A primer on Hawaiian names

Hawaiian belongs to the Austronesian language family, on the Marquesic sub-branch of the Central Eastern Polynesian group. Along with English, it’s the official language of the 50th and final state to join the U.S.

Like many other native languages which fell under the heel of colonial or more dominant powers, Hawaiian too suffered devastating blows, and came very close to extinction. It was banned in 1896, and children who dared to speak Hawaiian at school were horribly punished.

Thankfully, Hawaiian has begun to recover, thanks to language immersion preschools, radio stations, TV, newspapers, and other initiatives. In 1900, there were 27,000 native speakers, and this number had dwindled to but 1,000 by 1997, representing under 0.1%. In 2011, it had risen to 24,000. Residents of westernmost island Ni’ihau speak Hawaiian almost exclusively.

The four youngest sisters in my Laurel family, along with their husbands and children, move from Atlantic City to Hawaii in 1986. Their destination is a huge surprise planned by Tikva’s husband Giorgio, a future pediatrician specializing in premature infants and children. It’s exactly what they need to start over after a lot of depressing, traumatic events. In Honolulu, they begin their own fashion design company, Four Laurels.

Alphabet:

The alphabet developed by American Protestant missionary Elisha Loomis in 1822 had five vowels, twelve consonants, and seven diphthongs. F, G, S, Y, and Z were used for foreign words and names.

In 1826, the alphabet assumed its modern form of five vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and eight consonants (H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and ‘okina). The lattermost is a unicameral consonant (without upper or lowercase forms) marking a phonetic glottal stop. Originally, the alphabet had contained B, R, D, T, and V, but they were dropped due to representing functionally redundant, interchangeable sounds.

Traditional naming customs:

Hawaiians took great care to choose a unique name for each child, with great thought as to the meaning. Some names came from dreams or visions, while others related to something that happened at the time of the birth. Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, was called Lili’u (scorch) Kamaka’eha (the sore eye) when she was growing up, due to her great-aunt Kīnaʻu’s eye ache.

Names had to match social class and family deities. The kauwā (slave) caste had to take simple names after natural objects, while chieftains got to have names starting with Keliʻi (the chief) or ending in -lani (sky).

Many people had several names, both formal and informal, and could change their names to something with a grotesque meaning to try to ward off evil spirits. Visiting Americans were scandalized to learn of names such as Kūkae (excrement), Kapela (the filth), Kama’i (the genitals, the illness), and Pupuka (ugly).

Surnames:

Hawaiians didn’t have surnames until Western missionaries arrived. Christian converts sometimes used their Hawaiian names as surnames, with the new baptismal names taking the place of their old forenames.

In 1860, people were ordered to use their father’s name as a surname. All children born henceforth had to have English names. Any Hawaiian names had to be in the middle. In 1967, this legislation was repealed, though by that point, the Hawaiian language was in a serious state of endangerment.

Sample names:

Unisex:

‘Aka’aka (To laugh)
Akela (Adele for girls; Asher for boys)
Alealani (The sweet voice of the heavens)
Anuenue (Rainbow)

Ha’aheo (Cherished with pride)
Hanalei (Crescent bay; also a Hawaiian form of Henry)
Hau’oli (Happiness)
Hekili (Thunderl also a Hawaiian form of Herman)
Hiapo (Firstborn)
Hi’ilani (Held in the arms of heaven)
Hilina’i (Trust)
Hokule’a (Star of gladness; the Hawaiian name for Arcturus, the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, and Hawaii’s zenith star)
Hokuokalani (Star of the heavens)
Ho’onani (Adornment)
Hualani (Heavenly fruit)

Ka’aukai (The seafarer)
Ka’ehu (The sea spray; the reddish hair)
Ka’ena (The heat)
Kahananui (The great work; the hard job)
Kahekili (The thunder)
Kahele (The walk; the moving)
Kahoku (The star)
Kahue (The gourd)
Kahula (The dance)
Kai (Sea)
Kaimana (Ocean power; diamond)
Kainoa (Sea of freedom)
Kaipo (The sweetheart)
Kaiwi (The bone; a symbol of old age and life)
Kalani (The heavens)
Kalua (The second child; the companion)
Kamalani (Heavenly child)
Kapua (The flower; the child)
Kaui (The youthful one)
Kaulana (Famous)
Kawehi (The adornment)
Keahi (The fire)
Keaka (The shodow; the essence)
Keala (The path)
Kealoha (The loved one)
Keanu (The cool breeze)
Keone (The homeland)
Konani (Bright)

La’akea (Clear sacredness)
Lanakila (Victory; triumph)
Laniakea (Immeasurable heaven)
Lehua (Ohia flower)
Lei (Flowers; lei; child)
Leilani (Heavenly flowers; royal child)

Makana (Gift)
Mana (Spirit)
Maui (A mythological trickster who created the Hawaiian islands by making his brothers fish them from the sea)
Moana (Deep sea, ocea, wide expanse of water)
Nahele (Forest)
Nai’a (Dolphin)
Nalani (The heavens; the chiefs)

Female:

Apikalia (Abigail)
Elikapeka (Elizabeth)
Haukea (White snow)
Haunani (Beautiful snow)
Hokulani (Heavenly star)
Iolana (To soar)

Kakalina (Katherine)
Kala (Sarah)
Kalea (Joy, happiness)
Kalena (Karen)
Kanani (The beauty)
Kehaulani (Heavenly dew)
Kekepania (Stephanie)
Kiana (Diana)
Kilikina (Christina)
Ku’ulei (My lei)
Ku’ulpo (My sweetheart)

Lani (Sky, heaven, royal, majesty)
Leialoha (Lei of love)
Leimoni (Pearl lei, pearl child)
Leinani (Beautiful lei)

Maile (A native vine used to make leis)
Malia (Maria)
Malie (Calm)
Mele (Song; also used as a Hawaiian form of Mary)
Melika (Melissa)
Momi (Pearl)

Nani (Beauty, glory)
Noelani (Heavenly mist)
Pelika (Covenant; bond)
Pua (Flower; offspring)
Pualani (Heavenly flower; royal offspring)
Puanani (Beautiful flower; beautiful offspring)

U’ilani (Heavenly beauty; royal beauty)
Ululani (Heavenly inspiration)
Wailani (Heavenly water)
Waiola (Water of life; also a Hawaiian form of Viola)
Walonika (Veronica)
Wikolia (Victoria)

Male:

Akamu (Adam)
Anakoni (Akoni) (Anthony)
Ekewaka (Edward)
Iakopa (Jakob)
Ikaia (Isaiah)
Ikaika (Strong)
Iokua (Joshua)

Kale (Charles)
Kaleo (The sound; the voice)
Kapena (Captain)
Kapono (The good one)
Kekoa (The warrior)
Keoni (John)
Kimo (James)
Koa (Warrior; koa tree)

Makaio (Matthew)
Maleko (Mark)
Mikala (Michael)
Peni (Benjamin)
Pika (Peter)

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Happy Purim!

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Since Purim begins this Saturday night, I thought I’d feature a Purim-themed excerpt. Chapter 3, “Happy Purim,” of the book formerly known as The Very Next, takes place on 4 March 1939 (also a Saturday). It’s interspersed with public domain photos of illuminated Megillot (scrolls of the Book of Esther) and a few vintage photographs. Sadly, it’s very hard to find vintage greeting cards for any Jewish holiday except Rosh Hashanah.

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That evening, Sparky reached into Cinni’s closet for her Purim costume, a Gypsy outfit she’d put together with Cinni’s help.  The dress was peacock-green, with long, flowing sleeves, a floor-length skirt, and a modest neckline.  To transform it from just an ordinary but fancy dress into a real costume, Sparky wrapped herself in a deep blue silk scarf, wrapped her hair in a dark orange velvet scarf, and exchanged her French hook ruby earrings for huge gold hoops she’d picked up at an indoor flea market last month.

“Now why are you perfectly okay with wearing a costume for this holiday, but you felt wrong for wearing a Halloween costume?” Cinni asked. “It’s exactly the same, just for a different holiday.”

“They’re completely different holidays,” Sparky said. “Purim is a Jewish holiday, and Halloween is a pagan holiday.  They’re celebrated for totally different reasons, and have completely different origins.  There are no Purim costumes with stuff like pumpkins, bats, spiders, and witches.  Even the treats we give out are different.”

“So you’re going trick-or-treating after you do your thing at synagogue?”

“We don’t trick-or-treat.  We exchange gift baskets with stuff like money and hamentaschen.  None of the gift baskets have stuff like chocolate bars, caramels, and whatever else you got on Halloween.”

“You get treats for doing nothing?”

“It ain’t nothing.  You wouldn’t get treats unless you were a member of the synagogue, or we knew you.  It ain’t a mitzvah to give Gentiles mishloach manot, but we’ll give you one ‘cause we love you so much.”

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Sparky finished changing into her costume and headed downstairs to join her family.  Cinni sat at the top of the stairs and watched them heading off to synagogue.  Mr. and Mrs. Small were dressed rather boringly, as an Army officer and flapper.  Cinni wondered where Mr. Small had found the vintage military uniform with all the medals and insignia.  He’d been too young to serve in the Great War, and since it was an American uniform, it obviously hadn’t belonged to any of his ancestors or older relatives.  Gary, just turned fifteen, was dressed just as boringly, as a sailor.

Of all their costumes, Cinni liked best Sparky’s Gypsy costume and Barry’s toreador costume.  It reminded her of Rudolph Valentino’s suit of lights in Blood and Sand, in one of the vintage movie advertisements of her namesake which she’d collected over the years.  If Barry were this beautiful from a distance, she could only imagine how much more dashing he’d look when he came back later tonight and she’d be able to see him up-close and from the front.

***

Cinni spent the next few hours listening to the radio and reading movie magazines, ignoring her small pile of homework.  She almost always saved homework for the very last moment, as many times as her mother begged her to do it immediately instead of the night or morning before.  Only the Nobodies liked homework and did it right away.

Cinni didn’t have particularly hard homework, nothing more than a few worksheets with math problems or vocabulary lists in English, French, Italian, and Portuguese.  This was nothing that needed lots of time to complete, like a twenty-page research paper or complicated trigonometry problems.  Life should be about having fun, particularly now that the wolf had been chased away from the door.  She’d had enough hard times in the first few years of the decade, hardships enough to last for the rest of her life.

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Near the time the Smalls were expected to come home, Cinni left her amusements and went downstairs to wait on the davenport.  Lucinda was on one of the other cushions, bent over the spring dresses she’d begun making for her nieces and daughter several weeks ago.  Every year, Lucinda made the girls special spring dresses from repurposed materials found around the house.  Last year, they’d been made from quilts, and this year, they were being fashioned from curtains.

The materials in prior years had included pillowcases, lightweight blankets, bedsheets, silk shawls from London, scarves from Los Angeles, pillow shams, satin bonnets from Amsterdam, and cloth shower curtains.  Before the Stock Market Crash, the family’s spring wardrobe had come from expensive catalogues and upscale department stores.  It amazed Cinni how Lucinda could be frugal and ingenious in this way, but otherwise waste so much money on fancy house embellishments and overpriced clothes for herself.

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“You want a change of scenery from that boring little sewing room?” Cinni asked. “It musta been hard to lug that big old sewing machine here.”

Lucinda sighed. “How can I concentrate in there anymore, now that I have a roommate?  Samantha shows no signs of moving out, though I don’t know how she can bear to sleep on that little cot.  Your father told her she could share the attic with you and Sparky, but she likes my sewing room more.  Maybe she thinks she’s being some holy Christian martyr by depriving herself of a real bed.”

“Martyr, nothing!” Urma shouted from across the room. “My girl ain’t gonna share her sleeping quarters with some Yid!  Bad enough we have to share living quarters with five of ‘em indefinitely.  If she were younger, I’d insist she sleep in the bed Mortez and I got.  But a sewing room cot is still a bed, however pathetic.”

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“I’m going to need my sewing room back eventually.  I can handle a few days of being displaced, but I can’t keep sewing in other rooms, without any privacy.  Perhaps you and your daughter don’t understand that room is my castle, my special place all my own in this house.  I’ve always been happy to live with my dear sister’s family, but it’s nice to have a small room all my own, where I can go to be alone with my thoughts and not be bothered or distracted by anyone or anything else.”

“It’s true,” Cinni says. “Aunt Lucinda is constantly holed up in that precious sewing room of hers.  It’s her special place, and not very nice to intrude upon it.  I hope Sam ain’t gonna steal nothing from it, though it ain’t like Aunt Lucinda generally sews with fancy stuff like golden thread and silk cloth.”

“Stealing is against the Bible!” Urma thundered “My girl would never steal anything!  And why do you have such awful grammar?  I don’t want words like ‘ain’t’ and double negatives to rub off on my girl.  That’s not how proper, civilized people speak.”

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“It’s how my niece talks,” Lucinda said protectively, putting her arm around Cinni. “Most of the people in this neighborhood talk like that, even the rich people.  We live in a very strange neighborhood.  It’s hardly a crime to not speak the King’s English.  Cinni’s not hurting anyone by saying ‘ain’t’ or using double negatives most of the time.  She does use proper English sometimes, so it’s not like she’s ignorant of the existence of more refined grammar.  It’s the same way with how she speaks Russian with her father’s mother, and how my sister and I speak Polish with our parents.  You speak differently depending upon your audience.”

Urma screamed and made a hex sign. “You mean to say I’m not only sharing living space with five Yids, but also with sub-human Slavs?  I had no idea Mortez’s friend had a Pollack wife and was part Russian.”

“Yes, my sister and I are almost entirely of Polish blood, and damn proud of it.  Our maiden name is Radulski, and our birth names are Łucja and Katarzyna.  We’ve been in this country for a very long time, since the early days of Polish immigration.  H.G.’s mother is Russian, and he was born in St. Petersburg.  Since he came to America when he was only twelve, he doesn’t have a Russian accent anymore.”

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Urma was weeping. “I don’t want to live in this house anymore.  This is such a nightmare Mortez sprung on me.  I want to go back to D.C.  My sister Ursula would take us in, even if she’s got seven kids.  There’d only be eleven people in her home, as compared to seventeen here.”

“Well, it’s too late to move now,” Mortez spoke up softly. “I’m already looking for jobs here, and I’ve gotten attached to this city in the last few days.  It’s much less crowded and fast-paced than Washington.  Don’t make me move when I’ve barely started to get settled into a new place.  I’m happy here so far, and I wasn’t very happy in Washington.  This is one issue you can’t push me around regarding.  We’re staying in Atlantic City.”

Urma growled and stalked out of the room.

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“Why do you let your wife railroad over you so much?” Cinni asked after she was positive Urma was well out of earshot. “She’s even worse than the wives in Laurel and Hardy’s movies.  That’s just make-believe, and those wives ain’t really bullies or mean.  Your wife is a whole different type of henpecker.”

“She is who she is.  I can’t change that.  Sometimes we fall in love with a person with a really bad character flaw, and we have to ignore it because we love the person so much otherwise.”

“That’s more than just a character flaw like always being late or being a bad cook.  She’s outright mean, and a religious fanatic.”

“I agree, but I can’t do anything about it.  She wasn’t a fanatic when we were growing up.  That only happened after Samantha was born.  An intolerant fanatic wouldn’t have had a child out of wedlock, let alone gotten in the family way at just fifteen.”

“You can say ‘pregnant’ around me, Mr. Smart.  I ain’t some little glass flower who’s never heard that word before.  No matter what my mom thinks, I don’t consider words like ‘pregnant’ and ‘uterus’ dirty.  There are some words I refuse to say or write, but I don’t mind the milder, more basic words for adult things.”

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Mortez stared at her. “Aren’t you a young spitfire.  You remind me a bit of what Urma was like before that damned Minister Hodges corrupted her mind against reality and normalcy.  By the way, you don’t have to call me Mr. Smart.  My wife and I prefer to be called by our first names, even if it’s not considered proper etiquette.  It just feels so strange to go by titles when we’re not even thirty yet.  My father is Mr. Smart, but I’m just Mortez.”

“So, can I ask where your first name came from?  I’ve never heard that name before.  It sounds a little Spanish, but you can’t be Spanish with a last name like Smart.”

“My parents are of German descent, but not completely knowledgeable about the language.  They wanted to call me Moritz, but misremembered the name.  It was too late by the time they realized they’d made an embarrassing mistake.”

“That’s kinda like my name.  I know my name isn’t spelt properly, but I’m so used to the way my mom spelt it, the so-called real spelling looks odd to me.  The pronunciation is a lot more obvious with my so-called misspelling.  I’m glad my daddy’s mom didn’t get her way and name me Alexa, ‘cause that’d be too confusing in my circle of friends.  We already have an Alexandria Kate, and we couldn’t both have the same nicknames.” Cinni leapt up at the sound of the doorbell.

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To Cinni’s great delight, Barry was the first person behind the door.  He looked just as beautiful in the suit of lights as she suspected he would.  Best of all, he had a big smile for her, and what she almost thought were a special look in his eyes.

“This is yours,” Barry said, extending a large basket. “I’ve never given mishloach manot to Gentiles before, but everyone in your family deserves one for being so good to us.  Without your father, we’d still be in Europe, with God knows what kind of future.”

Cinni returned the smile and eagerly took the basket.  She headed back to the davenport with it, and delightedly discovered oranges, hamentaschen, saltwater taffy, gumdrops, chocolate-covered peanuts, a bottle of grape pop, and five silver dollars.

“I packed that one just for you,” Barry said, smiling at her again. “I know what a sweet tooth you have.  You’d never be happy with the mishloach manot we made for your parents and siblings.”

“Thank you very much.  You’re really swell to be so nice to someone your kid sister’s age.  I still can’t believe you let me be a guest of honor at your bar mitzvah.”

“I don’t care how young you are.  You’re a nice girl, and that’s all that matters.”

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Cinni looked through the contents of the basket over and over again, daydreaming about being old enough for a boyfriend in a few years and doing boy-girl things with Barry.  Forget about her fantasy crush on John.  Almost every girl in town had a crush on John, and at eighteen, he was far too old for her.  Even if Cinni were eighteen herself, she’d still think the age difference were too large, never mind that her belovèd father had been twenty-five to her mother’s eighteen at their wedding.  That was different and special, and had happened in another generation besides.  But Barry wasn’t that much older than she was.  Their age difference was large enough to be exciting, but not so large it would be inappropriate once their ages leveled out a bit more.  Only time could tell if her dream would come true someday.

“Happy Purim, Barry,” she said with a smile.

IWSG—Grueling edits

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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.

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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.

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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.

WeWriWa—New Year’s Eve 1939

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes from the final chapter of the book formerly known as The Very Next, the chronological second of my Atlantic City books. Though it’s an episodic story with an ensemble cast, the main focus is on Cinnimin Filliard.

At the beginning of March, Cinni’s father gave Urma, Mortez, and Samantha Smart a temporary place to stay, and this situation has been nothing but trouble for everyone. Urma and her daughter Sam are fire and brimstone fanatics who think everything but breathing and reading the Bible their way is a sin.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten sentences.

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“Celebrating New Year’s is the work of the Devil,” Urma pontificated. “Don’t ask me to drink any of your demonic libations at the stroke of midnight.”

“I’d never waste my good champagne on you,” Mrs. Filliard said. “My alcohol is only for my family and friends, and you’ll never be my friend.”

“I’ll have some champagne,” Mortez said.

Urma gave him the evil eye as Mrs. Filliard filled an especially large champagne flute.  She covered her eyes when Mr. Filliard mixed a cocktail of strawberry syrup, lemonade, and champagne for all the underage members of the household, using a shaker in the shape of a penguin left over from Prohibition.

“How can you be anti-alcohol when Christ’s first miracle was changing water into wine?” Mr. Valli asked.

“He changed wine into water, that’s all you know.  I’d be glad to lend you one of my copies of Minister Hodges’s true version of the Bible, if I trusted I’d get it back in one piece and undefaced.”

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Mortez has never had any part of his wife and daughter’s extreme religious conversion, though they usually railroad over him and shut down any attempted protests or lectures. He’s always loved Urma much more than she’s ever loved him, though he can’t forgive her for the slanderous story she told her parents after they conceived Samantha as unmarried teenagers.

December IWSG—Wrapping up the year

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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:

In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

I’d like to be making real money off of my writing in five years, with physical copies of my books available in libraries and bookstores. At present, I’m waiting for a revamped cover for one of my books, and then I’m going to finally release paper copies.

I may very well never marry (thank God I didn’t end up married to my ex!), and I might not have children while I still have some fertile years left. If I can’t have kids, my writing will be my eternal legacy, the avenue through which I’ve been fruitful and multiplied. I want to make sure I take steps to market myself much, much better than I’ve been doing.

nano-2016-final-statsI’ve been dealing with some disappointment at not having finished NaNo with as high of a wordcount as I did the last two years (65,524 vs. just shy of 75K and a bit above 71K). I won NaNo in two of the three years I unofficially participated (with the wordcounts retroactively, honestly added to my profile), though I didn’t go much above 50K then because I didn’t start on the first of the month.

I won on Day 23 the last two years, and this year got my win on Day 25 instead. I felt behind schedule, but on Tuesday I realized 25 November 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of when I wrote my first Atlantic City characters into existence. That’s a really, really special day. Years later, I suddenly remembered I’d originally created my Henry Unicorn-Mitchell around 1987, but all of my other Atlantic City characters were created in 1991.

We really did grow up together, having known one another since age eleven. In my mind’s eye, I still picture them as they were around age 12-13, in spite of how they’re in their sixties now. Today, 7 December, is also not only the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but also the 25th anniversary of my beginning the first book in my spin-off series about Max Seward and his zany blended family. I’d already fallen so in love with Max, I just had to give him his own series!

Where it all began, possibly now only living in memory. This notebook was my fifth grade social-studies notebook prior to becoming the terrible, cringeworthy Proud to Be a Smart. A number of scenes were salvaged and repurposed for use in other books.

 I really need to quit procrastinating already and begin publishing my Atlantic City books in 2017. I haven’t finished the last-minute addition of a War of the Worlds chapter in the book formerly known as The Very First, but other than that, it’s pretty good to go. These are the characters of my heart, the ones I was born to write, and keeping them mostly to myself isn’t doing any good.

Do you feel there’s a particular book or set of characters you were born to write? If you’ve written a series or family/town saga, what’s the longest you’ve been with your characters? Did you have the experience of growing up along with any of your characters?