Oh, I’ve been persuaded alright!

First things first: I have a great deal of respect for how Jane Austen was able to make a living from her writing in a time and place when the vast majority of women financially depended on a husband or male relatives. I also recognise her technical skills at sentence construction and ability to write very artistic prose. I additionally respect her for being known on her own merits instead of through a husband, father, or brother.

All that, however, doesn’t mean I emotionally connect with her writing. I have a very difficult time reading 19th century literature, even understanding writers in that era operated under much different literary conventions; e.g., overdescribing things irrelevant to the plot, opening with backstory.

Still, I’ve enjoyed other 19th century books which were written under much different sensibilities. What didn’t I like about this one?

1. Opening with pages upon pages of infodumpy backstory! We truly don’t need to know this family’s entire life story down to the most irrelevant details! It’s like Dostoyevskiy insisting readers need 50 pages of backstory to understand The Brothers Karamazov. Hard pass!

2. Overly formal language. I get that people in that era spoke much differently, but were they really that formal all the time?

3. Distant narration. I never felt in anyone’s head, or at least emotionally pulled into the story.

4. Hard to keep track of who’s talking. I’ve 100% been guilty of this myself in the past, but I’ve worked hard to show characters doing little things every so often in a long dialogue scene with only the two of them. Even when we know dialogue alternates, it’s easy to forget who’s on first when all we see are talking heads.

5. Archaic literary constructions. I wish an editor had updated these aspects of the language, like unnecessarily split words (every thing, any one, every one), “shewed” (i.e., “showed”), and &c. WTF was the lattermost all about! Was there something wrong with writing “and so on” or even “etc.”?

6. I didn’t really like any of these people. Beyond the distant narration, no one seemed particularly sympathetic or compelling.

7. I can’t really relate to the idle upper-class of early 19th century England. If they’d done something beyond sit around gossiping, going for walks, and talking about themselves, I could’ve been compelled to care about their lives. I understand women’s lives were extremely limited in this era, but they weren’t all this boring!

8. TELLING! It seems like at least 95% consists of “This happened. Then that happened. X and Y discussed this. Z and Q discussed that. Name felt this. Name felt that. Tell tell telly lots of telling! Infodumpy dialogue. Let’s have some more telling!” There were almost no active scenes. For all the issues I have with Hemingway’s beyond-Spartan prose of “Noun verb noun. Noun verb noun. I drank another vermouth,” at least he told active stories!

9. It would’ve been more effective had we seen Anne and Captain Wentworth’s original relationship, followed by their breakup and reunion years later. How can we give a damn about them getting back together if we never saw them during the first gasp of their relationship or how Anne was persuaded to jilt him?

10. We also never get an active sense of just why Lady Russell is so overbearing and a poor judge of situations and people, nor why Anne still likes her. Merely telling us a character is a certain way does jack to actually bring that out!

11. Too many irrelevant characters who contribute jack towards the story.

12. Total slog! Even after over 100 pages, I felt like nothing had been accomplished, with nothing happening. That’s kind of what happens when most of a story is a summary of events.

After this experience, I’m no longer so hesitant to attempt reading Jane Eyre again (a DNF at age thirteen), or to read another Hemingway novel. At least those are actual stories instead of dull summaries of dull events!

How not to write Russian hist-fic, Part II

Egads, there are so many historical inaccuracies in this book, I had to write a second post to cover everything! I felt like I were reading a book by a 13-year-old given carte blanche to spew out whatever flowed into her mind, with no editor or historical fact-checker. It’s like a kid who reads too much and understands too little, can’t research properly, and half-understands and misunderstands what she actually does read.

What else was wrong with this book?

28. No one likes infodumpy dialogue! It’s even worse when it contains the actual words “As you know.”

29. I kind of doubt a 15-year-old in 1917, let alone one from the highest reaches of society and extremely sheltered even by the standards of that era, would’ve known or used the word “penis.”

30. Speaking of, there appears to be zero truth to the oft-repeated urban legend about Rasputin’s member being cut off and preserved.

31. Even if thugs did draw an obscene cartoon of Rasputin sodomising Aleksandra on the garden wall, would any of the children have known what it represented? Given how completely sheltered they were, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn even the oldest had no idea what sex is.

32. I get the impression Ms. Lawhon just paraphrased certain passages from the websites and books she used, like writing a history paper.

33. This is the first I’ve ever heard of Anna Anderson meeting Ingrid Bergman or Hitler!

34. I might be mistaken, but 1958 seems kind of early for someone to use the word “mantra” in a non-religious sense.

35. Did Dr. Botkin really explain an orgy to his son Gleb? Since Ms. Lawhon aged him down five years, he’s only eleven in 1917. I can’t imagine any high-society parent of that era broaching such a subject with a child of that age, or using the modern term “having sex”!

36. Not nearly enough commas. Are writers allergic to them these days?

37. Overuse of “that.” That’s (no pun intended) one of the first things writers are taught about reducing wordcount!

38. Anna Anderson’s passionate advocate at Le Figaro was named Dominique Auclères, NOT Aucléres. Ms. Lawhon couldn’t even get the accent mark correct!

39. At one point, she leaves off the first accent in Champs-Élysées.

40. Was she taking her direction in Kerenskiy’s portrayal from the blatantly biased historical revisionism in Eisenstein’s October? He comes off like a cold-hearted, mean-spirited, evil criminal mastermind with nothing but contempt for the Romanovs!

41. Aleksey was not a toddler during the 1913 Tercentenary. He was eight years old. Oh, and he wasn’t walking at that celebration either, owing to still not being fully recovered from his serious injury at Spała, Poland the year before. Photos and film footage show him being carried.

42. Imperial and royal titles are capitalised when referring to an actual person and thus standing in for a proper name. E.g., the Dowager Empress, the Tsar, the Empress. For that matter, Imperial Family is also capitalised, and Russia’s ruling family was not a royal family.

43. Aleksey’s title was Tsesarevich. Tsarevich merely referred to any son of a Tsar, not the heir. And the spelling Tsarevitch? Did she take her transliteration hints from Constance Garnett? That’s how outdated that style is! I only did that when I didn’t know any better.

44. By age twelve, Aleksey was no longer an out of control spoilt brat with a huge sense of entitlement. When he found out his father had abdicated and there wouldn’t be a Tsar anymore, he showed no concern for the loss of his position as heir. He cared more about how that would affect the empire as a whole, and his family’s personal future. Oh, and the news was broken by tutor Pierre Gilliard, NOT Nicholas.

45. Tsarevna hasn’t been used as a title since the 18th century! The last women to bear it were the five daughters of Tsar Ivan V. From 1708 on, the daughters of a Tsar were called Velikaya Knyazhna (Grand Princess, mistranslated as Grand Duchess).

46. Aleksandra’s birth name was Viktoria Alix Helena Luise Beatrice, not Alix Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice.

I get the impression Ms. Lawhon just skimmed the books she references, pulling out the flashiest and most riveting bits and leaving everything else ignored or unread. Not a one of these errors would’ve been made by anyone who’s done serious, meaningful, deep research on these subjects. Her ignorance of Russian history is painfully obvious, though she claims her research inspired her to study it at university.

If you can’t get the seemingly smallest details right, why should anyone have faith you got the deeper ones correct? When a book rife with historical inaccuracies gets popular, people with no prior familiarity with the subject innocently believe this misinformation and in turn pass it along. It then becomes much harder to rebut said inaccuracies.

How not to write Russian hist-fic, Part I

Like clockwork, I’ve yet again been disappointed by a recently-published popular historical novel. This time, it’s weak writing, gimmicky structure, reams of inaccuracies, and the author’s matter-of-fact acknowledgement of her dislike of her characters.

No one forced her to write this book. If she truly wished, a thousand times over, she’d been writing about the history of barbed wire instead, she had no business writing this! Write something you’re truly passionate about, and don’t use your Author’s Note to insult people who are truly enamoured of your subject matter.

What was wrong with this one?

1. The world does not need yet another book about Anastasiya. If not for Franziska Schanzkowska’s decades-long pretending act, she probably would’ve remained the least-known of Nicholas II’s children.

2. Backwards narration is very difficult to pull off well. I get why she moved FS backwards while moving Anastasiya forwards, but this wasn’t executed well.

3. Since everyone but delusional Anastasians knows Anna Anderson was indeed FS and not Anastasiya, there’s no real mystery. We know who she’ll be revealed as, and that Anastasiya didn’t survive.

4. Lots of confused homophones! “Heals” vs. “heels,” “peeked” vs. “peaked,” “wretched” vs. “retched,” “peeling” vs. “pealing.” And “publically” and “chuggs” are straight-up misspellings. Do big publishing houses no longer employ editors, or do their editors just give books a surface once-over?

5. On the FIRST PAGE of the 1917 story, she misidentifies Aleksey’s famous spaniel Joy as a female! Every single book on the Romanovs is quite clear Joy was MALE! Yes, Joy is typically a female name, but the dog was male!

6. Tatyana’s dog was named Ortipo, NOT Ortimo!

7. Anastasiya’s dog Jemmy (here called Jimmy) was a lapdog, NOT a giant Husky! The author decided to completely change his breed so he could escape, and because she has a huge black dog herself. Guess what, Aleksey’s dog Joy really did survive! Why not incorporate that detail into your story!

8. None of the Imperial Family’s dogs were thrown out of train windows.

9. Gleb Botkin is aged down by five years.

10. Tutors Pierre Gilliard and Sydney Gibbes are combined into one person. I hate composite characters!

11. Lady-in-waiting Anna Demidova is given the nickname Dova “because another Anna would have been too confusing.” Her real nickname was Nyuta. Guess what, lots of people in this era had the same small pool of traditional names, and somehow they were able to distinguish between all the Marys, Johns, Annes, Elizabeths, Williams, and Roberts!

12. The characterisations completely contradict the established personalities shining through in their letters, journals, and other documents.

13. Grand Duchesses Kseniya (Xenia) and Olga were the Tsar’s younger sisters, not older.

14. By 1917, Aleksey was hardly weak and frail. His physical health had improved marvellously, and he was almost as tall as his 5’7 dad.

15. Aleksey never walked again after he fell getting into bed the first night in Yekaterinburg.

16. She combines three Yakovs into the vile Yakov Yurovskiy “because I had no way of differentiating between so many Yakovs, and only room for one besides.” They have different surnames, you fool!

17. She gives Yevgeniy Koblinskiy the nickname Leshy because she’s convinced his surname is too similar to Aleksandr Kerenskiy’s. “I find these Russian names sound all the same. It’s damnably confusing to me[,] so I thought to spare the reader as best I could.” WTF! Just because YOU find Russian names confusing doesn’t mean everyone shares your Anglocentric views!

18. Tomas is not a Russian name. The Russian form of Thomas is Foma.

19. Perpetuating the almost certainly untrue story about the Grand Duchesses being raped on their way to Yekaterinburg. Ms. Lawhon changes it up by having it happen on the train, not the Rus steamer. She also falsely puts Aleksey and Anastasiya in the same cabin, and has Aleksey going back to sleep after the screams start.

20. Mariya sleeps with a Yekaterinburg guard. WHAT!

21. Russian and Polish surnames differ by sex. A woman is Romanova, not Romanov. A man is Schanzkowski, not Schanzkowska.

22. Nicholas and Aleksandra’s children called them Papa and Mama, not Father and Mother!

23. The term “gulag” did not exist in 1917. It’s an acronym for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-Trudovykh Lagerey (Chief/State Administration of Corrective Labour Camps). This system was officially founded in 1930, though Soviet labour camps in Siberia began in 1919.

24. Where are all the other servants who accompanied the Romanovs into exile?

25. Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Eve on 6 January, not 24 December.

26. Ms. Lawhon’s negative attitudes towards royals shows through loud and clear. She’s perfectly entitled to those attitudes, but if she feels that strongly, there’s no point in writing about them!

27. The Tsar’s wife was called Empress and Tsaritsa. Tsarina is an inaccurate English word that doesn’t exist in Russian.

To be continued.

Happy release day to Masquerade: Oddly Suited!

After months of anticipation, this year’s IWSG anthology, Masquerade: Oddly Suited, has finally been released! The other nine authors and I have been hosting a bloghop for the last few weeks, featuring our characters in masquerade and bonus flash fiction stories. We’re also still holding a blog tour.

My story, “Charleston Masquerade,” is set in Charleston, South Carolina in July 1767 and features a character I created when I was all of 5-6 years old and had shelved for over a quarter of a century.

Find love at the ball…

Can a fake dating game show lead to love? Will a missing key free a clock-bound prince? Can a softball pitcher and a baseball catcher work together? Is there a vampire living in Paradise, Newfoundland? What’s more important—a virtual Traveler or a virtual date to the ball?

Ten authors explore young love in all its facets, from heartbreak to budding passion. Featuring the talents of L.G. Keltner, Jennifer Lane, C.D. Gallant-King, Elizabeth Mueller, Angela Brown, Myles Christensen, Deborah Solice, Carrie-Anne Brownian, Anstice Brown, and Chelsea Marie Ballard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will mystify and surprise even as they touch your heart. Don your mask and join the party…

Available April 30, 2019
$14.95 USA, 6×9 Trade paperback, 200 pages, Freedom Fox Press
Young Adult Fiction: Romance – General (YAF052000) / Paranormal (YAF052050) / Contemporary (YAF052020)
Print ISBN 9781939844644 eBook ISBN 9781939844651
Order through Ingram, Follett Library Resources, or publisher direct
$4.99 ebook available in all formats

“READ IT! There is something for everyone! Do you want Love? Got it! Do you want vampires? Got it! Do you want time travel? Go it!” – Jessica Renfro, book reviewer

“A diverse collection of m/f YA clean-reads romances to transport readers between the past, present, and future, from the sea bottom to the virtual clouds.” – J. Lenni Dorner, author

“Stories that will chill your heart, bring smiles to your lips, and keep you turning pages.” – Beverly Stowe McClure, author

Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database; articles; monthly blog posting; Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram groups; #IWSGPit, and a newsletter.
www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com

Freedom Fox Press
A division of Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
P.O. Box 383, Pikeville, NC 27863-0383
inquiries@dancinglemurpressllc.com
www.dancinglemurpress.com

During our Masked bloghop, I was hosted by Jennifer Lane. This is my character Jinx Wildblood unmasked:

Iynx Praxithea Wildblood, called Jinx, has always been different from the others. She comes from a Deist family; both of her parents attended the University of Bologna; and she and her sister Myrina are receiving an equal education at the Ursuline Academy in New Orleans. So when they come to Charleston to spend a summer with a well-heeled family, conflict is inevitable.

At a masquerade ball, Jinx makes the acquaintance of a mysterious young man who identifies himself as Zedekiah. From the moment they begin interacting, it’s obvious Zed is just as much of a black sheep as Jinx, from an equally unusual family. Jinx would love nothing better than to spend the entire evening in Zed’s company, but when her very prim and proper chaperone forces them to separate, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll cross paths again. Jinx has no idea what he looks like unmasked, or if Zed is his true name. Likewise, Zed doesn’t know her true name either. Will she and Zed be able to find an opportunity to meet again and rekindle their attraction?

Carrie-Anne Brownian, who also writes as Ursula Hartlein, is a proud native Pittsburgher who lives and breathes all things historical. She has a degree in history and Russian and East European Studies from UMass–Amherst, and aspires to a Ph.D. in Russian history. Her stories always feature characters who are outside the norm in some way, and lots of Sturm und Drang.

You can find me at:

http://onomasticsoutsidethebox.wordpress.com/
https://carrieannebrownian.wordpress.com/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8241770.Ursula_Hartlein
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8337169.Carrie_Anne_Brownian
http://www.facebook.com/BelletristStrelets/
http://www.amazon.com/Carrie-Anne-Brownian/e/B07GZGJJYG<
http://www.amazon.com/Ursula-Hartlein/e/B00OWMQUO2
http://twitter.com/Anyechka/

Bloghop Schedule:

L.G. Keltner http://lgkeltner.blogspot.com/
Jennifer Lane http://jenniferlanebooks.blogspot.com
Deborah Solice http://thefabulistdotblog.wordpress.com/
CD Gallant-King http://www.cdgallantking.ca/
Elizabeth Mueller http://elizabethmueller.blogspot.com/
Chelsea Marie Ballard http://www.facebook.com/masqueradeoddlysuited
Carrie-Anne Brownian https://carrieannebrownian.wordpress.com
Myles Christensen www.myleschristensen.com
Anstice Brown http://dustingthesoul.com
Angela Brown http://publishness.blogspot.com/

Purchase Links:

Amazon
Apple
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Smashwords
Goodreads

Since I never use my computer on Shabbos, I unfortunately won’t be able to attend this live panel, but I’ll be most happy to answer any questions either before or after.

Masquerade Ball Bloghop, Day #7


Since the Masquerade: Oddly Suited anthology releases on the 30th, we the contributing authors decided to host a bloghop to build anticipation. Each day, one of the writers hosts someone incognito, in keeping with the anthology’s theme.

How it works:

Each day, our guests will appear masked, with some clues provided in the form of a flash story featuring the characters (independent of the stories appearing in the book), three fun facts about the author, and an image of her or his protagonist in masked form. On release day, we’ll all reveal ourselves.

Fun facts about my person of mystery:

In order to capture the right emotion in my writing, I try out a character’s feelings on my face and body. I had no idea I did this until a non-writing friend laughed at all of the faces and gestures I make as I write!

A TV show (Prison Break) inspired me to start writing fan fiction, which led to writing novels.

I write mostly on the weekends, on the sofa, listening to music without lyrics (classical, jazz, movie soundtracks).

Sharp air fills my lungs as I stride toward Andie’s front door to pick her up for the party. This early cold snap has blown in uninvited, moving our baseball and softball practices to the indoor facility too soon. Welcome to Ohio.

Andie skips out and closes the door behind her before I reach the porch. She turns her face up to mine, fresh and pink in the glow of the porch light. Her pastel-striped knit hat fans out her long, blond hair over the collar of her coat.

“You sure your parents are cool with you going to a senior party?” I ask.

She rolls her eyes. “Alex will be there, so he’ll protect me.”

Her older brother’s the starting quarterback for USC. “Your brother’s in town for Christmas?”

“Just for a couple of days, then he has to head back to L.A. before the bowl game.”

When she shivers, I reach for one of her mittens, tug her closer, and lean down to kiss that irresistibly soft and rosy cheek. “C’mon, let’s go.”

I hold the passenger door open for her, and she snuggles into the seat. “Oh, it’s so warm in here!”

I hustle to my side of the car, praying, Don’t break down again. I left the car running to help my chances. As I back out of her driveway, I boast, “Vlad’s got a good heater.”

Her eyebrows scrunch. “You named your car Vlad?”

I nod.

Her head tilts. “What kind of car is this?”

“Chevy Impala. A very old Impala,” I add.

After a few seconds, her giggles fill the car. “Vlad the Impala!” She snorts. “You’re a genius, Colt.”

My dad was the clever one who came up with the name, actually. My smile fades. This will be our first Christmas without him.

We arrive at my teammate’s house and climb out of Vlad.

Her mitten envelopes my glove. “Are you okay?”

I realize I haven’t spoken the entire car ride. “Great.”

The worried look in her hazel eyes remains, sparking a stab of guilt in my chest. My denial wouldn’t impress my sport psychologist.

“Just thinking about…my dad,” I admit.

She slows her stride. “Holidays must be tough.”

I cringe. After meeting her at a charity softball game in September, I’ve already cried once in front of her, on Thanksgiving. Not cool.

The kicky beat of a pop song draws my attention to the house, where my teammate stands in the now-open doorway. “Turner!” Nate hollers. “Get your ass in here.”

Nate is a senior, like me, and my favorite pitcher to catch. Check that—Andie’s my new favorite pitcher. I lead her into the house.

“Hey, Andie.” Nate snatches the hat off of her head as she crosses in front of him.

She spins around and yanks her hat back, right before elbowing him in the gut.

“Oof.” Nate doubles over, but his grin lets on that she went easy on him.

Andie tosses her coat and hat onto the growing pile on the floor. “You need your own girlfriend to harrass,” she tells Nate as she shakes out her hair. “Oops. You don’t have one.”

“You’re supposed to put in a good word for me with Scarlett!” Nate fires back.

She smiles. “Depends on how you behave tonight.”

This. This is why I love being with an athlete. Andie’s sassy, low-maintenance vibe is a total turn-on. After my coat joins the outerwear mountain, I follow her into Nate’s house.

Posting Schedule:

Thur. April 18th: L.G. Keltner http://lgkeltner.blogspot.com/
Fri. April 19th: Jennifer Lane http://jenniferlanebooks.blogspot.com
Sat. April 20th: Deborah Solice http://thefabulistdotblog.wordpress.com/
Mon. April 22nd: CD Gallant-King http://www.cdgallantking.ca/
Tues. April 23rd: Elizabeth Mueller http://elizabethmueller.blogspot.com/
Wed. April 24th: Chelsea Marie Ballard
http://www.facebook.com/masqueradeoddlysuited
Thurs. April 25th: Carrie-Anne Brownian
https://carrieannebrownian.wordpress.com
Fri. April 26th: Myles Christensen www.myleschristensen.com
Sat. April 27th: Anstice Brown http://dustingthesoul.com
Mon. April 29th: Angela Brown http://publishness.blogspot.com/
Tues. Apr 30th: Book Release and The Unmasking (Just follow links above)!