WeWriWa—Halloween party ends in mayhem


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes from the eighth book in my series focused on Max Seward, Jr., and his wacky family, set during autumn 1943.

Max’s cousin Elaine and their friend Quintina have organized a show-stopping school Halloween party, and Max himself has carved sixty jack-o-lanterns. All is going well till the local band starts taking off their costumes.

After these first five girls tackle their favorite bandmembers, it becomes a free-for-all as almost all the other girls rush the gym stage and pile onto the band too.

“There’s my heartthrob.” Kit yanked off the Stalin mask and raced over to Randy as he pulled off the spider head.

“And there’s mine.” Julieanna whipped off the Lenin mask and raced to Jakey as he draped the Dracula cape over the drums.

“That’s mine.” Violet tore off her Mussolini face and raced towards Bobby as he unghouled himself for the evening.

“And mine.” Cinnimin grabbed off the Hitler mask and made for Danny as he took off his football helmet.

“Oh my God, is that Pauly Richardson under the suit of shining knightly armor?” Mickey screamed, removing the disks from her eyes and tackling him to the ground.

I’d opened and converted the fourteen chapter files of this draft about two and a half years ago, but for some reason, the new master file kept crashing when I tried to open it. I had to go back onto my older computer (which has Word, unlike my newer computer), and went through the process all over again.

I’m so lucky that 10-year-old computer still works, I have an external disk drive, and those old files still open in spite of the hoops I have to jump through to convert and reformat them. This particular section seemed to need less extensive editing and rewriting than other parts of the Halloween chapter.

I was only fourteen when I handwrote the first draft, and about twenty when I transcribed it and made some changes. It’s yet another example of how my shorter books need far more extensive rewriting, editing, and restructuring than the books I deliberately wrote at saga-length!

WeWriWa—Cinni approves Sparky’s idea


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when Cinni’s best friend Sparky (real name Katharina) suggested they ask for money instead of candy, to help all the people affected by the recently-begun war in Europe.

Most of the candy wouldn’t be kosher anyway (as the state of kosher food in 1939 America was a far cry from what it is today), but Violet is uncomfortable with what sounds like begging. Originally, Violet’s lines were Cinni’s, but they sound much more believable coming from Violet.  Cinni’s family was hit hard by the Great Depression and depended on public assistance for awhile, whereas Violet’s family is the richest in town.

“I couldn’t eat mosta the candy, if this Halloween is anything like last year,” Sparky said. “I don’t hafta tell ‘em what it’s really for, since they might refuse to give me money if they knew who it’s helping.”

“That’s a bad idea,” Violet said. “You can’t ask strangers for money if they don’t offer it first.  That’s begging, and we’re all too proud to beg.”

“What do you think the people in Europe are doing?  They need every bit of help they can get.”

“It can’t hurt to ask,” Cinni said. “But we’ll hafta tell ’em it’s for the National Refugee Service if they’re people I know are anti-Semites, and we can’t ask people like Max’s dad.  We’re lucky he gives the awful candy he does, instead of locking his door and turning off the light.”

Sparky, her parents, and her two older brothers left Germany for The Netherlands when she was very young, and Cinni’s father brought them to the U.S. in the summer of 1938. My chronological first Atlantic City book (new and improved title a secret till its release) focuses on Sparky’s attempts to become a real American girl without compromising her religious Jewish lifestyle. At the same time, Cinni learns there’s more than one way to be a real American.

WeWriWa—A suggested alternative to candy


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes several pages after last week, when fundamentalist Samantha Smart and next-door neighbor Lotta Valli had an argument about celebrating Halloween and Lotta’s revealing costume.

After school, Cinnimin retrieved a pile of mail spilling out of the mailbox and brought it to her father, whose heart was weakened by rheumatic fever two years ago. One of the letters was from Portugal, bearing mostly miraculous news about a Polish family he’s trying to bring to America.

Hearing about that letter gave Cinni’s best friend Sparky (real name Katharina), who lives in the house with her family, an idea for an alternative to asking for candy.

At 6:00, Cinni, Sparky, Babs, Tina, and Violet set out on their trick-or-treating route, while Stacy, Gyll, the Valli twins, Lotta, and Mandy went on different routes and Terri and John went right to the school’s dance and party.  Sam and Urma stood at the window, shouting invectives and making hex signs.

“Can I ask for only money?” Sparky asked as they proceeded down Maxwell. “I wanna give it to the Hebrew Immigrant Aide Society, or whatever other group is helping the people escaping from Europe.  I’ll give the rest of the money to whatever group is helping people stuck in Europe.”

“Why would you waste perfectly good money on charity?” Violet asked, adjusting her angel wings. “Leave that for the government and official agencies.  They’d probably laugh at your few dollars.”

“As much as I love money, I’d be really mad if I only got coins on Halloween and couldn’t even keep it for myself,” Tina said. “Candy is always the very best part.”

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.


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.


“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.”


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?”


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.”


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.”


Frank Sinatra: The Teen Idol Years

Happy heavenly 97th birthday to my favoritest writer, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn!


Emily of The Vintage Cameo and Judy of the Movie Classics blog are hosting the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Frank’s birth. I barely even had to think to know I wanted to cover the teen idol phase of his career, and all those screaming girls. First, my character Violet was one of those hysterical fans (and cried like a baby when Frank passed on in 1998), and second, it’s very similar to my Good Bands, Fast Popularity, Teenybopper Marketing series (More of The Monkees, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Herman’s Hermits, and The Beatles on Capitol Records).

No matter what generation, young girls will always go crazy over a fantasy crush, be it Rudy Valentino, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, or Duran Duran. It’s a harmless way to channel normal sexual energy with nowhere to go, particularly in an era like the Forties, when fantasizing was pretty much all a so-called respectable girl could do when she wasn’t married. So long as she knows it’s just a fantasy crush and she’ll in all likelihood never even meet this guy, what’s the harm? If a teen idol has staying power past the initial rush of screaming girls, so much the better!


Frank’s tenure as a teen idol had its genesis in the Thirties, when he became the lead singer of The Hoboken Four and got most of their female fans’ attention. However, Sinatramania really began when he persuaded Tommy Dorsey to let him record some solo songs in January 1942. As a member of The Tommy Dorsey Band, he’d had huge Billboard hits with songs like “Imagination” and “Everything Happens to Me,” but those were as part of the band, not a solo artist in his own right.

Until this time, popular music was made and intended for adults, and teenagers had barely just started to come into their own as an important, separate demographic. No one had thought teenagers, let alone teenage girls, could have that much power to create musical stars. His fans also included women in their early twenties, who were frequently single by default after most of the men went off to war. By his opening at New York’s Paramount Theatre on 30 December 1942, the so-called bobby soxers screamed almost loud enough to deafen, fainted in the aisles, mobbed the back door for his autograph after the show, and impeded traffic in nearby Times Square.

People whose conception of history and popular culture only extends within their own lifetimes just can’t understand how big a deal this was to all these young women, and why they’d go so crazy. Just because you can’t understand why such and such a person or thing was considered sexy, sensational, new and exciting, etc., in a previous era, doesn’t mean these female fans had very sheltered lives or only fainted because their corsets were laced too tightly. Try to look at it in context, not judging by what you as a 21st century person finds shocking or sexy. I hate this attitude of “Let’s laugh at our ancestors for not having modern tastes and reactions.”


Frank’s show by the Paramount was so popular, his engagement was extended till February 1943, four entire weeks. Though he first played with Benny Goodman and then with an orchestra led by Johnny Long, it was always obvious whom the real draw was. At all the succeeding shows, the bobby soxers continued screaming and fainting for their new teen idol. Such a frenzied reaction hadn’t been seen since the days of Rudy Valentino a generation earlier. It wasn’t just his singing talent and the fact that his songs were popular, but his looks. Newsweek called it mass sexual delirium, while other sources wrote the bobby soxers off as juvenile delinquents and immoral. Women as old as 40 joined the Sinatra fan clubs which quickly proliferated.

Frank played to another huge crowd by the City College of New York and the Hollywood Bowl in August 1943, just two stops on a national tour that year. At every stop, the screaming crowds didn’t stop coming. He also started acting in 1944, in the films Higher and Higher and Step Lively. In October 1944, by the Paramount, he drew such a giant crowd the cops had to break up the riots which broke out when fans refused to leave after already seeing one show. Almost no one left the theatre, and sat through as many as a dozen shows over 6–8 hours.


Many of those screaming young women grew up to remain a loyal fan base who helped to keep Frank popular and relevant for another 50 years. If you truly love a singer, band, or actor, that love will still be there after the initial hype has gone, and that fandom will mature beyond a teenage crush on a pop star.


Today, the 29th of Kislev, the 5th day of Chanukah, is my Hebrew birthday. There’s a tradition that on one’s Hebrew birthday, one has the power to give and receive blessings, so I’d like to bless all of you with health, happiness, success, peace, love, and luck in the coming year, and that you should all enjoy very happy holidays.