Are you thinking of asking a writer friend for help with something? Maybe you should think twice.
Tag Archives: Book Writing
by Lillian Csernica on June 18, 2016
I’ve been meaning to write more frequent blog posts. Life has gotten in the way in the form of being seriously short staffed where Michael is concerned. Right now I have two R.N.s and my sister, who does have experience with hospital and in-home care. With Michael out of school, we’re running two eight hour shifts per day. This means I have to pitch in as well. I’ve had to take four of the eight hour shifts, three 6:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m. and one 2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Michael takes seven different medications. He needs at least two breathing treatments per day which include nebulizer treatment followed by three timed sessions with a percussive therapy vest. Diaper changes can be quite laborious depending on the nature and quantity of his output. Michael is twenty years old, close to six feet tall, and weighs 145 lb. He’s on the gangly side, so rolling him from one side to the other requires considerable effort.
In the morning I fully expect to need Naproxen, if not my carefully hoarded stash of Vicodin. I’m hoping the Vicodin won’t be necessary because I have an hour’s drive ahead of me in order to attend a writer’s group meeting.
Adding to my joy this week is a breakdown in communications with the supplier of my antidepressant medications. I did get an interim prescription for one of them from my doctor, but there’s been more difficulties with the other prescription. Tomorrow will be Day 3 without Pristiq. I will either be what some people might consider manic, or I will have no patience with obstacles and no filters in place to moderate my reactions to such obstacles.
Not really the best frame of mind for giving critiques in a writer’s group setting.
On Sunday we interview yet another R.N. I’m really hoping she turns out to be a keeper. We’re stretched mighty thin. Summer school starts next week, but we still need a third R.N. to take some of the load off of my sister.
All of this leads me to think about what we’ll be facing once Michael is no longer in school. He has two years left in the County program. Then we’ll have to find other ways to get him out of the house and keep him occupied so he doesn’t languish in bed for the majority of his day. That’s not good for his mental or physical health.
Doesn’t do a whole lot for mine, either.
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.
by Lillian Csernica on April 19, 2016
Japan — Plenty of koi.
The Netherlands — Plenty of tulips
Las Vegas, NV — Plenty of neon
Paris, France — Plenty of cafes
Ensenada, Mexico — Plenty of beer
Seattle, WA — Plenty of coffee
Lillian Csernica on March 25, 2016
Slept late. What a luxury! There was a time when I’d stay up far too late, either roaming the room parties or hanging out somewhere talking with a group of friends. Now that I’m older and (somewhat) wiser, I know the value of a good night’s sleep.
There’s a programming track for kids that includes arts & crafts. I’d been hoping the Decorate-a-T shirt make-n-take would allow me to create a customized souvenir for Michael or John. There were no shirts big enough for the boys, but that was OK. I came up with an idea for a pillow. A medium shirt with 3 sets of sparkly blue dolphins leaping out of the waves should turn into a fun reminder of this con.
During the T shirt workshop I got to talking with three young ladies who enjoy horror. I brought a copy of Typhon with me. When I showed it to them, one of the girls pounced on it with the kind of enthusiasm that brings serious joy to a writer’s heart. They bought it, complete with autograph and gold foil Autographed Copy sticker.
I’ve been drinking Coke today. Shame on me, but I need the caffeine.
Make a Superhero Mask! Yes, I went and hung out with the kids again. No, I do not have a photo of my mask to show you. I left that particular USB cable at home with my Kindle. I am now the Bride of Cthulu! The mask base is white plastic with the usual elastic string around the back. I took a piece of lace meant to jazz up a wedding gown and glued it to the temples and the bridge of the nose. That way the point of the triangle, so to speak, hung down over the mouth, dangling pearl teardrops like really classy tentacles. More pearls and some golden sunburst sequins across the forehead added the right amount of sparkle.
What’s my superhero name? What’s my superpower? You tell me! I’m looking for inspiration!
While I was making my way back through the hallways to the main lobby area, I happened across a jeweler selling marvelous steampunk items at bargain basement prices. Bought John a glow in the dark star necklace with the word ZAP! on it in a red explosion, just like one of the sound effects on the old “Batman” TV series from the 1960s. Better still, it glows in the dark!
The dinner menu in the Hospitality Suite included hot dogs, chili, and chips with guacamole. Pat and I shared a table with T-Bone, the Saturday night DJ. He told us a very weird story he called “A Tale of Bamboozlement.” I told him one of my stranger Ren Faire adventures. Pat told us a of peculiar incident that happened while she was working for the Stockton Police Department. Now this is what I call live entertainment!
Around 9 p.m. I went back up to our room to drop off my tote bags, shopping bags, and some art Pat bought from the Tarot of Brass & Steam booth. In the hallway outside our hotel room were people with Magic: The Gathering decks. There were also people wearing Viking-type clothing. Two doors down a pumpkin beer party was underway, put on by a group of historical re-enactment folks who enjoy Viking lore. Somebody lent me a helmet that looked like the upper half of a pumpkin with the mandatory two horns sticking out of it. Now that I met the dress code, I hung out at the party for a good hour, sampling three or four remarkable brews from Seattle micro-breweries. I do mean samples, given out in the little plastic cups often used by Mexican restaurants for servings of pico de gallo. I rarely drink, but when I do, I do it for a good cause. This was a good cause!
Parties are raging here in Wing 5. I can hear the multitudes out in the hallway whooping it up. I should get on out there and see what other adventures await me!
by Lillian Csernica on March 16, 2016
I know. I said I wouldn’t do it anymore. I’ve learned my lesson.
Then somebody came along and made me an offer that brings with it a lot of benefits.
I’m going to join a writer’s group.
In the past I’ve had some unfortunate experiences. Personality conflicts. Hidden agendas. The gap in experience between some of the writers was so great that we couldn’t do each other that much good. In some cases it was a matter of logistics that just didn’t work out.
Online writer’s groups don’t really appeal to me because the biggest plus that comes with participating in a group is the brainstorming, plot twists and bigger stakes and stronger motivations for the characters. We bounce ideas off each other and the person whose work we’re discussing makes lots of notes, to be sorted out later at home.
In this group, which meets this coming Saturday, there will be three people I’ve known for over twenty years. I have collaborated with two of them on separate projects. With the one, I’ve sold three stories. With the other, two stories and a novel series that is still a work in progress. One member is new to me, but I’m told he writes in genres where I have more experience than the other three, so we should all be able to do each other some kind of good.
I confess I let myself get talked into this by the member of the group whose advice about writing has led to many improvements in quite a few of my stories as well as my novels. I have packaged up the first fifty pages of Sword Master, Flower Maiden and emailed it to all of them. I’ve been reading through the ms as I prepare a new synopsis for query purposes. The book needs more tinkering in terms of pace and the use of Japanese language. We’ll see what my fellow scribes have to say. We’re all history addicts, so that makes for a happy foundation.
If I can just get up to speed on the projects of two members, prep my comments, and be ready to participate by Saturday, I shall enter into this group situation with fingers crossed and notebook at the ready. I’m hoping I come out of it with the help I need to get my work to a better level of quality that will sell to better markets for better prices. We’ll see.
I’m a fan of ’80s rock, those glorious days of the Hair Metal bands. Bon Jovi remains my favorite, but in this particular instance, Whitesnake provides my theme song.
Speakeasy: Roaring Twenties America in a Shot
My novelette Give in to the Feeling entirely takes place inside a speakeasy. A friend who read it told me it was a brave choice. To me, it was just what made the most sense. But I’ll admit I do have a fascination with speakeasies, and not only because of the romantic (and largely undeserved) air that surrounds them – their secrecy, the mystery, the exciting jazz music, the daring young women. Speakeasies were microcosms where the larger change in American society showed itself at its fullest. All the daring, the good, the bad and the very ugly were going on in speakeasies, and if romanticism was actually miles away, history was truly happening in these places.
Speakeasies aren’t a product of the 1920s
It may come as a surprise, but it is still debated whether Prohibition worked or didn’t work. In general, there is agreement on the fact that it did work in smaller, rural towns and communities and was a complete failure in big, especially very big cities (I won’t name names, but New York City and Chicago might ring a bell).
I’m talking National Prohibition, which went into effect in 1920 and was repealed in 1933. The history of the United States is in fact dotted with many prohibition laws, which were most of times regional, and in some cases aimed at a particular group or situation. One of the first prohibition laws was designed to prohibit the selling of alcohol to Indian trappers, back in the second half of the 1700s. But all through the 1800s several individual states enacted prohibition or temperance laws.
You could say there had been speakeasies since there have been prohibition laws, so they could be found in the 1800s already, mostly rooms in private houses or back rooms inside otherwise legitimate shops.
But the truly famous incarnation of the speakeasy was during National Prohibition, and with good reasons. The smaller, poor version common in the 1800s kept existing and was still very common, but in the 1920s a new kind of speakeasy arose, one that was the expression of the time and showed off everything that was new and daring.
Women: flappers enter the male space
1920 didn’t just mark the beginning of Prohibition, it was also the year American women won the right to vote. The decade that followed saw the rise of a completely new breed of woman, young, daring, very focused, one who knew her value and was determined to make everybody aware of it.
It would be quite naïve and very superficial to say that in the Twenties women suddenly gained their freedom. It wasn’t at all sudden, and it wasn’t as fast as one may think or as complete as we like to think. The change in the minds and hearts of both women and men had started generations before. The roles between men and women, for example, had been slowly changing following the desire to take control of their life, children and motherhood being of crucial importance.
The 1920s brought about exceptional advance in contraception methods and the fact that these methods became more available made them more acceptable. The change that this caused was huge and touched on many level of American society, not just women.
Though women were the most affected, of course. They could now decide when to have children. Being a mother was now a choice. Which meant that being just a woman was equally a choice, a woman that could decide how to look, a woman that appropriated, first and foremost, the right to be sensual and desirable.
On the other hand, men accepted this new kind of woman, who became not just a lover and a mother for them, but a companion, someone who could share their lives, even before they built a family.
Sharing, this is the crucial change. Men and women did things together, went places together, they shared the same experience.
This was probably nowhere as apparent as in the speakeasy. Women didn’t frequent saloons before Prohibition, that was a male’s space. But now the new woman who was a companion did frequent speakeasies with their men, she drank and she smoked, like men did. She danced and she showed off, she made herself up to look more attractive, she showed naked arms and legs.
True, there were still lines they wouldn’t cross (women were still expected to be chaperoned, for example, and not to sit at the bar) but the speakeasy made utterly obvious that women had won a new space that wasn’t theirs before and they were going to use it.
Jazz: the devil music grabs America by its throat.
Nobody knows when jazz was born, although there is general consensus that it was born in the South, in and around New Orleans. By the 1920s, jazz was already quite popular in the South, and it was still a black music. Almost only African Americans played it, and because they were mostly not allowed to play in reputable places, they had to make do with less savoury establishments: brothels, dens, game houses. So people started make the connection that jazz was the music of vice and deviance, that it was brutal and animalistic.
When jazzmen went North at the time of the Great Migration, they kept playing in this kind of establishments, in the black belts of big cities. Many of them found work in speakeasies, which were spreading and becoming ever more numerous and needed entertainment.
People came to get drunk, but also to dance and soon jazz was the music you wanted to dance to.
It was still disreputable, because it was played mostly in outlaw bars, where young people of all races were giving themselves to the syncopated music that (it was said) killed all inhibitions. It was still played mostly by African Americans, so there was much debate whether the music was worth calling art (at first) and whether African Americans truly invented it (later on).
But it infiltrated every crack of life. Young people loved it, it was liberating and new and daring. The music industry, that was just rising, loved it because it was the rage of the day. White musicians loved it because it was so new and different.
Jazz influenced the 1920s to a point that that time was called Jazz Age. It penetrated every aspect of life.
In the speakeasy, it happened every night.
Integration: black-and-tan fantasy
Black-and-tans – bars and ballrooms that could be patronised by both Blacks and Whites – and slamming had existed before Prohibition, but in the Twenties it became a true fashion.
There was a general feeling that new, interesting things where happening in the black belts of big city. Where else was the best jazz performed, after all? Where else was it possible to dance the newest, craziest dances?
Black jazz bands generally performed in the segregated parts of town. Some managed to perform outside of it, but they were exceptions. So people, especially young people in search of strong emotions, flocked to the black belts of every big city. Here, speakeasies adjusted to it and many offered the possibility to both Whites and Blacks to patronised.
But we shouldn’t think the same that happens to day happened back then. The places where Blacks and White could actually mingle were very rare. Mostly, black-and-tans offered a level of interaction that was very stylised and closely controlled. One of the most famous black-and-tans of the time, for example, NYC Cotton Club, was a place where artists and stuff were black, but where black patronage was actually discouraged. There were black-and-tans where Black and Whites could dance on the same floor, but with a rope separating black couples form white couples. There were places where there were two different dance floors. Places that allowed mix couples to dance (but not to sit at the same table) and places that didn’t. And yes, there were even places where people could actually intermingle. I won’t go so far as to say that black-and-tans were integrated places, but they did become more common and they did allow more interaction.
This was particularly true for jazzmen. Black jazzmen were very seldom allowed to play outside of Black Belts, but they were the true masters of the art. So white jazzmen often traveled to the black belts to listen to black jazzmen and learn from them, they sometimes even play together.
So, in the smoky atmosphere of speakeasies, integration was timidly taking its first steps.
All of these changes weren’t just happening in the twilight of speakeasies. Change was happening in the society at large. Was it disquieting? It sure was. Was it upsetting that in these illegal places this kind of behaviour was common and sometime unchecked? Yes it was. But it was happening. But if in everyday life people may have pretend not to see, in speakeasies it was so plain it couldn’t be denied.
by Lillian Csernica on January 22, 2015
About 2/3 of the new books I read, I read on my Kindle. When I’m finished, Amazon asks me for a star rating, then I get an email asking me for a review.
At the moment, the book I’ve started is so bad I doubt I’ll finish it. My sense of fairness compels me to read the whole thing just so if I do decide to review the book, I will have given it a thorough examination. I don’t have that much reading time these days, so I really don’t want to waste it on a book that reads little better than a second draft in desperate need of a copy editor. What slays me is there are already two sequels ready and waiting. <facepalm>
Let me throw this question out to all of you: In this brave new world of electronic self-publishing, what purpose are reviews really meant to serve? I know I may be coming rather late to this discussion, but this is what’s on my mind and I value your opinions.
Reviews are helpful to authors in terms of promotion. We all want to support each other, right? As a writer, I wouldn’t want to do any damage to a fellow writer’s sales by posting a negative review. It’s said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I don’t know if I believe that. If the Internet loves you, it really loves you. If the Internet decides you should be run out of town on a rail, you’re in trouble.
Unfortunately, there are books out there with serious flaws. If I’m going to write a review, I have to tell the truth about my reading experience. I am a published novelist. I’ve published lots of short stories. I’ve been writing reviews for Tangent for a long time. That means I am qualified to evaluate the quality of a story’s plot, characters, setting, tone, theme, and pace. I know about magic systems and worldbuilding. Certain historical periods are quite familiar to me. Can’t say that I’m an expert, but I will give credit where credit is due even if I personally don’t care for the material at hand.
And yet I still feel conflicted. As a writer and a reader, there are times when I am outraged at the half-witted slop churned out by “authors” who really think somebody out there might be willing to pay good money to read it. I want to do all I can to support the “Caveat Emptor” school of thought when shopping for reading material online.
It does grind my gears to read reviews by people who either know nothing about the elements of good writing, or don’t know how to articulate what little knowledge they may have. Shameless gushing in a review makes me suspicious. Some people are not above stacking the deck in their favor. Here’s the problem: when an inexperienced and uneducated writer recruits his or her fellow writers whose skill level is pretty much at that same level, nobody is going to do any real good by making comments because they just don’t know what it takes to write a better story.
What do you think about all this?
by Lillian Csernica on December 6, 2015
A train ride and a short hike brought us to the Imperial Gardens that are part of the Palace Grounds. We had made a reservation for one of the tours given in English. The Imperial Household Agency runs these tours. We were directed to arrive twenty minutes ahead of time at a specific outer gate. There we found something of a staging area in the form of a gift shop with tables outside and the usual array of vending machines offering a variety of drinks.
Pat took the opportunity to sit for a while. The tour is a walking tour that takes close to an hour. I had a look inside the gift shop. In Japan it’s traditional to wrap up gifts in furoshiki, large squares of fabric that come in many beautiful designs. Much to my delight, this gift shop had a whole case devoted to furoshiki. The young man behind the counter was very kind in helping me look through the variety of colors and patterns until I found two that would suit the gifts for my mother and my sister.
This is where I got down to business in terms of serious research. Most of the story in the third novel in the Flower Maiden Saga takes place at the Imperial Palace. Tendo and Yuriko will be a long way from their allies in Satsuma, surrounded by the politics and prejudices that fill the Emperor’s Court.
In an earlier post I mentioned not seeing many Caucasian people while I was in Kyoto. As people began to assemble for the tour given in English, I heard French, German, Italian, and Russian. At the appointed time, our passports were checked again as we passed through one of the huge gates and into the outer courtyard. We assembled in a waiting room full of padded benches. There were lockers available free of charge, which was quite considerate. People with backpacks or heavy purses (like mine) could park them in a locker, the better to enjoy the tour.
Our guide was a wonderful lady named Yoshiko. She introduced herself, then the tour began with a short audiovisual presentation that gave us more detailed information on the Palace. Whoever wrote the tour guides’ script did a good job of providing more than just names, dates, and places. I suspect Yoshiko brought her own personal flair to the tour. As much Japanese history as I already know, there’s still so much more waiting for me. Yoshiko and I had a nice chat about the writings of Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon.
I am standing in front of the Kenreimon, the gate through which foreign dignitaries would be admitted to the outer courtyard of the Palace grounds. George W. Bush entered through this gate during one of his official visits to Japan.
The Jomeimon is the inner gate leading to the inner courtyard. Notice that blazing orange color, vermillion. It was at this point when our tour guide mentioned it that we learned the true purpose of this color. A fixed form of sunlight or fire, the color serves to drive away evil spirits. The structure visible through the pillars is the Shishinden, the building where the enthronement ceremonies of Emperor Taisho and Emperor Showa took place.
In the Shodaibunoma, there are three waiting rooms. Officials who had business with the Emperor were sorted into one of these three rooms according to rank and priority.
The first has screens painted with sakura, or cherry blossoms. I hope the people in the sakura room had packed a lunch, because they were probably sitting there for quite a while.
The middle room features tigers:
Cranes decorate the third room waiting room, where the most important people sat drinking tea until their turn came.
This is the room where the Emperor sat at his writing desk, receiving messengers, officials, and conducting the business of the empire. Inside the striped canopy is what amounts to the Emperor’s recliner where he could retire when he needed a break.
Notice the fu dogs seated outside the canopy. Fu dogs are the guardians of the sacred, which is why you see them at the gates of temples. The Emperor, being divine, deserved the same kind of veneration, respect, and protection.
To be there, looking at the rooms once occupied by the man believed to be descended from Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess herself, left me in a state of overwhelming awe. A thousand years of history had happened, all those lives, all those hopes and dreams, on the grounds where I stood. For a writer of historical fiction, it doesn’t get any better than this.