A to Z Reflections 2018


This was my seventh year participating in the A to Z Challenge, and my fifth doing it with two blogs. I waited till January this year to write the posts for my main blog, and to finalize my list of topics. My secondary blog posts were written in March and on April first.

The first post I wrote was Archangel Michael, and my final post was The Zayande River. Six posts were double topics, with a seventh initially planned. I began writing that second topic, but quickly realized it’d either bloat the wordcount past my desired upper limit of 800 words, or force me to leave out a lot of great, important details. I moved what I’d written into a post in my drafts folder, to be used the next time I do this theme.

So many letters had great topics in my working list, but I was unable to use a lot of them due to the interests of wordcount. Other topics I wanted to do were crossed off because I couldn’t find enough information or proper photos in time. I could easily do this theme (people, places, and things from my Russian historicals) at least thrice more!

Discarded topics you may see in future years include the Kabardin horse, the influenza pandemic of 1918, White émigrés, Disease X (radiation poisoning), the Battle of Tinian, and sofreh aghed (a cloth set with symbolic foods and objects at traditional Persian weddings).

I noticed several other people had the same observation I did, that participation this year seemed rather down from past years. Perhaps we were just visiting the wrong blogs, or people didn’t understand how to use the Google Docs form. I’ll admit I had issues with the scrolling on it more than a few times. I wish we had a system that worked for everyone!

View and comment count may also have been down for those of us who didn’t have our posts hyperlinked early enough in the day. We don’t all have the same work, school, or sleep schedule. I know the admins have said they don’t want to bring the old master list back, but I did like the ability to peruse it at my leisure.

Post recap:

Arbat Street
The Crown Colony of Aden
The Empress Hotel and The Emporium
The Fleishhacker Pool and the French Concession of Shanghai
The Garden Ring
Hamilton Heights and Hotel Kämp
Irkutsk, Russia
Juno Beach and the Jewish Hospital of Lublin
Levittown, NY
Archangel Michael
Novodevichye Cemetery and Nansen passports
Patriarch’s Pond
Queens Village and the qalam
Riverdale, Toronto
The Battle of Saipan
The Battle of Tarawa
The Umileniye Ikon
St. Vladimir
Washington Square Park
Xanten, Germany
The Zayande River


Another round of vintage ads


Seeing as how my computer charger has frayed in multiple places and stopped working, I’m unable to spend a lot of time writing a more substantial post for this week. I’ll have a new charger by next week, so you can look forward to a post re: writing about ice-skating in historical fiction.

In the meantime, enjoy these vintage ads from my virtual collections!

I wouldn’t mind that at all! I’ve never made any secret of how I’ve been attracted to younger men since my senior year of high school. (Obviously, they weren’t that much younger than I was at first!). I’d like a husband about 10–12 years my junior.

Yet another ad endorsing Lysol as birth control (in very euphemistic language) and terrifying women about their supposed rampant BO.

Whether you agree or disagree with his politics, you can’t deny Reagan was a genial person with a good sense of humor. He would’ve been a fun guest at a picnic or barbecue. I recently watched an episode of I’ve Got a Secret where he was the famous guest, and got a lot of good laughs out of his segment.

So many people in ads don’t talk like normal people having a real conversation!

I loved cottage cheese and canned peaches!

I highly doubt this was a real study, or had those results!

No comment!

I’ve been fooled by some contemporary spoofs of real vintage ads, but this one is an ad for a legitimate product.

And now they’ve got kids strapped into freaking booster seats till age twelve!

I’m glad plus size companies no longer call their customer base “stout” and “chubbies”!

There’s a diagnosis that’s gone the way of other pseudoscientific conditions like hysteria!

This is beyond tasteless. If they were attempting very dark humor, they sailed WAY past a line anywhere close to acceptability!

I’m showing my age, but “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the quintessential song and music video of my generation. It’s one of the things which clearly indicates my membership as one of the youngest members of Gen X. I feel such a big disconnect from Gen Y, even though their oldest members are only a few years younger than I am.

And yes, I do realize that might make my attraction to younger men seem hypocritical!

2017 blogging stats in review


Unfortunately, WordPress has yet again decided to do away with a popular feature many people loved, so I have to write up my own post recapping my blogging stats from this past year.

Once more, my most-viewed post by a landslide was the only post I’ve had to disable comments on to date (not counting a very emotional post I wrote in the wake of the 2016 election, which I pre-emptively closed comments for). “No, I will not get sucked into the cult of Arbonne!” had 5,839 views, with 39,657 total since its December 2013 publication. I refused to tolerate the abusive, chutzpahdik comments from the two butthurt Arbots in need of the Wahmbulance.

My next-most viewed post was again “A Primer on Russian Names,” which was published 28 December 2012 and the first installment in what has become a long-running series. That post had 2,388 views in 2017, and 4,521 total.

Coming in at #3 was again “Favorite Decameron stories, Part I,” published 28 December 2011. There were 1,268 views in 2017.

My fourth-most-viewed post was “Writing an arm amputee character,” published 27 October 2014. It had 896 views in 2017, a number of which I’m sure came from creepy, porny search terms instead of people genuinely interested in this information. That post briefly discusses how intimacy isn’t over just because someone loses an arm, and expressed a wish for more respectful, tasteful resources like the one I linked to, instead of amputee porn and fetish sites. The irony!

I’m quite pleased the Top 5 closed out with “Why I HATED The Book Thief,” published 5 August 2013 and clocking in at 514 views in 2017. Not gonna apologize for ripping this awful, massively overrated piece of hot garbage a new one!

The other posts in my Top 10 were:

“The importance of stylistic consistency,” published 27 June 2016 (John Entwistle’s 14th Jahrzeit, death anniversary), with 322 views.
“Favorite Decameron stories, Part III,” 299 views, published 2 January 2012.
“A primer on Albanian names,” 239 views, published 7 August 2015.
“A primer on Yiddish names,” 215 views, published 27 January 2017 (72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz).
“The gender-industrial complex, Part I (Overview of why I’m writing this series),” 206 views, published 8 February 2016. I plan on belatedly continuing this series in the coming year, since there have been so many more peak trans moments, as well as the ongoing female erasure, violence and threats against women daring to do so much as ask honest questions, denial of the existence of biological sex, and dismantling of laws allowing women and girls protection on the basis of our being a sex class.

One big surprise was “Assorted thoughts on the Five Little Peppers series” being this year’s 12th-most-viewed post, and my ninth-most-viewed post overall. I also continue to be baffled at the high view count of “Six Sentence Sunday—Savoring the Christmas Tree” and “Uelen, Russia” of all posts.

“Pet rabbits, chickens, and ducks should be for keeps, not just Easter” was up slightly, to #13 this year, and #8 overall. “Twilight Sleep” slipped much further, to #18 overall and near the very bottom of this year’s most-viewed posts. It had only six views this year. I plan to rewrite the latter post, so perhaps the updated version will garner more views.

Once again, my most-viewed film post was “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Part II (Behind the Scenes),” with 84 views in 2017 and 197 overall.

More fun with vintage ads


Here are even more of the vintage ads I’ve virtually collected. They always reveal so much about bygone eras, both bad and good.

Well, that’s certainly a unique innovation!

1937, when prevailing medical “wisdom” claimed it was a most dire health emergency if someone (esp. a child) didn’t defecate at least once a day.

That name would never be approved today!

Yet again, preying on women’s insecurities and making people believe not defecating at least once a day automatically equalled constipation!

The advertising world, shaming women about their bodies since forever.

No comment!

Or perhaps the husband can help his wife by making breakfast when she’s suffering from morning sickness!

Because don’t we all want to use the same medicine as our horses? Who’s writing these prescriptions, Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush?

At least he’s not as awful as my anti-kissing ex, who still refused to kiss me even after I knocked myself out doing everything he claimed would make him more likely to want to do it. He might’ve done it ten times ever during the almost five years of our relationship, and didn’t do it for the first time until we’d been together for two years and seven months and already done everything else.

Lipstick and nailpolish often came in matching sets. Though red was the most popular nailpolish color, there were quite a few other colors to choose from in the Forties. The four without matching lipsticks are just a small sampling of what was available. I also love that there’s a purple lipstick represented.

This is a little too macabre even for me!

Those rings all look too similar to me, but then again, I never saw the appeal of colorless diamonds to begin with. My former engagement ring (which my ex made me buy myself) has three black diamonds and four small white diamonds. If I ever have another relationship, I’m either foregoing a ring altogether, or selecting something like a sapphire or teal tourmaline.

More fun with vintage ads


Since my vintage ad posts have been popular so far, and because it’s kind of really hard to do much of any real writing without access to a desk, here are some more of the ads I’ve virtually collected. I’ve also got folders for vintage images, including one dedicated to vintage skating. You’ll see some of those images when it’s more seasonally appropriate to do a post on writing about ice-skating in historical fiction!

That’s right, ladies! Always keep your skin in tip-top shape so you can look alluring to your husbands 24/7!

Yet another ad that would never be approved today!

I’ll never forget how my mother permanently scared me away from Cheez-Whiz when I was a preteen. I’d gotten hooked on that stuff, esp. with nachos, while I’d been staying with my maternal grandparents that summer, and my mother was horrified to learn this. Some time after I’d gotten home, she held up a bottle of Cheez-Whiz by the spoon inside, and said that’s what it does to your stomach.

Kind of takes the fun out of grilling!

I don’t think those two things work well together outside of advertising world!

Back in the days of my estrogen Who lists, we always liked to laugh about how Roger Daltrey used this stuff to straighten his hair. Back when The Who started, curly hair wasn’t fashionable.

How were paper clothes ever a thing? I’d be scared they’d rip right off me!

1962 prices

I found so many Castoria ads, I created a separate folder for them. Apparently, parents in that era were taught that if a child didn’t defecate at least once a day, s/he was constipated, and needed a laxative. A lot of these ads are seriously weird to a modern audience!


No comment!

Apparently, the cure for alcoholism is cocaine addiction!

A number of the ads I’ve collected send the exact opposite message from modern ads. Women who are too skinny risk their dating lives, and need to put on weight to attract men.

Now that she’s finally ended her spinsterhood at 31, the next company to make her feel insecure will be Lysol! I’m sure plenty of these women’s husbands and beaux needed to take care with their own personal hygiene, even if there weren’t many ad campaigns of this nature targeted to men.