Category Archives: reality TV

Road Trip! EuCon 2017!


by Lillian Csernica on November 9, 2017

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Here I am in lovely Eugene, Oregon. I’m part of the volunteer team for the Eugene Comic Con. It promises to be a spectacular show, with an impressive line up of Hollywood talent and some of the best names in the comics industry.

Two of the stars I’m most excited to see:

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Martin Klebba, known for his roles in Scrubs and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

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Deep Roy, who has had a long and impressive career in movies ranging from The Return of the Pink Panther with Peter Sellers to the recent remake of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnnie Depp.

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One of the key reasons that convinced me to make the drive from Santa Cruz, CA all the way to Eugene, OR is my son John. He began drawing when he was just two years old, watching Blue’s Clues. He liked to draw the clues along with Steve. Watching the Veggie Tales animation series introduced John to a more advanced level of sketching. The Special Features on the DVDs included lessons from the show’s creators in the techniques of sketching Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and other popular members of the cast.

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At EuCon this weekend the folks from Imagination International Incorporated, creators of the Copic markers, are sponsoring the art contest. Winners will be announced Sunday afternoon. In one of the exhibit halls, III will have the Art Bus available. Space will be provided for all the artistically inclined attendees. Copic markers will be provided, along with paper and other materials. My wonderful son John will be on hand to offer tips on creating that one of a kind superhero or capturing the beautiful autumn landscape that makes Oregon such a picturesque place to visit now.

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I will be at the convention, not in my usual official capacity as a professional writer, but even so. If you can join us and you spot me while I’m running around doing volunteer errands, by all means, say hello. EuCon is a great show, family friendly, lots of wonderful people and plenty to see and do.

Hope to see you here!

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Filed under art show, artists, Awards, Conventions, cosplay, creativity, Family, fantasy, Fiction, nature, parenting, pirates, reality TV, science fiction, steampunk, sword and sorcery, travel, Uncategorized, Writing

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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Filed under bad movies, classics, creativity, doctors, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Halloween, historical fiction, history, Horror, hospital, Lillian Csernica, nature, publication, reality TV, research, science fiction, surgery, therapy, Writing

My Stress Managment is Too Stressful


by Lillian Csernica on June 30, 2016

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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.

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How do these activities increase my stress?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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

Going to Extremes


by Lillian Csernica on January 27, 2014

Been busy editing Sword Master, Flower Maiden.  I’m at that stage where I can see what doesn’t need to be there, or what is out of character, so I’m using a lot of red ink.  This is a good thing.

I’ve been preoccupied lately with watching the reality TV show “Bridezillas.”  For those of you who are not familiar with this example of cable TV’s bread and circuses mentality, let me explain.  Couples who have done a really bad job of planning for their weddings somehow sign up for the show.  Those cases deemed to be the most entertaining and drama-laden are then filmed anywhere from three weeks to one week before the actual wedding date.  Each episode follows two brides.  Skillful editing, lots of little interviews with the key players, and a relentless pursuit of each bride result in cliffhanger endings that make you want to find out what happens next.  Each episode features some truly astounding displays of smug narcissism, deliberate emotional manipulation, outright bitchiness, and plenty of ultimatums.  It gets to the point where you can’t even hear the fights going on because the producers have to bleep out all the swear words.

Why in the name of all that’s sane and righteous would I want to watch this kind of emotional mud-wrestling while I’m writing a romance novel?  Watching this show helps me refine my ear for stupid, semiliterate dialogue.  I can observe people so dysfunctional they have allowed the Bridezilla to reach a marriageable age in a state of immaturity and domination that could have been cured early on with a firm and uncompromising application of the word “NO!”  The show features women so wrapped up in themselves they cannot possibly be aware of how stupid, how greedy, or how unattractive they really are.  They throw tantrums over people not giving them exactly what they want when they themselves haven’t figured out the details, much less communicated them to the right vendors.  No accountability, no responsibility, just redirection of the blame on whoever’s within reach.

It’s sickening, the way these women talk about how the world really does revolve around them.  They come right out and admit their nasty little strategies for wounding other people if that’s what it takes to get their way.  That helps a lot if I have a rival for the hero’s affection in a romance storyline.  As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.  I’ve known some really selfish bitch goddesses in my time, but these harpies are in a class by themselves.  Sure, I could come up with characters this vicious and materialistic, but seeing the real thing adds whole new dimensions!

These brides seem to care nothing about the sanctity of marriage, or just the honorable and loving way to treat the man to whom they’re about to make a commitment.  It’s all about their “vision,” which really means it’s all about the bling.  It’s all about them, what they want, when they want it, and everybody involved had damn well better wait on them hand and foot.

It’s not like I don’t know how to start a fight between two people who are supposed to be in love.  I have been married for twenty-five years.  “Bridezilla” is useful for seeing just how far some people will go to get what they need.  The key word there is “need.”  Some of the grooms must think it would be better to be saddled with a high maintenance beauty pageant reject than risk going it alone.  Some soon-to-be mothers-in-law will go a long way to see to it their beloved sons are not involved in what they see as a train wreck of a marriage.  What’s hilarious is watching the bridesmaids and groomsmen stand by knowing what a disaster is in the making, but not slapping some sense into either the bride or the groom.  That’s their idea of being “supportive.”  I don’t understand why anyone would allow a Bridezilla to treat them so badly and not pack it in and walk away right then.  Bridezillas live for conquest, power, and domination.  Every time they win, it just reinforces their bad behavior.  Now and then somebody does draw the line, and then all hell breaks loose.

Another horrifying aspect is the way so many of these Bridezillas are in a hurry to have a baby.  It’s often a cultural thing, but still.  Pregnancy will allow them to once again be the center of attention, to justify outrageous demands and the avoidance of anything they don’t want to do.  Do they have it in them to actually nurture a child, or will they treat the poor baby as one more fashion accessory?  “Bridezilla” has done two “Where are they now?” episodes to find out which couples stayed married and which have split up.  Now that’s fascinating, getting to find out the rest of the story.

The hero and heroine of a romance novel are by nature mostly perfect, physically if not emotionally.  The plot complications test their mettle and reveal the traits that make each of them worth loving.  It says a lot about today’s readers that while once the ending was a guaranteed Happily Ever After, now editors and publishers are accepting Happy For Now.  To me that’s so sad, because it recognizes the realistic possibility that things won’t work out.  Worse, the reality that one or both of the people involved hang on to the option of walking away the minute they’re not getting what they want anymore.  Marriages should not be considered disposable, not in fiction (at least in a romance novel), and not in real life.  Maybe that’s one reason I write romance.  To keep the flame alive, to confirm and support the belief in the possibility of Happily Ever After.  It takes work and dedication and patience and the willingness to compromise.  I like to dress that up in historical costumes and cultures, but the bottom line is the same.

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Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Humor, love, marriage, reality TV, romance, Self-image, Writing