What I’m Reading
No real time for reading, since I’ve been doing almost nothing but editing recently.
What I’m Writing
Going back and forth between my two computers as I’m doing my final round of edits, all because the current version of Pages can’t hyperlink a table of contents. I did something wrong the first time and saved a version of the file as the wrong form of Pages and/or Word, and as a result, the converted file had a number of spots with missing text. It was a nightmare and a half to go through a full version of the file and copy and paste. Just as I suspected, I’d missed a number of spots.
Now I just edit a Pages version of the file as I’m going through it on Kindle Previewer, and save it as a Word 2004 file before I go back onto the old computer. Then I save it into html format and re-upload to Kindle. For some hair-pullingly annoying reason, my old computer insists on changing all my characters with accent marks into the butt-ugly Times New Roman, a typeface I’ve never used. When everything is good to go, I’ll have to re-hyperlink the table of contents, since that capability was lost after the first conversion back into Pages on the new computer.
I’m really happy with the few final tweaks and new passages I’ve made to my first Russian historical. During these last few rounds of edits and revisions, I also gave Part I more of a Muscovite flavour. Since these characters aren’t exactly living freely and going out in public that often, it wasn’t necessary to gut-load the book with local references, but now there’s much more of a sense it’s set in Moskva. Several streets, neighbourhoods, ring roads, and local attractions are woven into the story.
What Works for Me
One of the gimmicks I should’ve mentioned in “What Makes a Gimmick?” was the cringe-worthy way I’d been writing my long-hiatused alternative history about the rule of Tsar Aleksey II. You need to understand if you’re using a pointless gimmick instead of choosing an unusual way of telling a story because it actually serves a purpose. My original plan for that story had been to have about 90 years of alternative Russian history told through the journals of five young women in different eras, supplemented with things like newspaper clippings.
This was even more of a gimmick than having a story be narrated by someone not the protagonist. Sometimes that actually can work, as in the case of the Sherlock Holmes stories. However, in my case, in the material written so far and in the planned future sections, there had to be a way for each of these diarists to know and interact with the Royal Family. This led to a lot of awkward, detached journal entries. It just makes so much more sense to make it another third-person omniscient saga, focusing on Aleksey and his unlikely Tsaritsa, Varya.
Oh, and if you’re doing an alternative history, try to choose a fresh subject! I’m relieved to know my idea hasn’t been done hundreds of times, as in the case of WWII-themed alternate histories. I can’t wait to get back to this story, so I can make that dear young man into the enlightened, modern, belovèd Tsar he never got the chance to be. Seriously, my Aleksey successfully rehabilitates a number of high-ranking Bolsheviks (some of whom end up as his advisors and in other important government positions), gets Sigmund Freud to cure Stalin of his extreme paranoia, and saves vast amounts of people fleeing the Nazis.
What Else I’ve Been Up To
The end of Sukkot begins on Wednesday night, with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. As I’ve mentioned several times before, I just love Simchat Torah and the bittersweet end of the Torah, Deuteronomy 34. I even based the four ending paragraphs of Cinnimin (the meat of the book, at least) on it. I also love how no sooner has it ended than it immediately begins all over again, an ending begetting a beginning begetting an ending, an endless Möbius strip.
I’m also still really enjoying walking to shul (synagogue), particularly Saturday evening services. It’s a very small crowd, but it means a lot to me, particularly when I remember how much that service meant to one of our deceased members. She always came to that service, and got nice food for us to eat at seudat shlishit, the third meal of the Sabbath. The committed core members of the Saturday evening minyan have continued this sparsely-attended service in part because of how much it meant to her.