WeWriWa—Misplaced loyalty


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Ivan Konev came home at 11:00 at night on his first anniversary with his wife Lyuba. It’s also the first anniversary of their children’s baptism, and Lyuba is heavily pregnant with a new baby they once thought they’d never have.

“Then why in the hell did you come home at eleven at night if it’s so special? Did you volunteer to stay late, or did you put on your usual act of being a mouse and not a man when that traitor Glazov asked or suggested you stay a lot later than usual? Maybe I should buy you a watch so you won’t have any excuse to lose track of time. I’ll pay extra to have the watch specially-made so the gears are on the other side.”

“He’d fire me if I walked out early. You know that. And I can’t easily find another job without the proper training, education, or experience.” He extends a bag. “I bought you some anniversary presents and presents for the kids for their first baptismal anniversary.”

Though Ivan was on track to go to university, he was expelled from his very left-wing gymnasium two months before graduation in 1917, on account of his monarchist views. Lyuba and many of their pro-Tsarist friends were also expelled. Ivan got a high school equivalency diploma shortly after arriving in America in 1921, but won’t attend university until 1948. He’s not qualified for much else but menial jobs.


WeWriWa—Trouble in paradise


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week, I’m sharing the beginning of The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, the sequel to my first Russian historical, which released on Thursday. It opens six months after the end of the first book.

Lyuba and Ivan may now finally be married, and expecting their second blood child together (plus Lyuba’s firstborn child Tatyana, who has no idea Ivan isn’t her blood father), but the happy ending they fought so hard for is now set on a disastrous course all over again.

Any other man would come rushing home early from work to be with his wife on their first anniversary, particularly if he’d waited fifteen and a half years to marry the love of his life. And when his first wedding anniversary also happens to be the first anniversary of his children’s baptism and chrismation, he’d consider it doubly-important to race home from work. But Ivan Ivanovich Konev has never exactly been like most men, or even most people.

Full well knowing he’s probably about to get an earful, he opens the door to their tenement on the top floor of the building.

His heavily pregnant wife, Lyubov Ilyinichna Koneva, glares at him in the dark and crosses her arms. “Do you know today is September sixth? Has the significance of that date slipped your mind?”

“Of course I remember, golubka. How could I forget such a special day?”

Lyuba’s patronymic was Leontiyevna until near the end of the first book, when she changed it to Ilyinichna in honor of her stepfather Ilya. She wanted to change it after her mother’s remarriage, but decided to kill two birds with one stone and wait till she married Ivan and became a Koneva. She took care of both name changes at once.

I now have a page with links to my author pages and books. It also has information about planned future releases, the next one of which is my super-long third Russian historical. Since it’s excessively long even by my standards, I’ll probably end up releasing it as one book in two volumes.

Happy release day to The Twelfth Time!

With gratitude to Hashem, I announce the long-overdue release of my second Russian historical, The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks. It’s set from 6 September 1924–11 December 1930, in New York City; Sea Cliff, Long Island; the USSR (specifically, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus); and rural Minnesota (a fictional Russian–American farming town called Firebird Fields, near Duluth).

I developed the idea for a sequel to my first Russian historical in 1995, and carried it around in my head, memorized backwards and forwards, for half of my life. I originally began it in August 2001, but only wrote a few chapters, and wasn’t able to locate them later.

I’m glad I didn’t actually write this story till I was 31. At all of 21, I could never have written it the way it needed to be. While my chapter-by-chapter notes from 2001 were very much used in crafting the finished product, I diverged from them in a number of places, and added many new storylines. Additionally, I only knew Lyuba as Amy (her original, decidedly UN-Russian name).

Amy was a rather passive puppet who was acted upon instead of acting, and had no real motivations or struggles beyond clichés and generalities. Lyuba fights to overcome her demons, and break free of the abnormal thought patterns resulting from her dysfunctional childhood. Making her a knowing, deliberate adulteress would make as much sense as Scarlett still chasing Ashley after finally realising Rhett is the only man for her. Lyuba underwent too much emotional growth to revert all of a sudden.

Hence, Boris takes advantage of her when she’s not in control of all her senses. It’s the same black moment I planned at fifteen, only executed much differently.

Lyuba and Ivan’s happy marriage begins creeping towards disaster when Ivan comes home late on their first anniversary. While Lyuba struggles to raise their children and keep house in their Lower East Side tenement, largely existing off the large amount of savings they brought from Russia, Ivan is content to be the lapdog of Mr. Glazov, the Russian Uncle Tom who runs the iron factory. His frequent late nights and sometimes staying several days in a row at work quickly take their toll on Lyuba, coupled with how Ivan often goes to visit his parents and pointless baby sister.

The Konevs’ marital troubles don’t escape the notice of their former best friend Boris, who’s beside himself with joy at the thought of finally getting Lyuba back and regaining his paternal rights over Tatyana. Boris also is determined to gain full legal custody of the children Lyuba has had with Ivan, and makes no secret of any of his feelings.

Ivan’s parents also quickly discover there’s trouble in paradise. At first, only his father believes Lyuba will cuckold him with Boris, but as time goes by, Ivan’s mother, once such a kind and loving person, turns against Lyuba as well. The senior Konevs’ relationship with Ivan, Lyuba, and their children eventually completely unravels, and Ivan becomes estranged from both his parents this time, not just his formerly abusive father.

Things go from bad to worse when Ivan quits his exploitative job at the iron factory and refuses to look for new work immediately, believing his new role as a househusband is his way of making up for all that time he wasn’t home, and atoning for the sin of being more devoted to his boss than his family. When Lyuba discovers they barely have any money left in the bank, she begins taking in washing, mending, and sewing, while Ivan starts repairing small machinery from home. To keep the wolf from the door, Lyuba secretly rekindles her friendship with the shunned Alya and Anya in exchange for regular monetary gifts.

A window of hope opens when their friends purchase land and houses in Minnesota. Lyuba expects her family will soon join them, but Ivan has nowhere near enough money to make their longtime dream of becoming farmers a reality. Though her stepfather has given Ivan a sales job at his rug-making factory, Ivan spends more time making friends than sales.

Finally, when Lyuba hits rock bottom, Ivan is woken up to how seriously their marriage is in trouble, and agrees to a temporary separation. He’ll go to Minnesota and live with Aleksey and Eliisabet’s family, while Lyuba will remain in New York and gradually resettle their children.

Lyuba is enjoying her time as an independent, working woman, and absence is making her heart grow fonder. But then, shortly before she’s due to join Ivan in Minnesota, something unexpected happens, and Boris, who has long been waiting for his former best friends’ marriage to crumble, takes advantage of the situation. By the time Lyuba recovers her senses, she knows it’s going to be difficult for Ivan to forgive her for her twelfth betrayal.

IWSG—Another month of exhaustion


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets the first Wednesday of each month. Participants share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I was pursuing traditional publication in 2000–01, and again from 2011–14. Everything I’d read said all writers needed agents, and I took part in so many contests, pitchfests, and events like Gearing Up to Get an Agent and the Platform-Building Campaign.

Gradually, I came to realise I needed to be the mistress of my own destiny. I’ve nothing against the many writers who’ve chosen traditional publishing, but I personally like having total creative control. Most of my books, apart from my Atlantic City books, are also deliberately saga-length, with ensemble casts. I didn’t want to sit around waiting for 5–10 years to prove myself worthy of releasing a very long book.

I also don’t like the idea of waiting up to two years (or more) for a book to be published, after finding an agent. I enjoy setting my own release dates, and coinciding them with important dates to my characters.

After spending nearly an entire month checking four e-proofs and correcting a few stray typos and errors I caught, I went through my first Russian historical to create the fourth edition I’d wanted to work on for a long time. I also finally put my other books onto Nook and Kobo.

I also added a glossary and a “The Story Behind the Story” for And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth, about both my volumes with Jakob and Rachel. I’ve always considered it one story in two books, though I still agree with my decision to make the final year of the story into its own book. The focus of each is so different.

Then I went back to The Twelfth Time, the sequel to Swan, for a long, long-overdue final polishing. Its first draft was 406K, and I’d taken it down to 398K the last time I worked on it. I’m proud to have gotten it down to a more manageable 390K, plus about 4K of front and back matter. Does anyone expect a Russian novel to be short?!

The Twelfth Time releases on 6 September, Lyuba and Ivan’s wedding anniversary. They chose that date because it was the date they finally became lovers, and conceived their first blood child together. I wrote that book in 2011, and began editing it in 2014. I shouldn’t have been sitting on it for nearly this long!

I also love the Russian Land typeface I found (which is free for commercial use). It’s based on the Old Church Slavonic alphabet, the precursor to modern Cyrillic. This typeface is far more suitable for the mood and style of these books than the fancy types I was playing with prior, like Chopin, Lucien Schoenschrift, Tangerine, and Exmouth.

I immediately got to work on the final polishing of Journey Through a Dark Forest, which I’m hoping to finally release either late this year or sometime next year. All this rereading is really making me eager to finally go back full-time to my fourth Russian historical, and the remaining seven books in my epic series, which I’ve named The Ballad of Lyuba and Ivan.

I also finally put together a page with links to all my current author pages and books. Planned future releases are also listed. I have no one to blame but myself for my previous failure at marketing myself.

Anything exciting going on in your writing and publishing life lately?

My swan soars again (and then heads for the rocks)

I’m quite pleased to announce I finally did the light post-publication polishing I’d long wanted to do for my first Russian historical. I mostly removed overused words and phrases (e.g., even, at least, just, besides), cleaned up some clumsy wording, and deleted some lines, along with adding a number of new lines and paragraphs. This makes it the fourth edition.

The second edition merely replaced the legally incorrect title Tsarevich with Tsesarevich and added a brief paragraph about that in “A note on Russian pronunciation and names” in the front matter. The third edition stripped it of all those pedantic accent marks I’d pointlessly used for years.

I may be making some slight changes to the revamped cover, but this is the core image I want to use. I was also lucky enough to get a large enough image for a full cover (front, back, and spine).

I don’t regret the experience of making the original cover, but I quickly came to realize it wasn’t the kind of professional image I wanted to project. On its own, it’s a nice piece of art for myself, and those are probably the best human figures I’ve ever drawn. My human figures have always had a flat, cartoon-like appearance (by choice), but within that style, they’re light years beyond the kinds of people I used to draw!

I’ve also since fallen out of love with Chopin Script (which replaced Edwardian ITC after I changed my primary computer). It’s way too overused as a fancy typeface. The new typeface is called Russian Land, part of a three-font family. It’s based on the Old Church Slavonic alphabet, the precursor to modern Cyrillic.

A word of advice to all authors, indie or traditional: Getting stuck on the idea of your cover having to feature a certain scene, or depict your characters close to 100% of your mental image of them, can hurt you. Think about broader themes and moods.

26 August was my 17th anniversary of finishing the first draft of this book. I wrote it from 31 January 1993–26 August 2001. Starting in 1995, I went back and regularly editing and fleshed-out previous material. I also did some editing and expansion from 2001–02, but then didn’t touch it again till April 2011.

Three and a half years of intense editing, revising, rewriting, and polishing followed. This is the book I’m proudest of having written, not least because I wrote it from ages 13–21. In spite of all the deleted and radically rewritten material from the earliest years, there’s a marked progression documenting my evolution as a storyteller.

How many people can say they wrote a book on six different computers over a total of twelve years, in at least eleven different buildings, with five different word processing programs plus some handwritten material that made its way in?

Where did I get the inspiration to write such a long saga, or figure out how to ultimately tie all these subplots and characters together? I doubt I would’ve been able to write this story so well, the way it needed told, as a full adult!

These are two images I’m considering for the cover of The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, the sequel. It was long overdue for its final polishing and release. Indeed, it’d been so long since I last seriously looked at it, I’d totally forgotten I’d written a “The Story Behind the Story” for it, and that there’s a chapter entitled “Lonely in Their Nightmares” (which, very appropriately, comes right after “Union with a Snake”).

The dedication makes the inspiration for those chapter titles pretty obvious!

I’d like to have all my proof-checking and this release done by the end of September, so I can finally get back to my fourth Russian historical, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. With any luck, it’ll be finished within a year, so I can get to work on the fifth volume, From a Nightmare to a Dream: Out of Stalin’s Shadow. I’m also very excited for the sixth and seventh volumes, and the two prequels.