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The Happiness Cipher- New serial in Binah by Etka G!
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sbs




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Sep 10 2019, 3:38 pm
I'm confused what James tells Leo that makes him even angrier,
it seems that harry told him everything when he was drunk that night?
what else was there to reveal?
or was it just the other way around that Leo tells James about Beile/Birdie to blackmail Harry?
getting confused here...
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Miri1




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Sep 10 2019, 4:00 pm
cbsp wrote:
Did Issy's voice /tone change? It seemed from the beginning of the story - when we weren't clear that he was a "ghost" - that the tone was more mocking in a good natured way - Issy could have been a friend when they "met" in shul...

Now that we've caught up he sounds more vengeful and spiteful (whether it's dialogue [monologue?)] from immediately after he was killed to even comments taking place "now"). There's no way I would have thought "friend" - even one where the relationship is based on trading good natured jabs.


I don't think of him as a ghost. I think he is a personification of the very heavy burden of guilt following Harry around. His responses are a reflection of Harrys own conscience... I think?


ETA Oops I'm not Scotty and this is ama.... so I'll stop guessing and leave her to give us the answers....
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amother




Royalblue


Post  Tue, Sep 10 2019, 9:50 pm
Ok. So now we can ask anything and this is Imamother I always wonder about Hilchos Taharas Hamishpcha in that era.

Did Birdie take "kallah classes" before she came?
Does Harry even know what Taharas Hamishpacha is?
Did they discuss this aspect before their marriage.

And to go off topic- Whenever I read Full Harvest I have the same questions-
How did anyone go to the mikvah during the winter? Was there even a mikvah?
How could Gella and Sam have had "relations" in a one room wooden cabin?

I guess I'm just curious how these things worked in the "olden days"
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strawberry cola




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Sep 10 2019, 11:02 pm
I am starting to wonder whether Cob is the culprit- the way Tzedakah Yankel's real identity took me totally by surprise in her series about the wedding manager.
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keym




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Sep 10 2019, 11:04 pm
strawberry cola wrote:
I am starting to wonder whether Cob is the culprit- the way Tzedakah Yankel's real identity took me totally by surprise in her series about the wedding manager.


Ooh. A great theory.
I was wondering what Cob's role is. I like your theory.
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Scotty




 
 
 


Post  Wed, Sep 11 2019, 1:12 am
Quote:
As for where the diamonds are…


The million-dollar question! At this point everyone seems to be running about and pointing fingers at each other, doesn’t it?

Quote:
We still don't know who killed Issy


George Leigh the crooked police sergeant, unfortunately. Though to be truthful he didn’t shoot Issy dead, and didn’t think the wound fatal.
(Leigh actually existed IRL and went to jail with Scotty Smith a year or two before we have him doing so in this fictional story, though only for attempted murder.)


Quote:
Did you base the entire story line on 2 unanswered telegraphs?


LOL! Actually those were fictional Very Happy
Most of the epigraphs are real. The only fictional ones are those with characters’ names in them, or the Eyes (also fictional. Though I can only tell you HOW MUCH RESEARCH AGH that one paragraph took to get right).

I actually based most of the basic premise of the novel on the death of John Nathan, a Jew who died two miles out of Langlaagte and sent a message with a passing native boy to Isaac Gundlefinger asking for kevuras Yisroel, and so inaugurated the Jewish cemetery with the Rev. Rabinowitz presiding. (One Jew had passed on earlier but had been buried in the general cemetery; he was reinterred in the Jewish one later).
This anecdote was so compelling that I lifted it nearly wholesale. (IRL Mr. Nathan a”h died a day after the date in our story, and DID NOT die of foul play at all.)

But that’s how most of my stories go – 50% is a conglomerate of actual history and real incidents or people, and the rest is me having fun. I’m going to have to make a list of all the real people who cameo in THC.


Quote:
Did Morrie end up getting married? They were teasing him about a kallah.


Well spotted! We’ll find out about that soon.

It’s actually funny, about Morrie – the original first draft of my pitch had him the main character of the story, and then everything changed until he kind of just wanders in and out of everyone else’s drama, and has to deal with all of it while his own story is kind of thrust under the carpet because he isn’t going to whine about it. I’m hoping to pitch Binah a short story follow-up that will explore a bit of his adventures and life with Wolf Adler (from the Grey Lines) back in America. He and Wolf have a real father-son sort of relationship – which is why sometimes you’ll kind of see flashes of Wolf’s personality in Morrie’s, because a lot of his core values and habits were picked up in his years of friendship with Wolf and Caro’s family and spending time in their home.

Quote:
Is Cob mixed up in anything?


Well, he was the last one to see Issy alive, wasn’t he…

Cob is another character that didn’t get fleshed out properly. Behind the scenes, that’s because I didn’t research my Shangaan and Zulu properly before writing (his real name, for instance, is not Cob, which was probably a white name he took on for convenience, either his or some white man’s), but I decided his lack of narrative representation serves as a subconscious indication of how the natives were viewed/treated in that era (as less-than, if considered at all). That’s something on the Corrections For The Book list.



Quote:
Will we learn about Birdie's true identity, and her family?


Yup. Though - How much does her past identity matter when she has remade herself? That’s a question we’ve been exploring this novel, and I found the answer (or, at least, Birdie’s answer) interesting. Not much more about her family, though – they’ve been gone for a very long time, I’m afraid.


Quote:
Will Grey Lines ever get published? Hands down, that was my absolute favorite that you ever wrote (and I'm a huge fan).


Thank you thank you for your kind, kind words!!!! I’m so glad you liked it. I’m hoping to publish it soon – things have been a little hectic the past few years (I moved three times, for instance) and right now it’s in a spiral bound in the Research Bookcase near my bed, waiting its turn. (I read it sometimes on Shabbos afternoons. Which might be pathetic? Except I don’t remember writing it, so it’s exciting all over again.)

Quote:
what happened when harry rode out to meet up with Issy and turned back?


Oh, yasssss.
I actually have to thank you ladies for all your comments here about this, it inspired me to have a good think about what I had planned for this and tightened it up in consequence. So you’ve got a part in making this happen!
We’ll probably see this in – two more chapters, I think? If everyone cooperates. (Looking at you, Harry.)

Quote:
Also, I miss Wolf and Caro terribly . (now thats something worth crying about!)


YESSS! I miss them too. I hope the Morrie-Wolf story is gonna happen. I want to see Caro and Wolf again (albeit older, so that’s different – but still.)
Actually, I’m out of practice with them. I’ll have to limber up on their brains. You know who I miss? Morris and Blanche. I feel like I can slip right back into them without even thinking. And Fish. He was so much fun to write. Sometimes I still hear him in my head, talking. It’s weird.


Quote:
and I'm still waiting for a sequel to Shortchanged! that one's my absolute favorite!


Aw thanks! BH so glad you enjoyed it. It’s funny – I always wonder why people enjoy that one so much, because it was my first novel and the only one I ‘pantsed’ (writer’s term; method of writing where one writes ‘by the seat of one’s pants’ as opposed to planning obsessively). Was it the shorter length? The stronger romantic themes? The setting, which was just modern enough to be pleasantly familiar but historic enough to feel exotic? Sometimes I wonder if I dare try pantsing something again. (Certainly THC is complicated enough to cure one of planning forever.)

OH AND I MUST TELL YOU there is major Shortchanged news! I totally forgot!!! I just got final info in my inbox today - can't say anything until it's actually released but keep posted! This is BIG NEWS AND I AM SO EXCITED I DIDN'T EVEN REALIZE I COULD SHARE IT WITH YOU UNTIL THIS VERY MOMENT.


Quote:
Now I'm not sure whose worse off- Harry or Birdie?!


…Don’t forget Leo. Poor guy. I want to hug him. I actually have him down somewhere as yelling “Why me, again!” – not that I’ll use it but we’re all thinking it!

Jokes aside, nobody gets off easy here. If anyone wants to find any happiness in this story, they gonna have to earn it.


Quote:
Did Issy's voice /tone change? It seemed from the beginning of the story - when we weren't clear that he was a "ghost" - that the tone was more mocking in a good natured way - Issy could have been a friend when they "met" in shul...


THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME QUESTION EVER.

Quote:
I don't think of him as a ghost. I think he is a personification of the very heavy burden of guilt following Harry around. His responses are a reflection of Harrys own conscience... I think?


…AND THIS THE MOST AWESOME ANSWER EVER

Yup!!!!!

See, I think it’s hard for anyone to maintain that level of self-loathing for so many years without cracking up completely. Harry’s despair and bitterness varies according to what’s going on in his life: it improves when Leo’s there as a goal and (as Harry sees it) a way to make amends, then plunges when that friendship crashes and burns in Portuguese East Africa. Things improve again when he marries Birdie, fluctuates through Creswell’s threats, then goes full-blown now after his confession. (And, of course, after Kimberley he—and ‘Issy’—are in a pretty dark place.) Pretty morbid roller-coaster.

The exception to this is the opening scene in the serial, when we met ‘Issy’ first. Despite all my planning a year and a half ago I misjudged Harry’s mental space for that first chapter just a bit –‘Issy’ would have been a lot more biting and nasty. (I was actually toying around with that first scene last Monday for just that reason).

I’ll probably rearrange the story chronologically to review the overall emotional flow before chopping it back up and putting it back together again for the collected novel. That will be interesting to see, I think.

Quote:
I'm confused what James tells Leo that makes him even angrier, it seems that harry told him everything when he was drunk that night? what else was there to reveal?


Harry told Leo he had convinced Issy to ‘run’ the stolen Eyes out of town, but it was Jamie that revealed that Harry’s perfidy went a lot deeper: that he had caught up to Issy the next day and stolen the Eyes back off of him, leaving Issy empty-handed when Scotty Smith chased him down near Johannesburg, which led directly to Issy’s death. (Smith would have likely allowed Issy to live had he handed over the diamonds; in their absence, Smith and his man beat Issy in their frustration.)

Somehow I think this CliffNotes version has made it far more complicated than it should be. Am I confusing you?

Quote:
Ok. So now we can ask anything and this is Imamother I always wonder about Hilchos Taharas Hamishpcha in that era.


Lol I always want to write about this and never can!!!

Quote:
Did Birdie take "kallah classes" before she came?


Ooh another fun question! I actually sketched a scene for myself about this that will never be printed—something to help me figure out her feelings and brainspace before we see her in her day-to-day life as Harry’s wife. But I guess the in-universe answer would be that she probably sought out this knowledge in the one or two days she had between stealing the letters and leaving Trishik, as part of her preparations. We know she is intelligent and interested in knowledge (she can read Lithuanian and picks up English comparatively quickly) – it seems like the sort of thing she would, and could, do.


Quote:
Does Harry even know what Taharas Hamishpacha is?
Did they discuss this aspect before their marriage.


I doubt he knows much of it, but they definitely discussed it. (I even asked a Rav if omitting the actual discussion would inappropriately imply that it wasn’t crucial to marriage – however after reading the scene he said that their discussion was general enough that those with eyes to see would understand she would discuss it off-screen.)
Personally, at this stage in his life, I see him agreeing to let her do what makes her happy (which, if followed, would probably lead to some interesting discussions down the line when the halachos come into effect). Off-screen again. We don’t have much of a religious arc this novel-- discussion for another time—but I do have the little arc he does traverse mapped out. We’ll see.

Johannesburg’s first mikva is recorded as having been officially established in 1893 by the Orthodox congregation, which is a year after our story (March 1892, these days). I had a bit of anxiety about this gap until I decided that

1. There doesn’t seem to be definitive proof that there wasn’t a private mikva previous to the official one (if I recall correctly the text I was checking implied that individuals may have had personal mikvaos previously? Or maybe there was wiggle room to interpret that there might have been? Would have to check before you quote me on that)
2. We can’t discuss it anyway in Binah
3. This is FICTION and I have a deadline. (This goes last because I hate using this excuse.)



Quote:
And to go off topic- Whenever I read Full Harvest I have the same questions-
How did anyone go to the mikvah during the winter? Was there even a mikvah?


Someone once handed me a note asking this at a lecture and it was so busy I never got to respond to her and I’ve always wanted to!
There was definitely a mikva there. (I think I managed to work in a reference to it in the supplementary materials in the novel if I recall? There was a story where some horses got loose and ‘made a splash’ in the mikva situated in the ‘spruit’ spring.)

As for winter… wow, I don’t know. What did they do in Russia? In all the cold areas? Sooo curious.
But! Let’s create an in-universe explanation right here. Could Sam have asked Rabbi Papermaster to help him create a mikva?
(I was about to type “unlikely” here when I suddenly recalled reading a memoir that talks of how a man revisited his parents’ old homestead in ND, to find it razed to the ground – except for the cement underpinnings of the mikva his father had built for his mother… he commented how this is the only thing left standing of that period of his life, and how this symbol of his parents’ Judaism still remains on the prairie. It was a very affecting piece, especially since I am not even sure the author himself was religious.)

So there we go! The Official ™ IMAMOTHER in-universe explanation! That’s exactly what happened. First Gella used the spruit (with Widow Polin as her mikva lady of course), and then, later, Rabbi Papermaster helped Sam build a mikva. And all the women were able to keep this holy mitzva.

Quote:
How could Gella and Sam have had "relations" in a one room wooden cabin?


It’s funny but I very clearly remember writing about curtains dividing the cabin and thinking the same thing. Rachel Calof’s famous book talks about living in the same hut as her in-laws and their family (her new husband’s little nephew had an accident all over her straw pallet her first night there, as I recall) and I kind of winced and thought that Gella and Sam were probably really glad to be in their own shack halfway through the book despite the cold.

Quote:
I guess I'm just curious how these things worked in the "olden days"


You and me both! Someone on this site told me there’s a book with stories about that. I’d love to read it, but haven’t been able to find it (or its title).

Quote:
I am starting to wonder whether Cob is the culprit- the way Tzedakah Yankel's real identity took me totally by surprise in her series about the wedding manager.


Fun idea!! Ha ha!
The real answer is a lot more complicated. And shocking. And painful.
(Though remember he was the last witness for Issy’s last moments.)


Thank you all for joining tonight’s AMA! This was so much fun! I’m gonna keep it open for as long as you folks keep the questions coming… just can’t promise when I’ll post next, deadlines deadlines deadlines.
Can’t wait to see ya on the pages! I’m so honored to be able to share this experience with you.

WE GONNA HAVE SO MUCH FUN OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS!!!
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Mama Bear




 
 
 


Post  Wed, Sep 11 2019, 11:17 am
Harry being Herschel the poor yosem really humanized him for me. The most amazing part of this whole series is how impulsive, poor-judgement Harry is a 'real' person (as real as a fictional character can be) who you can really sympathize with.
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Mama Bear




 
 
 


Post  Wed, Sep 11 2019, 11:23 am
Scotty, I must tell you, you've had me wikipedia'ing 'mashonaland', 'transvaal', and a lot of other names, to figure out where in africa all this is taking place...
Primitive Africa in the 1800 is one of the most mysterious chapters of humankind, and I always wonder what life was like then. Just primitive and savage I guess.
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amother




Burlywood


Post  Wed, Sep 11 2019, 12:06 pm
Scotty, you're a mother of little children. When?? How??? Do you get to sleep too??

Did you actually fly to Africa that you can describe it in such great detail??
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cbsp




 
 
 


Post  Wed, Sep 11 2019, 2:53 pm
Mama Bear wrote:
Scotty, I must tell you, you've had me wikipedia'ing 'mashonaland', 'transvaal', and a lot of other names, to figure out where in africa all this is taking place...
Primitive Africa in the 1800 is one of the most mysterious chapters of humankind, and I always wonder what life was like then. Just primitive and savage I guess.


And I actually read the "great escapes" Yated article a month or so ago that detailed killer lions in Mashonaland during the same time period. I would have most likely skipped it otherwise...
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NoOneEver




 
 
 


Post  Thu, Sep 12 2019, 1:44 pm
Scotty. Whatever life hasn’t taught me in my young life, (I’m 22) you’re my teacher in the human condition. Thank you! Your motto seems to be ‘we all do what we do for very good reasons.’ I.e. ‘nonjudgmental.’ Makes me be fascinated, intrigued and sensitive to humans - their powers and flaws rather than annoyed and judgmental. And that’s a quality life. Thank you!
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Miri1




 
 
 


Post  Sun, Sep 15 2019, 9:58 pm
[quote="Scotty"][quote]
Harry told Leo he had convinced Issy to ‘run’ the stolen Eyes out of town, but it was Jamie that revealed that Harry’s perfidy went a lot deeper: that he had caught up to Issy the next day and stolen the Eyes back off of him, leaving Issy empty-handed when Scotty Smith chased him down near Johannesburg, which led directly to Issy’s death. (Smith would have likely allowed Issy to live had he handed over the diamonds; in their absence, Smith and his man beat Issy in their frustration.)


Wow Scotty, this is comprehensive and enthralling!

I'm a bit confused about Jamie - how would he have known that Harry had stolen the Eyes, when he had been arrested the night before?

(Eta bolding)
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Mama Bear




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Sep 16 2019, 3:24 pm
Today's installment is amazing Smile.
But can someone clue me in, who is Mendelssohn?
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amother




Burlywood


Post  Mon, Sep 16 2019, 8:18 pm
Mama Bear wrote:
Today's installment is amazing Smile.
But can someone clue me in, who is Mendelssohn?


The shopkeeper or baker that helped bury Issy.
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amother




Royalblue


Post  Mon, Sep 16 2019, 10:58 pm
amother [ Burlywood ] wrote:
The shopkeeper or baker that helped bury Issy.


I must've missed something. What's the whole importance of the note??
Why is everyone so desperate to have it?
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dietcokeaddict




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Sep 16 2019, 11:20 pm
amother [ Royalblue ] wrote:
I must've missed something. What's the whole importance of the note??
Why is everyone so desperate to have it?


This. Scotty, please get back here and clue us in! I read that note so many times and I can’t find the “great reveal” that seemed to have happened this week. Harry’s initials were in the corner. He stole it from Mendelson. And???Why does Birdie seem to find this so awful?
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penguin




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Sep 17 2019, 7:22 am
Quote:
The shopkeeper or baker that helped bury Issy.
I thought that was Gundelson.
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amother




Taupe


Post  Tue, Sep 17 2019, 10:48 am
From this week's chapter -

The note. The last will and testament of Issy Rvorsky, lost for years, the final piece of the puzzle she had searched for in vain.

Mendelssohn and Gundlefinger were the two men who buried Issy, right? Gundle was the shopkeeper.
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Chaya123




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Sep 17 2019, 11:01 am
Wow, what an emotionally ridden chapter this week! I actually missed a few weeks issues back while ago so lost with what exactly Harry wants to do. I also can't get over how she still didn't reveal her big dark secret to him. He will be so crushed when he finds out, like in total denial how the one good thing he trusted in his life also betrayed him. Etka Gittel, you sure have us all in stitches!
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Mama Bear




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Sep 17 2019, 1:32 pm
amother [ Royalblue ] wrote:
I must've missed something. What's the whole importance of the note??
Why is everyone so desperate to have it?


Remember that Harry doesn't know Yiddish or doenst know how to read Hebrew, or both.
I thought I understood that Issy wrote in Yiddish, some line at the bottom, that Harry was unable to read.
He hid the paper for years.
Now that Birdie got her hands on it, she read something he wrote on the bottom, which clarifies everything for her.
And I guess we find out next monday what that was.
I hope.
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