Tag Archives: Japan

T is for Toilet


by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2016

 

Sooner or later when traveling one must take a break from all the fun and excitement to find a restroom.  For me this has led to some of the stranger and more interesting bits of information I’ve picked up along the way.

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Convention hotel bathrooms:

Pat and I have stayed in a variety of hotels over the years, from the random Motel 6 to the Hilton.  We have experienced many varieties of plumbing.  Being writers, we’ve compiled a list of questions and observations to do with this particular topic.

Why would any interior designer put the toilet facing the mirrors in the bathroom?  Only the most narcissistic person really wants to see him- or herself at that moment!

There’s one hotel where the doors slide together in a manner similar to Japanese fusuma.  They meet in the middle, leaving a narrow but perceptible gap.  The frames are heavy wood, so when they roll on their tracks, there’s considerable noise.  Not a happy thing in the middle of the night.

I’ve already mentioned the mind-boggling goofiness of putting the light switch outside the actual bathroom itself.

In the older hotels and motels, ancient plumbing is often temperamental.  If they can give me an iron in the closet, it would be nice to have a plunger in the bathroom.  Then maybe I wouldn’t have to go looking for one after midnight, which can lead to all kinds of trouble!

Airport restrooms:

Haneda airport has to cater to a wide variety of nationalities and religions.  I’ve never seen a bathroom stall with so many accommodations, several of which I could not identify.

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Japan — During Nippon 2007, Pat and I spent some time at the main hotel in the Pan Pacifico Convention Center.  We later discovered the restroom was divided into the side for the Japanese ladies:

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And the side for Western ladies and Japanese mothers with small children.  More buttons than we knew what to do with!

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inquisitor.com

Generally speaking, there are no paper towels in Japanese restrooms unless it’s a site that also caters to Western guests.  Japanese ladies often carry cloth handkerchiefs with them.

Paris — When I spent the weekend in Paris with the Dutch bus tour, I had a room to myself in the hotel where we all stayed.  This might sound ideal, but it wasn’t.  The bathroom left me perplexed.  Having never before encountered a bidet, I had no idea what it was.  It did not look like a toilet, I could see it did not function like a toilet, so I was left to wonder where exactly the actual toilet might be.

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Not until the next day did I finally ask somebody for help.  The solution to the mystery?  I could not find the “water closet” in particular because when my hotel room door opened it concealed the door to the little closet that held nothing but the toilet itself.

I’m positive some French architect did that on purpose just to make foreign tourists look silly.

My advice: Always carry toilet paper, a packet of sanitary wipes, a packet of tissues, etc.   Sooner or later you’ll be very glad you did.  What’s more, you may be able to bring aid and comfort to a fellow traveler!

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Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, Fiction, frustration, history, Humor, Japan, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, research, travel, Writing

Q is for Query


by Lillian Csernica on April 20, 2016

 

I thought it might be entertaining to list some of the questions I’ve asked and been asked in my many travels hither and yon.

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Where’s your horse?  (Do people in Europe still think all Americans are cowboys?)

Do you live in a grape field?  (I didn’t know what to say to that until I realized the person asking the question meant a vineyard.)

Is this your mother?  (No, she was not my mother.)

Does your husband want to be in the picture too?  (The person with me was not my husband.  My husband wasn’t even in the same country at the time!)

 

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Where are we?

Are you sure that’s where we are?

Then why aren’t we seeing ( insert name of offramp, landmark, national monument, etc.)?

 

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Where’s the bank?  It’s inside the post office?  Where’s the post office?  (The local branch turned out to be about a mile away, on the far side of the Yokohama train station, on the third floor of an office building.  I would never have found it had it not been for the very helpful Japanese security guard who kept talking to me as if I really did understand most of what he was saying. At that time, I didn’t, but I caught enough to get me to the third floor.)

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In French:  Do you speak French?

Non.

In German: Do you speak German?

Nein.

In Nederlands: Do you speak Nederlands?

Nay.

In English: Do you Speak English?

Yes!

(I was on the train back to the Netherlands from Germany when a nice German customs official needed to know if I had anything to declare.  He was so patient with me.  It must have been obvious I was really nervous and didn’t have a clue about what I was expected to say.  I’d already been asked for my “papers” {passport} twice.)

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Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, creativity, editing, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Humor, Japan, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, mother, Self-image, travel, worry, Writing

Drink from a Different Well


by Lillian Csernica on October 14, 2015

I’ve been working hard lately on two short stories that will appear in 30 Days Later, the follow-up anthology to 12 Hours Later.  The stories are set in the same milieu, Kyoto 1880.  My main characters, Dr. William Harrington, his wife Constance, his daughter Madelaine, and Nurse Danforth, are all upstanding subjects of Queen Victoria adjusting to life in a foreign country.  Two factors make this adjustment even more challenging.  One, Madelaine has taken an interest in clockwork and other machinery.  Two, the Harrington household keeps attracting the attention of various Japanese supernatural beings.

Does it sound like a strange mix?  It is, and that means research.  Lots and lots of research.  One minute I’m reading up on Victorian fashions, and the next I’m learning exactly why two pulleys are better than one.  I have to stop thinking of Madelaine’s bedroom as being “upstairs.”  Victorian mansions had two floors, sometimes more.  Japanese houses are typically one floor.  I have to load my brain with the correct information.  Facts + imagination are the warp and weft of historical writing.

Unfortunately, a frequent side effect of writing that requires a lot of research under the pressure of a looming deadline is mental fatigue.

I have just discovered a new way to cure mental fatigue that brings with it an additional bonus.

Before the boys came along, I cooked all the time.  I invented my own variations on the recipes in my cookbooks.  Now, Michael is on a liquid diet.  John has the ASD trait of being very finicky about what he will and won’t eat.  Chris works swing shift.  Thanks to insomnia, the boys, and my writing, I never know what my schedule will be like.  Bottom line, cooking and I have become strangers.  I love to eat, but I’m more gourmand than gourmet.

The mental fatigue hit me hard a few days ago. Out of curiosity I started watching “Food Network Star,” the reality TV show where three established Food Network experts mentor fourteen hopefuls through the competition to acquire what it takes to be the new Food Network Star.  Every week some of the hopefuls are eliminated until it comes down to the final three.

I like game shows.  I like cheering on my favorite players.  I like the way reality TV works (most of the time).  So watching this show is fun, entertaining, and relaxing.  It does not require the attention, the focus, and the retention of information that research demands of me, to say nothing of the hard work of actual writing.  Fresh input.  Stimulating another area of the brain.  Taking the pressure off.  All of that is important.

Now here’s the bonus: the process of becoming a Food Network Star is all about finding what is unique about you and what you bring to the entertainment marketplace.  The particular slant here is food and cooking, but we all know that today branding is the name of the game.

One of the biggest challenges for the competitors is learning how to describe a meal in thirty seconds.  Words.  It’s all about vocabulary.  Another challenge is to show the real you, your personal flair.  A big priority is to make a connection with the audience.  On TV that’s done through the camera.  For writers, it’s done on paper, but that connection is still essential.  Hook your reader.  Establish sympathy for your main character.  Make your customer CARE!

See what I’m saying?  There I was, watching this elaborate game show about cooks hoping to become media stars.  Suddenly I realized I was hearing advice and learning skills that could do me a lot of good as a professional writer.

When you hit the wall of mental fatigue, when you can’t stand another moment of what you’re doing but you have to keep on keeping on, go drink from a different well.  Go listen to NPR.  Go watch an expert talk about resurfacing a road, childproofing a house, or bathing an elephant.  Who knows what gems of information or inspiration you might discover?

How do you deal with it when you’re tired of writing?  How do you keep going when the clock is ticking and there’s no time to waste?

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, Japan, research

O for Onmyoji


by Lillian Csernica on April 17th, 2015

asianwiki.com

Onmyoji is an entertaining movie.  For those not familiar with the terminology, an onmyoji is a practitioner of onmyodo.  I encourage you to follow the link, because onmyodo is a fascinating subject.  If I get started on it, this post will end up being a lot longer than it should.  For our purposes, let’s just say that the onmyoji in this movie, Abe no Seimei, puts the sorcery in “sword and sorcery.”  His goofball buddy Minamoto no Hiromasa is the one who wears the sword.

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From Wikipedia:

Onmyouji (陰陽師?) is a Japanese movie that was released in 2001 and sent to the US in 2004. Directed by Yōjirō Takita, it tells of the exploits of Abe no Seimei, in Middle Ages, the Onmyouji (also known as: The Yin Yang Master) from the court of the Emperor. He befriended bungling court noble, Minamoto no Hiromasa, who enlists his aid to defend the Heian emperor. Meanwhile, an opposing onmyoji Doson is plotting the downfall of the emperor, while attempting to frame Seimei by unleashing a horde of yōkai to do his bidding.

There are some modern depictions of Onmyouji magic involving divination, transforming paper cutouts into beautiful maidens, and the like. Mansai Nomura is a famous kyogen actor, a type of traditional theater related to noh but of a more comic nature, and this role is considered something of a big transition for him. His portrayal of Abe no Seimei has been described as including a number of ‘foxy’ looks, perhaps in acknowledging the folklore describing Abe no Seimei’s mother as a kitsune. The lead actress, Eriko Imai, a pop singer, has very few lines and little involvement with the plot. The film was a commercial success grossing ¥3,010,000,000 ($36,567,313) becoming the 4th highest earning Japanese production of 2001.[1] The film was also giving a limited theater release in North America where it grossed $16,234 in 3 theaters.[2]

A sequel, Onmyouji 2, appeared in 2003. Both movies are based on the Onmyouji novels by Baku Yumemakura, which also inspired a manga series by Reiko Okano.

http://www.diary.ru

Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai), ready to kill Mansai Nomura.

I will admit it takes the kind of fascination I have for Japanese culture to really get into the action here.  Doson is a great Bad Guy.  When he sends the “horde of yokai” (monsters) against Abe no Seimei, we get to see the magic-users in the fight to the finish.  This makes Onmyoji rather unusual among Japanese historical movies.  So many of the taiga dramas are devoted to samurai and political upheavals.  Heian period costuming is quite a hoot to the eyes of Western audiences, so that also makes the movie worth watching.

I’m supposed to be listing bad sword and sorcery movies, right?  So how did this one make it onto the list?  The answer is simple.  This is the only sword and sorcery movie I could find on any list that begins with the letter O.

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It’s not smart to mess with the onmyoji!

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When the Story Shapes Itself


by Lillian Csernica  on October 23, 2014

My NanoWriMo prep is well underway.  The plot outline is rough, but I wrote one.  I have my list of major and minor characters.  Today I brainstormed all the probable settings where significant action would occur.  That’s when it hit me.

I have to get Tendo and Yuriko all the way from the Ryukyu Islands off the southwest coast of Kyushu, the southernmost island of the Japanese archipelago, across Shikoku, and on to Honshu, the main island where Kyoto is located.  How much of the trip do they make by land?  How much do they make by water?  How many horses will the party need?  Will they take ferries, boats, or ships?

I have to figure all of that out before Nov. 1.  Welcome to writing historical fiction.

This does bring me a certain amount of relief, because I now know what Tendo and Yuriko are going to be doing for the first several chapters of the book.  Oh sure, I could just open in Kyoto with Tendo in his new position as a member of the Imperial diplomatic corps.  Trouble is, I’d still need to fill in the gap regarding how things went while he worked at the Satsuma Embassy on the Ryukyus, and that would be told in flashback.  BO-RING.  I think it would be much better to show the still newly married Tendo and Yuriko having to cope with yet another drastic change to their lives.  How are they dealing with married life?  Neither of them has had a serious relationship before this, and now all of a sudden they’re married and yet still on the run from their enemies.

 

 

I’ve decided to give Tendo and Yuriko one of the minor but important characters from the first book.  They will be taking Matamori along with them to Kyoto.  I don’t want to get into the entire plot of Sword Master, Flower Maiden right now, so let me just say Matamori is the Captain of the Guard for Kobayashi, the samurai lord whom Tendo’s father serves.  Kobayashi is the one ally strong enough to really protect Tendo and Yuriko from the evil schemes of Nakazawa, the bad guy.  Kobayashi wouldn’t send Matamori with Tendo and Yuriko if he didn’t believe their very lives were in danger.  I did not make this decision consciously.  Once I understood the length and difficulty of the trip to Kyoto, I knew I had to dramatize it.  Matamori showed up in my mind’s eye, riding along beside Tendo on horseback.

The story is already showing me how it needs to be told.

The trip to Kyoto will put Tendo and Yuriko under pressure.  This is a big promotion for Tendo, so he has to live up to it.  First he has to reach Kyoto alive.  Yuriko is still making the adjustment from first rate courtesan-in-training to the proper wife of a samurai civil servant.  Yes, they love each other with all their hearts, but will that be enough to keep them together?  A road trip of any sort means obstacles, delays, goods inns, bad inns, potential ambush, and several long boring hours just getting from one place to another.  This is the great part about mixing both travel by land and travel by water.  I wonder if Tendo gets seasick?  That would be embarrassing.

So much to research.  So much to discover.  A whole new adventure about to begin!

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Japan, love, marriage, romance, Writing

The Special Needs of Christmas


by Lillian Csernica on December 7, 2013

Thanks to my last post, I’ve been asked to share some of the holiday traditions unique to the traveling circus that is my family.

My husband is old-fashioned about when it’s time to buy the Christmas tree.  We get ours about a week before Christmas.  It’s a big family affair to haul out all the boxes of lights and tinsel and decorations.  We put Michael in his wheelchair so he can help too.  Few things bring me greater joy than seeing Michael’s face light up when he points to the spot on the Christmas tree where he wants us to hang the next ornament.

John loves to bake, and he’s good at it.  When we bake Christmas cookies, John takes the tray of cookies over to Michael so Michael can shake colored sprinkles all over the dough before that tray goes into the oven.  Michael is very artistic, so we let him choose between red sugar, green sugar, or the jumble of fancy sprinkles.  John is careful to leave some of these cookies out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Chris and John go to a tree farm and cut down a real live Christmas tree.  They’ve been doing this since John could only hold on to one end of the saw while Chris did all the work.  Now John can carry the whole tree all by himself.  (He could even carry Chris too, if he really needed to!)

Asking Mom what she wants for Christmas, which is a face-saving way of finding out what she needs but can’t really afford on her own. At this point in our lives, only the kids enjoy surprises.  It’s much better to give up a little mystery in order to make sure Mom is happy.

Not embarrassing my sister by making a big deal out of giving her something special. My sister is much happier giving gifts, and she does it really well.  Oh, I still give her at least one gift that relates to one of our in-jokes.  After all, I am the little sister and the brat of the family.

There are a few other holiday rituals that have evolved over the years, ones that I look forward to with a mixture of wary anticipation and gleeful dread:

Every year when we get out the boxes of Christmas ornaments, I wonder if this is the year when I should go for a Christmas tree with a theme. The magazines are full of so many great ideas. Now that I have this wonderful house with a living room big enough to have a decent-sized tree, will this be the year I achieve the style and grandeur of my dreams? My sister is good at theme trees. If we come up with a plan and I turn her loose, I’m sure she’ll create something spectacular. I also know that sooner or later John will find an ornament that just has to go on the tree, and we’ll probably end up letting the boys go wild with all of their favorite ornaments.

When it comes time to open our gifts on Christmas morning, my husband and I often exchange looks of good-natured anxiety. Who will it be this year? Who will be the one to receive my mother’s really tacky Christmas present? For a while it was always poor Chris. The crowning glory of my mother’s inappropriate Christmas gifts had to be the Garfield alarm clock that was as big as a truck tire. It’s a standing joke in the family that nothing can wake Chris up, not even a meteor strike.

Mom has this habit of finding out something a person likes, then locking on to that idea for every gift-giving occasion. My sister has gotten tigers year after year. My brother gets pelicans. Me, I’m the lucky one. Mom is always interested in my writing, so I get gifts that have to do with medieval history or Japan or living the writing life. And cats. I have so much cat-related stuff I could open a boutique. It got to the point where Chris absolutely forbade me to buy or accept any more cat Christmas ornaments. Some day I have to join a society for ailurophiles, just so I can volunteer to decorate its Christmas tree!

On the weekend before Christmas, I take John to see Santa Claus. Even though he’s been “too old” for a while now, he really believes in Santa Claus and I’m OK with that. John’s favorite Santa Claus is at a nearby mall. John is fifteen now, six feet tall and close to two hundred pounds. As we stand there in line with all the little kids who come up to John’s hip, people give us funny looks. John doesn’t notice and I don’t care. The first time we went to that mall about three years ago, I took the photographer aside and mentioned that John is autistic. The photographer was great, quite familiar with special needs kids. He and that Santa Claus have worked together for years and know how to handle just about everything. Of course John doesn’t sit on Santa’s lap, but Santa takes the time to have a nice talk with John every year when John brings Santa his wish list.

Last but certainly not least, every year I do my best to answer all the letters to Santa Claus the postal carriers deliver to me. I’m now in the happy position of being the volunteer for four post offices. (This isn’t as huge a job as it might sound, although last year I did answer almost fifty letters.)  I’ve been making my rounds, letting the postmasters know I’m at their service.

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Filed under autism, Family, fantasy, history, Humor, romance, Special needs, 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

Thoughts I Can’t Stop Thinking


by Lillian Csernica on June 10, 2013

Seven Things That Cross My Mind A Lot:

ONE: What it’s really like to make your living as an actor.  It seems to me the business demands much more of actors than ordinary moviegoers like me really understand.  Actors in America are held to a standard of physical beauty and perfection that has to take up a lot of time in terms of maintenance.  How do those people find that time?  Personal trainers and home gyms must help.  Then there’s the memorization of lines, sometimes newly changed lines every single day.  That would make me crazy.  To be an A list movie actor seems so glamorous, and I’m sure it is at times, but it’s got to be something such people work at 24/7.

TWO: My weight.  My body image.  What I eat.  Why I eat it.  How much I enjoy dining out.  What diseases am I setting myself up for, i.e. hypertension, diabetes, and whatever genetic dispositions I’ve inherited.

THREE: What love really truly is, under all the hype and the philosophy and the hormones.  I know about agape, eros, philia and storge.  Those are descriptions of manifestations of love.  What is love at its absolute core reality?  Does it have one?  Or is it a psychological chimera?

FOUR: The battle between me owning my possessions and my possessions owning me.

FIVE: Whether or not I’ll get to be a grandmother.  I think I’d be good at it, given all my travels and my stories and my costumes and the weird stuff I’ve collected over the years.  This is in the back of my mind as John enters high school with its heightened social interaction between boys and girls.  I will watch John’s progress with interest and no little trepidation.

SIX: How people can be really smart in some ways yet at the same time be really stupid about certain specific matters.  I’m not just talking about love again, for example.  I know somebody who has an astonishing grasp of worldwide military history, yet one day he was incapable of finding chocolate ice cream in a town with two grocery stores, two gas station mini-marts, two drug stores, and half a dozen restaurants.  I’ve heard Southerners use the expression “brilliant but not very bright.”  I think that means some people can absorb a lot of “book-learning,” but in everyday practical matters they haven’t got a clue.  Comments?

SEVEN: All the places in the world I want to visit before I die.  Japan, England, Ireland, Greece, Russia, Spain, Italy, Polynesia, and more of the U.S. too.  It’s sad to live somewhere and know too little about its history and attractions and people and noteworthy local buildings, handicrafts, cuisine, etc.

One life is just not enough, know what I mean?

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X is for X Marks the Spot


by Lillian Csernica on April 27, 2013

You might not know it, but you’ve got a big X on your forehead. Might be black, might be red. It’s the X you see on treasure maps that marks the spot where the treasure is buried.

Flannery O’Connor said, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” Our memories are treasure, sometimes buried, sometimes not. As writers we have to dig into those memories, along with all the other thoughts, images, opinions, likes and dislikes and whatever else we’ve buried under that metaphorical X. We’ve all heard the rule about “Write what you know.” Let’s rewrite that: “Use what you’ve experienced!”

We’re all specialists in our own ways. Me, I know more about the history of Japan than my Japanese teacher does simply because of all the research I’ve done for my current novel. My best friend has advanced degrees in Marine Biology and Physical Anthropology. Those come in very handy when she’s writing science fiction. A formal academic degree isn’t essential. Hobbies and passions and family traditions can provide the basis for in-depth knowledge that adds those special details.

Try this. Sit down and write a list of all the subjects you know something about. Put down everything, from the complex process of bioengineering to the mucky details of unclogging the garbage disposal. It’s ALL valuable, because it’s all raw material for writing. You may well discover knowledge you didn’t know you had. I call that buried treasure!

Dig in. Dig deep. Gold and jewels await!

Buried Treasure: illustration of William "...

Buried Treasure: illustration of William “Captain” Kidd overseeing a treasure burial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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L is for Logophilia


by Lillian Csernica on April 13, 2013

When I looked up logophilia on the Web, some rather strange links came up. It’s a simple enough word. Logos means words and philia means love. (Some people seem to want to interpret philia in a baser, kinky context, which I thought was the province of eros.) I’m not sure if every writer I know is a logophile, but I am sure that my best friends and closest colleagues love words as much as I do.

Take the word subaru, for example. To most English-speaking people, especially Americans, a Subaru is a model of car made in Japan. A closer look at the Subaru logo will reveal it as being the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. Subaru is the Japanese word for that constellation! When I first found this out, light exploded inside my mind. Of course the Japanese would have their own terms for the constellations. I’d just never thought about what words other countries and other cultures would use for something like a grouping of stars in the sky.

This is not to say I don’t love words in other languages besides English. Far from it. Being a writer takes you into the places where words have their hidden meanings. Where words in one language mean something very different somewhere else. Where loan-words stand out as moments of comprehension in a flow of air and sound that goes by too fast to interpret.

I love big cities, airports, major tourist sites, and summer at the beach because I can walk along and hear two, three, four, maybe even more different languages. The Romance languages are a close family. Plenty of cognates to help you find your way. Mandarin, Estonian, Finnish, Basque…. The individual words are all mysteries to me, but I still want to hear the sound track.

Words I love: Arcadia, clandestine, aubergine, tokidoki, vaquero, txotxolo.

What are some of the words you love to read and write?

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