My First Business Trip

Okay, the title of this post is a little bit misleading. This wasn’t my first business trip—the trip to New York in 2015 that I forgot to blog about was my first business trip—but this was my first trip with my current company.

The city by night after we arrived

Two of my coworkers and I went to a major city in the southeastern US. We ate some fabulous food, which was great. My prior company had a limit of what you could spend per day on meals. I think it was $25 or $35, which isn’t very much for a major city. My current company doesn’t have that. We are asked to “use judgment” when choosing where to eat, which I interpreted to mean that the five star restaurant I really wanted to go to was off-limits. Within reason, though, we could eat anything we wanted. Swiping the corporate card was very satisfying. 😉

However, the highlight of this trip was the hotel. We stayed in a Four Seasons, which was a first for me. I’ve wanted to stay in one for a while. Allow me to explain.

Several years ago, I started writing a crime thriller. In one of the scenes at the beginning, my intrepid protagonist gets to stay in a Four Seasons with her wealthy cousin (the cousin’s wealth greatly ties into the crime aspect of the book). I stopped working on the book for a while, then came back to it in 2015 and finished it. In preliminary edits, I ended up cutting the Four Seasons scenes—too much backstory—but those scenes still had been fun to write and I harbored a secret desire to stay in a Four Seasons. (Also, that book is one of my favorites that I’ve written so far, so I really need to go back and give it a proper editing and try to sell it to a publisher.)

Anyway, who would have guessed that years later, I would be able to stay in a Four Seasons? It was a very neat experience and I do have photographic evidence to share with you.

Here’s the hotel room: the first photo is at night after we arrived and the second is during the day.

The bathroom was quite luxurious, so I had to photograph that as well.

That’s a five-star toilet right there.

And that, my friends, was my experience at the Four Seasons. I ate the restaurant one morning for breakfast, which was decidedly lackluster, so I went to a local bakery the other mornings. Of course, the whole time I was there working and eating with my coworkers, I kept thinking of the book I wrote and how my trip wasn’t just an ordinary business trip. It doubled as book research, a fact I’m sure all my fellow fiction writers will appreciate.

Inspiring Writing Links

I have a folder in my bookmarks called “Later” where I save things that I want to share with you on this blog. I’ve had these two links saved there for ages, so I am finally going to post them.

The first is called “Beginning to self-edit.” Writer Sherwood Smith talks about visiting a writing workshop run by a friend. The writers had all finished NaNoWriMo and were beginning to edit their novels. The advice in the whole post is interesting, but I saved the link to share this one bit:

The next couple of people’s suggestions were a bit more idiosyncratic: “Throw out the first three chapters of any first draft,” —great advice sometimes, but by no means universal, especially for writers who actually begin the story too late, and end up shoe-horning a ton of flashback into the front in order to orient the bewildered reader—and, “Make sure your ending closes the story suggested by the beginning.”

A lot of advice I’ve seen talks about starting the novel too early in the story, so it was gratifying to see Smith mention that it is also possible to start too late. I had that very problem—beginning my story too late—with the book I’m currently working on. In my case, I think I started it about twenty-five percent too late. The draft I’m currently working on starts a bit earlier. And while I do know the story still will need editing, I do think it’s stronger right now than it used to be.

The next link is the about page of fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. I’ve never read any of his work, but I have heard of him. What I didn’t know until recently was how much he wrote before he found a publisher. His website says he wrote seven novels as an undergraduate. I read somewhere else that he had thirteen complete by the time he sold his first book (which was the sixth or seventh book he wrote, if I remember correctly). I think the moral of the story here is that we writers just need to keep writing. I mean, thirteen novels is some real commitment. I’m impressed.

March 2017 Writing Report

The March writing report is rather dismal. Honestly, I kind of just want to skip it and forget that it happened. But in the interest of transparency, here it is.

I wrote a total of 12,642 words in March, which is an average of 408 per day. That’s dreadful because my goal for this year is 700 per day. I skipped writing on 18 days, which I think is a record for me this year! On the days I did write, I actually did quite well, so I think the problem was not enough writing. I can’t remember what I was doing instead of writing. It certainly wasn’t crocheting because I’m still working on my pink afghan, even though I wanted to be finished months ago!

So here’s to a better writing month in April. I’ve missed some days already, but that’s okay because we all need a break. I’m almost finished with my outline, which is great. I can’t wait to start writing my next book!

Everything Wrong With Mark Henshaw’s ‘The Fall of Moscow Station’

At least the cover is nice…

Okay, the tile of this post is slightly misleading. There may be more wrong with this book—Mark Henshaw’s The Fall of Moscow Station—that I don’t know about because I stopped reading on page 70. (To put things in perspective, there are 338 pages in this book.) All of the inaccuracies have to do with Russia or the Russian language. They drove me so crazy that I could not finish this thing. I’d had really high hopes for it, too.

  • Page 24: A character says, “I am familiar with military tattoos. The one on the victim’s shoulder is not uncommon among soldiers of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate. You might know them as the GRU, the old masters of the Spetsnaz Special Forces.” Honestly, this isn’t wholly inaccurate—the Spetsnaz served in the GRU, but they’re also in other branches of the military and intelligence services. Perhaps the author knows this and omitted it from the book because it was beyond the scope of information we needed. However, I’ve been unable to locate any information about tattoos specific to the GRU or Russian military. I could be wrong, but I feel like the author might be confusing this concept of tattoos with the Russian criminal underworld, where there are specific, distinctive tattoos used.
  • Page 27: “‘Spasibo.’ Arkady Lavrov ignored the American in favor of the sentry. ‘Pozhaluysta zakroyte dver.‘” Maybe it’s just me, but throwing in a pozhaluysta (please) when asking someone to close the door boggles the mind, especially since the speaker is an intense spy who’s the director of the GRU. To me, it would be more likely he’d bark in Russian, “Zakroyte dver,” with the implication in his tone that if the door wasn’t closed promptly, there’d be hell to pay.
  • Page 42: On a CIA dossier describing a character’s resume, we have the following information: “Listed as Vice President for Communications Security, ‘Zelyonsoft’ [zelyeniy is Russian for ‘gold’].” No, zelyeniy [зелёный] is green. Zolotoi [золотой] is gold.
  • Page 60: Remember that GRU director on page 27 who was ever so polite in asking for the door to be closed? Well, here we have this sentence about him: “But the FSB general was a solider and appreciated the willingness to take the initiative.” People, the FSB and the GRU are two totally different intelligence organizations! The FSB grew out of the KGB when the Soviet Union fell. The GRU is foreign military intelligence. And then there are other intelligence organizations like the SVR for external intelligence (though allegedly the FSB works in this area as well). My point is, they’re all different and you’ve got to keep them straight if you’re including them in a book. Wouldn’t it be rather silly to mess up the FBI and the CIA in a spy thriller?!

And there you have it. I was so frustrated with the book because I kept being jolted out of the story by these issues, so I stopped reading it on page 70. Maybe I’m picky, but there are lot of books out there and limited time to read them, so I’ve got to be choosy. I finished reading an alternate history recently (SS-GB by Len Deighton) and I’m still plugging away at Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard in Russian. If someone else has read The Fall of Moscow Station and tells me it greatly improves later, maybe I’ll finish it. But until then, I think I’ll read other books.

February 2017 Writing Report

Wow, this post is almost three weeks late! I meant to post earlier this month about my writing done in February, but I forgot. Better late than never, I guess.

In February, I wrote a total of 16,976 words. That number actually sort of bothers me because it’s just so close to 17,000. If only I’d written a bit on the last day of February, I could have had 17,000. That is an average of 606 words per day, which is a bit short of what I achieved back in January (752 words per day). My goal for this year is 700 per day, so I’ll have to step it up a bit in March. 🙂

Anyway, in February I missed writing on 13 days. Plus, it was a short month, so if we take those factors into account, that isn’t a bad word count at all.

I can’t believe March is almost over already. There isn’t much time left get some decent word counts in!

January Writing Report

Obligatory writing instrument.
Obligatory writing instrument.

Welcome to the January Writing Report, dear readers! I’m quite pleased with how things turned out this past month. I wrote a total of 23,322 words during the month of January, which works out to an average of 752 words per day. Considering that my goal is to average 700 words per day this year, I’m very pleased. I’m actually surprised I did that well because I missed 13 days of writing. I don’t feel too bad about that because most of those days were right before I took my certification exam, which I passed.

I worked on two projects in January: my novel that is turning out to be epically long (which never happens to me, so maybe this is a good thing) and an outline for my next book series. Hopefully these books will garner me a book deal one of these days. 🙂 I read somewhere that fantasy author Brandon Sanderson wrote thirteen books before he sold any work. (And they didn’t even buy the thirteenth book first. They bought the sixth, which is super random.) I do hope to send out some queries this year, but only if I have a completed and edited manuscript. And yes, I know that I could, in theory, devote more time to the current manuscript if I weren’t outlining at the same time. I actually think this dual method is helping me, though. Sometimes I don’t have the mental energy to write more than a certain number of words for a project, but I still have energy to write. Channeling this energy into a different project has been working out well. I’m not sure I could juggle more than two projects, but two seems to be a good number.

Look What Arrived In The Mail…

Dear readers, look what arrived in the mail for me last week.

From Russia with love
From Russia with love

In English, the title is Kolchak: Supreme Leader of Russia by Pavel Ziryanov. Yes, I ordered this online and about a week later, it arrived. It actually didn’t come directly from Russia. The seller I bought it from is based in New York. I read parts of this book when I was in graduate school and had access to an excellent collection of Russian-language books at the university library. I meant to buy it but forgot until recently. Luckily, I found it online, impulsively ordered it, and here it is.

And seriously, I got it for an excellent price. Only $19.00, including shipping. I found this exact book on a Russian website and even with the exchange rate that’s favorable to America right now, it was more expensive. Plus it would have taken forever to get here and the shipping was more expensive, as the site ships internationally with a private carrier. (Because, trust me, you don’t want to entrust the Russian postal service with anything of vital importance.)