IWSG—Plans for 2018

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Welcome to the first installment of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group for 2018!

A total stranger recently misinterpreted one of my Tweets and jumped on me like an attack dog, assuming both my religion and politics. She never apologized after I explained several times I was writing from the POV of a character and that this is a writers’ hop.

I also recently did a guest post about Dr. John Money and David Reimer for 4thWaveNow.

I was recently in the odd, difficult position of having to pass on an offer of interest. Though I haven’t taken part in any trad-pub contests in a few years, I took a chance and pitched the book formerly known as The Very First during the latest Pitch Madness.

I was excited to get one like from the managing editor of a publishing house, but further research revealed this would be a very bad fit. Though I’ve significantly watered down or removed the age-inappropriate content I only included to be controversial, there are still a few spots they wouldn’t consider “clean.”

Removing or radically reworking them just to curry favor and potentially get published would alter the story in unacceptable ways. It would distort and misrepresent my voice.

That publishing house is also an imprint of a very conservative religion’s book company, and has a censorship board. G-rated content isn’t who I am at all. My character Cinni says several times that real life isn’t like a Norman Rockwell painting, and that that kind of life never existed for many Americans.

I thought I only had to finish up my unplanned chapter on The War of the Worlds radio broadcast and do some final polishing, but I instead saw an awesome opening to add two additional chapters after what I always thought was the ending.

Though I’ve carefully edited this book to feel more suited to upper MG, the ending felt too simplistic, easy, sudden, more suited to a younger readership.

The new chapters are about Sparky’s first Thanksgiving, and the experience of being Jewish when everyone around her celebrates Christmas. There’s also an Epilogue in January 1939, at her favorite brother Barry’s bar mitzvah. The new and improved reason for the nickname Sparky will be revealed then.

My guesstimate for the final length is 80K, which is super-short by my standards. The hot mess of a first draft was only 38K.

I also need to finish my alternative history about the rule of Tsar Aleksey II. My initial plan was to release it on what would’ve been his 112th birthday, 12 August 2016, but that obviously didn’t work out. A release date of 17 July 2018 would be so appropriately bittersweet, since that’s his real-life 100th Jahrzeit (death anniversary).

Getting back to work on my fourth Russian novel would also be awesome.

My planned blog posts for the year will again feature films and albums celebrating landmark anniversaries, including:

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
October (1928)
The Crowd (1928)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Duck Soup (1933)
Thriller (1983)
Colour by Numbers (1983)
The Birds, the Bees, and The Monkees (1968)
The Wedding Album (1993), this year’s feature for Duran Duran Appreciation Day

My October series on classic horror films will include The Invisible Man (1933), West of Zanzibar (1928), The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), and several Georges Méliès films.

I’m also going to feature the radio play of The War of the Worlds (1938). As I recently discovered, the so-called mass panic was far, far, far less widespread than we’ve been led to believe. It’s also an awesome story perfect for Halloween.

Finally, as you might’ve seen in my second banner, I’ve added an index page cataloguing my posts by nine major topics—book reviews, film reviews, album reviews, misc. book-related, misc. film-related, misc. music-related, historical topics, writing advice, and names.

What are your writing and editing plans for this year?

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WeWriWa—Thanksgiving bingo

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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 a bit after last week’s, when Cinnimin Filliard and her best friend Sparky (real name Katharina) headed off on Thanksgiving morning to get a fresh turkey.

Instead of going to Gregory’s Groceries for one of the free turkeys being given away, the girls decided to go to the kosher butcher so Sparky’s family could eat with Cinni’s. The Filliards have a very large house that’s been in the family for generations, long before the Great Depression, so there’s a wing with another kitchen and dining room enabling each family to keep their own dietary customs.

The girls weren’t able to resist the butcher’s bingo tournament, with a 25-pound turkey as a prize. The tournament runs until only five teams are left, and then those five teams play off for the winner. Several times, false bingo is called among all the competitors.

“The winner will not only get a twenty-five-pound turkey, freshly slaughtered, but also a pound each of carrots, beets, large yams, and eggs, and ten cans of potato gravy!  The runners-up will get a pound each of beans, eggs, and yams.”

Cinni put all her focus on remembering the names of each German number and matching up as many as possible on their cards.  Each time another team didn’t call bingo in time, she rejoiced.  Finally, as it started growing dusky, bingo appeared on Sparky’s latest card.

“Bingo, bingo, bingo!  B fünfzehn, I neunzig, N eins, G elf, O fünfundvierzig!” Sparky called.

The butcher verified the win. “The turkey and all the other food is yours.  I’ll go and slaughter the turkey right now.”

In order, the German numbers called are 15, 19, 1, 11, and 45.

If you’re wondering, my new banner goes along with my 12-part series on the 90th anniversary of The Jazz Singer. It’ll run from 13 November–11 December. I had so much fun researching and writing it. This also gave me back my writing mojo. I desperately needed a break away from fiction, where words were no longer coming as prolifically and easily as usual.

WeWriWa—Sent to fetch a turkey

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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 I’m starting more snippets from the book formerly known as The Very Next, my chronological second Atlantic City book, set from March–December 1939.

In the morning, while Cinnimin Filliard’s parents are starting to prepare their holiday meal, an unexpected visitor shows up. Mrs. Filliard assumed she was a beggar, but Dawida explains she’s from the Polish family Mr. Filliard is trying to bring to the U.S.

Most of the family escaped to Lisbon in the wake of the Nazi invasion, and Dawida escaped Warsaw on her own. Mrs. Filliard is quite frazzled to realize yet another longterm houseguest has just been added to her home, and sends Cinni out to get the main course.

Mrs. Filliard looked at the grandfather clock. “Cinni, why don’t you make yourself useful and pick up a turkey?  It won’t appear in our oven all by itself.  Make sure it’s at least fifteen pounds, so it’ll be enough to reasonably feed everyone in our family plus those insufferable Smarts.  Gregory’s Groceries gives ‘em away today, so we don’t have to worry about money.”

“What about my family?” Sparky asked. “Perhaps we could all eat together.  The kosher butcher in Germantown is having a bingo game today, with a huge turkey as the prize.”

“However you girls get our turkey, it had better be here and ready by noon at the absolute latest.  I want to sit down to eat at four, and it takes about four hours to cook a fifteen-pound stuffed turkey, even longer for eighteen pounds or over, and the longest if it’s over twenty pounds.”

From 1939–41, there was one Thanksgiving for Democrats and another for Republicans a week later. Cinni’s family celebrates the Democrat Thanksgiving, which fell on 23 November in 1939, and was dubbed “Franksgiving” by Republicans (referring to FDR having moved the holiday up one week).

This earlier than usual Thanksgiving was motivated by fears of a very late Thanksgiving negatively affecting Christmas retail sales, in a country still recovering from the Great Depression. In those days, it was very bad form to begin advertising Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving.

WeWriWa—Cinni approves Sparky’s idea

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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 Cinni’s best friend Sparky (real name Katharina) suggested they ask for money instead of candy, to help all the people affected by the recently-begun war in Europe.

Most of the candy wouldn’t be kosher anyway (as the state of kosher food in 1939 America was a far cry from what it is today), but Violet is uncomfortable with what sounds like begging. Originally, Violet’s lines were Cinni’s, but they sound much more believable coming from Violet.  Cinni’s family was hit hard by the Great Depression and depended on public assistance for awhile, whereas Violet’s family is the richest in town.

“I couldn’t eat mosta the candy, if this Halloween is anything like last year,” Sparky said. “I don’t hafta tell ‘em what it’s really for, since they might refuse to give me money if they knew who it’s helping.”

“That’s a bad idea,” Violet said. “You can’t ask strangers for money if they don’t offer it first.  That’s begging, and we’re all too proud to beg.”

“What do you think the people in Europe are doing?  They need every bit of help they can get.”

“It can’t hurt to ask,” Cinni said. “But we’ll hafta tell ’em it’s for the National Refugee Service if they’re people I know are anti-Semites, and we can’t ask people like Max’s dad.  We’re lucky he gives the awful candy he does, instead of locking his door and turning off the light.”

Sparky, her parents, and her two older brothers left Germany for The Netherlands when she was very young, and Cinni’s father brought them to the U.S. in the summer of 1938. My chronological first Atlantic City book (new and improved title a secret till its release) focuses on Sparky’s attempts to become a real American girl without compromising her religious Jewish lifestyle. At the same time, Cinni learns there’s more than one way to be a real American.

WeWriWa—A suggested alternative to candy

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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 several pages after last week, when fundamentalist Samantha Smart and next-door neighbor Lotta Valli had an argument about celebrating Halloween and Lotta’s revealing costume.

After school, Cinnimin retrieved a pile of mail spilling out of the mailbox and brought it to her father, whose heart was weakened by rheumatic fever two years ago. One of the letters was from Portugal, bearing mostly miraculous news about a Polish family he’s trying to bring to America.

Hearing about that letter gave Cinni’s best friend Sparky (real name Katharina), who lives in the house with her family, an idea for an alternative to asking for candy.

At 6:00, Cinni, Sparky, Babs, Tina, and Violet set out on their trick-or-treating route, while Stacy, Gyll, the Valli twins, Lotta, and Mandy went on different routes and Terri and John went right to the school’s dance and party.  Sam and Urma stood at the window, shouting invectives and making hex signs.

“Can I ask for only money?” Sparky asked as they proceeded down Maxwell. “I wanna give it to the Hebrew Immigrant Aide Society, or whatever other group is helping the people escaping from Europe.  I’ll give the rest of the money to whatever group is helping people stuck in Europe.”

“Why would you waste perfectly good money on charity?” Violet asked, adjusting her angel wings. “Leave that for the government and official agencies.  They’d probably laugh at your few dollars.”

“As much as I love money, I’d be really mad if I only got coins on Halloween and couldn’t even keep it for myself,” Tina said. “Candy is always the very best part.”