WeWriWa—A new diner

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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 paragraphs after last week’s, when 20-year-old Darya Koneva and her friends went in search of a new place to eat lunch.

Darya said she didn’t think she could walk all the way to Central Park to find a vendor, and asked for any other nearby place, so long as it wasn’t full of racists. Ilme then told her that while she was trapped in occupied Europe with oldest Kalvik sister Oliivia, the Japanese on the West Coast were put in internment camps.

The Kalviks’ radical mother Katrin wrote about twenty essays on the internment, which also happened to a lesser extent with German– and Italian–Americans, and to many Japanese in Canada and Latin America as well. Some of her colleagues went to the camps to report back, but Katrin stayed in New York to wait for any word of Oliivia and Darya.

Dmitriy finds a small diner five blocks down, without any other patrons, and the name Alberighi painted in yellow on the left window.  Figuring an Italian-run diner will be a safe, quiet place, he opens the door and helps Darya inside.

“You don’t talk politics here, do you?” he asks as he eases Darya onto a red plastic seat against the wall. “We just came from a place with some very ugly opinions.”

“No politics here,” the old man behind the counter says. “Just food and polite conversation.”

“I don’t have much of an appetite,” Darya says. “I’ll just nibble an appetizer.”

“Are you sure, Miss?  We have good food here, enough to bring your appetite back.”

I chose the name Alberighi in honor of the protagonist of the first Decameron story I ever heard, which the table of contents summarizes: “Federigo degli Alberighi, who loves but is not loved in return, spends all the money he has in courtship and is left with only a falcon, which, since he has nothing else to give her, he offers to his lady to eat when she visits his home; then she, learning of this, changes her mind, takes him for her husband, and makes him rich.”

The lady’s brothers mock her for wanting her second husband to be this poor man, and she responds, “I would rather marry a man in need of money than money in need of a man.” He manages his money much more wisely after their marriage.

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WeWriWa—Silence leads to bad things

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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 right after last week’s, when Darya Koneva told off a racist soda jerk and showed the number on her arm as evidence of what happens when ugly racial prejudice gets out of control. Being an American Christian didn’t save her.

Darya, the four younger Kalvik sisters, and their godbrother Dmitriy (who’s also Darya’s future brother-in-law) are now trying to find another place to eat. Viivela is the youngest of the sisters.

Darya is shaking as they walk back down the street, and has to be supported by Dmitriy and Ilme.  She can only imagine the full extent of this bombing will be covered deep in the back pages, in tiny stories, just as the reports of Nazi atrocities were.

“I haven’t seen you that gutsy since you came home,” Viivela says. “I’m glad you stood up to that racist bitch.  Bad things happen when too many good people stay silent.  At least this time you won’t be arrested for disagreeing with the party line.”

“Do you want a Central Park vendor, or would you prefer to try another diner and ice-cream parlor?” Dmitriy asks. “I don’t feel the same way about the Japanese as you do, but I don’t think it was right either to throw a bomb on so many women and children.  I’ve never called them Japs or Nips.  I guess you think I’m a coward for never correcting anyone using those words, particularly when one of my girls told me to kill lots of them when I’m in combat.”

Kengo Nikawa’s watch, forever stopped at 8:15 a.m. on 9 August 1945

Dmitriy recently completed the V-12 Navy College Training Program in Berkeley, which his godmother felt would buy him some time away from combat. A few days after this, he’s heading off to the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Cornell for the V-7 program. By the time he completes the program and earns a commission as an ensign, the war is over.

Ilme, the fourth of the five Kalvik sisters, is only a few days older than Dmitriy, and his milk sister. Her mother nursed them together, because Dmitriy’s blood mother wanted nothing to do with raising a baby. Dmitriy considers his godparents his real parents, since they raised him while his mother was busy running her fashion business.

IWSG—Unbearable lack of privacy

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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group convenes the first Wednesday of every month, and lets participants share their worries, insecurities, triumphs, hopes, and fears. This month’s question is:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?

I’m always surprised by the twists and turns my storylines take, even ones I had planned out and memorized backwards and forwards for years. Unexpected romantic matches, characters living instead of dying, things happening differently, new subplots and characters making themselves known.

I also was really surprised at the huge depth of emotion I felt for a character who was killed during the Great Terror in 1937. I’d known for years he’d meet his end that way, but I never expected to cry for him and his impending fate.

He was always an obnoxious pest, but in the end, he redeemed himself as someone with humanity and sympathy, sacrificing himself so his elderly parents, adoptive daughter, baby sister, and niece wouldn’t be arrested and tortured too. I still remember listening to “Careless Memories” as his execution drew nearer.

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I have almost no privacy at home, as if being forced to move back with my parents at age 37 weren’t humiliating enough, setting me back at least a hundred steps in my development as a real adult. The nearest library also doesn’t have carrels, and I HATE having to write out in the open at a table. It’s hard to get comfortable enough to let loose and just write for several hours every day under these circumstances.

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Last month, I also had the total nightmare of losing the master file of The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. I spotted a typo when looking for lines to use in Tuesday’s Twitter writing events (usually themed around a certain word), and when I went to save the file, I was told there wasn’t enough desktop or disk space. I often see this error message when too many tabs are open and the computer’s been on too long.

I declined the offer to make a duplicate of the file, assuming the error message would go away. Then when I tried to close the file, I couldn’t revert the changes either. This time, I was told I didn’t own the file and didn’t have permission to make changes.

I restarted the computer, believing it’d still be there, minus that one change. Instead the file completely disappeared, and didn’t turn up even with several different types of specialized searches. Odd how its folder bears its last modified date.

I do have two versions on my flash drive, but thanks to forgetfulness and my depression, I didn’t save the most recent version in all that time since mid-March. I didn’t lose as much as I’d feared, and I “only” lost an estimated 2,000–5,000 words, but I’m still beyond pissed I lost all that hard work, including research.

Several details of those lost words came back to me in the days afterwards, and I do have some lines from it on my Twitter, if I scrawl back far enough. Very bitter, painful lesson learnt.

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At this rate, I’m not sure I’ll get even the bare minimum of 50K during NaNoWriMo. How can I, with little chances to be completely alone or at least in a private, uninterrupted area? It’s nearly impossible for me to feel comfortable writing when my parents are usually lurking nearby. Might be a psychological reaction to their negative attitudes towards my writing when I was younger, when I began only writing out of the house or when they were gone, hiding the fact that I was still writing.

How do you handle a lack of privacy playing havoc on your writing? When was the last time you lost an important file?

WeWriWa—All citizens of Planet Earth

Warning: Contains a few racial epithets, though this time they’re used to speak against racism. I don’t like writing or reading certain words (the K-word in particular), but sometimes they have to be used for the sake of being true to a certain character or historical era.


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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 right after last week’s, when two of Darya Koneva’s friends expressed some very unpopular opinions about the humanity of the Japanese civilians killed in Hiroshima.

The soda jerk responded with more racist comments, and said all the Japanese needed exterminated before they produced more “vermin.” This strikes a very raw note with Darya, after her experiences in occupied Europe.

“That’s exactly how the Nazis described Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs,” Darya says, her voice shaking. “And by the way, they’re called Japanese, not Japs.  That word is as ugly as nigger, kike, or Papist.  We’re all children of God and citizens of Planet Earth, even if we don’t all look, speak, or believe the same way.”

“You should be arrested and executed for treason,” the soda jerk calls as Dmitriy turns to leave and holds the door open for his dates.

Darya rolls up her left sleeve as the Kalviks are filtering out. “I already have been arrested and tortured for supposed treason.  This is what happens when ugly racial prejudice gets out of control.  My American citizenship and Christian identity didn’t save me.  I suffered alongside many good people whose only crime was to be born Jewish or Gypsy in a land controlled by people convinced of their sub-human status.”

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Darya and her best friend Oliivia, the oldest of the five Kalvik sisters, were supposed to only spend a year abroad at a lycée in Paris, but they were trapped by the Nazi invasion and occupation, and ended up finishing their secondary education in France. Upon graduation, they were accepted to the Sorbonne, but Fate intervened again and kept them away from university degrees.

Darya and Oliivia were arrested for participating in an anti-Nazi protest in October 1942 and taken to the holding camp Drancy. They volunteered for transport to the mythical Pitchipoi as soon as they could, little realizing the journey of horrors that awaited them. Several days after they were deported, one of their friends in the French Resistance came to Drancy to try to secure their release.

More than a few American (and British) citizens ended up in concentration-camps, not just Jewish POWs. Their stories aren’t well-known, in large part because the powers that be were loath to publicly admit they’d failed to rescue their own citizens.

WeWriWa—Unpopular opinions

Warning: Contains racially-offensive but historically accurate language and sentiments. It wouldn’t be realistic if all my WWII-era characters had humane, progressive views towards the Japanese, or stopped at “only” referring to them by racial slurs. Historical writers have to accurately depict another time and place, even if that includes depicting attitudes and language one otherwise condemns.


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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 right after last week’s, when 20-year-old Mireena Kalvik decided to speak up and express sympathy for the civilian casualties in Hiroshima. The soda jerk is horrified by both Mireena’s comments and the follow-up comments from her identical twin Milena.

The soda jerk speaks first, and then Mireena responds.

“What are you, a Jap sympathizer?”

“No, I’m the daughter of a proud Socialist who raised me and my siblings to think for ourselves instead of mindlessly following along with what the media tells us to believe.  The people who died were made in the image of God just like you and I.  Didn’t you see what happened in Europe because of the Nazi belief that some people are sub-human and don’t deserve life?”

“Don’t try to bring up Pearl Harbor,” Milena says. “That was a tragedy, but it was a military base, not a city full of innocent civilians.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“Their civilians are just as monstrous as their soldiers,” the soda jerk sneers. “The women will just breed more monsters, and the children will grow up to become rapists and murderers or breeders of more villains.  They need to all be exterminated before their monstrous race produces even more vermin.”

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This final comment catches Darya’s attention, and finally compels her to speak up.

According to a 1944 opinion poll, 13% of Americans were in favor of exterminating all Japanese. A lot of this prejudice was due to the fact that the Japanese were so much more “other” in comparison to the Germans, who at least had a familiar religion, physical appearance, and Western cultural heritage.

In spite of all this open, matter-of-fact anti-Japanese sentiment, there were rare instances when the enemy was humanized. The 1945 James Cagney film Blood on the Sun treats all the Japanese characters, even the antagonists, as multi-faceted human beings instead of racist caricatures and automatic villains.