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1. Oops

I have just inadvertently deleted the 25 most recent comments to this blog. Including my own.


I didn't even know batch deletion was possible.

This brief (and apparently inept) foray back into blogging has been fun on some levels, but it's also reminded me just how much time a blog slurps out of my day. You wouldn't believe me if I told you how many minutes I spent posting the quiz answers. I don't even believe it.

So. Once again I am forsaking the blog and fleeing back to my WIP. However, I'm not disappearing entirely -- if you'd like to keep up with my mini-updates on reviews, interviews, contests, and Romanov-y things in general, please bookmark my Facebook page:

1 Comments on Oops, last added: 6/16/2011
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2. And the winners are....

Prize package #1

Prize package #2

Prize package #3

Ladies, please contact me via email or private message within 7 days with your shipping addresses to collect your loot!

And now, the answers.

Quiz #1:
What disease did the imperial children contract at the outbreak of the Russian revolution?
  • measles
Where and when did the tsar abdicate?
  • March 2/15 1917, aboard the imperial train at Pskov (you didn't have to mention the train to win)
Name the man in charge of the Romanovs’ execution.
  • Yakov Yurovsky
The soviets changed the name of the city where the imperial family was murdered. What was it called during the soviet era?
  • Sverdlovsk
When was the state funeral for the remains of the Romanovs?
  • July 17, 1998

Trick question:
What does “shvibzyk” mean in Russian?
  • Absolutely nothing! It doesn't mean imp -- it's a made-up nickname, possibly derived from the German word "schwipsig," which means tipsy.
Ridiculous Bonus Challenge:
This cat's name is Vaska.
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3. Self-Googling: the agony and the ecstasy

Today I fell off the anti-self-Googling wagon in spectacular fashion. For your amusement and edification, here's a sampling of what I found people saying about The Lost Crown:

"...you easily could have docked 50-100 pages."

"No chapter is useless or unnecessary."

"It is so well written and captivating that I couldn’t put it down; read it all in one sitting."

"...the book may have made me cry out of boredom at some parts..."

"She uses a lot of unique similes and metaphors throughout - which were mildly distracting..."

"I was floored in regards to her beautiful descriptions."

Characters' believability:
"The relationship between the sisters is realistic to the point of being eerie..."

"...all of the girls react in interesting ways and, sometimes in ways that almost don't make sense."

"The book is told from Tatiana, Olga, Maria and Anastasia's POV, sounds lovely no? It wasn't, it's hard to keep track of who is who..."

"...I was impressed with Miller's ability to give distinct voices to each girl, while at the same time showing how similar they were..."

"Each princess has their own unique voice and offers different insight into what was happening-whether it be war-torn Europe or problems at home..."

"...having four voices going through basically the same things does make the book a bit confusing."

Historical scope:
"She seemed to leave out certain things, or just didn't go into them very much..."

The Lost Crown offers a whole lot more in the way of story and real historical events."

The bloggers and Goodreads members whose snippets I've ganked could argue that I've pulled some of these lines out of context. That's absolutely true. But you know what else is true? When you're the author of a brand new book, sometimes all you can see are the best and worst fragments of a reader's reaction. And the real kicker is, when the book is so sparkly-fresh that you're panting for feedback, you believe EVERYTHING everyone says.

It's enough to make you crazy, and in the beginning it usually does. All that noise can burrow into your head and start to taint your feelings toward your own book. That's when you've got to STOP typing your name into Google. But not forever, because after a while, when enough reviews and reactions have accumulated, all those opposing opinions suddenly become comforting as you begin to realize that nothing any one person says is going to mean life or death for your pretty new book-baby. I think that's where I am now. For a minute, anyway.

4 Comments on Self-Googling: the agony and the ecstasy, last added: 6/13/2011
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4. Frozentears Interview

Need a break from pondering those trivia questions? Click on the image below to visit Frozentears.org and treat yourself to a thoughtful interview hosted by my Romanov-buddy, Laura Mabee:

(Nose around a little while you're there. You might even stumble across some useful information.)

6 Comments on Frozentears Interview, last added: 6/12/2011
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5. About the blogging...

Guess how many novels I read last year?

A whopping seven. I counted the other night, and I couldn't believe it either. No wonder it's been quiet around here. Even getting my very first pair of glasses hasn't made me more fictionally inclined.

Add to this the fact that I refuse to discuss what I might be working on next -- even with the people I live with -- and there isn't much left to talk about.

Sorry 'bout that. I didn't mean to turn into such a wiener, even when I proclaimed myself a Very Occasional Blogger. At the moment, I don't see a cure for it on the horizon.

0 Comments on About the blogging... as of 1/5/2011 5:12:00 PM
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6. Scrivener for Windows!

Remember ages ago when I extolled the virtues of my favorite writing software -- Scrivener? In brief: It's the Mac-based program that kept my brains from exploding while I juggled four narrators during the two years it took me to write The Lost Crown. I would never write a book without it ever again.

Scrivener is now available in a Windows beta version -- free! If you're willing to put up with some bugs, PC users can play with the program for nothing before the official version goes on sale next spring. Also, according to the Scrivener website:

Anyone who participates in NaNoWriMo this year and achieves their 50,000 words (and has them validated) will get a 50% discount coupon which they will be able to use when Scrivener for Windows is released next year."
Learn how it works from Scrivener's fast-talking designer:

Get it. Try it. Love it.

(Ahem. My Blogger template is a bit narrow. You might want to watch the Scrivener video directly on the official site to see the full width.)

2 Comments on Scrivener for Windows!, last added: 10/29/2010
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7. Author-nerdery at its finest

There may still be 8 months to wait for The Lost Crown, but look what I can do with my brand new dust jacket and a great big book* from my own shelves in the meantime:

(*I've left a smidgen of a certain somebody else's great big book peeking out at the bottom. Bonus points if you can ID it.)

The spine is GINORMOUS. And pearly. The little purple square is glossy-laminated, and the title is embossed on the front. Possibly this is crazy, but my favorite part might be the back:

6 Comments on Author-nerdery at its finest, last added: 10/29/2010
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8. Banned Books Week

This sculpture isn't about book-banning, but don't you think it could be?

"Listening to History," by Bill Woodrow

Image snapped this weekend at the Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, which, incidentally, is having a great big exhibit of glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. It's nifty stuff -- sort of a Willy Wonka meets Dr. Seuss flavor:

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9. Proofreading

Page proofs for THE LOST CROWN arrived on Friday, and they are prettyful:

Appealing as that is, you know what I looked at first? The back matter. Nerdy stuff like photo captions and bibliography:

I kind of like this page, too:

So. I'm supposed to be correcting the text, not just ogling it. Confession: I'm not the world's greatest proofreader. Ever seen that email that begins,

Aoccdrnig to a rseearchr at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

I can read that without even blinking. (Well, except for where it says "it self" instead of "itself.") I'm much better at spotting formatting goofs -- like misplaced italics and reversed quotation marks -- than spelling errors.

Nevertheless, I'm finding plenty to keep me busy:

270 pages down, 163 to go...

5 Comments on Proofreading, last added: 9/20/2010
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10. Cover art!

7 Comments on Cover art!, last added: 9/25/2010
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11. Paperbacks!

Look what arrived at my house today:

(They are considerably spiffier than my expression might lead you to believe.)

I really really like that little apple on the spine. Don't forget to peek at the very backest back, where you'll find a teaser chapter from The Lost Crown:*

(*Yes, the title's changed again. Daughters of the Tsar -- formerly known as OTMA -- is now THE LOST CROWN. Once and for all.)

9 Comments on Paperbacks!, last added: 8/27/2010
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12. WFMAD Challenge-fail?

Over at Madwoman in the Forest Laurie Halse Anderson is hosting her annual Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge. So far, I think I'm flunking. I just left this comment:

So...if I've spent the first 5 days of WFMAD submerged in copyedits, does that count? Clearly it's writing-related, but even when I'm tweaking a scene it doesn't feel like "real" writing -- it mostly feels like clerical work. At the end of a day of copyedits, the last thing I want to do is compose something new, and I end up rationalizing for waaaay more than 15 minutes:

This is necessary work, real-live-published-author-work. The deadline is Friday; that takes precedence. You've been at it for hours, give yourself a break. (ad nauseam)

Maybe I do need to quit being so literal and give myself a break. Pirate Code of Writing, and all that. But the daily rationalization bugs me -- isn't that exactly the sort of procrastinatory baloney that WFAMD aims to conquer? Isn't rationalizing a signal of guilt? Because for the record, I KNOW DARN WELL ANOTHER 15 MINUTES WON'T KILL ME. I just don't *want* to....

What do you think? Should I atone with make-up days in September? Or am I being too hard on myself?

(In the interest of full disclosure: a couple days ago I did squeeze in my 15 minutes. It felt FABULOUS -- when it was over, that is.)

2 Comments on WFMAD Challenge-fail?, last added: 8/12/2010
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13. Copyedits, BLARGH

If I ever start writing a book that includes vocabulary from a language with a non-latin alphabet, SHAKE ME BY MY SHIRTFRONT.

Motherofgod, I'm a Russian minor, and I can't tell you how much of the transliteration I've botched. Lemme tell you, in 400+ pages, there's a lot of room for botching.

Just when I think it's all sorted out, one more sneaky word pops up to throw me for a loop. For example, the Russian letter "Я" can be rendered correctly in English as "ya" or "ia." I picked "ia." Oh wait, except for when I spell dorogaya -- which I refuse to change, because dorogaia looks ridiculous and unpronouncable. If I want to keep my preferred spelling, then all my "ia" words and names (Obednia, prigoditsia, Rodzianko...) have to be converted to "ya."

Hence, I have been Find-and-Replacing for three hours.

And it's dawned on me that technically, if I follow this -ia/-ya rule, the two youngest grand duchesses' names should be spelled Mariya and Anastasiya.


(I'm afraid to look at my character list now.)

1 Comments on Copyedits, BLARGH, last added: 7/29/2010
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14. Sunday grumble

Been doing a bit of reading on Laura Ingalls Wilder's portrayal of Native Americans in Little House on the Prairie, and if one more historian sees fit to remind me that "Wilder's genre was fiction -- and children's fiction at that," I'm going to blow a gasket.

1 Comments on Sunday grumble, last added: 7/28/2010
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You might recall that not long ago I was raving about Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son. Couldn't wait to read the sequel.

Well. Red Prophet has been on my nightstand for the better part of two weeks now, and I'm all the way up to...page 11. The thing is, I've been reading up on Native images and stereotypes in American culture -- mostly here and here -- and I must be starting to get it, because in less than a dozen pages the descriptions of the Indians in Red Prophet are turning me right off. Given the setting, I can't say the white characters' racism is inappropriate. It's probably accurate, and it may even turn out to be an integral element of the story. But for me, right at this moment, it's not much fun to wade through.

Those of you who've read the series -- should I stick with this installment? Are there going to be other perspectives to counterbalance Hooch's attitude toward the Reds?

2 Comments on , last added: 7/13/2010
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16. KEEPER, by Kathi Appelt

by Kathi Appelt
illus. by August Hall


If I told you exactly what I liked best about this book, I'd spoil it for you in at least three different ways. Instead, I will be cagey, brief, and metaphorical -- probably maddeningly so:

If The Underneath was a ballad, Keeper is a pot of gumbo. So many flavors and combinations, some of them even a little audacious -- a girl who believes her mama is a mermaid? -- but so, so tasty when they're all simmered together.

Read it by the sea, or a lake -- like so:

(Or a puddle, if all else fails.)

2 Comments on KEEPER, by Kathi Appelt, last added: 7/9/2010
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17. Need I say more?

I haven't read a novel in three months. Really. Three months.

But yesterday I sat by Lake Huron and reveled in Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son. All the way to the end.

I don't read sequels.

But today I informed my library that I must have Red Prophet -- book #2 in the aforementioned Tales of Alvin Maker series.

That is all for now.

3 Comments on Need I say more?, last added: 6/26/2010
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18. Discovering disablism

Confession #1:
I'd never heard the term disablism until I read my friend diceytillerman's Blogging Against Disablism post over the weekend.

Confession #2:
Although I haven't run into anything cringe-worthy yet, it's pretty darn unnerving to be reading up on this topic now, nearly three years after publishing a novel about two of the most famous disabled people on the planet. But it's also making me think - a lot - about how disability is portrayed in children's literature.

Case in point:
Through a weeklong session of link-clicking, I found my way this morning to one of the best book reviews I've ever read:

2 Comments on Discovering disablism, last added: 5/8/2010
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19. Bookshop memories

Remember the snurpy Halfway Down the Stairs tribute video I made a couple years ago? To create a teaser for the Rochester Oral History Archive, longtime HDS customer Corrie Pokrzywa layered in an audio track of owner Cam Mannino's bookshop memories:

Intrigued? Listen to Cammie's full 45 minute interview here for lots more insider stories on the life and evolution of a book store.

1 Comments on Bookshop memories, last added: 1/25/2010
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20. The new BFF

Laurie Anderson posted a Really Good Idea a couple weeks ago:

We had NaNoWriMo in November. December and January have been filled with revisions for many of us, and by many of us, I mean ME. And many of us want to finish up the current project so we can get hopping on the next one. So...........

Let's make February a blog-free month.

(I heard that gasp. Breathe slowly. Into a paper bag. With your head between your knees.)

Do not panic. February is short! We could call it the new BFF: Blog-Free February.

If you do this, you'll be at the cutting edge of the next digital trend: the
Slow Media Movement. Give everyone a heads-up that you're stepping away from blogging for a couple of weeks. If you are truly bold (or desperate) make February an Internet-free month, not just blog-free. On March 1st, write a blog (or a letter) evaluating any differences in your productivity during February.
Count me IN. I'm actually between revisions, having shipped off a shiny new draft of OTMA to Madame Editor the morning I left for Boston. If I behave myself during BFF, I might get a decent start on something new before OTMA returns to haunt me...

Currently reading:

The Catch Trap
by Marion Zimmer Bradley

3 Comments on The new BFF, last added: 1/31/2010
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21. State of the TBR pile


The Story of the Ingalls, by William Anderson
The Walnut Grove Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by William Anderson
Larger-than-life Lara, by Dandi Daley Mackall
Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Iowa Story, by William Anderson
The Ingalls Family Album, by William Anderson

See you all in March!

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22. BFF recap: good news/bad news

This month I have:

  • not blogged once (aside from this post)
  • turned off Google Alerts
  • cut down Goodreads email updates by at least 50%
  • stopped posting star-ratings to the books I've read on Goodreads
  • pared down blogs I follow by 30%
  • abandoned daily visits to two of my three favorite message boards
  • (mostly) stopped reading Facebook updates of people who aren't personal friends or family
  • stopped checking my Amazon ranks(!)
  • ignored my blog traffic stats
  • decreed that widget-peeks and web browsing sessions may commence only between the hour and the quarter (how long those sessions last is another matter, however)
  • Networking and blogging and all the rest aren't so much about keeping in touch as about keeping up. And up, and up, and UP. Blargh.
  • Left to my own devices, it's positively creepy how much time I will spend loitering online, waiting for a bit of virtual interaction to pounce on. As opposed to, say, seeking out a live human to speak with in person.
  • It's also disconcerting to see how odd it initially felt to be done with my morning web-binge in half the time. I found myself staring at the screen thinking, Really? Already? as if I were an alcoholic dumbfounded by an empty glass.
  • I can't honestly say that cutting down on all this malarkey has upped my productivity. My constitutional resistance to drafting is still a great big hurdle. However, I am far less inclined to do my procrastinating online, which in turn makes me feel far less...turdy. The internet is a strange place, capable of making me feel simultaneously harried and slovenly.
  • Posting only privacy-filtered, literature-relevant slices of yourself online paints a very two-dimensional impression of a person. It's also oddly tiring.

The good news:
Cutting back was much easier than I expected. And you know what? I LIKE IT BETTER THIS WAY.

The bad news:
I wish there was a way to say this gently, but...I did not miss blogging. Not one little bit.

Confession: I've been suspicious of blog-burnout since well before Christmas, and Blog-Free February provided the definitive diagnosis. The space that has opened up in my brain and my schedule this past month is too big to let go -- especially while I'm doing daily battle with a first draft. (Or trying to.) I always give precedence to the more pressing deadline, and that is nearly always blogging.

From now on, fiction comes first -- count on me only as a Very Occasional Blogger.

5 Comments on BFF recap: good news/bad news, last added: 3/2/2010
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23. OTMA, round 2

OTMA has returned. Again.

By and large, the proposed cuts are not as scary as I was braced for. Madame Editor is a sharp line editor. However, there is the matter of her suggestion to do away with ALL THESE PAGES:

Two great big handfuls, both from chapters narrated by Maria. The first one had me bent over the kitchen counter making horrified exclamations: Oh. Oh, you vile woman! No! And then I caught myself smiling as I fussed, because....because...I think she might be right.

But I am not touching this big pile of paper again until Monday.

2 Comments on OTMA, round 2, last added: 3/12/2010
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24. Don't let the Pigeon Procrastinate

(I'm supposed to be working.)

1 Comments on Don't let the Pigeon Procrastinate, last added: 3/15/2010
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25. The trouble with hybrids

Lookit this pretty font I found while I was pretending to be OTMA's* designer instead of its author:


But oh wait, it's a latin-cyrillic hybrid font, so look at the dumb things that happen when I add the subtitle:

I guess it's supposed to look exotic and Russiany, but if you are a person who actually reads Russian, this is what your mind says when your eyes try to read those words: D Iovel of Yaomanov Yaussia


*I have neglected to mention that Madame Editor and I seem to have settled on an official title for OTMA. As you may have guessed by now, it's Daughters of the Tsar: A Novel of Romanov Russia.

2 Comments on The trouble with hybrids, last added: 4/12/2010
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