Tag Archives: steampunk

Taking Inventory on Success


by Lillian Csernica on December 28, 2016

welcome-2017-2

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:

512b5eujloel-_sy346_

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.

51ep-paieul-_sx322_bo1204203200_

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.

511zzaapral

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!

 

aheacovermytitle

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!

51tun7g23ml-_sy346_

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!

scroll20border

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Conventions, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, editing, fairy tales, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, Horror, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, love, publication, research, romance, steampunk, travel, Writing

My Steampunk Debut!


by Lillian Csernica on May 6, 2015

 

 

I am delighted to announce the release of Twelve Hours Later.  Two of my stories appear here, “In the Midnight Hour” and “A Demon in the Noonday Sun.”  They are my first venture into the wonderful world of steampunk.  Instead of Victorian England, my stories are set in Kyoto, Japan.  The book blurb summarizes the plots nicely:

A devoted nursemaid braves mythical Japanese spirits to save a little girl’s life, only to bring down the wrath of a demon on the child’s father.

 

Kiyomizudera, the Pure Water Temple, which encompasses Otowa Falls.  This is the primary setting for both of my stories.

4 Comments

Filed under charity, fairy tales, Family, fantasy, Fiction, history, Japan, legend, sword and sorcery, Writing

Meanwhile, Back at The Idea Factory….


By Lillian Csernica on December 16, 2014

Idea Factory

Many writers believe the secret to success is a strong deadline.  I agree.  A deadline forces me to get the story written, get the editing done, then cut and polish with ruthless efficiency.  I have two stories due on Dec. 31st.  Not just two stories, but two stories that have to fit the theme and word limit of the anthology project.  Each story has to take place within a one hour time limit.  What’s more, the two stories must relate to each other.  Does this sound like an impossible task?  I didn’t think so until I had to write the second story.  The first one was a lot of fun and wrote itself with a fair amount of ease.  Hah.  Never trust what you’re writing when it seems to be going too well.

Little did I realize I would find myself bound by my own worldbuilding rules.

Of course I know how this works.  I wrote The Writer’s Spellbook because magic as an element of worldbuilding is such a huge subject.  See, the tricky part here is the convergence between the anthology’s guidelines and the fantasy world in which my stories take place.  This is also my first real effort at steampunk, so that added another layer of research and complexity.  What’s that, you say?  Why on earth do I keep making this harder and harder on myself?

Because I am starting to accumulate a number of works that take place in the same historical period and involve some combination of the same countries and cultures.  There may come a time when I want to gather these works into a collection.  They might even blend together into one or more novels.  That means attention to detail now.  Besides, it’s just a matter of professional pride to do the absolute best work I possibly can.  I was invited to submit to this anthology.  To me that means working twice as hard to show my appreciation for the opportunity I’m being given.

marshrockwaterplan.blogspot.com

Does it sound like I’m being rather hush-hush about this project?  I am.  The work is going well.  I wrote the second story all in one go last night.  Took me a good week to figure out the plot.  I created two entire storylines, then had to discard each as pieces did not quite line up with the first story or with the overall thematic elements of the anthology.  I have in fact painted myself into a corner more than once.  Had to change paint, had to pick a new room, had to get out of that building entirely.  It’s painful to toss out what might be a perfectly valid idea, but “good enough” is not what I’m going for here.

The more rules the better, says I.  When I have very clear and specific guidelines from an editor and/or publisher, then several of the choices are already made.  Now I have to dream up the story elements that not only meet those requirements, they transcend them by avoiding the obvious, the predictable, the familiar.  Every other story in the anthology will follow the same guidelines I’ve been given.  I have to reach farther for something fresh, for colors and flavors and pain and discord that set my stories apart from the rest.

Time for me to go have a look at what I wrote last night.  There’s a whole lot of pressure.  I have fifteen days to make these two stories the best they can possibly be.  I normally go through five drafts on a short story.  I do not have that luxury, not on one story, and certainly not on two.  To say nothing of minor little tasks like making sure I get Christmas gifts bought and wrapped for my family, put up our tree, do the grocery shopping, and figure out plans for my sister’s birthday (Jan. 1) and my mother’s birthday (Jan.3).  If I’m lucky, I might even get some sleep!

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, science fiction, Writing

And the Clock Wound Down


by Lillian Csernica on May 28, 2014

Meant to get to this more promptly, but upon my return home I discovered one of my cats had developed a serious abscess.  We took him to the vet the next morning, and it was worse than we realized.  Fortunately, our vet is great, so the cat will be fine.

Naginatajutsu_no_5°_Torneio_Brasileiro.jpg

I started my Monday off with the naginata demo held in the War Room.  Alyne and Malyne Hazard taught a good dozen of us how to hold the naginata, then the proper forms for executing the head cut called “men” and the shin cut called “tsune.”  I had some trouble with my form and doing things in the proper order, and then remembering to yell as well!  Cheerful and patient, the Hazard sisters and their assistants corrected us with smiles and encouragement.  By the end of the hour I could even look my opponent in the eyes instead of staring at my target while I struck.  What a thrill to be able to learn such a weapon, the main weapon of Japanese women in my chosen time period!

Monday morning’s panel schedule put Pat and me back to back, with my “Steampunk in Japan” panel followed by her “Steampunk CSI.”  I had divided my panel material into two parts.  The first dealt with the technology transfers that came from the West with the three French military missions, the two German missions, and then the United States and other countries joining in as trade opened up after the Shogunate fell and the Meiji Restoration was well underway.  The second half gave an overview of popular facets of steampunk culture in modern Japan to be found in anime, manga, music and fashion.  Before the panel started, one fellow asked me if I’d be addressing modern Japan, such as the SteamGarden events, and I was happy to tell him I would be.

Pat drew a good crowd for “Steampunk CSI.”  I was running the Power Point program, which meant I sat there pushing the button to advance the slides.  With an examination of the technology available in Sherlock Holmes’ days, Pat showed what could have been possible in terms of forensic science.  (I do wish she’d warned me ahead of time about some of the case photos that showed that shotgun and knife wounds really look like and why.  Good thing I don’t eat much for breakfast!)  The people in the crowd who had an interest in the Jack the Ripper mystery got their dose of fascination when Pat talked about Patricia Cornwell’s book on the subject.

We’d made arrangements for late check-out, which gave us until 1 p.m.  That was a very narrow margin, because I was on from 11 to noon and Pat from noon to 1 p.m.  I slipped out early, cleared the last of my luggage from our room, parked it with Pat, then ran back to make sure I tipped our maid.  I’m a bit OCD about tipping.  One, it’s customary, two, it’s polite to show appreciation this way, and three, some people who live on the margins rely on that money to make the difference.  I might not know exactly who those people are, but that’s none of my business anyway.

Nautilus shells: N. macromphalus (left), A. scrobiculatus (centre), N. pompilius (right)

Pat hadn’t been to the Caravan Bazaar yet, so off we went.  I finally made it back to the lady selling the wonderful embroidered patches.  We worked out a trade for one of my contributor’s copies of Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails.  She got the book and I got two patches, one with a rocket ship and one with a Nautilus (the sea creature).  She even threw in a third patch that expressed the theme of another of my stories.  Such a deal!

At last it was time to hit the road for home.  We got to my house considerably earlier than we usually arrive.  Fortunately, the holiday traffic was all going the other way as people who went to Santa Cruz returned to Silicon Valley and points north.  My boys always like to see “Aunt Pat,” especially Michael.  Then Pat and I sat down in my office and spent two or three hours at the computer which were devoted to an important aspect of her Shameless Self-Promotion.  It was a funny feeling to be the person who knew more about what we were doing, but I’d traveled the route we were taking already, so I could explain the comparative advantages of the choices available.  If it seems like I’m being deliberately vague, I am.  It’s for Pat to announce and present what we came up with when the time is right.

The cats missed me, the kids were glad to see me, and nothing had blown up or broken down while I was away.  All in all, a really spectacular weekend!

cat-clipart-6-tn

2 Comments

Filed under cats, Conventions, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Writing

Clocking In, Clocking Out


Lillian Csernica on May 25th, 2014

 

Busy busy busy day!  For some insane reason I was awake by 8:30 a.m.  It might have had something to do with the somnolent sound effects from Pat’s side of the room, but maybe what I heard was just some maid being a little too enthusiastic with a vacuum.  That’s all right.  I took a shower, made myself presentable for the public, and got a good head start on a problem I discovered when I checked my panel notes for today.  I’d forgotten to print out the latest update of my notes for the “Steampunk in Japan” panel.  I knew the hotel had an Office Center, but I did not think it would be open on a Sunday.  I was right.

 

myvectory.blogspot.com

So off I went to Guest Services.  That’s such a plain phrase.  I much prefer the term “concierge,” don’t you?  Guest Services is a department, but the concierge is the Person Who Handles The Problem.  Sure enough, the nice fellow there directed me to a PC complete with printer in the lobby.  Once I figured out which USB port was the right one, I opened the file, printed my notes and all was right with my world.  The Hilton now owns the Doubletree, and I must say the new management has made some good improvements.  Anybody who makes my life easier is a winner in my eyes!

Now it was time to continue Map Quest!  Off I went to the Caravan Bazaar, determined to hunt down the last two stamps I needed.  I found the Handmade by Droids booth.  I had to pass their challenge in order to win their stamp.  They asked me to do my best impression of “a steam-powered penguin in a mad rage.”  Oh wow!  Good thing I’d taken that Improv training with the commedia dell’arte troupe back in the days when Northern Ren Faire made you take workshops.  Imagine me waddling side to side with my arms flapping stiffly while I alternated “Squawk squawk squawk!” with chuffing and hissing noises.  Did I get the stamp?  Oh yeah!

 

My final destination kept eluding me.  I learned later that I kept missing the booth because “The sign was hidden behind the shrunken heads.”  I went back to the Sacramento Steampunk Society table to throw myself on the mercy of the lady in charge.  I pled my case, mentioning that I had lived up to the challenge of the steampunk penguin impression.  You know what happened next, right?  That’s right.  I had to do the penguin impression again.  I won the badge ribbon of white satin with a metallic red trail leading to the X that marks the spot.  Two high quality chocolate coins came with it.  The dear lady brought out the “special prizes for the people we really like.”  In a variety of small ornamental tins were tiny sewing kits, just what attendees of this costume-oriented con would enjoy!  I chose the ginger tin because that enabled me to return the lady’s kindness by reaching  into my purse and pulling out a ginger candy.  She was delighted.  I now sport a Society pin on my badge lanyard.

www,jadefinejewelry.com

I came back to our hotel room around 1 p.m.  Pat was up.  I was torn between calling the maid to tidy the room and just falling over for a nap.  I did call the maid, and she turned out to be this really sweet older lady from the Canton area of China.  We got to talking, and she asked me if I spoke any Chinese.  I can say “Nihao,” “shay  shay nee,” and “doh jay sai.”  (They mean “Hello,” and “thank you” in both Mandarin and Cantonese.  Please forgive my transliteration.  It’s the best I can do.)  The maid gave me an approving laugh.  I pulled my cross chain out from under my blouse to show her the small piece of jade I wear, Taiwanese jade that my mother gave me.  The length of the chain allows the jade to rest next to my heart.  When the maid saw that, she threw her arms around me and hugged me.  I love meeting new people, I really do, especially people from other countries.

Soon it was time to get some food into me before my panel at 5 p.m.  The menu in Sprigs was the same as the bar, which makes sense during a con.  That meant I had the linguine and meat balls again.  Hey, I know what I like.  Jeffrey went dashing by again in his attire as The Phantom of the Opera.  Since he was in character, I called out “Eric!” but that didn’t work, so I tried “Jeffrey!”  There’s something about his presence that demanded I rise to meet him.  We chatted for a few minutes and he was off again.  At some point in the day I had an opportunity to tell his wife Sharon how much I appreciated the talk Jeffrey and I had yesterday.  She was very pleased to hear it.  She knows what a gem she has in him.

Then it was Magic time!  I was worried about what size audience I might have because it was in the window of dinner time.  Fortunately, at least a dozen people turned up for “Making Magic Meaningful.”  (I am now OUT of bookmarks.  I knew I should have made the wine-colored set!)  Creating magic systems for fantasy fiction and gaming is one of my favorite subjects.  Programming gave me 90 minutes for the panel, and I needed it.  Each section of my panel notes corresponds to chapters in The Writer’s Spellbook.  I can go into as much or as little detail as people want on any of the many aspects of creating a strong, consistent magic system.  We had a good time.  I called on Pat to speak at points when her particular adventures in fantasy and forensics have led to either knowledge or experience by turns fascinating and freaky.

After the panel we went out into the hallway so Con Ops could pack up and secure the room.  A cluster of folks stayed with me, including Matthew and Mark.  Matthew is a delightful 15 year old boy who kept thanking me for helping him see what he needed to think about to fix his story.  I encouraged him to tell me about the plot.  As he went along I asked questions about cause and effect between events, character motivation, the real problem at the heart of the story, and who hired the bad guys.  As we went along, Matthew began to understand the importance of backstory and the details of how his world works.  Bright kid, very excited about what he’d learned from my talk.  I made sure he had my blog URL and told him I’d be happy to answer questions and talk writing with him.  I’m all for helping young writers who are just starting out.

Mark was closer to my age group.  He’s a member of RWA!  We got to talking about a very complex storyline involving shapeshifters and a secret temple in the wilds of Turkey.  Pat and I directed Mark to some books and movies that might provide more ideas and some different angles on the issues he wants to address.  He plans to get “The Writer’s Spellbook,” which is always good news to me.

In a surprisingly short time, 9 p.m. was upon us, time for Pat to present her talk on “Sky Warriors.”  It was just the two of us sitting there, wrestling with the Power Point projector as usual.  Around 9:15 p.m. we were joined by a couple that boggled my mind.  All in black, a cross between Elizabethan, steampunk, sky pirate, and a dash of Goth, they made an impressive pair.  I can now say I have seen a steampunk codpiece.  Pat gave her talk, and the gentleman of the pair asked some knowledgeable questions.  He’s a pilot, so he knew some of the more modern history of airships, dirigibles, blimps, etc.

My feet were ready to give it up for the day.  Pat made the night’s cookie raid on the front desk, and now here we are, snug in our hotel room, ready to watch some action movie or more episodes of “Forensics Files.”  Tomorrow we have “Steampunk in Japan” and “Steampunk CSI” back to back, and then I’m going to see the Japanese sisters do their naginata demo.  That should be great!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under charity, chocolate, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Food, Goals, history, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Special needs, Writing

Rocking the Clock


by Lillian Csernica on May 24, 2014

Nelson’s Navy vs. the Nautilus — Thanks to Pat, my 10 a.m. panel had the added benefit of a Power Point presentation.  She’d created slides to back up my lecture notes.  This is Silicon Valley, after all.  People expect good tech!  The schematics of the Plongeur, the French submarine on which Jules Verne based the Nautilus, brought the right steampunk touch.  I had been hoping there might be some Naval personnel in the audience.  We had good attendance for that hour, including a retired Communications and Intelligence officer who had some very useful and interesting comments.

Harry Turtledove GoH panel –Harry Turtledove is so much fun.  A thoroughly gracious man, he asked us what we wanted him to do for the hour.  When nobody else said anything, I got the ball rolling with a question about writing alternate history.  Mr. Turtledove read an essay on the Dos and Don’ts of writing alternate history.  Some of the turns of phrase were so clever and so witty they had me laughing out loud.  Given that I write historical fiction, I’m thinking it would be an adventure to try alternate history.  I’m having a blast with the steampunk world.  This might be a whole new genre for me.

Authors’ Row — Authors with tables for their books and promotional items.  Sharon Cathcart writes some wonderful books based on The Phantom of the Opera.  Her husband Jeffrey was on hand dressed as the Phantom.  He has in fact played the Phantom onstage.  I was fortunate enough to have a chat later with Jeffrey about his various hobbies.  Turns out Jeffrey sings, writes poetry, builds models, has studied all the weapons of fencing, and more.  Jeffrey has so many talents he does very much resemble Leroux’s Phantom, with the added bonus that he’s not a sociopath!  Jeffrey is also exceedingly kind to any child he meets while dressed as the Phantom who is confined to a wheelchair.  Jeffrey said who better to champion special needs children than the Phantom, who was himself a child in need of special care?  The man had me in tears, because of course my son Michael must use a wheelchair.

 

Original Japanese 1988 Cast Audio Cassette Recording

Artists’ Gallery — Beaded art!  Automatons!  A Tardis!  An anatomical sketch of a mermaid, complete with scientific notes!  There was a pegboard wall with a running story on it made up of sticky notes in various colors big enough to hold a sentence or two.  Gotta love opportunities for audience participation.  I added my own contribution: “I activated the proto-Roomba and soon the floor was completely clear.  I had no idea what to do with all the scattered flowers.”

Pat and I weighed our dining options and settled on the bar here at the Doubletree.  Sprigs, the overhauled version of the Coffee Garden, keeps rather limited hours which are not all that compatible with the Programming schedule.  This turned out to be good luck.  While we were sitting at our table on the edge of the concourse, somebody passed by and called my name.  It took me a second to recognize him because I haven’t seen him in twenty years.  We worked together at the Northern Renaissance Faire.  He and his lady took a seat and we had a delightful meal together.  He’s been in law enforcement, so he and Pat traded some stories.  He’s a grandfather now and my sons are well into their teens, so I’m feeling the years a bit right now.  That’s OK.

Speaking of audience participation, there is a treasure map/scavenger hunt put on by Sacramento Steampunk Society.  The search takes you to various locations in the Artists’ Gallery, the Caravan Tent (dealers’ room), and Authors’ Row.  Each location gives you a stamp, mainly ink but I did get one written by pen and one like an address label.  Tomorrow I’ll collect the last two stamps I need in the Caravan Bazaar, then I will return to the Sacramento Steampunk Society’s table and receive the secret prize!

Leave a comment

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

The Clock is Ticking


by Lillian Csernica on May 23, 2014

 

 

 

I will soon be heading over the hill to San Jose where I will spend the Memorial Day Weekend frolicking among the devotees of all things steampunk.

I’ve never attended Clockwork Alchemy, although I do have friends who are into steampunk.  I finally got it in gear (ho ho) and became a Browncoat not too long ago, so I am fit to join the Clockwork ranks.

 

I fear I cannot match the sartorial splendor of the better-dressed participants.  C’est la vie.  After the week I’ve had, it will be a major accomplishment to show up fully dressed with my lecture notes and in my right mind!

I have made a goodly pile of steampunk-themed bookmarks, so if you’re at Clockwork be sure to say hi and grab one.  My blog URL is on the back.  I am ever in pursuit of Shameless Self-Promotion!

It’s funny how life circles back on itself in some matters.  Years ago I worked Dickens Fair in when it was held on the Wharf in San Francisco.  I wore a riding habit made of cranberry wool with emerald satin facing on the lapels.  The buttons were mother-of-pearl.  I had gloves, I had a reticule, and I even had a top hat with emerald chiffon draping from the crown.  Anchoring it in place was a pewter brooch almost the diameter of my palm which showed a lady in profile with her hair blowing around her head to form the circle.  Now and then I’d switch that for this astounding piece of costume jewelry that came from my great-grandmother’s collection.  Also the size of my palm, it was made of concentric circles of rhinestones getting steadily larger until the huge one in the center.  People joke about some engagement rings looking like the headlight on a train engine.  This rhinestone pin could be absolutely blinding!

Alas, as I have accumulated years since those days, so too have I accumulated sheer mass, so I can’t fit into the riding habit anymore.  Oh well.  I shall do my best to live up to the occasion in my own peculiar ways.  A plain but professional outfit can be livened up considerably by some of my one-of-a-kind jewelry.  I was rummaging through the Bead Drawers this week and came up with both a pocket watch charm in gold and an octopus charm in silver.  Now surely I should be able to make something out of that combination!

If all goes well and I’m coherent enough, I’ll be posting here each night during Clockwork.  Stay tuned!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under fantasy, Fiction, history, Horror, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Writing

My Clockwork Alchemy Debut


by Lillian Csernica on May 19, 2014

 

The wonderful people behind Fanime and Clockwork Alchemy were gracious enough to accept some ideas I suggested for Programming at Clockwork Alchemy. This will be my schedule for the weekend:

 

*Clockwork Combo — Magic? Fri. at 8:00 p.m. (San Carlos)

Nelson’s Navy vs. the Nautilus Sat. at Noon (San Carlos)

*Making Magic Meaningful Sun. at 5:00 p.m. (Monterey)

*Sky Warriors Sun. at 9:00 p.m. (San Carlos)

Steampunk in Japan Mon. at 11:00 a.m. (San Carlos)

*Steampunk CSI Mon. at Noon (San Carlos)

Please note: The panels marked with a * mean Patricia H. MacEwen will either be leading the discussion or adding her expertise to mine.

 

I look forward to seeing everybody who can make it. I will be bringing my usual Shameless Self-Promotion Kit, along with news of coming releases and the appropriate party favors.

Now remember, a ticket to Clockwork Alchemy ALSO gets you into Fanime! Such a deal!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Conventions, fantasy, Fiction, history, Horror, Humor, Japan, romance, science fiction, Writing