IWSG—2016 writing goals

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Happy Christmas to any readers of the Orthodox Christian faith! I always found it rather unfair Orthodox Christmas gets overlooked, with many people assuming Christmas is over and done with for everyone on 25 December. Not everyone has the same holidays, or observes their holidays on the same days!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s the first The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meeting of the new year. Every first Wednesday of the month, members share worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears. The winners of the IWSG Anthology Contest will also be announced today.

The words just weren’t coming for A Dream Deferred, the fourth volume with my Russian characters. In spite of the chapter-by-chapter notes I made during the summer and having detailed plans for certain scenes and chapters, I just lost almost all of my motivation. I think that was a sign I needed to get back to my alternative history.

I still do plan to release it on 12 August, what would’ve been my protagonist’s 112th birthday. The majority of the work left at this point is Part IV, with some remaining gaps in Parts II and III to fill in, plus a tiny bit in the short Epilogue. I switched to a new desktop picture of my protagonist, for fresh inspiration and a constant reminder to be a good fairy godmother and give him the happy ending he was denied in this life.

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I’ll be releasing And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth probably within a month. I don’t consider it a major release, just my second volume about Jakob and Rachel. When I was turning my long short story/piece of backstory about my longtime secondary character Jakob into a full-length novel in 2012, the plan had been for it to be one entire book. At the time, I was entering it in contests and having my query letter critiqued as upper YA, so I was cognizant of the length. I even did a fade to black on the wedding-night scene, even though Jakob and Rachel remain technical virgins due to their fear of creating a potential half-orphan before Jakob’s military service ends.

I only expanded the remaining material into a second volume when I felt the story would be too long for YA if it were all in one book. The most perfect ending opened up, and I was able to make the rest of the story as long as it needed to be. Of course, I later admitted to myself I largely write adult historical which just so happens to have young characters. There’s no mistaking the second volume for anything but an adult book, not least because it has a number of sex scenes!

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I still want to have my other two covers revamped, hopefully this time finding an artist who responds to queries in a timely fashion instead of getting deep in arrears. I love the work that artist does, but I don’t need to sit around waiting for a response from someone who takes that kind of attitude. Even if it’s not your day job, you should still be professional and not risk losing potential clients.

I released nothing last year because I was so disappointed and embarrassed at not selling anything. Even if I continue getting far more congratulations and “that sounds interesting” than actual sales, it still can’t hurt to release the books I’d wanted to release last year. The more product out there, the more chance I have of gaining a name.

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I finally achieved my longtime goal of seeing 1,000 silent films on New Year’s Eve, and the list is still growing strong. My lucky #1,000, Victor Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage (Körkarlen), just so happens to be one of the films I’ll be featuring during this October’s spotlight on classic horror or horror-ish films with landmark anniversaries this year.

I’d like to share the beautiful, haunting prayer offered by phantom driver Georges, his New Year’s prayer for all humanity, a prayer which is repeated in the final intertitle:

Gud, låt min själ få komma till mognad innan den skall skördas!

God, let my soul come to maturity before it is reaped!

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What are your goals, writing or otherwise, for this year? If you could offer one prayer or wish for all humanity, what would it be? Do you celebrate Orthodox Christmas or Epiphany, or have you ever shared in someone else’s celebration?

Horny Hump Day—Jakob and Rachel

My What’s Up Wednesday post is here.

Warning:  Not safe for work or appropriate for those under 18!

Welcome back to Horny Hump Day, a weekly hop where writers share three erotic sentences of a book or WIP. My snippet this week immediately follows last week’s, as 19-year-old Lt. Jakob DeJonghe kisses his dream girl, Rachel Roggenfelder, for the first time. She’s a fair bit more experienced than he is, and has to take over to teach him.

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After awhile, he became emboldened enough to try imitating her, while still letting her lead.  His only active role was running his hands through her hair and along her face.  He was burning with desire to touch a lot more than just her hair and face, but he knew respectable people never went from nothing to everything overnight.

Horny Hump Day—Jakob and Rachel

My What’s Up Wednesday post is here and my Write Path post is here.

Warning:  Not safe for work or appropriate for those under 18!

Welcome back to Horny Hump Day, a weekly hop where writers share three erotic sentences of a book or WIP. I’ve been away for awhile, to focus on the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, and to focus on my release of And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away on May ninth.

This scene is from May 1945, when 19-year-old Jakob and Rachel kiss for the first time. Jakob has only kissed one other girl before, a friend of his who begged him for a kiss the night before they were deported. Rachel has had several previous boyfriends, and knows much more than he does about technique. He’s happy to let his dream girl teach him.

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That night, as they were counting stars, Jakob slipped his violently shaking arm around her and pulled her towards him, then wrapped his other arm around her, leaned down to her height, and kissed her. Rachel seemed to sense that he didn’t really know what he was doing, and he gratefully let her take over and teach him. He let his mouth become soft, pliant, and passive against hers as she demonstrated the techniques she liked.

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Amazon page

Goodreads page

What’s Up Wednesday

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What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Still slowly making my way through The Winds of War. It really saddens me that thick historical sagas like this are no longer the norm, at least not in the U.S.

What I’m Writing

Up to a bit under 607,000 words in my WIP, and just starting Chapter 79, “Terror at Tarawa.” I’m going to have to do some more research before really diving into this chapter, which features my two Marines, Ipatiy (Patya) Siyanchuk and Rodion (Rodya) Duranichev. Rodya first appeared in the first book, created 2000 or 2001, and Patya first appeared in the second book. They both started out as kids in villain Boris’s religious school. (Father Spiridon finally found his balls near the end of the second book and fired this POS for good.)

Rodya and Patya didn’t have surnames or patronymics till the current third book, when I decided to bring back some of Boris’s former students as Tatyana and Nikolay’s co-counselors at Father Spiridon’s church camp. I also gave Patya to Vladlena Zyuganova and Rodya to Valentina Kuchma. Patya is the right guy for Vladka just as bashful, sweethearted Rodya is the perfect guy for sweet little Valya.

Regular readers might remember the majority soundtrack I wrote my second Russian novel to, and have continued mostly using for the third book. So when I was looking over a list of Russian surnames for Patya and Rodya, and saw the name Duranichev, I had to have it for Rodya. It was my humble way of saying thank you.

What Inspires Me

I spent a very nice late afternoon at Arlene’s Artist Materials on Tuesday, and ultimately got a 14 x 17 sketchbook, a set of woodless coloured pencils, an awesome graphite pencil, and a magnetic artist manikin. They have sales and discounts all the time, and a plethora of amazing art supplies in spite of their relatively small size. Their online catalogue is even bigger. The last time I remember going there was the Summer of ’96, shortly before we left New York, and it was so wonderful to see it was just the same as I remember it from long ago.

I’m seriously considering the idea of drawing the book cover for Little Ragdoll myself, since it was such a personal story for me, and never left my mind or heart in all those 16.5 years between the time I last worked on it and when I finally went back to recreate it from scratch and memory. I don’t pretend I’m the world’s greatest artist, but I really enjoy drawing. Maybe it’s time to stop downgrading myself as a mere amateur artist, and call myself what I really am, someone who creates simple, sweet, humble pictures with a lot of feeling and sincerity behind them.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Jakob’s story released on 9 May, and is now available for purchase at Amazon. I haven’t yet gotten down to creating the print copies or setting up a Goodreads author page, and I won’t be able to release it by Nook or iBooks for 90 days. It would be nice if I’d had 20-30 bloggers doing cover reveals and helping with a contest, bloghop, or giveaway, but it is what it is. I am what I am, a dark horse who tries not to seek out extra attention or have a big fuss made over. I want to be remembered as a writer for all time, like Shakespeare, not someone who makes a huge immediate splash and is famous for only a little while.

My eczema outbreak finally seems to be mostly vanquished. My father thought it might’ve been exacerbated by my dust allergy, so my room, mattress, and bed linens were thoroughly cleaned and my stuffed animal buddies were banished to plastic bags in the closet. He thought I were having a reaction to their synthetic materials, though I think I’d know by now, given how long I’ve had the cats in particular! I had to have some comfort after my grandma died, and took Simon out of that sad bag in the closet. I almost immediately had a flare-up, but since it’s gone away quickly, it’s safe to say it was from the stress and shock, not my giant froggy friend.

It’s nice to have company in bed again, even if he’ll never turn into a prince. He’s seriously cute and cuddly.

Happy birthday, Jaap (and A to Z Reflections Post)

With gratitude to Hashem, who gave me a gift and talent for writing from a very precocious age, and who wired my brain by Divine will, I announce the release of my Jakob’s story to coincide with his birthday. If he were real, he’d be 88 on May ninth.

Jakob Cover

I chose to lead with Jaap’s story because it got very strong feedback by the contests and other venues I entered it in, it got several behind the scenes agent requests, it’s relatively short (128,000 words is a drop in the bucket next to some of my other stuff!), it’s in the traditional past tense, and it’s much closer to third-person limited than I usually do.

I’m so glad for the chance to preview it by the different Kindle devices. Not only did it make me proud of what a whiz-bang job I did with the formatting all by myself, but it enabled me to catch a number of typos or mistakes that somehow were never caught during any of the previous rounds of editing. (For example, metric system characters referring to miles instead of kilometers.) It’s so true that reading something in a different typeface and/or format can bring to light things you never saw as errors. I powered through it by the Kindle previewer in two days. Knowing how to combine quick reading with a fine-toothed comb attention to detail is a gift.

I’m glad I got a recommendation for a cover artist who does actual art, instead of graphic design. Nothing wrong with photographic book covers, but I’m old-fashioned. Just be prepared for the fact that your mental image of your characters will probably never match how they appear on the cover, no matter who designs it. You have to trust your designer’s talent, vision, and judgment.

I quote from Chapter 31 of The Tao Te Ching at the beginning, which speaks of how a good soldier only uses weapons and kills when he has no choice, that delighting in victory is the same as delighting in killing, and that war must be conducted like a funeral. To avoid getting in trouble for copyright violation, I mixed and matched with a few old public domain translations, my belovèd Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English translation, and my own interpretations.

I just hope enough people like it, and that the final editing and release of Little Ragdoll next month go just as well. I already have a good feeling about that, since I got permission to quote the two George Harrison songs, for a very reasonable fee. It’s like George’s beautiful spirit is smiling down on a fellow dark horse.

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

This was my third year taking part in the A to Z Challenge. I think I got more hits and comments this year since my theme wasn’t specific to my writing as in the past two years. It was probably a good idea to make it of more general interest to a wider group of people. Next year I’m going to do another theme only peripherally related to my writing, and scrap the theme I’d planned last year.

My posts, from most-popular to least-viewed (and not including my own comments in the total):

Jerusalem, Israel (59 views, 15 comments)
Abony, Hungary (49 views, 16 comments)
Béziers, France (47 views, 17 comments)
Dushanbe, Tajikistan (44 views, 14 comments)
Fereydunshahr, Iran (43 views, 17 comments)
Minsk, Belarus (41 views, 14 comments)
Eindhoven, The Netherlands (40 views, 14 comments)
Lille, France (39 views, 14 comments)
Cherkasy, Ukraine (39 views, 14 comments)
Queens. U.S.A. (37 views, 14 comments)
Hudiksvall, Sweden (35 views, 11 comments)
Tartu, Estonia, and Tata, Hungary (34 views, 9 comments)
Xanten, Germany, and Xánthi, Greece (34 views, 11 comments)
Zagreb, Croatia (33 views, 12 comments)
Isfahan, Iran (32 views, 10 comments)
Rosh HaNikra, Israel (31 views, 10 comments)
Yerevan, Armenia (31 views, 12 comments)
Nantes, France (30 views, 9 comments)
Vratsa, Bulgaria (28 views, 10 comments)
Winschoten, The Netherlands (28 views, 9 comments)
Uelen, Russia (26 views, 9 comments)
Kutaisi, Georgia (26 views, 9 comments)
Odžaci, Serbia (26 views, 11 comments)
Pirna, Germany (23 views, 10 comments)
Győr, Hungary (23 views, 10 comments)
Surabaya, Indonesia (22 views, 8 comments)

Of the 28 places profiled, 18 are European, 9 are Asian, and one is North American. France and Hungary were featured thrice, and Germany, Iran, Israel, and The Netherlands were featured twice. Seven were at one time part of the Russian Empire and later Soviet Union. Though Sagittarius is the Traveller of the Zodiac, at present I’ve only visited three (Jerusalem, Rosh HaNikra, and Queens). Baruch Hashem, I’ll be able to visit Iran within the next few years and add Isfahan and Fereydunshahr to my list!

As always, it was frustrating to find some blogs on the list which never started participating, only signed up to try to hawk some business, or which gave up before the end. I’m also always surprised at people who didn’t schedule their posts in advance. Having a theme and writing/scheduling posts in advance helps to avoid scrambling around desperately looking for ideas last-minute. It also gives me time to edit the posts while they’re still in the queue.

Many thanks to my uncle, of blessèd memory, who gave me the atlas I used for help in finding some of my cities, and which led me to a number of these other cities in the course of my writing. Yes, my atlas is so out of date it has a USSR, Yugoslavia, East and West Germany, North and South Yemen, and lots of old names of other places, but it was a gift from someone who’s no longer in this world. The inscription entreats me to use it for all my school studies, and I’ve kept using it well into adulthood. (The globe it came with fell apart long ago.) How many other people still make regular use of a gift they got at seven years old?