IWSG—Intensified roadblocks

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of every month, and lets participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears.

Due to my recent move, in which I was essentially shanghaied by my parents and prevented from moving right back to my hometown of Pittsburgh (in spite of being a grown adult), I’m not in the most ideal place to get a lot of writing done this summer. I fervently hope to be out of South Carolina by the High Holy Days and settled into Pittsburgh on my own terms.

I don’t particularly plan on belatedly joining in with JuNoWriMo this year. While I could always put in overtime to make up for starting so late, I honestly don’t see myself as making 50K of anything this month. Last year, it was a huge struggle to get within spitting distance of 50K, and I counted blog posts, a survey, and journal entries together with my fictional writing.

My struggle during last JuNoWriMo was so real, I set my July Camp NaNo goal down to 30K. I ended up making over twice that, with the pressure off. More recently, I struggled to make my pitifully low 20K goal during April Camp NaNo. With my flagging mental health and issues with depression, my normal level of productivity just plummeted.

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In more positive news, I created some unplanned new characters for my fourth Russian historical. Three adult brothers, their parents, and the oldest brother’s two children escaped from Estonia after the Soviets reoccupied their country in September 1944, spent four and a half years in Sweden, and came to New York in April 1949.

The brothers are the future husbands of three of radical Katrin’s daughters. The oldest brother lost his first wife in the final bombing of Tallinn, and his younger child, daughter Meri, had to be delivered two months prematurely, in a postmortem C-section. Due to the doctor’s haste and not even being in a hospital, Meri got a scar in the middle of her forehead and top of her nose, curling under her right eye, and continuing to her ear.

Since the first book I ever read was Grimms’ Fairytales, at age three, I’ve always naturally come by macabre storylines and events like that. I’m drawn to dark subjects and periods of history, as much as I love a good happily ever after.

I also came up with a future husband for Bogdana, whom I’d originally planned to match with leg amputee Nestor. Her fellow is a Slovenian–American who’ll come to her rescue after a certain medical crisis which took the lives of many women in this era. He lost his own first wife to this medical situation.

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I have a feeling this November’s NaNo will be A Dream Deferred for the third time. Once I’m in a better place mentally, emotionally, and geographically, I trust my usual writing productivity levels will resume.

IWSG—Lagging productivity

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of the month. Participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears. I forgot to post last month, due to A to Z taking precedence, and travelling to NYC for my rabbi’s oldest daughter’s wedding.

This month, the IWSG question is:

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

I absolutely love research! Special favourites include vintage clothes, advertisements, childbirth, food, and slang. I also love looking at street maps to see where everything is in my settings. Other topics include what it’s like to be an amputee, Orthodox Christianity, and 1940s prosthetics.

After realising all my Russian male characters would’ve been uncircumcised, I did secondhand research on what it feels like to have intercourse with a guy like that. I wanted that level of authenticity in my sex scenes.

I technically won Camp NaNo, but this is NOT my best work. My productivity levels are normally so much higher. I had to lower my goal from 50K to 35K to 20K, and only broke even on Day 23. There were a few days early on when I didn’t write at all, though I still took screenshots of each day’s final progress when I did write. I like having that record.

Mitigating factors included the eight days of Pesach, my flagging mental health, my wrecked sleep cycles, and starting to make plans to move home to Pittsburgh against my parents’ insistence I join them in South Carolina for a few months. I’ve been stuck in this unhealthy holding pattern for far too long, and even my 17-year-old spider plant Kalanit is suffering.

I’m really unhappy with an unplanned subplot regarding Katya and Dmitriy’s new friends Dagmara (Marusya) and her husband Sima (Zosim). It started out so well, but developed far too quickly, and feels detached, like it’s just dumped in there instead of naturally-connected. It also feels very deus ex machina, in spite of its great potential.

When I read back over my first Russian historical in 2011, nine years after I’d last had access to it, I was so impressed at how expertly I’d woven all these storylines together and then finally linked them all up. The stories of the orphanage girls (esp. the Lebedeva sisters and Inessa) and Lena Yeltsina’s family are an integral part of the overall story, not just thrown in there every few chapters without any lead-in or foreshadowing.

However, I’m a lot happier with one of my other unplanned secondary characters, former Marine Captain Nestor Sevastyanovich Ugolnikov. I originally planned to give him to Bogdana Sheltsova, but then I realised he’s a much better match with Yustina Yeltsina-Baronova. But first, he has to overcome his belief that no woman would want a guy who’s missing a leg.

(FYI: You NEVER call someone “an ex-Marine”! It’s always “former Marine.” Semper fi means something!)

I also finally have a new cover for Little Ragdoll. My artist kept it based on the original reference photo. There was an odd technical issue, where Amazon wouldn’t accept the cover’s size, and the enlarged files she sent me kept being read as too small and the same size as before. I finally had to go onto my older computer to resize it myself in Gimp.

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