From Silt and Ashes

All posts tagged From Silt and Ashes

18 August 2017

Published August 16, 2017 by rochellewisoff

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A little teaser this week from my second novel FROM SILT AND ASHES

Genre: Historical Fiction circa 1904

Word Count: 100

LACK OF VISION

           “I’ve been reading.” Arel peered over his newspaper at seven-month old Rachel in her highchair. “There are places for people like her.”

            “She’s a person.” Havah seized the paper and ripped it in half.

            “In one of those schools she can be with other persons who are…” he lowered his voice, “…blind.”

            Choking on her anger, Havah hobbled to their bedroom where she hauled a suitcase from the closet. After stuffing it with his clothes, she shoved it down the stairs.

            “Havah, listen to reason.”  

           “I will when I hear it. Come back when you decide to be a father!”

 

VOICE OF A SPANISH DANCER – COMING TO MY SENSES

Published April 3, 2017 by rochellewisoff

COMING TO MY SENSES

        There is a scene in my second novel, FROM SILT AND ASHES, where Yussel Gitterman tells his grandchildren that the Almighty is merciful. His fifteen-year-old grandson, who has survived the violence in Eastern Europe, lashes out. “When we light candles for the dead, it will start a bonfire. How can you call that God’s mercy?”

            Yussel, who is blind, answers by pressing his hand over Lev’s eyes. He then challenges the boy to see his surroundings with his ears, nose and skin.

 “Tell me what you hear, Lev.”

“I hear Bayla and Evie’s giggles.”

“Anything else?”

For a moment Lev stood still, bit his lip and cocked his head. “Kreplakh’s (dog) snoring under the sofa. Tikvah’s (infant) bawling.”

“Good, Lev. Now what do you smell?”

“What do I smell?” Lev’s voice scaled up an octave with each word.

“You have a nose?”

“Sure.”

“And it works?”

“All right. All right. I smell…mm…sponge cake and apple pie. Coffee. Aunt Cate’s lavender perfume and Uncle Wolf’s nasty cigar.”

“You see, Lev, not all smells are pleasant. Not all sounds are sweet. But…we are alive. That, my son, is God’s mercy.”

            For the past couple of weeks, the weather in our area has been, to say the least, wet and gloomy. Although the rain is much needed, day after day of grey skies has had me digging holes in my outlook.

            Inspired by my friend, Valerie Davies’ blog https://valeriedavies.com/2017/03/26/simple-pleasures-they-may-not-be-what-you-think/           and thinking about my book’s passage, which is one of my favorites, I’ve decided to take Yussel’s challenge.

            I exercise at least five days a week—sometimes less, sometimes more. More often than not, depending on the weather, I walk to the fitness center, a little over a mile away. This way I am able to do both weight bearing and aerobic exercise.

            To some, swimming laps might seem like the penultimate boredom. Not to this Spanish Dancer. The gurgle and swish of the waves is music. I note the difference in watery tones as I vary my strokes and the way the water billows when I exhale. As I flip-turn like an Olympic swimmer to change directions, I’m weightless, buoyed by the current. Unlike an Olympic swimmer embroiled in a race, I take my time when I somersault and enjoy the patterns the ripples make. As I suspend for a few seconds I note the way the water blossoms overhead.

Spanish Dancer Human

Spanish Dancer Jellyfish

            Once showered and dressed, I’m ready for my mile trek home.

            Spring is upon us and splashes of color are everywhere—bright yellow Daffodils and Dandelions—Redbuds and Dogwoods, stunning against a Payne’s grey sky. I fill my eyes with them.

The scent of charcoal from someone’s fire the night before hangs on the breeze. Exhaust fumes and a hint of cigarette smoke taint the rain and grass scented air. I wrinkle my nose. “Not all smells are pleasant.” As I near home I breathe in the scent of hyacinths from a neighbor’s garden.

            Crossing a bridge I, listen to the voice of the water as it flows over rocks. Although I don’t know one bird’s call from another, I can tell that there are several different species singing their arias. Robins, geese, crows and owls are among the few I recognize. A lawnmower starts up in the distance. A rooster crows. Two dogs bark as I pass their turf. A chainsaw grinds and a rake scrapes the sidewalk. “Not all sounds are sweet.”

            I am happy to be alive.  

 

CHARACTER STUDY – The Gitterman’s Hanukkah Menorah

Published December 11, 2016 by rochellewisoff

In the beginning, I referred to Havah’s trilogy as “The Menorah Saga.” Although the series has gone through numerous revisions over the past twelve years, one thing has remained a constant–Rabbi Yussel’s menorah. Although, it’s an inanimate object this holiday candelabra holds a very special place in the Gitterman family in all three of the novels.

***

menorah-step1

Crafted to look like a tree in the wind, the main stem curved with nine branches arcing in opposite directions. The candle cups sat upon them like majestic crowns. Between seven of the branches and the trunk an opening hosted a pair of doves, positioned breast to breast, and perched on a flower covered vine, spreading their graceful wings. The vine twined around the trunk, ending at the wide base.

Proud of its history, on most occasions Arel was usually more than willing to recount the story. Tonight his tongue turned to dust. “My grandfather…of blessed memory…was a rabbi as was his father before him.” menorah-step-2

“Mine, too.” Havah leaned forward, elbows on the table, and propped her head on her hands.

Did Adam feel this way in the Garden of Eden when he brought the succulent fruit to his hungry lips?

Arel found his voice again, though not without a struggle. “Zaydeh…Papa’s father…an artist. After my grandmother died he made this menorah in her memory. She was very young”

“What did she die of?”

“Christian poison! Tell her Arel.” Yussel’s bony hands curled into fists. “A pogrom. In the street like an animal. Fifty-three years ago. Like yesterday I remember.”

“You must’ve been a boy.”

“Five years old. Her Yosi, her heart, she called me.”

Tears quivered in Havah’s eyes. “You can tell how much he loved her by the verse he chose to engrave on the menorah, ‘Behold, you are lovely. Your eyes are like doves.’ It’s from Song of Songs.”

~~From PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME

***

menorah-step-3

To evade his pleading gaze, she studied the menorah that sat like royalty on decorated oilcloth in the middle of her oak dining table.

Nine candle flames reflected in the silver stems of the candelabra that had survived three generations of Gittermans and a journey across the sea. It had been crafted to resemble a tree with nine branches swaying in the wind. A flowered vine twined around the trunk which was etched with the Hebrew words for “Behold your eyes are like doves.” Just above the trunk, snuggled together like lovers, were two doves.menorah-step-4

At their first meeting—Sabbath dinner with her adoptive family—Arel told her how his grandfather had crafted it in memory of his slain wife when Yussel was only five. While the story fascinated Havah, it was Yussel’s son who fascinated her more. As he recounted the history, his luminescent gray eyes gleamed with enthusiasm and intelligence. Her grief fresh and wounds painful, she found solace in the rise, fall and lilt of his resonant voice.

“Havah? Where are you?”

~~From FROM SILT AND ASHES

***

 

menorah-step-5      Havah stood on tiptoe to put the menorah away. The unique candelabra still fascinated her even as it had the first time she saw it, the night she met Arel.

            Feeling Arel’s hot breath on her neck, she shivered and set the menorah back on the table. He slipped his arms around her waist. She turned in his embrace. “Remember, Arel? It was love at first sight.”

            “I wasn’t such a hideous sight back then.”

            “Miss Tova says Bayla has the prettiest Papa in town.”

            “Havah, do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?”

            “You know what I mean.”

            As he opened his mouth to reply, Lev rushed into the dining room with an armload of books.

            Arel dropped his arms to his sides. “Where have you been?”

            “Didn’t Aunt Havah tell you I’d be late?”

            “She didn’t say you’d be this late.”

            “It’s only eight-thirty.”

“Well?”

            “I went to Vasily’s to study.” Lev set his books on the table. “He’s a year ahead of me so he gave me his old textbooks.”

            “Have you had supper?” asked Havah. “How was school?”

            “School was great and Oxana invited me to eat with them.”

            “Oh dear, you must be starved.”

            “Not to worry, Auntie mine.” Lev playfully pinched Havah’s cheek. “Vasily cooked.”

            “Vasily is younger than you.” Arel thumbed through a book. “Shouldn’t you be ahead of him?”

            Lev’s jaw tensed. “I’ve missed a lot of school.”

            “And you’re proud of this?”

            Lev crimped his lips together.

            Havah’s stomach kinked into a knot. “Arel, listen to him for once.”

            “Damn you, Uncle Arel!” Lev seized the book. “Nothing I do pleases you.”

            In one heart-stopping motion Arel slapped Lev, hitting the menorah. It toppled to the floor and broke in two at Havah’s feet. The ground listed beneath her. The color drained from Arel’s face. Lev held his book to his chest, Arel’s handprint bright on his cheek.

            Yussel dropped to his knees and searched for the menorah with trembling hands until he found it. His shoulders sagged as he pressed the two pieces against his heart. Sitting on the floor, he rocked to and fro. Tears soaked his beard as he chanted, “‘Gahm kee elekh b’gay tzalmavet…yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…’”

“It’s only one branch, Papa.” Havah knelt beside him. “Surely it can be fixed.”

            “Once a limb is severed can the tree be made whole again?”

~~From AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN

 

yussels-menorah-in-frame

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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 The Trilogy is Complete! All books available in print, Kindle and Nook. Look for them at Amazon.com,  Barnesandnoble.com or Argusbooks.com

Represented by Jeanie Loiacono 

Loiacono Literary Agency

What’s a Little Jet Lag?

Published November 21, 2016 by rochellewisoff

Last Wednesday I set forth from Belton, Missouri to Burbank, California with more than one mission. The primary one was to do a live interview on The Writer’s Block Radio Show. Although I could’ve stayed home and phoned the interview in, when I found out how close my son lives to the studio I made travel arrangements. To read my other two blogs leading up to this Click Here and Here

Yes, I do have a purple suitcase. Why do you ask?

Yes, I do have a purple suitcase. Why do you ask?

Thursday night came and with it butterflies in my stomach doing loop-de-loops. My son, Travis drove me to the studio and sat in on the interview. 

latalk-entrance

I felt a little nervous as I sank down in front of the microphone, reminding myself not to say, “Um” or “Er”. However, as soon as we went live, host Jim Christina and his co-host, Russ Avison put me at ease. It seemed more like sitting in someone’s living room having a great conversation than a question and answer interview. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

latalk-warmup

Jim Christina

Jim Christina who took the time to research the pogroms in Eastern Europe.

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Wearing my magic shoes.

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Russ Avison, who read Please Say Kaddish for Me and asked some brilliant questions.

With the interview behind me, I spent the rest of the week getting to know my five-year-old granddaughter, Olive. It happened that her other grandmother Dru was also in town to spend Thanksgiving. I enjoyed visiting with her as well. art-time-with-oliveolive-and-bubster

We stopped in at the Bookstar Barnes & Noble in Studio City so I could sign two copies of PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME and two copies of FROM SILT AND ASHES. 

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Even though we weren't able to arrange a book signing, the manager was nice enough to order in my books and invited me to come in and sign them. (I suppose we could call this a book signing. Right?)

Even though we weren’t able to arrange a book signing, the manager was nice enough to order in my books and invited me to come in and autograph them. (I suppose we could call this a book signing. Right? Of course, right!)

L-R Grandma Dru, Jaimi, Travis with Olive and Bubbie Rochelle

L-R Grandma Dru, Jaimi, Travis with Olive and Bubbie Rochelle

Last but not least, a little artwork from the budding artist. Remember when Grandmothers carried brag books? Today’s Bubbie blogs. 

Poppie the Troll by Miss Olive Fields

Poppie the Troll by Miss Olive Fields

The highest point of the week might have been the moment Olive said, “I love you, Bubster.” 

 

Out of the Zone

Published November 3, 2016 by rochellewisoff

I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to draw. So much so, that my mother’s most common laments included those of never being able to find a clean sheet of paper to write on.

I’ve  always enjoyed drawing people; figure studies, hands, feet and faces. When my agent, Jeanie Loiacono, suggested posting character studies to generate interest in my novels I jumped on the idea and added portraits hoping to heighten that interest. 

Shortly after FROM SILT AND ASHES debuted, my publisher asked if I might consider putting these character studies into a coffee table companion book. Would I? After letting out a whoop and breaking into a happy dance at my computer, I calmly answered, “Oh yes!!!”

Framed Arel in Svechka

Arel Gitterman as he appears in PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Framed Havah at 16

Havah Cohen as she appears in PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

While imagining and rendering my character’s faces comes easily, buildings and landscapes do not. I sweated bullets on the painting of the Richelieu Steps that lead from the harbor in Odessa Ukraine. 

FSAA Front Cover

Published by W & B Publishers Represented by Jeanie Loiacono

It occurred to me that A STONE FOR THE JOURNEY, the companion book to Havah’s trilogy needs to include scenes from the novels. Once more I’ve taken a giant leap from my comfort zone.

As with writing, painting is a process. I usually share this process with my friend Jean Hays in New Mexico who is also an artist. As my co-authors offer me suggestions and critique on my writing, Jean does the same with my artwork. Because I was quite nervous with this next piece, I texted her photos each step of the way. 

The subject,  which appears in AS ONE MUST, ONE CAN, is the Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain in Vienna.  The prospect of trying to paint water was a challenge. 

hochstrahlbrunnen-step-1

Step One – The Rough Draft

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Step Two – Laying in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three

Step Three

Step Four

Step Four

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Five

Step Five

Step Six and Seven

Steps Six and Seven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A full day’s work later, the finished work.  

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Character Study – Judge William H. Wallace

Published August 12, 2016 by rochellewisoff
Judge William H. Wallace Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Judge William H. Wallace
Original Artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

  With his elbow on the counter, he [Arel] rested his chin on his hand which he used to cover his left cheek. He waved his other hand over an official looking sheet of paper in front of him.

            “What’s that?” Havah asked.

            “It’s an indictment from His Honor Judge Wallace. I could go to prison.”

            “What crime did you commit?”

            “I’ve opened my shop on Sunday instead of Saturday.”

            “And this is a crime?”

            “According to him and his Sunday labor law, we’re required to observe the Christian Sabbath or pay a penalty. We may open our shops but if we sell anything we are in violation.”

            “I don’t understand this man. Ulrich and Dr. Florin call themselves Christians and even go to church on Sunday. They are kind and gentle—nothing like that judge.”

            A lump formed in the pit of Havah’s stomach. “Arel, you don’t suppose…” She envisioned the police smashing the window. They beat Arel with their clubs while he pled for mercy. Next they came after Rachel. 

            Havah shook off her grisly daydream and remembered her chance meeting with President Roosevelt at Ellis Island. Imagine—the ruler of the United States taking the time so speak with a Jewish peasant girl from Moldavia. Such a man would never allow another Kishinev or Odessa to happen in his great country.

            She took the indictment in her hand and crumpled it in her fist. “Every ass likes to hear himself bray.”

Taken from As One Must, One Can (2016)

COMING SOON!

Published by Argus Publishing

Represented by Loiacono Literary Agency

***

            In this last book of the trilogy, Havah finds a formidable nemesis in Judge William H. Wallace who was described by the Kansas City newspapers as a crusader for the Sunday Blue Law. During his tenure as criminal court judge, he handed out over a reported 7,000 indictments. At odd times his deputies arrested cigar dealers, druggists and even music conductors in the midst of performances if they fell on Sunday. No one was exempt. 

            One article quotes him as referring to the Jews as evil for their observance of Sunday on Saturday. It was only natural for Havah to fear a pogrom in her new country. She had experienced Antisemitism at its worst and recognized the signs.      

***  

    This article, as written below, appeared in The Kansas City Journal, October 3, 1908

NOW HE TARGETS THE JEWS.

Judge Wallace Says Jews Must Keep

Their Stores Closed on Sunday.

Not only is Judge Wallace going after the theater managers, pool hall proprietors, barber and tobacco dealers, but from now on his righteous wrath is to be visited upon the wicked citizens of Jewish extraction who keep their second hand clothing stores open on Sunday.
According to his special prosecutor it makes no difference to Judge Wallace that the religious belief of these dealers does cause them to observe Saturday as the Sabbath and that their places of business are tightly closed that day — they will be prosecuted just as vigorously if they open on Sunday.
When the Wallace Sunday closing crusade was started a statement was authorized by the court to the effect that provided the Jews of the city observed Saturday as Sunday they would be exempt from prosecution, but it is now stated that there has been a misconception as to this statement. Why the misconception has not been corrected before does not yet appear.
“Under the law,” said the court’s spokesman, “if the Jews observe Saturday as Sunday they are exempt from prosecution so far as labor is concerned, that is, they may work on Sunday; but this exemption does not allow them to sell goods and they are to be prosecuted if they do. Already two indictments for this offense have been found by the grand jury and the offenders will appear in court the first of next week.”
Therefore, if the Jew merchants of the city are so disposed, they may keep their stores open on Sunday, but if they sell anything the heavy hand of the law will be laid upon them.
The explanation of the law as interpreted by Judge Wallace in this matter does not include a clear view of the fine distinction between what is called “work” and selling second-hand clothes.
That this new interpretation of the law will work a distinct hardship on the Jew dealer whose religious scruples will not allow him to do business on Saturday goes without saying for it effectually shuts him off from selling his goods on two days out of seven.
“I think the Sunday law will be pretty generally observed tomorrow,” said the special prosecutor. “In fact, I think 98 per cent of the places which have heretofore been in the habit of doing business on Sunday will be found closed. The grand jury will proceed with its work Monday morning, at which time the rest of the theater managers whom we did not have time to arraign this week will be brought into court.

***

FSAA Cover

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The Sequel to

PSK Cover

 

Amazon  Angus & Robertson  B&N  BAM  BookWorld  FishPond  Shelfari  The Book Depository  Waterstones  GoodReads  iDreamBooks  HPB Hudson Book Sellers   IndieBound  Powell’s Books

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Check out my author page on the Loiacono Website.  For all of the character studies thus far, click on the link Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Art and Blogs or my website RochelleWordArt

Note: If you’ve read and enjoyed either or both of my books, please leave a review on Amazon.com and any of the other sites. I ask for Amazon primarily because of the scope of influence. Thank you.

Shalom,

Rochelle

Once Upon A Time

Published August 4, 2016 by rochellewisoff

Twelve years ago I began a journey. I really had no idea where it would lead, I simply put one foot in front of the other and wrote. PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME began as an exploration of my own Eastern European background and Polish roots. I quickly detoured and ended up in Kishinev, Moldova, the scene of the first internationally recognized pogrom.  This is where I met Havah who took my hand and told me her story. 

When our journey began, I had a dream and rudimentary knowledge of how to put my thoughts into words. Along the pathway I had the good fortune of meeting those who guided me to workshops, conferences and critique groups to learn the craft.

When I think of those who wrote their manuscripts in longhand or on a typewriter, I’m grateful for the such wonderful tools as backspace and copy and paste. Without which my novels might never have happened.  

PART I - LIFE AFTER DEATH

Havah Cohen Gitterman at her writing desk. Original artwork © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

My paternal grandmother, Miriam Reuben Wisoff

My paternal grandmother, Miriam Reuben Wisoff who was a published poet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder of wonders, the dream that I considered a lofty one has been realized and I have two novels in print and one on the way. Many thanks go out to my agent, Jeanie Loiaconao who believed in Havah and worked hard to find a home for her at Argus Books. 

So begins the next leg of the journey. Marketing. Book Signings, interviews and social media are all part of the modern world of marketing. The author must become the promoter. 

Author InterviewBN Event Poster

Having said all that, I come to conclusion of this blog post. One thing that sells a book is a great review. Goodreads, Barnes and Noble and Amazon are good places. Currently PLEASE SAY KADDISH has 48 reviews on Amazon and FROM SILT AND ASHES, 9. 

 

If you’ve read and enjoyed (naturally I hope for positive reviews) please consider taking a few minutes to leave a review. This author humbly thanks you in advance. 

Note: For overseas friends, please copy your comments into Amazon.com in addition to leaving them on the UK or other sites. I’m not sure why this doesn’t carry over. I think it should. 

COMING SOON!

COMING SOON!

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