WeWriWa—Enjoying a Thanksgiving feast

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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 a few pages after last week’s, when Cinni invited Harry to be her family’s Thanksgiving guest after he was thrown out of the soup kitchen for fighting with his thuggish older brother.

No one was home when they arrived at Cinni’s house, so Cinni went next door to her easily-annoyed neighbor Mr. Valli to ask for help with cooking. Cinni discovered her family went to the Vallis for Thanksgiving dinner.

Cinni’s mother is quite displeased she was out so long getting a turkey. She’s much happier after seeing all the food Cinni and Sparky won, but discovering there’s yet another guest to cook for upsets her again. Finally, she starts cooking before it gets any later.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Mrs. Filliard fumed as she hoisted the turkey out of the wagon and pulled the stuffing out of the refrigerator.  While she prepared the turkey and other food under the Smalls’ careful directions, Cinni, Sparky, and Harry went into the living room to read comic books and listen to the radio.

It was 10:30 when supper was called, wonderful smells wafting all through the house.  These were the kinds of smells which were supposed to permeate the air much earlier on Thanksgiving, but better late than never.

“This is the greatest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” Harry said as he took a seat. “Remember, Cin, one day I’ll pay you back for tonight.  Don’t think I ain’t thankful just ‘cause I ain’t in a position to do something so nice anytime soon.”

“Of course I know you’re thankful, Harry; unlike some people, you know what being thankful’s all about.”

The Smalls intoned a blessing over the feast arrayed before them, and then everyone dug in.  It was the sweetest, most delicious Thanksgiving meal Cinni had ever had.

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WeWriWa—Sent to fetch a turkey

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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 I’m starting more snippets from the book formerly known as The Very Next, my chronological second Atlantic City book, set from March–December 1939.

In the morning, while Cinnimin Filliard’s parents are starting to prepare their holiday meal, an unexpected visitor shows up. Mrs. Filliard assumed she was a beggar, but Dawida explains she’s from the Polish family Mr. Filliard is trying to bring to the U.S.

Most of the family escaped to Lisbon in the wake of the Nazi invasion, and Dawida escaped Warsaw on her own. Mrs. Filliard is quite frazzled to realize yet another longterm houseguest has just been added to her home, and sends Cinni out to get the main course.

Mrs. Filliard looked at the grandfather clock. “Cinni, why don’t you make yourself useful and pick up a turkey?  It won’t appear in our oven all by itself.  Make sure it’s at least fifteen pounds, so it’ll be enough to reasonably feed everyone in our family plus those insufferable Smarts.  Gregory’s Groceries gives ‘em away today, so we don’t have to worry about money.”

“What about my family?” Sparky asked. “Perhaps we could all eat together.  The kosher butcher in Germantown is having a bingo game today, with a huge turkey as the prize.”

“However you girls get our turkey, it had better be here and ready by noon at the absolute latest.  I want to sit down to eat at four, and it takes about four hours to cook a fifteen-pound stuffed turkey, even longer for eighteen pounds or over, and the longest if it’s over twenty pounds.”

From 1939–41, there was one Thanksgiving for Democrats and another for Republicans a week later. Cinni’s family celebrates the Democrat Thanksgiving, which fell on 23 November in 1939, and was dubbed “Franksgiving” by Republicans (referring to FDR having moved the holiday up one week).

This earlier than usual Thanksgiving was motivated by fears of a very late Thanksgiving negatively affecting Christmas retail sales, in a country still recovering from the Great Depression. In those days, it was very bad form to begin advertising Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving.

WeWriWa—New Year’s Eve 1939

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes from the final chapter of the book formerly known as The Very Next, the chronological second of my Atlantic City books. Though it’s an episodic story with an ensemble cast, the main focus is on Cinnimin Filliard.

At the beginning of March, Cinni’s father gave Urma, Mortez, and Samantha Smart a temporary place to stay, and this situation has been nothing but trouble for everyone. Urma and her daughter Sam are fire and brimstone fanatics who think everything but breathing and reading the Bible their way is a sin.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten sentences.

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“Celebrating New Year’s is the work of the Devil,” Urma pontificated. “Don’t ask me to drink any of your demonic libations at the stroke of midnight.”

“I’d never waste my good champagne on you,” Mrs. Filliard said. “My alcohol is only for my family and friends, and you’ll never be my friend.”

“I’ll have some champagne,” Mortez said.

Urma gave him the evil eye as Mrs. Filliard filled an especially large champagne flute.  She covered her eyes when Mr. Filliard mixed a cocktail of strawberry syrup, lemonade, and champagne for all the underage members of the household, using a shaker in the shape of a penguin left over from Prohibition.

“How can you be anti-alcohol when Christ’s first miracle was changing water into wine?” Mr. Valli asked.

“He changed wine into water, that’s all you know.  I’d be glad to lend you one of my copies of Minister Hodges’s true version of the Bible, if I trusted I’d get it back in one piece and undefaced.”

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Mortez has never had any part of his wife and daughter’s extreme religious conversion, though they usually railroad over him and shut down any attempted protests or lectures. He’s always loved Urma much more than she’s ever loved him, though he can’t forgive her for the slanderous story she told her parents after they conceived Samantha as unmarried teenagers.

WeWriWa—A well-loved manger

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This scene comes right after last week’s, as antagonistic houseguest Urma Smart is horrified to see the beaten-up manger scene her hosts see fit to proudly display under their Christmas tree. Though the Filliards had plenty of money before the Stock Market crashed, and could therefore just as likely have a really beautiful, upscale crèche, I chose to model theirs after an old, beaten-up crèche I’m familiar with.

German Nativity scene made about 1920, which bears a striking resemblance to the real-life beaten-up crèche I based the Filliards’ on, Copyright Hewa

“You’re making Christ weep,” Urma said. “How dare you display such a degraded manger scene!  If that’s all you can afford, just don’t display it.  There’s no law saying you must have a crèche, though it’s certainly the best part of Christmas decorating.  All these other decorations, like the tree and wreaths, are pure paganism.”

“Well, unluckily for you, this ain’t your house to be dictating rules in,” Mrs. Filliard said. “It’s a well-loved manger scene that’s been with us for many decades.  A brand-new manger scene wouldn’t have the same type of history and emotions invested into it.”

“You people are hopeless.”

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I love seeing all the different manger scenes from various cultures. It’s so beautiful to see how every people reflects themselves and their culture in their depiction of the Holy Family, not just in terms of things like skin color, but also the manger itself, the animals, the clothes, the artistic style, and the materials used. It just shows how the Divine really does have many names and faces, none of them wrong so long as one has a true, sincere belief.

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If you’d like to come back this week, I’ll have a series about Battleship Potemkin at 90. Appropriately enough, Part I goes live on the 21st, the film’s actual 90th anniversary. My remaining posts for the year will be my usual year-end wrap-up posts, the year’s final WeWriWa post, and a post about the 120th anniversary of the first time a film was shown to a public, paying audience.

Ready. Set. Write! CP/Beta Mixer

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To cap off the summerlong Ready. Set. Write! initiative, hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk, a mixer for potential critique partners and beta readers is being held.

For a good idea of my philosophy about revising and critiquing, you can peruse the following posts. The TL;DR summary is that I feel most comfortable with a light, respectful hand, someone who tells me what works, what needs clarification, if characters are consistent and have believable motivations, how I might rework the opening pages, if something needs fleshing-out. I’ll be the final judge of whether something needs intense revising and rewriting, and how to execute it. I should edit and revise in my own voice and style, not make drastic changes because someone else wouldn’t have written it that way or doesn’t understand my style.

“Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing: #3…Rewriting”

“Lies Writers Tell… To Other Writers (Part Four — Betas Required)”

I write third-person omniscient and have ensemble casts, though if a book is focused on just one character, the POV will be closer to third-person limited. I need someone who understands how this classic default POV works, not someone who thinks it’s “head-hopping” to shift to another perspective, or who thinks third-person has the same rules about “outside knowledge” as first-person.

I’d most appreciate another set of trusted eyes on my Atlantic City books, which are extremely short by my standards (under 70,000 words). Many of them were written when I was a lot younger, and therefore need much more extensive rewriting and restructuring than the books I wrote entirely in adulthood. Though they start in 1938, they’re not straight, serious historical like my other books.

They’re a mix of historical, satire, and spoof, with a lot of humor so deliberately over the top it’s meant to be funny and not taken seriously. There’s also a lot of black humor, like Kit’s dysfunctional relationship with her mother (I guess the best comparison would be Stewie and Lois’s relationship on Family Guy). Basically, it’s not for the easily-offended.

I write interlocking series books and family/town sagas. I’m also very fond of the Bildungsroman (a growing-up novel which encompasses many years, taking a character from childhood or adolescence to adulthood). Though most of my main characters are (or at least start out) young, I don’t particularly consider them YA or MG. They’re just historicals about characters who happen to be young. The focus is on the historical drama they’re living through, not young people who just happen to be living through history. I really don’t want pigeonholed into one age-based category.

Sample excerpt from an Atlantic City book:

In the morning, Mrs. Filliard began pounding on the door.  Cinni rolled her eyes and groaned, extremely bemused to be woken up so rudely and so early.  She never woke her parents up, and felt the same courtesy should be extended to her.

“Some strange old woman came to the door and said her name is Mary Euphrosina Nicholson.  Apparently she’s Laura’s grandmother.  I hope she gets out of our house as soon as possible.  Older Papists are even worse than the young ones.  At least the younger ones like Laura have some modern ideas.”

“Please don’t call me a Papist, Mrs. Filliard,” Laura said. “It’s very rude, and implies we worship the Pope.  I disagree with a lot of what the Pope says.”

Sample excerpt from my WIP:

Vásya thumps an Austrian hard on the back and addresses him in German. “Excuse me.  Take those gloves off.  Orders from General Eisenhower are to use your bare hands to bury the bodies.  No exceptions.”

“But there’s a typhus epidemic!  I can’t risk getting typhus and infecting everyone I come into contact with!”

“That’s too bad.  The dead and dying didn’t have a choice when your leaders imprisoned them here and forced them to live in such squalid, inhuman conditions.  Now take those damn gloves off, or you’ll be forced to work in the quarry with your friends.  You’re here as punishment, not reward.  We make the rules.  You don’t anymore.”

Fédya grabs him, rips the gloves off, and throws them into the mass grave in progress. “You heard my cousin.  Now get to work, and stop trying to dictate rules to us.  The losers of a war never get to boss around the victors.”