WeWriWa—Getting acquainted

In loving memory of John Alec Entwistle, the greatest bass player in history, who left the material world 19 years ago today.

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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 is A Dream of Peacocks. My synopsis is still a work in progress, but here’s the beginning:

What if one of the most famous love stories in history wasn’t unrequited?

When Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari meet as children on May Day 1274, they’re instantly drawn to one another with a strong, precocious love. Their dreams of marriage come to an abrupt end when their fathers arrange their betrothals to other people, but an unexpected second chance comes when they’re both widowed in their early twenties.

The previous excerpts drew heavily from the second chapter of La Vita Nuova, but now the story begins to diverge from what really happened next. When Dante met Beatrice, he was overcome by violent trembling and messages from the vital, animal, and natural spirits (a concept written about by Albertus Magnus), but in real life, he didn’t discuss whether or not he actually spoke with his new love.

The word “windows” was frequently used in Medieval Tuscan to refer to the eyes.

The governing spirits had mercifully been subdued, returning to me the power of speech. “I’m Durante, but most people call me Dante.”

She tied the stems of two violets together. “Are your parents friends with mine?”

“I don’t know how well my father knows your parents, but we’re very grateful they thought of us and invited us to this party.” I briefly cast my eyes upward, then immediately resumed looking at the beautiful vision in front of me. “God decided to call my mother back to himself four years ago, and I don’t recall her ever mentioning an acquaintance with your parents.”

Beatrice’s emerald windows softened.

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

“Please accept my sympathies. I didn’t realize your mother was with God. I shouldn’t assume everyone my age has two living parents just because I do.”

“Thank you for your noble words, but there’s no need to apologize. It’s a natural assumption.” Without waiting for an invitation, I took a seat on the other side of the windowsill and reached for several white irises. “Did you pick these flowers from a garden or around the city?”

“My family has a large, beautiful garden full of all sorts of flowers, herbs, fruit trees, and nut trees. There’s a lovely view of Firenze and the hill of Fiesole too. I’ll be glad to show it to you after I finish making crowns and garlands.”

WeWriWa—The three physiological spirits

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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 is A Dream of Peacocks. My synopsis is still a work in progress, but here’s the beginning:

What if one of the most famous love stories in history wasn’t unrequited?

When Dante Alighieri and Beatrice Portinari meet as children on May Day 1274, they’re instantly drawn to one another with a strong, precocious love. Their dreams of marriage come to an abrupt end when their fathers arrange their betrothals to other people, but an unexpected second chance comes when they’re both widowed in their early twenties.

The description of the three physiological spirits (drawn from the writings of Albertus Magnus), and what they say, are drawn from Chapter II of La Vita Nuova. I’d appreciate feedback on the inclusion of the Latin in addition to translations of those lines. They appear as such in the source material, but modern readers might find it redundant or pretentious.

This comes a few lines after last week’s snippet, after Dante and his father arrived at a May Day party in 1274.

A manservant in a bright yellow tunic led Babbo to another wing of the house, while a maidservant in a dusky lilac dress led me into a large room full of other children. Some of them I recognized from our neighborhood, San Piero Maggione, while others were strangers. They were engaged in a variety of amusements—table games including chess and backgammon, marbles, knucklebones, dice, flower weaving, spinning tops, stringing beads into jewelry.

And behold, at the back of the room near an open window, quietly arranging flower crowns and garlands, was a beautiful girl in a subdued crimson robe, with fluffy light brown hair and eyes the color of emeralds, a delicate build, and a garland of violets draped about her neck. She seemed not like a mortal human, but an angel or goddess. My entire body began trembling, helpless against the vital spirit dwelling in the heart, and I heard the Latin words Ecce deus fortiori me, qui venions dominabitur michi, “Here is a God stronger than I, who comes to rule over me.”

No sooner had the vital spirit released me than the animal spirit, dwelling in the brain, was overcome with amazement, and said to my eyes, Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra, “Now your bliss has appeared.” Finally, the natural spirit, which dwells in the liver, began weeping and said, Heu miser, quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps!, “Alas, wretch, for I shall be disturbed often from now on!”

The combined form of the three physiological spirits, which are ultimately ruled by the soul, left me with an overpowering, suprarational longing to possess this girl. Not in the adult way of lovers, since I knew or cared nothing about such matters at such a young age, but to know all of her, for our souls, hearts, and minds to be entwined forevermore, even into the afterlife.

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

Already I knew she was destined to be my wife and the mother of my children, and that I had to convince Babbo to let to marry this one and no one else.

“Welcome to our home. I’m Beatrice, though you may also call me Bice.” Even her voice was angelic.

WeWriWa—A gradual journey

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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 excerpts which, as you’ll see next week, are related to a new project I’m researching, an alternative history set in Medieval Italy. This comes from my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors from Hungary, France, Czechoslovakia, and Italy as they readjust to the land of the living and decide where they ultimately want to settle.

It’s December 1945, and the friends have gone to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence before departing for Paris. Young doctor Caterina was apprehended here by the Nazis in November 1943, despite a priest invoking the rule of sanctuary. It took three people to haul her off of Dante’s empty tomb.

“Do you think we’re about to ascend into our own version of Paradise?” Eszter asked. “The past three weeks have been so nice, it feels like we’re already there in some ways.”

Caterina shook her head, still touching Dante. “It’s more like we’re ascending to higher terraces of Purgatory. Dante didn’t go through all those levels of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in one fell swoop. It was a gradual journey, with lessons to be learnt at each stage.”

Imre pulled out his golden pocket watch. “I’d love to spend the entire day exploring this place, but we don’t want to miss our train. We can always return to Firenze later and do everything we didn’t get around to this time around.”

Caterina swept her hands down the monument and put them back at her sides.

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

“Yes, we sure can return. Unlike Dante, our exile isn’t forever.”

*********************

This tomb may finally be occupied soon, at least temporarily. Since Dante’s 700th death anniversary is in September, negotiations between Ravenna and Florence have been in the works regarding a transfer of the remains to mark this special occasion. Maybe someday his bones will return to his native city to stay.

IWSG—June odds and sods

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’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:

For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

The books I wrote on MacWriteII, ClarisWorks, and AppleWorks were inaccessible to me for up to a decade, due to being either stuck on obsolete file formats on disks or on an older desktop I didn’t bring over all the files from. Obviously, I finally learnt how to convert and open all those file types.

The ones created or saved in MacWriteII have/had a lot of bizarre formatting issues caused by data migration; e.g., floating chunks of text that belong elsewhere in the document and need to be C&Ped back together in their proper order (often breaking off in the middle of words or sentences!), gibberish at the beginning, words I taught the ’93 Mac’s spellcheck, text from files on other disks, symbols in the middle of words, repeated letters, huge indents. That needed addressed before I could even begin editing and assigning them places in my long queue.


As I’ve said many times, it was a blessing in disguise that the original files of Little Ragdoll were held hostage for so many years. There was no way I could’ve salvaged even a halfway decent story by writing around this Grimms’ fairytale on acid. I needed a complete rewrite from scratch and memory, though I kept the same general outline.

Being away from a story for 5–10 years provides one with a whole new set of eyes. Now, I like to wait at least a few months before diving back in. When we begin editing and revising too soon, we’re often blind to mistakes both big and small.

I learnt a big lesson from my mad dash to the finish with And Aleksey Lived in 2018. Since there was almost no time between the day I wrote the last word in the final appendix and the release date, I had to fly through with proofreading. A lot of little errors also turned up in the first printed edition, which I thankfully was able to correct for free.

I’m doing JuNoWriMo for I believe the sixth year, though I’m not hopeful of reaching 50K. All part of the joy of being stuck in a home not my own, with the local libraries still not open to more than brief browsing, and in an open concept house that makes privacy all but impossible. </extreme sarcasm>

I’ll be using June to work on my radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last, start my new alternative history, and do my final proof-check of the third edition of Little Ragdoll. I also count blog posts as creative non-fiction.

After daydreaming about this for at least 20 years, I’ve finally begun the process of applying to make aliyah (move to Israel). I came up with a lot of stupid excuses and reasons to postpone it, and even let my now-ex talk me out of it. Unfortunately, I’ve aged out of a lot of great opportunities, like work-study programs and volunteering on most kibbutzim.

I’ll be discussing this much more in future posts. If all goes well and I’m approved, I should be there by next summer. Though I used to want to live in Haifa, my dream city now is Tiberias in the Lower Galilee.

In response to the awful events of May, I’ve changed my Twitter display name to my Hebrew name, Chana Esther Dafna.

What are your summer writing plans?

WeWriWa—Surprising strength

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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 excerpts which, as you’ll see in a few weeks, are related to a new project I’m researching, an alternative history set in Medieval Italy. This comes from my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors from Hungary, France, Czechoslovakia, and Italy as they readjust to the land of the living and decide where they ultimately want to settle.

It’s December 1945, and the friends have gone to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence before departing for Paris. Young doctor Caterina was apprehended here by the Nazis in November 1943, despite a priest invoking the rule of sanctuary. It took three people to haul her off of Dante’s empty tomb.

Marie looked up at Dante, then behind the figure symbolizing Italy. “I can’t believe you squeezed behind this, Carine, nor that you managed to climb onto the top. I could never do that, emergency or not.”

“After everything we’ve been through, you doubt your own strength and ability? You were the one who climbed through a window after our escape. Had I had more strength, I would’ve climbed through that window with you.” Caterina reached up and caressed the marble figure. “We never know our own strength until that fateful moment. When it’s do or die, we surprise ourselves with what we’re capable of.”