WeWriWa—The Smarts introduce themselves

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now sharing snippets from the book formerly known as The Very Next, the chronological second of my Atlantic City books, set from March 1939 to the dawn of 1940. It underwent a radical rewrite in 2015, and I recently completed the fourth and final version. I plan on a late February or early March release. The new title will be revealed then.

Best friends Cinnimin and Sparky (real name Katherine) were baking cookies when two strangers entered the kitchen. Cinni just volunteered to help them find the address they’re looking for.

“I’m Samantha Smart,” the blonde said. She spoke with a slight Southern lilt, but not the full-out Southern drawl of the hated Adeline’s parents. “We’re from Washington, D.C.”

“I’m Urma Smart, Samantha’s mother,” the brunette said in an even stronger Southern lilt. “I insist you call me Urma. I’m too young to be called Mrs. Smart, no matter what traditional etiquette dictates.”

“Fine by me.” Cinni pulled a piece of grape rock candy out of her right pocket and popped it into her mouth. “I go to school with a girl who’s also named Urma, but she goes by her full initials, U.C.L.A. How can I help you?”

The ten lines end here. A few more to complete the scene follow.

“We’re looking for Mr. Holden G. Filliard. My husband told me this is his address, 11 Maxwell, a three-story Georgian ashlar stone house. He also said there’s a barn on the property and that it’s next to a huge mansion.”

“H.G. Filliard’s my father. This is technically our address, but you’re in the guesthouse.” Cinni indicated Sparky. “My best friend Sparky’s family lives here. There’s a door in the living room leading into the main house, if you want a shortcut.”

“What kind of name is Sparky for a human being?”

WeWriWa—Surprise houseguests

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now starting snippets from the book formerly known as The Very Next, the chronological second of my Atlantic City books, set from March 1939 to the dawn of 1940. It underwent a radical rewrite in 2015, and I recently completed the fourth and final version. I plan on a late February  or early March release.

The book opens when best friends Cinnimin and Sparky (real name Katherine) are baking hamentaschen, three-cornered cookies stuffed with various fillings and traditionally eaten on the holiday of Purim. They’re quite surprised to see two strangers coming into the kitchen.

Cinni grabbed a dollop of chocolate chip cookie dough and snuck it into her mouth, then helped herself to some apricot jam. Sparky saw what her best friend was doing and shook her head as she continued to roll out cookie dough.

“You’re so lucky you ain’t bat mitzvah age yet,” Cinni said. “I can’t imagine fasting mosta the day. My stomach would be rumbling after the first missed meal. It really stinks that Gary has to fast on his birthday of all days. That should earn him a get out of fasting privilege.”

“It’s a holy obligation; Queen Esther fasted before she approached her husband to plead for the lives of her people, so we’re supposed to do it too. When I’m old enough, I’ll have to do all these fasts, both minor and major. You’re just not used to the idea ’cause your religion doesn’t do fasts.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish this scene.

The girls stopped talking when a strange blonde girl, who looked about Cinni and Sparky’s age, and a brunette woman, who looked to be in her twenties, came into the kitchen through the open back door. The older one bore a surly expression and crossed her arms as soon as she dropped her heavy suitcases with a big thud, while the girl looked around in silence. Both wore wool dresses almost down to their ankles, with wrist-length sleeves and the highest collarbones possible. The brunette’s dress was a sickly, dour shade of green, and the blonde was in blue the color of dirty, stagnant dishwater.

“Are you lost?” Cinni asked. “Maybe I can help you find the address you’re looking for. I know a lot of people in this neighborhood, since I’m Most Popular Girl, and my family’s lived here for centuries. My name’s Cinnimin Filliard.”

WeWriWa—A very special namesake

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

The book formerly known as The Very First was released today in e-book format. The print version, which has a different cover, releases in another week or two. I had to do 23 August as the release day because that’s the birthday of one of my protagonists. It truly was hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) that I chose that date all those years ago, since it turned out to be the Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of my favorite actor, Rudolph Valentino, and the birthday of Keith Moon.

The book opens in August 1938. Young Cinnimin Filliard is now in her attic bedroom with her new roommate Katharina Brandt, now called Katherine Small and nicknamed Sparky. Cinni’s father, a former immigrant who now works with immigration himself, helped to bring Sparky’s family to the U.S. from Amsterdam.

Sparky inspected the posters. “I’ve seen some of these people at the movies, except the man in the headdress. He has very deep eyes.”

“You haven’t seen him because he’s been dead for almost twelve years. This is Rudolph Valentino, a famous moviestar from the Twenties. He died when he was only thirty-one, before movies had sound. I was born on the anniversary of his death, and my middle name would’ve been Rudolph had I been a boy. My aunt Lucinda gave me my middle name. She still wanted to honor him in some way, so she found another seven-letter name that started with R, Rebecca.”

During the last major edit, I made the age of Cinni and her friends deliberately ambiguous. At most, it’s stated they’re under twelve. Long story short, for 7-8 years I’ve been struggling with the realization that I may have made them a bit too young when I created them.

Keeping their age ambiguous for at least one book leaves the door open for either slightly aging them up or keeping their age as-is and continuing to explain it as part of what makes this fictional Atlantic City neighborhood so deliberately unusual. Each choice has a lot of pros and cons.

WeWriWa—Houseguests are coming

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m now switching to the book formerly known as The Very First, which releases next week. I’ll finally reveal the new and improved title then.

The book opens in August 1938, as young Cinnimin Filliard prepares to meet the family her father helped to bring to America and will be indefinitely putting up in their large house. During the last major edit, I made the age of Cinni and her friends deliberately ambiguous. At most, it’s stated they’re under twelve. How old do you think she is, and what’s the youngest you could picture her as?

Cinnimin Filliard reached for the candy bowl on her father’s desk and popped a handful of gumdrops into her mouth. Five longterm houseguests were moving in today, and indulging her sweet tooth would help to get rid of her nervousness and put her mind on other things.

“Can I see your photo albums, Daddy? I wanna know what they look like before they move in. I hope they’re nicer houseguests than Aunt Lucinda, Uncle Jasper, and stupid Elmira.”

Mr. Filliard smiled indulgently at his pet child, his deep brown eyes twinkling. “Since when have I ever said no to you?”

Cinni took a photo album and plopped onto the floor. “Oh, brother, this Katharina girl really needs a makeover. No one wears long skirts anymore.”

The first ten lines end here. A few more follow.

She pushed her long curly hair out of her face. “Who better than the Most Popular Girl to make her over?”

“Religious Jews do things a little differently. You might not understand it, but Katharina has reasons of her own, just as you have your reasons for going against the fashion for shorter hair.”

WeWriWa—A feeling of otherness

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

Shortly after Chanukah begins, the Filliards and the Smalls, who live together, go holiday shopping at a local plaza. After a volatile run-in between Mr. Small and members of his family’s former synagogue, Cinni and Sparky move to an upscale toy store. Everything seems to be going great till the checkout boy wishes Sparky a merry Christmas. Cinni and Sparky try to explain not everyone celebrates Christmas, but the employee just doesn’t understand.

As they walked to an upscale clothing boutique, Cinni was suddenly acutely aware of how many Christmas decorations there were. Every shop door was hung with a wreath; every window had some sort of Christmas display; every post was strung with lights and evergreens; and there were several large Christmas trees full of ornaments, lights, and tinsel. There was also a reindeer-drawn sleigh giving rides around the plaza, and a North Pole workshop with a Santa and several elves.

“Now I see why you and your brothers feel like you do about Christmas,” Cinni said. “I never thought to notice it before, since it’s my holiday. When it ain’t your holiday, you can’t help seeing it everywhere and being reminded of how different you are. Maybe that’s why my mom’s friends put up Christmas trees. They didn’t wanna fight against it. Your family’s really brave for not giving in and pretending to be just like everyone else. If I moved to a place like China or India, I’d feel left out and invisible too.”