Category Archives: nature

Here Comes the Rain Again….


by Lillian Csernica on February 9, 2017

rainshutterstockjpg-1486391489-6826

patch.com/california/santacruz

I live in Santa Cruz County. Right now we’re getting hammered by another storm system. A creek runs along one property line of our land. To say that it’s “swollen” is right up there with saying the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground.

At the moment, the creek is sporting various clumps of tree debris, PVC piping from the neighbor’s irrigation system, and other bits and pieces washed away from yards farther up the creek. A bright yellow ball is bobbing in one of the little whirlpools off to one side of the main current.

California Storms

MSNewsNow.com

Driving is a chancy business right now. In my particular neighborhood there are a number of places where hydroplaning is a real possibility if you don’t keep your speed down. Fishtailing, spinning out, and taking out the neighbor’s trash bins are not happy options.

04-daffodils

mooseyscountrygarden.com

Spring promises to be glorious. The ornamental plum trees in my front yard are already showing buds that will soon become blossoms burst out all over the tree limbs like pink popcorn.

Acacia bushes line many of the roads around here. Their lovely yellow flowers spell doom for people with allergies.

The daffodils and pink ladies are already beginning to show. It’s nice to see the green and brown and gray of the mountains enlivened with colors.

School has been closed for two days, which has caused some logistical juggling around here. Word is school will be open, but I won’t believe that until the school bus for Michael shows up. I just heard something crack and splash out back.

snuff_cover_low

The picnic table in the lower back yard was under water two days ago, which was more than a little alarming. I can’t help thinking about Sir Terry Pratchett’s marvelous Discworld book, SNUFF. Commander Vimes takes on the task of steering a hijacked riverboat ahead of a giant wave roaring down the river known as Old Treachery. The phenomenon called a “dam slam” results in a logjam of debris sweeping away everything before it.

I’m really hoping we don’t get to see one of those live and in person!

68544336-cat-stuck-up-the-tree-cartoon-illustration

2 Comments

Filed under cats, Family, Lillian Csernica, nature

Five Reasons Why Today Is Wonderful


by Lillian Csernica on January 24, 2017

women-drinking-coffee-clipart-a_pregnant_woman_sitting_with_her_feet_up_holding_a_hot_drink_royalty_free_clipart_picture_100607-033672-616053

One: The rain has stopped. The sun is out! The creek that runs along our property is back to a reasonable level. The wild stormy weekend made the creek rise several feet, biting off chunks of our back yard. All the trees  that fell, fell away from our house.

This is a huge relief.

k4613943

Two: Today I saw my cardiologist. Thanks to my brief period of radioactivity during my previous appointment, my doctor is now satisfied that no plaque is lurking in my veins waiting to cause me a serious problem. This means no angiogram!  Another serious relief.

13658397_1871759493051525_1918115958_n

Three: I’ve been having problems with my CPAP equipment. I stopped by SleepQuest today for some troubleshooting. Turns out the 90 days have passed and my insurance covers a fresh set of equipment. The tech on duty (a delightful lady) set me up with everything I needed.

trader_joes_flyer_logo

Four: By this time hunger pangs set in. On my weight loss program I have to make sure I don’t let myself get too hungry. If my blood sugar drops, I tend to stand around staring at things and I can’t make decisions quickly. Given that my drive home meant going over Hwy 17, lunch became a serious priority. Trader Joe’s to the rescue! I spotted one and discovered a number of tasty items on my You Are Allowed To Eat Very Little Of This list.

pothole-sign-traffic-indicating-season-us-38495877

Five: I made it home before the after school rush, thank God. Between the clean up after the latest storm, the road crews filling in all the potholes, and everybody getting out into the sunshine, driving was hectic enough without all the grade school parents picking up their kids and all the teenagers with cars spilling out of the high school.

Here I sit, preparing to edit a fresh short story. The hardest part of this weight loss program is giving up chocolate during the first stage. I sincerely believe chocolate fuels the imagination. Oh well. I seem to be surviving without my usual Mocha Coconut Frappuccino from Starbucks. If I can write without caffeine, I shall be a new woman!

canstock21672830

3 Comments

Filed under chocolate, doctors, Family, Food, Goals, Lillian Csernica, nature, Self-image, specialists, worry, Writing

After the Happily Ever After


by Lillian Csernica on October 16, 2016

Today is a very exciting day for me!

aheacovermytitle

After the Happily Ever After: a collection of fractured fairy tales is a massive anthology that features more than seventy stories that transform the well-known and strange fables into sweeter, darker, and more fantastical tales. These certainly aren’t the stories we grew up with.

Please take a look at the gorgeous book trailer the wonderful folks at Transmundane Press have put together. On behalf of all my fellow contributors, let me say we appreciate your support!

scroll20border

Save

Save

Save

4 Comments

Filed under classics, creativity, dreams, editing, fairy tales, Family, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, Horror, legend, Lillian Csernica, love, marriage, nature, publication, sword and sorcery, Writing

NaNoWriMo Round 2


by Lillian Csernica on October 12, 2016

nano_feature

Back in 2014, I won NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words of Garden of Lies, the second book in my Flower Maiden trilogy.

I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016. I hope to get to the 50,000 word mark on the third book of the trilogy. 7 pages a day, every day.

I thumb my nose at the Forces of Chaos that beset me on a daily basis. Come what may, I shall write my daily quota. By December 1, I will have at least half of the first draft of my new novel.

(Then comes the Labor of Hercules known as Editing the Manuscript, but I’ll get to that when the time comes.)

I send my best wishes to everybody else crazy dedicated enough to embrace NaNoWriMo!

nanowrimo-eve-1-320x213

Save

8 Comments

Filed under Awards, creativity, Depression, dreams, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, historical fiction, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, love, marriage, nature, romance, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing

5 Ways to Improve the Action in Your Story


by Lillian Csernica on August 13, 2016

Writers tend to be visually oriented. We see our stories playing out much like movies inside our minds. Whatever we can do to enhance the clarity of the images and information we want to convey to the reader will improve the strength of our stories. That clarity begins with making sure we can see exactly what’s going on.

Map out the key locations.  Start with just the distances between the major settings. If you want to get into topography, go for it. Bear in mind there’s a difference between miles on land and nautical miles.

Draw the important action. Draw one scene between two characters on a stage. You could also look down on the action, using an aerial view to keep track of items or characters outside of the protagonist’s sight lines. Split the page into four sections and take the comic book approach!

Storyboard the whole plot. Here’s yet another instance where the index card is the writer’s best friend. I recommend 4×6 size. A cork board, some push pins, and you’ve got your whole story laid out in front of you. On Pinterest you can find another definition of the novel storyboard which might also be quite helpful.

Illustrate the main character’s state of mind. Color can be very powerful on the intuitive level.  Put aside realism for the moment and have a go at the Impressionist school of art. Give the character’s dominant emotion a color. If emotions are clashing, assign a color to each and show that. Does the primary motivation suggest a particular color? Is there a Dark Secret lurking in the back of this character’s mind?

Color code the wardrobes for the major characters. This might sound silly, but if you have more than half a dozen characters to keep track of, you’ll be glad to have an easy way to keep this straight.  This is an even higher priority in historical fiction, where the clothing gets a lot more complicated, along with the fabrics, shades, and appropriate accessories.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t require Da Vinci level drawing skills. The whole purpose of the exercise is to get a clearer picture in our mind’s eye so we can choose the best words to describe the action. Have fun!

240_f_70093896_1fq204pcrolpvojn25sg9qhcl126zlnr

4 Comments

Filed under art show, creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Lillian Csernica, nature, perspective, research, science fiction, steampunk, sword and sorcery, Writing

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!


by Lillian Csernica on July 27, 2016

sf-zoo-300x222

sf.funcheap.com

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

dsc_4928-eagle20owl20w20handler20en20az209-30-0620flag

feralfront.com

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

redpanda_01

animals.sandiegozoo.com

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

tiger8

animal-dream.com

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!

HippopotamusHippopotamus

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.

zoo_logo

3 Comments

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

Where Will Your Writing Take You?


by Lillian Csernica on July 6, 2016

Word Destination On Keyboard

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!

500_f_115039379_ut0zxptskwmarr4gsxgdluhiphsuvdef

2 Comments

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

canstock20091684

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.

stress

How do these activities increase my stress?

woman-watching-tv-free-clip-art

  • 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.

0511-0902-0801-4559_woman_thinking_in_a_library_clipart_image

  • 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.

stock-photo-santa-cruz-california-usa-july-large-crowds-of-people-flock-to-the-santa-cruz-beach-347851250

  • 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.

il_214x170-894676489_p2m3

  • 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.

stock-vector-paroxysm-of-ventricular-tachycardia-in-sinus-rhythm-background-vector-professional-information-91857905

  • 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.

heartbeat-clipart-heartbeat

4 Comments

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

A Lesson in Priorities


by Lillian Csernica on June 6, 2016

robin-fledgling-2

Ever had one of those days when no matter how hard you try, life just keeps getting between you and what you’re trying to accomplish?

Today fought me from the minute I dragged myself out of bed.  Phone calls, interruptions, distractions, failures to communicate.  This resulted in me being late picking up John at school, something I try my very best to avoid.

When I was a little kid, my mother had occasion to leave me with babysitters or at day care centers.  Either Mom wasn’t good at time management, or life got in her way too, because she was often quite late picking me up.  When you’re six, this causes the kind of anxiety that scorches your little tiny soul for life.  I don’t EVER want John to feel that.

Once I picked up John, he alerted me to the sudden need for two dozen cupcakes.  P.E. class will be having a BBQ to celebrate the end of school.  The cupcakes are John’s contribution to the feast.  OK.  Since I had to drive to the store with the best bakery, I did a few other errands in that part of town.  One resulted in upsetting news.  The other took three times longer than I’d anticipated.

Tomorrow is the Spousal Unit’s birthday.  I also have a group luncheon to attend.  I have to duck out of that early because we’re interviewing new R.N.s for Michael.  Summer school is bearing down on us and we really need more help.

So I’m a little stressed out, right?

I get home with John to discover my sister has rescued a baby robin from the clutches of our male cat, Hunter.  (That’s his name, job description, species niche, and favorite occupation.  Not bad for a single word. )  We suspect the baby fell out of its nest, because it’s too young to fly.  My sister set it on a branch in the camellia bushes out of the cats’ reach and we shut all three feline predators inside the house.

a-detailed-shot-of-a-baby-robin-ecx3rr

I fed the baby robin some water with a small syringe.  We watched and waited, hoping its mother would appear.  Even if she did, how would she return her baby to the nest?  This was not a happy situation, especially with John looking on hoping everything would be OK.

Night was closing in.  I took the baby robin to the local native animal rescue.  Finding the place involved a wild ride that is exactly what kept me from getting my own car for so many years.  God and the police must have both been feeling kindly toward me.  I finally found the rescue center, which was part of a private residence.

Now came the hard part.  I had to leave the baby robin there and walk away.  I sat in my car and cried for a while.  I can call in a day or two and see how things are going.  I dread doing so, for all the obvious reasons.

What’s important here is no matter how horrible today was, once that baby bird turned up, everything fell into a very simple perspective.

Save the baby bird.

A while back I wrote a blog post about lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness.  All the stress I’m mired in right now fell away before that one clear priority.

Save the baby bird.

I’ll let you know what happens.

robin-chick-2-11

4 Comments

Filed under birthday, cats, Family, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, mother, nature, neurodiversity, parenting, veterinarian, worry, Writing

Why Permission Slips are Still Essential


by Lillian Csernica on May 12, 2016

Once again, my sons’ high school administration has made me furious.

Earlier this week John came home with a full color brochure full of quotations from famous people and some really disturbing photos.  The subject?  The cruel and brutal treatment of farm animals and how they are killed and processed for our food.

Horrifying?  Oh yes.  Was that all?  Oh no.

There was a video.  Plenty of gross, heart-wrenching detail.

Whoever was behind this went for the hat trick by providing a speaker who hammered the message home even further.

John was really upset.  I sent an email to his teacher/caseworker expressing my outrage over having not been allowed any kind of parental review of such disturbing material. I asked very clearly to know who had approved this material for the class.

As usual, she didn’t know a thing about it and said she’d look into it.  The next day I got an email from her saying she’d spoken to the Health class teacher who told her some other students had also been upset by the subject matter.  Really?  Gosh, who could have seen that coming?

Nobody answered my question about  who approved the material in the first place.

John’s teacher/caseworker assured me this would be taken into consideration for next year.  What about this year?  What about these students?  What about the damage that has already been done?

I have followed procedure by contacting John’s teacher/caseworker.  I’m in the process of making an appointment to talk to the principal.  I don’t expect much.  The school year is almost over and the administration will probably just make the usual soothing noises and promises of doing better next year.

Not good enough.

I will have a name, and if I don’t get one, I’m going to keep going up the chain of command until somebody takes responsibility for this.

90d41bb611b8352b362a92423749b876

5 Comments

Filed under autism, Family, Food, frustration, Horror, Lillian Csernica, nature, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, veterinarian