IWSG—Powering towards the finish line


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets the first Wednesday of each month. Participants share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

Sometimes titles come easily to me, in bursts of Divine inspiration or hitting upon a great idea drawn from literature, song lyrics, or symbolism/themes from the book. Other times, it’s a little harder. I’ve had a Devil of a time retitling my Atlantic City books, both already written and planned! So many of the original working titles are so corny, cliché, generic, insipid, after school special-worthy.

As a name nerd, it’s very easy to find names. I like choosing names (both surnames and forenames) either with symbolic meaning to the characters, or that aren’t overly common. My secondary blog is all about names.


I’ve been powering through to the finish line of my alternative history, which I’m very nervous but confident of having ready by my planned 17 July release date. I’d originally hoped to have it ready for a 12 August 2016 release, what would’ve been my primary protagonist’s 112th birthday, but I was pulled away from it and towards other things.

Now I realize it was hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) I wasn’t finished at that time. What could be a more appropriately bittersweet release date than his real-life 100th Jahrzeit (death anniversary)?

My JuNoWriMo wordcounts so far are much healthier than last year. I always count fiction, blog posts, and journal entries. This was my progress as of midnight on 6 June:

While powering through Part IV, I decided to have Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria come for two secret meetings in 1943 and ultimately defect to the Allied side. Bulgaria switched sides in 1944, but in real life, Boris died in August 1943. I support the theory he was killed with a slow-working poison, due to the circumstances raging at that time. Hitler was furious at him for repeatedly refusing to declare war on the USSR and deport Bulgarian Jewry.

The only reasons Boris joined the Axis were to regain lost Bulgarian land (and with it national pride), and to save his kingdom from foreign invasion and occupation. He was no fascist or anti-Semite. Since he’s one of my heroes, I saved him and gave him premonitions about being poisoned. He refuses to eat or drink anything at that final stormy meeting with Hitler.

I’ve joined a new writing group in the area I’ve been stuck in since last June. I really like it, though I very much miss the people and camaraderie of my writing group back home in NY. I also feel vindicated at how everyone in the critique groups I’ve been in so far loves my Cinnimin.

Out of everyone who’s “met” her over the years, only two people have ever said they didn’t like her and misread her as a mean-spirited bully. I know we can’t expect every single person to love each one of our characters, but it can shake one’s confidence. For awhile, I seriously considered toning/watering her down even further, but realized she wouldn’t be my Cinni anymore if I took away her sassy, smart-ass attitude.


For the second time this year, I had an issue with my computer charger. The charger I got with this refurbished computer in August 2014 became frayed in several spots, and finally stopped working in January. Against my own better judgment, I got a cheap third-party replacement instead of the $79 Apple one.

That charger began erratically working in late May, and finally stopped charging altogether. I also got a Service Battery message. Thankfully, my 11-year-old MacBook Pro still works very well, other than the broken left vent fan. Every time I have tech issues, I go back to my older computer.

I got a replacement charger, and didn’t need to get a new battery as well. I’ve heard far more horrific tales about these third-party chargers, like fires and zapped hard drives. Lesson learnt.


Meet some of the people in my alternative history, Part II

These are a few more of the real people who feature in my alternative history, whom I haven’t already discussed. Writing about real people as characters can feel awkward and self-conscious at first, but it gets easier if one thinks of them as characters who just happen to have been real people. They’re not sacred cows.

King Carol II of Romania (15 October 1893–4 April 1953), firstborn child of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie (one of my favouritest queens), ruled Romania from 8 June 1930–6 September 1940. Prior to that, he’d renounced his rights to the throne over his affair with commoner Magda Lupescu, who became his third wife.

Marie and Ferdinand (who was nearing the end of his life) set up a regency for Carol’s 5-year-old son Mihai. Then Carol decided he’d like to be king after all, and took the throne from his own son. This guy was a complete serpent’s tooth, megalomaniac, egomaniac, scumbag, lousy husband, dictator, fascist enabler, the works.

In my alternative history, Aleksey and his wife, Empress Arkadiya, visit Carol in late summer 1940 to negotiate the release and Russian resettlement of Romania’s half-million-strong Jewish community, along with the Romani and interred Polish nationals. They demand Bessarabia and northern Bukovina back as part of the deal, so they can protect even more of Europe’s Jewish community.

Prince Gorm of Denmark (Gorm Christian Frederik Hans Harald) (24 February 1919–26 December 1991), fourth child and firstborn son of Prince Harald and Princess Helena, paternal grandson of King Frederick VIII and Queen Louise. He was born and raised in the Jægerborghus estate.

In 1938, Gorm entered Naval service, and became an officer in the Royal Life Guard. During the Nazi occupation, in 1943, he was among the sailors who escaped to Sweden with the Danish Brigade. They were part of the Danish Resistance. His mother, meanwhile, frequently hobnobbed with Nazis, and was a source of great shame to everyone else in the Danish Royal Family.

In my alternative history, Gorm marries Aleksey’s oldest niece, Princess Isidora Igorovna, his second-cousin once-removed through Dowager Empress Mariya Fyodorovna’s paternal line. Their oldest son, Oskar, is the fifth generation stricken by hemophilia.

In real life, Gorm never married or had kids.

Princess Ileana of Romania (5 January 1909–21 January 1991), King Carol’s youngest sister. It’s widely suspected her father was Queen Marie’s lover Prince Barbu Ştirbey, not King Ferdinand. Ileana was very popular in Romania, and considered herself Romanian down to the very core of her soul. Prior to Carol forcing her out of the country, she lead Romania’s Girl Guides.

Carol, deeply jealous of her popularity, was desperate to get her out of the country, and encouraged her to marry Archduke Anton of Austria, Prince of Tuscany. He then claimed the people wouldn’t tolerate a Habsburg on their soil. Carol likewise refused to let her return home to give birth to her firstborn Stepan in her native land. (He also forced their brother Nicolae to leave Romania because of his morganatic marriage.)

During WWII, she was very active in nursing war wounded. In 1944, after her nephew King Mihai joined the Allies, she and her family returned to Romania. Following Mihai’s forced abdication at the end of 1947, they fled to the West. In 1961, she became a nun, and was tonsured as Mother Alexandra in 1967.

In my alternative history, Ileana is one of the princesses most strongly preferred for Aleksey, but his heart becomes set on morganatic princess Arkadiya. Ileana later appears at the meeting with Carol, where she chews him out about how he essentially tricked her into leaving the country she loves so dearly. Until the fascists in Romania are overthrown, Aleksey and Arkadiya host Ileana and her children in their palace.

WeWriWa—Saying goodbye


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 23-year-old departing soldier Yuriy suggested to his 18-year-old crush Inga that she might be a real American girl and have a returning soldier for a boyfriend by the time they meet again.

Inga said she only wanted her old family, and Yuriy tried to cheer her up by saying the pain of longing isn’t so bad as more time passes, and that after the war she could create her own family who’ll never leave her. He then holds out his hand for a farewell handshake.

“Can’t I hug you goodbye?  You deserve more than a handshake after you’ve been so nice to me.”

Yuriy smiles as he hugs her. “You’re such a sweet girl.  Just make sure not to be too sweet with the wrong kinds of people.  You have to be strong to survive in a new country.”

Inga stands at the door and watches him walking up the street, until she can’t see him anymore.  She was given a very nice friend, what some would call a guardian angel, bearing the same name as her belovèd dedushka, to get her started in America.  But he could only do so much, just as eventually a mother bird pushes a baby from the nest so it can fly.  Now it’s up to her to make good in America.

WeWriWa—Ice-cream parlor


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 few lines after last week’s, when 23-year-old Yuriy tended to his 18-year-old crush Inga’s injured knee one final time. They’re now on their way to get ice-cream before he has to get a train back to Canada.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Yuriy turns into the first ice-cream parlor that appears and finds a green corner booth that almost matches his uniform. He translates the menu for Inga, and she orders a sundae with chocolate ice-cream, hot fudge, cherries, and crushed candy bars, with an orange egg cream, while Yuriy orders a humbler strawberry ice-cream float.

“I’d ask you to kill some Nazis or Japs for me, but I can see you’re a medic,” the soda jerk says when she brings over the food. “Good luck with saving as many guys as you can.”

Inga lingers over her sundae and egg cream, not sure when she’ll next be able to splurge on a little luxury like this. Once they’re done, Yuriy leaves the money on the table and walks Inga home.

“You’ll be fine,” he reassures her. “You’ve got a new family who’s eager to take care of you, and some new friends. The language comes quicker than you think, if you’re constantly immersed in it. I bet you’ll be a real American girl by the time I come to visit again, and you might have a returning soldier for a boyfriend.”

WeWriWa—One final knee inspection

Happy heavenly 123rd birthday to my favorite actor, Rudolph Valentino!


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 right after last week’s, when 23-year-old Canadian Army medic Yuriy gave his 18-year-old crush Inga an elephant charm and invited her to get ice-cream before he has to go to the depot at the end of furlough.

Yuriy also said he’d like to inspect her injured knee one last time.

“Sure, I’ll get ice-cream with you, but you’ll have to look at my knee downstairs.  My father left instructions about how to navigate the subway, so I won’t get lost.”

“I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not a big deal to look at your knee here.  No one’s looking in the window, and there’s nothing scandalous about sitting on a bed alone, if that’s all you do.  I’m nothing like my blood father.  I hope he dies in Siberia, if he’s not dead already.”

Inga sits down and looks away as she pulls her skirt over her knee.  Yuriy unwraps yesterday’s gauze, cleans out the healing wound, dusts it with a thin layer of ointment, and wraps it back up with fresh gauze.  As soon as he’s done, he stands back up, wishing Inga weren’t almost five and a half years his junior.  Were she only a few years older, he could ask for more, and keep that nice memory with him when he’s far from home.