Posted in Fourth Russian novel, Writing

IWSG—September odds and sods

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and lets us share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

I’d love to have a little cottage in the Hebrides or Orkneys, with one window looking out at the sea and the other at a prehistoric monolith. Since discovering I have Scottish ancestry (both ordinary and from the Medieval kings and queens), I’ve become very proud of those branches of my family tree, and would love to visit the country. It’s an added bonus that there’s so much coastline, with so many islands.

When my finances allow it, I’m joining the Stewart Society, for those of us descended from the former ruling House of Stewart. One of the many perks of membership is a yearly gathering in September, in castles and other residences our ancestors lived in. With any luck, Scotland will finally have her independence back by my first visit.

Even better than a castle or cottage overlooking the sea would be an underwater house made of glass, with the beautiful, inspiring scenery of coral reefs and marine life. The sea calls to the very core of my soul, so much so I want to be buried at sea at the end of my days (hopefully not till 120).


I’ve been working really hard on my contest entry for the next IWSG Anthology, and will have it ready for submission by Wednesday afternoon. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the Nara period. I’ve never written fantasy before, nor anything nearly that far back in history, but it’s good to stretch our creative muscles.

I’ve also been looking over The Twelfth Time before submitting it for hardcover copies, with another free title setup from IngramSpark. Since I changed the inside margins from 0.7″ to one inch, that means a lot of the kerning needs tightened.

I’ve found a handful of little errors, but 99% of what I’m doing is fixing kerning. Sometimes that entails rephrasing things or removing unnecessary words. I’ll also have to redo the table of contents to reflect the new page numbers.


I’m also still grinding away on A Dream Deferred, and hoping to be finished by NaNo. A lot of things are coming together as the end finally approaches. It feels more and more right for the Konevs and their dearest friends to return to NY after so many years in Minnesota.

The more I think about it, their initial move was motivated by escapist daydreams, not a true calling to farming and small town life. They made a lot of poor decisions after immigrating, and instead of fixing the core problems soon after they became obvious, they felt locked into the situation and let it keep snowballing. Then their kids felt compelled to stay in farm country too, instead of building independent lives in another city.

Lyuba and Ivan, and their sons Fedya and Igor, will attend Columbia’s graduate school, while Eliisabet and Aleksey will pursue their own midlife bachelor’s degrees, and Tatyana’s family will move to the suburbanesque Queens Village, across the street from dear old friends. Ivan’s father will leave them quite a lot of money in his will near the end of the book, far more money than anyone ever suspected he had. He sinned horrifically against Ivan and Lyuba, and making sure his family will be taken care of financially is the only way left to show his love and try to make amends.

Plus, it also makes things much easier to have the majority of important characters in NYC instead of divided between two states, in addition to the characters in Toronto and Berkeley. All along, the story was pulling me towards this conclusion, but I couldn’t admit it till my own characters did.

Where would you like to write your next story? Have you ever discovered a longstanding aspect of a story was created for the wrong reasons? Have your characters ever started a fresh chapter of their lives in midlife?


I started reading at three (my first book was Grimm's Fairy Tales, the uncensored adult version), started writing at four, started writing book-length things at eleven, and have been a writer ever since. I predominantly write historical fiction family sagas/series. I primarily write about young people, since I was a young person myself when I became a serious writer and didn't know how to write about adults as main characters. I only write in a contemporary setting if the books naturally go into the modern era over the course of the decades-long stories being told over many books. I've always been drawn to books, films, music, fashions, et al, from bygone eras, and have never really been too much into modern things. If something or someone has appeal for all time, it'll still be there to be discovered after the initial to-do has died down. For example, my second-favorite writer enjoyed a huge burst of popularity in the Sixties and Seventies, but he wrote his books from 1904-43, and his books still resonate today, even after he's no longer such a fad. Quality lasts for all time.

7 thoughts on “IWSG—September odds and sods

  1. I’d love to spend some time in a castle and be inspired by it’s hallways and lore. Congrats on writing and submitting to the contest. Best of luck to you. I also entered. I didn’t go nearly that far back in history. I stuck with what I know, the 1980’s! And, fairies. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Where would you like to write your next story? Have you ever discovered a longstanding aspect of a story was created for the wrong reasons? Have your characters ever started a fresh chapter of their lives in midlife?”

    I would like to write my next story outdoors or on a travelling device. It would be so good to write at the beach or on a river.

    When you talked about Scotland; that really moved something within me. Connections I have felt include the Highlands and Tayside and reading about Anne Fine and how she has lived in Edinburgh since the 1980s. Another connection is Fraserburgh and Montrose and the Grampians.

    Lots of the writers and illustrators which influenced me as an emerging author were Scottish or had Scottish origins and diaspora life was important to them.

    I have discovered several aspects of several stories were created for several “wrong” reasons – or reasons I did not really think through at the time. Mostly to do with character motivations. I am trying to think of Majella who is a Sister of St Cloud – or a Memorious Text [like Fumes].

    Okay: the “wrongest reason” for me is the one that involves a death of a character who is close to the protagonist. I have a way of killing off people in professional roles – like psychiatrists; psychologists; governesses – when things get too hot or the protagonist cannot escape or assert herself otherwise.

    Second most wrong reason, and one you’ll probably relate to: university! Essentially many of my characters go because of status anxiety or because of their lives as immigrants. Also the system changed in 1997-98 [Blair’s first year in Government] so that students have had to pay fees in England and Wales for the better part of 22 academic years. This happened midway for one character who studied International Relations and it was probably so all the way for her four-years-younger sister who is a poet.

    Anyway – the big plot in the second half of book two is the scholarship – I borrowed the title from the French word for bathroom/toilet. I will admit I do like the way I resolved it.

    The two sisters have to save money for their mother and for their younger sister. Fortunately those two are very good at fundraising – and that is the third “wrong reason”.

    Okay – fourth wrong reason – Academies. There were a lot of International Schools in my girlhood and education was privatised/capitalised in a big way.

    You may be wondering now if any of my characters do things for right reasons or even for intended ones which they follow through!

    Majella is one character who started her fresh chapter in midlife – she is a mercy ship doctor who works for Medecins sans Frontieres. That organisation has reached 25 years in Australia and there are so many things she still has and wants to do.

    Other characters include a whole lot of teachers. I am thinking of a thirty-year-old teacher in particular. She inspires the protagonist to follow the dream that she has had a quarter of her life [in the department of Slavonic Studies].

    A 57-year-old character in my work – who is 71 by book three – had a big change in her life in 1984. She had a life as a sculpture lecturer in a Chelsea art school [London]. She lived through the Second World War as a pre-teenager and a few years later married her agricultural husband and had four children. When the four children were adults … I do not think she taught very much after the 1970s except in very special circumstances.

    When she is 54 she becomes very sick and is unable to look after her little boy [who has reached double figures now].

    The book of which I speak has an Epilogue – yet I always planned to write book three even before I wrote book one. It would have been tasteless and wasteful for the protagonist to rush into diplomacy – especially when we know she is unfit. Again – this is signposted by the narrator.

    Another issue is “When is midlife”? Some of us feel it as early as 28 or even 25 – especially when we have had family members who have died young. Dying young these days seems to be <75 rather than under 50 or under 65.

    Also there are these crucial, defining midpoints and endpoints. Transitions natural and artificial.


    1. Confession, Chrys:

      I thought I was reading about an aviation/aerospace experience with the whole 737 Japan thing.

      [737; 747 and so-on-and-thus].

      Hope your Scottish imagination is more approachable than it may seem right now.


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