A panoply of Halloween costumes

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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. Since it’s October, I’m showcasing Halloween snippets.

This comes from the fourth section of Chapter 83, “Halloween Happiness,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It takes place over Halloween 1950. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Igor met up with his girlfriend Violetta outside the apartment (above a restaurant) hosting their Halloween party.

Igor and Violetta were so wrapped up in sweet-talking one another, kissing, and cuddling, they didn’t notice their friends had all gone inside, and only came back to their surroundings when the cold hit them.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines.

Luiza is an aviator, in a body-hugging leather jacket and pants she would’ve had to hide from her parents if she still lived at home. Maja is a Harlequin clown, while Zhdana, Zoya, and Susanna are barely dressed, as a sailor girl, nurse, and Little Red Riding Hood in extremely short skirts and low-cut, short-sleeved blouses. Once again, Ilya and Milada have matching costumes, genuine Edwardian outfits Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn let them borrow. Aelita has costumed herself like her namesake, Tomik is a lion tamer with a real whip, Vilorik is a Vampyre, and Nikita is a Pharaoh. Andrey is the most old-fashioned one there, in an 1890s golfing outfit.

“I bet I know what you were doing out there so long,” Tomik smirks.

“We were just talking,” Igor says. “Just because you have poor morals doesn’t mean everyone does.”

“I’ve only slept with five women, and seriously dated maybe five more.” Tomik cracks his whip on the floor.

Still from 1924 Soviet film Aelita, Queen of Mars, based on Aleksey Tolstoy’s 1923 novel of the same name

WeWriWa—Violetta’s Medieval costume

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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. Since it’s October, I’m showcasing Halloween snippets.

This comes from the start of the fourth section of Chapter 83, “Halloween Happiness,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It takes place over Halloween 1950. By this point in the story, Igor Konev and Violetta Likachëva have been going out for almost ten months, though their relationship has been very slow-moving due to Violetta’s fears of getting too close to Igor and being unable to break up without heartbreak.

In the third book, Violetta caught polio, and is now keeping it secret from all her new friends. She believes Igor won’t want her anymore if he finds out about this, and also insists on sleeping in an iron lung every night even though there’s no medical need anymore.

This has been slightly modified to fit ten lines.

Igor almost trips over the chalkboard in front of Vsevolod’s restaurant in the gathering darkness when he sees Violetta approaching from the other direction with Maja, Zoya, Luiza, and Zhdana. Ilya grabs his arm and yanks him back up.

“Your costume this year is so different,” Igor breathes. “Your other costumes were great too, but this one makes you look so beautiful.”

Violetta is dressed in a ground-sweeping purple velvet Medieval gown, with gold laces on the bodice tightly hugging her bustline, and gold trimming along the sides. Her sleeves billow out from the elbows, golden combs with three rubies each festoon either side of her long, nearly-black, wavy hair, and an amethyst necklace is nestled against her cleavage.

“I’m glad you like it.” Violetta runs her hand through her hair, and Igor desperately wishes that were his hand. “The popular image of Medieval women’s hair is incorrect, but I like my hair too much to wear it up and cover it. Unmarried maidens also had long, loose hair.”

IWSG—A miraculous relief and future writing plans

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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and lets us share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears.

I found out at the beginning of September that mice got into my storage locker 900 miles away and ate some of the Easter candy in there. From that point on, I became consumed with worry about the fate of my irreplaceable notebooks, my journals from 1989–2008 (most of them in a big black computer bag) and at least 95% of the first draft of my still uncompleted 12-volume magnum opus Cinnimin (from October 1993–September 2010).

For the first week, I could barely sleep, and even began dreaming about my precious notebooks. I saw them in boxes in the storage locker, untouched, but in my waking life, I had visions of them chewed up by mice, decades of dedicated work destroyed, never to be replicated.

Finally, on Monday, my little brother got back to me after I followed up my initial text with well-chosen words to light a fire under him without making it seem like I expect him to be at my beck and call. Baruch Hashem (Thank God), he found both boxes of notebooks and the computer case.

I’ll feel a lot better when they’re back in my physical custody, but for now, it’s enough to know they’re safe.

Part IV of Cinnimin, written autumn 1993

For many years, I’ve been very aware of the fact that Cinnimin needs a lot of work when it’s finally transcribed, esp. the parts I wrote as a teenager. Even as a teen, from age fifteen on, I knew I’d significantly flesh a lot of things out when I had the luxury of a computer file which could be of any length and wasn’t confined by the parameters of a notebook. I deliberately underwrote many things.

Sagas I and II (the Forties and Fifties) need the most radical rewriting, and Sagas III and IV (the Sixties and Seventies) need a fair amount of work too. By the time I got to Saga V, I was an adult, and had developed into a more mature, stronger writer.

I’m also once again having nagging feelings about making my original generation of Atlantic City characters two years older. They’ve always deliberately been written as looking and acting older than they really are, as part of the satire, over the top humor, and je ne sais quoi of WTCOAC (We the Children of Atlantic City, a quasi-religion and secret society sort of like the Masons).

When I resurrected my long-shelved Anne Terrick in 2017, I moved her starting age from ten to almost thirteen, and don’t regret it. If I did the same for my Atlantic City characters, some things would have to be tweaked, but I don’t think the overall stories would suffer if, e.g., they’re in seventh instead of fifth grade when Pearl Harbor is bombed, or seventeen instead of fifteen when the war ends.

Toning down the content even further would destroy the satirical element, but keeping their ages might turn off a lot of people. E.g., Kit’s extremely precocious sexual début and her long list of lovers are a major part of her character, but if she starts at twelve instead of ten, the shock value is retained without coming off as creepy.

My yearly October spotlight on classic horror films kicks off on Friday with Georges Méliès as always. This year will also feature a few D.W. Griffith films, the 1919 German film Unheimliche Geschichten, a couple of lost films, German Expressionist films Waxworks and The Hands of Orlac, the 1939 remakes of The Cat and the Canary and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Hound of the Baskervilles (also 1939). The series will wrap up with Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

I also hope to finally finish A Dream Deferred in time for NaNo. I decided to move the subplots about Katya and Dmitriy’s friends Marusya and Sima all the way into the future sixth book, when they buy cheap, abandoned, side-by-side Victorian houses in Haight-Ashbury.

If all goes well, I’ll start the fifth book, From a Nightmare to a Dream: Out of Stalin’s Shadow, next month. I’m looking forward to outlining it.

WeWriWa—Irina’s cigarette girl costume

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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 year, I’m starting my Halloween snippets early, since it’s so close to October.

This comes from the start of the second section of Chapter 83, “Halloween Happiness,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It takes place over Halloween 1950. Irina, Lyuba and Ivan’s seventh child, just turned seventeen, and has a very individual fashion sense. She dreams of attending the Parsons School in New York to become a fashion designer. Her Halloween costumes are just as unique as her regular wardrobe.

Irina wakes an hour earlier than usual on Halloween and pulls a tray on a strap out of her closet. When she saw that at Andrey’s belovèd antiques store several weeks ago, she knew she had to be a cigarette girl this year. Irina fills it with candy cigarettes, bubblegum, jellybeans, gumdrops, nonpareils, chocolate-covered peanuts, chewing gum, cheap costume jewelry, yo-yos, and a pack of Gauloises.

She sets the tray on the bed and slips into the dress she designed herself, a red dress with black accent lace, barely meeting the fingertip rule, with a halterneck, hugging her body in all the right places. Irina complements it with red fishnets, red gloves with black sequined swirls, and red peep-toe wedge heels. She covers her bobbed hair with a red pillbox hat with black accents.

For jewelry, she puts golden bangle bracelets on each arm, and fastens a red pearl choker and a gold chain with an onyx rose pendant around her neck. Irina takes out her earrings and replaces them with red pearls in her third piercings, black pearls in her second, and heavy golden coils in her first. That finished, she puts on dark red lipstick, black mascara, teal eyeliner, and dark blue eyeshadow. Since her hands are covered by gloves, there’s no need to change her nailpolish.

Naina and Katya Arrive in America

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This was originally one of a batch of twenty posts I put together on 24 June 2012 for future installments of the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. It differs slightly from the published version, such as in the pedantic use of accent marks and the name of Katrin’s husband. His name is now Sandro, not Sandros.

***

So begins Chapter 29 of The Twelfth Time, “Naina and Katya in North America,” and the linking-up of their story with the story arc of the main characters. Katrin’s husband Sandros, an Ellis Island worker, notices the girls as they’re unboarding, and is moved to helping them remain in the country by sponsoring them.

***

Sándros watches the people unboarding a ship from Varna, Bulgaria on Thursday, June 16. He knows how lucky these people are to be allowed entry to the United States, given the racist quotas limiting Eastern European immigration. At first he wondered why some of the people unboarding look more like tourists than immigrants, and was told by one of his superiors that the passengers include a young dance troupe who’ll be performing in the city and several other locales. At least the dancers will be easier to process than the people who are coming to stay, he thinks as his eyes are drawn to two young ladies who seem a bit out of place in the crowd.

“Do you speak Russian?” the younger one asks nervously.

“It’s my native language, though I’m actually Estonian. But aren’t you young ladies Bulgarian? Are you some of the White Russians who escaped to Bulgaria and are only now coming to the United States?”

“We’re coming from the Ukraine,” the older one says. “I was born there, though I’m an ethnic Russian. Both of us were living in Russia till sometime in late 1919, when we were shipped to an orphanage in Belarus and then to an orphanage in the Ukraine, where we remained till last January. We went to Bulgaria this April, on the pretense of taking a cruise, and were met by a man who put us up in a hotel until this ship was due to take off. We’re not really in the dance troupe. Our good man who arranged to put us on the ship to Bulgaria said we could declare political asylum once we got here.”

“We’re not going to be sent back, are we? My younger cousin disappeared on the train taking us from the orphanage to Cherkasi last January, and I hate to imagine what her fate might be if she’s still alive and well. For all I know she’s being taught we’re enemies of the people for wanting to get out of there. I was already concerned at how the orphanage teachers got her to adopt a quasi-worshipful attitude towards Lénin.”

“Do you girls have a place to stay, jobs, or any money?” Sándros asks. “I’m sure they’ll grant you political asylum, since this country hates the Soviet Union and Socialism in general, but customs have been known to send people back if they can’t produce any proof of waiting work, a place to stay, or people sponsoring them. For the last three years, the only people coming through here are war refugees and displaced people. The peak immigration days are over. In fact, this serves as more of a detention and deportation center than immigration station now.”

“But that’s not fair!” the older girl protests. “This is supposed to be the richest and best country in the world! Why are they turning away deserving people who’ve been through a lot to get here?”

“In 1924, a racist immigration act was passed, severely limiting immigrants from places that make the establishment uncomfortable. That includes Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as Asia. There’s a lot of hostility towards foreigners in this country, sadly, particularly if you’re not from Western Europe. Do you have anybody you know who’d come to get you?”

“I have a feeling my aunt is alive and escaped Russia,” the younger one says. “Though I have no idea where she is, or if she came to Canada instead of the United States. I did hear some things about how Canada was more welcoming to immigrants these days.”

Sándros looks around as the arrivals continue entering the building. “I may be Estonian, but I have connections to the Russian immigrant community because my wife is friends with a lot of Russians. She lived in Russia from April of 1917 to February 1921 and came here with a number of her Russian friends. We also know some Russians who settled in Toronto, Canada. One of our friends might be able to find some information for you. In the meantime, I’ll offer myself as your sponsor. When they ask you who’s sponsoring you or where you’re going to stay, you provide my name and address.” He writes it down on a notepad and rips the sheet out. “What are your names, by the way?”

“I’m Kátya Chernomyrdina and I’m nineteen, and that’s my best friend Naína Yezhova. She’s fifteen. Her aunt and my mother were best friends too. That’s how we met each other when we were tiny.” Kátya looks at the information he’s written down in Cyrillic. “Your name doesn’t look very Russian or Estonian to me.”

“Well, my surname had to come from somewhere, and not all Russians or Russified Balts have names reflecting that. I think my parents were trying to give me a Greek-sounding name, since we’re Eastern Orthodox. Anyway, I’ll come to get you either later today or tomorrow morning. My wife and I have to go to a wedding on Saturday, so you can get settled into our penthouse while we’re gone. My wife has a lot of money, and every summer she finances a trip for us and our friends to Coney Island and Long Island. There are a lot of other Russians in the hotel we stay at on Coney Island, and there are also a fair number of Russians at the place we stay at on Long Island.

“Would you like to come as our guests? It doesn’t sound like you really had a childhood, and it might be nice to enjoy amusement parks and beaches instead of spending your first months here worrying about making a living, finding housing, or tracking down friends and relatives. We can put you in a room adjoining one of our hotel rooms on Coney Island, and then let you have one of the floors of the house we rent on Long Island. There are five stories, and one of them has been free for the last couple of years. My wife’s friends had a falling-out with two women who were staying with us that first year.”

“You’re an angel!” Naína says. “What a nice way to come to North America!”