When Cinni met Levy

Lost and Found Blogfest

The Love Lost and Found Blogfest is hosted by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out and Guilie Castilol-Oriard of A Quiet Laughter, and co-hosted by Elizabeth Seckman, Yolanda Renee, Denise Covey. and Alex J. Cavanaugh. Participants share a poem, story, essay, or song about love lost or found.

This scene takes place on 5 May 1942, as young soulmates Levon Kevorkian and Cinnimin Filliard meet for the first time. Cinni has just seen her on-again, off-again, no-longer-so-secret interfaith boyfriend Barry kissing his boring new girlfriend, and she’s shut him out of her heart for good.

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From across the room, Levon’s eyes latched onto Cinnimin on the davenport, and his heart fluttered.  This pretty American girl obviously wasn’t Armenian, but he had a strange, uncanny feeling she was someone special.  Perhaps his parents and grandfather had been driven out of Turkey, and he and his siblings had come to America, just so he could meet this girl.

“Tiffany, can you introduce me to the one with curly hair?”

“What?  I doubt she wants to meet a brand-new immigrant.  And why Cinnimin?  How about my cousin or their other friend?”

“I can’t explain, but I sense something really special about her, and she’s got a more natural beauty than the other girls.”

Tiffany looked over at the three girls commiserating on the davenport.  Though both Elaine and Violet were spoken for, Cinnimin was still single, as far as she knew, and didn’t seem to have a crush on anyone special at the moment.  It couldn’t hurt to at least introduce her to Levon.

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“Cinnimin, this is Levon Kevorkian, one of my guests.  He asked to meet you.”

Cinnimin glanced at the boy with the foreign name and noticed he had a very sincere face. “Do you speak English?”

Levon’s tongue was like lead.  He tried to nod, but found his head immobilized too.

“Yes, boy?  You wanna talk to me?  I don’t read minds.”

He managed to open his mouth, but nothing came out, too paralyzed by intimidation by this pretty American girl.

“Well, can you speak English or not?”

Levon finally found his tongue, praying his basic English wouldn’t fail him and he wouldn’t accidentally blabber in Armenian or Bulgarian. “You are extremely beautiful.  I can tell you have an extremely beautiful mind too.”

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Violet and Elaine burst into giggles.

“Oh, so you do speak English.” Cinnimin glared at Violet and Elaine. “Please excuse my friends.  They’re not as mature as I am.  Violet in particular has very poor taste in boys.” She smiled at him. “You’re cute.  Can I call you Levy?”

“My family calls me Levoush.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound very American.  If you’re here to stay, you need a proper American nickname.  What’s your middle name?”

“Mandarias.”

Cinnimin grimaced. “That sounds even more foreign.  Please, can I just call you Levy?”

“You don’t like my name?  I have very nice, traditional Armenian name, and I didn’t think it sounded too foreign.  You have strange name I never heard.”

“My mother named me after her favorite spice, but she couldn’t spell it properly.  I’m so used to writing my name that way, the so-called correct spelling just looks wrong to me.”

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Tarchin is the Armenian form of her name,” Tiffany provided from the background.

Levon ventured a shy smile at Cinnimin. “When we add tarchin to our food, we say it’s like adding love to the food.”

“You’re pretty eloquent,” Cinnimin said, feeling his dark eyes burning a hole in her soul. “But everyone needs a nickname.  Don’t you think Levy is a cute nickname?”

Levon finally nodded, hoping “eloquent” was a positive word.  Now that the ice was broken, he figured it couldn’t hurt to ask a slightly personal question.

“You have boyfriend?”

Cinnimin jumped up, her heart racing. “I’m sorry, I must leave.”

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How not to write third-person omniscient

It seems as though many people who mock and dismiss third-person omniscient either don’t understand how it’s supposed to work, or genuinely have no experience with reading or writing it, and thus assume amateurishness or mistakes where there are none. And to demonstrate specific examples of how not to write third-person omniscient, I’m going to use lines from my own work, written at a much earlier stage of my writing development.

1. God-mode. “As Tiffany opened the door for the three Kevorkian children, whom she’d taken in to house temporarily till they found something better, and behind her own father’s back too, she had no idea that the middle Kevorkian child, Levon, would soon see a very beautiful girl and fall in love with her on the spot, the third Mrs. Kevorkian, and his life would never be the same again” (Max’s House #4: The Start of AS, 1999). This is typical classic, outdated God-mode, which no one wants to see in modern literature.

2. Inappropriate political, religious, social, cultural, etc. commentary. “Cinnimin quickly found a record of Just Us 6, the absolute crappiest group in the city. Their singing was so sucky you had to be insane to actually listen to it!” (Saga I of Cinnimin, September 1993) It doesn’t matter if the commentary is valid or the reader agrees with it. Pontificating on things well outside the immediate story is really inappropriate and obnoxious, and can really alienate readers who hold differently.

3. Exclamation points outside of dialogue or something like a letter or journal entry. “[Violet] kept her eyes on Robert’s greeny-brown ones as she opened her pencil case, so that explains why she handed him a tampon instead of the planned pencil! Everyone but her began laughing hysterically!” (Saga I of Cinnimin, October 1993) Yeah, this is kind of funny, but there’s no need to emphasize the humor with exclamation points.

4. Awkwardly, unnecessarily drawing attention to the fact that a story takes place in a certain year or place. “In 1941 in late December, $50 was a lot to be paying for a sailboat” (Saga I of Cinnimin, September 1993). First, I’m not sure that’s actually true, and second, we already know it’s Christmas Day 1941.

5. Making obnoxious value judgments about characters. “Tiffany and Marc stared at Max, but most of all at the fat blob who had just wandered into their midst” (Max’s House #1: New Beginnings, mix of first draft [spring of 1993] and second draft [1999]). Mrs. Seward’s morbid obesity is often used for comedic purposes, but sometimes it really goes too far.

6. Too much jumping around among characters and scenes. “By now Spencer and Camille were on birthday cake number eight. Kit and Frankie were searching for treasure and were in the actual grounded latrine, and Sheri had dropped twelve more cookies into the deep water. Ed had lost himself again” (Saga I of Cinnimin, May or June 1995). Pick one character or group of characters to focus on, don’t just hop around in the same paragraph!

7. Too distant from any one character. “Elaine, on the advice of a number of articles she’d read in women’s magazines, kept calling him silly pet names and giggling.  He had no way of knowing she was only acting so flighty to try to impress him and hold onto his interest during the uncertain early days of a relationship” (Max’s House #1: New Beginnings, mix of first draft [spring of 1993] and third draft [2011]). Deep POV isn’t necessary, but at least stick to one character’s thoughts or actions at a time!

8. Outside knowledge way outside of any character’s purview. “A rosary from Italy was on the [rock], followed by a dead man from Romania” (Saga I of Cinnimin, May or June 1995). Seriously, how would any of them know the national origins of either? Why does it even matter? It’s one thing to state something as the narrator, like when I specified Lucine’s footsteps as saddleshoe footsteps on Page 1 of Little Ragdoll, but entirely another to state such a bizarre, unnecessary detail that adds absolutely nothing to a scene. And as the all-knowing narrator, I should’ve said this refugee was merely unconscious, NOT dead!

9. Beating the reader over the head with all the subtlety of a D.W. Griffith film and essentially telling him or her how to think, feel, and react. “She feels like a Ragdoll too, kept on a shelf because the prettier dolls are more popular, unloved and alone, with the sad wistful eyes of a Ragdoll that look right through you and tear a knife through your heart, if you have one to be torn” (discontinued original first draft of Little Ragdoll, possibly early 1994). Enough said!

10. Specifically drawing attention to symbolism instead of making it more subtle and letting the reader figure it out on his or her own. “Childhood innocence was having a multiple funeral all over the world that night” (Saga I of Cinnimin, May or June 1995). That’s the least offensive or obnoxious example I could find. Seriously, just don’t do it, and don’t use symbolism just to try to make your story seem all deep. Forced, awkward, unnecessary symbolism is a writing DON’T!

11. Overstating established information. “Shampoo dripped into Donna’s eyes. She began howling with intense pain” (Saga I of Cinnimin, November 1993). When it’s already clear from the context or previously-stated or -inferred information, there’s no need to tell us all over again.

Vratsa, Bulgaria

 

In loving memory of my paternal grandma, 27 October 1927-24 April 2014.

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Saints Apostles Cathedral, image by Томасен (Tomasen).

The Church of St. Nikolay, image by Томасен.

The Church of Saints Konstantin and Yelena, image by Томасен.

Vratsa is a city of about 61,000 in Northwestern Bulgaria, nestled amid the foothills of the Balkan Mountains, Vratsa Mountain in particular. The Leva River runs through the city. The city has its roots in antiquity, when the Thracians founded it. Under Roman rule, the city was called Valve (door of a fortress), after a narrow passageway by the main gate of the city’s fortress. Today, this passageway is Vratsa’s symbol, and is represented on their coat of arms.

After Rome fell, the city became part of Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire. The South Slavic tribes started moving in at the end of the 6th century of the Common Era. The Bulgars and Slavs founded the First Bulgarian Empire in the 7th century, and Vratsa became part of it. During this time, its name changed to Vratitsa, which also means “door of a fortress.” The city became famous for its silversmiths, earthenware, and goldsmiths.

The Church of St. Mina, image by Томасен.

Medieval Kurtpashova Tower, image by Eola.

Vratsa is the native city of my character Levon Mandarias Kevorkian, the love of Cinnimin Rebecca Filliard’s life. He, his older sister Rebecca, and his younger brother Shavash lived in Vratsa until 1942, when they were brought to America by Max Seward’s do-gooder older sister Tiffany. Originally, I just chose it as a random Bulgarian city, not realising how beautiful and ancient it is. One of Cinni’s nicknames for Levy is “Vratsa boy.”

Vratsa Gorge, image by I-Vaylo.

The Vratsa Gorge is made up of the highest cliffs of the Balkan Peninsula. It’s very popular for climbing, hiking, picnicking, sightseeing, and other outdoor activities. There are over seventy possible paths to hike or climb, from easy to challenging.

City panorama, image by Mishel58.

Vratsa is home to the Ledenika Cave, which is at least a thousand years old and full of ice crystals, stalagmites, and stalactites. Legend has it that if you put your hand in the cave’s cold Lake of Wishes and make a wish, you’ll get whatever you wished for. The cave is one of the 100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria, and Bulgaria’s most frequently-visited cave. Some of the formations have names, such as the Falcon, Father Christmas, the Wife of the Giant, the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, and the Bathing Girl.

Vratsa also has a regional historical museum, which includes treasures from prehistory, Thracian days, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and antiquity. Most notably, it houses the Rogozen Treasure, the biggest, most important Thracian find ever unearthed in Bulgaria. It consists of 165 silver, gold-gilded goblets, jugs, and pateras (shallow bowls).

Beautiful panorama, image by Dakolan.

More information:

The Rogozen silver treasure

http://vratsamuseum.com/index.php?lang=en

http://www.vratza.bg/en/

WeWriWa—Coupled at Last

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. Since I’d like to move back to my WIP, I’m skipping ahead quite a bit with the story of how Cinnimin and Levon got together. Much of the material needs thorough editing, revising, and rewriting. The sixth Max’s House book in particular, which today’s segment comes from, is a hot mess.

It’s December 1942, and Cinni is finally single again. She was humiliated to be turned down by Todd on account of her big mouth and attitude, and spent the summer flirting with Levon, whom she secretly met twice more after last week’s scene. She even kissed him a few times, though it wasn’t reciprocated. On her birthday in August, she shocked all her friends by revealing a new boyfriend, Julian, whom no one felt was a genuine love match or cool enough for her. Finally, her friends Elaine and Kit conspired with her mother to get her to dump Julian, in the hopes that she’d do the right thing.

During lunch, Cinni gets Levon behind the bushes and, after enjoying a cigarette, point-blank tells him she’ll be his girlfriend. Levon seems a little uncertain to make a move, but then he surprises her.

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“You prayed for this day since you saw me and now you won’t even—”

It was what she had secretly prayed for all those months.  It was the first time he had kissed back, and she knew she would never kiss another boy so long as she lived.  Now he was hers and she was his, and she never wanted this one perfect moment to end.  She lost track of the time and let time stand still behind the bushes.  Fate had brought her this boy from Bulgaria whose parents had survived unspeakable cruelties, and she wasn’t about to argue with Fate itself!  But she knew the moment couldn’t linger on forever.  As soon as he let go of her for a moment, she decided to see what else he might do and started undoing her buttons.

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The problems with the sixth Max’s House book aren’t about bad writing so much as it’s overwritten, far too long for this type of book, focused on the wrong characters, and trying to tell two stories at once, the 1942-43 main story and a (very spoilerific) parallel story about Cinni’s granddaughter Livia and her husband Liam in 2007. Max, Elaine, and their family, the supposed stars of this series, seem more like secondary characters in much of the fourth through sixth books.

WeWriWa—Secret Meeting

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a little after last week’s, and is primarily a rewritten version of the original 1997/1999 scene.

Cinnimin Filliard has snuck over to see Levon Kevorkian a week after they met, while his hosts are at church. She’s just revealed to him that she’s a half-orphan, having lost her father right after her tenth birthday. He then told her about missing his own parents, who are waiting to come to America. Cinni says he’s taken away her smoking appetite by reminding her of her father, and says he has to cheer her up. He ends up putting a premature end to the meeting with his response.

This snippet has been modified somewhat to fit eight sentences.

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“I love your beautiful brown eyes.” Levon leaned very close to her and gazed into her eyes. “I can see your soul in your eyes.”

Cinnimin backed away from him. “I’m not the type of girl who kisses guys she barely knows.”

“Oh, no, that wasn’t what I wanted.  Do people really do that so quickly in America these days?  I’m sorry if I scared you or made you think the wrong thing about me.”