IWSG—2016 writing goals

Happy_Christmas_2

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.

Alexei-3

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

IWSG and What’s Up Wednesday

My Horny Hump Day post is here.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of every month, and gives participants an opportunity to vent, share struggles and triumphs, and just commiserate in general.

I’ve finally decided indie publication is the right choice for me, and the underlying reason I passed up so many great contests and stopped querying. Something I couldn’t understand was holding me back. Sometimes your head knows something before you can admit it in your heart, and other times your heart knows something before you can get it through your head.

I’ve never been like most people, and amn’t about to start going along with the crowd now. I don’t want or need validation from some arbitrary gatekeeper. Writing isn’t a one size fits all assembly line. Creative control is very important to me. I’ll happily accept critiques and edits, but would never essentially rewrite an entire book in a style and voice that’s not mine, just to be more commercial, or take out important characters or subplots. I don’t write for people with short attention spans or trendy/commercial tastes.

I’ve given up trying to figure out what exactly agents want. Also, I’m still annoyed at how I was dogpiled by three agents in a pitchfest awhile ago, and told, based on two freaking six-line pitches, that I don’t know how to write or research historical properly, that my characters’ names weren’t accurate, that I was an ignorant idiot for saying Holland instead of The Netherlands, and that the pivotal midway point of Jakob’s story was historically inaccurate and never would’ve happened. I was also told I just inserted a romantic angle to try to make the book more YA (huh?).

The spelling Jakob actually is used in The Netherlands, though the Jacob spelling is more common. Take it up with Mike of Behind the Name if you don’t believe me. It also says in the book that his parents felt the less-common spelling gave him more personality and distinctiveness. And Katherine wouldn’t have been uncommon for a German Jewish girl born in 1930, particularly since she’s not Orthodox.

Also, there were instances of people escaping from death trains. If he’d stayed on that train, it would’ve been the same familiar Shoah story for the thousandth time, no original angle. The whole point of his character is that he wants to avenge his father’s murder and fight to free his country. The love story is also hardly conventional, given how Rachel doesn’t show up till over halfway through, doesn’t appear again until Part IV, and then is only heard from through her letters in America for the remainder of the book, after she and Jaap quickly marry while he’s still in the service.

I later found out one of these agents was involved in some rather high-profile online bullying of someone who gave a negative review to one of her clients’ books. These are not the kinds of gatekeepers I want to knock myself out to impress, though I must say I’ve had some wonderful interactions with other agents in contests, pitchfests, and e-mails.

WUW Winter

What I’m Writing

Working through edits for Jakob’s story before heading back into editing Adicia’s story. I’m painfully aware that I probably need to restyle the opening of Little Ragdoll a bit, though it’s inevitably going to be quiet and old-fashioned, given that this is a slower-paced, character-driven book with a large ensemble cast and more about growth, change, and the journey of coming of age and getting out of poverty. As I’ve said, Part IV is the most fast-paced, heavily plot-centric section, with the plots of Parts I-III being a lot slower to unfold, more peripheral to the characters’ journey and development.

What Inspires Me

Really, the fact that I’m so close to getting Little Ragdoll down to 380,000 words, after the completed first draft clocked in at 397K. It would be a bit shorter if I hadn’t written in left-handedness for 13 characters during my first round of edits awhile ago. It may very well be below 380K after I’m done with the last round of edits.

What Else I’m Up To

I’m slowly recovering from a very bad recent flare-up of my eczema. I’m also livening up my walls. Next to my poster of The Who is a still from my favourite Marx Brothers’ film, A Day at the Races, which I had in storage for awhile. I’m also getting some posters and photos from eBay, which I’ll showcase once they’re framed and in my hands.

More Than Just a Kiss Blogfest, crafty stuff, and lace anniversary

More Than

Cecilia Robert and Christine Rains are hosting the More Than Just a Kiss Blogfest from 9-15 September, which they’re judging with Laurelin Paige and Kyra Lennon. A number of prizes will be given. Full rules and list of prizes are available by clicking on any of the above links.

I’m using part of a scene I used in another blogfest last year. It’s from my Bildungsroman And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away, Part IV, “And Jakob Loved Rachel,” Chapter 20, “Heat Beneath His Winter.” (Bonus points to anyone who knows the song I got the chapter title from!) It’s May 1945, and young soldier Jakob has finally got up the nerve to kiss his dream girl. They first met a year and a half ago, but he thought he’d lost her forever when he found out she was sent to Westerbork. While on a brief relief mission at the newly-liberated Westerbork, they met again, and began a deep friendship that turns into romance.

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He knew it was now or never.  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.  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.

His whole body was shaking when he finally released her and gazed into her eyes. “I love you,” he blurted out.

Before Rachel had time to respond, he pulled her back into his arms and began kissing her again.  Once more he let her dominate him, glad at least one of them knew how to kiss properly.  There were so many different factors that had to come together in just the right way, but there was no time to think them all through in the heat of the moment.  As jealous as he was of her prior boyfriends, he was glad she had experience.

Express Sept

It’s been awhile since I participated in the Express Yourself weekly meme, as I had a bunch of posts I wanted to move out of my drafts folder during the summer lull.

For almost 25 years, I’ve been cross-stitching and embroidering. I also know how to make simple quilts and dolls, though I never figured out how to work a sewing machine. It takes at least twice as long to sew a quilt or mend something by hand!

Just a small sampling of my projects:

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My first cross-stitch, maybe 1989.

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I had to reconstruct a lot of this from educated guesswork and observation of patterns, since many of the stamped stitches had become faded from age. I last worked on it in 1996, when my family moved, and it was about 10 years before I finally picked it up again.

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I made a few mistakes on this, but hopefully no one will notice.

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A cute little project that was in one of my sewing baskets for years but never done.

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My mother began this in ’88 as a gift for her parents, after my uncle died, but never finished it. She gave it to me to finish in 2006. She made a few mistakes with colours, but I worked around them as best I could. It’s now hanging in a frame on my grandparents’ wall.

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9 September is a very special day for me because it’s my lace (13th) anniversary with my first Who album, Tommy. I actually bought it on 7 September 2000 (not knowing at the time that it was Moonie’s Jahrzeit) and played the first few songs the next night, but didn’t play it all the way through till 9 September. It took me awhile to get used to it, but once it had become a familiar friend, I was insatiably hungry for more. I’ll always fondly remember my junior year of university as when I became a serious Who freak. Within a year, I had all their studio albums plus a few extras.

Here’s to 13 more years, and even more returns, with the album that started it all!