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Publishing: Square One

  • Jul. 26th, 2014 at 8:25 AM

I get a lot of emails from friends and family and people-I-once-met-at-the-grocery-store that ask: How do I get published?

I get the impression most people want me to hand them a website, or give a quick and simple answer, but there’s really no instant-response to that question. Publishing is a big giant industry, and getting published isn’t a quick and simple thing, no matter how you go about it.

BUT, everyone needs to start somewhere, and so I’ve written this post as just that: a place to start. This is your square one, people.

Now, before you read this, I want to be very clear: There are exceptions to every rule. So when I talk about how it’s easier to be a full time writer if you’re traditionally published, I know that some traditionally published writers have day jobs, and some self-published writers have yachts. When I say traditionally published writers get to go on book tours, I know that a self-published writer can pay for her own book tour. I am making generalizations in this post in order to help those who are brand-spanking-new to the publishing industry decide how they want to move forward. This post is NOT a debate about which method of publishing is superior or inferior, but rather just a place for some general, just-getting-started info.

Okay? Okay.

On to square one.

There are two main “ways” to get published:
1) Traditional publishing:
This is where a publisher—be it a big one, like Random House, or a small one— pays you an advance on sales, and then publishes the book, handles the design, marketing, and release, and you split the profits with them. You retain the copyright, and the advance is yours to keep regardless of how well the book sells. Once you’ve “earned out” the advance, you start earning royalties on each book sold. You still own the copyright on your work, and publishing this way costs you nothing out of pocket—the publisher pays you if they want to publish your book. That said, traditional publishers are choosy about what they select to publish, so there’s a risk (and high likelihood, no matter who you are) of rejection.

2) Self publishing:
This is where you basically do everything yourself. You edit the book, design a cover, design the interior, upload it to Amazon or B&N or get copies printed, market it, etc. It’s a lot more work on your end, but nearly all the profit is yours (if you’re doing an ebook, Amazon/B&N/whatever platform you use will take a cut of your sales). Obviously, you still own the copyright on your work here too. Since you’re not submitting the work to anyone who must approve it, there’s no risk of rejection.

Which one is better?
There’s no answer to this question.
-Traditional publishing means you get an advance right out of the gate, which is nice—it means you have some money to live on while you wait for the book to comes out.
-Self publishing is fast—with traditional publishing you usually have a year or more between turning in the book and seeing it on shelves.
-Traditional publishing means a professional designer will create your cover.
-Self-publishing means you get to make the final decision on your cover.
-Traditional publishing means a marketing team with connections, data, and a budget can send you on a book tour, get you in newspapers, and get you professionally reviewed.
-Self-publishing means that you can release the book on Sunday and immediately start writing a new one on Monday if you’re not the promo-ing kind.
-Traditional publishing means you must submit your work to publishers and be accepted—or rejected.
-Self-publishing means you’re the decision maker on if the book will be published or not.

There’s admittedly a certain prestige that comes with traditional publishing. This is not to say all traditionally published books are inherently better than all self-published books. But, when I see a traditionally published book, I instantly must assume that at a publishing house, this book was chosen from the thousands by a team of acquisitions editors. I must assume that it has been professionally edited, copyedited, and designed. I must assume this book was so good that the bookstore I found it in chose to carry it on their very limited shelves.
With self-published books, the only thing I must assume is that the author knows how to use a computer.

I’ll be the first to admit that I grow very tired of traditional publishers talking about how their way is better because they’re “gatekeepers” for great books—all while releasing some celebutante’s ghostwritten autobiography. But, like it or not, self-publishing is easy. It takes less than ten minutes to load a book to Amazon’s website (yes, it takes more time to write, format and design it, and those things might not be easy, but none of that is required to get it loaded and stick a price on it). When it’s easy, everyone can do it—which means you, who are reading this and take writing and publishing very seriously, might be published alongside a frat guy who wrote an expose about the girl who wouldn’t make out with him and loaded it just before beer pong started.

My point is: For me, and I think a lot of others, self-published books have to prove themselves to me in a bigger way than traditionally published ones do. I think it’s important to consider that when choosing what route to go for publishing your book.

How do I decide which route to go?
It very much depends on you, your goals, and your book.

I encourage traditional publishing if:
-You want to be a full time writer
-You want to go on book tours and have your book professionally promoted
-You want to see your book in brick and mortar stores (bookstores, but also Target, Costco, etc)
-You want to have your book professionally reviewed
-You want to see your book on the NYT list
-You want your book to be in schools and libraries
-You want to be paid in advance of the book releasing

I encourage self-publishing if:
-You are writing a very niche book (for example, one self-published author I know wrote a series about kids who went to conventions, and he sold the book at conventions)
-Writing is a hobby for you, rather than a legitimate career path*
-You want to have total control over all aspects of the book
-You write very quickly, and want to get the book out and move on to the next faster than traditional publishing allows
-You are writing in a genre that super-embraces self-publishing (for example, romance and erotica)
-You don’t want to do any real promo (or, conversely, are on board with doing all promo yourself, which is very very time consuming)
-You want to pocket all the proceeds
-You have a built-in audience from your previous books/wacky TV show/massive Crossfit following

*Because I sense people freaking out on me: Some self-published authors do treat writing as a serious career path. But if you don’t, but have written a book or memoir or whatnot just for kicks, self-publishing is definitely the route for you.

What’s important is that you look at both these options and decide what is best for you. I strongly, strongly discourage you from self-publishing (especially your first book) as a last resort. If you think traditional publishing is your best route, then shelve the book, lick your wounds, and write another one.

Because it’s important, I do want to mention some personal negative experiences in both camps:

I self-published a few adult novellas under a pen name. I know how to write a book, edit it, design a cover, and market it. I did all of these things, and even did a little paid promotion. When all is said and done, I’ve sold about 100 copies (about $30 worth). That’s not to discourage you, but rather, to give you a very realistic idea of what self-publishing can be. Yes, there are the people who make six figures a month on their self-pub books, but that’s not everyone.

Likewise, I have plenty of friends who traditionally published, only to have their books ignored, moved by their publishers, go under-edited or over-edited, or not make it into bookstores. I have seen traditional publishers come up with some truly heinous covers despite their professional designers (and as an author, you can beg for a cover change, but the publisher doesn’t have to do it). And often there’s a let down when you traditionally publish and the book doesn’t live up to expectations—and sometimes it can be harder for you to sell and publish additional books if a traditional publisher has sales records to show your first one didn’t go so well.

What should I be wary of?
In some places, the lines between traditional publishing and self-publishing are becoming a little blurred.

For example, there are some small “indie” e-publishers. They release the book online-only, edit it, and promote it, but the author receives no (or a very, very small) advance. This seems a little suspect to me—if you’re going to give someone a cut of your sales, I think they need to really earn it. If they’re not doing anything you couldn’t do for a few hundred books (hire an editor, do some light promo, and load the book to Amazon), why give them that cut?

Additionally, keep in mind that it is very, very easy to make a professional-looking website. If the small “indie” publisher you’re talking to won’t share sales, or hasn’t had any big sellers, or has no industry experience, do some more research to make sure they’re what you want.

Be wary of self-publishing help sites where for a fee, they’ll edit your book and design your cover. Who is the editor? Does that person actually have experience? How do you know? And how good is their graphic designer? Will they do it again if you hate the cover? If it were me, I’d probably hire a freelance editor and graphic designer whose credentials I could verify.

This post isn’t really about agents (who are essentially only used if you’re traditionally publishing), but if you do find yourself looking at agents, run away if one requests any form of payment from you before selling your book.

Great! Where do I go to start traditionally publishing/self publishing?
Ah, dear reader, this one is all you. The good news is that by reading this, you already have started. The bad news is that if I were to list all the various resources for both self-publishing and traditional publishing, I would spend my entire life making that list. Plus, the first steps are different if you’re writing, say, a non-fiction book than they are if you’re writing a young adult novel, so there are simply too many variables for me to walk you through.

That said, now that you have some information, you and your buddy Google are probably better prepared to sort through the internet and find a great traditional publisher to submit to (or an agent who will submit to a traditional publisher for you) or to start researching how you’ll go about self-publishing (what editors you’ll hire, where you’ll get your cover from, promo opportunities, etc).

I want to add: I am a traditionally published author. All of my books– the seven that are out and the five under contract– are through traditional publishers. Because I’ve had success there and am very happy with my career at present, I suspect this post leans toward preferring traditional publishing despite my best attempts to keep it neutral. With that in mind, I encourage you to seek out self-published authors if you feel like that route is something you want to explore– and, of course, please keep in mind that they probably lean toward preferring self-publishing.

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.

The Anastasia Story

  • Mar. 8th, 2014 at 10:00 AM

She’s everyone’s favorite Romanov. In fact, she’s usually the only Romanov people know by name. If you’ve been reading the other posts in this blog tour, you already know that the animated Anastasia movie is basically all lies. Why?

Because she’s the one who supposedly escaped and survived the executions.

Before I go on, I have to tell you something— this blog post is going to get kind of dark. So, to help, I’m going to put some photos of kittens here and there. If things are getting too dark for you, look at the kittens, okay?

Okay. Here we go.

Who was Anastasia?
Anastasia was the youngest of the Romanov sisters— her brother, Alexei, was the youngest over all. She was a pretty delightful and mischievous kid— one of the family doctors said she “held the record for punishable deeds in the family”. She played outdoors, liked acting, and was especially close to the other younger sister, Maria, who she shared a room with. When she grew older, she would visit the Red Cross hospital and play checkers with wounded soldiers and occasionally write poetry. Simply put, she was pretty cool. I think you would have liked her.

(Anastasia and her siblings)

What happened to her?
The entire Romanov family was executed in Ekaterinberg by a group of Reds who’d had them under various forms of house arrest for over a year. The execution was brutal— I won’t go into detail, but know that I cried over it several times while researching TSARINA. Actually, if I think about it too hard, I still cry over it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 2.22.02 AM

Why do so many people think she survived the execution?
When the bodies of the Romanov family were excavated in 1991, they’d been exposed to the elements so long they were skeletonized. Through DNA and skeletal analysis, they were able to sort out who the Tsar and Tsarina were, as well as the handful of servants that had been executed with them. They also were able to identify Olga and Tatiana, the oldest two Romanov sisters, and then a third skeleton, which they believed to be Maria.

And then they were out of skeletons. Anastasia and Alexei weren’t there.

Actually, it could have been Maria and Alexei that were missing— the Russian scientists said that Anastasia was that third found skeleton, and it was Maria who was unaccounted for, while the American scientists working the case said it the third found skeleton was Maria and Anastasia was the missing daughter. Maria and Anastasia were similar in size and, obviously, would have the same mitochondria DNA since they had the same parents, so it was impossible to tell for sure. For the sake of this post, let’s assume Anastasia was the missing daughter.

So, doesn’t that mean it’s possible she and Alexei survived?
It never was particularly likely, seeing as how the soldiers who were there that night insisted that everyone was killed. I mean, why kill the servants and the dogs (seriously— they killed the family’s dogs) if you’re just going to let a legitimate heir to the throne survive?
But, the whole matter was put to bed in 2007, when two final skeletons were found in the forest near Ekaterinberg. These skeletons were in really bad shape. While the other skeletons had been burned and buried, these had been cut up, smashed, and appeared to have acid damage. The theory is that the Reds didn’t want anyone to know that the royal family was dead— at least not right away— so they wanted to do a really, really good job of hiding the bodies. Because Anastasia and Alexei were the smallest…

(you’re going to need a kitten for this)

…the Reds used their bodies to test out various disposal techniques— like dissolving them in acid, burning them, throwing them down a well, etc. When that didn’t work, they decided it was easiest to just bury the rest of the family and leave Anastasia and Alexei’s bodies elsewhere. They were hoping that anyone who found the bodies would assume these were just regular-old-graves, since the number of bodies wouldn’t match the number of missing Romanovs.

I heard some lady says she’s the real Anastasia.
Yeah, that lady is lying. Or maybe she’s just confused. I don’t know. Over the years, dozens of people have claimed to be Anastasia. Some have even claimed to be Maria, Tatiana, or Olga, and a few men have insisted that they’re Alexei. I would love it if that were true, but it’s not. DNA proves that the entire Romanov family is accounted for, now. Even if we can’t be totally sure whether it was Maria or Anastasia temporarily lost with Alexei, we now have seven bodies to match with seven family members.

Where is Anastasia now?
Before Anastasia and Alexei’s bodies were found, Russia held a state funeral for the other Romanovs, and interred them in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. You can see video from the funeral services here:

When Anastasia and Alexei were found, their bodies were interred alongside the rest of their family. They’re all together now in the St. Catherine chapel of the Cathedral.

Here is something that I think you should remember though: The most interesting thing about Anastasia isn’t the theory that she might have survived. The most interesting thing about Anastasia is that, really, she wasn’t that interesting. She was just like you, or me, or any other teenager. She happened to be royalty, sure, but she also loved her siblings, was a bad speller, ate too much chocolate, and had a purple bedroom with butterflies on the walls.

So, instead of remembering what didn’t happen— her escape— maybe we can remember the things that did happen, and the Romanov family as they really were: People.

People with kittens, in fact:

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.

The Constellation Egg

  • Mar. 7th, 2014 at 10:01 AM

In the last post, I told you guys about Faberge eggs. In this post, I want to talk about the egg that’s at the very center of TSARINA.

It’s the Constellation Egg!

Obviously, I made the magic parts up for TSARINA. But the Constellation Egg itself is real. The Constellation Egg was the very last Faberge egg that Tsar Nicholas commissioned the Faberge company to make as a gift for his wife, the Tsarina. Unfortunately, Nicholas never got to give the Constellation Egg to his wife— the revolution happened, the Romanov family was taken into custody, and eventually, they were executed.

I used the Constellation Egg for TSARINA in part because it was the very last Faberge Egg the Romanovs commissioned— but also because of the design itself. The egg is basically Alexei themed. It’s made of cobalt blue glass; embedded in the glass are diamonds meant to represent stars, set in the shape of the Leo constellation— Alexei’s zodiac sign. Inside the egg is a clock mechanism, and the whole thing is set on quartz carved to look like clouds.

So, where is the Constellation Egg now?

For a long time, it was one of the missing eggs— no one knew what happened to it, since keeping track of fancy jeweled eggs wasn’t really anyone’s priority during the Revolution. Then, in 2001, a mineral museum in Moscow found what they believed to be the unfinished egg in their archives:

And everyone was like…yay! Constellation egg! They found it!

But then, in about 2004, a Russian billionaire revealed that he had the finished Faberge egg— and claimed the thing the mineral museum found was just some sort of light fixture the Faberge company made. The billionaire also had the second-to-last Faberge egg ever, the Karelian Birch egg, so…all signs seem to point to this egg being the real deal. The Russian authorities say neither of the eggs is real, but billionaire-guy also has the invoices from Faberge to Tsar Nicholas, the original drawings…

If you ask me? Billionaire man has the real egg.

By the way— because the Constellation Egg isn’t as egg shaped as we wanted for the cover (we wanted it to be really clear Natalya was holding a Faberge egg!), I suggested that the cover designers at Razorbill use another egg, called the Tsarevich Egg, which was also Alexei themed and a bit more traditionally egg-shaped:

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.

Faberge Eggs

  • Mar. 6th, 2014 at 2:50 PM

In TSARINA, Natalya is on a quest to find a magical Faberge egg. The egg was enchanted by Rasputin for the Romanov family— with it, the Romanovs will always control Russia. The egg also keeps the Romanovs healthy, cures them when they’re sick, binds them to the land…it’s why Alexei Romanov’s hemophilia is no longer a problem, why it snows when the Tsar wants it to, and why wild elk happily eat from the Romanov sisters’ hands.

The magic may not be real, but Faberge eggs are. Here’s some knowledge about them:

1) A lot of people think any sparkly, bejeweled egg is a Faberge egg but…not so much. The term “Faberge egg” only applies to a very specific group of eggs made by the Faberge company between 1885 and 1917.

2) The eggs were commissioned as Easter gifts. The tradition began when Alexander III had the Hen Egg commissioned for his wife, Maria Feodorvna. She loved the egg so much that Alexander began commissioning them for her every Easter.

3) Each egg had a surprise inside. For example, the Moscow Kremlin Egg is a music box:

The Catherine The Great Egg has a mechanical sedan chair inside, with a little figure of Catherine the Great on it. The super cool chair has, sadly, been lost, but at least we still have the Egg itself….

And the Standard Yacht Egg has a freaking boat in it:

4) After Alexander III died, his son, Nicholas II (the last Tsar— Alexei’s father) began commissioning the eggs both for his mother and his wife, Alexandra.

5) Only 57 of these eggs are left of the 65 that were originally made. The eight “missing eggs” were either lost, stolen, or misplaced over time. If you see one, call me?

6) Of those 65 eggs, only 52 were made for the Romanov family. Once other nobles saw how awesome the eggs were, they began commissioning their own. Very few could afford them, but the Rothschild family had a few, as did an industrialist named Kelch and the Duchess of Marlborough.

7) The eggs typically had something to do with the Romanov family. For example. in 1915, the egg for the Tsarina was Red Cross themed, since she and her daughters were volunteering with the Red Cross as nurses:

8) Despite the royal family’s reputation for unapologetic opulence, they actually didn’t commission any eggs at all in 1904 and 1905, since Russia was in the middle of the Russo-Japanese war and they thought it would be in poor taste to spend so much on luxuries. They also had some eggs made of less expensive materials during World War 1— for example, the Steel Military Egg:

9) Stalin, everyone’s favorite guy (much sarcasm there) sold a lot of the eggs in 1927 to try and raise money for the government, which is why all the remaining eggs are sort of spread out all over the world. Many are even owned by private (and very wealthy) collectors.

The Pelican Egg, for example, is in Virginia:

The Gatchina Palace Egg (one of my favorites!) is in Maryland:

The Diamond Palace Egg is in a private collection:

The Basket of Wild Flowers Egg belongs to the Queen of England these days:

Zero of the eggs are in my living room. Which, I know, my house is no place for a rare Faberge egg.
But still. I wish it was.

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.

Grigori Rasputin: Russian Player

  • Mar. 5th, 2014 at 2:45 PM

In TSARINA, Rasputin is a major character— even though he never actually appears on screen. Rasputin is the one who created the Faberge egg that Natalya is so desperate to find. He’s one of those historical figures who, even in his lifetime, was something of an enigma. I mean, look at him. Does this look like someone you want in your house?

No. If you spy this man through the peephole on your door, lock it and then arm yourself with whatever is convenient.
And yet, the Tsar and Tsarina, the most powerful people in Russia, allowed him full access to their home and children. How did he do it? Was he really a mystic? A prophet? A holy man? Or was he just a crazy drunk?

Let’s think on this together.

Rasputin was born in Siberia. He had a pretty rough childhood (Siberia isn’t exactly the easiest place to live)— he never had a formal education, and his siblings, Maria and Dmitri, both died when he was young (Dmitri’s death was especially hard on Rasputin— Dmitri fell through some ice into a river. Rasputin saved him from drowning, but Dmitri later died of pneumonia). He was always sort of the weird kid— he shook and sometimes spoke strangely— but he wound up getting married and having three children of his home (two of whom he named after his lost brother and sister).

On day, Rasputin sort of just wandered away from home, leaving his wife and children behind. He trekked around for a while, sort of sampling different religious places and people and things, not so much in a scholarly way, but kind of in a vagrant way. Somewhere in the midst of all this wandering, he managed to get a reputation for being a religious healer.

The Tsarina, Alexandra, heard about Rasputin through some friends— a holy man who had the power to heal. Her son and the heir to the Russian throne, Alexei, had hemophilia, and was a very, very sick kid— he would get a bruise and nearly die on a pretty regular basis. The Tsarina was desperate to help Alexei, so she called up Rasputin.

Rasputin looked like a creeper. Let’s just admit it. He had those freaky eyes, and he drank a lot, and he smelled, and he had no real sense of personal boundaries. But the Tsarina really, really wanted this whole healing-the-tsarevich thing to work out, so she looked past all that, and convinced her husband to as well. She invited Rasputin into the Winter Palace to heal her son.

And you know, it actually seemed to work! Alexei did improve when Rasputin was around. There’s a lot of speculation as to why this is— some people think he hypnotized the boy, others think it was divine intervention…what it probably was, however, is that doctors at the time were really big on giving Alexei aspirin. Aspirin was new and fancy at the time, but it’s also a blood thinner. Giving someone with a bleeding disorder a blood thinner? Not such a great idea. So, when Rasputin would tell the doctors to get out and leave Alexei alone, it would actually give Alexei time to get the aspirin out of his system, relax, and heal.

(Rasputin, a drunk vagrant, hanging out with the heir to Russia, LIKE YOU DO.)

Rasputin was so successful that the Romanovs put him up in an place in St. Petersburg so he could stay close by. Eventually his daughter, Maria, came to live with him there. That sounds sweet of Rasputin— bringing his daughter to St. Petersburg to live the good life— until you hear about his…um…pastime.

Rasputin believed that sin was kind of like a poison inside you, and that you had to get it out. The only way to get the sin out was by committing sin. So…he had to get all the sin out by sleeping with the women of St. Petersburg and drinking vodka till he passed out. He didn’t want to! But he had to! To get the sin out!

(If you’re thinking that Rasputin might have been a little delusional, you’re not the only one.)
(If you’re thinking Maria Rasputin probably needed more than a little therapy, you’re not the only one.)

Given his love of getting all that sin out, it makes sense that a lot of the Russian public suspected that Rasputin was also getting freak with the Tsarina— after all, they were alone together an awful lot. There were even rumors that he was seducing the Grand Duchesses. However, there’s actually no evidence to support he was ever sexually involved with members of the royal family. The rumor alone was enough to make Rasputin pretty hated though, and the idea that the Tsarina of Russia was hooking up with a drunk womanizing mystic didn’t really help the Romanov’s reputation either. When Rasputin started giving political advice to the Tsarina while the Tsar was out of town, a group of nobles decided they’d had enough. Rasputin had to get dead, fast.

A noble named Felix Yusupov— who was super interesting in his own right, so Google him— helped plan the whole thing. They lured Rasputin out of his house by telling him there was a really awesome party going on down the street, full of booze and Yusupov’s super hot wife. Being a fan of the booze and super hot wives, Rasputin followed (some stories say his daughter, Maria, suspected something was up and begged him not to go). At Yusupov’s house, Rasputin was first poisoned with cyanide. After a few hours, though, he was still alive, so they decided to get hardcore with this murder and shot him. He collapsed, and when they went to inspect his body, he leapt up and fought them off and ran out the door. They shot him a few more times, then Yusupov clubbed him for good measure. Then they chained up his body and threw him into the river.

They really wanted him dead.

Supposedly, when Rasputin’s body was finally recovered? His cause of death was drowning.

Now, to be entirely honest— there’s lots of evidence that the story of Rasputin’s death, which was largely told by Yusupov, has been exaggerated. Modern science suggests it was actually one of the gunshots that killed him, and there’s even some speculation that an undercover British intelligence officer was the one who actually made the kill shot, since the Brits weren’t big fans of Rasputin either.

Here’s the thing though— few figures have managed to be as legendary as Rasputin. Is he a villain? A hero? Crazy? Mystical?

Yes. Yes, to all of the above.

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.


The main character of TSARINA, Natalya, has a beautiful love story with none other than Alexei Romanov, the heir to the Russian throne. The sad truth is, Alexei was a little young (he died when he was about 13) to have a love story of his own. BUT…his older sister Tatiana had a beautiful one.

Tatiana was the second oldest sister— born after Olga but before Maria and Anastasia. Like the rest of the Romanov children, she was super super sheltered. Lots of people like to blame royalty for wasting money and living in luxury and generally being fancy, but the truth is, lots of royals— especially women, and especially young women— had no idea what money was. Why would you, when you’d never been allowed to go to a store, when you’ve never shopped for groceries, and when everything simply arrives at your house, all boxed up and lovely? Once when they were teens, Tatiana and Olga decided to sneak away and go shopping. They got to the store and looked around, but realized 1) they didn’t have any money and 2) they had no idea how to use it anyway. The ended up having to ask someone exactly how this whole paying-for-things system worked.

Olga and tatiana the big pair
(Tatiana is on the left. That’s Olga on the right.)

Tatiana, Olga, and their mother Alexandra all worked as Red Cross nurses during World War I, and convinced lots of other nobles girls too as well. This wasn’t some sort of PR thing— they were legit nurses. Tatiana even was asked to take on some nurses duties when they were in captivity, before they were executed, and was often mad that senior nurses were hesitant to let her do some of the dirtier jobs.

BUT, back to the love story.

There was lots of speculation who Tatiana would marry. When she was 16, the Serbian king tried to convince Tsar Nicholas to marry Tatiana off to him, but Nicholas wouldn’t do it because she was so young. Then, during her stint as a nurse, along came Dmitri Malama.

Dmitri was a calvary officer. A wounded calvary officer, who had recently gotten an award for gallantry. And Tatiana was his nurse. They fell in love while Dmitri was recovering from his wounds, and their relationship continued when Dmitri would up working for the Tsar at the palace in Tsarskoye Selo. They wrote each other all sorts of letters, and Dmitri got her a French Bulldog.

That’s right. He got her a puppy. Smooth move, Dmitri.

(Tatiana and the puppy)

Obviously, she adored the puppy (his name was Ortino), and her parents were pretty pleased that such a nice guy was after their daughter’s heart. Alexandra wasn’t so sure they’d actually be able to allow Tatiana to marry Dmitri, since being a Russian princess, she really needed to marry a foreign prince (especially since the war meant Russia needed some political alliances). Still, though, everyone adored Dmitri, and he came over for dinner and visited them and it was all just adorable and sweet. When the first puppy died, he actually got her another puppy, because clearly the whole puppy-giving thing was working well for him.

(Tatiana and Dmitri. Well, maybe— there’s no proof this is Dmitri, but I’m just saying: They’re sitting awfully close, and this was taken at the exact right time.)

Of course, they didn’t end up getting married or running away together to live in a land of puppies and sunflowers because the Revolution ended up taking both their lives in the end— Tatiana’s in the basement in Ekaterinberg and Dmitri’s a year later as he lead a group of Whites against the Reds in the Ukraine.

But let’s not think about that, guys.
Let’s just remember the puppy.

(Alexei, Tatiana, and Ortino)

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.


I won’t lie—I adore that animated Anastasia movie from the 90s. It’s got wonderful music, a lovely story, the animal sidekick is a Russian bat…what more could you want?

Here’s the downside to a movie like that though—people think that movie represents what really happened. I mean, sure, they know that the magic bits were probably fake, but they assume Anastasia really did escape, that Rasputin really was the bad guy, and that the talking Russian bat was…well. I don’t know what they think about the talking Russian bat. Either way, they take the animated movie as truth rather than a fictionalization of history.

Of course, TSARINA is also a fictionalization of history too, so don’t think I’m judging—but I am pretty proud of the fact that, magic aside, the book is rather historically accurate, even down to the street names. I admit, though, that there aren’t any Russian bats in my book. For this, I am sorry.

Anyway– in the author’s note in TSARINA I explain what history I modified and what history I stuck to. I thought for this post, it’d be fun to break down what history the Anastasia movie modified, and what bits are true.

Let’s break down the movie piece by piece, shall we?

In the movie:
Anastasia and her family are run out of the Winter Palace during the February revolution. Anastasia is about 8 years old, give or take. They flee for their lives! They run to the train station! Anastasia is accidentally lost in the chaos!

In reality:
Anastasia and her family were long, long out of the Winter Palace by the time the February revolution happened. Because the political climate in St. Petersburg had gotten so bad, they were living just outside of the city, in another residence called the Alexander Palace. Anastasia was actually about 16 at the time. The family was put under house arrest at the Alexander Palace, and eventually were moved across the country along with a handful of servants.

Movie Anastasia at the time of the Revolution

Real Anastasia at the time of the Revolution (She’s on the far right. Okay, I know it’s not the most flattering photo of her, but they’d been captured and were living in Siberia, so cut her a break?)

In the movie:
Anastasia returns to St. Petersburg when she’s about 18, with a dog and a head full of amnesia. The rest of the royal family has been executed, but the rumor in St. Petersburg (delightfully explained via a musical number) is that Anastasia survived the execution.

In reality:
I’m sad to say, Anastasia did not survive the execution of her family. Tsar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei all died. They were executed in a basement in Ekaterinberg, after having been imprisoned by the Reds for about a year. It was a brutal execution, and one that, quite honestly, I have to work very hard not to dwell on. For a long time there was speculation that Anastasia (or Maria) and Alexei survived, because their bodies were not recovered with the others. However, many years later, their bones were found and DNA confirmed that all of the Romanovs are accounted for.

In the movie:
A young man named Dmitri is holding auditions at the Winter Palace, looking for someone to play Anastasia so that he can collect the reward her grandmother— who survived the revolution by fleeing to Paris early— is offering.

In reality:
Basically, all of the “real” bits are in this section:
1) Anastasia’s grandmother, Maria Feodorova, did survive the revolution and desperately, desperately wanted to believe that her children and grandchildren did as well. She wasn’t living in Paris, though— she was in London.
2) There was, in fact, a man who defrauded noble families with impostors he tried to pass off as the grand duchesses. He wasn’t handsome, and he wasn’t named Dmitri— he was named Boris, and he was actually the husband of Maria Rasputin, who was Grigori Rasputin’s daughter.
3) The movie’s depictions of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg are pretty accurate.
And…that’s it for the real stuff, guys. There are some scenes here and there that include some real stuff (like, for example, the tiny clip where a lady is walking cheetahs? That’s supposed to be Luisa Casati), but as far as the Romanovs go…these three are the only biggies.

The Alexander Ballroom in the movie.

The Alexander Ballroom in real life (restored).

In the movie:
Rasputin sings the best villain song ever, after Poor Unfortunate Souls (which, obviously, is the number one villain song of all time). Rasputin has cursed the Romanov family because they betrayed him and threw him out of Russian court. His curse made each of them pay! But one little girl got away! Little Anya beware, Rasputin’s AWAKE!

In reality:
Rasputin sort of fueled the Russian revolution, but saying that he was directly responsible for the Romanov’s fate is a pretty huge stretch. Rasputin came into the Romanov’s lives because he was a “holy man” who the Tsarina believed could cure Alexei’s hemophilia. Was he holy? I don’t know. He was definitely a pretty strange guy, though. He was allowed access to the royal family that a lot of nobles were very uncomfortable with— especially since he was a drunk womanizer who didn’t bathe. Eventually, a group of nobles coaxed Rasputin out of his house, and murdered him, because his creep level had just gotten way too high. The royal family never betrayed him, and they continued to secretly love and miss him after he was gone.

In the movie:


In reality:
Zero Bartoks

Here’s the thing though— if the Anastasia movie, no matter how inaccurate, makes people interested in Russian history? Makes them turn to Google and read up? Then it’s AWESOME. It’s sort of like a My First History lesson, which eases you into the whole thing by way of catchy songs and a charming love story. Plus, the songs, guys. HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE THE SONGS?

Yep. This movie rocks.

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.


This post was part of my TSARINA blog tour, and originally appeared over at YA Reads.

These are not the best moments. They’re not the worst moments. They’re just some MOMENTS that are totally worthy of being shared because WHOA.

1) Peter the Great is your Dental Nightmare
They didn’t call this guy The Great for kicks. He was great at a lot of things! He modernized Russia, built schools, created the Russian navy, bolstered the army— you can’t deny the man got things done. And he managed to do it all while throwing some pretty stellar parties, to boot.

The way Peter got so great is that he was incredibly motivated, and willing to try and do anything. Including dentistry. If you were a noble with a toothache? Yeah, you’d best not complain about it in the presence of Peter. He was a big fan of playing dentist, and thought he was pretty damn good at it. The people whose teeth he was yanking out (without painkillers)? They weren’t such big fans. After Peter’s death they found a giant bag of teeth that had been meticulously labeled and cataloged.

(Except Peter pulled your teeth out with 100% fewer puppies)

2) Catherine the Great tells her husband to GTFO
Catherine the Great wasn’t originally from Russia— she was a Prussian princess who married the Russian tsar, Peter III. Peter III, oddly enough, wasn’t really Russian either— he’d been raised in Germany and didn’t even speak Russian, really. He spent a lot of his time complaining about how much Russia sucked compared to Germany, which didn’t make him very popular with his subjects.
Catherine, on the other hand, was a publicist’s dream. Catherine was sort of a lesser princess back home, so she realized that tsarina of Russia was basically the best gig she was ever going to get. She learned Russian, made friends with the nobility, learned her history— people freaking loved her, especially compared to her whiny husband.
It only took about sixth months for people to get tired of Peter being such a jerk. Catherine gathered together a group of soldiers who captured Peter, then she forced him to sign the crown over to her. Shortly after this, Peter was strangled to death. Some say Catherine ordered him killed. I’m not saying she did, but I am saying that she wasn’t very sad about him getting dead.

The original idea was that Catherine would only rule for a little while, until her son with Peter was old enough to take over. But it turns out that Catherine was totally badass. She wound up ruling Russia for 34 years, until she died of a stroke when she was 67.

3 and 4) Russian Weather Wants You Dead
If we were giving out trophies for best winter, Russia would pretty much always win. Here, let me explain to you what a Russian winter feels like: Imagine everything is white and covered in snow and ice. And you are cold. And now you are dead.

The Russia people knew its winter was not to be trifled with, so they used it as a weapon again two of Europe’s powerhouses— Napoleon Bonaparte in 1813, and again against Hitler in World War II. Here’s the step by step plan:

1) Burn down your own cities, crops, and supplies.
2) Move your people— who, as Russians, know how to DO winter— out into the countryside.
3) Enemies arrive to find no food, shelter, or Russian hotties to hang out with.
4) Enemies freeze to death.
5) Return to cities feeling smug.

Napoleon invaded Russia with over 600,000 soldiers. But after Russia went all IT’S WINTER, %$*#&S! on him? He limped back to France with only 100,000. The Russian winter managed to destroy an army that literally the rest of Europe couldn’t.
A century and a half later, Hitler invaded Russia in late summer. He figured he’d be out before winter hit. He did not count on what comes before winter in Russia: MUD SEASON.

Thats right. If the Russian winter doesn’t get you, the autumn mud season will. So Hitler’s armies got stuck in the mud, and then the seasons changed, and Russia Winter was all HEY GUYS! YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD LEAVE WITHOUT SAYING HELLO TO ME? Hitler’s troops didn’t have cold weather gear, and wound up burning fuel meant for tanks just to stay warm. The Russians, meanwhile, were once again pros at this whole “winter” thing, and had fur-lined hated and cozy warm uniforms and equipment that was really, really good at going over icy terrain.

(Do not attempt this unless you are an actual Russian)

Hitler refused to back off, and forced his soldiers to stay there— even though he wound up losing over 800,000 men and pretty much gaining nothing at all. What’s more, the resources and energy Hitler lost in Russia gave the Allies footing to defeat Hitler in other parts of Europe.

(“LOLZ BYE” -Mud Season)

5) Ivan the Terrible is Terrible
So, Ivan the Terrible actually got a lot of stuff done— he expanded the Russian empire, he was big into the arts, and he even opened Russia’s first publishing house.
But…he also had a temper. A serious temper. Ivan the Terrible is so named because he was tough, imposing, and impressive. He was unforgiving and people were straight up afraid of him. The common people of Russia loved this— their Tsar was a badass! The nobles that had to deal with him more directly? Not so much.
See, when I say that he had a temper, I don’t just mean that sometimes he got frustrated. This guy seriously had mental illness— some people even speculate he was bipolar. The worst was when his daughter-in-law, who was pregnant, showed up wearing some clothes that Ivan thought were a little too risqué.

They got into a fight, and Ivan beat her so badly that she wound up miscarrying. Obviously, Ivan’s son wasn’t happy about his dad beating up his wife, so they wound up getting in a fight. Ivan struck his son over the head with an iron curtain rod, and the son— who was Ivan’s well-liked and well-groomed heir to the throne— wound up dying. This left Ivan’s mentally disabled son Feodor as the only heir to the throne.

(A painting by Ilya Repin of Ivan the Terrible killing his son. I have no idea why there is a sad clown playing a sad violin in the background.)

Given his mental disability, Feodor wasn’t a great ruler; most of his responsibilities had to be handled by his uncle and a minister. He preferred to spend his time wandering the countryside, ringing bells in churches. He died childless, and the whole ordeal wound up launching Russia into a massive civil war.

Way to go, Ivan.

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.

Russian Dress Porn

  • Mar. 1st, 2014 at 2:20 PM

One of the best things about writing a historical is the clothes.

I know. That’s a little embarrassing to say. They’re just clothes, right?

But, to be very honest, not only are clothes fun and fabulous and exciting to write about, but they’re incredible symbolic of what was happening culturally at the time. We can make fun of fashion all day, every day, but the truth is that fashion is a reflection of who we are as a people, for better or for worse. Historical fashion is no different— it’s flexible, it changes by the year, sometimes by the month, and is one of the clearest windows into the way people lived.

(See the war going on in the background? This is from late 1914, right at the beginning of World War I. Then we’ve got the peasant hat on the girl in the red, representing the Reds, and a sleek military get up on the girl in the white, who represents the Whites. Caught in the middle is a figure who is both Red and White, with a crown and portraits on her bust— she represents the country itself. All of this on a lady’s fashion magazine!)

With that in mind, it was really, really important to me that I not just write about early 20th century Russian fashion— I wanted to write about 1917 Russian fashion. And one of the best ways to work out exactly what people were wearing in 1917? eBay.

This sounds weird, but is a research trick I worked out while writing another historical a few years back. eBay is packed with antique clothing catalogs, that came out in specific seasons/years. So, we can literally find a catalog— which had the latest fashions— for July of 1917.
I used the catalogs in a variety of ways.

For Natalya, I used fashion from a season or two prior, since it made sense that she would have very fashionable clothes, but perhaps wouldn’t be on the cutting edge of fashion. I chose styles for her that were classic and elegant, like those on the left hand side of the image below, in lots of lovely blues and velvets.

For her friend Emilia, I used fashion from a season or two ahead, because she is always on the cutting edge of fashion. I also tended to choose the most unique outfit from the catalog for Emilia— the thing that I’m sure women in 1917 looked at and thought “where would I even wear that?”

(I actually included the dress on the left in the above image in an early scene of the book!)

One thing that I really loved about Russian fashion is how Russian it is. A lot of the fashion from Western Europe runs together— it becomes difficult to tell French from German from British. Russian fashion definitely got a lot of inspiration from French fashion, but certain things were uniquely Russian. Coats, for example— look at the left page below. The fur, the embroidery— it’s all very traditional. You go, Russia fashion. You BE RUSSIAN.

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.


This is a blog post from my TSARINA blog tour. It originally appeared on Birth Of A New Witch.

There’s a scene in TSARINA where Natalya sort of accidentally calls a wild Russian elk to her using the powers she’s inherited via the Romanov family’s magical Faberge egg. Sadly, I do not actually own a magical Faberge egg, and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t either. So, here are some ways to call an elk to you if you don’t have Faberge egg powers.

1. Use the Primos Hoochie Mama Cow Elk Call

This is a real item. I am not entirely sure why it is a Hoochie Mama Cow Elk Call, but I think it’s important that you’re prepared for the possibility that the female elk may arrive in short shorts and a crop top.
Oh, wait— I’m sorry. This call is apparently to attract male elk, so perhaps it is you, dear elk seeker, who will need to be wearing the short shorts, since you certainly don’t want to let the male elk down, especially since he could have come from “as far as 400 yards away.”
Additionally, this call works by sounding like a female elk in estrus, and/or seeking her lost calf. I’m not going to lie— I question the authenticity of a male elk who comes running looking for sexytimes upon hearing a mother calf crying for her lost child. That doesn’t seem like the sort of male elk you should be attracting. You’re better than that, elk seeker.

2. Molasses + Rock Salt

A website I found suggests leaving these strewn about— that the two together are an “elk sundae.” Another site suggests stewing marshmallows about. I’d like to suggest combining the two into the Ultimate Elk Sundae. I’d also like to suggest you putting them on the lawn of Megan Furr, my arch-nemises from middle school. I don’t have her current address, but I’ll look it up while you go pick up the molasses.
This is going to be a lot of fun, guys.

3. Find some elk urine and roll in it

This is a suggestion from an elk hunting board. To quote, “I never pass by a fresh urine mark without rubbing a little on me.” I want to make sure you all understand that this means, right now, there is likely a man walking around a forest, looking for some pee to roll in.
(I understand that this is a valid and ancient hunting technique, but I hope you hunters can also understand that it is disgusting.)
You can also buy bottles of elk pee or wafers of elk pee, and they will ship them right to your door the exact same way you receive packages and Christmas presents. These bottles are, like the Hoochie Mama Cow Elk Call, “sexual attractants”, though one bottle is also labeled ELK FIRE, which I would think would send mixed messages to the male elk. Anyway, you can order it for $7.97, and I now have another idea for when I figure out Megan Furr’s current address.

Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.

Oh, hi!

My name is Jackson Pearce-- I'm the author of retold fairytales (SISTERS RED, SWEETLY, FATHOMLESS, COLD SPELL), funny contemporary stories (PURITY), tales of wishes come true (AS YOU WISH), and middle grade adventures (THE DOUBLECROSS, coming July 2015, and PIP BARTLETT'S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES, coming May 2015).

This is NOT my main blog page-- this is a syndicated livejournal account. Please check out my main blog/site at www.jacksonpearce.com!
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