Famous surnames (unintentional) in my Russian historicals

When I began my first Russian historical in January ’93, I chose names from a 1965 encyclopedia. This was long before the Internet existed for research (provided sources are properly vetted).

After my Russophilia began developing much more deeply at sixteen, I realised my characters’ names are well-known in Russian history. I also discovered surnames differ by sex; e.g., Konev vs. Koneva, Malenkov vs. Malenkova, Vishinskiy vs. Vishinskaya.

Marshal Georgiy K. Zhukov, 1896–1974

Zhukova, Lyuba’s birth surname. Its root, zhuk, means “beetle.” This is the name of WWII hero Marshal Georgiy Konstantinovich Zhukov.

Malenkov, main antagonist Boris. Georgiy Maksimilianovich Malenkov was an important politician during Stalin’s reign. Its root, malenkiy, means “little; small.”

Konev, Ivan’s family name, which Lyuba gladly takes to get rid of her repulsive blood father’s name. There were two famous bearers, Major General Ivan Nikitich and Ivan Stepanovich, both important WWII commanders. Its root, kon, means “horse.”

Marshal Ivan S. Konev, 1897–1973

Litvinov, heroic friend Pyotr. He double-crosses his father and brothers to get his friends out of the newly-formed USSR and onto a ship to America, and later defects to Sweden with his baby sister. In 1945, he comes to America with his sister, wife, and children. Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov was a diplomat and ambassador to the U.S. Its root, Litvin, means Lithuanian.

Beriya, the creepy secondary antagonist of Part I of the first book. It was such an eerie coincidence how I inadvertently selected the surname of a real-life sexual predator and vile waste of oxygen, Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beriya.

Vishinskiy, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Nikolas, an inveterate intellectual who began going by the Greek form of his name at age twelve. After arriving in America, he changes the spelling to Vishinsky. Andrey Yanuaryevich Vyshinskiy was an infamous prosecutor in the show trials of the Great Terror.

Marshal Kliment Ye. Voroshilov, 1881–1969

Voroshilova, Lyuba’s rival Anastasiya, who sometimes plays the role of secondary antagonist of sorts. Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov was a high-ranking military officer and politician under Stalin.

Kutuzova, Lyuba’s female best friend Eliisabet. Most Estonians didn’t have official surnames till the 19th century, and many took Russian and German names when the law dictated they adopt surnames. Eliisabet’s ancestors took their name in honour of Prince Field Marshal Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov, a great military hero.

General Kutuzov, 1745–1813

Golitsyn, a boardinghouse manager who later becomes Ivan’s uncle. The House of Golitsyn is a princely family.

Furtseva, Lyuba’s friend Anya. I got lucky when I chose the surname of a famous women for a female character! Yekaterina Alekseyevna was one of the most important female politicians in the USSR.

Minina, Lyuba’s friend Alya, and Anya’s lesbian partner. Kuzma Minin is a national hero who defended the Motherland against a 17th century Polish invasion.

Shepilov, Lyuba’s cousin Ginny’s former best friend Aleksandr, who comes through with heroism when push comes to shove. Dmitriy Trofimovich was a reactionary politician who served under Stalin and Khrushchëv.

Tsar Boris Godunov, ca. 1551–1605

Godunov, antagonist cousins in the first book. Though both Misha and Kostya are morally repugnant, Kostya is more buffoonish than evil. He’s great comic relief. I loved using both again in the third book.

Vrangel, Lyuba’s next-best friend Kat. The House of Wrangel is a Baltic–German noble family, with many illustrious members over the centuries.

Nikonova, Anastasiya’s best friend Katrin, later Lyuba’s dear friend as well. Originally, her name was Nikon, taken from Patriarch Nikon. I was the classic kid who read too much and understood too little!

Discarded famous names:

Stalina, Lyuba’s cousin Ginny’s sweetheart Georgiya, whom he later unknowingly fathers a child with during her visit to America for Lyuba and Ivan’s wedding in 1923. I changed it to the similar-sounding Savvina. Does anyone NOT know who Stalin was?!

Trotskiy, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Aleksey. That namesake is pretty obvious too, which is why I changed it to the similar Tvardovskiy (more on that in Part II).

Herzen, Lyuba’s cousin Ginny. The famous bearer was Aleksandr Ivanovich, an important philosopher and writer. I changed it to the similar-sounding Kharzin.

Advertisements

2018 in review

From 31 December–5 January, all my e-books are on sale for 99 cents at Amazon and B&N! You can find the links here.

Though I always feel I could’ve done better, I’m quite happy to have finally had a six-figure NaNo. I’ve hit over 100K in so many non-NaNo months, but that wordcount always eluded me when it most counted. I’m a realistic overachiever, not a humble-bragger trying to win on Day One or aiming for a million words.

I finally finished Part I of A Dream Deferred, at 484K. So far, Part II is up to 172K, and I’m on Chapter 75, up to late August 1950. So far, I’m hopeful the first draft of Part II will be shorter than Part I.

Part II contains five chapters set in Japan (in full or part), as radical Katrin investigates the true aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and overall life under American occupation. As emotionally difficult as it is to research this aspect of Japanese history (possibly the most difficult subject I’ve ever researched, of all the macabre, depressing things I’ve chosen to write about), I loved the chance to finally use a Japanese setting.

Someday, I plan to write a few Japanese historicals, at least one set in the Heian era (794–1185, the last era of classical Japanese history). I’ve been a Nipponophile since age 14, the more traditional type (i.e., interested in history, language, culture, and religion instead of modern pop culture).

At the end of January, I finished the final draft of the book formerly known as The Very First (after believing for years it already ended where it needed to). I’m glad I added in two more chapters and an Epilogue. In 2019, after final polishing, I plan to release both it and the book formerly known as The Very Next.

I can’t wait to finally reveal their new and improved titles! I also came up with a better title for the book formerly known as The Very Last, inspired by a line in a Charlie Chaplin talkie.

I released my alternative history 17 July, on my protagonist’s real-life 100th death anniversary. I knew I should’ve gone back to it at least several months earlier, to avoid that mad race to the finish line by the deadline, which included final edits. I was embarrassed to catch a number of little errors post-publication (obviously corrected immediately). Never again!

From formatting four books for physical copies, I also learnt a very important lesson about inside margins based on page count and trim size. I only saw them onscreen, not in print, and so didn’t realise 0.7″ is on the tight side for 6×9, esp. with a high page count. I’ll be redoing Little Ragdoll with one-inch inside margins.

I also learnt about the importance of double-checking the left and right headers are correct! Odd pages (including the first page of any book) are always on the right, and evens are always on the left.

I released my second Russian historical on 6 September, after having it finished for years. It just needed one final polishing. I also released Journey Through a Dark Forest, the third book with my Russian characters, on 11 December, in four volumes.

Additionally, I designed a new and improved cover for my first Russian historical. It was a big mistake to use my own artwork for the original 2014 cover, though those were probably the best human figures I ever drew! I also made some changes to the text, for a fourth edition.

In 2018, my Top 10 most-viewed posts were:

“A primer on Russian names” (2,901 views)
“No, I will not get sucked into the cult of Arbonne!” (1,899 views)
“Favorite Decameron stories, Part I” (1,438 views)
“Writing an arm amputee character” (1,226 views)
“The importance of stylistic consistency” (769 views)
“Why I HATED The Book Thief (644 views)
“A primer on Tatar names” (596 views)
“A primer on Yiddish names” (590 views)
“A primer on Albanian names” (496 views)
“A primer on Occitan names” (422 views)

The first four posts are also my most-viewed posts of all time, to date. It’s not even close between the first two, 41,553 to 7,415. I still want nothing to do with Arbonne or any other MLMs!

The Good It Is Their Hap to Find

My third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, released 11 December. Owing to its 861K length, I chose to release it in four volumes. Each takes its title from the opening eight lines of The Divine Comedy, which is also the source of the overall title.

Part IV is set from 15 June 1945–5 July 1948. The Epilogue is set over 5–6 September 1948.

While the whole world is in the throes of one of the most concentrated periods of Sturm und Drang in recent memory, the Konevs and their friends far and wide struggle to survive and make their way back to some semblance of a peaceful, ordinary world.

Darya, Oliivia, and their friends feel like a species from another planet after they arrive in America, and Darya feels betrayed when Osyenka begins dating Oliivia. She and Oliivia survived so much together, and survived for one another, because of one another. Now Osyenka is breaking up their happy quartet before Darya feels ready for them to live separate lives.

Darya’s return to Firebird Fields after her twenty-first birthday is anything but blissful. Darya, once so eager to finally reunite with her beloved mother and see everyone else in her family again, quickly realizes she can’t talk about her wartime experiences with anyone who wasn’t there. She resolves to lie by omission, or dance around the ugly truth.

Instead of accepting Darya’s stories at face value, Lyuba and Ivan suspect something is very wrong with her, and that she’s hiding something. She hoards food; only wears long sleeves; never leaves the house, even for church; spends long periods locked in her room; breaks down crying all the time, even over seemingly little things; constantly has nightmares; and draws extremely disturbing pictures. The cruel truth about Pitchipoi, as Darya calls it, can’t stay hidden forever, particularly not after Darya’s youngest sisters walk in on her without her wig.

Into this emotional whirlwind steps Darya’s old friend Andrey Vishinsky. In Darya’s eyes, Andrey is an unmanly coward for seeking and accepting a draft deferment to study psychology instead of getting into uniform and putting his life on the line like her big brother Fedya. However, Darya’s blazing fury soon calms down, and she accepts Andrey’s offer of psychological counseling. Andrey truly wants to help Darya to heal her wounded heart, soul, and mind, but he’s also falling in love with her.

Meanwhile, the remaining pieces of Lyuba’s long-ago dream begin coming true when Katya and Dmitriy unexpectedly renew their old acquaintance. As much as Katya tries to repel his flirtatious, extremely forward comments and suggestions, an increasing attraction to him builds, and they soon are involved in a passionate secret romance that crosses the point of no return. Their relationship is complicated not only by their parents’ longstanding enmity, but by the one thing a respectable young woman like Katya lives in dread of.

Up in Toronto, Yuriy has spent his first year back in civilian life locked in anguish over his unrequited love for Inga. Yuriy has held back from revealing his true feelings so long because he and Inga have been only friends for the longest time, and there are almost five and a half years between them. Out of desperation, Yuriy invites her to his family’s annual summer holiday on Vancouver Island, with his eye on eventually confessing.

Inga is shocked and flattered to finally learn the truth, but doesn’t think this can ever be more than a summer romance, since she doesn’t love Yuriy, and they live in different countries. But all that dramatically changes when one of the greatest scourges of this era is visited upon Inga.

And back in Minnesota, the happiness and relative peace of mind Darya has managed to find her way back to are threatened when her long-latent tuberculosis returns with a vengeance. Will the Konevs ever find their way out of this endless journey through a dark forest?

This Wood, So Harsh, Dismal, and Wild

My third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, released 11 December. Due to its massive, sprawling length, I decided to release it as one book in four volumes.

This was one of those serendipitous cases where a story still reads smoothly when split into different volumes, instead of like a story intended as one very long book was artificially splintered. I’m planning a post about when such a course of action works, and why.

Part III is set from 3 June 1940–8 May 1945, opening with the bombing of Paris and ending in New York on V-E Day. Darya and Oliivia’s ordeal was, shamefully, not such a rare occurrence. A sizable number of people with American and British citizenship ended up in the camps, a subject which is still swept under the rug by TPTB. The survivors haven’t gotten much, if any, reparations or compensation either.

While the whole world is in the throes of one of the most concentrated periods of Sturm und Drang in recent memory, the Konevs and their friends far and wide struggle to survive and make their way back to some semblance of a peaceful, ordinary world.

Darya and Oliivia’s year of studying abroad at a Parisian lycée is indefinitely extended when the Nazis invade and occupy France. Fedya and Osyenka are chomping at the bit for America to join the war so they can get into uniform to save them. When the war finally comes to America, Fedya, Vasya, Osyenka, and Leontiy enlist as soon as possible, and in Canada, Yuriy becomes an Army medic. But winning the war isn’t going to be a quick or easy proposition, and there’s no guarantee they’ll find Darya and Oliivia, particularly after word reaches their families that they were taken away by the Nazis in November 1942.

While many other young men have joined the Army and Navy, Patya and Rodya have joined the Marines, and fight in the Pacific instead of Europe. Patya is a natural Marine, whereas Rodya is more scared in battle, and depends upon Patya to protect him. Rodya is desperate to prove himself as a brave, manly Marine who doesn’t need his best friend to watch his back all the time, and that moment finally, unexpectedly comes during the Battle of Saipan. But Rodya still isn’t satisfied with his Purple Heart and having protected Patya, and sneaks back into combat for the Battle of Tinian. Patya meanwhile is faced with the lifelong reality of the million-dollar wound which earned him his own Purple Heart.

As the young men in the Army and Marines struggle to stay alive in each battle, Darya, Oliivia, and their new friends struggle to survive as Nazi slaves. A seeming miracle happens when they’re transported to a Polish family’s farm taken over by the SS and chosen as indoor laborers, but all good things must come to an end, and they’re evacuated deep into Germany before being sent on a three-week death march to Mauthausen. Only the hope of being rescued and seeing her family again, and her determination to protect Oliivia, keeps Darya alive. Even if the war ends in victory for the Allies, Darya and Oliivia will still have to contend with the war inside their minds, and a world they no longer remember how to live in.

The Right Path Appears Not Anywhere

Yesterday I celebrated the release of Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, my third Russian historical. Since I was only able to bring the length down to 861K (from 891K), I made the decision to release it in four volumes.

Not only were many classic saga-length novels released in multiple volumes, but it miraculously, perfectly worked out so each of the four Parts reads much like its own self-contained story, with a focus on different characters and storylines. There’s no sense of ending in media res.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit Iran for firsthand research for the final version. The Iranian chapters and sections of Dark Forest will have to remain based on secondhand research, and my happy memories of my family’s Iranian friends when I was growing up.

I still plan to visit Iran someday, and I’m still completely unafraid. It’s a beautiful country, and the vast majority of her people are nothing like the media stereotypes them. They want peace and democracy, not a totalitarian theocracy. Many people don’t realise Iran was an extremely modern, Westernised country till 1979.

Part II is set from 15 January 1937–1 September 1939.

While the whole world is in the throes of one of the most concentrated periods of Sturm und Drang in recent memory, the Konevs and their friends far and wide struggle to survive and make their way back to some semblance of a peaceful, ordinary world.

The Konevs’ close-knit family bond is torn asunder when Tatyana finally discovers the truth about her paternity on the eve of her eighteenth birthday. She believes Boris’s self-serving, selectively-reported version of events, and wants nothing further to do with Ivan. As soon as she graduates high school and becomes a Barnard student, she moves in with Boris, who now lives in Harlem and operates a jewelry store. In order to keep an eye on the situation and make sure Tatyana is safe, Nikolay moves into the third bedroom. But the truth about Boris eventually starts catching up with Tatyana, and Boris’s latest schemes threaten to lead to his umpteenth undoing.

Meanwhile, in the USSR, the Savvins, the Zyuganovs, the Godunov cousins, and several now-adult former orphanage girls are betrayed by the Revolution and sucked into the terrifying whirlwind of the Great Terror. Leonid and Georgiya are arrested for violating the infamous Article 58 in various ways, while Inessa is left a young widow with going on three children and fights against the clock to get her family out of harm’s way and to their old friends the Lebedevas in America.

In addition to her own children, Inessa has also been given her old friend Inna’s baby nephew Damir for wetnursing and safekeeping while his father arranges for Inna, the elderly Mrs. Brezhneva, and some of the orphanage children and employees to get out of Kyiv. Inna’s group ends up in Isfahan, Iran, the same place her old friends Alina, Ohanna, and Izabella have fled to with their remaining families. Iran represents an entirely new world, unlike anything they’re used to, but it’s a welcoming haven for the dispossessed. The life Inna and her friends create for themselves in Iran isn’t always an easy life, but it’s a much better life than the one they fled from.

And back in America, Tatyana, Nikolay, and their new friends are enjoying being young, carefree, and in love, even as storm clouds gather on the horizon and threaten to tear apart the world of tomorrow they’re so excited to step into. But whatever lies ahead in the uncharted world of tomorrow, and however many shocks, struggles, and adjustments it may entail, change has always been a part of life. To be born or create something new, one must first destroy the pre-existing world, for better or worse.