This isn’t just an Instagram aesthetic. It’s actually really good advice for us. If you’re unfamiliar with self-care, it is the simple act of caring for ourselves. We deserve it, not because it makes us better for others or for our lecturers or for our flatmates, but because it makes us healthier for ourselves. […]
Category Archives: dogs
by Lillian Csernica on August 1, 2017
AVAILABLE NOW ON SMASHWORDS!
One of the most important elements of a fantasy novel or a game world is the magic system. A logical and consistent magic system will do a lot to help improve the quality of the story… A better magic system means a better story, and a better story means more readers!
PLENTY OF FORMATS TO CHOOSE FROM!
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Whether you’re a writer or a gamer, a graphic novelist or an historical reenactor, The Writer’s Spellbook will give you step by step guidance in making the crucial decisions that will bring your fantasy world to life.
by Lillian Csernica on December 15, 2016
1) Thou shalt slow down. We’re all in a hurry. It’s that time of year. If we can “proceed in a calm, orderly fashion” the way we’re directed to do during emergencies, then maybe we can avoid the kind of emergency that will ruin everybody’s day. Yes, I mean traffic. I also mean elevators, escalators, check out lines, and any other point where the crowd tends to hit a bottle neck.
2)Thou shalt hurry up. This means have your ticket ready when you exit the parking garage. This means get off your cell phone and stop blocking the aisle. This means know what you want to order by the time you get to the head of the fast food line.
3)Thou shalt have mercy on servers, salespeople, and other customer service representatives unless and until they demonstrate deliberate rudeness. Once that happens, demand to see the supervisor or manager. Take the time to make sure those rude people get busted for their bad behavior. You deserve polite service.
4)Thou shalt give no gifts that require labor or maintenance unless by prior explicit agreement. This means any living creature in the pet category, any plant growing in a container, anything from any DIY category on Pinterest, and especially any of those “In A Jar” projects.
5) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s parking space. This goes double for the handicapped slots. Just because you can’t see why a person has a handicapped placard or special license plate, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a disability that qualifies.
6) Thou shalt contain thy children. This includes both physical movement and volume control.
7)Thou shalt prepare, taste, and evaluate any new recipes before inflicting them on innocent and unsuspecting family and/or guests. Have you ever wondered why the women’s magazines bring out all those bizarre recipes for the holiday season? If those food items are so delightful, why aren’t people making them anymore?
8) Thou shalt keep thy receipts. Big stores like Toys R Us and Macy’s are pretty good about “gift receipts,” making returns possible without the person knowing exactly how much you spent on the gift.
9) Thou shalt not put up so many Christmas lights, inflatable snowmen, animatronic reindeer, etc. etc. that you create a traffic hazard by either distracting drivers, blinding them, or both.
10)Thou shalt cover thy nose or mouth in the event of a sneeze or cough. Come on, people. Do the elbow thing. Do NOT use your hands, because you will then spread whatever germs didn’t already escape into the air.
11)Thou shalt send actual written thank you notes. I know, this must sound unbearably old-fashioned in the Digital Age, but it’s the right thing to do. My sons send written thank you notes, and everybody knows Michael and John both need some help to do that. People are surprised and very pleased. Word gets all the way back to my mother, who sat me down and made me write thank you notes as soon as I had learned how to write.
12)Thou shalt give thyself permission to stop trying to make everybody happy all at once, especially when that means losing sight of making thyself happy too. Figure out what really makes you happy, be it baking cookies or driving around looking at Christmas lights or going to church or playing silly board games with your friends. Do those things. Give yourself the gift of “Peace on earth, goodwill toward Man.”
by Lillian Csernica on February 18, 2015
I’ve been away on a week-long mini-vacation to the Wonderful World of RadCon. I’m sorry I couldn’t blog each day from the con the way I did when I was at Clockwork Alchemy last year. The hotel’s wifi and my laptop never did settle their differences.
Two lenticular clouds over Shastina
Our fabulous hotel room. It didn’t have the fireplace, but it did have two big plasma TVs and a kitchenette.
My school visit went really well. I spoke to three middle school classes with the invaluable support of my longtime collaborator, best friend and wheelwoman, Patricia H. MacEwen. The kids were great. Smart, eager, and full of really good ideas. Much to my joy, among them was a young lady also named Lillian. One young man asked me if I would read the first two chapters of his novel. I did, and sent him feedback. One of the younger boys asked for one of my business cards. His sister writes stories, so he wanted the card to give to her. He’d met a “real writer,” and couldn’t wait to tell her.
At the last minute I was added to the NaNoWriMo panel, where I met Jason Andrew Bond. Read his Hammerhead series! I’m looking forward to doing so. His main character Jeffrey Holt sounds fascinating. Beyond that, Jason has donated 25% of the money he has made to the Disabled Veterans. This is a man I can respect.
Best Western serves an astonishing breakfast buffet. Custom-made omelets, plenty of pineapple, and excellent cinnamon rolls. There was more bacon than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time.
I got a reading slot on Saturday afternoon, which was pretty spiffy given that this was my first year at RadCon. Four people were there, which is fine with me because it means I was outnumbered and that’s all I ask. See that drawing? That’s Amatsu Mikaboshi, August Star of Heaven, the Japanese god of chaos. He’s the bad guy in my story “A Demon in the Noonday Sun.” After my reading, a very tall gentleman named Big Dan introduced himself. Turns out he’s into Japanese history too, so he was pleasantly surprised to discover the story I read was steampunk set in the Kyoto of 1880. We got to talking, and it turns out he’s also a fan of “When the Last Sword is Drawn,” one of the best movies about the Shinsengumi. It won all the Japanese Oscars. I LOVE that movie. The conversation led us to a place where Pat gave Dan her card so he could contact her about some research for his novel, which sounds quite original. Lovely man. I hope to hear from him soon.
The hallways of the hotel were packed with lots of wonderful people in great costumes. I brought a bag of Mardi Gras coins with me just so I could give out my own version of Hall Costume Awards. I went through a good two dozen of the coins. My favorites were the Black Butler, the demon version of InuYasha, and the five different Deadpools who wandered around together in a group. One of them was female, and she looked fantastic!
In the main lobby of the hotel, three women sat using spinning wheels. This was fascinating in and of itself, but my attention was focused on the beautiful Samoyed stretched out on his side at the feet of one spinner. Believe me when I tell you this was the biggest dog I have ever seen. Fortunately he was also one of the sweetest. When his owner gave me permission to pet him, I knelt down by his side and petted his thick, fluffy white fur. I’m well known as a cat person, but if I ever get a dog, it will be a Samoyed.
Ignition! This amazing, vastly talented fire troupe put on a display out in the hotel courtyard. Pat and I had been invited to a room party by Esther Jones, who was on the Handicapped Heroes panel with me. She had a second floor room, so we got to watch the fire display from her balcony! Entirely by accident, I activated the video function on my phone, so I brought home some footage to show John. To me the best part of the show happened when six of the performers lined up in a curve. The first got the fireball started by spitting out what Pat thought was probably vodka. The second performer “caught” the fireball and kept it moving until all six had sent the fireball around the curve. That was just way too cool!
In my next post, I will continue with the highlights of RadCon and the further adventures we encountered on our 957 mile drive home!
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 of strangers made a huge difference to the suffering I was enduring at that time.
1) When I was ten years old, I had to have surgery to remove the birthmark on the right side of my rib cage. I don’t remember where the hospital was, but I do remember it was a long way from home. In those days parents weren’t allowed to stay in the same hospital room with their children. That meant my mother had to get a hotel room down the road. Fortunately, I could see the hotel’s sign from the window of the my hospital ward. Even so, I was alone, I was scared, and a bunch of strangers were about to wheel me into an operating room so the doctor could cut off a chunk of my skin. There was another girl in the ward. She was pretty, with long blonde braids. I don’t know what happened to her, but her jaw was broken and it had to be wired shut. She couldn’t talk, right? The night before my surgery I stood there at the window crying. I wanted my mother and I wanted to go home. The blonde girl stood next to me, put her arm around me, and leaned her head on my shoulder. She let me know I was not alone.
2) One Halloween when I was in high school a good friend of mine told me that if we dressed up in costume, we could get in to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for free down at a theater near the beach. So we got dressed up and off we went. For some reason my friend got his wires crossed. There was no such offer. By then it was too late to do much else. As we stood there, disappointed and trying to salvage the evening, a woman who was standing in the theater lobby walked over and put money on the ticket counter. All she said was, “You’re in!” We thanked her up one side and down the other. I had never seen the movie, so that was quite a memorable Halloween. This was not a terribly serious situation, but even so, a total stranger stepped up and did something generous and kind.
3) When I was in the hospital on bedrest before Michael had to be delivered early, there were three perinatologists on rotation in that hospital. The one I liked even before he spotted the problem and had me admitted to the hospital immediately. The second one I don’t remember all that well. The third doctor was one of those tall, aloof, distinguished men who may be brilliant at medicine but lack something when it comes to their bedside manner. Once it became clear that I would have to stay in the hospital until a) Michael reached a safe length of time in utero, or b) the crisis came and he had to be delivered, I had to resign myself to the long haul. Chris had brought some icons, including the one of my patron saint, St. Irene of Chrysovolantou. The third doctor came into my hospital room one afternoon. Now that in itself was odd, because “morning rounds” happen in the morning, right? The doctor had brought me this big beautiful coffee table book. It was full of gorgeous photographs of the work of Faberge, who is famous for the jeweled Easter eggs made for the Russian royal family. It’s funny how you believe your impressions of people. I never would have expected such a gesture from this doctor. And yet, he offered me the book, making a sympathetic comment about all the time on my hands and how he’d noticed my icons and thought I might enjoy the book. One of my nurses let me know it was the doctor’s own personal book, too, not something from the hospital library.
4) My son Michael’s birthday falls in late April. Depending on how things work out on the Old Calendar, Russian Easter will happen right around then too. We’ve often celebrated Michael’s birthday as part of the big annual open house held by his godmother (when she was still with us) and her husband. His godmother would make a cake for Michael and we’d sing “Happy Birthday” to him. A lot of people came to this open house, as they continue to do every year. On the day I’m thinking of, a man was out in the backyard with the rest of us watching us give Michael his cake. Later the man came up to me and handed me a twenty dollar bill. He wanted me to get something for Michael. I thanked him and assured him I would. People want to help Michael. They want to do whatever they can to make his life better or easier. I didn’t know this man, and I will probably never meet him again. I will always remember him for his burst of compassion for my son.
5) One evening a friend of mine who lived up in the East Bay came down for one of his rare visits. He’d borrowed his father’s Porsche. We went out to dinner and I brought Michael with us. (John wasn’t around yet.) We didn’t go very far from home, and we had a good time at the restaurant. My friend held Michael while I ate my dinner. Being a young man, he didn’t have all that much experience with babies, so this was an adventure for him. Unfortunately, when we were ready to go home, the car wouldn’t start. From there it was one thing after another until I could get ahold of Chris and have him pick us up. The point of this story is that we were parked next to a KMart that had an enclosed area before you entered the actual store. It was getting later and colder, so I sat in there with Michael while my friend tried to get the car working. The staff of KMart were getting ready to close, but they were very kind. This was back before I had a cell phone, so they let me call Chris, then offered me whatever blankets or baby supplies I needed for Michael. At this point I was starting to get really upset, worrying over Michael, so their concern and assistance meant just that much more to me.
6) Now this story happened not too long ago. I was meeting my Japanese teacher in a local coffee shop. I’d been rushing around all day getting things done so I could meet her in time. I had made a mental note about my pocket money, but somehow I got hung up on an earlier version of events and forgot giving some cash to John. When I went to the cashier to pay for my drink, I suddenly discovered I had no money. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to impose on my teacher. The young lady behind the counter took pity on my confusion and told me not to worry about it. There was enough in the tip jar to cover it. How kind of her! She didn’t have to do that. My lesson started on time with no undue awkwardness. I’ve been back to that coffee shop more than once, and I’m a heavy tipper!
7) In Santa Cruz there is a wonderful street named Pacific Avenue. If you want to be formal about it, it’s the Pacific Garden Mall. Time and time again I’ve gone there with my mother, my sister, my husband, my son John. I’ve gone Christmas shopping there with my best friends. I once ran through a torrential rainstorm there and bought a painting for two dollars from a UCSC student who spoke French. I’ve given money to street musicians and talked to the man who makes animal balloons outside the candy store and I spent a lot of time in the Borders when it was still there. Aside from an international airport, Pacific Avenue is the best place I’ve found for people-watching, especially on a bright Sunday afternoon. You never know what you’re going to see, and I mean that. No matter how bad things feel, no matter how dark it’s gotten inside me, if I hang out on Pacific Avenue for a while, something will happen to make me feel better. And so I salute all of the people, the shopkeepers and sales clerks and food service folks and the entertainers and the tourists from all corners of the globe.
If you ever get the chance to light that candle instead of cursing the darkness, take it. Speaking as someone who has been in desperate need of a little light, I can assure you that a single candle flame can make all the difference in the world. From that little blonde girl in the hospital with me to that doctor whose human side I got to see, there have been people out there kind enough to light my way and keep me going despite all the depression, the grief, the trauma, and the pain I’ve endured.
God bless you. Every single one of you. You don’t know it, but you may have saved my life.
by Lillian Csernica on July 5, 2014
Ever had that feeling that your brain is so much dead coral inside your skull? The official name for this condition is mental fatigue. Studying for finals, doing your taxes, and writing or editing a novel can all cause this condition. How can you irrigate your creative centers and get the flow going again?
1. Get up and move around.
Stretch, take a quick walk, jog around the back yard, or just take some deep breaths and shake out your arms and legs. Get that circulation moving again. If you have a cat or a dog, take fifteen minutes and get the pet toys out.
2. Have a snack.
Something high in vitamins and minerals is good for the brain. Fish, cruciferous vegetables, and whole grains are healthy choices. Keeping the blood sugar stable is important, so you want to avoid sugary snacks.
3. Do something totally different.
When I need some hands-on occupational therapy, I make jewelry. Choosing the colors, picking out the beads, and working with the wire and pliers draw on other parts of my brain. The writing part gets a rest, and I end up with a new pair of earrings. Win/win, right?
Another stress reliever that works for me is coloring. Get out that big box of Crayolas and a coloring book. You can get coloring books for little kids, or you can get some amazing art books. Shoot marbles. Play jacks. Keep some Legos handy (if you don’t already have some for your kids).
5. Give yourself an attitude adjustment.
A big part of brain drain can be how we approach a project. If you think it’s going to be really hard and a total pain to do it, then it will be. If you get yourself cranked up to a high pitch of enthusiasm, it might still be a complex project, but you’ll approach it with a lighter heart and a more open mind.
by Lillian Csernica on May 9, 2014
It’s been a good week. Today’s mail brought yet another contributor’s copy from another sale. “The Restless Armadillo,” co-written with Kevin Andrew Murphy, is now available in Kindle and trade paperback formats!
When Kevin and I did a reading of “The Restless Armadillo” at ConDor in March, we got quite a few laughs out of the audience. This story has to be one of the weirdest and funniest I’ve written. I’m sure a large dose of the credit goes to Kevin with his wide knowledge of the occult and his amazing creativity.
I have ten stories and one essay out to market right now. Keep your fingers crossed for me! The way my luck is running this week, I may score another sale!
by Lillian Csernica on May 7, 2014
Among the 21 TALES of dark speculative fiction you will find my short story “Camp Miskatonic.” Yes, it’s a Mythos story, but I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen one like this. Termite infestation prevents Maria Sanchez and her cousin Innocencia from attending their usual summer camp through their Catholic church’s youth group. Instead, they find themselves thrown in with a mixture of girls from other Christian denominations. This year’s rival in the camp athletic competition is the mysterious Camp Miskatonic. From the minute the bus pulls up inside the Camp Miskatonic compound, Maria has a bad feeling about the sickly-looking girls in their purple and black camp uniforms with the weird silver squiggle.
This is one of my favorite stories among all the ones I’ve written. I’ve read a lot of Lovecraft, August Derleth, and other authors who have written inside Lovecraft’s universe. I’ve seen a lot of male characters, but very few females. What could be more antithetical to the grim, dark, alien weirdness of the Mythos than an all-girls summer camp run by a Christian church? Maria and Innocencia are both smart, strong girls. They might not live up to the Golden Rule all the time but they do abide by the lessons their Abuela has taught them about what’s right, what’s wrong, and why they should always be home before dark!
So where do the TAILS come in? Dragon’s Roost Press will donate a portion of the proceeds from every copy sold to the Last Day Dog Rescue Organization. This organization rescues dogs from high-kill shelters where the dogs are put down or sold for medical experimentation. I’m a cat person, but I’m more than happy to help out the folks who have dedicated themselves to finding good, safe homes for these poor dogs who don’t deserve to suffer.
Thank you for your support. I hope you enjoy my story, along with the twenty other wonderful stories waiting for you!