Posted in 1920s, Couples, Ivan, Left-Handedness, Lyuba, Russian novel sequel, Writing

Happy fourth anniversary

This post was originally put together on 6 October 2012 for a future installment of the now-shelved Sweet Saturday Samples hop. Though not part of the batch of twenty posts I created on 24 June 2012, it’s obviously from the same sequence. After I put those posts in my drafts folder, I went back and made a few more with important sequences I’d left out.

This differs slightly from the published version; e.g., I no longer use pedantic accent marks, and I discovered there was no “traditional” fourth anniversary gift in 1927. Lyuba and Ivan’s anniversary gifts for non-milestone years remain the same, just without references to them being traditional materials.

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This week’s excerpt is from Chapter 29 of The Twelfth Time, “Naina and Katya in North America.” It’s 6 September 1927, Lyuba and Ivan’s fourth wedding anniversary and the last day of their annual Long Island summer vacation. In spite of their worsening marital and personal problems, they put their issues aside for their anniversary.

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Lyuba wakes up on the morning of her fourth anniversary to the smell of chocolate waffles and sausage coming from the first floor.  She’s not looking forward to heading home later today, but she intends to savor the last gasp of summer vacation as long as it lasts.

“Happy anniversary, Mrs. Koneva.” Iván reaches under the bed and hands her a wrapped box. “I put a lot of different things in there, but they’re all part of the same present. I went out yesterday and got you something else too. Before you woke up, I snuck downstairs to retrieve it from Katrin’s kitchen. You’ll find it on our kitchen table.”

Lyuba carefully pulls the blue tissue paper off, opens the box, and starts pulling out a series of small decorative bags. “What exactly is this?”

“The traditional fourth anniversary presents are fruit and flowers. Since those aren’t very permanent things, I wanted to get you something as lasting as possible while still being traditional. They’re indoor flowering plants that can live all year. When we have our farm, you can transplant them to the garden and then move them inside during the winter.”

She snuggles her face against the curve of his neck. “You’re a good husband. As many struggles as we’ve had, I’m still glad I chose you. Can you believe we’ve been husband and wife for four years now?”

“Did you get me a present too?”

“Of course I did. You’re getting more and more overeager every year, you bad boy. You used to be able to wait till later in the day to exchange presents. Now you’re giving and demanding them first thing in the morning.” Lyuba puts the seeds back into the box and gets two wrapped parcels out of the closet.

Iván unwraps a transparent glass picture frame with dried flowers pressed between the two layers, and a light green shirt with a subtle floral pattern. “So my sweet little wifey still loves me, after everything I’ve put you through.”

“I will love you till the last breath leaves my body, Ványushka. I want to be with you through all our future lifetimes, till the world comes to an end. But you’d better get a real job once we’re back in the city, or I may have to start nagging you and starting fights with you again. You know I hate having to do that, so you’d better do the right thing.”

Lyuba smiles at the sight of the wildflowers on the vase on the kitchen table after she’s thrown on some clothes and left the bedroom. Iván has always known she’s not the type who goes for flowers, perfume, and chocolates, so the few times he does get her such trinkets, she knows it’s for a very special reason and not just a meaningless gesture he does out of some obligation to be romantic in a certain way. She appreciates how the flowers are just regular wildflowers, the type anyone could buy for cheap at a florist’s, and not some big expensive bouquet of roses or orchids. At least he’s saving his money for more important things now, while still making an effort to buy nice things for her on special occasions.

“Can we go downstairs and eat breakfast now?” Fédya asks.

“You can go right on down, my sweet little pumpkin. Then we’ll have one last day on the beach before we pack up and leave for the train. Just think, on Thursday you’ll have your first day of school!”

“I don’t want to go to school. I’m scared of the teacher hitting my hand.”

“They stop eventually,” Iván says. “After a certain point, they realize they’re not converting you and leave you alone. I must’ve been twelve or thirteen years old by the time they finally stopped hitting my hand, thumping me on the head, and threatening to beat me. You just have to be brave and let everyone know you’re carrying on a family tradition. No one switched me or my Dyadya Ígor, and no one’s going to change you either. Now why don’t we think about nicer things, like breakfast.”

Lyuba holds her son’s left hand tightly as they’re going downstairs to Katrin’s quarters, praying her sweet, sensitive only son is treated nicely in public kindergarten and not subjected to the same fate her husband and late uncle-in-law went through in primary school. Naína and Kátya have told her the policy of the new Soviet Union is right-handed writing in schools, and anyone who doesn’t fit into that majority mold doesn’t have the option of protesting. Right-handed writing is mandatory. Lyuba always figured God made certain people that way for a reason, since an all-powerful being who can do whatever he wants would’ve made everyone right-handed if that were truly the only proper way to be.

Posted in 1940s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, Igor Konev the younger, Left-Handedness, Violetta, Writing

WeWriWa—Not a born levsha

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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. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, as Igor reassured Violetta his older brother Fedya didn’t share any personal stories about her. Igor then realizes something is different about her now than when he last saw her in childhood.

This has been slightly modified to fit 10 lines.

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My Sennelier soft oil pastels, the same brand Violetta uses. Her pastels are just regular soft pastels, since Sennelier’s oil pastels weren’t created till 1949 (for Picasso). The original soft Sennelier pastels were created in 1900 for Degas.

“Say, I remember sitting at the children’s table with you at my oldest sister Tanya’s wedding. I was so jealous when you talked about how fun summer camp was, since I didn’t get to do that out in farm country.” Igor watches her blending the blues. “I don’t remember you being a levsha then; maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but that’s the kind of thing that’s always stood out to me. Levshi notice their own kind immediately, while right-handed folks usually care less.”

“I wasn’t always a levsha.” Violetta puts down her blender and picks up a nasturtium orange pastel. “I had a very serious injury to my right arm when I was twelve, and after I recovered, I had no choice but to switch my dominant hand. Drawing is what helped me gain strength in my left arm and hand. If I had stayed right-handed, I doubt I’d be an art student today.”

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On Saturday, 4 June, And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth (the long-delayed Volume Two of the story of Jakob DeJonghe and Rachel Roggenfelder) will be released. It’s available for pre-order now. I’ll announce more details on Monday’s post. I always like my release dates to be dates important to my characters, and 4 June is the day Jakob and Rachel reunite after 13 months apart. It’s the story of their first proper year of marriage, Jakob’s first year in America, a lot of culture clashes, and Rachel’s search for a midwife.

Posted in 1940s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, Igor Konev the younger, Left-Handedness, Violetta, Writing

WeWriWa—Common interests

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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. This week’s snippet comes immediately after last week’s, as first-year NYU art student Igor Konev has gone to meet the woman with sexy feet and discovers her hair is just as alluring. He asks if she minds company, and they finally have the first proper meeting of their lives. Igor and Violetta met a few times as children, but they never had a reason to become friends, since they lived in different states.

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She turns around, revealing very large, deep brown eyes and a face without any makeup. “Who are you?  Have we met?”

“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I noticed you drawing, and I’m an art student.  Maybe we can exchange ideas about subjects and techniques.  I also think it’s really swell how you’re a southpaw.  I am too.  You don’t find very many left-handed women, or at least I don’t.  Please, may I sit down?  I really enjoy meeting other southpaws and art students.”

Posted in 1910s, Ivan, Left-Handedness, Russian novel, Writing

WeWriWa—A stubborn suitor

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP.  I’m now sharing from the opening of my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan (available for sale here). So I don’t give too much away, and since I’m eager to start sharing from my old/new WIP, I’m going to end my snippets here.

After gymnasium (i.e., high school) lets out, Ivan always goes over to his best friend and neighbor Lyuba’s house, along with their other best friend Boris (eventually to be their ex-best friend). This afternoon is particularly hard for Ivan, since he’s expected to pretend everything is normal and Lyuba didn’t just jilt him. When Lyuba’s mother and aunt come home, they discover gluttony, uncouth, clumsy Boris has broken a bowl. Lyuba’s mother demands money to pay for a new bowl, and Boris is only too happy to fork over the requested sum.

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“Unlike Kónev, at least I have a ready supply of money.”

“Yes, money is a very important asset in a husband,” Mrs. Zhúkova nods, fixing Iván with a meaningful look. “My daughter needs a husband who can provide for her and any future children, not someone full of idealistic, romantic promises about sailing to America, farms in the Midwest, and love being the only thing a couple needs to get through tough times.”

Iván stalks over to his house next door, cursing himself for being such a passive excuse of a man he just rolled over and took no for an answer when he put his heart on the line and proposed.  Well, if Lyuba thinks he’s going to give up on her this easily, she’s got another think coming.  He’s the only left-handed student in the entire gymnasium because he always withstood the efforts of his teachers, ever since first grade, to try to make him write right-handed, even when they hit him on the hand with rulers and straps, thumped him on the head with heavy books, and threatened to beat him.  He believes God made him left-handed for a reason, the same way he believes he and Lyuba were destined to be husband and wife.  And if he could stay true to his left-handedness under such intense attempts to switch him, then he can be just as committed to staying the course until Lyuba gives into her heart.

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For anyone wondering, Mrs. Zhukova is tagged as Mrs. Lebedeva in my metadata since that’s the name she appeared under when I shared excerpts with her during the old Sweet Saturday Samples hop. She’s been a Lebedeva far longer than she’s been a Zhukova.

Next week I’ll start sharing from my alternative history, which opens in 1918. It’s my way of giving a well-deserved happy ending and long life to a beautiful young man who was denied both of those things in real life.

Posted in Books, holidays, Left-Handedness, Third Russian novel, Writing

What’s Up Wednesday—Happy International Left-Handedness Awareness Day!

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What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I finished Yoko Kawashima Watkins’s My Brother, My Sister, and I, about the struggles she and her siblings went through in the early postwar years in Japan, after they got out of Korea. It’s the sequel to So Far from the Bamboo Grove. They didn’t have much, but they had one another, and they always found a way to get food, money, and shelter. In both books, I loved the secondary character Mr. Naido, who worked in the furnace room of Yoko’s school and gave her all the usable paper from the trash. He was her only friend and advocate at school, while all the other girls treated her horribly for not being as moneyed as they were.

What I’m Writing

Up to Chapter 88 of my WIP, 669,500 words. I’d actually started what I thought was Chapter 88, which opens with the citizenship ceremony of Inessa’s family on 11 August 1945. But then I realised I’d totally skipped over the kind of really important historical events of a few days earlier! So I changed Chapter 88 to 89 and put it on hold, then started the real Chapter 88, “A Happy Ending…or Not?”

For many years now, it’s been my firm belief that we should never have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not only because it was unethical and immoral, but also because Japan was well on its way to surrendering anyway. Even General Eisenhower didn’t agree with it and thought it was cruel and pointless. Obviously, radical Katrin is going to have quite a lot to say about the bombs. She’s been writing for numerous left-wing newspapers, in at least 10 languages, ever since she came to America in 1921. I actually just thought of a great storyline for my fourth Russian novel (1948-52), Katrin falling under suspicion during the McCarthyist witch hunts due to her loud, proud Socialist convictions.

What Inspires Me

It’s International Left-Handedness Awareness Day! It’s so so special how we’ve got our own holiday now, after how brutally lefties were treated for so much of human history. Sadly, many cultures still shame and bully little lefties out of their natural inclination, and have an almost fetishistic worship of the right side of the body. It makes me so sad to read about how so many teachers and parents used to smack children’s hands, tie their hands down with rope or weights, tie their hands behind their backs, removed utensils and pens from the left hand and shoved them into the right hand, gave lefties failing marks in handwriting because of their ignorance of proper left-handed writing methods, beat them, the list goes on and on.

When you’re left-handed, you have left-dar and immediately notice other lefties, whereas right-handed folks don’t pay attention to what hand someone writes or eats with. Some right-handed people even express surprise when finding out a friend is a lefty, like they never noticed that pretty important detail in so much time.

I love being a positive ambassador for sinistrality, and finding little lefties. I got such a thrill when I discovered some of my campers over the last three years were lefties, particularly two in the nursery bunk. I was in the closet about the true extent of my left-handedness till three years ago, and now I’m out and proud. Handedness, like sexual orientation, exists along a continuum.  Very few people are 100% one or the other. I see myself as having the best of best worlds, since I’m still able to eat and write right-handed after so many years of doing it. I just do most of my eating and writing with my left hand now.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I finally got a new computer, though I’ve still got the old one around to transfer files and for backup. It’s so nice to not have to run a fan right behind my computer and hear that painful, scary death rattle from the left fan. I’ve got a lot of readjusting to do, since I was using a 2007 computer. Hopefully I’ll figure out a way to open my old Power PC applications on the new machine. Right now, it’s refusing to open Word 2004 and Ideal Solitaire. In the meantime, Pages is easy enough to navigate, though I miss some of the features Word had.

I also finally had two feet of hair taken off after Tisha B’Av. It’s so nice to have short hair again! I think it even helped the pain from the chickenpox scars under my hair. They were hurting me a lot in recent months, but now there’s so much less hair weighing them down. (I missed the vaccine by just one year, and I never found out who gave them to me at age fourteen.)