WeWriWa—Mireena speaks up


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 a little bit after last week’s, when 20-year-old Darya, who just returned to America after the end of the war in Europe, said there must’ve been a lot of civilian casualties when Hiroshima was bombed.

The soda jerk and a girl nursing a banana split responded with some very ugly, racist comments about the Japanese, such as calling them sub-humans without feelings. The first one in Darya’s party emboldened to voice an extremely unpopular opinion is 20-year-old Mireena.

Out of all five of the Kalvik sisters, Mireena is the one most created in the image of their radical mother Katrin. Even Mireena’s identical twin Milena isn’t so bold.

Darya tugs on Dmitriy’s arm. “Can we please go right to the zoo?  I’ve lost my appetite.”

“It’ll make us look odd if we leave so suddenly,” he whispers back. “Don’t tell anyone what you might really be thinking.  They might spit in your food.”

“You shouldn’t be rejoicing over the deaths of God knows how many innocent people who just happened to live in Japan,” Mireena says loudly. “Civilians aren’t military or government.  They had nothing to do with this war, and if they supported it, it just means they were misled by lots of propaganda.  Don’t you think the Japanese are sub-humans simply because so many cartoons, movies, newsreels, posters, and news stories have told you to feel that way, over and over again, for so many years?”


Things start going from bad to worse for Darya’s party after this comment.

WeWriWa—Much different from an ordinary bomb

Happy International Left-Handed Awareness Day!


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 20-year-old Darya Koneva’s trip to an ice-cream parlor with her best friend’s younger sisters and godbrother became anything but routine. The other patrons told them Hiroshima was just bombed.

“This might mean the war will finally end,” a girl nursing a banana split says. “Your leave might be permanent, and you won’t have to go back into combat.”

Dmitriy gives a faint smile and nods, preferring to let her think he’s been in combat and isn’t just in the Navy College Training Program.

“I wish I could’ve dropped the bomb myself,” a boy in a corner booth says. “Serves them right for Pearl Harbor.”

“What’s an atomic bomb?” Darya asks. “Is it much different from an ordinary bomb?”

“You’d better believe it is,” the soda jerk says. “President Truman said it was more powerful than twenty thousand tons of TNT, and more than two thousand times powerful than the biggest bomb ever.”

“So that means it must’ve killed lots of civilians.”


Darya and her friends’ concerns for the civilian victims don’t exactly go over well with the other people inside the ice-cream parlor. Darya herself survived a bombing raid in Germany towards the end of the war, when she and her friends were being evacuated from a rocket-making factory to which the front had become too close.

A primer on Tajik names

The Tajik language is closely related to Persian, and is the primary language of the Central Asian republic Tajikistan. Though Tajik used to be widely spoken in neighboring republics Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, it’s gradually been displaced by their respective native languages. However, some people in those republics still speak Tajik, as do some people in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

There’s a political debate over whether Tajik is its own language or a mere dialect of Persian, though it’s officially considered a true language. Over the years, Tajik has greatly diverged from Dari (the Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan) and the Persian spoken in Iran. Due to the Tajik people’s location and geographical isolation, there remain many archaic elements which the rest of the Persophone world has long since discontinued. There’s also some influence from the Uzbek language.

One of the secondary characters in Journey Through a Dark Forest, Manzura, is Tajik. Manzura volunteers as an interpreter while part of her orphanage is en route to Isfahan in 1937, and makes herself extremely useful.

Tajik alphabet:

Tajik was written with the Persian alphabet until the 1920s. In 1923, the Soviets started simplifying the Persian alphabet, and in 1927, the Roman alphabet was introduced. Then, in the late Thirties, Cyrillic was forced upon them, as part of the cruel Russification policies of Stalin (who ironically wasn’t Russian himself). Though attempts to reintroduce the Persian alphabet began in 1989, these campaigns weren’t very successful.

In the Roman alphabet, there are a few odd letters—Ç, Ƣ (Gha), Ī, Ş, and Ƶ. W and Y aren’t used. Ƣ is represented as Ғ in Cyrillic, and typically transliterated as Gh. Other Cyrillic letters include my favorite Ж (Zh), Ӣ (Ī), Қ (usually transliterated as Q), Ӯ (Ū), Ҳ (usually H), and Ҷ (usually J).


Due to the decades of Russification, many Tajik surnames have Russian endings. Like other surnames of the Central Asian republics, they have their own native twist. Sample surnames include Abdulov, Abdulayev, Abdulin, Ibragimov, Nabiyev, Niyazov, and Rakhimov. Recently, Slavic surnames were banned, and it’s now illegal to give babies non-Tajik forenames.

True Tajik surnames usually end in -zod(a), -i, -on, -yon, -yor, -far, -niyo, and -ien.

Sample names:


Abdullo, Abdullohi
Anvar (Brighter, more luminous)
Atash (Fire)
Azad (Free)


Dara (Rich)
Daryo (River)

Faraz (Of high status)
Farhang (Of good breeding)
Farkhod (Happiness or Elation)
Farrukh (Happy)
Farshad (Happy)
Farzad (Splendid birth)
Farzam (Worthy)
Farzan (Wise)
Farzin (Learnèd)
Firuz (Successful)

Jahandar (Owner of the world)
Jahangir (Conqueror of the world)
Jahanshah (King of the world)
Janob (Excellency)
Javid (Everlasting)

Kambiz (Fortunate)
Kamran (Successful)
Kamshad (Successful)
Kamyar (Successful)
Khakim (Wise)
Kosha (Diligent)

Mamur (Judge, officer, magistrate)
Mehran, Mehrang
Mirzo (Prince)
Murod, Morad (Desire, wish)

Namdar, Namvar (Famous)
Niyousha (Listener)
Nuriddin (Light of religion)
Omaid (Hope)

Paiman (Promise)
Parsa (Pure)
Payam (Message)
Pazhman (Heartbroken)
Pendar (Thought)
Poya (Searcher)

Rahmatillo, Rahmatullo (Mercy of God)
Rastin (Truthfulness)
Ravshan (Light, bright)
Rouzbeh (Fortunate)
Rukhshan (Flashing)
Rustam (a legendary Persian warrior)

Salar (Leader)
Saman (Home)
Sepehr (Sky)
Shahbaz (Royal falcon)
Shahin (Falcon)
Shahram (King’s subject)
Shahrdad (City’s gift)
Shuhab (Meteor, shooting star)
Shuhrat (Fame)
Soroush (Messenger)
Suhrob, Suhrab (Red water or Illustrious, shining)

Ulugbek (Great chieftain)
Ustoz (Master, teacher)


Afarin (Praise; To create)
Afsana (Legend)
Afsar (Crown)
Afshan (To sprinkle)
Afsun (Charm, spell)
Ara (Ornament, decoration)
Arezo (Wish)
Arghavan (Reddish-purple)
Armaghan (Gift)
Asal (Honey)
Avizeh (Pendant)
Azaliya (Everlasting, eternal)
Azar (Fire)

Bahar (Spring [season])
Baharah (One who brings the Spring)
Baharak (Small spring [season])
Banafshah (Flower)
Belourine (Crystal)

Darya (Sea, river)
Delaram (Quiet-hearted)
Delbar (Charming)
Delkash (Fascinating)
Delruba (Heart-robber)
Dorri (Glittering star)

Farahnaz (Splendid coquetry)
Farkhonda (Joyous, happy)
Farzaneh (Smart, wise)
Firuza, Firoza (Turquoise)
Freshta (Angel)
Fila (Lover)
Forozan, Fruzan, Forozenda (Shining)
Freba (Charming)

Ghoncheh (Flower bud)
Giti (World)
Golbahar (Spring rose)
Gulchekhra, Gyulchekhra (Appearance like a rose)
Gulnar, Gulnaz
Gulshan (Rose garden)
Gulya, Gyulya

Hasti (Existence)
Huma (A mythical bird symbolizing freedom)
Jasaman (Jasmine)
Javaneh (Sprout)
Khandan (Smiling)
Khaterah (Memory)
Khojasta (Auspicious)
Khorshid (Sun)
Lala (Tulip)
Lila (Lilac)

Mahrukh (Face like the Moon)
Mahsa, Mahwash (Moon-like)
Mahtab (Moon)
Marjan (Coral)
Marmar (Marble)
Mastana (Joyous, carefree)
Mehrangiz (Affectionate)
Mehry (Kind)
Mina (Enamel)
Minou (Paradise)
Murwarid (Margaret, Pearl)
Muzghan (Eyelashes)
Muzhdah (Good news)

Nahal (Young plant)
Najela (Cute)
Nargis (Daffodil, narcissus)
Nasrin, Nastaran
Nava (Tune)
Nilab (Blue water)
Nikou (Beautiful)
Nousafarin (Creator of joy)
Noushin (Sweet)

Padidah (Phenomenon)
Parand (Silk)
Pari (Fairy)
Paricheher (Fairy-like face)
Parisa (Fairy-like)
Parvana (Butterfly)

Rasa (Expressive stature)
Rukhsana (Roxana)

Saaman (Jasmine)
Saghar (Wine cup)
Sahar (Dawn)
Sahba (Wine)
Sapedah (Dawn)
Sima, Seema (Face)
Setara (Star)
Shabnam (Dew)
Shararah (Sparks)
Shirin (Sweet)
Shogofa (Blossom)
Sholah (Flames)
Simin (Silvery)
Souzan (Burning)

Tara (Star)
Tarana (Song)

Zarrina, Zarrin (Golden)

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.


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).



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.


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.


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.


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:


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!

Writing about vintage candy (and other sweets)

I’ve always had a major sweet tooth, and love writing scenes with ice-cream, candy, chocolate, sundaes, and baked goods. It’s particularly fun to research vintage candies and sweets, and to create characters with a sweet tooth. My Cinnimin has a particularly intense sweet tooth, and is frequently shown indulging it. Her habit of keeping a bag of candy under her bed and in her purse must’ve been influenced by Claudia in The Baby-Sitters’ Club.

Here are some of the vintage candy ads and dessert recipes I’ve collected, with accompanying excerpts.
Dubble Bubble


Cinni bought the biggest container of popcorn, along with three chocolate egg creams, ten Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, a giant rainbow-swirl lolly, and a large bag of Dubble Bubble.  Max and Harry got popcorn, egg creams, and a big bag of Tootsie Rolls.  Sparky could only look at all the wonderful candy and treats, imagining what they must taste like.  This might not be a grand movie palace like she’d gotten used to, but it was hardly some hole in the wall.

Chiffon pie


Cinni went around to all the baskets of free samples, taking the biggest pieces and digging for crumbs.  A few of the samples were those dreaded, boring, adult sweets like lemon cookies, almond cake, and maple walnut rolls, but almost everything else pleased her palate—thumbprint cookies, chocolate chip bread, blueberry crumb cake, apricot coffeecake, chocolate cookies, cinnamon buns, raspberry bars, hot cross buns, brownies, cupcakes, chocolate éclairs, cherry danishes, fudge, macaroons, meringues, doughnuts, and cookies and cupcakes made to look like cartoon characters and sporting balls.

Strawberry meringue cake


With the house all to themselves, mostly, Babs and Cinni lay on the living room davenport listening to the radio.  When lunchtime came, Babs went into the kitchen and made them sandwiches with peanut butter, hot fudge, caramel sauce, and marshmallow crème.  She set them on a tray, then added two extra-large glasses of fruit punch with lots of sugar stirred in.

“What are you doing home from school so early?” Mr. Filliard asked when he ran across Babs on her way back to the living room. “I thought I heard the radio in the background, but I assumed it was your mother or aunt, or even that kooky Jasper.”

“Oh, Cinni didn’t feel well, and I took her home.  It’s not a big deal.  She’ll be better by tomorrow.”

“In that case, bring her some sweets.  I won’t hear of my pet child not having her every want catered to when she’s ill.” Mr. Filliard loaded up the tray with fudge, chocolate chip cookies, cherry pie, chocolate doughnuts, and strawberry danishes.

Grape LS


This is yours,” Barry said, extending a large basket. “I’ve never given mishloach manot to Gentiles before, but everyone in your family deserves one for being so good to us.  Without your father, we’d still be in Europe, with God knows what kind of future.”

Cinni returned the smile and eagerly took the basket.  She headed back to the davenport with it, and delightedly discovered oranges, hamentaschen, saltwater taffy, gumdrops, chocolate-covered peanuts, a bottle of grape pop, and five silver dollars.

“I packed that one just for you,” Barry said, smiling at her again. “I know what a sweet tooth you have.  You’d never be happy with the mishloach manot we made for your parents and siblings.”

Black Crows candy


Sparky stood back as Cinni, Violet, Tina, and Babs rang the bell and held out their pillowcases.  The woman who answered the door bent down for a large pail of candy and gave each girl a 5th Avenue bar, 3 Musketeers, Tootsie Rolls, and Snickers bars.  Sparky was a little hungry when she saw all the candy they were getting just for putting on costumes and showing up at someone’s house.

GPC vintage


Ivan comes home to laundry strung through the apartment, the smell of chicken dumpling soup, baby cries, two strangers in his living room, and his fiancée lying unresponsive on the davenport, a cold compress on her forehead.

“Papa, I’m very hungry,” Tatyana announces. “Did you buy me candy after you left work?  I didn’t eat any lunch.”

In a daze, Ivan opens his metal lunchpail and hands her two Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, with the wrappers open for her convenience. “Can someone care to explain to me what in the world happened today?”

Whitman's 1944


Yuriy turns into the first ice-cream parlor that appears and finds a green corner booth that almost matches his uniform.  He translates the menu for Inga, and she orders a sundae with chocolate ice-cream, hot fudge, cherries, and crushed candy bars, with an orange egg cream.  Yuriy orders a humbler strawberry ice-cream float.

Orange LS


Inside the theatre, Vsevolod gets Nadezhda a chocolate ice-cream soda with a cherry and whipped cream on top, and gets himself buttered, salted popcorn.  He wishes he could try all the candy on display to make up for twenty-six years of subsisting on reindeer meat, root vegetables, winter berries, and bread.