Posted in 1950s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, Writing

WeWriWa—A surprising gift

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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, from Chapter 55, “The Streets of the Future,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This chapter, which closes Part I (to be published as Volume I), is mostly set over Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Twenty-year-old Bogdana Sheltsova, who survived two horrific, life-altering events six weeks apart, is now living with her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. She didn’t expect her friend Achilles to visit with roses and a gift bag after their last encounter in the underground clinic where Achilles assists.

Achilles insists he sees Bogdana as a beautiful soul who’s just barely begun to breathe, but Bogdana can’t bring herself to share those sentiments. Her aunt just stepped in to invite Achilles to go skating with them at Prospect Park.

This has been tweaked to fit ten lines.

“Sure, that’ll be fun, and perhaps Bogusya would like a skating partner.” Achilles smiles at her again. “Please, Bogusya, open the bag; I want you to see what I got you.”

Bogdana reaches into the bag and pulls out a blue velvet box. When she opens that, she finds a flat, heart-shaped rose quartz on a silver chain.

“You’re getting a patient jewelry? That really violates the doctor-patient relationship! At least I made the request I did in a purely medical context, and didn’t see it as sexual at all!”

Fyodora raises her eyebrows. “What in the world did you ask for yesterday, or don’t I want to know?”

Posted in 1920s, Historical fiction, Katrin, Naina, Russian novel sequel, Secondary characters, Writing

Phoning Sonya

This was originally one of a batch of twenty posts I put together on 24 June 2012 as planned future installments for the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples hop. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time. E.g., I no longer pedantically use accent marks, and my Canadian characters’ summer home on Vancouver Island changed from Long Beach to Gonzales Beach.

***

Katrin is the only one in the beach house who has a phone on her floor. She’s also the only one with enough disposable income to make a long-distance call, and to not worry about the other party not being in when the call goes through. Not knowing exactly when Léna’s family is supposed to come back from Long Beach, Katrin has placed daily calls to their home in Toronto during the last week of August and the first few days of September. Today, September 4, Sunday, she finally gets a response.

“Hello?” Natálya asks. “We don’t usually get calls on Sunday.”

“This is Katariina Kalvik-Nikonova calling from Long Island. Can you call Sónya to the phone, please?”

“Who’s on the phone?” Naína whispers.

“That’s Natálya Yeltsina, the youngest sister in that family,” Katrin says while Natálya is fetching Sónya. “She’s thirteen now and a charming child.”

“Hello?” Sónya asks. “Is there an emergency with Léna and Natásha’s mother or older sisters?”

“Sit down, Sófya Mitrofanovna. We’ve had two special guests with us this entire summer, guests whom my husband found on Ellis Island and decided, spur of the moment, to sponsor and put up in our home to avoid deportation. Your niece Naína Yezhova and your best friend’s daughter Kátya Chernomyrdina are here in this house, in this room, alive and well.”

Sónya screams.

“Are you alright, Bábushka?” Yuriy asks.

“God is good. God is good. I’m going to see my dear sister’s child and my best friend’s child again in this lifetime. My own children were taken away from me, but I still have one blood relative alive in this world.”

“We’re returning to Manhattan the day after Labor Day, Lyuba and Iván’s fourth anniversary. How soon can you or someone in your family be at the depot to meet them? I was planning to send my husband or my butler as the male escort, and possibly my maid, to avoid scandal in sending two young ladies on a train with only a man as company.”

“Put my niece on the phone. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in eight years.”

Naína is shaking so badly she can barely hold the receiver, not only because she last saw her aunt when she was just seven years old, but also because she doesn’t want to be blamed for the loss of Kárla and Mikhaíla.

“Stay right where you are. I’ll come down on the next train and my surrogate daughters and son-in-law will get the house ready for you. We have a spare room we can convert into a bedroom. I’ll leave some money for them to buy a mattress and some modest furniture. Thank God you’re alive. Kátya can spend some time perfecting her English, and then she can join my surrogate daughters Tónya and Léna and Léna’s husband Karl at the University of Toronto. I know you’ll be sixteen soon, old enough for high school. I’ll talk to the principal and see if you can have a translator or tutor, so you won’t be too many years behind. Praise Christ for preserving your lives and bringing you to safety in the land of the free!”

“My friends the Lebedevas told me you work at a Russian bakery and haven’t remarried. I always assumed Dyadya Maksím had been murdered, and I know my parents and Kátya’s parents are no more, but I always had a special feeling you had to have survived and come to North America. Now I know the story about how Iván Konev helped you and my older friend Álla escape from prison.”

“I’m not going to rest easy till I’m standing in front of you and Kátya and able to see and touch you again. Don’t worry, I’ve known about Mikhaíla for seven years. That wasn’t your fault. That was all on that sadistic, deranged madwoman running that orphanage. My youngest surrogate daughter Natálya told me she ended up at that same orphanage two years later, and the warden’s double-crossing pet had her sent to prison.”

“Do you still love us after we lost Kárla?”

“I’ve been essentially childless for eight years. I’ve spent more years of my life without children than I had them in my life. At least I still have memories, and one photograph of my precious girls, taken shortly before I lost them to the Reds.”

Posted in 1950s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, Writing

WeWriWa—A soul who’s just begun breathing

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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, from Chapter 55, “The Streets of the Future,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This chapter, which closes Part I (to be published as Volume I), is mostly set over Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Twenty-year-old Bogdana Sheltsova, who survived two horrific, life-altering events six weeks apart, is now living with her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. She didn’t expect her friend Achilles to visit with roses and a gift bag after their last encounter in the underground clinic where Achilles assists.

Achilles, so named because his heel was torn up by forceps at birth, has just told Bogdana there’s no such thing as getting a lady too many flowers.

“I’m no lady, and you damn well know it. I’m a cheap slut who disgraced herself, not once, but many times.”

“I’ve never seen you like that at all.” Achilles smiles at her. “I’ve always seen you as a beautiful soul who’s just barely begun to breathe.”

“I’m a damaged slut.” Bogdana takes the flowers into the kitchen and fills a vase with water.

“Mr. Medved, we’re going skating in Prospect Park,” Fyodora says. “Would you like to accompany us? They can rent you skates if you don’t have your own.”

Posted in 1950s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Unexpected gifts

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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, from Chapter 55, “The Streets of the Future,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This chapter, which closes Part I (to be published as Volume I), is mostly set over Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Twenty-year-old Bogdana Sheltsova, who survived two horrific, life-altering events six weeks apart, is now living with her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Bogdana and Fyodora were discussing skating at Prospect Park when the doorbell rang and Bogdana found her friend Achilles with roses and a gift bag.

The last time Bogdana saw Achilles, who’s also a med student and her cabbie, she made an extremely unprofessional request which Achilles turned down in horror. She’s shocked he sought out her company after that scene in the clinic.

“Thank you for thinking of me, Mr. Medved, but you made it clear our professional relationship cannot continue. You can leave the flowers and present with my aunt, and I’ll get you the presents I bought you and your daughter.”

“Come here, Bogusya,” Achilles calls. “I came to see you because I like you so much. I never said I wanted to stop being your friend or that I hated you.”

Bogdana tentatively steps forward and accepts the flowers. “You’re always so thoughtful. I hope you haven’t spent too much money on all these flowers.”

“Money’s no object when it comes to making you happy, and there’s no such thing as getting a lady too many flowers.”

Posted in Writing

IWSG—2020 writing goals

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Today is the first Insecure Writer’s Support Group meeting of 2020. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

I’ve been writing since age four, as long as I’ve known how to write. It’s just something I’ve always done, the way other people have a calling to medicine, art, or religious life. Thus, it’s hard for me to relate to people who only began writing in response to certain series surrounded by massive amounts of hype.

My 2020 writing goals:

1. Finally finish A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University already! I’d love to be done by April Camp NaNo.

2. Do a first round of edits on the above. Shortly before NaNo, I outlined the timelines and events of the chapters set around the beginning of academic years, and was relieved I won’t need to do nearly as much frogging as I feared. It’s more a matter of moving some events into other chapters vs. radically rewriting and restructuring everything. Again, I take full blame for not doing my research and assuming U.S. schools always began in early September.

3. Finish second-edition edits on Journey Through a Dark Forest for the print editions of all four volumes. If I continue shaving about 3,000 words off each volume (mostly motivated by needing to tighten up unsightly gaps created by increasing the inside margins), it’ll shrink down to under 850K. It’s already shrunk from 861K to 855K.

4. Resume radical rewriting and restructuring of my Atlantic City books, which I left off in 2015 with the book formerly known as The Very Last. Other projects took precedent, and I was frustrated by finding such a dearth of detailed info on the 1940 World’s Fair in Lisbon and not being in the mood to write about the 1939–40 World’s Fair all over again so soon after featuring it in Dark Forest.

5. One final edit of the books formerly known as The Very First and The Very Next and publish them. I can’t wait to finally reveal the new and improved titles! It’d also be a dream come true if I won the Sydney Taylor Book Award for TVF.

6. Outline and begin writing From a Nightmare to a Dream: Out of Stalin’s Shadow, my fifth Russian historical.

7. Review and approve proof of The Twelfth Time for hardcover edition. Which cover do you prefer?

2020 blogging goals:

1. Finish my GWTW series. I have two more installments planned.

2. Resume my hiatused “A primer on ________________ names” series. I have 25 more topics planned. When this series is complete, I’ll pull all these posts together as a book with expanded commentaries and names lists.

3. More writing guides. Topics include breeching and long pants, wraparound narrative segments, Jewish denominations, menarche, dysmenorrhea, Victorian postmortem photos, and how much of your real life to incorporate into fiction.

4. Review Pete Townshend’s remaining solo albums in May, in honor of his 75th birthday.

5. Book reviews including The Wind Done Gone, The Member of the Wedding, The Winds of War, and My Sergei.

6. Film reviews including Little Caesar, the 1939 remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, All Quiet on the Western Front, the Marx Brothers’ Go West, and director Oscar Michaeux’s Within Our Gates.

7. Album reviews including The Who by Numbers, Live at Leeds, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Plastic Ono Band.

8. A month devoted to pet topics. E.g., fave dog breeds, fave lizard species, dog breeds in my books, pets I’d love to own.

Personal goals:

1. Stay put in my current weight range of 147–53, with an eye towards a 140–45 range. I was close to 220 pounds at the start of June 2017, and am very proud I’ve lost about 70 pounds. My goal was 150, but getting down a bit lower would be a fantastic bonus.

2. Get out of this place I’ve unhappily been stuck in since June 2017. I haven’t abandoned hope of going home to Pittsburgh and resuming graduate school. It might not be my time yet to have a human baby, but I look forward to getting some furry and scaly babies.