Some writing and music tidbits

Words on Paper

Tuesdays in Blog Me MAYbe are themed “May I tell you something about myself?” Here are some tidbits about my tastes in writing, my characters, and my tastes in music:

I HATE Word with the fire of a billion Suns, though I’ve lazily kept using it even after re-installing Pages just out of force of bad habit, and because I like how it autocorrects typos, and how you can teach it new autocorrects based on your most common typos of words not already in their system. But I hate how you can’t get into the dictionary of words you added during spell-checks, and remove them if the dictionary gets too big, or if you realize you added a misspelling. I loved being able to do that in the older programs.

If it were possible, I’d track down old copies of ClarisWorks or MacWriteII and install them with my external disk drive. I’d even love to go back to using a vintage Nineties computer just so I can have all the old familiar programs back. Yes, they were technologically inferior, but I loved how they had all the basic stuff right on the top bar of the document, and in a few basic menus. You didn’t have to hunt all over to find out how to do things, or wade through twenty different menus and formatting bars.

The character I’ve been with the longest now is Henry Unicorn-Mitchell. I created him sometime in the late Eighties, when I was still mostly doing picture books. I suppose I liked him so much I decided to use him again when I started my first Atlantic City book in November ’91. Now that I think about it, it’s entirely possible I also created some of his friends along with him, like Harry, Dan, and Dave (in much different incarnations, of course).

Though after participating in the Dust It Off Bloghop, I’ve begun to reconsider my decision to permanently shelve my old character Anne Terrick, who was created even before Henry and called Ann-Ann (or An-An, maybe). I kid you not, her actual name was really originally Ann-Ann. Perhaps all her story needed all along was some major retooling. I wouldn’t have matured as a writer if I hadn’t let her story go and realized it needed too much surgery to bother with, but I could still retain the same character and general concept while making a much better, stronger, more realistic, more historically accurate saga told in journal form.

After all, my first Russian novel lost a lot of the original 1993 material and took on a much different plot trajectory, but that didn’t change the same general storyline I had in my head. It just got more mature and developed a lot more twists and turns. The junk was tossed and the glimmers of gold were brought to the surface and radically reworked. It was really a stroke of genius that I hit upon the idea of Lyuba ending up with Ivan instead, and eventually of them having secretly been in love all along. Otherwise, I’m not so sure that book could’ve been saved or become what it eventually did.

The newest vinyl in my album collection is Join Together, a triple album of The Who’s 1989 25th anniversary tour. I also have a large commemorative magazine documenting that tour, found in the vintage music magazines section of Amherst’s Mystery Train Records.

The most current album in my collection (in CD form) is George Harrison’s posthumous swan song Brainwashed. I have very mixed feelings about this album and rated it 3.5 stars on my old Angelfire site. Too many of the songs are too downtempo, don’t really go anywhere musically, and sound all the same. (I’m obviously not going to hold it against George for sounding kind of weak on some of the tracks, knowing he was very sick at the time.) There are only a couple of tracks I really love, like the title track, “Any Road,” and “Marwa Blues.”

Currently the oldest records in my vinyl collection are from 1964. I’ve got Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. and a bunch of those crappy Capitol repackagings of The Beatles’ early catalogue.

I’ve got, like, seven albums made in my lifetime from people who got famous in my lifetime, out of 33 albums I own that were made in my lifetime. And both of those bands are now eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so my tastes aren’t that modern. (Okay, technically they’re from three bands, but one of those bands was just a spin-off and not an entirely new entity.)

The most recent addition to my vinyl collection is So Red the Rose (1985), which was a present from my so-called fiancé/boyfriend/whatever he still peripherally is to me.

Platform-Building Campaign

I’m temporarily interrupting my current series on silent film to make a post announcing my participation in Rachael Harrie’s Fourth Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign. I took part in the third campaign in the fall. Even though I was, as usual, in a small minority for writing historical fiction, it was fun to participate. This campaign is only going to be a mini-campaign, so it’ll wrap up mid-March and only include two challenges.

It’s also a great way to network, increase followers, learn new things, challenge oneself in what type of writing one usually does (the challenges called for flash fiction, something that’s always eluded me since I’m so verbose!), and expose oneself to different types of writing. I found out about a lot of contests and bloghops through the last campaign, and read some interesting blogs.

In a way I’m kind of glad my old Angelfire site is no more (no matter how righteously angry I have a right to be at that pathological wingnut and her sycophantic friends for having it deleted), since it didn’t have a venue for people to leave comments other than in the guestbook, and the whole look of the typical Angelfire website is rather old-fashioned by now. Now I can build a viable platform for myself instead of making myself look like someone stuck in 2002 in terms of web design and presence! (Yes, this from the person who HATES Word with a fiery passion and would just about give her left arm to be able to write in MacWriteII or ClarisWorks again!)

And that’s probably the shortest posting by far I’ve ever made. My average length here seems to be about 800-1500 words, and on my Angelfire site, my essays typically ran much longer.

Progress report

I’m currently hard at work going through my Russian novel for the umpteenth time. I gave it a bit of a break to start working on Justine Grown Up, but now I’m doing probably the first of several more run-throughs to catch any excessive wording or out of place holdovers from the original sections of the first six chapters. Currently, after having gone through the first three chapters, Part I is down to 656 pages, and the entire word count is around 345,000. I’m thinking it might not be impossible to bring it down to 340,000. That seems like a good length, considering it was around 342,000 words when I pulled all the files off of MacWriteII and ClarisWorks, and then I took out and added in a lot of new stuff.

It’s always good to take a break if you’ve spent too much time with a project. You get to a point where you’re too familiar with it, and are no longer looking at it for errors or potential improvements. You also need to get to a place where you’re comfortable letting go of things that have been in the text for a long time, need to understand why they need to go. I easily found a bunch of stupid lines and scenes I can’t believe I didn’t root out or rewrite one of the many previous times I was editing and rewriting. For example, in Chapter 8 when Ivan has his good arm broken by the horrible Misha, why does Ginny act surprised to learn Ivan’s a lefty? That’s common knowledge to him after they’ve lived together for two and a half years!

Things that reflected the original embarrassing plot, a beautiful young lady with four competing suitors who are always getting into fights to try to win her affections. Things that made Ivan seem kind of like a dick. Things that made Ginny seem kind of cartoonish in how badly-behaved he is. Sure, that’s a big part of his character in the beginning, esp. since he’s only ten at the start, and no kid that age takes easily to moving to another country, having his dad away at war and his mother leaving him behind to immigrate, and going into hiding, thus giving up the comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle he’s used to. But he was just too over the top and unrealistically misbehaved and even psychotic originally. There weren’t even logical reasons given for this bad behavior. It was supposed to be funny, in a very dark way, but now the original Ginny just comes across as a very two-dimensional character.

There were still a number of things that made it seem like little more than a costume drama, some silly 1990s YA novel that happened to be set in Russia starting in 1917. These people in their late teens thought, sounded, and acted like 1990s American teens in the original sections of the first six chapters. I’ve made every effort to rework the earliest pieces so that they read like convincing young people of the WWI era, people who have been shaped by living in the Russian Empire. I was so embarrassed to see there’s still one section where Ivan and Ginny call one another by their stupid “English hiding names” when the Bolsheviks pay a surprise visit. How could I have let THAT slip by unnoticed for so long?!

There were also a number of scenes that severely needed to be lengthened and fleshed-out, and superfluous lines that needed to be taken out to tighten and strengthen a scene or dialogue. In the process, I also got more into the almost entirely rewritten conversations Lyuba has with her friends at the two victory balls in November 1917.

Kat and Alya’s unhappiness at being betrothed against their will contrasts with Lyuba’s unhappiness at feeling trapped in her charade relationship with Boris, and it gets across that they’re not entirely against arranged marriages or marriages at their age, but rather against not being able to choose their own partners, and wanting to do something with their lives beyond being wives and mothers. They’re feminist in the way the average woman coming of age during WWI could be feminist and forward-thinking.

And in the process, Alya and Anya got more lines back. I got to know Alya and Anya a lot better while I was writing the sequel and found a way to make them fairly important secondary characters, in spite of how they were ostracized from their circle of friends in Chapter 37 of the first book, when a secret about them came out. After getting to know them better during the second book, I was able to write these new lines and scenes for them in the first book. I know how they talk and think.

I’m seriously considering moving Kat’s introduction to Chapter 3, instead of Chapter 1, when she doesn’t get any lines. Her mention in Chapter 1 serves only as a segueway into Lyuba hoping she never has even one child, and feeling she’d almost lose her mind the same way Kat’s mother has after 15 kids. But it’s mentioned in Chapter 3 that Kat is the last of 15 daughters, that her mother has almost lost her mind, and that she goes by Kat as a way to stand out from the crowd and not just be another Katya. Since she only appears briefly now in Chapter 1, and doesn’t have any lines, it might not be fair to expect the average reader to remember her all the way to her proper introduction. And she is one of the main female characters after Lyuba, so it might be best to just save her introduction for her first real appearance.

I’m also considering retooling some of the things on the first few pages, though I feel it’s very important to succinctly convey certain things about Lyuba and Ivan that the reader really needs to know pretty much upfront in order to understand the story and where they’re coming from. If you don’t know Lyuba has been abused by her father for years and is scared to death of being with a nice guy, in spite of her overwhelming love for Ivan, chances are she might come across as some heartless bitch who dumped her boyfriend and doesn’t care about his feelings.

This is why I feel narrative setup is so important in the beginning of a book, in spite of the current trend of starting in media res. If I don’t know these people, I’m not going to care about what’s happening to them. I need to take a little time to get to know them before things can start happening. Everything that happens later in the book flows from the setup in the first chapter. Nothing would make much sense if we don’t already know about Lyuba and Ivan’s traumatic childhoods, why she pretends she prefers Boris, her mother’s meddling, and the dynamic between Lyuba, Ivan, and Boris.

2011 in writing

A lot of things happened in 2011, many of them writing-related, but not all. Some of the highlights:

I finished Little Ragdoll (Adicia’s story) after biting the bullet and starting from scratch in November, reconstructing it as best I could from memory. Then this spring, the file with the original Part I was miraculously resurrected, and I’ve been grateful ever since that file was still presumed lost forever when I began the second first draft. It’s like a huge laundry list of everything NOT to do in writing a book!

I learnt through trial and error how to write a query, and that a query really isn’t supposed to be a mini-synopsis. When you’ve written a deliberately very long book, though, it’s hard to summarize it in just a few paragraphs. The advice to just summarize the first 50 pages is for people whose books are all of 300 pages long. Fifty pages is a tiny drop in the bucket for me. I also learnt that 397,000 words is considered astronomically high by many people nowadays, and that my Russian novel, at 347,000 words currently, is also considered “way too high” by many people, without even looking at the actual content to see just why it has to be so long. I’ll never apologize for deliberately planning, plotting, and writing sagas with large story arcs and many characters and storylines. It’s just what I know. Many modern books just seem so tiny and insubstantial, and all about racing from Point A to Point B at breakneck speed, no time to just enjoy the journey and spend a few weeks with these people.

After I put querying on hold for awhile, I realized I forget to have any lefties in the book. I went back and wrote in left-handedness for 13 people, with three more young lefties whose handedness hasn’t had a chance to manifest by the end since they’re so young. I also shrunk the word count a fair bit, by making contractions, taking out unnecessary dialogue tags, and removing excessive wording. It’s now around 387,000 words, which I’m very proud of. If I hadn’t needed to write in left-handedness, it would’ve been several thousand words shorter, probably.

I started the sequel, Green Sunrise, then realized I just wasn’t feeling enough of a spark and put it on hiatus. I’m now working on the third book, Justine Grown Up, and am very eager to get back to it after the short break I took to do that editing and revising of the first book.

While I didn’t do any work on Cinnimin, after having been on a very good streak in 2010, I did write a new opening. I was just so focused on Adicia and my Russian novels this year, my magnum opus had to go on the back burner. It’s always taken out of hiatus and worked on with a vengeance. There’s no worry I’ll avoid it for years.

I realized The Very First needed a very significant overhaul and near-total rewrite, because the long-standing Part I wasn’t even a story. It’s just a bunch of chapters describing characters, the town, their houses, what America was like in 1938, historical events of the year, and the characters’ relationships with one another. Even though it’s meant as a getting-acquainted book that forms the backbone of all the other books to come after it, that’s still not a very compelling story, pages upon pages of descriptions.

I’ve done a ton of work on revising it and making some new chapters, putting a lot more focus on the real story, Sparky’s desire to be a real American girl without selling out her faith, and the subplot of Cinni’s suspicions that Violet is trying to steal her title as Most Popular Girl. Violet’s unintended coup doesn’t happen till February 1942, but the seed is still planted. Now the acrimony is really strong, and it’s a much more prominent part of the story.

I pulled the majority of the Max’s House books completed to date off of MacWriteII and started reformatting, editing, and revising them. Converting obsolete file formats and reformatting them isn’t fun or easy, but the more times you do it, the easier it gets. I’ll always prefer MacWriteII for word processing, with ClarisWorks a close second and AppleWorks in third place. I’ve gotten used to Word, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever like it.

I used the older programs for years. They were familiar, and everything was so simple to figure out. You didn’t need tons of menus and formatting bars to write a document. If I could install MacWriteII or ClarisWorks on my modern Mac, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’d even spend a little money for a vintage computer just so I could have peace of mind and go back to typing in a format I know, love, and understand. At least the files are still able to be opened, however arduous the process is. It’s always worth it to get to breathe life back into files that haven’t been opened or worked on for almost a decade.

I got all 43 files of my Russian novel out of MacWriteII and ClarisWorks, and went through the arduous process of reformatting them all, and then a long series of edits, rewrites, revisions. and polishings. I’m going through it again now, to do just what I did with Adicia’s story, root out any excess wording, unnecessary dialogue tags, and any missed holdovers from the original sections of the first six chapters. This is the book I’m most proudest of having written, and I believe in it at its length.

Perhaps it starts a bit more slowly than many modern agents might like, but it’s not a short book. You need some time to set things up and get to know everyone. I’m not sorry I use the writing style I’m familiar with reading, of directly telling the reader things instead of making him or her guess or removing any chance to create a scene in one’s head by “showing.” To be honest, I really think this current obsessive focus on “showing” is rather pretentious, forced, and affected. It just doesn’t feel natural, and goes against a long-established method of writing.

Just spit it out and say someone’s scared or that it’s cold. Then let the reader imagine in his or her head the tone of voice, body language, etc., and don’t be afraid to use adverbs. “Showing” also seems to lend itself to excessive verbiage, something I’ve always hated. I always skipped over excessively long descriptive passages and just read the dialogue or relevant narrative passages when reading 19th century literature.

I went back to my Russian novel sequel, giving up the idea of transferring and reformatting the two or so files on the hard drive of my old ’93 Mac. I had the entire story memorized in my head for years anyway, along with the decade-old chapter-by-chapter notes to jog my memory. It came in at 406,000 words, exactly the right length for the type of story it is. I’m going to take a little rest before getting to work on the third book, which is also memorized in my head and set down in an outline and notes.

This year also made it 11 years since I became a serious Who freak and 15 years since I became a Laurel and Hardy fan. It’s hard to believe it’s now been so long since I started seriously getting into the band. It was one of the saddest days of my life when I finally admitted to myself that The Beatles were no longer my favorite band and that I’d fallen irreversibly in love with another, but I worked past that. The Beatles will always be the musical love of my life, even if they’re not my favorite band anymore. In this case, the fourth time was the charm. My fourth musical love remains my favoritest band to this day.

It’s also hard to believe it’s been 15 years as of July since I’ve been a Laurel and Hardy fan. My love for them was forged in fire, since they helped me through one of the most difficult years of my life, my junior year of high school. Watching them at 11:30 on Saturday mornings on AMC, and sometimes other times during the week, made me so happy in the midst of a very painful year.

All week I looked forward to seeing them on Saturdays, even though no one but my grandpap understood why I loved them so much and laughed so hard. Although I know it’s often hard for people to understand how someone could genuinely gravitate towards movies, music, and books of an earlier generation and prefer them over anything modern. These clown prince angels put their loving arms around my weeping heart that year, and for that I’m eternally grateful. And even long after that horrible time, I still love them just as much. I still remember how sad I was when i found out just how old they were and that they’d been passed on for quite some time. At least they’ll live on forever through laughter and timeless comedy.

Speaking of anniversaries, this year marked 20 years since I created my Atlantic City characters and began the first books in both the WTCOAC and Max’s House series. They’re kind of rough around the edges in their earliest incarnations, but the essential elements are all there. They just needed some time to grow into themselves and become well-rounded, complex, and well-drawn.

I did a reworked opening for my hiatused soft sci-fi Bildungsroman What’s to Become of Us All? and renamed the protagonist. She went from Casey to Arcadia. I’m looking forward to finally getting back to this book and reworking what’s been written so far. And speaking of renaming, I renamed a few of my Russian and Estonian characters as well. Catherine became Katariina, Katrin (sometimes Kati or Katya) for short, Elizabeth became Eliisabet (Liza), Amy became Lyubov, Lyuba for short, her aunt Margaret became Margarita, and Peter became Pyotr.

Realistic explanations were also found for why her cousin Mikhail’s nickname is Ginny and why Nikolas goes by the Greek form of his name. Cognitive dissonance can be very strong, which must account for how I’ve long been such a purist (perhaps even a pedant) about proper transliteration and cringing at old books that “translate” proper names, yet having no problems with having very un-Russian names in my own book. Now I can’t imagine my female lead as anything but Lyuba, though I must admit that once in awhile, I slip and think of her as Amy.

This year I also came out of the closet about the true extent of my sinistrality. I was confused and discouraged for a long time, since I grew up writing right-handed and had to teach myself how to write left-handed. But I did almost everything else left-handed, and knew how to do certain things with both hands. It set me back a lot and pushed me further into the closet to be told I was just being oppositional, was lying, or was trying to pretend to be left-handed or ambidextrous because I thought it was cool or something. Brain wiring doesn’t lie, even if you refuse to believe in its setup in certain people. I feel extremely confident since I’ve switched my writing hand, and am very proud of how hard I’ve worked since the age of seven to get my lefty writing looking so good, more than just merely legible. I almost never revert to using my right hand.

Most surprising of all this year, I somehow ended up becoming a Duranie. (Anyone who wants my classic rock cred can pull it out of my cold dead hands.) But it was what led me to discovering the perfect finish for Justine Grown Up, which I’m very much looking forward to getting to. Everything is always arranged by Hashem for a reason, even if we can’t understand it at the time.

When starting over is a good thing

The miraculously resurrected, mostly unreformatted file containing the first part of the discontinued first draft of Adicia’s story is such a nightmare to wade through. Not just because of the extreme purple prose and heavy-handed narrative moralizing, preaching, and pontificating, but also because it’s the worst file yet I’ve pulled off of MacWriteII. All the others have been fairly straightforward to fix, with only double-spacing, auto-hyphenating, taking out extra spaces and hyphens resulting from how the files HAD been auto-hyphenated in another format, and misplaced text blocks to find and fix. This one not only has misplaced text blocks, but also frequent run-on letters (e.g., ssssssssssshe, miiiiiiidle, booooook) and completely fouled-up left margins.

I’m wondering if this is so because, despite the fact that the file itself was created on a ’93 Mac, most of it was written on a 128K Mac, the dear little computer I really miss. Sure it was way behind modern computers, and had a lot less memory and capabilities, but I feel sentimental for its sweetness, newness, and simplicity. I liked playing the old black and white games, like Alice in Wonderland, The Manhole, and Puppy Love. I had never known any other computer to feel I were missing out. That was what I knew. The IBMs and other non-Macs I used at school were poor imitations, though I vaguely remember how to navigate my way around vintage non-Macs from the Eighties and early Nineties.

Because the file is so damn old, and was created on such a dinosaur of a computer, on such a dinosaur version of a dinosaur word processing system, the translation is all kinds of fouled up. This was also the file I typed in Bookman, the font I thought best resembled a typewriter font, which I’d read was encouraged if one were typing a book on a computer instead of a typewriter. (The book containing that advice was written in the very early Nineties!) I’m old enough to have typed on a typewriter, both manual and electric versions, more than a few times, but for the life of me I don’t remember how to start one up. I would like to buy my own typewriter, preferably a purple Remington Portable. (Here are some typewriter-inspired computer fonts available for free download. Some of them are so pretty I’m almost tempted to betray my 18-year relationship with Palatino!)

It kind of makes me sad to think how kids nowadays would probably find the computer I grew up using to be old and boring, and not find the games fun enough because they’re slower, in black and white, and with less features. They’d also probably find the old MacWriteII and even ClarisWorks to be old and boring, but that’s why I loved them so much and why I still miss being able to type in them. Sure Word has more features, but it’s harder for me to navigate my way around and figure out how to do things that were a lot simpler to find and figure out on MacWriteII and ClarisWorks. It’s downright scary to think that the people entering college now have never known a time before the Internet or probably even cellphones. My childhood and adolescence of the Eighties and Nineties really is the stuff of historical fiction now!

Anyway, this is the original character list. I remembered too late, while writing the finished first draft after finally starting over, that Lenore’s surname had been Lennon. Oh well. I like her last name better as Hartlein, and I like how it’s one of my family names, my five-greats-grandma’s birth surname. (For reasons too off-topic to get into here, I really hate the term “maiden name.”) And I’ve already used the surname Lennon in my Atlantic City books, for Charlotte Lennon, Cinnimin’s 12-greats-grandma, and Jennifer Lennon-Zargovich, her 11-greats-grandma, who is currently periodically coming back as a ghost to haunt Cinni’s granddaughter Daphne. Jennifer first appeared to Daphne right before her ridiculous, very unpopular wedding at age 17 and urged her to call it off. Daphne made a comment that really pissed Jennifer off, and Jennifer placed her first curses on Daphne and the joke of a marriage. She’s not an evil spirit, just one who’s having fun torturing a very annoying, disagreeable person who acts like she’s living in Jennifer’s era and not the late Nineties.

I just love how naïve and heavy-handed my 13-year-old self was. The introduction isn’t meant to be funny, but it just seems so self-righteous and like I were taking myself too seriously. This is just one example of the heavy-handed moralizing that’s found throughout this mess of a discontinued first draft. Thank God I lost it for so many years, since I have no idea how the hell I would’ve found a way to even halfway salvage this mess when I began again last November. It had no real plot, it was painted in extreme shades of black and white, and it was like a Grimm’s fairytale on acid.

Little Ragdoll

by Carrie Ann Brown


Dedicated to the girl I know only as Ragdoll.


This novel was inspired by a story I heard on the radio.  The story was about a girl who was a poor little girl in New York City in 1964.  Ever since I heard that story, I feel I cannot do enough for her, even though I don’t even know her.  So I wrote this novel to be assured that she had a happy ending, even if she didn’t or her story is drastically different than the one in this novel.  It is all fictitious, except for the part that comes from the story on the radio.

Anyway, the theme in this novel is that beauty is only skin-deep.  The world many times won’t accept people who don’t look as beautiful as others, even if these people have the most genius minds in the world.  Our society is run by people who process a message to youths that beautiful people are better.  You see examples of this all around (e.g.  boys only asking out beautiful girls and laughing at girls who are fat or are bookworms).  That message is not a very good one.  Instead we should be sending young people a message that what’s on the inside counts more than superficial things.  We know we cannot undo what has already been done, but we can hope that someday in the future people will see the light.

And who really knows?  Maybe 50 years from now, when we are working toward a harmony of being universal citizens, you will look in a book of names and find the name “Ragdoll” as meaning “underlying beauty.” In the meantime, you can read this novel and maybe change your views on beauty and ugliness when you’re done reading it.  I hope you will.

Characters in this book:

Mrs. Troy, the mother of 9 children.  She wastes all her money on things for her sons and her eldest daughter and runs a falling-apart household in New York City.

Mr. Troy, the father of the children.  He is a miser and a drunk who spends all his money on alcohol and prostitutes.

Sarah Klaus, the nanny of the children who has just come from Germany and barely gets any money for her work.

Gema Troy, age 16, the eldest daughter who gets all the new clothing and things such as records and books.  Mrs. Troy comes to all her cheerleading practices and spoils hers.  All the boys like Gema.

Carlos Troy, age 15, the eldest son.  He gets high on all sorts of drugs he gets from his friends on the streets.  He gets all the new boys’ clothing and is spoiled by his father.

Allen Troy, age 14, the next in line.  He has every girl in school hanging over him and has a reputation for using drugs also.  Allen’s problem is that he really is scared of using the drugs and just started taking them to escape from his real life.  But he knows that if he ever stops taking them, his father, brother Carlos, friends, and girlfriends will all reject him for wanting to be seen as a really nice guy, not simply some stupid drug-user boy who can’t fight the feeling.

Lucine Troy, age 13, the next-born daughter.  She has a few boys notice her, because by the time she gets Gema’s clothing, it is still fairly good-looking.  She is fairly pretty.

Emeline Troy, age 12, and the nicest of the Troy girls.  She wants to be beautiful, but she knows that is impossible.

Ernestine Troy, age 8.  She is always living in fear of boys because boys at her school all hate her for being different.

Adicia Troy, age 5, and the main character.  By the time she gets her clothing, they are rags, and this causes her to be the laughing-stock of the town.  She wants people to like her, but everyone at school hangs out with beautiful rich children.

Tommy Troy, age 3.  He is a spoiled little baby who is always getting his way because his mother likes him best of all her children, next to Gema.

Justine Troy, 6 months old.   She doesn’t stand too good a chance in life because her family is becoming so poor they might be moved from their apartment to the ghetto because of unpaid rent.

Ricky Carson, the son of 2 very rich people who move into New York City around 1968.  He does not believe everybody’s negative thoughts about Adicia.

Jack Rogers, Adicia’s boyfriend in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  He doesn’t really love her for who she really is, but he listens to her and buys her things, so to her that is better than nothing at all.

Girl, Ernestine’s best friend that she meets at the squat.  Girl teaches Ernestine all about real life and how to fight off the system.  From the moment that the 2 girls meet, they are instantly inseparable.  They do everything together, such as going to different churches, working at the same job for the same low pay, learning to read, shopping, celebrating holidays, going to concerts together, and eventually learning about life and reality together.

Lenore Lennon, a beautiful girl who was sexually abused by her father.  She runs away one night in late December of ‘61.  She and Allen meet in a bus stop waiting for their trains, and he instantly falls in love with her, although it takes some time before she loves him too.

Dolly, a very stuck-up little blonde girl who is always running into the Troys for some reason or the other.  She loves to shun and humiliate them in public.