WeWriWa—A tiny trick-or-treater

10

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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. This year, my Halloween-themed snippets come from Chapter 45, “October Oblectations,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. Most of this chapter is set over Halloween 1949.

This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Bogdana’s cabbie and doctor’s assistant Achilles brought her Halloween-colored roses and her aunt Fyodora asked him to introduce his companion. Achilles, a 28-year-old widower, is taking his 18-month-old daughter Klara for her first trick-or-treating.

This has been slightly edited to fit ten lines.

Achilles gently nudges her forward, smiling the biggest smile Bogdana’s ever seen him use. “What do you say, Klarika?”

“Trick-or-treat,” she says in a voice as tiny as she is, holding out an orange cloth bag with yellow jack-o-lantern cut-outs sewn on.

Bogdana puts an Almond Joy bar in her bag, then adds a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, since the poor girl has no mother, and deserves extra sweets from somewhere.

“What do you say now, Klarika?” Achilles asks.  When Klara doesn’t say anything, he kneels and whispers in her ear.

“Thank you.”

“Can you tell the nice lady that in another way?” He whispers to her again.

“Hvala.”

Achilles is Slovenian–American, though his first name doesn’t reflect that at all. He’s raising Klara to be bilingual. I have a great deal of love, respect, and admiration for the Slovenian people, in part because their beautiful national anthem expresses a hope for the day when all nations of the world will be friends and toast to peace.

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WeWriWa—Halloween roses

7

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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. This year, my Halloween-themed snippets come from Chapter 45, “October Oblectations,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. Most of this chapter is set over Halloween 1949.

This snippet opens a few lines after last week’s, when traumatised 20-year-old Bogdana and her young aunt Fyodora heard the doorbell ringing unexpectedly early. Fyodora calls her to look at their first little trick-or-treater, and Bogdana finds her cabbie Achilles, who saved her life in September and who’s also now her doctor’s assistant.

Achilles goes by Les to his friends, and his middle name Zoran to his family and church community. Bogdana always calls him by his full name, since he’s played the part of a modern-day Greek hero to her since she got into his cab the night she was attacked in July. He got that name because his heel was torn up by forceps when he was born, resulting in a lifelong limp.

There stands Achilles, dressed as a bullfighter and holding a bouquet of orange, dark red, and white roses.  Only as an afterthought does Bogdana notice him holding hands with a tiny jack-o-lantern with big brown eyes.

“Happy Halloween.” Achilles extends the roses. “You deserve fresh flowers to make you happy.  I made them Halloween-colored, so they’d really stand out.”

“Thank you.” Bogdana takes the roses.

“I’ll put them in water for you,” Fyodora says. “Mr. Medved, would you like to introduce your companion?”

Achilles is a 28-year-old widower whose wife died last year of a self-abortion gone wrong. While he was in the hospital with a broken leg and bone infection several months after his daughter was born, three thugs broke into the apartment, attacked his wife Sabina, and left her pregnant. Because of what happened to his wife, he’s been drawn to that branch of medicine to help as many women as he can in that predicament.

WeWriWa—An early trick-or-treater

10

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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. This year, my Halloween-themed snippets come from Chapter 45, “October Oblectations,” of my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. Most of this chapter is set over Halloween 1949.

Bogdana Sheltsova, age twenty, is the youngest daughter of Lyuba’s third-oldest stepsister Dinara. She went through an extremely traumatic experience in July, and almost killed herself with a botched self-abortion in September. Her cabbie Achilles rescued her and took her to an underground doctor who performed the procedure properly and saved her life.

After she was discharged from the clinic, she moved into the guesthouse of her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Bogdana has been dressing in the slouchiest, least attractive clothes possible since she was attacked, and now wears a wig over hair growing back from constant shaving. A nun costume is a natural choice.

Bogdana has been prevailed upon to put on a costume for Halloween and join Fyodora in the main house, though she’s refused to wear the type of fun, revealing costume she would’ve worn in years past.  She’s turned a baggy black sarafan into a nun’s habit, and made a veil and collar with black and white fabrics from Fyodora’s cast-off pile.  A prayer rope and the largest cross she could find hang around her neck.  Bogdana’s hemline drags all the way to the floor, covering the black flats she usually wears on Sundays.

Fyodora looks at the clock when the doorbell rings. “That couldn’t be trick-or-treaters already, could it?  It’s only four.  I’m not taking Ramona and Olik till six.”

“Maybe it’s Gilbert coming to play with me,” Oliver says hopefully, adjusting his firefighter hat. “He’s dressed like a policeman.”

WeWriWa—Problem parents-in-law

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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. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Lyuba Koneva asked her husband Ivan why he doesn’t go to work for his father. In spite of Mr. Konev’s massive past sins against both of them, his underground liquor store brings in a lot of money, and bought many of their modern appliances, like a washing machine and refrigerator.

This has been slightly edited from the published version to fit ten lines.

“That’ll only happen if Prohibition’s constitutionally repealed. I was raised better than to make a dishonest living, though he was begging me to join him yet again when I visited before I came home. I said no, the factory may pay less money than I’d like, but at least it’s honest money and I don’t constantly risk legal trouble by going to work.”

Lyuba bristles. “You went over to see your mother again? Haven’t you visited her enough since you were reunited? It says right in the Bible, ‘And a man shall leave his parents and cleave unto his wife, and they shall be as one flesh,’ not ‘And a man shall pay inordinate visits to his parents’ house in his first year of marriage, while neglecting his pregnant wife in favor of his pregnant mother.’ Put the leftovers in the oven yourself. I won’t baby you the way your mother does. In this apartment, you’re treated like a grown man, not an overgrown little boy who can’t do anything without his mother.”

***************

Next week I’ll begin my yearly Halloween-themed snippets. They’ll be very new material, from my WIP, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book in this saga.

A complicated woman who deserved better

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I was quite excited to stumble across this thick historical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln. I’ve been deeply interested in the Lincolns since age eight, with the interest waxing and waning over time. So many books focus on Pres. Lincoln and his youngest sons Willie and Tad, but not too much attention has been paid to the long-suffering Mary.

Overall, I think I’d give this a 3 out of 5. I read every word, and overall was held by the story and Ms. Newman’s writing, but there were a number of things which disappointed me.

1. While the wraparound segments in the mental hospital were an interesting idea, I don’t think they fit so well with the main text. I personally don’t like being jerked back and forth between past and present. There needs to be more balance with such a structure. I’ve also found out there were no bars on the windows, and no records of patients being killed by overdoses of medication like laudanum.

2. It was jarring to see the R-word used several times, even as a medical term! That word wasn’t even used in that way in the 19th century. Did Ms. Newman not think we’d understand a bygone classification like feebleminded, moron, or imbecile?

3. Robert Lincoln is portrayed as the antagonist, a complete villain, with no human emotions or sympathy. From birth, he’s depicted as cold, unfeeling, distant, antagonistic towards his mother and later wife, cruel, etc. In real life, two recesses had to be called at Mary’s insanity hearing because Robert was crying too much to testify. He also stayed by his baby brother Tad on his deathbed, and was very grieved to lose his final surviving sibling.

4. Speaking of, the wrong age is given for Tad at one point.

5. I obviously know the focus isn’t supposed to be on Pres. Lincoln, but some rather important events of his life are left out. Why wouldn’t his wife mention he started growing a beard, for example? Or how about him sneaking into Washington in disguise, on another train, for fear of assassination during the final leg of his journey to the White House?

6. Based on what came before, I honestly didn’t realise at first Ms. Newman was actually describing the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. I thought Mary was having another drug-induced hallucination or dream!

7. I was quite disappointed such short schrift was given to the Lincolns’ White House life. How about some descriptions of dinners and teas with important dignitaries and generals? Mary’s young friend Julia Taft, the older sister of Tad and Willie’s friends Bud and Holly, all of whom were regular visitors?

8. This is one of those books where so many pages are devoted to the subject’s early life, not much room is left to properly delve into the middle and later years.

9. I don’t want to read sex scenes with real-life people! I’ve zero problem reading or writing sex scenes in general, but I don’t want to picture Pres. Lincoln of all people getting it on! Forget the famous or heroic aspect; what person wants complete strangers, 100+ years later, writing about her or his most private, intimate moments for the whole world?

For that matter, I don’t want to read about anyone (real people or fictional characters) relieving themselves either! Both of these things are trends that need to go away!

10. Is there any evidence Mary seduced her husband before marriage to force him into marrying her, and her family into accepting the relationship? I’m well-aware premarital sex has always existed, but the way this storyline was handled seemed so unrealistic and bizarre!

11. Ms. Newman depicts Mary as sex-obsessed and Pres. Lincoln as frigid and undersexed, with this imbalance of passion deeply affecting their relationship. She even has Mary thinking about sex when her husband’s on his deathbed! In an earlier chapter, she depicts Mary having an affair when she’s shopping in New York.

Overall, I did enjoy a good portion of the book. I truly felt for this woman who suffered so much, and lived in a time when there wasn’t much recourse but a mental hospital and “medicine” that made her condition worse. It’s just that the execution was lacking, and I felt like a voyeur reading the sex scenes.