IWSG—August odds and sods

7

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

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

As I’ve written about before, I was not prepared for the depth of emotion I felt when writing the final days and death of Leonid Savvin in Journey Through a Dark Forest. He’d been written as an annoying, conceited pain since I created him in ’93, but 20 years later, I got incredibly choked-up as his long-planned death approached.

In the end, Leonid redeemed himself by making the ultimate sacrifice to save his adopted daughter Karla, his elderly parents, his baby sister Nelya, and his niece Inga from being arrested and tortured as enemies of the people themselves. He also tells his sister Georgiya he loves her, hugs her, and kisses her for the first time during their final meeting, and gives her a note to keep her spirits alive in Siberia.

This unexpected emotional connection will enable me to better write Leonid in the second of the two future prequels. There’s also a stunning development related to him to be revealed in the seventh book, and hinted at in the fifth.

I won Camp NaNo on Day 9, with a very lowball goal. I think this is my best Camp month ever! Towards the end, I went back to Word as my primary word processor. I needed to transition back in after years away. However, the master files for the three volumes are in Pages.

Much to my annoyance, I’ve discovered Dream Deferred will need a much more extensive editing and revision than usual, because:

I stupidly assumed universities always started in early September. In 1948–52, the schools in this book, and many others, began in late September and early October. This requires moving events around.

Overnight, Irina and Sonyechka go from declaring Stefania Wolicka Academy, a radical private school that gave them full scholarships, is the best school ever, to lamenting the lack of traditional, structured education. There’s no triggering event to explain why they’re suddenly annoyed with being allowed to choose almost their entire course of study.

The subplots with Katya and Dmitriy’s fellow Naval couple Marusya and Sima seem so pointless, cluttery, dumped on the page. All the other subplots naturally weave into the overall story, are plotted well, and would leave noticeable gaps if expunged, but the story wouldn’t miss a thing if this one were moved into the fifth book. At most, I might keep Marusya and Sima as friends with a possible family connection.

I like the theme that emerged in Part III, many things not being what they seemed for so long. Those seeming quick-fix miracles and safe bubbles away from ugly problems were too good to be true. Nothing about the Konevs’ life in St. Paul represents who they really are, and neither did their move to rural Minnesota all those years ago. It feels right for new chapters of their lives to beckon elsewhere.

I’m rather in arrears re: my planned film posts. During the remainder of August, I hope to cover 1929 films The Cocoanuts, Blackmail, Coquette, Un Chien Andalou, and Hallelujah! Next month I’ll have a series celebrating the 70th birthday of a film so white-hot it merits a rare 6 out of 5 stars rating. I also hope to have a September series on the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz.

I’ve also continued doing my genealogical research, and found even more illustrious ancestors in another branch of my Boring line—nobility, aristocracy, and royalty of Medieval France, England, and Kyivan Rus. King Henri I of France married Princess Anna Yaroslavovna, which makes me a direct descendant of Prince Ryurik, the Viking prince who founded the Ryurikovich Dynasty.

I also finally found verified Irish ancestry!

Have you ever discovered problems with a book as you were writing it? Did you ever make a mistake based on poor research or assumptions?

IWSG—July odds and sods

8

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

What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

I’ve spoken before about how Emeline Rosalie Troy is my Doppelgänger. We’re not identical (e.g., I only wish I’d gone to Vassar!), but I deliberately, strongly based her after myself when I went back to Little Ragdoll from scratch and memory in November 2010.

We both had hyperlexia at age three, with the adult, uncensored version of Grimms’ Fairytales; we both love Hermann Hesse; we were very advanced readers from a young age; we share interests including world religions and languages, history, and philosophy; we had menarche a month before our twelfth birthdays; we’re very drawn to the story of Krishna; we didn’t have our first relationship till age 28; and George is our favourite Beatle.

Writing Chapter 6, “Halloween Wedding Gone Awry,” of my hiatused WIP Justine Grown Up planted a seed which gave me the courage to eventually, finally pull the plug on my dead-end, dysfunctional, mentally and emotionally abusive relationship with Sergey. During the first, much longer section of the chapter, Emeline’s having this back-and-forth with her sisters, sisters-in-law, and surrogate mother Sarah, expressing the same grievances boiling in my own mind as everyone tells her exactly what I was told.

I had a rather slow start to JuNoWriMo, thanks to doing one final check of Swan before approving the final version for hardcover production, but I pulled out and overachieved after all. Nothing like my mammoth 100K+ of last year, but good enough for me considering. One day, I wrote over 6K.

I’m also doing really well so far with Camp NaNo. I’d like to finally be done with A Dream Deferred by the NaNo. As for the issue with the subplot I mentioned in a previous post, I think it might be better to move part of it into the future fifth book. It’s just too rushed and dumped on the page, and then dropped.

Several characters mention the reality of a reunion with a long-presumed dead loved one after decades of separation. The love and gratitude are strong, but one can’t immediately resume the same kind of loving bond. Sometimes a reunion is meant more for closure. Each person has one’s own life, and writing letters and occasionally visiting are all that’s needed.

I’ve continued making lots of awesome genealogical discoveries, including finally breaking down some longstanding brick walls. My maternal grandma, my only surviving grandparent, will be so happy to learn the names of our Italian ancestors and see pictures of her aunts and uncles.

I’m also thrilled to learn my great-great-grandma Josephine (née Maria Giuseppa) was an only child born when her mother was 47. There was obviously no IVF in 1859, so this was a medical miracle. It gives me hope that Samuel or Anastasiya will exist before time runs out.

If something is meant to happen, it’ll happen. Everything arrives at the right time, to paraphrase a line in “All Things Must Pass.” Marriage, parenthood, and publication might not occur by the so-called normal age, but good things are well worth the wait.

P.S.: I’ve begun actively maintaining my Instagram page. Most of my posts are of my artwork, book covers, and the garden, and it means a lot to me that so many people have liked my art.

IWSG—May odds and sods

9

InsecureWritersSupportGroup
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and gives participants a chance to share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

What was an early experience where you learnt language had power?

I don’t think I can pinpoint any exact experiences. It was probably more like a gradual realisation than one big epiphany. To point to individual examples, perhaps when I read adult non-fiction books on the Shoah and Pres. Lincoln’s assassination at age eight, long before I was intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically ready to handle such material, and came away profoundly disturbed and haunted.

A happier example is my experience with Ida Vos’s Hide and Seek at age twelve. It was a revelation to discover books could be written in present tense (in that case, third-person). That stylistic decision make the action seem so much more immediate, gripping, intense, uncertain, evoking an entirely different mood than past tense. I chose to make my first Russian historical present tense because of that experience.

I met my lowball Camp NaNo goal on Day 18, though I didn’t overachieve nearly as much as I usually do. Going in, I suspected I might have a slower April, in part because I’ve been using quite a lot of my library time on genealogy research instead of writing. It’s just so exciting, and I can’t use those databases at home without paying.

As promised, I’ll introduce some of my illustrious ancestors in future posts. Though I’m by and large descended from nobodies, one branch of my family tree has knights on it, including members of the Cromwell family. Another direct ancestor founded Lancaster, Massachusetts and is also a common ancestor to the Bush family.

Shortly before Camp NaNo began, I came to the conclusion it’s best to split A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University into three volumes. The chapter-by-chapter notes I made in 2015 never included the subplots and characters which organically unfolded during the actual writing process. Their inclusion has made the wordcount increase quite a bit past my initial conservative guesstimate of 400K.

More and more, I feel one of those unplanned subplots was either a complete mistake or needs more time to simmer. Long story short, Katya and Dmitriy befriend another young Naval couple, Dagmara (Marusya) and Zosim (Sima), who strongly seem to have a connection to Katya’s family.

Sima turns out to be the firstborn son of Katya’s step-great-uncle Grigoriy Golitsyn, a prince by birth. After so many years of private pain, Mr. Golitsyn begins expressing doubts about the former Vitya’s death, owing to his little body mysteriously vanishing between the time Mr. Golitsyn and his friends ran away to the time they came back to their home to gather important possessions.

Additionally, Marusya turns out to be the unknown baby sister of Katya’s godfather Aleksey. Their parents escaped the USSR and settled in Los Angeles, neither having any reason to believe the other had survived. After building up this storyline, the resolution seems too rushed and just dumped on the page, after which it’s never spoken of again.

The reunion of Mr. Golitsyn and his long-lost son is too precious to excise, esp. since it’s only intended as a minor subplot, but if I want to keep the other part of it, I have to move the resolution up or hold it back till the future fifth book.

This year’s IWSG anthology, which features ten stories including mine, released yesterday. We’ve put a lot of hard work into building buzz and promoting it. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to join in the live Q&A panel on the 11th, since I don’t use my computer on Shabbos. I’ll be happy to answer any questions fielded my way, though.

2018 in review

0

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!

IWSG—December odds and sods

12

InsecureWritersSupportGroup
The last Insecure Writer’s Support Group meeting of 2018 is today. The IWSG virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and gives participants a chance to share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears.

I won my fifth official NaNo (eighth counting books I began in November and retroactively added, with honest wordcounts). As an overachiever, I always feel I could’ve done better, but I’m thrilled to finally have a six-figure wordcount in a NaNo month. This is much more representative of what I know I’m capable of, a far cry from the 65K embarrassment of 2016.

I officially listed my project as Volume II of A Dream Deferred, though I wasn’t quite done with Volume I when November began. The wordcount also includes the story I wrote for IWSG (which had 1,200 words taken out to keep it within the 6,000 upper limit, then had the space for 900 new words to be added in), as well as about a dozen blog posts and the journal entry I wrote for George Harrison’s 17th Jahrzeit (death anniversary).

Most of it ultimately came from Volume II of A Dream Deferred, however.

Part I ended up with 55 chapters and 484K. So far, Part II is at 99K. I fully recognize some of what I added during NaNo is space-filling garbage, clunky wording, etc. I immediately excised some of it after C&Ping it into my master file for my 2018 NaNo wordcount, but I left most to deal with during future edits.

I still do expect Part II will be somewhat shorter than Part I. I also finally settled on titles. Part I is Bright Light, and Part II is Black Rain. All the paired titles I had in mind related to the atomic bomb. This pair seemed the most like story titles, as opposed to, e.g., Hypocenter and Epicenter.

These are the Wordles for the first draft of Part I, and Part II so far:

To make sure I had November free for NaNo, I finished my final edits of the front and back matter of Journey Through a Dark Forest in October, tailored for each of the four volumes. As soon as NaNo ended, I set them up for pre-release and wrote summaries for each (expanding where needed from the ones on its info page under About My Russian Novels).

The covers are close to what I’d always envisioned, forests bathed in darkness, shadows, a sense of foreboding.

                               

                               

I had the unfortunate experience recently of getting an offer for a guest post for someone who turned out to be a member of the Woke Stasi. She no-platformed me after discovering I haven’t swilled down the Kool-Aid like she has.

I never heard back from her after trying to open a dialogue with these few talking points, proving yet again these people don’t want dialogue. They only want to scream their POV as loudly as possible until everyone capitulates or thanks Big Brother for stopping the beatings. Or perhaps she didn’t know how to respond with anything but cult-like catchphrases.

I wouldn’t have wanted to guest blog for anyone who demands ideological purity and 100% political agreement anyway, or who thinks valid criticism, honest questions, and different opinions are hatred, bigotry, literal violence, and opposition to basic human rights.

Has anyone ever no-platformed you from a guest post? How would you react if something like that happened? Did you do NaNo? What was this year’s experience like?