WeWriWa—A very special namesake

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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.

The book formerly known as The Very First was released today in e-book format. The print version, which has a different cover, releases in another week or two. I had to do 23 August as the release day because that’s the birthday of one of my protagonists. It truly was hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) that I chose that date all those years ago, since it turned out to be the Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of my favorite actor, Rudolph Valentino, and the birthday of Keith Moon.

The book opens in August 1938. Young Cinnimin Filliard is now in her attic bedroom with her new roommate Katharina Brandt, now called Katherine Small and nicknamed Sparky. Cinni’s father, a former immigrant who now works with immigration himself, helped to bring Sparky’s family to the U.S. from Amsterdam.

Sparky inspected the posters. “I’ve seen some of these people at the movies, except the man in the headdress. He has very deep eyes.”

“You haven’t seen him because he’s been dead for almost twelve years. This is Rudolph Valentino, a famous moviestar from the Twenties. He died when he was only thirty-one, before movies had sound. I was born on the anniversary of his death, and my middle name would’ve been Rudolph had I been a boy. My aunt Lucinda gave me my middle name. She still wanted to honor him in some way, so she found another seven-letter name that started with R, Rebecca.”

During the last major edit, I made the age of Cinni and her friends deliberately ambiguous. At most, it’s stated they’re under twelve. Long story short, for 7-8 years I’ve been struggling with the realization that I may have made them a bit too young when I created them.

Keeping their age ambiguous for at least one book leaves the door open for either slightly aging them up or keeping their age as-is and continuing to explain it as part of what makes this fictional Atlantic City neighborhood so deliberately unusual. Each choice has a lot of pros and cons.

WeWriWa—Houseguests are coming

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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 switching to the book formerly known as The Very First, which releases next week. I’ll finally reveal the new and improved title then.

The book opens in August 1938, as young Cinnimin Filliard prepares to meet the family her father helped to bring to America and will be indefinitely putting up in their large house. During the last major edit, I made the age of Cinni and her friends deliberately ambiguous. At most, it’s stated they’re under twelve. How old do you think she is, and what’s the youngest you could picture her as?

Cinnimin Filliard reached for the candy bowl on her father’s desk and popped a handful of gumdrops into her mouth. Five longterm houseguests were moving in today, and indulging her sweet tooth would help to get rid of her nervousness and put her mind on other things.

“Can I see your photo albums, Daddy? I wanna know what they look like before they move in. I hope they’re nicer houseguests than Aunt Lucinda, Uncle Jasper, and stupid Elmira.”

Mr. Filliard smiled indulgently at his pet child, his deep brown eyes twinkling. “Since when have I ever said no to you?”

Cinni took a photo album and plopped onto the floor. “Oh, brother, this Katharina girl really needs a makeover. No one wears long skirts anymore.”

The first ten lines end here. A few more follow.

She pushed her long curly hair out of her face. “Who better than the Most Popular Girl to make her over?”

“Religious Jews do things a little differently. You might not understand it, but Katharina has reasons of her own, just as you have your reasons for going against the fashion for shorter hair.”

WeWriWa—A feeling of otherness

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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.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

Shortly after Chanukah begins, the Filliards and the Smalls, who live together, go holiday shopping at a local plaza. After a volatile run-in between Mr. Small and members of his family’s former synagogue, Cinni and Sparky move to an upscale toy store. Everything seems to be going great till the checkout boy wishes Sparky a merry Christmas. Cinni and Sparky try to explain not everyone celebrates Christmas, but the employee just doesn’t understand.

As they walked to an upscale clothing boutique, Cinni was suddenly acutely aware of how many Christmas decorations there were. Every shop door was hung with a wreath; every window had some sort of Christmas display; every post was strung with lights and evergreens; and there were several large Christmas trees full of ornaments, lights, and tinsel. There was also a reindeer-drawn sleigh giving rides around the plaza, and a North Pole workshop with a Santa and several elves.

“Now I see why you and your brothers feel like you do about Christmas,” Cinni said. “I never thought to notice it before, since it’s my holiday. When it ain’t your holiday, you can’t help seeing it everywhere and being reminded of how different you are. Maybe that’s why my mom’s friends put up Christmas trees. They didn’t wanna fight against it. Your family’s really brave for not giving in and pretending to be just like everyone else. If I moved to a place like China or India, I’d feel left out and invisible too.”

WeWriWa—Holiday decorating begins

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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.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This is the opening of the chapter, when Sparky Small (birth name Katharina Brandt) and her older brothers start realizing just how predominant all things Christmas are during December in their new country. It’s particularly hard to avoid because they live with a Methodist family.

Sparky, her brothers, the Filliard girls, and Elmira came home from school on the first day of December to a wreath on the door and Mrs. Filliard and Lucinda unpacking all the Christmas ornaments and decorations. Six crates stood in the center of the living room, while small boxes, coiled-up strings of lights and other decorations, and individually-wrapped ornaments were all over the davenport, chairs, side tables, loveseat, and Lucinda’s new turquoise velvet Ottoman. A black and dark green plaid, circular cloth was draped over the back of the davenport, and a green metal object which somewhat resembled a bell was off in a corner.

“You’re just in time to help us with decorating the tree,” Mrs. Filliard announced. “Michael should have it very soon. He was supposed to be back by now, but it’s just like him to inspect each and every tree instead of sawing down the first big tree he sees. If he ain’t back soon, Pietro might have him arrested for trespassing.”

Gary could barely disguise his horrified expression. “Kätchen, Otto, and I must respectfully decline your invitation to decorate a tree, but I’m more concerned about Michael trespassing to get your tree. Did you really send him onto someone else’s property without permission?”

WeWriWa—Guests wanted and unwanted

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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.

As last year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s excerpt comes about five pages after last week’s, when Cinni, her family, and the longterm guests the Smalls sat down to a joint Thanksgiving feast. Cinni’s great-grandmother Leokadia, a very unwanted guest who invited herself, spent much of the meal arguing with the other side of the family. She hates the family her son Lech married into, and never misses a chance to let them know it.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines.

To change the subject, Babs and Elmira began chattering about what they were doing in school, and Lucinda name-dropped a bunch of brand names she’d added to her ever-expanding wardrobe and accessory collection. As soon as the immense feast came to an end and the table was cleared, Leokadia threw on her shearling boots and black mink coat.  No one spoke to her as she stormed out the door.

“So many people in my family are nuts,” Cinni whispered to Sparky as Leokadia drove away in her black Model B. “When I have my own family, I ain’t gonna invite relatives for Thanksgiving just ‘cause it’s expected of me; I’ll only invite people I want at my table.”

“You’re lucky you have so many older relatives, even if one of them is a bad person. I never met anyone older than my father’s parents.”

“You won’t hafta see my Prababcia Leokadia again, I don’t think. She shows up every so often to insult us, and then leaves. I like Pra-Prababcia Tanja and Prababcia Bogda most, since they always have neat stories about our ancestors, and they knew people who were alive in the eighteenth century.”