Tag Archives: Arts

The Greatest Job I’ve Ever Had


by Lillian Csernica on September 17, 2016

bellydancejob2

Yes, that’s me. Granted, I was all of eighteen.

Once upon a time, I worked as a Turkish-Moroccan belly dancer. My teacher was a delightful lady from Zaragoza, Spain. I had a genuine, 100% authentic coin belt made by a  man from Turkey. The belt had 144 diamond-shaped metal coins stamped with the image of Venus on the Half-Shell.

avshell

I performed in my high school talent show. The audience actually threw money at the stage. That in itself was funny. Then the stagehands gathered it all up and brought it to me backstage!

My teacher often took me with her when she’d been hired for a party. During the holiday season, we appeared as part of a steady stream of entertainers at a bachelor party. Just one piece of art on the walls in that house could have put me through college. That was the night I got the biggest tip I’d ever received. Some generous soul stuffed a $10 bill down the back of my coin belt!

Ah, the places I’ve been and the things that I’ve seen….

bellydancer

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Filed under artists, birthday, charity, cosplay, fantasy, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, Small business, travel

Sexy Pirate Cover Art!


by Lillian Csernica on April 7, 2016

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Please vote for SHIP OF DREAMS in Author Shout’s Cover Wars contest!

The prize?

Author Shout says:

The cover with the most votes becomes our book of the week in which we will promote for one week on our site, shout outs, and our newsletter.

Thank you for your support.  The cover was designed by Bridget McKenna of Zone 1 Design, and extremely talented and knowledgeable lady.

 

can-stock-photo_csp15687691

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Filed under artists, creativity, dreams, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, history, Lillian Csernica, love, pirates, romance, tall ships, Writing

On Tour in My Own Back Yard


by Lillian Csernica on October 18, 2015

This weekend Santa Cruz County held its Open Studio Art tour.  The city of Santa Cruz is known as a haven for artists of all kinds.  What people often don’t realize is that up here in the mountains we’ve got a lot of artists as well.

John’s ceramics class had a serious project to complete.  Each student had to go to at least three of the studios on the tour and do what amounted to an interview.  The project worksheets included questions about what mood the artist was trying to create, comparing two different pieces by the same artist, and how the artists the student chose to visit could inspire that student’s own artwork.

John comes from a long line of artists on my mother’s side:

His great- great-grandmother ran a modeling agency back in the 1930s.

His great-grandmother wrote a society column for the newspaper, raised some amazing roses, and created artwork using textiles and ceramics and other media.

His great-grandfather was a professional photographer and filmmaker.

His grandmother sketches and paints, as well as creating multimedia artwork.

His mother (that’s me!) has worked as a professional bellydancer, and actor, and currently as a professional writer.

John is primarily a graphic artist, but he’s learning how to use computer graphics, clay, and other media.

I steered John toward three artists who live here in the San Lorenzo Valley.  John and Michael have lived their whole lives in this area.  It’s good for John to know he doesn’t have to go to a museum to see art.  What’s more, on the tour you’re allowed to see the artists’ studios where they create the pieces on display.

First Studio: Janet Silverglate.  Ms. Silverglate creates art by using found objects, many of which are what most of us would consider scrap materials or just plain junk.  Her style of art is called assemblage.  Each work of art is one of a kind.  John and I were both drawn to a circular artwork that included pieces from several different games such as Scrabble tiles, chess pieces, old Bingo cards, and even some Pick-Up Stix.  The overall look and feel put me in mind of the Kachina dolls I’ve seen in the southwest.

Second Studio: Larry and Pat Worley

Larry Worley takes basket weaving to a whole new level.  My favorite piece was a woven seashell the size of a small suitcase wound around a piece of redwood driftwood.  Simply stunning.

Pat Worley is a textile artist.  One side of her display featured long, rectangular silk scarves dyed in rich, vibrant colors such as fuschia and aquamarine.  The scarves all had leaf patterns running the length of the silk in either silver or gold.  The other side of the display showcased what I thought of as small quilts because of the many pieces of fabric arranged to form patterns or scenes.  The dominant color scheme was black, brown, and rust, with maple leaves as a frequent motif.  Ms. Worley explained the method she used to make the fabric for these as “reverse tie-dye.”  Starting with black cloth and using bleach, she would coax a variety of shades out of the material.  Impressive!

Third studio: Bob Hughes.  To say that Mr. Hughes makes wooden boxes is to say Monet liked to paint flowers.  My favorite box was shaped like the diacritical mark called a tilde, used to denote the palatal nasal sound of the “eñe” in words such as mañana. Mr. Hughes makes more than just boxes.  His vases and candle holders combine varieties of woods, or woods and metals.  Mr. Hughes was kind enough to explain to John, using a guide with step by step images, how he made a particular vase.  John is a visual learner, so this really helped him understand Mr. Hughes’ artistic process.

The artists were all happy to know I wanted John to get a wider understanding of how many ways people create art, and what’s inside them that wants to be expressed.  Getting a good grade on the project is important, but more than that, John has so much potential just waiting to come out through his drawing skills.

Take a look at your local community arts news items.  You’d be amazed what’s waiting for you in your own back yard!

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Filed under art show, artists, autism, creativity, Family, family tradition, home town, homework, Writing

Blog/Link Party


This is such a great idea. The more the merrier, right?

Dream Big, Dream Often

Pass along this link for the Meet n Greet. The more people see the more participants!!

Also, click this link, In Need of Reblogging Material, and I will reblog one of your posts. I am happy that so many have enjoyed this experience as it has brought me so much pleasure knowing it has helped bring exposure to those writers that needed views and follows.

Happy Monday everyone!

Danny

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The Top Ten Things I Love & Hate About Being Creative


by Lillian Csernica on July 15th, 2015

The delightful lady known as @jazzfeathers on Twitter has tagged me to participate in the Love/Hate Blog Challenge.  I’m a big fan of making lists, so I thought I’d give it a go.  If you’d like to see @jazzfeather’s list, visit her at The Old Shelter.

I LOVE

1) Making things.  Jewelry, cookies, Christmas ornaments, a good story.  Beadwork has proven to be good occupational therapy.

2) Being able to run away from home inside my own head.  In my imagination there’s always a road not taken.

3) Hanging out with other creative people.  Hearing them talk about how they see the world and process their sources of inspiration.  My creative drive to write has taken me to groups and lectures and conventions, to other states and even to other countries.  In my circles we say “Only writers really understand writers.”  I wonder if that’s true for painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, et al?

4) I’ve spent most of my life reading, writing, going to the movies, and watching way too much TV.  I’ve explored acting, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, and making a really terrible science fiction movie (high school project).  My creative streak has taken me in a lot of directions.

5) Being creative is an essential element of parenting.  As hard as life has been for me and my sons, there have still been those moments of shared discovery.  Finding out which types of music Michael likes best.  John’s first taste of chocolate ice cream.  Making up games Michael could play with just his right hand.  Making up other games that helped John learn the skills he needed to attend public school.

6) Creative thinking has proven one of my greatest weapons in the war I fight against my depression.  When the Black Dog comes scratching at the door, it can take a lot of work to make it leave again.  Self-talk, journal writing, art therapy, making something by hand, volunteering or just getting out the crayons and a coloring book.  Our motto at my house is “Whatever works!”

7) I come from a long line of creative women.  My mother takes amazing photographs and also draws or paints.  My grandmother wrote a society column for the newspaper along with having quite an adventurous life.  She once fought a bull in the corrida in Mexico and won!

8) I’m always learning.  There’s always something new to discover, to explore.

9) Being creative comes in very handy when my insomnia takes over.

10)  I’m never bored.  I really don’t understand how people can suffer boredom when there’s so much to see and feel and do.  One lifetime is not enough!

I HATE

1) So many ideas, so little time.

2) Sometimes when I get caught up in the rush of enthusiasm that comes with a new idea, I get carried away with it and annoy the people around me.  That has occasionally led to arguments, which are a real buzz kill.

3) Aside from more time, the one thing I need the most of is concentration.  I live in a world of relative chaos.  One change and all the dominoes for that day start to fall.  It can even spread to the rest of the week.  Stress stress stress.

4) I grew up with my grandmother often telling me to “get my nose out of that book.”  It’s astonishing how many people can’t stand seeing someone sitting alone at a table reading or writing in a notebook.  They assume you must be bored and feel some warped humanitarian compulsion to interrupt and drag you off to some “fun” activity.

5) Having an artistic temperament is not a 24/7 blessing.  Quite the opposite.  More than once I’ve asked my mental health care professionals whether or not I am in fact bi-polar.  Nope.  Not even uni-polar.  I have Major Depressive Disorder.  Creative people tend to live in a heightened state of awareness all the time.  That can and does take a serious toll.  It goes along way toward explaining why some creative people resort to substance abuse, either as a way to maintain the creative high or as a means to come down off it.

6) A classic struggle for creative women is the choice between art or family.  It’s difficult to enjoy being a wife and mother when you want and need to be left alone for long stretches of time so you can work on your art.  That’s not really compatible with the ’50s ideal of the Stepford Wife.  Times have changed, but for the most part, expectations haven’t.  I write when my sons are either in school or asleep.

7) Some days I wish my imagination would just shut up.  It would be nice to sit in a coffee house drinking iced chai and just watching the clouds drift by.  I suppose it’s an occupational hazard to see the tattoo on the back of the barista’s neck and invent the deep inner upheavals that made getting that particular tattoo so important.  You can take the pen out of my hand, but you can’t make me stop writing!

8) Knowing what I can’t have.  I can’t plunge into a jewelery business on Etsy.  I can’t spend as much time as I would like hiding out in libraries sucking up all the strange and attractive odds and ends I find on the bookshelves.  Worst of all, I can’t have any of the heroes that people my stories because they’re just not real.

9) The signs were there, from kindergarten onward.  Big vocabulary, avid reader, drawings more detailed, asking so many questions.  I was “different.”  I felt it, even then.  My classmates certainly sensed it.  For me school was either drudgery, extra credit, or a nightmarish social minefield.  A lot of reasons combined to create those circumstances, but I’m positive one major contributing factor was me being creative, possessed of the artistic temperament.

10) I have a very difficult time throwing anything significant away.  Mementos, theater programs, fortunes from fortune cookies, little plastic toys from the Boardwalk.  These are touchstones, gateways to moments in my life I want to keep alive.  The trouble is, when you’re a kid you don’t have that many.  Once you’re my age, the trinkets start to pile up.  Too much emotional energy gets tied up into those souvenirs.  I have to take it back, which makes me sad.

And now, I must tag ten more bloggers!

Patricia MacEwen, Juliette Wade, Reggie Lutz, Alex Hurst, Sue Archer, ruralspaceman, David Snape, Cliff Winnig, Emerian Rich, Setsu Uzume

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Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, creativity, Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Writing

Conventions: Business and Pleasure


by Lillian Csernica on October 22, 2013

Hi there!  I just got back from a total of five days away from home.  Much to my delight, I had the pleasure of being one of the pro guests at Conjecture/ConChord.  Many thanks to Allison Lonsdale who took on not just Programming but Publicity and Publications as well.  She did a marvelous job.

Let’s talk about conventions.  Networking online is very important in the Digital Age, but there’s still nothing better for cementing relationships (business or personal) than just hanging out together shooting the breeze.  My sister-in-law gave me a t-shirt that reads “I’m raising a child with Autism.  What’s your superpower?”  I wore this t-shirt on Saturday with the specific intention of letting other people know that autism is part of my life and I’m willing to talk about it.  Among folks in sf/f fandom there are people on the spectrum, Aspies in particular.  Sure enough, I got into at least three different conversations with people.  The great thing about wearing the t-shirt was the way it helped us all hop over all the complicated social interaction involved in meeting people for the first time.  Granted, cons tend to encourage a less formal atmosphere, but it’s still not easy to start talking about being on the spectrum or having children who are on there somewhere.

Please go visit Lesson Plan For Life: How a Man on the Spectrum Learns to Live.  The young man who writes this blog is lively and dynamic and determined.

The business aspect of conventions is important too.  Shameless self-promotion is even more important today than it was when I started going to cons back in ’93.  There’s so much competition, there are so many blogs and websites and e-zines.  You have got to get yourself out there, shake some hands, pass out bookmarks or magnets or whatever freebies work for you, and establish yourself as a person behind your name, behind your “brand.”  I was happy to have copies of Mystic Signals and Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2 with me.  Nothing proves you’re a pro like having publications in front of you.  Here’s a tip:  if your work appears in electronic format, get a good cover image, make a color copy, and laminate it.  Now you have something you can carry around to con after con.  It’s even more valuable if your name appears on the cover!

Meeting other writers at cons can begin the daisy chain that leads you to an opportunity, be it a market or an editor or an agent.  The wider your network of contacts, the likelier you are to hear about such an opportunity in time to act on it.  I really hate hearing about a great anthology only to find out the window of opportunity will close before I can get a story ready for submission.  The more people who know you personally and whom you know, the stronger the connection and the likelier you are to think of each other when these opportunities arise.

Let’s not overlook the Fun Factor.  Writing is a hard, lonely, often frustrating business.  Nobody understands writers like other writers. Howard Tayler, creator of Schlock Mercenary, was the Artist GoH.  My husband is a long-time reader, so I seized the opportunity to get Chris a sketch card and one of the Tagon’s Toughs coins.   On Sunday afternoon as Conjecture/ConChord was winding down, I found myself on the patio outside the Con suite, eating too much Halloween candy and chatting away with some new friends I’d made.  Who should come out and join the group but Larry Niven himself?  Yow!  We had some fun talking about the time I met Dr. Jerry Pournelle.  Earlier in the day My partner in crime Pat MacEwen and I crossed paths with GoH Esther Friesner in the Dealers’ Room.  Esther and I share an interest in Japan, so she was telling me about her adventures in Tokyo.  If it sounds like I’m name dropping, I am and I’m not.  Conventions create the circumstances that allow you to hang out with your idols, whether or not you’re also a professional writer.  If that isn’t Fun, I don’t know what is.

So here I am, home again.  I’m fired up to finish the edit on the Japanese novel, to keep converting my published work to electronic formats, and to write new material Pat and I thought up during the ten hour drive down to San Diego and the ten hour drive home again.  The adventure continues!

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Filed under Conventions, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Special needs, Writing

The Stress Meter Blew Up


by Lillian Csernica on October 14, 2013

Yes, that’s right, the Stress Meter blew up yesterday and I’m still picking pieces of shrapnel out of my psyche.

Here’s my Deal With It list:

John is having trouble adjusting to the amount of homework high school is piling on him.  This has been resulting in discipline problems, noncompliant behavior, shouting matches, and punishments (loss of privileges).

Michael is having more seizures more frequently.  Last weekend he had a tonic clonic seizure, which is the worst one short of staticus epilepticus.  He’s tired all the time, his cognitive functioning is down, and he’s getting combative more often.

John’s aides are having problems keeping organized regarding his homework, projects, etc.  His school aide does not communicate with us very well.

I’m starting to have anxiety attacks again.  So far it’s been one a day, but if matters don’t lighten up around here, I may have to speak to the doctor about my medication.

Last but far from least, I had to fire one of Michael’s three nurses.  Understand that given the nursing shortage, we’re going to have a hell of a time replacing her, so I did not fire this woman on a whim.  Truth be told, my husband never should have hired her in the first place.  I trusted his judgment when I should have gone over the woman’s resume with a microscope.  I’m so happy she’s gone.  That lightens my load right there.  When the two other nurses start coming to me with their concerns about the third one, that’s a serious warning that must be taken seriously.  So she’s gone.  Hallelujah.

Did I mention my workload?  I’ve got the novel edit, I’ve got my first ebook project to edit, I’m waiting on the second half of the book doctor job I’m doing, and I just finished reviewing eighteen short stories in one issue of a major spec fic ‘zine.  Still waiting are a novella and four short stories in a brand new ‘zine.  Then there’s the little matter of all the short stories I’d like to complete, the new ones I’d like to write, and the ones that are out to market coming in and out.

I lost two sales due to the markets closing their doors.  That really sucked.  The editors were sorry, I was sorry, everybody was sorry.

This coming weekend I’m blowing this popsicle stand and heading south for San Diego.  The folks at Conjecture/ConChord have been kind enough to invite me to be a pro guest.  I’m taking along the Halloween party gear with plans to whoop it up.  While I’m gone, everything here is Somebody Else’s Problem.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

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Filed under Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Horror, science fiction, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

How to Avoid Avoidance Behavior


by Lillian Csernica on October 3, 2013

There’s a paradox that every writer experiences from time to time.  You really want to get that daily word count written, but the minute you sit down to go at it, your mind starts fighting itself.  Oh wait, gotta get those notes.  Need more coffee.  Did that e-mail reply come in yet?  Time to rotate the loads of laundry.  And there’s always the eternal lure of Spider Solitaire or Bejeweled.  Why does that wall of resistance pop up between you and your work?

Speaking for myself, I find it’s a combination of fear, fatigue, and inertia.

FEAR:  Every day I face the blank screen.  Every day I have to summon up more words to build on all the others I wrote yesterday.  Can I do it?  Do I have the words?  Do I have the right words?  Am I ever going to get all the way through to the end of this project and maybe see the day when other people buy it and read it and say good things about it?  This is an anxiety spiral.  It feeds on itself, pumping more and more adrenalin into the system.  It’s hard to concentrate when your heart is racing and your fight or flight response is making you climb your own mental walls.  Solution?  Get outside.  Walk it off.  Be mindful of the present moment.

FATIGUE:  Do you get enough sleep?  I know I don’t.  Is it quality sleep?  Mine frequently isn’t.  Good sleep hygiene is essential to the proper functioning of brain chemistry.  Believe me when I tell you proper brain chemistry is a happy thing.  Sleep also gives the subconscious time to sort through ideas.  You might wake up with the wonderful gift of What Happens Next.

INERTIA:  Remember Sisyphus, from Greek mythology?  He was condemned to push that boulder up that incline until he finally got it to stay at the top.  Every time he almost made it, something would happen to send the boulder rolling back down to the bottom again.  Writing is a lot like that.  You push that boulder up that hill and get your daily quota written.  Yay!  You’ve done it!  Wait a minute…  Oh no….  NO!   There goes the boulder.  Tomorrow you have to push that same boulder up that same hill again.  Sooner or later you will get that particular novel or story finished and off to market.  Trouble is, there’s another boulder waiting for you at the bottom of a new hill.

How can we train ourselves to withstand the self-defeating lure of avoidance behaviors?  Motivation.  Strong motivation is a powerful weapon against avoidance and procrastination.  Don’t take my word for it.  The key to motivation can be found in

The Long Answer:

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.   — Woodrow Wilson
The Short Answer:
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  —  Jack London
Motivation is a subject that deserves its own post, so let me get us back on track with curing avoidance behaviors.   I was in the audience for a panel discussion at a SF convention when a successful writer answered most of the questions that came up with one word: “Deadlines.”  That says a lot.  Accountability can force us to stop making the excuses that come so easily when we answer to no one but ourselves.  If there’s somebody else expecting us to deliver that thousand words, five thousand, one hundred thousand, that person will hold us accountable for our commitment.  Different switches get thrown inside our brains and suddenly we can shake off that lethargy and focus.

How can we manufacture such accountability, assuming we don’t already have editors tapping their fingers on contracts that bear both specific deadlines and our signatures?  People have diet buddies.  Exercise buddies.  Sponsors and tutors and study groups.  Find somebody you know who’s willing to trade accountability with you.  Agree on the amount of productivity.  Agree on the frequency of deadlines.  If possible, agree on some congenial meeting place like a bookstore or a coffeehouse.  Otherwise, meet up online via Skype or your webcam or whatever works.  If you know that by Thursday next your Writing Buddy is expecting to see the complete roughdraft of that new short story, you’ll be amazed at how your perspective and work ethic change.

 

Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.  —  Erma Bombeck

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Filed under Depression, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Horror, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Uncategorized, Writing

All Hands On Deck!


by Lillian Csernica on September 19, 2013

Yes, that’s right, it’s Talk Like A Pirate Day!  Given that my first published novel was a pirate romance, today holds a special place in my heart.

 

Goodreads Ratings

My pirate name is:
Mad Charity Roberts

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Two things complete your pirate persona: style and swagger. Maybe a little too much swagger sometimes — but who really cares? Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

Sites of interest to pirate aficionados

 

And now, since this is a pro-literacy blog, I present to you The Pirate Alphabet!

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September 19, 2013 · 6:12 pm

Fear:My Friend and Enemy


by Lillian Csernica on May 7, 201327408-blogeverday

Day 7: The thing(s) you’re most afraid of

When I first started to sell my short stories, I sold mainly to horror markets.  Horror was big at the time, so there were quite a few magazines and anthologies.  I’ve been asked more than once why I wrote horror.  In my experience, there are three types of horror writers:

The people who write about the struggle between good and evil.

The people who are on the side of the monsters.

The people who write to kill their own monsters.

I fall into the third category.  I have very little control over my world and the conditions under which I live.  I can take some of those conditions and a few of the people, change them and reshape them, then pin them down on paper where I have all the control I need.  In my stories good triumphs over evil.  The monsters die.  It might not be a total victory for the protagonist, because if there’s one thing I believe in its the spectrum of human (and inhuman) behavior that lies between what I consider to be Good and Evil.

I had to give up writing horror because events started happening in my life that supplied me with way too much raw material.  I’m prone to nightmares anyway, have been since I was a child.  I could not commit myself to living with writing horror all the time, not when real life had become so difficult and tragic.  That’s when I switched to writing romance novels.  Nothing like exotic locations, a hot love story, and happy endings as an antidote for that lingering sense of being watched or the endless fear of the dark.

What are the things that most frighten me?

Dying before I can find the right people to act as guardians for Michael and John.

Having a stroke or being diagnosed with a form of dementia that will rob me of my writing mind.

Being blinded, or going blind.

Never being free of some of the problems that keep me from achieving my full potential as a human being.

Great big bird-eating spiders

There are other things, but those are the major categories.  I fear loss.  I fear separation.  I fear endings and goodbyes.

 

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Filed under Blog challenges, Depression, Family, Fiction, Horror, Special needs, Writing