WeWriWa—Back to skating

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s sister Irina and cousin Platosha told her how lucky she was to get a cute older boy helping her. Sonyechka said she wasn’t paying attention to what he looked like, and Irina said she won’t think like that much longer. The conversation then turned to Irina’s crush on Vadim, one of family friend Yuriy’s brothers.

Sonyechka has just asked if they can get back to skating, and promised she’d be more careful.

Irina puts her hat back on and hobbles out of the ladies’ room. “It’s no fun walking on knives on solid ground. Now I know how the Little Mermaid felt.”

When they get back on the rink, Adrian and Polya are still with the younger half of their group, now joined by Beatrisa. Irina feels a bit sorry for them, only there with one another instead of friends. Teenagers are supposed to have lots of friends, unless they’re outsiders in a hick town like Melville.

“Is Sonya okay?” Adrian asks. “I hope that blade didn’t cut into bone, muscle, or vein.”

“She’s as stubborn as everyone else in our family,” Irina reports. “Thank God that’s not her dominant hand.”

Advertisements

WeWriWa—Principled pain tolerance

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s 16-year-old sister Irina and 15-year-old cousin Platosha came to take her to the ladies’ room for first aid. Sonyechka’s first pain noises came when Platosha brushed black iodine all over her hand, prompting Platosha to comment on her high pain tolerance.

“I didn’t want to look like a baby in front of everyone. Showing weakness is bad, particularly when most people already think girls are inferior to boys. That’d give them even more reasons to treat us unfairly.”

Platosha puts numbing ointment over all the gashes, then finally wraps up Sonyechka’s hand. “You’re a very lucky girl. No cute older boy ever helped me up when I fell on a skating rink, at your age or any other time.”

“I wasn’t paying attention to what he looked like.”

Irina smiles. “You won’t think like that very much longer. Before you know it, you’ll have crushes on boys, and fantasies of marrying them.”

IWSG—February odds and sods

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:

Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

I’d never pretend to be professional-level, but I enjoy drawing with colored pencils, watercolor pencils, and pastels—Derwent’s Coloursoft, Artbars, and Inktense; Caran d’Ache Pablos and Neocolor II; Faber-Castell Polychromos; Koh-I-Noor woodless coloured pencils; Crayola’s Portfolio oil pastels; about a dozen Prismacolors; and Sennelier oil pastels. The lattermost were created for Picasso in 1949. When I have the money, I want to buy the complete set of Sennelier soft pastels, which were created for Degas.

My passion is for abstract and geometric art.

I also do cross-stitch and embroidery.

My mother started this for her parents after my uncle died in 1988, but put it away for years. (She made a few mistakes!) I finished it while recovering from my last leg surgery in 2006, and my grandparents were thrilled with it. They framed it and hung it on the wall of their condo. My grandma, now my only living grandparent, brought it with her when she moved to a retirement home.

I made a few mistakes of my own on this (Buddha should’ve been taller, and some objects should’ve been in slightly different spots), but no one would tell unless I explained my miscalculations.

Since I won a free title setup on IngramSpark for winning NaNo, I decided to make a hardcover for my first Russian historical. (I’ve long since had a block of five ISBNs for it from Canada’s IndieBookLauncher; this service is sadly no longer offered.) I went through it to make sure it’s as perfect as can be for this the fifth edition, and mostly made tiny tweaks and corrected a few typos that were created during the edits for the fourth edition.

At one point, I began to seriously wish I’d rewritten the first six chapters much more radically during my endless edits, revisions, and rewrites in 2011–14. I junked or radically rewrote 99% of the original 1993 material, but it still didn’t seem like I did enough.

Eventually, I stepped back and realized it’s better to bring my improved writing skills and lessons learnt into current and future books, not waste time frogging part of an already-published book and rewriting those chapters almost entirely from the ground up.

I’m very proud of how I wrote the first draft from ages 13–21, and how it reflects my writing voice, style, and abilities evolving through the years. The scant remainder of the original material is also a poignant reminder of my 128K Mac, on which I began it so many years ago.

Had I begun this book as an adult, I would’ve started it closer to the October Revolution, perhaps even in 1918, not soon after the February Revolution. I also probably would’ve set it in Petrograd, not Moskva. But it is what it is, and it wouldn’t be the same story if I suddenly changed things that are so integral to the overall story.

I’ve finally got Word on my newer computer, but decided to go back to Pages for my WIP. I might try again later, but I’ve grown so used to setting up Pages documents. When I C&Ped the one Word chapter back into the master Pages file, there were a bunch of formatting specs that needed fixed. I’ll use Word for new documents, but will keep Pages as my primary word processor.

My older computer uses Word 2003, so I’m quite out of step with the newest version!

Have you ever had late-coming doubts about a story? Would you be more forgiving of shortcomings in a book if you knew the author had written it at a very young age? Have you had difficulties adjusting to different word processors?

How to plausibly weave major events into hist-fic

As I’ve written about before, many historical writers are, or have been, guilty of the everything but the kitchen sink syndrome. They work from a checklist, packing in every single historical event, trend, movie, song, social movement, fashion, news story, cultural shift, etc., from that era, as though it’s so believable for everyone in one family or group of friends to take part in them or be impacted by them.

Related to this is forcing instead of naturally weaving in major events that wouldn’t have touched your characters’ lives directly, esp. if there’s no logical reason for them to be in the places where said events began or transpired.

Take Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War (which I plan to do a full review for this year) and War and Remembrance. It’s obvious he really wanted to feature a Shoah storyline, but his leading family, the Henrys, are a very WASPy Naval family. So he puts middle child Byron in Italy in 1939, assisting an older Jewish professor with his non-fiction historical books, and has him fall in love with the professor’s niece Natalie.

Natalie’s boyfriend works for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, and Byron accompanies her when she goes to Poland to visit said boyfriend and attend a family wedding in August 1939. Pretty obvious where this is going! Throughout both books, there are so many times Natalie could’ve easily gotten out of harm’s way (and she does safely get back to America at one point), but since Mr. Wouk wanted so badly to feature a Shoah storyline, she keeps making really stupid decisions keeping her in occupied Europe.

More than a negligible amount of American and British citizens were trapped in occupied Europe and ended up in the camps. To this day, they haven’t gotten much of any compensation or even acknowledgment. I included such a storyline in Journey Through a Dark Forest, and would love to see more fictional treatments of this shameful, little-known aspect of WWII.

But the way Mr. Wouk handles it seems so forced and contrived. It would’ve felt more natural had he featured two families whose stories eventually link up, not shoehorned a Jewish love interest and her uncle into the lives of such a WASPy family who otherwise would’ve had no reason to cross paths with them.

If your story or series doesn’t already have characters in a city, country, or area you want to feature (e.g., 1960s San Francisco, 1940s Paris), take them there for a plausible reason. E.g., X moves there for school a few years earlier, instead of conveniently moving there just as things start happening.

I’ve known since 2001 I wanted a future book in my Ballad of Lyuba and Ivan saga to feature 1960s Swinging London, but couldn’t figure out how to do that naturally. Now I know the seventh book, opening in 1966, will feature Lyuba and Ivan’s granddaughter Shura studying abroad there and falling in love with someone who turns out to have a double connection to their family.

Also in that book, I want Lyuba and Ivan to be in Israel when the Six-Day War breaks out. This was influenced by my great-grandparents’ planned tour of Israel in 1967 being rerouted to Turkey due to the outbreak of war.

No matter what the event or setting, it has to feel natural instead of gimmicky. Thoughtful readers can spot an obvious, implausible setup a mile away. There are plenty of solid reasons why your characters might, e.g., be in Paris in 1940 or have their lives intersect with a European Jewish family. Don’t insult readers’ intelligence by shoehorning it in just so you can include everything but the kitchen sink.

WeWriWa—A very high pain tolerance

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from Chapter 52, “Lyuba’s Golden Jubilee,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s December 1949, and newly-11-year-old Sonyechka has been knocked over and had her hand skated over at Rockefeller Rink.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Sonyechka’s helpers introduced themselves as twins Poliksena and Adrian (though the reader knows they’re not true twins). Family friend Iliana asked if they were born in the U.S., and Poliksena said they were born in Prague, though their parents immigrated from Russia years earlier, and returned to the U.S. shortly after their birth. They didn’t learn English until kindergarten.

Sonyechka’s 16-year-old sister Irina has come to help her, along with their 15-year-old cousin Platosha.

Irina immediately takes Sonyechka’s left hand and skates off with her, Platosha supporting her from the other side.

“Thanks for helping,” Irina calls back.

“Some people on this rink are crazy,” Platosha says. “A lot of New Yorkers in general are crazy, but people often lose their senses and common decency in a crowd. I doubt someone would’ve done that in the days of skating on ponds.”

Platosha gets her purse from the bag check, then shows them the way into the ladies’ room. Irina rinses off Sonyechka’s bloody hand, washes it out with hot water and soap, and blots it dry with a hand towel from an attendant. Platosha then coats it with black iodine, which produces Sonyechka’s first pain noises.

“I would’ve been screaming since that mudak ran your hand over,” Platosha says. “You’ve got a really high pain tolerance.”

******************************

In December, I was chosen as one of the ten winners whose stories will be in this year’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology, Masquerade: Oddly Suited. It releases 30 April, and the genre is young adult romance, with the theme of masquerade. My story is set in 1767 Charleston, featuring a character I created at 5-6 years old and thought I’d shelved forever in 1992. This is our cover: