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Novels & Nostalgia

13 Aug

Every so often, I drag out my journal from 1993, the year I studied abroad in Russia. At a rate barely faster than that of glacier migration, I’ve been transcribing the yellowing handwritten thing into a Word file. I was tired last night and needed inspiration, so I chose a Russian classical playlist on iTunes and searched the web for a photo of the Smolny Cathedral in the snow. I found a good one on Google Images. Then realized it was from this blog.

Oh yeah. The blog. How I have scorned it!

I’ve devoted most of my summer to revising my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel and ordering various proofs. I’m finally at a good resting point. A few kind souls have volunteered to be beta readers, I have the cover I want for now, and so I’ll pull back from it for a while. If anyone wants to join the beta brigade, let me know. I have pdf and epub versions.

Here’s the cover:

Nocturne Cover (proof three)

Click on the image below for a link to the first two chapters (on

Those of you who read my 99th Page blogfest entry will recognize some of this. I moved a middle chapter from my original novel to the beginning of this one (the alternate version).

Now I’m waiting for the next prompt for NPR’s Three-Minute-Fiction…


On Suns & Moons

19 Mar

I woke this morning to the sound of dragon’s fire. Darth Vader breathing slowly. After flailing weakly, trying to make it shut up, I realized. This is not normal. This sounds like that time…*

Up I stood. I peered through the blinds to the south. No.

Disappointed, I pried open a few blades of my eastern window blinds. YES! Hot air balloon.

A single spire of St. Basil’s Cathedral floated just outside my bedroom — well, just over the rear neighbors’ roofs. It floated in yellow-red-blue glory no more than ten feet above the houses, occasionally pulled upward a few feet by a blast of flame. Howdy tourists! A new reason to keep the blinds drawn when sprawled out in bed. Who knew? Such is life on the outer periphery of semi-desert wine country. The same thing that makes life in these exurbs difficult without a car makes for the occasional picturesque awakening.

I watched bunnies frolic in the mown grass yards of the sole row of houses between us and rural scrub as the Russian spire became the world’s largest bouncy house in the fields beyond. When it gave up with one last floppy swoon, I gave up going back to bed and got online.

Tonight, the moon will be closer to Earth than it’s been since 1983. (Supermoon — sounds like it’s going to don a cape and save the world from evil.) This morning, a pseudo-sun came closer to my house than ever before. Let’s hope these are good omens and will bring me some writing energy in addition to interesting views out my back windows.

Wishing you all a super Supermoon day!

*At some point in the 1990s, a hot air balloon skimmed close to the roof of my parents’ house, and we all ran out onto their deck to watch its passage.

Anna Karolina

31 Jan

Eighteen years ago today, I was just getting settled in here for my semester abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia.

We took our classes in the lower blue buildings surrounding the cathedral. Our housing was a block away.

I’m transferring old handwritten journal entries into a Word document, which is a cringeworthy experience.  Talk about an unreliable narrator!

Have you ever read old journals or letters from an experience you thought you remembered clearly, only to find that time has given you a clearer perspective, and you were no more than an [expletive]?


Just me?

Because my semester in Russia plays out like a really pathetic version of Anna Karenina without the dramatic train incident.

I call this one Lady with a Swamp Rat on Her Head.

Me freezing inside St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Sqaure

Introducing The Fabulous Betty Noire! (NaNo 2010)

13 Oct

Should all go well, this is what I hope to write next month for NaNoWriMo.
Quick blurb:
The View from Upper High Hog

Set in Arizona during the early years of the Cold War

An outrageous former Vaudevillian finds herself put out to pasture, fumbling between her perplexing new job as guardian to a Russian child and her misadventures trying to regain her former glory (not to mention a ticket back to New York) through playing what she dubs “The Jackalope Circuit.”
Short synopsis:
The View from Upper High Hog

New York, 1954

Jazz Age, Atomic Age, Space Age — meh. The Fabulous Bette Noire (a.k.a. Bebe Rosenthal) figures she’s seen it all. Life on the big time Vaudeville circuit gives a broad an extra broad perspective, not to mention the chutzpa to fight. She’s been through wars one and two and enough husbands to form a chorus line, so she’s up for anything.

Therefore, when her latest husband kicks the bucket, stranding her on his employer’s Hudson Valley estate, Bebe knows just what to do. Enough with this love nonsense. It only leads to trouble. And a little hay fever. Her fans must be clamoring for her after her long hiatus. She’ll call her agent and get back to her proper place in the world — the stage.

Unfortunately, she discovers a few more things have gone on hiatus since last she saw Manhattan: the Age of Vaudeville and her ability to find a role.

With no money to speak of and nowhere to go, Bebe finds herself lured by an offer from her late husband’s employer. Give up her apartment over their garage, and they’ll give her a job with lots of time off and travel. She just has to be ready to start the next day, no questions asked.

Sounds great to a gal who loves her freedom and wants to see exotic places. And no questions asked? Bebe’s first husband was a bootlegger. No problem.

Then she finds herself herded onto an Arizona-bound train with her previously undisclosed responsibility shoved into her arms as the train pulls out. To Bebe’s horror, it’s a child. And, not just any child, it’s her employer’s newly-orphaned niece, Tatiana, a four-year-old who draws attention with her crazy orange hair, ugly duckling face, and constant babbling in Russian — a dead giveaway of her Auntie Kate’s secret past on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

Bebe figures that Aunt Katya’s a smart one, killing two broads with one stone, setting her burdens adrift on an ice floe. Smarter, she’s put Bebe under the supervision of  “Grandpa Joe,” a muscular enforcer from down on the (collective) farm.

Thus, Bebe begins her new life as hapless guardian to an alien life form in an alien land — the dust and neon planet of Route 66. She’s caught between the needs of the child, a feud between Aunt Kate and the headmistress of the child’s school, and her own urgent need to escape what she dubs The Jackalope Circuit.

In a series of misadventures, including stalking famous musicians, sending hate mail to Betty Hutton for stealing her schtick, and and trying to form a theater company using the residents of a flea-bag motel, Bebe struggles to reclaim her former glory, independence, and relevance in the world.

Meanwhile, the newly-renamed child, Elizabeth, looks on from the shadows, trying to make sense of a world equally alien to her and longing for Bebe to give her the attention, stability, and love she’s never had.

Against the backdrop of the burgeoning Cold War, the two dream their own versions of happily ever after, or, as Bebe refers to it, Upper High Hog. And Bebe fights what she considers the scariest age of all — old age.

On the Bill for November…

7 Oct

Introducing Idea #1 for a NaNoWriMo masterpiece/wreck:

The View from Upper High Hog

Click here for a longer synopsis

Set in Arizona during the early years of the Cold War

An aging former Vaudevillian finds herself put out to pasture, fumbling between her perplexing new job as guardian to a Russian child and her misadventures trying to regain her former glory (not to mention a ticket back to New York) through playing what she dubs “The Jackalope Circuit.”

I’ve hammered out ten pages of notes. I’m full of the music, the images, the texture, and tons and tons of emotion. Now I just have to find a viable framework on which to drape it. Or maybe not “drape” — that implies some droopy slow bits.

Hopefully those notes and these fiddly unofficial graphics aren’t as far as the story goes.

P.S. I think my melodramatic character is getting jealous. Now they’re threatening me with truly awful developments when I return to my main novel. But, unlike when my kids act up, I think I’ll actually pay attention to this character.