Category Archives: nature

I’m a Featured Author!


by Lillian Csernica on September 25th, 2017

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Thanks to the generosity of Renee Scattergood, I am the featured author in today’s spotlight on her blog. Please do head on over there and take a look. The interview questions were a lot of fun to answer!

Many thanks, Renee!

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Reblog: Self Care Isn’t Selfish


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. […]

via Self-Care isn’t Selfish — the married millenials

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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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The Writer’s Spellbook


by Lillian Csernica on August 1, 2017

AVAILABLE NOW ON SMASHWORDS!

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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!

EPUB MOBI PDF IRL PDB TXT HTML

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.

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How Bad Movies Help Us Write Good Stories


by Lillian Csernica on July 29, 2017

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The Blair Witch Project and the first Paranormal Activity movies launched a new sub-genre of horror: found footage. Sometimes the people who find the footage know its original purpose. Sometimes the footage is simply discovered and viewing it can provide answers, deepen the mystery, drive you insane, and/or get you killed.

The problem with the success of these two movies is how often and how badly other filmmakers keep trying to imitate them.

This happens in the world of books as well. Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series began appearing close to the start of the vampire craze. Their popularity and the subsequent HBO series True Blood did a lot to prompt the already growing industry of vampire-based novels. Some of these are quite good. Others are not. (cough cough Twilight cough.)

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Really bad books and movies can serve as practical guides for What Not to Do. This brings me back to those found footage movies. I love a good ghost story. Now and then I go trawling through Netflix and Amazon, hoping to find a movie that doesn’t just shuffle together the same tiresome people, camera equipment, Ouija boards, and insane asylums. I have found a few gems, but it’s appalling how many mediocre wannabes clutter up the genre.

Let’s have a look at how such a movie provides a check list for What Not To Do.

PLOT — Familiar, contrived, predictable, unrealistic, and not all that scary. What is the opposite of all that? Strange, natural, unexpected, realistic, and terrifying. Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is all that and more.

CHARACTER — Shallow, annoying, not sympathetic, and their motivations are often forced. They do really stupid things that anybody with a shred of survival instinct wouldn’t even consider. We want characters who are complex, endearing, sympathetic, and genuine. Above all, make your characters intelligent with at least some common sense.

SETTING — Not realistic. Never mind the question of whether or not ghosts actually exist. Let’s think about the fact that laws about private property, trespassing, and public health are very real and rigorously enforced. Abandoned medical facilities with a history of death, disease, torture, horrible medical experiments, and abuse of the patients by the staff were often built back when asbestos and other toxins were a regular part of the construction business. Professional paranormal investigators know about contacting property managers, getting the appropriate permits, and avoiding lawsuits.

TONE — They’re going for creepy and atmospheric, but when the filmmakers abide by the trite formula of dead cell phones, flickering lights, poltergeist antics, etc. etc., there’s no suspense. Instead, it all becomes laughable. Remember how Professor Lupin taught Harry Potter and the gang how to get the upper hand with the Boggart, the creature that would take on the appearance of a person’s worst fear? Just find a way to make it funny, and that takes all the fear out of it.

THEME — This depends on the particular variations present in a specific movie. Most of the time, it boils down to “People who refuse to listen to multiple warnings about the Haunted Madhouse deserve whatever happens to them.” That brazen band of party animal college students is so annoying I’ve ended up cheering on the monsters.

PACE — Such movies usually kick off with an info dump about the setting, the main characters, or both. This is the movie version of a Prologue, and it contains every reason why smart people don’t go near the setting even in broad daylight. Too Much Information ruins the movie because now we have a good idea about what horrible fates will befall the characters. Place your bets, because once the Ouija board is out and the candles are lit, the bodies are going to start piling up.

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In the spirit of fairness, I will mention a few of those gems I’ve found:

Grave Encounters

Session 9

Cabin in the Woods

Boo

Find Me

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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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Getting Too Close to Nature


by Lillian Csernica on June 18th, 2017

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See this? This is a mountain lion. A cougar. A puma.

They can be 5 to 9 feet long and weigh 100 to 150 lb. They can run 40 to 50 miles per hour and jump up to 20 feet high. They’re also excellent at climbing.

This was in my back yard yesterday, in broad daylight.

As soon as I saw the big cat crossing our creek, I yelled up the stairs to my husband. We have three housecats, and I wanted all of them accounted for right then.

My husband came down. I told him what I’d seen. He asked me if I was sure. Hell yes I was sure! Back when I was 19, I spent a summer in Larkspur, Colorado working the local Renaissance Faire. Many of us lived on site during the week, including the tiger tamer and his menagerie. “Tiger tamer” isn’t really fair, because Bhaghavan treated his cats with the utmost respect and care.

That included the mountain lion. One day he took the mountain lion out for a walk and passed by where I was sitting. Bhaghavan brought the mountain lion over. The big cat promptly flopped down across my feet and started to purr.

Believe me when I tell you there was NO WAY I was going to rub that tummy!

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So yes, I do know a mountain lion when I see one.

Mountain lions are normally reclusive and avoid human habitation. To see one walking past my house in full view was both a marvel and a huge surprise. I believe the mountain lion was following a deer trail. It disappeared into the tree line on the other side of the creek.

We found our gray and white cat Hunter under the car. Rayas, the torby, was curled up on a lawn chair, apparently asleep. And Coco, the fluffy black longhair, was up a tree. Smart cat, Coco.

Yes, it’s wonderful to live in the mountains among the California coastal redwoods. Getting close to Nature is important. It’s also important to remember that Nature is perfectly capable of sneaking up on us!

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My Ship Has Come In!


by Lillian Csernica on May 21, 2017

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Thanks to the excellent artistic and business skills of Michael Willis, head of Digital Fiction Publishing, a new edition of Ship of Dreams is now available!

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*** Introductory Sale Price: 99 cents US for Kindle!***

 

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The Naked Truth


by Lillian Csernica on May 17, 2017

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I recently got a phone call that is one of those phone calls you really don’t want to get.

I’d gone in for a mammogram. Not fun, but an important part of keeping ahead of anything that might show up. Went there, did that, got it over with for another year.

Or so I thought.

Got a phone call from the imaging center telling me the doctor there wanted me to come back in for some additional views on my right side. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Is something wrong?”

Never ask the people at the front desk these questions. They don’t know, and they can’t tell you even if they do know.

So I made a follow-up appointment for today. Was I nervous? Hell yes I was nervous.

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The imaging center front office is very cheerful with all the pink items associated with breast cancer awareness. There were a few nervous-looking women in the waiting room along with some very bored men. I’ve been in a lot of medical waiting rooms over the years, some for myself, some for the boys. Rarely have I experienced an atmosphere of everybody trying so hard to ignore the reasons why we were all there.

My turn came, I suited up in the bright pink gown, and the mammogram tech got those images. She took them to the doctor there, who would decide if further imaging would be required.

During that ten minutes or so, I kept myself occupied by telling myself to calm down, to stop imagining horrible outcomes and scaring myself, to have faith.

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Another tech appeared, this one in charge of ultrasound. Yes, the doctor wanted further images. So I followed that tech into the large closet where they do the ultrasound exams. For once the ultrasound goo was not cold. Thank God for small favors.

The ultrasound exam went on and on  and on. Time has no meaning when you’re lying there in whatever position you’re put in, feeling your muscles start to cramp while being too scared to move or say anything for fear of messing up the exam and having to start all over again.

At last those images were complete. That tech went off to show them to the doctor. I did my best to remove all the goo and stay calm while this new level of anxiety jacked up my adrenaline level.

The doctor’s verdict? The mass they’d wanted a closer look at turned out to be nothing more than a water cyst about the size of a small ball bearing.

Thank you, God. It turned out to be nothing, but it might have been something. Now I know and the doctors know and it’s all good for another year.

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Reflection Post: A to Z Blog Challenge 2017


by Lillian Csernica on May 8, 2017

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Another April has come and gone. I had a blast this year! Plowing through over a thousand items of Art Nouveau jewelry, art, housewares, etc. brought me a great deal of pleasure and lots of new historical information.

Having survived the previous three A to Z Blog Challenges, I came up with a better strategy for participating this year.

I chose a theme that promised plenty of eye candy: Art Nouveau jewelry. That meant more graphics and less text, so the posts would contain the essential information of interest on each item shown.

I made sure I stayed a week ahead on writing the posts. That did wonders for taking the pressure off and helping me really enjoy writing my posts and visiting the blogs of other participants.

Responding to comments and following up on visits make up the core purpose of the Challenge. Some wonderful people turned up to see what I found for each  day’s letter. I regret that I did not manage to visit more participants this year. A business trip did kept me on the road for over a week, but I did manage to follow up with my “regulars.”

My favorite blogs include:

This Old Shelter

Favorite post: Psychoanalysis: (1940s Film Noir)

Sharon E. Cathcart

Favorite post: W is for Wooing

Diary of a Dublin Housewife

Favorite post: Oh Brother

The Doglady’s Den

Favorite post: Je Taime…Mon Non Plus

Outside Perception

Favorite post: All of them, really. As much as I love movies, I had a good time seeing which one OP chose for each letter.

I do have one request for the A to Z Blog Challenge team:

PLEASE BRING BACK THE LINKY LIST!

The list made it so much easier to see where I’d been and where I wanted to go in terms of visiting my fellow bloggers. The categorization codes were also a big help. When I wanted to try a new flavor, I could spot which blogs were new interests for me. If I wanted to hang out with new writing acquaintances, off I went.

Thank you again to the A to Z organizers. I love the Challenge!

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