WeWriWa—Choosing new clothes

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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.

I’m now sharing from an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari, and will give them an eventual happy ending, with lots of Sturm und Drang.

This week’s excerpt comes a bit after last week’s, when Dante came home from school to find the family tailor. His father said he earned extra money from an unexpected new source of business, and announced plans for using the rest of their windfall. He then gave Dante a bag of florins to use on sweets and a new book.

The phrases “the richness of the choice” and “[Name] agonized long and hard over the richness of the choice” are among my trademarks that crop up in just about every single book I’ve ever written. Though it comes from the 18th century French erotic novel Thérèse Philosophe, I usually don’t use it in erotic contexts!

After Ser Landolfo took all my measurements, I had the delightful task of looking at the richness of the choice contained in the many bottles. Most of the dyes and pigments were beautiful, distinctive, arresting colors, but not all of them were my favorites, and some didn’t seem as if they’d look good on me. I also needed to choose colors which weren’t too dark and thus wouldn’t absorb too much heat during the coming summer months.

All the same, I didn’t know when I’d next get the chance to have new clothes made, and it weren’t as though my existing clothes were terrible or worthy of a lowly peasant. Lightweight fabrics like linen and cotton would also keep me comfortable in heat. With all these factors considered, I finally selected light teal, Byzantine blue, and scarlet for tunics, and blue-grey, charcoal grey, and pale green for hose.

“Can you make the blue and teal tunics in linen, and the scarlet one in wool?” I asked.

“I always endeavor to please my customers,” Ser Landolfo said. “All these garments should be ready by the time you leave for Fiesole. I’ll return for a fitting a few days beforehand.”

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

“We very much appreciate your services,” Babbo said. “If my business continues improving, I may summon you again next year. Perhaps I’ll eventually be able to justify the cost of silver and gold embroidery or luxury fabrics.”

While Babbo counted out Ser Landolfo’s fee, I picked up the bag with my precious florins and went upstairs to my room. As magnificent as it was to have new clothes tailored, studying Latin grammar was even more important. Fine clothes might impress a certain type of person, but a fine mind was even more impressive, and would be there regardless of what types of garments I donned.

WeWriWa—Getting new clothes

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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.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

This week’s excerpt opens the second section of Chapter II, “Answered Prayers.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kharbine-Tapabor/Shutterstock (6051054bb)
Tailor’s workshop, facsimile of Italian manuscript illumination, 14th century, of Tacuinum Sanitatis, a Latin translation of an Arabic Health Manual by a doctor from Bagdad
Art (Manuscripts) – various

A week after my bliss first appeared to me, I came home from school to the sight of Babbo in the main hall with Landolfo Vernizzi, our tailor. Many fabrics were draped over benches, chairs, and tables, and one bench temptingly displayed glass bottles full of pigments and dyes in a rainbow of colors.

“God has been very good to us,” Babbo said with a smile. “Several very lucrative business opportunities arose during the last few days, and I decided to use some of that money for new clothes. Ser Landolfo is making six new outfits for me, and he’ll make three for you.” He looked back at the tailor. “Remember to use extra fabric for Durante’s clothes, so they can be let out multiple times as he grows. I’m not paying you for garments he can only wear for a short while.”

“Yes, Ser Alighiero.”

Ser Landolfo picked up a leather ruler and beckoned to me.

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

“First I’ll take your measurements, and then you can select the colors you want. This time you can use more expensive dyes than usual, except royal purple.”

What a wondrous turn of events! Now I didn’t need to think of a way to suggest having new clothes made, since God answered another of my prayers so beautifully. I wasn’t even upset by how Babbo was getting twice as many outfits as I. Only royalty needed inordinate amounts of garments, and this would bring my number of outfits to nine, God’s most perfect number.

WeWriWa—Mass at Santa Margherita

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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.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

This week’s excerpt comes a bit after last week’s, which takes place the morning after the party. Dante ran across the Portinaris while both were walking to church, and was easily convinced to go to Santa Margherita with them instead of his usual San Martino.

Church of Santa Margherita, Copyright Sailko

When we passed through the doors of the church, I looked back and forth between the men’s and women’s sides. Though I was young enough to stand with the ladies and children, Babbo preferred I stand with the men and older boys to avoid developing soft habits. At the same time, it would be rude to spurn the people who’d invited me to church with them, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to be close to the youngest of God’s angels even for just an hour. Monna Cilia also possibly already thought poorly of Babbo because he let me attend Mass alone, and I didn’t want to give her more reasons to dislike him and disseminate gossip. Building a stronger friendship between our families was imperative if I wanted to marry my dream girl. I remained on the side for ladies and children.

To impress Beatrice and her mother, I followed along in perfect Latin. There were a few words and lines here and there I didn’t fully understand, even after a lifetime of hearing them, but I still knew how to pronounce them correctly. By the time I was old enough to start taking Communion in a few years, I’d be fluent in Latin.

I barely paid attention to the priest’s sermon, and immediately forgot his subject as soon as he finished speaking and began leading us in the Nicene Creed.

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

This was a prayer I often struggled with reciting perfectly, since it was so long. Today, however, all the words came out just as they should, without any stumbling. When I prayed my own prayers privately, I spoke to God, Christ, and the saints in Italian, but I was obligated to use Latin in church.

As usual, only a few people besides the priests took Communion. Ricovero nudged me when a young man in turquoise robes went up with two ladies and an elderly man.

“That’s Pietro Tonelli, and he takes Communion at least once a week,” Ricovero whispered. “A lot of people suspect he’s falling into heresy, is losing his mind, or thinks he’s so much holier than everyone else. I’d advise you to avoid him.”

With this comment, I knew Ricovero was destined to be a genuine friend, not just a convenience or surface friend. As undesirable a habit as it is, I’ve long had a weakness for listening to entertaining gossip. Besides, not all gossip is falsehood.

IWSG—September 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’s question is:

How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

As I’ve said many a time, though my dream is to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and my secondary dream is to win the Sydney Taylor Book Award, what I want most of all is immortality through my writing. I want to be remembered as a writer for all time, like Dante and Shakespeare, not someone who’s only praised and known about for a little while before being consigned to the bargain bin.

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I really, really struggled with the story I wrote for the IWSG contest. My first idea was quickly abandoned, a story entitled “Illuminated Summer.” It was to be set in Fiesole, Italy, during the summer of 1478, one of the deadliest outbreaks of the Black Death’s second wind. My problem was that I only had some general ideas about what to fill the story with, as much as I pulled together mentally.

Since I liked the characters I crafted in my head so much, though, I decided to save them for a full-length book. Maybe it was a mistake to abandon this story before I even finished one page, but it’s too late now to change that decision.

Then I moved to the idea I’d had originally, using my secondary characters Virgil Rein and Liliána Buchsbaum from my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, and showing the genesis of their romantic relationship in Sweden after the war. It was called “Traces of an Ancient Flame” (a line from The Aeneid and later used in The Divine Comedy in homage). But almost the entire time I was working on it, it just wasn’t clicking.

It was a huge struggle to get over the minimum 5K mark, and that contained a lot of garbage I would’ve edited out in the final draft. At no time besides the opening pages, set in an antiquarian bookstore, did I feel excited about this project; on the contrary, I didn’t want to work on it, and getting as many words as I did was like pulling hens’ teeth.

I had more and more of a sinking feeling that this wasn’t my strongest effort, and that romance didn’t feature prominently enough. The story didn’t want to be primarily a romance, despite those elements being there. It also felt too unfocused and not paced well, with more of an episodic structure instead of a real plot.

I also feel like, should I write a full book about these characters, their romance ought to have started soon after liberation, not only in early December 1947.

I finally decided to scratch that hot mess a day before the deadline, and went back to my material of Cinnimin meeting Levon in 1942 and reworked it into a standalone story exclusively in Cinni’s POV. Yes, I cut it really close, but my heart was only in the final of the three stories. Had I continued forcing the second story that didn’t want to be written, and felt all wrong most of the time, I wouldn’t have been submitting my best work or something I was proud of.

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In other news, I finally renamed my YouTube channel so people can more easily pronounce and remember it. I plan to start adding regular content, including vlogs about writing. It might help with improving my confidence, though I’m afraid I’ll always have the nasal twang of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Have you ever abandoned a project partway through because it just wasn’t working or didn’t represent what you’re capable of?

WeWriWa—The morning after

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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.

I’m now sharing from a brand-new project, an alternative history with the working title A Dream of Peacocks. It starts on May Day 1274, when Dante met his great love and muse Beatrice Portinari at a party held by her parents.

I’m skipping ahead a bit to near the start of Chapter II, “Answered Prayers.” In true Medieval style, I decided to use Roman numerals for the chapters and sections of chapters.

In case I saw her again today, I dressed in a dusky red tunic and light blue hose, which I proceeded to rub with a powder made of crushed rose petals, lavender, orris root, and cloves. I also hung a little bag of crushed sage and violets around my neck, tucked inside the tunic. Since I was only permitted a bath on Saturdays, I needed to be as sweet-smelling as possible in the interim days.

In the kitchen downstairs, I washed my hands and ate a few fennel seeds for an apéritif, followed by chunk of bread, a piece of sausage, and some almonds, washed down with plum juice. For a dragée, I had a piece of aged cheese. Then I washed my hands again and went back upstairs to clean my teeth.

Babbo was in his office when I left for morning Mass. Since his moneylending business was so important, he rarely accompanied me to church in the morning, and instead attended a later Mass. We usually only went together on Sundays and feast days. At home, we didn’t often pray together either, though Babbo expected me to pray and read the Psalms for Vespers and Compline in the evening.

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

He was too busy and distant to care if I regularly prayed the other canonical hours.

While walking to San Martino, I heard my name being called. Upon turning to my left, I saw Beatrice clothed in an evergreen robe with a pure white sash. The violet crown I set on her head yesterday was still there. Only as an afterthought did I notice her mother and siblings were there too, minus baby Gherardo.

“I’m happy to see you again so soon,” she said as she came closer. “Are you on your way to church too?”