Category Archives: memoirs

The #1 Question All Writers Should Ask


by Lillian Csernica on August 11, 2017

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Stories grow out of two questions: What if? and What next?

If you’re like me, your stories tend to start out as a sudden flash of action or dialogue. Maybe you think of a character first, and then the problem. Either way, once you’ve got your basic idea on paper and it’s time to think about story structure, there’s one essential question you must answer:

Why now?

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In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has to change his ways right now or he won’t live to see another Christmas.

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In The Hunger Games, when Katniss’ little sister is chosen to represent their District, Katniss has to take action right now to save her sister’s life. The only acceptable way is to volunteer and take her place.

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In Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney has to come up with some kind of life support system right now. Maybe NASA will mount a successful rescue mission.  Maybe Watney’s team will do it. That’s all off in the land of What Then? When you’re stuck on Mars with no hope in sight, right now means right now!

Answering the Why now? question will raise your stakes, heighten your action, and give your readers a story they’ll remember!

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Universal Studios: Eating and Drinking


by Lillian Csernica on July 3, 2017

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Lard Lad Donuts. A cardiologist’s nightmare.

When we’re at an amusement park, Chris and I have to make John eat. He gets so excited he just wants to move on to the next ride or show.

The heat was in the 90s, so I made sure we had water bottles that we refilled frequently. Anywhere we saw a restroom sign, there would be a water fountain close by. This was very helpful knowledge when bottled water was selling for $3.49 each.

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I’ve already mentioned the supreme delights of Butterbeer. Available at Honeyduke’s is the magical ice cream that never melts. I’m not sure that we really tested the truth of that “magic.” John ate it rather quickly. Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor also offers many chilly treats.

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The Giant Donut — This is, if anything, an understatement. We’re talking about something roughly the size of the front wheel on a child’s tricycle. The GD is most commonly available with either bright pink frosting dotted with multi-colored sprinkles, or chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles. I’ll give you one guess which one John chose.

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Minion Cupcakes — Red velvet cake with a good inch and a half of blue frosting swirled on top. From there you could choose the Twinkie Minion version, or the round, flat, yellow disc decorated with white eyes and black details. I’m not a fan of Twinkies. Neither is John, thank God. By the time he was halfway through his cupcake, his lips had turned cyanotic blue. When he was finished, he stuck his tongue out at me. One of my nicknames for John is “Puppy Boy.” With that blue tongue he could be a Chow!

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Here we have the Chicken Thumbs meal available at Cletus’ Chicken Shack. The coleslaw is all right. I like a lot of pepper on mine, but that’s just me. French fries aren’t on my diet, and John had already eaten all of his, so I offered the fries to the four Australian gentlemen sitting nearby nursing their pints. They were happy to accept. Throughout the park the French fries are dusted with a seasoning mixture that will make you even more in need of a cold drink. They are tasty!

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The second night we were in the park we had dinner at Luigi’s Pizza.  For a cafeteria-style restaurant the food was quite good. Pasta or pizza or even pizza-by-the-slice, plus a small Caesar salad.  The desserts were what you’d expect in an Italian restaurant, featuring huge slices of a six layer chocolate cake edged with mini chocolate chips and topped with serious whipped cream. You do get your money’s worth at Universal Studios.

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Universal Studios: Screaming and Laughing


by Lillian Csernica on July 2, 2017

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Next up: Shrek 4-D. This adventure was so amazing and funny we saw it both days.

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You start out in Lord Farquad’s Dungeon, where the Three Little Pigs and Pinocchio are being held prisoner. The Magic Mirror and the Ghost of Lord Farquad get the story started as a prelude to what happens during the 4D movie in Ogre-Vision!

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No spoilers here, but I will say this is more than just a visual experience. Four out of the five senses get some stimulation. One of them hit me right where I live, bringing a whole new dimension to this thrill ride!

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Minion Mayhem — Another wild ride! When the Minions all get thrown into prison, Gru starts a recruiting campaign. This is the basis of the ride’s storyline. Gru’s henchman Dr. Nefario has created another evil death ray gizmo that will turns even humans into Minions. (I got to be a purple Minion!) John and I can’t wait to see Despicable Me 3.  What we saw during the ride convinced us we had to see the whole movie. John bought a Minion key ring with his name on it. I bought a charm that shows Kevin and Bob back to back, both of them holding serious ray guns! The perfect keepsake to remind me of the time John and I joined the ranks of the Minions!

The Simpsons Experience — Ever wanted to be inside an episode of The Simpsons? This will do it for you. It’s an insane 3D ride through Itchy & Scratchy Land, facing the homicidal robot cats and mice. There’s an ominous undercurrent to the ride’s lead-in, which explodes into some genuine terror (at least for me) when you experience the very realistic sense of being trapped on a shattered roller coaster.

Yes, that’s right. If you weren’t already in enough of a panic, the ride starts going backwards!

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Back when I was ten years old, just the prospect of going behind the scenes at a real working movie studio was a huge thrill. In today’s modern digital world, visitors expect a whole lot more given the endless competition for their attention spans. Now the Studio Tour includes a 3D adventure between King Kong and some vicious dinosaurs. The grand finale is the hyper-realistic, HD adventure Fast and Furious: Supercharged.

I confess a certain nostalgia for the Jaws portion of the tour. There I was, sitting in the tour shuttle with John just as my mother had sat with me. John has a pretty good grip on what’s real and what isn’t, but that didn’t stop him from yelping when the shark reared up out of the water. Another fine family tradition, watching the next generation get freaked out by Bruce the animatronic shark.

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Universal Fun!


by Lillian Csernica on June 24, 2017

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Tomorrow John and I will fly down to Los Angeles and spend a few days enjoying the wonders of Universal Studios Hollywood.

John has been talking about seeing Universal Studios ever since he first heard about it many years ago. Chris and I decided that a trip to this previously unexplored land of movie magic makes the perfect graduation gift for our boy.

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John and I have studied the map. We’ve discussed what we each want to see the most. Today we’ve been packing our bags. Tomorrow we take our first plane trip together. I’m pretty sure what John is looking forward to the most is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

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Me, I’m looking forward to the air conditioning on the plane, at the hotel, and on many of the rides. I’m not a big fan of heat, preferring autumn and winter to summer. I suppose this is an indicator of my advancing years. Insane roller coasters are great, but they lost their appeal for me after I reached my late twenties.

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Even so, I can’t wait to watch the Special Effects Show with John, to get silly in the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem area, and probably scream at least once on the Jurassic Park ride. Best of all, I finally get to drink butter beer and hang out at Ollivander’s where Harry Potter’s wand chose him!

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My grandfather worked in the movies. My mother has appeared as an extra in several. I did some writing for the movies, once upon a time. And now my son loves movies just as much as the previous generations in our family have.

Watch for my trip report once we’re home again!

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How to Keep Writing When Depression Strikes


by Lillian Csernica on June 6, 2017

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Yes, it’s that time again. Life’s daily stressors combined with two or three sudden unwelcome surprises have left me waging guerilla warfare against my own depression. This comes at a particularly bad time. I have writing opportunities to make use of, commitments to fulfill, as well as organizing the celebration of my younger son’s graduation from high school.

These things are very difficult to accomplish when it takes a massive effort of will just to drag myself out of bed every morning.

I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone in suffering the crippling effects of depression, whether temporary or chronic. In keeping with the Buddhist philosophy of “taking positive action for the good,” I offer this list of helpful ideas.

Why Writers Are Prone to Depression

Writing Your Way Out of Depression

Neurological Similarities Between Successful Writers and the Mentally Ill.

7 Ways to Help You Write When You’re Depressed.

The Writer and Depression (Chuck Wendig)

The important thing is to keep writing. Make lists. Brainstorm. Letters to your imaginary friends. Anything that keeps the pen moving. Suspend judgment and blow off the Internal Editor. Just write. One day at a time. Just write.

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What do you do when depression gets you down? What helps you keep the pen moving? I would love to hear your ideas and coping strategies. Let’s see how many answers come in before Friday, midnight. I will roll the appropriate die, the winner shall be chosen, and that winner will receive a free ebook copy of either The Writer’s Spellbook or The Fright Factory.

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Reblog: 20 Inspiring Pinterest Boards for Writers


by Lillian Csernica on May 13, 2017

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Looking for inspiration? Technique? Some solidarity and comfort? Somewhere on this list you’ll find what you need, along with so much more. Enjoy!

 

Source: 20 Inspiring Pinterest Boards for Writers

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You Need to Know These Six Things


by Lillian Csernica on May 3, 2017

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I live with Major Depressive Disorder. I take medication and I’m in cognitive behavioral therapy. There are a lot of blogs and articles and opinions out there right now about mental health, what it is and what it isn’t. I came across this particular article and was struck by how much sense it makes.

6 Things the Internet Gets Wrong About Mental Illness

Please read this article. People don’t believe me when they find out I have chronic, clinical depression. They see me writing and making sure my sons have what they need and they think I’m hanging in there despite all the stress. That’s because I’ve learned how to pass for cheerful in our relentlessly perky social culture. The fewer assumptions people make about those of us who suffer with any kind of mental illness, the sooner we’ll reach that point of compassion and support these articles might easily sabotage.

Thank you for listening. Remember, you are not alone.handshake-niching

 

 

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5 Favorite Guides to Get Writing Again


by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2017

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Writing is hard. We all know that. Some days we get sidetracked by avoidance behavior. Some days we procrastinate out of laziness or confusion about the story. Some days we’re just plain stuck.

Today I’m having one of those days. Here I sit, working on a blog post, when I’d meant to be making progress on my latest short story. Well, at least it’s productive avoidance behavior, right?

In the spirit of solidarity with my fellow struggling writers, I offer this list full of tips, information, and excellent methods to restart the writing engines. Enjoy!

Four Ways to Rediscover Your Passion for Writing

Nailing Scene Structure

100 Prompts for Writing about Yourself

Stop Putting Off Writing: 9 Experts’ Solutions

End Writing Procrastination Now

 

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Time To Say Goodbye


by Lillian Csernica on December 8, 2016

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One of my favorite people is dying.

He and I have been friends for about eight years now. We’ve been in two different writers’ groups together. He writes nonfiction, a memoir of his Navy days. We’ve gone out to brunch together a number of times, and we have a few treasured in-jokes.

It’s very hard to see him and know these are his last days.

As soon as I heard he was in the hospital, I hurried over there yesterday. Fortunately, my friend was awake and aware, so we had a brief conversation. His brother and his four children were on hand, so I didn’t stay long. After I left my friend’s hospital room, I found a private corner and sat there crying for a while.

Today I stopped by the hospital. My friend’s wife and one of their sons were about to take him home. It’s time for hospice care. I don’t know how I managed to keep it together until I got out to the parking lot.

I wanted to write all kinds of profound things here about my friend, his life, and our time together. Yesterday I was in shock. Today I’m so sad.

I love you, Art. For however many days you have left, and for every day after that.

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The Greatest Job I’ve Ever Had


by Lillian Csernica on September 17, 2016

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Yes, that’s me. Granted, I was all of eighteen.

Once upon a time, I worked as a Turkish-Moroccan belly dancer. My teacher was a delightful lady from Zaragoza, Spain. I had a genuine, 100% authentic coin belt made by a  man from Turkey. The belt had 144 diamond-shaped metal coins stamped with the image of Venus on the Half-Shell.

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I performed in my high school talent show. The audience actually threw money at the stage. That in itself was funny. Then the stagehands gathered it all up and brought it to me backstage!

My teacher often took me with her when she’d been hired for a party. During the holiday season, we appeared as part of a steady stream of entertainers at a bachelor party. Just one piece of art on the walls in that house could have put me through college. That was the night I got the biggest tip I’d ever received. Some generous soul stuffed a $10 bill down the back of my coin belt!

Ah, the places I’ve been and the things that I’ve seen….

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