RSW Summer Recap


Ready. Set. Write!, hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanElodie NowodazkijJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk, comes to an end this week. Instead of the usual headings, it’ll just be a recap of our summer progress.

The last RSW post of this summer includes a manicure reflecting our WIPs in some way. Mine is orange, red, and blue:


Yes, my mezuzah has turtles on it. I saw it in a Judaica shop in the Cardo section of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and couldn’t resist.


I found the Russian house blessing in a shop in Tzfat, a mystical, artistic city in Northern Israel.

Orange is because Aleksey was a Leo, and orange is one of Leo’s signature colours, along with yellow and gold. Red represents a very strong life force. He constantly bounced back from the jaws of Death, even when he was given up for dead and given Last Rites. In real life, he was the last member of his family to be murdered, staying alive even after being shot at numerous times and when he was too sick to get out of that armchair. And blue is because that was probably one of his favourite colours, since he wore it so often.

Yellow would’ve been a nice choice too, since that’s also a signature Leo colour and the best colour of the unlikely Tsaritsa, Arkadiya, but yellow would go over about as well as pale pink on my nails. It would probably wash out my ghost-white skin, and not even show up very well. It’s the same way with how I’d probably look pretty foolish with any oral piercings beyond the tongue and Monroe/Madonna (beauty mark). They look awesome on other people, but just don’t work well with my appearance.


I added 83,000 words to my WIP over the summer, though I feel I could’ve done better and written more. 60,000 of those words came during July. I still have to finish Parts II and III, and do a lot of work on Part IV. Perhaps if I’d written out of order the entire summer, instead of only going back to that successful strategy so late, I would’ve only had Part IV left to finish. I’ve become such a negligent fairy godmother to my protagonist.

alexei 2

I did do all the major planning/plotting for my fourth Russian historical, which I’ll be starting in NaNo. I’m so excited to have complete chapter-by-chapter notes and a sense of all the major storylines. I also published the third edition of You Cannot Kill a Swan and did a good portion of the last major edit of The Twelfth Time. I’m still waiting to hear back from the potential cover artist, though.


I had been planning to reward myself with my fourth lobe piercings, but given how my thirds aren’t 100% healed yet (but doing much better), I really think it’s the best idea to let them marinate for a little while longer and make sure they’re completely healed before getting my fourths. I’m hoping to get my navel done instead, though if I’m not anatomically suited to it, I’ll ask for my conch instead, right above the spot I’m saving for my fourths.

Still, I’m hopeful I’m built properly for a navel piercing, since I’ve wanted one for so long, and love the idea of disproving the stereotype that only skinny teen girls get them. It took so many years to accept the fact that I matured into a lower plus size and will probably never be a size 10, or even a 12, again. Decorating my body in this way would be a really powerful, special way of celebrating.

WeWriWa—A letter from the Emperor

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This snippet takes place right after the last one shared two weeks ago, as Arkadiya Gagarina has had a gift and letter from the Tsar delivered to her upgraded hotel room. She’s in complete shock as she reads the letter.


The penultimate letter in his name (not counting the final swirl seemingly used by everyone in the Imperial Family) is called a Yat (Ѣ), one of the Russian letters which was discarded after 1918 orthographic reforms. It was replaced by the pre-existing letter E, though many Russian émigrés continued using the old letters.

From the desk of His Imperial Majesty, Tsar Aleksey II, Aleksandr Palace, Tsarskoye Selo

31 August 1929

Princess Arkadiya,

It was most enjoyable to meet you, talk with you, and dine with you yesterday.  Perhaps we can meet again when I pass through Yekaterinburg on my planned future tour of the Russian Empire, or when you’re in St. Petersburg again.  Under my rule, morganatic nobility are welcome at court, and will probably be a much better addition to the Imperial Court than the old royal blood who don’t live in the real world.

Please accept these humble gifts as my way of saying thank you for the honor of being in your presence yesterday.  Beyond that, every princess deserves some finery.  Maybe you’ll feel like more of a real princess if you have nice jewelry.

Warmest regards,

Aleksey Nikolayevich


The title used at the start of the letter is just his abbreviated title. The full title appears only once, at the start of the document liberally amending the draconian House Laws. It’s only slightly shorter than it used to be, since by 1929, Bulgaria had its own Tsar and was no longer part of the Russian Empire, and Poland was free.

We, by the Grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, of Moskva, Kiyev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Tsar of Kazan, Tsar of Astrakhan, Tsar of Siberia, Tsar of Tauric Chersonesos, Tsar of Georgia, Lord of Pskov, and Grand Duke of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and Finland, Prince of Estonia, Livonia, Courland and Semigalia, Samogitia, Belostok, Karelia, Tver, Yugra, Perm, Vyatka, and other territories; Lord and Grand Duke of Nizhniy Novgorod, Sovereign of Chernigov, Ryazan, Potolsk, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Belozersk, Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia, Vitebsk, Mstislavl, and all northern territories; Sovereign of Iberia, Kartalinia, and the Kabardinian lands and Armenian territories; Hereditary Lord and Ruler of the Circassians and Mountain Princes and others; Lord of Turkestan, Heir of Norway, Duke of Schleswig–Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, Oldenburg, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth, His Imperial Majesty Aleksey II

A primer on Esperanto names

As everyone probably knows, Esperanto is the most widely-spoken artificial language in the world. About two million people speak Esperanto, including about 2,000 native speakers. Its name means “one who hopes.” The language was created in the late 1870s and early 1880s by L.L. Zamenhof, a Polish ophthalmologist. He knew Russian, Yiddish, French, German, Italian, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Polish, and English, and was determined his new language must have a simpler grammar than any of the others. It was intended as an international language, but Zamenhof’s dream still hasn’t come true, in spite of the amount of people who can speak Esperanto.

Esperanto is the language used in my hiatused WIP Greentown (probably needs a better title). It’s set from 2023–26 in a large, self-sustaining commune-like area of Australia, where all the houses are made of recycled materials or living plants growing around the frames, and the religion is classic rock. The major towns are grouped by which band the residents love most. My protagonist lives in Beatleville. I’d describe it as a dystopia in the classic sense, but since dystopia now has a much different association, I’ll probably have to call it speculative fiction. It’s a utopia gone creepily wrong, but that’s sadly no longer what most folks think of when they hear the word dystopia.

Esperanto alphabet:

Esperanto uses the Roman alphabet, with 28 letters. The odd letters out are ĉ (CH), ĝ (GH), ĥ (HH), ĵ (JH), ŝ (SH), and ŭ (U). Missing are the letters Q, W, X, and Y.

Esperantizing names:

Many people joining the Esperanto movement simply Esperantize their names. Traditionally, all Esperanto names end in O, but many women don’t like that, and use names ending in A instead. There are also some names native to Esperanto, not merely versions of other names.


Male nicknames typically end in -ĉjo, and female nicknames usually end in -njo.

Common Esperanto names and their nicknames:


Adorinda (Adorable)
Amika (Friendly)
Aminda (Lovable)
Brava (Brave; Valiant)
Ĉiela (Heavenly)
Dezirinda (Desirable)
Esperanta (Hoping)
Fajra (Fiery)
Gaja (Glad)
Glorinda (Worthy of glory)
Helena, Halina, Ilona
Juvela (Jewel-like)
Kandaĵa (Made of candy)
Karesinda (Worthy of a caress)
Katida (Kittenish)
Luksa (Luxurious)
Maraĵa (Made of the sea)
Merita (Meritorious)
Miela (Honey-sweet)
Mirinda (Wonderful)
Orabela (Golden-beautiful)
Pipra (Peppery)
Raĥela (Rachel)
Rava (Ravishing)
Rozabela (Rosy-beautiful)
Rubena (Like a ruby)
Safira (Like a sapphire)
Sprita (Witty)
Stelara (Like a constellation)
Tondra (Like thunder)
Valora (Valuable)
Venka (Victorious)
Vespera (Of the evening)


Aleksandro (Aleĉjo)
Antono (Anĉjo)
Johano (Joĉjo)
Jozefo (Joĉjo)
Koralo (Coral)
Ludoviko (Luĉjo) (Louis)
Miĥaelo, Mikelo (Miĉjo)
Nikolao (Niĉjo)
Paŭlo (Paĉjo)
Vilhelmo (Vilĉjo) (William)

WIPpet Wednesday—Violating the Nativity Fast

Fourteen years ago today, I finished the first draft of You Cannot Kill a Swan after 8.5 years! As much work as I did on rewrites, revisions, and edits over 4.5 years a decade later, the fact remains that I still wrote that complex saga between ages 13–21.

I’ve put my primary energies this week towards a final edit of The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks. I’m mostly cleaning up some surprisingly infodumpesque dialogue I’m really surprised I didn’t see that way during the previous edits. It’s not really classical “As you know, Bob” dialogue, but more like overstating established information from the first book, and not sounding like realistic, natural dialogue.

I’ve been having continued issues with my third lobe piercings, which are five months old now. I’m hoping the irritation bumps and bleeding go down now that I’ve changed out the initial peacock opal labrets for lightweight French hooks, resumed saline soaks, and iced them down. The labrets feel so much better in my first lobes, which I’ve had for 28 years. My thirds feel slightly better now that they can breathe more freely and don’t have posts rubbing against the back.

After the traumatic experience I had with my seconds and how long they took to finally heal, I take no chances with the health of any other ear piercings. It was precisely because I had such an awful experience with my seconds that it took so many years to get more ear piercings. I still want to fill up both of my ears, but given the difficulties I’ve had with my thirds, I’ve half a mind to postpone the fourth lobe piercings I’d planned for next month and just get my navel instead. I’ve wanted that for a long time, and contrary to the popular image, you don’t have to be 16 and a size 6! Depending on body shape, it can be a bit above the actual navel, to allow for better healing and less chance of rejection.

Meanwhile, my new rook piercing is doing great, and hopefully will continue healing nicely. I went pretty hardcore for my first cartilage piercing, but I love the look of it, and how it’s not yet trendy. Lots of people have helix, tragus, and even conch piercings, but not too many people have rooks.


WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m just sharing 26 lines, for the 26th of August. This scene takes place in December 1918, during the wedding banquet for the three oldest grand duchesses. All Imperial weddings took place in the Grand Cathedral of the Winter Palace, and this reception is held in the Nikolay Hall of the Neva Enfilade.

After the three couples have been announced and joined the reception, the food is brought out, and the Dowager Empress is scandalized to see her grandson eating normal food.


The Nikolay Hall, the largest room in the Winter Palace

Aleksey could no longer even remember the last time he’d seen such copious amounts of food in one place, or such wonderful food altogether.  Even considering this was during the Nativity Fast, there was still plenty of good food.  The new palace cooks had made tomato soup, potato soup, mushrooms stuffed with walnuts, eggless pancakes, several types of salads, fresh fruit and berries, an eggless apple cake, butternut squash soup, risotto with cashews and oranges, noodle pudding, rice-stuffed tomatoes and peppers, fried potatoes, and a sweet made mostly of some kind of crushed sugar and walnut paste.  Then another cook came over and set down a tray of roasted chicken with turnips, hard-boiled eggs, several types of cheese, and broiled salmon encrusted with pistachios.

“Here you go, Your Majesty.  Your uncle told us to make some normal food especially for you.  You’re so lucky you get to eat regularly during this fasting season.”

“What is this?” the Dowager Empress demanded after the cook had walked away. “This madness has now even extended to violating fasts?  I wish I had the authority to get you another Regent!”


Grand Duke Mikhail and his morganatic wife, Countess Natalya Brasova

Mikhail cut into a stuffed pepper. “Believe me, I thoroughly consulted with the five new doctors about this.  Don’t you want your grandson to live long enough to become Tsar in his own right?  Eating normally year-round could be the difference between life and death for him.  It was madness how his parents didn’t modify his diet enough, and let him keep all these fasts like a normal boy.”

“But that’s not proper Orthodox behavior.  The Emperor must be Orthodox, as must his consort.  Don’t tell me you’re going to find Baby a bride from a non-Orthodox land and not even make her convert.  This Regency just gets more and more insane.”

“And that’s another thing.  You and his sisters really need to stop calling him Baby.  That’s a really embarrassing nickname for a fourteen-year-old.”

The Dowager Empress shook her head. “Perhaps captivity made you all go balmy, on top of how Baby was already coddled too much by his mother.”

“Who are you to talk about coddling when you’re still calling him Baby, like he’s two years old?” Natalya asked. “That’s a very big disconnect in thought and behavior.”


RSW Lucky Number Eleven Update



In memory of my paternal grandpap, who left the material world 10 years ago today. That’s us on his 64th birthday, 2 October 1984. He had the same birthday as Groucho Marx, and I very nearly had the same Jahrzeit as Groucho.


Ready. Set. Write! is a summer-long initiative hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanElodie NowodazkijJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk. Each week, participants post brief updates under five headings.

  • How I did on last week’s goal(s)

I took another detour and spent Monday–Friday going over You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan for republication. I’m glad I decided to expunge all the superfluous accent aigus from Russian names and words, since I found a couple of spots which somehow slipped through all those countless rounds of edits, rewrites, and revisions. There were also a few things I wanted to change, for more natural-sounding dialogue or to reflect my greater familiarity with the Imperial Family’s history.

(Side note: If you’re writing about Imperial Russia, or your characters are reflecting back on Imperial Russia, you must refer to the House of Romanov as the Imperial Family, Imperial House, etc., NOT “the Royal Family.” Calling them royals or royalty is fine, but the only correct adjective in relation to their dynasty, court, palaces, family, etc., is Imperial.)

On my WIP, I wrote about 1,000 words.

  • My goal(s) for this week

I’d really like to try to put in more work on my WIP, though now that I’ve renewed my plans to release The Twelfth Time this year, I want to do my final sweep-through before spot-checking through Kindle Preview.

  • A favorite line from my story OR a word or phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

An emotional roller-coaster journey through life.

  • The biggest challenge I faced this week

Going back and forth between two computers. I made concurrent edits onto the Pages document on my new computer, but I had to make all the master edits on the HTML file which I could only open through the Word file on my old computer. Doing back and forth conversions would’ve meant losing my hyperlinked table of contents, since the current version of Pages can’t hyperlink within a document. May my 8-year-old MacBook Pro continue to be blessed with health and long life!

Waiting to hear back from the potential new cover artist was also a challenge, since it’s now been more than two weeks!

  • Something I love about my WIP

It’s obviously no longer a WIP (thank God!), but of all the emotional moments and best-loved chapters and scenes of Swan, I think the most special to me is watching sweet little Tatyana going from birth to five years old. Every time I’ve gone through the book for editing and such, I love going on that journey with her all over again. Of all the many characters I’ve taken from birth to adulthood, I think my most meaningful, emotional experience has been with Tatyana. It hit me so hard in Journey Through a Dark Forest when her nickname had become the more adult Tanya, no longer the childish Tanyechka.

If you’re wondering, Tatyana was indeed named for the grand duchess.