#AtoZChallenge – Z is for Zar

Nicholas and AlexandraOK. I know I’m cheating a little, taking out the “T” you normally see at the beginning of the Anglicized version of this word, but I really struggled with finding a word related to Dust to Blood that began with Z for this final installment of the A to Z blogging challenge. After all, this is a story about Dragons, NOT Zombies. (And a quick shout-out/thank you to @MrsPickle_ who helped brainstorm this entry with me one night when I really should have been editing…)


And there is a scene in the second half of the book where Anne and her group visit the Ipatiev house to see the location where the last Russian Tzar and his family were gunned down, so it’s a legitimate reference to my book.

Since this is the last in this series of blog posts, though, it’s also a nice transition back to my regularly scheduled programming. I read Nicholas and Alexandra when I was in 9th grade as part of a school assignment. While it’s billed as a non-fiction biography, though, the story read as part political and religious intrigue and part gripping horror.

It made quite an impression on me, both for the fact that I had seen how the revolution and counter-revolution had played out in the Soviet Union, but also because of the terror of those final days, where you didn’t know whom to trust, and everything was so outside the experience you had been raised to expect. For anyone with an interest in Russian history, and how the Romanovs came to their bloody end, this is recognized as the standard biography to draw you into that story. It’s well-written and worth the read even if you’re more interested in the tragedy of parents trying to find a solution to heal their hemophiliac son.

#AtoZChallenge – Y is for Ya ne ponimayu

I don't understand peopleMy penultimate A to Z blog challenge post. What a month! Doing 26 posts in a month seems like a mini NaNoWriMo–but I’m pleased with the background bits I’ve been able to share about Dust to Blood.

So today’s post reverts to language study, and another one of the very early phrases any beginning student learns: “Ya ne ponimayu” … “I don’t understand.”

When I did a Google image search for this phrase, then, I discovered some wit in Russia captioned this adorable cat picture with “Ne ponimayu ya lyudey” … “I don’t understand people.”

While we’re at it, I want to say “Thank you (very much)!” (in Russian: “spasiba” Спасибо!) for everyone who has been following along. I hope, someday, to also be able to say “You’re welcome!” (in Russian: “pazhAlusta” пожалуйста!) for sharing some basic Russian phrases with you and helping you explore a small corner of this fascinating culture.

Since Russian is the 8th-most-spoken language in the world, with an active population of 144 million speakers, some of these phrases might actually come in handy sooner than you might think.

#AtoZChallenge – X is for Xarasho

HarashoI won’t claim I’m not cheating a little with today’s X entry for the A to Z blog challenge, but the Cyrillic spelling and pronunciation for the word of the day could easily be represented by an X (update: Here it is in Cyrillic, so you know I’m not lying: Хорошо). So I’m running with it.


I also have no idea how this particular banner came up in a Google search for the Russian word “Harasho”–but huge, red, bombastic, and prominently featuring Lenin was a common feature of my time in Moscow, so I’m posting it for its memorabilia effect. Not that you can actually see the Cyrillic “XCH” sound represented there (think: clearing your throat for this one–a loudly aspirated aitch sound with a bit of uvular involvement).

(Hey, it’s my blog, I can do what I want, right?)


As for how this fits in to Dust to Blood? One thing I noticed when we lived in Moscow was that the verbal tick of many beginning English speakers there was that something was “guuud”. I don’t know if part of that is because they tend to use harasho to also mean OK (as in, “can you do x?” respond affirmatively with “harasho”), but it’s stuck in my head all these years. So it became a character element for me too. Similar to “da” (yes).

Or the Russian people are much more optimistic than any of their literature, fairy tales, or philosophies would have you believe. I’m not sure which is more ironic.

#AtoZChallenge – W is for Cold War

Cold War FlagsI struggled again, coming up with my 23rd entry in the A to Z blog challenge. There wasn’t anything obvious in Dust to Blood that would work for a W entry–until I took a step back with the help of my husband. He was right to point out that the backdrop for this story is the end of the Cold War. There were a lot of heady emotions as first the Berlin Wall fell, and then slowly, the remaining heavy duty hard-liners crumbled under the desire of their populations to pursue more open and democratic politics.

The Cold War kicked off in earnest at the end of WWII and found its name via the talents of George Orwell in the British paper, The Tribune. It was the formative back-drop for the Baby Boom generation, and by the time Gen Xers like me came around, it was such a fixture as to have entrenched itself in the collective psyche to such a degree nobody expected the world to be able to exist in anything other than this bipolar state.

I lived behind the Iron Curtain from 1978-1984, so most of my childhood memories involve the complexities of crossing very tense borders following specific protocols (“Don’t show the visa! The US doesn’t recognize this as an international border crossing!”). In Moscow, this was less of an issue than watching the new US Embassy being built–with the understanding that the contractors were embedding listening devices in every nook and cranny. My young experiences told me there was no such thing as privacy or secrets. The Iron Curtain fell, finally, when I was half-way through college, so the lessons of Perestroika and Glasnost made an equally deep impression.

All of this exposure has lived on in my dreams over the years, and is how I recognized the setting of my dream when Ivan and Anne first introduced themselves to me. My intermittent Russian lessons for you come from what I osmosed as a 2nd and 3rd grader. And the bogey-man of the KGB and other secret informants are partially brought to you by the fact that even now there is a Stasi dossier available in Berlin that documents that segment of my life.

The fact that there are still closed, totalitarian regimes, then, begs for the ongoing question to be answered: How are they maintaining power when logic indicates they should fail? So I’ll ask that question in books 2 and 3 of the series and see how it plays out in China and North Korea. 😉

#AtoZChallenge – V is for Vasily

VasilyI’m grateful to the A to Z blog challenge for showing me the whole daily blogging thing isn’t as big of a grind as I had worried it might be–so long as you have a useful framework and a way to build your posts ahead of time for a more guaranteed timely release.

The timing of the challenge has been a great boon for me as I promote my new book, Dust to Blood. Today we’re back to eye candy with the mid-range aged version of one of the “lost boys” of the book, Vasily. (I feel lucky to have found a collection of male model pictures on Dreamstime that have the ethnic and otherworldly feel these men conveyed in my mind!)

The cluster of names I chose are all common Russian names, but I chose them specifically because their first initials combined to form the acronym I.V.F. It works thematically for a number of reasons I don’t necessarily want to share to avoid revealing a spoiler, but definitely links to the idea that there needs to be some sort of intervention to counterbalance the technological constraints on these men being able to propagate their species.

I hope those of you who have bought Dust to Blood are enjoying reading it so far, and I look forward to hearing my first reader feedback on the book.

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