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!

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IWSG—December odds and sods

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?

IWSG—November odds and sods

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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:

How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I’ve been writing since age four, so my creativity has evolved along with everything else on the journey through life. My storylines and characters are no longer so out in left field and overly creative (i.e., implausible). I’ve always been very creative—writing, drawing, cross-stitch, thinking, solutions to problems.

I’m once again a NaNo rebel, though this year, the majority of my wordcount will come from my WIP. Last year, it was about split between a WIP and creative non-fiction in the form of blog posts. I can’t say enough about how writing last year’s 12-part series on The Jazz Singer at 90 gave me back my mojo.

This year, I’m counting blog posts, my WIP, and the story I wrote for the IWSG anthology contest. I resurrected my 18th century character Jinx and her younger sister Myrina, whom I’d shelved in ’92. It got me so excited about these characters, I almost wished I could change my NaNo project and significantly expand that story!

Jinx’s original real name was Marionetta, and her sister was Marilyn, but since those weren’t authentic 18th century names, Jinx’s real name became Iynx (pronounced “inks”), and Marilyn became Myrina. Their mother is a passionate Hellenophile who gives all her kids obscure names from Greek mythology.

I can’t wait to restart this long-shelved series! I have so many awesome ideas, but I need to do a lot of research first—18th century life; 18th century Charleston, New Orleans, Port Royal Island, and Bologna; the Ursuline Academy in New Orleans; the University of Bologna (the first university in the world to admit women, centuries before just about everyone else); and the American Revolution.

I tried to write as many important November blog posts as possible before NaNo, and was able to do the ones about The White Album, and the 1928 films The Wind and Show People. I also started my recent post about the 1928 film Speedy, and the first of my posts on Duck Soup (1933).

I’m making great progress on my WIP. My NaNo project has it as Volume II of A Dream Deferred, though I’m still on the final chapter of Part I. Since Part I has ended up far longer than I anticipated going in three years ago, I’ll be releasing it as one book in two volumes.

I recently ran across a 3-star review of my alternative history on Goodreads. I’m glad to get any reviews, and to see someone mostly enjoyed this book. She took issue with my rather old-fashioned writing style; thought it was confusing to keep track of how everyone in the extended Romanov family was related; felt people repeated themselves sometimes; and thought there were a lot of lists.

I’ve always owned the fact that my writing style may seem old-fashioned in the modern era. While I’ve ditched the archaic God-mode, I still learnt how to write from older books. There’s only so much modernizing I could do without losing my own voice and style. With this particular book, I also acknowledge the voice and style are a bit more old-fashioned even by my own standards.

One of the main reasons I’ve disliked so many recent historicals is that the voice is too modern!

My best guess about the lists criticism is that it refers to dining scenes and descriptions of things like room layout, outfits, and presents received. Again, I own that this is part of my worldbuilding style, which may not appeal to everyone. Many other people love my food scenes, and reading about all those delicious things on the menu.

The repeating things I kind of see, though again, that’s a conscious, deliberate stylistic thing, meant as emphasis of something’s importance.

Are you doing NaNo this year? Do you mind a more old-fashioned style, in a historical or any type of book? Would that style cause you to give a book fewer stars?

IWSG—October odds and sods

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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:

How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

I wasn’t able to do much of any writing after my car accident in 2003. It killed my momentum, and when I got back to it, the writing wasn’t as natural and passionate as what went immediately before. Something very similar happened during my depressing junior year of high school.

Writing the chapter “Halloween Wedding Gone Awry” in my hiatused WIP Justine Grown Up helped me to realise I needed to end my relationship with Sergey. If my fictional Doppelgänger Emeline could find the strength and guts to walk away, I could too.

Last month, I went through the grueling final edit/polishing of Journey Through a Dark Forest, the third book with my Russian characters. The first draft was 891K; the second draft was 877K; and the final product is 861K.

I thought very long and hard about how to deal with its release—one massive volume; four separate volumes; two volumes; four individual volumes plus a master; two volumes plus a master. For a long time, I’ve seriously considered doing four volumes, since it miraculously worked out so each Part reads much like its own self-contained story.

Part I is now 146K; Part II is 267K; Part III is 215K; and Part IV plus the Epilogue is 233K. You can see from the Wordles how different characters predominate. The one for Part I includes the front matter, which explains the inclusion of “Chapter.”

And just for fun, a Wordle for the front and back matter:

The final product, not counting front and back matter, is 2,081 pages in 6×9 trim, with 1-point leading and normal margins. Even if I shrunk the leading, kerning, and margins as much as legibly possible, it’d never fit in one massive volume. 7×10 trim would only remove a few hundred pages.

One book in four volumes it’ll have to be, which means four covers and ISBNs. I chose 11 December as the release date because that’s Lyuba’s birthday, and would’ve been the 100th birthday of my favourite writer, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. Words can’t do justice to what a massive influence he’s had on me. One of my greatest regrets is not writing him a letter in all the years our lifetimes overlapped.

Due to changing my double-spacing to single (to remove the unexpectedly huge gaps that often created), all these books shrunk. If the page count differs from the original by more than four, the spine and thus the entire cover file needs redone.

For Lark, I added a glossary and “The Story Behind the Story,” which added back the same number of pages. For Fiend, I added the same SBTS (with a few tweaks to avoid spoilers). For LR, I added a colophon (a.k.a. “A Note About the Type”) and one of the appendices I deleted. For AAL, I added back the colophon and everyone I’d deleted from “The Real People in This Story.”

I’m once again making great progress on A Dream Deferred, though it’s become obvious it’ll need to be released in two volumes. I predict the first draft of Part I will be around 430K. During NaNo, I’ll start Part II.

I still haven’t decided on the titles for Parts I and II—Fission and Fallout, Hypocenter and Epicenter, Bright Light and Black Rain, or Pika (Flash) and Don (Boom). The Epilogue is “Red Canna Flowers,” after the miraculous flowers which started blooming ten days after Hiroshima was destroyed. They represented hope and courage to the survivors, and helped them to heal and rebuild their lives.

Copyright Rexness from Melbourne, Australia; Source Cannas

IWSG—Tech issues and a race to the finish line.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

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 are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

I make no secret of the fact that my ultimate writing goal is a Nobel Prize. My secondary goal is the Sydney Taylor Book Award, given to Jewish-themed books for children, preteens, and teens. It’s named after the author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series, which she strongly based on her own family. Ms. Taylor was middle sister Sarah (her original name).

I also want to be remembered as a writer for all time, like Dante and Shakespeare. We still remember and revere them centuries after they walked Planet Earth, because their stories resonate across all eras and cultures. They weren’t just writing about their own era’s concerns.

What an absolute difference a year makes! While there were a few days I knew I could’ve done better, this year’s JuNoWriMo final wordcount is much more representative of what I know I’m capable of. This includes blog posts and a journal entry, but almost all came from my alternative history. Some of the words were immediately edited out after I pasted them into my JuNoWriMo wordcount file.

This is also a huge improvement over last year. (The second screenshot was taken just after midnight on Day Two, and accidentally registered the wrong wordcount because I was entering the day’s final total just seconds too late to count as Day Two. I had to manually edit it.)

I’m racing to the finish line of my alternative history, by now with a handful of gaps to get back to, my appendices (almost all completed), and last-minute power-edits. The rest of the words will either come from another WIP, or blog posts to promote this book.

This kind of image was the bane of my existence during the last month! It was going on before too, but I wasn’t paying enough attention to it. All of a sudden, no matter how many space-sucks I found and deleted (with emptying of the trash), my disc storage space would very quickly dwindle again. At times, I completely ran out, or barely had any.

Things came to a head when all my apps but iPhoto and Chrome went into kernel panic. Stooge that I am, I realized this happened because they were the only ones I hadn’t deleted the English.lproj or en.lproj folders for, within the Resources folder in Package Contents.

I finally had to reinstall and then update my OS. It also seems very likely Spotify was the guilty party, stuck in a runaway loop and gobbling up my storage space. I’ve yet to reinstall it, though I really miss having it. A lot of those albums were longtime writing soundtracks.

While I was waiting to get my newer computer back, I had to use my 11-year-old backup again.

I’d love to do guest blog posts for anyone who wants to help me with promoting my alternative history! You can just mention my book if you want, but I also have a bunch of topics you could choose from, like:

Real people in the story (you can choose from a list)
Photo galleries of those people
Things I changed, besides the obvious (you can also choose from a list)
Why I radically revised the draconian Russian House Laws
How I dealt with hemophilia
How the finished product differs from the hot mess of an unfinished first draft
Real places in the story (palaces, cities, estates)
Character interviews
The semi-epistolary format I used
Or others!

Have you had any tech issues lately? Are you doing Camp NaNo? Did you do JuNoWriMo? Would you be willing to have me as a guest blogger?