Category Archives: steampunk

5 Favorite Guides to Get Writing Again


by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2017

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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!

Four Ways to Rediscover Your Passion for Writing

Nailing Scene Structure

100 Prompts for Writing about Yourself

Stop Putting Off Writing: 9 Experts’ Solutions

End Writing Procrastination Now

 

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How to Plan For Success


by Lillian Csernica on January 2, 2017

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I’ve been doing a lot of research lately. The marketplace for writers is more competitive than ever. There are plenty of articles and blog posts and other advice venues full of tips on how to get where we want to go with our writing. It gets confusing, and not a little overwhelming.

As I’ve said in other posts, I’m not a fan of making New Year’s Resolutions. Too much pressure, especially at a time of year when we’re all recovery from the mad dash of the holidays. I do believe in setting goals and making plans. With that in mind, allow me to share with you my plan for 2017.

To be successful as a writer, I must make a daily effort in each of these three areas:

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WRITING

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EDITING

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PROMOTION

I’ve been reading up on the work habits of some of my favorite Big Names, such as William Nolan, who says he writes for three hours a day. Some years ago when I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Zelazny, he told me he sat down at the keyboard four times a day and wrote at least three sentences each time. During at least one of those times his writing would take off and he’d get a satisfactory amount of work done for that day. Esther Friesner and Janet Evanovich have also provided some excellent guidance about figuring out one’s optimal work habits.

On January 9th, school is back in session here in our neck of the woods. On that day I will launch my new work schedule. My office hours will be from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., with the exception of days when I’ve scheduled appointments.

Now here’s the breakdown of my work time, a division of labor which I hope will lead to making progress on several fronts:

10 a.m. until noon — Writing fresh material.

Noon to 1 p.m. — Editing short fiction from what I call my Mending Pile. I may well write more on these projects as well.

1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Pursuing the noble art of Shameless Self-Promotion. Blogging. Tweeting. Researching markets. Trading reviews. I must promote my own work, but I also have a duty to do my share of promoting the anthologies that include my stories.

My boys come home from school around 2:30 p.m. I want to be available for help with their homework, listening to how their days have gone, and in general being a good Mom. It’s very easy for me to stay shut away in my Ivory Tower while I’m working. That’s not OK. I can do that later after the boys are asleep.

I also want to be sure I have time during daylight to get out for a walk. I need more exercise, more time in the sun, and more contact with my neighbors. I may be an extrovert by nature, but the writing life tends to encourage being a recluse if you have a passion for research or you get your hands on a good book and lose all track of time.

Wish me luck! I will keep you posted on how well my plan is working.

 

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Taking Inventory on Success


by Lillian Csernica on December 28, 2016

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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!

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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!

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News from NaNo Land


by Lillian Csernica on November 13th, 2016

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It’s a good thing women are neurologically wired for multitasking. Without that advantage, I would be a smoking pile of rubble right now.

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In addition to cranking out seven pages of fresh writing every day on my NaNo novel, I’ve had to edit and polish two short stories. The first weighed in at 3300 words, the second at 5300. Both were due today. I sent them to my editor last night. Go, me!

As if all that wasn’t enough fun, I’ve had brainstorms for at least two new short stories.

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This is all good, but it feels like Finals Week. I’ve been downing so much caffeine I’m surprised my arrhythmia hasn’t started up again. The only cure for mental fatigue is getting away from reading and writing for a little while. (I never really thought of grocery shopping as being therapeutic, but today’s trip to the market qualified!)

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So this is what the Big Names do all the time. Wow. Let’s hope I can keep this up after the formal end of NaNoWriMo. It’s good to be preoccupied with my writing. That really keeps the depression under control.

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Why Deadlines Are Your Best Friends


by Lillian Csernica on October 24, 2016

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Yesterday I kept thinking I need to blog. Gotta blog today. Must write an original blog post.

And then I’d push on with the scene I was writing for my latest short story.

Between writing, research, more writing, and a few breaks to loosen up mind and body, before I knew it midnight was fast approaching.

So here I am today, showered, caffeinated, and making this blog post Item Number One on my To Do list.

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I have a story deadline coming up. In fact, for this particular anthology I’m committed to delivering two short stories that relate to each other. I know I absolutely must get these stories written, edited, polished, and delivered before NaNoWriMo  begins. Once the starter gun fires and we race toward the 50,000 word finish line, I want to be focused on pouring all my writing time and energy into my NaNo novel.

People often think deadlines come at the end, when you have to hand in the homework, the article, the novel manuscript. A deadline can also mark the beginning of a project. This is why there’s #NaNoPrep, along with lots of advice on the Internet about everything you need to accomplish before November 1.

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Deadlines also create accountability. If you know you’d better have something to read at your next writer’s group meeting, you’re more likely to get it written. Never underestimate the power of potential embarrassment as a motivational tool.

Deadlines keep me organized. Deadlines help me prioritize. Deadlines help me generate the creative pressure that makes the words keep coming. For me, deadlines are the surest protection against writer’s block.

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99 Cents Sale!


Thinking Ink Press, the publisher of Thirty Days Later, Steaming Forward: 30 Adventures in Time” is putting the Kindle version of the anthology on sale for 99 cents! This is a limited time sale, just until September 7th. Get your Harry Turtledove fix for under a buck!

via Sale on Thirty Days Later — Welcome to the Treehouse!

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How to Escape Giving Negative Critiques


by Lillian Csernica on August 23, 2016

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Whether or not you’re involved in a writing group, there comes a time when one of your fellow writers will ask you to read his or her manuscript. If this person has already done you the favor of reading one of yours, you are more or less honor bound to return the kindness.

If you and your colleague are at a comparable level in your writing skills, this could turn out to be a very pleasant and profitable exchange of ideas and perspectives.  This is the best case scenario, and the reason why I urge anyone seriously considering joining a writer’s group to bear in mind these potential issues.

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Sooner or later, the moment will come when you are faced with the terrible prospect of reading a manuscript that is so bad that every page is absolute torture.  No amount of cheery and euphemistic commentary can conceal the fact that this particular stack of paper besmirched with little black ink marks is really, really bad.  Your eyes ache, your fingers are cramped from making copy editing marks, and you’re left with the unhappy knowledge that reading this mess has taken up hours of your life that you will never get back again.

What can we do to protect our sanity, our writing time, and the integrity of our relationships with colleagues while still sparing ourselves the ordeal of forcing ourselves to endure really bad writing?

Honesty  There are some types of fiction that do not appeal to me, so I rarely read them. Regency romance. Westerns. Space opera. Really gruesome horror. Since I don’t read much in these genres, I’m not a very good judge of what works and what doesn’t according to the usual reader expectations. Therefore I can step aside with a clear conscience.

Time  Life gets more and more crowded every day. Finding the time to do our own writing and editing can be difficult enough. Making time for additional critiquing may not be possible. If one has a standing commitment to a regular writing group, that’s one thing. That commitment must be honored. Outside of that, however, a judicious application of the word NO might be essential.

Referral  If you know somebody in your circle of writing acquaintances who might be willing to take on the burden of this critique, present your appeal with full disclosure.  If your colleague agrees, make the connection between the owner of the manuscript and the willing victim, give them your blessing, and exit stage left.

What do you think? Am I being reasonable here? Or am I being to harsh in declaring some manuscripts way too much of a not very good thing?

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5 Ways to Improve the Action in Your Story


by Lillian Csernica on August 13, 2016

Writers tend to be visually oriented. We see our stories playing out much like movies inside our minds. Whatever we can do to enhance the clarity of the images and information we want to convey to the reader will improve the strength of our stories. That clarity begins with making sure we can see exactly what’s going on.

Map out the key locations.  Start with just the distances between the major settings. If you want to get into topography, go for it. Bear in mind there’s a difference between miles on land and nautical miles.

Draw the important action. Draw one scene between two characters on a stage. You could also look down on the action, using an aerial view to keep track of items or characters outside of the protagonist’s sight lines. Split the page into four sections and take the comic book approach!

Storyboard the whole plot. Here’s yet another instance where the index card is the writer’s best friend. I recommend 4×6 size. A cork board, some push pins, and you’ve got your whole story laid out in front of you. On Pinterest you can find another definition of the novel storyboard which might also be quite helpful.

Illustrate the main character’s state of mind. Color can be very powerful on the intuitive level.  Put aside realism for the moment and have a go at the Impressionist school of art. Give the character’s dominant emotion a color. If emotions are clashing, assign a color to each and show that. Does the primary motivation suggest a particular color? Is there a Dark Secret lurking in the back of this character’s mind?

Color code the wardrobes for the major characters. This might sound silly, but if you have more than half a dozen characters to keep track of, you’ll be glad to have an easy way to keep this straight.  This is an even higher priority in historical fiction, where the clothing gets a lot more complicated, along with the fabrics, shades, and appropriate accessories.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t require Da Vinci level drawing skills. The whole purpose of the exercise is to get a clearer picture in our mind’s eye so we can choose the best words to describe the action. Have fun!

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Reblog: No Alphas Here by Polly J. Brown


Beta readers have been on my mind a lot lately. Over the past month, I’ve been polishing up my manuscript, reviewing critique comments and suggestions, and fixing plot holes or inconsistencies. My goal is to send it to beta readers in the next few months before I begin the querying process. I’ve also been a […]

via No Alphas Here by Polly J. Brown — Happy Authors Guild

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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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