Rebecca Enzor is once again hosting her fun yearly PonyFest, wherein the winner gets a custom-designed pony based on a book character. This year, I made ponies based on three of the main characters from my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan. Finally, after so many years, the release is slated for 7 November. I edited my ponies a little, since the original versions had too many clothes.
My haunted, vulnerable Lyuba with such a traumatic past, and trying to be so strong as the world she knew goes up in flames. All she wants to do is live happily ever after with her best friend Ivan, but her fear of being with a nice guy makes everything a lot more complicated. For Lyuba, the abnormal is her normal. She and Ivan are both wounded souls with similar traumatic childhoods and scars where no one can see them.
My Katrin (Katariina), a born firecracker and hell-raiser. She’s an ardent Estonian nationalist, Socialist, radical, and advocate for progressive causes. At the same time, she also loves her pretty, fashionable clothes and having quite a lot of money.
Katrin’s best friend Anastasiya, Lyuba’s antagonist, who isn’t as light-headed as she gives the impression of. She’s tough enough to survive seven months in a Siberian labor camp, and in America in 1923, realises her lifelong dream of starting her own salon and becoming a very successful fashion designer. This woman is one contradiction after another, such as how she still plasters her wall in pictures of her celebrity crushes when she’s a powerful businesswoman.
Best friends Ivan Konev and Boris Malenkov become bitter enemies fighting over the woman they both love, Lyuba Zhukova, and who should be the legal father of the daughter Lyuba has with Boris, as the Russian Civil War rages and they navigate their new lives in America.
What I’m Reading
Haven’t yet decided which library book to tackle next.
What I’m Writing
Thank God, I finished the latest round of editing, revising, rewriting, and polishing Swan, and am well into the next round. This will be the final intense round before copyediting and then spot-checking through Kindle Preview. Before I began from the start, I went through and fixed up a couple of scenes and places which were bugging me too much to wait.
Thanks to all the hard work I did last time, and of course during the countless edits and revisions in the past, before I got sick of looking at it, it’s going much more smoothly now. This has really restored my confidence in my ability to edit even work I thought I was sick of looking at. That time away made me painfully aware of many weak points either in need of deletion or significant fleshing-out or reworking.
One of the things I did in between this round and last was changing some of the details of the end of Part I. Now Ivan goes back for Lyuba in a collapsible lifeboat, instead of swimming in the Gulf of Finland in the chilly March weather, and he and Lyuba are directed into the Church of Saints Simeon and Hanna by their unlikely rescuer. It was bugging me more and more how they hide under the water and swim back to the boat. (Lyuba didn’t board the boat because her passport was stuck inside a vase, which Ivan accidentally broke the night before.)
Besides, I just had to use the Tallinn setting in the short time it was there. The harbour is right by the beautiful, incredibly well-preserved Medieval Old Town, and Ahtri Street has a lovely Russian Orthodox church right on the waterfront. Perfect, much more realistic and appropriate place for their narrow escape before heading back to the boat.
I also had to rework large portions of Chapters 31 and 32 twice in a row, which was very frustrating. It just wasn’t realistic on any level, and based too strongly on my immature ideas from age thirteen. I was 20-21 when I wrote those chapters, yet I was too afraid to move it in an altered direction. I’m much happier with it now, particularly since I replaced the xenophobic hospital doctor with the kindly, radical Dr. Scholl. Now he appears in all three of my Russian novels so far.
What Works for Me
When you’re editing a very old manuscript, don’t be afraid to junk large portions of it. All that time away will make you much less emotionally attached to it. I just cringe when I think about a lot of the garbage I took out of Swan. About 99% of the original 1993 material was either excised or radically rewritten. Good riddance!
What Else I’ve Been Up To
Got a lovely piece of hate mail through my Contact Me form, from an extremely abusive, misogynistic, immature individual who made himself sound like a junior high bully instead of an adult. He was duly reported and blocked, and I had to add a warning to the Contact Me form. His rant was brought on because his special snowflake is named Kaden, and he was outraged I didn’t blow the glitter and daisies. I did a search of my posts, and only found comments about how I hate predated naming trends and how to give your characters believable names for their era.