What I’m Reading
The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg (sic), by Helen Rappaport. I’m mostly reading it as research for my secondary WIP, and it’s given me a number of details I’ve been able to go back and add, or keep in mind for future reference. For example, I didn’t know Aleksey had a Fohn electrotherapy machine which delivered electroshocks to his joints and limbs after long periods of bed rest. The book also makes it obvious what a sad, hot mess Alix was, a woman who really wasn’t well mentally, physically, emotionally, or psychologically.
Ms. Rappaport’s transliteration style isn’t consistent, which is annoying. Pick one style and stick with it. Don’t use different spellings of the same name in the same book, particularly not when talking about the exact same person! She also provides no footnotes, in spite of her extensive works cited list. I’m far from the only reader who’s really curious as to which source(s) exactly she used when making the claim that Nicholas was using various types of drugs, including henbane.
What I’m Writing
Up to Chapter 107 and about 805,000 words in Journey Through a Dark Forest. I know the end is nearer than later, but it’s starting to feel so exhausting. It’s still hard to believe this book went so far past my initial 500,000-word guesstimate and has required such a gargantuan canvas. At least I’m up to May 1947 and only have 16 months left in the timeline.
Katya and Dmitriy are married in this chapter, and Anastasiya (Dmitriy’s mother) is forced to design the gowns for the entire bridal party as an atonement offering for how badly she’s treated Katya’s family over the years. Not only is Anastasiya humiliated to have to make a wedding gown for Lyuba and Ivan’s daughter, after 30 years of bad blood, but she also has to violate her Victorian morality by making a maternity wedding gown. (Dmitriy was the product of a drunken one-night stand with a stranger in Paris, yet Anastasiya is offended by pregnant brides who are marrying the fathers.) Katya’s gown is based on this beautiful dusty rose gown.
My goal for next week is to be up to Chapter 109. I’m thinking 108 will be one of the shorter chapters and won’t take too much time to write.
What Works for Me
When crafting a historical saga, weave in the period details and historical events naturally. It comes off like a history lesson if you try to force in every single thing that happened in a given decade or era. Beyond giving the impression you’re just showing off all your research, what are the odds every single person in a family and/or group of friends would’ve been personally involved in or impacted by every last major event or social movement? Although you never want to go to the other extreme and make the historical setting little more than shallow window dressing, as in Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series or Jillian Larkin’s Flappers trilogy.
What Else I’ve Been Up To
Thanks to a giant year-end/holiday discount at Jerry’s Artarama, I saved $288 on a full 120-count set of Sennelier soft oil pastels, which were created for the great Picasso in 1949. There are actually 125 included, among them the entire 12-count iridescent line (starting about midway down the far right). Working with real artist-quality pastels is a learning curve, but they’re so beautiful and soft.
Sennelier also makes a 525-count set of soft pastels, created in 1900 for Degas, but since they were over $1,000 even with that huge discount, I had to hold off. Someday, though, I’d love to add them to my collection.
The scissors to the bottom right of the box are the little scissors that could, which got me in so much trouble with El Al security in February 2008. I wasn’t about to let draconian airport security take away the scissors I’d had for over 20 years, so I went through all that inconvenience just to get them safely on the plane.