Very exciting news!

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With gratitude to Hashem, my long-delayed second volume about young couple Jakob DeJonghe and Rachel Roggenfelder is scheduled for release on 4 June, Saturday. It should’ve released at least a year ago, but what’s done is done. I let myself get stuck in an unhealthy holding pattern because I was so humiliated and upset over my complete lack of sales.

I like to have release dates which are important to my characters (birthdays, anniversaries, historical events, etc.), and luckily, I found a really good one for this. 4 June 1946 is the date Jakob and Rachel reunite after 13 months apart. That day was Erev Shavuot in 1946, though Shavuot is 11–13 June this year. We’re still in the thick of counting the Omer, which is my favoritest mitzvah. Counting the Omer is so, so special to me, particularly since I let myself fall away from it in 2005 and didn’t come back for several years. I was so depressed over being a family of one and feeling so ignored by the local Jewish community. I felt like Dante waking up in the Wood of Error, no idea how he got there or lost the way so badly.

I’m extremely superstitious about auspicious and inauspicious dates (by my personal reference of what constitutes a lucky vs. unlucky date). For example, in hindsight, I think I had so many problems healing my third lobe piercings because I got them done on the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Hungary. And while my navel seems to be healing pretty nicely at the 6-month mark, I never would’ve gotten it done on 24 November had I known that was Freddie Mercury’s Jahrzeit (death anniversary). As I’ve said, I’m a lowercase skeptic, not a rigid uppercase Skeptic.

Synopsis:

Jakob thinks coming to America and reuniting with his beautiful Rachel is a dream come true, but he soon realizes America’s streets aren’t lined with gold and that people who don’t quite fit in aren’t always treated very nicely. As he’s struggling to adjust to life in America, Rachel struggles with insecurities over how her husband is little more than a stranger. And just when it seems her heart is no longer in turmoil, a new struggle arises—finding a midwife in a country where hospital birth has become the norm. Her search for a midwife isn’t helped by the conformist young wives’ social club she’s been roped into joining, full of women who already look down on her for keeping her surname, wanting to go to college, and enjoying sex.

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By my standards, it’s really short (all of 104K), and a much quieter, more intimate storyline than my usual wont. There’s no huge ensemble cast or grand, epic, sweeping story arc. Several of my Atlantic City characters briefly appear or are mentioned, but this isn’t their story. Even the Brandts are secondary characters, not leading characters in their own right. This is a story about one young couple, not all of their friends and acquaintances.

There are a number of sex scenes, many of which I featured here when the Horny Hump Day bloghop was still running. There’s also a strong promotion of natural childbirth and evidence-based prenatal care (which naturally flows from Jakob and Rachel’s Dutch values), so this isn’t the book for you if you cheerlead for hospital birth and only hospital birth, lots of drugs, and never questioning the doctor about anything. I always promote natural childbirth and midwifery in my books, in a way which naturally flows with the pre-existing storylines and characters. It’s just how things are done in most of my characters’ native cultures.

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I do have plans for further volumes about Jakob and Rachel in the Fifties and Sixties, with storylines about their going to college, their quest to give their daughter a real bat mitzvah before that was the norm, and the rubella epidemic of 1964. In the concluding volume in 1981, they’ll finally discover what happened to Jaap’s baby sister Emilia when she disappeared in 1940.

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Horny Hump Day—Jakob and Rachel

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My What’s Up Wednesday post is here.

Warning:  Not safe for work or appropriate for those under 18!

Welcome back to Horny Hump Day, a weekly hop where writers share three erotic sentences of a book or WIP. My snippet this week immediately follows last week’s, as 19-year-old Lt. Jakob DeJonghe kisses his dream girl, Rachel Roggenfelder, for the first time. She’s a fair bit more experienced than he is, and has to take over to teach him.

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After awhile, he became emboldened enough to try imitating her, while still letting her lead.  His only active role was running his hands through her hair and along her face.  He was burning with desire to touch a lot more than just her hair and face, but he knew respectable people never went from nothing to everything overnight.

Horny Hump Day—Jakob and Rachel

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My What’s Up Wednesday post is here and my Write Path post is here.

Warning:  Not safe for work or appropriate for those under 18!

Welcome back to Horny Hump Day, a weekly hop where writers share three erotic sentences of a book or WIP. I’ve been away for awhile, to focus on the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, and to focus on my release of And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away on May ninth.

This scene is from May 1945, when 19-year-old Jakob and Rachel kiss for the first time. Jakob has only kissed one other girl before, a friend of his who begged him for a kiss the night before they were deported. Rachel has had several previous boyfriends, and knows much more than he does about technique. He’s happy to let his dream girl teach him.

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That night, as they were counting stars, Jakob slipped his violently shaking arm around her and pulled her towards him, then wrapped his other arm around her, leaned down to her height, and kissed her. Rachel seemed to sense that he didn’t really know what he was doing, and he gratefully let her take over and teach him. He let his mouth become soft, pliant, and passive against hers as she demonstrated the techniques she liked.

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Amazon page

Goodreads page

Happy birthday, Jaap (and A to Z Reflections Post)

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With gratitude to Hashem, who gave me a gift and talent for writing from a very precocious age, and who wired my brain by Divine will, I announce the release of my Jakob’s story to coincide with his birthday. If he were real, he’d be 88 on May ninth.

Jakob Cover

I chose to lead with Jaap’s story because it got very strong feedback by the contests and other venues I entered it in, it got several behind the scenes agent requests, it’s relatively short (128,000 words is a drop in the bucket next to some of my other stuff!), it’s in the traditional past tense, and it’s much closer to third-person limited than I usually do.

I’m so glad for the chance to preview it by the different Kindle devices. Not only did it make me proud of what a whiz-bang job I did with the formatting all by myself, but it enabled me to catch a number of typos or mistakes that somehow were never caught during any of the previous rounds of editing. (For example, metric system characters referring to miles instead of kilometers.) It’s so true that reading something in a different typeface and/or format can bring to light things you never saw as errors. I powered through it by the Kindle previewer in two days. Knowing how to combine quick reading with a fine-toothed comb attention to detail is a gift.

I’m glad I got a recommendation for a cover artist who does actual art, instead of graphic design. Nothing wrong with photographic book covers, but I’m old-fashioned. Just be prepared for the fact that your mental image of your characters will probably never match how they appear on the cover, no matter who designs it. You have to trust your designer’s talent, vision, and judgment.

I quote from Chapter 31 of The Tao Te Ching at the beginning, which speaks of how a good soldier only uses weapons and kills when he has no choice, that delighting in victory is the same as delighting in killing, and that war must be conducted like a funeral. To avoid getting in trouble for copyright violation, I mixed and matched with a few old public domain translations, my belovèd Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English translation, and my own interpretations.

I just hope enough people like it, and that the final editing and release of Little Ragdoll next month go just as well. I already have a good feeling about that, since I got permission to quote the two George Harrison songs, for a very reasonable fee. It’s like George’s beautiful spirit is smiling down on a fellow dark horse.

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

This was my third year taking part in the A to Z Challenge. I think I got more hits and comments this year since my theme wasn’t specific to my writing as in the past two years. It was probably a good idea to make it of more general interest to a wider group of people. Next year I’m going to do another theme only peripherally related to my writing, and scrap the theme I’d planned last year.

My posts, from most-popular to least-viewed (and not including my own comments in the total):

Jerusalem, Israel (59 views, 15 comments)
Abony, Hungary (49 views, 16 comments)
Béziers, France (47 views, 17 comments)
Dushanbe, Tajikistan (44 views, 14 comments)
Fereydunshahr, Iran (43 views, 17 comments)
Minsk, Belarus (41 views, 14 comments)
Eindhoven, The Netherlands (40 views, 14 comments)
Lille, France (39 views, 14 comments)
Cherkasy, Ukraine (39 views, 14 comments)
Queens. U.S.A. (37 views, 14 comments)
Hudiksvall, Sweden (35 views, 11 comments)
Tartu, Estonia, and Tata, Hungary (34 views, 9 comments)
Xanten, Germany, and Xánthi, Greece (34 views, 11 comments)
Zagreb, Croatia (33 views, 12 comments)
Isfahan, Iran (32 views, 10 comments)
Rosh HaNikra, Israel (31 views, 10 comments)
Yerevan, Armenia (31 views, 12 comments)
Nantes, France (30 views, 9 comments)
Vratsa, Bulgaria (28 views, 10 comments)
Winschoten, The Netherlands (28 views, 9 comments)
Uelen, Russia (26 views, 9 comments)
Kutaisi, Georgia (26 views, 9 comments)
Odžaci, Serbia (26 views, 11 comments)
Pirna, Germany (23 views, 10 comments)
Győr, Hungary (23 views, 10 comments)
Surabaya, Indonesia (22 views, 8 comments)

Of the 28 places profiled, 18 are European, 9 are Asian, and one is North American. France and Hungary were featured thrice, and Germany, Iran, Israel, and The Netherlands were featured twice. Seven were at one time part of the Russian Empire and later Soviet Union. Though Sagittarius is the Traveller of the Zodiac, at present I’ve only visited three (Jerusalem, Rosh HaNikra, and Queens). Baruch Hashem, I’ll be able to visit Iran within the next few years and add Isfahan and Fereydunshahr to my list!

As always, it was frustrating to find some blogs on the list which never started participating, only signed up to try to hawk some business, or which gave up before the end. I’m also always surprised at people who didn’t schedule their posts in advance. Having a theme and writing/scheduling posts in advance helps to avoid scrambling around desperately looking for ideas last-minute. It also gives me time to edit the posts while they’re still in the queue.

Many thanks to my uncle, of blessèd memory, who gave me the atlas I used for help in finding some of my cities, and which led me to a number of these other cities in the course of my writing. Yes, my atlas is so out of date it has a USSR, Yugoslavia, East and West Germany, North and South Yemen, and lots of old names of other places, but it was a gift from someone who’s no longer in this world. The inscription entreats me to use it for all my school studies, and I’ve kept using it well into adulthood. (The globe it came with fell apart long ago.) How many other people still make regular use of a gift they got at seven years old?

IWSG (Worries About Jakob’s Story)

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My What’s Up Wednesday post is here.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of every month, and gives participants an opportunity to vent, share struggles and triumphs, and just commiserate in general. This month, I’m really nervous about my planned upcoming release day on Friday. I really, really hope nothing goes wrong and that I’m able to release it on time. (As of Tuesday night, my cover still isn’t here!)

It frustrates me when people bleat about how there are “too many” WWII/Shoah books, claim it’s the same story over and over, and insinuate that historical writers only chose that era because it’s popular and “overdone.” They know nothing about my motivations for or interest in writing about this era. Every person’s story was different, and not all Shoah books are just a parade of macabre horrors. Some of them don’t even take place in the camps, or if they do, the focus is not on the horror.

There was a wonderful speaker at my campus last Sunday for Yom HaShoah, fairly young for a survivor (only born 1934). He and his mother were hidden in Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. I spoke to him after the lecture, and he agreed there’s no such thing as “too many” Shoah books, since the story still needs heard. There are less and less living survivors, and someone needs to witness to the new generation. By hearing survivors speak, I have become a witness myself.

People who deny the Shoah can get bent. They’re on par with people who deny the Armenian Genocide, Flat Earthers, and vaccine-denialists. When all the survivors are gone, we’ll have to rely on books and memories from those of us who’ve been lucky enough to meet survivors and hear their stories.

Warning: Language NSFW!

This is probably a silly, baseless worry, but part of me is also worried because my characters are Progressive, and I have a lot of Orthodox friends and frequently attend Orthodox services. So these characters do things like use electricity on holidays, only eat kosher meat for holidays, kiss before marriage, and eat chametz (leavened products) past mid-day on the eve of Pesach.

I’m worried about certain of the most stridently Orthodox people I know coming at me with comments about how could I positively depict Progressive Judaism (the European equivalent of Reform, and slightly more traditional). They might wonder if I’m insincere about my own level of observance, and why I didn’t make everyone Orthodox, or at least more traditional. I felt it was honest to the time and place to make them Progressive, just as my German-born Brandts are Conservative (then called Positive-Historical Judaism) and my Polish-born, Yiddish-speaking Roblenskies have traditional/Orthodox origins.

It’s always been important to me to positively depict all the denominations, particularly since there’s a persistent ultra-Orthodox myth/slander that the non-Orthodox aren’t observant, don’t care too much about their Judaism, and are going to disappear in a few generations because of a lower birthrate and higher intermarriage rate. In spite of all my Liberal Modern Orthodox leanings, that really, really, really offends me.