What’s Up Wednesday

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Snowman Button (final)

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 or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Still spending lots of quality time with the book I can’t name till my A to Z theme reveal for my names blog. This is one of my desert island books, and having a proper, modern translation has made all the difference in the world in loving it even more.

What I’m Writing

I’ve completed Chapter 114 of Journey Through a Dark Forest, and updated the table of contents yet again. Now there are 118 planned chapters plus the Epilogue. I think Chapter 115 will be another short chapter (by my standards). I’ve reached the 850K mark, and really, really hopeful my new 875K guesstimate will be my final prediction. Perhaps I can publish it in four “knots,” the way Aleksandr Isayevich, of blessèd memory, did with his massive Red Wheel saga.

Anastasiya really surprised me at the end of Chapter 114. After all the awful things she’s done and said over the last thirty years, she finally has a moment of humanity and thinks of someone other than herself when she’s forced to hold her grandson for some photographs after his baptism. She notices Rodimir (Rodik) strongly resembles her, and this in turn reminds her of her mother and grandmother. Finally, she’s crying for someone other than herself, and thinking of how this child is the eternity of her ancestors. She leaves to buy some gifts, and begs for family peace and a relationship with her grandson when she returns to the party.

My goal for this week is to finish Chapter 115. It’ll be set on Orthodox Christmas 1948, sort of a transition into the last few chapters.

What Works for Me

Learning how to write third-person omniscient which works well in the modern era is a delicate dance. I’ve got a post coming up in March about how NOT to write this POV, using eleven specific examples (e.g., God-mode; political, religious, social, or cultural commentary; making value judgments on characters; telling the reader how to think, feel, and react). They’re illustrated with examples from my own early drafts, with the date I wrote each in parentheses. This POV is much more flexible than first-person or third-person limited, but you still can’t jump all over the place with it or misuse your all-knowingness.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I went back onto my old computer to get both version of my résumé (though the job market in my area is pretty dismal), and while I was there, I used Word 2004 to open, convert, and reformat the 14 files of my eighth Max’s House book. Once again, there was bizarre data migration in the converted files. This has happened to a number of other files I created in MacWriteII, lines from other files which aren’t even on that disk, and even strings of words I taught the spellcheck on the ’93 Mac. I’d love to know if there’s a logical reason for this!

It’s always a headache to reformat these converted files, since there are so many floating and misplaced text blocks I have to copy and paste back into their proper place, as well as unnecessarily duplicated lines and words, and then all the gibberish characters. Meanwhile I barely had a problem with the ClarisWorks files I converted and reformatted.

I’d seriously love to move back to Pittsburgh (particularly since Pitt’s library school is so much better than Albany’s), but with this brutal winter, I’m once again tempted to move to Florida, where my aunt and surviving grandparents live. Pittsburgh is in my blood and bones, but I’d love nothing more than never having to deal with snow and ice ever again.

What’s Up Wednesday

6

WUWWreath2

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 or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, edited by Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko. With all due respect to the dead, particularly considering the horrific, nauseating, cold-blooded way they were taken from this world, it’s so much easier for me as an adult to understand why the Russian Revolution happened. The Imperial Family were so out of touch with how the vast majority of normal Russians lived.

Nicky was writing about how much fun he was having with royal relatives in England, Germany, and Denmark, complete with palaces, balls, parties, teas, and hunting, while normal Russians were just struggling to survive. He also barely had any Russian blood, due to centuries of back-and-forth royal intermarriage. Too many people still romanticise the last Tsar’s family, without looking beyond the beautiful love story and close-knit family to see what weak, disastrous rulers Nicky and Alix were, the wrong people for the wrong job at the wrong time, and how their daughters in particular were emotionally immature and severely sheltered, with no outside friends or lives due to all that emotional incest and parent-child enmeshment. It was NOT normal in the 1910s for royal women of that age to still be unmarried!

What I’m Writing

Just finished Chapter 95 of my WIP and up to about 721,000 words. I’m staying positive I can cap this in at 800K, particularly considering I’m in Part IV and finally heading towards the homestretch. It’s such a beautiful miracle and blessing that it naturally worked out so each Part reads like its own self-contained story, with a focus on different characters and storylines. This book can easily be put out in four volumes without a loss of continuity or dramatic momentum.

Chapter 95, “Andrey Opens the Door,” ended up the longest Part IV chapter so far, and also one of the longest overall chapters. Darya and Andrey are such a cute, sweet couple, each what the other needs and wants most. I saved their first kiss and declaration of love for the end of the chapter, though they’ve been falling for one another more and more over most of the chapter. Delayed gratification and slow build is much superior to the annoying instalove. They’re both 21, yet have no reason to feel embarrassed these are all first-time experiences. The best things in life are worth waiting for.

Chapter 96, “Fedya’s Homecoming,” is one I’ve had memorised in my head for a long time. No one has any idea Fedya has been demobbed and come home, so it’s a huge surprise for everyone. He’s coming home on his mother’s birthday, and gives her quite a shock!

What Works for Me

If you’re writing a family/town saga, you absolutely need to start making family trees and lists of characters by family. I’ve been doing this for years with my Atlantic City characters, and also have a family tree and relation lists I started in 2001 for my Russian characters. When you have lots of characters to keep track of, over many generations, and more than a few couples also have numerous children, you have to have a place to keep track of birthdates, marriages, relationships, etc. If you don’t start compiling this data while you’re ahead, it’ll be a nightmare to sift back through so many pages and start from the beginning.

It’s also good to get as much as you can down in advance, so you don’t forget, along the way to getting there, who’s going to marry whom, and the names you have planned for these couples’ children. Then again, I’m an Aspie, so my brain works overtime and retains obscene amounts of detailed information like it’s no big deal.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

My first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, is now available for pre-order. I initially had second thoughts about my cover, but I returned to liking the image I’d worked so hard on creating. The two covers I illustrated myself were intended as a two-off, not a regular habit. I know I’m not the world’s most experienced, professional artist, but I love hand-drawn covers, and sometimes a whimsical, simple picture is better than a high-tech, trendy, digital image. That’s not to say I’ll never upgrade those two covers to something digital, but for now, they are what they are.

After the release date of 7 November, the price is going up to $7.99, based on the length and all the years I slaved away on this book. I’m only putting it at $3.99 now to see if it’ll help with pre-order sales.

And if you’re wondering, I mostly created the cover with Caran d’Ache Pablo coloured pencils (oil-based) and Portfolio Series oil pastels, with a few touches of Caran d’Ache Neocolor II wax pastels, Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils, and Koh-I-Noor wax-based coloured pencils.

What’s Up Wednesday

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AlienStars

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 or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Most of the reading I’ve done lately was research for Chapter 88 of my WIP, about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of all the depressing, macabre subjects I’ve researched for this book, this ranks right up there with Chinese footbinding. And yet, then as now, I have an insatiable urge to keep reading and watching films, to know as much as possible.

It blows my mind that anyone in 2014 could still justify those bombings, as though there’s been no historical hindsight accrued since 1945. I understand why most people of that older generation would agree with it, but not someone with access to so many legitimate sources providing compelling alternative viewpoints! (Some of these modern-day people justifying the bombings seriously use the racist epithet “Japs,” like it’s still 1945.) I should probably write a blog post about this issue sometime.

What I’m Writing

Up to Chapter 91 and about 682,500 words in my WIP. At this point I’ve given up my latest failed guesstimate of 700,000 words and just put the bar at 750-800K. It’s such a beautiful, amazing miracle how it naturally worked out that each of the four Parts reads like its own self-contained story. This can easily be published as one massive book in four volumes.

The moving to Queens chapter kept getting pushed out, but finally it’s ended up as Chapter 91. Queens Village is so suburban, it doesn’t seem like it’s part of New York City. It’s the kind of postwar suburbia I feel comfortable moving some of my characters to. They’d never fit into a WASPy place like Levittown with their foreign birth, Slavic blood, and Eastern Orthodoxy, not to mention Valentina and Vladlena are atheists who kept their birth surnames and have homebirths. Queens Village was predominantly Jewish in the 1940s, so the Duranichev-Kuchmas and Siyanchuk-Zyuganovs are minorities among another minority.

What Inspires Me

19 August made eleven years since I was very nearly killed at the age of 23, run over by a big ugly black 2004 Chrysler and pinned underneath for 15-20 minutes. I had seven surgeries (four leg, three plastic) over the next six years. My tibia and fibula were shattered so severely, I would’ve been an amputee had this happened 40-50 years earlier. The Angel of Death passed me over. I firmly believe my uncle, who died in a car accident in 1988, was watching over me and saved me from death or more serious injuries.

So many people told me it was a miracle I got off with just a severely broken leg, first- and second-degree burns, and a bunch of scrapes, gashes, and bruises. And only one leg broke, though both were pinned under the back driver’s side wheel. The right leg rolled on top of the left and protected it. I stopped that car with my right leg, since the old woman kept driving even after I went up on the hood and fell into the road. She would’ve continued driving if my leg hadn’t blocked her. I think some of the gashes on my arms and legs tore off some of my chickenpox scars.

I’m really glad the great-grandma who passed on two months before I was born decided to marry a Southern Italian fellow. My Southern Italian body type quite probably saved my life, since I had less distance to fall and more flesh to cushion the impact. A taller, thinner person might’ve been thrown or crushed.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Still getting used to my new computer, particularly Pages. I got used to Word 2004 over the last five years, and it feels kind of odd having to start all over again with a new interface. One big complaint I have is that autocorrect isn’t as good as in Word, though in other ways Pages is better. I still wish MacWriteII, ClarisWorks, or AppleWorks were still around. They were so easy and intuitive.

What’s Up Wednesday

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AlienStars

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 or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

Back to Herman Wouk’s epic The Winds of War. This is the kind of historical novel I’m used to reading and thus patterned my own writing on—ensemble casts, third-person omniscient, more about the journey through historical events than fast-paced and plot-centric, hundreds and hundreds of pages. Now a lot of people think those literary devices are “evidence” of unfocused, amateurish, bad writing, or at the very least too old-fashioned for the modern era and its short attention spans.

What I’m Writing

Up to Chapter 82 and almost 630,000 words in my WIP. I kind of knew Chapter 82 would be one of the longest of Part III. With less than twenty chapters plus the Epilogue to go, I’m guesstimating I’ll come in a bit above 700,000 words. It’s just the length which naturally evolved for this book, and luckily each Part reads so much like its own story it could easily be published in four volumes without a break in continuity.

I really got emotional while writing Patya’s post-amputation scenes, particularly when he arrives at the veterans’ hospital and five days later sees his wife for the first time in two and a half years. His heart is breaking when he tries to tell her to leave him and find an able-bodied man. It pains him even more when Vladlena returns with their four-year-old daughter Karina the next day, and he has to rebuff his own child. He really feels they’ll be better-off without him.

With some help from Father Spiridon’s granddaughter Violetta, who had polio two years ago and also lost the use of her right arm (though she still physically has it), he’s going to realise how foolish, short-sighted, and cruel he’s been. After Vladlena will send him a pair of dress blues for his 29th birthday, he’ll check out of the hospital, come home, and beg forgiveness. (Marines who enlisted during WWII were not issued dress blues due to wartime restrictions, and had to buy their own if the need or want ever arose.)

What Inspires Me

I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m really inspired by the historical research I’ve done on the Marines during WWII. Thank you again to the United States Marine Corps for having such wonderful, detailed historical monographs available for free online, and to WW2 Gyrene. Probably over half of all my research came from those two sources. It might come as a surprise if you know I’m a pacifist (but NOT anti-military or against morally justified wars like WWII). I personally could never take on a combatant role, but I have the utmost respect for those who can.

Also, this video. Though it’s about art, the quotes and comments could easily be applied to the writing world.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I was invited to be on The Colin McEnroe Show on Wednesday afternoon, for a show about middle names and initials. One of the producers read my post about middle names on my onomastics blog, and thought I might make a good other guest. We’ll see what happens.

I also got a lovely new bathing suit, a swim dress actually. I personally am not so modest I feel uncomfortable showing my arms and legs by the pool, but I really feel uncomfortable with the crotch outlined and on display. Having even a short skirt covering that makes me feel more protected and modest. Ten years ago I would’ve been mortified at buying anything in a size 18, but now it’s just matter-of-fact, who I am. I’m sure most people would never even guess my size, due to the way my weight is distributed.

What’s Up Wednesday

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AlienStars

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 or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I started My Brother, My Sister, and I, by Yoko Kawashima Watkins, the sequel to So Far from the Bamboo Grove. It’s set in Japan in the early post-WWII years. Both books are frequently challenged because Yoko had the sheer audacity to be born into a well-off family who lived in Korea during WWII, and dared to write about the horrors she and her family went through as they fled home to Japan. She was a child! She wasn’t some evil occupier or anti-Korean oppressor!

The library I got it from had it in the YA room, though I doubt it would be considered YA in today’s market. It also seems like it would have a hard time getting published today, since the opening pages are mostly backstory recapping what happened in the first book. I got the first book from the juvenile fiction section in another library.

What I’m Writing

Finally finished Chapter 79 of my WIP, though I may later go back and put in some more details after I finish my source readings. It’s now up to 611,000 words, and I’m still hoping I can cap it in around 700K. Next up is the D-Day chapter, and then the Saipan chapter. My working table of contents has 85 chapters for Part III, and 15 chapters in Part IV. After all this, I cannot wait to write the Epilogue, “Back to an Ordinary World.”

I started writing this on 5 November 2012, and though it’s ended up becoming far longer than I naïvely guesstimated going in (500,000 words), I think I’m making pretty decent progress with it. Keep in mind that it took a bit over 8.5 years to write the first draft of my first Russian historical, even if that time was broken into three major periods and not all one stretch! It was probably just a fluke that the sequel (406,000 words) only took five months.

What Inspires Me

I’ve been getting reacquainted with the CDs which were stored in my ex’s parents’ basement for too long, and it’s amazing how quickly everything comes back. I remember the exact dates I got those albums, the circumstances, how I felt when I first heard those songs, etc. The brain is such an amazing, special creation. (Look for a review of The Who’s boxed set on 25 July!)

What Else I’ve Been Up To

My beautiful 120-count set of Caran d’Ache Pablo coloured pencils are due to arrive on Wednesday, and I can’t wait to start drawing with them. They’re really pricey (though not quite as pricey as the top of the line Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils), but totally worth it. I found a pretty good deal on them, and knew I had to have them. This is one area where you really can do your own research and come away with a variety of valid opinions (unlike, say, the vaccine-denialist cult). Some people prefer other brands, like Faber-Castell or Derwent, but my heart kept pulling me towards Caran d’Ache.

I’m also really happy to have more of my stuff out of my ex’s parents’ basement. The rest of my CDs and DVDs, more books, personal mementos and letters, the little Steeler for my keychain (which I got from my grandpap’s personal effects after he passed on), the rest of my records, lots of good stuff.

I particularly missed these:

IMG_2299

Why Be Normal?

Back when I still had desktops, these were taped to the top of the plastic screen around the monitor. When I got that postcard at 21, I was struck by how vulnerable and gentle Pete (far left) looks, and of course unconventionally handsome. He’s been my fave rave since i was fourteen, and I chose him based completely on inner qualities, without really knowing what he looked like. It sucks how he’s lost his hair, but at least he’s alive and well, and is still beautiful where it counts.