Santa Claus Needs You!


by Lillian Csernica on December 5, 2016

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The letters to Santa Claus have begun to arrive. Right after Thanksgiving, I let the local post offices know that once again I’d be ready, willing, and able to join the network of Volunteer Elves all over the U.S.  We answer the letters children write to Santa Claus. We help keep the magic of childhood bright and sparkling.

If you believed in Santa Claus when you were little, please consider lending a hand this holiday season. There are always more letters than there are volunteers available to answer them. Would you like to know how much joy a letter from Santa Claus can bring? Let me share with you some moments from the more than ten years I’ve been answering these letters.

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One young lady asked for a gift certificate to a local bookstore. I called the bookstore, explained myself as a volunteer with my local post office, then told the clerk about this very specific request. Would the bookstore be interested in make a donation? The manager asked me to come on over and bring the letter with me. The result? The store donated a gift certificate for the full amount.

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Another young lady appealed to Santa Claus to help her convince the kids at school who kept telling her Santa didn’t really exist. Would Santa please send her some sleigh bells so she could prove to her classmates Santa Claus is real? I found two jingle bells, one large, one small, that looked a bit weathered and put them in a padded envelope along with Santa’s reply to the young lady’s letter. A few days later, my mail carrier brought me a note addressed to “The Post Office Santa Claus” from this young lady’s parents. It said, “Thank you so much for keeping our daughter’s dream and belief alive. WE LOVE YOU!”

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One year a letter came from two kindergarten age children, a brother and sister who included their school photos. It was clear to me that an adult had helped write the letter. The kids wanted Santa Claus to know that their family had just received housing assistance, so they were going to be moving. They were worried that Santa wouldn’t know where to find them on Christmas Eve. The children each asked for a single toy. Would Santa please bring their mother something nice, maybe perfume?

Thanks to the help of some enthusiastic postal workers, a very generous toy store, and my long-suffering and very supportive husband, we delivered two large, brightly wrapped gifts to the children’s home while the kids and their mother were out looking at Christmas decorations. Grandma was there baking pies. I discovered she’d been the one to help the kids write their letter. They watched a TV show about the people who volunteer to answer letters written to Santa. The little boy had asked Grandma if she thought Santa Claus really would answer their letter. Grandma suggested they give it a try.

One of the happiest moments of my life will always be the way Grandma burst into tears when we brought in the gifts for her grandchildren. I apologized for not knowing what perfume might be best for their mother, since so many people have allergies. Grandma said that didn’t matter. The best gift we could have brought Mom was how happy the kids would be when Grandma told them Santa’s elves had not just answered their letter but made a special trip to bring them their presents.

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Be a part of the magic. Stop by your local post office. I know more than a few mail carriers who have been the ones to answer the letters they pick up on their routes. The Post Office provides a starter kit, and there are lots of examples and suggestions online.

Happy Holidays!

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NaNoWriMo 2016: VICTORY!


by Lillian Csernica on November 30, 2016

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Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Bouquet of Rivals, Book 3 of The Flower Maiden Saga, weighs in at 50,064 words.

 

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Deep story goodness for writers via The Mother of All Cheat Sheets


This is brilliant. And helpful. And entertaining. Did I mention brilliant? I’m down to my last 5,000 words for NaNoWriMo. This is what I call HELP. Thank you, Guy Bergstrom!

The Red Pen of Doom

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If you’re attempting NaNoWriMo and are on track to finish the Great American Novel, congratulations. Carry on.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo and there’s no way you’ll give birth to a full novel by Dec. 1 without quitting your job, getting divorced and downing pots of coffee along with stimulants sold by a sketchy long-haul truck driverthen congratulations, this post is for you.

Click with your mousity mouse to read Part1—Why NaNoWriMo is noble nuttiness–and 8 steps to make it easier (big thanks to WordPress for featuring this post on their front page)

Click here to read Part 2— Why first drafts are always flawed and how to fix them

Hear me now and believe me later in the week: given the choice of holding in my  hands (1) an absolutely finished hot mess of 100,000 words or (2) a single page blueprint of a brilliant story, I’d…

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More News From NaNo Land


by Lillian Csernica on November 24, 2016

 

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I have just reached the 40,000 word mark.

Six more days. 10,000 more words.

A whole new novel.

And I just received the inspiration that will be a key piece of plotting Book Four.

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They Blinded Me with Science!


by Lillian Csernica on November 19, 2016

 

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Today I took my son John and his two best friend to the Museum of Technology and Innovation in San Jose, CA. This was John’s big birthday wish. Despite lack of sleep, heavy rain, and my general preference for sparing myself the ordeal of driving over  Hwy 17, we arrived only a little while after the museum opened at 10 a.m.

Oh my stars and garters. We did everything there was to do, and some of it twice!

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The boys built a catapult for firing a small wooden ball across the model of a river. That particular activity comes with a tool kit and a wall of supplies, which including PVC piping, thin wooden dowels, fat plastic screws, and all the blue or green rubber bands you could possibly need.

Once the catapult was built, the boys carried it over to the river, fired it successfully, and received the “I’m a Mechanical Engineer” magnets awarded to everyone whose device was successful.

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The general theme of John’s birthday this year is Superman. With this in mind, the trio of teenage mad scientists built a robot that stood about three feet high. It had colored lights that rotated through the spectrum. It had a shield on the front that spun around, along with two smaller shields, one on the end of each arm. It had infrared sensors and a motion detector. It even had a cape!

Once they’d finished building the robot, the boys recruited a staff member to help them attach the electronic brain. With that in place they could begin programming the robot. This took some trial and error, some experimentation. I am proud to say Team John got the superhero robot working!

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Another high point included each of the boys designing a roller coaster. Once complete, the video equivalent of the design played on a large screen. The really great part was the four seat ride car equipped with a low grade version of DBox. Each of the boys’ designs managed to make me want to throw up, so I pronounced them all a success.

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The Gift Shop is full of amazing educational toys, science experiments, books, jewelry, and a great space-themed “ugly Christmas sweatshirt.” John chose a gyroscope, which he’s learned to operate quite well.

The Gift Shop included one of those bins of red jasper, moss agate, tiger’s eye, and the usual quartz and agate dyed a hideous blue or pink. I can’t resist rocks, so I was digging through the bin looking for something worthwhile. A young man (in his teens) happened to be interested in the rocks as well. We got to talking about various stones. He kept asking me questions. I know enough to identify many of the more common rocks, along with the more popular semiprecious stones. I also know a fair amount of folklore regarding the properties of stones.

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The young man listened in apparent fascination. Every time I apologized for going on and on about a lifetime hobby, he wanted to know even more. We must have been talking for a good fifteen minutes when I finally had to excuse myself to go find out what John and his friends were doing. It’s wonderful to meet someone hungry for knowledge in a subject that also fascinates me.

Tomorrow we have John’s official birthday party with cake, ice cream, and presents. On the anniversary of his actual birth, we plan to see Fantastic Beasts. And then comes Thanksgiving!

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News from NaNo Land


by Lillian Csernica on November 13th, 2016

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It’s a good thing women are neurologically wired for multitasking. Without that advantage, I would be a smoking pile of rubble right now.

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In addition to cranking out seven pages of fresh writing every day on my NaNo novel, I’ve had to edit and polish two short stories. The first weighed in at 3300 words, the second at 5300. Both were due today. I sent them to my editor last night. Go, me!

As if all that wasn’t enough fun, I’ve had brainstorms for at least two new short stories.

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This is all good, but it feels like Finals Week. I’ve been downing so much caffeine I’m surprised my arrhythmia hasn’t started up again. The only cure for mental fatigue is getting away from reading and writing for a little while. (I never really thought of grocery shopping as being therapeutic, but today’s trip to the market qualified!)

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So this is what the Big Names do all the time. Wow. Let’s hope I can keep this up after the formal end of NaNoWriMo. It’s good to be preoccupied with my writing. That really keeps the depression under control.

Capere keyboard!

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How to Write 10,000 Words in a Day


Here’s something for all of us about to hit the middle of NaNoWriMo 2016. Many thanks to Faye Kirwin!

The Sprint Shack

How to write 10,000 words in a day: 6 steps to a successful writing marathon | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comWe word sprinters like to push ourselves. The pressure of a time limit makes us more productive and we thrive on the challenge. And what greater challenge is there for a sprinter than writing more words in a day than we believed possible?

For those of you looking to really test yourselves, the 10k Day Challenge might be just the thing. If you’re interested in giving it a go yourself, here are my six steps to writing 10,000 words in one day.

(Before I start, I will add a small note: although the focus of this post is on writing 10,000 words in a single day, the steps listed can apply to any word count goal you set yourself, whether that’s 1000 words, 10,000 or more.)

Step 1: Break down your target into manageable chunks.

10,000 words is a BIG number. To some, it seems impossible. It’s not. It’s all…

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How to Squeeze More Words Out of A Tired Brain


by Lillian Csernica on November 6, 2016

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I’m sitting here yawning. Yesterday I left the house at 11:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until around 10 p.m. That means ten and a half hours. I spent three of those hours driving.

When I finally staggered up the stairway to my office and dropped my bags, I realized I had 90 minutes to get the day’s NaNoWriMo quota done. At midnight, that’s it. You’ve either written that day or you haven’t.

You know how your car engine sounds when you turn the key and the engine tries to turn over, but it just won’t catch? Yeah. That’s the sound my brain was making.

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I was a bit ahead of the minimum total word count for Day 5, so I was strongly tempted to just let it ride for one day. No no no. I’d signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I’d made the commitment to write every single day in November. Every. Single. Day.

I did cut myself some slack. Make it to the ten thousand word mark, I told myself. Write that much, and you’re off the hook. That meant three pages, or 750 words.

Great. Now what? <sound  of car engine failing to turn over>

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At times like this I brainstorm. I write down every horrible thing that I could possibly do to my characters. It doesn’t have to make sense, really, it just has to be possible within the story content already established. If all goes well, inspiration will strike, the engine of my imagination will turn over, and the writing flows.

Want some specific examples of how I torture my characters and get the day’s writing done? I’m happy to share.

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After Happily Ever After: Somer Canon


I also find it fascinating to learn about another writer’s process. Well done, Somer!

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14680588_10100739534534109_945657069046256620_n After Happily Ever After Cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Somer Canon adds her unique brand of fiction through a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale, and keep reading because there’s a Halloween treat at the end!

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You have a fun, quirky bio that plays on the contrast between the normalcy of the suburban life you find yourself in and the deeper facets of your creative self-expression. Would you like to give us a glimpse into how the “mini van revving suburban mother” who plays “video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother” got her start on this writing journey?
I’ve always been…

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Why You Want These in Your Treat Bag


by Lillian Csernica on October 28, 2016

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Just 99 cents from now until Halloween!

Horror can be anything from the most elegant ghost story to the total freak-out of a bloodthirsty serial killer. The Fright Factory can show you how to make the most of your story ideas. Choose the best setting. Build a better monster Learn the fine art of creating suspense! It’s all here, including an essential list of the worst horror cliches no editor wants to see.

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Also just 99 cents until Halloween!

Suzie Lockhart and Digital Horror Fiction are thrilled to present 32 chilling tales of terror from some of the best authors in horror. Killing It Softly includes stories from New York Times best selling authors Nancy Holder and Elaine Cunningham, together with more shocking short nightmares from the finest award winning female writers in the genre.
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