Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Kit’s avant-garde turkey


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

In first period art class, new immigrant Sparky (real name Katherine, born Katharina) is very confused to encounter the concept of Thanksgiving. Her best friend Cinnimin, whom she lives with, gives a basic explanation. True to form, their rebellious friend Kit decides to make a very non-traditional turkey.

At the next table over, Kit was defiantly using her watercolors to paint the white construction paper purple, green, bright pink, turquoise, teal, and blue.  She completely ignored the brown and black paper, and assembled her turkey only from pieces of the orange, yellow, red, and painted papers.

“That doesn’t look like a real turkey,” Adeline whispered. “Your folks won’t be very happy to see that.”

“My daddy will love it.  He loves everything I do.” Kit dipped a wooden stick into the bowl of homemade adhesive and applied it to the bottom of her feathers. “Abstract art is neater than boring paintings of angels, flowers, and lakes.”

Posted in Books, Historical fiction

Top Ten Favourite Graphic Novels

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish. A full list of instructions and future themes can be found here. This week’s topic is Top Ten Favourite Graphic Novels/Comics. I haven’t participated in this for a really long time!

In no special order:

1 and 2. The two Persepolis books, by Marjane Satrapi. The Story of a Childhood is set from 1980–84, and The Story of a Return is set from 1984–94. The first book is about life in Iran after Khomeini’s takeover and during the disastrous Iran–Iraq War, and the second book covers Marji’s four years at a French-language school in Vienna and her return to Tehran. I chose the first one as my graphic novel for my YA Lit class because of my warm memories of my family’s Iranian friends when I was growing up, and couldn’t not read the sequel. So many people don’t realise Iran was a very modern, secular, Westernised country until 1979.

3. Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol. I chose this as my paranormal book for my YA Lit class. I never got into the whole paranormal trend, and really liked that the book has more of a paranormal element. I also adore a good ghost story, and the fact that Anya is a Russian immigrant. It’s a lot easier for me to relate to a contemporary character when she’s more like I was as a teen, instead of a popular kid with lots of friends and a dating life.

4. Skim, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (who are cousins). I chose this as my gay and lesbian book for my YA Lit class. This is also what would be called contemporary historical fiction, being set in the Nineties. Having been a teen in that decade, I understood so many of the references and the whole experience of having been an adolescent in those years. This isn’t an overt story of lesbian love, but rather a girl who has a crush on one of her teachers and is exploring her potential orientation.

5. Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, by Brian Fies. This is the story of a father and son who go to the World’s Fair in 1939 and go through the ensuing decades, with all their changes. They’re in a timewarp, and so don’t age till near the end. I loved all the depictions of bygone technology, events, and innovations.

6. The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. I love how this story of an immigrant to the U.S. is told without any words. If a story is well-told, no words are needed to understand. It’s kind of like F.W. Murnau’s film The Last Laugh (1924), which is bookended by intertitles but told only through pantomime acting.

7. Mendel’s Daughter, by Martin Lemelman. I found this on one of my rabbi and rebbetzin’s downstairs bookshelves one long Shabbos afternoon, and was very impressed by it. It’s the story of the author’s mother, Gusta, and her childhood in 1930s and 1940s Poland. Her family lived in a part of Poland which is now Ukraine, and thus was occupied by the Soviets before the Nazis came. Gusta and her surviving siblings hid in bunkers in the woods for two years.

8 and 9. Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang. This tells the story of both sides of the Boxer Rebellion and the years leading up to it. In the end of each book, the protagonists meet. I most enjoyed Boxers, and really understood where the Chinese were coming from. The companion, Saints, was a bit less interesting, with a less engaging protagonist. Her reasons for converting to Christianity were really shallow and insincere, and she didn’t grow much over the course of the story. Overall, I’d love to see more Chinese historicals, beyond certain overrated best-sellers of recent years.

10. A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return, by Zeina Abirached. This tells the story of a day and a night during Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s, when Beirut was divided into Muslim and Christian zones. Zeina and her little brother aren’t allowed to venture outside, so their apartment has become their entire universe. During this night and day, their parents are trapped on the other side of the city.

Posted in 1940s, Birthdays, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, Igor Konev the younger, Violetta, Writing

WeWriWa—Special birthday present


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 immediately follows last week’s, when Igor and the guests at his 19th birthday party enjoyed a lavish feast.


After the table is cleared, Igor and his guests go into the living room to play board games.  Though most of the guests sit on the floor, Violetta has a seat on the davenport, with Luiza and Zoya.  There’s no way anyone could see up such a long skirt anyway, but perhaps this is yet another modesty rule Igor doesn’t know about.  For the sake of appearances, Igor doesn’t invite Violetta to be on any of his teams, and instead lets her play with the other co-eds.  Towards the end of the evening, when it comes time to open presents, Igor likewise saves Violetta’s present towards last.

He breaks into a big smile when he finds a gold-framed miniature of Vasiliy Kondratyevich Sazonov’s famous oil painting The First Meeting of Prince Igor with Olga.  It might be a painting she chose just because it features the original bearer of his name, but perhaps she’s also trying to send him some sort of secret romantic message.  Whyever she chose it, this painting will sure be going on his wall tonight, in a special place of honor right above his bed.


Prince Igor and Princess (later Regent) Olga were the first rulers of the Ryurikovich Dynasty after only Prince Ryurik himself, and Olga was the first of six women to rule Russia to date. Many people only count the four ruling empresses of the Romanov Dynasty, though I also count Regents Olga and Sofya. A Regent is still a ruler, even if she isn’t formally crowned.

Posted in Fourth Russian novel, Word Count, Writing

My second official NaNo experience


I won my second official NaNo with 71,040 words, but I honestly feel as though that weren’t my best effort. Last year I did 74,971 words while dealing with a bad cold which turned into a violent, lingering cough that lasted over two weeks (and continued on and off until about April). This year I didn’t have that to deal with, and yet I still couldn’t equal or top last year’s word count. Even taking into account how I always lose almost all of Saturday and much of Friday, that doesn’t represent what I know I can do under normal circumstances.

I had a respectably strong start, writing 5,073 words the first day, hitting the 10,000-word mark on Day Three, and hitting 15,000 during Day Five.

NaNo Day 10 2015

The 20,000-word mark came during Day Eight, and 25,000 came during Day Ten. With that kind of momentum, I should’ve won a few days sooner than I did, and had at least 75K by the end.

NaNo Day 15 2015

Most days I was at least on par, though there were some days, most notably Fridays and Saturdays, where I was below even 1,000 words. Other days I didn’t write the at least 2,000 words I know I’m capable of. I also lost just about all of the 21st, a Saturday as well as the second day of a Cecil B. DeMille film festival.

On Friday, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church was kind enough to lend their beautiful sanctuary for a screening of the original Ten Commandments (1923), which was accompanied by two live organists. On Saturday, The Madison Theater screened Chicago (1927), Madame Satan (1930), and The Golden Bed (1925). The lattermost film (lost for over 40 years) had its world première, not counting a previous screening at the George Eastman House.

NaNo Day 22 2015

I knew I had to make up for losing the vast majority of Friday and Saturday, and so put in way more effort than usual that Sunday. After learning Cecil B. DeMille had a foot fetish (which explains why his films have so many foot shots), I made Igor’s first sight of Violetta her feet, from the other side of her library carrel. They met a few times as children, but this is their first real, adult meeting.

Since Violetta is (unbeknownst to Igor, but known to the reader from the third book) a polio survivor, it also makes sense she’d gussy up her feet in such beautiful shoes, stockings, nailpolish, anklets, and ankle watches. She’s lucky she can walk, after being almost completely paralyzed and spending a lot of time in an iron lung.

NaNo Day 25 2015

Just as last year, I got my win on 23 November. I’d forgotten that day was Harpo Marx’s birthday (1888), and the birthday of my dear little Amalia (Malchen) von Hinderburg (1932). Maybe that’s why I’ve struck 50K on that day twice now. Our soul sometimes chooses days for us, just like I decided to get born on the fifth night of Chanukah instead of on my original estimated due date two weeks earlier.

I ran myself ragged trying to get my word count up as high as possible on the final day. I even added in my table of contents and the cast of characters to bump it up a bit. That was not cheating, since I did tinker with the TOC during November, and I edited the character list as well. To be fair, I only included as far as characters introduced thus far, not the entire master list.

NaNo Last Day 2015

I seriously was just writing rambling nonsense by the final paragraph, wanting so desperately to get that word count up as high as possible, reach 71K since I was that damn close, and be #2 in my region’s Faces of NaNo graph. Someone made a pretty painful, obvious typo at the end, so I was bumped down to #3. Given her previous word counts, I’m pretty sure she meant 70,153 instead of 700,153!

As soon as midnight struck, I cleaned up what I’d written in the ending minutes. I also planned to delete a scene where Mr. Golitsyn (Ivan’s uncle by marriage and a former prince) goes to visit the parents of his daughter Vasilisa’s new beau Dragomir.  Now I’m not sure I still have the heart to expunge it. It’s not all backstory, and I love the idea of having a scene at The Dakota. It also hints at a subplot which really surprised me.

I quickly got annoyed by having to manually total my word counts, so I pasted all the chapters into a master file, and created separate chapter files. Now I can go back to only writing in chapter files instead of going back and forth.


Violetta’s present to Igor on his 19th birthday, Vasiliy Kondratyevich Sazonov’s First Meeting of Prince Igor with Olga. They were the first rulers of the Ryurikovich Dynasty after only Prince Ryurik himself, and Olga was the first of six women to rule Russia to date.

Violetta and Igor don’t meet till almost 50K in, which is where all the tension and drama starts collecting. I like to think of the first 100 pages or so of a saga as buildup towards the first inciting event, just as songs like “New Religion” and “Eminence Front” start with over a minute of just instruments. It builds your anticipation and hooks you. My conservative guesstimate for this book is 350K, so that first 71K is just a drop in the bucket.

Posted in Atlantic City books, Writing

IWSG August—Revisited priorities

I finally made myself a Facebook author page!


It’s time again for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

I started off the year wanting to release three books this year, but decided it might not be such a good idea to release And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth and The Twelfth Time on account of their respective first volumes not having sold many copies. There’s no point in releasing a sequel when not many people have read the first book.

I still want to release the book formerly known as The Very First, but I’m no longer so on board with the 23 August release date I’d planned. Regular readers might know 23 August is my character Cinnimin’s birthday (born 1930), and that that date is also Rudy Valentino’s Jahrzeit (death anniversary) and Keith Moon’s birthday. Now I’m thinking I might push it off till October or November. I’d love a Halloween release, or on 25 November, the anniversary of my having created my original Atlantic City characters back in ’91.


My characters of the prequel books, drawn in February 1994, when I was suffering with chickenpox. Minor disease, my gimpy right foot! I still have scab-like scars under my hair, a forever reminder of how dangerously close they got to my brain.

My original summer goal was to finish my radical rewrites and restructurings of the four books in my Atlantic City prequel series, and I was about halfway done with the third book. They’re super-short by my standards, and I was on such a roll with turning them from novella-length messes into actual novel-length stories. But I knew I had to turn my attentions back to my alternative history to get it ready for the 12 August 2016 release. That date is not changing, since it would’ve been my protagonist’s 112th birthday.

This book needs my continued full attention, not taking a break to finish the last-minute addition of a War of the Worlds chapter, one more sweep-through, then back onto my old computer to format it in Word and then convert it to HTML, plus getting back in touch with the cover artist and doing marketing efforts, and finally spot-checking it through the Kindle Preview to catch any errant typos or formatting errors.


My skill at drawing human figures has considerably improved since I was 14!

I also need to take some time to republish You Cannot Kill a Swan, stripped of all those redundant accent marks, as I spoke about. This isn’t as simple as find and replace, as when I changed all those decidedly non-Russian names back in 2011. I’ll have this same issue with stripping The Twelfth Time of all its redundant accents, since there are some words which do need accents. I’ve prepared a list of words which I know will need to be promptly changed back, like café, fiancé/e, and émigré/e. There are also some French lines in The Twelfth Time (nothing too fancy or tricky, just when the adults don’t want the children to understand), and French is a language which does need accent marks.


Can anyone help me out by suggesting any other common French loan words (or other words/names) with an accent aigu I forgot?


What do you think of this as the back cover picture for my alternative history? Like with the front cover image, it was really important to find not only an image most people haven’t already seen thousands of times, but also with enough room for text, and dimensions adapting easily to a book cover.

I’ll still be rewarding myself with my fourth lobe piercings at the end of the summer for all my writing progress. I’m really looking forward to having quadruple-pierced ears! My piercer found a perfect spot on my left ear for a fourth lobe piercing, and there’s hopefully just enough room on my smaller right ear for a fourth lobe piercing. If not, I’ll get a helix or conch piercing on the little ear.