Happy heavenly 95th birthday to my favourite writer and one of my heroes, the late great Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn! Your life and your writing will serve as a legacy and inspiration to me and the world for all time. I’m a better writer in part because of you, and if I hadn’t discovered you, there’s no telling if I would’ve had my Russophilia reawakened so powerfully and gone back to my first Russian historical novel. My ultimate dream is to have a Ph.D. in Russian history, with a special focus in GULAG and the Great Terror, because of you.

Also, happy 114th birthday to Lyuba, née Amy, the female lead of my Russian novels. She has the same birthday as Aleksandr Isayevich on purpose. She’s one of my most complex female characters, right up there with Cinnimin.
WUW Winter

What I’m Writing

Baruch Hashem, done with writing for my courses. For a little while, I can focus on fictional writing. I’m up to 537,000 words in my WIP and Chapter 69. I decided to move the title “Homefront Services and Sacrifices” to 69, and renamed 68 “The Pain of Separation.” I looked at how it was shaping up, and felt that title applied more to the events that came a bit later in the timeline. I also wanted to rein in the length and keep it focused on the same general events and theme.

On top of the general homefront drama of 1942, there’s also going to be some polio near the end of Chapter 69. No one dies, but it will necessitate closing or delaying Father Spiridon’s church camp, which the college-aged characters normally work for. I already have a polio survivor among my cast of characters, Kittey Vishinskaya, who was 11-17 in the first book. (Don’t even ask what the original story was behind her becoming crippled and gradually relearning to walk!)

Also planning in my head for the future prequel. I’m even toying with the idea of doing two prequels, one from 1889-96 and the other the planned 1897-1917. It might be fun to show how Lyuba and Ivan’s respective parents and aunt and uncle grew up, before they got married and became parents in their late teens. Also, if Lyuba’s maternal grandpap died in the influenza epidemic of 1889-90, which began in St. Petersburg, that could go a long way towards explaining why her grandmother urged her mother to marry for financial security, not love, and how the family came to be poor when Katya and Margarita were growing up.

What I’m Reading

No time yet to start in on pleasure reading, though the semester is now over for me.

What Inspires Me

9 December marked the 34th anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s announcement that smallpox had been eradicated. I am so, so thankful that my lifetime has never included this terrifying disease, and that the Wikipedia entry on the disease begins “Smallpox was….” Polio is well on its way to being a past tense disease too, relegated to the annals of history.

Modern science and medicine are amazing, no matter what the modern-day science-denialists insist in their woo-filled, scare tactic, easily-debunked propaganda. (Seriously, a number of the vaccine-denialists even deny the germ theory, one of the four foundations of modern biology.) I may have been born in the wrong generation, but I’m so glad I live in a time of such scientific progress, when diseases our ancestors feared are now easily prevented, when penicillin and antibiotics can easily clear up an infection or illness that would’ve killed 100 years ago, when so many things are possible that were the stuff of science fiction only a few generations ago.

What Else I’m Up To

I made some awesome no-bake cookies on the 8th night of Chanukah, my first recipe from my new cookbook Vegan on the Cheap. The chocolate chips were actually milk chocolate, but everything else was vegan.


Melting Earth Balance, the vegan butter I use. I’ve never liked butter, even before I cut almost all dairy out of my diet. It’s the same kind of aversion I’ve had to mayonnaise since about the same time, age eight.


Adding almond milk and sugar.


A day without peanut butter is a day without sunshine. Salt and vanilla extract are also added.




The only non-vegan part of the recipe. I had these from Pesach, when I intended them for the delicious matzah granola I’ve been making every year since 2004. Instead I was lazy and saw some pre-made matzah granola at the Kosher Chopper, and never made my own. Next time I’ll make the homemade granola again, which always is plentiful enough to go several days past Pesach.


Starting to mix.


Nice and blended.


One of the two cookie sheets I filled up. It took longer than the recipe’s suggested 30 minutes for them to fully set, and even a day later, they still were frequently a bit soft. It’s to be expected with no-bake goodies.

11 thoughts on “What’s Up Wednesday

  1. I LOVE that your book is about polio. In the past, when you’ve said you were writing historical fiction, I always assumed it was set in Europe and Victorian or Mid-evil, because that is what dominates the Historical Fiction market. Yay for writing something new! Your story sounds really interesting. So good luck with it all.


    1. I know! I think I initially found this blog because she (we are now talking about you like you aren’t reading this) writes 20th century fiction and at the time I felt quite lonely with my early 1960s-set YA.


  2. You always have the most interesting historical facts and tidbits. We totally take for granted how viscious some of those old diseases were. Even more infuriating when you see groups of people refusing immunizations which are now re-introducing new strains of whooping cough back in the population, though that is an entirely different discussion 🙂

    I haven’t had a no bake cookie in ages! Looks yummy. I’ve experimented a little with alternative diet cooking, like low sugar and vegan. I use a lot of silken tofu in recipes (I’m not vegetarian but I do my best to eat like one most of the time). I’m always curious to see how people make a recipe work with replacement ingredients.


  3. Glad to hear the academic writing is done with so you can focus on your own work. Enjoy!

    Medical science is an absolute wonder. I’m so grateful to live in this day and age. I know it’ll be better for future generations, but my goodness I’m glad I’m alive today and not 100 years ago.

    Have a great week!


  4. Seeing as I just had surgery, I’m pretty darn thankful for antibiotics too. I think on the list of things to be thankful for, people often forget about medicine and other scientific discoveries because we tend to take them for granted. Well, I guess those of us who have access to them do. Great reminder to be thankful for these things!

    Glad to hear you’re finding some time to focus on your fictional writing! Good luck with it!


  5. I’m definitely grateful for the advances science has made over the years and even just in my lifetime. When I think of the ways that disease has touched my family, I’m that much more thankful for the doctors and the science that helped overcome disease in those situations. Definitely inspiring!


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