thumb.

“Greetings, Benedict. I hear you’re mixing the Contrass Potion. Let me give you a short cut. Grab a fresh copper rod. Three turns left, drop the peridot in the potion, then three turns right. Check your rod, then hold this scroll in the fumes.”

With a profound sense of relief, Bennie drained his mug of beer and snatched up a fresh rod. Setting the mug aside, he took a deep breath, stirred three circles left, then dropped the peridot into the potion. Three circles right, and—

Lavender light burst upward from the potion, blinding Bennie and sending him staggering backward. He tripped over a stack of books and fell sprawling. The rod. The rod! Shaking off the slight spinning in his head, Bennie staggered up and yanked the copper rod from the potion. Clean. Shiny.  Perfect!

Bennie let out a shout of delight. He grabbed the scroll and held it over the potion. Alma May’s writing faded out. New writing scribbled itself across the scroll.

“Look in the mirror. What color do you see?”

Puzzled, Bennie hurried over to the round mirror hung over his sink. He hadn’t heard of the Contrass Potion affecting the silver backing of mirrors, but if it could corrode copper, it might blacken silver as well.

Bennie stared into the perfectly ordinary mirror. His face was now a lovely shade of lavender, made all the more bizarre by the scattering of green bumps. The scroll in his hand stung his fingers with a sudden mild burst of magic. He held it up to read the new message.

“Rule One: Never take short cuts. Rule Two: Never trust a sudden free offer of help. MV will accept the potion, but the price for your gullibility is seven days of wearing this face. Much love, your laughing cousin.”

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The Great Fortune Cookie Challenge!


by Lillian Csernica on May 2, 2018

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Now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath after the A to Z Blog Challenge, I feel like keeping the ball rolling. For years I’ve had the peculiar hobby of keeping every single fortune I’ve ever received from a fortune cookie. I eat a lot of Chinese food, so I’ve amassed quite a collection.

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onepassionpalace.com

Every day in May (except Sundays) I will post a new fortune. Here are your options:

Write a flash fiction story, 500 words maximum.

Find or create an image that expresses your interpretation of the fortune’s meaning.

Tell us how the day’s fortune has come true for you!

Once you’ve created your blog post, come back here to that day’s fortune and post the link to your blog entry. That way we can all run around seeing the variety of interpretations everyone comes up with.

Since we’re starting off on the 2nd of May, I’ll give you two fortunes to choose from:

There are big changes ahead for you

Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.

I will pop in later with my own fortune cookie post. Let the creativity begin!

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#atozchallenge G is for Garden Party


by Lillian Csernica on April 7, 2018

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One of the key elements of the Kyoto Steampunk series is writing each story from a different character’s point of view. Blown Sky High (Thirty Days Later) features a garden party presided over by Constance. This was an excellent opportunity to let the reader into her mind and see just how Constance is coping with the challenge of navigating through Kyoto’s expatriate society along with all the Japanese diplomats Dr. Harrington encounters.

A Victorian garden party is a lavish affair, held outdoors in a fine English garden full of stately oaks, manicured hedges, and an abundance of flowers. In 1880, did Kyoto provide the necessary landscape? Traditional trees in a Japanese garden included pine, bamboo, and plum. Because they do so well in winter, they symbolize steadfastness, perseverance, and resilience.

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Springtime flowers in Kyoto include irises, azalea, hydrangea, plum blossoms, and waterlilies. Best of all are the roses. If you’re planning a visit to Kyoto, be sure to see the Kyoto Botanical Garden.

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Blown Sky High is an important story in the series. It’s more lighthearted, and it takes a look at the expectations placed upon “the fairer sex.” When events at the party take a sudden unexpected turn, Constance must look to Madelaine and her bluestocking habits to save the day. To learn more about Victorian women who redefined their roles in society, please read this excellent article.

 

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NaNoWriMo 2017: Fantasy for Fun & Profit


by Lillian Csernica on October 20, 2017

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That’s right. I’ve gone and done it. I have officially signed up for NaNoWriMo 2017.

I’m in the editing stage of The Flower Maiden Saga, so this year I’m going back to basics and writing a good old-fashioned sword & sorcery novel. When I first started to read fantasy, I gravitated to C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry, Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and of course Conan the Barbarian. Red Nails remains one of the most chilling and thrilling stories of its kind.

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Now the tricky part will be getting my daily 1667 words written while I’m doing all of this November stuff as well:

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A road trip up to EuCon in Eugene, Oregon. John will be teaching drawing classes in the Art Bus, which is sponsored by Imagination International Incorporated, the folks who make Copic markers.

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Making Thanksgiving happen.

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Celebrating John’s birthday.

And the usual daily chaos that keeps me on my toes.

All this and write 50,000 words? 200 pages? No problem!

Stay tuned, folks. Let’s see if I can make it to the end of November before my head explodes!

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