WeWriWa—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!

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Yes, I really sleep under this framed poster, yes, it is kind of heavy, and no, it hasn’t fallen down and conked me on the head in the middle of the night yet.

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. In honor of today’s special holiday, I’m sharing a piece from my hiatused 1980s historical Justine Grown Up, from Chapter 54, “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.”

It’s sometime in early 1983, and Justine is getting a tour of her teenage nieces’ room. Gone are the stuffed animals and posters of cute animals which used to dominate their room. Thirteen-year-old Amelia and I have a common interest.

***

Amelia points to one of the brunets. “My favorite is Roger, the drummer. Most of the girls at school have other favorites, but I don’t care. I guess I just like that he’s quiet, like I am. My favorite guys at school are the quiet, shy ones.”

“You can never go wrong with a quiet one,” Justine agrees. “I think it’s safe to say that the average introvert isn’t using that as a façade for a jerkish personality. What you see is what you get.”

***

Synopsis for Justine Grown Up:

Justine’s jealous feelings at the birth of Julie’s first child are quickly turned around when she reconnects with David, now twenty-five and a Ph.D. student at SUNY Albany, with the five-year difference between them suddenly no longer so inappropriate. Unfortunately, her older siblings and their friends have a hard time seeing her, after years of being the precious family baby, as a grownup woman who’s old enough for marriage, motherhood, and moving out with her new family. But then, when her young nieces become Duranies, an unexpected opportunity opens up for Justine to finally prove once and for all to her family that she’s a responsible, capable, mature adult.

This near-death experience of 10 August 1985 is the reason for this holiday. I love when he says, “God, this one life we’ve got, it’s so fragile.” I had a terrifying near-death experience myself on 19 August 2003, and I too believed I was about to exit this fragile life. Luckily, the Angel of Death passed both of us over.

WeWriWa—Subway Trip

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from the new opening pages of Little Ragdoll, the contemporary historical Bildungsroman (growing-up saga) which will be released on 20 June. It’s my imagined story of a poor Manhattan girl who could’ve been the one who inspired The Four Seasons’ famous song “Rag Doll.”

Five-year-old Adicia Troy, her four best sisters, and their surrogate mother were on their way to the Lower East Side Woolworth’s when they ran across Adicia’s two older brothers. Allen, the only sympathetic Troy brother, slips Adicia four quarters for round-trip subway fare and says the youngest members of their party ride for free since they’re so young.

***

After the short walk to the station, she takes Lucine’s hand and makes her way underground.  Once they’ve gotten to the front of the line, Adicia stands on her toes and slides the coins across the counter in exchange for six tokens, three for the trip there and three for the trip back, plus a dime in change.  Then they wait in line again at the turnstile.  Lucine has to help Adicia with pushing it around, while Sarah hands Justine to Emeline and hoists the stroller over before going through.  Adicia stays close to Lucine as they press through the crowd before the doors can close.  They’re lucky to find seats instead of having to stand and hold onto poles or straps.

Adicia takes Emeline’s hand when they reach their destination in the Upper West Side.  The subway lets them off near the Museum of Natural History, by Central Park, so they have to walk about two blocks east to get to the Woolworth’s at the corner of Broadway and 79th Street.

***

Originally, the Troy sisters were just going back-to-school shopping at some unnamed big department store in the Upper West Side, but when I reworked the first chapter and made it Woolworth’s, I did a bit of research on the store’s locations around Manhattan. I found one by 5th Avenue and 39th Street, which seemed like a good possibility, but then I discovered there was one on the Upper West Side, by Broadway and 79th Street.

At the store, the girls still run into some of their classmates and their mothers, who had the same idea about getting out of the Lower East Side and patronising an uptown store to look good.

WeWriWa—Meet Adicia

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m now sharing from the new opening pages of Little Ragdoll, a contemporary historical Bildungsroman set from 1959-74. The book opens with 5-year-old Adicia and her 6-month-old baby sister Justine on the fire escape balcony of their eighth floor tenement. Adicia was telling Justine about how they’re going to leave the Lower East Side someday when one of their older sisters came up behind them.

Though the two older brothers are introduced several paragraphs later, I put in the line about the three brothers as a way to let the reader know there are nine Troy children. Tommy, the youngest brother, doesn’t appear till the second chapter, and I felt it were better to introduce his existence from the start instead of by surprise.

This has been slightly modified to fit eight sentences.

***

“Have you forgotten we’re supposed to go to Woolworth’s this afternoon?” thirteen-year-old Lucine asks. “We’ll have to start walking soon to get there in time.”

Adicia pulls herself up, careful not to drop her real-live baby doll, and heads back inside, where eleven-year-old Emeline has her nose buried in a book as always, and seven-year-old Ernestine is having her hair brushed by their surrogate mother Sarah. They all wear clothes handed down from their oldest sister Gemma, with a marked progression from gently-worn on Lucine to worn-out rags on Adicia. Their three brothers have escaped hand-me-downs since the older two are only a year apart in age, and the youngest, three-year-old Tommy, is spoilt rotten by their mother.

“I can’t walk all the way to Woolworth’s in those,” Adicia protests when Sarah extends a dirty pair of socks with several holes and snags. “I’ll get blisters. My shoes are already worn enough.”

***

I hope I don’t sound beggy or desperate, but would anyone be interested in hosting me as a guest blogger, interviewing me, etc.? My recent release hasn’t done nearly as well as I was expecting (only two copies since 9 May), and I’d be very grateful to anyone who wants to help me with publicity and after the fact buzz. I hope my June release also doesn’t result in crickets chirping!

WeWriWa—Meet Adicia

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week, I’m going to start sharing the opening pages of Little Ragdoll, the contemporary historical Bildungsroman I’m releasing on June 20th. It opens in early September 1959 in the Lower East Side, and ends in July 1974 by the Bridge of Sighs.

I recently rewrote the opening pages, along with reworking and rewriting a number of other parts of the first chapter. The first chapter’s title also changed from “Back to School Shopping” to “A Trip to Woolworth’s.” The opening lines might seem a little old-fashioned, but I think it sets up the fact that the story is a modern-day Grimms’ fairytale of sorts, with elements like a cute young millionaire falling for a poor girl, a black-hearted mother who hates all her children but one, and children who get away with squatting for years.

***

In the world Adicia Éloïse Troy is from, life is more like a Grimms’ fairytale than a Disney fairytale.  But sometimes even the darkest, most twisted fairytale has a happy ending, even for a poor girl from the Lower East Side.

Adicia peers through the wrought-iron bars of the eighth floor fire escape balcony as she holds her six-month-old baby sister Justine on her lap, a gentle September breeze giving them some relief from the heat of the concrete jungle.  She wiggles her filthy toes, savoring the feel of the breeze against her skin.

“One day we’re gonna leave this place and have a happy life far away, no matter how long it takes,” Adicia says in her strong Manhattan accent. “We’ll have a real house, lots of toys, new clothes, and even a car.  But you’ll always be better to me than a thousand dolls.” Adicia turns her head at the approaching saddle shoe footsteps.

Resurrection Blogfest II—Appreciating Life

Mina Lobo is hosting the Resurrection Blogfest for the second year in a row. Participants are reposting something they wrote between now and the last Resurrection Blogfest. For full rules and prize information, just click on the badge above.

Since most of my posts remain very serious and intellectual, even if I’ve managed to get my average post down to under 1,000 words these days, I thought it would be fun to revisit one of my more lightweight posts. It originally went live on 10 August 2013, entitled Sweet Saturday Samples—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! I briefly went back to a hiatused WIP just to write the chapter this scene comes from. (Note to regular readers: The woman who runs SSS has been taking a break to recharge her batteries. If and when she resumes the weekly hop, my pre-scheduled Saturday posts will return.)

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This week, for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m returning to my hiatused WIP Justine Grown Up, set from 1979-84, in honor of today’s special holiday. If you had told me three years ago I’d soon know that 10 August is a real holiday, Duran Duran Appreciation Day, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. It just goes to show you never know what interests you’ll develop as you go through more of life.

Before my excerpt, I’d like to share a video that touches on the reason for this day. This particular date was chosen because on that day in 1985, Simon (the lead singer) almost died from drowning. You never know when you’re living your last moments. Always appreciate the gift of life, since you never know when it might be about to be taken away.

If you don’t want to watch the whole interview, the part about his near-death experience ends at 1:40. For some reason, the first half later repeats, but then continues to the rest of the video. I completely understand when he’s talking about how he thought those were his last moments, since I had a near-death experience too. Mine was on land, though, not at sea, and I was run over by a car and pinned underneath, 10 years ago this 19 August.

This is taken from Chapter 54, “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.” It’s early 1983 (probably about February-March), and Irene is 15 and Amelia is 13. They’re giving their 23-year-old aunt a tour of their room, along with a little lesson on their new favorite band.

***

Irene indicates a somewhat androgynous-looking member of the quintet. “I chose Nick as my favorite.  God forgive me, but I wasn’t entirely sure what he was the first time I saw him.  Then I realized that’s a normal look for a New Romantic, and that I was being pretty ignorant by assuming a man in makeup with a pretty look has to be a cross-dresser.  I like how he’s not afraid to be himself, no matter what certain people might assume.  My parents always taught me how important it is to beat to your own drummer.  Different is good.”

Justine takes in Irene’s favorite. “I kind of agree with you, but I’m not sure I’d know what to think if David came home one day wearing eyemakeup, styled hair, and feminine shirts.”

“Oh, I like that look on the right man.  A man who’s not afraid to look pretty in public is really sure of his masculinity.  He doesn’t need silly things like leather jackets or a motorcycle to prove his manhood.”

“Yeah, but there’s a lot of ground between wearing mascara and being a Hell’s Angel!”

“I was never interested in the jocks anyway.  I always liked the artistic types, like the guys in art, film, dance, or music clubs.  I don’t know how girls in the old days could ever be attracted to things like crew cuts, letter jackets, and square jaws.”

Amelia points to one of the brunets. “My favorite is Roger, the drummer.  Most of the girls at school have other favorites, but I don’t care.  I guess I just like that he’s quiet, like I am.  My favorite guys at school are the quiet, shy ones.”

“You can never go wrong with a quiet one,” Justine agrees. “I think it’s safe to say that the average introvert isn’t using that as a façade for a jerkish personality.  What you see is what you get.”

“And it adds mystery.  Plus when a quiet person does speak, it’s usually pretty deep and profound.  Everyone always underestimates us, but you know what they say about the quiet ones.”

Justine smiles at her. “Yes, I sure do, even though I’ve never been guilty of being too quiet and shy.  Is he one of the brothers?”

Irene vigorously shakes her head. “None of them are related, though a lot of people assume that at first.  It’s just one of life’s funny coincidences that three out of five share the same last name.  I’m glad we’re Troys and don’t have that problem of an overly common name.  Well, you’re a Ryan now, but even Ryan isn’t overly popular.”

Amelia continues pointing. “Nessa chose Simon as her favorite.  She likes his poetic lyrics, and you know how much she loves books and poetry.  It’s kind of unusual that she likes him best, since normally she doesn’t like blondes all that much.  Did we tell you he’s part Huguenot just like us?”

“No, you didn’t,” Justine says, starting to feel like a fish out of water with her teenage nieces.  She’s not even a generation away from them, but suddenly they seem like they have less in common.  They have mainstream teen girls interests now, as opposed to how they often used to talk about deep things like indie films, current events, and classic literature.

“Little Simone likes John best,” Irene concludes. “She thinks he’s the best-looking.  No deeper reasons.  What else can you expect from a ten-year-old?  She’ll learn when she’s a little older.”