Posted in 1950s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Unexpected gifts

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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, from Chapter 55, “The Streets of the Future,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This chapter, which closes Part I (to be published as Volume I), is mostly set over Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Twenty-year-old Bogdana Sheltsova, who survived two horrific, life-altering events six weeks apart, is now living with her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Bogdana and Fyodora were discussing skating at Prospect Park when the doorbell rang and Bogdana found her friend Achilles with roses and a gift bag.

The last time Bogdana saw Achilles, who’s also a med student and her cabbie, she made an extremely unprofessional request which Achilles turned down in horror. She’s shocked he sought out her company after that scene in the clinic.

“Thank you for thinking of me, Mr. Medved, but you made it clear our professional relationship cannot continue. You can leave the flowers and present with my aunt, and I’ll get you the presents I bought you and your daughter.”

“Come here, Bogusya,” Achilles calls. “I came to see you because I like you so much. I never said I wanted to stop being your friend or that I hated you.”

Bogdana tentatively steps forward and accepts the flowers. “You’re always so thoughtful. I hope you haven’t spent too much money on all these flowers.”

“Money’s no object when it comes to making you happy, and there’s no such thing as getting a lady too many flowers.”

Posted in 1950s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Bogdana’s Christmas surprise

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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. For my Orthodox Christmas-themed snippet this year, I’m sharing something from Chapter 55, “The Streets of the Future,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This chapter, which closes Part I (to be published as Volume I), is mostly set over Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Twenty-year-old Bogdana Sheltsova, who survived two horrific, life-altering events six weeks apart, is now living with her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Bogdana mostly lives in the guesthouse, but she’s been prevailed upon to join her aunt’s family in the main estate for Christmas. Her discussion with her aunt about wearing old-fashioned skating boots to Prospect Park was interrupted by the doorbell.

This has been slightly altered to fit ten lines.

Bogdana goes back to the Christmas tree in the sitting room when Fyodora goes to answer the door. She has no intention of trading her ankle-length grey wool dress for a skating outfit she can comfortably move in, and doesn’t care if she’s the most unfashionable person on the rink. Those people ought to be more concerned with their own affairs instead of gossiping about someone else’s.

“Bogusya, Dyed Moroz has a surprise present for you!” Fyodora calls.

Bogdana clenches her fists. “Don’t tell me you paid some old man to dress up like Dyed Moroz and come to deliver a gift. I’m too old for that silliness, and even if I still believed in Dyed Moroz, nothing could change my melancholic mood. The die was cast that disgusting night, and nothing can ever change it.”

“Please, come take a look at your present before you decide it’s worthless; something tells me you’ll really, really like it.”

Bogdana returns to the front entryway, and immediately looks away when she sees Achilles standing there, holding a large bouquet of red roses in his right hand and a small gift bag in his left hand.

Posted in 1940s, Food, Historical fiction, holidays, Shoah, Writing

WeWriWa—An unlikely celebration

Copyright Jüdischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 5409/3094

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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. For my last Chanukah-themed snippet this year, I’m sharing something from Chapter 17, “Evacuated Westward,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees.

It’s December 1944, and a group of nine young women from Abony, Hungary, along with two non-Jewish friends, have recently been moved from the privileged Kanadakommando sorting detail at Auschwitz to the all-female Breslau–Hundsfeld factory. Because this factory was run by the Wehrmacht, not the SS, prisoners had rather good treatment, including the chance to clandestinely celebrate Chanukah.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines.

Copyright Posner Family Estate, courtesy of Shulamit Mansbach, Haifa, Israel

A week before the holiday, one of the women had organized some leftover cotton and thread from the factory and hidden them under the mattresses. She had also gotten hold of some precious potatoes, cut them in half, created indents for oil, and twisted wicks. Since the prisoners had relative freedom in their living quarters, they were able to gather to light candles, sing holiday songs, and bless one another. As always, they talked about food too.

“My mother always made noodles and cabbage with poppy seeds,” Hajnalka said on the fifth night, rubbing her stomach. “My favorite was chicken paprikash.”

“I wish we had lots of latkes to fill our stomachs,“ Klaudia said. “I’d dunk mine in an ocean of applesauce, sour cream, lecsó, quark, you name it. Next Chanukah, I’m going to stuff myself silly with sufganiyot. My favorite filling was blueberry, but I’d take any filling after this crummy diet, since I’ve got to build my voluptuous figure back up.”

Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Resisting assimilation

Copyright Jüdischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin;
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 5409/3083

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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!

It’s now the eighth night of Chanukah, which coincides with Christmas Eve, and the Smalls and Filliards are having a joint holiday meal. Cinnimin’s mother tries once again to talk the Smalls into adopting secular Christmas symbols, but they steadfastly refuse.

Mrs. Filliard helped herself to more pierogi. “Are you sure you don’t want to put up a Chanukah bush and a few secular decorations? The Christmas season ain’t over till January seventh, Russian Christmas. Even many people who ain’t Orthodox celebrate Twelfth Night on January sixth with special foods.”

“We’ll never celebrate Christmas,” Mrs. Small said. “It’s your holiday, not ours.”

“Chanukah is about resisting assimilation,” Gary agreed. “The Maccabees fought against the Seleucids’ attempts at introducing Greek customs, language, and religion into Judea. If our ancestors had given in and accepted foreign religion and culture, we’d be as much in the dustbin of history as the Seleucids are now. The holiday is about so much more than the oil lasting for eight nights instead of only one.”

Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Cinnimin, Historical fiction, holidays

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.”