WeWriWa—Barnard Halloween party

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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.

This year’s Halloween excerpts come from the currently-numbered Chapter 122, “Heterogenous Halloween,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, in 1951. The fifth section begins as a group of Barnard students get ready to go to their Halloween party. None of them quite fit the school’s mold, to varying degrees.

Léa is one of my favorite unplanned characters of this book. Though I ended up not using her parents and younger siblings nearly as much as I planned, Léa quickly became a very important character.

Léa tucks her sword into its sheath and surveys herself in the full-length mirror before leaving for the Barnard-Columbia Halloween party. She spent the last week making a suit of armor from dark grey metallic fabric Pavel gave her. Had she had access to metal, she would’ve made a real suit of armor. Léa also made birthday girl Dessie’s costume, a turquoise and blue dress in the style of a Celtic warrior princess.

Beatrisa and Regina respectively assembled scarecrow and green witch costumes from storebought clothes and accessories, while Hestia bought a Little Red Riding Hood costume from Macy’s. Aelita repurposed a voluminous black velvet dress with an attached cowl and white silk cord bodice into that of a Medieval wise woman and healer who’d be accused of witchcraft.

“Dressing in men’s clothes makes me feel so powerful,” Léa declares. “I most prefer skirts and dresses, but trousers transform me from a helpless sex object to be gawked at into someone to be taken seriously. How could Jeanne d’Arc have led her troops to victory if she’d worn a damn dress? She’s my hero.”

Since next Sunday is the day after Halloween, and I’ll be leaving the Monster template up for a few more horror film posts, there’ll be a bonus Halloween-themed snippet.

WeWriWa—The Lindmaas’ Halloween costumes

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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.

This year’s Halloween excerpts come from the currently-numbered Chapter 122, “Heterogenous Halloween,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, in 1951. The chapter’s third section opens as sisters Mireena, Milena, and Ilme set out for trick-or-treating with their kids in Marble Hill, the only Manhattan neighborhood on the North American mainland.

Milena (Mireena’s identical twin) finally married her longtime crush Vahur in January and adopted his children from his first marriage. Her stepchildren Tarmo and Meri are ten and seven, and her nieces are both a year and a half old.

Mireena, Milena, and Ilme are married to three brothers, so their children are double-cousins. They also all live on the same street, right next door to one another. Marble Hill is the only place in Manhattan where detached houses are the norm.

Milena, now in her fortieth week of pregnancy, sets off up the sidewalk with Tarmo and Meri by the hands. This year, she made Meri a bumblebee costume, a green dinosaur for Tarmo, and a gumball machine for herself. She barely fits behind the sewing machine anymore, and had to sit on her side. The sooner this baby comes earthside, the better. Milena wishes someone really could insert a nickel into her costume and cause the giant gumball to come cascading out.

Ilme and Milena come up behind them, holding Endla and Siiri by the hands. They’re each in matching mother-daughter costumes, French milkmaids and Rosie the Riveter, respectively. Endla and Siiri look around with wide eyes at all the bigger children in costumes.

“I can’t wait till mine is old enough for her first Halloween costume,” Milena says.

The nine lines end here. A few more follow.

“Though I’m glad she’s still baking. I’d hate to be housebound or in the clinic on such a fun holiday.”

“Are you afraid you’ll go into labor while we’re trick-or-treating?” Meri asks.

“Dr. Bellamy explained the difference between false and real contractions. None of the contractions I’ve felt over the last month were genuine. They’re just a dress rehearsal for the big show.”

“First-time mothers tend to go overdue,” Ilme says. “It’s not so common for a woman with a normal pregnancy to launch at exactly forty weeks.”

WeWriWa—Halloween anniversary

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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.

This year’s Halloween excerpts come from the currently-numbered Chapter 122, “Heterogenous Halloween,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, in 1951. The chapter’s second section opens as model Lyudmila poses for Halloween photos taken by her now-agent, primary photographer, and unofficial husband Anton.

Lyudmila’s legal husband Denis gave her three venereal diseases and left her barely any money before he deployed to Korea, and Anton nursed her back to health, paid her hospital bills, got the bank to give her access to Denis’s account, and moved her into his Minneapolis estate. They’re currently in his third home in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

Zolotse is a term of endearment meaning “my gold.”

Lyudmila sends a smoldering gaze to Anton as he photographs her in a wizard costume barely meeting the fingertip rule. The studio of their Ditmas Park estate is littered with various Halloween props—crystal balls, brooms, paper moon cutouts, jack-o-lanterns, Tarot cards, stuffed black cats, cauldrons, owls, graves, zombie scarecrows, ravens, witch hats, bats, spiders. Several large trunks of Halloween costumes are off to the side. Musidora, Behemoth, and their five ten-month-old kittens prowl around and consent to being held by Lyudmila for some of the photos. These photographs will go out to clients seeking Halloween pinups, and the usual agents in charge of distributing pinups to GIs. Others are just for Anton’s eyes.

“I bet you know what this is for.” Anton hands her a heavy plastic jack-o-lantern. “You’ll get more treats tonight, but the treats in this are the kind you can keep.” He squeezes her right breast.

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

“Not that I’m complaining about our fleeting treats. Those are a lot more fun than permanent treats, since they’re never the same twice.”

Lyudmila reaches into the jack-o-lantern and closes her hand around what feels like jewelry. She pulls out a long necklace with rough-hewn orange and black crystals first, followed by a strand of tiny, delicate pearls with a black crystal bat charm, a very wide bracelet with orange and black beads, large silver disc French hook earrings with dark blue spiderwebs painted on, and a black Bakelite brooch with nine black cherries suspended from it. At the bottom is a gold-leaf, illuminated manuscript of Rumi’s love poems.

“One year ago today, I met my zolotse and began realizing the greatest happiness of my life,” Anton says. “Little did I know I’d soon feel compelled to possess all of you, not just seduce you and have fun for a little while. I can’t wait till you’re my legal wife.”

IWSG—October odds and sods

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It’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month I’m much more content, writing-wise, than I’ve been since this apparently permanent lockdown began.

Even if normal life hadn’t been shut down, I probably would’ve run into writer’s block and a near-complete standstill on Dream Deferred when it finally seemed like I was heading into the homestretch. I realised I’d been with those characters too long at a stretch, and put the book on hiatus for the fifth time since its inception in November 2015.

I took a two-week break from preparing the book formerly known as The Very First for its paperback version, a process which has taken a bit longer than I expected. During that time, I began my final draft of the book formerly known as The Very Next, and the difference with Dream Deferred was like night and day.

Words finally came quickly and effortlessly as I reworked and expanded chapters. It’s like when I regained my writing mojo from researching and writing my 12-part series “The Jazz Singer at 90″ in November 2017.

Unfinished cover of The Very Next, 2012, drawn with Roseart colored pencils. My art supplies are a lot more professional now, and I’m much better at drawing human figures!

My NaNo project will be finishing this draft (which at this point mostly consists of adding a few new chapters to make it an even forty) and resuming the radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last.

I’ll also make Cinnimin and her friends two years older in the latter, just to see how it feels. If it never feels right, I’ll change it back, but there’s no harm in trying out something I’ve been seriously thinking about for at least 7-8 years.

I may have found the perfect solution to the age dilemma. On Cinni’s twelfth birthday in 1942, her wish was that everything stay exactly the same as it was. During the 1950s, she starts realising she’s mentally living in the past and unable to move forward, and that her long-ago wish came true. Near the end of Saga II, this spell is finally broken.

What if she made the same wish a bit later, and everyone who was there stopped aging altogether for two years? My Atlantic City books aren’t intended as straight hist-fic, and there have been mystical and supernatural elements before.

Regardless of what I ultimately do about their age, though, it belatedly dawned on me that their graduation years might have to change anyway. Cinni’s birthday is in late August, which means she either started first grade at age seven, or her friends started at five and thus will finish each grade a year younger than normal.

Speaking of NaNo…

I’m very angry there won’t be any official in-person write-ins this year! The few people who spoke up to object for very sound reasons (worried about mental health from too much isolation, writers benefitting from being less solitary during this month) were called spoilt and selfish. Even worse, snitching on members planning small in-person write-ins is encouraged.

NaNo also issued a statement heartily supporting the toxic new woke theology. Coupled with how their “updated” website is still awful (automatically muting most boards and making us unmute them every time, infinite scroll in message boards, STILL not showing our stats from 2019 Camp), I’m at my wits’ end.

But in happier news, Volume I of Dark Forest is now available in paperback, and Volume II will be out by the end of the week. I’m also occupied with this year’s series on classic horror films with landmark anniversaries. Upcoming films include The Bride of Frankenstein, both versions of The Unholy Three (because it’s not October without Lon Chaney, Sr.!), The Invisible Man Returns, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.

WeWriWa—Irina’s latest Halloween costume

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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.

To mark October, the best of all possible months, I’m once again sharing Halloween excerpts. This year, they’ll come from the currently-numbered Chapter 122, “Heterogenous Halloween,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s now 1951, and Lyuba and Ivan’s seventh child Irina, their oldest left at home, has once again designed her own costume.

Irina is now a high school senior, just turned eighteen a few days ago.

Irina rises early on the morning of Halloween and goes to her closet for the costume she thought up months ago. She pulls a short-sleeved, knee-length Lincoln green dress with four layers of pleats over her head, as always one of her own creations. Irina next slips matching gauntlets onto her arms and fastens the brown leather strap cords. She savors the feeling of the brown leather belt going around her waist. This is a man’s belt, not a feminized version meant only for show.

The next costume components are a smart Lincoln green derby with a black feather on the left side, skintight Lincoln green pantalettes, and dark brown knee-high boots. Irina opens her wardrobe and takes out items she knows her father will have a couple of hemorrhages over, a dark brown leather quiver with two dozen arrows. Irina fastens a black leather sheath around her waist and puts a miniature sword inside. With the aid of her full-length mirror, she straps a bow to her back. She picks up a Lincoln green loot bag before going downstairs.

The ten lines end here. The following lines finish this part of the scene:

Ivan almost slices his thumb off instead of a slice of ham when Irina saunters up to the breakfast table. “Irisha, you’ve got to stop wearing such scandalous Halloween costumes! What’s wrong with your sisters’ costumes?” He motions to Sonyechka and Tamara, respectively dressed as a suffragist and Roman princess.

“It’s called having my own sense of style.” Irina pulls out her sword and slices an apple.

“Where did that come from!” Lyuba shrieks. “How did we not know you had that, or the archery equipment?”

“I got the bow and arrows in the sporting section of Golden Rule, and refused to pretend I was buying them for a boy. The sword came from Andryusha’s antiques store. There’s lots of neat stuff there.”