IWSG—Hopeful for improved wordcounts

In memory of my old friend Fiona, who would’ve turned 37 today. In her memory, I gave the name Fiona to my character Baby Ryan when she and her siblings take legal names, and also used her surname for another family in my contemporary historical family saga about the Troys and Ryans.


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of every month, and lets participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears. This month, I finally remembered to include the monthly question!

What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

I’ve been annoyed by so many things while revisiting books I loved when I was younger! I know standards were different in the past, and that I’m not the best one to talk given my rather old-fashioned style, but even I cringe at things like:

A lack of contractions
Infodumpy, “As you know, Bob” dialogue, esp. when it’s used to convey important backstory and/or historical details
Purple prose
Way too many adverbs (like, 5-10 per page), esp. when paired with non-standard speaking verbs (screamed explosively, snapped quizzically, nodded methodically, whispered knowingly)
Lack of front or back matter with stuff like a family tree, list of characters, pronunciation guide (for foreign names and words), and glossary
Overuse of “that”
Introducing way too many characters way too quickly, esp. if they’re not important
First-person where third-person would’ve made the story much stronger

My July wordcount was embarrassingly low by my standards yet again. Due to all the extenuating circumstances I’ve discussed, I had to set my July Camp NaNo goal at only 10K. It took almost the entire month to finally break even. I’m not proud of how low my final total was, but I did have a very strong finish.

Unlike JuNoWriMo, this only counted words from my WIP, not together with blog posts. I also included words from my glossary (mostly various types of foreign cuisine), table of contents, and cast of characters.

That, my final wordcount for the last day, is what I’m typically capable of. I normally write several thousand words a day, sometimes 5,000 or more. While I respect that some writers have a slower pace, or might only want to work on a paragraph a day, that’s not my style at all. I naturally write very prolifically, and when my wordcounts are only a few hundred words a day (if that), it’s a sign something’s very, very wrong.

I came up with some great ideas for more subplots, chapter sections, and secondary characters for this book. These subplots include Sonyechka’s experience in fifth grade, and Tamara’s in second, based on my own. I’m planning a future blog post on how closely you should base characters and storylines on real life.

I’m really excited about the final quarter (or so) of Part I. Since I write so long, I like to let things build for a really long time before things start coming to a dramatic head. I’m also really pleased with all the unplanned secondary characters and subplots I came up with, though I’m still dissatisfied with how I’ve been executing one of those subplots.

Have you ever worked on a book where you weren’t consistently strong with motivation, creativity, and/or wordcount? Does it sometimes take until a certain amount of time into a period of working on a book (if you’re doing it in separated stages) for the writing to take off?

P.S.: To mark next week’s special holiday, I’ll be fêting Rio on its 35th anniversary. I’ve really been looking forward to writing those posts, and hope my readers enjoy them just as much!

A bundle of letters

(This review of A Bintel Brief is edited from a post which originally was written for my Angelfire page around 2003 or 2004, but never published. I was saving my book reviews to publish as a list of links on a master page when they were completed, but that mentally unstable blogger and her sycophantic friends had my entire webpage taken away from me before that could happen. I was lucky to recover as many book reviews as I could from cache searches.)

4.5 stars

This book is a collection of letters from 1905–67, from a very popular feature in the Yiddish-language daily paper Der Forverts (The Forward). Originally a minor advice column for those who felt they had nowhere else to turn, it soon became wildly popular. People presented all sorts of problems, none too bizarre, personal, or embarrassing to hide from all-knowing editor Abraham Cahan.

Many subjects in the early years concern marriage, anti-Semitism, deadbeat husbands, unemployment, poverty, and labour unions. Others include feeling ashamed of having red hair and a husband who refused to shave his beard.

A childless woman said her husband of seven years kept reminding her it’s “sooner rather than later” till the time they must divorce. Under traditional Jewish Law, a man may divorce his wife if she hasn’t had any kids in ten years. Mr. Cahan began his response, “The husband is severely scolded for his inhuman behavior towards his wife.” He said childlessness is no reason to divorce a loyal, loving wife, and comforted the wife by saying she might still become a mother in the next three years.

Later subjects include Zionism, wanting to make aliyah (move to Israel), intermarriage, differences in religious practice among family members, the Shoah, and:

A man overcome with emotions when he encountered the Polish Gentile who’d murdered his sister, brother-in-law, and niece after pretending he was going to hide them from the Nazis. The editor said it was good he’d restrained his urge to kill the man when he ran into him by a boxing match, and that he shouldn’t take justice into his own hands.

A mother-in-law acting like a young woman and being a real drain on her daughter-in-law

A young man upset that the vibrant Jewish culture his grandparents grew up with isn’t being exhibited by his generation

Concern over a son who, while married to a Jewish woman and raising Jewish kids, put up a Christmas tree

A wife addicted to television.

No matter what the problem was, these people poured their hearts out to the wise, all-knowing editor, confident he or other readers would have a solution.

This is a great historical document, but the editorial commentary was written in the late Sixties, and therefore can be quite a bit dated.

The introduction says there are many similarities between the hippie movement “of today” and the freethinkers at the turn of the twentieth century. The comments about intermarriage are also very dated. The reasons and consequences have vastly changed, and most parents no longer force their children to break up with a Gentile.

There are also dated comments to a letter about a young woman who’s upset her parents, esp. her ultra-Zionistic father, by pretending to be Christian at work. He says that even nowadays, some Jews have to pretend to be Christians to work in certain places, and that one of his sisters wore a cross necklace to work and tucked it inside her clothes when she was on the bridge home.

Another fun bit of datedness comes from a letter sent in by “concerned” parents during WWII. They’re very deeply upset one of their sons has begun refusing to eat meat, and that he still refused to eat it when they took him to a restaurant to show him “everyone” eats meat. The editor’s response was no better, suggesting they take him to a psychiatrist who’ll figure out what gave him such a “terrible” idea and induce him to start eating meat again.

Following this is a letter from the Society of Jewish Vegetarians in America, giving information about their group and surprised the editor didn’t refer the parents to them. They rightly pointed out that more and more people are becoming vegetarians, and that it’s very possible to have a healthy diet without meat.

Still, however dated parts of it are, it’s a great chronicle of life in a certain place, culture, and time, which sadly is vanishing.

WeWriWa—Father and child reunion


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when infant nurse Svetlana and her tiny patient’s father began realizing she might be one and the same as the missing sixth-born daughter of the widower who lives across the hall.

Mr. Lebedev has come home with his five accounted-for daughters and is rather displeased to discover his door was left open and never closed by any of his friends on their top floor of the tenement. Ivan promises it won’t happen again.

Source; painted by Jim Daly

“Say, do you mind stepping inside for a moment?  You haven’t met Fedya’s wonderfully talented nurse yet.  It turns out you have the same surname, and her dog had the same name as yours.”


Svetlana turns around and gasps at the sight of the older man with one blue eye, one brown eye, and brown hair with copper highlights. “Papa?”


Svetlana leaps into her father’s arms, while her sisters cross themselves. “Thank God you’re alive.  Nadya told me you six had gone to America, and I couldn’t rest easily until I found you.”


Svetlana was seventeen when she was taken away with three of her other sisters, and she’s now twenty-two. Though her cousin Nadezhda was able to tell her the happy news about her father and five of her sisters surviving the Red Terror, Nadezhda also had to deliver the sad news about her mother being murdered.

Next week, I’d like to switch to a piece from my third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest, in honor of the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

A primer on Chechen names

Chechen is a Northeast Caucasian language, most closely related to Ingush and Bats. It’s spoken by 1.4 million people in the Chechen Republic, and by large diaspora communities in Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Georgia, Jordan, and Iraq. There are also decent-sized diaspora communities in Syria, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Some of the orphaned and kidnapped children sent to Mrs. Brezhneva’s Kyiv orphanage in my first three Russian historicals are Chechens. In my first Russian historical, a little Chechen girl asks “What’s a patronymic?” when Mrs. Brezhneva is complaining about how the new non-Slavic arrivals didn’t have patronymics in their cultures.


Though some Chechen inscriptions are written in Georgian script, Arabic was the traditionally-used alphabet. During the 19th century reign of Imam Shamil, Chechen Arabic was reformed. Later reforms came in 1910, 1920, and 1922. Simultaneously, there was an academic alphabet with Georgian, Latin, and Cyrillic characters.

In 1925, Latin script was introduced, and unified with the Ingush Latin alphabet in 1934. In 1938, as part of Stalin’s cruel Russification policies, Cyrillic was forced upon the Chechen people. Latin script returned in 1992, but Cyrillic was forced upon the people again after the defeat of the secessionist government.

Chechen Cyrillic contains 26 letters not found in Russian Cyrillic, mostly representing compound sounds or letters with diacritical marks. A few other letters also transliterate differently than in Russian. These letters are Ä, Ġ, Ƶ, IY, KK, Q, QQ, Q̇, KH, OV, Ö, PP, PH, RH, SS, TT, TH, UV, Ü, ÜY, Ẋ, H, Ċ, Ҫ, Ҫ̇, Ş, Ə, YÜ, YÄ, and J.

Chechen separatists still prefer Latin letters, as well they should. Yeltsin opened up a huge can of worms when he decided to invade Chechnya. Instead of scoring some easy political points to help with getting his approval ratings out of the toilet, countless new problems were created.


As expected, due to being under the Russian heel since the 19th century, many Chechen surnames have Russian suffixes like -ov(a), -in(a), and -(y)ev(a). However, like with other forcibly Russified surnames, they have native linguistic and onomastic twists.

Sample surnames include Varayev, Akhmadov, Dudayev, Yamadayev, Shishani, Abdulayev, Aslanbekov, Maskhadan, Otarsultanov, Dzhokharov, and Zelimkhanov.

Sample list of names:


Abdulbek (Servant of the chieftain)
Abdulkhakim (Servant of the wise)
Abdulkhalim (Servant of the all-clement)
Abdulkhamid (Servant of the praised)
Abdulmezhid (Servant of the glorious)
Abdurakhman (Servant of the merciful)
Abubakar (Father of the camel’s calf)
Abukhadzhi (Father of the pilgrim)
Abukhan (Father of the sovereign)
Abusaid (Father of the happy/lucky)
Achamaz (A hero in Ossetian mythology)
Akhmad, Akhmed (More commendable)
Alaudin (Aladdin) (Excellence of religion)
Alibek (Lofty ruler)
Anzor (Noble)
Arbi (Arab)
Aslambek (To submit to the ruler)
Aslan (Lion)
Aslanbek (Lion master)
Ayubkhan (Persecuted/hated sovereign)

Bekbolat, Bekbulat (Steel ruler)
Bekhan (Master prince)
Bekkhan (Master leader)
Borz (Wolf)

Chingiz (Genghis) (Universal ruler)

Danilbek (Lord Daniel)
Dikalu (Good)
Dukvakha (To live long)
Dzhabrail (Gabriel)
Dzhalal (Greatness)
Dzhamal (Jamal) (Beauty)
Dzhamaldin, Dzhamaludin (Beauty of religion)
Dzhamalkhan (Beauty of the ruler)
Dzhokhar (Jewel or Essence)

Elbrus (After Mount Elbrus in Transcaucasia)
Emin (Truthful)
Halid (Khalid) (Eternal)

Ibragim (Abraham)
Ibragimbek (Lord Abraham)
Islam (Submission)
Islambek (Master of Islam)
Ismaal (Ishmael)

Kadyr (Powerful, capable)
Kasym (One who divides goods among his people)
Keram, Kerim (Noble, generous)
Khamza, Khamzat (Steadfast, strong)
Khanpasha (Essentially means “ruler ruler”)
Khansultan (Sovereign sultan)
Khasan (Handsome)
Khasanbek (Handsome ruler)
Khavazh, Khavazhi
Khizir (Green)
Khuseyn (Hussein) (Little handsome one)
Kuyra (Hawk)

Leça, Lecha (Falcon)
Lom (Lion)

Magomet, Magomed, Mukhamed, Mokhammad, Mokhmad
Makhmud (Praiseworthy)
Mayrbek, Mairbek (Brave man chieftain or Husband chieftain)
Mayrkhan (Brave man ruler or husband ruler)
Muslim (To surrender)
Nisost (Menacing) (Chechen form of Sosruko, a trickster god in Caucasian mythology and the hero of the Nart sagas)
Nurpashi (Ruler of light)

Ramzan (Ramadan) (Parchedness, scorchedness)

Said (Lucky, happy)
Saidakhmad, Saidakhmed (More commendable lucky/happy one)
Saidali (Lucky/happy and lofty/sublime)
Saidkhasan (Lucky/happy handsome one)
Saidmagomed (Lucky/happy praiseworthy one)
Salambek (Peace master)
Salamu (Peace)
Shakhid (Witness)
Shamil (Either means “comprehensive, extensive, thorough, inclusive,” or a form of Samuel)
Shamsudin (Sun of religion)
Sharip (Virtuous, eminent)
Sulim (Safe)
Sulimbek (Safe chieftain)
Sultanbek (Sultan lord)
Supyan (May alternately mean “wool,” “purity,” “thunderstorm; sandstorm,” “he who walks fast,” or “comes with a sword”)

Takhir (Chaste, pure, virtuous)
Tashtemir (Stone iron)
Temirbek (Iron cheiftain)
Timur (Iron)
Turpal (Hero)
Turpalali (Lofty/sublime hero)

Vakha (To live)
Vakhid (Unique, peerless)
Valid (Newborn)
Vezirkhan (Vizier leader)


Zaur (Visiting, Appearance, or Little)
Zaurbek (Visiting lord or Little lord)
Zelim (Unjust, cruel, oppressor) (NOT eytmologically related to Salim, which has an entirely opposite meaning!)
Zelimkhan, Zalimkhan (Safe ruler)
Ziyaudin (Splendour of religion)
Zura (Shining, illustrious; may also mean “red water”)


Aiza (Visitor, returning)
Amanat, Aminat (Truthful or Feel safe)
Aysha (Alive)

Çovka (Jackdaw [type of crow])
Dzhuvayriyat (Atmosphere, air, sky)
Elmira (The commander, the princess)
Fariza (Precious, unique)

Khadizhat (Khadija) (Premature child)
Khafsat (Gathering)
Khalimat (Mild, tolerant, patient)

Makka (Mecca)
Maryat (Maria)
Maymunat (Auspicious, fortunate, blessed)

Petimat (Fatima) (To abstain)
Qoqa (Dove, rock pigeon)

Rabiat, Rebiat (Springtime or Fourth)
Raykhanat (Basil)
Ruqayyat (“Rise, ascent,” or “spell, charm, incantation”)
Ruvayda (Unhurrying or Very gentle)

Safiyat (Pure)
Savdat (Land that has many palm trees)

Valida (Newborn)
Yakha (To live)
Yakhiyta (To let live)

Zakhira (Supporter, helper)
Zalima, Zalina
Zamira (Honour, heart)
Zaydat (To increase)
Zaynap (May mean “beauty,” or be from the name of a fragrant, flowering tree. It may also be a form of Zenobia, which means “life of Zeus”)
Zuleykhan, Zulikha (Brilliant beauty)
Zura (Shining, illustrious; may also mean “red water”)

Fifty of my favorite words

(This post was originally published on my old Angelfire page, possibly between 2004 and 2007.)

I love words one doesn’t get a chance to use very often, many of them beginning with X and Q. God love the Greeks for having given us so many interesting words.

1. Juxtaposition

2. Transmogrify

3. Ameliorate and amelioration

4. Dichotomy

5. Paradigm. I learnt both “pagadigm” and “dichotomy” from my awesome tenth grade European History AP teacher, and I’ve never neglected a chance to use them since. I also still remember so many of the fun stories he told us, and the line “Baroque [art], think butts in seats.”

6. Portmanteau. Portmanteau words themselves are frickin’ awesome, never mind the name for them!

7. Xyloid (relating to wood)

8. Xanthrochroid. This is my favorite synonym for blonde.

9. Xylograph (engraving in wood)

10. Uncouth

11. Manifestation

12. Hydrophosphates! (This comes from the 1932 Laurel and Hardy short Helpmates.)

13. Horsefeathers (1920s slang for “nonsense”)

14. Xanthene (a yellow crystalline compound used as a fungicide) and xanthine (a crystalline compound found in blood and urine)

15. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniosis. I learnt this 45-letter word in my third grade advanced reading class.

16. Xanthocomic (yellow-haired)

17. Xenagogue (kind of like a tour guide to foreigners)

18. Zoroastrianism

19. Xenodocheionology (love of hotels)

20. Xenodochium (a building for the reception of strangers)

21. Xenoglossy (Knowledge of a language one otherwise doesn’t know fluently, often experienced in past life regressions and past life dreams. I myself have experienced this many times during my past life dreams.)

22. Xenolalia (same as xenoglossy)

23. Echolalia (repeating back the words someone just said)

24. Corprolalia (involuntary cursing)

25. Xylomancy (divination through wood)

26. Xenomenia (menstruation from abnormal orifices)

27. Zouave (a light infantry regiment of the French Army from 1830–1962)

28. Hemidemisemi-quaver (a 64th note in music)

29. Unbirthday

30. Foul

31. Hideous

32. Mind-revolting

33. Mind-sickening

34. Quadragintesimal (forty-fold, or having forty parts)

35. Quadragesimal (lasting 40 days, or something similar to or pertaining to Lent)

36. Quadragesimarian (one who observes Lent)

37. Quantophrenia (one obsessively relying upon statistics and mathematical results)

38. Quaquadrate (a sixteenth power)

39. Quaquaversal (bending or facing all ways)

40. Quadquicentennial (125th anniversary)

41. Quaternitarian (one who believes the Divine consists of four parts)

42. Transubstantiation

43. Consubstantiation

44. Quintessence and quintessential

45. Ingest

46. Masticate (In spite of how it sounds very similar to “masturbate,” it really means “to chew.”

47. Proboscis

48. Obliterate

49. Ucalegon (neighbour whose house is on fire, after a character from The Iliad)

50. Heterochromia (two different coloured eyes)