Posted in 1950s, Adicia, Writing

WeWriWa—Meet Adicia


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!

Posted in 1950s, Adicia, Justine, Writing

WeWriWa—Meet Adicia


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.

Posted in 1980s, Contests, Historical fiction, holidays, Justine, Music, Writing

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.)


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.”

Posted in Justine, Third Russian novel, Writing

What’s Up Wednesday

Ready Set Write

As part of their What’s Up Wednesday feature, Elodie NowodazkijAlison MillerKaty UppermanErin Funk, and Jaime Morrow will be hosting a summer-long initiative called Ready. Set. Write! Participants will share weekly, monthly, or overall goals in the “What I’m Writing” section of the weekly posts.

What I’m Writing

I’m pretty proud and pleased that I only took a few days to write Chapter 54 of Justine Grown Up. I did want to get back to work on my current WIP quickly, but I also knew I needed it done by the weekend so I could have excerpts for my Saturday and Sunday bloghops. The total length was only 2,427 words, which is on par with my shorter chapters in JGU.

It was also a test of showing restraint, not only in length, but also in showing off my knowledge. I absolutely didn’t want any of it to come across as some huge, shameless pile of fanwank. 15-20 years ago, I had that problem when anachronistically forcing in references to some of my favourite bands. Now I just wrote what needed to be written, conveying basic information and Irene and Amelia’s personal reactions. There’s a line it’s just not professional or mature to cross when you’re writing about a real-life interest, even when it’s an actual, natural part of a storyline.

If you want, you can read a little excerpt here.

In my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, I’m up to Chapter 56 and about 456,000 words. I really hate to have to make six innocent children suffer with whooping cough, but it’s the first and most effective way I could think of to bond them all together as a family. This disease can last for at least three months, which allows plenty of time for Damir to finally warm to his natural father. (I’m not even going to get into the anti-science, historical revisionist propaganda that’s been helping to bring back diseases that were almost eradicated in the West! Parents of 1940 would’ve given anything for their kids to be spared things like measles, mumps, and diphtheria, instead of patting themselves on the back and gushing about the wonders of natural immunity and evils of “Big Pharma.”)

What I’m Reading

I breezed through Elaine Tyler May’s America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation in a few days. It was a really fascinating social study of attitudes towards the Pill over time, how women today view it, how it was developed and tested, the changes in the Pill over the past 50 years, attitudes towards birth control in general, other contraceptives, male birth control pills, the disconnect between the Vatican’s view and most American Catholics, and how the sexual double standard about birth control, pregnancy, and sex gradually lessened.

What Inspires Me

Camp just ended, which is always a bittersweet time. As a friend and fellow counselor was saying to me, watching all these kids helps you to realise how you want to raise your own future kids. For example, a lot of the kids bring really healthy lunches, and even want healthy food for snacks, like raisins and peppers. There are also the areas I know I want to steer any future children away from, like delayed toilet-training, too-old thumb-sucking, and lack of discipline and boundaries at home. I’m not going to give any specific examples, though I love all these kids!

Hashem (God) must have a twisted sense of humour, since I had issues including oppositional defiance as a young child, and in the past three summers, I’ve dealt with that very issue in a few campers. Now I know how the shoe feels on the other foot, how frustrated and aggravated I made my parents and teachers all those years ago!

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Sunday morning was my favourite spin instructor’s farewell class. He’s moving to Florida full-time, but he’s definitely not retiring just yet. His wife invited us to come to a class at his new gym if we’re ever in their new neck of the woods, and said he might be coming back in September to guest teach. His farewell class was one of his all-time BEST! Every single second was made of pure awesomeness.

Still no kitchen to work with. Again, please keep in mind that I’m the one with a more liberal view on kosher standards and realised this needed taken care of from the jump. It really doesn’t seem in the spirit of a kosher lifestyle to starve yourself and really still be eating most of your meals in non-kosher kitchens and restaurants just to do everything perfectly to the letter of the law, no matter how long of a delay. You have to live your life realistically, without undue hardship.

I lost one of my marbles while babysitting two of the older girls after camp when it rolled under a locked door. The very next day, my notice I’d left on the door was waiting for me in the office with the little marble taped to it. There really still are some amazingly nice people in this world!

Marble Notice

Posted in 1980s, Historical fiction, holidays, Justine, Music, Writing

WeWriWa—Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This weekend I’m taking a little detour to the Eighties in honour of Duran Duran Appreciation Day, which is a real holiday on 10 August. If you have the time and interest, you can read yesterday’s post for Sweet Saturday Samples, where I briefly explained the history behind the date chosen and shared a longer excerpt from Justine Grown Up. It’s a hiatused WIP set from 1979-84 in Upstate New York, a contemporary historical retelling of sorts of Margaret Sidney’s Phronsie Pepper, the final book in the hugely popular Five Little Peppers series.

Today’s snippet comes a bit before Saturday’s, when Justine’s nieces explained why they chose their favorite bandmembers. Justine has just come to teenage Irene and Amelia’s room for the first time since they redecorated, in early 1983, and has to be told by her nieces who the people in their wall-to-wall posters are. She’s admitted she doesn’t have MTV and doesn’t even follow the news much anymore, since she’s so busy with grad school.

Her nieces repeatedly reassure her that they’re still the serious, nonconformist girls they’ve always been, and that, unlike most of their classmates, they’re not only into the band for their looks. Thirteen-year-old Amelia speaks first.


“You’ve really fallen behind the times.  You were the first one to tell us about New Romantic music and fashion, and now you don’t even know about some of the most famous adherents.  This is Duran Duran, from Birmingham, England.  We just got into them a few months ago, but they’ve been around for a few years.  All the girls at school like them too, including Nessa.  Even little Simone likes them, though not for the mature reasons we do.”

Justine smiles and nods politely as the girls take turns telling her about each member of the band in minute detail, along with a recitation of song titles, chart positions, magazine articles, and media appearances.  This kind of thing seems so unlike her nonconformist nieces, but even the most unconventional teen girl has to have a celebrity crush sometime.