Posted in 1940s, Contests, Writing

Dina’s New Birds

For this month’s WEP contest entry, I decided to revisit some of the characters from my alternative history, set in a 20th century Russia where the monarchy was restored. Maslenitsa, Butter Week, is comparable to the Western celebration of Carnival.

Wordcount 981; MPA

Dina gazed around with wide eyes as she walked down Nevskiy Prospekt, taking in all the bright colors on display. Everywhere she looked, there were stalls offering painted wooden toys, satin ribbons, elaborate fabrics, sparkly costume jewelry, puppets, ikons, and all manner of tempting merchandise. In addition to the visual feast, the famous luxury thoroughfare was also blanketed with the delicious scents of warm gingerbread drizzled with vanilla icing, pastries, spices, fruity teas, roasted nuts, and of course butter-drenched blinchiki.

But of all the treats on offer on Nevskiy Prospekt during Maslenitsa, the most exciting were the birds. Each cage was more exquisite than the last, and housed fancier and fancier birds. Dina couldn’t make up her mind as she walked back and forth between the birdcages.

“How many birds can I adopt, Mama?”

Dina’s mother Arkadiya looked away from a blinchiki stall. “Will you still be interested in them a few months from now, and can I trust you to take care of them all by yourself? Birds aren’t as easy to care for as dogs and cats.”

“I’m almost eleven, not a little kid like Shura. My cousins get birds every year, even the ones younger than I am.” Dina pulled her rubles and kopecks out of her blue pony coat pockets. “Papa gave me lots of money before we left.”

Arkadiya smiled knowingly. “You’ve always had your papa wrapped around your finger. I’d be shocked if he didn’t give you enough money to buy this entire avenue.”

“I’ll take really good care of my birds. I want big ones with really colorful feathers. Little birds aren’t as fun as big ones.”

“They also make more noise and mess.” Arkadiya called to her older daughter Eleonora at a gingerbread stall a few feet away. “Elya, would you mind keeping birds in your room?”

“Why not?  It’ll be fun.”

“Can we take them into our schoolroom too?” Dina asked. “They might get lonely if we’re not there all the time.”

“You don’t take your dogs and cats into your schoolroom,” Arkadiya said. “If you get more than one bird, they’ll keep one another company.”

“They should have a really big cage,” Eleonora said. “Birds can’t be very happy in cages their whole lives, just like fish aren’t supposed to live in tanks. God designed them to fly and swim around the entire world.”

Dina walked back and forth among the birdcages. “Now that we don’t have to spend money on the war anymore, Papa can get an architect to add a new room to the palace. What’s the word for a special room full of birds?”

“Aviary,” Arkadiya supplied. “You can ask him, but he might not be able to do that immediately. There are a lot of other things he needs to spend money on more than building an aviary for his pet child.”

Dina stood on her toes and unhooked a large golden cage with three sun conures in brilliant shades of orange and yellow. She set it on the ground and then unhooked another large gold cage, this one housing two macaws in eye-popping shades of sapphire blue. Before Arkadiya could do or say anything to protest, Eleonora unhooked a platinum cage of four parrots in alternating swathes of reddish-orange, blue, and yellow, followed by a silver cage of seven budgies in lovely pastel shades of blue, green, and yellow. Each cage had plenty of bird toys, a water dish, and birdseed.

“That’s all my daughters are getting today, Madame,” Arkadiya called to the bird vendor. “There’s only so much room in our car.”

“You have excellent taste, Your Imperial Highnesses,” the vendor told Dina and Eleonora. “All my birds are beautiful, but these are so much more eye-catching than most of my canaries, doves, lovebirds, and finches.”

“Can Shura have a bird too?” Dina asked. “She’ll be jealous of us if we have pretty birds and she doesn’t.”

“She’s only three and a half,” Arkadiya said. “Shura shouldn’t have any pets at her age.”

The bird vendor reached behind her stall and handed a large stuffed green parrot to the youngest child of the Tsar and Empress, who greatly resembled the murdered namesake she’d never know. “Will that be all today, Your Majesty?”

“Yes, those are all the birds my daughters need. These new pets will keep them busy for a long time to come.”

Eleonora and Dina counted out the money for their colorful birds, and Arkadiya produced the money for Shura’s stuffed animal. Without waiting to be signalled, the servants who’d accompanied the Empress and her daughters came forward to transport their parcels and the birdcages to the deluxe-sized Rolls–Royce they’d arrived in.

“Your business is always appreciated, Your Majesty. Enjoy the rest of your Maslenitsa, and tell His Majesty I hope he speedily recovers from his latest injury.”

“It’s only his bad knee again, nothing more serious or life-threatening, but I’ll pass along your well wishes,” Arkadiya said. “I wouldn’t have come here if he were severely injured.”

Dina and Eleonora climbed into the car as soon as Arkadiya joined them. The entire drive back to the Aleksandr Palace, they chattered to their birds and thought up names.

“Can we come back tomorrow to buy birds for Papa?” Dina asked.

“Doesn’t he have more than enough pets already?” Arkadiya asked gently. “He’d adopt an entire zoo’s worth of animals if he could.”

“Papa must feel like a bird in a cage when he’s sick,” Eleonora said. “He knows what other people can do, but he’s stuck.”

“We all learn to adapt to our circumstances and our own version of normal. Even when the body is confined, broad horizons are open to the mind and soul.” Arkadiya reached into the conures’ cage and gently stroked them. “And sometimes the most constricting cages are the ones we can’t see. It’s all a matter of perspective.”

Posted in Contests, Writing

Resurrection Blogfest—Avoiding amateur writing mistakes (erotica version)

Warning: Contains adult-themed content.
3rd Annual Resurrection Blogfest III - 2014

To mark her third year of blogging, Mina Lobo is hosting her awesome Resurrection Blogfest for the third time. Click the button for all the rules and a list of participants. Last year I was one of the winners.

This year I’m reposting “Avoiding Amateur Writing Mistakes (Erotica Version),” which originally ran 3 January 2014 and got no comments, but a fair amount of views over time. Seriously, I’m so embarrassed for the writers who make these mistakes.


I wrote a post on how to avoid some common amateur writing mistakes back in June. This is a similar list, only specific to erotica and romance. If you’re not into these genres, consider yourself warned.

1. It would seem obvious, but a lot of new writers don’t seem to understand that well-written romance or erotica deserves good writing just as much as any other genre. A good story or book of any genre needs a well-developed storyline and believable characters.

2. Trope that needs retired already:  The 18- or 19-year-old girl (usually written as some over the top stereotype of an innocent virgin) with a much-older man. Huge age differences squick me out when the younger party is so young. I don’t think it’s a big deal if a couple is, say, 18 and 22, 30 and 40, 25 and 30, or 45 and 60. It’s another story when we’re talking an 18-year-old with a guy who’s 30, 45, 50, even 26. Could you please use more realistic and appropriate age differences?

3. Learning how to be good at any sort of sex takes time. Totally ridiculous when some innocent virgin is suddenly asking for or engaging in rather advanced sexual activities, like fisting or anal sex. You don’t go from nothing to everything overnight, even when you’re turned on.

4. And speaking of Greek love, a little goes a long way. Not everyone is turned on by it. There’s no requirement to have at least one type of anal scene in your story or book, contrary to its popularity in porn. Some couples love it, others save it as a treat for special times, and others have no interest.

5. Again regarding Greek love, most gay men actually prefer other methods of intimacy. If your story is M/M, you don’t have to have that form of sex at all.

6. Even if a story is meant to titillate, you should still spend some time developing the characters and storyline. I’m going to be bored if two people are immediately going at it. I don’t know them, don’t care about them, have no idea what brought them to this point. It’s just lazy writing to have a story that’s exclusively sexual, even within erotica.

7. Original storylines, please! As much as I love doctor-themed erotica, I’m tired of seeing so many variations on the same basic plot. Make your story stand out. The original doctor-themed stories I’ve found aren’t built around the same old, same old, which makes them memorable.

8. Also regarding doctor-themed stories, I’m extremely turned off by enemas and catheters. Not only does it not turn me on, but it’s extremely unrealistic as to what actually goes on at a normal doctor visit. A lot of these stories seem like they’d be better-off submitted to some scat fetish story database, not Lit Erotica or other reputable websites!

9. Dialogue is important. I can’t get into a story that’s nothing more than paragraphs of description. There’s no character or story development if you’re just telling the reader everything.

10. It seems super-amateur to include personal measurements, particularly when they’re given soon into the story. Honestly, most people don’t really care. Use descriptive adjectives, not exact sizes. The only exception I could think of would be if the measurements are an actual, serious part of the story, like if the female lead is really self-conscious about her small breasts.

11. Related to #10, it seems even more amateur to always make your characters bigger than average. If you must include measurements, at least make them realistic! I know I’m not typical for naturally having a DD chest, just as it’s not normal for a male member to be 8-12 inches.

12. The hymen (now more accurately called the corona minora) is not located several inches into the body. I want to bang my head into a wall every time I read yet another line like “He withdrew his finger after the first knuckle, not wanting to take her maidenhood.” If you’re that far in, you’ve already reached the hymen some time ago! It’s also an utter myth, left over from antiquity, that the hymen is some sort of factory seal that remains completely dense and unbroken until first heterosexual intercourse. If the hymen didn’t naturally wear away, there would be nowhere to menstruate. It’s also an utter myth that all women bleed the first time. I’m not typical for how I had such a thick (but NOT unperforated) hymen, and thus wasn’t successful until the eighth occasion my ex and I tried to have intercourse.

13. Even if erotica usually has some elements which aren’t entirely realistic, at least give the reader a reason to go along with it. Don’t be so obviously over the top with unrealistic characters, storylines, and events. It’s probably a bad sign if your story makes people laugh when you didn’t file it in the Humor section.

14. If your story is contemporary, or even 20th century historical, it’s just common sense, and modeling good practices, to have your characters practising some type of safer sex. Condoms, diaphragms, pessaries, the Pill, an IUD, you name it.

Posted in Contests, Editing, Rewriting, Russian novel

PonyFest14 and What’s Up Wednesday

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.

Nastya's Pony II

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.

Brief tagline:

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’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog or Erin’s blog.

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.

Posted in Animals, Contests, Photography, Writing

Davy and His Secondhand Friends


Kyra Lennon has generously volunteered to host a cat-themed blogfest to support Teignbridge and Totnes Cats Protection. The stories will be collected into an anthology. All entrants will be entered to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Everyone will be sharing a cat-themed story or poem, maximum 2,500 words.

This is a story about my very own Velveteen Rabbit, Davy, and a few of his friends. My froggy Simon had his surgery last October, and made a speedy, complete recovery. I hope it’s up to snuff.


Once upon a time, a grandmother made red tabby twins for her eight-year-old granddaughter.  They were fraternal twins, a queen and a tom.  The tom was quickly named Davy, after Davy Jones, and the queen was named Davina.  The Girl believed, as many children do, that twins are supposed to have matching or rhyming names, and so gave the queen a feminine form of the tom’s name.

Davy was always loved much more than Davina.  When Davy was still young, he went on a boat ride on Lake George, on a paddlewheeler boat called The Minne-Ha-Ha.  That was much nicer than the time he was sent to the emergency room when he was fifteen.  The Girl, who was no longer a girl, had asked for him for comfort, and there he was sent.  He was so special he’d even been the subject of a speech the Girl had given in a public speaking class when she was twenty.  Every year, he showed his age more and more, while Davina still looked as young as the day she’d been made.

The Girl loved collecting stuffed animals, perhaps because she had no pets of her own.  When Davy was five years old and still young-looking, he got a new friend, a grey cat named John who’d come to the Girl secondhand.  Not so long afterwards, she got another secondhand cat, a small caramel-coloured tabby named Paul.  By the time Davy was in his twenties, his friends also included a Husky named Keith, a tiger named Roger, a chipmunk named Jerome, a very small French Bulldog named Roscoe, a very small fellow red tabby named Manfred, a pale brown dog named Jack (who doubled as a neck pillow), a big tuxedo cat named George, and an absolutely gigantic frog named Simon.

Since the Girl was in her thirties, she didn’t really play with her old friends anymore.  They just sat on the bed, and had a lot of time to talk while she was out, or busy doing other things.

“Aren’t you jealous of that frog?” John asked. “He’s only been with us for a few years, and he already got plastic surgery.  The Girl even performed the surgery on his namesake’s birthday, while his namesake sang in the background.  You’re a lot older and more valuable, and you’ve never had surgery or gone to an animal hospital.  Maybe if the Girl had fixed you a lot sooner, you wouldn’t be so worn-out now.  Even I’m not nearly as worn-out as you.”

“She’s always cuddling and kissing on that frog,” Paul agreed. “What has he done to displace you?  And she’s loved our namesakes a whole lot longer.”

“You don’t have very good memories,” Davy said. “She has researched stuffed animal hospitals.  The one time she got a response, she was told I can’t be repaired since I’m not plush like yous guys.  Simon only had a tear in his side, with some stuffing poking out.  That can easily be fixed.  You can’t easily fix yellowed fabric and threadbare patches.  It’s who I am at this age.”

John looked down at his paw and rubbed it across his nose. “I’ve gotten used to my missing whiskers and toe dividers, but I still look mostly normal without them.  You don’t look anything like you used to.” He stretched out in the autumn sunshine, happily remembering that day when the Girl, aged thirteen, had reached into the barrel of free stuffed animals by the checkout and pulled him and Roscoe out.  He’d had such a good life with the Girl, after his previous owner had thrown him away.

“I look how I look.  The Girl doesn’t care how I look.  I know she still loves me most of all, even if she mostly cuddles the frog now.  He’s still soft and cuddly, and won’t easily rip if he’s cuddled too hard or picked up the wrong way.  Only toys who don’t easily break or wear out get to become Real, and once you’re Real, only people who don’t know you think you’re ugly.”

Paul swatted at a dragonfly. “If the Girl ever has children, I don’t want her to give us to them.  They deserve their own toys to make Real, not someone else’s hand-me-downs.  Although we know she’d never give you to a child when you’re so fragile and old.”

Davy gave a glance back to their building, where Simon was recovering from his recent surgery. “The Girl is really sorry she left me alone that night she went back to her parents’ house to feel safe.  She was really worried the scary person would come into the room while she was gone and hurt me.  I’m so fragile, I’d easily be torn apart.”

“She took the frog and not you,” John said. “Why aren’t you more upset about that?”

“The second time she went to her parents’ house to be safe, she left both of us.  That was a really scary night, but I felt safe with Simon watching over me.  He’s my frog brother.  The Girl wouldn’t leave me alone with him so much if she didn’t think he were capable of looking after me.  He’s a very good babysitter and frog brother.  We had lots of nice conversations while you two were still in storage.”

“He makes me feel like a dwarf,” Paul complained. “I know I’m still kitten-sized even now that I’m over twenty years old, but he’s the biggest stuffed animal she’s ever brought home.”

“You’re still bigger than Manfred and Roscoe,” Davy reminded him.

“Normal stuffed animals aren’t that big.  I bet he’ll keep his age better than any of us too, since big animals age slower than small animals.”

“Plush eventually wears down.  It takes longer than it does for fabric like mine, but it’ll happen.  He’s already well on the way to becoming Real, after the Girl thought he was important enough to give surgery to.”

The late October air grew chilly, and the three old friends headed back inside.  They all moved much slower than they used to, but they weren’t ready to hobble off to the cat old age home quite yet.  They still had plenty of life in them, and had every reason to believe they’d still have more adventures together.

Davy curled up on the bed and looked at Simon’s incision site, which was healing nicely.  The Girl had done such a good job, it didn’t even look like there were any stitches.

“Have you had enough to eat?” Davy asked. “You need to eat a lot when you’re recovering from surgery, to get your strength back.  When I was with the Girl after her first surgery, she needed a lot of food to get back her energy and health.”

“I caught plenty of flies.  Each one was more delicious than the last.”

“Cats are smarter than frogs,” John said. “We don’t eat flies.  We eat substantial food.  Flies must taste disgusting.”

“It’s how frogs were made.  Flies taste as good to me as fish must taste to you.”

“I’m glad I’m not a frog,” Paul said.

“And I’m glad I’m not a cat.  Frogs are more interesting than cats.”

Keith, the dog, rose from his place on the floor to bark at a car driving by. “My species has been with humans longer than yours, but that doesn’t mean I think I’m superior.  We were each created with different purposes, and we’re here to fulfill that purpose, not wish we were different or to feel superior to everyone else.”

Davy moved to a sunny spot in the window to warm his old bones. “The most important thing is that we’re all Real, in our own special way, and we know we’re not fated to be stuffed under the bed, given away, or thrown out.”

Just then the Girl came in, and the animals moved back to their original places.  Today all three cats got a scratch behind the ears, and a cuddle.  The Girl had never had children of her own, so these were the closest substitutes.

Davy felt so much love radiating from those hands.  Even if the Girl paid more attention to Simon because he was newer, bigger, and cuddlier, Davy knew he would always be first in her heart.  Only the best-loved toys can hope to become Real, and by the time that Magickal process is complete, it no longer matters that the toy looks old and worn.  Only Love matters.


My other babies!





Carrie-Anne Brownian, who also writes as Ursula Hartlein, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in History and Russian and East European Studies, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in library science. Her areas of historical expertise are Russian history, the World War II/Shoah era, and 20th century American history. Her ultimate goal is to one day have a Ph.D. in Russian history, with a focus on GULAG and the Great Terror.

She has had work published in the anthologies Campaigner Challenges 2011, edited by Katharina Gerlach and Rachael Harrie, and Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew, edited by Nick Wilford. As Ursula Hartlein, she has published And Jakob Flew
The Fiend Away
, a WWII Bildungsroman, and as Carrie-Anne Brownian, she has published Little Ragdoll, a Bildungsroman spanning the years 1959-74. An epic Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, written as Ursula Hartlein, is slated for a November 2014 release.

I give permission for this work to be used in the anthology.

I can be found at

Posted in Atlantic City books, Contests, Writing

IWSG—Trying Another Contest and Minuscule Sales

My Horny Hump Day post is here.


It’s time again for the monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which convenes the first Wednesday of every month.

I’ve decided to go for it and try entering this year’s PitchWars, hosted by Brenda Drake. While I’m still confident that going indie is the best venue for many of my books, it can’t hurt to try a contest with one of my shorter books. I’m not anti-agent, even if it seems a lot of traditionally published books in recent years are kind of cookie-cutter and bland, not very distinctive or line-breaking.

I’ve found a few mentors on the list who are interested in historical MG, which I really think could still fit The Very First. It’s only 60,000 words, set over only three months, and has young characters dealing with rather un-adult situations. Sparky (real name Katherine) struggles to learn how to become a real American girl without compromising her Jewish faith, while her new best friend Cinni learns there’s more than one way to be a real American.

I have to roll my eyes at how the agents who dogpiled me in a pitchfest somewhere else a few years ago took issue with a Jewish girl named Katherine. Um, yeah, because it was totally unheard of for German Jews to give their kids secular names instead of hideous shtetl monikers like Faiga, Shternie, and Gitty! And they had no room to harp on that if they’ve liked or represented contemporaries with clearly predated naming trends, like Aidan, Kayden, Mikayla, and Madison!

Also huge eyeroll at how they said it seemed a lot like American Girl. Yeah, the concept might be similar, but it certainly wasn’t inspired at all by American Girl, and the book is a lot longer and more complex than the short American Girl stories! I know I’m biased, but I think it’s a cute, sweet story, and I’m really proud of how I undertook that significant rewrite and restructuring. It’s a myth that absolutely ALL books need rewritten to be good, but this is one of the books which really benefitted from a huge shake-up!


I’m still seeing very pitiful sales from the two books I’ve got out, and absolutely no sales from Kobo or Nook. The paltry sales I’ve made since May all come from Kindle. I’m realistic enough to understand not everyone who’s congratulated or wished me well plans to buy my books, but I kind of expect people who’ve expressed interest in reading them to have bought them. Are people waiting for physical copies?

I can see from the links clicked section of my sidebar that people have clearly been looking at the Amazon, Kobo, and Nook pages, yet I’m not seeing any sort of corresponding sales increases. I’m sticking to the prices of $4.99 and $7.99, based on the length. I’m not going to put myself in the $2.99 ghetto, or give my hard work away for only 99 cents.

A lot of people say one shouldn’t expect sales to pick up till at least the third book. And as a music-lover, I think of how a band can be floundering, not hitting it big or having really sunk in popularity, and then along comes an album like Tommy or a song like “Ordinary World” to save them. Maybe my first Russian historical will be the one to save me in November, or the first book released next year?