WeWriWa—A liberator’s gift

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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 from Chapter 20, “Remnants Rescued,” of The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, set during April 1945.

Kálmán and Móric are the only two boys left of the group that set out from Jawischowitz in January. Apart from two who escaped and another who was left behind at Mauthausen, everyone else has perished. The end of the road was Buchenwald, whose strong resistance immediately put them into a boys’ brick-laying detail. Their two remaining older friends insisted on working in the quarry with the other men, and weren’t as lucky.

The sickly Móric was hidden in the typhus ward by their Communist Kapo, and Kálmán insisted on joining him. Shortly afterwards, the camp resistance sent messages to the U.S. Third Army, killed their remaining guards, and liberated themselves. Now the soldiers have arrived, and Kálmán begs them to help Móric.

“We’ll bring doctors and nurses here as soon as we can, and give you whatever food we have,” a freckled soldier said in German. “You boys will be very well taken care of.”

“We’re not boys, we’re men,” Móric said softly.

The freckled soldier smiled at him. “How old are you fellows?”

“I’m fourteen, and he’s fifteen.”

A leathery-skinned soldier took off his gold-faced chronograph watch with a black leather band, and extended it to Móric. “You deserve this more than I do.  Don’t try to refuse it.  You deserve a lot more than just a watch after what you went through, but this is the nicest thing I have to give you.”

WeWriWa—Closeness in distance

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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 one of the rescuing Czech partisans, Jaroslav, asked Emánuel about the semi-fast day he mentioned. It’s the ending of this section of the chapter.

The illustrations are from illuminated scrolls of the Book of Esther.

“It’s called Ta’anit Esther, and commemorates how Queen Esther fasted before going to make her petition to King Xerxes for her people’s lives.  Tonight, the holiday of Purim began, celebrating our deliverance from evil.  God is never mentioned in the Book of Esther, but he was working behind the scenes the entire time.  Sometimes God is closest to us when he feels most distant, perhaps because he wants us to be proactive in fighting for our deliverance and not passively wait for Divine intervention.  Tonight you were God’s emissaries, after Adri and I made a run for it.”

“What about all the other guys still on the march?” Adrián asked. “God hasn’t delivered them yet, and most of them didn’t try to escape.”

“We each have our own destiny, existing alongside free will.  It’s not for us to try to understand Divine ways, though it’s nice to know the chapter of our lives as slaves has ended.”

Emánuel’s sentiment about how “God is closest to us when he feels most distant” is echoed a number of times by unplanned secondary character Tímea, a Bible Student (Jehovah’s Witness offshoot) who’s with the girls. She never wavers in her strong faith, though she often says she doesn’t know why any of this happened or why some people fared relatively better than others.

WeWriWa—Dinner is served

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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 18-year-old Emánuel begged Dr. Svoboda to remove the number on his arm. Dr. Svoboda said he’d be glad to do it later, but that Emánuel had more pressing heath concerns, and might come to see it as a mark of pride someday.

Seventeen-year-old Adrián has just asked for food, and mentioned it was a semi-fast day, with the caveat that it wasn’t much different from any other day. They haven’t had much food since they started out from Mauthausen a few weeks ago.

Copyright mick; Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/panasonic-kei/6132672345

Jaroslav pulled a potato out of the stove, cut it in half, and put each piece on a plate.  Adrián leapt on his like a famished wolf, while Emánuel had to wait until Dr. Svoboda was done taking his vitals.  After they’d eaten and Dr. Svoboda had taken Adrián’s vitals, Ondřej brought them each a large mug of ginger peach tea.

“Ginger soothes the stomach, and peaches symbolize long life in Chinese folklore,” Ondřej said. “We’ll bring you chicken broth next.  We’ve got some in our icebox, and it won’t take long to reheat.”

“Děkuji mnohokrát,” Emánuel said, using one of the Czech phrases he’d picked up from fellow prisoners. “God should bless all of you for your righteousness and altruism.”

“It’s nothing doing, just what any good partisan and human being would do,” Jaroslav said. “May I ask what the semi-fast day was for?”

IWSG—Lagging productivity

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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of the month. Participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears. I forgot to post last month, due to A to Z taking precedence, and travelling to NYC for my rabbi’s oldest daughter’s wedding.

This month, the IWSG question is:

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

I absolutely love research! Special favourites include vintage clothes, advertisements, childbirth, food, and slang. I also love looking at street maps to see where everything is in my settings. Other topics include what it’s like to be an amputee, Orthodox Christianity, and 1940s prosthetics.

After realising all my Russian male characters would’ve been uncircumcised, I did secondhand research on what it feels like to have intercourse with a guy like that. I wanted that level of authenticity in my sex scenes.

I technically won Camp NaNo, but this is NOT my best work. My productivity levels are normally so much higher. I had to lower my goal from 50K to 35K to 20K, and only broke even on Day 23. There were a few days early on when I didn’t write at all, though I still took screenshots of each day’s final progress when I did write. I like having that record.

Mitigating factors included the eight days of Pesach, my flagging mental health, my wrecked sleep cycles, and starting to make plans to move home to Pittsburgh against my parents’ insistence I join them in South Carolina for a few months. I’ve been stuck in this unhealthy holding pattern for far too long, and even my 17-year-old spider plant Kalanit is suffering.

I’m really unhappy with an unplanned subplot regarding Katya and Dmitriy’s new friends Dagmara (Marusya) and her husband Sima (Zosim). It started out so well, but developed far too quickly, and feels detached, like it’s just dumped in there instead of naturally-connected. It also feels very deus ex machina, in spite of its great potential.

When I read back over my first Russian historical in 2011, nine years after I’d last had access to it, I was so impressed at how expertly I’d woven all these storylines together and then finally linked them all up. The stories of the orphanage girls (esp. the Lebedeva sisters and Inessa) and Lena Yeltsina’s family are an integral part of the overall story, not just thrown in there every few chapters without any lead-in or foreshadowing.

However, I’m a lot happier with one of my other unplanned secondary characters, former Marine Captain Nestor Sevastyanovich Ugolnikov. I originally planned to give him to Bogdana Sheltsova, but then I realised he’s a much better match with Yustina Yeltsina-Baronova. But first, he has to overcome his belief that no woman would want a guy who’s missing a leg.

(FYI: You NEVER call someone “an ex-Marine”! It’s always “former Marine.” Semper fi means something!)

I also finally have a new cover for Little Ragdoll. My artist kept it based on the original reference photo. There was an odd technical issue, where Amazon wouldn’t accept the cover’s size, and the enlarged files she sent me kept being read as too small and the same size as before. I finally had to go onto my older computer to resize it myself in Gimp.

WeWriWa— “Just another part of my body”

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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 17-year-old Adrián was told his two bullet wounds weren’t as bad as he imagined.

Dr. Svoboda has told him to clean them several times a day, and keep them covered, to decrease thee odds of infection. He apologizes for not dispensing morphine, which he doesn’t want to risk when Adrián is so underweight and might have other health problems.

Dr. Svoboda has now moved on to giving 18-year-old Emánuel a TB test, and discovers something he wasn’t expecting.

Dr. Svoboda rolled up Emánuel’s left sleeve and cleaned his inner forearm with alcohol.  As he rubbed the gauze pad, his eyes caught on Emánuel’s tattoo.  The numbers were small, neat, and delicate, though their presence was still very obvious.

“Can you remove that ugly thing after you test me for tuberculosis?  I could get killed if the wrong person discovers it.  My buddy also has a tattoo, about the same size.”

“Are you crazy?” Adrián asked. “We’ll both be left with long, ugly scars, and I don’t want a third wound.  After almost eight months, I’m used to it.  It’s just another part of my body, kind of like a woman’s earrings or wedding ring.”