IWSG—Intensified roadblocks


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of every month, and lets participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears.

Due to my recent move, in which I was essentially shanghaied by my parents and prevented from moving right back to my hometown of Pittsburgh (in spite of being a grown adult), I’m not in the most ideal place to get a lot of writing done this summer. I fervently hope to be out of South Carolina by the High Holy Days and settled into Pittsburgh on my own terms.

I don’t particularly plan on belatedly joining in with JuNoWriMo this year. While I could always put in overtime to make up for starting so late, I honestly don’t see myself as making 50K of anything this month. Last year, it was a huge struggle to get within spitting distance of 50K, and I counted blog posts, a survey, and journal entries together with my fictional writing.

My struggle during last JuNoWriMo was so real, I set my July Camp NaNo goal down to 30K. I ended up making over twice that, with the pressure off. More recently, I struggled to make my pitifully low 20K goal during April Camp NaNo. With my flagging mental health and issues with depression, my normal level of productivity just plummeted.


In more positive news, I created some unplanned new characters for my fourth Russian historical. Three adult brothers, their parents, and the oldest brother’s two children escaped from Estonia after the Soviets reoccupied their country in September 1944, spent four and a half years in Sweden, and came to New York in April 1949.

The brothers are the future husbands of three of radical Katrin’s daughters. The oldest brother lost his first wife in the final bombing of Tallinn, and his younger child, daughter Meri, had to be delivered two months prematurely, in a postmortem C-section. Due to the doctor’s haste and not even being in a hospital, Meri got a scar in the middle of her forehead and top of her nose, curling under her right eye, and continuing to her ear.

Since the first book I ever read was Grimms’ Fairytales, at age three, I’ve always naturally come by macabre storylines and events like that. I’m drawn to dark subjects and periods of history, as much as I love a good happily ever after.

I also came up with a future husband for Bogdana, whom I’d originally planned to match with leg amputee Nestor. Her fellow is a Slovenian–American who’ll come to her rescue after a certain medical crisis which took the lives of many women in this era. He lost his own first wife to this medical situation.


I have a feeling this November’s NaNo will be A Dream Deferred for the third time. Once I’m in a better place mentally, emotionally, and geographically, I trust my usual writing productivity levels will resume.

November IWSG—Back to last year’s NaNo book


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of the month. Participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears.

This month, the IWSG question is:

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

As a historical writer, I absolutely love the rich research which comes with the territory. I also love bringing these bygone worlds to life, virtually travelling to so many places, and living vicariously through my characters.

It might surprise some, since my “getting ready” routine consists of throwing on clothes, packing up whatever I’m bringing with me, and going out, but I particularly enjoy researching and writing about vintage clothes, shoes, hats, even makeup. In so doing, I’m living vicariously through characters who represent a type of woman I know I’ll never be.


I decided to switch gears re: which book to rebel with during NaNo. For quite awhile, my pace on my primary WIP had slowed to a crawl, and I just wasn’t feeling very inspired. Maybe it’s because the flashback Part II ended up way longer than I’d predicted, or maybe I’d been with these characters for too long of a stretch.

It also would’ve been a logistical nightmare to calculate daily and overall wordcount, and copy and paste the material into the validator, since I’d be writing out of order, editing, fleshing-out, and deleting text which needs replaced with actual narration instead of serving as wraparound filling in the blanks.

I tried going back to my fourth Russian historical on 30 October, and the difference was just amazing. I wrote over 1,000 words in just two 20-minute sprints, and knew the decision had been made. Last NaNo wasn’t the best time to begin that book, even though I did write 71K. As a result, I hadn’t touched it since 30 December.

I copied and pasted the rest of Chapter 14 into a new file, to which will be added each new chapter file to be written during November. So much easier to calculate wordcount that way!


I’m also thrilled to have discovered some unplanned secondary characters. I wanted to give Sonyechka, Lyuba and Ivan’s next-youngest child, a fellow outcast friend at her new school. All I knew was that she was Catholic, and thus the only other non-Protestant at that school. Then I looked up countries with a high Catholic percentage, outside of obvious ones like Poland, France, and Italy.

I thought she was all Croatian at first, but then I decided to give her a Croatian father and Serbian mother. Her name is Kleopatra Novak, and she’s my latest left-handed character. Her family just immigrated from Banja Luka, Bosnia, and survived the horrors of the fascist Ustashi régime in the puppet Independent State of Croatia.

Kleopatra’s father is an archaeology professor who survived Jasenovac, and her mother is a surgeon who served with the partisans. Kleopatra and her older brother were hidden by a Bosnian Muslim family. Prof. Novak is a perfect patient for Lyuba and Ivan’s son-in-law Andrey, a future psychiatrist who wants to heal people traumatized by the war.

I do hope once again to be a NaNo overachiever, but at a realistic overachieving wordcount. I can’t stand the humble-braggers who say things like, “I was so lazy yesterday and only wrote 30,000 words!” or “I really failed NaNo because I only wrote 700K instead of a million.”

Are you doing NaNo? Did you ever change your mind last-minute re: what you were going to work on? Ever started working on a book you came to realize wasn’t the right thing to write at that time? How long did it take to go back? Ever discovered unplanned characters?

P.S.: I recently wrote a guest blog for 4thWaveNow, “Transing the dead: The erasure of gender-defiant role models from history.” It discusses the ridiculous new trend of declaring women like Joan of Arc, Radclyffe Hall, and George Eliot were really men, and that men like Prince and David Bowie really had to be women.

WeWriWa—Luiza’s Halloween costume



Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m continuing this month’s Halloween theme with a snippet from a bit later in the first Halloween chapter of my fourth Russian historical. This part of the chapter is back in Manhattan, as Igor goes to pick up his cousin Luiza for an NYU Halloween party up in the Bronx.

Igor is dressed as a Renaissance artist, with a genuine antique shashka sword his great-uncle the prince loaned him for a prop. The sword came from his great-uncle’s paternal grandfather, who served in the Russian Caucasian Corps. While he’s in his stepaunt’s house to pick up Luiza, his younger brother Ilya (his Irish twin) and Ilya’s girlfriend Milada, both dressed as pirates, are cuddling in the car.

Before Luiza heads out to the car, her mother tells her she’s not going to use the party as an excuse to meet men. Luiza nods but doesn’t say anything.


As soon as she heads out the door with Igor, she pulls off her golden sweater and stuffs it into the golden purse attached to her waist.

“I’m not covering my arms up to the elbow just because my parents think it’s indecent to wear shoulder straps at a mixed party.  There’s no point in dressing like an Ancient Egyptian woman if I’m just going to wear some stupid sweater hiding the top part of my gown.”

Igor averts his eyes when he catches Ilya and Milada kissing in the backseat, pressed up against one another for dear life and running their hands through one another’s hair.  Luiza ignores them and gets into the passenger seat, where she pulls off her golden flats and exchanges them for a pair of golden sandals in her purse.

“I hope you’re not too cold,” Igor says. “Even a nice Halloween costume shouldn’t come before dressing warmly.”

“I’ll be fine.  A little chill is my price to pay for fashion.”


The great Theda Bara as Cleopatra

WeWriWa—An Unusual Delivery

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. Today’s excerpt comes from Chapter 41, “Roman’s Legacy,” of my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest. It’s January 1938, and young widow Inessa Zyuganova has gone into labor with her third child. Since she’s consistently measured smaller than normal and had concerning heart tones, along with her traumatic injuries and resulting pain relief drugs, she’s elected to birth in a hospital for the first time.

The receptionist is flabbergasted at how she’s brought company for the delivery room, and a midwife in addition to a doctor. Dr. Scholl, Inessa’s very progressive doctor, makes the situation clear to the receptionist in no uncertain terms. He moved away from hospital practice in large part because he didn’t agree with the non-evidence-based obstetrics that came into vogue during the twilight sleep era.


“This is a proper modern hospital.  We don’t have old-country midwives here.  No woman in her right mind would see both a doctor and midwife.”

“Mrs. Kuzmitch has been in practice for thirty-five years.  After she came to this country, she received formal training at the Bellevue Hospital School for Midwives and later took additional classes at Manhattan Midwifery School.  Now my patient, her nurse and midwife, and her friends are going to go into the room she’s booked.  Doctors get final say in what goes on in the delivery room.  Spinster receptionists don’t.”

WeWriWa—Dr. Scholl

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. Today’s excerpt comes from Chapter 37, “Storm Before the Calm,” of my current WIP. Inessa, her children, her youngest cousin, and her youngest adoptive sister have finally arrived in America in August of 1937, and moved into the now rather crowded old family apartment above the restaurant where two of her cousins have been working since they came to America in 1934.

At her old friends’ insistence, Inessa has invited over both longtime community midwife Mrs. Kuzmitch and a very progressive doctor who now does much of his work underground. Her old friend Vera serves as her translator. Given her traumatic injuries, and the morphine, Prontosil (an early antibiotic), and codeine she’s had, she’s considering using a hospital for the third child she’s expecting. But before the consultation can begin, Dr. Scholl, who also appeared in my second Russian novel, wants to see her leg wound. This has been tweaked a bit to fit 8 sentences.

I gave Dr. Scholl that name in honor of Sophie and Hans Scholl of the anti-Nazi White Rose movement.


“How are you today, Mrs. Zyuganova?” Dr. Scholl asks, extending his hand. “As I’m a doctor first and a specialist in women’s reproductive health second, I’d like to get a look at this wounded leg before asking any questions about this pregnancy.”

“Tell him to remove those damn bullet shards,” Inéssa says as she rolls over. “They’re probably what’s causing me so much extended pain.”

Dr. Scholl opens one of his bags and removes several bottles, gauze, medical tape, long tweezers, cotton swabs, saline solution, and a small flashlight.  Véra explains to Inéssa that some of the bullet fragments are poking through the still-healing wound, and that Dr. Scholl can see a number of others inside the wound.  Inéssa closes her eyes as she feels Dr. Scholl rubbing a numbing agent on and around the wound, followed by the vague sensation of tweezers entering her skin over and over.  After the wound has been washed out with saline and the blood rubbed off, Dr. Scholl wraps it in dressing and tapes it in place.