WeWriWa—Twelve-dish Christmas supper

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. To mark the recent Russian Orthodox Christmas, this snippet comes from my fourth Russian novel, in a scene featuring the traditional twelve-dish supper of Christmas Eve (6 January). This is the beginning of 1949.

NYU freshmen and Irish twins Igor and Ilya are living with their great-aunt Valeriya and her second husband, Grigoriy Golitsyn (a prince by birth). Their guests are Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s oldest child together, Vasya; his wife Dusya; and their children, 6-year-old Stella and 2-year-old Nora. Also present is Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s daughter Vasilisa, who’s seriously dating another prince by birth.

ded_moroz_snegurochka_christmas_card

After the Troparion, Mr. Golitsyn takes out a blue and white bowl of honey and makes the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead in turn, starting with Valeriya and ending with Nora.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, may you all have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year,” he pronounces after Nora has been anointed.

Valeriya lights a large yellow candle in the center of the table, contained in a red and white porcelain dish, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem.  Then Stella stands up on her chair and reads the Nativity story from the Gospel of Matthew.  The youngest child is traditionally supposed to read it, but Nora doesn’t know how to read anything yet.  Finally, Mr. Golitsyn asks for God’s blessings on the wine, bread, and food, breaks the round, twisted kalach bread, and distributes it to the other eight people.

The first proper meal of the supper is kutya, cooked barley kasha sweetened with chopped walnuts, honey, dried cranberries, and poppy seeds.  Also around the table are caviar, mushroom soup, fish soup with dumplings, cabbage soup, pickled mushrooms, pirozhki, stuffed carp, baked trout, draniki, pickled cabbage, boiled potatoes with dill from Vasya and Dusya, raspberry tea, wine, blueberry vareniki, walnut pudding, and assorted dried fruits.

Happy_Christmas_2

Draniki are potato pancakes; pirozhki are baked or fried buns stuffed with things like mushrooms and beef; and vareniki are kind of like blintzes or crêpes, dough pockets stuffed with either savory or sweet foods. The Troparion is a one-stanza hymn, with many different forms.

2016 in review

Writing and editing:

I didn’t complete any books this year, though I got a lot of work done on The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees and A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at UniversityBranches was 61K when I took it out of hiatus and began expanding it into an actual narrative story, and it’s now up to 333K. This book really wanted to be one of my sprawling sagas!

Dream Deferred was 80K when I went back to work on it shortly before NaNo, and it’s now up to 170K. My conservative guesstimate is 300–400K, since it only covers four years, and has relatively quieter storylines than the massive Journey Through a Dark Forest.

I did one full round of edits on Dark Forest, and have done little tweaks as I’ve looked through the four combined files. The first draft was 891K, and it’s currently down to:

149K in Part I
272K in Part II
219K in Part III
237K in Part IV and the Epilogue
877K total

I expect a bit more to be shorn off during subsequent full rounds of edits.

I also did some work on my alternative history in January and February. It’s now up to 185K. I also did a bit of work on the book formerly known as The Very Last.

Films:

After finally reaching my long-awaited goal of 1,000 silents on New Year’s Eve 2015 (The Phantom Carriage), I turned my focus to early sound films that aren’t comedies. I knew that was a most dire gap which needed filling.

Most of the silents I saw this year were avant-garde and experimental films, including many made after the silent era officially added. I count them as silents because they were deliberately made without dialogue (or extremely sparse dialogue in otherwise silent scenarios).

I saw 125 new silents this year, my favorite features being L’Inferno (1911), The Bat (1926), and Labyrinth of Horror (Labyrinth des Grauens) (1921).

Favorite new-to-me sound films I saw this year were, in no special order, Frankenstein (1931), The Petrified Forest (1936), Little Caesar (1930), The Roaring Twenties (1938), Scarlet Street (1945), Meet John Doe (1942), Charade (1963), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and White Heat (1949).

Books:

pornland-cover

The most important book I read this year had to have been Gail Dines’s excellent Pornland, which was highly recommended on one of my favorite radfem blogs. Over this year, I came to the stronger and stronger, more and more obvious realization I’ve been a lifelong radfem (though I don’t 100% agree on every single issue). Unpacking my feelings towards porn was my final step.

All these revelations about the true nature of the porn industry were so nauseating, heartbreaking, and shocking. Even if it’s possible there are some small indie companies doing things radically differently, that doesn’t change the nature of the vast majority of porn. A few powerful women like Nina Hartley in the industry also don’t cancel out the sickeningly overwhelming numbers of women trafficked into this exploitative business and not given any free agency.

This book also helped me to realize how very, very pornsick my ex is, and how porn deeply affected our relationship in many ways I wasn’t aware of.

Life:

As abovementioned, this year I realized I’ve always been a radfem. I may have a future post explaining exactly what radical feminism is and isn’t, and how it’s not at all what many folks falsely assume it to be. I know I definitely had the completely wrong ideas about it until finally getting to know actual radfems and reading so many wonderful radfem blogs and news stories.

I’d considered myself a Marxist–Socialist feminist since age 15, never a libfem (a.k.a. a funfem). There are huge differences between radical, Second Wave feminism and liberal, Third Wave feminism. Even as a teen who read too much and understood too little, I knew liberal feminism was milquetoast and didn’t go nearly far enough.

not-right

I’m still grieving and in shock over what happened on 8 November. That was not an outcome I nor any of my friends were expecting or wanting. It was the first time I and many of my friends ever cried at the results of a presidential election, instead of just feeling upset and disappointed. I actually thought i was going to throw up that night.

We’re all extremely scared about what’s going to happen to us after 21 January, particularly those of us who are women, Jewish, African–American, Hispanic, Muslim, gay or lesbian, and disabled.

afraid

On 11 August, I sadly had to retire my beautiful navel piercing. It had been red for awhile, and not only wasn’t getting better, but had reached an obvious, advanced state of rejection. I was able to screw off the top opal and remove it myself. My wonderful piercer, who’s no longer local, only uses internally threaded jewelry, which prevents microdermabrasions and the subsequent risk of infections.

This is what it looked like the day it was done, 24 November 2015:

navel-closeup

I will be having it redone eventually. For now, I’m glad it’s out, since it just didn’t want to heal, and I don’t have to worry about it catching on my clothes or getting knocked. I’m also really superstitious about auspicious vs. inauspicious dates and numbers, which wasn’t helped when I discovered I’d had it pierced on Freddie Mercury’s Jahrzeit.

For now, I’m down to 10 piercings, my nostril plus nine in my ears (four right, five left). If only the nearest APP studios weren’t 64 miles away in either direction!

A primer on Bosnian names

Happy Chanukah and Boxing Day!

A Bosnian connection in my writing came in the form of some unplanned characters in my fourth Russian historical (which is entirely set in the U.S., Canada, and Japan, though called such because almost all of the characters are of Russian origin). Sonyechka, Lyuba and Ivan’s penultimate child, makes friends with a fellow outcast in her new town, Kleopatra Novak.

Kleopatra and her older brother Fridrik were hidden by a Bosnian Muslim family during WWII, with the false names Amra and Ferida, respectably. For extra safety, they spent most of their time in the women’s room, so Fridrik had to pretend to be a girl as well. Their parent are Communists; their Serbian mother, a surgeon who kept her surname, was with the partisans in the woods, while their Croatian father, an archaeology professor, survived Jasenovac.

Bosnian alphabet:

Bosnian uses the Roman alphabet, with the same sounds as Serbian and Croatian. Letters unfamiliar to most Anglophones are Dž (Dzhe, like the G in “gin”), Š (SH), Č (CH), Ž (ZH), Đ đ (Dj, like the J in “jack”), Lj (as in million), Nj (Ny, like the Italian GN or Spanish Ñ), and Ć (Tshe). J is pronounced like Y.

Name sources:

Though Bosnian is a Slavic language, it differs from its sisters Serbian and Croatian in the great number of loan words and names from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. There are also many names of Illyrian origin.

As in most other European languages, many names are native forms of Greek and Roman names. Many names have also been adopted from the neighbouring Slavic cultures. Somewhat less common are names of Germanic origin, mostly found among those calling themselves Bosniaks instead of Bosnians. (Long, complicated story!)

Surnames:

Similarly, many Bosnian surnames are similar to Serbian and Croatian (i.e., ending in -ić, -čić, and -ović), but with Arabic, Persian, or Turkic twists. Names of this type include Rakić, Sušić, Terzić, Predojević, Bešić, Delić, Babić, Abadžić, Hodžić, and Jahić. Other surnames include Gudelj, Kopanja, Kurjak, Čejvan, Divjak, and Sidran.

Sample names:

Female:

Abasa (Austere)
Abida
Adana
Adiba (Scholar)
Adla (Fair, just, honest)
Adna, Adnana (Settler)
Advija (Swift, fast)
Afifa (Chaste)
Aiša, Ajša (Aisha) (Alive)
Ajda (Visitor, returning)
Ajlin (Moon halo)
Alejina (Alina)
Alja (Sky, heaven, loftiness)
Almedina, Elmedina (The city)
Almina
Amila (Aspirations, hopes)
Amra, Emra (To live a long life)
Anela
Anesa, Ernesa (Friend, friendly)
Anida
Armana
Arnela
Arnesa
Asija, Asja
Asmira
Azemina

Badema (Almond)
Belkisa
Belma

Dalija (Dahlia)
Dalila (Guide)
Danira
Derviša
Duša (Soul)
Džana, Ðana (Life, soul)
Džejlana
Dželila (Jalila) (Exalted, important)
Džemila, Džemala, Ðemila (Jamila) (Beautiful)
Dženana (Soul or Heart)

Edina
Ejna
Eldina
Elisava
Elvedina
Elzana
Emana (Safety, peace)
Emela (Desire)
Envera (Brighter, more luminous)
Ervina
Esmina
Ezana

Fahreta (Pride of the religion)
Fatima (Fata)
Feba (Phoebe)
Fedra (Phaedra)
Ferida (Precious, unique)
Fetija (Conqueror)
Fikreta, Fikrija (Thought, opinion, idea)

Halida (Eternal)
Hana (Hanka)
Hatidža (Khadijah) (Premature child)
Hestija
Hipatija

Ilhana
Irfana (Learning, awareness, knowledge)
Izida (Isis)

Kanita (Devout, obedient)
Kerima (Noble, generous)
Kjara (Clara)

Lejla, Lajla (Ejla)

Maida
Majra
Mediha (Eulogy, praise)
Medina (The city)
Medisa
Meldina
Mensura (Victorious)
Merima, Merjem, Merjema, Merjemi (Mary)
Mersada
Mersiha
Mileva
Milijana
Minela
Munisa

Nadija, Nadža (Tender, delicate)
Najla, Nejla (Attainer)
Nedžana
Nedžla
Nedžma, Nudžejma (Happy, tranquil, at ease)
Nejra
Nermina (Soft)
Nuredina (Light of religion)

Paks (Pax) (Peace)
Pemba (Pink)
Perzefona (Persephone)
Prozerpina

Rabija (Rapka) (Springtime or Fourth)
Reja (Rhea)
Rejhana (Basil)
Ruvejda

Sadeta (Luck, happiness)
Sadika (Obedient, faithful, loyal)
Safija (Pure)
Sajra (Traveller)
Salacija (Salt)
Samra (Dark-skinned, brunette)
Sanija, Senija (Splendid, brilliant)
Saraja (My princess)
Šeherezada, Šeherzada (Šehi, Šeh) (Scheherazade)
Šejla (Ejla)
Semira (Companion in evening talk)
Šemsa (Sun)
Senada (Support)
Soraja
Suada
Sumeja (High above)
Suzana (Zana)

Tajma (Secret)
Tajra
Talija (Dew from God)
Tetija (Grandmother)

Umihana

Valida (Newborn)

Zalina
Zejneba, Zejneb, Zeineb (Beauty)
Zekija
Zerina (Golden)
Zijada (Growth)
Zineta (Ornament)
Zulejha, Zulejka (Brilliant beauty)
Zumreta (Emerald)

Male:

Abaz
Abid
Adam
Adian
Adil
Adin
Adis
Admir (To wonder/admire)
Adnan
Afan (Immortal)
Agan
Ahmed
Ajnur
Akif
Aladin
Alem
Alija
Alim
Aliosman
Almas
Almedin, Elmedin
Almir
Amar
Amel, Amil
Amer, Amir
Amsal
Anel
Anes
Ardian
Arhimed
Arif
Arnel
Arslan
Asif
Asim
Asklepije
Asmir
Atif
Atik
Azudin
Azam, Azem, Azim
Azer
Aziz
Azrudin
Azur

Badem
Bahrudin
Belmin
Beriz
Bizas

Ćazim
Cezarion

Danin
Danir
Danis
Daris
Derviš
Dioklecijan
Diomed
Džan
Džavid
Džemal
Džemaludin (Beauty of religion)
Dženan
Džibril (Gabriel)

Edin
Ejub (Job) (Persecuted)
Eldin
Elvedin
Elvir
Elzen
Eman
Emir
Emrah
Emran
Emsel
Eneja (Aeneas)
Ensar
Epiemtej
Eratosten
Ereb
Ermin
Ernad
Esad
Esmin
Evarist
Ezan

Fabije
Fahret, Fahrudin, Fajrudin (Fahro)
Fikret, Fikrija
Frontin

Hadrijan
Hajrudin (Best of the religion)
Halid (Khalid)
Heraklit
Herodot

Ibrahim (Ibrica)
Ishak (Isaac)
Izet

Jasin
Jusuf

Kalistrat
Karloman
Kasiodor
Kerim
Kvintilije (Quintilius)

Leukip
Lizimah
Lomar

Maid
Mak (Poppy)
Mehmed (Meho, Meša)
Menelaj
Merkur
Miralem
Mirvet
Mirza (Prince)

Naser
Nedim
Nedžad
Neptun
Neron
Nidal (Struggle)
Nihad (Legacy)
Nuredin

Odisej
Okean (Ocean)
Oktavije
Omer
Orfej
Oziris

Pegaz (Pegasus)
Pelagije
Pertinaks
Perzej (Perseus)
Pir (Pyrrhus)
Plinije
Polideuk
Posejdon
Prijam
Prokopije
Prometej
Protej
Publije

Radamant
Redžep (Respect)
Reijan
Resmin
Rijad
Romul
Rusmir

Šaban
Sadik (Faithful, loyal, obedient)
Said
Salko (Virtuous)
Sekund
Seleuk
Semezdin, Šemsudin
Semir
Śemso (Sun)
Senad, Senijad (Support)
Servije
Šit (Seth)
Slađan
Sokrat
Suad
Sulejman

Tarik
Tamer
Teodozije
Tezej
Tiberije
Trankvil

Valerije
Vedad
Ver
Vergilije
Vespazijan

Zaim (Leader)
Zijad (Growth)
Zinaid

Lessons learnt from my third official NaNo

nano-2016-final-stats

At the risk of sounding like a ridiculous humble-bragger, this was NOT my best effort for a month worth of writing. I know I can do so, so much better than this, and yet I had an even lower wordcount than last year’s 71K.

What went wrong, and what could I have done better?

I didn’t have any real time to do a full read-through of the pre-existing material. I was a NaNo rebel, going back to my fourth Russian novel, which I hadn’t touched since 30 December 2015. Therefore, a lot of important details, establishing information, and seeds of subplots were no longer fresh in my mind.

I didn’t even have time to do a full spellcheck! This applied to last year’s material as well, most of which had never had spellcheck run. It was really embarrassing to discover typos and bizarre autocorrects like “bothie” instead of “nothing,” “alway” instead of “always,” and a missing space between two words. I manually edited my wordcount to add that missing word!

nano-2016-day-one

Perhaps I spent too much time in research, instead of coming back to fill in the blanks with more details.

I temporarily forgot some details I knew very well during my first wind of this project. It was really embarrassing to realize I’d started a conversation between Igor and Violetta as though NYU were co-ed in this era. I knew Violetta was at the women’s Washington Square campus, and yet here I was writing like she and Igor could’ve taken classes together.

nano-2016-day-25

No time to go through my chapter-by-chapter notes to see if there were any details I should add, in light of new subplots which had organically unfolded. I also didn’t have much time to do subsequent revisions of my working table of contents, apart from adding a few new chapters and renumbering everything.

Forgetting to include chapters for kind of really important events, like the respective 30th birthdays of Tatyana and Yuriy. I also didn’t set aside any chapters or scenes for the mysteries behind Katya and Dmitriy’s new friends Dagmara (Marusya) and Zosim (Sima).

A certain event early in November which made a lot of us really lose our bearings for awhile. My normal daily wordcount suffered for awhile due to this, and some people on the forums even announced they were already giving up.

nano-2016-day-eight

Not setting aside enough time in each day to do nothing but write without interruptions. My daily wordcount was below or barely above par on a number of days, not just Fridays and Saturdays. One of those days was due to having a cold, and then I had my old friend dysmenorrhea to contend with near the end of the month. (Warning to my male readers: I’m planning blog posts on dysmenorrhea, menarche, and menstruation in historical fiction.)

After NaNo, I went back to read through what I hadn’t already gone through, and began my first round of edits. For example, I finally was able to revise an unfinished scene with Mr. Golitsyn (a former prince) and the parents of his daughter Vasilisa’s new beau Dragomir. I’d planned to junk it entirely, since there was a lot of infodumpy dialogue, and it seemed more like an excuse to write a scene at The Dakota, but something held me back from deleting it. It reads much more naturally now, and plants the seeds of two great subplots.

nano-2016-day-21

Feeling too worn-out to pull another marathon final day as I did last year. I wrote over 7,000 words last year on the final day, in spite of having already won on Day 23, just to push my wordcount up as high as possible. This year I only was in the 2,000 range on the last day.

I know 65,524 words in thirty days is nothing to sneeze at, but I know I’m capable of writing a LOT more. Still, I’m now up to 149K total for this book (not counting back and front matter like the cast of characters, glossary, and table of contents), which is about a third of the way done.

nano-2016-day-24

Just as last year, my daily wordcounts and creative drive seriously amped up as I got closer to 50K. I needed some time to get fully back into the swing of things, in spite of having known many of these characters for over twenty years.

I also discovered some unplanned characters, like the Novak-Kolarov family from Yugoslavia and a former Marine captain who lost much of his right leg at Iwo Jima.

November IWSG—Back to last year’s NaNo book

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:

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

As a historical writer, I absolutely love the rich research which comes with the territory. I also love bringing these bygone worlds to life, virtually travelling to so many places, and living vicariously through my characters.

It might surprise some, since my “getting ready” routine consists of throwing on clothes, packing up whatever I’m bringing with me, and going out, but I particularly enjoy researching and writing about vintage clothes, shoes, hats, even makeup. In so doing, I’m living vicariously through characters who represent a type of woman I know I’ll never be.

nano-2016-day-one

I decided to switch gears re: which book to rebel with during NaNo. For quite awhile, my pace on my primary WIP had slowed to a crawl, and I just wasn’t feeling very inspired. Maybe it’s because the flashback Part II ended up way longer than I’d predicted, or maybe I’d been with these characters for too long of a stretch.

It also would’ve been a logistical nightmare to calculate daily and overall wordcount, and copy and paste the material into the validator, since I’d be writing out of order, editing, fleshing-out, and deleting text which needs replaced with actual narration instead of serving as wraparound filling in the blanks.

I tried going back to my fourth Russian historical on 30 October, and the difference was just amazing. I wrote over 1,000 words in just two 20-minute sprints, and knew the decision had been made. Last NaNo wasn’t the best time to begin that book, even though I did write 71K. As a result, I hadn’t touched it since 30 December.

I copied and pasted the rest of Chapter 14 into a new file, to which will be added each new chapter file to be written during November. So much easier to calculate wordcount that way!

2016-dashboard

I’m also thrilled to have discovered some unplanned secondary characters. I wanted to give Sonyechka, Lyuba and Ivan’s next-youngest child, a fellow outcast friend at her new school. All I knew was that she was Catholic, and thus the only other non-Protestant at that school. Then I looked up countries with a high Catholic percentage, outside of obvious ones like Poland, France, and Italy.

I thought she was all Croatian at first, but then I decided to give her a Croatian father and Serbian mother. Her name is Kleopatra Novak, and she’s my latest left-handed character. Her family just immigrated from Banja Luka, Bosnia, and survived the horrors of the fascist Ustashi régime in the puppet Independent State of Croatia.

Kleopatra’s father is an archaeology professor who survived Jasenovac, and her mother is a surgeon who served with the partisans. Kleopatra and her older brother were hidden by a Bosnian Muslim family. Prof. Novak is a perfect patient for Lyuba and Ivan’s son-in-law Andrey, a future psychiatrist who wants to heal people traumatized by the war.

I do hope once again to be a NaNo overachiever, but at a realistic overachieving wordcount. I can’t stand the humble-braggers who say things like, “I was so lazy yesterday and only wrote 30,000 words!” or “I really failed NaNo because I only wrote 700K instead of a million.”

Are you doing NaNo? Did you ever change your mind last-minute re: what you were going to work on? Ever started working on a book you came to realize wasn’t the right thing to write at that time? How long did it take to go back? Ever discovered unplanned characters?

P.S.: I recently wrote a guest blog for 4thWaveNow, “Transing the dead: The erasure of gender-defiant role models from history.” It discusses the ridiculous new trend of declaring women like Joan of Arc, Radclyffe Hall, and George Eliot were really men, and that men like Prince and David Bowie really had to be women.