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T is for Ticking Clock


by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2013

The ticking clock is the key to creating edge-of-your-seat tension and suspense. The classic example is the red LED readout on the bomb ticking down those final seconds. In the more general sense, if your protagonist does not accomplish a certain task by a certain deadline, something really horrible will happen. This usually involves some kind of loss, such as the bomb exploding in the hospital or the Bad Guy killing the protagonist’s love interest.

That sense of “Time is running out!” keeps your reader hooked on the story. It’s up to you to maintain that level of interest with strong characters involved in plausible conflict that escalates toward the climax of the story. To achieve the full effect, you need not just the ticking clock itself but all the obstacles that get in the way and cost your protagonist precious time. Keep those obstacles believable and use just enough to maintain the escalation of the tension. If you go on for too long with obstacle after obstacle, after a certain point the pace flatlines because reader begins to lose interest.

What are some memorable ticking clocks?

Dickens‘ “A Christmas Carol“: If Scrooge doesn’t learn his lesson by the time the Ghost of Christmas Future is done with him, Scrooge won’t have any future at all.

The Bourne Legacy“: Aaron Cross races against time and everybody who’s trying to kill him in order to get what he needs to preserve the man he has become.

In the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, there are several novels featuring Granny Weatherwax. In what is perhaps her best adventure, Witches Abroad, Granny must face her ultimate adversary in a world of magical mirrors with Death himself on hand as time is running out.

Excitement. Challenges. High stakes. These are all parts of a good story. Add to them the pressure of the ticking clock and your readers will keep coming back for more.

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Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Writing

Bonus Post! S is for Supporting Small Business!


by Lillian Csernica on April 22, 2013

Please, folks, join me in helping out a really nice pair of people.  He’s a great cook as well as being a  marvelous fencer.  She’s a talented seamstress and the soul of hospitality.  All you need to do is go to this page and click on the VOTE button.  I know a lot of you enjoy good tea and the delights of cupcakes, scones, and other baked goodies.  You’ll be helping two hard workers keep progressing toward their dream business.

On behalf of myself and these two wonderful people, I thank you for your support.

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Filed under Awards, Small business

K is for Keepsake


By Lillian Csernica on April 12, 2013

 

My family teases me because they think I have too many keepsakes. I suppose I do. Beach glass and seashells and a beaded lizard keyring and a little bean bag dragon called a “shishimai.” I have a pot holder from Santa Fe given to me by my Japanese teacher and some odd little toys from a friend in Germany. I even have a jade Kwan Yin pendant from a friend in Hong Kong.

I am sentimental. I have been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things, but best of all I have met a lot of people. When I went to the 2007 World Science Fiction Convention held in Yokohama, Japan, I took a blank journal with me. I had people sign it, leaving their email addresses and greetings and little reminders of the moments we shared. It was the best way I could think of to capture more than just the faces of the people I met on the vacation of a lifetime.

While I treasure that book and the photo album that goes with it, I think the most precious of my keepsakes is a little inkwell made of blue glass in the shape of a one room schoolhouse. The chimney is where the quill dips into the ink. A nice man named John ran a comic book shop in Santa Cruz. He agreed to host my very first book signing when I was promoting The Year’s Best Horror XX. Friends and family and my husband’s co-workers came, along with UCSC students and curious locals. We had a great time. At the end of the evening, John presented me with the blue glass inkwell. I have never seen the like before or since. It remains a singular treasure.

Most writers don’t make a lot of money. Self-promotion is hard, tiring work. Every now and then somebody comes along who appreciates what you’re doing and how hard you’re trying. Sometimes that appreciation takes tangible form in what becomes a keepsake.

I want to hear from you folks. Do you have any keepsakes related to your writing? Any trinkets or treasures that inspire you?

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Filed under Blog challenges, Family, Fiction, Humor, Writing

Stress: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore!


by Lillian Csernica on March 26, 2013

It’s been a long day, the kind of day I want people to witness when they make ignorant, offensive remarks about my life.

I am not feeling well right now.  Never mind the details.  It’s enough to keep me from leaving the house.

John played a Narrator in his class’ Reader’s Theater production this morning.  He really wanted me to be there.  Fortunately, Chris decided to go in my place.  Chris doesn’t get to be part of school day events very often. so it was a nice surprise for John.  I was happy John’s teacher got to have some face-time with Chris.  I was hoping for a smooth afternoon since John was in a good state of mind after the performance.  Nope.  He was uncooperative and defiant and things wound up escalating into a full meltdown, teenage version.  By the time I worked up the strength to come downstairs and get in the middle of it, there was no way I could interrupt the cycle John goes through.  His aide couldn’t prevent it, and the confrontational style of other people in the house didn’t help matters.

On top of all of that, there was Michael‘s day.  It started off with a really unpleasant diaper situation.  Once that was cleaned up, it was time to get Michael ready for his MetroParacruz ride to the dentist.  (MP is a minivan service for the special needs and senior citizen population in our area.)  Due to my being out of action, my sister rode with Michael and then later, after John’s performance, Chris went to the appointment to add any required parental authorization.  Michael has what’s referred to as secretion management problems, which means he drools a lot.  That results in serious plaque build up on his teeth, which can cause various dental problems.  So every three months he has to get his teeth cleaned.  The problem is, in order for the dental hygienist to do a thorough job, Michael has to be put under anesthetic.   Michael needs more teeth pulled because more are coming in and the narrowness of his jaw due to hydrocephaly means there’s no room.  Convincing the insurance company to give us the anesthesiologist for oral surgery is very very difficult.

And this evening Michael is showing flu-like symptoms including vomiting, which is extremely dangerous for him because it can lead to aspiration pneumonia.

This is why I have all three kinds of insomnia.  I’m too stressed out to go to sleep for fear of what medical crisis might arise when I’m not awake to cope with it.   After about five years of experimentation, my current doctor and I have finally arrived at a combination of meds that helps me sleep without turning me into a zombie.  Sleep is good.  Sleep is essential.  Do not underestimate the importance of sleep.  Lack of sleep screws up your brain chemistry and that does bad things to the rest of you.

Having said all this, let me close by offering my prayers and support for all special needs families everywhere.  I know many of you have a lot harder than I do.

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Filed under Family, Special needs

Pop Quiz


by Lillian Csernica on March 14, 2013

Time for a little audience participation. I’ve got this 600 page manuscript sitting here next to me. My agent does not want it anywhere near her until I cut it down to the marketable length of 400 pages. paperstack4
So here’s The Question: Do I set myself a deadline of, oh, Memorial Day to get this monster whittled down to size?

Sully and Boo

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March 14, 2013 · 3:53 am