Monday, August 11, 2008

Birthday Snippets!

Long time no see! It's been ages since I updated this blog last! But in this case at least, my silence here equals a great deal of productivity. In the last few weeks, I've upped the word count on the 2nd draft of Hidden Underground from 20,000 to 50,000, which means I'm now half finished. Hurrah! That's a good deal toward my goal of completing this stage before Christmas.

I finally made the changes to the MCs' names that I've had in mind for a while. Heidi is now Hania, a Polish Catholic name instead of a secular Germanic name that wouldn't have been likely in that time. Tirzah's name has now dropped the "h" to fit the more common Slavic-influenced spelling.

Since it's my birthday today (blazing hot day at 120 degrees Fahrenheit!) I thought I'd have some fun by indulging in a couple of excerpts here, randomly selected from that brand new 30k. Here goes! Be sure and tell me what you think. ;)

The following bit is set in late December 1942. Hania's father and his best friend, the local Polish Underground leader Andrej Malov, are discussing their resistance work while waiting for a friend to arrive.

Excerpt #1 from Hidden Underground
copyright 2008, J Rose D.

At the sharp knock on the door, the men tore pages off on their writing pads. Pan Andrej dropped them into the stove. Mama peeked through the curtains and laughed shakily.

“It’s only Pan Pietre.” She unlocked the door for him. “You can keep the rest of your writing pads.”

Pan Barewski stepped in, wrapped in a close scarf and the good woolen coat and sprinkled with loose snow. “I thought I’d never get here.”

“So did we.” Pan Andrej scribbled on his pad without even a pause.

Mama steadied her trembling hands. “This only proves what I’ve been saying about the need for a code knock.” In the silence, the men looked from her to each other and nodded, but nothing more was said.

“My bike broke down on the way from Krakow.” Pan Barewski blew on his hands and held them by the stove. His dusty knickerbockers had a new shred at the left cuff.

Pan Andrej looked up briefly. “This is about the fifth time, isn’t it?”

“More like the eighth.” Pan Barewski smiled wryly and everyone else chuckled. “This time I hit a tree. The pedals are pretty much out. I had to tie the wheel back on.”

He seated himself on the other side of the table with last week’s edition of The Mountain Call, keeping a respectful distance from Papa and Pan Andrej’s low conversation. Hania fought an inner battle with her curiosity—obviously whatever they were saying wasn’t meant for her ears.

Kotka brushed against her legs, and she picked him up, heavy-hearted. Pani Barewska’s cousin had died in childbirth with a fever like Pani Judyta’s. And then there was Pani Shmiel. That can’t happen, not to Tirza’s mother. She’d never be able to trust God the same way again.

Low thumping under the table drew her out of her thoughts. The cat struggled loose from her arms to investigate. Pan Barewski’s gaze was serious, directed on the newspaper as before, but it had to be him. The knocks took on an ever-changing, rhythmic pattern.

Pan Andrej glanced at him every so often with mild irritation. Finally, he turned to Pan Barewski mid-sentence. “What in God's name are you banging around for?”

“This would be just right.” Pan Barewski rapped on the tabletop this time—one knock, then sets of three and two.

Pan Andrej repeated the knocks with a concentrated stare. “Perfect. But change the rhythm slightly, to make it more clear—like this.” And that was the code knock.

The second snippet comes soon afterward. Hania's been sent on a secretive errand to pick up an Underground worker who's going into hiding.

Excerpt #2 from Hidden Underground
copyright 2008, J Rose D.

The Kawiarna Nowicki was the ancient-looking cafĂ© across the street from Gestapo headquarters. The Underground often used it for exchanging information—Papa said it was safer because it was so obvious. But maybe it was just that the location made everyone so scared that their brains cleared of any dangerous information.

One way or another, Hania shivered involuntarily as she opened the door to go inside. The bright travel posters that still covered the window, advertising vacations to Bavaria and Italy, were like a cruel joke against the backdrop of the hordes of soldiers and plainclothes Gestapo lounging at the counters.

Seven fifteen. She was more than two hours late.

Smoke and a strong beer odor mixed with the butterflies in her stomach and made her sick. The sloped chairs and round tables with zany red and yellow cloths were crowded with New Year’s Eve revelers—the ones who still had money and the ones who pretended they did for a cover.

She strained her eyes to scan the room, and suddenly, amidst a crowd of women, she knew it was her. The girl sat by the window, reading primly from a dog-eared book. Her loose hair sparkled in the deep pink tint of the last sunlight.

Hania wound her way to the back with her gaze fixed on the white tile. By now she’d had practice avoiding attention, but it was still hard to keep from glancing around nervously for spies. As she approached, the girl closed her book.

“How’s my cousin?” Hania blurted the password question. And then, like always, the anxious eternity of waiting started. What if she’d gotten the wrong person? How would she explain?

“Jana? She got married last week, in Lodz.” The girl’s response was so casual it felt real. She picked up a purse, stuffed and shredded at the seams, and followed Hania out without another word.

On the gray curb outside, she let out a nervous laugh. “I’m glad they sent you. For some reason, I worried the whole time that it would be some young man who’d do something stupid to try and get my attention.” She put out her hand, a cool, slender one. “I’m Franciszka.”


Lottery Girl said...

Hey Rose!

Wishing you an extremely belated birthday! Also WAY TO GO on getting so many words written. You go girl!

GREAT snips!

Rose D. said...

Thanks, Stephanie! And thanks for the birthday wishes! :)

It feels so awesome to be gliding so close to the end of the second draft, but those last 30-40K seem daunting still.