IWSG—June odds and sods

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

The books I wrote on MacWriteII, ClarisWorks, and AppleWorks were inaccessible to me for up to a decade, due to being either stuck on obsolete file formats on disks or on an older desktop I didn’t bring over all the files from. Obviously, I finally learnt how to convert and open all those file types.

The ones created or saved in MacWriteII have/had a lot of bizarre formatting issues caused by data migration; e.g., floating chunks of text that belong elsewhere in the document and need to be C&Ped back together in their proper order (often breaking off in the middle of words or sentences!), gibberish at the beginning, words I taught the ’93 Mac’s spellcheck, text from files on other disks, symbols in the middle of words, repeated letters, huge indents. That needed addressed before I could even begin editing and assigning them places in my long queue.

As I’ve said many times, it was a blessing in disguise that the original files of Little Ragdoll were held hostage for so many years. There was no way I could’ve salvaged even a halfway decent story by writing around this Grimms’ fairytale on acid. I needed a complete rewrite from scratch and memory, though I kept the same general outline.

Being away from a story for 5–10 years provides one with a whole new set of eyes. Now, I like to wait at least a few months before diving back in. When we begin editing and revising too soon, we’re often blind to mistakes both big and small.

I learnt a big lesson from my mad dash to the finish with And Aleksey Lived in 2018. Since there was almost no time between the day I wrote the last word in the final appendix and the release date, I had to fly through with proofreading. A lot of little errors also turned up in the first printed edition, which I thankfully was able to correct for free.

I’m doing JuNoWriMo for I believe the sixth year, though I’m not hopeful of reaching 50K. All part of the joy of being stuck in a home not my own, with the local libraries still not open to more than brief browsing, and in an open concept house that makes privacy all but impossible. </extreme sarcasm>

I’ll be using June to work on my radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last, start my new alternative history, and do my final proof-check of the third edition of Little Ragdoll. I also count blog posts as creative non-fiction.

After daydreaming about this for at least 20 years, I’ve finally begun the process of applying to make aliyah (move to Israel). I came up with a lot of stupid excuses and reasons to postpone it, and even let my now-ex talk me out of it. Unfortunately, I’ve aged out of a lot of great opportunities, like work-study programs and volunteering on most kibbutzim.

I’ll be discussing this much more in future posts. If all goes well and I’m approved, I should be there by next summer. Though I used to want to live in Haifa, my dream city now is Tiberias in the Lower Galilee.

In response to the awful events of May, I’ve changed my Twitter display name to my Hebrew name, Chana Esther Dafna.

What are your summer writing plans?

IWSG—Grueling edits


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:

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

That’s what many of my books are! I wrote the rough drafts when I was really young. Most of these are my Atlantic City books, which I love radically rewriting and restructuring (as exhausting as that can be!).

I never understood why my mother felt I should “move on” after reaching some arbitrary age. I love these characters and their stories, and literally grew up with the original cast of characters. We’ve known one another since we were eleven years old. After now 25 years together, I kind of know them inside and out. That puts me in the perfect position to not only continue writing the stories of their lives, but also to revise their oldest stories.

I also want to resurrect my 18th and 19th century characters, whom I thought I’d permanently shelved in the early Nineties. I figure if I never forgot their names and stories in all these years, they were meant to be. I also created these characters (albeit not historical originally) when I was like five or six years old. It’s destiny.


I just finished second edition edits for Little Ragdoll, which I’m still waiting on the revamped cover for. I first went through the book on my newer computer and made a file with all the things I needed to change on the Word and HTML files on my older computer. (My newer computer won’t open Word 2003, since it’s a Power Point PC application, and I don’t think I can do Time Machine on a computer which never had an older operating system like Mountain Lion.)

My older computer was behaving very well, though it was taking a lot longer than I anticipated. After fixing all the main issues, I began doing find/change to root out excess usage of crutch words and phrases like “even,” “yet,” “apparently,” “I know,” “now,” “I mean,” “still,” “then,” “ever,” and “just.”

I ultimately decided to go through the entire file and make the changes as part of a read-through, not finding them and deciding if the usage of that word or phrase worked in that context or could be junked. I felt it’d reduce the effort.


I became concerned my older computer was being overused, and making that whirring sound more often than not. Its left fan is broken, and while it’s not dangerous, I don’t like risking overheating. This computer is ten years old, and doesn’t need overworked in its senior years!

I took the most recently saved Word file onto my flash drive and converted it into Pages on my newer computer, so I could work on it as one file, instead of going back and forth between three files on two computers. This still took a long time and wore me out, but it was a lot more practical.

Afterwards, I saved it as a doc file and went back onto my older computer, who really appreciated its resting period. All I had to do was re-hyperlink the table of contents in the Word file. Thankfully, the chapter and appendix titles still registered as being in a heading style, so I didn’t have to go through and redo that as well. After that, I converted it back into an HTML file.


I took out almost 22,000 words, after thinking I’d just be doing minor tweakings. I’m so much happier the slightly shorter, much stronger second edition has replaced the first edition which released 20 June 2014. It’s a blessing in disguise it only sold maybe two copies since its release.

I made some really stupid mistakes in marketing, and then gave up trying in humiliation and embarrassment because no one was buying my books. Once I have revamped covers for both LR and Swan, I’m going to finally make paper copies of all four of the books I currently have out, and I’ll be able to do things like book-signings and library promotions.

What’s Up Wednesday

First off, since last week I took part in the Two Truths and a Lie blogfest Jamie Ayres held to celebrate the release of her second book, 18 Truths, it’s time to reveal my lie.

I’m allergic to cockroaches. This is actually true, though most people thought it was a made-up allergy. It’s more common than one might think, though I didn’t know about it till I was tested for environmental allergies a few years ago. Since it often develops among poor and urban children, I suspect I got it when I lived in Arbor Hill (Albany’s ghetto) as a toddler.

My estimated due date was one day after a tragic event in the history of my favourite band (The Who). Yup. I was supposed to be born 4 December 1979, though I had other ideas and showed up two weeks late. On the night of 3 December, 11 young people were crushed to death, and 23 more were injured, at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, due to the risky practice of festival seating. They falsely believed the concert was starting, and rushed the closed doors. When the news was broken to the band after the show, Roger burst into tears.

I know how to play the dulcian, a late Medieval/early Renaissance instrument that’s like a more melancholy bassoon. This is the lie, though I’d love to learn if I can find an affordable dulcian, either original or reproduction. I love Medieval music and the haunting sounds of the instruments. One of my characters, Eulalia Qiana Laurel (born 1987, one of Cinnimin’s grandkids), does play the dulcian and vielle, a long, five-stringed, violin-like instrument.

WUW Winter

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.

What I’m Reading

I started David Laskin’s The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, but I’m just not feeling it as much as I’d hoped. It reads more like a history textbook instead of a vibrant family memoir. “And then this happened. And then this person did that.” There are fascinating stories about these three branches of his family (including Ida Rosenthal, founder of Maidenform), but it’s just not coming to life for me.

What I’m Writing

I’m up to about 587,600 words in my WIP and just starting Chapter 76, “Ups and Downs of Rehabilitation,” which focuses on 12-year-old Violetta and her 5-year-old sister Flora in early 1943. Flora recovered from paralytic polio quicker than her sister, but she still uses crutches and a leather caliper around her lower right leg at school and in public. She’ll regain more mobility and confidence in the ballet troupe for young polio survivors. Violetta meanwhile is terrified to be completely weaned off her iron lung, which she insists on sleeping in and spending at least an hour a day in. The flesh is willing to walk, but the spirit is unable.

Chapter 75, “The Worst That Could Happen,” was set primarily in Drancy and Oswiecim, as Darya and Oliivia get in a lot more trouble than they bargained for when they attend an anti-Nazi protest. Even though the Shoah is one of my areas of historical expertise, I still had to do some research for this chapter. There’s a silver lining (for the moment) at chapter’s end, as the girls get a cake sorting job in Kanada, out of the brutal Polish winter, and have made friends with two other young political prisoners, Halina and Maja. They don’t yet realise their new friends are from the Zyuganov family, whom they’re well acquainted with.

What Inspires Me

I was in the produce section of Hannaford on Friday when a nearby African-American worker told me he liked the zippers on the bottoms of my jeans. He thought they were really convenient for changing between shoes, and liked their original look. Afterwards, I thought about what an awesome time in history I live in, when an African-American man can speak to a white woman and not have to fear turning up like Emmett Till. My whole life, particularly since I’ve lived most of my life in a city that’s about half African-American, it’s just been normal to me to be friendly with people of other races.

I still have the September 1994 special 50th anniversary issue of Seventeen magazine, and in the front, they reprinted a bunch of letters to the editor from over the decades. One of the Fifties letters says something like, “If God didn’t want us to mix, he wouldn’t have put us all on the same planet.”

Macintosh also just turned 30! It’s hard to believe so much time has passed already, and that I’ve been there from the beginning. I’m so thankful for having a computer-savvy father who bought us a computer even when we didn’t have a lot of money. It taught me what was really important, and gave me a big advantage for schoolwork, building brainpower, learning to type ahead of just about all of my classmates, a creative outlet, and computer savvy.

I’ve been with Mac since OS 1.0, and was using it years before most other people had computers. I’ll be with the Mac for life, through whatever future changes it goes through.

What Else I’m Up To

I made some awesome chocolate chip peanut butter cake and vegan cornbread on Sunday. Next on my adventures in learning new recipes, I’m going to make seitan with the vital wheat gluten I got recently. You’ll never catch me as one of those gluten-free fakers like my ex-roommate. If I had Celiac or a wheat allergy, I’d be pissed at how all these gluten-free fakers cause legit issues to be taken less seriously. I hate fad diets.



While I’m still eating limited dairy, I decided to try sheep cheese. It’s pretty good, soft like goat cheese, and tastes great with honey.

Butterman Travel, Inc., Book Your Time Trip Today Blogfest

My Horny Hump Day post is here and my What’s Up Wednesday post is here.

Butterman cover

To celebrate the cover reveal of her book Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc., PK Hrezo is hosting a blogfest in the theme of her soon-to-be-published book. The book releases 12 November, or 11-12-13 in the U.S. dating system. Besides her blog, you can also find PK at Down the Rabbit Hole, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. For the blogfest, participants are asked to share where, when, and why they’d book a trip backwards or forwards in time.


I would first go back to early 1984, Pittsburgh, the first time I went to a computer store with my father. I don’t have a very detailed memory of this, since I was only four years old, but I remember the awe and wonder I felt at seeing and playing with a computer for the very first time. It was the original 128K Mac, OS 1.0. My father and I can honestly say we’ve been with the Mac from the very beginning, through each and every operating system!

Then I would move ahead to September 1993 for one more experience with my family’s first computer, our dear little 152K Mac. For just that month, I had it in my room as my own computer, until it short-circuited. That computer was treated like a member of our family, and always came with us when we visited Pennsylvania. For years, it was the most expensive thing we owned. My mother was horrified that my father spent about $2,000 on it, but it served us well for nine years and paid for itself.

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, and my parents didn’t have $10,000 in the bank at one time until I was maybe fifteen. But even with our limited finances, it was so important for my father to buy us a computer. We had a computer long before most people I know had them. It would be so nice to spend one more day using MacWriteII in its earlier version, playing The Manhole in its original, glorious, surreal black and white, playing one of the math, maze, or matching games (also all in black and white), playing around with the sound effects, watching it start up, with that comforting “Welcome to Macintosh” screen. At one point, my father programmed it to play “We are the Knights Who Say ‘Ni’!” as it was starting up.

It would be a blast to use MacPaint again, or to play with Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Puppy Love, Alice in Wonderland, any of the awesome black and white games that enhanced my childhood. I’ve actually been browsing both 1984 and 1993 Macs on eBay for awhile, hoping to buy back both of the computers I grew up with. They might be simpler than modern machines, but that’s part of their charm. I even made part of the dedication in my first Russian novel to the ’84 Mac, the machine I began writing it on over 20 years ago. A part of that computer will always live on in the remaining original material of the first six chapters.

If I were booking a trip to the future, I’d want to look ahead 20 years to reassure myself that someday I’ll have a Samuel in real life, not just imagination and recurring dreams. It doesn’t matter if I’m a single mom by choice or find another man eventually, or if I have an only child or somehow am still able to have the large family I used to dream about. I want to believe I’ll be rewarded with my Samuel, just as my namesake Chana was rewarded with Samuel the Prophet when she pleaded from her soul for a child.

Age Twenty

I graduated community college with an associate’s degree in selected studies in 2000, and transferred to the big university.


Yes, I got a real cap, gown, and graduation ceremony. So much for the lie that community colleges aren’t real institutions of learning.

I actually graduated by the skin of my teeth. I needed one more science course to graduate, and I picked botany. Huge mistake. I failed that class miserably, after assuming it would be as fun and easy as zoology. I hadn’t gotten an A in zoology either, but a C+ was better than nothing, and pretty damn good for me, considering science hadn’t been one of my strong suits in years.

My parents forced me to do some more heavy-duty studying to pass that class, and I was so stressed-out about the whole situation that I threw up on at least one night. To this day, one of the only things I remember from that class is that the tomato is classified as a berry. I got a D- and was able to collect my diploma. I saw the professor at the graduation, but I didn’t go over to thank him on bended knee for saving my ass by letting me pass.

At the university, I lived in Upper Central, located on top of three gigantic-ass hills. Upper Central was next door to Orchard. At least I didn’t live in the uppermost dorms of Upper Central, one of which had a major reputation as a pothead dorm. They had a Jolly Roger flying on the roof, wild residents, and everything.

I started out on the Native American floor, on the second floor of my first dorm. As much as I enjoyed the specialized residential community, I eventually was moved to the fourth floor and a single. That floor was a freaking nightmare, with everyone staying up till like 3 AM and being loud enough to wake the dead. I moved to the first floor after like two weeks.

During my junior year of university, I became a serious Who freak and wrote the 9th, 10th, and 11th books in my Max’s House series. And I continued playing endless amounts of Solitaire games and Tetris on the dear ’93 Mac, which still worked beautifully, albeit a little more slowly. None of the other computers my family or I had after the first two felt so special and like dear friends.

That computer was able to go on the Internet, albeit with a dial-up modem. It couldn’t handle very large or content-heavy websites, but it was definitely able to go online in a limited capacity. Someday I’m going to buy back both the ’84 and ’93 Macs, even if they won’t be able to do everything modern machines can.

Proving how vintage I am: I call the first decade of the 21st century the Aughts, though I’m calling it “2000s” for tagging and categorization purposes here.

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