Category Archives: perspective

Moments from the Women’s March


by Lillian Csernica on January 23, 2018

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Joining the march. Stepping into the flow, holding my sign up high, seeing the people lining the route with their phones out, taking photos and making videos. Recording a piece of history. Thirty thousand people, according to the Santa Cruz Police Department.

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A boy not more than ten years old marching ahead of me, holding up a cardboard sign that read, “I’d rather be home building LEGOs, but I have to build #TheResistance.

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Two older women carried a banner with #MeToo on it. As we passed by, the two women offered people Sharpies so they could sign the banner. Only recently did I realize that I had faced sexual harassment several times in the workplace. I signed that banner!

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A man carried a large piece of cardboard. On it had been painted the figure of a judge, complete with white wig and holding the Scales. The empty oval where the face should be allowed anyone to stand behind the cardboard and have a photo taken, proclaiming her or him “A Future Supreme Court Justice.” How cool is that?

Chanting “Hey, hey! Oh no! Donald Trump has got to GO!”

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Our destination was the Louden Nelson Community Center. Inside on the stage stood the American Shrine. You can see from the photo that it was just breathtaking.

While I was inside the Center, I crossed paths with a woman and her son, who had Downs Syndrome. The mother asked if she could take a photo of me holding my sign. Sure thing! Then she asked if I would mind taking a photo of her and her son holding my sign. I tell you, that nearly brought me to tears.

Later, as I walked a few blocks back  to where I’d parked my car, drivers saw my sign. Horns honked and I saw some thumbs-up as people applauded equal rights for people with special needs.

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On my way home, I stopped at Peet’s for a Green Tea Mojito, one of the few guilty pleasures I can get away with on my weight loss program. I had my Women’s March T shirt on, which got me into conversations with at least three people.

My favorite barista was on duty. She wanted to see my sign, so I got it out of the trunk and brought it inside to show her. She said she didn’t know many people with special needs, so equal rights for them wasn’t something she’d thought about. She was glad to see the sign and know about the issue. Accessibility and health care are SO important these days, now more than ever.

I need more exercise. Thanks to the Women’s March 2018, I exercised my constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. When it’s time for the elections this year, I will once again make my voice heard by voting.

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Filed under autism, charity, dreams, Family, family tradition, frustration, Goals, history, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, mother, neurodiversity, perspective, Special needs, Writing

How to Make Room for Fresh Ideas


by Lillian Csernica on January 4, 2018

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Courtesy of Debby Young

A New Year. A fresh start. We’ve got the laptop or writing journal ready, we’ve got our favorite source of caffeine to hand, and we’re ready to write.

Hello, blank page. The cursor blinks at us like a tapping foot, impatiently awaiting some outpouring of brilliant ideas. That’s when the trouble starts.

  • Anxiety
  • Self-doubt
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • The Inner Editor
  • All those other racing thoughts about everything else we should be doing right then.

Did you know that such thoughts can have their starting point outside our minds just as easily as inside? One of the principles of feng shui says clutter inhibits the free flow of energy. Stagnant energy interferes with a lot of activities, especially communication. What is writing if not communication?

I don’t have many writing rituals, but I do need clear space to spread out my notes, manuscript, laptop, pens, and whatever else I need for that writing session. This is why I go to the library a lot. There I can find nice long tables with plenty of space.

Want to do more and better writing this year? Clear out your space. We must make room in our lives for the fresh, new ideas by removing the physical items that jam up our minds with old negative energy and thought patterns. Open up your writing space, clear out the clutter that is damming up the free flow of energy, and you will see immediate results.

In the spirit of solidarity, I will show you exactly what I have to deal with, and how urgent the need really is.

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Books Yes, I have too many books. More precisely, I have too many books for the amount of space in my office. This has resulted in cardboard boxes of books taking up floor space. Not good. I have to prioritize the books according to what I need for my current novel, what I need for reference, and what I need for recharging my word batteries by reading for pleasure.

Notebooks Piles of notebooks sit here and there in my office. Some are writing journals in that I’ve written scenes, outlines, and notes in them. Others are the more classic writer’s journal full of ideas, character sketches, lists, and critique notes. What I have to do here is go through and see which whole notebooks are worth keeping and which ones need to have a few key pages torn out and filed where they belong.

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Stuff I’ve let a fair amount of miscellaneous stuff collect in my office for one simple reason. I have a bad habit of not putting things away. Clothes, reusable shopping bags, jewelry making supplies, and my amazing collection of tote bags filled with who knows what. Time to take a bite out of that mess by devoting 15 or 30 minutes at a go until all of it has been cleared up and cleaned out!

For more specific suggestions on how to do this, I recommend reading:

9 Clutter Clearing Tips for Good Feng Shui

Four Life Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers

How to Kick Your Clutter Habit and Live in a Clean House Once and For All

How to De-Clutter Your Mind and Become a More Productive Writer

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Filed under creativity, Depression, Family, frustration, Goals, housework, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, therapy

Reblog: How to Stop Making Problems for Yourself


One of the most helpful mental health techniques I’ve learned is the importance of knowing how to get out of my own way. This article explains that technique in excellent detail.

‘You make problem, you have problem.’ – Jon Kabat-Zinn When it comes to problems, we all have them. Many problems, however, are self-imposed. Startling thought? It’s meant to be. If you want to narrow the list of problems you have, start with a firm decision to stop making problems in the first place. Already, the objections start, beginning with the problems that others create that have a direct effect on you. Surely, you didn’t create them. So, how can you stop those problems? Nice try, but that’s a weasel-out excuse that won’t work. While you don’t have control over the problems others create, you very much have control over your response, action or inaction. In other words, it’s what you do that counts, not what the problem is that you face. It’s the same with problems that you manufacture. Indeed, it’s all in how you regard the situation. If you think it’s a problem, it’s going to be a problem. If you view it in a more positive light, the problem is no longer a problem, but an

Source: How to Stop Making Problems for Yourself

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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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The Perils of Writing Short Fiction


by Lillian Csernica on February 21, 2017

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Opportunity cost. Cost/benefit analysis. Return on investment.

I remember these terms from my Economics and Accounting classes. Little did I know I would one day be applying them to which writing projects I chose to pursue.

So far, the Flower Maiden Saga has inspired me to write three consecutive novels. The farther I go in editing and polishing Book One for the big agent pitch, the more of the causes and consequences of the main storyline I see. The core plots for Books Four and Five have already presented themselves.

This is wonderful. I’m excited about all of it. The thing is, my first love is writing short stories. Reading short stories in Asimov’s and Weird Tales and my English Lit. classes made me want to become a writer. The first time I walked into a bookstore and picked up a copy of The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXI and saw my name on the table of contents right there with Ramsey Campbell and Ed Gorman, I very nearly exploded with happiness.

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Short stories are great, but novels are where the money is. I’ve heard that many times. Novels take a while to write and a while to polish and package for publication. Not so with short stories. Short stories will get your name out there and keep it out there.

These are the five main perils of writing short fiction:

  1. Why waste a good idea on a short story? These days it’s all about writing novels. Give the readers what they want, over and over again. Build that brand. Make more money. Fine. If that’s what you want, go for it. Bear in mind there is much to be said for the art and craft of the short story. Hemingway’s “The Killers” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” remain vivid in my mind thirty-five years after I read them in high school.
  2. Short stories are often just one shots. That one shot might be brilliant, but then you have to go write another story. Is that one brilliant story continuing to earn royalties or selling well as a Kindle Single? I visit various writers’ groups online, and I find the emphasis on money to be disheartening. Short stories can be built into a novel. One of my favorite fantasy novels, A Bait of Dreams by Jo Clayton, started out as three short stories that appeared in Asimov’s.
  3. It can be difficult to pack a complex story idea into a limited word count. On the other hand, doing so can result in a stronger story. When I wrote “Fallen Idol,” my first short story sale, I got so caught up in all the research and characters and how-to books’ advice I thought I could rise to the challenge of writing a real novel. Fortunately, I had an attack of reality. All the research and ideas imploded, resulting in a much stronger short story.
  4. Unless you’re selling to the top professional markets, short fiction doesn’t pay much. If you’re sending out enough stories to generate an acceptable amount of sales, way to go! That’s not easy to do, even for the Big Names. I will say that anthologies that pay up front then give you a cut of the royalties can provide some worthwhile income.
  5. Here’s the Peril that cuts to the heart of what it means to be a writer. Are you going to write about what you want to write about, or are you going to write what you think will sell to the markets where you want your work to appear? The Digital Age has opened up a whole lot of  markets. They may not pay much. They may not pay at all. Still, you can get your words out there. Targeting a particular market is a perfectly reasonable career strategy. My first sale to Weird Tales was another day for joyful explosion.

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It comes down to those basic questions we all ask our main characters:

What do you want?

How badly do you want it?

What are you willing to give up in order to get it?

When you’ve answered these three questions, you will be on your way to navigating through the perilous process of telling the stories only you can tell.

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Filed under editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, romance, science fiction, tall ships, Writing

Breaking up with Ben & Jerry


by Lillian Csernica on January 18, 2017

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Tonight I consumed my last pint of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra.

Tomorrow morning I begin a medically supervised accelerated weight loss program.

When I was ten years old, my parents took me to see a dietician. I was already 5’6″, and already 152 lbs. Not good. Now I’m forty years older and 100 lbs heavier. Time to stop kidding myself about the health problems that are right around the corner if I don’t do something about my weight problem RIGHT NOW.

This is not a New Year’s Resolution. This is me deciding to act like a grown-up and stop indulging myself while blaming the depression, the difficulty of my life, some writing setback, or whatever other chaos afflicts me at that moment.

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I have a plan. I have professionals backing me. I have a guidebook and a journal and a food scale and the necessary supplements. I’m going to do this.

There are so many stories waiting to be written.

There are so many birthdays and Christmases and personal triumphs ahead for both Michael and John.

There are so many places in the world I have yet to see, just in Japan alone!

There may be setbacks. That’s OK. I know how to deal with setbacks. You just take a deep breath, focus on the next indicated action, and start moving forward again.

I can do this. I will do this. For me, for the kids, for my writing.

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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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Why Deadlines Are Your Best Friends


by Lillian Csernica on October 24, 2016

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Yesterday I kept thinking I need to blog. Gotta blog today. Must write an original blog post.

And then I’d push on with the scene I was writing for my latest short story.

Between writing, research, more writing, and a few breaks to loosen up mind and body, before I knew it midnight was fast approaching.

So here I am today, showered, caffeinated, and making this blog post Item Number One on my To Do list.

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I have a story deadline coming up. In fact, for this particular anthology I’m committed to delivering two short stories that relate to each other. I know I absolutely must get these stories written, edited, polished, and delivered before NaNoWriMo  begins. Once the starter gun fires and we race toward the 50,000 word finish line, I want to be focused on pouring all my writing time and energy into my NaNo novel.

People often think deadlines come at the end, when you have to hand in the homework, the article, the novel manuscript. A deadline can also mark the beginning of a project. This is why there’s #NaNoPrep, along with lots of advice on the Internet about everything you need to accomplish before November 1.

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Deadlines also create accountability. If you know you’d better have something to read at your next writer’s group meeting, you’re more likely to get it written. Never underestimate the power of potential embarrassment as a motivational tool.

Deadlines keep me organized. Deadlines help me prioritize. Deadlines help me generate the creative pressure that makes the words keep coming. For me, deadlines are the surest protection against writer’s block.

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When You Have Too Much Privacy


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“All men must escape at times from the deadly rhythm of their private thoughts.”

Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder

Today was one of those days when I had to get out of the house to get out of my own head. I packed up my notebooks, a short story in progress, a fistful of pens, and I took refuge in the local library.

(It’s a sad state of affairs when the local coffeehouse holds more peace and quiet than the library does.)

I wanted something to read, something that wouldn’t tax my weary attention span, yet something that would nourish my writing mind and maybe even get me fired up again.

I roamed the Mystery aisles, where I found The Simple Art of Murder. The Preface is in fact the eponymous essay written by Chandler that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. If you have anything to do with the writing life, you’ll enjoy reading that essay.

The above quotation, taken from the essay, struck me as being a profound truth. Chandler said it in the context of explaining why “escapist literature” has just as much right to exist as what critics consider the more high brow type of literature. My preferred leisure time reading is a good mystery. Getting caught up in the puzzle and the characters takes me away from the stress of my every day life and whatever burdens are weighing on my mind.

Being trapped in “the deadly rhythms” of my private thoughts can trigger my depression or be a symptom of it. Writing in my personal journal isn’t much help then. This is when I need to plunge into the mind of a character. Sinking down to the bone deep level of want and need in someone I’ve created lets me engage in what I think of as primal scream therapy on paper.

There’s a lot of advice out there about how you cannot wait until you’re “in the mood” to write. That’s true. Take the mood you’re in and squeeze it for all it’s worth. Anger. Hate. Grief. Frustration. Despair. Negative emotions tend to be the ones we hold back, so they’ve already built up considerable pressure inside us. Cut the brake lines and ride that emotion down the mountain to whatever head-on collision awaits. It will be messy, but it will also be worth it.

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