Yes, I'm back and I am so sorry I was away for so long! Between losing Mulberry, adopting a wonderful new boy (Giacomo, or Jack for short), and dealing with a little bit of LIFE... sigh. I managed to miss spending Christmas, my birthday, and Valentines day with some of my favorite people: y'all. Yes, you guys. I really love my readers.
Which is why I'm back for real and expanding my blogging activities, so that I'll be posting regularly on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and I'm working on getting some guest bloggers lined up, starting with the lovely Chris T. Cat, who will be stopping in on March 2nd to talk about her book Too Good to be True?
In the meantime, I have finally finished and submitted the Book That Ate My Life, (which has a real name: Hanging by the Moment) a 111,500 word tome about a Russian American waiter/cook struggling to keep the family business alive and the guy who shows him what life is really about.
I'm still waiting to hear whether or not the wonderful folks at Dreamspinner love it as much as I do (and if they don't, that's okay, I'll either shop it around some more or self-pub; the story is really very, very different from my first two books and there are lots of reasons for a manuscript to be "rejected"--which is really a harsh word. It's not so much being rejected as simply not being contracted. And yes, I suppose it is a glass half full/half empty kind of thing, but writers have fragile egos, if we don't say the glass is half full, we might stop writing ;-) But really, being "rejected" doesn't mean anybody hates you, it's not like getting dumped. Maybe I'll blog about that more another day).
As many of you know, either from reading my blog or following my chatter on Facebook, my own heritage is Russian. My great grand parents came over here at the turn of the 20th century, eventually settling in a coal mining town in Illinois. My grandmother moved to Michigan after she married.
While I was finishing up Hanging by the Moment I engaged in a sort of "put yourself in your characters shoes" exercise and got up early one Sunday morning to attend Divine Liturgy (i.e. Sunday morning service) at Holy Trinity Church, the church I grew up--the same church my character Pasha Batalov and his family belong to.
Much like Pasha, I have a love/hate relationship with the Russian Orthodox church.
The service last Sunday was not only beautiful and but absolutely everything I remembered from when I was a kid (Almost: Father Andrew wasn't there, but the new priest, Father Lev has an amazing voice). In fact so little has changed since the last time I was there, almost 15 years ago for my godfather's funeral, that I half expected to see familiar faces.
Of course, I didn't. When I attended regularly, the church was filled mostly with older folks, most of whom, like my god parents and grandmother, have long since passed on. I couldn't help feeling a sense of joy when I arrived last Sunday to see so many young families, including little kids and my gosh, more alter servers than were *ever* there when I was a kid. The choir was lovely; Matushka Victoria is a wonderful choir leader (the choir leader when I went there was this dreadful nasal-y soprano who roared over the whole choir). But stepping through the doors, I was immediately swallowed up whole by the scent of frankincense, myrrh, copal, and something floral, maybe benzoin? Definitely a hint of sandalwood. The Russian Orthodox Church is no place for asthmatics! I was still in the front lobby!
Of course once you step through the doors, incense smoke lingers heavily in the air; I'm sure there are some electrical lights tucked up in discrete places, but the darkened room feels like it's only lit by candles (many in red glass holders) and the morning sun streaming in (through the incense smoke) through stained glass windows. The service is long (about an hour), and like many American Russian Orthodox Churches, mostly in English. But even though it is no longer my religion, I felt a sense of comfort and familiarity; a sense of happiness at being there.
Anyone who has read my blog saw the post I made a while back about the treatment of the LGBTQ community in Russia.
- Moscow has placed a 100 year ban (!) on Gay Pride events
- Gay rights protesters are regularly arrested even for peaceful demonstrations
- Fr. Vladimir Enert was defrocked for consenting to wed a gay couple (not a legally binding ceremony, of course); another priest was declared a "conspirator" in the event and has been banned from conducting church services.
- A spokesman for the Orthodox Church said the chapel had been desecrated and "had to go"--and indeed it went. Some local officials later claimed the chapel had been due to be demolished anyway, but had no doubt that the outrage the church felt over the "wedding ceremony" hastened its destruction. (Getting facts on this one took some digging.)
And that's just the tip of the iceberg
So yes, I love the church and country of my heritage, but I also hate the narrow minded, bigoted, backwards, hurtful stance they both take on the issue of equality. The true irony here is that the church itself was oppressed for decades under Communist rule. The church and it's people know exactly what oppression feels like.