WeWriWa—Unwrapping presents together

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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, my Chanukah- and Christmas-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s snippet comes a few pages after last week’s, as the Smalls (originally the Brandts) and their sponsors/hosts the Filliards sat down for a dinner jointly celebrating the eighth night of Chanukah and Christmas Eve, which fell on the same night in 1938. Now they’re going to unwrap some of their presents together.

Artwork by Yelena Flerova

After the table had been cleared, everyone went into the living room to unwrap presents. The Filliards had wrapped the Smalls’ gifts in innocuous, secular paper, without any Christmas symbols, not even snowflakes. Both the paper and ribbons were solid green, red, and blue. The gift tags likewise were devoid of any hint of Christmas, and could’ve easily been affixed to gifts for any occasion.

Cinni watched expectantly as the Smalls opened her gifts. She’d gotten a small, no-frills compact mirror for Mrs. Small; a tin of shoe polish for Mr. Small; a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle for Gary; a book of Heinrich Heine poetry in German for Barry; and pearl hairpins in the shape of hearts for Sparky. Barry’s earlier Chanukah present had been a dark blue and white plaid beret, so he’d have a more stylish, modern way to cover his head. Though Cinni had itched to put a more personal inscription in the book, she didn’t want Barry to suspect her true feelings. Instead she’d settled for “Dec. 24, 1938, to Barry from Cinnimin. Happy Chanukah.”

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IWSG—December odds and sods

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The last Insecure Writer’s Support Group meeting of 2018 is today. The IWSG virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and gives participants a chance to share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears.

I won my fifth official NaNo (eighth counting books I began in November and retroactively added, with honest wordcounts). As an overachiever, I always feel I could’ve done better, but I’m thrilled to finally have a six-figure wordcount in a NaNo month. This is much more representative of what I know I’m capable of, a far cry from the 65K embarrassment of 2016.

I officially listed my project as Volume II of A Dream Deferred, though I wasn’t quite done with Volume I when November began. The wordcount also includes the story I wrote for IWSG (which had 1,200 words taken out to keep it within the 6,000 upper limit, then had the space for 900 new words to be added in), as well as about a dozen blog posts and the journal entry I wrote for George Harrison’s 17th Jahrzeit (death anniversary).

Most of it ultimately came from Volume II of A Dream Deferred, however.

Part I ended up with 55 chapters and 484K. So far, Part II is at 99K. I fully recognize some of what I added during NaNo is space-filling garbage, clunky wording, etc. I immediately excised some of it after C&Ping it into my master file for my 2018 NaNo wordcount, but I left most to deal with during future edits.

I still do expect Part II will be somewhat shorter than Part I. I also finally settled on titles. Part I is Bright Light, and Part II is Black Rain. All the paired titles I had in mind related to the atomic bomb. This pair seemed the most like story titles, as opposed to, e.g., Hypocenter and Epicenter.

These are the Wordles for the first draft of Part I, and Part II so far:

To make sure I had November free for NaNo, I finished my final edits of the front and back matter of Journey Through a Dark Forest in October, tailored for each of the four volumes. As soon as NaNo ended, I set them up for pre-release and wrote summaries for each (expanding where needed from the ones on its info page under About My Russian Novels).

The covers are close to what I’d always envisioned, forests bathed in darkness, shadows, a sense of foreboding.

                               

                               

I had the unfortunate experience recently of getting an offer for a guest post for someone who turned out to be a member of the Woke Stasi. She no-platformed me after discovering I haven’t swilled down the Kool-Aid like she has.

I never heard back from her after trying to open a dialogue with these few talking points, proving yet again these people don’t want dialogue. They only want to scream their POV as loudly as possible until everyone capitulates or thanks Big Brother for stopping the beatings. Or perhaps she didn’t know how to respond with anything but cult-like catchphrases.

I wouldn’t have wanted to guest blog for anyone who demands ideological purity and 100% political agreement anyway, or who thinks valid criticism, honest questions, and different opinions are hatred, bigotry, literal violence, and opposition to basic human rights.

Has anyone ever no-platformed you from a guest post? How would you react if something like that happened? Did you do NaNo? What was this year’s experience like?

WeWriWa—A joint holiday celebration

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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, my Chanukah- and Christmas-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

There have been a lot of religious conflicts during December 1938, as young immigrant Sparky (real name Katherine) and her family are inundated with symbolism of a holiday they don’t celebrate, and a variety of responses to their refusal to adopt Christmas as a secular holiday “everyone” celebrates. However, Sparky’s family has agreed to come together with their hosts the Filliards for a joint celebration of the eighth night of Chanukah and Christmas Eve.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit 10 lines.

Painting by Yelena Flerova

The Smalls had brought schnitzel, Kartoffelpuffer, chicken soup, brisket, candied carrots, bolussen, applesauce, and, best of all, plenty of Berliner Pfannkuchen, while on the Filliards’ side of the table sat roasted goose with stuffing; dried fruit compote; mushroom soup; gołąbki; pierogi stuffed with chopped mushrooms and mashed potatoes; kotlety; stuffed mushrooms; mazurek stuffed with dried almonds, chocolate, and apricot jam; chocolate sernik; zefiry; and several heaping platters of cookies. There’d be more than enough for everyone.

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” Mrs. Filliard said as she cut into a gołąbek. “You’ve been generous to share your food, and oughta taste some of ours in return.”

“Perhaps next year, we can cook by your recipes in our kitchen,” Mrs. Small said.

“It’s ‘with,’ not ‘by,’” Gary gently corrected her. “You’re making the mistake of directly translating a German expression into English. Sometimes being too literal results in improper English.”

“My mother and I made that mistake too, when we were learning English,” Mr. Filliard said. “That expression translates from Russian the same way it does from German, and it took a long time for me to realize I wasn’t being grammatically correct.”

Kartoffelpuffer are German latkes; bolussen are Dutch sweet rolls; Berliner Pfannkuchen are jelly doughnuts. Among the traditional Polish and Russian Christmas foods, gołąbki are cabbage leaves wrapped around a savory filling (usually including meat); kotlety are small, pan-fried meatballs; mazurek is a sweet, flat cake; sernik is cheesecake made with quark; and zefiry are similar to meringues.

WeWriWa—Thanksgiving shopping

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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, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s snippet comes a number of pages after last week’s. It’s now two days before Thanksgiving, and Sparky (real name Katherine), her mother, her oldest brother Gary (born Friedrich), her best friend Cinnimin, and Cinnimin’s older brother M.J. are buying food for the Smalls’ half of the joint household’s feast.

In 1938, Atlantic City had a large Jewish community, with many kosher groceries, bakeries, and candy shops.

Cinni rang the bell when Mrs. Small pointed out the approaching kosher grocery.  Though A&P had plenty of fruits and vegetables which were kosher by default, the Smalls typically bought their canned goods and bulk foods from kosher groceries.  Not everything at A&P could be trusted.

Inside the store, Cinni excitedly pointed out everything Mrs. Small needed to buy.  Since this wasn’t a fun food store like a bakery, Cinni didn’t linger over the culinary riches on display.  Within thirty minutes, they’d brought their bounty up to the counter and been rung up for $1.70.  The celery and cornbread were in the basket Gary carried, while Mrs. Small carried the baskets with yams and cranberries and Cinni held the pumpkin.

Their next stop was a candy store five blocks down.  Cinni eagerly ran inside and made a beeline for the bins and barrels of bulk candies and other sweets.  The richness of the choices overwhelmed her—chocolate-covered peanuts, rock candy, peppermints, salt water taffy, toffee, jellybeans, gumdrops, nougats, lollipops, nonpareils, peanut brittle, peppermint bark, fruit-flavored hard candies, chocolates of all kinds, fruit-flavored licorice, candybars, fudge, candied fruit slices, halvah, Jordan almonds, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, flavored stick candies, and marshmallows.

WeWriWa—Surveying the pantry

Happy 90th birthday to Mickey Mouse!

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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, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s snippet comes some pages after last week’s. Sparky (real name Katherine) and her best friend Cinnimin have come home from school, and introduced Sparky’s mother to the concept of Thanksgiving. The girls begged her to make kosher Thanksgiving foods, so their families can celebrate together, each with their own foods on the table.

Mrs. Small isn’t entirely sold on the idea, since the money to pay for this food has to come from somewhere, and her family needs to save money for more important things. Regardless, she’s given the girls permission to go into her kitchen to check for holiday-appropriate food.

The girls went into the Smalls’ kitchen, and Sparky pointed out where everything was.  They discovered carrots, potatoes, onions, flour, sugar, salt, mushrooms, walnuts, apples, dried fruits, non-dairy baking chocolate, green beans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and eggs, all of which could be used to prepare traditional Thanksgiving foods.  Cinni set out the non-perishables on the counter the Smalls used for their parev foods, so they’d be reminded of what they needed to use.  She also left a note about needing to use the eggs and mushrooms.

“Your mom won’t need to buy too much,” Cinni declared as she surveyed the gastronomic loot. “Only cornbread, pumpkin, bread for making breadcrumbs, celery to add to the stuffing, cranberries, yams, marshmallows, and turkey.  You can make gravy outta the turkey drippings, and thicken it up with flour.  My mom can lend you her recipes for stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and candied yams.”

“I can’t eat marshmallows,” Sparky objected. “They’re made with gelatin, and that comes from pig bones.”