2013 in review

I probably wrote at least 500,000 words in my WIP this year, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety. It was begun last November, and hopefully might take another six months for the first draft to be done. In between, I also did some more editing on my first Russian historical and some of my Max’s House books. In August, I skipped ahead in the hiatused Justine Grown Up to write the chapter “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.”

I downloaded a bunch of new typefaces, some of them for the A to Z Challenge in April. Others are calligraphy fonts for title pages, and others are typewriter fonts. I think my favourites are Janson (a gorgeous, venerable serif typeface), Cassandre Graphika (from a 1956 typewriter), and Tangerine (a not-overly-fancy calligraphy font).


Most of the books I read were for my Children’s Lit class, both required and chosen. I didn’t really dig most of the required books, in spite of their positive reputations, but it’s no surprise I tend not to like books with tons of hype. I prefer older books, and modern books which are more under the radar.

Some of the books I loved:

Bunny and the Beast, written by Molly Coxe and illustrated by Pamela Silin-Palmer. At first I was annoyed that Beast was an unfairly-maligned Pit Bull, but then I realised it was meant positively, not yet another excuse to stereotype and demonise Pits. The illustrations are gorgeous.

The Dragon Prince, written by Lawrence Yep and illustrated by Kam Mak. This is the Southern Chinese version of Beauty and the Beast, and beautifully-illustrated. I haven’t read a whole lot of Chinese fiction, either historical or contemporary, which is something I need to correct. (If I ever decide to write a Chinese historical, my characters will be Hakka or Manchu, not Han, so my women and girls won’t have to bind their feet!)

A Time for Courage:  The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, by Kathryn Lasky. Too many people these days forget how relatively recently women got the right to vote, and what a painful, long struggle it was to get that basic right men took for granted. It was seen as indecent, immoral, unnatural for women to want to vote and do more with their lives than make social calls, run a household, and have children.

The Fences Between Us, by Kirby Larson. Like the above, this is also a Dear America book, and set during WWII. It’s based on the true story of Rev. Emory Andrews, the pastor of a Japanese Baptist church who chose to accompany his Seattle flock to an internment camp in Idaho. Though I kind of wish the book had been narrated by Betty Sato, not the pastor’s made-up daughter Piper. (And come on, who would’ve named a girl Piper in 1929?!)

The Skull of Truth, by Bruce Coville. We had to read two fantasy books, and I ended up loving the MG book I found. I’m more liable to get into fantasy if it’s real-world-based, not epic high fantasy. This book was so funny and fast-paced, with some very important lessons about when to tell the truth and when not to share an opinion.

Kaleidoscope Eyes, by Jen Bryant. This upper MG novel in verse is set during 1968, and involves three friends searching for treasure believed to have been buried by Captain Kidd in 1699. It’s refreshing to find a Sixties historical that doesn’t revolve around Vietnam, and I loved how it wasn’t immediately revealed how Malcolm happens to be African-American. It’s so cringe-worthy how each and every Babysitters’ Club book introduces Jessi with a really awkward, self-conscious mention of her race.

Lily Renée, Escape Artist:  From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer, written by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Mo Oh. This graphic novel tells the little-known story of a girl who left Austria for England on a Kindertransport as a teen, suffered with an abusive foster mother, found a variety of jobs after running away, and ultimately made her way to America while the ports were still open. She struggled in New York for awhile, but ultimately her artistic talents made her a respected comic book artist.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. This book rightfully won a Newbery. The entire time, my hair was standing on end at how chillingly accurately the climate of fear and paranoia of the Great Terror was depicted. This was also one of the increasingly rare times I felt first-person present tense worked with the story, instead of immediately making me tune out.

So Far from the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. I love Japanese historicals, and don’t get a chance to read enough of them. This book is challenged and attacked by many people because Yoko was from a well-off Japanese family living in Korea during WWII. They had to flee for their lives back to Japan in the Summer of 1945, to avoid capture by the vengeful Koreans and invading Russians. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, My Brother, My Sister, and I.


Once again, it was a slow year for adding to my vinyl collection. I only got five vinyl LPs this year—Big Thing (1988); So Red the Rose (1985), one of my last presents from my walking DSM ex; The Who by Numbers (1975), which I’ve already owned on CD since 15 March 2001; The Power Station (1985); and Genesis (1983). I also got the most important of my records out of storage from my ex’s vile parents’ cellar.

I now have 39 albums made in my lifetime, 13 from people or bands who actually got famous in my lifetime instead of long before I was born. I’m well aware that over half of that number comes from the same band plus two spin-offs, but give me some credit for slowly moving into the modern era!

Katrin Discovers Anastasiya’s Secret (King)

(Quick note: This is one of the fonts I downloaded, so it might not show up as such for everyone. My one pre-existing K font using Roman letters, Kino, was too crowded and hard on the eyes to read for extended periods.)

Font: King

Chapter: "Katrin Discovers Anastasiya’s Secret"

Book: The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks

Written: 28-30 June 2011

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

This is the 10th chapter of my second Russian historical novel, one of the summer vacation chapters. Every summer since 1923, Lyuba and her friends have stayed for two weeks at Coney Island (to coincide with the paid union vacations of Ivan, Aleksey, and Nikolas), and then gone to a rented five-story house on Long Island until Labor Day. Katrin pays for the rental house.

During Summer 1925, Anastasiya has settled into the top floor, instead of as usual staying with her best friend’s family. Everyone is wondering about this, and why she so rarely comes out or interacts with anyone. Katrin and her little sister Viktoriya decide to finally investigate, and discover Anastasiya’s trip to Paris in February involved more than just her first fashion show.

Anastasiya has always been so fun to write, over the 20 years I’ve been with her. She’s the secondary antagonist of the first two books, but she’s not a mean-spirited person. She’s more of a delusional, meddling hypocrite. And her reactions are so predictable, they’re comical. Even when she’s caught in a potential scandal, she continues with her hypocrisy and unintentional comedy.

Some highlights:

"I’ll be up to her room later to make her come," Katrin says. "She’s deluding herself if she thinks she can take a vacation on my dime and barely do anything with us.  I’m sure there are some good spas around here where she can start feeling normal again."

"Do you think Nástya’s been having a love affair?" Katrin asks. "Perhaps after all that talk about how she’s better-off without kids or a man because it’d ruin her fashion empire, she felt embarrassed when she found a man anyway.  Sure we’ll laugh at her expense and say we told her so, but we’ll be happy for her if she has found a beau.  Though I can’t imagine how she’s been sneaking him in and out of the house if she has."

"Are you hiding a boyfriend?" Viktóriya demands. "Or are you dying of cancer?" She pulls the bag away from Anastásiya in the hopes of finding some kind of proof of an affair or a disease inside.

"I’m about twenty weeks too!" Katrin says. "You got pregnant around the same time I did, and you never even told your own best friend so we could enjoy being pregnant together?"

"It’s not supposed to hurt unless you have a thoughtless and brutal lover or a medical issue, like a very thick hymen," Katrin says. "Can you please stop using the silly word ‘maidenhood’?  That’s an abstract, male-defined concept, not a membrane."

Katrin goes over to look and sees Iván getting out of the car. "I guess Konev wanted to spend the vacation weekend and his birthday with his family.  I hope his mother is having a sobbing fit about it.  She should be embarrassed at herself, forty-six years old now and thinking her grown son is still a helpless little boy."

"Oh, well this is one piece of gossip that’s not going anywhere," Katrin smirks. "I’d say you’ll still have ample time to see the proof for about twenty more weeks, and any time thereafter, in another form."

"I’d never deny myself breakfast.  I never fast before Communion anyway.  I usually just make something up in Confession so I can be cleared for Communion.  Since when do I ever sin?"

Anastásiya takes the lift down and strolls along the street.  As much as she’s grown used to the Upper East Side, she’s at least thankful she’ll only be going back to the Upper West Side and not the Lower East Side, where she started her life in America.  There’s not much difference between the two sides of Uptown Manhattan.  As she’s passing by an alley, she stops in her tracks when she sees two people having relations under a fire escape.  Her eyes widen when she realizes the man is Borís.

"Are you sure you didn’t already lose your maidenhood earlier and just didn’t know it, or were in denial about it?" Borís asks. "God made the female body in such a way that women would feel devastating pain upon being deflowered.  It lets the man know she’s a pure, untouched virgin.  Only sluts and whores enjoy their first coitus, let alone actively seek it out."

"Don’t pay any attention to her, Ksyusha," Borís barks. "It really should hurt when a girl first has coitus.  Perhaps she was just too drunk to remember the pain."

"You’re a complete dog, Malenkov. I’m not even going to ask why you were doing that in public when you have your own house."