Monthly Archives: July 2016

How to Handle Writer Jealousy


Here are some excellent ideas for combating one of the bigger hazards of the writing life. Thank you, Kate!

A Writer's Path

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by Kate M. Colby

We’ve all been there.

Your classmate’s story is praised in workshop, while yours is torn apart.

“Poorly written” romances dominate best-seller lists, while your science fiction novel languishes in Amazon’s 2,000,000 ranking spot.

The author you follow on Instagram posts their third cover reveal this year, while you struggle to finish your manuscript.

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Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!


by Lillian Csernica on July 27, 2016

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Yesterday we went on a family outing to the San Francisco Zoo. Back in late April, during his birthday preparations, Michael had asked for a trip to the zoo. Chris told him we’d go in the summer when the weather was better and the animals were more likely to be active.

This was my first visit to this particular zoo, which happens to be Northern California’s largest zoological park. Here are some of the marvelous creatures I had the pleasure of seeing live and in person:

Eagle Owl

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This owl is enormous! While I was studying her, Athena flew toward me. I now know what it feels like to be a small, furry creature seeing that shadow coming for me. In the Harry Potter books, Draco’s familiar is an Eagle Owl. The owl’s eyes really are that intense orange color!

 

Grizzly Bear

Kachina and Kiona are orphaned cubs from Montana. They were found foraging for food in a barn. Fortunately, arrangements were made for the zoo to give them a home.

Red Panda

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There are few creatures on this planet more adorable than a red panda. Even when one is just hanging out, munching leaves, it’s a delight. To judge from the number of stuffed toys red pandas I saw people carrying around, the zoo must sell more of those than any other animal.

Fishing Cat

This is when I got really excited. I didn’t know the zoo had a Fishing Cat. There she sat, on a stony ledge right beside the waterfall in her enclosure. She took no notice of us humans until a man with a service dog came closer. Then the Fishing Cat stood up and took a good look at that dog! Fishing cats’ paws are partly webbed. They pat the water to imitate how bugs move. That draws the fish, then the cats dive in!

Tigers

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Tigers are my favorite animal, especially the white tiger. We saw a Bengal tiger and a Sumatran tiger. Tigers are supremely cool and they know it.

Gray Rhinoceros

 

You need to understand just how big a rhino really is. Six feet tall at the shoulder, weighing up to three thousand pounds. My car, a Dodge Neon, weighs a bit over twenty-five hundred pounds and comes up to my chest. I had to stand there staring at the rhino for a good few minutes just to get my mind around the sheer size!

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Speaking of size, I was also boggled by the length and girth of the hippo, who was underwater and stayed there aside from a few brief bobs to the surface for air. This photo gives you some perspective. Do not annoy a hippo. It may well be the last thing you ever do.

Snow leopard

How gorgeous can one large feline get? What impressed me is the fact that a snow leopard’s tail is usually as long as its body.

These animals are all endangered species. Please, if you haven’t been able to see them in person, do so as soon as possible. If you find yourself captivated by one or more of these wonderful creatures, consider a donation or volunteer work or whatever you can manage.

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Filed under cats, charity, Family, Lillian Csernica, nature, perspective, research, travel, veterinarian, Writing

As Jumpy As A Wired Kangaroo


by Lillian Csernica on July 24, 2016

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I really don’t like it when people sneak up on me. I have enough anxiety issues as it is. My son John once crept up behind me, poked me in the ribs, and said, “Boo!” He suddenly found himself staring at the floor with his arm up behind his back. I didn’t do it with much force, but I did it, leaving both of us surprised. I turned him loose and apologized, but I made it clear to John not only is it not polite to sneak up on people, it can be very dangerous.

This also explains why I almost never braid my hair. Every time I’ve ever done so, somebody will come up behind me and yank on my braid like it’s some sort of bell pull. My instincts say I’ve snagged my hair on something, which tends to kick off my fight or flight response due to that time way back when I was four years old and my long hair got caught in a floor fan.  Nothing got cut off, but it took a long time to untangle and it hurt a LOT. What is the deal with this braid-pulling? It’s up there with people being compelled to pat a pregnant woman’s stomach. I don’t care if you “just really had to do it.” Hands off!

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On a recent trip to the local Dollar Tree, I was standing there trying to remember one of the items I’d come to buy. Suddenly, right behind me, a man cleared his throat quite loudly. I shot up into the air as if I’d been stabbed with a hat pin. I jerked around and almost tripped over him. What on earth was he doing that close to me? He made some attempt at courtesy that still didn’t explain why he was standing well within my personal space. I got away from him, and nothing else came of it, so I didn’t feel a need to tell the manager. I remember his face. If I see him again, he will not have another opportunity to sneak up on me.

Tonight I was out buying groceries for the week. Put everything on the moving belt, pushed my cart forward a half step at a time as the line progressed. Out of nowhere there’s a guy leaning over my left shoulder.  Turns out he was a cashier trying to decide which check stand to close next. So what? He could have taken three steps around me and get a better look at the situation! At the very least, a polite “Excuse me” was called for. What is wrong with some people that they just treat others like objects to be ignored or pushed aside?

I’m jumpy to begin with. I will freely admit that.

However, I’ve been given reason to develop a high-strung temperament due to sudden shocks of a physical and auditory nature. That tends to make one prone to being jumpy.

This is a bit of a psychological Moebius strip. Where does one part end and the other begin?

These are tough times. Caution and courtesy should be our watch words. There are a lot of people suffering from PTSD because there’s a hell of a lot of trauma happening, both visible and invisible.

How do your experiences compare? Do you see this kind of disregard for personal space? Let me hear what’s happening to you.

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Filed under Family, Food, frustration, Lillian Csernica, perspective, Self-image, therapy, Writing

A Dozen Devilish Delights


by Lillian Csernica on July 20, 2016

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New from Digital Fiction Publishing!

Largely Deceased

12 horror stories, including my own “Fallen Idol.”

A photographer discovers a young woman who could become his “modern Mona Lisa.” Attempts to make contact with her lead to strange suspicions. When the photographer follows her back to what he thinks is her home, he finds a treasure trove of images he must capture. The reality of their making is a secret he’ll wish he’d never learned!

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Lillian Csernica, publication, surgery, Writing

Fun: Getting Your RDA


by Lillian Csernica on July 16, 2016

People talk a lot about the importance of nutrition, exercise, supplements, fiber, getting enough sunshine and drinking enough water. All of that is certainly crucial to physical health.

I believe there is another “nutrient” that is essential to the health and well-being of both mind and body.

fun

Given all the terrible events that keep appearing in the news, we’ve got to do something to counteract the weight of grief, anger, depression and loss. Does it seem frivolous to talk about the importance of having fun when the world is awash in tragedy?

Damn right it’s frivolous.  That’s the whole point. For those of us who live with depression, there are times when it is critical for us to engage in some activity that will help lighten our loads. Even if you don’t have clinical depression and/or an anxiety disorder, you too can protect your well-being by making sure you build “having fun” into your healthy lifestyle.

The Benefits of Play for Adults

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is not just some excuse to blow off our responsibilities. Have a look at this infographic:

11 Shocking Employee Happiness Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind

Still don’t believe me? Think we just need to buckle down and make serious contributions to our own lives and the lives of others? Fine, but don’t take that too far. The results can be horrifying:

The Importance of Play: Having Fun Must Be Taken Seriously

I don’t know about you, but I find those facts and figures really disturbing. Bad enough 16  million children in the United States aren’t getting enough healthy, nutritious food every day. How can we possibly get our world into the shape we hope and pray for when such fundamentals as food and good old-fashioned playtime aren’t available?

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world. We’ll work on the serious issues, of course we will.  In the process, let’s make the time to have some FUN.

Today I blew off two important social engagements that would have taken a toll on me physically and emotionally. Instead, I grabbed my son John by the hand and we ran away from home to go see “Ghostbusters” in 3D.

Charity really does begin at home. Give yourself permission to have fun.

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Filed under creativity, Depression, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Food, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, parenting, perspective, research, Writing

Light That Candle


I’m sitting here crying. The family of a friend of mine has lost a little girl. There was an Amber Alert out for her, but the authorities didn’t find her in time. This loss, on top of France and Dallas and the rest of 2016, is just too much. I’m reposting this blog in the hope that these stories provide some inspiration and perhaps even comfort.

Hopes and Dreams: My Writing and My Sons

by Lillian Csernica on August 16, 2014

It has been a long and difficult week all over the world.  So many losses.  So much upheaval.  I’ve seen a lot of information out there about depression and how to cope with it.  I’ve seen a lot of really stupid remarks by people who have no idea what it’s like to live with the big Black Dog day in and day out, to go to sleep (if you can) with the Black Dog sitting on your chest and then wake up to it gnawing on your heart.

One suggestion I’ve heard several times is to go do something for other people.  Get out of your own head, away from your own life, and help somebody who needs it.  You could make all the difference.  With that in mind, I’d like to share seven events from my life, seven moments where the kindness…

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Filed under charity, Depression, doctors, Family, family tradition, fantasy, Halloween, hospital, Lillian Csernica, mother, parenting, perspective, Self-image, surgery, therapy, travel, worry, Writing

A Happy Day in Writer Land


by Lillian Csernica on July 9, 2016

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Happy News Item #1:

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I’ve sold another story! Details will be forthcoming upon completion of the usual paperwork. I am happy to sell this story, and I’m even happier about the market.

 

Happy News Item #2:

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My Christmas ghost story “The Family Spirit” is now available as part of Digital Fiction Publishing’s Uncommon Senses anthology.

Grab it now and savor all twelve of the marvelous stories it contains!

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Filed under Christmas, creativity, editing, fairy tales, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Humor, Lillian Csernica, love, perspective, publication, sword and sorcery, Writing

Where Will Your Writing Take You?


by Lillian Csernica on July 6, 2016

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I am at work on a new short story. In order to build the plot, know the characters properly, and create a climax that is both satisfying and plausible, I have had to learn about these subjects:

Concrete screws

What a hammer drill is and does

What machinery CalTrans uses to resurface the freeways

How strong a welder’s mask really is

The auction price of three small gold coins from medieval Norway

Why the California Highway Patrol doesn’t handle a crime scene the way the Sheriff’s Dept. or the local police would.

Who owned the land grant that encompasses a large portion of Los Angeles County back when Charles V of Spain was handing those out.

Sure, research is part of a writer’s daily life. Sure, I’m already drawing on a lot of knowledge I already have when it comes to the fantasy elements in the story. No surprises there, right?

It’s one thing to have a good idea. It’s quite another to convince your readers it will work.

The deeper I’ve gone into this story, the more I’ve needed to learn. All the details matter, even the peripheral details that could be taken for granted. My two main characters have to join forces to accomplish something almost impossible in a very tight time frame against staggering odds. One knows enough about power tools and where to get them. The other knows enough about the Bad Guys and how to fight them.

The most exciting part about this story is what each of the main characters must learn about the other character and about himself. Is each of them willing to risk everything? How much does each of them stand to lose? And if they succeed, what do they do next, knowing what they now know?

That laundry list of research subjects has taken me to areas of science, history, law enforcement, and construction that are all new to me. I had to look all of that information up because I need it all to build the goals and obstacles for each character, my heroes and my Bad Guys. In discovering so much about the contexts in which my characters function, I’ve developed new insights into their motivations, loyalties, prejudices, etc.

This might sound really obvious, but it isn’t. There’s no thrill like the thrill of sudden inspiration, realization, understanding. Pieces of related information link up and present themselves as an idea or a solution or a complication.

Let your writing take you to places where you’ve never been. Don’t try to steer. Just go where your characters have come from, then take them and your readers somewhere none of you ever expected to go!

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Filed under creativity, editing, fairy tales, Family, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, history, Lillian Csernica, nature, research, travel, Writing

My Stress Managment is Too Stressful


by Lillian Csernica on June 30, 2016

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How do I manage my stress?

  • At the end of the day, I watch TV
  • I go to the library and write in my journal or my work notebook.
  • I get out in the sun and enjoy Nature.
  • I play with my cats.
  • I see my physical and mental health care professionals.

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How do these activities increase my stress?

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  • Are you familiar with the term “binge watching”? There are a number of TV and cable shows available on Netflix, Hulu, et al. Some of my favorites include “Person of Interest,” “Once Upon A Time,” various Food network shows, and a few that try to document paranormal activity. One episode is just like one potato chip. One is never enough. Even though it’s summer, I still have to get up at 6:30 a.m. for Michael’s morning routine.  If I stay up too late watching TV (and I do), I don’t get enough sleep. Less sleep = more stress.

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  • Libraries are no longer the Sacred Sites of Silence. I often find a remote corner, depending on the time of day, but even so, noise travels. Shrieking toddlers, teenagers with no concept of muting their phones and themselves, and the endless clicking of everybody’s laptop keyboards. Makes me crazy. If it’s a bad time of day, I retreat to Denny’s. Yes, it’s noisy, but in Tourist Season, I’m OK with that.

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  • Santa Cruz County is full of beaches and national parks and redwoods. We’ve got artist colonies and museums and aquariums. And yes, this means we’ve also got Tourist Season. Generally speaking, I like tourists. I can take a stroll down the Boardwalk and hear three or four foreign languages being spoken. What stresses me out is the traffic. People who don’t know Hwy 17, Hwy 9, and the major artery streets can get confused, which means they slow down. Then there are the people who insist on going insanely fast no matter where they are.

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  • It’s summer. I have three cats who are all shedding. One is a black longhair who decided to hack up the mother of all hairballs on the stairway landing some time last night. The last thing I want to see first thing in the morning is some big furry disgusting mess on my stairs, especially when there’s a good chance it might be alive. I live in a somewhat more civilized area than I have in the past two towns where I’ve lived, but we still have all kinds of flora and fauna that can and do take me by surprise.

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  • Now we come to the big issue of the moment. I’m having trouble with my heart. Arrhythmia, which is no big deal. At least I hope not. I had an attack today that lasted long enough to make me consider going to Urgent Care. I made an appointment with my doctor. The thing is, my general practitioner is over the hill in San Jose. That means I’ll be driving Hwy 17 tomorrow. Tomorrow is the Friday of the 4th of July Weekend. That means on my way home I will be dealing with everybody on the face of this part of the planet who wants to spend the holiday weekend at the beach. On a slow day Hwy 17 is a nightmare. Just thinking about it stresses me out. I didn’t realize the logistics of the drive until after I’d made the appointment. Doesn’t matter. I have to see my doctor. This is one of those things that just can’t wait.

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Filed under doctors, Family, frustration, hospital, Lillian Csernica, nature, reality TV, research, specialists, therapy, worry, Writing