IWSG—March odds and sods

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and gives participants a chance to share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I enjoy both for different reasons. While everyone likes the story of a hero or shero, it’s also great fun to read and write a villain’s side of the story. It lets the mind go to very dark places, and understanding what motivates a villain helps to elevate her or him beyond a one-dimensionally, cartoonishly evil caricature.


I’m very, very, very happy to report I finally seem to be back to regular journalling with Khanada, the journal I started 23 September 2008. Thanks to my dysfunctional, co-dependent, unhealthy, dead-end, “What was I thinking?!” relationship with Sergey, I stopped journalling in March 2009 and didn’t return till May 2012.

I was sporadic until July 2013, when I returned to Khanada as an outlet for my emotions re: the off the charts drama, more Orthodox than thou antics, and nitpickiness wrought by my roommate. After she thankfully broke her lease and left me alone, I continued journalling, but the length of entries and overall commitment began waning, and in August 2016, I stopped and became sporadic again.

I turned back to Khanada when Peter Tork recently passed, and have been writing every day since. Much of this is everything I failed to record when I was with Sergey, similar to how my entries in my fifth journal, Prudence, were at one point devoted to writing down previously unrecorded memories before I forgot them.

If you’re wondering, Khanada is pronounced Ka-NAY-da, not like Canada. Since my third journal, I’ve named them after songs—Cecilia, Rita, Prudence, Rael, Athena, Emily, Zelda, Eloise, and now Khanada. Future names will be Mary, Suzanne, Magnolia, and Marlene.

Not only had I never heard of her namesake song when I began her, I’d have laughed in your face if you told me which band I’d take her name from. I just celebrated my eighth Duraniversary on Valentine’s Day. Obviously, I didn’t name Khanada for quite a long time.

I’ve been regularly journalling since 8 September 1989, the first day of fourth grade. I’m upset I fell off the wagon so badly thanks to putting Sergey and his 1,001 issues first, and being unable to regain my normal momentum for a long time, but all I can do now is move forward into the future.


I’ve been working very prolifically and steadily on my WIP, my fourth Russian historical, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. I’m hopeful I’ll finally be finished by the end of the year, since there are less than 20 planned chapters left.

I need to start writing my A to Z posts for both my blogs. Once again, the theme on my secondary blog will be less intense and involved. Some of the posts on my main blog will be taken from salvaged pages from my old Angelfire site, with necessary edits and expansions.

On Monday, I’ll be discussing the third book to recently come under fire from a Woko Haram struggle session pre-publication. This time, there’s a delicious Schadenfreude twist. I’m told a fourth book may fall victim soon too.

Do you journal? Have you ever fallen away from anything writing-related and had a hard time making your way back?

Happy 50th birthday, Instant Replay!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 15 February 1969, Instant Replay was The Monkees’ first post-Peter album, and came six months after their show was cancelled. Though there was plenty of new material to mine from, some of the songs came from sessions up to two and a half years earlier. Their new music coordinator and former road manager Brendan Cahill thought releasing these songs from the vault would be a surefire way to regain popularity.

It didn’t exactly pay off, though the album was far from a critical bomb. It was #32 in the U.S., #26 in Japan, and #45 in Canada. The two singles fared slightly less well. “Tear Drop City” was #56 in the U.S., #34 in Australia, and #47 in the U.K., while future bonus track “Someday Man” was #81 in the U.S. and #44 in the U.K.

Peter, who’d left the band on 20 December 1968 after buying out the last four years of his contract at $150,000 each ($1,020,000 today), has a token appearance on “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her.” He played guitar.

“You and I” features Neil Young as a guest guitarist.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Through the Looking Glass” (Micky) (written by Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, and Red Baldwin)
“Don’t Listen to Linda” (Davy) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“I Won’t Be the Same Without Her” (Nez) (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King)
“Just a Game” (written and sung by Micky)
“Me Without You” (Davy) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“Don’t Wait for Me” (written and sung by Nez)
“You and I” (Davy) (written by Bill Chadwick and Davy)
“While I Cry” (written and sung by Nez)
“Tear Drop City” (Micky) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” (Davy) (written by Carole Bayer Sager and Neil Sedaka)
“A Man Without a Dream” (Davy) (written by Goffin and King)
“Shorty Blackwell” (written and sung by Micky, with the distinction of being The Monkees’ longest song)
“Someday Man” (Davy) (written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams)*
“Carlisle Wheeling” (written and sung by Nez)*
“Rosemarie” (written and sung by Micky)*
“Smile” (written and sung by Davy)*
“St. Matthew” (written and sung by Nez)*
“Me Without You” (alternate mix)*
“Through the Looking Glass” (early mix)*

In 2011, Rhino issued a 3-disc deluxe edition with 89 tracks, with stereo and mono versions, remixes, alternate takes, backing tracks, and unreleased goodies. The vinyl version features two additional discs, containing one song each.

My favourite tracks are “Through the Looking Glass,” “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her,” “You and I,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” “Shorty Blackwell,” and “Someday Man.” While I personally prefer The Monkees Present of their 1969 albums, Instant Replay is also very high-quality, and shows they were so much more than teenypop.

WeWriWa—Fancy skates


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when one of Sonyechka’s helpers, Poliksena, asked if her family are the Konevs from Minnesota. Sonyechka’s sister Irina nodded and asked if their families are acquainted, and Poliksena only said that’s a very long story.

“I like your skates, Sonya,” Adrian says as Poliksena skates off. “Your sister’s skates are nifty too. I thought only Polya dyed her skates fancy colors.”

“I love making my own fashions,” Irina says. “Who wants to have plain white skates like everyone else when we can have eye-catching colors like turquoise and royal blue? I’d rather be one in a million than one of a million.”

“That’s what my parents say too. It’s nice to blend into the crowd and be just like everyone else, but human beings aren’t supposed to be like coins who come out of the mold identical. I hope your hand heals quickly, Sonya.”

The literary Stasi pounces again

Warning: Any nasty comments will be deleted and the commenters blacklisted. This ain’t one of your echo chambers and safe spaces on Tumblr. History, like science, only cares about facts, not your feelings and sense of validation.

Dr. James Miranda Steuart Barry, née Margaret Ann Bulkley
ca. 1789–25 July 1865

Another week, another book for the Woke Stasi to burn pre-publication. This time, they’ve set their teeth and claws upon E.J. Levy’s The Cape Doctor, which just sold to Little Brown. This is Ms. Levy’s first novel, coming after the 2012 story collection Love, In Theory. Her new novel is about a pioneering doctor who spent the last 56 years of her life posing as a man.

These zealots once again are behaving like babies throwing a tantrum. Ms. Levy’s crime? Correctly sexing Dr. Barry as a woman and using feminine pronouns. These bullies are screaming “He! He! He! He! He! He! He! Him! Him! His! How dare you misgender him! He was a man! Man! Man! Man! Transphobe! Bigot! I don’t feel safe! You’re committing literal violence! I’m complaining to Little Brown, and I hope they drop your so-called book!”

“TERF” is misogynistic hate speech, the latest version of “Burn the witch!”

Dr. Barry was raped as a teenager and bore a child. She declared she’d be a soldier if she were a boy, but was trained as a governess.

Instead, several of her brother James’s progressive, influential friends came up with a plan for her to attend the University of Edinburgh’s med school. In late 1809, she reinvented herself as James Barry, and never lived as Margaret Bulkley again.

She didn’t make a very convincing man, leading many to believe she was prepubescent. The University Senate tried to block her applications for final exams, but powerful friends intervened, and she got her MD in 1812.

Dr. Barry joined the army as a surgeon, and rose to become Inspector General (like a Brigadier General). In 1816, she was posted to Cape Town, South Africa, where she significantly improved quality of life and performed one of the first C-sections where both mother and child survived.

Dr. Barry later worked in Mauritius, Jamaica, St. Helena, the West Indies, Malta, Corfu, the Crimea, and Canada, before retiring to London. Her true sex was only discovered after death. The army sealed all records of her for 100 years.

Many women in history posed as men to do things they were legally, socially, culturally barred from. The only way women could become doctors, serve in the military, travel freely, live independently, attend most universities, etc., was to reinvent themselves as men. They were not transsexuals!

The TRAs piling on Ms. Levy harp on about how Dr. Barry could’ve “easily” been one of the women fighting to become doctors and receive higher education in that era, or go to one of the rare countries where women were allowed to practise medicine, instead of posing as a man. This shows such historical ignorance.

There were NO women’s med schools till 1848, and precious few women legitimately trained as doctors. Those rare few faced lots of discrimination. Also, how would Dr. Barry have financed this trip abroad, where would she have lived, how would she have found employment? Who chooses lifelong exile?

These people have no grasp of just how few rights women had prior to the modern era, and how women who went against the grain were treated. Women who read novels could be arrested if their fathers ordered it! There weren’t even any public ladies’ bathrooms till the late 19th century, and there was enormous opposition, since they enabled women to have lives outside hearth and home.

So of course Dr. Barry kept up the charade the rest of her life. Who invests 50+ years into a deception, only to turn around and unravel everything at the end? Women weren’t allowed to own property, so her will would’ve been null and void if authorities knew her true sex. Anyone with knowledge of her deception would’ve been arrested.

So how dare Woko Haram turn around and accuse Ms. Levy of being the one erasing Dr. Barry’s identity and disrespecting the dead! They’re the ones insisting this incredible woman was really a man!

We can’t apply modern concepts to historical people and situations. Dr. Barry lived as a man to be a doctor, not because she felt “trapped in the wrong body” or believed herself to be a transman.

I’m looking forward to reading The Cape Doctor, and hope Ms. Levy doesn’t roll over and cancel publication like Amélie Wen Zhao did with Blood Heir.

UPDATE: Sadly, they caved to the irrational lynch mob.

WeWriWa—A strongly left-handed family


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka came back to the rink after her sister Irina and cousin Platosha gave her first aid. Sonyechka’s helpers, Adrian and Poliksena, have waited to see if she’s alright, and Irina said the hand that was injured isn’t her dominant hand.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines.

Adrian smiles at her. “I’m left-handed too.”

“All three of our brothers are southpaws, and so are both our parents and youngest sister, though our mother’s a switched righty. One of our older sisters taught herself how to write left-handed, to impress our father. Her husband’s also a southpaw. So far, we have four southpaw nieces and nephews.”

“Do your teachers bully you?” Sonyechka asks. “The teachers at the stupid school I’m leaving were so mean about it, and one of them broke my baby sister’s arm to try to switch her.”

Poliksena looks at them more closely. “Are you by any chance the Konevs from Minnesota?”