Posted in 1940s, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Another new Thanksgiving guest

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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. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This year, my Thanksgiving-themed excerpts come from Chapter 13, “Thanksgiving Break,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s 1948, and one of the holiday celebrations is at the home of Lyuba’s mother and stepfather. Also in attendance are the family of Lyuba’s stepsister Dinara

Dinara’s oldest daughter Zhenya finally arrived with her new boyfriend Kuzma and a kind stranger who drove them there. While Zhenya and Kuzma were walking to the subway, Zhenya was knocked over by a car running a red light, and both of her legs were driven over. From the details provided, the other people in attendance figured out the guilty party is their family’s longtime antagonist Boris Malenkov.

“Thank you very much for bringing Zhenya here,” Dinara says. “It’s also nice to finally meet you, Kuzma. May I ask if you have a place for a Thanksgiving meal?”

Kuzma shakes his head. “My parents are traditional Russians, and don’t celebrate any American holidays. They only have some fireworks for the Fourth of July, nothing else.”

“Please join us. Marusya’s young man already agreed to join us, so you won’t be the only non-relative. It’ll be our treat.”

“We insist,” Mr. Lebedev says.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene (and the chapter).

“Does the other gentleman have a place?”

“Yes, Sir, I was on my way to my parents’ apartment after running a few errands,” Mr. Palomer says. “I hope you find the madman who did this and punish him.”

“Oh, we all wish Malenkov would stay out of decent society forever, but the next-best thing is avoiding contact with him. He’s unfortunately the blood father of one of my granddaughters, but he’s not welcome in this family. We have more than enough people to not miss his disgusting presence.” Mr. Lebedev looks hopefully at Kuzma and Yulian. “Sometimes we’re blessed enough to welcome new people to our family, and that’s something we can all be very thankful for.”

Posted in 1940s, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Zhenya arrives

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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. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This year, my Thanksgiving-themed excerpts come from Chapter 13, “Thanksgiving Break,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s 1948, and one of the holiday celebrations is at the home of Lyuba’s mother and stepfather. Also in attendance are Lyuba’s stepsister Dinara and her husband Yarik, who were concerned about their three adult daughters being late.

Second and third daughters Marina and Bogdana just arrived, and Marina came with her new boyfriend Yulian. When Yulian said his family doesn’t observe any American holidays and only follows Russian customs, he was invited to stay. Bogdana then said oldest sister Zhenya went to a Chinese restaurant for breakfast with her new boyfriend Kuzma.

The bell rings loudly and insistently, followed by frantic knocking. Mr. Lebedev sets his newspaper on his armchair and opens the door to find Zhenya supported by two strange men. The younger man, on Zhenya’s left, has honey blonde hair and dark blue-grey eyes, and wears a full Army dress uniform. Zhenya holds onto him more than the other man, and has a very odd standing position that looks more like one of Lyolya’s ballet poses.

The younger man introduces himself first. “I’m Zhenya’s beau, Second Lieutenant Kuzma Demyanovich Nikulin, and this is our accidental chauffeur, Clarence Palomer. Some svoloch ran a red light and plowed into Zhenya while we were crossing Lafayette onto Canal to get to the subway. We don’t think anything’s broken, though he banged her left knee pretty badly, and drove right over both of her lower legs. Mr. Palomer offered us a ride, though I was prepared to carry Zhenya on my back the rest of the way.”

Mr. Palomer tips his hat.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“The maniac who did this had an orange Bentley. From what I could see of him through his windows, he was extremely fat and had an odd pipe clenched in his teeth.”

“His name is Boris Aleksandrovich Malenkov,” Ilya says from his easel. “He just got out of debtors’ prison over the summer. We ran into him on our way over here. That jerk dropped me on a hard hospital floor when I was six weeks old, and did lots of horrible things to my mother.”

“He was indirectly responsible for a medical emergency I had when I was a newborn too,” Igor chimes in. “He runs an opium den now.”

Zhenya hops into the house, still supported by Kuzma and Mr. Palomer. Vsevolod and Rostislav get up from the davenport to give her enough room.

Posted in 1940s, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Thanksgiving invitation accepted

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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. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This year, my Thanksgiving-themed excerpts come from Chapter 13, “Thanksgiving Break,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s 1948, and one of the holiday celebrations is at the home of Lyuba’s mother and stepfather. Last week, Marina Sheltsova, middle daughter of Lyuba’s stepsister Dinara, arrived with her new boyfriend Yulian, whom the family hasn’t met yet.

Marina’s father Yarik just invited him to sit and stay awhile.

Yulian looks around. “That’s a really swell offer, but I can’t crowd your house even more. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll make my own lunch and supper, or if I should go to a Chinese joint and order enough food for leftovers for supper. My family doesn’t follow any American holidays, not even really the Fourth of July. It’s all about Russian customs and Russian customs only.”

“Would you like to eat with us?” Dinara asks. “We’ll be more than happy to make an extra seat for you at the table. My father and stepmother never object to surprise guests when they’re family or dear friends of family.”

Yulian smiles.

The nine lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“That’s a really swell offer, Mrs. Sheltsova-Lebedeva. I’ll help in the kitchen to earn my free grub, wash dishes, clear the table, anything you’d like me to do.”

“You don’t have to pitch in any manual labor when you’re our guest,” Mr. Lebedev says. “Though it’s very nice to learn my granddaughter has found herself a standup beau.”

Posted in 1940s, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Surprise Thanksgiving guest

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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. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

It’s been a few years since I featured Thanksgiving-themed excerpts during November. The ones I selected come from Chapter 13, “Thanksgiving Break,” of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. It’s 1948, and one of the holiday celebrations is at the home of Lyuba’s mother and stepfather. The guests include her stepsister Dinara’s and Dinara’s husband Yarik, who are wondering what’s keeping their three daughters.

The doorbell rings, and Mr. Lebedev gets up to get the door. Marina, wearing a rabbit fur coat dyed dark pink, is hand-in-hand with Yulian, who’s in his full dress uniform. Bogdana is behind them, but Zhenya isn’t anywhere in sight.

Dedushka, this is my boyfriend, Second Lieutenant Yulian Filippovich Zefirov. He served in the First Infantry Division, and now works as a soda jerk and lives on Seventh Avenue South, by the Village Vanguard. Yulik’s also studying engineering at Columbia.”

Mr. Lebedev smiles. “It’s nice to finally meet your beau. Did you walk here?”

“Yes, Sir, I went to visit Marusya this morning, since I knew I wouldn’t have another chance to see her all day, and I wanted to walk her over to her family celebration to prolong our time together.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Yulian extends his hand. “I hope I didn’t offend anyone by not introducing myself sooner, but I wanted to make sure I really liked Marusya before taking such a serious step.”

“We’re pleased to meet you,” Dinara says. “You look like a very nice, respectable young man, and none the worse for wear.”

“You can sit for awhile and talk to us, unless you have to hurry to your own family’s Thanksgiving,” Yarik says. “Please don’t feel you’re intruding upon us because you’re not family.”

Posted in Editing, Fourth Russian novel, Rewriting, Writing

IWSG—Ready for the homestretch and second draft

In loving memory of Keith John Moon, who left the material world 44 years ago today at the tender age of 32.

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It’s time again for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

This month’s question is:

What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

Epic high fantasy isn’t my genre at all. The fantasy short story I wrote a few years ago for an IWSG Anthology contest was more along the lines of magical realism, with a real-world setting (737 Japan) commingled with fantasy elements. Doing an entire book with a purely fantasy setting and the complicated rules of the genre seems impossible.

I also could never do YA contemporary, sorry not sorry. Just not the types of stories I connect with, and first-person present tense makes my eyes glaze over 99% of the time.

I’ve now gone through the entirety of what I’ve completed to date of Dream Deferred (a combination of skimming and in-depth reading, depending upon the necessity). During this process, I made notes of important details I’d forgotten (e.g., Kleopatra and Yaël are left-handed; Nestor’s first gift to his future wife Yustina is a Matryoshka necklace she treasures), things to add, and things to take out or move to the fifth book.

I made the above notes quite some time prior, a handy guide to the dating of the chapters set around the start of an academic year. Because I wrongly assumed the autumn semester always started the first week of September, I now have a bunch of things to shift around. I 100% blame myself for not doing enough research and engaging in arrogant presentism. Thankfully, I’ve now tracked down all the relevant dates from archives of The New York Times, student newspapers, and the U of Minnesota’s press releases.

Miraculously, I finally found The Minnesota Daily archives over seven years after they went MIA! It’s still not an ideal storage system, and not all issues are scanned in entirety, but at least the issues for the years I need are available again. The press releases fill in the gaps. Someone needs a better digital archivist.

The highest concentration of things to be junked or moved came in Part IV and the latter half of Part III. I got so caught up in my runaway storyline to nowhere about the Konevs moving back to NYC, I kind of forgot the subtitle is Lyuba and Ivan at University. Even before that, I didn’t have enough scenes of them at university or working on assignments!

In Part IV, they appear in less than half of the 23 chapters completed to date, and almost only when they’re visiting New York or talking about their move (or, in Ivan’s case, fighting against it). Their youngest children are likewise MIA.

As this embarrassing omission dawned on me, I began rethinking the retention of one of Part IV’s major storylines, which begins near the end of Part III. Cousins Zhdana and Susanna get pregnant during their junior year at NYU, and there’s a whole lot of sprawling drama I felt helpless to rein in. Great storyline, wrong book.

Now that I’ve gone through the entire book, vs. just skimming through parts of it out of full context, I remember why I wanted to junk a lot of the storylines that arise in Part IV. They pull the attention away from the main, long-established storylines. In the fifth book, they’ll be able to shine more strongly, since they can arise earlier and have much more time to develop.

It’ll almost feel like I’m writing this book all over again, since there are so many important events I forgot about or didn’t think to include. Even in a book with a deliberately large ensemble cast and multiple storylines, you don’t want TOO much going on, nor to introduce and rush through a major storyline when everything else is heading towards happy conclusions.