WeWriWa—A beautiful, sincere heart


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m skipping a little ahead from last week’s, past Grand Duke Mikhail thanking Prince Vladimir for his show of support against a disrespectful servant and addressing the elephant in the room of hemophilia. Even in 1918, people understood it was passed on through the mother, which means all four of the Grand Duchesses might’ve inherited it and thus have a very real chance of having hemophiliac sons themselves.

Mikhail says he won’t hold anything against the princes if they find this prospect too frightening and take their leave, but Konstantin insists he doesn’t care about that.


Prince Konstantin, right, and his younger brother Prince Igor


“I’m so old, and want my own family so badly, I don’t care if I might have some children who aren’t all perfect.  Whatever God wants to give me, I’ll want and love just as he is.  Life is so fragile and can so easily be taken away at any time.  Even a healthy, normal child can pass away at any time.  The most important thing is that I give any children of mine all the love I know how to give.”

“You have a beautiful, sincere heart and spirit,” Ólga said, smiling at him. “My family went to Romania four years ago to investigate the possibility of my marrying Prince Carol, but neither of us liked one another.  Then nothing serious was done about my marriage prospects ever again, though I really wanted to be married.”


Of the four Grand Duchesses, I always felt drawn most to Olga, the oldest. She was the most intelligent and intellectual, an inveterate bookworm, and gave a lot of her inheritance to the less fortunate after she came into her trust fund. Olga is also one of my favorite Russian female names, in spite of how a lot of English-speakers deride it as ugly and musty. It sounds really beautiful with the Russian pronunciation, which has a rolled L.

A primer on Hebrew names

A wide variety of Hebrew names are in usage today. Generally, the traditional Biblical names are seen as old-fashioned and tend to be most used among very religious families, while the more modern names are used among a wider range of people. Many modern Hebrew names are also unisex. People who came to Israel during the first major waves of aliyot (immigration) tended to take these kinds of modern, empowered names, and shed their old shtetl identities.

Transliteration is obviously going to vary, but I personally use the standard, modern Sephardic style in use in modern Israel. Depending on the word or name, I’ll varyingly render the “ey” sound as ei or ey. There are also a few other transliteration choices I make depending on the common style and my own personal aesthetics. For example, some names look better without the H on the end, while others can go either way. The one transliteration style I shy away from is the dated, archaic Ashkenazic style (with the exception of a handful of words I either use myself, like Shabbos vs. Shabbat, or can at least tolerate, like bris vs. b’rit). That’s just not correct, accurate, modern pronunciation.

Modern Hebrew tends to put the stress on the final syllable of a word or name. CH is the guttural sound found in familiar words like loch and Chanukah.

Common Hebrew names:


Adi (Jewel; Ornament)
Agam (Lake)
Almog (Coral)
Amit (Friend)
Anat (Answer)
Aviv (Spring)
Aviya (My father is God)
Chesed (Mercy)
Dar (Mother-of-pearl)
Dikla (Palm grove)
Dor (Generation)
Gal (Wave)
Gili (My joy)
Hadar (Glory)
Hed (Echo)
Keshet (Rainbow)
Li (To me)
Lior (My light)
Liron (My song)
Maayan (Spring of water)
Mor (Myrrh)
Moran (Viburnum shrub)
Nitzan (Flower bud)
Noam (Pleasantness)
Nogah (Brightness)
Noy (Beauty)
Ofra (Fawn)
Or (Light)
Ori (My light)
Paz (Gold)
Ravid (Ornament; Necklace)
Raz (Secret)
Ron (Song; Joy)
Shachar (Dawn)
Shaked (Almond)
Shalev (Tranquil; Calm)
Shani (Red)
Simcha (Celebration)
Stav (Autumn)
Tal (Tali) (Dew)
Tam (Honest; Innocent)
Tom (The End)
Tovia (God is good)
Yarden (Jordan)
Yuval (Stream)
Ziv (Radiant; Bright)
Zohar (Brilliance)


Achinoam (My brother is pleasant)
Adara (Noble)
Adina (Gentle; Delicate)
Adva (Ripple)
Ahavah (Love)
Ahuvah (Belovèd)
Aliyah (To go up; To ascend)
Alizah (Joyful)
Alona (Oak tree)
Amira (Treetop)
Ariella (Lion of God)
Atara (Crown)
Avigayil (Abigail)
Aviva (Spring)
Ayala (Doe)
Ayelet (Gazelle)
Ayla (Oak tree)
Batya, Batel (Daughter of God)
Bracha (Blessing)
Bosmat, Basmat (Fragrance)
Chagit (Festive)
Chana (Chani) (Hannah, Anna, Anne)
Chava (Eve)
Chaya (Life)
Cherut (Freedom)
Dafna (Laurel)
Dalit (To draw water)
Dalya (Branch)
Devorah, Dvora (Bee)
Dorit (Generation)
Drorit (Sparrow; Freedom)
Efrat (Fruitful place)
Elah (Oak tree)
Eliana (My God has answered)
Eliora (My God is my light)
Elisheva (Elizabeth)
Elke (God has purchased)
Galya, Galit (Wave)
Gila (Joy; Happiness)
Hadassah, Hadas (Dassah) (Myrtle tree) (Esther)
Hila (Halo)
Ilana, Ilanit (Tree)
Inbal (Tongue of a bell)
Inbar (Amber)
Irit (Asphodel flower)
Kalanit (Anemone) (my almost-15-year-old spider plant’s name)
Kelila (Crown of laurels)
Keren (Horn)
Kineret (Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee)
Leah, Lea (pronounced like Princess Leia’s name in Hebrew, not Lee-a)
Liat (You are mine)
Libi (My heart)
Lichi (She is mine)
Lilach (Lilac)
Liora, Liorit (My light)
Lital (My dew)
Livna, Livnat (White)
Livya, Livia (Lioness)
Malka (Queen)
Marganita (Scarlet pimpernel flower)
Margolit, Margalit, Margalita (Pearl)
Marni (Rejoice)
Maya (Water)
Maytal, Meital (Dewdrop)
Meira, Meirit (Giving light)
Menucha (Tranquility)
Merav, Meirav, Meyrav (Abundant)
Michal (Micha) (Brook)
Naama (Pleasant)
Nachal (Stream)
Naomi (Pleasantness)
Nava (Beautiful)
Nessa (Miracle)
Neta (Shrub; Plant)
Nitza (Flower bud)
Noa (Motion)
Noya (Divine beauty)
Nurit (Buttercup)
Ora, Orit (Light)
Orli (My light)
Orna (Pine tree)
Ra’anana (Fresh; Invigorating)
Rachel (pronounced with a guttural CH)
Rani (My song; My joy)
Raziella (God is my secret)
Reut (Friend)
Rina, Rinat (Joy)
Rivka (Riva) (Rebecca)
Rona, Ronit (Song; Joy)
Rut (Ruth)
Sagit (Sublime; Elevated)
Sarah (Princess)
Segulah (Treasure)
Shifra (Beautiful)
Shira, Shir (Song)
Shiri (My song)
Shlomit, Shulamit (Peaceful)
Shoshana (Means both “rose” and “lily” in modern Hebrew)
Sigal (Purple; Violet)
Sigalit (Violet flower)
Smadar (Blossom)
Talya (God’s dew)
Tamar (Palm tree)
Tehilla (Psalm)
Tikva (Hope)
Tirzah, Tirtzah (Favorable)
Tova (Good)
Tzilla (Shade)
Tzipporah, Tziporah, Tzipora, Zipporah, Ziporah, Cipora (Bird)
Tzivia (Deer)
Tzofiya (Watching)
Tzufit (Hummingbird)
Tzvia (Deer)
Uriella (My light is God)
Uziela, Uzziella (My weapon is God)
Vered (Varda) (Rose)
Yaara (Honeycomb; Honeysuckle)
Yachna (She establishes)
Yael (Mountain goat)
Yaen (Ostrich)
Yaffa (Beautiful)
Yakira (Precious)
Yardena (Jordana)
Yarona (To sing)
Yehudit (Judith)
Yocheved (God is glory)
Yonit, Yonina (Dove)
Zahara (Brilliance)
Ziva, Zivit (Bright; Radiant)


Adam (Man)
Adir (Mighty; Strong)
Aharon (Aaron)
Alon (Oak tree)
Amichai (My people are alive)
Amir (Treetop)
Amnon (Faithful)
Amos (Carried)
Ari, Aryeh (Lion)
Ariel (Arik) (Lion of God)
Asa (Doctor)
Asaf (Collector)
Asher (Happy)
Avi (My father)
Avidan (My father is judge)
Avihu (He is my father)
Aviram (My father is exalted)
Avishai (My father’s gift)
Avner (Father’s Light)
Avraham (Father of many)
Ayal (Stag)
Barak (Lightning)
Baruch (Blessed)
Boaz (Swiftness)
Chaim (Life)
Daniel (God is my judge)
David (Belovèd)
Dekel (Palm tree)
Dori (My generation)
Doron (Gift)
Dov (Bear)
Dror (Freedom; Sparrow)
Efrayim (Fruitful)
Ehud (Udi) (United)
Eiran, Eran (Watchful; Vigilant)
Eitan (Enduring) (Ethan)
Eli (Ascension; My God)
Eliezer (My God is help)
Elior (My God is my light)
Eliyahu (My God is God) (Elijah)
Elkanah, Elkan (God has purchased)
Erez (Cedar)
Eyal (Strength)
Ezra (Help)
Gavriel (God is my strong man)
Gideon, Gidon (Hewer)
Gil (Happiness)
Gilad (Monument of testimony)
Guryon (Gurik)
Hevel (Breath) (Abel)
Idan (Era)
Ilan (Tree)
Ira (Watchful)
Itay (With me)
Itamar (Palm island)
Kefir (Lion cub)
Lavi (Lion)
Lev (Heart)
Levi (Attached)
Malachi (My messenger)
Maor (Light)
Matan (Gift)
Meir, Meyer (Giving light)
Menachem (Comforter)
Menashe (Causing to forget)
Meshulam (Friend; Paid for)
Michael (Mee-Chah-EL)
Mordechai (Servant of Marduk)
Moshe (Moses)
Nachum (Comforter)
Nadav (Generous)
Namir (Leopard)
Nir (Plowed field)
Niv (Fang; Tusk; Speech)
Noach (Rest; Comfort)
Ofek (Horizon)
Ofer (Fawn)
Omer (Wheat measurement)
Omri (Servant)
Orel (Light of God)
Oren (Pine tree)
Osher (Happiness)
Ovadiyah (Servant of God)
Oved (Servant)
Oz (Strength)
Peleg (Channel)
Peretz (Breach)
Ra’anan (Fresh; Invigorating)
Reuven (Behold, a son)
Roi (Ro-EE) (My shepherd)
Ronen (Song; Joy)
Sagi (Sublime; Elevated)
Shay, Shai (Gift)
Shalom (Peace)
Shimon (He has heard)
Shimshon (Sun) (Samson)
Shlomo (Solomon)
Sh’muel (Samuel) (Asked of God)
Tamir (Tall)
Tomer (Palm tree)
Tuvya, Tuvia (God is good)
Tzafrir (Zephyr)
Tzvi, Tsvi, Zeev, Zeevie, Zev, Zvi (Deer)
Uri (My light)
Uriel (God is my light)
Uziel, Uzziel (God is my weapon)
Yaakov (Jakob)
Yachin (He establishes)
Yair (He shines)
Yaniv (He will prosper)
Yaron (Song)
Yechiel (God lives)
Yehudah (Judah)
Yishai (Gift)
Yitzchak (Isaac)
Yona (Dove) (Jonah)
Yonatan (Yoni) (Jonathan)
Zavdiel, Zabdiel

What’s Up Wednesday

Snowman Button (final)

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I’ve finished up writing and editing the A to Z posts for my names blog, but I read/skimmed a few more parts of the source book while writing the last few posts. It really made me eager to reread the whole thing, particularly since this translation is worlds better than the original one I read. You’ll find out just which book this is on the theme reveal on 23 March, on both this blog and my names blog. The names blog will obviously have the more detailed post.

What I’m Writing

Now up to Chapter 116 of Journey Through a Dark Forest, “The White Plague’s Revenge,” which opens during the Anastasi service of Orthodox Easter. Darya and Andrey are in New York for the holiday, visiting Darya’s big brother Fedya, but Darya already regrets making the trip. It becomes very obvious, during the midnight processional around the church and the ensuing Easter service back inside, that her TB has returned to an active state, after several years of latency.

A trip to the compassionate, radical Dr. Scholl reveals painful, obvious signs of what Darya and Andrey had long suspected, that her TB was hibernating in another part of her body all this time. The exploratory surgery then makes it even more obvious her long-missing period and inability to conceive are due to pelvic TB. Though Dr. Scholl cauterises some of the scar tissue, there are still very low odds of ever having a baby. And when they return to Minnesota, things are going to go from bad to worse.

My goal for this week is to finish Chapter 116.

What Works for Me

Don’t hand anything to your characters on silver platters with neat hospital corners! A happy ending or attainment of a dear wish is always sweetest and most appreciated when it had to be earned over a long time. It also lets you go on the emotional journey with them, your anticipation just as great as theirs.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I had a bit of a scare when my nostril stud fell out last Wednesday, and I couldn’t find it. I also couldn’t find my original nostril screw or the one my ex got me as a Chanukah present one year, so I initially held it open with an earring and then left it empty for something like eight hours. Thank God, it hadn’t closed up by the time I hooked an earring through that night. It felt ridiculous to have an earring hanging through my nostril, but nostril piercings are known to close up really fast, even if they’re really old like mine (twelve years this June). Repiercing can also hurt a lot, since the needle goes through scar tissue. (If you’re wondering, my piercing didn’t hurt one bit. I didn’t even feel a prick.)

On Thursday, I went to Classy Body Art, whose piercer is currently my city’s only member of the Association of Professional Piercers. Not only that, but he has a lot of other awesome qualifications, and his is the closest piercing studio. It was worth waiting till later in the day for the studio to open. Now I have a dark green nostril screw, which he bent so I wouldn’t keep having problems with my jewelry falling out. I love my nostril piercing, and couldn’t imagine losing it, after how long I’ve had it and how many years I wanted it before I finally got it.

I also went to an awesome Wrapunzel event at the local Modern Orthodox shul on Sunday. Even though I’m not married and thus not halachically obligated to cover my hair, I bought some beautiful scarves and accessories to go under the wraps. I even went to my weekly writers’ group with my hair all wrapped up.


Just a small sampling of all the beautiful tichels and accessories:




Hair-covering is such a beautiful, special mitzvah which I’m really looking forward to doing if I ever marry. It lets one’s inner beauty shine through, and publicly demonstrates your commitment to your faith. We’re supposed to be attractive, not attracting, as my rebbetzin has explained. I’ll never be 100% Orthodox (primarily because I’d never give up my belovèd Halloween!), but I feel very strongly about the importance of hair-covering. All sorts of women choose to cover their hair, and I like that I don’t fit into the stereotype of someone who’d do that. It challenges people’s assumptions.

I’m still holding out hope I won’t be sharing my bed with my gigantic frog Simon for the rest of my life, and that I’ll get a beautiful younger man with a healthy mind and normal libido. It’s too bad my froggy buddy won’t turn into a prince when I kiss him!

Know the age you’re writing about

There’s a lot to be said for writing what you know, within certain parameters. While there are obviously some things you’ll never have firsthand experience with, like living in the Middle Ages or breeding dragons, and some things it’s probably not such a wise idea to research firsthand, like a tiger attack or brain surgery, it’s still a good idea to have grounding in the realistic things.

The way I wrote adult and child characters as a teenager was just laughable. There was a reason I had always written about characters around my same age, because it’s what I knew. It made perfect sense for me to write about preteens and teens when I was in that age range, even if these weren’t completely realistic characters just yet. I had basic experience with being that age, as well as having some idea of how slightly older people behaved, based on watching TV shows and reading books.


When my Atlantic City characters started aging up and having their own children, a lot fell apart. I naturally didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s so painfully embarrassing and obvious now. I was a sophomore and junior in high school, trying to write about characters in college, in their twenties and eventually thirties, raising children. To my adult self, they come across as immature, childish, ridiculous, overgrown 12-year-olds playing at grownups. There’s being young at heart or young for your age, and then there’s just being stunted and childish.

The child characters were just as bad, if not worse. I had the entirely wrong idea about when speech starts, and thus had babies under a year old speaking in complete sentences, and toddlers and young kids having conversations about politics and literature. Yes, I was extremely advanced intellectually for my age, and had atypical interests at a young age, but that’s not a reason to project it onto everyone. Also, even I didn’t have those interests or that knowledge when I was all of 5 or 6 years old. My other problem was that I hadn’t been around young children very much, and thus really didn’t know how they tend to talk, act, and think.


When I went back to Little Ragdoll from scratch and memory in November 2010, I took great pains to depict all these child characters, of various ages, as accurately as possible. I did my best to keep the language and situations around Adicia’s level as she ages through the book, much like the Little House series gradually becomes more mature as Laura grows up. As I wrote Part I, when Adicia is all of five years old, I tried to think of my rabbi and rebbetzin’s then-five-year-old daughter and how she would talk, think, or act.

I felt really validated and proud every time someone commented, after reading the numerous excerpts posted, about how realistic these children and young people were. And I had a lot of things to meld together—age, aging up, the 1959–74 era, the poor and working-class Manhattan world, the parentification of many of these children, the forced maturity and growing up way before they should’ve. Even Justine and Infant (later Aoife), the babies of their respective families, aren’t shielded from reality and know life is tough.


When dealing with kids in the 2–4 range, it’s also important to know how speech develops. Children just learning to talk frequently engage in overextension (e.g., “We goed to the store,” “I finded it,” “He throwed it”). They also won’t have such a large vocabulary yet, and will tend towards simple, short sentences.

When writing Part II of Journey Through a Dark Forest, I also had to keep in mind how children of various ages understand Death. Two-and-a-half-year-old Velira thinks her mother was sleeping in the woods, and frequently asks when she’s coming back. Three-year-old Veronika asks if her father went to be dead because she did something bad, and if he’ll come back if she’s good, while her seven-year-old brother Andrey asks if their father is getting enough to eat, and wonders how he can breathe if he’s dead.

Also important to keep in mind is how people of a certain age range would’ve behaved in a certain era. A teenager of the 1940s tended to be both younger and older than a typical modern teen, due to being more innocent about certain things while still having more mature responsibilities and often expecting to marry and start a family by the early twenties. A teenager of the Middle Ages would’ve already been married and a parent.

WeWriWa—Employ terminated


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. The snippet this week comes right after last week’s, as Grand Duke Mikhail, the Regent, asserts his authority over a footman attempting to ruin an arranged meeting with the two oldest Grand Duchesses and their potential suitors. The footman has gotten bolder in his disrespect for Mikhail, creating a very uncomfortable situation for Princes Konstantin and Vladimir.

Prince Vladimir, the product of a morganatic marriage, is Tatyana’s intended.


“This footman will be collecting his belongings under armed guard and vacating the palace immediately following a thorough interrogation.  His employ is terminated effective immediately, and his final salary will be sent to the temporary address he should alert us to as soon as he’s procured new lodgings, provided the interrogation doesn’t turn up any evidence of something like revolutionary associations.”

The footman clenched his teeth and stormed off to his quarters, flanked by several guards.

“What an uppity servant,” Vladímir said. “He really didn’t know his place.  If you really want to know, I don’t condemn you for having married a commoner.  My own mother is a commoner, and she and I were only created a princess and prince after a long time of existing in that morganatic state.  To be honest, I feel like more of a commoner than a prince.”


Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, 28 December 1896–18 July 1918, was a grandson of Aleksandr II and a very gifted writer and poet. He was also excellent with languages, art, and music. Vladimir was born when his mother was still legally married to her first husband. Though he was a Romanov, he wasn’t allowed to use his rightful family name because his parents’ marriage was morganatic. In 1915, he and his mother were created Prince and Princess Paley.

Volodya could’ve been spared the fate of his other Imperial relatives if he’d obeyed Bolshevik orders to deny his father, but he bravely refused. He’d by and large lived the life of a commoner, but he wouldn’t hear of denouncing his belovèd father.