WeWriWa—Special birthday present


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet immediately follows last week’s, when Igor and the guests at his 19th birthday party enjoyed a lavish feast.


After the table is cleared, Igor and his guests go into the living room to play board games.  Though most of the guests sit on the floor, Violetta has a seat on the davenport, with Luiza and Zoya.  There’s no way anyone could see up such a long skirt anyway, but perhaps this is yet another modesty rule Igor doesn’t know about.  For the sake of appearances, Igor doesn’t invite Violetta to be on any of his teams, and instead lets her play with the other co-eds.  Towards the end of the evening, when it comes time to open presents, Igor likewise saves Violetta’s present towards last.

He breaks into a big smile when he finds a gold-framed miniature of Vasiliy Kondratyevich Sazonov’s famous oil painting The First Meeting of Prince Igor with Olga.  It might be a painting she chose just because it features the original bearer of his name, but perhaps she’s also trying to send him some sort of secret romantic message.  Whyever she chose it, this painting will sure be going on his wall tonight, in a special place of honor right above his bed.


Prince Igor and Princess (later Regent) Olga were the first rulers of the Ryurikovich Dynasty after only Prince Ryurik himself, and Olga was the first of six women to rule Russia to date. Many people only count the four ruling empresses of the Romanov Dynasty, though I also count Regents Olga and Sofya. A Regent is still a ruler, even if she isn’t formally crowned.

WIPpet Wednesday—Happy Birthday

These are some pictures of the little flower garden in front of the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library. It’s a respectably working-class neighborhood, around the lower Western Avenue/upper Madison Avenue area of Albany, and right across the street from a police station. I often walked over there after school in sixth grade, during my sophomore year, and when I was in summer school for chemistry after sophomore year.






I’ll also be discussing this in my next RSW post, but I finished my chapter-by-chapter notes for my fourth Russian historical and have begun putting together the file with stuff like the table of contents, cast list, glossary, etc. There are no scenes in the USSR in this particular volume, but I still call it a Russian historical because of the origins of the majority of the characters. I can’t wait to finally start it in November!

Given the era (1948–52) and some chapters/scenes in Japan, I’d like to use bomb-inspired titles for Parts I and II. What do you think of Fission and Fallout, Hypocenter and Epicenter, Bright Light and Black Rain, or Pika (Flash) and Don (Boom)? (Pika-don is what the Japanese call the A-bomb.) The Epilogue is tentatively titled “Red Canna Flowers,” after the beautiful flowers which miraculously sprouted amid the rubble of Hiroshima, only 10 days after the bombing.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of people write about this early postwar era, making this a rather underused historical setting. My main storylines will be Lyuba and Ivan’s long-deferred dream of going to university, the struggles of not exactly conforming in this conformity-loving era, the challenge of being a woman pursuing higher education, the spectre of McCarthyism, the love stories of Lyuba and Ivan’s two younger sons, and the unhealed wounds that come with being a polio survivor.


WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 17 lines, for 12 + 2015. This is at Aleksey’s 18th birthday dinner, 12 August 1922, before his nephew Savva’s fatal injury put a premature end to the party.

Pelmeni are like Russian pierogivarenye is a type of thick dessert jam; vatrushki are cheese pastries; pirozhki are baked, stuffed buns; and syrniki are fried quark pancakes.


The palace cooks had prepared a feast of sturgeon, pheasant, quail, goose and duck eggs, mutton, French onion soup, pelmeni stuffed with mushrooms and served with sour cream, salads aplenty, stuffed peppers, broiled salmon encrusted with pistachios and orange slices, pirozhki stuffed with minced beef and rice, syrniki served with strawberry varenye, caviar, venison stew, roast goose, tomato cream soup, and vatrushki.  Until he’d been orphaned, Aleksey’s name day in October had always been celebrated more grandly than his birthday in August, but Mikhail felt it important to show the world how modern the monarchy was by putting equal emphasis on birthdays, not just the religious days.  After four years as Regent, he didn’t seem likely to suddenly ease up and grant the constitutional monarchy he’d once wanted, but this was still a form of progress.

“I can’t believe you’re really going to the Sorbonne,” his fifteen-year-old cousin Prince Vasiliy said. “If I were you, I’d be really eager to become Tsar as soon as possible.  It’s your Divine right, something you’re supposed to look forward to getting.”


Prince Vasiliy Aleksandrovich (23 June/7 July 1907–24 June 1989) in 1923

“I’m really eager to be Tsar, but I can’t be very good at it if I’m too young and inexperienced.  Just because that’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it can’t ever be altered.  I’m glad Dyadya Misha changed the House Laws so I didn’t have to take power when I was only sixteen.  Even if we had some good Tsars of that age a long time ago, it’s a new century, with new realities.”

“You can’t convince me this isn’t sheer madness,” the Dowager Empress said from the end of the table. “You can’t just sign away your Divine rights as easily and passively as your dear father did.  A monarchy can’t sit around waiting for four years while you have fun in Paris.  If you absolutely feel you need more education, you can always have some professors brought in to tutor you in university-level subjects while you govern.  You’ll still get to indulge your bourgeois whim for a higher education while attending to your sacred duties.  Misha can’t keep holding the throne for you forever.  The people will get restless, and might, God forbid, revolt all over again.”

WeWriWa—Velira’s Birthday Wish

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, Chapter 39, “Velira’s Birthday Wish.” It’s September 1937 in Isfahan, Iran, and the orphanage co-director’s niece is turning three years old.

Part of her birthday wish came true and she was reunited with the father she hasn’t seen in four months. When she asked where her mother and baby brother are, he explained that the baby went to America with his wetnurse, but that her mother can’t come back from the dead. Velira then realized she didn’t remember how to get home, but her father’s new friend, a former prince whom she met in June, figures out where she lives when Velira says her Persian doll was bought by her neighbor Firuza.


Velira clings to her father’s neck as Arkásha, holding the doll, leads the way to Firuza’s house.  When they get there, one of the servants gives directions to the orphanage.  Vítya knows which building it is even before they get to the front gates, from all the people frantically swarming around it.

“Who the hell are you?” Manzura demands. “What kind of degenerate kidnaps a little girl on her birthday?”

“Take it easy,” Arkásha responds in Persian. “This is her father, and I’m the guy who helped the lot of you with getting Nansen passports and British protection to enter Persia.  Should a girl your age really be using strong language like that?”

WeWriWa—Velira’s Birthday Wish

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, Chapter 39, “Velira’s Birthday Wish.” It’s September 1937 in Isfahan, Iran, and the orphanage co-director’s niece is turning three years old. While she was in the courtyard by herself, she saw a snake and climbed a tree onto the wall around the yard. From her vantage point, she recognized a man walking to the bazaar, and has now begun following him.

She also recognizes his friend, a former prince whom she met in the Colony of Aden a few months ago, while her group was clandestinely en route from Kyiv to Iran. He helped them with getting Nansen passports and British protection/permission to enter Iran, where the former prince has lived since 1918.


On any other day, she’d stop to absorb the exotic scents, bright colors, and tantalizing food, but right now she’s on a mission.

Velira finds him again by a gaz stand, talking with a hazel-eyed man about his height, whom she recognizes as Prince Arkásha.  As he starts to move on again with his new Russophone friend, she continues calling after him.

“Papa, Papa, wait for me!”

Vítya finally turns around and stares at the determined pint-sized child holding a fancy doll and racing after him.  He drops onto his knees and holds his spindly arms out, tears streaming down his face.  Velira wraps her arms around her father’s neck as soon as he encloses her in his embrace.

“Where are Mama and our baby?”

Gaz nougat candy, part of Isfahan’s native cuisine.

WeWriWa—Velira’s Birthday Wish


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m currently sharing from my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, Chapter 39, “Velira’s Birthday Wish.” It’s September 1937 in Isfahan, Iran, and the orphanage co-director’s niece is turning three years old. She, her aunt, the old orphanage mother who raised her father and aunt, and some of the orphanage children and workers escaped Kyiv with false travel visas for Georgia in the spring. The ship’s captain, an expert smuggler, took them to Iran instead.

Velira has gone outside to play in the courtyard by herself after making her birthday wish. When she saw a snake, she climbed a tree and is now sitting on top of the ledge around the yard. As she’s watching the people going to and from the bazaar, she makes a very exciting discovery.


As she’s people-watching, Velira catches sight of a very tall, lanky man in the crowd.  He’s clearly not Persian, with his pale skin, small nose, and soft brown hair.  At first she wonders if it’s Prince Arkásha.  Then she excitedly puts her hands over her mouth.  A few seconds later, she lets out a loud shriek and shimmies down the other side of the wall, still keeping her doll tucked tightly under her arm.

Velira begins running after the man, calling for him as loudly as she can.  She follows him all the way to the bazaar and loses sight of him for a few minutes.  Not understanding enough Persian to know if anyone’s speaking to her, she weaves her way among the shoppers and merchants.