Posted in Writing

IWSG—June odds and sods

It’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears.

This month’s question is:

Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

There’s a possibility the keratoconus in my right eye will continue worsening and eventually leave me legally blind. If that happens, I’ll forego corneal transplant and rock eyepatches with quirky patterns, beautiful fabrics, and gorgeous colors.

I’m doing JuNoWriMo again, with no expectation of overachieving or even getting 50K thanks to lockdown. To avoid my cyclical depression being triggered by more poor wordcounts, I switched to checking proofs of my books awaiting the okay for print runs.

I found about 10–12 little things in The Twelfth Time, and a handful in the first two volumes of Dark Forest. Most embarrassing in the latter was one I found right off the bat, in my note at the beginning. I hope that was a C&P gone horribly awry, since I’m positive I corrected all four to include the new wordcount of the second edition! Only Volume IV was correct.

I also took advantage of a free title setup IngramSpark offered through the end of May, for the book formerly known as The Very First. An August release is planned. I’d really appreciate any help in getting the word out, esp. since I’d love to be nominated for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

The book formerly known as The Very Next will get one final edit after JuNo, and then I’ll finish the radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last.

My main priority remains finishing A Dream Deferred already! I thought about it some more, and decided it still works for Lyuba and Ivan’s oldest two kids to relocate their families back to NYC. It also still makes sense for their friend Nikolas to remain in the city to open a law practice in the tradition of Clarence Darrow.

Lyuba, Ivan, and their youngest children will, however, remain in St. Paul, and their son-in-law Andrey (husband of Darya) will do his Ph.D. psychology residency in San Francisco. This works beautifully, since Darya’s favorite sister Katya lives there. Fourth sister Irina will also move her quirky fashion company there.

It’s a really bad trope when an entire cast relocates together, unless it’s part of a storyline like immigration or the Oregon Trail. It’s also high time for the Konevs to realise it’s not healthy to be so joined at the hip.

I’ll be exploring this more in future posts.


I also think I might have to move another storyline into the future fifth book. Almost immediately, I lost track of how Part IV is supposed to be about bringing storylines to their conclusions, not introducing a whole slew of new ones. It drains attention away from the core storylines and creates too much sprawl.

Zhdana and Susanna’s accidental pregnancies were part of my stupid plan to get most of the cast into the same apartment. Susanna and Vilorik will still break up, and Zhdana and Tomik will still have their little 26-week miracle Chudomira, but there’s no reason they have to happen here.

Since Dr. Scholl plans to retire in 1953, why not have Zhdana get pregnant late in that year? Dr. Scholl would never abandon a patient partway through her pregnancy, let alone a high-risk one. It would be so bittersweetly fitting if the final baby he delivers is Chudomira.

Would you be willing to help with promotion for TVF? Ever lost control of a WIP or tried to stuff in too many storylines?

Posted in Editing, Rewriting

IWSG—February odds and sods

It’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

No entire stories I can recall, though photos of things like houses and vintage couples have inspired aspects of my stories.

After spending the end of December and all January working on second edition edits for Journey Through a Dark Forest, I’m now ready to begin spot-checking the proof of The Twelfth Time before approving it for the hardcover run. Simultaneously, I’ll finish up the two sections of Dark Forest I left to get back to. They’re the most frustrating, since they’re premised on Barnard and Columbia, respectively, starting a bit earlier than they really did in autumn 1942 and spring 1946.

I initially moved up the dates in the first instance, and the dates in the next chapter, but later realised that conflicts with Darya referencing her first time at church in four years coincides with the fourth anniversary of her and Oliivia’s deportation from Drancy. I could remove that reference, but it feels more powerful to retain it.

Monday’s post will be a walkthrough of all the changes I made and why.

I also have to find a cover for the book formerly known as The Very First and do a final light edit of it. Initially I formatted it at 5×8, but it just felt too small, even if it created a larger spine. I changed it to 5.5×8.5, which brings it to just shy of 300 pages. Despite the doorstopper length of most of my adult books, my Atlantic City books are meant to be short and sweet.

Also on my to-do list is buying a block of ISBNs. I really wish the Canada-based IndieBookLauncher still sold blocks of five (for one book each) for $25. The Australian branch of Bowker sells ten for $88, plus a $55 new publisher registration fee for people who haven’t previously bought from them, but I don’t know if non-Australians can use their service.

I also am still super-loath to give any money to Bowker when they’re such a greedy monopoly. Not officially being listed as the publisher of my books doesn’t bother me nearly as much as financially rewarding that company. Indie authors typically don’t have cash to burn on ID numbers!

Yes, it’s really “not bad” to drop over a grand on 1,000 ISBNs you’ll probably never use when that money would be better-spent on things like marketing, cover art, editing, and author swag. How much did Bowker pay this dude to write such a ridiculous, out of touch comment?

I’m thinking of buying four each for Dark Forest, Dream Deferred (also to be published in four volumes), and my Atlantic City prequel series. I bought my ISBNs for three other books through a legit third-party site that charges far lower than greedy Bowker.

Simultaneous to all this, I’m continuing to work towards the finish line of Dream Deferred. Hopefully the timing will work out so I’ll finish proofing Dark Forest around the same time, and can begin my first round of edits of Dream Deferred with everything fresh in my memory. I can’t wait to start tackling that project!

Posted in Writing

IWSG—2020 writing goals

Today is the first Insecure Writer’s Support Group meeting of 2020. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

I’ve been writing since age four, as long as I’ve known how to write. It’s just something I’ve always done, the way other people have a calling to medicine, art, or religious life. Thus, it’s hard for me to relate to people who only began writing in response to certain series surrounded by massive amounts of hype.

My 2020 writing goals:

1. Finally finish A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University already! I’d love to be done by April Camp NaNo.

2. Do a first round of edits on the above. Shortly before NaNo, I outlined the timelines and events of the chapters set around the beginning of academic years, and was relieved I won’t need to do nearly as much frogging as I feared. It’s more a matter of moving some events into other chapters vs. radically rewriting and restructuring everything. Again, I take full blame for not doing my research and assuming U.S. schools always began in early September.

3. Finish second-edition edits on Journey Through a Dark Forest for the print editions of all four volumes. If I continue shaving about 3,000 words off each volume (mostly motivated by needing to tighten up unsightly gaps created by increasing the inside margins), it’ll shrink down to under 850K. It’s already shrunk from 861K to 855K.

4. Resume radical rewriting and restructuring of my Atlantic City books, which I left off in 2015 with the book formerly known as The Very Last. Other projects took precedent, and I was frustrated by finding such a dearth of detailed info on the 1940 World’s Fair in Lisbon and not being in the mood to write about the 1939–40 World’s Fair all over again so soon after featuring it in Dark Forest.

5. One final edit of the books formerly known as The Very First and The Very Next and publish them. I can’t wait to finally reveal the new and improved titles! It’d also be a dream come true if I won the Sydney Taylor Book Award for TVF.

6. Outline and begin writing From a Nightmare to a Dream: Out of Stalin’s Shadow, my fifth Russian historical.

7. Review and approve proof of The Twelfth Time for hardcover edition. Which cover do you prefer?

2020 blogging goals:

1. Finish my GWTW series. I have two more installments planned.

2. Resume my hiatused “A primer on ________________ names” series. I have 25 more topics planned. When this series is complete, I’ll pull all these posts together as a book with expanded commentaries and names lists.

3. More writing guides. Topics include breeching and long pants, wraparound narrative segments, Jewish denominations, menarche, dysmenorrhea, Victorian postmortem photos, and how much of your real life to incorporate into fiction.

4. Review Pete Townshend’s remaining solo albums in May, in honor of his 75th birthday.

5. Book reviews including The Wind Done Gone, The Member of the Wedding, The Winds of War, and My Sergei.

6. Film reviews including Little Caesar, the 1939 remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, All Quiet on the Western Front, the Marx Brothers’ Go West, and director Oscar Michaeux’s Within Our Gates.

7. Album reviews including The Who by Numbers, Live at Leeds, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Plastic Ono Band.

8. A month devoted to pet topics. E.g., fave dog breeds, fave lizard species, dog breeds in my books, pets I’d love to own.

Personal goals:

1. Stay put in my current weight range of 147–53, with an eye towards a 140–45 range. I was close to 220 pounds at the start of June 2017, and am very proud I’ve lost about 70 pounds. My goal was 150, but getting down a bit lower would be a fantastic bonus.

2. Get out of this place I’ve unhappily been stuck in since June 2017. I haven’t abandoned hope of going home to Pittsburgh and resuming graduate school. It might not be my time yet to have a human baby, but I look forward to getting some furry and scaly babies.

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

WeWriWa—Resisting assimilation

Copyright Jüdischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin;
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 5409/3083


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” 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!

It’s now the eighth night of Chanukah, which coincides with Christmas Eve, and the Smalls and Filliards are having a joint holiday meal. Cinnimin’s mother tries once again to talk the Smalls into adopting secular Christmas symbols, but they steadfastly refuse.

Mrs. Filliard helped herself to more pierogi. “Are you sure you don’t want to put up a Chanukah bush and a few secular decorations? The Christmas season ain’t over till January seventh, Russian Christmas. Even many people who ain’t Orthodox celebrate Twelfth Night on January sixth with special foods.”

“We’ll never celebrate Christmas,” Mrs. Small said. “It’s your holiday, not ours.”

“Chanukah is about resisting assimilation,” Gary agreed. “The Maccabees fought against the Seleucids’ attempts at introducing Greek customs, language, and religion into Judea. If our ancestors had given in and accepted foreign religion and culture, we’d be as much in the dustbin of history as the Seleucids are now. The holiday is about so much more than the oil lasting for eight nights instead of only one.”

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

WeWriWa—A feeling of otherness


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” 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!

Shortly after Chanukah begins, the Filliards and the Smalls, who live together, go holiday shopping at a local plaza. After a volatile run-in between Mr. Small and members of his family’s former synagogue, Cinni and Sparky move to an upscale toy store. Everything seems to be going great till the checkout boy wishes Sparky a merry Christmas. Cinni and Sparky try to explain not everyone celebrates Christmas, but the employee just doesn’t understand.

As they walked to an upscale clothing boutique, Cinni was suddenly acutely aware of how many Christmas decorations there were. Every shop door was hung with a wreath; every window had some sort of Christmas display; every post was strung with lights and evergreens; and there were several large Christmas trees full of ornaments, lights, and tinsel. There was also a reindeer-drawn sleigh giving rides around the plaza, and a North Pole workshop with a Santa and several elves.

“Now I see why you and your brothers feel like you do about Christmas,” Cinni said. “I never thought to notice it before, since it’s my holiday. When it ain’t your holiday, you can’t help seeing it everywhere and being reminded of how different you are. Maybe that’s why my mom’s friends put up Christmas trees. They didn’t wanna fight against it. Your family’s really brave for not giving in and pretending to be just like everyone else. If I moved to a place like China or India, I’d feel left out and invisible too.”